For The Bible Tells Me So: A Review

I watched the documentary For The Bible Tells Me So a couple of weeks ago. It had me crying in one point, as a woman describes how her lesbian daughter committed suicide. The woman had followed the advice of Dr James Dobson and wrote to her daughter telling her that she would never accept her homosexuality. (This approach presumably reassures one’s gay child that they are making it up, or at least making a choice that their parents are never going to endorse, lest they think they can ‘get away with it’.)

The documentary intersperses three very different approaches to the topic of homosexuality and Christianity – interviews with gay Christians and their parents, interviews with scholars (and non-scholars) about the interpretation of biblical passages about homosexuality and the history of homosexual oppression by the church in America. It is helpful and unhelpful to combine these three things.

The fault of the documentary in my opinion is its failure to adequately represent the middle position – what might be called ‘welcoming but not affirming’ (from the book by Stanley Grenz). Most of the people interviewed are either Christians who think homosexual practice is fully compatible with their faith, or fundamentalists who think homosexuals should be hated, or if not quite hated then at least aggressively resisted. The middle ground is only represented by a few brief comments from Richard Mouw – a good choice, but not enough of him, and none of the many other moderate voices from within evangelicalism (Tom Wright, Richard Hays et al). The documentary only deals with the Bible in a verse by verse fashion – the same as fundamentalists use – without attempting to understand the issue in broader terms of discipleship or the kingdom. It unfairly paints the issue as a choice between James Dobson and Gene Robinson.

I think all evangelical, fundamentalist and pentecostal Christians should see the documentary before they go on in their unthinking reactions to the ‘gay question’. If nothing else, it will startle them out of their easy answers. But in terms of the discussion of the biblical theology of homosexuality, this documentary is inadequate. Alas, it’s much more complicated than the documentary makes out.

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3 thoughts on “For The Bible Tells Me So: A Review

  1. Hi Nathan,
    There are very few passages in the bible dealing with homosexuality. Two deal with planned homosexual rape (Gen.19 and Judges 19) and say nothing about homosexuality in general. In the Sodom incident, the sin may be more about social injustice and the abuse of power.

    Two in Leviticus are set within the holiness code (Chs 19 and 20) and seem to restrict the topic to male homosexality and may be set wihin a cultic context and their interpretation has been subject to dispute.

    Romans 1 may be about heterosexuals (both male and female) who engage in homosexual practice
    rather than homosexuality in general (although this is disputed). The other two passages in 1 Cor. and in 1 Tim are also subject to some dispute as to their exact meaning.

    The bible does not seem to consider whether some homosexuals are born that way and hence does not comment on this issue.

    It is interesting to note that Jesus is totally silent on this subject but he does have somehting to say about the way we should treat marginalised people. They should be treated with dignity, respect and honour for the way we treat marginalised people is the way we treat Jesus (Mat.25:31-46).

    Jesus teaches the marriage is a union between a man and a woman.

    About 3% of the human population is homosexual.
    They deserve equal rights with us hetrosexuals. I would not be phased out if homosexual marriage was passed in law.It is not Christian marriage, but following Jesus is something we do voluntarily not something we should impose on the homosexual community.

    Shalom
    John Arthur

  2. Hi John, thanks for your summary of the biblical evidence and your comments. The reading of the passages you give is similar to what’s in the doco (have you seen it?) and I think needs to be considered by Christians. Shalom, Nathan.

  3. Hi Nathan,
    I have’nt seen the documentary, but judging by your comments, I think evangelicals, pentecostals, and charismatics ought to see it.

    Too often, sadly it is difficult to get any civil conversation on this topic. Christians’ emotional juices run high and passages are sometimes taken out of context.

    The authors you suggest are good and I would add Stassen and Gushie’s “kingdom Ethics” to the list. A useful set of articles by neo-Anabaptist Ted Grimsrud can be found at http://peacetheology.net/homosexuality/

    Shalom,
    John Arthur

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