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.