While I don’t think it’s my job to dictate other people’s moral principle’s or the moral principles of their religion I do think that any person who is going to spout off about what their religion says about any particular social or moral practice needs to be well informed and hear about the issue from scholars on all sides of the topic, not just their side, before making any conclusions on what and who their god hates.
I can’t recall who said it, but I recall the quote “If God hates all the same people you do, you can be pretty sure you’ve created God in your own image.” and if you can’t stop hating those people, even after you’ve been shown that you’ve been misinterpreting your Bible for years…then God’s opinion was never a very important part of the equation was it?
When I sat down to watch Fish Out Of Water, after it was recommended on Canyonwalker Connections (one of the few pro-gay Christian blogs that I follow, despite not being a Christian myself), I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting. More of the same I suppose. You see, I’ve been arguing with the conservative Christian community about their views on homosexuality and gay rights since before I knew I was gay.
After a while, all the arguments about the “big 7” – the Biblical verses that (supposedly) condemn homosexuality – get kind of stale and old. It’s not like either side has any new material to pull from.
However, I found myself enjoying the information in the documentary more than I expected to partially because it gave me some new perspectives on old arguments and partially because it reminded me of something that I had nearly stopped believing, but I’ll go over that later. For now, we’ll start with the beginning of the documentary and work from there.
The documentary was made by Ky Dickens, a graduate of Vanderbilt University in the great state of Tennessee. Why a lesbian chose to go to a conservative school in a conservative state? Because lesbian films are as guilty of lying to young lesbians as Disney is of lying to children about love.
She came out to her sorority sisters during her senior year of college.
It did not go well.
Everything from being told she was possessed by demons to being told she was going to hell.
Ky didn’t know how to respond to the verses that were being thrown at her.
But she, like myself, had real gumption and spent 3 weeks traveling to churches throughout Nashville. Asking pastors was the Bible said about homosexuality. She said that “One after another told me that the Bible had been grossly misinterpreted on this issue.” She said that she learned more about theology in those 3 weeks than she had in 12 years of Sunday school, which is, sadly, a common problem in churches. Controversial topics rarely make it into the topics of church discussion, at least not in honest discussion.
The information she gained she put into a letter to her former best friend, the person who now was her biggest opponent. That letter helped them begin to rebuild their friendship and she realized she needed to send this letter to everyone, everywhere.
That’s where the documentary comes in.
The documentary speaks about the political climate of the 2004 and 2008 elections briefly before mentioning the discussions she had with over 170 members of the LGBTQ community (many of which are interspersed through the documentary in short clips) many of whom seemed to know that they were ill-equipped to deal with the religious arguments that are thrown at them by religious fundamentalists. She also shows clips from her travels across the USA, getting people’s opinions on whether or not the Bible says anything about homosexuality. The answers were everything from “It doesn’t say anything”, “It’s in…Leviathan, I think?”, “Everybody knows the story of Sodom and Gomorrah” (My response there is is, no, clearly, you DON’T know that story.) and “Yeah, it says some stuff against it, but I think it’s wrong.”
Then things get really interesting. The interviews with 11 pastors and Biblical scholars (only 2 of which condemn homosexuality, one of whom is Fred Phelps *rolls eyes*). I will mention that all of the pastors and scholars interviewed were heterosexual and here is a list.
Rev. Gregory Dell
Dr. Amy Jill Levine
Rev. Dr. Fred Niedner
Rev. Dr. Jim Bankston
Rev. Dr. Gerald DeSobe
Bishop Dr. John Shelby Spong
Rev. Marylin Meekers-Williams
Rev. Dr. Linda Thomas
Rev. Dr. John Fellers
The first 9, jump right in to refuting the “Big 7” verses that fundamentalist Christians use to condemn homosexuality. While Fred Phelps and David Ickes just sort of flail around and looks silly. Some might say this was unfair and that Dickens should have had more rational and capable people come defend their side, but I say that it’s not her fault that there are no rational people on that side of the argument.
As for the verses themselves?
Well here is a list of those.
Genesis chapters 2-3
Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13
1 Corinthians 6:9
Look for a series of posts on the arguments against of each of these verses in the next few weeks. Some of the arguments used were actually new to me and I would like to do more research on them before addressing them individually.
The next section of the documentary reminds us that Biblical verses are not the only problem in our way. We’ve all heard someone link homosexuality to pedophilia, bestiality and incest. My own mother has casually compared homosexuality to pedophilia in conversations that we’ve had since I came out to her! Which shows exactly how much she cares about my emotions…or, y’know, the facts.
Ky asked both ministers and psychologists to weigh in on the topic and, unsurprisingly, none of them hold with the view that gay marriage will lead us down a slippery slope into a morbid world of debauchery and child abuse. That’s just not realistic and it doesn’t hold up under the scrutiny of actual statistical facts about pedophilia.
In one of her final points, Ky discusses that no matter what Biblical point you want to argue, Jesus is always the focal point of Christianity. It’s right there in the name after all. And Jesus…well he never said anything about homosexuality, nor could you infer anything about it from his original teachings that would condemn them.
If you went up to Jesus and said ‘What do you think about homosexuality?’ Jesus’ response would have been ‘What do you think about love of God, love of neighbor and care for the poor? You’re asking the wrong question, because you’re focused on the wrong issue.’
– Dr. Amy Jill Levine
The real problem (and the place where communication tends to break down and debates tend to begin) is that there is a deep difference between academic and popular Christianity. Academic Christianity remembers that revealing the text of the Bible is complicated and a long process, you don’t just open the Bible and understand what it says…which is the way that popular Christianity wants to believe it is.
Reverand Marylin Meeker-Williams said it best in the documentary when she said the only part of the process that is not complicated is that God is love.
7 verses in the Bible ‘condemn’ homosexuality.
1% of the Biblical verses say anything about same-gender relationships.
Love is mentioned over 600 times in the Bible.
Which one of those things do you think your God was trying to tell you was most important?
The one thing that watching this documentary really helped me reclaim was a sense of hope. I am not a Christian, but I’ve spent a lot of time trying to regain a tenuous grasp on some hope that the Christian church (as an organization) could learn to accept homosexuality. It is sometimes hard to remember that there are actually are more rational and sane people at the top than we realize. When you are at the bottom of the heap, staring up through a pile of bloggers who wouldn’t know what the terms ‘historical context’ or ‘Biblical interpretation’ or ‘translation errors’ meant if they grew teeth and bit them on the ass. I’m surrounded by youtube videos of Fred Phelps screaming about Sodomites.
And then I turn on a documentary like this and I remember that sanity remains and intelligence is still alive somewhere.
And THAT is why you should watch this documentary, whether you’re like me…losing hope in the intelligence of mankind and losing hope that Christianity will ever evolve. Or maybe you just want any extra edge in those debates with pesky fundamentalist Christians…I know I can be accused of that myself. Or maybe you are those very bloggers I just mentioned. Trust me, the documentary is worth it. It’s on ITunes, go buy it and widen your mental horizons.