December 10, 2007

Is love an abomination?

You have taken away the key of knowledge; you have not entered in yourselves and you have hindered those who sought to enter" (Lk. 11:52; cf. Mt. 23:13).

This weekend, T surprised me with tickets to see the documentary that almost slipped by me, For the Bible Tells Me So, at the Music Box theater. I stiffled tears through out the half-dozen stories of religious families (of differing christian faiths) dealing with the reality of a gay child. Most notably, the documentary featured the story of Gene Robinson, the first openly-gay Bishop in the Episcopal church. The way that this man held onto his faith and became a leader in the face of everthing from harsh critcism to death threats is nothing but inspiriational.
I also took great comfort in the story of Chrissy Gephardt, whose parents (Catholic and Baptist) seemed to both accept her and resolve issues of faith from the moment she came out to them.
As the documentary moved back and forth through the stories of these families — my emotions also moved from despair to hope to anger at the way the bible is misused and verses are cherry-picked to back up an agenda of hate. Part of the documentary focused on the "ministries" of such fundamentalists as James Dobson and Focus on the Family — which push parents of gay children to reject them and seek "a cure," charaterized as a lifetime of supression — the consequences of which come as a cold slap in the story of one mother whose gay daughter commited suicide after such rejection. But even that story left me with a seed of hope as the mother grew spiritually and came to reject the fundamentalist teaching of her upbringing and really read and understand the bible the way it was meant to be understood — taking into account the historical and cultural underpinnings at the time it was written. A dozen biblical scholars appear throughout the film — to talk about what the bible really says about homosexuality, and how those verses are meant to be interpreted. They make the important point that bible literalism is a relatively new idea — only coming about in the 20th century.
Of course, as a Catholic, we were taught that the bible should be read using the scientific historical-critical method, which rejects the notion of a literal translation. Remember, Jesus himself taught through parable, which in my opinion, is the strongest argument against literalism other than plain common sense. Did you know that "abomination" really just means "ritually unclean?" So, when homosexuality is proclaimed as an "abomination" in Leviticus, (along with shellfish and wearing linen and wool together), it was pointing out that these were the customs at the time. I found the backup by these notable bible scholars (including Bishop Tutu of South Africa) to be the most edifying part of the film for me personally. While many LGBT people leave faith behind — offended and even threatened by people who claim to hold the keys to all that scripture means for our lives (Dobson has NO theological training, I learned!), I was left with a new steadfastness and resolve to hold firmly onto it. Pre-order the DVD to this remarkable film today!