NASHVILLE, Tenn. Few issues are as controversial as the Bible and homosexuality, and a new documentary on that subject is receiving thumbs down from orthodox Christians and garnering its own controversy in the process.
"For the Bible Tells Me So" is a 90-minute, one-sided film focusing on five families who profess to be Christians and who have a homosexual family member. For the most part the families' stories reflect the documentary's message: The Bible has been misinterpreted over the centuries and homosexuality is not a sin.
"There's nothing wrong with a fifth-grade understanding of God, as long as you're in the fifth grade," one liberal pastor says in the movie.
Director Daniel Karslake and his film crew interviewed such notables as former Democratic House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt who is promoting the film and who has a lesbian daughter and Gene Robinson, the first openly homosexual Episcopal bishop. Not surprisingly, the documentary throws in a few scenes showing Fred Phelps' infamous church of "God Hates Fags" fame, picketing.
It has won a handful of awards, including the Audience Winner for best documentary at the Seattle International Film Festival, and it has the backing of the homosexual group Soulforce, which promotes so-called "pro-gay" interpretations of Scripture and which has posted the trailer on its website. The film is not being distributed widely, but media critics nonetheless are raving about it and essentially urging readers to support it. That has become part of the controversy, too.
The Seattle Times' Moira Macdonald called it an "inspiring" film about "acceptance" that "may well leave you blinking away a few tears." The documentary, she said in her Oct. 26 review, shows clergy and religious scholars "calmly rebutting literalist interpretations of Scripture."
Not to be outdone, The Tennessean's Bill Friskics-Warren wrote a 1,400-word review of the movie for page one of the Nov. 18 Issues section, asserting that "nowhere ... does the Bible say anything, much less condemn, loving and committed partnerships between same-sex adults." Scholars, he argued, "tell us that these passages have nothing to do with sexual orientation as we've come to understand it." Friskics-Warren even listed a few Bible verses he said are misinterpreted.
"The use of Scripture to justify discrimination began long before the current dispute about what the Bible does or doesn't say about homosexuality," he wrote.
Both reviews included information on when and where to watch the film.
The Tennessean's one-sided review received so much reaction that a week later it published three columns by Christians from the opposing viewpoint.
"While there may be a few idiots like Fred Phelps among us, most Christians oppose homosexuality with a degree of humility," wrote Kevin Shrum, pastor of Inglewood Baptist Church in Nashville. "... Someone asked me one time, 'Pastor, what would you do if you had a homosexual family member?' My answer is that I do. And when I see her, I hug her, love her, pray for her, talk to her, laugh with her, listen to her and long to see her 'come out' of a lifestyle that appears to be miserable, abnormal and destructive."
Ed Evans, pastor of Donelson Christian Church, criticized the newspaper for not including another perspective.
"Frankly, I would rather The Tennessean simply wrote Karslake a check to support his filmmaking rather than pick and choose quotes from only those who support the film-maker's commercial point of view, while misinterpreting and maligning God's Word," Evans wrote. "If you don't like what the Scriptures say, and you don't wish to obey God, then take your chances and invent your own religion. Plenty of others have. But you might just as well quit expecting God to wink at your sins. Even if I did, Scripture says He will not."
A third letter to the newspaper was written by Don Beehler, president of ABC&D Communications, a public relations agency in Franklin, Tenn. Ironically, he called Friskics-Warren a "virtual publicist for the film."
"[T]here's the inconvenient truth that some people change from gay to straight," Beehler wrote. "Every effort is made to intimidate and silence such people, pretending they don't exist or marginalizing them. Yet the fact remains, change is possible through the transforming power of Jesus Christ. That's not politically correct, but it's the truth."
Once such former homosexual is Joe Dallas, who now heads a ministry, Genesis Counseling, that helps those struggling with homosexuality and sexual addictions. His 2007 book "The Gay Gospel?" is one of the more popular conservative ones on the subject and goes in-depth and verse by verse to answer those who say the Bible is silent on the subject of homosexuality. He labels as "revisionists" those who want to redefine what the Bible says.
"The pro-gay interpretation of Scripture has gained visibility and clout unimaginable even to its own adherents a decade ago," Dallas wrote.
One of the more popular arguments used by "pro-gay" theologians is that Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. But such an assertion is both misleading and illogical, for several reasons, Dallas argues:
• The Gospels are no more authoritative than the rest of the Bible.
"The idea of a subject being unimportant just because it was not mentioned by Jesus is foreign to the Gospel writers themselves," Dallas wrote. "At no point did Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John say their books should be elevated above the Torah or, for that matter, any writings yet to come. … All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16). The same Spirit that inspired the authors of the Gospels also inspired the men who wrote the rest of the Bible."
• The Gospels do not give Christians "all we need to know" regarding doctrine and practical instruction.
"[A]re we really to believe that Jesus didn't care about wife-beating or incest just because He said nothing about them?" Dallas asked. "Aren't the prohibitions against incest in Leviticus and 1 Corinthians, as well as Paul's admonition to husbands to love their wives, enough to instruct us in these matters, without their being mentioned in the Gospels?"
• The Gospels in fact do record Jesus addressing the subject."In Mark 10:6-9, Jesus spoke in the most specific terms about God's created intent for human sexuality: 'From the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh. … What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.'"