City Paper is not for tourists
For the Bible Tells Me So is an anti-theology lesson. Director Daniel Karslake has constructed a multipart rebuttal to Christians who insist that their abhorrence of gay people is sanctioned by the Bible. Fortunately, he concentrates on the part that works best: the moving stories of five families, most of them deeply religious, who came to accept their gay children.
Amid footage of anti-gay remarks, Karslake introduces the Robinsons, the Poteats, the Reitans, the Gephardts, and the Wallners. These are not people chosen at random from a PFLAG directory. The son of very traditional Kentuckians, Gene Robinson grew up to be the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, and his installation in 2004 caused a schism in that church. Chrissy Gephardt is the daughter of former Missouri representative Dick Gephardt, who ran for president with his newly out daughter active in his campaign. Jake Reitan is less known, but he and his Lutheran parents became crusaders against the stridently homophobic organization Focus on the Family.
Family, as opposed to “family values,” is the movie’s theme. Although the stories of Tonia Poteat and especially Anna Wallner (who committed suicide after coming out) don’t have happy endings, eventually all the parents accepted their children. Coming to know fully their own offspring was more powerful than any textual and scientific argument. Yet that doesn’t prevent the director from interjecting a cheesy animated sequence in which a dumb guy, who just happens to be named Christian, is lectured about the possible biological causes of homosexuality.
The movie spends more time on theological arguments, in the process giving too much attention to the fable of Sodom and Gomorrah and the book of Leviticus’ characterization of same-sex intimacy as an “abomination.” Karslake does score points by noting that biblical “inerrancy” is a recent concept (although not as recent as he contends) and mentioning a few practices that are condoned by scripture but no longer accepted by modern Christians, such as slavery and polygamy. But he might also have noted that the modern Bible is a jumble of copyists’ errors, mistranslations, and forgeries. Or that Christians who profess to follow Old Testament injunctions are ignoring Paul’s news to the Romans that Jesus abolished Jewish law. Ultimately, though, theology usually yields to emotion, and For the Bible Tells Me So shows how that can work out for the best. Still, the people whose feelings counsel homophobia persevere off-camera.