Documentary offers Bible lessons in gay rights


Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church, at his consecration.

Special to The Sun
Published: Friday, January 25, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 4:15 p.m.

Daniel Karslake's documentary "For the Bible Tells Me So" won't win any prizes for technique, but innovation surely ranks very low on this filmmaker's to-do list. Karslake has said that the movie is mainly intended as a feature-length primer that can be deployed in arguments with homophobes.

Facts

"For the Bible Tells Me So"

RATED: NR

CAST: Chrissy Gephardt, Dick Gephardt, V. Gene Robinson, Desmond Tutu

THEATER: Hippodome Cinema

STARS: Three

Interviews with scholars parsing the Old and New Testaments are paired with the expected archival photographs and illustrations of biblical scenes. "For the Bible Tells Me So" is, strictly speaking, an educational film, with the artlessness that that phrase implies.

The movie's ensemble portrait of parents (many of them ministers) with adult gay or lesbian children strives to demonstrate that homosexuality is a genetic predisposition, not a lifestyle choice, and that those who quote Leviticus to justify their animosity are guilty not just of intolerance but also of selective piety, an inability to understand historical context and poor reading comprehension.

"For the Bible Tells Me So" moves through its stories of coming out, detailing how individuals adjusted (or failed to adjust) to their new reality and how parents reacted (usually poorly).

Mary Lou Wallner, one of the staunchest advocates of gay rights in the movie, became a political activist after her daughter, Anna, committed suicide - the result, Wallner believes, of the letter she wrote to Anna rejecting her after she came out.

Chrissy Gephardt, a daughter of the former House minority leader Richard A. Gephardt and his wife, Jane, talks about enduring a sexless marriage to a man before falling in love with a lesbian friend, admitting the truth about herself, coming out and eventually joining her father on the campaign trail. Another profile subject is Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Filmgoers and critics who are mainly interested in aesthetics will have little tolerance for this secular sermon. Viewers who got this particular memo long ago will likely deem it condescending, a word embodied by this movie's most unfortunate sequence, a smart-alecky animated short in which a gay man, a lesbian and a booming Voice of God (Don LaFontaine) disabuse a homophobe of his ignorance. The dummy's name? Christian.

But there is no denying that the film, however inelegant, fills a need. The inevitable DVD should be packaged in a plain cardboard sleeve, so that viewers can carry it in their pockets and, if confronted by a homophobe, hand it over and say, "Watch this, then get back to me."

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