This column isn’t for my regular readers. No, that would be preaching to the converted. This one’s for those of you who are scratching your heads in bewilderment that the latest exercise in gay bashing fell short, with at least one of two anti-gay ballot measures failing to collect enough signatures in the pews of Oregon.
Now, just because former state Sen. Marylin Shannon (R-Salem) didn’t sufficiently rally her Defense of Marriage troops to put the questions on the ballot this time doesn’t mean she isn’t planning to mount a future siege on our new rights of domestic partnership and freedom from discrimination in the workplace. She has much to gain by continuing to chip away at whatever gains gays make toward full equality.
That’s the central message of a thought-provoking documentary, For the Bible Tells Me So , premiering this week at the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in Portland. Created by Daniel Karslake, the film tries to explain what should be obvious to anyone with half a brain: that is, how ostensibly high-minded Christian leaders have twisted Bible verses to instill fear of us in their followers. They’ve done it before with blacks and Jews, or just about anyone who was “different” from them or could be labeled an “other.”
And now it’s gays’ turn, as evidenced by a long line of church-based gay bashing, no more so than in the early ’90s, when the Oregon Citizens Alliance emerged from the ooze to wreak havoc on our state.
For example, the whole thing with Leviticus and how gays are supposedly an “abomination” before God? Well, that had little to do with the immorality of who lay with whom, and much more to do with rituals that could save the Hebrew nation’s ass at a time when they were being told to get lost. Karslake trots out a Sunday school’s worth of theologians to help viewers understand how easy it has been to use Holy Scripture as a weapon of Mass destructiveness. It’s powerful stuff and shows just how easy it is to lead people around by their noses if you just cover their eyes and ears.
The one glimmer of hope this film offers is through the compelling stories of several devoutly religious families who are forced to deal with homosexuality after finding out one of their own is gay.
Two of the most profound stories are ripped straight out of the headlines. Gene Robinson didn’t just “become” the first openly gay man to be elected a bishop of the Episcopal Church. Raised in an evangelical family, Robinson devoted his entire life to worship. Accepting his sexuality wasn’t easy for him, or his Midwestern parents. But to see the pride in their eyes when he is ordained in 2003 is enough to make you weep.
Likewise, Chrissy Gephardt, who came out of the closet right at the time her dad, Rep. Dick Gephardt, was trying to become this nation’s president in ’04, is a story of how unconditional love may not win you votes but can still make you a winner. That is, if you are willing to let it.
I take strength in the news that Shannon and her ilk have fallen short, and I believe the tide is beginning to shift in our direction: that gays are the not the immoral heathens religious frauds have made us out to be.
And thanks to this film, I’ve learned the Bible isn’t on their side. Isn’t that weird?
SEE IT: For the Bible Tells Me So screens at Cinema 21, 616 NW 21st Ave, 223-4515. 7 pm Wednesday, Oct. 17. $8. For more about the Portland Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, see the screen story or plgff.org.