Ongoing Conversation

Calvary showed the documentary film For the Bible Tells Me So last Sunday afternoon.  We’d done quite a bit of publicity about the film but even we were shocked when 250 people showed up for the film and subsequent panel discussion. 

Originally we thought we’d show the film to our deacons as part of an ongoing For the Bible Tells Me Soconversation in our community of faith, a continuing discernment of how God’s Spirit is working in our midst.  The interesting thing I’ve found, though, is that folks seem downright suspicious about this declaration.  They aren’t convinced a conversation is what we’re shooting for; a lot of people seem to think browbeating and polarization are the goals.

That’s totally understandable, of course, given the complexity of the issue combined with all the emotions surrounding it . . . not to mention the political, religious and societal baggage that can’t be separated from a discussion of homosexuality and the church.  Nevertheless, this whole turn of events has allowed me the opportunity to really dig in and get my hands dirty in the adventure of true conversation. 

I had an email exchange in this week with someone I do not know who is not a member of Calvary.  I thought his engagement on this difficult issue was so healthy; I felt our conversation was a great example of how we can listen to each other; stay true to the leadership of God’s Spirit; and live “in the tension of unresolved relationships:”

Subject: Reaction to the Homosexual Lifestyle Film
Dear Pastor Butler, 
I attended the showing of the film at your church last Sunday.  When I heard about the film, I was encouraged that there was a medium that Christians could reach out and minister to the homosexual community.  I must say that after viewing the film, I was extremely discouraged.  What bothered me wasn’t the pro-homosexual position but the anti-Christian position.  The film was anything but balanced.  There were multiple weak and manipulated conclusions and poor exegesis and theology.  Martin Sheen may be a good actor but a theologian he is not.  It was clear that the film was produced with the aim of accepting the homosexual lifestyle while portraying Christians as homophobic lunatics.  You mentioned that your original intent was to show the film to your deacons.  As an elder in my church, had I previewed the film I would have advised my pastor not to show the film because of the anti-Christian theme.  Once I figured out the aim of the film, it was not surprising that there was no reference to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I am not sorry I attended because I learned a lot about the homosexual movement.  However, in the end, I could not share the enthusiasm of the crowd and left feeling deeply distressed at the outright attacks on Christianity.  My prayer is that as a Christian community we can continue to minister to the homosexual community but not at the expense of compromising God’s Word.

Sincerely,

[removed]

_________________ 

Subject: Re: Reaction to the Homosexual Lifestyle Film

Thanks so much for coming to see the film and for taking the time to write to me with your response. 
It may surprise you to know that I, too, was quite taken aback the first time I saw the film, and also the following two times I’ve seen it.  In all cases I felt chagrin and dismay at the portrayal of evangelical Christianity as ignorant and hateful because I know from experience that there are many who are genuinely trying to follow Jesus and who would never behave with some of the extreme behavior depicted in the film.  I come from a very conservative background–I grew up on James Dobson!
Later, though, I realized, as our panelists pointed out after the film, that the film is biased; the film’s aim was not to show “both sides” but instead to follow the families featured through their own discernment processes.  Church policy is one thing; human pain puts a whole new spin on the issues.  Also, watching this film offered me the opportunity to come to terms with the realization that it’s possibly due to the church’s silence that the objectionable voices in the film are the loudest Christian voices of witness the world hears.  What a disservice this is to the radically hopeful Gospel message we claim! 
Please be aware that this film is just one little piece of a community discernment process that our congregation is currently in the process of living through.  There are opinions of all sorts in our community of faith, with the unifying characteristic of commitment to living out what we feel is our call here at Calvary to welcome everyone who seeks relationship with Christ. 
Thank you again for joining us for this part of the conversation, and especially for sharing your thoughts with me.  I hope the issues the film raised for you will be a source of empowerment as you to continue the conversation in your own community of faith.
Best,
Rev. Amy Butler
_________________
Subject: Re: Re: Reaction to the Homosexual Lifestyle Film
Rev. Butler,
Thanks.  Your response cleared up some of my concerns.
Sincerely,
[Removed]

2 Comments on “Ongoing Conversation

  1. “Also, watching this film offered me the opportunity to come to terms with the realization that it’s possibly due to the church’s silence that the objectionable voices in the film are the loudest Christian voices of witness the world hears.”

    I agree; this is not only possible, but probable. I think the dearth of mainstream evangelical voices speaking publicly for LGBT-inclusive religious communities is absolutely the reason for the skewed image of Christianity in this film. Setting aside liberal denominations like the Unitarians and MCC, the vast majority of Christian voices speaking publicly on this issue are vehemently anti-homosexuality. The theologians speaking publicly in favor of accepting homosexuals in the church are in large part homosexual themselves (e.g. Peter Gomes, Mel White, etc.), which unfortunately creates doubt about the authority of their arguments. I don’t believe that the majority of evangelical Christians join the Pat Robertsons and James Dobsons of the world in denouncing homosexuals, but I do believe that moderate clergy do a poor job of being vocal about this important social justice issue. Until there are voices as loud as Fred Phelps’ advocating that “God LOVES gays and lesbians,” the public Christian discourse on this issue will be predominantly based in judgment and exclusion. Also, because society tends to draw its moral cues from mainstream religion, gay and lesbian families will continue to suffer in civil society so long as the church fails to speak out against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

    Thank you for your efforts to bring a new, positive dialogue about the nexus of Christianity and homosexuality into the public sphere by starting this conversation at Calvary. And thank you for sharing your personal opinions on this issue publicly through the HRC. We need more allies like you.

  2. Amy

    Thanks for sharing this post. It really has me thinking. My home church is also showing this movie. I appreciate the nudge from the Spirit to do some reflection, and the conversation you shared and modeled.

    Peace
    Amy Y.

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