Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

More Reflections on the Film and Discussion

I thought I would share a few more reflections about the film and discussion last night at Milligan College. I need to be careful not to speak out of school as this was a discussion for the students and faculty of the campus. They were gracious to allow visitors to attend. I was impressed by the way the conversation was moderated and by the number of students who attended. Including the film and discussion, we were there from seven to about ten-thirty.

I am incredibly grateful to Andy Olivo and the other students who organized this as well as the faculty who participated on the panel, and the administration for allowing this discussion to be held. Andy did a super job showing the purpose of the gathering, leading us in prayer, and telling us what the gathering would not do--lead us all into agreement.

The film itself was very well done. I plan to host a screening at some point for our congregation and the larger community. It told the stories of five families and put a face or a number of faces on the "issue." The film showed that the "issue" is not sexual orientation but prejudice fueled by the church and how that prejudice is destructive. I cannot imagine that anyone watching this film would not be moved by the stories of these folks.

At the panel discussion questions were raised on how fair the film treated various interpretations of the Bible. I found myself agreeing with the critique to a certain point. This film did not provide an in-depth study of the Bible itself (although it did open eyes for those who have never started to see the Bible critically). That wasn't the point of the film.

The film did make the point of how the Bible has been misused. For example, when someone is so clear that the Bible condemns gays while never reading the Bible, certainly not reading it critically, that is a misuse. The film pointed out that it is a misuse to isolate a couple of verses out of context and apply them to the present. It is also a misuse of the Bible to make it be authoritative for someone else without knowing the other person. I have been through all of this Bible study for forever it seems. There are very few arguments I have not heard.

I am not a fundamentalist, so I usually don't use the Bible in this way. In fact, I am only using it here rhetorically. But it seems to me that if the Bible clearly teaches anything it teaches that we are not to bear false witness against our neighbor. The false witness that has been perpetrated against lgbt people is that they are somehow "less than" straight people.

Because of that "less than" status, the church has sanctioned prejudice and destroyed families. That is what the film showed clearly.

An odd thing about the discussion that followed the film (and I am not picking on this particular discussion at Milligan--this happens all of the time), is that the film which was a powerful telling of the stories of human beings, led to an abstract discussion of Bible interpretation.

That to me is a sin. It is as if we have to wait on the edge of our seats before the Bible experts give us the answers. We have to figure out all of these mysteries of scripture before we can decide whether or not it is OK to treat others with simple human decency. As if we have to wait around for some Ph. D. to parse out a Greek word or figure out the contextual status of ancient Roman sexual practices before we can decide whether or not a son or a daughter, mother or father, neighbor or church member is OK.
That is a stalling tactic.

The reason the right wing writes me off as a heretic is because I will not play their Bible game. I don't go to the Bible to learn about human sexuality anymore than I go to it to learn about fossil fuels. The Bible is simply not an authority on either issue. Who cares whether Paul was homophobic or not? He probably was. And you know something? He isn't here. But you are, and I am, and so is your gay son or daughter whom you may have rejected because of some theological abstraction.

Nevertheless, the Bible won't go away. And because people use it as a weapon against themselves and others, and because people have been so beaten by it, I as a minister, provide them with whatever resources they need to get over the pain it has caused. In some cases, people have been able to move beyond seeing the Bible (and the Church) as dangerous to one's health, and to find spiritual resources in the Bible (and yes, even the church) itself.

I have no desire to debate fundamentalists about the Bible. I have a great desire to help people, gay, straight and all, connect spiritually, and the Bible when rescued from fundamentalism and seen from a liberating lens has been helpful to many lgbts and their families.

If you need books from a liberating lgbt perspective on the Bible or Christian Spirituality, baby, I got 'em.

Peter Gomes was interviewed in the film. He has written a couple of good books.

Mel White was featured as well. He is a gem.

There are many others. I have listed but a few here to get those who are interested started.

It will be some time before society and the churches move beyond this particular prejudice. These discussions can be incredibly painful for those who really get tired of being labeled as a "sinner." I am sorry for that. Be of good courage, beloveds. You know you. God (however God is understood by you) knows you. And you are loved.

And, little by little, eyes and hearts can be opened.

Toward that effort, the Milligan College discussion was a great success.