Sex and Caricatures: Do not mix. Try contentment instead.

I saw a screening of a documentary entitled, “For The Bible Tells Me So,” at Northwestern last week. It’s a film that profiled five Christian families with one member of the family who is gay or lesbian, including the family of Senator Dick Gephardt and openly gay episcopal bishop Gene Robinson.

You can see the trailer here.

It was a very well done film. Daniel Karslake, the director, does an excellent job of getting into the lives of these families and making them real. He does keep the complexity about how the families responded. He creates great tension in the film, and for that I applaud him.

Documentaries are all the rage now, but several things bothered me about this film that led more toward a docu-drama than documentary. First, it portrays a very one-sided view of the interpretation of scripture. It basically leads the audience to believe that the Bible’s texts on homosexuality are all simply culturally based, quoting mostly liberal scholars who believe the Bible’s authority is simply cultural as well. Not surprisingly, Karslake quotes only one scholar who came from the Christian communities that he caricatured. For good insight into this, read Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis by William Webb.

Second, it parodies the nature-nurture debate in a cartoon. I understand the intent, but to mock those are serious about the issues in cartoon form is just bad form. There are tons of materials on this, but the book that has helped me enter into this part of the conversation insightfully is Straight and Narrow? Clarity and Compassion in the Gay Debate.

Finally, it bothers me most in that I don’t fit in the categories of the film. The film requires you to choose between homosexuality or homophobia as sin. You aren’t given option to believe both are sinful – it doesn’t open the conversation regarding this complexity, it closes it by forcing the audience into either camp.

The film then moves to show the political activist route as the way to see how change will happen in this arena. Everyone leaves the film thinking how they need to change the church to abandon it’s ignorant readings of scripture.

So, really, the film is informed propaganda that caricatures evangelical Christians, and all but one of the negative examples used in the film were white men.

Ding ding ding – that’s me. Yet again, I’m caricatured to be the legitimate and deserving object of anger of another group.

Why am I not surprised?

Most American Evangelical Christians don’t think about this much, but there is an underlying assumption here that needs to be uncovered to reveal much of the tension in the gay debate. In the church, and in the greater society, we’ve idolized the family, and made it a requirement for contentment. We’ve made it so that unless you have a spouse and kids, you are substandard and second class. If you don’t think so, ask a single friend in the church, or a married couple that doesn’t have children.

There’s nothing wrong with the family. We need healthy, Godly families. I came from one. I absolutely love my family. I love being an uncle to my nephews and brother and cousin and son and grandson. Someday, I hope to be a husband and father. But I might not.

There is nothing wrong with the family until it is prescribed as the ideal for all. And that’s what we have done in the American church.

Think about it. We celebrate Mothers’ Day in church (and we make sure they are honored), we celebrate Fathers’ Day (when the dads are actually there).

Do we celebrate singles? Or are we just assuming that someday they will get their turn to be celebrated when they leave celibacy when they achieve motherhood and fatherhood status? If we do, we are caricaturing singleness, and even more so, sexuality.

We don’t do well with teaching something where we are told we can’t have something. Clearly, the way we are taught in scriptures is the way of contentment. Yet while we may say it from the pulpit, we’ve not lived in a way that tells people to be content with what they have. We’ve taught them to want it all, and worse, that they are entitled to it all, they deserve it all.

When we think we are entitled to have it all, someone should caricature us. We deserve it.

Contentment teaches me that in my single state, sexuality is something that needs to be restrained for the sake of pouring my love into others who are able to love others as well. Singleness is sacramental, just like marriage is sacramental. In singleness, when we try to love our neighbor as ourselves we have to work to be present with our neighbors to love them; but loving them can be slightly easier because we can go home away from them. In marriage, after the honeymoon, your “neighbor” wakes up with bad breath and farts under the covers, making love much more difficult than it was on the honeymoon.

Both states are sacramental – embodied ways for love to be a reality in our lives. Can you be a single lover? I think so…I wish the church did.

Which leads me back to my original point about the film (yes, I have wandered, haven’t I?) The film demeans sexuality not in it’s expression, but in it’s simplistic view of sexuality. Talking about sexuality in terms of copulation partners will continually frustrate us because we assume that seeking sexual pleasure is a prerequisite for contentment.

When we demand our own way from God, even by justifying it by our biological nature, we ultimately tell God that we aren’t content with what he says. Contentment as the way ultimately invites us to trust God; that he will give us the desire of our hearts. We sacrifice entitlement for trust and faith and hope.

I say it’s worth it.

Perhaps then we will learn Paul’s secret of being content in any and every situation (Phil 4:12).

1 Response to “Sex and Caricatures: Do not mix. Try contentment instead.”

  1. 1 Ed Hsu June 24, 2008 at 2:54 am

    Good posts lately, bro. Keep making people think.

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May 2008

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