Is homosexuality a sin? Is it really an abomination? And, how should parents handle the news of their children being gay? This Oscar-shortlisted documentary seeks to answer those questions, and more.
What filmmaker Daniel Karslake does is introduce us to five families that to answer those questions for themselves. How Karslake does it is that he simply lets those families tell their stories.
Karslake takes us into the homes of the Robinsons in Kentucky, the Poteats in North Carolina, the Reitans in Minnesota, the Gephardts in Washington, DC, and the Wallners in Arkansas. All of them are of different sizes and denominations, but all share a highly religious background, and each has a homosexual child.
Karslake gets not only the parents to express their experiences and feelings from the time of that child's birth to that of their learning about his or her homosexuality. He also gets the gay children to open up and relate their experiences and emotions. What we get is the conflict that has occurred in many homes all across America.
You hear from parents like David Poteats, an African-American minister in a small town just outside Greensboro, N.C., who says, "God please, don't let my son grow up to be a faggot and my daughter a slut..."
Karslake shows you interviews from Anita Bryant, the singer-turned-political activist, soundbites from Dr. James Dobson, as well as video from protestors like the Westboro Baptist Church, a radical religious group that blames all of America's ills on its acceptance and tolerance of gay people.
Karslake shows Bible verses like those from Paul's Epistle to the Romans and Leviticus 20:13, which reads, "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death."
Now, much of the Book of Leviticus is ascribed to Moses, but Moses also delivered more writings, some that read, "Thou Shalt Not Kill." So, how on one hand can Moses say don't kill, but on the other hand can he say it is all right to kill gay people?
This glaring contradiction, as well as many others, are not pointed out by Karslake. Instead, Karslake brings in people like the Rev. Peter J. Gomes, a 65-year-old preacher at Harvard University's Divinity School who, as a lifelong Republican, offered prayers at the inaugurals of both President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush, and Desmond Tutu, the 76-year-old Archbishop of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Karslake offers no narration from himself. He merely lets the archbishop and the various, highly-respected reverends explain why they believe homosexuality is not a sin nor an abomination. In fact, Reverend Dr. Laurence C. Keene of the Disciples of Christ Church, a former Biblical literalist, says, that "it is the struggle to understand context, and language, and culture, and custom..." that confuses people about this issue of homosexuality and Christianity.
The Rev. Irene Monroe of the Harvard Divinity School, similarly, makes the point that "You and I can read the same passage and get a different interpretation." She says that it's been the interpretation of the Bible by the wrong people for too long that has propelled homophobia as well as a lot of other prejudices and discriminations unfairly.
She, along with many other preachers and theologians in this film, go over verse by verse and analyze how easily people have gotten wrong and preached things that aren't there in the text, but that have merely been interpreted to fit some agenda.
But, all of this is just the sidedish. The main meal comes from Karslake's interviews and his following of the lives of the five families, especially that of the Reitans who discuss the homophobia that they faced not only from within but also from around.
A couple of families even talk about their embracing of Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family messages. Dobson who is an author and radio commentator called homosexuality a "preventable disorder." Many of the families here struggle with that notion, as well as their own fears. Hearing what they went through, however, is way more powerful that any evidence you could get from theologians or even a Nobel Prize-winning archbishop.
Five Stars out of Five
Unrated but for mature audiences
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.