FILM

Love Free or Die
By Nate Myrick With on January 28, 2012

Love Free or Die Love Free or Die was the first film of my Sundance Experience, and in many ways it was the perfect way to start this adventure. The content of the film served as a catalyst for the ongoing dialogue my companions and I have been engaged in. I will attempt to elaborate on that content and its ensuing dialogue, but will first give a short critique on the technical aspects of he film. As a documentary work, Love Free or Die contained all the elements of a successful piece of filmmaking. It’s content was engaging, it was beautifully framed, and carried the plot’s development to a satisfying climax. However, I was mildly put of by the heavy handed treatment of the characters who did not agree with the film’s point of view. An example of this is found in the cinematographic effects applied to the scenes involving Rock Warren. These scenes had a “grainy” feel to them, and were lit in such a way as to cast a shadow on Warren’s eyes, which gave him a very villainous quality. This use of lighting was accompanied by a dissonant score, which further conveyed the sense of villainy. The dialogue that the film sparked has proven to be the defining conversation of Sundance for me. The issue of LGBT acceptance and ordination by the church is the hot button topic of our time, and as such its dominance is deserved. Our conversation has revolved around two key points in the debate; is homosexual action sin, and if so how should we respond to it? To the first point, after a careful consideration of the biblical texts, there is only one passage that seems to speak directly to the issue (Romans 1) as it appears in our modern context, and while my personal interpretation of the text is that homosexual acts are sinful, I am able to allow that a different understanding of that text may be valid. This leads directly to the second, and arguably, the more relevant of the two. The issue of ecclesial response to the subject is where the rubber meets the road. This question for us revolved around First Corinthians chapter five, wherein Paul outlines the churches proper response to a willful, sexually immoral act. At the outset, this passage seemed to give a tangible example of the church’s proper response to an issue such as homosexual acts. However, as we studied this passage we discovered that it was addressing a very specific act; incest. So the next logical question seems to be “Is incest comparable to homosexuality?” and we discovered that it is not. The issue of incest explicitly violates three of the Ten Commandments, and fundamentally defies Christ’s mandate that we are to “…love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:36-40). The issue of homosexual acts is not in violation of ether of these two groups of commandments, and as such does not warrant the same treatment as a case of incest. Thus, we can say with confidence that the biblical approach to homosexual acts is not to expel the transgressor from the assembly. We can then ask how we are to respond to such an issue, and we here can turn to the example of Jesus, who consistently served those He came into contact with by meeting their needs, and then calling them to a holy life. It is important to note that it is not the other way around. The restoration came first, and the call to holiness second. In keeping with the model of Christ, we can then affirm that our call is to love and serve all people, and to live in community with those who profess Christ as the “…Way the Truth and the Life”(Jn. 14:6) and call them to holiness. This does not mean that we should commit the sin of rebellion by acting against our conscience in speaking and living contrary to our understanding of Scripture. If that understanding is that homosexual acts are sinful, we must be faithful in affirming our beliefs. But we must also be careful to avoid the sin of pride by assuming that our understanding of truth is the right one. The very nature of an idea such as absolute truth is that it is independent of interpretations, of me. I am only charged with seeking it to the best of my abilities. It therefore follows that our primary call is to follow the example of Christ in loving homosexuals, restoring them to the community of faith, and calling them to holiness, as we should to all who profess Christ. And after the call to holiness, if they disagree with our understanding of the bible, our mandate remains unchanged. And I am confident that if we are faithful to this mandate the truth will be revealed by our obedience.

About the Author: Nate Myrick

9 Responses to "Love Free or Die"

  1. Current attitudes towards homosexuality have become much more tolerable if not generally accepted. Empirical data like the Kinsey report and Evelyn Hooker’s research have begun to change society’s attitudes towards the “dangers” of homosexuality. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a mental disorder from the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Yet, despite this shift in our society, most conservative Christians continue to believe homosexuality to be a sin, strictly forbidden by the Bible. Muddying this issue further are those who believe that the act of homosexuality, in and of itself, is sinful, thus are accepting of only celibate homosexuals within the Christian church, the “hate the sin, not the sinner” crowd.

    At this point (if you have not already guessed), I must come clean. I am at the other end of this spectrum within Christianity that firmly believes homosexuality not to be a sin. Biblical texts that are often cited to be condemning homosexuality are more often about the sin of being inhospitable, which I think is incredibly ironic. Also, modern science, like MRI scans of the brain, tells us that there is nothing biologically or psychologically “wrong” with homosexuals and we are born gay or not. How can we expect Paul, perhaps the greatest theologian of all, to come to a conclusion about homosexuality almost 2,000 years ago?

    I admit that this issue is incredibly divisive as evidenced by the decision to allow gay marriages and ordain gay bishops by the Episcopal Church captured by this documentary. These decisions caused an inseparable rift in the Anglican Church with the more conservative members of this denomination eventually leaving. Similar debates rage amongst denominations and churches across the United States. Many Christians struggle with this issue of being open to the LGBT community while firmly believing in Scriptural teachings against homosexuality. Let us not kid ourselves; this is not a simple matter. However, as this film and Bishop Gene propose, let us not forget that we were all created in the imago Dei. We are all alike. Regardless of what you believe and where you fall on this issue, we need to treat each other honestly and with integrity, hoping that someday soon, our struggling together will lead us to a place of greater understanding.

    by Justin Lee on Jan 31st, 2012 at 5:08 pm
  2. Well put, Justin. I appreciate your thoughtfulness on the topic.

  3. Love Free or Die
    The story follows the crusade of Bishop Gene Robinson as the first openly gay man elected to the position of Bishop within the American Episcopal Church, and his call for advancement of rights for all LGBT people within the church.  Backed by liberal clergy, Robinson’s ordination sent shockwaves throughout the World Wide Anglican community and became a divisive chapter in the unity of the church.  His efforts to promote the LGBT agenda within the church led to a referendum in 2009 at the Episcopal Convention to allow the ordaining of gay and lesbian clergy, and the consecration and blessing of same-sex unions, at least in states where gay marriage is legal.

    I found this film to be very well crafted and effective in conveying it’s message, but in the end, too one sided to be considered more than propaganda.  As a conservative Christian in the Episcopal Church, I lived through this particular history on the other side of the ideological spectrum from Bishop Gene.  As a result, I felt bludgeoned by the film.  I would have like to have seen more respect given to those holding to the traditional view that acts of homosexual sex are contrary to God’s will as expressed in scripture.  Instead, the film continually used the terms “fear” and “hate” to describe those in opposition to Gene’s (and the filmmaker’s) agenda.  However, despite my objections to the one-sided nature of the film, it did lead to some intense conversation with my fellow students who agree with its progressive views.  I came away from those discussions with a deeper understanding of why they believe what they believe and a richer view of scripture.  I concede I am willing to investigate the question further.  However, to my great disappointment, I continue to feel that my colleagues, like Gene, are more interested in pressing their own views than seeking to understand the scriptural basis for the opposition.  It seems that feelings and post-modern relativism (“this is right for me”), rather than scripture, tradition, and reason, are the basis for argument.  In the end, I am broken-hearted over the great divide that continues to remain. 

  4. Oh, David, I’m so perplexed by our post here. Agreed, this film clearly has the agenda of its director. Similarly, I am an Episcopalian living through this error, albeit a “liberal” if that pleases folks. I cannot begin to understand your “bludgeoned” by this film especially since your initial verbal reaction was to ofter Bishop Robinson a glass of water. I could not disagree more that Gene Robinson has his own agenda at hand. I do believe that he has asked the Lord to search his being on this; as have so many of us.

    I understand your interpretation of scripture. However, as we discussed, so many interpretations have been refuted and challenged in history. I welcome the dialogue that this documentary allows us.

  5. Tonya, my initial reaction is still the same - I would, and continue to, want to show love and compassion to Gene, which is why I said what I said.  But I did feel the film was quite heavy handed.  Artful, yes.  Skilled, yes.  But I would have like to seen more balance in its presentation.

  6. And to be fair, I should’ve said “Some of my colleagues…” not all.

  7. Agreed, David, the film and the “cause” could have been better served by a more even handed portrayal of the situation. Blessings and thanks to you and all who take on this conversation.

  8. An example of a similar film that I think helps that “cause” more effectively—because of its even-handedness is “Seventh-gay Adventists” by Daneen and Stephen Akers. One which has been screened around the country over the past year (including near or on the Fuller campus). It unflinchingly follows the lives and struggles of 3 different individuals/couples who are homosexual and also conservative Christians. The film does not draw conclusions for its audience although it is difficult for the audience to feel anything but empathy for these individuals after hearing their stories; if not change their viewpoints as well.

  9. I just found this post, and I would like to amend my original posting, as further study of the scriptures has convinced me that Romans 1 does not actually consider homosexuality as sin, but instead as the result of sin. This result would be analogous to pain in childbirth or fighting with the ground in order to grow food, as the allusions to Genesis 3 in Romans 1 would suggest. It is interesting how a couple years of study will change your perceptions so dramatically.

    by Nate Myrick on Sep 3rd, 2013 at 8:36 am
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