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The Public Eye, Fall 2009
Following the Leaps and Bounds of Anti-Gay Logic
Fish Out of Water
Directed by Ky Dickens
Documentary by Yellow Wing Productions, 2008.
Reviewed by Jaime Coyne
Inspired by the director’s devastating experience of coming out to her sorority sisters at Vanderbilt University, this documentary examines the seven Bible verses often cited by the Christian anti-gay movement. Some people spout that being gay is wrong because “it’s in the Bible,” but few of those asked off the streets in this documentary knew what the Bible said on the topic.
By unpacking these verses with the help of progressive Christian theologians like Bishop John Shelby Spong and Dr. Amy Jill Levine and lively cartoon animation, the film reveals how the Bible is used to further many motives at odds with the Christian creed to love all of God’s children. This film engages in religious debate as political act, arguing religion with people to win them over, and offers support to those who are gay and Christian.
We hear from those condemned to hell by their own families, and two Christian Right leaders who use these seven verses as proof that the Bible says homosexuality is sin. And we hear from many more who disagree with them.
The first verse chronologically is Genesis 1:1-31, in which God commands humankind in a newly formed world to “be fruitful and multiply,” leading some Christians to condemn homosexuality as sinful because it does not lead to reproduction. As many have pointed out, under this logic plenty of other people are also sinful – the elderly, the infertile, the sterile, post-menopausal women, people using birth control.
The filmmaker also unpacks Genesis 2-3, in which God gives Eve to Adam to be his “helper.” This is given as proof that God meant relationships to be between one man and one woman. But the “corresponding helper” can be viewed as the individual who is most suited for that person, rather than just a subservient companion. Nowhere does it say that a person’s partner must be of the opposite sex.
People popularly read the story of God destroying Sodom and Gomorrah (in Genesis 19:1-29) as revealing God’s wrath because the cities were filled with people doing perverse, often homosexual acts. The very word “sodomy” comes from it. Yet, our re-interpreters tell us, reading the story more broadly reveals different lessons. God punishes the cities because its citizens show no hospitality to their visitors and threaten violence to the one family who does welcome strangers. Yes, the citizens threaten the family and its guests with homosexual rape – yet it is a violent atrocity because it would be by force.
The film reminds us that Jesus – the heart of the Christian belief system – never said a word about homosexuality. He did, however, forgive the prostitutes and adulterers, and eat with the sinners. He concerned himself with the reality of the everyday life of the common person. As one woman passionately told the filmmaker, “Jesus cares about our hearts. Jesus doesn’t care about our homosexuality.” -- Jaime Coyne