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by Andrew Grossman
| Preface | Postscript |
When I first considered making a film about my friend Louie Crew, a gay rights activist involved in the debate over the full inclusion of LGBT people in The Episcopal Church, I had atheism on my mind. As gay Christians such as Crew successfully argue that homosexuality and Christianity are more easily reconciled than their conservative opponents admit, atheism and homosexuality become not a single, conflated crime against God and Nature, as they were in the Middle Ages, but two distinct categories. If you’re like me, however—both gay and an atheist—you could well be left out in the cold, since gay civil rights in the post-AIDS, post-militant era have become disproportionately centered around final assimilations into churches, marriages, and other spiritual (and heretofore impenetrable) institutions. If the phrase “gay American” sounds perilously tenuous, “atheist American” sounds downright improbable, for in an allegedly Christian nation atheism remains an issue even pro-gay (but predictably “faithful”) politicians dare not address.
As I met more good-hearted LGBT Episcopalians, however, I gradually put aside my militant atheism, though I never foreswore it. My original question, "How has Christianity’s intolerance and willful ignorance perverted the history of Western sexuality?" soon changed to “If Christianity held to its charitable ideals, and were not bigoted and antiscientific, would there be anything wrong with it?" Of course, this doesn’t get us off the hook entirely, for homophobia, misogyny, patriarchy, and all of our familiar ills are clearly embedded in Scripture. Realizing my own criticism of religion would be rejected anyway by believers, I instead attempted to dismantle patriarchy by interviewing those—Louie Crew, Bishop Spong, Bishop Robinson—who simultaneously hold and reject patriarchal positions, who posit a utopian Christianity against the homophobic Christianity that still dominates American culture.
Viewers may notice a (politically incorrect) absence of lesbian interviewees, which was not my original intention. Dr. Deirdre Goode and Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton, prominent Episcopalian lesbian activists, were unavailable at the time of filming, and an Anglican lesbian refugee, whom I did interview, suddenly demanded to be removed from the film. I might suggest, however, that just as an atheist’s critique of Christian patriarchy is both obvious and superfluous, so would be a feminist’s—it’s more valuable to witness patriarchal figures attacking patriarchy than to see the disenfranchised demonstrating their political correctness.
How I personally identify with each interviewee would not be obvious to the audience. Philosophically, I have more in common with the “atheistic” though heterosexual Bishop Spong than the devoutly Christian but gay Louie Crew and Bishop Robinson. While David Virtue can be dismissed as closed-minded, I actually agree with him when he existentially declaims, “What is it [Christianity] about? Niceness?” My own experience with Reform Judaism as a child is exactly the kind of social club nicety both true believers and skeptics should deem meretricious. If religion is little more than rituals of coffee and cake following empty bows and moldy chants, how can one believe in it? But not all faith is religious, and I do have faith in aesthetics. Indeed, through the filmmaking process I can—metaphysically, no less—join with my devout interview subjects, reediting and recasting their dialogues into a composite form that, in a world where Christianity is not synonymous with homophobia, could reflect an alternate evolution of myself.
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