A Response to Andy Nash's Review of "Seventh-Gay Adventists"
A Response to Andy Nash's Review of "Seventh-Gay Adventists"
The July 19 issue of The Adventist Review includes acolumn by Andy Nash, a journalism teacher and pastor at Southern Adventist University, about what he feels is missing from our new documentary film, Seventh-Gay Adventists: A film about faith on the margins.
On one hand, it's definitely the very best we could ever expect from the Adventist Church's
official magazine, and I'm actually very appreciative of Andy
column to highlight the film.
begins with several positive points about the film.
says it's well done and that we are "skilled storytellers", that the tone of the film is gentle, that the people featured in the film are just people who happen to be gay, that their stories are resonating deeply with audiences, and that many Adventists are starting to wonder how a God of love could ask people not to have the blessing of a loving relationship in their lives.
We cannot continue to casually compare gays and lesbians in committed relationships, as Andy
appears to do in his
final paragraph, to murders, slanderers, and those who embrace greed, ruthlessness and heartlessness.
If we wonder where the righteously indignant roots of homophobia come from, look no further than columns like this.
Please understand that I do not think Andy
is homophobic, and I do not for a moment believe he
condones violence against gay people.
In fact, I think Andy is a genuine conversation partner who is just at the beginning of this question.
But we have to start admitting that words have consequences.
In the same way that traditional patriarchal interpretations of Pauline writings (many from the same books that the "clobber" texts against LGBT people are found) and the Genesis account of creation and the fall have been used to justify the oppression and subjugation of women in the name of "male headship", these texts and the attitude that says, "It's not me who says this, it's God" are a root cause of violence, self-loathing, and the extreme marginalization that LGBT people in the church face.
My disappointment isn't that Andy
would have produced a different type of film had he
spent the last three and a half years making a film about LGBT Adventists; we expected that from the official church spokespeople, and we genuinely respect his
Making space for difference is very important to us.
After watching the film, Andy
told us that he
felt a lot of compassion for the people in it, and he
went on to say that he
wasn't sure what quite to do with that compassion.
That struggle really comes through here in this column, and what he
resorted to is what the church has always done on this topic: remind readers of a "clobber" verse and use it as an excuse not to engage on a human or pastoral level.
I don't expect a church spokesperson like Andy
to suddenly embrace same-gender relationships with open arms and new doctrines, but I do ask them to wrestle with this more.
Please-these are real people, real families, real pain, and real questions.
Let's admit that the days of easy answers are over.
Please wrestle with your compassion.
Maybe it's God's way of trying to lead us to a new perspective in the way that we have moved to new understandings of truth on other matters of morality and how we treat each other.
I also ask church representatives like Andy
to stop speaking as if gay Adventists haven't wrestled with scripture.
They have, they do, and these moments are among the most poignant and moving in Seventh-Gay Adventists.
The number one thing that straight Adventists, both conservative and progressive, had commented about after screenings is the spiritual depth and sincerity of the people profiled in the film.
The people in this film do not dismiss scripture flippantly.
It's a very easy tactic to dismiss those who disagree with us by saying that they don't value scripture.
Or, as Andy
termed it, gays who are celibate and abstaining from relationships clearly "love scripture more.
I'm not asking Andy
to put aside his
theological interpretations; we need each other in order to dialogue.
In fact, there's a main storyline in the film that's there to respect the traditional voice in the church, and I wish Andy
had mentioned this.
It involves the genuinely loving and inspiring relationship between a gay Adventist and his
older brother who is an Adventist pastor.
The big thing missing in the film for Andy
is a story of a celibate gay, what he
describes as the "truly heroic stories.
spends a lot of real estate touting the website and platform of Wayne Blakely, whose story appeared in theReview a couple years ago, and whose self-described "gay lifestyle" comprised 37 years of promiscuity, brokenness, and addiction that anyone would agree was in need of redemption whether he
was gay or straight. (About the "gay lifestyle" term Christians often bandy about, there is no one gay lifestyle just as there is no one heterosexual lifestyle.
Peggy Campolo sums it up nicely: "Madonna and I are both heterosexual; we do not share the same lifestyle.")
takes us to task for not including Wayne's story, even though, according to Wayne, he
approached us about including him in the film.
This isn't the forum to talk in-depth about the process of filmmaking, but suffice it to say that filmmakers rarely find the stories of people who are looking to launch their brand to be compelling, authentic, and genuine experiences that audiences will resonate with.
What Andy doesn't mention (though he
knew) was that when Wayne wrote us hoping to be featured in the film, he
had been celibate for six months-less than a year!
I would never underestimate the challenge of celibacy and resigning oneself to a life without a partner by your side-that is a very hard path as well-but just look at how Andy
treats a celibate gay compared to those in our film.
spends the better part of three paragraphs promoting, and the others he
compares to murderers and the "ruthless.
Even if this wasn't Andy's intent, and I have a hard time personally believing that it was, it's definitely how his
column reads. (We also eventually eliminated the stories in the film from gay Adventists who were purely "former" Adventists and had left their faith.
Again, that's not where the real conflict is.)
What I would hope to see from Andy
and those in his
position is a willingness to engage on a human and pastoral level.
For example, how and where should gay Adventists worship and take their children to Sabbath School
if they want to share their faith with their children?
What should a church that is lucky enough to have an LGBT Adventist brave enough to walk through their doors do, particularly when that person wants to share their time and talent with the church?
What should the response of a parent of a gay child be?
is a pastor, and I know that he
has gay students in his
classes and Sabbath services.
I wish Andy
had stayed for the post-screening discussion of the film; due to a scheduling conflict, he
had to duck out right as the credits rolled.
column similarly ducks out right when true engagement and listening might begin.
Here's how Andy
As a retired Adventist pastor with a gay son wrote me shortly after Andy's column was published, "To those of us so deeply involved in trying to help the church rise to a much needed new level of compassion toward LGBT people, Andy Nash's
article feels like a punch to the solar plexus."
As even Andy
admits, "It's a hard question that more and more Adventists are asking.
Addendum - In personal correspondence, Andy Nash
has indicated clearly that his
intent with the rhetorical questions in the closing paragraph of his
column was not about equating gays to murderers or the rest of the list in Romans 1.
questions are about how we use scripture.
I hope he'll discuss his
intent more fully as a comment or a response, as I truly welcome the exchange.
Clarifying what we mean about the words and questions we use when discussing such a crucial issue, particularly one where people's lives are so deeply impacted, is important.
Addendum 2 - Special thanks to the folks at The Adventist Review
who were gracious enough to provide us access to Andy Nash's review regardless of subscriber status.
Click here to read Andy Nash's
article, "The Missing Story inSeventh-Gay Adventists."