I have just finished watching “The Bible told me so” on Geraldine’s Compass programme on the ABC. If you missed it, the whole program is on Youtube in a number of separate clips (see this search query here). What can I say? Only that if this program is really about how people read the bible in relation to homosexuality, then we are dealing with a veritable Sare Lee danish pastry: Subtext upon subtext upon subtext of the text itself.
It is interesting that while the program deals primarily with Evangelical and Liberal Protestants, and tangentially with Judaism, not one word (as far as I heard) is mentioned of the Catholic Church, the biggest homophobic bogey man on the block according to many commentatosrs. Why was that?
Well, for one thing this program was entirely about America (except for a couple of cameo appearances of Archbishop Desmond Tutu), and I guess that Catholicism still isn’t an authentic form of American religion. Secondly, this program was about “the bible” and “what the bible says” – or doesn’t say – about homosexuality. Catholic doctrines regarding sexual morality are a little more complex than the Protestant (or Jewish?) “because the bible tells me so”. Same conclusion, admittedly, but that conclusion stands on more legs than one or two passages in Scripture. Just as the Church’s opposition to abortion is not based upon any single biblical passage, neither is the Church’s evaluation of the morality or otherwise of homosexual activity. Thirdly, the Catholic approach to sexuality is somewhat alien to that of Protestantism and Judaism – stop to think for a moment of the role of celibacy in Catholicism, and on the other hand the sensuousness of an art form such as the baroque.
A Catholic watching “The Bible told me so” is likely find himself in a confused muddle by the end of the program, because the picture which the documentary paints is alien to the picture that most Catholics (at least, outside the States) will be familiar with. At so many points one whats to stop the tape and say “Hold on a moment!”, but the ideological merry go round keeps going round and round and faster and faster. The program starts from the simple and thoroughly understandable premise that loving parents always love and accept their children no matter what, and ends up with nothing less than a religious ideology in support of the morality of homosexual behaviour entirely comparable and equally if not more strident than the “homophobic” religious ideology which the documentary sets out to condemn.
It is not “the bible” which one hears speaking in this documentary – still less any thing of which one could say “The Word of the Lord” and express a heartfelt “Thanks be to God” in response. What one hears is the subtext of all the unhappiness currently afflicting American religion and morality, and the complete inability of the self-appointed spokesmen for God – on either side of the argument – to say anything with any authority on the subject of homosexuality and homosexual activity.
All in all, usual Compass fare. Watch out for the new series starting next week on Compass on the history of the Church. At first I thought it might be the BBC series based on the excellent History of Christianity by Dairmaid MacCulloch, but no such luck. Instead it seems like it will be the usual unhistorical, cynical anti-Christian propaganda we have come to expect from this program.