Love Free or Die | Review

watch: (only through November 19, 2012)


LOVE FREE OR DIE (Special Jury Prize winner Sundance 2012) is about a man whose two defining passions the world cannot reconcile: his love for God and for his partner Mark.  It is about church and state, love and marriage, faith and identity-and one man’s struggle to dispel the notion that God’s love has limits.

In the film, Gene Robinson becomes the first openly gay person to be elected bishop in the high church traditions of Christendom.  Bishop Robinson’s elevation in the sleepy New Hampshire diocese in 2003 ignited a worldwide firestorm in the Anglican Communion, one that has become so heated that there is still a chance of a schism in the 80 million-member denomination.  One year after being muzzled by the Archbishop of Canterbury, he finds himself speaking from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at Barack Obama’s Inauguration. Gene Robinson confronts those who use religion as an instrument of oppression, and claims a place in the church and society, not just for LGBT people, but for all.

– From

LOVE FREE OR DIE, which is having its national television broadcast on PBS’ Independent Lens on October 29th (check local listings) [2012], is about a man whose two defining passions are in direct conflict: his love for God and for his partner Mark. Gene Robinson is the first openly gay person to become a bishop in the historic traditions of Christendom. His consecration in 2003, to which he wore a bullet-proof vest, caused an international stir.

The film follows Robinson from small-town churches in the New Hampshire North Country to Washington’s Lincoln Memorial to London’s Lambeth Palace, as he calls for all to stand for equality – inspiring bishops, priests and ordinary folk to come out from the shadows and change history.

– From

a few quotes

“Sexuality isn’t the issue. Humanity is the issue. The only thing Gene Robinson did different is he refused to play a charade that he was a straight man with a roommate. He was truthful.”

“The opposite of love is not hate. It’s fear.” – Gene Robinson

“I loved God, and I loved the church, but the church was unfaithful to me.”

— VIA —

The issue of homosexuality and religion is, I opine, reaching a tipping point in our culture and conversation. It may very well be that several years from now we look back on this era (especially in light of the propositions that have recently passed) and say, “Do you remember when?” The younger generations are growing up with less inhibitions and fewer reservations than the previous generations, and their voting and ideological power is shifting the cultural consensus. That is, I believe, evidenced in both anecdotal and legislative evidence.

Unlike other civil rights issues, there’s something different about sexuality that goes deeper to the core of our human identity. More than economics, class, or even race, gender is about the very soul of humanity. Gender and sexuality is connected to our ability to connect to one another. That need to connect means that there is something separate and distinct about our species. Indeed, the etymology of the word “sex” is from the Latin “sexus” or “secare,” meaning to divide or cut into sections. It’s a word that denotes “division.” Part of what it means to be sexual beings, is to recognize that I am connecting (or re-connecting) to someone with whom I’ve been divided from. Thus, sexuality is not really about “sex” per se, but about how we humans identify ourselves, connect, and manage the forces (i.e. “desires”) that bring us together (diminishing the divide) — and tear us apart (strengthening the divide).

So, as the tides change, in both civil and religious communities, the categories of “prejudice” or even “fear” are going to be inadequate to encapsulate the full breadth of what is happening to us, or rather, what we are doing to ourselves. True, we will see more prejudice (the establishment of opinion before engagement) and fear (the deep seated, often unconscious emotion in response to danger). Yet, those are even deeply rooted in something else more foundational…the fact that we are a divided people seeking to revisit once again the ways in which human connection is obtained. This seems to be quite an evolutionary shift in our fundamental identities — our “ontologies,” if you will. That is, the very essence of our beings, or as I mentioned before, the “soul” of our humanity is changing. In religious communities, this makes the conversation more than mere “literalism” or the abdicated response of “God just made it that way.” This forces faith communities to wrestle with deeper issues, such as, What makes us truly connected to one another, and what values are priorities in the goal to honor God in the global human project?

How shall we discuss these complicated issues? Perhaps not with objectivity, but with subjectivity. Thus the need for a good story, and a real human face, not some abstracted theological doctrine. And the Gene Robinson story is as good as any, though much higher profile. A similar thought is communicated in For the Bible Tells Me So, and Trembling Before G-d.

About VIA

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