Follow Up from Film Project: Love Free or Die
from Soulforce Delegate Nora Williams
I became acquainted with Soulforce last year when I heard about their “Equality Ride” program.
I was immediately interested and signed onto the delegate program and began two months of training. As a new delegate, we are asked to plan and sponsor a project in our areas – one that might bring aw
areness and challenge oppressive religious beliefs as well as create dialogue about intersectional justice issues. About the same time, I became aware of “Love Free or Die,” a film about the life of Bishop Gene Robinson, and started to think about ways to bring this award winning film to the Sacramento community as a part of my Soulforce project. As this vision began several months ago, a team began to form with a similar vision. The president of Sacramento International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival enthusiastically jumped on board, the pastor of St. Marks United Methodist church and the leaders of the LGBTQ group there were also excited to get involved in the project. As we began to discuss bringing the film here, we began to expand the idea to include a panel of diverse clergy members from Sacramento area to answer questions following the film. We also became aware that Trinity Episcopal Cathedral’s was planning on bringing the film to Sacramento and so we joined forces with them they were instrumental in helping with every aspect of the film.
Last year, I had the privilege of hearing Bishop Robinson in person at my church. I sat in the front row and was mesmerized and challenged by his words and struck by his love and patience towards the people (within and outside of his church) that wanted to marginalize and reject him just because he loves another man. It really ignited my heart (since I come from a Bible banging Baptist background) about the need to lovingly and peacefully confront erroneous beliefs about homosexuality which are often times fueled and encouraged by the religious right. Historically and currently, the biggest barrier to achieving LGBTQ equality is religion-based bigotry, along with with the failure of the gay community to confront religious arguments thoughtfully, articulately and publicly. I have found that most LGBT people avoid religious dialogue because they feel unprepared to have a discussion with someone who is schooled in religious teaching. Others feel they have been badly damaged by religion and want to avoid these conversations at all costs. This film provides an example and challenges us all to educate ourselves and to continue to find ways to peacefully stand up to oppression in order to attain the equality we want and deserve.
The film was held at the Crocker Art Museum which added a beautiful new wing to its building a few years ago, including a state of the art auditorium. The Crocker was the perfect venue for the film. Close to 200 people attended the film and the panel discussion which followed was challenging and informative. On the panel was a gay Lutheran minister, a lesbian African American United Church of Christ minister, a male Bishop from the Episcopal Church, an ordained female pastor who directs a women’s shelter and a male pastor of the United Methodist Church.
Attendees were asked to fill out cards for more information about Soulforce and future events in Sacramento. 50 people filled out cards! My hope is to use this film event as a springboard for other Soulforce sponsored events in the area and to bring interest and exposure to Soulforce.
A friend wrote the following review after the film: “That was the best 82 minutes I’ve spent in a long time. I learned so much and was so moved by the experiences of this one man standing up to an institution deep with over 2,000 years of bigotry. One man standing up for what he knew was right. Some
how in 82 minutes these filmmakers managed to portray how one man was instrumental in changing the unchangeable. This film gave me a great sense of hope for the future and more importantly it reminded me just how far the gay (lesbian, bi, transgender, et al inclusive) has to go. I’ve watched our community make such great strides in the last 28 years it’s easy for me to get lulled into a false sense of security and easy for me to think in time everything is destined to be equal so maybe I can just sit back and watch. It’s was a natural progression for me to get complacent. This film makes me realize how far we have come and more importantly how far we have to go.”