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Love Free or Die (2012)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 23 January 2012 (USA)
A documentary on Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop who set a precedent in New Hampshire state politics, and the battle for LGBT people to receive full acceptance in the faith.

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LOVE FREE OR DIE 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, and he has lived with death threats every day since. The film follows Robinson's personal story as American churches debate whether or not lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are equal to heterosexuals in the eyes of God while our nation debates whether LGBT people are equal to heterosexuals in the eyes of the law. In LOVE FREE OR DIE, Bishop Gene steps onto the world stage as he travels from small-town churches to Washington's Lincoln Memorial to London's Lambeth Palace calling for all to stand for equality - inspiring bishops, priests and ordinary folk to come out from the shadows and change history. Written by Christopher White

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23 January 2012 (USA)  »

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Love Free: An Opportunity for Dialog
10 February 2012 | by See all my reviews

Love Free or Die reveals a window into the struggle of homosexuals with the Christian faith through Gene Robinson, an Episcopalian and the first openly gay person to be elected Bishop. In the film, we get to see Bishop Robinson as a person, beyond simply the label of being a gay clergyman. We see revealed a man who has loves and struggles in life which, different from most folk's lives, are played out on a public stage. However, we also see a man of deep Christian conviction.

Don't let the name fool you, "Love Free" is not a play on words related to "Free Love". Rather, it coincides with the New Hampshire state motto: "Live Free or Die". Possibly one reason that Bishop Robinson has been able to move the LGBT cause forward in New Hampshire is that although the state tends to be politically conservative, folks there do seem to take their motto to heart.

The film spends much of its time centered on the exclusion of the bishop at the 2008 Lambeth Conference to which all Anglican bishops have been invited for 150 years. We see pain and fear as the bishop is interrupted by a heckler at a sermon in England. We see humility as the bishop interacts with an AIDS/HIV group. We get a glimpse of the bishop's personal joys as we meet his partner, now husband, and see footage of his parents and daughters.

We also see clips of various Christian leaders like Rick Warren in opposition to gay people in church leadership and Barbara Harris as a wise older voice of reason as well as others providing conflicting viewpoints.

The presence of Ms. Harris, the first woman ordained as an Episcopal bishop, elicits just the response the director and the movement is looking for: Christians have been down this road before. Episcopalians base their theology stately and specifically on the bible, tradition and reason. The Episcopal Church and many others have changed biblical interpretations through the years and this is another of those times where the bible and tradition need to be examined with reason. In Love Free or Die, the point of view of the direct was transparent; Macky Alston had a particular agenda of promoting the journey of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. While the documentary gave us a light onto Bishop Gene Robinson and his life's story, the cause may have been better served by presenting more on the turmoil in the Episcopal/Anglican Church and the overall reaction publicly to the consecration of Bishop Robinson.

That said, this movie was near to my heart as a "liberal" Episcopalian from New Hampshire. I find it difficult to separate my personal feelings in trying to sort through the issue of LGBT people in the church. Clearly, the Lord welcomes us all; but not so clear to me is the correctness Biblical interpretation. I related most especially to the woman who sobbed as she said she could not get discernment on the issue.

Above all, this movie offers Christians and society such a wonderful opportunity for dialog. Listening to Macky and Robinson speak in the Sundance Q&A clinched my heart. The affirmation of the Story – the 2000 years of the church holding fast to a position, but more over the story of Gene's struggle, society's struggle, and specifically for me the Episcopal struggle. Bishop Robinson that we should "hold fiercely to each other" while walking through this issue. I felt his heart was pure and I wept.


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