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Love Free or Die (2012)

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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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It's not the size of the man, it's the size of the fight in the man.
25 March 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

In 2008, the Anglican Communion met in Lambeth, England for their decennial conference. All consecrated Bishops were invited to the assembly bar one, New Hampshire's Gene Robinson. As the Communion's first (and only) gay bishop, not only was his invitation withdrawn but he was actively and forcibly prevented from participating in any part of the conference (including, in one farcical scene, entering Canterbury Cathedral). Unwavered, Robinson journeys to the UK to publicise his forced isolation, speaking at fringe events around the Conference.

Seen as a microcosm of the wider's gay community's struggle for acceptance, Robinson's battle against the odds is fitting. He is in a long-term, stable relationship with his partner, is a loving father to two daughters (from a previous marriage) and has the blessing and love of his own parish, yet continues to both suffer abuse for his way of life, and come up against scriptural barriers to gay progression in the wider Anglican community. Whilst there is a sense of inevitability about the Church's acceptance of a homosexual lifestyle, it still takes courageous and strong-willed advocates like Robinson to drag them into modernity, kicking and screaming if need be.

If one aspect bothered me, it was that aside from calm, if disjointed, excuses from Archbishop Rowan Williams and the tearful explanation of a female Bishop, the question of marrying Robinson's agenda with scriptural authority is not explored in any depth. Director Macky Alston's point may be that Robinson's story is about what is morally right, rather than scripturally acceptable, but when the opposition points so obstinately to Biblical scripture, their case requires addressing.

That said, Love Free or Die is still a powerful proponent of a good cause, and if it succeeds in ensuring the Anglican Communion stays in touch with the reality on the streets, all the better. Robinson's charisma and enthusiasm is infectious, and if his faith were shared by more of his Episcopal or Anglican brethren, the Church would not be seen as the backward, slow-moving institution that many (including Robinson) consider it to be.


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