Every Monday, the CSPH takes a look at a book or film focusing on an aspect of sexuality. This week we are looking at a documentary by Malcolm Burt entitled, “The Bedroom Commandments,” in which he explores the concept of whether or not a person can be both gay and religious.
In the film, Burt interviews with former ordained ministers, homosexuals sent to conversion camps in their youth, previously married gay men with children, and both former and current members of various faiths including Christianity, Mormonism, Atheism, and Paganism. Burt begins his film by depicting the ways that many homosexual people have been rejected by various religions due to their sexual orientation. What he discovers through many of his interviews, however, is that while homophobia is prevalent among many religious circles, there are individuals who are both homosexual and devoutly religious.
Not only is there is a lot of discussion regarding the traditional Christian view that homosexuality is a disorder, but time is also devoted to how this view has caused a great amount of harm in terms of how gay-identified Christians view their self-worth. Burt features many individuals who have experienced abuse and persecution by religious leaders and followers because of their sexuality. However, several ex-Christians interviewed in the film claim they believe that the people they encountered in their church who encouraged them to seek therapy and deny their sexual urges were often acting out of kindness and concern, however misguided and ultimately destructive it may have been.
While there is a lot of criticism regarding the politics of religion and people’s tendency to “cherry-pick” from sections of the Bible in order to persecute homosexuals, Burt states, “This film was never meant to be an anti-religious film… it was meant to be a questioning film.” Overall, it offers an insightful and enlightening perspective of what it means to be both gay and religious. Burt himself admits that after two years of interviewing people from all over the world and from different faiths, he now believes that, even for those who identify as gay, religion can provide genuine comfort and can be a force for good.
“The Bedroom Commandments” is both an informative and enlightening documentary. It is recommended for anyone questioning how to reconcile their sexual orientation with their faith or for those seeking greater understanding of what it is like to be both gay and religious.