The documentary For The Bible Tells Me So opens with a fascinating vintage clip of singer-turned-professional-hatemonger Anita Bryant getting hit in the face with a pie while bashing gays. She recovers with a glib one-liner ("at least it was a fruit pie"), then somberly offers to pray for the pie-hurling sinner. Because honestly, aren't pie-hurling sinners the best, most saveable kind? Right away, this sequence serves notice that for all its earnest good intentions, Bible doesn't take itself too seriously, and boasts a disarming undercurrent of gleeful prankishness.
Bible takes a blatantly partisan, kitchen-sink approach to the question of whether the Bible condemns homosexuality. Its unmistakable pro-tolerance agenda centers on case studies of relatively religious families dealing with an offspring's homosexuality, including the family of serial Democratic presidential candidate Richard Gephardt. Daniel Karslake's busy, kinetic doc also includes found footage, expert testimonials, a campy cartoon, and even a shrill, didactic excerpt from the Aaron Sorkin-created TV show The West Wing that must have taken entire minutes to dig up.
The film's talking heads convincingly argue that the Bible's alleged condemnation of homosexuality or homosexual acts must be considered within the context of language and culture, and is open to countless interpretations. Besides, the Bible also calls eating rabbits an abomination, yet the Focus On Family group isn't out protesting restaurants serving rabbit fricassee. Bible occasionally feels too broad: The cartoon, while clever and well-animated, pushes the boundaries of good taste, while a sequence in which outrageously mannered voices read excerpts from hate mail sent to a gay clergyman crosses it flagrantly. Yet the film makes its case with humor and heart. The bitter irony, of course, is that the people who would benefit most from Bible—fundamentalists, gay bashers, leaders of the ex-gay movement, and the like—are the folks least likely to see it or be open to its message of tolerance, no matter how sweetly delivered. In that respect, the film will probably end up preaching to the converted, albeit in an engaging and surprisingly light-hearted fashion.