NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–“Southern Baptist Sissies,” a fictional theatrical production about four homosexual men raised in Southern Baptist churches, will soon become a motion picture, Baptist Press has learned. Production on the film will begin in the summer of 2007, according to the author of the play and the film’s producer, Del Shores.
A longtime television writer, Shores previously wrote and produced the play “Sordid Lives,” billed as a “black comedy about white trash.” When that play was developed into a motion picture, it performed poorly at the box office, earning only $1.1 million nationally. Shores also has written multiple episodes of “Queer as Folk,” a television drama about the lives of homosexuals.
“Southern Baptist Sissies” is Shores’ most recent play and currently is on tour across the country. Performances have been held in Dallas, St. Louis and Tacoma, Wash., and are scheduled this November in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Nashville, Tenn., where several Southern Baptist entities have their headquarters.
Tim Wilkins, a Southern Baptist minister and founder of Cross Ministry, an outreach to homosexuals, said the upcoming movie likely will lead secular audiences to conclude that evangelical Christians are “shallow thinkers and inept.” Even so, he said Southern Baptists would “do well to respond to the movie with little if any fanfare.”
“I think the more attention focused on the movie will simply improve its visibility and increase the attendance at theaters across the country,” Wilkins, himself a former homosexual, said. “This forthcoming movie is part of a chain of events that has taken place over the past 15-20 years, and by that I mean secular society and the pro-homosexual movement making a statement and Southern Baptists being automatically placed in a position of responding to that statement — which is exactly where we should not be.”
Wilkins said Southern Baptists should “take the offense without being offensive.”
“By that I mean a proactive, redemptive outreach to those with same-sex attractions is far better than a month by month response to what the world is telling us about homosexuality,” he said.
Southern Baptists have made efforts in this regard. At their annual meeting in New Orleans in 2001, messengers adopted a resolution requesting that the convention “establish a task force to inform, educate and encourage our people to be proactive and redemptive in reaching out to those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions.” The task force reported to the SBC at its annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn., four years later, the same year that Southern Baptists dropped their boycott of the Disney Company.
At the time, Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said that, while Southern Baptists remained true to the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality — which is sexual intimacy between a man and a woman within a marriage — they would not condemn homosexuals. “Christians loving homosexuals without accepting their lifestyle is the way we can be most helpful in helping homosexuals to be liberated from that lifestyle,” Land said.
Shores, in an interview, said Southern Baptist Sissies, which won an award from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), is about “love and acceptance” for homosexuals who “have felt excluded from the church, from the love of God because of the teachings and doctrines that were taught to us as children and beyond.” Shores, a homosexual activist, has said he was raised in a Southern Baptist church in Texas and attended Baylor University in Waco.
Shores described his play as ending “with the message of hope — that God loves us all, just as He created us.”
“The narrator [in the play] creates a perfect world,” Shores continued, “where the lonely are no longer lonely and all are welcome, where mothers and fathers embrace and love every part of their children, where preachers preach sermons about truth, about love and hope — a world where we can all love whomever we choose and not be judged or rejected because of the way our creator made us.”
While the theme that God creates people to be homosexuals likely will be promoted in the film, it is unfounded, said Michael Dean, pastor of Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, the site of a recent seminar on what the Bible says about homosexuality.
“The viewpoint that homosexual behavior is ‘natural’ for some persons cannot be supported by Scripture,” Dean said, noting that the behavior is regarded as sinful in both the Old and New Testaments. “But even if it were discovered that there is a genetic predisposition to homosexuality, that would not remove the sinfulness of the expressed behavior. Heterosexual desires are ‘natural,’ but are also sinful when expressed outside of a biblically defined marriage between a man and a woman.”
The Baptist Faith and Message, the faith statement of the Southern Baptist Convention, states in its article on “The Christian and the Social Order” that Christians should oppose “all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography.”
Shores wrote Southern Baptist Sissies following the death of Matthew Shepard, a homosexual who was beaten to death by two men in Wyoming. He told a Washington newspaper last year that he had seen a picture of Jesus on the wall of the apartment where one of the killers lived.
“It made me wonder were they able to commit this horrible crime because of justification in the name of the Lord, or were they taught hatred toward homosexuals in a church like I was,” Shore told the Tacoma News Tribune.
Bob Stith, pastor of Carroll Baptist Church in Southlake, Texas, said that Southern Baptist churches where pastors preach on homosexuality from the Bible are not teaching hate. Instead, he said homosexual activists have done a fair job of identifying Southern Baptists with individuals like Fred Phelps, who leads Westboro Baptist Church, a congregation in Topeka, Kan., not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Phelps and his followers have for years picketed the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meetings with signs claiming that God hates homosexuals and that homosexuals are beyond redemption. The group has made news in recent months by protesting at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The primary thing the homosexual movement has done is use Fred Phelps as the model and ignored the majority of conservative, evangelical thought on this issue,” Stith said. “We teach that homosexuality is not God’s plan, but that there is a way out.”
Stith admits that he was at one time a “hardliner” on the issue of homosexuality, assuming that if he had preached on the issue from the Bible, he had done enough. But he, like Wilkins, said Southern Baptists should develop a more proactive and redemptive approach to ministering to homosexuals. Stith was the messenger who presented the motion about ministry to homosexuals at the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans in 2001.
“The Lord really convicted me,” Stith said. “I was more focused on preaching about the consequences of homosexual behavior than I was what we should do to minister to homosexuals.”
Dean said ministry to homosexuals must “start with consistency.”
“The church must uphold holiness within the household of God. It is hypocritical for the church to decry homosexual behavior while not calling the church membership to the highest level of sexual integrity,” Dean said. “There must also be compassion. Homosexual behavior is a sexual sin, just like adultery or other kinds of sexual immorality. Jesus’ compassion for the woman who was caught in adultery [John 8] serves as a great model for the church.”
Wilkins said more and more Southern Baptist churches are eager to dialog about the issue of homosexuality in order to find resources for their loved ones who are involved in same-sex relationships. But despite recent efforts by the Southern Baptist Convention to address the issue, there still are obstacles to discussing the particular sin of homosexuality.
“There still is a great reluctance to delve into this uncomfortable issue,” Wilkins said. “At a recent speaking event I asked those attending if they had a friend, family member, colleague or other acquaintance who was dealing with homosexuality. Almost 70 percent of those attending raised their hands. I reminded them that it is not a sin to know someone dealing with homosexuality.”
Shores told Baptist Press he does not anticipate that Southern Baptists will “stand up and applaud” the message of his forthcoming film, that of “love and acceptance that would include gays.”
But Stith said he believes Southern Baptists will respond biblically. “The most loving thing we can do for them is say that this is not what God wants for them, and that they need to live in obedience to His Word,” he said.