Discussing
‘Bruno’ and the limits of Christian compassion

Josh Larsen

Scott Buchanan
July 20, 2009

Josh Larsen asks two questions in sequence implying that they are related, when in fact they are significantly different. "Is [making the gay debate the defining issue of the faith] a fair interpretation of Christ’s message or a dangerously skewed perspective?" Obviously it is a dangerously skewed perspective. To marginalize any aspect of the truth in the elevation of another results in a skewed perspective, and it is that fact which makes Josh's next question so wrong-headed. "What is a truer Christian trait: moral certitude or compassion?" Neither (or both, depending on how you take it). The choice forces a false dichotomy: to be elevate moral certitude at the expense of compassion is wrong, but so is elevating compassion as the expense of moral certitude. Christ was not a legalist, but neither was he a relativist or antinomian.

Davidarnett
July 20, 2009

I am not sure from your comments whether you believe that homosexuality is sin. When Jesus encountered the woman caught in adultry, he made sure that her accusers were exposed in their hypocrisy, but he in no way left her with the impression that sexual sin was to be overlooked in any form. Sin must be condemned no matter if it offends the sinner, but sinners must be loved even if it offends the religious. If you can't tolerate a person because of their particular sin, but you are friends with sinners in another area, then you have become an unrighteous judge. If you think Jesus would not condemn sin on any level, then you need to check the bible a little more thoroughly. We should never be ashamed of the teachings of the bible. If Satan can make me afraid to speak the truth ( in love ), then he has effectively stopped my ministry. Don't fall prey to the intolerant in the homosexual movement whose real agenda is to stop all opposition to this destructive lifestyle. Our silence will not get them God's approval.

jazzspirit87
July 20, 2009

Our rebuke can be easily misconstrued as hatred. And we are not to hate people, but sin.<br>I don't have compassion for sin- <br>What I do have is an open heart and mind for is the struggle to live a life free from sin. <br>I don't think it's wrong to avoid sin or to avoid people whose life has been dedicated to it. If there is someone blatantly living in sin and advertising that fact, I will avoid them. And I will be avoiding this movie. I don't need to expose myself to disgusting, radioactive toxic waste.

John
July 20, 2009

Haven't you ever thought about how close someone is to God? If you are close you want others to be close and sin seperates us from God. Love those who speak falsely of the bible and with gentleness and kindness as Paul said, tell them what it is to love God. There are those who misquote the bible for their own agenda and to think that what they do is okay in the sight of God. That is why marriage is so important to those who are homosexual, it is a way to be accepted by society, therefore being accepted by God. God wants us to love one another and to point out to others when they stumble, by saying please let me help you get back up. In God's Grace John

Sandra25
July 20, 2009

Josh Larsen asks the question, "what is a truer Christian trait: moral certitude or compassion," as if one if forced to rank them hierarchically. We don't have to make that choice. Both are true Christian traits. I know this because both traits are modeled in the life of Jesus. I think Jesus' perfect moral certitude reveals his perfect compassion. Because he knows that sin is death, he has compassion for those who are lost and in sin. Because it is written in his word, we can know with moral certitude that homosexuality is sin. We can also make a choice to extend compassion, but we have to extend this compassion from the depths of the love of Christ living in us. If we try this in our own supposed strength, we become just a bunch of self-righteous Bible toters walking around with logs sticking out of our own eyes. Unfortunately, this happens all too often, and Christianity and the name of Christ suffer for it, and people like Sacha Baron Cohen gleefully exploit it.

Bethanyk
July 20, 2009

I think perhaps if we were really as aware of all of God's moral laws as some of us pretend to be, we would have no choice but to be compassionate, because we would be so aware of our own moral failings. Jesus is the only one with the right to condem, and though he told the woman caught in adultery to stop sinning, he also did not condemn her. How much more should we have compassion on others, even if their sins are different from our own?<br><br>Also, I think we should hesitate to call non-standard gender performance "advertising sin" or something like it. There is a case to be made on both sides about the sinfulness of various types of sex, but relationships of love with those of the same sex are demonstrated as blessed in the Bible. Think of David and Jonathan or Jesus and his disciples. I'm deeply troubled when this issue is portrayed as so black and white.

Sandra25
July 20, 2009

Bethany, I appreciate what you are saying; however, the type of relationships between those of the same sex you mentioned above in your biblical examples are not the type of same-sex relationships Sacha Baron Cohen is talking about. Comparing these two descriptions of same-sex relationships IS a cut-and-dried issue. The Bible is clear. And, unfortunately, so is Sacha Baron Cohen.

Bethanyk
July 20, 2009

I haven't seen the movie and don't plan to. I don't find that type of humor amusing, so I can't comment on exactly what he is so clear on. <br><br>However, I think Christians extend their definition of sinful homosexuality to cover anything related to American gay culture, and I think that's a mistake. As I've mentioned before on this blog, I'm not sure homosexuality is a sin at all, but even if it is, loving another person, or dressing a certain way, is not.

Rick
July 20, 2009

So Josh Larsen thinks Cohen’s approach to be a valuable form of comedic shock therapy. Which part was valuable? The pygmy sex scene where Bruno and his pygmy boyfriend engage is bizarre gay sex using fire extinguishers, champagne bottles and mechanically adapted fitness equipment? Or maybe it’s the real gay orgy scene using gay porn stars Paul Barba and John Martel to film a scene requiring full frontal nudity and actual sex? Or perhaps it was the real men and women having real intercourse. Or perhaps it was the fully nude blonde woman viciously whipping Cohen as Brüno repeatedly in a private bedroom at the swingers orgy. The scene of Bruno having his anus bleached at Pink Cheeks must have been hilarious. Or the close-up of Bruno swinging his genitals in front of the camera must have been funny especially enlarged 6 feet high on the big screen with Dolby surround sound. I know sado-maschoism scenes are sure laugh-getters. <br><br>The valuable insight that Josh draws is that Christians have allowed the gay debate to become the defining issue of their faith – which is a huge generalization and patently false. Josh says “They are so certain of the sinfulness of homosexuality that everything else the Bible teaches (and here Josh makes another HUGE generalization that is untrue) is secondary.”<br><br>The take away he sat through all this mind numbing pornography is that Christians are sure that homosexuality is sinful? And this is a valuable form of comedic shock therapy? The shock is how much Christians have become desensitized to images of perversity and that we’ve adopted a secular worldview and baptized it in the gospel.

Sandra25
July 20, 2009

I haven't seen the movie either, and I don't plan to. It isn't necessary to view Cohen's brand of filth to recognize it as filth and, therefore, avoid it. Cohen's movies are an extension of his personal worldview.<br><br>God is sure that homosexuality is a sin, even if you are not. I'm not talking about loving another person or dressing a certain way. And I think you know that.

Rick
July 20, 2009

Oh why oh why do I take the bait. Oh well. I very rarely talk about homosexuality, but you brought it up.<br><br>It is incredibly naive to think that the Bible portrays positive images of gay sex or homosexuality. David and Jonathan’s were not having anal sex or french kissing. Jesus and his disciples were not engaging in erotic love for each other. I love my brother deeply, I hug my brother, I cry over things he cries about. I also love my close friend Bruce. But don’t mistake either of those expressions for homosexual activities.<br><br>Why are you so uncertain that two men having sex with each other (Or two women) is sinful? There is something profoundly disturbing with normal gender roles being exchanged for same sex relationships. If Leviticus 18 was the only prohibition against sex between two men that would be one thing. But it is prohibited twice in Leviticus, in Deuteronomy, and we see the judgement on Sodom and gomorrah in Genesis for going after “strange flesh” as the book of Jude says. Levitical laws prohibiting sex between two males or two females, or between an animal and human are not the equivalent of prohibitions against eating shellfish. Prohibitions against homosexuality are woven throughout the fabric of the Old and New testament. Sodom and Gomorrah was not destroyed for eating clam chowder. <br><br>Then we see Paul, the theologian, devote the first chapter of Romans to the progression of mans alienation from God ending in the final state of exchanging the created gender order for lesbian and gay sex (God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.) Jesus defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman for life. There is no room here for gay marriage. Then finally gay sex is condemned, along with adultery, murder and stealing in 1 Corinthians, and again in 1 Timothy.<br><br>So, to sum up, sin is sin, gay sex is not worse than adultery. God loves all homosexuals. Same sex affection, brotherly love, sisterly love is good. Many homosexuals are born again christians. But in no uncertain terms the Bible clearly and explicitly defines gay or lesbian sex as sin that is serious and requires repentance. The only reason why homosexuality seems to be condemned more often lately is that the Homosexual community has made it a political and civil rights issue. They are constantly beating the drum, staging gay pride parades, introducing gay marriage legislation, changing school curriculum and attacking anyone who disagree as a homophobe.

SteveMatheson
July 20, 2009

Rick writes:<br><i>The valuable insight that Josh draws is that Christians have allowed the gay debate to become the defining issue of their faith – which is a huge generalization and patently false. Josh says “They are so certain of the sinfulness of homosexuality that everything else the Bible teaches (and here Josh makes another HUGE generalization that is untrue) is secondary.”</i><br>Rick, I think you expended too much effort in producing the voyeuristic blow-by-blow account of the "images of perversity" that you reckon to be "mind numbing pornography." (I haven't seen the film, so I'll just have to assume that your vivid descriptions are completely accurate.) It would seem that this effort left you exhausted and distracted, and this led you to misquote and misunderstand what he wrote.<br><br>Your opinions about "secular worldviews" being "baptized in the gospel" are worth discussing. But the distortion of other peoples' words is not. I object very strongly to your misrepresentation of the post, which referred very specifically to the Christians portrayed in the film. Read it again. You got Josh wrong -- badly wrong.

SteveMatheson
July 20, 2009

Amen, and I'll just add various forms of sexual practice which are casually labeled as "perverse" by some who (in the same sentence) decry the "baptism" of secular (non-biblical?) values. If I thought the objection here was to extramarital sex or some type of infidelity, I'd at least see the biblical point. But the ranting about certain "perverse" practices tells me the discomfort is about something else, and that Josh scored a direct hit on something important.

Rick
July 20, 2009

Brother Steve:<br><br>You are right. I stand corrected. Josh was not saying christians in general have allowed have allowed the gay debate to become the defining issue of their faith, only that the christians in the film have allowed the gay debate to become the defining issue of their faith. I apologize. My larger point was why after witnessing this perverse catalogue of depravity masquerading as comedy the most important conclusion Josh can draw is that some Christians are too focused on gay sex. And why would Josh characterize this film as a valuable form of comedic shock therapy? Perhaps more Christians need to see this film? Perhaps it should be shown at local churches? Perhaps Christians (only some perhaps like me) need shock therapy because we are so narrow minded? Oh why did I start this, you guys are gunning for me.

Davidarnett
July 20, 2009

I hope we are not going to paint David and Jonathon or Jesus and his disciples as homosexuals in order to embrace the views of the modern church, which seems to prefer apologizing for God's law to teaching and obeying it.

Bwf
July 21, 2009

Rick, <br><br>It is one thing to say that God's design for sex is just for a woman and a man to engage in.<br><br>It is another thing entirely to say that gay culture is evil and that anything remotely connected with "gayness" is corrupt. Unfortunately, I fear that you are going in this direction with your comments about gay pride parades.<br>

Jaybee
July 21, 2009

No, he didn't. I haven't seen the movie either, but if it has even half the stuff Rick refers to, then to call it a "valuable form of comedic shock therapy" is really smearing lipstick on a pig. "Pushing America's hidden prejudices to the surface"? Listen to, e.g. National Public Radio, and then tell me that homosexuals are a persecuted minority, who are in need of defending by this film. <br><br>To me the real problem with this movie is the false pretense that it is all about exposing "homophobia" (a word which is itself a masterpiece of language manipulation.) That's the excuse for it. In reality it is kind of like the old Candid Camera TV show, one long exercise in getting people to say silly things in front of a camera so that the audience can have a good laugh. <br><br>Nothing so terrible about that UNLESS it involves the kinds of things that Rick is talking about. In that case it forfeits its claim to some higher moral purpose and becomes the equivalent of the seven year old who amuses the other seven year olds by talking dirty. Sasha Cohen is that seven year old all grown up and now using PC buzzwords to market his film. To defend his film as "comedic shock therapy" is to miss the point completely.

P
July 21, 2009

"What is a truer Christian trait: moral certitude or compassion?"<br><br>Did Jesus have some sort of conflict with these?<br><br>For what it's worth, here's some perspective from one of the Christians who was portrayed in the film. Though his encounter with Bruno was edited to make him look as foolish as possible, he seems glad to have had the opportunity to share the gospel.<br><br><a href="http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctmovies/2009/07/god-gays-and-bruno.html" rel="nofollow">http://blog.christianitytoday....</a>

Bethanyk
July 21, 2009

I am merely suggesting that in a rush to condemn certain sex practices, the church dismisses same sex love relationships, something the bible promotes. Let me bring up also Ruth and Naomi, Paul and his many companions, etc. I realize this is far afield from what is portrayed in Bruno, but what is wrong with Bruno is not "homosexuality" so much as vulgarity.

Rick
July 21, 2009

Bethany:<br>It is misleading to say the Bible promotes same sex love and then cite Ruth and Naomi. Nobody disputes the Bible promotes love between people of all races, genders and ages. We are disputing whether the Bible promotes erotic love between same sexes. Young Naomi loved her mother-in-law Ruth. Are you using this to say the Bible promotes Homosexual erotic love? Solomon describes a man’s love for his wife “Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.” That is a healthy model of erotic love. It is not describing the love we should have for the apostle John. But i think you know this.<br><br>I haven’t responded to the fear that I am uncomfortable with gay culture because I don’t think we know what it is. Is gay culture liking Bette Middler and Barbara Streisand? Because I love them. Is it liking poetry or being creative? I write poetry and paint. Is it being outrageous and dramatic? Hey, I like Robin Williams and Whoppee Goldberg too. Is it women riding Harleys? One of my best friends Christine rides her own Harlkey, it’s cool. <br><br>But if by gay culture you mean wearing sexual bondage gear in public? That would be perverse and wrong. Is it men putting on women’s underwear and sexualizing yourself in a gender bending way? Is it hanging out in same sex bath houses? Come on guys, you know the answer to this stuff.

SiarlysJenkins
July 21, 2009

I can't put my finger on the chapter and verse, but when Jonathan son of Saul was killed, David sang "sweeter was your love to me than the love of women." I've always wondered from that verse what the real view of same-sex couples was in pre-Exile Judaism. It is not a question a rabbi could resolve for me -- an orthodox rabbi teaches that everything after Sinai was based on the same understanding taught by Ezra and Nehemiah. In Saul and David's time, was same-sex love accepted in the manner it was among the Greeks (particularly for warriors in the field, far from the wives by whom they had legitimate heirs)? That is a stretch, but when Christians teach that monogamy goes back to Adam and Eve, remember that every king of Israel, including David, had multiple wives. Jewish communities didn't adopt monogamy until those in Europe found that polygamy caused additional friction with their Christian neighbors -- Middle eastern Jews remained polygamous, like their Muslim neighbors, because the Torah does not prohibit it at all.<br><br>(For the record, Cohen's act does sound disgusting. There is a great deal I would prefer to be kept private, and then we wouldn't have to worry so much about how our neighbors choose to vary the theme of Song of Solomon.)

Davidarnett
July 22, 2009

When did we become so afraid to warn people about sin? I would never stand by and watch someone drive over a cliff for fear of offending them, so explain why it is considered hate to warn someone who is headed for eternal torment due to sin? Have you decided that hell is not really a place that exists? Do you believe any of the bible is to be taken as instruction from God, or do you believe men wrote it and they made mistakes which allow us to ignore the warnings concerning hell? If you don't believe the bible, why do you spend so much time debating it? <br> <br><br>David Arnett

Tuc
July 22, 2009

The issue to my mind is not whether homosexuality is sinful. Its rather what our response should be when meeitng somone engaged in a sinful lifestyle-and our response will vary using the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in each situation.<br><br>The problem I have with many Christians' responses when they encounter someone in a homosexual lifestyle is that their default response is to start with highlighting and condemning the sin. If they met anyone who had a criminal record due to ongoing theft, if they met someone who was having an affair, their likely first response would be to get to know the person and, when the opportunity arises within their growing relationship with them (that day or maybe months later) would seek to share the gospel with them. In sharing the gospel at that point, issues about the person's lifestyle may arise (or it maybe that the person themselves wouldl recognise it as part of turning to God).<br><br>However when it comes to homosexaulity, too many Christians want to just highlgiht the sin straight away. They don't seek to develop a relationship with the person to the point where the homesexual has relaised that maybe Christians aren't the awful people they throught they were and so are a little more receptive to the gospel. They don't seek to show the love of God to the homosexual. Instead they just hit them with the sin.<br><br>Is it any wonder that the homosexual then doesn't listen?

Bethanyk
July 22, 2009

Warning people about sin is one thing, reacting with disgust, alienating thers, and treating them less than human is some kind of warning.<br>Start treating coveters and those who mistreat their employees the same way with regard to THEIR sin, and you'll have an argument.

Davidarnett
July 22, 2009

There are many including myself who treat all sinners with respect without condoning thier sin. Why is sexual perversion supposed to be<br>treated any differently? If I trreated these other sinners with disrespect it wouldn't change God's views on sexual sin, which is the subject under discussion. Why are you attacking me as if I asked the question? It seems to me that the people who made, distributed, promoted, and watched the movie have displayed more hate and intolerance than anyone in this discussion. In the end my opinion has no bearing on where anyone spends eternity. We will all stand before a Holy God and be held accountable for our lives. Work out your salvation, with God as your influence, not other people.<br>David Arnett

Rick
July 22, 2009

I am not sure I agree. Please don't generalize about what Christians do. I have led many people to Christ and I rarely (perhaps never) bring up any personal sin before introducing them to the savior. Meaning I don't talk about alcoholism, theft, homosexuality, coveting, mistreating employees etc. One of the biggest evangelistic organizations in America, Campus Crusade for Christ never did. Intervarsity Christian Fellowship which I belonged to never did. Neither did Billy Graham or Bill Bright. There is a saying, "you don't clean your fish before you catch them". What you may be referring to is gay people forcing the issue. Thieves don't have thief pride parades or form high school theft clubs. Adulterers don't form adultery based lobbying groups. Gays are out and proud and confrontational, requiring by law that I renounce any Biblical convictions I might have about homosexuality. Regardless, I never highlight someone's sexual proclivities as I befriend them or share the love of Christ with them. Are you kidding? And no Christian that I know of in our 4000 member church does either. The media focuses on a few kooks as do gay activists. And Sasha Cohen spends millions of dollars to mock and vilify Christians. Of course, if we decide to follow Christ, repentance from all sin is required, including theft, adultery, lying, homosexual acts, mistreating employees, drunkenness and I will gladly share that with anyone.

Bethanyk
July 22, 2009

I did not intend to attack you personally, but I have seen gays and lesbians, as individuals and as a group, treated as less than human by those speaking in the name of God. I have also seen any discussion of this behavior jump immediately to a defense position ("can't we warn people about sin?" "the bible says its' a sin!"). While I was trying to push the discussion toward a more nuanced position, all anyone is willing to do is harp on sin, something that I don't see happen in other genres of sinfulness.

Rick
July 22, 2009

Bethany:<br><br>You are such a good writer and a great blogger, butI felt you were a little harsh with David. Bethany, you don’t move the discussion to a more nuanced level if you just interject that David and Jonathan were homosexuals, Ruth and Naomi were lesbians and Jesus and the disciples were homosexuals. You provoke people. <br><br>The problem is that many gay people are out and proud and loud, marching in gay pride parades, lobbying to change laws, wanting the state to recognize gay marriage, creating gay support groups in high schools and proactively insisting that gay sex is not sinful, but something to be proud of. And anyone who disagrees is labeled a homophobe. Adulterers, thieves, drunkards, murderers, coveters are not marching in adultery pride parades or forming thief support groups in my children’s high school. You are right, this is a different genre of sinfulness and gay activists beg for someone to disagree so they can focus the spotlight on them. Bruno was designed to be provocative, disgusting and insulting. It’s goal was to try to elicit disapproval from anyone with a different moral standard. But I won’t give them that pleasure. I will do what Jesus did. He did not lecture the woman caught in adultery, he saved her life, forgave her, loved her and told her to sin no more. I love my gay clients and friends. But also realize that the woman did not get in Jesus face and demand that he recognize that adultery is not sin or say that the Bible promotes adultery because David was an adulterer. Yikes.

Bethanyk
July 22, 2009

David: I'm sorry if I was overly harsh to you. I did not intend to attack you personally.<br><br>Rick: I was attempting (perhaps too subtly) to suggest that most aspects of gay culture, including loving partnership and performing masculinity and femininity in different ways (ie being "fabulous" or "butch" or whatever) are often inextricably lumped together with sex acts when they are often parts of an identity that are not directly related to sex acts. I am suggesting that we might separate gay identity from gay sex. Bruno, admittedly, is not the best context in which to make that suggestion.<br><br>I think that same-sex attraction is a result of sin in the same way that other less than ideal situations result from sin, but we sometimes make surprising choices to make the best of it. Divorce, for example. Or schisms within the church.<br><br>Gay marriage, I feel, is a civil and not a religious issue. I am happy to argue about it elsewhere, but this discussion has gotten pretty far from Josh's original post already.

Jerod
July 22, 2009

I agree with Bethany's recent comment that the discussion here has gotten a little off topic. I'm going to go ahead and close the comments now.<br><br>I've been thinking a lot about comments lately. It seems at times the conversations get off topic and at times personal. All of us, contributors included, need to remember the discussion rules (links above). <br><br>In general, I'm always glad that the TC community does a good job of moderating itself most of the time. The goal has never been to be heavy handed in moderating comments.

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