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Friday, January 9, 2009

Religion and Sexuality in the LGBT Community

Article originally posted on

IN THE LIFE Debuts Its January Show ‘Ties That Bind’ — A Look at the Intersections of Religion and Sexuality in the LGBT Community.

IN THE LIFE, the only three-time Emmy nominated public television series documenting the gay experience, explores religious devotion and discord in the LGBT community.

The power of religion to shape our lives, our worldview and our political convictions transcends all cultures, faiths, and sexual orientations. The Bible, the Koran, and the Torah are tools for spiritual guidance, comfort, and direction, but many gay and lesbian people endure a sense of alienation from religious communities that fail to see a place for them in their congregations.

In the wake of many defeats sustained by the LGBT community on Election Day, with the historic passage of Proposition 8 in California and similar amendments in other states, the entire country has been witness to how religion is used as a wedge in the larger community.

Believing that homosexuals have no place in the Christian Church, ex-gay ministries like EXODUS International promise gay and lesbian people struggling to live within the margins of religious fundamentalism “freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ.” In its lead-story, “In God We Trusted,” this episode of IN THE LIFE examines evangelical ex-gay ministries that have been established around the country to “re-program” LGBT people into heterosexuals — often with tragic consequences endured by its members: guilt, desperation, even suicide.

In “A Conversation With…” Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Bishop ordained by the Episcopal Church, and Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, spiritual leader of New York City’s largest LGBT synagogue, map their spiritual journeys, noting parallels and pivotal moments that lead them to call for a more inclusive theology that celebrates people of all faiths and sexual orientations. “I wanted to be a part of a Judaism that could ask questions in a sophisticated way about the meaning of life, interfaith relations, sexuality, feminism, gender issues,” says Kleinbaum, “and I believed that Judaism was actually big enough and strong enough, and that God was sophisticated enough to handle those kinds of questions.”

The episode concludes with a “Real to Reel” highlighting Parvez Sharma’s groundbreaking film, “A Jihad for Love.” This rare portrait of a different kind of “Jihad,” meaning: an inner struggle or to strive in the path of God, brings the stories of gay and lesbian Muslims across twelve countries to the forefront of the debate on Muslim scripture and homosexuality.

“Ties That Bind” has begun airing on American Public Television stations, and is available for free video streaming and downloadable podcasting from the IN THE LIFE website. To find out when it will be airing in their local areas, to stream or download it, viewers should go to In The Life: Ties That Bind.

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