I’ve been seeing trailers for this film. Alth0ugh the trailers are self-explanatory, I decided to Google the film to confirm my impressions. Here’s a summary from a sympathetic outlet:
Based on a true story and Leroy Aarons' book of the same name, Weaver stars as Mary Griffith, a profoundly religious wife and mother who begins to question her faith after the suicide of her beloved gay son. Ultimately, with the posthumous acceptance of her son's homosexuality, Mary becomes an advocate for the rights of gay and lesbian youth. "Prayers for Bobby" will premiere in February 2009 on Lifetime Television.
Executive producer Stanley M. Brooks, said, "It's our sincere hope this heart-wrenching true story will foster more tolerance and understanding for all people." Added executive producers David Permut and Daniel Sladek, "The landmark book, Prayers for Bobby, has changed countless minds and saved hundreds of lives since it was first published in 1995. We hope that through this powerful movie, we can continue to positively affect lives and do justice to the memory of Bobby Griffith."
In "Prayers for Bobby," Mary Griffith (Weaver) is a devout Christian who raised her children with the conservative teachings of her Presbyterian church. But when her son Bobby confides to his older brother he may be gay, life changes for the entire family after Mary learns about his secret. While Bobby's father and siblings slowly come to terms with his homosexuality, Mary believes God can cure him of what she considers his 'sin' and persuades Bobby to pray harder and seek solace in church activities in hopes of changing him. Desperate for his mother's approval, Bobby does what is asked of him, but through it all, the church's apparent disapproval of homosexuality causes him to grow increasingly withdrawn and depressed.
Guilty over the pain he is causing Mary, Bobby moves away, yet hopes that some day his mother will accept him. His subsequent depression and self-loathing intensifies as he blames himself for not being the 'perfect' son and is driven to suicide. Faced with their tragedy, Mary begins to question her faith when she receives no answers from her pastor concerning her devastating loss. Through her long and emotional journey, Mary slowly reaches out to the gay community and discovers unexpected support from a very unlikely source.
So what are we to say about this?
1.This is clearly a very one-sided and heavy-handed propaganda piece. It doesn’t even try to conceal its ideological agenda.
This is another exercise in emotional extortion. Liberals can’t win the argument, so they resort to intimidation.
2.While it accentuates the genuine tragedy of a young homosexual man who committed suicide, it ignores the tragic aspect of the homosexual lifestyle itself, both here and now as well as hereafter.
3.Also, there is something very patronizing about the suggestion that a grown man would commit suicide unless his mother approves of him. There’s a difference between being a five-year-old and a fifteen-year-old, just as there’s a difference between being a fifteen-year-old and a twenty-five-year-old. Part of maturation is outgrowing the need for parental approval. If a mother still has that kind of emotional lock on a full-grown son, that’s a classic case of arrested development.
This movie may be based on a true story, but if the depiction is true, then the dysfunctional relationship runs much deeper than the mother’s piety.
4.That said, there is, admittedly, an element of truth to this story. Especially in Pentecostalism and fundamentalism, there’s a tendency to look for some silver bullet to slay our besetting sins. And when the silver bullet fails, that can drive some people over the edge.
They were assured that if they just upped their daily prayer quota and did a lot more churchy stuff, they would be delivered from their besetting sin. When this formula didn’t work, it drove them to despair.
Christians really do need to guard against this simplistic and mechanistic view of sanctification. It can backfire. Do more harm than good.
5.So, if a Christian family were confronted with a situation like this, how should it be dealt with?
i) We need to avoid the easy extremes of total acceptance and total rejection. When I’m channel-surfing I sometimes run across those Nanny 911 shows about pathetic parents of spoiled brats. Well, good parents don’t let their kids get away with whatever they please.
In fact, there are some parents who literally let their kids get away with murder. In their twisted way, they actually think that’s their parental duty.
Being a good parent means using the word “no” from time to time. And “no” needs to be more than a word.
ii) Instead of talking about a homosexual son or brother, let’s talk about some other behavior, like drug addiction or compulsive gambling.
Would we be tolerant and accepting of his self-destructive behavior? Would we join an advocacy group to lobby for the social acceptance of drug addiction or compulsive gambling? I hope not!
iii) On the other hand, if you found out that your son or brother had a gambling problem or problem with substance abuse, you wouldn’t evict him or disown him. That would not be the proper response.
At the risk of staking the obvious, it’s possible to find some middle ground.
iv) I’m no expert on addiction, but I suspect this is person-variable. Some people overcome addiction, and some don’t. For some, it ends in tragedy. For others, it’s a lifelong struggle, with many lapses. For others, they get over the craving.
What our response calls for is not unconditional acceptance, but unconditional commitment. Patience!
You do the best you can for your son or brother for as long as he needs your emotional support. That may be until the day you die or he dies—which ever comes first. There are no magic deadlines.
v) Mind you, commitment takes different forms. You can’t provide for a forty-year-old the same way you provide for a teenager. An adult needs to be treated as an adult—even if he’s not yet ready for it. If you don’t start treating him as an adult, he’ll never be ready for it.