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Stills from the film Prayers for Bobby (TVM 2009)

Earlier this evening I was at a screening of Prayers for Bobby at All Souls Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in Belfast as part of the Outburst Festival. In the light of the number of teen suicides over recent months the showing of this film and the discussion afterwards couldn’t be more timely.

The change of Bobby Griffith;s mother Mary played by Sigourney Weaver to harrowingly in this film came too late for her own son, but this bio-pic based on her families story and journey should be essential viewing in every church; not just in Northern Ireland but also the states and many other places.

Bobby is driven to his own death by the failure of his family to accept him and his homosexuality, a sorry sadly true of many young people still today. In Bobby’s case the eulogy at his own funeral also showed how often the churches themselves can fail to act pastorally to those in their midst. Many more are driven to death by the people around them at school or college bullying them, to a point that they cannot cope anymore.

All three can of course combine, if not in actuality at least in the mind of the young person who feels the pressure of all three. At fifteen I very nearly took the route that Bobby took in the film, so you can imagine there were tears as I sat there and watched it.

However, it came to the discussion time after the film, and one question was posed; “Are attitudes changing?” Now people who know, know I’m not averse to speaking publicly but even I welled up as I stood to say what I needed to say in response to that*. I basically got up to say that attitudes would change if every Christian took the attitude of my father, when 15 years after I contemplated taking my own life that time, I told him who I was sexually.

His response was, “Thank you for your honesty” and that really strikes me. Too often the church and Christians look at the ‘sin’ of sleeping with those of the same sex, ignoring that one of the ten commandments is “You shall not lie”. They expect Christians who identify as LGBT to live in denial of who they are and therefore “bear false witness”. They make out is easier to brush it under the carpet ignoring the ninth commandment than face up to fact of who some of us are.

Tomorrow’s film For the Bible Tells Me So is one I have seen before and goes into the lives of many more church families and their experiences of coming along their journey with a gay family member. It is at 5pm at the same venue and well worth a viewing (again I think it should be spread far and wide).

Many more people still need to go on the journey that Mary Griffiths has travelled as shown below.

If everyone could have that attitude, we wouldn’t have to tell the LGBT youth of today that It Gets Better because it already will be.

* Scottish Lib Dems may recall by very personal speech on the Blood Ban debate in 2009 for reference.

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