September 4, 2018  (Web Review)

Love the Sinner

(2016) 17 min. DVD: $89: public libraries; $195: colleges & universities. Women Make Movies (www.wmm.com). PPR.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Jessica Devaney, a 34-year-old lesbian filmmaker, co-directed this short documentary (with Geeta Gandbhir) about the schism between fundamentalist Christianity and homosexuality. After divorcing their violent, alcoholic father, Devaney’s mother, Dawn, raised Jessica and her brother, Jake, on her own in Florida. Twenty-three-year-old Jake is also gay, but years before brother and sister embraced their sexual identity, Jessica joined the evangelical movement. She marched against abortion, built crosses for a campus demonstration, and signed a purity pledge, but conversion therapy, anti-Muslim sentiment after 9/11, and the massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub eventually pushed her away from the church. As an adult, she has marched in favor of the very rights she once protested. Here, Jessica speaks with fundamentalist leaders, including Brent Elliot, lead pastor at Lake Eustis Christian Church (which she used to attend) and Joel Hunter, senior pastor at Northland Church. Elliot assures her that she would be welcome as a parishioner as long as she renounced homosexuality, a “lifestyle” he compares to habitual lying, alcoholism, and domestic abuse. Hunter, on the other hand, was galvanized by the Pulse shooting, noting that, “I think all of us now are realizing what a cold and dead term ‘tolerance’ is.” Although he doesn’t say the word, it’s clear that he’s leaning towards acceptance. Love the Sinner works well on its own but would also serve as a companion piece to Daniel Karslake’s 2007 documentary For the Bible Tells Me So (VL Online-2/08), which examines the topic in more depth, but without the personal perspective. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (K. Fennessy)