Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Family Fundamentals

Not Rated

Reviewed by: Denny Wayman and Hal Conklin
Reprinted with permission from CinemaInFocus.com

 
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Documentary
Length:
1 hr. 15 min.
Year of Release:
2002
Scene from “Family Fundamentals”
Relevant Issues

GAY—What’s wrong with being gay? Answer
Homosexual behavior versus the Bible: Are people born gay? Does homosexuality harm anyone? Is it anyone’s business? Are homosexual and heterosexual relationships equally valid?

What about gays needs to change? Answer
It may not be what you think.

What does the Bible say about same sex marriages? Answer

Can a gay or lesbian person go to heaven? Answer
If a homosexual accepts Jesus into his heart, but does not want to change his lifestyle, can he/she still go to Heaven?

What should be the attitude of the church toward homosexuals and homosexuality? Answer

Read stories about those who have struggled with homosexuality

DISCUSSION

  1. When we express the goal of “hating the sin but loving the sinner” how should that look in our lives and churches? What is necessary to “hate the sin?” Does this include shunning the sinner? And if we agree it cannot mean we withhold love from the sinner or shun them from our lives, then how do we live with the tension—how do we weave integrity and love into a single fabric of relationship?
  2. If we express in clear messages that we love a person unconditionally though we do not support their behavior, then need we be afraid of the accusations that will be made, just as they were of Jesus, that we are “friends” of sinners? Is one of our problems that of judgments of others to which we succumb? Shouldn’t we be “guilty” of being “friends of sinners?”
  3. What is the difference between accepting sin as an “alternative lifestyle” and loving the sinner while expecting the sinful behavior to cease? How do we bring about renovation of the heart and soul if we do not continue to express in clear terms the need for change in behavior?

Starring: Brian Bennett, Kathleen Bremner, David Jester, Susan Jester, Brett Mathews | Written and Directed by: Arthur Dong

The deepest longing in each of our hearts is to be loved unconditionally. Even in the most healthy situations and relationships, this does not come easily. In a new release entitled “Family Fundamentals”, documentary filmmaker Arthur Dong takes us into the world of three gay individuals who have suffered rejection from their Christian-worldview families. Viewed as “living in sin” by those who are the closest to them, Brian Bennett, Susan Jester and Brett Mathews each find themselves in circumstances conditionally cut off from those they love.

Dong explores the lives of Brian, Susan, and Brett, from their childhoods through their current circumstances. It is hard to know who feels the greater pain, the parents or their adult children. “Family Fundamentals” neither condones nor condemns the gay lifestyles of these three adults, but it does focus on the paralysis and pain of lost relationships that have resulted. The discussion about being “gay” is lost among the tears and isolation that results from the “conditional” terms of the connection that has been established. While professing that one can “hate the sin but love the sinner,” Susan’s mother Kathleen then retreats into her own pain and can’t get beyond the tears of regret to tell her daughter that she still loves her.

Brett in “Family Fundamentals”Brett is the son of a Mormon Bishop. Even though his mother and father write him concerned letters, there is physical isolation from one another lest anyone think that their acceptance and affection for him in person be seen as condoning his life style.

Brian has spent 20 years “in the closet” working for conservative Orange County Congressman Bob Dornan. Brian affectionately relates to him as his surrogate father and hangs on Dornan’s words to him that anything Brian did couldn’t separate him from his and his family’s love. But when Dornan chooses to promulgate his conservative stance on homosexuality on his weekly radio show after Brian reveals that he is in fact gay, Brian is grist for Dornan’s talk show mill. We hear Dornan talk about “Christian values” but, instead of witnessing sacrificial love, we see Dornan turn Brian into a sacrificial lamb for his own political agenda. Dornan’s view of “sin” and the “sinner” have become one, and the opportunity for healing and reconciliation are lost.

One of the most poignant moments in the film occurs when Brian, who was raised in the Catholic Church, is moved to tears when he relates a story about someone within the Church who finally indicates to him in an article that God could still love him regardless of his circumstances. He, like Susan and Brett, has longed for someone to witness this kind of love to him. Instead, it comes to Brian in intangible writings from a third party. No person puts their arms around him or demonstrates in very real terms what it is to receive unconditional love.

While the documentary may be about Susan, Brett and Brian, the real story is about the difficulty we all face in truly loving our family and friends in the midst of our differences. There is no more “fundamental” value in Christianity than loving each other unconditionally, and yet this is where we are all caught up short of the goal.

Editor’s Note: For more helpful answers on homosexuality, we suggest our “Sex, Love and Relationships” homepage.

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