Interview by Greg Carlson
The regional premiere of “For the Bible Tells Me So” at the Fargo Theatre will take place on Friday, November 9 at 7 PM and will be followed by a discussion facilitated by Dr. Roy Hammerling, Concordia College Department of Religion. Additional panelists will include critic Tony McRae, Sandra Holbrook from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, and special guests Randi and Phil Reitan, who are featured in the movie.
HPR Associate Film Editor Greg Carlson asked Randi Reitan to talk about some of her experiences with “For the Bible Tells Me So.”
HPR: Randi, what kinds of activism are you and Phil doing currently?
Randi Reitan: Phil and I make a point to speak out whenever we see a situation regarding the gay community. I write many letters every week to pastors and others who are in position to be leaders for equality. I also write letters and commentaries to the editor when I see articles or statements that are anti-gay. We are still a part of Soulforce and just recently stood with them in an action in St. Paul called Seven Straight Nights. We are also doing all we can to get the word out about this film. We have witnessed the profound affect the film has on people. It is a powerful film that will help move this country to embrace the gay community and see the day of equality dawn. We have been in New York and Atlanta for their openings and plan to be in Fargo, Columbus, and Chicago to take part in discussions following the screening of the film.
HPR: You said in the movie that the Lutheran Church had an opportunity to take a stand and “blew it.” Are you involved with the church?
Randi Reitan: That clip was from a news piece that aired in 2001. We worked hard for four years within the Lutheran church to see the ban that is in place against the gay community lifted. We invited all the pastors in our Synod to our home to view a video by an ELCA Bishop about their family understanding and affirming their gay son. We helped a group in our church do a monthly “lunch and learn” event which brought gay people who spoke about their lives and their faith as well as well known theologians who discussed the Bible passages relating to homosexuality. Phil and I visited many pastors and even went to Chicago to speak to the Presiding Bishop in person. When no real concrete change happened after four years we needed to leave the Lutheran church.
HPR: Do you think the Lutheran Church will change the way it views homosexuality?
Randi Reitan: I do think the Lutheran church will change. I feel people are more open now than when we first started working for gay rights. My own faith has been strength on this journey. Jesus came to reach out to those who were considered the outcasts. He came to teach us to widen God’s kingdom, to open the doors so all may enter. In our work with Soulforce, we are pushing open the doors and we are standing arm and arm with the dearest children of a loving and caring God. I will also give you a quote of Jake’s to answer the question on whether the church will change. He says, “I believe every day is better than the last. Truth is infectious, and as long as good people of good will are working to speak the truth, it will spread. And it is spreading.”
HPR: What is Jake doing now?
Randi Reitan: Jake is in his second year at Harvard Divinity School working on a master’s degree in theological studies. He continues his work for gay rights in many areas. Jake was the founder of the Equality Ride that took students across the country visiting colleges with anti-gay policies. It was an amazing two-month journey with a bus of young gay Christian activists.
HPR: One of the most compelling scenes in the film details your arrest. Were you scared?
Randi Reitan: I will never forget that day. It was very moving for me to take a stand at Focus on the Family. Dr. Dobson’s anti-gay rhetoric has hurt many people over the years. I wouldn’t say I was scared but it is always very emotional to take a stand that could result in an arrest. But you must understand, it is an arrest for doing civil disobedience. It is a good arrest. It brought to light the terrible untruths that Dr. Dobson has been teaching through the Focus on the Family programs.
HPR: What happened once you were taken into custody by the police? Did Focus on the Family press charges?
Randi Reitan: When arrested for civil disobedience, you are typically taken into custody and booked. There are times when we and others with Soulforce have been held behind bars, but in this case, we were taken in, processed and released. Our case was handled by a local attorney. We paid the fine ordered.
HPR: Have you kept in touch with any of the other people profiled in the movie?
Randi Reitain: We know Rev. Dr. Mel White, Rev. Jimmy Creech and Mary Lou Wallner well because we are all a part of Soulforce. We have gotten to know Dan Karslake, the director, very well and stay in contact with him. We have also had the chance to get to know Bishop Robinson and his partner, Mark. All of these people were with us at Sundance and we all attended the premiere of the film in New York. They are wonderful people!
HPR: What is the most important thing that has happened to you since the movie came out?
Randi Reitan: We attended the Sundance Film Festival and a number of openings across the country. At these events we meet the dearest people who share their own stories with us. They are amazing stories of courage and patience and love. Once America hears these stories, it will realize how much the gay community has had to endure and how wrong the discrimination has been.
This interview was originally published in the High Plains Reader the week of 11/5/07.