Elevate Difference

Fish Out of Water

In Fish Out of Water, Ky Dickens recalls her effort to reconcile her devout, Christian faith with her homosexuality. She claims she feels like a “fish out of water,” because, after coming out during her senior year of college at Vanderbilt, she was ostracized from her academic community, but, at the same time, didn’t quit feel an affinity to the gay community at large. To remedy this intense feeling of conflict within her self, Dickens set out to study the Christian scriptures, mostly by traveling the country to consult leaders of the Christian faith. What she discovered during her journey was that many people lean blindly on the Bible—believing, for instance, that the Bible ordains that homosexuality is a sin, but, for the most part, these same people have very little idea about what actually is written in the Bible.

Therefore, Dickens’s objective in the documentary is to examine, through a series of interviews with key Christian leaders, the seven verses (of over 6,000 total) that are cited as the key verses used to buttress Christians’ condemnation of homosexuality and, specifically, same-sex marriage. Especially revelatory are the four verses analyzed from the Old Testament (the final three are from the New Testament scriptures written by Paul in Romans, 1 Timothy, and 1 Corinthians). In the creation story that begins Genesis, biblical scholars discuss how God created Eve as the “fit helper”—ezer kenegdo, a “corresponding helper”—for “Adam” (meaning human of no gender). Eve was not created as his servant or slave, but as a life companion, in which Adam can find strength to live life to the fullest. Not only does this explication turn misogynist interpretations of the Bible their heads, but it also works to clarify that the primary function of this creative coupling was to not “be fruitful and multiply,” but to live harmoniously. Eve was not meant to be the vessel for man’s reproduction, neither does this injunction to “be fruitful and multiply” connote that sexual relations, of whichever sort, that do not seek to reproduce are “unnatural.”

Another fascinating discussion focuses on the Sodom and Gomorrah story, which is cited by the ignorant masses as proof that homosexuality is “unnatural” and that “sodomites” will be subject to the wrath of God. The moral underlying the tale is not about the unnaturalness of homosexuality, but the consequences of failing to provide hospitality to strangers. Lot offers two strangers shelter for the night, to the dismay of the local villagers, who turn violent from what appears to be sheer boredom. They want to “know” (ie, rape) the two strangers, who turn out to be angels—and these angels unleash their fury upon the villagers, while allowing Lot and his family (his wife, who turns to salt, and his two daughters) to flee the village before it is destroyed. The two daughters, eager to create their own tribe, decide to get their father drunk and then rape him in order to procreate to begin their own tribe. Via analysis of this story, it becomes apparent how irrelevant and ineffective this verse is in a bigot’s arsenal against homosexuality—because it has nothing to do with same-sex relationships or marriage.

Overall, Dickens offers us a more satisfying take on the conflict between the Christian faith and homosexuality than other pieces, especially the tepid For The Bible Tells Me So, which had little substance in relation to is political bite. The focus on exegesis rather than politics renders the documentary a much stronger weapon against blind faith and bigotry. Fish Out of Water is a heartfelt but serious film for those who, like Dickens, long to ease the conflict between their religion and their sexuality. As well, it could prove a quite powerful tool if utilized in pedagogical settings, to dispel misconceptions of scripture in society.

Written by: Marcie Bianco, June 25th 2010