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Review: "For They Know Not What They Do" is a Poignant Look at the Impact of Evangelical Zealotry on LGBTQ Families

by Karin McKie
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Jun 12, 2020
'For They Know Not What They Do'
'For They Know Not What They Do'  

Director Daniel G. Karslake presents the poignant documentary "For They Know Not What They Do," a 90-minute look at the impact of conversion therapy and evangelical zealotry on four LGBTQ families.

The Robertsons are Christian in the "Microsoft country" of Washington state, where they were taught by Focus on the Family radio, and leaders like VP Mike Pence, that homosexuality was all about promiscuity and one-night stands, and that scripture forbids acting on same-sex attraction. Their son Ryan came out as gay in the midst of this conservative Christian culture when he was 12 years old.

"That was OK with us," the parents say. "But it's a deal breaker for God."

Across the country in Wilmington, Delaware, the McBrides watched their son Tim transition into nationally recognized activist Sarah.

In Puerto Rico, Catholic Vico Baez Febo was told he was an abomination by his grandmother, and tried to pray the gay away. It's noted that churches are giving license for people to kill gays, and for gays to kill themselves.

The Porchers' mixed-race child was born a girl, but always felt like a boy. He decided to embrace that identity after reading another transgendered person's suicide note.

Karslake and his interviewees aptly posit that since evangelicals feel they've "lost the battle" against gays and lesbians, they are now going after the more vulnerable and less understood transgendered people, for whom "walking down the street is an act of courage." The year 2017 was especially deadly for trans women of color.

Conversion, or "reparative," therapy pushed Ryan Robertson into drug abuse, since it preached the "sinfulness and brokenness" of being gay. The documentary reports that 698,000 Americans have undergone this "treatment," 350,000 of whom were adolescents.

The film also reminds viewers that eight states aren't even allowed to talk about LGBTQ people in schools, the nastily-named "no promo homo" rule.

The priests talk about religious beliefs versus religious biases, "a shield vs. a sword." It's agreed that this institutionalized, hostile discrimination is a human rights violation, and that people of faith should find a church that is for, not against, people. One of the sympathetic religious representatives interviewed summarizes the church's response to the issue: "Christianity is the last to accept anything new. It's always the taillights, not the headlights."

A dad says, "If a lot of people have just a little bit of courage, then nobody has to be a hero."

Karin McKie is a writer, educator and activist at KarinMcKie.com

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