Intriguing letters of the week!

I’m as anxious as anybody to leave the political and critical debates about Brokeback Mountain behind.

But email feedback at Looking Closer has more than doubled since my Brokeback Mountain review was published, and just this week, I’ve received several interesting messages, and a few are from people who go out of their way to say that they aren’t Christians, but that they agree with the review.

This kind of thing always surprises and delights me. I’m happy to find that there are unbelievers who don’t run the other direction when they see that a film review was written by a Christian. I’m even happier when they’re willing to engage in conversation with me.

Anyway, on to a sampling of the messages:

Your movie review site is a sad sight, and portrays you as a sanctimonious moron. Not hardline like Christian Spotlight on the Movies so we can laugh at you, but your rants against individualism and selfishness still make you look crazy. If this is how your religion makes you think, maybe you should reconsider your religion.

I’m going to avoid including names with these messages, but I was so powerfully intrigued by the information included with this writer’s name:

Personal site : www.insolitology.com/personal/
Owner of Strongatheism.net ( www.strongatheism.net ).
Co-Host of the Hellbound Alleee show ( www.hellboundalleee.com )
Author of “Handbook of Atheistic Apologetics”, “Introduction to Objectivism” and “Atheism in a Post-religious World” [http://www.objectivethought.com/books/]
I don’t vote and I’m proud. www.non-voters.org

Okay. Today, I learned that I’m living in “a post-religious world.” What would atheists do in” a post-religious world,” I wonder? Not sure, but apparently they wouldn’t vote!

So, since it’s unlikely that I’ll ever stop being at least annoyed by films art that celebrates individualism and selfishness, let’s move on…

My name is [name deleted by writer's request] and i am 18 years old, i am studying Brokeback Mountain and its representation of the homosexual community for my A level course in Media, independant study.

I just wanted to write to you to show my support of your review. I can agree with so many statements you made about the portrayal of Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar as heroes even though they have made mistakes that hurt others, and the way that the media has raved about the film as a love story when in fact although there is sentiment there, the majority of the focus is on the sexual encounter between the two men.

I myself am neither gay nor religious but i felt so relieved to finally read a review of the film that told it like it is, that gave a balanced and accurate opinion of the good and bad points of Brokeback.

As well as this i am also involved in the theatre production of “The Laramie Project”, a piece of theatre based on the hate crime involving Matthew Shepard. I’ll assume you know about this? We recently performed part of the play … in London and got a wonderful response. Soon we hope to peform the play to 12 schools in the local area, to try and raise awareness of homophobic bullying and encourage tolerance.

It’s wonderful to hear the views of a Christian, a view that does not include the damning of individuals in same sex relationships, expressing an opinion so clearly.

All in all, i just wanted to say thank you for such a well written and thoughtful review to a sensitive topic, it really put the film in perspective for me.

And another…

I just wanted to complement you on a great review of Brokeback Mountain. I just saw it last night, enjoyed it very much on many levels, and came away with thoughts similar to those in your review. Mind you, as a heterosexual male, I have absolutely no issue with homosexuality (or, what was actually portrayed in the movie, bisexuality), and am decidedly not a Christian. But the theme I kept seeing in the movie was one indeed of two folks abdicating their responsibility for their actions. Societal or theological rules aside, they had promised certain things to real people in their lives (their wives and children), and just ignored them to their detriment. It was sad, and heartbreaking, but I kept thinking, um, “You did this to yourselves. You probably shouldn’t have married women in the first place.”

I have to note however, that given the culture at the time, and to a large extent now, the idea of the two main characters (men) marrying, setting up a ranch in the landscape they knew, and living happily ever after was not even in the remote edges of their sphere of reality, despite what the Jack suggests in the movie. Perhaps that underlying cultural intolerance set the whole ‘tragic’ aspect of the movie in motion. (Especially in light of what Ennis saw as a child.) As you mention, neither of them had proper upbringing, and really had no ‘guide’ to help with their emotions. Before they even bonded in the tent, Ennis was drunk and ignoring his responsibility to guard the sheep. Not completely out of line for a 19-year-old in the wilderness, but indicative perhaps of a misplaced (or undeveloped) code of ethics that blossomed into more painful consequences later on.

Again, great review. And if you get some responses (or have had them) that claim you are just bigoted or whatever, I didn’t get that at all.

I’d be happy to include some of the messages that condemned me for the review, but many included language that I can’t post here, and one even included some descriptions of Jesus Christ involved in obscene acts… just because they thought it would make me angry. Instead, it just makes me sad that someone can go to the trouble to tell you that you have a “hatred and intolerance” problem, and then exhibit such complete hatred and intolerance that you wonder what they mean by the words.

Oh, one more…

Hats off for an insightful, balanced and accurate review.

I went to see Brokeback Mountain with a dear friend [of many years] yesterday. I am a proud father and the grateful husband of my best friend. [Personal details deleted.] At age 18, I embraced Christ and with much difficulty rejected homosexuality. I had actively and exclusively identified as such since age 11. To my disappointment, the struggle with homosexual desire has been constant, with varying degrees of intensity, since my conversion and I have come to accept that it is something I will have to contend with the rest of my life. With God’s help, I have never been nor, never will be, unfaithful to my wife or to my Lord.

Having said that, I was alternately apprehensive about seeing the film for fear of needlessly enflaming unwanted passions and, intensely curious about the true nature of it. Though promoted as a love story, I was surprised to find myself thinking it entirely implausible that one could tell a story of gay love that was not really about gay sex.

As a sometime political and social activist I am very familiar with the positions staked out by both sides in the gay debate. While working to retain Biblical standards in law and social mores, I have also sought to be truly empathetic, respectful and compassionate towards those (of us) who, for a multitude of reasons, live with homosexual tendencies.

I am a strong advocate of deep, meaningful, intimate, lifelong relationships between members of the same sex. Some of my favorite verses speak of “bowels of affection and compassion” and being “kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love.” Due to what appears to be our design, they bring us healing, wholeness and a strong base from which to live, give and lead healthy lives.

Hence, my ultimate decision to see the film to evaluate for myself whether this story is really one of love or sex. While I welcomed the idea of a story of two men truly loving and being committed to each other over a lifetime I doubted the love, and the relationship, would stand on its own if the sex were removed. I was, unfortunately, as you so aptly pointed out, right.

Thankfully, as I have grown older I have come to understand that the love that satisfies; that fulfills our need for commitment, trust, faithfulness, honesty and friendship; is the essence of our relationship with God and His desire for us concerning our relationships with each other. For love to lead to physical intimacy the relationship must be legitimate and God alone, as our Creator and Sustainer, has the authority and right to define the term: one man, one woman, in covenant.

Like it or not, fully understand or agree with it or not, the terms of true love are clear and to reject them is to reject God. To reject God, regardless of the reason, is to reject His love for us and any hope of living beyond our short-sighted, self-serving, and ultimately self-destructive desires. To reject God is to settle for something other than love.

Real love always involves cost, dying to self, indeed, sacrifice, as Jesus clearly demonstrated. Whether one considers him or herself heterosexual or homosexual, the pursuit of real love will always involve the need to lay down one’s selfish impulses in favor of what could be called purity, holiness or righteousness. Heterosexual and homosexual individuals, families, and communities across time and space have suffered the consequences associated with insisting on following one’s own way, of forming one’s own truth.

Ennis and Jake’s story left me feeling sad. I laughed at their innocence and cried at their loss. In the end, it was not loss of love denied that made my heart ache but the choices they made. Tragically, almost unbelievably, they consistently chose sex over love, physical gratification over commitment, lust over friendship. In their wake they left abused spouses, neglected children, and, each other.

I felt their pain and anguish, the grief and torment associated with not being able to have what they wanted. Resisting temptation and dying to our self is painful. However, a tolerant society would not have solved their problem. We, all, regardless of our particular state of denial must deal with the reality of God; the betrayal and shallowness associated with giving in to temptation. Love is painful, it is costly, but it is so worth it.

At any point, Ennis and Jake could have chosen relationship over forbidden sexual interests. Sadly, they did not. Rather, they traded a handful of exciting, sex-driven fishing trips for what could have been a lifetime of love, mutual support, companionship and genuine friendship. Therein lies the true tragedy of Ennis and Jake.

I am no film critic but I was pleasantly surprised at what a beautiful movie it was. I found the characters, storyline and settings compelling and never felt that I had to suspend reality to keep pace with it. I am guessing this might mean that the script, acting, cinematography, etc was of a high quality. Though the film has an obvious message and agenda, it is filled with complexities and subtleties that leave room for analysis and appreciation whether or not you agree with it or not. [Spoilers deleted.]

Jeffrey, I appreciate this opportunity to put in writing some of my thoughts regarding Brokeback. When I decided to seek out a review of the film from a self-described Christian perspective I was a little afraid. I was still sorting out some of my thoughts and feelings about the film and did not want to be influenced by those who are under or overly critical of it. Yours was the first I decided to read and was very satisfied to find that my conclusions were shared by another.

Brokeback is definitely a film that leaves one moved on an emotional level and somewhat challenged, intellectually and spiritually. I am relieved to find that though it provided ample reminder of who I was and could be, the film did not provide fodder for fruitless fantasies but rather strengthened my resolve to live a life of love, commitment and honor for my wife, family, friends, my God, and even, myself.

Some say that Brokeback is being touted as a potential award winner solely due to its subject matter. Having seen the film I suspect that many of its detractors oppose it for the same reason. If political supporters and critics are taken out of the equation I see no reason why it should not be in the running. It is a quality film and deserves to be judged on its merits.

He then asked for prayer for someone who is close to him who is also struggling with these issues. While I can’t mention the details here, I’d invite you to pray for the writer, that he might be an encouragement and a source of inspiration, and also… pray for the one who is struggling. If you’re unsure what outcome to ask for… just ask God to lead this person to the truth, which will be liberating.

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  • Anonymous

    See:

    http://www.crossmyt.com/hc/linghebr/austheir.html#X1a

    Hilight of the text:

    “While your high-school English teacher may have told you not to use this construction [the singular "their"], it actually dates back to at least the 14th century, and was used by the following authors (among others) in addition to Jane Austen: Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, the King James Bible, The Spectator, Jonathan Swift, Daniel Defoe, Frances Sheridan, Oliver Goldsmith, Henry Fielding, Maria Edgeworth, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, William Makepeace Thackeray, Sir Walter Scott, George Eliot [Mary Anne Evans], Charles Dickens, Mrs. Gaskell, Anthony Trollope, John Ruskin, Robert Louis Stevenson, Walt Whitman, George Bernard Shaw, Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, Rudyard Kipling, H. G. Wells, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton, W. H. Auden, Lord Dunsany, George Orwell, and C. S. Lewis.”

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Incidentally, Merriam-Webster‘s second definition of “their” is: “his or her : HIS, HER, ITS — used with an indefinite third person singular antecedent [anyone in their senses -- W. H. Auden]“

  • Peter T Chattaway

    My first reaction was to think that it should say “one’s” instead of “their”. “His” presumes too much, gender-wise.

    But “their” seems to be the new standard these days — I remember using it unconsciously in a university essay 10 or 11 years ago, and my prof remarking that he wasn’t entirely happy with it although he acknowledged it was the way things were going.

    I know Steve has taken issue with the pronunciation of “forte” as “for-tay”, and this seems like a similar objection; while he might be strictly accurate in a nit-picky, true-to-the-way-things-were-done-decades-ago kind of way (and I say this as one who bellyaches every time a writer hands me a story using the word “ironic” to mean “coincidental”, or “tragic” to mean “sad”), language is an evolving thing.

  • Chuck

    You’re just trying to get on the good side of all the anti-TNIV folks, aren’t you? ;-)

  • Michael Knepher

    It’s all part of my scheme to create a tipping point in favor of using “their” as a singular, gender-neutral possessive pronoun.

  • RC

    maybe it’s like mac…

    it should be think differently not think different.

    oh well.

    –RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

  • Magnus

    “Okay. Today, I learned that I’m living in “a post-religious world.” What would atheists do in” a post-religious world,” I wonder? Not sure”

    “Re-Educate” all of us poor deluded folks? Unfortunately, some people are just far too caught up in their own agendas.

  • Neil E. Das

    Thanks for posting this, Jeffrey. It was good to hear this voice on this movie.

    Thank you for your work, and keep trucking!

  • jasdye

    haha.

    you crazy non-selfish lunatic you. how can you live with yourself, thinking others are about as important as you, crazy-pants?


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