Review: “Love Free or Die,” Documents N. H. Bishop Gene Robinson and Anglican Church Schism

“Love Free or Die” Film Reviewed
by Larry Murray

The rising tide of equality in America did not sit well with some of the 80-million members of the Anglican Communion when Gene robinson became the first openly gay Bishop to be elected in his New Hampshire diocese. The consternation was strongest in conservative strongholds in the US and backward third world countries. But on the plus side, many consider it a factor in New Hampshire approving gay marriages, and the election of other gay bishops since then. Being gay should not exclude one from being a person of faith. Of course, many religions continue to demonize LGBT’s, especially since doing the same to their earlier scapegoats, the jews and the blacks has become so unfashionable.

The film Love Free or Die documents his unwavering love for both God and his partner, Mark. In the film love and marriage clash, church and state collide and in an outrageous act of censorship, the Archbishop of Canterbury muzzled him, refusing to let him take part in their annual meeting of Bishops. We watch as he sits patiently waiting to talk with some of his colleagues. Few took him up on the offer.

The filmmakers give Robinson time to explore his feelings about his faith and we are enlightened, since reconciling being gay with a religion that supposedly condemns you as an abomination is not an easy leap to make.

It was 2003 when Robinson was a surprised as anyone to find his flock wanted him to lead them. In the near-decade since, the controversy it has created has not slowed, the powerful church authorities in England – backed by the homophobic African and conservative forces – have tried to unseat him. And Robinson has had his dark moments when he wondered if his vocation was for the good of the Church in its pioneering unorthodoxy, or if he should resign. The film shows how he has prayed and meditated on the subject, and remained constant to both who he is, and to his core beliefs.

The documentary by filmmaker Macky Alston os a revelation as it follows Robinson to England where the Bishop attempts to communicate his message to his peers, but is thwarted at almost every turn by the church authorities who not only don’t want him there, but would prefer not to even bring up the subject of gays and lesbians within the church. “Tithe generously but stay in the closet,” seems to be the message.

In New England, many LGBT individuals first found refuge from religious persecution in the Anglican and Unitarian Churches. As people of faith they have also turned out to be tireless volunteers, reliable resources and generous with their time and treasure. It is for these reasons that Bishop Robinson was elected to be Bishop, he didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk.

As you watch the cold and hostile reception he receives in this film you may wonder why he continues to endure the approbations and insults. But people of faith live their beliefs, and he will not relent. If something is wrong, the best way to change it is from within. Like others before him he is true to himself, and this film gives one hope that one day the religious war against the LGBT community will end, and Christians can get back to what is really important, helping their neighbors and raising happy families.

Love Free or Die from Wolfe Video, Director/Writer Macky Alston,Produced by Sandra Itkoff. 82 minutes.

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