3 min

God only knows

Two gay guys and an Evangelical Christian activist walk into the Duff....

MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON: Craig Chandler (left), CEO of Concerned Christians Canada, runs his Dufferin-inspired marriage solution by ex-gay Anglican minister Dawn McDonald.

It sounds like the set-up for a bad joke, but in a tale truly stranger than fiction, Dylan Crozier, of Vancouver’s Rainbow Community Church, his partner Vinnie Chiodo and Craig Chandler, CEO of Concerned Christians Canada, sat down together at Vancouver’s Dufferin Hotel and solved the contentious gay marriage issue once and for all.

“The solution,” said Chandler, “was to get the government out of marriage entirely and to let each individual church decide who they want to marry.”

It’s just plain eerie to hear those words, nearly reminiscent of those in the queer community opposed to gay marriage, slide off the tongue of a man who is convinced that homosexual urges are, like a drug addiction, a threat to the fabric of society and a vice to be struggled with and overcome.

Is it really possible that a neo-conservative should have even the vaguest commonality with the old-school, hardcore, sexual liberationist warriors who paved the way for queer freedom in Canada?

No, not really.

After a short visit with a formerly queer member of the God Squad, Chandler backed off on his compromise because, in the end, it gave marriage rights to queers.

Chandler suffered a momentary lapse of reason at the Duff. Maybe it was the beer or the drag show; perhaps he struggled with repressed dimensions of his own sexuality. But once he vetted this simple solution with the ex-gay clergy, he got back on message: no marriage for queers.

Crozier, Chiodo and Chandler met and were filmed as part of a documentary that aired Feb 7 on CBC Newsworld.

God Only Knows: Same Sex Marriage stages an intersection of the lives of Crozier and Chandler. In it, Crozier journeys to Calgary to live for a time with Chandler’s family and friends. In turn, Chandler visits Crozier’s family and friends in Vancouver.

While together, the men and the people in their lives talk in frustrating and ever-decreasing circles that bring some participants to tears. Their wine-fuelled dinner-table debates meander through issues of religious freedom, freedom of speech and expression, bigotry and hatred, the nature of love, and family. Some dusty old chestnut arguments are trotted out on both sides, but on the whole, the talk is vigorous and riveting. There is only one conspicuous omission: sex.

It seems a missed opportunity that sex, which defines on the most basic level the differences between these men, never comes up. It’s as if their gay bar marriage compromise is really an accord between two churches and not an indication of growing understanding between two groups that trust each other so little they’re on the verge of mutual hatred.

Chandler is the curiosity in this film. It’s not likely he’s a typical Calgary Conservative and viewers should take care not to assume he represents the views of all Albertans.

He’s the embodiment of “the other” for queer people. He lends a personal and at times disturbingly likeable face to the religious right. He’s charismatic and articulate.

Most of the time, though, he’s just full of crap. He’s condescending to his wife, Julie, when, after chatting with Crozier, she seems to decide that maybe their church has it wrong.

Chandler sheds disingenuous tears as “Oh Canada” wells in the background. “He can have his benefits,” he says of Crozier. “He can have his pension plans. He can have anything he wants, including his churches. But why can’t the people who share my values have their churches as well? Reverse discrimination has occurred and it’s so rampant that even those who are related to me can’t even see the persecution. I’m the minority now, not Dylan.”

In another scene, Chandler, having somehow regained majority status, rails to the camera after talking to Vancouver East MP Libby Davies. “She’s in the minority, but because she’s a Member Of Parliament, she claims to represent all of Canada — which is wrong,” he protests. “She may represent her constituency but she doesn’t represent the country.”

The greatest value in this film for queer people, and why I recommend it, is that it outlines, from the horse’s mouth, the most prevalent contemporary arguments against gay marriage and queer expression. Those views are based on Chandler’s heterosexist orthodox worldview.

If queer people are to be continuously bonked over the head with religious dogma, it’s incumbent on us to be prepared with a rational defence and to be familiar with our detractors’ most likely tactics. That means we should have some insight into the thought processes of the religious right.

Meeting Chandler undoubtedly offers a peek into the other team’s psyche and playbook.