I am in the lovely university city of Lund where they know me as Queerstand-up komiker och aktivist Peterson Toscano. I did a talk last night before they showed the film Fish Can’t Fly. They said that that film has been the best attended event so far during the film festival.
Lots of people here say that ex-gay stuff doesn’t happen in Sweden. They no longer have an Exodus affiliated program. Their ex-gay program doesn’t say people can change, but rather they need to remain celebate. But all of these crazy things we do in the US do not happen here in Sweden. Or do they?
After my talk, I met a man who has been a Swedish Pentecostal minister for 30 years. He prayed, sought God, endured exorcisms and much more all in the attempt to change his same-sex desires or else get delivered from homosexuality. He is actually at the very start of his journey out of that closet and is not even ready to visit bXg. But he came to the talk and the movie.
During Fish Can’t Fly there is a scene that I have always hated. It takes place in a gay charismatic church in Florida. I was charismatic/pentecostal for years. I went to churches where they lifted their hands, spoke in tongues, prophesied, cast out demons and got slain in the Holy Spirit. The primary reason I joined such a church was because after some years in the Evangelical non-charismatic church, I thought I needed more power from on high in order to drive out the darkness of my homosexuality.
So whenever I see the scene of this gay church with the same worship style, I cringe. I do not think I could ever go back to that sort of a church, even a gay one. But this pentecostal minister confided in me that when he saw that scene, he wept openly. He asked, can it be that I can worship like I do and still be open about my sexuality? So thank you Tom Murray for including that scene in your movie!
Church is not big here in Sweden, and folks like Jerry Falwell, who recently died in the US, are virtually unknown. As far as I could tell, there has been nothing mentioned in the national press about Falwell except for a short blurb in on-line edition of a printed paper. One person explained that the Swedes find comments by Falwell so outrageous that they would simply print nothing about him instead of giving him airspace.
A reporter e-mailed me to ask my reaction to Falwell’s death. That is basically how I found out about it, through that e-mail and another from a fellow blogger. I bet if I hadn’t checked my e-mails, I would not know.
I read how Falwell had died probably due to heart troubles. My immediate thought was, “If he were a vegan, I bet he would still be alive today.”
Falwell is a product of the US and of the liberal policy regarding broadcasting licenses. In most countries in the world, it is extremely difficult to get airtime and especially difficult to own and operate TV and radio stations. In some places, far too difficult. But in the USA it is far too easy, and since the 1920’s, evangelists have been spewing racist, sexist, homophobic, heterosexist, poltical garbage along with the Good News right into the homes and hearts of Americans looking for answers in a Post-Industrial and Post-Modern world.
The impact is far greater than most of us can imagine. The reach that many of these folks have had is unreal. Someone like Falwell should have been laughed off the scene a long time ago, but he had reach through his media arm. And sadly, in the US, if you talk, particularly with the authority of the scriptures and a broadcast license, they will listen. Get your photo taken with a few presidents, make some clever predictions, soak your message with fear, and you have yourself an audience who will lap up all the crap you have to dish out without thinking for themselves.
This sort of thing in Sweden is foreign. The concept is bizarre. I imagine the Religous Right, who for decades has pointed to Sweden as the bastion of all things liberal and wrong with the world, would LOVE to change all of that. But with folks like Åke Green and Fred Phelps stirring up trouble, one imagines the Swedes would see the insanity for what it is–hate, fear and lies.