Category Archives: Boy Erased

Boy Erased

This is my second poem about Joel Edgerton’s Boy Erased, based on the 50th Psalm this time, and in the voice of Russell Crowe’s character, a minister who firmly believes that his faith prohibits sodomy and that, if his son is gay, he cannot be Christian.

Here the rejection of homosexuals is only implied and has no connection with the original text, showing how flexible the rhetoric of divine wrath can be when we choose to invoke against a given group of outcasts. Ironically, the speaker’s commitment to homophobia is extremely inflexible, and takes no note of the highly varied and extremely dated, parochial contexts from which the Bible’s abundant repertoire of hatespeech is culled. This Davidic Psalm belongs to an obscure Levite tradition in the Hebrew original (for extensive footnotes, see Robert Alter’s translation, The Hebrew Bible).

When God speaks to us, when the Lord calls us,
he calls to all creation with one voice
from east of the dawn to west of the night.
From the citadel of the promised land
God’s light seeks us out to show the way home.
We pray that he will come and not be still.
Ahead of his oncoming wrath burns hell,
and his coming is like a hurricane.
Let him summon the hosts of the heavens
and earth assembled to judge his faithful:
“Gather together all the believers,
who would follow the Lord in his mercy”
and let heaven itself pronounce justice,
for Christ the King is our Lord and our judge.
“Hear me, my congregation, when I speak,
as a Christian, what I witness to you.
I preach from the gospel, the word of God.
Not by your offerings does God weigh you,
nor your attendance at service or prayers.
We do not gather here for a head count,
neither does God need our money, our time.
For his are the forests, oceans and skies,
the summits of mountains, the sun, the stars.
He knows every sparrow’s nest and burrow,
all things bright and beautiful dwell with him.
Should God want for praise, come seeking us out?
No – in him dwells all breath in its fullness.
Would he fritter through our pocket money
and set store by our comings and goings?
Come to worship in hopes of thanksgiving,
and tithe in the fulfilment of your vows.
Call on the Lord in your day of distress –
he will save you. For this, we worship here.”
And I say unto the false believers:
“Why do you fling the Lord’s words in my face
and call yourselves Christians, people of faith,
who, in your sin, too proud to be chastised,
have cast aside God’s Testament wholesale?
You follow the wicked in temptation,
surrounded by the vilest criminals.
You dare speak out in defense of evil,
and constantly trip over your own lies.
You sit in the pews, and yet defy God,
betraying the bond that makes us one faith.
All this you have done while I kept silent.
Did you imagine I sanctioned your crimes?
Today I reprove you and make my case.
Reckon with this, you who spurn consequence,
lest the wrath of God bring you to nothing.
Those who come here in thanksgiving know God
and commit their lives to the Christian faith.
To these true believers God shows his love.”

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Filed under Boy Erased, Directing, Dream Ensemble, Poetry

Boy Erased

Joel Edgerton’s Boy Erased deals with the lived experience of homophobia much more explicitly than any other film I’ve ever seen on this subject, treating the layers of hypocrisy and passive-aggressive attitudes toward rape culture that are intimately folded up in “family values politics” with a visceral intensity that eschews cinematic style points for the sake of clarity.

As Edgerton said, this film isn’t intended to stand the test of time with audiences – it’s intended to change the audience, and make itself redundant in a world where conversion therapy is no longer a thing.

Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman deliver superb performances in supporting roles here, but this poem, based on the 32nd Psalm, is in the voice of Edgerton’s character, addressed as a sort of high-minded sales pitch of his services to Russell Crowe’s character, a conservative minister who has been advised by his colleagues in the cloth to subject his only son to conversion therapy, over his wife’s unspoken objections.

Embrace your son, be glad – his sin forgiven,
he is confessed and absolved of all offense.
Who among us has ever been so happy
as to stand before the Lord unspotted, clean
of conscience, and never halting in deceit?
When I withheld, my limbs sagged under the weight
of my unwieldy burdens – no help arrived
when fresh roars of anguish rent my throat all day.
For before I brought my case before the Lord
His hand lay heavy upon my shrinking skin.
My veins convulsed, my heart churned out salt and dust.
At last, I gave my sin a public hearing
and uncovered crimes that touched me to the soul.
I testified to how I had offended,
and God forgave the sin, making me whole.
This love I come to share with you sustains me.
In my daily work I shelter from relapse,
the means of my deliverance surround me.
Let me teach your son, for I have seen first-hand.
A child fights like a young horse, or like a mule,
relying on the harness and the curb, worn
to keep him from rushing after his parents.
Unceasing struggle dominates the wicked,
but he who trusts in God, gentle ease greets him.
Be glad of these trials – be proud as a father,
and hymn with the righteous, like all upright men!

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Filed under Acting, Boy Erased, Directing, False controversies, Poetry