Father-son, gay-bi, post-Christian teamwork

Since early in this decade, when I became aware of Mike White's filmmaking career, I've thought it would be rewarding to get him together with his father, Mel, for a conversation about filmmaking and faith. Anyone who has followed Mel White's career knows he once ghostwrote material for Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham and Pat Robertson, and that he outed himself and became a gay-rights activist in the early 1990s. His work on 53 documentaries usually gets short shrift, even on Internet Movie Database.

Mike White needs no introduction for School of Rock fans, and he's spoken before about being bisexual.

Newsweek's interview with the Whites isn't what I hoped for, as its editors still consider Mel White's time with Robertson to be headline-worthy. It will have to do, though, until an editor at Film Comment or The Advocate pursues a deeper conversation.

At the top of this post, a promotional video clip from The Amazing Race shows some warm and funny interaction between father and son. The Whites cannot say they're the first GLBT Amazing Race team, but Mel speaks up for one related cause:

If our appearance on the show is boiled down to us being gay, I'm hoping that this myth that gay people can't parent will be burned up in some way. I think it's really sad that so many people are still worried about gay people adopting or having kids. So if we have to be a model of something, I hope we can model that gay parents can be great parents.

Newsweek's Joshua Alston does, of course, ask a follow-up question about Proposition 8, and only the senior White responds:

Oh, yes, my partner and I got married on June 18, the day after it became legal, and when Proposition 8 came around it was heartbreaking, and we had to fight it from here in Lynchburg, Va. We didn't donate money, but we were part of the crowd-gathering that was used to show the state this was a bad mistake.

Alston saves the most revealing question for last, and it leads to haunting answers:

Mike, how did your experience growing up with your dad shape your faith?

Mike: I definitely got a lot out of the ministry growing up, and we had a lot of theological discussions around the dinner table and stuff, and all that stuff certainly had a huge impact on the way I see things, and in a positive way. I don't really consider myself a Christian. It's complicated, like everything, but I think what my dad is doing as far as reaching out to the conservative Christian community for inclusion is a really courageous thing.

Mel: It's ironic because given the state of what it means to be a Christian these days, I'm not a Christian either. I'm a mediocre follower of a first-century Jewish teacher. And being a Christian brings up all those stereotypes that are so destructive to the gay spirit. So when Michael says he's not a Christian, I completely understand and feel the same way. I hope that one day we can reclaim that word, but as it stands now, it's embarrassing to be a Christian.

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