John Boswell & Not a Tame Lion: Dialogue with Craig Bettendorf & Ralph Hexter

John Boswell & Not a Tame Lion: Dialogue with Craig Bettendorf & Ralph Hexter

Yale historian John Boswell (1947–1994) was a world-renowned scholar of Medieval History, conversant in 14 languages ancient and modern…and was unapologetically both gay and Christian. The 2022 film documentary Not a Tame Lion--written and directed by Craig Bettendorf—presents Boswell's closest friends, students, colleagues and family members recounting his life and impact as well as a brief excerpt from one of his spell-binding lectures. The documentary focuses on the final years before his untimely death as he feverishly worked to complete Same Sex Unions In Medieval Europe, a book that changed the trajectory of the Marriage Equality debate.  

On January 25th, 2024, filmmaker Bettendorf, along with Ralph Hexter, Boswell’s close friend and academic colleague, discussed the inspiration and vision behind the film and how Boswell still illuminates and informs study and debate on religion and sexuality in our day.

Writer and director Craig Bettendorf, no novice to LGBTQ subject matter, spent the better part of the 1990s organizing, promoting, and finding common ground and understanding necessary to form acceptance and inclusion for members of the LGBTQ community. This work led him to be among the principal signatories of 1996’s National Freedom to Marry Resolution (predecessor to Marriage Equality) denouncing the Federal Defense of Marriage Act as well as to the honor of presenting to the students and faculties of the Harvard Divinity School, the College of William & Mary, and Yale University. Bettendorf’s film projects include Treading Yesterday, the series (2016-2022), the documentary feature Homo-Say-What (2020), the television series pilot Sorry We Missed You (2021) and 2023’s Not A Tame Lion. Bettendorf’s projects have benefited from his personal experience as a gay man and former LGBTQ community activist in juxtaposing societal intolerance of LGBTQ people in the past with present day acceptance, while at the same time revealing the inherent challenges existing in both environments.

Ralph Hexter, Ph.D., is former Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor as well as former Interim Chancellor of University of California Davis, where he continues as a Distinguished Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature. He first got to know John Boswell when he was an undergraduate and Boswell was a graduate student at Harvard. He assisted Boswell during the preparation of Boswell’s ground-breaking 1980 book Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century and was his colleague at Yale, first as a graduate student, then as an Assistant and Associate Professor, from 1977-1991. Hexter was involved in the final preparation for publication of Same-Sex Unions in Medieval Europe and serves as Boswell’s literary executor.

Hexter & Boswell at Yale graduation mid-1980s