Film addresses conflicts of faith and gay identity

Alexandra Finkel

For Andrew Bowen, reconciling his gay and Christian identities was difficult until he came to Northwestern. He grew up in a “liberal, accepting family,” but coming out to his conservative church was much harder.

At NU, the Medill junior and former Daily staffer has found a home at the University Christian Ministry. Now a peer minister, Bowen said the ministry is unique because of its accepting and non-judgmental nature.

“I think UCM is the most actively accepting Christian ministry on campus,” he said. “We do a very good job of seeking out ways to minister to gay people who have grown up as Christians.”

Bowen said the ministry provides an outlet for many students on campus and allows them to develop a religious identity.

“So many LGBT youth grow up in Christian households, and what they experience in the church leads them to reject religion, and specifically Christianity,” he said. “This can be very difficult when it’s a core part of their identity.”

UCM partners with the Rainbow Alliance throughout the year to cosponsor various speakers and hold a weekly gay Bible study.

Tonight, they will screen the documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So,” a 2007 film about homosexuality and how it is perceived to conflict with religion.

The film follows five Christian families, including former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt’s family, and outlines the struggles that accompany having a gay child. The screening will feature a discussion with director Daniel Karslake.

Rainbow Alliance Publicity Chairman Joseph Lyons said he saw the film in January at the National Conference on LGBT Equality. Lyons, a Daily staffer, thought bringing it to campus would spark an important discussion about homosexuality and religion.

Bringing a film like this is essential for both the gay and Christian communities, said Caroline Perry, Rainbow Alliance Activism Chairwoman.

“I think it’s important to foster a dialogue between various faith groups and the LGBT community because so often queer people of faith are forced to compartmentalize these different aspects of their lives,” the Weinberg freshman said. “It leads to feelings of inauthenticity and general discomfort, and it makes it very difficult to be open and honest in either setting.”

Events like the film screening may help reconcile the gap between religion and homosexuality, Perry said.

“There are a lot of LGBT people for whom religion and spirituality is very important, but there exists a lot of antipathy toward religion because so many people are so wounded by horrible discriminatory experiences they’ve encountered in so many conservative churches,” Perry said.

Still, Perry said different Christian groups respond to the gay community in different ways.

“There’s definitely mixed feelings coming from the Christian community,” she said. “There are the more liberal groups like the ones sponsoring the event who welcome the gay community, but there are also those groups where it’s just not okay to be gay.”

Multiethnic InterVarsity President Caroline Na said her group is open to forming alliances with other organizations, but the documentary screening is not something they would co-sponsor.

“In MEIV our beliefs are more along the line that homosexuality isn’t something that is supported by biblical passages,” the Communication senior said. “We are willing to accept them into our community, but our interpretation is that it’s not something that is in line with the teaching of Jesus.”

There was backlash in the past after events that focused on the intersection of homosexuality and Christianity, UCM Campus Minister Julie Windsor Mitchell said.

“We are trying to work on making the church an inclusive place so everyone knows they are welcome,” she said. “The issue of homosexuality is a very divisive issue in the church right now, so many people don’t agree with our open stance on the issue and our interpretation of scripture.”

Bowen said the film screening will not only benefit those students who are Christian or gay, but the entire NU community as a whole.

“As a gay Christian, it’s important for me to let other people know that there is nothing wrong with being Christian and gay,” he said. “The two are not mutually exclusive.”

“For the Bible Tells Me So” will be screened tonight in Fisk 217 at 7 p.m.

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