Though it doesn’t openly advocate ex-gay therapy (nor does Desire or Kidnapped), Sing does present a story of miraculous transformation that will ruffle features and incite fury from some viewers. But should Christians be skeptical too? As a people who believe in miraculous things like resurrection, sanctification, and a Holy Spirit that can renovate hearts and reorder desires, shouldn’t we be open to the possibility of changes we never thought possible, even while we acknowledge that many earnest prayers for change go unanswered? Kindberg and Jernigan think so.
Well shot and featuring Jernigan’s familiar songs throughout (“You Are My All in All,” “Nobody Fills My Heart Like Jesus"), Sing lets Jernigan himself tell his story, beginning with his childhood where, in a conservative Oklahoma church-going context, he first realized he was gay. There are a lot of tears as he shares about his struggle with depression and occasional thoughts of suicide, throughout his adolescence and college years at Oklahoma Baptist University, as he tried to reconcile his sexual orientation with his desire to live a faithful Christian life.
Kindberg never inserts himself into the story as the documentarian and doesn’t provide any leading questions or commentaries; he simply turns the camera on Jernigan and lets him testify to what he sees as God’s redemption of his sexual brokenness.
By contrast, director Kate Logan inserts herself in a very prominent, mostly unnecessary way into Kidnapped for Christ. She assumes the role of Michael Moore-esque advocate and guerrilla journalist, and the film plays like one of those disturbing John Stossel exposes on 20/20.
Logan maintains that she had no idea when she started the film that it would take a darker expose turn. In taking her camera equipment to Escuela Caribe, she thought she was making a film about “an interesting alternative therapy program with a cultural exchange element,” but the more she saw the more she was disturbed. The film ends up being a Jesus Camp-style horror show (complete with dramatically scary music and hushed covert interviews) that makes Escuela Caribe out to be a veritable hell house for gay kids and other “troubled” sorts.
The crowd-funded Kidnapped, which screened at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and aired this summer on Showtime, does not purport to be about LGBTQ advocacy as much as the dangers of boarding school abuse; nevertheless it takes a definite position on the question of whether gay Christians can or should change.
If Sing Over Me takes the view that change and redemption is possible by the power of God, Kidnapped—which has executive producer backing from openly gay Lance Bass—critiques the very notion that changing sexual orientation is necessary or viable.
Logan, who is also a recent Biola University graduate, has said that when she first went to the Dominican Republic to make her film, she believed homosexuality was sinful. But when she got to know David—the gay teenager whose parents sent him to Escuela Caribe—her views changed.