“I never once wished or prayed that he could not be gay anymore. I just couldn't,” said Logan, who now considers herself an agnostic. “Meeting him really changed my beliefs on that issue in a profound way.”
By contrast, Desire and Sing hope that by letting audiences “meet” individuals who have left homosexuality and are happier because of it, they’ll change their mind about the possibility of change.
Kindberg makes no secret that he hopesSing will be helpful for “Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction and have given up hope of ever overcoming their temptations,” as well as for “homosexuals who are not satisfied with their current lifestyle and want change but have never believed it was possible.”
Desire clearly has a similar aim, though it doesn’t portray stories quite as dramatic as Jernigan’s. The film focuses on three individuals—Dan, Paul and the aforementioned Rilene—who tell their stories directly to the cameras, with no presence from the documentarians save a barely audible off-camera question here or there.
Though all three had lived active homosexual lifestyles for a time (in Rilene’s case, a 25-year relationship with partner Margo), each is now celibate and prefers distance from the gay or lesbian label. They are not “cured” of their SSA and they admit it’s still a struggle; but each says they’ve come to a more peaceful place now that they’ve left the lifestyle, returned to faith and chosen celibacy.
One of the benefits of a chaste life, notes Dan in the film, is “you get outside of yourself. You start looking outward and investing in others.” For him, embracing homosexuality was the safe, easy thing to do. But he likes what C.S. Lewis says in Shadowlands: “The boy chose safety. The man chooses suffering.” Dan began to look at life through the lens of suffering, and it opened up the world for him. “We're made for better stuff than what we settle for,” he says.
Paul tells a similar story. As a former male model who lived in Studio 54–era Manhattan and admits to having had thousands of sexual partners, Paul says he was “happy . . . in toyland.” But the happiness and pleasure of his former life, he says in the film’s final scene, “pales, absolutely pales to when I'm taking the body and blood of our Lord at mass.”
Communion and Community
Is the documentary form, with real, embodied people sharing their true stories, the only cinematic genre where these stories can be told? Probably. One could only imagine what the reaction would be if the Kendrick Brothers (Courageous, Fireproof), for example, made a dramatized film about the miraculous deliverance of a Jernigan-type individual out of a homosexual lifestyle. No, these stories must be told by the enfleshed individuals themselves, with minimal editorial manipulation, if they are to be taken seriously at all.
In general these films perpetuate what has become a well-established norm in modern western societies: that “what happens in the bedroom” is the private domain of individuals and is not subject to any outside entity’s perspective or interest—whether civil, religious or familial. As James K.A. Smith wrote recently in an essay on “Marriage for the Common Good,” ours is a society “where ‘private’ interests are pursued to the exclusion of the common good, as if the two are in competition and the wider community is a threat.”Such is the extent to which sexuality today resides solely in the realm of individual autonomy and personal preference, as opposed to embeddedness in community, tradition and institutions. It’s worth noting (and lamenting) that in all three of these films, the perspectives of people closest to the subjects are hardly invoked at all. In Kidnapped, David’s parents are villainized but never seen or heard from; in Desire, no friends or family are interviewed; Sing features interviews with Jernigan’s wife, parents and friends, but none of his nine children.