But it is precisely “wider community” that each of us needs to be a flourishing human being. Community, friendship and intimacy are fundamental human desires—and they are desires profoundly expressed by the subjects of these three films.
One of the most moving moments in Desire comes when Rilene discusses her former partner Margo, with whom she had a 25-year relationship. Even though she ultimately left the relationship because of religious convictions, Rilene doesn’t look back on it as a false or inauthentic experience:
“I don't want to denigrate the relationship I had with Margo and I don't want to denigrate anybody else's relationship. We all have a deep, deep need for love, and we find it where it seems to fit most.”
Desire is effective in part because, in telling the stories of Rilene, Dan and Paul, it doesn’t deny the possibility that true, sacrificial, enduring love can happen between gay partners. Nor does it suggest that a gay person’s human desires for love and intimacy are in some sense alien or abnormal. Even if the film ultimately argues for chastity over homosexual practice, it does not sugarcoat the complexity of human relationships and the various ways our fundamental longings for community get worked out.
In a post responding to the film on the Spiritual Friendship blog, Nick Roen says the film is a good reminder that for those who want to paint a positive picture of celibacy, “we must be able to show how the sacrificial love often experienced in committed sexual relationships is also available within non-sexual friendships… If we can’t offer that type positive alternative, then no one will consider celibacy as a life-giving option. And in order to present said positive alternative, we must be honest about the love that gay partners are capable of. That very love is still available within friendship!”
Understanding and presenting the family of God truly as a family—less an occasional assembly of privatized individuals than an interdependent and porous communion of brothers, sisters, parents and children in Christ—seems to be a crucial yet hitherto underemphasized approach in the church’s ministry to its SSA members. How can the church preach against homosexuality but fail to offer viable alternatives and outlets for one’s desire for intimacy and community?
In a world where people are more isolated and lonely than ever, what if the church offered outlets for deep friendship and dependable, embracing community, regardless of one’s orientation? How would this minister to people like David in Kidnapped or Dennis in Sing, whose stories of same-sex longing were so lonely and disconnected (largely out of fear) from the web of support and love that the church should provide? In a society where, as we’ve seen, notions of sexuality and relational intimacy are increasingly privatized and disconnected from the “common good” (or anything “common”), perhaps the church can be countercultural by elevating the importance of communion as a foundational concept for life in Christ.