Questioning Faith: Confessions of a Seminarian
Directed by Macky Alston
Cinemax (premieres June 27)

In Questioning Faith, director Macky Alston tells his story of struggling with the loss of his seminary classmate, Alan Smith, to AIDS. Alston and Smith became friends while studying at Union Theological Seminary in New York and working together in a soup kitchen.

Alston announces in the first scene, over video of him and Smith singing along campily to the theme song from The Patty Duke Show, that he is homosexual, and that Smith was as well. While homosexuality is a persistent backdrop in this story, Alston is more concerned with something all people have in common: suffering.

Alston began his studies at Union in 1989, but by 1991 he had dropped out to make films. Smith's death prompted Alston to resume studies at Union and to face his own issues with suffering and death. Throughout the film, which premieres this month on cable television's Cinemax Reel Life series, Alston is nagged by the question of why God would "take" Smith. In wrestling with his own doubts, Alston talks with others who have suffered (some of whom emerged stronger, and others embittered).

Alston's theology is the broadest sort of liberal Protestantism, and he never considers the answer that we live in a fallen world. Instead, he nearly stays stuck in the choice between God being all-powerful but not always good, or all good but not omnipotent.

From Atheists to Believers

Alston is occasionally sidetracked by people who offer little insight. Liza "Baba" Gottlieb, the feisty grandmother of Alston's partner, proudly declares her atheism. We soon discover that she rejected the Jewish faith of her childhood because of her grief at losing her brothers, her parents, ...

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