What happens when an evangelical church and a documentary film festival decide to be friends?

That was the question I brought with me to Columbia, Missouri last March when I attended the True/False Film Festival, the premier documentary and nonfiction film festival in the country. I knew from a 2013 New York Times article that one of the major partners in the festival was The Crossing, a large church in the Evangelical Presbyterian denomination. But I also know documentary film—how it often specializes in highlighting and exploring causes and ideas you’d be hard-pressed to find represented in your typical church library or on any list of “Christian” movies. Documentaries often challenge conservative politics and organized religion, and the sorts that make the rounds at festivals (and the audiences that turn up for them) don’t tend to be predisposed favorably toward evangelicals.

The Crossing, however, sponsors the True Life Fund, a monetary award given to one True/False film every year. This year’s pick was Sonita, a film about a teenaged Afghani rapper who tries to bring awareness to the issue of child marriage in her country. The history of other recipients on the festival’s website reveals an incredible diversity of causes and recipients.

One day in the middle of the very busy festival, True/False co-director David Wilson and The Crossing founding pastor Dave Cover took an hour to chat with me about their friendship and the partnership between True/False and The Crossing. Wilson is, by his own description, a “secular atheist” and a political liberal; Cover is an evangelical pastor and a pro-life conservative.

The two men clearly have had many discussions about their beliefs—where ...

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