Andrew Seely ministers to youth at a Presbyterian church in California. His review of Brokeback Mountain was published at RelevantMagazine.com, a Christian publication by and for young adults.
Titled “Finding God on Brokeback Mountain,” Seely opens with:
Please do not boil this movie down to homosexuality. Please do not pass judgment without even seeing it. See the fact that there are great performances. See the gift of storytelling. View the beauty of God’s creation. Relate to people who have lives that are complicated. Remember that God’s love is far greater than any of us deserve.
Seely’s faith affirms sexual expression only in the context of opposite-sex marriage. At his blog, he mentions having casual conversations with his next-door neighbor who is gay; he doesn’t relate his perceptions of Brokeback to personal experiences with gay friends or acquaintances.
To whatever extent the dynamics of the film’s storyline are unfamiliar to him though, he recognizes the humanity and real-life struggles faced by the characters:
The film is filled with emotion, discouragement, pain, security, hope, loss and love—all of which echo human experience and God’s heart… The raw, carnal, male emotion displayed in the film is something not easily drawn out of most men…
These men and their wives spend the entire movie trying to figure out what it means to exist with other people and trying to figure out who they are as individuals in the midst of difficult relationships.
Seely connects with God in the scenic vistas captured by Brokeback. He felt uncomfortable at times, but notes his belief that “God shows up in the most extraordinary places,” and suggests that disagreeing with lifestyle choices made by the characters did not mean that Christians “are allowed to dismiss the whole thing as Godless.”
A Christian who commented at his blog had a strong reaction:
[W]hen I read your article in relevant magazine, I nearly vomited. Am I upset that as a Christian, you like the movie? Not at all. I’m not judging you for liking the movie; I’ve been intrigued enough that I’ve practically read the whole transcript of the movie. However, your attempt to “find God” in the movie was completely pathetic. Just because there are broken relationships, beautiful scenery, and human struggles, does not mean God is “in something”.
Seely appears to be comfortable breaking conservative Christian molds while speaking from both his head and his heart, though. He blogged recently about racism, recognizing his personal challenges and biases. He also penned an article on talking honestly about sex in the context of youth ministry which was published online by the Youth Ministry Exchange. In it, he suggests:
Maybe the whole “pledge card” or “promise ring” theory isn’t paying off as well as we’d like. Actually lots of studies (christian and secular) have come out within the year that show that all these programs really do is delay the onset of sexual activities for the participants. I’ll say it again in case you forgot. Studies over and over show that “christian” students are almost indistinguishable compared to other students. And I think we are only perpetuating this when they feel like they can’t relate to other students in a normal way.
He remains firmly committed to the goal of sexual abstinence until marriage, but insists that youth leaders have a responsibility to create open, nonjudgmental space within which youth can talk about their experiences and thoughts honestly.
Seely’s closing thoughts on Brokeback remind me of my own spiritual journey:
It is not easy to always find how God is breaking through in a situation. It takes work and time to listen… it may not have a “Christian” label smacked on the front, or an endorsement from Focus on the Family, but God desires to make himself known to us. We have to be open to how he is going to do that.
He sounds like a guy I could connect with over a cup of coffee. I don’t have to agree with him on every point in order to appreciate his thoughtfulness and respect his journey. He reminds me that labels — progressive, conservative, gay, ex-gay — need not be impenetrable barriers to being good neighbors to each other.