Queers in the Kingdom: Let Your Light Shine
Distributed by Alexander Street Press, 350 7th Ave/Ste 1100, New York, NY 10001
Produced by Kathryn Gregorio, Bill Dickie, Stephen Henderson
Directed by Markie Hancock
DVD, color, 74 min.
College - General Adult
Program Subject(s): Gay and Lesbian Liberation Movement, Christianity, Religion, Discrimination, History
Reviewed by Neil M. Frau-Cortes, University of Maryland
Date Entered: 8/19/2015
It is a well known fact that a network of Evangelical colleges around the country propagate a Bible-based homophobia. Students at these colleges must remain closeted or risk expulsion, while stories of discrimination, bullying and suicide are unfortunately common in these institutions. Wheaton College has the distinction of being one of the best colleges in the country. At the same time, as a flagship institution of evangelical Christian education, it also heads the ranking of most LGBTQ unfriendly universities. This film portraits the creation of the first and only Wheaton College queer alumni association.
As a harmonious choral work, Queers in the Kingdom brings together many voices and story lines. The human drama and moving life stories of the alumni, their yearning as well as their loss and their struggle, all run parallel to the history or Gay rights and that of the increasing influence of Evangelicalism in the U.S. The emergence of homosexual culture and gay identity is a slow process that came to light in urban milieus, as gays and lesbians gathered, found community and came to understand themselves, in part as response to external discrimination. All of this happened as Evangelical Christianity became a central force in the American social and political arena, or as the film presents it “not only in the mainstream but as defining the mainstream.” The creation of these two identities –queer and right-wing Christian– stand as opposite poles in this powerful film. This well-researched documentary constitutes a reflection on the effects of religion in society, while offering a historical overview of Fundamentalist Christianity, its roots and morals, its Biblical interpretation and how all of these factors have influenced American politics.
The film presents the life stories of the alumni in a compelling, moving way. An inter-generational group of graduates from the classes of 1954 through 2008 discuss their struggles with faith, inclusion and identity. Getting to know each other helps newer generations realize that previous generations experienced the same struggles. These courageous life stories are intermingled with in-depth interviews with prominent scholars from both secular and religious institutions. Wheaton's own faculty and administration is a notable omission. This comes as no surprise considering the institution's long history of expelling students and firing faculty who openly criticize their anti-LGBT policies.
Ultimately, faith based discrimination has many faces, and the existing policies against gay students are not unlike the racial discrimination of yesteryear based on Scripture. Queers in the Kingdom calls the Evangelical world and Christian colleges to responsibility and sends a clear message: homophobia and discrimination leads to suffering and loss of lives.
- Winner, Bronze Reel, Reeling32, The Chicago LGBT International Film Festival, 2014