Poster of Camp OutCamp Out is one of the films showing at the LGBTQA Film Festival this Saturday, June 11, at The Art Theater. The time is 5:30 p.m. The film is 78 min.

In the summer of 2004 an unprecedented event occurred in rural Minnesota. A group of teenagers attended the first gay Christian bible camp. This is their story.

The teens who attended bible camp at Bay Lake in 2004 range in age, gender, interests, and class. Some of them are gregarious and loud; others are quiet and contemplative; and at least one is extremely shy and possibly depressed. What they have in common is their sexual orientation and their deep belief in God. All of them are under 18, and they all came out years earlier, some as young as 13.

I went into this documentary expecting to like it, but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The youth are engaging, intelligent, and they have a lot to say about their experiences as gay and lesbian Christians in a culture that doesn't make it easy to be both. They struggle to believe and find comfort in a God that they've been told all of their lives doesn't ― and won't ― accept them. One of them, Thomas, says: "[The Christians at my church] honestly think that the bible may be right. It could be right. What if we are wrong and we are all sinners and we are going to hell?"

Most of the youth in this film come from evangelical backgrounds, and the pastors that run Bay Lake Camp do as well. Some of them grew up under harsh, negative, religious oppression, and so they've created a bible camp "where we can come and show our spirituality as gay Christians." As Pastor Jay puts it: "I've felt called to be a pastor and called to be gay as well."

For the most part, the gay community and the evangelical Christian community are at odds with each other, and these kids have sometimes felt the huge backlash from both sides. A few had to leave the boy scouts; a girl sat in church listening as her preacher blamed AIDS on gay people; a boy's immediate family is supportive, but he's still closeted to his father's entire Catholic family.

These youth haven't lost their faith because they're gay, but their churches (and to an extent, their gay friends) are trying to take it away from them anyway. And this is why Bay Lake Bible Camp is so enormously important to them.

At the film's beginning, each teen is baptized with these words: "You are a child of God, you are called by God, you are known by God, and you are loved by God always." And at the film's end, Thomas says, "We are all children of God; we are all equal before the Lord." What an amazingly great thing to happen to this boy. He was one of the most devout ― and most troubled ― of the group, but he left the camp with plans to become a minister himself.

This documentary accomplishes two things: it highlights (and publicizes) a much needed safe haven where religious gay youth can visit and be themselves around others with whom they don't just share sexual orientation, but also a similar worldview. It also provides rare glimpses of gay kids that don't focus on them solely for being gay, but rather, it illuminates the good that can happen when people who feel different, for whatever reason, find others like themselves.



All images taken from the film's official website.