The Queerty Interview

New “Christian” Documentary Depicts Tombstone For Gay Past Of Ex-Gay Man

Ex-gay singer/songwriter Dennis Jernigan recently debuted an ex-gay anthem, Rise Up. Now comes a new film Sing Over Me, a 90-minute documentary that chronicles Jernigan’s epic struggle his right-wing, antigay interpretation of the Bible and his strong same-­sex attractions.

The film was produced and directed by 28-year-old Jacob Kindberg (pictured), who raised over $30,000 on Indiegogo to fund the project.

Queerty spoke with Kindberg while he was en route to Tulsa, Oklahoma for the film’s premiere. A special screening was held last month at the Eastwood Baptist Church. Kindberg chatted about the project, as well as his right-wing take on the Bible (“Lusting after someone of the same sex or engaging in sexual activity with someone of the same sex is sinful”) and his negative feelings about gay marriage (“‘Same-sex marriage’ is, by God’s definition, impossible”) among other things.

Obviously, we don’t see eye to eye, and are baffled by the young filmmaker’s inability to think logically, not to mention his obvious contradictions, but we wanted to share with you an unusually intimate look at his views. In a time when even ex-gays are abandoning their own cause in droves, it’s useful to hear from the holdouts.

What is your intention with this film?

First and foremost, I made it for the church, for believers. There’s no political agenda to it. There’s no condemnation. I’m not trying to convince anyone of what they should or should not do. I just wanted to tell Dennis’ story.

I’ve talked to a lot of people who believe this particular thing [being gay] is worse than any other sin. I wanted to tell Dennis’ story and let them see that there are people within the church that struggle with this, and that this topic needs to be discussed more and treated in a different way.

I agree with the Bible’s teaching that engaging in that activity is wrong, but it’s no different than anything else that we are all tempted with when we are trying to pursue God’s plan for our lives.

That’s not the Bible’s teaching, that’s the Christian right’s teaching. So you’re trying to shift the dialogue within the church?

[I also made it] for people who struggle with that particular temptation and who really do want to follow God and have felt that same conviction that [being gay] is wrong, and they really do want to do what’s right, and they feel so held down by this struggle, and feel like it’s a hopeless situation. People outside the church are telling them to go ahead and give into those desires, live that life, do what you feel you should do. But they really don’t want to. In their hearts, they don’t feel that it’s right. For Dennis there was change in his life through the power of Jesus Christ. I just wanted to give an example of someone that this has happened to.

But the “temptation” they are feeling is love. Loving someone isn’t a sin.

Many men enjoy loving and caring relationships with one another that are completely platonic, and there is nothing wrong with that. But lusting after someone of the same sex or engaging in sexual activity with someone of the same sex is sinful. It is destructive to the body and the soul.

I guess I’m not understanding your logic on this. How is that sinful?

In the same way sexual activity between people of the opposite sex outside of marriage is sinful.

Do you know any gay people personally?

I have gay friends who are happy, who don’t feel that conviction that what they’re doing is wrong, and don’t understand why someone would tell them that it’s wrong.

How do they respond when you call them sinners?

I have had several respectful and honest conversations about homosexuality with my gay friends. They know me personally and know where I am coming from, so they do not respond with anger. They are willing to hear me, but they believe I am mistaken.

What about gay Christians who don’t believe they lead a sinful life?

I have friends who feel that way and it is confusing to me. I can’t say that I understand it. All I can say is that when I read scripture it’s very clear to me. There are a lot of things in the Bible we have to discern for ourselves. I don’t feel like this is a grey issue. I feel like the scripture is very clear. I don’t know why other Christians would not feel that.

Can you cite the places where the Bible where God says being gay is wrong?

In both the Old Testament (Leviticus 18:22) and the New Testament (Mark 7:21, Romans 1:18-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:8-11) it is expressly forbidden.

What if your convictions on this are wrong?

I believe conviction comes from God. I didn’t chose to feel that [homosexuality] is a sinful thing. I believe that that’s true.

Have you ever experienced same-sex attraction?

Personally, I have not experienced that temptation.

So why make a film about it?

I don’t know why, but it has been something that’s been in my heart. Maybe just working in Hollywood and having a lot of friends who deal with it. I guess I thought it would be something I would make a film about at some point. I didn’t know when or what that would be. And then when I heard Dennis’ story I decided it was one I wanted to tell.

There are a number of scenes in the film that I’m sure will have people talking. One that stuck out for me was when Dennis visits the gravestone of his former gay self. That’s just weird.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the term “born again.” When you’re saved, you’re given a new heart. You’re given the Holy Spirit. It’s a new life. The old man, the simple man, has died. The scene is visually representing that. It’s the death of who he is before he’s been saved.

With so much antigay violence happening in the world, and often times in the name of religion, are you concerned that Dennis’ killing of his gay self might play into that intense antipathy?

I think that you are misinterpreting the gravestone scene. It is not a gravestone for Dennis’ gay self, and it does not represent him killing his gay self. It is a visual representation of the saving work of Jesus Christ. It has nothing to do with physical death or violence against people with same-sex attractions.

In the film, Dennis talks about people accusing him of “hate speech” for sharing his story of conversion. Are you concerned the film could be labeled similarly?

I think that’s definitely possible. In our society today, it seems to me what the gay community is after is approval for what they do. Not just that they are treated well and that there aren’t any discriminatory laws, but that they are actually celebrated for what they’re doing. And I think there will be people [Christians] who it’ll be hard for them to ever do that.

I’m not sure that we want to be “celebrated.” Being treated equally is enough.

I understand that people will consider this hateful, and we’re already received some bad comments and stuff. I don’t understand it really. If Dennis is happy not engaging in homosexual activity, why would anyone care or say, “No, you don’t really love your wife, you never should have had your kids, you should still be gay, you’re just fooling yourself.” I don’t get that. I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t just be happy for someone finding happiness.

I’ve never heard anyone say ex-gays can’t live the way they want. But I’ve heard plenty of ex-gays say gay people should not live the way they want.

For the Christian community, we’re told to love and want what’s best for everyone. It’s not my job to condemn or judge anyone.

But you call gay people sinners.

If I believe that if someone is doing something harmful, I want to at least warn them. It would be unloving of me to not share how I feel. That’s just the take I have.

But too often there people — usually conservative Christians — who try to impose their beliefs and create laws that hurt gay people.

Moviegoers sit in pews at the “Sing Over Me” premiere in Tulsa on February 28.

Insight and the act of being saved is not a choice. It’s God awakening you. It’s not something that you can make happen. We can’t force that on anyone. We can’t make that happen. We can pray for it. We obviously want that. But it doesn’t make any sense to try and force morality or force laws. Anything that is done by coercion is not a true change.

So then you support marriage equality?

I believe that same-sex relationships don’t need the recognition of the state as “marriage” in order to thrive or exist.

There are a number of legal protections that come with marriage.

There are benefits that go along with that recognition that should be extended to all couples. For instance, same-sex couples should be able to visit the people they love in the hospital. There is no reason to deny such rights. If the laws could be changed so that same-sex couples could enjoy these rights, without it being called marriage, I would be in favor of that.

So you’re one of those people who’s just hung up on the word “marriage”?

“Same-sex marriage” is, by God’s definition, impossible. God created marriage, man did not, and it is a lifelong covenant relationship between a man, a woman and God. I believe in equal rights, but no one can be given the right to do something that is not possible. The state can recognize gay couples as married, but by definition they are not.

How do you respond to people who may feel you are an antigay idealogue who interprets the bible in a right-wing way?

I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and that God has made himself clear when it comes to this issue. God calls homosexual sex a sin, and I take his side against sin. This has nothing to do with politics for me, and I don’t care what the “right-wing way” of interpreting the Bible is.