"But last night I happened to turn on your show and just knowing that someday I might be able to go back into my church, I threw the gun in the river. My mom never has to know."
That 1998 e-mail -- from a gay teen in Iowa to filmmaker and midstate native Daniel Karslake -- sparked the documentary "For the Bible Tells Me So," which debuted at Sundance and is short-listed for an Academy Award nomination.
Christians who condemn homosexuality cite the Bible. And that means gay teens often "face the prospect of losing their church family -- and indeed God," Karslake said. "Gay people need to know there are Christians who are on their side."
The show that inspired the Iowa boy was a PBS-TV profile by Karslake of a theologian who happened to be openly lesbian.
His new documentary explores five families as they reconcile, or struggle to reconcile, their Christian faith and the discovery that a son or daughter is gay.
Among the parents are former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt and his wife, Jane, whose daughter told them the year he ran for president that she is lesbian.
The film also explores the Bible. Christian leaders, including Bishop Desmund Tutu, bring an understanding of Hebrew language and Jewish history to bear on Scripture cited as condemning homosexuality. They come out with a very different interpretation.
"This isn't about avoiding Scripture. This is about going headlong into it and taking it back," Karslake said.
Karslake, 42, lives in New York City with his partner of 17 years. His trip to the midstate for this weekend's screenings will be a homecoming.
He graduated from Camp Hill High School, was a child actor at Allenberry and the Harrisburg Community Theater and attended Grace United Methodist Church in Harrisburg with his parents, Richard and Mariann Karslake. They live in Camp Hill.
The Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in York is showing his film Saturday for a second time, after a large turnout Jan. 13. Several protesters showed up that night. Members of Silent Witness held up rainbow-colored umbrellas to shield the moviegoers.
Screenings in Annville and Harrisburg are sponsored by Common Roads, Freedom Rings at Lebanon Valley College, the LGBT Center Coalition, the Peacemaking Committee at Market Square Presbyterian Church and the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg.
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