Film review: The Third Way

A remarkably sensitive documentary on a remarkably sensitive topic: same-sex attraction and the struggle to live a Christian life.

 
The young Indianapolis-based production company, Blackstone Films, has taken an impossibly sensitive topic – namely, Church teaching about homosexuality – and produced a remarkably thoughtful film: The Third Way.
 
Available at Vimeo, The Third Way is presented primarily through the eyes and words of several Catholics who have experienced erotic same-sex attractions for most of their lives, the viewer feels tremendous compassion for struggles that are not particularly “homosexual” but common to everyone under the weight of original sin: adolescent alienation, being a target of bullying or a victim of sexual abuse, loneliness, and yearning to “be good” and chaste and loved in the face of disordered desires.  The adulterer and the fornicator often bear similar wounds.  Purity, in a broken world, is no easy achievement.
 
That achievement is not made any easier when even Christians misunderstand God’s calling to the sinner.  Clips of people shouting “Being a homosexual or a lesbian is a ticket to Hell” or “You make Jesus sick to His stomach” are dangerously unhelpful; between self-loathing and fear of further rejection, such messages leave little room for conversion or healing.    
 
One interviewee explains, “I know I am a Catholic man – that’s my identity.  I used to think I was gay.  I’m not gay; I’m David, a Catholic man.”  That’s a critical point.  As long as there is still breath, no one’s sin is the final word about that person’s being.  If it were, Jesus was on a fool’s errand, trying to save the world.  Liars and fornicators and (fill in the blank) don’t go to heaven… contrite, humble, perfected people do. 
 
None of this is to say that the Church’s “third way” is easy.  Each interviewee understands that he or she, like every other person, is called to a life of chastity that can, at first blush, seem like a life sentence in solitary confinement.  As each grew in spiritual maturity and understanding, however, leaving behind the twin errors that “sexual sin is OK” or that “sexual sin is unforgiveable,” they realized that the Church offers the sinner another option. “I sought all my life for love,” David says.  “That’s what I was really looking for, in all my acting out.  Now, I experience true, authentic love.”
 
With the crucifix hanging behind many of the speakers as they present their stories, we understand that true, authentic love calls for – a sometimes heroic – amount of sacrifice, self-discipline, and self-knowledge.  It helps, however, to know we’re all in this together.  “You belong here with us,” says Father Michael Schmitz in closing. “You can share with us your struggle.  You can share with us your attraction and we’re still going to love you.”  
 
Spero columnist Stephanie Block is the author of the four-volume 'Change Agents: Alinskyian Organizing Among Religious Bodies', which is available at Amazon.  

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