Tuesday, July 23 2024

The key to answering the question in the title -Sexual or existential
orientation?- is at the bottom of the stories told in two documentaries
discussed below.

These are far from lectures. Paul, Rilene, Dan and Rubén are four real
people, flesh and bone, who tell their shared experiences on screen: their
decision to renounce their attraction to someone of the same sex, abandon
their immoral and disordered lifestyles, and embrace God in their hearts.
They lived their existence deprived of rules and limits, but filled with
apparent success. At the same time, however, their existence emerges as
having been filled with great interior suffering, anguish, and searching,
until they reached turning point that allowed them to change their lives
around.

They certainly continue to have the same tendencies, but they have now
found true meaning to their existence. These are the main characters in the
two documentaries recently released in English and Spanish: “

Desire of the Everlasting Hills

” e ”

I
t may happen to you

” (Chapter 2).

In the first documentary, Paul, Rilene, and Dan, with the help of the
interviewer, tell their experiences serenely, with such compassionate gazes
towards those people who may find themselves along same path. They have
learned something from everyone they’ve encountered. As their lives are
retraced, deep insight is given into their most intimate desires, worries,
feelings, outcomes, and failures, until the moment in which they found God.

In the beginning of the second documentary, the director Juan Manuel Cotelo
tells the story of a man named Rubén. With the help of actors, he shows
some phases of his life, starting with the premises (which echoes a mea
culpa) that there have been times when Christians failed to accompany
people like him. The second part of the film, however, reveals the
impressions that others with similar experiences had after having watched
Rubén’s story. For example, a young gay man who has no intention of
converting or changing his lifestyle makes comments.

Both documentaries offer real life experiences, without moralizing
pretenses. Desire of the Everlasting Hills unfolds the
stories in a more linear fashion, in terms of narration. It is simple and
direct: the main characters are left with the tasks of telling their own
stories, sharing their own sentiments and current outlooks, without getting
into excessive detail. This approach helps the viewer see and understand
things from the character’s point of view.

It may happen to you: Rubén

The documentary, Te puede pasar a ti, follows a different narrative method,
where part of Rubén’s story is the springboard for generating dialogue with
other characters. Interaction occurs between Rubén and others with same sex
attractions. This documentary certainly has a more explosive force than the
other, as it is thought more for those who do not confront homosexuality in
the same way. For this reason, some scenes may appear to be crude and
forceful since they were intended for a specific public. These scenes may
seem more suitable to a hostile environment, but they are quite effective.
Rubén tells his story of miserable relationships and prostitution from
early childhood. For years he lived wildly, without rules, until he decided
to make a pact with God: he would stop his conduct in exchange for a job.
God did something even more: He changes Rubén progressively; even after
having discovered he had been suffering from AIDS.

Desire of Everlasting Hills

The other documentary spotlights three individuals: Paul, Dan and Rilene.

Paul admits to having had numerous partners throughout his wild and
promiscuous life. One night while watching television, he calls over his
companion Jeff to join him in laughing at a nun that looked like a pirate
because of her eye patch. He doesn’t know that she was Mother Angelica who
had suffered a severe stroke. While they are ridiculing her, Paul is deeply
struck by something the nun said about God’s love towards his children.
This is followed by a period in which Paul continues to turn to that
television channel in secret in order to listen to Mother Angelic. God
begins to enter into Paul’s life little by little, until one day he decides
to go to a Catholic Church for confession.

Dan, on the other hand, tells of the anger and anguish he experienced each
time he noticed the dome of the Church he would often pass by in his car.
He begins a relationship with a man named Jason until, to his surprise, he
finds himself attracted to a female colleague at work. He leaves Jason to
begin a relationship with this girl, Kelly, until he finds out that she
doesn’t want to have any children or a family. They separate after a year
of dating, but when he decides to go after her, he discovers she is already
dating another guy. He’s left profoundly dejected. But after a long
journey, he sets out to find God. Each time he passes the dome of the
Church, he now experiences God’s protection.

The third story tells us about Rilene, the 25 years she lived with her
partner Margo, and the frustration she experienced when no guy had asked
her out during her high school or college years. Initially, life was
generous to her, thanks to her job and good economic condition. Their
relationship also went well. However, as time went on, Rilene felt that
something wasn’t right. She began to think that perhaps this feeling was
caused by her inconvenient work situation, which obliged her travel a lot.
Each time she would get back on the plane to return home after work in
Atlanta, she would cry out of a deep interior solitude. Suddenly,
everything began to turn sour: economic investments failed, she encountered
various problems at work. This naturally led to tensions and deep crises in
the relationship with her partner Margo. In 2008, Margo raises the
possibility of getting a gay marriage in California. Rilene however decides
to put an end to their relationship. Rilene’s loneliness persists and she
realizes that she had been lonely the entire time. Her therapist spoke to
her about a relationship with God. She ends up speaking to a priest, Father
Bob, and begins to go back to her religious practices. As time passes,
Margo is discovered to have cancer. Rilene decides to welcome Margo into
her home in order to lovely care for her during the last months of her
life. Even though Rilene didn’t want to return to her old lifestyle, she
still loved Margo, though it was in a different way.

Orienting existence and the affective realm

How should one interpret the message of these two documentaries? These are
life experiences to be shared with kindness, affection and simplicity,
without impositions or judgments, though they touch difficult existential
situations. Every story has a real protagonist, made of flesh and bones,
and a whole array of contrasting feelings emanating from their heart. There
are no recipes or easy solutions. One laughs, cries, suffers, and gets
emotional. In the end, there is the joy of finally finding a personal God,
through confession and encounters with other people. Their stories transmit
emotion and peace: that peace of returning home, of the hope that must be
transmitted to others, of finding a meaning to their affections and
impulses that initially destroyed their characters. Knowing this whole
interior world helps us to better listen to, understand, and accept people
as they are, and help them discover a life of purity and peace through
faith.

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