Keith Lewis was convinced the award-winning documentary he helped put together in 2007, “For the Bible Tells Me So,” would not be quickly forgotten, and he was right.
“The film has had a huge shelf life, especially when it comes to education,” said Lewis, a 1981 Linton High graduate who was co-creator and co-producer for the Daniel G. Karslake-directed documentary about the issue of homosexuality and how it’s perceived by the Christian community. “It has some real legs. It’s become a great educational tool for churches looking for guidance on this subject.”
The film will be screened at 7 p.m. today at Schenectady’s Emmanuel-Friedens Church at 218 Nott Terrace, the church Lewis grew up in. Lewis will offer a short introduction, telling how and why it was made. Refreshments will be served at 6:30 p.m. and the event is free and open to the public. On Sunday at 11 a.m., following the regular church service at Emmanuel-Friedens, Lewis will lead an adult education class on Christian faith and his response to hate.
“For me, growing up in this church and being gay wasn’t an option,” said Lewis, who didn’t come out as a homosexual until 10 years ago, long after he left Schenectady. “I would have lost everything because there was no other interpretation of scripture at that time. It’s great to see how this church has changed and evolved over the years, along with most of the country.”
Named by Entertainment Weekly as one of “Five Films That Changed the World,” the documentary follows five conservative Christian
families with gay children and shows how each dealt with the issue of coming out. Interviews with various biblical scholars and historians in the film offered new interpretations to what the Bible says about being gay. For Lewis, who was married in 1983, the conservative viewpoint left little room for him to be a Christian.
“After divorcing, I moved to Los Angeles, came out as a gay man, but thought there was no longer any room for religion in my life as it condemned it,” said Lewis.
That changed when Lewis and a friend, Robin Voss, a grandmother of three, attended a seminar together on homosexuality and the church in Orange County, California.
“She and I went to this event thinking it was going to be about how to cure homosexuality, and how it would probably continue that theme, but it was totally different,” remembered Lewis. “Instead they talked about what the Bible really said about homosexuality and how the Bible has been misinterpreted. I started to wonder. ‘What if what I had been taught was all wrong?’ I had felt like I didn’t fit into the necessary mold of what a good Christian should be, but maybe there were more relevant interpretations. When we left, we knew this was a great message and that it needed to be expanded in a larger form, and that’s how we began working on the movie.”
Lewis, who attended Lynchburg University in Virginia before transferring to the University at Albany where he got a degree in business, ran a talent agency in Los Angeles for 15 years and produced programs such as “Miss California USA” and “Miss California Teen USA.” He also completed the executive management program at the University of Southern California and now runs a restaurant on Cape Cod.
“For the Bible Tells Me So” was nominated for an award at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and was named winner of audience awards at the 2007 Seattle International Film Festival and the 2007 Provincetown International Film Festival.
“I’m still doing screenings of this movie at churches that are struggling with this issue, and it feels great to do it in Schenectady at the church where I grew up,” said Lewis. “It means a lot to me.”