Edward R. Murrow, the pioneering journalist, was right about television - if it is used to educate people, it could have an amazing impact. In the case of one gay teen in Iowa in 1998, TV not only educated him, it saved his life.

After seeing a segment about Harvard theologian Rev. Irene Monroe on PBS? In the Life, the youth in question wrote an e-mail to the segment?s producer, Daniel Karslake. The e-mail read, ?Last week I bought the gun. Yesterday I wrote the note. 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.?

Reading that e-mail was the beginning of a journey for Karslake.

?I couldn?t fathom that this kid was going to kill himself because of what he thought the story of Jesus was,? Karslake told me in a recent interview. ?Gay kids are pushed to suicide because of Christianity. It?s what should save them, but it?s been twisted so much for so long. This kid changed his mind because here was one person of faith [Monroe> who was also openly lesbian and proud of being both. There were so many stories we needed to start telling. We could save more lives.?

Karslake told his In the Life boss that he wanted the LGBT religion beat. His focus eventually turned into a feature-length film that is taking the country?s pulpits, classrooms, and movie theaters by storm: For the Bible Tells Me So.

The spiritual violence of the radical Christian right became palpable to me as I watched the film. Even though I?m a Jew, I truly felt the pain of Christian families with LGBT members. Before, it was just another political issue for me to rally around and write about. During the 99 minutes of the film, I heard and felt the stories of five very American, very Christian families who have struggled with reconciling their religion with the very real fact that they have lesbian or gay children.

The Reitans from Minnesota are one of those families.

These were people I knew - literally. I had interviewed Phil and Randi a few years back about their son, Jake, whose coming-out had taken their family on an amazing journey. Their unconditional love for Jake outweighed their Lutheran church?s teachings, and they soon found themselves sharing his passion for bringing Christ?s real message of love and inclusion to LGBT-excluding college campuses and organizations through Soulforce?s Equality Rides.

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Photo by Alonso Reyes on Unsplash

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