By Jeff Walsh
"Camp Out" is a documentary that follows a handful of gay Christian teens attend the first summer camp exclusively designed for them. Many of the teens feel pulled between the gay community and the God community, with each demonizing the other on a regular basis.
All of the kids are in their mid- to late-teens, and out to their parents. One of the girl's mother was very enthusiastic about the notion of a summer camp where her daughter could explore both spirituality and sexuality.
"You can have both those two together? That's awesome!" she says.
Like any reality show or documentary, narratives begin to form between the kids. There are crushes, friendship, bonds, and situations in which people aren't uncomfortable. This ranges from gay guys who aren't very comfortable doing sports activities to one of the boys feeling uncomfortable by a game of Truth or Dare.
One of the girls responds to this by saying sexuality is part of the experience, "We are at a Bible camp , we are all Christians, but we are also teenagers and we need to talk about this stuff."
The boy, who is going into the seminary to become a pastor in a committed gay relationship, confides with another boy the next day that he didn't want to be seen as a prude, but "I really wanted to come to a place where stuff mattered, instead of sex."
That is, of course, the central dilemma of the documentary: people trying to balance sexuality and spirituality. Some people attending the camp are very religious and committed to their particular religion, some are on a journey that isn't tied to a specific faith but they want to explore spirituality. But everyone has benefited from the positive elements of their lives that they attribute to religion.
Pastor Jay, who started the camp, speaks to the kids about that struggle he had in his own life. He wanted to spread God's word, but the rules of his church don't allow for gay pastors. His local leadership said they wanted him to be ordained, and went against the church's ruling.
Normally, when a pastor is ordained, a few hundred people show. But for Pastor Jay, 1000 people were there, all laying hands on him, and back throughout the congregation, speaking words to accept this pastor in their church and their lives. Video of the ordination shows how surprised and touched Pastor Jay was by their outpouring of support for him.
While it was interesting to see a lot of juxtaposed images of gay boys praying the rosary with blue nail polish, or wearing "Jesus is my Homeboy" baseball hats, there isn't any surprise revelation in the documentary. Everyone comes out of their shell a bit, finds more balance between sexuality and spirituality, and tries to give both a meaningful place in their life. No one hooks up, either.
There are way too many shots that start or end on a cross in the movie, which isn't difficult to do at a Christian summer camp, but it still seemed a bit much. But since this remains such a huge issue for so many people, there is a chance that people will find comfort just seeing others try to make sense of this balance in their own lives.
Like life itself, the movie isn't necessarily about the destination of finding that balance, but the path you take to get there. If this is an issue for you, it could be worth a look.
I reviewed the movie, but not the final DVD which is now available for sale. The DVD also includes commentary, deleted scenes, extra interviews with the parents, and more of the teens' confessional footage. You can find out more information at http://www.campoutmovie.com/