By Mallory Sherwood, Managing Editor
Students and faculty left the final event of Soulforce’s Equality Ride visit with mixed feelings.
The open forum discussed sexuality and the media with most of the focus on Brokeback Mountain, a three-time Academy Award-winning film that told the story of two gay cowboys in Wyoming during the 1960s.
Although the panelists articulated their points regarding specific questions, many students were disappointed at the lack of dialogue.
“The whole night was basically a movie review,” said Adam Dittemore, freshman psychology major from Everett, Wash. “They didn’t talk about the issues that people wanted to hear.
“We live in reality here, and many people wanted to hear how homosexuality works in a Christian life and environment. Too much was focused on TV and movies instead of issues people deal with every day.”
The forum began with panelists discussing broad questions about how sexuality is portrayed positively or negatively in the media in the context of Christianity.
Seven panelists spoke, including three representing the university: Dr. Richard Beck, chair of the Psychology Department; Dr. Ken Cukrowski, associate dean of the College of Biblical Studies; and Sarah Carlson, senior print journalism major from San Antonio. The other four were members of Soulforce and included: Jacob Reitan from Eden Prairie, Minn., and Haven Herrin from Dallas, co-directors of Equality Ride; Jessie Sullivan from San Antonio and Alexey Bulokhov from Russia.
The panelists also discussed how TV shows often portray sexuality, whether it is homosexual or heterosexual, in a negative way.
“TV shows such as Queer as Folk and Friends depict promiscuity; how easy and casual it is and how premarital sex can be accepted,” Bulokhov said. “They show this between a man and woman and homosexual couples as well. The problem with the media is that everyone is not like this.”
“Today sexuality locks in a person’s purpose and defines who they are,” he said.
Others panelists said this also could describe Brokeback Mountain.
One point Soulforce members made regarding homosexuality was that they can’t control their tendencies to be attracted to the same sex, similar to how a man and woman are attracted to each other. They illustrated this with the homosexual relationship of the main characters, Jack and Ennis, in Brokeback Mountain.
Beck posed the question: “What if Ennis never met Jack on that mountain, would he still have acted on his feelings of being gay?”
Reitan said Hollywood’s portrayal of Ennis as reluctant to act on his true nature didn’t mean that Ennis was not homosexual. He said Ennis couldn’t bear the reality that he was gay, and so he hated himself for it, which is a reality for many homosexuals today, he said.
Reitan said the tragedy of Brokeback Mountain was that true love never realized itself between Ennis and Jack.
Beck said although he liked the movie, he thought what was portrayed was not a love story because only one scene seemed to depict true love too late in the movie. He said the movie focused too much on the sexuality between the characters.
After the panel discussed prepared questions moderated by Cukrowski, only two questions were allowed from the audience before Dr. Dwayne VanRheenen, provost of the university, closed the forum with final thoughts and prayer.
Dittemore said he was disappointed the forum seemed more like a lecture than a discussion.
Jason Drysdale, sophomore Christian ministry major from St. Louis, agreed.
“What kind of open forum is it when no one can ask questions or talk with panelists where everyone can hear?” Drysdale asked.
Other students, including Chris Ford, sophomore youth and family ministry major from San Antonio, wanted to know more about why Soulforce came to campus.
“I’m glad they were able to come and that there was no hostility or ideas pushed on anyone because that is what Christianity is about,” Ford said. “I really wanted to hear why they are here to begin with. I wanted to hear more about their beliefs.”
Coordinators VanRheenen and Dr. Wayne Barnard, dean of Campus Life, said the forum was outstanding.
“Panelists were able to discuss different points that opened up the subject well in discussing sexuality in general and specifically,” VanRheenen said. “They all appreciate the role of film and the media and how powerful film is in our society today.”
He said he was interested to hear the panelists discussing the movie Brokeback Mountain through a Christian lens and that each panelist was articulate and insightful, regardless of differing opinions.
Barnard agreed, saying he was glad students were able to hear differing opinions and views from Soulforce members.
“I enjoyed how Soulforce members explained what they liked and didn’t like about how the media portrays homosexuality because it does or doesn’t reflect who they are,” he said. “I don’t think we realized that what the media portrays is not true about homosexuals; I think it was an eye-opener for students.”
VanRheenen said he thought the discussion went well and students were respectful even if they didn’t agree.
“I’m up for doing more of this on a regular basis,” he said.