Filmmaker Kevin O’Brien challenges conservative church views on LGBT issues in the upcoming comedy, “At The End Of The Day.”
Conservative Christian psychology professor Dave is excited by the school’s plans to build more room for his department. But there’s one problem: the building the school has its eye on has been donated to a group that already meets there. As long as they can raise enough money to pay the taxes for it, it’s theirs. Dave decides he’ll quietly attend their meetings, telling the school’s dean, “I can just show up and find out how close they are to the money.”
“But they’re gay,” the dean flatly tells Dave.
Dave decides to infiltrate the group anyway. What happens next is a very real, and sometimes hilarious take on conservative Christian and LGBT interaction.
The movie’s director, Kevin O’Brien, knows a lot about growing up as a conservative Christian. He was raised in the Assemblies of God and even went to an Assemblies of God College. He met and married his wife in college and, for many, the story line usually goes something like this: They go to church every Sunday, teach Sunday School, have a family, and vote Republican. The cycle repeats itself through their children. That’s the direction Kevin and his wife were headed.
But after college they settled down and found an interdenominational church that instantly made them feel loved. “The leadership in this church treated people with love and I connected with that message,” O’Brien said. “It was a message that Jesus came to give us life on this earth and not just ‘fire insurance.’” The fact that there wasn’t an alter call every week, however, was enough to cause some of O’Brien’s college friends to walk away from their relationship with him. Additionally, O’Brien recalls,“The church didn’t have a lot of policies about things, so members from the LGBT community would attend.” Still, he said, “The church wasn’t fully inclusive and there were a lot of things in leadership that LGBT members weren’t allowed to do.”
O’Brien was eventually hired as part of the church staff and over the next 10 years took on various roles as youth leader, worship leader and eventually the art director. “I started doing original films for the church and then I realized that I wanted to do this for my job.” He created Journey Box Media where he produced 3-5 minute videos for pastors to use before their messages.
Married for 14 years, he and his wife have one biological son and, in 2006, adopted two children who come from two other families. Both children are African American, which prompted a discussion in his house about what he and his wife would have done during the time of the civil rights movement. “Would we have stood up for injustice?” He wondered. “That discussion drove us to reconsider what we believe about how we treat the LGBT community,” he said. “If our kids came out, what would unconditional love look like for us?” At the same time, he was getting the urge to make a feature film.
Still, the LGBT issue wasn’t really on his radar. “I only knew one gay person in high school. He was actually a high school friend’s brother, so I didn’t even really know him, but I knew I treated him poorly and I was insensitive at times,” he said. It was an experience he hadn’t thought much about until watching the film For The Bible Tells Me So, a documentary about growing up gay in the conservative church.
O’Brien began to see things differently than the way he was raised to believe about LGBT people.
Then, while his son was sick, it was these friends that came and stayed with them and took care of his family. “It was a realization of the fruit that their lives were bearing,” O’Brien said. “These people are real people. They are real Christ followers.”
O’Brien began writing his first script.
“I told my parents my beliefs had changed and they told me that gay people were gay because they were abused,” he said. Then he gave the script to a conservative friend who “told me I needed to repent for leading people away from Jesus.”
O’Brien freely admits that theological debates are “not my thing.” He said one of the reasons it took him so long to come around to the idea of inclusion is because his theology told him it was a sin. He wanted to figure out how to approach the Scriptures with what he believed to be true, but then said he “realized that even within the LGBT [Christian] community there are people who believe all sides of the issue.” O’Brien decided that the debate about the Scriptures was an unending cycle of words and theology. Connection to the issues are much more emotional.
“The story is not about is it a sin or isn’t it a sin, “he said. “It’s really about recognizing people as people and listening to and honoring their stories.” O’Brien believes that a majority of Christians don’t know what to do with the theology. The purpose of his film isn’t about that, but about giving another perspective on the issues that humanize the story for them. He wants to show what is possible when people go from opposing to affirming.
He has worked hard at making the character’s three-dimensional. Clichés and stereotypes are easy to find and often fuel the banter between both sides of the issue. While there are clear lines about who the antagonist is, there are also those characters that don’t fall neatly on one side of the issue or the other. “Writing about gay characters was my biggest fear,” O’Brien said. He constantly asked for feedback from his gay and lesbian friends to make sure they were heard, as well.
At The End Of The Day is currently running a KickStarter program. You can donate to the film’s production by clicking here.
Additionally, O’Brien , and co-host Timothy Sizemore, both straight allies, conduct a weekly podcast dedicated to open discussions about homosexuality and the church. Past guests have included Justin Lee, Jennifer Knapp, and Pastors Stan Mitchell and Melissa Greene of Grace Point Church in Franklin Tennessee.
Kevin O’Brien has a vision for open dialogue between people who may not share political or even religious points of view, but, at the end of the day, all share the same humanity.