Editor's note: This is the second part of a series focusing on the documentary film 'Fire and Brimstone,' featuring David Arthur, sponsored by Iowa Huddle, and Oskaloosa's PFLAG group.
OSKALOOSA — The subject of an independent documentary film entitled 'Fire and Brimstone' didn't howl from the pulpit about hell-bound souls.
A few hundred yards up the road, PFLAG members and supporters gathered at the gazebo didn't shout in protest or reject visits from filmmakers, but gathered in support of each other.
Directed by Thomas Dunn, 'Fire and Brimstone' focuses on David Arthur, a soft-spoken man in his mid-40s.
Arthur described himself as "a former homosexual and former transgender" person. Arthur said he was a teenage runaway who lived a life of prostitution, drug abuse and was HIV-positive.
During the film premiere held at Gateway Nazarene Church, sponsored by Iowa Huddle, Arthur learned of the PFLAG Rainbow Huddle nearby. He decided to visit the group before the screening of the film.
The group huddled together to listen to what Arthur had to say – and to offer responses.
Rainbow Huddle attendee Rusty Johnson asked Arthur what his mission was.
Arthur said his mission was to be available for those who are seeking freedom.
"Freedom from the LGBT lifestyle or from their own sexual brokenness or from whatever they feel they need to come out of and that's who I am available for," he said. "I see young men and young women all the time becoming ex-homosexuals, ex-LGBT."
Johnson said the PFLAG group was gathered in love and fellowship.
"I don't think the majority are looking to change. Because like you know in your heart I know in my heart too, God created me to be who I am and it's not something that I feel like [I need to] change," he said. "So I don't think — just to be honest when you say [you're here] to provide freedom – I don't feel that."
While speaking with the PFLAG group, Arthur said he in his past had seen only two extremes in the religious community. He said one group was saying 'God hates you and you're going to hell,' and 'it's ok, you can do whatever you want and it's all okay.'
Arthur, in the film and his book ('Refined: Life Through Homosexuality, Transgenderism and Beyond,') called the LGBT lifestyle as a 'deathstyle.' Arthur also added a letter to the LGBT acronym: P for pedophile.
"The majority of the LGBT lures teens into that dark world, uses them up sexually, profits off of them, passes them around to friends and then discards them like common garbage," he wrote.
That was Arthur's personal experience as he described it in the film.
Arthur said he was sent home to die at the age of 37, which is when he said he turned to the Bible and began praying for salvation from hell.
The place in between
Arthur said now he wanted to be the "medium" voice that he never experienced.
"And I am that for some people," he said. "I know some homosexuals and lesbians that have been in this for 40, 50, 60 years, and they themselves will honestly sit down and talk with me and tell me this movement doesn't belong in pre-k or in elementary school."
Arthur said what he wanted to accomplish that night was to be a presence for those seeking "freedom" from the LGBT lifestyle.
"That's what I'm here for. I'm not here for those who aren't seeking freedom," he said. "And I know that there are a lot of people out there that are seeking freedom because I am contacted by them almost daily."
Johnson said he didn't know what to say in response to that comment.
"There's so many people that feel and know again that they don't need 'freedom,'" he said. "They don't need that because that's who we are."
Fire and Brimstone
While speaking with the Rainbow Huddle, Arthur said he didn't pick the title of the documentary.
"But when it was picked, I said it was perfect. And I said it was perfect because there were moments when I was in the county jail and when I was in prison and when I walked into the chapel as a transgender and when I walked into that chapel, maybe searching or seeking for something," he said, "the pastor went from butterflies and unicorns to hell and fire and brimstone."
Arthur said after hearing preachers' sermons about homosexuality being an abomination, he would dive into as much darkness and sexual activity as he could.
"I was 14 years old, a runaway. I was a prostitute on the streets of Philadelphia. I was on female hormones at 14, I was HIV-positive at 14," he said. "So when I see a lot of young people who are broken, who are abused, and they attach themselves to the LGBT lifestyle, a lot of them, that's not who they are."
Johnson listened closely and invited future discussions with Arthur, including an invitation to attend Des Moines Pride. Arthur was amenable.
"We've all got stories. I've got a huge story that I could tell you some time that I would love to talk [about]," he said. "Let's connect, let's chat; because I think that that could be one of the most open pieces of dialogue."
However, Johnson said, he believed a lot of people had been hurt by what they had seen in the trailer for the film and an advertisement.
Arthur said to the Rainbow Huddle there were a lot of things he said as a Christian that he probably shouldn't have said.
"I don't want to say too much because I'm going to offend too many people – not here, but people that I'm actually trying to separate myself from – but I tried a little hard and probably a little harder than I should have to be that medium that I was always seeking.
Arthur said he spent some time leaning into one of those extremes that he never wanted to be.
"I'm 10 years into this but that doesn't mean I'm where I'm supposed to be," he said.
Managing Editor Angie Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @OskyAngie.