Editor's note: This is the conclusion of a series regarding David Arthur, who describes himself as "a former gay and former transgender" person and responses from members and supporters of Oskaloosa's PFLAG group.
OSKALOOSA — David Arthur, the subject of independent documentary film 'Fire and Brimstone,' listened as his mother spoke onscreen in an interview for the film.
"I always told him I love you, you're my son. I love you," she said. "And as I noticed the change in dress and he let his hair grow, I would tell him you know what you're not any of these names that you've adopted for yourself. I gave birth to David. David is my son."
Arthur's mother told him at the age of 14 that he would not be dressing as a girl under her roof.
"When she said to me 'look, I had a son, I did not have a daughter. You will not act like that. You won't dress like that. You won't do that under this roof. If that's what you want to do, there's the door,'" he said after the film. "And I chose the door."
"Armed with the truth"
Arthur said, during a question and answer session following the film, Christians have been "armed with the truth."
"We don't need facts. We don't need scientific facts. We don't need perception. We don't need thoughts and feelings," he said. "And if you need to tell your child 'not in my house, not under my roof,' then that's what you need to tell your child. If you need to tell your grandchild 'don't bring that nonsense into my home' then you need to tell them that. They need the truth."
"Freedom from pretending to be straight"
A nearby Oskaloosa PFLAG event was held, called a Rainbow Huddle in response to the film. 'Fire and Brimstone was sponsored by the Iowa Huddle, a group of "born again" Christians and held at Gateway Nazarene Church.
PFLAG members felt the film was homophobic, transphobic and hurtful.
One mother, Heather Fogle, tried to give Arthur a different perspective than people needed freedom from the LGBT community and freedom from being gay.
"For my daughter, it wasn't freedom from being gay. It was freedom from pretending to be straight," she said. "That is actually what set her free and made her happier. It has helped her find her purpose because she is who she is now."
Mike Fogle said he wished Arthur would help people be aware that there are two sides.
"If you are gay, by announcing that or coming out with that, it can be freeing to you. Some people may be the opposite," he said. "He needs to recognize that. By recognizing only one side you do create division and sometimes hate, and to overcome that you have to see both sides and realize that we are all children of God and that God loves us all."
A film attendee said some mainline denominations of churches have gay pastors and are affirming and open to the LGBT community.
"How do we as Christians handle a situation like that," he asked. "How do we react, interact with a church or pastor that is a denomination that perceives that angle?"
Arthur said in the past, when reaching out to some of those affirming churches, he hasn't been really nice about it.
"Lately, I've been a little nicer about it and I've had a much better response. Because now I'm listening for that still, small voice and I'm allowing the holy spirit to guide those steps and those words," he said. "But mostly I say I'm reaching out to the congregants. Because those are the ones that are truly searching and seeking for answers and they haven't already decided what their truth is. But they're definitely searching."
Elizabeth Colton attended the Rainbow Huddle. Colton is the pastor of the St. Paul Congregational United Church of Christ in Oskaloosa.
"We have designated our congregation to be open and affirming. We voted on this five or six years ago after a deliberate study," she said. "So that means we accept everyone as they are and that includes the LGBT community. We welcome everyone in the door. We do not preach fire and brimstone. We believe that God loves everyone as they are and wants them to live to their full potential."
Colton said that she believes other Christian churches have distorted certain parts of the Bible to use as weapons against LGBT people.
"We disagree with those interpretations."
Influence in schools
The film attendee continued with his questions to Arthur. He said he has grandchildren who have a gay teacher.
"We saw him in his nice, pink sweater, earrings and so on. Obviously, kids are under his influence and parents don't seem to be too concerned about what's happening in that school," he said. "We were cowards and didn't say anything to the parents. What might you recommend for us in the future or what we might be able to say?"
Arthur recommended doing research on the schools and reading articles.
"When you send your child off to receive an education at this institution, they're going to do all they can to receive what you send them to receive," he said. "So when they come home and say 'today we learned about evolution' and you say 'no, no, no it's all about creation' and then tomorrow they come home and they say 'today I learned how to be gender fluid' you say 'no there is only two genders.' They're receiving what you send them to receive."
Arthur said he is a big supporter of homeschooling, but was not trying to offend anybody in the public school system.
"Because I also tell everybody we can't abandon the public school system because there will always be children and lost teachers and principals and all of that in the public school system. So they can't be abandoned," he said. "Maybe we need to start standing up and going to the school board meetings and letting them know who really holds the cards."
Narrative of understanding and love
Nick Ryan, secretary of the Libertarian Party of Mahaska County said party members attended the Rainbow Huddle.
"Tonight we're here to support LGBTQ members of our community," he said, "and add our voices to a narrative of understanding and love."
Ryan said the underlying narrative being shown in 'Fire and Brimstone,' that the LGBT community represents an alternative or somehow condemnable lifestyle is extremely harmful.
"It teaches young LGBTQ people that there is something irredeemably wrong with them and has led to suicide, homelessness, violence and other senseless tragedies," he said. "It promotes fear over understanding and hate over love, and that is far from the example of Christ."
Is homosexuality a choice
Arthur was asked whether homosexuality, in his opinion, was a choice. It is a choice, he said.
"And I don't mean a choice like 'do I want strawberry or grape jam with my peanut butter.' It's a choice as in it is a learned behavior," he said. "And a lot of times, it's a behavior or a desire that is misidentified. And that's where intimacy comes in. Because I sought intimacy."
Arthur said he had misidentified an attraction for men as a desire for intimacy.
"Six months ago I got on my face. I said Lord, I am so ready to be free of this affliction. Take this attraction from me. And he dealt with me. He dealt with me," he said. "I had this peace, I just knew. Guess what, I never had an attraction for men. Because I didn't have a father in my life I was seeking intimacy."
Film-goers review film
Film attendee Joyce White felt the screening was a good event.
"I think we're all open to learning things all the time. And so I think it's good to expose some of those things," she said. "I think there are a lot of people that have been in traumatic or abusive situations and I think it's good to see that and for people to hear that and maybe we have an understanding of others a lot more."
Shannon Stogdill said she thought the film was powerful and she was horrified to learn some of the things she learned that night.
"I feel that David's message needs to get out to the world. I think that just being in the LGBT movement for as long as he was and some of the things that he has to reveal, his secrets are powerful and I think that the things that he revealed tonight were eye-opening," she said. "I think we come from a small community, so some of the things that we learned, well, we've been affected by the LGBT.
"There is hope for everybody"
Arthur said he hoped the message people would take away from 'Fire and Brimstone' was redemption.
"That there is hope for anybody, no matter their bondage is. No matter what it is. Whether for some it's homosexuality, for some it's drugs, for some it's lying, cheating, pedophilia," he said. "And I pray that they all take hope."
Arthur was asked what if a person did not believe they were in bondage.
"That's ok too," he said. "When I was over at the gazebo, I was moved by them. That's why I said there are some things that I said in this film and in my ministry that whether I believe they're right or wrong, weren't my place to say. God spoke to me."
During Arthur's visit to the Rainbow Huddle before the film screening, the mother of a gay son gave Arthur a hug. She told him she realized that her son was gay when he was 3 years old. Her son realized it himself when he was 11.
Arthur later mentioned that hug.
"When I embraced her," he said, "God said 'you don't have to tell them if they're right or wrong, that's my job. All you have to do is establish a relationship with them. Because that's what you've been created to do,' So that's what I'm going to do."
Managing Editor Angie Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @OskyAngie.