Preach, sister: ‘The Gospel of Eureka’

The cliché smacks of truth, as all clichés do: Gay culture is always at loggerheads with religious fundamentalism. How could there be common ground? And while people of faith continue to use their teachings to promote bigotry, it doesn’t have to be that way. Not in Oz, or Valhalla … but in Eureka Springs, Ark., a hotbed of unexpected progressivity in Northwestern Arkansas, a region of the country where fire-and-brimstone radio preachers are more common than Top 40 music. But Eureka Springs proudly embraces diversity, boasts drag shows and openly gay citizens… as well as one of the largest Passion Play productions this side of Gesthemane. And guess what? The drag queens are devout and the Christians are embracing. Whoda thunk it?

It’s not all brunch and brotherhood, as the documentary The Gospel of Eureka — a hit at SXSW and making its North Texas debut this weekend at the Oak Cliff Film Festival — lays out. Some ultra-conservatives in the area are actively campaigning for a repeal of a city ordinance that endorses tolerance; some gay folks have been burned by their Baptists roots and prefer a life of agnosticism. But the filmmakers deftly interweave the lives of several people — a gay couple experiencing more than 30 years of wedded bliss, the man who plays Jesus and directs the open-air story of Christ — in sympathetic and compelling ways, while the vote is going on in the town. The haunting narration by Vivian Justin Bond only adds to the beauty and authenticity of the film, which might give hope to those victimized by hatred on both sides. Can I get an amen to that?

— Arnold Wayne Jones

The Gospel of Eureka screens at the Oak Cliff Film Festival on Saturday at 1 p.m. at The Kessler. For tickets and more information about the festival, visit