Faithspotting “Boys State”

Listen to the Boys State episode

Kenny and Mike discuss the film and faith elements spotted in the documentary film Boys State. Directed by Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss, Boys State documents the 2018 Texas Boys State gathering. Boys State is a national program dedicated to building in high school age teens greater understanding and participation in civics as well as developing leadership skills in community and state governance.

Dating back to the 1930s, Boys State and Girls State is sponsored by the American Legion with AL Auxiliaries in each state sponsoring and supporting boys and girls who attend their respective programs. Each state organizes and conducts their Boys and Girls State gatherings. 

In planning the film, directors McBaine and Moss identified 4 of the 1150 that would be the primary subjects of the film. The film details as the boys go about the work of running for leadership positions in the political party they were randomly assigned. The for primary cast members are Ben Feinstein, Steven Garza, Robert MacDougall, and Rene Otero.

While the primary focus of Boys and Girls state is to elect statewide office holders, the program in Texas also elects members to the Boys/Girls State state legislature where legislation is presented and voted on. Each party also develops a platform which is a part of the election process.

Kenny’s reaction to a pre-screening event for the film:

Rene Otero

Watching Boys State is a Dickensian experience as we see the best of our society and the worst of our politic. The best is watching 1100+ teenage boys spend a week taking serious the complex job of governance and reflecting on issues that impact society. The worst is the witnessing the imitation of the most inferior practices of Adult State. The hope is the rising generation will retain the former, refine the latter and lead the nation in a resumption of its foundational march toward a more perfect union. 

Faith elements spotted and discussed include the appropriate and inappropriate ways persons of faith are called to deal with differences and disagreements. Such ways of keeping community in the midst of differences are an act of love Christ calls all persons to offer all others.

I Corinthians 13 is lifted up as an example and expectations for how individuals and communities are to behave. As with most of Paul’s letters to churches he founded, he offers corrections to some of their actions and drifting from the expectations Jesus and he has that they reflect the Kingdom of God in their beliefs, actions, and treatment/love for one another.

Other elements from I Corinthians include chapter 3, tribal divisions in the church (followers of Paul and Apollos.) Chapter 10:23-33 Do all for the Glory of God vs personal glory, satisfaction, and elevation. Just because something is lawful does not make it beneficial. Persons of faith are to aim for a higher standard.

Other example from Scripture for how communities and and persons of faith are to live and treat others include;

Romans 12: the Marks of a New Creation, blessing those who persecute and not repaying evil for evil.

Ben Feinstein

II Corinthians 5: Ministry of reconciliation and serving as ambassadors of Christ.

II Corinthians 6:1-8 Do not accept the Grace of God in vain, by living contrary to the Way of Christ. Now is the acceptable time and day of salvation to serve Christ fully and not put up obstacles to others.

Ephesians 4: Unity in the Body of Christ. v25 speak truth to neighbors and fellow members of the Body, speak truth to one another, settle differences and anger.

Philippians: Chapter 2,4: Imitating the humility of Christ, and putting aside differences and be of the same mind in Christ and focus on what is true and good in Christ.

Another topic is maintaining an awareness that as younger members of society and communities watch, listen, and replicate the behavior of adult leaders, so persons of faith are observed by persons within and beyond the faith and seen as representative of their faith community but also of God and Christ. II Corinthians 5 above. To misrepresent God, the Gospel or the person of Christ is to put a stumbling block before others. (Matthew 18:6-7, Mark 9:42, Romans 14:13-23)

Lastly as one the subjects indicated after he saw the film, that he regretted some of his actions. While we do not have the luxury of seeing a film of our actions, or others seeing it, we know that God sees everything we do, and when we act in ways unbecoming a disciple we hurt the one we say we love and worship.

About revkennydickson

I am a United Methodist minister and my professional passion is connecting issues of life and faith to film and other artforms. I am also interested in autism awareness and ministry and special needs. I am married to Michelle and have two children.
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