I Am Michael is director Justin Kelly’s portrayal of the unbelievable story of once gay rights activist and journalist Michael Glatze, who finds God and eventually becomes a heterosexual Christian pastor. This movie will definitely not appeal to the typical Christian moviegoer that chomps at the bit for the next Facing the Giants, but I believe it will spark helpful conversation about the essence of belonging and the importance of a spiritual journey. Early in the movie, Michael Glatze is a young homosexual man living in San Francisco and writing for the gay magazine, XY. As a result of his personal curiosity about heaven and spiritual matters, he begins to question his entire life and is pointed to the Bible for comfort. He is scared to tell his partner or other gay friends about his newfound interest in faith and actually hides it from them as he secretly deals with his inward confliction about his sexuality and faith. He eventually breaks up with his boyfriend and leaves the gay lifestyle to pursue his relationship with God. Through a long series of events, Michael ends up in seminary where he hopes to one day serve in a church. He meets a young woman who he falls in love with and marries. Towards the end of the movie we find Michael still conflicted and questioning whether he is really being true to himself or not.
The script keeps the audience very close to Michael and his contemplation throughout the entirety of the movie. We feel as if we are seeing every situation from his perspective. The major theme that struck me throughout the course of the film was the importance of belonging. In the beginning, Michael was the toast of the gay community and really felt like he belonged, but when he began to think about his relationship with God, they abandoned him. Later, when he was in seminary, he thought he belonged, but when he started asking hard questions, everyone told him that the Bible had total authority and that he should not doubt God. It seemed like wherever Michael went in life he never found a true sense of belonging. Whether he was entrenched in the gay lifestyle or preparing to be a preacher, there were stipulations and social contracts that were required in order to be a part of the community.
This reminds me of the experience many people have within the church. They come in searching and wanting to know more, but instead of allowing them a place to contemplate, learn, and most importantly belong, we desire that they immediately adhere to every creed we carry, that they act in certain ways, and that they transform their lives to our liking. If we truly believe that it is the Holy Spirit who changes the hearts of humanity, it is our job to simply create environments where people can feel a sense of comfort and belonging. In these spaces, the Spirit is able to move with ease. Essentially, I Am Michael is a captivating, even-handed telling of this story. It isn’t overly political or bent on pushing an agenda. At its core, this movie is about a person searching for his true identity, about a man who longs for understanding about the divine. It is a movie about all of us.