By Amber Rosamond
The documentary “The Overnighters”, which was shown at Mizzou RNA’s March meeting, brings into question Pastor Jay Reinke’s motives for continuing his program, despite his communities’ strong disapproval.
For anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, here is a brief intro:
With an oil boom hitting North Dakota and creating an influx of jobs, ambitious souls packed up their things and began the search for a better life.
Upon arriving in North Dakota, many didn’t have a place to stay. But there was one church willing to the give them a home–Concordia Lutheran Church in Williston.
With the overnighters program, ran by Pastor Jay Reinke, workers with no place to go were given a spot in the church or the church parking lot. They agreed to stay no longer than a month, as the church served only as a place to stay while the workers created a new foundation.
Members of the church were at first in support of the program, but grew tired of the constant newcomers quickly. The city disagreed as they felt their town was being taken over by dangerous criminals (as many of the workers who came did have criminal backgrounds). So all in all, Pastor Reinke was the backbone of the program and the majority of people were against him.
Throughout the movie, Pastor Reinke is painted as a man who does good as a way to spread God’s love. He lived a Godly life and seemed to be the only one in Williston who truly understood the meaning of forgiveness and second chances. Even when his supportive family was willing to throw in the towel, Pastor Reinke stuck to his program.
But at the end of the film, we learn that the Pastor has some secrets. He had committed adultery with another man and none of his followers had any idea.
At this point, all of his previous righteous acts are brought into question. Was he living and speaking the Gospel to spread the word of God? Or was it an attempt to prove to himself that he was a good person?
Reinke also commented in the film that his private life and his public life had become too different–a statement that allows a lot of interpretation.
Can a Pastor commit adultery with someone of the same sex and still live a Godly life? Was the overnighters his chance to prove to the world and himself that he was indeed a good person? Would people still have followed him if they knew everything about him?
And finally, what role did journalism play? A reporter constantly pestered him about his life and what he was doing. One of the stories that kept being brought up was how the pastor was housing a convicted sex-offender. The public had a right to know but what consequence does that bring? How are we affecting people when we write these stories?
Let us know what you think!