Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Passion & Peace: “The Gospel of Eureka,” a case study for harmony.

Eureka Springs, Ark.: home of “The Great Passion Play,” the epic drama depicting Jesus Christ’s last days on earth that draws 50,000 people a year—and the home of a thriving drag scene, bolstered by an ever-growing LGBTQ community. In a fascinating documentary directed by Donal Mosher and Michael Palmieri, we see “The Gospel of Eureka” unfold.

The beauty of Eureka Springs is its ability to mesh the LGBTQ community with the devout Christian community without a citywide meltdown. Eureka was the first city in the state to issue same sex marriage licenses in 2014 and passed the Non-Discrimination Ordinance 2223, including LGBTQ residents in the list of those protected against discrimination. In the 1970s, Anita Bryant, leader of the “Save Our Children” campaign that targeted gay men, tried to make her comeback by coming to Eureka Springs, and no one showed up to her show. But, “like any other town,” as a member of the drag community narrates, “Eureka is a tinder box, just waiting for the match to strike.”

Mosher and Palmieri do their best to show both sides of this matchbox. The film follows the bathroom ordinance battle in 2017, showing protests and marches from both camps. In one scene, we see a man holding a sign protesting the ordinance, saying, “Nothing’s gonna happen that God doesn’t want to happen” (when the reporter repeats the line for clarification, a look of amusement comes over his face). And in contrast, we see a parade of people marching down the street in support of gay pride.

While there is much controversy here and elsewhere in the country, Mosher and Palmieri spin the focus to capture the specific demographic that finds themselves in the middle of this Venn diagram: LGBTQ Christians and their allies. We meet several key players, such as Lea Keating and Walter Burrell, the gay Christian couple who own the Eureka Live Underground, which hosts drag shows on a regular basis. We meet a trans woman who found peace with herself upon moving with her husband to Eureka and loves to go to “The Great Passion Play.” We meet the man who runs a passion play-based merchandise shop and ensures that the messages on various items (T-shirts, etc.) are inclusive. We meet the pastor running “The Great Passion Play,” who prioritizes people’s civil rights over his own views on homosexuality.

What unfolds is a community of people who love each other and support each other, defying stereotypes as they go. “The Gospel of Eureka” is heartwarming and uplifting, a beacon of hope in a world that defaults to taking sides. It serves as a case study for harmony in controversy.

“The Gospel of Eureka” plays as a one-night only showing on June 12 at Midtown Cinema, 250 Reily St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit


at Midtown Cinema

Digital Theatre Series
Monday, June 3, 7 p.m.

“Small Island”
Sunday, June 30, 7 p.m.

[Untitled] Docs
“Grizzly Man”
Sunday, Jun 9, 7 p.m.

“The Gospel of Eureka”
Wednesday, June 12, 7 p.m.

Down in Front! presents
“Caged Heat”
Friday, June 14, 9:30 p.m.

3rd in the Burg $3 Movie
“Mean Girls”
Friday, June 21, 9:30 p.m.

Outdoor Film Series
Friday, June 28, at dusk

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