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Boger exemplifies “Hope Over Hate”

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Matthew Boger

Matthew Boger

Matthew Boger

Grace Onsrud, Staff Writer

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Filmmaker Matthew Boger screened his documentary film “Facing Fear” and held a Q-&-A session on March 6 in the Center for Faith and Life. Boger’s visit was sponsored by Campus Programming and the Center for Ethics and Public Engagement as a part of Hope Over Hate Week which involved events on Luther’s campus as well as in the Decorah community.

The event began with a screening of “Facing Fear,” which recounts Boger’s journey towards friendship and forgiveness with a former Nazi-punk, Tim Zaal, who beat him nearly to death 26 years prior.

Boger spoke about the importance of understanding the experiences of others that lead them to adopt certain views. In his Q-&-A session Boger answered questions about his personal life, his time living on the streets after being rejected by his family for being gay, and how he forgave someone who had tried to take his life.

Matthew Boger also spoke to students at Decorah Middle School and in a chapel service in the CFL on March 7.

This is the first time that Luther held a Hope Over Hate Week.  The idea for it developed when Campus Programming and the CEPE decided to hold both distinguished lectures within one week because of thematic similarities between Boger’s stories and other Lecturer Daryl Davis’s. Davis gave a lecture of a similar theme on March 8 about his experience as a black man working to engage in peaceful dialogue and friendship with members of the KKK.

Director of Campus Programming Paul Atkins said that the two stories are powerful when told as a pair.

“Even though the two lectures are not necessarily linked, the premise is the same,” Atkins said. “Through discussion and friendship, people who on the surface would typically be enemies listen and forgive. They are doing great things, influencing people and making change.”

Director of the CEPE Victoria Christman said that she hopes the conversation with Boger helped the audience  understand the power of forgiveness.

“I find his story and his presentation so incredibly rich, with many messages embedded within it,” Christman said.“He is a compelling example of the triumph of the human spirit, the power of forgiveness, and the importance of valuing the humanity in everyone we encounter.”

Atkins said that the level of audience participation required by Boger’s presentation was the reason why he reason that he was drawn to him as a speaker.

“No two presentations of his are the same” Atkins said. “He shows the short documentary and then it’s question and answer, so it all depends on the questions as to where things will go. He said he has certain points he likes to bring up or add to the conversation if people don’t (ask questions), but it’s not a straight lecture… You don’t just turn up and have someone talk at you. You have to get into it.”

Audience member Ryan Koning (‘19) said that she was struck not only by Boger’s story, but by the story of Zaal, the man who attacked Boger and later became his friend.

“I think it was really powerful to hear about not only his story of forgiveness, but also Tim Zaal’s journey to find empathy,” Koning said. “I was surprised to hear about (Boger’s) life as a homeless teenager and how he was inspired to help others find empathy after a stranger helped him at his worst point in life.”

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