How’s the Future of Politics Looking? A Conversation with the Directors of BOYS STATE

By Andy Hale

I’m not a fan of the Little League World Series. That might be a very unpopular statement. 

I’m not a fan of it in the same way that I’m not a fan of the Australian Open, the US Open, or Wimbledon. When it transpires each year, it means that every single hour on ESPN is taken up with 10- to 12-year-olds playing baseball. The one silver lining is that you have less than a 2% chance of seeing a future major leaguer before they made it big. 

Imagine the concept of the Little League World Series and apply it to politics. That is the annual summer program Boys State. This is an 85-year summer program by the American Legion that is a rite of passage for those seeking to enter into American political coliseum. 

BOYS STATE is the central focus of a new documentary by Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine. Featured on A24 and AppleTV+, the film won the Sundance Film Festival’s U.S. Documentary Competition Grand Jury Prize in January. 

The film is an entertaining and continually revealing immersion into a week-long annual program in which a thousand Texas high school seniors gather for an elaborate mock exercise: building their own state government. Filmmakers closely track the escalating tensions that arise within a particularly riveting gubernatorial race, training their cameras on unforgettable teenagers like Ben, a Reagan-loving arch-conservative who brims with confidence despite personal setbacks, and Steven, a progressive-minded child of Mexican immigrants who stands by his convictions amidst the sea of red. In the process, they have created a complex portrait of contemporary American masculinity, as well as a microcosm of our often dispiriting national political divisions that nevertheless manages to plant seeds of hope.

We sat down with the directors this week on the CBF Podcast to discuss the project and these youngsters’ implications for the future of politics in America. 

A Faith and Film discussion guide is also available for use with your small group or congregation. Find it at www.cbf.net/faithandfilm.

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This podcast episode is brought to you by Fuller Seminary and The Center for Congregational Health.

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Andy Hale created and hosts the podcast of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Hale is the senior pastor of University Baptist Church of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, following eight years as the founding pastor of Mosaic Church of Clayton and five years as CBF’s church start specialist. Follow on Twitter @haleandy

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