Can you really pray something away?
That’s the question the new Pray Away Netflix documentary left me contemplating.
It’s a powerful, thought provoking story about people who are trying to be “ex-gay.”
The documentary tells the story of five men who in the 70’s struggled with being gay in their Evangelical church. They started a bible study to help each other leave the “homosexual lifestyle.” That Bible study became formally known as Exodus International. The largest and most controversial conversion therapy organization in the world.
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.- Colossians 3:14
To be honest, watching this film was the first time I heard about Conversion therapy. It’s basically a practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation through different techniques. . One of the subjects that stuck out to me was Julie. As a teenager Julie was sent to Exodus International because she liked girls.. While in the program, the leaders told her she couldn’t play softball anymore so that she wouldn’t like girls. Then there was the doing “girlie” things to make her feminine. Julie enjoyed the program in the beginning., because she thought it was making her “good” like other Christians. The more she shared, the more I asked myself what have we done.. and when I say “we” I mean Christians.
The documentary also shed light on these same leaders who were teaching this Conversion Therapy. They struggled with a secret: their own “same-sex attractions” never went away.
We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19
Last week I was given the opportunity to speak with the director Kristine Stolakis. I couldn’t wait to discuss the film with her. I was praying that God would give us room to have an open and healthy dialogue around the film and He did.
I shared my story with Kristine about growing up in a traditional Black church, where the Pastor often used the pulpit to condemn being gay. Which Kristine shared is another form of Conversion Therapy. Talk about a WHOA! moment when I heard that.
What does Kristine want Christians to take away from this documentary?
“If we can step aside from the us v. them narrative that we often hear in our culture, and instead view this as an issue of mental health, and abuse I think we can have a really productive conversation following this film within our communities that are rich, that are hard, that are going to take us facing pain that has happened within religious communities with LGBTQ individuals that are so, so necessary.”
I wanted to know what inspired her to direct such a controversial topic. Kristine opened up about her uncle who went through Conversion Therapy back in the late 60’s after coming out as Transgender as a child. She witnessed one of her “favorite people” struggle with addiction, anxiety and depression as a result of the program. She later would find out that this was quite common in people who went through Conversion Therapy. Sadly her uncle passed away when she started film school, and this film she dedicates to him.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.- 1 John 4:16
“Pray Away” is now streaming on Netflix.