Pray Away

The Premise: By now you’ve heard about conversion “therapy” – church groups with the audacity to not only claim that Jesus has no love for gays and that homosexuality is a sin, and inherently wrong, but that it’s also a choice, something that can be overcome through traumatic and soul-crushing “therapy” by unqualified, untrained individuals. This documentary gives survivors the chance to tell their haunting stories, but we’ll also hear from “ex-gay” leadership on the other side of the table, granting us a fuller picture of a story that’s been hiding in the shadows.

The Verdict: Director Kristine Stolakis isn’t afraid to confront both sides of the issue, nor does she overtly try to convince us that the notion of “praying away the gay” is wrong or stupid or impossible. She trusts that her audience has already come to that very obvious conclusion themselves. Her goal here is to let us hear directly from not just survivors, but the administrators of this very harmful practice – some who have seen the error of their ways, some who haven’t, all of whom are either ex-gay or ex-ex-gay themselves. What their stories amount to, rather importantly, is a reminder that this is not just some shameful part of the church’s history, of our history, but a continued practice that still takes place today – albeit underground. The truth is, almost no one commits suicide because they’re gay. Having warm, tingly feelings about another person is a thrilling thing – it feels good. Who wouldn’t want that? Only people who are then told that feeling this way about the same sex is somehow intrinsically bad, and that Jesus would deny his love because of it. People commit suicide because they experience virulent homophobia. They feel rejected by their communities and that their very personhood is corrupt and illicit. The only solution the church offers is dangerous and destructive. Conversion therapy has never had success in eradicating homosexuality; it merely creates trauma and scars and a lifetime of bad memories. It sounds barbaric and archaic, because it is, and through this doc you’ll find that the church has never stopped performing it, they merely got better at hiding it.

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