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Powerful Documentary Explores ‘Ex-Gay’ Movement

John Paulk and his spouse Anne appeared on the duvet of Newsweek journal in 1998 because the face of Christian ex-gay remedy. In “Pray Away,” a wide-ranging documentary from director Kristine Stolakis, Paulk is interviewed immediately, and he’s unrecognizable as the person on that cowl. Even although he was a lot youthful when he posed along with his spouse, the up to date Paulk seems so relaxed and cozy with himself that it truly is like a very completely different and way more interesting individual.

Such visible reenforcement is fixed in “Pray Away,” as we see footage of Paulk and plenty of different so-called “ex-ex-gays” after they had been being tortured by their ministries alongside footage of them wanting far happier after they escaped. Stolakis rigorously and patiently charts the rise and fall of Exodus, an ex-gay ministry based in 1976 and disbanded in 2013 after its president, Alan Chambers, went to take heed to a bunch of ex-ex-gays and got here out of that assembly very shaken by what he had heard.

“Pray Away” focuses primarily on spiritual ex-gay remedy beginning with Exodus, however Stolakis does embrace a bit on one of many figureheads of its secular counterpart, a physician named Joseph Nicolosi. From what we see of a remedy session right here with Nicolosi and a male affected person, the psychoanalytic model of ex-gay remedy is way scarier and extra insidious when it lacks a non secular part. This would appear to name for some elaboration, nevertheless it’s a subject so massive that it possible would wish a separate documentary to do it justice.

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The spiritual ex-gay remedy as practiced by Exodus and likewise by a bunch known as Living Hope, which was run by a person named Ricky Chelette, is a bastardized and near-comic model of the psychotherapy doled out by Nicolosi and his ilk, with a leaning on clichés about childhood trauma as the reason for every little thing. On a listing of causes of homosexuality proven on display, we see “exposure to pornography” and additional down on the record is “exposure to the occult,” which lets us grasp simply how low a stage of superstition we’re coping with right here.

Paulk was famously caught visiting a homosexual bar in 2000, after which he was ousted from Exodus, although his spouse Anne continues to be energetic in a diminished iteration of it known as Restored Hope Network. During their marriage, Anne saved asking her husband why he couldn’t simply be “obedient,” however such obedience might result in crime and horror.

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The most annoying story informed in “Pray Away” comes from Julie Rodgers, first seen right here making ready for her wedding ceremony to a different girl. Rodgers was delivered to Living Hope as a young person and put below the care of Chelette, who quickly noticed that Rodgers may very well be an efficient speaker for the group. He took benefit of her confidence, and he ultimately took benefit of her sexually, pressuring her to make use of a rape at school as part of her story at talking engagements. Rodgers was so crushed down by all of this that she started burning herself often.

Stolakis will not be afraid of complication. Yvette Cantu Schneider, who was once a key speaker for Exodus, continues to be married to her husband and has come to phrases with being bisexual. The most complicated case right here is younger Jeffrey McCall, who has began his personal ex-gay group with some anti-trans messaging used prominently as an try to remain new and related. McCall appears to sense that being anti-gay is considerably previous hat, but when he can get individuals riled up about youngsters “chopping up their bodies,” then he would possibly convey extra members into his fold.

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As “Pray Away” goes on, and the previous ex-gay ministries begin to collapse and regroup solely as weakened variations of themselves, there may be the sense that this may quickly be a lifeless subject, or not less than a difficulty so small that it not less than gained’t damage as many individuals because it as soon as did. At the top of the film, we see Rodgers getting married, and she or he is carrying a sleeveless…

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