Misunderstanding and mischaracterizing the Christian life is a favorite pastime of Hollywood…Faithful Christians are consistently portrayed as buffoons while, in this particular film, the ex-ex-gays are beacons of enlightenment.
Netflix’s latest original documentary, Pray Away—about the reparative therapy organization Exodus International—is yet another thinly veiled attack on Christianity by Hollywood. It’s not surprising that Netflix would seize on a false gospel to surreptitiously proffer a hit piece on Christianity in a lopsided tale of woe. Much of the media can hardly resist glomming on to extremes to further an agenda that denigrates Christians. What is surprising is how poorly made this doc is. Not only does it lack a cohesive and compelling narrative, but it attempts to throw any sort of anti-Christian spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.
As someone who worked in Hollywood for decades, I’ve seen firsthand the contempt the entertainment industry has for Christianity. But only after I left my gay identity—in exchange for a new identity in Christ—did I realize the special resentment Hollywood reserves for converts like me. Pray Away is a case in point.
The film opens on Jeffrey McCall, a former transsexual who had a powerful encounter with God and is now transformed by the gospel. The camera follows him on the streets of Georgia offering prayer to strangers. It’s clear the director capitalized on McCall’s lilting and effeminate Southern accent in an attempt to discredit him. Oh, those Bible-belt rubes and their quaint coming-to-Christ stories! But the focus on McCall is an odd choice and, as we see later, seems like a story from another film that somehow got mixed up in the editing room and mistakenly attached to this one.
The narrative inexplicably segues to former key leaders of Exodus International who have since come out as ex-ex-gay. Exodus was born in 1976 at a large conference in Anaheim, California, seeking to help homosexuals who wanted to rid themselves of unwanted same-sex attractions through a series of ad hoc and unscientific therapeutic methods. It’s no surprise these dubious methods failed. Attempts to “pray away the gay” all too often fail, leaving struggling folks not only mad at God or personally scarred but, far worse, in a state of apostasy. Tragically, the baby (the possibility of any change of affections) is usually thrown out with the bathwater (the problematic brand of “change” aimed at in conversion therapy).
Producer/director Kristine Stolakis seizes on the faulty science—and unbiblical theology—of conversion therapy to castigate anyone who would dare leave, or desire to leave, the LGBTQ community. The message is clear: if you are denying your sexual desires in order to follow Christ, you are just fooling yourself. Those desires are what define your identity, and to tamper with who you really are is dangerous and delusional.