Pray Away

This emotional Netflix doc proves homophobia is the root of evil.

Back in 2018, I saw this exceptional drama called “Boy Erased,” which was based on a true story about the son of Baptist parents, who had to go to a conversion therapy program to fix his gay problem. The key words are “true story,” because these programs are very real and very problematic. The LGBTQ community is not evil, it’s full of people just like us, who want to live their lives in joy and serenity. I may be straight, but I still show my respect for them.

What I’m getting at is I just saw “Pray Away” on Netflix, and it’s one of the most infuriating and informative documentaries of 2021. This one focuses on a religious organization, known as Exodus, which is facing consequences for their “pray the gay away” movements. This group was a conversion therapy, which turned out to be harmful. Excuses for homosexuality include molestation or sexual abuse, and those who felt they couldn’t change would end up being suicidal.

Here are some of the people behind Exodus.

  • Co-founder Michael Bussee used to be bullied for his gay interests, and thought that the behavior made you gay, not the feelings. You know the gay socializing, the gay bars, etc. He wanted to represent that for everyone else in the movement, but eventually learned he was being dishonest.
  • The chairman John Paulk married a former lesbian named Anne, who was in the group, and their transcendence and love made them appear in the media. But let’s face it: he was living a lie.
  • Randy Thomas was the former VP, who feels he doesn’t deserve forgiveness for what he was engaged in, especially since he is gay.

Here are some of the former members.

  • We first met Jeffrey Maccall, a transgender, who was whipped into shape and found the righteous path. Eventually, on Facebook, he formed the Freedom March group to give people voices.
  • Yvette Cantu Schneider was a practicing lesbian, which means she was in the lifestyle and not struggling with feelings, until her Christianity fixed her up. She had gay friends, who died of AIDs, and also joined the Family Research Council as their spokesman. Today, she doesn’t want to destroy the evidence of her past, but she regrets it all.
  • Julie Rodgers was a conservative Christian, who wanted to be Jesus’ friend, and visits a motivational speaker named Ricky Chelette about the downsides of gays. As she got older, she began speaking to the public, revealing that she lost her trust in men after being raped. She regrets being exploited, and today, she married her girlfriend.

“Pray Away” was directed by Kristine Stolakis, whose films examine politics, power, and prejudice in people’s lives in her production company Lamplighter Films. And it was also produced by Ryan Murphy and Jason Blum. Together, their doc is quite informative of the Exodus organization, and the bad impacts it’s had on people. Certain details are a little vague, but we still see how the gays, lesbians, and transgenders have lied to themselves about wanting to be straight. They were pressured by what society and religious groups would think of them, and it’s quite sad.

It gets more emotional when we finally get to the point of how the people behind Exodus realize that their program was harmful to people, because of suicides and abuse and so forth. This is life, which is full of fear, anger, and choices, and even then, it’s not too late to change. I’m glad we’re in a better time when more people come out of the closet. Granted there’s still some abuse and closeted people, but for the most part, we support the rainbows.

If God loves his children, then he should accept them for who they are. “Pray Away” wants us to acknowledge that we’re all equal, and we deserve to be loved for who we are on the inside. Grab a box of tissues. You’re gonna need them.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4.

Now Streaming on Netflix and Playing in Select Theaters

Categories: Documentary

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