The ex-gay movement remains one of the most insidious threats to gay life today.
Dark armies of deacons, preachers, priests and run of the mill wackos are preying on the minds, hearts and “souls” of men and women who can’t accept their homosexuality. While it’s easy for us to wag a finger at the movement’s unorthodox reparative therapy, it’s far more damning when criticism comes from within. Or, at least, from someone who’s lived through it. Take, for example, Scott Harrison: a former ex-gay minister who left in 1990 after the seemingly-progressive group took a distinctly – and disgustingly – radical direction.
Harrison discusses the last straw with Southern Poverty Law Center:
Q: A minister in your church performed an exorcism on you to root out your homosexuality. How did that happen?
SH: There was a particular associate minister who was pretty out there. But the problem was he was also extremely intuitive. He would know stuff about you without you ever having told him. When you’re coming from a perspective that you believe God can give messages to people, words of prophecy, then it’s very easy to become prey. This guy got a team of people together. One of the aspects that is pretty strong in Vineyard [Christian Fellowship], still, is that they believe that people can be “demonized.” Not meaning that a person is fully possessed by Satan, but that a person has given him or herself over to Satanic strongholds in his or her life, so that it may take an exorcism to release the various demons that this person has given over their lives to.
Q: What happened as you went through it?
SH: It was very intense, dramatic, group prayer. It lasted at least three hours. At the end, I was drenched in sweat. There were some real areas of psychological wounding. All I can really describe it as – because of how it happened and the incorrectness of the theology – is that it felt like a spiritual rape to me.
Harrison has since left the movement, accepted his sexuality and speaks with gay non-profits like PFLAG and talks about the importance of spiritual reconciliation.
It’s so much easier being an atheist.
amen, unclemike. the only thing the ex-gays managed to exorcize in me was my faith.
R. Scott Harrison
This is Scott, the one who did the interview with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report (winter 2007 edition), from which the excerpt was taken. First, I would like to thank Queerty for calling attention to the issues which the ex-gay movement poses for many who have survived it.
I want to make a few important clarifications here in view of the article. As I do so, please realize that I rate the articles for which I was interviewed (there were two, but I was featured in only one) very highly. I would give them a grade of A+. At the same time, for whatever reasons, there was a significant inaccuracy which I will address below. I also want to make some clarifications around the inaccuracy. I realize that what I share may seem like a battle of semantics, but in truth it is not: the language used to describe religious and psychological experiences in the ex-gay movement for some might indicate the degree of later psychological and spiritual damage which a person might have to deal with.
First, here is the factual correction. The church at which the exorcisms occurred (there was more than one exorcism, this was simply the most damaging) was the Vineyard (Christian Fellowship of) San Pedro, CA. This church was not directly tied to the ex-gay movement, which I explained when interviewed. However, the ex-gay organizations with which I was involved were part of the greater Vineyard churches movement.
Now for the clarification part. The belief system of the Vineyard movement endorsed and practiced exorcisms. To be certain, the ex-gay leaders with whom I was associated and who were members or staff of other Vineyard churches and NOT of the Vineyard San Pedro, would not have gone to the extreme of trying to cast a “spirit” of homosexuality out of me. What I experienced occurred at the hands of a pastor and lay people who were part of the Vineyard San Pedro. They were supportive of ex-gay ministry, but were not part of any ex-gay organization. Further, the ex-gay ministers I knew were truly disturbed by the crushing of my hearing aids by the pastor at the Vineyard San Pedro.
With that said, I must note that those with whom I worked and whom I knew within the Vineyard movement who were on staff with or were otherwise involved with ex-gay ministries might have (and in cases I witnessed) gone so far as to try to cast out or “break the stronghold” of a demonic archetype of homosexuality in people. In other words, while the ex-gay leaders I worked with would most likely dispute that there was an actual demon of homosexuality inside a person causing a person to be gay, they still might not have hesitated to claim that if a person was lesbian or gay and accepted his or her sexual orientation, then that person, of his or her own free will, had given power to a demon behind homosexuality which they might call an “archetype” of homosexuality. In other words, if a person chose to accept him- or herself as gay and embraced the so-called “gay lifestyle”, the ex-gay leaders I knew and worked with believed that that individual had created a demonic stronghold in his or her life which needed to be broken by concerted prayer. This prayer usually might involve a person agreeing with God in prayer as others prayed along for the breaking of any demonic strongholds in the individual’s life. In some cases, the stronghold of homosexuality in a person’s life might be considered so strong that an actual session of prayer for “deliverance” (i.e.: an exorcism) from the power of Satan might be considered necessary. Usually these kinds of deliverance sessions were not all that dramatic emotionally. I am not, however, saying that dramatic ones might not have occurred which I was unaware of.
I shared my experience because deliverance prayer (exorcisms) are not all that uncommon among supporters of the ex-gay movement or, I fear, in the ex-gay movement historically or at the present time. My experiences simply illustrate the extremes to which some people may go in the name of trying to “heal” sexual brokenness or “deliver” a person from homosexuality. My journey also reveals something of the desperation that people in the ex-gay movement often experience as they try to suppress or extinguish their sexual orientation or gender identity.
By saying what I have above, please realize that I am not trying to minimalize the damage that can occur through ex-gay ministry. I am simply trying to be clear that the worst damage I experienced came at the hands of supporters of ex-gay ministry rather than actual ex-gay ministers. The psychological and spiritual damage I experienced from being involved with the ex-gay movement was bad enough without having gone through that particular exorcism.
Finally, I do beleive that some people have experienced damage as severe as I experienced directly at the hands of practitioners of ex-gay ministry. I think that this is likely because of the theological construct of most ex-gay leaders which demonizes homosexuality. From what I have experienced, studied and observed, most people who are involved with ex-gay ministry as leaders believe at some level that homosexuality is a demonic distortion of heterosexuality. They would argue that heterosexuality, in fact, is the only true sexual orientation. And because of this mindset, they might not think twice about supporting and participating in prayers of “healing” and “deliverance” from the power of homosexuality. This leaves the door wide open for huge abuses in the name of prayers of “deliverance” from homosexuality, in my opinion.
Again, these are my opinions based on my own research, observations and experience.
If anyone wishes to be in conversation, please feel free to visit my blog which I just started:
Best wishes for the new year to everyone!
Thank you for your explanation of this article. It was very helpful.
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