Pray Away (2021)

Pray Away (2021) Cover

"It's okay to have feelings towards the same sex but it is not okay to act on those feelings," is the message many churches preach around the world. "Jesus can change your desires," is offered as a solution. Exodus International was founded by Christians who "struggled" with same-sex attractions but wanted to find a group similar to AA where attendees can discuss their progress and pray for one another. With so many people wanting help, the organization grew on a large national scale (with an annual conference dedicated to it!) but what the founders discovered was that their same-sex attractions never went away!

Pray Away is an eye-opener to the harmful and ineffectiveness of gay-to-straight conversion therapy; it doesn't work. The film follows the lives of people who used to lead and were actively involved in the ministry. John Paulk, who says he was "the most famous -ex gay" and face of the organization, said he would profess being healed from his homosexuality and was happily married. Paulk says he feels guilty because when asked if he even felt a little bit of attraction to men he would lie and say that he did not, causing those who couldn't shake off their homosexual feelings to feel broken. Julie Rodgers, now happily married to a woman, was pressured to speak on extremely personal matters she wasn't comfortable with for the sake of making more of a compelling and persuasive story. Her life too revolved around staying close to Jesus and not being gay. The film does include time to one man, Jeffery Mccall, who used to dress as a woman but now feels convicted to stay on the path taught by the church, indicating Jesus has saved him.

The documentary is attention-grabbing from beginning to end. The documentary is edited where small pieces of each person's testimony are described as we are taken through each person's jaw-dropping story in small segments. Going to a public place to seek help for "Same Sex Attraction" is already mind-boggling and hearing the unique drama from each person's story is not only engaging but also has the power to be life-changing to anyone who ether thinks they need to change themselves or to a people who believe that those with same sex attraction must change. That is the target audience for this film but this can also simply be informative (if not persuasive) on the struggle of growing up in a Christian / Catholic household as a gay person. It is a powerful and cultural shattering message. 

Worries about this documentary being antagonistic towards Christianity were initially present when reading the synopsis (as I did not want to watch something so entirely one-sided) but those concerns quickly disappeared as some survivors who are now in happy same sex relationships still pray and talk to Jesus. Additionally, Jeffery Mccall talks about his love for Jesus and how his convictions still remain- and I respect that (but hope he is truly content with where he is and, if being with a man would make him happy, I would pray he knows Jesus will not love him any less for that!).

I personally know someone who has went so far with their Christian beliefs to seek out conversion therapy and it was not helpful. Despite attending a camp whose goal was to change this person's same-sex desires they did not change and were confused and felt defeated, resulting in a series of destructive relationship choices. "If being gay is a sin and I can't change that then why care at all?" This is only one personal example of how harmful these camps are...

...but they're many stories. Watch Pray Away to get a detailed glimpse into these stories. It's an important film amongst our culture we live in today. Now streaming on Netflix.

Final Verdict:Pray Away is a profound culturally relevant documentary that is informative on the harmful effects of gay-to-staight conversion therapy.