Matt Comer

'He set me free...'

Filed By Matt Comer | February 08, 2010 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: International House of Prayer, Lou Engle, The Call, TheCall, Towleroad

Over the weekend Towleroad posted the video of an "ex-gay" teenager and his testimony at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. If you're reading this and thinking, "That place sounds familiar," you should be reminded of Lou Engle and TheCall. Engle and his nationwide, youth "revival" have made headlines over the past year or so as several bloggers and organizations (including the SPLC) have tracked his routinely militant and violent religious rhetoric. (You can read my in-depth report on a similar religious militant in Charlotte, N.C., and his ties with Engle in here.)

As the teen, Jacob, is sharing his testimony, a worship leader chimes in: "Do you hear that? He was set free from addictions to homosexuality, heroine, crack cocaine. Anything else?"

Towleroad writes, "Unfortunately, Jacob was not delivered from ugly exploitation on YouTube and elsewhere by the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City."

Watch the video, and more commentary after the jump...

I don't know if you heard what I heard, but Jacob's experience in "ex-gay" therapies and movements isn't rare.

"He set me free form homosexuality and also set me free from addiction to heroine and addiction to crack cocaine," Jacob says. "And because I lived my life in and around the church and I've had a lot of condemnation and shame and I didn't know I could be delivered and I did and he set me free from the condemnation and the shame and the depression that came with it."

The worship leader responds, "That's awesome and how does he feel about you?"

"He loves me and he delights in me," Jacob says.

Jacob, who tells us he had "same sex attractions" from "as early as he can remember," also tells us, although not in these exact words, that he has suffered from religion-based bigotry and prejudice directly from the hands of the people who should have offered him love and acceptance but who will now exploit his "testimony" as proof of at least five of their oft-quoted claims that:

  1. all gay people are depressed and lonely;
  2. all gay people succumb to addiction to drugs, alcohol and a whole assortment of other sins and ailments;
  3. the shame felt by gay people exists solely because they are living "outside" of "God's will";
  4. "change" is possible; and
  5. shame and depression and despair only disappear if one continues to deny who they are and attempt to become something they are not.

Unfortunately, the realities of these types of situations aren't anything like "ex-gay" proponents paint them. These charlatans, as activist Wayne Besen calls them, are really no more than self-appointed "prophets" with the gift of gab who are able to manipulate their (oftentimes youthful) victims by turning religious teaching and feeling into weapons of spiritual, mental and (sometimes) physical and sexual abuse.

Because of all this manipulation, teens like Jacob find themselves faced with two options: deny who they are and give into their religious leaders' and family's delusions of "change" or risk losing all they've known and be exiled from their family, friends and spiritual homes. For any teen, the latter option is akin to death itself. There aren't many adolescents emotionally or intellectually ready to handle life alone. There's a reason our youth are youth: they aren't adults, are vulnerable and need the love, guidance and protection of adults who will value them as and who they are. Faced with those two options, it's easy to see how teens and youth fall victim so easily to "ex-gay" predators.

But, if Jacob's childhood life in the church was anything like mine and millions more LGBT people, I'm betting the true story behind Jacob's "conversion" goes a little something like this: Jacob realized he was gay early on. As he grew up in and around his religious family and church community he came to realize two things: these feelings for other boys weren't the norm and these feelings were "sinful," "sick," "evil" and an "abomination." Instead of coming to terms with who he was, Jacob kept his feelings to himself as he continued to absorb the twisted rhetoric and mental and psychological abuse from his religious leaders. With no where to turn and no one to talk to, Jacob slipped into depression. Like so many other teens dealing with emotional or mental problems, Jacob turned to drugs as an easy escape from a world in which he was not loved and accepted. Eventually, Jacob hit a wall. His drug abuse and depression went over the edge. It wasn't until then that his parents and religious leaders noticed something was wrong. Instead of offering any kind of lasting and helpful healing, Jacob's family and faith community only added to Jacob's suffering, piling on more of the same, tired and damaging rhetoric that put him in this place to begin with. Jacob was faced with two options: lie and hide and gain acceptance and "freedom" or lose everything. Jacob chose the former.

Right now, Jacob and his faith community consider him "healed" and "delivered." As Jacob grows up, goes to college and enters the "real world," he, like thousands of "ex-gay" survivors, will discover he can't hide or run from the person whom God created and loves unconditionally.

Instead of living a youthful life of purpose and dignity, Jacob will live one of despair. One in which he's constantly looking over his shoulder and one in which he allows so-called "loving" faith leaders to continue to strip his soul bare of any truth and integrity.

In his compilation of LGBT leaders' and young adults' stories of growing up gay in America, Mitchell Gold calls situations like Jacob's and other youth's America's "silent mental health crisis." It is a crisis, indeed. One which must be stopped -- for the health and lives of our youth and for our nation and its future leaders.

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"all gay people succumb to addiction to drugs, alcohol"
funny, I accepted myself as a trans-lesbian
only after being sober for 8 years.
"shame and depression and despair" was gone when I quit the booze.
so (sober+sane=out)

I've watched this video a few times. Jacobs body language is deeply strange. Hes arms are crossed, he wont look at the crowd, his eyes are closed and he seems to keep trying to turn away from the group. When you combine that with the strange laughter, somewhat incoherent delivery, the close physical presence of the interviewer, spiritual director and others... Its very odd.

I've seen many confessions of faith and they don't usually look like this. I would have to carefully watch others from this group but something looks deeply wrong with with this video. Im not going to say that Jacob has been abused necessarily but that is my first impression from the video.

there is something not right with this kid in the video. at first i was thinking autism or maybe tourettes. the way he holds his body and moves and has trouble getting some of the words out gave me this impression.

but, while i think there is something wrong with the kid, i also think it is one huge enormous LIE.

this kid was not a crack addict or a heroin addict. look at the hair, skin and teeth! look at the bare arms! HE'S a FAKE.

i have autism which is why i suspected he was autistic.

The young man's shaking is simply him "being in the spirit" You must remember that these people are given freedom to act crazy within the confines of their church sanctuary. Much of the behaviour that gones on there if the person was exhibiting such behavior on the street or in other social situations we would call the men in the white coats and have them held for 72 hours to determine their sanity and mental health.

Just for in formations sake, some of the verbal ticks and twitches are a trope of this kind of confession. So be careful how you read those. I'm not going to comment on if i think hes fake or not. Frankly I don't have enough information to say. I do agree something really strange is going on in that clip.

Just for in formations sake, some of the verbal ticks and twitches are a trope of this kind of confession. So be careful how you read those. I'm not going to comment on if i think hes fake or not. Frankly I don't have enough information to say. I do agree something really strange is going on in that clip.

i have the verbal ticks and twitches. the kid might have aspergers but he was in no way a druggie. that you can tell by looking at him.