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:
all gay people are depressed and lonely;
all gay people succumb to addiction to drugs, alcohol and a whole assortment of other sins and ailments;
the shame felt by gay people exists solely because they are living "outside" of "God's will";
"change" is possible; and
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.