ONE NATION UNDER GOD: The REAL Story Behind the “Ex-Gay” Movement

A few days ago, I posted a long and rather angry review of the Oprah Winfrey Network’s “Pray the Gay Away?” segment of their Our America news magazine, a show which despite its claims to journalistic open-mindedness gave far too much air time to the “ex-gay” movement and barely a quarter of the hour to a Gay Christian camp for kids called the Naming Project.  In fact, the show in general, and the host Lisa Ling in particular, treated Exodus and its current president Alan Chambers with such deference that the end result made it look like living authentically and living  a lie were equally viable alternatives.

A petition was posted on Facebook to get the Oprah Winfrey Network to pull the show (a little late, perhaps, but we do what we can), and I signed it and posted it on my own Facebook page.  To my surprise, some of my straight friends didn’t understand why I was so worked up about this thing.  I directed them to my original review of the piece, and now I direct them to a true exposé of the “ex-gay” movement, a documentary from 1993 called ONE NATION UNDER GOD, directed by Teodoro Maniaci and Francine Rzeznick.

I first came across this film when it aired on the PBS program P.O.V. in, I think it was June of 1994. At the time I was thirty-one years old and had been out since the age of nineteen, but I had never heard of the “ex-gay” movement. So when I saw the coming attractions, I sat down to watch. Needless to say I was horrified.

The historical information, such as the persecution of LGBT persons in Nazi Germany and the mostly negative attitudes in the postwar years, I already knew about. But somehow the existence of this “ministry” that professed to “change” gay persons into straight persons had escaped my notice.

That being said, this is a very involving movie for a documentary. It has lots of drama, and in spots it is downright scary, as when that one man says, and I quote: “God hates homosexuals, and so do Christians.” Completely untrue, of course, but imagine being a gay kid of, say, fourteen, wondering how to cope with his or her feelings, hearing a message like that, particularly if the kid also happens to be a Christian.

It has moments of comedy as well. When the film finally gets around to interviewing Sy Rogers, who was at the time the president of Exodus, it gets positively campy. Rogers is so feminine that the whole thing literally becomes surreal. Put him in a dress and he would have been more convincing as a woman than he was as a man. And when they got into the business of “changing behaviors” — encouraging men to play football, and teaching butch women about hair and makeup, my partner and I fairly howled with laughter.

There is a lot in this little, hour-and-twenty-six-minute film; it swings from campy comedy to human tragedy (when one of the founders of Love in Action described how he was forced to end his long-term relationship with his partner I wept). And whether you’ve been victimized by them, or you’ve never heard of them, ONE NATION UNDER GOD tells the truth about the “ex-gay” movement in a way that no other work I have ever come across does. A must see.

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