Interview with Chasing the Devil Producer Bill Hussung; premiere on Saturday

A new documentary regarding the ex-gay world is premiering this weekend at a Birmingham, AL film festival. Chasing the Devil: Inside the Ex-gay Movement will be shown on Saturday, March 29, 2008 at 11:30am at the WorkPlay Theatre in Birmingham. 

The film bills itself in this way:

CHASING THE DEVIL: INSIDE THE EX-GAY MOVEMENT is a feature documentary film presenting an unflinching look at the personal journeys of four people who claim to have changed their sexual orientation from gay to straight. Their stories mark the first time documentary filmmakers have been allowed inside the “ex-gay” movement and provide an empathetic and, at times, devastating portrait of those who claim homosexuality is an illness that can be healed.

Although I am not sure this film is the first time filmmakers have been allowed inside the “movement,” the advanced buzz caught my eye several months ago and I have been following the development of the video since. Several familiar faces are in the movie, including Richard Cohen, who adds magnets to his magic act. You can watch the trailer here:

What follows is an email interview with Producer/Director Bill Hussung:

Throckmorton: What prompted you to take up the topic of the ex-gay movement?

Hussung: Our initial interest in the issue was sparked by the publication of the Spitzer study. We knew Dr. Spitzer by reputation, and while his study has been roundly criticized by the larger psychiatric community, it caught our attention, and we started researching ex-gay groups and reparative therapists to see if there might be a film in their stories. We’ve always been fans of documentaries about subcultures, so the ex-gay community quickly caught our interest. To be perfectly frank, there was another element at play, the first dozen ex-gay groups we contacted were so hostile to our requests for interviews that we just had to keep pushing and try to understand their point of view. Documentaries are supposed to take viewers places they’ve never been before, and this one really fit the bill.

Throckmorton: What was the biggest surprise to you in your interviewing?

Hussung: There are some real surprises in the film and we don’t want to give them away before people see the documentary. With that said, we were surprised by how many of the ex-gays we spoke to seemed to have experienced some form of abuse as children. What that means, if anything, is open to debate and we explore it in the film. We were also surprised that the distinction between the Christian ex-gay ministries and the supposedly secular reparative therapists crumbled a bit as we delved into the subject matter. The Christian ex-gay groups all seemed to offer some form of therapy, and the reparative therapists were all driven by deeply held religious convictions. 

Throckmorton: What in the film do you think will be surprising to critics of the ex-gay movement?

Hussung: Critics will probably be surprised by how open the ex-gays in are film are about what constitutes “success.” With some exceptions, we didn’t interview people who claim to be 100% “cured” of their homosexuality, we met people who talked about lifelong struggles. They don’t seem to be spewing propaganda about 100% change when their own stories involve a fair amount of struggle and failure and they still identity as ex-gay.

Throckmorton: What do you anticipate the reaction to the film will be from those within ex-gay circles?

Hussung: We have no idea. Our obligation was to follow the facts wherever they took us, and we feel as if we’ve done that.

Throckmorton: I am curious about the title of the video – Chasing the devil — it seems like many ex-gays would say they are avoiding the devil. What was behind this choice of title?

Hussung: The title comes from what we heard over and over again at LIFE Ministry in New York City. LIFE believes very strongly in the power of testimony to drive the devil out of homosexuals and they talk about chasing the devil out of people’s rectums and throats. LIFE Ministry doesn’t talk about running away from the devil, the folks there talk about chasing the devil out of their lives.

Throckmorton: That’s curious because I do not think most people would see Life Ministries as representative of the ex-gay world as a whole.

Hussung: They are the only folks we encountered who framed the issue this way, but they are a center piece of the film, so the title made sense.

Throckmorton: What promotion and distribution do you see in the future?

Hussung: We’re going to do select screenings around the country at film festivals and see what the best options are for breaking up the TV rights, dvd rights, and theatrical possibilities. We expect people will be able to see the film before too long.

Thanks for your thoughts on this new project.

58 thoughts on “Interview with Chasing the Devil Producer Bill Hussung; premiere on Saturday”

  1. Timothy: I don’t think it’s true that “mainstream ex-gay ministries refuse to be interviewed”. On the contray, the film-maker I know has interviewed almost all of them. The 50 to 100 interviews (I have lost count) make up an amazing “who’s who” of this field, many of whom have never consented to be filmed before.

    It’s a wonderful archive of this debate on film. The film-maker has gone out of her way to be fair — interviewing professionals and lay people, both “pro and “con”. At first, they willingly give consent to be filmed and interviewed, then they get cold feet.

  2. I think the difficulty with accurately portraying ex-gays in a documentary are threefold:

    1. The point of a documentary on a different culture is to illustrate the differences.

    A documentary on Spain, for example, wouldn’t be very interesting if it covered Juan and Carlita living a middle class life, working in an office and watching TV at night. No. You need bull fights and flamenco and the Alhambra, all of which probably have very little direct impact on the life of the average Spaniard.

    So what is a documentarian to show: disapproval of homosexual behavior (nope, that’s any conservative Christian), a same-sex person living celibately (nope, there are lots of straights doing the same)? So what you get is something out of the ordinary and interesting: casting demons out of anuses.

    2. You can only interview those willing to be interviewed. And for reasons of their own, mainstream ex-gay ministries refuse to be interviewed.

    But wacky folk, they NEVER object to a camera. I doubt Stephen Bennett or Richard Cohen have ever turned away an interview.

    3. The public face of Exodus seems to be very different from the daily activities of the ministries.

    In general, Exodus has for some time been very visible in anti-gay political activism and in making proclamations about “change is possible” and “my story proves…”. But I don’t think that this has been the focus of the individual ministries.

  3. Here’ are some thoughts from the documentary film-maker I mentioned earlier — about the difficulty of gaining the trust and cooperation of those she is filming:

    “You might also think that everyone would be on their best behavior when someone has a camera and is getting ready to portray you as you really are in a film. Surprisingly, people can show you their worst side and try to bail out when they realize they may have not represented themselves very well.

    Or, they are afraid to be too closely connected with the issue that has become the Pink Elephant in the sanctuary — “homosexuality” — and don’t want to appear to be “soft” on the issue or as if they are condoning it.

    This project has been a delicate balancing act — because of the fact that I went to both sides in an effort to help create a dialogue, I have had to weigh my thoughts and measure my words every step of the way. It’s a fine line and I have been walking on dental floss for over 2 years now.

    This is still an incredibly sensitive subject in many circles. I have often been told in back room conversations on the “down low” that “it’s just not good for business” and that has been proven to me over and over again by several prominent Christian leaders.”

  4. If EXODUS ever expects to be taken seriously or gain the respect of the public for being what Alan Chambers calls a “ministry for all”, then it needs to (1) get out of politics completely, (2) be completely honest and forthright about what “change”really means — and (3) clearly and completely disconnect from and denounce the “fringe”.


  5. Concerned said in post 95339:

    Nothing you said in this post disproved that NARTH mis-represented Hamer’s research. The fact that the media got it wrong as well doesn’t absolve NARTH.

    What Levay study (ies) are you referring to?

    It is good to see that they were thrown out because of their deception.

    who is the they you are referring to? What where they thrown out of? and what was the deception?

  6. Ken,

    I am sorry to have to disagree with you because in this country it was not NARTH making the claims from the Hamer and LeVay studies but the very liberal, left leaning media that had an agenda to push in order to get same-sex marriage passed in a government that in no way represented the majority of people in this country. It is good to see that they were thrown out because of their deception.

  7. concerned said in post 95229:

    Whether any of you are able to accept it or not there have been many people who have been helped by NARTH.

    The problem is there are also people who have been hurt by NARTH as well. The issue is what are the sizes of those 2 groups. Further, NARTH makes many questionable or outright false claims based on shoddy, discredited or non-existent research.

    I call anyone who still holds onto the gay gene myth fringe.

    what “myth” is that? That there is a single gene that causes people to be gay? You are right that is a myth. And this is an example of the kind of distortions NARTH (and others) puts out. The research into the genetic factors of homosexuality (I’m familiar with Hamer and Bailey’s work), doesn’t actually make any claims of a “gay gene.” What they claim is there appears to be a correlation between genetic makeup and sexual orientation (and admittedly they may over emphasize the importance of the correlation) However, NARTH mis-represents them as claiming there is a “gay gene” to create a straw-man they can easily shoot down to “discredit” their work. Now, the press often gets it wrong too, however, the ‘R’ in NARTH is supposed to stand for “research” so you would think they would be able to understand it better than the press.

  8. The questions at hand seem to be (1) “Why can’t ex-gays get a fair shake with film-makers?” (2) “Why do these film-makers insist on shooting pictures of the “fringe elements” — instead of focussing on the “real issues”? And, (3) why doesn’t a documentary film-maker try to make an objective film about this important debate?


    (1) Ex-gays are understably afraid that they will be humliated on camera. The have good reason to fear this.! In the past, they have been made fools of — and they have done a real good job of making fools of themselves.

    Due to their fear, they pull away. They become secretive and defensive — instead of working with the film-makers to represent themselves well. What would happen if EXODUS took a step of faith and reached out to documentray film-makers?

    (2) To use a Broadway musical analogy, the film-makers focus on the “fringe” instead of the lovely “surrey” because the “fringe” is so glaringly offensive! If the “fringe” makes the “surrey” look bad — cut it off!

    (3) Someone is trying to make succh a film.! The director has filmed interviews with nearly everyone of importance — pro and con — on these issues, including: Alan Chmabers, Gagon, Nicolosi, Joe Dallas and even Dr, Throckkorton. The director tells me that the ex-gay fear is the major obstacle she has encountered along the way.

  9. Whether any of you are able to accept it or not there have been many people who have been helped by NARTH. I for one owe a great deal of gratitude to the work that NARTH has done. You keep calling them fringe. I call Simon LeVay and Dean Hamer fringe for their attempt to make something real that was not. I call anyone who still holds onto the gay gene myth fringe. Does this mean I agree with everything that is presented by NARTH, not at all, but some of what they have given us has taken away much of the false information being provided by the APA and the very vocal gay activists that seem to have had the ear of the media for way too long.

  10. I deffintely appreciated Straight to Jesus as being the best piece of scholarship out there on the ex-gay movement, and I would agree that it is the most “balanced” perspective on the ex-gay movement. But I think Michael has a point too – its hard to be objective about a movement that only half-heartedly rejects people like Cohen and Life Ministry. Besides, One Nation Under God was able to interview people from both Exodus and Life, and while Life was more extreme, Exodus wasn’t a heck of a lot better. What I’d be more concerned about is the use of emotionally manipulative music, sound effects, etc. a la Jesus Camp. Of the documentaries I’ve seen on the ex-gay movement and evangelicalism in general, this is an unfortunately frequent tactic (noticeably absent, however, in Fish Can’t Fly). But when you get right down to it, documentaries simply aren’t the best vechile for serious discussions of issues – they’re more important in terms of raising awareness.

    I would agree with Warren that they won’t portray these ministries in a realistic manner. But I think that in many ways that helps ex-gay ministries. Imagine what would happen if they actually showed what goes on behind closed doors, as it is happening. I don’t think Exodus or LIA could deal with that. I know from my experience at Christian reform camps that things are much worse behind the scenes than people make them out to be in real life.

  11. Warren: Sadly, these “fringe elements” are a real part of the “entire scene”. In the “reparative therapy” movement, wackos, weirdos, quacks, homophobes, fearmongers and extremists abound. No wonder film-makers have taken aim at them.

    If it really wanted to, EXODUS could do much more to see that it is portrayed in a fair manner. Has EXODUS spoken out against Kern as you did? No. Has EXODUS clearly denounced Cameron and his “evil” teachings as you did? No. Have they dumped NARTH as you did? No.

    Have they made a “clean break” from politics as Wendy Griiter urged them to do — and as Alan Chambers recently gave the public, but false, impression that EXODUS would do? No.

    If EXODUS and the Ex-gay movement really want to be seen as a legitmate “ministry for all” — and if they truly want to quit getting repeatedly shot in the in the rump, then they need to totally remove these irresistable targets from their backsides.

  12. The Cohen and Life Ministry connection are probably irresistable to documentarians but it seems to me that a good service would be done by a film to show the differences rather than the similarities.

    Like Randy, I am intrigued by this film but I doubt it will demonstrate the entire scene in a realistic manner.

  13. Karen, you said: “It would be much more helpful to actually examine the real issues, rather than getting distracted by these absurd fringe elements. It takes away from a real and honest discussion about the actual problems that do exist.”

    I agree with the idea that documentary films (even those with a definite point of view) should at least try to be objective . But you see, Karen, EXODUS and the “ex-gay movement’s” ongoing affliation with some of these “absurd fringe elements” is a “real issue” and is a big part of the “actual problems that do exist“.

    The film may not mention NARTH, but EXODUS is still affiliated with NARTH — and NARTH is still connected to Cameron, Berger, Schoenewolf, etc. You are known by the company you keep.

    If EXODUS ever expects to be taken seriously or gain the respect of the public for being what Alan Chambers calls a “ministry for all”, then it needs to (1) get out of politics completely, (2) be completely honest and forthright about what “change”really means — and (3) clearly and completely disconnect from and denounce the “fringe”.

  14. Hi Michael,

    I am not trying to excuse Exodus for some of the mistakes they have made. I only prefer to have sound research in a documentary–whatever kind of documentary it is. For example, you bring up some good points about NARTH that would be worth exploring in an objective way. I don’t believe the documentary is about NARTH though. At least that is not the impression I get. And, even if NARTH is mentioned, the whole thing is skewed by the misrepresentation that it does include.

    It would be much more helpful to actually examine the real issues, rather than getting distracted by these absurd fringe elements. It takes away from a real and honest discussion about the actual problems that do exist. A more objective, reflective documentary might actually lead to positive discussion and change.

    As an example of good research, I appreciated the book “Straight to Jesus” by Tanya Erzen. Here is a scholar who didn’t understand or necessarily agree with the ex-gay movement, but actually worked very hard to be objective and write a fair representation. I would like to see more of this kind of quality research rather than the sensationalistic stuff that people are resorting to as in this documentary. But, perhaps some folks are not really interested in sound research. Sensationalism gets more attention, and it is a quick way to influence the public to a certain viewpoint–which is exactly why the Religious Right uses the same strategy.

  15. Hey Eddy: Write me sometime. Would love to reconnect off the blogs and just get to know each other as friends. Hey, we can get nostalgic about the red and gold [email protected]

  16. John Weaver–

    Thanks! I’ve got tunes going on my media player…seeing if I can pull any of ’em off without needing the teleprompter. It happened by accident last week and I pulled it off, stumbling only once, without any visuals. Scary and fun at the same time. Considering “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” and “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”.

    Just wanted to tell you that I left somewhere around ’84…I think. I hadn’t even heard of the Memphis LIA but it may have existed without me knowing about it. That’s why I need to check with my friend, I may have missed it–or it could have happened after I left. Have a good night. There’s a taste of spring in the air so it may be overwhelmed with young partiers tonight. LOL. I may be back home early!

  17. See ya, Eddy. Enjoy karaoke.

    And hey, you probably know more about this stuff than I do. I’ve done a lot of research on LIA, but I never experienced it. I just feel suspicious of the link between mental illness and homosexuality in many evangelicals minds (The memphis LIA may never have used Moberly. I know Frank Worthen used it as of 1999-2000, at New Hope, or whatever they call the former LIA).

    Have a great night, Eddy.

  18. John Weaver–

    Let’s say I was a bright and talented individual with a few degrees under my belt but I simply couldn’t commit to any career choice. The fears, self-doubts, lack of drive or focus could all be ‘multi-causal developmental issues’ that need ‘healing’ but are not pathological.

    Re the “inner healing”. Moberly was only one voice. Her theories and Leanne Payne’s differed. In my day (some 30 years ago when Exodus was in its infancy), the shelves of Christian bookstores were full of books on ‘inner healing’. Most leaned more towards Leanne’s take than to Elizabeth Moberly.

    I have a friend who worked at LIA until just a few years ago, I’ll need to ask her about any emphasis on Moberly’s teachings there. When I was involved in ministry, two ministries in particular seemed to endorse her but I don’t recall LIA jumping on that bandwagon. I’ll see what I can dig up.

    I may need to check out for the evening. Friday is karaoke night and I’m an addict. (Michael, this isn’t at a gay bar but I’m sure it’s just as bad…some nights worse than others. (uhhh…sometimes I’m part of the bad but most times I make the A list. Back when we first met, I wouldn’t even lead “Happy Birthday” willingly.) I love it when the lesbians show up in force. Just when I think I’ve heard the absolute best rendition of “Sin Wagon” ever, some new gal will show up and deliver it even better. Much preferred over some over-served straight guy managing to butcher a Johnny Cash song.)

  19. From Exodus

    “We believe homosexuality to be a multi-causal, developmental issue and that any individual can experience freedom through the support of caring individuals and the healing power of Jesus Christ” (Exodus FAQS)

    I’m sorry, but that sounds like a pathologization of homosexuality to me. They may not be coming out and saying that homosexuality is a mental illness, but that certainly seems like one of the few rational interpretations of their position. Furthermore, if programs like Frank Worthen’s are basing their position on Moberly and psychoanalytic theory, they are using theories that already pathologized the glbt community as mentally ill.

    That being said, I think many ex-gays themselves do not see homosexuality as a mental illness, just a problem to be overcome. And, of course, most of the hetero evangelicals I know just see it as “sick perversion”, unrelated to mental defect (I know that is not Warren’s position though, nor am I denying that there are many evangelicals who try to be understanding of homosexuality, even though they might disagree with it.

  20. Mayne you’re right, Eddy, but considering that they ripped their inner healing stuff out of Elizabeth Moberly, who in turn ripped it out of psychoanalytic theory, I have to admit some skepticism there.

  21. John Weaver–

    I disagree that most Exodus agencies regard homosexuality as a mental illness. Many didn’t realize that when they used the word ‘healing’, to most it implied that there had to be a sickness to be healed of. Their use of the word ‘healing’ is, IMHO, largely attributed to the ‘inner healing’ movement where God heals you of any manner of afflictions…some mental illnessess but others merely ‘bruises’.

  22. Eddy,

    You are right, I was referring to a very vocal fringe element that makes up some of the people who are same-sex attracted. I know there are many very kind, compassionate, understanding people out there who find themselves attracted to members of the same gender, but who do not feel it necessary to push their ideas on others, just as I know there are many kind, compassionate, understanding Christians who do not believe homosexuality is an all together good thing for society as a whole but try to reach out and show love to those who experience this attraction. Sometimes the love is reciprocated and sometimes it is rejected.

  23. Eddy,

    I can partly see your point, but the motive for most ex-gay programs, though not neccessarily Warren’s, is that they are treating a mental illness that they also see as a sin. And though therapy does extend to those who do not have any mental health issues, its primary focus still is – and should be – people who have OCD, anorexia, schizophrenia, or other significant mental health issues. And whether that notion went out of style in society as a whole, the perception in the evangelical community is usually that therapy is reserved almost exclusively for the mentally ill, with an occasional family therapy session as well. My point, in any case, is that homosexuality can not be both a mental illness and a sin. If reparative therapists (which Warren admiteddely is not) declare homosexuality a mental illness, than I’m at a loss to see how they can also declare it a sin. It does not make any rational sense.

  24. John Weaver–

    The notion that people seek therapy only because they’re mentally ill went out years ago. Think of it more as ‘a wellness program’; the majority are involved because they are well and want to stay that way.


    So relieved you got the joke. I do believe many bars have probably moved away from that motif but, LOL, it’s such a powerful image (all that red and gold) that it never goes away. I imagine though, for those who have kept it, that they are cursing the fact that they went with the velvet…you can’t just paint over that. Oh no! You’ve got to strip it all away and refinish before you can do anything new. And, of course, half the crowd is going to defend the stuff for reasons of sentiment or bad taste…so it lingers.


    I agree with you. I wish some more practical spokespeople from within the ex-gay crowd would have stepped forward.


    I didn’t hear you say that gay people were a ‘fringe element’ but rather that gay activists might be considered one. And activists generally know how to play the media rather well.

  25. Michael,

    Good points about Exodus. I think Life Ministries is somewhat out of the Exodus mainstream, but hey that mainstream is extreme to begin with. I think too, that sometimes, what people in the pews believe is more extreme than what mainstream organizations believe, which can make it difficult to find what is mainstream in a movement. I was talking with a represenative of CCEF today, the leading biblical counseling ministry, who was very reasonable and whose organization has, unlike Exodus, somewhat moderated over the years. The problem is that that message of moderation has not been passed down to the mainstream of the movement, which still seems to think that mental illness is a sin or at least something deviant. I think similar things go on in ex-gay ministries,. The problem with Exodus is that so many times what the pew believes is injected into the ministry of the pulpit, making Exodus a hundred times more weird than it already is. One thing that has always interested me is why people go into ex-gay ministry. Do people in ex-gay ministries represent the most intolerant aspect of evangelicalism, or by actually agreeing to talk with gays are they more tolerant, but also more damaging to gays and lesbians? I really don’t know – I’ve heard people advocate both positions. I know Worthen’s wife joined cause she had a gay son (at least if I remember Straight to Jesus correctly). It seems that a large number of ‘straight’ exodus workers, like the Harrens, join because they have gay relatives and can’t deal with that.

  26. Concerned – I would disagree with you. Gay people are definitely a minority, but not at all a “fringe element” – of course we could get into an argument over definitions again.

  27. Thanks Warren. I guess that confuses me a little more. If its not a mental illness, why do you give gay people mental health treatment. Are you saying it’s just a sin? Or are you saying that the sexual orientation is not a sin, but that the behaviour is? I guess i’m just a little lost. Thanks, Warren.

  28. Karen: You “agree that there has been some affiliation with these obscure groups/people in the past” but you insist that “that is not the case now.”

    Not so, Karen. And it’s not just wacko demon-hunters and anal-purifiers like L.I.F.E. True, EXODUS distanced themselves from the Higley’s — but only when it got too embarassing for them.

    As early as last year, EXODUS was still citing Cameron’s “research” — and only pulled it off their website at the suggestion of Dr. Throckmorton. Keep in mind that EXODUS has only stopped using Cameron as a reference. As of today, they have still not clearly denounced the man or what he stands for.

    I believe EXODUS stilll is affiliated with NARTH — and NARTH still has as “expert advisors” men like Berger (who urges us to tease and ridicule “gender variant” kids) and Schoenewolf (who says blacks had it “better off” as slaves and were little more than “savages” in Africa anyway.

    EXODUS is still affliated with NARTH — and NARTH still cites Carmeron’s “research”. Throckmorton says his attitudes and teachings are “evil” — and has clearly spoken out about the evil he preaches. Why won’t NARTH? Why won’t EXODUS?

    EXODUS only disavowed Cohen when he made a complete fool of himself on TV. As I said before, EXODUS is fine with these wacko affiliations until they get egg on EXODUS’s face. They have been very careless in the past. Practically anyone who agreed with them was OK.

  29. Jayhuck,

    I would content that many of the progay activits that are speaking out are also a fringe element, it is just that the media seems to want to focus more on their message than that of people who have faith in something more than themselves these days.

  30. Warren, i don’t know if you read my last post. i don’t mean to be offensive. I’m just wondering why if homosexuality is a sin and a mental illness, that you don’t believe that other mental illnesses that induce ‘sinful’ behaviour aren’t also sin. I still don’t get what the difference is. Thanks so much and God bless.

  31. Karen,

    With all due respect – Exodus IS really a fringe element – but I suppose you can have fringe elements in fringe elements 🙂

  32. John; I suppose it depends on how you define “sin”. To me, sin is not the behavior. It is the motivation of the heart. Man sees the outside. God sees in.

    Jesus seems to say that sin is either (1) substituting someone or something for God, making ourselves God or not loving Him with all all hearts, souls and minds, or (2) violating other human beings who happen to be His Children too — not loving them as we love ourselves.

    See Matthew 22:40 — “The whole of the Law and the Prophets is summed up in these two Commandments.” Weymouth New Testament

    Other’s will say that “sin” is any “no-no” on their paritcular, very selective “list” — derived at by carefully and selfishly picking and choosing which Biblical laws to obey — and which ones to just impose on others I call that the “list mentality” — it’s “sin” if it’s on their list.

    No need to think about why or how it is sin, no need search the motivations of our hearts, no need to really think or to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Nope. Just check your list. Isn’t that simple?

  33. Michael,

    I agree that there has been some affiliation with these obscure groups/people in the past, but that is not the case now. The documentary is claiming to be a current “unveiling” of the ex-gay “movement.” These fringe elements are not , in fact, currently a centerpiece of the ex-gay movement as it is being portrayed it the documentary.


    Its unfortunate that other ex-gay groups that are more representative of the movement didn’t come forward. Though I can understand their tenativeness. In any case, the lack of certain resources does not excuse poor and misleading reporting.

    I have no problem with a documentary featuring fringe elements. My complaint is not that they are featuring LIFE ministry or Richard Cohen. The problem I have is when it doesn’t honestly report that these are fringe. Instead it says it is “inside the ex-gay movement.” Its making a certain claim that is not accurate.

    I would just prefer people on all sides be more honesty. The gay community doesn’t like it when the Religious Right puts out stuff about short life spans and mischaracterizes change etc etc. Or represents the wild gay pride parades and other fringe elements as being representative of the gay community.

  34. Since this blogpost sort of brings up the issue, I was just wondering your take on it?

    How can homosexuality be a mental illness and still be a sin? Does the same thinking also argue that a schizophrenic who commits a violent act because they are delusional, or someone who swears because they have tourettes, or someone who curses the holy spirit because they have OCD, is also sinning? Is an anorexic sinning when she starves herself, etc.? I know you’ve written on this, but I really did not understand the distinctions you made last time around.

    Any way, best wishes.

  35. Eddy: You are a hoot. Sounds like you and I have been to some of the same bars — red and gold wallpaper with crushed velvet! I have always wondered: If gays are supposed to be so creative and possess such an intuitive aesthetic sense, why are our bars so tacky?

  36. Sounds very interesting. Perhaps I am jaded but I am not usually enthused by documentaries (in general, not just this issue.) But this one seems intriguing for some reason.

  37. Michael,

    I do see what you’re saying. I guess it just amounts to a difference in approaches too. I agree that painting LIA and Exodus as anything other than wacked out is extremely hard. And don’t even get me started on Life Ministries (I just e-mailed them to see if I could interview them for my biblical counseling documentary, but in some ways I hope they turn me down).

    I think though, that documentary film has a real hard time handling evangelical culture, or at least portraying it accurately. A lot of that is the nature of the medium. A large part of it, often, is choice in subject matter, etc. Jesus Camp obviously is the classic example. The perception the movie gives off is that all evangelicals are like Becky Fischer and company, which anyone who has spent five minutes in evangelical culture knows is a bunch of a word I can’t say. Yet people go out of a movie like Jesus Camp, and can say the most naive things about the movie. “A portrait of the typical evangelical”, “A remarkably balanced film”, “An inside look into the evangelical subculture”. I love the documentary, but anyone thinking it even approaches balanced is on a mind-enhancing substance. “Hell House”, a documentary on evangelical hell houses, does better but suffers from similar flaws. A typical documentary on evangelicalism seems to gravitate to the most extreme evangelical movements: hell houses, purity balls, Battlecry, etc. I can understand then, why a lot of my former co-religionists are skeptical of the documentary form. That’s why in the documentary I’m doing on the biblical counseling movement, I’m hoping to interview primarily mainstream biblical counselors, and interview both victims of the movement and people who are happy with their experience, then just let the audience decide what they think about biblical counseling. I think that documentaries on the ex-gay movement would benefit from moving from the agitprop modality that they have had for the last 15 years. Pretty much anyone who is secular, mainline Protestant, liberal Catholic, etc. thinks that homosexuality is o.k. Opinion polls show clearly that national approval of homosexuality is rising rapidly – which freaks the religous right out to no end. What documentaries need to do now, I think, is try to get the hard to get – moderate evangelicals, conservative Catholics, etc. – groups that need a little push into the pro-gay camp, but groups that probably are capable of change. To do that, though, I think filmmakers need to be more sensitive to evangelical cultural concerns and to – frankly – know what they are talking about when it comes to evangelicalism. Again, I love Wayne, but when he says on his blog that Warren teaches at a fundamentalist college, I want to rip my hair out. Grove City is Reformed, and that is not a small distinction, but a distinction that needs to be understood as vitally important (and frankly, I find Reformed Christians a heck of a lot scarier than fundies). Evangelicals are only going to have contempt for secular outreach efforts if those efforts are predicated on woefully false understandings of evangelical culture. WHen documentary filmmakers seem to barely understand the difference between Pentecostals and mainstream evangelicals, when they ignore the emergence of the emergent church or classify it as simply another conservative movement, when they make documentaries about abortion that portray most pro-lifers as wingnut extremists, then of course evangelicals are not going to want to dialogue. I wouldn’t either. Such cultural arrogance shows an astonishing lack of both sensitivity and tolerance, traits that the left rightly keeps trying to get the right to embrace.

    Sorry, don’t mean to rant. God bless everyone

  38. Karen K–

    I think Bill may have answered your question already. When they approached a number of Exodus agencies to be filmed, they all said ‘no’; Joanne and L.I.F.E. were the ones who said they’d go for it. LOL! I do appreciate the fact, BTW, that while everybody has taken note of the ‘demons of the oral and anal cavities’; we ALL realize that isn’t an Exodus belief. It’s partly Joann’s eccentricity but it’s that New York Times Square locale that they’re in. I spent a weekend there years ago and was literally exhausted by the seemingly non-stop drama, both on and off the stage.

    (A total aside: I just remembered that on my first evening a few of us went out to dinner. On our return walk, we approached a corner just after a body hit the street. Hill Street Blues in real life. Later that night, we went to a Christian coffeehouse/theatre just off Times Square. It was getting late; I was heading for the door when a young woman burst in warning “Don’t go out there. There’s shooting going on.” In the daytime, I ventured to the corner store to escape the drama. A man approached me and offered me a ‘fine woman’. I laughed and said I wasn’t into that. Without a moment’s hesitation, he was offering me a ‘fine man’ or ‘anything in between, if you know what I mean.’ LOL! I was thankful to get back to the L.I.F.E. drama.)


    I’ve put up with a lot of ‘over the line’ statements but your inference that red and gold wallpaper with crushed velvet textures is somehow ‘tacky’…that’s one I may never be able to forgive.

  39. John, I agree with you that “part of the reason no one has ever really gotten inside LIA, Refuge, etc. to film actual sessions – besides the fact that these people are notoriously secretive – is because there was a concern – and I would have to say, a legitimate concern – that they would be painted in the worse possible light.”

    But, hey, that’s the light LIA gives off. Love In Action began with a lie — that the six people in “The Third Sex” had become straight. And Frank Worthen, the man that EXODUS used to claim as its sole founder, believes that anyone who calls themselves “gay” and “Christian” is going to be “pushed into the lake of fire by God’s angels”. He is “in the light” and refuses to have any fellowship with “the darkness”. The “light” can’t get much worse than that.

  40. Michael Bussee

    Ok wait a minute… I see the disconnect.

    What I was saying was that abuse is common and SSA is common. Occasionally these will overlap each other by ACCIDENT. So now you’ve got a gay man who was sexually abused and he may assume that the abuse caused his orientation.

    In some cases abuse probably can lead to SSA. But I would bet that most gay people on this board remember no significant (or any) abuse in their childhood.

  41. Karen K.: Point is, throughout its history, EXODUS has routinely hitched up with or cited the “work” and “research” of such “fringe elements” — Highley, Cohen, Cameron, Nicolosi, people who do beauty “make-overs” for lesbians, etc. when it suited them.

    Then, when these wackos are exposed, EXODUS creates distance and says: “They are not part of us!” They do this over and over and over again… It’s not the fault of the film-makers. EXODUS makes it so easy. If EXODUS does not want to look like some sort of wacko organization, it needs to be much more careful…

  42. I’m not criticizing it for being partisan, Michael. When One Nation under God came out, a partisan documentary on the issue was definitely needed. And frankly, I have a hard time not being partisan against reparative therapy myself. But I think some of the newer documentaries could be far more devastating against reparative therapy if they had a certain level of journalistic detachment. I think part of the reason no one has ever really gotten inside LIA, Refuge, etc. to film actual sessions – besides the fact that these people are notoriously secretive – is because there was a concern – and I would have to say, a legitimate concern – that they would be painted in the worse possible light. Now, granted, what LIA is doing can’t be painted in much other of a light no matter what a filmmaker does, but still . . . For instance Fish Can’t Fly uses Wayne Besen as its objective media source. I like Wayne a lot, I like what he does a lot, but reparative therapy needs a more sustainable analysis than “Fundies are wackos”. I think people like Dr. Blair are ultimately far more devastating against reparative therapy because they can provide a historical contextualization of these movements and link them up with former repressive movements in the past, without showing obvious bias. Just telling the victims stories straight through is often more devastating to the religious right than using well-meaning, but overly passionate GLBT advocates. Just my opinion, though. Like I said I have tremendous respect for what Wayne does and for what you do as well.

  43. Hi Bill,

    You mention that LIFE ministry is the center piece of your film. Yet, they are not representative of the majority of ex-gay ministry, nor is Richard Cohen. They are fringe elements that the movement itself does not accept.

    Is there a reason you chose such fringe elements as the centerpiece? I am assuming if you did your research you would have known that was the case.

    It is always curious to me how people who put out these types of films will swear up and down they sought to be objective and the research is solid when its clear that even basic concepts of sound research are not even followed.

    It might make for entertainment, but its hard for me to see how it will contribute anything terribly meaningful to the discussion. And that is unfortunate.

  44. Of course One Nation Under God was partisan. Documentaries often have a particular message or point of view. The director of the film made no bones about that. The film-makers intended to show the worst about EXODUS and reparative therapy. Lucky for them, EXODUS was very accomodating and it wasn’t hard to find.

  45. Yea, Michael I couldn’t believe that scene. Or the scene in Fish Can’t Fly where the woman’s lesbianism was compared to cannibalism (those scary gay cannibals, it’s like Night of the Living Gays). I was really moved by your testimony in One Nation Under God. Even though I’m not gay, I felt I could relate alot because of how evangelicals commonly treat mentally ill people like me. Some of the experiences people described in LIA mirrored my experiences at “ex-psycho” camps, like His Mansion Ministries. Except for us, our FI’s were having obsessions over which we had no control (usually religious ones, go figure), or accepting that the field of psychology might have some advantages over biblical counseling.

    Seriously, I can understand evangelicals feeling that One Nation Under God is too partisan (a la Dr. Throckmorton’s review of it on Amazon, no offense Warren). In many ways it was. But still, I don’t know how anyone can watch that film and think that any kind of reparative therapy or even values orientation therapy can do anything but cause pain. I wish someone would do a documentary of actual reparative therapy sessions in action, as I feel that would give a better feel for what the therapy is like, and probably be less amenable to accusations of bias. But of course, Exodus isn’t too crazy about that and though I’m sure Dr. Throckmorton would be more open to it, what he does really isn’t exactly reparative therapy anyway.

  46. L.I.F.E. ministry, at one time a member of EXODUS, is also profiled in “One Nation Under God”. In that documentary, exorcist Joanne Highley gleefully reports that she “binds demons in the name of Jesus” and casts them out of “mouths and throats and anal canals anywhere there has been an unclean deposit of semen” due to “rolling around on the floors of gay bars having gay sex”. Makes ya wonder, doesn’t it? Just where are these bars she is talking about? Whenever I visit the gay taverns, all I get is tacky decor and bad karaoke…

  47. Michael Bussee

    my first sentence

    It goes without saying that I don’t believe male SSA is caused by sexual abuse except in rare cases.

    I’m not saying that childhood abuse couldn’t cause SSA but I would guess that in WAY more than most cases it doesn’t.

  48. Drowssap, you said: “Sexual abuse is reasonably common and SSA is reasonably common. When those two groups overlap you end up with people in a lot of pain who want/need answers.”

    No doubt that victims of abuse want and need answers, But be careful here. Just because two things occur together does not mean that one causes the other. They are countless straight people who were also abused as kids — and plenty of gay people who were not.

    To assume that one causes the other is a fallacy of reasoning known as “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” — and it is the most common mistake that ex-gay groups and reparative therapists make.


    Frankly, looks like a better documentary. This is what love in action looks like deals with the Zach Stark case, even has an interview with Zach himself. I don’t know why everybody thinks the ex-gay documentary hasn’t been done before. I know of at least 8 or 9 documentaries on the subject, with One Nation Under God and Fish Can’t Fly being the best. Frankly, I was impressed with this is what love in action looks like, cause it was the first original take on the subject in a long time.

    And why hasn’t anyone done a documentary on biblical counseling, which probably hurts even more people than reparative therapy? Don’t get me wrong, I think reparative therapy hurts people, but biblical counselingnouthetics is so controversial even reparative therapists won’t touch it. I know some people don’t think b. counseling still goes on, but I’ve seen it alive in well in the Northeast.

    Just a thought. God bless you all.

  50. jayhuck

    LIFE believes very strongly in the power of testimony to drive the devil out of homosexuals and they talk about chasing the devil out of people’s rectums and throats.

    But you have to admit, quotes like that make life more interesting. 😎

  51. To be honest though – this film looks very interesting – the fact that is has both Richard Cohen and Peterson Toscano in it intrigues me.

  52. OK – This has to be the best quote out of that interview:

    LIFE believes very strongly in the power of testimony to drive the devil out of homosexuals and they talk about chasing the devil out of people’s rectums and throats.

  53. we were surprised by how many of the ex-gays we spoke to seemed to have experienced some form of abuse as children

    It goes without saying that I don’t believe male SSA is caused by sexual abuse except in rare cases. But I still think that’s an interesting quote. Sexual abuse is reasonably common and SSA is reasonably common. When those two groups overlap you end up with people in a lot of pain who want/need answers.

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