Earlier this month, Netflix released an original documentary entitled Pray Away, a one-sided hit piece featuring former ex-gay leaders touting the ills of so-called “conversion therapy” based on their failed attempts to “pray away the gay.” The documentary presents the ex-ex-gay disillusionment as an emerging phenomenon that will gain momentum as people become more aware of their heart-wrenching stories.
But the phenomenon is not new at all; the Bible foretold it thousands of years ago, prophesying that false teachers would slip in among the body of Christ, secretly introducing destructive heresies, bringing the way of truth into disrepute, exploiting people with fabricated stories, appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, exchanging the truth of God for a lie, worshiping created things rather than the Creator, perverting the grace of God as license for immorality, and promising freedom while they themselves are slaves of depravity (2 Peter 2:1-22; Romans 1:25-32; Jude 4).
The stories in Pray Away share a common theme: each leader fixated on their enduring same-sex attraction (SSA) as proof that change is not possible. In short, they elevated their subjective experience of temptation over the objective truth of the Word, changing their theology to match their experience.
Their delusion begins with a faulty premise: nowhere does the Bible promise that the believer will ever be delivered from temptation. Even Jesus was tempted just as we are—yet was without sin (Heb. 4:15). However, rather than allowing temptation to define him, Jesus responded with the truth of God’s Word (Matthew 4). He refused to coddle ungodly desires or embrace them as his inherent identity like the ex-ex-gay leaders do in Pray Away. The documentary reveals a subtle lie infiltrating the body of Christ: “sexual orientation” not only exists—it is inborn, immutable, and wholly resistant to the power of God.
Lies. All lies.
The most advanced research examining millions of genes reveals SSA is not hardwired into one’s genetic makeup akin to race or eye color.(1) Furthermore, if SSA were entirely genetic, identical twins would always share identical “sexual orientations.” And yet, research shows that less than 10% of the time both identical twins are gay,(2) leading researchers to conclude that environmental influences must play a role in the development of SSA.(3) Furthermore, the latest research contradicts the immutability of “sexual orientation,” indicating sexual attractions can be fluid rather than fixed.(4)
To contend that SSA constitutes an “orientation” that remains inborn and immutable is not only contrary to science, it is contrary to Scripture: such were some of you (1 Cor. 6:9-11). SSA is as old as time, and such attractions are no different than any other temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). To claim one has an immutable “sexual orientation” resistant to change is as absurd as claiming one has an inborn, immutable orientation toward lying, lust, porn, pride, or jealousy. We all have an inborn inclination toward sin, yes. But once we are born again, we are instructed to “put off [our] old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of [our] minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:22-24).
According to the Bible, SSA is nothing more than “deceitful desires” associated with the fallen self. The desires are real—I can attest to that as one who was once exclusively attracted to women. However, those desires are based on lies and deceit, attempting to convince you that you are not who God created you to be.
I also know firsthand that freedom from such desires is possible. The biblical remedy is to replace lies with truth, renewing our mind with the Word and agreeing with who God created us to be as we step into our new, regenerated self in Christ. The Bible calls that sanctification, and it’s a lifelong process of dying to self and surrendering all to his Lordship—as opposed to a one-step program requiring no death to self nor participation in the process, as connotated by “praying away the gay.”
John Paulk, one of the featured ex-ex-gay leaders in Pray Away, reveals the fact that he refused to surrender all and instead coddled his secret gay porn addiction—all the while lying to the world that he was free. He refused to put off the old self and chose the maladaptive coping mechanism of gay porn to self-medicate rather than face the pain that lies behind his desperate thirst for male connection.
In contrast, myself and those whom I know who have found freedom from SSA were willing to forsake their maladaptive coping strategies and, by God’s grace, face the pain of their past that contributed to the development of SSA. That takes time. That takes courage. And it necessitates the leading of the Holy Spirit to show us where rejection from the past may contribute to our present compulsions for same-sex connection.
At its root, SSA is not a sexual issue; it results from wounds of rejection and lies of the enemy that become embedded in the mind, influencing our emotions and our will by convincing us that sexual connection with someone of the same sex will heal our fractured soul. The temptations are real, but the enemy’s promise to resolve the anguish of the soul through the homosexual act is a deceitful lie that ultimately leads to exclusion from the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
That’s what grieves me most about the leaders in Pray Away. They’ve been seduced by the enemy’s lies, and they shamelessly influence others to follow their lead to eternal damnation. Lord, have mercy upon those who have become the enemy’s prey. Open their eyes to the truth before it’s too late, and grant us grace not to fall prey to the same delusion.
These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. (2 Peter 2:17-21)
(1) Ganna, et al. 2019. “Large-Scale GWAS Reveals Insights into the Genetic Architecture of Same-Sex Sexual Behavior.” Science 365, 6456 (August 30, 2019): 1-8. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aat7693.
(2) Långström, et al. 2010. “Genetic and Environmental Effects on Same-Sex Sexual Behavior: A Population Study of Twins in Sweden.” The Official Publication of the International Academy of Sex Research 39, no. 1 (February): 75-80. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10508-008-9386-1.
(3) Ibid, 79.
(4) Diamond, Lisa. 2016. “Sexual Fluidity in Male and Females.” Current Sexual Health Reports 8, no. 4 (November): 249-256. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11930-016-0092-z.
© August 6, 2021 by Linda A. Seiler
Rev. Linda A. Seiler, PhD was exclusively attracted to women and once had plans to get a sex change before God intervened in her life and lead her on an eleven-year journey of transformation. Today, she is content in a female body and wholly attracted to men, ministering to others from her personal experience combined with academic research. To read more about Linda’s story, visit lindaseiler.com.