Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement

Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement

Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement

Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement

Synopsis

Every year, hundreds of gay men and lesbians join ex-gay ministries in an attempt to convert to non-homosexual Christian lives. In this fascinating study of the transnational ex-gay movement, Tanya Erzen focuses on the everyday lives of men and women at New Hope Ministry, a residential ex-gay program, over the course of several years. Straight to Jesus traces the stories of people who have renounced long-term relationships and moved from other countries out of a conviction that the conservative Christian beliefs of their upbringing and their own same-sex desires are irreconcilable. Rather than definitively changing from homosexual to heterosexual, the participants experience a conversion that is both sexual and religious as born-again evangelical Christians. At New Hope, they maintain a personal relationship with Jesus and build new forms of kinship and belonging. By becoming what they call "new creations," these men and women testify to religious transformation rather than changes in sexual desire or behavior. Straight to Jesus exposes how the Christian Right attempts to repudiate gay identity and political rights by using the ex-gay movement as evidence that "change is possible." Instead, Erzen reveals, the realities of the lives she examines actually undermine this anti-gay strategy.

Excerpt

In a run-down community center in San Rafael, California, a middleaged man spoke haltingly in front of fifty people sitting on rickety folding chairs. As he testified to the power of Jesus in changing his life, there were murmurs of assent. He told the assembly, “I will never be the same again. I have closed the door.” What would be a fairly normal evangelical church experience was transformed as he recounted his pornography addiction and his anonymous sexual encounters with other men. Rather than expressing shock or outrage, the members of the audience raised their arms and called out, “Praise him” and “Praise the Lord.” Hank was one of a dozen men who had come to New Hope Ministry to rid themselves of homosexuality. At this annual Friends and Family conference, his testimony provided assurance to the gathering that after three years, he was a living example of the possibility for change.

Listening raptly in the audience was a new member of the program. Curtis, twenty-one years old, with streaks of blond in his hair and numerous facial piercings, had arrived from Canada a month before. Raised in a nondenominational conservative Christian family of missionaries, Curtis believed that having same-sex desire was antithetical to living a Christian life. At age sixteen, he had come out to his family as “someone with gay feelings who wants to change.” Instead of attending college, he had been involved in Christian youth groups since he was eighteen. Aside from a clandestine sexual relationship in high school, he had never allowed himself to date men. Eventually, with the encouragement of his . . .

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