Can You Really Pray the Gay Out of Kids?

Janelle Harris
46

Gay churchI’ve been a regular church-goer since I was fresh out of the neonatal unit. Some of the old hymnals in my grandmother’s sanctuary still have my toddler doodles scrawled across the pages. But that longstanding relationship with the house of the Lord doesn’t mean I understand all of the principles some members of the body hold in such high esteem.

When I stumbled across an organized event at a church across town that promised to “pray young people through their homosexuality,” I wanted to give church folks the benefit of the doubt. Initially, I wondered if they meant they were just going to offer support to teens and 20-somethings still deciding how they were going to tell their families they weren’t straight. But nope, that wasn’t it. Instead, they planned to pray the gay right on off whoever signed up to be freed.

Pray the gay away? Sigh. Oh church people.

I don’t know why homosexuality, of all the hundreds, maybe thousands, of pertinent, relevant, timely topics in the world, is one that is always a thorn under the collective saddle of Christians. It never goes away. Folks been gay for centuries in, up, around, and beside the church but it somehow never gets easier to for them to roundly accept.

If we were up against a cluster of obscure old fogies brandishing their archaic thinking like a sword in battle, that would be one thing. We could laugh them off like Harold Camping and his May 21 un-rapture and keep it movin’. But it’s not a nutjob or two here and there. It’s a heavy, hearty population of otherwise normal believers with their scruples in tact who honestly think that you can pray away something as deep as homosexuality. Jesus must be so disappointed.

That’s like praying for me to turn into a man. Or white. Or completely alter some other component of myself that makes me inherently me.

I’m not saying the saving grace of the Lord can’t combat whatever the heck it’s targeted against. I’ve heard stories of alcoholics and prostitutes and gamblers and liars and hoochie mamas having their lives saved, sanctified, and totally turned around because the Word settled in their spirit. God can do amazing things wherever, however, with whomever He darn well pleases. (That’s if you consider God a male, and just for the sake of not getting derailed in this particular argument, I’ll say I do.)

But homosexuality isn’t a social ill. It’s not a disease of the brain or body. It’s not even the tremendous sin that holy rollin’ zealots make it out to be, which is why gay folks are always getting lumped into the aforementioned group. Homosexuality just is. And unless the church gets itself together, we’re going to be ostracizing an entire generation of young people who are gay, have gay friends, or who aren’t gay but are completely turned off by the fire-and-brimstone lecturing handed down from the pulpit and spread around by the congregation.

If I was a young kid new to the church and heard some of this rancid crazy talk, I’d be packing up my Bible and clamoring for the door. Who knows who would be next in line to be judged from on high after the mighty folks at Mount Holier Than Thou finished raining blows? And that right there would be another soul lost — and for what? Even if they are going to try to pray away homosexuality because they believe it’s a sin, they need to hold similar vigilance for fornicators, adulterers, liars, and heck, even the folks who regularly curse God’s name. But that would hit too close to home in their little glass houses. Still doesn’t change the fact that a sinner is a sinner is a sinner. 

Christian folks are doing a gross disservice to the very people we’re supposed to be helping by making adults feel they have to live outside of the house of the Lord, that they’re not accepted in it for fear of being judged. It’s even worse, though, when teenagers and young people in need of understanding and compassion and answers to so many of life’s burgeoning questions are seeking comfort, compassion, and companionship from church folks and get met instead with hostility, pity, or judgment. Where’s the God in that?

I love my faith, I love my church, and I love my Lord, but I feel terrible that kids are being deprived of the freedom and open-heartedness that’s supposed to come with accepting Christ because the church is stuck back in the stone ages when God himself is so futuristic.  

Do you think the church does enough to support and include young gay folks?

 

Image via Drama Queen/Flickr

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