Pray Away | From a Christian Perspective


"I ached to love and be loved," a fear that bubbles away at many over their lifetimes and words that were spoken by a survivor of "pray the gay away" style conversion therapy in Kristine Stolakis's debut documentary feature. Pray Away features first-hand accounts and archival footage that charts the damage done by particular organisations over the last three decades. Two churches highlighted include Exodus and Living Hope, ran by televangelists that spout vitriol over sacred words and interpret God's love as conditional, dependent on who your heart loves. 

Horror aficionados Ryan Murphy and Jason Blum team up to produce, with elements of their genre slipping through the cracks of reality where people get trapped in a cycle of self-hatred and desperation. Pray Away is a dark portrait of what goes on right under the noses of fellow Christians who turn their eyes from overt abuse in the church. 

As a Christian, it is disturbing to see the horrific lengths people go to condition people to feel the way God made them was sinful or incorrect. 

For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

- Psalm 139:13-14 

Despite common teaching in many churches, it is simply untrue that God has made a mistake when crafting someone, as told by His words in the Bible. Stolakis's film explores this concept through the journey of restorative faith one contributor goes through, learning that she can love true to who she is and maintain her relationship with God. Julie's story is captured with sensitivity as she recalls times of deep personal struggle that had stemmed from her time preaching conversion therapy. 

Many of the contributors to the documentary had at one point led the "pray the gay away" seminars. Their journey from suffering to healing becomes a complex one, and Pray Away give them space to reconcile with the systemic abuse they had contributed to while honouring the identities that had once caused them such anguish. 

Pray Away highlights a story ~700,000 Americans who have experienced a form of conversion therapy are familiar with. It does its best to remain sober throughout while infusing healing with heartbreak. Although falling to convention, finding comfort in talking heads over on-the-go footage, it is a strong debut fuelled by compassion and empathy. There's a clear message of love prevailing no matter the circumstance, which is anchored beautifully by Julie's story. 

It brings the contemporary to the conversation, showing just how deeply the roots of hatred are threaded through the Christian faith, even to the present day. There's a lot of unlearning to be done, even for contributors of the documentary who have not yet found their healing. 

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