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Straight to Jesus

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

Tanya Erzen
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 293
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  • Book Info
    Straight to Jesus
    Book Description:

    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 Jesustraces 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 Jesusexposes 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93905-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-21)

    In a run-down community center in San Rafael, California, a middle-aged 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...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Steps Out of Homosexuality
    (pp. 22-51)

    In 1973 Frank Worthen heard from God for the first time in years. Frank, then a forty-four-year-old gay man, had spent twenty-five years living in the San Francisco Bay Area as a businessman and participating peripherally in early gay liberation struggles. According to Frank’s recollections, on May 24 he locked his office door and headed for the back entrance of his import store, planning to check out a new gay bathhouse in San Francisco. Unbeknownst to Frank, one of his employees, a young Christian named Matt, had been secretly praying for him for months. Frank recalled: “I was leaving my...

  6. CHAPTER 2 New Creations
    (pp. 52-84)

    On New Year’s Eve, 1999, thirteen men between the ages of twenty and forty-five arrived in San Rafael, California, from all over the country to begin the one-year residential program at New Hope Ministry. Although they were strangers to each other, they began the night by making dinner and finished by praying in the New Year together. The date is deliberately symbolic. In the past, these same men might have celebrated the New Year by engaging in drinking, drug use, and same-sex behavior. This New Year’s Eve is a rite of passage, the beginning of what will be a year...

  7. CHAPTER 3 A Refuge from the World
    (pp. 85-125)

    Every night the men at New Hope gather for a communal dinner. The ministry complex is divided into two large apartments by a flimsy wall, with the bedrooms in the back and two large communal living rooms with several fraying sofas, two coffee tables, and chairs in the front. A picture of Jesus clutching a man in a pink T-shirt and jeans dominates one wall, and a detailed schedule for who cooks, shops, and cleans is posted on a whiteboard alongside it. On each side of the apartments, eight to ten men gather around a battered wooden table while the...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Arrested Development
    (pp. 126-159)

    In May 2000, Frank and Drew flew to Chicago to picket the annual conference of the American Psychiatric Association (APA). As they demonstrated, Frank held up a sign that read, “I am no longer gay . . . It’s Possible!” The other fifty protesters included Bob Davies, the president of Exodus International, and Mike Haley, a New Hope graduate who works in the youth and sexuality division at Focus on the Family. Mike marched with his wife, Angie. The sign over their baby stroller proclaimed, “My daddy changed . . . Now I exist . . . It’s Possible.” Members...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Testifying to Sexual Healing
    (pp. 160-182)

    As I was having dinner at New Hope one night, Frank inquired about my family. Did I suffer abuse, abandonment, and lack of a mother figure? Were my parents divorced? Did they drink? His line of questioning assumed that I would have a personal horror story to impart, which I would then share as my own narrative of self-healing. When I revealed no past abuse, codependency, or addiction, the men sitting around the table were flabbergasted. Frank said sympathetically, “It’s too bad. You can’t go to twelve-step groups for all your problems the way we can.” At New Hope, everyone...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Love Won Out?
    (pp. 183-215)

    During the summer of 1998, full-page advertisements appeared simultaneously in theNew York Times, theWashington Post, and other national newspapers.¹ One version featured Anne Paulk, her gleaming diamond wedding ring clearly visible. Underneath her picture the caption read, “wife, mother, former lesbian.” The Center for Reclaiming America and a coalition of Christian Right groups conceived and paid for the ad as part of a larger media offensive against gay rights on the state and national levels.² Anne’s testimony, as well as pictures of other men and women who had changed, was designed to illustrate that homosexuality is a choice...

  11. Conclusion: Walking in a Dark Room
    (pp. 216-230)

    In early December, at the end of the program year, Anita and Frank invited me to attend the New Hope graduation ceremony at a restaurant in downtown San Rafael. This would be the final event before the men returned to the Lord’s Land for the culmination of their year together. The restaurant had provided its private banquet hall, which was undergoing renovations, and Drew lit giant rotund candles as a festive gesture in the dim and windowless room. As we were waiting in the living room to drive over from the New Hope apartments, Curtis bemoaned certain men’s excessive use...

  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 231-234)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 235-258)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 259-272)
  15. Index
    (pp. 273-282)