Pray Away Image

Pray Away

By Brian Shaer | August 3, 2021

Rather than presenting a totally one-sided documentary, Stolakis also looks at Jeffrey McCall, who identifies as formerly trans, abandoned the LGBTQ lifestyle following his salvation and who went on to found the Freedom March, a religious-centered organization of former LGBTQ people like himself. McCall and his group still very much maintain their belief that they have been healed and saved from the “homosexual lifestyle” by Jesus Christ. By offering his story, Stolakis prevents Pray Away from becoming a one-note, holier-than-thou denunciation of gay conversion therapy.

However, the film is biased and backed by the opinions of most mental health professionals in its examination and caustic opinion of the ineffectiveness of reparative therapy. The film provides compelling proof (in case you needed it) that reparative therapy does not work, undoubtedly causing more harm than good. The subjects interviewed have all endured both mental and physical pain. Tragically depicted when Rodgers relates a particularly harrowing story concerning her attempts to” burn away” her internalized inadequacy.

“…Stolakis prevents Pray Away from becoming a one-note, holier-than-thou denunciation of gay conversion therapy.”

The film fascinatingly examines the psychology behind why these people thought they had changed, that they had been cured of their homosexual impulses. Probing further, it is discovered that while these men and women had, to some extent, changed their outward behavior, the underlying feelings remained the same. It is this critical impasse and the eventual realization that they were not only lying to themselves but to others that prompted these former leaders to disassociate from the hypocrisy they were perpetuating and to live out their truths.

Beautifully filmed and incorporating interviews and impressive archival news footage, Pray Away digs deep into the pathology of fundamentalist Christian conceptions of reparative therapy. By showcasing survivors of the “ex-gay” movement and illustrating the personal tragedy that has resulted from individual involvement, the film provides a lens of hope for those who think there is none.

Pray Away invites the viewer into a world that many would like to think doesn’t exist much anymore, but is in fact, quite prevalent. As Bussee states at the end of the film, “As long as homophobia exists in this world, some version of Exodus will emerge.”

Pray Away screened at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival.

Pray Away (2021)

Directed: Kristine Stolakis


Starring: Yvette Cantu Schneider, Julie Rodgers, John Paulk, Randy Thomas, Michael Bussee, Jeffrey McCall, etc.

Movie score: 9/10

Pray Away Image

"…provides a lens of hope for those who think there is none."

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