Growing up in a 1960’s conservative evangelical home, Scott Harrison not only knew homosexuality was a sin, he knew it was “the worst sin a person could do. It was worse than murder.” He described to the Southern Poverty Law Center the exorcism delivered upon him by a
minister at Living Waters/Desert Stream [see edit below], a neo-Pentecostal ex-gay ministry. After a “very intense, dramatic” group prayer that lasted three hours, Harrison found himself “drenched in sweat” and “psychologically wounded.” Because of “how it happened and the incorrectness of the theology,” it “felt like a spiritual rape” to him. Harrison was the victim, but says it’s hard not to blame himself, even 20 years after the incident. When asked how he became involved in such a bizarre event, Harrison responds:
When you’re coming from a perspective that you believe God can give messages to people, words of prophecy, then it’s very easy to become prey. This guy got a team of people together. One of the aspects that is pretty strong in Vineyard, still, is that they believe that people can be “demonized.” Not meaning that a person is fully possessed by Satan, but that a person has given him or herself over to Satanic strongholds in his or her life, so that it may take an exorcism to release the various demons that this person has given over their lives to.
He adds that as an ex-gay minister,
I didn’t believe change was an easy process. People would have said, if you asked them in private, [that] the option was one of celibacy, as opposed to accepting oneself as gay and lesbian. When [ex-gay ministers] talked about change at that time, they were talking about behavior modification.
Not much about that has really changed, with Alan Chambers (head of Exodus International) claiming he’s never really met an ex-gay, and declaring that he wakes up every morning denying that part of his being that comes so naturally.
Harrison believes that legally, ex-gay ministries should be allowed to exist, but as faith-based organizations, not state-sponsored ones. Ex-gay ministries have no place in public schools, just like representatives of religious institutions are barred. And he says exposure to the messages of Exodus Youth (Exodus International’s ex-gay youth ministry) are downright dangerous:
I don’t think that’s healthy for anyone, but especially not for high school students. Teenagers are idealistic. They’re going to grab for that, believing they can actually change their sexuality, when we have plenty of evidence showing it’s not possible. What’s going happen when they don’t change? More youth suicides, more youths engaging in risky behaviors, feeling betrayed by the church and by God and giving up on their faith. If I’d heard that message as a teenager, I don’t know if I’d be here today.
Thank G-d he IS here today, to give us his valuable point of view.
Today we received an email from Scott Harrison with the following corrections to this story:
…the original interview had stated that the exorcism or deliverance occurred at the hands of the pastor of my church, the Vineyard San Pedro, not at the hands of leaders of Desert Stream or Living Waters, which were based out of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship congregations in Santa Monica and later in Anaheim, California. I understand that not all of these details appeared in the original interview and that it might have been possible to infer that the San Pedro Vineyard was somehow directly connected to Desert Stream or Living Waters.
The reality is that the San Pedro Vineyard supported the work of Desert Stream, but was not a host for ex-gay ministry. When interviewed, I cited the deliverance session as an example of how demonizing homosexuality (for example, referring to homosexuality as a satanic or demonic perversion of the “one true” sexual orientation of heterosexuality), which is the modus operandi of most ex-gay leaders, can open the door to all sorts of abuses such as what I experienced. I clearly stated this when I was interviewed and wish the SPLC article had been a bit stronger on this point.