One Nation Under God [Import]
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One Nation Under God
It's a familiar story. Boy meets boy. Boy and boy start an organization to help gays "convert" to straightdom. Boy realizes he's in love with boy, and they leave their group to become outspoken denouncers of the movement.
Okay, so maybe it's not that familiar. Regardless, One Nation Under God is an insightful peek into the world of "ex-gays." Gary and Michael were two founders of Exodus, a ministry devoted to "curing" gays. Religious men, they felt that a gay lifestyle was incompatible with the teachings of the Bible, so they promoted heterosexuality. But despite leading heterosexual lives, the two men realized they were in love with each other. Their commentary anchors this documentary directed by Teodoro Maniaci and Francine Rzeznik. Interviews with the current head of Exodus, ex-gays, teachers in the ministry, psychologists, and ex-ex-gays create a surprisingly well-balanced film. While a glimpse inside the workings of the ministry would have been interesting (how, exactly, do you make a person "ex-gay"?), the archival footage from 1950s and '60s psychologists and discussions create an occasionally funny, definitely thought-provoking film that will both horrify (the implications of what the Religious Right is doing here are ghastly) and entertain. --Jenny Brown --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The film is a frank discussion about ministries that claim to be able to change your sexual orientation from gay to straight with the Bible, support groups, therapy (including electroshock), and a lot of hard work. However as the film points out, you never can work hard enough to change your sexual orientation, and all these ministries accomplish is self delusion, denial, hatred, homophobia, low self esteem and self destructive behavior including suicide. Every accredited scientific study of the last 30 years or so has collaborated this fact, but ex-gay groups like Exodus Ministries (the largest group) still claim to be able to "cure" a gay man by teaching him how to play softball and a lesbian woman by teaching her how to put on makeup, willfully ignoring the reality that gay women wear makeup already (myself among them) and there are gay men who can bench press 300lbs (like my roommate). The film is pretty low budget and shows production values that are pretty consistant with it being made in the early 90's, so it is no technical feat. However you can have a good laugh at the woman from Exodus trying to cure a lesbian by slathering her in blue eyeshadow ala Mimi on The Drew Carey Show.
As a final point, a reviewer on this site said that the film lies when it claims that Gary Cooper co-founded Exodus Ministries. That is a popular nitpick used by Exodus to discredit (the late) Cooper and his partner Michael Bussee. Gary Cooper was never on the board of directors, unlike Bussee. However Cooper was there before the group came together, when they were a loose patchwork on similar organizations. He put work into getting groups networked, doing advertizements, handing out literature at pride marches, even picking people up from the airport. However he never held a title in the group. This is why Exodus claims he was not really a founder, which I personally think is total bull.
The major focus of the film is on Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper. Bussee was among the five co-founding members of Exodus; Cooper was an Exodus volunteer who is sometimes described as a co-founder, depending on the exact source. Both were gay men determined to become heterosexual--but precipitated a mighty scandal in the Exodus ranks when they instead fell in love with each other. Other notables interviewed include Frank Worthen, founder of Love In Action, which pre-dated Exodus; and Martin Duberman, noted author, a gay man who sought to become heterosexual through psychotherapy and whose book CURES documents the process he underwent.
As these and other interview subjects speak out on camera they are occasionally interrupted by "scientific films" drawn from the 1950s and 1960s; religious leaders who condemn or support, as case may be; and some unintentionally hilarious moments, including one that can only be described as "beauty tips for lesbians." The result is a collage of questions to which no two people have exactly the same answer. Can one change one's sexuality? Or not? If so, how? And if so, is it actually a desirable sort of thing?
Although ONE NATION UNDER GOD clearly comes down on the side of those who claim that "ministries" such as Exodus are little more than dangerous pseudo-science, the answers to the questions are not quite as clear cut as one could wish--which is, in fact, one of the points the film makes: to this date there has been no serious study of Exodus' success rates. The DVD offers a reasonable transfer, but there are no bonuses of any kind--a great pity in this instance, for it is a fascinating subject that bears considerably deeper investigation than this fairly short film allows.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
What this world needs is more tolerance for people with differences. It is that simple. Let's not cloak it in all of this God stuff. Exodus are you listening?