Interview: Lisa Ling Says She Knows “You Can’t Pray the Gay Away”

 
 

“The answer is most definitively ‘no.’”

So Lisa Ling says emphatically when asked by AfterElton.com about the title of the recent “Can You Pray the Gay Away?” episode of Our America with Lisa Ling on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Ling says the title of the episode was meant to be rhetorical, and the entire point of the show was to reach out to those Christian evangelicals who do think gay people can changed and convince them that wasn’t the case.

Unfortunately for Ling, many gay people didn’t see the question as rhetorical and took offense that that a credible journalist was even asking the question. In fact, GLAAD (the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) took Ling to task both for that episode, as well as a follow up episode that revisited one of the gay subjects who was, in fact, trying to pray the gay away.

Said GLAAD on their blog about Ling’s coverage:

Last night’s episode of Our America – entitled “A Closer Look” – actually marks the third time in three weeks that the show has taken a “closer look” at the same archaic question: “[Can a person] pray the gay away?” 

The answer is an emphatic “no,” and the scientific community has said so for nearly 40 years now. Having been answered by virtually every respected medical and psychological organization in America, the question is no longer a question.

Asking the non-question three times in the last three weeks – and having spoken with GLAAD, it’s clear that OWN and its producers still haven’t gotten “it” – with “it” being the two consistent problems with all three “Pray the Gay Away?” related episodes of Our America.

AfterElton.com recently spoke with Ling about the episodes in question, including the backlash from the gay community, and while she spoke passionately of her support for gay rights, it became apparent that she and GLAAD would never see eye to eye on this particular issue.

AfterElton: What made you decide on the topic “Can you Pray Away the Gay?” as an episode of your show?

Lisa Ling: This is a topic I’ve wanted to do for a long time because I’ve always been very conflicted by the messages that were coming out of the church [Christianity], vis-a-vis homosexuality. I’m a staunch gay rights activist, I’m a staunch human rights activist and I just found that some of the messages that the church was delivering were just astounding [and] incongruent in what I felt Jesus would have wanted.

So we set out to explore why people believe what they believe. There are quite a number of people in our country who believe that homosexuality is not in line with the Christian faith. And there are also gay Christians who continue to worship God despite the fact that the church may condemn them.

Really for us our journey was not to do this investigative piece on Exodus or anything like that. It was really just trying to understand why people believe what they believe because I’ve always believed we are a better people, a more evolved people if we can understand each other better and understand where each side is coming from. Because only then, I think, can we really make informed decisions and ignite a proper dialogue.

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