PCUSA pastor lists anti-gay conversion therapy movie 'Boy Erased' in 'top 10 films for believers' to watch

The Presbyterian Center, a building belonging to Presbyterian Church (USA) and located in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Presbyterian Center, a building belonging to Presbyterian Church (USA) and located in Louisville, Kentucky. | (Photo: PCUSA)

The controversial film “Boy Erased” is one of the 10 movies of 2018 that Christians should watch, according to the Rev. Edward McNulty, pastor of Blue Ball Presbyterian Church in Middletown, Ohio. 

In a piece published by the denomination's Presbyterian Mission site, McNulty listed “Boy Erased,” a film based on the memoir of Garrard Conley that portrays Christian sexual orientation conversion therapy in a negative light, at No. 8 on his list.

“The boy soon learns that the tactics at the center include spiritual bullying and instilling fear into the patients, even turning them against the family member who purportedly ‘caused’ them to ‘choose’ the gay lifestyle,” McNulty wrote.

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“His mother slowly changes her view of the Bible, her love for her son overcoming her theology. But what about the father back home? This is a good companion film to ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post,’ which is about a girl forced into a similar clinic.”

While McNulty has given “Boy Erased” a positive review, others, including Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for Policy Studies at Family Research Council, have been more critical.

In a column published by The Christian Post last year, Sprigg said the movie and the memoir it was based off "represent only one anecdote about sexual orientation change efforts."

"The claim that [sexual orientation change efforts therapy] in general has been shown to be ineffective and harmful is not supported by the scientific research," wrote Sprigg.

"Boy Erased is not particularly entertaining, and not at all informative for making policy regarding sexual orientation change efforts."

Former LGBT-identified persons have also taken issue with the movie’s portrayal of conversion therapy.

"[W]e don't think we've seen all that God offers for people questioning their sexuality. And we don't believe that Hollywood's representation of Christian faith is accurate," explained Ken Williams and Elizabeth Woning, ex-gays with the group Equipped to Love, in an essay last year.

“We don't have everything figured out, but we do know the craziness of blame and accusation needs to stop. We are resolved to walk humbly together, celebrating Jesus and His love, and pursuing all God has for us. We expect God to do incredible things.”

Gabriel Pagan, pastor at Love Revolution Church in Columbus, Georgia, who left homosexuality years ago, told The Christian Post in an interview last year that he considered the film “divisive” and not seeking “the heart of both communities equally.”

“[‘Boy Erased’ will] cause more of a bad taste in the mouths of both the Christian and LBGT communities because it doesn't bring us to a place of connection. It mentions a wound but no place for reconciliation,” Pagan added.

McNutty's article also linked to his more in-depth review of the film last November, wherein he gave the R-rated film a four-and-a-half-star rating out of five and said his “only criticism” of the film was its lack of pro-LGBT Christians.

“Unchurched viewers might be led to believe that all Christians believe this, the film never suggesting that a great many Christians no longer accept those passages as authoritative, just as they also no longer regard certain other as authoritative — passages that support slavery, male domination of women, or pre-scientific views of astronomy and biology,” McNulty wrote.

“Despite the above shortcoming, this is a good film for discussing a major problem — the film points out just before the end credits that it is still legal in 36 out of 50 US states to send children to conversion camps, despite the possibility that the often undertrained ‘therapists’ can inflict psychological damage on its young inmates — as happens in the film.”

No. 1 on McNulty’s top 10 list was “First Reformed,” a film about a disillusioned upstate New York pastor who becomes influenced by a violent environmental activist.

Other films on the list include the Mr. Rogers documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” (No. 3), “If Beale Street Could Talk” (No. 6), “On the Basis of Sex” (No. 10), and “Unbroken: Path to Redemption” (No. 9).

“Though I am no fan of Graham’s theology, I am persuaded by this film that Christ can reach out to lost persons and change their lives through a person whose theological views are very different from my own,” wrote McNulty regarding the “Unbroken” film.

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