Where to begin dissecting the manipulation and abuse on display in this video of Pentecostal preacher Damon Thompson casting demons out of young gay and lesbian women? Thompson, who heads up fiery youth ministry The Ramp in Hamilton, Alabama, employs every trick in the spiritual abuse playbook to coax his young congregation into outing themselves as gay and then stepping forward to be exorcised of their demons:
Ashton Elijah, who was at the meeting in the video, describes his experience:
Damon called upon those who were struggling with homosexual demons to come to the front and be “set free from sin.” He and members of The Ramp began to work the crowd into a frenzy as they labored to draw people out of the closet and onto the altar. At first, only a few guys and girls came forth. But, aided by music, the ministry leaders continued to pluck at the heartstrings of every struggling gay kid in the audience, promising that if they would only make themselves known, God would grant them the deliverance they so longed for.
Over a period of forty minutes, kids approached the altar one-by-one — some admitting to same-sex attraction for the first time in their lives. Some fell to their knees in brokenness, rocking back and forth as they prayed for absolution; others stood with their arms spread out as tears spilled from their eyes. By the end of the morning, dozens had approached the altar hoping to lay their burden down.
Thompson’s display is like a tutorial in spiritual abuse. I experienced a similar religious atmosphere time and again during my days in the charismatic movement (which you can read about in my essay “Fantastic Voyage: Surviving Charismatic Fundamentalism“). Thompson hardly tries to hide his manipulation, audibly encouraging the worship band to “pick it up” in order to heighten the atmosphere and get more troubled gay teens to come forward.
The first time I came out was at a similar Christian event — loud music, concert atmosphere, persuasive pleadings and emotional appeals from the preacher. Thankfully, for this extremely fearful 15-year-old, the ministry I received once I went to the front was more low-key. I was taken to one side and, after sobbing my confession, I received a relatively short prayer from a band member. Since homosexuality was just one of the “problems” and “sins” named by the preacher, it wasn’t evident to any of my friends why I was there.
So I wasn’t exposed quite like these young people, many of whom appear never to have admitted their sexual orientation until they were manipulated into coming out in front of video cameras and a live audience of hundreds. As Arni Zachariassen observes, it’s “a terrible way to come out of the closet.”
Not only terrible but disgusting, shameful and abusive.
H/T: Reader Jeremy