This video from evangelical media company Anchored North feels extremely familiar—maybe because for the first two minutes it seems like an inspirational love story about a young woman named Emily coming out about her sexual identity. Fooled you.
The Guardian reports that this is no coincidence. Anchored North’s co-founder, Greg Sukert, says using the accessible tone of popular media helps to make their hate message more digestible. Sort of like how you’ll click on a bright Buzzfeed YouTube clip and before you know it, you’ve watched a five minute video about someone trying a hardboiled egg for the first time. Except it’s about being a bigot:
“They’ve mastered content that focuses on raw, authentic, sometimes humorous stories. And the things that are shaping the next generation’s worldview are these short-form videos online, so we’re taking a page from the culture of today, but the message is staying the same.”
Anchored North is great at co-opting; they’ve even stolen the language of LGBTQ groups, and titled Emily’s story “Love Is Love.” In it, a young woman explains that she thought she was gay, but then she read some extremely scary passages in the Bible (which she Googled) about how she’d be tortured for marrying a mother of two who she met in nursing school. Now she’s straight and so, so happy.
Sukert denies the video promotes conversion therapy.
“The message of someone changing their attraction or desires is not the same as conversion therapy,” Sukert explained. “That whole thing is the use of psychotherapy to alter someone’s behavior, which is not what we’re communicating. What we’re saying is God changes the heart.”
Emily is a real person, and has allegedly caught a lot of heat for coming forward with her tale, but most of the comments on the YouTube video seem sad for Emily.
“This is really sad...she’s bisexual and being brainwashed into thinking that it’s a bad thing. No wonder christian membership rates are dropping, people are tired of this type of B.S.,” one user, Kaya shadow, writes.
NBluth adds, “What a sad story of self denial. I hope one day this girl can feel comfortable returning to her real self, no matter what she hears from sanctimonious preachers and bigoted zealots.“
Emily may not have been subjected (as far as we know) to any kind of psychological torture, but Deb Cuny, spokesperson for LGBTQ organization #BornPerfect, says the language and intent of conversion therapy is still present in Anchored North’s work.
“Any attempt to change someone’s sexual or gender identity, even through something as subtle as prayer, is conversion therapy,” she said.