Sure enough, it looks like thanks to Andy Comiskey’s Desert Stream Ministries, the “ex-gay” myth has taken a foothold in Finland.
Thankfully, the practice of going undercover to expose fraudulent “ex-gay” programs looks like it’s taken hold, too.
A circle of six men sit in a small cabin. Two blocks of wood serve as a cross. The men’s eyes wander to the walls. My cheeks are slightly flushed – I feel ashamed. I have just revealed something that made me go silent.
The leader of the group opens his mouth but does not look me in the eye.
“Is it all right to pray for you?”
I hunch over, my elbows on my legs. Four men place their hands on my shoulders. One places his hand on my side. I flinch at the touch.
“Lord, you heard what Jalmari just shared with us. You know what sins he has committed, and you will also forgive them as he brings them here before the cross. Thank you, Lord, for allowing Jalmari to understand and accept his own frailties. Jalmari still has a long road ahead of him, but you already heard his plea. Fill Jalmari now with our love, take him into your embrace, and let him suckle of your love as a child does of his mother’s breast. Heal him. Thank you Lord.”
Two of the men mumble something in tongues, and then it is completely silent.
The head of the group takes a white plastic cup from the table, makes a dipper out of the palm of his hand, pours water into it and touches my brow with it.
“Lord, cast the evil spirit out of Jalmari.”
It is completely silent, and nobody says anything.
It is Sunday morning, the fifth of August. The time is half past ten. The announcement on Intercity 905 sounds out: next station – Jyväskylä. My alarm clock had gone off at half past five in Helsinki. Now I am already here.
I get off the train. My ill-fitting backpack chafes against my shoulders. A fuzzy-haired young woman stands on the platform with a sign in her hand. The text written with a black marking pen on the piece of cardboard reads “Kiponiemi”. I know that the woman is waiting for me. My breath accelerates. Now is the time – now it begins.
I approach cautiously. I wipe my sweaty hand against my thigh, reach out my hand and introduce myself: “Jalmari – you can call me Jamppu.”
Jalmari is the third of my given names. I cannot use the first, because if I did, I might be identified as a journalist.
I place my backpack in the boot, and sit in the back seat. The fuzzy-haired woman starts the car.
Let us sing praises to the lord is the song that comes from the car radio.
According to the Aslan association, homosexuality is a psycho-social disturbance in development – a kind of spiritual damage.
Medicine disagrees. Homosexuality has not been classified as a disease since 1981. However, the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) still has a classification of “ego-dystonic sexual orientation disorder” – an orientation that goes against the person’s idealised self-image. However, this diagnosis is hardly ever applied.
The reparative therapy programme brought to Finland by Aslan is called Living Water. The expression comes from the Gospel According to John in Bible: He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. Once a year a four-day intensive camp is organised with activities running nearly around the clock. This is what I am taking part in now.