You’re probably imagining a patient reclined on a couch, delving into his personal traumas while a kindly, professorial stallion sits nearby, legs crossed, taking notes, and saying things like “How does that make you feeeeeel?”
But that, obviously, is not what EAP is. It’s actually much sillier than that.
Like many of history’s great medical discoveries that turned out to be really stupid, EAP is being touted by someone with no medical background whatsoever. That would be Raymond Bell, pastor of the Cowboy Church of Virginia. Allow me to quote The Huffington Post:
“According to Gay Star News, Bell claims that the use of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, or sessions involving the stroking of horses, can aid in the ‘curing’ of maladies and ‘addictions’ like homosexuality.”
This is wrong on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to begin. But I figure the name of the church is a fine place to start. “The Cowboy Church?” That can’t possibly be a real thing, can it?
Sadly, it can. In fact, it’s a fairly big thing. Its website, which, I swear, welcomes visitors with the greeting “We’re glad you came by to graze for a while,” informs us that:
“Cowboy Church of Virginia began with just one church and the Lord has developed that simple start into a national non denominational ministry. CC is designed to allow rodeo participants, farmers, ranchers, and just plain country folks, a place to worship. Our services are currently heard in 27 countries around the world via podcast on the internet.”
I guess ranchers and rodeo participants are not allowed into regular churches. I didn’t know that, did you? Do you think it’s because their horses take up too much pew room?
Well, it’s a good thing they have a church they can call their own. I mean, at what other house of worship can you get “a chuckwagon meal ahead of every service.” And where else would the day’s schedule look like this:
CC service at 11 a.m.
Horse rides start at 1 p.m.
EAP demonstration times to be annoncued.
(NOTE: I did not make up the chuckwagon meals or the schedule, which is lifted verbatim straight from the website, including the wonderfully colorful spelling of “announced.”)
Ah, yes, cowboys. A proud tradition of riding the trails for weeks at a time, wearing chaps, no women in sight, and sitting around a romantic campfire at night with the other cowboys singing cowboy songs. And you’re going to stop someone from being gay?
There are all kinds of jokes I can make about the name of the church, but let’s now move on to the crux of the matter: that stroking a horse can cure homosexuality. I have a few questions for Pastor Bell:
- What part of the horse do your “patients” stroke?
- Can’t you at least say “petting the horse?” “Stroking” makes the horse feel dirty.
- What if the horse is gay? Wouldn’t your therapy then amplify the gayness in both participants?
- Is EAP only for male homosexuals? Because I believe I’ve heard that horseback riding can help women manage to live quite nicely without men.
- If a Jewish person comes to your church for your “conversion therapy,” can he get a “twofer” deal on a double conversion?
- Do you really think a cure for homosexuality should come from the Cowboy Church? Have you not seen Brokeback Mountain? Do you not know of The Marlboro Man’s oral fixation?* Do you not believe, in your heart of hearts, that you, Raymond Bell (top photo at right), look even a little bit like the cowboy from The Village People?
Of course, the biggest question I have for Pastor Bell is: What exactly is the theory behind this totally medically-sound and intellectually-fascinating therapy you’ve come up with? And for that, we have the answer, again courtesy of Gay Star News through the Huffpost::
“…(EAP) can supposedly make gay men more masculine and is used to ‘identify how a person got involved in homosexuality to begin with… for example, because of rape, abandonment, lacking a male role model, abuse and having low self-esteem.’”
I have to admit that I’m confused, and not in the way Pastor Bell thinks gay people are. Let’s imagine Pastor Bell’s typical “patient,” shall we? Here’s a fellow who was abandoned by his father and abused by his mother (or should it be the other way around?) and responded to this by deciding to become gay, because that is, after all, the obvious choice. But he realized the error of his ways and tried to go “cold turkey,” swearing off Broadway musicals and appletinis for a whole year. Still, he can’t bring himself to take down his Judy Garland poster or sell his King Charles spaniel. So he does what any rueful gay person would do: he naturally goes to the Cowboy Church for help.
“Pastor Bell,” he says, “I just know that you can cure me of my sinful and entirely optional ways and that if I give myself wholly to your treatment, I will soon be trying to pick up women in bars for one-night stands, just as God would want me to.”
Now, tell me again: where exactly does the horse comes in?
While enlightened people know that “erasing” gayness is no more possible than raising Pastor Bell’s IQ, that being a conservative religious fanatic is a life choice but being homosexual is not, and that the phrase “back in the saddle” does not mean what Pastor Bell seems to believe it means…
…it’s still annoying to be made aware, as we often are, that we live in the same country as people like Pastor Bell.
I know they say “it takes all kinds,” but, really, I think we can live without this kind.
*In case you’re too young to remember the Marlboro Man, he was part of a long-running ad campaign that turned Marlboros from a cigarette originally designed for women into a macho product. This was accomplished simply by showing a guy smoking while riding a horse.