The unexpected hazards of being a closeted Pentecostal teenager

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Jacob Sutton loved going to church when he was a little boy. He sang in the choir, and when he got older he led Bible studies and helped teach Sunday school classes. Eventually he learned to speak in tongues. The oldest son of a deacon, Jacob grew up Pentecostal. His father used to work with people who believed they were possessed by demons and would use prayer and Bible readings to cast the wicked spirits out. All of his life, Jacob knew that demons and the Devil were very real, and that they could possess his body, if he allowed them.

Jacob's Senior Picture
Jacob’s Senior Picture (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Jacob felt deeply connected to his male friends when he was young. As a teenager, he realized that what he felt was more than friendship. But Jacob’s church was, like most Pentecostal congregations, staunchly against homosexuality. Jacob’s parents, pastor, and peers all talked about homosexuality as if it was a terrible disease that could only be cured by God. For years Jacob tried to hide his attraction to other boys, and became increasingly involved in his church in the hopes that he could just work through the “problem.”

During his freshman year of high school, Jacob was feeling helpless. Exasperated, he asked aloud for a demon to come into his body. He figured he was already evil, so he might as well “get something out of it”.

Jacob holding two pies, one presumably pumpkin
Jacob holding two pies, one presumably pumpkin (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

A few months later, just as he was about to fall asleep, he heard a voice in his ear. Jacob froze, terrified. He could not speak. The voice was dark, gravelly and spoke a language he’d never heard before. Jacob knew in that moment that it was the demon he’d invited into his body. It left only once he spoke the word “Jesus.” He woke up his father and they prayed together.

The next day, Jacob signed up for “spiritual boot camp,” a three-day retreat for members of the congregation who hoped to make a life change, led by Jacob’s father. For three days, Jacob joined fellow congregants in prayer and worship, hoping this would be the beginning of his healing from gayness. After the weekend, Jacob didn’t feel “cured,” but he did feel like he was closer to becoming the man God intended him to be.

That was 13 years ago. Jacob has since stopped going to church and believing in God and Satan. He eventually came out to his family once and for all, and this time, he was met with open arms. Today he lives in Seattle and studies fashion design. And as of the time of this episode release, Jacob and his boyfriend have been together for almost three years.

Bethany Denton produced this episode.

Music: Serocell | | | AHEE