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The Salvation Mongers

"Click on image to go to Ronald L. Donaghe site."

Reviewer: Duane Mac Simolke PhD (Lubbock, TX)

Read before joining or funding ex-gays.

Ronald Donaghe, the author of Commons Sons, offers a look inside the bastion of bigotry and self-loathing that many people know as "the ex-gay movement." Though The Salvation Mongers is a work of fiction, it builds its suspenseful, engaging plot upon the philosophies of that actual movement, and the ordeals of its actual victims. Most people assume that these groups mean well and couldn't possibly hurt. This novel suggests otherwise; the book's afterword (a non-fiction essay) proves otherwise. From my research into the ex-gay movement, and from my conversations with people who have seen the rotten fruit of its labor, I know that this work of fiction bares more truth than any of the promises that so-called "reparative therapy" makes. Donaghe creates believable, tortured characters. I've met all the "types" he portrays in The Salvation Mongers, including some of the more sinister characters. I've also seen the beauty of the New Mexico landscape that provides an effective contrast for the ugliness that Donaghe exposes. This book is both alluring and repulsive in its accuracy. Please read it before you join or fund an ex-gay group.

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Reviewer:Rogue Elf (CA USA)

A must read! Another winner by Donaghe

This is a story that you do not want to read but you have to read. Ronald Donaghe gives us Kelly O'Kelly who is enrolled in a camp to "convert" him from homosexual to heterosexual. Donaghe pulls no punches when you learn what happens when people act in the name of God. There are many instances in history when people have invoked God's name to explain or give validity to the work they are doing, this "ministry" is yet another one of those. The instances that happen on the ranch to Michael, Larry, Leo and Kelly will haunt you but will hopefully be as a reminder to what happens or what could happen to people who do not do things the way the majority does things. Are there people who do not like the fact that they are gay? Yes! Are there people who like the fact that they are gay? Another Yes. This novel tells the stories of both. Of course you have a guest appearance by Tom and Joel from Common Sons and Blind Season. You also have to deal with the sneaky and conniving Paul Romaine again.

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Reviewer:C. Rosenberg (Plainview, NY)

Review of The Salvation Mongers bu cheri

"The Salvation Mongers", by Ronald L. Donaghe, is the next installment of "The Common Threads in the Life series", following "Common Sons" and "The Blind Season". This book ties in characters from its predecessors and will be included in the much awaited forth book in the series entitled, "The Gathering".

Donaghe does not disappoint the reader with his creative style and wit, and while I would not consider it an "enjoyable" book, unless the reader enjoys human cruelty, it is an account worth writing and reading about. Most people would agree that it is not pleasurable to read about the Holocaust, however, we still must remember it so that hopefully, we can learn from it. Trying to make gay people straight is atrocious and inhumane.

The setting is the Lion's Mouth Christian Church Ranch in the Guadalupe Mountains, New Mexico, in 1998. We learn about what goes on there through the journals of Kelly O'Kelly, who loses his lover, William, to suicide after attending the retreat to cleanse his soul of homosexuality. William, having failed to become straight after all he went through, loses all hope to be "normal" and he takes his own life.

Kelly goes to this ranch where crack-pot ministers teach people to repress their natural inclinations, and deny their homosexuality, in order to become "saved". Kelly poses as a recruit in order to find out first hand (and expose) the truth about the Lion's Mouth Christian Ranch (LMCR) which purports to "cure" homosexuality through prayer and discipline. Can a person be delivered from living life as a homosexual, to become truly heterosexual? According to this ministry, "All things are possible through Christ". Their teachings also include condoning celibacy over same-sex love.

Kelly maintains a record of the daily steps toward salvation which include, inhumane treatment, semi-starvation, isolation, lack of privacy, hard work in often intolerable conditions, constant prayer, ridicule, spirit-breaking, reinforcing self-hatred, and boot camp like tactics to brainwash their victims.

As you read Kelly's daily log you can not believe this could happen in real life, however, as Donaghe states in the beginning of his novel, the story is based on truth and actual events. Pretty scary stuff!

Reading about atrocities imposed on the young men is not meant to be pleasant but is meant to educate against the evils lurking in our society disguised as religion, family values, morality, and political agendas.

Is rape and death also part of the ex-gay ministry? Will Kelly make it through "eighteen steps to salvation", unharmed emotionally and physically? And will he be able to expose the LMCR for what it is and save others from denying their true identity and suppressing their innate, God-given desires? It is interesting to read how each of the recruits handles the retreat's regimes depending on their differing degrees of self-hatred, willingness to change, and commitment to the teachings. Read this book and find out.

The author's commentary in the after word is reason enough for reading this book. Donaghe makes many valid points and offers powerful arguments against anti-gay beliefs and legislation. His discussions include, "The Salvation Mongers 2000-The Real Thing", "Treatment Options and Attitudes Toward Homosexuality" and "The Dark Side of the EX-Gay Ministries". The fact that these ex-gay ministries exist today is mind boggling and that people willingly subject themselves to the poison and brainwashing in desperate hope of a "cure", as if wanting to be straight bad enough is something they can achieve, is truly sad.

Don't miss this book if for no other reason than it is the bridge between "The Blind Season" and the much awaited book, "The Gathering", which promises to bring Joel, Tom and the family back together again in Common, New Mexico, as the year 2000 approaches. According to Donaghe, "Kelly is going to play a major role in "The Gathering" as the conscience for all those gays who try to get `cured' by subjecting themselves to the ex-gay programs".

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Reviewer:Johnny (New York)

A story that needs to be told.

Ron Donaghe has written an emotionally disturbing story about the anti-gay movement in America, that claims to "save lives," but in reality destroys them. While this is a work of fiction, Donaghe has based the story on events and factions of the religious right that did and do still exist. He has given a thought-provoking look at the ways in which these groups seek to wipe out gays, their self-identities, their feelings of self-worth, and ultimately their very existence.

It's a fictitous story told in the first person by Kelly O' Kelley, who has lost his lover to suicide after he participated in a camp to "make homosexuals heterosexual." Kelly joins this group living in an isolated canyon in New Mexico, to try to find out what really happened to William, and why his lover felt he had to take his own life.

Donaghe touches a raw nerve with "The Salvation Mongers," in his story of evil and hatred directed towards gays, and the insidious ways in which some would have them "fixed," following agendas of their own, but claiming them all in the name of God.

This is a story that has to be heard, and must be told by those best able to tell it. Donaghe is that person. His writing style, as always, is crisp and clear, and his ability to write fictitiously in the first person is astonishing. Be prepared for a very quick, very disturbing, but ultimately moving story about hatred, but also about love, that will resonate within those who see both, and just need someone to put it to words.

Donaghe has put it eloquently into those words.

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Reviewer: Lori L. Lake (Twin Cities, Minnesota)

Gripping, Gritty, Rough--Donaghe has a Deft Touch.

Kelly O'Kelly receives a late night call from his lover, William, just before the man ends his life. A victim of the teachings of the Light of Christ Ex-Gay Ministries, William had joined the ministry program to be transformed into a functional heterosexual. Instead, he's dead. Kelly can't get over William's senseless suicide nor can he exorcise the anger he feels at the holy rollers who promised his lover a "cure" for his gayness while filling the young man with shame and impossible expectations. Nine months later, still bitter and lonely, Kelly decides to go undercover to expose the chicanery of the church's ex-gay recruiting program.

In the heat of summer, Kelly and ten other men arrive at the Lion's Mouth Christian Ranch in New Mexico's Guadalupe Mountains for the 18-week program. And so begins a compelling and gripping story as Kelly attempts to maintain his individuality and common sense in the face of religious fundamentalism, inadequate nutrition, brainwashing, and predatory behavior by some of those in charge.

The epistolary narrator gradually draws the reader into the the bizarre rules of the camp, a world where mostly miserable, self-hating men try to squelch their natural inclinations. They're watched closely as they eat poorly prepared meals in a mess hall, sleep in a tent together, and work in small teams like prisoners or soldiers. At 35, Kelly is one of the oldest recruits. Earlier in life, he had been in the military, but the contrast between Army life and this experience is remarkable, and he writes, "Free time in the army was not gloomy. Guys played cards, cursed and laughed, wrestled, slapped each other on the shoulders, or fought loudly. Here, except for the scratching of pens on paper, the turning of a page, or the sniffling of a runny nose, I can almost hear the thoughts of the recruits like a continuous whispering, or a sibilant stream of rushing water, washing over rocks. No one is happy."

Even in the mind-numbing and restrictive environment, and despite rules against getting close to the other men, Kelly makes friends. This includes Michael, who is only a minor character, but is very endearing and further raises Kelly's feelings of protectiveness toward his fellow recruits. As time goes on, Kelly suspects that some of the men are being maltreated after hours and while on certain isolated work details. Sure enough, a series of events occur that verify his suspicions, and along the way, the author ramps up the tension. Will Kelly be a victim, too? Will the camp officials (particularly "Paul, the chipmunk Nazi") discover that Kelly is a spy? Are they all in danger? Who will get out alive?

Donaghe is a talented author with a deft touch. He does a frighteningly convincing job showing the sincere and pious surface the camp preacher and the main henchmen project while Kelly subtly describes the angry, hateful, homophobic underpinnings of their tactics. The minister is a caricature of a preacher, not really a bad man, just misguided and too stupid to see the evil two feet beyond the edge of his vision. Nor does the preacher see that the real evil does not come from the recruits, but from his own trusted camp leader.

At times violent, gritty and rough, the novel is increasingly intense, but it is not entirely without humor. Kelly has a wry way of looking at the world. Still, the Salvation Mongers is not a book for the faint-hearted. The violence, brainwashing, and shaming that occurs hurts one's heart while, at the same time, it mirrors the internal struggles that the men are faced with. It is Kelly's optimism, his belief in his own goodness, and his strength of heart that carry this book through to the end, at which point the reader will have completed a journey with him. That journey ultimately affirms that the acceptance of one's sexual orientation--and that of others--should not be shame-filled and full of pain.

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Ronald L. Donaghe was raised on a farm in southern New Mexico. The setting for many of his novels involves the desert and the mountains of New Mexico. He is a master at evoking the stark beauty and sheer majesty of such settings--but also the unforgiving and harsh side.

He is a technical writer and novelist from New Mexico. He has been published by Dutton, Edward William Publishing Company, New Mexico Council for the Arts, Xlibris Corporation and by Writer’s Club Press (an imprint of iUniverse.com). His growing body of work includes essays in three anthologies, a book of essays, two novels, and a full-length autobiography. He has a cat without a tail, and he read comics when he was young... two things he'll rarely admit in polite company.

Ronald L. Donaghe is the author of several novels, including those in the series: Common Threads in the Life (which includes the best-selling COMMON SONS), the series: The Continuing Journals of Will Barnett, which includes UNCLE SEAN, LANCE, and this book. In addition, the first book in his fantasy trilogy was published in 2002.

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The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network Tarrant County

Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network Tarrant County

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