Let me be the first to engage in some bigoted quackery and talk conversion.
That is to quote Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who has announced plans to ban so-called ‘LGBT conversion therapy.’
Speaking on Sunday at Melbourne’s Midsumma Pride March, Andrews vigorously criticised the idea that someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity can be changed, calling it “a most personal form of torture, a cruel practice that perpetuates the idea that LGBTI people are in some way broken.”
“We will drag these practices out of the dark ages and into the brightest of lights.”
Then he called it “bigoted quackery” – see my opening remark.
This is at first bewildering for the average Christian reader if only because few have ever heard of something called ‘LGBT conversion therapy.’ It’s a term invented by them, not us.
So, we are left to ask what it means.
Are they referring to something coercive? Involuntary? Abusive? Is this all about those bizarre and dark tales of electric shock therapy and “anti-gay” boot camps?
If so, then we have nothing to worry about. Those things are just wrong and form no part of any significant faith community. I would question whether they are happening at all in 2018. I’ve not found anyone with first-hand knowledge of them in Australia.
But why would such vehemence, hyperbole, and even venom be directed at a non-existent practice?
Well… Obviously that’s not what they mean.
Karen Cusack, Victorian Health Complaints Commissioner, said ‘conversion therapy’ appears in ‘contemporary forms’ as counselling, psychology, support groups and prayer.
Before it was amended on the back of an ACL campaign, the Australian Labor Party’s national platform contained an LGBT conversion therapies policy which targeted mere “claims” that a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation can change.
It went on to specifically mention those conducting religious activities, and finished by saying that parents perpetuating such notions would be deemed domestic and psychological abusers of their children.
Yes. Domestic abusers.
But it gets worse.
The Human Rights Law Centre and La Trobe University have partnered to produce a report, “Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice: Responding to LGBT Conversion Therapy in Australia.”
These groups are always influential when it comes to framing policy, especially in Victoria.
Their report condemns the “insidious practice” of churches having a “welcoming but not affirming” policy akin to the adage, “love the sinner but not the sin.”
It decries the fact that church communities are “saturated with a heterosexual sexual ideology” and can offer prayer and counselling to those who aren’t.
It attacks the idea that sexual practices can be named as sinful, and that notions of salvation from sin can be promoted.
And so, it goes on.
One is left to ask: what options are there for a Christian family? The Church? A pastor? The Christian counsellor or doctor?
For that matter, the Christian friend who is asked for help?
Would it be legal for someone to ask for prayer or counsel concerning an issue like unwanted same-sex attraction? Would the pastoral response of prayer – which is second-nature to any Christian who hears a call for help – be legal?
Can a therapist or other professional counsel someone – perhaps a child – with gender dysphoria in a way that affirms their biology?
What about the totally voluntary support groups by ex-gays, for ex-gays? Can they even decide to do that?
A child who has been served up the “explore, experiment, discover” mantra of safe-schools-style programs, and told by the school counsellor their feelings might be evidence of homosexuality or transgenderism… What options do their parents have now?
Can dad discourage 10-year-old Harry from wearing a dress and using the girls’ toilets for a little while yet?
Can mum explain to 15-year-old Sarah that becoming a lesbian because an activist put the idea in her head and all her besties are girls, might not be a good choice?
It seems gender and sexual orientation conversion are fine if done by one group, but a reprehensible offence when done by another.
But what about this: can a pastor read Romans 1? Can a pastor name sin? Can a pastor preach the reality of being a new creation in Christ? Actually – forget the pastor – can anyone proclaim these truths?
Is the gospel even legal?
This takes the prize for the most insidious attack on Christians and their churches I have ever seen in Australia. It is worse than the ‘school freedom’ debate of last year, and that was bad.
But it’s not just about us, it’s also about the cost of suppressing the truth. The cost to children (including our own), and the cost to our neighbours.
But Andrews has just won a landslide election victory. His mandate to make this law is strong, and he isn’t going anywhere fast.
So, whilst it’s still legal, let me get to the core of this “bigoted quackery.”
Conversion is real. It’s a miracle.
I know, because I have been converted.
Not by myself, as if I can boast. But by the grace of God alone.
Not from homosexuality, but from sin to salvation; darkness to light; death to life.
From self, to Christ.
That will forever remain offensive to our culture.
Andrews decries the notion that anyone is “broken,” proclaiming, “Here in Victoria, not only are you good enough, you’re worth celebrating.”
Therein lies the true difference between the gospel and our culture.
The one says peace lies within. The solution is self; happiness is the identity; fulfillment is self-expression; who I am is all I need.
The other hears the voice of Jesus tear through our pride, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Self is enslavement, not liberty. Pursuit of self is guilt, not peace.
When Isaiah encountered God, he had this revelation: he had not one atom of self-worth to hold up as credit in the face of the one of whom angels were singing, “holy, holy, holy.”
The gospel proclaims sin, Christ, and salvation, not to leave us in the hopeless wallowing of self-love and narcissism, but to save us from ourselves and lead us into something other-worldly and sublime. Scripture calls it, “changed from one degree of glory to another.”
Scripture says that Christ and His cross are an “offence” to the world. Why? Because they are the greatest threat to our self-celebration that we could ever encounter.
The tragedy of our times is that we have been taught to double down, triple down, quadruple down on self-love and the pursuit of our identity.
And we are raising the most depressed and anxious generation our culture has ever seen.
Because that is to turn one’s face away from the giver of true peace, the author of life, and the answer that our guilty self is really screaming out for.
The cross says ‘repent.’ Christ who is alive says ‘I will make you anew.’
To quote the Apostle Paul:
“If anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation. Behold, the old has passed away, behold all things have become new, and all these things come from God who reconciled us to Himself.”
That’s peace. Peace with God.
And it can’t be stopped. I’m afraid that’s above your jurisdiction, Premier.