There must a be plague of conversion therapy in the UK – indeed throughout the Western world. Why else would politicians, journalists and activists be demanding government legislation immediately? At a time of Covid, climate emergency and other major global issues, surely conversion therapy must be a clear and present danger, threatening millions, in order for it to garner so much attention?
Conversion therapy is banned in four countries – Brazil, Ecuador, Germany and Malta. The state of Victoria in Australia has also banned it, and the US, Canada, and the UK seem set to follow.
According to the UK Government, it is "an abhorrent practice that this government will take action to stop".
So, what is this conversion therapy of which they speak?
When TV news programmes go 'undercover' to discover conversion therapy, wanting to make 'good' TV and be as sensationalist as possible, they hunt for the most extreme, obscure group they can find and then 'report' that this is what is going on in Britain today.
And last week, the Conservative MP Angela Kearns informed Parliament that it includes things such as electric shock treatment and 'corrective rape' as well as therapy and prayer.
But the truth is that most politicians are largely ignorant of what conversion therapy actually is. All they know is that it is 'bad', and they will get hassle if they don't join in with the mob - and virtue points if they do. And so, they will. But there will be little thought, little reality and little awareness of the consequences of passing a law that they do not understand.
What particularly interests and disturbs me is the religious people who see this law as a way to impose their liberal theology on the wider Church, by using the power of the State. You will have noticed that Angela Kearns mentioned corrective rape and prayer in the same breath – as though the one was equivalent to the other. Her ignorance and prejudice have likely been misinformed by religious figures such as Steve Chalke and Jayne Ozanne, who last week quit the Government's LGBT+ advisory panel, claiming that there was a hostile environment for LGBT people in the administration and apparently upset that the Government would not offer a complete ban.
Chalke meanwhile says that those who actually believe what the Bible teaches about same-sex relationships should not be allowed to pastor, preach or pray with LGBTQI+ people unless they are 'affirming'. If we do not welcome LGBT theology, then he threatens us with prosecution. Remember those dim and distant days when Chalke spoke about how we had to accept difference, and be tolerant of one another? No more.
Now our liberal progressive theologians want to use the whole force of the State to ensure that we all follow their State-imposed doctrine. Some of us warned years ago that Chalke's theology would soon move from 'respectful disagreement' to that of compulsion. It gives me no pleasure to have been proved right.
Ozanne and Chalke argue that anything that seeks a change in behaviour should be illegal. Teaching that homosexual acts are wrong should be illegal, as should refusing to have LGBT leaders.
So what should the faithful Church do?
Firstly, we must disown and dissociate ourselves from the extreme forms of conversion therapy that are used to justify this ban. I have yet to meet or hear of a single Christian leader who would support 'corrective rape', or porn therapy etc. But doubtless in this weird world there will be some people somewhere who use Christianity to justify their abuse. We must not justify them.
Furthermore, our priority should not be to change people's sexual desires, but rather to help all Christians to have self-discipline, self-control and uphold Christ's teaching on these matters – whatever their perceived sexuality. Pornography, adultery, sex outside marriage, any perversion of God-given pleasure, any form of abuse or mistreating of others is sin and wrong. But to use sin to correct sin is anti-Christian.
Equally we must not allow the emotive and dishonest attempt to equate prayer, pastoral care, Bible teaching and fellowship with abusive conversion therapy, to succeed. What is being proposed in a society which is becoming increasingly authoritarian is an oppressive and bullying measure that will do a great deal of harm. This is the new sexual doctrine of the progressive elites being imposed on the Church by a State which will brook no opposition.
A time is coming soon when, unless we are prepared to ditch the teaching of Jesus and the Bible, and follow the teaching of the new orthodoxy, we will be breaking the law. Troublemakers who want to silence biblical teaching and practice will be cheered on from the sidelines by those like Chalke and Ozanne. Read articles like this while they are still legal! I'll send you my prison letters!
We must also speak up for the poor and those who cannot speak for themselves – especially children. Conservative MP Caroline Noakes gives us this an example of the kind of harmful, irrational nonsense that is so harmful: "We have to recognise that we want to welcome and accept people, whatever their gender and whatever their sexuality, and it seems to be incredibly difficult for the government to move as quickly as the country is."
What's harmful about that seemingly innocuous statement – apart from the arrogance of assuming that she knows where "the country is"? Firstly, do we really want to welcome and affirm every sexuality? Ms Noakes may not think that there are sexualities that harm people – but most people with any moral compass and rational mind do. And what does she mean by "whatever gender"? Does she mean one of the 97 genders (or whatever the latest figure is)? Does she mean the gender that we are by virtue of our biology? Does she think that a boy can convert to being a girl? Does she believe men can get pregnant? Or that biological males should play women's sport?
Ozanne made a particular mention of transgender ideology. She seems to think it is ok for medical treatments to mess with a child's body, and for social contagion, trans indoctrination and peer pressure to mess with a child's mind. But she wants it to be wrong for a child who suffers from Gender Identity Disorder to be told that they are suffering from Gender Identity Disorder and be offered help. Conversion therapy laws could harm not just those of us who hold to the Bible's teaching about gender, but feminists who want to keep their womanhood, and detransitioners who realise they have made a terrible mistake.
A final word about conversion: I love it. It's a great word explaining a great biblical concept. It's about new life, renewal, new beginnings, change and hope. The Father wants us to be converted, the Son died and rose that we might be converted, and the Holy Spirit converts us. And that's an important point by the way: biblical Christians don't seek to convert anyone. We tell them of Jesus, we tell them what God says, trusting that the Holy Spirit will work the miracle of the new birth. We can't convert, so try to stop us doing something we cannot do is a bit pointless. But not as pointless as trying to stop the Holy Spirit doing His good work. No State or doctrine can stop the triune God!
When Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem and reported how "the Gentiles had been converted" we are told that "this news made all the believers very glad" (Acts 15:3). Doubtless then, as now, there were religious leaders who objected to this obviously harmful behaviour and who sought to get the real Christians into trouble with the authorities.
Today there are state authorities in Communist and Islamic countries who have anti-conversion laws. How sad that supposedly democratic countries in the West are now about to add their own. We are regressing to the bad old days of State-imposed doctrine. But the faithful will continue to live and testify in Babylon – even as we witness it collapsing around us!
David Robertson is director of Third Space in Sydney and blogs at www.theweeflea.com