Lie down. Now roll over.
Aw, who’s a good church? You’re a good church! Yes, you are.
So said the City Council of Calgary early this week to its churches – and indeed, to believers in general – when it voted, unanimously, to ban so-called “Conversion Therapy.” Calgary citizens in defiance will now face a $10,000.00 fine, a year in prison, or both.
What the Left achieves in Canada today shows what it plans for other nations tomorrow. That’s why Assemblies of God churches in the States and around the world should carefully note three aspects of this story: the definition of “Conversion Therapy”, the punishments faced by people found guilty of practicing it, and the impact these bans will unquestionably have on churches.
The Crime in Question
First, the definition. The ban describes Conversion Therapy as “a practice, treatment or service designed to change, repress or discourage a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behavior.”
This goes far beyond forbidding counselor’s from making extravagant promises to “cure” all homosexual temptations. It also prohibits a counselor from helping someone change their behavior, even if that behavior conflicts with their conscience.
Never mind what the person seeking counsel wants or believes as a Christian, an Orthodox Jew, a Muslim, or a Mormon. Religion be damned, sit down, don’t speak, roll over.
The Consequences Inevitable
Then there’s the consequences laws like this will have on private and profound decisions. On that point, let’s play a little Rod Serling.
Imagine, if you will, an adult male who’s spent years identifying as gay, sexually active with men, but now feeling a change of heart about homosexuality based on his religious convictions. Imagine him seeking out a Christian counselor with a belief system compatible to his own. Imagine him saying, “I’ve been having relations with men, but I no longer feel right about that in light of what I believe as a Christian. Please help me live my life within the parameters of my faith.”
Now imagine the counselor saying, “I could lose $10,000.00 plus one year of freedom if I do what you ask.”
I was that man in 1984, and I asked for help which was, thank God, legal.
I am also that counselor, 36 years later. And after 33 years of marriage, the joy of raising 2 grown sons, and a life I both chose and love, I’ll be banned if I’m going to lie down for any tyrant wanting to tell me and my clients what to believe, and how to practice it.
The Criminals in Danger
But only the most naive pastors will comfort themselves by thinking these restrictions might only apply to Christian counselors, or para-church ministry leaders. Instead, they will go straight to the pastor’s office, monitoring his advice and his prayers.
So said Calgary’s Council Board Chair Gian-Carlo in a video available on You Tube: ” … if counselling work undertaken by a church was deemed to be conversion therapy, they would be in danger of violation of this by-law.”
Pressed for clarification, he affirmed this would apply to ongoing counseling, or even something as random as a person dropping by a church to get ministerial advice about gender identity or homosexuality.
The resulting endangered species of pastors would include not only those with the AG, but all Southern Baptist, Calvary Chapel, Vineyard, Foursquare, or Nazarene pastors, all Catholic Priests, all Mormon Elders, and all Muslim Clerics who counsel according to their organization’s clearly stated positions.
Fair and Balanced
Many people claim to have undergone what they now call “conversion therapy” (see HERE for ReStory’s position statement on the subject) then embraced a gay or lesbian identity, claiming their experience with counseling or ministry was damaging.
Though we may challenge some of their claims, in fairness, let’s recognize that all “conversion therapy” horror stories aren’t fiction. Some people, seeking help for their struggles, have been promised their counselor could make all their gay feelings disappear. Some were told it was all Dad’ fault, or Mom’s fault, or Somebody’s fault. Some were subjected to exorcisms, shaming techniques, and even sexual abuse. All this and more has happened in the name of counsel/ministry to homosexuals.
But has any area of treatment – depression, hysteria, drug addiction, overeating – been exempt from quacks or ineptitude? Whenever there’s professional or ministerial help, some cases of professional or ministerial abuse will rear their head. The answer isn’t to ban the help itself, but to punish the abusers on a case by case basis.
The problem, after all, is the way the clients were treated, not the fact that they were treated.
The Bottom Line?
But there’s a chase to cut to here, and that’s the agenda behind the policies. Banning “conversion therapy” is hardly the end goal. Rather, it’s the silencing of any voice holding to a traditional view of marriage
Think about it. If pastors are forbidden to tell people they can turn away from homosexual behavior, then pastors must inevitably stop calling homosexuality a sin.
That’s because a foundational belief all faiths hold is that if something is a sin, it can be recognized as such, then turned away from. That’s the essence of confession, repentance, redemption, and holiness.
So if homosexual sex can’t be turned from, it also can’t be called a sin. LGBTQ strategists know that. Do we?
And the Banned Played On
We’re going to see more of this, internationally and domestically, since “Ban Conversion Therapy” has become the rallying cry of today’s politicized LGBTQ movement, just as surely as “Marriage Equality” was it’s rallying cry a decade ago . We’re left then, with two simple questions:
- Is the Biblical definition of marriage and family a moral and doctrinal hill we’re willing to die on, or a secondary issue we can politely avoid?
- Are we willing to allow the State to tell the Church what we may or may not call sin, and what we will or will not call righteousness?
Our answers will determine whether the Church will continue Her assigned role as the light of the world, or whether the world will assume its desired role as the light of the Church.