Comes now the Amazon Death Star with news that they will no longer carry books by a gent named Joseph Nicolosi, the founder of what has come to be called conversion therapy. Conversion therapy or reparative therapy for minors (therapy designed to reverse homosexuality) is now illegal . . . oh, in loads of places, and Amazon is now doing its part to make sure none of its adult customers ever encounter any icky versions of wrongthink either.
But the way this whole thing is unfolding indicates to me that evangelicals are getting just what we deserve, as opposed to what we actually need on this issue, which is mercy. And by mercy, I am talking about mercy from God, not from our secular overlords. They are merciless, while He is not.
Winston Churchill once defined an appeaser as one who throws others to the alligator, hoping to be the last one eaten. So hold that thought for just a few moments.
Reparative therapy takes many forms, but in the main it is a secular, psychological approach to homosexuality considered as a problem. At the same time, secular or not, it is the kind of approach that ought to be fully legal in any country still pretending to be free. Depending on the activity, we are teetering on the edge of pretending to be free and not even pretending anymore.
Now when Christians who reject secular, psychological counseling (for biblical reasons) undertake themselves to help a young teenager walk away from effeminacy and homosexual desire and/or practice, they must understand that their approach will simply be categorized by the secularists as faith-based reparative therapy. And that would only be if any distinction were to be made at all.
The progressives will define reparative therapy as any approach that undertakes “sexual orientation change efforts.” This is the alligator. But reparative therapy is going to be defined by religious conservatives as any attempt to change sexual orientation by secular or psychological means. This will be the definition held by Christians who want to throw secular counselors to the alligator. We have been willing for the progressives to outlaw secular attempts to reverse homosexuality in minors while hoping, in our vain, delusional and diseased way of thinking, that they will continue to allow us Christians to attempt it with Bible verses and the Holy Spirit. Because, we say triumphantly, what we are doing is not actually reparative therapy! You know, technically.
The thugs in power are defining reparative therapy as any attempt to help a minor resist his unnatural urges. Christians are defining it as any attempt to extend this kind of help while wearing a blue shirt. And so we stand silently by as the bad guys pass laws against any kind of reparative therapy (because, we mutter under our breaths, we have a blue shirt disclaimer), and we tell ourselves that what we are doing is faith-based, gospel-centered, blue-shirtless efforts at change. Surely they will respect our convictions on this matter.
Yeah, they might respect our convictions on this matter. If they find them. If someone lends them a microscope.
Here’s another way to illustrate it. It is a matter of high principle to the progressives that any teenager afflicted with this particular form of lust must be allowed to drown in it. They have thereby made it a crime for any counselor to throw such a person any kind of reparative rope. And because we think it is a sin to throw someone a rope that breaks, we want to throw them a rope that cannot break, and we look around expectantly, wanting to be accepted and applauded by the pro-drowning contingent because we have pointed out that our kind of counseling is “non-reparative.”
Evangelicals are those who are born again. Born again just last night apparently.
Raw Power, Not Consistency
Before discussing our inconsistencies any further, allow me to say a few words about the secular insanity. There are two quick things to say about Amazon flexing like this. There are two radical contradictions at the heart of the progressive agenda on these things, and I want to highlight them briefly before returning to the radical contradiction at the heart of the CYA agenda of religious evangelical conservatives.
Because make no mistake, we are as muddled as they are.
Their first contradiction is their appeal to the fact that Amazon is a private company, and can stock its own shelves how it wants. I agree with this, actually, and want Amazon to have the right to carry or discontinue any product it wants to, for whatever reason it wants to. I think—because they are a private company—they should even have the right to refuse to stock books that argue for the right of evangelical florists, bakers, and photographers to refuse service to anyone. In addition, I believe that an educated citizenry ought to have the right to laugh at their gross and highhanded hypocrisy. I mean, if it were not for double standards, they would have no standards at all.
But the progressives are statists, and this means that they do not really have a distinction between public and private. In principle, everything is public for them. The only time they ever appeal to the public/private distinction is when they can use it as a tactical argument of convenience, designed to muddle Christians, who really do have a category of public and private. If the public/private distinction can advance the sexual revolution, they will use it. But they don’t believe in it at all.
Their second contradiction is found in the swamp they have somehow decided to treat as a hill to die on. Look. Is human sexuality fixed or fluid? How many genders have the subatomic physicists come up with now? Are those genders bolted down to a concrete floor of fixed sexual identity? Like, at birth or before? Or are sexual identities, you know, flowing around according to the whims and desires of the individual sexual being whose current yearnings have somehow been absolutized?
If they are fixed, then please specify the blood test that can anchor the law’s insistence on the mandatory use of particular pronouns. If they are fluid, and a ten-year-old boy can determine that he is actually a girl, and as a result receive professional help to actualize his dream—as our current school of dogmatics has settled he may certainly do—then why can’t a sixteen-year-old boy with homosexual leanings determine that he is actually a heterosexual, and as a result seek out professional or pastoral help to actualize his dream? Faced with this pressing question, the answer of the progressives is immediate and to the point. Shut up, they explain.
But I press the question. Why should it be a crime for a homosexual boy to want to be a heterosexual boy? And why do you all, with the full force of the law behind you, maintain that—and with a straight face too, good job—that the jump from a boy to a girl is a much smaller leap than the jump from an effeminate boy to a masculine boy? A swish to a dude? ImPOSSible. A boy to a girl? Almost out patient. You keep telling us that we can be whatever we want to be. Why do you exclude homosexuals from the power of this pipe dream of yours?
The reason you exclude them is that you are not trying to liberate anyone. Your mission is to corrupt everyone, and that is not the same thing. And of course, once people are corrupted, you want to keep them there.
How Our Muddle Paves the Way for Our Loss of Religious Liberty
Back to our evangelical contradictions, and to the reason why we are forfeiting our right to talk about religious liberty.
In October of 2015, there was a Christian counseling conference at Southern Seminary, an event that was protested by a group of homosexualists calling themselves the Fairness Campaign. The protesters had signs that were emblazoned with the usual claptrap—“Love Needs No Cure” and “Conversion Therapy Kills.”
The counseling group holding the conference was ACBC (Association of Certified Biblical Counselors), and both Southern Seminary and ACBC issued a press release that said the protesters had misunderstood what is going on. You see, both the seminary and ACBC were opposed to reparative therapy. As Bible-believing Christians they didn’t see the need for the blue shirts at all. We have the rope that doesn’t break.
If you chase this issue through various footnotes, you will discover that Heath Lambert (the exec at ACBC at the time) believes that loves of that kind do need a cure—a much more profound cure than the one suggested by secular counseling. And that both he and Al Mohler really do believe that real conversion kills. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3). Of course it kills. Death is the only way out, and Christ offers death and resurrection.
But in the meantime, a press release approach that simply says “we do not support reparative therapy” is an approach that is throwing secular counseling to the alligators. It is vain and futile.
The statement ought to have been a two-fold statement. 1. “For theological reasons, we do not support secular forms of reparative therapy, but we absolutely believe that secular reparative therapists ought to be free to conduct their business in all fifty states. When it comes to their right to operate, we support reparative therapists absolutely.” 2. “We really do not believe that secular reparative therapy goes far enough. They are right to treat homosexual desires as unnatural and undesirable, and so far we agree with them, but we also believe that it is essential that such desires be identified as sinful and offensive to a holy God, and not just inconvenient to the patient. Repentance is therefore an essential part of the restoration process.”
To their credit, they did give a (soft) version of #2. More on that in a minute, and on the nature of the softness. But the secular strategy to set the stage for taking our religious liberty away was successful because they did not say anything like #1. And they should have. Because there is no way to give up on the liberty of the reparative therapists without giving up on your own.
I said that they gave a soft version of #2. What did I mean? In 2014, Al Mohler repented of his previous conviction that there was no such thing as sexual orientation that underlies homosexual choices. Earlier he had thought it was just a matter of choices, and now he has come to believe that a “far more robust Gospel response” is needed.
But does this more robust response realize that the task is bigger than we thought, and so we bring in bigger guns? And attempt to change that orientation? Or does a far more robust gospel response mean that we give up on the orientation part, doing so in the name of Jesus?
Here are a couple of quotes from the news article on the counseling conference at Southern.
“The Christian church has sinned against the LGBT community by responding to this challenge in a superficial way,” Mohler said. “It’s not something that is so simple as converting from homosexual to heterosexual, and from our gospel-centered theological understanding that would not be sufficient.”
“We don’t call people to embrace heterosexuality,” Lambert said. “We call people to embrace Christian faithfulness.”
So the question is simple. Is there room for the Revoice project in there? It would seem so. If orientation is something that Christian pastoral counseling is supposed to “leave alone,” aiming instead for “faithfulness” and “singleness” and a “life of celibacy,” that does not have to be “heterosexual” to be faithful, then we should just leave that part alone. Right?
So a few quick words are needed on whether or not same-sexual orientation is “reversible” in this life. And the answer to that question is that you don’t work on people like pastors were mechanics and parishioners were carburetors. For various reasons, the effeminacy of some does lie pretty close to the bone, and that is the battle they will have until they die. For numerous others, their same-sex attraction can be successfully mortified in this life, and they can marry someone of the opposite sex and live a faithful Christian life in an ordinary way, and go to bed every night in a bed with heterosexual residents.
What the Revoice project wants is for the church to leave a particular class of lusts and desires entirely alone. If someone is same-sex attracted, that is just the way it is. But if we are simply leaving that set of desires alone, the one thing we should not call it is a robust gospel response. It is more like a robust throwing in of the towel.
And because we are talking about hundreds of thousands of people, this is how we can tell we have substituted politics for pastoral care. Pastors care for Smith, Jones, and Murphy. They don’t care for statistical clumps. In a blog post discussing this issue, Al Mohler said this:
“Put simply, most people experiencing a same-sex attraction tell of discovering it within themselves at a very early age, certainly within early puberty . . .”
That claim, that phrase “most people,” is a claim that was curated by somebody. What does the current research say? What is the approved scholarship? Is it believing scholarship? What was the chain of reasoning from those premises, and who collected the premises in the first place? For example, what would you make of a young man who found himself dealing with same-sex attraction during early puberty? And would it be relevant to add that he was dealing with a deep resentment of his mother at around the same time? And might his contempt of his mother, and through her of women generally, not have anything to do with his DNA?
So if there has been a murder on the orientation express, and I believe there has been, it would appear to be that the victim found in the dining car was an elderly gentleman out of Bunyan whose name was Careful Distinctions.
First They Came for the Conversion Therapists . . .
I refer to a quote that is famous for a reason.
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me”—Martin Niemöller
First they came for the conversion therapists, but we said nothing because we were not conversion therapists. No blue shirts in our office! Then they came for . . .
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matt. 7:1–2).
You want the secularists to let you do your biblical counseling, even though they disagree with both your means and your ends. You want them to let you alone despite that disagreement. And yet, when conversion therapy is outlawed, what did you do to speak up on behalf of the people you disagreed with?
That’s right, nary a peep.