November 25, 2020

Victorian Conversion Therapy Legislation: destined for the baddest guys of all – us!

From tomorrow in the state of Victoria in Australia, all that you will have to do to become badder guys than you are today is to stay exactly where you are.

Don’t shift in your thinking around biblical sexual ethics. Don’t move.

Just stay orthodox and let the Victorian Government Legislation do the shifting for you. And you will move from bad to badder to baddest in quick smart time.

Why? Because the Victorian government is introducing alarmingly restrictive legislation under the cover of banning conversion therapy. And it will have a suffocating effect on orthodox biblical teaching around sex.

And that’s the point. It’s no accident. Teaching and practices far removed from dicredited conversion therapy programs are the target.

Church teaching on sexuality is not being scooped up by this, it’s been the quarry all along. The legislation has deliberately sought out voices that insist conversion therapy is not simply some wacky pseudo-psychological practice that has fallen by the wayside, but standard church practice and teaching. And that practice and teaching is bad. Badder. Baddest even.

And what of religious minority groups such as Muslims who hold to traditional views around sex, and indeed teach these? It’s hard enough being viewed with suspicion by people in the general population, without alternately being patronised (for being cute and somehow diverse) by the same governments that wish to prosecute you (for being hostile and separatist).

The clear tactic is to pressure religious groups to self-censor when it comes to speaking about matters around sexual ethics. And with penalties of thousands of dollars, and jail terms of up to ten years, who wouldn’t think twice about preaching Romans 1, or indeed Genesis 1 and 2.

If this legislation goes through, then the act of you, a religious celebrant, standing in front of a wedding crowd, and stating that God created them male and female and intends marriage between a man and a woman to represent his plan for sexual relationships will make you bad.

Very bad. Super bad. The baddest baddy there can be. And who wants to be the bad guys, right, especially at a wedding? Especially when the good guys come looking for you. There’s always someone who spoils a wedding. Next time it might be you!

The central thread of my book Being the Bad Guys, is the speed and manner in which this change has occurred around the ethics of sex. Around what can be said in public around sex. It’s around the psychological and emotional discombobulation we experience when this shift occurs and how to navigate these troubled waters.

My book argues that what were once considered acceptable beliefs around sexuality, are now viewed as hostile. They should be legislated against if we are to progress to the utopia that politicians and activists assure us is coming. But that utopia will only arrive if we can just get everyone (those pesky bad guys) to line up with the same way of thinking. And to do that we will have to impose that from the top down. By hook or by crook it must be done!

In my book I’ve argued that the pace of change is so rapid that we’re constantly playing catch up. What seemed an acceptable position today – one that the governments and agencies would pass by with nary a thought – is unacceptable tomorrow, unacceptable to the point of criminal. Heck, even my book is playing catch up at the moment since it went to print, so buy it now while it’s hot! (shameless plug and buy a copy here).

The legislation includes heavy penalties including prison terms of up to ten years for those who breach the law. That sounds pretty bad. That sounds like something terrible has been done, like sexual assault or murder. Oh wait, with such a shamefully low strike rate for conviction around sexual assault, it’s probably a lot worse.

The Andrews government prides itself on being progressive and so they’re doubling down on so-called conversion therapy.

Yet clearly, since there is so little of that actually happening, the anecdotal evidence they have positively encouraged to be brought forward, is pitched around standard church teachings and practices, regardless if it’s through a wacky program or not.

Given the unicorn of conversion therapy they were ostensibly chasing was either extinct or on the way to Dodo-land, the real hunt is for those churches and groups that just won’t line up with the good guys.

Groups that won’t admit that the shiny “sexular age” around gender and sexual self-determination is a good destination to be headed towards are flies in the progressive ointment.

The Premier, Daniel Andrews, stated as much when he put out a press release today, with this quote from his Attorney General:

Quote attributable to Attorney-General Jill Hennessy

“We’re sending a clear message: no one is ‘broken’ because of their sexuality or gender identity. These views won’t be tolerated in Victoria, and neither will these abhorrent practices.”  

You can read the rest of the Premier’s statement here.

Well since we as orthodox believers are convinced that we are all broken in some way around sex, (in the same sense that we are all broken in some way around everything), even as those saved by Jesus, that’s going to be an immoveable object meeting an irresistible force.

Or at least I hope it will be immoveable. Because being the bad guy is going to get tougher. And badder. And I think that many Christians and groups will simply cave. They already have.

Those revisionist churches that already have switched out the gospel of salvation for the gospel of sex will be all too eager to grass up the bad guys who haven’t. Don’t kid yourself they won’t.

I even notice it on my own Facebook feed. Sadly, I’ve concluded that there are friends on that platform who would never come to my defence if I got hauled up before a court on this issue. “I was in prison and you never visited me, etc, etc..”

Perhaps they are too scared. Perhaps they love the approval of humans and not of God. Perhaps they really really believe that God approves of all sorts of sexual expression and self-identity markers outside of what His Word says and that we have to forge a new reality around sex in order to usher His Kingdom in. I hope it’s not that last one, but I suspect for some it is.

Don’t get me wrong. I too think many of the practices of conversion therapy – indeed many of the assumptions behind its worst excesses – are problematic. I also think the idea that you can simply change someone’s sexual attraction issues through some form of therapy, is naive and foolish, and open to all sorts of abuses.

And let’s not even get started on the “pray the gay away” stuff. I find that unconvincing and demeaning. God has called us to purity and holiness in sexuality, and that’s for everyone. Yet it seems even a call to celibacy is set to fall under the hammer of the legislation.

The Attorney General says that she will consult with religious groups. If you are in Victoria, why should you treat her in good faith? Why give her information that clearly is intended to be used against you? She is looking for you to convince her that you are not bad. That’s a waste of time.

Bad guys and bad gals – this legislation is targeting you. It is targeting you who hold to orthodox sexual ethics in your teaching, and in your pastoral and disciplinary practices among your people, your lay leaders and paid staff. This legislation is aimed at you, be under no illusion about that. And gird your loins for when it happens. Prep yourself for when your sermon or your talk at uni, or your Bible Study notes are presented in a court as evidence that you are very, very bad indeed.

Clearly it’s not a time to be unwise. And nor is it a time to poke the bear. There’s nothing godly about being a shrill agitator looking for trouble. Don’t do the government’s work for it. But don’t shrink back either. Like Daniel in Babylon live in such a way that it will be your commitment to your God that gets you into trouble. Seek the good of the city, even if that means what you proclaim and teach suddenly, in the eyes of the government, goes from bad to badder to baddest.

Oh and here’s something so bad it’s good:

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Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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