Today, I skipped out of social isolation for a walk. And I found a surprise. Two days ago, I had carefully removed half a small bucketful of dandelions from my carefully-manicured lawn and from the carefully-manicured lawns of my neighbours. Now, 48 hours later, two dozen yellow flowers bobbed unashamedly in the breeze from out of the grass. Having happily disposed of the pests, I passed a home two blocks away which had nothing but dandelions sprouting from the soil in front of the house. Huge leafed champions, sporting hundreds of yellow trophies, taunted the decent lawns of the neighbours. The effort seemed somewhat deliberate since all the grass had been removed. This obvious expression of alternative values was a puzzlement for someone who had been raised on the beauty of short cropped golf course greens around the property.
The current legislation around conversion therapy (Bill C-8 introduced in March 2020) seems similar to a legislation declaring that dandelions cannot be removed from the lawn. In no way am I comparing individuals struggling with sexual orientation or gender dysphoria with weeds, but the changing values in our society do appear as confusing, especially when a different view seems to be silenced.
Justice Minister Lametti has stated clearly that “conversion therapy is premised on a lie. That being homosexual, lesbian, bisexual or trans is wrong and in need of fixing. Not only is that false, it sends a demeaning and a degrading message that undermines the dignity of individuals and the LGBTQ community as a whole. Contrary to what some might say, there is no right or wrong when it comes to who you are or who you love.”
Stating that there is no right or wrong to a Bible-believing follower of Jesus is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. The lack of sensitivity to those whose charter rights are entrenched is an invitation for the millions of faithful in Canada to wake up and pool their influence against this offense. An anxious church is starting to understand what the LGBTQ community felt when it had no voice to protect itself.
Okay, so you like dandelions in your yard. Is that a reason for the government to legislate that I have to let dandelions grow in my yard? Yes, the minister says we can still have private, open-ended conversations about the issues but does this include discussions between parents and children, between teachers and students, between pastors and congregants? The courts are notorious for taking the small opening in a legislative door and driving a truck through it. The case of denying Trinity Western their law school is one recent example. The changes in the Medical Assistance in Dying law is another.
The weight of recent legislations from the Government and the Supreme Court show that faith communities will be legislated against if their belief and practice stand opposed to whatever society has declared to be the sexual norm. Bill C-8 says children can’t be subjected to professional discussions to help them out of their dysphoria; those under 18 can’t be taken elsewhere for help; no one of any age can be pressured to change their orientation; no profit can be made off of conversion therapy and advertising services can mean that you are subject to wire-tapping and the seizure of materials.
A few questions:
How will minors who are developmentally unable to determine the impact of life-long altering decisions be protected from the pressures of culture, education, media, peers, and even government? Will we see more legal action such as that being taken by 23-year-old Keira Bell in the UK? She claims that the NHS gender clinic should have “been challenged more by medical staff over her decision to transition to a male as a teenager.” The lawyers in the case are arguing that children cannot give “informed consent to treatment delaying puberty or helping them to transition.” It took only three one-hour appointments with a gender clinic before Bell was prescribed puberty blockers. Bell says, “I was allowed to run with this idea that I had, almost like a fantasy, as a teenager… and it has affected me in the long run as an adult.”
How broad will this legislation grow? In 2015, the Canadian Psychological Association defined conversion therapy (also known as reparative therapy), as any “formal or therapeutic attempt to change the sexual orientation of bisexual, gay or lesbian individuals to heterosexual….” The discussion around definition is now floating into the arena of informal support, counseling, support groups, discipleship and spiritual care offered by faith communities. The fact that the bill uses language of criminal offense is a reason to pay close attention to what is happening in our congregations. What if a person has come with authentic questions surrounding their sexual orientation, temptations, struggles? Does giving a biblical response automatically fall into the realm of conversion therapy?
Barry Bussey, (Feb. 10, 2020, The Controversy over Conversion Therapy), notes “Indeed, Canadian society appears to be at a pivotal moment. Soon, Canada may decide whether or not it remains acceptable for religious communities to advocate a biblical understanding of sexuality that honours either celibacy or marriage between one man and one woman for life. We may well see prayer, Bible studies, or sermons labelled as “conversion therapy,” depending upon the wording of the legislation, and how the courts deal with claims of religious freedom under the Canadian Charter.
“Facing such intense scrutiny – with the possibility of legal challenges, loss of charitable status, or even criminal charges – will require a humble forbearance. Compassionate appreciation for the suffering of others will enable us to empathize with the current outrage – but it does not remove from us our obligations to the Christian faith. We are to continue sharing our message of love even when we are hated for doing so. Society sees our preaching on gender and sexuality as “foolishness” (I Corinthians 1:18) but we persevere (I Peter 1:6-7) knowing that even in the midst of trial, God’s ultimate purposes are revealed for His benefit.”