In Defense of Conversion

One has to admire the candor: the end game is to ban conversion.

"When someone invokes the words 'conversion therapy,' what comes to mind?" asks Terry Schilling, executive director at American Principles Project. "For many Americans, thanks to messaging by the left, the words have become synonymous with horror stories of gay and lesbian children being mistreated at abusive religious summer camps, or even tortured by electric shock treatments."

I think reasonable people can unite against abuse, mistreatment, and electric shock. But in reality, those seeking to ban "conversion therapy" define the term much more broadly.

For example, GLAAD, which calls itself "the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization," defines conversion therapy as "any attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression."

Similarly, Oklahoma state Rep. Jason Dunnington (D-Oklahoma City) defines conversion therapy as "any practice or treatment that seeks to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, including, but not limited to, any effort to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward persons of the same sex." 

Rep. Dunnington defines gender identity as "the gender-related identity, appearance, mannerisms, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, regardless of the individual's designated sex at birth." He defines sexual orientation as "heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality, whether actual or perceived."

This sort of legislation must be opposed, Southern Baptist theologian Albert Mohler explained today:
We do not, as Gospel-minded Christians, believe that therapy is the ultimate answer for a deeply theological problem. We are talking about the problem of sin. This doesn't mean that therapy can't mitigate many situations, but it does mean that when we are looking at conversion therapy we do believe most emphatically in conversion; we do not believe in what might be called conversion therapy, that is, any kind of salvation by therapy. But we also have to be very clear, emphatically clear, that conversion and the new life in Christ brings about regeneration and progressive sanctification and that the new believer is immediately united with Christ and Christ is not united with sin. Biblically minded Christians cannot accept any limitation upon our belief in the fundamental change that does come by the Gospel and must come by the Gospel. And we cannot accept any rule, any legislation, any effort by the larger culture to tell us that we cannot preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we cannot teach all that the Bible reveals about God's intention and design and the law for human sexuality, and what the Bible reveals about gender and gender identity. 
Ultimately, the Christian Research Journal correctly notes, "the outcome of efforts to ban conversion therapy will have enormous ramifications for freedom of religion and the church’s ability to continue preaching and teaching the full counsel of God in Scripture."

As Denny Burk puts it ("It’s not conversion therapy; it’s just conversion"), Christians have always believed "that faith in Christ leads to a conversion of one’s life. It’s what Jesus spoke about in John 3 when he told Nicodemus that he must be “born again” (John 3:3-5). Conversion is a transformation from death to life accomplished by the Holy Spirit in every Christian. It’s not therapy. It’s resurrection from the dead (Eph. 2:4-5). This conversion isn’t just for gay sinners. It’s for all sinners—gay, straight, or otherwise."

Rep. Dunnington's legislation (HB 2456) to ban conversion therapy for minors died in committee in 2019. Here's hoping his legislation (HB 3872) meets the same fate in 2020.

  • On February 12, 2020, Rep. Dunnington's HB 3872 cleared the Children, Youth and Family Services Committee by a vote of 10 to 4. Voting yes: Rep. Forrest Bennett (D-Oklahoma City); Rep. Jeff Boatman (R-Tulsa); Rep. Carol Bush (R-Tulsa); Rep. Derrel Fincher (R-Bartlesville); Rep. Ronny Johns (R-Ada); Rep. Dell Kerbs (R-Shawnee); Rep. Cyndi Munson (D-Oklahoma City); Rep. Melissa Provenzano (D-Tulsa); Rep. Trish Ranson (D-Stillwater); and Rep. Cynthia Roe (R-Lindsay). Voting no: Rep. Mark Lawson (R-Sapulpa); Rep. Nicole Miller (R-Edmond); Rep. Randy Randleman (R-Eufaula); and Rep. John Talley (R-Stillwater).
  • On June 30, 2020, the Bolsheviks took out the Mensheviks in House District 88, so Rep. Dunnington won't be returning to the Legislature in 2021. Better still, Rep. Derrel Fincher (R-Allegedly) also lost in the primary and won't be returning. And better still, Rep. Jim Olsen (R-Roland) is conducting an interim study on "the right of therapists to help those with unwanted same-sex attractions, and the right of clients to receive this therapy."
  • Following up on his interim study, Rep. Olsen has introduced for the 2021 legislative session HB 1004, the "Parental and Family Rights in Counseling Protection Act." This legislation will secure parental rights and prohibit the government from restricting counseling by a mental health provider or religious advisor.
  • Lest you think that legislation banning "conversion therapy" isn't hostile to actual conversion, I ask you to imagine the following hypothetical situation. A 17-year-old boy who is not a Christian goes to a Christian counselor or psychologist and says: "I am attracted both to boys and girls at my high school and am promiscuous with both. I have a gnawing sense deep down that this behavior is wrong. And a friend of mine told me that I need to repent and believe the good news—namely, that Jesus died for my sins and was raised for my justification—or I won’t inherit the kingdom of God. But he said that if I become a Christian, then over time I can grow in holiness and one day settle down and marry a woman. That sounds good to me. I don’t want to be bisexual. What do you think, doc? Can you help me?" No, not if the state has banned so-called conversion therapy. As LGBTQ activist Sam Brinton admitted to the New York Times, conversion therapy "can also have religious elements, with patients being told that their god doesn’t want them to be LGBTQ."
  • Make no mistake: conversion therapy bans strike at the Gospel itself.
  • The session of Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church in Tampa, Florida, has published a helpful "Pastoral Statement Regarding Human Sexuality in Our Contemporary World."
  • "The religious left either does not know (or more likely, does not care) that the real reason people oppose homosexuality and transgenderism is obedience to God," Rick Plasterer writes ("Religious Left Mobilizes for War on the Gospel").
  • "Our LGBTQ kids, they don't need to be converted or repaired," says the mayor of Louisville. "There is no need for conversion here. It is an emphatic celebration of a multiplicity of sexual orientations."
  • The talk therapy that attempts to assist people dealing with unwanted same-sex attraction is better called "Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE)" or "Change-allowing Therapy." Jennifer Roback Morse and Paul Sullins, Ph.D. discuss the studies that claim that so-called “conversion therapy” is harmful. 
  • Often with proposed legislation to ban "conversion therapy," Paul Dirks writes, "there is tremendous ambiguity about which practices and services are being prohibited, which obfuscates a multitude of problems: the endangerment of previously established legal rights for individuals to choose health treatments, the removal of the professional autonomy of doctors in providing treatment according to their expertise, the question of whether 'sexual orientation' includes pedophilia, and the controversy surrounding medical transition for gender identity. ... Either the language around conversion therapy needs to be significantly clarified in these bills to allow this kind of investigation, or we need to continue to allow medical practitioners to do their jobs and trust that, as in many other fields, the benefits of allowing therapy outweigh the potential harms."
  • On November 20, 2020, a federal appeals court struck down two local ordinances banning sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) for minors. In other words, it is illegal to restrict licensed individuals from pursuing their client's therapy goals. Meanwhile, a new study shows no proof of harm from such therapy.
  • States are moving to restrict so-called "conversion therapy" practices meant to help people struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender issues. But a review by WORLD magazine reporter Juliana Chan Erikson suggests the bans are misguided.
  • The Australian state of Victoria has now outlawed praying for someone’s deliverance from same-sex attraction, Oklahoma author Gene Veith notes.
  • Al Mohler asks: Will West Lafayette, Indiana, criminalize Biblical truth?
  • A new study finds that Sexual Orientation Change Effort reduces suicidal behavior.
  • The effect of Canada's conversion-therapy law, Craig A. Carter points out, "is to ban counselors from affirming the Christian doctrine of creation and from affirming the truth that our natural and biological sex is a good gift from our Creator."
  • Some pastors are calling out and preaching against Canada's conversion-therapy law.
  • Eric Metaxas interviews a licensed marriage and family therapist here.
  • The endgame, Rick Plasterer writes, "is to expand the meaning of 'conversion therapy' to cover any opposition to homosexuality or transgenderism, in public or in private. The Ozanne Foundation ... proposes making illegal any religious practice, which would include sermons, pastoral counseling, prayer, or exorcism aimed at bringing people to repentance from homosexuality or transgenderism. 'Conversion therapy' apparently also would include helping people de-transition from a “gender” other than their biological sex to which they have “transitioned.” Covered as well —which shows the real scope of the attack on Biblical morality—would be any calls for sexual abstinence."
  • The folks at the Colson Center ask a good question:

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