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Support for conversion therapy bans are revealing the divide between two different Christianities – CT

This weeks Christian Today article – you can read the original here.

Support for conversion therapy bans are revealing the divide between two different Christianities

 

Jayne Ozanne (c) and Peter Lynas (r) debating conversion therapy bans on Premier’s Unbelievable?, hosted by Justin Brierley (l).(Photo: YouTube/Premier)

One of the most influential books in the 20th Century Church was J Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism. Machen was prophetic in his analysis of the crisis facing the Church in the US in the first half of the century – some would argue that it was because of his (and others’) stance that the US Church did not go down the path of decline that Churches in most other Western countries did.

In his prophetic book he warned: “A terrible crisis unquestionably has arisen in the Church. In the ministry of evangelical churches are to be found hosts of those who reject the gospel of Christ. By the equivocal use of traditional phrases, by the representation of differences of opinion as though they were only differences about the interpretation of the Bible, entrance into the Church was secured for those who are hostile to the very foundations of the faith.”

These words came to mind as I listened to the latest debate on conversion therapy on Premier’s Unbelievable, between Jayne Ozanne, the chair of Ban Conversion Therapy, and Peter Lynas of the Evangelical Alliance. Ozanne is, like Steve Chalke, a former evangelical who has a significant voice in the Anglican church and beyond.

As I listened to the somewhat (one-sided) heated discussion, I realised that this was not just a disagreement between two different versions of Christianity, but a disagreement between two different Christianities – which is why there was no possibility of agreement.

Francis Schaeffer, another prophetic writer who saw what was coming down the road, argued in The God Who Is There, that a new theology conditioned by modernistic and post modernistic would infiltrate the Church and create chaos.

He said that this new theology would have certain advantages because “the undefined connotation words that the new theology uses are deeply rooted in our Western culture. This is much easier and more powerful than using new and untraditional words.”

Ozanne used Christian words, but within progressive ideology they have radically different meanings:

1. Love

Ozanne told us, “God is love, anything that harms a child or adult goes against that.” But she never defines what love is. It’s so easy to say ‘love is love’, but without definition, that statement is completely vacuous.

The Bible on the other hand makes it explicitly clear. 1 John 4:10 says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Furthermore, our love is also clearly defined: “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2-3).

When people reject the commands of God, they are being the opposite of loving.

2. Harm

Ozanne kept accusing Peter and the EA of causing harm. Helen Joyce in her book Trans lays out how accusations of harm are used by trans activists to emotionally bully people into accepting their agenda. It always ends up with accusing those who disagree with them of causing suicide. Yet there is no evidence that the teaching of Jesus is the cause of suicide.

But Ozanne went further: “There is no evidence of Jesus teaching something that is going to cause people harm.”

I would have thought that most modern people would regard telling people to pluck out their eye if it is going to cause them to sin; to let the dead bury their dead; to hate their own father and mother; and to cast people into Hell as somewhat harmful! Perhaps Ozanne should heed his warning in Matthew 18:6 about those who cause people to stumble?

Because the harm mantra works both ways. Ozanne cited surveys her organisation has carried out seeking to show that biblical teaching has caused harm. But I can equally cite many examples of Ozanne’s type of teaching which has caused incredible harm. I think of the vulnerable young man who was told he was unhappy because he was gay and went on to a disastrous and harmful lifestyle. Or the young girl who was told the same because she was supposedly trapped in the wrong body.

I think of the countless millions whose eternal souls have been harmed by a perverted and distorted teaching of the Gospel – which brings us on to the Gospel.

3. The Gospel

What is the good news? According to Ozanne there must be no attempt to change, suppress or cure. This is a long way from the teaching of Jesus that unless we change to the extent that we are born again we will not even see the Kingdom of God (John 3).

And it’s a long way from the teaching of Paul that radical change – washing, sanctification, justification in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11) – is needed.The list he gives of things that need changed includes homosexual practice, adultery and sexual immorality as well as many others.But Ozanne says that “anything that is done that seeks to change, cure or suppress someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity” is harmful and should be made illegal.

In wanting to ban conversion therapy, Ozanne is not just talking about unbiblical and sinful coercion and manipulation, which Peter also rightly condemned. She is talking about banning conversion. Yet the Gospel is not that God ‘accepts people as they are’. The Gospel involves radical repentance and change. The ‘progressive’ Gospel involves no change, no curing of our sinful hearts, and no suppression of evil within us. Instead, we become as God.

The new ‘progressive Christianity’, which is in reality a regression to a pagan Gnosticism which uses the words of Christianity, also has other characteristics apart from the misuse of language.

4. The misuse of history

Ozanne announced that, “The teaching on marriage is only a couple of hundred years old and you need to do your homework on that.” What is breathtaking in this is the rewriting of history to suit the narrative of the present. Anyone who reads the New Testament, the early Church Fathers, the medieval Catholic theologians, the Reformers etc would not find any substantive difference in the teaching about marriage as being between a man and a woman.

5. The irrationality

There was one point where Lynas was absolutely flummoxed, not because he didn’t understand, but because he did. Ozanne had spent much of the discussion talking about “teaching which causes a huge amount of harm” and advocating that what is harmful should be banned. But she then denied that the teaching should be banned – only prayer!

It was almost amusing to hear Ozanne argue that Lynas was in a “coercive bubble” while at the same time threatening the law against those who don’t fit in with her particular bubble! It’s hard to get more coercive than ‘do what we say or you are going to jail’! Which brings us on to the final trait.

6. The intolerance

Ozanne told us that we can’t consent to abuse. But then the power lies with those who get to define what abuse is. Besides which of course we can consent to abuse – unless Ozanne is suggesting that prostitution, sadomasochism and pornography are not abuse? If they are does she want them banned as well? What about banning the abuse of abortion? If you automatically define that which you disagree with as ‘abuse’, then you get to be both intolerant and virtuous in your own eyes!

This intolerance is first of all fed by emotive and misleading language, and applies to those gay Christians who do not accept Ozanne’s particular interpretation – people like Jackie Hill Perry, David Bennett, Rosario Butterfield, Ed Shaw, Sam Alberry etc, who are dismissed with contempt.

Then come the threats. If you do not accept our doctrine we will ‘continue to hold you before the law’. The charge of spiritual abuse was repeated again and again. I wrote about the danger of this being misused to attack those who reject the new Progressive religion.

Ozanne is quite clear that she is prepared to use state political power to enforce the Church to accept her doctrines. Repentance must be enforced through the civil law – or else we face the prospect of jail. The irony of this taking place in a week when a Finnish politician is facing the possibility of two years in jail for citing Romans 1 to her own Church is unbelievable.

Canada and the Australian State of Victoria have both passed law so draconian that not only pastors, but parents and teachers could find themselves jailed for upholding the standards of Christ – even to their own children!

While Lynas pointed out that this would be against the European Convention on Human Rights, Ozanne defended it and stated that there could be no ground for informed consent when the cost of not consenting is so high – while at the same time insisting that all of us must consent to her doctrines or face state prosecution!

Conclusion

Perhaps we should conclude with some agreement. We are all agreed that coercive ‘conversion therapy’ is wrong. I also agree with Ozanne when she warns that “God will have something very hard to say to us if we refuse to hear the voices of those calling out to us”.

Indeed he will. But he will have even more to say to us if we refuse to hear his voice.

“Nevertheless I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling” (Revelation 2:20-21).

When someone wants to ‘celebrate’ what God has condemned we have turned against Christ.

I also agree with Ozanne that the Christianity she is teaching, and the Christianity represented by Lynas and the Evangelical Alliance (and I should also add many Catholic, Reformed and Orthodox churches i.e. historical confessional Christianity) are two different religions.

Machen would also have concurred:

It is no wonder, then, that liberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible. It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism on the other hand is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men” (Machen, Christianity and Liberalism).

The crossroads that the Western Church faces today is the question of: which God will we serve? As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

David Robertson 

Jayne Ozanne – Just Love – A Journey of Self-Acceptance (and ITV on Conversion Therapy)

 

39 comments

  1. I’ve heard Ozanne on Unbelievable before and was very unimpressed by her refusal to listen to any viewpoint but her own, not to mention her habit/tactic of claiming hurt and offence when she had no arguments to offer. As you pointed out it’s an entirely different religion, one which worships the self and whose adherents cannot be corrected.

  2. “. . . a disagreement between two different Christianities . . ”

    – between two different religions, more like.

  3. Thanks for this David. I’ve watched the first half of this. The problem is Ozanne comes across as compassionate and wise. Her claim that attempts to convert are damaging can sound convincing when she relates her own story and the stories she claims to be true of others are in one way searching. Of course the damage of living with these inclinations is not explored. Or refusing others the right to seek to change. I can imagine that like heterosexual urges homosexual urges will be powerful. I can sympathise with those that wrestle with their inclinations.

    Where ozanne reveals just how unreliable a guide she is is when she talks about the bible. She is so clearly and culpably wrong here that it is hard to believe anything else she says. Her doctrine of love is so self-evidently partisan that it’s hard to see how she misses the irony.

    Yet it is her views that carry weight in society and unless God is merciful to his people her wishes are likely to be realised. Yet the Lord is with his people.

    1. I don’t think she comes across as compassionate and wise at all! She is smug, sneering, overbearing, illogical – and simply claiming ‘you hurt people, I love people’ is not nearly enough.

    2. John, you wrote,
      “ The problem is Ozanne comes across as compassionate and wise. ”

      I’ll admit that I have not watched the whole video. I can’t! I’m sick to my stomach, and I have watched only the first 20 or so minutes.

      But, please, John, tell me where or when in the first twenty minutes did Ozanne come across as compassionate? Or where or when did she come across as wise?

      I can’t see either of the two, let alone both of them!

      And I’ve paused the video because I’m appalled at her rudeness. And if I was on the same side of the argument as she is, I’d be embarrassed to admit it.

      I have yet to decide if I can return to watching the video. I’ve had a pleasant Australia Day afternoon (on which my wife became a proper Aussie) shattered by her rudeness and her lies.

      May she and her ilk repent before it’s too late.

      Andrew

    3. Matt 7.15-20

      This is exactly why the NHS stopped practicing conversion therapy – it didn’t work and was causing some people considerable harm.

      I don’t really understand why evangelicals are so resistant to banning conversion therapy since it is, by definition, abandoning faith in the will and power of God and joining their reputation to a clearly fraudulent practice. It doesn’t really seem any more legitimate than those who meld QANON with Christianity.

      To mangle Matt 7 – the proof is in the pudding – millions of people have been through conversion therapy worldwide, yet we can probably count on the fingers of one hand people who testify that they previously were exclusively attracted to the same sex and are now exclusively attracted to the opposite sex – and *none* of them attributes the change to conversion therapy.

      Imagine governments trying to promote a covid theraputical that they cannot find a single case of it actually working and yet have a great many cases of it causing long term harm!

      What is the point of this? Trust in God, not quackery!

      1. David

        As ever with shady practices it is difficult to nail down exact dates. Certainly from survivors testimony it was being practiced by the NHS for most of the 20th century.

        I found an article in the BMA calling for the NHS to stop funding conversion therapy as late as 2010.

        I’d estimate that it was practiced by the NHS between its inception (when homosexuality was still a crime punishable by prison) and in dribs an drabs until maybe 2015, with its hay day in the 70s and 80s.

        It seems to me by the 90s, the medical world had more or less worked out it didn’t work, that orientation was fixed in most people and kickback from that started pseudo religious groups like Exodus International.

  4. Many thanks for yet more clear and thorough critical analysis of the issues raised by Ozanne’s critique of the evangelical response to this pressing debate of our age. Ozanne displays remarkable intolerance towards those who propose any alternative understanding to her own approach, founded, she claims on the notion of tolerance. However you left me struggling to unpack the opening paragraph of your final section, 6 The intolerance. I got a bit lost in your somewhat dense argument there and I would appreciate it if you could unpack that for me, David. Thanks.

    1. Yes – word limits. Ozannes intolerance is shown by her claim to have the power to define what abuse is, her illogical view that you cannot consent to abuse; by emotive and misleading language; by dismissing all who disagree with her as abusive; by threatening; by calling on the State to inforce her views; and by making the cost of not consenting to her views so high…

      1. Ozannes’s “love” is not real love at all, just licence rebranded; coupled with the bullying/emotional blackmailing that the LGBTQIA+ lobby has used to push their agenda for decades.

  5. Hi

    In response. Let me be clear I am not supportive of her in any way ad think David’s article is right. My observation that she came across as compassionate related first to her tone of voice. Her description of suffering homosexuals sounds empathetic. She speaks of the need for love in a way that sounds plausible. The text is I have suffered greatly and feel for those suffering today. The church has done us all a great injustice when all we want to do is extol love. Superficially I think this sounds plausible and winsome. Then of course she gives the impression that we have all misunderstood the bible which unless you know the Bible sounds plausible. She looks conservative and that adds to her plausibility.

    Like Andrew K I have only watched the first 20 minutes and gave up for much the same reasons .

    I agree with criticisms made.

  6. 1 I think that this reveals not so much as different Christianities or religions, but different God’s: not the God of self-revelation in the whole of scripture; not the Triune God of incarnation in Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Son, Saviour, who saves us from and for – two sides of the same coin.
    2 There is an irony in it would bring the law into disrepute through its unenforceablity so far as prayer is concerned. Prayer which is “the chief exercise of faith”, can never be outlawed. (Matthew 6:6).
    And for non -cessationists, there is prayer in tongues!
    3 As for harm, the methodology of surveys needs to be called into account. And the nature and purpose of a crime, as opposed to civil law needs to be the context for “harm”. At the most basic level it is an act against the state! And there has to be criminal intent to… unless it is an offence of strict liability.
    4 Futher, there would besubstantial unequal access to the law for anyone accused ie the state (police and Crown Prosecution Service) in England and Wales) v the individual.

    1. On your third point

      I think it’s true that we only have peoples testimonies that conversion therapy caused them harm and, of course, there are issues with attribution even if the harm itself occurred. The evidence for harm is not good which is why I think the medical experts only say that it “may” cause harm.

      However we don’t have any testimonies at all that conversion therapy has ever worked! And of course there is no scientific explanation about why it might even work.

      Over the years theres been at least one successful fraud case against conversion therapists and many high profile therapists admitting it’s all an act.

      Would you put your child through therapy which theres no evidence at all it works, for a condition most people no longer see as inferior/negative and which the medical experts say “may” cause harm?

      1. Yes – we do have many testimonies that ‘conversion therapy’ (depends what you mean) has worked. I’m sure you have the ability to find them – I can think of plenty people who, in the terms of the legislation – have managed to curb their sexuality and live celibate or even hetrosexual lives. But you will see what you want to see!

      2. Harm? There is much more to it. Qualitative surveys have a number of potential biases, including, scope, questions asked and avoided, how they are framed, closed, open, where, when, how and undisclosed interest with no or poor peer/ expert review, redaction.
        There are also irreducible elements to a crimes: reliable evidence and how it may be tested; burden of proof; standard of proof.

      3. David

        If conversion therapy is not making gay (exclusive attraction to the same sex) people straight (exclusive attraction to the opposite sex) then it doesn’t work.

        If you need therapy to stop having sex then that’s called sex addiction, not homosexuality, and I think youd struggle to find anyone who thinks therapy for that should be banned.

        If gay people wish to enter into opposite sex marriages, again youd struggle to find anyone who thought they should be banned (assuming full knowledge and consent of their spouse)

      4. Geoff

        I’m by no means an expert, but I think that the evidence of harm is not just people claiming it has caused them significant harm or increased statistical risk of suicide, but that it follows the opposite of acceptable standards of therapy. Therapy aims to reduce anxiety, SOCE is about increasing anxiety. The idea is that increased anxiety around sexuality will somehow stop attraction to the same sex. With this background telling a legitimate therapist that it is safe would be like trying to tell someone that rain isnt wet just because there are lots of people saying it made them wet!

        In the radio show Lynas even claimed that the EA had apologized for harm they had caused LGBT people in the past – he may not have been talking about SOCE, but clearly harm more generally is being acknowledged even by those people who dont benefit by acknowledging it.

        And again, I’d say contrast this with the evidence that it works and doesn’t cause harm. There doesn’t seem to be a single testimony anywhere that therapy has switched a persons attraction from one sex to another

  7. The Lambeth 1:10 interpretation of the Bible calls Christians to heterosexual marriage or celibacy. Might we avoid a lot of pain by adhering to its terms? Celibate heterosexual (or homosexual) people can face stigma in churches, if fundamentalists elevate the importance of marriage, while liberals attack unmarried celibates as repressed. Can horrific discrimination prevent ordained single people from ever finding work, or even a traineeship in a Church, because of blind prejudice and bullying? It’s small wonder a lot of people are content with a tentative attachment to institutional churches: “The times they are A-Changin……..”

    1. I’d go further – churches of any tradition generally are less inclusive, more suspicious and less supportive of single adults between say 25 and 65 than they are of married adults and yet, usually, single adults need much more support because they dont have the support of a spouse.

    1. Alastair,

      I think part of the issue is the language barrier, however, she is on trial for very specific and quite nasty things she published and broadcast about people who are attracted to the same sex, not merely quoting the bible. In particular I have read that she has accused gay people of having some sort of medical disorder, claimed that only heterosexual humans are created by God, called gay people dysfunctional and suggested gay people are unfit parents. None of this is in the bible.

      Contrary to widespread reporting, she is not facing prison. She is facing a modest fine and I can’t really see her being convicted anyway.

      1. She is facing two years in prison.. She did not claim that only hetrosexuals are humans created by God…..please don’t pass on gossip
        ‘I have read’ does not constitute evidence. Some of us have actually read what she wrote and what she has been charged with. It seems to me that your mission in life is always to debunk those who dare to raise the threats that Christians face.

      2. The Finns fought valiantly against the Soviet invasion .

        Why ?

        One reason was that they might preserve freedom of speech.

        Ironically what was said and prosecuted in Finland may now be safely uttered in Putin’s Russia.

      3. David

        The state prosecutors have asked for a fine, not prison.

        My information came from google translating a Finish newspaper because I was curious what exactly she had said and didn’t buy the englush medias claim that she had merely quoted from the bible. Again the nuances of language make it tricky to understand what exactly she is on trial for.

        But rest assured the bible is not banned in Finland.

      4. No – I don’t rest assured. Why don’t you listen to the lady herself and read the charges? Relying on one translated newspaper hardly qualifies you to pronounce on the case!

  8. I listened to the whole debate but have to say it was hard going with Ozanne constantly being allowed to interrupt and talk over her opponent Lynas.
    The missing points in the debate were arguments around the BENEFITS of prayer and pastoral counselling for same sex attracted persons. Anecdotal evidence is replete with cases where same sex attracted persons have changed and become happily married to a person of the opposite sex. Further, the case for celibacy includes the benefit of avoiding HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases the cause not only of physical suffering but of mental anguish. And further and most importantly it is a salvation issue. St Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 6 makes it it clear that the wicked ( homosexual offenders included ) will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

    1. I think it was a very bad discussion precisely because this whole thing is an argument where each side is talking about something completely different than the other. Which ever perspective you hold it then feels like the other is twisting the facts and making irrelevant points.

      Evangelicals, including Peter Lynas, are arguing against a ban on teaching that homosexuality is sinful, in a wider context of wanting churches to be self governing without legal restrictions on practices.

      Gay people and allies, including Jayne Ozanne, are arguing for a ban on harmful and fraudulent attempts to make gay individuals, especially gay children, attracted to the opposite sex. And again this sits in a wider context of David Cameron and then Theresa May promising to ban the practice.

      I think there could have been less bluster if there had been a bit more fact checking. I think part of the confusion was over a document that used to be on the EAs website, but was reworded a few years ago. There was some acknowledgement from Lynas that his organization has recently changed its position on this and apologized for past abuses and if these changes had been understood by Ozanne then there might have been more clarity and perhaps even agreement.

      1. Ozanne does not just want a ban on harmful and fraudulent attempts to make gay people straight. (and Peter does not support that either). Ozanne wants any Christian practice or teaching which ‘suppresses’ sexuality to be banned. In effect she wants her doctrine to be enforced by the State.

  9. “harmful and fraudulent attempts to make . . . . gay children attracted to the opposite sex”

    Nothing could be more truly harmful, fraudulent or abhorrent than attempting to establish the existence of that casually-mentioned category, “gay children”.

  10. Ozanne confuses the issues by referring to “informed” consent which may be relevant where a person is seeking surgical or other medical treatment from a health professional. Ironically Ozanne seems quite happy for transgender persons to be free to consent to surgical or chemical treatment in cases of gender dysphoria.
    In a pastoral context where someone is seeking prayer to live a godly and celibate life, “free” consent is what is relevant. Free consent in the sense that prayer is sought by the person voluntarily and without coercion. Ozanne wants to criminalise such prayer. Ozanne argues that such prayer should be criminalised because it is akin to torture and degrading treatment. One hopes that the British Government will have the good sense to reject her phoney arguments.

  11. A law like this – if it ever actually becomes law – can’t be enforced under the present understanding of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ because hard evidence and proof are generally impossible to obtain and produce in court. One person’s complaint about another’s behaviour or speech would require recorded evidence of that speech or behaviour. But then that suggests the alleged victim has laid a trap for the alleged culprit by deliberately making a recording. We’ve had the same problem with the non-existent cake which was not baked by the bakery in Northern Ireland. And unfortunately it seems nobody demanded evidence from the complainant there for proof that he had asked for the cake in the first place. The bakery owners were honest enough to agree that the request had taken place, but they could easily have denied the whole thing and the case would have been dismissed due to lack of evidence.

    So unfortunately – and obviously – we now have a state of affairs where somebody who shouts ‘abuse!’ is believed without question and it’s down to the alleged abuser to prove their innocence.

    What a mess!

  12. “Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.” (Jude 1:3)

    “Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.” (Eph 4:3-6)

    Regardless of where or when we live, no one is at liberty to change the tenets of the Christian faith, given by Christ to the apostles, and taught with apostolic authority to future generations.

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