Against conversion therapy

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Earlier this month, the synod (parliament) of my church passed a motion condemning gay conversion therapy.  I spoke in support of that motion, and thought I would share that speech here; although it arises out of, and was delivered into, a specifically Christian context, the principles behind it transcend that context and are important for spirituality more broadly.

Mr. President, members of synod,

This discussion puts me in mind of a bit of Leviticus… but not the bit you might expect.  Actually the bit about not sacrificing one’s children to idols.

I know that in ancient Israel that had a particular context, but if we allow that an idol is something which only extracts our manipulated devotion because of lies about what it is, and what power it has, perhaps we can see some relevance to this context as well.

We know – because people who are far more expert in this are than most of us, tell us – that gay conversion therapy is such an idol.  The claims that it is “therapeutic” are lies.  The claims that it has power to change people’s sexuality are lies.  The evidence is very clear that what it does is break people, leaving wounds which may not know healing this side of eternity.

Whatever our view of human sexuality, and its relation to our understanding of the human person, these attempts at conversion do not fix anything.  They do not bring light to our darkness or grace to our sinfulness.  Instead they are an abuse of power, which perpetuates dynamics of shame and oppression; resulting in mental health issues and social trauma.

And while I would never want to limit what God can do; we need to recognise that we can do profound damage when we try to do what only God can do.

So in speaking in favour of this motion, I do so with a lament; thousands of years after Leviticus forbade it, and the early church condemned it… are we still not done sacrificing our children to idols, in a fruitless quest to soothe our anxieties?

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