Ann E. Gillies Ph.D
The understanding of what conversion therapy actually is, is a subject of much dispute, so let me disseminate it here. These two words, used together are actually quite confusing so let me quote from the Merriam-Webster dictionary;
2: an experience associated with the definite and decisive adoption of a religion
According to Judeo-Christian belief, conversion represents the power of God for salvation for all who believe – the change of a life from (spiritual) death to life and eternal (death to life); darkness to light; sin to salvation. Conversion is the radical change – transformation – that comes by the power of God’s Spirit.
Therapy on the other hand is completely different. It is medical treatment, administered by other people (medical doctors and/or mental health professionals). It does not come from theological worldview and yet these two dichotomous words are used together to create a combined perspective of providing therapeutic technique in order to ‘convert’ someone.
The problem remains that there is no therapeutic technique that psychiatrists, psychologists study in order to preform ‘conversion therapy’. There is no psychology course on ‘conversion therapy’ nor is there such a course available for those who study religion in seminaries.
Conversion therapy is an LGBT activist term and therefore they are the ones who have defined it as1
- any practice or treatment that seeks to change, suppress or eliminate an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity,
(ii) including efforts to eliminate sexual and/or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender, or efforts to change gender expressions.
This will include self-help, religious practices, counselling, prayer, fasting and scripture reading; encouragements or teachings around abstinence or celibacy and pastoral care.2
“We are taking action to ban cruel and insidious conversion practices, which are nothing short of harmful quackery and bigotry. We want to make sure our legislation truly puts an end to anyone peddling these deeply harmful practices in our state”3
Note the change of language from the longstanding term of conversion therapy to conversion practices. This to me has even broader ramifications, which as you read on will become obvious.
A report from the Human Rights Campaign4 includes any feelings of guilt or shame or church teaches that homosexuality is sinful.
Along with this, it is declared that it is not considered ‘conversion therapy’ to affirm someone’s transgender identity. It is only conversion therapy or practice when it refers to affirming one’s biological sex or heterosexual attraction. No wonder the average person is confused.
Therefore if somewhat is having unwanted same-sex attraction and doesn’t wish to act on that attraction the state is now telling us that not wanting to act on SSA is wrong and not only that but you are not allowed to seek help for those unwanted attractions, nor should you attend a church that suggest that homosexuality is a sin.
These Australian documents are set to ban mainstream Christian thought and teaching and all pastoral support for SSA individuals even when they ask for help.
The issue is the Church, and yet I have not seen or heard any specific ‘anti-gay’ agenda in Christian teaching. The truth is that Christians believe – according to the Bible that all of us have hearts infiltrated by sin therefore needing to be freed. The answer is Jesus Christ. It’s not an anti-gay message. It’s a level playing field message – all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Jesus Christ came to save sinners.
Department of Justice and Community Safety (2019). Conversion Practices – Legislative Option to Implement a Ban
https://engage.vic.gov.au/conversion-practices-ban. Downloaded November 11, 2019
Hennesey, J. (2019). Consultation begins on LGBTIQ conversion therapy ban. | email@example.com
Gill A.M. & Ames S. (2015). Sample Legislation to Protect Youth from Conversion Therapy. Washington, DC: Human Rights Campaign and National Center for Lesbian Rights
Iles, M. (2019). Conversion Therapy – Nobody can ban conversion. Conversion Therapy – S4E2 TTT
1 Department of Justice and Community Safety, Victoria, Australia (2019)
2 Iles, (2019)
3 Hennesey (2019)
4 Gill A.M. & Ames S. (2015).