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The homophobic church

Hello and welcome to a special topic episode of This Little Light Of Mine, my name is James Powell

I want to use this episode to bring some light to some very shady practices on a very personal and life-threatening topic.  Thankfully this topic probably doesn’t enter the minds of 99% of humans… and yet this topic continues to cause adverse childhood trauma, ongoing mental health challenges, and is one of the leading causes of LGBTQ2S+ suicide.

the homophobic church cover

Today I want to about conversion therapy.  How our Canadian government is trying to implement a nationwide ban on this harmful practice.  And how our evangelical and catholic churches are fighting to keep this lethal practice alive.

So what is exactly going on?  If you haven’t heard anything about this issue you’re not alone.  Much surrounding Bill C-6 isn’t being talked about… we’re all distracted searching for vaccine shots.

Thankfully news sources like Canadaland and reporters like Justin Ling and Jesse Brown shared a small update this week.

Canadaland Short Cuts #306: Bill C-6 with Justin Ling & Jesse Brown

Yes, an actual member of Parliament, Tamara Jansen, Conservative member from Cloverdale-Langley City in BC quoted, Matthew 23:27

“Woe to you, teachers of law and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”

Yup, she actually went there.  In 2021, a sitting member of the Canadian House of Commons used a Bible verse to call LGBTQ2S+ humans “unclean”.

What is conversion therapy?

Let’s not let the word ‘therapy’ confuse any of us, because there is no actual therapy involved.

Conversion therapy is a range of dangerous and now debunked & discredited, made-up pseudo-science that falsely claim that human intervention can cure you from your “unwanted and sinful same sex attractions” and/or gender expression.  These practices have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades

Conversion therapy also goes by other names like SOGICE (Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Change Initiative).  The church will use terms like: following God’s design for your life, following the Bible, resisting sin & temptation, talk therapy for unwanted same-sex attraction, reparative therapy, change therapy, or as I liked to call it “Pray Away the Gay”.

This damaging psychological abuse was created back in the 50’s and 60’s by three men (Edmund Bergler, Irving Bieber, and Charles Socarides).  Their “research” spewed five damaging myths with the world.

Myths on homosexuality

  • Myth #1 – homosexuality is the result of unhealthy childhood development before the age of 4
  • Myth #2 – homosexuality can come from a smothering or overbearing mother
  • Myth #3 – homosexuality can come from a passive or absent father who didn’t protect their son from their overbearing mothers.
  • Myth #4 – you can help fix your homosexual children. He shared that if a boy did not display “maleness,” fathers needed to take their sons fishing, or perhaps play tennis. Teaching a girl to bake, do laundry, and clean house would likewise “lesbian-proof” a daughter.
  • Myth #5 – children become gay because of their parents. Socaride’s shamed and blamed parents and compelled them to help ‘fix’ their children.

And to help with the myths they created, they offered their “therapeutic” services to help rid individuals of their unwanted same-sex attractions.

Not a bad business model.  Step 1: Create panic using a false narrative.  Step 2: Promote this fear.  Step 3: Provide your services to “cure” the panic you created.

The rise and fall of conversion therapy

Let’s fast forward from the 60’s to the 2000’s.

Thankfully most humans think that conversion therapy is a relic of our past and that we’ve moved to be a more loving and accepting world.  That would be nice, but unfortunately that’s not where we are.

Over the last decade there has been a resurgence of conversion therapy activity across North America and around the world.  Many evangelicals have lumped this “issue” into the basket of ‘Make America Great Again’ and have decided to keep kicking this can down the street.  We see this impact today as the Canadian government tries to pass Bill C-6… and MP Tamara Jansen was introducing some of political scripting of the religious right onto the floor of Canada’s House of Commons.

homophobia warning

I’m going to stop here to share a trigger warning for LGBTQ2S+ individuals.  As I continue this episode, I am going to be sharing actual language, scripting, and false claims that the church, conservative politicians, and their well-funded lobbyists are using SCARE other Christians and people of faith so that they can continue the practice of conversion therapy.

I’m sharing actual scripting not to traumatize or re-traumatize but in an attempt to bring light to some very dangerous mis-information that is being spread amongst church communities and the religious right.

Are you ready?  Take a breath.

Christians under attack

While the world is distracted by Covid-19 an even more insidious battle is being waged in Canada.  While you fight for the health of your family, your community, and your church, an almost invisible battle that will strip fundamental rights and freedoms away from Christians for years to come, is being debated by our government behind closed doors.

The Liberal government who has failed to protect our families against Covid-19 today.  The same Liberal government who is fighting tooth and nail to keep Christians out of churches this weekend.  While you are fighting for your health. This same Liberal government is pushing forward with their socialist and feminist agenda to specifically target Bible Christians.  The Liberal government is attempting to force Bill C-6 forward.  Bill C-6 should terrify each and every one of us.  The Liberal media attempts to paint Bill C-6 as a gay rights issue but it is much more than that.  Bill C-6 changes our criminal code and makes sharing your faith and your beliefs with those burdened with unwanted same-sex attraction, illegal and punishable with up to 5-years in prison. 

Christians in Canada are under attack and we need your help.

Justin Trudeau’s proposed ban on so-called “Conversion Therapy” is an unprecedented assault on civil rights, religious freedom and Christianity itself. If passed, Bill C-6 will jail parents for affirming gender-confused children in the sex they were born, pastors for providing spiritual guidance, and therapists for counselling clients who voluntarily ask for help with unwanted sexual feelings.

Bill C-6 opens the door to a whole new level of censorship and thought-control. It may even lead to censoring – and banning – the Bible itself!

Bill C-6 is designed to eliminate certain politically-incorrect ideas, beliefs, and viewpoints from Canadian society by entrenching a totalitarian law in our Criminal Code. This law will discriminate against Evangelicals, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Social Conservatives, and anyone who holds to a traditional view on sexuality and gender. This law will also discriminate against ex-LGBT individuals. It is a form of thought-control and political suppression.

This bill is completely unacceptable in a free and democratic society. It must be stopped!

Once Bill C-6 becomes law there will be no turning back.  Our fundamental rights as Christians will have been removed.  We will not be able to share our faith even if lost members of our flock reach out and ask for help.

We need your help NOW.  We need your voice today.  We need you to come together as a body of Christ to stop this persecution.


 

Are you serious?

Wait??? What??!  Am I kidding?  Am I being dramatic?  Did I make all of that up?  Sadly, again the answer is NO. 

This is real and actual positioning from the evangelical supported political lobby group called Campaign Life Coalition.  Campaign Life Coalition is a national pro-life organization and they’ve stepped in to give their support to lobby for more conversion therapy.   You can check out their website at stoptheban.ca to see for yourself.

The evangelical church is so upset that they might be legally forced to stop a practice that has been proven to kill LGBTQ2S+ children.  They’ve hired their PR and political pundits, briefed the pastors, and are actively lobbying your politicians to gain increased public support and to keep the lethal practice of conversion therapy alive and well.

COME ON… Christians  

It’s time that we get a few things ‘straight’ (no pun intended because conversion therapy is not a laughing matter).  But if politicians like MP Tamara Jansen are spewing Bible verses about gay people like me being “unclean”… let’s clean some things up.

Let’s get real here.  Conversion therapy kills humans.  The most twisted part of conversion therapy is that some LGBTQ2S+ people actually invite this psychological trauma into their lives without even knowing the damage they are inflicting on themselves.  I did.

The sin of having red hair

Maybe a change of perspective can help here.  Instead of talking about LGBTQ2S+ human, let’s pick on RED HEADS. 

Imagine you’re a four-year-old red-head who is growing up in the church.  As you grow up you start to notice that there aren’t many people who have the same amazing hair colour as you.  As a four-year-old, maybe you don’t think anything of it, maybe that makes you feel different, or maybe that makes you feel super cool and special.

As you get a little bit older you start to realize that your parents and adults at your church affirm and celebrate your siblings and the other kids with blonde, brown, and black hair… but they never even acknowledge your red hair… something doesn’t feel right but you don’t think too much of it.

One Sunday you go to church and you hear the adults talking about red heads in the military, or how red headed people weren’t allowed to buy a cake from a local bakery, or maybe you even read some online advice from your church website on how parents should deal with children who start to flaunt or be proud of their red hair. 

Suddenly your RED HAIR is all you can think about.  In fact, you can’t stop thinking about it.  Maybe you try to wear a hat to cover it up, when you get a few years older you might try to dye it, heck you even try praying to God that he change your hair colour… cause after all, God can do ANYTHING… He’s GOD!

But no matter what you do, no matter how hard you pray, that disgusting RED HAIR keeps growing and growing.  In fact, now that you’re getting older that RED HAIR is taking over your entire body.  You’re under attack!  There’s nothing you can do about your RED HAIR but you’re convinced that your RED HAIR somehow makes you dirty and unlovable.  You would do anything to get rid of your RED HAIR

But one Saturday night at a youth group ‘hot topic bible study on hair brokenness’ you hear the loving words of your youth pastor. 

‘You are so loved by God.  God loves you despite of your red hair.

We are all sinners in the eyes of God.  We are all broken and need God’s grace to be cleansed pure.

At the end of the night you bow your head with the rest of your church friends and pray along with the pastors words

Heavenly Father, thank you for your unconditional love.  Thank you for sending your only son to take the punishment to save us from our sins.  We are all fallen sinners who are disconnected from your love until we accept your ultimate sacrifice and invite you to be Lord of our lives. 

Heavenly Father, thank you for all of the incredible lives that you have gathered here tonight.  I pray over each and every single life.  I pray that if any of your children here tonight has any brokenness weighing heavy on their heart that you give them the strength and courage to reach out and ask for the love and the help that you have guaranteed for their lives.  

Lord, we know and affirm that the enemy is lurking and that we need to be vigilant and obedient.  However strong ‘the enemy’ may be, we know and affirm your ultimate strength.  We affirm your ultimate authority and power to change and destroy anything the enemy may put in our way.  We know and affirm your love Lord. 

Amen.

What does that 16-year-old RED HEAD do? 

Yes, this example is insane… there is nothing wrong or sinful about red hair.  What if this example switched out the red head kid who wanted to approach his pastor to seek God’s help with their hair colour and we inserted a 16-year-old gay kid?  That was how things were done to me in my church growing up…. And that 16-year-old kid would have been me.  And this practice still happens today.

Our churches have used the same manipulation and misappropriation of God to psychologically damage and torment women, people of colour, and LGBTQ2S+ humans for years.

When you grow up in a church that teaches that part of who you are is wrong, dirty, and sinful… you invite harmful things like conversion therapy into your life. 

HATE. HOMOPHOBIA. TRANSPHOBIA.

With conversion therapy churches want to APPEAR as if they are offering a message of HOPE and CHANGE coming from the ‘one and only true word of God’ or as compassionate offer of help, out of true love & concern ’… spoiler alert… let’s call it what it is.  HATE. HOMOPHOBIA. TRANSPHOBIA.

The only reason a human would seek CHANGE is because they have been told that there is something inherently wrong them.

Let me say that again… The only reason a human would seek CHANGE is because they have been told that there is something inherently wrong them.

Let’s talk about facts and what happens when children believe there is something “wrong” with them:

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth 15 – 24
  • Queer youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of their hetero counterparts. (this stat includes me and dozens of my friends)
  • Queer youth are almost five times likely to have attempted suicide compared to their hetero counterparts (same connection as above)
  • Queer kids who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to QUEER peers with low level or no family rejection – THIS STAT IS TALKING TO YOU CHURCH
  • 40% of transgender adults have reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals report to having attempted suicide before 25
  • Suicide has claimed the lives of my friends Ron, Chris, Steve, Scotty and many others who have died way too early, but with these friends, we pretend it was for some other reason so that we can make ourselves feel better or less guilty.

Freedom of speech?

Many churches and evangelical Christians want you to believe that Bill C-6 is an assault on Christian rights and freedoms.  They will openly say things like “listen, I think conversion therapy is a horrible practice”… but Bill C-6 is about removing our rights and freedoms to share our faith.  And guess what, they’re not wrong.

Conversion therapy scripting

Let me give you an example using actual ‘conversion therapy’ scripting from a Christian counselling program that was sent to me.

Image that 16-year-old approaching their youth pastor to ask for help with their ‘struggle’ over their red hair, their sexual orientation, or gender expression.

Instead of loving that child and having a conversation about self-acceptance and trying to understand why that child has learned to hate parts of who they were created to be – this is what their pastor chooses to discuss.

How can a Christian demonstrate his or her love to Jesus? One way is to give your personal rights to God. Personal rights belong to the person who has the power to use them. When you become a Christian, you need to allow God to become your final authority. Let’s face it. When you were in control of running your own life, making your own rules, trying to get other people to respect your rules, how successful were you? For many, their efforts have led to failure after failure – and a lot of anger!

That 16 year-old who is already in crisis is then given the following reflection exercise by their adult pastor who they have been raised to look upon as a spiritual authority figure.

Write down as many personal rights as you can think of. Then when you are faced with a situation where one of your rights is involved, you will be able to see and remember that you have given that right to God.  This surrender will become your foundation for self- discipline and obedience. One’s personal rights now belong in God’s hands, and failure to relinquish them becomes a grave offence.

The pastor then closes the session with the following reminder before sending the 16 year-old on their way.

In our society, the laws are made by those in authority James 4:17

‘‘Knowing what is right to do and then not doing it is sin.’’

If you know the right thing for you to do is to give your personal rights to God, but you don’t do it, you disobey God and sin.

How would you respond?

If you were that 16 year-old, what would be going through your head?  If that 16 year-old was a member of your family, is this the help you would want them to receive?

Here’s what would have been going through my head at that age.  After years of trying to pray the gay away on my own, I return to this practice of self-hate with a renewed vigour.  My pastor has now confirmed that I’m not giving my personal right to my sexuality (or red hair) over to God and that I am sinning.  I try harder.  I pray harder.  I give all of myself away.  But nothing changes.  I’m still gay (and I still have red hair).

Reaching out and asking for help was the last and final hope for change that I had.  And now it’s confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt.  I am broken.  God has spoken.  My pastor knows my horrible truth.  I don’t know how to keep going.

What evangelical funded stoptheban.ca says about conversion therapy

Change in one’s sexual orientation and gender identity is possible. There are thousands of former transgenders and ex-gays who have left the LGBT lifestyle with the help of clinical therapy or spiritual counselling, and are living happier, healthier, more fulfilled lives as a result, in harmony with their faith.

Now image what goes through the mind of a young LGBTQ2S+ person who has grown up in the church and has approached their pastor and asked for help?

This help, this is the freedom of speech that the church is fighting for. This is what is killing LGBTQ2S+ lives.

I understand and fully believe that many, many, individuals and places of worship provide love, refuge, community and a lot of good into our world.  But many don’t. 

Unacceptable

We can no longer afford to ignore the psychological, spiritual, emotional and mental abuse that the church inflicts on children when they teach that any of God’s children are less than, unworthy of love or unable to love in the way that God has designed them to love.

It is unacceptable for anyone to be made to feel less than whole for who they are.

It is unacceptable for any more children end their lives for feeling unloved.

It is unacceptable for any more parents to loose their children.

It is unacceptable for any more people to be turned away from God’s message of love because of a message of exclusion from the church.

You abused trust and lost your right

I’m sorry church.  I get how difficult it can be to hear the word NO.  But you lost the right and the freedom to speak on this issue years ago.

Bill C-6 is necessary because you invited organizations like Exodus and Love In Action into your communities.  You called them missionaries.  You prayed over them and exalted them for doing God’s work.  You aided them.  You funded them.  You promoted them.

You created the need for Bill C-6.  Lives were lost because you abused your rights and freedoms and it must sting to be called to task.

Perhaps we need to continue reading from the Bible where MP Tamara Jansen left off

‘In the same way, on the outside you appear to be righteous, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.’ – Matthew 23:28

Are you the problem?

If you attend and give money to churches, mosques, temples or other places of worship that aren’t actively working to dismantle systemic racism, churches that don’t practice gender equality and churches that don’t fully include, affirm and welcome LGBTQ people, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.

It’s time to do the real work church.  It’s time to love your neighbour… ALL of them.  Bill C-6 will helps ensure and enforce that Canadian churches follow the covenant that Jesus gave to all of us. LOVE.

Will you help protect our children?

So where do you stand on inclusion in your life, your world, your church, and your home?  Let’s not pretend that this is just a Canadian issue, because it’s not.  This is a global human rights issue.  Are you going to stand up for love and help protect the lives of all of God’s children?  Where does your church stand on full inclusion for all people? 

And if you are in Canada, what does your pastor or priest say about Bill C-6?  Does he (and yes, I just said he) does he support protecting the lives of all of God’s children? 

And if HE does.  What is HE doing to initiate and champion protection & inclusion for LGBTQ2S+ humans for your  denomination?  If you’re Catholic, how is your priest working with their Bishops, Archbishops, and Cardinals to implement LGBTQ2S+ inclusion within the Catechism of the Catholic Church? 

It’s no longer enough for pastors and priests to say “but I personally am for inclusion” but continue to use the corporate structure of their church as an excuse for not publicly protecting our children.

The children who grow up in the church need our protection. 

You may not hear their cry but they need your help. 

Will you help them?

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