Monday, January 3, 2022
It's Monday, January 3rd 2022.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Direct Threat to Religious Liberty: Legislative Bans on Conversion Therapy on Both Sides of the Atlantic as Canada Passes Most Comprehensive Conversion Therapy Laws in the World and Britain Seeks to Follow Suit
Welcome to the Year of our Lord 2022.
Even as it is a new year, many issues are continuing, others will explode upon the headlines, and all of them will demand Christian attention, but there must be a sense of priority, and top priority has to be given to the issues that directly involve the Gospel, that directly involve biblical truth. And even as we understand that it is our Christian responsibility to think through all issues in accordance with the biblical worldview, there are some issues that immediately come before us and we understand we are going to have to think carefully biblically in Christian terms about this and hold the biblical truth or we're going to abandon the faith.
I want us to look at headlines on both sides of the Atlantic, having to do with legislative bans on what is called conversion therapy. And here we see the intersection, indeed the collision between the LGBTQ ideology and biblical Christianity. It's an unavoidable collision. We've seen that over and over again. And as we went into the end of the year 2021, just before Christmas, I mentioned that this particular development is one that will quickly demand our attention. How quickly? Right now. It's of top priority.
We need to look at two different legislative movements, one in Canada, one in the United Kingdom. So we're talking about Canada and Britain, and of course, they're not unrelated. They're a part of the same British Commonwealth, and when you consider Canada and Britain together, you're not only talking about a shared political heritage and tradition, you're talking about very similar political structures and you are looking at the fact that Canada here is tracking Britain and Britain is tracking Europe in a way that, at least for now, at least for some time, indicates a distinction between the Canadian culture and the culture of the United States. And that goes right to our constitutional order as well.
Canada has no enduring tradition, going back to its founding, that has any equivalency to the first amendment of the US Constitution and the guarantee of religious liberty. Religious liberty is guaranteed to Canadian citizen by its charter, but at the same time, it is not an equivalent emphasis or tradition as you see in the United States. And we have seen religious liberty compromised, abrogated, and indeed virtually canceled in some context in Canada, having to do with colleges, having to do with congregations, with preachers, but we're now talking about legislative bans or proposed bands when it comes to Britain on so-called conversion therapy.
Now, let's just remind ourselves of the landscape here. Conversion therapy, sometimes also known as reparative therapy, may involve any number of things. In the main, historically, it is referred to therapeutic methodologies that are intended to change someone's sexual orientation or sexual impulses. Now, Christians understand as a fundamental principle that God determines what is right and wrong. God has determined us, created us as human beings in his image. God made us sexual beings. He made us male and female and he gave us the unalterable rules of human sexual behavior and conduct. That is to say, we believe that human sexual morality is assigned to us, not developed by us.
When it comes to therapy, and the 20th century in particular saw this renaissance of therapy arise, as an alternative worldview to Christianity, the reality is that Christians don't believe that any fundamental change can come to us merely by therapy. Certainly, there is no redemption, there is no wholeness. There is no sanctification that comes by therapy. Rather, God gives us those things through the work of Christ and through the ordinary means of grace. But the controversy over what's called conversion therapy is directed not just at those official, professional medical and therapeutic context, but frankly, as are defined by the legislative proposals in both Canada and the United Kingdom, any effort to change someone's sexual orientation.
Now behind that is the entire ideology of the sexual revolution, including the fact that identity politics is now matched with the radical ideology of sexual liberation in such a way that this idea of sexual orientation has become a giant instrument of political leverage used to try to say, "Look, you simply have to take the issue of orientation as if it is morally neutral. Any orientation is as good as any other orientation." And if you think I'm exaggerating here, you simply have to look at the legislative proposals in Canada and in Britain.
But let's get to the biggest issue of Christian concern, these particular bills could have the effect of chilling the preaching, restricting the liberty of the pulpit in Christian churches, and even could extend to potentially criminalizing personal conversations and even outlawing certain kinds of conversations between parents and children. You say, "How could that happen?" Well, it is happening. And we have seen this coming. We've seen this issue, this challenge taking shape, and you see now the fact that many who are writing what they consider to be and claim to be a platform of sexual liberation are not only calling for a change in the laws, they're not only changing the entire society, they want to criminalize and sanction and make illegal any confrontation on biblical terms of their own new morality.
Looking first to the developments in Canada, Rachel Treisman of National Public Radio in the United States reports, "Canada has formally banned conversion therapy, the widely discredited practice aimed at changing a person's sexual orientation or gender identity." That Canadian legislation, by the way, will go into effect this week on January the 7th. The text of the Canadian bill says that conversion therapy, as it is called, is wrong because it is "based on and propagates myths and stereotypes about sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, including the myth that heterosexuality, cisgender gender identity," that means non-transgender gender identity, "and gender expression that conforms to the sex assigned to a person at birth are to be preferred over other sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions."
Now, if you were looking for just one series of words that would encapsulate the entirety of the modern rebellion against God's order, well there you have it. Just consider the language here. Explicitly, you now have the text of legislation that will take the effect of law in Canada this week that states that any belief that anything that is arrayed along LGBTQ is in any way inferior to any other sexual pattern, that is wrong, it is a myth, and it is outlawed in many contexts. The main thrust of this legislation is towards outlawing any kind of therapeutic context that would make a moral judgment consistent with Christianity in this case. But the bigger threat is, of course, that this will be extended throughout society, inexorably, unavoidably, to every other context, including Christian institutions, Christian organizations, and even Christian churches. This is legislation that no one in Canada wants to admit is directed to the pulpit, but make no mistake, it's directed to the pulpit.
It's also directed at parents. This is a new morality, which now comes with not only the persuasive power of the government of the state, but now with the coercive power of the state, even criminalization. The legislation in Canada is genuinely radical and that's a matter of pride for Canada's liberal government whose justice minister, David Lametti, said in a statement, "The consensus demonstrated by parliamentarians in Canada is part of an emerging global consensus surrounding the real and lifelong harms for conversion therapy victims and survivors. In fact, with these changes to the criminal code," he said, "Canada's criminal laws on conversion therapy are among the most comprehensive in the world."
Now, this falls under the responsibility in the main of the Liberal Party in Canada that is now in control, but the reality is that the Conservative Party in Canada has been anything but a profile of courage in this particular issue. As a matter of fact, looking at both Canada and the United Kingdom, we are looking at the redefinition of conservative when it comes to the conservative parties in both of those countries standing on moral issues. Both of them have basically become pro-LGBTQ parties, or at least in both cases, that is certainly true of the leadership elected by the parties.
As a matter of fact, the legalization of same-sex marriage, as we have noted, came under the authority and under the parliamentary power of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom. So let's just keep in mind the fact that we have conservative parties undermining and subverting the very idea of what it means to conserve what makes society work, what is true, what is lasting, and what will lead to human flourishing and human happiness.
One of the most radical aspects of the Canadian legislation is the removal of any exemption for consent. Now, remember how modern world in its modern sexual liberation worships the word consent. But in this case, consent is actually thrown overboard because the LGBTQ movement is demanding absolute coercion. That is to say, the Canadian legislation does not even allow a legal option for an individual seeking counseling, who is seeking to reject sexual impulses. We are being told here that if that's identified as a sexual orientation, there can be no effort to address it as morally wrong or to change it. None of it comes under the designation LGBT.
Now you can immediately see where this would run into a head-on collision with religious liberty in Canada. What happens when a young person, or age is in this case not necessarily important, but let's say a young person goes to talk to a Christian counselor, that Christian counselor, according to this legislation, is not legally able even to discuss in biblical terms the sexual orientation issue or how that would apply in Christian holiness to our understanding of biblical morality and God's intention for Christians living out the Christian life.
How long will it be before pastors are brought up, or say Christian teachers or a Christian professor at a Christian college university is brought up on charges of violating this because in an individual conversation, or even in a group context, there is an open statement that, according to biblical revelation, these sexual orientations defined as LGBTQ, all the sexual impulses and all the sexual behaviors involved in them comprehensively are identified as sin and condemned in scripture. How long can it be before those individuals are facing the force of law? And by the way, that is not necessarily even the strongest threat here. The threat here is simply towards the marginalization of anyone who would dare to stand in any way over against the absolutest claims of the sexual revolutionaries. "You're on the wrong side of history," they've been arguing. Now they're going to say, "You're on the wrong side of the law."
The legislation in the United Kingdom right now is being proposed, but again note, it's being proposed enthusiastically by a government that is led by the British Conservative Party. Notice again, you have the subversion of anything that can rightly be called conservative by a party that nonetheless calls itself the Conservative Party. The current proposal in Britain does indeed allow for an exception for consent, that is, an individual can consent to this kind of conversation, but actually has to invite it. But at least at this point, the British legislation allows for a less direct confrontation with religious liberty than the Canadian legislation. But upon a closer look, that actually doesn't hold.
I want to read to you a direct section from the proposed British legislation. The statement says this, "Legitimate talking therapies that support a person who is questioning if they are LGBT do not start from the basis that being LGBT is a defect or deficiency. Instead," and again, I'm reading from the legislation. "Instead the therapies are open and explorative discussions focused on helping a person to decide on their options in a supportive manner. Professional bodies and regulators are best placed to set out professional obligations and identify practices that are harmful for the individual involved."
Now, if you heard what I just read there, in this proposed British legislation, coming with the full authority of the current British government, the definition of what is being outlawed is, and again I'm just reading from the bill, anything that starts from the basis that, "being LGBT is a defect or deficiency." So now you have the British government saying, "Here's the message you have to carry into the conversation. Here's the message you have to carry into any professional context," but don't believe for a moment it will stop there. This is the British government saying to schools, colleges, universities, "This is the message you have to take into the classroom. This is the message you have to take into your hiring, your housing, your student conduct policies."
And this is also the message that is being sent to Christians and to Christian churches and to their credit, in both Canada and in the United Kingdom, there are a significant number of evangelical Christians who are pressing back and saying they see this for exactly what it is; a threat to the freedom of their own pulpits, to the freedom of their own churches to stand on biblical truth. But looking at this proposed British legislation, we need to recognize that the pressure that is being brought on the government right now, even as the legislation is being considered in parliament, is whether or not it should be strengthened. "Strengthened to what?" you might say. Well, Stonewall, a British LGBTQ organization, has put out a statement demanding a ban on conversion therapy, as it's defined here, "with no exemptions and no excuses." No exemptions at all.
Now one of the things that comes up here is that you could have a conversation between a pastor and a parishioner, just to use the language that the British would use, or you could have a conversation between a parent and a child. If that conversation is not directly outlawed by this legislation, it is put into a context that is, at the very least, legally suspect.
Speaking of a Christian Church and a Christian pastor, one of the individuals cited in the article said, "My pastor's attempts at therapy might have appeared innocuous and he may have truly believed he was doing the right thing, but his action caused me a great deal of harm." Notice the morality of harm and notice the fact that this is explicitly a pastoral conversation, and notice something else, that pastoral conversation is here defined as therapy. That's the problem here. We're not just talking about what just about anyone would recognize as a genuinely therapeutic context, that'd be problematic enough. Here you have a direct reference to a pastoral conversation, biblical council.
Some evangelicals in Canada and in the United Kingdom have been bold to speak out concerning this threat. A spokesperson for the Evangelical Alliance in Great Britain speaking of the legislation there said, "It would place ministry leaders at risk of arrest for encouraging young people to maintain chastity until marriage and it would criminalize a member of a church who prays with another member when they ask for prayer to resist temptation as they are attracted to someone of the same sex, but do not wish to act on it."
Now, notice something there. Here you have a representative of the Evangelical Alliance pointing out that this is a direct threat to the integrity and the autonomy of Christian ministry. Let's just state the obvious. If the government can tell you it is illegal to teach biblical truth on the issue of human sexuality, the array of LGBT issues, understand two things. Number one, it won't stop with LGBT and understand, eventually it means the criminalization of whatever Christian speech is no longer politically attractive. And that eventually will mean everything that is revealed in scripture, most essentially, the gospel of Jesus Christ. We will be following these issues in the weeks ahead, and of course not just the weeks and the months ahead, but in the years ahead. But right now in this turning point between 2021 and 2022, we see the shape of the challenge coming to the Christian Church even more clearly, or even more ominously. We are about to find out where the biblical Christians are on both sides of the Atlantic, and as you and I know, on both sides of the American/Canadian border.
Combining Courage Against Apartheid, Rejection of Biblical Revelation Of Sexuality, and Aquamation: Archbishop Desmond Tutu Dies at 90
But we turn to another story, this one from South Africa, where South African retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu died the day after Christmas, December 26th 2021. Desmond Tutu was one of the most recognizable, if controversial names of the 20th century. Desmond Tutu became the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, that's the Senior Anglican position in South Africa, the first black man to hold that position. He'd also been the Archbishop of Johannesburg. And when you're looking at Desmond Tutu, you are looking at a definitional figure in the fight against the horror of South African Apartheid. Now remember, and we talked about that horrifying system with the death just a few months ago, former state president, F.W. de Klerk.
Apartheid was the legal system that enforced white superiority and black inferiority, and that in a country that was overwhelmingly black. It was one of the darkest legacies of the 20th century. Apartheid is one of greatest affronts we can imagine, not only to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but even to the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis. It is a denial of the imago Dei in all human beings. Eventually, by the end of the 20th century, the white minority government under Apartheid would fall and South Africa is now a very different country. And by the way, it's a very different country that still represents enormous national struggles.
Desmond Tutu was courageous and he was absolutely right in opposing Apartheid and in invoking biblical authority to demand an end to that horrifying system of racial segregation and racial superiority and inferiority. And eventually, Apartheid did fall and so also did the white minority government there. But as you're looking at Desmond Tutu, you have to understand that he was in many ways the public face of the anti-Apartheid movement, because the man who would eventually become the first black president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was in prison. He wasn't able to hold press conferences. Desmond Tutu was a very public figure.
He also demonstrated courage in at least facing down some of those who tried to use violence to bring about the end of Apartheid. Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. The Nobel Committee wanted to give the prize to someone who would represent the fight against Apartheid in South Africa, they decided that it would be too controversial to award it to Nelson Mandela, then in prison, so they gave the award to Desmond Tutu. Now that just raised his international profile, but here's where Christians have to step back for a moment and understand that when we're talking about someone, we have to take the full measure of their life and their thought.
When it comes to Desmond Tutu, we have to understand that he became known later in life, not so much for a courageous fight against Apartheid, but for a very radical fight on behalf of LGBTQ rights, in defiance of biblical authority and in defiance of the historic teachings of his own church. By the way, keep in mind that even as Desmond Tutu was the Archbishop of Cape Town in South Africa, there are many other archbishops, indeed many Anglican archbishops in Africa who represented a very courageous stand for biblical authority for the Christian biblical tradition and for a biblical understanding of gender, marriage, and sexuality indeed. So many of those archbishops in the global south have shown a theological fortitude that was lacking in so many of the liberal European and North American churches.
But Desmond Tutu was, in effect, an advocate of liberation theology. He supplanted historic orthodox biblical Christianity with a Marxist-inspired, indeed Marxist-structured form of thought that pointed towards the liberation of humanity by means of this kind of moral and political change. When it came to his own theological position, Desmond Tutu, the former Archbishop of Cape Town, went so far as to say, and brace yourselves for what you're about to hear, "I would not worship a God who is homophobic. I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say, sorry, I would much rather go to the other place." Similar statements in which he said, "If God's opposed to homosexuality, then he does not worship that God."
Now, let's just point out that if you read the Scripture, which you would think an Archbishop certainly has done, you would know very clearly what God has revealed in scripture, that means in order to come to this conclusion, you have to reject biblical authority for your own authority. And in that sense, Desmond Tutu becomes a very tragic parable. Desmond Tutu's funeral was held in recent days in South Africa, the nation is now in an official period of mourning, but the late Archbishop had asked that his body would be cremated, which by the way also flies in the face of Christian tradition. But nonetheless, it turns out that Desmond Tutu's body is not going to be cremated, it instead is going to be dissolved by a process known as aquamation. As The Guardian of Britain reports, "Aquamation is an increasingly popular and environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional cremation methods using water instead of fire."
Well, turns out there's more than water. The article tells us that alkaline hydrolysis is a process whereby "the body of the deceased is immersed for three to four hours in a mixture of water and strong alkaline, such as potassium hydroxide, in a pressurized metal cylinder and heated to around 150 degrees centigrade. We're told the process liquefies everything except for the bones, which are then dried in an oven and reduced to white dust placed in an urn and handed to relatives." Yes, you come to understand this is a very natural process in no sense.
We should note that we're also told that this alternative of aquamation was chosen for the late archbishop precisely because it serves the cause of trying to prevent climate change because aquamation produces less carbon than the traditional, if you can use that word, process of cremation. It's also interesting to note that as you look at the world media reports, the percentage is given in terms of the reduction of carbon vary widely, which means as you look at these news sources, they probably actually have no idea what they're talking about.
Against Cries to Defund the Police, Eric Adams – Former Police Captain – Takes Office as Mayor of New York City
Finally, a big political shift, or perhaps a big political shift in the nation's largest city.
Eric Adams is the new mayor of New York City, the second black mayor of the nation's most influential city. Eric Adams replaced Bill de Blasio, who left office with very little political support. De Blasio was very much a man of the left. Eric Adams identifies as center left, which means at least to some degree, he ran on a platform of moving to the center. Eric Adam, perhaps most importantly, is a former police captain in New York City. He understands the problem of crime and ran on that in a city that, like so many other major American cities, is actually looking at crime statistics, including violent crime, all going the wrong way.
Eric Adams will now bear responsibility for leading New York City, and in many ways, that is a monumental task, but it also tells us something and we simply close with this, that in an era in which so many on the left were demanding, defund the police, the people of New York City actually elected a former police captain as their new mayor.
And that actually tells us something.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'm speaking to you from Orlando, Florida, and I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.