The dangerous practice of conversion therapy
May 17, 2021
As a pastor who resides in Columbia, SC I wish to express my concern about the possible tabling or voting down of a ban on the dangerous practice of conversion therapy within the city. From what I understand, this comes under the pressure of those —
who mostly reside outside the city of Columbia
— decrying the auspices of religious freedom.
First, conversion therapy is a barbaric and terroristic process, in an attempt to force children to choose a life-identity that is not where their psychological, body, hormones, and chemical makeup is leading them. A few years ago Reformation took a group to watch “Boy Erased”. It was a movie based off a true story about a boy who was forced by his family, especially his pastor father to enter a Conversion Therapy program. These so called “therapies” used biblical text to attack, harm, and dehumanize this young man, “God will not love you the way you are.” So they could rebuild him into their perception of what a “biblical” male should be. It was horrific.
Second, religious freedom is not the freedom to attack a person’s humanity, and misuse biblical text as a weapon to psychologically harm anyone who doesn’t conform to a said religious belief. I say misuse because I believe the Bible is an honest record of God’s faithfulness, even in the midst of disobedient and wayward children. It is not a document to reverence such human behavior. In fact when Jesus was asked about the law of Moses, when it was going to be used as a weapon by the teachers of the law, “He said to them, ‘It was because you were so hard-hearted...’” But because the interchanged I reference started with the Pharisees question of divorce, those of the “conversion ilk” are quick to point out Jesus’ reference to male and female becoming one flesh to prove their heterosexual point. But... the question was not about their sexual relationship, rather it was about the absolute power of the male gender, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?" Any cause?! That is a question of one gender’s absolute power over the other. Jesus shoots it down with one flesh language, which in the light of the question asked, is an answered of full equality.
I fully believe this theological exchange was not about sexual identity because a few verses later, Jesus finalizes their gender misconception with, “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can." Eunuchs are those who were described as sexually defiled by the Levitical laws, but as early as the prophets, the use of that law was being called into question... by God!
“...and do not let the eunuch say,
‘I am just a dry tree.’
For thus says the LORD:
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
I will give, in my house and within my walls,
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.”
Yes, Isaiah is so sure of this inclusiveness of God’s message, he puts it into a poem or song.
Yes, God’s righteousness calls all of us to be that inclusive. I believe this barbaric conversion therapy is completely opposite of where God’s righteousness is leading us, and has nothing to do with religious freedom.
My prayer is that Columbia’s City council will all vote to uphold the ban so that this city will continue to grow as an open and inclusive city.
PS. Some contacts to express our concerns:
Mayor Benjamin's office
Councilmember Sam Davis
Councilmember Tameika Isaac Devine
Councilmember Howard Duvall
April 16, 2021
For this Mustard Seed edition I want to look at the word justice in the Bible. What I have found so interesting is that both the Hebrew and the Greek words for justice have the same root word as righteousness. The Hebrew word for justice and righteousness is tsedeq; while the Greek word for justice and righteousness is dikaiosuné. This becomes very important when it becomes clear one cannot have justice without righteousness, which means living rightly with others, and living rightly with others can only happen when others are treated justly. As we struggle with unaccompanied children at our boarders, with people of color experiencing a disproportionate amount of violent and deadly arrests, and the alarming rise in Asian-American hate crimes; we who identify as Christians, need to grasp the depth of the biblical call for justice, and it’s close relation to righteousness.
First, how does this address the unaccompanied children at our boarders, especially with Governor McMaster’s executive order of refusing the federal call for states to receive these children for placement? I understand President Biden’s heart for these children; whose parents, in an attempt to get them away from the violent situation in their home countries, have sent them to the U.S. boarder; but to open the boarders without replenishing the personnel, which was depleted by the previous administration, for processing such an influx was ill-advised. With that being said, how can a governor refusing these children entry into their state possibly be seen as anything else but exacerbating the situation. I would like to remind Mr. McMaster — who claims to be a staunch Christian — what Jesus said about welcoming a child, “Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’” [Mark 6:36-37]
Later, even in the face of frustrated disciples over the people bring children to him for a blessing, Jesus does not refuse them, “People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” [Mark 10:13-14] Justice for the children at our border will only be realized if President Biden replenishes the depleted processing personnel, and the states’ governors, such as McMaster, start accepting the children and treat them rightly. It is the Christlike thing to do.
Second, when it comes to treating people of color unjustly, we have to remember what Jesus said about viewing those we may perceive as adversarial or lesser. After his discussion with a lawyer on loving God and neighbor, the lawyer tries to restrict his love, “But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 30Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.
After two religious types passed by and left him for dead ...
... a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, 'Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.' Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." [Matt.10:29-30; 33-37]
Samaritans were seen, by the lawyers and religious types as subhuman, you know like 3/5 human*, and were always suspect and criminalized. Sound familiar? But Jesus “blows” the lawyer’s precept of limiting love “out of the water”. The love Jesus speaks of, agape, sees no limitation; it doesn’t seek to minimize or criminalize anyone, but rather sees the other as equal. For our societal inequalities and to stem the violence minorities have experienced in this country for hundreds of years, we have to grasp the love Jesus commands us to live. When we do that, we stop seeing that which separates us or criminalizes each other, and find a commonality in our humanity, as we learn to love our neighbor, the alien, even our enemies as ourselves.
If we say we are a “Christian” nation, children should not be left at the border, but accepted by every state to alleviate the humanitarian crisis of their suffering. People of color should not be regarded by a constitutional mistake of a 3/5 compromise and be under constant suspect or criminalized. To live out the scripture’s righteousness and justice, we must speak out, write our legislators, help make a difference for the good, or as John Lewis, a man who was scripture-bound, use to say, “Get into some good trouble.” We can be that change. We can be that mustard seed.
*The three fifths compromise was a constitutional determination that slaves — for legislative consideration — were to be counted as three fifths of a white man because they were considered as possessions and not fully human.
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