A Christian friend asked me recently why there is so much anxiety, even some panic, on the Christian right about the situation for traditional Christians in US society. This Christian simply doesn’t see any evidence of persecution or oppression. Another person in the conversation — an atheist and a liberal — said that to him, it looks like conservative Christians are simply angry about losing power, nothing more.
Well, there’s a lot going on here. There are all kinds of traditional Christians. Some are no doubt concerned about losing power. Others are concerned about the decline of the faith among younger generations. Still others worry about the liberty of orthodox Christians to run our organizations according to our values. And yes, there are some who worry about the Apocalypse; those folks have been there at least since my childhood. There are various intersections of these concerns, depending on the Christian group, and even the individual Christian. I, for example, am only worried about Christians losing power and influence because I am worried about the decline of the faith, and the waning of religious liberty. Has there ever been a minority group that was easygoing about its loss of political and cultural power? Given human nature, how can one be?
This, from California (of course), is a sign to Christians. It is a bill that would, in effect, ban Christian books that conflicted with pro-LGBT orthodoxy. David French explains:
Assembly Bill 2943 would make it an “unlawful business practice” to engage in “a transaction intended to result or that results in the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer” that advertise, offer to engage in, or do engage in “sexual orientation change efforts with an individual.”
The bill then defines “sexual orientations change efforts” as “any practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.” (Emphasis added.)
This is extraordinarily radical. Christian orthodoxy is simple — regardless of a person’s desires (their “orientation”), the standard of right conduct is crystal clear. Sex is reserved for marriage between a man and a woman. When it comes to “gender expression,” there is no difference between “sex” and “gender,” and the Christian response to gender dysphoria is compassion and treatment, not indulgence and surgical mutilation.
Put another way, there is a fundamental difference between temptation and sin. California law would intrude directly on this teaching by prohibiting even the argument that regardless of sexual desire, a person’s sexual behavior should conform to Biblical standards.
Here is the full text of the bill. Supporters claim that it only bans so-called “reparative therapy” and other attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation or “gender expression.” But Robert A.J. Gagnon reads the fine print:
The bill in question is California Assembly Bill 2943. It would treat as a criminal violation of the state’s consumer fraud act “the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer” that consists of “advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual.” Don’t be misled into thinking that this bill bans only professional counselors from trying to alter same-sex attractions. It goes well beyond that.
“Orientation change” can be as innocuous as stating at a paid conference that homosexual and transgender desire can be overcome (not necessarily eliminated) by the Spirit of Jesus. Or even complying with an attendee’s request for prayer that the Spirit of God empower the attendee not to succumb to the power of same-sex attractions.
That’s not all. More than “orientation change” is at issue, for the bill expressly states:
‘Sexual orientation change efforts’ means any practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.
Did you catch the part that says: “This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions,” not just orientation change? You cannot treat homosexual expression or transgenderism as the product of disordered desires.
To sell any materials or offer any counseling for a fee that present homosexual practice and transgender identity as wrong or a sin, including all commentaries on the Bible and theological or exegetical treatments that affirm the biblical position on these matters (perhaps even the Bible itself) is to incur criminal sanctions in the state of California.
The bill is wildly unconstitutional, it seems to me — yet it was easily passed out of House committee, and is headed for a vote in the full state Assembly. If it passes there, it’s over to the Senate. Both houses of the California legislature are held firmly by Democrats.
If the bill passes, I assume — maybe that’s risky — that it will eventually be struck down by courts. But who knows? And which bookseller or author wants to be the one to go to court?
Besides, the greater point here is that a bill like this appears at all, and has so little trouble getting through the system. It says a lot about the contempt California has for religious liberty, and indeed for any speech that offends LGBTs and their allies.
In 2016, Christians rallied in California to beat back a bill that would have made it impossible for the state’s Cal Grants program — which provides college tuition for bright students with financial needs — to be used at state colleges that in any way discriminate against LGBT students. This would have compelled Christian colleges that have codes governing the sex lives of their community members either to change their policies, or surrender Cal Grant-funded students. For many, even most, of those conservative Christian colleges, this would have meant either a severe violation of conscience, or closure.
After a huge lobbying effort, especially by Latino and African-American Christian leaders (black and Hispanic students are disproportionately served by Cal Grants), the sponsor withdrew the bill, but nobody thinks this was the end of it. A white Evangelical source involved in the negotiations told me that many of the state’s white suburban Evangelicals were useless in the resistance, even though they may have opposed the bill. They were terrified of being called bigots.
As David French points out in his piece, California is not the kooky, unrepeatable fringe of the left, but is more typically at the leading edge of where the rest of America is going. And this, says French, is the answer to Jonathan Chait’s query. Chait writes:
Looking around at what 16 months of President Trump has wrought, watching Fox & Friends, refreshing the news sites for the latest national-security debacle, would you decide, each morning, to remain in the Republican Party? And yet in varying ways, anti-Trump conservatives have all taken the impossibility of trans-partisan cooperation as a given.
Well, as readers know, I left the GOP in 2008, though I still identify as a conservative, so what Chait says here applies to me as well. French, in replying to Chait, speaks for me:
Chait’s premise implies that Republicans have gone extreme, yet more-sensible conservatives are strangely refusing to join a mainstream opposition. Yet that’s not how the world looks from the right side of the aisle. From there, it looks as if the Democratic party is responding to Trump by galloping away from the center, doubling down on the very policies and ideologies that led Evangelicals to vote en masse for Trump as a form of simple self-defense.
On Monday night at a dinner in Miami, I told a liberal journalist sitting next to me that I would love to vote for a Democrat as a way of bringing the Republican Party back to its senses, but that it is impossible for a conservative Christian like me to vote Democratic, because I am the Enemy to the Democratic Party.
It’s all about religious liberty. I am convinced — beyond convinced — that there is no religious liberty that the Democrats would not smash in an effort to advance whatever the LGBT activist leadership wants. It’s not that I believe that all Democrats are radically anti-Christian, or that all LGBT folks are. But those who just want to live and let live are not in charge of the Democratic Party’s direction.
About the proposed California law, Daniel Mattson, a same-sex-oriented Catholic who is chaste, converses with the writer Michael Brendan Dougherty:
As I’ve said, their argument reduces to the view that all forms of self-reproach in this should be criminalized. I don’t see how sacramental confession isn’t brought under the censure of this proposed law. https://t.co/Rsef5RU7c0
— Michael Brendan Dougherty (@michaelbd) April 17, 2018
Do you think these fears are extreme? Well, let me tell you, Christians who pay attention are by now immune to the reassurances from the cultural left that their worst fears are overblown. We have been through the dialogue deception time and time again.
This is what’s blowing up on social media this morning — both among conservative Christians and radical trans-negative feminists: a questionnaire whose purpose seeks to erase gender binaries in the delivery of health care. Here’s how it begins:
Gender neutral terms for anatomy and healthcare education/research for pregnant and birthing people
We’re calling on our community to help us improve academic syllabi and lectures in healthcare education and materials. In healthcare education settings the terms used for anatomy need to be broadly applied in the creation of a syllabus and in lectures for all genders. Our goal is to identify problematic medical terminology terms used in healthcare education and identify terms that are inclusive. We’re hoping to brainstorm a list of terms for medical terminology, anatomy, and medical procedures that are inclusive to people of all genders, as well as gender inclusive terms for general use in healthcare education and materials.
We are already very clear with students and residents that in the clinic setting patients and clients should be asked their preferred anatomy terms, and that their request should be honored in every circumstance.
In this survey, you’ll see the current standard medical and/or anatomical term. You’re invited to check other terms that you’ve heard or used, and to add other terms in response. Please check all that apply.
Take a look at the document. These healthcare radicals are trying to allow psychological states of mind to determine anatomical truth. If a man calls his penis a vagina, then the woke medical services provider must agree.
At first, my digging showed that it started with Melissa Smith-Tourville, the admissions director of the Midwives College of Utah, one of the biggest training programs for midwives. Spend some time on its website and you’ll see that it’s a very woke institution. Here’s the initial request from Smith-Tourville:
But Miriam Ben-Shalom, a radical feminist who is doing great work opposing the trans agenda, dug deeper:
That’s the Human Rights Campaign, the premier LGBT lobby. A Washington lobbyist once told me that “the gay rights lobby is to the Democrats what the NRA is to the Republicans.” His point? That you cannot cross them and stand in good stead within the party. If the HRC wants this radical remake of basic medical terminology, you can bet that it’s going to get it sooner or later.
The HRC is 100 percent behind the California bill. One could certainly understand the HRC opposing conversion therapy, but as French and others point out, this bill is written very broadly. This does not bother the nation’s premier gay rights lobby, nor does it bother the Democrats (and at least one Republican) in the California Assembly who sailed it through two Assembly committees.
Extremism in the pursuit of LGBT rights and the punishment of dissenting Christians is no vice. , it appears. And that’s why many conservative Christians grit our teeth and vote Republican anyway.