Dr. Mike Davidson, CEO of Core Issues Trust, reflects on the effect of the decriminalisation of homosexuality on ministries like his, which offer therapy to those seeking help for unwanted same-sex attraction.
In his new book The New Politics of Sex. The Sexual Revolution, Civil Liberties, and the Growth of Governmental Power, Stephen Baskerville (2017) shows how both radical feminism and homosexualism have exceeded the boundaries of any former revolution. They have invaded and assumed control not only of the public space, but more potently and frighteningly, they have invaded the private space. Sexuality has now not only been politicised, liberalised and criminalised, it is also being globalised. And what people think and do privately is increasingly under the creeping control of the totalitarian state. The problem is, he points out, that even the conservatives who have faithfully warned of this growing ideological stranglehold, and who challenge issues such as abortion and same-sex ‘marriage’, no longer question the assumption that our private lives are a matter for state regulation. According to him, “The key to understanding the success of the sexual revolution is to understand it is not the radicals but conservatives that have not only allowed it to triumph unopposed but in some instances facilitated its rise to power” (2017:24). Sexual liberation begets social disintegration, which in turn calls for social control. It’s not the radicals who need to be feared as much as the conservatives who allow the erosion of family values, personal privacy, critical thinking and civic freedoms “through the relentless politicisation of private life by an ideology to which we are now so acculturated that we are largely immune from realizing its effects”. (Baskerville, 2017:29)
So, as much is made of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, which Tatchell shows has only been partially accomplished, it is prudent to ask at what price this is being accomplished? Take for example the state’s collusion in aspirations for the Church in the Global South to sanctify and normalise homosexual relationships as evidenced this week in the Wilton Park Report criticised by the Barnabas Fund. Given the findings of the largest ever global survey of its kind, the ILGA (2016) report shows that only one third of people in the UK believe homosexuality is innate, and more than a third believe people ‘become so’ or ‘choose to be so’. It seems then that the homosexualist campaigners have a way to go to convince the UK public that homosexuality is a normal and desirable variation of human sexuality. But why then the astounding take up of the sexual agenda by the ruling elite? According to Baskerville again, the reason is the quest for power.
This capturing of power to achieve political ends becomes more evident when one considers what happens when someone jumps ship or seeks to swim in the opposite direction to the tide of sexual liberation and homosexual normativity. Its rather like trying to leave a cult. Joining is easy; leaving almost impossible. The pull towards gay identity has to do with personal identities being affirmed by global communities complete with patrons, celebrities, advocates and defenders. Those coming through it and wanting out have a difficult time extracting themselves. Having been part of the cult, they are not allowed to de-transition transgender or exit gay identity without total renunciation. Not even, or certainly not in the Church of England, given the fawnings of both Archbishops to state ideologies of sexuality, as they call for a ban on anything opposing the normalisation of same-sex behaviours.
Bolstering Orientations: ‘Celibacy’ versus ‘abstinence’
But of course one expects liberalism to take the course it is doing in the state church, and it’s not surprising, in their attempt to stave off disestablishment, that the hierarchy in the Church of England is sceptical of sexual reorientation or change experiences or interventions. The more insidious threat I fear is from the conservatives both within and outside of the Church of England who continue to bolster the false notion of ‘orientation’ – the very bedrock of gay identity. Gay Christians who attribute an essentialist and categorical notion of ‘orientation’ to their same-sex attractions, spiritualise their non-practising status as ‘celibacy’. By appropriating this language sacred to Christian Marriage, rather than the redemptive language of ‘abstinence’ they too are also sceptical of ‘change’ or what they would call ‘re-orientation’ testimonies and pastoral and counselling ministry approaches. Those who attribute a constructivist basis to the notion of ‘orientation’, as I do, find the essentialist notion of the word ‘Gay’ deeply troubling, since it perpetuates the idea of ‘born gay’, and postulates only a redemptive pathway for Christians mindful of the sanctity of marriage to which non-Christians have no access since they do not share the same theology. Here we see, in sexual redemption approaches, an example of conservatism helping to sustain radical ideas of sexual orientation. They have nothing to offer non-believers who also want to leave homosexual practices. Sad, but true.
Recently we shared with every member of the General Synod of the Church of England, the stories of 11 clients currently in therapy with Core Issues Trust. This week we will have worked with 12 individuals in various stages of working out of homosexual behaviours and feelings, from a range of faith and no-faith backgrounds. In my own dealings with clients this week, I had two cancellations, and I have two additional individuals seeking help patiently awaiting a response to voice and message requests. These people come to Core Issues Trust because they seek change of behaviours and aspire to a post-gay life in feeling and practice. Several have already overcome three hurdles. First, they may have decided to leave the Gay Cult which the gay lobby seek to maintain by shaming any daring to leave or declare their unhappiness of, or who refuse to chant the great mantra “This is Who I am”. Second they have defied the opinions of ecclesiastics who refuse to acknowledge their rights in supporting a ban on our work. Thirdly, if they decide to continue with the work, they will have refused the call to declare themselves non-practising homosexuals (or ‘Gay Christians’) – usually because they seek to be married, or already are so and wish to fulfil their full marital role.
In addition, this group may well have stepped outside of their own faith communities to explore the possibilities available to them with an individual not allowed to register as a counsellor or psychotherapist, and who may well espouse a different world view to their own. Core Issues Trust is the only registered charity offering counselling for unwanted same-sex attractions in the UK, as part of its educational and religious basis of organisation. Our clients come in our direction because they are denied the right to seek to reduce same-sex attractions with the help of any professional psychotherapist, and do not wish to submit to gay-affirming therapies as prescribed those signatories of the UK’s Memorandum of Understanding. Those who are Christians no longer have the safety of seeking counsel from the Association of Christian Counsellors since in the UK, unlike its American and Australian counterparts, this organisation has prioritised continued state referrals to its members, over reducing homosexual practices as the Bible commands. To offer help to reduce homosexual behaviours contradicts state ideology that people are born gay and it is ‘potentially harmful’ to seek to change this.
For example, according to Tanya Orr, Executive Director of Willows Counselling an organisation with ACC membership operating within the “Christian Ethos”, (who “don’t bring out the Bible in counselling or anything like that“) what is at stake is client autonomy. Orr claims that counselling supporting those with such aspirations is “judgemental” and would involve counsellors “telling clients what their sexual identity is” or “imposing their beliefs” on (sexual orientation). Orr reveals their role as professional counselling makes it “easier” for them to refuse to offer such counselling than it is for “pastoral” counsellors operating in church contexts. The professional role Willows has, as distinct from that of “pastoral counsellors” Orr claims, is synonymous with rejecting what she calls “Conversion Therapy”.
As we consider the lengthy process of decriminalising homosexuality in the UK, it is worth Christians and Christian Counsellors taking stock of the cost imposed on society of doing so. Firstly, the process reinforces the notion that homosexual ‘orientation’ is innate, and immutable which has paved the way for the potential recognition of new protected, fixed categories and other orientations. In this way homosexuality is normalised as a healthy variant of human sexuality. Secondly, this process has dichotomised and helped to distil “professional” and “Pastoral counselling” so that the first is regulated by the professional mental health bodies, and the second by churches. Thirdly, the process is working towards criminalising, at least professionally, anyone who holds a view that homosexual practices are sinful, or who encourages those who wish to move away from homosexual practices to do so, through pastoral or professional counselling.
From my own point of view, all of this is a precursor for what will ultimately threaten to silence Gospel work in the United Kingdom as Christ’s church confronts the sexual revolution that has invaded the land and now pervades the alters of our churches. It will have one positive effect on the Christian church, however, and that is to invoke the sanctifying agent of the refiner’s fire and fuller’s soap (Malachi 3:2) which alone will discern truth from error. In this way the sanctifying of the secular, or what scripture has called an ‘abomination of desolation’ might be challenged by those who see things differently.