A few short days (as opposed to those tiresome long ones) after writing about the influence of the rough American Christian Right on fleecy British parishioners, yet another Church has fallen prey to the guerrilla tactics so popular in our former colonies across the Atlantic. The Emmanuel Centre (soon to be Center?) in Westminster hosted a conference on January 27 about conversion therapy. It is aimed at those who have been seduced by the homosexual lifestyle and resolves to return them to the path of … well, no-one is quite clear what they would be returned to other than the vague “Christian values”. This could mean anything from a wardrobe of muted colours to the reinstatement of the death penalty. The title of the conference: ‘The Lepers Amongst Us: Homosexuality and the Life of the Church.’ The speaker: US lawyer and Theological School graduate, Dr Jim Reynolds. The organisers: the Core Issues Trust.
Historically, the religious organisation has been the nonpareil way to avoid taxation: look at Sun Myung Moon, L. Ron Hubbard. Organisations such as the Core Issues Trust – that’ll be another thoroughly work-shopped name – have put this honest pastime aside. Instead they are interested in promoting an alternate reality in which you wish for something and it is made so – as long as an appropriate Bible quotation is tacked onto the end. It’s like a Holy-Roller Holodeck. The workshop that forged the Core Issues name also forged a logo – an apple with the word “core” emerging from its centre (or center) – and a tagline: “God’s heart in sexual and relational brokenness”. They fear not the mixed metaphor. Nor the awkward grammar. It’s all about the marketing. And the lackadaisical thinking does not stop there.
Reading through the marketing materials on the website it is hard to figure out what issues are core, other than the idea that you can “reform” the repentant gays. So homosexuality, like leprosy – to return to the inflammatory conference title – can not be ‘cured’. Except by Christ, of course, but he’s no longer around to lay on hands. “We believe individuals have a right to self-determine sexual identity and behaviour and so reject the notion that people are born gay and as such are inevitably ‘gay’.” I think that what this means is that it’s a lifestyle choice. But wait, there’s more! “By the same token, people have the right to identify as and act out as, homosexuals.” So they want to help the people who are suffering because they’ve been taught to believe that being gay is wrong? But wait, there’s more! “But this isn’t saying that homosexuality is a choice!” It’s like working with Ikea assembly instructions: the individual parts are there but no matter what you do they don’t quite fit together to make a whole. So it’s onwards to the FAQ section in search of enlightenment …
“CORE is a Christian initiative seeking to support men and women who struggle with homosexuality, and related issues. Of particular concern to us are people who struggle to find a useful place within the church, either because local congregations find it difficult to get alongside people who haven’t yet resolved their issues, or because the church has taken a liberal perspective which undermines their desire to move away from homosexual practice and preference.”
In other words, rather than dealing with fear and prejudice rationally the issues are sugar-coated with Biblical rhetoric: they profess to only want to change you because they care about you. (I wonder what the vague ‘related issues’ could be …) They just want you to fit in. And what better way than to hold a conference with the title ‘The Lepers Amongst Us: Homosexuality and the Life of the Church’.
In the propaganda leaflet issued to the press about the conference, Mike Davidson (who also claims a PhD?- where do they get these degrees from?) writes that it “recognises the fundamental human rights of the LGBT community to live in partnerships that are happy, fulfilled and respected. It acknowledges that Christians have different understandings of the teachings on the bible around human sexuality. It reserves the right to offer alternative orthodox views to those who choose to prioritise a religious identity over a sexual identity, or when these identities collide.” This is again skirting the issue. They will simply not say what they mean and prefer to dress it up in the cotton wool of marketing. It’s thoroughly dishonest.
Reparative therapy, the pseudo-scientific name for the conversion therapy practiced by quack doctors, is also side-stepped. “The event focuses primarily on issues around practical theology rather than psychotherapy.” Again, this is skirting the issue. Of all the events organised by Core Issues, one of the first was a talk by the Reparative Therapy advocate Jerry Satinover, who was featured in the 2009 Rebel Scum article ‘Why are US ex-gay Witch Hunters invited to speak in Britain?’ Reparative Therapy took a beating from the professionals, and has been dismissed by The National Association of Social Workers, The American Psychological Association, The American Psychiatric Association, The American Counseling Association, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. And so it’s now “practical theology”.
Sinclair Lewis, author of Elmer Gantry, that great statement on how Christian rhetoric is a powerful tool in the hands of the bully, wrote that “when fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” The bullies are on the march and carrying their fascism to these troubled shores. On its Twitter feed yesterday, Pink News asked if such conferences should be banned. I think not. That would martyr the cause, and either drive it underground or test the marketing skills of the organisations even further. I think there needs to be a LGBT Occupy movement to challenge the claims of such speakers at each and every turn. Who’s up for that?