Submission on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill

In a post last week I wrote about the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill that the New Zealand government and its Prime Minister are ramming through Parliament (shoddily drafted, no proper consultation process, couldn’t pass the standard Regulatory Impact Assessment test, short period for Select Committee submissions and so on) aided and abetted by some compliant and ideologically aligned officials in the Ministry of Justice and Crown Law.

When I wrote that post I wasn’t intending to make a submission to the Select Committee. Not only is it government-controlled, but almost all the other parties basically seem to support the bill, and (it seems) its full-throated attack on the practice of an orthodox Christian teaching on sex, marriage, etc. Their ideological course was set, and suggestions I’d seen (including from evangelical organisations) about asking nicely for some accommodation, when ministers seem to have known exactly what they were doing, wasn’t really to my taste.

But then I realised two things. First, that many individual orthodox Christians are not in a position where it is easy for them to speak out. Defend an orthodox Christian ethic in public and some would risk losing their jobs and worse. Perhaps it comes to that at some point, but each person has to make their own call. As someone who is more-or-less retired I have greater freedom and it would seem slightly self-indulgent not to take the opportunity. And, second, I suspect few Members of Parliament, especially on the Labour/Greens side, seem to have much sense of what serious discipleship means, what a serious religious faith and practice involves. If they are good-natured, perhaps they think it is a friendly and unthreatening homily on Sunday morning, a food bank, and perhaps a person to preside at the solemnities of life (at least when governments permit weddings and funerals to occur). But the gospel is supposed to be life-changing, upending, about conversion of heart, and mind, and body, and we are all supposed to be in it together, drawing one another one slowly but surely towards the likeness of Christ. And an orthodox Christian sexual ethic, that we seek to be formed into and form others to, is quite at odds with the dissipation of the age, championed by so many of our political and cultural figures (sometimes aided by fellow travellers in the churches).

And so I put in a submission this afternoon.

Submission to Justice Committee Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill September 2021

I ran through some of the weird anomalies in the bill – did you know for example that 16 and 17 year olds require parental consent to be married, but under this bill parents (and others) are prohibited from doing anything with the intention of changing behaviour on matters sexual? – although my prime focus was on the nature of the assault on orthodox Christian faith and practice.

My introduction was as follows

The bill before the Committee – rushed, and without (as even the Ministry of Justice acknowledges) any sort of proper consultative process – is poorly drafted and riddled with inconsistencies.

But more importantly, it reveals the government to be at best ignorant of orthodox Christianity and (more probably) both ignorant of it and extremely hostile to it, to the extent of outlawing important elements of orthodox Christian practice and conduct, at least on any sexual matter (hardly a small element of any family, society, civilisation, or faith). When a party has an absolute majority in New Zealand’s Parliament it can, of course, outlaw anything it wants, but it is as well to be clear about the (objective) open hostility of an atheistic government to the faith that shaped our civilisation over 1500 or more years, and about the totalitarian tendencies implicit in the proposed law, that seeks to close down any private spaces (be it family, church or whatever) for alternative approaches to sexual issues
to the “anything (consensual) goes” decadent approach apparently now favoured by the government and many of its supporters. 

Orthodox Christianity has consistently taught that sexual desire is to be given expression only within a marriage between one man and one woman, that chastity is an obligation on all, and that celibacy and continence are obligations on those not in a marriage between one man and one women. That teaching – truth as we understand it – does not change with the whims of the world around us. It is not necessarily an easy path to follow, but we seek
to do it by grace, by the Holy Spirit, and with the support, counsel, and (at times) discipline of church and family.
These may not be your views. You may struggle to even understand them. But they are hardly views and practices that have come down in the last shower.

and ended the submission this way

The mindset behind this bill knows nothing of concepts of sin, guilt, judgement, temptation, grace, transformation and so on. And if it has heard of such a mindset, it wants it extirpated in New Zealand. It also seems to know nothing of civil society or the family, at least if these entities – both prior to the State – ever hold views and seek to live in ways not in accord with the views of those currently holding the commanding political heights.

Discipline within the family of God, including on sexual matters, is something with a long and deep history. As just one example, take this passage from the gospel of Matthew (from the New International Version translation of the Bible)

Dealing With Sin in the Church
15 “If your brother or sister[b] sins,[c] go and point out their fault, just between the two of
you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one
or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two
or three witnesses.’[d] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse
to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Sin takes many forms, and isn’t just around sexual matters. But it is the government itself that has singled out sexual matters, so those are the ones I will address here.

Orthodox Christian teaching teaches that homosexual practices are sinful, that adultery is sinful, that lust is sinful, that sex outside marriage between one man and one woman is sinful. Most would probably put use of, and participation in, pornography in the same category. And yet all of these would presumably be regarded by some – with no concept of sin, or wishing to push back against it in their personal case – as forms of “gender expression”. A church that exercised the sort of discipline envisaged in the gospel of Matthew would seem to put itself quite clearly in breach of this bill – most especially in respect of clause 8 offences, and most probably in respect of clause 9.

You as MPs may believe there is no such thing as sexual sin. You may believe that anything (the state allows) goes. But no serious civilisation has ever believed such a thing. And many many New Zealanders neither believe that, nor live that way. You may outlaw the practice of our faith, but courageous men and women will not bend the knee to this Moloch, no matter how much it is cloaked in language of “kindness”, “support” and “understanding”. 

Conversion is our mission, by God’s grace helping conform one another – often slowly and painfully as we struggle each day with sin – to God’s plans, way and purposes, as (in the words of St Paul) living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.

I hope that I, and all Christians who seek to live faithfully, would not hesitate to pray with and for, to counsel, to encourage, to fast with and for, to discipline those who struggle with sexual (or other) temptations, or who seek to wilfully and repeatedly live in ways in defiance of orthodox Christian teaching, especially those who do so while still seeking to associate themselves with the church. Parliament has the power to outlaw all this, but it is as well to
know the character of the Parliament and government that would establish such totalitarianizing laws. And for churches and Christians to be willing, if necessary, to defy the law, knowing where our true citizenship rests.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Submission on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill

  1. RML

    Thank you for your subission. I was unwilling to risk my career for what I saw as an extremely low probability of success in this matter. But the position of orthodox Christianity on this matter deserves to be clearly noted.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Owen

    Did you make an oral submission before the select committee?

    Like

    • No. As far as I can see there is little point in making an appearance, unless perhaps on a bill; that isn’t overly contentious or making quite detailed points (on issues that MPs don’t already have a strong stake in),

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