Holy Week and Conversions — are they mutually exclusive?

I have suffered for a month from an antibiotic resistant bug.  That, at least gave me plenty of time to ponder on the liberal, woke world in which I now seem to live.  It’s a world I find constantly confusing. I have come to the sobering conclusion that I must be a misfitting, orthodox, traditional, illiberal dinosaur. But I do grow nice flowers.

In an effort to keep up to date I tried to follow a Parliamentary debate; to be exact the LGBT Conversion Therapy debate held in the Boothroyd Room in Portcullis House on Monday 8th of March.  I know what the individual words ‘conversion’ and ‘therapy’ mean. Conversion means changing; from bad to good’, or from ‘not too bad’ to ‘much better’ or from ‘the best I can manage right now’ to ‘something pretty special’.  Therapy means ‘curative medical treatment’ or ‘healing’. But ‘Conversion Therapy’ as a danger needing banishment is harder to understand.

Here we are in the middle of Holy Week and for many of us, church-goers and ‘anti-church but pro-Christ’ Christians, this is the greatest week in the Christian calendar when we read, and pray and hope that Christ’s death and resurrection will give us the healing we need to convert us from sinners, to people trying hard to hope more, worship more, love more and, God-willing, sin less.  Who on earth would want to ban all that.

However, when I got to read the debate for myself – pages and pages of it – I realised this conversion is nothing to do with God.  It is all about Sex; more specifically LGBTQI+ sex. 

Eliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington( (Con), who had initiated the debate, began by explaining that the petition is entitled, “Make LGBT conversion therapy illegal in the UK”. 

To clarify exactly what he was talking about, Colburn, MP, said “Conversion Therapy was an umbrella term used to describe interventions of a wide-ranging nature.”  Moreover, it was necessary because of the erroneous, “widespread belief that sexual orientation can and should be changed.”  One and a half minutes into the Debate and I was not happy.  I don’t like umbrella terms when it comes to banning things and I’m not happy with that sweeping generalisation that “sexual orientation can and should be changed.” 

As the debate continued I was impressed by how much a politician can say in a short time!  390 words in two minutes, though very few kept to the 2-3 minute rule.  I had ploughed through many pages before a doubt occurred to me. What does the word ‘debate’ mean in this context?  I was thinking in terms of debating societies in school and college.  Two sides, for and against, with arguments back and forth, claim and counter claim, until the final vote.  These speakers I was reading had not had a debate.  There was only one side, no one put points for the opposition, and many (most) speeches were couched in highly emotive language.  Moreover, the so-called evidence lacked any real science; it was almost all anecdotal.

These two rhododendrons (above and below) have been around so long they’ve lost their labels, and I’ve lost the book in which I recorded their names.

When I read on further I still couldn’t see the need to ban anything.  The anti-gay practices of the past – electric shocks, chemical castration and other actions more reminiscent of Tudor times, have already been outlawed.  This liberal age is all about individuals deciding for themselves what they would like to do.  Would like, not should like.  Put simply, if a man, say, who is sexually attracted to other men, nevertheless decides that he would like to marry a woman and have a natural family, surely he should have to right to have psychotherapy if he wants it and thinks it will help him.

One speaker, Crispin Blunt, (Reigate) (Con) included in his comments the issue of trans people.  “They are by far and away the most vulnerable group among the LGBT community.”  Well I agree completely there, as does the recent report of the Quality Care Commission who rated The Tavistock Clinic worryingly ‘inadequate’. Something else that worries me is the fact that many of the children being treated at the clinic are either on the autistic spectrum or have complex mental health issues. That is worrying.   I would certainly like to ban the horrific conversions available to even quite young children who want to change their gender and their physical genitalia.  Not only can children as young as 12 be given puberty blockers, followed by hormone treatment but, after the age of 16, mutilating surgery is also available.  It’s hardly therapy but it certainly converts a female body to a male body, so why isn’t it banned as well.  What sort of conversion therapy for trans people does Mr Blunt have in mind?

There is just one more conundrum I can’t get my head round.  My daughter was a psychiatrist who specialised in anorexia and psychosis.  She preferred her psychotic patients; they were much more fun and their difficulties sorting out what was real and unreal in their lives encouraged her to look at her own life in new and fascinating ways.  There wasn’t so much laughter on an anorexic ward and you needed masses of patience to sit for an hour persuading a stick thin individual to add just one raspberry to a small pot of yoghurt for lunch.  Anorexia is extremely difficult to treat, let alone cure, and frequently fatal.  Yet never once, even when treating a skeletal creature with a body mass of 10, was she tempted to agree with her that, yes, she did look fat and perhaps it would be a good idea to stop eating.

I pray that, despite the threatened ban on conversions, and freedoms of speech and religion, that you will all* have a spiritually uplifting and holy Easter.

*Paul’s letter to the Galatians 3.v28

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

This shy, humble little periwinkle has been blooming since Christmas!

“May you live in interesting times.”

 

I first heard the Chinese greeting ‘May you live in interesting times,’ many years ago but it wasn’t till I read a lecture by Rabbi Lord Sachs recently that I learned it is actually a curse.
When I signed off from this blog for the summer at the beginning of July I was expecting things to jog along through July and August pretty much as usual. They didn’t. I have certainly lived through some very “interesting times” over the last three months – nerve wracking, exhausting, frightening – but, thank God, I haven’t had the feeling that I’d actually been cursed. I am both sadder and wiser than I was; wiser because of the things that happened to me and my family and sadder because of the bizarre things that continue to happen in the world.

 
Briefly, my one and only husband went into hospital for minor surgery and ended up spending seven weeks there, including two bouts in Intensive Care, and has come out needing dialysis. A few weeks into this trauma son, daughter-in-law and granddaughters came home and announced that next year they were planning to live with us full time. (Clearly they no longer trust us to live on our own.) So builders have moved in to turn an old people’s house into a multi generation home.

 

The builders will be with us until November and at the moment the only rooms habitable are the kitchen, the sitting room and our bedroom. Sometimes we have no water and sometimes we have no electricity but Nigel and Mark have been well trained. When they make tea for themselves they also make tea for whoever else is around at the time. Oh, yes, and, during one of the Intensive Care episodes, I took delivery of an eight week old puppy, encouraged and cheered on by my husband’s nurses. Nigel and Mark are also good at puppy-sitting and mopping up after her.
For much of my time, during those long weeks, I sat beside the bed, lost in admiration for the skill, devotion and dedication of the staff from consultants to porters. Professor Ted Baker, chief inspector of hospitals in England has just announced that the NHS is no longer fit for purpose. Whoever that statement applies to it’s not Welsh health care staff.

Here’s one of the things that has made me sad.

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The Archbishop of Canterbury faced with a difficult question during a radio interview

Have  you ever seen anyone more dejected and despairing. The funny thing is, I don’t think I ever felt that hopeless and helpless even when I was sitting in ITU with my husband drifting between life and death.

Perhaps there was a good reason for that. I was surrounded by people who were dedicated to their jobs, devoted to their patients and prepared to work long, unsocial hours (including Sundays). I bet Justin Welby wishes he could rely on such loyal, single minded support.

And what had caused the Archbishop’s angst and misery? A question in his LBC radio interview about a 6 year old boy in a dress!

For a start shouldn’t he have expected that question or something similar? Shouldn’t he have prepared a sound theological answer? After all, he is still the titular head of the whole Anglican Communion.

He says he doesn’t have a problem with a boy wearing a dress. Of course not. A little 6 year old can wear anything he likes; batman, superman, fairy twinkle toes.

Unfortunately, he didn’t make it clear that the boy in the dress isn’t the problem. The problem is transgenderism, which has taken off as the latest weapon of the “let’s smash the family” brigade.

A class of five and six years olds shouldn’t be made uncomfortable, puzzled and concerned by the selfish actions of a befuddled child, his parents and his teachers.

My sympathy is with all those parents who chose to send their children to a Church of England school in the hopes they would be taught the basic tenets of the Anglican faith. They have been let down, not least by the Archbishop of Canterbury.