Artillery Row

Below the belt

Why is the government comparing Christian pastoral care to rape?

Imagine, for a moment, that an official government consultation included the following question:

A wide range of acts can be committed in the name of kosher therapy. This includes anything from acts of physical violence e.g. assault and rape, to eating food prepared in a certain way. Have you ever been offered kosher therapy?

I hope that the response would be one of absolute disgust and fury, from every decent individual in the country. Kosher food is a highly valued, indeed essential, aspect of Jewish culture. It would be a vile implication to class those who care about it with rapists. At the very least, serious public apologies would be demanded — probably, senior heads would roll.

Yet the current consultation on “Banning Conversion Therapy” does in fact ask this question:

A wide range of acts can be committed in the name of conversion therapy. This includes anything from acts of physical violence e.g. assault and rape, to talking interventions and therapies. Have you ever been offered conversion therapy?

I do not know who came up with the concept of “conversion therapy”, but for Christians of every denomination who hold to historic, orthodox Christianity, it is no less nonsensical than talking about “kosher therapy” would be for Jews. Conversion is a vital concept in Christianity, describing the change God makes in human hearts to turn them from worshipping themselves to worshipping him. As a work of God, it also has nothing to do with “therapy”.

Banning normal Christian pastoral care has become a real possibility

It is profoundly appalling to imply that Christian ministers calling people to respond to Christ somehow lies in the same category as rape. The same thing was done in the 2018 “National LGBT Survey” carried out by the Government Equalities Office.

Conversion Therapies… can take many forms and commonly range from pseudo-psychological treatments to spiritual counselling. In extreme cases, they may also include surgical and hormonal interventions, or so-called “corrective” rape. Respondents were asked whether they had ever undergone or been offered any such intervention

The unwritten assumption (and perhaps intention) seems to be that Christianity, with its concern for conversion, has a particular tendency towards rape. The two are implied to be comparable.

Christians are disposed to be peaceable, and we’ve got used to being slurred in this kind of way for a while now — our tendency is to let it pass. Now that the government is proposing to legislate on this basis, banning normal Christian pastoral care as if it were the same thing as sexual assault has become a real possibility. We need to start calling it out.

There seems to be no evidence that “corrective rape” has ever been used in this country. A Freedom of Information request to the Government Equalities Office in 2018, asking for this evidence, revealed that in fact the GEO had “no information relevant to this request”. Another, recent FOI request to police forces found there is no record of any form of violent “conversion therapy” being investigated by any police force in the last five years. The repeated mention of this seems to be based on a desire for rhetorical force, rather than (thankfully) any such things actually taking place.

Even if they did, the implication that Christianity in any way would be comparable is particularly galling, and ridiculous, for one major reason: it is Christianity that taught the world that rape is wrong.

Christianity demands a man “crucify” himself, including his sex life

In the ancient, pre-Christian world, there was no idea that there might be a moral problem with rape. It was the normal behaviour of the Greek and Roman gods, repeated so often in (for example) Ovid’s Metamorphoses that it serves almost as their modus operandi, a defining feature of god-hood. Nestor urged on his troops in the Iliad with the enticing vision of each man soon spending a night with a slain Trojan’s wife. Europe is named after one of Jupiter’s ravished maidens, and while the Romans might well have sniggered at the story, it would have occurred to none of them to fault him for it.

Then Christianity burst upon the world. Their scriptures contained perhaps the first ever prohibition of rape in warfare, in the book of Deuteronomy. Moreover, it taught that sex is a sacred, permanent bond between one man and one woman, designed by God as a reflection of the eternal love which his Son Jesus Christ has for his church, and the grateful, unending love which all humanity is called to show back to him.

Therefore the pattern Christianity requires of men is that of the crucified Christ himself. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her,” wrote the Apostle Paul. Rather than see women as conquests to be vanquished, or a pleasure apparatus to be used and discarded, Christianity demands that a man “crucify” himself, including his sex life. He is to forgo sex entirely with anyone and everyone except one woman and one woman only and then, only on the basis that he first surrenders everything to her, committing his entire life to her welfare, and to that of the children that their union will bring. A man may not touch a woman sexually till he has first made a vow before God that he will never leave her, share all his possessions with her, always love her, always provide for her.

Christianity, not secularism, gives moral force to despising rape

Within Christian marriage, sexual union is an act of giving, not taking; of honouring one another, not seeking one’s own pleasure; serving God together, not serving self at the expense of another. Where Jupiter was King, marriage was an annoyance and rape a divine triumph; where Jesus is honoured as Lord, marriage is a sacred, godlike covenant of sacrificial love, and rape its monstrously evil negation.

It is only that Christian heritage which has led to our considering rape a crime. It is Christianity, not secularism, that gives moral force to despising and opposing rape. If “being true to yourself” is the only real moral value, and to be true to ourselves requires that we follow and fulfil our own sexual preferences, then ultimately we will have to admit that Christ was wasting his time, and that Jupiter was doing nothing wrong after all.

How dare our government bracket Christian conversion along with rape? How dare they draw any comparison between the two? Ironically, it is the very belief which this proposed law would criminalise us for — the moral duty of restricting sex to within the covenant of marriage — that makes Christians execrate rape with stronger grounds than anyone else. We don’t expect heads to roll, or even hold out hope for an apology. But perhaps the government could refrain from criminalising us, who first dared to condemn rape, for our supposed sympathy for it.

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