Amazon bans books on “conversion therapy”

I am a Christian. I hold to what Christians have always believed about sexuality—that the only legitimate context for sexual activity is between one man and one woman in the covenant of marriage. Any other kind of sexual activity—including the homosexual kind—is against God’s design for His creation and is prohibited by scripture. I also believe that we are all sexual sinners of some sort. 

Nevetheless, I affirm that the grace of God in Christ gives both merciful pardon and transforming power, and that this pardon and power enable a follower of Jesus to put to death sinful desires and to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. I deny that the grace of God in Christ is insufficient to forgive all sexual sins and to give power for holiness to every believer who feels drawn into sexual sin.

This is all standard fare Christian doctrine. It is the unbroken testimony of the Christian church for its entire 2,000-year history. And I think—if I understand this news story correctly—it is a perspective that Amazon has banned (or is about to ban) from the books that it sells on its site. Let me explain.

NBC News reports that Amazon has banned books written by Joseph Nicolosi, the founder of so-called “conversion therapy.” From the report:

Amazon has removed English-language books by a man largely considered “the father of conversion therapy” from its site following mounting pressure from LGBTQ activists.  

Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, founder of the now-shuttered Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic, as well as the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), authored several how-to guides directed to parents of LGBTQ youth, including “A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.” His books are some of the most well-known works about conversion therapy, the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.  

“I would say many survivors of conversion therapy could trace their trauma to Nicolosi,” Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project and a survivor of conversion therapy, told NBC News. “His work lent credibility under the guise of ‘science’ to conversion therapy, even though the practice has been disputed and discredited as dangerous and harmful by medical experts.”

Let me stipulate up front that I am no fan of Nicolosi or of conversion therapy. It’s a secular theory that has nothing to do with Christianity. I have written and spoken in opposition to it for years (if you want to understand why, read here). Having said that, the reason that Amazon is banning Nicolosi’s books is not because he taught Christianity (he didn’t) but because he taught that it is possible to change someone’s sexual orientation. According to the article, teaching such a thing causes people to die. From the report:

“…while the removal of Nicolosi’s books won’t stop conversion therapy, it will help the public better understand the dangers of the practice.  

“These books will still be accessible and will still be a risk for youth,” Brinton, the co-founder of 50 Bills 50 States, the largest campaign to protect LGBTQ youths from conversion therapy in the U.S., said. “But you can compare removing them to the surgeon general announcing smoking is dangerous: People now know the side effects of the practice.”  

“The best way to save lives is to pass legislation,” Brinton added, noting that in the last 30 months, 13 laws have been passed protecting minors against conversion therapy. Currently 18 states, along with the District of Columbia, ban the practice on minors.

Did you catch that? The Amazon ban and the suggested legislation to ban conversion therapy isn’t limited to Joseph Nicolosi’s teachings. This ban defines any attempt to change one’s sexual desires as “conversion therapy.” Well guess what? That means that every single Christian who believes that that God’s grace changes sexual sinners would be implicated by this ban and by such legislation. 

What Amazon has done is really chilling. They have now set the precedent for banning Christian teaching about sexuality from the books that they sell on their platform. Just to be clear again. I am not saying that Nicolosi’s books are in any way “Christian teaching.” I’m saying that orthodox Christianity has always taught that Jesus both saves and sanctifies sinners—meaning that the gospel helps us to change, even in our wayward sexual desires. To the outside world, that may sound like “conversation therapy.” To those of us who are orthodox Christians, it sounds like the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). 

What that means is that Christianity long been on a collision course with the new secular orthodoxy on sexuality. It means that we may have our books banned from Amazon. I myself have two that would have to be excluded if Amazon were to apply its content guidelines to my books as they have to Nicolosi’s. And I wouldn’t be alone.

The sexual revolutionaries used to ask us, “How does my gay marriage harm you?” Well, this is how. They have gone from “live and let live” to “affirm our sexual immorality, or we will tar and feather you as causing the deaths of gay people.” It is a calumny and a lie, but that is where we are. 

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