Canada’s infamous Bill C-4 outlawing “conversion therapy” has taken out its first casualty: a Californian pastor censored on YouTube for preaching that “God made man male and female”.

John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church on the outskirts of Los Angeles, has been a preacher for over 50 years. By size, his congregation is technically a megachurch, but not the happy-clappy kind. A bestselling author whose sermons are broadcast on hundreds of US radio stations, MacArthur is known for his suits and ties, exegetical Bible teaching, and stiff-upper-lip orthodoxy.

When Canada passed its most recent criminal code amendment in late 2021, MacArthur joined a protest of 4,000 North American preachers affirming traditional Christian sexual ethics from the pulpit. His sermon was quickly labelled “hate speech” by YouTube and removed. During that sermon, MacArthur said:

There is no such thing as transgender. You are either XX or XY, that’s it. God made man male and female. That is determined genetically, that is physiology, that is science, that is reality. 

“This notion that you are something other than your biology is a cultural construct intended as an assault on God. The only way you can address it, honestly, is to say, ‘God made you and God made you exactly the way he wanted you to be. You are not only fighting God in his physical creation, you are fighting God in his sovereignty. You are fighting God in his spiritual relationship to you.’ This is a war on God.”

Abrasive though they may sound to secular ears, MacArthur’s words are consistent with historic Christian teaching on sexual morality. St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, for instance, warns that “neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God”.

Bill C-4, which sailed through both houses of Canada’s parliament in December without a dissenting vote, makes it a criminal act to cause someone to undergo “conversion therapy”. It also forbids any promotion or advertising of the practice, the making of income by it, and the removal of any child from Canada in order to find the service elsewhere.

Those who fall foul of the new law can be imprisoned for up to five years.

If by “conversion therapy”, the bill was referring to electroshock treatment or other abusive practices from yesteryear, it would be hard to find a critic of the legislation.

In fact, the phrase “conversion therapy” is defined as any “practice, treatment or service designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, to change a person’s gender identity or gender expression to cisgender,” or to “change a person’s gender expression so that it conforms to the sex assigned to the person at birth”.

Based on the wording of the bill, it is presumably fine to encourage Canadians to convert to transgenderism or any other rainbow sexual practice. Go figure. Wokeness always has been a one-way street.

Most chilling is that Bill C-4 has potentially outlawed prayer and basic counselling between pastors and their congregants — and even private conversations between parents and children. The reach of this law will only become apparent as the courts have their say.

In a Charter Statement about the bill, Canada’s Minister of Justice explained that it was designed to “discourage and denounce harmful practices and treatments that are based on myths and stereotypes about LGBTQ2 people,” including “myths and stereotypes that the sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression of LGBTQ2 people are undesirable conditions that can or should be changed.”

Intended or not, in doing so, the bill has expressly categorised the Bible as a “myth”.

Immediately after his assertion that homosexuality and other such sins kept people out of the kingdom of God, St Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ”. In other words, like it or not, it is a tenet of Christian belief that conversion from transgender or homosexual practice is both possible and desirable.

As with so many wokish trends, Canada’s ban on “conversion therapy” does not represent the victory of science or reason over religion. It represents the effective replacement of one religion with another.

Christendom has far from a perfect record when it comes to tolerance. The crusades and the European witch hunts are well-known examples of twisted applications of Christian belief. But from 2022, you have to wind the clock back a long way to find Christians weaponising laws to jail their ideological opponents. For decades, the Christianity that has inhabited the West has been notably tolerant and peaceful.

But nature abhors a vacuum. Having gained the upper hand over the last five years, wokeness wants more than permission: its aim is now to stifle every sniff of opposition.

Ironically, Bill C-4 threatens not just Christian belief, but the fundamental liberties that have flowed out of that belief. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — a document with a distinctly Christian genealogy — states that everyone has the “freedom of conscience and religion” and the “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression”.

Has the shelf life of these freedoms expired?

John MacArthur may not be Canadian, and he is out of reach of Bill C-4’s wrath. But he provides a frightful omen of what’s to come for those courageous enough to keep the faith.

Kurt Mahlburg is a writer and author, and an emerging Australian voice on culture and the Christian faith. He has a passion for both the philosophical and the personal, drawing on his background as a graduate...