August 18, 2022
Japanese Christians Against the Nashville Statement (JCANS)
Hateful discourse toward sexual minorities continues to spill forth from influential religious groups in Japan. At a recent gathering of Diet members of the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership, tracts containing anti-LGBTQ content were handed out. The Unification Church continues to propagate its discriminatory doctrines. And now, a group of conservative Evangelical Christians in Japanese have set up the Network for Biblical Understanding of Sexuality (NBUS). NBUS has published a Japanese translation of the Nashville Statements, originally published by Evangelical leadership in the U.S. in order to deny sexual minorities the right to authentically live out their true selves.
The NBUS claims that they will “walk alongside those suffering from being LGBTQ+, sharing the love and salvation of God in the Bible, and help minorities within sexual minorities to transform if they so desire.” This is downright impossible. Sexual orientation and gender identity cannot be changed either by coercion or by will. One cannot “change” someone from being “homosexual” or “transgender”. These kind of claims by NBUS and the Nashville Statement lead to the dangerous territory of “conversion therapy” which has caused immeasurable harm, even death.
Christianity teaches that our very being is a gift from God. Changing someone’s sexuality amounts to rejecting that gift. The kind of claims by NBUS are in violation of God’s will and equate to denying people’s basic human rights, and therefore should not be made public. We are deeply concerned that many sexual minority people will be hurt by NBUS’s activities, and therefore strongly protest against NBUS. Our hope is that persons of all sexualities can find the rightful respect that is afforded to everyone, both in church and in society.
Your faith and your sexuality or gender identity are entirely different constructs that cannot be discussed at the same level. In other words, your sexuality or gender identity has nothing to do with how devout you are as a believer. Praying harder or having a stronger faith does not eliminate the pain you have suffered due to your sexuality. However, if someone’s sexuality is a result of violence and hatred, that is something that needs to be addressed.
LGBTQ＋ people are constantly exposed to violence and hatred. Our God is not a God who controls with force, but a God who stands with those who are marginalized, just as Israel was chosen because of its weakness, and brings forth justice. God is with us. Your faith is not the problem!
NBUS states in a letter submitted the The Christ Newspaper (dated Aug 12 2022) that their aim is to “walk alongside those suffering from being LGBTQ+, sharing the love and salvation of God in the Bible, and help minorities within sexual minorities to transform if they so desire.” NBUS does not use the words “conversion therapy”, but it is obvious that their primary goal is actually leading people to conversion therapy.
By inserting the phrase “if they so desire”, even though it is their own agenda, they are pushing all responsibility onto the person undergoing conversion therapy, without any willingness to take responsibility for whatever happens during or after the conversion therapy. NBUS’s attitude is not one of sincerely facing the person in front, and is unbefitting of a Christ-follower.
Although they claim to “walk alongside those suffering from being LGBTQ+”, but in reality their ways are far from “walking alongside” and are full of manipulation and deception. Their manipulative aims are a sacrilege against human dignity, and even against the whole human existence. Furthermore, such sacrilege against humans who are made in God’s image amounts to sacrilege against God.
Conversion therapy has been rampant in right-wing Evangelical churches in the United States especially since the 90s, and is still practiced today. Proponents claim that homosexual persons can become heterosexual, and transgender persons can remain in the sex and gender assigned at birth. Many LGBTQ+ Christians, already carrying so much hurt, have been severely victimized by these heinous programs.
Conversion therapy has zero psychiatric/psychological evidence for their claims. “Aversion therapy” has often been performed by unlicensed physicians, applying electric shocks to the hands or genitals or administering nausea-inducing drugs while giving sexual stimulating through homosexual images.
“Aversion therapy” has now been banned, yet coercive practices under the banner of “counselling” or “mental healing” continue in churches where sexual minorities face spiritual pressure to change through “social skills training” which include forced acceptance of gender-roles and self-suggestion.. Of course there is no evidence for “cure” in any of these “therapies”.
Canada has banned conversion therapy nationally, and in the U.S. Pennsylvania became the 26th state to ban it statewide in August 2022. Medical practitioners, scientists, and government agencies in the U.S. and the U.K. have expressed concern over conversion therapy as “potentially harmful.” David Satcher, then-U.S. Surgeon General, published a report in 2001 stating “There is no scientific evidence that [conversion therapy] can alter sexual orientation.”
Many conversion therapy survivors claim to have converted to being heterosexual or “cured of transgender feelings” for a short while, until the effect of self-suggestion wears off and the heavy stress forces them to confront their true identity once again. The guilt of failing their “conversion therapy” along with the amplified homophobia/transphobia by the church causes further suffering. The conflict between their own faith crisis and the inner desire to live out their true identity can lead to depression, personality disorder, and other heavy mental illnesses. A high rate of suicide is also reported among those undergoing conversion therapy. Conversion therapy is about life and death (see the Netflix documentary “Pray away” for more information).
The World Health Organization has removed homosexuality from the list of diseases, and since then homophobia has been understood as a social pathology. Gender identity disorder has also been removed from the list of mental illnesses and is classified as “gender incongruence” and seen as a state of health pertaining to one’s gender. The difficulties LGBTQ+ people face in life are not due to anything inherent in one’s sexuality or gender. Those are forced upon sexual minorities by society. Similarly, Homophobia and transphobia are negative feelings that are imposed upon us by the structural discriminiation present in our society.
These feelings are held not only by those who overtly espouse anti-LGBTQ+ feelings. Almost all of us are raised with the assumption that we are heterosexual, and either male or female. Behind this reality lies gender dualism, heteronormativity, procreationalism, and patriarchy, and homophobia and transphobia are directed to those who venture outside of those traditional confines. This means that in our homes, schools, and workplaces, even without noticing, LGBTQ+ people themselves are ingrained with these feelings of hatred.
It is especially difficult to confront the homophobia and transphobia that have been internalized. Concealing your true identity and acting out the identity expected by society, and coming out and being exposed more directly to homophobia/transphobia present in society, are both equally stressful.
Homophobia and transphobia cannot be solved simply by praying. Leaving it to those who try to use the Bible to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity will not lead to any positive result. They cause more problems than they solve as they use the platform of faith to discuss matters that are outside the domain of faith.
In order to truly walk alongside and support LGBTQ+ people, we need to get rid of conversion therapy. Rather, we must partner with them in prayer, and take the time to free them from the homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia that have either been internalized or experienced from the outside.
Conversion therapy aims to change people’s sexuality and to destroy their true identity using the Bible to turn them into “new creations”. These are grossly inhumane practices that have nothing to do whatsoever with the Gospel.
Your sexuality is a gift from God. You can enjoy the richness of God’s creation by choosing your own lifestyles, sexual expressions, and gender roles that fit with you comfortably. Meeting and sharing in life with those of different sexual orientations and gender identities allows us to participate in God’s ongoing work of creation.
God loves you unconditionally without requiring you to become someone else, because God loved us first. There is no need for you to change your sexuality or gender identity. The ones who need to change are those who reject your sexuality or gender identity created by God, and falsely claim God’s name and arbitrarily quote Bible verses to justify themselves.
“Walking alongside” means patiently partnering with sexual minorities to free them from internalized hatred, so they can feel accepted by others and by themselves. Those who have not been affirmed in their own true identity must not be exposed to further pain. The psalmist put it this way: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1 ESV)
Wounds can only be healed by being covered in love. Especially for those who have had others trample upon their sexual orientation or gender identity, there can be no healing without mutual encouragement and support.
Those hurting are not limited to LGBTQ+ individuals, but also include their families, friends, and church members. Many people are concerned and offended by NBUS’s words and actions.
Japan has a Christian population of just 1 percent. But if there is even one person among that 1 percent that are hurting and suffering, we cannot turn away and feign ignorance. One person’s pain is everyone’s pain. Although we are from different denominations, we are all part of the church which is the body of Christ.
This petition is first and foremost aimed at protesting the inhumane practices advanced by NBUS and the Nashville Statement, and to support and encourage LGBTQ+ people who have been victimized and marginalized. Even if you do not agree with everything in this vision statement, if you agree with our overall intentions, we would appreciate your signature accompanied by a comment.
After collecting the signatures, we will send a written demand to NBUS. We will take all comments into account as we continue with various activities.
Joining this petition will not disclose your identity nor lead to your sexuality being outed. You may use any name to express yourself, even your Twitter username or baptismal name.
Our desire is to put an end to people being harmed by those using the Bible. We will continue to expose NBUS’s harmful and problematic words and actions.
We believe that our actions will allow many people to arise from their pain and join together to create an environment where everyone can rejoice in the richness of God’s creation, including the diversity of sexuality and gender.
We, as followers of Jesus, are invited to rejoice and weep with each other. Please pray for LGBTQ+ individuals who are hurting and also for our work.
Peace in Christ.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15 NRSV)