A New Approach on Transgenderism – On the feature today, a Vancouver-area pastor with a new approach on the transgender debate. Click here to hear how one church is raising compelling concerns about so-called transgender rights laws.
In the news…
Manning Networking Conference – ARPA Canada and WeNeedaLAW were front and centre at last week’s Manning conference in Ottawa. Click here for perspective from ARPA’s executive director, Mark Penninga.
CPC Leadership – Some thoughts on the importance of getting involved in federal politics. Click here to learn one small, but significant, action you can take to defend pre-born human rights at the federal level.
#GGY2017 – Preparations continue for the God and Government Youth conference in Ottawa. Click here to learn more, and how you can help.
ARPA staff spent Friday and Saturday last week at the annual Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa. Executive Director Mark Penninga says it’s an annual opportunity for networking. “The thing with relationships is that they take time to build,” Penninga says. “And by going year after year, we show [other conservatives] that we’re here to stay, and that an explicitly Christian perspective on these issues in the public square is something that they need to consider.”
Penninga says there’s also a need to expand that relationship-building beyond the generally conservative base that is represented at the Manning Conference. “One thing that we’re actively looking into this year is trying to get into the Progress Summit, which is the large networking conference for the organizations and leaders on the left. We figure if ARPA’s work has a place on the conservative side of the political spectrum, it has just as much of a place on the other side. They need to hear it just as much.”
The 14 candidates for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada continue to make the rounds, trying to round up votes. We Need a Law director Mike Schouten attended a debate among 12 of those candidates in Langley, BC earlier this month. It was held in a greenhouse that had been converted, essentially, into a theatre. Schouten says only one candidate, Pierre Lemieux, brought up the issue of pre-born human rights. The other candidates, Schouten says, “didn’t bite” on the issue, largely because they had a good sense that the audience was supportive of what Lemieux was saying.
Schouten says both ARPA and WNAL are taking a non-partisan stand. “We’re not going to endorse the Conservatives (and) we’re not going to endorse (leadership) candidates. We endorse the topic of advancing pre-born human rights.” He says when candidates pledge to take on the status quo on the abortion question, “we want people to be aware of that.” Schouten says it’s important for social conservatives to get involved in this leadership debate because the Conservative Party “needs to see that Christians and pro-lifers are not just relevant, but that there are a lot of us in our country.” Schouten says he’s concerned that “there are a lot of Reformed people who aren’t aware that this is an opportunity to get involved.”
Conservatives will pick their new leader in a national mail-in ballot on May 27. In order to be eligible to vote, you have to buy a party membership by March 28.
Preparations continue for ARPA Canada’s first God and Government Youth Conference in Ottawa. Grassroots engagement manager Colin Postma, says there were a total of 44 applications from across the country for 28 positions. Notifications will now go out to the people who’ve been selected. Postma says the conference will feature training and engagement, with opportunities for participants to meet with MPs and Senators as part of the event. The final day will also include an opportunity to participate in the annual Reformed Pro-Life prayer service and the annual March for Life on Parliament Hill.
Postma adds they’re looking for some help from the ARPA membership. “Anyone who has Air Miles or Aeroplan Reward points that they’d like to donate to the students (to cover their travel expenses), especially from the Western Provinces, we’d be grateful to have them, along with any other donations they’d like to make to make this conference a success.”
If you’d like to donate, you can contact ARPA’s administrative assistant, Hannah Sikkema, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The event runs May 8th through 11th.
On the feature this week, a conversation with Pastor Paul Dirks of New West Community Church in New Westminster, a suburb of Vancouver. Pastor Dirks and his congregation have started what they’re calling the “Woman Means Something” campaign. It is a response to Bill C-16, a federal law to add the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the list of grounds under which discrimination will be prohibited in the Criminal Code and the Canada Human Rights Act.
LN: Pastor Dirks, can you give us a brief summary of what your campaign is, and what you’re hoping it’ll do?
PD: Yeah. We were kinda late to the table in understanding Bill C-16 in that it had already passed the House of Commons. It was about four months ago that this came across my plate, and we just kind of got – myself and a couple of others – got excited about the need to oppose Bill C-16 from a women’s rights and protections perspective. So the campaign of course is “Woman Means Something”, and the idea is that even though this bill is well-intentioned in regards to trans individuals – wanting to protect them and their rights – that it inadvertently pits gender-based rights against sex-based rights, and that the people that are going to suffer the most in that are gonna be women and children. Really, we’re seeing the erasure of women’s protections and even (their) very identity under law taking place before our very eyes.
LN: So you’ve received some flak for this position. There has been press coverage – in the New Westminster Record for instance, (and also on some of the pro-trans blog sites and such) – they’re arguing that you’ve got the approach wrong, and that what’s underlying this is the idea that you’re trans-phobic. What do you do with accusations like that?
PD: You know, whenever I hear that, I always make sure that I say “Listen, I love trans people, and I love de-trans people.” (Editor’s note: “De-trans” describes those who want to undo their “gender transition”.) De-trans individuals are starting to become more and more prevalent in social media, (and they’re) going to show up eventually in the medical literature. These are people that are in many cases opposed to the mass media trans narrative, especially when it comes to transitioning children, but even more broadly than that. You know, I love them, I love trans people, and it just seems to me like labeling somebody as trans-phobic is the easy way out instead of wrestling with the actual arguments and the logic that comes behind campaigns like ours.
LN: The campaign poster that I saw says “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – in order to be a feminist, you have to believe that “A Woman Means Something”. Why did you decide to choose this particular angle?
PD: We essentially wanted to use Mr. Trudeau’s very vocal feminism to try to raise awareness of the problem of Bill C-16, which is the erasure of women’s identity. Recently I had a conversation with Senator Mitchell – I’m very thankful for that opportunity – and I asked him about women’s identity and the value of women. And he wanted no part of that conversation, which is just so ironic, that these people that claim to be feminists can’t say what it is that is either unique or invaluable about women. You know, the kind of ideology that’s behind Bill C-16 as well as Bill C-16 itself means that we cannot define gender anymore. We can’t define women. Which then leads to all sorts of problems with having a “women’s movement”, “women’s protections”, “women’s sports”, or having “women’s anything”, once you can’t define what the word “woman” means.
LN: Now we both know that the Bible is very distinctive in many respects as far as women are concerned. The idea of being created in the image of God and thus equal before Him kind of set Christians apart from the secular morality that really has no sound foundation for respecting women (or anybody). It also sets us apart from many of the world’s other religions, some of which relegate women to the status of property; certainly to a status that’s subservient to men. Now saying that, are you concerned in any way about emphasizing the “feminist” aspect of this, particularly when feminism has become so closely tied to the abortion movement?
PD: You know, I think that this is how politics works. You look around to those who are allies, you try to work with them. And you know we’re clear on where we stand on other issues. For instance, when I have either a radical feminist or even a lesbian radical feminist that comes in and is willing to work with us in our organization and in the campaign – willing to write articles or whatever it is – I’m very upfront about who I am as the organizer of the campaign. I mention that I don’t support gay marriage. You know, I mention that I’m a social conservative. And we know that there’s opposition between these two groups over human rights and unborn rights, and this is something that means a lot to me. And yet I’m finding that, right across the political spectrum, people are willing to work together on this issue. Because if you think about it, it means nothing less than the entire rollback of women’s rights; you know, everything that’s been accomplished over the last fifty or hundred years.
LN: Part of the reality with Bill C-16 is that it’s already passed the House, and is now before the Senate. The opposition to the bill is starting to increase to the point where Senators aren’t even engaging directly with constituents on this anymore, they’re just telling their staff to take messages. And some of the candidates in the Conservative leadership race are starting to come out against C-16 now; they’re starting to see problems with it, even though some of them voted in favour of it when it came before the House. So the fundamental question is: “Is there time to turn this issue around?”
PD: One of the reasons I’m so hopeful is because of some of the new data that’s coming out (with respect to the de-trans movement). This is a real problem for the mass media trans narrative. In the literature, rates of regret for transition are small; 3 percent, maybe even lower than 3 percent. And also, the follow-up to transition (is) also very low. You know, 40 to 50 percent cannot be followed up afterwards. And I think that until recently, the supposition has been that those who could not be followed up were doing reasonably well, and now it’s coming to light that hiding in this non-followed-up group are tremendous amounts of people that are not satisfied with transition. That it hasn’t helped their gender dysphoria. And I think we’re gonna start to see this reflected in the medical literature over the next couple of years as people grapple with huge amounts of people coming forward saying these things. So I think the tide is turning. I think we are either moments before – or maybe at the peak of – the turn of a tide, and I think that now is the time for people to make their voices heard on this issue.
LN: Beyond C-16, do you have any thoughts on how Christians – how the Church should approach the whole issue of transgenderism?
PD: I think that we need to offer the hope that exists from the Bible, and I think that the Bible’s prescriptions for sex and gender – whether it’s rooted in Genesis 2 or Ephesians 5 – I think these are the solutions for people. The Bible’s message for men and women and for those wrestling with the brokenness that exists in this world is there for anybody who wants to seek and find. And the church needs to be open to that, and not scared of engaging.
Keep showing the love of Christ. Sometimes it’s not always easy. There’s all sorts of people that tell me that I can’t possibly love a trans person while opposing a Bill that is for their rights. But we do this with courage and with truth and grace. And we need that mix as we do it courageously.