“Call me Caitlyn.”
That was the headline of Vanity Fair in June 2015, complete with a picture of Bruce – now Caitlyn – Jenner. And what a difference a year makes! Rather than letting the discussion wend through legislative channels and public debate, the Executive branch has issued recommendations about bathrooms, locker rooms, and Pride month. Meanwhile, big businesses have stated their preferences & policies – policies which are defended, regardless of tumbling stock value. Both sides of the debate talk past each other, and the Christian stands in the middle. What can we say, what should we do?
As with any delicate topic, there are numerous pitfalls to avoid – beginning with our own Christian beliefs. Putting it bluntly: We cannot provide a loving Christian witness if we deny the inerrancy of the Bible. We throw out the objective authority of God’s Word if we base our faith upon our emotions, our experience, or our deeds.
Our identity as male & female begins with Genesis 1 & 2, which show the creation of Adam & Eve. In the perfect world of Genesis 1-2, sex and gender are completely synonymous. And, you’ll note, there are only two sexes: male and female. Christians cannot deny creation and expect to have any clarity about sex or gender.
At the same time, we live in a Genesis 3 world – a world where even the human body is ravaged by sin, disease, and disorder. In this world of sin, we recognize the truth of biological abnormalities. Abnormal development affects body and mind. For instance: a simple DNA test can diagnose the biological reality of a disordered sexual development (DSD), where the chromosomal makeup is something other than XX or XY. That’s a medically-treatable condition.
But even when Christians hold to a literal, seven-day creation – if our Christianity is characterized by our own emotions, decisions, or actions . . . we undermine any Scriptural guidance. If you only know you’re a Christian because you feel like it, or at one time you had an experience where you decided to become a Christian; or if your Christianity is primarily about your morality & life change, then you forfeit your right to speak up as a Christian in this discussion.
Why? Because transgendered persons (not diagnosed with a DSD) base their gender identity on how they feel. That is an emotion; no doubt, a deeply-held emotion . . . but an emotion nonetheless. If your Christianity is likewise characterized by emotion, you could speak up as an equally emotion-driven person; or if your Christianity is about morality, you could speak up as a compassionless Pharisee. But you forfeit the objectivity & grace of God’s Word (which, admittedly, such a person gave up long ago.)
If Christians hold to the truth of Scripture, they are uniquely equipped to address the transgender debate. As the culture says, “Embrace your feelings!”, the Christian says “God created you as you are – male or female.” As morality-driven Christians cry out “Change your life!”, Christ Jesus reminds us that life change only happens after the Holy Spirit creates faith and new life.
As Christians, we need to get over our revulsion, disgust, or avoidance. Simply insisting “Change! Stop feeling that way!” does nothing to help the person suffering with transgender temptation. The challenge for Christians is to speak the clear truth about how God created humans – and to do so with the tenderness & humility that only comes from seeing ourselves as fellow sinners who happen to have been spared that specific temptation.
Whether transgender people are born into that struggle, or whether it is thrust upon them through their environment – no sinner has earned the right to consider himself higher than another. Even as a transgender person gives into his/her temptation, each of us must take every opportunity to bring God’s clear, true, objective Word…as one poor sinner showing another poor sinner the forgiveness Jesus has won for both.
Many thanks to Rev. Nathan Wordell for his master's thesis on this topic, available here.