Friday, June 10, 2016

The transgender phenomenon: Six thoughts

I had already drafted a follow-up to my April 29 post on Target's newly announced transgender policy when a much larger earthquake on the cultural Richter scale hit. The seismic shock of the Obama administration's May 13 directive to elementary and secondary public schools, as well as colleges and universities, dislodged Target from the epicenter of concern over the latest development in the sexual revolution. Suddenly, the power of the federal government was fully behind the transgender movement.

I may yet post a follow-up on Target, but for now a general approach to the transgender phenomenon in American culture seems in order. Here are some thoughts I hope to remember, thoughts that are not comprehensive but I hope will be helpful to you:

1. The greatest offense is against God. Our immediate reaction may be to decry the privacy and safety threats to women and children -- and those concerns are legitimate. As Christians, our first concern, however, should be for the character of God. A person's rejection of his or her biological gender is a rejection of God's good design. From the beginning, the Bible makes clear God has made human beings "male and female." That creation passage in Gen. 1 says God saw all He had made as "very good." Binary gender identity is not a social construct. It is a divine one.

2. The transgender person is an image bearer of God. The person who identifies with a gender different than the sex he or she had at birth is not a freak or monster. God made that person in His image, as He has every other human being. As those who are committed to this vital truth, followers of Jesus are to treat the transgender person as a fellow image bearer. That reality calls for mercy, kindness, and love.

3. The number of transgender people will increase. Societal promotion and government approval can seemingly result only in greater acceptance by the general public. It should come as no surprise when preteens, teens and even adults decide they must live as a different sex after they think confusing thoughts or experience conflicting feelings. The encouragement to live as a different gender -- and Facebook has identified nearly 60 for its users -- will be felt increasingly.

4. The spread of transgenderism should come as no surprise. A culture engulfed by secularism and the sexual revolution, as ours is, should be expected to react with sexual confusion. We are sinners by nature, and sin's grip produces multiple expressions of that rebellion against God. The rise of transgenderism -- fomented by the shedding of sexual sanity -- is one of those expressions.

5. The church must teach the truth. Teaching the truth will be unpopular in a cultural regime that treasures self-autonomy in all things sexual, but it is the only way for the church to be faithful to our Lord and His commission. We must shepherd children and young people especially to reject the siren call of gender confusion by trusting in God's Word, His design and His provision for them.

6. The church must give the gospel. The gospel is the power of God, as the apostle Paul writes in Rom. 1, and we must trust its ability to deliver those who already have given ground to the lies of the world, the flesh and the devil. We have this power and the charge to share it with others, including the transgender family member, friend, neighbor and coworker. May we be found faithful.

(It seems important and helpful to acknowledge some people have disorders of sex development, or intersex conditions, in which their physical traits cannot be easily categorized as male or female. By some estimates, as many as one in 1,500 babies is born with an intersex condition.)

* -- Photo attribution