Wait, is that you Cait?

Last night I watched some reality, BRAVO style with Bruce Jenner AKA Caitlyn.  I can’t imagine going through 6 decades of life feeling like you should be somebody else–a REALLY DIFFERENT somebody else.  Nor can I imagine a 65 year-old man doing a sultry Vanity Fair portrait shoot in skimpy and sexy attire to exploit the mystique of transgenderism.  Although meant to improve the image of the trans community, all it’s done is pander to the well-worn belief that women are little more than eye candy.

With his professionally done hair, makeup and wardrobe, Bruce can easily pass for a woman.  I do find the lips odd (is that botox?), and the voice is a giveaway.  But sure, he could easily be a she.  Is that it?  As long as someone can pass the smell test (and afford the surgery) he/she can become a she/he?  I was stunned when during the show last night Jenner’s mother Esther asked the trans counselor, “When the Bible says a man should not wear a woman’s clothes, how would you interpret that?” (Deut. 22:5)  One online magazine described it as “an especially cringe-worthy moment”.  I guess they meant that she would suggest a very old Bible has something to say about such a sensitively modern issue.

I think it does.  Society’s trend marketers work overtime to persuade citizens of both how right their beliefs are, and how important it is that their hearers agree.  Which is why listening to what God has to say on the issues of our time is so urgent.  Because society’s so unimaginatively out of step with God.  Since rebellion grows native in human hearts, clashing with God is instinctive.

Dictionary.com first defines trangendered as noting or relating to a person whose gender identity does not correspond to that person’s biological sex assigned at birth.  Notice the passive verb: “assigned”.  Let’s recite together: a passive verb is “a verb, which expresses the effect of the action of some agent.”  Action done by whom?  What agent?  Who is so misguided as to assign a person’s biological sex willy-nilly at birth?  Did an evil obstetrician–or clueless parents, decide that Joe or Bruce was to be a male, and Hannah or Summer was to be a female?

“From the beginning, God made them male and female” (Matt.19:4).  Dictionary.com’s second definition provides a bit more cover for trans advocates.  It says, “…noting or relating to a person who does not conform to societal gender norms or roles.”  In other words, by this definition society’s to blame for artificially imposing a gender that may be unwanted.  Apparently the genitalia, the voice, the body hair, etc., are all unconvincing.  The transgendered person’s wishes are legitimate since gender is nothing more than a social construct.

It’s hard to get that from the Bible, from God’s voice.  True, there’s no direct prohibition of switching genders, but it seems clear that God created people to EITHER be a man or a woman, a girl or boy–that they are not interchangeable.  (This is what John Piper has been arguing for years.  Saying, for example, that if a church violates scripture and appoints a woman as a church elder, it’s saying that men and women are not only equal–which they are, but identical; interchangeable.  He believed–and it’s been borne out, that sooner or later this initial step will lead to accepting homosexuality as God-sanctioned.  After all, if men and women are the same–are identical, then they’re interchangeable.)

Transgendered people give detractors nearly the same argument as those attracted to their own sex: “This is what I want and that’s all that matters.”  Those with a religious framework might say it this way: “This is how I was born so it must mean that this is what God wants.”  We’re just beginning to see the chaos that will come from this when it comes to basic life like public restrooms, completing official forms (M or F?), etc.

In the defining issue of the day–homosexuality, the church admittedly has poorly executed God’s demand to love neighbor as self.  Sadly, with this new and prominent issue of switching genders, it may be more of the same.  Ridicule–in its many forms–by God’s people will bring shame on the name of Christ–and may unnecessarily chase people from Jesus.

On the other hand, we can and should, lovingly echo God’s words.  And…, help the transgendered community understand that they are not alone: we are ALL seduced by cravings.  For we are all sinners.  Thanks to sin, we prefer our wants to His.  Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts (1 John 5:21).  In other words, a man desiring to be a woman, is a variation on a married woman wanting to be with a different man, or a poor street kid running drugs because he wants money.  Or a candidate selling his soul to special interests because he wants political office so badly.  Or the single guy who sleeps with his girlfriend because his hormones are racing.  Or the a bar patron drinking himself into oblivion because he wants to forget his troubles.  Or a hunter who trespasses because he wants a trophy buck so badly.  Or a mother who abandons her three children because she wants some peace and quiet.  In a thousand ways every person who wants to please God–or doesn’t, is fair game to godless cravings.  Becoming a gender other than God made me to be, is among the many.

Parents, what will you do with a child you think is struggling with this?  Horror on your face won’t help.  If you catch a child cross-dressing, start with a little love.  Initially ask more questions than you give answers.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Establish rapport so your son or daughter is convinced Mom or Dad still loves me–doesn’t think I’m a freak.  Then begin to expose your child to the God who made him male, made her female.  There is no faith apart from obedience (1 John 5:3-4) but faith is not just about laws of do’s and don’ts.  It’s about a relationship with a God who’s just, who’s merciful, who’s gracious, who’s loving, who’s perfect, who’s everywhere, who knows all things, who is kind, who understands–even this.  But who thinks and speaks, for our good.  Make that, for our best.

I am Planned Parenthood

Did you watch the secretly-made PP video (previous post) and recoil in horror?  A physician who took an oath to do no harm both performs abortions and sells the body parts of those children deliberately torn apart in surgery.  How barbaric.

Says the barbarian.

“We pretend that we are better than we are.  We deny the evidence of our wrongdoing.  We avoid facing our badness.” (Eugene Peterson)  The gospel was academic theology to me for about 14 years of my ministry.  I don’t remember how it hit me but it did–like a runaway semi: I am exactly like the murderer on death row; exactly.  God views my love affair with others’ approval, my dalliances with lust, my disdain of this or that person, exactly like he views the convict.  Or the pedophile; or the doctor at Planned Parenthood.

…everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:23).  Everyone.  No distinctions made between different kinds of sinners–between modest and horrific ones.  No allowances made for sincere motives or good intentions.  All seen in the same light by a God whose eyes blaze with holiness, not tolerance.  For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws (James 2:10).  It was this bad news that took my breath away and finally promoted the good news from theology to oxygen.

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins (Ephesians 1:7).   Recently visiting another church, Betty and I sang about the blood of Jesus and I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing.  I wished they had dimmed the house lights.  But I will never never get over the fact that Jesus paid it all for me.  For a barbarian.  That the Holy invaded the unholy with His blood–the gospel, and made the unholy, holy.  Forever.  GLORY TO GOD!

It is this, that can curb judgment of others; this, that can tamp down disgust and fuel love; it is the gospel that changes “You’re a horrible person!” to “God loved you so much that He’s making you the same offer he made a barbarian like me: Jesus.”

A sobering reminder that we’re refugees

Several weeks ago laws in 31 states banned same-sex marriage.  It didn’t matter that some of those laws had been ballot initiatives voted on by majority of that state’s voters.  Or passed by the state’s voted-for representatives.  5 of the 9 Supreme Court justices still found a constitutional right in the 14th amendment for same-sex couples to marry in each of our 50 states.  It’s being painted as no big deal.  In yesterday’s local paper, a letter to the editor said, “Hey, if you don’t like gay marriage, don’t marry someone of the same sex.”  But lawsuits against Christian bakers, florists, and others who have refused to endorse and participate in a sinful relationship, are ominous harbingers of what is to come.

As Molly Ball said in a recent Atlantic article reflecting on the Court’s lack of interest in a gay marriage case in 1972, “What changed,… wasn’t the Constitution—it was the country. And what changed the country was a movement.  Friday’s decision wasn’t solely or even primarily the work of the lawyers and plaintiffs who brought the case.  It was the product of the decades of activism that made the idea of gay marriage seem plausible, desirable, and right.”

“Right.”  There’s the rub.  What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark… (Isaiah 5:20).  The gay juggernaut not only insists that homosexual relationships are right and good, but all who differ are wrong; that they are judgmental and unloving–even ungodly.  I’ll not review what God has said in His autobiography about homosexual behavior–I’ve done that in previous posts.  I’m more concerned with how we who follow Jesus will now react, and how we’ll keep our footing.

By react, I mean how we will speak to and about those euphoric over the Court’s stunning decision/legislation?  Homosexual men and women tend to see themselves as a persecuted and much-maligned minority akin to black Americans (linkage that has successfully routed much principled opposition because no one wants to be called a racist).  When gay college student Matthew Shephard was killed in 1998, his death became a synecdoche for all rude or crude treatment gay people have endured.  Every snide comment by Uncle Ned at a family gathering, every rant on Fox News, and every time a Christian points out that God prohibits homosexuality, their victim status is cemented and bitterness grows.

We can’t change what the Bible says.  But gay jokes, gay jabs, any kind of mockery or unloving speech/behavior, is unchristian.  God sends us to love our neighbors–and the homosexual is my neighbor (at least I can agree with author Letha Scanzoni on that part).  It’s not enough to just bring this kind of speech to an end, we must repent of it.  I must repent of it.

By keeping our footing, I mean, how will we withstand the gay propaganda tidal wave that has been unleashed?  In March the pastor and elders of an evangelical megachurch in San Fran informed its members that active homosexuals can now be church members.  In the next 3 years, we will be stunned at the number of evangelical churches who will change their minds about the wrongness of homosexual practice and join them.

On the other hand, I’m afraid I can’t join those wringing their hands over the Court’s decision.  The church benefits from anything that makes the distinction between it and the world, clearer.  When you have two clear liquids side by side, a good way to tell that one is water and the other is poison is to slap a skull-and-crossbones label on the poison so that the similar appearance no longer misleads.

The pressure to capitulate on the biblical teaching on man and woman is going to intensify to the point of being unbearable.  First, individually.  I have a gay relative and most likely you do too.  We know more and more people who are same-sex attracted, and they are all aware that they can turn an opponent into an ally through life exposure.  Many parents change their minds after a son or daughter admits he/she’s gay (like the San Fran pastor).  It’s hard to care about people and still disagree with them.  And to be thought by them as out-of-touch (one disparaging  label used in the propaganda war), or ignorant (another), or a religious crackpot (yet another)?  Yet this is the inevitable life of a believer: we are in the world, but not of it.  And we are missionaries to it.

Second, it’s going to be unbearable in the church.  The church is going to have to steel itself against pressure to host same-sex weddings; and pastors, to officiate at them.  This will come, the only question is when.  Most likely a church’s tax-exempt status will be used as leverage.  At some point church staffing will be targeted.  In pondering where the gay agenda should go next, activist Eric Rosswood  writes, “It’s time to pass an inclusive ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) without giving people the right to discriminate while hiding behind religious exemptions.  All people should have the right to work regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”  In other words, in the future a federal law (or Supreme Court decision) may forbid a church to just hire an applicant who agrees with their positions.  At our church recently an applicant threatened to get his lawyer involved because we would only hire employees with certain convictions and moral characteristics.

Will the church be stopped from trying to help those with same-sex attractions who want to become more heterosexual in their orientation?  Yes.  Recently the Restored Hope Network which seeks to do just that, held a local conference in our area.  In a letter to the LNP editor, a local LGBT spokesman complained that such attempts were based on “bogus science” and harm gay people.  California Rep. Ted Lieu agrees and in May introduced legislation in Congress making this kind of help illegal; it would become “consumer fraud” with appropriate penalties.

Pastors who now support same-sex relations like Rob Bell, Brian McClaren, Steve Chalke, Fred Harrell, and Stan Mitchell–were once prominent evangelicals and still have sizable public clout.  Their ranks will influence both other pastors and other Christians.  The more who capitulate, the greater the pressure will build.  No longer will churches just be divided by mainline or evangelical labels, but evangelical churches will be divided by progressive (pro-gay), and regressive (anti-gay) labels.  Poorly grounded or shallow disciples will jump on the noisiest and most crowded bandwagon.

How do we keep our footing with all this pressure?  One, remember that by its nature the gospel is unwelcome.  Jesus admitted that he …came not to bring peace, but a sword.  (Matthew 10:34).  They killed him because they didn’t like what he did or said.

Two, similarly remember that we are not “at home” here.  …Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood.  So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore.  For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.  (Hebrews 13:12-14).  In America, Christians have enjoyed a season of popularity.  But that is an odd blip in an otherwise hostile 2000-year history.  Therefore we should be more nervous when “people speak well of us” than when they speak ill of us.  What’s normal for a believer is to be criticized and maligned.

Three, the only way to resist a false message that’s loud and shrill is to repeatedly slip off to listen to the sweet melody of God’s truth.  Absorb God’s autobiography.  There will be many who will fall away in the days ahead.  Some, because they love the crowd’s approval.  Some, because they have neglected the Word of God altogether–or just nibbled on what their pastor, favorite author, or popular teacher fed them second-hand.  That’s unnecessary.   You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others.  Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word.  You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.  For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right.  Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.  (Hebrews 5:12-14)  Time to spiritually bulk up.  It may mean the difference between surviving and being swept away.