Vanity Fair’s cover with Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce) has catapulted the world into a polarizing war of transgendered affirmation, condemnation, and pithy tweets in between. The American value of judgment free autonomy gives Caitlyn a blanket of social protection. He is being called a fearless hero, a vivid representation of strength, and a free person. Many conservative Christians are coming out in arms. Likewise, many of the socially progressive are standing in affirmation. Those in between are pitching their opinions in coffee shops and grocery store lines. All this has raised two primary questions for me as a pastor.
What does Caitlyn’s transformation have to do you with me?
How can Christians respond in a grace-filled manner?
This public transformation will affect you, your children, and your grandchildren whether you acknowledge it or not. The gender blurred world is now the majority rule in our western culture. If you stand in opposition to homosexuality, transgendered people, or any other non-traditional form of sexual identity you will be labeled a bigot, homophobe, or narrow minded person. This will happen no matter how kind, how loving, or how gracious you approach a person of differing sexuality. It’s the tide of intolerance smashing against biblical values.
Unfortunately for this movement, those claiming freedom and autonomy for the Caitlyns of the world are not granting equal freedom across the board. They are only granting freedom to people who believe, accept, and act exactly as they do. New world tolerance has been redefined to mean total agreement and acceptance. The concept of tolerance has been neutered from its meaning of having the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.
I tolerate Caitlyn’s decision. I wholeheartedly disagree that his sexual reassignment will give him freedom, peace, and the hope he is longing for. I tolerate the cultural change that is underway regarding sexual identity sins. I don’t agree with it, and I won’t stand idle while God’s law is mocked and his people are slandered, but I tolerate it.
Schools are rapidly changing their curriculum to align with cultural trends under the new world definition of tolerance. Varying opinions are being cast aside by the dominant voices of mainstream media. The cultural shift has happened with such speed and authority that any who hold differing views, specifically Christian, are often left unequipped and unprepared to deal with the heart of the issue when it comes to engaging their peers, raising their children, and sharing their perspective. We should be concerned with transgendered identity for many spiritual reasons, but also for psychological ones.
I appreciate Dr. Paul McHugh, former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, who has written extensively on the topic of sexual reassignment surgery. His opinions are not affirmed by the pop culture trends despite his working at the hospital that pioneered sexual reassignment surgery and subsequently ended the program when evidence was pointing to detrimental effects on the patients. A brief article in the WSJ highlights many of McHugh’s insights into the world of sexual reassignment and struggles of those in the transgendered life. Even critics seem to have trouble coming up with intelligent arguments to Dr. McHugh’s studies, so they pick apart the minutia in desperate attempts to discredit his work. This is not a shock to me. Our culture is driven by 140 characters. Both sides tend to selectively cite studies and experts that seemingly affirm their view (See, I’m doing it right now). The world is increasingly becoming one of faux news where each camp throws a barrage of clips and excerpts with less and less consideration to thoughtful study and scholarship. Before thrusting cultural trends into our education system and shaping our worldview around what’s in and what’s out, we must learn what it takes to renew a passion toward thoughtful time tested research (and take to read entire studies before we cite them).
Since my domain of formal study is primarily religious in nature, I will stick there as best as possible.
Caitlyn is a human being created in God’s image. He is a valuable human being created for the purpose of bearing the image of God, just like every person ever created. Sin, however, has shattered this for all of us. Every person is born into sin. Every person has a bent away from obeying God’s Law. Every person is born with a desire to run their own life as if they were God. Every person exchanges the truth about God for a lie. Every person is searching for ultimate meaning, purpose, and freedom in something other than Jesus. Every person is born enslaved to sin. Bruce’s transition to become Caitlyn is no exception. In a recent interview Caitlyn proudly said,
As soon at the new Vanity Fair cover comes out, I’m free. – Caitlyn Jenner
Caitlyn is looking for freedom, and he thinks freedom comes in doing as he pleases with his body and identity, but is this God honoring? Is true freedom found is being god of your life for a moment or being in right standing before the true God for eternity?So we should pray, as many pastors and writers have commended their followers. I am praying that Caitlyn will recognize his need for Christ to be the source of life, identity, value, and significance because anything less than this is only perpetuating bondage.
Not only should we pray, but we must educate ourselves on these hot button social issues so we can intelligently dialogue about them and speak to the underlying problems. Many of my peers are applauding Caitlyn’s decision. Many friends, family, and acquaintances are asking me what I think about the transition from Bruce to Caitlyn. What I think is simple. Caitlyn needs a life changing encounter with Jesus not a sex changing procedure.
Jesus famously said, “You will know the truth and truth will set you free.” The truth IS Jesus. Not facts about Jesus. Not a shallow affiliation with Jesus. Jesus himself is truth. The current trend of culture is to embrace self made truths apart from the person and work of Jesus. There is an underlying belief that doing what one desires is the ultimate freedom for which humans are made. This is nothing more than a preferential belief in a self made truth, devoid of scientific backing and historical precedent. How is this “do what you want” mentality going for the transgendered community? Do your own research and tell me if the radically increased rates of depression, suicide, and other abuses are any indicators. If Caitlyn is looking for true freedom, he must look beyond himself to greater spiritual realities. Caitlyn, like everyone else, must fall on the grace and mercy of Jesus in light of his constant desire to live apart from God’s law.
A disgruntled acquaintance recently told me that I should change my views on homosexuality and the transgendered because I will be found on the wrong side of history when it’s all said and done. He pointed out that culture was moving forward and that God was stuck in the past. I gently reminded him that my view of history will look very different from his as the end of the day because history will one day include everything prior to Jesus’ return and all who do not repent and believe in Jesus will be found apart from God forever. In my estimation history will be on my side because time in eternity will overshadow the fleeting cultural shifts of this dying world. I never proclaim this perspective with arrogant boldness, but instead, with tearful calls to come and know Jesus who gives true freedom. I don’t stand proudly with all the right answers to every social topic, but rather, I stand humbly with one answer to every social topic. There is truth, his name is Jesus, and only in him will you be set free and find the peace you are looking for.
Caitlyn wants to be free. I also want him to be free. Caitlyn wants to be who he was created to be. I also desire that he be who he was created to be. Caitlyn wants to the escape the pain of hiding from his “true self” and the fear of being judged by others. I want him to escape the pain of hiding from God and the coming judgement against all those who do likewise. So join me in prayer for all people made in the image of God, and strive to speak to the eternal need of each person in a way that cuts through the surface sin and rebellion that we so easily get caught up in. Graciously and lovingly point to the true freedom available to all who abdicate the throne of their life to the true King of freedom.