Christianity and Gender Issues Part 2

In the last post, several questions were raised regarding Christianity and gender issues. In this post, I will answer some of those questions.

What does the Bible say about transgender issues?

The Bible does not deal specifically with transgender issues. It does deal with birth and the human soul. Psalm 139:13 states, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” This verse has been used to discuss the value of human life from before birth. I think that is exactly what the verse does. But it also suggests that God is the one who creates us as we are intended to be. With that being said, the question arises about whether God would allow someone to be born in the wrong body. Can a person who is meant to be a female be born as a male? Can a person who is meant to be a male be born as a female? If so, does that suggest that God made a mistake in the womb?

As Christians, we believe that God does not make mistakes, but we also believe that we live into a fallen world tainted by sin. Going one step further, the Bible teaches that humans are born in sin. As such we are born separated from God. The image of God in a person is broken from the moment a person is born. Because things are not as they should be, we must ask if God potentially allows people to be born in the wrong bodies as a consequence of living in a fallen, broken, world. If so, this does not suggest that God has made a mistake, but rather it suggests that in the developmental process, sin corrupted what was meant to be for someone. If not, it suggests that everyone is born according to the proper gender, and that the inclination towards another gender happens after birth.

I personally believe that for some people, there are life experiences that cause them to desire to identify as a different gender. For others, it seems to be from the onset in life. I think the same can be said for homosexual tendencies. For some, life experience draws them to same sex attraction. For others, it seems to be there from the onset. My hesitation with saying that no one is born in the wrong gender stems from the fact that some people are born with some male and female organs. There are documented cased of males being born with ovaries in their bodies despite having other male organs. This suggests that the issue is not as cut and dry as some would like it to be. For those who make these decisions based on life experiences, perhaps it is at least in part the result of some kind of mental disorder. That is not necessarily the case in all circumstances.

Romans 1 also teaches that humans have corrupt minds and that they are inclined to trade the natural order of things for an unnatural one. This is stated in reference to sexuality. The text says that God gave the people over to their sinful desires. This passage seems to indicate that people may have very real desires to have relationships with those of the same gender, and while it is not as God intended, the feelings are no less real. I have argued before that I believe that those who deal with same sex attraction and who also profess to be Christians should remain celibate. Concerning transgender issues, I would argue the same. Even if being born in the wrong body is a result of living in a broken world where things do not always happen as they should. I would advise against gender re-assignment surgery, and suggest that those who believe they are born with the wrong organs remains celibate. I am not sure how many of those who believe they are in the wrong body have felt that way since birth as compared to those who begin to believe they are in the wrong body based on life experience (even if they are not consciously aware of such experience). More study and research needs to be done to give us a better understanding of this. The Genomics project finally concluded that there is no “Gay Gene.” In other words, nothing in our DNA suggests that one can know whether a person will be gay or not based on the genetic code. It seems likely that the same would be true regarding gender identity. In other words, this is not something that comes down to science alone.

I believe that all people are inclined towards things that are “unnatural.” For example, someone who is a pathological liar (who is inclined towards the sin of lying) will likely continue to struggle with lying even after becoming a Christian. It is a soul issue. Something intrinsic in that person compels him to lie. I think the same can be said regarding homosexuality. A person who is inclined towards same sex attraction will likely continue feeling those feelings after becoming a Christian. With that being the case, if someone who identifies with the opposite gender becomes a Christian, it is likely that these identity issues will not go away.

Is it sinful for someone to identify as the opposite gender?

If God allows people to be born in the wrong bodies as a result of the fall, then it is hard to claim that it is sinful to identify as the opposite gender. If one wishes to identify as the opposite gender as a rebellious act towards the creator, that is a different story. Any time we act in rebellion against God, it is sin. This is true for any moral, civil, or personal issue.

But for many, I wonder how much they really wish to identify as the opposite gender. I wonder if they are consciously or even unconsciously attempting to rebel against God. It seems that many are not attempting to be rebellious. This leads to the next question.

Can transgendered people love God?

I think in short, the answer is “Yes!!” Why, because all of us are sinners, and all who love God are sinners. Homosexuals can love God. Liars can love God. Murderers can love God too!!! But once a sinner finds redemption, God no longer expects the person to live in ways that are contrary to his Word. Thus, Christians submit to the authority of Christ and to the principles found in the Bible. The reason a cheater no longer cheats people when he becomes a Christian is because he is now called to live according to a new way. If a person inclined towards homosexuality becomes a Christian, he is no longer to act on those feelings. If a person who identifies as another gender becomes a Christian, he or she is to live according to a new standard.

But what is that standard? Transgender issues are not apples to apples with other moral issues in Scripture…because these issues are not openly discussed in the Bible.

Thus, I would argue that those who identify as a different gender should live according to their physical make-up. If they cannot do that in relationships, then they should practice celibacy. Again, I am speaking about people who identify as Christians. If a person who identifies as a transgender individual has already had gender reassignment surgery, then I do not think the person should have the surgery reversed. I think that person should live as he or she now is, and again, practice celibacy.

When someone comes to love God, no matter what sin the person deals with, the person is called to put away that sin. We all continue to sin (and regularly), but when we do, we should at least recognize that our actions were out of line with God’s will, and we should not be indifferent to the situation. In other words, when I lose my temper or get jealous of someone else, I should not be indifferent to my actions. I should recognize that I was wrong, confess my wrong to God, and to anyone I wronged by my action. Then I should strive to not make the same choice again.

If someone identifies as another gender, the person should search his heart to see if he or she is acting in rebellion against God or if the situation is a result of being born in a world where things are not as they should be. Then the person needs to seek what God would have him or her do as a result of what God impresses upon the person’s heart.

One reader asked, how I thought society should deal with issues such as public bathrooms and transgender individuals. I think I would answer that public bathrooms need to begin making greater efforts to preserve privacy. I think people should go to the restrooms that match their anatomy, but think it would be easier to do so for everyone (especially in men’s bathrooms) if there was more privacy.

In the next post, I will continue discussing this issue with regards to how churches should deal with transgender issues and with what implications the answers to these questions have on issues regarding ethnic identity, and polygamy (both issues that I think will become bigger in our culture in the next several years).

What are your thoughts so far? What challenged do you have for my line of thinking? What additional questions do you have now?

Christianity and Gender Issues Part 1

In the news recently Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner has received much support for undergoing the process of gender transition, while Rachel Dolezal has received much criticism for stating that she identifies as black even though both of her parents are white. So these stories among others have got me thinking about our society and identity issues.

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Today in psychology it is argued that there is a difference between sexuality and gender identity. Male and female individuals can identify with either masculine or feminine character traits. However, it is also taught that people can identify as the opposite gender, meaning that a person with male physical traits can identify as female, and a person with female physical traits can identify as male. Logically speaking, if one can identify with traits not inherent to a person’s physical make-up regarding gender, then one should also be able to identify with traits not inherent to a person’s physical make-up regarding skin color.

So why is it applauded when a person chooses to identify as the opposite gender, but not when someone choose to identify as a different ethnicity?

I think it is because as a society, we are not yet comfortable with that. But then, why would someone want to identify as a person of another ethnicity in the first place? Some noted that it takes more than braiding your hair and tanning your skin to become an African American. Others have noted that having gender reassignment surgery does not allow one to really experience life as another gender. One person on Facebook argued that being a woman was carrying a child for 9 months, having hot flashes, and hoping that the men who stopped to help you on the side of the road were not planning to rape you. Even with surgery, it is not likely that Bruce Jenner will ever experience such things.

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I was born a white male in west Texas. I grew up in an oil field town, went to college, got a job, and learned to love philosophy. No matter how much I wish I could see what it would be like to grow up as a poor African American in an urban community, I cannot ever experience that. As such, I cannot ever really identify with someone who was raised in that condition. So how can someone born as a male that grew up as a male say that he can actually “identify” as a woman? How can a white girl who grew up in a middle class home say that she can actually “identify” as a black woman? In short, neither really can. It is just not possible. What I think I see happening is that Rachel Dolzal, based on some experiences she has had in life, has developed such a heart for African American culture that she wishes she could be part of it. Bruce Jenner, based on his own particular experiences in life has developed such an interest in all that makes up being a woman that he wishes he could be a woman. So this leads to a number of questions, regarding gender identity, and the Christian faith.

  1. What does the Bible say about transgender issues?
  2. Are transgender issues part of a mental disorder, or is it something else?
  3. Does God allow people to be born in the wrong bodies?
  4. Is it sinful for someone to identify as the opposite gender?
  5. Can transgendered people love God?
  6. How should churches deal with transgender issues?
  7. If someone who has had sexual reassignment surgery joins a church, should the person reverse the surgery?
  8. Should a transgender person who accepts Christ live in celibacy?
  9. What implications do the answers to these questions have on issues regarding homosexuality, ethic identity, and polygamy?

Over the next several posts, I intend to answer each of these questions from a Biblical standpoint. In the meantime, if you have more questions surrounding this topic, share them in the comments section and I will include my answers to them in the coming posts.

What does the Bible REALLY say about divorce?

We know that Moses allowed for divorce in the Old Testament, but we also know that Jesus said that people are not to divorce except for when it is related to issues of sexual immorality (Matthew 5:31-32). Jesus elaborates on this in Matthew 19:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

So we see that God never intended for marriage to be a temporary commitment. God intends for couples to work out their problems, but divorce was originally allowed in the Hebrew culture because people had hard hearts and were not willing to work out their problems. We can argue that the same is true in our culture. Some people only want to commit while it is convenient or easy. Others are too selfish to make the necessary compromises that allow two people to grow together. Some just don’t want to give up the single life (those people are living in extended adolescence which is a topic for another post). But many people do live together, grow together, and work through conflicts. So what is Jesus really getting at?

Is it only appropriate to divorce when someone is sexually unfaithful? And what all does that entail? Does sexual unfaithfulness only mean literally having an affair? Does it mean kissing another person? Does it mean flirting with another person? Does it have to do with physical aggression? Is abusing a spouses body by means of domestic abuse an act of sexual unfaithfulness?

I think what Jesus is saying is that “any cause” is not an appropriate means for divorce. Unfaithfulness is the only legitimate reason for divorce. Unfaithfulness does not mean coming home 15 minutes late or disagreeing with a spouse on what movie to go see. Unfaithfulness is an act that breaks the trust of the other person and breaks the sacred bonds of the marriage. If a couple finds themselves in a situation where one or both members have been unfaithful, but they are willing to work it out, they should. If they are unable to resolve the issue (even with help from a counselor or others), then divorce is acceptable. Concerning issues of abuse, I believe that is the kind of behavior that also qualifies as the type of unfaithfulness Jesus is getting at. I would never recommend anyone to remain in an abusive relationship, unless the abuser is trying to change. Even then, I think a time of physical separation while the abuser seeks clinical help is appropriate.

What are your thoughts?

Is this God’s Will?

Have you ever looked around and just thought to yourself, “Is this God’s Will?”

Have you ever wondered if God intended for their to be so many people in large cities? Or have you ever thought about whether or not God intended for their to be different socio-economic classes of people? Have you wondered if he wanted you to have that low paying job? Or if he wanted there to be so many different kinds of music? Did God intend for us to do to the world what we have done to it? Does God favor technological progress? How does he feel about the GMO’s we put into food? Does he really want us driving cars?

 

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It seems hard to imagine that the world, as we look at it, is what God intended. Especially when we begin to look at the moral evil in the world. There are wars, crimes, acts of violence, arguments over petty things, broken relationships, broken homes, etc. We even use violence to stop worse violence.

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But did you know that God is still in control of all that happens? God created this world because he somehow, in his own wisdom, believed that this world is the best possible world through which to share the greatness and riches of his blessings. This world is tainted by sin. Even when new technology is created to make our world better, some use it to take advantage of the less-fortunate. Because of sin, every good thing we have has been tainted. But without the opportunity for freedom, all of the good we have obtained would mean very little. I believe that God created a world where people have free choice so that we can choose to do good with what we are given. So ideally, traffic jams may not be part of God’s perfect will, but he allows them because he allows us to have creative freedom in developing new forms of transportation (which is actually a very good thing). He also allows us to use drones to spare lives while thwarting acts of evil. This place is not perfect, but God knows what he is doing and has done what is best for us by allowing us the freedom to do both good and evil.

What are your thoughts?

Buzz Feed – Should Christians Use It?

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Buzz Feed is a social media website where people can watch videos, get news, take quizzes, waste time, discover interesting things. The site also has a lot of racy content and tends to push political agendas. So should Christians spend time on the site?

The Bible talks about doing things in moderation. In other words, if you are wasting time on the clock by looking at buzz feed for hours, or if you are neglecting your kids or other responsibilities to be on the site, then you should not be there. But what if you allot a certain amount of time to looking at the site and you visit in moderation?

The next question to think about is what are you putting into your mind and heart when you visit the site? Is it gossip? Is it racy photos? Is it bad language? Is it cute videos? Is it notable newsworthy stories? Is it political analysis? The site can seemingly be used for good or bad.

As Christians, we are all about redeeming the culture and finding the good in the bad. But just as movies affect different people in different ways, so too, these kinds of websites affect different people in different ways.

So I recommend asking yourself a few questions before you go to the site and then asking those same questions again as you visit it.

  1. How will visiting sites like buzz feed affect my relationship/walk with the Lord?
  2. How will my participation on these sites affect my witness?
  3. How will my participation affect the cause of Christ? (Will I have opportunity to use the material I find on the site to be a light or witness to others?)

If you can answer these questions positively than it might be ok to spend some time on buzz feed. If not, you should probably avoid the site. Even if you feel that you can positively answer the questions, I would like to add that anytime you feel convicted by the Holy Spirit not to do something, then you should refrain from doing it.

What are your thoughts about sites like Buzz Feed? Are they dangerous? Are they helpful?

What does Jesus know about an iPad?

Have you ever wondered what Jesus knows about modern technology? What does he think about iPads, iPods, or other similar devices? Does he know about every piece of information on the worldwide web?

I would go so far as to say that Jesus not only knows all about the iPad, but that he knows about all future developments for every Apple product. He knows about all future development for every technological product that will ever exist. I would also think that Jesus not only knows about every piece of information on the worldwide web, but that he has also processed every bit of everything that will ever be on the worldwide web and he perfectly comprehends it all. Why? Because God is omniscient. He is all-knowing. This means that God knows everything actual and possible. It also means that he knows not only what will be, but everything that could be (even if it will never actually happen). No circumstance is outside of his realm of knowledge.

So even if he knows everything, how can he know what has not happened yet? It is because God is outside of time. I believe that God sees all things and acts in time, but that he is not bound by time. This is because time was created, but before time existed, God Is. God knew about the creation of the iPad before he put Adam in the Garden, before he sent Christ to earth, and before Steve Jobs was born.

Because Jesus is eternally the Son of God and has existed since before time was created as part of the essence of God, he has all the knowledge of the Father.

God knows all, sees all, and comprehends all (past present and future-all at the same instant).

We cannot even begin to comprehend all that God fully understands. What are your thoughts about God’s knowledge?

Patriotism

Is America a Christian Nation? In short…No. Why, because America is not in a covenant relationship with God. Many people in America know God in a real way and it is clear to see that he has chosen to bless this country in many ways, but we are not without our problems. So how should Christians think about patriotism?

Should we sing patriotic songs in church near the 4th of July? How loyal should we be to the Stars and Stripes?

There is nothing wrong with being proud of where you are from. There is nothing wrong with saying the Pledge of Allegiance, or with voting. There is nothing wrong with singing the National Anthem. But there is something wrong with loving your country more than you love God. When the country chooses to do things out of step with Christian belief, Christians should continue to do as the Lord says, just as Daniel and his friends chose to do in Babylon. When consequences are threatened against Christians by the government, Christians should be willing to face those consequences, because our first loyalty is to God.

One of the great things about America is that we believe in Religious Liberty. Religious Liberty is the belief that people can choose to worship however they please so long as it does not infringe upon the rights of others. This allows for Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhists, Jews, and others to worship as they please. These freedoms also tend to make it unnecessary to regularly face suffering on account of one’s faith. As our rights are challenged, it is important for us to put our faith ahead of our governing authorities while at the same time, respecting those authorities and being good citizens.

Has Glee changed culture?

Glee caused some major controversy when it first aired several years ago. As the story progressed it continued to push the envelope on moral issues and cultural standards of right and wrong. However, as the show brought new issues into the storyline, it seemed to make fewer and fewer headlines.

The series has now concluded and it has some asking how the show effected culture.

In the final season, the show introduced a new gay character names Spencer, who was played by Marshall Williams. In an interview, he shared that he believed the show Glee made it “ok” for people to be gay on TV. You can read the interview here: http://www.thebacklot.com/marshall-williams-interview-glee-post-modern-gay/01/2015/

When the show was not as fully developed, during the summers between seasons, a show called The Glee Project aired on television. On this show we got to see people compete for new roles on the show. Throughout this show we got to hear the writers voice their feelings about the purpose of the show and about what they could do with different kinds of characters.

I think the overall message of Glee is very clear: Be Who You Are. The show teaches people to embrace their identities no matter how quirky or weird, even if your identity brings bullying.

In some respects, I really like the show. I do not believe that bullying is ever acceptable and I think the show depicts this well. I also enjoy much of the music on the show and I like the characters. The show also has some good dialogue throughout on very important issues. It deals with cancer, stereotyping, single parent homes, blended families, competition, cliques, drug use, religion/spirituality, eating disorders, and of course gender issues.

But is being who we are the same as being who we are supposed to be?

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As Christians, how are we to engage the show and think about these issues?

I do believe that the show made it more acceptable for people to be gay on TV. More importantly, I believe it made it more trendy to be same-sex oriented in actual schools. I think we have seen an increase in people who identify as gay or lesbian in schools now specifically because of Glee.

I think the show has been the most important factor in states changing their position on same-sex marriage. I also think that the show has done more to raise the issue as a civil rights issue than a moral issue than any other campaign. Somehow I even think the show had a hand in the decision made by the supreme court last week.

For Christians, however, the issue is still a moral issue. If we say we belong to Christ and are subject to his Word, then we should live according to his Word. If the Bible makes it a moral issue, than Christians should not practice it. Therefore, we look like bad guys when we do not accept same sex practice. The thing is, we cannot force our beliefs on others. We cannot expect those who do not share our moral standards to live according to those standards.

But we are still left asking questions about people being who they are. We live in a world tainted by sin. Sin breaks the image of God in humanity. It makes us desire what we ought not desire. The question is, can sin corrupt us so much at birth that we really believe we are born as the wrong gender? Can we be born with an inclination towards same sex attraction? Yes!!! But I think that as practicing Christians, we must be obedient to the teachings of the Bible–even if that means living in celibacy. When we are born in sin, we are not born as who we are supposed to be. This is true for every single person. No one is born as who they are supposed to be. We can only become that person, when we give our lives to Christ and let him work in our hearts to change us. This is true for every issue, not just gender related issues.

What are your thoughts? How has Glee impacted the world around you?