Outside the current presidential election cycle that has been nothing short of a political circus, the transgender issue has emerged as one of the most pertinent challenges we now face as Christians interacting in the public square. From the highly-publicized transition of Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn Jenner, to Target’s initial statement about their bathroom policy, to the top-down POTUS decision regarding public school bathrooms, we’re officially living in a world that believes gender is not related to biology but is fluid and subjective—a mere decision made by individual persons—but also where the government has championed and normalized this line of thinking in a way that affects us on the ground level.
Amid this swift societal and political change—which, knowing God’s true, good and beautiful vision for creation, is certainly a loss for human flourishing—the temptation might be to panic and respond with apocalyptic anxieties about what this will mean for our families, our country and even us as individuals.
Yet, in spite of the necessary conversations and political and theological positions that will need to be taken, I would propose that we must not respond or act in fear—whether that’s fear that our children will be exploited or fear that our country is on its way to hell in a handbasket. We must also not forget that the transgender issue isn’t just an issue about policy or politics; it is also about people.
Fear for Our Children
Faced with the normalization of transgenderism and the likely potential that bathroom use will now be based on a person’s felt gender identity versus a person’s anatomical gender—and that’s just the start—Christians will have to do the hard work of discernment to navigate these weighty waters faithfully. We’ll have to make extremely difficult choices about the businesses we give our money to, the logistics of taking our children to a public bathroom, the dynamics of school locker rooms—and the list goes on.
And, while the need to make these decisions should grieve us, it shouldn’t keep us up at night or enrage us; it shouldn't make us feel afraid. Though we should be honest, like David is in the Psalms, about our personal worries and concerns, a Christian’s response to the transgender issue shouldn’t ultimately be governed by the notion of fear.
Yes, we need to be wise and prayerful when we think about this issue as it relates to our children, but we don’t have to be paralyzed by stress and anxiety. We serve a God who promises to keep us, protect us and meet our needs. We serve a God who is all-knowing and all-powerful, who reigns sovereign over all things, including our current cultural climate. None of this is a surprise to God, and we can trust Him because He is good and faithful.
Fear for Our Country
Whereas many are worried about what is at stake for our children, others are concerned for our country at large. As a nation built upon a number of Judeo-Christian principles, there is certainly cause for concern that our nation’s spiritual identity is rapidly changing, not to mention the way this issue affects the common good of America.
That said, even though the circumstances break our hearts and wound our country, we don’t have to worry. America was never really a Christian nation. Our ultimate hope isn’t in the bloodshed and sacrifice of those who laid down their lives for our national freedom; it is in the bloodshed and sacrifice of Christ, who laid down His life for our true, eternal freedom. Our ultimate hope is ecclesiological and eschatological, in the kingdom of God and not in the kingdom of America.
Christians have no reason to fear because we are really just foreigners in a strange land. We know a time is coming in which Christ will return and make all things new again. Despite the state or future of America, we can be confident that God’s plans will not be thwarted. The gates of hell will not prevail against His Church.
Transgender and Made in God’s Image
Unfortunately, the way that fear brings us down and takes our focus off the gospel isn’t the worst part of our wrong response to the transgender issue; the worst part is that, in getting so caught up in fear, we lose sight of the reality that we’re talking about real people. While we’re dealing with a statistically small population of individuals, this population still exists. Every person, no matter their individual issues and struggles, has been made in God’s image, and no one goes through life without the struggle of sin and the suffering it causes.
So, before we jump into lengthy theses and arguments about the way a Christian ethic applies to the situation at hand, we should first have our Christian ethic lead us to the conclusion that all human beings have inherent dignity and worth and, thus, deserve our love and compassion. That doesn’t mean we squander our doctrines; it means that we let our doctrines move from head to heart. We must recognize the overwhelming complexities of this issue and understand that, despite the fact that sin has so horribly wrecked our world and deeply confused our notions of identity, we are all sinners in need of God’s grace.
Though only conjecture, I have to think that if Christ were walking the earth today and faced with this issue, His response wouldn’t be fear or distress. He wouldn’t be anxious or hopeless. In fact, we know for sure that He is not worried or perplexed by this issue because He is reigning at the right hand of the Father in glory and might. After all, these are the very sorts of people Christ sought out and loved. These are the very sorts of people He came to save. So rather than respond in fear, may we respond like Him. In Christ, we find a truth that pushes back darkness and a love that breaks chains and offers peace.