In The Fellowship Of The Ring, Frodo “wished the ring had never come to me,” to which Gandalf responded, “So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” So it is with many of us who approach conflicts. We wish they weren’t there, or they would stop. In the words of Rodney King, “can we all get along?”
Last week your Bereans were privileged to speak in our university’s chapel and much of the early discussion centered around many of the identity issues swirling in our culture, most specifically the issue of transgenderism. Of course there are ongoing political, legal, medical and moral issues surrounding this–it is certainly a complex issue and like most Americans, I just wish this issue were never here. I don’t particularly like talking about it as I have no desire to see the flames that undoubtedly will arise from even this post, because I know that some people are so emotionally entangled in the issue that anything less than complete agreement with their position is considered hateful. Certainly the positions I hold are beyond despicable in their sight. I could wish that we had not lived to see such times….yet we are here.
In our chapel discussion, Dr. Smith and Dr. Wheeler highlighted the complexity of this issue, and Dr. Smith correctly noted that we are never going to win some intellectual argument with a transgender person–but rather the only way to win someone over that disagrees with you is to have a relationship with them so that a respectful dialogue can occur. Yet my struggle is that those points fail to capture the comprehensive nature of this problem. Our issue is not simply how do we relate to an individual that suffers from gender dysphoria. If it was, this could be relatively easy: then the admonition of just “show them the love of Christ” is a sufficient strategy to handle our cultural concern. Our issue is indeed much broader, and extends to those that are not part of the hard-core left that will never listen to what we have to say. Much of our concern is over those that are not yet under the sway of this ideology, and how we best protect them.
Perhaps the biggest success of the secular left in the culture wars is to assert that the religious right is constantly declaring and wanting to fight culture wars, when the reality is almost the opposite: the secular left for at least the last 50 years has been on the offensive against the cultural status quo, with only short periods of opposition from the religious right. The left advances its agenda on the strength of victimhood; their attack comes in the stated form of resisting oppression. Yet their attack is not simply to live their lives as they see fit, it is to indoctrinate the young. Like the Pied Piper of old, they are coming for your children. Too strong you say?
Consider a California kindergarten teacher’s recent class celebration of a transgender boy coming out as a girl. California, by public statute, will not allow parents to opt-out of this indoctrination.
California, like 21 other states and the District of Columbia, requires schools to notify parents of their sex-education curriculum. The Golden State also joins 35 other states and D.C. in requiring schools to allow parents to opt their children out of sex education. (Three other states require parents to opt in — that is, to express consent to their children’s participation in sex-education programs.) But the California legislature specifically excluded “gender identity” from the state’s notice and opt-out requirements, by providing in Section 51932(b) of the Education Code: “This chapter does not apply to instructions, materials, presentations, or programming that discuss gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, discrimination, harassment, bullying, intimidation, relationships, or family and do not discuss human reproductive organs and their functions.”
It is even worse in Oregon, where minors 15 years and older–who cannot legally have their ears pierced without parental consent or tattoos even with parental consent–can go to a doctor and begin “transitioning” without their parents even being informed. This includes allowing a doctor to surgically remove a male’s private parts, at taxpayer expense. Snopes tries to debunk that this will happen, since if it does, it’s not as if a 15-year-old will just walk in and have a sex change operation. Nevertheless, that does not mitigate that the law would allow this and the potential is there. And coming to a North American country near you (e.g., Canada), if parents don’t agree with a child’s decision on their identity, the state can take the children away from the parents! Think they won’t be introducing this in the U.S. too?
While I have some concern over how we witness and win over someone that is hostile to the gospel and its implications for our identity, I see little scriptural support for someone that hates the message of the church being won over by dialogue (the dialogue with Saul was pretty one-sided after all). So my broader concern is less for the wolves, but rather more for the sheep and the goats that might be consumed by their efforts. The internet is full of wolves pretending to be helpful to the sheep. The fact is that the transgender movement will not stop; the left has been indefatigable on LGBTQ issues, never accepting defeat. Can you imagine them going home and accepting the verdict of Obergefell if it would have went the other way? Not a chance.
I’m afraid many Christians want the easy way out, thinking that somehow they can have a more winsome message that will both show the love of Christ accurately and in ways that will not be hated by those they speak to. I contend this is a naive hope, one that Christ specifically told us not to have:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
Our task is not to not be hated, but rather to only be hated for lovingly present the truth to a world that hates the light.
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
Are we buying the lie that this cultural tsunami is unstoppable and our resistance is futile?