I have two daughters, and maybe for me this is where it all begins. Ages ten and sixteen (her 17th birthday is Sunday!). I would like to believe there is potential for them to use a bathroom without any random man using the stall next to them, but I don’t know anymore. I am concerned we have an issue and it won’t get resolved for many years, and when it does, those who spoke harshly will wish they hadn’t, but those who said nothing might wish they had.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has studies stating 41% of transgender people commit suicide every year. Almost half. I can’t even wrap my head around this number. The gender identity and expression dialogue is erupting in our country, and it’s time to get engaged in heart-felt and intelligent discussions. Maybe it seems too extreme and foreign for us to grasp, and if we have never had any gender identity dilemma within ourselves, how can we truly understand the issue at hand? So, instead of forming a thought about it, we stick to our usual cultural coercion and follow the people we usually follow. This, however, is absolutely the worst approach a Christian could make on this issue.
As a Christian, your life’s calling is found in the words of Jesus Himself in Matthew 28:19-20 which says “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Before we dig into our commission as Christians, we need to make sure we have an educated platform to speak from. First, Gender Expression is the issue we are specifically dealing with here, and this is the manifestation of Gender Identity, meaning basically this is how a person views themselves as a gender. I express myself as a male, and have for my entire life. Almost all of you have a similar story, whether male or female, but it doesn’t we can’t engage in Gender Identity discussions. Again, 41% of Transgender people are killing themselves. We must get far better in dealing with this topic as Christians and a culture. In fact, we should be leading our culture in this discussion.
A new study is now linking a higher rate of multiple Sclerosis and those seeking Gender Transformation through medication. Granted, according to a 2011 study from the Williams Institute, only .3% of the US population identifies itself as being transgender, but these studies are difficult to conduct and the results can vary. The statistics behind the Trans community frankly are pretty bleak right now. The message of Jesus’ love and the hope anyone can find in him could not come at a better time.
First, as Christians we have nothing to fear in these conversations. We should embrace them openly and with love, and definitely not from a bully pulpit. Leave the discrimination to men like Eddie Vedder, the incredibly gifted lead singer of Pearl Jam, who is an amazing vocalist and lyricist, but who absolutely uses his influence negatively again and again. Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam made news this week because they have chosen not to sit down and have a discussion with the state of North Carolina, but to just refuse to hold a concert there because of the recent law passed stating individuals are to use public restrooms based upon birth gender and not gender identity. Whether or not you believe the litmus test is Gender Identity or Birth Gender, doesn’t give you the right to not offer your services. Eddie Vedder has done this type of thing before, and he continues to proclaim his message of intolerance over the years. His views on the Israeli and Palestinian are ill informed to say the least. By the way, Jeremy is one of my favorite songs of all time.
Sadly, right now this debate in the media is about being the loudest voice in the room, and it’s all about winning for far too many people. Many activists, like Eddie Vedder, are using transgender issues to promote their politics, sell concert tickets and to do interviews. They don’t seek to have thoughtful and engaging dialogues with those with opposing views, because they are determined they are the only ones who are right. They are determined to sway you through their own cleverly cloaked personal messages of intolerance, while never truly listening to another important perspective on the issue. Instead of engaging in unbiased studies and thoughtful debates, they look only to persuade you through the personas and platforms they’ve created. They don’t fear God, but only fear looking bad to the people who are buying their music or within the mainstream American culture.
If our commission as Christians is to make disciples, how does this work in tough and heated discussions like this? Here’s a list of a few things Christians can bring to the table in these discussions –
- Above all else, just sitting there quietly and giving someone the floor to express their views is incredibly important. Start by listening, because it will show you love and value the individual, even if you strongly disagree with everything they are saying.
- Lead with love. Tell those who oppose you God loves them and encourage them to seek their truth through the scriptures. Give them guidance if you can, and explain how God’s love has impacted your life. Be open and honest, but do it all with love.
- Do not lie or suddenly conform your thoughts just because the opposing view has great soundbites. God’s word is the ultimate authority and you, as a Christian, have a responsibility to teach those around in truth, not in fairy tales. Stick to what God’s word has taught you but do it in a way that helps you to…
- Tell everyone about Jesus. Share with those who oppose you about the love and purpose you have found in your relationship with God. You don’t have to agree with everyone to be friends, but your calling is to tell them the truth about the salvation you’ve found through Christ. Until they know Jesus, they won’t have the same Holy Spirit leading them through the scriptures and helping them embrace the truth. As a Christian your mission is the gospel first, and through God’s love and truths we can get to everything else.
- Be able to share thoughtful ideas in a debate or discussion. Don’t start googling things 3 minutes before engaging yourself in a discussion on Gender Identity and laws pertaining, because a lack of credibility will destroy your witness quicker than almost anything. Know what you are talking about, and study God’s word deeply.
- Pray for them and yourselves while in this discussion. Pray for them to embrace God’s love for them and to understand who Jesus is and could be in their lives.
These issues aren’t going away, and we, as Christians need to be leaders in these discussions, not weak and flailing activists void of love and new ideas. I am concerned about the direction our country is headed, but I am incredibly hopeful for what God has been doing. Don’t be afraid to stand up and engage in the discussions, but do so prayerfully and filled with God’s love. This is the starting point, and where we go from here is up to you.