A grown man in the girl’s restroom

We need to be better spokespersons on the issue of transgenderism. It seems the message from conservatives can be boiled down to one question. I’ve seen it all over Facebook, heard it in conversations, and saw that even Ted Cruz was touting it during his last-ditch effort to stave off a Trump nomination:

“Do you want a grown man to follow your little girl into the women’s restroom?”

In a world of sound bytes and 140 character limits, it’s not surprising that conservatives have settled on this as the summary representative of their argument, thinking that their position is so obvious that only a complete idiot would fail to be convinced by it. But it’s not winning hearts and minds, and instead it’s actually feeding the liberal belief that conservatives, and Christians in particular, are bigots and fear mongers who must be repudiated and silenced lest they acquire enough power to force everyone to adopt their restrictive ways.

The question above implies that allowing transgendered individuals access to their restroom of choice will expose others to child molestation and rape. It’s an argument based on fear, and a highly exaggerated one at that. After all, isn’t your little boy just as much at risk from a male sexual predator in places where people must use the bathroom matching their biological sex? Common sense tells us that people who commit such crimes try to do so without witnesses milling about. A man doesn’t have to pretend to be transgendered in order to sexually assault a woman in a public restroom. He just has to have sufficient opportunity to do so where there isn’t anybody around. Truth be told, that probably accounts for most, if not all, public restroom rapes, not someone pretending to be the opposite sex.

The real problem with this “enabling sexual predators” question is that it shifts the focus away from the real issue. The root of the problem is not that a pedophile or rapist could abuse the system. The root of the problem is that it allows and even encourages people to adopt a false reality that stems from and inevitably contributes to serious mental health issues and sin.

Our society says the liberal stance on transgenderism is about equality and fighting discrimination and oppression. Christianity says the problem lies with a society that is willing to deny reality for the sake of the right to self-determination. This is idolatry: the exaltation of self as supreme. Our culture is not really concerned for transgendered individuals. And if our argument can be reduced to, “Do you want a grown man to follow your little girl into the women’s restroom?” then neither are we.

As Christians, we should always occupy the moral high ground in our dealings with a corrupt and sinful society. We can do that by being better advocates for transgendered individuals than society is. We advocate for them by pointing out the cruelty telling people they can change reality to fit their feelings when this approach will not fix their problems and does not work in other areas of life such as finances, employment, or relationships. We advocate for them by affirming the inherent goodness of every individual’s biological sex. We advocate for them by providing and challenging the world to provide real mental health care that affirms that goodness and treats the mind, not “care” that involves mutilating a healthy body.

The next time you’re tempted to make that post on Facebook or throw in that zinger in your conversation, stop and refocus on the central issue of the inherent goodness of our biological sex.

Yellow Dog Christianity

TrumpClinton

In sixth grade I donned a “chili-bowl” haircut, named such because it looked like someone put a chili bowl on my head and cut off the excess hair. I thought it was the coolest haircut imaginable, but it wasn’t. In Spanish class my teacher used it as an illustration to teach us a new Spanish word, specifically how unique my haircut was. I felt like Chewbacca at a Beauty Salon Convention. I got a haircut the next day.

Sometimes things happen that challenge what we’ve always believed. A heart attack can make us realize we need to change our diet, or maybe we’re being used as an illustration in Spanish class. None of us have it all figured out, and we need to be willing to question how we’ve always done it, while simultaneously holding tightly to God’s Word.

The 2016 election elucidates this. Christians have struggled to support some earlier candidates, but never like this. Many are adamantly opposed to voting for either party’s leading candidate. Hillary, some say, was never a real option, and Trump, others say, is a donkey in elephant’s clothing. For some Trump isn’t their first choice, but “he is better than Hillary, and a non-vote for Trump is a vote for Hillary.”

While it’s true that not voting for Trump could put Hillary in the White House, how much solace can a Christian take in such an incentive? Should a Christian really have to vote for someone just because he isn’t Hillary? Moreover, is a Christian obligated to vote for his party’s candidate?

I once heard someone say that Christians who are Americans must consider the order of the two descriptors, suggesting that the rationale of our political choices is defined by the adjective that precedes the noun. And so we can either be an “American Christian” or a “Christian American.” If we say we are a “Christian American,” then we are saying we are Americans that happen to also be Christian, and our nationality is more important than our faith. But if we say we are “American Christians,” then we believe we are Christians who happen to also be Americans, and our faith is more important than our nationality.

Thus, the answer to the aforementioned questions might rest in how we understand the relationship between our faith and our nationality, namely, which word modifies the other.

Biblically, there is no directive that requires a Christian to vote for a party’s candidate. There is an encouragement to be involved in the voting process (Rom 13), and there are principles that guide us in how to vote, one of which is that we “ought to obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). In this passage, some of the disciples wrestle with the Jerusalem government over the practice of their faith, and their response is that they were “Jewish Christians,” not “Christian Jews.” Their faith was more important than their nationality, and they were convinced that their status with God was far more important than their status as Jews; they were willing to go to jail for it.

American Christians have usually had a feasible option in at least one of the major parties—even if it meant holding one’s nose while voting—but there is usually enough respectability about the candidate that a Christian could vote for him without at the same time undermining his conscience. This, however, has produced a “yellow-dog” mentality for some Christians—the belief that Christians must vote for his party’s candidate, even if it is a yellow dog. This simply isn’t biblical. What is biblical is yellow dog Christianity, meaning that in whatever is happening politically, a Christian’s responsibility is first to God, not a political system. If forced to choose between a yellow-dog democrat and a yellow-dog Republican, a Christian should choose yellow-dog Christianity.

God never directs us to choose evil, even some “lesser” evil, but he does tell us to reject every kind of it (1 Thess 5:22).

Christians struggling with their 2016 presidential vote need to consider whether they are Christians who are American or Americans who are Christian, and then vote in a way compatible with living on the new earth with an eternal God, more so than living on the present earth under a temporary president. Moreover, Christians shouldn’t feel obligated to vote for one of the two major candidates, and Christians shouldn’t pressure other Christians to do so. This should be the case with every election, but this particular election has forced us to rethink the issue. So let’s do our American duty and vote, but let’s allow our Christianity to trump our Americanism, because this is the “trump” that matters most.

. . . and home of the mean?

Any perception that I’ve fallen down on blog-writing lately is right on the money. Other work and writing demands have something to do with that, along with the need for a break over the holidays, but that’s not all.

mean-people-clipart-1

Courtesy worldartsme.com

The issues that most need addressing these days break my heart. Some things are so wrong they’re just obvious and one would think no commentary is needed, but many who have drunk the Kool-aid refuse to even consider better options. And, many of the most popular ideas are not just bad, they’re mean. The country is awash in malice, and I don’t want to be a part of it.

The current political campaign scene is positively charged with negative energy and hateful rhetoric. It’s not the first time candidates have talked ugly or outright lied about each other, of course, and it won’t be the last, though this campaign may set records for churlish behavior.

The scary part is that much of the rancor isn’t directed toward fellow candidates, but toward American citizens and would-be citizens who don’t look like the candidates or share their ideologies. And the scarier part is that millions of Americans think that’s a fine thing: the campaign has revealed that America has a mean streak. It’s a big, wide swath of enmity fueled by racist and sexist attitudes, a revisionist view of history, and a deep fear of those who are different.

A popular campaign strategy is to tap into populist anger and fan it with irresponsible rhetoric. There are reasons to be angry, especially over an economic system that favors the wealthy few while leaving minimum wage workers in poverty. The political pot-stirrers, however, are skilled at making people who are slightly better off feel angry at the folk who are so poor that they need government services — rather than resenting those who make or support the policies that hold them down, too.

Amazingly, those who are so adept at oppressing others brazenly portray themselves as victims. Nowhere is this more evident than with those who claim that persons seeking equal treatment are infringing on their religious freedom when their actual agenda is to establish a theocratic system that discriminates against those who don’t share their particular version of Christianity.

The worst aspects of the political grandstanding are not just intolerant, bigoted, and angry: they’re a dark stain on the variegated tapestry we call America.

We can do better.

No Eviction for Baptist Church in Miami

Impact Miami, The Miami church who was threatened with eviction for preaching against homosexuality, will  be able to continuing meeting in the public school that they rent.

Supt. Alberto Carvalho told the school board in a memo dated July 30 there would be “no action” to terminate the lease for Impact  Miami following an investigation and a legal review.

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