Last week, the Obama Administration issued a directive to America's public schools regarding transgender bathroom/locker room accessibility. The President has ordered every school district in the country to allow students use the bathroom or locker room of their chosen gender identity rather than the one that aligns with their biological sex. The directive does not have the force of law, but it comes with the threat that funding will be removed from school districts that do not comply.
Since that time, a wealth of information has been written on the subject. Even though it's not our Friday Links day, I wanted to point to three articles that I've found to be incredibly helpful:
First, Andrew Walker has written a very helpful piece on how Christians should respond for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He encourages civil disobedience on behalf of local districts and state governments as well as advocacy with public officials on the part of Christian citizens. One of his encouragements is for Christian parents to establish a tipping point at which they may choose to abandon the public school system altogether. He asks:
What actions taken by your local school will be sufficient for you to re-evaluate public education? Is having a teacher reprimand your child for his or her belief about marriage, sex, and gender acceptable? Will you allow them to be in schools where bathroom policies are based on gender identity rather than biological sex? Are you uncomfortable with a biological male having access to the restroom and locker room that your daughter uses?
I think Walker's questions are good ones. I'm certainly not comfortable with what is happening. Honestly, a form of separatism may be the best option in the future. But pulling my daughters out of public school also feels like a compromise of my convictions. Christian families like my own who have chosen the public education option recognize that the worldview our children are taught in the classroom clashes with what is taught at church and home. But rather than insulate our children from a secular culture, we desire to teach our kids to live with Christian convictions in the midst of that culture. Our desire is to prepare them to live as Christians in cities and work environments that operate on the basis of secular values. For us, this is what it means to raise them to be salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16)--to not be of the world but be in it and on mission to it (John 17:14-19). Nevertheless, Walker's piece is really thought provoking, and I encourage you to read and consider it.
A second article is by North Carolina pastor, Brian Hambrick, who wrote about how he is processing the issue with his boys who attend a public school. One of his key concerns for his boys is that they be biblically informed and personally compassionate:
I want my boys to be both thoroughly versed in God’s original design and increasingly equipped to care for others in a broken world... My boys love biology, so we talked about how gender is ingrained in every cell of our body as either an XX (female) or XY (male) chromosome. They love to ask, “Whose nose do I have? Whose eyes do I have?” Tying the conversation to something they were familiar with and enjoy was an important way of making it less awkward.
We emphasized that we should never make fun of someone who is suffering. We should never call people names that make them feel embarrassed or shamed. Whenever we hear people doing these kinds of things to others, we step in and help the person who is being picked on. We don’t have to agree with someone or understand their experience to love them. We believe that everyone is made in the image of God and deserves our honor and respect. If they’re hurting, we try to represent God’s compassion. If they’re sinning, we let them know of God’s forgiveness through the gospel. If we’re not sure, we listen and ask questions.
I love this post, because family discussions can be pathways to helping our children think and express their feelings about these issues in a way that is not reactionary but rather helps them own a strong biblical worldview for themselves.
Finally, I was taken back to an older article that pre-dates the administration ruling. In this 2014 post, Amy Julia Becker asks four questions about transgender identity. I was reminded of this post, because Amy asks all of the right questions here. She explores a central theological issue--how our understanding of gender relates to Jesus' incarnation and thus to the gospel itself. She asks what the Bible itself teaches about masculinity and and femininity and whether the Bible leaves room for varied expressions of gender that corresponds with our biological sex. Finally, she asks what radical hospitality and generosity look like as the relate to biblical sexuality. Here are a few of the gems:
Christians believe that God created us as persons, and that each of us bears the image of God (an image marred by sin, but an image nevertheless). Further, we believe that our bodies, minds, and spirits are integrated and ought not to be divorced from one another. Jesus' incarnation—his willingness to become a human being—affirms all the more the importance of bodies . From this vantage, transgender identity seems to signal brokenness—discord between the physical and the emotional self.
Some of the confusion about gender identity in our culture arises because of narrowly constrained gender norms (i.e., girls wear pink and boys wear blue). Many of these norms are fluid, culturally bound, and change over time. And yet God creates male and female in his image, with the implication that men and women, in their physical attributes and gender identity, are intended to complement one another so as to better reflect the character of God. On the one hand, I want to be careful not to assume traditional gender norms simply because they are traditional (i.e., men can't be nurses or women can't be in the army). On the other, I want to understand for myself and for my daughters what it means to be a woman—and for my son, to be a man—before God.
I hope you'll read and carefully consider each of these posts and that they will help us be families who know our times and know what God's people should do (1 Corinthians 12:32).