Saturday, 14 May 2016

Mainstream Conservative Christianity: It's Rejection of Transgender Reality

Disclaimer: I have lots of Christian friends and they're good people. Very few think along the lines that follow otherwise it would be hard to continue a meaningful friendship with them. I'll be at church tomorrow, for the first time in a while. A church filled with good people and with a pastor whose life and faith I deeply respect. Without the total support of that church, coming out as transgender and learning to be who I am would have been much harder. When I first walked into that church the pastor asked my name and at that point I didn't know what name I wanted to use. She just smiled and said “Here you can be any name you want to be” and I knew that I was in a safe place.

So this post and others like it should not be taken as a statement that Christians and Christianity are bad things. End disclaimer.

There are lots of fundamentalist Christian crackpots with tiny churches and they say plenty of extreme things that most of us are horrified by. People then post about it saying, "Look at the idiot Christians."

I'm not going to post anything about the fringe crackpots. Not when there are mainstream, popular Christian preachers and writers to post about. These are men and women with a big following. Lots of people listen to these people, nod in agreement or even admiration, and change their lives accordingly.

Here's one such preacher, Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He has a wider reach than that though and was part of the Vatican Synod on the Family last year. He's not a crazy, fringe weirdo. He represents the mainstream.

Yesterday he published an article.  The Real Meaning of Transgender Bathrooms.

He writes:

"If anyone had suggested in 2009 that the new president’s administration would seek to target children’s bathrooms for the sake of transgender ideology, the White house would have ridiculed it as a crazy conspiracy theory."

"Moreover, the move here toward severing self-identity from biological reality will hardly stop at “gender.” If anything, there’s much more of a case to be made that one can feel to be a different age than one’s doctor’s exam or birth certificate would show." (Yes, he really does write that.)

"We should recognize that unbiblical caricatures of masculinity and femininity were always harmful, but now are potentially deadly."

"God created us as human, and within humanity as male and female (Genesis 1:27). We are all sinners, so we chafe against having ourselves defined by a Creator, and not by ourselves or our ideologies. Our nakedness shames us, because our physical difference reminds us that we are not self-contained."

I am not shamed by my nakedness though I am told that I should be and I lived with shame for most of my life. It is sad that society still perpetuates that lie that human beings need to be shamed by their own wonderful bodies.

I need to write my own thoughts about Genesis 1:27 sometime. Moore, along with many other Christians, would say we need to believe the Bible so we need to believe this verse.  He turns the verse into a text about science rather than treating like it's treated in Jewish commentary - or wondering whether we really need to believe an ancient myth at all, let alone treat it as literal truth rather than a story that can teach us something.

Not only that,  Moore says we need to believe a particular interpretation of the verse that would logically imply that transgender people cannot possibly be transgender except in their own wrong belief. Needless to say, I disagree. I've had the verse quoted to me by Christians and they expect me to see the error of my ways and bow down to the view that I must be male because I was born with a penis.

Then such Christians pile on another verse, Deuteronomy 22:5 to show that I need to repent of my wickedness because by dressing the way I dress I am an abomination unto the Lord and that it's impossible to be any kind of Christian and be a “man in a dress.” Russell Moore doesn't quote the verse here, but an article last year published by the commission he headsdid quote it. And Moore wrote elsewhere that if a transgender person comes to Christ they should only be baptised in the gender that “matches” their birth genitals. Basically, if you are Christian, repent of being transgender and accept that you're living a lie and have been deceived. That's Moore's mainstream evangelical Christian view.

Russell Moore is pointed to as the voice of reason in conservative evangelicalism. Certainly he's a lot more reasonable than the fringe preachers shouting loudly from their pulpits. His reasoning and intelligence is sound. Unfortunately it is based on premises that are false (the premise that anything that contradicts a particular and literal interpretation of one part of an ancient creation myth must be a delusion and error) so his sound reasoning from them doesn't lead to truth.

These are premises that marginalise transgender people and which tell transgender people that there is no way they are who they are. These are the premises that say "God made us male and female" and so men must be cisgender men and women must be cisgender women and can be no other options that aren't a delusion of some kind.

Ultimately it is Moore's version of a "biblical" caricature that is potentially deadly - to transgender people who grow up in despair under teaching such as this.  If you pray, pray for transgender children growing up in the environment that teaching like Moore's creates.  Pray that they will not despair.  Pray that they will find freedom and self acceptance.  And pray for the parents of those children, who out of love but out of error seek for their children to be something other than what and who they are.  Pray that those parents will find the truth beyond the preaching and so be able to nurture and love their transgender children.

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