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Tim Kimberly (TK): Fellas, it’s so good to be back together again: Michael, JJ, and Sam. Guys, we are talking about a subject today that is pretty heavy-hitting; it’s a subject that every single person in the church is going to have to interact with, or should interact with, if they’re sticking their head in the sand and hoping it just goes away. And that’s issues of gender, transgender, sexuality, bisexual —I’m going to even throw this out here—pansexual is something that I’ve heard in our city in high school students are using the term pansexual, meaning that it doesn’t really matter what sex you’re born with; what matters is just finding your soulmate.
Sam Storms (SS): I know what you’ve been looking at lately, because that’s what Miley Cyrus is saying that she is.
TK: Oh, are you serious?!
SS: Yeah! I kid you not.
TK: You know, I didn’t know that.
SS: I read an article on her the other day.
TK: But the fact that you know that.
SS: Yeah, that does reveal a lot, doesn’t it? That she is pansexual.
TK: I’m always focused on Taylor Swift, so if she doesn’t talk about it, I don’t hear it.
SS: Oh, okay.
TK: No, but in all seriousness for sure. So pansexual, if you aren’t familiar with the term, it’s the idea of like, let’s say you’re born with girl parts, but you feel like you identify as a male. But then you could potentially be then, you could fall in love with somebody who is a female, or is born with female parts; or maybe they’re born with female parts and they identify as a male as well.
And so it’s two people who identify as males, and so you could say, “Well, are you in a homosexual relationship?”
And they could say, “Well, even though we both are born with female parts…”
Or if one identifies, let’s say a male identifies as a female—okay, stick with me, Sam!
SS: I’m totally confused! I’m so lost.
TK: Yeah, exactly. Well, and here’s the thing, is that that is in many ways the issue and the atmosphere of our day right now.
Because if you talk to somebody and you say, “Are you homosexual?,” they might even look at you like you are so behind the times. Like, that is not even, that is speaking about someone who’s born as a woman and someone else who is born as a woman falling in love with each other, and it leaves out what they identify as.
So, if you have two females, from a visual perspective, one identifies as a male, one identifies as a female, they would say, “We are in a heterosexual relationship because of who we are in our core.”
Okay, and so this is all the introduction for: “What do we as Christians do, how do we step into this?” How do we navigate this in a way…
Michael Patton (MP): Well, the thing is is that this is something that maybe you wouldn’t even have to deal with or we didn’t seem to have to deal with just a few years ago. Beforehand, we were just talking about dealing with homosexuality in the church, and that was a big deal, a very big deal. Now it seems to be that this new thing has been introduced, one which JJ is so excited about dealing with, that we’re really not sure how to handle this at all because we’re like, ”Haven’t we already handled this? And doesn’t everything already apply; and aren’t we dealing with the exact same thing, with the exact same Scriptures, with the exact same counsel, and the exact same way of dealing with it within the church body?” And now it seems that we’ve got this whole idea of identity thrown in that is the key, I guess. Identity—how do you identify? And do you even identify? And should we even talk about identity at all?
JJ Seid (JS): It helps me to set some of these questions in a broader framework, you know? We can have, not that any of us here would do that, but you can have some sectors of Evangelicalism that’ll sort of have a good old Fundamentalist hoedown on the porch, you know, commiserating about the way things used to be, and what went wrong with the world, and “I miss the good old days,” and have sort of a conservative crank talk.
But I think it’s good for us to say there are some things that are happening that are not good, but there’s a context for all of them that I think it’s really important for people to understand. One is this idea of authenticity. Charles Taylor, the great modern philosopher, wrote a book called The Ethics of Authenticity, and it’s important for us to understand that people are being raised today with this idea that they need to figure out who they are, so they’re asking that really big question people have been asking for all of humanity, “Who am I?” And then they’re being told that expressing themselves sexually is one of the key ways that they self-actualize; that they figure out who they are; that they declare their personhood or experience being human. And so, and then they’re told that they kind of have to figure out their sexuality, and they have to figure out their identity, and they have to be true to themselves. So, when they assimilate all of these ideas, it’s really a ton of pressure.
So, we can sort of be cranky, and in the crankiness we can miss the fact that it’s really hard to be a young person today who doesn’t have the guidelines of Scripture helping them understand how to think about gender and sexuality, and they’re being saddled with this immense responsibility to figure out who they are, to express themselves sexually if they want to be a whole person, and no one’s answering these questions for them.
They’re having to try to figure it out as they go and whatever answer they come up with, it’s almost like culture’s saying, “Oh, what do you feel? What do you want? Well, make sure and be true to that then, because that might be your real identity.”
And the person’s going, “I don’t know! I was hoping you could help me figure it out.”
“Well, I can’t tell you. You have to find it for yourself.”
And they’re going, “Well this is like a crushing weight! This is a burden that I’m carrying.”
TK: Well, and I think what the church is doing a really bad job of right now, too, is that in that pursuit there is, I think, too much of a focus on this as well. I think there’s too much pressure on young people to try and figure out what their identity is as it relates to sexual things. But then, also, the church is making this the topic. You know, instead of talking to a young girl that’s a sophomore in high school about Jesus, we’re talking to her about like, “Hey, just make sure you aren’t gay; just whatever you do, make sure you aren’t gay.” And they don’t have…you know, they are someone without the Holy Spirit inside of them because Jesus may not be inside of them, or Jesus is not their Savior. And I just think many times the church, we are talking way too much about temporary things—now I’m not saying these things aren’t important—but I’m saying, what we talk about is what lets people know what we hold to be very important,and if all we talk to someone who says right now that they’re pansexual is their sexuality, we’re letting them think that their sexuality is…I feel like we’re corroborating with their ideas, that we’re telling them that if all I talk to you about, you pansexual, is your sexuality and instead of talking to you about the freedom found in Jesus, and that “while we were yet sinners (all of us), Christ died for us” and I want to talk to you about eternal things. I think once we follow Jesus, He’ll talk to us about how now we should live as a follower of Jesus that has been set free from the penalty of our sin. But I think the church needs to talk way more about Jesus than we talk about sexuality.
JS: And I don’t want our listeners to think that what we’re implying is that we would be soft on a sexual ethic. I think we need to talk more about Biblical sexual ethics, not less, but I think we need to set it within this framework (I just thought of an illustration, you know, a famous apocryphal illustration): You’ve got the kids in the country schoolhouse who go out at recess and they spend all their time clambering over the fence and trying to figure out a way to climb it, and trying to figure out a way to climb under it, you know, crawl under it; and then one day, they come out for recess and the fence has been torn down, and here they are on this wind-swept prairie. And the teacher comes out to find them all huddled together on the porch.
You know, so it’s like, in culture, people have been trying to climb the fence for so long, and find a way to crawl under it, and now the fences have been torn down, by and large, in culture as it relates to a sexual ethic, and now I think we need to be winsome in the way we engage culture and understand that, by and large, young people are huddling on the porch. Now this freedom that everyone thought they wanted so badly is really overwhelming.
MP: Well, let me ask you this then: is this a fad? Is is something that we just don’t worry about quite so much and it goes away? I mean, at least this aspect of it? We’re having a special broadcast just on transgenderism because of, frankly, a lot of the stuff that’s come out on the news, and Bruce Jenner, and the stuff that’s going on there. And probably we would not have had that if the culture had not grabbed ahold of this, fell in love with it, (at least the popular media), and pushed it on us as if this is the key issue. And maybe it’s finding its way into the young people’s lives, maybe it’s finding its way into the culture somehow, but at the same time part of me says, “Yeah, I don’t think so.”
JS: I don’t think it’s a fad because I think it’s the pop culture expression of things that have been happening deep underground since the ‘60s. So this is something that’s been being cooked up in the Ivy League and in popular philosophy, and now it’s just sort of finding its fruition in the popular culture. But that’s because there’s deep structures of belief that are driving this.
SS: Let me, let’s address this issue of gender for just a minute. I think that, I mean hearing you all talk about a person choosing this and a person wanting to experience personal authenticity, we need to ask and answer the question, “What is gender? How is it identified?” Because there are some who say you can’t define it. Define it however you choose; it’s a free-flowing, fluid reality that is subject to your own personal preferences. So the question is this: “Is gender a personal preference, is it a psychological choice, or is it an objective reality rooted in biology?”
You know, Tim you’re saying yeah, let’s talk more about Jesus; I agree. So what about when Jesus said in Matthew 19: “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” In other words, gender is a God-given, inescapable reality rooted in the biological nature of an individual, the way God has made a him or a her. But what we’re hearing now, and of course the trend within our society is, “No, gender is not an objective reality, it’s not biologically rooted, it’s simply a matter of psychological preference.” It’s an issue of, “How do I identify?” Not, “What am I?”, in terms of how the God of the universe made me, but, “What do I identify as? What do I feel like? What brings me most pleasure?” And because of that we have, now gender is basically out the window. It’s just fluid, amorphous word that actually means nothing in our society.
TK: And that’s again, the terrible pressure that these young people are facing; where they’re supposed to figure that out all by themselves, you know, depending on how they feel that day, and it’s incredibly overwhelming and confusing. They don’t have the beautiful groundwork of the Biblical creation order, saying, “Hey, this is how I made you; this is who you are.” And when I talk about talking about Jesus first it would be…so this past Sunday at church I had a young girl that identifies as pansexual came up to me, crying, and started talking about her sexuality.
And we talked a little bit, but using JJ’s analogy of people huddled on a porch in a stormy, windy day, and I go out to the porch and they’re like, “What do you think about our sexuality?”
And before I answer, I want to ask them, “What do you think about Jesus?”
And if they’re like, “I don’t know. I don’t know.”
I’d say, “Let’s come inside the house. Let’s put this conversation about sexuality on pause. I want to talk to you about Jesus first, because that’s of far greater importance in our conversation because that will give you an identity that you can hold on to. That will give you a foundation.”
Now, once we talk about Jesus, and this girl, she was like, “I don’t know where I am with Jesus” and stuff.
And then I said, “Well, I think Jesus has a lot that He can clear this up, can speak to you.”
I think 1 Corinthians 6:9 is a very good foundation for us to talk into. But saying like, let’s make sure these are clear that I’m not asking you to be heterosexual before I ask you to come to Jesus.
SS: Yeah, and I think, I agree with that. And I think another approach that we need to take is,we need to realize that every human being, no matter what their psychological preference may be, or their biological identity, is an Image-bearer; they are shaped in the image of God. And I think so many of the people who are struggling with this issue of their sexual identity have no grasp of what it means that the Creator of the universe has formed them and shaped them to reflect Himself. And the value, the struggle with identity and sexuality has caused them, because of the reaction they typically get from society, and oftentimes from the church, to feel utterly worthless as a human being, and they don’t realize that their worth and value is found in the fact that God has shaped them in His image.
MP: Well, trying to get to this issue of transgenderism and identity as opposed to just being gay or not gay, and it not being a fad; it’s something, JJ as you said, may be rooted back in the ‘60s, and something that we’ve been kind of stewing over for a while. Is it possible, let’s take the Bruce Jenner situation, and he says that he feels like he has always been Caitlyn Jenner inside of this body. Yet, he says he’s not gay, which is kind of this odd spin on it all that I don’t really know how to take because I don’t really know why you would feel that way and how you would feel that way. But I’ve seen people out there that are guys who are more effeminate and girls who are more masculine. We used to call them tomboys in my day, where they would just act like boys and be like boys all the time.
SS: That’s a very nice way of putting it. There are other terms that people use, unfortunately, that are a bit more pejorative.
MP: Well, and I see this in people, definitely, in girls and in guys; and is it wrong to be more effeminate as a guy? Is it wrong to be more masculine as a girl?
TK: I don’t think it is, personally. And I think that’s a misnomer in itself, because my freshman year of college I had a gay roommate actually, and he was a really good friend of mine, and we had a great time.
It was all very honoring and all that stuff, but he told me, he was like, “Tim, there are far more homosexual people in the College of Business than in the College of…” he was in Musical Performance. And he was very effeminate, but he was like a majority of homosexual people are not—the woman is not the tomboy, the guy is not the effeminate person. Now, that’s out there, of course, but I don’t think that that is a one-for-one, you know, I think that’s more of a stereotype, not an actuality.
JS: Well, and to answer your question too, Michael: “What do we mean by masculinity and what do we mean by femininity?” You know, we have to answer and define those terms. Do we mean what the Bible has to say about manhood and womanhood and how it’s lived out and expressed in terms of marriage and parenthood? Or are we just talking about cultural stereotypes of shooting and killing and cooking animals, or attending a sewing class? There’s these horrible sort of stereotypes, what we think gender equals, and so it’s sad because as Christians we can often be talking past people in the broader culture because when we talk about masculinity and femininity, they’re often going to hear us talking about traditional cultural stereotypes, and we’re not really interested in that. We’re interested in what Scripture has to say about men and women and how they differ and complement one another.
SS: So, here, let me throw a monkey wrench into the works here. Recently, Rachel Dolezal, who was the head of the NAACP up in the northwestern part of the country, was discovered to be white. She has two Caucasian parents and she…pictures of her when she was young obviously indicate that’s very pale face with freckles; and yet she has, through a variety of steps, changed her appearance and has passed herself off as black.
And she said, “I identify as black.”
And it was interesting this came on the heels of the whole Bruce Jenner story. And so the question was: “If a person can make the issue of their sexual identity one of personal, psychological preference why does that not apply to race?”
Why would we accept Bruce Jenner’s decision and his sense of self-identity, but reject Rachel Dolezal? Is it not an issue of biology? Is there not DNA? Is not skin pigmentation and ethnicity an objective reality very much in the way that—I can’t use the language, I’ll use Tim’s language—male body parts are a biological reality? So how does skin pigmentation differ from male genitalia?
MP: You know, I don’t think, objectively, I’d say in the culture they should not be taken any differently. I think because of the, who’s involved in this case, the types of people that are involved, the culture’s not going to grab ahold of this and celebrate her identity change and act as if it is a great thing, because it is…I don’t think we’re there yet on that one.
SS: No, and I would say to her, I’d say, “The fact that you want to identify with the African-American people, maybe you have a heart for them and the condition and the plight of them in American society; you love them, you care for them; maybe you prefer their culture, the way they conduct themselves—that’s wonderful! That’s perfectly legitimate. But that doesn’t make you an African-American. It doesn’t change your ethnicity. Psychology is not the determining factor here. The biological rootedness of your race is.”
TK: Well and there’s an element there where it probably feels a little bit like she’s cheating, because she didn’t experience growing up black in America, so to now try to reverse engineer that is impossible, you know. There’s kids that experience growing up black in America and there’s kids who didn’t. She decidedly did not, and so to try to now join the party late is a little tough. It’s a little bit of a dangerous comparison because race is kind of a fluid idea, and maybe a bit of a construct.
SS: Yeah, because of interracial marriage, you know it can be…
TK: Yeah, and what is race, really? But you make a great point. What it shows is there’s cultural inconsistencies. There’s certain kinds of fluidity that are permissible and embraced, and there’s certain kinds of fluidity that are still very inappropriate in the broader culture.
But if you start pressing on it and asking, “Well, how do you determine what’s inappropriate fluidity and what’s appropriate fluidity?”, they don’t have really good answers.
SS: So here’s the question we’ve got to answer guys; and let’s just make it very real and not beyond the realm of possibility: Bruce Jenner calls himself a Christian. So let’s say, Tim, that he shows up on the doorstep of Frontline Church next Sunday.
He’s visiting Oklahoma City and he says, “I want you to address me as Caitlyn. I want you to use female pronouns: she and her, not he and him. And I need to use the restroom and I want to use the ladies restroom.”
What does the church do?
TK: Well, I think you talked about…so you brought up a few, like, I’m going to throw the restroom out. I’m going to say that’s…
MP: Yeah, the restroom one got me. I was like, “I might be able to handle these, but the restroom…”
TK: Yeah, because we need to think about other people in the church too. I mean, if she wanted to use the r…
SS: Yeah, you just tipped your hand right there, didn’t you?
TK: Well, okay. So yeah, I would probably try and respect Caitlyn as much as possible because I don’t know what the state of Caitlyn’s soul is. And so, if Caitlyn…you know I think James is helpful here.
You know, of like: “Hey, let’s not have them sit in the back and stuff. Let’s try and honor them.”
And, but here’s the point though, too. One thing that we have done at Frontline is that there is a vast difference between what it means to be a member of our church and what it means to attend our church. And so if Caitlyn wanted to get married to…in a homosexual marriage, if they would consider it a homosexual marriage, there are a whole bunch of things that for us, membership is required, and what membership means is that you are a committed believer, you’re under the authority of the elders, and all those things. So, if Caitlyn was a member, this would be dif…if Caitlyn was a member, I would potentially still be okay honoring Caitlyn with calling Caitlyn and stuff like that.
SS: So Caitlyn could become a member at your church? Is that what you’re saying?
TK: Well, here’s for me where the huge thing is: I believe 1 Corinthians 6:9…
JS: Hey, Tim! Remember that time when you waffled on sexuality with Sam on the podcast?
MP: All over the place right now.
TK: No, well, what I want to do is show you where the bedrock is for me, okay. The bedrock for me is in passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. I believe that God, aware that issues like this would come up in the church, wrote Scripture in a way that is as generic as possible on this issue, and so the two terms used in Greek here, is what Paul is writing is saying that this should not be. What should not be is someone with a male body part should not be, and I’m going to use this, this is as generic and as kind of medical as possible, someone with a male body part should not penetrate someone with male body parts. And you should not receive that and you should not do that, okay. Now that’s as generic as possible, but that is what the two Greek words mean, okay? And so that for me is the bedrock. So that sideswipes identity; it sideswipes gender. It doesn’t talk about gender or identity. God talks about the action, okay. Now yes, it gets into: “Well, what if they were never going to be physically intimate and they’re just going to be celibate as a married, homosexual couple?” That might be a different issue. But for me, the bedrock…
SS: Nonexistent issue.
TK: No, exactly! It’s still an issue.
But for me, my first question to Caitlyn would be: “Are you sexually active?”
And if the answer is yes, I would say, “Okay, you’re still welcome to be here. We want you to know about Jesus, the eternal aspects of Jesus are far more great than your temporary, physical, sexual nature; but as a member of our church that is, for sure…you know there will be other things that will build on it, but for sure the bedrock is that I believe God clearly said that the physical act shall not happen.”
JS: I think it’s important to ask, you know, “How would you disciple Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner?” And I think that’s the deeper question. And what I would want to disciple Bruce/Caitlyn into is God’s purposes, wills, and intention for their life. And so, I think it’d be really important, because to identify what God’s original intention and purpose was in creating you, and then to rebel against it, or want to resist it, or rewrite the script starts to move into areas of rebellion and resistance. And so I think I would want to disciple that person towards embracing God’s will as good, God as being smarter than us, and Him having good purposes, and intention in His original creation of you.
TK: Yeah, and I agree with that too. I would say that what we are, one of the things that we would call them to at Frontline is that every follower of Jesus…following Jesus is costly. And it costs us something, and that’s true for all of us. And it would be true for Caitlyn as well.
SS: And at Bridgeway, we would have much the same policy. We would love them, welcome them, rejoice that they’re there sitting under the teaching of God’s Word, but we do have in place, in fact, restrictions on who can use what restroom and what kind of language we would use to describe that individual. But you’re right, I think we’re all agreed: we want to make known to them the love of Christ, that they are image-bearers, and that there is hope for their psychological experience to become more consonant with the biological reality in which God made them.
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