What Pastors Can Do about the Gender Neutral Bathroom Controversy
Last Thursday the New York Times broke a story that the Obama administration would issue a directive for every public school in the nation allowing bathroom access based on self-identity of gender. It’s a huge story with sweeping consequences.
I don’t often weigh in on political issues. One reason is the purpose of this blog, which is helping leaders in established churches, not bantering on politics. As a pastor, I have people in my congregation with various political views. I’m not afraid to preach issues, but I try not to stir up needless political controversy in my church. However, on this issue, I must speak.
When I was in high school, I played basketball. I identified as a superior player, perhaps six foot eight inches with a slam dunk similar to Vince Carter. In reality, I’m six inches shorter, and my rare dunks looked more like an albatross taking off.
Identity can be detached from reality.
What if a rich person identified as poor and claimed she no longer needed to pay taxes? You might say, “That’s a financial reality. She can’t do that.” But what is the philosophical difference between a financial reality and a biological one?
What if a white person wanted to identify as a black person in order to claim the black experience? It’s already happened, and there was uproar. Rightly so. But what is the philosophical difference between an ethnic reality and a biological one?
What if a young teen wanted to identify as a senior citizen and claim the right to vote prematurely? What’s the philosophical difference between a geriatric reality and a biological one?
What if a dying person wanted to identify as healthy and gain access to life insurance shortly before passing? What’s the philosophical difference between a reality of physical fitness and a biological one of gender?
This identity madness must stop. You don’t get to choose who you are. God made you exactly the way He wants you. And you are beautiful as God made you. You can no more choose your gender identity than you can choose your wealth, ethnicity, age, or health.
So what is a pastor to do? Let me offer some recommendations.
- Don’t ignore the issue. It’s not going away. Most of your people are paying attention to this issue. It affects everyone. I addressed it from the pulpit on Sunday. Why? It’s a major cultural issue that’s at the front of everyone’s mind. Pastors are called by God to teach their congregations. All churches deserve an answer from their pastors on this issue.
- Teach with clarity, not nuance. Go right to the heart of the issue and address it biblically and clearly. Don’t hide behind big words or fuzzy nuances. Tell your people exactly what you expect them to believe on this issue. If news reports contain more facts about gender identity than your sermon, then you’re not preaching. You’re dancing.
- Display a genuine concern for people who identify as transgender. Jesus loves them, and so should you. Crude jokes and snarky sermon soundbites won’t solve the problem. We should care for anyone struggling with gender identity issues. You can put a stake in the ground on this issue while at the same time exhibiting love for hurting and confused people. Truth and love are two sides of the same coin. God’s truth compels us to love others. And to love others, you don’t have to compromise the truth.
- Give practical advice. The theological foundation is important, but your people likely want to know what to do. I’ve counseled transgender people, as well as their family members. I’m sure I will have many questions from church members if public schools in our community abide by the Obama administration’s directives. Both truth and love require action. You need to help people take practical next steps.
- Don’t make unnecessary enemies. Stay focused on the gospel. We’re not fighting against flesh and blood. Your neighbor is not your enemy, even the transgender one.
Our culture is changing at an incredibly fast pace. Like a machine running at full capacity 24/7, we can’t keep moving this fast without lots of things breaking. And by “things,” I mean actual people. Broken people need the gospel. We’ve got work to do. The mission of God doesn’t advance by bellyaching.