27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
I have three tame ducks in my back yard,Who wallow in the mud, and try real hardTo get their share and even moreof the overflowing backyard store.They’re fairly content with the task they’re atOf eating and sleeping and getting fat.But when the wild ducks fly byIn a streaming line across the sky,They cast a wishful and quizzical eyeAnd flap their wings and attempt to fly.I think my soul is a tame old duckWallowing around in the barnyard muck,It’s fat and lazy with useless wingsBut, once in awhile when the north wind singsAnd the wild ducks hurtle overheadIt remembers something lost and almost dead,And it casts a wistful eyeAnd flaps its wings and tries to fly.It’s fairly content with the state that it’s in
But it isn’t the duck that it might have been!
I’ve received diverse feedback on my recent My Turn piece in the Coeur d’Alene Press (here). On the negative side, the most frequent critique is that I need to have more compassion, need to be more loving, and need to consider what Jesus would say or do. Below is a response I wrote to this critique.
Thank you for responding to my letter and for taking an interest in these matters. Like you I think that these issues are very important and I do consider the difficulties faced by individuals who identify as transgender as tragic. I often look in the mirror and ask what Jesus would do and am often convicted of my own lack of courage, conviction, and compassion. I am thankful that He is my Savior even as He is the Savior of all those who turn from their sin and turn in faith to God the Father, our Creator and Redeemer. I daily thank God for His mercy in sending Jesus to rescue and redeem me. Apart from His grace I would be as lost and adrift as anyone.
You take issue with my parallels of bestiality and I certainly understand that comparison is uncomfortable. However, what you seem to be articulating does, it seems to me, leave you open to these types of comparisons. One of my professors used to refer it as the “hobgoblin of consistency.” You say that the transgendered individual is “no different than someone born with a genetic abnormality” but your only foundation for that claim is the assertion by the transgendered person that they feel like they should have been born a different gender. There are no genetic markers otherwise; just psychological ones. So how can you avoid giving credence to the person who says that they feel that they shouldn’t have been born as a human; that they really self-identify as a dog or cat and that they want to associate with those of their own self-identified kind? Then, once technology develops how will you escape supporting the surgeon who offers to begin a transspecies transformation? I do think that this is where your position inevitably leads.
I would fully agree with you that a person struggling with gender identity needs help, counsel, prayer, and compassion. They need those who are willing to help them see that biology trumps psychology; to help them know that God has created them male or female for a reason and that that reason is good. The basic types of struggles and temptations that they are facing are no different from the struggles and temptations that others face: e.g., the child who feels she has been born into the wrong home, the man who believes he should have been born into a more wealthy family, the woman who thinks she should have been born with more physical beauty, etc. These are all struggles that people deal with in varying degrees of intensity and each needs true compassion.
The parallel I typically draw is with drug abuse. The one who truly loves the addict won’t celebrate their addiction but help them to fight it and, Lord willing, escape it. True compassion, compassion that is informed by God’s commandments, will endeavor to help a “gender confused” person give thanks that God has created him or her as He has, to rest in that identity, and to look forward to the renewal of all creation when they will not be so conflicted. It is false compassion to fuel their confusion in the name of being loving. The one who truly loves them will endeavor to help them embrace God’s biological design. And, glory be to God, Jesus has risen from the dead to empower us to do that very thing. Through faith in Christ we can find peace – peace with God, peace with our gender.
Again, thank you for writing. This is probably a longer response than you wanted or expected. My apologies if so. I do sincerely hope that you will continue to think about these issues carefully.
I finished reading Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends by Mark Yarhouse. Yarhouse is Professor of Psychology at Regent University. I appreciated his distinction between attraction, orientation, and identity. Attraction is a base level sexual temptation that certain folks experience more than others for members of the same sex. Orientation is attraction that seems to be persistent. Identity is when someone chooses to label themselves as homosexual. I think that these distinctions are helpful; he is articulating James 1:13-15 but in a way that is at times confusing. James would be willing to acknowledge that certain of our desires are sinful and that these desires move us to practice sin. So sin is more than mere behavior – it reaches to our desires. Yarhouse seems to want to say that our “attractions” are never sinful in themselves; he places the label of sin almost exclusively on our behavior and I’m not convinced that’s biblical. Nevertheless, it is true that being tempted is not the same as sinning – Jesus was tempted and yet without sin. So I’m not completely throwing out his distinctions because I think there is a kernel of truth there. Yarhouse is a psychologist and so speaks for that community; as a pastor I’m much more interested in what Scripture has to say and on that I find him less than fully satisfying. Sam Allberry’s Is God Anti-Gay? is more helpful and makes some of the same distinctions.
I appreciated his emphasis on reaching people who struggle with same-sex attraction – and reaching them as “our people.” I think that this is an area where I could certainly grow. At the same time, I simply don’t agree with his approach to some specific cases; for instance, if my child were to choose homosexuality, I would not “respect” that choice. I think that is the wrong framework within which to process the decision. I guess I’ll “respect” him to the extent of holding him accountable for his choice and urging the church to hold him accountable; but I won’t “respect” him in the sense of saying, “I recognize that’s a legitimate choice to make.” May it never be!
So while there were some good an helpful distinctions and the book was very charitable, there are times where I think his allegiance to psychology is more apparent than to Scripture.