Why the Gender Identity Debate is Symptomatic of a Much Bigger Issue for Christians

Why the Gender Identity Debate is Symptomatic of a Much Bigger Issue for Christians

Joseph Backholm, of the Family Policy Institute, is a short, Caucasian male. But he went to the University of Washington campus recently to see if students would affirm or reject his newly chosen identity: a 6’5” Chinese woman. Here’s the 4-minute video he produced with the interviews (you REALLY need to watch this, but I’ll also summarize some key points below):


Backholm starts by asking the students what they think of allowing transgender people into the restroom of their chosen identity. Everyone is supportive.

Then he asks what they would say if he told them he was a woman. The students get a little more uncomfortable, but, as one girl said, “I’d say good for you. Yeah!”

Backholm then presses them to say what they would think if he said he was Chinese. Again, a student says, “I might be a little surprised but I would say, ‘Good for you. Yeah, be who you are.’”

He then goes on to ask what they would think if he said he was a 7-year-old. One student went silent, realizing she didn’t know what to say that would be consistent with what she had already been saying. Another sheepishly said, “I wouldn’t believe that immediately”. And one said, “I probably wouldn’t believe it but it really wouldn’t bother me that much to go out of my way to tell you, ‘No, you’re wrong.’ I’d just be like, ‘Oh, OK, he wants to be 7 years old.’”

Finally, Backholm asked, “If I told you I was 6 feet 5 inches, what would you say?”

One student replied, “If you truly believe you’re 6 feet 5, I don’t think it’s harmful. I think it’s fine if you believe that. It doesn’t matter to me if you think you’re taller than you are…I wouldn’t tell you you’re wrong.” And another said, “I feel like that’s not my place as another human to say someone is wrong or to draw lines or boundaries.”

Wow.

What should we make of this kind of thinking? A lot.

 

What’s Really Driving the Culture Wars

Christian apologists (people who make a case for and defend the truth of Christianity) often emphasize the need to understand the difference between objective and subjective truth. Objective truth is a proposition which is true for all people, regardless of our opinions (“It’s snowing outside”). Subjective truth is a proposition which can be true for some but not others (“Snow is beautiful”). Apologists have focused on this distinction because many people today claim that nothing is objectively true. Such a claim is important when discussing Christianity because Christianity assumes objective truth exists—that Jesus is the one and only truth for everyone and it’s not up to individuals to find whatever path to God they want.

While the distinction between objective and subjective truth is vital for everyone to understand, it really struck me while watching this video that this is not where most of our culture wars are being fought.

It was clear from these students’ responses that they would agree many objective truths do exist–-things like height and age. Not one of these students believed that Backholm was actually 7 years old or 6 feet 5 inches tall.  

But every one of these students prioritized Backholm’s right to comfortably believe whatever he wanted about himself over telling him what was objectively true. What this pointedly demonstrates is that debates over issues like gender identity are really just symptomatic of a more wide-spread disease:

That society has overwhelmingly abandoned the primacy of love-driven truth telling.

While most people wouldn’t claim that speaking the truth is never important, it’s taken a giant back seat to the primacy of making others feel good about believing whatever they want. Society has bought into the notion that leaving people alone with their beliefs is the loving choice, as long as they don’t harm others with those beliefs. Oh the irony! Could anything be more insidiously unloving than knowing someone has wrong beliefs that could be personally harmful, yet prioritizing silence as long as no one else gets hurt?

As Christian parents, we have the responsibility of raising a generation that understands what loving others really means. Genuine love is willing the best for someone else, even when that means sharing objective truths they may not want to hear.

 

What That Means for the Gospel…and for Christian Parents

This, of course, has direct implications for our ability to share the gospel today—a far greater concern than any individual issue. In an increasingly secular society, fewer and fewer people feel it’s acceptable for people to share their faith (see the comments in response to my post last week as an example). People of faith are expected to privatize their beliefs so everyone can be comfortable thinking whatever they want.

But this misses the most obvious point of all: What if Christianity is true? What if there really are eternal consequences for whether or not you accept Jesus as your Savior? Does it make any sense at all, if Christians are acting consistently within their worldview, that we would keep silent about what we believe to be objective truth for all?

At least one non-believer gets this. Atheist Penn Jillette (of the magician duo, Penn & Teller) has famously said:

“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me alone and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

Exactly.

To engage confidently and faithfully with a society which overwhelmingly no longer gets that, our kids need to be equipped with three things:

1. Knowledge of the truth. This is making sure that our kids have a clear understanding of the gospel and the overarching narrative of salvation history as given to us in the Bible. These are simply the facts of Christianity. Without a clear understanding of what the truth actually is, our kids won’t be in a position to share it.

2. Conviction of the truth. Knowledge alone isn’t enough when the basis of that knowledge is being constantly challenged. Our kids must have a deep conviction of why there is such good reason to believe that Christianity is true. This is why teaching our kids apologetics—the case for and defense of the Christian faith—is so critical today. Without giving them the deep conviction that what they believe is really true, we’ll raise a generation content to stay silent…unsure of whether the risk to speak up is worth the likely hostility they’ll encounter.

3. Courage to share the truth. Courage requires both knowledge and conviction, but there’s one more ingredient: love. When we teach our kids what true love is—the genuine concern for the well-being of others—they’ll understand there’s no Godly choice but to speak up and speak truth…even when society has utterly abandoned love-driven truth telling as a cherished value.

 

If you need help explaining to your kids why there’s good reason to believe Christianity is true—giving them the conviction they need—check out my new book: Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith. It’s available from your local Barnes & Noble and Christian book retailers, as well as ChristianBook.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Amazon.com.

25 Comments

  1. Iris on April 26, 2016 at 3:27 PM

    Great example of a 6 foot 5 person but to take the analogy a little further is to say because of my height I also identify as an NBA player therefore the NBA has to recruit me or else they’d be guilty of discriminating.



    • Martin on April 29, 2016 at 6:56 AM

      @Iris,

      Awesome! Great way of making a point.

      The fact that no one would take them seriously shows how utterly idiotic this whole concept of “…I identify as…” has become.

      To take your analogy further, imagine if an NBA star, 6′ 7″ says, I identify as a female and now wants to play in the WNBA. Or vice-versa.

      Love-driven truth telling is so needed.



    • Tina Van Divier on April 30, 2016 at 7:00 PM

      Great taking the statement further- entitlement is a symptom of delusion.



  2. satscout on April 26, 2016 at 5:10 PM

    I think the hardest thing here is to deal with people who take any “invalidation” of their choices as belligerence or rejection when it is more like what Penn Jillette said. I have at least one friend – whom I have been friends with for years – who eventually told me he was bi. He knows where I stand, and he knows that I accept HIM, even if I don’t agree with him. He also knows that I will continue to pray for him and speak truth into his life. But the kind of trust he has for me grew long before he told me he was bi. If I tried to tell him the things I do before I had earned that trust, he would probably react the same way as the gent in the other post.



    • Reggie on November 1, 2017 at 8:24 PM

      Bless you! These were my thoughts exactly as I read this. I try never to ‘hide’ or ‘silence’ my personal convictions, however, I have learned the hard way that voicing said convictions before establishing a relationship will often times do more harm than good. It can be a fine line to walk, for sure. It’s genuinely loving and accepting the person no matter their worldview or belief while still being able to firmly make a stand for your own. While there are a large group who just want to debate and override anyone and everyone who oppose them (think differently than they), I have found that most people just want to be loved. Loved where they’re at right now, regardless of beliefs, gender, lifestyle, etc. I feel as Christians, we tend to make one of two mistakes: we so strongly hate the sin that we come off as hating the person also, or we ‘accept’ their lifestyle and beliefs while never fully accepting them, essentially we just humor them. It’s hard to take seriously someone who claims to know an all-loving, all-merciful Savior when you’re feeling hated or merely humored.



    • Reggie on November 1, 2017 at 8:26 PM

      These were my thoughts exactly as I read this. I try never to ‘hide’ or ‘silence’ my personal convictions, however, I have learned the hard way that voicing said convictions before establishing a relationship will often times do more harm than good. It can be a fine line to walk, for sure. It’s genuinely loving and accepting the person no matter their worldview or belief while still being able to firmly make a stand for your own. While there are a large group who just want to debate and override anyone and everyone who oppose them (think differently than they), I have found that most people just want to be loved. Loved where they’re at right now, regardless of beliefs, gender, lifestyle, etc. I feel as Christians, we tend to make one of two mistakes: we so strongly hate the sin that we come off as hating the person also, or we ‘accept’ their lifestyle and beliefs while never fully accepting them, essentially we just humor them. It’s hard to take seriously someone who claims to know an all-loving, all-merciful Savior when you’re feeling hated or merely humored.



  3. Nancy Kuwada on April 26, 2016 at 5:23 PM

    Bravo Natasha!



  4. Andrea on April 26, 2016 at 8:29 PM

    I saw this video before and it really makes me wonder about some of the college kids these days. What I don’t understand about the whole transgender bathroom thing is why the activists aren’t happy with the option to use a separate, gender-neutral facility. I’ve been following a case in the Palatine, IL school district where a transgender student insists on being treated like a girl, though he’s anatomically a boy, and the school complied. As I understand it, they let the student use the girls’ bathroom and play on the girls’ lacrosse team, but drew a line at being allowed to change in the girls’ locker room. Instead, she could change in a separate, gender neutral facility. That, however, was not good enough. The federal government threatened to take away funding from the school district and the school caved. Now the student will change in the girls’ locker room behind a curtain. When the school caved a group of girls came forward saying they don’t feel comfortable in this situation, but they’ve been afraid to speak out for fear of being called bigots. http://dailysignal.com/2015/12/21/why-these-high-school-girls-dont-want-transgender-student-a-in-their-locker-room/ . The thing is, if the concern is to protect the student from abuse or harassment in a boy’s locker room, changing in a gender neutral facility would solve the problem, right? So what’s the real agenda? Easier lawsuits?

    Thanks for the post. You touched on some things about truth that served as a good reminder to me when thinking about my Christian faith.



  5. Shelly on April 26, 2016 at 9:17 PM

    Wow. I’m definitely sharing this video with my older children, who are starting to fall for the argument that truth is subjective, despite the fact that they are homeschooled and should know better.



  6. Wendy on April 27, 2016 at 5:05 AM

    Good blog post Natasha and to say we are reading through your book with our 14 year old son and enjoying the conversations…with our elder daughter (17) we are using Total Truth by Nancy Pearce.



  7. Charity on April 28, 2016 at 11:18 AM

    Well said, Natasha! This reminds me of an incident in one of my college classes a few weeks ago – the gist of what the instructor was saying was that, even if something is true (what we would call objective truth), that truth can be overridden by “cultural differences”. That scared me. If we freely admit that X is true but that we can squash X based on “not offending people”, what are we heading towards?



    • Andrea on April 30, 2016 at 8:15 AM

      Yikes! That is VERY scary indeed! 🙁



    • Heather on May 3, 2016 at 5:48 AM

      Sadly enough, what we are headed towards is a never-ending loop of changing ‘truth’ to fit society’s currently-held values because there will always be someone who is offended and who wants to change ‘truth’ because they don’t like it. This kind of mentality (upholding subjective truth over any kind of objective truth) is socially-destructive because it leads to chaos and will never be resolved in a way that satisfies everyone.

      Why can’t we just go back to ‘politely agreeing to disagree and living respectfully alongside each other despite disagreements’ (old-fashioned tolerance), instead of ‘you must confirm and condone and support everything that everyone else says or does or believes, or else you will be labeled an intolerant, small-minded hater’ (the new, messed-up kind of tolerance).

      I have no problem letting people believe what they want as long as they let me have the right to ‘agree to disagree’ and as long as there are somekind of clear boundaries in society, based on objective truths, to protect society as a whole. Is it New Jersey who is taking a stand against gender-mixed bathrooms, trying to protect vulnerable girls and women against people who use the ‘i identify as…’ thing in order to cause harm or act like ‘peeping toms.’ Where is the protection for people who are afraid to be vulnerably exposed in mixed company? Why is it such a problem to just make a third ‘gender neutral’ bathroom? We will not be able to please everyone here, but three bathrooms seems the safest route. Even if it offends some people. It seems like our socety has had a complete breakdown of commen sense, seeing as how many people are boycotting New Jersey for taking a stand for the vulnerale girls. Good for you, New Jersey (I think it’s New Jersey. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.). And good post, Natasha.



      • Heather on May 6, 2016 at 1:39 PM

        Yep, I was wrong. It is North Carolina, not New Jersey. Good for you, North Carolina. Stand strong. Praying for you.



  8. Everest John Alexander on April 28, 2016 at 7:33 PM

    Brilliant piece, Natasha! Insightful and accurate. Thanks for sharing!

    Every Christian needs to be aware of that Penn quote. It makes profound sense and needs to be shared with this generation more than ever!



  9. Rusty on April 29, 2016 at 5:32 AM

    Thanks for writing this Natasha. I too have been writing more to the “identity” issue that appears to be so confused in this generation. In a series on “trans-identity” – I spoke to the very curious case of Stefonknee Wolschtt – a 52 year old man who identifies as a 6 year old girl: https://moreenigma.wordpress.com/2016/02/06/trans-age-ability-trans-identity-with-yet-another-name/
    More than ever I am convinced people are restored when their identity is found (restored) in Christ.
    Thanks.



  10. […] April 25, 2016 by Natasha Crain 9 Comments […]



  11. Steve on May 2, 2016 at 11:45 AM

    In addition to what has been previously stated in the article and other comments, what concerns me is the literal shutdown of the human mind.

    People have been advancing hedonism forever, and it always finds a foothold in every society. But rarely does it take over a society to the point where governance not only accepts but propagates and forces that hedonism on its culture, and a good chunk of that society voluntarily abdicates rational thought. And that is what we are facing.

    It’s been done this time by advancing the dictum that to deny popular ideas of sexuality and gender is the epitome of “fear” and “hate”, and disagreement with politically popular notions is the foundation of everything that is evil in society. Relativism is the new god, and “there are no truths” is the [laughably self-defeating] First Commandment. Bigotry, misogyny, hatred, fear, loathing, hater, old, cis-male, white, Christian, and a few others substitute as the catch-all go-to arguments that from their perspective, defeats all other intellectual argument and even scientific evidence that the popular theorisms are inadequate, let alone wrong.

    It began to become clear for me awhile back when discussing the subject with a transsexual woman who declared she “knew she was female from birth”, despite her birth male anatomy. When I pointed out the obvious base-level fallacy in that nobody even has a concept of male or female or differential anatomy at birth, let alone any concept that anything is wrong OR the memory to recall thoughts and feelings at such a young age, I was suddenly pronounced transphobic, a hater, misogynist, and more. The idea had been implanted in that brain, and not even the most obviously logical thought would be allowed to penetrate that veneer.

    I’ve since seen these nonsensical thinking patterns also infiltrate devoutly Christian homes, and what scares me most is that people are being actively trained to block out, dismiss, and vilify contradictory thoughts and concepts, even if they are indisputably true. When this kind of allowance is given to deny indisputable truth and instead, opt for willful suspension of disbelief, it is a very short distance to denial of all truth at a foundational level. Even taking Biblical truths out of the equation, this has far more reaching implications including how the gullible are taken advantage of in the world. If I can set the stage of your mind to convince you to fight for that which you know is a lie, I can convince you to do just about anything else.



    • Heather on May 7, 2016 at 4:36 AM

      “If I can set the stage of your mind to convince you to fight for that which you know is a lie, I can convince you to do just about anything else.”
      Excellent point, Steve. This phrase should be shared and tweeted and whatever else. And it should be seriously pondered. Truly scary.



  12. Heather on May 6, 2016 at 2:02 PM

    One more thought. Doesn’t ‘transgender’ imply crossing over from one gender to the other? If I took a flight from California to North Dakota, could I call it a ‘trans-continental flight’ just because I felt like it was a trans-continental flight in my head? Wouldn’t I have to actually cross from one continent to the next for it to be trans-continental? My point is, when did transgender become about whatever a person feels in their head, instead of about actually crossing over from one gender to the other? If a man wants to have his man parts taken off, crossing from one gender to the next, then I think they are committed enough to being a woman for him/her to use a girls’ bathroom. But why should a man who just says he feels like a woman inside be allowed to share the women’s bathroom? If a man wants to use a girl’s bathroom based on transgender rights then they should be required to go all the way, having his man parts removed. But to allow anyone who simply claims they ‘feel like a woman inside’ to use a women’s bathroom or locker room puts genuine women at risk and violates their rights to protect themselves from potential harm. Just a thought.



  13. […] Why the Gender Identity Debate Is Symptomatic of a Much Bigger Issue for Christians– Natasha Crain […]



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  15. Ken Love on June 27, 2016 at 10:27 AM

    The current view on truth is dumber than a box of rocks. If you want good answers, you have to ask good questions. So to these people that accept the current baloney, maybe we should ask questions like “If you pass all your tests with over 90% correct answers, but the teacher identifies you as a dummy and gives you an F, that is ok?” Or
    “if you think a car dealership thinks a new car should sell for $25,000 and you don’t, do you think they should sell it to you for $500? ”
    Or – “do you think 2+2 = 5 is just as good an answer as 2+2=4?”

    A real scary thought – these ignoramuses will be teaching school, running for public office, becoming doctors, etc.. Might as well buy your burial insurance now.



  16. Lorelei King-Salisbury on July 6, 2016 at 7:08 PM

    Thanks for these very thoughtful comments. Currently experiencing this at my daughter’s school with the new “health” curriculum to be used. Encouraging students to be aware of how their family’s beliefs and culture may impinge on their beliefs, etc, with the implication being that students can ‘rise above’ all that and accept these more ‘socially appropriate’ views of gender, relationships, and so on. Very concerning that what is proposed seems to be in a values vacuum where anything goes and is acceptable. Thank you for your encouragement to stay true to our Christian values and beliefs in these times.



  17. Dave on August 10, 2016 at 7:35 AM

    Being true to self ‘separates the men from the boys’ or more accurately connects us to God (or not). It is life vs. death. Understanding the source of our rampant state of lying to self – that it began in the garden — most Christians know. But what they don’t know or will not acknowledge is who in the garden deceived self, willingly lied to self, and who did not. This is THE topic and it is the topic that the church ‘religiously’ ignores and I have never seen anyone address it. This is a topic that John MacArthur has said you will be “viciously attacked” for addressing, then he avoids addressing it (hence why no one wants to address it).

    IT is the source of the problem you address . IT was the source then and it is the source now. And God is about ready to make His people abundantly aware of His displeasure ….and have His holy way.