October 19, 2017

The Emperor’s New Clothes (Hint: It’s a dress)

Don Johnson

A few days ago Matt Recker gave us an article affirming the Biblical view of human nature: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Gen 1.27). His article resonates with most of the readers of this blog, and I suspect, with most Christians around the world. On the heels of that article came this announcment: Obama Administration to Issue Directive on Transgender Access to School Restrooms. You may want more details, but the gist is conveyed in this chilling paragraph:

It does not have the force of law, but it contains an implicit threat: Schools that do not abide by the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid.

There will be more in the news as this fight goes to new levels. A recent piece sees a store security guard charged after evicting a “trans” from the women’s bathroom. In this case, the guard made the mistake of physically touching the evictee, which probably constitutes assault, regardless the amount of force used.

It is a very confusing time in our history. We are reeling from one rapid culture change to the next, seemingly in a death spiral as a society. What should Christians do about it?

Some Christians say we should be understanding, welcoming, and open. Christianity Today seems to be in this category. In “Understanding the Transgender Phenomenon” a psychologist talks about so-called gender dysphoria and how to work with people who suffer from it. Here is how he suggests the church greet someone like this:

Let’s say Sara walks into your church. She looks like a man dressed as a woman. One question she will be asking is, “Am I welcome here?” In the spirit of a redemptive witness, I hope to communicate to her through my actions: “Yes, you are in the right place. We want you here.”

When it comes to the bathroom debate, it appears that the conservative side is trying frame the argument primarily as one of safety, saying that opening the bathroom door to “transsexuals” will increase the risk of assault by predators falsely claiming to be “trans.” A Baptist Press article highlights that debate: “Does transgender bathroom policy enable predators?

I have questions about these approaches. Should we tell the man dressed as a woman who shows up at church, “Welcome, we want you here?” Should we argue against transgender bathrooms by raising fears of personal safety? Haven’t we already lost the argument when we take that approach? To this last, I would say, “Yes. Join the losing side.”

In both cases, the problem is that the real issue is avoided, side-stepped, and overlooked. It is almost as if you have conceded ground that can never be recovered, or only recovered with great difficulty. Wouldn’t the truth be better?

To the man dressed as a woman coming to church, wouldn’t it be better to call that person to repentance? Yes, we want sinners to come to church to get their lives straightened out, but we want them to repent first. The man who had his father’s wife in 1 Corinthians 5 — what was Paul’s approach again? “Deliver him to Satan.” The Corinthians had already tried the “Welcome, we want you here” approach. Paul wasn’t very impressed with that.

In the bathroom debate, when we raise the spectre of sexual predators claiming to be transsexuals, what happens when the laws pass and assaults in bathrooms don’t rise, or don’t rise appreciably? Where are we left then? Wouldn’t it be better to argue the truth? Those men who want to dress as women (or vice versa) are spiritually and mentally disturbed. They need help. They need to learn to think right. We cannot help them by ignoring the truth in the debate and trying to argue something we can’t prove (and probably isn’t true in the first place).

Many years ago, Hans Christian Anderson told us the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Two tailors conned the king into letting them “weave” new clothes for him that no one could see. Later, when the king decided to parade his latest finery, a little child was the only one willing to speak the truth, “He hasn’t anything on!”

Oh, yes, he does, sonny. And it’s a dress.


Don Johnson is the pastor of Grace Baptist Church of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada.


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