Take the Time to Make Time for Yourself

creative-writing-prompts-6As I mention in the “For the Church” page of this blog, as a minister I not only try to encourage hurting people but, when that hurt is caused by the church, also speak to the church in hope of seeing things change. To that end, I spend a lot of time on Twitter and I respond to a lot of comments made by Christians about trans people in particular. I know that many people read such comments and I don’t want them to think that the views these people express are the only “Christian” views on the matter. I don’t want trans people to read them and think God hates them. And I want Christians who do reject the validity of trans identities to question the “biblical” basis on which they feel justified in doing so. I therefore feel an urgency in responding to every tweet I can find.

In a word, it’s exhausting. I didn’t realize just how much so until I took a break the last couple of days. When I popped back in to check it yesterday, I had to scroll through my feed no more than a moment to find a tweet that made me sigh. Really? This is how you view the world around you? This is how you show them love? Being on Twitter can often be this constant state of anger, frustration, and sadness, and as passionate as I am about speaking for trans people, being in that state isn’t healthy for anyone.

The truth is that all of the battles I see to fight on Twitter and elsewhere aren’t necessarily mine to fight. There are others out there who fight, too. And even if no one calls out a single negative tweet that’s not the end of the world. Even after all I’ve been through in the last year I still believe that God has his ways of getting through to people when he wants to.

The urgency I too often feel can be misleading. I find it interesting to note that Jesus, who had such a relatively short time on earth to accomplish his own work, wasn’t always pressured by it. In Mark 1, for example, he has spent the day ministering in Capernaum. As we’re told in verse 33, “the whole city was gathered together at the door.” Two verses later we read that, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” He has, in short, gone off to take for himself. As we find out in verse 36, he’s gone long enough that his disciples notice and look for him. What I find interesting here is that despite what the passage implies about how many people need help, Jesus doesn’t seem overly concerned. His alone time has, conceivably, eaten into time he could have used to help others and when the disciples point out how many people are still around, he responds in verse 38, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” It’s not that he doesn’t care. Rather, it’s that he knows that he needs to take care of himself, too, and he also knows when a particular job is done. His involvement in that specific area has finished. He’s under no real sense of urgency here. 

So why can’t I recognize that in my own life? I don’t need to respond to every tweet that comes through my feed. And there are discussions that I don’t always need to stay in past a certain point. Staying longer, and even just getting involved when I shouldn’t, only burns me out. Besides, if Jesus can take time out of his work, surely I can take time out of mine.

Whatever you do in life can consume you if you let it. Make the time to take time for yourself. Unplug and get away for as long as you need. You’ll thank yourself for it and you’ll be better able to do what you do.


The Tension Between Who We Are and Who You Want Us To Be

Cooperative_Baptist_Fellowship_logoDespite my exit from the Southern Baptist Convention I still follow a number of Baptist organisations and individuals on Twitter (given what evangelicals have been up to lately it makes good sense to stay informed), and in that context I picked up on this issue last month. On February 9, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) announced that it would change its hiring policies to open certain positions to LGBTQ people of faith. Well it doesn’t apply to every position (leadership positions in ministry are still limited to those “who exhibit the ideals set forth in our hiring policy, have gifts appropriate to the particular position and who practice a traditional Christian sexual ethic of celibacy in singleness or faithfulness in marriage between a woman and a man”), it is definitely a step in the right direction and thus something I welcomed.

This move by the CBF has, not unsurprisingly, not gone over well with other Baptists. The Baptist General Assembly of Virginia (BGAV) part of the Southern Baptist Convention, announced earlier this week that in response to the CBF’s decision “it will stop channeling churches’ contributions to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship,” in effect breaking ties with the organization. This move in and of itself is not really worthy of a post here. There is, however, a statement made by the BGAV in that linked article that caught my eye and which warrants further discussion.

bgavlogoThe BGAV defends their move in part by asserting  that they remain “committed to respecting, welcoming, and loving all persons in the name of Christ while affirming an orthodox view of marriage between a man and a woman.” The problem with their position is that you can’t do both of those things at the same time. As a minister who came up in the SBC I understand why they hold to that view (even as I disagree with it) so what I’m saying may seem harsh but think about it. If, for example, I’m not welcome in your fellowship as a trans woman then are you really “respecting, welcoming, and loving all persons”? There is a tension here, between who we are and how your theology views us, and it is a tension that for many, including the BGAV, does not go away easily.

I can personally attest to that difficulty because I spent more than a year trying to make it go away myself. Go back a year or so through my posts here and you’ll see. I tried to find a way to bridge the gap between that “orthodox view” and what I saw in the LGBTQ people I was getting to know and eventually in myself. If I’m being totally honest I tried many ways, many frameworks and many views, but in the end it was a tension I could not resolve if I was to continue to hold to that “orthodox view.”

In trying to resolve that tension I found that there are ultimately only really two ways to do so. You can question your theology and allow it to evolve and grow as you love and value the people or you can write the people off and defend your theology. As much as the BGAV wants to be loving and respectful of all people they have taken the latter approach which, in valuing theology over people, isn’t really loving at all. Like I said, you can’t do both things at once.

I know from my own experience that working through this tension can be a challenging, time-consuming, and often painful process but it is so worth it. If you’re in the BGAV, or any other group that holds to an “orthodox view,” and you have questions or doubts of your own, listen to them. Follow them. And get to know the people. You won’t regret it.

What does it mean to be a Christian?

wildernessWhat does it mean to be a Christian, at least outwardly? In evangelical circles you’ll hear it said that being a Christian is an inward thing (i.e. you can’t just “go through the motions”) but that inward reality must manifest itself outwardly somehow and the truth is I’m not sure what that looks like anymore.

Whenever I pray or read through Scripture I can’t help but feel as though I’m doing the same thing as the evangelicals I used to know and who as a whole I have such a problem with. They are, at the very least, who I do not want to be. That’s who I no longer am. Why continue with the outward expressions of my faith when all they do is make me more like them?

I guess it ultimately comes down to a question of belonging. Where do I belong? As I travel this wilderness the truth is I’m not sure. I guess it wouldn’t be the wilderness if I was. Not knowing the answer to that is uncomfortable and scary. In a word, it’s lonely. Who do I turn to for support?

What’s at the centre of all this, of the outward expressions I used to hold so dear? I’ve read a lot from others on Twitter over the past week about how they’re deconstructing their faith, questioning it and wrestling with it to see what’s really there and what that means outside of the evangelical world they once knew. I guess that’s where I am, too.

Someday I hope to have answers to my questions. Right now I have nothing but questions yet that’s OK. I trust somehow that at the end of all this is something real, that at the bottom of this hole is ground worth standing on.

That’s not much hope to offer but it’s all I have right now. If you’re walking that same road, at least you’re not alone.

Owning My White Privilege

I want to start out by acknowledging that this is a difficult subject. I don’t pretend to have the last word on it by any means. I simply have had to face facts in my own life over the last couple of weeks and I want to share that with you.

I’ll readily admit that the idea of privilege based on one’s race isn’t an idea I’ve taken very seriously. Yes, I’m white, but my wife and I make just enough to cover our bills, we live in a single-wide because that’s all we can afford, and I drive a 9 year old car. I can’t be benefiting from any white privilege, right? Add to this that I work in an industry where your work ethic and attitude matter more than your skin colour and I can’t be a racist, right?

Not so fast.

The Parkland shooting is the second such incident that motivated me to take action in response. The first was the Pulse massacre in 2016, my response to which ultimately lead to this website. In this case, however, I cancelled my NRA membership. I had joined about a year ago, around the time I purchased my pistol, with the intention of learning more about firearms and shooting in general. As a Canadian I didn’t grow up around guns and therefore I wanted to learn as much as I could. When the NRA was silent for a week after the shooting, and then broke the silence by slamming the kids who were speaking out, I’d had enough and cancelled my membership.

What prompted this post, and what really got me thinking along these lines, was this article I stumbled onto on Twitter about how black youth in particular have been fighting for gun control for years. It hit me that I can’t think of a single gun-related death of a black person that prompted me to do anything in response. I don’t know how many there have been in this year so far or in any other. I don’t know their names. My response to Pulse had nothing to do with race, but in the case of Parkland I did respond and from what I know most of the victims were not black.

I may have my facts wrong here, and if I do I apologise. What I’m trying to point out here is that there is a racial aspect to the gun control debate, one that I never realized until now. For that I am truly sorry. White privilege does exist, as much as I thought I could deny it before.

Until we can address the racial imbalance that the response to Parkland represents, this problem is not about to go away.

The Fruit of Bad Theology


One of the perks of finally getting Netflix is access to an ocean of really cool documentaries. The best one we’ve seen so far is Chasing Coral, about the loss of coral reefs due to rising ocean temperatures. A group of scientists and photographers sets out to document this loss firsthand and the end result is a moving, powerful look at just what is going on in our world right now. Perhaps one of the most poignant scenes comes when the team is diving off a floating restaurant. As the team observes, devastation to the reef is going on right under the feet (literally) of the people enjoying themselves and they don’t even realise it. They’re oblivious to it. The film at its core is an attempt to change that lack of awareness and speaking for myself at least it succeeds in doing so. (You can find the team on Facebook here.)

I bring this up not just because it’s a film I think you should see but also because it made me think. In conservative circles right now the loudest voices regarding trans people are men like Andrew T. Walker and Ryan T. Anderson, men who haven’t bothered to get to know us and yet who insist on telling the world that they understand us and know what is best for us. And the evangelical church is just eating it up. They don’t bother to look underneath, to change their perspective to see what’s really going on here. To see the harm that’s being done. They’re oblivious.

I haven’t read Anderson’s book yet (although the man himself has done nothing to show he cares for trans people; he blocks us on Twitter when we ask hard questions) but as I’m nearing the end of Walker’s book I’m understanding more and more just how dangerous this phenomenon is. For example, Walker spends most of Chapter 9 fleshing out his rationale for the “box” I mentioned in an earlier post. (To recap, he believes experiencing gender dysphoria isn’t sinful but transitioning is. This is the existence Walker is willing to allow us.) To Walker, dysphoria is the “cross” that trans people are called to bear.[1] As he says, “When it comes to gender dysphoria, Jesus is not promising that coming to him means walking away from that experience. He is asking someone to be willing to live with that dysphoria, perhaps for their whole lives – and to follow him nonetheless.”[2] (109) The problem here isn’t just the lack of supporting evidence (the only foundation for this suffering that Walker wants to inflict is his faulty exegesis) but also that, in light of where Walker starts out, it isn’t surprising that he’s ended up here. When you start with your prejudice and then examine Scripture just long enough to confirm it, requiring people to suffer for being who they are isn’t that much of a stretch. It’s a logical endgame, and that’s scary.

This is the fruit of bad theology. You get to hurt people, you get to lay the foundation for others hurting people, and you still get to call yourself loving. You get to stay oblivious, to go on living the good life while the world falls apart beneath your feet.

If you’re reading this and you’ve bought into Walker’s view, please open your eyes. Set aside your preconceptions, search the scriptures, and let the text speak for itself. Challenge your perspective and be willing to let go of old understandings. If you’re a minister or theologian, I’m asking for you to do it right. Don’t make the mistakes Walker does.

As a last word here, let me point out that this “fruit” isn’t limited solely to theology. When you start as Anderson does, with the premise that being trans is nothing more than a mental illness, and then block out anyone who says otherwise, you end up in pretty much the same place as Walker. The resulting worldview is logical given its premise but twisted and harmful in light of reality. (For a detailed critique of Anderson’s book click here.)

The reality of climate change is one that was difficult for me to accept. I’d heard too much about how climate scientists have been wrong with every prediction they’ve ever made. I figured whatever is happening right now is just part of a cycle and really nothing to worry about. Chasing Coral showed me I was wrong. I had to change my perspective and set aside my preconceptions.

I’m asking you to do the same with trans people before it’s too late for us.

                [1] Andrew T. Walker, God and the Transgender Debate: What does the Bible Actually Say About Gender Identity? (Epsom, UK: The Good Book Co., 2017), 108.

                [2] Ibid., 109.


Thoughts on Gun Reform

imagesAs a Canadian who moved to the U.S. four years ago I have what I guess you’d call a unique position from which to view gun culture. Growing up in rural southern Ontario, most people I knew had never even fired a gun let alone owned one. Here in the South, almost everyone I know owns one and several own many.

Making that move was a culture shock for me. I will never forget the time that I was down here on leave and ended up by myself at my in-law’s place for a couple of hours one afternoon. Before he left, my father-in-law gave me a crash course on where the pistol was kept in the house, where the shotgun was, and how to use both. He ended the lecture by advising me that if things got really bad I could hide in the gun safe because that was thick enough to stop whatever they’d be shooting at me. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that this wouldn’t a problem because long before that point I wouldn’t be anywhere near the house. (I’d call 911 and get the hell out of there.) Fast forward from that to December 2015. When we lost the company housing that went with my wife’s job at the time, we moved to a place that was probably about as remote as you can get down here. The last thing I had us do before we made the move was get a pistol. When it became apparent a few months later how much time we each spent on the road for our jobs we got a second firearm so we could both carry one.

I give you that little bit of background to help you understand what I mean when I say that I believe in certain circumstances a firearm can be a useful tool. With the hours I work at present most of my commuting to and from work is done either well before dawn or well after dark and I do honestly feel more comfortable having a firearm with me in the car.

We as a country, however, have long since passed the point where the cost of that comfort is acceptable. These savage acts are not the price we pay for our freedom. “Freedom” does not require school children to die so I can hold onto my pistol. And to those who would assert that the prevalence of firearms in this country ensures there are lines the government won’t cross, I would respond that in the last year the government has crossed many such lines and done so without a shot being fired.

I am not a political expert. I am not sure what exactly effective gun control looks like. How do you balance the need for home defence with the need to prevent people from obtaining firearms in order to commit atrocities like the one that happened yesterday at Parkland? The question is further complicated by the complete lack of willingness of many gun owners to even consider limits placed on what they can and cannot own. At what point does freedom become fear? Are we as a society so afraid of losing our right to self-defence, or even limiting it a little, that we are willing to see children die on a regular basis?

I don’t know how to answer those questions but what I do know is that the church needs to do better in this area. After every such incident the “thoughts and prayers” responses show up on Twitter and the frustration with these responses has reached the point where “fuck your thoughts and prayers” is the honest sentiment right now. Evangelicals helped put Trump in office and as we’ve seen in the last year as a group you have the influence to get things done. Where the hell are you on this one? If “thoughts and prayers” is the best response you have then I am left to conclude that you don’t care, that you’ve become the lifeless people spoken of in James 2. I still find that hard to believe, even after all I’ve seen in the past year, but the evidence is hard to avoid.

Gun reform is likely to be a messy process. For many it is likely to also be a painful one. As Christians we don’t have a choice. We have to engage. We have to respond. We have to work to make these incidents a thing of the past. These kids deserve no less and anything less means throwing away who we are as the church.

Where is the church when it’s needed most?

2018 march for lifeI was reminded recently that Church for Misfits, this site, started out as Far North Encouragement. Providing encouragement for hurting people was, and still is, my calling. Over the last year that calling has evolved into speaking out on behalf of hurting people and thus this site doesn’t look much like what it started out as. I spend most of my time these days calling out the crap in the conservative evangelical church I came of age in. Just when I thought I could get away from that a little and get back to what I love to do something else happens that as a minister and trans woman I just can’t let go.

Last month during the 2018 March for Life in Washington, D.C., evangelicals stood up and boldly proclaimed to the world, “We stand for the vulnerable!” My Twitter feed was full of the #MarchforLife and those backing it expressed their gratitude for an administration that was finally on their side. And yet just last week the Department of Education announced that it will “no longer investigate complaints filed by transgender students who are kept from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.” Being trans means that these kids are already vulnerable simply because of who they are. They need someone to stand for them, just as the unborn do, and evangelicals with their current political influence are well-placed to do just that. Sadly this policy decision only makes them more vulnerable than they already are and what’s even worse is that it’s happening with the blessing and support of the church.

White evangelicals, who were so vocal at the March for Life, are also, statistically speaking, the same group that helped put Trump in the White House. The same group that praised this administration’s willingness to protect one vulnerable group is now enabling this administration to remove another vulnerable group’s right to exist publicly. (And before you think that’s taking things too far, ask yourself how you’re supposed to exist in public if you have to go home to use the bathroom.) There’s a word for that. Hypocrisy. It’s not one that should so obviously apply to the evangelical community as a whole.

If you’re reading this and you count yourself an evangelical and what I’ve said pisses you off, speak up and speak out. Do something. Let your voice be heard. Not only is the evangelical community as a whole supporting this move they’re also applauding it. The Family Research Council, one of the most vocal conservative groups, responded to the administration’s decision with this tweet among others.

I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: The marginalized people of his day were the ones Jesus spent most of his time with. He sought them out and reached out when the respectable religious people wouldn’t go anywhere near them. If you look through the Old Testament you’ll find that God had a soft spot for these people then, too. If what you’re doing is pushing them farther to the margins of society then you’re not the church. You’re the same pharisaical leaders who opposed Christ throughout the Gospels. That needs to change. These kids deserve the same love and support as the unborn you advocate so strongly for. Show them that and maybe then you’ll deserve the label “pro-life.”

“We Can’t Pretend You Don’t Exist, so Here’s a Box for You to Stay in.”

41U4s9JARAL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_One of the dangers of not allowing Scripture to challenge our preconceptions on a subject is that when those preconceptions lead you to the wrong conclusion that conclusion can, in turn, lead you to dangerous assumptions and more incorrect conclusions. It should come as no surprise that in God and the Transgender Debate, Andrew T. Walker views gender dysphoria, and thus trans identities, as a result of the Fall in Genesis 3. Gender in Genesis 1 isn’t a rigid enough concept to draw that conclusion, as I documented in my last post, but that is the conclusion Walker draws. Having made one wrong conclusion, Walker then proceeds to make another conclusion which is also problematic from a hermenuetical perspective.

At the end of Chapter 6 and throughout Chapter 7, Walker does his best to offer “comfort” to those living with gender dysphoria. It’s not really about comfort at all, as we’ll see, but that’s the overall focus here and he bases it on the assumption that “the feeling or experience of [dysphoria] is not sinful, but it is broken; and acting upon one’s dysphoria is sinful.” (74) In other words, there’s nothing wrong with feeling this way just don’t do anything based on those feelings. In short, he makes a distinction between the feelings and the action. The problem here is that in examples from Scripture where the text also compares feelings and action this distinction does not actually hold up.

In Matthew 5 we find two similar statements almost back to back. In Matthew 5:21-22 we read, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Notice here that simply hating your brother, or experiencing those feelings, is put on the same level as actually acting on those feelings. The same comparison is made several verses later in Matthew 5:27-28, which reads, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Again the experience of the feelings of lust is on the same level as actually acting on those feelings. My point here is not to push some sort of sin management gospel but rather to ask why, if in these passages there is no distinction made between feelings and action, such a distinction would exist between them when it comes to trans people. 

The short answer is that it doesn’t exist. According to the biblical examples given above, Walker’s logic would be correct in concluding that transitioning is sinful but incorrect in concluding that feelings of dysphoria are not sinful. (68) Now in the light of Genesis 1 we know that Walker is wrong on both counts so why even bring this up? The point here is that Walker has set up an artificial distinction, one that doesn’t hold up in light of sound hermeneutical principles, and he has done so solely to argue against trans people actually living openly as who we are. The rest of Chapter 7, as I mentioned previously, is “comfort” for people who want to transition but shouldn’t as far as Walker is concerned.

As I alluded to at the beginning of this post, that “comfort” isn’t really comfort at all and it’s not actually intended for trans people (neither is the book itself but that’s a subject for another post). In concluding that trans people are a result of the Fall, Walker is then forced to defend that conclusion and that’s what he is doing here. He can’t conclude that trans people don’t exist, because we do, so he modifies it a bit. The distinction he set up is his way of saying, “Yes, you exist, but you have to stay in this box or you’re sinning.” Trans people, as I’ve experienced particularly on Twitter, are a challenge for many people and for existing worldviews. The box that Walker unsuccessfully attempts to set up is to protect those people who do not want to be challenged. This is not only a flaw in Walker’s logic but also serves to reveal something of his underlying intentions. The man who supposedly understands trans people so well is really just trying to protect those who don’t want to have to deal with us.

When you make inaccurate conclusions regarding biblical texts, and then proceed to make more such conclusions in order to defend the first one, ultimately something has to give. The cost in this case is not only the integrity of Walker’s hermeneutical principles but also the very people that Walker purports to be helping. When you work to protect more mainstream views those of us on the margins are ultimately forced to stay there. Walker’s “care” for trans people is only hurting us further and there is nothing Christ-like about that.

The Bible and Trans People Part 2

41U4s9JARAL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_I closed off my last post with the observation that it’s not enough simply to critique the flaws in Walker’s methodology, and the conclusions he draws as a result, without offering a substantial response of my own. I don’t have comments on “trans ideology” or “transgenderism.” From talking to other other trans people I’m not even sure such things exist. What I do have is my own journey to accepting myself as a trans woman and my own exploration of Scripture and what terms like gender and sex mean in light of the biblical record. Now before you assume that as one who identifies as trans my bias is such that I’ll simply see in Scripture what I want to in order to justify who I am, let me say that I completed my Master’s degree through Liberty University and the hermeneutical tools I gained there are the ones I have used here. I have done my best to let Scripture speak for itself and I have then drawn my own conclusions in light of what I found.

The defining moment for me in my coming out journey was realizing that our gender really is a separate concept from our biological sex. I had come across an article (which for the life of me I can’t remember where I found it online), the gist of which was that when you call someone “Sir” or “Ma’am” while out in pubic you are not doing so based on their genetics. You may not even know what their genetic make-up. You are, rather, going off “secondary sex characteristics,” things like the presence or absence of facial hair or breasts, body shape, and hair length. These characteristics get their start in our genes, sure, but thanks to today’s science each of them can now be altered to a degree depending on how much you want to spend and what exactly you want to change. If our standard, so to speak, for determining gender is so maleable, is it really objective and should we continue to use it a means of defining one’s gender? The answer is no. And if that standard no longer holds, what then do we look to as a means of determining gender? The only answer left, really, is the individual inside the body in question. My challenge as a minister and student of theology was to see if this reality squared with the reality presented in Scripture.

There are any number of passages concerning gender in the Bible but the logical place to start is with the first one. As Walker does in God and the Transgender Debate, I went to Genesis. There are details in Genesis 1 that shed light on what it means to be a gendered being in light of Scripture, details that Walker overlooks. The key passage for our purposes is Genesis 1:27, which in the English Standard Version (ESV) reads, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Before digging into this verse it’s worth noting a couple of things. First, this is the first instance of “male” and “female” in Scripture. That makes this passage important. Second, look at the sentence structure here. We are created male and female “in the image of God.” The sentence connects the two ideas. (Yes this is an English translation of a Hebrew text, meaning one could argue that the connection isn’t necessarily there in the original, but this connection does carry over into other translations. The New American Standard Bible and the New International Version, for example, have almost the same wording as the ESV.) The theological question now becomes what does that connection show us about gender in this passage and what does that have to do with the question of gender and biological sex.

When we think of an image of something we may think of a photo or a snapshot of it but that’s not the sense here in the biblical text. According to The New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of the Words in the Hebrew Bible, the Hebrew word from which we get “image” means “image in the sense of essential nature,” referring more specifically in this case to “human nature in its internal and external characteristics rather than an exact duplicate.”[1] For our purposes here it’s worth noting that this text specifically ties together image and gender: “Being created in God’s image meant being created male and female, in a loving unity of more than one person.”[2] As the observations imply, being made in the image of God does not refer to a physical likeness. It goes deeper than that and refers more specifically to the elements of humanity that we may not be able to physically see. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament summarises this when it concludes that “God’s image obviously does not consist in man’s body which was formed from earthly matter.”[3] One side of the connection under examination in Genesis 1 is thus decidedly not physical in nature.

But what of the other side of the connection? “Male” and “female” have, at least for us, very physical connotations at times. Is that the case here in Genesis 1? According to Strong’s Dictionary, the Hebrew word for “male” in Genesis 1:27 belongs to a family of words which collectively refer to remembering or being remembered.[4] The male is “the most noteworthy sex.” The Theological Wordbook takes this a step further by observing that this word is “used for the male sex when sexual distinctions are in view.”[5] The male is worth remembering, in a sexual sense, because he “stands out.” The Hebrew for “female,” in contrast, comes from a root word which means “to puncture” or “to pierce.”[6] Such a description makes sense, again, when viewed in terms of sexual distinctions.[7] When viewing a naked man and naked woman side by side, which is the case here in Genesis, the man stands out while the woman is pierced. What we have here then, absent varying cultural interpretations, is what an observer would see were they standing right in front of Adam and Eve. What we have on this side of the connection is, at first glance, thus entirely physical in nature.

Such an observation may appear to be a damning problem for trans identities but it’s actually not. So much of who we are in a gendered sense comes from the culture around us. It is from our parents and from society as a whole that we learn what is and is not OK for us as men and women. If you’ll notice in Genesis 1, all of that baggage doesn’t exist yet. Adam and Eve have no parents to learn gender roles from and no society to tell them who to be. What the Hebrew record provides is exactly what we would expect it to provide in light of this.

Now that our observations have yielded a connection between something physical and something not physical, what are we left to conclude? Are gender and biological sex one and the same in view of Genesis 1? “Male” and “female” have their basis in the image of God which, as we’ve observed, is not a physical concept. They may be represented physically in our biological sex but they are not dependent on it. There is simply too much going on in this text to conclude that Christianity does not separate gender and sex. As such, there is room in a Christian worldview for trans identities.

Having said that, I realise this will not be a popular conclusion with evangelicals and therefore a word about methodology is in order. I have done my best to not twist the meaning of the passages under examination just as I have done my best not to see evidence in these passages that isn’t there. Rather, my methodology has been similar to that used by Prof. John S. Feinberg in his No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God. In defending his analysis of various theories of creation, he says, “The tension [here] arises when we try to match the teachings of Scripture with science. Since evangelical theology must give greatest weight to Scripture, if science contradicts what Scripture clearly teaches, the conclusions of science must be rejected. Of course, the way I have stated this requires us to be sure about what Scripture really teaches, and we must also make a judgement about what the scientific data really require.”[8] What I have done here, I hope, is to show that when one compares the reality that underscores trans identities with the foundation of biblical views on gender there is no contradiction between the two. The tension can be resolved without rejecting either side.

The real danger here is that evangelicals reject one side to save the other for in doing so they reveal a hole in their worldview. The reality that underscores trans identities, that biology is not a definite indicator of gender and therefore gender and sex are not one in the same, is an objective, observable fact. Take away the moral implications that evangelicals like to attach to it and it still exists. Changing one’s secondary sex characteristics can and does occur. If the only response evangelicals have to this reality is that it shouldn’t occur then that’s a problem. Christianity at its heart is a worldview, an overarching story within which the world is supposed to fit and make sense. By saying this shouldn’t happen you indicate that your worldview is not strong enough to support it and if you’re not careful that can bring down the entire worldview. What I have tried to do here, ultimately, is to show that a Christian worldview is strong enough to support this reality and as such does have room for trans people. Assuming otherwise also leads to problems in methodology. As in Walker’s book, you’re forced to pick and choose evidence from Scripture to support a conclusion you’ve already arrived at. In doing so, you ultimately compromise a worldview in order to defend it and if as Christians we are to give Scripture the respect it deserves that is not an acceptable result.

One final word is necessary here. This post has been a response to the conclusion drawn by Andrew T. Walker in his God and the Transgender Debate but the Scriptural evidence discussed here also serves as a criticism of the Nashville Statement. If you’re not familiar with this document, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released it last year to show their position on what they view as God’s design for human sexuality. In Article VII of the Statement they say, “We deny that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.” I am not familiar with their methodology, simply because I haven’t seen a discussion of it yet, so I am uncertain as to whether they followed Walker’s flawed approach or not. I also have to say that the “homosexual” portion of their statement is beyond the scope of this post not because I believe they are correct in that regard (I don’t) but rather because if I tackled that issue as well this post would go on forever. It is a discussion for another time. That being said, regardless of their methodology their conclusion regarding trans people is too narrow for what Scripture actually shows regarding gender and sex. They may not have willingly excluded evidence that does not support their position but they have drawn a conclusion that does just that. They distort their worldview in order to defend it and thus compromise just as effectively as Walker has.

There is room for trans identities within a biblical worldview if you’re willing to ask the questions of Scripture and allow that worldview to evolve based on the answers you find. As students of theology and of Scripture we can do no less.

                [1] James Strong, The New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of the Words in the Hebrew Bible with their Renderings in the King James Version and with Additional Definitions Adapted from W.E. Vine and Cross-references to Other Word Study Resources, in James Strong, The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Red Letter Edition (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2010), 6754.

                [2] Ibid.

                [3] R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody Bible Institute, 1988), 1923.

                [4] Strong, 2145.

                [5] Harris et al., 551.

                [6] Strong, 5347.

                [7] Harris et al., 1409.

                [8] John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2001), 580.

The Bible and Trans People Part 1

41U4s9JARAL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_I have been steadily working through Andrew T. Walker’s God and the Transgender Debate and what I’ve found in Chapter 5 is the start of the real meat of the book. Walker’s book claims to be about what the God of the Bible has to say about trans people, which means looking at what the Bible has to say about us and about topics like gender should be the basis for everything else in the book. The problem in this case is that it’s not. Walker’s preconceptions colour what he finds in the Bible; furthermore, he doesn’t look closely enough at Scripture to see anything else, and then he uses what he does see to draw the wrong conclusion.

Before Walker even gets into his study of Scripture on the matter he has already committed a serious hermeneutical error. At the very end of Chapter 4, Walker asserts that “The Christian answer is to locate authority, knowledge, and trust where it can find a firm, stable, fulfilling foundation – in the crucified Creator. He may not always agree with our feelings or our reason – but he can be trusted, and he knows what he’s talking about, and he has the right to tell us how to live. His words are good to listen to and to obey. And, over the next three chapters, this is what we will be doing.”[1] The problem Walker has with leading into Chapter 5 like this is that he has spent Chapter 4 implicitly arguing that trans people do not take God has the authority for who they are and are therefore not truly understanding themselves. He thus has to find a conclusion in Scripture that supports such an assertion regardless of whether or not Scripture does support it. He has set his argument up in such a way that we know what he’s going to conclude before he ever gets there and that’s a problem.

One of the things you learn when studying hermeneutics is that whenever we approach a text within the Bible we all have what Klein, et al. refer to as a “preunderstanding.”[2] This “constitutes where we begin as we currently are,” and includes all of our views, opinions, etc., on a text before we begin to interact with it. As they go on to point out, “We cannot avoid or deny the presence of preunderstanding in the task of biblical interpretation. Every interpreter comes to study the Bible with preconceptions and prior dispositions.”[3] The problem, then, is not that we hold such preunderstandings but rather what we choose to do with them. To quote Klein, et al. again, “Every interpreter begins with a preunderstanding. After an initial study of a biblical text, that text performs a work on the interpreter. His or her preunderstanding is no longer what it once was. Then, as the newly interpreted interpreter proceeds to question the text further, out of this newly formed understanding, further – perhaps, different – questions and answers emerge.”[4] The point here is that if we are honest as we engage with the Bible we will modify our previously held positions in light of what we find therein. We will let the text speak for itself, regardless of what we find, and we will learn from that. Walker’s argument in God and the Transgender Debate is set up in such a way that he can’t do that.

Walker further compounds his hermeneutical problems by not looking closely enough at the Biblical text to let it speak. He draws his conclusions from Genesis 1-2, which is the logical place to begin examining the concept of gender in the Bible, but rather than ask questions like what is the text talking about when it says “male” and “female” or whether “gender” in the text is a separate concept from “sex,” he simply observes that man and woman can “physically become ‘one flesh'”[5] and from that asserts that anatomy must ultimately determine who we are in a gendered sense. As he says, “Our anatomy tells us what gender we are. Our bodies do not lie to us.”[6] And while Walker does acknowledge that “humans bear God’s image,” he attributes the “image of God” to our morality[7] and not to our gender which, in reality, is only one of several possible interpretations. Walker hasn’t even begun to properly explore the Biblical text in Genesis 1-2 and yet he is comfortable with the conclusions he’s drawn. His preunderstanding of the text won’t let him see anything else and he is, for whatever reason, unwilling to challenge the view he holds.

The result of this flawed hermeneutical approach is that the conclusion he draws doesn’t have the evidence it needs to stand on. Without ever asking whether “gender” and “sex” as found in Genesis 1 constitute the same thing, he concludes, “Christianity doesn’t sever gender from sex.”[8] He makes this conclusion without ever having proved it. And instead of closing out the chapter with more evidence, he does what he did in chapter 4. He appeals to the authority of God to support his position by asserting that those who reject his conclusion are, in reality, rejecting Jesus.[9] As a minister myself, I have found that when one has a solid argument they don’t have to prop it up with an appeal to authority. Well-thought-out and well-researched arguments speak for themselves. Weak ones don’t.

I want to close by saying that I realise it can be easier to critique than to offer substantial alternatives. I have, I hope, shown the errors in Walker’s methodology and thus his conclusion. What I have not done in this post is offered any substantial conclusion in response. In my next post here I will look at the questions Walker refused to ask and from the answers to those questions we’ll see what the Bible actually says about trans people.


                [1] Andrew T. Walker, God and the Transgender Debate: What does the Bible Actually Say About Gender Identity? (Epsom, UK: The Good Book Co., 2017), 45-46.

                [2] William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, rev. ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2004), 154.

                [3] Ibid., 155.

                [4] Ibid., 166.

                [5] Walker, 54.

                [6] Ibid.

                [7] Ibid., 49.

                [8] Ibid., 57.

                [9] Ibid., 59.