Category Archives: LGBTQ

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.


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.


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.

Evangelicals for Life?

2018 march for lifeMy twitter feed lately has been full of advertisements and articles for the 2018 March for Life, a series of protests and rallies to be held in Washington, D.C. late next week. As this event is intended to speak up for the unborn in the face of threats like abortion, the narrative surrounding it is what one would expect: “We stand for the most vulnerable among us!” There is, however, a contradiction here, one that hints at hypocrisy and which needs to be explored.

As those in the church who are pro-life, you fight for the rights of unborn children. You care for them enough to speak up in a very public way. What if, however, one of those same children you care so much about now comes out at age 4 as transgender? Will you still care for him or her (or they) then? That child will be incredibly vulnerable much as they are right now. Sadly, if your actions over the last year are any indication, you won’t help to make them less so. You’ll probably say that the child in question is confused. You might even call it child abuse for the parents of the child to accept him or her or they the way they are. Any attempt to have their peers be more accepting of who they are will be an “aggressive homosexual agenda.” In short, your words and your actions will take this child, the same one you were so passionate about standing up for in their vulnerability, and make them even more vulnerable now.

The term “pro-life,” by definition, implies that these children matter throughout their lives and not just before they are born. And yet the love and concern you show will stop the instant they become something you don’t like, something that doesn’t fit your worldview. Oh you’ll say it hasn’t, that you’re still acting out of love, but if I’ve learned one thing from books like Andrew T. Walker’s God and the Transgender Debate it’s that when fear takes over you can justify any action as loving if you try hard enough. Trans people are a threat to the evangelical status quo and trans children most of all. For too many of you that’s all we’ll ever be.

I know that this post is likely to fall on deaf ears. After all, I’m asking you love people, trans people, lesbians, gay people, and any other gender non-conforming people whose very existence is something you don’t accept. If you really want to stand for the most vulnerable in society then you have to do it for all of us. Just as James 3 tells us that blessing and cursing should not come from the same mouth, that the same spring cannot bring forth both fresh and salt water, neither can you love and support one vulnerable group while at the same time you actively work to make another such group even more vulnerable. You do it for both or not at all.

More Problems with “God and the Transgender Debate”

41U4s9JARAL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_In my last post I mentioned that there is room within the Christian worldview for trans people. In probably goes without saying that in God and the Transgender Debate Andrew Walker disagrees. Chapter 4 of the book is entitled “Making a Decision,” and the gist of it is that in the transgender “debate” there are two worldviews present. The one, in which we as trans people live, is based on “feelings and reason.” The other is based on the authority of the God of the Bible. What Walker sees as God’s view on trans people isn’t actually biblical at all (he’s using this “authority” to shore up his own position) but that’s a topic for another post. My problem with Walker’s argument here is that he makes a distinction where none exists.

To Walker, God’s authority is a better foundation for living than our own feelings and reason. Indeed, he seems to have a very strong distrust for the latter. On page 42 of God and the Transgender Debate he says, “Dig a little deeper though, and the idea of looking to our feelings or reason – to our selves – to make decisions and decide what is right starts to unravel. First, we all live in community. Every decision affects those around us, often in ways we cannot predict or do not see … Second, do I really know myself that well? I have never lived before … Third, and perhaps most surprisingly, I have to ask myself, ‘Am I really to be trust to want what’s best for me?'” Walker is just as strongly in favour of trusting God’s authority. On page 45 he writes, “[God] 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.” The problem here is twofold. First of all, what Walker is setting up is the premise that even as Christians we are not to trust our “self” or our “heart.” This premise is not biblical. In Ezekiel 36 the Old Testament tells us that in the new covenant, referring to what Jesus does for us, God “will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Our heart, our deepest self, can be trusted. The second problem here is that Walker uses this faulty premise to set himself up as one who speaks in God’s authority. As he writes on page 45, “So when we say to ourselves, or to others, ‘You should obey God,’ what we mean is, We want what God deserves (your obedience) and we want what is best for you (your obedience).‘” In short, Walker is in the right on this and if we truly want what is best for us we’ll listen to him.

As I mentioned earlier the distinction that Walker makes between God’s authority and our “self” isn’t necessary. Whether you believe the Bible or not, there is room inside both for the authority of God and for our own feelings and desires and hopes and dreams. Everything that makes us who we are as trans people can exist there, too. And I don’t say that as a pitch to get you to “become a Christian.” Walker makes his argument as a Christian and many in the church are, unfortunately, listening to him. Any counterargument I make has to be made not just as a trans woman but as a minister and a Christian as well. You need look no farther than the Psalms for proof of what I speak. In Psalm 139:14, David writes, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Our feelings and our ability to reason are both a part of who we are. They matter. We are not complete without them. As a Christian I trust both my feelings and my reasoning and my God. The gap that Walker uses to discredit trans people doesn’t exist. 

I can also speak to this on a personal level. If you go back through my posts here from late 2016 through 2017 you’ll find that my views on LGBTQ people in general evolved. I spent that time prayerfully pondering and reasoning on how to accept these people as they are (which I believe Jesus does for all of us) in light of what my worldview, which I try to base in Scripture, taught me. Ultimately I realized that my worldview was in error and not long after that I realized that I was transgender. I wouldn’t be who I am without both my faith and my feelings and reason.

The distinction that Walker makes between our feelings and reason and God’s authority serves only one purpose. It props him up as one who speaks with God’s own voice. That is a position he does not have. Jesus says in Matthew 15:16 that “you will recognize them by their fruit.” The fruit of Walker’s position is the dismissal of our humanity as trans people, which is something that the Bible does not support.

Framing the Narrative on Discussing the Church and Trans People

41U4s9JARAL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_For Christmas I got a copy of Andrew T. Walker’s book God and the Transgender Debate. Now I love to read, and I could burn through it in a couple of days if I wanted to, but I really want to engage with this book on a critical level and so I have been forcing myself to take it slow. After a week I’m still in the Forward (which tells you just how slowly I’m taking this). The Forward here is written by Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr., and how he frames the “transgender debate” is something I feel the need to respond to. To Dr. Mohler, the issues raised by the transgender “revolution” are “comparable to the sort of theological challenges posed by the Trinitarian and Christological controversies of the early church, the Pelagian controversy faced by Augustine, or even the theological challenges faced by the Reformes themselves.” He goes on to observe that “in each of these controversies, the true church understood that it could not embrace any theological conviction which might undermine the central truths of the gospel.” I haven’t even got into Walker’s book as a whole yet but that right there is a problem.

When you frame the narrative here in the manner that Dr. Mohler has chosen to do so the end result is determined well before the debate even begins. The only conclusion you’re allowed to come to is the status quo. Anyone who disagrees with that is not part of the “true church”. That also means that as a good Christian you can’t take trans people at face value. Their views are in error and they have to be shown as much. The problem here is further illustrated by Dr. Mohler’s view that “the reasons why Christians must confront the transgender revolution and why we must faithfully preach the gospel to transgender persons are because we love God and we love our neighbor.” The only love shown by framing the “debate” in this way is for Christians made uncomfortable by a perceived threat to the status quo.

What would happen instead if Christians saw trans people not as a threat but as simply people to listen to and to love? The questions involved in this “debate” are ones that I have prayerfully engaged with at length over the last year and what I have found is that they really come down to two issues. First of all, what are trans people saying? The heart of what we are saying is that biological sex and gender are not the same thing. They are unique and can be the same or separate depending on the person involved. The second point of contention, then, is whether or not that reality fits with what the Bible says. Conservatives love to quote Genesis 1 as evidence that we are created biologically male and female and that’s the end of the story. In exploring the text I have found that such an interpretation is too narrow for what is actually presented there. It overlooks deeper aspects of the text in order to (surprise, surprise) shore up the status quo and feeds the perception that trans people have a problem that needs to be fixed.

There is room for trans people within the Christian worldview. This worldview is, ultimately, the main casualty when as Christians we frame this “debate” as Dr. Mohler does. If you can set aside your views for even a moment on whether people should identify as trans or not you find that these people are who they are for a reason. What finally opened my eyes to see trans people as we are was understanding that every outward biological indicator of gender can be altered. This is a reality that exists whether conservative Christians think it should or not and if the best response you have to it is “Well, it can’t exist within our worldview,” then your worldview has a major flaw within it. The cost of viewing trans people as a threat and not as people to get to know and to love and to listen to is simply too high.

Trans people exist. We are not going away. We’re not a threat, either. We just want to be loved and accepted for who we are.

How cracked are your eggs?

Cracked eggsThis being the holiday season the dairy department has been insanely busy and one of the things we have sold a small mountain of is eggs. Now eggs are by and large one of the most expendable items we carry. They come in packs of 6, 12, and 18 and if just one gets cracked the pack is no good. The other eggs in it can be the most incredible, perfect specimens of eggs you’ve ever seen, but the pack itself is no longer worth selling if one is cracked.

I think we can treat ourselves that way sometimes. I don’t know about you but I have, in my mind, 1 or 2 “flaws” or things I just in general don’t like about myself that are always prominent in how I see myself. I’ll write myself off in social situations, for example, because there are times I legit suck at navigating social situations or because my laugh is too loud or because I just don’t look the people think I should. I treat myself like the eggs. I think I’m no longer worth getting to know or being around because of 1 or 2 “flaws.”

Our worth goes beyond that. As I’m learning, what I consider “flaws” are things those around me often don’t even notice. They see my other eggs or they see that the ones I thought were cracked really aren’t. I believe that’s true for all of us. In Psalm 139:14, David writes, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” That’s true whether you’re trans, gay, lesbian, bi, or whatever else you may identify as. You are valuable in who you are. As we start a new year, remember that. Don’t sell yourself short and don’t let others treat you as less valuable than you are.