Gender Confusion and Evangelism
By Dr. Peter Jones
Our time, though intimidating, may be one of the best for evangelism. Let me explain.
A headline from my much beloved [!] BBC just revealed a troubling state of affairs: “Gender identity clinic for young people sees referrals double.” The number of young people referred to England’s only gender-identity clinic has doubled this past year to nearly 1,400. That is one clinic in one year with a 100% rise in gender confusion issues. This is clearly a significant cultural trend. The head of the clinic puts a positive spin on the data: “Young people now have more freedom to define themselves. We live in a world where people alter their bodies, surgically or otherwise, and this freedom is available.” Being “born free,” whether in “natal male” or “natal female” (the new terminology) bodies is no longer a deal-breaker. The expert adds: “It’s not really for us to approve or disapprove. What matters is … whether they lead rewarding lives.”
If you cannot define your sexuality in any objective way, how can you define a “rewarding life”? No wonder no one feels able to approve or disapprove. For that, you would need religious criteria, in other words, a worldview. With nothing to go on for self-identity, we go on our “feelings.” Says one young person interviewed: “I anticipated being a man as feeling happier within myself. I felt it the right thing to do.” Says another, “The decisions I made were absolutely right for what I needed then. I believe now, on looking back, that there may have been more options.” “Absolutely right” feelings are surely the worst things by which to determine your future. As people march towards the unknown, it is little wonder that the professionals wash their hands of responsibility, deciding merely to observe “this social revolution and see how it transpires.” The BBC article goes on: “The social landscape will shape and influence how people feel about their role in life.” The social landscape (i.e. the sum total of everyone’s conflicted feelings at a given moment) becomes the criterion for gender identity and for a “rewarding life.” This brave new world of cosmological confusion sounds like a scary place.
It is certainly a place of conflict. Changeable feelings and the dictates of the “social landscape” have unleashed hysteria. Because North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill that essentially says men and boys should stay out of women’s locker rooms, the ACLU has sued, and a corporate lynch mob (made up of Apple, PayPal, Bank of America, Bruce Springsteen, a popular pornography site and the NBA) with moralistic fervor, has threatened to pull business from this offending southern State.
So why may this chaotic and conflicted time be one of the best times for evangelism? Unbeknown to itself, our culture is using apologetic terminology (as in “apologetics” not as in “I’m sorry”) to defend its own view of existence, and in particular, that of sexuality. This is advantageous for contemporary Christian witness, since we hear, in the heated cultural discussion of gender, such programmatic phrases as the “denial of the binary”;”all is one,” or a call to live by the truth of advaita (a Sanskrit term meaning “not two”). The terms “one” or “two” set up the fundamental debate about existence.
In Romans 1:25, the Apostle Paul asserts that there are only two worldviews, which can usefully be expressed using the terminology of “one” or “two”:
Oneism: Everything is one, and there is nothing outside of us, including God;
Twoism: There is God the Creator and (separate from him) everything that he created with its structure and purpose, including humans with gender identity, either male or female.
Sexuality is not so much an expression of feelings as a bodily expression of what you believe to be ultimately true. Contemporary views of homosexuality frame the debate in terms of eliminating “twoness” or “busting the binary.” Dartmouth College seeks to provide a living environment “not limited by the traditional gender binary.”
Gender confusion is thus one powerful expression of spiritual confusion and of Oneist rebellion, which are both answered in the Christian Gospel. Homosexuality plunges many into a morass of confusion which leaves them aching for solid identity and true love. We were not made for confusion! Our Creator made things to be harmoniously different, like the harmony and difference of the Creator and his creation or of male and female. To show his love for creation, God sent his Son to grant an infinitely “rewarding life” to his redeemed creatures. That union of unfailing love is available, through the death and resurrection of Christ, right now and for eternity.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Dr. Peter Jones is Adjunct Professor of New Testament at Westminster Seminary California and Associate Pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church in Escondido, CA.