This blog post does not represent an academic perspective. It comes from a pastor’s heart. I have not studied the psychology or physiology of homosexuality or the transgender mind – but, frankly, too few people care about such positions anyway. I support the science, affirm the best wisdom of medical and psychological research in the area of human sexuality, and believe it would benefit the wellbeing of our national discourse greatly if we did – but that is not the purpose of this post.
I am writing from the only studied discipline I really know, and that is the discipline of practical theology, a theology developed by careful, prayerful reading of scripture, critical engagement with our 21st century world, and interaction with people in the setting of the local church.
In a confusing, highly contested vote, the Charlotte City Council just rejected a motion to amend four city ordinances, which would have added anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender citizens. My last blog post shared my position of support for these protections (see “Rights and Freedoms: Decisions for Discriminating Minds”). That meeting was a display of democracy at its very best, but it also proves that majority rule is no guarantee of justice, nor the vehicle by which the Kingdom of God will ultimately be made known.
I was not highly involved in the movement supporting approval of these recommendations, though Amy and I did sign a letter representing supportive clergy from Charlotte. Today, however, I have found myself disappointed, even feeling a bit defeated by the outcome – and a friend who had read my last blog post wrote to express appreciation, but to say, “Yes, but… I Don’t Get It!” Maybe I can help him, and work out my own feelings, with these words.
I don’t “get it” either. It’s very complicated. Who could have imagined, not all that many years ago, that we would even be having this conversation? For that matter, who could have imagined a self-driving car or a prosthetic hand you can control with your brain? Our world is going so fast it makes our heads spin – but it’s not going to hell in a hand basket, as some Christians want us to believe. (I’ve never felt so strongly the urge to separate myself from “the Christians” as I did in listening to their discriminatory diatribes last night against, well, against everyone else.)
Our country is just a beautifully diverse, and blessedly free experiment in democracy. Note: you may not celebrate a grand American patriotism and simultaneously denounce the variety of human expression that comes by virtue of our freedom. Why are there enough openly gay and transgender people that they can form alliances to advance their own rights? These are not new human experiences – there is just no country in the history of the world that has ever been free enough to allow those identities to be expressed. Thank God for that freedom!
What do we make of the whole transgender experience? Is there anything that could seem more weird, more out-of-place, more “wrong” to "well-adjusted heterosexuals?" (Do we even want to know it if there is?) Here’s my best answer…
All people are weird! We need to get used to it – and make a vow to quit using those derogatory expressions to refer to others. We’re all God’s children. “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight…” was how we sang it when I was a child. This was the best way I knew to say “all people.”
Sexuality is an expression of identity – but our sexuality is not the essence of who we are. There is something more fundamental, and I believe “God sees the heart” (1 Samuel 16.7). We must learn to relate to one another at this essential level: to see the person, the “soul,” the “heart.”
Our bodies were “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139.14), more complex than we can imagine, and every physical experience is influenced by layers of emotional and psychological and spiritual filters that complicate those experiences a thousand times over. Though the number is still in debate, a recent study found 19,000 protein-encoding genes in the human genome. How many of those genes might affect our sexuality, and in what ways? How many variations might there be, and how small a variation might be influential enough to be evident in our personality, our physical ability, our expression of self, including our sexuality?
While I have no personal experience to relate to a confusion of gender or orientation, it is not hard to imagine, given this incredible complexity, that great variations exist, from birth. Human beings come in endless variations and diversity; the only question, is how we will choose to relate to one another.
And the simple answer for Christians should be… Jesus! Jesus is the lens through which we interpret scripture, engage the world, and interact with all people. There are no overt examples of Jesus in relation to the homosexual or the transgender person, but his life was filled with interaction with those whom his society deemed outcast – the untouchable leper, the disgraced prostitute, the unethical tax collector, the unimportant women and children, those who were shunned by “the church” and shamed by the culture. Through his example, I cannot imagine Jesus shaming or shunning the transgender individual. How could we?
We face a basic choice in how we live our lives: will we live out of humility and grace and be fundamentally welcoming, accepting, open to all, or will our fundamental disposition be one of judgment, exclusion, alienation?
I don’t need to understand you to accept you. I can only hope you will offer me the same grace.