Category Archives: gender

Certainties for 2023, Part 2

As we look ahead to a new year, there are often feelings of hope and trepidation, a sense of a fresh start battling with nascent fatalism that wonders if life can change. The good news is that while we cannot control all the decisions of others or the events around us, we can prayerfully make wise decisions. Here are four more certainties for the coming year.

Fourthly, apocalyptic climate change propaganda will continue, along with reasoned pushbacks that call for environmental sanity that does not impoverish the working classes around the world. Global prosperity will always include a carbon footprint, and only elites sheltered from economic realities are promoting draconian policies. Thoughtful women and men will call for both/and approaches that sustain economies while developing amazing new technologies.

A fifth certitude is that many women and men will question traditional religious values and “deconstruct” their faith, while millions more find the freedom of the gospel. This paradox is reflected in the New Testament as the writers expect global evangelization and great apostasy, with awakenings matched by persecution. Serious Christians and healthy local churches will be places of intellectual, spiritual, and social refuge for women and men searching for meaning and truth. God hears the prayers and records the tears of millions crying out for an awakening.

Sixth, the gender chaos of the LGBTQIA+ movements will continue, but thoughtful men and women will offer nuanced responses to this anarchy, and its deliberate recruitment of vulnerable children and adolescents. Underneath the social trends is the deconstructionism of post-modern and Marxist ideologues that desire the end of the biological family and the remaking of human persons as transhuman group members, rather than male and female individuals with freedom. The good news is that reasonable people are seeing through the nonsense and offering ways forward that allow adults liberty while shielding children from nefarious agendas.

Finally, the new year offers an invitation from God to all: will we find our identity, peace, and rest through faith in Christ, or will we pursue our own idols and finish another year in frustration? Five questions that can help us as we aim for a flourishing life: 1) Will we live in humble reverence before God or make self-fulfillment our chief aim? 2) Will we allow the Lord to heal and bring hope, or will we wallow in fatalism? 3) Will we relate to others with love and wisdom, or see people only as a means to an end? 4) Will we discover and articulate a life mission that honors God and serves others, or live for momentary pleasures? And 5) Will we offer each day of work as an act of worship, or merely trudge along and live for Friday night? For more on these dimensions of life, go to www.discipleshipdynamics.com and discover the abundant life Christ has designed for each of us.

Please join me in welcoming the challenges and opportunities ahead. We are not alone. Our Lord is with us, and there are millions of faithful and thoughtful sisters and brothers praying for and with us.

We Know Better, Part 10: Sex Education and Gender Ideology

In such volatile times, prudence is a special virtue. The moment the words gender and sex are used, accusations start flying and anger overtakes reason. In this essay, I am going to share some principles for a new civil consensus on sex and gender issues, especially in public education and public square debates.

I am NOT advocating any kind of coercive ideological or religious conformity – just the opposite.  I am searching for principled compromise that will lower the temperature, restore toleration (as a virtue of living with our differences, not being forced to affirm ideas we reject), and offer a way forward for the common good. I think liberals and conservatives dedicated to the highest ideals of freedom of conscience can find some level of agreement. Radical activists will never be satisfied with anything other than cowing their opponents and compelling eternal penance from any who differ.

Principle One: We must acknowledge that we live in a pluralistic society and that freedom of conscience is a first freedom that establishes all others. Political and social majorities do not have the right to impose their beliefs on minorities. We can celebrate cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity, and the free market of ideas.

Principle Two: We want all people to being their highest selves to work and public service; therefore, we are not demanding that religious convictions be checked at the door. We are expecting maturity that affirms Principle One and works for principled consensus.

Principle Three: The family is the primary educator and purveyor of values and worldviews. The state does not have the right to compel belief or speech contrary to conscience. Expressing deeply held moral convictions is not hate speech or violence, provided our citizens learn to share them with respect. For example, my belief that sexual intimacy is reserved for lifelong, heterosexual, monogamous marriage is not intolerance, for I share these ideas with neighbors who see the universe differently and they have the same right to share their convictions.

Principle Four: Sex education in public schools should focus on biological changes and reproduction, leaving gender ideology to the family. There is no place for schools to secretly oppose family values or impose their ideas in or out of the classroom.

Principe Five: People with body dysphoria deserve love and compassion and good counsel. Any medical procedures, from drugs to surgery, should be reserved for adults and paid for by the persons seeking the changes. If a 10-year-old boy wants to be a girl, he/she can seek out specific treatments once they are 18 or 21, just like other adult activities. In most cases, experimentation with gender and identity finds its natural place eventually (as the brain matures in the early 20s), so serious interventions are premature, unproven, and even dangerous to long-term well-being.

Principle Six: We must restore toleration to its original meaning of living peaceably with our deepest differences. Toleration is not compelled agreement. No business or artist should be compelled to promote ideas that violate their conscience. It is interesting noting that activists never target Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist bakeries or businesses, only ones owned by Christians.

Principle Seven: The mostly binary nature of humankind and the animal kingdom is a scientific fact. Exceptions exist, but we have allowed exceptions to become the rule and distort obvious statements of fact. A woman is an adult biological female. She may be attracted to the opposite or same sex, but she is a female. A man is an adult biological male. The DNA and biology do not lie. This said, we are not demanding that adults who have crafted a particular identity be prohibited form living peaceably in our world. Those who disagree with these choices are not evil.

Principle Eight: Human beings are complicated and there should never be bullying, intimidation, or any kind of intolerance or violence toward people who see the world differently. This does not mean I celebrate ideas I differ with. This does mean that we must not reduce maleness and femaleness to time-bound idols, personality and interest types, or particular subcultural characteristics. We must desire that all people flourish and bring their gifts to our world.

It is impossible to address these issues without provoking reactions. Good! Reactions mean we care. The question is, will we move from reaction to true toleration? I live among neighbors who see the world very differently. I have family members with diverse worldviews. We argue, debate, and then have dinner. May we find the courage and compassion to do the same.

We Know Better, Part 4: Being Human

We are in a crisis of human identity. Both anthropology (the study of human nature, cultures, and experiences) and epistemology (the study of knowledge and the search for the truth particular matters) are being debated in unprecedented ways.

In this essay, I am NOT advocating to any reversion to cultural-historical functions for women and men or calling for coercive rules for how adults peaceably regulate their lives. A pluralistic, free, and virtuous society rests on freedom of conscience and voluntary association(s). In the spirit of the title of this series, I am asking that we pause from our misplaced anger and unreflected compassion and realize that we do know better about sexual identity.

There is no place for bullying or harming any person of any identity. But declaring criticism of these ideologies, “violence” is itself an attack on freedom of conscience.

When a Supreme Court Justice appointee refuses to define the word woman (an adult biological female is the proper answer), the triumph of subjectivism is almost complete. When even secular feminist thinkers are excoriated for not affirming every current fad of gender anarchy, we are in trouble. When normative biological sexual identity is defined as “cisgender(ed)” and any hints of the differences between boys and girls are called out as “toxic” – we are in trouble.

As I share my thoughts, I come to this with decades of education and interaction in the epicenters of gender reflection: Santa Cruz and Berkeley, CA. All of my academic degrees and much of my work has been amidst the ever-changing currents of what is politically/publicly acceptable. I have laughed and cried, served and worked with women and men of all faiths or none, and all manner of sexual attractions and identities. Each person is a divine image-bearer and offers much to our world. And, until recently, my deepest convictions were at least somewhat respected and tolerated. After the Supreme court decision of 2015 affirming gay marriage (with the Justices admitting that many will disagree and must be allowed such freedom), it seemed that everything desired by proponents of non-traditional lifestyles was in place. No discrimination, no persecution for private behavior, and access to all privileges and services others enjoy.

But the radical proponents of gender anarchy were not done. Suddenly our culture wars metastasize and there are now scores of identities that must be publicly celebrated, and children must have the right to alter their body’s chemistry and even eliminate signs of their biological sex, without permission from parents! Now the real agenda of the radical Left is exposed: destruction of the biological/nuclear family. Mom, Dad, and biological children in a unit of loving cooperation is now seen as hindering progress toward “the collective” and a remnant of outdated religion. Never mind that in all civilizations throughout all of history, parents and children (and their extended clans) are the heart of human identity and flourishing.

The pagan-secular Towel of Babel is now a transhumanism of complete subjectivity.

When feminists Martina Navratilova, J.K. Rowling and Naomi Wolf are excoriated as “TERFs” (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) and biological males can choose new bathrooms and compete in female sports simply by declaring a new identity, we are in trouble.

Friends, we know better. With rare exceptions, the DNA and physiology of male and female are innate and unchangeable. There is HUGE range of behaviors and dispositions (and neuroscience affirms a range of conditions) of males and females, so stereotyping is unhelpful and unscientific. If adults desire a certain identity, name change, and have a range of affections, that is their private business. But asking rational and religious people to promote such ideas and actions is coercive and a violation of conscience.

Friends, we know better. Children and adolescents are in a constant state of development and expecting them to have the faculties for choosing their gender and ripping such choices away from family systems is cruel and unjust. Research for more than half a century places the number of long-term same-sex attracted and bisexual people at somewhere around 5% of the population (Kinsey’s bad research and his 10% figure from the 1950s have been repudiated many times), for men and women over 25. The explosion in adolescents identifying as bi- or trans- is clear cultural conditioning. When school officials hide children “transitioning” from parents, this is a complete violation of family preeminence over the state.

We know better. Biology matters. Public schools have no business imposing their ideologies on students and hiding their agendas from parents. Ethical statements about sexual identity and practices are not violence. Let’s affirm liberty for all – including the liberty to make moral proclamations without fear.

In the Vacuum, there is Opportunity: Three Insights for America’s Future

Last October I predicted a close election and that many unhappy with the Trump Administration would hope for the best in a Biden Administration. Well, disappointment is now rife on both sides, with thoughtful women and men thoroughly frustrated with the state of our nation. In this moment is an opportunity for a new centrist consensus of conscience, a reaffirmation of key ideas, and new collaborations across the chasms that social media expands.

An astounding reality confronts me as I travel and speak with people in local communities across the USA. The anger and divisions fueled by the 24/7 news cycle and social media do not reflect the experiences, ideas, and principles of most people that wake up each day, raise their families, and work hard making our world a better. Yes, real political, religious, cultural, and ideological differences abound, but most folks are good neighbors and desire a more peaceful and prosperous future. In my own neighborhood, we have many types of families and diverse cultures and vocations, yet there is a goodwill that extends to all and a desire to help one another.

Political power usually reflects the loudest voices and craftiest image-makers, not the thoughtfulness of most voters. This said, it is stunning seeing how uninformed and poorly-served the public is from most media outlets, with ideology and opinion driving the presentation of cherry-picked facts and the hard work of investigation taking a back seat to talking points published by think tanks funded by elites promoting their narratives. Their goal is power and personal destruction is permitted so the “narrative” goes forward.

Is there a pathway toward peace? Can our deep divisions and suspicions be healed? After much listening, I have discovered three insights for the American experiment in virtue-based liberty go forward. These are not simplistic and the require much effort. If pluralistic and principled liberty is going to survive, here are the necessary building materials for the “road less traveled” ahead.

First, we must rediscover humility before God and toward one another. Humility is not self-hatred or false displays of flattery – it is a disposition that removes oneself from being the center of the universe and deeply listens to one’s neighbors. Humility allows new facts to inform our opinions and the stories of others to enhance our perspectives. Humility engenders peace as people are heard, not just tolerated. We need moral and spiritual awakening in individuals that leads to the transformation of local communities.

Second, we must reaffirm the search for objective truth and stop hiding behind fabricated constructs and narratives that avoid inconvenient facts. Ecological issues are real, but our planet will not die in a decade. Class, gender, and race issues are real, bit substantial progress has been made globally and nationally in the past half-century – we must not allow the agitation of a few to destroy the progress of many.

Third, we must promote bipartisan political dialogue leading to principled compromise and stop assuming lock-step alignment of very public servant with the party line. It is out of forging a third way that new wisdom emerges and improvements are made. There is SO much waste in our governmental systems – let’s have wise business minds helping us balance budgets. Let’s listen to real community activists that demonstrate what works so all can flourish.

It is time for thoughtful people to stop being victims of unelected autocracies. It is time to hold politicians accountable and call on journalists to do their jobs with integrity. Above all, we need to own the future of our nation one conversation and community event at a time.

The Way Forward, Part Four: Sanity about Being Human

We are in an anthropological crisis. What does it mean to be human? Do male and female identity have any meaning? What does “the science” say about human identity? Is the biological family still the key unit of society or do children belong to “the collective?” For people of faith, how do truth and toleration unite for a peaceful world?

In coming essays, I will speak to the issues of sexual identity and practice in more detail. For this work, I want to offer three guiding principles for a sane way forward regarding human identity and how we see “the other.” I am writing as a Christian, and as a public thinker desiring for all others the liberties that I claim for myself. Having firm theological convictions is not intolerance.

The first step toward sanity is love and respect for every individual we meet. Love means that we desire their best. Respect in this context is seeing identity and potential, not necessarily instant trust. The reason we love and respect each person is that they are created in God’s image. Every person possesses inherent value, regardless of class or culture, gender or race, ability or social situation. The Bible’s opening chapter contains the most dignifying words about being human (selections from Genesis 1:26-28):

“Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness.
And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea
and over the birds of the heavens
and over the livestock and over all the earth…

God created humankind in his own image,
in the image of God, he created him,
male and female he created them.”

And God blessed them. And God said to them
“Be fruitful and multiply…”

Notice the order of the poetry. We are created in God’s image. We are given work to do: overseeing (not exploiting) creation. And thirdly, we do this as male and female, equally bearing God’s image/likeness. Identity, purpose, gender…the order matters! From the earliest moments of recorded history to the present, people of all cultures and faiths and have found ways to misinterpret, rebel, and subvert this beautiful passage. We allow blood and soil to lead to subjugation of other groups. Sinful structures define male and female in ways that oppress the latter and pervert the former. The church has mostly failed in her history of welcoming men and women as equal partners and inviting all classes and cultures into a beautiful community of love and justice. There is hope…and it is found in the second principle.

The second step in the path forward is understanding that the person and work of Jesus Christ creates a new humanity liberated from the unjust ideologies and systems created by power-hungry sinful people. The Christ Event includes:

  • The divine affirmation of the goodness of being human – in body and spirit – for in Jesus Christ, God is forever one of us! (John 1:1-18)
  • The joy of Jesus as he willingly offers himself as the ransom of liberation and reconciling sacrifice, atoning for the sins of the whole world. (Mark 10:45; Romans 3:21-31; I John 2:1-2) Everyone we meet is worth Jesus’ sacrifice.
  • Jesus’ resurrection announces victory over death and hopelessness, and offers a preview of our future. (Romans 8:28-30; Colossians 1:15-22). Everyone we meet can receive the gift of salvation and be part of a new community anticipating the future.
  • The Holy Spirit is God in and with the church, empowering her for worship and witness, comforting and convicting of sin, and giving gifts to all, regardless of past transgressions or particular identities. (Acts 2-4, 11-15; I Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 1:13-14)

The third guiding insight for sanity about being human is the biblical hope of a new community of joy and justice, embracing all cultures and empowering worship and work on a renewed earth. The poetry of Revelation offers these visions for all who believe (Revelation 5:9; 7:9; 21:3):

You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals,
Because you were slain,
And with your blood you purchased for God
Persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priest to serve our God,
And they will reign on the earth.
And there before me was a great multitude that no one could count,
From every nation, tribe, people, and language,
Standing before the throne and before the Lamb.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“Look! God’s dwelling place in now among the people, and he will dwell with them.”

This destiny is not automatic, for this future rests on people freely saying yes to the good news of Jesus Christ. This said, we have a beautiful trifecta of truth guiding our relationships. Everyone we meet is made in God’s image. Everyone we meet is worth the sacrifice of Jesus. Everyone we meet can enjoy a destiny that is anticipated today in community.

Let’s ground our thinking and actions in God’s design, deliverance, and destiny instead of our preferences and prejudices and we can foster foretastes of a beautiful future.