How do you feel?

Several posts ago, in an entry titled “The biggest obstacle”, I made several statements and assertions that I said I would come back to and elaborate on later. I will do that now. One of the statements I made in that post was that special rights based on gender identity is ridiculous. The reason that it is ridiculous is that there is no other area in life that I can think of where anyone is able to obtain any kind of rights based solely on how they identify themselves. The only possible exception that comes to mind would be religious affiliation, as there are sometimes rights that are associated with religious affiliation and practice. That is necessary, though, because there are no genetic connections to religion, to physical identifiers upon which anyone can be associated with a particular religion. That is because religion is necessarily a choice. That certain rights have been granted on the basis of religion is a testament to the importance that humankind as historically placed on religion and the very personal nature of religious belief. Gender is not that way, however–or at least never has been until now.

As I stated before, from the beginning of time it has been possible to determine the gender of a child within moments of birth. Indeed, for the past several decades it has been possible, thanks to advances in medical technology, to identify the gender of a child in utero. Can you imagine the way conversations may go in the future once all of this transgender mumbo jumbo takes hold? Someone will ask their pregnant acquaintance, “So are you having a boy or a girl?” “Well, the sonogram shows the baby’s sex will be female, so I am sure that is the gender that will be assigned on the birth certificate. But, of course, we will have a to wait a little while to see how she acts, what she prefers, and how she wants to identify herself before we will really know. After all, sex is purely biological but gender is really a choice.”

Since the transgender movement insists that gender is in fact the product of cultural influences and behaviors learned through human interaction the conversation above could even be more along these lines: “Well, the sonogram shows the baby’s sex will be female, so I am sure that is the gender that will be assigned on the birth certificate. But my husband and I really want a boy, so we are going to raise this child as a boy. We will give the baby a male name, decorate the room with a masculine theme, dress the baby in boy’s clothing and raise the baby to be a male. As soon as ‘he’ is old enough we will jump through all of the hoops to have ‘his’ real gender identified accordingly.”

The one opponent of the transgender movement that was actually given any print in Katy Steinmetz’s TIME article was Frank Schubert, a political organizer from California. Steinmetz quoted Schubert saying, “We introduce this concept called gender identity, and I don’t have any idea what that is. Can you claim a racial identity based on how you feel or the community that you’re growing up in? Can I claim to be African American if I feel African American?” That is a legitimate question, silly though it may sound. Just as gender has always been consist with one’s anatomy, so race has always been consist with one’s genetic make up (often visible through skin tone). If an individual wants to, for whatever reason, “identify” as a race other than that which he or she is how can we stop that from occurring if we are saying that gender is so fluid? If gender is the product of cultural influences and learned behaviors, could not race be, too?

Now, I know I am taking this to an extreme, but I think it is necessary in order to make a point. Once we begin allowing people to claim or identify anything based solely on feelings we are obliterating any possibility of maintaining boundaries of any kind based on facts. Just as the redefinition of marriage to include male-male and female-female unions necessarily flings open the door to allow any combination to be defined as marriage, so the allowance of gender to be based solely on feelings means that, necessarily, we will have to allow anyone who feels anything to claim that they are that thing. If someone feels rich can they take items they cannot really afford from the store by writing checks that will never clear because they “feel like” they have money? That’s ridiculous, you say. Whether or not someone has money is easy to determine, easily verifiable. Well, guess what? So is whether or not someone was born male or female.

This gets to the heart of what I was getting at when I wrote in “The biggest obstacle” that transgender individuals do not really want an equal place but instead want a special place based on their personal choices. Someone using the name “Eyeontheuniverse” was kind enough to comment on that post and ask me to provide an example of such a special place or unique and privileged treatment that I am asserting transgender individuals want. Sure; I’d be happy to. The right to compete on an athletic team based on one’s chosen gender, the right to use a restroom based on one’s chosen gender, or any other example of insisting on treatment based on how one feels or identifies rather than what one is is a pursuit of special and privileged treatment. If someone wants to engage in homosexual sex, that’s fine, that is his or her choice. Demanding that marriage be redefined to include homosexual unions is insisting on special and privileged treatment. If a male wants to dress and act like a female, even assume a female name or identity, then I suppose he can do that, that is his choice. But to insist that “she” be allowed to play sports based on that choice, or use a restroom based on that choice, or be referred to using pronouns based on that choice, is to demand special and privileged treatment. If transgender individuals can make up their own pronouns like “xyr” why cannot I make up my own pronouns? Henceforth, I do not wish to be referred to as “he” but rather as “ilb.” That is my choice, and I am demanding that everyone else refer to me accordingly. Those who do not shall be sued so that courts will order them to refer to me as such. And while I’m at it, I’m tired of the title “Mr.” too, so from now on it will be “Great.” Yes…instead of Mr. Watson, I shall be Great Watson. I like that much better…I think I will feel much better when addressed that way.

Pretty stupid, huh? My point exactly….

Whoever “Eyeontheuniverse” is, their comment on “The biggest obstacle” included this statement: “In all we are probably looking at 2-6% of the population who in some way have a conflict between some combination of genes, body and brain. There’s not very much you are going to do to alter this (at least historically) after a person is born. The goal is to make life for people who are outside the simple binary system as easy as possible.” Again, I do not know who this person is, but he or she apparently has greater knowledge of this situation that any other study I have been able to find, since all reports seem to indicate that 0.2% to 0.5% of the population fits into the transgender category. “Eyeontheuniverse” apparently believes it to be ten times that number. Notice the end of the comment, though. The goal is to make life for those individuals as easy as possible. Never mind the fact that in so doing we will be making life as uncomfortable and difficult as possible for the majority of the population!

Katy Steinmetz wrote in her article, “No matter their anatomy, transgender people want to live–and be identified–according to how they feel: to be able to dress and be treated like a woman or a man regardless of what their parents or delivering nurses may have assumed at birth.” This is really what is comes down to–demanding rights and treatment based solely on how one feels. I explained above what the problems are associated with that approach, but I do have to appreciate the candor of Steinmetz. At the end of the day, the homosexual movement, the transgender movement, and many other movements now in existence and yet to come, want all notions of right and wrong, black and white, left and right–in other words, any concept of absolute truth–to be eliminated and everything to be based on feelings.

Watch out anarchy…here we come.

“The biggest obstacle”

I do not really want to address the topic of the transgender movement in the United States but it appears I do not have much choice because it is an issue that is not going away. According to studies by the Public Religion Research Institute only 9% of Americans say they have a close friend or family member who is transgender. And that number may even be a bit high, because other studies indicate that only 0.5% of the American population is transgender. And yet, the issue of accepting the choices of transgender individuals and granting them special privileges and “rights” in accordance with those choices is potentially going to impact us all.

In South Dakota, where I live, the state’s high school activities association just last month approved a policy whereby students shall have the opportunity to participate in the association’s activities “in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the student’s records.” Therein, of course, we find the root of the problem. For millennia human beings have identified, within moments of birth, the gender of the baby just born. Ever since the advent of birth certificates that information has been recorded officially. And rarely, if ever, has there been any question as to whether that identification was up for debate. Now, apparently, it is.

The June 9, 2014 issue of TIME featured a cover image of a transgender individual who stars on the television show Orange Is the New Black and a feature article entitled “America’s Transition.” This individual, Laverne Cox, has become, according to the piece, “a public face of the transgender movement.” I am going to elaborate later on why the entire notion of transgender is a problem. First, though, I want to touch on a statement Katy Steinmetz includes in the second paragraph of her TIME article. Here it is…

Almost one year after the Supreme Court ruled that Americans were free to marry the person they loved, no matter their sex, another civil rights movement is poised to challenge long-held cultural norms and beliefs. Transgender people–those who identify with a gender other than the sex they were “assigned at birth,” to use the preferred phrase among trans activists–are emerging from the margins to fight for an equal place in society. This new transparency is improving the lives of a long misunderstood minority and beginning to yield new policies, as trans activists and their supporters push for change in schools, hospitals, workplaces, prisons and the military.

There are an incredible number of problems contained right there in those few sentences. First of all, the Supreme Court did not, in fact, rule that Americans are free to marry whomever they love, but I’ll get way off track if I follow that tangent, so let’s just leave that one there. Secondly, as I have argued repeatedly in the past, homosexual “marriage” is not a civil rights issue. Neither are transgender rights. In fact, as I will argue later, the entire notion of transgender individuals being entitled to any special privileges or treatment at all based on their “gender identity” is ridiculous. Third, the paragraph above does accurately link the tremendous strides made by homosexual activists to achieve “rights” for homosexuals to the now-burgeoning movement among transgender activists. Again, as I have argued before, once we redefine what has been accepted for the entirety of human history as marriage we are, for all intents and purposes, jumping onto a slippery slope that will result in all kinds of redefinitions and changes.

Fourth, the notion that gender is “assigned” is a very clever and subtle choice of wording that is designed to convince us that gender and body parts are in no way connected. More on that later, too. Fifth, Steinmetz states that transgender individuals are emerging in order to “fight for an equal place in society.” This is clever wording, too, because who would not be in favor of someone receiving equal treatment and an equal place? After all, equality is a major part of what our nation was founded on, right? Transgender individuals, however, do not want an equal place in society. Instead, they want a special place. They want to receive unique and privileged treatment based on their personal choices. Sixth, and finally, whether or not this “new transparency” is really yielding any improvement in the lives of transgender individuals is debatable, but the policies being adopted to cater to transgender folks are indeed going to touch us all eventually.

A few paragraphs later Steinmetz writes that “the biggest obstacle” faced by transgender individuals is that they “live in a world largely built on a fixed and binary definition of gender.” Very subtle, and intentional, wording there, too–notice that the “binary definition” by which mankind has lived since God created Adam and Eve is an “obstacle” to these individuals living life the way they want to live it. Guess what? There are plenty of obstacles that prevent every one of us from doing things we would like to do on a regular basis. For example, I would like to be able to jump off of the roof of a building a fly–or at the very least enjoy a relaxing downward descent and a soft landing. The “obstacle” of gravity seems to prevent that, though. I would prefer to drive to town doing 100 miles an hour. The road is straight and flat and there is seldom any traffic, but the “SPEED LIMIT 65” signs that stand along the road are obstacles to me doing what I want. I would prefer to have a Porsche in my garage without the cost of buying, insuring or driving one, but life simply doesn’t work that way. Maybe those are silly examples but I challenge you to take a moment and think about all of the “obstacles” that you have to live within each and every day. Take me up on that and I suspect you will literally find dozens of them.

This is a discussion that I am, sadly, just beginning. The next several posts will address this topic, so stay tuned.

Ruining the Beauty of God’s Creation

One of the beautiful realities about truth is that it is timeless. Sure, some truths are circumstantial and those will change as circumstances change. For example, last year it was true that my daughter was in fifth grade. Next year that will not be true. Those are circumstantial truths. Absolute truth, though, is unchanging (hence the use of “absolute”). God’s truth is absolute and therefore anyone writing or speaking about God’s truth is also presenting timeless truth–truth that will be just as true, just as accurate and just as relevant days, years, decades and even centuries after it was written or spoken.

More than ten years ago Ravi Zacharias wrote a book entitled Recapture the Wonder. On page 36 of the hardcover version of that book Zacharias wrote, “Anyone who thinks he or she can place the boundaries arbitrarily will either destroy the enchantment of life or else wear him- or herself into exhaustion. God’s commands are there to protect what life is truly about, not the other way around. Implementing that truth in our lives keeps us from losing the wonder.”

Because Zacharias was writing about absolute truth that statement is still accurate today. Yet, we live in a world that wholeheartedly embraces the idea of placing boundaries arbitrarily–moving them whenever convenient or desirable, or even eliminating them altogether. We see this perhaps most clearly in the area of sexual behavior. There is an ongoing effort to shift or erase all God-given boundaries of sexual behavior, including God’s design for marriage (between one man and one woman), God’s design for sex (between a married man and woman) and God’s design for gender (male or female, as He created each individual). Much as they may claim to be thrilled with their behavioral choices I believe that many of those individuals who champion this boundary realignment, and/or who live their lives based on the realignment, have in fact destroyed the enchantment of life and are working themselves into exhaustion. They put so much effort into trying to convince the world that their redefinition of what God created is normal and acceptable that they cannot possibly be enchanted by life any longer.

When anyone can, with a few clicks of the mouse, see any manner of sexual activity and perversion imaginable it is nearly impossible for there to be any wonder left about sex as God designed it. When the world embraces the idea of doing whatever feels good or desirable at the moment there can be no sense of enchantment remaining.

The inside flap of Zacharias’ book includes this statement: “Our sense of wonder is a blessing from God, given so that we would be continually amazed at His beauty and creation. But for many of us, our wonder has diminished through the years, and we doubt that we’ll ever be able to experience the overwhelming sense of awe we once had as children.” I would suggest that no small part of the reason for that is that, unlike children who are discovering the world for the first time and are enchanted with each new discovery, we adults are, collectively, seeking to eliminate anything that might be undiscovered or secret or private.

Imagine, for example, if the most beautiful sunrise, or sunset, you have ever seen was available every day, any time you want to see it–and to anyone in the world, not just you. The beauty of that sunrise or sunset would begin to fade. It would gradually become less special, less awe-inspiring, less desirable. It could easily become commonplace, ho-hum or boring. That is what the world is doing, or attempting to do, to God’s design for mankind. This effort to eliminate the special, the private–the sacred, even–is painfully obvious when it comes to sex but is evident in many other areas as well.

What we need to do is return to the truth that the boundaries, “God’s commands,” have been given to us “to protect what life is truly about, not the other way around.” If the human body and sexual behavior was supposed to be open and available for anyone to see God never would have created clothing for Adam and Eve after they sinned. If sex was supposed to be whenever, wherever and with whomever, God never would have given instruction that the man and the woman were to cleave to one another and enjoy sex within the boundaries of their marriage. If sex between men or between women was perfectly acceptable God never would have called it an abomination or referred to it as abandoning the “natural” relationship between men and women. We have allowed Satan to delude us into thinking that by throwing back the curtain and openly celebrating and flaunting any and all varieties of behavior we are in fact celebrating and enjoying life. Quite simply, nothing could be further from the truth. Not only are we destroying the wonder and enchantment we are in fact ruining the beauty of God’s creation.

Blurred Vision

On March 24 Christianity Today ran an article in which World Vision made clear that it is now hiring homosexual Christians in legal gay marriages. Interestingly, the charity’s policy against sex outside of marriage is still a rule.

World Vision U.S. president Richard Stearns granted CT an exclusive interview in which he explained the policy change. According to the article, “Stearns asserts that the ‘very narrow policy change’ should be viewed by others as ‘symbolic not of compromise but of [Christian] unity.’ He even hopes it will inspire unity elsewhere among Christians.”

Before I go any further I need to stop right here and state that very few things I have read or heard recently trouble me so much as someone simultaneously stating that abandoning a long-standing policy that is consistent with the Bible is a “very narrow policy change” and that this change is “symbolic…of [Christian] unity.” Nothing could be further from the truth. This “narrow policy change” rests on the belief that what the Bible makes clear about homosexuality and marriage is not correct or, at the very least, has been traditionally misunderstood. It is not possible to pursue Christian unity by redefining the Bible.

Franklin Graham, in a statement on the World Vision decision, said, “World Vision maintains that their decision is based on unifying the church – which I find offensive – as if supporting sin and sinful behavior can unite the church.” Graham is exactly right; you cannot unify the church by embracing sin!

The CT article continues, “In short, World Vision hopes to dodge the division currently ‘tearing churches apart’ over same-sex relationships by solidifying its long-held philosophy as a parachurch organization: to defer to churches and denominations on theological issues, so that it can focus on uniting Christians around serving the poor.” I read that to mean that Stearns hopes that Christians will ignore World Vision’s trampling of one part of Scripture in order to join forces in adhering to another part of it. The reality is, of course, that that makes no sense. After all, if what the Bible teaches about homosexuality or marriage need not be adhered to why should its teachings on caring for the poor stir me to action?

Stearns stated that the policy change is nothing more than that. “This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support.” Actions speak louder than words, Mr. Stearns. A decision to hire and accept individuals who are living a life that is contrary to what the Bible teaches absolutely is an affirmation of that choice–whether you say it is or not.

Because of World Vision’s size–it had revenue of more than $1 billion last year–and the scope of its ministries, “other Christian organizations look to World Vision for leadership on defending faith hiring practices,” Christianity Today reported. That is true…and scary. When one of the largest Christian charities in the world accepts this kind of compromise it will surely lead other ministries to consider doing the same.

For that reason it is imperative that churches, parachurch organizations and other ministries, as well as individual believers, take a stand for biblical truth and against the compromise of World Vision. Franklin Graham is but one evangelical leader who was quick to denounce the decision. Russell Moore, of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission issued a statement that included this observation:

But here’s what’s at stake. This isn’t, as the World Vision statement (incredibly!) puts it, the equivalent of a big tent on baptism, church polity, and so forth.

At stake is the gospel of Jesus Christ. If sexual activity outside of a biblical definition of marriage is morally neutral, then, yes, we should avoid making an issue of it. If, though, what the Bible clearly teaches and what the church has held for 2000 years is true, then refusing to call for repentance is unspeakably cruel and, in fact, devilish.

John Piper said this: “This is a tragic development for the cause of Christ, because it trivializes perdition – and therefore, the cross – and because it sets a trajectory for the demise of true compassion for the poor.” Piper goes on to highlight the idiocy of the stated position of World Vision:

When World Vision says, “We cannot jump into the fight on one side or another on this issue,” here is the side they do, in fact, jump onto: We forbid fornication and adultery as acceptable lifestyles among our employees (which they do), but we will not forbid the regular practice of homosexual intercourse. To presume that this position is not “jumping into the fight on one side or the other” is fanciful.

There are no doubt many other individuals and groups that have issued and will issue similar statements affirming the biblical position on marriage and challenging the foolishness of the World Vision position. When they do we must echo a hearty “Amen!” and join in their willingness to stand on the wall to defend the truth.

Russell Moore concluded his statement by suggesting that a refusal to stand firm for the Scripture, a refusal to call sin sin and to also share the Bible’s message of forgiveness is nothing more than “empowering darkness.” May we never be guilty of empowering darkness. May we, instead, follow the exhortation of Paul to the church at Ephesus when he wrote, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:11, ESV).

Sacrificing the Truth

The September 21, 2013 issue of WORLD Magazine includes the second part of an excellent interview with John Piper who, earlier this year, stepped down after 33 years of being the preaching pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. One of the things I admire greatly about Piper is how clearly he delivers his message and how unwavering he is in doing so; he does not beat around the bush or hedge his position or sound wishy-washy. When he is convinced of the biblical perspective on any issue he presents it and holds to it without apology. Whether you are familiar with Piper or not, his comments about the future of America are poignant and relevant. Some of what he says I have stated in this space before, but his words are worth repeating.

When asked what he thinks the United States will be like in ten or twenty years Piper responds that he is not optimistic, though he also believes that God could “move like a tornado through this land” and cause a spiritual coming-to-our-senses. More specifically, Piper says America needs to admit, “‘We’ve been insane.’ It’s insane to kill babies. it’s insane to define marriage as two men having long-term sex with each other.”

If we do not come to that realization, Piper says, we will have serious consequences facing our nation. “We are going to wake up after this marriage fiasco in 10, 15, or 20 years, and the fruit of it will be absolutely devastating for children, for all the legal implications we haven’t thought of, for thousands of people who tried their best to manage their undesired same-sex orientation and didn’t get any help from the leaders of their land. Who knows what will follow in terms of polygamy and other kinds of sex once you have said a woman who wants a baby not to exist has the right to make it not exist, and you have the right to call ‘marriage’ whatever you want to call it. Then there are no philosophical roadblocks to taking lives at lots of other times and calling lots of other things marriage.”

Piper is right on target here; as I have stated before, the legalization of abortion and the legalization of same sex marriage are but initial steps onto an extremely slippery slope. Where does that slope end? We do not know. As a nation we have begun removing the guard rails that were there to protect us from plunging over a cliff into a chasm of chaos and lawlessness. We do not know how far the fall will be, how many times we may “bounce” on the way down, how many bones will be broken or whether or not we will still be alive when we hit the bottom. And if we do survive the plunge, we have no idea if we will be able to climb out of that chasm.

Christians need to realize that silence in the face of this guard rail removal is both cowardly and dangerous. The reality is, the issues of abortion and marriage are not just “religious issues.” How one defines these things must not be dependent on which church one attends (if any). These are matters of national survival. Taking a stand for the truth is not going to be popular, but we must remain undaunted. In response to being questioned about so-called political correctness Piper said, “Political correctness means there is a way to talk that will prove least offensive to the cultural elite, or whoever you happen to be talking to with the authority and power to shut you down. … Therefore I abominate political correctness. I abominate calculating your words so that you get acceptance by sacrificing the truth.”

“An environment welcoming all teens”

I would love to say that I have not blogged in nearly two weeks because there has simply been nothing so troubling as to warrant me taking to the keyboard to share my thoughts in the matter. As if! As the expression goes, “life happens,” and life for me the past couple of weeks has been extremely busy. But I am not going to talk about what’s going on in my life. I am not even (for now) going to talk about the government shut down. What I am going to talk about is the American Academy of Pediatrics.

This organization represents more than 60,000 pediatricians across the country. According to its own web site the AAP is “dedicated to the health and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.” In late July the AAP posted on its web site a technical report entitled “Office-Based Care for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth,” written by Dr. David Levine of the Committee on Adolescence, and also published in the July issue of Pediatrics. The article provides recommendations for pediatricians on how to answer questions from youth with questions about their own sexuality or that of their parents, relatives and friends.

Specifically, the article states, “Pediatricians should have offices that are teen-friendly and welcoming to sexual minority youth. This includes having supportive, engaging office staff members who ensure that there are no barriers to care.” Notice what this says if you read between the lines: not having an environment that is welcoming to “sexual minority youth” and not having staff members who are supportive of such behavior is a barrier to care. Furthermore, the article states, “For transgender youth, pediatricians should provide the opportunity to acknowledge and affirm their feelings of gender dysphoria and desires to transition to the opposite gender.” In other words, pediatricians and their staffs need to ” express agreement with or commitment to” and “support” the desire for a young person to transition to the other gender. That is the definition of affirm. And remember, failing to take this supportive approach is a barrier to care!

The article further states that LGBTQ youth are most damaged by the heterosexism that is the “societal expectation.” One has to wonder where Dr. Levine and his colleagues live, though, because he also writes, “Pervasive in our culture, homophobia is institutionalized in stereotypes promoted in the media and in casual conversation.” Oh really? I think what is promoted in our media aggressively and, unfortunately, successfully, is the notion that homosexuality and other “alternative lifestyles” are quite acceptable and normal.

Levine writes, “Pediatricians have a role in helping teenagers sort through their feelings and behaviors. Young people need information about healthy, positive expressions of sexuality, and pediatricians should assist adolescents as they develop their identities and to avoid the consequences of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), regardless of sexual orientation. Research suggests that LGBTQ youth really value these opportunities for discussions with their pediatricians or primary health care providers.” I would agree with the doctor if this statement could be taken at face value. However, we must remember what he writes elsewhere in the article. Remember, according to Levine and the AAP, pediatricians and their staff members cannot help adolescents through the difficult teen years and the sexual questions that may emerge unless they affirm and embrace every version of sexual relationship–Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning. They cannot help teens avoid sexually transmitted diseases unless they are willing to affirm that kind of behavior in any pairing. Forget encouraging abstinence or suggesting that sex should wait until marriage; after all, that might damage someone’s psyche and result in lifelong mental anguish.

Later on in the article Levine writes, “Pediatricians have the responsibility to provide culturally effective care to help reduce health disparities.” Seriously? I would think medically effective care would be the standard. It seems to me that the pediatrician’s foremost responsibility would be the health of the patient. Apparently not, or least not that exclusively. Now, the care provided must be “culturally effective.” Translation: do not even think about taking any attitude other than affirming the “alternative lifestyles.”

Levine writes, “Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning, is not a ‘problem’ or ‘risk behavior’ in itself.” That’s interesting. Let’s set aside the fact that homosexual behavior is a sin, which certainly qualifies it as a “problem.” Levine’s statement is interesting because prior to making this statement he spent a considerable chunk of his article addressing the mental health disparities, eating disorders, substance abuse, sexual and reproductive health disparities and general health disparities of LGBTQ young people. It would seem, then, to the uninformed (like me) that this is a risk behavior “in itself.” But as I said, I am evidently uniformed. The problem comes not from the behavior, but from the fact that parents, physicians and the culture as a whole fails to embrace and affirm LGBTQ youth, thus driving them to homelessness, despair, poor self esteem and, eventually, highly risky behaviors.

Levine says, “One of the challenges to health care is removing barriers to care and creating an environment welcoming all teens.” By that he means, of course, that LGBTQ teens must feel welcomed. One of the ways to do that is to use gender-neutral terms when questioning or discussing sexual topics with patients. Why? Well, because… After all, “A nurse asking a teenage girl who is in a relationship with another woman about her boyfriend may be interpreted as nonaccepting of her relationship.” Furthermore, the office needs to be decorated in such a way as to welcome LGBTQ youth. “The office environment can be made welcoming for all teens by placing in the waiting room items such as brochures on a variety of adolescent topics, including sexual orientation, posters showing both same- and opposite-gender couples, and notices about support groups, if available in the region. … Even a small ‘rainbow’ button (often a symbol of acceptance of sexual minority individuals) or decal on an office bulletin board or door symbolizes openness and acceptance of diverse sexual orientation and will be appreciated by sexual minority teens and their parents.” Of course what Levine overlooks, or ignores, is that this kind of behavior and this kind of decor will absolutely not make the office welcoming to “all teens.” Many teens and parents would be offended by the things Levine describes. But remember, that is our insidious heterosexism.

Levine concludes his article with these statements: “Pediatricians have an obligation to ensure that sexual minority youth have access to a full range of appropriate health care services. As with all adolescents and young adults, sexual minority youth need honest answers and compassion in dealing with issues and questions around sexual orientation, identity, and sexual behaviors.” Of course pediatricians must provide all necessary medical care for their patients, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation; no sane person would argue otherwise. Levine, however, completely misses the fact that his entire article goes about making sure that pediatricians their staff members do not provide honest answers about “sexual orientation, identity, and sexual behaviors.” We cannot both tell people what to think, what to say and how to act and encourage them to be honest. We cannot tell people that what is sin is simply an alternative and then ask them to be honest. But then neither can we tell doctors to do everything they can to welcome and affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and simultaneously tell them make sure all patients feel welcome and comfortable.

Every human being is entitled to be treated with dignity and should be cared for when their health is endangered, regardless of who or what they think they are or claim to be. Beyond that, though, Dr. Levine and the AAP are no better than the elixir salesmen of the Old West; they’re saying a bunch of stuff that sounds good but has no legitimacy and no substance, and they’re promising something that just ain’t gonna happen.

They Do Exist

It is almost impossible to keep track of all of the designated months there are in the United States. Just a few of the many, ranging from the well-known to the obscure, include National Mentoring Month, American Heart Month, Black History Month, National Nutrition Month, National Women’s History Month, National Poetry Month, Child Abuse Prevention Month, National Pet Month, National Safety Month, Smart Irrigation Month, National Immunization Awareness Month, National Guide Dog Month, National Honey Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, COPD Awareness Month, and, according to one list I’ve seen, there are three LGBT months–LGBT Awareness Month, LGBT Pride Month and LGBT History Month. So maybe it will not surprise you to know that September 2013 is the first of what is sure to become the annual Ex-Gay Awareness Month.

There is a dinner and reception to celebrate this special month being held somewhere in Washington, D.C. on September 30, but the exact location is not disclosed until you register for the event, as organizers no doubt fear opposition and disruption. The event will “celebrate the lives of former homosexuals and hear about how you can advance and bring awareness to their unique stories and achievements in our nation’s schools,” and is sponsored by PFOX, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays.

There is also a group called Voice of the Voiceless that exists to “defend the rights of former homosexuals, individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction, and their families.” The “About Us” section of their web site says, “It’s time to stand up, speak out, and unite! For too long former homosexuals, individuals who experience unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA), and their families have been marginalized and misrepresented. We have suffered enough abuse in the media who sing praises to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, and condemn former homosexuals and those who experience unwanted SSA.” The group calls educational and mental health organizations “one-sided clapping symphonies” that serve only to affirm homosexuals and homosexual behavior and to oppose those who believe homosexuality is both a choice and able to be overcome.

At the end of July a group of former homosexuals joined together outside the U.S. Supreme Court to demand that they be recognized and granted equal protection under the Constitution. Their assertion is that homosexuals and homosexual activists bully ex-gays and those who oppose homosexuality and even prey on children by introducing homosexuality in a positive light in children’s television programming. The group has a petition demanding (1) Media oversight and accountability to protect children from age inappropriate entertainment such as SheZow that violates their innocence; (2) Freedom of choice for youth to pursue counseling to overcome same sex attraction; and (3) Inclusion of former homosexuals under federal hate crimes law.

Petitions seem to be, at the moment, the groups activity of choice, and its web site includes links to the various petitions the group has started, including one to demand an apology from CBS for “Defaming Former Homosexuals, Persons with Unwanted Same-Sex Attractions, Their Families and Counselors, and the Judeo-Christian Community” in February 2013 episode of Criminal Minds, one that demands that Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray apologize to singer Donnie McClurkin (an ex-gay) for asking him to withdraw from singing at a 50th anniversary celebration of the March on Washington because the event was intended to “bring people together,” another demanding that television personality Dr. Phil “Publicly Apologize to the Ex-Gay and Faith-Based Community for his Intolerance Towards Traditional Biblical Views of Homosexual Behavior,” and more.

If you’re like me it no doubt strikes you as sad and, frankly, pathetic, that a group of ex-anythings would need to solicit protection for their right not to be abused or discriminated against for former lifestyle choices, but apparently this is the world in which we now find ourselves. Not only does the “tolerance” espoused by the political left and the political correctness police demand that those holding to a biblical perspective on homosexuality and lifestyle choices not speak out about their position, it further demands that those who have personally rejected that lifestyle choice keep their mouths shut. At the July gathering outside the Supreme Court Christopher Doyle of Voice of the Voiceless said, “Anti-ex-gay extremists say that I do not exist–that we don’t exist.” Of course they do exist, and trying to shout them down in the public arena will not change that…just like the oft-repeated position that homosexuals are “born that way” and have no choice in the matter does not make that position true.

Foolish Words

This is no longer news, so you may have seen it already. Back in July retired Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu made the statement that he would rather go to hell than worship a homophobic God. According to the report on foxnews.com Tutu said, “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.” He also said, “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.”

Those are foolish words indeed. I suspect Tutu was utilizing a bit of hyperbole there, but it is an incredibly ill-informed thing to say nonetheless.

Of course Tutu is not a newcomer when it comes to making foolish statements about God and the Bible. In December 2009 Tutu said, in a CNN interview, that while he reads the Bible everyday, he does not believe everything the Bible says. “[What] You have to understand is that the bible is really a library of books and it has different categories of material. There are certain parts which you have to say no to. The Bible accepted slavery. St Paul said women should not speak in church at all and there are people who have used that to say women should not be ordained. There are many things that you shouldn’t accept.”

The Bible, of course, does not “accept” slavery in the sense that it condones it. It does say that women should not be ordained, though. The fact that Tutu does not like that simply means that he would rather worship a God that fits his own image of what a loving God should be like.

In the same article in which Tutu said he would not worship a homophobic God he also said that the UN’s “Free and Equal” campaign–designed to raise awareness of discrimination and violence against homosexuals–is akin to “the fight South Africans waged to end the former white racist minority rule.” Only it is not. As I have addressed in this space on numerous occasions, homosexual “rights” is not a civil rights issue. There is nothing equivalent between the discrimination faced by South Africans during apartheid or by African Americans in the U.S. prior to desegregation and the discrimination being faced by homosexuals who are not allowed to marry. And when I say there is nothing equivalent that is exactly, specifically and precisely what I mean…nothing, zilch, nada, bupkis, zippo.

But that is not the real reason I sat down to type this entry. Tutu’s statement reflects that he wants to craft his own image of God. The Bible has plenty to say about people who take that approach. Perhaps the most notorious crime in human history was the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, one of His own disciples. Judas betrayed Jesus because Jesus did not fit the image he had in mind of what the Messiah should be, and Jesus did not come to do what Judas thought the Messiah should do. So Judas betrayed Him.

Desmond Tutu has decided that God is not opposed to homosexuality. Since the Bible speaks clearly against it this must be part of the Bible Tutu has decided need not be taken seriously. The problem is, if we start picking and choosing when we have to believe what the Bible says and when we do not we can make the Bible say just about anything we want. And if that is not what Tutu has in mind, his position still begs the question of who gets to decide which parts of the Bible are to be believed and which are not.

Fortunately, there is a very easy remedy to this entire conundrum–every word of the Bible is true, and we have to accept it all. If we are going to pick parts we do not believe we might as well throw out the whole thing. We must be alert for those who come in, like Desmond Tutu, claiming to know better than God does what God means and what God stands for and what God condones. I hate to have to be the one to tell him this, but God’s position on homosexuality did not change when Desmond Tutu said he would not worship a “homophobic God.” None of us can worship God on our own terms. If he worships a God different than the God of the Bible then Desmond Tutu has created his own god according to his own understanding and desires. God has given us the truth; what we do with it is up to us, but the truth does not change just because we do not like it.

God is not homophobic in the sense in which most people use the word. The definition of that word is “unreasoning fear of homosexuals and homosexuality.” God is certainly not afraid of homosexuality or homosexuals; God fears no man. God is homophobic in the sense that He abhors homosexuality, but He does not abhor homosexuals. He loves them, He desires for them to repent of their sin and He desires to forgive their sins. And that, by the way, is exactly what He calls His followers’ attitude toward homosexuality to be, too.

Upholding Biblical Principles

I seem to blog entirely too much about homosexuality recently, but it also seems to be in the news entirely too much recently, so I guess that’s how it goes. On June 13 ABC News ran a story about a student at Grace University in Omaha, NE–a Christian school–that dismissed a student “just months away from her college graduation” because she fell in love with a fellow Grace student who was also a female. This happened two years ago, but is (conveniently?) just now coming to national attention.

According to the school’s executive vice president, the handbook reads that “any student involved in sexually immoral behavior, including premarital sex, adultery, and homosexual acts, is at minimum placed on University probation and may be subject to a Judiciary Hearing.” This is not an unusual policy for a Christian school, and it is one that is entirely consistent with biblical principles. So what’s the big deal?

Well, according to a change.org petition created by the student’s now-wife, Grace University suspended the student, took away her scholarship and then expelled her for her continued relationship with the female student, just one semester shy of her graduation. According to ABC’s report, the petition asks that Grace forgive the student’s outstanding tuition debt and protests alleged discrimination. The now-wife writes in the petition, “Danielle’s life was completely turned upside down and her academic career ended simply because she fell in love with another woman.”

Well, let’s see… First of all, what discrimination? The handbook clearly states that homosexual relationships violate the school’s policy and will result in discipline. Since the student in question violated the policy and was then disciplined, this is no more discriminatory than if the school disciplined students for using illegal drugs or plagiarizing, offenses I think it is safe to assume are also clearly forbidden in the handbook. This student undoubtedly signed an agreement stating that she had read and agreed to adhere to the school’s policies. Given that she was within a semester of graduating, she probably signed it more than once.

The now-wife also quoted from a letter received from the university which reads, “…it would be impossible for the faculty of Grace University to affirm your Christian character, a requirement for degree conferral.” In my opinion, the school is to be commended for taking this stand. If one of its requirements for its graduates is that the faculty of the school be able to attest to the Christian character of the students, and a student is persisting in sin, it would, as stated, be impossible to give that affirmation, and therefore graduation should have been denied.

According to the school, it is seeking repayment of federal loans and grants from the dismissed student. I can see no problem with this position, certainly not as to the loans, since a loan is a legal agreement requiring one individual to repay the other according to the specified terms. I would hesitate to require the repayment of grants, since there is never an expectation that grants be repayed, but loans certainly should be. Ultimately, I suspect this is not really about the money. The dismissed student is no doubt unhappy about the way things turned out, despite the fact that they resulted from her own choices, and she is apparently not wanting to repay the loans since she was prevented from graduating, but more than anything else it seems she–or perhaps her “wife” since she is the one making all the news–is more concerned about making noise about the school upholding biblical principles. And for that, I say again, Grace University is to be commended.

Who We Are

WORLD Magazine columnist Janie B. Cheaney is a good writer. I enjoy reading her columns, and I often find them to be well thought out and even thought-provoking. I have also found, however, that I seem to disagree with her at least as often as not. Such is the case again with her column entitled “The heart of the matter” in the June 1, 2013 issue. The subtitle of her column is “Homosexuals and the rest of us sinners are who we are, and that is the problem.” Unfortunately, Cheaney’s premise is wrong, and she makes several assertions throughout her column that are wrong.

Cheaney begins her piece with a quick rundown of some of the more prominent conservatives to have endorsed same-sex marriage. But then she starts the second paragraph with this: “So-called gay rights (for lack of a better term) is the third great civil-rights movement of the last 60 years, and the most vexed. Here’s why: Racism challenged society, feminism challenged the family, but sexual identity challenges our very being.”

I have argued in this space on numerous previous occasions that gay rights is not a civil rights issue, and I was disappointed to say the least that Cheaney has jumped on board with those who say that it is. And the reason that it is not is because the conclusion of Cheaney’s explanation is exactly wrong. Sexual identity does not challenge our “very being.” Our “very being” is that we are human beings created in the image of God. If you want to go further than that we are male and female human beings. But that is the extent of our “very being.” The identities that have been created in recent years, neatly summed up in the letters “LGBTQ” are man-made labels to describe chosen behaviors and preferences, but they are not identities. Cheaney calls them “a range of identities with unfixed borders,” but that is wrong. The unfixed borders part of the statement may be accurate; after all, the Q stands for, depending on who you ask or where you look, “queer” or “questioning,” but means, in either instance, someone who is uncertain of which label fits them.

Still, labels is all they are, not identities. For one thing, identities do not change; the very beginning of the definition of “identity” is “the state or fact of remaining the same one or ones, as under varying aspects or conditions.” They are further not identities because those behaviors abbreviated by LGBTQ describe personal preferences and possibly personal behaviors, but not who a person is. The same is just as true of a heterosexual as a homosexual, by the way. Heterosexuality is defined as, “sexual feeling or behavior directed toward a person or persons of the opposite sex.” Neither feelings nor behaviors are identities. I am certainly not identifiable by my feelings–and thank God for that, by the way! Nor am I identified by my behaviors. You may be able to learn a lot about me by what I do, but none of those things are me. Many labels can be applied accurately to me–husband, father, son, brother, teacher, friend, fan, reader, writer, colleague, employee, and on and on I could go. But if you took away each and every one of those things you would not eliminate me; I would still exist if none of those labels were still applicable, and therefore none of those things are my identity.

Cheaney uses a man named Christopher Yuan as an example of her point. Of Yuan she writes, “His identity was inseparable from his sexuality, and by his early twenties he knew he couldn’t change it. He was and always would be gay.” Therein lies the problem, though; his sexuality is separable from his identity.

Cheaney goes on to explain that sin is a matter of who we are. She writes, “‘This is who I am’ unwittingly bears the human soul. Sin is not primarily a matter of what we do but who we are. We are liars, idolators, adulterers, hypocrites, perverts. That is why we lie (to ourselves especially), worship the creature rather than the Creator, stray from our true lover, pretend righteousness we don’t have, and misuse God’s gifts to our own selfish ends. But most of those sins can be hidden, even within the church. The homosexual’s peculiar burden is that his sin can’t be hidden.”

Let’s take that apart a bit. First of all, yes, we are sinners–all of us. Scripture makes it clear that every human is a sinner, and that every human is born a sinner. Sinner, therefore, could accurately be included as part of our identities. And while Scripture also makes it clear that to be guilty of any part of the law is to be guilty of all, that does not mean that every person has actually committed each act. James 2 makes it clear that when we break God’s law in any way we are guilty of it all. James 2:10-11 reads, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law” (ESV). That does not mean, though, that if I have committed adultery I might as well also commit murder. It does not mean that if I have lied I might as well also steal. It simply means that it does not matter which of God’s laws I break, by breaking them I fall short of the glory of God and am therefore unworthy to spend eternity in His presence (Romans 3:23).

However–and this is a very important however–the fact that I am a sinner does not mean I have free license to sin. By God’s grace my sins have been forgiven, and with the leading of the Holy Spirit and my yielding to Him I do not have to live a life of sin. Paul makes it very clear that just because God’s grace enables the forgiveness of sins does not give me freedom to sin (Romans 6). So yes, some sins can be hidden, and some much more easily than others, but the fact that we are born sinners does not mean we have to sin continually, and certainly does not mean that we should sin.

So, to my second point, Cheaney says that homosexuality cannot be hidden. I disagree. If homosexuality is a feeling, it can definitely be hidden. People hide their feelings all the time. If homosexuality is an action it can be both hidden and avoided. Plenty of people throughout history have engaged in homosexual activity and hidden it, I am sure. But the real point is that no one has to engage in homosexual behavior! As I have stated repeatedly, even if I were convinced that people are “born homosexual” (I am not) they still have the choice to practice homosexuality. And this is why gay rights is not a civil rights issue. People can not choose or change the color of their skin, and people cannot choose their gender, either (though with the “technology” available these days they can have it medically changed).

At the end of her column Cheaney quotes Yuan as coming to realization that the Bible does condemn homosexuality as a sin, and that God called him to be holy. “My identity was not ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ or even ‘heterosexual,’ for that matter. But my identity as a child of the living God must be in Jesus Christ alone,” she quoted Yuan. And in that regard Yuan is quite right. The problem is that she prefaced that by writing that God “was not calling him to be straight, but to be holy.” The problem is, one cannot be holy and be a practicing homosexual. If the Bible says homosexuality is a sin (it does) and the Bible says that Christians are to be holy because God is holy (it does) one cannot then argue that it is possible to be both holy and homosexual (it isn’t). Am I saying all homosexuals will go to hell? No, I’m not. Homosexuality is a sin, but God forgives the sins of those who ask, homosexuals included.

My point, though, is that Cheaney is wrong about homosexuality or heterosexuality being anyone’s identity. It simply is not. I also disagree wholeheartedly that homosexual is what anyone “just is.” Who we all are is fallen human beings, created in the image of God but born in sin and therefore ineligible for eternal life. My identity now, praise the Lord, is a sinner saved by grace. And that is a identity anyone can have who is willing to call on the name of the Lord.