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The Rise of Trans Culture and the Evidence of Gender

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In what was the first high profile public confrontation of what will undoubtedly be many over the gender bathroom issue, the NBA recently pulled it’s All-Star game for the upcoming season from Charlotte, North Carolina. When millions of dollars are lost, this stuff gets heated quickly and this issue doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

I recently preached through a series titled The Design of Love. In the series, we meditated on Scriptural directives about relationships, marriage, gender, and sexuality.

Our society’s perception of genderedness has most definitely shifted over the years. But in a strange way, I’m increasingly convinced that the biblical sexual ethic is once again being affirmed. My  conviction is that biological and sociological study inevitably catches up to theological truth. And as far as society’s gender envelope has been pushed, it seems to me that once more a biblical point is being made.

From the 1960s, the western world went through a supposed “sexual revolution.” The sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll cliché was appropriate for a period characterized by the pursuit of feeling good. But the thinking on these pleasures changed. Recreational drugs, while obviously still an issue, became universally recognized as a massive hindrance to success in life. Rock n’ roll accidentally tripped on hairspray and quickly became shockingly uncool, all but dying as an art form by the 90s. And the perception of sexuality changed too.

During the sexual revolution, sex was largely understood as merely an appetite. You get hungry, so you eat. You feel sexy, so you have sex. This is a rather low view of sex that’s been around at least since the paganism of Corinth, when the Apostle Paul quotes them by saying, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food” (1 Cor. 6:13) when talking about sexual immorality. Apparently many in 1st century Corinth were champions of that sexual revolution too. When they felt the hunger for sex, they would seek out male and female shrine prostitutes.

During the American sexual revolution, sex was perceived as a mere physical, mostly external thing we do. In tow with a feminist movement touting that a woman could do anything a man could, the societal perception shifted to men and women being essentially the same, our genderedness only running genital deep. It was a sexual equivalency culture of sorts.

And then came the 90s. One of the eye-opening aspects to the 90s was the coming out of many celebrities. Ellen Degeneres, George Michael, Melissa Etheridge, Nathan Lane were just a few of America’s favorite entertainers who put a face on homosexuality in the 90s. The overall number of celebrities and various industry leaders who felt comfortable sharing their sexual identity must have multiplied by ten in the subsequent decade.

In essence, what you had was many famous figures saying, “Please don’t make assumptions about my sexuality based on externals. My sexuality runs much deeper.”

And biblically speaking, they’re right.

blog - trans culture 2In more recent years, as same-sex marriage became the law of the land, and thus common, the attention obviously shifted to transgender celebrities like Chaz Bono and Caitlyn Jenner.

So we now have a rise of people who are more publicly saying, “I definitely FEEL male/female on the inside.” In other words, what’s en vogue today is people rejecting the idea that sexuality is only skin deep. That’s correct. Now, they’re missing the fact that sin absolutely wrecks all of us and can distort our sexuality too. But, in a strange way, Paul’s teaching on human sexuality is being affirmed – your gender is NOT just an external thing, it’s part of your hardwiring.

The current cultural narrative about genderedness is agreeing with the latest brain research – men and women are absolutely wired differently.

And you know who pointed this out quite some time ago? The Bible.

The Bible teaches that the original man and woman were created differently – man from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7), woman from the side of the man (Gen. 2:21-22). And if you include different ingredients in the recipe, you’re naturally going to pull a very different cake out of the oven.

When sinned entered the world there were also different consequences for the genders – thorns and thistles in the field for the man (i.e. frustration in his work) (Gen. 3:17-19), pain in childbearing and “desire” for husband for the woman (i.e. frustration in relationships) (Gen. 3:16). As a general rule, these tend to be areas from which men and women most commonly define themselves. By way of example, I can nearly guarantee that if I randomly selected 100 women from church and asked them, “How’s it going?” 75 or more would tell me something about their relationships – their spouse, their kids or grandkids. But if I asked 100 men from the congregation the same question, “How’s it going?” 75 or more would tell me about something they’ve done recently – their work, their hunting trip, their fantasy sports team.

Perhaps more vividly, my colleague recently commented that you don’t ever see a group of four men out to lunch with gift bags. Very true. And I’d probably counter with the fact that you rarely see a woman kill an animal, stuff its head, and mount it in her living room in order to brag to any visiting company.

Men and women are wired differently.

This is also why the Apostle Paul gives Christian husbands and wives different directives in order to meet the most fundamental needs of their spouses. “Wives, submit yourselves (offer respect) to your own husbands.” (vs. 22) And he says, “Husbands, love your wives.” (vs. 25) If we didn’t have different needs, God wouldn’t have to offer different directives.

Again, God wired men and women differently. As a society, there are some signs that we’re starting to once again realize that.

So I get that Christians have a tendency to lament how far a culture falls. I’m not even suggesting that’s completely unjustified (the Apostle Paul does something similar in Rom. 1:18-32). But take confidence in the inevitable victory of God’s revelation.

The gospel means that out of the darkness of death comes the dawning light of resurrection. Truth always rises to the top of a pile of lies. And as surely as our Savior Jesus rose from his grave, his Word rises to authority as well. Even in a dying world we can see his living truth.

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THE REASON Lives Matter

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Quite obviously, our country still has issues with ethnic relations.

Please notice that I very intentionally use the word “ethnic” as opposed to “race.” Did you know that the word “racism” actually comes out of the 19th century French Enlightenment period – a philosophical period that shifted mankind’s focus from God to man? It was at that point that humans started to believe there was such a thing as more or less evolved “races” of humans. But according to the Bible, there are only 2 races of humans – believers and non-believers – who descended from one race, sharing common ancestry dating to Adam and Eve. In other words, the mere use of words like “racism” are indicative of a larger problem – a loss of the public consciousness of God. This invariably leads to a loss of the value of human life. It’s a deep issue that has manifested itself in multiple ways.

The violence of the past month indicates that our nation, as a whole, apparently doesn’t have a particularly high view of human life. But we’ve also legally and publicly ended 60 million lives since 1973. Think those aren’t related? We’ve been demonstrating for quite some time now that we simply don’t care very deeply about other humans’ lives. Further indication is that another societal pillar – the relationship between citizens and the people we hire to protect them – is seemingly starting to break down as well now too.

Why?

Cornell professor Brian Tierney has all but proven that the concept of inalienable human rights and universal human value was brought into western philosophy by medieval Christian theologians. For the past 150 years or so, Americans have taken for granted the fact that all human life has value and all human beings possess rights. But that’s actually a fairly small sliver of time and place in history. Humans haven’t always believed in inalienable rights rooted in inherent worth. And we didn’t just stumble upon this idea by good fortune either. It is was received directly from the Christian Church’s influence on the West.

If you don’t believe that, just ask EITHER some of the smartest atheists OR some of the smartest Christians!

Friedrich Nietzsche said,

“Another Christian concept, no less crazy: the concept of equality of souls before God. This concept furnishes the prototype of all theories of equal rights.” (The Will to Power, 401)

Nietzsche would later go on to say that it was foolish to believe that the value system of Christianity would be kept if Christianity was lost in a society. He referred to these values as “shadows of gods.” And he concluded that if you remove the Christian foundation, the values too will go.

In more ancient times, guys like Aristotle, also certainly no believer in the true God, said,

“For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule…And indeed the use made of slaves and of tame animals is not very different, for both with their bodies minister to the needs of life.” (The Politics)

No, Artistotle clearly did not believe all human lives had equal value. He felt some were too emotional and incapable of higher reason. Some, in his opinion, were closer to animals and it was okay to treat them as such.

In more modern times, academics like Princeton Bioethics professor, Peter Singer, has argued that human life only has worth on the basis of “capacity” – our ability to do legitimate reasoning. Consequently, he’s deeply in favor of abortion and euthanasia, because he does not believe infants and senile elderly to be capable of sound reasoning. The obvious question is WHO is the lucky individual who gets to determine who’s reasonable or not? Singer doesn’t have a good answer. He seems to think he’s qualified though. Somewhat paradoxically, he’s also considered one of the founders of modern animal rights.

Even Thomas Jefferson, arguably the least religious of the founding fathers, said:

“And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?” (Notes on the State of Virginia, 163)

Jefferson is teaching that there is no basis for human worth and equality outside of this value being imbued by a divine Creator. Similarly, George Washington said that morality cannot be sustained apart from religion. John Adams said our Constitution only worked for religious people. And so on.

Finally, and perhaps most pertinently in light of the cause behind the most recent violence, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in his “American Dream” sermon, said:

“You see, the founding fathers were really influenced by the Bible. The whole concept of the imago Dei … ‘the image of God,’ is the idea that all men have something within them that God injected, to have fellowship with God. And this gives him a uniqueness, worth, and dignity. And we must never forget this as a nation: there are no gradations in the image of God. Every man from a treble white to a bass black is significant on God’s keyboard, precisely because every man is made in the image of God.”

So, can I say it again? If you don’t believe Christian faith is the only basis for human rights, just ask either some of the smartest atheists or some of the smartest Christians. They’ll both tell you the same thing.

More importantly, ask the Bible itself. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t just come up with the idea of human equality. He found it, and launched the most important modern civil rights movement – non-violent and totally effective – by doing theology. Dr. King knew it wasn’t enough for any of us to simply say that lives matter. He knew we had to have a basis, a reason why lives matter. And he rediscovered for our generation the beauty of the imago Dei. How? He reminded us what God’s Word has to say about it.

In Genesis 9:5–6, God says,

“And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting…. from each human being, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.

“Whoever sheds human blood,
    by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
    has God made mankind. (Gen. 9:5-6) (see also, James 3:9-10)

Make sense? Humans are incredibly valuable precisely because when God created them, he placed his image upon them. This is the reason lives matter. Apart from this teaching (known as the imago Dei) there is absolutely no true basis to make the case for the value of human life. Tierney, Nietzsche, Aristotle, Singer, Jefferson, King, and God all agree on this.

But the Bible teaches that because humans still retain the inherent worth of the image of God, Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, saw us as valuable enough that he would come and die to pay for the sins of every human.

“Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.” (Rom. 5:18)

And the proof is in the pudding. Christianity had answers for civil wickedness in the past. Christians ended the infanticide in the Greco-Roman world by taking these children in. Christians cared for the elderly and the sick during the plagues, when everyone else left them to die. Jesus was the one who spoke radically about ethnic relations between Jews and Samaritans. And Jesus was the Ultimate Nonviolent Protestor.

“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)

Saved by Jesus and inspired by Jesus, the early Christians put their belief in the sanctity of human life on display. In doing so they presented a more beautiful truth than the world around them. Lives were lost but hearts were melted and the world was changed. The western world was led to place a high premium on the value of human life. But we’ve lost that because, as a majority, we’ve lost the Christian faith.

We won’t get it back by politics. We won’t get it back by Facebook tirades. And we won’t get it back by Sunday punchcard Christianity.

In the wake of last week’s murders, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said at a press conference, “We’re asking cops to do too much in this country.” He’s right. We’ve put the weight of God on someone/something other than Jesus. We’ve asked our governement and its civil servants to accomplish the divine. So we’re constantly disappointed and kicking around shallow solutions.

If we regain the value of human life in our country, it’s only going to come because our citizens see the imago Dei. And the only ones we can assume would put this on display are Christians. So, if you’re a Christian who really wants to be part of the solution to our nation’s most newsworthy problem, it requires:

  1. Regular study to know Jesus.
  2. Regular repentance and thankfulness to comprehend Jesus’ grace.
  3. Regular courage to speak about Jesus.
  4. Regular sacrifice for others to show Jesus’ love.

God created us and placed his image upon us. We clearly matter.

God redeemed us by the blood of his only Son. We clearly matter.

God placed his own Spirit inside of us and has empowered us. We can make a difference if we move forward in faith.

Church, be the Church.

 

For more on the Imago Dei, please read here.

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The Cause of Superhero Culture

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Who will rise up for me against the wicked?
    Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?
Unless the Lord had given me help,
    I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. (Psalm 94:16-17)

Last week I presented on Ministering to Millennials at a conference in Phoenix. One of the last questions I received was about the superhero culture so prevalent with young adults. It’s become big business. Actually, it’s become the BIGGEST genre in the entertainment business.

To date, in 2016 the highest grossing films around the world are superhero/fantasy films. Currently the order looks like this – #1 Captain America: Civil War ($1.1 bil), #4 Batman v. Superman:Dawn of Justice ($872 mil), #5 Deadpool ($778 mil), #8 X-Men Apocalypse ($509 mil). Further telling is the fact that none of the top 10 movies in revenue are even remotely based in reality.

Thus, the fascinating trend that Hollywood has fallen into in recent years is that the Academy Award for Best Picture each year ends up going to a film deeply rooted in painful realism, yet the movies that make the most at the box office are anything but reality. So we have this tension, as though the cultural elites, the arbiters of quality film-making, are trying to continuously bring us back to the harsh realities of life, all while the general populace is showing (with their attendance and dollars) that they’re yearning for something far greater than the present reality.

None of this, at least in retrospect, is surprising for Christians who take the Bible seriously. In the 20th century, higher academia did it’s best to refute the supernatural. But you simply can’t suppress the truth forever. Often, it’s like trying to press down a bubble under cellophane, it’s going to pop up elsewhere. And you certainly cannot suppress a supernatural God. The 20th century was a good try. But it seems as though the cultural corner has been turned. Even famous scientists, in somewhat controversial fashion, are now claiming to prove God’s existence.

But the rise of superhero culture in the 20th century serves as evidence of mankind’s collective subconscious acknowledging the truth that there exists a being who can surpass mere human capabilities.

C.S. Lewis, following previous theologians who had argued for the existence of God on the basis of something they called the sensus divinitatis (a sense of the divine), echoed,

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex.” (Mere Christianity)

So, why is Wolverine’s ability to heal so compelling? Because there really is someone who can cure all wounds (Luke 17:19). Why is Superwoman’s ability to speak in any language so compelling? Because there really is a Spirit who works in every language (Acts 2:5-6). Why is Superman’s ability to fly so compelling? Because there really is someone who can be everywhere at any time (Jer. 23:24). Why is his X-ray vision so compelling? Because there really is someone who sees all things (Job 34:21). Why is Spiderman’s ability to swing between buildings of a congested city so compelling? Because there really is someone who can move through huge crowds without problem (Luke 4:30). Why is Nightcrawler’s ability to pop in and out anywhere so compelling? Because there really has been someone who did the same (Luke 24:31). Why is the Hulk so compelling? Because there really is actually someone strong enough to move mountains (Matt. 17:20) and cause the sun to stand still (Josh 10:12-13).Why is Professor X’s mind-reading so compelling? Because there really is someone who knows your deepest thoughts (Psalm 139:2). Why is Aquaman’s ability to influence sea creatures so compelling? Well….he’s really not all that compelling. I’ve always been sympathetic towards Aquaman’s relative lameness – but, truth be told, there really is someone who can control the fish for his purposes (Jon. 1:17).

Now what would you have if one person embodied all of these abilities and more? His name is Jesus. And he showed up to overcome the darkness of our present reality. You can only suppress his truth for so long.

I believe the undeniable superhero culture in which we currently live is only one of many indicators of a society longing for supernatural truth. For instance, as society rebuked not only supernatural talk of God, but also angels and demons in the 20th century, we experienced the rise of alien phenomena. So, if I said… “Mysterious extraterrestrial beings, less than ‘God’ but more than man, who though they do not fully dwell on this planet, interact with this planet using unexplainable advanced powers greater than those seen from the beings of this planet. And these beings typically either bring messages to the people of this planet or remove people from this planet and take them into a different realm (cf. Luke 16:22).” Am I describing aliens….or angels and demons? I’m convinced the former currently serves as a placeholder for the latter.

Or consider the fact that dark matter is the current theory for why the observable matter of the universe doesn’t either collapse upon itself or expand to stretch itself as uninhabitable for life. Somehow it’s okay that “dark matter,” which we cannot observe by any instrument, only by the effects it has on observable matter, is accepted by faith in the scientific community, while God, whose effects are also observed on everything, is denied. I believe the former, in a sense, is a placeholder for the latter. “(Jesus) is before all things, and in him all things HOLD TOGETHER.(Col. 1:17)

So what if a superhero actually existed? What if all superhero powers were actually placed into one person? What if all the great stories about heroes who come from far away to earth to struggle, sacrifice, and use otherworldly power to conquer our deepest villains – what if these great stories were merely leeching off the richness of the greatest, truest story ever told?

And what if our hero’s Spirit actually lives inside us now? If we work together as people whom the Spirit dwells in, the Church, what kind of healing power could we bring into the world?

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.(Eph. 3:20-21)

 

Millennials Might Kill Holidays…and Why That’s Okay

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I ran across an interesting article recently, the thrust of which was the idea that Millennials have turned once simple birthday party gatherings into “holy month” monstrosities. The author states:

But millennials took those simple pleasures for granted, and now, many parties have evolved into ravenous emotional beasts: month-long, highly intricate ceremonies that eat up all your savings and Facebook notifications. Absence is not an option. Sickness is not an excuse. The rise of the birthdayzilla has transformed birthday parties from simple one-offs to totalitarian birthday months, and everyone must comply.

Now it’s not particularly noteworthy that Millennials have pushed the boundaries of extreme behavior on self-focused holidays. It’s not even all that surprising to me that the author freely uses terminology like “HOLY months” to describe these events. Since humans were designed for worship, we carve out portions of our lives as sacred and we’re going to worship something as holy. Therefore, if you take God out of the social consciousness, we’re likely going to worship ourselves. Makes perfect sense.

What’s really quite intriguing to me, however, is the idea that Millennials are tampering with the traditional notion of holidays (i.e. from the Middle English for “holy days”). In other words, the surprising twist to me is not that the Millennial generation would consider their birthdays to be “HOLY days.” The unique and telling part to me is that they’ve moved beyond “holy DAYS.”

Millennials are largely asynchronous (i.e. not bound by traditional time structures). For instance, the idea of having to watch a TV show on a certain day of the week at a certain time not only seems foreign to the Millennial mind, but inefficient and wasteful. They do their classes online when they want. They stream entertainment content online when they want. They shop online when they want. Those are significant changes from prior generations.

Consequently, from the perspective of time, Millennials are pushing humanity to become less event (time) driven and more lifestyle (content & attitude) driven.

There are unquestionably some implications here for Christianity and the church.

For instance, for years humanity has thought in terms of special events. Even the Church has thought in terms of special events – Christmas, Easter, etc. But consider this – Would we have to have a Christmas Day (or Eve) celebration? Would we have to have an Easter Day celebration? Think carefully here… As Christians, we cannot help but celebrate the sin-removing, life-changing, eternity-altering facts of our Savior’s birth, death, and resurrection. That’s a given. But are we primarily tied to certain days for these celebrations? Or do these facts primarily tie us to new life (and new lifestyles) in Christ?

If there’s any doubt about this Millennial shift from time to content & attitude, event to lifestyle, just keep this post in mind next Christmas when you hear a Millennial say something like, “We’re ‘doing Christmas’ with my parents this weekend and then my husband’s parents next weekend.” That mindset, or language, didn’t exist several generations ago.

Without rehashing the entire history of why Christians arrived at certain dates for celebrations, I think many believers today are in tune with the fact that Christianity borrowed pagan Roman dates for its celebrations. Christmas was in all likelihood linked to Saturnalia. Easter was in all likelihood linked to Eostre. There remains scholarly debate about the exact years, let alone the exact dates, of Christians attaching themselves to these events. So the idea that we MUST celebrate on certain days seems a little silly. Furthermore, we know that Christians were NOT celebrating these events as specific holidays until hundreds of years after Christ’s life on earth. (Dr. Paul L. Maier’s In The Fullness of Time is my top recommendation for such corresponding data.)

The bottom line is simply this – the early Christians did NOT find it necessary to have special celebrations on special dates. The early Christians, did, however find it essential that if you were a follower of Christ, ALL 365 days of the year be fully dedicated to the life, death, and resurrection of the Savior. While the commercialization of “event days” like Christmas is widely understood, it remains a potentially valid case that perhaps such days are more detrimental than helpful.

So, am I advocating the removal of celebratory Christian festivals? No, not necessarily. And I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone is inherently doing anything wrong by celebrating on such days. The more relevant question though is whether or not God designed for the Christian Church to have such days, i.e. are they wise or not?

The words of the Apostle Paul to the Colossians should at least give us pause for consideration:

“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Col. 2:16-17)

This would appear to give some legs to the argument that special day events were the product of religious observance, but lifestyle is the product of the gospel of Jesus.

At its peak, it’s believed that the Roman Empire had festival celebrations somewhere between half and two-thirds of the days of the calendar year. There seems to be something about the human heart that wants to make one day more sacred than the other.   Hmmm.

Realistically, do I think Millennials are going to overturn the concept of holidays? No. It’s been around too long. And I think there are too many Millennials who, while they aren’t wired to think in terms of events, nonetheless enjoy days off from work.

That said, do I think the way we perceive time is changing? Absolutely. Do I think that’ll have profound implications for the way we exist as The Church? Yes. And do I think that’s all bad? Nope.

Most of all, I’m excited for my time in eternity, about which Peter says, With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Pet. 3:8) At that point, I won’t be bothered by my stupid mistakes from the past. At that point, I won’t be anxious about the uncertainty of future events. At that point, I’ll just be…with the Lord, who by grace washed away my past and secured my future, so that I could finally live in the eternal moment. 

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The Idols We Never Knew We Had – Bible Study

A little different direction this week – wanted to share with you some of the other stuff I’ve been working on of late. Linked above is an interview with Northwestern Publishing House Editor, Daniel Schroeder, for the now available study “The Idols We Never Knew We Had.”

I had a ton of fun putting the lessons together and, after piloting the study on my own, was really pleased with the results.

A more nuanced view of idolatry has been one of the top two or three spiritual insights I’ve gained in my adult life as a Christian. I’m hoping to share some of the good news that I learned along the way. Please encourage your church to consider running the 8 week series, either on Sunday mornings or in a Small Group setting. You can purchase a copy at the links below.

A downloadable version is available HERE.

There is also a CD version available HERE.

NOTE: You will not be required to look at my adult braces during the course of the study.

No More Little Boy’s/Girl’s Room

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The Obama administration issued a clear statement this past week encouraging schools nationwide to allow students to use the bathroom which matches their gender identity. In case there is any confusion, this is a change from the previous understanding of bathroom usage – that students would use the bathroom which matches their biological sex. While no law has yet been established, the implication was that federal funding would be cut to schools who refuse compliance.

As though American politics weren’t polarizing enough, delving into the bathroom lives of citizens was a guarantee to create additional angst. Students around the country are starting to protest. My own church body, which maintains a very large school system, is even starting to face some outside pressure.

Clearly our country is encountering some gender hurt right now. Many people on either side of the issue feel unheard and unconcerned for. Media coverage is not helping, but it’s also not the media’s job to help. It’s the media’s job to cover legitimate news.

In honor of Pentecost (this past Sunday’s celebration), however, it IS the Church’s job to offer hope, peace, comprehensible truth, and radical unity, guided by the example, sacrifice, and grace of Christ.

So, since this has quickly become a political issue (as seemingly all are becoming today), let me phrase it like this:

To my friends on the Left…

I think there exists a caricature of the Right – that they fear transgender individuals using bathrooms because “What if they abuse little children?” I haven’t seen any evidence that a transgender individual has any greater likelihood of sexually assaulting someone (minor or adult) and therefore if someone legitimately has this concern, it would seem unfounded.

That said, bathroom behavior that matches gender identity does, however, seemingly create a greater risk. This is because it unquestionably offers greater access to those who seek to do sexual harm to others.

Say, for instance, that a male sexual predator wants to molest a little girl. Since there’s no way to police gender identity, that man now has significantly closer proximity to a vulnerable young woman in a state of undress. This is like the “no junk food in the house” diet rule. Proximity to temptation (i.e. access), creates greater likelihood of transgression. In this case, it would undeniably involve a victim.

So…for the sake of maintaining an important barrier that protects potential victims, does the willingness on behalf of some to use private bathrooms seem unreasonable?

To my friends on the Right…

I think there exists a caricature of the Left – that they not only want bathroom access for transgender individuals, but they want conservative religious people to suffer. If that were true, it’d obviously be a severe form of bullying in a land where we’re supposedly free to coexist with varying beliefs.

But, by and large, my impression is that those in the transgender community don’t have an agenda to torture others. They simply want others to understand some of the pain and ostracization that they themselves have felt, and show some sympathy and humanity towards it.

I can’t imagine what it’d be like to feel like a woman trapped in a man’s body – my brain and impulses communicating one thing and yet my physiology saying another. That has to be a source of immense internal tension. Feeling like the weight and hostility and judgment of the religious world is piling on you I would assume only aggravates the frustration.

So…for the sake of some tender human spirits who have endured a struggle that most of us can’t begin to comprehend, does it seem unreasonable to listen and perhaps reconsider our public bathroom options?

To all my friends…

Anger, panic, and frustration do little for quality decision-making. It often leads to unnecessary either/or thinking.

In the short-term, I hope we can take the emotion out of this issue and come up with some workable solutions. For instance, I’m not sure why we can’t move to an all private bathroom system. As it is, public situations like YMCA locker rooms have always felt shockingly closer to Roman Baths than modern safety and hygiene for my comfort. In 2016, when 90% of people are literally walking around with a video camera, more private places for private parts just makes sense. (Incidentally, that’s also my 2020 campaign slogan, by the way – Make America’s Parts Private Again)

Will it cost money to renovate all these public spaces? Yes, of course. There is always a cost to more peaceful human relations. It’s worth it. And both sides of this issue seem passionate enough that they’d be willing to put their money where their mouths are.

In the long run, I’m going to continue encouraging Christians to consider and reconsider their approach to social influence. The great American evangelist, Vince Havner, once said,

“We are not going to move this world by criticism of it nor conformity to it, but by the combustion within it of lives ignited by the Spirit of God.”

It’s always amazed me that when Jesus was asked a question about paying taxes to Caesar, he nonchalantly said, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matt. 22:21) He literally encouraged paying taxes to the very government that would unjustly crucify him! And yet he obviously still didn’t consider that “approving of sin.”

Jesus’ approach to changing the world was not political. It wasn’t forceful. It was self-sacrificial. Jesus never condoned nor dismissed sin. But he also didn’t publicly condemn “sinners.” (John 8:11) Instead, he inconvenienced himself all the way to hell so that those who were in the wrong might experience grace, have their hearts melted, repent and be saved.

It worked. It’s happened a billion times. Including to me.

And I’m convinced that the ones who realize this grace are the only ones who can bring this awful public dialogue out of the toilet.

Atheist Believers

tyson1Neil deGrasse Tyson recently hosted the Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate at the American Museum of Natural History. The topic was whether or not our universe is a simulation.

This might sound strange and silly at first glance, but an awareness of consciousness has been an essential part of western philosophy ever since Rene Descartes first posited, “I think, therefore I am.”

In more recent history, the highly acclaimed Matrix movie franchise brought this topic of consciousness into the American mainstream. It continues to be a source of fascination, especially for academics like Tyson and his PhD friends on stage – cosmologists, astrophysicists, and philosophers.

Over the course of the two-hour debate, the conversation eventually drifted to the nature of “The Simulator” behind the simulation. At the 51:40 mark in the debate video (linked below), on one of the experts says,

“Who knows if there’s actually a simulator doing any of this. But if you do take the simulation hypothesis seriously, it’s got a couple of elements of a traditional god. This person could be all-knowing about our universe and could be all-powerful. The one thing which is probably missing…is wisdom and benevolence. (looks to the sky) If there is a simulator, I refuse to worship you. You may be out there but you have not established yourself as being worthy of worship!”

This is met with laughter by the panelists on stage and some awkward support from people in the audience.

However, when you arrive at the 1:39:30 mark, Neil deGrasse Tyson begins his closing remarks. Sobering the group up, he says that humans have a certain hubris about our understanding of and interaction with the universe. He makes the case that though we have a high percentage of DNA overlap with chimpanzees, dogs, etc., we look at those animals as very stupid comparatively. He continues,

“What if we found some life form that was an equal gap between us and the chimpanzee, but beyond us instead of below us? What would we look like to them? We would be drooling, blithering idiots in their presence.”

This is met by sheepish quiet and defensive posture from the panelists, and an obvious curiosity from the audience.

Winding down his concluding statement, Tyson adds:

 “And if that’s the case, it is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just the creation of some other entity for their entertainment. I’m saying, the day we learn that it is true, I will be the only one in the room saying, ‘I’m not surprised.'”

Ooookkkaaay. So….the more I read leading atheist voices, the more I continue to see myself as being forever indebted to them. Tyson, along with Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Hawking, etc. are simply producing the best material out there for theo-apologetics. This debate is no exception.

Tyson, though claimed by many atheists, rather considers himself an agnostic.

But any way you slice it, he currently doesn’t believe in God. Despite that, taking out some of the pejorative “for their entertainment” verbiage, Tyson also just said in the debate, “it is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just the creation of some other entity…I’m saying, the day we learn that it is true, I will be the only one in the room saying, ‘I’m not surprised.'” 

Uhhh…Nope. That’s not true. Maybe when saying “I will be the only one in the room” Tyson is referring very narrowly to the audience at the AMNH debate. But if he’s trying to claim insider knowledge on a divine creating being (i.e. Simulator), I’m calling NONSENSE. I’m sorry, Columbus, but you can’t land in America, look some Native Americans in the eye, call them Indians, and then claim you’re some genius explorer. All you are is last to the table. And it’s insulting and patronizing to the natives to say you discovered the place.

Why do I care what Neil deGrasse Tyson has to say? For those who don’t know, Tyson was the driving force behind the new Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey series. Not only was it wildly successful in ratings and won a Peabody for educational content, but it’s now frequently being shown in public school classrooms around the country as a scientific basis for understanding the universe. It’s not particularly friendly toward a biblical worldview, as Tyson himself is not. In other words, Tyson is to kids of this generation what Bill Nye was to kids of the 90s – the single largest scientific academic influence on American youth, helping to shape an anti-God worldview.

Tyson is totally likable, by the way. He’s not only extraordinarily well-versed in a variety of scientific fields, but as a brilliant educator, he has an exceptional talent for breaking down complicated data into palatable sizes that even children (or I) can understand. What he doesn’t understand, however, ironically, is his own anti-God bias. And presenting his conclusions as scientific and “neutral” to a generation of kids (and adults) is what I think is the spiritual charlatanism.

In other words, I teach kids to believe in a Creator. That’s because I have a pro-God bias. Despite his recent imagining that “everything in our lives is the creation of some other entity/simulator” talk, Tyson teaches kids to believe in macro-evolution, and he presents that as being neutral, thinking-for-himself, pro-science…not as being anti-God. That’s where our worldviews collide. He believes that he is a blank slate capable of only rational thought. I believe that the science of genetics (nature) and environment (nurture) as well as the predisposed spiritual condition of mankind (sin) make every single human inherently biased. Consequently, I don’t think I can trust anyone who refuses to admit their own bias. This most recent demonstration of Tyson speaking out of both sides of his mouth furthers my opinion.

In the end, everyone has to decide. Are we the products of a Divine Creator? If so, the clear implication is that we have a responsibility to this being, to know him and what he wants from us. Or, are we the products of happenstance, merely accidental? If so, the clear implication of being without design is that we are purposeless, and nothing we do has any meaning. Tyson’s gotta pick a lane.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Rom. 1:20)