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.

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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)