What should the Church do about transgender?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a widely read article asking, 'What would Jesus do about transgender?' Of course in the highly politicised atmosphere of today's culture, such an article was always going to be controversial and generate reactions. One such was from Jamie Fletcher an LGBTQ+ activist, who wrote 'A trans Christian responds'.

Caitlyn Jenner announced her transition from male to female in 2015.Reuters

There are areas of agreement. Like Jamie I too believe that all human beings should be treated with respect and dignity as children of God. I also believe that we need to be careful about the words that we use because the tongue is powerful and can do a great deal of damage. And of course we need to listen to people of different views and different experiences. I also agree that there are far too many articles about trans people and toilets, which run the danger of trivialising a serious issue. Like Jamie I affirm that Jesus loves trans people. But then Jamie knows this because all of it was stated in the original article.

So what about the areas of disagreement? Jamie stated that my article, which called for and agreed with all the above, was 'extremely damaging'. I too am very concerned about damage being caused to people, especially children – that is why I wrote my article.

Don't demonise

The article title was deliberate. 'Transgender' was used as a noun precisely because it was not written to attack people but an ideology. There is a whole ideology known as Queer theory that denies gender and which I believe does a great deal of harm. I would argue that this ideology is what dehumanises people. I would also say that when you label people who disagree with your ideology as 'transphobic' you dehumanise and demonise them. All people have to be respected. Not all ideologies.

It is also not helpful to associate those who disagree with an ideology with the murder of 325 transgender people. It is a form of emotional and psychological bullying. I am certain that not one of them was carried out by Christians who hold to the views described in my article. As followers of Christ we do not kill those we disagree with.

As for listening to voices, that is precisely what I am doing. I hear many voices. I hear the depressed teenager who has been told by a teacher that the reason for their depression might be that they are trapped in the wrong body. I hear the voice of the doctor who tells me that they have given up doing sex change operations because the outcome is 80 per cent negative. I hear the voice of the trans person who says that they must change because they really are trapped in the wrong body. I hear the voice of the trans person who now realises it was wrong and wants to change back but just for having said so is abused and vilified by some within the 'trans community'. These are all real conversations with real people. There are many voices to be heard, and all of us need to listen. Yelling 'transphobe' at anyone who dares to disagree is not listening.

Jamie says we shouldn't theorise but then she goes on precisely to do that, with her explanation of the language of her ideology. As a Christian I challenge every ideology that is not Christ's. Queer theory or trans ideology is no different. We are not 'assigned' gender at birth. We are born male or female (with rare exceptions because of medical conditions). Human beings are divided into male and female. There are those who teach that gender is fluid and that there are many genders, but this is neither scientific nor biblical. Jamie thinks that I am 'confused' because I link biological sex and gender. It's an interesting theory that the two are not connected, but I think it is an unwise and harmful theory, with no scientific warrant. As is the idea that very young children have the ability to decide they are a member of the opposite sex.

Which is not to deny that there is a psychological condition known as Gender Identity Disorder. I do not dispute that those who suffer from GID should receive treatment and help. Not least because as Jamie points out 89 per cent of trans young people self-harm and 45 per cent have attempted suicide. The problem is that she assumes that this is because of being bullied or not accepted as trans. Doubtless this does happen, but what if part of the problem is being trans in the first place? Or there are deeper issues which are only covered over by trying to explain them away as trans? Would we not then be encouraging children into a harmful and damaging way of life?

To claim that children are not given hormones and accuse any one who says that they are, of 'cheap demonisation' is also not helpful. The NHS website for Transgender states clearly that one of the treatments available for GID is hormone therapy.

Listening to God

As Christians I take it as a given that we will listen to our fellow human beings, made in the image of God. I also assume that we will all listen to the Spirit speaking in and through the Scriptures. There is no doubt that the Bible does clearly say that God made humanity male and female, and that Christ re-emphasised that in the New Testament. But Jamie suggests that the apostle Paul changed everything in Galatians 3:28 when he states 'There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus' (NIV). The trouble with this quotation is that it is out of context – and a text quoted out of context is just a pretext for whatever the quoter wants to make it say. In this case it is absurd to state that Paul is declaring male and female no longer exist – absurd because the rest of this letter and all his letters assume and teach that they do!

What Paul is saying is that 'in Christ' there is no more male and female' – in other words our gender does not matter when it comes to salvation. Jamie says, 'The important thing is to read this passage from the point of view of the one who has been excluded, not from the point of view of the one in the position of power and privilege.' She writes from the perspective of someone who has power and privilege in the arts world and among our media and cultural elites. I write as an outsider, as someone who is excluded from 'polite society' just because I do not share the worldview of those currently in power. But so what? The important thing is not to read the passage from the perspective of the one who has been excluded, but to read it from the perspective of God. Is the Lord able to clearly convey his teaching or not? Or does it all depend on our perspective?

What should the Church do?

Jesus did champion the marginalised and he did love the outcast – the tax collector as well as the prostitute. But he never said to people, 'Come as you are and stay as you are.' His promise was always that all were welcome – but that they would be radically changed. All need to be reborn. Jesus does not affirm us in our lifestyles. He redeems us from them.

Jamie makes the comment "What Would Jesus Do about Transgender people? My Bible suggests he would love them." That was my point precisely as the original article stated.

We need to speak the truth in love. We need to engage in respectful dialogue. I doubt that there is anyone who would read my article who would see it as an invitation to attack trans people. But I know (having experienced it already) that being called a transphobe in today's society is the equivalent of being called a Nazi.

I don't think my article damaged or harmed anyone. But we need to challenge harmful ideologies which undermine the Word of God and by so doing attack the person of Christ and harm his creation. We need to listen, learn and love. As the church of Jesus Christ we must be fearless in proclaiming the love of Christ in a confused and lost world. We must not compromise his love by adapting it to suit ourselves or the current zeitgeist. Christ is too precious for that...and our culture is in such a desperate state that it needs the Christ of the Bible, not our own personal Jesus.

David Robertson is Associate Director of Solas CPC in Dundee and minister at St Peter's Free Church. Follow him on Twitter @TheWeeFlea.