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Stylish Sins: Transgenderism and the Contemporary Church

Stylish Sins: Transgenderism and the Contemporary Church

“The church’s response to those who identify as transgender,” Andrew T. Walker writes, “must be, immediately and with integrity, ‘You are welcome here. You are loved here.’”

This position reflects the broad inclinations of contemporary evangelicals, who generally seek to intentionally love and welcome those in the transgender movement. Though scripturally grounded churches may disagree with much of transgender ideology, they still strive to love those within the movement.

While loving all people is an honorable aim, seminary professor Dr. Kevin Bauder prods at the assumptions behind the church’s welcoming of transgender people, imagining two contemporary non-Christians—Gail and Aelfric—to make his point.

Gail, though possessing male genitalia at birth, has recently undergone a variety of surgeries and medical treatments with the goal of appearing more feminine. “Gail’s beliefs,” Dr. Bauder writes, “have become Gail’s identity, and Gail tries to live them consistently.”

Aelfric, on the other hand, is a racist. His body has been changed—not surgically but with racist marks and tattoos. He believes that white people are the “true sons of Israel,” and—if he visits a church—he will refuse to sit next to any black person.

In many ways, Gail and Aelfric are alike. They’ve both committed to a specific idea, and that idea determines their self-identity. In Dr. Bauder’s words, “Both [Gail and Aelfric] truly rely upon their ‘lived experience.’ Gail claims to feel like a woman trapped in a man’s body and points to stereotypes of masculinity and femininity. Aelfric feels superior to peoples of color and points to stereotypes involving vice and crime.”

Many Christians would agree that both Gail and Aelfric’s beliefs are wrong and sinful. It’s curious, then, that Gail and Aelfric receive such profoundly different treatment within the contemporary evangelical church. Churches bend themselves over backward loving Gail, trying to foster sincere relationships and deep compassion. “[Evangelicals] insist,” Dr. Bauder says, “that our churches must become open and welcoming to people like Gail, and that any failure to do so is a failure to follow the example of Jesus.”

When it comes to Aelfric, though, evangelicals recoil. Churches may take special pains to denounce his specific sin. “With Aelfric, it seems impossible to distinguish the sin from the sinner,” writes Dr. Bauder. Contrary to how they treated Gail, “[evangelicals] do not want their churches to be open and welcoming to Aelfric. They do not want to understand whatever sufferings may have brought Aelfric to this particular situation. They do not want to build relationships with Aelfric or to demonstrate compassion toward people like him.”

Why this disconnect? After all, it wasn’t terribly long ago that the social or cultural tolerance of these two unbiblical worldviews was reversed: Aelfric’s worldview would have been seen as more acceptable, and people like Gail would have been ostracized. To quote Dr. Bauder,

A couple of generations ago, people who held Aelfric’s views on race were generally tolerated (and in some circles, celebrated). Now, however, any expression of Aelfric’s views will make one a social pariah. On the other hand, until very recently people who shared Gail’s perspectives on gender were seen as perverted, and they were pushed to the social margins. Now someone who expresses Gail’s views gains immediate and widespread sympathy and support. In a word, Aelfric’s sins are out of style, while Gail’s are the height of fashion.

It seems, then, that the church’s perceptions and reactions to sin are being formed more by the whims of culture than they are by biblical truth. Why is the church so quick to embrace those with socially acceptable failings, compared to those whose sins are no longer in style?

Certainly, Christian beliefs are incompatible with both transgender ideology and racism. But to change the hearts and minds of people who hold such views, the church needs to stay grounded in the timeless truths in the Bible. Faithfulness to these truths dictates ministry unrestricted by current social fashions or taboos.

Yes, focusing on loving all people—regardless of the cultural acceptance of their sins—might prove harmful to church attendance lists or surface-level popularity. But, if the church wants to remain committed to the true obedience of God, it will wisely love all people—not just the fashionable ones.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons-Ted Eytan, CC BY-SA 2.0



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  • Avatar
    May 11, 2023, 10:14 pm

    There is Matthew:24 – 30 and 1 Corinthians 6:9 – 11, both of which address this issue. However when one considers John 3:16 – 21 one understands more deeply. When one reads Christ's letters to the churches beginning with Revelation 2:1 – 3:22 the instruction as to what must not be tolerate is made clear.

  • Avatar
    Chris Hughes
    May 11, 2023, 11:54 pm

    Tolerance not love, is the cardinal and organizing virtue of the new secular doctrine. Tolerance is easy. Love is challenging.
    Many churches, indistinguishable from, say, a college campus, mean nothing anymore.
    It used to be that earnestly but imperfectly striving for a high behavioral standard distinguished Christianity and made grace a cherished commodity. Grace is now so cheap as to render the currency worthless.
    I can be saved in the modern secular church without commandments…. And therefore without grace.

    The world hated Christ and he said it will hate his disciples. I have no use for a church unwilling to be hated. I may as well join a book club.
    We all sin differently and of course churches should welcome the sinner of every variety…. With the hope that we will repent and purify our lives in Christ’s blood…. Not to wallow in the mire of our offenses.
    Church’s with the courage to Love are becoming more and more rare. There is a self-righteous magnanimity in the immediacy of tolerance that has little regard for the spiritual (as opposed to carnal) welfare of its followers.
    Born again? Born again from what? Born again to what? It makes me think policy decisions may be money decisions.

    Once the world has stripped the church of its status to save, do you think it will embrace it? Hardly, it will say of the thirty pieces “what is that to us.”

    The church’s and their leaders who will rise in God’s glory are those who are committed to overcoming the world, not those saying “please, will you like me now?”

  • Avatar
    Jackson Pemberton
    May 12, 2023, 11:01 am

    I believe the more fundamental answer to your question: "Why is the church so quick to embrace … ?" is that "the church is not lead by prophets like Peter, James, and John.

    Because I was a member of the Presidency of a local Quorum of Seventy, I was invited to attend a Solemn Assembly in the upper room of the Salt Lake City Temple on Dec 13, 1975. The quorum of Twelve Apostles os the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, instructed us in the coming sexual revolution, warning us to protect our families and to instruct all those under our stewardship similarly.

    We were told, in todays language, that the sexualization of our culture would rise as a tide of evil until we were would virtually drown in it, that we must be very careful, that we would be tainted inspite of all we could do because of the pervasive and strong nature of that tide.

    As this tide has risen around us, many churches lowered their standards so as to accommodate the changing mores of the public. Meanwhile, the Church of Jesus Christ raised the bar, became more strict in its practices and policies and carefully followed the revealed doctrine at its disposal.

  • Avatar
    John Brett
    May 12, 2023, 3:31 pm

    Excellent and well stated commentary.

  • Avatar
    Bruce Metzger
    May 13, 2023, 7:42 pm

    Hitz, are much younger than my 71 years. I like reading your articles, however. I kept looking for it in this article, the biblical phrase to have the "mind of Christ." Long before any changes in physical identity (growing up), there is also a change in the Believer's personality where God brings out better and improved aspects of personality ("renewed mind" from Romans 12) without the destruction of personality This takes place when the second new birth is experienced. An integral aspect of that change is to have the mind of Christ, which is not the same as doing what Jesus would do or be like Jesus. I am sick of the be the "example of Jesus" since it does not hit the nail. Until the Believer's personality is improved by God, not by chance of desires and medical procedures, they will still remain inauthentic as a person.


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