Bruce Jenner and the Transgender Debate

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Within the last several years, the sexual foundation of our thinking has undergone a major change. Basic assumptions that have been held for thousands of years are no longer accepted. “It’s a girl!” may not mean the same thing it used to mean. Maybe this “girl” will discover that she/he actually has a “male soul.”

How do we make sense of the Bruce Jenner story? How should we respond to parents who allow their five-year-old to choose a gender? Are Brad and Angelina to be applauded by letting their 8-year-old daughter be called “John” and dress like a boy? These are loving parents who probably don’t let that same child choose what to eat for dinner or what time to go to bed. Why would they trust the instincts of a child to decide something as critical as gender?

As a mom and a Christian psychologist, I wrestle with these issues and am asking God to give his great wisdom. The questions of the LGBT lifestyle are not going away. In the midst of the changing landscape, we desperately need God to show us what is “true North.” How do we walk with compassion without getting swept into the compromises of modern culture?

In 1999, John F Kennedy Jr. and his wife died in a tragic plane crash off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The primary cause of the crash was that John was not “instrument rated” as a pilot. In other words, novice pilots navigate by what they see. Instrument-rated pilots have learned to fly by the instrument panel, even if the instruments seem to contradict what they perceive by looking out the window.

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded the cause of John’s crash: "The pilot's failure to maintain control of the airplane during a descent over water at night, which was a result of spatial disorientation.” The weather obscured his vision and perception, and John thought he was flying much higher than he was. The instruments are not deceived by clouds or fog like human judgment can be. They determine altitude, air speed, and direction based on the laws of physics rather than perception. If John had trusted his instrument panel instead of his instincts, he may still be alive today.

While I was watching the Bruce Jenner story on 20/20, there were moments in which I felt that I had lost my bearings. His story is compelling and arouses empathy in me for those who live with gender confusion. I can’t imagine the tension of living every day with a sense of not feeling comfortable in your own skin. However, when I am confused by what’s around me or within me, I don’t rely upon what I see or feel, but upon the God I worship. I know that God is close to the broken-hearted and compassionate in our struggles; I know that he is also righteous and holy.

Every day, we live by “looking out of the window of the cockpit.” We make decisions and form our thoughts by evaluating what we see and hear. If this is our only strategy of making sense in the world, we will become disoriented and someday experience tragedy.

I want to be an “instrument-rated” Christ follower, not swayed by the chaos of changing culture, but rooted in truths that are unchanging. Unfortunately, it seems that many Christians have walked away from biblical truth because of the pressure of modern sexual morality. The questions raised by the LGBT conversation are disorienting. Why would God want a man like Bruce Jenner to live with a “female soul”? Where is his compassion for a confused little girl or teenager who feels more like a boy? Doesn’t he want us to be true to ourselves?

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden was a man who was instrument rated. Time and again, he referred to the tried and true principles of his Christian faith. Read this profound thought from coach Wooden about living a life of integrity:

Being true to ourselves doesn't make us people of integrity. Charles Manson was true to himself, and as a result, he rightly is spending the rest of his life in prison. Ultimately, being true to our Creator gives us the purest form of integrity.

In our humanistic culture, we have put as the highest good being “true to self.” We are human-centered, valuing life and individual identity as the greatest good. As Christians in a humanistic culture, we feel compelled to alter biblical teaching to support that goal. Scripture passages that seem to limit the full expression of a person are discounted as cultural or out of touch. From this perspective, a parent’s job is to free their children to explore the depths of who they are, what they feel and most want in life.

An instrument-rated Christian recognizes that life does and always has revolved around God rather than around human beings. “You must be holy because I, the LORD, am holy” (Leviticus 20:26). My desires, thoughts, and feelings are not the truest measure of who I am. My identity is rooted in my Creator—who God is—and my choice to worship him. A. W. Tozer wrote, “The most important thing about you is what you believe about God.”

Christian parents do their children a tremendous disservice by raising them around the child’s identity, sexual or otherwise. The most important thing about your children is not who they are, but who God is. Psalm 1 is a familiar passage that asks us the question, “Am I instrument-rated in my choices as a woman, wife, and mom?”

Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the LORD,
meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.

Every day, you look around you and observe what is going on in this world. Perhaps you even look within you to discern how you think or feel. My question to you is this: Do you look regularly at the “instrument panel” of God’s Word to be reminded of your Creator? My friend, only this practice will keep you from a disoriented crash into the ocean of our confused and lost world.

Want to hear more on this topic? Listen to our podcast, Java with Juli, where Juli sits down with two of her friends & talks about the transgender discussion.


photo credit: Unsplash/Brielle French

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