Why You’re Completely Able To Judge Caitlyn Jenner

Today my friend and fellow Patheos blogger Ben Corey posted a piece entitled Why You’re Completely Unable To Judge Caitlyn Jenner (Or Anyone Else). The point of Ben’s essay was to say … well, this:

Only God knows why Caitlyn is transgender, and therefore, only God can judge (a) if she’s sinning or not, and (b) if she has any level of culpability in it. … You’ll never know the full story, and you have to know it in order to judge properly. … Only God knows [the full story]—and therefore, only God can judge.

Because Ben’s piece is certain to go viral,* I felt it important to offer a quick counterpoint to it.

I wholeheartedly disagree with Ben’s proposition that since only God knows Caitlyn’s whole story, only God can judge whether or not her coming out and living as herself means that she is sinning.

The simple truth is that I don’t have to know Caitlyn Jenner’s full story in order to properly judge whether or not her being transgender means that she is sinning.

It doesn’t. At all. Because being LGBT is not, and should never be considered, a moral condition.

It’s insane that anyone has to say this, but, again: There is no sin in being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning.

And it’s high time for all Christians to let go of the extremely dangerous notion that it’s even remotely possible that, to God, there is.

And that is the end of that story.


*Ben’s post did go viral, at 32K shares and rising.


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  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Hi John-

    Let me briefly clarify: I do believe we can know right from wrong– making ethical judgements isn’t the type of judging I argue is theologically forbidden. My point in the piece, in an attempt to speak to traditionalists outside of our camp, was to say, “Hey– even if you could prove it was a sin, you’d never know the factors that led up to it, and therefore couldn’t judge her anyway.” Hope that helps to clarify.

    But, I’m happy to go on the record in clarification that no, being transgender is NOT a sin.

  • BruceWayne

    I’ve never understood why Christians seem to have a problem with this, but for example, according to scripture, slavery and rape and incest are not sins, but eating shellfish is- because sins have nothing to do with morality- they are things which displease God even though some things which are sins are also immoral (murder)

  • http://www.whoaisnotme.net/anakinmcfly anakinmcfly

    That’s technically true, except that ‘sin’ has since evolved to become synonymous with immorality. But either way, being transgender isn’t listed in the Bible as either immoral or a sin, so we’re good to go there.

  • BruceWayne

    It doesn’t matter if it were because the point is that the Bible is not a moral guidebook.

  • Josh Gubser

    That’s incorrect. To sin is to fail to love. To be righteous is to always love. Jesus said this. The OT says lots of weird shit. Early christians regarded such things as “the superstitions of the jews.” Sin and morality or intrinsically tied together. That which displeased God is harming God’s creation. Plain and simple.

  • BruceWayne

    Romans 5:13
    Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break.

    1 John 3:4
    Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.

    Matthew 5:17
    “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

    First off all, I don’t care what you believe. We could Bible spam all day. But it doesn’t matter. Jesus was a Jew- one who was the leader of a small sect of a Jewish mystery cult in a world that was entirely superstitious and which believed in all manner of quacky crap and where miracles and visions were a dime a dozen, but who followed the Law.

    But you are free to interpret ancient scripture and hold to any theology of sin you like. The early Church was a creation, not of the meager teachings of Jesus, whose portrait changes depending on who is painting it, but of Paul. And he was truly just as whacked as the Jews who created Jesus- all of his epistemology about Christianity came from hallucinations. None of it matters because the Bible is not a moral guidebook.

  • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

    Right on. Thanks Ben.

  • http://www.fordswords.net/ Ford1968

    Hi Ben. Thank you. Our trans* brothers and sisters benefit from our unambiguous support. Can you be as unequivocal in your perspectives about same sex relationships? Perhaps I missed it, but last I saw, you were still undeclared.


    Was this edited to remove the words “choice of gender” from the original posting?

  • Matt

    John, I of all people know that you have written previously in support of transgender folks. But somehow this short piece stands above the rest to me for its simple clarity.

    People are getting tired of the “Kardashian/Jenner media machine” and saying we should just move on simply because of the family she belongs to. But it matters to the rest of us who don’t have her advantages. Thank you again for putting attention where it belongs.

  • Andy

    Yep. Pretty sure that’s exactly what Laverne Cox said.

  • Owengirl

    John, I would love to hear your take, and those of your readers, about the difference between judging and having an opinion. I was recently told that I had no right to judge someone immediately followed by I had the right to my opinion. When I asked what the difference was, she could not give me an answer.

  • BarbaraR

    “It is my personal belief that God hates oatmeal cookies.”

    “God hates oatmeal cookies. It says so right in scripture, right here in Hezekiah 4: 6. How anyone can call themselves a Christian and still like oatmeal cookies is beyond me. We’ll see who’s right on Judgement Day!”

    Also see this:


  • Wolf

    Would you believe that I actually had a weird moment where I thought “Hezekiah” was a real book of the Bible and that I actually went to look up the verse you mentioned?

  • BarbaraR


  • 153

    “That’s a pretty silly way of looking at it. That would be like saying “It’s okay to write with your left hand as long as there’s no law against being left-handed.” So basically you can’t tell me what your religious practice involves – only to say that you can basically believe anything you want to believe. So, what separates you from those who are secular and do not believe in God. Why did God send his only son? Some secular people love their neighbours and some secular people behave in a more Christian manner than those who call themselves Christian and yet they don’t believe in God. Some may never believe in God. What makes you different than an atheist?

    (Edited to add) BTW to those who seem to think I don’t know gay people – I have said before I worked with at least five people throughout the years who were gay. I just never met a gay Christian (when I say a gay Christian I mean those who practice homosexuality and call themselves a Christian).

  • http://www.whoaisnotme.net/anakinmcfly anakinmcfly

    > What makes you different than an atheist?

    Well, atheists by definition don’t believe in a god (‘a’ = ‘without’, ‘theos’ = god), and I do.

    > only to say that you can basically believe anything you want to believe

    That’s not true. As a Christian at least, I adhere to Jesus’ two greatest commandments: love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. Love your enemies. That one at least isn’t a common secular view. In everything we do, act in love. Judge things by their fruit. Good teachings produce good fruit. People being driven to despair and killing themselves is not good fruit. Test everything. Hold fast to what is good. Judge not. And what does the Lord require of you, but to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

    Meanwhile, I go to a church made up primarily of LGBT Christians, many of whom are far more devout and more committed to following Jesus than most straight Christians I know. Because unlike those, for many if not all of them their faith is a conscious choice that’s been tested by fire and dragged through hell and challenged from every direction; and despite all that, and despite all the church has done to them, they still believe. They still trust. They still love.

  • 153

    Great that you believe that, but you are making a generalisation. You don’t know all the conservative Catholics in the world never mind all the Conservative Christians in the world. There are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world and what you are saying is that most LGBT are better Christians than those.. There are many Christians who don’t believe that homosexuality is right according to their interpretation of the bible and you believe that their faith is not being tested through the hardships they go through. Don’t presume to know every Christian (conservative) in the world. Plus, don’t judge and ask other people not to. If you are making a statement that LGBT Christians are better than conservative Christians then you better have proof and if you are to do that, you need to know all conservative Christians. I love the way that LGBT try to make out like they are the only people who go through rejection or suffering. What a pile of crap
    Furthermore, by giving the impression that they are the only ones who go through hardship they show a lack of empathy for everyone else. They certainly show a lack of compassion for conservatives. If you consider yourself to be a Christian then lead by example.

  • Wolf

    LGBT people are suffering because they’re being judged, and having their right to be called into question by conservatives.

    Conservatives are “suffering” in this issue because they’re being told, “You shouldn’t judge other people.” Poor baby, being told to do what Jesus said. How you must suffer for your faith.

    If you want compassion, don’t be a bigot. If your beliefs tell you that it’s okay to oppress others just because of who they are, then your beliefs are unloving. Period.

  • 153

    What the hell are you talking about. When I said that Conservatives suffer I wasn’t talking about their interactions with LGBT. I was talking about life in general. Everyone goes through crap. Not everything is about you. Even though you like to make it so. Most people I know suffer in one way or another. Many people suffer rejection and loneliness and to say that LGBT are the only ones who suffer is just ignorant. Furthermore, to place LGBT suffering above everyone else’s suffering is just stupid.

  • Wolf

    Down to insults now? I have to admit that it took longer than I expected, but I’m certainly not surprised. First, you seem to assume that I’m gay. I’m not. So if “not everything is about me,” then stop making it about me. I never said that LGBT people were the only ones who suffered. Far from it. But a large part of WHY they suffer is because of the heavy burden people like you place on them.

    Yes, we all suffer, but if you’re a Christian, you are supposed to be part of the solution. And right now, you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    Call that whatever “crap” you want, but it’s the truth: if you’re anti-gay, if you’re working against equal rights for LGBTs, if you are unwilling to include them in anything simply because of their sexuality, then that is unloving, and you are part of the problem.

  • 153

    Hello. Are you for real – you started the insults and you are the one continuing the insults. I commented on your comments, not on you. You have insulted me directly several times. And yes my patience is wearing thin with you. But, I would much rather just have a conversation with you. But, that is difficult when our opinions are so in conflict with each other. I hate conflict and I find it very boring. “Poor baby, being told to do what / You sound pretentious, arrogant, and unloving when you go on and on about that / don’t be a bigot / slippery viper / unhealthy obsession with sex. I would recommend therapy.” I suppose you didn’t say any of these things. Incidentally, you are not the only one who resorts to insults. I on the other hand have deliberately tried not to. You know why? Because I actually just wanted to discuss this issue. Now, please go on and defend the reasons you resorted to insulting.

  • Wolf

    I commented on your comments, not on you.

    So did I. The comment calling you out as a “slippery viper” pertained to the fact that you were dodging direct questions that were asked of you, editing your comments trying to obfuscate the replies (don’t deny that; we all saw you do it.), and (based on the general comments that have been made) engaging in sockpuppetry. If you find it insulting to be called “slippery,” then stop being slippery, and stop trying to DENY having been slippery.

    When I say “don’t be a bigot,” that’s commenting on the bigoted things that you have said. If you are in favor of limiting LGBT rights, and if you are speaking/voting/thinking to limit their rights, you are a bigot. That’s not an insult – it is a choice you are making and an action you are choosing to continue. And saying “that’s just my religious beliefs” doesn’t excuse that. If your religious beliefs mandate that, then your religious beliefs are also bigoted. Do you have a right to them? Absolutely. You have a right to be as bigoted as you want, and I have an equal right to call you out on it.

  • 153

    OMG. You are calling me slippery. Talk about dodging the fact that you were name calling. That was just funny and tragic at the same time. Goodbye.

  • Wolf

    How is that “name-calling”? I’m simply commenting on the things you’ve said and done. You DID dodge direct questions, you DID edit your replies, and it’s highly likely that you acted as a sockpuppet. Those are slippery things to do. Everyone here saw you do it, too. The persecution card isn’t working anymore, so now you’re having your little tantrum. If you want to leave, feel free. But don’t pretend you’re the persecuted victim here, because everyone sees right through it.

  • 153

    No the progressives claim to see right through me (but don’t know me). What questions did I dodge and I will answer them if I can?

  • Wolf

    You said that the purpose of marriage was procreation and children. When this view was challenged (since many infertile couples go into marriages knowing they can’t have children), you backtracked and said it wasn’t.

    If marriage’s main purpose is children and procreation, then by your logic, infertile couples should not be allowed to marry either. If a couple is knowingly infertile and marries, then by your definition of marriage (you call it “God’s,” but it’s actually just yours), infertile couples are living in sin. You can try to back-pedal and say “I never said that,” but it’s right there for everyone to see.

    So it means that you either have a double standard that has nothing to do with the “religious beliefs” you keep claiming, or you are simply grossed out by gay people and are unwilling to admit it. Which goes back to the other thing I said that you took as an “insult”: if your view of marriage is so reliant on sex, that indicates an unhealthy obsession with sex. That’s not an insult but a simple statement of fact: being that concerned with the sex that other people are or aren’t having is pathological thinking, and therapy is the indicated treatment.

  • 153

    “In my faith you must get married if you want to have sex. If you do have sex outside of marriage, you confess it and you try not to do it again. But, it is not acceptable in conservative circles to live with someone before marriage. Therefore, there is a purpose for marriage. The main purpose for marriage is the procreation of children (in my faith).” This is actually what I said. I didn’t say that the only reason that people can get married in my church is to have babies, I said that it was the main reason. If you look up the doctrine of the Catholic church you will see that people who are infertile are also considered to be married too regardless of the fact that they knew or not beforehand.

  • Wolf

    And if your religious belief is that marriage is a permission slip to have sex, you’re free to practice that belief. You’re free to abstain from sex until you get married. But the moment you vote, speak, or encourage that belief to be enforced on anyone else through law, you become a bigot.

  • 153

    What other questions didn’t I answer that ‘I actually did’?

  • Wolf

    Nope. We are not playing this game anymore, Matt. Or Eva. Or whatever your name is. I’m not going to take the bait here having to prove how slippery you are – you’ve already done that for me by following me here. We’re done.

  • 153

    Cool. So basically I wasn’t dodging any questions. At least not deliberately. But, you already knew that. Bye Mr perfect. You know what they say about pride being the greatest sin and all.

  • Wolf

    Hehe, okay. If that helps you sleep at night, sweetpea :)

  • 153

    Sure petal.

  • Wolf

    And also, if you’re not slippery, then why are you stalking me here, on an unrelated discussion? I just now noticed that your responses to me aren’t even on the original blog article. Yeah, that’s not slippery at all. But good job – you’ve successfully exposed yourself to FreedHearts AND John Shore as being slippery.

  • http://www.whoaisnotme.net/anakinmcfly anakinmcfly

    For what it’s worth, I agree with this comment.

  • 153

    Thank you for that and sorry for being a bit testy.

  • http://www.whoaisnotme.net/anakinmcfly anakinmcfly

    > I love the way that LGBT try to make out like they are the only people
    who go through rejection or suffering. What a pile of crap

    That’s not what I said and not what I believe – I was referring solely to their faith being repeatedly challenged by other Christians, and I apologise if that didn’t come across well. But when was the last time someone told a straight Christian that they couldn’t be Christian and straight? Gay Christians are constantly told we have to choose between our faith or sexual orientation. Since the latter isn’t a choice, it’s effectively other Christians telling us to stop being Christian. What other demographic of Christians does that happen to?

    As for the generalisation – dude, I said ‘many’ and ‘most straight Christians I know’. Those I know, not ‘all’; I certainly don’t know 1.2 billion people; and ‘most’, not ‘all’. I also said straight Christians, not conservative ones (some of those are liberal, and some gay Christians are conservative). I wasn’t making a universal statement. I was just speaking from the people I know personally. I know far fewer gay Christians than straight ones, and all of the former are, almost by default, extremely devout, for the simple reason that those who aren’t would have fallen away from Christianity long ago. Continuing to be a Christian is an active choice they make every day in the face of people trying to stop them.

    I’m sure you yourself know plenty of straight Christians who just go through the motions of church every Sunday. I doubt there are many, if any, gay Christians who do that. It’s either all or nothing; because why would any LGBT person be part of a religion that has historically abused and continues to abuse them, if not for an exceedingly firm faith and devotion to God?

    tl;dr my mathematical point was that perhaps 90% of gay Christians are extremely devout, vs perhaps 20% of straight Christians, even if the latter 20% constitute a few hundred million and the former 90% perhaps just a few hundred thousand.

  • Jeff Preuss

    “I was referring solely to their faith being repeatedly challenged by
    other Christians, and I apologise if that didn’t come across well.”
    Don’t worry, anakin, that’s precisely how it came across. There is some willful inference going on here, and it’s not because you weren’t clear.

  • 153

    Yes I do know many conservative Christians who go through the motions and just pass themselves as Christians when they are not really. It annoys me. You see I just find it hard to accept homosexuality based on my interpretation of the bible (this may offend you, but that is not my intention). I would love a world in which we could all believe the same things, but we don’t. If I believed what you believe then I would have to throw out a great deal more of the bible with it.

  • Guy Norred

    Wonderfully stated. Glad to be crossing your path again.

  • Wolf

    So basically you can’t tell me what your religious practice involves – only to say that you can basically believe anything you want to believe.

    I can tell you a lot of what my religious practice and beliefs are. Going from “being gay is not a sin” to “there is no sin” is a pretty big leap. You can’t just “believe anything you want to believe.” I believe in what God says: Love God, and love one another. If you do those things, and apply Jesus’s teachings to your own life, the rest will fall into place (Matthew 5:16). If you try to make rules and regulations, however – and try to enforce God as a god with a gavel in his hand just waiting to send people to hell for breaking the rules – such religious views are untenable if one claims to serve a God of Love.

    Trying to restrict gay people from having relationships and forcing them to live a life of loneliness simply because of how God made them is not loving. Period. There is NO loving way to do that. So stop with this “practicing homosexuality” bilge. Stop it. People don’t “practice” being gay. They just are. You sound pretentious, arrogant, and unloving when you go on and on about that. Knock it off.

  • Andy

    I refuse to believe God hates oatmeal cookies. They are one of the finest things on His green earth.

  • Guy Norred

    Sinner that I am, I have been craving them all afternoon.

  • Guy Norred

    good article by the way

  • R Vogel

    Great article and interesting site – haven’t seen in before. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

    I have no idea what the difference is between an opinion and a judgment. It’s a semantical distinction without a difference. (Though I know that when Christians say it, what they usually mean is that while people can have opinions, only God can judge–by which they mean judge ultimately.)

  • lymis

    My guess is that the answer she was unwilling or unable to give was that you were free to have an opinion as long as you didn’t expect her to share it, but that if you judged, you were claiming a matter of fact, which everyone is supposed to agree on.

    Of course, I’ve met more than a few people for whom “You have a right to your opinion” is exactly equal to ” I disagree with you but won’t say so.” And who are quick enough to judge when they feel they are in the right.

  • Patricia Anne Brush

    The way I have come to come grips with judging is that there is judging and there is judging. My wife is a judge. What she decides can seriously alter a person’s life. I judge everyday too. Is this situation safe for me? Are those bananas too ripe? Is there time to cross the road? Do I have room for one more oatmeal chocolate chip cookie? If I have to suffer this bore much longer, what are the chances that my head will explode? When I think about “judge not”, I hear it as “the final judgement”, the judging that only God can do.

    In my understanding, judging is not synonymous with opinion. Opinions can be formed through judging which statements are fact and which are rubbish, but they also include a healthy dose of life experience and cultural upbringing. My opinion that someone is a jerk, is just my opinion. If I am impolite and express that opinion, I might hurt that person’s feelings and I might cause some harm, but the expression of my opinion is not the deciding factor in “the final judgement”.

  • R Vogel

    the difference between judging and having an opinion: False certainty.

  • lymis

    I agree unreservedly with the fact that being transgender is not a sin. I agree unreservedly that anyone who feels it’s appropriate to judge Caitlyn Jenner based on the simple fact of being transgender is out of line.

    I understand and agree with the point you intended to make, and salute you for it.

    So, all that said, she’s still a person, and I reserve the right to judge her actions both past a future, based on how she behaves. There is absolutely no sin in being transgender. She’s still made it clear she’s a wealthy Republican conservative Christian with little to no interest in LGBT rights (except, implicitly, how they affect her). If that changes, I will absolutely salute her. If it doesn’t, and she does no harm, I’ll ignore her. If she acts against our community or any of her fellow citizens, oh yes, I’ll judge her for it, the same way I would anyone else.

    It’s early days yet, and she has an insane amount of personal things to sort through, all of it in the public eye, and I’ll certainly give her a pass for a while while she sorts out some serious life changes. Beyond that, she’ll be a wealthy celebrity with an opportunity to make some absolutely huge impacts in the lives of a lot of people. Or she could decide to be just another Kardashian.

  • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

    Oh, yes. Saying it’s no sin to be LGBT is a long, long way from saying that Caitlyn Jenner is an admirable person.

  • Patricia Anne Brush

    Exactly. I’ve been arguing this point all over the Internet today. Caitlyn plus the “pastor” at the baccalaureate service have really stirred things up. Being is not sinful. Doing is what can be sinful.

  • Sheila Warner

    Remember that Corey’s blog was addressed to those who think that being transgender is, in and of itself, a sin. I don’t think he meant to contradict you in any way. I personally found it useful, for I just had a horrible discussion with my godmother about why I left the Catholic church. I tried to explain the whole culpability part, because it’s so Catholic, but of course she didn’t get it. That didn’t mean that I was not obligated to speak out on the issue of gay rights. I have finally ‘come out’, so to speak, on my fb page, that I am LGBTQ affirming. It was only a hard thing to do because of the blowback, but nothing considering what the LGBTQ community endures day in and day out. I am officially an apostate.

  • Adele Henderson

    Simply, thank you.

  • Barb

    yes. me, too.

  • Linda Faltin

    Thank you for this, John. Your words reflect exactly what I was feeling as I read Ben Corey’ s piece. As children of God, we are all accepted, and being who we were created to be is Grace, not sin…straight, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, or queer.

  • Brandon Roberts

    short sweet simple and absoloutely true nice work john

  • Lori Wells Mang

    Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner has every right to live exactly as she sees fit. It’s not up to me or anyone else to judge. That being said, I think Bruce was a lousy father. I don’t admire that.

  • Martha Lutz

    The truth isn’t as simple as you would like it to be John. I think the point Ben was trying to make is that he’s not God and therefore has no right to judge. You might want to consider that you’re not God either John and therefore are not the final authority on the truth. Sorry to disappoint you.

  • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

    Oh, gee. Now I’m crushed. I’ll try to carry on. (And yes, in this case the truth is exactly as simple as I’ve said it is: It’s no sin to be LGB or T. 2 + 2 = 4. The four sides of a square are equally long. See? Some truths we all have the right to claim to be “authority” on. This is one of those.)

  • Noah

    I imagine we agree on much, and hopefully see more of your stuff going forward. What scripture says about LGB points it towards the negative. As does genesis and most of God’s creation. Yet, the creation that has differences.

    I lean to the position that having attraction is one thing and pursuing it is another. Which I think is hard to argue against what seems to be God’s initial intention. But of course it seems awfully screwy to see a relatively good chunk of people not be able to fulfill their desires.

    At the end of the day, Jesus didn’t seem to think it worth mentioning, for whatever that’s worth.

  • http://www.whoaisnotme.net/anakinmcfly anakinmcfly

    Regardless of how one interprets the handful of verses that might possibly refer to homosexuality (the original translations are a lot more vague), I can’t honestly believe that Jesus would look at a gay couple who have been together for decades and love each other intensely, leaning on each other in times of trouble, sharing their joys and sorrows, and tell them that they are sinning; and that the righteous thing to do would be to break up and live the rest of their lives single and apart.

    That’s not the Jesus I know from the Bbile.

  • Noah

    Not that I claim to know, but the same Jesus who spoke of hating your own family? (context, yes, but still)

  • Bill Steffenhagen

    I believe the word “hate” in that context is erroneously interpreted. It simply can’t mean “hate” as we understand that word today. I can’t imagine Jesus “hating” anyone. And these days, that word is too blithely and carelessly used in other contexts as well. Accusing Christians generally of “hating” gays comes to mind, tho I’m gay myself and have strong feelings about “christian” treatment of gays.

  • Noah

    True. More along the lines of hating sin.

  • Ellen K.

    I like the idea that sometimes we can judge someone as not sinning (in some particular thing).

  • SweetandSour93

    Thank you :)