Desperately Seeking Womanhood: Bruce Jenner & Masculine Inferiority

jennerThe word “transgender” has now mainstreamed in America. Two recent stories fitting this trend caught my eye and occasioned comment.

First, Bruce Jenner has announced that he is a woman. In an interview with Diane Sawyer, he said as much:

“Are you a woman?” Sawyer asked.

“Yes, for all intents and purposes, I am a woman,” Jenner replied. …“I built a nice little life. Again, Bruce lives a lie. She is not a lie. I can’t do it anymore.”

Second, I saw this CNN interview of a family in which a person named Jill Rhodes has “transitioned” to womanhood, changing the dynamics not only of his life, but his wife’s life and the lives of his children.

Four thoughts come to mind about this trend. (See this poleaxing Public Discourse testimony by a former transsexual, and this excellent new JBMW article on gender reassignment surgery, too.)

1. First, transgenderism is a logical–if remarkable–outcome of feminism. Men today not only are influenced by feminism and aware of it, but actually view becoming a woman as the best possible goal for their lives. Transgender ideology makes sense in a feminist culture, for the seeds of feminism are rejection of God’s design. To push against nature in a preliminary sense is to prepare the ground for a much greater overhaul, one that secular feminism can only cheer in the end.

Both men and women embrace transgenderism. But the stories presently grabbing the headlines are of men trying to become women. This should catch the attention of alert cultural observers (shades of Dave Barry in this last phrase). There is a narrative at play here that is bigger than a mere desire to change the body. Manhood has been demeaned as an institution for decades now. Men are seen as inferior to women, less mature than women, ignoble, stupid, less relationally skilled, and less evolved. In such a context, it begins to make sense for men to want to be women. The church cannot affirm this behavior based on unbiblical thinking–not by a country mile.

(Some limited research suggests that there are more than three times as many male-to-female transgender people as the reverse. That is most assuredly an important–but undiscussed–statistic. Something is happening with modern men, and few seem to be noticing it.)

2. Transgenderism is a false gospel. It promises happiness and ease and peace. Watch the two interviews above; the Rhodes family speaks of their “transition” as the gateway to satisfaction. Whenever we hear this kind of language, our ears should perk up. We’re not simply listening to one family’s attempt to handle a physiological crisis; we’re hearing them give voice together to a gospel-like hope. They believe that the solution to their difficulties is a man undergoing surgery, wearing makeup, and embracing the identity of a woman.

We feel great compassion for those who are suffering this trial. These are the effects of the fall before our very eyes. Satan himself targeted Eve and encouraged her to own a role that was not hers (Gen. 3:1-7). The outcome of the curse is further hostility and confusion between the sexes (Gen. 3:16). The very root of the death of the human race, then, was a Satanic disruption of God’s plan for men and women. Satan promised Eve that she would be like God. In other words, he offered her a false gospel, one that creates untold pain and harm.

Transgenderism will never make good on its promises. We must frame this issue not simply in medical and physiological terms, but theological and spiritual categories.

3. Transgenderism exposes double-mindedness about the body. When a child “cuts” themselves, carving marks into their skin, people of varying worldviews recognize profound trauma at hand. Something is going terribly wrong within the child, and the outward scarring is the manifestation of this inward turmoil.

Yet with transgenderism, we do the opposite. With “cutting,” we see attempted bodily change as a sign of psychological instability. With transgenderism, we see attempted bodily change as a sign of psychological health, of becoming your “true self.” This, to put it straightforwardly, is madness. For a man to wear women’s clothing and adopt feminine mannerisms and castrate himself is turmoil of the most awful kind.

The body is not incidental to our lives. The body is the gift of God. We do not have the authority to cross-dress, let alone to become a different sex (Deut. 22:5; 1 Cor. 11). We receive God’s creation of our bodies as a blessing. God himself has fashioned us in the womb (Psalm 139). We are fearfully and wonderfully made. As believers, our stewardship of the body is a gospel issue.

 4. The church must respond to transgenderism with gospel conviction and Christlike compassion. Strange as this moment is, we must recognize that we have been placed here by God to be salt and light. We’re not here by accident. We’re here on purpose. We have the only means of true conversion found in the world: the gospel of Jesus Christ. Everything else is false. Every other gospel is a lie.

What does the church need to stand for today, in such confused and evil days?

-The church must freshly call fathers to love their children, and to invest in their sons.

-The church must never teach that men are inferior to women, or vice versa.

-The church must not problematize manhood, but celebrate it in appropriate ways.

-The church must make clear that the body is not a script upon which to express our identity, but the gift of God, and the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). (This is why many Christians have had trouble with tattoos–not because they’re directly addressed by Scripture, but because the pagan understanding of the body as a vehicle of self-gratification, and the modern understanding of the body as an outlet of self-selected identity, grate against the biblical portrait of the natural body as a divine blessing.)

-The church must welcome every person of every manifestation of sin to hear the gospel and experience the love of Christ.

-The church must call every person caught in every form of depravity to repent and believe in Jesus Christ.

-The church must make clear that repentance entails owning God’s bodily design, and making no distinction between one’s true identity and one’s body.

-The church must preach on Jesus Christ becoming a man and see his incarnation as an endorsement of humanity and his cross as the genesis of godly manhood and womanhood. Jesus does not make generic gender blobs of a religious kind. He renders us godly men and godly women.

-The church must not shrink back from ministry in our time, but must preach the truth and reach out to sinners in complete confidence in the unconquerable name of Jesus Christ.

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(Image: Flickr by jla0379; license through Creative Commons)

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