So This Is Love

So This Is Love July 3, 2014

I recently came upon an article on the Gospel Coalition. In the article, evangelical writer Josh Bishop adjusting to life with a transgender brother.

Begin with love. A Christian response must be rooted in love (Galatians 5:14), and the first step is to affirm that love directly and unconditionally. My immediate response—even before the shock had worn off—was to fire off a quick e-mail: “Heard the news and wanted to let you know I love you.” Later, I told Jessah that whether she identified as a sister or a brother, she would always be family. I assured her that nothing, including disagreements over issues of gender and sexuality, can change my deep love for her. Whatever else would come, it would start from this love.

Sweet story, right? In spite of his anti-trans religious beliefs, Josh speaks of love and embraces his transgender brother—or does he?

This is a very strange kind of love. Notice the pronouns—they’re female. Throughout the piece, Josh uses female pronouns to speak of his brother. You would think that “love” would include respecting his brother’s desired pronouns and accepting his gender identity even if there are religious qualms or differences. But no. Josh explains his stance on pronouns as follows:

In the end, Becca and I decided that out of respect and as an attempt to live peaceably, so far as it depends on us (Romans 12:18), we would call my sister by her new name, Jace. Yet we haven’t transitioned to masculine pronouns, because we can’t refer to her as a man without embracing the claims about sex and gender that make possible her transgender identity.

But honestly, that’s the better part of this piece.

For our part, high on our priority list is sheltering our two young sons (ages 1 and 5) from affirmations of alternate visions of gender and sexuality—especially while they’re too young to put language to their perceptions of gender, while they have no concept of sex or sexuality, and while introducing them to ideas like “transgender” will only confuse the truth. We cannot in good conscience tell our boys that their Aunt Jessah is now their Uncle Jace, but my family has made it clear that refusing to do so would be considered offensive, intolerant, and unacceptable. So we made the difficult decision to isolate them from this issue, and from my sister, until they are older and able to navigate questions of gender and sexuality at a more age-appropriate level.

This, it seems, is what this evangelical means when he speaks of his “deep love” for his brother—a willingness to cut him off from all contact with his young nephews. Love. Love.

Josh writes that he is doing his best to keep his love for his brother from getting in the way of his theology—because in a religion that declares “God is love,” theology is nonetheless more important than love.

Many people “evolve” in their beliefs about gender and sexuality when someone they know and love comes out of the closet. Yet we must be careful to allow God’s revealed truth to shape how we understand our experiences, rather than the other way around.

Don’t let your love or experiences get in the way of your theology! Good lord, if this is what religion is about, I want none of it. Religion should be experiential and it should be founded in love. Not whatever this is, this thing that tears apart families and denies transgender individuals access to their nephews or nieces in the name of “love.” Poor Jace, and poor kids. They all lose out.

And you know what may be the absolute worst part of this whole thing? Josh’s brother, Jace, is 19. Nineteen. I remember what it was to be that age and charting new waters against family objections.

My heart goes out to Jace, and I wish him all the best. As for this evangelical idea of “love,” I’m through.

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