On Christians “reaching” transsexuals: you don’t need instructions to share what matters to you

A friend of mine posted a rather brilliant smack down on Facebook about Christians who freak out more about the sin of being transgendered than the sin of sex trafficking, and it could be their own judgmental Facebook posts preventing them from getting to know any transgendered people. It summarized everything I’ve been feeling about the reactions toward Caitlyn Jenner’s unveiling. Inevitably, someone asked what I knew would be asked eventually: “So how do I share Christ with transsexuals?”

That “How do I share Christ with [insert specific group here]?” question has been a favorite among many of my college small groups – a college that boasted a very diverse demographic of students. My alma mater is particularly known for being an LGBT friendly campus. During my senior year, there were rumors about possibly building LGBT-specific dorms as a way of those protecting students (to my knowledge, this was only a rumor).

Thanks to my presence in those small groups, my friends posed the question to me: “How do we share the gospel with Jewish people?” As if there was a step-by-step secret manual that only I had keys to. I would stutter and stumble over specific Old Testament messianic prophecies and C.S. Lewis’ “Liar, lunatic, or Lord?” Catch-22, designed to guilt people who might answer “liar” or “lunatic,” so all they are left with is “Lord.”

But it didn’t take long for me to realize those narrowed tactics were a waste of time, and I have plenty of past experiences with evangelists to back that up. The organization Jews for Jesus in particular is well known for dressing up gentiles in Jewish clothing and teaching them essential Jewish keywords like “Tanakh” instead of “Bible” and “Yeshua” instead of Jesus.

The problem? People on the inside of the group they are trying to reach know better. I have a keen sixth sense of being able to tell when someone is trying too hard, not only because his or her pronunciation of the Hebrew is laughably wrong, but trying to cram as many Jewish-isms in one sentence is also a dead giveaway. I almost want to spare the evangelist further embarrassment and say, “Dude, please, stop. Seriously, just stop.”

If your mission field were the black community living in the inner city, would you, as a white person, try to learn as much of Ebonics as possible to sound “relevant”? No, you wouldn’t; you would sound completely ridiculous, and it would be impossible to take you seriously. This same logic applies to transsexuals and other LGBT people. You don’t know their lives, you don’t understand their struggles, you don’t authentically speak their language, so don’t try and pretend like you do.

You don’t need any tailored tactics to discuss something that matters to you, especially when it comes to something as important as the gospel. That message has to do with sin and redemption, which is relevant to every living person. Stop with the seminars about how to talk to people who are different than you as if they are a completely different species; they aren’t. If you want to get to know someone else’s authentic self, do so by being your authentic self. That’s really all it takes, but I’ve known plenty of Christians over the years who want to make this sharing process more complicated than it needs to be. And being a sharer of the Good News means you only have to share it – it’s not your job to change anyone.

All people want to be respected, and the best way to demonstrate that is by asking someone what their journey has been, how they became who they are. And then shutting up to listen. Nobody likes being treated as a project. As a Christian, I’m embarrassed that that actually needs to be said.

Aside from all that, I have a plethora of concerns about how Christians are so certain that being transgendered is a sin when the Bible is completely silent on the issue of gender identity, and gender identity differs from sex because sex has to do with anatomy and gender is a social construct…but that’s a completely separate post.

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2 thoughts on “On Christians “reaching” transsexuals: you don’t need instructions to share what matters to you

  1. AthenaC says:

    You make great points. The one upside which I would hope we see from “how to reach (insert targeted group here)” is people learning how to be sensitive and considerate to experiences and perspectives outside the narrow range of what they’ve seen before.

    Liked by 1 person

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