When rhetoric kills

Yesterday was Transgender Visibility Day. But first, a quote by blogger Libby Anne (her post is about the young creationist group Answers in Genesis explaining the problem of evil, but this quote is relevant to what I want to discuss today):

Two centuries ago, many American Christians believed that slavery was ordained by God. Over time, Christian moral systems have changed, and today it is rare to find Christians who believe that dictatorship is a form of government favored by God, or that slavery is biblical and morally justified. Christian moral systems have changed in part because they have been influenced by secular moral systems, and not the other way around.

It’s for this reason I struggle to believe homosexuality or being transgendered is a sin. Just like there were Christian-based abolitionist groups accused of “going against God’s design” for races, there are now LGBT-affirming Christian groups who are facing the exact same accusation.

What a difference a century, half a century, or even a decade can make. It’s really hard for me to accept “the biblical view” LGBT matters when, assuming the homosexuality issue follows the same track as the slavery issue, many Christians will eventually claim that Scripture was just misinterpreted through the lenses of bigotry. By the time my future children reach high school, Christians might even say *they* were the ones on the front lines for LGBT equality all along!

Against my better judgment, I got into an argument with someone recently about how much our placement in history influences our thinking. He couldn’t get it. He condemned slavery and racism, but condemned my assertion that if he were alive in the era of Jim Crow, he’d probably have been a racist. A Jesus-loving racist. And hey, maybe I would have been, too.

Maybe I’m using the wrong words. When I write about the importance of understanding people who differ from me, some have taken that to mean “accepting all viewpoints as valid.” Um, no. I don’t know anyone who does that, no matter how liberal and tolerant they claim to be. How did the concept of “understanding” get so skewed?!

Today, many Christians are anti-LGBT equality in all forms. I’m pretty convinced that this is a matter of cultural influence over biblical interpretation, mostly because gender dysphoria as we understand it today is nowhere in Scripture (it’s a bit more complex than just cross-dressing). There have always been LGBT people, but not until this century did science and psychology finally begin to understand the biological and psychological underpinnings that make gender and sexual identity so complex.

I’m not making any proclamations about LGBT “lifestyles” being moral or immoral. That’s not a debate I wish to get involved in. What I am saying is that there is fear, disgust, and discrimination happening based on lack of understanding; Christians are just as guilty of this as anyone. Based on several Facebook posts, tweets, and blog forums, it’s pretty obvious who has taken the time to get to know and understand LGBT persons and who hasn’t. “But I have gay/transgendered friends!” doesn’t really mean anything. Maybe you work with a transgendered person and make small talk with him/her on a daily basis. But that’s nothing like sitting down and asking what it’s like to be in their skin; trapped in bodies that never felt like theirs.

That’s unimaginable to me, as a cis-gendered, heterosexual woman. And I confess, I don’t know any transgendered people personally. But I do know what it’s like to go through life being misunderstood, and I want to understand. I want to be corrected if my opinions are rooted in ignorance. I want to be called out if anything I’m doing is only helping the world remain a dangerous place for people to simply be themselves.

You can tell some people that the rhetoric they’re espousing is not only wrong, but dangerous. You can tell them that their words are literally killing people. You can present a list of facts that show why their opinions are misinformed. And it still won’t make a difference.

I am so damn sick of being part of a group that routinely preaches ignorance. There are many wonderful Christian advocates out there, but they are overshadowed by the hateful ones. The hardest part of faith is not always doctrine, but people. And it’s times such as these where Jesus’ examples of loving the most unlovable are so poignant and necessary.


2 thoughts on “When rhetoric kills

  1. Hi Beth, though I share you discomfort with some of the reactions to LGBTQ, my inclination is to change the tone and focus of the discussion. I have written a number of articles on “trans-identity” as a different way to look at the topic: https://moreenigma.wordpress.com/tag/trans-identity/

    It might not be helpful to you, but it fits in my “enigmatic” approach (that is: not dogmatic) to treating people as persons, and wanting more than anything to be more like Christ than to be more “right” than anyone else. Thanks for your article.


  2. “How did the concept of ‘understanding’become so skewed?”
    I think it’s a combination of insularity, Dispensationalist theology,a fear of critical thinking. Even before I joined Twitter(and a major motivation for doing so) I wanted to, like in Plato’s cave, expand myself beyond my little world. Someone from church thought it to be the end of the world — that “tolerance” means supporting homosexuality(obviously anathema to conservative Christians, to varying degrees) and overall compromising/denying Jesus, and trying to convince him otherwise was like talking to a wall.


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