This opinion piece was written by Marty Duren, who works in social media and is a teaching pastor at The Fellowship at Two Rivers in Nashville, Tenn.
I remember Bruce Jenner winning the decathlon in Montreal in 1976 to become “the world’s greatest athlete.”
I remember seeing Bruce Jenner on the Wheaties box.
I never watched a nano-second of a Kardashian episode nor is one on my bucket list. It was a surprise to me that Jenner was married into that tribe.
I have never wondered if I am a woman underneath. When I was a boy I never wondered if I was a girl. I never thought I was a girl. I never felt like a girl. I never wished I could be a girl, or thought I was supposed to be a girl. Any femininity I might otherwise have is in awfully short supply.
I will be perfectly fine if every personal pronoun used to describe me from here to eternity is masculine.
All that is to say, I have no idea at all what Bruce Jenner, now Caitlyn Jenner, felt while growing up. According to her Wikipedia page all athletic accomplishment was accomplished by her, not him. (Does this disqualify the awards, or the gold medal? I do not know.)
I have not a scintilla of personal identification with a man or woman who so strongly feels they are actually members of the opposite sex that they will undergo a surgical process to become the opposite sex. I don’t know the kind of emptiness a person who believes himself or herself to be the opposite sex must feel.
Is is physical? Emotional? Psychological? Spiritual? A combination, all of the above, or something not mentioned?
I do not know all the answers.
What I do know is insulting transgendered people by mocking them does not gain us a hearing for the gospel. Mockery is not a characteristic of Jesus.
We do not have to understand the situation to love those in it. We do not have to understand why some have gender reassignment surgery to love those who have had it. We do not have approve of abortion to love the woman who had one or love her boyfriend who, under threat of abandonment, coerced the woman into having the procedure. We do not have to approve of greed to love the businessman who made a fortune lying to customers. We do not have to approve of pride to love each other when set ourselves above the rest.
This follower of Jesus has a strong suspicion there is a fervent, mostly unacknowledged spiritual component in gender confusion cases. If that be right, I’m not sure how refusing to call the former Bruce Jenner “Caitlyn” opens any doors of ministry to others who have gone through the surgery themselves. How does insistence on calling Caitlyn by her birth name help me reach Lisa who now goes by “Fred,” or Tom’s kid who remains confused?
Nor do I understand how loudly condemning people expresses love, compassion or concern. Too many prefer loud to loving; yelling to relating. It is much easier.
Are we who comprise the churches in America so blind to the implications of our own theology that we embrace the total fallenness of humanity, yet cannot recognize the fall does not reveal itself the same way everywhere, all the time, and in everyone? Will we set ourselves up judge and jury as to who we will love, who we will hate, who we will judge and who we will despise? I do not find Scripture is multiple choice on the love issue.
If the love of God is not for Caitlyn Jenner, and Kim Kardashian, and Hillary Clinton, and Jeb Bush, and Darren Wilson, and Mike Brown, and the Apostle Paul, and pagan philosophers, it is for no one.
The very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ is no one is good enough to secure God’s love. And “no one” includes me and all those people I think I am better than, so let us stop pretending. Let us remember grace is not primarily a series of statements, but is the hand that finds us in the miry pit. The hand that becomes coated with grime to set me on a solid rock and establish my ways.
Is some of the disgust aimed at Jenner because some Christians really do consider some sins worse than others? His gender confusion(?) and subsequent surgery into a woman is worse than my lust, deceit, pride, love of this world, lack of generosity, callousness, and the rest of the endless list?
Many followers of Jesus would not believe Jenner to be saved; at least she has that excuse going for her. We are quick to say, “You can’t expect lost people to act saved,” until they actually don’t. Then we act as if they should.
I do not know how we demonstrate the love of Jesus to the transgender, gender confused and gender reassigned among us if we do not begin by trying to understand what they are going through or have been through. Contrary to prevalent response, condemning people at every turn is an ineffective evangelism strategy. Listening and loving works better.
Yes, I’m aware there is an organized contingent who proclaims all such decisions are perfectly normal. Some even claim “God made us this way,” whatever way that is.
Others seem discontented until everyone on the planet is acknowledges there is no such thing as immorality at all, thus no room for judgment for any behavior. I cannot stop them, and I will not believe they, rather than principalities and powers, are my enemy.
We have no option but to love those so affected, so afflicted and so decided. There are among the gender confused and the gender reassigned future children of God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Whatever it is Caitlyn Jenner seeks no amount of surgery, hormones or editing of a Wikipedia page will bring it. Joy comes from the one who made us to find joy in himself.
For God so loved Caitlyn Jenner. And you. And me.
This piece was adapted from a post on Marty Duren’s blog.