Some are calling him a hero. Some are calling him a monster. I don’t really know what to call him. Bruce Jenner? Caitlyn Jenner? My wife and I were discussing this a little bit last night, and which is more loving. To call her Caitlyn Jenner legitimizes a very confused individual’s confusion. To insist on calling him Bruce Jenner seems to lack compassion for his confusion.
This whole scenario has been on the news for months, but if you don’t already know what I’m talking about, here’s a little catch up: Olympic Gold Medalist Bruce Jenner has determined that he feels more like a woman inside and wants to be called Caitlyn, and appeared recently in a highly photoshopped picture on the cover of Vanity Fair in the form of a woman.
Our culture, in its eagerness to accept whatever is the newest sensation, has embraced Jenner and lauded him as a heroic example of someone living out his true self. Many conservatives have declared Jenner’s actions to be an affront to God himself. It’s easy to get pulled to one side or the other, but as with most things, the right position is somewhere in between.
When we sit in the seat of judgment we run the risk of both appearing and being hypocritical. Not only do the people around us get the impression that we think another’s sins are worse than ours, but we actually start to think that was as well. Both deny the simple truth – we are all guilty of as much sin as we are capable of committing, and our only hope is Christ.
But when we fully embrace and endorse any new sensation that the world brings to us, we prove just as hypocritical, ignoring that instruction that says not to be conformed to the pattern of this world (Romans 12). It isn’t as comfortable; we’re likely to gain criticism and be called loveless. However, as Warren Wiersbe said, “Love without truth is hypocrisy.” He also said, “Truth without love is brutality.” The two must go hand in hand.
So how do they go hand in hand in a situation like this? What is the loving response when a man asks to be identified as a woman, or a woman as a man? For that matter, what is the truth of the matter? Is it truly wrong for a man to decide that he truly feels like a woman, and is going to take steps to become one? You may think that’s a boneheaded question, but can you construct an argument against it that is truly a) Biblical in all respects, and b) consistent with other things we accept as permissible or not permissible for New Testament Christians? I’m not saying it is impossible, but it is not entirely easy.
I think the answer to both these questions really can be found by going back to the first lie that was ever told, when the ancient serpent said to Eve, “Did God really say?” and then followed it with that alluring temptation, “You will be like God.” In many ways, every temptation since then has been the same temptation, the same lie. Every falling into sin is an acceptance of that lie in some way. “Did God really say this is wrong? And even if he did, what right does he have to tell you what to do? You are your own master. You are your own God.”
Bruce Jenner, and so many like him, have fallen prey to that same lying voice. “Did God really say you are what you are? Did God really say that gender is static from birth? You can be whatever you feel you want to be. You are your own master. You are your own god.”
In many ways, it all comes down to identity. That’s the big argument anyway, isn’t it? How does a person identify him or herself, and don’t they have a right to identify as whatever they feel like?
But who determines my identity? When it comes to my career, isn’t it my employer who determines whether I am identified as a worker or not, and what kind of worker? Or if I’m a student, who gives me that identity? Isn’t it the school I go to? What about family? Can I go into my neighbor’s house one day and declare myself to be part of their family? What if I really identify as a Smith, even though I was born as a Steenbock?
What is my ultimate, eternal identity? Who determines that? Do I get to declare what and who I am in my life?
Bruce Jenner – and every other self-proclaimed transsexual – is seeking an answer to the question, “Who am I?”, but unfortunately they are all being pointed to the wrong place for answers – within themselves. All of us, whatever struggles we face in life, whatever the temptations we face, we all can only find our true identity if we look outside ourselves, and ultimately to God. My employer might change. My school might kick me out (they call it graduation, but really they’re just tired of dealing with me…). My family might all die, and my neighbors don’t want me. But God alone remains forever, and so if I want a stable source of identity, I need to turn to him.
What is my identity in him? He has called me his child. He has adopted me by faith through Christ into his family. He has made me an heir of his blessings. That is my identity. I don’t need to change who and what I am, because God already has. I don’t need to seek inside myself for who and what I am, because God, who is infinitely more reliable than my own feelings and thoughts, has already declared my identity.
So what is the loving thing to do for someone like Bruce Jenner, or any transsexual? I don’t think it’s to viciously condemn and reject their feelings, but it’s not to embrace their will either. It is simply to point them to the God who has already given you an identity far better than any you can invent for yourself. When you talk about this with your friends, your coworkers, your children, don’t focus on how disgusted you are or how wrong it is. Don’t focus on how important it is for us to accept people for what they say they are, either. Focus on Christ. Talk about the identity we find in him.