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Thinking Biblically and Acting Compassionately

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
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December 2, 2020 1:00 am

Thinking Biblically and Acting Compassionately

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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December 2, 2020 1:00 am

Transgenderism is a real-world, right now topic in need of God's navigation! J. Alan Branch, Professor of Christian Ethics at Midwestern Seminary, shares about his book, "Affirming God's Image," with the heart of being able to think biblically and act compassionately.

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This is Bob Lapine from Family Life Today with a heads up. We're going to be talking about a sensitive subject today, the subject of transgenderism. There's an epidemic today of gender confusion that Jay Allen Branch says is leaving a lot of adolescents confused.

If you're already at an age in life where you're worried about your body and what your body looks like and do other people like what I look like and how am I being accepted by other people and then suddenly to have this experience of, well, I feel like I'm in the wrong body piled on top of that, you can imagine the chaos that can be, especially in a young person's mind, it should cause us to have mercy. This is Family Life Today. Our hosts are Dave and Anne Wilson.

I'm Bob Lapine. You can find us online at familylifetoday.com. What should we think about gender confusion and gender dysphoria? What does the Bible say? And how can we respond with compassion to those who are experiencing challenges in this area? We'll talk more about that today. Stay with us. And welcome to Family Life Today.

Thanks for joining us. We're talking today about something that two decades ago, this would have been a fringe topic, you know, something that's out on the edges. Today, it's a mainstream topic.

And it's a mainstream topic that a lot of people want answers and help. Yeah, I think there is confusion about what's going on. And the subject is transgenderism. I was just gonna say the listeners like what are we what are we tackling today? There's confusion. People want to know how to think biblically and how to act compassionately with people you know who may be experiencing gender dysphoria. Or people who are advocating that this should be normalized and should be a regular part of how you care for people in your life and in your world. And how to talk to our kids about this.

And even what is a biblical worldview about this? And who's writing about it? Who's talking about it? Well, J. Allen Branch is writing about it and he's joining us. He's joining us on Family Life Today. Allen, welcome. Thank you.

I'm so glad to be here, Pop. Dr. Branch is a professor of Christian ethics at Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri.

Been at the seminary for 20 years. He's written a book called Affirming God's Image where he takes a look at addressing the transgender question with both science and scripture. Help our listeners understand the term gender dysphoria because they may have heard that and not understand what that means.

What is that? So gender dysphoria is a clinical diagnosis. It's in the DSM-5. It used to be called gender identity disorder but they changed it to gender dysphoria for a number of reasons. But to be clear, if you're going to follow the clinical diagnosis, someone could hypothetically be transgender but not be clinically diagnosed as gender dysphoric.

So here's the difference. Someone who is gender dysphoric is experiencing a disconnect between their biological sex and then their gender identity that they feel subjectively. And it's causing them great distress and problems in their life. So that person would be clinically described as gender dysphoric. It's possible for someone hypothetically to be transgender and have reconciled all these issues and thus they wouldn't clinically be diagnosed as gender dysphoric. But on the street, transgender and gender dysphoria get used as synonyms on the street all the time. And somebody who is transgender is somebody who has taken action to deal with their dysphoria, right? Well, not necessarily. So let's clarify a few things.

I think the first idea that needs to be clarified in the mind of the listeners is this. We typically use sex and gender as Christians. We use those as synonyms. And rightly so, the statement of faith for my school and for our denomination refers to the gift of gender as part of the goodness of God's creation.

And I affirm that wholeheartedly. But we are using the word gender as a synonym for sex. So if you want to understand modern transgenderism, the basic principle is this, that sex and gender are two different things. So sex is your body. It's just the body that God has given you and the genitalia that one might have and reproductive organs that one has. Your gender, however, is a subjective sense of your being, either male or female. And so separating those two concepts allows the idea of transgenderism to really take place. And if you don't understand that our culture has separated the ideas of sex and gender, then it's going to be really hard to understand what they're saying. Now, is that a recent separation or has that been?

Right. It's emerged from the 50s and 60s. There was a lot of chatter about this in the 1950s and 60s among people doing research on, beginning with homosexuality, and then moving in to what at that time was called transvestites.

They're investigating these sort of things. So, yes, it's relatively recent in human history. So the word transvestite wasn't invented till 1910 by a man named Magnus Hirschfeld. And then 1923, he invented the word transsexual. And the word transgender is even more recent than that. So we're dealing with ideas that have really emerged in the last 100 years. Now, there are concepts like transgender that are in antiquity.

They just didn't call it that. So I think if I could just give a bit of historical perspective, I think sometimes Christians today, when we hear about all these things happening, and we were chatting before about sports and athletics and transgenderism, the famous case out of Connecticut where these two boys self-identified as girls and then set the state record for girls. And I have to put that in scare quotes. And they outran all the other girls. And now they've actually, the state of Connecticut's athletic association is being sued by these parents of these actual biological females who are losing these races. And it's interesting, they're suing them under Title IX, which is really fascinating. But when we see things like that, I mean, boys pretending to be girls and outrunning all the girls and setting a female state record in Connecticut, you say, well, what in the world?

We've never seen anything like this. So to give a bit of perspective, in the first century in Rome, there was a cult. It's the cult of Cybele. She'd been around for a couple hundred years as a pagan goddess. You guys know in Acts where it talks about Artemis, this image that fell from heaven, right?

Probably a meteorite. Something like that was going on with Cybele. Apparently had a meteorite or something that they were venerating related to her.

But this is rather grotesque, but I'll tell you what happened. March 24th was called the Day of Blood every year in Rome. And men who wanted to dedicate themselves to be priests of Cybele would go through the streets in these public presentations. I'm not trying to be funny.

I'm not trying to make a joke, but it was a sort of a pride parade, if you will. And they're coming through the streets and they work themselves into a frenzy. And at the height of their frenzy, they would emasculate themselves. And then after that would begin dressing as women. And Augustine even talks about seeing these folks in North Africa three and four hundred years later.

So this is a longstanding cult. And he talked about how they dressed themselves up and paint themselves up. And they would grow their hair longs and dress like women. Now, the degree to which those guys doing that back in first century, for really several centuries there in the Roman Empire, the degree of what they were experiencing, what we might call modern-day gender dysphoria or transgenderism, as opposed to just veneration to a pagan goddess, I don't know. But at the end of the day, it's the same thing.

And I think it does help us get some perspective. If we could travel in a time machine and meet our brothers and sisters in Christ in Rome in 65 AD, say, hey, guys, we've got this thing going on in our country. It's called transgender. And here's what these men and women are doing. I think our brothers and sisters in Christ from 65 AD would have said, well, we don't have the word transgender, but we've seen something like what you're talking about. So if you take a deep breath and you realize we're not the first generation of Christians to deal with something like this, then it does give us a sense of perspective about the ability of the gospel to persevere through all sorts of challenges. That is fascinating.

Never heard something like that. Come to Midwestern Seminary. Those are the kind of things you talk about.

You say in your book that in the 1960s, the sexual revolution then had a big part of what's going on currently. So Dave is from Detroit. And so let me say this about Detroit. No, this is good. No, this is good.

This is really good. And it has to do with the 1960s. I'm convinced the only good thing to come out of the 1960s was a Fender Stratocaster in muscle cars. Right.

So other than that. Motown. You've got to throw a little Motown in there. Motown. Yes. Motown.

I agree. And the Beatles. The Beatles came out of Detroit.

Maybe Merle Haggard, but not the Beatles. One of the proudest moments in my life was when my daughter in high school wrote a paper on the song Okie From a Skokie by Merle Haggard. It was just a point of delight for me as a parent. I felt like I'd succeeded. Been lifting the family life today.

Dennis Rainey would be so proud. But in all seriousness, yes, the sexual revolution was this radical transition. It really started with Kinsey's work, I think, in 48, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.

That's the opening salvo. But what comes out of the sexual revolution is a radical rejection of Judeo-Christian ethics, specifically sexual ethics. We're going to throw all this aside and abandon it for sexual restraint.

It is the height of Romans 1, 18 through 32. It's radical moral autonomy. You know, the summer of love in San Francisco in 1967. I don't mean to go immediately to the most grotesque things, but I mean, people are having sex on the street and they're saying this is all about freedom. And it's not about freedom.

This is exploitation. And it is out of the 60s that you get this explosion of pornography, which the web has just accelerated exponentially at the levels we couldn't imagine. And it's all in the name of sexual freedom. It's no coincidence that you have the summer of love in 67, the sexual revolution. You get Stonewall just a couple of years after the summer of love in the late 60s. And then in 1973, you get Roe v. Wade.

Well, abortion is a brutal coping mechanism for abandoning sexual restraint. There's no coincidence you get that. So all these things are coming. And the latest, if you want to know what's going on in 2020 with transgenderism, it is the latest and most expansive expression of the sexual revolution.

That's what you're looking at. You know, what we're describing here is a cultural phenomenon, but I want to zoom in on the personal experience. Yes. I have a friend who many years ago in another city opened up to me about his personal experience of gender dysphoria.

Wow. And it was for him something that he never invited. He is a follower of Christ. He was actively involved in the work of his local church at the time. And it was something that he did not seek to indulge. It was something that was just this overwhelming sensation for him that he didn't know how to wrestle with. How old was he when he experienced that? He had begun the experience after he was married as a young man, and it had continued for years. And when he opened up about it, I mean, he was opening the door to what was the most personally shameful part of his life. So it was a huge door to pry open, and yet prying it open and the liberation that comes from grace and the gospel applied to that in his life has been so freeing for him. Talk about people who are experiencing this drive that they never invited and don't want. Well, first of all, I mean, God bless you. That means this man trusts you. Yeah.

And so that's really a great honor. Yeah. So no one knows what causes transgenderism or childhood gender nonconformity. No one knows. There's not one story that explains everyone's. Everyone's story is unique.

So let me divide into two big categories, if I will. Some people experience childhood gender nonconformity and then later on gender dysphoria, if we want to call it that, and transgender feelings for reasons we have no idea. Right.

It starts young, and they don't know why. Much like your friend. Yes.

Maybe had it repressed and didn't know how to talk to people about it, didn't know who you could talk to about it. But it sounds like your friend's a Christian, wanted to go the Lord's way. Yeah.

And so is fighting this but still has these feelings. There is another group that it emerges older, and frequently it comes from a fetish behavior. And a fetish behavior of cross-dressing for sexual arousal turns into an identity over time. And that's not something that started earlier or younger?

No, no. This can happen later. But even more, a couple of years ago, there were some guys who did some research, and they ran into what they thought was something new. And it was teenagers who had no previous experience of gender nonconformity suddenly identifying as transgender. And what I'm going to oversimplify, but basically what they said was this looks like old-fashioned peer pressure. Yeah. And so these ideas of transgenderism frequently emerge around puberty.

That shouldn't surprise you. The hormones fire off. It's just the way the Lord made us. And puberty is such a hard time for any of us anyway. I mean, it's brutal.

This has to be part of the fall. At the very point in life where we suddenly get very concerned about what other people think about how we look, we get acne, right? I mean, it's miserable. And so you're worried about your body, and then if you're already at an age in life where you're worried about a body, your body, and what your body looks like, and do other people like what I look like, and how am I being accepted by other people, and then suddenly to have this experience of, well, I feel like I'm in the wrong body piled on top of that, you can imagine the chaos that can be, especially in a young person's mind, it should cause us to have mercy.

Right. It should cause us to have mercy and very patient. None of that is helped in a culture now that says, oh, yeah, sure, just adjust your body to your subjective feelings. We can do all these things.

We can puberty suppress, and we can give you cross-sex hormones, and we can do surgery, and all these enormous steps. Instead of saying, well, let's work through how you're feeling, let's try to talk about that. You know, God bless your friend. It sounds like this is someone that just determined he was going to go the Lord's way and bore a silent pain. I don't know how many Christians are just like your friend. And I think we have to be aware that some people are experiencing this battle.

They're fighting it, in part because of shame, but in part because they know this is not what God wants for me, and yet it kind of comes on them and overtakes them. So what'd you say? I mean, part of me wants to go, Bob, what'd you say?

And Dr. Branch, what would you say? Not the right or wrong, but I'd love to know, you know, how did the conversation go? And I'm sure it wasn't just one conversation. Oh, it was a long series of conversations, and I ask a lot of questions, and I did a lot of listening, and tried to understand something that I've never experienced personally, but tried to hear the pain that was a part of that, the struggle that's a part of that, and how my friend battled and coped, and what his sense of this was, and where it had led him. And so it was just a long series of conversations.

By God's grace, I didn't do anything to fix him or cure him. I think just having somebody that he could be open with and talk about was, we have said on this program many times that when sin comes out in the open, when it's confessed, half of the power of it is drained out of it at that point. I remember the first time we sat down, he said something to me. We were talking about issues in his life, and he said, there's a part of my life that nobody will ever know about, and I just left that alone. Well, within a couple of years, he was being open about what nobody would ever know about.

And that openness was liberating. Think of James 5, confess your sins one to another so that what? You can be healed. Yeah, you can be healed. I think in the opening up and confessing, God brought healing and hope, and he would say that what was a powerful force in his life is no longer a powerful force. Really? God has brought freedom and healing in that area.

Like, I love that he was that open with you. Yeah. And we're hearing stories of kids coming to their parents, maybe as a teenager or even younger, saying, I have these desires, I have these feelings, and then we hear of parents putting their children in hormonal therapy. Right. So, coach us as parents, biblically speaking, if we are being raised in a household that honors Christ, what should that conversation look like? Well, I think what Bob did was very wise.

First of all, he's listening and trying to understand. And the worst thing we can do, either as a friend or as a parent, is to overreact when someone says that. Right.

And that's not what we want to do. So, childhood gender nonconformity frequently emerges very early. So, I will tell you, the data is really strong. The vast majority of the case is self-resolve. The data is pretty clear about this. Childhood gender nonconformity is strongly associated with a homosexual identity later in life. So, that's just statistical data that's pretty clear.

There's a lot of data that gets thrown around that can't be proven, but that one is a pretty clear data point. But what I would say is, first of all, as a parent, is not to freak out. And our children need unconditional love from us.

And I think sometimes we want to own these, especially these LGBTQ issues, we suddenly want to put them off in a category where they need a different response. Well, to a degree, I understand what parents are thinking, but sin is sin, and bad behavior by our children is bad behavior, so how are we going to respond to any of it? And so, what we want to do is to try to stay on an even keel, show them unconditional love, and say, listen, I love you. You're in a safe place. The home you're in is safe.

You're not in danger. Now, God has made you a boy, or God has made you a girl, and that's good. So, the best thing parents can do at a very early age is start affirming to their children, I'm so glad God made you a boy. I'm so glad God made you a girl. And that they hear that message from their parents. And the goodness of that. And the goodness of it. Here's why that's so great that you're a boy or a girl.

Right. All right, and that leads to some interesting conversations. When our children were younger, we were trying to explain to them, you know, we're so glad God made you a girl, and we explained to them the basic difference between boys and girls. And I remember one day when one of my daughters, I won't name which one because they're grown women now, I don't want to embarrass them, but my mother had never had a conversation like that with me when I was growing up. And she was one of my daughters about three years old. And I heard her in my mother's kitchen saying, and God made me a girl.

I thought, oh, I got to go in there now. And she said, my mom said, yes, that's good. And it's good to be a girl, that's right. And she started naming the body parts for girls. And my mother was just mortified.

And I said, well, no, this is what you do. You try to teach your children that their body is a good thing, not to be afraid. It's not a dirty thing. I have to say, we have a one and a half year old grandson that is right in that stage where he's telling everyone that he's a boy and why he's a boy. And what he has.

And what his grandmother and mom have, and where he's very excited about telling everyone. But keep going. Right. But at the end of the day, children have to be children. And that's, listen, that's age-appropriate behavior.

Now, if you've got a 21-year-old talking like that, we have a problem, right? But age-appropriate behavior, we understand that. But beyond that, if a child starts demonstrating these things, I'm not a parenting expert. I teach ethics.

That's what I do. So I'm not a psychologist. I'm not a psychiatrist. I'm not an endocrinologist.

I'm not an MD. But based on the Bible, what I know is we don't want to exasperate our children. The Word tells us that.

Yeah. So what we need to do is stay firm and stay loving and stay calm and realize that we're probably in for a really long fight. But so often, children gauge their reactions off of our reaction. And so we have to think very carefully about if our child demonstrates gender nonconformity, what are we going to do with that? Now, when they get older. What would they be doing that's demonstrating that? Well, they'll tell you, I'm not a boy.

I'm a girl. And will they dress such as that? Oh, yeah. So sometimes they'll want to do that, right? And you can't freak out because sometimes kids are just going to do dumb things, right? Yeah. You know, a boy's going to see his sister's tutu and put it on and run through the yard or whatever.

I don't know. They're just going to be silly. So that's why you don't want to overreact. But sometimes they'll say that and you just want to, you don't want to overreact, but you want to affirm, well, no, you're a boy and God made you a boy and that's good. So these things can emerge at early ages and sometimes they can be quite defiant about it. Now, the challenge we're dealing with when children get older, especially teenagers, and they start saying, well, I really think I'm in the wrong, is, and I want to preface this by saying my children went to public school and graduated, both my girls graduated from North Kansas City High School and they got a good education, but we are in a situation now where in many school districts, they're sexually enlightened adults that think it is their responsibility to rescue children like that from Christian parents. And they think it's their job to do that. And they think they're being beneficent by doing it. And they have no moral qualms with telling that child, oh no, don't you listen to your parents.

That's really who you are. You can't lump all school districts into one, but you just have to be aware. That's the environment and you really, really have to be aware. The other thing is if I could do one thing different as a parent, this is especially true if you're dealing with a child with transgender issues or a gender dysphoria is one mistake I made is I got my children one of these, I'm holding up my smartphone. I got my children one of these too early in age. I mean, if I had to do over it again, I made them use a flip phone till they're 18 and they had to deal with the social stigma. And you're not alone in that. The inventors are saying these phones and these apps are saying we don't give them to our kids until they're at a mature age, they can handle it. And I wish I'd done that.

And I've got good girls. They're fine Christian young women living for the Lord, but I'm just saying, right. So this is true with transgenderism as well, because what you have to understand is you're given a 12 year old going through puberty that suddenly feels this, well, maybe I'm in the wrong body, which is where you two clicks on this phone and one search and you got all sorts of people telling them, oh, no, no, no. There's YouTube videos that go on and on of testimonies, recruiting videos that are educating our children in this area. And I think with our kids, you're going to handle it with a six year old who, who is a, we used to call a girl, a tomboy who wants to go play football with the boys and you're going to handle that differently than you're going to handle it with a 14 year old who is saying, I think I'm a girl in a boy's body, but I think the principles that you've talked about here, Alan, the principles of patience, not freaking out, compassion, understanding, asking a lot of questions, and then protecting your kids from a culture that is going to be aggressively trying to change the way they think about what they're feeling and move them away from a biblical approach to this. Your book, I think is helpful. The book is called Affirming God's Image, addressing the transgender question with science and scripture, and it's a good book for any of us to go through. Go to familylifetoday.com to get a copy of J. Alan Branch's book, Affirming God's Image. Order it from us online at familylifetoday.com or call if you'd prefer to order by phone.

The number is 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Again, the book is called Affirming God's Image, addressing the transgender question with science and scripture. I hope you find conversations like the one we've had today helpful. I hope it helps you think more biblically about issues related to marriage and family. We've got the president of Family Life, David Robbins, here with us.

If you do find these conversations helpful, you need to know that they don't happen without your help. David? David Robbins Thanks, Bob. I want to remind listeners as we approach the end of the year that this is a critical time in Family Life's ministry. Over 40 percent of our donations for the entire year come in this month, and these 30 days determine how Family Life's going to be able to fuel ministry and our future broadcasting over the next 12 months. As you can imagine, we've had to make some tough choices this year, and we're hoping that through the generosity of people like you, we can continue to be on this station in the year ahead and keep offering help and hope for the relationships that matter most in your life. If you believe in what we're doing here on Family Life today, would you give today? Your financial partnership means torn-up divorce papers. It means restored families, and legacies intentionally shape generation after generation.

I once heard someone who went to a Family Life We Can Remember getaway after hearing about it on the radio say, I came here a roommate, and I left a wife. Your gift is what makes that possible. Yeah, that's right, and as you know, David, right now, when any of our listeners make a donation, their donation is going to be matched dollar for dollar up to a total of $2 million. We've got this matching gift fund that's been made available to us. We hope to take full advantage of the fund, so when you give today, whatever you give is matched dollar for dollar, and we're going to send you two thank you gifts. We'll send you a copy of my book Love Like You Mean It, which is all about how the Bible defines love and what that looks like in a marriage relationship, and we'll send you a thumb drive, a flash drive that's got more than 100 of the top Family Life Today radio programs from the last 28 years. Both of those are our thank you gift to you when you donate today. You can donate online at familylifetoday.com, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. Now tomorrow, we're going to talk more about how parents can be prepared for and navigate the challenges if their children or friends of their children are experiencing gender confusion.

What do you do in that moment? Jay Allen Branch joins us again tomorrow. Hope you can join us as well. I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Bob Lapine. See you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life of Little Rock, Arkansas, a crew ministry. Hope for today, hope for tomorrow.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-20 07:38:23 / 2024-01-20 07:50:29 / 12

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