“You will be expelled from the [places of worship], and … those who kill you will think that by doing this they are serving God.”

–Jesus to his disciples (John 16:2)

———————–

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual observance that honors the memory of transgender persons whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence.

Some churches and religious groups seek to reduce and eliminate such situations by preaching love for and acceptance of transgender persons, vocally urging people to seek to know, understand, and love them, and affirming their existence as an image of God, just as anyone else.  Hundreds filled Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston this past Sunday evening, including Senator Ed Markey, to attend its Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil.  Last year, Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity held a special chapel service on Transgender Day of Remembrance in which names of transgender persons killed in acts of anti-transgender violence during the previous year were read aloud. 

Unfortunately, some other religious leaders (preachers, teachers, writers, etc.), including many in the evangelical world, fuel the abandonment, isolation, and stereotyping of transgender persons.

Abandonment and isolation of transgender persons by their family and communities is a major contributor to anti-transgender violence.  This often puts transgender persons in difficult living situations and can result in them being homeless, cuts them off from support networks, makes it necessary for them to turn to risky situations just to live, makes them vulnerable to predators and drug use, creates desperation, and exposes them to unbalanced and violent people.

Teaching Christians to Cut-Off Contact With Transgender Persons?

One way religious leaders fuel the abandonment, isolation, and stereotyping of transgender persons is by teaching that transgender identity and expression are sins and that Christians should withdraw from transgender persons.

In other words, they teach that the very state of choosing to identify as transgender or engage in transgender expressions without “fighting it” is a sin.

And that Christians should cut-off contact with transgender persons.

The Chapel Hill Church of Christ, for example, posted a July 2019 class titled “Homosexuality and Transgenderism” teaching that its members should withdraw from transgender persons.  “If they choose to remain in that life of sin, then we have an obligation to withdraw from them,” the teacher explained.  “…  The purpose of us withdrawing from them is to help them to understand that the sin that they are involved in is putting their immortal soul in jeopardy.  It’s also to prevent that sin from being accepted by the church and then propagated amongst the members of the church because a little leaven leavens the whole lump, but it’s to help them to understand you need to get out of this sin ….  [Y]our whole family is having to basically cut you off  ….” (Starting at 40:45 (Citing 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11))

Some will teach that Christians should cut off contact with a transgender person only if the transgender person claims to be a Christian but not if the person is not a Christian, citing a misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 in an out-of-context manner.

It is the Christian standard to cut-off contact with the person who used to sit right beside you in the pew because they are a transgender person?  Didn’t Jesus serve the needs of outcasts that some called sinners, accept criticism for being their friend, and sacrifice for them, including dying for them?  (e.g., John 13:1-17; Matthew 9:10-13; Luke 7:34; Luke 23:26-43)

The Bible does not say it is a sin to have transgender thoughts or behaviors, though.  Listen to a sermon or article from a person claiming it is a sin and you will find superficial scriptural analysis, fear-mongering, culture-war descriptions, and discussions of homosexuality.

Nor does the Bible command Christians to cut-off people who we consider sinners (other Christians or not).  Thinking the  Bible commands such a thing is a serious misreading of scripture.  Indeed, the Bible asks that we do the opposite.  Jesus even dined with Judas and washed Judas’s feet.  (John 13)

A lot of us would be pretty lonely if other Christians cut us off for doing things they think are sins but we do not—and so we are not going to repent for them or stop doing them.  That would be some game the Bible gave to us.

Driving Wedges Between Transgender Persons and Their Families, Friends, and Church?

Many times, religious leaders fuel the abandonment, isolation, and stereotyping of transgender persons by teaching things like transgender identity and expression are sins, that “God doesn’t make mistakes,” that transgender persons are not Christians, and transgender persons are rejecting Jesus.

Many go even further and urge Christians to take positions that essentially seek to erode or erase parts of the transgender person’s identity, gaslight what the transgender person is feeling and thinking, remove even the language needed to discuss their situation, and contradict researched and experienced medical advice with man-made doctrine that those religious leaders claim is the word of God.

Doing so, drives wedges between a transgender person and their Christian families and friends by convincing such families and friends that it is God’s view that the transgender person is living contrary to God’s wishes.

Focus Press, the publisher of Think magazine, a magazine distributed to many churches, for example, asserts that “Ultimately, transgender individuals are rejecting Jesus.”

Teachings about transgender persons like “God doesn’t make mistakes” are often seen, as well.

Andrew Walker is a professor of Christian Ethics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and one of the leading anti-transgender voices in the religious world.  He says that Christians should avoid using the word “transgender,” teaching that “to exist as “transgender” is, itself, a social construct offered up by revisionists.”

Conclusion

These are not isolated incidents.

These are common happenings in the evangelical Christian world.

Such concepts can have a very real, very negative impact on transgender persons, helping to create an environment that can put them in very serious physical, mental, and spiritual danger.

Some voices in the evangelical world vocally object to anti-transgender teachings and to cutting off transgender persons and explain that such things are contrary to the Bible and contrary to what Christ taught.

But the anti-transgender view is prevalent and there are too few voices speaking up in response.

“You will be expelled from the [places of worship], and … those who kill you will think that by doing this they are serving God.”

–Jesus to his disciples (John 16:2)


—————————————

———–

Sources and Notes

See generally, and for a more in-depth discussion relative to scripture, the Churches of Christ and other evangelical discussions see:  Steve Gardner, “Churches of Christ, Southern Baptist, and Others on Transgender Persons: A Scriptural Dissent From Their Response,” AuthenticTheology.com (September 19, 2018).

Picture is by Harut Movsisyan from Pixabay.

See generally these five articles and the sources cited therein:

Steve Gardner, “Transgender in the Christian Conversation:  Mental Disorders and Gender Dysphoria,” AuthenticTheology.com (February 8, 2018).

Steve Gardner, “U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Should Withdraw Harmful & Offensive Letter on Transgender Persons,” AuthenticTheology.com (January 19, 2018)

Steve Gardner, “Sex, Gender, Transgender, and Transsexual:  Definitions Explained Briefly and Clearly,” AuthenticTheology.com (January 17, 2018)

Steve Gardner, “The Nashville Statement on Transgender People & Their Friends: Initial Scripture Review,” AuthenticTheology.com (November 10, 2017)

Steve Gardner, “The Nashville Statement on Transgender Persons and Their Friends: A Call for Signers to Withdraw Their Signatures,” AuthenticTheology.com (September 22, 2017).

Added:

https://kdvr.com/2013/08/23/gay-detectives-mother-booted-from-tennessee-church/

http://www.arlingtoncoc.com/churches-of-christ/who-are-the-churches-of-christ/

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/jd-greear-clarifies-pronoun-stance-lgbt/