How Did We Get Here?
About the Guest
Author Andrew Walker recalls the sexual revolution of the '50s and '60s and the "If it feels good, do it," message the era promoted. Walker explains the confusing issue of gender fluidity and how the message promoted by the sexual revolution has contributed to its prominence in today's society.
Andrew WalkerAndrew T. Walker serves as the Director of Policy Studies for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination’s entity tasked with equipping churches to address moral, social, and ethical issues. In his role, he researches, speaks, and writes about human dignity, family stability, religious liberty, public theology, and the moral principles that support civil society. He also examines how ethics inform public policy decisions and inve...more
Author Andrew Walker explains the confusing issue of gender fluidity and how the message promoted by the sexual revolution has contributed to its prominence in today’s society.
How Did We Get Here?
Bob: Which of the following should have the biggest impact on how you view your own identity?—is it what your friends and other people say about you / what the culture says about you?—is it how you feel about yourself, deep inside—or is it what the Bible says is true about you? That question is at the heart of the controversy in our day regarding transgenderism. Here’s Andrew Walker.
Andrew: Behind the transgender worldview is this Gnosticism—that we are something different than our bodies—that there is a secret inner-self in our mind. That runs contrary to a biblical view of revelation—of how God made creation and how He made us, as man and woman, in His image.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 26th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.
How can we think wisely and engage, winsomely, on the subject of transgenderism in our world today? We are going to explore that with Andrew Walker. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’re going to dive right into the middle of what may be one of the most controversial issues in the whole sexual revolution that we’re dealing with in our culture today; right?
Dennis: No doubt about it. We’re going to be talking about transgender and what God thinks about it. I want to introduce our guest, Andrew Walker, to our audience. Andrew, welcome to our broadcast.
Andrew: Thank you. It’s great to be here.
Dennis: Andrew is the Director of Policy Studies at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention—which is a mouthful.
He and his wife Christian have been married since 2006 and have two daughters. He has written a book that is front and center, Bob—it says: God and the Transgender Debate.
Andrew, when I began working my way through your book, I couldn’t help but think of one of my—this is going to sound a bit odd—one of my favorite emails we’ve ever received in 25 years of broadcasting. It came from a transgender person in Washington, DC. She had heard Bob and me—and I think it was John Stonestreet and Sean McDowell—
Dennis: —talking about this subject on our broadcast. This person wrote to tell us: “I want to thank you for speaking with respect to me, as a person who doesn’t believe like you do.” The person went on to say how they had been discriminated against at church, and circles among believers, and those who profess to follow Christ.
As I read the email, I couldn’t help but think:
“You know what? That could have been said of me a decade ago”; but the lessons that, hopefully, I’m learning and others are learning: “We serve a big God, who loves all people and who made all people in His image. Yet, we also live in a broken world—one that is marred by sin.”
I want to just pull back and ask you to just take a pass at explaining how it is we come to this day and age when transgender can be such a hot topic—for both individuals and how we relate to people—but also as we raise our children. How has it happened? How has it come about?
Andrew: Well, I think there are lots of different ways that we’ve kind of gotten to the current era of time that we have. We can look back to ideas such as the sexual revolution, starting in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s—which you could probably complete the sentence if I said: “If it feels good…”
Bob: “…you do it.”
Andrew: “…you do it.” That was kind of one of the abiding ethics that a previous generation of Americans was raised to believe.
There’s this idea, behind the sexual revolution, of what I would call radical individualism and this understanding of self-autonomy. In that framework, what matters most is that individuals live out according to their desires / to their psychological conditions—that what counts, as real self-fulfillment, is that no one says, “No,” to you—that you’re to be true to yourself.
That is kind of what has, I think, mostly pervaded the issue of transgenderism—is this idea that you can kind of manufacture your own understanding—that our gender and our biological sex can be separated—but that we live in a universe that there, maybe, isn’t this divine moral order to it.
Again, we manufacture and create morality simply based on consent. We really have to reckon, in the transgender debate, with: “What view of reality are we going to live in?”
There is a philosopher named Thomas Sowell who said that there are basically two types of realities that people can live in: a constrained reality or an unconstrained reality. A constrained reality would be a reality that we believe is governed by God—that God gives an idea of what morality is—that we can discern what morality is because morality/an order is imposed on it from God—that we don’t get to live in a limitless, boundary-less universe.
You juxtapose the constrained universe with an unconstrained universe, where—again, you come back to this understanding that reality has no real objective meaning to it / it doesn’t have an objective moral order to it. Again, what counts is that a person gets to live out what they believe is moral—
Andrew: —and what is good.
Bob: As you describe that, I think about how we determine what is real and what is true. We live in a day where science and biology would say, as it relates to gender: “This is what is true—someone would say: ‘Here is how I feel about my gender. This is what is true.’” What’s happened in the last 20 or 30 years is—we’ve said, “How you feel is truer than what science or biology might say about it.” One is a rational way of looking at things; the other is a post-modern way of looking at things; and then, Christians come along and say, “Well, we have revelation to lay on top of all of that,—
Bob: —“which is not what science or biology says; it’s not what you feel; it’s what God says that is the truest thing.”
Andrew: Well, something you just said, right there, was exactly right—is that we have separated our feelings from who we are, biologically. So, behind the transgender worldview is this—there is a Gnosticism to it—
—that we are something different than our bodies. There is a secret inner-self in our mind, and our bodies are something—it’s just kind of a casing or a shell—and that runs contrary to a biblical view of revelation of how God made creation and how He made us, as man and woman, in His image—that according to biblical worldview, matter matters.
Dennis: So, what’s taking place in the life of a young person, who is growing up today in junior high/high school, and this issue of gender fluidity is being tossed about and bandied about by their peers? Explain what’s taking place in a young person’s mind and how this is creating a very swift current that can take young people to a place that’s extremely dangerous.
Andrew: So, if you’re growing up, in this day and age, in public schools or in the culture, more generally, you are learning, as you just said, that gender is fluid—
—that it exists on a continuum or a spectrum / that there is no fixed objective or innate truth to our gender.
Bob: Here’s how I’ve heard a junior high student describe this—she said, “I think I’m probably 70 percent hetero and 30 percent gay.” In her mind, she’s not saying, “I’m either gay or straight.”
Andrew: She’s a little bit of both.
Bob: She’s saying, “I’m kind of gauging which of my impulses are straight and which are gay, and ‘What’s the majority here?’”
Andrew: Which is why, on Facebook®, you can choose upwards of, I think, now 60-plus gender identities. These gender identities—again, there is nothing objective about them or necessarily true about them. It’s what a person perceives or feels. So, if you feel more male than you do female, then, you identify as, perhaps, a transgendered man because, again, we are living in a world where we are completely severing and detaching biological sex from the understanding of our gender.
You can be, biologically, male and have x-y chromosomes; but in your mind, if you feel female, you can suppress the truth of your biology and ignore it—
Andrew: —and identify as female. Again, that’s the really challenging thing about kids who are growing up in the day that they are—is that they find themselves in environments, where they are being told to explore, and to challenge, and to question who they are—to experiment—because one of the only things that’s prohibited in the day in which we live is—again, to say, “No,”—
Andrew: —because what matters is someone is able to self-identify with what they think will bring them happiness. Again, that’s in total disregard to what is true of how God made us, as male and female.
Bob: And when a young person is invited / encouraged to explore—
—think about—maybe: “I know you’re a boy. I know your body says you’re a boy; but maybe, that’s not who you really are. Not everybody who is in a boy’s body is really a boy.” When you’re taught these kinds of things, you start to imagine and question and wonder.
Then, what happens—I think this is really interesting—is somebody comes up and says, “You know I’m in a boy’s body; but I sometimes feel like, maybe, I’m a girl.” All of a sudden, there’s a spotlight—there’s attention put on that person, and there’s—now, we’ve got a—we want to respect this person. Well, as soon as everybody else in the class sees this gets you a certain level of respect, and appreciation, and effort, then everybody else kind of wakes up and says, “Well, maybe, I feel that way too.” What they’re really looking for is not gender identity; they’re just looking for some recognition.
Andrew: In the media, the transgender issue is treated as a very enlightened, social justice-type issue; but when you kind of peel back and understand:
“What are the repercussions of the transgender movement?”—we’re making it impossible for a teacher to tell a young boy—if that young boy were to ask, “Teacher, am I a boy?”—we’re making it impossible for that teacher to be able to give an affirmative, “Yes;—
Andrew: —“you are a boy.” The reason that’s problematic is that it destabilizes society.
God gave us, in His Word—because we believe it is an inspired, true word—a picture of reality, and we want to live in that reality. The transgender worldview is presenting a different view of reality that, again, runs contrary to the picture of how God made us, as male and female. God made us fixed—male and female. The transgender worldview is saying: “No; nothing is fixed. You explore. You figure out what works for you.”
There’s a distinguished psychologist, Dr. Paul McHugh, at John Hopkins—a real trailblazer in the field of psychology—
—approaching this from a purely scientific, non-theological lens. When he looked at the data, he saw that affirming individuals in their transgenderism does not resolve all of the inner tension and the inner anguish. Why is that? Think about this: “You don’t heal the mind by altering the body”; because beneath the transgender issue—and we want to be super-sensitive and compassionate when we talk about this issue—there’s a lot of psychological hurt; there’s a lot of psychological anguish; there’s higher incidences of depression, social anxiety, suicide and thoughts of suicide.
So, we want to be ultra-compassionate and sensitive here; but at the same time, recognize that simply affirming someone’s feelings isn’t sufficient for those feelings / those anguished tensions to be eliminated. There is something deeper going on in the mind, where we want to say to individuals, “We want to see you well—
Andrew: —“but we want to see you live in line with the truth of who God made you.”
Bob: So, if there is a soul issue, as we believe there is, when it comes to gender dysphoria, then, to try to correct a soul issue with a surgery is like trying to correct an earache by amputating the arm. You’re dealing with the wrong source of the issue. You can do the surgery, but the soul hasn’t been affected by the cutting.
Dennis: Andrew, Bob just used a term there that you speak of in the book. I want you to unpack it for our listeners—what is gender dysphoria?
Andrew: Gender dysphoria is a very kind of fancy psychological term for the anxiety or the distress that someone experiences if they sense an incongruence or disconnect between their gender identity and their biological sex. Let me unpack that even more, because that’s even kind of complex.
Let’s imagine you have a male, who has x-y chromosomes—
—he is, unambiguously, male. This person might, in their mind, feel themselves to be female. Now, there’s some ambiguity here of: “How do you feel female if you have a male body?” There’s some ambiguity around that.
Bob: And you’ve got to throw into the middle of this: “How are we defining what is male and what is female?”—because, now, we live in a culture that says we shouldn’t be classifying one thing as male or female. So, if I’m feeling female: “What does that even mean?”—right?
Andrew: Correct. Everything is gender neutral.
Dennis: We’ve been talking about this in, I guess, kind of abstract form.
Dennis: Introduce us to a person you’ve met who is transgender. I know we’re not trying to characterize all people like this person; but there are many of our listeners, who may take a step back and go, “I don’t know anyone who is transgender.”
Bob: —or “I don’t know if I know anyone who is transgender”; right?
Dennis: Yes. So, tell us a little bit about a person, who is self-identifying—
Dennis: —as a transgender male or female.
Andrew: That’s a great question. I have not been asked that in the whole aftermath of my book, so I really appreciate that. I want to be really discreet and not give away any details, because a lot of people have confided in me in great confidence.
One thing that is super important to keep in mind is that whenever we, in the culture, attach an –ism to anything—so transgender becomes transgenderism—it depersonalizes the issue and makes it abstract. What we always want to focus on, as Christians, is that every gender dysphoric individual, or gender-confused individual, or transgendered individual is a human being, and is a person, and is made in the image of God.
Andrew: We want to affirm that. Even if we disagree with how a person is identifying or living, we want to affirm their worth; and we want to respect them.
Dennis: And we want to love them—
Dennis: —and love them well.
Bob: Well, our love should not be value-graded for others based on our level of agreement with them—
Bob: —on anything.
Andrew: So, the individuals who I have talked with, who would identify as transgender—the most important thing that I would say about them is that they are all not just—they are not fire-breathing activists. These are individuals, who genuinely want to live happy and fulfilled lives. In some sense, we’re all doing the same thing. So, at the end of the day, there is this question of: “Okay; who gets to say what the good life ultimately is?”
But back to these individuals—these individuals that I’ve talked with—I have a lot in common. One person in particular is absolutely delightful. We have some serious disagreements on politics, and philosophy, and theology; but we have some similar kind of personal interests as far as music and as far as hobbies and activities. We’re not hiding our differences, but we’re able to understand that our differences don’t define everything about us; because we, again, are all image-bearers—we’re all human beings made in the image of God.
What I think this allows us to do, as Christians, is to kind of understand that one person’s struggles are different than my struggles; but we’re all humans—we are all beset in frail bodies that are experiencing the result of the fall—
Dennis: —and we all have struggles.
Andrew: —and we all have struggles.
Bob: —and we all have struggles in the sexual area.
Bob: I mean, one kind of sexual sin—Jesus said this when He said, “If you look on a woman to lust, it’s like committing adultery.” We can’t grade sexual sin and say, “Well, this is kind of acceptable sexual sin,” and “This is unacceptable sexual sin.” It’s all unacceptable before God.
I have some questions, definitionally—
Bob: —just help me here. If somebody says, “You know, I’m a male / biologically, I’m a male; but I have these feelings that are very feminine feelings. I sometimes think I would want to paint fingernails and toenails or I would want to cross-dress,”—things like that—do they fit the title, “transgender”; or do you have to be in the process of hormone therapy or surgery to qualify as a transgender person?
Andrew: That’s a great question. I wish that I was the final arbiter on the language here; because the language, honestly, is one of the most contested elements to the transgender issue. You could have someone, who is having feminine desires, call themselves just feminine—they could attach “trans” to that; that person could identify as gender-queer; that person could identify as a cross-dresser. There’s a range of ways we could define someone.
That actually is a really good way to think about this. Transgenderism is kind of an umbrella category for individuals who take steps to kind of live in alignment with their gender identity. That’s a much more kind of cultural, personal, social, and political identity—
Andrew: —identifier. Now, this is important; because there are gender dysphoric people, who experience that incongruence about their gender identity and their biological sex, who do not identify as transgender.
Bob: They don’t take any steps to try and conform. They feel it, but they don’t act out on it.
Andrew: Correct. I’ve had individuals contact me through email, who have said: “I read your book. Thank you for writing it. I am someone who has experienced feelings of gender incongruence my entire life. I’m a Christian. I know that God made me as a male; but at the same time, I can’t deny the fact that I have had these feelings where I’ve thought of myself as female.”
That is really instructive for us—for those of us inside the church—because what that means is there are people for whom gender dysphoria is an unwanted, involuntary thing that occurs in the mind—that they aren’t taking steps to identify as transgender. They’re just simply looking for a network of support and a community in a church that will commit to love them and walk alongside them through what could be some dark seasons when you look at the issues of depression and anxiety around it.
Dennis: And I know there are listeners, right now, who are going, “I’ve got a lot more questions.”
Dennis: Well, I want to encourage you to get a copy of Andrew Walker’s book, God and the Transgender Debate; because I think you’ll find that Andrew starts out, in a very gentle way, helping you understand what’s behind the thinking in this and shows you how you can begin to understand someone who is struggling with this and who, as he just described a few moments ago, needs to experience love / needs to experience community within the faith.
If you think about it: “Where’s the one place on the planet someone—who is struggling with alcoholism, with being immoral, sexually, with the opposite sex or someone who is struggling with transgenderism—where’s the one place they can find hope of being loved for who they are—made in the image of God—but the church?”
Bob: Well, of course, we’ve got copies of the book you’re talking about in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center—Andrew Walker’s book, God and the Transgender Debate: What Does the Bible Actually Say About Gender Identity? You can go online to order from us at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call to order: 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, our team just recently felt that this issue of identity—not just gender identity but “How do you understand the whole question of identity?”—we felt this was so critical that we put together a getaway experience for parents and their teenage sons or teenage daughters—an experience called Passport2Identity™. It’s for moms and dads with 14-/15-/16-year-old children. Get away for a couple of days—listen to the audio that we provide, work your way through a workbook, and have some great conversations about where identity comes from, how you can understand who you are / who God made you to be, and how you live that out.
This, of course, is a follow-up to the Passport2Purity® resource that we created years ago. You can find out about both resources when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, the website: FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you’d like more information about Passport2Purity or Passport2Identity or, again, Andrew Walker’s book, God and the Transgender Debate.
You know, our goal—whether it’s conversations like the one we’re having today or the conversations we have at our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways—all that we do at FamilyLife®—the goal is the same; and that is to provide practical biblical help and hope for husbands and wives / for moms and dads—for all of us as we seek to live out our faith in our families.
We’ve got a new resource we’ve been working on that we’re about to release called FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting™, an eight-session video series that will be available as a digital experience or as a small group curriculum—
—something you can go through with others. You should know—we’re working to develop strategies designed to take this content we’ve developed and get it into the hands and hearts of people, who don’t listen to FamilyLife Today and may not be going to a local church. We want to provide them with biblical instruction and give them an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel as well. We’ve calculated it’s going to cost us about $10 per home to get this content into people’s hands.
We’re asking FamilyLife Today listeners, “Help us reach more people, more often, with God’s design for marriage and family.” You can do that by making a donation today at FamilyLifeToday.com or call to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY. When you do, we’re going to send you a series of seven prayer cards so that, as a parent or a grandparent, you can be praying for your children or your grandchildren—
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And we hope you’ll join us back tomorrow as we continue to explore what the Bible has to say about gender identity and specifically transgenderism. Andrew Walker will be back with us tomorrow. I hope you can be back as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry.
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