–Daniel S. Ferguson
The topic of transgender rights is hot right now, for good reason. For the first time in the history of Western civilization, people are culturally and legally free to publically be transgender. Now that they are socially recognized as being fully human (a big step that shouldn’t have been a big step), their rights are up for change.
Oddly enough, in almost perfect historical irony, the civil rights of the transgender community are currently centered around bathroom usage, just as they were during the debate over Jim Crow laws. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) famously said in his candidacy for the Republican nomination that “grown men–strangers–should not be alone in the bathroom with little girls.”
And he did so with thunderous applause from the Religious Right. Churches and para-church organizations everywhere came out in opposition to transgender bathroom rights. Focus on the Family and Jerry Falwell, Jr., haven’t shut up about it. It even came up at Liberty University’s graduation ceremony last year. (I was there.)
The issue from the opposition of these rights has categorically been safety, even in the face a total lack of evidence of danger. There have been virtually no examples of people abusing transgender rights in order to commit sex crimes, much less any rampant string of offenses by transgender people themselves.
Keeping Christians angry keeps Christians voting. There has always been a sense of general ickiness in the Christian community when it comes to the transgender community, just like there was toward the gay community before that, and racial rights before that.
Safety was used as the primary justification in each of those cases, and often Christians have couched their objections in sin language. But really it was and is just a sense of ickiness. That those people are somehow dirty, gross, or unfit to be in “the community.” The use of “other” language was and is rampant in Christian churches, even among those that try to accept transgender people into their fold.
I get that this is a small population that’s easy to squeeze votes out of (on both sides), but it represents a huge problem in American Christianity. I’ve talked before about the two Gospel equations, that Jesus = Salvation and that Human = Saveable. The Gospel does not allow us to add to or subtract from those equations. Don’t even come close.
But the Church’s insistence on opposing transgender rights, and the language with which it does so, dehumanizes the transgender community. It warps the Human = Saveable Gospel equation into Human + Cisgender = Saveable.
And it doesn’t matter how objectionable any person or group actually is. We are not permitted to add to this Gospel equation, no matter what.
And that’s the problem. That’s why this issue drives people away. You don’t just lose the transgender community by trying to deny their rights. You lose anyone who believes (correctly) that grace applies to everyone, no matter what. That everyone is a saveable human being, no matter what. That every human being is an image bearer of God, no matter what.
And yes, I know that the passage says “male and female [God] created them” (Genesis 1:27). But that doesn’t mean they have to stay that way. It just means God created them that way. It’s not that God got it wrong when He created them. It’s that God created a journey for them, just like He creates a journey for all of us.
It’s not about bathrooms. It’s about the journey. And churches should be all about the journey, no matter where people are on it or what it looks like.