Bruce Jenner’s transition made headlines this week. Discussions about why he chose a name starting with the letter “C” instead of the letter “K” (along with Kris, Kim, Khloé, Kourtney, Kylie, Kendall and Kanye) will not even begin to answer the deeper questions being asked. The thing is, he is not alone… there has also been an ongoing and simultaneous culture shift (with a corresponding and parallel Kingdom shift). It can be seen on the nightly news, throughout social media, and newsstand covers almost daily. We cannot look to simple responses for the complex issues arising in this situation.
Before I go any further, I’d like to share a common prayer by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971) that I find applicable here. Countless recovering alcoholics recite this prayer daily: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
It’s not hard to see the three distinct parts to this widely recognized prayer. While many in our culture would like to applaud Bruce’s decision, some going as far as to call him “hero,” and file his decision under the courageous section, in this writing I’d like to look at the wisdom of his choices and knowing the difference between what actually can and clearly cannot be changed.
I think the place to begin is with what I will refer to as a revaluing in our society. It’s a redefining of words, concepts, and standards. At it’s most benign, it can be seen when looking at conversational phrases. For instance, “sick,” “bad,” and “dope” at one time all had negative undertones. Today those same words are all used to describe something that is excellent, awesome, and fun. At the end of the day, these verbal changes are small in their impact, producing only a microsecond of confusion. Here’s my attempt at redefining a word…
1. The confusion brought about by the act of transition in/of one’s gender, sex, or orientation.
Today the redefining of words is much more complex when it comes to understanding what is meant by new cultural definitions. Currently the word “marriage” is being redefined to fit a segment of behavior. It was always understood to mean the uniting of a man and a woman in the ceremony of matrimony/wedlock. The word marriage is now being used, reassigned and redefined to include same sex couples. Although polygamy has always described a man with multiple wives; what do we call a man with multiple husbands?! …a new word was generated: “throuple.” (Although same-sex marriage is not recognized in Thailand, three men were able to marry under Buddhist law in 2015.)
The problem is, when what is—and always has been—commonly understood one-way, gets redefined to mean the opposite, it brings considerable confusion. All I did was “bend” the word transfusion a bit. However, with Bruce it’s a total makeover… literally. Our culture is not making slight modifications; it is transitioning (“transfusion”) altogether.
This week that revaluing would be gender. This simple word has always been associated with the words male and female. It has always differentiated between “opposites” of the state of being male and female boy or girl—man or woman. The Bible uses this definition for gender in Genesis 5:2 “He [God] created them male and female, and he blessed them and called them ‘human.’”
While the word gender undergoes its reconstruction, the term is now loaded with confusion. Does gender mean what “sex” a person “is” …can that actually be defined? Or is gender how a person chooses to “identify” themselves? …is it a choice?
With those questions, let’s turn to science for a moment. Human sexuality is (and always has been) determined by a pair of chromosomes. Females have two of the same kind of sex chromosome (XX), and are called the homogametic sex. Males have two distinct sex chromosomes (XY), and are called the heterogametic sex.
While Bruce is attempting (and succeeding) to change his outward appearance, at his core he is and will always be male, because flowing through his body is XY. He is changing his name and requesting society to, “Call me Caitlyn.” (Though to his children he requests they call him dad… even more confusion.) And although he may be identified differently than last week through the diligence of numerous skilled surgeons to alter his look, (adding breasts along with $70,000 of facial feminization surgery: nose reconstruction, cheek implants, brow lifts, and undergoing chondrolaryngoplasty (tracheal shave), and taking the time to grow the hair on his head longer while removing it from his legs) even in his diligence to remove all of his dominant male features, he cannot change who he IS at the core of his being. He may dress as a woman, speak differently and even be permitted by law to change the gender on his driver’s license, but the truth is, his chromosomes only allow him to be male.
In the end this issue comes down to what is true. While many would say truth is relative, (dependent upon each person; without absolutes) this kind of subjective approach is a slippery slope. When one says, “_______ is right,” and another says “_______ is wrong,” we have conflict. How we walk that conflict out is the key. Bruce’s situation (and so many others) isn’t so much about conflict between right and wrong as it is about redefining wrong to be right.
What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes and think themselves so clever. [Isaiah 5:20-21]
Again what is happening with Bruce isn’t so much a disagreement in values, it is a redefining of opposites. “What sorrow for those who say male is female… they are wise in their own eyes… (“I can change this!”) They think themselves so clever… (“I’ll get a surgeon to help me!”) All the money in the world and all the acceptance of society will not change who God knows Bruce to be: one of His creation, loved by Him. Jesus sacrificed it all for Bruce.
The Bible is clear that God is not about outward appearances and is concerned about our hearts. While clearly Bruce can change his “gender” (on the outside) according to new definitions of what gender is or what culture (and a few medical procedures) can accomplish, God still sees him as him; because God looks at the heart. God isn’t looking at behaviors as much as He is looking at beliefs.
The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. [1 Samuel 16:7]
We can change the exterior look all day long, but what’s happening on the inside is what really matters. Jesus talked about how dressing up the outside without addressing what’s dead on the inside [Matthew 23] really makes no difference.
On the inside I am a murderer, philanderer, a thief and a liar. There are times I want to (coming from core of who I am) act out on one or more—sometimes all—of these deep-seated feelings… and I can honestly say I have always felt this way; but I don’t do it… because God says it’s wrong. Just because I feel something, and I want to act on it, doesn’t mean I should; and not just because God says it’s wrong but because the Father’s love for me, as his son, (when I surrender to it) transforms me and creates a peace in my never-ending conflict.
The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. [Galatians 5:17]
Thus I end with the same prayer I mentioned in the beginning of this conversation. The need for God’s wisdom in my choices is so vital:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
The Father knows me as one of His creation, and I am loved by Him; Jesus sacrificed it all for me… and you… and Bruce! Let’s allow this to transform us, and live as loved!!