A Benedictine monk friend of mine, Dom Anthony of Christminster Abbey, occasionally e-mails me articles by a Christian writer named Michael Craven. The man is extremely insightful, so I'm kicking off our blog with a series of articles by him. I hope you find them worthwhile.
By Michael Craven Second in a series.
According to Associated Press reports, “California has become the first state to enshrine certain rights for transgender K-12 students in state law, requiring public schools to allow those students access to whichever restroom and locker room they want.” Additionally, The new law gives students the right "to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities based on their self-perception and regardless of their birth gender” (Emphasis mine).
At first glance you might be compelled to respond in anger or even disgust but when filtered through the lens of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, I submit that we may want to respond differently.
As Paul opens his epistle, he begins with a summary of the “good news,” adding that he is “under obligation to both Greeks and to barbarians … to the wise and to the foolish” to make this good news known (Romans 1:14 ESV). In other words, no one is excluded from the hope of a new life in Christ.
Regarding Paul’s explanation as to why this good news is so urgently needed, he proceeds to describe the general condition of the entire human race. Paul is not addressing a particularly wicked segment of the society, rather he is recounting the ungodliness and unrighteousness of all of humanity who from birth suppressed the truth about God (v. 18) and “did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened”(v. 21 ESV). I must confess that in my Christian life, I have read Paul’s letter—rather self-righteously—thinking he was talking about “those other people.” I have come to see this was incorrect. He is instead giving us a recap of human history and our collective rebellion against God.
It is within this context that Paul goes on to describe the orientation of mankind’s natural inclinations when unrestrained by God, beginning in verse 26 when he writes, “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions.” Unprecedented in Paul’s writing up this point, he rather unexpectedly chooses homosexual behavior to illustrate the extent of human sin and corruption. Why this particular transgression and not something like any number of violations against the Ten Commandments? N. T. Wright suggests Paul “wants to trace the way in which humans have violated, not simply a ‘law’ given at some point in human history, but the very structure of the created order itself.”
This structure is most apparent in the male-plus-female complementarity that was established at creation (see Genesis 1–3). God made humanity male and female in order that they might work together, with God, to bring the fullness of God’s good creation into being and glorify him. This was and remains his design intent.
Paul’s point is not that there are some exceptionally wicked people out there (for all have sinned and fallen short—see Romans 3:23). Rather Paul is expressing the fact that such clear distortions of the creator’s male-plus-female intention occur in the world indicates that the human race as a whole is guilty of character-twisting idolatry.
The declaration by the California state legislature only serves to evidence this point. Such legislation only reminds us that we are by nature a rebellious people, futile in our thinking, with hearts darkened by sin. This is the inevitable course of our rebellion and it is only the grace and mercy of God himself that can deliver any of us from such futility.
In this case, we must pray for our society and these who remain in captivity and declare that any distortion of the creator’s intent for the male-plus-female structure is degrading to human dignity and undermines God’s intent for boys and girls.
Gender is not the result of “self-perception” but rather self-evident biology and appropriate nurturing of the respective sexes. This isn’t sexist; it’s simply natural! To declare and do otherwise is to promote enslavement to the oppressive and broken structures of this sin-ruined world. It is to this condition that the mission of the church remains fixed by declaring the good news that God is restoring his created order through Jesus the King, who is bringing forth a new kingdom in this world whereby men and women may grow into their full humanity knowing true freedom, peace, and joy!