Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Transgender: the Facts, the Lies, and Our Hope

By now, most Americans are aware of the joint letter issued from the Departments of Education and Justice directing all public schools to ensure “transgender students a supportive and non-discriminatory school environment.”

According to the statement issued by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, transgender students must be allowed access to the bathroom and locker room on the basis of the sex with which they identify, not according to their biological sex. She continued, “This guidance gives administrators, teachers, and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies.”

She went on to compare separate bathrooms for boys and girls to Jim Crow laws that further legalized racial segregation by creating separate bathrooms for blacks and whites. Consequently, public schools can comply with the new ruling or face forfeiture of federal funding.

Although a host of angry responses have followed the mandate, mainly from concerned parents who fear the potential of sex offenders to take advantage of it, my purpose here is not to address that particular worry. Rather, I want to 
(1) Provide a synopsis of genetic sexual disorders. (2) Make a series of observations based on these facts. (3) Point us to our hope in Christ.

1.      A synopsis of genetic sexual disorders

How is human sex determined? The Psalmist records that we are indeed “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). This truth is seen in the fact that within the human cell are 23 pairs of chromosomes totaling 46. Chromosomes determine everything from the color of your hair, to your height, to your sex.

Among the 23 pairs of chromosomes is the sex chromosome. This one pair of sex chromosomes in men is XY, while the one pair of sex chromosomes in woman is XX. Whether you are male or female depends on the sperm cell. If a sperm cell containing an X chromosome fertilizes an egg, the result will be XX or female. If the same process happens, but the sperm cell contains a Y chromosome, the result will be XY or male.

In men, the Y chromosome plays the leading role in determining male sex and fertility. On each chromosome are the human genes. The Y chromosome contains fifty to sixty genes. Just one male gene, the SRY gene, a protein, is responsible for developing a fetus into a male and for preventing the development of female reproductive systems. The remaining genes on the Y chromosome are responsible for male fertility.

Problematically, genes can mutate during the reproductive process resulting in genetic abnormalities. Due to the limitations of space, I will give only brief attention to the principle examples.

Turner Syndrome. This is a condition in which a female (XX) is partially or completely missing an X chromosome. The condition can trigger infertility, heart problems, and alter a female’s appearance. The condition affects about 1 in 2,500 newborn girls.

Klinefelter Syndrome. This represents a group of chromosomal disorders in males (XY) who have one or more extra X chromosomes. The extra X in males usually occurs when the genetic material in either the egg or in the sperm splits unevenly. The disorder is not hereditary. Researchers estimate that 1 in about 500 newborn males has an extra X chromosome. Far fewer males have two extra X chromosomes (1 in 50,000) while even fewer have 3 extra X chromosomes (1 in 500,000). A variant form of Klinefelter is seen among males with an extra Y chromosome. The extra X and/or Y chromosome can effect physical and intellectual development. 

Swyer Syndrome. Also known as 46, XY, this aberration happens when a male (XY) is born with some female reproductive parts. Affected individuals may also have external genitalia that do not look clearly male or female. Although genetically male, in recent years more people with Swyer syndrome are opting to be identified as female. Toward this end patients are prescribed hormone replacement therapy to enhance female sex characteristics. Swyer syndrome is caused by mutations in the SRY protein responsible for male development. It occurs in approximately 1 in 80,000 people.

46, XX Disorder. Differently from Swyer Syndrome, the disorder occurs in a female (XX) whose ovaries are present, but whose external genitalia appear male. In some cases a combination of male and female genitalia are present. The disorder can result, among other causes, from the mother taking male hormones during pregnancy. Regardless of the cause, the SRY gene somehow gets misplaced causing male enhancement—despite the absence in the female of the Y chromosome. The incidence happens at 1 in 80,000 births.

Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS). Often confused with Swyer Syndrome, AIS occurs among genetic males (XY). The causal factor are bodies unable to respond to certain male sex hormones, called androgens, before birth and during puberty. Those with incomplete AIS show signs of both male and female sexual development. Males with complete AIS have female external genitalia exclusively. The complete form of AIS is thought to occur in 1 in 20,000 births.

Ovotesticular DSD. Formerly known as hermaphroditism, an infant is born with the internal reproductive organs of both sexes (female ovaries and male testes). Ovotesticular DSD mostly occurs among females (XX). The external genitalia are usually ambiguous but can range from normal male to normal female. This is the rarest disorder of sex development in humans with a current estimate of 500 affected individuals. The cause of Ovotesticular DSD is unknown.  

2.      What observations pertinent to the transgender debate can we draw from these disorders?

First, inherent to all of the above maladies is that none alter basic gender. They do alter, to various degrees, sex organs and fertility, but not one’s birth gender or sex. These syndromes occur among either genetic males or among genetic females. Thus, for one to use these disorders as a means to justify the right of gender expression, when in fact genetic disorders do not change one’s birth gender, is to take advantage of people born with real reproductive abnormalities.

Second, it ought to be noted that not until the sexual revolution reached new and dizzying heights did the word transgender came into vogue. For years, the various disorders mentioned above were classified as chromosomal conditions, and those with these conditions as sufferers with genetic disabilities in need of proper medical evaluation and support.

It was with the rise of gender studies programs in institutions of higher learning that the nomenclature of sex and gender were separated and redefined. It was then that gender supposedly became a matter of subjective feeling, rather than biological fact. This paved the way for the new understanding of “transgender.” According to today’s gender expert, transgender is mainly an umbrella term that may include any person who self-identifies with a gender different from the one given him or her at birth.

Of interest, then, is the fact that were we to add up all the people believed to have been born with the birth disorders described above, plus those not listed, we would still not arrive at the .03% who are thought to represent the transgender community. The .03% figure was published by the Williams Institute and accounts not only for those born with sexual disorders, but also includes anyone who self-identifies with a preferred gender (Williams Institute, 2011).

Third, the genetic disorders listed above force us to examine the administration’s assumption that the public schools are, in the words of AG Lynch, guilty of “unjust school policies.” This is a red-herring. Since when have students with chromosomal conditions suffered institutional discrimination at the hands of the public schools? Although a recent article by the New York Times reports that 71% of transgender people hide their gender identity for fear of discrimination, the paper of record fails to provide any such evidence (“The Search for the Best Estimate of the Transgender Population”, June 8th, 2015). This is pure spin and deception on the part of the Obama administration.

Indeed, for AG Lynch to conjure up “Jim Crow” laws to prove her point is an example of inverse logic. Because public schools have traditionally provided separate bathrooms and locker rooms for boys and girls cannot be taken to mean that central to this provision is the intent, purposeful or otherwise, to discriminate against transgender students. Nor does it mean that the potential of such discrimination exists. The schools are merely, and benignly, providing such facilities based upon scientific laws of sex or gender. To infer otherwise is to read malicious intent into an age-old practice where no such malice is intended.

Supporters of the administration are correct that students with chromosomal conditions have been using the bathroom of their choice all along. But that’s the point. For decades, both the children with these conditions and their parents have sought answers from the latest medical technology. A byproduct of these family’s efforts is knowing which bathroom an affected child should use. There is no issue here that supports the need for federal bathroom policies. The directive is a solution in search of a problem. 

Why are the Departments of Education and Justice doing this? The answer ought to be obvious. To insist that students, though born genetically healthy, be able to use facilities that comport with their favored gender selection, is to recognize them as equal to students born with actual genetic defects, and is thus one more step in the federal government’s attempt at social engineering.

But why now? When same-sex marriage came before the U.S. Supreme Court, the proverbial frog had been boiled in the pot. Beginning in the early 90's, our kids were treated to Heather Has Two Mommies. And that was in the public schools, by the way. Parenthetically, I wonder if the teachers who had their students read that book are now feeling forsaken by the powers-that-be since being put on notice about “unjust school policies.”

But to our question. Why now? Not long ago, Bruce Jenner became "Caitlyn". More recently, North Carolina began its battle with the federal government over bathrooms and such. And most Americans have been aware of the transgender phenomenon. But that is really all our culture has wrestled through. 

The reason for the sudden mandate is because the current administration is running out of time. It must therefore act quickly to make the American people knuckle under to the progressive vision of a brave new world.

3.      Where is our hope?

This question brings us full circle. The above account of genetic disorders was prefaced with a quote from Psalm 139:14, which states the glorious truth that each of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Note the word “made.” That someone is made means there is a Maker. Jesus affirmed this fact when, in reference to human gender, he said, “Have you not read that He who created then from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE” (Matthew 19:4). That God is our Maker means that he is also our Redeemer.

An atheist who supports gender shifting denies his Maker and Redeemer. But when a transgender seeks to justify his decision by saying, “I was born in the wrong body”, is he not affirming the existence of the immortal soul? For how else can he be born in the “wrong body” if not for the fact that the Soul (psyche), with its full range of personality traits, is greater than mere flesh? It would seem that this atheist is proof of Descartes’ “man in the box.”

In an age when the god of political correctness seems less interested in wooing us, but wearies over our dallying, irksome and petulant that we are not bowing fast enough before his image of equality, there stands THE TRUTH. Centuries ago, our Redeemer took upon himself all of our sins; even our genetic disorders, and there at Calvary, Jesus died. But death could not hold him. It did not because it could not. Now he says to all in need of forgiveness of sins, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

May the God of peace guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Spurgeon Doesn't Help Us With Trump

Of two evils, choose neither." Spurgeon's quote has been posted numerous times on social media by Christians who find themselves in a moral conundrum at the very thought of voting for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Here’s the problem with Spurgeon’s idea. Biblically there is no such thing as a choice between two evils. Let me explain.

Moral philosophers and theologians have long spoken of the problem of "tragic moral choice", also known as the “incommensurability in values.” The man on the street simply calls it “choosing between the lesser of two evils.”  

The best known example of tragic moral choice is the one about the Nazis during WW II. Do you handover the Jews knowing that your choice makes you complicit in their deaths? Or do you lie and violate the Ninth Commandment? The Lutheran scholar, John Warwick Montgomery, has argued that such choices are unavoidable and of necessity cause us to sin.

The Bible, however, takes a dim view of the so-called lesser of two evils idea.  God never puts us in a position in which we can’t escape evil. This is for the reason that the Bible presents a consistent moral ethic. To argue for tragic moral choice is to operate on the wrong assumption that Scripture presents a confused ethic. It is always our duty to make choices that honor God. And to opt out of making a choice exclusively because one is convinced that no honorable choice is possible is to misunderstand the logic of Scripture.

One reason people think they are trapped between the lesser of two evils is because they confuse this idea with what are really priorities in the Bible. For example, although I am to love all people (1 Pet. 4:8), I am united to my wife in a unique way that images Christ’s love for his church (Eph. 5:25). My love toward her is thus to be prioritized differently than it is toward others. When voting for an elder in my church, Scripture obliges me to vote for a man who meets clear qualifications (1 Tim. 3) such as being “apt to teach”—a priority not mandatory for all church members. A big problem is that many people expect the President of the United States to be as godly as an elder. Sorry, but elder is a higher office.

The second reason many Christians wish to avoid choosing between the lesser of two evils is because they confuse an evil with a wrong.  An “evil” is something that brings suffering. Evil is therefore broader than a wrong.  For example, my back pain is an evil.  To alleviate it, I may choose back surgery, an even greater evil. But my hope is that, although super painful in the short-term, surgery will facilitate complete relief long-term. Starvation, poverty, disease, are also forms of evil. James says that "God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone (1:13). He means we shouldn’t use evil as an excuse to sin. Also, the devil is called “the evil one” (1 John 5:19). So we see the breadth of evil.

A “wrong”, on the other hand, is a sin against God. Steal a candy bar from the 7-11 and you’ve committed a wrong. I am rather confident that “No Trump” evangelicals incorrectly assume that a vote for Trump is a wrong—a sin against God.  

Now let’s make sense of all of this. Imagine our two families are miles from land in a sinking boat. Suddenly, out of the mist, come two boats to save us. One is captained by an adulterer; the other is captained by a thief. Which boat will you get into?  You say, “Neither one. I’m waiting for the evangelical boat which is captained by a devout Christian who will end abortion.” I say, “You’re kidding, right?” You reply, “Both these guys are reprobates and I’m not going to choose between two evils.”

You see what you’ve done? For one, you failed to prioritize scripturally. The immediate priority is to save our families so we can fight another day. Scripture passages against thievery and adultery simply don't apply here.

Second, you confused an evil with a wrong. As bloody painful as it is for you to sit in the adulterer’s boat on the way to dry ground, God doesn’t view you as an adulterer. Neither does he view your choice to get your family into the boat as a "wrong."

Right now our nation is sinking. And two boats are on the way. God is not asking you to pick between “the lesser of two evils.” He asking you to to: (1) Prioritize what Scripture prioritizes. (2) Distinguish an evil from a wrong. 

Is it possible that God, in his infinite wisdom, has brought Trump along, if for no other reason than to prevent this nation from sinking permanently into the abyss of PC progressivism? And that he has done this so that when this nation is back on the ground we can then plan for the kind of constitutional conservative we need for the future?

I don’t know the answer to this question. But I encourage you to vote. I know I will.