Grace vs. truth and the transgender pronoun debate: What should Christians do?

"In other words, if I address a biological male as 'she' I am not telling the truth. But, Pastor Greear believes, I am being generous in spirit towards this individual. This position is echoed by Prof. Preston Sprinkle, also cited by Greear, who advocates 'pronoun hospitality.'" - Christian Post

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The debate isn't framed right in this piece. It's not "grace or truth?" It's "grace and which truth?" You can tell the truth that their gender is their biological sex, or you can tell the truth that you're aware they prefer to identify with a different gender. They do, and you are aware, so what you're saying is truth. Biology does not have to be the topic.

I'm not deeply committed but lean toward the view that there isn't a single "always right way" to handle this. It depends on your relationship with the transgender individual and whether they're likely to understand that you care about them. We're supposed to tell the truth, but should the first truth we tell be "I reject the identity you've chosen to define yourself by"? Or should the first truth be "You're as fully human and loved by God as I am, and I recognize your humanity"?

Using a pronoun doesn't have to be understood as "an expression of biological reality." It can just as easily be "an expression of courtesy toward an individual." The latter is still truth; it's just not biological truth.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Mark_Smith's picture

As a college teacher of science at a secular university, I have no real influence over my students. They don't look to me for advice... not one. When I have tried to provide it it has always gone bad. So, if Bob wants to be called "Mary," that is none of my business. It really isn't. If you get hung up on the "truth" of gender, what else is Bob doing? Divorced? Pornography? Sexual activity? Drugs? Do you bring up those?

Likewise, if someone is on the street, or a salesperson I run in to, if Mary wants to be called "Bob," what is that to me? I have no influence.And don't pretend making a big stink out of it is "witnessing." You aren't.

Now, someone is in my Sunday School class, and I am the leader. Or maybe I am the pastor and they come to me (note they come to me) that is a different thing. If they give me access into their life, or if I am witnessing in a genuine, loving manner, and they are responding, all of those are different things.

The basic point is in your basic interactions, you have no influence over their life, so be gracious.

T Howard's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

As a college teacher of science at a secular university, I have no real influence over my students.

[sarcasm]

So, wait... Mark, you're saying you don't hold their future careers in your hands? You don't determine whether they are going to be Walmart greeters if they flunk your class?

Whew! For a moment there, I thought college profs could make their students do anything they wanted because of their tremendous power and authority over them.

[/sarcasm]

Ken S's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

The debate isn't framed right in this piece. It's not "grace or truth?" It's "grace and which truth?" You can tell the truth that their gender is their biological sex, or you can tell the truth that you're aware they prefer to identify with a different gender. They do, and you are aware, so what you're saying is truth. Biology does not have to be the topic.

I'm not deeply committed but lean toward the view that there isn't a single "always right way" to handle this. It depends on your relationship with the transgender individual and whether they're likely to understand that you care about them. We're supposed to tell the truth, but should the first truth we tell be "I reject the identity you've chosen to define yourself by"? Or should the first truth be "You're as fully human and loved by God as I am, and I recognize your humanity"?

Aaron, having recently faced this exact issue within our church, I very much appreciate and agree with your points here.

Using a pronoun doesn't have to be understood as "an expression of biological reality." It can just as easily be "an expression of courtesy toward an individual." The latter is still truth; it's just not biological truth.

Aaron, having faced this exact circumstance in our church recently, I very much appreciate and agree with your points here.

Bert Perry's picture

While I don't know any "trans" people, I've got a strong hunch that if I did not use preferred pronouns, I would risk being fired.  I'd guess Mark and others are in the same boat.

A benefit to this "white lie" is that it does keep the door open to discuss the very real issues that plague transgenders, from mental illness (Mayo concedes transition does little or nothing to help mental health) to the fact that most people don't want to date them.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Kevin Miller's picture

We deal with this issue at every family get-together. My gay son has recently told us that he wants us to use gender neutral pronouns to refer to him. He also wants to be called Zephyr instead of the name we gave him. My wife and I will call him whatever he wants to be called because being gracious in that way keeps us in relationship with him so that we can potentially influence him. The grammatician in me, though, finds it hard to use "them" as a singular pronoun, so i sometimes slip up.

Paul Henebury's picture

My wife and I regularly host unsaved folks from the college and theater, including trans and gay.  We call them by the names they choose (which sometimes changes from month to month).  On pronouns, my position is that we call them what they want, but NOT as a gender specification, since we hold that gender is biological.  I do this because their worldview is awry, and we have the chance to witness to them (especially by just showing them that Christians aren't weird and judgmental, even though we may disagree on matters).  These people are cared fo. Hopefully the Lord will get through to them!

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Jim's picture

The one transgendered person I knew:

  • Worked at the Stagecoach bank
  • In the same building as me ... different floor
  • Worked on the same floor as my wife
  • Male transitioning to female (it's not a pleasant look ... a big boned large man in a dress)
  • When I saw "he/she" I just said "hi"