The mantras of today’s world are little different from Paul’s day. The truths clearly explained in God’s holy Word have been traded for lies and the result is confusion, chaos and destruction of souls (Romans 1:24-27).
While ‘gender confusion’ may not have occurred in recent world history, the sinful desire of man to create his own identity apart from Christ is the same. Issues of gender equality have never been new, but the present confusion, in which people created male and female decide to become other than what God made them, is now a huge topic of conversation among Americans.
Last July, a member of the US House of Representatives introduced a bill to amend the Equality Act of 1964, to include ‘sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation’ (HR 3185; Congress.gov).
Since the introduction of that bill, there has been no shortage of debates, protests and government action in defence of opposition to the bill. Most recently, the debate over gender identity has led to two very practical and scary scenarios, both involving bathroom (toilet) policies.
In April this year, the chain superstore Target made a statement announcing they would change their bathroom policy to allow transgenders use the bathroom which matched their gender identity. The policy not only applied to bathrooms but changing rooms as well.
Immediately following this, millions of Americans voiced their shock and displeasure over social media and promised to boycott Target’s 1,793 stores, which cater to a largely middle class swathe of the population, 43 per cent of whom have children at home (Target Corporate).
While the United States, led by President Obama’s agenda and by Congress, has made a steady move toward the left, in regard to marriage and gender, over the last eight years (especially 2015), this is the first time a large public corporation has taken such a move toward ‘equality’ (as defined by sinful man), that affects the populace at such a personal level.
The obvious concern people have in this case is that a gender neutral policy will allow sexual predators to take advantage of women and children in Target’s bathrooms and changing rooms. But in doing research on news stories of sexual predators being arrested in Target bathrooms since April, I’ve only found one case. A man was arrested in a Target store in Cedar Park, Texas, because he was exposing himself to a young boy in a bathroom (KVUE, 4716).
The whole gender issue has spurred a huge online petition, sponsored by the American Family Association (AFA), calling Target to undo its gender neutral bathroom policy. Over 1.3 million Americans have signed the petition since April (AFA website), and hundreds, if not thousands, have boycotted its stores.
This tactic may be having an effect on Target’s profits. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) noted that, ‘Shares of the company were off 7.6 per cent at $68, as of 4.00pm trading on Wednesday. Sales at stores open at least a year rose 1.2 per cent in the quarter ended 30 April, short of Target’s 1.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent annual target’ (WSJ, 51816, quoted in Christian Post). The WSJ noted that this was the lowest Target’s sales had been in two years.
In response, Target’s CEO Brian Cornell was emphatic that the boycott was not affecting the sales for that quarter. But if gender identity issues are a big deal at Target, it is nothing compared to the ruckus over gender neutral bathrooms in schools.
On 13 May, President Obama issued a directive instructing public (state) schools to allow transgender students choose the bathroom of their gender identity. While Target’s bathroom policy affects a certain swathe of the population that shops at Target, this issue hits much closer to home, since there are an estimated 59.7 million children enrolled in public schools across the country (estimated as of 2014, Infoplease).
Not only are more conservative parents outraged by Obama’s forced mandate, but many state legislatures are concerned, because the federal government has insisted states execute this order or face the loss of federal funding.
Many states, especially North Carolina, have felt this is a case of overreach by the executive government that must be stopped by law. The governor of North Carolina stated in an interview, ‘Most Americans, including this governor, believe that government is searching for a solution to a problem that has yet to be defined. Now, both the federal courts and the US Congress must intercede to stop this massive executive branch overreach, which clearly oversteps constitutional authority’ (CNN, 51416).
A senator from Tennessee also said, ‘This is the kind of issue that parents, schools boards, communities, students and teachers should be allowed to work out in a practical way with a maximum amount of respect for the individual rights of all students. In so far as the federal government goes, it’s up to Congress to write the law, not the executive departments’ (ibid.).
While some states took less aggressive action against this move by the President (South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Minnesota), North Carolina (NC) issued a countering House Bill (known as HB2), which requires transgenders to use the bathroom of their biological sex and prohibits cities from passing ‘anti-discriminatory’ statutes.
In response, many corporations such as PayPal and Deutsche Bank, and many popular entertainers have boycotted the ‘tar heel’ state (NC), by withdrawing expansion plans and cancelling tours. Furthermore, the federal government has issued an ultimatum against NC, stating it must repeal the bill or be in violation of federal law.
The US Justice Department, led by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, filed a lawsuit against the state, because it violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which prohibits discrimination against workers on the basis of sex, race, colour, national origin and religion.
NC’s rebuttal was, that this was a broad interpretation of the law and something to be decided state by state, and not pushed by the Attorney General’s ‘divisive rhetoric’.
To up the ante, NC also filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department, saying that the demand that NC ‘remedy’ the legislation by Monday [16 May] or risk being in violation of federal law is ‘a baseless and blatant overreach’, and is a ‘radical reinterpretation of title VII of the Civil Rights Act’ (CNN).
Since that, federal and state governments are locked at a standstill, though some NC institutions (especially the University of North Carolina) refuse to enforce HB2.
Our lives as Christians are often met with great difficulty and opposition. But when we read the High Priestly Prayer in John 17, and the deep and beautiful love Jesus has for us, we see he specifically asks our heavenly Father that he would not take us out of the world, but ‘keep [us] from the evil one’ (v.15).
This request would seem paradoxical, considering how much God really loves us. One would think that God might take us away from the horrible things that beset us in this world, especially when people hate and persecute us.
It is also interesting that Jesus says, ‘As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world’ (v.18). God has put us on this earth to give glory to his name. We do that by worshipping and proclaiming Christ as the one true Saviour, and by loving one another and our neighbour — yes, even our transgender or homosexual neighbour. As hard as it may be, that’s what God has called us to.
Does the North Carolina governor have a point when he says that President Obama has overstepped his constitutional bounds? I think so. But highly aggressive tweets or protests full of anger do not reflect the tone of Christ’s teaching either. For, in the face of opposition, Jesus did ‘not quarrel nor cry out, nor [did] anyone hear his voice in the streets’ (Matthew 12:18).
Our heaven is not here on earth. Earthly governments will fail, and policies transgressing God’s laws will be enforced, but the Lord will never leave us nor forsake his people. Take courage dear brothers and sisters; our home is not here, but with Christ.
Ben Wilkerson served with Sheffield Presbyterian Church, UK, and is now a Christian writer residing in the USA