Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Case of Caitlyn and the Church

A Note to a Friend

Disclaimer: All views expressed on my personal Blog, "The Christian Curmudgeon"  except for homilies are mine alone. They are not the views of any eccelesial body.

A friend from a church where I once served on staff - the church which perhaps more than any other I served where I experienced the closest cultural and generational connection - recently posted on Facebook an "open letter" addressed to Christian friends. She expressed her love and appreciation for her brothers and sisters in Christ. But she also expressed profound disappointment with Christians for the things they are saying about Bruce Jenner, now calling himself Caitlyn, and his gender issues, which she calls his "gender dysphoria." She is tired of the "Bruce Jenner is a science project" responses. She points out that such persons live with something that is painful and often humiliating. She calls our attention to the reality that there may be such persons whom we know but don't know, who may even be in our churches and Bible study groups. 

Here is my response (which, as with my previous post, is edited only for spelling, punctuation, and grammatical mistakes and presented here "warts and all"):

Dear ______,

I agree with you that we Christians are often self-righteous, judgmental, and lacking in compassion. I have spoken out about these things on many occasions. However, when I do that, I find often that, as I condemn those things in others, I find those very same things at work in me as I point out that others are self-righteous, judgmental, and lacking in compassion, The Pharisee, "God, I thank thee that I am not like other men..." is very much within many of us Christians.

Someone the other day said that what Bruce Jenner or Caitlyn needs is Jesus. This is a very simplistic cliche looked at in one way. If he came to Jesus, he would find forgiveness and a new life but probably not find himself "fixed." Faith in Christ introduces to a struggle that is frustrating and painful. It's one thing to be right with God; it's another thing to be "right" - or what we should be. To be right in the latter sense - fully right - awaits the resurrection and the completeness of our transformation to the likeness of Christ.

In the meantime a struggle it must be. When it comes to matters of gender, sex,, and sexual behavior it means that we accept God's will - that, with rare and tragic exceptions, we are male or female and that God calls us to live as what we are chromosomally and to live that out in terms of sexual interaction in a lifelong male-female relationship. A very hard road to walk - one many of us struggle with. We may have certain tendencies and desires that are affected by genetic predisposition - which is to say that original sin affects every part of our humanity. Other such things may be primarily psychological in nature, (I understand that Johns Hopkins stopped doing gender reassignment surgery and sees the issue as psychological in nature.) Some things are affected by life experiences and by habits we develop.

It is not easy for any of us to live the life of a Christian - a life of gratitude expressed partially in obedience. We have all sorts of besetting sins and inner conflicts. But our calling is to walk that difficult road, seeking forgiveness and strength when we fall, but then walking on,

I know that Christian communities are often not the places where we can "come out " - to be transparent, to acknowledge the things with which we struggle. That is something that needs to be fixed in the Christian church. But when we "come out" it is not that we are to be "proud of what we are" no matter what that is, and it is not that we may demand the right to be whatever we are or think ourselves to be. It should be that we are transparent in order to be a part of a community of fellow strugglers and pilgrims who want to walk with God and one another now as we make our way to the kingdom that is to come. So we help each other in the struggle and pick one another up when we fall.

Thanks for listening.

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