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Denison Forum on Truth and Culture Christian Blog and Commentary

Jim Denison

Dr. Jim Denison engages contemporary culture with biblical truth
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Should transgender people be able to use the bathroom and shower facility that corresponds to their gender identity? This was the position of the Obama administration when it issued an edict last May requiring public schools to permit this choice. The administration threatened to withhold federal funding for schools that did not comply. A federal judge then put a hold on the president’s order.

To those who claim that this decision should be left to the states and to local school districts, supporters of the Obama mandate counter that civil rights take precedence over states’ rights. For instance, in Virginia v. Loving, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Virginia’s statute forbidding interracial marriage was unconstitutional. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 likewise outlawed racial segregation in schools, even though such policies had been enacted by local school authorities.

If transgender rights are civil rights, the argument goes, they should be enforced even over the objections of states and school districts.

The Trump administration clearly disagrees. Last Wednesday, the president issued an order rescinding Mr. Obama’s directive. He stated that states and public schools should have the authority to make their own decisions without federal interference. As a result, states and school districts will now be able to decide for themselves whether federal sex discrimination law applies to gender identity.

The president’s order includes language stating that schools must protect transgender students from bullying. And it does not require individual schools to prevent transgender students from using the bathroom of their choice. It simply gives them the right to make this decision free from federal interference.

But what of the argument that civil rights supersede states’ rights? Here’s my response: unlike previous civil rights legislation, transgender civil rights significantly impact the civil rights of all people.

Some students are understandably uncomfortable using showers and bathrooms with students of the opposite biological sex. And there is troubling evidence that transgender bathroom laws are giving sexual predators an opportunity to commit voyeurism and sexual assault. One group documented twenty-one such cases; another compiled a list of ten examples.

At issue is not whether transgender people are more likely to be sexual predators, but whether sexual predators could exploit bathroom access by posing as transgender. As you can see, this concern relates to the civil rights both of transgender people and the non-transgender population as well. It shows that the civil-rights-supersedes-states’-rights logic is not the simple answer to the issue.

As officials seek solutions that protect the civil rights of all involved in this debate, I want to highlight two imperatives for Christians.

One: We should not condone what the Bible prohibits. Scripture teaches that God created us as male and female (Genesis 1:28). It states that homosexual sexual relations are wrong (Leviticus 18:22), that men should not dress as women (Deuteronomy 22:5), and that men and women should dress and act according to their biological sex (1 Corinthians 11:14–15).

Two: We should seek ways to minister to transgender people. Whether their gender identity issues stem from biology, psychology, or other sources, they are loved by their Maker. The Fall affected us all. We are all broken people. But none of us is beyond the transformative power of God (1 Corinthians 6:9–11).

Do you agree?

NOTE: For more, please see Ryan Denison’s Why I can’t celebrate Trump’s transgender bathroom policy.

 

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Publication date: February 24, 2017

 

For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

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A historical Jewish cemetery in Missouri was vandalized this past weekend, damaging nearly 200 headstones. Chesel Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, just west of St. Louis, has served Jewish families in the area for 124 years. The attack toppled some headstones and damaged others.

Tragically, this is not new news. A recent wave of bomb threats caused eleven Jewish community centers to close temporarily. Terrorizing phone calls have targeted fifty-four Jewish community centers in twenty-seven states this year. Graffiti and swastikas have been reported on some college campuses as well as the New York City subway. President Trump denounced these crimes yesterday, stating that “anti-Semitism is horrible and it’s going to stop and it has to stop.”

But one dimension of the tragedy is good news: a group of Muslim Americans organized a campaign to repair the damaged cemetery. More than $80,000 was raised in the first twenty-four hours. Every dollar will go to the cemetery. Any remaining funds after the cemetery is restored will be allocated to repair other vandalized Jewish centers.

Anti-Semitism is a horrific sin as ancient as Israel’s enslavement in Egypt and as recent as the wave of attacks now escalating across America and Europe. Some aspects of this prejudice are unique to the remarkable Jewish people—jealousy over their material success, educational achievements, and cultural accomplishments. But other aspects are common to all racial prejudice—if I decide that I am superior to you based on our races, I can maintain this fiction even when your achievements, income, and social status exceed mine. Bigotry is the sin of small minds and souls.

Here’s the good news: no matter how the world feels about you, God knows your name. Right now.

In Exodus 3, Moses is tending his father-in-law’s flock in Midian, east of the Dead Sea. He does not know the God of his ancestors or even God’s name (v. 13). But God knows him.

When Moses turns aside to see a burning bush, God calls him by name: “Moses! Moses!” (v. 4). The Lord knows where Moses is standing (v. 5). He knows Moses’ ancestors and family (v. 6). He knows the afflictions of Moses’ people in Egypt (v. 7). He knows their future in a “good and broad land” he intends for them (v. 8). He has heard their cry and seen their Egyptian oppression (v. 9).

In short, Moses and his people do not know God, but God knows them.

The Lord told Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). Jesus told us that he “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3). This is because, as he assured us, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14). For the one who follows him faithfully, “I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels” (Revelation 3:5).

Our society prizes fame. The more we are known, the more we are valued. But whether the culture knows your name or not, the God of the universe knows you and loves you. Jefferson Bethke is right: “Satan knows your name but calls you by your sin, Jesus knows your sin but calls you by your name.”

Which will you listen to today?

 

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Publication date: February 23, 2017

 

For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

Do you want to live a life in whole-hearted pursuit of loving God and others? 

Read today's First15 at www.first15.org.

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Barry Black is the acclaimed chaplain of the US Senate. As significant as his ministry is, he recently told the Christian Broadcasting Network that there are lawmakers who “dwarf him spiritually.” For example, “We have one senator who has led thirteen African heads of state to Christ.” He would not name the senator but noted that many others are making a difference for Jesus as well.

Now consider this Time magazine headline: “Why Miranda Kerr and Evan Spiegel Aren’t Having Sex Before Marriage.” The model and Snapchat CEO became engaged last July after dating for over a year. But they are waiting to have sex until they get married. “My partner is very traditional,” Kerr explains.

A senator wins thirteen African leaders to Christ and the secular media ignores him. A famous couple chooses to be biblical about sexuality and their virtue makes headlines. What does this juxtaposition say about us?

Janet and I were in Austin last weekend. We ate breakfast at the Carillon, a restaurant on the main entrance to the University of Texas campus. There we found a series of quotations inscribed on arches supporting the roof of the restaurant. This statement by Stephen Austin, the “Father of Texas,” especially struck me: “A nation can only be free, happy and great in proportion to the virtue and intelligence of its people.” Note the order on a campus famed for its academic standards: virtue before intelligence.

Sadly, our culture seems not to agree.

According to Gallup, the number of Americans who accept same-sex marriage, having a baby outside of marriage, sex between unmarried people, cloning humans, and polygamy are all at record highs. Not surprisingly, 73 percent of Americans say our moral values have declined.

In Exodus 1, two midwives refused the pharaoh’s order to kill baby Hebrew boys. Reading the story, I was struck by the fact that the two women were named while the pharaoh was not. By defying his order, Shiphrah and Puah made an impact on eternity surpassing that of the most powerful man on earth. From their obedience came the Jewish nation that would have been exterminated if they had not been so courageously virtuous.

In Jeremiah 6, the Lord laments concerning his people, “From the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely” (v. 13). This metaphor is especially striking: “Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush” (v. 15). Could he say the same of our culture today?

What should we do? “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls” (v. 16). Reject the novel for the virtuous, the popular for the godly.

Do this now and you will be “like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built” (Luke 6:48). The time to lay the foundation is before the storm strikes.

In short, choose virtue before you need virtue. The culture may not agree, but the Lord will be honored. Which matters more to you?

 

Publication date: February 22, 2017

 

For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

Do you want to live a life in whole-hearted pursuit of loving God and others? 

Read today's First15 at www.first15.org.

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