Joan or John? My Answer: Part Three
- Russell Moore Dean of Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
- 2009 29 May
So “Joan” is willing to forsake her life as a woman, as “John,” and embrace his identity as the man God created him to be. What does he do about the fact that his young daughter has known him only as “Mom”?
This is, admittedly, the most difficult part of this puzzle. A friend said including the daughter in the narrative was the “evil genius” part of the whole thing. For my students at Southern Seminary, the daughter was the most heart-wrenching part of the whole question, and those who had difficulty typically had difficulty at this point. I’m glad that such is the case. The compassion for this daughter, having her entire spectrum of reality turned over, is a mark of a Christian, and certainly a necessary trait for a sheep-herder of God’s flock.
First, let me say that I’m aware that “Joan” becoming “John” will wreak havoc on her daughter’s life and psyche. I think such havoc will be unleashed either way, and that honesty at this point is less destructive than continuing the illusion. The question, at this point, is not whether the daughter will have a normal life or a traumatic one. The question is whether the people of Christ will be with her through the trauma. I would counsel Joan to tell her daughter at an appropriate (but not unduly delayed) time.
This will be difficult, and John will need his pastor there, along with many godly women from the congregation who are willing to spend hours with this young girl. John should tell her that years before she was born, he was confused, and felt like he was a girl instead of a boy, and that he had spent the last twenty years trying to be a girl. He should tell his daughter, though, that something had changed, he was born again in Christ Jesus, and that means that he gets a new start. He should tell her that he loves her just the same, and that he’ll always be here, but he wants her to know that Jesus is putting his life back together, as a man.
This will be confusing and disruptive, but, with the wise counsel of his congregation and its pastors, John can visibly demonstrate before his daughter what regeneration and sanctification actually looks like: slow, painful, but, in the end, worth it for the sake of the gospel.
So, if John follows through at this point, what’s the expectation of the church, and the responsibility of the congregation, for change in the life of a man who once thought himself a woman? I’ll take that up in the next post.