While attending college I worked part-time in a Veterans Administration hospital. It was a lively place full of colorful characters, but the most interesting of all was a gentleman who called himself the Ambassador-General.
He was a Korean War veteran and was…well…crazy. Not dangerous crazy but a happy kind of crazy. The Ambassador-General, as he was known by all, always had a big smile on his face and would go from one person to the next to introduce himself. “Hello. I’m an Ambassador-General. Pleased to meet you.” If someone was skeptical toward this claim, he would whip out his identification card to prove it. The fellows in the admission office, where I worked, thought it would be funny to type in “Ambassador-General” for his rank.
Everyone—except perhaps the man himself—knew that he was not an Ambassador-General because there is no such thing as an Ambassador-General.
This happened thirty-five years ago when society still drew pretty clear lines between what was true and what was not. Which brings me to the Cat Woman.
There is a Norwegian woman who claims that she is a cat. She wears fake ears and a tail and prefers to crawl around on all her hands and knees and to meow and purr. She says that she was born the wrong species—that is, human instead of feline, which is her true self. Her psychologist says that she can grow out of this. She doubts it. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/12127067/woman-says-she-is-a-cat-trapped-in-the-wrong-body.html)
Few people seem to take this young woman seriously, but I wonder why. Now a days a person can be whatever they want to be. Why not another species? The cord to reality has been cut. It was only a matter of time until someone demanded the right to be recognized as a cat…or whatever.
Which brings me to Mr. Bruce Jenner.
Mr. Jenner, as you are well aware, has reinvented himself as Ms. Caitlyn Jenner. He has successfully made himself a transgender celebrity. He thinks he is a woman and, therefore, he is a woman. Maleness or femaleness or something in between is a personal choice, like the color of sweater you would like to wear.
What is surprising to me is not that some man wants to be a woman. I take the deep effects of sin seriously. We are all twisted and some, either by their own inclinations or by the sins of others are twisted in this area. I suppose there have always been some men who have wanted to be women or women who have wanted to be cats or veterans who have wanted to be Ambassador-Generals. But what is different now is how something untrue is required to be acknowledged as true by everyone else. This has not happened yet for Cat Women or Ambassador-Generals, but the precedent has been set in the transgender arena.
Read or watch any story about Mr. Jenner and he will be referred to as “she.” He has become a She-Man. Likewise, a woman who thinks she is a man must be a “he,” that is a He-Woman. This change has happened quickly.
Incorrect gender is now reported without comment. And once started down this hill of unreality, it is hard to stop. For example, my local newspaper interviewed a woman for her opinion on the recent homosexual marriage ruling by the Supreme Court. It was not her opinion that interested me but her identity. She identified herself as a lesbian whose partner is a transgendered woman. In other words, her partner is actually a man who thinks that he is woman. Because he thinks he is a woman, the actual woman thinks that she a lesbian.
I am sure this social progress is being celebrated by gender studies professors and others with personal or political interest in promoting such fiction. But the question for Christians is: How should we respond?
For both the sake of the individual caught in the lie and for the sake of society in general, we should respond in love.
For the individual, Jesus commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Love always requires doing what is best for the person. This means that we must not participate in the lie. Even if he or she is the one telling it. Even if he or she believes it. Why? Because whether the person is truly disillusioned or just wants to justify their behavior, the lie always takes them in the wrong direction.
This is like a man in the desert crawling toward a mirage. He may even be surrounded by many encouraging him on. “Go on! Be true to yourself!” But the mirage is a lie and will end in bitter disappointment. It is our responsibility to say, “Turn around, friend. It is not real. The longer you pursue it, the worst your condition. The true water is Jesus. He will satisfy your thirst.”
Ironically, our culture now considers this to be hate speech. We are haters, bigots and judgmental. If there must be totalitarian crimes, which is what hate speech is, let us at least insist on the right title. When we speak truth to the lie we are committing “love speech” not “hate speech.” The true haters are those who affirm the lie and further entangle those caught in it.
For the sake of society in general, we should also push back against the lie, sometimes in gentleness and sometimes in strength, as Jesus demonstrated. Why? Because the lie never stops with the individual. If it is tolerated, the lie will spread like a virus and more are harmed.
And there is a final reason to oppose the lie. Because it presents an opportunity.
Most people around us are willing to believe the lie, especially given the powerful cultural influences of education and media to do so. To believe that a man is a woman, for instance, is to be enlightened and sophisticated. And deeper down is an even more appealing lie: You can create your own reality. You can be as God.”
This is comfortable religion until one is personally touched by the lie. If a forty-year-old man in drag enters the women’s rest room where your twelve-year-old daughter is, or if your spouse deserts you and your children for a same sex lover, or if your sister starts eating cat food, then these things become unsettling. The lie has broken the bounds of somebody else’s mere personal preferences. It always does. Others are hurt.
And hopefully, by God’s grace, comes reflection. “Maybe this is not right. And if it is not, I may be wrong about much more. Perhaps there is a God.” These are the first inklings of repentance. And then we who have spoken the truth may have the opportunity to speak more of it. And we may be able to answer questions that are now being asked.
And so truth is serious business all the way around.
Thirty-five years ago I called that Korean War veteran “sir” not “Ambassador-General.” He may have been crazy but he was still created in the image of God and deserved respect. As my neighbor, I owed him love. Who knows what may have come from it?
By Robert L. Franck