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When Steve wants to be called Sue

It had seemed a regular Monday morning before co-worker Steve arrived. Now his outfit had everyone buzzing: instead of his standard slacks/dress shirt combo, he’d paired black pumps with a floral print dress. In the morning staff meeting, the supervisor informed everyone that Steve was now “Sue” and we should start calling him her.

It’s a scene playing out in offices across the West, and for Christians in these companies, it can seem like our choice is between compromising on God’s Truth (Gen. 1:27) by going along with the transgender lie, or compromising on our winsomeness (Col. 4:5-6) by confronting the lie.

So what’s a Christian to do?

I think a middle road of sorts can be charted, one that doesn’t compromise on God’s Truth, but which also shows a willingness to try to get along in as far as we are able. It involves using a person’s chosen new name, while avoiding any use of pronouns for them. So, in the case of Steve/Sue, even as it is odd to call him by a girlish name, we all know names that have gone from being boys’ names to girls’ names and vice versa. It doesn’t need to be our place to designate a name too girlish for a boy to have it. We can show our willingness to get along by agreeing to call our coworker by his new name of Sue.

But if that were all we were to do, that approach might lead to confusion about where God stands on the issue of gender. If we, as Christians, call transgender folk by names that align with their adopted, but not actual, gender, then we would be sowing the seeds of confusion if that was all we were to do. The reason we can go along with using “Sue” is because we’re doing so as part of a package treatment: we’ll explain that we will also be trying to avoid any mention of Sue’s pronouns. It is one thing to call a man by what would be an odd first name for a man, but it is something else to call a him her.

Though it might not be perceived as such, we would explain that this is us doing our best to get along. Sue would see any use of male pronouns for him as offensive. We would understand it to be a denial of God’s revealed truth about gender to use female pronouns for him. Therefore to minimize offense, and yet not lie, we will agree to speak of “Sue” and “Sue’s presentation” and how “Sue did a good job.” It’ll be “Sue this” and “Sue that” but never she or her.

It would be good to make this clear at the start, rather than have it be discovered by coworkers wondering why we seem to be using Sue’s name to excess. Getting ahead of it makes sure that our Christian witness is clear.

Will that satisfy our employers? Perhaps. But whether it does or does not, it shows our willingness to do what we can. In extending ourselves as far as we can go, we speak the Truth as winsomely as it is in our power to so speak it. This approach may or may not please Man, but it does glorify God.

1. Words have power

A strange form of encouragement for this approach can be found in the words of those we oppose.

In a recent position statement proposing “chestfeeding” as a possible alternative to “breastfeeding,” the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) began by stating, “We affirm that language has power.” They want to adopt “chestfeeding” to be sensitive to new mothers who don’t identify as being women and who, therefore, might not like to be reminded of their breasts, as those are exclusively female body parts. Language has power, so the ABM’s fix for a woman who doesn’t want to be a woman is to stop reminding her that she is a woman.

Now, as people of the Book, and followers of the Word made Flesh, we agree that “language has power.” Where we differ with the ABM is on how that power should be used.

God used words to speak the universe into being – His words define reality. Our words can either communicate or obscure that reality. So that’s how the battle lines are drawn: between God’s people, using language to clarify what God has done and who God is, and the Devil’s forces using language to confuse and conceal. As Douglas Wilson has noted, all our cultural battles are really battles over the dictionary.

What we need to understand then is that using female pronouns for Sue is harnessing the power of language to confuse. Sue is deceiving himself, but in today’s culture, he’s going to get a lot of help from those around him to perpetuate his lie – everyone else at the office is going to echo and commend his lie.

In the face of that attack, not only on God’s Truth but on Sue, we have a calling to use language’s power for good and not evil, for clarity and not confusion.

2. Misgendering is hateful

For years already, Twitter has banned “misgendering” transgender people under their “hateful conduct policy.” It was for misgendering that they suspended conservative commentators Allie Beth Stuckey and Erick Erickson for pointing out that New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, competing on the women’s side, was, in fact, a man.

What is misgendering? The online Cambridge Dictionary defines it (as of Aug 24, 2021) as:

misgender: to use the wrong pronouns or other gender-specific words when referring to or speaking to someone, especially a transgender person.

That’s a definition we can get behind, and under this definition, we could also agree with Twitter that misgendering is hateful conduct. Deliberately perpetuating a lie about someone is not loving. Where we’d differ with both Twitter and Cambridge is on what pronouns are the “wrong” ones.

Some on the Left have gone as far as to call misgendering violence. We can agree on that point too. Real physical harm is done when confused individuals are so encouraged in their delusions that they seek out surgeons to cut off or mangle what were previously healthy body parts. We’re talking breasts and testicles being cut off, and penises being turned inside out. Others will seek drug treatments to prevent puberty, which will also render them infertile. Calling someone by the wrong pronouns can contribute to this real physical harm.

Of course, the misgendering I’m talking about is the very opposite of what the world means by the term. But they are right that using the wrong pronouns can indeed be harmful and therefore hateful.

When we’re talking about the harm these surgeries can cause, the counterpoint sometimes offered is that transgender folk may commit suicide if they aren’t embraced as the other sex. While Christians should have sympathy for just how lost these people are, we also need to be firm that encouraging them in their rebellion against God’s Truth is never going to be the loving response. Yes, God loves sinners, but He also tells us to turn away from our sin. So we should not affirm the transsexual, or homosexual, adulterer, alcoholic, glutton, sluggard, idolater, etc., in their sin.

Gratitude for the troubles/opportunities that are coming

Many of us are too quiet about God, so even as stressful as Steve’s new wardrobe is going to make our lives, we should also recognize it for the peculiar blessing that it is. Do we find it hard to go out and evangelize? Well, God is bringing an evangelism opportunity right to our cubicle door! He is so arranging things in offices across the West, that His people will be given a clear choice of either publicly defending His Truth or denying Him entirely.

That’s not a gift many of us are asking for, but it is quite the blessing to be presented with such a clear choice.

Preparing for what comes next

So let’s go to the next step. What if we call our coworker “Sue” but not “her” and that turns out not to be enough for our boss? What if our stand gets us fired?

That’s an eventuality Christians should be getting prepared for, individually and as church communities. Many of our readers have parents and grandparents who refused on principle to join unions. Unions back then were demanding loyalty oaths that Christians would have difficulty making, and most had a decidedly Marxist (adversarial) approach to working with management that conflicted with the 5th Commandment. There were other reasons our grandparents opposed unions, some specific to that time and others that are just as relevant today, but for our discussion what’s important is what our grandparents did next. Since they couldn’t work union jobs, they began creating their own jobs by starting their own businesses. When they were successful, these entrepreneurs ended up also creating employment opportunities for other brothers and sisters looking for non-union work.

That entrepreneurial spirit, a generation ago, has been greatly blessed by God such that we still see the fruit today. Our schools, churches, and missionary efforts have all been aided by these businesses, whether through the owners’ contributions, or the employees’.

It’s time for Christians to once again embrace that entrepreneurial spirit. It begins with recognizing the need, that there is a time coming very soon that any Christian not willing to lie about gender, and not willing to perpetuate this lie against transgender individuals, is going to be fired for their stand. That’s both a shame and an opportunity. If God’s people are stuck in companies that hate God and promote homosexuality, transgenderism, abortion, feminism, and more, how freeing it will be, and how much louder we will be, when we’re cut loose from these companies!

So when that day comes and we see our own coworker Steve come sashaying in, with his black pumps and floral print, let’s remember how faithful God has been to us in the past and ready ourselves to take whatever opportunities He presents to uphold His Truth and glorify His Name. Let’s thank Him for backing us into a corner, and making the way forward so very clear. And let’s ask God to so bless our entrepreneurial efforts that future generations will still be harvesting the fruit.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” – Isaiah 5:20

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Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self

Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution by Carl R. Trueman 2020 / 425 pages Carl Trueman has lost his sense of humor. I’ve read several of his books and they all had clever moments of wit. However, there’s nothing to laugh about in Trueman’s latest. There’s a definite risk in it being otherwise. Our day doesn’t tolerate any joking around when it comes to the sexual revolution, particularly from those who might be critical of it. Even when we come with gravitas, the revolutionaries will not be pleased. While progressives “Christian” or secular won’t bear any critiques of their revolution, Bible-believing Christians need such critiques more than ever. If we’re going to withstand the forces arrayed against us, we need deep-digging analysis. And Trueman delivers. For those unfamiliar with him, Carl Trueman is professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. He was previously a professor of historical theology and church history at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. He’s an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the author of numerous books and articles. By training Trueman is a historian and this book is primarily a work of history. It explains how things came to be as they are. Trueman writes: My aim is to explain how and why a certain notion of the self has come to dominate the culture of the West, why this self finds its most obvious manifestation in the transformation of sexual mores, and what the wider implications of this transformation are and may well be in the future. The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self is not, therefore, so much of a theological analysis of intellectual and cultural trends past and present. There is some such analysis, but The Rise and Triumph… is primarily historical -- albeit written from a Christian historian’s perspective. It essentially traces the historical development leading up to the sexual revolution of our present day. 4 parts In Part 1, “Architecture of the Revolution,” Trueman lays out some helpful conceptual categories and tools for understanding the history to be examined. In Part 2, “Foundations of the Revolution,” he explores how philosophers (Rousseau, Nietzche, and Marx), scientists (Darwin) and poets (Wordsworth, Shelley, and Blake) played key roles in the development of the psychologized self. Part 3, “Sexualization of the Revolution,” features psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, whom Trueman asserts, “is actually the key figure in the narrative of this book.” More than anyone else, Freud is responsible for sexualizing psychology. As Trueman notes, “…before Freud, sex was an activity, for procreation or for recreation; after Freud, sex is definitive of who we are, as individuals, as societies, and as a species.” Marxist scholars Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse took the next step and politicized sex. Accordingly, “Sex is no longer a private activity because sexuality is a constitutive element of public, social identity.” In Part 4, “Triumphs of the Revolution,” Trueman demonstrates how the sexual revolution has carried the day in terms of: pornography how feelings govern ethics (the therapeutic mindset) and transgenderism The last of these is the most interesting, as Trueman describes how transgender individuals were not initially welcomed by the gay and especially the lesbian community. Even gays and lesbians weren’t always on the same side. So, how did the T come to stand with the L and the G? Trueman answers: “…it is a political coalition forged on the basis of a common enemy – a socially and politically enforced heterosexual normativity.” Two highlights There are many good insights in The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, but let me isolate two that especially grabbed my attention. For many years, I understood the sexual revolution as something that more or less developed out of the “hippie”/anti-war movement of the 1960s with the catalyst being America’s involvement in Vietnam. I thought of it as an anti-authoritarian and at times anarchic, at other times Marxist, social phenomenon. However, Trueman’s work shows that to understand the present day, we have to reach back at least two centuries. The other insight has to do with the way sexuality has become key to selfhood and identity. Trueman notes that, in today’s world, not recognizing someone’s identity leads to feelings of inferiority. This is akin to a personal attack. He goes on: This observation is important in enabling us to understand why, for example, in a society where sexuality is foundational to personal identity, mere tolerance of homosexuality is bound to become unacceptable. The issue is not one of simply decriminalizing behaviour; that would certainly mean that homosexual acts were tolerated by society, but the acts are only a part of the overall problem. The real issue is one of recognition, of recognizing the legitimacy of who the person thinks he actually is. That requires more than mere tolerance; it requires equality before the law and recognition by the law and society. And that means that those who refuse to grant such recognition will be the ones who find themselves on the wrong side of both the law and emerging social attitudes. The person who objects to homosexual practice is, in contemporary society, actually objecting to homosexual identity. And the refusal by any individual to recognize an identity that society at large recognizes as legitimate is a moral offense, not simply a matter of indifference. The question of identity in the modern world is a question of dignity. For this reason, the various court cases in America concerning the provision of cakes and flowers for gay weddings are not ultimately about the flowers or the cakes. They are about the recognition of gay identity and, according to members of the LGBTQ+ community, the recognition that they need in order to feel that they are equal members of society. Trueman nails it. The sexual revolution doesn’t want our indifference or our toleration. It wants our affirmation, recognition, and celebration. Anything short of that is considered phobic – defined as a form of irrational bigotry. Conclusion The book ends with a “Concluding Unscientific Prologue.” The last word there is Trueman’s hint he may have more to say on this subject. He does already here propose some constructive ways in which the church could be engaging with the world, besotted as it is with the sexual revolution. One of his points here did however raise my eyebrow: “Protestants need to recover both natural law and a high view of the physical body” (p.405). I have no problem with the latter. But “natural law” here would seem to demand a little more explanation than Trueman provides. He frames it in the context of teaching the church should provide to its members regarding moral principles. So, it would seem, he’s proposing the recovery of an understanding of the moral order God has revealed in nature. But since that moral order is more clearly revealed in the Word of God, and we’re talking about the church, why not focus our attention on Scripture? All Christian leaders need to read this book, whether they’re involved with leadership in education, business, government, or the church. The sexual revolution threatens Christian hearts and minds which are sometimes naïve to the consequences of accepting some or all of its key premises. Christian leaders need to be conversant with the history and philosophy behind the revolution, so they can speak the truth in love from God’s Word. The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self meets that need. I believe it will be recognized as one of the landmark Christian books of our time....


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