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On Inauguration Day, hours after President Joe Biden’s calls for unity and promise to represent all Americans, platitudes gave way to policies. In 880 words, Biden mandated a government definition of gender discrimination and equality that guaranteed biological men access to women’s social spaces.
Biden’s executive order, “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation,” claims to ensure equality before the law. Instead, it turns gender ideology into law. Citing Bostock v. Clayton County, the Supreme Court ruling that added gender identity to the category of sex discrimination, the order establishes access to one’s choice of sex-specific space as a civil right.
Between declaring every person equal before the law and worthy of dignity and respect—affirmations with which we should all agree—the executive order condemns denying children “access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”
If you’re wondering what kind of repressive, cruel middle-school administrator prohibits a gender dysphoric 12-year-old from all restrooms, locker rooms, and school sports, you’re not alone. One can hardly imagine such an action would escape public notice without a lawsuit and an opening segment on the evening news.
But the executive order leaves out three words that would help clarify what makes it such a sweeping social edict: Biden wants transgender children to enter the restroom of their preference, enter the locker room of their preference, and join the sports team of their preference.
Under this order, a biological male has a right to compete against females in high-school sports, use the women’s locker room, and use the women’s restroom. His biology does not prevent him from entering the social spaces of his preference. In fact, to insist otherwise and deny him access to a woman’s social space is tantamount to denying him the right to use any social space.
We shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose. During his presidential candidacy, Biden pledged to make gender identity issues a priority in his administration. He stated his intent to sign the Equality Act into law within his first 100 days in office. In an October 2020 town hall, he voiced his support for children to identify as transgender, an affirmation that increasingly entails support for puberty blockers, fertility-altering hormone therapies, and irreversible surgical procedures. Among his appointees is a transgender doctor as assistant secretary of health.
But Biden’s order doesn’t just express a political philosophy. It expresses a moral one. The prevailing moral order grounds right and wrong in sentiment and feeling. As Carl Trueman describes in his intellectual history of modern culture, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, preferences have become the equivalent of truth claims, imbued with a “transcendent, objective authority.”
Imposing on a person’s preferences with an appeal to external objectivity—such as the biological differences between male and female—is a cardinal sin. Express your dissent for policies like Biden’s, and you have denied, perhaps even done “violence” to, a person’s right to authentic self-expression.
Following Jan. 20, respect for transgender persons requires nothing less than dismissing biological differences and suspending their importance for human identity. “Equality” means expecting biological females to check their privilege and consenting to a social concept of “woman” that is, ironically, defined by biological men.
In Modern Law Review, a U.K. academic journal, Alessandra Asteriti and Rebecca Bull argue that “gender self-declaration” harms women’s rights. Recognizing a woman’s “bodily integrity and autonomy” requires that she have the liberty to “choose to exclude a male (regardless of gender identity) from female-only spaces” like bathrooms, locker rooms, rape refuges, prisons, and areas providing gynecological care. A female should be free to “withhold consent” to share intimate spaces with individuals she perceives to be male.
On his first day as president, Joe Biden stripped American women and girls of the right to maintain “respect and dignity” and “be able to live without fear.” A teenage girl who objects to changing her clothes in front of a teenage boy will risk being labeled “transphobic.” Male track-and-field contestants will elbow female athletes out of awards and scholarships. A biological male can force a biological female to the ground in a wrestling match to the applause of a crowd.
If headlines are harbingers, it only gets worse: In Illinois, a female prisoner last year alleged she was raped by a male cellmate who, because he identified as a woman, had been sent to a women’s correctional center.
Advocates of the new transgender policies will likely dismiss such cases as anomalies and disdain those who reference them as scaremongers. But they are happening. And the voices of women and girls will be silenced in the name of gender equality.
—Katie McCoy serves as assistant professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas.
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How are we to respond—in this overly sensitive, divided, and politically charged climate—to a society that needs to know Jesus’ love? I think it starts with us doing some serious self-reflection on where our priorities lie, and even where our heart is. A few overarching questions I would ask:
Are we focused on love? The world will know us by our love for each other (John 13:35), and how we love those who disagree with us—or who even curse us and persecute us (Matthew 5). I’m not seeing this among some prominent Christian leaders. In all manner of social and public discourse right now—on issues ranging from mask-wearing, to equal rights, to respect for due process or respect for authority—there appears to be deep anger, outrage, a “call for blood” even! What about Paul’s admonition to “let your reasonableness be made known to everyone” (Philippians 4:5)? Is our love growing cold (Matthew 24:11-13)? I want to understand my more liberal (or more conservative) neighbors—maybe even learn something new, or change my opinion—as I focus on loving them.
What is our battle? This leads me to my second point: What are we fighting against? Why is there so much resentment and anger? We know that we are not at war with flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers of darkness and evil (Ephesians 6:12). Our behavior (speaking very broadly) would suggest we are at war with anyone who thinks differently about very earthly matters. I’m sensing from many Christians I know a strong undertone of condemnation of anyone who dares question their political beliefs, their political candidate, and anything their candidate says and does. Any information, “facts,” or insightful arguments that do not support what they believe to be true are grounds for mockery and disdain. (This is true on both sides, but shouldn’t believers be different?) Is it realistic to think all truth only comes from one party or one person? Does it stand to reason that anything offered by the “other side” is inherently false? And even if it were that black and white, on what are we focusing our fight? Our battle is against the devil, and for the souls of man. Our focus should be on living out the gospel, loving others because of the eternal glory set before us (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
Which kingdom are we pursuing? If we were Christians anywhere else in the world, we would struggle less with the melding of nationalism and faith. As it is, the church in the United States—in my opinion—has a dangerous emotional and spiritual bond with conservative political power. They are not one and the same. Jesus was clear, “My kingdom is not of this world.” If it were, He would have fought more like we’re fighting today—for power and control. Listening to the leaders involved in the Jericho March, you would think that the president is our messiah and we are fighting for his kingdom on earth. Anything that pulls us away from our focus on God’s eternal kingdom, or draws on our passion and energy to preserve worldly possession or influence, plays into the devil’s hands. Let us vote our conscience for the leaders we believe are best able to govern our country. But let our hearts and minds pursue the eternal kingdom, not a kingdom of any kind on earth.
Are we guarding against deception? I do not read the Bible enough, nor am I praying in the Spirit as much as I should be, given these end times. I am increasingly aware of my susceptibility to false teaching and deceptive spirits as I read about how far a Christian leader can stray from his “first love.” We must absolutely test the spirits (1 John 4:1) and submit everything to God’s Word (Colossians 3:16) in order not to be deceived by the lust of the world (1 John 2:16). The idols of my heart are a constant battle. Like all Christians who are also human, I do not always have Christ preeminent in my heart and mind. For some reason—unique to this time in history, and to this political climate, and to this leader—the Church is diverting much of its focus from God’s kingdom to political power. More than any time in my life, many of us threw our commitment and loyalty toward Donald Trump, to the point of even defining what is true by his standard. Some Christians claimed that any authority other than his was from the devil! This, I’m afraid, may be the fulfillment of verses such as 2 Timothy 4:2-4: “For the time will come when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” I fear we may be following in the path of the Corinthian church that struggled with worldliness, heresies, and battled “party spirit,” which Paul decried (1 Corinthians 3:1-4, 21-23).
Waldemar Kohl is a consultant who lives with his wife Ann and their five children in Hampton, N.H.
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I called my Uncle Courtney the night of Jan. 8. We hadn’t talked since July and besides catching up, I wanted to hear his take on the events in Washington the day before. We sit on different ends of the spectrum—he leans left, while I am a conservative. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I watched the news unfold, but I imagined Courtney’s reaction to be one of anger.
A big cup of coffee at my side (he is a talker), I dialed his number. He answered and I readied my notebook and pen—he is always good for some Southern gems, and just in case I ever need a colloquialism for a colorful character in something I’m writing, I try to jot down the best turns of phrase. Courtney didn’t let me down, calling his two brothers “Whiskypalians” right off the bat for their allegiance to Donald Trump and the Republican Party.
I asked what he’d been doing that day, how he came to hear about the chaos interrupting what ought to have been an orderly counting of Electoral College votes. He’d been home with COVID-19 and was awaiting a hip replacement—the perfect conditions for having nothing to do but watch the feed from the House Chamber. The president’s speech had cycled through the major news channels earlier that day, and Courtney told me Trump “knew when he fired ’em up and sent ’em off” that something like this would happen.
I never thought I’d align so closely with Courtney in his criticism of Trump. I’ve listened to clips from the president’s rally on the day of the chaos at the Capitol, and I agree with my uncle—yes, Trump fired them up and then slipped off to see the results.
The wound in Washington has been poorly treated, as though it were not serious. Some of my left-leaning relatives imagine a Biden administration will cure what ails us. They cry, “peace, peace,” but they are not ashamed of the left’s loathsome actions on abortion. The right seems to desire power above all else, and no one is telling the whole truth.
My prayer for our nation is that we would heed the words of Jeremiah 5:1: “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note! Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth, that I may pardon her.” We must be men and women who do justice and seek truth. We must elevate only those leaders who live by these standards.
After an hour of talking Trump and political intrigue, I managed to squeeze in a thank you for the laser-tag game Courtney had sent our boys for Christmas. “Your great-grandmother, Mama May, well, she always gave us something awful like rabbit-fur gloves,” implying his desire to give better gifts. I jotted down that family story in my notebook, too, glad I’d called my uncle. Glad we’d talked about things that mattered.
Julie Spencer is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute mid-career course.