By / Apr 4

Today marks the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Here are five facts you should know about the killing of the civil rights leader in Memphis, Tennessee.

1. The killing of King in 1968 was the second attempt on his life. A decade before he was assassinated, King was nearly stabbed to death in Harlem when a mentally ill African-American woman who believed he was conspiring against her with communists, stabbed him in the chest with a letter opener. He underwent emergency surgery, and remained hospitalized for several weeks but made a full recovery. The doctor who performed the operation said, “Had Dr. King sneezed or coughed the weapon would have penetrated the aorta. . . . He was just a sneeze away from death”

2. On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated by the #277 man on the FBI's Most Wanted Fugitives list. In 1967, James Earl Ray escaped from the Missouri State Penitentiary by hiding in a truck transporting bread from the prison bakery. On the day of the assassination Ray took a room in boarding house that had a view to the motel. King and his entourage frequently stayed at the Lorraine Motel while staying in Memphis.

3. King was on the balcony of the motel when he was shot. He was hit by a .30-06 caliber rifle bullet that entered his right jaw, traveled through his neck, severing his spinal cord, and stopped in his shoulder blade. Civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy cradled King’s head while Marrell McCollough, an undercover Memphis police officer, used a towel to stop the flow of blood. King was taken to St. Joseph's where doctors attempted emergency surgery before pronouncing him dead at 7:05 p.m. He was 39 years old.

4. News of King’s assassination prompted major outbreaks of looting, arson, and violence, resulting in death and major property damage in more than 100 American cities. Altogether, 43 men and women were killed, approximately 3,500 were injured, and 27,000 were arrested. Not until over 58,000 National Guardsmen and army troops joined local state and police forces did the uprisings cease. As historian Peter B. Levy says, “during Holy Week 1968, the United States experienced its greatest wave of social unrest since the Civil War.”

5. After a two-month long, international manhunt, Ray was captured on June 8, 1968 at London's Heathrow Airport. On March 10, 1969, Ray pleaded guilty to King’s murder and was sentenced to 99 years in Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. No testimony was heard in his trial. Ray later recanted his confession and claimed he was the victim of a conspiracy. Members of King’s family, including his son Dexter, publicly met with Ray in 1977 and began arguing for a reopening of his case. (The government investigations concluded Ray was the lone assassin). Later that same year Ray became the #351 on the FBI's Most Wanted Fugitives list after he and six other convicts escaped from the prison. He was recaptured three days later and given another year in prison, bringing his sentence to 100 years.

Racial unity is a gospel issue and all the more urgent 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. Join the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and The Gospel Coalition at a special event, “MLK50: Gospel Reflections from the Mountaintop,” taking place April 4, 2018, in Memphis, Tenn. Key speakers include Russell Moore, Benjamin Watson, John Piper, Jackie Hill Perry, Matt Chandler, Eric Mason and many others. Learn more here

By / Feb 5

This Saturday is the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, a day set aside to raise awareness about the practice of Female Genital Mutilation and the goal of eliminating it by 2030. Here are five facts you should know about the horrific practice that violates the human rights of girls and women.

[Warning: The descriptions of the practice are disturbing and necessarily graphic.]

1. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the partial or complete removal of a girl’s external genitals for non-medical reasons (usually cultural, economic, or religious). There are no health benefits to FGM, and because the girl’s body is physically harmed by the removal of healthy tissue, the practice is recognized internationally as a human rights violation.

2. FGM is sometimes called Female Genital Cutting (FGC), Female Circumcision (FC), or excision. Many communities if which FGM occurs also use local names to refer to this practice including ‘Tahor’ or ‘Sunna’ (both Arabic Terms). These terms are sometimes used to avoid offending cultural sensibilities and avoid the perception that the practice is always forced on women. In some communities in which the FGM occurs, elderly women often do the most to perpetuate the custom.

3. In communities where FGM occurs, most girls are cut before they turn 14 years of age. Some girls, however, are cut in infancy, notes the Orchid Project. “In some areas of Ethiopia, for example, girls are often cut at just nine days old, and in half the countries in which FGC is practiced most girls undergo the procedure before the age of five,” add the Orchid Project. “In the Central African Republic, Egypt, Chad, and Somalia about 80% of girls are cut between five and 14, often in relation to coming-of-age rituals and the marking of their passage into adulthood.”

4. Female genital mutilation is classified into four major types:

Type 1 – Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce.

Type 2 – Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora.

Type 3 – Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris. The remaining skin is sewn or sealed together leaving a tiny hole for menstrual blood and urine.

Type 4 – Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, and cauterizing the genital area.

FGM is often performed with razor blades or knives and without sterilized equipment or anesthetic. In some urban areas, however, medically trained personnel may perform the FGM.

5. Between 100 and 140 million girls and women across the globe have either been subjected to FGM or at risk of being cut. The practice is most prevalent in Africa (where it occurs in at least 28 countries), parts of the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. FGC also happens in diaspora communities, including those in the United States.

By / Oct 29

Earlier today Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan was elected the 54th House speaker of the House of Representatives.

Here are five facts about the man who is third in line to the U.S. presidency:

1. Ryan grew up in Wisconsin and graduated from a Catholic high school before moving to Ohio to attend Miami University. In 1992 he graduated with a double major in economics and political science and moved to Washington, D.C. to work on Capitol Hill. Ryan worked his way from mailroom intern to the policy staff of the Senate small business committee under former Wisconsin Sen. Bob Kasten. He also worked for then Sam Brownback, then U.S. senator from Kansas, before returning to Wisconsin as a consultant to an earth-moving company run by another branch of his family.

2. Ryan was first elected to the House in 1998 and was reelected 8 times. Ryan became the ranking Republican member of the House Budget Committee in 2007 and served as its chairman from 2011 to 2015. Since then he has served as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the chief tax-writing committee that oversees programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and foster care and adoption programs. Ryan has also been a caucus member of the House Republican Caucus, Caucus of House Conservatives, International Conservation Caucus, Middle East Economic Partnership Caucus, and the Sportsmen's Caucus. In 2012, he became the running mate of Mitt Romney, joining the ticket as the Republican candidate for Vice President.

3. At a 2005 symposium to celebrate the 100th birthday of Ayn Rand, Ryan reportedly credited the controversial atheist and author as the reason he got involved in public service. He also said in 2003 that he gave copies of Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged to his staff as Christmas presents. He would later say, though, that his “purported obsession” with Rand was an “urban legend.”

“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan told National Review. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he said.

4. After the 2012 presidential election loss, Ryan began to focus on issues of poverty. In 2013 he began making monthly visits to inner-city neighborhoods with Bob Woodson of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise. During the excursions, in which no media was allowed, Ryan sought ways to fight poverty that could replace “bureaucratic, top-down anti-poverty programs.” In an interview Ryan said that for too long many people have assumed that the fight against poverty was not their problem:

People have been just sort of given this notion that, “Pay your taxes, and government will fix this problem; don’t worry about it.” That’s not true. If poverty was just about material deprivation—and in some cases it is—but it’s also more than that. It’s about, like I say, isolation. It’s about addiction. It’s about being stuck in a failing school or abuse or needing a mentor. That means people need to get involved. That means people in their communities need to see and fight poverty eye to eye, soul to soul, person to person. And I think you can not underestimate or understate the importance of that.

5.  Throughout his political career Ryan has remained a staunch advocate of the sanctify and protection of life. In 2010, Ryan described himself as being "as pro-life as a person gets,” adding “Issues come up, they’re unavoidable, and I’m never going to not vote pro-life.” The National Right to Life Committee has consistently given Ryan a "100 percent pro-life voting record" since he took office. Paul believes abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape, and only makes an exception for situations where the woman's life is at risk. He has argued that all human beings, including the unborn, are entitled to natural rights. “Conservatives can bridge the gap on issues of life and choice,” wrote Ryan, “by building on the solid rock of natural rights, which belong, not just to some, but to all human beings.”

By / Sep 25

Earlier today John Boehner, the current Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, announced he will resign both his speakership and his Congressional seat at the end of October.

Here are five facts about the man who is third in line to the U.S. presidency:

1. Upon graduating high school in 1968, during the time of the Vietnam War, Boehner enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Because of a bad back, he was honorably discharged after eight weeks. After graduating from Xavier University in 1977, he worked for a small sales business in the packaging and plastics industry. From 1981 to 1984, Boehner served on the board of trustees of Union Township, Butler County, Ohio. He then served as an Ohio state representative from 1985 to 1990. He was elected to House of Representatives in 1990, became House Majority Leader in 2006, and became Speaker of the House after the 2010 midterm elections.

2. Throughout his political career Boehner remained a staunch advocate for the sanctify and protection of life. When he became majority leader in 2006 the National Right to Life Committee and Family Research Council scored him as having a 100 percent voting record on pro-life issues. "This is not a political position I've adopted for the sake of expedience or convenience; it is part of who I am and have always been, since long before the thought of running for office had ever entered my mind," he said at the time.  "It is a belief I feel passionately from deep within my soul." 

"I have always voted to protect the rights of unborn children," he added, "and as long as I am an elected official, I will continue to do so."

3. After the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states, Boehner said, “All human beings are created equal by God and thus deserve to be treated with love, dignity and respect. I am, however, disappointed that the Supreme Court disregarded the democratically-enacted will of millions of Americans by forcing states to redefine the institution of marriage. . . My views are based on my upbringing and my faith. I believe that marriage is a sacred vow between one man and one woman, and I believe Americans should be able to live and work according to their beliefs.”

Boehner, a Roman Catholic, is an advocate of traditional marriage. He opposes same-sex marriage and voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment in both 2004 and 2006. In a letter to the Human Rights Campaign, a pro-LGBT rights group, Boehner stated, "I oppose any legislation that would provide special rights for homosexuals . . . Please be assured that I will continue to work to protect the idea of the traditional family as one of the fundamental tenets of western civilization."

4. Boehner served as chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee from 2001 until 2006. In 2001 he and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy authored the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. That controversial legislation requires all public schools receiving federal funding to administer a statewide standardized test annually to all students. Boehner called No Child Left Behind his “proudest achievement” in his years on Capitol Hill.

5. Throughout his career, Boehner was a defender of religious freedom. Earlier this year he said, ““America was founded on the principle of religious freedom, and faith-based employers deserve the ability to hire people who share their beliefs.” He has also said the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is a “critical check on federal power.” And after the Obama administration regulation requiring employers, including religious organizations, to provide birth-control and abortifacient coverage in their employees’ health plans, Boehner said, “Religious freedom is one of our most cherished liberties. If the president does not reverse his administration's attack on this fundamental right, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must.”

By / Jul 21

3% – Planned Parenthood (hereafter PP) often claims that that abortions account for only 3 percent of the services they provide. While this may be technically true, it is a highly misleading statistic.  PP considers an “activity” any separate action, exam, or test they do for a patient. If patient comes in for an abortion they may also give her an HIV test, a STI test, a pap test, medication to prevent a urinary tract infection, and some oral contraceptives. PP counts each as an “activity.” Even if a pregnant woman came to a PP clinic specifically for an abortion, the actual abortion would only count, in this example, as 16 percent (1 of 6) of the “activities” for that particular woman.

77 — That’s the number of years that Planned Parenthood Federation of America, commonly shortened to Planned Parenthood, has been in existence. The precursor of the organization, the American Birth Control League, was started in 1921. That group became PP in 1942.

$470 — The median charge for a surgical abortion at 10 weeks’ gestation (2009 figures).

700 — The approximate number of “health centers” PP connected to PP in America. PP works on franchise model, so each of the centers is part of a network of 66 independently incorporated affiliates.

$60,319 — The average amount American taxpayers (at the local, state, and federal level) give PP every hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

327,653 — The number of abortion PP performed in 2013.

$523,616 — The compensation PP’s CEO Cecile Richards earned for the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2013.

$3,123,963 — The total domestic gross of Obvious Child, an “abortion comedy” that was released in 2014. PP brags that the organization, “worked for years with the film’s writer, director, and producers to shape the story, helped them film it in a Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic health center, and oversaw its release to widespread critical and commercial success.”

$528,400,000 — Amount of revenue PP received from government health services, grants, and reimbursements in 2014.

$1,303,400,000 — Total revenue PP earned in 2014.

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all figures come from Planned Parenthood’s 2013-2014 Annual Report.

Editor's Note: ERLC and Focus on the Family are hosting the first ever Evangelicals for Life event next year in Washington DC on January 21-22nd, featuring Russell Moore, Roland Warren, David Platt, Eric Metaxes, Kelly Rosati, Ron Sider and others. 

By / Jun 11

Next week the Southern Baptist Convention meets in Columbus, Ohio for its 157th annual meeting. Here are five facts you should know about America’s largest Protestant denomination.

1. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), a name which refers to both the annual two-day convention and the decentralized organization comprised of 46,034 autonomous, local churches and 15.9 million members, is a network of autonomous churches voluntarily banded together at state, regional, and national levels to engage in missions and ministry activities designed to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Each church in the SBC is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers that makes their own decisions on staffing, budget, programs, etc.

2. In 1814, Baptist churches in the U.S. joined together to create the General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination. By 1845 the churches were divided over the issue of slavery. As church historian Miles Mullin explains, southern Baptists desired to make slavery a non-issue, while abolitionist forces in the North (and among northern Baptists) desired the convention to take a moral stand against it. The following year group of representatives from Southern churches created a new denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention.

3. In 1995, on the denomination’s 150th anniversary, the Convention voted to adopt a resolution on racial reconciliation that apologized for its racist roots, for condoning and perpetuating individual and systemic racism, and committed to eradicate racism in all its forms from Southern Baptist life and ministry. At its annual convention in 2012, the SBC elected as president Fred Luter Jr., the first African American to hold the position.

4. The SBC is directed by representatives of Southern Baptist churches, called messengers, who meet once a year for two days to adopt a unified missions and ministry budget called the Cooperative Program allocation budget, elect trustees to oversee the ministry entities of the Convention, receive reports from the SBC entities, and transact the business of the Convention.

5. Along with the autonomous churches, the SBC is comprised of the following entitiessix seminariesInternational Mission Board, which sends and supports missionaries all over the world; an Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, providing resources and leadership on ethical issues; Guidestone Financial Resources providing financial planning, insurance, and annuities for church and denomination staff members; a North American Mission Board, supporting the state conventions in evangelism, missions, and ministry, such as disaster relief; the Women’s Missionary Union, which serves as an auxiliary in promoting missions; LifeWay Christian Resources, the SBC publishing house; and an Executive Committee coordinating the day-to-day functions of the SBC.

By / May 21

On Monday, Americans will observe Memorial Day, a federal holiday for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces. Here are five facts you should know about this day of remembrance:

1. Memorial Day is often confused with Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military both in wartime or peacetime. 

2. Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day. Three years after the Civil War, Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, the head of an organization of Union veterans, established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30 since it was believed flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

3. Until after World War I, Decoration Day was a holiday reserved for the remembrance of the Civil War dead. After the Great War the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.

4. In addition to the national holiday, nine states officially set aside a day to honor those who died fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War: Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia. The days of observance vary from state to state with only Virginia observing Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of May, in accordance with the federal observance of Memorial Day.

5. In 2000, Congress passed the “National Moment of Remembrance Act” which designates 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day each year as the National Moment of Remembrance, in “honor of the men and women of the United States who died in the pursuit of freedom and peace.” Public Law 106-579 encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at that time for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.

By / May 20

I love newborns. Once children begin to crawl and toddle around, though, they’ve entered a running-interference stage that I don’t really care for. Push through to three, four and five, and we’re back to having a good time. There’s a reason the show “Kids Say the Darndest Things” was so popular.

If you call yourself a Christian, you should love children—whether you have children of your own, still long for a little one to call you “Mama,” have lost all hope of being called by that name, or haven’t given it much thought. I recently came across an article that reminded me of this truth.

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, in an article titled “How Christianity invented children,” recounts the deep counter-cultural revolution Christianity wrought, particularly toward children. In fact, in ancient Rome, it was the Christian community that rescued children from abandonment and exposure. Those who were once despised and abused in a largely accepted manner are now mostly romanticized and protected (of course, we have to take into account the atrocity of abortion and the ongoing abuse of children that, tragically, still happens in our society).

Loving children is deeply rooted in God’s breathed-out Word. It gives us more than enough proof that, if we want to be more like our Father and our Savior, we should pray for a heart that loves these little (and big) ones. Though the following list isn’t exhaustive by any means, I pray it has just enough truth to leave a child-shaped imprint on your heart. According to the Bible, we should love children because:

1. They are the future generations (Gen. 1:28).

In the beginning, God didn’t create adults that spawned into ready-made adults through some kind of bio-genetic engineering process. And he didn’t put a cap on the population. Instead, through the old fashioned (God-designed) way, God said, “Have children.” This is a good thing and the only God-ordained hope we have of carrying on physical generations from every tribe, tongue, and nation, some of whom, by God’s grace, become the spiritual generations who enter into God’s family through adoption (Rom. 8:15).

2. God’s Word extols them as a gift (Ps 127:3-5).

It’s hard to deny the value of children when God just outright spoke it: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord.” They have great worth because they are created in the image of God—whether at seven weeks, seven days, or seven years old. And the same worth holds true at 17 and 70.

3. Our Savior came as an infant (Luke 2).

How could a child be despised if our Savior was one? Granted, he is the only sinless child who has ever lived, but undeniably his appearance in the flesh as a helpless infant gives us every indication that children are precious, purposeful, and a welcome addition to our lives.

4. They imitate how we are to relate to our Heavenly Father (Matt. 18:3-4).

Over and over again, God’s people are likened to being his children—and that we are (1 John 3:1)! He created us in the womb (Ps. 139), recreated us spiritually (James 1:18), provides for our needs (Matt 6), and protects us (John 17), among other things. What’s more, Jesus, our Brother, tells us we are to be childlike with our Father—humbly and vulnerably running to him with our every need and care, without hesitation. We even have permission to be a little pestering (Luke 11).

5. Christ receives them (Mark 9:36-37).

The ESV Study Bible puts it this way when commenting on Mark 9:36-37: “The attitude of heart [that] Jesus is teaching [about] does not even overlook a lowly child (at times marginalized in ancient societies) but receives, and thereby cares for, such a little one in Christ’s name.” As Gobry mentions in his article, Jesus turned the prevailing attitude of the times toward children on its head. And let’s be grateful he did, for each of us only made it to adulthood because we were given life and, in some way, nurtured as a child.

6. True religion is marked by caring for them (James 1:27).

There’s not a child in the world who, if bereft of caretakers, would not be helpless in one form or fashion. Whether it’s an infant who can’t feed himself or a 12-year-old who becomes vulnerable to trafficking just so she can eat a meal, these helpless ones need our advocacy and tender care. We can’t claim to have Christ and, at the same time, turn our faces the other way when it comes to children. The two are incompatible.

I realize that we can take good things and make them idols. We have been doing this since the beginning. Particularly, in our churches, we can move from loving children to idolizing them, so that, if you don’t have children—whether you’re single, unable to have them, or have chosen not to have them for some selfless purpose—you are seen as “incomplete” or “less than.” While this isn’t right, it also shouldn’t warrant hardening our hearts and writing off children all together.

If we know what’s good for us, children will always be a part of our lives. Giving birth to two children, babysitting for a friend, giving money to feed an orphan, investing in teenagers, or mentoring young parents—all of these are ways we, as the church, can love the ones who are marks of a sweet, blessed heritage from the Lord.

We shouldn’t be naive. Loving children doesn’t come without it’s challenges of all sizes. In my case, loving my friends’ children is often a reminder that I don’t yet have my own. But, at the heart of embracing what God loves is a faith that trusts in His goodness and provision. Our Father has different plans and purposes for his children, but He’s not in the business of giving stones and serpents and scorpions to the ones who unabashedly come to him—even if we are a little pesky at times.

By / May 7

Today is the National Day of Prayer, an annual day of observance celebrated by Americans of various faiths. Here are five facts you should know about the day when people are asked "to turn to God in prayer and meditation."

1. The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.

2. The National Observance in Washington, DC is coordinated by the National Day of Prayer Task Force, an evangelical nonprofit group. The NDP Task Force was founded in 1979 by Mrs. Vonette Bright, co-founder of the evangelical Christian organization Campus Crusade for Christ International. Since 1991, Shirley Dobson, whose husband is James Dobson, has been the chairwoman.

3. In 2008, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued to challenge the designation of a National Day of Prayer. In 2010, a federal judge ruled that the statute establishing the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional as it is "an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function." A three judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overturned that decision.

4. There have been 142 national calls to prayer, humiliation, fasting and thanksgiving by the President of the United States (1789-2013). There have been 65 Presidential Proclamations for a National Day of Prayer (1952-2013). Gerald R. Ford (1976), George H. Bush (1989-91) and Barack H. Obama (2012) are the only U.S. Presidents to sign multiple National Day of Prayer Proclamations in the same year.

5. 34 of the 44 U.S. Presidents have signed proclamations for National Prayer. Three of the Presidents who did not sign a proclamation died while serving in office. Two Presidents, not included in the count – William Howard Taft and Warren Gamaliel Harding, signed proclamations for Thanksgiving and Prayer. Every President since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation.

By / Apr 16

Earlier this month the White House designated a gender-neutral restroom for visitors and staffers in order to express solidarity with transgender activists. Several states are also debating bills in their legislatures that would prohibit individuals who identify as transgender from using public restrooms of the opposite sex. Here are five facts you should know about the increasingly controversial topic of transgenderism:

  1. Transgenderism is an umbrella term for the state or condition of identifying or expressing a gender identity that does not match a person's physical/genetic sex. Transgender is independent of sexual orientation, and those who self-identify as transgender may consider themselves to be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, or asexual. Approximately 700,000 individuals in the U.S. identify as transgender.
  2. Transgenderism differs from intersex, a variation in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, or genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female. Intersex is a physical condition while transgender is a psychological condition. The vast majority of people with intersex conditions identify as male or female rather than transgender or transsexual. (The term “hermaphrodite” is now considered outdated, inaccurate, and offensive as a reference to people who are intersex.)
  3. The terms transgender, transsexual, and transvestite are not synonymous. Transsexualism refers to a specific condition in the transgender realm. Transsexual is a narrower term used to refer to people who identify as the opposite of their birth gender designation, regardless of whether they have undergone or intend to undergo hormone replacement therapy and/or sex reassignment surgery. A transvestite is a person who cross-dresses, or dresses in clothes of the opposite sex, though they may not identify with, or want to be the opposite gender. All transexuals identify as transgender, but transvestites do not necessarily fall into either of the other categories.
  4. In the 1960s Johns Hopkins University became the first American medical center to offer “sex-reassignment surgery.” But they later stopped performing the procedure after a study on transgendered people in the 1970s. The study compared the outcomes of transgendered people who had the surgery with the outcomes of those who did not. Most of the surgically treated patients described themselves as “satisfied” by the results, but their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn't have the surgery. As Dr. McHugh, former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, explains, “at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a “satisfied” but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.” At the heart of the problem is confusion over the nature of the transgendered, says McHugh. “'Sex change' is biologically impossible,” he adds. “People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.”
  5. When children who reported transgender feelings were tracked without medical or surgical treatment at both Vanderbilt University and London's Portman Clinic, 70-80 percent of them spontaneously lost those feelings. Some 25 percent did have persisting feelings, notes Dr. McHugh, but what differentiates those individuals remains to be discerned. Despite such studies several states—including California, New Jersey and Massachusetts—have passed laws barring psychiatrists, even with parental permission, from striving to restore natural gender feelings to a transgender minor.

Image credit: Mike Gifford

What is transgender and gender fluidity? What does God's Word actually say about these issues? How can the gospel be good news for someone experiencing gender dysphoria? How should churches respond? To learn more be sure to check out Andrew T. Walker's book God and the Transgender Debate