By / Feb 26

“God’s Good Design: A Practical Guide for Answering Gender Confusion” is a resource for pastors and church leaders that includes a theological framework and practical scenarios that will start (or continue) the conversation in your churches about how to serve those broken by the sexual revolution with the hope of the gospel.

Send me the guide

Gender confusion among the next generation

The rate of teenagers who identify as transgender has doubled in the United States according to one estimate. Nearly one-third of Generation Z (the youngest generation for which we have statistics) identify on the LGBT spectrum.

It may have (arguably) taken longer for the sexual revolution to reach our churches, but the time is long gone when we could assume it would pass us by completely.

Theological framework and practical scenarios to address gender confusion

That is why the ERLC gathered together a group of experts in theology, ethics, public policy, and law to think through how best to respond to this moment. Working together, they created a framework grounded in Scripture and shaped by theological categories faithful to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

We know that this is not just a thought experiment, so the ERLC also gathered pastors and ministry leaders who helped apply the framework to situations on the ground.

  • Most of us will not face a question about our theological anthropology and how it defines our understanding of the categories of male and female.
  • But, we may meet an individual who has adopted a new identity and has preferred pronouns.
  • So these pastors, ministry leaders, and subject-matter experts considered what to do in a number of scenarios drawn directly from questions posed to actual churches and pastors.

There will inevitably be questions you face that are not contained here, but this will give you a place to begin a conversation with your staff; not out of fear or a need to protect ourselves, but rather to ensure that we are ready to offer others an answer for the hope that is within us (1 Pet. 3:15), pointing them to the one who promises that there is a day when the brokenness of our body, our sense of self, and our own failed attempts to be God will be made right.

Send me the guide

By / Jan 8

Catholics around the world are sharply divided by the Vatican’s recent declaration giving priests more leeway to bless same-sex couples. Supporters of LGBTQ inclusion welcome the move; some conservative bishops assail the new policy as a betrayal of the church’s condemnation of sexual relations between gay or lesbian partners.

Strikingly, the flare-up of debate in Catholic ranks coincides with developments in two other international Christian denominations — the global Anglican Communion and the United Methodist Church — that are fracturing over differences in LGBTQ-related policies.

Taken together, it’s a dramatic illustration of how – in a religion that stresses God’s love for humanity – divisions over marriage, sexuality, and inclusion of gays and lesbians are proving insurmountable for the foreseeable future in many sectors of Christianity.

Some conservative denominations — such as the Southern Baptist Convention and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — have adhered firmly to policies that reject recognition of same-sex relationships and ordination of openly LGBTQ people. These policies have prompted departures, but no major schism.

Brent Leatherwood, president of the Southern Baptists’ public policy commission, reiterated the SBC’s position in a statement asserting that the Vatican — under Pope Francis — “has been on a trajectory that seems destined for the allowance of same-sex marriage.”

The reality is marriage has been defined by God … It is a union between one man and one woman for life. Southern Baptists remain anchored in this truth.

Brent Leatherwood

Read the full Associated Press article here.

By / Jun 27

Last week, the Equality Act was once again introduced into the House of Representatives and the Senate for consideration. This legislation intends to expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) and would revise every title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add these categories as new protected classes in the federal code. Last Congress, the Equality Act passed in the House, but the bill died in the Senate. 

The ERLC affirms the full dignity of every human being. At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Messengers passed a resolution to “reaffirm the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for every single human being, without any reservation.” But the Equality Act does not advance the cause of human dignity. 

If passed, the Equality Act would punish faith-based charities for their core religious beliefs about human dignity and marriage and would undermine decades of civil rights protections for women and girls. The alarmingly detrimental consequences of the bill pose a significant threat to the deeply held religious beliefs of millions of Americans who honor God’s design for sexuality.

What does this bill mean for religious liberty?

This bill would substantially undermine religious liberty protections in the United States. America has long been a place where people with different views and beliefs have lived at peace alongside each other. Though America has not perfectly lived up to this ideal of a shared nation, it was central to our founding as persecuted religious minorities sought safe harbor in this land. Though cleverly named, the Equality Act is out of step with that American ideal. Equality cannot be achieved while eliminating other basic, fundamental freedoms. Of particular note, the bill would essentially gut the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a bill which passed with broad bipartisan support and was signed by President Clinton.

By undermining RFRA, the Equality Act would force faith-based child welfare organizations to abandon their deeply held religious beliefs or be shut down by the state. The state-forced closures of such agencies is especially detrimental at a time when multiple crises—including the post-pandemic effects and the ongoing opioid epidemic—have led to increases in the number of children in need of services.

What does the bill mean for women and girls?

Most strikingly, the Equality Act undermines decades of hard fought civil rights protections for women and girls. Single gender spaces, such as locker rooms or shelters, would no longer be protected by law. This departure from a legal understanding of gender as male and female makes women and girls vulnerable to biological males being in their private spaces. For example, shelters for those women and girls escaping domestic abuse or homelessness would be forced to house biological men who identify as female. This legislation disregards the privacy and safety concerns women rightly have about sharing sleeping quarters and intimate facilities with the biological opposite sex.

Another example of the harm this legislation poses to women and girls is in athletics and academics. Since 1972, Title IX has advanced women’s sports and scholarship in remarkable ways. If enacted, the Equality Act would threaten female competition as both areas would then be open to biological males as well.

Are there pro-life concerns in the Equality Act?

Yes. The Equality Act would be the most pro-abortion bill ever passed by Congress. It would redefine the term “sex” to also include “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.” This language would roll back federal law that protects the consciences of pro-life nurses and physicians who object to participating in abortions because of their deeply held religious or moral beliefs. These conscience protections carry decades of bipartisan consensus—a consensus that no person should be compelled to participate in an act they believe to be gravely immoral. The Equality Act would also jeopardize the longstanding Hyde Amendment that protects federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortion. There is nothing equalizing about forcing Americans to fund abortion through taxpayer dollars.

How has the ERLC been involved?

The ERLC has worked tirelessly to defeat this bill. We have partnered with a broad coalition of more than 85 faith-based nonprofits, religious entities, and institutions of higher education to highlight the dangers of the Equality Act. We have raised these concerns with members of Congress and the administration through coalition letters and countless meetings with members, administration officials, and their staff. We have also engaged in public advocacy against the bill by producing a suite of resources to inform Christians and the broader public about the pernicious threat of the so-called “Equality” Act.

What’s next?

In the prior Democrat-led House, the Equality Act passed 224-206, with three Republicans joining all 221 Democrats. In the 118th Congress, Republicans narrowly hold the majority seats, but the bill is unlikely to make it to the floor for a vote. Two of the three Republicans who voted in favor of the bill are no longer in Congress, which makes it even more difficult for Democrats to force a vote on the bill. Another obstacle is Speaker McCarthy’s commitment to unifying the Republican majority’s voice in the House to present a strong front before the American people. 

While it is unlikely the bill will be passed in this Congress, its continued appearance presents a larger, on-going threat to human dignity and religious liberty. The ERLC will continue to highlight how the Equality Act erodes fundamental freedoms and undermines the ability of Americans of diverse beliefs to work together for the common good.

By / Feb 10

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay talk about racial unity in the SBC. They also disucss a recap of the State of the Union address, the devastating earthquake in Turkey, and J.D. Greear’s article responding to comments Andy Stanley made about homosexuality. 

ERLC Content

Culture

Connect with us on Twitter

Sponsors

  • 2023 Public Policy Agenda | The first session of the 118th Congress is now underway, and it begins as the nation is grappling with war around the world, inflation at home, and deep division across our nation. This also begins a new era of divided government with a Democratic president, a narrow Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, and a slim Republican majority in the House. This dynamic ensures legislating and governing will be a difficult task. We recently released the 2023 ERLC Public Policy agenda which includes our priorities for religious liberty, sanctity of life, marriage and family, and human dignity. Download the full agenda and learn how your Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is advocating for issues important to Southern Baptists at ERLC.com/policy.
  • Email updates | Now that 2023 is fully underway, we want to make sure you are kept up to date about the important work we are doing on behalf of Southern Baptists. Whether it’s our 2023 Public Policy Agenda or another ultrasound machine placement, we want to make sure you know how we are serving our churches and acting as missionaries to the public square. As we move forward in 2023, know that first in our hearts and at the top of our minds are our churches. And we are taking those next steps with a Mark 10:44 mindset: to be a servant of all. The best way to learn more is by joining us at ERLC.com/updates. Signing up for email updates allows you to hear directly from us about our work and ways we are serving you on the issues that matter most to Southern Baptists. You’ll learn about our work on your behalf in our nation’s capital, about exciting new partnerships with our state conventions and the ways we are working across the convention with our sister entities. Become an email subscriber at ERLC.com/updates.
By / Oct 12

Although terms like “transgender” and “gender identity” are increasingly used in the public square, many Christians are still unaware of what they mean or how broad the scope is in which they are being used. To help provide some clarification and context, I’ve provided definitions for 31 terms commonly used by the gender identity movement. This glossary is designed to help you better understand the radical and ever-expanding language used to describe elements of the sexual (and gender) revolution. In order to effectively minister to those in our communities, it is helpful to grasp the terms used by the wider culture. Our goal is to understand so that we might proclaim God’s good design reflected in the biblical sexual ethic that brings flourishing and the gospel that brings hope and reconciliation.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means — Facebook alone allows you to choose from more than 70 gender options. Even though many in the LGBTQ+ community are united around certain terms and language, it is important to note that this is an incredibly diverse community that is not always in agreement with one another and their lifestyle choices.

Ally — A term for a person who supports members of the LGBTQ+ community and who advocates for them to others. 

Androphilia — A term used to refer to sexual attraction to men or masculinity that can be used as an alternative to a gender binary heterosexual or homosexual orientation. (See also: gynephilia.)

Bigender — A person who has two gender identities or expressions, either at the same time, at different times, or in different social situations. (See also: genderfluid.)

Bisexual — A person who is attracted to two sexes or two genders, but not necessarily simultaneously or equally. Although the term used to be defined as a person who is attracted to both genders or both sexes, that has been replaced by the number two (2) since the LGBT community believes there are not only two sexes or two genders but multiple gender identities. Within the LGBTQ+ community, a person who is sexually attracted to more than two biological sexes or gender identities is often referred to as pansexual or omnisexual.

Butch — A term used by the LGBTQ+ community to refer to masculine gender expression or gender identity. A nonbinary butch is a person who holds a nonbinary gender identity and a butch gender expression, or claiming butch as an identity outside of the gender binary. (See also: femme.)

Cisgender — A term used by many in the LGBTQ+ community and their allies to refer to people who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity. Cisgender is often used within the LGBTQ+ community to refer to people who are not transgender. (In general, Christians should avoid using this term since it implies that cisgender and transgender are equally normative, i.e., the opposite of “heteronormative.”)

Femme — A term used by the LGBTQ+ community to refer to feminine gender expression or gender identity. A nonbinary femme is a person who holds a nonbinary gender identity and a femme gender expression, or claiming femme as an identity outside of the gender binary. (See also: butch.)

Gay — Until the mid-20th century, the term gay was originally used to refer to feelings of being “carefree,” “happy,” or “bright and showy,” though it also added, in the late 17th century, the meaning “addicted to pleasures and dissipations” implying a that a person was uninhibited by moral constraints. In the 1960s, the term began to be used in reference to people attracted to members of the same sex who often found the term “homosexual” to be too clinical or critical. Currently, the term “gay” is used to refer to men attracted to people who identify as men, though it is also used colloquially as an umbrella term to include all LGBTQ+ people. (The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation considers the term “homosexual” to be offensive and recommends that journalists use the term “gay.”)

Gender dysphoria — A term that refers to the psychological condition of experiencing discomfort between one’s gender identity and biological sex. 

Gender expression — A term for the manner in which one chooses to express or show their gender identity. This can be through clothing choices, appearance, or mannerisms. The term assumes a spectrum of expression between more or less masculine/feminine activities and actions.

Gender identity — A term used to refer to an individual’s personal sense of identity as masculine or feminine, or some combination of each. The LGBTQ+ community and their allies (e.g., the Biden administration) consider gender to be a trait that exists along a continuum and is not inherently rooted in biology or physical expressions.

Genderfluid — A term used for people who prefer to be flexible about their gender identity. They may fluctuate between genders (a man one minute, a woman the next, a third sex later in the day) or express multiple gender identities at the same time.

Genderqueer — An umbrella term for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine‍. Sometimes referred to as non-binary, gender-expansive, pangender, polygender. (See also: Bigender, Trigender.)

Gynephilia — A term used to refer to sexual attraction to women or femininity that can be used as an alternative to a gender binary homosexual or heterosexual orientation.

Heteronormative — Popularized in the early 1990s in Queer Theory, the term refers to lifestyle norms that hold that people fall into distinct and complementary genders (man and woman) based on biology with natural roles in life that may or may not be socially constructed. Heternomativity presumes that heterosexual behavior is the norm for sexual practices and that sexual and marital relations are only fitting between a man and a woman. (The Christian worldview is “heteronormative.” The Bible clearly presents gender and heterosexual sex within the bounds of marriage as part of the goodness of God’s created order.)

Homophobia — A term to describe a range of negative actions (ranging from fear or discomfort to violence) toward LGBTQ individuals. There are similar terms for other groups within the LGBTQ community (i.e. biphobia and transphobia). The “phobia” language is key to the Sexual Revolution as it aids the psychological understanding of the self over that of biological realities since it attached moral stigma to those who do ascend to the tenets of expressive individualism.

Intergender — A term for people who have a gender identity in the middle between the binary genders of female and male, and may be a mix of both.

Intersectionality — A term from the work of Kimberle WIlliams Crenshaw which argues that various social identities (race, class, sexuality, gender, disability, etc.) overlap to create new intersecting identities of discrimination and disadvantage based largely on power dynamics (i.e. An African American woman is disadvantaged because she is a woman and because she is African American).

Intersex — Intersex is a general term for a variety of physical conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. The variations in sex characteristics may include chromosomes, gonads, or genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female. Intersex is a rare 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.)

Lesbian – The term most widely used in the English language to describe sexual and romantic attraction between people who identify as females. The word is derived from the name of the Greek island of Lesbos, home to Sappho (6th-century BC), a female poet that proclaimed her love for girls. The term “gay and lesbian” became more popular in 1970s as a way of acknowledging the two broad sexual-political communities that were part of the gay liberation movement.

LGBTQ+ — An initialism that collectively refers to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and Queer communities (the “+” refers to all the other categories included below which may be added to the initialism and represent non-heterosexual behavior or identity). In use since the 1990s, the term is an adaptation of the initialism LGB, which itself started replacing the phrase gay community beginning in the mid-to-late 1980s. The initialism has become mainstream as a self-designation and has been adopted by the majority of sexuality and gender identity-based community centers and media in the United States. Along with LGBTQ, other letters are sometimes added. Other variants include: An extra Q for “questioning”; “U” for “unsure”; “C” for  “curious”; an “I” for “intersex” another  “T” for  “transsexual” or  “transvestite”; another  “T”, “TS”, or “2” for “Two‐Spirit” persons; an “A” or “SA” for “straight allies”; or an “A” for “asexual”; “P” for “pansexual” or “polyamorous”; “H” for “HIV-affected”; and “O” for “other.”

Man/Woman — In LGBTQ+ parlance, terms that refer to a person’s chosen gender identity, regardless of biological characteristics.

Non-binary — See “genderqueer.”

Polyamory — A term which describes the act of existing in multiple consenting relationships at one time. This may include relationships such as a “throuple” in which three individuals are in a relationship together, or “open relationships” in which individuals have ongoing relationships apart from their primary partner.

Preferred Pronouns — A term for the pronouns that someone desires others to use when interacting with them. These may not coincide with their biological sex, and may be more expansive than just one set (i.e. A person may prefer to use “she/her pronouns” as well as “they/them”). Preferred pronouns can also shift over time and depending on circumstances.

Queer — An umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities that are not heterosexual, heteronormative, or gender-binary. The term is still controversial, even within the LGBTQ community, because it was once used as a homosexual slur until it was re-appropriated in the 1990s. The range of what “queer” includes varies, though in addition to referring to LGBT-identifying people, it can also encompass: pansexual, pomosexual, intersexual, genderqueer, asexual, and autosexual people, and even gender normative heterosexuals whose sexual orientations or activities place them outside the heterosexual-defined mainstream, e.g., BDSM practitioners, or polyamorous persons. (In academia, the term “queer” and its verbal use, “queering,” indicate the study of literature, academic fields, and other social and cultural areas from a non-heteronormative perspective.)

Sex — The term refers to the biological characteristics and realties of an individual as revealed in chromosomes and physical traits such as reproductive/sexual anatomy (e.g., male or female).  (See also: Intersex). 

Sexual Orientation — A term for the emotional, romantic, or sexual feelings one has to another person, often defined by the gender of the person attracted and the gender of the person to whom they are attracted. Though gender plays a part in sexual orientation, it is not the same as gender identity. 

SOGI — An initialism that refers to “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.” It is commonly used to refer to laws which would protect those identities from certain forms of discrimination under the law. 

Third gender — A concept in which individuals are categorized, either by themselves or by society, as neither man nor woman (though not necessarily intersex). Sometimes also called “third sex” or othergender. (See also: Queer.)

Transition — A term for the process a transgender individual goes through to fully identify with their gender identity. There are various levels which can include social practices such as changing clothes or choosing new names/pronouns, hormonal therapies to prevent puberty or using hormone replacement therapy to replicate puberty of the opposite gender (i.e. a biological female who takes testosterone and sees a change in physical characteristics such as facial hair or a deepening of the voice). It may also include radical surgeries to change reproductive organs to align with gender identity (i.e. removal of breasts for trans men). 

Transgenderism — 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 United States identify as transgender.

Trans man — A transgender person who was born a female but claims the gender identity of a man (i.e., a biological female who identifies as a man).

Transsexual — A narrower (and outdated) term used to refer to individuals who have undergone some form of medical intervention to transition to another gender, whether that is through hormonal therapies or sex reassignment surgery. 

Trans woman — A transgender person who was born a male but who claims the gender identity of a woman (i.e., a biological male who identifies as a woman).

Transvestite — 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 are transgender, but transvestites do not necessarily fall into either of the other categories.)

Trigender — A term for a non-binary (i.e., genderqueer) gender identity in which one shifts between or among the behaviors of three genders. These genders may include male, female, and third gender (e.g., genderless, non-gender, polygender, etc.).

Two-spirit – A term used by some Native American LGBT activists for people who possess qualities of both binary genders.

Ze – A gender-neutral pronoun used to replace he/she. (Sometimes spelled as Xe.)

A version of this article was originally published at The Gospel Coalition and has been updated to reflect current terminology used in the LGBTQ+ movement and wider culture.

By / Sep 6

I still remember the first time I heard a Christian question why it was bad for the government to change the legal definition of marriage. I was an associate pastor in Washington state, and in 2012 the state voted to allow legal same-sex marriage, three years before Obergefell legalized it nationwide. As people were discussing how they felt about changing a definition that had held firm for all of human history prior, a member of my church shared that she didn’t understand why most Christians were against the state changing the definition of marriage. She expressed that she did understand that Christians should personally be opposed to same-sex marriage given the Bible’s clear teaching on marriage, but she did not see any compelling reason that we should care about what the government allows or defines as marriage.

A decade later, there are many reasons we could clearly point to, ways that same-sex marriage has changed our culture. To name a few: legal battles for conscience protections for small businesses, many religious adoption agencies closing down as they were forced to change their firmly held religious beliefs or stop helping children, the cascade of gender dysphoria that is especially hitting our teens and young adults, and gender and sexuality options that are now being taught openly in our public schools, even to elementary students. But as clear as some of those reasons are for concern, as the Senate now moves toward repealing the 1996 “Defense of Marriage Act,” is there a theological reason that Christians should care about the definition of marriage in our broader culture? To put it another way, is there a “gospel reason” that Christians cannot support the legal definition change of marriage?

A theology of marriage 

Jesus was asked difficult theological questions about marriage by his disciples. While the issue his followers asked about in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 may have been directly about divorce, the answer Jesus gave continues to echo down to us today, answering questions about why Christians should care about the definition of marriage. Just in the first phrase of his reply, Jesus shows why marriage is only truly between a man and a woman: “He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female’” (Matt. 19:4) Jesus takes the disciples—and us—way back. He pulls them back to the Garden of Eden when humanity, and marriage, were first created. 

The Lord clearly lays out that God created Adam as a male and Eve as a female, which will become significant the deeper we dig into why God created humans and marriage the way that he did. Jesus also reminds us that God is the Creator, which means that he not only knows what is best for human flourishing, but also that we do not get to make up our own definition for institutions that God has created such as marriage. If we do so, it will have disastrous consequences as we try to “un-god” God, and “god” ourselves with the powers of creation. Because God created it, marriage was never ours to change.

Next, Jesus explains more about why marriage is deeper and more significant than we often give it credit for, by quoting Genesis again and then adding his own divine thoughts. He explains: “’Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ . . . So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:5-6). As Jesus explains the significance of marriage here, he gives us huge clues as to why same-sex marriage is not just a bad idea, but is not really marriage. When Jesus talks about marriage in terms of “man” and “wife,” he is not simply speaking to a different culture and time as if in the future, more progressive ideas could erase the way God originally created marriage. He brings the disciples back to creation to show them that the way we understand marriage must go back to when God first created it. Jesus shows us that there is profound significance in a husband and wife becoming “one flesh.” 

There is beauty, function, meaning, and even gospel pointers in marriage between a husband and wife. A man and woman in marriage are different and yet equal, separate and yet joined together as one. This cannot be done between a husband and husband or wife and wife. Not only do they not fit together in the same way physically, but in taking away the God-created differences between man and woman and replacing them with sameness, homosexual marriage also takes away the “one flesh” union that Jesus speaks of here. It is only in the differences of male and female (Matt. 19:4) that there can be the union of marriage (Matt. 19:5-6). Remember, Jesus started answering the disciples’ questions about marriage by asking, “Have you not read?” If Jesus were answering us today as we asked him about same-sex marriage, there is no doubt that he would say something along the lines of, “Have you not read?”, referring to either Genesis or the Gospels, and then, “What therefore God has not joined together, let not man join together.”

But I believe there is at least one more passage Jesus would bring us to with our same-sex marriage questions today. In Ephesians 5, we learn—astoundingly—that God’s design for marriage points to the gospel. As a common grace for both believers and unbelievers, God created marriage from the beginning of time to be something embedded in culture that would point to the love of Jesus for his bride. This is often hard for us to grasp because we don’t mirror this as clearly as we should. But in the union between a man and a wife, there is a pointer to the union of Jesus with his people. The marriage covenant points to the New Covenant. 

Near the end of the longest New Testament passage on marriage Paul explains, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:32) Every marriage between a man and a woman points in some way to Jesus and the gospel, for those who have eyes to see it, even if only in the fact that there is a deep union. The only question is, how clear and well-focused or how tarnished is that picture? But same-sex marriage does not create that picture of the gospel at all. God never intended it to, and it can’t, because it is in our very differences that we find union.

Conclusion

Given the cultural winds, the ideology that leads to the celebration of same-sex marriage and other gender identity issues will continue to gain ground in hearts and minds. But for Christians, while we love those involved in homosexuality as people made in the image of God, we cannot celebrate or endorse same-sex marriage, and we should encourage our legislators to do the same—for the good of families and our wider society.

Because God embedded marriage into culture as a quiet pointer to the covenant love of Jesus for his bride, Christians have more work to do in sharing our faith and discipling our kids and young believers. We have to now build a broader foundation, including the fact that God has clearly defined marriage and that it is not best for our societies or gospel witness when we tamper with it. Yet, in this context, while we have more urgent opportunities to disciple others in how God created marriage, Christian marriages can grow. We can repent of and grow in any ways that we have not pointed to Jesus in our marriages like we should. As confusion grows in what marriage actually is, Christians have an opportunity to shine brighter through living in their marriages as better representatives of Jesus—which starts in our homes and in our churches. While our broader culture becomes less clear about marriage, may we continue to proclaim that the covenant of marriage as God has designed points to the New Covenant of the gospel. And as the basic accepted definition of marriage changes, may we say with our joyful covenant-keeping what is being unsaid all around us.

By / Jun 29

Summer is upon us, and along with soaring temperatures and a break from school we have an increasingly prominent cultural focus: Pride Month. Rainbow flags, signs, and statements from mainstream media and corporations mark the month of June. This raises a lot of questions for Christian parents. One related question that I often get from parents is, “When should I talk to my child about sex?” My answer is, “Right now, in an age-appropriate way.” Yet, while parents are usually speaking of having “the talk” with their kids, we must also realize that we need to discuss sexuality in general with them. 

As Christian parents, we want our kids to be protected, maintaining their innocence and purity as long as possible. We want to shield them from as much of the hypersexualized society that we can, and this is a good thing. But we need to realize two things: 1) They are exposed to so much more than we realize; and 2) It is right and good for a child to understand from a young age and in an appropriate manner that God made us a certain way and that it glorifies God when we see his design for the good gift of sexuality.

In today’s society, not only has promiscuity been glorified and worshiped, but so have homosexuality and transgenderism. These things are hardly appropriate to discuss in detail with young children, but exposure to them is everywhere. For example, the recent kids movie about Buzz Lightyear features a brief same-sex kiss. And Doc McStuffins, typically watched by preschoolers, featured a same-sex couple in 2017. A quick internet search will find at least a dozen shows geared toward children that are pushing the LGBTQ agenda. 

Even if you don’t have a TV or allow your children any screen time, the gamut of LGBTQ+ issues are being promoted widely. You can hardly walk into a bookstore without seeing books featuring a gay or transgender lifestyle (especially geared toward children). Coffee shops abound with rainbow flags and pronoun preferences. Your local Target store likey has a Pride section prominently featured in the front of the store for the month of June. The retailer is even selling discretely marked chest binders which help flatten the chests of girls who feel they are transgender. I even saw a board book in the children’s book section titled “Bye Bye, Binary.”

I don’t say all of this to decry our culture. As my pastor husband says, I am a Christian, and I have a hard enough time living like one, so how in the world can I expect someone who’s not a Christian to act like they are? Nor do I share this in order to stoke fear in parents’ hearts. However, I do share all of this to let parents know that it is never too early to start talking to your children about gender and God’s design for sexuality. It is a difficult and often awkward subject, and it can be intimidating. So, how can we begin to address these important topics with our children? Here are four suggestions: 

1. Keep it simple and age appropriate

Use diaper changing time and bath time to simply remind your child that they are a boy or a girl because God made them that way. Use real names for body parts. Explain that we cover certain parts of our body because we want to be modest and honor God. This can all be done when a child is very young, even before they are talking.  

As they age, keep the conversation going. This is not a one-time conversation, but is simply part of ordinary, everyday interaction. If you know a couple that is getting married, be sure to differentiate between the bride and the groom. Talk about mommies and daddies. There is no need to mention the act of sex at a young age. Just simply acknowledging the differences between boys and girls is helpful. This is really simple and will entail matter-of-fact conversations. It actually requires more linguistic gymnastics to introduce some of the LGBTQ thoughts and ideas being pushed on children. 

When they get older and you talk to them about sex—which needs to be done at a younger age than you probably think because of society’s obsession with sexuality—don’t shy away from confidently and gently pointing out things that aren’t a part of God’s design. This includes homosexuality and things like sex outside of marriage.

2. Don’t be ruled by stereotypes 

It’s also important to talk through cultural stereotypes and point out that boys can like girl things and girls can like boy things. If a girl likes to play sports, doesn’t prefer dresses, and likes toy cars, it doesn’t mean she’s a boy trapped in a girl’s body. If a boy likes to cook, is artistic, and gently holds baby dolls, it doesn’t mean he’s a girl trapped in a boy’s body. It’s necessary to affirm a child’s maleness or femaleness regardless of their toy or activity preferences, or even their genuine struggles. God has made each person in his image, either male or female, and each one of us is unique. While there are certainly norms, and wisdom is required, people won’t fit neatly into “boyishness” or “girlishness.” 

However, it is absolutely essential that we understand that God has determined and set our biological sex from the womb (with the exception of a very small number of intersex persons, born with ambiguous genetalia)—and it is to be celebrated and cannot be changed. It is cruel to make someone believe that just because they don’t fit into a certain stereotype, they must be something different deep down inside and must take action. This creates and invites more confusion and emotional harm.

3. Remind your child (and yourself) that God has a sexual ethic that we all must follow

As a culture, and even within the church, we have taken God’s good gift of sex and warped it, using it for what we think is our own pleasure. However, it winds up causing pain, destruction, and death because we’re not keeping sex in the context for which God created it—within marriage between a man and a woman (Prov. 14:12; Gen. 2). When we reject that design, we are met with a whole host of difficulties including pornography, broken relationships, infidelity, a higher risk of poverty for children, sexually transmitted diseases, a lack of relational committment, and emotional destruction. In contrast, God’s design leads to our flourishing and is evidence of his goodness.  

Have ongoing conversations with your child about God’s design for sex, marriage, singleness, and relationships that are grounded in God’s Word. Romans 1:18-38 gives a vivid picture of humankind refusing to acknowledge God and giving him proper glory. Paul gives the specific example of homosexual relationships as man’s way of committing idolatry and worshiping God’s creation rather than God as Creator. While we must be clear that homosexuality and all things within the LGBTQ array of issues are certainly not the only sins, nor are they unforgivable, they are singled out in the Bible as evidence of idolatry. 

God’s sexual ethic goes for all of us, not simply people who struggle with same-sex attraction. As followers of Christ, we are all called to holiness, and this involves dying to our own sinful desires. So just as a heterosexual man cannot sleep with someone other than his wife (and may never marry, thus living a life of celibacy), a homosexual man also cannot sleep with anyone other than his wife (and also may never marry, living a life of celibacy). It is a call to self-sacrifice and obedience, no matter who a person is attracted to, believing that God’s way is better.

4. Speak the truth with love and conviction

When I was growing up, I learned at a fairly young age what the term “being gay” meant. I lived in a more progressive city in Florida. Though I saw gay flags in the windows of some stores and knew that my neighboring community had a “gay pride” parade (this was long before Pride Month was a thing), I didn’t really know anyone who was gay, at least not my age. Now, however, your child probably knows someone who claims to be gay or transgender. If they are not in school with them, they may have seen a little boy in a dress at the park. Perhaps this is something your child is even wrestling with themselves. When we can put names and faces on those who are caught in this struggle, we feel more compassion and remember that this is about people, not merely an issue. This should give us a sense of urgency to share the truth of the gospel that saves us from all of our sin and meets our deepest desires. We tell people the truth because we love them.

But we are living in a time that equates truth-telling with hate. Your children are told that in order to love someone who identifies as LGBTQ, you must embrace and celebrate that lifestyle. But, it is not loving at all to tell someone that it’s okay to go against God’s plan for sexuality. We know from God’s Word that our sin itself is what separates us from a holy God and only brings about death and destruction. We best love someone by telling them the truth. We must emphasize the love, forgiveness, and redemption of God, but that cannot truly be realized without a proper understanding of our sin. This is what makes the grace of God so amazing. So, keep telling your kids the truth. And pray for the grace to do it in love. 

The job of Christian parents seems as hard now as it has ever been. We are swimming upstream in a world that is determined to go in the opposite direction. And our children will not escape the current unscathed. But we can have confidence that in our weakness, God is strong. He has given us what we need for life and godliness in his Word, and he will give us wisdom to train up our children in the goodness of his ways. As we seek to have important conversations about sexuality with our kids, let’s ask God to give our children ears to hear, hearts to embrace the Savior, and lives that show how good his design is. 

By / Jun 10

In 1999, President Bill Clinton declared June to be “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month.” The official sanctioning of the month fell away during the years of George H. W. Bush’s presidency, but returned in 2009 when President Obama declared June LGBT Pride Month. Since then, the month has been celebrated by President Trump and President Biden. 

When even U.S. presidents are celebrating “pride” in the LGBT identity, it shouldn’t be surprising that the label is taken up as a badge of honor. That seems to be the message that young adults are receiving. For example, a poll taken by Gallup earlier this year finds that the percentage of U.S. adults who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or something other than heterosexual in 2021 has increased to a new high of 7.1%. That figure is a 21% increase since 2020, and double the percentage from 2012. 

Since Gallup began measuring LGBT identification in 2012, the percentage of traditionalists (those born before 1946), baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), and Generation X adults (born between 1965 and 1980) who identify as LGBT has held relatively steady. In contrast, the LGBT identification among millennials almost doubled, from 5.8% in 2012 to 10.5% in 2021. 

In 2017, the percentage of Gen Z who identified as LGBT was already twice that of any other generation—10.5%. But in the next five years, that number would nearly double, to 20.8%. This means that 1 in 5 Gen Z adults currently identifies as LGBT. As Gallup notes, “Should that trend within Gen Z continue, the proportion of U.S. adults in that generation who say they are LGBT will grow even higher once all members of the generation reach adulthood.” 

Most LGBT Americans identify as bisexual

The most common identification of LGBT among Americans is bisexual. More than half of LGBT Americans (57%) and 4.0% of all U.S. adults say they are bisexual. Overall, 15% of Gen Z adults say they are bisexual, as do 6% of millennials and slightly less than 2% of Gen X.

In comparison, 21% of those who identify as LGBT say they are gay, 14% say they are lesbian, 10% say they are transgender, and 4% identify as “something else.” Each of these categories accounts for less than 2% of U.S. adults. 

Women (6.0%) are much more likely than men (2.0%) to say they are bisexual, while men are more likely to identify as gay (2.5%) than as bisexual, and women are much more likely to identify as bisexual than as lesbian (1.9%). 

There has also been an explosion of transgenderism among Millenials and Gen Z adults. While only 0.1% of all Baby Boomers and 0.6% of all Gen Xers identify as transgender, 1% of all Millenials and 2.1% of all Gen Z adults embrace that gender identity. 

From “born this way” to hero status

A decade ago, the LGBT community was still claiming that sexual orientation was primarily genetic, and ​​that those inclined to same-sex behavior were—as one popular song claimed—“born this way.” But subsequent research “suggests genetics may have a limited contribution to sexual orientation.” What then can be driving the increase in identification?

While still a complex topic with no clear-cut explanation, it’s possible that such polls based on self-identification are being skewed by social-desirability bias. In social science research, social-desirability bias is a type of response bias in which respondents to surveys answer questions in a manner that will be viewed favorably by others. LGBT identification is a prime example of such favorable status. Young adults have lived their entire lives in an era when identifying as LGBT is considered progressive and laudatory. Answering that they are “bisexual” in an anoymous poll is a cost-free way to signal one’s own socially approved “virtue” while not actually having to change one’s sexual behavior. 

But even if this bias is skewing Gallup’s self-reported poll figures, the reality is that many young people believe that it is preferable to identify as LGBT than as heterosexual. This preference may be part of or encompass the motivation to emulate those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender since culture deems them worthy of our admiration.

The moral philosopher Linda Zagzebski says that admiration is an emotion toward someone who exhibits, upon reflection, a human power in a high degree of acquired excellence leading to the behavior of emulation, or imitation. Zagzebski proposes that our admired figures tend to fall into three categories: heroes, saints, and sages. Heroes exhibit strength and courage, in either physical or social acts. Saints exhibit self-denying love for God and others. Sages exhibit great wisdom and insight.

As applied to LGBT propaganda, young adults have been conditioned to see those in the LGBT movement as “heroes”—people who exhibit great courage in “living out their truth.” The reality, of course, is that it takes almost no courage for a young person to identify as LGBT in modern America, especially in urban areas or on college campuses. Indeed, as the promotion of Pride Month by corporations and the White House reveals, in many parts of our nation being LGBT is awarded a higher status than being heterosexual.

Millennial and Gen Z adults are given the impression that they are emulating heroic behavior that goes against cultural norms when the reality is they’re conforming to an identification that has become trendy and popular. 

How churches offer a truly “alternative” identity

The trend is likely to increase for the foreseeable future. As Gallup notes, “The proportion of U.S. adults who consider themselves to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender has grown at a faster pace over the past year than in prior years.” But the rate of increase is likely to plateau relatively soon. 

The reason for the rapid increase in LGBT identification—its trendiness and trappings of nonconformity—is likely to lead to its eventual decline. The culture will soon hit a tipping point where identifying as LGBT, and especially as bisexual, will be seen as an insincere pose to fit in rather than as an actual expression of a minority sexual orientation. Besides, the current trend cannot—mathematically speaking—last for much longer.

This trend—whether because of peer pressure or a genuine struggle with same-sex attraction— provides an opportunity for evangelical churches to reach young adults who are exhausted by the broader culture’s over-emphasis on sexual identity. Churches that hold to the biblical standard of sexuality will increasingly be the only area of culture where young people can hear the truth that their sexuality is not the most important aspect of their identity. 

Such churches will be able to provide a safe haven for those who sincerely wrestle with gender identity issues and for those who will feel increasingly coerced to identify as LGBT even when they are not interested in changing their gender idenity or pretending they have same-sex attractions. It is only in biblically faithful churches that Millenials and Gen Z adults will learn that truth that the identity they’ve been searching for—the most important thing about themselves and what they are at the deepest level—can only be found in being a disciple of Jesus, the one by whom all things were created and whose authority over us leads to our ultimate flourishing (Col. 1:16). 

By / Dec 15

A 2018 survey from the Barna Group and Impact 360 reveals that 33 percent of teenagers believe a person’s gender is determined by what the person feels like rather than their birth sex.1The Barna Group, Gen Z: The Culture, Beliefs and Motivations Shaping the Next Generation (Ventura, CA: Barna Group, 2018), 46–47. Although only 3 percent of the American population identifies as LGBTQ—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer—that number more than doubles to 7 percent among teenagers. Additionally, 30 percent of teenagers know someone who is transgender. My goal in this article is not to present a defense of historic Christian sexuality, but to help youth workers sensitively care for and minister to students in these confusing times.

The rules for engaging students in a modern age are essential: listen, clarify, and keep the gospel and a person’s identity as an image-bearer the main thing. This will help youth workers take a gracious posture that covers a multitude of missteps and will assure LGBTQ students that we are not their enemies. It’s also essential to remember their greatest need is the same as the greatest need of every student—to be reconciled with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Youth workers can trust the Word of God to do the work of God. The Bible has power to change people’s hearts through the words God inspired. But Scripture is not a weapon to wield against sinners who need the grace of God. Youth workers build their ministries upon the Scriptures to proclaim the life and peace and hope of the gospel. As you minister to LGBTQ students, pray for the Holy Spirit’s illuminating work to turn the unbeliever’s heart toward the truth.

Don’t make every conversation with LGBTQ students about their sexuality, which would only anchor them deeper into viewing their sexuality as the most important thing about them. A sole focus on changing students’ sexual orientation misses the bigger picture. The mission of youth ministry is not simply to make students’ lives conform to godliness, because legalism can do that too (at least, on the surface). Instead, gospel-centered youth ministry calls students to live in light of the grace of Jesus Christ, confessing and repenting of their sins daily as they strive to live their new life in Christ through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

When students identify as LGBTQ

A key question that comes up in youth ministry is whether or not someone can embrace a homosexual or transgendered lifestyle and still be a Christian. A Christian’s identity is first and foremost shaped by their relationship with God through Jesus Christ, so I am uncomfortable with combining any other adjective with the label Christian. When we do that, there is a subtle competition between the two identities. The Christian’s identity as a Christian should be the core identity that reshapes and refines every other identifier: gender, nationality, sexuality, cultural preferences, denominational affiliations, etc. These other identifiers may be valid and important, but they must be shaped by God and by the authority of Scripture rather than the other way around. 

The Bible does not permit homosexual activity, and it teaches us that a person’s sex and gender are assigned by our wise and loving God at birth. Christians who live with gender dysphoria or same-sex attraction embrace their identity in Christ as their primary identity rather than allowing their sexuality to be the most important thing about them. This is often a confusing and difficult road for them, and youth workers are called to ensure they don’t walk it alone.

The call of the gospel is an invitation to a new life through grace-fueled repentance. A new believer will not repent of every sin immediately; it is a lifelong sanctification journey that requires much grace (from God and from others!). But Christians do repent eventually. The Holy Spirit is at work in their hearts, persuading them of the goodness and truthfulness of God’s Word—even when it brings conviction of sin. Those who profess faith in Christ Jesus but never repent of sin show that, although they may be trying to gain the treasures of heaven, they don’t really want a new life as a child of God. The timeline for this repentance may take years because of the nature of sexual confusions and how ingrained these identities have become in our culture. Be generous and long suffering with students and LGBTQ friends. If a practicing homosexual or transgendered person professes to be a Christian and yet persists in rejecting the Bible’s teaching on sexuality, that person’s conversion remains questionable.

But rather than lobbing this warning as a grenade, offer concern that befits the gospel. It is not a cop-out to leave judgment in God’s hands. The Lord has not rushed into judgment, and neither should youth workers. So, when in doubt, err on the side of patience. At the same time, Christian leaders will be held accountable for holding fast to biblical teaching (James 3:1), and it is not loving or gracious to affirm a professing Christian’s sinful lifestyle, regardless of what that particular sin may be.

Excerpted from Lead Them to Jesus © 2021 by Mike McGarry. Used by permission of New Growth Press. May not be reproduced without prior written permission. To purchase this and other helpful resources, please visit newgrowthpress.com.

  • 1
    The Barna Group, Gen Z: The Culture, Beliefs and Motivations Shaping the Next Generation (Ventura, CA: Barna Group, 2018), 46–47.
By / Jun 11

A recent Gallup poll finds that support for same-sex marriage has reached an all-time high. Currently, 70% of Americans say marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages. The shift is primarily due to support by the younger generations: 84% of young adults, 72% of middle-aged adults, and 60% of older adults say they favor same-sex marriage. 

A majority of Republicans (55%) and more than two-thirds of Democrats (83%) support the legal change. Surprisingly, despite same-sex marriage being one of the most radically progressive political changes in human history, almost half of self-identified conservatives (48%) now endorse this redefinition of marriage.

The poll doesn’t list the breakdown by religion, but it’s clear that many Christians now believe they too should support same-sex marriage. Here are four reasons why we should uphold a traditional understanding of marriage. 

1. Marriage matters to God

“Have you not read that He Who made them in the first place made them man and woman?” said Jesus, “It says, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will live with his wife. The two will become one.’ So they are no longer two but one. Let no man divide what God has put together” (Matt. 19:4-6). 

Marriage was invented by God, not by man. We have neither the authority nor the ability to change what marriage is. The most that an individual or a government can do is misapply the term to relationships that are not actually marriages. Marriage requires the specific form of a union of man and woman (Gen. 2:24). Applying the term to same-sex unions, therefore, alters the very concept of what a marriage is for and what functions it takes.

Many people, including many Christians, think that objecting to same-sex marriage is imposing our moral beliefs on non-believers. In fact, the opposite is the case. It was advocates of same-sex marriage who imposed their view of sexuality on others by using the power of the state to enforce a criteria for marriage that is not rooted in the nature of marriage. In this way, they are similar to those who supported laws against interracial marriage. “Anti-miscegenation laws. . . were attempts to eradicate the legal status of real marriages by injecting a condition—sameness of race—that had no precedent in common law,” says philosopher Francis Beckwith. “For in the common law, a necessary condition for a legitimate marriage was male-female complementarity, a condition on which race has no bearing.” 

Christians should oppose any attempt to add conditions to marriage that change God’s standards.

2. Reality matters to God

When we say that a man can be married to a man or that a woman can be married to a woman, we are twisting the word “married” to mean what it cannot mean. If we use words in this way, we are making a claim about reality that we know is not true — and cannot be made true. In other words, we are endorsing a lie.

The Bible makes it clear that God detest lying or speaking untruths (Prov. 12:12). As Leviticus 19:11 says, “‘Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.” For us to use language that we know is deceitful and untrue about an institution created by God is harmful to our neighbors. Words matter to God, so they must matter to us.

3. Scripture matters to God 

As Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). From this and other passages, we derive the biblical doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture, that Scripture is sufficient in that it is the only inspired, inerrant, and therefore final authority for Christians for faith and godliness, with all other authorities being subservient to Scripture.

The Baptist theologian Matthew Barrett says that sufficiency has real and serious implications for the church today. “First, although Christians claim they believe in the sufficiency of Scripture, they often live like they don’t, prizing their experience instead of Scripture’s instruction,” adds Barrett. “In faith and practice, too many Christians nod at what the Bible says, but politely set it aside to live their life how they think or feel is best.” 

Unfortunately, this is all too common when it comes to political and policy views. For many Christians in America, their secular political views — especially a left-libertarian view of sexuality and individual “rights” — informs their policy positions more than does the Bible. But Scripture matters to God and so it should matter to us.

4. People matter to God

As Christians, we are called to love our gay and lesbian neighbors (John 14:34), which is why we must not and cannot support same-sex marriage. 

Christians believe that marriage is a lifelong institution designed by God for our good and the good of our society. We also believe that homosexual sexual activity is sinful. How then could we support two people entering into a lifelong commitment that encourages them to engage in sin (1 Cor. 6:9)?

For a Chrisitan to endorse same-sex marriage is the opposite of loving — it is truly hateful. You do not love your neighbor by encouraging them to engage in actions that invoke God’s wrath and oppose God’s good design for humanity (Psa. 5:4–5; Rom. 1:18). You cannot love your neighbor and encourage them to engage in activity that will lead them to hell.

While we may be required to accept the presence of ungodly behavior in our society, the moment we begin to endorse it we too become suppressors of the truth. We cannot love our neighbor and want to see them excluded from the kingdom of Christ (1 Cor. 6:9).