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 / Apr 2

Earlier this week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (Rep.) signed a bill into law that bars instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through the third grade. This bill, which has been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents, has brought about intense national controversy. This is due, in large part, to the prominent role that sexuality and gender identity play in today’s cultural conversations, as well as the influence of the LGBTQ+ movement in all aspects of our society. Even as the bill was being debated in the Florida legislature, organizations and companies across the country rallied in support or opposition of the bill.

Acting ERLC President Brent Leatherwood, speaking about the bill, said, “For years, we have asked elected officials to prioritize the protection of children and to respect families in their policy-making. In general, this new law creates a framework for just that. Mothers and fathers absolutely should be the ones surfacing complex matters with their children for the first time, not someone outside the home.” But it seems that many in our culture believe that the state should encourage and teach these controversial and divisive subjects as early as possible, essentially stripping parents of their God-given responsibilities to raise their children to become wise, virtuous people.

Cultural pressure to conform 

Because of the organization’s ties to Florida, Disney CEO Bob Chapek came under incredible scrutiny and criticism for not being vocal enough in support of the LGBTQ+ movement by publicly denouncing this bill. Other Disney executives and lead creatives expressed outrage over the bill, claiming it would further marginalize and harm children across the state, with some even asserting that their mission as a company is to spread gender ideology and teachings to children through their creative work. A few days after the signing of the bill, some in prominent roles at Disney even went as far as to say that they are intentionally seeking to add more characters and narratives that will model these alternative lifestyles and promote the sexual revolution with its committment to complete moral autonomy.

Disney is one of the most influential companies in the world, especially as their work often captures the imagination of younger generations. The company is Florida’s largest employer, and through their streaming service, Disney+, they have a massive catalog of family content providing entertainment for millions around the world. For this reason, Christians need to be mindful of what they are saying and evaluate the messages being communicated through the lens of a biblical worldview — just as we should be doing with the products and services from other prominent companies. From plans to create more transgender characters to stories highlighting same-sex families, some in leadership at Disney are clearly seeking to form the moral imagination of our children in ways that are contrary to the biblical sexuality and marriage.

The worldviews communicated by this company and others like them have the potential to leave a lasting impression on children and families for a lifetime. And that should come as no surprise since the things that we are exposed to on a daily basis, whether social media, movies, or news, deeply shape how we view ourselves, our neighbors, and the world around us. Entertainment, much like technology, subtly yet radically alters our minds, including the things we find morally acceptable or objectionable. The things we are exposed to matter. This can be clearly seen in the normalization of same-sex relationships through the 90s which ulimately culminated in the consequential Obergefell v Hodges Supreme Court decision, and in the ongoing campaigns from the private and government sectors to normalize a transgender lifestyle.

How parents can respond

For parents or children’s ministers, this can be an especially difficult and overwhelming reality to grasp. How are we to navigate these cultural issues and the onslaught of the sexual revolution with our children? How can we be salt and light in our world without withdrawing from the culture in which we’re called to be witnesses? 

First, we must see that the controversies surrounding this bill — those related to sexuality and gender — often center on a longstanding cultural tension between the rights of parents and the role of other powerful social institutions including the state, corporations, and cultural movements. Do parents have a right to know what their children are being exposed to, and do they have a say in what their children are taught, especially if those things are contrary to their religious or cultural beliefs? While businesses are free to express their beliefs in their work, parents also have the right and responsibility to raise their children in line with their deeply held beliefs — which may mean that some parents decide on other forms of entertainment and education or at least recognize the realities at play in the midst of the sexual revolution. 

Parents rightfully see the importance of raising up this next generation, but we must do so with a biblical vision of how God created every person, including our kids, in his very image. Parenting is not just simply a right to be wielded, but a responsibility to be cherished. We have been entrusted with this responsibility to nurture and train up our children in a world of competing worldviews. There is no such thing as a neutral or truly secular space, whether it be in entertainment or the public square. Everything communicates some type of worldview and every person espouses some set of moral values and beliefs.

This means that we cannot sit idly by while our children are discipled by the state, society, or even by a corporation like Disney — each with its own distinct cultural and ethical values. The worldviews that your family are exposed to each day matter because the truths we are being taught will inevitably shape every aspect of our moral framework. We must take responsibility for and think intentionally about the things that we allow our children to be exposed to — not out of fear, but out of a desire to steward our families well and raise them with a keen sense of discernment (Romans 12:2).

Second, parents must be ready to equip their children to see the beauty and freedom of the Christian sexual ethic which is rooted in the very creation of man and woman as image-bearers of the almighty God (Gen. 1:27). The cultural stories we are being exposed to each day through our entertainment choices are often contrary to the scientific and biological realities of being created as a man and a woman. Contrary to the moral autonomy championed by many today, we simply do not have the ability to choose our gender nor do we have the authority to alter God’s good design for sexuality rooted in the marriage of a man and woman. This created order is central to the Christian sexual ethic and must be part of how a parent “train[s] up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6).

Another reality of this cultural revolution is that our children will have friends or classmates struggling with these issues. Christian cultural engagement is rooted in speaking truth in grace, modeling the fact that all people are inherently valuable as created in God’s image. This type of engagement will include seeking out ways to love our neighbors regardless of their beliefs and affirming their inherent dignity, even when we disagree with them. While this will look different for each family given their circumstances, we must remind our kids (and ourselves) that people are more than simply their sexual desires or how they feel about their gender identity. Our culture often promotes the lie that your sexuality defines your core identity as a person, but the Christian ethic reminds us our identities are actually tied to who God made each of us in his image. Our sexuality is rooted in how God made us and we do not have the authority to define our own realities. This truth is actually freeing since our dignity is not tied to what we do or how we feel, but who we are. Training our children to see the dignity and value of their classmates and friends, regardless of their personal beliefs, while also speaking truth in love is one of the greatest gifts we can pass on to this next generation.

As I recently wrote, Western culture is at an interesting crossroads today, representing an especially crucial moment for our kids and families. On one hand, our society champions complete moral autonomy under the guise of throwing off all moral boundaries and pursuing our own versions of realities at all costs. On the other hand, we all recognize that truth cannot actually be relative and that our moral choices have profound consequences for us and our society. We may seek to deny objective moral truths in the name of liberation and revolution, but these false notions of reality will not and cannot last.

Parents and churches must be ready to respond to the mores of the sexual revolution that will only leave precious image-bearers — especially our children — in its wake. The sexual revolution will not be able to deliver on its grand promises of liberation, and the Church must be ready to welcome those who have been deceived with open arms of dignity, respect, love, hope, and the truth of the gospel. So while there are some at corporations like Disney that seek to capture the hearts and minds of children through the stories they create, it is our responsibility to parent our children and raise them in light of a far better and truer story. Regardless of the lies they they are sold by the sexual revolution, our Creator has a better answer. And it’s through honoring him that we will find the joy and satisfaction that we’re made for.

By / Apr 1

On March 30, a Finnish court issued a unanimous ruling dismissing ‘hate speech’ charges against Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola. According to Alliance Defending Freedom, who represented Räsänen in this case, the court ruled “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts.” This case garnered international attention, especially from human rights advocates, due to the tenuous nature of expressing biblical views of sexuality in the public square and the nature of free speech in Europe. This ruling comes on the heels of larger ethical debates over overly broad and conflicting definitions of hate speech, the digital public square, and the freedom to express one’s religious views of human sexuality amidst growing social pressure.

Who is Päivi Räsänen?

Räsänen is a medical doctor, former Minister of the Interior (2011–2015), and current Member of Finnish Parliament (since 1995). She is married to a Lutheran pastor, Niilo, and together they have five children. She is an active member of the Finnish Lutheran Church and also chaired the Christian Democrats in Finland from 2004 to 2015. The party’s basic principles focus on their desire to see democracy built upon Christian values, including the dignity of all people and the rights that flow from that inherent dignity rooted in God’s creation of man and women as his image bearers. They explain, “Human dignity is based on a person’s being, not on their doing or abilities. It is priceless, regardless of gender, age, position, religion, origin of birth or other criteria.” From June 2011 to May 2015, she also held the office of the Minister of the Interior of Finland.

Räsänen has drawn significant controversy and the ire of many over her time as a member of the Finnish Parliament. On Oct. 29, 2010, Räsänen said that she would favor Christians over Muslims when selecting asylum seekers to Finland due, in her opinion, to Muslims’ “difficulties to adjust to the Finnish culture,” though she later clarified that she did not believe religion should be a top factor in immigration decisions. She is also a staunch pro-life advocate who has argued against the practice of abortion, contrasting abortion law to animal protection law saying that the latter gives better protection for animals than the former does to human fetuses.

What was this case about?

Charges of hate speech were brought against Räsänen in June 2021 following two years of investigations into her speech regarding several matters including the 2004 pamphlet, “As Man and Woman He Created Them: Homosexuality and the Challenge to the Christian Concept of Man”; comments during a 2-minute segment of a 2019 radio interview; and a tweet directed at the leadership of her church questioning their sponsorship of an LGBTQ+ pride event in 2009 and linking to an Instagram post with a picture of Romans 1:24-27.

Bishop Juhana Pohjola, who serves as the Dean of Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, also faced charges for publishing Räsänen’s pamphlet for his congregation over 17 years ago. The pamphlet was published and distributed before the enactment of Finland’s hate speech law, which claims to stand for freedom of expression but bans speech declared to be “threatening or defaming people or population groups.” Hate speech under this law is punishable by fine or imprisonment. Räsänen was faced with up to two years of imprisonment due to the multiple criminal charges brought against her by Finland’s Prosecutor General. It should be noted that Räsänen’s tweet and radio interview have been freely available throughout this trial since they did not break Twitter or the radio broadcaster’s policies on hate speech. 

In June 2021, a letter signed by 48 ecclesiastical leaders representing 45 Lutheran church bodies and associations across the globe condemned the ongoing criminal prosecution of MP Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola. On Jan. 24, 2022, five U.S. Senators also sent a letter to United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain highlighting this case and encouraging the ambassador to raise concerns to the Finnish government about religious freedom and free speech and to condemn these charges.

On March 30, the Helsinki District Court acquitted and dismissed charges against both Räsänen and Pohjola. The court ruled that even if the statements were controversial, ​​”there must be an overriding social reason for interfering with and restricting freedom of expression.” After the ruling, Räsänen said, “I am so grateful the court recognized the threat to free speech and ruled in our favour. I feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders after being acquitted. Although I am grateful for having had this chance to stand up for freedom of speech, I hope that this ruling will help prevent others from having to go through the same ordeal.”

What is hate speech?

Hate speech is notoriously difficult to define, especially on the international stage. It is often left undefined in legal terms because of the deep tension that exists between hate speech and free expression. The U.N.’s own plan of action on hate speech from May 2019 makes this clear by saying, “There is no international legal definition of hate speech, and the characterization of what is ‘hateful’ is controversial and disputed.” While the U.N. leaves hate speech undefined, it clearly desires robust protections against hate speech and calls it “a menace to democratic values, social stability and peace” that “must confront[ed] . . . at every turn.”

Similarly, in the United States, there is no legal definition of hate speech in U.S. law as the Supreme Court has routinely affirmed that hate speech is protected by the First Amendment. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) states, “‘hate speech’ is protected by the First Amendment and cannot lawfully be censored, punished, or unduly burdened by the government — including public colleges and universities.” Expanding on notions of hate speech, the American Library Association explains that “under current First Amendment jurisprudence, hate speech can only be criminalized when it directly incites imminent criminal activity or consists of specific threats of violence targeted against a person or group” (emphasis mine).

Why does this matter to Christians?

While freedom of speech and religious freedom is central to the American experiment and should be championed around the world, this case is a good reminder that these freedoms are not rooted in the constitutional order or even in international law. These rights flow from the inherent dignity that all people, across all time and cultures, have as created in the imago Dei. It is important to remember that we do not have a right to be protected from controversial ideas in the public square, nor do we have the right to dictate to others what they must believe or practice in a free society. 

Building off of the legal boundaries of free speech and the limited scope of what constitutes hate speech, societies around the world need to cultivate and recover a robust, healthy dialogue surrounding these contentious issues. The best way to do that is to champion free expression and religious freedom for all, not just those with whom we agree or like. Free expression does not mean that we all must agree on these particular issues, but it does mean that everyone is able to speak their opinion freely and without fear of being cut off by those in power — whether in government or by technology companies who increasingly have authority over the digital public square.

Regardless of what one believes about Räsänen’s speech or beliefs surrounding human sexuality and gender issues, we should all be able to agree that these broadly defined hate speech policies are dangerous to free expression and our public discourse around the world. These issues will not simply pass away because God’s design for human sexuality is central to the life of the church and society. Our societies need more, not less, dialogue and engagement on these contentious issues. 

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 / Sep 21

In last few weeks, there have been a number of developments concerning the availability of pornography on social media. OnlyFans, a social media service that caters to those in the sex industry and profits off the promotion of pornographic material, initially announced that it would bar sexually explicit videos beginning in October. This caused a massive conversation about the morality of pornography in the digital public square. Bloomberg reported that the service has attracted over 130 million users and experienced rapid growth during the COVID-19 pandemic, similar to the boom that Pornhub saw during the initial lockdowns in 2020. News of this move was received by many as a blow to the pornography industry — including to those who earn a living off on the platform selling access to their pornographic material.

OnlyFans originally stated that this decision was due to a strategic shift in focus to a broader platform for various artists and creators, as well as pressures from investors and payment processors who saw financing or facilitating pornography as a potential liability and deleterious to their own public image. However, OnlyFans cancelled their plans to ban sexually explicit content just a week later because of the massive public outcry, especially on social media. The company announced on Twitter that it “stands for inclusion and we will continue to provide a home for all creators.” 

This entire episode brought to light an ongoing debate in digital governance and public policy over the ubiquity of pornography online and how society should go about navigating questions of vice, free speech, and public morality.

Recognizing the moral component

Reflecting on the OnlyFans decision to reverse their proposed ban on sexually explicit material, Felix Salmon at Axios writes that many technology companies are beginning to act like a fourth branch of government given their immense power and control over our public discourse. He argues that many of these content policies end up going much further than the law actually requires in terms of the availability and distribution of pornography online. The argument goes that if the government doesn’t ban it, neither should these companies.

He highlights how these bans on explicit content, such as porn, are often driven by moralistic underpinnings based on the fact that pornography is legal, yet is “shunned by most of the business establishment.” He goes on to contend that these decisions — often based on the fact that payment processors and banks tend to shy away from financing pornography websites, especially due to the illegality of some material and the rise of sex trafficking — are contributing to a lack of U.S. alternatives to the current mainstream pornography sites, which are often based in other countries including the London-based OnlyFans. 

He also mentions some of the controversial moves by eBay and Tumblr. Each company implemented strict policies against pornography. These policies seem to fly in the face of the celebrated progress of the sexual revolution toward the mainstreaming of expressive individualism, LGBTQ+ rights, and the ridding of what are seen as outdated views of marriage and sexuality from our public conscience.

The inescapability of legislating morality

While there is much more to be said about these types of decisions, including the wisdom of banning pornography and objectionable content online, there is irony in how those in our secular age think about issues of governing and morality. Some will celebrate the technology industry making moral judgments in certain arenas, including the celebration of LGBTQ inclusion or the ever-expanding definition of hate speech that tends to describe historic Christian teaching on sexuality as unacceptable for public debate. Yet, these same groups will chastise the industry for making other policies on moral grounds, including decisions to limit or ban pornography on social media platforms. Concerning the latter, they argue that these technology companies — and the business industry itself — need to shed these outdated and moralistic attitudes since we shouldn’t be legislating or designing content policies on moral grounds. 

It is increasingly common in our society to think that we shouldn’t legislate morality, but this misses out on the fact that all laws and even digital governance policies are making inherently moral statements about what is to be promoted or celebrated in our society. They each put forth a version of the good life, which is a central facet of ethics and morality. While pornography is currently legal in the eyes of the state and an extremely lucrative business, companies that disallow pornography may be acknowledging, without even knowing it, how dehumanizing this industry is for all involved and how it tears down society. Either by giving into the public pressures to keep this material off their platforms or recognizing the ways in which being associated with this material will reflect on their brands, decisions to preclude this material from their platforms are ultimately serving a higher good in our society. 

In the digital age where technology companies hold such immense power over our public discourse, each of their content moderation policies are casting a vision for the good for our society, and it is incumbent on all of us to be involved in these debates. These companies have every right to ban or suppress pornography on their platforms, which, should be noted, is not an easy decision in light of the financial incentives and public pressure. But our society is better off because decisions like these protect the vulnerable and innocent among us and uphold public virtue and the centrality of the family.

The OnlyFans situation and continued debate over moralistic attitudes in our public discourse is yet another reminder of the moral incongruence of expressive individualism and how much of our modern public ethic based in the pursuit of vice is simply untenable. When you build public morality off of carnal desire rather than transcendent principles, you will be left with a system that is not only unable to stand under its own weight but also one that will not produce the type of virtue desired for society. While there may be legitimate debate within the Christian community over the wisdom of government bans, private companies choosing to exclude pornographic content from their platforms is a clear win for public morality and the common good.

Learn more about ERLC’s work in the digital public square and sign up to receive articles like this at ERLC.com/digital

By / Aug 11

Sandra grew up in a Christian home. She was a good girl in church — read the Bible, prayed, did her quiet time. She was homeschooled by solid parents. She never snuck out or did anything crazy. She’d never even been to a high school prom. On the outside, it looked like Sandra had a sheltered and safe Christian childhood, but on the inside, there was a lot more going on.

During her freshman year of college, Sandra met June, a girl who quickly became her best friend. They spent hours each day together, and, over time, their worlds began to revolve around each other. Their emotional closeness became codependent and inappropriately physical. One day it happened, and they freaked out. They cried and prayed and asked God to help nothing like that happen again. But it did. And Sandra and June never told anyone. They even promised one another they’d never tell their future husbands.

A kid like Sandra should feel safe confessing her sins to Christian parents and her church community. But there’s understandable shame for a kid confessing same-sex attraction or transgender feelings, especially if that child has grown up around coarse gay jokes or politically charged opinions about the LGBTQ movement. It’s understandable for a kid who grows up in that context to fear losing friendships if they allow their struggles to become public knowledge.

What can a parent or a church leader do in the face of such shame? What does it look like to show love and compassion for a child who experiences the discord of gender confusion or same-sex attraction?

First, cultivate empathy. If we’re honest, we know kids’ fears about confessing disordered desires are not unfounded. Many parents don’t react well. Some parents’ first instincts are to run from the situation and ignore it. Some become overwhelmed emotionally and get angry, whether with God or with their child: “How can this be happening? You were raised better than this!” These kinds of responses only create more distance between parents and their children. Like the Pharisees, many Christian communities sometimes teach true doctrine all the while judging and marginalizing those who publicly confess sin that makes us particularly uncomfortable or is socially unacceptable (Luke 18:9–14). We must remember that those who experience gender confusion or same-sex attraction are not unique in battling brokenness or sinful desires. Cooper Pinson asks:

Can you relate to a student who wants to follow Christ, but finds strong, competing, sinful tendencies within himself that moves him in destructive directions?1Cooper Pinson, Helping Students with Same-Sex Attraction: Guidance for Parents and Youth Leaders, (Greensboro: New Growth, 2017), 8.

If so, you’re more like your child than you may have originally thought. When we acknowledge what we have in common and move toward kids who struggle rather than away from them, we reflect the kind of love with which Jesus loved us (1 John 4:19).

Second, acknowledge the courage it took to be honest.2Adapted from Tim Geiger, Your Child Says, “I’m Gay, (Greensboro: New Growth, 2013), 8–9. Even if your child’s confession is hard to hear, thank them for being honest enough to tell you the truth. Acknowledge how hard it must have been for your child to speak this secret and get it out in the open. Thank them for trusting you, reaffirm your love for them, and assure them that your relationship will not end because of this confession. Affirming your love for your child and expressing gratitude for their truthfulness will help you cultivate an ongoing relationship that is built on authenticity.

Third, listen before you speak or act. If your child begins the conversation, respect their initiative by allowing the dialogue to be about what you can learn from them and not what you feel they need to hear from you. When seeking to understand, the most important thing is to ask comfortable open-ended questions.3Brian Hambrick, “Talking to My Boys after the Transgender Talk at Their Public School” (May 16, 2016), accessed online at http://bradhambrick.com/talking-to-my-boys-after-the-transgender-talk-at-their-public-school/. If your child says, “I’m gay,” “lesbian,” or “I want to transition,” for instance, it’s important to understand what they mean by that. Ask your child how they came to this understanding, how long they have been considering this, how certain they feel it is true, and why. Ask whether or not your child is content with this expressed identity, or if this is something they don’t want. Don’t assume your child or their friends understand these terms in the same way you do. 

It may be that your child is confessing a sinful experiment with a new gender identity or same-sex sexual intimacy in the same way a cheating husband who wants to turn away from unfaithfulness confesses, “I’m an adulterer.” When a Christian owns his or her identity as a sinner in this way, it should never be discouraged (1 Tim. 1:15). Your child is most likely describing an ongoing battle in which they feel oppressed and helpless. As Tim Geiger observes, “He might really be saying, ‘I’ve been struggling with these feelings for years, and the only reasonable conclusion I can draw is that I must be gay.’”4Geiger, Your Child Says, “I’m Gay,21.

Fourth, acknowledge your child’s suffering. Kids who struggle with gender confusion or same-sex attraction may have heard many times from the church that homosexuality is wrong. But rarely have we acknowledged their unique form of suffering and intense temptations. Students who experience same-sex attraction “often contend with intense loneliness, confusion, fear, and even despair as they wrestle with something that seems as if it’s an essential part of who they are.”5Pinson, Helping Students with Same-Sex Attraction, 14. The same is true for kids who experience gender dysphoria.

Having disordered desires, whether these desires consist in same-sex sexual lust or gender confusion, is not the same thing as giving in to these sinful desires, that is, dwelling on those desires and acting upon them. Both are sinful, but the kind of repentance required and the kind of change we can expect is different. We must turn from all sinful behavior. But where we can repent and refrain from sinful actions related to sexual temptation, disordered desires — while they should be resisted, confessed, and put to death — may nevertheless remain throughout our lives. Sharing your own struggles — how you may not always feel at home or comfortable in your own body, or, as appropriate, your own ongoing battles with lust and temptation — will demonstrate that brokenness and sexual sin is not unique to your child.

Fifth, pray for your child. We can educate our children as much as we want, have conversations, and teach them the biblical point of view. But in the end, their hearts must be in submission to God or these words will fall on deaf ears. A child’s repentance ultimately depends on the Holy Spirit’s work in their heart and not on a parent’s actions. Some things only come out by prayer (Mark 9:29). So, as parents, we must appeal to God to act on behalf of our children. 

The parents of Sandra or June may be in for a long journey. Sometimes it seems that we do and say all the right things, but our hearts break because our children continue to choose the wrong path. In these times, one of the best ways to care for our children is to advocate for them while on our knees.

Finally, gently communicate what it looks like to follow Jesus. By adopting an empathetic posture and listening carefully, you set the stage for speaking redemptive truth. If your child is determined to pursue an intimate same-gender, sexual relationship or transition their gender, there may be no way of avoiding defensiveness on their part. Remember that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Your child needs kindness too. It’s doubtful that arguments will convince your child their perspective is wrong. But if they are open to dialogue, share sensitively a biblical and compassionate perspective on suffering with sexual brokenness. We can encourage a child who experiences besetting and persistent trials with the truth that all Christians are called to suffer. As Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it” (Matt. 16:24–25).

Following Christ while enduring gender dysphoria or same-sex attraction will involve taking up crosses. It will mean rejecting impulses that run counter to God’s created design. It may mean that your child remains single and celibate into adulthood or resists temptation while their psychological distress increases. You should never gloss over or minimize these hard realities, but you can remind your children that they have a high priest who can sympathize with them in their weaknesses (Heb. 4:15). As Andrew Walker observes, “No one ever experienced greater dysphoria than the perfect Son of God being treated as a sinner.”6Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 89. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24).

As you encourage your child to persevere, keep in mind that this most likely will be a long journey. Change is slow. A girl like Sandra, whose story I told above, may gain confidence to confess her sins and grow both to live a life in obedience to the Bible’s commands and even to disciple others who experience same-sex attraction. But that same girl may still struggle to discern whether or not missing one of her girlfriends who is out of town is just a normal part of friendship or evidence that she’s still battling a sinful pull toward codependence. As Chris Torchia writes:

We all appreciate the success stories of someone coming to Christ and experiencing complete freedom from ingrained sin patterns, but God doesn’t always work that way. A more accurate picture of repentance is a gradual process of turning away from sin and turning to God more and more, usually with many bumps along the way.Chris Torchia, “Coming Out as Gay or Transgender: Five things parents must do—part 4,” The Student Outreach, (Sept. 21, 2017), accessed online at http://thestudentoutreach.org/2017/09/21/coming-gay-transgender-five-things-parents-must-part-4/.

Parents, you should find the kind of support network that will stick with you through the long haul. Don’t hide your weakness from your Christian friends. And don’t be afraid to reach out for help from your pastors and biblical counselors like those at Harvest USA (www.harvestusa.org).

We can be confident that Christ is ready, willing, and waiting to meet us even where brokenness seems profound and irreparable. We can persevere with faith, knowing that we share in Christ’s sufferings so we may also share in his glory (Rom. 8:17). For those who do not shrink back, God has prepared a great reward. We do not belong to those who shrink back to destruction but to those who persevere and are saved (Heb. 10:36-39).

This article was adapted from A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Your Children About Gender: Helping Kids Navigate a Confusing Culture.

  • 1
    Cooper Pinson, Helping Students with Same-Sex Attraction: Guidance for Parents and Youth Leaders, (Greensboro: New Growth, 2017), 8.
  • 2
    Adapted from Tim Geiger, Your Child Says, “I’m Gay, (Greensboro: New Growth, 2013), 8–9.
  • 3
    Brian Hambrick, “Talking to My Boys after the Transgender Talk at Their Public School” (May 16, 2016), accessed online at http://bradhambrick.com/talking-to-my-boys-after-the-transgender-talk-at-their-public-school/.
  • 4
    Geiger, Your Child Says, “I’m Gay,21.
  • 5
    Pinson, Helping Students with Same-Sex Attraction, 14.
  • 6
    Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 89.
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).

By / Jun 4

President Joe Biden recently issued an official proclamation declaring June 2021 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month. “I call upon the people of the United States to recognize the achievements of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Biden, “to celebrate the great diversity of the American people, and to wave their flags of pride high.”

The sexual identities “Pride Month” intends to celebrate run contrary to the pattern of God’s design for human sexuality as expressed in Scripture and revealed through nature. According to article 28 of the Baptist Faith & Message, marriage — which is defined as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime” — is the sole biblical “framework for intimate companionship” and “channel of sexual expression.” As witnessed by President Biden’s proclamation, in recent decades the LGBTQ movement has gained wide acceptance in our culture.

Here is what you should know about LGBTQ Pride Month. 

What is Pride Month?

In the United States, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month occurs in the month of June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots. The Stonewall riots, which occurred in New York City from June 28 to July 3, 1969, helped launch the social and political movement known as “gay liberation.” 

The Stonewall Inn, located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, was a tavern operated by the Genovese crime family. The bar lacked a liquor license and violated many of the city’s health and safety codes (it didn’t have running water and the toilets frequently overflowed), which made it the frequent target of law enforcement. The mafia owners reportedly paid almost $9,000 a month (in 2021 dollars) in bribes to the local police, yet were still raided about once a month. 

At 1:20 a.m. on June 28, six police officers attempted to close the bar. About 200 patrons resisted, and a crowd of 500 gathered outside. When the crowd became violent, the police officers barricaded themselves inside the establishment. Rioters threw rocks and bricks and attempted to burn down the building to kill the police inside. A SWAT team quelled that disturbance, but two days later an even more violent riot broke out as thousands of protesters clashed with police. (Despite the violence and attempted murder against police, President Obama made the Stonewall Inn a national monument in 2016, and the NYPD police commissioner issued an apology on behalf of the police force in 2019.)

A year later, gay activists in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles organized marches to honor the riots and promote “gay liberation.” The next year, Gay Pride marches took place in Boston, Dallas, Milwaukee, London, Paris, West Berlin, and Stockholm. By 1972 the marches were occurring in more than a dozen cities across the U.S. Since then, they have become ubiquitous in the U.S. and in other Western countries. 

Why is the rainbow flag associated with LGBT Pride?

The rainbow LGBT flag was a creation of Gilbert Baker, a designer and gay rights activist, who created the flag in 1978 as a new symbol for the gay libertarion movement. The original flag had eight colors, each of which had a representative meaning. “Pink is for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun,” said Baker. “Green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for serenity, and purple for the spirit. I like to think of those elements as in every person, everyone shares that.” Most of the flags today have only six colors, with the pink and turquoise removed.

Christians recognize the rainbow as the sign of God’s covenant with Noah. Where the LGBTQ movement has appropriated the sign of the rainbow as a symbol of affirmation or pride, the Bible reveals that the rainbow is meant to be a sign of deliverance from judgement. As Erik Raymond has written: “The God of the Bible owns the distinct honor, as he has long used the rainbow to illustrate his loving demonstration of mercy instead of judgment! God the loving Creator was angered by humanity’s rebellion against his will & so therefore justly demonstrated his judgment upon their sin. In Genesis 6 the Scriptures teach that instead of giving mankind what they deserve for their rebellion, he chose to save some from destruction. The mercy & faithfulness of God was demonstrated by the beautiful rainbow that filled the sky.”

Is Pride Month an official U.S. commemoration?

Three presidents have issued official proclamations commemorating Pride Month: Bill Clinton in 1999 and 2000; Barack Obama from 2009 to 2016; and Joe Biden in 2021. Donald Trump became the first Republican president to acknowledge Pride Month in 2019, though he did not issue an official proclamation.

A related commemoration occurs in October, with LGBT History Month. In 1995, a resolution passed by the General Assembly of the National Education Association included LGBT History Month within a list of commemorative months. 

Why has LGBT Pride become embraced by corporations?

During the month of June, it’s nearly impossible to find a large American corporation that is not engaged in promoting Pride Month. There is disagreement about whether the promotional activities are merely attempting to appeal to consumers or if something more nefarious is behind the marketing.

The practice is sometimes criticized as “pinkwashing,” a term used to describe the action of using gay-related issues in positive ways in order to distract attention from negative actions by an organization, country, or government. Regardless, Pride Month has become a massive cultural phenomenon that is impossible to ignore. And those who refuse to acknowledge or affirm LGBTQ causes will likely face even greater social pressure to do so in the years ahead. As Joe Carter has written: “Today, the American people fly a rainbow flag, wear an ‘ally’ pin, or change their social media avatars to show they observe LGBT Pride Month. In doing so, they show they’ve bent the knee to the LGBT cause and will not incur their wrath that will be poured out those who are not ‘affirming.’”

What is the purpose of LGBT Pride Month?

From its inception, the LGBT Pride movement has been about “sexual liberation.” As the prominent LGBT magazine The Advocate wrote in 2018, 

From its roots, Pride was a political act. And so is having the kind of sex we want to have with who we want to have it. That was a rebellion against the institution of monogamy and ideas about women as property. . . . Pride is the antidote to efforts to control and limit sex — which politicians are still trying to do.

For decades, Pride events have been frequently criticized (even by some LGBT activists) for overt displays of sexuality and championing of causal promiscuity. But as Alex Abad-Santos of Vox writes, that’s part of the point of Pride. “Queer history is often about resistance to norms and embracing radical existence,” he writes, “so engaging in respectability politics—the idea that marginalized groups need to behave or act in a certain way to validate the compassion shown toward them—flies in the face of those goals.”

For these reasons, it is all the more important for Christians to prepare their hearts and minds to stand against the tide of the LGBTQ movement. Christians must model Christlikeness as we bear witness to the truth of the gospel and about the beauty of God’s design for humanity. And we must do so without anger or fear, but with love, charity, and grace.

By / Jun 4

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, a Christian response to Pride Month, a major leadership change in Israel, and recent news involving the ERLC. They also cover new ERLC content including a critical abortion case headed to the Supreme Court, questions about content moderation on social media, and one city’s approach to combatting abortion through local ordinances.

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. 100 Years since the Tulsa Race Massacre. Churches are leading on racial unity.
  2. June is “Pride” Month. How should Christians think about that?
  3. A major shake-up in Israel’s national leadership. What’s that mean for the Biden Administration?
  4. A leaked letter from Russell Moore sparks conversations within the SBC about race and sexual abuse.

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