Episode 173 - "GENDER: A Conversation Guide For Parents and Pastors"

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This week, we're going to talk about gender and parenting and why every single parent, especially Christian parents, needs to understand that your children will be affected by transgenderism. Your children will be affected by how society is viewing the issue of gender.

I'm going to explain why that is, how that is, because on the face of it, you're probably thinking, "That seems like a pretty audacious claim. Really, every child, every person will be affected by transgenderism and new gender ideology?" Yes, I think that's true, or almost true, at least, for the vast majority of people. After that, we're going to quickly look through a book I've coauthored called Gender: A Conversation Guide for Parents and Pastors, and I'm going to give you the high-level summary of that so you know what it's about and hopefully benefit from the content, even on this podcast.

Now, why do I say that every child will be affected by this? Does that mean every child will struggle with gender identity? Does that mean every child with become transgender? No, not at all. Statistically, while the media presents it as some very popular sort of thing, transgenderism, or even gender dysphoria where someone has distress from identifying or thinking of themselves as a different gender, is statistically rare. It's a very small percent of the United States population, to say nothing of the population of the world where it's even lower.

If that's the case, then why do I say that this will affect every single person? Well, here's why. Because the issue of adopting the biblical concept of gender or society's idea where gender is simply something I decide, will confront every single child. It can become a wedge issue between the child, and Scripture. That's why this is a concern.

I had an opportunity several years back to show a five-minute video of a gentleman making a case for same-sex marriage. He was saying how same-sex relationships could be holy in God's eyes. I showed this video to a group of senior adults, and they were very turned off by it. None of them thought this was true or right or good.

I showed it to a group of late 20s, early 30s. Some of these were the children of the senior adults, and they were very quiet. No very visible reactions. You could see some people were probably considering, "Is this right? Is this wrong? I'm not sure." Some people were uncomfortable.

Then I showed the video to a group of high school seniors, and what was very interesting, some of these students were the grandchildren of the first group. When I finished showing the video, I asked them, "What do you think about this?" A lot of them said, "I agree with that," "Yeah," very confidently. No hesitation. What the first generation rejected and was very confident in their rejection of, the third group, two generations later, was embracing.

What we see from numerous accounts is that young people, or anyone for that matter, as they adopt society's sexual ethic, they end up rejecting either Christianity in total or parts of Christianity or parts of Scripture.

In other words, these cultural issues become a wedge between Scripture and the person. Our children will grow up in a society that rejects a biblical view of gender, and due to pressure to fit in or just due to what they are taught in school or from just culture at large, I think many of our children today will struggle with fidelity to Scripture and Christ over fidelity to society. It's a question of where does one's loyalty lie, and all of that to say, this becomes a wedge issue.

Now, there are many other wedge issues between people and Scripture. But going back to that video I talked about initially, it was made by a person named Matthew Vines, and he created a conference called The Reformation Conference. The goal is to normalize same-sex relationships in the church and to show that these can be holy and pleasing to God. At his conference, he has some sessions on how to persuade others, from Scripture, he says, of how same-sex relationships are actually God-honoring, but he makes an interesting concession. He says, "I don't know that anyone has ever actually been persuaded by arguments to come to our position and affirm same-sex relationships."

What has happened at every single point (as far as he was concerned) was that someone changed their mind because of a relationship, because a person who used to think same-sex relationships were sinful befriended or who had a family member who was engaged in the same-sex relationship, and they were forced to chose between that relationship (or so they thought) and what the Bible said, so they changed their view. It's a wedge issue.

Even the other side, if you want to think of this in terms of sides, acknowledges it's a wedge issue. You can't hold on to your understanding of Scripture as the church has understood it for 2,000 years, and adopt what society now affirms is true and good and moral with regards to sex and gender. Every parent needs to care about this issue, not because your child will likely grow up to be transgender. That's very unlikely.

Children may struggle with their gender identity, and the vast majority of those will work out of that. What society wants to do today is say, well, if you have a question about your gender, well, we should encourage you in this question, and we should even help you transition, and yet, science shows us, studies show us that the vast majority of children work through that and end up continuing to identify with their biological sex.

It's not bigotry to say that your sex and your gender is determined by your biology. That's just science, but every parent, every person needs to know what Scripture says and how to understand it and defend it, especially around gender and so many other topics.

Society is not hesitating to disciple our children. Many parents put off talking with their children about things that seem uncomfortable, but here's the thing. Top 40 radio is not hesitating to talk with our children about issues that we're uncomfortable with. Teen Vogue and Cosmo and MTV and VH1 and other things that I've probably never even heard of are not hesitating to talk with our children about things that make us blush or that we shy away from. We must be the ones not just to have the conversation but to lead the conversation. That's why it's incredibly important that we ourselves are equipped and that we're intentional with our children.

As Hunter and I show in the book, we shouldn't think of this as a one-time conversation. Isn't it interesting that when it comes to “The Talk,” that it's called “The Talk,” not “the Ongoing Conversation.” Probably because that's not as catchy, but it's talked about like it's this one thing that you build up to and you have it and you never talk about again, and with so many issues, issues of can we believe the resurrection, is Christianity reasonable, how do we understand gender, why did God create man and woman, distinct but complementary to have a union together? These are all things that should be an ongoing conversation, not a one-time-point-in-time conversation. There should be a dialogue that is going on and on and on forever when opportunities arise like when we see something in public. Instead of shielding our child's eyes when they see something at the store that they shouldn't see and never talking about it, we should use that as an opportunity to have a conversation, to make it obvious, one, what the Bible's view is, and two, to show them that we are not unaware.

I think there's this interesting tendency. As children grow up, they think their parents become more and more ignorant, and it can be very helpful for parents to show, "I know what is out there. I know what's going on. I know more about it than you do. I've been there on some of these things," and to show them what the Bible says, what God's good and pleasing design is in all realms of life, but especially on the ones that are likely to become a wedge issue between our children and their faith.

I hope I've somewhat convinced you that you need to take this issue seriously, that we can't let society have the conversations that we are not prepared or willing to have. We must engage in these conversations. The sad fact, I'll admit this with you, is that we often are having to have them sooner and sooner and sooner and sooner than we would want to, but if we're faced with the option of letting someone else teach our children these things, even through osmosis, or we teach our children, we should always choose to be the ones that lead the conversation.

A Quick Summary of the Book

With that being said, I want to give you a quick summary of what's in the book so you know what to look forward to if you get it. The book is divided into two main sections, and the first section is a conversation guide. In that section, that first section is divided into three foundational age ranges.

Foundation one is for preschooler or children up to about seven years old. These are rough ages. Then foundation two is roughly what we would think of as elementary school. Foundation three encompasses both middle and high school. You may be thinking, "Really? You're going to address middle school and high school together? Isn't that a really wide age range?" Yes, it is, except when you start hearing the things that middle schoolers are talking about and hearing and learning at school. There's not much different than what a high schooler's hearing and talking about and seeing online and their friends are discussing. Once again, we're having to have these conversations much earlier today.

Each chapter contains key points and conversation starters, and it's also equipped with key verses and age-specifics tips to help your children understand the Bible's view of them and of gender.

For instance, often we think this is a really complicated topic. There are transgender people, and there are transsexual people, and there are transvestites, and there are asexual people, and there are cisgendered people. This seems really complicated, and yet, what we realize, when we actually spend a little time looking at Scripture on this is some people have made it very complicated, but it's very simple.

Now, I don't want to take away from the difficulty of someone who struggles with gender dysphoria living out a biblical call to fidelity with how God has called them to live. I don't want to detract from the difficulty of that, but intellectually, understanding God's design is very simple. I don't think that should surprise us. God created everything. He created us. He designed us to work and live a certain way, and so it's reasonable to assume that He made that not difficult to understand.

The foundational point that we start with is that God is the good Creator. So many biblical doctrines go back to Genesis and find their foundation there, and so in Genesis 1-3, we see that God is the good and intentional Creator, that He made everything, and He is good, and He made His creation good.

But the next step we move to is seeing that God as a personal Creator. He's still intimately involved in creation and wants to be involved with us. Even young children can understand that God is a good Creator and that God made them and that God gave them His word. You see, right off the bat, even when a child is young, we are introducing the idea that God is good, God is personal, and God gave us His word. Scripture is really the central concern here. I tried to highlight that initially, that the concern with transgenderism today, especially for our children, is not necessarily that they would grow up to have gender dysphoria or identify as a different gender. It's that it would be a wedge issue between them and God's word.

We start very early on grounding our points in God's word and showing that it is the authority, and we are clay in its hands. It is not moldable in ours. Scripture stands over us and judges us and shows us the path we should walk on that is good and holy and pleasing to the Lord.

Also, early on, which might be controversial, we introduce what sin is. Sin is not following God's word. So God is good, God is personal, God gave us His word so we know what He's like and what He expects, and it's wrong when we don't do that. We need to introduce that concept early on.

Then we talk about who Jesus is and that at the heart of the Bible is the Savior Jesus, and no matter how many hurts people have or how many wrongs they've done, Jesus will forgive those who come to him. Now, there's much more in that initial foundational age range that we looked at, but that's kind of the general pattern. You might think, "Okay, well, what do you do for the next two foundations?"

Well, they build on that, but everyone needs those foundational truths. If you're a high school student, and you're starting with that high school student, they need those foundational truths. Can we add more meat to them? Can we make them more robust? Yes, we certainly can, but we can't say less than that. Actually, we can't make sense of anything more we would say if we don't start with who God is, that He created us in His image, He's intentional, personal, He's given us His word, and it's sin against Him, it's rebellion against Him when we don't follow that word.

The first part of the book is three foundational ages and conversation starters and dialogue helps and instruction for you as you talk with your children.

Then the second half of the book is like a toolbox. It's a reference as different issues and topics come up. We're going to talk about restrooms and how should Christians should consider thinking about restrooms. I think there are different ways to cache this out, but we're going to offer some thoughts there on what's important. We're going to talk about language and pronouns and does it matter how we speak about people and the world. We're going to talk about the risk that comes from not talking about this and what do we do when Christians disagree.

More than that, we're going to give you some objections and some sample responses. Since this is a book about the authority of Scripture and that we're concerned about it being a wedge issue with Scripture, we're going to talk about claims like the Bible is outdated or that God wants me to be happy, or God made me this way, or even that Christians are closed-minded. We've got several more potential objections in there and much more content than that.

It’s a very small book, it's about 80 pages. It's a quick read. It fits well in your hand. You can stick it in your pocket and take it with you. It's also inexpensive. I think it's about $4 in print and even less on Kindle. I hope you'll get the book. I hope you'll be blessed and encouraged and equipped by it to lead the conversation with the children in your life, whether that looks like grandchildren or children at a children's ministry at church or your neighbor's kids that you have some influence with. Society is not shying away from trying to disciple our children. Be equipped to lead the conversation.