Episode 57 - Tolerance and Target, Bathrooms and Boycotts

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Today, we talk about tolerance, Target, bathrooms, and boycotts on.

If you've watched the news, read the paper, been on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, you can not have missed the fact that bathrooms have become a topic of conversation. Whether it's the Religious Liberty Bill that was passed in North Carolina or Target saying that its bathrooms can be used by people of either gender, either sex, this story and idea is everywhere. Our culture is talking about it, and so the question is: How, as Christians, should we respond from a consistent biblical worldview? Well, that's what we're going to talk about today.

I want to talk about three things. I want to talk about bathrooms and the specific concerns surrounding them (I never thought I would say that statement.) I also want to talk about tolerance in general, and boycotts in general, and specifically with Target.

What's the deal with different bathrooms?

So, bathrooms. What's the deal with different bathrooms? Why have we had, historically, a bathroom for men and a bathroom for women? Well, in a very real way, it comes down to biology. It comes down to men having certain parts that women do not have, and so those are enough of a distinction that we appropriately discriminate between men and women in saying which room they go into to relieve themselves. The anatomy of a man is such that it makes sense for them to be together, both from a privacy standpoint, also from a mechanic standpoint -- the type of toilet is different -- and also from a safety consideration.

All three of these things lead to us discriminating (and by that, I mean treating different things differently) between men and women. This is historically why marriage was a one man, one woman type of affair (and by affair, I don't mean affair.) It's because, for the purpose of that union, it made sense for it to be one man and one woman, because that union produces children. That's the only reason government has been involved, historically, in privileging the union. Childbearing and raising (providing for the next generation) is important and is the function of a man and a woman.

(Back to bathrooms.) Like I said, there's an anatomy component, a different type of facility, component, but the one that's most important from a public safety concern is that there are people out there who are sexual predators. There are men who would just love the opportunity to not have someone look at them twice when they go into the women's bathroom, and you might say, "No, no one's like that." Well, there are documented stories of this being the case.

In fact, in Toronto, just this week, [it was announced that a certain college is reducing the number of gender-neutral restrooms] after men had been videotaping women in the shower. Why are they even allowed in the same room? Why does no one look twice? Well, because it's a gender-neutral bathroom, and in the name of progress, we have sacrificed privacy and safety. Now, you might say, "Oh, people here aren't going to abuse this."

Well, consider, if you will, just this last week, in Tallahassee, I've seen reports on my Facebook feed of young women, young teenage girls, being harassed or stalked at gas stations in the public areas. The men have just sat there and creepily watched them and observed (no gas-pumping), and in response to this, other people have commented that their daughters have had their butts grabbed in public places, and the list goes on, and this is in public, in open stores.

I wonder, for men who act this way in public, what might they do behind closed doors? Behind a closed stall door? I think it's much more likely to be more than just looking, and that's the concern.

The concern is not, as the media has sometimes tried to portray, that it is the transgender person who is going to molest someone else. No, that's not the concern. The concern is that when we take down the social barrier to which room someone goes into, now you can't question the man who's maybe a sexual predator going into the women's restroom. And that is a big deal, because there's more sexual perversion today that is more commonly accepted than it seems like there has been in the past. That's just anecdotal. I don't have data on that, but it certainly seems to be less inhibited than in the past. That's one reason why we should not be in favor of just being able to use whatever restroom wants, unless it's a single occupancy restroom, then it doesn't matter. It's a safety concern.

I look forward to having a child one day, and if I have a young daughter, she's not going in the bathroom by herself if a man's going in there. I'm either going, or he's waiting outside, or something. We're going to sort that out or maybe we'll just use it at home, but there is a legitimate safety concern for women and children that should not just be discarded in the name of social progress, or more accurately, catering to an extremely small percentage of the American population, which are those who are transgender. That is a very small group. We do not make public policy that can put millions and millions and millions of people in harm's way for small groups of people. That doesn't mean they don't have rights, but it means we have to balance them, and the public safety concern should be paramount here.

Additionally, as Christians, it should bother us that people are denying the objective reality of how their creator has made them. Now, this is one reason to oppose the law, but this is another reason to speak about this type of issue, because the further our society goes down this direction, the more and more difficult it will be to talk to them about the fact that they were designed by Someone, and the way they're living is in rebellion against that.

Now, there are some, even in the last couple weeks I've heard, or who have told me, "Well, Jesus didn't understand gender," and this person claims to be a Christian, or, "Jesus didn't understand natural selection, which has led to these types of issues," and that person claims to be a Christian. Well, a Jesus who didn't understand gender, and yet still claimed that from the beginning, God made the male and the female and claimed to be that God, is a Jesus who cannot save you.

There are two components here, at least. There's the public safety concern, and there's also the way we speak about this. We need to proclaim the truth of how God has made man, and this is actually important from a gospel perspective. The fact that man is made, and man is accountable to God ( he is not automaton, he is not his own God) is fundamentally important to communicating the gospel.

Tolerance

Let's talk a little about tolerance. Tolerance used to be based on respect for all people, not agreement in all things, and this has changed over the last, it seems like, twenty years. (It's probably been going on longer than that) Now, it seems to mean everyone has to agree with me. So, if someone says “you're intolerant,” you might ask, "What do you mean by that?"

Let's take a page right out Greg Koukl's book Tactics here, and say, "What do you mean by that? What do you mean by intolerant?" The person often is going to struggle to come up with an answer, but they're probably going to say, "You disagree with me," or, "You think you're right and everyone else is wrong." Well, you could ask another question. "Well, do you think you're right? I mean, you think you're right, correct? Don't you think I'm wrong?"

And see, this person is trying to apply a standard to you, and they're trying to call you a name of intolerant, bigot, hateful, whatever, in order to get you to be quiet, to silence you, even though the same standard they apply to you should apply equally to them. They're not being tolerant of your ideas. They're not being tolerant of you, and in fact, by calling you names, I would say they're actually being disrespectful.

This is the danger in a society, when it gets to the place that disagreement is taken as hate speech, when we can't sit around and calmly and dispassionately discuss an idea without someone calling names. This used to be the behavior of children on the playground. When we couldn't think of something intelligent to say, we would just call someone a name, right? I remember being in elementary school, but that's how adults are starting to act, and that's a society that can't come together to work towards a common goal, towards progress. If we can't even agree on how we'll talk with each other, how can we get on the same side with discussing solutions to issues?

Name-calling gets in the way of this, so if you're talking with someone, I think it's fair to ask, "Well, what do you mean by intolerant? How am I intolerant? We disagree. You disagree with me, I disagree with you. We're kind of on equal footing there. Can you try to understand where I'm coming from here? I don't hate people. We just disagree on how this public policy should work out." All of those types of things. Use questions. It's fair to ask someone to explain how they came to their conclusion, how they came to the conclusion that you're a bigot, for instance. That's a quick snapshot of tolerance.

Boycotts

So, we've talked about bathrooms and tolerance -- what about boycotts? I think this is an interesting issue, and I think Christians need to be careful here for a few reasons. There are some dangers, and maybe some unexpected ones.

The potential for inconsistency

The first point I want to make is that a boycott of Target sets one up for inconsistency. If you say, "I'm going to boycott Target because they have gender-neutral bathrooms," as my pastor said recently, "If you do that, the only place you'll be using the bathroom in public pretty soon is Chik-Fil-A." Once it becomes law (which I'm confident it probably will) you won't even be able to use the bathroom there if you're boycotting a place that has gender-neutral bathrooms.

Now, is this something you should be allowed to do? Yes. Is it a bad thing to boycott? No, I just think it sets you up for inconsistency, and this brings me to the second kind of concern here.

Don’t look down on your brother or sister

We need to be careful how we treat people who boycott Target and don't boycott Target. On the one hand, if you feel strongly in your conscience that you do not want to spend your money at a business that does something that you disagree with on a moral issue, then you should follow your conscience there. Paul makes this argument with meat sacrifice to idols. We're not going to get into that today, but you should follow your conscience on issues where there is not an objective standard for everyone.

I do not think everyone should boycott Target; I do not think everyone should not boycott Target. This is an area of Christian liberty where, if your conscience dictates that you don't think you should shop there, then don't do it.

There's a flip side to this, though. Don't judge those who do. Paul speaks to this also. The brother who exercises his Christian liberty (or more likely in this case, the sister who exercises her Christian liberty) in shopping at Target, should not be looked down upon by someone with a personal, private conviction of conscience that they should not shop at Target.

This is important, and this how we as Christians should coexist on areas like this. It's interesting that this also mirrors how Christians and other people should try to exist in the larger society. “I’m not going to try to force my views on you, but please don't force them on me.”

Just like with same-sex unions. Don’t make be participate (bake the cake, provide the flowers, etc.). I will leave you alone; can you leave me alone? This is concept of rights that America was founded on, and we have now gotten far of field of.

Summary

So, what's the deal with bathrooms? There's a public safety concern. There's also a concern on how Christians talk about this because of what it conveys as God as creator and man's accountability to him.

From a tolerance perspective, we need to try to get back to the original concept of tolerance, which is respect for all people, not agreement in all things. All people have equal worth. All ideas do not. Some are just dumb. We also need to talk with people in a respectful way, and that includes treating them as someone created in the image of God, and we can use questions to handle hostile people. "What do you mean by that? What do you mean by tolerant? What do you mean by intolerant? How am I a bigot? How did you come to that conclusion?" Make them defend their position, but do it gently.

From a boycott perspective, let's be careful on how we set ourselves up for inconsistency, but if you feel strongly in your conscience that you should not shop at Target or any other store for a moral reason, then certainly do not do that. Just don't look down on those who exercise their liberty do something in an area that you feel uncomfortable with, where there isn't a clear biblical condemnation.

So, I hope this has been helpful. I hope you're a little more equipped to navigate this interesting cultural and social situation. I'd love to hear your thoughts or other questions that you'd like for me to tackle on "Unapologetic" in future weeks. Feel free to send me a note through the contact form, comment on Facebook or Twitter, or shoot me an e-mail.

I'll talk with you next week.