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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Flatwoods, Kentucky Denies Gender Identity: Spiritual Wickedness or Mass Hysteria?

 

“The Lord Jesus Christ loves everybody, but because he loves everybody, he also has set a standard of living for people, and through the standard of living declared in the word of God find it (is) mentioned that because the Bible tells us so,” said Anthony Keaton, pastor of Abundant Life United Pentecostal Church in Flatwoods, Kentucky, to city council.

Keaton continued, “So today, I stand behind this council and the mayor and their ordinance that they have brought forth, and I pray that they would have unity, because with unity there is strength and through unity good things happen. I know that today there are people that fear if we do not pass this agenda. You say protecting the transgender? Well let’s protect the majority of our community.”

With a vote of five members of the Flatwoods City Council, and one abstaining, the second reading of a city ordinance which would deny transgender usage of restrooms and shower facilities in government buildings in Flatwoods was passed Saturday during a special meeting.

Flatwoods Mayor Ron Fields also said that he does not presently know how they (the city) will “police” restrooms in government buildings in Flatwoods and that he would be talking with the prosecuting attorney, and the chief of the Flatwoods Police Department about the matter.

(Portia Williams. “Transgender access denied: Flatwoods City Council bans restroom access.” Portsmouth Daily Times. May 21st, 2016.)

Another man at the council meeting, Doug Spillman, spoke in favor of the draft. He said, "It's spiritual wickedness in high places.” He can't imagine a world where men and women share bathrooms, especially in his hometown.

"I believe today Satan is using a lot of these issues to cause the problems we have today," Spillman said.

(Jessie Starkey. “Flatwoods City Council approves controversial transgender bathroom measure.” WCHS Channel 8. May 21, 2016.) 
 
I'm trying to comprehend the need for an ordinance that requires people to use bathrooms according to the gender on their birth certificate. The public safety? Gender-policing of bathrooms? Jesus “tells us so” regarding checking sexual parts? Declaring “unity” against transgenders?

Let me give you another religious perspective from Rt. Rev. Scott Anson Benhase, the tenth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. He relates his experience with the issue:

When I was a young curate in Indianapolis in the early 1980s, a parishioner of mine was also a leading pediatrician at the Indiana Children’s Hospital...

This pediatrician headed a panel of other doctors and medical professionals who had the awesome responsibility for discerning which gender to assign to babies brought to the Children’s Hospital. More often than probably anyone thinks, children are born with mixed genitalia, or confused genitalia, or none at all. My parishioner and his team had to weigh all the data they had in front of them and do their best through medical procedures and other measures to assign a gender to these babies. They were greatly committed to their work because they knew they were making decisions that would affect these children for the rest of their lives. Sometimes they got it right and sometimes they didn’t. And they often wouldn’t know whether or not they got it right until long after the children grew up.

“Science and medicine have come a long way in the last 30 years or so, but much about human sexuality and gender identity is still unknown to us. It seems odd to many of us that someone who has the apparent biology of one gender might experience life inside their soul as the other gender. What seems even odder to me is that some other people would think that people who have this gender dilemma are doing it just for fun, or to be different, or just to flagrantly express themselves. No one would wish to bring such a dilemma on themselves knowing the external pressure and possible social ridicule they could face. The pull of gender identity in each of us is strong. Most often it’s clear and unambiguous, but sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s messy and confusing, like life itself sometimes is for all of us.

I’m certainly no expert on biology or medical science, but I’ve spent a life time reflecting theologically on the world around me using the teachings of Jesus and his Cross as my foundation. Often my reflection has led me to the completely obvious spiritual insight that life’s messy and not always as clear as we’d like. As St Paul says: “we see through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). And Jesus, no matter with whom he interacted: the rich young man, the woman caught in adultery, the woman who washed his feet with her tears, Jairus, Simon Peter, or even Judas Iscariot – Jesus always showed mercy. And he called his followers to show mercy as well, because, well, life’s messy.

“I don’t know the answers to the questions that human sexuality and gender identity pose. I do know that “Restroom Laws” try to solve a problem that does not really exist. And I do know this as well: when Jesus was faced with the messiness of this world, he responded to it with such grace that not even the grave could contain him.”

(Rt. Rev. Scott Anson Benhase. “Gender Identity, the Messiness of Life and the Mercy of Jesus.” The Ecrozier. 2016.)

Click here to read Benhase's entire article: http://ecrozier.georgiaepiscopal.org/?p=1363 .

 

I agree with Rev. Benhase. Indeed, we see through a glass darkly. As humans, we often fall victim to our own personal prejudices. And, when those of us in doubt imagine inevitable dangers that don't exist and take it upon ourselves to fight the spectres of demons, we stir deep emotions and even primal fears.

I believe when Christians use the Holy Scriptures to exert political force and incite false alarm in these situations, they deny the mercy of Jesus.

In the case of Flatwoods City Council's ordinance, what some are calling “spiritual wickedness” is based upon distrust and ignorance of the issues of gender and sex. A true guiding light is based on love and trust for all fellow humans, not just for a select majority. Knowledge can guide crucial understanding and expand human horizons.

I cannot fathom the difficulties faced by those who are transgender. I am certain they must endure overwhelming scorn and disapproval as they seek their gender identity. I know they must endure many hurtful comments and struggle for simple acceptance. It seems many people want to judge them on the “correctness” of their genitals rather than on their hearts and minds. This warrant is inhuman treatment, and the bathroom uproar is a symptom of dehumanization and further discrimination.

I have heard Christians stand on biblical passages and say transgenders are “abominations.” Are we to believe they do not fit God's design? It is undeniable that there are those with chromosomes, genitalia, and hormones that do not fit their assigned birth sex. In misunderstanding, fear, and desperation, these followers are prone to assert that everyone must fit one of two molds for gender – male or female.

Yet, Galatians 3:28 states: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Is it Christian practice to deny equality and love to those who are baptized into Christ? Policing bathrooms for gender identity certainly intrudes on privacy and reduces any person to his or her sexual organs. Where is the grace in this?

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;

His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;

It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice.”

--William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

 
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