Conservative Christianity and the transgender question

The Internet is abuzz with conversation about the “T” in “LGBT” this week, after California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into … Continued

The Internet is abuzz with conversation about the “T” in “LGBT” this week, after California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law legislation supporting “equal access” for students who believe themselves to be the opposite gender from their biological sex. As a conservative evangelical Christian, I believe the so-called transgender question will require a church with a strong theological grounding, and a winsome pastoral footing.

Here’s why.

Ultimately, the transgender question is about more than just sex. It’s about what it means to be human.

Poet Wendell Berry responded to techno-utopian scientism with the observation that civilization must decide whether we see persons as creatures or as machines. If we are creatures, he argued, then we have purpose and meaning, but also limits. If we see ourselves, and the world around us, as a machine, then we believe the Faustian myth of our own limitless power to recreate ourselves.

This is, it seems to me, the question at the heart of the transgender controversy. Are we created, as both the Hebrew Scriptures and Jesus put it, “male and female,” from the beginning or are these categories arbitrary and self-willed? Do our bodies, and our sexes, represent something of who we were designed to be, and thus impose limits on our ability to recreate ourselves?

Laws such as those in California will quickly test the boundaries of society’s tolerance for a psychological and individualistic definition of gender. There are reasons, after all, why societies put boys and girls in different bathrooms, men and women on different sports teams. When gender identity is severed from biological sex, where does one’s self-designation end, and who will be harmed in the process?

As conservative Christians, we do not see transgendered persons as “freaks” to be despised or ridiculed. We acknowledge that there are some persons who feel alienated from their identities as men or as women. Of course that would be the case in a fallen universe in which all of us are alienated, in some way, from how God created us to be.

But we don’t believe this alienation can be solved by pretending as though we have Pharaoh-like dominion over our maleness or femaleness. These categories we believe (along with every civilization before us) are about more than just self-construction, and they can’t be eradicated by a change of clothes or chemical tinkering or a surgeon’s knife, much less by an arbitrary announcement in the high school gym.

The transgender question means that conservative Christian congregations such as mine must teach what’s been handed down to us, that our maleness and femaleness points us to an even deeper reality, to the unity and complementarity of Christ and the church. A rejection of the goodness of those creational realities then is a revolt against God’s lordship, and against the picture of the gospel that God had embedded in the creation.

But this also means that we will love and be patient with those who feel alienated from their created identities. We must recognize that some in our churches will face a long road of learning what it means to live as God created them to be, as male or female. That sort of long, slow, plodding and sometimes painful obedience is part of what Jesus said would be true of every believer: the bearing of a cross. That cross-bearing reminds us that God doesn’t receive us because of our own effort but because God reconciled us to himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Our transgendered neighbors will disagree with us, of course, that discipleship means an acceptance of who we are as men and women, and that our selves are not separate from our bodies. We should expect such disagreements. But we believe we can no more surgically alter our gospel than we can surgically alter our gender.

All we can do is say what we believe as Christians: that all of us are sinners, and that none of us are freaks. We must conclude that all of us are called to repentance, and part of what repentance means is to receive the gender with which God created us, even when that’s difficult. We must affirm that God loves all persons, and that the gospel is good news for repentant prodigal sons and daughters, even for those who have trouble figuring out which is which.


Russell D. Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

About

Russell D. Moore Russell D. Moore is President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
  • daviddanaan

    This man is suffering from a case of ignorance, which thankfully is curable. It’s not necessary for Mr. Moore to substitute his own failed understanding of this medical phenomenon for that of the people who actually experience it and the professionals who work with them. He need only put aside his assumption that he already knows everything, stop talking, and listen.

    “Are we created, as both the Hebrew Scriptures and Jesus put it, male and female,’ from the beginning or are these categories arbitrary and self-willed?” Neither, as it turns out. Needless to say, the Bible is not a medical text. And for all of us, whether cisgender or transgender, gender is neither arbitrary nor self-willed. We now understand much more about the process of prenatal gender differentiation (how we are fearfully and wonderfully made), and one of the things we know is that neurological gender – surely Mr. Moore already understands that male and female brains are different – is one of the physiological markers of gender that develops in the womb. Sometimes one or more of the various physiological markers – genitals, internal organs, neurological structure, etc. – don’t match. It’s not that unusual, and a congenital medical condition is surely not an issue that has anything to do with “sin” or “repentance.”

    As another of Mr. Moore’s respondents said in this paper, “We can’t love God if we don’t try to glean how God works in our lives. Similarly, we can’t really love our neighbors if we cast off all curiosity about who they are and their experience of life in the world.” Open your ears and your mind to what your neighbors are trying to tell you, Mr. Moore.

  • Ed Priz

    What monstrous presumption and arrogance. The only person with delusions of Pharaoh-hood I see here is the author, who thinks the Creator of the Universe must share his personal prejudices.

    We are all of us God’s children, transgender and gay and all the rest of us, and it is not up to some earnest-faced simpleton to decide who walks in God’s grace and who does not. If medical treatment helps transgender people achieve greater congruence between their inner gender identity and their external identity, it is certainly no more an affront to God than it is to surgically correct a cleft palate or prescribe insulin to a diabetic.

  • gnelsonsbts

    Ed Priz:

    You accuse Russel Moore of presumption and arrogance and then go on to explain how God shares your view and not his . . .

  • Radclyffeswell

    Without having read previous comments, when I was in high school and learned about “intersex” or rather as some know as, “hermaphrodite” I went to my conservative Christian parents and asked what God intended when He made people born with elements of both sexes. My question went like this, “If intersex people are born with parts of both sexes, then wouldn’t they always be sinners, always 1/2 gay? I mean, whomever they choose to have sex with would make them 1/2 doomed to hell because homosexuality, right?” My mom responded, “this is a question you should ask God once you are in heaven.” Then, as a seminarian, I learned a little something about how the bible is translated and how the very act of translation is done through a biased lens based on culture. So for example, many people know the story of Adam and Eve and how Eve was made from the *rib* of Adam. If one takes a moment to understand how the Hebrew language is translated, there is a strong argument to suggest that the very word for *rib* was actually intended to be *womb*, which if you think about it, makes more sense. And in that case, Adam would have possessed elements of both sexual organs, leading him to being the original hermaphrodite, and then therefore introducing *homosexuality* (a word not even created until the 1800s) in the Garden of Eve, EVEN before Eve damned us all to hell (aka, the story that leads many people in western culture to blame women for the demise of this culture.) and if you think about this story then, then the *original sin* was actually the creation of Adam altogether!

    My point, in a society that is so extraordinarily layered with a history of dominate culture based on the interests of a particular group vs. the dignity of every single living being, where even the very language we use is manipulated in order to best reflect the culture of the moment, however one comes down on this argument, please please PLEASE challenge where you get your information from to start.

  • Ed Priz

    Not true. I do not claim God shares my view on the subject. I do claim, however, that God obviously does not share this man’s prejudices and narrow-mindedness. In my experience, though, it is common for the sanctimonious to confuse the mind of the Almighty with their own limited one.

  • Secular1

    Boy oh! boy this must be making the fundies go APESCAT

  • joannmp

    it’s sad that Russell D. Moore fails to have an inkling about what the Bible says about trans people.

    . In the first Genesis creation story Gen. 1:27 – humans are created in God’s image and Likeness – “Male *and* Female.” Not *or.”

    2. When the original Adam is created, Adam is male-and-female! In God’s image.

    3. Read the Tetragrammaton forward and backward to better understand the Nature of God. Just like Moses in Hebrew, forward and backward = Moshe = Son Of, and backwards, it’s Ha-Shem – “the Lord.” Moses = “Son of God.” With YHWH, read backwards in Hebrew is pronounced Hoo-hee, and that means “He/She” – reflecting God’s nature as “male and female.”

    4. In Isaiah 56, God recognizes eunuchs as special – those who follow God’s laws have a special place in God’ house “better than children.”

    5. Matthew 19:12 – Jesus recognizes and understands trans and intersex people as “eunuchs from birth.” And this verse also relates back to Isaiah 56.

    6. Acts 8 – the story of Philip and the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch starts with the Eunuch at Isaiah chapter 53. As they walk along and discuss the book, they get to Chapter 56 – at which point the eunuch asks for baptism, and gets it.

    Scientifically, trans people and intersex people are biologically different from cis people – and who are religious conservatives to deny the natural diversity in God’s Creation. It just happens that because of genetic differences between trans people and cis people, trans people develop with brains that “zig” along one sexed path, while the genital tract “zags” along the other – and because the genetic and developmental components interact differently in different individuals, trans identities fall along a gray area of a spectrum rather than being on a sharp divide. Being trans is not just a matter of a wishful-thinking sort of “feeling” – it is biologically based in the nature of the trans individual’s brain.

  • RyanCB

    @Joannmp You make some pretty outrageous and easily refutable claims.

    1 Genesis 1:27 Does this verse really say God made Adam to be both male and female ?

    Commenting on verse 27 the NET Bible Notes say ” “There is no possibility that the verse is
    teaching that humans were first androgynous (having both male and female physical characteristics) and afterward were separated. The mention of male and female prepares for the blessing to follow.” NET Bible Notes

    A significant problem for your interpretation of Genesis 1:27 is that it cannot account
    for verse 28 specifically the word “bless”

    “the verb “bless” here means “to endow with the capacity to reproduce and be fruitful,”
    as the following context indicates.” NET Bible Notes.
    See Also Genesis 17:16 Genesis 48:16 Deuteronomy 7:13 Genesis 49:25 Genesis 27:27.

    Here’s one scholars thoughts on the view you expressed in your comments.
    “The persistent idea that man as first created was bi-sexual and the sexes seperated afterwards
    (mentioned by Ra. as a piece of Haggrada and recently revived by Schwally ARW ix.172ff), is far from
    the thought of this passage.”". a critical and exegetical commentary on Genesis by John Skinner, D/D Hon M/A(Cantab
    Principle and Professor of Old Testament Language and Literature Westminister College Cambridge To be continued

  • RyanCB

    Continued 2 Mathew 19:12 claim eunuch from birth equals being transgender

    You need to take some time to review Mathew 19:3-5 In these verses Jesus quoting the Old Testament
    explicity says”God made them male and female.”

    Could you explain where you got the Idea that Eunuch from birth equals being transgender ? Do you really think
    It is reasonable to believe that what Jesus is actually saying is ” There were some men who were born with
    an XY chromosomes and male anatonomy but they’re actually women” or There were some men who were actually
    born with XX chromosomes and female anatonomy but they’re actually men?
    Jesus original audience,the Pharisees and the Disciplewouldn’t have understood these words in that way.

  • RyanCB

    @ Ed Priz. How do you know God’s view isn’t the view expressed by Dr Moore?

  • RyanCB

    Would you recommend an anorexic go on a diet because their brain chemistry tells them
    they are fat ? Would you recommend a person suffering from Body integrity identity disorder chop off an arm ? Their brain chemistry tells them they should only have one.

  • noonetohate

    @Ryan: Being female is not a disorder. Being male is not a disorder. So if a male-bodied person is female-brained, that’s not a disorder either; it’s just an alternative way of being human. It’s qualitatively different than making yourself ill or causing your own death through lack of food intake, or reducing your ability to navigate the physical world by removing a limb. So I think this analogy is false. You could argue that the body-brain contradiction is a disorder, but that just brings us back to where we started–which one to prefer and why.

  • noonetohate

    @Ryan: If you wish to assign that kind of exclusivity to “God made them male and female”, how do you explain Genesis 1:11, which says, “Let the land burst forth with every sort of grass and seed-bearing plant”? This verse doesn’t acknowledge the existence of deserts or ice-covered places such as Antarctica or Greenland without vegetation.

    In a Christian context, I see three possibilities: (1) The verse is just plain wrong. (2) The earth has no deserts or frozen places without vegetation. (3) We’re adding exclusionary meaning to it that it was not intended to convey.

    Don’t you think the third choice is the most likely?

  • Ed Priz

    Because I operate from the assumption that the Creator of the Universe does not suffer from a small mind or a small heart.

  • Bleuberrie

    With respect to Matthew 19:12, Jesus was indeed talking about celibacy but figuratively thru the example of real-life eunuchs, who were very diverse as Jesus notes, including those who were born that way (such as intersex people), those who were made into eunuchs by others, and those who make themselves eunuchs. That this broad reference to eunuchs includes MTF trans people is evident from Jewish descriptions of eunuchs from Jesus’ time. I will quote two examples: one from Philo, who lived at the same time as Jesus, and the second from Josephus, who lived when the apostles wrote down the gospels. This is how Philo describes them: “Mark how conspicuously they braid and adorn their hair, and how they scrub and paint their faces with cosmetics and pigments and the like. In fact, the transformation of the male nature to the female is practiced by them as an art and does not raise a blush…Those of them who, by way of heightening still further their youthful beauty, have desired to be completely changed into women and gone on to mutilate their genital organs” (Spec. Leg. 3.40-42). Such a person, if born today, would be considered transgender. This is what Josephus wrote about eunuchs: “Turn away from eunuchs and flee from those who have deprived themselves of their manhood and its fruit…For it is clear that they have rearranged the body in this way because of the effeminacy of their soul” (Ant 4.290). This says that eunuchs have feminine souls, and “desire to be completely changed into women” as Philo puts it and thus “rearrange the body” as Josephus says. So when Jesus talked about eunuchs, his disciples would have likely thought about transgender people. Josephus found eunuchs to be “monstrosities”, that’s the word he used, to be shunned like murderers, but here Jesus lovingly uses them as an example for his disciples to imitate figuratively. Rather than teach that eunuchs must repent and receive the gender God created them, Jesus drew positive lessons from them.

  • Monica Miller

    You don’t get it. Transgendered people are born with brains that do not comport with our anatomy. We alter our bodies to make our anatomy comport with our brains. We do not “change” our genders by altering our bodies. It is very much the reverse – we alter our bodies to make them consistent with our true gender, which is in our brains. You may mean well, in your own way, but you will be on the wrong side of history on this issue, as you are with other LGBT issues.

  • Mike Tisdell

    joannmp

    1. In Hebrew the conjunction can (and is) translated as “and, or, now, etc…” it is simply a conjunction in Hebrew and nothing more. You are reading something into this conjunction that would have never been understood by the original author.

    2. In Gen. 1:27, 28 the plural pronouns are used and the plural imperatives are used indicating that God was speaking to more than one person. i.e. “male and female he created THEM” “he blessed THEM, and God said to THEM, be fruitful (plural imperative), multiply (plural imperative), and fill (plural imperative) the earth.”

    3. The Tetragrammaton backwards is not He/She. While “he” sounds like hoo, it is spelled הוא and not הו, similarly, “she” is היא and not הי. No Hebrew speaker would mistake these! This is not only nonsense, it is just plain wrong.

    4. In the ANE, it was common for the king’s officials to be castrated. See HALOT, NIDOTTE, BDB, etc… a Eunuch was not someone born without gender identity.

    That is all I have time to address although I have addressed a few of these with more detail in prior comments.

  • BillJ4321

    Not. Enough. Lions.

  • Bleuberrie

    Just to elaborate some more, Thackeray (Loeb) has an interesting translation of Josephus’ remark on eunuchs (Ant. 4.290-291), “by reason of the effeminacy of their soul they have changed the sex of their body also”. Josephus was commenting on Deut 23:1-6 which excludes eunuchs from the assembly. Philo commented on the same passage in Spec. Leg. 1.325 saying that the Law excludes those “who belie their sex and are affected with effemination … for it expels those whose sex organs are fractured or mutilated, who husband the flower of their youthful bloom … and restamp the masculine cast into a feminine form”. Again this describes people who today would be regarded as trans. Not all eunuchs were feminine identified, some as Jesus noted were made eunuchs (castrated) by others against their will. But Josephus describing eunuchs as generally having feminine souls suggests that many were probably trans. The hijra in India today descend historically from the ancient eunuch caste, and they are overwhelmingly transgender. In that patriarchal culture, feminine boys are often rejected and cast from their families and survive by joining hijra groups. Philo describes some feminine eunuchs as partners of pederasts and others as priestesses or temple prostitutes (Spec. Leg. 3.37-42), and these seem to be ways in which they survived after being cast from homes and other spheres of social life. Philo absolutely loathed feminine eunuchs; his comments are very bigoted and hateful. He felt they should be killed so as to not live “a single day or even a single hour” as they are a disgrace to themselves, to their families, and even to the whole of mankind. Josephus viewed eunuchs as monstrosities. These attitudes strongly contrast with that of Jesus, who spoke of eunuchs in a positive light. While eunuchs were rejected from assembly in Deut. 23, the promise in Is. 56 looked to their inclusion and future blessing. The story in Acts 8 of the Ethiopian eunuch dramatizes this inclusion.

  • RyanCB

    @ Monica Miller Would you encourage an anorexic to go on a diet ? Their brain does not comport with their anatomy they believe they need to lose weight so shouldn’t we encourage them
    to go with the feelings given to them by their brain chemistry. What about individuals with Body integrity identity disorder their brain chemistry does not match their anatomy in some cases they believe they weren’t meant to have two arms. Who are we to make them live with body parts they don’t feel they were meant to have ?

  • noonetohate

    @Ryan. I gave a criticism of this argument when you used it below, but you never answered. Even further down the thread, I put specific questions to you regarding how one determine’s God’s will in particular medical circumstances, but you never answered those questions, either.

    Since you’re using the argument again up here, let me restate my criticism of it. Having a female brain in a female body is not a disorder. Having a male brain in a male body is not a disorder. Therefore, having a female brain in a male body, or vice versa, is not a disorder either, except to the extent that there’s a contradiction between body and brain. But that’s the whole subject of this opinion piece and the discussion here in the comments section. Which is the source of our identity, our bodies or our brains?

    If having a female brain were a disorder, then fully half the human race would have a disorder. If having a male brain were a disorder, then fully half the human race would have a disorder. Not to overstate the case, transgender brains are not said to be *completely* feminized or masculinized, but this is still qualitatively different than anorexia or body integrity disorder. There are no circumstances, let alone circumstances comprising half of humanity, under which these conditions would be in furtherance of good health, well-being, or a part of ordinary life.

    On this basis, I say this analogy is false.

  • daviddanaan

    Ryan, your examples have nothing to do with the fact that the brain has a neurological structure that differentiates prenatally according to gender. This is a fact for every single human being. If you’re actually interested in understanding this and not just arguing, you need to stop and listen to those who do understand the medical science who are explaining it to you.

  • noonetohate

    I should add that my criticism of Ryan’s analogy is not meant in any way to judge, belittle, or denigrate people suffering from either anorexia or body integrity disorder. I hope only that those suffering from these conditions find recovery, love, personal peace, and all the good things that life has to offer.

  • Mike Tisdell

    Blueberry,
    It is one thing to disagree with Josephus, Philo, and Jesus on this topic but entirely another to simply reinterpret their words to mean something that was never intended. Unfortunately, too many want to twist the words of these ancient witnesses for their own purposes rather than accepting what they said and then choosing to disagree.

    Looking at the passages from Josephus you quoted, it is important to note that Josephus did not use the word ‘eunuchs’ (Greek: eunouchos) but rather gallous. This is an unusual word and the only time that it is used by Josephus is in this passage. He uses the Greek word eunouchos a couple of dozen times without the negative connotations communicated in this passage. Additionally, in this passage Josephus says that the souls of the “gallous” have become feminine and that they have made their bodies feminine; he views both as a sinful choices that are grounds for excluding them from the community; he then compares those who have done this to ones who have murdered children because they have eliminated the possibility of procreation. Additionally, this word is not used anywhere in the NT, so any comparisons between Jesus’ words and the words of Josephus found in this one specific passage are erroneous. When Josephus does speak of ‘eunuchs’, he often speaks of them as respected people; many who were in service to the king. Clearly Josephus did not have in mind the typical eunuch when he wrote this passage and to imply otherwise is simply dishonest.

    There are many things said by Josephus and Philo to which I disagree and you are also free to disagree with Jesus, Philo, Josephus, etc… but please stop trying to put words in their mouths that they never would have said.

  • Mike Tisdell

    For reference:

    Γάλλους ἐκτρέπεσθαι καὶ σύνοδον φεύγειν τὴν μετ᾽ αὐτῶν ἀφελομένων αὑτοὺς τὸ ἄρρεν καὶ τὸν τῆς παιδοποιίας καρπόν ὃν ἀνθρώποις ἐπ᾽ αὐξήσει τοῦ γένους ἡμῖν ὁ θεὸς παρέσχεν ἐλαύνειν δὲ οὕτως ὡς ἐπὶ τέκνων σφαγῇ καὶ πρὸς τούτῳ ἀπολλύντας τὸ ἐκείνων αἴτιον
    291 δῆλον γάρ ὡς τῆς ψυχῆς αὐτοῖς τεθηλυσμένης μετεκοσμήσαντο πρὸς τοῦτο καὶ τὸ σῶμα ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ πᾶν τὸ νομιζόμενον τέρας τοῖς ὁρῶσι μὴ ἐξεῖναι δὲ ποιεῖν ἐκτομίας μήτε ἀνθρώπους μήτε τῶν ἄλλων ζῴων (Ant 4:290-291)

  • Bleuberrie

    Here is the proper analogy between anorexia and gender dysphoria: Putting an anorexic on a diet does not resolve the anorexia, it furthers it and increases the danger of death via suicide or health complications. The object of therapy is to reduce suffering and suicidal ideation and improve normal functioning. The medically accepted procedure for treating gender dysphoria is to facilitate medical and social transition. This resolves the dysphoria rather than furthering it, and it reduces the danger of death via suicide, and allows the person to move on to a new happier life. The improper way of treating dysphoria is to deny and repress the person’s gender identity and increase the level of pressure conform to society’s expectations (i.e. reparative therapy). Those are exactly the factors that contribute to dysphoria, and so such therapy would further the dysphoria and increase the risk of suicide.

  • Bleuberrie

    Yes, good point that Josephus uses a different word, gallos, rather than eunuchos which is what Jesus used. The galloi were the type of eunuchs who castrated themselves and who were feminine in gender expression, and often were found as priestesses in foreign cults as noted by Philo (but since the discussion is about their exclusion from Jewish assemblies, the implication is that there were Jewish galloi excluded from synagogues and religious assemblies). It makes sense for Josephus to use that word rather than the broader term, eunuchos, since that included eunuchs castrated by others, such as court eunuchs, who did not necessarily identify with the feminine. My point is that Jesus uses eunuchos in its broadest and most inclusive sense, mentioning at least three subtypes of eunuchs, and not just limiting himself to those court eunuchs (involuntarily) castrated by others. Also Philo clearly describes the same kind of eunuch (those with the “disease of femininity”) as Josephus’ galloi but does not use that word. He does however use eunuchos (the term Jesus used) for such a person who is “neither male nor female”, who can only “study the most disgraceful habits of life”, whose lifestyle is “effeminate, and not worth living”, who are “utterly barren of wisdom”, who drink from the wine of the vine of Sodom (compare Abr. 136 where Philo says that the residents of Sodom were effeminate and “became like women in their persons”), and who wishes for the “all-merciful God to destroy this wild vine and condemn the eunuchs and all persons who are barren of virtue to everlasting punishment” (Ebr. 211-224). The kind of people Josephus called gallos were called eunuchos by Philo.

  • Mike Tisdell

    In Abr. 136, Philo does not use the word Eunuch and this description most closely mirrors the description given by Josephus in Ant. 4 i.e. Philo saw this as a sinful choice made by the men of Sodom. In Ebr. 210-224 where it is used, the context is clearly associated with those who had be emasculated against their will in order to serve in the Kings court i.e. the King’s baker and wine tester.

  • Mike Tisdell

    Also note: The one category of Eunuch that Jesus did not address (the one who chose to emasculate themselves) are the category that is condemned by Josephus and Philo in the passages you cited.

  • RyanCB

    @noonetohate Your argument is fallacious in a couple of ways,
    1 The four term fallacy(equivocation)

    2 The argument is a non sequitur.

    Your argument can be formulated as follows
    1 It is not a disorder for A to have C

    2 Therefore it is not a disorder for B to have C

    To put it into words 1 It is not a disorder for a woman to have a female brain 2 Therefore
    It is not a disorder for a man to have a female brain. The conclusion does not logically follow the premise.

    Take for example the following argument. Let A stand for adults, B for children and C for matches. 1 It is not wrong to let A use C 2 Therefore it is not wrong for B to use C.

    1 It is not wrong to let adults use matches

    2 Therefore it is not wrong to let children use matches.

    If you accept the argument you provided as valid then you must accept this
    argument as valid because the same fallacies in this argument are present
    in yours.

  • Bleuberrie

    1) Yes, Ebr. 210-224 takes as its biblical point of reference the eunuchs in the Joseph story who were in Pharaoh’s court; court eunuchs are the only kind mentioned in the Torah. But Philo then generalizes to eunuchs in general when he discusses their lack of moral virtue (being morally as well as physically barren). It is in this general description where he emphasizes their affinity to the sinners of Sodom (which were described in Abr. as afflicted with the “sickness of femininity”) and wishes that they be condemned to eternal punishment in accordance with what Sodom received. Is he really just thinking of court officials? It sounds much more like he has in mind the eunuchs in Spec. Leg. who also have the “sickness of femininity” (1.325, 3.37), to the extent that they “have castrated themselves” (3.41), whom he similarly regards as “worthy of death” without redemption (3.38). I just find it interesting that when both Josephus and Philo discuss those banished from assembly in Deut. 23, they specifically mention those who make themselves castrated.

    2) The third category lies behind the reference to “those who make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom”. Jesus first lists two types of literal real-life eunuchs, which primes the listener to expect that the third is also a type of eunuch, so when he says “there are those who make themselves eunuchs”, the description immediately evokes the kind of eunuchs described by Josephus and Philo. It is not until Jesus adds the words “for the sake of the kingdom” that it is clear that he is metaphorically referring to celibacy; it turns a literal image of self-castrating eunuchs into a metaphor for celibate Christians. That is what is remarkable about Jesus; he not only compares the ideal Christian to eunuchs but to the most reviled type of eunuch. But it is similar to what he does elsewhere. He refers to other highly stigmatized peoples, such as Samaritans and leper beggars, in positive ways in his teaching.

  • noonetohate

    I’m afraid I can’t concede your characterization of my argument that if C is not wrong for A then it must not be wrong for B, because actually, that’s our point. Acknowledging the discrepancy between B and C is a transgender argument that’s present in the very word ‘transgender’. In your matches example, the harm (or in this case, greater harm, because matches are dangerous for everyone!) isn’t somehow located in C’s character, or just the presence of C and B together. The greater harm is in the MISMATCH (sorry!) between C and B’s abilities as opposed to the congruence between C and A’s abilities (unless you read the news about the crazy ways adults start fires!) Matches are more dangerous in the hands of children because of children’s lesser capability to perceive how harm arises and lesser experience in averting greater dangers once smaller dangers have arisen. It isn’t the mere presence of children and matches together; it’s the incongruence between their poorer safety skills and the matches’ potential for danger. Likewise, the issue arises for transgender people not because opposite sex characteristics are inherently bad, or just the presence together of the physical characteristics of one sex and the mental characteristics of the other sex; but rather, the mismatch between these two. I can’t conceive of anything that is NOT harmful for one group that is also at the same time harmful for another group that DOESN’T derive from a mismatch of this sort.

    Anorexia, by contrast, is categorically different. In anorexia, C is bad for A, and C is bad for B. There are no circumstances in which C furthers health or life in either group. The same goes for body integrity disorder. There are no circumstances in which it furthers health or life in either A or B.

  • RyanCB

    @noonetohate You have not attempted to explain how your argument does not commit
    the following fallacies,1 equivocation and 2 non sequitur. You objected to the way I characterized your argument. Let us review the argument as stated in your own words.

    “Having a female brain in a female body is not a disorder. Having a male brain in a male body is not a disorder.
    Therefore, having a female brain in a male body, or vice versa, is not a disorder either
    except to the extent that there’s a contradiction between body and brain.”

    Here is how I characterized it: 1 It is not a disorder for A to have C,
    2 Therefore is not a disorder for B to have C.

    The conclusion ” therefore having a female brain in a male body, or vice versa, is not a disorder
    either except to the extent there is not a disconnect between brain and body.
    does not logically follow the premise “”Having a female brain in a female body is not a disorder. Having a male brain in a male body.”

    The example argument I provided concerning children and matches errs in the same ways
    your argument does We all agree there are good reasons for not letting children use matches
    but that is not what makes the argument invalid. The argument is invalid because even if the premise is true it does not follow that the conclusion is also true.

    I suggest we submit one more round of comments( arguments) and then let our conversation end at that otherwise this conversation could go into infinite.

  • noonetohate

    I didn’t respond to your labeling of my arguments as “non sequitur” and what not because labeling of opponents’ arguments, especially with terms drawn from logic, is a classic way of creating an artificial sense of superiority without having to do the hard work of actually explaining why you think your opponent is wrong. That’s why I ONLY responded where you provided substantive analysis. (If somehow I’m required to respond wherever you’ve just tossed out a charge without saying ‘why’, then I’d like you to find a list of fallacies somewhere on the Internet. I say you’ve committed all of them. Please show me how you haven’t!)

    I was going to say all of this last time, but then I thought, “That’s too mean. I won’t write that.” Heck, I should have been more combative!

    You mischaracterized my argument AGAIN. My argument is NOT: C is not bad for A. Therefore C is not bad for B. Of course C is not necessarily okay for B just for the plain fact of being okay for A. However, that is NOT my argument.

    My argument IS: C is not bad for A. C wouldn’t be “bad” for B either, but for the mismatch between C and B, which are the remaining differences between B and A. I’ve said this MULTIPLE times throughout this thread.

    (Dumbing down someone’s argument because it’s easier to argue against than what they’re really saying is the straw man fallacy. Please show me how you haven’t committed it!)

    A man has breasts. He goes to a famous Southern Baptist ethicist to resolve the problem. The ethicist CAN say that the problem derives from the fact that (1) men don’t conceive of themselves having breasts; (2) society doesn’t conceive of men as having breasts; and so forth or any other way of characterizing the mismatch. But what he CANNOT say is that breasts themselves are bad, OR that there’s something harmful about having breasts, OUTSIDE of the mismatch (putting aside for a moment the fact that breasts, like matches, carry a certain health risk).

  • noonetohate

    This just doesn’t happen in our universe: C is okay for A, but not okay for B, and the problem DOESN’T result from the difference between A and B.

    Are you from our universe?

  • Zam

    Haha! I am so glad to be an atheist and therefore exempt from the rules these fools have to follow.

  • joannmp

    I appreciate the discussion.

    My source for the “reading the Tetragrammaton backward” concept is an article by Rabbi Mark Sameth. He was writing about the sounds, not the letters.

    Gen. 1:27, from the first creation story, should be taken into consideration together with the Adam and Eve Story that follows – the ur-Adam in this story is indeed male-and-female in initial form. This is remarkably similar to a story from Plato’s Symposium, with the exception that in that story, there are male-male, female-female and male-female people, who are split into their respective halves because the gods feel threatened by them.

    With respect to some of the commentary on Philo and Joesphus, I had this to add – the word “gallous” is likely related to the latin gallus, which, despite being second declension, was the term used for the eunuch priests (trans priestesses) of Cybele. Many of the goddesses of ancient Near East religions had similar priestess classes.

    Re: Jesus’ description of eunuchs in Mt 19:12 – RyanCB makes a common error about sex assignment. The gross shape of the 23rd chromosome pair (the XY and XX thing) is not actually determinative of sex, it’s merely a correlation that works in a large majority of cases. You actually have to look at the genetic and ontological development. There are known differences in brain structure in which trans people have similarities to persons of the sex not initially assigned. There are known genetic predispositions for the brain “zigging” in development along one sexed line, while the genital tract “zags” on the other.

  • Chuck Anziulewicz

    There are countless psychological conditions that respond well to treatment. One of those conditions is “gender dysphoria,” in which an individual is convinced that he or she has been born into the body of the wrong gender. A female brain in a male body (or vice versa) if you will. Gender dysphoria has obviously always existed and is apparently more common than most people think. It is not the result of a supernaturally “fallen world” any more than any other medical condition.

    The best “therapy” for such individuals is allowing them to live as completely as possible as the gender they identify with. Whether this means appropriate makeup and clothing, or hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery, it is simply not our place to second-guess such individuals out of some pious, self-righteous sense of what “God” wants.

  • Nico Detourn

    As a happily transgender/transsexual woman, I would respect Mr. Moore and his kind a whole lot more if he would come out and honestly say that I and my kind simply creep them out, make them uncomfortable, scare them, or, as I often suspect, that the very idea of us turns them on and makes them doubt their own gender and sexual identities, rather that dressing it up in religious drag with talk about how my “rejection of the goodness of those creational realities then is a revolt against God’s lordship, and against the picture of the gospel that God had embedded in the creation.”

    Please have the decency to keep that kind of stuff out of the laws and we all — your neighbors, coworkers, sons, and daughters — have to live under.

    And you wonder why people are turning against “faith.” Look unto yourselves.

    I don’t consider myself atheist because I’m too committed to blasphemy, but op-eds and thinkers like Mr. Moore sure tempt me to reconsider.

  • Tammy Beth

    As a lifelong participant in Southern Baptist congregations, as well was a trans woman, I have considerable experience on both sides of this question. without going into a complete biography, i have devoted myself for most of my adult life to the proposition of “repenting” of being trans, and those years were wasted because there ultimately is nothing of which to repent.

    what Moore does not specify, because it does not exist, is the specific Biblical principle that would logically be understood to imply gender transition is sinful. it’s not there. what the man, in fact, lends his voice to here is the supremacy of TRADITION, not doctrine. The history of the church is sadly littered with error derived from mistakenly prioritizing “the traditional view” as if it were God’s will.

    Beyond that, Moore – as so many cis people do – makes the mistake of speaking authoritatively on a subject he has no direct experience with, or understanding of. He speaks of the transsexual condition as a “cross to bear” but he would not dare say to the one who could, for instance, have their sight restored that they should decline that procedure and “bear their cross” Being trans is a treatable condition, and the treatment is transition.

    there is a reasonable, simple, logical rubric by which a person of good will can understand what it is to be transsexual, even if they cannot relate to it. for the sake of space limitations i’ll provide that thesis in a different post, but suffice it to say that being transsexual is a medical, physiological condition, present (if sometimes unrecognized) from birth. no different than, for instance, autism. It does not reflect the love of Christ in any way to acknowledge that the condition exists, and is treatable, but then advise the one afflicted to “live with it” as an act of repentance for a thing which isn’t even a sin.

    How long, O lord, will your people worship tradition and claim to be worshiping you?

  • Jennifer Burnett, MS, MD, FAAFP

    I have tried to interface with Dr. Moore in the past when his website article, “Joan or John? Christian Ethics: This Year’s Dilemma” was used against a transsexual in a church closely associated with his seminary. I wrote an extensive critique of his article from scriptural, medical and counseling perspectives and sent it to him. And despite multiple prompts to him at the e-mail address he listed on his website, he never chose to respond.

    His view of transsexuals and their underlying MEDICAL condition – which I has a very effective MEDICAL treatment (Psychosocia/Gender Counselling , Cross-Gender Hormone Therapy and Surgery) – is so out of touch with both medical science and sound biblical exegesis. Yet he has apparently no interest in expanding that closed a mind of his!

    An expanded version of my original critique will be a part of my book “Christianity and the Transsexual: Reconciling Your Faith” – which will be published by the end of this year.

    Jennifer A. Burnett, MD
    Assoc. Prof. of Family and Community Medicine
    Transgender Medicine
    UCSF-Fresno

  • Robocoastie

    What a bunch of nonsense Mr. Moore. There is no…I repeat…no scripture or theology to handle this question whatsoever. Some people frankly are born with at least part of each “part” so to speak. The Bible was written at a time with extremly limited scientific understanding (NT features astrologers for crying out loud!) and NO understanding of medicine especially the brain. To try to handle questions like the transgender “issue” biblically is an unnecessary gymnastics exercise at best and bearing false witness at worst!

  • Robocoastie

    Good point Nico. At least admitting they are simply creeped out a person could handle. To admit being creeped out would mean they are putting the onus on themselves – seeing the log in their own eye for instance. Jesus is the judge not Mr. Moore.

  • Robocoastie

    Exempt as long as they keep losing political power anyway. I like to remind them that the time the church ran everything we call the “dark ages.”

  • tamaray

    thank you mr. moore for grace, and truth.

  • RyanCB

    @Robocoastie: You wrote ” The Bible was written at a time with extremely limited scientific understanding” Conservative Christians like Dr Moore believe God transcends time and is omniscient. We also believe all Scripture is inspired by God. While the human authors were limited in their understanding and knowledge the divine author was not.

  • Bobbie Lang

    As a transgendered woman I find myself aligning more with Mr. Moore than most of the reply posts, however, I strongly disagree with his supposition that gender confusion is our cross to bear. It is his assumption that gender confusion or gender transitioning is a choice that we make just as we make the choice to engage in sinful behavior or Godly behavior. I am 100% in agreement that the Word of God was not written by men but of divine purpose by an omniscience God who see each one of us as individuals. And as individuals we have to seek God’s plan for our lives based entirely upon the Living Word of God.

    I have just released my autobiography entitled “Transgendered Christians in Chains”, in which I detail my attempts of over 60 years of my life and over 30 years as a transgendered woman to bear this cross of gender confusion. Twice, in this 30 years, I have tried to step back from my gender reassignment and accept this cross I have had to bear, to proclaim God’s healing even though I didn’t “feel” healed. And twice I have been on the brink of suicide, only being saved by a merciful God.

    For Mr Moore to assume that we should just toughen up and bear this cross is to say that people with Parkinson’s disease or MS should toughen up and bear their cross and not seek medical or psychology to aid in their illness. I use Parkinson’s and MS as an example because I also have Parkinson’s and my sister has MS.

    I present another view that I am sure will anger people on both sides of the issue. I do not advocate for either side but plea to be allowed in church worship services where the Word of God is taught purely from an unbiased viewpoint and to let the Holy Spirit to convict us if we are wrong. In my life that has not happened as I was repeatedly turned away from the church leadership that I needed.

    I also plea that as transgendered Christians we are not looked on or judged as a group but as individuals who are trying to seek a merciful God.

  • Njean Curl

    These are not the comments of Njeanous or Njean Curl

Read More Articles

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

noplaceonearth
An Untold Story of Bondage to Freedom: Passover 1943

How a foxhole that led to a 77-mile cave system saved the lives of 38 Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust.

shutterstock_148333673
Friend or Foe? Learning from Judas About Friendship with Jesus

We call Judas a betrayer. Jesus called him “friend.”

shutterstock_53190298
Fundamentalist Arguments Against Fundamentalism

The all-or-nothing approach to the Bible used by skeptics and fundamentalists alike is flawed.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

shutterstock_185995553
How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

HIFR
Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

shutterstock_186364295
This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

SONY DSC
Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.