Confused about Gender Confusion

Last week the Associated Press released the following Tweets announcing a major change to Facebook profiles:

The accompanying story describes that Facebook has introduced 50 terms for people to use in order to customize their gender. Now all you have to do is edit your personal information, select gender, and type away until you find a term that fits. Fifty different choices can certainly make you confused about gender confusion.

Now let me contrast that with something that happened to me today. I went by an early voting location in order to cast my vote in the Texas primary. Having recently moved within the county, I asked the poll worker for the form I would need to update my voter registration address. He handed me a simple yellow card with about half a dozen pieces of information to fill out. One of them was gender. There were two choices: male or female.

If Facebook is setting the trajectory for the future of gender identification, the elections commission has a long way to go. In fact, every government agency will have to update their forms and documents.

But this is a bigger issue than simply voter registration. As we have seen, the push to redefine gender apart from biology has come to the forefront in schools in California as they now must allow students to use whatever restroom or locker room they want based on gender self-identification. Imagine the little girl who finds herself in a restroom with a boy who claims to be a girl today but changes his mind tomorrow. What about the recent announcement that a 17-year-old senior boy will be playing girls’ softball this spring. Self-identifying as a female despite the biological evidence otherwise will allow this much larger male to play a sport with and against physically smaller girls.

There is no wonder that our culture is confused about gender confusion. There is no objective standard in gender self-identification. Facebook may not make the laws, but don’t surprised if in years to come you go to fill out a government form like I did today and you find many more choices in the gender section than I did today.

Thankfully, the Bible is clear on gender. There is no need for confusion regarding God’s Word. In Genesis 1:27, we read, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” God’s intent from the beginning is two genders inextricably linked to biology. No questions. No confusion.

Radical Reformation and Religious Liberty

Today I had the privilege of speaking in chapel at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for our annual Radical Reformation Day chapel. Dr. Patterson had asked me to speak on the issue of religious liberty. You can watch or listen to the entire message here, but I also want to provide you with some highlights.

Historically, the Anabaptists fought for religious liberty all the way to the point of death. They believed that the church and state should not be wed in a way that the state enforces doctrinal purity by punishing those who believe or promote false doctrine. The Anabaptists believed that the state’s role was limited to protecting peace and order in society. Since the state could not coerce beliefs, then the Anabaptists also believed that conversion cam on the basis of persuasion through the Word of God rather than at the point of the sword. Finally, the Anabaptists taught the free exercise of religion in that heathens and heretics were to be allowed to continue in their unbelief. No one had the right to coerce them to change.

There is much more to discuss, but this gives you the historical highlights. I hope you enjoy the message as much as I enjoyed preparing and delivering it.

Radical Reformation and Religious Liberty

ObamaCare, Contraception, and the War on Women

What is the war on women? The phrase has been used by various political groups to characterize attitudes related to the perspective on women’s roles in the home and workplace. In recent days, the idea of a war on women has been used to describe the debate over whether or not the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a., ObamaCare) should provide all forms of FDA-approved contraceptives to women at no cost to them. The typical accusations of a war against women have been lobbed against conservatives who seek to limit the government’s role in providing contraceptives.

Now it seems that a new front of the war on women has been opened, but this time it comes from a very unlikely place–progressives attempting to justify the contraceptive mandate of ObamaCare.

A number of articles have appeared in recent days highlighting a series of ads produced by the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and ProgressNow Colorado. These ads seek to explain why young adults, particularly young women, should sign up for insurance on the new health exchanges.

Even though there are a few different versions, the theme of these advertisements directed at women is that you need free contraceptives in order to participate in promiscuous sexual activity without regret. Without these free contraceptives, you may not be able to “enjoy” the liberation of your sexuality.

In an interview with The Denver Post, Amy Runyon-Harms, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, attempted to justify the ads promoting promiscuous behavior. She stated, “People get upset when you portray women as independent. We think this ad is really about healthy relationships and that people are taking control of their lives with health care.”

The problem with these ads is twofold. First, they objectify women by speaking of them in exclusively sexual terms. In one of the ads, a cut-out of Ryan Gosling is portrayed as being “excited about getting to know” the real-life girl pictured in the ad. His excitement stems from the fact that she has easy access to birth control.

This perspective on women is demeaning and unbiblical. Yes, God created man and woman with a sexual nature (He told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply in Genesis 1:28). However, we are all much more than our sexuality. We are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27) and have value as persons in that image, not simply because we have a sexual nature.

Second, these ads promote risky sexual behavior with a false sense of security. Simply limiting the possibility of pregnancy does not make sexual activity outside of marriage safe, much less commendable. The hook-up culture of college campuses leads to a host of problems including sexually transmitted infections, pornography, emotional attachment, and potential violence. Contraceptives do not address these issues. Giving a false sense of security through free birth control pills only exacerbates the problem.

This is why God’s design for sexuality is that it should only be expressed within the context of marriage. In Hebrews 13:4 we read, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Many people may look this verse and say that the Bible is stuck in the Dark Ages. However, the reality is that God’s design for sex exclusively within marriage is the safest and most fulfilling option.

Is there a war on women? There certainly seems to be, but it is not what you may have been led to believe. The war on women is being waged by groups like ProgressNow Colorado who view women as nothing but objects of sexual desire. Instead, we need to proclaim that women find their true value in the fact that they are made in the image of God.

*I apologize for posting the content of the ads in the pictures on this blog post, but I felt it was necessary to see that they are actually real. The rest of the ads can be found at http://www.doyougotinsurance.com.

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Kurtis Lee, “Pro-Obamacare ads targeting millennials stir controversy in Colorado,” The Denver Post, November 12, 2013.

Emily Miller, “MILLER: New Obamacare ads make young women look like sluts,” The Washington Times, November 12, 2013.

Government, Religious Liberty, and Women’s Health

There is an excellent article posted today on Public Discourse by Helen Alvare addressing the issues of government, religious liberty, and women’s health. Here are some of the highlights.

On the issue of the administration’s campaign targeting women:

The result is an administration—led by men, but fronted by women—blatantly in favor of the view that to be “for women” (and to be super cool), you should support casual sex and the free contraception that facilitates it. The Obama campaign’s real message about the HHS mandate translates as follows: If you object to coercing religious institutions into sponsoring free contraception, you are no friend to women.

On the threat to religious liberty:

Any American citizen or institution that visibly opposes this powerful alliance might realistically worry about its future. This is new for Christians in America. In decades past, only the most extremist abortion interest groups—e.g., Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights Action League—visibly denounced the beliefs and practices of Christian churches regarding human sexuality, marriage, and family. But today, these groups command the prime-time podium at the Democratic National Convention, and count the president of the United States as their closest political ally.

On the challenge for Christians:

Instead, for the good of women and the good of society, Christians must engage in a hard conversation: what does women’s freedom truly include? Christian citizens, Catholics in particular, must explain why their witness on contraception contributes to, and doesn’t derogate, women’s long-term flourishing. These conversations must certainly deal with the world as it is—culturally, politically—but can never forget to speak of the world as it ought to be, the world parents hope to leave to their daughters and sons.

Christian churches need to be frank about what they are proposing concerning sex, parenting, and marriage. They shouldn’t hide the ball; that rightly infuriates people. And they should especially remember those people who often slip through the cracks, who are forgotten or ignored by the alliance of Planned Parenthood and the federal government: our poorest and least educated fellow citizens who suffer the most from the loss of a healthy marriage culture.

I’d like to encourage you to read the entire article. It appears that it will also include two more follow-up pieces in the days to come. You can find the article here.

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Helen Alvare, “Planned Parenthood and the Government v. Religious Liberty and Women’s Wellbeing,” Public Discourse, December 4, 2012.

The Inconsistent Logic of Abortion Rights Advocates

During last week’s debate between Vice President Joe Biden and GOP Vice President nominee Paul Ryan, the moderator asked a very interesting question. Basing her question on the fact that both Biden and Ryan are Catholic, Martha Raddatz asked the candidates to explain how their faith impacts their politics, especially related to the issue of abortion. The answers were perhaps surprisingly similar in their foundation but vastly different in their application.

Congressman Ryan stated that he believed life begins at conception, which is in keeping with Catholic doctrine. He declared that he cannot separate his faith from his politics on the issue of abortion. Therefore, Ryan concluded that the policies of a Romney-Ryan administration would oppose abortion except in cases of rape and incest. It should be noted, however, that Ryan had stated previously his personal beliefs even oppose abortion in cases of rape and incest.

Vice President Biden offered a very similar response regarding the beginning of life. He acknowledged agreement that life begins at conception as a de fide doctrine of the Catholic Church. However, he went on to declare that he cannot force his morality on someone else and that a woman has the right to do as she wishes with her own body.

I doubt many people were shocked by the answers that Biden and Ryan offered. Some may have been surprised that Vice President Biden believes life begins at conception, and others may have been intrigued that Ryan did not espouse his personal views on abortion in cases of rape and incest. However, the general tenor of the answers held to firmly established party platforms for each candidate.

In the midst of this debate, I find it interesting that little evaluation has been offered of the inconsistency of Mr. Biden’s argument. There are two key elements of his answer that contradict many of his other political goals—absolute autonomy and the refusal to impose his own morality.

The argument for autonomy is common in the abortion debate. It generally takes the following form. A woman has the right to do with her body as she pleases. Her right to privacy and free choice trumps any other right. No one can tell her what she can and cannot do. Thus, a woman should have the right to have an abortion for any reason. This is the effect of the collective Supreme Court rulings of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton in 1973.

There is logical and political inconsistency in this position, however, for Mr. Biden. This argument is libertarian in nature and begs the question of complete autonomy in every aspect of life. For example, Mr. Biden (and pro-choice advocates in general) desire to see abortion on demand with no questions asked of the woman involved. She should be completely free to choose abortion for herself. Yet, there are a number of “choices” limited by government restrictions that contradict the logic of this argument. In most states, a young woman under the age of 18 cannot get a tattoo. Even if she has parental consent, states like California, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington make the tattooing of a minor a crime. In these states, parental consent cannot even trump the law to allow a minor to receive a tattoo.

By contrast, New York City is piloting a program in 13 of their public schools to make Plan B, the “morning-after pill,” available to young women without parental consent. Therefore, a fifteen-year-old girl cannot get a tattoo, but she can get an abortion-inducing drug. I ask the question, is she completely autonomous? Is the government telling her that she cannot do with her body as she chooses? Why does it apply to tattoos but not abortion?

This libertarian argument can be extended to several other areas that are restricted or outlawed by the government. You cannot buy a non-diet soda larger than 16 ounces in New York City. A host of drugs are illegal, not only to buy or sell but even to possess. Marriage laws forbid a person from marrying his/her siblings and first cousins. Government even restricts the number of people one can marry. In each of these cases, government has said that you are not free to do with your body as you wish. If Mr. Biden and other abortion rights advocates want to be consistent, they must disavow laws like these as well. However, I imagine that government officials could make a reasonable case for such laws to be on the books. Thus, their inconsistency is exposed.

The other part of Mr. Biden’s response relates to the idea that he is unwilling to impose his morality on someone else. This is egregiously inconsistent for anyone involved in government. The role of laws established by government is the imposition of morality on others. Laws that prohibit murder, theft, fraud, and slander impose someone’s morality on the rest of society. In fact all laws impose morality. For the argument of abortion rights advocates to be consistent, one has to accept moral anarchy. Everyone should be able to do what is right in his own eyes.

Abortion rights advocates claim that they do not want morality imposed on them, but they are willing accept the imposition of their own morality on others. The recent birth control mandate added to the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) imposes abortion rights morality on everyone by requiring that insurance companies supply birth control to all individuals covered at no charge to the patient. This mandate includes abortion-inducing drugs, such as Plan B and Ella. If abortion rights advocates are so opposed to the imposition of morality on others, they should oppose this mandate as well.

As seen in the examples above, the logic of abortion rights advocates in inconsistent. Without even considering the merit of their arguments, one can see that they are unable to apply their logic universally.

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Kiran Khalid and Greg Botelho, “New York program allowing teens to get Plan B pill draws critics, defenders,” CNN, September 25, 2012.

That We May Lead a Tranquil and Quiet Life

It often seems easy in this political season to get frustrated with our elected leaders. We critique everything they say. We consider the “what-if’s” of change. We get angry at political ads. We may even express frustration to someone during a telephone survey. However, I was reminded this morning of something we need to do regularly for our government leaders–pray.

In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul writes,

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

This was a reminder to me that I can do more than talk about our elected officials–I can pray for them. Here are some ideas for praying for our leaders.

1. Pray for their salvation.
2. Pray for wisdom.
3. Pray that they would seek God’s will.
4. Pray that they would honor God in their decisions.
5. Pray that their decisions would lead to peace and tranquility for those under their authority.

I hope this passage stirs you to prayer as it did me this morning.

Words of Wisdom from Sam Houston

We have a terrible habit as Americans of forgetting history. Perhaps it is due to the fact that our national history is so brief when compared to other nations. However, there are many lessons we can learn from our short history. Our elected officials should periodically consider the wisdom of their predecessors from centuries past.

On a recent vacation, our family stopped at the massive statue of Sam Houston in Huntsville, TX along I-45. On the plaque at the base of the statue, there was a quote from Houston. In light of the current political campaign season, I believe this quote is very pertinent to the United States

The great misfortune is that a notion obtains with those in power that the world, or the people, require more governing than is necessary. To govern well is a great science, but no country is ever improved by too much governing…most men think when they are elevated to position, that it requires an effort to discharge their duties, and they leave common sense out of the question.

-Sam Houston, President of Republic of Texas, Governor of Texas, Governor of Tennessee, U.S. Congressman-TN, U.S. Senator-TX