Why We Cannot Be “Uncontroversial” Christians
We need a theology of being labeled controversial, and a theology of helping each other through the professional, reputational and personal fallout that comes with that label.
John StonestreetMaria Baer
The girls’ volleyball team at a rural Vermont high school was banned from their own locker room when several players reported feeling uncomfortable after a male teammate, who identifies as transgender, was allowed to join them in the locker room and watch them change clothes. When the girls said they’d prefer to not share this private space with a boy, they were told that, by law, they had to.
The school also suspended one of the female volleyball players for allegedly “harassing” her male teammate by calling him a “dude.” The girl’s father, a soccer coach at the school, was suspended without pay for the rest of the season because he called the student a boy on Facebook. After the father and daughter filed a lawsuit on free speech grounds, the school walked back its disciplinary actions against the girl. Her father remains suspended, and her team remains barred from their locker room.
This kind of story isn’t as rare as it used to be. Thanks to the Biden Administration’s creative new interpretation of Title IX, which was meant to protect female athletes, many school officials believe they have to allow boys to use girls’ restrooms and locker rooms if asked to do so. As a result, kids are being put into dangerous situations, like the two girls who were allegedly raped at school in Loudon County, Virginia, last year when a boy who said he was a girl was granted access to the girls’ restroom.
Scripture teaches that Christians are called not just to follow Jesus in abstract ways, but in the specific times and places to which we’ve been called. How we respond to our own cultural moments will look different, depending on how God has gifted us and how the Holy Spirit empowers us. At the same time, because of our culture’s embrace of harmful ideas about gender and sex, from our medical institutions to our schools, not responding to this cultural challenge in some way is not an option.
What this young volleyball player and her dad did in Vermont was courageous, but it would be a mistake to view their actions as exceptional. Refusing to stand by while your daughter’s school tries to force her to undress in front of a boy shouldn’t be viewed as this particular man’s unique or special calling. Anyone presented with this scenario should refuse to subject any kids to this kind of danger. Opposing boys in girls’ private spaces has become an unavoidable part of our call to love our neighbors, as has speaking out against subjecting kids to dangerous ideas, not to mention hormone treatments and invasive and irreversible surgeries.
In other words, this is not one of those situations in which a variety of responses are valid, as if some will be called to “take a public stance” and others to “stay above the fray.” That principle only holds if our cultural and political leaders agree about what is good and safe for children but have different strategies about how best to achieve it. Now, there is no shared or defensible understanding of what good or safe is. Because children are the disproportionate victims of our bad ideas, Christians have a duty, a calling, to defend them.
Pastors need to prepare their congregations to join believers throughout the centuries who were labeled “controversial.” Christians need to be ready to support our neighbors caught up in a controversy in every way we can, spiritually, emotionally, or even financially. When the tension comes to our daughters’ schools or our workplaces, we need a theology that refuses to live by lies or to “go along” with them, like the two employees of the Kroger supermarket chain fired recently for refusing to wear a new company-wide uniform with the rainbow LGBTQ logo casually slapped on the front. We need a theology of getting fired, suspended, kicked out of locker rooms, and refusing to submit to “re-education” efforts. We need a theology of being labeled controversial, and a theology of helping each other through the professional, reputational and personal fallout that comes with that label.
I’m not suggesting we should go looking for trouble. I am suggesting that, in this case, the trouble has come to us.
Today’s Breakpoint was co-authored by Maria Baer. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to colsoncenter.org.
freedom of speech and religion
living out faith
theology of getting fired
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