I was recently sent an article that ran in a recent issue of Christianity Today called “Understanding the Transgender Phenomenon.” It was written by Christian Psychologist, professor and researcher, Dr. Mark Yarhouse. Since reading the article, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with Dr. Yarhouse and have been impressed with both his professionalism and compassion. I had written a response to the article, but decided not to publish it and am instead reading his book of a similar title (Understanding Gender Dysphoria) and will post a review of that once I finish it.
I have shared the article a few times on social media and have found it helpful in engaging the Christian community on this somewhat sensitive and misunderstood issue. In particular, Yarhouse defines three lenses through which Christians typically look at gender dysphoria, or any Transgender expression. I’m not totally sold on his word choice to describe the lenses, but I think the lenses themselves are accurate. I’m working on my own version of them to be included in the book that I’m putting the finishing touches on, but I wanted to share them here now. I really think they apply to much more than just gender issues or a Christian perspective, but really to any one looking at people from within the context of a particular school of thought or worldview.
Here is my (working) version of the lenses:
Morality. Yarhouse refers to this as “integrity,” referring to those who hold to a strict, literal interpretation of the Biblical text. I played with the idea of “interpretive integrity” since this has been a major goal of my whole journey. However, looking for a bigger brush, I settled on morality. This lens looks for things to be either right or wrong, basing that decision on some intrinsic standard, be that a religious text or culturally accepted standards of “normal”.
Disability. I really wanted to change this one, but I couldn’t. This lends basically looks at issues in terms of their comparison to “the way things were meant to be.” I realize that is a loaded statement, but to put it more basically: if you believe that God created humanity in the garden of eden, he did so with a certain degree of perfection. We didn’t suffer from depression, we didn’t struggle with anxiety or body image issues or eating disorders (except for that one fruit incident). Anything that draws as away form that initial intent could be considered a disability. While that sounds like a negative label, the reality is that by this definition, every human born starting with Cane and Able have been disabled. Some of us just wear it a little louder than others.
Diversity. This is also Yarhouse’s word. In the book (he doesn’t get into in the article) he divides this into two groups. Basically this lens celebrates anything and everything that makes a person unique, but often does it at the expense of cultural awareness or spiritual grounding. Left to it’s own, this lens could become lead to an ideology where, as Bibles often says of people who have turned their backs on their faith, “everyone did what was right in their eyes.” A less extreme interpretation of this lens celebrates the diversity and uniqueness while striving for some balance with the other lenses. This is what Yarhouse calls the “weak” diversity lens. I prefer the term “Moderate”, but the description still holds true.
As I shared the article I got some great response from family and friends. My favorites were “What about the ‘Love’ lens?” or “What about the ‘life-long friend’ lens?” Without a doubt “love” and “friendship” are the over arching principals that Christ taught us. How exactly those play out in the live of people with specific believes and convictions, however, sometimes take a little more clarity and definition.
Personally, I’m a little relieved at that. Trying to find that clarity give more purpose and direction to all the noise in my brain I try to pass off as “thinking”!
I have much more to say on this, but I’m going to save it for the book! Just wanted to get this on the table for any and all of us.