Outward/Inward Appearances

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“Boys with long hair? Girls that shave? The world’s gone to pot. No one knows whose is who’s whose these days.” – The Monkees

A New England prep school in the mid-90s granted me my first glimpse of transgenderism. A classmate of mine, who had the previous three years been known as a young woman, arrived the Fall of our Senior year with a boy’s haircut and asked to be known as “Alex”. While our relationship never grew past the acquaintance stage, we had sat at the same tables and eaten with mutual friends. Being an unbeliever at the time, this was not a big deal to me, just as those who came out as gay and lesbian weren’t a big deal. They were intelligent, talented people who treated me nicely.

Now western society is agog with the transitioning of Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn Jenner. This time it is a big deal to me. I believe in Christ and His Word. There is male and female, and one’s physical composition and DNA play a vital role in determining whether one is male or female. Despite the mantra we have been taught since childhood, you can not be anything you want to be. I grieve for Bruce/Caitlyn, for transgender people who struggle with understanding who they are. I grieve for myself, for the struggle of remaining sin and the influence of the world around me. What is our only comfort in life and death?

“People are people, so just throw your hands up.” – Toby Mac

The mental stamina needed to understand the redefinition of terms and protocol when dealing with this brave new world is taxing. Transgender vs. transsexual vs. Transylvania, and cisgender? It is understandable to me, then, to see many in society shrugging their shoulders, giving praise along with the rest of the crowd, and moving on. I read from conservatives that I am doing no favors in calling Bruce/Caitlyn “she”, yet I find myself slipping up and thinking it anyway. Transgender activists insist that to be respectful one must use the preferred pronouns of the transgendered person and not refer to them by their former name. In writing this article, proper pronoun protocols have not been followed from either viewpoint. Fear of possible backlash for that reason alone makes this can’t-we-all-get-along writer want to run for the hills and hide in a cave. It would be so much easier, I think, to go along.

“For the LORD sees not as mans sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

Capitulating to cultural norms of attractiveness is one aspect that seems to characterize those who have transitioned. It is not enough that the transgender woman thinks he is a woman; society must think so as well. Pedicure/manicures, long hair (as in past the shoulder), and make-up seem almost a necessity. For transgender men, facial hair is important, along with a short male style haircut. “Passing” for the gender you believe to be is a source of anxiety. The standard is the approval of humanity. Yet to pass yourselves off as a male or female implicitly admits that you are deceiving the public whose approval you crave. Deception is wrong. Your truth is not God’s truth.

Christians are also not to seek the approval of men. Yet do we not fall into this same trap, even in Christian circles? What about our appearance would we wish to change, not because the Bible says to change, but to find favor with those around us? What about being a “real” man or “real” woman in Christian society? As the saying goes, “you will know they are Christians by their t-shirts.” “Godly” men grow beards, smoke pipes, and would never take a ballet class. “Godly” women wear long skirts, long hair, keep themselves “attractive” to those around them, and decorate their homes impeccably.

Culture has affected Christians greatly. God’s Word does not have much to say about the appearance of men and women, except that our clothing be modest and that we present ourselves as the men and women that we are. If men wish to grow beards and women wear long skirts, that is permissible. If men wish to shave and women not, that is permissible as well. We have great liberty in our outward appearance, but that outward appearance ought to reflect the truth of the Spirit indwelling us and sanctifying us.

“For you formed my inward parts….My frame was not hidden from you.” – Psalm 139: 13,15

God knows Bruce /Caitlyn Jenner better than anyone else, even Jenner himself. God knows each of us more intimately than we know ourselves. Our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked; God’s Word never fails. Transgender people and Christians alike need to turn to Him and repent of our sin. Following Christ is hard and involves denying self, yet His Truth is ultimately more beautiful and freeing than any truth we create for ourselves. May we cling to Him and His righteousness alone.

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2 thoughts on “Outward/Inward Appearances

  1. The “conservative” in me wouldn’t have written the article the way you did. However, if I get what you are saying (and I think I do), I affirm your article.

    For clarity sake, is your goal to say, “Yes. We have ‘fundamentalist’ pressures from society that are damaging the church, but we also need to be aware of the ‘fundamentalist’ pressures that are likewise damaging the church from the inside”? The main difference being that the fundamentalists in society are decidedly anti-God, while Christian fundamentalists believe they are honoring God by impinging on their brothers’ / sisters’ liberties?

    Regarding the pronoun thing, conservatives (like me) point out the importance of this because it is important to us that we see these people how God made them, not how they prefer to be seen in their rebellion against Him. However, I agree that people shouldn’t beat themselves up if they slip up and use the wrong pronoun. How often do we use the wrong pronoun of the Spirit? And He is of far more significance than any creature.

    Anyway. Good article. Much appreciated.

    • Yes, you got the gist of the article. I was struck by the similarities between transgender people and fundamentalists in how so much focus is on external appearances. Oddly enough, I read a post by Laverne Cox (a transgender actor) who stated that we should focus on Bruce Jenner’s heart, and not his appearance. To a certain extent I would agree, but as a Christian I come to a vastly different understanding of Bruce’s heart than an unbeliever would. Bruce and other sinners need a change of heart.

      I do see the importance of using proper pronouns that reflect how God has created us. For someone raised liberal and then turned conservative (as I have), it is easy to fall into a cultural sensitivity trap a la “when in Rome”. When I read “Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert”, the author used the female pronoun to refer to a biological male who was transgender. My hope is that someone who isn’t well-versed in Reformed Baptist teachings may read the article, relate to the confusion about which pronoun to use, and would look to the Bible to apply His Word to the situation.

      Thanks for interacting – I appreciate it!

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