For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” — Saul of Tarsus
“God alone is Lord of the conscience.” — basic Presbyterian principle, 1877
Last Sunday, Keith Simon, co-pastor at The Crossing, preached a sermon at the church in Columbia that has ignited serious discussion and controversy in the community.
As part of his sermon series entitled “Genesis: The Strange but True Story of Everything,” Simon addressed the issue of transgenderism.
For purposes of introduction, allow me to state that this column is not a bashing of my friend and brother, Keith Simon. Instead, it is a response to what I think is a theological error in thinking.
My goal is to state that all Christians do not think the same about LGBTQIAA+ issues. There is another Christian way of thinking that is also legitimate.
What I know is that Keith Simon is a good man and The Crossing is a good church. It supports many projects in Columbia, including Ragtag Cinema, the True/False Film Fest, Fun City, drives to feed the hungry, the repair of senior citizen homes and the payment of medical debts that crush the working poor. All of these acts are unquestionably good.
The Crossing is a good church, but it is not a perfect one. No person or organization, including churches, is perfect. All of us, conservatives and progressives, “look through a glass darkly.”
We should not demonize Pastor Simon, the ministry team or The Crossing. We should agree to disagree.
Since we all make errors in thought and action from time to time, we should speak to one another, in love, about our disagreements and affirm our common humanity. Humility and forgiveness are key.
Keith Simon is a Christocentric, evangelical Christian committed to a white, western European, Anglo-American understanding of God, the Bible, salvation, authentic living, etc. Such is the paradigm out of which he operates, and I respect that.
I, however, am an African American, theocentric Christian committed to an African American understanding of God as Mother and Father, a black hermeneutical method of interpreting the Bible that affirms and includes the whole human race as the children of God and not just Christians.
I believe the goal of Christianity is liberation from all forms of oppression (economic, gender, racial, spiritual, social, political and physical) and that engaging in such efforts is superior to personal piety and doctrinal commitment.
I believe social justice is authentic Christianity, and without work toward justice, we are merely sounding brass and tinkling symbols. Having said all that, in love, I come to publicly disagree with my brother regarding the phenomenon of people who identify as transgender.
We must acknowledge that gender dysphoria is a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because there’s a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity.
It’s sometimes known as gender identity disorder (GID), gender incongruence or transgenderism.
It is not, however, the same as anorexia neurosis. To equate the two is mixing apples and oranges.
People who identify as transgender do so in many ways. Some remain “stealth” or incognito to the outside world, while some take large amounts of estrogen or testosterone to alter their physical appearance. Others have partial surgical procedures.
All people who identify as transgender do not have full surgical transitions as Caitlyn Jenner did, nor do they want to do so.
Such thinking is erroneous, and portraying transgenderism as only surgically transitioning is misleading.
What Pastor Keith suggested is that God has provided a “divine design” for authentic living, found in Genesis 1:27 and reiterated by Jesus in Matthew 19.
The “design” is for people to be male and female. The sermon alludes that not following the design, particularly as a Christian, is to live an inauthentic life outside the authority of God and Jesus.
While I do not want to engage in a Bible study, I suggest that members of the queer community, including transgender people, are still male and female, they are just LGBTQIAA+ males and females. They are not another species; they are still human and part of the divine design.
To state they are violating the profile for what it means to be authentically human is a much too narrow biblical position, grounded in patriarchy. As a Christian and a human being, it is a position I cannot and do not support.
The sermon offered statistical data as evidence that transitioning people who elect to surgically transition are at a higher rate of suicide than those who do not.
Such data is suspect, given the absence of reports of people who identify as transgender, surgically transition and live healthy, flourishing lives.
Surely there is some evidence to support the election of surgical transition that leads to flourishing, well-rounded lives. Without showing the other data, the argument suffers from the fallacy of begging the question.
The decision made by people who identify as transgender is their God-given right. What I know about God is that God created us as autonomous beings. We have the freedom to exercise our choice as to who we are.
That is the point of Rachel Dolezal. If we can do so racially (biracial persons have been trying to educate us on this point), we should have the right to do so when it comes to gender.
To deny that right is slavery, not freedom in Christ.
“For they that the Son sets free are free indeed.”
The Rev. C.W. Dawson Jr. was the first African Amerian to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy at MU. He teaches at Columbia College and Moberly Area Community College and writes for the Missourian.