[Note: this name was current at the time this piece was written. Today, Caitlyn Jenner should be known only as Caitlyn and referred to with the appropriate female gender pronouns. But since this post was written in a particular moment in time, I will leave it as it is.]
A friend recently sent me a Christian blog post and asked my thoughts in response. I’ve provided a link to it below, but the author’s basic point was that people shouldn’t be true to themselves but instead true to God. She quotes the late basketball coach John Wooden, saying “‘Ultimately, being true to our Creator gives us the purest form of integrity.'”
I can work with that. That’s how I try to live my life – and I aim to let my life be my witness. I am incredibly imperfect as all humans are imperfect, but I continually strive in God’s grace to manifest God’s love in the world. That’s not a perspective I can or would choose to force on anybody else – and I love and respect many people who think differently. But it’s the choice I make for myself.
Here’s where my problem with the article comes in. Its focus is a response to the recent television interview with Bruce Jenner. The author takes this notion of placing God at the center of one’s life and uses it to dismiss the fullness of life that Bruce Jenner is embracing as a transgender person. The author’s argument fails to allow for the idea that transgender, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer people may be putting God at the center of their lives – and that their expression of their integrity of being may be through God’s grace.
I’m not much of a television watcher, so I have to confess that I haven’t actually seen the interview with Bruce Jenner. I thus don’t want to try to respond to the specifics about Jenner’s experience. However, I can speak from my own. It was only through coming out as a lesbian that I could put God at the center of my life. Before that, fear and shame and confusion crowded God out of the center of my suffering soul. It’s hard to focus on God when you’re too bound up in it what’s wrong with yourself. People who are concerned about human judgment and worldly matters often have to pretend to be someone they’re not. When God and the life of the Spirit is at the center of your life, those judgments and those worldly concerns can fall away. You can live a life of integrity. You can live a life – and I’m taking this from the blog title to which I am responding – of authentic intimacy with God and with others.
When I put God at the center of my life, I felt the fullness of God’s love and God’s call for justice. I was then empowered to let that love and that call for justice flow through me into the world. But it was only through the full embrace of my full being that I could do so.
The author also writes suggests that it’s modern cultural convenience that allows the Bible to be “discounted as cultural or out of touch.” I take the Scripture seriously. For me, it’s the greatest source of life and meaning. Because of its importance, I read it as of the context in which it was written and as speaking into the culture of today. On that basis, I understand that passages wielded against LGBTQ people today actually condemn violence, exclusion, and the absence of deep forms of hospitality. Those are sins more often visited upon members of the LGBTQ community today rather than committed by them.
There’s much more to be said about embracing transgender people as precious and beloved children of God – and gay and lesbian and bisexual and queer and black and disabled and non-English-speaking and poor and old and young and all of those other people that we so often place outside of our cultural circles of love and care. But my task today was a specific response. I’ll stop here for now, knowing that further opportunities for continuing the conversation will arise.
* the article to which I am responding can be found here:
* and here are some other online resources that speak to these issues from a more progressive perspective. If you read or have read other articles that you think do justice to this topic, please go to the About/Contact tab and send links my way.
What Transgender people teach us about God, and our humanity – https://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2013/08/19/what-transgender-people-teach-us-about-god-and-our-humanity/11240
Think Big, Love Small – http://momastery.com/blog/2015/04/28/letter-to-a-teen/