Radical Cultural Shift
We live in strange times. Not long ago, people who tried to overcome addictions were encouraged and their testimonies celebrated. People who fought against harmful gender stereotypes and sought to accept themselves for who they are were formerly held up as heroes. But no longer. We live in a culture now in which many sexual addictions and fetishes are celebrated, and those who try to overcome their sexual addictions are sometimes shamed for “not being true to themselves.” Some receive hostility for unintentionally creating feelings of guilt in onlookers who share the same addictions, addictions that they would rather celebrate. Today, people who hate their bodies and get surgeries to change them are considered “heroic” while those who struggle to learn to be content with their bodies are considered weak and cowardly.
This change happened so quickly it has been hard to wrap my head around it. The culture has shifted, and this has affected the Church as well. When I was growing up, those who proclaimed their recovery from pornography addiction, or how Jesus helped them to leave a gay lifestyle, were affirmed as heroes in the Church. Churches would give them many opportunities to share their testimonies, especially with young people. But we’ve reached a point where it’s actually a risk to share such testimonies. In some places, these testimonies have little appeal and draw little attention, but in other places these testimonies are actually offensive to large numbers of people.
I thought about this recently when Sy Rogers died. He is one of my heroes who shared often about accepting himself as the man God created him to be, rather than trying to live as a woman. But much of the Church was ominously quiet about his death. The fanfare was quite different than what we saw recently for Packer or Zacharias. My social media feeds were absolutely aflame with articles and tributes to Packer and Zacharias when they died. But I saw only one or two brave souls who said anything about Sy Rogers. And when I shared about Him, I got no responses and no likes. It’s tough to celebrate someone who advocates for the opposite of what the mainstream culture is advocating. I suspect that some of my Christian friends appreciated his testimony but were afraid to publicly reveal that they appreciate his testimony.
This shift in the culture and in some of the Church means that as we fight against the sexual sins in our lives we should expect some criticism and expect some disapproval. Depending on your location, you might need to expect a great deal of criticism and rejection. I have not experienced any persecution from the people I have told about my crossdressing addiction in real life. But online, through this website, I have been severely criticized and received a number of threats. Often people have criticized me for staying anonymous. But in the culture we find ourselves in, why should I heap persecution on myself? Even non-Christians who speak against the mainstream transgender ideology have been targeted and severely mistreated. Look at what happened to Ray Blanchard, Michael Bailey, and Alice Dreger.
Most of the time overt criticism disapproval only come if you are quite public about your struggle and your testimony. But even if you keep your crossdressing an absolute secret, you still absorb the cultural feelings and pressure. You hear everyone talking about your sin and saying that there is nothing wrong with it. You see it all over the news and television and it is celebrated, and people speak of fighting against it as something shameful. This can be a form of indirect criticism and rejection, knowing that the whole culture is pushing against your recovery from addiction to crossdressing or healing from your gender dysphoria.
The Church’s Response
Let’s come back and look at the Church today. How has the Church responded to the cultural shift on sexuality and how does that affect you and I?
There is a large section of the Church that is staying strong and remaining faithful to Scripture on these issues of sexuality in opposition to the culture. For that I am extremely thankful, even if at times they are ignorant as to how best to counsel people like us. And sometimes the stereotype might hold true that these conservative Christians do not show enough compassion or do not listen very well. But I also know many of these Christians and churches who are informed, listen well, are compassionate, and know how to counsel people with various LGBT struggles. The best churches in this group realize that there is a difference between having a tendency or temptation to a certain sin, and giving in to that sin. Thus they have no problem with Christian leaders who struggle with certain sexual tendencies and don’t judge them for it, but they hold them accountable to not acting out those desires.
There is another large section of the Church that has completely reinterpreted Scripture to affirm, accept, and even celebrate all kinds of sexual sins, from homosexuality, to crossdressing, transgenderism, pornography, and polyamory. Many of these types of “Christians” have also rejected doctrines such as the resurrection of Christ or the doctrine of Hell. I use “Christians” in quotes because I do not really view these people as brothers and sisters in Christ. Once they have rejected large sections of the Bible and core doctrines of the Christian faith, there isn’t much left to identify such people as Christians. These people and churches shouldn’t give us too much anxiety or pressure. If we can clearly see them for what they are, they shouldn’t be much of an influence in our lives. They don’t really look any different from the wider culture and therefore they shouldn’t cause most of us any hardship beyond what the culture has already created for us. If you are strong enough to go against the culture’s views on sexuality, then you can resist the views of these false churches as well.
But there is a last large section of the Church that I call the murky middle. And it is this section of the Church that really does make things difficult for us. These are Christians and churches who still believe in Christ and in the authority of God’s Word and the core doctrines of the Christian faith. But they have become confused about certain sexual issues. They have been so affected by the culture that they don’t know what to think. They try to hold to Scripture while also holding to the values of the culture and this makes things awfully complicated for them. The most common thing I’ve seen from this murky middle is an unwillingness to directly call homosexuality or crossdressing a sin. They hide behind nice sounding phrases like, “but we need to listen to them and not judge” or “there is so much we need to learn about these issues first before we can make a statement about them.” The listening, learning, and dialogue about these issues can go on for decades, and still they can’t come out and call sin, “sin.” They are adept at walking with gay or transgender people who are struggling and showing compassion. But they don’t know how to point these people to Christ or call them out of sin into an abundant life of freedom in Christ. They just keep walking and keep listening. When the leaders of these churches don’t guide their Christians and teach them what the Bible says, Christians are left to sort things out on their own, which unfortunately, leads many of them to eventually just quietly absorb the values and beliefs of the wider culture.
Another common trait of this group of churches is the attempt to make allowances for certain specific types of sexual sin. They say that it is part of the broken world that some people struggle with their sex and gender and that the best thing to do to address their brokenness, is to help them live as the sex and gender that they want to be. And they say that homosexuality is a result of the Fall, that it isn’t God’s original intention, but that if two gay people will marry and commit themselves to only that one person, that this isn’t a sin in God’s eyes. It’s an accommodation to a broken world. They say Paul was only talking about pederasty or promiscuity when he talked about homosexual relations in the Bible. They argue that homosexual monogamous relationships are just as holy as heterosexual monogamous relationships.
I have studied these issues extensively and unfortunately I have been very depressed to discover that none of the arguments put forth by these Christians are convincing. I used to think about homosexuality similarly to the issue of women preachers and teachers. With the issue of women as pastors, I have studied it extensively, and I think both sides can make a good Scriptural case for their view. I wanted to give brothers and sisters in Christ the benefit of the doubt when it came to the homosexuality debate. But really they are grasping at straws. There is no way to reconcile their views on homosexuality with Scripture. The arguments they use about various Scripture passages are demonstrably false, and their other arguments are mostly based on emotions.
We live in a time where it is extremely hard for many Christians in this murky middle to accept what the Bible teaches about homosexuality (and other sexual issues). Why is this? I believe I know some of the reasons why:
1. The American Church has been too affected by the false prosperity gospel. Many Christians have not been fully taught the biblical principles about suffering and the role of suffering in the Christian life. Christians have soaked in the culture’s view that if there is a God he must exist to make us happy and comfortable and rich and healthy. And Christians have soaked in the teachings of prosperity preachers who teach that if you just have enough faith and live a holy life, that God will bless you and make everything in your good and happy. Many Christians ignore the Bible’s teachings that all of us will suffer, and that all of us will suffer especially for following Christ, and that God uses suffering as a tool to make us holy. If you haven’t been taught well about suffering, then you will not want to suffer yourself, and if you don’t want to suffer yourself, you don’t want others to suffer either. You don’t want to deny yourself any desire and so of course you don’t want to tell other people to deny their desires either. Thus of course many Christians today, especially young people who might not have suffered a lot themselves yet, do not want others to suffer. They do not want to see gay people having to deny themselves and sacrifice to live for Christ. They do not want to see gay people being sexually unfulfilled. Too many Christians today are living for the American dream of materialism and pleasure and can’t imagine anyone needing to suffer as disciples of Jesus.
2. The American Church has made idols out of marriage and family. American churches have celebrated the nuclear family and marriage so much that single people have often felt left out. Marriage is held up as one of God’s best gifts (and it is), but to the extent that singleness is not held up as a great gift from God as well (and it is). Churches often revolve around married couples and families with children, and people who can’t fit into this mold feel like church isn’t for them. This is tragic. The American Church needs to relearn what the Bible teaches about the value of singleness and celibacy. The American Church needs to teach about community and friendship. There is meaning in life beyond marriage and beyond relationships between family and children. The American Church needs to teach Christians not to spend all of their time and money only on their immediate families, but to spend time with other Christians and with people in the community.
This idol has made the idea of a gay person living a celibate life unthinkable for many. If you listen carefully to what Christians say who have changed their view on same-sex marriage, you will see that they think marriage is absolutely essential in order to live a happy life. There have been times in history where exactly the opposite was believed, when people believed being single and celibate was the most noble and fulfilling life. But today, for most people, the thought of asking a gay Christian to remain celibate out of obedience to Christ is thought of as oppressive and akin to torture. You can see this idolatry even in the efforts of Christians to counsel gay people in the past. They had such an idol of heterosexual marriage that they believed the best solution was not celibacy but trying to convert homosexuals into heterosexuals through various types of harmful conversion therapies.
Most of the arguments Christians make in favor of homosexuality boil down to this point – God wants all of us to be happy and fulfilled (see point 1), and marriage is absolutely necessary for happiness, so gay people should be allowed to get married as well. This idol of the American Church fits in well with the idols of the wider American culture – the idolatry of finding your one true love and the idolatry of being sexually fulfilled. Both American churches and the wider American culture are working together to make Christians today believe that it is impossible to be fulfilled and to be happy without being married. I think this is an extremely dangerous and damaging view not only for gay Christians, but also for all the single Christians in the Church today who are being made to feel as if they are second-class and being made to feel as if their lives are miserable! This view also contributes to widespread divorce as people quickly bail on any marriage that isn’t fulfilling them in the way that they feel entitled to.
3. The American Church has found a way to elevate homosexuality by placing it in a different category than other sexual sins. Other sexual sins are demonized while homosexuality has been sanctified. The list of different sexual urges and temptations that exist I’m sure is nearly endless. Most of them are still frowned upon by Christians. How can they sanitize homosexuality? They try to do so by showing how similar gay marriage is to regular marriage. Both are monogamous and about another person. Both are about commitment and love. This allows Christians to then show great compassion to gay people. Of course, they didn’t choose their desires, so they deserve compassion and deserve to act on their sexual desires and experience true love. But then these Christians still tend to demonize others. They have very little, if any, compassion on those who, by no choice of their own, developed sexual desires for pedophilia, bestiality, urinating while having sex, wearing diapers with sex, those with foot fetishes, and those who expose themselves to others (among tons of other things we could list).
This bothers me a lot! ALL of these people deserve our compassion, because none of them chose to have the desires that they have. (I’m NOT saying we should tolerate what they do, some of them are indeed dangerous to society if acting on their desires). But the American Church has sanctified homosexual marriage because it still fits their cultural values of commitment and monogamy. Because these other sins don’t fit the cultural values, the people that struggle with these things don’t get listened to. They are just weirdos and dangerous people. In my experience, it is people like me who have not changed their views about homosexuality who tend to be much more compassionate to all sexual deviants, whether porn addicts, homosexuals, or those with the strange desires I listed above. This is because I know we are all equally broken in our sexuality, whether heterosexual or homosexual, whatever our desires might be. We are on the same level, sinners, all in need of God’s grace. But to those who are forming their beliefs about sexuality based upon the whims and values of the culture, there is no reason to be compassionate to those with odd sexual desires. Interestingly, crossdressing and transgenderism seem to have recently been thrown into the sanctified group of allowable sexual sins along with homosexuality. Perhaps this is because transsexuals can still uphold the cultural values of monogamy and commitment. And perhaps it’s because transgenderism has been in the media so much in the past decade so that it no longer seems scary and weird unlike the other sexual sins I listed.
How does the Church of the murky middle both help and hurt us who struggle with crossdressing and gender dysphoria? We are helped in the sense that Christians today are much more educated about crossdressing and gender dysphoria. We are helped in that Christians today are more likely to really listen and try to understand us rather than dismissing us as scary deviants. We are more likely to received compassion. We won’t be told to go through painful conversion therapies that have rightly been dismissed as oppressive and damaging.
But in certain ways the nature of the Church today has made things harder for us. Many Christians don’t know what to do with us. Even if we tell them that we believe crossdressing is sinful, it can be hard to convince many of them to believe this as well. They are stuck in the middle trying to balance the Bible’s teachings and the values they have taken in from the culture. Many will listen to us, but still not have the courage to call us out of sin or hold us accountable. Some may even indirectly prompt us to not think so negatively about crossdressing and maybe that we shouldn’t feel bad about it.
I’ve experienced these goods and bads myself and I’ve heard many stories from others who experienced these goods and bads from their counselors, pastors, and fellow Christians. Most of the time these counselors or friends do not directly encourage Christians to continue in crossdressing or in transgender living. But they are also afraid to tell them to stop crossdressing. They are afraid to come out and say that transgender living is not honoring to God. They are afraid to say that a man cannot become a woman. The Church has been cowed. Many Christians are afraid to do anything that doesn’t look like affirming love.
The people that suffer the most are usually the wives of the Christian crossdressers. The wives know better than anyone else how harmful and perverted crossdressing is. They’ve had to see the real ugliness of it. But it is excruciatingly painful (I know, countless wives have told me), when pastors or counselors or Christian friends minimize crossdressing as something that is not that big of a deal. Some try to say that it might be a sin, but really a small one that can be tolerated. Much worse is when the pastor or counselor tells the wife to try to enjoy it, or that she must affirm her husband in his crossdressing because it is part of who he is. Let’s call this what it is: a truly horrific experience for a wife to go through, one that is antithetical to the Christian Faith. Even many years ago, I remember reading a book, “Sex for Christians” by Lewis B. Smedes, a pastor. The only thing I remember about the book is that he encouraged crossdressing within marriage as a harmless activity that should be able to be enjoyed by the wife. That is utterly false and dangerous teaching. I assume this pastor taught this out of ignorance, but it is a dangerous thing before the living God to encourage people to sin.
God’s judgements on such people are stern. Hear what Paul says:
Romans 1:32 – “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
And Jesus says in Matthew:
Matthew 18:6 – “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
Encouraging people to embrace sin, or telling people they should try to live in a false identity, in a delusion, is serious sin. What kind of sick twisted world is it when fellow believers will push us and plead with us to remain in sexual addiction? Or plead with us to reject our bodies which were created by God, view them as ugly, and pretend to live as the opposite sex?
But it gets worse than that. There are “Christians” today who actually try to attack and shame those who testify about how God has helped them to overcome their sexual sins and addictions. It’s despicable, but I guess it’s logical. If you can come to the belief that God values homosexuality and crossdressing and that therefore they should be embraced and appreciated, then it makes sense that you would mourn when people don’t embrace what should be viewed as a gift. It’s logical. But it’s ever so painful, because it’s ever so wrong. My own opinion is that most Christians who are affirming of crossdressing or transgenderism have really not thought through the issues very carefully, and they haven’t seen the pain they have caused in the lives of the crossdressers themselves, or the people in their families. I understand they are trying to be loving out of ignorance, but that doesn’t make it any less painful for us who experience it.
Stand Firm Against Opposition and Persecution
Anyway, I’m not writing this to complain about the Church or the culture. I’m writing this to encourage all of us in the face of the opposition we will experience. We didn’t get to choose what time of history we would be born into. This is the time we are in, and to this we are called, to be obedience followers of Christ, despite the hardships. Despite the world celebrating our sin and encouraging us to give in, despite people attacking us for trying to overcome our addictions, we must still strive to live in freedom with Christ and resist the ways of the world. We should expect persecution in the Christian life. Hear Jesus’ words:
Matthew 5:10-12 – “10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
What a beautiful statement by Jesus. It encourages me so much. The daunting thing is that it tells me that I should expect to be persecuted. In another place Jesus says that if they persecuted him, of course they will persecute his followers. This passage also encourages me that there is reward, there is great blessing, there are treasures in Heaven for us who are persecuted because of our walk with Christ. It is an honor to be ridiculed as we represent the name of Christ! When people ridicule me for giving up crossdressing because I am a crazy Jesus follower, I am blessed! Don’t even try to be a friend of the world. You cannot do it, and we are not supposed to do it. This world is not our home:
James 4:4 – “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
James tells us that we cannot expect to be friends with God and friends with the world. Yes, we need to love all people, we need to shower them with compassion, patience, and generosity. Yes we should befriend non-believers. But at the end of the day, we are strangers in this world and we don’t fit in. We can’t befriend this broken world. Don’t try to fit in and make peace with all of the evils in our culture.
1 Peter 2:9-11 – “9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.”
Again, 1 Peter tells us that we are strangers in this world. We were called out of darkness to live in the light. We are a holy nation. Don’t expect the world to understand you or your decisions. Don’t expect that everyone will affirm you or celebrate you when you talk about your fight against sin in your life. People will not understand, and people will even get angry. I think back to the early church. The early Christians rejected the worship of idols and the worship of the Roman emperor. People could not understand why. Christians looked like fools. They looked like traitors to the empire. The early Christians rejected the sexual sins around them and stopped giving in to prostitution and adultery and sex worship at temples. And many were put to death for it. May we follow their great examples! When thinking about persecution I often think about what Hebrews says:
Hebrews 12:1-4 – “1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”
Many Christians throughout the ages have been put to death, had their blood shed, as they fought against sin in their lives. We are not to that point yet. We don’t need to be overly dramatic. Right now we can still fight against these sexual sins in our lives and do not have to fear being put to death because of it. Maybe that time will come, but not yet. This should give us some encouragement. It might seem like there is a lot of peer pressure to give in to our sins, but we still have it easy compared to the early church. We CAN resist these sins. There is cultural pressure, but it is not so great. The persecution is still weak and insignificant. And even if the persecution became serious, we could still resist and still not give in to our sin, through the help of the Holy Spirit living within us. We need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and what he has done for us on the cross.
If you are here reading this article and you believe there is nothing wrong with crossdressing or transgenderism, then continue in those behaviors. But if you are reading, and you are a fellow Christian who wishes to follow Christ, don’t use the cultural peer pressures as an excuse to give in to sin. Don’t run away from opposition and ridicule. Encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s not easy to stand out. It’s not easy to always be a stranger in this world. Let us encourage each other and give each other strength to do what we know we need to do.
Love Those Who Criticize You
I have experienced a lot of hatred through this website ministry. Here at the end I’d like to share one more thing I have learned over the years by sharing one more Bible passage and sharing a testimony.
Matthew 5:44 – “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Love those who persecute you. This is what I have tried to do. It’s not easy, but it is what God calls us to. And you never know what the result will be. I once had someone come on my blog and he posted all kinds of hateful comments and did his best to attack me and shame me. I responded with patience and love. About 5 months later he came back and posted an apology that was incredibly beautiful and talked about how he had been challenged by the love I had shown. He began to read my posts, realized that I did have something to say about crossdressing. He actually changed his view about crossdressing and began to try to recover from his own crossdressing addiction.
We can’t expect this to always happen. Sometimes those who practice evil in the world and ridicule us will continue to do so no matter what we do. But other times, our testimony of being willing to sacrifice, deny ourselves, and suffer for Christ can have a big impact on others. Our testimony of showing love in response to hate can cause a big change. That is what happened in the Roman Empire with the early church. Their love and willingness to suffer caused more and more pagan Romans to come to faith in Christ. The more people Rome killed, the more came to Christ. Let us follow that example and continue to love and pray for those who persecute us.