kites on beach

Pam and I went to the beach last week for vacation. For five days we forgot all about our usual responsibilities and instead listened to the roar of the surf, played in the waves and read books under an umbrella. We had a great getaway and I realized—not for the first time—how a week at the beach may be a better investment than a year of therapy.


On Wednesday (I think it was Wednesday but at the beach I lose track) something happened that caught me by surprise, not just because it was a new experience but because of the larger meaning it had for me as a pastor.


A man showed up carrying a large case; opened it near the water where the wind was strongest; and pulled out a bunch of kites attached to one another in an odd combination of frames, strings and tails.


When he got the whole thing assembled I counted twelve kites attached to one another and dyed in a coordinated spectrum. Starting from deep blue the kites were colored in progressively lighter shades of green fading on to yellow. A festive ribbon streamed from each tail. At one end a harness connected the assembly to two guide lines that looked to be made of strong fishing line; they were invisible from a distance but strong enough to secure the kites even in a strong wind. The lines in turn ran to two spools with handles. The man held one in each hand.


When it was all put together, the man—I’ll call him the handler—laid the contraption on the sand, backed off about one hundred feet and took the handles in his hands. With a twitch of his wrists he pointed the kites’ noses up just enough to catch the wind coming off the breakers. Before my startled eyes realized what was happening, the kites jumped from the ground like a flock of gulls and soared into the wind. The video I took at the time wouldn’t load on the blog, so here’s a YouTube video of the same kind of 12-stack kites that I’m talking about:

It was one most amazing things I’ve ever witnessed. From my vantage point just a short distance away, I couldn’t see the handler or the lines he held in his hands. All that was visible were the brightly-hued kites dancing in the summer sky.


And did they ever dance! They shot straight up; they dropped like a stone; they swirled in lazy curly-ques. The kites would change directions without warning, swooping from right to left to up and down with the streamers marking their course like a wake in the air. I could hear their fabric flapping in syncopation with their movement: softer when higher up then louder as they dived toward the earth. They would fall to within a few feet of the sand and hover motionless for a few moments like a helicopter about to land then rise so quickly it took my breath away.


A group of children gathered, laughing and pointing at the sheer joy of it all. They were even more excited when the kites came so near that they were able to reach up and touch the cloth. Then the handler tweaked the line and the kites leaped back into the wind, the streamers lingering just long enough for the kids to feel them slip through their grasp like a dream.


There was such joy, such wild imaginative designs in the kites’ flight that I was mesmerized and could have watched it for hours.


Then I realized it wasn’t just the kites that caught my attention. There was something more to it. Ok, so I’m a preacher and I tend to see lots of ordinary experiences as examples of ministry. But this was no ordinary experience. In fact, the flight of the kites was for me a startling metaphor for pastoral leadership in modern America, and as I watched the scene unfold I could feel much of the tension and fatigue I had brought with me to the beach drain away. The flight of the kites taught me something crucial about church leadership at the very moment I needed most to know.


The three pieces to the experience seemed to me to reflect the three crucial components of pastoral work. First there were the kites dancing in the air. Second was the handler, the one responsible for the kites’ movement. Finally, there was the wind that made the whole scene possible.


The kites were the most visible portion of the scene. They were connected together in such a way that even though each was a different color, their individual shades all were coordinated to a single spectrum. There was a purpose to their variations. The harness that bound them together made their flight possible. Without it, they would have floated off in different directions.


The parallels with how the Bible describes church were hard to miss. Unity in diversity; connectedness verses individualism. Churches embody those very characteristics, or should.


The kites’ handler was harder to pick up. From any distance you had to look hard to find his figure standing on the sand. His presence was more subtle than I would have thought, and the main thing he did was to hold onto the guidelines and direct the kites in whatever direction the wind would allow.


He was a leader in the same way pastors are leaders, or should be. Congregations put pastors into place in order to provide voice and direction for the church as a whole. It’s a vital position and one that all pastors take seriously. At the same time, though, our task by necessity keeps us in the background, just like the kites’ handler. All we really do is hold the lines that keep the congregation in correct alignment and position. In our day of celebrity pastors and secular leadership techniques masquerading as pastoral leadership, the image of a pastor as an anonymous figure standing in the background isn’t something many of want to embrace.


But the main thing I learned on the beach wasn’t about the kites or the handler. What I realized with such clarity was the central place of the wind. The wind drove everything. Without it, the kites would never have flown and the handler would have had no reason to be there. Everything I observed on the beach was designed to simply capture the power of the wind blowing in from the sea. The kites had no other purpose than to soar in the wind. The handler had no other task than to put the kites in the correct position to capture the wind’s power.


The wind, of course, is the Holy Spirit, who calls the church into existence and anoints pastors to their task. The Holy Spirit allows churches to soar and pastors to function. Apart from the divine wind, neither churches nor pastors can fulfill their purpose.


Pastors today struggle with leadership. We’ve become effective in accomplishing our own agenda and promoting our own brand—but the cost has been that our churches have lost the capacity to soar in the wind of the Spirit. What I saw on the beach was a different kind of leadership, one more humble about the role of the pastor and more passionate about the priority of the church. A leadership—most of all—that recognizes the pastor’s main task is to capture the power of the wind.



Independence Day worship services put faith and patriotism in the same place at the same time for the same purpose, and finding the right balance isn’t as easy as we want to admit.


LifeWay Research last week proved the point in the release of a survey it recently completed of one thousand Protestant ministers regarding their attitudes toward July Fourth worship services. Much of the information is about what you’d expect but the more you drill down some surprising details come to light regarding the uneasy connection between patriotic themes and biblical faith in the nation’s evangelical churches.


First, almost every church gives at least some attention to the patriotic themes of the day.


“Our nation’s birthday weekend celebration impacts almost 9 in 10 church services,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “As people remember veterans, service members and patriotism, it is natural for churches to seek to apply theology to these cultural activities.”


Not surprisingly, more conservative denominations give more attention to expressing patriotism as part of worship around Independence Day than other, less conservative groups.


Denomination also plays a role in pastors’ views on the importance of patriotic elements in worship services around the July Fourth holiday. Pentecostals (82 percent) are most likely among Protestant pastors to agree on their importance, while Baptists (67 percent) are more likely to agree than Lutherans (51 percent), Methodists (50 percent) and Presbyterian/Reformed (47 percent).


Finally, the survey confirms the general observation that age and region tend to affect the inclusion of patriotic themes in worship on the day.


Pastors 65 and older are more likely to say it’s important to incorporate patriotic elements in worship services the week of July Fourth (78 percent) than pastors 18-44 years old (44 percent). Pastors in the West (67 percent) are more likely to hold that view than pastors in the Northeast (55 percent) and Midwest (54 percent).


On a personal level as pastor of a local church, I find it a challenge every year to figure out how best to handle July Fourth Sunday. On one side there are compelling reasons for churches to do all they can to worship in an environment that proclaims our American heritage:


  • The Christian faith and biblical values had a profound impact on the beginnings of our nation. John Adams, maybe the most devout of all the founding fathers, spoke for most of the rest when he affirmed that “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.” Independence Day worship celebrations serve the vital purpose of keeping the distinctively Christian beginnings of America in public view.


  • The free exercise of religion has played a pivotal role in our history. Indeed, there wouldn’t be an America if not for the first settlers’ search for that privilege. The First Amendment enshrines the freedom of religion as the foundation of all other freedoms. Every year on this day pastors should place that principle in front of their people.


  • Jesus called us to honor the government even as we worship God. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” he says in Mark 12:17, although there are many times I wish the Lord would have been a little more specific about just how to achieve the balance.


  • I’ve always been blessed to serve churches with many active and retired military people, and I know from first-hand experience the authentic faith and personal integrity that motivates the men and women who serve in the nation’s armed forces. Churches should provide on Independence Day each year the opportunity in public worship to recognize them and encourage them as they integrate their faith in God with their service to our nation.


But there’s another side of the issue that churches would do well to think through as they celebrate the day, and if we’re not careful the religious observation of July Fourth can become something less than biblical worship:


  • The American tradition of civil religion is something we all need to be wary of. Civil religion is a version of Christianity used in public functions as a way of providing a religious overlay to government and political functions without actually giving credence to biblical content. For instance, the phrase “In God we trust” on our currency is civil religion. As is the “under God” clause in the Pledge of Allegiance. Many political leaders take their oaths of office on a Bible. I’m not saying civil religion is necessarily a bad thing; indeed, any reminder of God and biblical truth in the public square can be a blessing. I’m simply saying that these kinds of words and phrases when used in government-endorsed functions serve a political purpose not a religious one. The problem is how civil religion can cover the distinctiveness of the Christian gospel with a veneer of political correctness and civic responsibility. If in an Independence Day worship service, for instance, an American flag is more prominently displayed than the cross, that’s a sign that biblical religion has been set aside for the sake of national pride. I see nothing wrong with decorating our churches with a modest amount of patriotic reminders of the day’s significance, but we place our higher allegiance in jeopardy when we don’t pay careful attention to how we use symbols that inform worship. To say that is no disrespect to our nation or our flag; it’s to affirm that Christian worship always affirms the superiority of the cross to all nations.


  • Today, persecution against Christians is endorsed by the government in a variety of ways, creating such spiritual dissonance that worship on July Fourth Sunday can send mixed messages. In my church’s Celebration of Freedom service last Sunday, for example, we watched videos of two Christian business owners who took principled stands regarding specific business practices. In both cases state government authorities sued—their legal actions were subsequently upheld through lengthy appeals processes—resulting in the business owners held liable for criminal behavior. This is what persecution looks like in twenty-first century America: Christians determined to live according to their convictions lose their livelihoods because of a political and judicial system that will not tolerate biblical standards. It’s a new kind of challenge when local churches hold a worship service where love of country is integrated with the reality of Christian persecution.


  • Patriotic worship services run the risk of becoming de facto political rallies, usually on the conservative side. If Bible-believing people aren’t careful, they may come together for worship to celebrate America’s Independence Day and the service become an opportunity to detail everything that’s wrong with America. It can then easily move into the need to elect the right people to public office who can restore the country to what it used to be. I’m not denying the need for Christians to be politically active and, especially, to support public officials who will defend unborn life and traditional marriage. What I’m passionate about, though, is for our churches to keep our eye on Jesus. Politics won’t save us; only Jesus can do that. Worship services that lose sight of the priority of Jesus for the sake of political expediency will end up with  empty worship on one hand and poor politics on the other. We best serve our nation in the same way we best serve our Lord: by keeping our focus on him.


So how does a local church achieve a biblical balance between faith and patriotism, especially for the Independence Day worship service? I can only say how our church went about it last Sunday. We included a variety of patriotic elements but maybe the one that engaged our people the most was the color guard that presented the American flag. The group of four men was from a local veteran’s transitional housing ministry; in other words, they were homeless. Two were in their sixties, two were in their forties; one was African-American and the other three were white. All have had a rough life since their military service. I’ve rarely been as moved as I was when I saw the pride and care they gave to their duty on Sunday morning. They represented the American flag with the highest standards. But they represented something beyond the flag, something having to do with hope, redemption and service beyond their circumstances. Their participation raised the atmosphere in the worship service beyond patriotism–although it certainly included that–to a level closer to what the Bible calls the gospel.


We sang some patriotic songs but later went simply and naturally into great biblical worship, with people singing the glories of God and raising their hands in praise and thanksgiving. The sermon focused on how we’re to live as faithful believers at a time in our nation’s history when the truths of God’s Word are no longer honored in public life. We focused on 1 Peter’s encouragement to Christians of all eras as they undergo persecution:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 5:12-13)


During the closing song, it was no surprise to me when a young adult came forward and prayed to receive Jesus as his Lord. The reason I wasn’t surprised is that, as important as was the celebration of our national heritage in the service, the gospel had played even a greater role. And I think that’s how it should be.



In March the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Washington issued the new learning standards to take effect in all public schools in the school year 2017-2018. The standards touch all the expected bases but when it comes to sexual health there are instructional goals that should make all evangelical Christians take notice. Not because what happens in Washington is necessarily what would happen here in South Carolina but because sooner or later all states will be affected by what affects one.


Here’s what we should pay attention to: Beginning in kindergarten and continuing through high school, every student will be taught transgenderism is a viable expression of sexual expression and graded on how well they accept their indoctrination.


You can read the whole report here. The section I’m referring to is entitled “Self-identity” and begins on page 28.


If you want a concise analysis you can read the Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson, who earlier this week ran a piece explaining the details. Hasson points out how the foundation of the transgender learning standards was laid in an earlier document.


The state’s health education glossary defines gender as “A social construct based on emotional, behavioral, and cultural characteristics attached to a person’s assigned biological sex.” Gender expression, meanwhile, is defined as “The way someone outwardly expresses their gender.”


Biology, in this way of thinking, has little to do with gender. Gender—male or female—is instead a contrivance adopted to support whatever characteristics society might value. The consequence is that people are free to choose whichever gender best suits their personal inclination. Gender, in other words, isn’t a given; it’s a preference. It isn’t determined; it’s fluid. It’s not the prerogative of society or religion; but instead that of the individual.


Washington’s learning standards, in the best bureaucratic fashion, carefully assign specific objectives to each grade. Here’s the breakdown of how the educational objectives will be implemented:


Beginning in Kindergarten, students will be taught about the many ways to express gender.  Gender expression education will include information about the manifestations of traits that are typically associated with one gender. Crossdressing is one form of gender expression.


Third graders will be introduced to the concept of gender identity.  These children will be taught that they can choose their own gender.


Fourth graders will be expected to “define sexual orientation,” which refers to whether a person identifies as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual; they’ll also be taught about HIV prevention.  Children in fourth grade will be told that they can choose their sexual orientation.


Fourth and fifth graders will learn about the relativity of gender roles and why such roles are social constructs that are not inherent to who we are as male or female human beings.


Seventh graders will be expected to “distinguish between biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.”


High school students will critically “evaluate how culture, media, society, and other people influence our perceptions of gender roles, sexuality, relationships, and sexual orientation.”


I’m hesitant to bring up the transgenderism issue again because I’ve devoted several recent blogs to it, but it’s important for all of us in evangelical churches to grasp the importance of this moment. This isn’t just about changing moral values, who can use public restrooms, public policy, constitutional law, the place of the church in the larger culture or even public school curricula. Although all those things are important. But it’s what lies beneath that’s so significant, and threatening.


The transgender movement—along with the cultural and political wreckage it’s leaving in its wake—takes as its philosophical foundation the notion that each individual is his own god and can create himself or herself in whatever image is desired. We who take the Bible as our guide and Jesus as our Lord can never embrace that belief. We are bound to reject any idea or philosophy that attempts to replace the Creator with the creature.


This transgender moment—if I can call it that—really is a watershed. Not in the sense its advocates claim; namely, that the individual freedoms and protections guaranteed in the Constitution are now available to everyone. But in the sense of being such a seismic shift that it’s hard to see how the religious beliefs at the nation’s core can still find a hearing. One of the ironies in the current legal wrangling is how many of the so-called freedoms and protections demanded by fringe groups (interesting factoid: transgenders make up .3 % of the national population) come at the expense of Bible believing people. Does anyone really believe that the State of Washington will make allowances for Christian families to exempt their children from indoctrination into the new transgender standards?


As American institutions fall one by one to transgenderism and all it represents, our position as evangelical Christians will be ostracized, ridiculed, persecuted and finally outlawed. The next few years will determine not just the fate of America as a nation but also that of the Church as American.



In the aftermath of the federal guidelines issued two weeks ago requiring all public schools to accommodate the restroom preference of transgender students, a friend asked me a question I’m sure many Christians are thinking about: “Could churches be forced to have transgender restrooms?”


I immediately said, “Of course not! It will never happen!”


My first response to any question regarding questions of government intrusion into church policies is to recall the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment. America was founded on the free expression of religious convictions and it’s always been absurd to think that the government would or could coerce people of faith to embrace a practice that goes against their beliefs.


At least that’s been the case up until now. The more I reflect on my friend’s question in light of the recent evolution of American law regarding religion, the more I think my initial response may have been wrong. If he were to ask me again I’d have to change my answer from Never to Maybe.


What would have been unthinkable just a few months ago is, I think, a real possibility. The reason is a thirty-three-year-old court case that paves the way for transgender restrooms in churches, though not exactly in the way you might expect.


Bob Jones University, founded in 1927 as a biblical alternative to growing American secularism, was by the early 1970s famous for its fundamentalist beliefs, social conservatism and separation from mainstream culture. The school also was well known for its rigid stance against the intermingling of races. African-American students weren’t accepted until 1971. Even then, inter-racial dating wasn’t allowed. Inter-racial marriage was condemned. Anyone who spoke in favor of either was subject to dismissal from the school.


Those policies caught the attention of the federal government and in 1976 the Internal Revenue Service revoked the school’s tax-exempt status because of its violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which banned discrimination in the educational system.


Bob Jones sued to have their tax-exempt status restored, arguing that their religious convictions prohibited the mixing of races and under their First Amendment rights they should be able to practice their religion without penalty. Bob Jones University v United States ended up before the United States Supreme Court and in 1983 the high court handed down a unanimous decision in favor of the IRS.


The language of the court’s decision has particular relevance for our own day:


Neither petitioner qualifies as a tax-exempt organization…[i]t would be wholly incompatible with the concepts underlying tax exemption to grant tax-exempt status to racially discriminatory private educational entities. Whatever may be the rationale for such private schools’ policies, racial discrimination in education is contrary to public policy. Racially discriminatory educational institutions cannot be viewed as conferring a public benefit within the above ‘charitable’ concept or within the congressional intent underlying 501(c)(3).


With the loss of the tax-exempt status that allowed donors to deduct contributions from their income tax, the school lost 13% of its revenue the following year. More interestingly, the school did away with its ban on inter-racial dating in 2000 and had their tax-exempt status restored. The pressure brought to bear by the government was successful in changing the school’s policy.


The racism at the root of the trial had to be addressed and few evangelicals today would argue with the decision. But despite the moral imperative of the particular case, a precedent was established with lasting repercussions. The court’s decision provided case law for the priority of civil rights over religious rights. Further, the remedy to a religious institution holding beliefs contrary to those acceptable to the government was to deny the institution the benefits of tax-exempt status.


The parallels between the Bob Jones case and the transgender restroom controversy of our own time are so obvious that it’s hard to see how our argument doesn’t end as did Bob Jones’s. I’m not saying there’s a moral or even legal equivalency between them. Racism like that Bob Jones demonstrated is a moral evil that diminishes people on the basis of objective criteria. Transgenderism, on the other hand, is the subjective experience of sexual identity. They have no moral or legal similarity. The point to keep in mind, though, is how the federal government now classifies the transgender population (a miniscule number) as a group suffering from discrimination and deserving of special accommodation.


Which brings us back to transgender restrooms in churches. If Bob Jones University lost its tax-exempt status because its religious convictions put it at odds with federal law, why wouldn’t local churches face the same penalty?


To be sure, the United States Supreme Court went to great lengths in its decision to say that local churches would never be subject to the same sort of action. I’m not so sure. The landscape since 1983 has changed and in last spring’s closing arguments before the court in Obergefell v Hodges, the case that legalized same-sex marriage, there was a chilling exchange that revealed where all this may be heading. Churches may not be as exempt as they think they are.


Here’s Kirby Anderson from “Point of View” describing last April’s arguments before the Supreme Court:


The top lawyer for the U.S. government had to answer a question he probably would have preferred not to tackle during oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell vs. Hodges, the marriage case. Justice Samuel Alito asked the Obama Administration’s Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli a question about how the religious liberty of religious schools that oppose same-sex marriage might be affected if the Court rules that same-sex marriage is a civil right. Justice Alito brought up a case that came before the court in 1983, Bob Jones University vs. United States.

 Justice Alito asked: “In the Bob Jones case, the Court held that a college was not entitled to tax exempt status if it opposed interracial marriage or interracial dating. So would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same sex marriage?”

 Mr. Verrilli, the Solicitor General replied: “You know, I…I don’t think I can answer that question without knowing more specifics, but it’s certainly going to be an issue.  I…I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is…it is going to be an issue.”

 For an organization’s tax exempt status to be revoked means it would no longer be exempt from federal income tax and is not eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. Many, probably most schools would not survive that.

 Solicitor General Verrilli’s answer was: yes, religious schools that oppose same sex marriage in their policies and teachings will have their tax-exempt status challenged and be likely to lose it if same sex marriage becomes the law of the land. What about other organizations that hold to orthodox Christian beliefs? Like churches? Will churches be subject to loss of tax exempt status if every state is forced to perform, or even recognize, same sex marriages?

 Another Justice, Antonin Scalia, asked during oral arguments, “Is it conceivable that a minister who is authorized by the state to conduct marriage can decline to marry two men if indeed this court holds that they have a constitutional right to marry?” Then he said, “I don’t see how.”


“I don’t see how ministers licensed by the state to perform marriages can refuse to marry two homosexuals if federal law says they have a right to marry,” Scalia said. He was right, of course. What Bob Jones initiated and Obergefell confirmed is that civil rights—however they’re defined—now trump religious liberty. If Christian colleges and Christian ministers aren’t protected from the incoming tide of federal law advocating sexual practices at odds with their beliefs, what makes us think churches will be?


In the government’s mind same-sex marriage and transgender restrooms are connected by one immutable principle. Both are civil rights. And where civil rights are concerned everything else is secondary, even the religious liberties guaranteed in the Constitution.


“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” the First Amendment says. When it comes to transgender restrooms in churches, it’s not at all clear if modern America believes those words anymore.


Public Restroom Symbols

When North Carolina governor Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2 into law on March 23, he didn’t know what demons would be unleashed. I wonder what he thinks now that all hell has broken loose.


The law bans people from using public restrooms that don’t match their biological sex. It requires men to use men’s rest rooms and women to use women’s rest rooms, a concept that in every era except our own would require neither law nor explanation.


But in our day an outraged response quickly followed. Transgenderism is the cause de jour, and its supporters won’t tolerate any dissent—legal, political, religious or from personal conviction. Even though there’s no way to define it or even to adequately describe it, the condition has risen to the level of a protected civil right, and those who oppose it are condemned as bigots.


Attorney General Loretta Lynch led the charge and on May 4 sent Governor McCrory a letter demanding he not enforce the law because it violated the civil rights guaranteed in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Threats to cut off federal funds to the state if he didn’t comply followed. Our nation is so accustomed to the bullying of the federal government that no one was particularly surprised. Still, when you read the language regarding the categories of civil rights protected by the law there’s no mention of transgenders. Title VII specifically protects people from discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion. Transgenderism isn’t on the list.


No matter. The unelected bureaucrats in the Justice Department whose job is to interpret laws in accordance with the administration’s political agenda decided that the North Carolina bill discriminated against transgenders and so must be set aside.


North Carolina—to their credit—didn’t back down and on May 9 filed suit in federal court against the Justice Department’s action, sensibly asking how it could be forced to conform to a statute that didn’t exist. Governor McCrory accused the Justice Department of “baseless and blatant overreach.”


Playing tit for tat the Justice Department later the same afternoon filed a counter-suit. Vanita Gupta, who leads the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division, explained how “[the North Carolina law] speaks to all of us who have ever been made to feel inferior—like somehow we just don’t belong in our community, like somehow we just don’t fit in. Let me assure every transgender individual, right here in America, that you belong just as you are.”


Ms. Gupta’s remarks are long on emotion but short on legal rationale. Shouldn’t we expect the Justice Department to have criteria for federal action more substantial than hurt feelings? But we should at least thank her for bringing to light a core issue of the whole affair. The difference between civil rights protected on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin or religion and those protected on the so-called basis of transgenderism is perfectly clear to anyone not employed by the Justice Department. You can easily identify the five classes laid out in Title VII because each one reflects an objective reality. Transgenderism on the other hand is fluid by definition and nailing down what the word means is almost impossible—by their own admission transgendered people move freely between genders. How can the law which must be objective in order to be fair address a condition that’s demonstrably subjective?


Then on May 13, the battle between North Carolina and the federal government escalated into nation-wide war. That’s the day the United States Departments of Education and Justice issued guidelines to all public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms according to their gender identity. In non-Orwellian language, the guidelines demand that every public school in America allow students to choose whichever gender bathroom they want to use. Locker rooms, medical facilities and other school services are included. The guidelines further instruct school officials to disregard students’ birth certificates and deal with them only on the basis of their self-identification.


The government’s statement said the change was necessary so that “transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment” and included the government’s standard threat of withholding federal monies for those school systems that refuse to bow the knee to this novel understanding of sexual identity.


Conservative politicians and evangelical leaders across the country are rallying against the new guidelines, filing lawsuits and holding rallies as fast as they can. The notion of students not feeling safe in their own bathrooms and locker rooms explains much of the opposition. Parents should have confidence enough in their tax-supported and locally governed institutions to trust their children will be cared for when they attend a public school. The growing conviction that’s no longer the case is frightening.


Beyond that, for all of us who try to live according to biblical standards transgenderism isn’t just a matter of sexual identification, and it certainly isn’t about civil rights. It’s instead the indication of a much deeper, more troubling sign of cultural decay.


Rod Dreher blogged on the subject earlier this week and quoted an anonymous pastor who’s daughter is attending a public school about to conform to the new federal guidelines. The pastor emailed his daughter’s principal and superintendant his concerns, concerns that went well past the guidelines themselves and addressed the underlying motivation that lies at the heart of evangelical opposition:


The real issue here is that the Obama administration’s decree is at the surface a pragmatic directive regarding the use of bathroom facilities etc., but implicitly and by logical necessity, it is a claim about what is in fact the case (i.e., true) regarding human nature as an essentially fluid and endlessly malleable reality. That is to say, it is a denial of the reality of any such thing as “human nature” beyond the self-determining dictates of the sovereign, autonomous will. It is, in short, philosophy decked out in bureaucratic dress and backed with a closed fist aimed at … [Christians] such as myself.


Evangelical Christians and their churches are fast being pushed into a corner. The powers that be will tolerate no opposition to their agenda of exalting the individual human will into the place of God.


We believe this is the primal sin and the one most dangerous to humanity and for that reason it’s impossible for us to comply with the law. It’s like the temptation set before Eve in the Garden of Eden when the serpent scoffed at God’s warning against eating fruit from the forbidden tree: “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…’” (Genesis 3:4-5)


You will be like God the serpent said—the same lie transgenderism makes to modern America; a lie that, when enforced by a political will with no respect for biblical truth, is leading our nation downward into darkness.