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Jonathan Williams Pastor Forefront Church

In a Fallen World Don’t Trust Whatever Is to Be Right

By Denise Shick – BarbWire guest contributor

All Nature is but Art unknown to thee;
All chance direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good:
And spite of Pride, in erring Reason’s spite,
One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.
From Of the Nature and State of Man, With Respect to the Universe by Alexander Pope

I’d guess that one thing about which my detractors in the LGBQT community and I can agree is that Alexander Pope was wrong about what he said was right. Clearly, the status quo is not always right. Some things are just plain wrong. We know it. We sense it deep inside.

My purpose here is not to analyze Pope’s poem. My purpose is to analyze what is right—what is just and how to bring justice to a situation that increasingly calls out for adjudication.

Is it just for one to inhabit the body of one gender while feeling deep inside that he or she is meant to be the other gender? Recently, that question became very real for a Christian pastor named Jonathan Williams, when his father, also a pastor, revealed that he was going to transition from male to female. I read about Pastor Williams’ struggle with this issue in a New York Times feature, “Faith and Family, in Transition.”

It seems that Jonathan’s father, Paul, had felt since childhood that he was meant to be a woman. So finally, in his 60s, he decided it was time to quit suppressing his urge and instead embrace it—to pursue it resolutely. Paul’s confession to his son about his planned gender transition sent the younger Williams into some deep soul searching—and pain. Jonathan said, “I felt betrayed, lied to. I didn’t want to know my dad’s new name for six, seven months after it happened.” That’s a very common reaction, one I hear often from family members of gender dysphoric people.

So what we have here—and again, this is a scenario I hear regularly in my ministry to gender dysphorics—is two different sides, both sensing convincingly that what is, is not right. The dysphoric person is convinced that his or her gender is not right, and the family member senses just as forcefully that the dysphoric’s desire to transition is not right.
Something’s wrong and needs to be corrected. But what?

After decades of suppressing his desire, Paul, the father, finally concluded that the answer to his sense of injustice lay in fulfilling his long-suppressed desire. Jonathan, his son, reacted to his father’s choice as most family members do upon hearing such news: “I’d be upstairs crying before church. Like, this is miserable. My dad was my hero, and my dad’s not my dad any longer.”

Is it right for the father to cause his son (and others) such grief that he cries regularly and feels he’s lost his father? Is it right for the son to hinder his father’s pursuit of a long-held dream? One can make persuasive arguments for either side (although, in my view, a “tie” always goes to the child or children, for whom a parent should be willing to sacrifice).

But when two sides are at an impasse, it’s time to introduce an arbitrator. An arbitrator is “a person chosen to decide a dispute or settle differences, especially one formally empowered to examine the facts and decide the issue.”1

Another term for arbitrator is judge. Who can serve as this arbitrator/judge for this thorny issue? Regarding the issue of gender, I can think of no one better suited to judge than the One who created genders: God.

I can hear the howls: “Don’t bring your religion into this!” “This is about MY choices; leave your God out of it!” I hear you. But when we have two sides (both composed of humans) who are utterly unable to come to any type of agreement, I think it’s time to consult a Judge who transcends the factions. We’re back to God, who “created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). God created the genders, and “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). I’m afraid it can’t be much clearer than that. What was, was right.

But then something happened to make right wrong. Mankind fell (Genesis 3). Ever since then, what is has often been wrong. In this fallen world, we need to remember that what is, is not always right.


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