Peter Vlaming teaches French at West Point High School in West Point, Virginia. He was fired by the school board last Thursday for refusing to use a transgender student’s preferred pronoun. (The student was born as a biological female but wishes to use the pronouns “he” and “him.”)
The school’s administration claims that Vlaming was told multiple times to refer to the student using male pronouns. “By failing to follow the directive, he was therefore discriminating and creating a hostile environment,” the superintendent told the board.
The next day, students at the school coordinated a walkout in support of Vlaming. Several held signs that read “Men are men and women are women and that is a fact!” and “You can’t impose delusion on us.”
Vlaming told the school board that his Christian faith was the reason for his refusal. “We are here today because a specific worldview is being imposed on me,” he said. “Even higher than my family ranks my faith.” Asked whether the debate was worth losing his job over, he told reporters, “There are some hills that are worth dying on.”
God “made them male and female”
My purpose today is not to focus on the transgender issue itself. (For an in-depth discussion of this subject, please see my chapter on the transgender debate in my book, 7 Crucial Questions.) Nor do I want to limit our discussion to the West Point controversy.
Rather, I want to ask: Are there “hills that are worth dying on” for Christians today?
Imagine yourself in Peter Vlaming’s position. Your Christian worldview affirms the biblical statement that God creates humans as “male and female” (Genesis 1:27). You agree with Jesus: “He who created them from the beginning made them male and female” (Matthew 19:4).
What should you do?
This is not an abstract question. A recent survey found that nearly 3 percent of ninth- and eleventh-grade students say they are transgender or gender nonconforming, meaning they don’t always identify as the sex they were assigned at birth. Of America’s 15.1 million high school students, 3 percent equates to 453,000 transgender students.
In addition, according to one adoption website, there are 594,000 same-sex couple households in the US; 115,000 of them have children. As these children become students, Christian teachers who affirm biblical marriage may be faced with a dilemma similar to the one confronting Peter Vlaming.
These questions pertain to more than high school teachers. Parents who affirm biblical morality must address these issues with their children. Pastors face similar issues with their congregations. So do those who work alongside transgender or LGBTQ persons.
Let’s survey our options.
One wrong approach: Change your theology to match the culture.
As our society embraces “gender fluidity,” same-sex marriage, or other unbiblical morality, we could adapt our beliefs accordingly. This might enable us to appear relevant to our post-Christian world.
Of course, interpreting the Bible through the lens of our fallen culture is a never-ending process of adjusting God’s unchanging word to our changing world. If the Bible is wrong on “gender fluidity,” is it also wrong on same-gender sexual relations? Polygamy? Premarital sex? Pornography? Abortion? Euthanasia?
Scripture is clear: “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32). Unpopular truth is still truth. A doctor who tells her unwilling patient that he needs medical help is exercising courageous compassion.
A second wrong approach: Condemn those with whom you disagree.
We could see the school board members as attacking our faith. It is more likely, however, that they are acting out of their worldview. They apparently believe that gender is fluid and the gender identity of this student should therefore be affirmed. And they are convinced that to believe otherwise is bigoted and discriminatory.
For every enemy of our faith who uses moral issues to attack us, there are many who think we are simply wrong and intolerant. The root of their problem is spiritual: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Like Paul, we are sent “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light” (Acts 26:18). We are called not to reject those with whom we disagree but to minister to them.
The biblical mandate: Obey your highest authority.
Peter taught us, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” (1 Peter 2:13). Yet when he was ordered by the authorities to cease preaching the gospel, he and the apostles responded: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
We should do all we can to obey and respect those in authority over us: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). We should look for ways to resolve conflict, remembering Jesus’ beatitude: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
But if we are forced to choose between Caesar and God, we must choose God.
Chinese pastors and believers who will not submit to the control of the government are being imprisoned and their churches closed. According to Open Doors, 215 million Christians experience high levels of persecution for their faith today.
American churches are not being closed by our government; American Christians are not being imprisoned or martyred for following Jesus. But we are increasingly being forced to choose between what is popular and what is biblical.
For a follower of Jesus, this is no choice at all.
The next time you must pay a price to obey God’s word, consider the cost of your salvation. And remember: The first “hill to die on” was called Calvary.
For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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Publication Date: December 11, 2018
Photo Courtesy: Jo Szczepanska/Unsplash