With the signing of the landmark and deeply concerning marriage redefinition bill at the White House last week, along with all the dramatic ceremony surrounding that signing, it is important to revisit the question of why Focus on the Family as a Christian ministry cares about the gender issue.
Unfortunately, too many people see Christians engaging the gender issue today as problematic. Sadly, this involves some Christians themselves. Such beliefs fail to fully understand both the importance and nature of this issue.
First, too many unbelievers see Christian engagement with the gender issue as “hateful” and dangerous to those who embrace any of the endlessly proliferating gender and sexual identities. But much of this is simply because we disagree that marriage can be degendered or that male and female are mere identities that can be adopted by personal choice and public declaration.
Just ask any gender activists this simple question: “Is there a way I can disagree with you on the nature of sex in the kindest, most winsome way possible and still be a good person?” That answer is “no.” The President of the United States said that very thing last week at the signing of the marriage redefinition bill. And this is because of the absolutist, zero-sum way gender activists have framed the debate. There is no room for kind disagreement. Only accusations of hate and being directly responsible for violence and self-harm.
We must all appreciate this fact. Gender activists’ objection is certainly not how you voice your disagreement. It is that you voice it at all. No amount of niceness will make your disagreement OK. So, the issue is not really about kindness, but forced agreement. And that is simply an irrational expectation.
Second, there are many Christians who feel the same way, wondering why believers can’t just be “nicer” and why we have to get into divisive issues. It must be understood that Christians did not start this debate. Nor did we go looking for it.
It started when same-sex marriage activists began to challenge the universal definition of marriage as the foundational human institution that solves the paradox that humanity exists as and is generated by male and female. Once the U.S. Supreme Court gave them de-gendered marriage and took the original meaning of marriage from the rest of us – see point #1 above – they pivoted with absolute dizzying speed, to redefine the very meaning of male and female. Such profound and consequential moves could not go unchallenged. And the expectation that either should go unchallenged is also irrational.
Other Christians see the gender issue as an unfortunate distraction from the “main thing” whether that be the message of salvation itself, church growth or other “more central” Christian issues. As we have explained elsewhere, sexuality and gender are indeed Gospel issues, if we properly understand the good-news story God has been telling the world from the first to last pages of Scripture.
People have asked us here at Focus on the Family, “Why can’t you guys just be true to your name and focus on the family? Are you really called to be an anti-LGBT organization?”
But this question only makes sense if you concede that discussions of the nature of male and female, marriage and sexuality belong to the LGTB activists. They do not. They are central to both the biblical and universal human story.
You see, both are about the fundamental nature of what it means to be human.
One – to focus on the family – affirms what it means to be human in a profoundly basic way. This is because the family is nothing less than the factory of humanity. Everyone living or has ever been born is a child of a mother and father and will very likely become a mother or a father. That is how humanity proceeds. This fact is worth defending … with great passion.
The other – LGBT politics – seeks to radically redefine the fundamental foundation of the family and humanity itself. This is an undeniable fact.
If you don’t believe this, then explain why our newest Supreme Court member did not feel she could safely define what a woman was in her senate confirmation hearings. She is brilliant, accomplished woman. She knows what a woman is. But she also knew that simply defining a woman as an adult human female is now at direct odds with the new gender orthodoxy.
It is as basic as this. Humanity is incoherent without male and female, which are the irreplaceable foundation and literal generation of the family.
And not just any family. The family does not exist apart from the unique, generative cooperation of male and female, husband and wife, mother and father. And marriage is the only means ever discovered that cooperatively ties male and female together for this purpose. That is why Focus on the Family must care deeply about the gender issue. Because the gender issue IS the family issue.
But as a Christian organization, Focus on the Family’s interest in and defense of gender goes even deeper. And that is for a very basic reason: It concerns the very image and likeness of God in creation.
This fact is right there on the first page of Scripture.
The first time we encounter human male and female is not in reference to Adam and Eve, curiously enough. It is in reference to a profoundly consequential theological truth: Male and female are the very image and likeness of God in creation.
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
No other part of God’s vast creation holds this divine distinction. And no Christian can miss this truth: Attacks on the nature of male and female are nothing less than attacks on the very image and likeness of God. Every Christian must therefore be passionate about defending the image and likeness of God.
So, it is very clear. Focus on the Family has no real choice here.
We cannot not be passionate about the gender issue. … About what male and female are. … About what sexuality is and does. … About what parentage is. … About what marriage and the family are.
This is who we are.
And the gender issue fundamentally questions and subverts each of these things in very concerning ways. Thus, Christians are compelled to respond to this gravely serious challenge that has been brought to our doorstep with equal measures of uncompromising truth and exacting grace.