How Will Christians Respond to Bruce Jenner?
Let’s not pretend that everyone hasn’t seen the Vanity Fair cover featuring acclaimed Olympian Bruce Jenner. Let’s start off being honest enough to admit that we’ve seen it, considered it, and have many mixed emotions and thoughts about it.
Now that we are on the same page about a magazine cover that will become an iconic American symbol (whether we like it or not), we can begin discussing the proper response to it.
As is often the case, our initial response to shocking things can be less than our best. We need time to process things, to fully consider the ramifications, and to understand the details in order to prepare a response. We’ve reached that time. The magazine cover is so widely circulated now that at some point you will be asked if you’ve seen it, and what your thoughts are. Are you prepared for that question?
First, we have to understand the cultural push to recreate “normal.” This isn’t the 50’s when it was as simple as boys are boys and girls are girls. The new normal is nothing less than a full frontal assault on gender and sexuality such as has never been seen in history. Boys are now boys that identify at times as girls, while girls are attracted to other girls. And any combination and variation on that you can imagine is not only happening, it’s hip.
Even Bruce Jenner, in a promo video for his new reality series about his dramatic journey has proclaimed that he is, in fact, the “new normal.” If he is the new normal, how are we to respond with love and compassion to a culture that sees deviant behavior as both acceptable and celebrated?
A good place to start is an article found at The Gospel Coalition. The article puts forth a solid starting point for responding to questions about Bruce Jenner, the Vanity Fair cover, and new cultural norms in general. The article has three simple thoughts it asks us as Christians to keep in mind when we are faced with the need to respond to our culture. Those three simple thoughts are:
- Expect disagreement at best, malice on average, downright hostility at worst.
- Whatever you say, make sure it’s true, gentle, and respectful.
- Always remember: Jesus is Lord.
The foundation for this response is rooted in Scripture when Peter wrote that we are to be prepared to give an answer to anyone that asks us why we hope in the Gospel:
“Christians are called to give a reason for the hope we have in the gospel. We are expected to do so with gentleness and respect, with a clear conscience, so that the ones who are speaking maliciously of our good behavior in Christ would one day be ashamed of their slander (1 Pet. 3:15–16).”
The basic foundation for any answer we give on any subject has to be the Gospel. More importantly, it has to be the hope the Gospel provides to broken people. It’s pitiable that far too many don’t see themselves as broken as this is a must for starting the only journey toward healing that can possibly last. So if we are to offer any hope, any remedy for the pain people are experiencing, it has to start with the Gospel.
As the Gospel Coalition article points out, the first thing we need to expect is open hostility. If we are under the impression that we will have civil conversations with people that celebrate sin we are sadly mistaken. And, to be perfectly candid, some of that hostility will come from people claiming to be Christians. The cultural push to normalize deviant behavior the Bible calls sin has swept up many well-meaning church goers. So let us prepare for conversations that will be uncomfortable and, often, heated.
But no matter how heated our opponents may become we must present both grace and truth in our speech.
I realize it can be hard to stay grace-filled in a culture that seems to revel in every kind of sin it can conceive of. If we’re honest, it’s tiring and we can become weary of it. Concerning the Bruce Jenner media circus I’m sure we’ve often wondered why it’s such a big deal. He’s not the first person to undergo such a “journey,” so why is everyone making such a big deal of it?
In fact, you know its reached fever pitch when someone like Bill Maher is tired of it. Maher recently told his audience that Jenner is little more than Kim Kardashian’s step-dad that is now her step-mom; and that Jenner is “no Rosa Parks.” Strong words that carry a bit of truth. But for Christians these truth-heavy words will ring hollow and sound hateful. So our response must be better.
Ultimately, our response must point to Jesus. The hope we have is not in anything earthly or temporal. The hope we have is in the resurrected Christ that will one day set all things right. The despair that drives a person to seek to change his/her sex cannot be overcome with operations or celebrity status; no amount of media praise or cultural jubilance can satisfy a heart that is confused and hurt. So our response must point to Jesus, the Healer, the lover of broken people. As the Gospel Coalition article noted:
“We pray also that those who speak ill of or deny the design of God would be ashamed of their slander. We pray that those who, even now, busy themselves by slandering God’s people would become the fruition of 1 Peter 3:16. We pray for the freedom of repentance. We pray such profligate misuse of God’s creation would deceive fewer and fewer and fewer, that the celebration of self-mutilation would cease. Because Jesus is Lord, we pray the hissing snake of the sexual revolution, even as it’s greedily eating its own tail, will soon have its head crushed.”
Bruce Jenner is not a man that needs our compassion because he wants to be a woman. Bruce Jenner is a man that needs our compassion because he is a broken sinner needing the forgiveness only found in Jesus.