Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
A short time ago Facebook broadened their options for one to identify their gender preference. They now provide numerous different options from which to choose. In addition to the traditional “Male” or “Female,” Facebook now offers “Other,” which includes many “custom gender options”
Though this news is dated (according to the blogosphere), it is not outdated. The change, reasons for the change and possible implications from the change are important to ponder. Before doing so, here is the list of Gender Options for Facebook Users (the identification of male and female, what I believe given by God and what has traditionally been considered the norm, are now referred to as Cis, which is intended to signify those whose personal experience of gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth):
Titled “Facebook Diversity,” this is the actual post notifying Facebook users of the change in the policy
When you come to Facebook to connect with the people, causes, and organizations you care about, we want you to feel comfortable being your true, authentic self. An important part of this is the expression of gender, especially when it extends beyond the definitions of just “male” or female.” So today, we’re proud to offer a new custom gender option to help you better express your own identity on Facebook.
We collaborated with our Network of Support, a group of leading LGBT advocacy organizations, to offer an extensive list of gender identities that many people use to describe themselves. Moreover, people who select a custom gender will now have the ability to choose the pronoun they’d like to be referred to publicly — male (he/his), female (she/her) or neutral (they/their).
We also have added the ability for people to control the audience with whom they want to share their custom gender. We recognize that some people face challenges sharing their true gender identity with others, and this setting gives people the ability to express themselves in an authentic way.
The new custom gender option is available to everyone who uses Facebook in U.S. English.
On the one hand, there is nothing that one can do about these changes. Those who “own” Facebook are at liberty to make these sorts of decisions. That is part of what it means to live in a free country as we do. And yet, on the other hand, we know that though we are not of the world, we do live in the world (Jn. 17) and we are called, gifted and placed by the Lord to be salt and light (Matt 5:13-16). We are called to proclaim the gospel which is the means through which God transforms lives, and those transformed lives become salt and light as leavening influence in the world.
In many ways, because those who are citizens of this world, this world, particularly those in people-serving businesses, they hear one voice, the vox populii, the voice of the populace. As the sentiments, values or mores of the populace change, so do the principles followed and practices pursued. Not so, however, for the Christian who is a citizen of two cities, the earthly and the heavenly, with the heavenly being the determinative. This means we are pilgrims, with the earthly not being our final destination.
One can see how easily one can be tempted to move in one direction or the other, forgetting these important truths. One can hear the loudest voices, those around you, and one can lean too heavily in the direction of the earthly city. This will result in a move in an accommodationist direction. A believer, then, is no longer salt and light, and becomes useless as a leavening influence. There is also another temptation. One can so focus on heaven and want so much to be removed from the dust and dirt of living in this world that they are tempted to remove themselves from it. Similarly, the believer, though protected and preserved in this insular community, is no longer salt and light, and becomes useless as a leavening influence.
One of my concerns in this debate about sex and gender is what, if anything, is being taught in our homes and churches. Sex and gender are not synonyms. Sex is determined chromosomally or biologically. This reflects God’s divine design in which He created male and female (Gen. 1:26-28). Gender as a reference to men and women as a social construct was not considered until the mid-point of last century and gained prominence with feminists in the 1970s. They distinguished between sex biologically defined/determined and gender as a social construct which is considered fluid and can change. Society can and does affect things, including one’s perception of gender. Though opinion and preference are influenced and affected by society, truth is pronounced and determined by God, not society.
The foundational, non-negotiable truth is that God created two sexes, male and female, which He pronounced to be “very good” (Gen. 1:31). God has also revealed that humanity rebelled against Him and we suffer the consequences of that rebellion in every realm of human existence (Gen. 3; Rom. 5:12-21; 8:22-23), including sexuality and sex. Thankfully, God the Son has come to address the problem of sin and set the world aright. When we go against God’s divine design, we rob God of His glory (Rom. 3:23) and we do not flourish.
This is my challenge to you. It is vitally important for parents and churches to teach, intentionally and purposefully, what God’s design and intent is regarding man and woman, men and women. Apart from this, based on television, movies, media in all its forms, Facebook with its new options of gender identification, our children grow up confused and uncertain. Worse so, they will become convinced that what they hear through all these mediums is true, contrary to the biblical teaching. Please remember – if they don’t hear God’s good design from parents at home and from pastors and teachers at church, it is not that they won’t hear any teaching about this subject. They are bombarded with teaching every day. It means they will not hear God’s truth about this important matter. Though we influence culture, society, law, etc., we do not determine what ultimately is done. However, as parents and pastors, we have a lot of say-so in what is taught, how it is taught and that it is taught, and teach and model God’s good design we must.
What will you use to teach these truths? When will it be done and with whom? Here is a place to begin (I also recommend Stan and Brenda Jones’ series, “God’s Design for Sex”). The EFCA Spiritual Heritage Committee wrote “A Church Statement on Human Sexuality: Homosexuality and Same-Sex “Marriage” – A Resource for EFCA Churches” that affirmed the biblical teachings along with pastoral implications. I would encourage you to read this and then discuss it as a family and as a church. It is essential that we know what God has said and still says about this. I include key excerpts from the document below which address the issue of God’s design as it pertains to His good creation of man and woman as male and female.
Affirmations: We affirm the following:
Implications: Based on these biblical affirmations, we live and minister with pastoral and practical implications.
Though recognizing that due to sin and human brokenness our experience of our sex and gender is not always as God the Creator originally designed, our recognition of our sex as male or female as a gift from God dictates that we cannot support or affirm the resolution of tension between a person's biological sex and experience of gender by the adoption of a psychological identity discordant with that person’s birth sex, nor support or affirm attempts to change via medical intervention one's given biological birth sex in favor of the identity of the opposite sex or of an indeterminate identity. (We recognize that in rare cases some are born with both sets of sexual organs [intersex or hermaphrodites]. This is another one of the implications of living in a fallen world, and another reminder that our sexuality has been deeply damaged by the fall. This Statement primarily addresses those who self-select sex and/or gender.)