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Lions, Gazelles and Switching Hats

lion and gazelle smallI recently reread Dr. Mark Yarhouse’s article in Christianity Today called “Understanding the Transgender Phenomenon.”[1] While I appreciated his candor and data, my mind drifted, as it often does, to other considerations. I started switching hats while I read, asking different questions of the subject matter depending on what hat I popped onto my bald pate. Here is one stream of thought that tickled my fancy. Be patient, it’s going somewhere important.

You can’t root for the lion AND the gazelle. A living gazelle equals a hungry lion; a well fed lion equals a dead gazelle.

You can however, root for neither the lion nor the gazelle, favoring instead a resignation that the process of the hunt is an important part of a stable and thriving eco-structure in which the outcome of the contest is controlled by healthy and natural forces in which worthy gazelles escape lions, strong lions get gazelles, and the weak and unfit of each is cleansed from the gene pool by the success or failure of the hunt.

Hang tight, the metaphor is not over yet… and if you didn’t know this was a metaphor start again with that in mind.

An overly emotional conservationist who is lobbying for the protection of gazelles—poor dear things—will naturally tend to root for the gazelle. The lion seems a bully and the eaten a victim.

An overly supportive conservationist who is lobbying for the protection of lions—such majestic creatures they are—will naturally tend to root for lions and view gazelles as necessary fodder for healthy and thriving lion tribes.

People from foreign nations who have come to study lions and gazelles while sitting in protective camera trucks, who are awed by the balance of the system will root for the thriving of both and accept casualties as a necessary part of a healthy picture. As observers they relish the wonder of it all, but view themselves as being above the system rather than being part of the system. The issue does not affect their “real” lives.

The villagers will root for neither lions nor gazelles. Lions are dangerous and kill innocent people… like their children, spouses, friends, neighbors and occasionally one of the foreigners who gets out their camera truck to get a closer look. Oh! And gazelles make tasty meals.

Vultures will root for the lion so long as the lion leaves them plenty to feed upon and will abandon the lion when he promises to be and not to merely provide a luscious meal… they’re not picky eaters.

Zebras root for neither the lion nor the gazelle, but are secretly grateful, given that lions are an unavoidable part of life, that gazelles are around to distract the lions from the zebras by being stupider, weaker, tastier, and more numerous. The gazelles, of course, resent the fact that Zebra’s think they are smarter, and remind themselves that they are faster and more agile. And the zebras only wish they looked this good.

And lions root for themselves and gazelles for themselves… naturally.

One of my great frustrations in life as a teacher is trying to get the people that I meet along the paths of my life to consider situations and issues from more than one perspective. It is part of the human condition to be a tad myopic, given that all systems are too complex for any person or group to anticipate all the cause-effect relationships at work in them. We do not, however, need to be as myopic as most prove to be when you discuss life with them.

Dr. Mark Yarhouse, who has made gender confused people a life’s study, gives a helpful breakdown of the present state of research on the matter and discusses three responses to the issue prevalent in churches and the world. While Dr. Yarhouse seems to demonstrate a modicum of sensitivity to the difficulties involved in his work for the rest of society (being still fixated on the confused by the nature of his work) most involved with these communities vilify those who resist their concerns.

Most who fixate on the plight of gender or sexually confused people regard “helping them”—usually defined as making them feel okay about their confusion and making everyone else embrace them openly without judgment—as an end in itself. They see themselves as kind and regard those less enthused or more concerned about the consequences of such “acceptance” as hateful. There is little worry in such situations for the effect that abandoning or radically redefining traditional categories like family, gender, marriage, etc… will have on the rest of society… little worry about those who will be victimized by such changes. “My gay son,” “My lesbian niece,” “My transgender friend” is all that bleeps on their heart’s and mind’s radar.

I am not advocating cruelty, but I am calling people to give greater attention and care for unintended consequences in our fixated concerns.

Who is worried about the larger percent of youth that Dr. Yarhouse discusses who outgrow childhood confusion naturally? What effect will changing the rules and definitions of society have on those children? If we smudge the lines in society so that some few feel more at home in a world become just as confused as they are, what hope do the majority of those suffering childhood confusion have of escaping adult confusion? What will happen to all our children when we deliberately create an environment of confusion for them? Are all these nothing but fodder for our mission to make some people in society feel better about their own profound brokenness?

Since there weren’t enough life boats to save everyone on the Titanic, should we have forced everyone to drown… you know just to make it fair? Was it fair that women and children were favored and men expected to step aside to death so that these others could live? Would you want to live in a world where all men lived without seeing themselves as self-sacrificing protectors and guardians?

Since cops are mostly fixated on stopping criminals, should we give them a free hand to do their job as they please regardless of the impact that doing so would have on general conceptions of law and order in society? They can set up cameras on every street, in every home. They can load face and voice recognition software into every system so that each citizen is monitored every minute. That will massively curtail crime… but what are the larger consequences for society? Fighting crime is merely a cog in a bigger machine called stable and prosperous community. When fighting crime becomes an end in itself, society is finished.

Since some cops are stressed and become abusive in their attempts to stop criminals, causing many outsiders to fixate on police brutality, should we shackle our officers to insane levels of restriction so that only criminals have rights? Better yet, let’s just get rid of cops… Oh! the utopia that awaits us when all this abuse of authority is cured by destroying authority.  I hope I don’t need to point out the folly here.

I have friends who work with child protective services, and they fixate on abused children. Since some parents abuse their children, should we set up systems so that every parent is under automatic suspicion and government surveillance? Should the state raise all the kids in parent free environments? It’s easy for busybody cures to be many times more destructive than the disease.

When those who are worried about the frustration, the sense of rejection, the confusion and resentment of the gender and sexually confused, call upon the church to change its stance on these people so that they feel accepted and loved, do they even give a thought to what churches will look like when the unrepentant, highly confused and often predatorial flood the ranks of congregations? Do they care about the children in those churches? Do they care about the teens in those churches? Do they even give a thought to what will be lost, by way of eradicating all sense of “pristine & safe” community from churches, given that most churches are small tight-knit groups? Do they even care that Paul called for those living openly unrepentant and immoral lives to be shunned from the congregation? Are they wiser than he?

What’s my ultimate point? That we need to viciously attack confused people? NO, a thousand times no.

My point is that every situation needs wisdom. We need to approach circumstances wearing more than one hat.

As Christians we are responsible for more than just the damaged soul before us. We are responsible for that soul’s damaging effect as well. We are responsible for sustaining a theologically and organizationally stable church. We are responsible to preach a true gospel to the most effect, not to redesign the gospel to make it less offensive to those still lost in their rebellion and brokenness. It is possible to become tender enablers who love our charges right into Hell. And if you can’t make yourself believe in Hell because it just seems so unloving, perhaps you need an encounter with Divine Holiness.

We are called to be salt and light in the world and this includes being responsible members of society… people who think about helping the pedophile repent and change [2], but who also think about protecting children from his or her predatory ways, and who think about creating systems that discourage everyone from even entertaining such behaviors.

Even well-meaning actions can have untended consequences, and wise souls are concerned about them.

[1] http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/july-august/understanding-transgender-gender-dysphoria.html

[2] By whatever means necessary. Read the whole counsel of Scripture on dealing with the wicked and not just your favorite love verse.

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