An Open Apology to Caitlyn Jenner

from Vanity Fair

from Vanity Fair

Dear Caitlyn Jenner,

I owe you an apology. On behalf of some conservatives and Christian evangelicals, I’m sorry for the way we’re behaving. You see, too many of us have forgotten the person and way of Jesus and we are hurling stones at you because we don’t understand your struggle. Even if we’ve been well meaning trying to share the gospel we are often unaware of our critical tone. Too many insults are piling up from our conservative Christian camp. And I’m sorry we’re working so hard to point out that you’re not a hero and you’re not a woman.

I apologize for our inconsistency. We get riled up on issues of sexuality (just google the response to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act – RFRA) on the grounds that the bible says certain things are depraved (Romans 1:26-27). I’m not going to argue that, but I am going to point out our inconsistency. Where are our long ranting blogs on the most recent Hollywood divorce? Malachi 2:16 says, “‘I hate divorce’, says the Lord God of Israel”. That’s a pretty overt biblical statement. What about Exodus 20:14, “Thou shall not commit adultery”? Again, pretty clear, yet we pass over the tabloids with tell all tales of Hollywood escapades. What about anger (Matthew 5:21-25)? What about lust (Matthew 5:27-30)?  What about breaking promises (Matthew 5:35-36)? What about fornication (Matthew 15:19)? What about gossip and slander (Romans 1:29)? What about discord, jealousy, dissension and factions (Galatians 5:19-21)? Why have we abandoned ranting on those topics? Look, I’m not advocating we get up in arms about everyone’s issues, but if we’re going to let’s at least be consistent.

Even if we were consistent and ranting righteously about everything, would it reflect the person of Christ? What did Jesus rant about? Who did he get angry with? Who did he stand up for? Jesus battled with the religious people of his day and was polarizing within those religious circles, but to those outside of religion, he sought, engaged, loved and pursued. He was patient, he was kind, he didn’t boast, he wasn’t proud, he was selfless and he didn’t get angry (quite similar to 1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Caitlyn, are you feeling a Christlike response from us?

You see, we’ve forgotten Romans 2:1-4 where the apostle Paul says to the religious of his day, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

I confess that we struggle with living the way of Christ. Well, I know I do. Just as his early followers did. Even his closest disciples initially wanted a warrior king instead of one who got angry with his own (righteous) and showed grace to outsiders (peacemaker). We want to be able to be Christlike and say that we see your humanity, love you and care about your eternal well being, but our humanity also really wants to tell you that you’re wrong. The latter part of that is for us, not for Christ and not for you. It’s for us. So, we can be both Christian and be right. So I can tell you how much Jesus loves you and how wrong you are in the same breath. That way I can say I spoke “truth in love” making God happy with my Christlikeness and me happy with my rightness. There’s too much tension for me to disagree with your choices and to love you anyway. That’s way too hard. It’s like saying “I’m sorry, but…”. For me, that’s when I apologize to my wife (kudos for being a good husband), but follow it up with all the justified reasons why I did or said what was hurtful (props to me for still being right). That allows me to be both sorry and right at the same time. Well, at least in my head. In reality, it simply says to my wife that I really don’t value her in that moment as much as I want to preserve my own perspective. Some reading this right now are wondering whether or not I think you’re wrong. Unfortunately, I won’t answer that budding question as it’s not the point. And, does it matter?

Some folks in our conservative evangelical camp will say that we’re NOT doing the same things as you, we feel our sin is different and we are justified in our response. But, we’re wrong. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We’re all flawed We all have our struggles. We all have our things to work through. Something we tend to forget when it comes to issues of sexuality and gender.

I’m sorry that we’re wrapped up in condemning your sexuality and forgetting your humanity. I’m sorry that we write and speak with a righteous air, disdain or disgust. I’m sorry that we’ve forgotten that it’s God’s tenderness that leads to repentance not our righteous indignation. I’m sorry we’ve forgotten the way and person of Jesus in our response to you.

I’m sorry for the harsh words that have been said and written. I’m sorry for the subtle undertones you’ll feel in even the attempts at graceful responses and I’m sorry for the many hurtful words that will continue to be pointed your way. You see, we’ve confused ourselves thinking that if we love then we’re signing up for tolerance. We’ve traded grace for judgement. We’ve abandoned kindness in an attempt to preserve of our rightness. We’ve forgotten the way Jesus dealt with those ostracized by the religious. We’ve forgotten who we are and who we’re called to be. I’m sorry.

Will you forgive us? I pray you do.

To the rest of us: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.”  – Jesus Christ

*Let me rattle off my conservative credentials just so you can’t write me off too quickly. I’m pedigreed a conservative of conservatives. Raised a pastor’s child, baptized as a young teenager, raised in a church that makes Southern Baptists look like raging liberals, trained with Focus on the Family, a graduate of a conservative theological seminary with a second masters degree form another conservative Christian institution, a business owner capitalist and most importantly (to some) voted party line Republican in the two elections in which I voted. Ask anyone I know and they’d laugh out loud if you referenced me as liberal. Well, except for maybe my grandma, but that’s because I wore jeans to church.

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7 thoughts on “An Open Apology to Caitlyn Jenner

  1. Convicting. So easy to set love and grace aside in an attempt to feel spiritual or more righteous trying to glaze over my sinful heart. Instead of just accepting I’m as much as sinner as anyone except I can rejoice and be free only because of the righteousness of Jesus. I love and appreciate you. Mom

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  2. I’m going to thank you for this. Your other Christians are why I will never step foot in a Christian church again. And I am not the only one. That is the result of this “witness” for Christ that your hate slinging co-believers have achieved. I seriously doubt that Christ would be pleased at that result either.

    However, I’m still going to have to point out that the bible says nothing about transgender people, that the medical science is now irrefutable that this is a medical condition, that I do not believe God would create someone with a medical condition that is automatically a sin, and that condemnation of people with a specific biological trait is as absurd as Dark Ages Christianity’s certainty that left handedness was demonic. (Yes, your church believed that at one point.)

    You see, interpretation of scripture has changed over time. It’s changed a lot. And a lot is lost in translations. Christ embraced eunuchs despite the Old Testament saying they were barred from the presence of the Lord and their descendants for 10 generations. Who was right? The Old Testament or Christ? And the word used to designate “eunuchs” in ancient Greek actually covered multiple meanings, including those who had chosen celibacy, those who had been castrated (surgically altered genitals), those who were considered transgender, and certain homosexual males (who might be chosen just like castrated persons, as harem guards).

    Biblical literalism, or the ancient sin of bibliolatry (the sin of placing the book above God – a Catholic priest pointed this out to me – yours is an old sin), which grips the evangelical church today, brings you straight to these harsh and ugly behaviors for which you now feel the need to apologize. It’s inevitable. Changing that requires opening your minds to reality and truth, and applying Christ’s words to reality, not the way you wish reality was.

    I do thank you for standing up and saying what you said, but any religion that denies scientific and medical reality is just fantasy. Christianity doesn’t have to be fantasy but evangelical fundamentalist Christianity today is fantasy, because it denies medical reality. And that fantasy also is used to support political action against transgender people, trying to strip us of our civil rights, trying to deny us housing, jobs, and medical care, and being used as a tool of bullies to psychologically beat down the transgender population. Not very Christian on any point at all. And that is the “witness” that the world is seeing right now. If you wonder why Americans are becoming irreligious at record rates, the church itself might want to look in the mirror.

    But forgive you? Not while you and your supporters are throwing over a hundred legislative attempts across the United States to strip us of decency, of respect, and of our basic civil rights. Not when you ignore massive studies of over 600,000 school children over the last decade and there has not been a single incident in which a transgender child did something unseemly, like horrible men such as Mike Huckabee try to insinuate. You try to pass laws by insinuating that a 6 year old is a pervert? No, I’m not going to forgive that. Not yet. It will take actions that demonstrate the opposite of that before I believe these words. When you stop legislatively attacking us, then we can talk about forgiveness. Until then, words are cheap and if you think that constitutes “love” then I don’t think you really know what “love” is.

    I will close with this – an old gentle pastor I met told me that being born transgender was no sin, but was a test. It’s not a test God intended of the transgender person though it often turns into that. Instead, he said, transgender people are a test of the body of Christ, a test of whether they can love, support, accept, and not judge one of God’s children that God deliberately made this way. And with tears in his eyes, he apologized to me, saying that the church today is utterly and completely failing this test.

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    • Cara, thank you for taking the time to reply to my thoughts. As I said in my reply on your blog, I’m sorry words are cheap. I know that to be the case. and I can’t argue that point at all. My hope is that you got the message that I think we’re handling it wrong. My hope is that Christians, especially of the conservative bent, begin to realize that we’re not following the way of Jesus by damaging, hateful, discriminatory speech and actions. Even in disagreement there has to be space to honor each other in order to hear each other out and spur each other on to action. We’re not really good at that. I’m not really good at that. I’m sorry that you find my words cheap. My hope is that there is room in us to change.

      What a great, old gentle pastor you met with. His words are important. We have a long way to go to line up our actions to love as Christ called to love. All I can do is recognize my need to ask for forgiveness and to line up my actions with the way Christ loves. I understand that you don’t forgive me. Although we don’t know each other, I understand. Thanks for at least hearing my petition for forgiveness. And thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and heart in your comment.

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      • Again, thank you Adam. I’ve got tears in my eyes right now. Thank you. I hope you and others understand the frustration, fear, and isolation that we can feel just because our biology is different from other people.

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      • Thank you for taking the time to interact with me and not writing me off. I know my background represents some of the groups that have so boldly added to your frustration, fear and isolation. I’m so grateful you commented. That takes a gutsy person to do that. So, thank you for your boldness, kindness and your challenging words.

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