These two pictures typify the society in which we live. The boy with the doll in one hand is carrying it in the same way a man might carry a TV remote. The girl is throwing the football in first-class Peyton Manning style. We live in a society that is sending so many mixed messages to children about roles and conduct that our young people struggle with identity problems in virtually every aspect of their lives. It is not just the homosexual issues, abuse issues, human rights issues, or the feminist issues that are causing confusion. These are the ones that make the papers and that permeate the programs of special interest groups. On a more fundamental level we are undermining the ability of our youth to be stable, productive, self-confident adults because we have rejected the clear gender descriptions and teachings of the Bible as a guide to giving our youth a foundation on which they can build their lives. Our purpose in this article is to make some scientific and biblical points about this issue, in the hope that it will motivate all of us to think about the images and leadership we give our young people in this age of gender confusion.
Genes control gender. The homosexual issue has caused a great deal of confusion in many people's minds about gender. The media is fond of quoting people who claim they were "born gay." This statement is highly doubtful, but this discussion is not about the genetics of homosexuality. The point is that, even if someone's sexual proclivity is for a member of the same sex, it still is a special genetic trait--lesbians do not have male characteristics in their sexuality; they have their own peculiar feminine (lesbian) preference. Feminine and masculine genetic markers are well known to science and are determined at conception.
When we make a statement like this, someone is sure to say "Well, what about the child that is born with both male and female sexual equipment?" Children with both male and female anatomies are probably the victims of environmental factors, and studies have shown that trying to force the child's sexuality one way or the other simply does not work. Dr. William Reiner and Dr. Eric Vilain recently presented material to the American Association of the Advancement of Science showing that trying to force the gender in violation of what the hormones and the brain patterns are just brings frustration and heartbreak to the individual. (AP, February 19, 2005). Sex change operations based upon social pressures felt by the individual just do not work.
The Bible makes it clear that God made male and female, and that the structure of human relationships is based upon that identity and function. "...God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam,..." (Genesis 5:1-2). This is not to say that we are all clones sexually, because we are not. We all have different libidos and different expressions of our sexual identity. Our bodies are different chemically, physically, and anatomically. Some women are more feminine than others. Talents and abilities are frequently rooted in these differences, but that is no threat to our sexual identity.
Environment controls gender. For the nearly 70 years that I have been studying these issues I have heard debates about whether it is our genes or our environment that controls our gender and sexual choices. The fact of the matter is that both our genes and our environment are major players in the way in which our gender identity is expressed. Any psychologist or teacher who has worked with disturbed children can tell you story after story of ways in which student behavior is expressed as a reaction to environmental pressures. Children who grow up in abusive homes tend to be abusive themselves. Children who grow up in homes with alcoholism have a tendency to become alcoholics at a rate that is significantly higher than their peers. Most homosexuals have suffered abuse in their childhoods, a fact that anyone who has worked with homosexuals sees over and over again, but which has also been documented in numerous studies.
All data supports these statements, and few activists would deny them. What people do seem to want to argue is the converse of these statements--that children that grow up in stable loving homes tend to be stable and loving in setting up their own homes. The difficulty here is that an outsider may not know what goes on within the walls of a home when no outside observer is available. When the Bible sets the home as the basis for establishing the roles of its members, the frame of reference is positive--the father, mother, and children have responsibilities that guarantee the child will have a good self image, with confidence and direction that can support him in the trials of life.
Roles are not a violation of basic human rights if Christian attitudes are followed. The extremists in our culture have told our young people that there are no boundaries and there is nothing which they cannot do. There has been an especially hard thrust to involve women in contact sports with males--like wrestling, football, and hockey. The fact is that there are roles that are absolutely impossible for some people to have. I cannot be a mother, no matter how badly I want that role. I am now to an age where there are many roles which I can no longer aspire, because my physical condition simply will not allow it. I can scream and rant and sue everyone connected, but it is not possible for me to run the Boston Marathon, or to play professional football. This is not a violation of my rights; it is simply the recognition that there are some things I cannot do.
In 1 Peter 3:7 reference is made to woman as the "weaker vessel." As I watch the NCAA Final Four in basketball, I see an incredible difference between how the men and the women play the game. Are women's rights being violated because they are not in the Final Four men's competition? In our part of the country we have had some high school girls who have forced their way into boys' wrestling. In a few cases the girl was stronger and more athletic than the boys she would be wrestling against, so the question is not one of ability. The question is whether this is a role that a girl should put herself in, or is it a bad thing for society as a whole. We have had a few boys who just did not want to participate in a wrestling match with a girl. It was not just that they were afraid of getting beaten; it was more the fact that the role the girl was in was alien to the boy and he had to be conscious of the unique physiology of his opponent if he was wrestling a girl.
From a Christian standpoint, there is a huge issue involved in this discussion. Over and over in the New Testament there is the teaching that decisions that we make must be made in terms of how each decision will impact and affect others. In 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 and 10:23-33 (NIV), Paul talks about such a silly thing as eating meat offered to idols and he says, "We know that an idol is nothing at all...food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat and no better if we do. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak....Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall." It is obvious that what Christians do in every aspect of their lives has to be tempered with how their choices will affect others. If we care about the welfare of our brother and/or sister, and we want them to have the confidence and the opportunity to function in life, we will not do something which confuses them and their ability to make those choices. The question is not whether someone is better than someone else; the question is whether we are going to care about each other and look after each other so that we can all have the best lives and the best future for all of us.
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