*******’s mother told the AJC they had attempted suicide two years ago and had battled depression for most of their life.
This line from a story in my local paper about a sad case, and this is the media phrase for it, of “suicide by cop.” An individual was in a confrontation with campus police in which the individual was shot and killed by police. It was national news and you probably read about it.
The quote above may logically lead the reader to think that perhaps the mother and father had jointly attempted suicide, or maybe there was a Romeo and Juliette, forlorn, forbidden love situation in which a young couple had jointly attempted suicide. The reality is that the plural pronoun “they” is used by the reporter to apply to the individual who was killed. One person was killed. That person, “they,” attempted suicide and battled depression.
This useage was deliberate because the individual “identified as nonbinary, neither male nor female, and was born intersex, meaning a person has biological or physiological characteristics that are not necessarily male or female.” The AJC went on to explain that the pronoun “they” was called for by the Associated Press guidelines for media coverage.
Simply put, “they” refers to a single individual. Bizzare.
There is an entire gender vocabulary that wasn’t around forty years ago when I attended seminary and started pastoring. “Non-binary” is called “genderqueer” and I read that it is a “catch all term for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine – identities that are thus outside the gender binary and cisnormativity.” Actually, the vocabulary is evolving with “pangender,” “trigender,” and “bigender” being suggested as alternatives. There are five words in this paragraph that I can admit to not having ever read before recently. They all have to do with gender.
Brave new world.
National Geographic, long removed from stories about Maccu Picchu and pyramids, has a “Gender Revolution” issue, “How Science Is Helping Us Understand Gender.” Explaining why they put a transgender girl on the cover the editors said “beliefs about gender are rapidly shifting.”
I’m sticking with the “He created them male and female” of Genesis but recognize that simplistic sermon fodder on this is probably not the best route for the minister going forward. Al Mohler wrote more than a decade ago,
As a society, we are falling (or diving) deeper and deeper into gender confusion. A considerable percentage of the policy-making elite has bought into the ideology of fluid gender and absolute self-expression. Once that idea takes hold, the reality of cross-dressing kindergartners becomes inevitable.
This is where the Christian worldview runs into direct collision with the new sexual ideologies. Christians see the reality of biological identity as a gift–one important way the Creator has told us who we are and how we are to glorify Him with our lives. No one should suggest that negotiating the gender issues in a fallen world is easy. And I am hard pressed to imagine a more difficult parenting challenge than that faced by the parents interviewed for this article. But surrendering to the confusion cannot be the right answer — leaving young children “to move back and forth until something feels right.”
He has a number of podcasts that address the myriad of issues on gender.
Other denominations are addressing ordination issues, inclusive language, proper terminology related to the various gender issues. Southern Baptists haven’t been presented, so far as I am aware, with any particular cases that have demanded action by entities, institutions, or the various levels of SBC life. I’m sure this will be on our plate in some fashion before too long.
A few years ago I had a conversation with a brother in Christ who disclosed to me, without the conversation being anywhere in the neighborhood of gender, that he was in a very small percentage of people who are born with ambiguous genitalia and had long worked at ministering to this small group. Thus, my first introduction to the fact that there are complications in such things. I confess that I didn’t have ambiguous genatalia in mind for discussion over a turkey sub and chips.
I suspect that an educated pastor will have to have some formal exposure to gender issues. Perhaps our seminaries are already addressing such things in a biblical and pragmatic pastoral manner.
I’m still shaking my head over the reference to an individual as “they” on the basis of a gender self-determination. Apparently, the AJC is as well. In a subsequent story on the matter the reporter or editor made a concerted syntatical effort to avoid using any pronouns, always using the individual’s name instead.
It doesn’t look like these gender issues will become less complicated or contentious in the future. What is the conservative, biblical, local church pastor to do? AP has a stylebook that prescribes the rules for writing articles. I don’t feel in the least bound by the AP stylebook for journalists partly because it makes no sense to mangle pronoun useage by referring to a single person as “they.” But I’m not going to release a culture war fusillade against journalists for such useage.
Wherever and however the matter of gender presents itself to the pastor or believer, the grace of God is still sufficient and the Gospel of Christ is still powerful to save. And, there are a small fraction of problematic cases.
Whatever the strangeness or peculiarities about the individual, parents lost a child in the “suicide by cop” case above and for that I am saddened. The father said what looked to me to be the most apt statement about it: “
In sensitivity to the individual’s family I didn’t use a name although it is public and easily linked.