Will the real Bruce Jenner please stand up?
Although it is certainly a “current theological issue,” I really hesitated wading into this particular mine field for a variety of reasons.
The first is that I’ve already dealt with the alphabet soup of LGBT issues far more than I care to over the last couple of years in the process of simply addressing current theological issues each week. Without exaggerating, I could easily do a story related to this overall topic every week as there are continually new developments, yet I definitely don’t want to somehow communicate that I’ve become obsessed with this singular topic. And the charge that “me thinkest thou protesteth too much” is almost a kiss of death—making it a largely no-win situation.
The second reason for my hesitation is the massive amount of media coverage that has already been devoted to this issue from both secular and Christian sources. I’ve wondered what else either could or should be said. Some very good thinkers and theologians have already made helpful contributions both to this specific topic and to the larger conversation about LGBT, same-sex attraction, marriage, etc.
And, finally, I’m not particularly inclined to be drawn ever deeper into this discussion since the appropriate biblical response seems so obvious that whatever nuances there might be left to discuss end up having little more significance than the question of the number of angels who could comfortably dance on the head of a pin. A study by the American Psychiatric Association highlights just how surreal and, to be honest, completely unnecessary it is to try to have an ongoing culture-wide discussion about this. Although some have suggested that the reported numbers are too low, the APA’s study concluded that the number of transsexual adults is as low as 0.005 to 0.014 percent of men and 0.002 to 0.003 percent of women.1
If these numbers are anywhere close to accurate, does this whole matter really warrant the disproportionate amount of coverage it is receiving given the major issues facing not just this country, but the entire world? Just a casual perusal of the various media outlets, whether internet-based, cable news networks or the main stream media, reveals that we’re living in a world that it is quite literally going to hell in virtually every conceivable way. This isn’t to suggest that the same-sex marriage or LGBT agenda question is not one of the more pressing culture war questions of our day—but this is about one person, who, by the way, according to at least one account I’ve read, doesn’t even consider himself to be homosexual.
Yet, the obsession of (at least some) Americans with this particular story seems to be fueled by earth-shattering questions such as whether Bruce should apply his own eye-liner, or instead rely on the talents of a professional make-up artist. In a promo for the new E! series “I am Cait” he can hardly contain himself with the difference this really made in developing his new look.2 So, as unbelievable as it seems, the world is about to be subjected to yet another “Kardashian-centric” reality show. The very fact that anyone would even continue to attach “reality” to this particular genre of “entertainment” seems quite enough to warrant calling for the men in white coats to take us away, ha, ha…. (to paraphrase a 60s novelty song. 3)
Millions of people have apparently bought into the media-generated illusion that the “Jenner Story” is at least as interesting as ISIS beheading hundreds of people simply for their beliefs or in some cases selling scores of young girls into slavery for as little as a pack of cigarettes. This genuine wickedness continues to run rampant with virtual impunity with the world idly standing by—apparently dumbstruck and impotent to do anything of any consequence (just today (5/9/2015) president Obama clearly stated publicly that there is still no strategy whatsoever for dealing with these barbaric Islamists) 4. Yet, we have a once-respected and highly honored athlete whose closest present experience with being comparably traumatized involves nothing more than trying to pinpoint the most effective location for the next Botox injection.
The whole world has gone mad. The inmates are running the asylum. (I know, I know: that wasn’t a very PC way to put it.)
However, having said all this, I’m going to add yet one more voice to the many already in the discussion, hoping to add a few more salient points for at least our regular readers to seriously consider and ones that will help them as they discuss this and related issues to others.
(Of course, if you disagree with my views, as always, I look forward to hearing from you.)
What is his name?
The name by which virtually everyone has known this person for years has been “Bruce,” even though now it’s “Caitlyn.” Honestly, by itself, this just isn’t a big deal. No one concerns themselves with the fact that that Marilyn Monroe was known to her family as “Norma Jean” or that Rock Hudson was born as “Roy Scherer, Jr.”
Now, for the record, “Bruce” is actually Jenner’s middle name. “William” was what his father and mother put on his birth certificate as his first name. So, in the interest of minimizing the confusion of the present controversy, I’ve decided to go with “William” when referring to Bruce/Caitlyn. And, although I realize I will considered disrespectful by some, I’ve decided to simply use pronouns consistent with the results of any DNA testing this member of the Jenner family might undergo in the future.
Just how old is William Jenner?
Based on the two photos at the beginning of this story, that would be a rather tough question to answer.
Born on October 28, 1949, William Jenner is about nine years older than I am. The above picture from the Wheaties box on the left, taken in the 1970s, would be certainly consistent with that fact.
Now, let’s think through some implications of photos from someone’s past. Of course, there are some photos around from the time I was about the same age (although, thankfully, not too many). Unfortunately, in many ways, I’m not longer that person. Now, there are many things I like about getting older—particularly as it relates to life and ministry. I”ve learned a few things along the way. I understand the Bible better. I’ve developed some great relationships with some very wise and godly people who have influenced me greatly. In so many ways I would really hate to have to start over—particularly if it meant having to once again pay for the very expensive lessons of life I’ve learned over the past five decades. And I’ve thought many times how much I wouldn’t want to be entering ministry again coming right out of seminary. Definitely not something I would gladly do. And what’s worse, the nasty things that happen to the body through the aging process is definitely the stuff of horror movies.
With that in mind, I’m not at all the person I was when I graduated from high school in 1976. Although, I’m now almost twice the person I was then—that doesn’t have the advantages that might initially come to mind. Since there are now essentially two of us, I should be able to play some mean two-on-two basketball like I did when there was just one of me—but we all know that ain’t gonna happen. I should be nearly twice as strong as I was then and be able to run nearly twice as fast. Furthermore, thanks to my mom’s side of the family my hair decided to turn gray, rather than turn loose—which, because of my increasing resemblance to Santa Claus, come to think of it, this could open up seasonal part-time income opportunities. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.
Unfortunately, “getting the picture” is not at all what happened when it cames to William Jenner’s appearance on the Vanity Fair cover photo on the left above—not by a long shot. What the world did get was a heavily Photoshopped version (that someone noted took about five hours to accomplish).
Like an audience under the influence of a skilled stage hypnotist, a collective suspension of disbelief somehow caused untold numbers to believe that the 1976 Olympic Decathlon winner depicted on the “The Breakfast of Champions” cereal box cover on the left has been magically transformed into the somewhat glamorous Caitlyn depicted on the Vanity Fair magazine cover on the right. By any reasonable standards, the person in the photo on the right—the picture that is said to have “broken the internet,” would have still been in diapers when the photo on the left was taken. While the Wheaties’ cover depicts a twenty-something athlete in prime physical condition—arguably the best in the world, the Vanity Fair caricature on the right depicts someone who appears to be a 40-something woman whose alter-ego on the left received one of the Olympics’ most prestigious gold medals as a man nearly forty years earlier.
Are we really so out of touch with reality, or perhaps just so enamored with the recent choices made by William Jenner, that we have been completely blinded to the fact that neither picture actually depicts the the reality of today? The picture on the left depicts a very real man, a one-time hero in the realm of athletics, who was captured at a glorious moment in his own personal life—one that he shared and celebrated with a world that was at least temporarily in awe of his fleeting fame.
However, the picture on the right is remarkably different—particularly because it doesn’t reflect reality to any significant degree at all. Rather, it is nothing more than a digitally manipulated representation of a person who does not and has never even existed at all. Why is it that the masses are intentionally ignoring the facts in order to buy into the lie that they are really the same person—with the vast majority actually celebrating the lie to the same or greater degree that a previous generation celebrated the reality of a remarkable athletic achievement—all while somehow believing that their reactions reflect the deepest of compassion and is perhaps the greatest evidence that we have achieved a new and higher level of cultural enlightenment than ever before in the history of mankind.
If William Jenner’s decision to present himself on cover of Vanity Fair was designed to finally allow people to see him as he really is, then this whole charade amounts to nothing less than an EPIC FAIL of staggering proportions. And tragically, this same lapse of judgment is going to result in lining the pockets of a small group of opportunists with millions of dollars—a group with neither heart nor conscience—and dare we say it, “without a soul” who care not one whit about his name, his age, or most importantly, who William Jenner really is. This drives us mercilessly directly to the next point and most important point.
What is William Jenner’s true identity?
Will the real William Bruce aka “Caitlyn” Jenner please stand up? Who is he? What is is real—his true identity.
I’m not talking about who he might like to be (we’ve all had passing dreams and fantasies). I’m not talking about who he might like to emulate (there are dozens of Elvis impersonators in Las Vegas). I’m not talking about a personality trait that he wishes were different and perhaps from which he would like to be free (I tend to be a perfectionist, with OCD tendencies and a temper that flairs more easily than I would like to admit). Neither am I talking about someone who desires just some sort of temporary escape from reality (which could be accomplished fairly easily through a good video game or movie—and for some, through drugs or alcohol).
No. Our identity is different from all those things and when we confuse the two, we end up trying to become someone we can never be—and someone God never intended for us to be. And experience has taught virtually everyone who has ever attempted this that such confusion leads to some very unsuccessful results and frequently to ones that are equally embarrassing.
Rather, each of us is a complex individuals with a unique identity who is created in the image of God. Unfortunately, we all start out plagued with a sin nature susceptible to impulses set before us which can be biblically summarized “as the world, the flesh and the devil” (cf., 1 John 2:16; Mark 4:15-17; Ephesians 2:1-3). Each of us have also have a unique combination of strengths and weaknesses that make us who we are at any given point in our lives—and we are all responsible before the Lord to handle those strengths and weaknesses appropriately.
The Scriptures make it clear that for born-again believers in Christ, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, our choices can lead us to maturity so that we more closely reflect the character of Christ—and when we choose to ignore the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we tend toward the temptation to sin—and frequently fail to resist that temptation, usually with regrettable results.
On the other hand, those who don’t have a personal relationship with Christ are dominated by the overwhelming power of the sin nature—and no one is able to meet the standard of perfection required for acceptance into heaven. Without the indwelling Spirit, unbelievers end up tossed around by all sorts of philosophies and an endless stream of temptations that come their way. And far too many end up being slaves to the emotions and psychological reactions to a never-ending series of circumstances over which they often have very little control.
So, for any of us, exactly what really is our identity at any given moment in time? The fact is that we are all on a journey and none of us are who we were ten years ago, nor are we the same person we will be ten years from now. There are aspects of our identity which remain the same, but many things also change—and they should.
I was once a single man, but now I’ve been married for nearly 35 years. For the first eight years of marriage, we had no children. Now we have two grown children—both married, meaning that we also have a daughter-in-law and a son-in law—and through our son and daughter-in-law, we also have two granddaughters. In many ways, I’m not who I was when I was twenty and I’m not who I will be twenty years from now. Things change—and in ways that God has ordained and designed. When we depart from the order God has set in motion, things go wrong—sometimes desperately wrong.
What so many seem to forget is that the two snapshots above nether define nor reflect William Jenner’s identity as it stands today. Neither do they begin to fully capture his true identity even in that brief moment when each of the two photos were taken except in the most superficial way.
Neither picture makes it clear that they are really the same person in the most important and objective ways. The pictures don’t show that the person in each picture has the same DNA, the same chromosomal and overall genetic make-up, the same personality (except as influenced by age and experience over time), the same experiences, the same IQ, the same familial heritage—-and the list goes on. Based on the photo on the right, no one would suspect that the person in that picture had married and divorced three different heterosexual women, with whom he has six biological children and four step-children.
Without wishing to get into unnecessary gritty details, despite hormone therapy, breast enlargement, surgical cosmetic enhancements and hours of Photoshop alterations, William still possesses the physical capacity to continue to father children in a completely normal physical way. To this point, he has not chosen gender reassignment surgery.
There just isn’t enough time to deal with all the implications and life-altering complications that William Jenner’s choices have introduced into the lives of so many people who have had a long, and personal relationship with him. However, just one simple example serves to illustrate the depth of complications his choices have introduced into the lives of his family and friendships which most will see as nothing more than a few issues requiring some attitude adjustments—primarily on the part of everyone except for William Jenner himself. Suppose for a moment that one of William’s biological children ends up having a particularly difficult time and says some things that aren’t necessarily helpful for their relationship. Exactly how might William respond? Would it be something similar to what would seem normal in most family situations: “You might not agree with me or my decisions, but I deserve at least a little respect—I’m still your father, uh your mother, uh your parent.”
How do his children refer to him? What about his grandchildren? What about his former wives.
In a June 1, 2015 interview with People magazine, responding to the most recent developments, Kris Jenner posed the question: “Why would you want to be married and have kids if this is what you wanted since you were a little boy? Why would you not explain this all to me?”5
Of course, it’s possible that this has all been worked out—but the question remains—who is this person—really? Is he now a mother, when he was once a father? Is he a grandfather or a grandmother? The list of these types of relational questions, along with a whole host of others, is literally endless.
So, Exactly Who is William Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner?
After all the emotions have been exhausted. After all the opinions have been voiced. After all the defenses have been argued and all the objections have been considered, the only thing that really matters is what God has revealed in Scripture.
To put it another way: In the eyes of God, who is William Jenner?
The Scriptures make it clear that in our natural condition all people are sinful, and accountable for our sin to an absolutely, perfectly holy God. So, the short answer is that before God, William Jenner is a human male with a sin nature who will one day be held accountable for his choices. God is not going to be singling him out for special treatment, good or bad.
Furthermore, I think it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to make a biblical case that when God looks at William Jenner He sees a sinful woman. At the same time, whether he is a man or woman in the eyes of God is probably rather irrelevant when it comes down to spiritual issues. Few sins outlined in the Bible are actually gender-specific—particularly in principle.
Is William more or less sinful than any other person? Fortunately, God has not left the responsibility to make that determination in our hands. However, we can rest in the confidence that the God of the universe will do what is right and that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
One of the more frustrating aspects of this whole story is that Jenner considers himself a conservative and identifies politically as a Republican. Some have identified Jenner as a “non denominational Christian.”6
Given the apologetic and dscernmnet nature of my ministry, I’m frequently asked whether I think a given person is really a believer. Unless someone clearly denies the faith with their words, while claiming to understand and believe the gospel, that is a question I simply refuse to answer. Whether someone is an unbeliever or a believer who is currently not living for the Lord, the solution and path to fellowship with the Lord is essentially the same for both—and perhaps most succinctly stated in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
More important than William Jenner’s Identity
There are bigger questions in play than the gender identity issues of just one man. Ultimately, this isn’t just about William Jenner.
The bigger issue involves how individual believers and perhaps more importantly, how the church as a whole should respond to the matter of same-sex attraction and the LGBT agenda as a whole. One of the biggest problems we face is the fact that this is a philosophically different issue than any other category of since and must be addressed as such or even more confusion and more problems will be created.
I recently read an article that suggested that before the church spends inordinate amounts of time dealing with gender-identity, same-sex attraction, and the LGBT agenda as a whole, we should first get a handle on the many other sins that beset the members of the average church, whether it be greed, lust, obesity, adultery, divorce, lying or others. However, while it usually isn’t helpful to categorize sins for the purpose of ranking them in terms seriousness, the previously-mentioned viewpoint fails to recognize that sexual sins, particularly those sins that go beyond heterosexual boundaries between consenting adults actually do fall into a different category by nature.
For example, most thieves, liars and adulterers are already convinced that they are wrong—and none of them have any intention of trying to transform society’s attitude toward them. Nor do they have any organized agenda to persuade entire faith traditions that their behavior should now be considered acceptable. Neither are they trying to persuade people that 2,000 years of consistent biblical interpretation has someone been completely misguided and thousands of godly Bible scholars have simply gotten it wrong on this issue. And perhaps most disturbingly, unlike those involved with other types of sins, those who are committed to transforming the church with regard to whole sexual identity revolution are primarily being identified with and gaining their cultural momentum from a group of people who are generally outspokenly anti-Christian, entirely rejecting anything and everything related to the Bible and godliness.
As much as many in the world, including a growing number of Christians would not like to admit it, sexual sins, especially those identified most closely with radically deviant behavior are categorically in multiple ways. These sins involve a steady and intentional progression toward more harmful individual behaviors and the adoption of entire lifestyles that are in direct conflict with the God-ordained institution of marriage, which when functioning properly most clearly and fully expresses the very image of God in man.
Anyone who somehow thinks that these changes represent nothing more than slight adjustments involving personal choices, complicated by nothing more than a few accommodating laws, are either naive, deceitful or both. These issues will ultimately affect the entire world at the societal level with unforeseeable unintended consequences that amount to nothing less than opening “Pandora’s Box.” The legal “wins” for same-sex marriage and gender identity cases are without any doubt are also inevitable wins for polygamy, polyandry, incest, bestiality, pedophilia and even virtual sexual relationship with machines as robotics and artificial intelligence and human/machine interfaces are developed, become more sophisticated and end up and protected within the legal system.
All of this is going somewhere from a prophetic perspective. In Romans chapter one, Paul describes the downward spiral of humanity at the cultural level—a death spiral that begins with an intentional suppression of the truth of God (Romans 1:18) and ends with God’s inevitable judgment of mankind – not just against individuals, but mankind as a whole. History is replete with examples and it never ends well.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God nor the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things rare deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. (The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Ro 1:24–32.}
One of most ominous lines from the E! trailer for “Cait!” is Jenner’s closing line: “Put it this way, I’m the new normal.”7
- http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/july-august/understanding-transgender-gender-dysphoria.html?utm_source=ctdirect-html&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=9455958&utm_content=360864255&utm_campaign=2013&start=2 ↩
- http://hollywoodlife.com/2015/06/03/caitlyn-jenner-makeup-i-am-cait-promo-watch/ ↩
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnzHtm1jhL4 ↩
- http://thehill.com/policy/defense/244272-obama-we-dont-yet-have-a-compete-strategy-against-isis ↩
- http://www.people.com/article/caitlyn-jenner-vanity-fair-kris-jenner-response ↩
- http://hollowverse.com/bruce-jenner/ ↩
- http://www.rollingstone.com/tv/videos/caitlyn-jenner-says-im-the-new-normal-in-first-series-trailer-20150603 ↩