John is a quiet boy who prefers drawing and reading poetry to rough-and tumble play. Mary is athletic, a natural leader with an assertive personality.
Our culture today is all too quick to point at boys like John and girls like Mary and say, “You’re supposed to be gay. That’s who you really are.”
Or we may go a step further and say, “You should have the surgery so you can live as the gender you were really meant to be.”
All this as early as grade school.
We’re coming to the point of believing that biological gender is completely irrelevant, and that our maleness or femaleness is something we can change if we feel we were given the “wrong body.”
Where did these notions come from? Why do we refer to gender as “assigned” at birth, as if a newborn baby’s sex is something the doctor decided? How is that body parts and DNA no longer inform us whether we are male or female?
In Love Thy Body, author Nancy Pearcey explains how the split thinking of a secular humanist worldview has caused a schism in how we view human beings.
We see our physical bodies as raw material with no intrinsic identity or purpose, she explains, but we see the autonomous self (our thoughts and feelings) as free to impose its own interpretations on the body.
Crazy, but that’s where we are.
This pervasive worldview puts pressure on our children to accept and explore human sexuality as if it is on a fluid continuum.
More and more, the message kids hear at school and in the media is, “You aren’t male or female because of the body you have. Your body might match who you really are, but it might not. You have to decide.”
Far from offering freedom to our children, such an irrational message places the crushing burden on them of making a decision they should not have to make.
To use a parallel illustration, when a woman faces an unplanned pregnancy, our society sends her the message, “It’s not a given that this child should live. You have to make that call.”
Yet God forbids abortion. Women were never meant to carry the burden of deciding whether their own children should live or die.
And our children were never meant to have to decide which gender they are.
So how can we as Christian parents help our children navigate these turbulent waters of gender confusion and the pressure to conform to unbiblical thinking?
Let’s begin with what God says.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them…God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” – Genesis 1:27, 31
“A biblical worldview grants value and dignity to our identity as male and female,” Pearcey writes. “Gender theology is rooted in creation theology. What God has created has intrinsic value and dignity.”
God purposefully, lovingly created humankind to reflect his own image. While God is Spirit, and neither male nor female, he is one being with three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).
These three love and honor one another and work together. This is God’s design for men and women as well.
The best thing we can do for our children is to affirm the goodness of God in how he created them, and to affirm them in their maleness or femaleness.
With that, we must avoid gender stereotypes.
Pearcey explains how the industrial revolution took work out of the home and divided it between men and women. This led to narrow gender stereotypes, the remains of which are still harming all of us.
Unfortunately, when it comes to worldly ideas about gender fluidity, churches often react by becoming even more narrow and strict in defining sex roles.
“We must take care not to add to Scripture by baptizing gender expectations that are in reality historically contingent and arbitrary,” Pearcey says.
What does this look like in the home?
A boy like John should hear things like,
“I really appreciate your sensitive spirit. I can see that God created you with a tender heart and a gift for finding beauty. The world needs more men like that, and I’m so glad you are growing up to be one of them. Want to go to the library today?”
A girl like Susan needs to hear,
“I’m happy to see you working hard at basketball and encouraging the other players. You’re a good decision maker, and I can see that God created you to be a strong woman and a good leader. Show me your jump shot again!”
A boy who is sensitive and nurturing is no less a male. A girl who is strong and assertive is no less a female. John and Mary are created the way they are, on purpose, by God.
Instead of pushing our kids into the pink or blue boxes of gender stereotypes, let’s let them know that their maleness or femaleness is not an accident or a mistake.
It is a gift from God.