At her most recent General Assembly (GA), the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) voted to create a commission to write a “humble petition” (WCF 31.4) to the fifty state governments and the United States government regarding the transgender issue. No one knows as yet what this commission will say, but they have, apparently, plenary authority to say what they will on behalf of the entire PCA.
Clearing Up A Non-Sequitur
I write to suggest that there is a better, more effective way for Christians to engage the culture and the government (local, state, and federal) regarding the sexual revolution underway in the United States. Despite the vote of the GA, I stand by my opposition to the interpretation of “cases extraordinary” which says, in effect, that the surgical and chemical mutilation of young people, in particular, is horrendous (it is) and qualifies as an “extraordinary case.” Those arguments are available so I will not rehash them here.
One summary of the actions of the GA wrote, regarding the “humble petition,”
This will put the PCA on public record as taking a stance against transgender reassignment surgeries. Having a denominational stance on this issue can potentially benefit Christians in the public sphere when they may be required to take a stance against this evil.
Perhaps, but it seems to me that the PCA could easily have gone “on record” without stretching the intended sense of WCF 31.4. One of the functions of the assemblies (courts) of the church is to instruct officers and laity as to the implications of the church’s confession of God’s Word. Had the PCA wanted to go “on the record” against the current trans-madness, she could have appointed a committee to draft a statement and then adopt that statement and send it out to the churches. Indeed, that would be the very sort of ecclesiastical matter that WCF 31 intends the church to address.
Some critics of my argument have leaped to the conclusion that because I am opposed to Overture 12 (asking the PCA to make a humble petition in this matter), I am therefore opposed to all corporate Christian social action. Dear Reader, look up the phrase, non sequitur and you will find this sort of logic as an example. Only those who gratuitously assume that it is only through the visible church that Christians can speak to the sexual revolution would conclude opposition to this “humble petition” is opposition to all Christian individual and corporate action against the sexual revolution. Indeed, I have argued explicitly to the contrary: Christians should organize and act individually and corporately to pursue prudent, just policies and laws. The visible, institutional church was not instituted by the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet 5:4) as a vehicle to achieve secular social policy and legislative goals.
Once more, there is not a scintilla of evidence in the New Testament that the apostolic church, after the ascension of Christ, who is Lord over all things, pursued public (secular) policy or legislative agendas either in their office or through the visible, institutional church. Neither did the early post-apostolic church. It never entered their minds. History is very clear: to turn the visible church into a policy advocacy organization is to lead the church away from her divine charter and mission.
Again, as I have documented here repeatedly, the PCUSA has become nothing if not another policy advocate for the social-left policy and legislation. She has adopted 127 different policy and legislative positions, but is she still a church? One would have a very difficult time proving that the PCUSA still has the marks of the true church (the pure preaching of the gospel, the pure administration of the sacraments, the use of church discipline per Belgic Confession article 29). There is a direct causal relation (not mere correlation) between the decision of the mainline denominations to become public policy think tanks and the loss of the marks of the true church. The church was never intended to become such a thing and when she does, she loses her way.
It seems to me unlikely that the various legislatures and executives whom the PCA will now address will pay much mind, but that does not mean that this is the end of the endeavor by Christians to engage the culture and legislatures on this issue. The good news here is that there are many avenues that Christians may pursue to address this issue:
- Pray. When we think of social issues it is easy for American Christians to think immediately of how to “get busy” to solve the problem. Before we do anything, we ought pray individually and corporately. Our nation is desperately sick and only the Holy Spirit can cure us. We need the Spirit to restrain evil, soften hearts, and create new life widely and wonderfully, but he only does these things when we ask (Heidelberg Catechism 116). We can organize, march, petition, lobby, and legislate all we will but we are completely dependent upon the Holy Spirit to change hearts and minds.
- Organize. Strangely, some readers have inferred, as I mentioned above, that I think Christians ought to be silent (non sequitur) on these issues or that they may act only individually. To the contrary: Christians ought to organize not only for prayer, but also for action. Strategic, prudent, and effective action will take time, resources, and commitment, but organize you must if you are to help to turn back the trans-madness that seemingly engulfs America. Organization also entails becoming educated about these issues. Whence the transgender movement? What are the assumptions and goals of the trans movement? How can Christians graciously, wisely, and clearly respond to those assumptions and goals? Under this heading it might be wise to consider how we ought to speak to legislators and other policy makers. Consider this: were you giving your opinion to an architect or a builder, would you advocate that he follow the instructions given to Noah for the ark? Probably not. Why not? Because that is not why those instructions were given. So it is with the biblical judicial legislation given under Moses. We can learn from it, but it was not given to be imposed on nations after the expiration of “that people” and their “body politic” (WCF 19.4). We we giving advice to a plumber we would recognize that we are in the realm of nature (creation) not grace (redemption). Thus, we would advise him accordingly. So it is with secular politics. We ought to frame our arguments in ways that make sense to secular (not necessarily pagan) legislators, who must frame laws for all the citizens and not just Christians. We would do well to make logical, reasoned, sound, arguments from nature and law.
- Persuade. Start locally. After you talk to your neighbors about the faith you might also talk to them about trans-mania. What do they think about it all? Do they believe in nature (creation)? How many sexes has God created? Are there really 53 genders? Should physicians be able to mutilate (surgically and chemically) children? When your group is ready, start with your local public school board. After all, even if your children are not in public school (and they almost certainly should not be) Christians pay property taxes, which go toward the maintenance of the public schools. What does the curriculum of your local district say about the transgender movement? Is your district recruiting children for the trans movement? What sorts of books are available for children in the school and public libraries? Why? How does the district defend these choices? After your local school districts and city councils, you may move on to your state legislature.
- Legislate. Most American Christians, I suppose, do not give much thought to how legislation is created and passed by legislative bodies. A lot of legislation does not originate within the legislature itself but comes to legislators from outside groups, like your new advocacy group. Do you know how to write a law? Can you find a Christian lawyer and legislator to help you craft a law that would, for example, protect vulnerable young people from being harmed by medical procedures? This will take time and will require education, but it can be done. Did you know that you can make an appointment to visit with state legislators and/or their staff members? They should hear your thoughtful, considered, carefully crafted legislative proposals to address the trans-crisis. Gaining the trust of the staff, and finally getting the ear of legislators is time-consuming and difficult, but it can be done. Going from legislator to legislator is taxing, but it can be done. Attending legislative committee meetings and even testifying before those committees is difficult, but it can be done.
- Litigate. Because Christians have sometimes applied to broadly Paul’s injunction against taking a fellow Christian to court (1 Cor 6:1–8). We Christians are citizens of a twofold kingdom with two spheres or realms, sacred and secular. In our participation in the secular sphere, we are free to make use of those tools as appropriate. For example, John Calvin, who gave us the language of a “twofold kingdom,” served as legal counsel in his brother’s divorce case against his adulterous wife. That was a bold thing to do. Divorce was almost unknown, but Calvin not only helped his brother sue for divorce, but he also served as his lawyer in a secular court proceeding. That is a model we may follow. When we find unelected agencies pursuing bad policies, and if they will not hear us then we have a right to pursue litigation to force them to bring their policy and actions into conformity with the law. Where students are being harmed (e.g., by a teacher’s advocacy of a radical sexual agenda), those children may have standing to sue their local school district to bring about a change in policy and behavior. Nothing will change an agency’s behavior and rhetoric faster than a large financial settlement. When a legislature passes a law that violates the laws of nature Christian citizens have every right to object in the courts. Legislators regularly pass laws that they know will not stand judicial scrutiny, but they gamble that no one will challenge them in court. Warning: litigation is slow and expensive but there are groups right now following this strategy with real success.
There are other steps, but these are some of the most basic and most important. Perhaps you have never thought about actually becoming involved in the legislative process, in lobbying, or in litigating for a point of view in your community, but perhaps you should. After all, this is what the sexual radicals have been doing for decades. While you were busy working and raising a family, they were campaigning in legislative offices, before school boards, and in the courts (e.g., Obergefell v Hodges) to cajole, persuade, and pressure to get the social outcomes that they wanted.
The present trans-mania was no accident. It has been embedded in every Gay Pride parade in every big city for decades. It has been built into the ethos of the Gay Rights movement since Stonewall. Ask the firefighters and cops who have been forced to work or even participate in these events what they have seen. The citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah would blush. As has been documented in this space, the trans movement has organized to take the “Drag Queen Story Hour” to middle America and the South to break down resistance to their movement. They had a plan and they have executed it quite successfully. Christians may and ought to be just as organized.
The last time I broached the subject of Christian social action some correspondents complained that I was burdening their consciences. I am doing no such thing. Those Christians who feel no calling to participate in social advocacy are free to abstain.
It may be that you are not called to take any of these five steps, but you can support those who do. You can pray. You can give. You can help with mailings or other administrative tasks. It takes time, energy, and resources to form a political non-profit organization. Those organizations need volunteers and board members. There are many things to be done behind the scenes.
The changes that we hope to see will not come over night. It took fifty years to overturn Doe v Bolton and Roe v Wade. It may well take fifty years to overturn Obergefell v Hodges but revolutions typically run out of gas. There are some signs already that resistance to the trans movement is building. There are reasons for hope.
©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.
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