Embracing Oneself by Rejecting One’s Body Isn’t Possible

Today’s blog is the fourth article in our series on gender and sexuality. The collection of quotations I’m sharing today is from The Genesis of Gender by Dr. Abigail Favale, which makes some very significant observations. Some of these quotes are quite deep, but well worth thinking about, so I encourage you to stick with this whole blog. As you read each of them, consider the truths stated as well as the implications of those truths. (Thanks to my son-in-law Dan Stump for putting these together.)

The Genesis of GenderGenesis 2 emphasizes another vital principle: the body reveals the person. Our bodies are the visible reality through which we manifest our hidden, inner life. Each person’s existence is entirely unrepeatable, and our unique personhood can only be made known to others through the frame of our embodiment. This sacramentality is displayed in the man’s immediate recognition of the woman. They have not yet spoken; she has not verbally introduced herself. Her body speaks the truth of her identity, and this truth is immediately recognized by the man, who is struck with joy and wonder at the revelation of a person with whom he can—at last!—have true communion. (p. 40)

In the parade of animals, the man’s act of naming does not impose meaning but recognizes meaning that objectively exists. God creates the animal and presents it to the man, who discerns its distinct nature and bestows a name that proclaims that nature…Reality, then, exists prior to our naming it, and our language is true and meaningful when it corresponds to what exists. (p. 42-43)

Now, unmoored from the body altogether, gender is defined by the very cultural stereotypes that feminism sought to undo. In other words, when a girl recognizes that she does not fit the stereotypes of girlhood, she is now invited to question her sex rather than the stereotype. (p. 158)

Shedding the visible markers of femaleness may feel as empowering for the transgender teen as it does for the anorexic, but these forms of protest are ultimately violent and self-destructive. The better rebellion, and the more difficult one, is learning to see one's beauty and dignity as a woman amidst a culture that denies it. (p. 174)

Children who are given puberty blockers and then placed on cross-sex hormones never go through puberty. That natural process is completely halted. Not only does this lead to permanent sterility, it also arrests critical brain and bone development that occurs during puberty. The long-term ramifications of this artificial arrest are not yet known. (p. 186)

Moreover, contrary to activist rhetoric, halting puberty does not just push pause, creating more time for discernment about transition. Nearly 100% of children put on puberty blockers proceed to take cross-sex hormones, with irreversible side effects. (p. 187)

According to Laura Reynolds, a former trans-identified woman, the gender paradigm has “rebranded self-harm as self-care.” (p. 193-194)

The affirmation model, while often motivated by good will, is ultimately unethical…The Goodness, wholeness, and givenness of the body is discarded…This approach inverts the very definition of health, by pursuing a “treatment” that makes a healthy body ill…In this model, the body is the scapegoat, blamed as the sole source of one’s pain and sacrificed on the altar of self-will. (p. 197-198)

The affirmation model cannot offer true self-acceptance, unless the body is no longer considered part of the self. Choosing a lifetime of medicalization in order to maintain an illusion of cross-sex identity is not “being who you really are.” The affirmation model is self-denial masquerading as self-acceptance. Because our bodies are ourselves, what is being “affirmed”, ultimately, is the patient’s self-hatred. (p. 200)

Using sex-based pronouns, rather than gender-based pronouns, is undoubtedly disruptive and likely offensive to most trans-identified people. Such a move could close the door to a relationship with that person from the outset. Yet, if I use pronouns that conflict with sex, I am assenting to an untruth. More than assenting, in fact; through my own words I am actively participating in a lie. (p. 206)

It is not possible to embrace oneself by rejecting one’s body. (p. 231)

The gender paradigm is diabolic, in the literal sense. I realize this is a provocative statement, but I also believe that it is true. It is a framework that deceives people, whispers the enthralling lie that we can be our own gods, our own makers, that the body has no intrinsic meaning or dignity, that we can escape our facticity and find refuge in a tailor-made self. In this framework, sex, a reality that encompasses the whole person, is fragmented into disparate features. Woman is cut off from femaleness, a disembodied category that anyone can appropriate. This paradigm takes the human desire for conversion, rebirth, resurrection and bends that desire toward a cheap counterfeit. Interior agony and emptiness are projected onto a healthy body, which then becomes an easy scapegoat, a concrete “problem” that can be “solved.” The problem is not the body. The problem is the very real and painful experience of disintegration, a problem that can have any variety of sources, depending on each person’s circumstances. This problem of disintegration can’t be solved by a philosophy that is ultimately nihilistic, that denies the possibility of meaning beyond the self, and in this way denies the possibility of wholeness. (p. 235)

(For more on Dr. Favale’s book, see this review: Male and Female He Made Them.)

Dr. Favale mentions the issue of preferred pronouns, which some believers are being pressured to use in their jobs and ministries.

Author and preacher Shane Pruitt offers these points:

Often, I’m asked by Christian leaders about the use of “preferred pronouns.” Here are 4 reasons why I don’t use or ask for “preferred pronouns.”

1) It’s tied to an obvious cultural agenda. This was never a thing, until very recently. We don’t typically use third person pronouns when talking to someone.

2) As a Christian leader, how am I going to be a steward of the truth, while at the exact same time affirming a lie?

3) When will the shift take place? Some people will say we do it for the “spiritually lost.” However, what if they do become a believer? At what point in the discipleship process will you have to tell someone that you actually never believed in their “preferred pronoun” to begin with? Isn’t it better to lovingly stick to the truth from the beginning, so it doesn’t seem like a “bait and switch” down the road?

4) Others in the ministry are watching. If I compromise there, then I have to also ask, “Am I discipling people to believe the whole movement is okay?”

Be kind. Be loving. Don’t look to argue. We can be welcoming without being affirming. Look to win people with Spirit and Truth, because we can’t win them with confusion and compromise.

And in this video, Alisa Childers and Dr. Jeff Myers discuss how Christians can appeal to conscience when asked to participate in using preferred pronouns.

Also see the article “Why I no longer use Transgender Pronouns—and Why You shouldn’t, either” from Rosaria Butterfield,  a sister in Christ, who is a former, in her words, “queer activist.”

It can be very hard to communicate on issues like these with both grace and truth. We are concerned for another person’s soul, not wanting to be harsh, and trying to be gracious and kind, but it is also critical not to undercut the truth. (For more thoughts related to communicating with grace and truth, see my book The Grace and Truth Paradox.)

May God give His people wisdom and grace to communicate in a way that honors Him and truly loves others.

Photo: Pexels

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries