Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

“Here’s Your Brain on Drugs!”

Written by: on March 6, 2020

In 1987 an advertising campaign was launched by the Partnership for a Drug Free America organization. A man, holding up an egg, says, “Here’s your brain.” He then cracks the egg in a hot frying pan and states, “And here’s your brain on drugs, any questions?” The emphasis was the long-term effects of recreational drug use. Fast forward a few decades and now there are activists actually promoting a different kind of drug use that will have horrific effects. In the U.S. there may be an important reason that young people cannot legally drive until they reach 16 years of age, cannot vote until they are 18 years of age, cannot legally purchase alcohol until they are 21 years of age, and cannot rent a vehicle until they are 25 years of age (for most companies).

Anne Fetterman, RN BSN, Joseph Campellone MD, and Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN from the University of Rochester Medical Center made some interesting statements about the brain of a teenager:

“It doesn’t matter how smart teens are or how well they scored on the SAT or ACT. Good judgment isn’t something they can excel in, at least not yet. The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so. In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part. In teen’s brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are still developing—and not always at the same rate. That’s why when teens have overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking as much as they were feeling.”[1]

This seems to be something worthy of consideration when addressing children regarding gender and sex. While reviewing this week’s text and the article recommended by our lead mentor I was moved back and forth between deep grief and outrage. The reviewer in summarizing the essay by Davies-Arai said, “What transgenderism represents is not a medical problem or even a psychological condition requiring treatment, but a species of adult identity politics being applied to children whose identities are not fixed, but are in development, and are therefore vulnerable to distortion and abuse.” Davies-Arai believes, “what we have been witnessing is not only a medical experiment on some children’s bodies but a psychological experiment on all children’s minds.”[2] If, in fact, this transgenderism in children is being driven by a political agenda, these activists should be the ones accused of abuse, not the parents who refuse to allow sex change in their young children.

In the review, the eighth point of the summary clearly outlines the logic that seems to be ignored. If one’s biological sex has no bearing on a person’s true sense of self as these activists proclaim, then why the press to change it with such extreme measures? One should simply pay no attention to it at all. Why the insistence to alter my sex if it really does not make me any part of who I am? Research has shown the negative effects of pharmaceutical treatment resulting in various life threatening and debilitating physical illnesses, not to mention adverse emotional effects. Our children are not lab rats, and yet this seems of no consequence to those who are politically motivated, and they are the ones with the fully developed brain.

Though my grief is for the children, my outrage is toward the adults, those who should know better but are blinded by their own selfish agenda. I understand the context of Jesus’ words about those who cause little ones to stumble, but it seems he would use the same warning about this behavior, “…it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned into the depths of the sea.”[3]

The editors and reviewer all represent varying personal perspectives in what they contribute to these texts. I appreciate the broad spectrum of expertise and personal relationship with the topic. I am especially grateful for the enormous risk taken by the editors, to say what needs to be said even to their own peril. My outrage at adults, includes myself, for being intimidated by a vocal minority about such a society altering subject. What would happen if the majority would take a stand against being silenced? There is still beauty in democracy when it works as it should.

Typically, when reading someone’s blog with such a strong opinion as I have been expressing, I wonder if they have any personal knowledge of that which they are ranting about. Before you wonder the same, this is a subject that has relational content. In our recent pastorate we walked through gender dysphoria with one of our teenagers. She was 14 when we met her and had struggled with this, from her mother’s narrative to us, since she was two years old. As a small preschooler she would exclaim, “I’m a boy!” After two suicide attempts her mother came to us in desperation. I will never forget her question, “What am I to do? I tried everything to shape her as a girl all her life while loving her and caring for her. I can’t lose her to suicide, that’s not a choice I can make.” No pastoral training prepared us for this conversation. Politics, science, and academic arguments mean nothing when looking with empathy in the face of a broken-hearted mother and a confused and tormented child.

As spiritual leaders, we must educate ourselves on the subject, walk in humility and pray for wisdom far beyond our years of experience. We must be courageous and use our voice to stand up for the child who cannot make a logical choice with an under-developed brain while giving much grace and support to parents torn in two. We must support educators, therapists, and the medical profession as they continue learning and informing us. That said, we cannot capitulate to a political minority at the expense of our children and grandchildren. If they cannot rent a vehicle, they cannot make a healthy decision about their long-term future. These are extremely complex matters with no easy solutions but doing what is best for our children has never mattered more. Their brains are our responsibility to protect.

[1] https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=3051

[2] Heather Brunskell-Evans and Michele Moore, eds., Transgender Children and Young People: Born in Your Own Body (UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018), 6.

[3] Matthew 18:6b NIV

About the Author

Tammy Dunahoo

Tammy is a lover of God, her husband, children and grandchildren. She is the V.P. of U.S. Operations/General Supervisor of The Foursquare Church.

8 responses to ““Here’s Your Brain on Drugs!””

  1. Mario Hood says:

    Very well said Tammy. I listen to a short video by Bishop Rowan Williams and he said especially in America we must learn the difference in Theological work and Pastoral work. His example was a couple that had not been saved and then came to Christ. Yes now we/they might know they need to be married but maybe it will take some time. As Theologians we know what must be done but as Pastors who are walking with them. We must live out the grace we understand as they live this new life in Christ.

  2. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Tammy – just so good. I noted the risk as well these authors undertook to publish this and it made me wonder why there has been so much silence on this topic. I do know why a bit – any opposition or disagreement would be met with charges of bigotry and hate. Around issues with children, all sides should be heard. On this one, my limited perspective is that only the pro-transgender side has been meaningfully heard. Thank you for writing strongly – I needed to hear this.

  3. Thank you Tammy, your Blog is very informative. You bring out very key truths that is being ignored about the limited abilities of teenagers and young adults in making rational decisions because of the limitations of the brains. I just had a lengthy session trying to dessuade a young adult of 20 years from compromising her integrity for money but she does not seems to see any sense in wisdom. She would rather solve her immediate needs rather than be prudent for her long term good. We can only pray for the young given the many challenges like the LGBT and other Agendas driven by the selfish.

  4. Karen Rouggly says:

    Great blog, Tammy. Thanks for your informed voice on the subject. I appreciated your personal context, as I think this issue is probably much closer to most of us than we think it is. I also shared your concern for the children while lamenting the pain adults have caused (yet feel at the same time).

  5. Digby Wilkinson says:

    It is strange that eugenics is frowned upon at almost every level of society, but social manipulation seems to be commonly accepted practice. You use the term ‘outrage’ which is too often applied to social misdemeanours these days while we let adults abuse the the trust and immaturity of children for their own ends – outrage is appropriate. But there is so little of it. What did Jesus say of the Pharisees, “you strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel”. The same can be said of our modern social experiment s on children. I often here the phrase, ‘being on the wrong side of history’, I have a suspicion this brief era might be seen as ‘living on the wrong side of humanity’. Great thoughts. Thanks.

  6. Mary Mims says:

    Tammy, thank you for your analysis of this subject. I agree that we have to speak out to help the children and also be sensitive to those suffering.

  7. Amen to this Tammy. Where are the courageous leaders to speak out and protect our kids from lasting harm? I was very impressed by the courage exemplified by Brunksell-Evans and Moore by writing their book. They definitely serve as good guides to navigate these gender dysphoric times.

  8. John Muhanji says:

    Amen, my dear friend Tammy. I am encouraged by your strong voice in defending the child against the abuse by the adults who think they know what is right for the child. You have spoken my voice and what has been disturbing me as I read this book. Why is a simple minority dictating to the majority the destruction of children who can’t make their personal choice what is right for them? Why is the Political and social class destroying the Christian fibers Christ established for the faith community?

    I like your statement “we cannot capitulate to a political minority at the expense of our children and grandchildren. If they cannot rent a vehicle, they cannot make a healthy decision about their long-term future.” The Christian community must stand against this and guide the parents in the best way of raising up children and not pumping in them distortion of life. Thank you, Tammy, for being bold enough over this subject that everybody fears to give their true opinion on the subject. We are actually reacting to such fear that minorities through human rights will sue you for discrimination. Fear is destroying our society in the name of affirming.

Leave a Reply