Allow me to begin this post by stating that I don’t ever remember feeling so uncomfortable writing publically about a particular subject or subjects. This does not mean that I am not willing to engage. On the contrary, engagement is critical for me as a person, leader, student, and Christian. I am an undeterred seeker of truth, though not as bravely as some. I hunger for knowledge and understanding, and I welcome views that are different from mine. In fact, I search for and desire engagement at that level. I want to know!
At this point, it is not about right or wrong, or even agreeing or disagreeing, it is about my willingness to listen and understand points of view that may be new and even uncomfortable for me. Please don’t misunderstand, listening in this context has no contractual aspect. It is only to say I am willing to listen because I want to understand, not because I seek to agree or even disagree. There is that point in the learning process where the very act of listening is full-on engagement. For me, this is one of those times.
In that light, I would like to say that I feel that there are some topics that are so close to the heart, so intimate and sacred that public discourse, even if done carefully and wisely, threatens to degrade this sacredness and intimacy. I do not apologize for this feeling: although I have been accused by some of my close colleagues and friends as having an unwillingness—but not necessarily the inability—to express my feelings. I trust that those who have been with me on this journey of learning know my heart and actually know me. Truth be known, they probably know my heart better than those who may assume to know me, but do not.
I also do not apologize that unlike Thatcher, my sympathies do not necessarily lie with progressive or revisionist themes when it comes to sex and gender issues. Thatcher would possibly attribute this to my generational bents. He would certainly attribute it to my cultural framework and my theological underpinnings. On that, I would agree. In any case, I honestly and sincerely admire his braveness in engaging the student and readers “to the exhilaration of thinking theologically about sex, sexuality, sexual relationships, and gender roles.” He is brave to introduce students and readers to his bold attempt at a “comprehensive and consistent theological understanding of sexuality and gender, which is broad, contemporary, undogmatic, questioning, inclusive, and relevant…” I also admire his shining a light on the fact that at the core, there may be a problem that has resulted in women being treated as second-class citizens at best, and at worst brutally mistreated simply because of their gender. He does his task well with academic rigor, spiritual depth, and passion. This too is admirable—even if his conclusions are not always agreeable and his explicitness not always appreciated.
I was recently informed by someone of a younger generation that I may no longer use the word sex when speaking of gender. “Gender is a choice, sex is not.” Interesting! I engaged in conversation. According to my younger friend, the world has changed before my eyes. It seems that I am no longer “hip” and am living on the verge of becoming a dinosaur—my bones already forming into paleontological works of study—of interest only to those who research the species of the past, as they attempt to explain how my generation’s parochialism was destroyed by a proverbial meteorite that upon impact shook the whole world! I must admit, this young man had his points and he made them well. Even if I don’t wholeheartedly agree, I felt honored to talk with him.
I guess the question remains. At this juncture— post-Thatcher reading—where do I find myself? I find myself still thinking that the world is a wonderful and marvelous place, filled with people created in God’s image. I find myself more understanding of the fact that the highest perfections and ideals of this world pale in comparison to the glory of the One. I also find myself knowing that the deepest imperfections melt in the presence of His grace, mercy, and love. But mostly, I find myself coming to the daily realization that my understanding of what is perfect and what is not is clouded by a view that is not unlike a view through a glass darkly. This applies to all things with which I struggle, including the book God, Sex and Gender: An Introduction. Even if I don’t agree, I feel honored to have had the opportunity to listen in a way that helps me see the world through the eyes of another. In the end, I trust that I will not be one who simply points people to Christ—because then I have simply passed my responsibility on to someone else. On the contrary, I trust that I will be one in whom others see Christ, thus fulfilling my mission as a Christian—that is to show love and acceptance when and where others will not.
- Adrian Thatcher. God, Sex, and Gender: An Introduction. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011, x.
- Ibid., ix.