Is Bruce Jenner a “Freak”? Only if Definitions Matter.
Is Bruce Jenner a freak?
Such a nasty term, isn’t it?
Russell Moore – director of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) – tells Christians how we must respond to Bruce Jenner in light of his decision to deform his appearance through the use of surgery and drugs…
We do not see our transgendered neighbors as freaks to be despised. They feel alienated from their identities as men or women and are seeking a solution to that in self-display or in surgery or in pumping their bodies with the other sex’s hormones.
Moore, whose increasingly progressive tone on issues relating to human sexuality has been called a “softening approach” by a wide array of secular news outlets, is right in that Christians should not despise our “transgendered” neighbors. Adopting terms from the LGBTQ(RSVP other letters as time progresses) lexicon like “transgender,” Moore touches on truth. We should not ‘despise’ (synonyms include hate, have contempt, loathe, abhor) those who have mutilated their bodies or defaced their God-given gender. Rather, we should love them.
But is Moore, like so many others, right that we are wrong to see our ‘transgendered’ neighbors as freaks?
Jon Bloom, in a post at Desiring God was entitled, “How Should We Respond to Caitlyn Jenner?” Pulpit & Pen argued that, for starters, we shouldn’t call him Caitlyn because that’s a woman’s name, and he’s not a woman. In Bloom’s article, he spoke of transgenderism being a disorder.
Bruce Jenner, and every person who deals with gender or sexual-orientation disorders, bears the image of God and has a priceless soul.
Until recently, the desire to be a different gender was called Gender Identity Disorder in the DSM-V (the standard handbook for diagnosing abnormal psychological disorders). Now it is called Gender Disphoria, in order to remove the stigma of the term, “disorder.” Oddly, the DSM-V recognizes this desire as a disorder (they switched the term disorder for disphoria, but did not move its listing as a psychiatric diagnosis in the DSM-IV) and yet includes “gender reassignment surgery” as treatment. We’ve reached a time of history where mental health professionals simultaneously list a psychiatric diagnosis as a disorder, while recommending embracing the disorder as treatment of it. Makes sense, right?
To be clear, thankfully, Bloom’s article at Desiring God did not insinuate that this disorder lessens or excuses the sinfulness of the desire…
We all understand from experience the distressing disorder of the inner man that occurs because of indwelling sin and the brokenness of the fall…
Yes, thinking you are a woman trapped in a man’s body or a man trapped in a woman’s body is clearly a mental health issue and a disorder – it is also a sin. Having worked as an addiction counselor, I discovered much to the chagrin of so many well meaning Christians that alcoholism really is a disease. Alcoholism is a disease because it fits all the classical, medical definitions of disease, including that it causes physical dependency and physiological changes in the diseased person. However, the fact that alcoholism is a disease doesn’t undo the fact that the disease is caused by sin – the willful over-consumption of alcohol. Type-2 diabetes is not always, but can be a disease caused by gluttony and slothfulness. Its sometimes-sinful nature doesn’t make it any less a disease. And…the opposite is true.
And so, if someone is battling “disease,” we certainly don’t want to call them a “freak.” How unloving that would be. Right?
Christians are being told in a barrage of lecturing articles how we’re supposed to non-judgmentally view Bruce Jenner. Posts like
- Why You’re Completely Unable to Judge Caitlyn Jenner (or anyone else)
- Why Christians Should Love and Support Caitlyn Jenner
- Is Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner the New Face of American Christianity
- For God so Loved Caitlyn Jenner
- Caitlyn Jenner and Pastoring a Transgender Person
- Transgender and Christian: How Caitlyn Jenner Challenges the Church
- Caitlyn Jenner and Love in the Future Sense
- How Should Christians Respond to Caitlyn Jenner
- Struggling to Embrace Caitlin Jenner as a Christian
- Caitlyn Jenner and How Christians Should React
These are just a tiny, tiny fraction of the posts out there written by professing Christians for professing Christians to tell us how we should respond to Bruce Jenner. Some are written by people who clearly are not believers, some are written by folks that probably are believers. Other than telling Christians how we should feel about Bruce Jenner, they all have two things in common (from liberal to conservative, faux-believer to real-believer)…
1. They all enable or propagate the notion – either implicitly or explicitly – that Bruce Jenner has somehow changed his gender. Whether by calling him – a male – by a woman’s name, referring to him as her, or acting as though surgery and make-up changes his DNA and God-given gender, these wholly-irresponsible opinion pieces help perpetuate the mental disorder that has consumed Bruce’s life.
2. They all very explicitly lecture Christians to not act as though Bruce Jenner is a “freak.”
Here’s what I have to say to these things, particularly #2…For the love of all that is righteous and true, stop telling us that Bruce Jenner is not a freak. Stop telling us it’s not freakish to shave your trachea. Stop telling us it’s not freakish for a man to add a pair of breasts to himself. Stop telling us it’s not freakish to go under the scalpel to make your face more feminine. Stop telling us it’s not freakish, for some people with sexual identity disorder to mutilate their genitalia. Stop telling us that if we saw him on the street dressed and looking like that, that it would be somehow wrong or sinful to do a double-take and feel like we wanted to throw up in our mouth a little bit. Stop saying things that aren’t true. Stop drinking the cultural Kool-Aid. Stop denying the obvious. Stop saying patently untrue things.
He is not a she. Bruce is not Caitlyn. And by the definition of freak, Bruce has become a freak.
Do you see the second definition? It’s hyperlinked. Click it and check it out for yourself. A freak is a person with an unusual physical abnormality and synonyms include aberration, irregularity, or oddity. For crying out loud, if Bruce Jenner has not become an aberration, irregularity or oddity, I don’t know what has. By every textbook definition of “freak,” Bruce Jenner is a freak.
Now, if what these “don’t act as though he’s a freak” lectures mean is that you don’t have to be so specific and call him that, that’s fine. There are people who suffer all kinds of physical anomalies or aberrant health issues that don’t deserve to be called ‘freaks’ as pejoratives. Walking up to Jenner and calling him a freak probably is not helpful to any type of fruitful discussion and I wouldn’t advise it. However, if you say “don’t act as though he’s a freak” because you’re saying that he is not, in actuality, a freak – then we need to find whatever disorder in the DSM-V you suffer from that gives you an insane, unrealistic, and flatly distorted view of the world and properly diagnose you.
Christians, stop using their lexicon and stop making their ridiculous claims. How many times have you heard reporters or commentators say or write about the “sexy” or “beautiful” new look of [Bruce] Jenner? No one believes that. He’s frightening looking, and anything but beautiful. The Vanity Fair photo shoot – even with all the airbrush artistry – is still the stuff nightmares are made of. We’re all saying stuff – from pagans to Christians – that we know is not true. And as truth-loving Christians, it ought to make you throw your arms up in the air and say, “Stop saying this stuff. It’s not true!”
Bruce Jenner is a freak. There’s no other way to put it. Like Michael Jackson (remember back when people could admit he was a freak without being lectured by the evangelical intellegentsia?), Jenner has purposefully defaced his gender but has not removed it. Jenner has purposefully – although not yet permanently – emasculated himself, brought about major physical deformities, and turned who was at one time a handsome, masculine man into a deformed, ugly man in a dress. Those pictures from Vanity Fair do not make him beautiful, but repulsive and repugnant. That’s called being a freak. To be very clear, Bruce Jenner is still a human being. But he’s a freakish one.
Here’s the Good News: Jesus came to die for freaks. Jesus came to die for deformed and mutilated people. Jesus came to die for people with mental disorders. Bruce Jenner can be saved if he has the type of faith in death, burial and resurrection of Jesus that leads him to repentance.
By the way, I think there’s an Ethiopian Eunuch somewhere in that great Cloud of Witnesses that agrees with me.
God saved a castrated man in Acts 8, after Phillip explained to him the Gospel. The eunuch’s physical mutilation was not a stumbling block to the preaching of the Gospel, and therefore, Phillip had no reason to support, affirm, or act as though the mutilation didn’t exist or that cutting off your testicles is not a big deal or doesn’t make you really, really weird. Instead of minimizing the Eunuch’s sin (which like all of ours, stretched to the Heavens and back again), Phillip made much of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53.
The Good News for Bruce Jenner is not that’s he’s not a freak. The Good News for Bruce Jenner is that he is a freak who can be saved by Jesus.
[Contributed by JD Hall]