Thanks for listening to another week of the Ask Pastor John podcast. We get a lot of really good questions via email, and you can send them to us at askpastorjohn AT desiringGod DOT org.
As you can imagine, Pastor John, we have lots of questions in the inbox about Target’s new transgender bathroom policy. Shoppers are encouraged to use whichever gendered bathrooms they identify with. The Target corporate headquarters is just a walk away from your house, so this hits close to home. On the principle of a boycotts, I think we’ve addressed this (back in episode 430 on corporate policies of Apple, Subaru, Target). What are the logistics of Target’s decision for Christians? If you are shopping at Target, go to the restroom, and a woman, identifying as a man, walks in — are there any biblical principles at play here? Would you use a gender-open restroom, even if it says “men” on the door? How would you untangle this?
Tony, the way my mind went on this may not be exactly where the question is going, although I am going to end precisely answering the question what I would do. But let me take you on the trajectory of my thought and trust that the Lord brought it to my mind for good reasons.
SCOTUS and Parenting
Strange as it may sound, the first thing that comes to my mind as I hear the question is how parents are going to train their children in a culture where profound evil and deep corruption and God-ignoring perversion is pervasive and accepted and defended and assumed and de-stigmatized and statistically normal. That is just so front burner for me right now in conversations that I am having.
“The depths of the human heart’s depravity must be built in profoundly to our children.”
For those of us who grew up where different standards were assumed and where some at least external biblical patterns of life were normative, there is a built-in revulsion at some things that ought to produce revulsion. But our children are not growing up in that world, and they will not have the same instincts. So how — that is my question — how are we going to raise them and train them so that they will feel the exceeding sinfulness of sin and be willing to take stands that are extremely unpopular, maybe even costly or dangerous?
Part of the answer to that question is whether we have a big enough doctrine of human depravity. Are we able to take our children to the Scriptures and explain to them in terms that are shocking enough where the evils of our society are coming from? The children are going to be told by the Supreme Court and by their teachers and by their friends that the world is a different way, that the words of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy are true.
Here is this sentence. What I am going to read right now, I think, is probably the most destructive sentence, whether it is transgender or so-called gay marriage or abortion. This sentence from 1992 Justice Anthony Kennedy is probably the most destructive sentence that the Court has ever spoken. That would be my guess. I have not read them all, but he said, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” That view of human autonomy — defining one’s own existence — is so widespread that, unless we have a deeper, stronger, more compelling view of human nature that explains where such sentences come from, our children will simply be swept away and along with the culture.
So that is the first thing that comes to my mind. My first reaction when I hear another instance of the kind of application of Justice Kennedy’s sentence is that the depths of the human heart’s depravity must be built in profoundly to our children.
So-Called “Gender Identity”
The second thing that comes to my mind is just to make sure that we have our terminology right in these days. So Target has now put in place a policy and it goes like this. It aims to give freedom to “transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.” Now there is the new term: gender identity. And it is just so important that all of our listeners get this. That is a new code word.
The word “gender” is now used not for biological reality of maleness or femaleness, but for desired identity of so-called male or so-called female, even if the biological reality is the opposite of the desired identity. So, gender identity can mean a male declaring himself to be female and a female declaring herself to be male. That is what gender identity means. And it is the most recent application and perhaps the strangest of Justice Kennedy’s principle: Liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence.
Always criticizing the world and losing a big vision of God is a greater tragedy than the moral tragedy we are in.
We are going to talk about polygamy on this podcast one of these days, and my wife was saying last night: Well, that probably isn’t coming. I said: There is not a leg to stand on. Once you have put this sentence in place, polygamy will come and the worst has already come. Polygamy is a piece of cake. That is coming, except that it is probably legally so complicated that, for inheritances and life insurance policies and everything else, maybe there will be some brakes on it for a while anyway.
For this principle to hold, liberty is the right to define one’s own existence. God must be excluded from the picture, because what it means to be God is that God defines for us the nature of our existence. And so the recent developments to presume we can define marriage any way we please and our sexual identity any way we please are manifestations of the human usurpation of divine prerogatives. This is not new, not a new thing. This has been going on for a long time. The correlation between biological maleness and femaleness and self-identification as male and female is rooted in numerous ways in the Bible. It is rooted in God’s creation as male and female. It is rooted in distinct roles assigned to male and female in marriage. It is rooted in the biblical prohibition of homosexual acts.
Target, Transgender, and Bathrooms
So, in answer to the last part of the question, Would you, John Piper, use a gender open restroom even if it says men on the door? My answer is, If I were there and if I had to, I would — just like I would stop on the highway if I had to. But I wouldn’t if I didn’t have to. And the reason I wouldn’t is because I want there to be a small act of protest and life consistency that may have no impact at all on the powers that make such decisions, but that keep my conscience clear and acknowledge God in practical affairs and give a consistency to my life that does help overall in showing the way of Christ to the world.
And I would say just one other thing. I think we should spend most of our creative energies on constructing in our minds and in our hearts and in our families great and beautiful and glorious alternative visions of reality than the ones we are being offered by the world. If we give most of our time to bemoaning and criticizing the world for acting like the world, our vision of God and his glorious future for his people will become smaller and smaller, and that could be a greater tragedy than the one we are living in.
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