Does anyone else see the irony in the contrasting reactions to these two recent news stories?
A male former Olympic athlete, now in his 60's comes out as a female. This has apparently been his (her?) true identity all along, despite external evidence to the contrary. This person is then made up as a woman, adorned in beautiful (sexy?) feminine clothing and placed on the front cover of national magazines, ogled and admired and proclaimed a hero for coming out.
The president of the Spokane, WA chapter of the NAACP, who was assumed for years to be African-American, is outed as being white. She is shamed, mocked and ridiculed by commentators and comedians, black, white, male and female. She resigns in apparent disgrace.
What's wrong with these two pictures? Why is one's reaction to an identity crisis considered heroic while the other's similar reaction is considered disgraceful?
I confess I know little about either of these people. I suspect, however, that most of their admirers/detractors are as ignorant as I am. Nor have I faced conflicts anything like theirs must have been and still are. So how do I process this?
Usually when confronted with issues such as these I first tend to try to find some common ground, some connection with my own past experiences. Though I can find little if anything to help me relate to the person with the sexual identity problem, I believe I can sympathize to some extent with the person with the "ethnic identity problem." For years Uni and I were involved with ministries across racial lines. There were times when I found myself identifying more with my African-American students and friends than with my white friends. (And yet I still consider myself white.)
However, past experiences, while helpful are not enough. The questions I must ask are "How does the Scripture address issues like these?" "Or does it?" "Are the two identity issues similar?" "Or are they completely different?"
A few passages come to mind:
· "... for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:26-28
· "... and (you) have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all." Colossians 3:10-11
Our maleness/femaleness or our blackness/whiteness are of secondary importance. It is our relationship to Christ that counts. Both of the above persons as well as many others, undoubtedly have had and still have deep emotional struggles relating to their identity as human beings. But in Christ these identity problems fade away and we who belong to Christ should recognize this.
Another passage which relates:
· "For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings." 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
It would seem that Paul's concern for people - as that of his Master - was to love them and to bring them to the knowledge of Christ. He empathized and he attempted to identify as much as possible with them and their situation.
While the world, the secular pundits and news media, may make heroes of some and condemn others, this is not to be our way. The follower of Jesus must recognize the needs of others and point them to Christ and to a church in which they can find acceptance no matter what their "identity" and where they can ultimately find their identity in Christ.