Gender Recognition, the Church of Scotland and Jesus

The Church of Scotland’s 2022 General Assembly Report ‘DIVERSE GENDER IDENTITIES AND PASTORAL CARE’ is further evidence of its adoption of the woke agenda. It bases its contribution to gender recognition on the ‘lived experience’ of those seeking to be recognised in a different gender. Lived experience refers to the experiences and choices of a given person, and the knowledge that they gain from these experiences and choices rather than collective knowledge or expertise. It replaces objective assessment of bodily dysphoria with its discussion of psychological frailties, heterosexual means of generation, social normality and collective philosophy of human life and living. We, none of us, are islands unto ourselves. The Church of Scotland’s report reflects contemporary cultural wars and does not affirm a particular Christian alternative.

‘Critical research queer theory holds that categories of sex, gender and sexuality are oppressive and rejects that these are based on biological realities. It claims that a person can be male or female or neither or neuter. This is promoted by sexual minorities who say that gender is socially constructed. They hold that categories such as ‘woman’ causes oppressive discourse. This ideology subverts the evidence that humans as a species reproduce sexually. It negates the very largest majority of women and men in the world. It explains the disproportionate prominence of transgender issues in politics, the media and society. The ideas of such micro-minorities have not only to be heard but are to become the default understanding for everyone.’

The Church of Scotland Report purports to be from a pastoral perspective. It includes lived experience quotes such as ‘this is who I want to be and you need to see that version of me’. This is egotistical narcissistic atomism. This is not loving one’s neighbour as one’s self. This is not altruism. It is the demanding of recognition without offering and returning it proportionately. That is, from a micro-minority point of view to the very large majority reality. No society can function in this way. No doubt this individual takes advantage of various forms of support and care, including from the National Health Service. This is an impetuous, immature, childish, and self-centred creed. A particular form of ‘lived experience’ cannot become absolute. It cannot be universalised. It cannot postulate salvation by sexuality. No Christian Church should endorse it as a philosophy of life.

Another quote is, ‘Jesus would walk with this family, be with them, stay with them - even if in silence’. This is manifestly not consistent with the Jesus of the Gospels. The silence echoes the protest of homosexuals over the years that Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality and therefore was in favour of it. It is a mistaken argument. In common understanding silence does not mean affirmation or approval. In fact Jesus was not silent about many people and many things. His teaching is clear. His healing and saving interventions involved change of lifestyles, values and understanding. He said, ‘But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (Matthew 15 : 18 – 19) After meeting Jesus the corrupt tax collector Zacchaeus, said, ‘“Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19 : 8 – 10) The salvation of Jesus is different from affirmation of sexuality. It is eternal in nature.

Sexuality belongs on earth and its finitude. Jesus taught, ‘At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven’. (Matthew 22 : 30) Famously Jesus counselled the woman accused of adultery, ‘Go and sin no more.’ (John 8 : 11) During a spirited conversation with a serially adulterous Samaritan woman whom he met at Jacob’s well, Jesus challenged her thus: “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” (John 4 : 14 – 18) No silence there. The woman experienced salvation, testified to her community and they accepted that Jesus was the Messiah. ‘Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.” (John 4 : 39 – 42). Jesus, His teaching and the practice of the Christian Church ever since have distinguished eternal salvation from mere human sexuality. Jesus was not at all silent and it is simply wrong to claim that he would be today on the gender recognition issue. He did not and would not affirm 'lived experience'. He offered much more.

Another quote expresses the mistakenness of ‘lived experience’ as the definitive description of human life. ‘I can link my transition experience to the resurrection story’. The resurrection of Jesus is the greatest event in human history and consciousness. (John 20) It enlightens us all to the reality of life after death. It makes sense of life on earth for all of us. No human thought or action compares. To appropriate Jesus’ resurrection as a description of gender recognition is mistaken at best, confused certainly, and deeply hurtful to devout Christians throughout the world. The Church of Scotland should be defending Jesus Christ from false assumptions, not giving expression to them. Individual lived experience on its own cannot ever be the definitive means of understanding human existence. It cannot be a complete expression of cultural life.

Definite Christian responses were submitted to the Scottish Government's proposals. The Scottish Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference wrote, ‘The Catholic Church teaches respect for the male and female person made in the image and likeness of God and believes that sex or gender cannot be reduced to a mere construct of society that is fluid and changeable. At the same time, the Church is concerned for those who suffer discrimination and prejudice and those who experience gender dysphoria and expects those in authority to ensure an appropriate framework of support is available.’ The Evangelical Alliance responded thus, ‘The underlying premise of the self-declaration model is that gender is entirely subjective and purely a matter of choice. Furthermore, this model legislates that in effect where there is a dissonance between gender identity and biological sex, it is gender identity which overrides biological sex. The Evangelical Alliance believe this approach does not give credit to either scientific or medical reasons behind the importance of biological sex, making assumptions that gender is purely chosen and not given, and that both gender and ultimately biological sex can be changed simply by choice.’ The Free Church of Scotland contended, ‘Undergoing a change of gender has potentially life changing consequences in a whole range of areas. Certain medical interventions will lead to infertility and there has been insufficient research into the long-term effects of medical intervention. We are now beginning to see a number of cases emerge in the public square where people have regretted a change in gender and some have begun the difficult process of de-transitioning.’

Critics may say ‘These are the usual suspects’ and ‘Well, they would wouldn’t they.’ That is true. But they represent Christian teaching such that has enlightened the world for nearly 2000 years. This objective body of knowledge and understanding is exactly the opposite of critical research queer theory and of atomistic lived experience. It is rejected out of hand for what it is. Only lived experience is to be taken into account and that is why gender recognition is being passed into law.

Referrals to London’s Tavistock and Portman Trust’s Gender Identity Development Service clinic rose from 72 in 2009-10 to 1807 in 2016-17. The number of teenage girls diagnosed with gender dysphoria rose 5000% in 7 years. (Janice Turner, The Sunday Times, 19 June 2022) The background for many of these cases is social, money, housing and chaotic families. Early onset teenage angst is being used as an excuse to propel children towards the use of puberty blockers. Activists have changed the narrative towards gender dysphoria being the answer to personal struggle. Some have informed parents that their child may commit suicide if forced to go through the wrong puberty. One critical issue is the early use of drugs to block puberty. In 2014 GIDS lowered the prescription age for blockers from 16 to 11. Later development treatments included drugs for hormone suppression and the use of cross sex hormones. This is generally called ‘medical transition’. It has become a lifestyle choice. It is promoted by adults however and no longer term research about the outcomes has been undertaken.

On 1st July 2022 The Telegraph published this quote from Jordan Peterson. 'But the radical types’ notion of gender is completely empty. “Gender is what you feel”. OK, what do you mean by “feel”? “I feel like I’m a man.” Well, how do you know, because you aren’t. Do you always feel that? “Well, sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. So I’m fluid.” It’s so juvenile and narcissistic that it’s almost impossible to exaggerate’.

Jordan Peterson publishing in The Telegraph on 17 June 2022 wrote as follows. ‘The medical profession is crumbling in response to radical transgender activists. There is good evidence that many ancient societies sacrificed children to their gods... I saw a video the other day featuring an American surgeon bragging that he had performed more than 3,000 double mastectomies on young women who had paid for gender reassignment, individuals confused – one might say encouraged – by those who profit from it into believing that their adolescent emotional trials can be ‘cured’, and happiness reign forever, if they subject themselves to this brutal practice. And it is brutal – a process that often includes not only the aforementioned mastectomies but other appalling surgical processes: orchiectomy (that’s castration, in blunter language), the removal of the uterus, the demolition of the musculature of the forearm to make what is not a penis but must be referred to as such – all of that. For someone purporting to be a physician to perform this on children, to me at least, seems like something worthy of a prison sentence. Whatever happened to the doctrine expressed by the ancient language as 'primum non nocere' – first, do no harm? The Hippocratic Oath has been replaced by a delusion: a belief that can be summarised as ‘by blocking the puberty of children, and then surgically altering them, we are only restoring what is theirs by right. A child’s feelings are the final arbiters of their reproductive destiny, and any attempt to contest their gender identity risks increasing their proclivity for suicide’. Jordan Peterson likens these practices to ancient child sacrifice.

The death and resurrection of Jesus are all encompassing, universal in relevance and application and necessarily above the exigencies of our human life and living. There is nothing that we humans can do that is beyond the scope of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The sacraments of the Christian Church are saving sacraments. They too, are above and beyond the fragments of our human consciousness and experience. The evangelical invitation to the love, mercy and forgiveness of our Lord and Saviour is unquestionable. Does Jesus love those struggling with gender dysphoria? Yes, of course. Would Jesus agree with individual lived experience as the basis of all life? Evidently not. Does He have anything to contribute to the conversation? In Himself and through his Church He does. Is He of any help to the suffering? He offers Himself in His resurrection power.

N.B. The Telegraph reported on 28 July that 'The Tavistock transgender clinic is to be shut down by the NHS after a review found it is "not safe" for children. NHS England will move young people who believe that they are trans into regional centres which will take a more “holistic” approach to treatment and look at other mental health or medical issues they may have. The decision is a response to the interim Cass Review, which warned that medics in the Tavistock had felt “under pressure to adopt an unquestioning affirmative approach” to gender identity rather than going through the normal process of clinic assessment with young people'.

Robert Anderson 2017

To contact Robert, please use this email address: