On Monday we all learned of the tragedy and horror of the school shooting in Nashville, TN. For days we have grieved and prayed for the victims and their families. What can we say? At this moment, there is nothing to say. We simply do what Jesus did. We show up to the tomb and weep with those who weep. We look to the one who promises eternal life and the comfort of His presence in the midst of unspeakable devastation. We look to Him when pain is the loudest thing we hear.
In the news reports, updates on the devastated families and discussions about the shooter, we respond in the most predictable way. We seek understanding. How did this happen? The conversations will continue for months, even years. Clarity will be sought. Some will be found. Most will be in the reality of an evil in which we hope to never get close enough to fully comprehend.
This particular moment has been complicated by the identity of the shooter, Aubrey Hale. There is much we can say and speculate about her. But one thing is clear: her trans male identification is enlisting the cultural warriors in mass. Just one day after the shooting, the Trans Resistance Network issued a statement identifying Hale as a victim of trans hate, stating, “Many transgender people deal with anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, and PTSD from the near constant drum beat of anti-trans hate, lack of acceptance from family members and certain religious institutions, denial of our existence and calls for detransition and forced conversion. All these factors contribute to a population that is medically underserved and who often face anti-trans bias while accepting care leading to significant physical and mental disparities. Hate has consequences.” The statement from TRN concludes that Hale “had no other effective way he had to be seen than to lash out by taking the life of others, and by consequence himself.”
There is much we can say about this statement and this will not be the only voice in the cacophony of responses. But it will be helpful to recognize the main sentiment of TRN why this sentiment is toxic to all people and specifically to trans people. TRN would have us believe that the solution to the distress, anxiety, and suffering of trans people is widespread cultural support for trans ideology. Many are rightly outraged that they would go so far as to suggest that Aubrey Hale was somehow justified in her actions because of the lack of widespread cultural support. What they fail to recognize is that trans ideology is itself destructive to those who hold it and is itself corrosive to the full expression of individuals.
At its core, trans ideology says, “You are as you think yourself to be.” When we seek an answer to the question, “Who am I?” this ideology responds with, “You are what your inner self tells you you are.” On the face of it, this may not seem problematic, until we take a closer look at ourselves and four reasons ourselves are often the enemy within.
The Self is Confusing– We rarely ever hold just one sense of who we are in our hearts. I may think I am strong and at the same time weak, guilty and innocent, smart and stupid, independent and dependent. I may desire to be strong in my family, but also weak at times and then find within myself a desire to choose between strength or weakness in any given moment. My sense of myself and my desires are numerous and often conflicting. Which sense is right?
Worse yet, I look to find an example of strength for which to compare myself and determine if I am strong. How do we expect people to do this with gender when we have no idea what maleness or femaleness is? If I find within myself an expression of artistry, does that indicate a male or female self. It seems to be the height of cruelty to tell a young person to figure out whether they are male, female, or neither and then say, “Oh well, male and female are not really things that have definition. It is all just up to you.” We are effectively telling them their identity is whatever they figure out on their own amidst all the conflicting and confusing inner senses they have in any given day.
The Self is Shifting– Let’s face it, at forty-eight years old my sense of myself is almost unrecognizable from my sense of myself at thirteen or eighteen. My confidence, hopes, desires, and behaviors have dramatically shifted over the years. This is why we are seeing so many cases of detransition and people crying foul of those who were so easily complicit and supportive of their irreversible decisions. We do not stay the same. Yet, we are treating the youngest of our communities as though they know exactly who they are, without any guiding definition, and believing they will never change their own sense of self. How tragic.
The Self is Self-Destructive– Yes, we are masters of self destruction. We even have a name for it: Self Destructive Behavior. I know I need to watch my cholesterol, but I love pork. I may decide that I am a carnivore in the vein of a lion, but my cardiologist would be guilty of malpractice if he let me get away with such an assessment. Whether it is diet, addiction, or broken relational patterns, the truth is undeniable. We can not trust ourselves. We betray our own good all the time and often simply by habit. We long for the friend we alienate. We desire the job we undermine. We corrode the marriage we are desperate to repair.
Before Monday whenever I did a training on sexuality or our cultural obsession with trusting ourselves, I would only talk of these three truths. The self is confusing, shifting, and self-destructive. However, I was missing something even deeper.
The Self is Others-Destructive– Yes, we are not naturally loving. In our pain we lash out and hurt those around us. The husband who wants to be happy has an affair and crushes the wife he deep down wants to keep. The parent lives in fear and becomes overbearing to the child they actually want to love. The confused individual wants to know their own value and find belonging but rages in violence against those to whom they want to connect.
Is there hope? Yes, but not in trans ideology. This destructive ideology does not really usher people into hope and healing. It takes a confused and painful season of a person’s life and ushers them right back to themselves. It is a vain and heartless approach, adding confusion to confusion and futility to desperation. Taking an already injured and vulnerable person and shepherding them into destruction is simply abusive and unloving. The TRN solution is not a promised salvation, it is a pervasive poison, leading people to the dead end found in themselves.
But there is hope. There is a rescue from our destructive selves and an empowering of our designed fullness. Do you want to know who you really are? Only the one who made you can tell you the answer. No, we do not make ourselves. There is One who made you, knows who you are, and offers to give you the healing and the abundant life you long for. We all need rescue from ourselves. Yes, there is salvation in Jesus of Nazareth, but we need to stop pretending that we don’t need salvation.