Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Gender Change and The Image of Male and Female

Jeopardy answer clue: The image of male and female.

what I wanna be

This is a brief article on the subject of image. Specifically, it is an invitation to discuss or to ponder the current embrace and practice involving the change of gender image. The embrace and practice of gender change, as it is purported, is counseled and prescribed in school, church and home. It is counseled not as a solution necessarily for those souls afflicted and sometimes ravished either physically by others or psychologically and emotionally by their own self-image  because of the gender of their birth. Image change is driven by mainstream media especially when a well known celebrity like Bruce Jenner declares his own decision to undergo the physically outward and inward emotional, psychological behavior change of image. Jenner recently left the male gender with which he was born for the female gender he has embraced for himself.

While this discussion topic may upset or even stir or provoke some to anger there is no condemnation or castigation here. What I would like to bring out is the questionable integrity and honesty of the therapeutic and cultural responses given to those who face their own struggles concerning their image. This change of image is real and practically attainable for a few. However, the reality is one which eludes many others. This makes them neither poor nor victims. However, they are the ones for whom a real resolution is not only readily and practically attainable but it is the imperative option for their own peace and joy in life. The very limited economic resources at their disposal position them with the luxury of being able to take the time, if only they would, to understand image in general and their own personal image. The attainability of that peace and joy in gender is not found in the surgeon’s scalpel, anymore than weight loss is found in pills. It is found in an understanding of their own which is within their reach.

showcase examples

There is a track record of mistaken notions offered in our schools, churches and by parents as solutions or makeshift arrangements some of which were plainly wrong. Some have fostered or enabled behaviors detrimental to the individual. Still others were inconsistent and downright hypocritical with tenets of love and happiness by those who counseled, promoted and urged image change. Some of these mistaken notions include sex education programs; that social experiment in education which quickly deviated from its core to include sex techniques and sexual behavior. Although I was in grade school long before the drive to remove prayer from schools rolled through school campuses the track marks of these two, sex education and prayer, are showcase examples of an education curriculum and policies gone awry. My reason for citing these is not for any moral reasons, but rather to point out what these have produced in terms of school age pregnancies and the erosion in the emotional and mental well-being of students such that shootings have become a way of life _ and death, on school campuses whose focus on education and knowledge was lost long ago. The message from the church concerning image is often as poor and founded on mistaken notions which do nothing to enlighten and lift up those who struggle with a biblical understanding of image. Of course, the culture catch-phrase is for "everyone to just be happy." Often parents, wittingly or unwittingly, are parties to image change with either school or church, or worse yet and as a show of their detachment and lack of awareness, neither one.

You might think the above as showcase examples are laughable. Yet, we ought not think the approval of suicide as an improbable reality which would ever be encouraged and taught in school and church alike. Do not expect these things to be taught overtly at the beginning, but the message is in our society already. As Americans become more open to assisted suicide one cannot rule out the day when the likelihood of allowing and encouraging students who choose to do so to commit suicide, after all as goes the default, weak and amoral cultural response, it is their choice. Suicide was the option exercised by the 1999 Columbine students but only after they had murdered several of their peers. The suicide mold has been cast. It is neither new nor is it a stretch to mention it in the context of the discussion on image.

Anyone who can see and acknowledge this current upsurge should not rule out the real probability of change in the therapist’s counsel involving gender image. It would not be a leap to include the encouragement of those whom they counsel and encourage along with their embrace of gender change as well as to encourage suicide as just another choice option. It is not a stretch especially when one ponders the previously mentioned sex education and prayer.

no hope, no love

Here is the inconsistency, falsehood and hypocrisy behind the purported counselors' message of love for those who struggle with their gender image and those who struggle with suicide, namely, that there is no hope to cope. Suicide is as readily available and easy to embrace as to alter one’s image.

Thus far, thanks be to God and his grace, the option of suicide, particularly of our youth, has not yet come to be prescribed in the same manner as image change. What has love, as Tina Turner fired off, got to do with it? The bottom line is that the deceptive message of the counselors is devoid of love because there is no hope and in the absence of hope whatever option, whether suicide or gender change, are equally suitable and acceptable alternative responses to life’s struggles. Jesus said,

The thief comes only  to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Today, men, women, boys and girls and children as young as three and four years old are ushered and rushed along in their expressed desire for a new gender image by schools, churches, friends and family. This is what they can expect the moment they declare they have always felt or have recently come to realize they are at heart a gender other than that into which they were born. Too often in these instances even the therapeutic counseling is waived as unnecessary. It is akin to what is too often heard in crime investigations by the police. The instant the police receive a confession, never mind the tactics by which that confession is often obtained from the suspect, any further investigation is deemed unnecessary and is abandoned. How many times has the public learned afterwards about how the police ignored and refused an further investigation of the crime as unnecessary because they had a confession. It is the same as that moment when an individual, regardless of age, states he wants to be a she or she wants to be a he.

It used to be when a child was asked what did he or she wanted to be their answer might have been a profession or vocation perhaps similar to that of their parents. Even then, as those children grew up and earned their livelihood in those professions it was something which they did, not something which they had become. (More on this later*.) Their performance in their respective fields was only a partial picture of the overall meaning and fulfillment of their lives.

Genesis: in the beginning there was . . . image

Regardless whether or not one believes or accepts the scriptures in Genesis 1 and 2 there is a significant point of reference to examine on the subject of image. It is significant because it involves the beginning of life, or image at the time of birth. Whatever one might think or decide to do to change their image the fact stands that they were born with a particular image.

Notice that this image as it is mentioned in the scriptures has nothing to do with the masculine or feminine gender.

the image of male and female

The first reference in the account of creation in the scriptures about any attribute of man is significant. It ought at least be a matter of curiosity for the nonbeliever. There is a prior introduction of the male and female in chapter one with the flesh and bone reference spoken by Adam when his eyes first saw Eve. Yet, it is the testimony of God when the scripture declares that God,

created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him;male and female He created them

which speaks even to our present times.

Specifically, and despite the modern presumption and primary obsession of image as involves the outward physical appearance, this is not what is implied by the passage. Any inference drawn from the passage which involves a physical aspect cannot be reconciled or harmonized with the passage because whatever that image of God which man shares with God, the differences in male and female anatomy such as some of the more overt breasts and genitalia make it evident that the image of which God spoke is not primarily a physical one.

homosexuality and gender image: different and alike

In this respect image as it involves gender is similar to homosexuality in that it too is a matter-of-fact contradiction of one’s own birth; a birth, regardless of one’s beliefs, which is as undeniable as one’s gender at the time of birth. One, whether male or female, was neither conceived nor born as the result of the sexual union of male and male anymore than one was conceived or born as the result of the female and female sexual union.

Despite the claims of joy of coming out into public openness, as homosexuals once were given to saying when they declared their sexual preference, likes, choice, etc., the honesty and love are quite arguably questionable. How you might ask? It is because of the unwillingness or inability to express the convictions of their decision which cannot be coherently or comprehensively conveyed through teaching. The only resort of any attempt to explain and teach one’s decision or life-choice is existentialism. The homosexual experience is only similar to that of the existentialist; it is not existential because like the existentialist's experience it is limited to the one time experience and cannot be expressed nor repeated. It is different in that the sexual acts which typify homosexuality are repeatable and though there is some semblance of explanation it is of no significance or consequence because it is rooted in the carnal, sexual pleasures of homosexuality and is limited to self experience and a significant other who is equally unable to express coherently an experience of carnal satisfaction. In other words, anyone who wants to understand it must experience it. Explanation and teaching outside of that relationship to anyone else is as inept as it is unnecessary. More bluntly and as is heard; it's nobody's business.

the new birth

The new birth of faith in Jesus is unlike that experience. It can be coherently explained. The decision which resulted in the transformation of one's life is one which is displayed day after day. It is not a obscure mystery which cannot be understood. It is not, unlike the claim of LGBT advocates, something which the believer could not help and just allow to happen because they were just born that way. It is a transformation which began with the realization and acceptance of that believer's own sin and the decision to put their faith and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

the purpose of image

It is a popular practice for people to post online images to represent themselves which are not necessarily true; a photo of a female or an adult does not necessarily follow that the person is female or an adult. Whether for security reasons or humorous reasons some people disguise their gender or location. (Trolls are not in discussion here.) Of course, this online altering of one’s online virtual image did not begin with the world wide web. It is not limited to the internet. People have been encouraged to alter or change their actual image so as to obscure their identity through behavior, particularly if they feel threatened or they do not feel happy with themselves. It is only until recently that the practice of altering one’s physical image has been embraced by some people as a solution to struggles with which they are not able to cope.

Does image serve a purpose other than a mere visible appearance? While an image is a representation and not the actual thing or the person it represents it’s use is intended to be true. It is not intended to deceive or mislead. One of the purposes of image, such as a photograph, is to widen the awareness of the actual person beyond the limited capabilities of the person because they can only be at one place at a time.

Generally, images are imprinted on money currencies. These images serve to remind the citizens of that nation and inform others who reside or travel in that country of those things which the people of that country cherish and value as part of their origins and history. Some of those images are pronouncements of faith and unity. Some images may have vague or obscure origins and meanings such as a fish with Greek letter characters, (ichthus, from the Greek ikhthýs (ἰχθύς, "fish" [fyi: Each one of five Greek letters form a Christian theological acrostic message: ησοῦς (Jesus) Χριστός, (Christ) Θεοῦ (of God) Υἱός, (son) Σωτήρ (savior)]) but often there are prominent images which are as undeniable as they are readily identifiable, for example, the images of George Washington or Benjamin Franklin.

People sometimes carry with them or keep photographs and other images in their home. Those images may be of themselves, such as in a driver licence, or photographs and paintings of family and friends. The purpose of images is that they be discernible even by strangers who have no knowledge of the people in those images even when the original which is represented by the image has become lost and forgotten.

the consequences of a lost image

The Genesis Bible account concerning Cain, who murdered his brother Abel, reveals the antiquity behind the current trend to embrace the alteration of one’s image. Here is a very brief account concerning the fading and fast eroding image of Cain in what is the first private one-on-one therapeutic counseling session between God and Cain. The erosion of Cain’s image probably began even before Cain became upset because God had accepted Abel’s sacrifice but God had rejected Cain’s sacrifice. The displeasure was evident in his face. God counseled Cain on the matter which was troubling Cain. The record does not reflect anything spoken by Cain. This was God’s counsel for Cain:

If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.

Clearly, God’s counseling was not accepted by Cain. Yes, the counseling session, from a human standpoint, was a failure. Subsequently, Cain rose up and murdered his brother Abel when they were out in the field. What followed immediately afterwards was that the reticent Cain was confronted by God. Cain’s reticence gave way momentarily to a flash of denial, anger and sarcasm in response to God’s question, Where is your brother?

I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?

Here, then, is Cain’s reaction to God’s punishment of Cain:

Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is too great to bear! 14"Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me."

Here is God’s response to Cain’s outcry:

But the LORD said to him, "Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over." Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.

How does the account of Cain pertain or relate to the importance of image and the alteration of image? How did Cain get to the point where he lost his own image?

First, notice the distortion, despair and fear. God did not drive Cain away anywhere. Second, there is a two-fold anxiety which gripped Cain. a) He was sure that God’s face would be hidden from Cain (a mistaken notion of Cain’s own imagination) and not that Cain would hide, but that b) Cain would not be able to see God. 3) He feared being killed. Nothing of what Cain imagined and expected in the aftermath of the murder of his brother Abel is anything unknown or different than what people imagine or experience for themselves today. Cain's image of himself was a reflection of what he 1) never understood, 2) understood but forgot, or 3) understood, remembered, but rejected. What was it that Cain rejected?

conclusion: love

The Jeopardy game clue; The image of male and female. Answer: Who is God? What then is the image of God in which he created the male and female? What was the image which Adam, Eve, Abel and Cain shared? It is most certainly not a physical characteristic. It is what Adam and Eve, the male and female shared with each other and which was what made them in the image of God. It is love. Clearly, this love was so faded and eroded in Cain's heart that he was able to bring himself and allow himself to murder his brother Abel.

Love is the image of God in which God created the male and the female.

Certainly, there are various other attributes which define or which enable one to understand and know God, but love is foremost. Although love is not mentioned and does not appear in the Genesis creation passage it was the love of God by which God was able to punish Adam and Eve as well as Cain later not with ruthlessness nor mercilessness. The entirety of the revelation of the will of God as is presented in the scriptures is the love of God towards man, namely, to redeem or to free man from the bondage of sin and all manner of deception by which mankind and his image which mankind shares in common with God has been marred and damaged.

The first appearance of the word love in the scriptures in Genesis 22 is as likely to be warped, distorted and misunderstood as the love which it portends in John 3:16. What Jesus fulfilled when he came into the world goes back to what I mentioned earlier* in the section entitled, no hope, no love. Here is how the apostle Paul stated it in II Corinthians 5:21.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf,so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

When a disciple of Jesus looks into the mirror he/she may look no more like righteousness than Jesus looked like sin, but that is what he/she has become because of what Jesus was made. Clearly, this is the radical transformation, re-invigoration of image lost, not a physical image, but the image of love which is God (I John 4:16) and which male and female share with him. It is an image easily overlooked and even dismissed when our focus is upon ourselves in our outward physical bodies and not on Jesus and the love of God. This is why Jesus made it clear that if your love and concern is more about one's love of parents, brothers and sisters and even one's own life than you can not be his disciple.

Be of good cheer. Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in Jesus.

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