When I first saw the cover of National Geographic, featuring a nine-year-old transgender activist, my knee-jerk reaction was to post it on Facebook and talk about how our culture-makers are luring children into gender confusion. But, then I thought I should do something radical and read the article first. I have done so, and I must admit that my knee had it right the first time.
I have worked as a volunteer in church children’s ministries since the 80’s, and now work in an evangelistic children’s ministry by vocation, so my snap judgments are formed by experience, training, and research. I am not merely informed by the latest kerfuffle on the Internet. So, the sight of a nine-year-old being given a forum on the cover of a magazine like National Geographic (as opposed to the National Enquirer) causes me to wonder what the agenda is here. Stay with me. This may require some critical thinking.
First, the article informs us that, “National Geographic photographer Robin Hammond interviewed nine-year-olds in four continents. From China to Brazil, Hammond met with kids in their very different homes to talk about their very different expectations for the future and what it means to be a boy or a girl today.” This is pretty tame, straightforward stuff. It should produce fairly predictable information, which it does. One example follows another, how boys get some preferential treatment:
If they were boys, Pooja Pawara from outside Mumbai would ride a scooter, while Yan Zhu from China’s Yaqueshui village would swim in a river that her grandmother insists is too cold for girls. Because she’s not a boy, Luandra Montovani isn’t allowed to play in her Rio favela’s streets, where she says the dangers include “violence and stray bullets.”
I have to admit that I thought it strange that there was an upside to dodging stray bullets. But that is a part of their culture, which is really the point of the article. Culture informs your experience. It gives you norms of behavior. Parents have understood this as long as anyone remembers. It’s the reason you were not allowed to play with certain children because it was deemed as not safe, with no mitigating racial or socioeconomic factors. Even television networks knew there was a time for “family television.”
To cut to the chase, this article was not about transgender children or transgenderism in general. Avery, the nine-year-old transgender (no description of where he/she is in the process), gets two paragraphs and a two quotes and exits the stage, but not without getting on the cover of the magazine. It is as if this ordinary story, telling common knowledge as if it were sage wisdom, was merely an excuse to use the photo that is worth a thousand words. Another quote from the article begs a question of my own:
What is something that makes you sad?
For Tomee War Bonnet, an Oglala Lakota, it’s “seeing people kill themselves.” What plants such thoughts in a nine-year-old’s head? Her reservation’s history of suicides, by kids as young as 12.
Yes, what plants thoughts of gender identity in the heads of attention-seeking nine-year-olds? Being transgender is the new shiny object. It once got you ostracized, but now it gets you something entirely different. You can get a lot of attention, a lot of strokes. A magazine cover is a pretty big prize. There are sex education videos being used to reach out to ten-year-olds that celebrate how special you are, and how happy your parents will be that you are happy with your sparkly new gender identity! I have seen the videos. I will not link them here.
There is a great deal of indoctrination that goes on in our culture, and it reaches down further and further in its age range before our eyes. And it does plant ideas in the heads of children. They are very receptive to these ideas, which is why it is important to know which ideas we should expose them to.
I believe the evangelical church in America has been dropping the ball for years. It is not enough to teach children rote verses and Bible stories about Noah’s Ark and King David and the Lord Jesus without life applications. And some of those applications pertain to living in a culture that is openly hostile to Biblical values like moral excellence and faith in a God you cannot see. There are many forces at work that beat us to the minds of children that have been uninformed about the Bible and what it teaches, as well as those who are actively undermining those who have been taught. Do we recognize them? Do we know how to deal with changing cultural norms that demand your child’s participation or agreement?
It is no longer good enough to try to shield our children from aberrant information. Like good anti-virus software, you also have to know how to quarantine and disinfect the bugs that get in. And they will get in. To think they won’t is self-deceiving and lazy. It also insures that you will not be changing the world you live in for the better.
There was a time when most Americans had a Biblical worldview. Even the wicked needed the Bible to effectively twist the truth. But today we live in an America that has seen very little evangelistic effort. We are paying for it by losing ground to a worldview that is very evangelistic. The humanistic worldview that eliminates God from its equations and its social mores is on offense. We cannot continue to backpedal and hide in our sanctuaries. We must take back the opportunities God has given us. And every new generation of children is an opportunity for us to get it right. And we are obligated by the Great Commission to do so.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 ESV