Sean was recently asked to speak to a group of youth influencers on gender identity. He discusses a recently published book on the transgender worldview for the first half and then interviews author and speaker Caleb Kaltenbach about how to lovingly and pastorally approach some of the practical issues surrounding this conversation.
Be sure to also check out our past Think Biblically episodes with Caleb Kaltenbach: Part 1, Part 2.
Sean McDowell: Welcome to the podcast Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith & Culture. I'm your host Sean McDowell, professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. Today we bring to you a bonus episode on the question of the worldview behind transgenderism. Recently I had a change to speak at the Youth Pastor Summit, which is a conference for about four to five hundred youth pastors hosted at Saddleback Church, and I was asked to speak about the topic of transgenderism, which is clearly a sensitive topic we have to approach with compassion, but also with biblical clarity.
Sean McDowell: For the first 20 minutes or so I compare and contrast the larger transgender worldview with the Christian worldview, represented as fairly and accurately as I can. And then I bring on my friend Caleb Kaltenbach, an author, former pastor who you might recognize. We've had him as a guest a couple times on this podcast in the past to really talk about some of the practical questions that come up when we approach this topic, such as should we use personal gender pronouns, preferred gender pronouns? I think you'll enjoy this, both the larger perspective of the worldview and also Caleb's insight about how practically we can love transgender people. Enjoy this bonus episode.
Sean McDowell: Well, I want to read a passage I know you're familiar with, but I think we'll frame our time this morning well. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 Paul says, "For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments, arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ." Now sometimes people say you shouldn't use warfare metaphors when talking about engaging culture and reaching the lost and equate them to church. While obviously if that's the case, Paul didn't get that memo. I'm not saying we should see ourselves in this battle against unbelievers. That's not what Paul wrote, but Paul said, "We're in a battle of ideas. We're in a battle of ideas." And our job is to love kids. I'm assuming all of you are here, and this is a given, I'm preaching to the choir, and our job is to love kids. And we, as a church, need to keep doing this better and better than anybody in the world.
Sean McDowell: But Paul also says, "We destroy strongholds." What's a stronghold? It's an idea that takes somebody captive. We are also, as youth pastors, as parents, as youth leaders, as Christian school teachers, we are in a battle of ideas. Last night I saw Unplanned with my daughter and my wife, and I think I cried the second half. And if I start talking about it I'm probably going to cry again. And I sat there and thought "Oh, my gosh. This is a battle of ideas." And what we believe about human nature and value and purpose literally has life and death implications.
Sean McDowell: Jeff asked me this morning to speak on transgender, and I've spoken on the issue of homosexuality, same-sex marriage. I've not publicly spoken on this. I don't like to speak on issues unless I feel like I've thought about it and studied it a lot because we as the church have often gotten things wrong, myself included. And because we're supposed to be committed to truth it's more important than ever that we get things right. So what I want to do is for the first 12 to 15 minutes, frame this issue in terms so we understand the cultural ideas and worldview that's at stake, 30,000 foot level.
Sean McDowell: Now I'm going to invite up a friend of mine who to me has the single most important pastoral practical voice to navigate the questions you and I are asking. Do I use the preferred gender pronouns? How do I accommodate a kid at camp? So we're going to move toward those practical questions, but first please look at this from a worldview perspective. And I think a helpful way is just to define some terms. Let me give you a phrase that I heard that I think is helpful. Are you ready? "Transgender is psychological. Intersex is biological. Transgenderism is political." "Transgender is psychological. Intersex is biological. Transgenderism is political."
Sean McDowell: Let me break down these definitions. In a sense, transgender is when there is an incongruence in an individual between their gender identity and biological sex. There's an incongruence that doesn't match up. Now sometimes this is ... Also there's gender dysphoria where somebody struggles psychologically with it but not always. Transgender is simply when there's an incongruence between somebody's gender identity and their biological sex. Now, intersex, because the moment you talk about transgender the question people ask is, "Well, what about intersex? Does this show that there's no distinct biological sex or gender? That gender is all on a spectrum?" That doesn't follow. Remember, transgender is psychological. There's no known cause or even biological way to know that somebody is transgender. It's a psychological condition.
Sean McDowell: Intersex is biological. It's a biological condition, such that it's a physical state in which sexual development is atypical. It's a physical state in which sexual development is atypical. This is what's meant by intersex. Now this goes without saying, but transgender people with intersex our first response should be compassion and love and listening. This should be obviously. Clearly somebody with intersex is going to wrestle and struggle with their identity and sexuality, and this raises all sorts of difficult parental and pastoral questions. Many times there's not easy answers to this. But, believe it or not, a small percentage, a very small percentage, of people with an intersex condition actually have a sexuality that's ambiguous. In most intersex conditions you can still tell if somebody is male or female. It's a very small percentage, very small percentage, in which their sexuality is ambiguous.
Sean McDowell: So does it follow that there's no such thing as male or female or that biological sex is on a spectrum because of intersex. And the answer is no. And let me give you two examples that might help. Samuel Johnson famously said, "We don't know that exact moment when day becomes night, but that doesn't mean there's not such a thing as day and there's not such a thing as night." The fact that there are some difficult cases doesn't imply that there's no such thing as biological sex. For this doesn't logically follow because we cannot tell whether somebody is male or female, or in some certain circumstances there seems to be both male and female characteristics. It doesn't follow that there's no such thing as biological sex. Okay?
Sean McDowell: Let's stick with that example. Now, what is transgenderism? Remember, transgender is a psychological condition. Intersex is a biological condition. Transgenderism is an ideology. It's a belief system. It's a worldview, a way of seeing reality, in which certain activists are trying to transform society to adopt. Now look, the vast majority of people who are transgender don't have some hidden agenda. They want the same things that all of us want. "I want relationships. I want to fit in. Does my life have any meaning? Am I loved? Do I belong?" Friends, these are universal human needs. So most transgender people are not activists, and if we treat them that way we're really dehumanizing them and not listening to them.
Sean McDowell: On the flip side, there's many activists who aren't transgender. So because you and I are on the frontline with kids, whether you want to or not, you are thrown into this worldview clash. We are. And if you choose not to talk about it and you choose not to say anything about it, then you actually are giving a worldview to your kids, namely that the Bible's description of Christian faith has nothing to say to the most important issues of our day.
Sean McDowell: Friends, if we do not train our young people to think Christianly, the culture in which we live will be happy to do it. They'll be happy to do it. So what is the transgender worldview? Well, let's just take a minute to understand what we mean by worldview. A worldview ... Here's a complex definition. Write it down. It's a view of the world. Obviously, I'm messing with you. It's a belief system. It's a perspective of reality. That's what we mean by a worldview. Everybody has a worldview. You can't not have a worldview. Now you know every worldview answers three questions, essentially. Where do we come from? Creation. What went wrong? Fall. And how do we fix it? Solution. Creation, fall, solution, or resolution.
Sean McDowell: Creation followed redemption, whether it's Buddhism, secular humanism, Scientology, Islam, Christianity. Every belief system answers three question, so what's the Christian story, so to speak? A worldview is basically a story. In the beginning God created. We are made in the image of God as gendered beings to be in a relationship with Him and with other people. That's creation. The fall is that we have sinned, rejected God as a creator, and this breaks a chasm between us and God and that leads to eternal death. Resolution to repent and freely accept the gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ. You know this. I'm preaching to the choir. This is a Christian story. We have a worldview, a story about reality we believe is true and we want our kids to see themselves as being a part of. Transgenderism, again, not everybody who's transgender ... Transgenderism has a competing story about reality that's vying for the hearts and minds of this generation.
Sean McDowell: So the question is, what is the transgender worldview? Well, creation ... I'm going to read to you from this book called The Trans Generation written by a transgender activist. I'm not saying you have to read it, but if you want to understand the transgender worldview it's actually a very interesting book, The Trans Generation by an activist professor named Ann Travers. "Creation story is we are not sexed beings. Sex or gender is not something inherent to being human." In fact, let me read to you ... I had to read this a few times. She writes this. "The very quote fact of the two-sex system is ideological, rather than a naturally occurring phenomenon." Did you catch that? Let me say it again. "The very fact to of the two-sex system is an ideological, rather than a naturally occurring phenomenon."
Sean McDowell: Did you see the clash right away? Scripture says God reveals himself in creation. There's an objective truth we discover and align our lives with. The transgender narrative says there is no naturally occurring nature to being human, especially as it tied to sexuality. We read into this two-sex system, rather than reading it out of nature. As a result, freedom is being able to have your own self-determination based on your beliefs or feelings to identify yourself. This is the creation story. So what's the fall? The fall are arbitrary gender expectations for people expressed through different bathrooms, the way we dress, the pronouns we use, the microaggressions we use, whether we imply it or not to treat people of different genders differently, create suffering in the lives of transgender people and contributes to the larger systems of oppression in the world in which we live. Now that was a mouthful, wasn't it?
Sean McDowell: So let me just restate it. Yeah, so creation, we are not naturally sexed beings made by God. Probably the result of some blind evolutionary process so we have a fluid nature. Okay? That's the creation story. The fall are these arbitrary societal expectations about gender that people who are transgender wrestle with all the time when they choose a bathroom, when somebody uses a pronoun, when they choose the way to dress. And these artificial expectations create suffering. You see how the fall in the Christian story is sin. The fall in the transgender story are arbitrary gender expectations. This is what might by dubbed the fall.
Sean McDowell: So let me read you one from 171. She says, "It's not being transgender per se, that increases the likelihood of self-harm and suicide among trans kids, but rather cultural and social prejudice that does the damage." You see argument? It's cultural and social prejudice. Again, the words we use, the bathroom, the dress, that creates suffering in transgender kids. By the way, some of you are writing this down and tracking with. I wrote a blog. Just this morning I released it called Understanding the Transgender Worldview. If you want to just follow-up and read this and understand this and talk about it, I spent a lot of time trying to represent this worldview as fairly as I could. So that's up there this morning if that's helpful.
Sean McDowell: Now what's the solution? If the creation is we're not gendered beings, the problem is arbitrary gender expectations. What's the solution? This is the participatory part of the program. To abolish gender expectations and norms and allow individuals to define themselves however they see fit. So if I can read you a couple of quotes. Page 72. This might be helpful. "We should be working towards a gender inclusive school that foregoes and explicitly counters the disabling force of binary gender systems. Binary gender systems bring harm." And one more. If I can read this to you. I thought this was powerful. "And also parenting to enable self-determination should be a given. So the institutions and organizations of the world need to stop oppressing people today with their gender expectations and with their gender norms. This is what brings suffering."
Sean McDowell: Now the way that this transgender movement positions themselves as a part of larger systems of oppression in our culture. If you're paying close attention, you can probably see hints of Marxism and Postmodernism behind the way this movement is pushed and promoted. So let me read you ... and just, I will unpack this. I promise. I did not make this sentence up. Listen very carefully. "The socially constructed heterosexual cisgender nuclear family is a key ideological building block of white supremacists and colonial, capitalists, heteropatriarchal societies, such as Canada and the U.S." Got it?
Sean McDowell: Now what's the point? They see themselves as part of a movement battling a socially constructed nuclear family as we believe God designed it to be. They're battling the nuclear family. Tie that in with white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism, and our patriarchal society. So they see themselves as part of a larger movement freeing people from sexism and racism and all these other oppressive structures in society, typically brought on by white, male, heterosexuals with a religious bent. This is how this is couched, and they say it unashamedly. This is the worldview they're arguing for. So they will make it very clear.
Sean McDowell: If I could read you one more thing, just to understand. Sometimes when you talk about transgenderism people say, "Oh, there's no agenda. You're reading this into it." And I say, "Look at the title of the book: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) are Creating a Gender Revolution." They're trying to lead a gender revolution. Okay? And as I say in that article, I'm not interested in demonizing anybody. They actually really believe that what they're doing is helping kids. They really do. But I know truly helping people is always aligned with what scripture teaches. It's scripture that brings freedom. We have to have the confidence and knowledge and conviction to speak that.
Sean McDowell: I won't read all their goals, but you could understand and imagine what the goals would be, basically abolishing institutions and organizations, such as the church, and your voice because you are contributing to this oppressive structure that's harming trans kids. Now, anytime I read a worldview I ask myself, number one, why do people believe this? And, number two, is there any truth in it? And, yes, there is some truth in this. I think as a church we have unwittingly and unwisely taken certain gender norms from culture rather than from scripture. What does it mean to be a man? David cut off Goliath's head and he played a harp. There's no hint where it said, "Well, he was just kind of acting in some other non-manly fashion when he played a harp." No, the scripture's like "He played a harp, he wrote poetry, and he cut off David's head." And he was a man.
Sean McDowell: So we don't have time to unpack this, but we better take some stock and ask ourselves "Are we contributing in some fashion to this narrative by buying some of our gender norms not from scripture, but from Hollywood and the culture as a whole?" And I think there's some truth to that. Now why do we have to teach our kids? Because there is an agenda about gender being taught to this generation. In 2015, when the Hodges Obergefell Supreme Court ruling came down, CNN called Saddleback Church and me ... Actually they called this Southern Baptist rep and said, "Do you have someone who could on a show to discuss same-sex marriage," and I think they called this Southern Baptist assuming that'd getting someone fiery and bigoted and fitting a certain narrative that they assumed may be about Southern Baptists. So Southern Baptists called Rick Warren and they called me, assuming we wouldn't be that way.
Sean McDowell: I'm biking with my kids. My wife is out with some of her friends that night, and they're like "Hey, can you be in the studio in like two hours in LA?" I said, "Zero chance." Daughter in gymnastics, son to basketball, put my son down, ate, it is not going to happen. And producer goes "Okay, can I just have your number? Let me call back in case we need to call." And I was like "Sure." So I give my number, didn't expect to hear from them, and about an hour later I'm driving home and on speaker phone it's was the producer of the show on CNN. He goes, "Hey, would you come on? We're having this outing show related to the Bruce Jenner, Caitlyn Jenner transition." I was about to say "no" because I didn't feel like I'd read enough on this to give an intelligent, thoughtful message on national TV. But my son was 11 at the time and in the back he goes, "Dad, do it! You'll be on TV!"
Sean McDowell: So I did it. And the guy goes, "Okay, tell me your position." And I said, "Well, first off, Jesus loves transgender people. They're made in the image of God, and the reality is, transgender people are more likely to be depressed, lonely, and attempt suicide. We need to stop this political debate and find ways to have common ground across worldviews because lives are at stake. We need to love these people." Long pause. He says, "Man, I'm sorry. We can't have you on. You're much too compassionate." I'll never forget it. I instantly thought, "Oh, man. How could I have said something appropriately provocative?" Like how do I navigate that to get you like ... Because I don't want to be that provocateur, but there's some things you can say and I'm like "Why didn't I see that coming? They're not interested in actually helping trans people. They're interested in ratings."
Sean McDowell: There is a worldview in movies, music, film, being pushed on this generation, and it's your job and it's mine to help kids navigate this with grace and with truth. I don't know anybody better to help do this. Caleb, make your way down here. Oh, just kidding. Make your way across the stage. If you don't know Caleb Kaltenbach you need to know him. Okay. All right, some of you are fans. Wow. So, Caleb Kaltenbach, first off, loves Star Wars and superheros. Very important thing. So, I'm going to ask him to share a story, but the reason I want him here is I'm a professor. I write books. I debate. I teach. I'm a communicator. He's been a pastor for a number of years, and I want to transition from looking at this worldview to the big transgender questions that you and I are practically wrestling with and just get some wisdom to make sense of this and maybe resources where we can go.
Sean McDowell: So Caleb, first off, just tell us your story as it's tied to this LGBTQ conversation and how uniquely fitting ... Because I remember the first time I met you and you shared with me, I was enthralled and thought, "Thank God for your voice."
Caleb Kaltenbach: Yeah, I think that's when I asked you to endorse Messy Grace, I think, and you're like "Yes."
Sean McDowell: You did.
Caleb Kaltenbach: And I was just entering that world research, and you really helped out. But, anyways, my name is Caleb, and I was raised by three gay parents. When I was two-years-old my parents were both professors of philosophy, law, rhetoric at the University of Missouri Columbia. They got a divorce, and they both went into same-sex relationships. My dad was in several different ones, never one. But my mom was in a 22 year monogamous relationship with a woman named Vera who was a clinical psychologist. They moved to Kansas City, Missouri. They became activists. Actually my dad did, too. So three gay activists parents.
Caleb Kaltenbach: When I was young they took me with them to bars and clubs, campouts, and pride parades. And I saw the ugliness of some who professed to be Christians. I remember marching this one pride parade, and there were all these people on the street corners holding up signs saying, "God hates you. No room for you." And when people from my mom's parade would go try to talk to them, they would spray them with water and urine saying, "This is what Jesus thinks of you." And I remember looking at my mom and I said, "Why are they acting like that?" And she said, "Well, Caleb, they are Christians, and if you are not like them they will not like you." And I saw this time and time again. I saw supposed Christian families ignore their young sons dying from AIDS, and I thought to myself, "I never want to be a Christian because if Christians are this bad, I can't imagine how awful Jesus is."
Caleb Kaltenbach: I think we really underestimate how much the way we treat people, our words, and even the way we develop and manage our character impacts people's view of God and specifically of Jesus. And so by the time I got to high school I was sneaking out, partying it up. I got invited to this Bible study, and I thought I'd go and be a pretend Christian, a ninja Christian. And just prove Christianity ... and that worked out real well. I was ... And then I felt called to be a pastor. I became a Christian, and I was so nervous to tell my parents because if you can imagine how a student who relates in some way as LGBTQ feels coming out to their conservative, Christian parents, I was a 16-year-old coming out as a Christian to my three activist gay parents. And they kicked me out of the house.
Caleb Kaltenbach: And so I speak at different student events and so and so forth, and when I don't touch on this part of my testimony, I'll inevitably have someone come up and say, "You have no idea what it feels like to come out and be rejected." And I'm like "Actually I do," and the oppression you feel does not give you the right to treat others with the same oppression.
Sean McDowell: Amen.
Caleb Kaltenbach: Or you become just like the people who have hurt you. And so they eventually let me back in. I went to Bible college, moved out here, went on staff at a church for many years, was a senior pastor in Dallas, then back again in Southern California. While I was in Dallas, my parents ... My mom's partner had died from cancer, and my parents separately from one another moved down to be closer to our family started attending my church. And at the ages of 69 and 70 both of them gave their lives to the Lord, and so that's what Messy Grace is about. That's kind of what you're talking about. You can't sacrifice your convictions, but you should love people. And loving people doesn't require sacrificing your convictions or values.
Sean McDowell: So, because we have limited time, let me jump just to some of the practical questions that we are all wrestling with. How does a church navigate the very principle that you've said? Where we want to be a welcoming church, but we have biblical commitments. What does that look like in your setting? Maybe give us one or two ways that this fleshes itself out.
Caleb Kaltenbach: Yeah, I think specifically in a church setting, and I think you can apply this to student ministry as well, a couple things. One, you have to realize that there's a big difference between acceptance and agreement. You're commanded by God to accept people. You're not commanded to agree with everyone. True love is built on acceptance. Cheap love is built on agreement. And when I say acceptance I mean loving somebody where they are, for how they are, no matter what. It's what Jesus talked about in Matthew 5:38-48 when he talked about loving your enemies, going the extra mile. It's what Paul talked about in Romans 12:9-18, especially verse 18 when he says, "As much as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."
Caleb Kaltenbach: So we need to realize that accepting people, that's acknowledging a person's reality. Okay? It's not agreeing with them or rejecting them. You're acknowledging. You're feeling with them, like Brené Brown the author says: "Empathy is to feel with another person." And Reggie Joiner says that empathy is the ability to put your own thoughts and feelings on pause long enough to think and feel with another person. So realizing that there's a difference between acceptance and agreement, that's the first step. Okay?
Caleb Kaltenbach: The second step is I think you've got to have conversations about this within your top leadership level, whether that's your elder team, your board of directors, your staff, your executive staff, your student ministry team, your student ministry volunteers. The leadership at your organization, that's where you have to begin. If you are not consistently having conversations, if you're not learning how to ask really good questions, you're going to lose influence with the generation. And my goal in this, and I think you'd say the same thing, my goal is not to make gay people straight. My goal is not to convince transgender people either that they're one way or another. My goal is to help them identify with Jesus Christ more than anything else. Okay? Because when he is your main identity, when your relationship with Jesus is your main identity, you can make it through anything, even if you have to spend the rest of your life carrying a difficult burden.
Sean McDowell: So let's get really practical. Would you use, in say youth group or personal setting, the preferred gender pronouns of somebody who is trans? How do you navigate that?
Caleb Kaltenbach: Yes I would. 100%.
Sean McDowell: Okay. Tell me why.
Caleb Kaltenbach: I think there's a difference between an organization telling you you have to and me, in a personal relationship or with somebody I care about, using personal pronouns. Because, number one, okay, God knows my heart. God knows I'm trying to earn influence with a person. Number two, they are so ... Our generation is so triggered that they will probably not listen to you. And, look, I'm not trying to tell you you shouldn't take a stand on a hill, but if you take a stand on a hill too early in the battle, you're not going to be able to make any ground whatsoever.
Caleb Kaltenbach: And here's the other thing. Here's the other thing. I ask people these same two questions when people come to me and they say, "Hey, my kid is getting married to somebody the same gender. Should I attend the wedding? Somebody wants me to use this name. They've transitioned. They want me to use this pronoun. What should I do?" I ask them two questions. I say, "Number one, okay, if you did not, would it hurt the relationship?" And they're like "Yeah." And I said, "Okay. Second question. What would you be willing to do to keep and build influence with someone you love? How far would you be willing to go to keep and earn influence with someone you love? To be the person ... To earn the right to be the person where they are ... you are the first text or phone call they make when life comes crashing down around them?"
Caleb Kaltenbach: Because we're talking about ideas here. And ideas influence people, and we are competing, whether we like it or not, with influence. And my words will never carry weight with people unless I have influence with them.
Sean McDowell: So there's certain issues that I think are black and white. Christians cannot do. For example, I could not certainly marry a male couple and officiate that wedding. I think that, personally, that's out of balance for Christians, but do you attend a wedding? Do you use the proper gender pronoun? This is where Christians are going to disagree, and I think there is some gray room where we have to look at biblical principles, have to operate on our consciences and weigh the cost, and give grace to people who are going to answer this a little bit differently.
Sean McDowell: I have a friend who's like 6'7", 260 actually almost played with the Fab Five at Michigan, interestingly enough. Great basketball player, and he's like "I will not use proper gender pronouns because I feel like I am being told to lie." Now he's bigger than me so I'm like "Fine. I'm not going to tell you to do differently." And that's on his conscience. Works for a well-known apologized Christian organization. He feels like that's a hill he's willing to die on. So we're not up here telling you you have to do one or the other. Giving you some tools to think through this, but how many of you have had this conversation consistently in-depth with the leadership at your church? I'm curious. How many have had this conversation? Put them up high. I'm not judging. I just want to know. How many of you say, "We really haven't had this conversation in-depth about gender?" Wow. Very interesting. Okay. Another question, your wisdom. So you're a youth pastor and you're leading a youth retreat. How do you accommodate a transgender student on this retreat?
Caleb Kaltenbach: Well that's difficult because you're dealing with a minor and parents are involved. It's not dealing with a ... It's much easier to be a college student, or college pastor, by the way. If this youth thing doesn't work out just ... because then you don't have to deal with parents, and parents are, as you know, they can be the greatest champions or the biggest pain in your life. And you're like "I love you, but you're a parent and no." So, so I mean, the parents make it difficult. I remember I was working with one church and they had a retreat. They had a student go on this retreat, and they had no idea that this student was female but transitioned gender-wise and transitioned to be a male. He looked just like a dude. And they found that out right before everybody's going to sleep.
Sean McDowell: Wow.
Caleb Kaltenbach: Okay, so this student is going into the guy's dorm, so they call the parent and they say, "Hey, we're going to put your child over here in the girl's dorm." And the parent said this, and the parent didn't go to this church. This is an un-church family. The parent said, "If you do that, we will sue the church. You do not do that. We are paying for our child's hormones. We are paying for this and that. You have no right to do that." And so hung up, and they're like "Oh, what do we do?" And so what they did was they had two female sponsors, and they ended up working out a deal where they were in a separate cabin together with this student. And one sponsor couldn't be alone in the cabin with the student. They both had to be in there at the same time.
Caleb Kaltenbach: But this is why it's important to have accommodations because you will have this come up. You will have transgendered students show up and want to be in a small group that is opposite of their biological sex. And so having these conversations, thinking through systems, thinking through "Okay, what are the obstacles ... Doing a SWOT analysis. What are the obstacles we're facing in this scenario, like the parents and the student?" And not outing the student to the majority of students who have no clue because that's not our business to do. We're dealing with a minor, and we don't want to humiliate that student or something like that. So, again, conversations and intentional ones are extremely important.
Sean McDowell: So it sounds like a lot of what you're saying is before even being in this situation, navigate, communicate, have policies in place. Let parents know. Had they done this, they might not have been thrown into this situation.
Caleb Kaltenbach: Oh, dude. Yeah, like one church I was working with up in Michigan. I'm meeting with them, and this has happened three or four times with the churches I'm working with now. They'll have a lesbian couple with kids from a previous marriage or they've adopted kids and they're married and they start attending the church. And then after attending the church for a while the couple will come to them and say, "Hey, we now believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. What should we do?" Church asked me that the first time. I'm like, "I think we need to go to Buffalo Wild Wings. That's what I think we need to do." So, scenarios like this, and the number of transgendered people that want to transition back after they've had the surgery but either physically can't or they're afraid it's going to be too traumatic on the family and themselves is a reason why the suicide is so high.
Sean McDowell: So the narrative is that you see this in the LGBTQ conversations as a whole, that it's our theology that is what harms transgender kids.
Caleb Kaltenbach: Right.
Sean McDowell: What's your response to that? It's our position, so I ask, for example, Matthew Vines in conversation, one of the most recognizable gay Christian figures, "Are you saying I have to change my theology to be loving or can I be really gracious and hold my theology?" Essentially he's like "It's your beliefs that cause the damage and suffering."
Caleb Kaltenbach: And I would say, "No, that's not true at all." If anything, my theology tells me to love people more, not less. And a person's intrinsic value is found in the fact that they were created in God's image and Jesus died for them. A person's value is not discovered in how they identify or what they believe their gender to be. Everybody has intrinsic value, and I love them, no matter what, even if they listen to Nickelback. I love them. And so ... even if they like the Last Jedi.
Sean McDowell: Oh, that's going maybe a little too far. Now you're pushing it.
Caleb Kaltenbach: See, truth hurts. But here's what happens with that. You said that ... And DSM talks about this and that kind of thing. That they changed the label from gender identity disorder to gender dysphoria, and they say some of the times it is a disorder. And it's a disorder when the person is mentally out of whack or it's a disorder when they feel discriminated against and rejected by society. Here's my thing. Even if we changed our theology, which we shouldn't do, okay. Two things are going to happen. Number one, people are still going to feel discriminated against, and people are still going to feel rejected because that has happened since the fall of humanity, since the beginning of time. Changing your theology will not eliminate rejection. Loving people and being more firm in your theology to love and not let go of truth, that, right there, will help people.
Caleb Kaltenbach: And here's the other thing, there's a reason why churches that swing one way or the other and they don't live in the tension of grace and truth, when they're just like "Okay, we're going to change our theology, and we're just going to be on the gray side. We're going to change our theology or we're just going to go over the truth side, and if you're not a member of the country club or if you don't agree with us you can't be with us." When you do that and you resolve tension, you've lost your power. Because tension makes us feel uncomfortable, but the power that you want from this conversation is in the tension of grace and truth. Okay? That's where the power is. And tensions are managed, problems are solved, as Andy Stanley says, and you get into real big trouble when you try to manage problems and solve tensions. Grace and truth, it's a tension to be managed. And it's not like we don't have tension throughout the rest of our theology, like the Trinity. Jesus is fully God, fully human. God used people to write the Bible.
Sean McDowell: Those are easy.
Caleb Kaltenbach: You can be handsome and still have hair.
Sean McDowell: We have just a brief moment left. Some of you are still getting that. There's a study out of the Netherlands, and I can document this, it is arguably the most gay friendly country in the world, going back to the late 1800s. There is no noticeable psychological improvement in the Netherlands of people who are LGBTQ versus anywhere else. What does that tell us? It's not societal's acceptance or rejection. The pain lies elsewhere, so if we set down our political agenda and ask "Do we really want to help kids?" The answer looks very different.
Sean McDowell: Now in some ways we've just scratched the surface, and I'm grateful that you guys here at WPS would be willing to have this difficult conversation. I could have spoken and talked about worldview, but I wanted you to hear from somebody who I think and you can tell very quickly, the number one is a good communicator. Good humor, man. I love it. Steal the show. Just flows out of you. Can communicate with students, with leaders, with staff. What he actually does is come into churches, because he was a senior pastor for years, and helps churches navigate and get policies in place to deal with this larger question and conversation. So, I ask can I give him the platform and Jeff said, "Yes. We want to equip youth pastors."
Sean McDowell: So when we're done, he's going to sneak out kind of right by the exit door and just be there. If you want to find out what he does, have him come in, talk to him, get resources. I don't know anybody who has better ground in theology, ability to communicate, loves students, a pastoral heart, and wisdom how to navigate these difficult conversations. 20% of you roughly raised your hands. That's got to be 100%. It's got to be 100%. So, and the last thing I left out, you want to just tell them about in terms of how you could be a resource to youth leaders?
Caleb Kaltenbach: Yeah, two things. One, would you do my funeral if I die before you? I just like what you just said. You were really nice, and thanks man. I really appreciate that. You're a good dude. You're a good dude. Anyway. And I mean that. I mean that.
Sean McDowell: I know you do.
Caleb Kaltenbach: I like ... I have some friends. I don't want them to do my funeral because they know things about me. Anyway. You can reach out to me at messygracegroup.org, messygracegroup.org and, like he said, I help churches, ministries, organizations develop systems and processes to guard truth and values and at the same time create belonging for LGBTQ people because people find and follow Jesus better in community than isolation. And, really, what we're trying to do with ... And I do work with student ministries, family ministries, and family ministry organizations, and what we try to do is we try to get students to get comfortable in the door so they can go to things like LIFT Tour and other events that you attend and go to. And they can come and be equipped in different gatherings. So to me that's real important, so thanks, man.
Sean McDowell: That's fantastic. Give it up for Caleb.