Mark's Minute 

September 14, 2017

This week on the blog, I dip my toe into the waters of a controversial topic and try not to end up with my foot planted in my mouth.

One quick note before we get going: this post is a bit longer than my usual because the subject needs to be examined a bit more deeply than usual.

My kids entered grades 6, 4, and 1 this year, and, to my delight, they’re enjoying being back at school. The high will probably wear off soon, but I’m riding this wave for as long as I can.

Sending your kids off to school is a difficult thing to do. As a parent, I rightly have authority over my kids. I want to protect them (probably too much) and guard them against the seedy underbelly of the world for as long as I possibly can, but sending them off to school means that I have to share the responsibility to create that protective bubble around them with their teachers and the school’s administrators. I know they’ll hear and experience things that I wouldn’t choose to have them hear and experience, but if I hold them away from the reality of life for too long they won’t be good citizens.

In other words, sending a kid to school is a calculated trade-off, and it means that I, as a parent, need to pay even closer attention to the influences that are being exerted on my kids so that I can correct and guide them at home.

Sometimes (okay, most of the time) those influences are from other kids. But sometimes I have to think about the influence that the mandated curriculum has. This year is one of those times.

As you’re probably aware, there’s a lot of talk in culture about sexual orientation and gender identity. There’s a new basket of terms like, “gender binary” and “gender non-conforming” that the raised eyebrow set likes to discuss, and the underlying idea is that the gender you’re born with might not be the one you identify with, and it’s your right as a person to identify with whatever gender you choose, even if that gender isn’t one of the two biological genders.

This year, the BC government introduced a new element of curriculum known as SOGI—sexual orientation and gender identity. I don’t have time to get in-depth on the details, but if you’re interested, I found a fairly thorough overview in a newsletter from the BC Teacher’s Federation, which you can find here.

It’s hard to summarize all of this in a way that’s fair and charitable, but the general idea is this: because there are many different gender identities and many different gender expressions (the way in which a person chooses to present their gender identity), our schools must be places of tolerance and acceptance for all such identities and expressions.

Speaking as someone who suffered through years of relentless schoolyard bullying in a way that left indelible impressions on my psyche, I can agree with the idea that schools should be places of tolerance and acceptance, and that no student should face bullying or discrimination for any reason whatsoever.

However, schools should also be places where a kid’s character is shaped and conformed, where they’re taught to think carefully, and where they’re free from political agendas.

In any case, the introduction of SOGI curriculum has caused a stir among some groups, primarily conservative Christian groups, who believe that introducting concepts like gender fluidity will negatively impact kids. One such group, Culture Guard, has been particularly strong in their advocacy against the SOGI curriculum, and you can find their overview of their concerns here.

One of the main concerns raised by advocates against SOGI is that it’s a coercive agenda that’s nothing short of “fascist brainwashing” (their term, not mine) designed to “attack a child’s innate sense of self” and “indoctrinate” them to cultural norms that go against the clear teaching of Scripture.

I want to step back a minute and ask a question that’s going to make neither group happy: is this the kind of dialogue that leads to productive outcomes?

As a parent, I want my kids to be equipped to engage culture with wisdom and love, and the fact is that the politics of gender identity are part of our culture whether we like it or not. I don’t want my kids to be shielded from these facts.

At the same time, I share the concerns of some that we’re giving a bit too much space to what is really a small but vocal minority.

So, how do we walk the line here?

First, the church—especially the conservative Evangelical arm of the church—has to do a better job of showing the love and grace of Jesus to all people, irrespective of anything that our culture creates to create tribes and separate us from “the other.”

My sin—and yours—is equal to every other sin in its eternal effect because none of us can claim the right to stand before God on our own merit and be declared righteous. What’s more, Jesus’ sacrificial and substitutionary death means that no sin is too great for God’s grace.

Every person is created in the image and likeness of God. Every person is undeserving of his grace. And every person needs to hear the good news of the gospel—that their sin can be forgiven if they repent and turn to Jesus.

Second, beneath the anti-SOGI activism lies a deep fear that somehow this new curriculum will corrupt our kids and pull them away from the truth of the gospel. How concerned should we be about that?

Listen, as a parent I want nothing more for my kids than for them to experience the life-changing power of the gospel of Jesus. I want to share eternity with them in the presence of our Saviour. That’s why I teach them about Jesus, talk to them about faith, and share my own journey with them as much as it’s appropriate.

I know that there are many powerful cultural forces that want to pull my kids away from the truth of Jesus. There are many temptations to sin, and they come from every direction. SOGI is just one of many possible sources of that influence.

But here’s the thing: my job as a dad is to protect my kids from harm, and that includes physical, emotional, and spiritual harm. And if Satan wants to defile my kids, well, he’s going to have to come through me first.

I’m not saying that we should be silent about things like curriculum changes. But I am saying that, in the words of a song we’re going to sing on Sunday, no power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from his hand. Jesus gets to call the shots. His kingdom will not be toppled by any human force. He will win the victory over sin because he has already won the victory over sin.

We can’t be afraid of falsehood, because falsehood can’t stand up to the truth that comes from a mighty God who rules and reigns over his creation with grace, mercy, love, and justice. That’s the God we serve, and he’s the only one worth serving.