It has been a long time since I wrote a Q & A. There are four important questions asked and answered in this one.
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Q: In your essay, “Two-faced Christians,” did I understand correctly that you are in favor of gay marriage?
A: As a traditional Christian, I hold to a straight-forward reading of Scripture. Though I am no longer in the ministry, I continue to believe, teach, and confess the doctrine of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) in which I made my vow on June 23, 1996, when I was ordained. Yet, I am transgender, not a “lifestyle” but a way of being which is widely unknown and greatly misunderstood in the LCMS and among Christians of every stripe, not to mention a complete mystery to the average American. As a trans person, I now find myself among a group which is chiefly populated by folks who are not Christian or, when they are, hold a very different reading of the Bible.
This all makes my life tremendously challenging.
I am on record as stating that all people who live lawfully deserve the full rights of an American. In the last several months, I participated in several events working for full civil rights in Indiana for all LGBT people.
It is lawful to be a Christian, so I enjoy full rights of an American as a Christian. Well, it also is lawful to be transgender, and it is lawful to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual, not to mention the many other identities people have for themselves (e.g., gender fluid and pansexual). Therefore, all LGBT+ folks deserve full rights as citizens, including full protections and full liberties which are equal to all other lawfully-living Americans.
For my fellow Christians who are offended when I declare things like this, I am simply keeping separate church and state or, as we define it in Lutheranism, the Kingdom of the Right (Christian) and the Kingdom of the Left (secular). My secular position on marriage has nothing to do with my Christian faith. It has nothing to do with my personal opinions about anything. It is derived from what is right under the laws of the USA for citizens of the USA. The same applies to my views of the religious rights of, say, Muslims, which I would defend in the secular realm, but with which, according to my Christian faith, I would not agree.
Here is my position on marriage:
• Christian: The Lord calls for sexual fidelity in the marital union of one man and one woman.
• Secular: All adult persons, in lawful relationships, shall enjoy every right of adult Americans.
As an American, I will continue to stand with my LGBT friends and fight for full protections, full rights, and full liberties under the law. As a Christian, I will strive to shine the love of Christ and to live as an ethical Christian under the Law and Gospel of the Lord.
Since I have written much about the differences between living in the world as a Christian versus the ways of the secular world, I will not cover that ground again. If interested, please read any of these:
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Q: You have said that you believe Missouri Synod Lutheran pastors are afraid to be seen as transgender sympathizers. Why do you feel that way?
A: I believe it is because most liken being transgender to being homosexual, and to transgressing “male and female He created them,” and to destroying marriage. Also, men, way more than women, are offended at males transitioning to female. Studies show that a large percentage of men believe males degrade themselves—“Why would you want to become a woman?”—and a wall is erected which they cannot climb. (Men, typically, are way less bothered by genetic females transitioning to live as males.)
While the Missouri Synod is filled with a predominance of wonderful men in its ministry, they are perhaps more prone to these notions because of the male-only pastorate, the theological points which must be negotiated, an understandable inability to empathize with people who have this mysterious gender dysphoria, and both a lack of understanding and a misunderstanding of what it means to be transgender. So, for example, to publically Like and comment on Facebook posts, “I hear Eilers. We need to learn more. We need to stop assuming this is sinful unless and until we learn a lot more,” is too much for many pastors, and way too much to publically say out loud.
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Q: Is not your preoccupation with your personal gender identity selfish?
A: Yes, it is tremendously selfish.
As with anyone with a debilitating illness or disease or situation or condition, a person trying to figure out and cope with gender dysphoria cannot help but think of himself over-abundantly. While, for three years, my mind had been on me so much, I did not spend an excess amount of time on myself. When I was still a parish pastor, I always did my work, and got it done on time.
When I am asked questions like this, it makes me feel that the asker does not recognize the seriousness of my condition. This isn’t like some guy who is unhappy in his marriage so he pines after the cute chick at work and then acts out selfishly instead of talking to his wife and working on his marriage. What I am trying to do is save the earthly portion of my life so that I neither kill myself nor wind up in a mental institution—and when I tell you how real both of those possibilities became, I could not be more accurate in my assessment.
So, yes, I have been and sometimes still am selfish, just like the person who is plagued with anything that has required her or his total attention to get corrected.
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Q: We know Science is imperfect, why stake your immortal soul on what is human?
A: I am not staking my immortal soul on what is human. I am, as always, staking my immortal soul on Jesus Christ.
I am thankful this was asked, for it gets to the heart of the Gospel. If a transitioned transgender person cannot be saved, then no one can be saved. If I have to jump even one hurdle to please the Lord, then nothing matters about my life; I am damned. And so is everyone else.
Christ jumped our hurdles and, by grace through faith, we possess His righteousness. This fact does not permit us to act however we want. What it does is provide the reconciliation with God the Father that we need because of our fallen nature. It provides the forgiveness for every sin we commit, every error of judgment, every way we fall short of His good and gracious will. It provides us confidence to be able to live in these fractured bodies and brains, in the sure and certain hope that His promises are genuine and He is faithful even when we are not.
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. He is my Creator and my Savior. I am neither of those; I am His creation and one He has saved by calling me by the Gospel, washing me in Baptism, keeping me fed on His body and blood, constantly forgiving me with His absolution. Without Him, I am nothing. With Him, I have everything, including His Romans 8:38-39 promise that there is nothing in all of creation that can separate me from Him.
I am making use of science in the same manner as anyone who has a great need in life. I am not making science my god. Jesus Christ is my Lord and my God.