1. Avoid asking kids to line up as boys or girls or separating them by gender. Instead, use things like "odd and even birth date," or "Which would you choose: skateboards or bikes/milk or juice/dogs or cats/summer or winter/talking or listening.” Invite students to come up with choices themselves. Consider using tools like the "appointment schedule" to form pairs or groups. Always ask yourself, "Will this configuration create a gendered space?"
That alone is interesting and odd. If you’re not going to divide the class into boys and girls, why would you continue to divide the children into two separate lines? The reason they’re being divided up in the first place is that they’re different in a way that’s relevant to getting little kids to stand quietly in line—and they’re two kinds of different. Of course, the teachers could continue to artificially divide them into two lines by irrelevant categories, but it’s not going to accomplish the good that dividing them by gender—the relevant category—used to accomplish. You don’t avoid cooties by separating kids according to their preference for summer or winter, so what’s the point? It’s odd to me that the people who came up with these suggestions didn’t just recommend teachers stop dividing the children into separate lines. (They probably will eventually, but one step at a time.)
This is exactly the kind of inconsistent thinking being expressed by many same-sex marriage advocates (with, I predict, the same eventual outcome of dropping the number two). They’re insisting we ought to hold on to two-person marriage while at the same time removing the reason for defining it as two people in the first place. When “male” and “female” are deemed irrelevant, the number two is no longer in play. At that point, if you insist on “two,” you’re just prolonging a meaningless habit, and how long will that last?
2. Don't use phrases such as “boys & girls,” “you guys,” “ladies and gentlemen," and similarly gendered expressions to get kids’ attention. Instead say things like “calling all readers,” or “hey campers” or “could all of the athletes come here." Create classroom names and then ask all of the “purple penguins” to meet at the rug.
A lot is being made of this “purple penguins” designation in the media, but in fairness, the guidelines are not asking teachers to call kids “purple penguins,” they’re asking teachers to divide the classroom into groups and give those groups special names. “Purple penguins” is just one example of a name they could use, and using it would be no different from dividing students into groups and referring to them as “Bruins” and “Trojans.” It’s only the fact that the group names are supposed to be used as a way to avoid “boys and girls” that turns this into craziness.
4. Have visual images reinforcing gender inclusion: pictures of people who don't fit gender norms, signs that ”strike out" sayings like “All Boys...” or ”All Girls...” or “All Genders Welcome” door hangers.
5. When you find it necessary to reference gender, say “Boy, girl, both or neither.” When asked why, use this as a teachable moment. Emphasize to students that your classroom recognizes and celebrates the gender diversity of all students.
6. Point out and inquire when you hear others referencing gender in a binary manner. Ask things like, “Hmmm. That is interesting. Can you say more about that?” or “What makes you say that? I think of it a little differently.” Provide counter-narratives that challenge students to think more expansively about their notions of gender.
There has to be a better way to show compassion to the few children who suffer from gender confusion that doesn’t involve destroying a healthy understanding for all the children of the reality that the world is divided into boys and girls who are different from each other. It’s also hard for me to believe that little kids will go along with this. They’re still quite aware of who the boys are and who the girls are, and they tend to care.
You can read more about this situation in the Lincoln Journal Star. Here’s an extraordinary quote at the end of the article:
“Our purpose is to educate all kids," [Student Services Director Russ] Uhing said. "We do not push a political agenda, we don’t push a religious preference on people, or a sexual preference on people. That’s not what our role is.
It sounds like Uhing is making the common mistake of thinking the worldview he’s promoting is neutral just because he doesn’t attach a political or religious label to it. But of course, there is noneutral view. He is promoting an aspect of a particular worldview. Erasing the distinction between boys and girls is anything but neutral. It teaches children what to think about the meaning of male and female—the most basic aspect of ourselves, telling them that gender is meaningless, something we create for ourselves and use however we like, not something given to us for a purpose we ought to submit to. This understanding of gender has numerous cultural, philosophical, theological, and yes, even political implications. Whether he realizes it or not, the view Uhing is advocating does play a part in advancing a particular political agenda, which is precisely why I predicted we would see more of it.
This summer Houston Mayor Annise Parker championed a so-called Equal Rights Ordinance which, among other changes, would force businesses to allow transgender residents to use whatever restroom they want, regardless of their biological sex.
In response, a citizen initiative was launched to have the council either repeal the bill or place it on the ballot for voters to decide. The mayor and city attorney defied the law and rejected the certification, so the initiative filed a lawsuit. In return, the city’s attorneys subpoenaed a number of area pastors.
According to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the city demanded to see what these pastors were preaching from the pulpit and wanted to examine their communications with their church members and others concerning the city council’s actions….
“The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” said ADF Litigation Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions. Political and social commentary is not a crime; it is protected by the First Amendment.”
Texas law makes it clear that the discovery process in a legal proceeding “may not be used as a fishing expedition.” Houston’s city attorneys are certainly aware of this fact, so why are they seeking the sermons and communications of pastors who aren’t even involved in the lawsuit?
The fallout from the destruction and redefinition of marriage spreads still more widely, even beyond the immediate territory of the family. Deep friendship between members of the same sex is now in grave danger. To show us why, Esolen asks us to imagine a world in which the incest taboo is erased (and that is a world that may not be far off). In such a place, “You see a father hugging his teenage daughter as she leaves the car to go to school. The possibility flashes before your mind. The language has changed, and the individual can do nothing about it.”
So too, in the world that is rapidly embracing and recognizing homosexual relationships as normal and normative, the space for deep and meaningful male-male or female-female friendships among the young is rapidly shrinking to the vanishing point. “The stigma against sodomy,” Esolen rightly notes, “cleared away ample space for an emotionally powerful friendship that did not involve sexual intercourse, exactly as the stigma against incest allows for the physical and emotional freedom of a family.”
Add, then, the estrangement of boys from boys and girls from girls, in a world in which intimacy always raises the suspicion of sexual desire. This is a bleak horizon to contemplate: plenty of sex, mostly empty and unrewarding, with much less love and friendship.
I’ve already seen a change happening in interpretations of friendships, most recently in the discussion over Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s friendship with Eberhard Bethge, and it’s upsetting to me that people might shy away from close friendships for this reason. Here’s what Trevin Wax had to say about the “assumption [that] affectionate male friendships must be romantic in nature”:
History is replete with examples of robust male friendships that are full of affection and expressions of love and yet are not sexual.
Unfortunately, the sexual revolution has made it more difficult to imagine passionate philos apart from eros. That’s why revisionist historians read romantic notions into Teddy Roosevelt’s affectionate letters to his closest friends. People wonder out loud about Abraham Lincoln’s sharing a bed with his friend, Joshua Speed. It’s hard for our society to understand how King David could weep so terribly over the lost love of Jonathan unless there was some sort of romance between them. And now, Bonhoeffer’s relationship with Bethge is put under the microscope of 21st century assumptions.
In fairness to the biographer, it is certainly possible that Bonhoeffer was attracted to Bethge, even though acting on such a notion was always out of the question. But it’s also possible, even likely, that Bonhoeffer’s friendship was, like many male friendships of the time, strong and affectionate, with a passion that did not include sexual desire.
The speculation about Bonhoeffer’s sexuality distracts us from the greater loss of slowly disappearing same-sex friendships, the kind of love we see in literature between Sam and Frodo, relationships that many today can hardly conceive of, apart from some sort of sexual longing.
This is just one unintended consequence of the sexual revolution and subsequent redefinition of marriage, the most basic and foundational institution in our society. There will be many more. You can’t rip the foundation out of a house and then not expect every room to be affected in some way.
Historian Rodney Stark writes in The Triumph of Christianityabout the significant contrast Christian mercy and compassion was in comparison to pagan religions. Before this passage quoted here, Stark gives the details of the truly horrible conditions in the ancient world. It's worth reading to get a better picture of the terrible conditions Christian mercy intervened to change.
In the midst of the squalor, misery, illness, and anonymity of ancient cities, Christianity provided an island of mercy and security.
Foremost was the Christian duty to alleviate want and suffering. It started with Jesus: “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me…Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:35-40).
James 2:15-17 expresses a similar idea….In contrast, in the pagan world, and especially among the philosophers, mercy was regarded as a character defect and pity as a pathological emotion: because mercy involves providing unearned help or relief, it is contrary to justice. As E.A. Judge explained, classical philosophers taught that “mercy” indeed is not governed by reason at all,” and humans must learn “to curb the impulse”; “the cry of the undeserving for mercy” must go “unanswered.” Judge continued: “Pity was a defect of character unworthy of the wise and excusable only in those who have not yet grown up.”
This was the moral climate in which Christianity taught that mercy is one of the primary virtues – that a merciful God requires humans to be merciful. Moreover, the corollary that because God loves humanity, Christians may not please God unless they love one another was even more incompatible with pagan convictions. But the truly revolutionary principle was that Christian love and charity must extend beyond the boundaries of family and even those of faith, to all in need. As Cyprian, the martyred third-century bishop of Carthage explained, “there is nothing remarkable in cherishing merely our own people with the due attentions of love….Thus the good was done to all men, not merely to the household of faith.”
It wasn’t just talk. In 251 the bishop of Rome wrote a letter to the bishop of Antioch in which he mentioned that the Roman congregation was supporting fifteen hundred widows and distressed persons. This was not unusual. In about the year 98 CE, Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, advised Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, to be sure to provide special support for widows. As the distinguished Paul Johnson put it: “The Christians…ran a miniature welfare state in an empire which for the most part lacked social services.”…
These charitable activities were possible only because Christianity generated congregations, a true community of believers who built their lives around their religious affiliation….Even if they were newcomers, they were not strangers, but brothers and sisters in Christ. When calamities struck, there were people who cared – in fact, there were people having the distinct responsibility to care! All congregations had deacons whose primary job was the support of the sick, infirm, poor, and disabled.
Critics of Christianity consider it a patriarchal religion that relegates women to "second class citizens" at best. This isn't the case at all. Christianity values all humans equally, and the behavior and practices of the early church demonstrate that women were valued just as highly as men. And this was in stark contrast to the treatment of women in literally any other culture and religion at that time. Though the Bible teaches complementary roles in marriage, it elevated the status of women in marriage, placing equal value on each spouse. Christianity placed new obligations on husbands for the treatment of their wives and daughters. And this played out quite clearly in the early church.
Rodney Stark offers the evidence in his book The Triumph of Christianity (p. 144-154).
Because Jesus, the twelve apostles, Paul, and the prominent leaders in the early church in Jerusalem were all men, the impression prevails that early Christianity was primarily a male affair. Not so. From earliest days women predominated.
In his Epistle to the Romans, Paul begins with personal greetings to fifteen women and eighteen men who were prominent members of the Roman congregation. If we may assume that sufficient sex bias existed so that men were more likely than women to hold positions of leadership, then this very close sex ratio suggests a Roman congregation that was very disproportionately female. Indeed, the converts of Paul “we hear most about are women,” and many of them “leading women.” Thus, the brilliant Cambridge church historian Henry Chadwick (1920-2008) noted, “Christianity seems to have been especially successful among women. It was often through the wives that it penetrated the upper classes of society in the first instance.”…
The question persists, Why? The answer consists of two parts. First,…religious movements always attract more women than men…. Far more important is the second part of the answer, which suggests that Christianity was attractive to women far beyond the usual level of gender differences. Women were especially drawn to Christianity because it offered them a life that was so greatly superior to the life they otherwise would have led….
Christian writers have long stressed that Jesus’s “attitude toward women was revolutionary…. For him the sexes were equal.”….[R]ecent objective evidence leaves no doubt that early Christian women did enjoy far greater equality with men than did their pagan and Jewish counterparts. A study of Christian burials in the catacombs under Rome, based on 3,733 cases, found that Christian women were nearly as likely as Christian men to be commemorated with lengthy inscriptions. This “near equality in the commemoration of males and females is something that is peculiar to Christians, and sets them apart from the non-Christian populations of the city.” This was true not only of adults, but also of children, as Christians lamented the loss of a daughter as much as that of a son, which was especially unusual compared with other religious groups in Rome.
Of course, there is overwhelming evidence that from earliest days, Christian women often held leadership roles in the church and enjoyed far greater security and equality in marriage….
In Romans 16:1-2 Paul introduces and commends to the Roman congregation “our sister Phoebe” who is a deaconess “of the church at Cenchreae, that you may receive her in the Lord as befits the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a helper of many and of myself as well.” Deacons were important leaders in the early church, with special responsibilities for raising and dispersing funds. Clearly, Paul saw nothing unusual in a woman filling that role. Nor was this an isolated case or limited to the first generation of Christians….
Prominent historians now agree that woman held positions of honor and authority in the early Christianity….
The superior situation of Christian women vis-à-vis their pagan sisters began at birth. The exposure of unwanted infants was “widespread” in the Roman Empire, and girls were far more likely than boys to be exposed….Even in large families, “more than one daughter was hardly ever reared.” A study based on inscriptions was able to reconstruct six hundred families and found that of these, only six had raised more than one daughter.
In keeping with their Jewish origins, Christians condemned the exposure of infants as murder. As Justin Martyr (100-165) put it, “we have been taught that it is wicked to expose even new-born children… [ for] we would then be murderers.” So, substantially more Christian (and Jewish) female infants lived….
The Christian position on divorce was defined by Jesus….This was a radical break with past customs. A survey of marriage contracts going all the way back to ancient Babylon found that they always contained a divorce clause specifying payments and divisions of property and the cause of divorce need be nothing more than a husband’s whim…. But the early church was unswerving in its commitment to the standard set by Jesus, and this soon evolved into the position that there were no grounds for remarriage following divorce. In addition, although like everyone else early Christians prized female chastity, unlike anyone else they rejected the double standard that gave men sexual license. As Henry Chadwick explained, Christians "regarded unchastity in a husband as no less serious a breach of loyalty and trust than unfaithfulness in a wife.”
The higher education commission of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges met last week and "considered whether Gordon College's traditional inclusion of 'homosexual practice' as a forbidden activity" runs afoul of the commission's standards for accreditation, according to a joint statement from NEASC and Gordon College.
The commission asked Gordon College to submit a report next September. The report should describe the process by which the college has approached its review of the policy “to ensure that the College’s policies and procedures are non-discriminatory,” the statement said….
In its joint statement, NEASC and Gordon College called the review process a “period of discernment” that will take place over the next 12 to 18 months…. [The president of NEASC’s higher education commission] said the long time frame that Gordon College has been allowed for the review is appropriate considering that Gordon College's policy is "deeply embedded in the culture of the college" and such things "don't change overnight."
How reasonable of the commission to give Gordon College 18 months to come to terms with overturning the thousands-of-years-old Christian view of acceptable sexual behavior.
This 18-month reprieve is nothing but theater, of course. Gordon College will not convince the commission their standards are “non-discriminatory.” Gordon College will explain the difference between behavior and identity, between a person with same-sex attractions who agrees with the biblical standards and one who doesn’t, and the difference between banning a person because of his sexual orientation and banning particular behaviors among all students that go against the biblical view. And then the commission will reject it.
In our statement of faith and conduct we affirm God’s creation of marriage, first described in Genesis, as the intended lifelong one-flesh union of one man and one woman. Along with this positive affirmation of marriage as a male-female union, there are clear prohibitions in the Scriptures against sexual relations between persons of the same sex.
It is important to note that the Gordon statement of faith and conduct does not reference same-sex orientation—that is, the state of being a person who experiences same-sex attraction—but rather, specifically, homosexual acts. The Gordon community is expected to refrain from any sexual intercourse—heterosexual or homosexual; premarital or extramarital—outside of the marriage covenant. There is currently much debate among Christians about the nature and causes of homosexuality, and about a faithful Christian response to same-sex attractions, but we acknowledge that we are all sinners in need of grace, all called to redeemed humanity in Christ.
We recognize that students at Gordon who identify as LGBTQ or experience same-sex attraction have often felt marginalized and alone, and recognize the pressing need for a safe campus environment for all students.
That wasn’t enough then, and it certainly won’t be enough now. But it should be.
Setting standards for sexual behavior is not the same as discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation—it’s not discrimination against single people because of their heterosexual orientation, and it’s not discrimination against gay people because of their homosexual orientation.
Consider this: I can think of three names off the top of my head right now of people who have same-sex attractions (and are open about it) who support the boundaries Christianity sets around sexuality and write for esteemed and popular conservative evangelical Christian ministries and/or whose books I recommend: Nick Roen, Sam Allberry, and Wesley Hill. No one is interested in kicking them out of anything because of their same-sex attractions, because that is not the issue. The issue is whether or not they subscribe to and live by the biblical view of sexuality, not their sexual orientation. There is a relevant distinction between the two.
Therefore, just as having a sexual behavior standard for people with opposite-sex attractions is not an act of discrimination against heterosexual people, so having the same standard for people with same-sex attractions is not an act of discrimination against homosexual people. But the commission won’t see this because our culture is no longer capable of making a distinction between “sexual identity” and behavior.
Richard John Neuhaus’s thoughts on how “Identity Is Trumps” in our society give some insight into why behavioral standards will be tolerated less and less. He explains that when behavior is identity, “what we will do is what we must do”:
Here disagreement is an intolerable personal affront. It is construed as a denial of others, of their experience of who they are. It is a blasphemous assault on that most high god, “My Identity.” …
[T]heir demand is only for “acceptance,” leaving no doubt that acceptance means assent to what they know (as nobody else can know!) is essential to being true to their authentic selves. Not to assent is not to disagree; it is to deny their humanity….
Whatever the issue, the new orthodoxy will not give an inch, demanding acceptance and inclusiveness, which means rejection and exclusion of whatever or whomever questions their identity, meaning their right to believe, speak, and act as they will, for what they will do is what they must do if they are to be who they most truly are.
If Stand to Reason still has tax-exempt status in five years, I will be very, very surprised.
[Update 10/05/14: In case there is any confusion about this, the title of this post is a prediction of what I think will happen; NEASC hasn’t explicitly given this ultimatum to Gordon College. At this point, NEASC is only explicitly asking for a report “to ensure that the College’s policies and processes are non-discriminatory and that it ensures its ability to foster an atmosphere that respects and supports people of diverse characteristics and backgrounds, consistent with the Commission’s Standards for Accreditation.” But since our culture now equates “respect and support” of people with endorsement of their behavior, it seems clear to me where this is going.
Because of what I explained about the distinction between attractions and behavior, I agree with Gordon College’s confidence that they’re in compliance with NEASC’s standards (just as they were two years ago when they were fully reviewed and accredited—see their FAQ on this situation), but based on recent similar situations (e.g., the problems Gordon College had earlier this year and the Cal State InterVarsity issue), I have little confidence that NEASC will be reasonable about this. However, Gordon College has been emphasizing its good relationship with NEASC, speaking of that organization as a partner rather than an adversary, noting that NEASC has said, "[T]he Commission has enjoyed its positive relationship with the College for over fifty years and hopes and expects that to continue for many years to come," so perhaps NEASC will surprise me.]
[Update 10/20/14: I’ve been able to track down a missing piece of this story, and I find it somewhat encouraging. It’s a letter from the NEASC to the president of Gordon College dated July 15, and it explains why Gordon College was first put on the commission’s agenda for their September meeting. First, it affirms that no action (withdrawal or probation) regarding Gordon College’s accreditation would be taken at that meeting, then it explains:
It is common practice for the Commission to discuss instances in which a member institution has been prominently in the news over a matter that may relate to the Commission’s Standards for Accreditation or its policies. Being on the agenda only indicates that the Commission will discuss the matter and decide what action, if any, to take....
I appreciate that you have been very forthcoming about Gordon’s historic position on the matters at hand and also your offer to provide information for the Commission’s consideration at its September meeting.
As indicated by the generally positive comprehensive evaluation of the College in 2012, the Commission has enjoyed its positive relationship with the College for over fifty years and hopes and expects that to continue for many years to come.
If the commission's discussion of whether or not the college was in compliance with the non-discrimination policy really was just standard procedure and not motivated by NEASC’s agreement with the actions taken against Gordon College by the City of Salem, then that could be a good sign their congenial relationship with Gordon College will continue. Please pray for Gordon College.]
*From the U.S. Department of Education: “Accreditation is the recognition that an institution maintains standards requisite for its graduates to gain admission to other reputable institutions of higher learning or to achieve credentials for professional practice. The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.”
Richard of Wallingford lived in the early 14th century. He was orphaned and went to live with the monks at St. Albans Abbey in Hertfordshire, England. The abbot must have noticed his good mind because he sent Richard to study at Oxford. Richard devoted himself to theology, math, and astronomy. He became abbot of St. Albans and was known for being strict and kind.
He was the first to introduce modern trigonometry to England in the papers that he wrote. Richard of Wallingford's signature achievement is the clock he built, which was the most advanced at that time. It showed the position of the sun, moon, stars, and tides.
Richard used the latest technology of his time and the most advanced astronomical knowledge, solving both practical and technological problems to design his clock. Some have suggested that it could be used as a planetarium by disconnecting the main drive. His escapement design is thought to be similar to a sketch found in Da Vinci's notebooks, but no where else. You can read more about the function of the clock here. Sadly, Richard wasn't able to complete his clock. He died of leprosy at the age of 44. It was completed 20 years after his death, but was destroyed during Henry VIII's reformation and dissolution of the abbey. His plans were discovered in the 1960s and replicas have been built.
Richard also invented an astronomical calculation device he called a equatorium that was able to predict eclipses.