Archbishop Charles Chaput once observed, “Evil preaches tolerance until it is dominant, then it tries to silence good.” We have seen this pattern play out all too clearly in recent years. What begins with a polite plea for tolerance quickly moves to calls for acceptance, then to calls for celebration, and, finally, to demands for participation.
Those who don’t participate out of conscience are often made to pay a price. Jack Phillips and Lorie Smith are two examples of individuals who have faced years of lawsuits and even death threats because they wouldn’t violate their conscience by celebrating same-sex weddings.
This alarming shift from tolerance to coercion is now playing out with gender ideology. It was only eight years ago that this ideology truly went mainstream when Bruce Jenner famously came out as “Caitlyn.” That was the “tolerance” phase. Today, however, we are in a much different situation: Powerful institutions now accept the false idea that men can become women and vice versa, and any dissent to the contrary is being crushed. Look no further than the state of Michigan.
On July 27, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law a censorship bill that targets private conversations between counselors and clients. Specifically, the law bans counseling that is aimed at helping minors to overcome same-sex attraction or accept their biological sex. Counselors who hold such conversations could face discipline and be stripped of their license.
But that’s not all. Michigan is also considering a bill that could criminalize speech that makes someone feel “intimidated.” This is a wildly subjective standard that could end up landing felony charges on a person who, for example, “misgenders” someone. Penalties could range from a $10,000 fine to five years in prison.
These attacks on speech are flatly unconstitutional. But it isn’t just speech that’s being targeted. Some states are even threatening the rights of parents to protect their own children from this destructive ideology.
In Indiana, for example, two parents lost custody of their child after they refused to deny the child’s biological sex. In California, lawmakers are weighing a bill that would make it harder for parents to win a custody dispute if he or she does not affirm the child’s claimed “gender identity.” A similar bill was proposed last year in Virginia. And a few months ago, in Oregon, a would-be adoptive mother was told that she is unfit to adopt or foster because she wouldn’t support a child’s gender transition or take the child to a pride parade.
Such scenarios would have been unthinkable a few short years ago, yet they are now on our doorstep. The demands of gender ideology are now pitting parent against child.
History is replete with movements that have tried to undermine the role of parents in the lives of their children. Communist leaders like Chairman Mao to Pol Pot notoriously separated parents from their young, sending children to the countryside for “reeducation.” The state thought it knew better than parents, so it tried to displace them.
Thankfully, America has inherited a strong tradition of parental rights. In Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972), for example, the Supreme Court declared: “This primary role of parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition.”
But even in America, strong forces are seeking to undermine parental rights. They assert (with crusading confidence) that children have an absolute right to discover and live out their “gender identity”—and that any parent who hinders that process is unfit to parent. This, sadly, is where the transgender movement is headed.
In the Gospels, Jesus reserves his strongest rebukes for those who corrupt his little ones. We live in a day in which powerful voices are vying for the minds, bodies, and souls of our children. This is a crucial time for parents to assert their rights and stand in the gap for their children.
We do this, first and foremost, by shaping our children’s hearts and minds at home. Our children are bombarded by messages meant to confuse them about gender. They need to know that they are fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image—and that He makes no mistakes with what He creates. They need to know that we love them more than anyone on earth—and that love does no harm to another. Those who suffer from gender confusion deserve our deepest empathy and compassion. And they need to be shielded from predatory voices that promise freedom but are themselves slaves of corruption (2 Peter 2:19).
We must contend—privately and publicly—for the timeless truth of God’s design for male and female. God has given each of us an outpost, a place of influence where we can push back darkness by bringing the light of truth. He calls us the salt of the earth—and He chose to place us in this very moment, knowing exactly the opposition we would face. As we speak truth, let us pray that others would gain the courage to do the same.