So, bathrooms. Target. You might have heard people talking about this recently, like, everywhere. People focusing on practical safety issues, people pointing out the need to be more aware of violence against women in general, people trying to work out the complicated relationship between the Christian faith and issues of gender and sexuality.
I’m not one of those people. They are significantly smarter than me, and I think everything I’d say about those things has already been said. Loudly. Many times.
Don’t worry, guys, I figured out a while ago that I can’t solve the problems of the world and I don’t actually know everything. This is just one twenty-something’s take on the aspect of this issue that is most interesting to me: why Target specifically and the American culture in general wants so badly to be seen as inclusive.
Call me cynical, but the nods of brands and companies to the LGBT (plus any other letters that are appropriate to add, I can’t keep up) community seem to be motivated by profit. Or, to put it another way, it is currently really, really cool to be inclusive and welcoming. Even those who would identify as straight and cisgender appreciate this kind of tolerance.
From my perspective, Target’s decision to let people use the bathroom or changing room of the gender they identify with was made—and celebrated—mostly for emotional reasons. Lots of people have given the policy a thumbs-up because they, in Target’s words, want to chorus, “Everyone deserves to feel like they belong. And you’ll always be accepted, respected and welcomed at Target.”
There isn’t actually a lot of logic in the inclusivity policy—no ethical justification of why Target is siding with the minority over the majority, no details about the practical, concerning implications that many saw right away, no explanation of how this will be enforced or what it means. It’s all explained with the simple, emotionally-loaded idea that we don’t want people to feel excluded or marginalized.
Here’s my claim: I’m glad we feel compassion for those who feel excluded…but I don’t think that should be the first thing we prioritize when making decisions. We’ve given it too much weight, kind of like self-esteem (a good concept in theory) was probably given too much weight when making choices about how we raise and educate kids (participation trophies for everyone!).
Target decided to support inclusivity by opening up bathrooms and changing rooms to whatever gender people identify with, regardless of their biological sex. I see that choice like this: inclusivity moved to the #1 priority in decision making, bumping out whatever was at the #1 spot before that, whether that was “the safety of women and children,” “Christian values,” or just “practical cost-benefit risk analysis.”
Do I think it’s good to make people feel welcomed? Yes. Honestly, the Christian church could do a better job of this. I think the reason some Christians struggle to do that, though, is valid: they don’t want to make everyone “feel accepted” at the cost of what they believe to be true.
I can’t speak for the American church in general here because that wouldn’t be accurate, but many Christians and churches I know refuse to give tolerance, acceptance, and inclusivity the #1 priority when it comes to making decisions about what to believe or how to teach and interpret the Bible. That #1 spot is already occupied—by the gospel, by a commitment to speaking the truth in love.
This is not something the general culture understands. It’s not even on the list, much less in the top spot. So, while I think that Christians could often do a much better job articulating the “love” part of “speaking the truth in love,” I also think the church has to commit to being misunderstood and maligned, to having people think Christians are bigoted and hateful because our priorities are different than most of the people around us.
What I’d like to explain to people on the outside whose exposure to our faith is mostly Duck Dynasty or Joel Osteen or whatever, is that when Christians talk in a panicked way about the importance of absolute truth, they’re (mostly) not thumping on a Bible and saying we need to put the Ten Commandments back in courtrooms. At least, that’s not what I mean.
I’m not freaking out about any of these policies because I hate transgender people or want to restore America to being a Christian nation or feel the need to force my beliefs on others. I’m actually not freaking out at all.
I just feel a sense of loss for what we’re giving up.
What does that cryptic statement mean?
It means I’m afraid to live in a world where “respecting” someone means letting them do whatever they feel is right. (I don’t want other people to show me that kind of “respect,” for one thing. I need and value the people who tell me I am wrong or making poor choices.)
It means I’d love it if people, Christians and non-Christians, thought critically about the songs and slogans they’ve turned into rules to live by—are these things good and true, or just catchy? (This applies equally to Republican voters AND tweens belting “Let It Go” in the shower.)
Maybe more than anything else, it means I don’t think our culture is ready for the implications of valuing inclusivity above almost everything else.* I don’t think we’ve done a good job of thinking through what that might look like. If we had, I don’t know how happy we’d be with the future world we’re in the process of creating.
*Stuffy Philosophical Footnote for the Dedicated Reader: It’s always a good thing to consider what the logic of one decision might lead to in the future. I’m not going to speculate here because someone would call me on the logical fallacy of Slippery Slope. (It’s worth noting that even one of my favorite websites on logic uses gay marriage as their example of the Slippery Slope argument.) I always like to point out, though, that sometimes the slope is slippery. Sometimes the dominoes do fall, one by one. That’s just affirming that we often take the general logic we embrace and apply it to other areas. You have to do this kind of reasoning carefully, not using dumb fear tactics to bully people into your point of view…but it does need to be thought through.