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Transforming the Transgender Debate with the Cross

October 9, 2013



By Derick Dickens

With Biblical Literacy at an all-time low in the United States, I often find myself wanting to cringe when an editorial asks, “What would Jesus do?”

The most recent cringe came when the editorial page asked if it is a Christian virtue to be transgendered.  These questions came during a recent controversy surrounding a lady named Heather Clements.

Heather Clements was on the faculty at Azusa Pacific University where she taught theology–even chairing the school of theology and philosophy.  She was married, divorced, married again, had children, and a long career in academia, but Heather now wants to be called H. Adam Ackley and referred to as a “he.”

Claiming to be a male locked inside a female body, Professor Ackley is seeking to make her transition physically permanent through surgery.  So earlier in the year when Ackley made her transition public, the University agreed to pay her through the school year but dismissed her from teaching class.

The media outlets have been very biased on their reporting.  For instance, in an early edition of one paper they called the Azusa Pacific’s decision, “unchristian.”  Most media outlets have paid special attention to some students who are vocal in their disagreement but scant attention to a contrary position.

Yet, the media’s reaction is to be expected.  I find the most interesting parts of these articles are comments by Professor Ackley.

In one news article, she appears not to know this would be a controversial decision, “I did get the message that it (the dismissal) has to do with their concern that other people, such as donors, parents and churches connected to the university will have problems not understanding transgender identity.”

Here, we should to pause and think.  According to Ackley, the major problem she faces is that others do not understand her problem.  She goes further in another statement.

“Told by my spiritual advisors and then spouse that recovery, sanity and preservation of my family required me to deny my now recognized transgendered identity, I once again struggled with self-medicating self-injuring and self-starving of the female body during a suicidal relapse.… This is what Christian transphobia does.” Look closely at the argument she is trying to advance.  Because Christians cannot understand her situation, means we are transphobic.  This transphobia, according to her, ultimately results in Ackley’s suicidal tendencies and self mutilation.  She believes the Christian fear of the unknown forces her into these destructive behaviors.

While there are always some people who are afraid of change, this broad brushed sweeping argument minimizes the Christian worldview and diminishes the Gospel.  As Christians, we recognize that gender is an intrinsic part of who we are as people.  God created us, distinctly and uniquely, as male and female.  Gender roles are to be celebrated as God-given and cherished. Gender is a part of who we are as people.

Yet, Christians should not approach this issue in ignorance either.  We must recognize that because of the fall of Adam and Eve, people will struggle with various vices and temptations, many of which we cannot understand.  This, after all, is what sin does.  It confuses and confounds our mind, destroys and perverts our God-given passions for illicit ones, and twists our emotions and thoughts.

But this does not excuse our sin–it confirms the Bible.

Professor Ackley is wrong. We, Christians, understand her all too well.  We understand the grip of sin because we too are fighting a daily battle that points us to our need of redemption.  Sin will damage the soul and to our psyche.

Read this one last quote from Ackley, “This year has been a transition from being a mentally ill woman to being a sane, transgendered man.”

Unfortunately, Professor Ackley has convinced herself that her mental illness will be cured once she becomes a man.  As Christians, we know this is not going to be the case.  Professor Ackley suffers from the same problem we all face and the cure is not the scalpel, but the Gospel.  Her problem is not physical, but spiritual.

“What would Jesus do?” is not the question we should be asking.  Rather, we should ask, “What did Jesus accomplish on the cross?”  Answering this question is the only hope for sanity Professor Ackley, or any other person in the world, can enjoy.



Derick Dickens has an MBA in Leadership, MDiv, and MA in Religion.  He speaks regularly on topics ranging from Christian Worldview issues to business leadership, and he is a Professor of Business and Human Resources.  Married for 15 years to his wife Lacie, they have three children and live in Lynchburg Virginia.  You can follow Derick on Twitter at

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