Benjamin Watson is the star Tight End of the Baltimore Ravens who became famous playing the same position for the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints. He’s also an outspoken Christian who is well respected by his fellow players around the league because his walk matches his talk and his heart has always been big. Watson has earned the respect and admiration of even those who disagree with him because he’s lived a life of compassion and gentleness, even as he’s spoken honestly about his beliefs.
Now he’s doing it again as he weighs in on the transgender bathroom debate in a spirit of meekness.
In a message that he posted to Facebook (that has garnered much attention) last week, Watson explains his perspective on the debate, religious freedom, and the need for people to be more generous with each other.
Fear is a powerful motivator. It has forced me to be silent when I would rather speak and to shout loudly when I would rather sit in silence. It seizes my heart and floods my mind with myriad scenarios of the possible aftermath to my comments or consequences of my actions.
I’ve contemplated North Carolina’s House Bill 2 for some time now. I’ve read it in its entirety, in an attempt to understand its motive as well as the visceral contempt its detractors have so prominently displayed. I’ve watched as businesses have vacated the state, sports leagues have made threats and entertainers have refused to perform. Conversely, I’ve seen multitudes of citizens across the country stand in adamant support of this legislation. I’ve heard accusations of intolerance and discrimination and speculation about probability of future sexually motivated crimes or lack there of. I’ve listened to the passionate interviews from Americans, who identify as straight, gay, or transgendered, which illuminate the diverse views of not only this bill, but the overarching issue of gender and sexual identity. While the new law encompasses a few different issues the stipulations for use of single-sex multiple occupancy bathroom and changing facilities have become a lightning rod in what has emerged as another battlefield in America’s increasingly prominent reevaluation of its definitions and ideals about sexuality, discrimination and “equal rights.”
Since the announcement I really haven’t wanted to discuss the specifics and intricacies because today’s politically correct environment is too toxic to have a discussion in. Such an effort appears futile. Many times conversation becomes mired in false, naive, and underdeveloped arguments such as claims that gender and race are analogous when that could not be further from the truth. Honestly I’ve been at a lost for words.
In today’s climate, as shown by the speedy reactions of various entities, we are forced to pick a side. Many times, unfortunately, it’s the side we hope is right. And by right I do not mean moral or logical, as it should. I mean the side that will protect us from public backlash and probable financial loss. The side that places us in the perceived majority, the middle of a strong current where we can ride the wave of “progress”. We feel the tug to be on what some coin “the right side of history.” The subsequent fear of conformity can feel like fire in our throats at times. Tolerance and inclusivity has somehow turned into the very thing it claims not to be and is quite often characterized by name-calling and accusations of bigotry and hatred. Although it sometimes does, fundamental disagreement does not NECESSARILY mean hate is involved. But the immense fear of being associated with these smartly and strategically used labels forces many choose to be silent at a time when it matters most.
What a precarious position we are in.
It is easy to offer personal anecdotes when digesting bills and laws like this. But my position has to be founded on a foundation more solid than my experience or my feelings.
It’s not about MY daughters, MY sons, MY wife or even ME feeling violated, uncomfortable or threatened in the bathroom although these are definitely reasons enough. It’s not about how obvious it is to ME that the privacy of men and women should be a given when using these types of facilities. It’s not even about the many times I’ve “harmlessly” shared a bathroom facility with an individual who unbeknownst to me was transgendered or transitioning. Determining right and wrong is not about the depth of sincerity of those who desire their lifestyle be affirmed and legalized or what they hope that validation will provide their self-concept. As honest as these desires may be, self-fulfillment and public endorsement does not always determine the validity of an action.
What’s disheartening is that we are buying the lie that feelings trump all else and that how one feels can only be accepted and celebrated instead of addressed and challenged.
As the fallout from North Carolina’s House Bill 2 continues to billow out I contemplate how it fits in the larger picture of society.
If our only reason for determining our social norms is popular opinion, we will continue to reset them with each new generation. We simultaneously live in the past and the future. There will be generations after us as there have been before. There is nothing new under the sun. Civilizations rise and they set, their great cities turning to dust and their once fabulous new ideas relegated to a page in a high school history book. Logic, common sense, and morality that are not based on absolute truth will always at some point seem, antiquated, archaic even abhorrent. God’s word is the only absolute truth given to mankind and any individual, community or nation that turns their back on it can expect to ultimately fail. Change IS good. But only that which upholds or institutes HIS prescription for life, freedom and equality. HB2 is not an isolated issue. It is one stop on the track, as we steamroll in our relativism. Many who support it are not malicious and many who oppose are not heathens.
But like paper currency, of little value without its collateral backing, morals without God eventually succumb to similar perils and are rendered useless. The logical conclusion of a land where we all do what is right in our own eyes, unchecked, is lawlessness, chaos and even death.
The simplest most basic form of decision making is basing them on how they do or don’t affect “me.” When we justify or condemn laws and creeds because of the level of anticipated effects on “my life” we miss the point. Whether in my own life or that of another’s, sin always has macro and micro consequences and we all have a decision to continue living in it habitually or surrendering ourselves and turning to Him.
I do not claim to understand the confusion, isolation, distress, pride or any other emotion of those who struggle with gender dysphoria or those in their families who support them. Because of this, as easy as it may be to do, it is not my place to speculate about their motives and character, or insult them for their lifestyle choices. Like me, these individuals are loved and valued by their creator. Like me they deserve to earn a living, enjoy friendships, and live free from slurs, disparaging remarks, and bodily harm. And like me, they stand condemned and separated from a Holy God except for the covering of the atoning blood of his Son, applied on their behalf through repentance and faith. Like me, they were created for a purpose, male and female, to be an earthly depiction of the spiritual union between Christ and his bride, his body, the church. As important as genitalia are in determination, gender roles do not stop at anatomy. They were created as complimentary differences that should be celebrated, embraced and encouraged. They build strong families, healthy communities, and ordered nations. There is great beauty in masculinity and femininity that fully blooms in the sacrificial oneness of marriage. To accept the blurring there of is to deny and tacitly reject God’s design and to condone what He has created as a reflection, albeit imperfect because of our humanity, of his immense love for us. This is the danger we face, not only with this issue but with any issue, when our feelings, genetic predispositions and desires take precedence over His principles.
This is the crux of the matter. If I believe I am my own God, I am within all rights to do, say and believe as I please. But if I believe I was created, then he who did so is God and I am not. And my duty is to obey him for he knows what is best for those to whom he gave life.
I’m not in favor of any legislation to spite or demean others. However, I am in favor of legislation that governs human activity in a way that would be pleasing to the Lord, while still understanding that a heart that seeks to live for Him is infinitely more desirable than forced submission.
Compassion is the gift of those who have been forgiven for they know the filth from which they continue to be rescued. Love is not love if it sacrifices truth. And that truth must not be held hostage by fear.
May we proceed in this arena and all others accordingly.