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WaPo Activism Posing As Religion Journalism

A Christian trans teen struggling with faith is an interesting story. But Pravda-on-the-Potomac is not interested in telling it honestly
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This Washington Post story is terrible religious journalism, and not because I'm opposed to the trans cult. Let's see why:

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Sid High left church years ago but stayed devoted to God, and so, one Sunday this fall, the teenager and his family gathered in their living room to watch a sermon on YouTube.

His three sisters dragged themselves to the couch, weekend-tired and silent, but Sid plopped down next to his parents with a goofy grin. He’d been up for hours. Every morning, he lined his bay window with prayer candles he bought by the case from the Dollar Tree, and he prayed for everyone he knew.

When the pastor of a local Presbyterian church appeared on screen, Sid adjusted the funky button-down shirt he’d found at a thrift store, and he sat a little straighter.

“Today, we’re going to hear a little story about Jesus,” the minister said. “Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem, and some people called the Pharisees come up to him, and they say, ‘Hey, Jesus, watch out. This king named Herod is after you. He wants to harm you, so you might want to run away.’”

Sid understood that kind of danger. He was 18 and transgender in a world that felt increasingly hostile for young people like him. One group of parents had sued the local school district over its trans-friendly policies, and another had managed to shut down a nearby library because it displayed LGBTQ books. Iowa’s governor had even made condemning trans kids a signature part of her reelection campaign.

People misgendered Sid at work, and teenagers posted mean comments on the TikTok page where he lip-syncs to “Pumped Up Kicks” and other pop songs. Even some of his fellow Christians were becoming more intolerant. Nearly 70 percent of White evangelicals think society has gone too far in accepting trans people, according to data the Pew Research Center released in the summer. That’s up from 61 percent five years ago.

“But Jesus was determined,” the pastor said. “He loves these people that will end up rejecting him. … Let’s have a prayer, shall we?”

Sid closed his eyes. He knew people thought you couldn’t be both Christian and trans, but as the country grew more divided, he found himself growing deeper in his faith. Maybe, he thought, he could do what Jesus had. He could move forward bravely in the face of danger, refuse to stop loving and spread a message of hope.

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Et cetera, et cetera. People were mean to Sid, who is biologically female. This is not necessarily a bad lede. Sid has real problems figuring out her gender, her faith, and how to relate to society. But then:

The family joined a Methodist church when Sid was 13, and it became the center of their world. Jess taught vacation Bible school, and Sid volunteered to interpret sign language for services. They never skipped a Sunday.

Occasionally, someone at church described homosexuality as a sin, but Sid’s parents didn’t agree with them. The Highs are the kind of Christians who dig into etymologies and Greek translations, and the longer they studied Leviticus and Corinthians, the more they believed that translators had misinterpreted words to turn scriptures into weapons.

Sid looked, but he didn’t find any verses about trans people. The only thing he ever heard people say was that God doesn’t make mistakes. But if that were true, Sid thought, didn’t that mean God had created him exactly as he was — gender dysphoria and all?

He wasn’t sure. He’d never met another trans person, let alone a trans Christian, and he wasn’t sure if his life was acceptable to God, sohe beat back his feelings with bright lipstick and the occasional frilly dress.

OK, we get it. Sid's family are bright Christians. They never missed church. Incredibly, Sid the Trans Proof-Texter didn't find any lines about trans people in a book 2000+ years old. I'm still not frustrated with this story, because the writer, Casey Parks, is telling the story at this point from Sid's point of view. Eventually we will get to the part where theologians explain the Christian objection to transgenderism. Right?

At last, very deep into the story, Sid's pastor speaks:

A few weeks later, Sid says,the pastor, a woman, pulled Sid aside and told him homosexuality was a sin, and if he acted on it, he would go to hell.

Sid believed hell was a place where people were tortured forever, and as the pastor walked away, Sid’s throat tightened. Surely, he thought, the pastor knew the Bible better than anyone. Was he unworthy of God’s love?

Sid held back the tears until his mom picked up. He climbed into the passenger seat, then sobbed so hard his whole body shook.

“What’s the matter?” Jess asked.

Sid’s voice broke when he tried to speak.

“Am I going to hell?” he asked.

Jess looked at her kid, a skinny thing with big eyes and a gentle disposition, and she felt as if her heart had fallen to her feet. Sid was the kindest person Jess knew. He helped out around the house, and he volunteered at the library. He treated everyone, even those who discriminated against him, with love and respect. God had to love this kid, she thought.

“Absolutely not,” Jess told him. “God does not make mistakes. God made you perfectly.”

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I wonder if the pastor put it exactly like that ... or if this is a tendentious recollection told by Sid's family to a sympathetic reporter? There's no "The pastor declined to speak to the Post for this story." Sid's hairdresser mom's theology is as crude and simplistic as her pastor's -- assuming that the Post's reporting on what the pastor said is faithful to the record, meaning that the pastor just bluntly told Sid she would go to hell if she had gay sex. It is certainly true that Biblical Christianity -- as distinct from its modernist versions -- says that people who have gay sex (or other kinds of immoral sex) are in danger of hell. The New Testament is very, very clear about that. This section above is where the religion journalism gets terrible. The pastor did not say that Sid is "unworthy of God's love," as the reporter has it. The pastor said that if Sid acts on same-sex desire, Sid is in danger of hell. That's what the Bible says. No getting around that.

Anyway, reporter Casey Parks is surely going to tell us what Christian theology has to say about homosexuality and transgenderism, yes?

No. Nowhere. The story goes on and on, talking about how tender and confused Sid is (Sid has autism, by the way), and how horrible people in the community were to her. All of which might be true, and yeah, if people are mean to this kid, shame on them! But the cruelty Casey Parks enumerates includes people objecting to Sid organizing a Drag Queen Story Hour at the local library.

It ends with a long section about how Sid re-invented herself as an online teen guru for queer Christian kids. And that's it! There is nothing in this story about how Sid and her family reconciled what Christianity taught for nearly 2,000 years about homosexuality. Nowhere does it explain why orthodox Christianity objects to transgenderism. It's one big sugar bomb of sentimentality, about how a plucky trans kid and her supportive family overcame the HATERS.

The thing is, there really is a story here. What would you do if you were a Christian family who had a kid like Sid? How would you help him or her deal with this crisis? Sid does not deserve cruelty -- but Sid also deserves to know the truth, if she is going to be a faithful Christian. The Washington Post's readers need to understand that there is a heck of a lot more to Christianity's critique of homosexuality and transgenderism than this Hallmark-card crap. I mean, even if they reject what Christianity teaches about LGBT, they should at least be spoken to like adults, not half-drunk wine moms.

Casey Parks is an openly gay reporter who grew up in north Louisiana -- very Baptist-y and Bible Belt-y -- and according to her account, was treated with inexcusable meanness by members of her family and community. I get why she is sympathetic to Sid. But she seems to have the idea that the most fundamentalist, crude forms of Christianity are all there is -- that you can either be totally liberal and affirming, or you prowl around looking for gay kids to bash with your Bible. She seems to think that difficult theological problems within Christianity can be solved by simply deciding that Scripture and two millennia of tradition are worthless when they don't affirm what liberal North Americans in the 21st century want to believe.

I wish I could say I expected better journalism from a paper of the status of the Washington Post. Notably, Casey Parks is not on the religion beat at the Post, but is on the "social issues team." That's probably part of the problem. Still, as an actual professional news organization, was there not an editor who said, "Say, Casey, we should have a comment from the accused pastor, or at least be able to say that she declined to comment"? Was there not an editor who said, "Say, Casey, are you sure that this story adequately explains what Christianity teaches?" Something. Anything. Anything but this propaganda. Or maybe this is what you get when you have a newsroom full of people who all think alike.

I mean, look:

Occasionally, someone at church described homosexuality as a sin, but Sid’s parents didn’t agree with them. The Highs are the kind of Christians who dig into etymologies and Greek translations, and the longer they studied Leviticus and Corinthians, the more they believed that translators had misinterpreted words to turn scriptures into weapons.

Why did they believe that? Sid's mom is a hairdresser. How did she and Sid's father come to this conclusion? Casey Parks and her editors just accept this. You know what you would never see in the Washington Post? A line saying, without challenge, "The longer they studied science textbooks, the more they believed that the authors had misinterpreted the data to trick Christians into believing that the earth was more than 6000 years old."

You know, if they had called the pastor, she shouldn't have talked to the Washington Post. I wouldn't. Not anymore.

UPDATE: Of course. There's the answer, staring me in the face. For the media class -- and, frankly, the US ruling class -- traditional Christian belief about LGBT is so strange and repulsive that fairness and complexity when reporting on it is not necessary. They might as well be Victorians writing about some primitive mystery religion encountered in the African bush. Do keep in mind that these are the people establishing the narratives about us.

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Frans
Frans
There are so many serious issues in the world today, yet somehow I find the whole issue surrounding gender madness probably the most obnoxious. Of all the issues, its perhaps the one I most wish would just somehow go away, or that I could just somehow get and keep away from.

I appreciate your using the appropriate pronouns as opposed to the preferred ones. Even many quite conservative and/or Christian organizations, individuals and media outlets fail to do so, unfortunately.

On a somewhat tangential note, I do find the doctrine held by many Christians that an individual can burn in hell forever shockingly callous. It’s not something I can belief, nor do I see how a merciful God could allow that sort of thing, let alone on the basis of decisions an individual makes in a lifetime of a few decades.
schedule 1 month ago
    Fran Macadam
    Fran Macadam
    Sin is not viable in the presence of the Lord, so what happens to souls which willingly decided to embrace sin and never repent? Obviously by definition they cannot be part of a heaven without sin. Nevertheless, the soul never really perishes as it is immortal. But without the sustenance of life that God animates, what happens to them? C.S. Lewis imagined those souls forever being diminished for eternity. Thus you can infer they are being consumed - which is the definition of fire.
    schedule 1 month ago
      Frans
      Frans
      What I believe on the matter very briefly:

      Children of God live numerous lifetimes. Ultimately, however, they either eventually earn their way to heaven or not. If they do not, they will neither suffer for eternity nor linger throughout eternity (which, if you really think about it comes down to about the same thing). Rather, their individual identity will eventually be cancelled out. As Ezekiel says, “the soul that sinneth, it will die.”

      Whithout bikering too much about terminology, such what exactly is soul, as opposed to mind, or spirit, or whatnot: that part of a child of God which is eternal because it is of God’s essence returns to God one way or another. In one way, it does so with an individual identity attached, in the sense that as the drop slips into the ocean, it retains a self-identity as the drop at the same time as losing any sense of separation from the whole (a soul goes to heaven). In the other way, it does so with an individual identity cancelled out, in the sense that as the drop slips into the ocean it becomes ontologically indistinguishable from the ocean as a whole (a soul dies).

      In neither case is God diminished, but in the latter case he merely recoups his original investment, whereas in the former case something is gained. This ties into the mystery and purpose of creation.
      schedule 1 month ago
        Scott Regener
        Scott Regener
        Hebrews 9:27 says, "And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment. (ESV)" You are, of course, permitted to believe whatever you wish about multiple lifetimes and the like. Your belief seems to lack Biblical justification.
        schedule 1 month ago
          Frans
          Frans
          Did Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter die only once?
          schedule 1 month ago
    Bogdán Emil
    Bogdán Emil
    Hell isn't a fire, it's a void, the absence of God. However, I do agree that eternal damnation is a strange concept, but only because the Soul certainly has free will, even in the afterlife. Therefore, what the heck is preventing a Soul trapped in Hell from simply repenting?
    schedule 1 month ago
      Fran Macadam
      Fran Macadam
      Christian theology posits that no one can save himself. The soul that separated itself from God through wilful choice can no longer access the power of God's grace made available in life necessary for repentance.
      schedule 1 month ago
      Scott Regener
      Scott Regener
      I don't think you've dug deeply enough into the concept of free will. We have free will, in the sense that we have the ability to choose that which we desire. We do not have free will, however, in choosing to desire that which we detest. What prevents a soul trapped in Hell from repenting is the very same thing that landed them there in the first place - a rejection of God and everything He stands for. I suspect that a soul in hell blames God for their being in Hell, and thus would not choose to love such a God. It is a strange thing, though, for you to believe that God is required to offer salvation after rendering right and just judgement. Hebrews 9:27
      schedule 1 month ago
        Bogdán Emil
        Bogdán Emil
        Good answer to a careless question.
        schedule 4 weeks ago
    Theodore Iacobuzio
    Theodore Iacobuzio
    Well, "callous". Newman allowed as he was terrified of the doctrine, and permitted himself to believe in a "refrigerium", a period of rest for the condemned, which, he said, made the truth "less terrible to the intellect". (The last word always stops me in my tracks.)

    I think it is important to say that a universe that includes Hell is a real place. The universe of liberal Christianity is a game without a rulebook, and the universe of utilitarianism is hardly real enough to care about. This sounds aesthetic, but it isn't really.
    schedule 1 month ago
Fran Macadam
Fran Macadam
Scripture has a warning about the fate of male feminizers that the lucid Christian may want to consider before taking on a drag identity. The prudent thing is to detransition if it's still physically possible.
schedule 1 month ago
Bogdán Emil
Bogdán Emil
I wanted to make this comment on your article about the Louisiana porn law, but it fits in here, as well. The gist of the question is: what can a conservative government in power do to fight dominant (and domineering) leftism in all its diverse manifestations? You suggested Fidesz as a template, so I wanted to comment as a lay observer, not as someone who has dug into the nuts and bolts details of Orban’s strategic takeover. The surface techniques are plain enough. Orban understood back in the 90’s already that _the media_ was key to shaping political trends.

Imagine two huge media blocks. One of them is PBS and NPR, including all government-funded news-gathering and news-interpreting and generalized cultural programming (children’s education, American history) collectively lumped together. The other one is all the major private entities, like ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, WaPo, NYTimes and so on. Can you imagine if these two enormous media blocks were of equal strength? That’s what is happening in Hungary. The government-funded media is astoundingly strong, diverse, and runs a full-spectrum assault on “the Left” to the point where it’s actually a bit comedic. It’s as if Hannity worked for NPR, and you have to watch him trying to control himself as a “journalist.” But it's okay, and every now and then, they host the liberal opposition, whether minor politicians or just talking heads, and then the rubber meets the road, as the Hungarian conservatives try not to be too resentful of the past, nor too rudely domineering in the present, while the Hungarian liberals try not to be too resentful of the present. Hungarian liberals are somewhat confused about the past, as well as the future.

So, here in America, once the liberal Left discredits itself to the point where Republicans can win the equivalent of the Presidency, the Speakership, and the Senate with 67 votes, you will be able to do a lot, as I’m sure American conservatives can imagine. You will be able to change the Constitution, even. In time you can certainly change the makeup of the courts and fully take over all the major relevant organs of state power, cleaning out the entrenched “deep state” holdovers from the institutions. Given enough time and authority, all this can be accomplished. The Hungarian voters have decided on this course, and gave Orban sixteen straight years of supermajority rule. There is basically no opposition in Parliament. The result is a completely empowered Hungarian government media, slick, modern, not boring and cheap, not like PBS and NPR, but a self-consciously forceful player. The Hungarian private media is in shock and scrambling, but standing, for it is highly developed, and will not disappear. There is a classical liberal center. There are leftist outlets who are proud and in no mood to bend. But there is also a conservative media force that cannot be ignored, and it was put in place by the government.

If you asked Orban and his friends, they would tell you plainly that in their view, they leveled the playing field. In more candid moments, they will even criticize the old-guard leftist Establishment as too hide-bound, conservative, inflexible. This is a reference to the highly stratified class system that the communist party officials hypocritically inhabited, closing themselves off from the proletariat in what were effectively gated communities. So there's plenty of irony to go around.
schedule 1 month ago
    Fran Macadam
    Fran Macadam
    But since most politicians are hardly Christian, they lack the authority and strength to resist the spiritual malaise dragging down the West, if their only virtue is Republican.
    schedule 1 month ago
      Fran Macadam
      Fran Macadam
      I don't think the Hungarian leader's faith is accidental to his government's policies. It's not the same as Biden's, Pelosi's or Cuomo's.
      schedule 1 month ago