Judge orders reinstatement of suspended teacher who opposes transgender pronouns: The power of ideas and a strategy for changing the culture
“I love all of my students, but I will never lie to them, regardless of the consequences. I’m a teacher, but I serve God first, and I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa, because it’s against my religion.”
Byron “Tanner” Cross spoke these words at a Loudoun County, Virginia, school board hearing on May 25. He was discussing two proposed transgender policies. Cross is a Christian and a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School, but he was speaking as a concerned citizen at a public event.
Nonetheless, the school system suspended him for his statement.
Yesterday, a Virginia court ruled that Cross must be reinstated. One of Cross’ lawyers hailed the judge’s decision, stating: “Educators are just like everybody else—they have ideas and opinions that they should be free to express.”
Cross told a crowd that gathered to support him Friday night, “Many of us are concerned that proposed policies would harm students and require us to violate our beliefs by saying things that are not true.” He added, “Public schools should not punish teachers like me for sharing our beliefs.”
“An idea lives on”
Tanner Cross’ story illustrates the power of ideas either to deceive us with falsehoods or to embolden us with truth.
As President Kennedy noted, “A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.” Winston Churchill observed, “Human beings are not dominated by material things, but by the ideas for which they are willing to give their lives or their life’s work.”
Yesterday we discussed the crisis of Christian leadership in our day and identified four temptations of the enemy:
- Undermine the truth, relevance, and authority of God’s word.
- Make biblical morality and those who proclaim it deeply unpopular.
- Recast evangelism as “intolerant.”
- Replace the biblical vision of a future focused on heaven with a secular vision of a future focused on earth.
Let’s respond to each of these deceptive ideas with the truth of God’s word. I see these four steps as a blueprint for engaging our anti-Christian culture with biblical truth.
First, choose to live biblically in every dimension of our lives.
God’s word says of itself, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). Our intellectual commitment to the veracity of Scripture stands on overwhelming evidence from archaeology, fulfilled prophecy, manuscript evidence, and internal consistency. (For more, see my paper, “Why do we believe the Bible is actually the word of God?”)
The more we choose to obey God’s word, the more we will discover the power and relevance of God’s word. And the more our skeptical culture will see and be drawn to the transforming power of biblical truth in us.
Second, show our culture why biblical morality is best for all of us.
Moses reminded his people, “God commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day” (Deuteronomy 6:24, my emphasis). God’s will for each of us is “good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
Ryan T. Anderson is correct: evangelicals are not merely seeking the “right to be wrong.” His excellent article offers non-religious evidence that the Bible is right with regard to abortion, sex-change procedures, and preserving female athletics. We need to take a similar posture in showing the culture that we oppose unbiblical morality because we love those it harms.
Third, recast evangelism as sharing the “good news.”
Billy Graham’s two most repeated statements were “the Bible says” and “God loves you.” That’s because the first leads directly to the second. Far from imposing our personal beliefs on others, evangelism is “a beggar telling beggars where he found bread.” The “gospel” (literally “good news” in the Greek) is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). We need to get back to sharing it with confident compassion.
Fourth, remember that focusing on heaven is the best way to live on earth.
Paul testified, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). That’s because we were each created by God for God. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was right: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Conventional wisdom claims that religion is “dangerous” for society. To the contrary, as C. S. Lewis famously pointed out in Mere Christianity, “If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the slave trade, all left their mark on earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with heaven.
“It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’; aim at earth and you will get neither.”
At which will you aim today?