In the 11th chapter of Luke’s Gospel, a Pharisee invites Jesus to have a meal at his house. When Jesus does not wash His hands before starting to eat, the Pharisee wonders why Jesus did not follow the custom of the elders. Jesus uses this as an opportunity to rebuke the Pharisees (and eventually also the lawyers and scribes) for their hypocrisy: caring about their outer appearance and public image while their minds and hearts are rotten with greed and wickedness.
Jesus uses some of His harshest language at this time, including verse 40: Ye fools, did not he that made the outside make that which is within, also? (Also see my post of 6/24/14)
If anyone reading takes offense at this, remember that your argument is with Jesus. But also understand that much of Jesus’ ire is due to the fact that the people He is criticizing are the Jewish religious leaders of that day. These are the people who have been entrusted to know the law and the prophets. Their teaching and guidance of the laity should be based on that knowledge. But in some cases they err because they do not practice what they preach and teach. In other cases, their teaching and example is flawed because they do not understand the Word of God.
In Luke 11:40, Jesus is referring to the final clause of Zechariah 12:1, which states that the LORD forms the spirit that is inside a person. Either the Pharisees have lost sight of this knowledge, or they misunderstood what it means, or they have exempted themselves from its meaning while teaching it to the common people. But the Lord is consistent in holding the religious leaders to a higher standard. And He is criticizing them for being so concerned about what is on the outside and neglecting what is on the inside. In Matthew 15 and Mark 7, we read Jesus teaching that it is not what enters a person that defiles, it is what comes out of them, proceeding from heart and mind, that defiles a person.
In ancient Israel’s theocracy, the religious leaders were also the political leaders. And their considerable influence continued into the days of Jewish kings and then domination by a succession of foreign powers. In the United States, the influence of religion is waning and there has never been one centralized religious body of individuals that serves as a counterbalance to the political branches of government. That doesn’t mean that government officials never invoke religion as a motive behind a particular law, policy or position. But does everyone who cites religious principles judge with right judgment? Let’s look at one recent example that ignores Jesus’ teaching on the inside being more important than the outside.
A Texas state legislator, Debbie Riddle from the Houston suburb of Tomball, TX, has sponsored a bill that would make it a crime for a transgender person to use a bathroom that is not consistent with that person’s actual gender. The first problem with the bill is that it does not allow that person to define what their actual gender is. The State of Texas, if this legislation should pass, would be the sole arbiter of the definition of a person’s true gender, based on some very rigid guidelines.
Under H.B. 1748, this bill would amend Section 341.061 of the Texas Health and Safety Code regarding locker rooms, shower facilities and toilet facilities in various public establishments (public building, schoolhouse, theater, filling station, tourist court, bus station, or tavern). The first change is that it would also make a criminal of any person who is in charge of such a facility who “repeatedly” allows a person over age 7 that Rep. Riddle considers to be using the wrong locker room, shower room or bathroom/toilet. It would be a felony punishable by up to up to 2 years in jail and a maximum $10,000 fine. There is no definition of “repeatedly” in the bill. But based on the definition of this imprecise word, it could be interpreted to mean as infrequently as twice.
It also makes it a Class A misdemeanor for a person over the age of 13 to use the wrong facilities of these types according to Rep. Riddle’s definition of gender. In Texas, class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000, or both jail time and a fine. (So let’s be clear: a school principal could go to jail for allowing a child of age 8-13 to use a bathroom in school which it would be perfectly legal for that student to use under this bill.)
And what is Rep. Riddle’s definition of gender? It is spelled out in subsection e:
For the purpose of this section, the gender of an individual is the gender established at the individual’s birth or the gender established by the individual’s chromosomes. A male is an individual with at least one X chromosome and at least one Y chromosome, and a female is an individual with at least one X chromosome and no Y chromosomes. If an individual’s gender established at the individual’s birth is not the same as the individual’s gender established by the individual’s chromosomes, the individual’s gender established by the individual’s chromosomes controls under this section.
The bill does allow for exceptions in certain situations, such as janitorial services, medical emergencies or an adult assisting a young child (under age 8). But in addition to all the new subsections added to this section of law, the bill makes an interesting change to the existing subsection a. It changes “toilet accommodations” to “toilet facilities”. Rep. Riddle has signaled (whether wittingly or not, I do not know) that she intends to make Texas less accommodating, less hospitable, less friendly to you if you aren’t one of the “right people” in her eyes.
Under this bill, here are some of the people who would be required to use the women’s bathroom, locker room and public showers in Texas:
Mark Cummings, Occupational Therapist and Businessman
Buck Angel, Filmmaker and Educator
James Halleman, Steelworker and Steel Safety Expert
Jamie Black, Film Producer, Actor and Comedian
Stephen Thorne, Police Officer
And here are some of the people who would now be required under Rep. Riddle’s bill to use the men’s bathroom, locker room and public showers in Texas:
Lynn Conway, University Professor, Electrical Engineer, Computer Scientist, and Inventor (M.S.E.E., Columbia Universtity)
Dr. Christine McGinn, Surgeon, US Navy Veteran
Janet Mock, Journalist (M.A., New York University)
Donna Rose, IT Project Manager and Author
Amanda Simpson, Executive Director, Army Office of Energy Initiatives, U.S. Dept. of Defense, Engineer, Pilot, (M.E. California State University, Northridge; M.B.A. University of Arizona)
And then there’s me: tax preparer, financial consultant, businesswoman, witnessing Christian.
Lois Simmons, author of this blog!
Can you imagine the transwomen above having to use the men’s bathroom in a bar in Texas where cowboys (real and wannabes) have been getting drunk and acting macho? Kristin Beck could probably take them on, but most of us could not.
And what about this man, Christian magician Jim Munroe? Most of his chromosomes are XY, but the ones in his blood are XX? Can he use either bathroom or neither of them?
Jim Munroe, Magician, Christian
There is no regard in this bill for people born with intersex conditions of any kind. There is no regard in this bill for the dignity and safety of the people who this bill discriminates against. What purpose does this bill achieve? Protecting people from crimes that don’t occur (and for which there are already sufficient statues in the rare event that a crime does occur)? Or to resurrect Jim Crow laws against a different group of marginalized people while further exposing them to the violence we already suffer on a regular basis?
Strangely enough, the worst feature of this bill may be that the owners, managers or others in charge of the affected establishments are liable for a harsher penalty than the transgender people charged with using the “wrong” bathroom. To protect themselves, this bill could turn at least some into vigilantes zealously enforcing the law while at the same time being unaccountable to the public because they are private citizens.
Not only is such foolishness and poorly thought out legislation still being proposed in 21st century America, it is not unique to Texas. It is just one more in a string of similar legislation that has been proposed recently in Florida, Kentucky, Utah, and Arizona. Some might blame this on Christianity, but that would be just as discriminatory. Fortunately, there are many Christians who are not like this. I have been accepted and even welcomed by Christians who see me based on my Christian spirit and heart for the Lord, not on demanding to see a chromosome test or the opinion of the doctor who delivered me.
Rep. Riddle is the vice chair for the Texas State House of Representatives committee on Juvenile Justice and Family Issues. Rep. Riddle, do you seek justice for all juveniles, or only some? Do you seek justice for all residents of and visitors to Texas, or only some?
If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they. – Ecclesiastes 5:8