A state senator in Oklahoma recently proposed a bill that would ban people under the age of 26 from receiving gender-affirming care—launching a massive, aggressive attack on the transgender community. The move sends a clear signal that anti-trans leaders are gearing up to be even bolder and combative in their crusade.

As with the mountain of other anti-trans legislation sweeping the nation, this new bill is based on so-called Christian views. Even the name, the “Millstone Act of 2023,” alludes to a Bible passage that calls for those who cause children to sin to be drowned.

As a Christian theologian, a minister, and the president of a seminary with many transgender students, I am horrified by the continued use of Christianity and the Bible to viciously attack the transgender community. The Bible never said that being transgender is wrong. This extremist, wrong-headed belief is simply based on shaky extrapolations of the text.

In contrast, nearly every page of the Bible tells us that we must love and care for one another, not degrade and harm each other. This message of love and care is clear, not a false extrapolation. But in this legislative onslaught, a biblically false hate-message is the prized weapon of attack.

The new Oklahoma legislation was proposed by State Senator David Bullard, a conservative “Christian” who consistently references the Bible in legislative work. Last year, he used these false biblical interpretations to spearhead a law requiring public school students to use bathrooms that match their biological sex. Is this actually in the Bible? No.

Meanwhile, in Texas, State Representative Steve Toth—an ordained pastor—recently proposed a bill that would make it a second-degree felony to provide gender-affirming care for minors. He has referred to being transgender as a “spiritual problem” and called on pastors to use their pulpits to speak against transgender rights. Is this really a biblical mandate? No.

And in Tennessee, State Representative William Lamberth—a staunch “Christian”— introduced a similar bill barring minors from accessing gender-affirming treatment, claiming such health services are “profoundly unethical and morally wrong.” Can these policies be supported biblically? Absolutely not.

Frighteningly, these efforts are just the tip of the iceberg. Far-right Christian politicians in states nationwide are continuing to find new ways to demean transgender people. There’s no end in sight.

Holy bible during the Easter Good Friday
Holy Bible during Good Friday celebrations inside Santa Maria Regina della Pace church on April 2, 2021, in Turin, Italy.
Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

It is deeply disturbing that the monstrous anti-trans crusade is based on assumptions drawn from two main sections of biblical text. Some claim that in Genesis, God explicitly created two biologically different genders that cannot be changed or reimagined and should follow strict rules around gender comportment—mainly that males head all households. Others refer to a passage in Deuteronomy that prohibits people from wearing clothes of the opposite gender. Should we now forbid females to wear pants? Or throw all females who head households into jail? Of course not. Most people we know would be arrested immediately if we followed such views. But we do not do this, which calls us to ask: Why the ardent, vicious attack on transgender people?

In the same vein, the Bible also includes sections that support gender fluidity. For example, while God is typically described with “He” pronouns, Isaiah offers comparisons of God to a woman in childbirth. There are also several instances in which God is compared to a mother bird protecting her children. Why are these passages never lifted up in legislative sessions?

The reality is, the Bible leaves a lot to interpretation. It’s easy to cherry-pick sentences and warp them for a political agenda. There are also plenty of passages that Christians clearly reject like, amusingly, warnings to not wear clothing with two types of material. And there are other morally abhorrent passages that are fiercely rejected, like those supporting enslavement and condoning violence against women.

Ultimately, when we look to the Bible for guidance, we have to look at its overarching lessons: love others. Treat our neighbors with respect. Show compassion.

That means respecting, embracing, and loving transgender people.

At its core, the anti-trans movement is all based on wild interpretations of a few Bible passages. To those who use the Bible this way and misuse Christian beliefs, it’s time to stop. We must move past this dangerous hate-messaging and embrace the core tenets of God’s word.

Rev. Dr. Serene Jones is president of Union Theological Seminary, a globally recognized graduate school of theology, where faith and scholarship meet to reimagine the work of justice.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

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