July 9, 2021
In the lead-up to this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo, participating nations are holding tryouts to determine who will represent them at the 32nd Olympiad. Some of these tryouts have generated controversy, such as when American hammer-thrower Gwen Berry turned her back on the American flag during the anthem. However, the most controversial story to emerge from the tryouts so far is New Zealand’s decision to include Laurel Hubbard on the women’s weightlifting team. Hubbard, a biological male who identifies as a transgender woman, will compete against female athletes at the Olympics.
The Olympics are not the only sporting event where female athletes are having to compete against biological males. For example, for the past few years, high school girls in Connecticut have competed against (and lost to) biological males in track and field. Even though a handful of states have passed legislation to preserve women and girls’ sports, most Americans remain unaware of the threat gender identity ideology poses to the future of women’s athletics.
How should Christians think about and respond to storylines relating to transgenderism and the Olympic Games (and sports in general)?
First, we must recognize that the underlying issue is a rejection of reality and a denial of truth. Allowing biologically male athletes to compete in women’s sports denies important truths for the sake of supporting personal experiences and beliefs that are not grounded in reality.
Truth aligns with reality. We can know that truth exists because the evidence is all around us. Take for example the simple mathematical equation 2+2=4. Not only is there an answer to the equation, but it is knowable—we can comprehend the answer because it logically follows. Furthermore, the answer is objective—it doesn’t matter if you want 2+2 to equal something different, the correct answer will only ever be 4. The answer is also absolute—it will not change through time or space, 2+2 will always equal 4. Finally, truth is exclusive—all other answers are wrong, no matter what.
Although we may not always know the answer, that doesn’t mean that the answer does not exist or that we should make up our own answer. Declaring 2+2=5 is wrong, regardless of how much we wish it to be true or how sincere we are in making the declaration. It is wrong for athletics to accommodate a person’s declaration that they are female when they are biologically male, even if the declarer is sincere. Research demonstrates that biological males have a significant, physical advantage over biological women, even if they have taken hormones to suppress their testosterone.
Second, we must remember that Christians are commanded to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Our culture has told us that love accommodates, applauds, and supports individual desires over objective reality. Despite what our culture says, the Bible tells us love “rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). It is through graciously speaking the truth that we best love our neighbor. As Creator, God is the ultimate standard of truth (John 8:26, 17:17) and He defines what is good (Psalm 25:8, Luke 18:19). God desires Shalom for the world, where things are the way they ought to be.
Tragically, things are not how they ought to be. The world is broken due to sin (Gen. 3). Because of this brokenness, our subjective personal experiences or desires can conflict with the truth. Without a standard of truth, our experiences can deceive and mislead us. When Jesus declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), He was showing us that He is the objective standard of truth around which we should order our lives.
Truth can be controversial and unpopular at times, but that does not make it any less true. Because we live in a broken world, we will face challenging and heartbreaking situations. As Christians, we can take comfort that our experiences do not have the final word, our pain is never wasted, and our struggles have a purpose (Rom. 8:18-30). Without knowledge of the truth, we will not know how to respond to our experiences or process them well. So, let us live in truth and exhort those around us to abide in Christ’s word, for then we will “know the truth” and the truth will set us free (John 8:32).