In response to an outbreak of transgender violence in restrooms, the North Carolina legislature recently passed a law requiring people to only use the public bathrooms designated for their sex as identified at birth. This new law has been the source of great consternation around the country, causing even more confusion surrounding an already confusing issue.
Apparently, if I’m a Christian, I’m supposed to be concerned about the people who are in the restroom with me. I get it. A parent should be cautious about sending children into the restroom alone. In fact, don’t do it until they are old enough to take care of themselves. That’s common sense that does not require an act of Congress. However, as an adult, I couldn’t care less about who is in the bathroom with me. I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals during my life and everything I’ve got has been seen by a lot of people already, and I’m no worse for the experience.
This is truly an example of bathroom discrimination, and I consider myself an expert on bathroom discrimination. I was not allowed to use public bathrooms until I was 40 years old, and it did take an act of Congress to end that discriminatory practice. All my life I have used either a wheelchair or walked on crutches. Wheelchairs didn’t fit through most bathroom doors until the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990. I went through school, including college and seminary, without ever seeing the inside of a public restroom, men’s or women’s.
By the way, I was also limited by public restrooms when walking on crutches. Using crutches on wet floor tile is as dangerous as walking on ice. If you have been in a men’s public restroom you know what I’m talking about.
The bottom line is that I have little concern about bathroom etiquette as long as we all try to behave like adults. However, I am bothered by the preponderance of Christians who make things like this an issue. If you read my Facebook newsfeed you would think that every time someone uses a public restroom they are making a statement for or against Jesus. Passing laws to keep certain people out of the bathroom is not a spiritual issue!
Be honest. The North Carolina law is really nothing more than a statement that homosexuality (in any form) is immoral. To use a bathroom law to make this statement is just stupid. Transgender people exist, and they do need to use the restroom (their plumbing might be changed, but it is not eliminated). So what are they to do? Do you really want a person who looks like a man, dresses like a man, and identifies as a man to show up in the women’s restroom? Will that make you and your children feel safer? Of course not.
Will it make you feel more spiritual? Apparently so, at least for some of you.
Does it enhance the cause of Christ? No!
But here’s the thing for me. I already said I have little interest in bathroom etiquette (other than basic adult behavior), but I am bothered by Christians who constantly take up causes intended to slam or demean other people. It seems that Christianity has come to be defined in negative terms rather than something positive.
I grew up as a Baptist in Colorado, and there were not many of us at the time. When people learned that I was a Baptist, they would often say something like, “Oh, you don’t believe in drinking and dancing.”
While it was true that my parents did not use alcohol, and they didn’t dance (perhaps because my father had a wooden leg), I don’t recall either of those issues being a topic of discussion around the table. They taught me a lot about the Christian faith, but very little about being judgmental. However, it seems that today’s most common version of the Christian faith is highlighted by judgmentalism, and focuses on the negative. We are more interested in what people shouldn’t be doing than we are about what we should be doing.
Here’s my suggestion. Instead of boycotting Target because of the restroom policy, go down to the nearest Target, find someone who looks like they could use some financial help, and pay for their groceries. Or better yet, take them across the street to the Chick-fil-a and buy them a chicken sandwich. This would be even better if the person you chose was transgender, although I’m not sure how you would know.
In other words, get your faith out of the bathrooms and bedrooms of others, sit across the table from them, and share a meal. You might be surprised how much you learn about others, and even about yourself. It will also be a good start toward enhancing the cause of Christ.