On the morning of Monday, March 27, 2023, 28-year-old Audrey Hale sent an ominous Instagram message to an old elementary school friend: “One day this will make more sense. I’ve left more than enough evidence behind. But something bad is about to happen.” Carrying a red duffle bag loaded with two semi-automatic rifles and a handgun, she said goodbye to her parents as she left her Nashville-area home, climbed into her Honda Fit and drove the few miles to the local Christian elementary school she had attended as a child. After parking in the school lot, she shot her way through a side door. Within minutes, Audrey Elizabeth Hale had fired 152 rounds, murdering three 9-year-old children, the school custodian, a substitute teacher, and the principal. By 10:27 a.m. she had been shot dead by police.
Later that same week, only days after this horrific event, I was in Nashville teaching a weekend workshop at a local church on LGBTQ+ issues and how they relate to us in matters of faith. As I presented my lessons, it was clear that everyone in the audience was grappling with the horrific event that had just occurred only miles away. At the front of everyone’s mind was the obvious question: Why?
The killer did leave behind a manifesto, but as of the writing of this article, the release of the journals has been hotly debated, so no motive is yet confirmed. What is clear is that Audrey Hale was being treated for a mental illness, was born a woman but identified as trans, preferring the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘his’, and the school was specifically targeted, all leaving many to assume that this was an act of vengeance against Christians and their stance on transgenderism.
In a seemingly unconnected event, but one that accentuates my point, on the very day I was teaching in Nashville, a Trans Day of Vengeance protest was scheduled to take place in Washington D.C., an event only cancelled because of concerns for the safety of trans participants. The demonstration was organized by the Trans Radical Activist Network, a group dedicated to “action-oriented” protest primarily against what they called “radical religious groups and schools.” This was preceded by hundreds of protests that had taken place across America called the International Trans Day of Visibility.
No doubt, to many trans people and their allies, those who hold to a traditional, conservative Christian worldview are now the enemy. In a world of ideological fascism (fully embrace our stance or we will crush you), disagreement equals hatred, a ridiculous and unfair notion that has taken hold in Western civilization in the last 20 years.
This leaves us asking: If Christians are considered the enemy of trans people, have trans people become an enemy for Christians?
Who is the enemy and who is not?
To be clear, there is an enemy, but it is not trans people; it is trans ideology. Trans ideology is the enemy because it claims dominion over nature itself. Christians can never agree with the belief that a human being can change the identity they were born with, because these are powers that God alone possesses. So Christianity and transgender orthodoxy are wholly incompatible theologies. They can never be reconciled. Therefore, for the Christian, trans ideology is the enemy, but not trans people.
How should Christians think of those who consider us an adversary? We need look no further for our example than the author and perfecter of our faith, who, while having hands and feet nailed to a piece of wood by his enemies cried out on their behalf, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34 NIV).
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45a NIV).
In Luke 6 Christ said, “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28 NIV).
Christian, are you listening? According to Jesus, trans people are to be treated with nothing but kindness, love, and respect, regardless of their response to Christ, the church, or his followers. We are called to pray for them and be a blessing to them. This is the only possible reaction Jesus leaves us with when confronted by those who count us as the enemy.
Am I suggesting we hold back from teaching biblical truth when it comes to speaking on gender or other LGBT Q+ issues? Absolutely not. We must preach the word in season and out, when the message is popular and when it isn’t (2 Timothy 4:2).
Am I suggesting we not shield our children from their worst impulses, society’s latest fads, and other people’s neuroses? Absolutely not. Christian parents should take whatever precautions they deem necessary to protect and educate their children.
But while we do this, let us also recall the apostle’s demand that the Christian “must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful” (2 Timothy 2:24 NIV).
The Lord’s church needs to be a sanctuary for trans people to come and learn about the love and mercy of Jesus without suffering judgement and condemnation from Christians who disagree with their choices. Paul tells us in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (NIV). How on earth can we expect the lost to enter our places of worship to hear the word about Christ if we can’t create a kind and hospitable atmosphere in the very place we teach about Christ?
There is a difference between acceptance and approval. One of the greatest attributes of Jesus was his ability to accept people, even though he did not approve of how they were living their lives. Sadly, many Christians have not done well imitating this Christlike characteristic.
Audrey Hale was a dangerous psychopath with a gun; she was not an enemy of Christianity because she was trans. Trans people are not our enemy, trans ideology is. Now that’s a hill worth dying on.