Pleased to meet you. Hope you guessed my name.
Every now and then I find myself reminded of just how much the world has changed. One such moment came for me on Saturday. I was up in Boston to preach for my friend and fellow member of a certain parachurch blacklist, Mike Abendroth. On Saturday afternoon, he offered to take me to Northampton, location of the early ministry of Jonathan Edwards. As I always try to travel light, I ditched my jacket but had no choice but to wear my chinos and a button down shirt for the trip. In short, I had the humiliation, as an OPC man, of walking around Northampton looking like some newly-minted associate pastor at your typical PCA church.
We went to Starbucks. There I saw a lady who was, as we would say back in Blighty, clearly a 'bloke' dressed as a 'bird.' Now I have seen transgendered people before.
On one level, the sight no longer shocks me as it once did, though I have to say that I can never overcome my firm belief that men usually make remarkably ugly women. And I can assure you that this chap was no exception to the general aesthetic rule.
What surprised me, however, was how everybody else in the coffee shop (including, I have to confess, myself) simply went about their business as if everything was normal. And, of course, the reason was simple: everything was indeed normal. The sight of a man dressed as a woman is no longer weird. It is part of the rich tapestry of everyday life. My grandfather would have had no categories even to compute such a sight; but now it passes without so much as snigger or a nudge-nudge.
None of this would have been so bad except for the fact that it was clear as I walked up the street in Northampton that one or two heads were turning to stare at the weird guy dressed like a PCA associate pastor. My very nondescript, ordinary, balding, middle-aged blandness made me stand out as utterly weird. Even Mike's soul patch and sub-AC DC standard tee gave him a little bit of cover; my wing tip shoes simply sealed my fate. Indeed, I have to say that I have never been subject to such evident and oppressive neophiliac normaphobia in all my life. The sooner normaphobes are categorised as hate criminals, the better it will be for those of us who belong to the despised minority of the once but clearly no longer normal.
Two things came to mind: the beautiful young things of the reformed renaissance have a hard choice to make in the next decade. You really do kid only yourselves if you think you can be an orthodox Christian and be at the same time cool enough and hip enough to cut it in the wider world. Frankly, in a couple of years it will not matter how much urban ink you sport, how much fair trade coffee you drink, how many craft brews you can name, how much urban gibberish you spout, how many art house movies you can find that redeemer figure in, and how much money you divert from gospel preaching to social justice: maintaining biblical sexual ethics will be the equivalent in our culture of being a white supremacist.
And the second thing that came to mind were the lyrics of a Jagger-Richards song: 'Just as every cop is a criminal And all the sinners saints'. That is surely a brilliant statement of the topsy-turvy morality of the world which sin has produced and in which we now live.
Oh, and the name of the song? 'Sympathy for the Devil', of course