Dear Pastor, Can I Come to Your Church? p. 32

Not often do I find myself reading one article after the next, thinking, Wow, I have a new understanding and a new vocabulary to help me wrestle with these timely issues. Case in point: Bradley Wright’s article about churches and implicit racial bias. As I read the piece, I cringed at times, wondering: Would I more readily greet a white family than a Hispanic family visiting my church?

As if that wasn’t enough food for thought, I turned the page and read Mark Yarhouse’s piece on gender dysphoria. I found the defining of terms helpful. Articles like these and the first-person narrative “Loving My Sister-Brother” challenge and encourage me. I feel more equipped with appropriate language and I am reminded, yet again, that extending grace and mercy to all is what it means to follow Jesus. Thank you.

Alicia Brummeler

Stony Brook, NY

Dear Pastor, Can I Come to Your Church?” was both relevant and well researched. Surely, “racism is under our skins.” However, there are numerous nuances to this question.

First, you and many others fail to distinguish between racial prejudice and cultural prejudice. Many years ago, when I studied under Peter Wagner at Fuller, a student asked him if the Congregational church Wagner attended would ever accept an African American pastor. His reply: “Yes, if he had the right accent.” As Christians we need to move out of our comfort zones and relate to others who need Christ. But the problem is sometimes cultural prejudice.

Second, we often hear that the most segregated time in America is on Sunday mornings, and segregated is pejorative. Yet have we bought into the politically correct view of pluralism, so that a congregation must have racial representation that reflects the general population? If we have bought into it, then there is guilt of prejudice. But your article recognizes that “birds of a feather flock together.” This is natural and normal.

As Christians we must reach across barriers in order to show the love of Christ, but your research indicates that white evangelicals are very welcoming to racial minorities. So there is something else going on: People of color choose not to attend many evangelical churches because those churches are simply not of their kin. They don’t like the music or worship styles, or they feel more comfortable with people with similar backgrounds and interests.

Richard J. Gehman

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Minneola, Florida

Your July/August cover story was relevant, helpful, and consciousness-raising. However, I was disturbed by the bar graphs on page 41 that measured racial bias by denomination.

The graphs were set up in two boxes delineating mainline and evangelical identity. Even though these boxes appeared on the same page, the mainline church box was significantly smaller in height than the evangelical. The casual reader could have interpreted the graph as meaning that evangelical churches were less biased than mainline churches.

For instance, the Episcopal Church bar was 82 percent, and was pictured with a bar graph of 3.5 inches. But that same 3.5-inch bar length represented the 59 percent of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Visually, the Episcopal Church looked equal to the SBC, despite a difference of 23 percent. The Willow Creek bars—none of which exceeded 74 percent—were an inch taller than the Episcopal 82 percent bar. This visual discrepancy would never pass muster in a research paper.

My question to the CT staff: Was this unequal depiction of percentages the result of an explicit or implicit denominational bias?

Christine Talbott

Hampden, ME

CT's Design Director replies:

The three sets of bar charts on pages 40–41 were intended to display denominational responses in a comparable way by basing all of the charts on the same vertical scale. Unfortunately, an error occurred during editing that resulted in the vertical scale being adjusted for some of the charts. We apologize for any impact this may have had on the perception of these charts. —AS

Understanding Gender Dysphoria p. 44

I’m confused. I’m confused about the transgender phenomenon. Apparently there is an exceedingly small percentage of people, mostly men, who are born with a disconnect between their brains and their bodies. Born with a male body, for example, they yearn to be female. Complicated, I know.

I’m confused as well, though, by the extraordinary media attention given to the story of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner.

To help with my confusion, I found very helpful the outstanding CT article by Mark Yarhouse. This is a fair, thorough, thoughtful article from a professional who seeks to understand this issue in order to provide a Christian response.

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Phil Eaton

From My Study blog, June 11

I want to commend Christianity Today for addressing key issues around transgenderism. I have had a pastoral ministry for 40 years and have learned that ministry is messy. That doesn’t mean not calling people to biblical discipleship, but where that goes for someone in pain is seldom simple. We need help thinking through the difficult ambiguities of human experience.

These articles are a good start, and though I’m sure you will get plenty of blowback, I hope they can open constructive exploration that is biblical, prayerful, and redemptive.

Norman Stolpe

Dallas, Texas

I just finished reading “Understanding Gender Dysphoria” and appreciate Yarhouse’s thoughtful comments on gender dysphoria and the three lenses he describes. But it seems that he may misuse the term redemption.

Redemption is the state of being bought at a cost. The cost is paid by none other than God himself, through Jesus Christ. We are redeemed from state A into state B: state A being that of willful disobedience to God, state B being the gift of gracious mercy to be righteous before a holy God.

Yarhouse seems to equate redemption with our acts of grace, mercy, and acceptance. If we are to be redeemed, from what are we being redeemed, if not from state A? Is it only “a result of living in a fallen world”? His admonition to “reject the teaching that gender identity conflicts are the result of willful disobedience or sinful choice” seems to contradict the concept of redemption.

As one who has lived with depression, however, I do get living in a fallen world.

James P. Bandstra

Friedens, Pennsylvania

The High Price of Faith in Action, p. 64

Thank you for publishing the interview with Melinda Gates. It revealed the heart of caring that the Gates Foundation acts out in more ways than I knew. As I read, I found myself weeping in gratitude for the financial success that God has entrusted to them, and for the obedience they have displayed by answering his call to give and keep on giving.

Patricia Cummings

Beaumont, California

Fashion Matters p. 74

Hoorah for a Christian fashion show! If you have tried to buy clothing recently for a girl age 10 or younger, you’re aware of how sexualized it has become. Shorts less than an inch long, two-piece bathing suits with bikini bottoms—the list goes on. For sale right beside them are boys’ shorts that come down to their knees. Little girls are taught to show as much skin as possible.

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Your magazine’s opening ad [in July/August was] for “the battle plan for purity,” which leads with, “Every man, married or single, faces temptation.” Some of these men are battling against using child pornography. Shouldn’t we be protecting our little girls from predators instead of showcasing their bodies in every venue possible?

How can Christian parents and grandparents make their voices heard by the fashion industry? This article offers a start.

Betty Hassler

Charlotte, North Carolina

From Jihad to Jesus p. 96

The [online] headline for the CT piece is, “Saved from Islam on September 11.” I winced a little when I read that, because having read Charles’s book, he looks on Islam in a more kindly way than the headline suggests. Nevertheless, the headline is accurate, if blunt, because it is true that all Christian converts are saved “from” some form of unbelief. If I were a Muslim, I would look at converts to Islam from Christianity as being saved “from” Christianity, because they are passing from unbelief to belief in what I believed with all my heart to be the true faith.

Read the whole thing—and, if you haven’t done so, buy Charles’s book [The Love That Matters]. It is a scandal that it has not gone to the top of the Christian bestseller list.

Rod Dreher

The American Conservative, August 21

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