Virtual Reality: Gender Identity and the Loss of Common Sense

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Virtual Reality: Gender Identity and the Loss of Common Sense

According to the TV news report, the staff at a public swimming pool in Seattle, Washington, was alerted that a man had intruded into the women’s locker room, where he had begun to undress. When the staff tried to remove the man, he said the law had changed and he had every right to be there. He returned a second time and began changing as a girls’ swim team was preparing for its practice. Outraged feminists complained that the new law had been poorly drafted and did not protect women and girls from predators.

A college in Canada is reconsidering its gender-neutral washroom policy in its dorms due to a number of instances of men using their cell-phone cameras “inappropriately” around the shower stalls.

In Illinois, the federal EEOC insists that a boy who identifies as a girl be given access to the girls’ locker room. The school had offered the boy a private bathroom of his own. But the EEOC insisted this was discriminatory, and the boy must have full access like any other girl.

What is going on in our society today, where longstanding safeguards of modesty, privacy, and respect for gender difference seem to have been thrown out overnight? What was common sense less than a decade ago, and had been for millennia, is now in many circles considered discrimination and bigotry. There are many factors at play in this change. But an important one is our increasing immersion in the human-created world of virtual reality and an increasing disconnect from the Creator’s nature.

We immerse ourselves in a world of glass and electronic screens, computers, videos, and handheld devices of all varieties. The lessons on these screens are human-centered, primarily teaching us to fulfill human desire whenever we can. They also remove us from encounters with the world of nature, which teaches us basic lessons about how God created and designed the world to operate.

A thoughtful examination of the way God made humanity reveals the wonderful differences between the sexes, the natural attraction between the genders, and the mysteries of romance and sex, which lead to procreation and the continuation of the race. These facts of nature lead us to understand that the well-being of both adults and children depends on the appropriate use of these faculties and gifts.

Indiscriminate mixing of the sexes at times and places of physical vulnerability provides opportunity for abuse, as well as temptation to sexual adventuring. The negative emotional impact of such experiences is well known. Further, children produced under these circumstances will almost invariably not have two parents committed to their care, well-being, and success. This also will harm society, as the greatest factor related to poverty is that of single parenting.

Thus, principles of modesty, appropriate privacy, and respect for gender differences are not just Christian virtues and teachings. They are widely understood as necessary foundations for a healthy society. Without such restraining principles, physical chastity, emotional balance, and the welfare of children will be harmed.

In our fallen world, these principles were and are often violated. But until very recently, the ideal of gender respect and civil sanctity was generally understood as an important goal to strive for. It is not just Christian societies that had separate facilities for men and women, but almost all cultures and nations. Nature itself helped all peoples understand the importance of these principles.

Deeper Insights from Scripture

The Bible’s teachings on decency, modesty, and respect for gender difference give Christians a special insight into the importance of these principles. Jewish priests were told to minister in a way that would not unduly expose their nakedness, in contrast to pagan religious rituals of the day (Ex. 20:26).

The Old Testament injunctions against sexual relations outside marriage, and the forbidding of various kinds of sexual relations among related family members, are couched in a command to not “uncover their nakedness” (see Lev. 18:6-19). This refers to abstaining from sexual conduct, but the euphemism recognizes that “nakedness” with others is associated with and often leads to sexual behavior.

Nakedness is also associated with impure worship. When Aaron made the golden calf, part of the pagan worship involved nudity; when Moses came down he saw that the “people were naked . . . unto their shame among their enemies” (Ex. 32:25).* David’s downfall to sexual sin and eventually murder began with a look across into Bathsheba’s washroom (2 Sam. 11:2-3).

Christ Himself acknowledged that sexual sin starts with the thoughts and desires; adultery begins not as a physical act, but as a look that leads to lust—treating someone simply as an object of sexual desire (Matt. 5:28). Paul especially enjoins women to dress in “modest” clothing (1 Tim. 2:9), and for all Christians to avoid even the “appearance of evil,” which would include immodest gender mixing (1 Thes. 5:22).

Our Responsibility as Christian Citizens

Even if our society is forgetting the teachings and lessons of nature, we ourselves are reminded of them by our Bibles. But these truths are not just for us. Society’s changing laws and mores regarding modesty impact all of us, including our children.

Our pioneers knew they could not keep the truths of temperance reform and the abolition of slavery for themselves and fellow church members. Biblical teachings on these matters made them especially sensitive to the principles from nature of human dignity and the responsibility of temperance and stewardship for all of society. They were active in efforts to shape laws to protect these values.

Likewise, we have a responsibility as citizens to speak out for proper civil moral principles of gender decency and respect. We can call our society away from the idols of immodesty and impurity found on our screens of virtual reality, and remind them of the Creator’s natural principles of decency and respect for human dignity in the area of gender and sexuality.

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Notes:

Dr. Miller’s recent book, The Reformation and the Remnant (Pacific Press, 2016), includes a chapter exploring the impact of our culture’s changing standards of sexuality and gender on religious freedom, society, and the church.

* Bible texts are from the King James Version.

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Nicholas Miller, J.D., Ph.D., is an attorney and director of the Lake Union Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department, as well as professor of church history at the Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. Dr. Miller has argued many church/state cases in state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.