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Love Your Neighbor, or Mandate Tolerance?

Just yesterday, I mentioned on by personal Facebook page that I had added “transgender” to my list of terms that I wish I could block from my news feed. It’s neither the word nor the people it describes that sicken me, but rather the ignorant and inconsiderate attitudes that just about everyone displays when discussing the transgender bathroom issue.

And then this morning, here comes this story: U.S. Directs Public Schools to Allow Transgender Access to Restrooms. So, I guess “transgender” will be one of the key words in what promises to be the most cacophonous presidential campaign season in history.

“The Obama administration,” the story says, “is planning to issue a sweeping directive telling every public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.”

From later in the story: “It does not have the force of law, but it contains an implicit threat: Schools that do not abide by the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid.”

No doubt some more sophisticated conservatives will argue that this is really a “states rights” issue, that the federal government should not be involved in K-12 education. If the federal government did not use the carrot-and-stick system of generous grants that come with strict compliance rules, then states and localities could do a better job educating students.

This analysis is right as far as it goes—the Constitution, of course, does not authorize any involvement in education whatsoever—but it’s the very nature of public education that ensures that education policy will always be driven by politics.

And we know that political solutions, by definition, place little value on the needs of each individual.

Transgender bathrooms, Common Core, evolution v. creationism, school prayer, dress codes, mandatory drug testing, sex education—all of these issues waste educational resources and estrange people from each other because government has severely constrained the one thing that works to improve quality and promote social harmony in every area in which it’s allowed to operate: the ability of the individual to choose.

Separating school from state would allow each school to set its own policy, and would not keep anyone locked in to a school whose policy they oppose—no arguments, no lawsuits, and nobody’s rights violated.

Instead, we have another front in the “culture war.” One side talks a lot about whether or not we should tolerate, condone, or accept people who are different from us. The other side insists that everyone should me made to tolerate, condone, and accept people who are different from us.

People who make statements like that are claiming that they are righteous enough to judge and wise enough to how other people think and behave—an exquisitely presumptuous variant of hypocrisy.

Love isn’t love unless it’s freely given by someone who can choose not to give it. That’s why government imposing one policy for every public school is more likely to keep hearts hardened  and minds closed.

I don’t pretend to understand people why some people consider themselves transgender. But I’m certain that Jesus requires His followers to first love each transgender person as a person. That approach, unlike the political one, has some chance to produce something good.