ON THE SHELF
What Your Peers Are Reading
Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture By Mark A. Yarhouse Review by Stephen T. Beers, Vice President for Student Development, Athletics and Facilities Services, John Brown University
Western culture is in the midst of being reconstructed. In this postmodern world, we are engaging in new conversations. Emerging questions will force us to outline acceptable sexual practices within our communities and evaluate how we understand birth sex, gender and gender acquisition. Policies, procedures and practices on college campuses are coming under review, impacting which students can live in which residence halls and who are acceptable faculty and staff candidates. We who are Christian leaders must engage in meaningful discussions about gender dysphoria, especially with those we lead and serve. We will be required to develop or defend policies consistent with our informed beliefs. In this complex new world, Dr. Mark Yarhouse’s voice is again worth listening to in his latest book, Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture. I appreciated his work regarding homosexuality in 2010 (Homosexuality and the Christian); in this new book, Yarhouse provides the research, language and insight to begin to allow us to navigate this new world with integrity, compassion and civility. 51
ADVANCE | FALL 2015
The book is organized into a simple sevenchapter format covering the following topics: appreciating the complexity, a Christian perspective, causation, prevalence, treatment, and two final chapters on a Christian response, both individually and institutionally. Spoiler alert: Yarhouse’s assessment of causation is “We don’t know.” Perhaps most helpful for those in policy development roles are the final two chapters where Yarhouse provides three “postures” towards those working through gender dysphoria: an “integrity” or sacred posture; a “disability” or compassionate posture; and a “diversity” or identity/community posture. Yarhouse grounds his writing in research and study, weaving real life stories from his ongoing counseling practice throughout the book. This texture of research and narrative enables the reader to understand the theory while getting a small glimpse into how these issues look in real life. Yarhouse provides a compelling description of the complexity. His clarifying language enables the faithful to engage in conversations without automatically offending or talking past each other. The audience for this book is clearly individual Christians, the church, and Christian institution leaders. Yarhouse is in the fold and works overtime to help his brothers and sisters distinguish sacred from fallen culture. He clarifies what is at stake. His writing and presentation style are disarming, critically useful in a world that is increasingly polarized and hostile. Yarhouse takes great pains to answer the questions that he knows the audience is pondering. Mark Yarhouse is knowledgeable, instructive and compassionate. These attributes are helpful for those working through the topic of gender dysphoria and also to those of us who are new to this conversation. We may not all agree with his final suggestions, but it is worth taking the time to consider the content of this text.
Mapping Your Academic Career: Charting the Course of a Professor’s Life By Gary M. Burge Review by Phil Howard, Professor of Leadership Development and Spiritual Formation, Toccoa Falls College
To teach, to truly be an educator in Christian higher education, is an expression of vocation and involves a lifetime of formation. It is the wise and generative educator who regularly inquires into the nuances of one’s identity formation and vocational opportunities within a changing educational context. Gary Burge frames this process by pointing out that, “unless we understand our place in the natural stages of life and see how we are developing and changing, unless we are truly mindful, we will miss new and rewarding opportunities.” Gary Burge is a highly respected author and professor of New Testament Studies, who serves as an exemplar of academic vocational development. In so doing, he portrays the essential “task within the task” of college professors and administrators at any stage of life, that of coming to “value who they are within the tasks that they do.” After almost 30 years of professing, Burge’s intent in this book is to help professors flourish as people and educators. This is a necessary and admirable task, and he accomplishes it with tremendous insight. Borrowing heavily from various