June 3, 2015

Bruce Jenner & John Wesley

What would John Wesley say about Bruce Jenner’s professed transition, by hormones and surgery, to become a woman, appearing scantily clad, on the cover of Vanity Fair?

Sex change surgery would be an unknown topic to Wesley in his era except in the form of emasculating boys into eunuchs, which some eastern cultures still practiced, and which Wesley almost certainly abhorred.

But Wesley was certainly aware of cross dressing, which Deuteronomy 22:5 precludes:

“A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.”

Cross dressing was perhaps most identified in Wesley’s time with the decadent rich, like the infamous colonial governor of New York, the Earl of Clarendon, who reputedly strutted about Albany in a dress, telling colonists he dressed like a queen so as to represent their Queen.

With maybe such behavior in mind, Wesley commented on Deuteronomy 22:5 in his Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible:

Shall not wear – Namely, ordinarily or unnecessarily, for in some cases this may be lawful, as to make an escape for one’s life. Now this is forbidden, both for decency sake, that men might not confound those sexes which God hath distinguished, that all appearance of evil might be avoided, such change of garments carrying a manifest sign of effeminacy in the man, of arrogance in the woman, of lightness and petulancy in both; and also to cut off all suspicions and occasions of evil, which this practice opens a wide door to.

“Lightness and petulancy,” meaning unserious and peevish, certainly describes the popular culture of our current time. Wesley had more to say about modesty in dress and deportment that pertains to our era, its celebrity culture, and its preoccupation with desperate self promotion through flamboyant appearances. He urged selecting apparel that was “grave, not gay, airy, showy; not in the point of the fashion.” And be warned against an array of costly vanities:

Wear no gold . . . no pearls or precious stones; use no curling of hair, or costly apparel, how grave soever. I advise those who are able to receive this saying, Buy no velvets, no silks, no fine linen, no superfluities, no mere ornaments, though ever so much in fashion. Wear nothing, though you have it already, which is of a glaring colour, or which is any kind gay, glistening, or showy; nothing made in the very height of fashion, nothing apt to attract the eyes of by-standers.

Showy appearances feed vanity and egotistical self-aggrandizement, Wesley observed, and route resources away from good works towards the selfish and superficial. What would he say of sex change operations, cosmetic surgeries and decades of hormone treatments costing into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in pursuit of fuller self-actualization?

Wesley counseled against standing out dramatically through flashy garb: “Let an Englishman dress like an Englishman, not like a Turk or a Tartar. Let an English woman dress like other English women, not like a French woman, or a German.” And he urged, in decisions of appearance and cost: “Be clothed with glory and immortality,” and “regard those ornaments only that will accompany us into immortality.”

Imploring listeners to “feed the hungry, clothe the naked, relieve the sick, the prisoner, the stranger,” Wesley promised: “Then shall God clothe thee with glory and honor in the presence of men and angels; and ‘thou shalt shine as the brightness of the firmament,’ yea, ‘as the stars forever and ever.'”

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22 Responses to Bruce Jenner & John Wesley

  1. LeeRaleigh says:

    When I was still a UM, I heard Wesley pointed to often enough, but I have heard Wesley quoted more since I became a Southern Baptist 16 months ago than I did in the previous 10 years. It’s like the guy who holds his Bible up in the air and says whatever he wants to say, versus the guy who actually reads out loud what the Bible says. Actually, that’s not a metaphor.

    • yolo says:

      Most interesting observation. Thank you.

    • Brent White says:

      That’s because, in UMC circles, Wesley has become a cipher for anyone’s cause. It doesn’t matter what Wesley actually said or wrote about a topic, we UMCers know that if he were alive today, he would agree with us. Of course this is seen most readily in progressives’ efforts to change our church doctrine on sexuality.

      So credit goes to our Baptist brethren for caring about what Wesley actually said.

  2. Pudentiana says:

    Every time I read Wesley, it reminds me of why I remain a United Methodist. God help us to return to this vision.

    • Namyriah says:

      God helped me to leave the UM, along with many others. I don’t see it returning to its roots, but at least a few congregations keep the light burning.

    • bsdunek says:

      I feel the same way. I pray for the UMC every day – that our leaders follow the scruptures and use the wisdom they have been given.

  3. jim mitulski says:

    I just saw this article on a dissident Anglican website and was put off by the nasty tone. And when I think of how Anglican and Roman Catholic clergy look like when in full liturgical garb, I was even more dismayed. It’s ok if Cardinal Burke dresses extravagantly but not people with medically diagnosed gender dysphoria..

  4. John Donovan says:

    It’s no coincidence that Jenner is part of this Kardashian crowd, who are given millions for just promenading around wearing someone’s idea of what’s cool.

  5. MarcoPolo says:

    Aside from Caitlyn Jenner’s transition from being Bruce Jenner, this whole discussion actually does have merit.
    After careful consideration I’ve deduced that perhaps the single most ungodly characteristic among humans is Egotism, and it’s naughty cousin Narcissism.

    I do find the whole circus rather amusing, but then, the re-quoting of John Wesley, sounds more like a page from the Amish or Mennonite book of decorum.

    Thus providing even more reasons why I support living as a Nudist. Certainly no frills and showiness in my community of skin! Though I doubt that John Wesley would approve. And that’s too bad, because it’s certainly comfortable and cost effective.

    • JClarke says:

      ‘Egotism’ you mean pride.

      • MarcoPolo says:

        Yes, if one needs the simplistic Biblical word to describe what is also considered sinful.

        Self aggrandizement, Boastfulness, Egocentric, Conceit, Arrogance, Vanity, Self-esteem, Vainglory, Selfish….

        These things are what come between Man and God.

        • JClarke says:

          Pride isn’t a simplistic word I view it more as a catch-all term. You have a good thesaurus entry for pride going.

  6. BishopAndrewGeralesGentry says:

    Deuteronomy is as about as revenant to Christianity as horse manure is to space travel! It is so typical of “evangelicals” to quote Old Testament passages that they find supportive of their bigotry whilst very conveniently ignoring such wonderful directives as widows sleeping with their dead husband’s brother or putting to death anyone who does not observe the Sabbath given in the Tablet of the Law which 98% of Christians do not observe!

    • Diaris says:

      Apparently the apostles did not agree with you, because Deuteronomy is one of the most-quoted OT books in the NT, including several quotations from it by Jesus himself.

      We’re used to being called “bigots” by the faux Christians who use churches solely to advance the LGBT agenda, we’re used to it, no big deal. Apparently the faux Christians know nothing about the Bible except that it condemns their lifestyle.

      There will be plenty of clergy in hell, so “Reverend” and “Bishop” are not fireproof. Dante was right, the apostate clergy will be very low on the scale.

      • BishopAndrewGeralesGentry says:

        Your poor silly person. Do you not know your history? There was no bible until 325AD and it was the Church who gave us this book not the other way round. Do you not know that it is Jesus who is the Word not the Bible! Do you not know that Jesus along with the apostles often repudiated what much of accepted practice demanded in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Jesus certainly did not observe the Sabbath restrictions, nor did Peter or the others the kosher requirements and neither Jesus or his Apostles followed the exclusion of Gentiles. The Apostles accepted the first day of the week as the day to worship not the old Sabbath seventh day. Lastly the one true mark of your kind of Christian is the joy of assigning people to hell which places you dear friend in most danger of it!

        • Diaris says:

          Sorry, I had to stop at “there was no bible until 325AD.” That is awesome ignorance. Btw, Christians generally capitalize “Bible.”

          Tell us about your church. Progressives keep insisting that their liberal religion will attract people in droves because it is relevant and in tune with the young. Would you call your church a “mega-church”? How many people pack in every Sunday to hear you proclaim the gospel of progressivism? You don’t have to give an exact number, just round it off to the nearest thousand.

          • BishopAndrewGeralesGentry says:

            Your are in dire need of a history lesson and hopefully you will have one soon. Just FYI I proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ who is the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. I proclaim the Holy Trinity and the literal Resurrection of Jesus. I proclaim the Incarnation. I believe and teach the Nicene Creed. No we don’t call our church a “mega church” only the worshipers of the golden calf do that sir we call our church the Body of Christ. Lastly the tone of your posts are so betraying of hate and judgement that it will be a good and discerning thing to study and meditate on the parable of the sheep and the goats. Now you can stomp and spit and do whatever as I have far better things to do with my time that argue with one so self deceived.

          • Whatever says:

            Another pastor of a tiny church, bitter and envious. Instead of trolling evangelical blogs, why not do something to grow your church? Being a “bishop” of a church that could gather around a table at IHOP must be very unpleasant.

          • BishopAndrewGeralesGentry says:

            Being “Whatever” must be a challenge indeed. Having nothing better or more constructive to do than sad very sad attempts at sarcasm must be a drain on your both your time and reputation but to each his own. Remember “Whatever” Jesus said where to or three are gathered together in his Name including IHOP he is there. Your sentiments betray the so called “evangelical blogs” for what they are and none of that is either of Christ or his Kingdom. Now to follow an old Yiddish proverb and move on I bid you peace and pray that you can and will accept Jesus as Lord of of your Life.

          • csalafia says:

            Another evangelical who thinks worldly success, i.e. butts in seats, is equivalent to a successful church.

            God have mercy on your cold, black heart

          • Richard Kurtz says:

            You haven’t the slightest clue of what his church is like. I am a member of a conservitave church and wish the likes of you would just shut up.

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