Athletic Distorter

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Female sports teams are in the news these days, from Don Imus’s verbal slam of the Rutgers basketball team to the ongoing discussion of whether Title IX requirements have ruined the possibility of male sports programs on many American high schools and colleges. But, a bit less noticed, is a major American newspaper’s male sports columnist who, well, wants to throw like a girl.

Mike Penner, sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times, announced in his column Thursday that he’ll be taking a few weeks of vacation, after which he’ll be returning in a “new incarnation,” as he put it. Scratch that. He said that after the vacation she’ll be returning. You see, Mike Penner will be Christine.

Mike told his readers that he has discovered he is transsexual, that his brain is “wired to be female.” And so he plans to surgically arrange his anatomy to fit his brain wiring. He takes the opportunity to assure his readers that he is not a stereotype, a troubled candidate for the Jerry Springer Show.

Indeed, it is the reactions of Penner’s colleagues, as relayed by him, that are perhaps the most indicative of the ongoing culture shift on such things. Penner writes:

To my everlasting amazement, friends and colleagues almost universally have been supportive and encouraging, often breaking the tension with good-natured doses of humor. When I told my boss Randy Harvey, he leaned back in his chair, looked through his office window to scan the newsroom and mused, “Well, no one can ever say we don’t have diversity on this staff.”

Penner speaks of this almost as a conversion testimony. He contrasts “old Mike” with “new Christine” in a way reminiscent of the apostle Paul’s language of the “old man” and the “new man.” Sadly, a surgical mutilation does not a woman make, and a “new incarnation” does not bring about a new creation. But it will take people who love Mike, not those who see him as a diversity statistic, to show him so.

Let’s pray for Mike, even as he hides beneath the facade of Christine. He is not a freak, and he is not beyond redemption. He is confused, and deceived. Everyone is, apart from Christ, just about different things. Let’s hope that old Mike, now old Christine, will one day, through the power of the Spirit and the blood of Christ, give way to the “new Mike.”

Only when we see how lost we are, we can find our way again. Only when we bury what’s dead can we experience life again. Only when we lose our religion can we be amazed by grace again.


About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Editor in Chief of Christianity Today and is the author of the forthcoming book Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America (Penguin Random House).