After the successful blitzkrieg of Hitler’s forces, Great Britain (and the rest of the watching world) pleaded with the United States to open another front. US troops eventually swept through Africa and did just that.

It’s time for the church to open another front on the transgender revolution.

It’s no shock that transgenderism is a rare topic in church history. But some of the driving components, such as depression, isolation, meaninglessness, and social pressure, qualify as “nothing new under the sun.” The transgender revolution is fundamentally a crisis of holiness and happiness. Two subjects Christians should feel right at home in discussing.

In his classic work Holiness (a must read), J. C. Ryle (1816–1900), an evangelical Anglican Bishop, stressed a strong connection between holiness and happiness. [1]

He wrote, “Let us feel convinced, whatever others may say, that holiness is happiness, and that the man who gets through life most comfortably is the sanctified man.”

With the transgender revolution, we’re not just facing the rejection of God’s blueprint for sexuality—we’re facing a crisis in God’s blueprint for happiness.

We already preach (or at least we should) holiness. Now, let’s be sure to preach happiness. As the Bible, Ryle, and church history teach us, holiness and happiness are two sides of the same coin.

The Happiness Problem

I was raised in “purity culture.” I’m thankful for the teachers who instilled God’s law and design for marriage into my heart. But today’s kids inherit a different playing field. It may surprise you, but teen pregnancy and sexual acts amongst Gen Z are lower than previous decades. Addressing the trans movement will require more—but not less—than addressing purity.

Abigail Shirer’s outstanding work in Irreversible Damage revealed a disturbing, but not unexpected, trend. She documented the stories of young girls who “came out” as trans without showing any previous signs. These girls disproportionately had friend clusters identifying as trans. What was the common thread Shirer identified? The desire for happiness. [2]

The gospel of the trans movement promises a better life for those who “correct” their biology. The movement, perpetuated through mainstream cultural outlets, teaches that only when you can authentically express yourself and be affirmed, can you attain happiness. As pointed out by several pastors and thinkers, just listen to the popular Disney song, “Let it Go” if you want a deeper understanding of the culture’s uncompromising philosophy of happiness and selfhood. [3]

Feeling alienated, unheard, and unwanted, personalities on social media can assure these curious teens that the answer for happiness is out there. If you transition, you will feel normal. You will gain followers. You will finally have a community.

In short, Gen Z is transitioning because they think it will make them happy. The most anxious generation is also the generation trekking the most damaging path to happiness.

But it’s a failed road to happiness according to statistics and, more importantly, God’s design for human flourishing.

The Happiness Solution

While caricatures may portray Christians as buzzkills, the people of God have always contemplated what it means to be happy. This shouldn’t surprise us since God has given us the keys in his word to understanding the deepest impulses of human nature.

Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Now, the ultimate end of man, and of every intellectual substance, is called felicity or happiness, because this is what every intellectual substance desires as an ultimate end, and for its sake alone.”

Sound familiar? The Westminster shorter catechism also states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Or you may have heard John Piper who says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

As we return to J. C. Ryle, he stated that “the grand test of a person’s faith and religion is this: does it make them happy?”

Pastors and teachers, happiness is good. To long for happiness is to be human. While the trans movement is pushing the wrong solutions, it is asking the right question. What will make me happy?

Thankfully, Christians hold a book with a blueprint for happiness. And not just a fleeting sentimentality. But the path to authentic joy. Holiness is the solution to the happiness problem of the transgender revolution.

If we preach holiness without happiness, we’ve preached neither. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8). If the fight for purity in the heart does not culminate with the promise of delight in the heart, then holiness is just legalism.

God has spoken. “How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked.” (Psalm 1:1 CSB)

Does the wicked advice from transgender ideology have to fill in the gaps we miss in our gospel presentation? Or are we, like Aquinas, the Westminster divines, Ryle, Piper, and a whole cloud of witnesses, connecting our pursuit of God with our pursuit of happiness? To know him is to love him. And to know him we must see him. Without holiness, no one will see him (Heb. 12:14).

The gospel’s answer to man’s greatest desire is not to conform our bodies to our feelings but to conform our lives to God’s calling. Sanctification. That is the only way to be truly happy. Let’s open that front.


Notes and recommended resources:

[1] J.C. Ryle, Holiness, also see Happiness.

[2] Abigail Shrier, Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters (Washington D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2019).

[3] See especially Carl R. Trueman The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020). For a more condensed treatment, see Trueman’s Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution.

Another work to consider on this topic is Ryan Anderson, When Harry Became Sally.