March 17, 2023 | Read time: 6 minutes | Read online
Preschool-age hands hold a remote displaying buttons for YouTube and Netflix. Ridley Jones, a Netflix series for preschoolers, recently featured a nonbinary character coming out and desiring to be called "they." © By Tricky Shark/
Preschool-age hands hold a remote displaying buttons for YouTube and Netflix. Ridley Jones, a Netflix series for preschoolers, recently featured a nonbinary character coming out and desiring to be called “they.” © By Tricky Shark/
Netflix show for preschoolers features nonbinary character “coming out”
“My heart says that the way I feel most myself is to go by the name ‘Fred.’ That’s because I’m nonbinary and Fred is the name that fits me best. And I also use ‘they’ and ‘them,’ because calling me a she or a he doesn’t feel right to me.” This is how a character “comes out” on a recent episode of Ridley Jones, a Netflix cartoon for two to four-year-olds.

This is just one way popular culture is normalizing LGBTQ ideology for children. As another example, Marvel is announcing its Pride Month Star Wars comic book covers for this June. And the first annual Children’s and Family Emmy Awards honored a “Muppet Babies” episode in which the character Gonzo tries on dresses and uses they/them pronouns to identify as nonbinary. Netflix’s Heartstopper won the most awards; the drama centers on a romantic relationship between two teen boys in England.

Christian school barred from future competition

The Mid Vermont Christian School girls basketball team refused last month to compete against a transgender student due to concerns that playing a biological male would endanger the team’s female players. Now the school has been barred from competing in any Vermont Principals’ Association-sponsored competitions across all sports.

Meanwhile, members of the Randolph Union High School girls volleyball team in Vermont were banned from using the girls’ locker room after objecting to a transgender student changing there. One student responded, “I feel like for stating my opinion—that I don’t want a biological male changing with me—that I should not have harassment charges or bullying charges. They should all be dropped.”

And several members of Congress wrote a letter this week urging the US ambassador-at-large for religious freedom to turn his attention to the worsening treatment of Christians in the United Kingdom.

Some British Christians have been arrested for praying silently outside abortion clinics; one was cited for displaying an “Unborn Lives Matter” bumper sticker on his car. A chaplain was reported as a terrorist and blacklisted by his diocese for telling students at a Church of England school that they are free to accept or reject LGBT activists’ claims. Another official was formally rebuked by the church’s highest-ranking clerics and reported to the police for opposing the sexualization of children on social media.

The fourfold strategy for cultural transformation

For years I have been describing the fourfold strategy for cultural transformation: normalize beliefs, legalize actions, stigmatize opposition, then criminalize opponents. However, there are two problems with my analysis.

One is that it might suggest that these “stages” can be completed one before the next. In fact, cultural change requires all four in a constant state of cultural application.

The less “normal” the behavior in question (such as the killing of unborn babies), the more it must continually be “normalized.” As society begins to accept this “new normal,” its behaviors can then progressively be legalized (from same-sex marriage to polygamy, for example). Such “progress” will inevitably spark disagreement, which is why opposition must be stigmatized (such as branding biblical marriage advocates as “homophobes”). To defeat such critics, their opposition must ultimately be criminalized (as we are seeing in the UK today).

The other problem with my analysis is that it might suggest that these “stages” are primarily transacted on political and legal grounds. In fact, we are seeing them much more widely practiced by popular culture and voluntary organizations.

Netflix, for example, can seek to normalize LGBTQ ideology among preschoolers more easily (and perhaps effectively) than advocates could accomplish through school curricula overseen by elected school boards. And local school officials can enforce LGBTQ ideology more easily (and perhaps effectively) than federal mandates might accomplish.

When Oral Roberts made the Sweet Sixteen in last year’s men’s basketball tournament, there were calls for the NCAA to exclude the school due to its alleged homophobic policies. Since the NCAA is a private organization, it can do what it wants in this regard. I predict we will see similar pressure brought to bear against evangelical schools by academic societies and other private organizations.

“I would not be a citizen where Jesus was an alien”

David prayed, “I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers” (Psalm 39:12). Charles Spurgeon commented: “I walk through this sinful world as a pilgrim in a foreign country. Thou art a stranger in Thine own world. Man forgets Thee, dishonors Thee, sets up new laws and alien customs, and knows thee not” (his emphasis).

Spurgeon was right: When Jesus came into the world, “The world was made through him, yet the world did not know him” (John 1:10). This was true even of his own people: “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (v. 11).

When you are living in a foreign land, you have a binary choice: you can adopt the language, customs, and culture where you live, or you can remain as you are. The pressure to do the former is intense: everyone wants to be liked, to fit in, to be valued by others. For example, being branded an intolerant “homophobe” who engages in a “war on women” is something few of us want. It is far easier to go along to get along.

But if we would follow Jesus, we must refuse and resist the continuing normalization of unbiblical immorality. To do this, let’s pray daily for the ability to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). Let’s seek to join “the mature . . . who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14).

Then let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to lead and empower us (Ephesians 5:18) as we “fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Let’s remember that “God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (v. 14). And let’s remember that we are indeed sojourners in this foreign land and that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20).

Spurgeon prayed, “Lord, I would not be a citizen where Jesus was an alien.”

Would you make his commitment your prayer today?


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Jim Denison, PhD, is a cultural theologian

and the founder and CEO of Denison Ministries, which includes:


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