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How Discernment Ministries Use Statistics to Distort the News and Inflame Christians

faithwire headline
Headline and Graphic from Faithwire Article

We live in a time where we are inundated with statistics. We also live in a time where the average American lacks a basic understanding of statistics and how to interpret them. For example, imagine me writing that there’s been a 200 percent increase in deaths from the flu vaccine (this is a made-up stat). Why, many people would lose their collective minds, thinking that the flu vaccine is killing millions of people. Most people are headline surfers. Few would actually read my article so they could gain a proper understanding of the statistics behind the headline. If they had read my article, they would have learned that, historically, two out of every 100,000 vaccinated people annually die from the flu vaccine. In 2020, one out of every 100,000 vaccinated people died from the vaccine. In 2021, the death rate jumped to two out of 100,000 vaccinated people. Is this an alarming increase? Of course not. Yet, many people will read the headline and think that the flu vaccine is killing people in droves.

Some websites and blogs love to use statistics to advance their political, social, and religious agenda. Evangelicals — a group of Christians who generally believe we are living in the end times; that the return of Jesus is imminent; that the world will become worser and worser 🙂 until Jesus raptures them off the face of the earth — love to use, misuse, and distort statistics to advance their Fundamentalist agenda.

Take Protestia, a “discernment” site originally operated by disgraced Calvinistic pastor J.D. Hall. Discernment ministries came of age in the 2000s. I have been following Evangelical sites such as Protestia (previously Pulpit and Pen), The Dissenter (previously Reformed Charlotte, operated by Jeff Maples), Christian Research Network (started by the late Ken Silva, an arch-nemesis of mine), Michelle Lesley, Lighthouse Trail Research, Way of Life Literature (David Cloud), and others since their inception. Initially, these groups focused on rooting out and attacking perceived heresy and heretics in their midst. They pride themselves in calling out by name preachers, colleges, denominations, and churches who fail their theological and social purity tests. Over time, their “discernment” has become more extreme; more political; more hysterical. They have now become sites that are “keepers of the flame” or “keepers of the book of life.” These gnostics — people who think they have some sort of elevated or inside knowledge about and experience with God — now routinely decree who is and isn’t saved. They are the Pharisees of Evangelical Christianity.

The current king of the discernment hill is Protestia. Known for their hateful anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, the boys at Protestia published a post today with a headline that stated: ‘Gender-Affirming’ Mastectomies in Children Spike 389% From 2016 to 2019. Protestia’s post was an excerpt of a Faithwire post with the same title. The goal of both articles was to enflame the anti-transgender hysteria presently burning through the Evangelical community.

Is the latest wave of the sexual revolution really targeting children? Protestia decided to excerpt the Faithwire article before giving its readers the context necessary to properly understand their inflammatory headline:

In 2016, roughly 100 children went under the knife for the procedures. Just a handful of years later, in 2019, that number soared to 489 — a 389% increase.

The findings were based on statistics gathered by the Nationwide Ambulatory Surgery Sample, which found 1,130 chest reconstruction surgeries were performed on children from 2016 to 2019. More than 98% of those procedures were masculinizing, meaning they were performed on females who had their breasts removed. Only 1.4% were feminizing mammaplasties, augmenting but not removing breast tissue.

Of the children who underwent these “gender-affirming” surgeries, nearly 20% were also placed on hormone therapy, presumably to address their gender dysphoric diagnoses.


As for the new research, the data shows the patients who underwent double mastectomies ranged in age from 12 to 17 years old. While the majority were 17, roughly 5.5% were reportedly under 14.

For context, the researchers estimated there are currently around 300,000 adolescents in the U.S. between the ages of 13 and 17 who identify as transgender.

Context is everything, right? Is the statistical increase significant? Sure. But the statistics in the aforementioned article tell us that few “children” are getting gender-affirming surgery; and that of the “children” who do, the majority of them are seventeen.

The only way to understand the Protestia and Faithwire articles is through the lens of their hatred and hostility towards LGBTQ people in general, and transgender people in particular. Certainly, there is debate to be had on gender-affirming surgery, and a host of other sex/gender issues, but that’s not the goal of the “fine” Christians at Protestia and Faithwire. Their goal is to provide a daily diet of red meat culture war issues; posts that reaffirm their hatred of the “world.”

Please read Cutting through the Lies and Misinterpretations about the Updated Standards of Care for the Health of Transgender and Gender Diverse People by Dr. AJ Eckert and Dr. Quinnehtukqut McLamore on the Science-Based Medicine website for accurate information on gender-affirming surgery.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    As an Intersex person I just want to point out something that you and many of your readers may not know and that is Lupron which is a popular puberty blocker was discovered many years ago that it causes devastating bone and joint problems that will cripple a person later in life. There are class action lawsuits against it and some of the other blockers. I was lucky that my parents declined to put me on it because it used to be given to intersex kids that through their abnormal hormone levels actually went through early puberty which I unfortunately suffered with. Speaking as someone who also has severe joint pain for other reasons, namely I also have an autoimmune illness plus Ehlers Danlos syndrome, Lyme arthritis, broke several bones and suffered tendon damage from taking fluoroquinolone antibiotics I think we should as responsible adults do everything to prevent kids from taking a medication that is almost guaranteed to cripple them up later in life. I have been walking with a cane since my 30’s and I cringe thinking of how many transgender people may eventually end up suffering similar pain and disability. I know many things can cause joint pain, but we shouldn’t give children medication that we KNOW will hurt them later on. I seriously doubt these kids nor their parents are even told what the bad side effects are for these medications and hormone treatments because few of my doctors ever mention possible side effects from any kind of medicine I have ever been prescribed. For the doctors it’s all about the money and there is BIG MONEY being made in these gender clinics. Let the kids change their hair and manner of dress, names, etc. if they want because all of those things can easily be reversed and cause no harm as some kids actually do change their minds later on. I know several people who transitioned as adults who changed their mind after several years and regret their medical treatments.

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    I admit that I have not thoroughly researched trans care specifically. I know some adults who have gotten trans care for themselves, and they are happy now because they were able to get the care they need.

    I think the study of statistics should be required in school curriculum. My husband, daughter, and I had to take statistics in college as part of requirements for our majors. My son took AP Statistics in high school because he knew statistics would be required for his chosen major. At the very least, we learned to examine graphs, charts, and whether causation or correlation are being discussed. Sample size, the institution or researchers or organizations compiling the data are important, as well as who is funding the research. These are all potential biases.

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      Barbara L. Jackson

      I agree that no one should leave high school without a basic understanding of statistics. I do not know many times I have had to explain the difference between average and median to people especially when I was programming software for them.

      Also, we should just let people be who they want to be. There should be no absolute line socially between male and female. I worked in software programming when there were few women there.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    As a trans person, I really wish that we had as much influence over this culture as Fundangelicals and other haters would have people believe. Then again, most trans people I know (and I) would use that power to help people accept themselves, and others, as they are. We are not ”recruiting” or “grooming” anybody, nor are we leading society down a path to iniquity.

    About statistics: Although I earned my degrees in the humanities, I took a stats course when I thought I would be a science/premed major. I am so glad I did because it’s enabled me to cut through a lot of hype and hysteria.

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    “And the greatest act of disobedience….”

    I’m confused. I thought the greatest act of disobedience was to reject Christ. Are you saying transgenderism is actually the unforgiveable sin, not blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? I think I need your theology explained to me in simple terms. Use small words please.

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    Nope, no “eternal consequences,” RF. Until otherwise demonstrated empirically, we all just die and remain so. Pity that you’ve put yourself in thrall to the delusion that a god would be arsed to keep someone like you alive for eternity, for the dubious pleasure of your company. 😀

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