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Bias, Bigotry & The Benedict Option

Look at this tweet by the CNN anchor:

You can read the whole thread here, on his Twitter feed [3].

I bring this up not for clickbait reasons, but because it says a hell of a lot about why it’s so difficult to talk about the broad LGBT issue in a way that would satisfy the concerns of folks like Emma Green and Matthew Loftus. Here’s what David French has to say about the Cuomo tweet: [4]

Not long ago, if school policies purposefully exposed girls to male genitals, they’d be subject to a backbreaking sexual harassment lawsuit. Suddenly, however, “tolerance” looks a lot like indecent exposure, and indecent exposure is what freedom looks like. This is beyond strange. I’m certain Cuomo would still object to a member of the football team walking straight into a girl’s locker room and disrobing, but he not only doesn’t object to the exact same anatomical features if they’re attached to a trans “girl,” he condemns those who feel uncomfortable. If the declaration that “preteen girls shouldn’t see penis at school” doesn’t resonate, I wonder if there’s really any hope for a common moral language when discussing the sexual revolution.

In this circumstance, not even consent — the final moral firewall — matters. We used to be told that boys and girls should shielded from unwelcome sexual images. Now we’re told that they can be exposed to genitalia even over their strenuous objection, and they’re intolerant if they argue otherwise. Extraordinary.

I completely agree. For Cuomo, this is about nothing other than tolerance. I find that to be morally insane. I mean that seriously: morally insane.

What’s so extraordinary about this is that Cuomo doesn’t even think there’s a rational argument to be made against his view. It’s all bigotry. Because a father doesn’t want his 12 year old daughter to have to see a naked boy’s penis in her high school locker room.

In her review [5] of The Benedict Option [6], Emma Green observed:

Nothing in this language suggests that Dreher is ready to live tolerantly alongside people with different views. If progressives wrote about the Bible as “a lot of babble about Jesus and God,” using language similar to that of the parent Dreher cites, he would be quick to cry foul against the ignorance and intolerance of the left; his language is dismissive and mocking, and he peppers in conspiratorial terms like the “LGBT agenda.” At times, it seems like the goal of the Benedict option is just as much about getting away from gay people as it is affirming the tenets of Christianity. The book seems to suggest that mere proximity to people with alternative beliefs about sexuality, and specifically LGBT people, is a threat to Christian children and families.

As I said in this space yesterday [7], it astonishes me that this is how she read the relatively small parts of the book that deal with homosexuality (and do so in the context of resisting the entire Sexual Revolution, which I see as profoundly antithetical to orthodox Christianity). More Green:

Of course, it will be impossible for conservative Christians to fully escape any aspect of mainstream culture, including people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans. In fact, many of those people grew up in Christian households much like Dreher’s, or may identify with the feelings of cultural homelessness he describes. Their lives implicitly pose the hard question Dreher has failed to engage: How should Christians be in fellowship with people unlike them—including those who feel aggrieved by the church and its teachings?

To his credit, Dreher nods to this, ever so briefly. “The angry vehemence with which many gay activists condemn Christianity is rooted in part in the cultural memory of rejection and hatred by the church,” he writes. “Christians need to own up to our past in this regard and to repent of it.” He does little to specify these past errors, though, and he never tries to answer the broader question: how Christians can live as one people among many in America without learning how to respect and relate to those who challenge their beliefs.

I don’t want to rehash yesterday’s response to the Green piece — you can read it here if you like [7] — but I do want to point out that she has done me a favor. Several friends have told me privately that this is exactly how the mainstream secular media is going to read the book. One sympathetic friend who works in the national media said that it’s going to be impossible for most liberals to read this book with an open mind, because they are feeling so besieged by Trump that they lash out reflexively at anything culturally conservative.

The thing is, it’s not just cultural liberals. At Mere Orthodoxy, the Evangelical Matthew Loftus writes, commenting on Emma Green’s review: [8]

Rod rightfully acknowledges that Christians do need to repent of the ways in which we have harmed gay Christians in the past and briefly mentions the need to love LGBT people, but then brushes off any concern that he needs to spell this out any further. Quite frankly, this doesn’t cut the mustard because all sorts of Christian mistreatment of LGBT people comes under the banner of “love”. I am sure that Rod means what he says by this, but the problem is that his readers don’t know.

By not being more specific, Rod does not distinguish himself between those who have harmed gay Christians in the past. Would forbidding someone who is gay and celibate to be employed by a church be “mistreatment”? (This is by no means a given, as many celibate LGBT people can attest to). Would letting one’s child spend time at a friend’s house with gay parents “disrupt our ongoing formation in truth”? What would “love and hospitality” mean if a child in Rod’s church realized he or she was gay? In places where Christians do continue to mistreat LGBT people, how do we root that out? If we are trying to avoid the “LGBT agenda” and that agenda is usually carried out by people, how do we relate to those people?

More:

If Rod and other BenOp enthusiasts want non-Christians to parse between not wanting LGBT activists to drive Christians out of business and not wanting to get away from LGBT people, they’re going to have to start that parsing themselves because Christians have failed to do this over and over in the last few decades. If they don’t want journalists to make bad faith assumptions about their work, they’re going to have to stop making bad faith assumptions about every possible manifestation of LGBT activism. Most importantly, if we expect the Church to endure the threat posed by the Sexual Revolution (and thrive beyond it!), then explaining how Christians love and serve LGBT people– particularly under the regime which the BenOp anticipates– is inevitably part of bearing witness. A Benedict Option that isn’t good for LGBT people will not stand the test of time.

Read the whole thing.  [8] I take it as a good-faith effort to challenge me, and hope that this response is taken in kind.

It is difficult — really difficult — to come up with hard and fast rules for how Christians are supposed to respond to LGBT people. Do Christians have hard and fast rules for how Christians are supposed to respond to heterosexuals who are living outside Christian sexual norms? Not really, and if they do, I’ve never seen the list. On the other hand, St. Paul is pretty clear in 1 Corinthians 5 [9], at least concerning those within the church:

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. I was not including the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a verbal abuser, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

What business of mine is it to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”

Do we know better than St. Paul? Are we prepared to say that? If you are a believing Christian and you can dismiss this passage without a second thought, then you are not as serious about the faith as you ought to be. And I would say that if you are a Christian who can accept it without at least a twinge of conscience about people you know in your own life, you are not taking those people seriously enough.

I think the various circumstances under which we may be tested in this way are endless. Matthew is right that Christians are going to have to start parsing this, but it’s hard to know where to start. The only people who have an airtight case are those who accept everything, and those who reject everything. Most of us live in the broad middle, and work our way through these challenges as they present themselves in real life — always remembering that we are dealing with flesh-and-blood people, not ideological abstractions. This is not easy! For example, I’ve told my own kids on many occasions that there is nothing that can separate them from the love of their father. I’ve even explicitly told them that if they were gay, I would feel the same way. But loving them doesn’t obligate me to say that something I do not believe is true, is true.

Many of us white Southerners have had the experience of learning how to love aged relatives who hold horribly racist beliefs, but who are otherwise compassionate people. Many gays have had the experience of learning how to love family members who reject their sexuality, but not them personally. Many straight Christians have been challenged on how to love their gay friends and family while still holding firm to their convictions. These situations are only easy for people who are willing to reduce flesh-and-blood human beings to nothing more than their opinions. Whether you’re a Christian or not, I believe this is almost always a bad way to live.

Matthew raises the question of what, exactly, is a Benedict Option that’s “good for gay people”. Well, what is good? For orthodox Christians, the answer is to live obediently to what we are told is true — and that means lifelong celibacy for gays, as well as unmarried heterosexuals. We cannot abandon what we know to be true, even though it’s a hard saying, especially today. (More on this shortly.) I would submit that learning how to love and serve people who don’t share our beliefs, and who are sinners (as are we) is what serious Christians do every single day. In fact, it’s what everyone in a pluralist society does, or should do.

Do LGBTs and their allies ever stop to reflect on how they should relate to conservative Christians and others who do not share their beliefs about gender and sexuality? Shouldn’t they?

A particular challenge we Christians face today, though, is that our opponents often don’t want to give us any quarter. For example, lawyers are telling Christian colleges and schools that if they don’t want to have courts strip away from them the right to run their institutions according to their convictions about the meaning of homosexuality, they have to take a hard line against letting gay kids, or the children of gay couples, into their schools. I once spoke to the headmaster at a conservative Christian school who said that the board there did not want to take that hard line, but their lawyers said if they stopped short of that, they left themselves open to a lawsuit.

And look at somebody like Barronelle Stutzman, the Washington florist and faithful Southern Baptist. She knew that her client Rob Ingersoll was gay. She still befriended him and served him. But when, after nearly a decade of friendship, she told him that she couldn’t in good conscience arrange flowers for his same-sex wedding — and did so not high-handedly, but holding his hand and speaking gently — he turned on her, sued her, and she is now on the verge of being driven out of business.

There are so, so many stories like this. And now you have someone like Chris Cuomo saying that feeling uncomfortable with exposed penises in your female child’s locker room is bigotry. How are parents and others who do not accept the maximal interpretation of LGBT rights — a line that is constantly moving leftward — supposed to deal with this? When you cannot escape the accusation of hatred — and even legal consequences for it — unless you capitulate entirely, is it really so difficult to understand why some Christians want to avoid contact?

Why is this not obvious to progressives? When they convince themselves that dissent from their position is not only illegitimate, but a prima facie expression of hatred, finding common ground is impossible.

Please understand, I’m not trying to avoid the challenge Matthew Loftus and Emma Green have put to me. I am well aware from writing about these issues on this blog for many years that if I laid down some rules, that would elicit a storm of whatabouttery, e.g., “OK, you say that you wouldn’t object if your kid had a gay teacher, but what about the case where your kid’s gay teacher decided to stop using gendered pronouns in class as a matter of policy? Would you take your kid out of that school?”

Increasingly, we can’t even talk about these issues in good faith. The cost of dissent is too high — and this is a cost imposed on us by the power-holders.

I am open to hearing your suggestions, as long as you offer them in good faith — unlike the self-identified gay commenter in an earlier thread who said that we conservative Christians compel them to “destroy” us. Russell Moore has a very good essay advising Christians how to respond to transgenderism. [10] Excerpt:

If Christians see ourselves as people who are “losing” a culture rather than people who have been sent on a mission to a culture, we will be outraged and hopeless instead of compassionate and convictional. If we do not love our mission field, we will have nothing to say to it. [<— that speaks directly to me — RD]

We should stand against any bullying of kids who different from other children, for whatever reason. Children with gender identity issues are often harassed and marginalized. They should be loved and protected. Schools can do this without upending all gender categories. More importantly, churches and Christians can do this. We should hate the bullying of our neighbors, especially children, even more than the outside world hates it.

We Christians believe that all of us are sinners, and that none of us are freaks. We conclude that all of us are called to repentance, and part of what repentance means is to receive the gender with which God created us, even when that’s difficult. We must affirm that God loves all persons, and that the gospel is good news for repentant prodigal sons and daughters, including for those who have trouble figuring out which is which.

Alan Jacobs has a really interesting short reflection on Matthew Loftus’s post [11], with which he strongly agrees, except for the last sentence. Jacobs, who is a dear Christian friend and a consistent critic [actually, a big supporter, but with some reservations] of the Ben Op, writes:

I, and most of my friends and fellow believers who have been highly critical of the BenOp, have very strong motives for thinking that Rod’s diagnosis and prescription are both wrong.

We have an interest in accepting the general cultural consensus about sexuality and gender. And if we can’t manage to accept it, we have an interest in soft-pedaling our beliefs, both publicly and to our children. Accepting, explicitly or tacitly, that consensus may in some cases open doors of professional and social opportunity to us and our families; vocally refusing to accept it would certainly close doors. We have an interest in believing that we can continue to live more-or-less as we have lived, that it is not necessary to change anything radically, or put ourselves or our families at risk.

Now, to be sure, there are certainly people whose interests lie in the other direction: who might lose social position, or be cast out of church communities, or even lose their jobs, if they were to express doubt about the traditional Christian take on sexuality. But that’s not where I, or my friends and BenOp debating partners, are. So what I would really like from many critics of the BenOp — and by the way, I don’t mean Matthew Loftus here, who has a very nuanced response to the whole movement, as you can see, for instance, in this post — is a frank acknowledgment of the dangers of motivated reasoning and an account of what they’re doing to avoid it.

He goes on to explain:

My particular situation, my particular personal and vocational path, leads me to want to be theologically conservative enough to be acceptable to the Christian institutions I love but not so theologically conservative that I can’t get published by reputable secular magazines and publishers. And lo and behold, my convictions perfectly match my interests! How remarkably fortunate for me!

Read the whole thing. [11] Seriously, do. What he’s saying, with admirable candor, is that Ben Op critics among the faithful need to think hard about whether they are rationalizing their own failure to live up to their convictions.

One more thing in this long, rambly post. My friend Jake Meador, also writing at Mere Orthodoxy, has a good piece addressed to critics of the Ben Op.  [12] He begins by talking about why the Ben Op proposal makes more intuitive sense to Catholics and Orthodox Christians than to Evangelicals. This is really helpful for me to hear:

Evangelicals, however, hear the same language and react quite differently. There are a couple reasons for this: Partly, it is due to an understandable reaction against more schismatic fundamentalist versions of evangelicalism that seem to have done the same thing Rod is proposing. The consequences were frequently disastrous. (As someone who grew up in such a church, I understand this concern.)

A second motivating factor, I am increasingly convinced, is a classically evangelical craving after the approval of our peers. For 30 years we have been trying to tell the world “no no no, we aren’t weird like those otherChristians,” we say with our voice dropping on the word “other.” “We’re normal people like you.” The ways our parents did this differ from how millennials tend to do it, but the end result is the same.

Turning to Emma Green’s review essay, Jake writes:

Perhaps the thing I found most odd about Green’s piece is that she granted that Dreher is coming at the issues he talks about in the book from a fundamentally different worldview that than of most modern Americans, writing that “He is working from a different frame of reference, one that is increasingly out of step with Americans’ ways of thinking about culture.” But then she went ahead and judged the book on the basis of those, from Dreher’s standpoint, foreign moral norms anyway.

In one sense, this isn’t a problem: I don’t know Green’s own religious beliefs, which is to her credit as a reporter, but certainly the beliefs of many of her readers will overlap far more with the mainstream progressive American views on sexuality, which tend to emphasize individual autonomy, non-binary understandings of sexuality, and a high value on acceptance and inclusion. Critiquing the book in terms that your readers will find familiar and agreeable makes sense.

That said, I wish Green would have given more attention to what she called Dreher’s “frame of reference,” because it would have helped her get at one of the key points behind Rod’s book. As more and more polling numbers make plain, we increasingly live in a country that has multiple nations within it. The idea of a cultural consensus that exists across most of the population is increasingly foreign and even non-sensical. Americans increasingly do not simply have disagreements on select matters of public policy; they have disagreements about what goods public policy ought to be oriented toward and even about the basic nature of reality itself.

More:

Green’s piece does a good job of highlighting key points of tension that many non-religious people and more liberal religious people will feel as they consider Dreher’s project.

But it would have been helpful for Green to try and say more about Dreher’s fundamentally different point of reference. What is that point of reference? How do people who share it end up believing the things they believe? She’s an excellent reporter and I’ve always found her to be fair-minded so I would have enjoyed seeing her delve more into this specific point.

Yes, this. Exactly this. Jake said what I have struggled with but failed to articulate. And to be fair to Emma, I could have and should have worked harder to articulate this in our interview. I’ve noticed that I don’t often try to explain why I believe what I believe about sexuality, creation, and teleology, because I have found that critics don’t actually want to hear it. I ought not be that way. I ought to give people more of a chance. Thing is, it can’t be summed up in a few slogans or a tweetstorm. I default to arguing for religious liberty, which entails the right to be wrong, because I know that what separates Christians like me from social progressives is metaphysical, and therefore irreconcilable at a philosophical level. The best we can hope for, I think, is some form of detente. Still, I would probably be better off taking the Ryan T. Anderson Option more often than I do, and offering some kind of case for traditional belief.

This post is already too long, so I’m not going to go into it at length here, but let me give you a rough outline of it. First, “because the Bible says so” is a strong argument within the church, or ought to be. The Bible is very clear about sexual behavior, including (but certainly not limited to) homosexuality. We cannot easily dismiss its authority.

But that is not a satisfying explanation for most Westerners in the church today, I’d wager, and certainly not for those outside of it. The deeper answer is theological, anthropological, and, ultimately, metaphysical. Traditional Christian thought holds that there is divine order (the Logos) that runs through Creation like DNA does a human body. It is the rational ordering principle. And it is not only a principle, but a Person, Jesus Christ. We Christians believe from Genesis that God created man in His image and likeness, and that God also created humans male and female. Because Creation is ordered by the Logos, it also has intrinsic purpose, which can be known. When we humans choose our own will over God’s, we violate the divinely ordained purpose for which we were created. We fail to harmonize with Creation as God intended it to be. This is called sin.

Over the past six centuries, Western man has come to reject the idea that there is intrinsic purpose built into Creation, and instead come to see meaning as something extrinsic — that is, imposed from outside. We put ourselves in the place of God, assigning meaning to our bodies, our acts, and the things of Creation, instead of receiving them from Him. Russell Moore, talking specifically about transgenderism, explains the stakes:

Ultimately, the transgender question is about more than just sex. It’s about what it means to be human. Poet Wendell Berry responded to techno-utopian scientism with the observation that civilization must decide whether we see persons as creatures or as machines. If we are creatures, he argued, then we have purpose and meaning, but also limits. If we see ourselves, and the world around us, as a machine, then we believe the Faustian myth of our own limitless power to recreate ourselves.

This is, it seems to me, the question at the heart of the transgender controversy. Are we created, as both the Hebrew Scriptures and Jesus put it, “male and female,” from the beginning or are these categories arbitrary and self-willed? Do our bodies, and our sexes, represent something of who we were designed to be, and thus impose limits on our ability to recreate ourselves?

This basic question also applies to homosexuality. Traditional Christians believe that both the Bible and natural law disclose the purpose for sex, and how humans are to use it (as well as laying out the limits on the use of sex). Sexuality is inextricably bound to desire, and therefore is inescapably moral. You may think of it as morally good, certainly, but you cannot plausibly deny that it lacks a moral dimension, unless you’re willing to cheapen the most intimate act human beings can perform together by saying it has no more meaning than buying a box of laundry detergent at Walmart. This, by the way, is what makes sexual desire categorically different from race. Race has no moral component. Sexual desire has to do with how we use our bodies — and our bodies have meaning and purpose.

So, when you say to somebody like me that my views are bigoted, this is about like saying that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is an expression of bigotry.  Michael Martin explains metaphysical realism cleanly: [13]

Indebted to Plato and his Christian Neoplatonist interpreters, realism affirms the existence of universals: abstract, general concepts possessing objective reality anterior to particulars. For realism, universals, that is, are real things (res). The ideas of ‘woman’ and ‘man,’ for instance, precede and inform the actualities of particular women and men. Medieval nominalism, on the other hand, held that only particular things are real and that what the realists called ‘universals’ are only names (nomina), possibly useful for categorization (conceptualism), but devoid of any kind of reality in themselves. In a famous example, Roscelin (1050-1125) held that the idea of the Trinity is, in fact, only a concept that only the Divine Persons — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — can claim reality. . . .

“Two centuries after Roscelin, the nominalist William of Occam (c. 1287-1347) divided reality into two categories: 1) that which we can know through intentionality (observation and experience); and 2) that which we can know by faith. Nominalism, that is, separated knowledge from wisdom and effectively divorced philosophy from theology. It placed most of what had been traditional metaphysics under the sphere of faith and claimed logic and analysis as the tools of the philosopher. Thus, at least at a conceptual level, the microcosm of the mind (or the soul) had been cut off from an integral, cosmological, and spiritual reality, at least as far as medieval epistemology was concerned. . . .

“Our current, postmodern moment — materialistic, technological, technocratic, atheistic — exemplifies a nominalism writ large. Here there are no universals. There are no ideas, no archetypes. Only names. ‘Marriage,’ for instance, no longer embeds universal cultural archetypes of ‘husband’ and ‘wife.’ . . . Marriage, previously assumed as the union of a man and woman into organic whole, has been relativized beyond the point of recognition. A collateral ontological shift has also occurred in the postmodern understanding of the word ‘family.’ Perhaps most emblematic of this shift is the new conceptualization of the term ‘gender,’ which, tellingly, has proved the most plastic of all. Does not the notion of elective gender reassignment surgery, like nominalism, assert in the clearest terms that universals do not exist?

Opponents of traditional Christians think we’re talking about morality when we talk about gender and sexuality, which, yes, we are. But more deeply, we’re talking about ontology. This may sound like philosophical jibber-jabber to you, but if you have any interest in being fair, and in understanding your opponents’ point of reference, you should explore this idea.

I can’t expect people who are neither Christians nor metaphysical realists (in philosophical terms) to agree with us, but I believe it is reasonable to expect them to try to understand why we believe what we believe.

Read the whole Jake Meador essay.  [12] There’s a lot more in it well worth your time.

It is true that we live in a nation that is no longer Christian in any thick sense, and that it has been many centuries since the West accepted nominalism. This is the world that traditional orthodox Christians have to live in, and to which we have to accommodate ourselves as best we can without violating our consciences. From my perspective, our opponents don’t come at this from the point of view of advancing pluralism, and figuring out how we can live together in a kind of peace, despite our radically different views, but rather treat it like the Inquisition, determined to stamp out heresy, and to promote tolerance by crushing dissent.

A national newscaster denounces a father concerned about his 12 year old daughter having a biological male undressing in her locker room, calling him a bigot. In other words, it is an irrational prejudice to do anything other than affirm and embrace the new order. And critics still wonder why so many of us feel the need for the Benedict Option!

 

191 Comments (Open | Close)

191 Comments To "Bias, Bigotry & The Benedict Option"

#1 Comment By Elijah On February 25, 2017 @ 11:24 am

As much as I believe in the adage “love the sinner, hate the sin” I understand why it is wholly unsatisfying to gays and others who believe that their sexual orientation is in fact their identity. I honestly don’t know what to say to them other than God loves you and wants you to know and love Him, too.

This is what makes so many sins of a sexual nature so difficult; Paul warns us of this himself, that sexual sins have a way of becoming part of us in ways other sins don’t.

There is a path forward I think, but not unless there is pre-existing love and mutual respect on both sides which is often not the case.

I also agree with the commenter that LGB and T are really in quite different categories for most people, not just Christians.

#2 Comment By Dux Bellorum, Austinopole On February 25, 2017 @ 11:58 am

(From phone, so terse)

This is what Baronelle Stutzman allows, and why public accommodations laws exist:

[14]

$0.02,

DBA

#3 Comment By Court Merrigan On February 25, 2017 @ 12:35 pm

@Axxr, to be fair, the notion of causality has been attacked since Hume in the 1700s.

#4 Comment By John On February 25, 2017 @ 12:51 pm

I agree with Joys–R-Us and Potato here. It’s obvious why there is a smaller percentag of gays in North Dakota than there are in California. we know where it is safe to come out and where it is safe to stay in the closet if we cannot otherwise afford to move.

I also agree with Jots-R-Us in her description of transgendered people as members of a third gender and it is for that reason that they should be treated as such in those situations where it is relevant.

This is not about exercising moral judgement. They are what they are, and that simply means they can’t be in the men’s or woman’s restroom.

#5 Comment By Sam M On February 25, 2017 @ 2:23 pm

Pepi:

“or example, the trans bathroom thing is reduced to penises in female bathrooms. Trans males don’t even exist. ”

But you refuse to acknowledge that any compromise is impossible. School districts tried it. In hard cases we will build or designate private facilities. Sued in federal court immediately.

Obama’s directive for schools made things very clear. Any person at any time can declare to be any sex. Everyone must immediately accept that claim without question regardless of impact or be deemed a KKK level bigot.

So people like Rod can either accept that or not. There are no other options.

As we can see Trump rescinded that insanely overreaching objective and now he’s history’s greatest monster.

Let’s say we did acknowledge the plight of trans men. What would we need to do to prove we accepted it? Reinstate the Obama plan? Or something less?

Just be aware that if you say something less you are a gargantuan, subhuman bigot, too.

I suspect you’d rather say to hell with it and in the end you’ll demand the Obama plan.

Thanks for negotiating.

#6 Comment By Elijah On February 25, 2017 @ 2:41 pm

@ Franklin Evans – three doors down from me is the Christian family with a gay son. The parents both teach at a Christian school, and the daughter is married. The parents don’t approve of the son’s choice(s) – any more than my parents approved of many I made – but they love him deeply and he them. We’re having dinner with them tonight and I am bringing my famous Vichsoisse.

Is that the treatment of gay children you’re referring to? Why in your universe is every Christian the preacher from Footloose and every gay the image of St Sebastian?

LGBT politics begins and ends with the proposition that anyone who does not affirm their sexuality is ipso facto a bigot and guilty of discrimination. We all know why Christians – and not Muslims, for example – are the primary target of their wrath.

#7 Comment By Joys-R-Us On February 25, 2017 @ 3:04 pm

What they don’t grasp is that if I had to choose between their radically liberal version of Christianity (Jesus was a great teacher who taught love and non-violence and progressive politics) and agnosticism… I would choose the latter.

I think they do grasp that. They just don’t care. Christianity has been splintered virtually from the start into many different groups, some of which have tried to dominate its traditions and theology and practices, pushing others out or declaring them heretics and demons even. So there’s nothing new here. The degree to which that splintering has a occurred has grown, but that’s natural. Martin Luther didn’t become an agnostic, he helped create a Christianity based on personal conscience that allowed for an even wider spectrum of views on what “real Christianity” meant.

People feel moved by the Holy Spirit to believe and practice many different things. Often they don’t really care so much how they fit into traditional Christian views. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. What they care about is their own relationship to Jesus and God, and if they stick around that’s what keeps them. They just feel that relationship manifesting differently now than in traditional times. Rather than going with the tradition, they go with what they feel moved by the Spirit to believe and do.

The idea that Christianity needs reform is a very old notion. The idea that Christianity needs to be purged of impure transgressors is also very old. The conflict between Christians is far, far greater than the conflict with non-Christians. Most non-Christians don’t much care what Christians think about these things. They aren’t obsessed with Christianity the way so many Christians are. For most secular folks, Christianity is a distant side show that’s more about funny hats and antiquated romantic ideals than anything else.

#8 Comment By connecticut farmer On February 25, 2017 @ 3:08 pm

@Axxr

With all due respect to Whitehead ( who wrote that all philosophy consists of footnotes to Plato), the last truly great philosopher was Kant. It’s been all downhill since. The very fact that the likes of Foucault are taken seriously underscores how modern philosophy has reached the level of reductio ad absurdum.

#9 Comment By Andrea On February 25, 2017 @ 3:12 pm

Anecdotally, I would say there are more gays in N.D. now. The town where I live now has an active Pride group. I personally know or know of several gay couples. Having typed the marriage listings that appear in my paper every week, I can say there is at least one gay couple married here every few weeks. It may be that more gays moved to the state with the oil boom or are more comfortable now coming out. When I was growing up, the gays I knew were either in the closet or moved to the Twin Cities or Seattle or San Francisco. There were at least three gay kids in my small high school at the same time I was. One of my 16 first cousins also is LGBT. I don’t know what the percentages would be for that.

#10 Comment By Joys-R-Us On February 25, 2017 @ 3:27 pm

Most of us Christians will be living the kind of life that the Hebrew exiles did, so we had better think hard about how we will dwell in our own American Babylon as resident aliens without becoming assimilated. — RD]

Not even remotely true, though I often get the feeling that some Christians actually wish they were the victims of that kind of oppression and martyrdom. It would make the moral choices so much starker, and thus in a strange way easier. But for the most part, there’s only the mildest kind of social ostracism going on, and very little of it visible in anyone’s actual life. A few rare cases get mass media exposure and are presented as a sign of the apocalypse, but most people on both sides of these so-called “culture wars” go on as before. Even the worst of it is merely uncomfortable.

And that’s what’s most dangerous about it. As even Rod has noted, it’s the gradual assimilation through the everyday ordinariness of the modern “good life” that’s the most seductive threat to traditional ideals. No need for torture and conversion at the point of a sword, or being driven from their homes by autocratic governments. Even most of the vocal socons lamenting the end of days still love the good life that modernism offers, and don’t want to give it up. As with most conservative voices these days, they can even make a good living that enables their good life by complaining loudly about these things and selling books and giving lectures on the subject. There’s a big conservative-industrial complex that rewards such people for “standing up” to secularism. And that reward basically boils down to the same promise of the “good life” that is seducing the whole of Christianity these days. So there’s literally nothing but narcissism that allows these folks to compare themselves to the Hebrews in exile or the early Christians driven by martyrdom into the catacombs. It’s just more of the farcical play of modernism with a necessary cast of characters who think they are all that. When the evening performance is over they go back to their nice homes and families and get on with enjoying themselves as before. No actual exile. It’s just something that makes them feel good about themselves, that keeps them interested and talkative and feeling self-important. But it’s obvious where their real loyalties lie. As with the secularists, it’s with themselves.

#11 Comment By Anne On February 25, 2017 @ 3:41 pm

Comparing the BenOp to how the Jews responded to their Babylonian Exile is an interesting idea, one I think, if considered carefully, might even serve as a correction to some of the more isolationist tendencies some of us worry about with regard to the BenOp.
Certainly, the effects of the Jews’ relatively brief (598/587 – 538 BC) forced sojourn in Babylon were dramatic and lasting, devastating for many, but generally positive in the end. Scripture-wise, it gave us the Book of Job on the one hand and the prophecies of Daniel on the other.

The main difference between the two as far as the BenOp is perceived is that the Jews in Babylon didn’t live in isolation from Babylonian culture. They may have banded together in synagogues for religious purposes, but they also absorbed much of Babylonian culture and even incorporated Babylonian insights into their own reflections on God and law. All the Jews were never taken into captivity, with most of the poor left behind to work the land, waiting for their leaders, rabbis and prophets to be returned, which came to pass 50 or 60 years down the line. The first 10,000 Jews taken in 598 were these elites, who settled in over the next 10 years, ready to welcome the 20,000 or so in the second wave who were taken after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the First Temple at Jerusalem in 587.

Jewish scholars ascribe to this period a lasting shift in the religion’s general focus from the externalities of Temple ritual to a religion of the heart reflected in an internalized commitment to both Yahweh and the law. Grieving so many losses, rabbis and prophets alike turned from emphasizing Israel’s privileged position to literally “Lamentations,” suffering (“Job”) and a deeper understanding of Israel’s vocation as “light to the nations,” promising the whole world deliverance at the end of time, themes Christ himself would take up as a fulfillment of prophecies begun in the Book of Daniel, also begun here. Some also ascribe the absolute monotheism of later Jewish thought to the influence of Zoroasterism, which became prominent in Babylon after the Persians overthrew the Babylonian empire. Before that Yahweh was the jealous god of Israel who demanded allegiance over all other gods. After the sojourn in Babylon, Jewish elites at least began to see him as not only theirs, but the one and only God in the universe, others mere phantoms or demons, yet another idea taken up by followers of Christ down the line.

All in all, there’s a lot to be said for emulating the Jews in Babylon, but I don’t believe a wholesale rejection of enemy culture would have that effect.

#12 Comment By Franklin Evans On February 25, 2017 @ 4:56 pm

Elijah: your post (#151) is exactly the point, and exactly what needs to be examined and discussed at length.

The first step on the path forward is simple sounding, and never easy: stop thinking of them as a group, and make the effort to get to know the ones around you, the whole persons for whom this “obstacle” is just one aspect of many, other aspects with which you will (not may) find close empathy. There may be other approaches, I state this one out of personal experience.

Re the T after LGB:

It might help to understand how it got to be there in the first place. There wasn’t — to my knowledge, disclosing my anecdotal view — a formal discussion, let alone a formal request for inclusion. It just sorta happened organically, slowly.

Some may be surprised to learn that separation is a topic of debate of late, again around here if not also in other places.

The simple part is that each one as a distinct group is small. Banding together doesn’t make them “big”, but it does offer economies of scale, and just brings them to more notice.

#13 Comment By Craig On February 25, 2017 @ 4:57 pm

Rod,

One of the greatest joys of reading your blog is that it led to me reading Alan Jacobs. I will forever be grateful for this. When I open my RSS feed, the first two blogs I look to are yours and Alan’s.

#14 Comment By Franklin Evans On February 25, 2017 @ 5:31 pm

FYI: I’m stepping away for a while, to cook dinner and mostly to power down while we are under a severe weather warning.

Elijah: Why in your universe is every Christian the preacher from Footloose and every gay the image of St Sebastian?

First, I would respectfully ask you to reread my posts and find my use of the term anecdotal. I’m being very careful about that.

Second… It’s not my universe. It’s theirs. Please get this clearly. I’m as much an observer as you are, and the real question is why is my witness automatically refuted because your witness (you specifically, and in general) is lacking what I see? I am not, have not and will not dispute your witness. I will declare to you that it is narrow and incomplete.

Assuming you didn’t see my previous post before you posted above, I’ll reiterate my intention: get to know them as individuals, not as members of a labelled group, and I expect that your beliefs will remain unchanged, but your understanding of their perspective will be broadened. I am not one of them, I cannot speak for them, I can just be an advocate and hope that you come to the same level of understanding of them as I have.

#15 Comment By Pepi On February 25, 2017 @ 6:24 pm

[Sam M says: February 25, 2017 at 2:23 pm
Pepi: “or example, the trans bathroom thing is reduced to penises in female bathrooms. Trans males don’t even exist. ”
Obama’s directive for schools made things very clear. Any person at any time can declare to be any sex. Everyone must immediately accept that claim without question regardless of impact or be deemed a KKK level bigot.
Let’s say we did acknowledge the plight of trans men. What would we need to do to prove we accepted it? Reinstate the Obama plan? Or something less?
Just be aware that if you say something less you are a gargantuan, subhuman bigot, too.]

First, the Obama guidelines were sent with a 25 page attachment that gave examples on how to do things and immediately, mindlessly believing a student’s assertion was not part of it. Schools could handle determination in various ways including discussions with parents, coaches, doctors etc but they couldn’t simply deny the kid outright. The idea that Joe the QB could decide on Tuesday to be a girl so he could get in the girls locker room and grab some looks and bras just isn’t part of it.

That said, it may surprise you but I believe the locker room thing should require privacy for the trans kid if it doesn’t provide privacy for all and the trans kid should have to abide by it. That is just my opinion.

My earlier post, though, was not about any of these specific issues – it was about thinking of the other side as human beings, really trying to understand their point of view AND their value system with respect and having compassion and a willingness to compromise.

Your hyperbole is exactly the kind of exaggeration that makes such communications impossible. Even if what you are saying were true, I would much prefer to be a bigot than an abomination because bigots get treated much better in this country than abominations. (You are never going to entirely avoid being called a bigot and they are never entirely going to avoid being called an abomination but maybe most of us can get along most of the time. That’s what I’m hoping for.)

#16 Comment By Sam M On February 25, 2017 @ 8:51 pm

Pepi:

Ok. Let’s refer to the source.

[15]

Gender dysphoria is a recognized medical diagnosis. Let’s have the kids bring in a note from the doctor. Nope. Bigotry!

“Under Title IX, there is no medical diagnosis or treatment requirement that students must meet as a prerequisite to being treated consistent with their gender identity.6 Because transgender students often are unable to obtain identification documents that reflect their gender identity (e.g., due to restrictions imposed by state or local law in their place of birth or residence),7 requiring students to produce such identification documents in order to treat them consistent with their gender identity may violate Title IX when doing so has the practical effect of limiting or denying students equal access to an educational program or activity.”

Let’s take other kids concerns into account. Like you said. Nope:

“A school’s Title IX obligation to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex requires schools to provide transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections or concerns. As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students.”

Maybe we can wait until a medical transition begins rather than using the moment they begin to assert their trans-ness. Bigotry!

“Gender transition refers to the process in which transgender individuals begin asserting the sex that corresponds to their gender identity instead of the sex they were assigned at birth.”

When should the school treat the kid according to the new gender? When they are informed about the new gender:

“when a student or the student’s parent or guardian, as appropriate, notifies the school administration that the student will assert a gender identity that differs from previous representations or records, the school will begin treating the student consistent with the student’s gender identity. ”

WIILL BEGIN. Not might begin or could begin. Will begin.

Here is a link to the 25 page document you reference.

[16]

It is 25 pages of policies from districts that follow the policies. The first few pages consist of reassurances that you can maybe do this or that but really, at the end of the day, asking for medical documentation or some kind of prof for medical evidence cannot be done and in the end the kid is transgendered if he says so.

What happens to people who ask to wait, or want to take I slow? Even people who have spent their careers helping transgendered kids? We already know. They are cast as bigots and destroyed:

[17]

The Obama directive is the governmental embodiment of the radical impulse that destroyed Dr. Zucker.

#17 Comment By Anne On February 25, 2017 @ 9:38 pm

For the record, I agree with Joys-R-Us (great handle, btw) that American Christians, or specifically trad Christians, are in no way suffering or in danger of suffering anything like real persecution. In that sense, comparing the BenOp to the Babylonian Exile would be silly, blasphemous even, but I wasn’t thinking of it that way, and I doubt Rod was either. What I saw as comparable was the sense many traditional Christians seem to have of being strangers in a strange land in modern America, of having their faith tested because they’re no longer able to fall back on the shared externals of the faith they took for granted in times past. In a way, their temple has fallen, and now it’s just God and them.

If I kept the metaphor going, I’d say Rod’s trying to rebuild the temple in smaller, movable versions, but I’d suggest that in Babylon, the Jewish people, by contrast, had first to deepen their understanding of the faith in the very experience of exile, so that even when they could rebuild the external structure and return to the old rites and rituals they longed for, they had more lasting internal resources that would keep them together long after the new temple fell.

#18 Comment By Carlo On February 25, 2017 @ 11:18 pm

Sam M.

“A lot of it was stuff like workplace opportunity.”

I still fail to see how workplace opportunity was related to the sexual revolution, whether in space or on the ground.

#19 Comment By Pepi On February 26, 2017 @ 12:31 am

[Sam M says: February 25, 2017 at 8:51 pm]

You are skipping over a lot to jump to “at the end of the day”. Why haven’t we had a rash of males claiming to be female for a day?

I mentioned doctors not because I was claiming a school can demand medical “proof” but because doctors – medical and psychiatric – are often involved with trans people before then transition and thus may be in contact with the school.

Your assumption is that they are not transgender, are making it up, etc when the fact is that it is extremely difficult to make this claim. There are a million reasons to NOT do it.

There are tons of trans people who have been destroyed by all of this. They are far more likely to be assaulted and to commit suicide than the general population. Here is the story of a 67 year old trans woman who has been living “under the radar” for decades but whose life is now very different than it was a year ago:

[18]

There are HUMAN BEINGS on BOTH sides of this – created by the same God – and they ALL deserve to be treated with respect and compassion.

#20 Comment By Pepi On February 26, 2017 @ 12:35 am

For those with the remarks about how to refer to trans people like female-with-penis or whatever, the normal term is trans male/man for someone who identifies as male and trans female/woman for someone who identifies as female. Call it PC if you like and insist on using derogatory and derisive language but understand that you are offending deliberately and quit complaining about how “they” treat you. If they scream “bigot” at you, it’s the same thing. Just don’t give me the “this is love” stuff. I don’t buy it that being nasty is loving.

#21 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On February 26, 2017 @ 1:47 am

Franklin

Thanks from your long and thoughtful answer.

First of all I probably lack an understanding of what you mean by “Paganism”. This is mainly a fault of ignorance of mine, naturally.

My knowledge of Paganism is confined to what is most relevant to me culturally and to what I was extensively taught at school, that is, the religion of Mediterranean cultures.

Now, what I know about Paganism tells me that while Pagan and Christian theology cannot be reconciled, there is a great continuity in the understanding of human nature and ethics, and even in the practice of religion – between paganism and Christianity.
Just to make two examples, hubris (pride) is seen as the most serious sin both by Paganism and Christianity and pietas as the right attitude of the religious man towards life.
But there’s another, deeper, commonality: both Pagans and Christians saw (see?) the world as pervaded by the spirit.
There’s a reason why Dante’s first guide was Virgil and his first encounter in the afterworld is with the great Pagans.
Now, it’s true that after Christianization Paganism has been reduced to the religion of the countryside (the “pagus”). However, this didn’t break the fundamental continuity of a rational and realist worldview, and an understanding of humanity, common to the two religions.

You say “nature is dirty”, and you are right but, as some great Pagans dear to my heart and who didn’t suffer from any delusion as to the perfection of nature would tell you, nature is also – and very clearly so – normative.

You say that human beings make the pattern, instead of being subject to it. But this is a sin of Prometheian hubris.

However, since I know you as a pious and charitable man, I guess that what you actually wanted to say is that the fact that human beings have a morality (a soul which connects them with the spiritual that pervades the world – and you see, I’m using here pre-Advent concepts I’m perfectly comfortable with).

Let me try to bring up an example: nature is normative and, according to the norms, a bird needs two wings to fly. A bird with a broken wind would soon die. However, men raise above the pattern of nature when, out of charity, they pick up the little bird with a broken wing and heal it until it is able to fly again.

But if someone wanted me to say that a bird could fly with just one wing, I would never accept it. Even if someone built a mini-jet to replace the missing wing. (the LGBTist go even further: they are asking us to declare that the bird is actually an airplane)

Being charitable and submitting to ideology are two different things. I may (partially) subscribe to your explanation of why the LGBT movement is against Christianity.

However, this doesn’t change the fact that its ideologiy is evil, and not only from a Christian standpoint, but also from the standpoint of the great Pagans of the past.

#22 Comment By Anne On February 26, 2017 @ 2:29 am

@Pepi,
Just for the record: The Obama guidelines DID require privacy for trans kids in locker rooms. (Schools had to figure out how to provide privacy within current budgets, which was the major complaint lodged by the schools.) What’s more, it was stipulated that if ANY student had a privacy concern, no questions were to be asked, and a private space had to be found in which that student could change for gym. Because the opposite is so often assumed, critics should also note that these guidelines only required allowing private space for trans students in locker rooms;showers were not included. No girl was required to shower with a biological male (!) Showering is no longer part of the locker room routine in public high schools.

#23 Comment By Stefan On February 26, 2017 @ 7:39 am

“First, the Obama guidelines were sent with a 25 page attachment that gave examples on how to do things and immediately, mindlessly believing a student’s assertion was not part of it. Schools could handle determination in various ways including discussions with parents, coaches, doctors etc but they couldn’t simply deny the kid outright.”

I can’t stop laughing whenever I read this sort of stuff. Thousand of years ago the son of the cartmaker would have all the knowledge required to make carts himself when he succeeded his father. Nowadays one needs a ph.d. in automotive engineering to be allowed to make even the minor of modifications to a single particular grommet inside one of many cable harnesses in one model of vehicle.

Same with gender. No one claims philosophical insight into what male and female are anymore, nay, instead we all become experts into one teeny tiny aspect of the process of social construction of gender (conservatives, I am not saying that it is “just” a construct, but gender has to be socially recognised in order to be acted upon). We now have 25 pages of instructions not on how to tell a man from a woman, no, 25 pages of turgid proceduralism one should employ in performing any assertion of or challenge to a particular gender claim if one is to impose one’s appreciation of the situation and have it survive legal scrutiny.

Just as all the resources that could be used to build automobiles will go into educating the engineers that are supposed to build them will make the automobile disappear, the resources diverted to studying how to determine gender will make it so that there are no energy left for people to have sex and procreate or perform whatever they think their gender is. Smart, reptilians!

#24 Comment By Pepi On February 26, 2017 @ 11:22 am

[Stefan says: February 26, 2017 at 7:39 am
I can’t stop laughing whenever I read this sort of stuff.]

You are laughing at yourself and your own assumptions. The document is not about determining gender, although it discusses how schools can deal with a claim, it is about taking into consideration ALL kids, parents, the school and the community when making decisions about accommodations. The 25 pages were mostly talking about what schools had already done that worked well for them.

Arrogance and ignorance aren’t really a laughing matter. Well, not to me anyway… to each his own.

#25 Comment By Pepi On February 26, 2017 @ 11:27 am

[Anne says: February 26, 2017 at 2:29 am
@Pepi,Just for the record: The Obama guidelines DID require privacy for trans kids in locker rooms.]

Thanks, Anne, for the clarification. I find it aggravating that things get simplified and then exaggerated. Instead of education about this attempt to take everyone’s view into consideration and accommodate them adequately, it is screamed that men are in rooms with little girls etc.

Some people just want to fight and to get others to fight.

#26 Comment By Franklin Evans On February 26, 2017 @ 11:32 am

Giuseppe,

The fault is at least partially mine, as I’m usually very careful around the term “Pagan” and the context in which it is being used. Most people use it still for its negative definition — in short, anything not of the mainstream or prevailing religion, and in our context that is Christianity — and I will need the continuing reminder to be clear about how I want to use it. There is a spectrum of Paganisms, demarked by time — Isaac Bonewitz has an excellent thesis using paleo-, meso- and neo-pagan as labels — and by the conscious constructions and syncretism of its practitioners in the modern era. I am a modern Pagan, eclectic and without holy text or dogmatic statements. I know many who very strongly hold to more ancient traditions but are still more accurately labeled neo-pagans, and I know many more who are deliberate reconstructionists, attempting the very difficult work of bridging both temporal and cultural gaps between ancient beliefs and modern times.

There is, out of Etruscan roots, a simpler way to view the term “pagan”. Behind the Latin etymology is the speculation that paganus meant “the ascribing of divine or holy significance to a place or geographic feature.” It lived on for centuries in the invocation of patron gods or goddesses (Athens being an obvious example), the traditions about cross-roads, wells and springs, hilltops and deep valleys. It will be oversimplified for some (for many of my fellow travelers as well), but that is what I mean when I call myself Pagan.

After the gift of friendship, the most important lesson Rod taught me is that we share this visceral awareness of immanence. It opened my heart to what my mind had long insisted, that there has to be a common ground in which Christians (well, I usually say Abrahamic monotheists) and Pagans can stand, and share in the beauty of our world instead of fighting over what it all means. A part of that world, a point I’m intending to make in my tangent with Elijah, is homosexuals and gender-norm deviants. I would say, on the matter of evil, that they include people who are capable of evil deeds and are objectively evil, but that makes them no different from the rest of the people in the world. They are made different by others, starting from I readily concede a rational point of view, but the moment you declare them evil, is the moment you declare them not human. Even setting aside the charge of hypocrisy, knowing that heterosexuals and gender-normatives are surrounded by people just like them who commit evil deeds and can be objectively labeled evil, I come back to what I said about Nature being dirty. Different is not evil in Nature, it just is.

#27 Comment By Anne On February 26, 2017 @ 12:51 pm

Another thing about those Obama guidelines: schools were told to be ready to facilitate, but individual students were left in the driver’s seat regarding whether or not anything had to be done. If a student, trans or otherwise, complained, the problem had to be addressed, no questions asked. That included questioning the student’s right to complain in the first place, be it because school authorities didn’t believe in transgender claims per se or because they believed the fears of other students were based on bias.

Bottom line, Obama himself didn’t draft these guidelines, career employees at the Department of Education did, which may explain why Betsy DeVos didn’t appear to jump at the chance to dump everything without the opportunity to review. Staff members who actually work there probably objected.

#28 Comment By Sam M On February 26, 2017 @ 12:55 pm

Pepi,

“For those with the remarks about how to refer to trans people like female-with-penis or whatever, the normal term is trans male/man for someone who identifies as male and trans female/woman for someone who identifies as female.”

But again you oversimplify and beg the question. To have one term for “trans” across the transitioning spectrum is loaded ideologically and fails to address reality. Is a man who identifies as female a “trans woman” the day he declares? Not until he has surgery? One who has had gender reassignment surgery is demonstrably and obviously different than one who has not. We usually have different words for things that are demonstrably and obviously different.

I’d add that many people will probably call you a bigot. They will say the word for a man who identifies as a woman is not “trans woman.” It is “woman.”

Ask Dr. Zucker what the penalty for apostasy is.

#29 Comment By Sam M On February 26, 2017 @ 1:10 pm

Pepi:

“”You are skipping over a lot to jump to “at the end of the day”. Why haven’t we had a rash of males claiming to be female for a day?”

You aren’t paying attention. You insist that the only objection is that the captain of the football team will lie to catch an eyeful of girl in the shower. That’s absurd.

Read the link to the Zucker story. The world’s preeminent transgender expert (until five minutes ago) said that uncritically accepting the kids take on gender identity is BAD FOR THE TRANSGENDER KID. That up to 80 percent of younger kids who declare as transgender desist. So maybe don’t surgically alter them right away.

He got run out of dodge by radical activists whose view is neatly summed up by the Obama directive.

The BBC has a new documentary out.

[19]

I am not “assuming” that they aren’t trans. This is way more complicate than you, Obama and the activists let in. And you language policing and one size fits all approach might well be the opposite of the compassion you lay claim to.

#30 Comment By JonF On February 27, 2017 @ 6:09 am

Re: This is what makes so many sins of a sexual nature so difficult; Paul warns us of this himself, that sexual sins have a way of becoming part of us in ways other sins don’t.

I have to disagree with this. Consider the whole “Greed is good” culture in which avarice is rebranded a virtue, and Randite uncharity becomes “success”– with far worse public consequences than any mere roll in the hay can have for society. Likewise food or booze or (certainly) drug addictions “become” the person too. And have you ever encountered a person who has been eaten up by envy, or consumed by their own pride?

#31 Comment By Sam M On February 27, 2017 @ 7:59 am

Pepi:

“Discussions with parents coaches doctors etc.”

Here is what the guidance letter says:

“2. How do schools confirm a student’s gender identity?
Schools generally rely on students’ (or in the case of younger students, their parents’ or guardians’) expression of their gender identity. Although schools sometimes request some form of confirmation, they generally accept the student’s asserted gender identity.
2. How do schools confirm a student’s gender identity?
Schools generally rely on students’ (or in the case of younger students, their parents’ or guardians’) expression of their gender identity. Although schools sometimes request some form of confirmation, they generally accept the student’s asserted gender identity.”

It goes on to promise examples of schools that have policies offering more guidance, then shows three policies that reiterate that no formal medical or other evaluation is required at any of the schools. A place in Alaska goes farthest saying that that something more than a casual declaration is declared, then reiterates that no formal review process is required.

Which of course is in line with the railroading of Dr. Zucker. No matter the age and no matter the context… affirmation or else.

If Dr. Zucker were the superintendent of an American school district he’d be run out of town as a heartless bigot.

#32 Comment By Pepi On February 27, 2017 @ 9:10 am

Sam M says: February 26, 2017 at 1:10 pm
Pepi: You aren’t paying attention. You insist that the only objection is that the captain of the football team will lie to catch an eyeful of girl in the shower. That’s absurd]

I have not been advocating for surgically altering kids right away (or at all) or for any other specific handling of any kid. I have been trying to show the complexity of the whole subject that is frequently missed and the fact that trans people are human beings, created by God, too.

The treatment of Zucker is an example of the same thing I have been talking about in my posts – over-simplification, then exaggeration. Zucker is in the middle and most people can’t stand to be there. Way back in either my first or second posts, I said BOTH SIDES do the same things and in many ways feel the same emotions. I no more approve of Zucker than I do of the people who are condemning the Obama guidelines without understanding that they were far less radical than they have been made out to be.

I am not trans. I do not have a close trans friend or family member. I believe that trans people live in a complex situation and have to work through it as best they can and that compassionate people can help them. I certainly DO NOT advocate a “one size fits all” approach unless you mean that I think all people should be treated like human beings, with kindness and respect, and not with disdain and derision.

#33 Comment By Pepi On February 27, 2017 @ 9:21 am

[Sam M says: February 26, 2017 at 12:55 pm
Pepi, But again you oversimplify and beg the question. To have one term for “trans” across the transitioning spectrum is loaded ideologically and fails to address reality. ]

In the context of the comments where the terms I wrote about were used, there was no attempt to make the distinctions you mention. I have no problem with making those distinctions as needed, nor with any language that is used that does not purposely disdain and disparage. I don’t object to language but to attitude.

I am in now way trying to over-simplify; to the contrary, I am trying to do the opposite but in a context of conservative comments for the most part. I have not been trying to address specific sub-issues, but to illustrate some of the things that get ignored about trans people.

Whether you want to believe it or not, I am trying my best to understand both sides. The conservative side is easy, the trans side is much more difficult.

I would like to see more people give trying to understand the other side a bit of effort. THAT is what I am advocating.

#34 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On February 27, 2017 @ 12:53 pm

Franklin,

Well, but of course I’m not declaring anyone evil a priori, much less anyone with a specific sexual orientation.

In this respect, I must make myself clear, because it looks that so far I’ve failed to do so.

Of course, there are wicked and corrupted human beings, but I’d never dare labeling an entire category and such. Nay, I almost wouldn’t dare to label a single individual as such.

Evil is a moral category and, as such, can be only related to free will, to what we freely decide to do. Any human condition, per se, cannot be evil. So no, homosexuality is not evil.

However when we come to ideology, we are talking about a product of human intellect and will. Ideology is a moral entity and, as such, can be evil.

On a different note.

There is, out of Etruscan roots, a simpler way to view the term “pagan”. Behind the Latin etymology is the speculation that paganus meant “the ascribing of divine or holy significance to a place or geographic feature.” It lived on for centuries in the invocation of patron gods or goddesses (Athens being an obvious example), the traditions about cross-roads, wells and springs, hilltops and deep valleys. It will be oversimplified for some (for many of my fellow travelers as well), but that is what I mean when I call myself Pagan.

I like that. Every place, every stone having a deity is something I could easily subscribe to. I see it as a symbol – not a symbol, actually, that’s too abstract – as an effect of the all-pervading Spirit of God, a facet of His person in the world. The ancient concept of “sacrifice” is very clear to me: when I’m having lunch at sea, I always throw a bit of bread to the waves, to “appease” them. It’s a bow to the fact that I’m not in control, and that there are superior forces, all subject to the will of God, which can dispose of me at any time.

#35 Comment By Sam M On February 27, 2017 @ 1:01 pm

Pepi:

“In the context of the comments where the terms I wrote about were used, there was no attempt to make the distinctions you mention. I have no problem with making those distinctions as needed”

But these distinctions are all that matter in terms of policy. And the Obama directive makes seeking to explore these distinctions a cause for losing federal funding. The student is trans when he SAYS he’s trans. The school WILL treat him according to his gender identity. Any discussion about seeking medical input or requiring some kind of objective “trigger” for accommodations is off the table from the get go. Despite the fact that up to 80 percent of kids, especially younger kids, who lay claim to transgender status later desist. And some medical professionals who are deeply respected in the field insist that treating all claims equally leads to HARM. Not harm of kids who don’t want to be ogled by frat boys, but the kids claiming trans status themselves.

I believe that you are trying to understand both sides. But you need to understand that the Obama directive is not some middle ground of compassion and or a model of level headed discourse. It has staked out in a deeply ideological position, which is reflexive “support” for claim of gender dysphoria. Feels good to give people “support.” But it has become more a case of virtue signalling than anything, and that position has trounced any chance whatsoever for a compassionate compromise position. Ask Dr. Zucker. Watch the documentary.

Listen. That kid in Virginia? He transitioned. He got the surgery. He got his birth certificate changed. As troubling as I might find it to hear that adults did these surgeries on a minor, I can see that this kid at least has a strong claim on “maleness” and the cultural trappings thereof. Others will call me nuts for that but eventually the kid has to get along in the world. And as much as you dislike the nomenclature, this kid… is a penis haver. He has a penis. Which gives him at least a logical claim on the boy’s room that reasonable people can discuss.

But this kid, I think, has a completely different biological and cultural status than a girl who last week declared herself to be a boy. And I think it’s nuts to insist, upon loss of federal funding, that schools treat these kids exactly the same based on their claims.

The obama directive insists that we do.

And as it stands, anyone who questions it gets lambasted by CNN anchors on social media. And respected world class physicians who have decades of evidence calling these claims into question have their careers destroyed.

This is not a conversation. It’s an inquisition.

#36 Comment By Franklin Evans On February 27, 2017 @ 1:35 pm

Giuseppe,

However when we come to ideology, we are talking about a product of human intellect and will. Ideology is a moral entity and, as such, can be evil.

That is very clear. I believe I should have figured that out about your intent before now. I’m glad we could come to agreement on that.

To mangle a Tolkien quote: “Evil is as evil does.” Not meaning to be further argumentative, but that is my position on morality. We know evil by its effects and consequences, and while we can make assumptions about future acts when we identify similarities between ideologies — as Rod, perhaps awkwardly, attempts in his post about Trump and the GOP — I maintain a default caution about it. Similarities mean we are obligated to closely observe. We are not obligated to draw conclusions. That, I must add, is of little consequence to those whose lived experience and/or heritage sounds the alarm and brooks no waiting for things to happen. I hold to my position knowing that it can be difficult (if not impossible) for such people to accept.

As explanation, with full disclosure of my own biases and the need to listen to my own advice (ahem), I return to what I assert in my advocacy for LGBT people. From their point of view, their being labeled by some as evil pales before the evil done to them. They see Christianity as an ideology, and following your excellent logic they don’t hesitate to brand it evil. I see it as a vicious cycle, promoting and facilitating a revolving door of who is in power and against whom will they use it to exact punishment and revenge.

I want to break that cycle. I see you and Rod and some others as potential allies in that desire.

I happily settle upon immanence as a term summarizing my beliefs.

The Great Mother speaks from within my heart with a gentle reminder that I am connected through Her with all other things, animate or inanimate. She speaks to me from the hearts of other humans, a not-always-gentle reminder that I am not alone within Her womb of Creation. I see Her in the cat that begs for my attention, the neighbor’s child who has fallen and scraped his knee, the tree that welcomes me to its shade, and the lightning storm that both energizes me and chases me to shelter. Once or twice in my life, I have heard Her voice as one amongst many such voices, and I know that there are connections that are beyond my human limits to perceive or comprehend.

#37 Comment By Sam M On February 27, 2017 @ 1:50 pm

Pepi:

“Zucker is in the middle and most people can’t stand to be there.”

If you think Zucker is in the middle, then you ought to have problems with the Obama directive.

Zucker’s views were the very views targeted by the Obama directive. ANY questioning of claims is akin to KKK-level bigotry. Zucker was singled out and his career destroyed for taking a nuanced view for when to accept claims. He was completely devastated not by scientists who refuted his claims, but by activists who wanted a pound of flesh and got it.

Zucker is NOT the center. At least not anymore.

#38 Comment By Stefan On February 27, 2017 @ 2:54 pm

Pepi

“You are laughing at yourself and your own assumptions. The document is not about determining gender, although it discusses how schools can deal with a claim, it is about taking into consideration ALL kids, parents, the school and the community when making decisions about accommodations.”

I was laughing at exactly what you describe. It’s not about truth (what male and female are), it’s about how to keep the spectacle of communication going when the very possibility of truth is foreclosed. How to perform awareness of the complexity of the issue or the feels of all involved. And what this semiotic diarrhea is meant to obscure is that the public must, as always, yield way for the project of the willed self.

#39 Comment By Zack S On February 27, 2017 @ 3:50 pm

“So, when you say to somebody like me that my views are bigoted, this is about like saying that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is an expression of bigotry.”

I wouldn’t say your views are bigoted, just that they are wrong (as I favor the Cartesian view over the Aristotelian one) and the analogy to a scientific law isn’t a good one. Science is backed up by peer reviewed evidence so it isn’t up for debate, only disproving and replacement by a better theory. Philosophy, because it is not based on peer reviewed evidence, is always up for debate as there is no way or proving one view right and the other wrong.

To me, a transgender male-to-female taking hormones and having their body surgically modified to fit their mind is no different than my having my eyes fixed with laser surgery. We are both fixing physical anomalies in the meat to better serve the mind.

By the same token, two minds using their meat bicycles to show each other love and bind to one another through sex, cuddling, kissing, etc are in the same boat. I attribute no more value to the meat than I do to a box of tools. Tools serve the carpenter and meat serves the self/mind. I would guess most progressives, like myself, follow this view of reality though most don’t bother looking into the philosophy behind their beliefs. I was raised and confirmed Catholic with a background in CCD, Life Teen, etc so I was introduced to philosophy of why the church believes what it believes really early.

#40 Comment By Brendan from Oz On February 27, 2017 @ 5:51 pm

@Zack S

That you regard such a coimplex organism as a human being as mere “meat” and “meat bicycles” displays just how dehumanizing, if not irratiuoinal, your philosophy is.

Do you think Man is the Measure of All Things – which Aristotle opposed with his “invention” of Logic and Energy (Potenital and Kinetic)?

Rejecting Logos (Christ being the divine logos) has consequences few “meat bicycle” folk imagine, even while they spout their irrationality as Science. It isn’t, by definitioon, and never can be apart from redefining the words and concepts, which is a hallmark of Sophistry.

#41 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 1, 2017 @ 11:42 pm

A national newscaster denounces a father concerned about his 12 year old daughter having a biological male undressing in her locker room, calling him a bigot.

Well, how about calling the national newscaster an enabler of pedophilia?

Then, perhaps we could step back from the name calling and try to look at the substance of what is at issue. First, the emperor has to be called on the fact that he has no clothes.

Science is backed up by peer reviewed evidence so it isn’t up for debate, only disproving and replacement by a better theory.

Science is always up for debate, because human grasp of the evidence, and the meaning of the evidence, is always short of perfect. Its true that disproving evolutionary biology is about as likely as disproving the existence of zinc, but there is always a finite possibility that we are wrong. Of course, the more “social” the science, the more open to debate the premises and hypotheses. The newer and less tested by time and thousands of tests the hypothesis, the less certain it is to be true, and the more debatable it is.

Philosophy, in a sense, is not debatable at all, because there are no objective criteria.

To me, a transgender male-to-female taking hormones and having their body surgically modified to fit their mind…

Well, your opinion on the matter is inherently suspect, because you have a huge subjective stake in the outcome of the debate. What your fellow humans owe you is sufficient space to make your own choices, but we don’t owe you credence as a paradigm for the species.