I posted the “Forever Culture Wars” item just now, about the importance of forming a real Christian resistance, and then checked my e-mail. Lo, a pastor sends me notice that since Friday’s Title IX ukase, he has been e-mailing back and forth with the principal and superintendent of his first-grade daughter’s public school, trying to determine what they really believe about the transgender bathroom issue, and what they plan to do about it. He hasn’t gotten a straight answer.
Today the pastor and his wife met with the principal. He writes:
“The key moment came when I asked a simple question: ‘Is there a natural difference between boys and girls?’ Answer: ‘I refuse to answer that question.'” Unbelievable. She also explained that she kept politics and philosophy out of education. When we left, I gave her my copy of Lewis’ The Abolition of Man. Rereading it this week, I realize that it is probably best characterized as a work of philosophical prophecy.
The pastor provided a copy of the letter he wrote to the principal and the superintendent, but removed their names from it for use on this blog, to protect their privacy:
Dear Mrs Principal and Dr Superintendent,
By way of preliminaries – and also to help Dr S in his own deliberations – I would like to clarify a bit how one citizen sees this matter.
First of all, for us, this is not fundamentally a question of “feelings” or about “safety.” A special bathroom would hurt our daughters feelings, certainly; and I do think implementing this decree will lead to an increase in child abuse and sexual assault. Fundamentally, however, this is a question of truth. I “feel” that my daughter would be “safe” at her school for the rest of the school year; that would be very different, Dr S, if she were a 14 year old changing in school locker rooms. But because I am a man of conviction, feelings and safety pale in comparison to telling and living the truth. It is true, I am a Christian – what is perhaps worse, I am a pastor and theologian – and I happen to believe that the Son of Mary who was crucified by Pontius Pilate for telling the truth is Truth himself in our flesh and blood. But on the priority of the truth in the moral fabric of a just society, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Lincoln or – what is probably more apposite just now – Vaclav Havel would say nothing less than this. Right:
The real issue here is that the Obama administration’s decree is at the surface a pragmatic directive regarding the use of bathroom facilities etc., but implicitly and by logical necessity, it is a claim about what is in fact the case (i.e., true) regarding human nature as an essentially fluid and endlessly malleable reality. That is to say, it is a denial of the reality of any such thing as “human nature” beyond the self-determining dictates of the sovereign, autonomous will. It is, in short, philosophy decked out in bureaucratic dress and backed with a closed fist aimed at deviant philosophers such as myself. You need to know this; you need to know that by implementing the decree, you are not just acting to protect the feelings or safety of a minority. (For the record, as a citizen of this nation but especially as a Christian, I firmly believe that the feelings and safety of every child, including children who are confused about their own identity, must be respected and protected; I am no bigot, and God helping me I am certainly no Pharisee; if you ever happen to visit my parish, you will hear that in the name of Jesus Christ I preach grace as a free gift for undeserving people such as myself.) Rather, if you implement this decree, you will be enforcing a highly contested philosophical anthropology that is basically 30 years old, a philosophical anthropology that (without exaggeration) every civilization in the history of the human race would regard as sheer folly. You see, the President is making philosophers of you all! Make no mistake: this “policy” decree is fundamentally an issue of truth; it is philosophical.
Second, you need to see, Mrs P, that the beneath surface neutrality of your initial reply to my question there already lies a veiled but definite answer. For in offering to allow my child, a girl, to use a special bathroom of her own, you have implicitly declared that queer is straight and straight is queer. Because I believe my daughter is a girl; because I believe that her femininity is a given fact of her being; because I believe that this givenness is but one instantiation of the order of things which, because of a borrowed goodness derived from the infinite goodness of the Maker of all things, is good; and because I believe that this matters: my daughter is to be “queered,” i.e., she (together with all who think as she does) must be sent to a space of her own. She must be sent to the corner; the dunce cap must be placed upon her head.
Third and last – and I direct this comment esp. to Dr S – Mrs P assures me that nothing will be done “in haste.” I should think not! I should think that, since the civilization-grounding fact of difference between Man and Woman – a difference that is grounded in biology, but that runs down into mystical depths deeper than any of us really understand – since this difference of biological sex is itself the foundation of life, the home, culture, nations … I should think that no one – and surely no one entrusted with the care of infinitely precious little human beings – would dare to manipulate a reality as basic, primal, and awesome as Man and Woman, Boys and Girls. That would be “hasty” indeed; to tinker with human nature after 30 years of philosophical experimentation, to tinker with human nature after a single decree from a federal bureaucracy that does not reflect the consent of the people – for the people have not been consulted – that would be hasty. By contrast: to defend and uphold the reality of sexual difference, a reality that has only seriously been questioned in the past 30 years of human history, to do that would be to act in patience.
With grave concern, but also with patient regard for the givenness of things, and with the hope that rises up in my soul every time I see blades of grass (i.e., nature) break up concrete sidewalks (i.e., the imposition of human will upon nature), I am your fellow citizen,
The Revd Dr N., Citizen of the Republic
Reader, you need to understand the propagandizing that the federal government — and, in the case of the Fort Worth ISD, local school authorities — are pressing on your children. Fortunately, some states have governors that are standing up to Obama on this one (I, it appears, am not governed by such a man). Whatever your local situation, please get it straight in your mind that this is not simply about bathrooms and locker rooms. The pastor understands it well.
“The Benedict Option isn’t an option anymore,” he said.
What are you going to do this fall when school starts again? You had better start talking about it, with your pastor and everybody else in your community.
I was comforted today by Donald Trump’s list of judges he would consider nominating for the Supreme Court. All of them are members of the Federalist Society. All are pro-life. I don’t know where they stand on religious liberty and this transgender stuff, but I have absolutely no doubt that they would be immeasurably better than anybody Hillary Clinton would name.
As an aside, I voted Democratic in the Louisiana governor’s race last fall because the budget was a hellacious mess and I didn’t trust Republicans to fix it. Besides, the Democrat, John Bel Edwards, is a pro-life Catholic. How socially liberal could he be? At the time, my friend and neighbor, a fellow conservative, taunted me for voting D.
Today my neighbor forwarded me this e-mail he received back from the governor’s office, and taunted me even more heavily:
Thank you for contacting the office of Governor John Bel Edwards with your concern regarding the federal issued guidance on transgender access to school restrooms.
Governor Edwards is reviewing the guidance from the US Department of Justice and Department of Education. It appears that this guidance is simply clarifying current law under Title IX. The governor is working closely with the Louisianan [sic] Department of Education to meet our shared goal of fostering a safe, non-discriminatory environment for our children.
Your position has been forwarded to the governor’s policy team for notation. We appreciate your input as we work to meet the needs of our state.
Vote Democratic, roll out the welcome mat to girls with penises in your daughter’s locker room. So noted.