Ideology Destroys Sanity, Scholarship
Writing at Yahoo! News, Prof. Jennifer Ho, president of the Association of Asian American Studies and a faculty member at the University of Colorado Boulder, would like you to know that when black people attack Asians, it’s really white people’s fault:
The point I’ve made through all of those experiences is that anti-Asian racism has the same source as anti-Black racism: white supremacy. So when a Black person attacks an Asian person, the encounter is fueled perhaps by racism, but very specifically by white supremacy. White supremacy does not require a white person to perpetuate it.
She, plainly, is a loon driven mad by ideology. Those black teenage girls who carjacked that South Asian man in DC, killing him in the process, are only going to get a slap on the wrist for it — which is just as well, because if you think about it, white people made them do it. Ask Prof. Ho, she’ll tell you.
But this is academia today: an increasingly malignant force. In the UK, a PhD candidate named Christophe de Ray is watching in disgust as the entire academic humanities edifice is being torn down by social-justice barbarians under the name of “de-colonizing the curriculum.” Excerpts:
Universities are presently rolling out sweeping reforms ostensibly designed to promote ‘diversity & inclusion’, and recurringly present these initiatives as acts of ‘decolonisation’. As a finishing philosophy PhD student and teacher at a large UK university, I regularly receive emails announcing conferences, workshops and Zoom meetings about how to go about decolonising academia, the humanities, research, and yes, the curriculum.The frustratingly vague and verbose explanations often given for these projects by their advocates can make it tricky to pin down what these slogans mean, exactly. However, the following resource – a Decolonisation ‘Learning and Teaching Toolkit’ provided by SOAS (London) – is widely shared and relatively concise. You may recall that SOAS made the headlines a few years ago, when its student union called for Plato and Kant to be removed from the philosophy curriculum. Let us therefore come to this epicentre of decolonisation, and see what we can learn from it.According to the Toolkit, the ultimate aims of decolonising the curriculum consist in “transformation through higher education”. The object of ‘transformation’ is, unsurprisingly, “society”, which is plagued by “structural oppression” and “racialised disadvantage”. The text raises ethnic differences in attainment and admissions, as well as reported feelings of “exclusion”, as evidence of the latter. Higher education, we are told, is “necessarily political”, and thus can either be oppressive or liberatory.More:How are these aims to be achieved? By removing the following obstacles to ‘liberation’:1. “the content of syllabi employing concepts, ideas and perspectives that centre or normalise constructions of ‘Westernness’ or ‘whiteness’’ as basic reference points for human society”2. “a very significant presence for scholars racialised as white, gendered as male and located, often by virtue of class privileges, within a limited range of Western institutions or canons”Translated from progressivese, this essentially amounts to the claim that humanities curricula are unduly Eurocentric, since they largely focus on historically Western or European authors, texts and ideas. To ‘decolonise’ them, then, is to change their contents accordingly, thereby ‘diversifying’ the perspectives taught to students.
Read it all. De Ray goes on to explain how this entire enterprise is a fraudulent act of, yes, colonialism.
This is what totalitarians do: they destroy the cultural memories of a people in order to make them easier to control. It is gobsmacking that the gatekeepers and guardians of educational institutions are capitulating in the destruction of the institutions they have been charged with defending.
Why would anyone want to go into academics today? Serious question. I keep saying it over and over, and maybe somebody will believe me and act: all those who want to save the humanities in this Dark Age had better stop trying to shore up this rotten imperium, and instead start building the equivalent of early medieval monasteries: communities within which knowledge and traditional academic practices can survive this barbarian epoch. I’m not exaggerating. It’s that serious.
To that end, here is terrific news: the University of St. Thomas, in Houston, is launching an online MFA Creative Writing program that is solidly Catholic. Students can work either in poetry or in fiction. The founding director is James Matthew Wilson, a very fine scholar and poet, and — I can say this because he’s a personal friend — a serious orthodox Catholic. The press release says:
While there are more than two hundred MFA programs in the United States, the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the University of St. Thomas is the only one committed expressly to a renewal of the craft of literature within the cosmic scope, long memory, and expansive vision of the Catholic literary and intellectual tradition. With Virgil, Dante, and Flannery O’Connor for guides, we aim to enter into that tradition and to shape its future. Additionally, the MFA in Creative writing at UST is the most affordable program of its kind in the country.
Students will complete three semesters of workshops in their chosen genre (poetry or fiction) and a thesis, while taking exciting, well-integrated seminars in subjects directly related to their work as writers.
The MFA in Creative Writing seeks to transform the life and spirit of contemporary literature. This program is committed to the renewal of serious craft in contemporary literature and the continued revival of the Catholic literary and intellectual tradition.
All is not lost!
leave a comment
Keira Bell’s Story
Stop whatever you’re doing and read this autobiographical piece by Keira Bell, a British detransitioner who won a major court case against the Tavistock clinic, which facilitated her transition to male when she was a troubled young teenager. Bell talks about how she was a lonely and frightened adolescent with an absent father and an alcoholic mother. As she started puberty, she lost her male friends, and was alarmed by her attraction to other girls. She told her mother, and her father’s partner, that she thought she was a boy. More:
As I look back, I see how everything led me to conclude it would be best if I stopped becoming a woman. My thinking was that, if I took hormones, I’d grow taller and wouldn’t look much different from biological men.
I began seeing a psychologist through the National Health Service, or NHS. When I was 15—because I kept insisting that I wanted to be a boy—I was referred to the Gender Identity Development Service, at the Tavistock and Portman clinic in London. There, I was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, which is psychological distress because of a mismatch between your biological sex and your perceived gender identity.
By the time I got to the Tavistock, I was adamant that I needed to transition. It was the kind of brash assertion that’s typical of teenagers. What was really going on was that I was a girl insecure in my body who had experienced parental abandonment, felt alienated from my peers, suffered from anxiety and depression, and struggled with my sexual orientation.
After a series of superficial conversations with social workers, I was put on puberty blockers at age 16. A year later, I was receiving testosterone shots. When 20, I had a double mastectomy. By then, I appeared to have a more masculine build, as well as a man’s voice, a man’s beard, and a man’s name: Quincy, after Quincy Jones.
Five years after beginning my medical transition to becoming male, I began the process of detransitioning. A lot of trans men talk about how you can’t cry with a high dose of testosterone in your body, and this affected me too: I couldn’t release my emotions. One of the first signs that I was becoming Keira again was that—thankfully, at last—I was able to cry. And I had a lot to cry about.
The consequences of what happened to me have been profound: possible infertility, loss of my breasts and inability to breastfeed, atrophied genitals, a permanently changed voice, facial hair. When I was seen at the Tavistock clinic, I had so many issues that it was comforting to think I really had only one that needed solving: I was a male in a female body. But it was the job of the professionals to consider all my co-morbidities, not just to affirm my naïve hope that everything could be solved with hormones and surgery.
She sued Tavistock and the NHS. A British court ruled unanimously in her favor. She writes:
My team argued that the Tavistock had failed to protect young patients who sought its services, and that—instead of careful, individualized treatment—the clinic had conducted what amounted to uncontrolled experiments on us. Last December, we won a unanimous verdict. The judges expressed serious doubts that the clinic’s youngest patients could understand the implications of what amounted to experimental treatment with life-altering outcomes.
In their ruling, the judges repeatedly expressed surprise at what had been going on at the Tavistock, particularly its failure to gather basic data on its patients. They noted the lack of evidence for putting children as young as 10 years old on drugs to block puberty, a treatment that is almost universally followed by cross-sex hormones, which must be taken for life to maintain the transition. They also had concerns about the lack of follow-up data, given “the experimental nature of the treatment and the profound impact that it has.”
At the Tavistock, practitioners provide “gender affirmative care”—in practice, this means that when children and teens declare a desire to transition, their assertions are typically accepted as conclusive. Affirmative care is being adopted as a model in many places. In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement on the treatment of young people who identify as transgender and gender diverse that advocated for “gender-affirmative care.”
But former Tavistock practitioners have cited varied problems suffered by the kids who sought help, such as sexual abuse, trauma, parental abandonment, homophobia in the family or at school, depression, anxiety, being on the autism spectrum, having ADHD. These profound issues, and how they might be tied up with feelings of dysphoria, have often been ignored in favor of making transition the all-purpose solution.
As the High Court found, much of the clinic’s treatment is not even based on solid evidence. At the time our case was accepted, the NHS was asserting that the effects of puberty blockers are “fully reversible.” But recently, the NHS reversed itself, acknowledging “that ‘little is known about the long-term side-effects’ on a teenager’s body or brain.” That didn’t stop them from prescribing these drugs to people like me.
Read it all. Bell talks about the incredible, irreversible physical effects of choices she made as a 15 year old — choices encouraged by everyone at the clinic. If you watch this short video report on her case, you can hear that she speaks with a male voice — something that cannot be changed now, something that she will just have to live with. “I was an unhappy girl who needed help,” she writes. “Instead, I was treated like an experiment.”
It is absolutely insane that this was allowed. It is now allowed in the US — even mandated in some hospitals. One physician I spoke with in reporting Live Not By Lies told me that at his hospital, they are under orders from the top to practice “gender affirmative” care. If you object to this as a doctor, you will be fired.
The Arkansas legislature banned this last week, and overrode Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto, thank God. Those lawmakers are going to save future Keira Bells in that state. Those lawmakers are hated by all the right-thinking progressives, and certainly by woke capitalists. But they did the right thing — as will be obvious when American Keira Bells start winning these lawsuits in US courts. It’s coming.
leave a comment
A Rhythm Of Racist Prayer
There’s a book out called A Rhythm Of Prayer: A Collection of Meditations for Renewal, compiled by the progressive Christian author Sarah Bessey. It’s been a bestseller. It’s meant for women. Here’s the description from the Amazon site:
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • For the weary, the angry, the anxious, and the hopeful, this collection of moving, tender prayers offers rest, joyful resistance, and a call to act, written by Barbara Brown Taylor, Amena Brown, Nadia Bolz-Weber, and other artists and thinkers, curated by the author Glennon Doyle calls “my favorite faith writer.”
It’s no secret that we are overworked, overpressured, and edging burnout. Unsurprisingly, this fact is as old as time—and that’s why we see so many prayer circles within a multitude of church traditions. These gatherings are a trusted space where people seek help, hope, and peace, energized by God and one another.
This book, curated by acclaimed author Sarah Bessey, celebrates and honors that prayerful tradition in a literary form. A companion for all who feel the immense joys and challenges of the journey of faith, this collection of prayers says it all aloud, giving readers permission to recognize the weight of all they carry. These writings also offer a broadened imagination of hope—of what can be restored and made new. Each prayer is an original piece of writing, with new essays by Sarah Bessey throughout.
Encompassing the full breadth of the emotional landscape, these deeply tender yet subversive prayers give readers an intimate look at the diverse language and shapes of prayer.
The book contains a “Prayer of a Weary Black Woman,” by Chanequa Walker-Barnes, an associate professor in the Mercy University’s School of Theology (Mercer is a Georgia Baptist school).
This piece breaks down the prayer. Here are close-ups in the photo of the tweet above:
Here are quotes, if you can’t read the shots.
“My prayer is that you would help me hate the other White people – you know, the nice ones. The Fox News-loving, Trump-supporting voters who ‘don’t see color’ but who make thinly-veiled racist comments about ‘those people.’ The people who are happy to have me over for dinner but alert the neighborhood watch anytime an unrecognized person of color passes their house. The people who welcome Black people in their churches and small groups but brand us heretics if we suggest that Christianity is concerned with the poor and the oppressed. The people who politely tell us that we can leave we we call out the racial microaggressions we experience in their ministries.”
“Lord, if it be your will, harden my heart. Stop me from striving to see the best in people. Stop me from being hopeful that White people can do and be better. Let me imagine them instead as white-hooded robes standing in front of burning crosses.”
“Let me see them as hopelessly unrepentant, reprobate bigots who have blasphemed the Holy Spirit and who need to be handed over to the evil one.”
My, my, we have come a long way from Dr. King, haven’t we?
Now, imagine that you are a white student at Mercer, and Dr. Walker-Barnes is your professor. How can you possibly succeed in that class, knowing that your professor is an open racist who asks God to help her hate people like you?
This is not really about the deranged hater Chanequa Walker-Barnes, who, get this, says that her ministry advocates for “reconciliation.” This is about a progressive establishment that valorizes anti-white hatred.
How the hell did the people at Convergent Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, approve this? Is racial hatred fine by them if it’s directed at white people? Apparently so. I’ve read a couple of reviews of A Rhythm of Prayer, and not one of them have expressed surprise or alarm that Walker-Barnes prays for God to help her hate white people, and asking God to help her see them all as Klansmen. Not one. Walker-Barnes would not have written such a blasphemous, hateful, racist prayer if she thought she would face any sanction for it from her university, or within her professional milieu.
My conclusion is that the woke establishment is completely on board with stoking anti-white hatred. This is the fruit of Critical Race Theory. This week, the black Southern Baptist pastor Voddie Baucham published an incredibly powerful indictment of CRT and what it’s doing to Evangelical churches: Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe.
Baucham pulls no punches. He writes:
There are plenty of sincere, though perhaps naive Christians who, if they knew the ideology behind it, would run away from the term “social justice” like rats from a burning ship. … The current moment is akin to two people standing on either side of a major fault line just before it shifts. When the shift comes, the ground will open up, a divide that was once invisible will become visible, and the two will find themselves on opposite sides of it. That is what is happening in our day. In some cases, the divide is happening already. Churches are splitting over this issue. Major ministries are losing donors, staff, and leadership. Denominations are in turmoil. Seminary faculties are divided with some professors being fired or “asked to leave.” Families are at odds. Marriages are on the rocks. And I don’t believe the fracture in this fault line is yet even a fraction of what it will be.
No, I am not writing this book to stop the divide. I am writing to clearly identify the two sides of the fault line and to urge the reader to choose wisely.
I’m going to devote a separate post to Baucham’s powerful, urgent book, but let me here exhort Christian readers to buy it and share it with everyone you know. It’s important. What Walker-Barnes and her progressive Christian allies represent is, let’s be clear, the spirit of Antichrist. It is blasphemous to call on God to make you hate people at all, much less on the basis of race. Voddie Baucham is calling them out on it.
I have said for years in this space that the progressives are calling up racist demons that they won’t be able to control. A Rhythm Of Prayer — or at least the Walker-Barnes contribution to it — is an incantation to the demon of racial hate. This is embraced and promoted by a mainstream publisher. Until this morning, when I saw this on conservative websites, there was no criticism of it. This is what these people, these progressives, believe. They are preparing the country for violent racial conflict. Voddie Baucham characterizes the “antiracist” propaganda as follows:
If black people know racism, and white people cannot know racism (and are racist by default as the result of their white privilege), then the only acceptable response is for white people to sit down, shut up, and listen to what black people have to say on the matter.
People like Chanequa Walker-Barnes get away with this because all the white people in their social and professional circles sit down and shut up as a matter of course. And those who don’t — like Kieran Bhattacharya (who, by the sound of his last name, is not even white) — face the full weight of persecutorial institutions coming down on them to destroy their careers and their lives.
But not all white people, and not all people in general, are like those cowardly white liberals. It is time for those who hate this racism to find their backbones and their voices. Do not embrace anti-black racism, which is also the spirit of Antichrist! Stand against all race hatred. Confront managers of stores that sell this hateful book. Tell everybody you know that Mercer University employs an open racist. When your school, or your kid’s school, teaches garbage like this, confront the school’s administration. Don’t let it pass. If your church is teaching it, leave that church. This evil will never stop until and unless people of good will stand up against it, like Voddie Baucham is doing, and demand that it go away.
I remind you that propaganda like A Rhythm Of Prayer is what pre-Nazi Germany did to the Jews, preparing Germany for the Holocaust. It’s what the Hutus in power did to the Tutsis of Rwanda, preparing Rwanda for the 1994 genocide. If a bestselling prayerbook called on God to help one learn how to hate people of color, we would know exactly what we were looking at, and we would rightly condemn it without qualification. But our institutions — academia, publishing, media, and others — have been captured by this evil ideology. If we don’t stand up against it right now, without fear or apology, then history tells us where it may lead.
Again, the problem here is not really Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes. The problem is a progressive-controlled system — academia, publishing, and retailing — that valorizes her kind of race hatred. I believe that she should have the legal right to publish this. But it should be vigorously condemned all the same.
You can buy this book featuring Chanequa Walker-Barnes prayer for the gift of racial hatred through Amazon. You cannot buy Ryan T. Anderson’s sober, well-reasoned book critiquing transgender ideology at Amazon. This is what it means for progressives — not liberals, progressives — to have captured institutions.
None of this moral insanity will stop if the rest of us simply sit back and hope that it goes away. Fight it now, or the fight that’s coming is going to be much uglier, maybe, God forbid, even violent. If that happens, if the shooting starts, remember that progressive elites did this to us, to all of us, black, white, brown, all of us. They are openly teaching us to hate each other on the basis of race. Hell, they’re even praying for it!
UPDATE: Reader Coleman Glenn comments:
Rod, I think you and Ryan McAllister are misunderstanding what Walker-Barnes is doing here. It’s pretty clear to me that she’s expressing a desire to God that she knows He will say “no” to – crying out and saying, “Relieve me if this burden of having to forgive — nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done.” It’s telling that she compares herself to Jonah, who does everything in his power to avoid calling Nineveh to repentance but eventually does it anyway. This becomes most clear in the following paragraph:
Free me from this burden of calling them to confession and repentance. Grant me a Get Out of Judgment Free card if I make White people the exception to your commandment to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
She knows it doesn’t work like that, and this part of the prayer is her wearily acknowledging that to be the case. And so immediately after this comes the “nevertheless, not my will” — “But I will trust in You, my Lord.” She acknowledges her calling to justice and reconciliation. The answer to her prayer, “Make me hate” is “no,” and she knows it.
There’s plenty of things in the prayer that reasonable Christians can disagree about, and it’s worth asking whether Walker-Barnes should publish a prayer that can be so easily misconstrued. But it’s not fair to misrepresent it as essentially saying, “The Lord will make me hate whites,” when in reality it says the opposite: “Lord, I want to hate Whites, but you won’t let me.”
I see. I’m not sure I buy it, though. I need to think about it. I see your point, and you might well be right, but Walker-Barnes’s writing is so muddled on this point that it’s not clear to me what she’s saying. Or rather, given the fact that she has written such a long and vivid version of an imprecatory prayer, one fuzzy paragraph saying, in effect, “They deserve all this, but I need you to keep me on the straight and narrow in my denunciations of them,” is pretty puny. It reads to me as completely insincere, though obviously I can’t know my heart
Put another way, it reads like a kind of pornography: a detailed and highly-charged prayer about lust, with an obligatory, “but I know I can’t have that” graph slapped on to pass the censors, so to speak. Still, I will concede that that may have been her intention, however badly executed.
UPDATE.2: Think of it this way: if a white theologian had written a “prayer” that was a lengthy, lurid discourse on how black people deserved to be hated, but saying in a single paragraph at the end, “but Lord, I know that I can’t have what I’m asking for,” would we think that it was unproblematic? Again, if Walker-Barnes’s sin here is not moral, but aesthetic — that is, if she simply did a poor job of saying what she meant — that is important to note. But that potentially exculpatory graf seems awfully weak.
I remember when I was writing about the black radical professor Tommy Curry at Texas A&M a few years ago, and the many awful, racist things he was saying, some who came to his defense argued that in some cases, technically, he was simply quoting others, etc., and that we can’t say that he really believed these things. This was maybe — maybe — plausible in some of the instances, if you squinted and applied the strictest possible hair-splitting logic. But it was clear what he was doing. I think the same thing is happening here. Reading the entire “prayer,” I don’t believe for one second that Walker-Barnes struggles with her anger at white people. She does not sound like the sort of person begging for deliverance from her anti-white passions.
UPDATE.3: A reader writes:
I have read your articles over the past few years and learned a great deal from them. I am a student at Mercer University. My institution advertises itself as evangelical Baptist or partially Christian to students from conservative backgrounds. However, the administrators and the faculty reject traditional values in favor of diversity, inclusion, and equity.
Two days ago, [law professor] bragged in class about how the law school faculty hiring committee of which he is a member chose not to consider hiring straight white men for three new professorships. They threw out categorically applications of straight white men. He stated that this behavior would be illegal for a public university. He expressed his thought that nondiscrimination provisions in public employment are white supremacist, Jim Crow laws.
He attempted to bait straight white male students into saying something that he would define as racist through asking again and again whether or not it was racist for the law school not to consider straight white men for these three job openings. He is attempting to identify dissenters and to punish them.
Routinely, he demeans straight men who are white and criticizes traditional masculinity as toxic. He expresses his disdain for “whiteness” every class period. He also called Clarence Thomas the whitest man on the supreme court and claimed that this stereotyping was antiracist. He ridiculed conservatives in class including a Korean student who tried not to make everything about racial identity.
Please tell the wider orthodox Christian community to stay away from Mercer. It is a hell hole. Keep fighting the good fight.
Record these racist, abusive classroom conversations, reader. Send them to me. I’ll broadcast them wide. I did not include this professor’s name because without proof, I would not want to libel him. But if you can send in a recording of his voice, and if I can verify that it is him in a classroom setting, then I will share it with the world.
Seems to me like Dr. Chanequa is divided against herself. Can you imagine being her white friend, always being regularly challenged by her about your whiteness? Dr. Chanequa appears to be obsessed with race, and the sins of others:
She’s so race-obsessed that she determined not only the motivation of the sex-obsessed mass murderer in Atlanta, but determined also that he was a white supremacist — and is so certain about her judgment that she urges people whose pastors didn’t preach about the killings to abandon their churches:
Sorry, but I don’t believe Dr. Chanequa is who she says she is. A reader disagrees, e-mailing:
I have read your essays and books over the years with gratitude, so I was alarmed to read your post today that went after Dr. Walker-Barnes’ prayer. Your reading of her prayer seemed to willfully misconstrue what it was intended to be.Yes, it was a call for white Christians to consider whether we have participated in racist hatred and passivity. Yes, it was a cry for recognition that Black people have been overlooked and mistreated and abused, even within our churches, for centuries.But it was also a prayer modeled after our Psalms. It was written in a deeply biblical manner, calling forth the same language of the Psalmists who pray that God would dash their enemies to pieces, praying in the spirit of the ones who drew their swords even when Jesus said to walk the way of peace.And it is a prayer that turns on the word “but,” as so many of the Psalms also do: “But I will trust in you, O Lord.” And then she goes on to pray so differently, just as the Psalmists do when they move from their own desires to God’s vision for us. She prays for the beloved community. She invites us to hope.You excoriated her without acknowledging that she wrote out of a long tradition of prayers of lament and imprecation that nevertheless land with God’s love and hope. And you read this–and told your many followers to read it–as a prayer of violence rather than a desperate cry for God’s peace.
leave a comment
Therapeutic Totalitarianism In Academia
A reader writes:
I don’t know if you remember me, but you posted a blog last year based on an email I sent you about totalitarian things I’ve seen at my university.As with last time, if you post anything I share, please keep both my name and university confidential, as I am supporting a wife and a large family, and cannot risk getting doxed at my job. My income is dependent on receiving external grants, and in today’s climate I would lose any chance of maintaining my funding and student recruiting if my thought crimes were made public.
You’ve been talking a lot recently about the sudden increase in activism regarding forcing people to use preferred pronouns. I thought you’d appreciate seeing screen grabs from the most recent online training that I took at my (public) university. I’ll briefly contextualize each of the five pictures I’m attaching:
1) You can see they are now explicitly stating that their goal is equality of outcome (equity), not equality of opportunity (equal treatment). They are quite vague regarding how exactly to “proactively correct historical power imbalances,” but given that all universities are already doing everything in their power to recruit under-represented minorities (URMs) and still failing to meet their identity quotas, you can bet your bacon that some sort of tyranny and rampant discrimination will be required.
2) Look at the first and last bullet points here in particular. The first: “Call transgender individuals by the name and pronoun that reflects their gender identity.” I have no issue with the “name” part, but look how they are also forcing us to use their preferred pronoun. They could have kept the peace by saying “name or pronoun,” as calling somebody by their preferred name would not violate my Christian conscience, but of course there can be no compromise here. I refuse to use a non-biological gender pronoun, for the exact same reason that I would refuse to call an anorexic person overweight, which makes me wonder how long I will be able to stay here before the issue is forced. And then look at the last bullet point: “If you have religious, political, or cultural objections to someone being transgender, remember that community values on campus compel you to treat everyone with dignity and respect.” I actually agree with this statement on the face of it, but you must remember that they are subtly redefining “dignity and respect” to mean using their preferred pronouns. It’s a brilliant rhetorical bait and switch and shows the power of clever language.
3-5) A video is played of a coworker complaining about having to call a trans person by their preferred pronoun. We’re now given a choose-your-own-adventure, where we can pick between three different ways to respond. Now this is where things get really fascinating: if you pick the politically incorrect choice, the training does show the actor saying the quote you selected, but then the video suddenly pauses, a narrator says that this response is not acceptable, and then rewinds the tape to bring you back to the same choice again. It keeps doing this until you pick the one correct choice. For example, on the second round of choices, if you selected “I see what you’re saying, and I agree that you should be able to refer to people according to your beliefs…” it literally rewinds (i.e. erases) what you are saying and makes you try again.In summary, it is now the official position of my university that we must forcibly achieve equality of outcome amongst all identity groups, and that we are all compelled to use non-biological gender pronouns against our own beliefs. Totalitarianism is not just a foreboding specter on the horizon, it’s already here, and it’s coming out of hiding into plain sight now that it’s accrued enough of a consensus amongst the elite class.
This is one of those cases where both sides are going to assume there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface and, like I said, are going to be disinclined toward actually reading the available evidence. Thankfully, the court brief is fairly exhaustive and–importantly–the account provided in the brief has received the approval of both plaintiff and defendant. To stress, everyone involved in this case agrees, legally, that the account provided herein is an accurate picture of what happened. Additionally, we also have audio of the initial microaggression seminar (Mr. Bhattacharya’s comments start at around the 28:30 mark), as well as of the pursuant committee meeting that ended in his expulsion.
Here is the initial exchange, as documented by the brief:
Bhattacharya: Hello. Thank you for your presentation. I had a few questions just to clarify your definition of microaggressions. Is it a requirement, to be a victim of microaggression, that you are a member of a marginalized group?
Adams: Very good question. And no. And no—
Bhattacharya: But in the definition, it just said you have to be a member of a marginalized group—in the definition you just provided in the last slide. So that’s contradictory.
Adams: What I had there is kind of the generalized definition. In fact, I extend it beyond that. As you see, I extend it to any marginalized group, and sometimes it’s not a marginalized group. There are examples that you would think maybe not fit, such as body size, height, [or] weight. And if that is how you would like to see me expand it, yes, indeed, that’s how I do.
Bhattacharya: Yeah, follow-up question. Exactly how do you define marginalized and who is a marginalized group? Where does that go? I mean, it seems extremely nonspecific.
Adams: And—that’s intentional. That’s intentional to make it more nonspecific … .
After the initial exchange, Bhattacharya challenged Adams’s definition of microaggression. He argued against the notion that “the person who is receiving the microaggressions somehow knows the intention of the person who made it,” and he expressed concern that “a microaggression is entirely dependent on how the person who’s receiving it is reacting.” Id. He continued his critique of Adams’s work, saying, “The evidence that you provided—and you said you’ve studied this for years—which is just one anecdotal case—I mean do you have, did you study anything else about microaggressions that you know in the last few years?” Id. After Adams responded to Bhattacharya’s third question, he asked an additional series of questions: “So, again, what is the basis for which you’re going to tell someone that they’ve committed a microaggression? … Where are you getting this basis from? How are you studying this, and collecting evidence on this, and making presentations on it?”
You can listen to the audio if you like. There’s nothing there, in my opinion, that is not captured accurately in the written description. Bhattacharya does not yell or raise his voice. He sounds skeptical, but in no way violent or threatening. Nor does Adams, the presenter, signal that she is experiencing anything that approaches fear or trauma.
But you know what happened next. Eventually:
This meeting found that Bhattacharya’s continuing behaviors were proof that he posed an imminent danger to the campus community, although the committee did not bother to explain what those behaviors entailed. His behavior was simply noted as “unusual” and this was proof that “Any patient that walked into the room with [Bhattacharya] would be scared.” The following day, Bhattacharya was forcibly removed from campus and told he could not return until he had been screened. He was, subsequently, not allowed to receive sanctioned screening, because of his status of having been removed from campus after being deemed a security risk.
Again, none of what I have described is an exaggeration. None of these details are even being contested.
Now for my own conjecture: the problem isn’t that anyone genuinely believes Bhattacharya poses a threat to anyone’s safety. The problem is that he attempted to question the ideological firmaments of contemporary anti-racist training. These firmaments are protected with aggressive viciousness precisely because they cannot withstand scrutiny. Had Bhattacharya merely scoffed at them, or even if he had been outright condescending and dismissive, he probably would not have received such a severe punishment. The problem was that he was right, and his accusers knew it.
But what most concerned her was an upcoming diversity training in which faculty and staff would be divided into white and nonwhite “caucuses.” In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the protests that then erupted all over the country, LWTech had, like so many other educational institutions, embarked on a large, highly visible attempt to make itself a more inclusive, less racist place. The session was a part of that. It was called Courageous Conversations, and it was scheduled for June 19.
The stated goal of such events is to allow people to talk about race and racism more openly, but the decision to have the races meet separately made Parrett uncomfortable. “Racial segregation of that kind seems like a throwback to the pre-1960s and not a good way to create any kind of cooperation or collaboration,” she says. She wasn’t the only one disturbed by the idea of a racially segregated anti-racism training. Her friend Phil Snider, another English professor at LWTech, said in an email to senior administrators that a “conference based on segregation by skin color does nothing to build a community of belonging.”
Nonetheless, a June 18 all-college email noted that the school’s president, Amy Morrison, had “made clear the expectation that all full-time employees attend Friday’s Courageous Conversations” unless they had conflicting teaching responsibilities. Parrett decided to express her qualms about the training during the training itself.
What happened over the next nine months was both bizarre and oppressive. Because of a brief disruption that easily could have been brushed aside or handled with a warning not to do it again, LWTech went to war against a tenured faculty member, launching a cartoonishly over-the-top disciplinary process that included the hiring of a private investigator, dozens of interviews, and claims of widespread trauma.
You can hardly fathom the Soviet-quality degree of ideological and bureaucratic fanaticism university officials put this professor through. Singal documents it all, then puts it in context of how these Social Justice berserkers criminalize disagreement by framing it all as aggression. Singal:
In this worldview, everything is a harm. There is no such thing as legitimate political disagreement, because we (the progressive in-group) already know the correct answer to every question (even if the answer can sometimes change overnight), and anyone who disagrees clearly—clearly—does so not because of some well-founded political or philosophical difference but because that person wants to harm the innocent people we are righteously hellbent on protecting. There is literally no other explanation for such a difference of opinion, and it doesn’t matter whether the opinion being denounced is held by the majority of Americans.
It is simply toxic to treat mainstream disagreement about political issues as harmful and worthy of discipline. Yet in some circles, this style of zealotry is not just present but escalating.
Read it all. This is therapeutic totalitarianism. You think it’s not going to happen to you. What happens in the university today will happen in corporations and other institutions tomorrow.
Eventually this will burn itself out, but not after it has burned down institutions and destroyed many lives. ReadLive Not By Lives to better understand how you can prepare to face this down. One thing that’s not in the book, but that you should consider: lawyer up, and sue these corrupt institutions into the ground.
leave a comment
Tucker Carlson Eviscerates GOP Mandarin
Exclusive shot of Tucker Carlson introducing Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas last night:
If you missed it, oh, oh, oh, friend, here is the whole thing:
Tucker did not let the Governor (R-Walmart) get away with anything regarding his veto of the common sense legislation banning surgical or hormonal therapy for gender-dysphoric minors. If you don’t want to watch the entire ten-minute evisceration, start here, when Tucker gets all up in his face about whether or not the veto was a favor to corporate interests. Stick with it to watch Tucker barbecue the governor when he falls back on “I’m a limited-government Reaganite” — this, to justify permitting the chemical castration of children.
Gov. Hutchinson is another Republican mandarin who betrays the people who elected him. I’m so glad the Arkansas legislature, in overriding Hutchinson’s veto, remembered that its duty is to the people of Arkansas, not Walmart, Tyson, and Dillards.
Back in 2015, Gov. Hutchinson cited the request of his son Seth in explaining why he would not sign a bill that would have strengthened religious liberty in Arkansas. Seth Hutchinson is a member of Democratic Socialists of America. Back then, it was more important for Asa Hutchinson to serve the interests of his socialist son than the interest of Arkansas Christians. He hasn’t changed a bit. I’m sick of this kind of Republican.
leave a comment
Woke Friends Consider Her A Leper
A reader whose name is known to me — and I know her parents — writes a sobering letter:
I’d like to share the following story in response to your recent reader who writes “We Thought We Were Safe.” It’s a bit lengthy in concept (though I’ve tried to edit it down to the crucial details), so that’s why I’ve decided to send it to you this way instead of posting in the comments. If you’d like to share the entirety with your reader (or post excerpts of it, if you think others would relate) please do- as I’ve kept everything fairly non-specific.
I want to preface by saying that the situation I’m about to share was hurtful to me, but that as a 24-something year old, I am not in a place where it shattered my world. In truth there are parts that I anticipated, and that I probably mentally prepared myself for without realizing. The shocking nature of the discussion, reflecting back on it, actually comes from my own thoughts about ‘what if’ I had not, in fact, been a 24 year old from a supportive background. I’d like for you to consider the things I’m about to discuss from the perspective of a Gen Z (or younger) teenager, because that’s the perspective that keeps dwelling in my mind. I’ve recalled this incident several times in that context while reading some of your recent posts about the Equality Act, Trans Activism and topics related to public schooling, and, most recently, the post from a concerned parent “We Thought We Were Safe.”
To begin, some explanation. Up until last semester (my graduating semester) I was a student at a local state university. While at that university, I made many casual friends from a variety of backgrounds, (some Catholic or Christian like myself, many not) both from school and from my student job. In the spring of 2020, when classes moved to being fully virtual for almost everyone in my social sphere, many of us felt uprooted socially and mentally, and for several months struggled to deal with the results of being so far removed from our usual circles. This isn’t a terribly uncommon story, I’m just relating it to give some background.
During this period of forced isolation, I decided to chance something I hadn’t done in a while: create an online chat group with some of my friends for the purposes of playing online video games and talking to each other (about school, and whatever else). I had done this once before (somewhat unsuccessfully) but this time I told myself that I was just going to invite people I actually knew in real life, and that those people could invite others they knew IRL but that was it. (If you’re not familiar with online gaming chat rooms, this is actually a pretty sound strategy- many chat rooms fall into chaos because of high membership and almost no IRL connections). So, this is what I did. I created the chat room in a popular messaging app (Discord) and then invited various friends that I knew to join in. My purpose in doing this was mainly to create a way for us to connect over gaming, a shared interest- and some other common topics. I felt that as long as I wasn’t dealing with too many unknown factors, I could control the group’s overall behavior and make sure we didn’t step on each other’s toes. I was very wrong about that, as you’ll see shortly, but at the time it made perfect sense to me.
I’m not going to spend forever trying to explain exactly how the group functioned, since it would be a long and involved conversation. Instead, I’d like to turn my focus to one person. I’m going to call them A for the purposes of this story. A and I had met at school at my student job- she was from a Protestant Christian background, loved video games and like me, had been homeschooled most of her childhood. Though we hadn’t gotten to know each other deeply at my job, what I had seen of her I liked and though she had graduated the previous semester, she was still connected to others of our mutual friends— as such, she was one of the first people I invited to join the server. At first, A and I got along swimmingly. Her siblings also joined us on the server, and she pulled other personal friends in as well. A is one of those people who is talkative and gregarious, and so made friends easily with others of my personal contacts and in a very short amount of time was dominating much of the conversation on the server.
I didn’t mind A’s involvement at first. I thought of her as a fairly positive influence, and when I realized the server was growing too large for me to handle on my own, I offered her a position as a fellow admin to help me enforce the few rules I had drafted. She jumped at the chance and the other members hailed her newfound powers as a good thing, and I felt confident having someone to share the minor responsibilities with.
By this point, the group was lively and was meeting twice a week for live chat calls during gaming sessions that lasted 3-5 hours apiece. It was way more social interaction than any of us had had since classes went online, and all of us (myself included) were feeling the mental health boost. We sailed along for a while on this high, but then- I began to notice some things with A that felt… off. She had receded for a short while from the server to deal with some physical health issues, and when she returned, she was in a sour mood. The election was drawing nearer, and though I already knew A was very liberal, I didn’t expect her to begin being quite so antagonistic about various political viewpoints and so on during the one night a week that was just chat (no gaming). Almost everyone else on the server agreed with her liberal viewpoints except for myself, and though I kept quiet (adhering to my own policies of trying not to instigate dispute) I couldn’t help but feel that I was slowly becoming isolated mentally from the group. I don’t have to go into details about what kinds of things she brought into conversation, but LGBT topics were at the forefront, and various social policies and movements like BLM were brought up as well, under her instigation.
I had my first real dispute with A a few months after the group was formed, when, during a gaming session, she made some off-color jokes about the Christian faith. I pulled her aside after the gaming session, (in DMs) and told her that although I understood she didn’t mean anything, I was very hurt by her comments and asked her to refrain from doing such things in the future, out of mutual respect for the others (and myself) who would have issues with what she said (I won’t repeat what she joked about, but it was the kind of thing that, if a sincere Christian has said it, would have been open blasphemy). To my surprise, (and despite that she had often apologized for much more minor offenses easily to other members) she argued with me a little, citing that she felt that her experience growing up in a protestant Christian household as a child was ‘traumatic’ to her (the group she belonged to did, admittedly have some cult-like movements) and that she was merely using humor to alleviate her stress about religion. I was somewhat shocked by her response. It wasn’t that I didn’t have sympathy for her (I did, and we had discussed her upbringing on other occasions) but I was shocked at how easy it was for her to dismiss any truly negative feelings I had about listening to someone drag my culture in the mud because she ‘didn’t like religion anymore.’ I tried to explain to her how in spite of this, her comments were still deeply inappropriate, and she listened, vaguely. The matter was put aside for the moment- but I recount it here because it factors into my final encounter.
Over the next few months, my feeling that something wasn’t the same about A increased. She broke up with her boyfriend (also a member of my group, and a fellow Christian) citing irreconcilable differences in opinion. Then, she changed her avatar name to a specific name that after a short while, I began to notice her siblings using in conversation (In the server we all had screen names, but we used our real names in conversation). A mutual friend one day took me aside and told me, with apparent concern, that she had suspicions (somewhat confirmed) that A had been dabbling in gender identity activism and was ‘transitioning’ to non-binary. By the time this friend related this to me, I had already noticed that A had begun, more and more, to talk of LGBT topics above all else in our mutual chat nights, and I found myself withdrawing from conversation more and more because of the knowledge that anything I had to say would likely be attacked instantly. I had believed, prior to this, that if I simply kept silent when I needed to, and only spoke when I had to, that no one would ever need to know how I really felt about these issues. After all, the server was for gaming, right? We couldn’t possibly spend so much time talking about LGBTQIA++ topics that I would be made into a target.
Unfortunately, that is where I was wrong. My friend’s suspicions turned out to be correct, and A slowly but surely began to insert topics about sex and gender in everything from memes and jokes we shared to our discussion nights to even our gaming profiles and what kinds of things she deemed worthy of conversation. Only when A was occasionally absent did the group revert to being open and balanced in discussion, but when A resumed, the group naturally followed her control and discussed what she wanted to talk about. It even got to a point where we had slacked off from playing games altogether and we spent most of our evenings online just following A’s track of conversation for the night.
The problem, and what finally broke the camel’s back, came with A’s above mentioned deep issues with religion. A, like many liberal friends I have had, looked back on her experiences as a Christian and saw them as the source of any and all pain and suffering she had ever experienced. She never wasted a moment to trash on her upbringing, and was at times absolutely vile with regards to conservative thinking. When she dived deep into LGBT activism, her spite against religion came back full force. One night, during a conversation, she said something to the affect of how she only had ‘backwards views’ about homosexuality when she was ‘young, dumb and uninformed’ (i.e., during her Christian formative years). After spending night after night listening to her say such things, I finally had enough, and I dropped out of the call for the evening without saying anything.
A followed me into my DM’s and demanded to know why I had left- if I was upset and why (to explain- I had previously written a rule stating members shouldn’t ‘rage-quit’ and drop the call without saying goodbye— I broke my own rule that night out of desperation). I told her I was upset, but that I didn’t want to discuss it. She continued to hound me, and I finally admitted that what she had said hurt me, because as a Christian who has specific beliefs regarding sexuality, the inference that I was somehow ‘dumb’ or ‘uninformed’ for holding such beliefs was deeply upsetting. Like in our previous conflict, she immediately took an antagonistic approach, and began berating me for being upset when after all, Christians do such hateful things to the LGBT population and how could I possibly be upset? Anything, everything I said in defense of my beliefs and culture was tossed out with the same answer- that Christians are inherently hateful and cause suffering to others, therefore, my feelings didn’t count. We argued back and forth for almost 2 hours, very late into the night, and until our former ‘friendship’ (which had been dissolving for weeks) was in threads.
I was ready to drop the matter, knowing she was likely to be angry with me no matter what I said, but at the very end of the conversation, she decided to throw in the conversational equivalent (I’m sure, in her mind) of a mic drop. She was coming out to me as Non-Binary! She told me this, in wording that made her seem like she was being brave and hesitant, and then requested that I, from now on, call her only by her new name and her new set of pronouns.
I have to digress here, because I think it matters what went through my mind at this moment. We had just spent until the early hours of the morning arguing about whether or not it was ‘acceptable’ for me to be upset that she had insulted my beliefs and culture, and now she was stamping down with a reveal about her identity. I truly, honestly believe it was a challenge. She now viewed me as a hateful bigot (for saying that I was not dumb and uninformed on LGBT issues?) and was testing the waters to see if I would conform to her worldview in a partially acceptable manner.
I mulled over what to do for all of three seconds, and then decided to take the challenge. I told her, quite honestly, that I already knew she was identifying as non-binary. (Almost everyone in the group had known for months, I can’t imagine how she suspected it was still a deeply held secret from everyone) And I told her that while I was perfectly fine calling her whatever name she wished (many of us had channel nicknames and called each other by them) I was uncomfortable, as a Christian and as someone with various thoughts on Trans and Non-binary issues, using gender-neutral pronouns, and would try to come up with a compromise.
There was no compromise. She immediately lashed out at me, telling me how hateful it was for people to refuse to use gender pronouns. She tried to convince me of this, but I said I was done discussing it, and said goodnight.
I didn’t know for sure what she would do, but it was hardly surprising, an hour or so later, when I glanced back at my phone and saw that she had pasted an angry rant on the server’s homepage, revealing herself to everyone as a Non-Binary individual, screaming about how terrible and horrible it was for her to be misgendered and mistreated, and also crying about how members of the group had ‘ousted’ her to me before she was ready to officially come out. She pinned the post to our homepage, left the server and commented that she was sure I would delete it before anyone saw it.
I almost did, but in that moment of hovering over the message, I had a revelation to the effect that nothing I could possibly do would ever cover over her angry rant. She had already won, and she knew that when she began the argument. Out of almost 30 people, there were only 3 or 4 in the group who would take my side. Whether I erased her message or not, most of them would eventually find out what we had argued about, and most of them would eventually leave.
There was a bigger concern, as well, in that several of the people on the server were either past or current coworkers, hers and mine. She had nothing to lose (having left that job for good) by screaming at me in an online server. But I had had everything to lose if current coworkers saw her accuse me of being “Anti-LGBTQ” and heard her side of the story. A obviously didn’t care about that, but I did care. I also cared that I did the right thing. So, after blocking everyone I could think of that would get me into trouble at work, I gave the rest of the members a time window and deleted the server.
During that final brief time window, I took a lot of heat from other members on the server about how cruel and unfair I had been to A. When all was said and done, only those 3-4 members I mentioned previously were still speaking to me- and that’s all that I have left of a previously large social group.
Does it all sound like a pretty childish argument? Probably. But here’s the meat and potatoes: I, a Christian person, was being harassed for my religious views. By people I considered friends. And when I tried to defend myself, I was forced to ‘oust’ myself as a bigot- and was subsequently cancelled. Again, I’m an adult— and I like to think fairly well rounded—but imagine being 16? Imagine being 11? Imagine your 11 year old daughter coming to and telling you that all her friends decided she wasn’t worth talking to anymore because she refused to use one friend’s pronouns, or had questions about it? Imagine that same kid having to deal with the social pressures of a group that was actively squeezing the life out of any member that didn’t respond to LGBTQIA topics with immediate applause and affirmation?
(I had written that last paragraph prior to reading your reader’s posting: and now I have a new response- because they don’t have to imagine their young daughter in this situation: she’s already in it)
This is the insidious reality we now live in. That those of us who dissent, even slightly, from the social norms and pressures that are becoming increasingly bewildering have two choices: retreat, or be shunned. I’m a young adult, and the above experience was so overwhelming for me that I’ve retreated a great deal from any online interactions I previously had. But what went through my mind at the time, and what’s going through my mind now after reading (your reader’s) story remains constant. Children, under this kind of pressure, without continued and resilient backing, will eventually crack. It starts innocuously, because the person on the side of the friendship or the screen asks you to just be tolerant, accepting of them and their identity. But as we all know, acceptance doesn’t mean you used their pronouns, or you avoided discussing your own beliefs, etc. It means you praise them, worship them and give to them the adulation they think they deserve. Otherwise, you are being hateful to them. There is no in-between.
In my case, upon further reflection, I could have agreed to use my former friend’s pronouns: but that was never the problem. The problem was that she had already so forcefully undermined my control and dismissed my pleas for mutual respect that there was no way I could repair our relationship, even on a surface level. LGBTQ issues were so much more important to her and her friends than anything else we had bonded over that it was enough for her to merely oust me once as having transgressed for nearly every one of them to abandon me.
And being socially isolated as an adult hurts, but it doesn’t hurt nearly as badly as it does when you are a young teenager. In your reader’s daughter’s case, I think her parents are doing everything they should be doing right now. Keeping her active, keeping her away from social media, and trying to be understanding about the parts of her identity she’s holding on to will cause her less pain in the long run.
On the other side of things, you can never be too careful. If there’s one important thing my parents did for me, it’s this: they never, ever shied away from the truth. Your children may be unwilling, with the social pressures of today, to listen to the tenets of their parent’s faith and your heartfelt explanations of why you believe what you do. But you must try to explain. You must try to give them that understanding, even if it’s difficult or requires theological backing. The world will tell them, in simple terms, how hateful and bigoted you are for having any of these opinions. And the world will tell them the same thing—and if they are left speechless, with no defense, they will not be able to stop themselves from being swept up in the tide coming from their peers. Their inability to offer explanation or to know, for themselves, when a peer is becoming toxic will be their downfall. You need to give them the power to stand for themselves, before they see you as a roadblock to social and peer freedom instead of a safety net from harm.
From my own experience, there’s a very large chance this reader’s daughter’s friend will drop her sometime in the coming months, once she finds a more easily targeted person to go after. After all, if this friend is anything like a version of A, they most likely will become more and more hostile to the daughter for her continued interactions with religion and ‘hateful’ parental figures, and may eventually force her to choose between her single friend and her family and healthy peer group. All these parents can do is wait for that to happen, and commit themselves to being there for their daughter when she goes through the hurt that is undoubtedly coming. My prayers go with them. It’s not going to be easy.
This is going to take some time to digest. My first thought, though, is that we Christian parents and church leaders (and for that matter, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all traditionalists) had better start right now training our children to expect to suffer for their faith, and in the importance of standing firm for and in the faith, no matter what it costs.
I need to do this more intentionally and explicitly with my kids. And I need to give them a deeper explanation for why we Christians believe what we do about sex and sexuality.
UPDATE: The correspondent e-mailed just now this response to some of the comment-box criticism:
Why did I make those friends? Why hang out with these people? Why not my community?
This is kind of a loaded question. The answer is complex. First of all, I think it should be mentioned that the original group I created consisted of about 6 people, all of whom I knew personally. (They weren’t previously connected to each other, except in smaller clusters—2 friends from work, 2 from a former on-campus Catholic org., etc.) The other thing I probably failed to mention is that the group was formed around a very specific video game title that all of these people had recently started playing. The purpose of the Discord chat was to swap game info, related in-game conversations etc. The voice chat we used to play together, online, once a week. That was how it started out. Yes, we were casual friends, and yes, not every person I originally invited agreed with me on every aspect of political and social life, but that didn’t matter at the start of the group. We were only using the server for one main purpose: to play a game with relative non-strangers. How it spiraled out of control is another issue, one that I do still blame myself for, in many ways.
As for why not make it exclusively people in my ‘community?’ I don’t really have one. That’s the honest answer. I tried and failed to make friends in my (state school’s) only Catholic organization and left, disgusted, a few semesters in because my fellow Catholics were disturbingly lukewarm about their faith and I couldn’t deal with the cliquishness and hypocrisy that was going on behind the scenes. The two friends from that org I brought into this server were all that had survived and one of them had also quit the religious group (the org, not the faith) for good, for similar reasons. (And when I say disturbingly lukewarm— I mean it, I wasn’t just being picky. Part of what eventually drove me out was that my fellow young Catholics were using it as a dating circle and I was repeatedly stalked and harassed by young men that didn’t seem to understand that the girls weren’t there for their benefit. Enough said)
Why didn’t I assert more control/why delete the server in the end?
This one is primarily on me. The reality is, I let myself grow complacent, and never suspected that the group could spiral so far out of my control that anything like what went down would happen. A’s dominance over the group escaped my notice, (the only reason she was an admin originally is because she volunteered to help out when I needed it— big mistake on my part) and she displayed more and more toxicity over time.
As for deleting the server- there were a lot of things under the surface that led to that decision. Part of it was A’s control and how many people had sided with her already. A large part of my own decision came from the fact that A targeted another two people in her rage-rant at me, and left our names out of her aggressive postings, in such a way that I feared the other members would resort to trying to ‘figure out’ who had ‘hurt’ her. I had two choices: remove A and everyone associated with her from the server and hope for the best (which, at that stage would have been almost everyone) or respond to her publicly and take the negative out-lash myself, so that a few of the people I still trusted and cared about could honestly make their own decisions about who to trust and what they wanted to do going forward. I have never once regretted that decision. In fact, I found out who my real friends were, and I appreciate them more all the time.
Why does this story about online gaming matter?
I see a lot of comments talking about how online interactions are naturally toxic and some genuine shrugs about the gaming part. The point isn’t either of those things, in actuality. Think about it this way- do you have a group of 6-10 people you regularly hang out with right now? Are they all from your community? Do they all agree with you on everything? I bet the answer to those last two is no, for most people. The point isn’t that this story is necessarily special: the point is, it could happen to anyone. All it takes is one person like A, preaching whatever gospel they are inflamed with (LGBTQ rights, BLM, even Far-Right political movements) to turn a quiet, stable social hour into an activism march- from which anyone who dissents will be forcefully ejected (or forced to leave under their own power, to avoid the fallout). If you think this can’t, won’t happen to you or your kids because you do all the right things, have all the right groups and do all the policing in the world— go read “We Thought We Were Safe” from the other day. It can, and will happen. The important part isn’t how petty or ridiculous it seems—the point is this: Are you prepared to stand up for what you believe in the face of isolation?
leave a comment
Woke Capitalism & Decadent Republicans
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, proving once again that many Republican politicians are as useless as teats on a boar when it comes to defending anything culturally conservative (or sane), vetoed a sensible law that would have prevented body-changing surgeries or hormones for minors suffering from gender dysphoria. Back in 2015, after Woke Capitalism came down hard on the state of Indiana over its state version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, forcing its repeal, this same Gov. Hutchinson saw to it that the Arkansas version of same was strangled in its crib. Walmart, which is super-woke, cleared its throat, and Gov. Hutchinson did its bidding.
I wrote The Benedict Option because I believe we are in revolutionary times, and are in fact living through the collapse of our culture and civilization, and that faithful Christians needed to figure out how to survive intact. A friend this morning texts to say his nominally conservative religious institution has suddenly gone woke. He sent this quote from Jacques Barzun’s celebrated 2001 doorstopper, From Dawn To Decadence:
The system was rotten. This had been said over and over; yet the old hulk was immovable. When people accept futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent. The term is not a slur; it is a technical label. A decadent culture offers opportunities chiefly to the satirist… .
Except a satirist of our decadence would find himself not published, or otherwise exiled for daring to mock the pieties of this revolutionary age.
I hadn’t thought of that Barzun book in ages. I pulled my dusty copy off the shelf and flipped through it. This passage caught my eye:
How a revolution erupts from a commonplace event — tidal wave from a ripple — is cause for endless astonishment. Neither Luther in 1517 nor the men who gathered at Versailles in 1789 intended at first what they produced at last. Even less did the Russian Liberals who made the revolution of 1917 foresee what followed. All were as ignorant as everybody else of how much was about to be destroyed. Nor could they guess what feverish feelings, what strange behavior ensue when revolution, great or short-lived, is in the air.
Manners are flouted and customs broken. Foul language and direct insult become normal, in keeping with the rest of the excitement, buildings defaced, imaged destroyed, shops looted. Printed sheets pass from hand to hand and are read with delight or outrage — Listen to this! Angry debates multiply about things long since settled: talk of free love, of priests marrying and monks breaking their vows, of property and wives in common, of sweeping out all evils, all corruption, all at once — all things new for a blissful life on earth.
A curious leveling takes place: the common people learn words and ideas hitherto not familiar and not interesting and discuss them like intellectuals, while others neglect their usual concerns — art, philosophy, scholarship — because there is only one compelling topic, the revolutionary Idea. The well-to-do and the “right-thinking,” full of fear, come together to defend their possessions and habits. But counsels are divided and many see their young “taking the wrong side.” The powers that be wonder and keep watch, with fleeting thoughts of advantage to be had from the confusion. Leaders of opinion try to put together some of the ideas afloat into a position which they mean to fight for. They will reassure others, or preach boldness, and anyhow head the movement.
Voices grow shrill, parties form and adopt names or are tagged with them in derision and contempt. Again and again comes the shock of broken friendships, broken families. As time goes on, “betraying the cause” is an incessant charge, and there are indeed turncoats. Authorities are bewildered, heads of institutions try threats and concessions by turns, hoping the surge of subversion will collapse like previous ones. But none of this holds back that transfer of power and property which is the mark of revolution and which in the end establishes the Idea.
Here is the fuller passage from which my friend’s quote comes. In it, Barzun is talking about the Reformation:
What were in fact the things of the church’s “head and members” that people wanted to be rid of? First, the familiar “corruptions” — gluttonous monks in affluent abbeys, absentee bishops, priests with concubines, and so on. But moral turpitude concealed a deeper trouble: the meaning of the roles had been lost. The priest, instead of being a teacher, was ignorant; the monk, instead of helping to save the world by his piety, was an idle profiteer; the bishop, instead of supervising the care of souls in his diocese was a politician and businessman. One of them here or there might be pious and a scholar — he showed that goodness was not impossible. But too often the bishops was a boy of twelve, his influential family having provided early for his future happiness. The system was rotten. This had been said over and over; yet the old hulk was immovable. When people accept futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent. The term is not a slur; it is a technical label. A decadent culture offers opportunities chiefly to the satirist… .
That is us. Think of the roles that have been lost: husband and wife, family, even — and this is the chief sign of the depth of our disorder — male and female. Has there ever been a culture in all of human history that lost the ability to understand the gender binary — that is, what males are for and females are for? Yes, there are cultural variations in gender roles, but that’s not what we are talking about with us. We have deliberately thrown away the idea of the gender binary. We deny biology. We deny reality. This is being written into law.
The Republican governor of a conservative Southern state vetoed a law that would prevent doctors and families from permanently altering the bodies of children — including severing the breasts of healthy girls — in an attempt to turn them into what they cannot be: someone of the opposite sex.
Not Massachusetts. Not California. Arkansas. This, almost certainly because the industrialist class demanded it.
Yesterday I published a long letter from a Catholic father who said he and his wife did everything they could to raise their children in a healthy environment, but his adolescent daughter, egged on by a corrupt friend and a decadent culture, embraced disordered sexual identity as her own, and merged it with self-harm. He wrote to me and gave me permission to publish the letter because he has been poleaxed by his inability to protect his family from the demonic chaos of this dying culture, and he wanted readers’ advice. A number of readers said in the comments that the father is the problem. This, to me, is another sign of the deep decadence of our time. Let me say it clearly and without apology: this father is not crazy, and he is not alone.
Despite what you have heard from people who have never read the book, the Benedict Option was never conceived as a head-for-the-hills mode of escape. There is no true escape from this. I was happy when Malick’s A Hidden Life came out, because I could point to it as an example of the Benedict Option. Franz Jägerstätter and his family could not escape the Hitlerian Antichrist, but they had been living in such a way prior to the advent of Nazism that when it arrived at last in their Alpine village, they could identify it for the evil that it was, and also knew what they had to be prepared to suffer to resist it. I mean for the Benedict Option to prepare us Christians to be like the Jägerstätter family. I would hope to be able to protect my family from as much of this chaos and vileness as I can, but I can’t expect to be able to shield them completely. The deeper goal is to protect their souls. Better to suffer, even to die, for the truth than to capitulate to the madness.
This is why the most important chapter in Live Not By Lies is the one about the willingness to suffer for the truth. There is no way around it. It is the total opposite of the middle-class mentality, which will do anything to maintain security, comfort, status, and prosperity — but that is why it is the one necessary thing.
The Benedict Option idea comes from that final paragraph of Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, which bears repeating here:
It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the epoch in which the Roman Empire declined into the Dark Ages. None the less certain parallels there are. A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. [Emphasis mine — RD] What they set themselves to achieve instead—often not recognising fully what they were doing—was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct [one characterized by moral incoherence and unsettlable moral disputes in the modern world], we ought to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict.
Is maintaining our current imperium something that moral people should dedicate themselves to? When not even a Republican governor of a culturally conservative state will stand against corporations and the media, to stand in defense of children threatened by the Idea — well, you tell me?
A reader writes:
Any serious concept of geographic separation as far as the US is concerned needs to take into account the marginalized status of anything approaching cultural conservatism in the 2021 United States. As seen by the general lack of representation in elite circles (not counting those who adopt such a stance for grifting or performative purposes), cultural conservatives are still politically influential but have generally speaking failed to cultivate the wealth, power, prestige, and influence that makes any kind of separatist gamble even remotely plausible. I would also note that we are also seeing a broader collapse of the coping myths that cultural conservatives told themselves, namely that they would outbreed the left over time and that the security organs of the state would still be on their side. As it now stands, there is absolutely nothing that US elites would like more than an excuse to further ostracize, stigmatize, and formally gatekeep against cultural conservatives as some kind of nascent threat, particularly white Evangelicals who are now even more hated for their unwavering support for Trump. This is why any separatist discussion is about as realistic as attempting to put a Stuart back on the throne in the UK, that ship sailed a long time ago.
As far as the convergence between woke capital and governance, what I think needs to be understood is that the Chinese communist critique of the baizuo [Chinese term meaning literally “white left”; meant as a term of derision for idiotic white Western elites — RD] left is basically correct: it uses cultural concessions to the left as a means of avoiding economic concessions and deploys identity politics as a poison pill against class consciousness, which is why areas where woke capital prevails such as the US superzips maintain a class stratification that looks increasingly like something out of the Third World between the elite and everyone else. Both woke and elite discourse are largely carried out on Twitter, which is not representative of the US population as a whole (if it were Joe Biden would never have been the Democratic nominee) but is extremely important to elite discourse. As soon as the propaganda that the Georgia voting law was the equivalent to Jim Crow, Twitter erupted and big business reacted, likely because all of their marketing and PR types who are woke true believers framed the situation in the most extreme and apocalyptic way possible.
This is an old story and one that has played out dozens of times because, as mentioned, they know that GOP outrage is just sound and fury. As it now stands, all that has to happen is for big business to clear their throat to the donor class and the GOP falls into line, whether or transgender issues or anything else. This is why expecting any cultural reversal in the current dynamic is unrealistic in the extreme, since even if by some miracle SCOTUS overturned Roe vs. Wade or some other hot button issue you would just see the corporate and donor class cave across the board to the left at the state level. Douthat to his credit recognizes this, which is something that is more or less ignored by many cultural conservative activists on the right:
The key issue is that right now cultural conservatives have big business, high (academic) and low (popular) culture, key institutions including the security state, and the elite credentialing mechanism and incentives structure all stacked against us. One can bemoan that state of affairs or you can change it and the mechanisms to do so are not some arcane secret, since they can already be readily observed or employed by other actors. You make a credible and sustained threat against big business and they will cave, just like most self-interested members of the US elite. The GOP leadership class does not possess a monopoly on spinelessness; very few members of our current elite class are prepared to undertake personal risk if their career and livelihood is threatened. The difference is that the left has successfully developed a broad infrastructure and support network to capture and hold key institutions, whereas the right has done no such thing and is largely concerned with performative antics, grifting, and owning the libs in the style of Trump. If the GOP is able to wring actual costs from big business over Georgia then that would be a step forward, but thus far evidence to this assertion has been extremely limited because you have to overcome decades of fusionism and libertarian creed that it is inappropriate for the state to take any action against big business under any circumstances. As long as you adopt a position of unilateral disarmament big business has absolutely no reason to take conservative threats or outrage seriously.
If there is going to be any meaningful resistance at all to the complete victory of the Cultural Revolution, it is going to have to come from political conservatives turning, and turning hard, on Woke Capitalism. In my view, that is not likely to be enough, but it must be done, even if it ultimately amounts to going down fighting.
If you are any kind of social, cultural, or religious conservative, you need to shed the illusion — right now, this very day — that Big Business is anything other than your enemy. From Live Not By Lies
The embrace of aggressive social progressivism by big business is one of the most underappreciated stories of the last two decades. Critics call it “woke capitalism,” a snarky theft of the left-wing slang term indicating progressive enlightenment. Woke capitalism is now the most transformative agent within the religion of social justice, because it unites progressive ideology with the most potent force in American life: consumerism and making money.
In his 2018 letter to investors, Larry Fink, CEO of the global investment company BlackRock, said that corporate social responsibility is now part of the cost of doing business.
“Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose,” Fink wrote. “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.”
Poll results about consumer expectations back Fink up. Millennials and Generation Z customers are especially prone to seeing their consumer expenditures as part of creating a socially conscious personal brand identity. For many companies, then, signaling progressive virtues to consumers is a smart business move in the same way that signaling all-American patriotism would have been to corporations in the 1950s.
But what counts as a “positive contribution to society”? Corporations like to brand themselves as being in favor of a predictable constellation of causes, all of them guiding stars of the progressive cosmos. Woke capitalist branding harnesses the unmatched propaganda resources of the advertising industry to send the message, both explicitly and implicitly: the beliefs of social conservatives and religious traditionalists are obstacles to the social good.
Normie Republicans have to shed both the Reagan-era shibboleth that Big Business is our friend, and the Trump-era shibboleth that performative owning-the-libs is sufficient to fight this particular dragon. It might not be conquerable in the near term — but we at least have to prepare ourselves to endure occupation without losing faith.
leave a comment
A Defense Of Duke Divinity
Last week I published a harsh criticism of Duke Divinity School. A current student, Ben Davison (a graduate of Hope College, and a second-year M.Div student at Duke), has written in defense of his school. Here is what he has to say:
For the past two years, I have gathered every week with four other Duke Divinity students to read Scripture and pray. It wasn’t until a few months ago that we realized that our group consisted of an Anglican, a Presbyterian, a Roman Catholic, a Lutheran, and a non-denominational student. It sounds like one of those bad jokes (a Catholic, a Lutheran, and an Anglican walk into a bar…), but it is actually more like a picture of the Kingdom.
My experience at Duke Divinity School (DDS) has not been perfect, but I have also not found it to be place where, as the former DDS student in Rod Dreher’s post claims, the “goal is to destroy evangelicals and anyone who stands in the way of the BLM/LGBTQIA religion”. As a more conservative student who attends an evangelical Presbyterian church, I have found the faculty to be incredibly orthodox and committed to raising up leaders for ministry in the Church. Consider the weekly topics for my Introduction to Theology course that all MDiv and MTS students must take:
The Nature and Task of Theology
God the Father
Creator and Creation, the World and Humankind
Sin, Evil, and the Fall
Jesus Christ, the Son of God: Christological Orthodoxy
Jesus Christ, the Son of God: Modern Christologies
The Holy Spirit and Grace
Worship, Sacraments, and Ministry
Prayer, Love, and Union with God
These topics do not suggest a radical agenda that diverges from traditional Christian orthodoxy, and I can assure you that an engagement with these topics through figures such as Gregory of Nazianzus, Augustine, Maximus the Confessor, and Karl Barth has been incredibly formative in structuring my theology. A theology class that understands prayer, love, and union with God to be the culmination and result of studying theology is surely preparing students for a life of leadership in the church. I have found that one of the strengths of DDS, which seems distinctive when compared with some other seminaries, is its commitment to the long tradition of catholic and orthodox (lowercase letters) faith throughout church history. The project that I am a part of at Duke does not understand post-1517 theology to be the bedrock of Christian faith, but takes seriously the deep well of the Christian tradition present since the inception of the church. It is this approach to theology that awakens ecumenical potential and makes it a joy to pray and study alongside my friends of different denominations and traditions.
My time here has not been perfect and I have been a part of strange conversations that seem tangential to my formation as a future minister. The most peculiar of which was being asked by my preceptor to alternate between male and female pronouns for God throughout a sermon I preached in order to be gender inclusive. I chose not to do this for pastoral and theological reasons, and after addressing it with my professor I was told that I made the right decision. I cite this example to show that some of the sentiments in the prior article are not fully unfounded, but also to paint a different narrative of grace, attentiveness, and understanding. In my time here at Duke, I found that these frustrating scenarios are more the exception than the norm, and that the majority of my energy, creativity, and passion is devoted to the joyful labor of learning to read Scripture and engage with the Christian tradition well. This is the more mundane and less sexy work that often goes unnoticed by outsiders looking in. To the question of which God is served at DDS, I can only respond that I have been pushed to encounter “the God who raised Jesus from the dead, having before raised Israel from Egypt” (Robert Jenson, Systematic Theology, 1:63).
I appreciate Ben Davison’s taking the time to write in.
leave a comment
‘We Thought We Were Safe’
A stunning letter from a reader reaching out to all of you for advice. I publish this here with his permission. I know his name, but am withholding it to protect his family’s privacy:
A question that has been on my mind, that I don’t think I’ve seen you address in too much detail is, how to BenOp when the enemy has already struck deeply into your turf and “claimed” one of your own children. What is the playbook for this? Where are the tips or resources for bewildered parents?
Here’s my story, which is tame in comparison to what many families are dealing with. We are a homeschooling Catholic family, living in a very rural area of Minnesota. I am an IT remote worker, so we are not idiots and are quite familiar with how our Big Tech-fueled society works. We know better than to give our kids cell phones or have unfiltered internet. Outside of a few other families from church (most of which are Catholic homeschooling families like us) our kids have not been interacting with kids in the public school system or elsewhere. Owing to this and our rural life, WE THOUGHT WE WERE SAFE.
Fast forward to September of last year, when the scales came off our eyes. In hindsight there had been previous hints (there always are) but they were really just bewildering blips in what we thought was the life of our normal healthy 13yo daughter.
Long story short, she was severely depressed, suicidal, cutting herself, and drinking from our liquor cabinet. All in secret. She had rejected every value our family holds dear (she considered our “forcing” her to come to church on Sundays as a form of hostage-taking). And the most central thing to her self-understanding was her LGBT identity, which she had assumed somewhere around age 10 or 11. She asserted herself as bisexual, and was playing around in the “non-binary” headspace (though thankfully with no apparent intent of transitioning). Her mind had been completely taken over by LGBT activists, and every bit of the lingo spilt forth out of her mouth.
After the initial shock, when we were in “how did this happen??!?” mode, we discovered that it all had come in through the influence of one person, her best friend (who was from one of those “safe” Catholic homeschooling families I mentioned). As it turns out, the family was living a double life, with the public image of being devout but with severe dysfunction at the heart of the home. In the dysfunction, the “best friend” had no supervision and unlimited internet. So, with all the sleepovers the girls had in that house over the years, Lord knows what they were doing.
And in our house, with internet protections, etc, we nevertheless considered the other girl “safe” and had allowed the girls to have lots of interaction via Google Hangouts without us looking over their shoulder. We thought they were just talking about their pet bunnies! Nope. The chats were filled with profanity, LGBT themes (her friend also “identified” as LGBT by age 10), attempts to “hook up” my daughter with random 16yo girlfriends on the internet and requests from my daughter to her friend for vile content such as screen recordings of the latest video from Corpse Husband (google if you dare) because with our internet restrictions she couldn’t get it herself, but she knew we weren’t watching their chats.
Well, well, well. Lesson learned (and word of warning to your readers): If you aren’t seeing what your kid is doing yourself, you don’t know what they are doing, period. NOBODY IS SAFE. Trust perhaps, but always verify.
I am happy to report that 6+ months later her outlook has improved (though there is a long way to go). Yes our daughter is still basically an atheist and still a vocal LGBT advocate, but at least the depression has subsided and she no longer wants to cut herself just because her evil parents won’t let her have Snapchat. Here’s what we did (in addition to putting controls in place that ensure she and her best friend can’t continue behaving that way together):
1) Therapy. This is a hard one because you can’t trust most therapists. We asked around, and got a referral from a Catholic doctor to a therapist we were reasonably certain wouldn’t try to prematurely affirm her LGBT identity or otherwise encourage further exploration there. If in fact she does have a degree of same-sex attraction (at present we are skeptical), that will work itself out over time and our love for her will remain constant. But she needs to work that out free from undue coercion or propaganda.
2) Involvement in extra-curricular activities. This was hard because of Covid restrictions, but once things lifted a bit she was able to join the local school gymnastics team, which is something she was actually interested in. I cannot believe how much just a couple months of this has helped my beautiful, but painfully shy daughter come out of her shell! She developed confidence, responsibility, and healthy relationships with other mostly well-adjusted girls.
3) Exposure to a healthy peer group. In our case, this has happened via a well-run youth group at a local Evangelical church. (Much to the shock and dismay of my uber-Catholic mother, who is freaking out about the possibility of her becoming Protestant. Oh mom, if you only knew!!!!) We didn’t have good Catholic youth options in our area, plus with her hostility to everything to do with our faith that wasn’t the best option anyway. But she was invited to a camp run by this group, had a blast, and has been going to their weekly sessions ever since. At this point her “friend group” would be the peers from this group.
4) Prayer and sacrifice. In our parish a group of men were doing an Exodus 90 (www.exodus90.com) program of prayer, fasting and sacrifice, and I joined up so i would have some accountability to my attempts at offering supplications on my daughter’s behalf. I am convinced this had an effect.
So she is at a place where (and even she realizes this) she is kind of living a double-life now. On the one hand she and her “best” friend live out their shared LGBT life together, which is all struggles with mental health, complaints about the homophobic nature of organized religion and how it hurts people like them, and especially complaints about how awful my wife and I are because we now have restrictions on their shared behavior and media intake (in contrast to the friend’s Best. Mom. Ever. because she lets her daughter do what she wants). But then my daughter immediately shifts to the “other” personality where she actually enjoys blasting Praise and Worship music in her room, and has a good time with her friends at Youth Group, even though they actually pray and read the Bible. Oh, and after I chaperoned a ski trip for the group, she was absolutely aghast to find that all her friends there said that she had a “cool dad”. Lol.
So while we don’t know what the future holds, we have hope! But the past 6 months have been filled with a lot of parental anguish, and the question that has been forefront in my mind is, how do we BenOp now????
I had been greatly moved by the story of the Benda family and envisioned their home life as our model. But suddenly the enemy claimed one of our family as their own, and that option seemed to be taken off the table. Now we were faced with a home life where we had to be VERY careful what we said, and somehow try to support our errant daughter’s mental struggles, while still forming our other children (and not allowing their big sister to pull them astray). And it was hard to know what to do, in practical terms — for example we were pretty sure signing her up for gymnastics would be a good thing, but what if the team happened to have some vocal LGBT personalities in it? If so, that would have completely derailed the focus on the sport and undermined the benefit of getting her out of the house.
Our situation is not rare, as your 3/31 mention of your Massachusetts friend helping a homeschooling Catholic family with a “trans” daughter reminded me. And its not that we didn’t find *some* resources out there, but for the most part it feels like everyone is playing rear-guard here and just trying to figure out what the heck is going on. There isn’t a good playbook, at least not yet. Most of what I knew to do came from piecing disparate pieces of info together from your blog and other sources.
Is this something you could address, or throw out to your readers? There are so many parents that need help right now navigating this Brave New World.
UPDATE: Having read the comments, the father sent this update:
1) The occult. Yeah, there is some weird synergy right now between parts of the LGBT subculture and goth/occult stuff. And the Corpse Husband videos definitely have satanic imagery in them. We have no sign so far of demonic possession or anything (thank God!) but yeah, we are in touch with a good priest on that.2) We may have sounded like “head for the hills”-type BenOppers. We actually aren’t. We live where we do A) to be close to my aging parents, B) to keep the family farm in the family, and C) to give our kids the freedom and joy of growing up in the country on a hobby farm. It really is an idyllic life. We have sheep, chickens, bunnies, a dog, and a gazillion cats.3) Had to giggle at the suggestions that we are the cause of internalized homophobia and other distress in our daughter. Look, there are religious homes that are authoritarian and filled with fire & brimstone. Ours is definitively NOT one of them. One of the major factors in our daughter’s suicidal impulses last year was that she believed that her parents would reject her for being gay. When she “came out” to us, and we responded only with love and empathy, she told her friend with relief “well that was easy!”. Why did she believe such terrible things about our love (or lack thereof) for her? Because she had been taught that by the LGBT social media “influencers” that she was obsessed with.4) Re-reading the letter, we also probably sounded like we are overprotectively shielding our kids from other kids. Actually we are intentional about getting them out quite a bit and interacting with people from all walks of life, because we know that their “normal” peer group has been the other Catholic homeschoolers. The main reason we homeschool is because we don’t have any Classical curriculum-based schools near us. To the extent that “we thought we were safe” it was just because we had let down our guard because we felt like we could exclude being attentive to her falling in with the wrong crowd at school or else getting some objectionable ideology taught to her at school from our “list of things to worry about”. The shock (and word of warning) of this all is just in learning how A) you can’t trust anyone, even people you think are on your side, and B) how much filth can sneak in through the tiniest crack.5) I stand by my comment that you can’t trust most therapists. Not because they are bad people, or are out to undermine religion, but because, despite all the wonderful and useful research and tools available these days, the prevailing philosophy which undergirds all modern psychology is still based upon a different philosophical anthropology which places the “self” in the center and uses that as the sole guidepost for determining truth and correct action. It is fundamentally incompatible with Christian anthropology.6) Our daughter may (or may not) authentically have same-sex feelings. We really don’t know at this stage of her life. What we DO know is that she developed an unhealthy obsession with gay “identity” and all the nuances of its manifestations in internet subculture, all before she was even on the other side of puberty. Did you know that each letter of the LGBTQ alphabet has its own “flag” and style of dress? Yep, she had the Bisexual style down pat. And there’s even a super-secret code phrase that girls can use to ask other girls if they like girls. It’s clear to us that for her this was more about being “part of the cool girls club” than about having authentically discerned her feelings.
7) When I said “what’s the playbook for this” our struggle really was how to navigate all the practicalities of this, when the prevailing culture is against you and you don’t know who you can trust and who you can’t. It’s like a minefield, where at every turn a bomb might go off! There was a time in October where our daughter was a runaway risk (she was plotting how she could run off and live in her best friend’s house). We thought we might well have situations requiring interaction with police or other public health officials. In fact, our daughter even told her friend that if she could, she’d tell the police to take her away from her “toxic” family. I kept thinking about the Benda family and how they would have been able to function if one of their kids had been a Communist informant.
This father is being dragged by a number of people in the comments. I want to take this opportunity to say I’m on his side. He is not crazy, and he is not alone. The fact that what this child is doing is taken as normal teenage rebellion, or even a good thing, is a sign of the decadence of our culture.
UPDATE.2: The dad sends in one more update:
There is a great deal of consternation in the comments about intentionally over-protecting or controlling kids. Conversely some have expressed horror that we still allow our daughter to interact with her best friend.
A confounding factor here is that our daughter has always had paralyzing social anxiety. Previous attempts at getting her “out” invariably ended with her sitting in a corner alone, crying. For whatever reason though, she really clicked with this one other girl and they’ve been best friends since age 5. This was about the only other person she could talk to. We were just glad she had a good friend, from an ostensibly “good” family. (Clearly we were oblivious to the dysfunction in the home. One commenter asked if we had talked with the parents of this girl. We have; they are unable or unwilling to do anything about the situation. There are layers of untreated mental illness going on in the family.)
So in a way it’s a miracle (or at least happy coincidence?) that her ability to overcome that social anxiety on the gymnastics team came at a time in her life when she most needed it. I guess she was just at the point in life where she was ready to mature a bit.
Why do we still let her talk to her best friend? Precisely because we DON’T want to be too controlling, and it would do more harm than good, considering how close they are. Her therapist has been adamant from the beginning that we will have better success exposing her to other “positive” peer influences over time rather than abruptly cutting off the existing relationship. Hence the gymnastics team, youth group, etc. What we HAVE done with the friend is put guardrails in place. There is no more getting together at the friend’s house (she can come to ours though). They can talk over Google Hangouts, but there is a set time limit per day. And I beefed up our internet controls so that they can’t share media content.
UPDATE.3: Reader Elizabeth K.:
I haven’t read through all the comments, but based on the updates, I can imagine the reactions. As a mother of several children, a college professor, and classic liberal horrified by the new progressive totalitarianism, I can say with certainty that anyone who thinks this is about homophobia or not accepting bisexuality has absolutely no clue whatsoever about what is really going on here.
My experiences with one of my children is almost identical to the one the father describes here. For some background, mental health issues run in my family, and I have dealt with anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicidal ideation with several family members, including my children. I know the drill.
Something important has shifted in the past ten years, which is about the gap between my first child who needed intensive intervention for mental health issues and the most recent experience, and that is the fact that the latest social contagion for girls is to believe they are bisexual or gender neutral, fueled almost entirely by an internet subculture promoted on TikTok. What makes this different from other social contagions I’ve seen sweep through girl culture is that unlike cutting, or anorexia, or nude selfies, or what have you, this new one is not seen as universally harmful the way the other ones are.
This makes it much harder to address, because unlike starving oneself to death, believing oneself to be bisexual or gender neutral does not appear to many to have immediate or long-term dangers. Indeed, even at my daughter’s Catholic school, and even in a class that has absolutely nothing to do with health, gender ideology has promoted and accompanied by an offer to get kids in touch with adults at a nearby university if they’re struggling with these issues.
My daughter has no less than four friends from her elementary school class (all girls) who identify as bi- or gender neutral–this is out of a total of maybe 16 girls, and a large number (9-10) additional friends she’s made recently who also identify as queer in some way. Like the daughter in the letter above, these girls often “identified” themselves well before puberty. When gently pressed as to whether it seems likely that there are quite so many young women who are queer, the usual answer is something along the lines of “queers know queers,” so childhood friends who all discover that they are bi or lesbian simply had really good gay-dar as preschoolers, or so the explanation (again from TikTok and the like) goes.
I was so glad to see you publish this letter, Rod, because Christian parents really do need to know the best things to do when this happens, especially when it’s accompanied by a mental health crisis, self-harm, etc.., without histrionics and without succumbing to despair. All of the suggestions above are excellent. And yes, there is absolutely an occult aspect to this; if anyone doesn’t believe that, do take a spin around the TikTok communities that blend the occult and gender ideology, it’s an eye opener.
Like the family in the letter, we have embraced our daughter and met her with love. Yes, we are religious, but we are and have always been more of a Fr. James Martin, Ignatian spirituality, social justice leaning brand of Catholic. So before anybody jumps on me about this or dismisses what the father is saying, please consider what is actually happening.
Even parents like me and my husband, who would be entirely fine if one of our daughters were gay, are witnessing what can only be described as a fight for control of our daughter’s autonomy and sense of self–a fight between social media machines, and her own emerging sense of who she is. Instead of wanting to challenge the oversexed third wave feminist version of a female, these girls want to retreat into a eunuch position. Who can blame them? It was the dream of George Sand as well. But it’s a pipe dream, and it leads to self-loathing. Think again before you offer your knee-jerk support to something that you think is old-fashioned coming out–this is not what this is.
Finally, I want to underscore how important it is for parents to talk about this and think ahead of time of how they will address it. Educate yourself. Cultures go through periods of androgyny, usually with the female body (as usual) getting the shaft. This particular movement probably has a shelf-life of at least 6 more years, before whatever comes next takes hold. You can’t shield girls from it; you can be prepared to gently lead them through it, with the help of good therapy and good friends, to whatever is waiting on the other side. Trust me, a lot more parents are dealing with this than you might think. We need to open up about it, and again, I’m so grateful to see this letter published here.
UPDATE.4: Another reader writes:
A couple of thoughts in response to the father’s post about how to help his homeschooled daughter being abused by transgendered ideology:
1) Good for this family for connecting their daughter with a Christian youth group from a different community, when that’s what she needed. Happy healthy kids need friends, and Christians of all stripes need to work together to provide that, rather than viewing each other as “the enemy” because of their doctrinal differences.
Christians have done this successfully in the pro-life movement without sliding into doctrinal relativism. It’s time to do this in the face of transgender ideology attacking our young.
I’m a Catholic in the rural northeast in a diocese where Catholicism has been dying for many years. The Catholic families here who are serious about their faith generally won’t consider socializing with non-Catholic Christians; even when this means that their children don’t have many or any friends. Our pastor has discouraged our very small Catholic homeschool co-op from collaborating with the much larger (and conservative) Christian homeschooling community in our area. I think it’s partly resentment that these Christian communities are thriving more than ours (including with ex-Catholics), and partly fear that our children (or his parishioners) will go over to the “other side” – as the father’s Catholic mother feared. But LGBT+ ideology and our pagan, anti-Christian culture is the real enemy, not other Christians with traditional values.
Work together, people!
2) Transgender ideology is a form of child abuse, and we need to address it with our kids as part of a practical and ongoing “here’s how to handle abuse situations” talk. We should also be talking with trusted relatives and friends to ask them to let us know if they see any signs that our children are being abused in this way. Think this is unfair? Read the Old Testament to see how God guided the Chosen People to keep their faith amidst a pagan cultural with plenty of sexual deviancy. This stuff isn’t new. We need to deal with it.
Speaking to both points, we should consider reaching out to other Christians across “church lines” to have book club discussions on this issue, and to form alliances to help each other stay informed and provide our children with friends and allies. The books you’ve highlighted on this blog – Ryan Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally or Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage would be great starts.
Would love to hear from other parents or church leaders what they are doing practically and proactively to help protect children in the face of this kind of abuse.
UPDATE.5: Another reader:
We are Orthodox Christian, and homeschooled with many other families. We generally shielded our kids from the culture, but did allow some internet usage. One of our kids decided that she was gay after reading about it on the internet.
However, I think I can say now that it was inevitable that she would have come to this conclusion eventually, once she went out in the world anywhere. The fact is that these feelings exist inside her; and the minute she met someone gay, or heard our society’s ideas of acceptance of gayness as an identity, she would have recognized these feelings inside herself. So the first thing to know is, shielding your kids won’t work if they have these feelings. Yes, you can teach your kids about the biblical view of the love, marriage, and family. But you can’t prevent their struggle with gay feelings if they have those feelings. And once they grow up, and are anywhere in the world today, even most Christian colleges, they will hear about it and it will bring it to the surface.
Second, if it does happen to you that one of your kids thinks they might be gay, don’t panic. A nun told me this shortly after I found out, and now that it is 10 years later, I can say she was right. It is not the “worst” sin; acting on the feelings would be a sin, yes; but we are all struggling with sin, and let’s not lose sight of that. This is one sinful tendency among many, and many others are way worse. Third, focus on loving your child. This was hard line to walk for me. I am a Christian and I believe the biblical view of marriage; I could not affirm my daughter being gay, and by that I mean living a gay lifestyle, in a relationship. This was very, very hard. How much easier it would have been to be a “loving” affirming parent as we see praised in our culture. And I really think my daughter felt rejected on some level because I would not do that.
At first, we had many long discussions about biblical marriage. I don’t think that did any good. Eventually, I tried to show my love in other ways; all the ways a parent does. Cooking good meals, helping with school, helping her apply for jobs, helping her sort out friend trouble, supporting her in all she does, in any way I could. I do hope that she knows I love her. I try to tell her. But I think what she really wants is my affirmation to her being gay, and I can’t give that. It really isn’t easy. But if this happens to you, know that you are not alone.
I never told anyone about my struggle, it was too painful, and I was afraid, I am ashamed to admit, what people might think. But then I went to lunch with two devout Catholic friends, and one of them confided that her son was struggling with being gay. And she said she belonged to a group of Catholic parents struggling with this issue. Chances are, people close to you are struggling with this and you don’t know it.
Lastly, but most important, advice paraphrased from St. Porphyrios, a Greek beloved modern-day saint: instead of talking so much to your child about it; you should talk to God about it, and pray that He, who loves our children infinitely more that we do, would speak to your child’s heart in the ways that He knows. I highly recommend prayer to Mary, the Mother of God, too. Many times, I have just silently appealed to her for help when we have been in crisis with our daughter, and she always helps us!