Home/Rod Dreher/Call The Bearded Man ‘Madam’ — Or Else

Call The Bearded Man ‘Madam’ — Or Else

In Britain, a Christian doctor, David Mackereth, who refused to call transgender patients by their preferred pronoun has been told by an Employment Tribunal that he had better do so, or else:

Andrea Williams, the chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said if the decision is upheld it will have “seismic consequences” for anyone in the workplace “who is prepared to believe and say that we are created male and female”.

“It is deeply disturbing that this is the first time in the history of English law that a judge has ruled that free citizens must engage in compelled speech,” she added.

Here is a link to the full ruling of the Employment Tribunal. What follows is from Paragraph 197:

[B]elief in Genesis 1:27, lack of belief in transgenderism and conscientious objection to transgenderism in our judgment are incompatible with human dignity and conflict with the fundamental rights of others, specifically here, transgender individuals.

Think about that. Believing in a fundamental precept of the Christian religion’s anthropology (Gen. 1:27 reads “”So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them”) is, in the eyes of this agency of the British state, “incompatible with human dignity.” Indeed, this is seismic. Christianity, in this sense, has been judged by the state’s agency as anti-human. Because Dr. Mackereth told the tribunal that he would refuse to address a six-foot bearded man as “Madam.”

A similar case is now emerging in the US. On Monday, a fired schoolteacher whose case I’ve written about in this space, filed a lawsuit against the local schoolboard. Excerpt:

Peter Vlaming, who was a French teacher at West Point High School, said he was fired because he would not use pronouns such as “him” and “his” to refer to a female student who was transitioning to male.

According to the suit filed Monday in King William County, using the male pronouns would have “violated” Vlaming’s “conscience” and went against his religious beliefs, so he called the student by his preferred name during class and avoided using pronouns altogether.

When the school found out, administrators told Vlaming to either use male pronouns or risk losing his job.

Watch this case closely. As with the Mackereth case in the UK, this is the kind of thing that will determine whether or not faithful Christians — or anybody who rejects the anthropology of transgenderism — will be able to hold certain jobs.

I refer you back to this important 2015 essay by the philosopher Michael Hanby, on the fate of “the civic project of American Christianity”. Excerpts:

By this measure, there can be little doubt that we live in revolutionary times, even if this revolution is the full flower of seeds planted long ago. What availed as the common wisdom of mankind until the day before yesterday—for example, that man, woman, mother, and father name natural realities as well as social roles, that children issue naturally from their union, that the marital union of man and woman is the foundation of human society and provides the optimal home for the flourishing of children—all this is now regarded by many as obsolete and even hopelessly bigoted, as court after court, demonstrating that this revolution has profoundly transformed even the meaning of reason itself, has declared that this bygone wisdom now fails even to pass the minimum legal threshold of rational cogency. This is astonishing by any measure; that it has occurred in half the time span proposed by Jonas makes it more astonishing still.

Such are the logical consequences of the sexual revolution, but to grasp more fully the meaning of its triumph, we must see that the sexual revolution is not merely—or perhaps even primarily—sexual. It has profound implications for the relationship not just between man and woman but between nature and culture, the person and the body, children and parents. It has enormous ramifications for the nature of reason, for the meaning of education, and for the relations between the state, the family, civil society, and the Church. This is because the sexual revolution is one aspect of a deeper revolution in the question of who or what we understand the human person to be (fundamental anthropology), and indeed of what we understand reality to be (ontology).

All notions of justice presuppose ontology and anthropology, and so a revolution in fundamental anthropology will invariably transform the meaning and content of justice and bring about its own morality. We are beginning to feel the force of this transformation in civil society and the political order. Court decisions invalidating traditional marriage law fall from the sky like rain. The regulatory state and ubiquitous new global media throw their ever increasing weight behind the new understanding of marriage and its implicit anthropology, which treats our bodies as raw material to be used as we see fit. Today a rigorous new public morality inverts and supplants the residuum of our Christian moral inheritance.

More:

One needn’t be ungrateful for the genuine achievements of American liberalism in order to question the wisdom of this project and its guiding assumptions. First, a purely juridical order devoid of metaphysical and theological judgment is as logically and theologically impossible as a pure, metaphysically innocent science. One cannot set a limit to one’s own religious competence without an implicit judgment about what falls on the other side of that limit; one cannot draw a clear and distinct boundary between the political and the religious, or between science, metaphysics, and theology, without tacitly determining what sort of God transcends these realms. The very act by which liberalism declares its religious incompetence is thus a theological act. Its supposed indifference to metaphysics conceals a metaphysics of original indifference.

Point is, liberalism is not metaphysically neutral. This can be seen in the British ruling. In his conclusion, Hanby says that events (remember, he wrote this in the months before Obergefell) are overtaking the philosophical debate

For in its enforcement of the sexual revolution, the state is effectively codifying ontological and anthropological presuppositions. In redefining marriage and the family, the state not only embarks on an unprecedented expansion of its powers into realms heretofore considered prior to or outside its reach, and not only does it usurp functions and prerogatives once performed by intermediary associations within civil society, it also exercises these powers by tacitly redefining what the human being is and committing the nation to a decidedly post-Christian (and ultimately post-human) anthropology and philosophy of nature.

This cannot be overstated. The Sexual Revolution is about what a human being is. This was always what was at stake. Remember almost 20 years ago, when people said, “What does my neighbor’s gay marriage have to do with me?” People like me told you that it had to do with the most basic questions of human anthropology. Nobody wanted to listen. Everybody wanted their sexual freedom, and all that comes with it. Now we are at a place, or approaching a place, where the state can command you to call a six-foot bearded man “Madam,” and drive you and your bigot-religion out of the public square if you say no.

More Hanby:

This is not to say that Christians should disengage or retreat, the usual misinterpretation of the so-called Benedict Option. There is no ground to retreat to, for the liberal order claims unlimited jurisdiction and permits no outside. We do not have the option of choosing our place within it if we wish to remain Christian. We cannot avoid the fact that this new philosophy, once it is fully instantiated, will in all likelihood deprive Christians of effective participation in the public square. Hobby Lobby notwithstanding, appeals to religious liberty, conceived as the freedom to put one’s idiosyncratic beliefs into practice with minimal state interference, are not likely to fare well over the long haul as these beliefs come to seem still more idiosyncratic, as religious practice comes into conflict with more “fundamental” rights, and as the state’s mediation of familial relations becomes ever more intrusive. And attempts to restore religious freedom to its proper philosophical place, as something like the sine qua non of freedom itself, presuppose just the view of human nature and reason that our post-Christian liberalism rejects from the outset.

To say that the civic project of American Christianity is at an end is not to say that it will simply cease, however. There will no doubt be those who continue to fight on, like Japanese holdouts after the Second World War, unaware that the war is over. And they should carry on in some fashion, doomed though the civic project may be. Religious freedom is worth defending after all, even in its flawed liberal sense, and Hobby Lobby shows us that it is still possible to win some battles while losing the war. Moreover, if liberalism is indeed absolute, so that there is no longer any outside, then a contest of rights is really the only ground on which liberal public reason will permit itself to be publicly engaged.

Read it all. What he’s telling us is this: we have to keep fighting, and we can hope to win some battles, but we are not going to win the war if liberalism’s metaphysics rule our civilization. And for now, they do. David French’s strategy makes short-term sense, because rights-talk is the only grounds on which to contest liberalism. Sohrab Ahmari’s battle-stations cultural conservatism is appealing on one level, but it is impossible to see how to build a viable political consensus to fight for the “common good” when we cannot agree on a source for the common good, or even on the nature of Nature. Only a distinct minority of Christians in this country are theological conservatives, and could agree to any form of this concise Catholic definition of integralism:

Catholic Integralism is a tradition of thought that rejects the liberal separation of politics from concern with the end of human life, holding that political rule must order man to his final goal. Since, however, man has both a temporal and an eternal end, integralism holds that there are two powers that rule him: a temporal power and a spiritual power. And since man’s temporal end is subordinated to his eternal end the temporal power must be subordinated to the spiritual power.

Many conservative Christians could affirm most of this, but we cannot agree on the nature of the “spiritual power” that rules man. You could not get non-Catholics to agree with Catholic integralism. Under late liberalism, such as we have today, you could not even get a meaningful number of American Catholics to do so.

Ergo, let us fight, but let us not lie to ourselves about the likelihood of winning. What we face is something that, in the end, can only be endured, and driven out by prayer, fasting, and steadfastness. That, and the sacrifices of white (bloodless) martyrs like Dr. David Mackereth.

The world is mad. It demands that a doctor call a six-foot bearded man “Madam,” and calls his religion inhumane for affirming a fundamental fact of human biology. This is not a sickness that can be defeated at the ballot box.

 

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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