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Trump & Transgender

Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (a katz/Shutterstock)

This is fascinating, and a sign of the times:

A fight over an order that would rescind protections for transgender students in public schools has erupted inside the Trump administration, pitting Attorney General Jeff Sessions against the secretary of education, Betsy DeVos.

Ms. DeVos initially resisted signing off on the order and told President Trump that she was uncomfortable with it, according to three Republicans with direct knowledge of the internal discussions. The draft order would reverse the directives put in place last year by the Obama administration to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice.

Mr. Sessions, who strongly opposes expanding gay, lesbian and transgender rights, fought Ms. DeVos on the issue and pressed her to relent because he could not go forward without her consent. The order must come from the Justice and Education Departments.

Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general, these Republicans said, telling Ms. DeVos in a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he wanted her to drop her objections. And Ms. DeVos, faced with the choice of resigning or defying the president, has agreed to go along. The Justice Department declined to comment on Wednesday.

Assuming this reporting is true, I am pleased that the president sided with AG Sessions. Though he is broadly pro-LGBT, Trump surely knows that ordering public schools to let transgenders into the bathrooms and locker rooms is not the place to take a stand. Still, it is fascinating — and important — that Betsy DeVos threw down with Jeff Sessions over this stuff. It shows that even within the broad community of conservative Evangelicals, there is no unanimity on this issue. Think about it: the fact that allowing boys who believe they are girls into a high school locker room is even an issue between conservative Evangelical Christians is a sign of the times.

Last night in the Q&A part of my presentation at Malone, a university in the Evangelical tradition, a student asked why we need the Benedict Option. “Why isn’t it enough just to love Jesus with all your heart, like I was taught growing up?” she asked.

I told her that love cannot be abstract, that it has to take form. I don’t remember what else I said, but as the evening was breaking up, several people who had been present said that the young woman’s question, however naive it might have sounded to some, is an important one. Important, they said, because it reflects the way so many younger Evangelicals have been taught to think — or rather, not to think.

One man who identified himself as an Evangelical described this as “pure gnosticism.” Another one, also Evangelical, said that I probably don’t appreciate the extent to which these young people were formed by emotivism — by the idea that the only thing that really matters is to affirm the right ideas in your head, and to manage your emotions to “love Jesus.”

“The students at my school are all really nice,” said one young man. “The problem is, when that niceness runs up against obstacles in the real world, it’s going to fold. A lot of Christians think being nice is pretty much all there is to being Christian. They don’t get it.”

Today on campus, I met a professor — an Evangelical — who brought up that young woman’s question from the night before, and said that the more he thinks about it, the more profound that question was as an expression of contemporary Evangelicalism. “Their churches have given them nothing but emotionalism,” he said. “They are totally unformed.”

And you know, readers, sweet kids like that are not going to have any idea what hit them. This is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism to the core. This is what it does. This is why in the years and decades to come, the churches are going to collapse under pressure from the outside culture.

Christian mom, Christian dad, Christian pastor — I’m talking to you. It’s not the fault of these young people that we are sending them out into the world as lightly Christianized gnostics. That’s on us. What are we going to do about it?

The future of American Christianity belongs to Betsy DeVos, because so many of us — Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox — surrendered intellectually and in terms of authentic discipleship one or two generations ago. We are now seeing the fruit of that. We disarmed our own children. I was once at a meeting of Evangelicals in which I heard a middle-aged woman say, “When can we quit talking about homosexuality and get back to loving Jesus?” What is male? What is female? What is sex? Forget all that, and focus on “loving Jesus,” never mind the implications.

This functional gnosticism didn’t start with the Millennials. This is why serious Christians are going to have to take the Benedict Option.

By the way, because I’m not going to be able to blog again till much later tonight, I wanted to draw your attention to Michael Brendan Dougherty’s tweetstorm about Emma Green’s Ben Op piece. Let me say to you readers that I don’t want you to be unkind to Emma. I respect her and her writing, and still do, despite my strong disagreement with her piece. What MBD says is true, though:

Yes, people. This is it. It’s not running away; it’s training for the long run.

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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