For public purposes, the body is being aborted.
In our society a most unlikely battle is raging. I do not mean the current battle with a deadly flu virus. That serves at least to remind us that we are bodily creatures, and mortal. It is a fight we have fought many times before, and will again. The battle I am talking about is one we have never fought before, nor even thought of fighting: a battle over whether the human animal is, in any very essential sense, a sexed animal or merely a "gendered" one.
The battlefield presents a curious sight. The battalions gathered under the rainbow flag are busy driving a wedge into the human being, a wedge that divides soul from body, as Descartes and Rousseau taught us to do. Pace Rousseau, however, it is the soul rather than the body that is now said to have public relevance. The body is no longer public. The body is private and the soul, or what the soul asserts about the body, is public.
For public purposes, the body is being aborted. If this is allowed to continue, our collective ability to distinguish between the given and the desired, between the objective and the subjective, between facts and falsehoods, between truth and error, will also disappear. The public sphere itself will disappear, or at all events become defenceless against manipulation through blatant fictions and enforced lies.
As unlikely as this battle seems, as mystifying as many find it, there are reasons why it is being fought. In the essay that follows, I attempt to take the measure of the beast. Few will agree with all that is said there. Those, however, who care about our collective sanity, who worry about the stability of the public sphere, who seek the liberty of truth — for it is truth that makes us free, something error and lies can never do — must at least attempt to speak the truth. And the truth, I contend, is that:
- Humans are rational animals, creatures of body and soul.
- The human species is sexually dimorphic; in their complementary nature, its two sexes serve the propagation of the species, the nurture of its young, and so also its social order and flourishing.
- What is currently called "gender" is nothing but a mental construct designed to undermine that propagation, nurture, and order. It is not a way of talking about sex, or about the complications of sex that occasionally occur in nature, or about the social roles sometimes problematically associated with sexual complementarity, but rather an absurd denial of sex and sexual complementarity.
- Some proponents of gender ideology, in order to advance their interest in replacing traditional social order with something strictly atomistic, whether by reason of resentment or for economic and political gain or for sexual exploitation, have shown themselves willing to deploy vulnerable children as pawns: manipulating their minds, suppressing their passage through puberty, and surgically altering their bodies.
- Their agenda requires also the suppression of scientific research, of free speech, religious freedom, and the rights of the natural family, through systemic bullying in education, in the media, in the courts, and in the marketplace.
- All of this amounts to a crime against reason, a crime against humanity, and a crime against God. For instead of ordering the body to the soul, and the soul to the Maker in whose image the person properly exists body and soul, it refuses to acknowledge the Maker and thus finds itself baffled by the soul, which it cannot see, and even by the body, which it can see. Just so, it begins to execute divine judgment upon itself — losing the capacity for sound reasoning, causing the love of many to grow cold, collapsing into self-contradiction.
I know very well that it is unpopular to say such things, though they have been said before by men of genuine authority. (Saint Paul, for example, in the opening salvo of his thunderous Epistle to the Romans, warned explicitly against the consequences of exchanging the truth for a lie.) But to remain silent is to become complicit in the aforementioned crimes, which surely we must never do. To those suffering their effects, especially the young, let us show genuine compassion, not the faux compassion we are asked to show. And to those perpetrating them, let us say firmly: No more lies!
The human species is sexually dimorphic. By denying this fact, or trying to obscure it, the cultural revolution of the last generation finally shows its true colours. What began with a defence of "free" love and rapidly progressed to a celebration of homosexuality, has come round to a denial of the goodness and even the importance of the body. It has been led, by its own internal logic, to the current "trans" phenomenon, in which personal identity is said to be created or recreated by the individual agent acting independently of and, if necessary, in opposition to the body.
The revolution, in other words, has moved on from licensing sexual liaisons to suppressing the very idea of sex, and with it any coherent thought of the species qua species. We are not animals, after all, which (we said) must obey animal instincts and urges. No, we are almost angels, which do not require bodies. Since we presently have them, however, we will force them to do our bidding.
This is the thinking, not only of the transgenderist, but also of the transhumanist. As Steve Fuller admits in Humanity 2.0, the latter doubts whether there is anything "worth continuing to defend as distinctly 'human'." Neither works with those high hopes for the human being that once grounded our civilization on the axis of faith that runs from Christmas to Easter. Both labour instead under a heavy load of self-loathing and despair, the load Christ came to lift.
But let us not be distracted by those whose goal is to exchange carbon for silicon, rather like the alchemists of old who sought to turn lead into gold; that is, to grant us eternal life by uploading the contents of our brains into their supercomputers. What concerns us is those who want to exchange sex for "gender"; that is, to erase from the minds of our children and grandchildren the silly notion that they are either boys or girls — that there is any such thing as a boy or a girl. Such ideas, or so advocates contend when putting on their most hopeful face, limit the limitless potential of our young. The notion that one really is a boy or a girl keeps one earthbound, tied to a putative created order and to an actual social order which the authors and heirs of the revolution reject and even despise.
In earlier phases their rebellion against that order seemed more modest. They repudiated its social mores and its economic or political aims, which had failed to prevent world war and other great evils. This reflected a growing dis-ease, a gradual disenchantment of and in late-modern culture, and an attempt at re-enchantment along the impossibly naïve lines of John Lennon's Imagine. That didn't work out too well. Neither did the culture of "free love," which could only be sustained by abandoning genuine intimacy and by practicing abortion on a vast scale. The chips were already down, however, and the cultural roulette wheel was spinning. The revolution was addictive. So now we have arrived at this dehumanizing angelomorphism — this "you are not your body and your body is not you" doctrine — which is being taught to the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society as gospel truth.
In religious terms, or at least in terms of the old and much despised biblical religion on which our civilization was built, this doctrine is a direct repudiation of the Gospel narrative in which God comes to the rescue of the world he created. But it is also, and still more directly, a repudiation of the narrative of creation, the Genesis narrative: "So God created man in his own image / in the image of God he created him / male and female he created them."
No, he did not! There is no such God and there is no such creature. The old orthodoxy is the new heresy and must be kept far away from children. Those who persist in it must be punished. Even men of medicine (biologists not biblicists) must be persuaded to remain silent. And parents are to have no say in the matter of their children's education. They are not even to know what is being taught them, or when.
"Who owns our kids?" That very good question was raised some time ago by Beverley McLachlin, who later became Canada's chief justice. It was made much more pressing by a change, on her watch, in the legal definition of marriage. In 2005 marriage, for civil purposes, became a mere "union of two persons." Procreation was thus excluded from its purview, and the legal dismantling of parental authority that we are now witnessing commenced in earnest. In the United States the same step was taken a decade later in Obergefell v. Hodges, which similarly transformed the universally recognized right of every individual to seek to marry and found a family into the right of couples to marry — specifically same-sex couples, who biologically cannot found families. Thus were all families made over into legal fictions and all parents made over into legal guardians subject to state supervision.
The question of ownership — we ought rather to say "stewardship" out of respect, not for the state, but for our Maker — has been made still more pressing by the present very practical test of parental will. For in the current phase of the sexual revolution it is no longer simply a matter of what children must or must not be taught. It is a matter of what they can be encouraged to do or to have done to them, without parental knowledge or permission; indeed, without the least hint of interference in the course recommended by the doctrinaire activists at work in our educational system, whom the state has decided to back.
To those who find this phase of the revolution bewildering, it must be pointed out that warnings about the trajectory we have been following were sounded long ago. They date back at least to the 1928 Nobel laureate, Sigrid Undset, and to other famous writers of that period such as G. K. Chesterton and Christopher Dawson. They were sounded anew in 1968 by Paul VI and by the Cambridge philosopher, Elizabeth Anscombe. In the early 1990s, William Gairdner documented the war on the family at great length in a book by that title. Others have since followed suit, hoping to restore a thick view of marriage and to make clear the natural and divine (hence pre-political) rights that attach to it.
Such warnings notwithstanding, a great many people — religious people included — adopted an impossibly thin, romantic view marriage such as the revolution had cultivated, supposing that humans were distinguished from other animals chiefly by the depth of their sentiments rather than by the fact that they are rational creatures with a responsibility to order their own lives to what is actually good, not to whatever seems for the moment to feel good. And this thin view of sex and marriage — which had been much aided, of course, by the advent of effective contraception — not only led to an exponential increase in abortion and divorce, it paved the way for the state's appropriation of the institution of marriage, and of its burdens, including full responsibility for the education of children.
Even many who had misgivings about same-sex marriage, who worried about the inevitable homosexualization of the culture that this novel concept was so obviously for, quickly resigned themselves to defeat. If civil marriage was nothing more than state-sanctioned romance, what persuasive answer could be given to the billboard question of the same-sex marriage campaign, "What can it do to your marriage?" That was a trick question, of course, as some of us pointed out in Divorcing Marriage; for marriage as a public institution isn't about "you" and "your marriage" in the first place. To accept the question, as posed, was already to concede defeat.
In any case, we are now beginning to discover that it can do a great deal. It can, for example, as I remarked in Nation of Bastards, deprive us of control over the education of our own offspring. For if marriage is not procreative it is not educative either. Our roles have been reversed: public education is not a kind of stewardship by the state on behalf of parents; parents are merely the stewards at home of children whom the state is training.
In that training the state can and will, whether parents like it or not, teach children that experimentation in matters sexual is a good thing. It will also teach them that the denial of sex through self-created gender identity is a good thing. It will even pass legislation forbidding so-called conversion therapy, meaning (to quote a bill currently before the Canadian parliament) "a practice, treatment or service designed to change a person's sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender, or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour" — in short, any attempt to undo the damage being done in schools and clinics which are proselytizing in the other direction.
A government department for sex
"If sex has been liberated from the restrictions of marriage only to fall into the hands of a government department," wrote Christopher Dawson, "the final stage in the dehumanization of human culture will have been reached." That was in an essay called "Christianity and Sex," published in 1933 with a glance at what was happening in Soviet Russia, which had (and still has) many proponents in the West. "Western civilisation at the present day is passing through a crisis which is essentially different from anything previously experienced," he argued, in that it is deliberately attempting a root and branch reconstruction of social norms, leading to the creation of "a new social organism" in which the state assumes the role of pater familias.
The main mechanism of this reconstruction is the mating of rationalism to romanticism. The former strips sex of its spiritual dimension; the latter tries to restore it as pure emotivism. Dawson could see that through this coupling, whose offspring was "a religion of sex," marriage itself must finally lose its attractiveness. "The energy of youth," he predicted, "will be devoted to contraceptive love and only when men and women have become prosperous and middle-aged will they think seriously of settling down to rear a strictly limited family." And the demise of marriage "must lead inevitably to a social decadence far more rapid and more universal than that which brought about the disintegration of ancient civilisation." Our civilization, he insisted, "is threatened with the loss of its freedom and its humanity," a threat that can only be met by repudiating the religion of sex and restoring the religious view of marriage that we learned from Christianity.
This threat, so far from being met and overcome, has fully overtaken us. In most universities there are now well-funded offices for hallowing the religion of sex, and programs for teaching students (to borrow a line from Patrick Riley's Civilizing Sex) how to be both unspiritual in the flesh and unfleshly in the flesh. Indeed, not only teaching it, but as far as possible enforcing it, through those mandatory "diversity" modules that are multiplying like a deadly virus in every administrative nook and cranny, so as to make of the entire organization a highly efficient carrier. Dissent is in lockdown, and the lockdown is rapidly gaining the force of law.
Dawson, I fear, was too optimistic in Enquiries in Religion and Culture when he went on to question whether sex would ever actually fall into the hands of a government department. In some jurisdictions it has already, in a manner of speaking, through the creation of inter-departmental committees wielding unconstitutional powers to declare war on traditional morality. That could hardly be done were the "social suicide" that worried Dawson not well under way; and if the war is well prosecuted, perhaps something like a department for sex will prove necessary. Aldous Huxley's dystopian vision does not seem so very far-fetched any more.
Dawson believed that "the true alternative to social suicide is not sexual communism, but the restoration of the family." The state, sooner or later, must "realise that it can neither take the place of the family nor do without it." Quite so, but the hour is now late, and the state shows few signs of changing course. It is no longer God, or parents under God, who say: "This is the way, walk in it." No, it is the lobbyists, the local bureaucrats, and officials in the justice department or the department of education who tell us that. And the disobedient, especially disobedient parents, are dealt with by gag orders and by ever-expanding discrimination and hate speech laws, or by similar instruments of coercion and constraint.
In our universities, even scientists are beginning to feel the pinch of the party line, for LGBTQ∞ activists (the infinity sign I think more indicative of their logic than a simple plus sign) regard as a great affront any examination of our culture that bears on their interests but is not in their own hands. The phenomenon of rapid-onset gender dysphoria has become a flashpoint. Attempts to conduct research into such things are met by chants of "No conversation about us without us!" Which means, of course, that they (the activists) must have a place in every council they deem relevant, and a veto over every counsel they don't like. Perhaps the "diversity" advocates can show us how to diversify that demand. Shall we also have a bureau for bureaus, then, an Equity and Diversity portfolio for Equity and Diversity portfolios?
Who turned out the lights?
"Social suicide" is not too strong a term. Some post-war revolutionaries, including Shulamith Firestone for one, called openly for total destruction of the existing social order and, especially, of the distinction between male and female on which all such order is grounded. "The basic social organization, the biological family," contended Firestone, had to go. And the way to make it go was to erase all boundaries around sexual behaviour and to see to it that eventually "genital differences between human beings would no longer matter culturally." Even the Soviets, under Commissar Alexandra Kollantai, had not tried to go that far. But we, in a process overseen by our progressive masters, will now go that far, as Chesterton knew we would. The warning he sounded a century ago, in that famous passage from the 19 June 1926 edition of G.K.'s Weekly, has proved entirely prescient. The madness of the modern root-and-branch attack on sexual morality, he said, would eventually reveal itself not in Moscow but in Manhattan.
Firestone was raised in a dysfunctional family in Ottawa, which is neither of those two cities. Though arguably it favours the former, it may stand in here for the latter. Its current luminaries, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chief Justice Richard Wagner (who, on assuming office as McLachlin's successor, promised to make his court "the world's most progressive") do a good impression of what the Soviets called useful idiots. For they imagine themselves to be extending "the long arc of justice" when in fact they are only using the jagged blade handed them by Firestone and friends to saw off the branch on which they are sitting.
If we are indeed witnessing the long arc of justice, as Mr Trudeau claims, let us admit that it is already beginning to touch down among us in an act of well-deserved divine judgment. For what are the heavens witnessing, if not a rapidly advancing arc of outrages against the most vulnerable members of our society, against the reason God gave us, and against God himself? And what are we witnessing, if not the disappearance of our freedom of speech, association, conscience and religion, and of the family's own freedom from state interference? This last is the very thing, one notes, that Canadians were promised by Trudeau père back in 1968, at the point where that arc of outrages began in this country with the legalization of abortion and the liberalizing of divorce law.
One must not be too quick, however, to condemn those who fancy themselves among the great and the good. One must not be too quick even to condemn the radicals whose agenda they are carrying out. Certainly one must not condemn the youth who are caught up in that agenda. Make no mistake — it is we, as much as anyone, who are to blame. Are we not beginning to reap what we have sown? For who are we, if not those who only too gladly exchanged the truth for a lie? Who happily abandoned nature's link between sex and procreation and, just so, took up in earnest the religion of sex instead practicing our Christian religion?
We need to be clear about this. The deepest roots of today's denial of the body do not lie, as some imagine, in the practice of anal sex, though that certainly is a sin against God and nature, and a very dangerous one at that, medically as well as morally. They lie rather in the practice of contraceptive sex generally. For all contraceptive sex — as Anscombe bravely pointed out in her visit to Toronto during the Humanae vitae crisis, while the country's bishops were conceding to the revolution with their cowardly Winnipeg Statement — pulls apart what the body's basic design holds together; namely, the unitive and the procreative potential of the sexual act proper to the species. In providing an efficient means of contraception we were already turning the powers of reason against the body. The great divorce of soul and body had begun.
Otherwise put: by making non-procreative sex the new norm for everyone, a norm achieved primarily by chemical interference with female bodily functions, we ceased to be men and women and became merely heterosexuals and homosexuals. It was no very large step from there to seeing our dimorphic nature, our sexual complementarity, as lacking any real significance next to the pursuit of sexual pleasure and emotional thrills. For we had already become those who were invested in private passions rather than in social goods, or in social goods only for the sake of private passions. We were romantics, and Anscombe was entirely right to insist that we could now offer no reason at all for confining sex to marriage or marriage to opposite-sex unions. Indeed, we could now offer no good reason for marriage itself.
The hard truth was at first disguised by two specious claims. One was that the use of contraception was chiefly for the benefit of women because it would greatly expand the life-choices available to them. Even some women encouraged this nonsense (among them those who launched the infinite acronym mentioned earlier) though a good many saw it for what it was. The other was that homosexuality should be seen as a proper device of nature, albeit for some undisclosed purpose. And no doubt the purpose must forever remain undisclosed, since nature itself can hardly be interested in turning the sexes inward upon themselves, or in setting them at odds with each other. That sort of work belongs to a dissembling serpent, not to the Maker himself.
The former claim — that women were somehow better off when copulation was for pleasure alone rather than for permanent bonding and the raising of children — led to, and indeed could only be maintained by, hyper-inflation of existing strife between the sexes. This the sensible had foreseen, and on it the new divorce industry glutted itself. So did the enterprising disciples of Margaret Sanger, who through a quick doctrinal revision built an enormously profitable abortion industry to commodify fetal bodies and body parts. Under the cynical label, Planned Parenthood, they have indeed become so profitable as to pull the financial and legal strings of legislatures in many places. They are reliable leaders of the evolving revolution, for the bloody cost in human lives registers on the positive side of their ledgers. Their watchword is "Choice!"
The latter claim — that nature alone, not nurture or failure of nurture, inclines some people to homosexuality, and does so in such a fashion that they cannot behave other than they do — contains many ironies. One is that choice itself, temporarily and for purely tactical purposes, is abandoned as an ideal. Another is that "nature" is thus deployed to attack nature, and religion with it. For the fiction that homosexual relations are perfectly natural, in no way defective, carries the implication that religion itself must be defective: such religion as persists in denying the goodness of homosexuality. Re-education in what is "natural" thus becomes the order of the day. In this re-education, however, we eventually learn that the nature/nurture distinction is false. Nature is nurture, or rather nature is pure volition. And therein lies a third irony, for that is just what the queer theorist, who wanted nothing to do with nature, had been telling us all along. Sexuality is merely a matter of preference, which can take multiple and malleable forms according to choice; even the religious should recognize that and get used to it.
Gender mainstreaming – c'est nous!
The general adoption of contraceptive practices and a contraceptive mentality deprived our culture of its extant antibodies to all this. At the same time, it robbed "queerness," in principle, of its queerness, and even to some extent of its transgressiveness. For it ruptured in society at large what was already ruptured in the realm of homosexuality: the relation between the body as given by God and the body as received and deployed by the rational soul whose body it is. From now on, almost anything was conceivable, according to taste.
There remained, however, the antibody known as custom or habit. Gender mainstreaming — an ambitious strategy to see that various ideologies in the LGBTQ stable would be incorporated into education, law, and public policy on a global basis — was devised to deal with that. Though loosely coordinated, it was wildly successful. The biological binary, male and female, began to give way to its behavioural competitor, also said (except by queer theorists) to be biologically based; the dominant categories would be heterosexual and homosexual. The next step was to generate another binary that does not bother itself with biology or even behaviour; namely, cisgender and transgender. The cisgender person is one who is "comfortable" with his or her body, while the transgender person is someone who is not comfortable, someone seeking or positing a different identity than the identity to which the body naturally lends itself.
The unifying thread appears when it is understood that the first member in each of these binaries is regarded as defective, or at least dangerous. Gender mainstreaming is a program for removing the real or perceived domination of males (patriarchalism), of heterosexuals (heteronormativity), and of those who accept their bodily identity (cisnormativity).
If some people are slow to grasp the nature, and hence the implications, of this program, that may in part be due to their habit of associating gender with sex. But "gender" here is not sex, as transgenderism is not simply a synonym for transsexualism. The transsexual, to be sure, is uncomfortable with his or her body, and moves or attempts to move from having a body of one sex to having (or being perceived as having) a body like that of the other sex. The binary framework of sex is still operative, however. Transgenderism wants to escape that binary. In the world of transgenderism, "gender transitioning" may or may not be tracked by the body at all. The soul (to impose a traditional term foreign to this discourse) may indeed make of the body its own artifact, bending all its will to subduing it through cosmetic or chemical or even surgical arts. If so, it is still most likely to effect, as the transsexual does, a male to female (M2F) or a female to male (F2M) transition, because breaking down the sexual binary has to start somewhere. But one could choose (as "Tiamat" has done) to become a dragon instead. Or to adopt any of the hundreds of proposed genders, or simply to generate a new one. This can be done with or without alteration to the body or even to the birth certificate. For in transgenderism the soul is thought to float free of the body rather than to be trapped in the wrong body. Alternatively, it might be said, as the gnostics of old said, that all souls are trapped in bodies and therefore must learn to float free.
These phenomena (transsexualism and transgenderism) may look alike, then, but they are actually quite different. Both have psychological dimensions that clinicians rightly call gender dysphoria, but even clinicians are not using the word "gender" as the cutting-edge culture is now using it. A good clinician, of course, is looking to help the person in front of him, and the requisite help may turn out to be the same for one person as for another. Both may be dealing with insecurities born of doubt, perhaps well-founded doubt, that they are properly loved by those who brought them into existence or by those who are meant to be nurturing them. The labels they themselves wear don't matter very much in trying to deal with that. What matters is discerning the processes by which, in a particular person's experience, alienation from the body emerged as a false solution to a real problem, and finding a genuine solution.
Perhaps labels don't matter much in the struggle for our civilization either, but here too we need discernment. One of the things we most need to discern is the line to be drawn from the divorce culture of our own generation to the gender-confused culture of the present generation. We have by our own behaviour generated sufficient insecurity in our children regarding their natural place in the world, and whether they are truly loved by those who brought them into it, for experiences of alienation to multiply and to feed off one another in chaotic fashion. This not only renders clinical work more difficult, it renders the need for compassionate solidarity with those who are suffering more likely to be misconstrued as a need to affirm their present course of action and even to celebrate their own labels for it. This no worthy clinician would ever concede as wise. Neither should we.
Moreover, it must be recognized that we ourselves, through the underlying culture of contraception and abortion, have created the conditions for doubt about the goodness of the body and about the soul's relation to the body. Hence also about the public institutions that, just because we are bodily — because we are rational animals and not angels — bind us together in the good life that is the social life. It must be recognized that we ourselves have created the conditions under which it is no longer acknowledged that the will of God (as Augustine says) is the essence of each created thing, but affirmed instead that one's ownwill is the essence of the self and of all that concerns the self. And that affirmation cannot sustain public institutions, whether marriage or any other. It cannot sustain public space or social goods at all. It can only break them down, completely and utterly. But it is time now to sum up.
Our solipsistic anti-culture
The transition we have been tracing from "male and female he made them" to "heterosexual or homosexual he made them," and thence to a gender-spectrum theory at war with the body — "gingerbread men he made them!" — contained from the outset a secret denial both of God and of the human nature designed by God. It was the course recommended by the serpent, this course we chose to follow when we decided to tear asunder what God had joined together in his design of man; namely, the unitive and the procreative dimensions of human sexuality. In order to extract from copulation, or from its more or less depraved parodies, a faux unity that reduces to fleeting pleasure, we set foot on a treacherous slope at the bottom of which lies the neo-gnostic repudiation of the body and the ultra-voluntarist, anti-rational affirmation of the autonomous will in which our corporate life is now mired.
And where does this leave us? In the personal sphere, it leaves us with all the consequences of preferring vice to virtue, unchastity to chastity, unfaithfulness to faithfulness. These consequences include unstable relationships, damaged psyches, troubled homes, guilty consciences, and of course STDs. But things are rather worse than that. For the individual now stands in an uncertain relation even to his own body, an uncertainty public institutions are now applauding.
In the economic sphere, it leaves us with a massive consumerist enterprise in false objectifications, including the soul-destroying pornography industry and the body-destroying abortion industry, with its market in lightly-used human parts. There is money to be made, a lot of money, from the unfolding sexual revolution and from the disintegration of the natural family, which when healthy cultivates a well-ordered soul and a well-ordered society.
In the medical sphere, it leaves us with doctors who no longer swear the Hippocratic Oath and who increasingly are uncertain whether they must, as a first principle, do no harm. It leaves us with a medical establishment prepared to countenance mutilation and even induced death as medicine; and with funding and regulatory bodies which actually insist on that. Moreover, it leaves us with an aging population that is no longer vital enough to resist even the present COVID virus, which is not so very deadly, or to carry the economic burden that will be left in its wake.
In the legal sphere, it leaves us with the perplexing task of undoing the habeas corpus principle in all its forms and manifestations — of excising the body itself from the workings of law and refashioning "justice" accordingly. Did we not see something of that, just recently, in the travesty that was the State of Victoria's handling of the Pell case? Physical evidence, public evidence — the evidence of bodies and times and places — was rejected in favour of mere assertion, uncorroborated assertion, which was said subjectively to have "the ring of truth." Thus was the onus of proof shifted from the one who made the assertion, who leveled the unsubstantiated charge, to the one against whom it was leveled. Had a lone dissenter on the Court of Appeal not limned this travesty, opening a path to the High Court, Cardinal Pell's body would still be, as for more than a year it was, locked away in a solitary prison cell, perhaps until his soul fled to God.
In the political sphere, it leaves us with authorities that, like their subjects, attend more to sentiments than to facts. At the same time, it leaves us with a state saddled with greatly increased responsibility for the maintenance of social bonds, as we beat our collective retreat into the simulacra of unity and community on which Big Tech thrives and which it easily manipulates. With this increased responsibility goes increased control, of course, which in the future may well include Dawson's department for sex, the reproductive quotas foreseen by Huxley, and the euthanasia quotas foreseen by P. D. James; to say nothing of the kind of anti-discrimination regulation that is already making it difficult to function without worshipping the beast arising from this turbulent sea.
On the spiritual level it leaves us in lockdown mode, deprived of authentic community with man or God. We have, it seems, invented an atomizing and solipsistic anti-culture: a culture that denies the proper difference between male and female and the reliance of each half of the species on the other half; a culture that is neither procreative nor intergenerational, and hence cannot maintain itself by itself; a culture that must therefore concede to individuals magical powers of self-invention and to the state tyrannical powers of order; a culture that brings the state into conflict with the natural family, as with religious bodies and other voluntary associations likewise enervated (as recent events confirm) by laws and policies rewritten to the state's advantage.
And who does the rewriting? Many people, some well-meaning no doubt, doing what they are told with what they are given. But who is doing the telling and what are they being given? Where it concerns either sex or gender, the state's agenda seems to be neatly laid out for it in the Yogyakarta Principles, which are diligently translated into policy proposals by their well-connected adherents. These, quite frankly, are rife with the spirit and redolent of the tactics of Commissar Kollantai. For in this demonic anti-culture dissent is certainly not to be tolerated.
On faithful dissent
But we do dissent and we must dissent. The salvation of public reason — already so badly corrupted that debate is conducted almost exclusively in emotive rather than rational terms — rests on dissent. The freedoms we have hitherto enjoyed rest now on dissent. A new and viable social contract rests on dissent. The loyalty of thoughtful citizens, who at bottom seek only the right to care for their families and to raise their children in ways that show grateful respect to their Maker, is stretched very near the breaking point.
Dissent must be deliberate and well-organized. It must not, however, be merely tactical. It must prize the power of reason, and still more the power of prayer, not presume only the power of the media or the mob. In the name of right reason and of genuine religion, of natural law reinforced by divine law, dissenters must be prepared to resist the anti-culture forces whose authority, even when dressed up as civil law and armed accordingly, is illusory — a mirage produced by lies, by false and hollow claims, that will sooner or later evaporate. In other words, it must be prepared, through civil disobedience if necessary, yet eschewing all violence and deceit, to reject demands for compliance that are made without respect for the well-formed conscience, to say nothing of what we used to call common decency. It must reclaim the mantle and and revive the true spirit of the civil rights movement, which has fallen among thieves.
This is the kind of dissent we ought to offer and the sort of dissenters we ought to become. Let us not be bullied or cowed by our employers, by civil servants, or by "human rights" commissars. Let us not be bullied even by the police, much less by some Röhmian Sturmabteilung chanting its slogans and hurling its insults. Despite the costs, let us speak and live as we think we ought to speak and live, as free people.
As those apostles of truth, Peter and John, said to the council ordering them to fall silent: "Whether it is right in God's sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge." Their own judgment was that they should fear God rather than man. Let that be our judgment also. And may God, whose judgment (as the preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms still acknowledges) is supreme, be with us.
Douglas Farrow. "No More Lies: Exposing the Roots of Gender Ideology." Catholic World Report (April 25, 2020).
Reprinted with permission. Catholic World Report is an online news magazine that tells the story from an orthodox Catholic perspective. Its hard-hitting content is free to all readers without a subscription.
(Images: Hand: Nadine Shaabana; rainbow graphic: Jasmin Sessler | Unsplash.com)
Douglas Farrow is Professor of Theology and Christian Thought at McGill University, and the sometime holder of the Kennedy Smith Chair in Catholic Studies. Douglas Farrow is the author of Theological Negotiations: Proposals in Soteriology and Anthropology, Ascension Theology, Desiring a Better Country, and Theological Negotiations.Copyright © 2020 Catholic World Report
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