The Rush To Reject Reality

Otto Tellick wrote to me in a comment concerning my recent BreakPoint article,

Your own black-and-white view of gender, like any strictly segregationist view of race, is not consistent with reality, and stands in direct opposition to a true sense of social justice.

This is indeed a nuanced kind of issue, though not for me in the same way that it is for Otto. For me the question has to do with society’s rush to reject reality.

In order to explain what I mean by that, I need to approach it first from the perspective of individuals and our differences. I’ll return to the societal level toward the end.

Some Binary Distinctions Are Real
The phrase “black-and-white” is unfortunate in that it carries racial connotations, but the fact is that with regard to color and color alone—not race but, say, the color of an iPad—black is black, and white is white. Could an iPad to come out of the factory some other color? Sure, if Apple allowed it (I had a red iPod once), but that doesn’t make the black ones white, the white ones black, or either of them gray, red, or rainbow-colored. Sometimes there really are binary distinctions that can be recognized without being simpleminded.

It is my considered and studied opinion that marriage is what marriage is, and that its is-ness includes being the union of a man and a woman (there are other things that are true of marriage, but this is the one in question). The push for same-sex “marriage” denies reality, if I am right about that.

Individual Experiences Are Real
I am also very aware of gender dysphoria, confusion, etc. I have a studied opinion, not a casual one, on that, too. In regard to sex male is male and female is female. This is a binary distinction that can be recognized without simplemindedness. The concept of gender, however, is different. It has arisen in recent decades; it is new on the scene. It has to do with socially expected roles, personally adopted roles, one’s internally experienced identity, and so on. Gender is not a binary, either-or kind of thing, for people’s roles and experiences can cover quite a range.

In that context, the first question is whether one’s internally experienced gender can differ from one’s biological sex, and the answer is absolutely yes. That’s reality. There’s a spectrum that ranges from fetishist transvestism to bisexuality to (some say) autogynephilia to inter- and transsexuality, among others. Of these, only inter- and transsexuality really relate to my topic (possibly autogynephilia, too, though that’s controversial). The others do not imply internal disagreement between one’s gender and one’s biological sex.

Individual Experiences Are Not Normative
When one says, however, “I am not on the inside what I am on the outside,” it must lead to a second question: is that normative? Does that experience of dysphoria or disagreement with one’s body define reality? Johns Hopkins used to do sex-change surgery until they realized they were most inappropriately using knives and sutures to treat a psychological problem. That’s their assessment, not mine.

Some are gender-dysphoric and/or gender-confused. I feel for them; it is an unfortunate and difficult condition. They are very few, though, in relation to the overall society. Some are homosexual or lesbian and want to marry partners of the same sex. This too is a painful thing, which I have tried to understand from a biblical perspective. These, too, are very few in number.

So what we have in these cases (and also in the XY Chromosome disorders Otto mentioned in that comment) is a small population of people with a dysphoric condition.

Society’s Rush To Reject Reality

Given that reality—that there are some people whose internal gender experience conflicts with their biological sex, or that there are same-sex couples who want to marry—what should we do? What is our culture in fact deciding to do? We are grinding slowly in the direction of calling those wishes reality.

There. I’ve finally gotten to my point. We are taking upon ourselves the privilege of saying what’s real and what is not, as if we small human beings had that power in the universe. Marriage was once one thing, but it wasn’t really that, it was “the union of two people in love.” Sex was one thing, but now it isn’t really that; it’s gender, the way one feels, the way one wishes to be.

And our culture is saying that this very small proportion of people, with arguably disordered desires or psychological experiences, shall re-define for all of us what is real.

The Context of Social Justice

The typical justification for this rush to re-define reality is as Otto said: social justice, or, the imperative to make a welcome place in society for all persons and beliefs. It is a chimerical quest, for every push toward some socially accepted belief is a pull away from another, and someone is always going to feel unwelcome based on their beliefs, internal orientations, or whatever. That means that there is something inherently impossible and contradictory in taking “welcoming for all” as our measure of social justice. There must be a better way than that, unless there’s no way at all.

I submit to you that the best way to define social justice is in agreement with reality; that the quest we should be pursuing is not, “what will accommodate the most persons’ experiences or desires?” but “what is real, and how can we order society in accordance with it?”

Despair Over Reality
Finally I need to acknowledge that there is a history behind all this. The story of modern philosophy (since about Descartes, but especially Kant) is the story of despair over discovering reality. I will not attempt to go any further into that here; it would take far more time and space, and also to do it really well, more expertise than I have.

Attached to this is despair over justice as a feature of reality; for if reality at its base is does not exhibit and maintain justice, then we have to come up with our own version of it. It’s proving to be impossible but we have to try anyway. This is where our culture stands.

This despair is the fruit of rejecting the reality of God and his self-revelation: for he is good, he is just, and the knowledge he provides us is sufficient as a grounding point for what is really real. Reality is therefore ultimately good and just, and to a sufficient extent knowable.

There is much I haven’t said here, much that I’ve touched on far too lightly, much that’s beyond my scope and my space available, much that’s beyond my experience or understanding. Still one thing seems clear. Sexuality is only an illustration of a much larger point: our culture has lost hope concerning reality; we have lost touch with reality. And we’re rushing to reject what little contact we have.

Comments

  1. Otto Tellick

    Tom,

    I honestly appreciate what you’ve written here – thank you. Under your first 3 bolded headings, I fully respect everything you say, and would pursue only this one point (please excuse the trimming – I don’t intend to change your meaning):

    It is my considered and studied opinion that marriage is … the union of a man and a woman… The push for same-sex “marriage” denies reality, if I am right about that.

    Your willingness to give the impression that you would consider the possibility that you might not be right about that – well, that’s something. It at least allows a sensible question: what would induce you to conclude that you’re wrong about that?

    The constructive basis for discussing our disagreement starts in the 4th section:

    We are grinding slowly in the direction of calling those wishes reality… We are taking upon ourselves the privilege of saying what’s real and what is not, as if we small human beings had that power in the universe.

    This overstates the degree of importance involved in granting homosexuals (a small minority) the freedom to express and experience, among themselves, their own sexual preferences. Doing so does not involve any sort of “universal power.” It really is just a matter of deciding that whatever consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms is of concern only to themselves, and not to anyone else – let alone the Creator Of The Universe, assuming any such entity exists as a sentient being.

    (Granted, adultery would be a different matter, because it can impact spouses and children; but adultery shouldn’t be a matter of criminal offense – leave decisions of redress to the spouse, provided it’s kept civil).

    Your reference to “arguably disordered desires or psychological experiences” can – and I think should – be viewed as a form of prejudice. Despite your “considered and studied opinion,” your assessment of other people’s state of mind as “disordered” is grounded on disparaging remarks made by homophobes thousands of years ago, and may perhaps be buttressed by your own misunderstandings and lack of awareness regarding homosexuals as individuals.

    They are a small minority. They are not trying to change you or deny you anything to which you are accustomed or entitled; they are only trying to be themselves. They are not a threat, and you have no good reason to treat them as a threat, to you or to themselves. Just let them be – it costs you nothing, and I dare say if Jesus himself had done as much, it would have been consistent with other things that Jesus himself is reported to have said.

    When you say:

    … the quest we should be pursuing is not, “what will accommodate the most persons’ experiences or desires?” but “what is real, and how can we order society in accordance with it?”

    you ignore or deny the possibility that desires are part of what defines reality for humans. You reject the idea that maximizing the accommodation of desires, for those domains of experience where this yields no harm, will lead to real improvements in the overall quality of our lives.

    You are asserting that there is some definition of “reality” that is derivable only from some “supernatural” (unevidenced, unobservable) source that was canonized from incomplete and imperfect texts thousands of years ago. The fact that this definition imposes binary distinctions on matters that occupy a continuum must, in your view, be ignored, because you are supposed to accept canonized prejudice as a matter of faith. That’s the part that is wrong.

  2. ordinary seeker

    Thank you, Autotelic. I read this post yesterday and it’s occupied my mind since, but I haven’t yet been able to formulate a response. I agree with all you’ve said, and in addition would add that Tom conflates what most in the field consider separate categories: sexuality and gender.

  3. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Otto:

    What would induce me to conclude I was wrong about marriage? A complete upheaval of my entire view of all reality, actually. It would require me shift from an essentialist view of nature to a nominalist view; or from a theistic to a materialistic view. Since you asked.

    What would induce you to conclude you were wrong?

    This overstates the degree of importance involved in granting homosexuals (a small minority) the freedom to express and experience, among themselves, their own sexual preferences. Doing so does not involve any sort of “universal power.”

    What does that have to do with my topic? I wasn’t talking about freedom to express or experience, I was talking about attempting to redefine the realities of marriage and maleness/femaleness.

    Your reference to “arguably disordered desires or psychological experiences” can – and I think should – be viewed as a form of prejudice. Despite your “considered and studied opinion,” your assessment of other people’s state of mind as “disordered” is grounded on disparaging remarks made by homophobes thousands of years ago, and may perhaps be buttressed by your own misunderstandings and lack of awareness regarding homosexuals as individuals.

    Your disparaging name-calling of “homophobe” can – and I think should — be viewed as a form of prejudice. It is a pathological yet incorrect assessment of others’ and of my state of mind, probably buttressed by your own misunderstanding and lack of awareness of why we disagree with (not fear, not hate) homosexual activity and homosexual activism.

    They are a small minority. They are not trying to change you or deny you anything to which you are accustomed or entitled; they are only trying to be themselves.

    Like hell. (I say that soberly and advisedly; the simile is intentional.) That’s either incredibly naive or else a damnable lie, depending on how ignorant you are.

    Some homosexuals may have that opinion and that approach, but the activist leaders are trying to change the very foundations of Western culture.

    Speaking of ignorance, my assertion that there exists some reality to marriage and to maleness/femaleness is not dependent on supernatural texts. Read your Aristotle. Even if it were solely dependent on revelation, it’s neither unevidenced nor unobserved.

  4. Post
    Author
  5. Otto Tellick

    Tom,

    Your response @#3 seems like a stark contrast to your opening post in terms of attitude and style – more combative and less thoughtful. Oh well.

    What would induce me to conclude I was wrong about marriage? A complete upheaval of my entire view of all reality, actually. It would require me shift from an essentialist view of nature to a nominalist view; or from a theistic to a materialistic view.

    Oh my. I guess this puts you in direct conflict with a number of self-identifying Christians who feel that their sense of reality (and their sense of faith as well) is not threatened at all by the notion of same-sex marriage. Well, that’s the way religion is – different strokes for different folks.

    My original question was intended more along the lines of “what external evidence would induce you to change your mind?” and you haven’t answered that question. You’ve only stated that your mindset is so firmly established on this issue that nothing short of a personal crisis of faith would induce you to change it.

    OK, that sort of thing does tend to happen – many current atheists who had been Christians have given testimonials on just that kind of transformation. (A YouTuber named “Evid3nc3” gives an especially clear and thorough personal account.) Still, it’s an interesting thought experiment to consider what sorts of events and observations would produce such an upheaval. If you sense a need to protect your current mindset against conflicting evidence, then all I can say is: I pity you.

    What would induce me to change my mind? I view marriage as a social contract between two consenting adults (whether same or different sex) involving deep, intimate affection, commitment to mutual support, and (in many cases) commitment to raising children (“in the usual way” for most hetero couples; via adoption or other means for same-sex and some hetero couples). As a social contract, it conveys to the parties involved a particular set of rights and responsibilities in terms of civil recognition and consideration, and these matters should not be denied to any minorities on the basis of sexual orientation, just as it shouldn’t be denied to any on the basis of race.

    (Given that view, I recognize that what I described applies predominantly in modern western cultures; different cultures establish different kinds of social contracts – e.g. arranged marriages, where the consent of the betrothed may be coerced, or polygamy, where “intimacy” and “mutual support” may be defined very differently, if they apply at all.)

    In order to view marriage instead as being strictly a God-conceived uniting of one man and one woman, etc, I’d first have to see compelling evidence for the existence of this God, who allegedly began the universe 13.7 billion years go, created countless billions of galaxies with countless quadrillions of stars, and also happens to pay special attention to human sexuality. Then, I’d have to see or hear this God express his position on the matter directly, explicitly and unambiguously – why take some other human’s word for what God thinks, given the fallibility (some would say “sinfulness”) of all humans?

    And even then, I think I’d still need to see an actual explanation as to why it has to be this way, given that God has created humans in such a manner as to cause a certain percentage of them to find male-female sexual relations less natural for them, individually, than same-sex relations.

    Another possibility for me to accept the latter position: if homosexuals really did not exist at all.

    That leads into some other points in #3 that I want to respond to, but this post is already (too) long. More later.

  6. Otto Tellick

    Picking up on other issues in #3…

    I was talking about attempting to redefine the realities of marriage and maleness/femaleness.

    Right, I got that. So one of my points is: any reference to “the definition of marriage” needs to recognize the fact that marriage is, always has been, and always will be a social contract, in which the particulars of implementation are culture-dependent (as mentioned in my previous reply).

    My other point is that “maleness/femaleness”, in terms of both “sex” and “gender”, are endpoints on a continuum. While the positions of individuals on the male/female continuum show an unmistakably bi-modal distribution, with most people at one end or the other, there is nonetheless a region in between that is not empty. As the overall population of humans grows, there will be more and more people who find themselves at various points.

    Your disparaging name-calling of “homophobe” can – and I think should — be viewed as a form of prejudice. It is a pathological yet incorrect assessment of others’ and of my state of mind, probably buttressed by your own misunderstanding and lack of awareness of why we disagree with (not fear, not hate) homosexual activity and homosexual activism.

    The authors of scripture who asserted divine origins for their personal views of homosexuality have been dead a long time. Admittedly, labeling them homophobes may be hyperbole (though that shoe does fit), but my statement does not make them victims of prejudice in the normal sense of that phrase.

    As for my own “misunderstanding and lack of awareness of why [you] disagree…” – please help me understand: What is the objective evidence to support a claim that homosexuality is damaging, either to the parties involved or to anyone not directly involved?

    And whatever that evidence may be, what sorts of measurement, comparison or consideration would lead to a conclusion that it outweighs the benefits of granting homosexuals the same rights, and the same freedom from discrimination available to heterosexuals? (The benefits include things like lower suicide rates, equal protection, and better ratings on measures of quality of life, mental health, and general well being.)

    You say you are not motivated by fear or hate, yet your arguments come across as clearly expressing a sense of being threatened by homosexual “activist leaders”, who “are trying to change the very foundations of Western culture.”

    Whoa! You’re trying to make it sound so dangerous! (I’ve seen you use the term “deadly” in this context elsewhere on your website.) So you consider yourself (and your world) to be threatened by them. They scare you because they are so different from you, and you hate feeling scared.

    You would prefer a reality in which they did not exist at all. In the absence of that ideal state, you’ll be content if they simply abandon their sexual preferences entirely, or at least live their lives in such a way that their sexual inclinations do not impinge in any way on your field of view – you’ll settle for making them invisible to society at large so that you can at least pretend that they don’t exist – and you’re willing to pursue legal action to ensure this.

    I’m sorry to have to say it, Tom, but until there is real, objective evidence that overwhelms the mass of already observed evidence showing what a non-threat homosexuality is, your position is one of religion-induced bigotry.

  7. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Otto,

    Nice game, but I’m not playing it. You read something I didn’t write and tried to make me look like I didn’t know what I was talking about, but that won’t fly. Here’s what I mean. I wrote and you quoted,

    It is my considered and studied opinion that marriage is … the union of a man and a woman… The push for same-sex “marriage” denies reality, if I am right about that.

    You asked, “what would induce you to conclude that you’re wrong about that?” I answered that it would take a complete turnaround in my worldview and etc. You answered,

    Oh my. I guess this puts you in direct conflict with a number of self-identifying Christians who feel that their sense of reality (and their sense of faith as well) is not threatened at all by the notion of same-sex marriage. Well, that’s the way religion is – different strokes for different folks.

    But look, Otto, you didn’t ask me what would cause my sense of reality or my sense of faith feel threatened. Neither of those feels threatened by SSM. Do you see the difference? If I say SSM is an attempt to rewrite reality, I’m not saying that my sense of faith or reality is threatened, I’m saying SSM is false, wrong, out of congruence with reality. The fact that you are wrong, in my my view, doesn’t threaten my view unless you can show that I’m wrong, which you’re not accomplishing here at all by playing these games.

    My original question was intended more along the lines of “what external evidence would induce you to change your mind?” and you haven’t answered that question. You’ve only stated that your mindset is so firmly established on this issue that nothing short of a personal crisis of faith would induce you to change it.

    I answered in the most direct way possible. In order for me to decide that SSM was really marriage it would require that I switch from a studied position that holds that marriage has a timeless essence of marriage-ness which includes male-female to a position that holds that marriage is whatever humans consider it to be. My position on that is tied to my understanding of God’s revelation. If you can’t appreciate the ramifications of the first of those as a philosophical position, all I can say is that I don’t have time or space to spell it out. As for the second part of it, I’ll spell it out: it would require that I see strong evidence that God does not exist and/or has not spoken on this issue.

    Note that your answer requires exactly the same thing in mirror image.

    Right, I got that. So one of my points is: any reference to “the definition of marriage” needs to recognize the fact that marriage is, always has been, and always will be a social contract, in which the particulars of implementation are culture-dependent (as mentioned in my previous reply).

    You know, I agree with that. I agree completely, except for the part you wrote in invisible ink, which I’ll develop here in italics:

    … needs to recognize the fact that marriage is, and always has been, and always will be a social contract and nothing but a social contract, in which the particulars of implementation are entirely and exclusively culture dependent.

    Absent those italicized words your statement is ho-hum; everyone agrees. Include those italicized words, and the nub of the issue is revealed, but you can’t just assume that we’re all going to “recognize” it, because we don’t agree on it and I don’t recognize it. Marriage is an institution with an essential nature that has been recognized since time immemorial, and not just by biblical theists. So it’s not merely a social contract, it is a social contract that expresses an essential reality.

    My other point is that “maleness/femaleness”, in terms of both “sex” and “gender”, are endpoints on a continuum. While the positions of individuals on the male/female continuum show an unmistakably bi-modal distribution, with most people at one end or the other, there is nonetheless a region in between that is not empty. As the overall population of humans grows, there will be more and more people who find themselves at various points.

    In terms of biological sex, the distribution in the middle amounts to a medical problem. In terms of gender, the normativity of the distribution in the middle is what’s in dispute. Just saying there’s a distribution in the middle is hardly news.

    Admittedly, labeling them homophobes may be hyperbole (though that shoe does fit),

    Contradicting yourself within a single sentence. Sheesh.

    but my statement does not make them victims of prejudice in the normal sense of that phrase.

    Cute. You sidestep the obvious: you’re calling believers in Scripture homophobes, and by gum, you know you are. Why do you play these games??? I repeat, lest the point be lost:

    Your disparaging name-calling of “homophobe” can – and I think should — be viewed as a form of prejudice. It is a pathological yet incorrect assessment of others’ and of my state of mind, probably buttressed by your own misunderstanding and lack of awareness of why we disagree with (not fear, not hate) homosexual activity and homosexual activism.

    What is the objective evidence to support a claim that homosexuality is damaging, either to the parties involved or to anyone not directly involved?

    1. That’s a wrong question, a reckless question (read the link before you react).
    2. Regardless, the damage is obvious if you open your eyes. I have a post coming on that.

    And whatever that evidence may be, what sorts of measurement, comparison or consideration would lead to a conclusion that it outweighs the benefits of granting homosexuals the same rights, and the same freedom from discrimination available to heterosexuals?

    Have you ever heard of the utilitarian calculus? It’s a short term that has to do with the general impossibility of making measurements of the sort you are asking for. You tell me what measurement you would use. Make sure it includes all relevant factors for this generation and the next couple of generations to follow, at least.

    You say you are not motivated by fear or hate, yet your arguments come across as clearly expressing a sense of being threatened by homosexual “activist leaders”, who “are trying to change the very foundations of Western culture.”

    I do fear the damage they will cause. To fear real damage is not to be phobic, it is to be realistic and wise. As for this, though, all I could do is chuckle. It’s your game-playing again.

    They scare you because they are so different from you, and you hate feeling scared.

    LOL!

    You would prefer a reality in which they did not exist at all. In the absence of that ideal state, you’ll be content if they simply abandon their sexual preferences entirely, or at least live their lives in such a way that their sexual inclinations do not impinge in any way on your field of view – you’ll settle for making them invisible to society at large so that you can at least pretend that they don’t exist – and you’re willing to pursue legal action to ensure this.

    Hah! Me, pursue legal action?! You make it sound like we’re being the aggressors here! ROFL! Sure, we have some constitutional amendments going to protect marriage, but as I’ve said before, to call us the aggressors with respect to marriage and the law is like calling the RAF the aggressors when they shot down Luftwaffe bombers over London!

    I’m sorry to have to say it, Tom, but until there is real, objective evidence that overwhelms the mass of already observed evidence showing what a non-threat homosexuality is, your position is one of religion-induced bigotry.

    I’m sorry, Otto, but your position is one that stands before reality and the God who created you and says “I don’t care what you think, I’m running the show here!”

  8. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    I’m thinking back over what I just wrote. I’m going to backtrack a bit and admit a mistake, depending on how Otto answers what I write here. I’ve been jumping to contradict when out of respect for Otto I ought to be seeking first to understand his position.

    Here’s what I’m re-thinking. I’m not so sure that Otto is guilty of the game-playing of which I accused him at the beginning of that post. My thought was that he was equivocating (and game-playing thereby) on two related terms: reality and sense of reality. I didn’t say it that way, but that was what was behind this that I wrote:

    Do you see the difference? If I say SSM is an attempt to rewrite reality, I’m not saying that my sense of faith or reality is , I’m saying SSM is false, wrong, out of congruence with reality. The fact that you are wrong, in my my view, doesn’t threaten my view unless you can show that I’m wrong, which you’re not accomplishing here at all by playing these games.

    On second thought, I’m wondering—and Otto, you’re free to respond to this—whether Otto thinks that reality just is what one senses or feels it to be: that each person has their own reality, which opens the possibility of competing realities, and winners and losers; and the losers in particular are characterized by the anxiety that comes from their realities being overwhelmed by different realities.

    From that perspective, I can see how he would say that when I object to SSM as I have done here, it’s because it threatens my sense of reality (and of course my faith, too, along with it, since my faith is integrally tied to my sense of what’s real).

    So it follows that if SSM becomes the new reality, then (on this view) my own sense of reality would surely be threatened. Any progress toward SSM upsets my personal applecart, my personal sense of stability, my personal sense of what’s real and right. And it is this upsetting of my personal feeling or sense of reality that motivates my opposition to SSM.

    That’s what I think Otto might be thinking. If so, then what he was doing wasn’t game-playing after all, it was consistent with his understanding of terms like reality. Is that the case, Otto?

  9. Victoria

    I have a question for you, Tom.
    Consider the following (actual) scenario.
    A woman starts coming to your church, seeking the fellowship of other Christians and to participate in the life and worship of the church. You (and others) get to know her (let’s call her Tori), and as she shares her life story, not only do you find out she is a Bible-believing Christian, committed to leading a Godly life as a single Christian woman (no question in your mind on that), but you also find out that she is a post-operative transsexual woman. She is happy, well-adjusted, has a post-graduate university education, a senior position in the company she has worked at for many years (even pre-Tori), charming and personable, dresses well and appropriately for a woman in her age group and social status – you would not have suspected otherwise had she not revealed herself. She has trusted you (and others) enough to share her story, and how God used her situation in ways she never expected – her relationship with Him is far better now than it ever was.

    What do you do? How do you treat her in the light of what you now know about her, regardless of what you might think about her decision to deal with her gender-identity issues by having Gender Reassignment Surgery?

  10. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    That’s a tough question, Victoria, as I’m sure you know already. I’ll take a stab at it, knowing that I won’t get it just right on the first try. These things are dynamic, they’re relational, they’re not cut-and-dried. Will you give me that grace? Thanks.

    I would consider this somewhat comparable to the situation of someone who divorced on clearly non-biblical grounds and then re-married. It’s a mistake made in the past, it’s non-reversible, yet it’s forgiven. I have lots of very good friends in the church who are in that status.

    It would not be my place to say Tori should revert to male social roles, clothing, etc. That’s a very complicated and hugely multi-layered personal decision, and not something that has an automatic one-size-fits-all answer.

    I think it behooves all Christians to relate to Christ repentantly, but it’s not clear to me just on the basis of this short case study what repentance would look like for Tori. I think that it would exclude any advocacy on her part for SRS (sexual reassignment surgery). I don’t know to what extent it would include regret or contrition for her own past decision. I suppose that if Tori was moving toward a true understanding of what it means to be fully what God intended, that would be repentance in action–even if it happened very slowly.

    So I would relate to Tori as an individual, a friend, someone whose sins are forgiven, as is true for any other committed follower of Christ.

    If she asked me if I thought SRS was wrong, I’d view that as an opening to a conversation, in which I would both listen and speak. I do think it’s wrong, but I would want to treat her as a fellow human being in a relational process.

    Let me put this in context and perspective. I have a friend in prison for multiple counts of sexual misbehavior with minors. I’ve visited him there and interacted with him as a friend. He was repentant following his arrest–too late, obviously!–but at least it made it possible for me to relate to him still; I couldn’t have done so if he were holding on to his sin as if it were right.

    I think there’s something tragic, sad, and painfully disordered about gender dysphoria. I think surgery is the wrong answer. It is nowhere near as wrong as what my friend in prison did. Not close. If I could be friends with Jack, I know how to be friends with a person struggling with something of such lesser consequences.

  11. Victoria

    @Tom
    I appreciate your honest answer, and I was pretty much expecting this

    So I would relate to Tori as an individual, a friend, someone whose sins are forgiven, as is true for any other committed follower of Christ.

    For Tori, SRS solved many more problems than it may have created (none, actually 🙂 ). Tori has been welcomed by the people in our church, understanding that she has no intentions of going back, but is going to live her life as God’s maidservant as best as she can, with His enabling power. God truly can give a garland to replace the ashes of our mistakes, can He not?

  12. Otto Tellick

    @Tom: Thank you for both your replies.

    Perhaps you’ve forgotten that you and I already discussed the BreakPoint post you cited (“When there are no experts”), so yes, I’ve read that, and I think a fair bit of our previous discussion is relevant here – esp. with regard to working out who “the aggressors” are.

    You were correct when you used italics to add the “invisible ink” parts in my description of marriage.

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough that I certainly recognize the “essential’ (i.e. procreative) function of sexuality, and the naturally overwhelming preference among humans for monogamous, heterosexual unions. There really is no argument about the primacy of those facts, and there is no plot afoot to alter them. Really, there isn’t.

    What is at issue is whether there can be tolerance for people who, for whatever reason, choose a different kind of sexual relationship for themselves. It’s not an attempt to make SSM “become the new reality” – it’s an attempt to allow that SSM doesn’t need to be forcibly excluded from reality.

    You keep speaking of “damage”, but I’m not actually seeing anything close to compelling evidence for that, and (I honestly apologize – I’m not trying to be dense here) I haven’t even seen a good description of what that damage is – who is being harmed? in what way? (Be specific.)

    As shown in Victoria’s very thoughtful remarks, people can and do function very well in all non-sexual aspects of life, regardless of the particular nature of their individual sexuality.

    Obviously, if one’s “sexual nature” involves abuse of children, we must actively oppose it – the damage it causes is clearly evidenced. But when it involves consenting same-sex adults who develop a bond of mutual commitment, what is the damage?

    Regarding your second thought:

    I’m wondering … whether Otto thinks that reality just is what one senses or feels it to be: that each person has their own reality, which opens the possibility of competing realities, and winners and losers; and the losers … are characterized by the anxiety that comes from their realities being overwhelmed by different realities.

    You’re getting closer. Each person has their own unique perception of reality, a complex product of senses, neural structures, hormones, nutrition, environment, social setting, the language and culture that are acquired, etc.

    One’s perception does not “define” reality. (I presume we can agree that solipsism is useless.) As sentient, conscious, and intrinsically social creatures, we naturally construct a community-based definition of reality: we have the ability to understand and empathize with other sentient beings – especially those in the social groups we belong to – and through this we adapt our internal, uniquely perceived reality so as to establish and conform to a consensus view – which includes the normative behavioral codes for the group (what members ought and ought not do).

    The relation of one person’s perceived reality to the “consensus reality” is never perfect, never complete, and in fact, never fully definable. This may be the rationalist’s analog to the Christian concept of original sin, but it’s more a matter of lacking agreement, and/or lacking full knowledge, rather than being punishable guilt – except of course when one or more others decide that a given individual is causing damage through deliberate violation of established behavioral norms.

    The consensus built up by one group will naturally differ from that of other groups. When different groups come into contact, the prospect of building an integrated consensus is probably (in most if not all cases) the most arduous and least likely outcome.

    That’s where empiricism comes in handy: disagreements among different perceptions (or different consensus views) are most effectively resolved through deliberate testing of alternative hypotheses, taking care to guard against faulty reasoning, confirmation bias, etc.

    In realms where experimentation is not applicable, we can at least count on the fact that as our experiences and awareness of history are broadened, we’re better equipped to reach an adequate amount of integration, and can sustain a healthy tolerance for the details that remain divergent but are not inherently antagonistic – i.e., live and let live. For me, tolerating granting equal legal status to SSM falls into this category.

  13. Victoria

    @Tom
    Tori’s repentance had to do with walking away from the ‘dark side’ of the LGBT lifestyle, early on in her transition, reaffirming her Biblical Christian roots and principles and disassociating herself from the radical and militant agenda of the LGBT community. She does not regret SRS, as it resolved (well as a workaround anyway) the gender identity issue as well as removed what was for her a major stumbling block in her Christian walk. Now when she looks in the mirror, the person looking back at her ‘fits’, and over her shoulder (metaphorically speaking) she sees her Abba and hears Him say “You have your physical/psychological makeover – now it’s My turn; I will finish what you started” – and she runs gladly into His embrace.

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