- Why These Bathroom Wars? (Intro)
- The Worldview Collision Behind the Bathroom Wars
I’m asking still why the gender wars erupted so suddenly in our culture, and what’s motivating the drive to redefine gender. Yesterday I said it had a lot to do with ontology. What does it mean actually to be male or female, and where’s the right place for those decisions to be made?
The obvious answer all along has been that it depends on a person’s genitalia, and when the nurse says, “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy,” it’s no “assignment,” it’s just an ordinary announcement. That answer has worked for centuries, for all but a very small minority, some of whom are congenitally intersexed, and some of whom grow up feeling something wrong or uncomfortable about being the sex they are.
Notice for a moment the words “is” and “are” in there: It is a boy; it is a girl; the sex they are. That’s where the controversy has landed today. Transgender persons and their advocates say it’s not so simple. Gender isn’t determined by biology but by the person’s inner state of mind, which may range across a gamut of beliefs and impressions and (for the “gender-fluid”) may change from day to day.
There’s no disputing that some people’s internal gender experience differs from their external biology. There’s also no question that this poses some interesting and often difficult questions of public policy and interpersonal relations. But there’s something else going on below the surface here, I believe. I’m not sure it has much to do with the way transgender people experience life, but it definitely has a lot to do with how the transgender movement exploded into public consciousness. It’s about a collision in worldviews.
One worldview takes it that the world, and humans in particular, were created by God as he intended us to be. Our sin has thrown us off course relationally, spiritually, and ethically, but the humanness with which God created us is still there. By design it includes the complementarity of male and female, as mentioned right in the creation passage, Genesis 1:26-27:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
That worldview sees both humanness and sex as something stable and normative. It also sees us as responsible to a Designer and a design; that there are better ways to live and there are worse ways, and that the better way is not ours to decide. It’s planted in the core of reality by the nature of God, and it’s planted in us by the nature he imparted to us. And he is in charge.
The competing worldview is evolutionary in every sense of the word. Nature evolves, populations evolve, species evolve, and (why not?) humans evolve. We change. Nothing is normative; nothing is “the way it was meant to be.” No one therefore can tell anyone else how they were meant to be. Nothing an no one rules over me: not God, not any other person, not even the body I was born into. I decide. I’m in charge.
Whether that’s any individual transgender person’s reason for deciding to transition, I’m convinced it’s part of the zeitgeist that tells them it’s okay to be whatever they want to be. It’s also part of the spirit of the age that says it’s not okay for anyone else to disagree.
Christians will recognize the second worldview as a form of idolatry. It’s the age-old urge to rule, to be in charge, to be subject to no god, especially the God who created us. It is the spirit that dominates our age today.
And it also represents a tragic disconnection from what it means to be human. There’s no answer here to the questions, what does it mean to be human, or male, or female, and thus no answer to what it means to be or to do good as a human, a male, or a female.
There will be more to come in this series.