The Worldview Collision Behind the Bathroom Wars

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This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Why These Bathroom Wars?


Series: Why These 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.

Series Navigation (Why These Bathroom Wars?):<<< Why These Bathroom Wars? (Intro)

14 Responses

  1. OK, we have these competing worldviews in our society, so what are we going to do about it? Should we legislate? Maybe there’s a simpler and less drastic way for us all to get along.

  2. Tom Gilson says:

    Yes, Charlotte shouldn’t have started the legislative wars after all. But they did and we’re all living with the results.

  3. Tom Gilson says:

    As to what we’re going to do about it, I’m in the middle of another project here, which is trying to understand why the question has even arisen. I don’t have any problem with trying to figure out what to do. I’m just not working on that in these posts.

  4. DR84 says:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/09/08/massachusetts-churches-may-be-covered-by-transgender-discrimination-bans-as-to-secular-events/?utm_term=.996f97afdb83

    This may not help shed light on how the bathroom wars have arisen, but the battle is now inside churches. This appears to be a total war. No bathroom left unturned.

  5. BillT says:

    You just won’t ever come to an understanding about this if you think this is a clash of worldviews. It simply isn’t that and you will come to no useful conclusion if that’s the paradigm you use to discuss it. I won’t post the link to R.R. Reno’s “Bigot Baiting” article for a third time but it’s in the “Why These Bathroom Wars? (Intro)” comments. Discussing this this as a clash of worldviews plays into the hands of the people who are using this issue as a political tool. They are using the LGBT community and using anyone who tries to have a rational discussion about it. They have set a stage where rational discussion doesn’t exist. It’s just the victims and the bigots. And neither are what their labels claim they are. We have seen this tactic used over and over in the past. We need to see it for what it really is.

  6. BillT says:

    This may not help shed light on how the bathroom wars have arisen, but the battle is now inside churches. This appears to be a total war. No bathroom left unturned.

    And this is a perfect example of both what I posted above and what we have discussed here many times. This issue will be used as a fulcrum point to allow the state to dictate policy to churches. First, bathroom policy then… And this from the folks who cry loudest about the separation of church and state. But they really don’t want separation. They want churches to be “…be seen as a place of public accommodation” And once they are, there is no limit to the restrictions to which churches can be subject.

  7. DR84 says:

    BillT-

    I agree completely that this fulcrum point that will be used to dictate what even can be said and done inside churches. The belief that at least churches will be left alone can no longer be sustained. I expect the Massachusetts law to ultimately stand and that it is just a preview of future federal law. I am not a lawyer, but from my understanding this law can pretty well be used as it is to restrict all aspects of traditional sexual morality from being expressed in churches. If anything, the only thing stopping it from not being used to do so is the goodwill and self restraint of the civil rights authorities and LGBT self identifying people. It seems to me it offers them a golden opportunity to step into churches and test things out, they may be able to make themselves a martyr of the “LGBT rights” cause, win a lot of money in a lawsuit, and even get some people they think are nasty jailed. Anyway, regardless of whether or not this this a worldview clash, it is crazy how quickly this issue has arisen and how total it is. It was not hardly an issue hardly months ago, and now in some states, even churches are being brought under the control of the new bathroom/pronoun speech code regime. I would personally express my disbelief if I had not been thinking for quite a while now that it is only a matter of time until churches are directly targeted.

    I am not seeing any inconsistency between Tom’s depiction of this as a worldview clash and R.R. Reno’s as bigot baiting. I am inclined to think both can be used to understand what is happening.

  8. Tom Gilson says:

    I am not seeing any inconsistency between Tom’s depiction of this as a worldview clash and R.R. Reno’s as bigot baiting. I am inclined to think both can be used to understand what is happening.

    I hope so. As I said, I’m not done here yet.

    There’s definitely bigot-baiting going on, but why has it gone so mainstream? Why does it get so much support from people who haven’t set out intentionally to bigot-bait? What else are the bigot-baiters after (since I don’t think identifying us as bigots is the sun of it)? That’s what I’m trying to get to.

  9. BillT says:

    I am not seeing any inconsistency between Tom’s depiction of this as a worldview clash and R.R. Reno’s as bigot baiting. I am inclined to think both can be used to understand what is happening.

    DR84,

    That the forces opposing the churches would find a way to categorize churches as “a place of public accommodation” was, to me, inevitable. It’s the key phrase that makes them subject to anti-discrimination laws and allows the state to dictate most anything a church can do or say from SSM to what is taught from the pulpit. Bathroom rights for LBGT people aren’t really the issue. The LBGT community is being used as much as we are.

    Yes, of course it’s a worldview clash but its much more than that as well. We are being targeted by the forces that oppose freedom of religion or really freedom of any kind. It’s about power and the use of that power of control every aspect of society. It’s fascism and the truth of that needs to be exposed. Calling it a clash of worldviews and trying to engage it rationally, without directly calling out the tactic that it is or the ideology it represents, plays right into their hands.

  10. BillT says:

    There’s definitely bigot-baiting going on, but why has it gone so mainstream? Why does it get so much support from people who haven’t set out intentionally to bigot-bait? What else are the bigot-baiters after (since I don’t think identifying us as bigots is the sun of it)? That’s what I’m trying to get to.

    Tom,

    Two things. As I said above, what the bigot-baiters are after is our freedoms. And why it gets “support” from people who haven’t set out intentionally to bigot-bait is because they don’t recognize it for what it is. Stalin didn’t call them “useful idiots” for no good reason. It’s not a tactic without it’s own brand of sophistication. They “rally around the flag” because they have been carefully taught when to jump in and fight for what they think is an issue of equality or justice. But, it’s neither of these. There has been a progression of these kind of issues that are mischaracterized as issues of equality/justice. Now, the dog whistle can be heard clearly by all that are so trained.

  11. BillT says:

    And just a brief follow up. I believe I’m reasonably (as far as that goes) well informed both politically and otherwise. The reality of bigot-baiting was not something I was very familiar with. I think that’s probably true for the vast majority of Americans no matter their political or religious orientation or their education. I knew there was something going on that worked outside of rational discourse. For instance, we tried here to engage discussion about SSM. But the reality was it really came to naught. Why? It was a fait accompli and for the same reason as LBGT bathroom rights became so. The tactic that is being used to reshape our society is not well known. We need to make every effort to inform people of what is going on. I think that even many who supported SSM or LBGT issues would be very interested in how they’re being used if not downright appalled. Tell me I’m the last guy to know and I’ll stop. I doubt though that’s true.

  12. DR84 says:

    BillT-

    Have you read this piece on the Federalist?

    http://thefederalist.com/2016/09/09/left-needs-call-off-radical-fringe-bent-destroying-christians/#disqus_thread

    I agree we need to be better at informing people that there are forces targeting our freedoms. I also suspect that it is the case as argued in that article that it is only staunch liberals who have the power and means to stop these forces. Liberals that may be strongly in favor of “lgbt rights” but are also strongly in favor of real pluralism and the First Amendment. We can inform people, but I think we are just along for the ride now. Maybe we can delay things and buy time at best.

    I am not very confident there is a solid majority that will get worked up if a church gets sued into oblivion for not letting a “transgender woman” to use their women’s restroom. I am not even so sure there would be much of an outcry if someone identifies as gay was able to sue a church into oblivion for hearing a sermon about marriage that included an explanation on why same sex relationships are not marriages. If there was broad support for religious freedom, our media would not deride it as “religious freedom” and saying it is just an excuse to hurt lgbt identifying people, and the US Civil Rights Commission would not be openly calling it a license to discriminate and basically saying it is an injustice that needs to be eradicated. They would not be able to get away with it.

  13. BillT says:

    …if someone fails to affirm what Holy Scripture, 2,000 years of Christian history, and the unquestioned consensus of moral theologians have all witnessed to, one is now “non-affirming.” Framing the discussion in this manner puts the “non-affirming” category on the defensive.

    This type of posturing makes reasoned debate impossible.

    DR84,

    And this was just the problem with the discussions we had here. Not that they didn’t include reasoned and intelligent arguments. Not that the contributors weren’t sincere in approaching this subject. But the process that brought us to the current consensus “makes reasoned debate impossible.”

    And I’m completely convinced that most of the people that support SSM and the LBGT issues don’t even realize that they are being swept along by people using a tactic that does this. That puts people with reasonable opposing opinions in danger of being called criminals and their churches being called hate groups. It’s important to expose this to the light of day. I don’t know if it will help but continuing to approach this solely with reasoned arguments just isn’t enough.

  14. DR84 says:

    “That puts people with reasonable opposing opinions in danger of being called criminals and their churches being called hate groups. ”

    I think the risk is even worse, people being made criminals, and families being torn apart. I don’t think we can ignore that the “non-affirming” beliefs as described in that article, which are said to “harm” people and children most of all, being used as pretense to take children from their “hateful” and “abusive” parents. All these things have already been said often for years, not hard to imagine action being taken someday. I’m not sure how far it it will go, but it’s only 2016…just 1 year past Obergefell…and churches are already being legally attacked directly. I bring this up because maybe there is not enough sympathy for churches, but maybe there is for families. Granted, at this point, suggesting this could happen is just going to sound crazy to most people.