First Published in Jubilee / Spring 2013
THE BIBLE DEFINES IDOLATRY AS the ‘exchange of the truth about God for a lie’ and the ‘worship and service of the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever’.1 Although it is embarrassing, the idolatrous worship of inanimate objects we read about in the Old Testament is not surprising. We quickly distance ourselves from it because we sense the shame of the Bible’s mockery of something so patently irrational. Yet people in a materialist age such as ours have little trouble identifying with the same impulse so long as it transpires under another name. We readily equate the possession of money and finely-crafted goods with power, and the world seems united in its agreement that power is a prime motivation for human activity, and an acceptable one at that. This is true in the field of economics as well. For all their differences both Marxism and capitalism place central importance on material goods. The only difference between us and the peoples of old then seems to be that we possess too great a sense of pride literally to bow down to the things we worship. We dignify ourselves by standing up. Of course, this only conceals the prostration. What remains a bit more distasteful about the idolatry the Bible depicts for a culture like ours that is steeped in the evolutionary myth of human progress, with its historical narrative of an ascent from the material to the rational and the bodily to the spiritual, is the connection of its idolatry with ancient fertility gods – with sex. It is there in the Biblical narrative, and throughout the ancient peoples of the world. This is surely evidence of their primitivism, we scoff, an instance of our superiority and their superstition. HOMO ADORANS When the Christian does so however he encounters an uncomfortable fact. The chief metaphor that the Bible uses for true, godly worship has sexual overtones: the covenant bond of marriage between God and his people. This covenant metaphor as an illustration of true faith appears throughout the Bible,2 perhaps most famously in Paul’s analogy of the husband-wife relationship in Ephesians 5.22-33, but no less significantly in Revelation 21.2, when the people of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, descends ‘as a bride adorned for her husband’. The Bible thus reveals an important fact that the secular academy overlooks. The best definition of human nature is not the homo sapiens of the Enlightenment scientist, but homo adorans. Our distinctive characteristic is not to know, but to worship. With that in mind, the Westminster Shorter Catechism acknowledges the centrality of the first commandment3 in its first line: ‘the chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.’ That this is not to be understood in an abstract ‘spiritual’ sense,4 and that it applies directly back to the marital relationship between husband and wife is evident in the words of the marriage ceremony in the old Book of Common Prayer (1662): ‘with my body I thee worship.’5 The Puritans’ sense of the moral rectitude of loving one’s spouse shines forth. G.K. Beale, in summarizing the importance of true worship, explains that it also has a practical consequence. What we worship transforms us into its image: All humans have been created to be reflecting beings, and they will reflect whatever they are ultimately committed to, whether the true God or some other object in the created order. Thus… we resemble what we revere, either for ruin or restoration.6 Thus the ‘worshipers of the true God reflect his image in blessing’, whereas idolaters receive ‘a curse by becoming as spiritually inanimate, empty, rebellious or shameful as the idol is depicted to be.’7 IN IMAGO DEI As we know, the image that Christians reflect is that of Jesus Christ. ‘He is the image of the invisible God.’8 We are also told that God is love.9 In the Trinity, we understand the mutual ‘cleaving together’ and indwelling of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit through all eternity. There was unity in diversity. God experienced perfect love before the creation of the universe. But we can observe something more specific about this in the creation account of Genesis 1. In the first twenty five verses, we observe that by his Word, God exercises his dominion over his creation. He does so through the process of differentiation and order. He subdues the waters and the darkness, separating them to create land and sky, day and night. He then fills the day and night (sun, moon, and stars) and the sky, land and sea (different kinds of birds, animals, plants, and fish). He does so by naming them. In the account of the creation of man, we’re given an array of important and very similar details. We learn that God creates man in his image.10 We learn that that image is also differentiated: male and female together comprise the image. Finally, we learn that we are to be fruitful and multiply, and to exercise dominion over the earth, and all the creatures therein. In the account of man’s creation, we thus see a mirror image of the previous twenty five verses. It is presented as a chiasmus. In verses 1-25, God subdues and fills; in v. 28 the order is reversed: ‘be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.’11 In the account of the flood in Genesis 6-9, which is brought about because of God’s wrath at human sin, we read not only of a forty day deluge, but of God’s curse upon the earth that he had blessed. The curse takes the form of undoing the differentiation and filling of the earth of Genesis 1. God collapses what he had separated and pronounced good. Genesis 7.11 states that ‘all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.’ The water rises from below and descends from above. As a consequence, we see a process of homogenization. In Genesis 7.21, we are told that ‘all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm upon the earth, and all mankind’. We hear echoes of both Genesis 1 and Genesis 7 in Paul’s words in Romans 1.18-28. Paul speaks of the ‘wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.’ The deep irony in their claim of wisdom reveals itself in the manifest folly of idolizing material goods (v.22- 23). Therefore, they receive the curse of futility in their bodies by worshiping themselves rather than God, ignoring the differentiation of the sexes (vv. 26-27) in their sexual acts. By acting against God-ordained differentiation, there is no blessing, no procreation and, consequently, no dominion. Life becomes utterly futile. IDOLATRY IN ‘GENDER IDENTITY’ AND ‘SEXUAL ORIENTATION’ With the deep compatibility established between 1) the identity of men and women ‘in imago Dei’; 2) the blessing of lifelong fidelity between a husband and wife in the covenant of marriage and 3) the true worship of God, we need to consider the development of two neologisms, which themselves embrace a whole subset of others, that have become current in the past few decades: gender identity and sexual orientation. Many uncritically accept them. However, since both biological sex and marriage are a human reflection of God’s own person and activity, any alteration to the specifics of either sex or marriage is necessarily a form of assault on the faithful worship of God. In this instance, the theological transgression takes the form of an assault on the very notion of a God-defined human nature. This should not surprise us. If the chief end of man, represented in Christian marriage, has been thwarted through earthly means, then we should expect that human nature should be similarly defrauded. And if so, it is a human rights violation of the first order. With that in mind, we should consider what Francis Schaeffer observed in 1968, at the onset of the sexual revolution, about the tenor of what was then called homosexual politics: in the name of equality, it tends to obliterate male-female distinctions. This does not entail that we should have no compassion for those who struggle with these desires. But much modern homosexuality is an expression of the current denial of antithesis. It has led in this case to an obliteration of the distinction between man and woman. So the male and the female as complementary partners are finished. This is a form of homosexuality which is a part of the movement below the line of despair. In much of modern thinking, all antithesis and all the order of God’s creation is to be fought against – including the male-female distinctions.’12 This of course renders not only human communion impossible, but also true communion with God. INCLUSIVENESS: THE DISCRIMINATION AGAINST DIFFERENTIATION Not long ago, people thought of themselves in biblical categories, either as male or female, single or married. The latter two designations seem like opposites, and in one sense they are, but a closer look reveals that they are not equal opposites. Unlike marriage, the category of singleness could refer to more than one situation indiscriminately without moral judgment. One could be unmarried or a widow, for instance, and be accounted ‘single’. In these designations, there was no acrimony or hint of oppression. Even among gay activists, even twenty years ago there was not a hint of the injustice of the exclusivity of the institution of marriage, let alone a cry of oppression. It was something reserved for ‘breeders’. One’s sexual activity was never considered to be a function of one’s ontological identity either. Human self-definition was as impossible as self-begetting. Nary a thought was given to enshrine the right to self-definition as a ‘human right.’ Now it is difficult not to be conscious of ‘gender identity’ or what has been called ‘sexual orientation’:13 many people immediately think of themselves in terms of being gay, straight, or bi-sexual. People speak of being in ‘partnerships’ rather than marriages, and the formal designations of singleness and marriage are fast disappearing.14 The boundaries around human sexual identity and sexual activity have become blurred as the departure from the biblical view of marriage continues both inside and outside the church. The change has culminated in gay ‘marriage’. Gay marriage is no longer an oxymoron or category mistake: it symbolizes not only how plastic the terms of human identity have become in the past two decades, but how rapidly a political and societal blessing has been demanded for something that neither God nor our biological nature can bless. Rarely has the hubris of man been more in evidence than in this: Since marriage is defined by God alone, any alternative is metaphysically impossible. Since sex is defined by God alone, the blessing (of children) is physically impossible. The new plasticity in the Western world has created something like a cyborg people, still rooted in a natural identity of male and female but often understanding themselves in terms at odds with it. The very term ‘gender identity’ was first used in 1966 by doctors at Johns Hopkins to help explain to the public the novel gender reassignment surgery that first transformed someone into what we would now call a transsexual.15 Now, allegedly to avoid ‘discrimination,’ it is the term which is being used to define everyone. These are the borderlands between a Christian worldview and a thoroughly anti-Christian worldview. A new civilization, with a new language and a new law and a new Lord, is being asserted. Even among Christians, a new generation has grown up whose thinking and sense of personal identity has been ‘queered’. In short, as one writer has put it, we have become ‘Plastic People’.16 The fact that laws have now been brought in to inculcate and enforce the new terms; that mandatory educational policies have been crafted to transmit them;17 and that academic and governmental policies have been brought in to professionalize them, should not confuse us about their stability or rootedness in reality. They are just attempts to cool the plastic and offer the veneer of continuity inherent in institutions. QUEER THEORY To sketch out the intellectual and social transformations that have taken place in such a brief span of time, we would really need to venture into fields little known in Christian scholarship, let alone the wider church community. Queer theory is often a compilation of Continental philosophy,18 a Marxist suspicion of power, Freudian psychology, Nietzschean moral teaching and post-structuralist views of language. There is no time to get into them in anything other than a cursory manner here, so a focus on one figure will need to suffice.
Michel Foucault, perhaps the most cited scholar in the humanities today, is undoubtedly the key figure in the transformation. Foucault engaged in cultural studies in a way that rejected traditional historiography and sociological analysis. Above all, rather than engaging in the fundamentally conservative activity of understanding and recovering the meaning of what had happened in the past (including in its texts), which assumes that it can be and was understood at the time, Foucault’s scholarship assumed the malignance of past forms of understanding and sought to disrupt them. In other words, Foucault made social activism the primary purpose of the scholarly endeavor. By questioning the basic comprehensibility of the past even to those who lived at that time, and by charging them with simply preserving the power structure of an arbitrary worldview as if it were foundational (i.e. as if it were true) he broke ranks with the idea that the past should in any way shape the present – the view of time immemorial. His logic was this: if all reality is simply a social construct, then why should the social constructs of the past prevail upon the present? OUR CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW AS THE COLONIALIST OF THE MIND For Foucault, the mindset of the past was the pre-eminent source of injustice. His project sought to emancipate the present from the past in the most radical way, by deracinating all the accumulated cultural and religious understandings that had come to form Western consciousness from our language, by separating our words from the Word. The foundational understandings of human identity were his foremost concern, because rooted in our understanding of human nature were attenuated all our notions of subjects such as truth, beauty, goodness, justice, and morality. That is because human identity had been predicated in the West upon its rootedness in the personal nature of the triune God, in whose image men and women are made. For that reason, the policies of political correctness which began in the 1980s (and the Human Rights tribunals which soon transformed to operate according to their dictates) are inseparable from Foucault’s project. Political correctness should in no way be confused with an odd form of politeness; it should be understood as a root-and-branch reconstruction of the developed cultural assumptions of the polis, and in particular the reversal of what Christianity had done to reforge human identity in accordance with the terms of Christ’s kingdom. In other words, it presented an antithetical agenda to the Great Commission, which entailed obedience to everything God had taught. FREEDOM While it is becoming increasingly clear in our day that obedience to the legislation of a different kingdom, complete with new laws and a new language was the invariable consequence of Foucault’s seemingly esoteric scholarly endeavors, the new legalism was not presented in such terms. It announced itself in terms of a ‘creative endeavor’ characterized above all by freedom. In a 1983 interview, Foucault made it clear that he endorsed Nietzsche’s radical views on selfcreation. Sartre and California’s New Agers had gone awry, he suggested, because they had introduced the notion of ‘authenticity,’ implying that one had to be faithful to one’s true self. In fact, there was nothing within or without to which one had to be true – self-creation had no such limits. It was about aesthetics, not morals; one’s only concern should be to fashion a self that was ‘a work of art.’19 For that reason, the notion of ‘coming out’ is part of the parlance of queer writers – it is the celebration of the act of a new creation by the artist, a new birth he celebrates for him/herself. ‘Coming out’ may sound like a wholly individual experience. In one sense it is. Yet because this notion of gender is at odds with biological sex and the family, it is a celebration that queer theorists insist everyone must celebrate. For as Peter Sanlon notes (somewhat confusingly using the word gender for sex): Queer theorists seek for a freedom from the limitations of gender itself. Only when humanity understands itself as construed not by biological realities, but malleable sociological relations, will homosexuality be able to be enjoyed without heterosexual oppression. The assumptions latent in a presupposed biological bias towards heterosexuality must be Queered sufficiently that they may be discarded. 20 For this freedom to be truly free, queer theorists require that everyone worship it. COMPULSORY AMBIGUITY AND THE RETURN TO PAGAN ANDROGYNY Because those who promote Foucault’s agenda deny that the world is God’s creation, they also deny that there is a predestined meaning or foreordained pattern in the universe, or in human nature. So long as this remained an esoteric view, its sheer irrationality and absurdity would have rendered it impotent. After all, it entails that life is meaningless and purposeless, and that thinking was itself a vain exercise. But once it attained the status of truth in the academy, which it gained through a constant appeal to victimization, it had an immediate practical consequence which we can best see by comparison. In the Christian worldview, because there is an understanding that final judgment belongs to God, there is no necessity for immediate reckoning of all injustice. This is one of the foundations for Western freedom, the limitation of vengeance in the lex talionis, and the understanding of God’s final judgment. But as Albert Camus observed, in the anti-Christian universe: …the judgment pronounced by history must be pronounced immediately, for culpability coincides with the check to progress and with punishment.21 This explains both its oppressive character and the speed of its development. Guilt in a sociallyconstructed universe is not related to committing an offence– as we shall soon see, Christians are of the caste that are already structurally guilty – it is a function solely of a failure to zealously promote social justice. Coupled with the clear attack on Christian truth in every area of life, it marks the return to the worship of what Peter Jones calls the pagan sexual ideal, androgyny.22 Nowhere is this clearer than in the so-called ‘web of oppression’ which is presented to undergraduates throughout many universities, which underlies the contemporary thrust of social policies amongst progressives, and under the auspices of ‘social justice’ is fast becoming the raison d’être of our schools, social agencies and legal system.23 What Figure 1.0 shows is a nexus of characteristics that describe those who have privilege, power, access, and resources. The further one is from the centre, the more structurally oppressed one is. What must be understood is that one’s personal conduct is irrelevant to the case of injustice being made. If one is a white, male, heterosexual, ablebodied, wealthy, U.S. born English speaker, then one is ipso facto a structural oppressor, and as such must be extirpated from that position in order to bring about social justice. THE INJUSTICE OF ‘SOCIAL JUSTICE’ AND ITS OPERATIVE DENIAL OF CHRIST’S ATONEMENT According to such a view, only whites can be racist.25 The immediate response to such an assertion might be to conclude that it is simply a form of race-baiting. But while that is true, that is only the beginning of its malignance. For the effect of what we now call ‘identity politics’, which cloaks its own naked prejudice in the robe of ‘justice’26, is utterly to subvert the common law tradition, in particular its emphasis upon the equality of each and of all before the law. This is also its most bitter irony: in the name of defending the rights of oppressed minorities, the most vulnerable minority, the individual and his rights, have been annihilated. This is no small thing. The integrity of every human being, and his immunity from the absolute and coercive power of the State, lies at the heart of all true human rights legislation, from the movement to abolish slavery to the movement to acknowledge the full equality of women before the law and in the political system. In short, the social justice movement saws off the branch it purports to stand upon. The movement could not be in greater error. It is anti-social and unjust. The English common law brought the theological belief that every human being is made in the image of God into the legal and political fabric of English-speaking nations, enshrining both its rights and its freedoms. One of the magnificent features of the common law tradition is precisely its antipathy towards the very idea of ‘group rights.’ Group rights invariably entrench the power of an identifiable group, and empower them unjustly against all others. There is another, thoroughly insidious implication which every person in the Western world is currently sensing: the power of the State is immeasurably enhanced (and even demanded) by the movement to embrace ‘social justice’. For the instant that collective rights are acknowledged, not only are individual rights destroyed, it requires that the government take on the role of Lord and judge: firstly in establishing a hierarchy of victim groups, and secondly in involving itself in the arbitration of their disputes. In Canada, we call their organs ‘Human Rights Tribunals’. And perhaps the most nefarious of all its consequences is the fact that we can increasingly observe that the law bends towards those who agitate the most, particularly those willing to go so far as to break the law. As Mark Steyn observes: In some of the oldest free societies in the world, the state is not mediating speech in order to assure social tranquility, but rather torturing logic and law and liberty in ever more inane ways in order to accommodate those who might be tempted to express their grievances in nonspeechy ways.27 Many Christians have been duped into adopting this same agenda, precisely because in its appeal to equality they have been deceived that the social justice movement, promoting group rights, follows the precedent set by Christians who fought against social injustices in the past: chiefly, the ill-treatment of other races and women. In this, they often work with the humanists in seeking to create a public square which allegedly espouses moral neutrality. Yet God is not morally neutral, nor should His spouse, the church, be. The difficulty with the indiscriminate appeal to equality is that the broad categories it includes (race, gender and sex, spirituality and religion, sexual orientation, ability, national origin/ language, socioeconomic status) are not equal, let alone comparable. Racism and sexual discrimination are truly abhorrent because they treat people who bear the image of God, which every person does, as if he or she did not. But in those instances, the fight for equality is thoroughly in accordance with the notion of individual equality before the law in the common law tradition. But individual sexual practices cannot all be treated as equivalent, let alone comparable, to racism and sexual discrimination. The mistake lies precisely in the irrational terminology of gender identity and sexual orientation. Sexual acts should not be deemed synonymous with ontological states, as the Foucauldian terminology would have it, but as forms of moral or immoral actions. They are categorically different. We can see how damaging the categorical mistake is in its effect. To speak of monogamous marriage between a man and a woman as inherently oppressive is simultaneously to dispense with any and all the foregoing notions of sexual exploitation or violation that were defined by normativity of marriage. We have a perfect illustration of this in the extraordinary recent popularity of the “Fifty Shades” novels. What in the past had normally been considered to be sexually violent and to exploit women has become highly desirable, particularly among women!28 What had long been socially cursed has suddenly become blessed. And we can see a literal explosion in human trafficking, prostitution, and child pornography. And we also see the reverse has become true. The sole exception to the blessing of undifferentiated sexual conduct is the growing stigmatization of what had previously been considered normal. We thus have a new morality, which the Human Rights priesthood and the public educational establishment oversees: it states the orthodoxy and pronounces the blessing of all sexual practices except the one that God has differentiated and blessed. Without God’s ordained sexual norm, the curse of human sinfulness must invariably result in sexual exploitation and perversion. Freedom thereafter is nothing but unbridled licentiousness. This is clear when one notes that the arguments advanced in favour of gay marriage are precisely the same as those used to promote paedophilia: 1) Paedophilia is innate and immutable. 2) Pederasty is richly attested in many different cultures throughout history. 3) The claim that adult-child sexual relationships cause harm is greatly overstated and often completely inaccurate. 4) Consensual adult-child sex can actually be beneficial to the child. 5) Pederasty should not be classified as a mental disorder, since it does not cause distress to the pederast to have these desires and since the pederast can function as a normal, contributing member of society. 6) Many of the illustrious homosexuals of the past were actually paedophiles. 7) People are against intergenerational intimacy because of antiquated social standards and puritanical sexual phobias. 8) This is all about love and equality and liberation.29 Some will bristle at the association, but since the standard of justice is the blunt instrument of ‘equality,’ it is difficult to imagine why the push for gay marriage would not be followed by the legitimization of any and all other sexual practices, to the effect that the law will wholly depart from any sense of justice that accords with the promotion of the social good, the love of God or of neighbor. This may be an unfair criticism however. A just society was never the aim of Foucault’s social justice. BEAUTY INSTEAD OF ASHES Christians need to become more aware of the fact that conforming to the dictates of queer theory, accepting or adopting the unbiblical concepts of ‘gender identity’ or ‘sexual orientation,’ entails departing from treating all people as equal image bearers of God. Privileging a self-proclaimed group of victims is not treating them with equity. These terms are not just neologisms, they are the product of a thoroughly anti-Christian theological framework. The new language cannot be ignored. Even if that were desirable, it is quite clear that queer theorists will not allow that. It is at odds with their understanding of human freedom. Christians need to speak out against these changes out of love for God, their neighbor, and for the sake of the children who are presently being indoctrinated in it. It is plain from the documents that emerge from these educational authorities that a new compulsory form of religious education is being conducted, which like the cults of old makes sexual initiation30 a compulsory and integral part of its system.31 I would strongly urge Christian parents to remove their children from the public school system, and demand of their elected officials that their taxes go to the school of their choice. God has charged parents – and no one else – with the responsibility to educate their children.32 Above all, we must preach the gospel of the kingdom, and disciple the nations in all areas of life as our priestly calling. The familiar words of Isaiah 61 impress on us an eschatological meaning: The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;33 In Luke’s Gospel, having just withstood the devil’s temptation in the wilderness, a place of judgment throughout Scripture, Jesus read from this very passage and pronounced that ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’34 As God’s faithful covenant partner, Jesus announces the advent of the kingdom of God. An old hymn put it this way: ‘A second Adam to the fight/ and for our rescue came.’ The Lord’s promise to His people in Isaiah 61 is that He shall “bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour.”36 This is not a future promise; it is an announcement of the splendor of victory wrought at Calvary. God’s grace shall similarly be rendered to His people in the midst of a time of judgment. We should not ignore the dichotomy in the words. They speak of the same event, ‘the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God’. We live in a time of great shaking, which I see as a different sort of differentiation. The church is being purified, while it is simultaneously under the assault of all manner of false teaching. It is being asked to speak the tongue of Babylon the Great, which it must not do. In the midst of that, we can trust in God’s promise that this is for ‘the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.37 What we do know is the certainty of the outcome: the cataclysmic finale of the Book of Revelation, that tale of two cities, foretelling the destruction of the whore of Babylon the Great in ashes, mourning and despair, and the nuptials of the new Jerusalem in beauty, joy and praise.
Thanks be to God.