By Mark Tooley (@MarkTooley)
United Methodist-affiliated Duke University in North Carolina will now cover sex-change surgery up to $50,000 as part of its medical insurance plan. It reportedly joins 37 other U.S. colleges in medically and financially facilitating America latest gnostic fantasy that gender is fluid and self-determined rather than a physical reality. The ancient Gnostics believed in mind over matter, in conflict with Judaism and Christianity, which have always asserted a concrete reality in God’s order of creation.
It’s been commonly claimed that America’s historically intrinsic offer of constant self-reinvention is itself gnostic influenced. Maybe, but this American promise was actually a reaction against static social and economic stratification in the Old World. American individualism offered upward mobility and the liberty to pursue adventure and even eccentricity. It has not until recently demanded that society must approve and subsidize new gender identities entailing elective, radically mutilating surgery followed by a lifetime of hormone treatments.
Duke’s new policy doesn’t necessarily fully implicate the United Methodist Church, whose Southeast Jurisdiction technically still owns the school. As with nearly all schools that emerged from old line Protestantism, Duke quit any practical fidelity to operative Christian faith many decades ago. In 2000, Duke’s famous chapel agreed to host same-sex unions, leading Duke Divinity School, which recognized United Methodism’s ban on same-sex unions, to create its own chapel.
Transgenderism naturally is permeating the liberal churches. Last year’s Episcopal General Convention officially affirmed transgendered clergy, protecting against “discrimination” based on “gender identity and expression.” One bishop celebrated with transgendered themed prayer: “Spirit of Life, we thank you for disordering our boundaries and releasing our desires as we prepare this feast of delight,” she began. “Draw us out of hidden places and centers of conformity to feel your laughter and live in your pleasure.”
United Methodism, which has no official transgender policy, has at least two publicly announced post-operative transsexual clergy. The same is true for the Presbyterian Church (USA). One Presbyterian clergy is a post-operative transsexual from male to female, additionally now professing to be lesbian and married to a woman. Intolerant conservatives object to the sex change and the purported same-sex union, even though of course the union comprises a genetic male married to a female, exciting cries of hypocrisy from liberal supporters. An admiring documentary of the story is titled: “THY WILL BE DONE: A transsexual woman’s journey through family and faith.”
A 2005 convo for liberal and LGBTQI Methodists famously featured a transsexual who delighted the audience by announcing that ten years before he had been a married “straight, conservative, evangelical, white male” and was now only still white, having undergone a sex change operation, and now relating to the same woman who remains his wife as a lesbian. Hooray! The Methodist transsexual, a layperson, is now described as a national expert on the issue. A post-operative transsexual United Methodist clergy, from female to male, was announced and hailed by the bishop of Baltimore-Washington in 2007. Ostensibly this clergy was reviving a dying urban congregation. But after a short pastorate, this clergy now works for the ACLU in Alaska.
Political correctness, decency, and common sense presumably preclude celebration and subsidized surgeries for persons unhappy with their racial or ethnic appearance and seeking new physical identities. Such persons presumably are instead extended therapy to help them find happiness with themselves as they are. Yet far more extreme, painful, and dangerous surgeries that sexually mutilate the patient to achieve an ostensibly new gender are hailed as the height of progressive self-fulfillment.
Catholic ethicist George Weigel, in his William Simon Lecture earlier this year, cited the “intense Gnostic revival” sweeping America and the West. As a “protean cultural virus,” it seeks “the good outside of reality as we perceive it through the materials of this world.” Indeed, for Gnostics reality is itself “antithetical to ‘the pursuit of happiness’; reality is to be rejected, and thereby overcome.” Instead, “everything in the human condition is plastic and malleable,” and “everything can (and ought to be allowed to) be bent to human willfulness, which is to say, to human desire.” Gnosticism’s most powerful current “cultural toxin” is the “ideology of gender.” Male and female are no longer given but have become social constructs.
Weigel pronounced: “Gnostic anthropology — the Gnostic view of the human person and the human condition — is the antithesis of the Biblical view of men and women and their possibilities, which has long been one of the foundation stones of the Western civilizational project.” And Weigel speculated that the committed flight from reality central to gnostic thinking will have troubling, wider political, social, and economic consequences. The pressing demands for federal entitlement reform or sustained military preparedness against terrorism may subordinate to gnostic fantasies of an endless federal cornucopia or of equally endless peace without strength.
The gnostic-led preference for self-created fantasy may take America down many dangerous paths in a real world that still has limited patience for self-delusion. Sex-change operations, now subsidized by even some church-affiliated institutions, will affect only a troubled few, who merit wise spiritual and therapeutic counsel instead of delusional encouragement. But the wider gnostic plague will sadly disrupt and destroy many misguided souls before reality reasserts itself, as it always does eventually.
This blog post originally appeared as an article on American Spectator website.