While I reject any legislative or other attempt to compel me to use terminology contrary to a person’s biological sex, usually I will, out of politeness, voluntarily address a person by the name and the gender pronouns (masculine/feminine) the person prefers. I will not, however, use any pronouns which imply the existence of more than two genders or the absence of gender.
Particularly I find the abuse of the plural “they” to refer to a singular person an intentional and ridiculous degeneration of the English language
If one accepted gender change as real, one should refer to this person as “she”;
If, on the other hand, one rejected gender change as real, one should refer to this person as “he”.
Beyond this grammatical travesty I agree with the women criticizing this person:
If she is a woman she should not attempt to claim a position reserved for men;
If he wants to claim that position he should stop claiming to be a woman.
In any case, s/he should not appempt to have his/her cake and eat it, claiming a trans privilege over biological women.
Recently a Christian leader I respect and follow on Facebook commented,
Chat GPT is the most biased tool used to propagate anti-christian worldview. Be careful. It rarely gets stuff correct, always adding a slight tint meant to demean Christianity.
That hasn’t been my experience. Of course ChatGPT is not a Christian tool and thus won’t give Christian answers, and of course it gets a lot of things wrong (not just about Christianity or the Bible), and of course, being a product of 21st century secular society it prioritizes “equality, inclusiveness, and diversity” over the free exchange of ideas and appends politically correct disclaimers to any potentially (politically or ideologically) controversial answer (after all, it doesn’t want to be cancelled), but so does just about any tool or platform which today’s secular world offers, whether Google, Bing, Wikipedia, and even Facebook where this brother posted his comment.
However, even if those assertions about ChatGPT were true, this comment seems to reflect an expectation that the world should cease to be the world and become more like the Kingdom of God, or that the world, as well as it’s institutions, tools, and laws, should conform to Bible-based Christian or Judeo-Christian values.
While this has for a long time been the expectation of many Christians in the United States and among Christian communities elsewhere influenced by American missionaries, it is an expectation that is foreign to most Christians outside the “Christian West” and to many within it.
I know many American Christians believe that the “Founding Fathers” had exactly that expectation in mind, but whether this is true or not, given Jesus’ words in Mt. 7:13+14, if you set up a society based on democracy (i.e. majority rule, with freedom of religion), the largely secular and non-Christian societies we have today in the US and in the West in general are exactly what we should expect: over time a majority of people choosing the wide gate, and building secular society in conformity with that path, regardless of the founders’ convictions or intentions.
This expectation and the belief in a “Christian society” which we have to somehow recover or restore leads to much frustration, with Christans spending much energy on turning society around through legislation, with all the attendant political belligerence and partisanship, instead of spending their energy on building a counter-cultural community that witnesses to Christ’s saving power, and which will have our unbelieving neighbors saying, “Look how they love one another! Can I be a part of that?” (Jn 13:34+35)
Mind you, I am not advocating that we withdraw from the world (á la the “Benedict Option”), or abdicate our responsibility as citizens of a democracy to speak truth to power and influence the world through the political process; but we do so primarily as individual citizens rather than as the church, and we follow the rules of the “game” and accept results which don’t go our way. Most of all we don’t pin our hope on our political efforts and get too emotionally invested in them for if we do, not only will we be disappointed but the world will perceive us as bellicose and belligerent political combatants rather than as loving witnesses to the Kindom of God.
This Kingdom of God will not be fully realized until Christ returns; and we cannot hasten its realization “by might and by power” (Zech. 4:6) or by electing the right politicians.
or at least, as the Benedict Option is often construed and understood[↩]
And we don’t argue for our positions primarily by pointing to the Bible but by arguments which appeal to those who don’t see the Bible as an authority[↩]
for example, to eliminate discrimination against Christian positions, as if we could somehow work our way around Jesus’ assertion that “in the world you will have tribulation” Jn 16:33[↩]
When we publicly rail against laws that contravene our values, in ways that paint our opponents as immoral wr are actually trying to “convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment” (Jn 16:8), and that is not our job but the Holy Spirit’s. He is much better at it than we can ever be.[↩]
Psalm 146:3 says, “Put not your trust in princes (or presidents, or governors, or Supreme Court justices), in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs (or he loses his re-election bid), he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” [↩]
But private gun ownership with minimal checks and controls remains a sacred right protected by a particular reading of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The right to keep and bear arms is here clearly linked to the citizens being organized as a militia. But for some reasons otherwise rational Americans ignore this and insist that every Tom, Dick, and Harry should be able to walk into a store and buy not just a pistol or a hunting rifle but a machine gun or assault rifle.
An American friend told me that as a European I do not understand that. For a long time I thought I did, but with every incident like this I my understanding wanes.
Some folks tell me that without the right to bear arms the U.S. would still be under the British Crown. But for this to hold true, for freedom-loving citizens to rise up against a despotic government and actually prevail, you would also need private ownership of tanks, fighter jets, war ships – the full arsenal of modern warfare. Ludicrous!
What is most difficult for me to wrap my head around is that many of the people who put forth such (unpersuasive) arguments for this particular interpretation of the Second Amendment are all evangelical Christians, followers of the Prince of Peace, quite a few of whom have served as missionaries in Europe. What a testimony! Unbelievable!
So we can look forward to more such incidents in 2023, an uninterrupted stream fom 2022 and years past.
When our application to stay on in the U.S. long term was denied in 1989, it was with disappointment and regret that we returned to Austria. It pains me to say so, but today I am so relieved and thankful that we are no longer in that hopelessly polarized and divided country and that our kids grew up without only a minimal threat of a shooter going on a rampage in their school.
Not that this would be so much worse than the current political situation, especially in the past seven years, with no end in sight![↩]
Toby Young, British journalist and founder of the Free Speech Union, in conversation with Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute, with some insightfull comments about the new “woke” public morality (i.e. normalization of homosexuality and transgenderism, unrestricted abortion rights, etc.):
We have to try to understand why it has become harder and harder to disagree about essential values in the public square withhout falling out with each other, and why cancel culture has metastsized to become such an all-encompassing blight. I think it has something to do with the ebbing away of the Christian tide.
In the nineteenth century, and even in the first part of the twentieth century, we were a Christian society, and the sacted values we were expected to observe were Christian values, and if someone comitted adultery, or got divorced, or was born out of wedlock, there was serious social stigma attached to that. We had a kind of public morality which people were expected to observe, and if they didn’t, they were sort of outcast, or they were in some kind of Bohemian sub-culture. There was some tolerance for people who didn’t believe, more tolerance, particular towards the end of the nineteenth century, in the higher education sector, towards people who challenged the prevailing orthodoxies, more tolerance than there is now.
So as the Christian tide ebbed away, so this morality faded, and particularly in the 1960s and 1970s all the taboos which had constrained people’s behavior, the moral taboos, fell away and there was a brief period where we enjoyed this intellectual, sexual freedom, and everyone thought that was what the future was going to be. But then, intererestingly, people seemingly found it quite difficult to cope with that degree of freedom, and they’ve embraced another, even more dogmatic morality, which in the past ten, fifteen years has become the public morality.
So after a brief interlude, one public morality has been replaced by another. And if you don’t sign up to the articles of faith of that political morality, you are now outcast, probably more outcast than you were if you didn’t sign up to the articles of the Christian faith in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
And I think that’s really what has happend: we have embraced this new, secular public morality which is actually, interestingly, much more puritanical, and censorious, and authoritarian, than the seemingly much more gentle Christian morality which at least allowed for forgiveness, a path back, redemption, but which this new public morality seemingly doesn’t allow for. And I think that’s why we live in an increasingly intoletant society, why, if you don’t sign up to the shibbolets of the “woke church”, you end up kind of cast out; and, curiously, lots of people who find themselves at odds with the articles of faith of that new public morality are orthodox Christians.
Surely no research organization would design a malicious, Terminator-style ASI hellbent on destroying humanity, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the worry. If we’re all wiped out by an ASI, it will almost certainly be on accident.
I find this puzzling. How can any intelligent, thinking human being doubt, in the face of two world wars, the holocaust, numerous other wars and acts of terrorism since then (most notably the Russian attack on and invasion of Ukraine), and an increasing number of leaders who, in the event of an election loss, would likely do a Trump and suggest to their followers that they they should storm and occupy the democratic institutions of their country, that if a technology like ASI existed or was within reach, someone would not try—and probably succeed—to exploit this technology for nefarious ends?
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
In the eighty years since then numerous systems have been invented which, while not humanoid in form like most of Asimov’s and other science fiction writers’ robots, are nonetheless in a real sense robots as Asimov had in mind in formulating his laws but which do not abide by these laws, with many of them, like the quadruped military robot Cheetah or autonomous drones like the MQ-1 Predator, being expressly designed to harm humans or assist with harming them. Wikipedia even has an article on the Artificial Intelligence arms race which evidently is a thing.
These are powered by our current Artificial Intelligence systems and generally are only capable of performing one specific task; in this they are still sub-human machine intelligence, yet in the wrong hands they can wreak devastation. Many scientists are now working on human-level machine intelligence, on a par with human intelligence, and predict success within the next fifty years or so; others are already working on Artificial General Intelligence(AGI) as a stepping stone to Artificial Superintelligence which will far surpass human intelligence.
Torres recognizes and describes in his article the ways that such ASI systems could, strictly by accident, wipe out the human race (which from a purely naturalistic perspective would of course not be evil because there would be no human beings left to suffer), and for this reason recommends that governments should stop all research on AGI and ASI.
I don’t believe that this will happen. It might happen if all governments had only the common good at heart; this is totally unrealistic, just look at Vladimir Putin, China or North Korea but also, as lesser, more harmless examples, our own politicians who as often as not are motivated by their country’s, their party’s or even their own good rather than the common good.
And even if all governments halted and prohibited such research, how do you ensure that some rogue actors don’t continue to research and develop such systems, without resorting to the repressive measures of a police state?
And once such systems exist, the biggest danger won’t be the annihilation of the human race but the use of this ASI to oppress and cause great harm to a still existing human race.
The Christian Scriptures predict a time of great tribulation (Mt 24:21, Rev 7:14) immediately prior to the return of Christ, and the havoc wreaked by ASI may well form part of that tribulation; as Christians, whether we believe in the rapture (1 Thess 4:17) or not, we still have hope in the face of that prospect because we know that Christ’s ultimate victory over sin, sickness and death is assured (Rev 20:11-15; Rev 20).
Since the Washington Post is behind a pay wall, here is a summary of Torres’ arguments, although without the paragraph I quote and which prompted this post[↩]
The interpretation of these verses, and how the events before, during and after Christ’s return will unfold, is something Christians have disagreed about for a long time, at least since the Prophecy Conferences of the 19th century but probably throughout the history of the Christian church[↩]
A few days ago Spiked, a UK-based online magazine variously described as either right-leaning libertarian or left-leaning libertarian, published an article by Gareth Roberts, the “cancelled” Dr. Who writer, entitled, Joan of Arc was not ‘nonbinary’. He criticizes an upcoming play at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, “I, Joan”, which ‘reimagines’ Joan of Arc as a nonbinary person; then he goes on to criticize the current tendency to project ideas and concepts of contemporary identity politics into the past, “identifying” historical persons as one of “LBGT+”.
This quote struck me:
It is, of course, notoriously difficult to define ‘nonbinary’. Like its siblings ‘trans’ and ‘queer’, it has an uncanny power to mean whatever the person using it fancies saying at the time. But so far as I can make out, it seems to boil down to not behaving stereotypically ‘like a man’ or stereotypically ‘like a woman’, but as a bit of both.
This is a newly discovered and exciting characteristic shared by 100 per cent of the human race. Declaring yourself ‘nonbinary’ is like demanding to be recognised as unusual because you’ve got a bumhole.
The problem is, of course, that in contemporary usage the term nonbinary doesn’t just mean not behaving stereotypically ‘like a man’ or stereotypically ‘like a woman’ but as a bit of both.
Instead it implies a refusal to be classified as either male or female ; it is thus a denial of a foundational aspect of human nature as both Scripture and science affirm it:
So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female.
(Genesis 1:27, emphasis mine)
Yes, science recognizes the condition of gender dysphoria, but with the exception of the 0.02% of people born with ambiguous physical sex characteristics (intersex) those affected by it are nevertheless either male or female, and objective science untainted by political correctness identifies it as a pathology, which is considered totally unacceptable bigotry by those who identify as nonbinary.
I don’t really have a problem with someone not fitting traditional gender stereotypes in either dress, behaviour, or even preference of name and pronouns, and of course people are free to call themselves what they want, and, as Jordan Peterson famously said, as a matter of politeness I will usually address an individual as he or she wishes to be addressed.
However, both as a Christian and as a thinking human being I reject the very concept of nonbinary persons as contrary both to Scripture and human nature, and I object to being compelled, whether by law, or company policy, or social pressure, to affirm someone’s gender self-identification as trumping biological fact.
The post-modern expectation that all of us ought to affirm as the ultimate reality someone’s self-identification even if that self-identification flies in the face of biological fact, or else face various kinds of sanctions, is the ultimate denial and rejection of the freedoms of speech, expression, or opinion as fundamental human rights, just as compelling people to affirm same-sex attraction, marriage, and sexual activity as normal and good is a denial of the freedom of religion.
I agree that in a pluralistic society we generally owe each other tolerance (within the constraints of the law), but we do not owe anyone affirmation.
This is also reflected in the language of gender assignment at birth which suggests that sex is is arbitrarily assigned rather than being discerned based on objective biological criteria[↩]
There are those who put that percentage as high as 2%, but it seems to me they are driven more by ideology than sound research[↩]
Within a church, the tolerance we owe each other is also constrained by the doctrine of that particular church[↩]
He lists a number of laudable aspects of these Principles, including their opposition to universalist ideologies and corrosive globalization, and then zeroes in on two major — and fatal —flaws or weaknesses of the Statement:
its lack of recognition of the Church’s own, biblically-rooted universalism or globalism, and
its failure to recognize the Bible as the Word of God rather than merely a wellspring of national values, a source of shared culture or a ground of national tradition.
These are well-founded and valuable criticisms, and I am in full agreement with them.
Let me add a couple of observations of my own, light-weight though they may be compared to Peter Leithart’s.
Firstly, as a European, and more specifically Austrian, of the first post-WW II generation I am deeply suspicious of any ideology or philosophy that is prefixed with National. I was born ten years after the end of the war, and I grew up with post-war reconstruction well underway; but the tragic results of National Socialism were still evident in many areas of life. And recently we have seen the rise of leaders like Donald Trump, Lech and Jaroslav Kaczynski, Victor Orban, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, all of whom view themselves, as do their followers, as National Conservatives and true patriots, a label which they deny their political opponents. It would not have been fair to mention him in the same sentence as the others, but Vladimir Putin is of the same ilk, only more so. Hitler’s nazis sang, “Deutschland über alles”, Trump proclaimed “America First” and “Make America Great Again”, and Putin phantasizes about an ever-expanding Russkiy Mir, the Russian World, and is prepared to use military force to realize that dream. It sounds just all too familiar to me. And while the signatories of the statement would definitely disown Putin, especially after his illegal invasion of and war against Ukraine, Victor Orban’s Hungary is hailed by some conservatives in the US as a bulwark of Christendom surrounded by rampant secularism.
Secondly, it is all very well for “National Conservatives” in the United States championing the nation state and opposing the transferring of authority to international bodies, when their “nation” is almost the size of the entire continent of Europe or more than twice the size of the European Union. No doubt the European Union, as a trans-national, international body has its flaws, and one can debate whether member states have ceded to much power to the EU institutions, and it is unfortunately also true that the EU has left the Christian values of it’s founders behind (but that is no more than a reflection of developments in the member states), but this is not too different from the discussions in the US about the respective powers of the individual states and the federal government. More importantly, the European Union, or something very much like it, is the only way the nations of Europe can have any hope of competing, economically and politically, with the United States.
Thirdly, when it comes to, «In nations with a Christian majority, Christianity should be at the root of public life and “honored by the state.”», I am very sure that train has already left the station, and it’s not coming back, in any of the Western nations. And when I think of the influence of Trump’s national conservatism on American Evangelicalism, or that of Putin’s national conservatism on the Orthodox Church and others in Russia, both of which are massively more corrosive than anything coming from the international organizations, then it seems to me that our primary concern at the moment should be not with globalization but with toxic, almost idolatrous, Christian nationalism.
Size in square kilometer: US–9.8 million, EU–4.2 million, European continent–10.2 million[↩]
Toby Young, British journalist and founder of the Free Speech Union, in conversation with Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute, has some insightful comments about the new “progressive” public morality (i.e. normalization of homosexuality and transgenderism, unrestricted abortion rights, etc.).
I am posting this not just because I agree with him (except for his use of “woke” to describe the new morality), but to underline the main point in my recent post about Disney:
Most of the people who have subscribed to this new pulic morality sincerely believe themselves to be good, moral people; even some Christians have become persuaded of the new morality and have convinced themselves that just as we have abolished slavery so we need to abolish traditional sexual mores in order to be truly loving.
A “Christian” culture war rhetoric demonizing them and casting aspersions on their motives is effectively our version of “cancel culture” and will neither turn our society around, nor protect our children, nor increase the likelihood of winning people to Christ—which, after all, should be the church’s main goal.
Instead we should do as Christ did: compassionately, lovingly calling people to repentance, praying that the Holy Spirit would open their eyes to the deception of this new morality.
When we have an opportunity to oppose the new morality in the political realm (from school boards on up) we will be much more persuasive if we do so in a rational, measured tone and without resorting to personal invective. As Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.”
Here is Toby Young:
We have to try to understand why it has become harder and harder to disagree about essential values in the public square without falling out with each other, and why cancel culture has metastasized to become such an all-encompassing blight. I think it has something to do with the ebbing away of the Christian tide.
In the nineteenth century, and even in the first part of the twentieth century, we were a Christian society, and the sacred values we were expected to observe were Christian values, and if someone comitted adultery, or got divorced, or was born out of wedlock, there was serious social stigma attached to that. We had a kind of public morality which people were expected to observe, and if they didn’t, they were sort of outcast, or they were in some kind of Bohemian sub-culture. There was some tolerance for people who didn’t believe, more tolerance, particularly towards the end of the nineteenth century, in the higher education sector, towards people who challenged the prevailing orthodoxies, more tolerance than there is now.
So as the Christian tide ebbed away, so this morality faded, and particularly in the 1960s and 1970s all the taboos which had constrained people’s behavior, the moral taboos, fell away and there was a brief period where we enjoyed this intellectual, sexual freedom, and everyone thought that was what the future was going to be.
But then, intererestingly, people seemingly found it quite difficult to cope with that degree of freedom, and they’ve embraced another, even more dogmatic morality, which in the past ten, fifteen years has become the public morality.
So, after a brief interlude, one public morality has been replaced by another. And if you don’t sign up to the articles of faith of that political morality, you are now outcast, probably more outcast than you were if you didn’t sign up to the articles of the Christian faith in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
And I think that’s really what has happend: we have embraced this new, secular public morality which is actually, interestingly, much more puritanical, and censorious, and authoritarian, than the seemingly much more gentle Christian morality which at least allowed for forgiveness, a path back, redemption, but which this new public morality seemingly doesn’t allow for. And I think that’s why we live in an increasingly intoletant society, why, if you don’t sign up to the shibbolets of the “woke church”, you end up kind of cast out; and, curiously, a lot of people who find themselves at odds with the articles of faith of that new public morality are orthodox Christians.
I believe using “woke” to describe the new morality’s sexual agenda is a mis-appropriation of a term that belongs to people of color in their fight against racism, and mis-using it this way equates support of traditional Christian beliefs, and opposition to “progressive” beliefs, about sex, marriage, and the sanctity of life with racism, which is nonsense.[↩]
In a company-wide zoom meeting back in March, the president of Disney’s General Entertainment Content, Karey Burke, said the company “doesn’t have enough LGBTQIA leads in their content and don’t have enough narratives in which gay characters just get to be characters”. She vowed to change this “non-inclusive trend”. Why can’t Disney stick to producing great content, family films which champion what is good, true, beautiful, and universal?
That question does Disney and its management an injustice. They believe that by making their products more “inclusive” they ARE in fact championing what is good, true, beautiful, and universal.
I also think that the so-called “inclusivity” of companies like Disney is an illusion; you rarely see conservative Christians with traditional views of sex and marriage portrayed as wholesome, but the same thing applies: they genuinely believe that such views are NOT wholesome but bigoted and harmful.
We may disagree with them and oppose them, and I do, but demonizing them by denying their sincerity or otherwise impugning their motives is neither fair or just, nor will it halt society’s trend of normalizing “alternative sexualities and identities.”
Let us by all means call sin “sin” but not lose sight of the fact that these folks’ greatest problem is not their view of sex and marriage but the fact that they are not following Christ, and that their unbiblical views are merely the outworking of that. Ultimately our task as Christians is winning people to Christ (including Disney president Karey Burke), not making secular society conform to Christian values (or lamenting the fact that the world’s values are, well, “worldly”).
Unfortunately it is also true that throughout much of church history Christians have treated “perverts” abominably, as if their sin were worse than heterosexual adultery, fornication and concubinage (which were frequently tolerated, even among church leaders), and even today we see scandals of churches most vociferously opposed to the normalization of homosexuality and same-sex marriage being revealed as having swept under the carpet the heterosexual abuse of children, adolescents, and other vulnerable people by clergy, in an (usually unsuccessful) effort to shield their institutions from liability and preserve their reputation. We as individuals, congregations, and even denominations may not have been guilty or complicit in these injustices, and may not even have been aware of them, or we may think that those who perpetrated them were not true Christians, but we must not ignore the damage these things have done to the testimony of the universal church and how they have contributed to the situation we see today: “wokeness” may be an over-reaction but it is always is a reaction to injustice.
In Scripture we see Jesus rebuking with strong language (i.e. “you are of your father the devil”) those religious leaders who failed to obey not just the words but the spirit of God’s commandments, but calling ordinary sinners to repentance while treating them with love and compassion (i.e. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”). As Jesus-followers it behooves us to do the same.
Because of the effective take-over of the Republican Party by the Trumpians, and similar developments in several other countries, I find it necessary to state clearly:
It is possible to be a values conservative without becoming a right wing crazy.
It is possible to be a values conservative without supporting attempts to overturn election results, violent attacks on the institutions of government, or the fomenting of civil unrest.
It is possible to be a values conservative and a Christian without being a “Christian nationalist” of the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene and other Trumpians in the US, or Victor Orbán and Vladimir Putin in Europe.
It is possible to be a values conservative who does not turn a blind eye to the suffering of refugees from war zones or famine-stricken countries.
It is possible to be a values conservative who does not oppose government aid to the disadvantaged in our own countries.
It is possible to be a values conservative who rejects abortion as a birth control method but who recognizes that there are legitimate exceptions to a total ban and wants these enshrined in the relevant laws.
It is possible to be a values conservative who does not oppose, but indeed supports, comprehensive universal healthcare with needs-based public financing.
It is possible to be a values conservative who supports reasonable gun control – at the very least a ban on private ownership of military grade weapons beginning with assault rifles.
It is possible to be a values conservative who believes churches and religious believers should be able to follow their understanding of human nature, sexuality, and marriage while at the same time respecting democratic decisions concerning broader definitions of civil marriage.
There are probably other aspects I can think of right now; but my main point is that it is possible to be a values conservative without being a right-wing nutter.