Read Time: 12 minutes
In a recent segment, Tucker Carlson, someone who needs no qualifying remarks, made some statements about the relationship between Transgenderism and Christianity. Carlson’s comments came in the aftermath of the shooting of six people, three adults and three 9-year old students, at a private Christian school in Nashville, TN. The shooter, someone called “Audrey Hale,” was a transgender person. As far as I have been able to discern from media coverage, Hale was a biological women who identified as a man. This would make the shooting an extreme rarity, since less than 1% of mass shootings in American have been carried out by women.
However, to the point about Carlson’s commentary on the incident (which the reader should watch prior to continuing), there are important insights to glean from the Fox host’s broadcast. There are some initial points of interest that Carlson makes in the commentary that I believe are fairly accurate. These provide an appropriate cultural context to the story. It is a context we tend to want to ignore, as if it has no real bearing on the overall health of our society. For example, Carlson argues that the transgender community enjoys a high level of social privilege, that to play around with transgenderism is incentivized by the culture broadly and the academy more narrowly, and that to be or act trans is, in a sense, trendy and cool.
Evidence That Transgenderism Is Culturally Hegemonic
The main evidences for these claims come to us via social media, popular culture, especially Hollywood culture, and through big business (think Hershey, JP Morgan Chase, Disney, etc.) and big athletics (NHL, NCAA, NBA and so on). It seems increasingly redundant to mention that our culture swims in the celebration of people’s sexuality, so long as it is not heterosexuality or anything which suggests sexuality be reserved for heterosexual marriage, let alone the procreation of children! So to say there is a very specific, identifiable, and forceful agenda in favor of Transgenderism is not really a controversial claim. At least, it shouldn’t be to anyone who has eyes and ears that function properly (and a mind that is properly interpreting the corresponding sense data).
The corollary to this cultural embrace of any sexual ideology, like Transgenderism, that deviates from the Judeo-Christian standard for sexual identity and behavior is obvious. Whatever, or whoever, resists the promotion of Transgenderism (or LGBTQ+ more broadly) is subjected to public ridicule and shaming. Since there are no rational arguments for Transgenderism, i.e., nothing that appeals to the intellect, the battle against Christian ethics must occur in the arena of the will.
Unfortunately, the will is most easily affected through the emotions. This is a psychological dynamic understood by Marxists since Marxism’s inception. Although, it should be said, the idea that the passions rule the will has been pointed out since ancient times. The biblical authors (Jeremiah 17:9) and the Greek ethicists harp on this repeatedly. It is not something contemporary social scientists have just discovered, indeed it is something that is constantly being rediscovered. And so for over a decade now, America has been held hostage by sexual movements that utilize emotional manipulation for political gain. However, it is what Carlson points out later in the segment that is even more telling about what we are facing in society today.
A Dispute over Nature: Where the Conflict Really Lies*
Around the 2-minute mark of the segment, Carlson puts his finger on the pulse of the current conflict. There is an irreconcilable difference between any genuine and informed Christianity and the ideology known as Transgenderism.
When I say “genuine” and “informed” here, I mean a Christianity that is not being deceitful. That is to say, I am talking about a form of Christianity which is being faithful to what the Bible and the Church actually teach, and that is not altering those teachings to appease cultural sensibilities or make the Church appear to be something it really isn’t; or, for that matter, to make Jesus Christ something that the Bible tells us He is not. This would preclude inauthentic versions of “Christianity,” which disregard the teachings of the Bible or the historic Church. In addition, I am also referencing a Church that does not represent an uniformed Christianity. What I mean here is a Christian church that is genuinely ignorant of what Transgenderism is. Although I can hardly imagine there are any such churches in America today.
Thus, if you have a genuine and informed Church, be it an Evangelical Church, an Eastern Orthodox Church, or a faithful Roman Catholic Church, then you will inevitably have an irresolvable conflict between that instantiation of the Church and Transgenderism. Carlson rightly describes this conflict as one between those who recognize they are not God, the genuine and informed Christians (my term), and those who play God, the transgender ideologues. In recognizing they are not God, the Christian recognizes they do not have ultimate power over nature. Alternatively, in assuming power over nature, the transgender person is acting in the place of God. This is a layman’s description, but it is accurate in spite of its generality.
The conflict can be summarized this way: there are those who believe in God and accept His creation as a given, and those who disbelieve in God and reject nature as presented to us. When the former group (the Christian community) refuses to acknowledge or accept the latter group’s ability, and indeed desire, to control or alter nature, then the latter group (the transgender community) becomes increasingly aggravated and angry over that refusal. The transgender person is not just at war with God, like the atheist materialist of yesteryear (think Richard Dawkins), but also with nature itself. It is ironic, in this sense, that climate change advocacy and Transgenderism often find themselves as political bedfellows, since climate change enthusiasts usually tout the idea of “back to nature,” while transgender advocates are all about doing whatever it takes to deny nature and make it their slave.
The Widening Conflict
However, we can say more to substantiate Carlson’s general claim that the fundamental difference between the genuine and informed Christian and the transgender person is in their widely opposing relationships to nature. First, the Christian sees nature as a given, a starting point and a constraint. Most Christians would argue from here that this is simply seeing things “as they are.” This means that one is rightly perceiving the real, when one speaks about nature being a certain way. This does not mean, however, that we have a perfect grasp of nature. It just means that we can know something about nature, its objectivity, and its power over us.
However, this perceiving the real is a double-edged sword. For not everything that we understand as real is itself amendable, or pleasurable, to us. There are things about nature that we may not like or that we find inconvenient or, perhaps, detestable. At the level of the individual person, it could be things about our natural bodies that we don’t appreciate (genetic defects, physical features, our biological sex). This fosters a certain kind of psychomachia in us. We all recognize this.
Of course, the Christian will point to a doctrine of sin to explain why nature is not the way we might want it to be. This would include nature external to ourselves, as well as the nature of our own selves. It is here that the transgender person must fundamentally disagree with the Christian. Since there is no way nature, be it external nature or the nature of our own self, is actually supposed to be, then it is within the realm of the human will to determine what nature is and, whatever we determine it to then be, to do with it as we please. There is, in this sense, nothing about nature that restrains us, because there is no nature that exists to do the constraining! Carlson rightly sees the inevitability of conflict between these two opposing “theologies” (3:15-3:25).
Much of what Carlson hits on in the monologue echoes the thoughts of Thomas Sowell. Sowell wrote about this deep conflict of anthropological visions long before Transgenderism was even a thing. At the outset of his classic treatise on political theory, A Conflict of Visions, Sowell speaks of two opposing ideologies. He labels these two positions on human identity, for the sake of argument, the “constrained” and “unconstrained” views of human nature. Here is Sowell’s initial framing of the problem at the outset of the book:
The capacities and limitations of man are implicitly seen in radically different terms by those whose explicit philosophical, political, or social theories are built on different visions. Man’s moral and mental natures are seen so differently that their respective concepts of knowledge and of institutions necessarily differ as well. Social causation itself is conceived differently, both as to mechanics and results. Time and its ancillary phenomena—traditions, contracts, economic speculation, for example—are also viewed quite differently in theories based on different visions. The abstractions which are part of all theories tend to be viewed as more real by followers of some visions than by followers of opposing visions. Finally, those who believe in some visions view themselves in a very different moral role from the way that followers of other visions view themselves. The ramifications of these conflicting visions extend into economic, judicial, military, philosophical, and political decisions.
These two visions are so different, according to Sowell, that morality, mentality, causation and even time are understood in fundamentally different ways. Of course, downstream from all of these, are the particular political and social issues that any society is bound to deal with. Thus, Carlson’s claim that Christianity and Transgenderism are vying “theologies” is not just hyperbolic. Transgenderism has a metaphysics that competes with that of traditional Christianity at the most fundamental level. It is, ultimately, the conflation of theology proper (the study of God in Himself) with theological anthropology (the study of man as one of God’s creations). The conflict here is at the deepest level, and it is ever widening in the culture. That it will spill over into violence should not surprise us all that much.
When Religions Conflict, Expect Violence
Violence between religions is nothing new. Christianity has warred with Islam, and Islam with Christianity, for centuries. Within Christendom, there were denominational wars of the 16th and 17th centuries that decimated Europe. It was these very same wars that lead our founding fathers in America to ground the nation’s institutions not in special Revelation, but in natural law (i.e., general revelation). It should not surprise us, therefore, that as Transgenderism emerges as a new kind of religion, that some in that religion may become violent against its primary theological competitor: Christianity. Of course, the victims of religious zealotry are usually those ideological opponents who themselves are committed to a genuine form of their own faith.
Muslims invading Christian territories in the early Middle Ages did not have to kill or subjugate those”Christians” who were happy to convert to the new religion. Only Christians who persisted in worshipping Jesus as God were truly threatening to the Ummah. Thus, it is unlikely that we will see violence against so-called “affirming” churches. What would be the point of targeting these ideological allies? Those churches and Christian communities we would expect to be targeted, would be the ones that reject the anthro-theology of Transgenderism, and, instead, call transgender persons to repentance. These are the only real threat to Transgenderism in the land.
Some Caveats To This Thesis
Let me caveat this entire article by saying two things. First, as a father of three young children, I hate to have to write an article like this in light of an actual tragedy like that in Nashville. It is no comfort to those grieving to do a worldview analysis like this that is highly theoretical and somewhat abstract. Nevertheless, we must challenge and contend at the level of ideology. If we do not fight at the level of ideas, we will continue to live and relive concrete tragedies like that of Covenant school. I commend Carlson for pointing out this higher order, philosophical issue on what is otherwise a popular show on politics.
Second, however, I think Carlson, being the polemicist he is, does exaggerate the problem. I highly doubt we will see much “trans-terrorism” in the future. Even in a religion as hyper-masculine and dogmatically aggressive as Islam, Islamic terrorism is still the exception to the rule. I am not saying there won’t be future instances of violence against Christian communities by trans people (most likely biological men acting as women), but I do think it will be fairly marginal. I wouldn’t expect a community as effeminate as the trans community to become physically violent, or, at least, exceedingly so. Again, the preferred weapons of warfare by the LGBTQ+ community are verbal and psychological. These are much more effective means of social compulsion, as any Marxist in the Gramscian school will tell you.
The Church’s Response To Conflict
The genuine and informed Christian response to all this is love. To be more specific, since the term “love” has itself been coopted, the genuine Christian response is caritas, or charity. Entailed in charity is the idea of self-sacrificial love, which itself entails forgiveness. Once the ideological battle is lost and violence strikes, then the only Christian response is to suffer as Christ did. There is no retaliation and no vengeance to be sought for the true believer. We can only lament, both for the victims and for the perpetrator of the crime.
There simply is no exception to the rule of love for Christians, even when under attack. It is only a shame that the shooter, Audrey Hale, was killed. I am not questioning that she should have been killed, just bemoaning the fact she had to be killed. Yet, I have no doubt that in spite of the gut-wrenching struggle of the parents and family members of the victims, that there would have been the possibility of forgiveness and redemption. We have seen it before, and we know that the genuine Christian can and will love her enemies, and bless those who persecute her.
At the same time, the Church must stand for the truth. We must stop enabling transpersons to act as if they have dominion over nature, and to stop playing at being nature’s God. We must call the trans community to repentance, we must call everyone back to repentance. But, we are not doing this. And, in not echoing the very first word of Jesus’ ministry “Repent!” (Matt 4:17), we are not only disobeying God, we are failing His image bearers.
*see Alvin Plantinga, Where The Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism
Featured Image: Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons