Friday, June 5, 2015

Tolerance and Truth (or How Bruce Jenner is the New Origen)

I have really tried to avoid blogging about anything even tangentially related to the Kardashians.  I find the culture that they promote repugnant, especially as it is sold as "real life."  My normal method for dealing with them is to ignore them and hope that the next fad will take over and they will go the way of Snooki and Pet Rocks.

But now the pop culture has been embroiled in a new push to normalize transgenderism.  A lot of internet ink has already been spilled, so I decided to throw my two cents into the fray.

When trying to formulate something interesting to say about this, I could not help thinking of Origen.

Origen, who lived in the 2nd-3rd Century, is one of the most influential of the early Church fathers, pioneering some of the most intriguing methods of Biblical criticism that we still use to this day.

But Origen will never be known as St. Origen.  Some of it has to do with some of his contradictory theologies that were opposed to the teaching of the Apostles.

And there's the fact that he castrated himself.

"Call Me Origennifer!"

According to the story, Origen took literally the passage "if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off."  And since he struggled with lust, he decided to remove the source of his mental turmoil.

Now, I want you to imagine that you encountered Origen right before he was was about go through with his plan.  I imagine the conversation would go something like this:

You: Hello, Origen.
Origen: Hello, stranger.
You: Where are you going with that rock.
Origen: I'm going to cut off my genitals.
You:  WHAT?
You: No, I'm not hard of hearing, I just was incredulous.
Origen:  Oh.  My apologies.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some genitals to destroy.
You:  Wait!
Origen: What is it?
You:  You don't want to do that.
Origen: Of course I do.
You: Why would you mutilate yourself so?
Origen: I have been struggling with my inner self.  I am constantly plagued with the feelings of lust.  In order to be rid of my temptation, I am going to cut off my genitals.
You:  But isn't there a less extreme way to deal with this?
Origen:  Yes.  Goodbye.

Now, I think anyone who has struggled with lust can at least have a modicum of sympathy for Origen.  There are some who find their sexual temptations so overwhelming that they would do almost anything to be rid of them.


But mutilating the body is not the answer.

And this brings us back to Bruce Jenner.  There are many who have expressed sympathy for his plight: he has always felt like a woman in a man's body.  To not feel comfortable in your own skin is a terrible thing.

But aren't there less extreme ways of helping him than cutting off his genitals?

Bruce is not a woman.  He never can be.  He has been made from his very moment of conception to be a male.  Surgery will not change that.  Biologically, he still has the Y-Chromosome.  Cutting off his genitals will not change that.  Spiritually, he still has the masculine soul.  This also cannot be changed by surgery.

We live in a country where we say that people should be free to live however they want.  And for the most part this makes a good deal of sense in a country founded on liberty.  For that reason we pride ourselves on our tolerance.

But what good is tolerance without truth?

We are told to stop being so judgmental and let everyone live the life they choose.  Fine and dandy.  But there's a problem.

I remember I was asked by a student why I didn't want gay people to be happy?  I was flummoxed by the question and responded: "Of course I want gay people to be happy.  I want all people to be happy."  She then asked if that was the case, why didn't I simply say that they should be allowed to engage in sexual relationships with people of the same sex.  I said, "Because that isn't going to make them happy."

My answer is incomprehensible to a person who believes that we make our own happiness.  If I am the author of my own happiness and if I can find it on my own terms, then whatever I freely choose for myself, if I want it and aquire it, should make me happy.  If I believe that drugs will make me happy, then using them will make me happy.  If I believe money will make me happy then acquiring wealth will make me happy.  If I believe sex will make me happy than sharing my genitals with another will make me happy.

I think most of you can already see the problem.

If the above idea was true, that achieving whatever I desire makes me happy, shouldn't we have a lot more happy people.  And by happy, I do not mean momentary pleasure.  I'm talking about that peace and contentment that does not shake a person, even in times of trouble.  I'm talking about that sense of completeness and fulfillment that surpasses all understanding.

But our world seems decidedly less happy, rather than happier.

Part of the reason is that we have gotten away from truth.

Human beings are made with a certain nature.  Socrates understood that a successful and happy human would be one that lived according to human nature.  He was only interested in ethics because that is the branch of philosophy that deals with living rightly.  Socrates knew that the only way to happiness was to live rightly.

This is not a snobbish judgment of those who do not live according to my own personal standards.  My iPhone has the nature of a smartphone.  I could use it as a hammer.  But that would not be in keeping with its nature and so it will do harm to it and it will also probably not achieve the results that a hammer would.

The same thing is true of human beings.  Acting against our nature means we will not function properly and that will not be able to live rightly.  Thus happiness will be out of our reach.

But sometime in the last 50 years, our culture has done everything it could to untether human beings from human nature.  Things which were natural to human society were said to mere changeable social constructs.  And this lie went further to say that we can be the authors of our own happiness apart from what people called "nature."

In the movie TransAmerica, the main character is man who is transitioning into a woman.  When confronted about the contradiction of his Christian beliefs and his transgenderism, the main character responds, "My body may be a work in progress, but there is nothing wrong with my soul!"

What an inversion of nature!

Are we not as God made us physically?  Broken in these bodies, yes, but maleness and femaleness are not disorders to be cured.  And aren't our souls a work in progress?  Aren't I supposed to work out my salvation with fear and trembling, as St. Paul says?  The purveyors of our popular culture would have us stake our entire identity on our mortal, dying bodies and give up any hope of healing the sickness and sin in our immortal souls.

You are born male or female (even hermaphrodites are essentially male or female based on the presence or absence of the Y-Chromosome).
There is something wrong if you think of yourself as one sex and you are biologically another.  Even Mr. Jenner would agree with that last statement.  It appears that there are two possibilities then:

a.  I am the sex that I am and I must come to terms with how best to live as I am.
b.  My sex is a mistake and I will have surgery to correct that mistake.

Unlike, say, a deficient heart valve or even an abnormally shaped nose, sexual reassignment surgery does not fix or enhance nature.  It mutilates it.

This is what Bruce Jenner has done and is planning to do to himself.  And millions are applauding him for doing so.  In fact, notice the subtle and not-so subtle pressure to join the chorus of those who celebrate this.  Even our president has glorified Mr. Jenner's action.  If you speak critically of this course of action you are threatened to be labeled transphobic (you cannot say homophobic because Mr. Jenner has made no real indication that he has an attraction to other men).  In fact, it has gotten to the point where it is not enough to be tolerant.  We must now also celebrate his transformation or we are labeled haters.

Yet truth is truth even if no one believes it.

A lie is a lie even if everyone believes it.

I'm sorry, but the emperor has no clothes.  Or in this case, the pop culture celebrity has no ovaries.

I make no judgment on Mr. Jenner.  I do not know what it is like to deal with his internal struggles. I will keep in my prayers.  I want him to be truly and permanently happy.

But just like Origen, I would probably suggest another way to find happiness than cutting off his genitals.


  1. "I have really tried to avoid blogging about anything even tangentially related to the Kardashians. I find the culture that they promote repugnant, especially as it is sold as "real life." "

    Then DON'T!

    Do not validate this mind numbingly depressing nonsense in any way, shape, or form, by word, thought, or deed.

    And don't blame anyone but the public at large.

    Never Give a Sucker an Even Break

    Never Wise Up a Chump

    and You Can't Cheat an Honest Man.

    - Saint Fields

  2. "You cannot remove evil from the world, you can resist it within yourself"

    Lao Tzu