All posts by Dr. Charlie Self

Human Identity Up for Grabs

When I was a university and seminary student in the 1970s and 1980s, radical feminists declared, “Gender is a social construction” as they advocated for reappraisal of male and female passions and roles. No one, even the most extreme, suggested that someone could choose their gender. Fast-forward to the 1990s and the LGBTQ movement is searching for genetic underpinnings for same-sex or bisexual attractions. Finding none, by the 2000s they declare that what used to be dysphoria (people feeling like a woman/man in a man’s/women’s body) is really an opportunity for transgender reassignment surgery or simply choosing a new identity.

Today, we are told that being “cisgender” (i.e. normal male or female identity and desire for intimacy with the opposite sex) is part of the “privilege” of “heteronormative oppression.” It is now cool and exotic to claim some form of unusual identity, especially if one can distance themselves from anything resembling a white male, who, by definition, is filled with “toxic masculinity.”

Added to gender confusion is racial identity, where anything other than White is OK, though Asian is now suspect because of some groups succeeding in the academy and economy. Whether it is Senator Warren creating a career out of a false identity with the Cherokee people or a former NAACP leader exposed as not Black enough, we are in a state of deep confusion and new tribalism that does not bode well for the common good.

We must return to the biblical vision espoused by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. People should be evaluated by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Going deeper, we must reaffirm the biblical vision of a common humanity and male and female identity – without the historical oppression of class, gender, or race.

The Bible is brilliant in its profound simplicity. Here is the Creation order of Genesis 1:26-28 and 5:1-2:

  • We are created in God’s image
  • We have a job to do (care for and cultivate creation)
  • We carry out this vocation as a male or female
  • Male and female are both called “Adam” – which is the term for all humanity

For social cohesion, this means that every person I meet is made in God’s image and worthy of dignity and respect. Each person I meet is fashioned to bring good to our world, if given access and opportunity. Furthermore, each person (with rare genetic exceptions in a fallen world) is a male or female – equal and different. Cultural traditions are NOT neutral – they enhance or impair human flourishing.

The reasons for gender confusion are many and no one should be mistreated. This does not mean we should accept any and every set of behaviors as normal! And in the next essay we will examine the moral codes for flourishing neighborhoods and nations.

Next week: True Toleration and Moral Universals

Inversion: Parallel Universes

I entitled this piece, “Inversion” because we have a world in which what was previously morally clear and obviously true is no longer seen that way, especially by purveyors of identity politics and anarchistic philosophies. “Parallel universes” is a phrase that describes the lenses through which people see the same events, ideas and trends…and it is stunning how different these visions are!

Two crises dominate the public square, especially in the USA and the West. The first is anthropology: what does it mean to be a human being, and, what is the future of male and female identity? The second crisis is the foundation of the first one: how do we “know” anything? In a world of competing “memes” and “narratives” where is the room for empirical research and critical thinking? Emotions rule the day and how particular persons and groups “feel” trumps careful research and reflection.

Let’s begin with how we “know.” Philosophers and religious leaders have debated for millennia about the nature of reality and the sources of our knowledge. Much of this was confined to the academy and esoteric circles. Most of humankind wakes up to a challenging world of laboring for daily bread and they do not need a lesson of whether or not their toil is “real.” The importance of events has always been debated, but not the reality itself. Historians love gathering different perspectives; however, all but a few would affirm, “Some events really happened.”

For the past 20 years, we have allowed feeling, political agendas, and image- and social media-driven communication to eclipse careful evaluation. From former President Obama’s fictionalized autobiographies to current debates on climate change, gullibility or suspicion is driven by ideology, not research. The very people that scream, “Science matters!” about climate change ignore advances in science completely as they promote abortion and infanticide. Gender confusion is a psychosocial pathology – science is clear that 99% of humans are born with particular DNA designating them male and female.

We need a return to reason and research, a willingness to subject ideas to scrutiny and adapt our understanding after careful reflection. Such progress will not be politically correct or conform to everyone’s feelings. It will, however, help us solve real problems and promote human flourishing.

Next week: human identity up for grabs.

True Toleration

Moral convictions do not mean the absence of compassion. True toleration helps neighbors of vastly different universes live peaceably together with love and respect. If I disagree with someone’s beliefs or behaviors, it is not narrow-mindedness or disrespect.

Can we all grow up a bit and stop labeling and libeling?

I believe unborn and newly-born children are human persons. That is a love for life, not a war on women.

I am a Christian; therefore, I disagree on some matters with my Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, or secular neighbors…who I will gladly work with to make our world a better place.
We have miles to go on gender equality and racial injustice. I do not need to hate myself or “shut up”, however. 

I think ethical free enterprise is better than centralized socialism. This does not mean I reject a safety net or concern for the environment. I want America to lead the world in hospitality for immigrants…and secure the borders and reform her policies.

As a minister, I will only consecrate heterosexual, monogamous marriages. That does not mean I will not be a good neighbor to adults that organize life differently. As an academic, I enjoy presenting all sides of important issues. Truth can stand the test of opposing arguments.

The moment we label and libel, we end the search for wisdom and reveal fear of “the other.”
We must want for all others the liberties that we enjoy.