To use glorious British understatement, it has been an interesting week.
The state of the intellectual and spiritual condition of our nation has been played out in the media, especially on the question of “gender fluidity”.
Earlier in the week it was reported that the Holy Ghost Catholic Primary School in Wandsworth has decided that the words “Mother” and “Father” will be removed from their application forms because it discriminated against step, single and gay parents. To remove the fundamental and historical designations given to biological parents is more than just avoiding offence, but part of an assumed new morality.
Then, the Church of England in their bullying guidance issued to its schools, said pupils should be free to explore who they might be as they dress up in a tiara or superhero cloak, without comment from teachers or other children. The report, Valuing All God’s Children, endorsed by Justin Welby, said children should be able to play with “the many cloaks of identity” without being labelled or bullied. Children should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgment or derision.
Further, a teacher in Oxford is facing disciplinary action at his school after he referred to a transgender pupil as a girl, although the student identifies as a boy.
As Melanie McDonagh, in the Spectator, says: “There is obviously nothing to be said against standing up to bullying of any description. But it’s not just taking a benign approach to little boys who varnish their fingernails, is it? What it’s about is more fundamental: embracing the whole notion of gender as a construct, a matter of choice, to be reinvented at will.”
Brendan O’Neill, also in the Spectator, comments that he cannot remember “when a new and contested ideology has been so uncritically embraced by the powers-that-be… it shows how far down the rabbit hole of relativism our society has gone. I fear for the future if we will not even tell boys they are boys and girls they are girls. If teachers lack the authority even to say, ‘You’re a boy and should wear a boy’s uniform’, we are cultivating a new generation that will expect its every instinct to be instantly respected and worse, that the social infrastructure, from bathrooms to uniform policies, should mould themselves around their instincts.”
Witness the reaction of Phillip Schofield when interviewing Andrea Williams of Christian Concern and the teacher who referred to a girl as a girl and you will see how believing gender is fixed at birth has become the new heresy, and inclusivity policies have become the new blasphemy laws. There was a similar obvious disdain in the interview of Tim Dieppe on the BBC with an assumption that Christian ideas belong to a previous age.
There is really no engagement with the historical, political or scientific elements to this debate about gender. A completely unproven and untested set of assumptions are being put forward as mainstream, scientifically-proven and caring. “Gender dysphoria” which was until recently recognised as a psychological disorder, is now an identity to be embraced. In a breath-taking move verging on state-sponsored child-abuse, our children are now being told that they were “assigned” genders at birth that they have the right and the means to change.
As Christians we want to fully support moves to avoid bullying of all kinds, but we strongly believe it is in our children’s best interests and for the good of society that they are brought up with boundaries, including those of gender, and are not left to choose things that are against biology and the law as it currently stands. The agenda behind much of these cases is not tolerance or protection of children but, as Melanie Phillips writes,“an attempt to change the entire basis of society from one governed by external moral rules and duties to one in which the only rule that has any authority is the duty to actualise our own inner potential and fulfil our own desires.”
As Christians, because we love people we want to argue for the goodness of God’s ways and point out the danger of destructive ideologies. We must do our best to stand up for the rights of children to receive the loving care of parents who will tell them the truth of who they are and help them securely navigate an increasingly confusing world.
As church leaders we need to work harder to equip our churches to face these challenges, whether in the workplace, the home, at school or in their own families. We need to teach the truth of God’s word and God’s ways but also the goodness of God and help them make their arguments lovingly and winsomely to people who have been swept up in the liberal agenda.
But with Christians making up such a small proportion of the population we recognise that our efforts will always be limited as the tide of our culture is flowing against our Christian heritage. We need to evangelise with renewed vigour for the glory of God and for the good of our nation.
Those secular writers quoted above have no answer to the slide towards complete moral relativism. Even though they can see the dangers they do not have an ideology to compete with it. In Christ we are more than tolerated – we are truly accepted and brought into a family of equals. Only as they come under the rule of the most loving human being who has ever lived can people truly experience freedom. We need to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that many may turn to Christ. As Isaiah prays,
“Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you!” (Isaiah 64:1-2)