It has been said that we don’t get ideas; they get us.
Two announcements have been made recently from within the Church of England. One was that they looked to increase the quota of ethnic and other minorities ordained to the Christian priesthood, and the other was the promotion of transgendered people as clergy.
The second idea is simply an intensification of the first. We have been hearing so much about minorities and diversity in recent years, it can be hard to remember that these are artificial political categories that have not been around very long.
By artificial, what I mean is that they are all to do with category and not with content. The categories are political ones that allow a language based on power to be used and developed. What is an ‘ethnic minority’? It all depends on where you use the word. In England it becomes a euphemism for non-indigenous people. What would it mean in India? There an Englishman or woman would be part of the ethnic minority. Do you ever hear anyone show concern for the English as an ethnic minority in India? No, of course not.
So, we are dealing with categories that have been invented so that the language and lens of power relations can be used to define and develop the culture; and in particular to the situation in the West.
This is a strategy of what we are calling the New Left, and it’s a very dangerous one. Its intention is to capture both politics and culture and radically change them.
The Church ought to have noticed that one of the aspects of the New Left and its ambition for culture, is that it literally hates ‘Judaeo-Christian’ values.
At this point, the new alliance between Islam (given a special pass both because it is an ally in destroying Judaeo-Christianity, and because it is a minority in Europe) and the New Left makes its impact energetically felt.
You might have thought that the people who drive the values and culture of the Church of England would have noticed that as a political and cultural factor. But they haven’t.
So, it is pretty hopeless to expect them to exercise a biblical and spiritual critique on this new movement and culture as well. But since this is the language of the Church, we ought to try to help them see what they are doing.
The political power gambit concentrates on ‘category before content’. That is why it is into identity politics; and that is why it sees people as groups and the collective, rather than recognise the value of people as individuals.
But this in itself has terrible implications. The whole idea of the incarnation, is that God became a human to save His lost creation.
But one of the critical elements in the Bible, and in particulate in the Gospels, is that God deals with people individually and not collectively. He engages with us at a direct personal level, not through our parents, tribe, skin colour, intelligence or sex.
At this basic level, you might have thought that the Church would have been wary of collectivism and politics. Both are set in opposition to the values of the Church, where we deal with individuals and do so in terms of ‘Love’ (and love here means God’s holy compassion.)
When the Diocese of Lichfield advertises its concern to be kind to people suffering from gender dysphoria and encourages them to become clergy, it makes several tragic and dangerous mistakes.
Once we have moved from the Old Testament (where there were indeed elements of collectivism and group identity, as for example the priests who belonged to the tribe of Levi), the Holy Spirit is category blind.
St Paul tried to make that clear when he looked at the traditional categories of antipathy and struggle.
In his world, they were summed up in Jew v Gentile, Roman v Greek, slave v free. He explained that the implications of the incarnation are that no Christian should define themselves with a collectivist adjective. You cannot be therefore a ‘white Christian’; or a ‘rich’ Christian. You can’t be a ‘straight Christian’ (and hardly anyone has wanted to call themselves that.) So nor can you be a ‘gay Christian’ or a transgendered one.
In fact, St Paul goes further with the matter of homosexuality and talks only of acts, of sexual intimacy entered into. There are no such thing as gay or homosexual Christians. Some might want to describe themselves as gay or homosexual, though even then it seems unusually shallow to sum up a whole human being in terms of their sexual appetite. In fact, it represents a decadent and sad diminution of the way one looks at people.
Even Gore Vidal, one of the homosexual revolution’s most articulate advocates despised the idea of calling people gay.
In an interview with the London Times his interviewer wrote, “Vidal says that he hates labels and has said he believes in homosexual acts rather than homosexual people.”
The moment a Church starts talking about gay Christians it has been captured by an anti-Christian idea, some would go further and say ‘an anti-Christian spirit.’
The Gospels only know of men and women, for whom sex is an energy in marriage. There are some who don’t marry; there are some who aren’t attracted to the opposite sex. But these are actions, not categories. And like all actions they get assessed by being compared to God’s ideal – sexual intimacy in marriage alone, for the purposes of giving birth to children.
But it’s not as if we are left in the state when we first encountered Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” And so begins a journey of transformation.
But the Church of England is selling out to the spirit and energy of secular, sexualised politics. It is happy to leave people in their pre-Christian categories, and in their pre-Christian captivities. There is no language of journey or transformation. This is a Church that is content for the world to be the world, and for people to remain characterised by their captivity. This is not salvation, this is stagnation.
The Church has long understood that the way sin works in the world is to take what it good and twist and distort it.
There are innumerable wounds and scars that we are both born with and experience, physical, psychological and spiritual. But the work of the Holy Spirit is to mend and heal and straighten out. It would have been inconceivable to previous generations that if someone experienced a clash or conflict between their body and mind, between their identity and imagination, that they should be left there.
Megalomaniacs develop this mismatch between their imagination and identity. They imagine, or they long for power over other people that their bodies or situations don’t endow. They work at adjusting the external of their lives so that this internal fantasy can be more fully expressed. Gender dysphoria is a similar mental disability, but experienced in terms of gender rather than power.
To set about making ourselves or the external world conform with our imagination can be dangerous to ourselves and others. And once we are in Christ, we seek healing for aberrations of mind and spirit.
But in relation to this one disability, gender dysphoria, the Church issues no challenge and offers no hope of transformation.
More than that, it is about to set up those who suffer from it, or celebrate it, as a model of Christian living.
To some extent all clergy are called to be models of aspiring transformation. Models of forgiveness, of charity, of humility, of trust and faith, of spiritual and moral struggle.
Except that now, the Church of England exempts the mentally distressed, so long as their distress relates to sex and gender.
It has yet to encourage manic depressive and psychopaths to become priests in order to fully reflect society. And why not?
In terms of spiritual discernment the reason why not may have to do with discerning what the idea is that has captured the Church of England.
The one set of categories that is biblically endorsed are men and women.
For as men and women we are made in the image of God. The ‘idea’ or energy or spirit that has ‘got’ society and now the Church, seems to make a priority of using sex as a prism through which to name, describe and distort society.
The very idea of men and women has come under attack from 3rd wave feminism which refuses and refutes revelation, and teaches that sex is chemically malleable and gender is infinitely flexible. And the effect of this is to distort the the image and category of what God has given and what He intended.
We are supposed to be able, once we have grown up a little in the faith, to trace the spiritual and theological fingerprints of different movements and ideas back to their source. This involves using a mixture of common sense and the charism of discernment.
This idea that has got or captured the Church. It removes the overarching narrative of love and redemption set in a dynamic of reconciliation, and replaces them with sex and power set in a dynamic of antagonism.
It attacks the categories of sex and gender used for the imaging of God and replaces them with new ones, driven by hubristic self-realisation.
At what point might the Church of England notice that is has given up the life and language of the New Testament and the grace of the transforming Holy Spirit for the death and incoherence of politicisation and the stagnation of the spirit of the age?
Of course it thought it was doing a good thing in exercising a kind of indulgent compassion to the sexually wounded and dysfunctional. But it is in the nature of all temptation to present or mask evil as good, and disaster as promise.
There is a way out. There is one door through which the Church can pass in order find its freedom, but it is the door of repentance, ‘metanoia’, and the consequent transformation of the mind and soul.
In the language of the Church, in order to be the Church, trans needs to stand for transformation, not trans-sexual.