First published in the Catholic Herald.           Please Subscribe!

The Germans are finally in a position to take their revenge for the world famous Monty Python sketch where they are remorselessly sent up as Basil Fawlty who maniacally declaims “Don’t mention the war.”

The University of Cambridge is attempting to impose wokery on German grammar. Its usual to try to learn and communicate a language in the form those who speak it would recognise. But no longer.

Undergraduates at Cambridge have been urged to use “inclusive language” in German, and “gender and non-binary inclusive language when we address or refer to students and colleagues.”

How is this to be done? One way is going to be to insert an asterisk before the suffix – a non-standard usage now known as the ‘gender star.” It is noted that “in extended German texts grammatical structures can inhibit inclusivity…relative and other pronouns, for example, are obligatorily marked for grammatical gender, so going gender free is difficult to achieve.”

What do the Germans themselves think of this?  Oliver Baer, of the German Language Association, said that the curriculum at Cambridge was like a comedy sketch. “My first reaction is it’s like Monty Python is back” he said.

Baer points out that language doesn’t evolve from the top down. “Maybe you can do that in North Korea, but not in our society.” Except of course that the reference to North Korea, whilst it may be the most stringent example of state control Baer could think of, reminds us that the pressures to change our society are not amateur, haphazard or democratic.

It’s then that he reaches for a form of words that ought to make us pause and think.  Baer, claiming that his mother tongue was being abused, added that “people were possessed by genitalia.”

Clearly this was just a common phrase, a figure of speech. But it’s a figure of speech that is reached for by many people when they wonder “what got into” someone.

If the project was only one of reconfiguring the gender contours of German Grammar in one

University, we might comfort ourselves that it being eccentric and idiosyncratic. But if Baer is right, the problem we face in having surrendered ourselves in such a way is going to have serious consequences across a much wider spectrum.

Jordan Peterson has used the same language and same diagnosis.

He described ideologs as being ‘possessed by particular ideas’; “You don’t have ideas…ideas have you.” In his confrontations with determined opponents whose minds were constrained by unwavering ideological commitments, he wanted to draw our attention to the way in which human perception and human freedom could be distorted and limited by a form of intellectual bondage. Possession is too strong a word to use in fact, and once again, acts as a figure of speech. He might have been wiser to use a weaker word; but he wanted to draw our attention to the way in which we can surrender our free will and judgement to powerful forces, intellectual or otherwise, whose origins lie beyond us. 

The Catholic Church in particular has always been aware of the dangerous power of ideological bondage. It has celebrated the paradox that the deepest  freedom comes from surrender to Love. It was St  Augustine who composed the prayer “ God, Whom to know is to live, Whom to serve is to reign, and Whom to praise is the health and joy of the soul…” which became in Thomas Cranmer “O God, Who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom..”

But the Catholic Church too has an experience of a wider and more subtle multi-dimensional arena of human struggle. This includes a diagnosis of the spiritual life in which spiritual deliverance from metaphysical forces has played an essential role in preserving the freedom God intends us to have.

Without digressing into the world of deliverance, Oliver Baer directed our attention to the suffocating constraint that sex and sexuality have imposed on our culture. “Possessed by genitalia” works as a figure of speech. It may also work as a direct diagnosis.  It may be that the diagnosis of some form or perverse possession, infiltration or obsession is the one that will serve us best to describe what is going on.

Having refused and rejected Christian ethical boundaries that constrained sex and sexuality, the result has been an overwhelming capitulation in our culture to sexual appetite. One might almost say an obsession. Perhaps Baer is correct in suggesting parts of our culture have been captured by a preoccupation with and an obsession with our genitalia?

Once the norms of heterosexual boundaries and the restrain of heterosexual marriage were impaired, a torrent of sexualisation flooded in.

What was unthinkable a few years ago is becoming normative today.  The obsession has overflowed the walls of academia and washed into the nurseries and over our children.

The whole astonishing phenomenon of Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH) which has swept into primary schools and nurseries, embodies a determined strategy to extend preoccupation with adult genitalia to children. The sexualisation of children and this exposure to adult perverse sexuality, has been described as a form of societal grooming by those agencies which permit and welcome it. We are suddenly in the land of state sponsored paedophilia.

The Drag Queen phenomenon represents a new step in the deconstruction of sex, the reconstruction of child sexuality, and the subversion of middle-class family life. The ideology that drives this movement was born in the sex dungeons of San Francisco and incubated in the academy. It has found its way, with official state support, into a number of public libraries and schools across the United States and now, Europe.

A recent academic paper (Kornstein and Keenan) explains, that this is an intellectual and political project that involves drag queens and activists working toward undermining traditional notions of sexuality, replacing the biological family with the ideological family, and arousing transgressive sexual desires in young children. So it is clearly at least a subversive and transgressive strategy consciously aimed at the destruction of Christian morality. But it may be more than that. It may be spiritual as well as intellectual.

If this movement of obsession and perversity, stretching from German grammar to Nursery re-education is both intellectual and spiritual, then the Church needs to re-think its accommodation to the secular addiction to sexuality.

It will have to look for allies to combat the ideological strategies of perversity; but also wake up to the fact that this looks increasingly as though it is a multi-dimensional struggle.

If it does have a spiritual dimension as well as an ideological one, then the Catholic Church will need to play a central role in the strategy to offer deliverance to our neighbours, since only the Church has the resources to both diagnose and deliver in such spiritual categories.

We are no longer confronting an interest and a preference for sexual diversity. We are faced with something much darker, stronger and more perverse. It’s time for the Church to wake up to its responsibilities.

Whereas Monty Python made its mark with the meme “don’t mention the war” the Catholic Church is going to have remind society that it may in fact be involved in a very serious moral, ideological and spiritual war. This situation is one in which we may have to reverse the Pythonesque theatre of the absurd and re-acquaint our society that it is indeed ‘at war’.

For this is a war in which if our society loses,  the chief casualties are going to be not only going to be linguistic grammatical norms, but more importantly, our children.

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