Patricia Nell Warren

Gender and the Holy Protestant Empire

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | February 19, 2008 5:13 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Bible, evangelical Christian, gender issues, Presidential election, scientific ignorance

While the ENDA uproar goes on, evangelicals are desperately figuring out how to wrap the Bible around their vehement "no" on civil rights for people with gender issues. A recent article in Christianity Today lays out their developing position. Author John W. Kennedy states -- with the typical smug tone that these people adopt when they think they're speaking for God -- "The transgender movement clashes with traditional Christian theology that teaches the only God-given expression of human sexuality is between a man and woman who are married."

Sure, I get it. EVs are recognizing that the transgendered civil-rights movement is a very dangerous opponent. It might upset the apple cart on conservative Christian definitions of gender and marriage. Kennedy's article is worth reading for the whole train of thought.

I often wonder if evangelicals are even vaguely aware about the recent scientific discoveries of a whole array of physical and sex chromosome variations. I guess they don't bother to read the news or the scientific literature. In any case, their official position shows how pathetically ignorant they are about this whole demographic of people they're talking about, who are way more numerous that the CT article admits.

Evangelicals state that "God doesn't make mistakes" on gender. But here they show their ignorance. Because it's clear that God, or Mother Nature, or the Law of Chance, or whatever Universal Force one might believe in, is seeing to it that certain people get born with these sex-chromosome or physical variations, that put them at painful odds with the legal definition of "gender" stamped on their birth certificate.

I am always intrigued by the historical flip-flop that the Biblical fundamentalist bunch have pulled off, that makes it possible for them to try force-feeding us with their gender doctrine. In the 1600s "Protestantism" started as an understandable revolt against a cruel Roman Catholic hegemony. Martin Luther and other rebels no longer accepted the Catholic Church's insistence that only its corrupt hierarchy, notably the Pope, had a handle on absolute truth, and could speak for God. Catholicism had gotten its leverage on Western society by establishing the Holy Roman Empire and controlling civil government everywhere. This way the local rulers and the local law enforcement would obediently torture and execute any "heretic" that the church hierarchy pointed the finger at.

But the "protesters" believed that absolute truth was only to be found in the Bible. Today Protestant conservatives have gone far from being a little persecuted minority that got sympathy because it was being tortured and burned at the stake across Europe. Today the ultraconservative evangelicals set themselves up as yet another giant hegemony, insisting that THEY alone speak for God when they interpret the Bible. They don't have a Pope, but that's kind of a moot point, because they have a whole array of leaders who act like Popes and talk like Popes.

Here in the U.S., they're using the old Catholic trick of capturing civil government. This way they hope to establish the Holy Protestant Empire. Their aim is to impose themselves on the lives of every citizen through the passage of civil and criminal laws that favor their religion. The result is punishment and jail for anybody who steps out of line -- including the Catholics whose MO they borrowed. Some of these believers have even made it clear that they'll re-establish torture and execution for all "non-Biblical behavior" if they can get away with it.

So everything has to stand or fall on the Bible, including their position in gender realignment issues. The Bible has become a kind of doctrinal silly putty which evangelicals try to wrap around any political or human-rights issue that threatens the establishment of their imperial position.

The problem is, the Bible doesn't have much to say about the gender issue, other than the famous Old Testament lines about "male and female He created them" and "be ye fruitful and multiply." But these lines were written by people who lived 6000 years ago, when many people believed that the Earth was flat -- that disease is caused by "divine wrath" instead of tiny unheard-of things called viruses and bacteria, etc. These people also had no idea that "male and female" turns out to be a very fluid thing, scientifically speaking.

The arrogance and ignorance with which today's evangelicals approach this subject is beyond belief. The CT article quotes one "authority" as saying, "Transgender impulses are strong, but they don't match up with the Christian sexual ethic. Desires must be brought into alignment with biblical teachings, but it will be inconvenient and distressful." This same "authority," Christian psychology professor Warren Throckmorton, says later in the article, "Even if there are prenatal influences, we can't set aside teachings of the Bible because of research findings."

It's not hard to find vivid testimony from people who have run up against these sickeningly oppressive "authorities" when they were struggling to find their way to a desired gender realignment and a life they could feel was their own.

As America heads for the polls in a landmark Presidential election, these evangelicals know that they're fighting for their perceived "right" to speak for God -- to control all belief and social behavior in the U.S. Gender is not a marginal issue -- it is key to what the evangelicals are trying to do. Any voter who supports some Republican with evangelical ties will surely live to realize that he or she has helped to bring back the Holy Roman Empire with all its rigor... but with Protestant silly putty wrapped around it.

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MauraHennessey | February 19, 2008 7:32 PM

Ms Warren;
A wonderful article but might I contribute just one wee correction. The lines were not written 6000 years ago; they were written about 600 years BCE during the Babylonian Captivity. Prior to that, it was nearly all oral history

Thats one of the reasons im Pagan and dont have to put up with that kind of thing.But we should always be leary of people who are to closely tied to any religion why the Rev Mike lost my vote the minute he said he was a candidate.

Unfortunatel, being pagan isn't going to help with these people, since that just gives them another excuse to condemn. It does say to them in their "holy" book, that they shall not suffer a witch to live, and me being a witch, as well as a transwoman, just means they have twice the reason to burn me at the stake.

In the case of science versus faith, I am afraid faith wins hands down with these people. Theirs is the same mindset that condemned Galilieo as a heretic. Their version of reality has no room for the inconvenient truths of science. If you want proof, just look at creationism.

"Even if there are prenatal influences, we can't set aside teachings of the Bible because of research findings."

How well did that work out for the whole "The Earth is flat." theory? Who needs science when we can blame everything on the invisible guy in the sky?

This whole philosophical point of whether or not "God makes (or even allows) mistakes on gender" needs to be looked at carefully. When the EV's make such a statement, what exactly are they saying?

To me it appears there are only two possibilities.

Perhaps God intended that all humans fit neatly into the categories "male" and "female" --- and if that is the position, then it is clear that God does make, or at least allow, mistakes.

The other possibility is that God does not make or allow mistakes, and therefore the entire spectrum of sex chromosome possibilities observed to naturally occur are intended parts of His creation.

But this might also imply that He intends for many distressing chromosome diseases, such as Downs Syndrome, to also be a part of His creation.

Many Christian parents would have little trouble accepting a child with Down's Syndrome into their family --- but if the unusual chromosome configuration involves the sex chromosomes, then all sorts of what's and wherefore's must be incanted and invoked in the interest of keeping one's theology pure --- where "purity" is defined as that which appeals to an established set of pre-determined theological prejudices.

Ultimately, it is impossible to resolve science with superstition --- and as EV's cling to arguments such as these, the resemblance of religious doctrine to superstition becomes all the more clear.

As someone who is a Christian, and who has survived Harry Benjamin Syndrome (i.e. a post-op transsexual for those who insist) I find the remarks here to be somewhat disturbing. Yes, there are some who do not seem open to the truth, but people should also look at how they present things. Intolerance is not a valid response to intolerance. It merely perpetuates the cycle.

Showing tolerance towards the intolerant and oppressors is all very comendable, I mean look at what came of such tolerance in Germany Several decades ago.

How should someone respond to a group that deems them "abomonitions", and seemingly less than human? If the EV's had their way, we would be at best second class citizens, forced to live our lives in secret, at worst burned at the stake or stoned as heretics. If you don't believe this, well a quick look at history will show it fraught with the "tolerance" of theocratic regimes.

America was rightfully founded on the princible of seperation of the church and state, so that history would not be repeated here and an intolerant theocratic state should take root on our soil. According to the EV's favorite pol at this time, they are seeking to change this and rewrite the constitution into one following 'god's' word, or at least god's word according to their interpretation of it.

Having seen examples of their interpretation of it, well this transwoman, or as some would put it, survivor of HBS, is not going to go meekly to the ovens.

To find change, we need to make change, we need to change.

It is continuing problem with the Transgender and the association with the gay movement. We are placed in the same bag and therefore seen in the same light. Not to say that we should not work together, but individual identity, or Trans-Identity, has been obscured by the greater gay political machine. As such the Church and other fundamental organizations see us in a light, which does not reflect who we really are. Further, the few who are so wanting to promote a strong GLBt alliance are often themselves working hard at alienating the Transgender from core society acceptance. (For some it is celebrity status, a money game, or new book.) I have no doubt that behavior which pokes someone in the eye, will never be accepted. Likewise, attitudes which are as closed as those opposed will never be embraced either. Too bad.... nothing changes!

Tolerance does not equate to agreement or concession. Making intolerant attacks and hateful remarks just plays into their hands. It enables them to point at those making such remarks and say "See, they are just like we said." Attacking the evangelicals viciously does not help our cause.

And no one is advocating "going to the ovens," though by making such a remark, you put yourself in violation of "Godwin's Law," and effectively lose the debate. And you also trivialize what did happen in Nazi Germany, though I imagine that fact is lost on many.

Twelve years ago, during online discussions of whether or not transsexuals and transgender people should align with the gay and lesbian movement many warned that it would be a mistake. Pretty much what was predicted then has, at least in some circles, come to pass. While there are many gays and lesbians who are allies of transsexual and transgender people, there is still a significant portion who have tossed them aside.

There needs to be a lot of changes to accomplish anything, but I honestly doubt that is going to happen. The so-called "leadership" of the community is more interested in fighting for lofty, but unachievable goals than realistic progress.

Responding belatedly to Maura's comment:

Thanks for your kind words about the piece. As to the 6000 year bit: Scholars argue a lot about "when" the earliest part of the Bible, the Pentateuch, was written. But nobody can say "when" for sure. A long-standing tradition in the Middle East was to re-write and re-copy, and make new layers, of earlier spiritual and religious traditions. So we don't know if those Bible books from the 1st century BCE were the "first written versions."

I chose to agree with some experts that these Hebrew writings reflect and re-incorporate many earlier written traditions. The kingdom of Sumer was around in 3800 B.C., and has left behind some written records on clay tablets...which is how we know that there are traces of Sumerian religious world-view in the Pentateuch. Ditto some ancient Babylonian and Egyptian written material that also shows up very recognizably in the Old Testament.

So, going by this point of view, a round figure of "six thousand years ago" might be accurate.