There was always something Disneyesque about the 1980s preachers of the prosperity gospel. Of course there was no corpus on their cross, but that sacrilege had been achieved by earlier versions of Protestantism. What was really galling about the perpetually smiling televangelists was their soft-lens obliteration of the cross, which had at least remained a disturbing sign of sacrifice for earlier Protestants. For the televangelists, the cross was resolved and transcended. It was antiseptic, warm, radiant and amorphous.
I don’t think we can over-estimate the harm done by anodyne Christianity, either of the televangelist variety or the various kinds most of us profess to this day. Then and now it was scrubbed clean of the blood of the martyrs. But the most basic truth about Christianity is that we are elevated to participate in the redemptive sacrifice of Christ. We are called to take up our crosses and following him. Through the incarnation God humbled himself to enter into humanity, but in so doing he also elevated us to join with him in the redemptive work of salvation. As St Paul said: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Col. 1:24).
The most basic law of nature is the imperative to self-preservation and the perpetuation of the species. From a single-celled amoeba on up to a human being, it is natural to seek the beneficial and avoid the harmful. But that is never enough for us. The supernatural beckons with truths and obligations beyond our own bodily preservation. We instinctively know that there is a debt to be paid. It is a universal truth that only through sacrifice is the soiled cleaned and sanctified.
Aristotle said we are political animals, that is, we are made for the polis, the city, the community. This fundamental truth intertwines with our intrinsic religiosity. Just as the first word of the Lord’s Prayer is communal, our relationship with God is never strictly private. We approach God with each other and through each other, and the heroically sacrificial among us are our priests. Though our culture is post-Christian our natures remain deeply religious, still requiring sacrifices offered by priests. But the priests of our age are not those consecrated by the Church; they are the sacrificial exemplars of the next step in the forward march of progressive history.
The religion of our age is the belief in the forward march of history, the belief in progress. Evil is the benighted past. And our priests are the vanguard, the ones far enough ahead of the arc to be a challenge, but not quite so far as to be despised. They are not really martyrs, but they wear the mantle of the persecuted forward outliers. Their charism is prophecy. They reveal to us the faces we will see in the mirror tomorrow.
For a period of time, during the ascendancy of gay pride, homosexuals assumed the role of our persecuted avant-garde priesthood. On the one hand they were anything but ascetic, pursuing a hedonistic transgression of natural sexuality, but insofar as they could claim social condemnation and rejection by villainous reactionaries, whether real or imagined, they were exemplars of a transcendent, sacrificial commitment to the religion of progress; they were priests. They had moral authority and we gave them deference.
But once we had caught up with the avant-garde, their claims of persecution and thereby their sacrificial priesthood ended. The religion of progress had triumphed over natural sexuality, and even if we ourselves hadn’t become homosexuals, we had internalized their philosophy. Now we are in the age of the priesthood of the transgendered, and the transformation they are ushering in is much deeper, much more existential. Whereas the homosexual priesthood sanctified the rejection of nature, the transgendered priesthood sanctifies the unreality of being.
The transgendered priesthood is the spiritual compliment to the technological development of virtual reality. The transgendered have transcended not only their natures, but their very bodies. They, and through them, all of us, have achieved spiritual and physical plasticity. There is no longer essence. We are utterly subject to our own redefinition and reconfiguration.
The rise of the transgendered movement marks the complete defeat of common sense realism, which had been the everyday, boots on the ground response to existentialism. It could be seen in the common sense of the parent who would say to her child “you can bark all you want, but that doesn’t make you a puppy.” But now, enlightened by the post-essentialist existentialism of the transgendered age, when little Tanner declares that he feels like a Tanya, mom and dad are floating in space. They give little Tanner hormone blockers and surgery so that his body can be mutilated to match the madness of his mind. Now, any attempt to convince Tanner that he is in fact a boy is viewed as hate speech. For some time now, the naturally modest period of pre-pubescent sexual latency has been forcibly violated by explicit and perverse sex education. Now a growing number of parents support the rights of adult men dressed as women to use the same washrooms and change rooms as their daughters.
Over the course of a mere three years, the transgendered have gone from creepy and transgressive to almost mainstream. Soon, once completely mainstream, they will be desacralized, like the now suburbanized homosexual movement. They will be replaced by a new mildly persecuted avant-garde.
A possible candidate group are advocates of inter-generational sex, or more plainly, adults who want to have sex with children. My students have a visceral disgust at the suggestion, not unlike their response to homosexuality ten years ago, or transgenderism three years ago. But given the complete subjectivity and meaninglessness of sex established by the acceptance of homosexuality and now transgenderism they cannot find any rational argument to support their visceral disgust. The avant-garde will cry discrimination and point to the logical consistency of our newly minted sexual lifestyle. We will initially cower in silence and then in short order embrace the most explicit abuse of our children.
There is little reason to wonder at the implosion of the West and the loss of our cultural will to live. Even the most debased, corrupted soul can’t help but have occasional eruptions of conscience, and when what is seen in the mirror is more terrifying than what is seen looking out across the barricades at a world which hates us, the battle is lost. We know we are monsters and deserve to die. But on a hopeful note, it is darkest before the dawn. We are fast approaching an age when persecution will be upon us. But persecution is witness, persecution is priesthood, and it will be all the more brilliant for the darkness that surrounds it.
The priesthood of the transgendered is one of the last of the degenerate priesthoods. In the not too distant future we will join St. Paul in “…filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.”