One of the great truths lost in the zealotry of gender politics is that unlike animal sexuality, which is purely instinctive, human sexuality is a combination of instinct and socialization. We are not just “born this way.” Human sexual desire is cultivated. It can be channeled toward beauty, love, and even sublime self-sacrifice, culminating in marriage and the begetting and raising of children. But it can also be seduced into a downward spiral of selfishness and perversion, leading to moral forgetfulness and mind-numbing spiritual indifference.
During the initial stages of the Sexual Revolution there was a more or less simple sexual hedonism. Through contraception, sex was detached from the begetting of children and desacralized from the covenant of marriage. It was presented as a pleasurable end in itself. But of course it could not be simple. A holy thing can never simply be made unholy. Sexual gratification was forced to shoulder a burden it could not bear. It was celebrated as the culmination of self-actualization, but it rang hollow. Eros became the modern god that failed.
The problem, aside from the sin of idolatry, was the human mess. Its fruits were estrangement, loneliness, insecurity and a forlorn despair at the forsaken dream of true love. The hedonism of the Sexual Revolution led to a terrible emotional hangover, not to mention the horrific body count of aborted babies. But the children of the Sexual Revolution were unrepentant, even defiant. And in defiance we became forgetful, tone deaf to the truths about love and marriage, which had informed earlier generations. We became cold, and even lost that romantic aspiration towards the beautiful, preternatural innocence and marital communion described in the very last words before the Fall: “The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame” (Gen. 2:25). Our sexual natures became a thing of sorrow.
This transformation was so dramatic that it belies any merely sociological explanation. Something otherworldly prevailed in the destruction of the fruitful covenant, which was the human reflection of the Holy Trinity. The destruction of marriage and the legalized killing of preborn children are signature pieces of Satan. Jesus said of Satan: “He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44-45).
There is a brilliant depiction of Satan as asexual in The Passion of Christ, devoid of any reflection of God’s fruitfulness. The satanic antichrist will appear not only without knees, upon which to offer worship, or wounds, which attest to sacrificial love, but also without sex, in androgynous sterility.
When we first become aware of our being, as a self, it is always as a male or female self. And similarly with others. Even if someone were to approach from behind, as soon as they revealed themselves we know them as male or female. Written even within the unknowable, the inscrutable, the ineffable dimensions of self, made in the image of God, maleness and femaleness are shot through to the core, “God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27).
And so maleness and femaleness are primary targets for the father of lies. In the account of the Fall in Genesis 3, when the serpent tempts Eve with the forbidden fruit, Adam stands beside Eve in silent cowardice. There is a three part dialogue between the serpent and Eve, the serpent all but calls God a liar, and then the serpent woos Eve, appealing to her sensuality and hubris, but Adam remains silent, invisible. He stood silently by while she ate of the apple, and then he silently took it and ate of it when she gave it to him. Cowardice was Adam’s first sin, an absence of fortitude, a lack of manly strength.
For Eve’s part, her first words to the serpent were an exaggerated complaint. Eve had not yet been created, when in chapter 2, “The Lord God gave man this order: ‘You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die’” (Gen. 2:16-18). But when Eve reports to the serpent what God had said, she adds to his prohibition: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said: ‘You shall not eat of it or even touch it, lest you die’” (Gen. 3:3). Genesis 2 makes no mention of God forbidding touch. From the beginning Satan exploited the male tendency to cowardice and the female tendency to dissatisfaction. But these first weaknesses were the inverted signposts revealing that courage and patience properly belong to men and women.
Gender ideology portrays maleness and femaleness as non-essential social constructs. This discredits not only the truths of our male and female natures, but also of the living, breathing Trinitarian theodicy, which is fruitful marriage. Transgenderism is a sort of priestly rite enacting the anti-truth of gender ideology. It is existential theatre, acting out the ultimate meaninglessness and plasticity of being and it demands our submission. It marches jackbooted through our culture, demanding that we participate in its bald-faced lies. In such a world to speak the truth is to preach the Gospel.
The bold audacity of the homosexual and transgendered denial of nature is scaring people into submission, in part because our sense of truth has been so deeply corrupted by the Sexual Revolution and in part because like Adam, we lack courage. And our passivity in the face of forced inclusivity is having a profound effect on the worldviews of the majority, who continue to identify as heterosexual, but now do so in a completely different way.
Up until just a few years ago, most young people thought of their heterosexuality as a fixed trait that was part of their essence. Now, many think of sexuality, even their own sexuality, as variable, even fluid. The great exemplar of twenty-first century enlightenment, Barack Obama, was a generation ahead when he considered becoming gay in college. Now, without any principled understanding of essential truths about maleness and femaleness, our world has become unrecognizable.
But three striking things remain. The first is that empires fail and cultures die. We do not have the luxury of an idle hope that things will right themselves. They may not. But on the other hand, as St. Paul says: “Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more” (Rom 5:20). God allows evil that good may come of it. And finally, God has undoubtedly blessed the American experiment in all of its ugliness and glory. We must hope.