Understanding our times
Two books that will help you
What are we to believe about gender? Is it the fluid thing we are continually being told? Something that we decide for ourselves? Or is it something fixed, identical with being biologically male or female, as has traditionally been believed?
Let’s approach the question in a different way. Our children are being encouraged to explore their gender; to discover what it is. The journey, however, has nothing to do with whether they are biologically boys or girls. The gender quest is an inward quest; it has all to do with what children think and feel about themselves. What are we to make of that? Is such a quest right, kind, helpful, liberating? Or is it wrong, cruel, harmful, confusing?
The questions continue. A growing number of people identify as transgender. They feel dissatisfaction with their biological sex. Men wish to identify as women, women as men. And do. Should they be encouraged to do this, and to further the transition by drugs or surgery or both? And should society affirm their choice, with all the profound ramifications of that?
It’s one of the huge issues of the day and Christians are in the debt of those who have studied and written on it from the perspective of the Bible. Sharon James is one. She is the author of Gender Ideology – What do Christians Need to Know? Here are the chapter headings:
- The Global Sexual Revolution
- ‘Can we Really Change Sex?’ and other FAQs
- What is ‘Gender Theory’?
- Where did ‘Gender Theory’ come from?
- Male and Female – by design
- The ‘Transgendering’ of Children
- How Should we Respond? A Call to Respect
The book is meticulously researched, well-argued, and easy to read. The ‘vocabulary’ of gender ideology is helpfully explained whilst the subject throughout is illustrated from real-life situations. The book is quite short, less than 120 pages of text, which helps to make it accessible. It is also comprehensive. It does what the question in the title suggests. It tells us what we need to know as Christians. For anyone who wishes to understand this issue and to help those who are struggling with it this is a superb resource.
Let me draw your attention to one chapter, Ch.4, Where did ‘Gender Theory’ come from? Dr. James notes that ‘to challenge the human reality of the male-female distinction is revolutionary’ and asks, ‘Where did this idea come from?’ Before answering her question she remarks that ‘some readers may prefer to skip the rest of this chapter and go straight on to look at God’s good design in Chapter 5’ (p.54). Can I strongly recommend you do not! Ch.4 introduces the key figures responsible for this idea – men like Karl Ulrichs, Sigmund Freud, Harry Benjamin, and Wilhelm Reich; pioneers, along with others mentioned, of the sexual revolution discussed in Ch.1. It also introduces us to Antonio Gramsci and Herbert Marcuse, men whose thinking lies back of the cultural Marxism or Critical Theory that is so profoundly shaping our Western culture.
Which gives us the lead-in to the second book I want to recommend – That Hideous Strength: A Deeper Look at How the West was Lost by Melvin Tinker. Dr. James gives a brief and helpfully clear statement of what cultural Marxism is and of the identity politics and Queer Theory with which it is bound up. In That Hideous Strength cultural (or libertarian) Marxism is put under the microscope.
So what is it? Quoting another writer, Tinker gives the following definition: ‘Libertarian Marxism is all about liberating humanity from the social institutions and conditions (like the family and church and business and traditional views and habits and authorities) that prevent the individual from realizing his true self, his true desires and aspirations, from being anything he wants to be – full autonomy’ (p.58).
Tinker discusses at length its proponents, its development, its methodology, its manifestations, its rapid and appalling success, and how destructive it is of what western civilisation owes to Christianity. Readers are left in no doubt as to the deadly enemy cultural Marxism is to biblical Christianity and to the spiritual darkness in which it is enshrouding us.
That Hideous Strength was originally published in 2018. This is an expanded and updated edition, its recency allowing for a postscript on the death of George Floyd in the summer of 2020 and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed.
Like Gender Ideology this is not a long book (just 170 pages of text) and though it is a more demanding read it is worth the extra effort needed. Here is a book to go back to again and again as we try to make sense of what is happening in our society and how, as Christians, we are to respond to it. And it does address the important matter of our response. The final chapter, Bringing Down Babel, takes up three things which are necessary if we are to challenge cultural Marxism – namely, commending God’s Truth, cultural engagement, and courageous refusal and refutation (p.135 ff).
Tinker ends on a note of hope: ‘God has already intervened in the person of his Son, and…he continues, as he sees fit, to intervene by the work of his Holy Spirit as the gospel is proclaimed and lived out in all its fullness. We pray that he will do so again so that it will not be to us, but to him that the glory goes’ (p.172).
Gender Ideology is published by Christian Focus Publications, That Hideous Strength by EP Books (Evangelical Press).