It is our business: How Life, Marriage, and Gender are Public Issues
Written by Rhett Burns on June 1, 2017
Matt Walsh joined the CrossPolitic podcast this week to talk about his new book The Unholy Trinity, in which he takes aim at the Left’s “assault on life, marriage, and gender.” One point Walsh raised is that one of the Left’s strategies to make minority positions socially acceptable is to get the public at large to believe none of these issues affect them. It’s all personal choice and preference, and who are we to deny someone the desires of their heart? Christians and conservatives have either bought this argument in bulk or it has left them silent and confused. How do abortion, same-sex marriage, and the transgender movement affect society at large? How should Christians answer the argument that these are just private affairs and none of our business?
We can begin with the concept of nationhood and pointing out the corporate nature of our lives. We are accustomed to thinking of the nation solely in geopolitical terms—for example, the “nation-state”—but that is a truncated understanding of the idea. Nations are groups of people that share language, heritage, culture, land, and many other things, and who organize themselves with social and political structures. We belong to the nation, and because of everything we share, there is a sense in which we belong to one another. Because we belong to one another our public acts necessarily affect others, which is why we have laws in the first place. That we are talking about laws shows that none of these issues are private matters, only affecting the individual in question. We don’t make laws for truly private concerns. For example, no law exists to determine whether one eats mint chocolate chip or rocky road ice cream—though I wouldn’t be surprised to see such an ordinance soon proposed in New York City—because ice cream flavors are genuinely a personal preference (and true lovers of liberty would take a scoop of each). But life, marriage, and gender are not private acts, but are public declarations with consequences we must all live with.
Abortion cannot relegated to the private realm because justice is a public concern. Despite the wishful claims of the pro-choice lobby, abortion necessarily involves two people—the mother and the baby. In any other situation of life when one person exercises power to harm or kill another person, we consider it a matter of public justice. We hashtag, protest, propose legislation, and go to war for such causes. We all have a stake in protecting the defenseless. But once a nation gives itself over to preying on the powerless, all its citizens may share in the judgement to come. Blood cries up from the ground; justice is thirsty. This is where the concept of nationhood is helpful, for in the Scriptures God often deals with people as nations. Nations earn the blessing or cursing of God. Nations were subject to exile, war, and famine. Likewise, nations were privy to peace, prosperity, and plenty. When we as a nation engage in and approve widespread infanticide, we can expect judgment to fall. For as the wisest man once said,
“Whoever says to the wicked, ‘You are in the right,’
will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations,
but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,
and a good blessing will come upon them.”—Proverbs 24:24-25
Neither is marriage simply a private commitment between two people; it is a public institution. The bride and the groom are not the only parties involved in a wedding who have a vested interest, which is part of the reason traditional weddings involve ceremonies, vows, and witnesses. Families, churches, and civil governments have particular concerns regarding who marries whom. Therefore, through varying relationships, we have a stake in individual marriages, and because families are the building blocks of society at large, we are all invested in marriage as an institution. To redefine marriage is to restructure society at its most basic unit—the family—and to do so in a way that wages war against fruitfulness, the first command given to humanity.
The transgender movement has turned the private inner anxiety of gender dysphoria into a public spectacle. If the same-sex marriage movement redefines the basic unit of society, the transgender movement seeks to redefine the basic units of the family—man and woman. This, too, is not private because definitions are public; they are shared meanings for particular things. The transgender movement has committed intellectual theft, for it has stolen from us the ability to talk intelligibly about manhood and womanhood. They have introduced chaos into our cultural conversation, and have imposed a worldview that is incompatible with that of the majority of Americans, and is, in fact, incompatible with nature. Transgenderism cannot be a private issue when it commands everyone else in society to conform their most deeply held (and common sensical) beliefs to its ever-changing feeeeeelings.
At a practical level the transgender movement makes some of the most imposing demands on the citizenry at large. The most obvious example is the demand that we cater to one’s preferred personal pronoun. Every time a he insists on being called a she, we are being told to lie to pacify the unassuaged scruples of a very confused person. Transgenderism can also be insulting and unfair to actual women. For example, Bruce Jenner was lauded at the 2015 ESPY’s for being a courageous woman, a mere three months after self-identifying as such. How disparaging is that to real women who have shown real courage all their lives for Bruce to show up calling himself a girl for a few months and start getting awards? Or, what about when boys join the girls athletic teams and start dominating? Political correctness is destroying women’s sports. The transgender movement has also introduced a dangerous ambiguity into dating. A single young man used to be able to look over, see a cute girl, and work up the courage to ask her on a date. Now, he can’t even be certain she is a girl. The courage he works up may have to go into asking that preliminary question.
Christians must not cede ground to the godless by accepting that abortion, so called same-sex marriage, and transgenderism are private personal issues. No, we all have a stake in righteousness, and we will all deal with the downstream consequences of wickedness.