Culture Wars, Ideology and Christian Social Ethics: a Reflection on Gender identity in Latin America

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The discipline of Social Ethics as a humanistic endeavor has contributed to regulate the distribution of fairness, justice, and equality in the arena of social interactions. Thus, the social improvement of contemporary societies could be said to be the product of social reflection and engineering that has had in mind best practices on how to relate to and to provide for the poor, marginalized, and voiceless. At the same time, Christian Social Ethics also have played a vital and leading role in the fight against injustice and inequality. Classic examples of this are Christian Abolitionist William Wilberforce in England in the eighteenth century, the fight against racial discrimination by Pastor Martin Luther King, Jr.in the twentieth century, and the pioneering efforts against slavery of Father Bartolome de las Casas in Dominican Republic and Guatemala of the sixteenth century.

In practice, Social Ethics and Christian Social Ethics have influenced one another with principles and findings that have developed into procedures that have given direction to the way to conduct daily life and business ethically. However, as society at-large is becoming more and more secular[1](mostly in the Western world) a greater separation between Secular Social Ethics (SSE) and Christian Social Ethics (CSE) exists. The common assumption for the goal is happiness. For SSE, happiness is gained with a major social benefit for the members of a particular social group. For CSE, the goal is the satisfying accomplishment of God´s justice and righteousness for the benefit of all humankind. The prophet Isaiah declares God’s zeal and instruction for justice:

Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)[2]

The difference between SSE and CSE also lies in the foundational core of principles that govern their assumptions. SSE goes to the extreme to support social evolution to the extent that human beings will find ways and procedures to achieve an ideal society where justice for all will be common, and all the horrors of war, genocide, sexual abuse, or human trafficking will be tamed or abolished. Steven Pinker in his extensive book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, establishes his case for Humanism and Progress while devaluing the validity of Christian and other faiths.[3]He writes:

“We will never have a perfect world, and it would be dangerous to seek one. But there is no limit to the betterments we can attain if we continue to apply knowledge to enhance human flourishing,” and he continues, “This heroic story is not just another myth. Myths are fictions, but this one is true–to the best of our knowledge, which is the only truth we can have. We believe it because we have reasons to believe it. As we learn more, we can show which parts of the story continue to be true, and which ones false–as any of them might be, and any could become.”[4]

CSE, on the other hand, observes that human beings are created in God´s image with free will and moral capacity to choose to obey God out of love for Him and His commands for justice. CSE also accepts the fallen sin nature in every person that selfishly contends against the established parameters of God´s fairness and justice. Therefore, from a historical and theological perspective, applying knowledge to develop a flourishing society does not make sense.

At present, a cultural and ideological war is taking place, involving moral, ethical, family, historical, and theological issues. The various contemporary debates on morality and social issues have at their base the foundational assumption that Judeo-Christian morals are coercive and “impede” the free exercise of individuality. In actuality, the clash is between the materialistic and humanistic perspective that stands against the spiritual Judeo-Christian worldview. One of the reasons Christianity is criticized and considered oppressive and old fashioned is because the Bible does not approve of certain decisions, such as the choices to abort babies, to marry someone of the same gender, and to have gender fluidity and become a transgender person (declaring gender based on feelings rather than on genital gender). CSE operates from the perspective of giving account to God; that is in contrast with SSE giving account to a group’s agreed-upon benefits, with moral agreements being based on what is acceptable in a certain society.

Briefly here, two issues that are bringing much confusion and controversy in Latin America will be discussed: same-gender marriage and transgenderism. Besides the traditional political upheavals that relate to the distribution of resources to the masses, whether to embrace twenty-first century socialism, and the ingrained machismo in many power structures, the gender-identity movements are making efforts to influence younger Latin Americans and create the perception that gender preference is a social construct and a matter of choice.

Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, and some states in Mexico already have legalized same-gender marriage, and such civil unions are legal in Chile and Ecuador.[5]Recently, theCorte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos(the Inter-American Court of Human Rights) published new policies (with the ius cojens status) on non-discrimination against sexual orientation as well as gender identity of individuals, and proscribes any norm, act, or practice that may go against sexual orientation or gender identity.[6]However, the implication for CSE is that it is highly discriminatory against the Bible-based Church since its beliefs do not agree. An implication for the Church in the future is these new policies becoming a reason for persecution of the Church and its members. At this point, it is valid to reflect on the traditional understanding that God loves the sinner but opposes sin. In other words, the Church needs to maintain its inclusive nature while not approving of what God defines as sin.

Therefore, it is helpful to clarify the basis of this current cultural and ideological battle, which is the controversial biological aspect of the debate. The movement seeks and claims scientific validation for sexual fluidity or transgenderism. Scientific evidence is sparse so that movement gains more support in the camp of preferences; it is ideological in nature. Identity Ideology (which includes gender identity) is a social construct that expresses the importance of identity to validate the expression of self or of a group. Jordan B. Peterson contends that identity politics or ideology is a variation of old Marxist ideology that emphasized class struggle. However, in our century, class struggle is being replaced by forming different interest groups that seek a new sense of value in the name of fairness and justice for all.Peterson says: “They [Marxist academicians] substituted the focus of the debate and went from class struggle to identity struggle”[7]

Now, as was mentioned earlier in this article, a humanistic system trusts that human endeavor can evolve to produce a just society without the need of an external agent to whom it gives account, such as God. In this framework, the need for the system to find solutions by way of social engineering and by supplying each interest group with its own desires and moral perspectives is essential. One of the many dangers of such a position is that it makes any entity, or person, that does not approve of their social conditioning to appear retrograde, unjust, and hateful. Although their accusations are baseless and unfair, still the ideological establishment promotes its perspectives to seem elegant and just. The implications for the Church not conceding to that establishment is dangerous. Also, in the promotion of this ideology, many people who may experience gender self-rejection, confusion, or weakness may become trapped in this ideology and those who perhaps have a treatable hormone imbalance may become entrenched in the social group that gives no hope due to its encouragement to avoid any conversion or reversal of their condition.

An important consideration to observe is the professional treatment of mental conditions. The American Psychiatric Association, and its publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), has responded with a change. In its fifth edition, the expression Gender Identity Disorder (found in the the third edition) was replaced by Gender Dysphoria[8]and the implication for this is that “mental health professionals work to help individuals with their experience of gender incongruency rather than the gender incongruence itself.[9]

Thus, in evaluating the current situation, it appears that this movement’s foundations are in quicksand. First, it is reductionistic. Although identity politics or ideology does not provide a convincing argument for the case of a biological origin for gender identity, still it validates the choice of sexual preference lifestyles. Second, it is selective in choosing expressions of social history that condone gender identity issues and it pretends to dictate contemporary gender issues from a historical perspective. Third, it does not consider that there is a spiritual battle for the human self, which will always be an Achille´s heel for any system that reduces human existence to chemical and physical processes. Fourth, this ideology devalues proven beneficial behavioral interaction of societies, such as the strength of traditional families between a man and a woman with children. Fifth, it is antagonistic in setting new language geared towards devaluing anyone who does not agree, such as “hate speech,” “hate mongering,” or “homophobic.” This attempts to come against freedom of speech by not allowing discussion or dissent. The control of dissent prevents conversion therapy and thus perpetuates a bondage of a person. Sixth, a normal person may occasionally feel attracted to a good-looking person of the same gender, but that does not mean the need to reject of heterosexuality; it means making a choice to follow God’s design and to repent of the sin of lust.

What, then, should the role of CSE and the Church be? The Church and CSE should, first, take its concerns to the Lord in prayer. At the same time, the Church should love others with God’s love and compassion. The Church is always at its best when it follows Jesus’ example. Luke 4:18 provides the paradigm par excellence. After affirming His anointed ministry in the power of the Spirit, Jesus promised that He had come to proclaim freedom for the prisoners (this includes prisoners of addictions or any kind of destructive behavior), and recovery of sight for the blind (even induced blindness imposed by cultural mores), and to release the oppressed (including those with depression and hopelessness brought about by identity confusion). Jesus proclaims hope. In cultural and ideological battles, our assurance comes through encounters with Jesus and His unconditional love, full acceptance, total meaning, true identity of each person, eternal salvation, and transforming deliverance from the shackles of oppressive sexual conditioning.

May the Lord empower us to love. Let´s open our churches to a more proactive encounter with those who differ in these matters with us and face the challenges we have before us with the Lord´s wisdom through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

 

 


 

[1]Merriam Webster defines secular as relating to the worldly or temporal, and not overtly or specifically religious.

[2]All quotations from Scriptures are taken from the New International Version of the Bible, unless it is indicated otherwise.

[3]Steven Pinker. Enlightenment Now, The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress(New York, N.Y.: Penguin Random House LLC, 2018) 433.

[4]Ibid., Pinker, 453.

[5]Matrimonio homosexual en América Latina (31 de julio, 2017), https://www.bellomagazine.com/es/matrimonio/matrimonio-homosexual-america-latina, accessed on December 13, 2018.

[6]Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, opinión consultiva OC-24/17 de 24 de noviembre de 2017 solicitada por la República de Costa Rica, Identidad de Género, e Igualdad y No Discriminación a Parejas del Mismo Sexo.http://www.corteidh.or.cr/docs/opiniones/seriea_24_esp.pdf(páginas 32, 35), Accessed on December 13, 2018.

[7]¿Por qué la ideología de género teme a Jordan Peterson? Porque denuncia el marxismo cultural en Religión y Libertad (periódico digital), 12 de febrero, 2018. https://www.religionenlibertad.com/polemicas/62384/por-que-ideologia-genero-teme-jordan-peterson-porque.html(translated by author of the article), accesed on December 13, 2018.

[8]Assemblies of God, Positional Papers: Transgenderism, transsexuality, and gender identity (adopted by the General Presbytery in session, August 5 & 7, 2017), HTTPS://AG.ORG/BELIEFS/TOPICS-INDEX/TRANSGENDERISM-TRANSSEXUALITY-AND-GENDER-IDENTITY. Accessed on December 15, 2018.

[9]Ibid., Assemblies of God.

 

3 Replies to “Culture Wars, Ideology and Christian Social Ethics: a Reflection on Gender identity in Latin America”

  1. Very thought-provoking. I would encourage Max to flesh out his six conclusion points. I realize the length of the article limited the development of his ideas, but I think some concrete examples would be very helpful. My concern, in general, is that I do not think the church can win this battle. With regard to same-sex marriage, I would suggest that since there is little biblical evidence of the “how” of a marriage ceremony, the answer in the future will be that no marriages will be made official by means of a religious ceremony. Marriages will be made official at the courthouse, followed by a party of some sort if the couple so desire. Denying those of another faith or no faith at all access to church buildings and ceremonies, and or the use of the word marriage will become increasingly difficult. I perceive that the continued secularization of society will force the church to reconsider its religious practices that are not prescribed in Scripture, but more reflect historical cultural norms.

  2. Thank you Max! I am also concerned about the “criminalization of redemptive practice” and the “death of sin” and want to write on these topics… I really appreciate that you have read the twin studies on Homosexuality and are reflecting on that and helping us to distinguish between genetic determinism and genetic predisposition. I remember the slogan frequently painted on vehicles in my part of the world, which said “Only God can judge me” and would lead me to pray for so many who need to understand that we will give account to our creator, who has extended his redemptive work to us so that it may go well for us on that day…

    Blessings friend!

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