Updated: Jul 17
Leave it to the 21st century to turn a toilet sign into a political banner. As I sat there at the Sacramento airport on my way to perform a wedding for a mix raced (and yes, "mixed gender") couple, I was confronted by a stubborn and staggering reality: that the Far Right and Far Left keep each other relevant and, as a result, in business. Both also share the dubious distinction of reflecting ideologies completely out of touch with common sense. As our esteemed second President, John Adams, once said, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."
The fact that I'd need to explicitly provide evidence that there are two genders is, in itself, an indication of just how far down the rabbit hole of identity politics we've collectively gone as a culture. I mean, quite seriously, does any rational person who has paid even a modicum of attention to the state of discourse in the last 40 years doubt, for even a minute, the totally ludicrous nature of the Far Left's claims that insisting on the fundamental reality of two genders is to engage in "hate speech," or the more woke term "transphobia"? But then again, people are sheep who tend to believe what they're told, especially if it helps them avoid unwanted scrutiny (read lose friends).
To some extent, of course, we're all told what we believe. Such is the nature of truth. How do you know something unless you're told it (by book or by crook or by some other way). But there's a difference, isn't there, between being told something by people with some advantage to gain -- monetarily, socially, psychologically; or an axe to grind -- political, religious, personal, versus being told something by someone who neither profits nor is helped by the thing being told. This is why Jesus has such serious street cred in my book. He didn't gain anything by people believing what he said, unless you count being martyred as a plus on one's resume'; nor did the disciples gain anything by having folks believe their testimony. Indeed, it got them all martyred, too.
Which is why, in the end, the dogma of the church immunizes me from the ludicrous claims of the Far Left/Right. Church dogma, Flannery O'Connor reminded us, guards the mysteries of the faith; it's precisely the dogma that gives faith the room to breathe and not be hemmed in. No one blames the frame of a painting, after all, for "hemming in" the picture it contains, or the imagination of the painter. That would be ridiculous. And yet, here we are, in uber-woke 2021, tripping over our collective selves in our attempts to apologize for the frame.
Just two days ago, I went down to the lobby of the boutique hotel (where I'm staying) to meet with the couple I was marrying. I decided to retire to the bar, instead, and wait for them there, so I asked the lovely young woman at the front desk if she wouldn't mind directing the couple back to the bar when they arrived. Not knowing how many couples might enter the lobby in the ensuing 30 minutes, I took the trouble to describe the couple, telling her that they were a 20-something couple, black guy/white girl. "Well that's certainly descriptive," she responded with more than a touch of chastisement for my apparently insensitive choice of words. My second mistake was to try to explain myself, saying I wasn't sure how many couples would come through those doors, blah blah blah blah... She just smiled at me in the way that parents smile at their children when they say something stupid but are giving them a pass.
Then it happened again at the wedding. It was the first time at a wedding where I actually became self-conscious of the liturgy I've been using for close to 30 years. In it are these words: "God gave us marriage for the full expression of the love between a man and a woman, etc., etc." I saw out of the corner of my eye the raised eyebrow of the bride as she locked eyes with her groom. I couldn't exactly blame her. I got it, which is why I had changed the words of most of the rest of the liturgy just prior to the ceremony. Where the liturgy read, "man and woman," I substituted "they." Where it read, "male and female," I opted for "couple." But I deliberately kept in the sentence in question because I happen to believe that that's precisely why God gave us marriage: as the full expression of the love between a man and a woman. Who knew that them were fighting words?
But of course, again, in this hyper-PC culture of ours, practically every word is a potential landmine of offense. When you have a bunch of people -- half the culture, really -- walking around with spines the consistency of jello, you must watch your words closely lest you offend their jello sensibilities. It's truly outrageous. And in the end, dangerous. G.K. Chesterton, who anticipated the PC movement by 100 years, reminds us of this in Orthodoxy when he warns against the trap of virtues gone wild, of the inherent pernicious nature of their excess:
It is constantly assured, especially in our Tolstoyan tendencies, that when the lion lies down with the lamb, the lion becomes lamb-like. But that is brutal annexation and imperialism on the part of the lamb. That is simply the lamb absorbing the lion instead of the lion eating the lamb.
The PC movement, for all its claims of justice and equality and woke-ness, is really just a lion in sheep's clothing, a totalitarian regime dressed in peasant's clothes. It caps you at the knees so that you are forced to genuflect at the latest altar of its creed d'jour. Forget all-inclusiveness. The sign above the door of the PC movement is, "All our welcome, except those who aren't."
Don't be fooled by the denizens of trendy politics, as I wasn't by the nice woman at the front desk. I let her bask in her moment of preening moral rectitude, knowing full well that to have engaged her on the topic would only have served to legitimize her uber-woke sensibilities. I dutifully stumbled over my explanation with a smile and retired to the bar for my gin and tonic. And don't be fooled, either, by those who say that the Far Left is more benign than the Far Right. That is simply not true. The Far Right is simply more explicit in their atavistic aims to take over the country: Make America White Again. The Far Left, on the other hand, in wanting to include everyone but those they choose to exclude, become the slightly more sophisticated version of their country cousins, pretending to be all-inclusive while kicking the dog under the table.
The next time you happen to be sitting in a place where you can see one of the ubiquitous restroom signs designating which gender should go where, ask yourself how much longer we can live with such an oppressive binary that forces people into having to make such torturous choices. Then, assuming you are sincere in your concern for such matters, pat yourself on the back. You have officially joined the ranks of the post-modern consciousness, which seeks to enslave us all.