Above is a depressing little advisory from the current edition of The Week. It reads like something from a fantastically dystopian novel about the future from the 1950s or 60s. It is the sort of thing at which we would have cackled in derision on reading. Now it is reality; or rather, what passes for reality. Dystopian it most certainly is; self-destructive, indubitably.
The first reaction on reading of a man referring to himself as “they” was the memory of Mark 5:9. Yet it is disturbing on levels not quite so immediate to the mind.
Last week we celebrated the memorial of St Gertrude the Great, a Saxon nun of 13th-century of Helfta—a monastery which was a nursery of saints at the time. Thinking on things with a view to a homilette, what came to the fore was the nuptial mysticism of this great saint. Her intense devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, whatever else it might be, should be seen as the logical development of her nuptial mysticism.
In its origins, nuptial mysticism refers to the mystical experiences of these great female saints in which they experience a ceremony of marriage to Christ. The concept of being a bride of Christ was taken to its mystical conclusion, and in this these saints represented in their persons the union of Christ with his Bride and Body, the Church. This imaging is effected on the physical plane in the sacramental marriage of a man and a woman. Human sexual nature and identity is intimately related to the relationship of utmost intimacy between the divine and the human in each person, and most excellently and surpassingly in Jesus Christ, in whom was the perfection of both the divine and human natures. The teaching of Genesis remains vital and essential even in the new Covenant. It remains true that God created us male and female, not non-binarily self-determinate.
St John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is at heart an extrapolation of nuptial mysticism in our modern context, relating it to the mystery of the Church and the mystery of the human person, not least in its sexual identity. At its heart is the concept of communion as something that informs every level of the economy of salvation. The Trinity is the perfection of communion; the person of Jesus Christ is the perfection of communion between the divine and the human manifest in the material world; the Church is the communion of humanity among itself by virtue of its communion with Christ as his Bride and Body; sacramental marriage is the door by which human beings experience the reality of communion on all these levels, and in so doing the married couple becomes an icon of the rich and manifold textures of communion between God and man.
This, by the way, is why I do not consider marriage a vocation as the moderns are wont to do. A vocation is a call away from the normative. Since marriage of a man and a woman is normative for humanity, hard-wired into human nature as Genesis reveals, then it constitutes the ground from which an individual is called away by God for a specific purpose and mission. To marry is not to answer a call, but to obey God’s commandment as enfleshed in human nature. Anything else—priesthood, religious life, consecrated single life, the lay celibacy required of the same-sex attracted, et al— is an individual’s call away from the norm for the sake of the Church. But I digress…
What is clear in nuptial theology as expanded and enriched by St John Paul II is that the human body is essential to human nature, and so to the human relationship with God. To put it bluntly, the human body is the mode and means by which even now the human person can taste a little of the perfect fire of love that is the union with God in heaven. Human sexuality exists because of the body, precisely in its maleness or femaleness. Human sexuality allows, through the nuptial mystery, an experience of the heavenly communion with God for which we are made. That experience can be physically expressed or mystically/spiritually, which means everyone has the capacity to experience it.
This offers the background to understanding something of why “gender theory” is so self-destructive of humanity. The ever-emerging tendrils of gender theory—transgenderism, non-binary concepts of human “gender” etc—strip away from human identity its essential reality manifest in its objective physicality—the sexual complementarity of the male and the female. In so doing human identity becomes the subjective, arbitrary and artificial construct of fallen and flawed human will; not the beautiful expression of the creative and salvific divine will.
Gender theory in all its forms is dehumanizing in that it tears the human person away from what is essential to human identity. The further we go from the truly human, the further we go from God. It leads the human person down the path of the fantasy of self-creation to the precipice of self-negation. Indeed, gender theory’s name is legion.
This is why the Church is so unyielding in its opposition to the modern fads of transgenderism, non-binary gender and the like. Mankind throughout history has revealed a consistent tendency to choose what makes for its own destruction. So the Church resists to the end the suicidal phenomenon of gender theory—it loves humanity too much to allow it to destroy itself. It is a love that has been commanded by Christ himself.
We can only pray that the Church’s teaching of truth, of objective reality rather than subjective fantasy, will prevail; not so much for God’s sake as for our own.