What Gender Used to Mean

It isn’t something you “choose” or can “change,”  Yes, the human species has two biological sexes that have innate differences — and that isn’t a bad thing.  What used to be common and unquestioned knowledge not so long ago, is today forgotten by so many. Mama Needs Coffee reminds us about The Beauty of Gender: Our Differences Aren’t Scary, They’re Beautiful (and Essential):

Male and female created he them; and blessed them… – Genesis 5:2

This morning I was strolling a leisurely stroll on the treadmill and enjoying 45 minutes of toddler downtime (thanks, Brandy in kids club) when my eyes drifted to the newsfeed on the bottom of my tv screen where a “breaking news” alert was scrolling.

What constitutes breaking news in 2017? That’s a loaded question. But for this local ABC affiliate station, the answer was “Australia considering banning fairy tales from schools.” I rolled my eyes into my frontal lobe because probably it was offensive to real witches and living fairy godmothers, all that questionable detail Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, etc. go into about their lives and various motivations and ways of being.

But, no.

Apparently, it’s because fairy tales “encourage outdated gender norms” and that children “as young as four” are reportedly manifesting “gender biasing behaviors” in their play and make believe…

 

First of all, kids as young as four display “gender biasing behaviors” because children as young as age four do, in fact, have genders.

Fetuses, it turns out, also have genders… And gender – in parlance common up until just a few short years ago – was basically interchangeable with “sex” – and nobody was going to bat an eye or shred an admission form over it.

Children, like the rest of us, are male or female, and as such, they typically exhibit a few characteristic (but not exclusive) behaviors common to their gender. Boys, for example, as anyone who has ever birthed, raised, or even tangentially known one, are loud and they are intensely physical. Not all boys and not all the time, but overall, there is a certain exuberance that belongs to the male sex that is right and beautiful.

These boys will become men who lend their strong voices to the pursuit of truth and goodness. They will speak up for what is right, and they will take action to defy evil when they see it. Because that is what men are designed to do. Men are action-takers and pursuers of truth by nature. They image God in their strength, both physical and moral. And that is beautiful. (And does not, incidentally, exclude women from being action takers and pursuers of truth.)

***

We are foolish when we typecast certain “behaviors” into rigid gender norms and then insist that our children refrain at all cost from manifesting them, should they match up in a way we are currently collectively frowning upon.

What good is there to be gained by discouraging a boy from expressing strength and courage on the playground, whether he is shouting down a bully or rallying his friends to the winning kickball run? And what good is served in correcting a girl who longs to be told that she is beautiful – who in fact has a profound and fundamentally good desire to be affirmed in her beauty on a soul-deep level – that she ought not be concerned with something so trivial or vain?

Conversely, if a boy enjoys cooking and art and a girl is an absolute terror on the lacrosse field, these, too, are good and beautiful manifestations of their particular individual giftedness. This does not indicate a confused or wrongly-assigned gender, but normal and healthy diversity in this thing that we call being human.

Being a mother is intractably a female role; being a hairdresser is not.

While the world frets on about the sexism of fairy tales, about girls dreaming of true love and affirmed beauty, and boys about vanquishing dragons and journeying into uncharted territories, I’ll be sitting here reading Cinderella and the Chronicles of Narnia to all of them, male and female alike. And they will perhaps get different things from the same story. They will perhaps encounter it with their male or female minds and focus on particular aspects which attract or repel them, and that will be fine. That will be good.

Our differences are our strengths, and denying the intricate design of the complementarity between the sexes is to deface the image of the Creator Himself.

Advertisements

Some Cultures Deserve to be Destroyed

History, like life, is a complicated thing.  The more one tries to simplify it, the more inaccurate the story becomes.  A recent trend in the presentation of the history of the New World, the Americas, is the idealization of the indigenous cultures.  The politically correct version contains a great deal of revisionism and applies today’s standards backwards onto people who lived in a very different time and place — well, as you will see, they’re only applying moral standards onto one group of people: the Europeans. Another instance of Moral Relativism at work, and the result isn’t very pretty.

When studying the discovery and conquest of Central and South America by Spain and Portugal, the more recent presentations tend to focus on the cruelty of the Europeans and the “tragic” loss of the “advanced” cultures of the Mayan, Aztec and Inca (among other lesser known tribes).  While abuses by the Conquistadors are undoubtedly true to some extent, to what extent is difficult to determine considering that even at the time there were numerous forces working to paint Spain, in particular, as evil.  This propaganda is referred to as the “Black Legend.”  It was politically and religiously (by Protestants), useful to depict the Spaniards as immoral, greedy hypocrites.  Today of course all European colonization of Native cultures and lands is seen as despicable.

If it is wrong to idealize the conquerors as primarily intention-ed to bring Christianity to the natives and be kind in doing so, it is also wrong to demonize them all as selfish and cruel.  Many holy men (Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, etc.) accompanied the explorers with the intent of converting the native peoples — not forcibly, but with persuasion. Often these priests and monks lost their lives.  When abuses of the soldiers were made known to leaders of State and Church in Europe, they were denounced and those in the New World were admonished to cease their cruelty.  Events “prompted Pope Paul III in 1537 to issue the bull Sublimis Deus in which he declared: ‘The said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ.'”

One must also remember that the majority of the Europeans in the New World were hardened soldiers.  Theirs was of necessity a brutal existence.  To make the journey and explore lands that were wild and unfamiliar to them, they had to endure much hardship. They were all at least minimally Christian, being immersed in European Christian morality, if not actually practicing it well.  What they discovered in the New World was so horrifying that we might excuse at least some of their supposed brutality in response.

When Hernando Cortez and his forces encountered the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan — a city on a partially man-made island in Lake Texacoco — they were amazed by its beauty, sophistication and cleanliness.  There were paved streets and numerous canals laid out in an orderly fashion and intricate carvings and designs.  They were welcomed with gifts by the natives who were so astonished by the arrival of these strange beings that they suspected they were gods (this belief was influenced by the fact that their calendar was predicting an important god return to the city that year).  Then, and imagine their shock, they discovered in the temple district that the stairs and walls and statues were liberally splashed with blood, so much blood that one description speaks of the stench of decay.  And the evidence of human sacrifice, walls of skulls for decoration. They would later learn that the Aztecs sacrificed tens of thousands of people every year. Can you imagine how you might have felt in their position?  It is the stuff of stories indeed: one discovers a fantastic new civilization, appearing quite advanced and civilized in fact, only to later uncover the horrible truth of the underlying savagery.  I wonder if when faced with such horrendous evil, it might be understandable if a person might “go off the deep end” a little and react by trying to wipe these frightening and inhuman practices out by any means necessary?

The Aztecs are the most well-known for their fierce fighting and warring and love of human sacrifice, but the Mayans, who predate them, and many other lesser tribes, whether enemies of the Aztecs or allies, were also fond of such blood-shed.  The Incas of Peru, who I have seen described as mostly “peaceful,” were especially fond of child sacrifice.  There is archaeological evidence that captured Spaniards and indigenous allies were used for sacrifice (and possibly cannibalized), which should come as no surprise since that was the typical fate of captured enemies.

Older historical resources tend to have a harsher presentation of these realities, while newer ones skim over the human sacrifice bit and focus on the other interesting bits of culture: art, astronomy, architecture and technological advances, and lament the loss of these cultures at the hands of the Europeans.  I’m not sure if all the other “advances” or “achievements” account for much when the culture’s core is so rotten. How can I appreciate the interesting statues and carvings when many of them represent blood-thirsty gods with insatiable desire “to eat” hearts ripped still-beating from living people, that these images were once deliberately splattered with human blood?  Can we “appreciate” such “art?”  Is it morally acceptable to “celebrate” such cultures or mourn their demise?

One presentation I heard said basically “that’s what worked for them and that’s all that matters.”  Can we not see what is evil any more?  How can those practices ever be ok? People who think this way have no imaginations.  How would they have liked actually living in those times?  How would they have liked being “chosen” as a sacrifice or having their child chosen?  Moral relativism and modern inconsistency leads to harsh criticism of the Europeans for their conquest of natives, but refrains from condemning human sacrifice.

I am glad that the dominant civilizations of ancient Central and South America were wiped out!  The barbarity and cruelty of their religious practices make it difficult for me to summon up sympathy towards these peoples or condemnation for the Europeans who ultimately destroyed their cultures.  It takes a Saint to respond with kindness and compassion.  In 1987, then Pope John Paul II spoke to a gathering of Native Americans in Arizona:

“The early encounter between your traditional cultures and the European way of life was an event of such significance and change that it profoundly influences your collective life even today. That encounter was a harsh and painful reality for your peoples. The cultural oppression, the injustices, the disruption of your life and of your traditional societies must be acknowledged. At the same time, in order to be objective, history must record the deeply positive aspects of your people’s encounter with the culture that came from Europe. Among these positive aspects I wish to recall the work of the many missionaries who strenuously defended the rights of the original inhabitants of this land. They established missions throughout this southwestern part of the United States. They worked to improve living conditions and set up educational systems, learning your languages in order to do so. Above all, they proclaimed the Good News of salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ, an essential part of which is that all men and women are equally children of God and must be respected and loved as such. This gospel of Jesus Christ is today, and will remain forever, the greatest pride and possession of your people.”

Note that he was speaking to North American natives who weren’t infamous for their love of human sacrifice.  I doubt “disruption of your life and of your traditional societies” would be considered a bad thing morally speaking, even if it was perceived as a negative by the people themselves, when that traditional society included human sacrifice.  However, the good results of European conquest apply to those natives as well or one might argue even more so.

HWNDU Season 5?

HWNDU Season 5 Poster

Bwahahahaha!  Yeah, that’s probably the sound you’ll be able to hear ringing through the depths of the internet — 4chan etc. — as they prepare for Season 5.

Shia, apparently bent on his own mental destruction, is playing a game he cannot win. Sad for him maybe.  But entertaining for the rest of us.  The rumor is that Helsinki is the next location for He Will Not Divide Us.  If it is, they can expect the trolls to be lying in wait before the even finish setting up.

Shia Labeouf, Luke Turner and Nastja Rönkko’s ‘He Will Not Divide Us’ livestream has recently become less anti-Trump protest art and more an international game of capture the flag, waged between artists and the combined efforts of 4chan and 8chan…

So where will the stream go next? Members of 8chan’s HWNDU board are speculating the new location will be in Helsinki, Finland. 

It sounds random, but it’s actually quite logical. The stream started in America, Labeouf’s home country, then moved to England, the home country of Luke Turner. Nastja Rönkko is a native of Helsinki, so it seems only fair the group will give her home country the next shot.

Labeouf, Turner and Rönkko will be participating in the ARS17 exhibition for contemporary art at the Kiasma Modern Arts Museum in Helsinki. The exhibition starts this Friday, but it is unclear when the group will arrive at the museum…

Helsinki would appear to be a good place that is out of the reach of pro-Trump trolls, but appearances can be deceiving. The HWNDU board is already preparing a heist on the Kiasma Museum if the stream is placed there. Multiple members of the board claim to live in or around Helsinki and are standing by to troll the stream.

The Fins also have a message board called Ylilauta, which functions much like 4chan and 8chan, and many of its users have already volunteered for the trolling operation.

No word yet from the artists where the next location (Season 5) will be, but they can certainly expect a warm welcome for them in Finland. The stream probably would not last more than a day.

Also amusing: The Washington Post featured an article about the whole thing – HWNDU and all the ensuing trolling!  Even though they negatively characterized 4chan as the source of “the misogyny of Gamergate” among other evils, some of what they included was surprising (including a tweet by WaPo is Fake News — did they just miss that?).  If you’re already in the know about the HWNDU game, this article isn’t informative, but it’s interesting that they are reporting on it in such detail and that they used the terminology of Shia’s opposition (“Season 1”, etc.) to talk about its chronology.

Take down your enemies with fake news and racist labels.

Sounds like this play has been in the books for a long time.  It’s in full swing today due to it’s usefulness – though we hope it’s over-usage is diminishing its effectiveness.  You can only sling so much mud until it doesn’t stick anymore or folks stop caring.  When everyone is covered with mud, who cares anymore?

I’m no baseball fan, but the story of how Ty Cobb’s reputation was ruined is illustrative. If someone has annoyed or angered you, if he’s your enemy in some way, what’s the best way to retaliate?  Just smear them in print with invented stories and call him racist. And remember, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.

“If a lie is repeated often enough, it becomes accepted as fact.”

Anger isn’t always bad

Most of the time anger is seen as just plain evil, something we should never feel or heaven forbid express.  Jesus is especially white-washed into an always meek, never angry person.  But that’s only part of the picture.

Let’s get angry — just like Jesus!  Righteous anger is an expression of hope, courage and love

Is anger always ugly? We might be inclined to quickly say, “Yes, of course!” Within us and around us, we’ve all seen many instances of rage, sometimes self-righteous, sometimes irrational, so often harmful and destructive. So, it’s easy to think of anger as ugly. But is that the only way to think about it?

Consider this from Saint Augustine: “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they don’t remain the way they are.” Isn’t that amazing?  Have you ever thought before that anger could be beautiful?

I ask these questions because the gospel passage of the cleansing of the Temple recorded in Matthew 21:10-17, where we see Jesus quite visibly and kinetically angry. Some deservedly-forgotten old hymns spoke of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” and some truly awful holy cards depict him as being so pale and weak that you’d think he’d faint at the sight of blood! Yet here’s Jesus flipping over tables, driving people out of the Temple.

***

His his Father that his anger blazes at those who besmirch God’s holiness and God’s creation. Loyal Son that he is, He cannot remain still or silent when his Father is dishonored or when his Father’s children are being plundered or abducted by Satan.

Jesus’ anger moves him not to destructiveness but to courage. He knew that His cleansing of the Temple would harden the religious authorities against him—yet he did what was right. He stood before the tomb of Lazarus, confronted death boldly, and took back what belongs to his Father—knowing that his growing fame would hasten his death.

Righteous anger, joined with holy courage, is an expression of hope. Jesus shows us that we don’t have to resign ourselves to our sin or to the reign of the spirit of this world, who is only a usurper and whose days are numbered.

***

Let’s look at one more important element of the holy anger of Jesus. The strength and intensity of his anger did not keep him from curing those in need, or gently loving children. (Matthew 21: 14-17) Even when He was angry, those who needed Jesus were able to approach Him and receive from Him what they needed.

It’s early in the holy season of Lent. How can these biblical passages help us be prepared to celebrate Easter joy? They’re a call for us to pray for three graces:

First, pray for righteous anger—united with Jesus in defending the honor of our Father and his children. Second, pray for courage—to confront first in ourselves whatever is unworthy of us as Christians. Third, pray for hope—confident that God will bring to fulfillment the good work He has already begun in us.

If we do that, if we pray and live as good stewards of righteous anger, courage and hope, then we can, as the prophet Isaiah taught us, “turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God, Who is generous in forgiving.”

The World is Confused About the Nature of Love and Suffering

One might argue that the zeitgeist is confusion, especially confusion about what it means to love and how to handle suffering — both one’s own and that of others.  No one seems to understand what is true or even that there is such a thing as truth.  To illustrate this confusion, people embrace relativism and “personal truth,” but then turn around and decry what they perceive as politicians telling untruths (with great shock and outrage it might be added, as though they’ve missed all the jokes about lying politicians).  In How TIME murdered truth, and framed Trump, Jonathon Van Maren, points out the irony (which no one seems to notice) that TIME Magazine’s recent cover, “Is Truth Dead?” (apparently referencing Trump’s “lying,” so-called “fake-news,” etc.), follows on the heels of this cover: “Beyond He or She: How a new generation is redefining the meaning of gender.”

Of course truth is dead. Our culture killed it, long before Donald Trump showed up…

We now reject every constraint on our own so-called right to radical self-determination, even if those constraints are biology and reality. That is why a full-grown man can decide to leave his family and live as a six-year-old girl, and the media coverage of this is largely subdued and respectful. That is why there is a new group of human beings who identify as non-human beings—rather, they are “Otherkin,” people who identify as certain animals. This is treated with long-faced solemnity by our cultural elites, because truth is dead and people can be whatever they want, even if they are obviously not what or who they say they are.

For those who are baffled by each new absurdity, there is an extensive arsenal of labels awaiting them. Homophobe. Transphobe…Otherkinphobe? And so it goes.

Our culture is no longer self-aware enough to recognize humans who claim they are not human as fundamentally disturbed, and men who claim to be women and women who claim to be men as suffering from some delusion deserving of treatment rather than celebratory front page stories in iconic news magazines. TIME Magazine can mourn the loss of truth merely a week after they have championed its departure, and almost nobody will notice.

In these times of confusion about even the nature of biological sex/gender, people are understandably confused about the nature of marriage as well, even among Catholics who should know better. According to John-Henry Westen, Pope Francis is playing with fire and adding to the confusion:

But as we’ve laid out above, there is massive confusion in the Church about where exactly the Pope stands on the matter. Even though a thorough assessment clearly shows the Pope backing communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, there are cardinals and bishops who suggest the Pope means the opposite.

For those who knew Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio prior to his election to the pontificate, this is nothing new. I spoke to a few priests from Buenos Aires who worked with Cardinal Bergoglio in different capacities and from them learned that confusion is emblematic of his ministry…

Shortly after the publication of Amoris Laetitia, a forward-thinking critic warned that it would become unworkable for the Church if the bishops in Germany would wink at divorce and remarriage while across the border in Poland it would be mortally sinful. Yet who could have envisioned that we’d see bishops and cardinals voicing opposing opinions on what the Pope himself believes and teaches?

The dichotomy is clear evidence that the Pope himself, in refusing to clarify despite the formal and public request of the four Cardinals and associated pleas by countless other Catholic clergy and laity, is guilty of betraying the entire Church. By letting this charade continue he has sown confusion into the hearts of the faithful. This confusion could lead to mortal sin and thus eternal damnation.

Pope Francis is indeed playing with fire. Hell fire.

It is sad that Pope Francis, whether deliberately or not, seems not to understand or be able to clearly articulate consistent Church teaching as well as some laity can.  Leila Miller, author of the soon-to-be released book Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak, has an article on Catholic Answers summarizing: Eight Things You Have To Know About The Church’s Teaching On Divorce.

As Catholics, we are called to a higher standard than the secular culture, and we must rejoice in and embrace Jesus’ insistence on the indissolubility of Christian marriage. The Church’s unbroken teaching reveres and protects the spouses, the children, extended families, society, and the order of creation itself. Our response to marriages, and families, crumbling around us should be a commitment to live, teach, and defend these little known and often rejected truths about the immorality and effects of divorce. As St. John Paul II said in a homily, “The person who does not decide to love forever will find it very difficult to really love for even one day” (The Love Within Families).

The Church teachings that she summarizes are not as well known as they should be.  One response commended her article for being “straight out of the Catechism… founded in Scripture” and had this to say:

The fact is, life is about the cross. Take everything TV and movies say about marriage and throw it out the window. Marriage is a great source of joy. But real joy and peace comes from the cross… Some marriages will be exceptionally difficult. So what? There’s a million things that can befall a person that would make life difficult. We are still bound by moral rules… The points in this article need to be preached over and over and over. They used to be well understood. They need to be made that way again.

A Catholic friend of mine recently announced that she is getting divorced.  This has been a long time coming and was no surprise.  Hers is one of the hard cases.  Her suffering and that of her children has been great (and probably will continue to be so). Changing Church rules would not alleviate their suffering.  Unfortunately, only a miracle and the much needed change of heart and healing of her husband would do that.  She’s hoped and prayed and worked for that for years without any results.  A hard and sad case indeed.

Likewise another example of hard cases are those of infertility and reproductive technologies.  This mother deeply regrets not having fully understood or been told firmly the truth about Catholic teaching.  Because she ignored teaching about IVF, she is now in a difficult moral situation involving frozen embryos.  Her response to the blogger who wrote about the truth of Catholic teaching: “I truly wish I had read your posts about IVF four years ago… that one stung, but it was so necessary. You’re right, of course, but the truth hurts.”

It has been said that hard cases make poor law.  So too do hard cases make poor Church policy. It is a mistake to attempt to turn the Church into yet another in institution solely bent on eliminating human suffering on Earth, at the expense of speaking the Truth, and would make the Church just another failed institution of “social justice.”  Trying to alleviate suffering by telling people to go and do whatever they want and patting them on the back for all their dysfunctional and self-destructive choices as though that were showing love — because we wouldn’t want to make anyone feel bad about the way they are living their lives — will only lead those suffering people to greater suffering and ruin in the long run.  Sometimes a mother must tell her children hard things for their own long-term good, though it may seem unkind in the moment.  Good mothers tell their children “No” as often as necessary.

Jesus said we must pick up our crosses to follow Him.  Following Jesus sounds nice, but no one really wants to pick up his cross because crosses equal suffering and who would want to embrace suffering?  Sometimes living the way we should can be extremely painful.  The world is uncomfortable with suffering: people try to escape suffering for themselves and think the best way to help others is to try to remove their suffering in any way they can.  Yes, some human suffering can and should be eased if at all possible, but sometimes the way to help isn’t to try to snatch away your neighbor’s cross and fling it as far as possible or pretend it isn’t there; sometimes the best way is to come alongside and offer to help carry his cross, like Simon of Cyrene did for our Lord.