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Culture war or cultural appeasement?

Carl R. Trueman | There is no third alternative


LGBT activists march with a gay pride flat in Salt Lake City, Utah Associated Press/Photo by Rick Bowmer

Culture war or cultural appeasement?

It is shocking but sadly not surprising to read Abigail Shrier’s report on the clandestine efforts being made by middle school teachers in California to recruit students to LGBTQ+ clubs. Given the logic of contemporary identity politics, it makes perfect sense. If we humans are defined at a fundamental level by the direction of our sexual desires or by the gender we feel we are, rather than the sex our body “imposes” upon us, then educators have a vested interest in helping students realize their identities. That is what modern education is all about: the facilitation of the process of self-realization. Of course, previous generations might have looked askance at adult teachers surveilling childrens’ online activity (and let’s use the word ‘children’ rather than the superficially adult term ‘student’) and then using that as a basis for clandestine meetings with the children to talk about sexual desires. But that era is long passed. Yesterday’s creepy voyeurism has apparently become today’s best educational practice.

Perhaps most fascinating is the fact that the teachers developed ways of disingenuously being able to plead ignorance about whether a child had attended such a group. Think about that. According to the underlying philosophy of identity with which the school is operating, the children’s identities are bound up with their sexual desires or gender feelings. That is a large part, the most important part, of who they really are. But the school does not consider itself to be under any obligation to tell the parents about any of this. In other words, the school regards itself as having a greater right to know who the children really are than the parents. To put this another way, the school thinks it owns the children. That is an imaginative philosophical power-grab of remarkable and horrifying reach.

It is also a reminder that Christians cannot hide from what is happening. Because identity politics is concerned with—to risk stating the obvious—identity, it must inevitably touch the lives of everyone. Which identities are legitimate, which are not, and who is allowed to decide between them, are the pressing issues of American politics today, affecting everything from abortion and euthanasia to marriage, family, and education. The California teachers’ strategy is simply one example of the power struggles that are the inevitable products of such demands.

Christians should not be so naïve as to think that if they send their children to Christian schools or even homeschool their children that they will be immune from this. If a child owns a smartphone, then that screen will become the most influential thing in their life. Just read Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage if you are skeptical of that claim. You—like me—might well find the term “TikTok and YouTube Influencers” to be inherently ridiculous, but sadly, the phrase speaks to a worrying truth: Any charlatan who happens to make good online videos can have more influence over our children than a loving parent or an inspiring classroom teacher.

Our culture’s obsession with identity means that the culture war will demand we take a stand, one way or the other. Those evangelicals concerned to appease the cultured despisers of their religion have recently found the accusation of “culture warrior” to be a convenient, if somewhat lazy, canard to be thrown at those who express concern about the radicalization of educational policy in the United States. Christians who stridently shout the pieties of progressive culture with as much martial language as they can muster are, of course, never seen by themselves or their fanbase as warriors. No, They are merely courageous Valiant-for-Truths. Yet those who express concern about racial and sexual ideologies being promoted in schools are dismissed as angry, hysterical fundamentalists, ironically by Christians whose approach to matters such as racial identity leave no ground for any response to queer theory. Culture war or cultural appeasement? When teachers are claiming a right to ownership of children’s identity, I suspect there is no third alternative at this point.


Carl R. Trueman

Carl R. Trueman taught on the faculties of the Universities of Nottingham and Aberdeen before moving to the United States in 2001 to teach at Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. In 2017-18 he was the William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life in the James Madison Program at Princeton University.  Since 2018, he has served as a professor at Grove City College. He is also a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing editor at First Things. Trueman’s latest book is the bestselling The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. He is married with two adult children and is ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

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not silent

I'm not sure from the article exactly what kinds of things the author would consider "appeasement." Does it include engaging with others and listening to their fears and concerns instead of immediately condemning them? Does it include looking at myself first and dealing with the plank in MY eye before I try to help someone else deal with their speck?

I am a Boomer who grew up in the 1960's and 70's. The summer after sixth grade, my classmates were talking about getting drunk and "sleeping together." I was asked to go on a date when I was 11 years old. Later, I was bullied for taking my faith seriously and hated because I was the only kid in the class who refused to cheat. My prom date was drunk and high on quaaludes and pot. My parents could have taken me out of that environment, but there were few other choices; and, to be fair, God used it to make me strong and able to stand against peer pressure for his glory.

The world is always going to oppose the gospel and Christianity. That was true for my generation, for Gen X, for millennials, and for Gen Z. It was also true in the first century Roman Empire. Jesus said the first and greatest commandment was to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and the second was to love our neighbors as ourselves.

I have NEVER changed my mind because someone got in my face or because they pointed out all my sins. If I want others to listen to me, I have to be willing to listen to them. (It's possible to LISTEN and still disagree.) If I want them to change, I have to give them a reason to WANT to change. These times are scary and challenging, but I think they may allow Christians to shine light in a world without grace, without redemption, and with very little hope. "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." 2 Corinthians 10:4.

SAWGUNNER

The parade above took place in the Vatican city of the LDS. Does Mormon theology have any clear cut teaching on homosexuality or transgender LGBT agenda? I've never met any gay Mormons

SAWGUNNER

A month or so ago this nation's libraries and other alleged civil libertarian, anti-censorship folks observed or "celebrated" banned books week. And the irony? The only two books I can name which have recently been banned have been the Shirer book about the deleterious effect of ratifying transgenderism along with the book WHEN HARRY BECAME SALLY

Salty1

It is interesting how the progressive left forces their values on the rest of us once they gain power. The cultural victors always get the right to impose the values on the rest of society, whether those values are good or bad. From a scriptural perspective there really is no right but from a practical perspective of pure power and dominance they get their way. The objective of the Christian Cultural Warrior is to bring God’s rule to dominate over culture. We don’t bring a theocracy but we do bring God’s standards to bear on society. We define marriage as between a man and a woman. We don’t allow the abortion of pre-born babies because they are an inconvenience. We don’t allow perverts and morally confused people to teach our kids. We promote laws based on biblical values. This enables us to lead quiet lives so we can be most productive Christians.

Steve S

Culture war or cultural appeasement? Is there a third way?
CS Lewis wrote of a third way in his 1941 essay "Meditations on the third commandment" which can be found in the "God in the Dock" collection published by Eerdmans. It's a great essay so I won't be a spoiler...

not silentSteve S

Thanks for the recommendation! I have read a lot of CS. Lewis but had not read that particular essay. Like a lot of what CS Lewis wrote, it is amazingly relevant today.

Allen Johnson

A helpful article, thank you. Except I would challenge the writer's view that YouTube and TikTok will prevail over competent parenting. Children look for a value system to emulate, and whether parents step up with integrity and commitment or default to a lower common denominator of cultural influences will make a big difference.

DWAL5874

When we are in such situations we need to have already prepared clear, but loving responses; Sharing the Truth in Love is still our job. And as Dr. Trueman shows, we are often in such situations.