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Culture Friday: Vocabulary matters


WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: Vocabulary matters

A conversation with Rosaria Butterfield, the author of Five Lies of Our Anti-Christian Age

Getty Images/Photo by Finnbarr Webster

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday the 20th of October, 2023.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s Culture Friday. A special guest joins us today, author and speaker Rosaria Butterfield.

She’s author of the new book that so many are talking about: Five Lies of Our Anti-Christian Age. Good morning and welcome. I’ve been looking forward to talking with you.

ROSARIA BUTTERFIELD: Good morning, Nick and Myrna. I'm so glad to be here with you today.

BROWN: I'm excited as well. Well, I want to start. Of the five lies of our anti Christian age, and I'm going to just list them: Homosexuality is normal. Being a spiritual person is kinder than being a biblical Christian. Feminism is good for the world and the church. Transgenderism is normal. Modesty is an outdated burden that serves male dominance and holds women back. So all of those - destructive. I want to know from you, which one do you think is causing the most havoc in the culture and in families.

BUTTERFIELD: One of the things you need to know about The Five Lies of Our Anti-Christian Age is they all rely upon a similar paradigm. And I would say that that paradigm can be broken down into basically four different chunks of ideas. The first is that we have failed to realize that the seeds of the gospel are in the garden. That you cannot unhinge the Old Testament from the New Testament and still be a Christian.

The second reason is that we don't seem to know what time it is. And you know, partying like it's 1999 just makes us look stupid and dysfunctional. So what does it mean to be a post-Obergefell world? What does it mean to be a post-Bostock world? What does it mean to send your kids to government school, when the Biden administration believes that the 14th Amendment supports the castration of your 14 year old son and includes an anti-bullying legislation mandated in all federal government schools that promote transgenderism? Well, know what time it is, Christian.

The third reason is, we don't really love our enemies. We just don't. We're cowards. We're traders. We're hirelings. We need to learn how to love our enemies, and stop pretending that our enemies are our friends. And we do this when we act that common grace is enough. We're so glad that our neighbors who identify as lesbian water their lawn and walk their dogs. We think that's enough. And that means that we're cowards and traitors.

And then finally, all of this really does rest on an error that feminism has entered into this paradigm that I would say many members of the Church believe. And that's this idea that there is a distinction between sex and gender. And that in order to be a decent person, you need to maintain the sex/gender distinction. And that has really run havoc.

Because, you know, the sex/gender distinction from a feminist perspective would say, “Now look, you know I'm a woman, but I'm really smart. I'm really articulate. I want to be really educated, I have callings that are going to take me away from my creational calling, and that's okay. And that should be reified. And that should be valued, because there's an absolute distinction between sex and gender.” And then transgenderism has simply taken that, quite frankly, to its logical conclusion. To where we no longer even believe that sex is true or valid. And all we have is gender. So all of the five lies rely on all of those paradigms. And all of those paradigms are shot through all of the five lies.

EICHER: I want to ask you about your recent turning away, your recent repentance from using transgender pronouns, Rosaria. You wrote an article that was widely circulated, and you touch on it in the intro to the book. What motivated you to accept the use of preferred pronouns in the first place? Was it rightly motivated in your mind and just wrong? Or were you wrongly motivated from the beginning?

BUTTERFIELD: Well, I'm a dirty, rotten sinner. So everything is rightly motivated in my mind. And that is really a big problem, you know, because I can convince myself that my feelings are indeed sanctified because I feel them. Let me tell you that I spent way too many years as a gay rights activist to trust my feelings on anything short of how I like to take my coffee. But I will say this: one of the efforts in the gay rights movement is you humanize sin or to empathize with the reasons that people sin, what that effect does is it yields the moral language to the left, which means we no longer have a biblical moral language to call people to belief, repentance, and victory over sin. Now, absolutely, we need to see other sinners, including ourselves, as image bearers of a holy God. Is that image of God in them? Yes. Is it marred? Yes. Is it marred in us? Yes. But yes, in an effort to humanize the trans experience, I used transgender pronouns. And I did that for a really long time. And the Lord convicted me that that was a sin.

EICHER: But you did it as a Christian, not as a non-Christian propagandist. But as a Christian, you did it. And that's why I asked the question that way.

BUTTERFIELD: Right. Well, my reasons, and I don't think these are good reasons, but I'll tell you what my reasons were. My reasons were, most of the people that I know from the transgender community have a number of comorbidities and mental health instabilities, and there is absolutely no reason to exacerbate someone's mental health crisis by having a fight over something that you don't think is a big deal. And you might say that before Obergefell, this was all just a matter of vocabulary. You know, you call me Rosie. Call me Rosaria. What's the difference? It's vocabulary. But after the three exchanges in Romans one become codified by civil law, we are not dealing with vocabulary. We're dealing with etiology.

So for a Christian to use transgender pronouns in this particular climate is simply an act of carrying water for the other team. But more than that. Okay, then you might say, “Well, Rosaria, why didn't you just course correct? Because, you know, people learn stuff.” But Thomas Watson in his wonderful book, The Doctrine of Repentance, actually starts out by explaining what counterfeit repentance is. And you know what counterfeit repentance is? It’s course correcting. We want God to bless the church. And we want God to give victory over sin, to people trapped in homosexuality and transgenderism. Those are awful ways to live. But if I'm Achan in the camp, God's not going to bless what I say or do at all. So I had to just go full face plant and repent. Which, you know, really people, should it be that shocking that Christians repent of their sins?

I mean, quite frankly, what business do we have calling unbelievers to repent of their sins, if we're not willing to repent of ours? So the fact that that article became such a big deal was, and I'm not on social media, so I never know things are a big deal until like, somebody says, “Could we translate this into Korean?” I'm like, “Whoa, wait a second. I think this is a big deal, now.” So yeah, I think we should see more of this. Don't you?

EICHER: Sure. And forgive me if I read this wrong. But, again, going back to the intro to the book, you cited those Supreme Court decisions—Obergefell, Bostock—advancing gay rights as sort of turning you away from pronoun hospitality. But wouldn't it always be wrong, regardless of a Supreme Court decision? I'm just trying to get the distinction.

BUTTERFIELD:  Yes! You are absolutely right. And I think what I tried to say, I don't know that you were reading it wrong, because maybe I was writing it wrong. But what I was trying to say is that sometimes the pressure of the world forces you to see something in a light you hadn't seen before. So it was always true that that was a violation of the ninth commandment. And it was always wrong. And it was always harmful to my friends in the transgender community. Because what we have seen today is simply true, that there is a line that starts with social transitioning. Social transitioning is the using of false pronouns, and the dressing and clothes and that kind of thing. Choosing a false name. Social transitioning leads to cross sex hormones, which leads to surgery, which leads to medically destroyed lives.

And as someone who now speaks at school boards, and before the legislature about these things, I will tell you, it's crucial that we go and we speak as Christians. And that we hold out hope to this community. And here's the simple reason: it's not enough to just chuck in detransitioners. Put them before the limelight. Because you know, the same mental health complexities that caused a person to want to mutilate their bodies, it doesn't go away because they do.

But the other is that we're Christians. We don't throw people away. We don't hold up pictures of 14 year olds who have castrated themselves and their foolish parents as examples of what not to do. Yes, these are examples of what not to do, but these are human beings who need the gospel. And in the Gospel, if you repent and believe, you cannot mock God in heaven and in the New Jerusalem, you will be the man that you were meant to be, you will be the woman that you were meant to be. Your resurrected body will have no trace that you tried to mock God. There is no group more needy of the gospel, the real gospel—not the Side B, Gay Christian, Preston Sprinkle, “Let's-humanize-the-trans-experience.” That is just truly condemning them to a life of torment and potentially an eternity in hell. We preach a gospel of change, of liberty, and of victory. If not realized now, then certainly fully realized in the New Jerusalem.

BROWN: Author and speaker Rosaria Butterfield has been our special guest. Thank you so much.

BUTTERFIELD: My pleasure. Thank you, dear sister and dear brother, may the Lord be with you.

EICHER: We recorded this interview a few days ago and went way beyond our allotted time, because Rosaria is such an interesting person, and she has so much to say.

BROWN: Right, we went about an hour and, to tell the truth, we could’ve gone another hour if I had anything to say about it! But because this is taken from a much longer Q-and-A, what we’ll do is release an extended version of the conversation this weekend.

EICHER: So check The World and Everything in It podcast feed tomorrow to hear the full interview with Rosaria Butterfield. We hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did.

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