Every year in December, the Pope delivers an address to the Roman Curia. The annual speech has been dubbed “The State of the Union” for the Roman Catholic Church. The Pope gave this year’s address earlier today, and it is already making waves—for all the right reasons.
News reports and punditry have focused most of their attention on the speech’s implications for gay marriage—namely that the Pope opposes same-sex unions of any kind. Nevertheless, the focus on the legal question of gay marriage is a rather shallow analysis of the speech. Make no mistake. The Pope’s words are nothing less than a broadside against any notion of same-sex marriage. But what he said actually goes much deeper than that.
He argues that there is a “crisis” threatening the very foundations of the family in the western world. The crisis is not merely about a particular social construct, but about what it means to be “authentically human.” The family is in crisis because mankind in the western world has forgotten what it means to be created in the image of God as male and female. The Pope takes on not merely homosexual marriage, but the entire foundation of modern gender theory—the idea that gender is something that you choose, not something that you are. I think it’s worth quoting him at length on this point:
The very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question… According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. The words of the creation account: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) no longer apply.
Amen. Few people—and I fear far too few Christians—realize that what the Pope is talking about here is at the leading edge of the conflict between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light. The secular West has given up on God as the Maker in Whose image man is created. Our culture has given up on the idea that men and women are different and that they are so by God’s design. In the West, male and female are not creation categories. They are simply identities that we learn from culture or that we choose to inhabit.
It would be easy to blame this devolution on feminism and queer theory, but that would be too superficial. For both modern feminism and queer theory derive from the spirit of antichrist which denies that we are as God has made us. It is not the Spirit of God, but another spirit altogether that says that male and female are completely interchangeable, not only at the level of social roles but also at the level of sexual practice. The feminists and the queer theorists hold these basic assumptions in common, and that is why their alliance in the larger culture has been so unbreakable.
Secular responses that you are going to hear and read in the coming days will focus almost entirely on the question of gay marriage and the perception that the Pope is against “gay rights.” This secular narrative defines this discussion exclusively in terms of the march of human progress and equality. It is able to do that because it has already accepted—perhaps uncritically—the notion that gender is something you learn, not something that you are. If those assumptions about gender turn out to be false—and scripture tells us that they are indeed false—then the narrative of equality that is built upon it crumbles. Those advancing the “equality” narrative may not realize this, but they have built their entire house on shifting sand. That house will be washed away in due time.
As a Protestant and a Baptist, I have many serious differences with the Pope. But when it comes to the ethics of gender and sexuality and the rot that is eating away at Western culture, I find that we have much in common. The Pope rings true on this because he is agreeing with Genesis 1:27: “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” God did in fact make us male and female. To deny this is to deny what it means to be human. On this, the Pope is profoundly right.