Culture Friday – The schism in women’s studies

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday, April 9nd, 2021.

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.

The governor of Arkansas this week vetoed a bill that would ban minors from receiving so-called gender-reassignment services from medical providers.

Banned practices would include hormone treatments and puberty blockers, or referring children for surgery.

State lawmakers called the measure the Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act, the SAFE Act.

But Governor Asa Hutchinson, a conservative Republican said the bill to his way of thinking is not conservative.

HUTCHISON: House Bill 1570 would put the state as the definitive oracle of medical care overriding parents, patients and health care experts. While in some instances the state must act to protect life, the state should not presume to jump into the middle of every medical, human, and ethical issue. This would be, and is, a vast government overreach.

Afterward, the state legislature overrode the governor’s veto and the measure is set to take effect in July.

BROWN: But LGBT groups said they’d challenge the law in court and try to block it from ever taking effect.

It’s Culture Friday and so let’s welcome Katie McCoy. She’s assistant professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Katie, good morning!

KATIE McCOY, GUEST: Good morning, Nick and Myrna, good to be with you all.

EICHER: Katie, I’m turning to you not for legal analysis here, but I want to draw on your expertise in women’s studies because this issue strikes at the core of that academic discipline.

Either way, in transgenderism you have biological males who seek to take on female characteristics or females who seek to deny them.

And beyond that, you also in the classroom deal with young people, and these issues are constantly before them. The current administration in Washington is working hard to promote transgenderism. A week ago, we had a Transgender Day of Visibility proclaimed at the White House. There’ve been executive orders, and there’s the Equality Act making its way through Congress.

But the state of Arkansas is pushing back on this, at least where children are concerned, the governor’s objection notwithstanding.

So, to get the discussion going here, how does your understanding of women’s issues square with this sort of modern gender ideology, that it’s more of a state of mind than a biological reality?

McCOY: Well, this debate has been brewing for a little while and coming to a head.

One of the things that’s happening, at least in women’s studies is there’s this real schism, some people will say that the whole point of things like the feminist movement, and Title IX was to protect biological females from discrimination. And now, there’s this entire different contingent that says that transgender is just the next step in gender equality.

And, and there’s really no room on this debate, either. You’re either on one side or the other. You even hear that in the language. The language here and the semantics is really important, because like so many issues, the way that it’s framed linguistically ends up lodging in people’s minds and, and forming their opinion on whatever that view or legislation may be.

EICHER: I’m curious, though, in your field of women’s studies, if you’re not dealing with gender roles driven by biological realities versus gender roles driven by a person’s state of mind, how a person identifies, doesn’t that just turn women’s studies on its head?

McCOY: You know, you would think so, except that we’ve been coming to this point for several generations. There’s an important book that every Christian needs to read by Carl Trueman called The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. It’s essentially an intellectual history of how we got to the cultural moment that we’re in today.

But really what we have is an entire philosophy and a culture that believes that people are not created by an actual personal God. And so with the denial of God comes, How is our identity formed? And it believes that the identity is a self-determined one, that we are autonomous individuals, and that our highest good is to express socially, relationally, who we psychologically believe ourselves to be—and that psychological identity need not conform at all with physical reality. So now, now, it’s expected that socially, relationally everything would conform to the psychologized self. And that’s why it’s considered almost an act of of personal violation, because that other person in society is not giving unqualified, unmitigated support for the psychologized self that expresses itself according to the gender of one’s preference.

BROWN: Katie, I know you’re aware of the change in public opinion on LGBT issues. Survey after survey shows greater acceptance shows resistance melting away, and it’s moved pretty fast.

But there is also a growing belief that gender/sexuality will become the defining issue of orthodoxy for a generation of Christians. Do you see it that way? And why wouldn’t the defining issue of orthodoxy be something more traditionally theological, like the divinity of Jesus or the doctrine of the Trinity—issues like that?

McCOY: It’s a great question, Myrna. Well, first, let me start with the first part about the surveys.

I actually don’t really believe that people are eroding in their beliefs. I think it is just become too dangerous to say what we really think—and then along with that, this fear that if parents don’t give unqualified affirmation of their child’s gender confusion, that despite the fact that their child is likely to grow out of it at the time of puberty, they’re told by doctors that they could lose their child to suicide.

And one of the most painful and heartbreaking things is that you see parents wanting to do what is right by their children, and ushering them into therapies, and then eventually surgeries that might be causing irreparable harm. Nevermind, we’re just starting to hear about some of the backlash that that could cause as well.

Now, you mentioned how does this fit within orthodoxy, and there really is a direct line first, in every generation, we have issues of doctrine that become our watershed litmus tests, and, and the doctrine of humanity is probably going to be one of them for our generation.

But like all doctrines, it goes back to what is truth? And who defines what is truth? And that goes back to the authority of God. General revelation is a doctrine throughout the history of the church. And it says that there are things that we can know about God from creation and conscience. And gender is one such aspect of creation, it is declaring the order and design and the beauty that God created us to have.

And so when we are suppressing that, like Romans 1 says, We are worshiping the creature instead of the Creator, we are turning that which was given as a gift, to cause us to seek our Creator whose glory we were made for, and in whose image we were made, as well. That becomes eroded and it becomes a source of idolatry. And that is everything that we’re seeing right now.

So it’s not a side secondary issue. It has to do with the purpose and identity of our lives. And what is our highest good, why were we made, who made us and who has the authority and right to say who we are. That’s what this goes back to, and it will indeed be a watershed issue for the church in our generation.

I would encourage every believer to become as informed as he or she can, but then also not to despair. You know, we have technologically what the Greco Roman world did not, but they were just as far from God. They were just as enslaved to ideas of the spirit of the age and also to different sexual sins. And the church in those early centuries turned the world upside down. They did it by proclaiming Christ by living holy lives, and by loving their neighbor. It really is that simple.

And it really is the power of God that will work through us as we as we conform to what is true first in our own lives, in our churches and then in our communities.

EICHER: Katie McCoy, assistant professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas.

McCOY: Thank you both. Good to talk to you.


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