Reborn This Way: Baptismal Identity in a World Gone LGBTQ+

We’re really dealing with conflict of cosmologies, a revisionist, revolutionary Gnostic cosmology on one hand, and the traditional Judeo-Christian cosmology on the other, and in that conflict we are supposed to commit a sort of suicide.

Pope Francis baptizes one of 27 babies during a Mass on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Jan. 13. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“But they’re BORN that way!” my Twitter interlocutor tweet-shouted, referring to gays and lesbians. The time was the height of the online debate about gay marriage, when many of us were linking to pieces articulating the idea that marriage was a natural institution between a man and a woman. Since then—early 2015, if I recall correctly, just before Anthony Kennedy made “gay marriage” a reality (so to speak) in Obergefell v. Hodges—the sexual revolution has proceeded rapidly, as the transgender juggernaut replaced gay rights as the burning issue du jour. Whether the presenting issue is homosexuality or transgenderism, the fundamental issue is the very concept of identity in our postmodern moment, something which the postmodern turn made possible, and indeed required.

A brief rehearsal of intellectual history is in order, to remind us how we came to this point. Franklin Le Van Baumer (1913-90) provided a simple, helpful division of Western civilization into three periods. The first is the Age of Faith, exemplified by Plato, in which the highest God superintends metaphysical reality above visible reality. This Age runs from the Greek philosophers through medieval Christianity, St. Augustine being informed by Neoplatonism and St. Thomas being informed in turn by St. Augustine. In this Age, God and metaphysical reality is stable, even if the visible world is a realm of illusory flux; Man is what he is. The second is the Age of Reason, epitomized by Francis Bacon, the man of science par excellence, in which (with a major assist from Descartes) empirical reality and Enlightenment reason located in the mind begin to divorce (and with that so do body and mind). Nevertheless, whether one is an empiricist or a rationalist, reality is regarded as stable—whether empirical or metaphysical—and Man is what he is.

But the third Age is the Age of Anxiety, with Friedrich Nietzsche as the prototype. Nietzsche was happy to point out the problems with Enlightenment conceptions of Reason, unraveling their internal contradictions in a way anticipating later French deconstruction. For Nietzsche, life isn’t fundamentally Apollonian but Dionysian. Apollo, son of Zeus, was the god concerned with reason, order, and logic, while Dionysius, another son of Zeus, was the god of drink, dance, sex, and madness. (Nietzsche often gets a bad rap; he was observing more than prescribing, and while “God is dead” is one of his recurring themes, in his poem “The Parable of the Madman” he has the eponymous character retort, “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”—the churches of Nietzsche’s day were often near empty.)

And of course intellectual history is tied to history: ideas have consequences, but events also give birth to ideas. What Nietzsche did philosophically two World Wars, the Holocaust, and the atom bomb did culturally: people on the ground came to distrust the institutions of religion and science. With religion and reason discredited, men and women turned to the passions. And this Age in which we now live, centered on the passions, has today become a Gnostic empire of desire. Gnostic, in that bodies have no meaning but are mere matter to be manipulated, problems to be solved; empire, in that the juggernaut of the sexual revolution is establishing itself as a totalizing ideology in culture, politics, and law; and desire, in that most men and women today seek nothing higher than the fulfillment of their felt passions.

This is what popular postmodernity has become. Theoretical postmodernity powers it at the elite levels, operating with a vision that sees the human person as a bundle of desires to be actualized at will, and to frustrate that actualization is an act of violence. Self-violence, if someone (say, a Christian with same-sex attraction) endeavors to live a life of chastity, or discriminatory violence towards others, if someone dare suggest that others ought to live in accord with what nature, reason, and religion teach.

In the wake of Obergefell, Sherif Girgis summed up well the culturo-political problem of rooting identity in felt sexuality:

It’s not that the New Gnostics [the sexual revolutionaries pushing the gay and now transgender agenda] are an especially vindictive bunch. It’s that a certain kind of coercion is built into their view from the start. If your most valuable, defining core just is the self that you choose to express, there can be no real difference between you as a person, and your acts of self-expression; I can’t affirm you and oppose those acts. Not to embrace self-expressive acts is to despise the self those acts express. I don’t simply err by gainsaying your sense of self. I deny your existence, and do you an injustice. For the New Gnostic, then, a just society cannot live and let live, when it comes to sex. Sooner or later, the common good—respect for people as self-defining subjects—will require social approval of their self-definition and -expression.

More recently Ryan Anderson pointed out “The Philosophical Contradictions of the Transgender Worldview,” observing that activists

claim that the real self is something other than the physical body, in a new form of Gnostic dualism, yet at the same time they embrace a materialist philosophy in which only the material world exists. They say that gender is purely a social construct, while asserting that a person can be “trapped” in the wrong gender. They say that there are no meaningful differences between man and woman, yet they rely on rigid sex stereotypes to argue that “gender identity” is real, while human embodiment is not. They claim that truth is whatever a person says it is, yet they believe there’s a real self to be discovered inside that person. They promote a radical expressive individualism in which people are free to do whatever they want and define the truth however they wish, yet they try ruthlessly to enforce acceptance of transgender ideology.

Of course such a worldview will be self-contradictory, because it’s rooted in an intellectual and cultural movement that rejects reason itself as contradictory and oppressive. Perhaps the irony would be lost on activists, but they’ve progressed to the point that they employ the “transgender unicorn”—an imaginary, non-human entity—to illustrate the dynamics of transgenderism. Sex (better than “gender,” which best belongs in the realm of linguistics) is an intrinsic part of the human person, but the unicorn reveals that transgender activists in good Gnostic fashion have transcended the human person. It’s a false transcendence, rooted in ideology, not reality.

We Christians also have an identity, and Jesus Christ already brought the human person to true transcendence 2000 years ago. As grace builds on nature, in Baptism our natural bodies and our souls are united to Jesus Christ and we are made to share in the very life of the Trinity. In Baptism, writes St. Paul, “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death” and so “[w]e were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3b–4, quoted in the Catechism at §1227).

In a great grafting, then, we are “in Christ” and Christ is “in you,” that is, us (a pair of St. Paul’s favorite phrases found throughout his letters). We share identity with Christ. Grace builds on nature, and so we remain who we are by race, by sex, by upbringing, by social location, by personality—we’re not destroyed, as in Gnostic transgenderism—but above all we also share the existence of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ to the point that St. Paul can write, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the fidelity of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, my translation).

Although the incoherence of the ideology of the sexual revolution is shown as activists present claims of convenience depending on the moment, as Anderson points out, once somebody identifies in a sexually revolutionary way—gay or trans—activists will claim that the felt identity in question is immutable. In religious liberty debates they then assume, and claim, that religious identity is something chosen and thus mutable. So while those who identify as gay or trans have that as their fundamental, immutable, unquestionable identity, the reverse is the case for us Christians. In their view, we need to change our beliefs to get with the times and accept the sexual revolution lest we do violence to the very identity and existence of sexual Others.

And so the World of whose hostility Jesus Christ warned (see John 15:18–19) wants us to deny our identity, our very selves. We are supposed to surrender the cosmology of Genesis 1–2, with the image of God as male and female and marriage and procreation as its crowning and continuation, which Jesus himself, the Creator on earth, affirmed in Matthew 19:3–9, for a whole new cosmology that denies the sexual complementarity at the heart of creation.

Indeed, a 1993 editorial in the progressive publication The Nation asserted that “gay people…have been forced to invent a complete cosmology.” Rod Dreher, reflecting on that assertion, wrote,

Gay marriage signifies the final triumph of the Sexual Revolution and the dethroning of Christianity because it denies the core concept of Christian anthropology. In classical Christian teaching, the divinely sanctioned union of male and female is an icon of the relationship of Christ to His church and ultimately of God to His creation. This is why gay marriage negates Christian cosmology, from which we derive our modern concept of human rights and other fundamental goods of modernity. Whether we can keep them in the post-Christian epoch remains to be seen.

And so we’re really dealing with conflict of cosmologies, a revisionist, revolutionary Gnostic cosmology on one hand, and the traditional Judeo-Christian cosmology on the other, and in that conflict we are supposed to commit a sort of suicide.

But we cannot be asked to surrender our convictions, because we are convinced they concern our very identity. Jesus Christ, himself the Creator (see John 1:3), is our identity, indeed our origin and destiny. As such it’s not really true that we simply choose to be Christians, the way one joins a club or chooses a university, though the secular mindset assumes religious belief is chosen for irrational reasons and thus can (and should) be unchosen for rational reasons. Reflecting in particular on religious liberty, Matthew Franck observes,

Why should religion, and the freedom of religion, have a distinctive and special status in political life? The answer begins with a fact that will appear to contradict something I said earlier, when I characterized religious communities as voluntary associations. In the sense that they should be understood as freely entered into, and freely exited, that was a true description. Yet at bottom, religion as an individual experience is in some sense non-voluntary. As the fathers of the Second Vatican Council said in Dignitatis Humanae, the 1965 Declaration on Religious Freedom, “the truth . . . makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power.” Some 180 years earlier, James Madison, in his famous “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” said that “the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds, cannot follow the dictates of other men.” In each of these great documents of religious freedom there is a recognition that our belief cannot be compelled because it is compelled already, by our own best grasp of the truth. In this respect, religion is not so much chosen as it is accepted, as a truth one has discovered or has learned.

Put differently, most religious people don’t simply take a leap of faith, but in their journey have found on rational grounds their religion to be true.

In sum, if identity is a matter of self-definition, then our identity as Christians baptized into Jesus Christ is every bit as valid as every other claimed identity out there. And yet the Church must not reduce itself to another identity group seeking power among, over, and against others. Rather, the Church is true locus of human community (as it alone restores fallen creatures to the Creator of all things) that will judge angels and rule the world (see 1 Corinthians 6:2a and 3a), once again, as in Eden. We will become once more the glorious stewards of creation the Creator ordained us to be.

The water of Baptism is indeed thicker than the blood of soil, race, and nation and certainly thicker than competing cosmological claims based on self-perception. Our identity is Christian, even Jesus Christ. We are reborn this way.


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About Dr. Leroy Huizenga 45 Articles
Dr. Leroy Huizenga is Administrative Chair of Human and Divine Sciences and Associate Professor of Theology at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D. Dr. Huizenga has a B.A. in Religion from Jamestown College (N.D.), a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in New Testament from Duke University. During his doctoral studies he received a Fulbright Grant to study and teach at Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt, Germany. After teaching at Wheaton College (Ill.) for five years, Dr. Huizenga was reconciled with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil of 2011. Dr. Huizenga is the author of The New Isaac: Tradition and Intertextuality in the Gospel of Matthew (Brill, 2012), co-editor of Reading the Bible Intertextually (Baylor, 2009), and is currently writing a major theological commentary on the Gospel of Mark for Bloomsbury T&T Clark’s International Theological Commentary series. A shorter work on the Gospel of Mark keyed to the lectionary for Year B, Loosing the Lion: Proclaiming the Gospel of Mark, was published by Emmaus Road (2017).

14 Comments

  1. Huizenga cites the imperative link between faith and reason, imperative for sake of moral sanity. “In this Age, God and metaphysical reality is stable, even if the visible world is a realm of illusory flux; Man is what he is. The second is the Age of Reason”, which distanced [began] intellect from the physical world and reality. This was a major premise of my doctoral thesis leading to the thesis that morality is embedded in sensible perception. From sense perception all acquired knowledge of reality flows. This break putatively starting with Descartes’ Methodical Doubt and diminishment of sense perception goes so far as to distance us from what we are Man and Woman the human nature of Christ and our own Humanness. Author Huizenga references New Gnosticism which implied in the Dr’s insight is Paganism in all its deadly forms. Mentioned before is a return to classic Gk homosexual predilection occurring in Italy indicated in the infamous Christmas Good Samaritan Creche and among a sect of Catholic clergy in the N the pagan premise sex is more noble between the intellectual male. Aligned is the ancient worship of Baal by Israelites who immolated their children to the “horror” of God. Abortion is the return now the witting god self indulgence, comfort, unmitigated freedom championed by Catholic turned Pagan warrior Anthony Kennedy who besides enshrining gay marriage Obergefell cemented murder of the innocents Casey 1998. The unwitting god is Satan.

  2. Huizenga cites Girgis on the Gnostic lockstep connection between the (arbitrary) self and self-expression. The chicken and the egg? What if early acts come first, and define the self?

    On this very point, a well-known writer from the homosexual “community,” Andre Gide, wrote vicariously about his particular struggles in a bisexual double life up, until the very end.

    The bisexual Gide was actually opposed to sexual license. He favored self-control and “sublimating sexual energy into desirable moral and artistic qualities.” Nevertheless, his biographer concludes that Gide,

    “…emphatically protests that he has not a word to say against marriage and reproduction (but then) suggests that it would be of benefit to an adolescent, before his desires are fixed, to have a love affair with an older man, instead of with a woman. . . the general principle admitted by Gide, elsewhere in his treatise, that sexual practice tends to stabilize in the direction where it has first found satisfaction; to inoculate a youth with homosexual tastes seems an odd way to prepare him for matrimony” (Harold March, Gide and the Hound of Heaven, 1952)

    Better for all of our sexually-experimental society to simply cave and redefine marriage! Presto: Obergefell v. Hodges wherein the assaulted (heterosexual) society is berated by Justice Kennedy, in his majority opinion, as “homophobic.”

    Here, a relevant aside from outside the Kennedy bubble-world: Another modern addiction, overindulgence in digital and virtual reality games, is found to produce corresponding neuro-chemical changes in the brain itself, e.g., dopamine which is responsible for reward-driven behavior. A recent study completed at University College London and using MRI technology (magnetic resonance imagery) also strongly implies that even a simple habit of lying tends to suppress the part of the brain (the amygdala) that responds emotionally to a “slippery slope” pattern of small and then larger lies (Garrett, Ariely and Laxxaro, Nature Neuroscience Journal, October 24, 2016).

    (The above is adapted from Beaulieu, A GENERATION ABANDONED, Hamilton Books, 2017).

  3. “It’s not that the New Gnostics [the sexual revolutionaries pushing the gay and now transgender agenda] are an especially vindictive bunch.”

    When you desire to identify oneself or someone else according to sexual desire/inclination/orientation,sexually objectifying the human person, necessarily denying their inherent Dignity as a beloved son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife, father, mother, and desire to coerce others into affirming and condoning sexual acts that deny the Sanctity of the marital act, which is Life-affirming and Life-sustaining, and can only be consummated between a man and woman, united in marriage as husband and wife, through the use of legal force or mere bullying, how is that not vindictive?
    Love, which is always rightly ordered to the inherent personal and relational Dignity of the human person, is devoid of lust, because Love is not possessive, nor is it coercive, nor does it serve to manipulate for the sake of self gratification.
    In denying The True God, The Ordered Communion Of Perfect Love, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity,and thus the inherent Dignity of the human person, the end goal of atheistic Materialism, is the objectification of the human person.

    • Exactly so, the “sexual revolutionaries” in the bunch…

      “To have settled for ‘civil unions’ rather than ‘marriage’ COULD have achieved to goal of civil recognition without igniting what is now a permanent political, social and cultural crisis. The voting public (and the Church) was even reassured in statements to the press that the campaign to recognize civil unions was not a half-way house to demanding gay ‘marriage.’

      “But such recognition was never the END GAME, so this assurance, too, was a lie. The public now is told that extending marriage recognition to gay couples ‘will not deprive anyone of any rights.’ This probably is accurate, because freedom of religion is targeted to be de-legitimized as a right, by the courts…

      “In 2016 the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights [still under the Obama regime] issued a report concluding that anti-discrimination laws should have greater weight than religious freedom which should be framed as threat to civil rights. In releasing the document, the chairman of the commission, Martin Castro, BRANDED RELIGIOUS FREEDOM as ‘code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy, or any form of intolerance’ (“Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties,” Sept. 17, 2016).”

      (From Beaulieu, A GENERATION ABANDONED, Hamilton Books, 2017.)

  4. Maybe if religious people stopped being intolerant and discriminatory in the first place then maybe this issue would never have arisen.
    If you push then someone will push back residually the young and active against the old and established.
    God knows what He is doing, how could He not!
    All this infighting just plates into the enemies hands, makes money for media companies that already own most hearts and minds.
    Time to get over the individual fights and concentrate on the end goal…. Bringing people to Christ. Accept Jesus as saviour and let Him decide a person’s fate on judgement day.
    Are we not told to be in the world but not of it?
    Get out there and save their souls not their bodies.
    As you can tell in no scholar but high and mighty language is not going to win this one, its converting people without coercion.
    The constant fighting and complaining turns people away and so they are driven further away but welcomed in.
    To me it just seems like the Devil’s work to devide people for arbitrary reasons.
    Pray to God for your next actions.
    And yes I’m Christian first and then transgender, but before I was make and anti religion. Which is better?

    • “Get out there and save their souls not their bodies.”

      You can’t accept the soul while rejecting the body. God created both.

    • I presume what you meant to type was that you were male, not make.

      If you were male, you are male, and always will be, throughout eternity.

      “God knows what He is doing, how could He not!”

      He does. However, you are substituting your judgment for His. God created reality, and you can’t deny it and try to manipulate it and still claim that you are obeying His will. From Deuteronomy: “A woman shall not be clothed with man’s apparel, neither shall a man use woman’s apparel : for he that doeth these things is abominable before God.” If those things are abominable, ponder how much more abominable it is for a man not only to wear a woman’s clothes but to attempt to wear a woman’s body.

      “Maybe if religious people stopped being intolerant and discriminatory in the first place then maybe this issue would never have arisen.”

      Your view of Christ seems to be of a wishy washy, laid-back kind of guy who says, “Hey, whatever, it’s all good.” You might want to re-read His many warnings to sinners. We are supposed to be intolerant of evil. We are supposed to discriminate between that which is true and that which is false.

      • Leslie ………….. you nailed it so concisely that I don’t know how Kaykee could possibly miss your excellent Scriptural points and correction about men and women made in the image of God, not man’s or woman’s self-image of self-identification which = playing God with one’s sexuality. So good, that I am gonna ‘copy’ and ‘paste’ your correction & spiritual direction on some of my Yahoo evangelization comments.

        Great job indeed Leslie.

      • Jesus walks along side us all even those that are trans. Why can you not accept that. Why be exclusionary and quote Bible passages in the old testament. If you do that then look up abomination, it did but mean sin! Hating people and excluding them and not helping and not welcoming them is.
        Get your priorities back on track and actually help people come to the Lord, let Him decide their fate as it’s supposed to be.
        Stop trying to second guess Him and do His work not your prejudices. You may have to look real hard at yourself to see your true motivations of your hate, am Jesus to help, He can. I will pay for you.

        • I assume that by “trans” you mean “transsexual.” There is no such thing. It is impossible to change your sex. If you were born male, you are still male, and always will be, and there is absolutely nothing you can do to change it. That is truth.

          Jesus “walks alongside” everybody, but that doesn’t mean that He approves of every action that everybody does. Murderers, rapists, thieves, liars – He doesn’t just “walk alongside” them, He calls them all to repentance. He didn’t tell the woman caught in adultery, “Oh, hey, I’m walking with you, you just stay the way you are.” He told her to go and sin no more.

          “If you do that then look up abomination, it did but mean sin!”

          תוֹעֲבַ֥ת (ṯō·w·‘ă·ḇaṯ)
          Noun – feminine singular construct
          Strong’s Hebrew 8441: Something disgusting, an abhorrence, idolatry, an idol (https://biblehub.com/deuteronomy/18-12.htm)

          You seem to take sin quite lightly if you say, “It’s only a sin.”

          “ Hating people and excluding them and not helping and not welcoming them is.”

          Is what? And it isn’t “hating people” or “excluding them” to tell them the truth. Leaving them to wallow in a lie is a cruel thing to do. Allowing them to force others to acquiesce in their denial of truth is vicious.

          The Lord is Truth; and you are lying to yourself and to others, and trying to force others to say that your lie is truth. There is some excuse for you because it seems clear that you suffering from a severe mental illness; but there is no excuse at all for the alphabet soup of LBGwhatever the latest assortment of letters is and the people who support their perversion and their goals, which are a denial of the authority of nature and nature’s God. They deny reality; and they insist that others must knuckle under to their evil and twisted worldview.

          “Get your priorities back on track and actually help people come to the Lord, let Him decide their fate as it’s supposed to be.”

          Nobody can help people come to the Lord by lying and denying reality, but only by telling the truth. And of course He will decide their fate – something which should worry those who are advocating perversion.

          “Stop trying to second guess Him and do His work not your prejudices.”

          I don’t have to second guess God; He has been quite clear about how much He loves His creation; His son became incarnate, a part of the world that He created. He has also made it quite clear about how grossly immoral it is to commit homosexual acts, and to pretend to be a woman when one is a man.

          You throw the word ‘prejudices” around, when the applicable words here would be “moral judgment.” To lie is wrong. To deny reality is wrong.

          “You may have to look real hard at yourself to see your true motivations of your hate”

          I hate that the aforementioned alphabet soup of perversion is spreading evil in the world, corrupting it, robbing children of their innocence.

          Tell me, is there anything that you actually think is wrong? Suppose there was someone who decided that he was really, actually, a dog, and that he should be allowed to use newspapers or the yard instead of a bathroom, romp up and lick and sniff people, and having promiscuous sexual intercourse? What response have you left yourself to give him if he insists that he *really* is a dog and that you have to agree with that and accept it or you’re prejudiced and hating and excluding and not helping?

          “, am Jesus to help, He can. I will pay for you.”

          While it is kind of you to offer to pray for me, please do not pray that I will come to deny reality; call falsehood, truth,; nd accept mental illness or perversion as normal.

    • Kaykee quote: “Maybe if religious people stopped being intolerant and discriminatory in the first place then maybe this issue would never have arisen.”

      A statement like that definitively demonstrates that you don’t understand true religion instituted by Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church……and there’s no room for ‘transgenderism’ in God’s Will and Plan for the sanctification and salvation of mankind. Maybe you could begin again with Genesis and decide whether you are following God’s Plan, or the LGBT BS Plan with regard to where one wants to spend all eternity on the other side of time.

  5. With all due respect to the author of this article (and other articles I have read on this subject) the use of “Gnostic” in this context seems overdone and imprecise, nor is it very helpful to explaining the situation to the simple person in the pew. Gnosticism says that (esoteric) knowledge is the path to salvation; Transgenderism says that (individualistic) feeling is the path to identity. The two are not the same. Unfortunately the New Evangelization will tend to pick a theme, form a buzzword, and run with it until something more marketable catches on to take its place. Better to keep it simpler: a battle between the biological (true gender) and the psychological (trans gender); this is more instructive and more precise.

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