I’m old enough to remember the great song by the Who conveniently titled “Who Are You?” That’s a great question, and sadly, today it is being answered in a way that is both absurd and dangerous.
So, how are we to answer the question? When I’m asked who I am, like you I respond in ways that speak to where I’ve come from, what I’m engaged in, and the relationships that bring meaning into my life. I’m a Hegg, descended from a long line of German Norwegian folks who worked hard and trusted in God. I’m also a husband, father, pastor, neighbor and Arsenal fan. I could go on and on but the point is, for as long as humanity has roamed the Earth, the question of identity was either answered physically, through DNA and chromosomal evidence, or relationally based on ancestry, geography and industry, among other things. Simply put, the question, “Who am I?” was never completely left up to the personal desires or dreams of the individual.
Now, to be sure, the “inalienable right” that is the constitutionally protected “pursuit of happiness” has long allowed each of us to pursue our goals, our dreams and our destiny. This has been the foundation of what we Americans prize as one element in our “individual liberty.” But, sadly, this inalienable right that allows us to pursue individual happiness has been co-opted by those who are now insisting that their individual sovereignty allows them to answer the question of identity in ways that are counterfactual, because that makes them happy.
We are now hearing about people whose pursuit of happiness is in reality a radical attempt to re-define what it means to be human. We are watching some proclaim that neither chromosomal realities nor DNA nor anything outside of themselves can have any bearing on their identity. This comes on the heels of decades where the consequences of unrestrained sexuality have been eliminated. The intellectual gerrymandering of the abortion movement has been designed to prove that human life in the womb isn’t really human. But, if not human, what kind of life is it? They label abortion “reproductive health care” and declare it with a straight face while knowing that they are actually ending a reproductive event without caring for the long-term mental anguish that regularly plagues those women who have intentionally ended the life they helped bring into being.
The current transgender movement is a prime example of the pursuit of happiness run so far amok that the very nature of humanity is up for grabs. It is the result of individual liberty becoming a false yet powerful belief in individual sovereignty. It used to be that therapists helped those wishing to reshape their bodies into a different gender by reorienting their minds to align with reality. Now our world is commanded to help them shape their bodies to align with their feelings. Why? Because individual sovereignty says feelings are king. If my pursuit of happiness means pursuing counterfactual ends then your duty is to not only allow it, but also accept and even applaud it.
However, the movement of sovereign individualism is carefully refusing to consider the uncomfortable yet irrefutable truth that comes with their commitment to construct their own happiness, to have it their way in every way.
The truth is, as the sovereign ruler of your human self, you believe you can morph both truth and reality into any shape and identity you desire. If you want to be a certain gender or no gender, or both genders, you as sovereign believe you have both the freedom and power to do so. But realize this: As the sovereign king or queen over your life, you have accepted total responsibility for your life. As a sovereign, you belong to yourself. You are in charge of your life. But be careful. As sovereign you must also accept all the consequences of your actions.
Also, understand that your sovereignty means you really don’t need any of us. As a sovereign you don’t actually need our approval or our acceptance since you alone determine your authenticity, your truth, and your happiness. So, if you continue clamoring for our approval, what does that say about you?
The truth is we are not our own. None of us is sovereign over our human self. No one is an island. While we are individuals, we actually belong to any number of other groups and are responsible to them and influenced greatly by them.
Let me leave you with the first question in the Heidelberg Catechism, which speaks dramatically to the comforting truth that we are not our own.
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own but belong, body and soul, in life and death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.