If you’re like me, you have to wonder how certain decisions are made, how some views are held, and mostly, how some causes are granted priority status in our culture. What appears to me to be absurd at best and treacherous and evil at worst is often carefully presented and deeply believed by those around me.
For example, transgenderism, abortion and the separation of chromosomal sex from gender are, for many, clearly contrary to natural law. Yet, these same issues are passionately held and promoted by rational, clear-headed people. Both sides claim the truth and the moral high ground. Yet, those who have taken philosophy and logic understand that “A” and “not A” are opposites. Competing truth claims cannot both be right.
It all comes down to what we might call the “basis of authority.” What “truths” do each side hold as authoritative, as the basis for their belief?
Take the issue of transgenderism, for example. One side is certain that transgenderism is actually impossible given that human chromosomes don’t transition. As a human male, I have approximately 8 billion cells in my body, each of which has an X and a Y. No amount of personal feeling, or preference, or even surgery can change that. In this case, the “basis of authority” is the science of genetics, and personal feelings have nothing to do with it.
But, those who promote transgenderism argue that gender is not genetic. They believe the “person” is altogether a separate entity from the “body.” As such, each individual is free to create whatever gender identity most promotes their happiness and well-being based on how they feel. And they are free to present that identity in any form that pleases them. In this case, the “basis of authority” is one’s personal feelings, and genetics have nothing to do with it. Today’s philosophers have labeled this “the sovereignty of self,” and thus, the “sovereign self” becomes the “basis of authority.”
As long as the two sides are arguing from different authority positions, there will never be agreement. But what is already happening is that we as a society are “going along to get along” lest the cancel culture shines its death ray our way.
But, take a moment to think about this seismic shift in how society understands “truth” and how that affects the way we operate.
We are already seeing how the personal feelings of each sovereign self become the rule for what is acceptable and the consequences that brings. Suddenly, scientific laws can be brushed aside. Historical cultural values can be mocked. Laws defining crime and mandating punishment can be ignored. More alarming, the authorial intent behind our Constitution can be radically reinterpreted, and any other reality or moral authority that attempts to restrain the expanding desires of the “sovereign self” and the pursuit of personal happiness can and will be denigrated as dangerous and marked for destruction.
We see it all around us, and the consequences will be many. But I want to point out just one here. As we see the anarchy of sovereign individualism grow, we will experience the devastating reality that there no longer remains something we now call “the common good.”
In a world of self-serving sovereign individuals, the opposing values of others, the idea of self-restraint, and the discipline of self-denial in the service of God and country will be washed away by the tide of individual sovereignty. It will be each to his or her own and the death of common courtesy, as the last lights of a “love your neighbor as yourself” culture fade away.
Admit it. We’re already seeing this all around us. We have become a “me first” society at a time when we desperately need to find and preserve the “common good.”
So, what do we do? First, commit to finding and holding to some timeless basis of authority that brings out the best in you, not your selfish desires.
Second, speak up. We all know about the little boy who shouted that the Emperor had no clothes. Let’s be that little boy. But, be a voice that not only calls out the absurdity of baseless pronouncements and beliefs but does so winsomely, confidently and unashamedly.
Lastly, seek out, join and support those individuals and communities that hold to your basis of authority. It’s where you’ll find camaraderie and a much-needed place to belong.
And if your basis of authority is God and his Word in the Bible, Grace Baptist Church will welcome you.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.