When the human identity is only defined by the sexual self
Jakob Hoekman, RD
June is Pride month. The month par excellence in which a self-respecting Western country shows how tolerant it is regarding sexual diversity. The LGBT parades tumble over each other. Companies that like to go along with the waves of the modern spirit paint their logos temporarily in the colours of the rainbow.
In Russia, these parades and mass attention to the LGBT community are proof that the West has nothing good to offer. Russian statements ridiculing the West on this point are legion. "The Netherlands has a paedophile club, and Russia does not." "The wife of the French President Macron is a male." "Gay parades are the ultimate sign of the depraved West."
The common denominator of these statements: they come from the mouth of Russian President Putin or people in his entourage, such as the news agency RIA Novosti or Patriarch Kyrill.
All three show how important it is for Putin and his followers not to go along with the LGBT movement gripping the West. Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church is particularly clear about this. In fact, according to him, the war in Ukraine came about partly because the LGBT agenda is imposed there against the people's will.
It is worth quoting him at length from one of his sermons, where he states that the people in the Donbas do not want to go along with the new world order that the West seeks to impose. "Today, there is a test of loyalty to this new world order, a kind of entrance pass to that 'happy' world, the world of excessive consumption, the world of false freedom," the archbishop says in that sermon. "Do you know what this test is? The test is straightforward and, at the same time, terrible: it is the Gay Pride parade. The demands on many to hold a gay parade test their loyalty to the new world order. We know that if people or countries reject these demands, they will not enter that world order."
So much for Kyrill's quote. I know Russia has often been the country of "them" versus "us" who passionately condemn the invasion of Ukraine. But where do we stand in this? Of course, there will hardly be a Western Christian who sees Gay Parades as a justifiable reason to invade a country, but when all is said and done, conservative Christians in the West and Russian Orthodox Christians in Russia appear to have fairly similar views on LGBT ideology. "They," for a change, are not the Russians but the liberal societies of the West.
I live in the Middle East, where this development – particularly in Europe and the American continent – is viewed with dismay. It is regarded as proof of the depravity of the Christian world. This accusation that the LGBT movement is inherent to the Christian world does not come out of the blue. There are now just over thirty countries that have legalised same-sex marriage, and all but one of these are countries with traditionally Christian cultures. (The one exception is Taiwan.) Why is that?
The easiest answer is because these countries have become majority non-Christian. But why then is a parallel development not taking place in other non-Christian countries? The Dutch historian Tom Holland comes up with another explanation: same-sex marriage was cultivated on Christian soil precisely because love and equal treatment are given a genuine chance there. Viewed this way, it is pre-eminently Christian values like love and equality that, peeled away from their Biblical context, have given a boost to the sexual revolution.
There is another remarkable similarity between the Christian history of the West and the LGBT movement. In large parts of Western church history, the soul was considered far more important than the body. This view is still prevalent among Christians today. In a secular form, this is also true of the descendants of the sexual revolution.
If, as a man, you sincerely feel like a woman on the inside, that is what counts. It is not the biological, physical characteristics but the identity experienced inside that is decisive. The influential conservative thinker Robert George calls this "gnostic liberalism" a form of liberalism that emphasises the inner man so strongly that physical reality hardly matters anymore, just as in some forms of Christian Gnosticism.
This is the heart of the LGBT movement. It is not about behaviour that is viewed differently, but about the right to express one's deepest self. The key word here is identity, argues the theologian and church historian Carl Trueman. He wrote a book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self that is still the standard work when it comes to the historical development of the Sexual Revolution.
Those who do not understand that rejecting the LGBT movement comes across as rejecting who a person is at their deepest level, cannot sense the deep resistance to Christian views either. According to Trueman, this does not mean that Christians should go along with the LGBT movement. But they should realise how deep the discussion goes.
According to Trueman, the task of the church (apart from adopting a pastoral attitude) is also to form a strong, powerful community –just like the close-knit LGBT community– where a Biblical identity can take root. Where it is not the sexual self that defines one's deepest identity, but "being in Christ".
If the latter is central to both Western Christianity and the Russian Orthodox Church, there is a foundation that will remain even when the "new world order" is long out of date.
Democracy as the best of all bad options (part 6/6)
The truth as the first casualty in war (part 5/6)