The age of consent in a new ageSeptember 19, 2016
The altar of self idolatry, at which our culture openly and completely worships, has implications for areas of public debate we may have never previously imagined, including the meaning of childhood and the age of consent. Those debates once centered upon the age of consent for sex or marriage. Today, the debates are about the age of consent for gender reassignment surgery and life itself.
Two international stories, one from Australia and one from Belgium are required reading:
First, in Australia, children are demanding–and receiving–sex transition treatment, including the surgical mutilation of otherwise healthy sexual organs. Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg told The Daily Telegraph that 250 children as young as three were being assisted by the gender dysphoria unit at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital.
Yes, you read that right: 250 children as young as three. One four year old is highlighted in the discussion about surgery. Again, yes, you read that right, four years old. One gynecologist referenced in the piece, herself a transgender person, Dr. Rosemary Jones, believes that four is a “good age” and that “parents who have any sense can usually pick it.” That statement reveals the redefinition of “good,”and also the concept of “sense” and nonsense.
From Australia to Belgium we go from the question of good age related to gender reassignment surgery to the question of good death, euthanasia.
The BBC reports that last week a terminally ill minor requested and received a physician’s assistance in committing suicide. Belgium is currently the only country that permits euthanasia without age restrictions.
What’s going on in a world where, when children are married off as brides, conscripted as soldiers or forced to work in sweatshops, we rise in condemnation. Yet those who beat their breasts about such violations of human dignity advocate as rights unrestricted access to abortion, physician assisted suicide and gender-reassignment surgery? What’s going on? Confusion. We are reaping the harvest of a generation’s long societal worship of the idol of personal autonomy.
This confusion leads to catastrophic consequences for children. Because the child is considered autonomous, the age of consent is whatever the child determines.
Except, of course, this is ridiculous. We don’t allow children to drive just because they want to. We don’t allow them to vote. We require them to go to school and forbid them from working–and condemn child labor. We don’t allow them to marry–and condemn child marriage. We don’t allow them to join the military–and condemn the conscription of children as soldiers. When children run away, we as a society believe it is better for them to be in the care of a guardian than living on their own. Why? Because these are arenas where a person needs the maturity of adulthood. There are things that kids can’t handle and rightly so, because they’re kids.
Advocates of autonomy will protest this argument, claiming child brides, child soldiers and child laborers are morally unacceptable because the children are not choosing those roles. But we don’t allow them even if the child does assert such a willfulness. We set limits because adults know better than the children. Well, at least that has historically been the argument in Western civilization.
The advocates of autonomy establish the moral righteousness of providing gender reassignment surgery or euthanasia to a minor who requests it on the argument that the child asked for it. This is an absolute abdication of adult responsibility for the sacred trust of children. It makes you wonder if those who advocate for a child-run world skipped the year in school when we all read Lord of the Flies.
What then is the appropriate age of consent in today’s America? In the eyes of the law of this country, children are still treated differently. But for how long? When will the idolatry of self-determination and abdication of what it means to be the adult in the room, supercede our long-standing tradition of the protection of children?
And lest we shrug this all off as happening “over there,” both of these issues are emerging in the United States. On the age of consent related to gender identity, we have “From He to She in First Grade” in Washington state. Here parents share that the child they regarded as their son prior to first grade they now regard as their daughter. Having migrated so far so fast, one imagines it won’t be long before they consider the options for surgically manipulating their child’s healthy functioning body.
And while only legal in five of the fifty states in the Union, the conversations about physician assisted suicide, or euthanasia, are no longer happening with respect to the aged. In Wisconsin, there is a fourteen year old suffering with an incurable disease who has requested to cease medical treatment and die.
Where is the Church in these cultural conversations? Are we leaning in to the science and into the medical debates and wading into the pain of these families? These are not easy conversations, but they are happening right now, in our country and our communities. There is before us an open opportunity to bear witness to what is good and beautiful and true. That opportunity requires that we enter into the confusion and bear witness to the reality of the God who brought the order of Creation out of chaos and the reality of redemption out of the Cross.
Additional resources to equip you for the conversation:
- American College of Pediatric Physicians article reveals that gender dysphoria debate is more about worldview than science. Read: Gender ideology harms children
- This debate is not as new as you think. Ten years ago, Dr. Al Mohler addressed the concern about Gender Confusion in Kindergarten. He addressed it more recently on his daily podcast, The Briefing.