Interview Spotlight: Q & A with Rod Dreher on TIME transgender piece and what it says about the state of the American soulSeptember 15, 2016
On Monday, we talked with Rod Dreher on a recent TIME magazine piece on “My Brother’s Pregnancy,” what it reflects about the current state of the American soul, and why all Christians should care about the current discussions on transgenderism. Rod is senior editor of the American Conservative. Listen to full interview below.
Carmen LaBerge: Last week we talked a little bit about an article that appeared in Time Magazine. It’s a Time Magazine about My Brother’s Pregnancy. Let’s just take that headline, the concept of My Brother’s Pregnancy and consider that for just a moment because if you haven’t already seen the Time article, the picture that leads the article is quite disturbing, and the content of the article is nothing short of pure confusion and it bares evidence to the confusion in our culture not only about sexual identity, but about the lengths we will go to in terms of our own autonomy to do whatever we want not only to our own bodies, but potentially to another person simply to fulfill our own, frankly, selfish desires.
Here to talk with us about that article and his response to it and anything else that comes up in our conversation today because he’s a joy of a thinker is Rod Dreher. He’s the Senior Editor at The American Conservative.
Rod Dreher: It’s great to be here.
Carmen: In the column, as you know, the writer describes how her sister transitioned to living as a man, but still retained the desire to actually conceive and give birth to her own child. There’s a disturbing picture that accompanies the article wherein an infant is suckling at the exposed breast of his mother who is now a bearded man. In your reaction to My Brother’s Pregnancy, you describe that image in this way.
“The photo of the bearded man-woman nursing his baby and that image appearing in a celebratory context in Time Magazine is about as powerful an icon of the spiritual and moral state of the 21st century America as you can imagine.” Rod, can you unpack that for our listeners?
Rod: Sure. An icon is something that reveals an inner state and a transcendental reality and theology. I think that image shows the inner state of the American soul right now in the 21st century in this way. It made me think immediately of that scene in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ in which Jesus is being flogged at the post and the devil walks around the outside of that scene holding a baby, and the baby turns to look at Christ and you see it’s this grotesque monster. Someone asked Mel Gibson back when the movie came out about that, and he said that this was a meaning to show evil distorting what’s good.
Mel said, “What is more tender and beautiful than a mother and a child.” The devil takes that and distorts it just a little bit. Instead of a normal mother and child, you have an androgynous figure holding a 40-year-old baby with hair on his back. It’s weird. It’s shocking. It’s almost too much. That was in a movie in 2004. Now we have something very similar to that happening in real life in America in 2016. Not only is it happening, it’s been celebrated as progress in the pages of a mainstream news magazine. I think this mirrors what’s going on in society at large. If you talk to religious liberty activists, they’ll tell you that when Obergefell came down, the Obergefell essentially legalizing gay marriage, they knew that it was a big defeat for conservative Christians, but they thought it would give some breathing space now before we had to fight the transgender fight.
Guess what? There was no breathing space. Transgenderism is here and it is pushing strongly through the schools. So many Americans need to look at this image of this bearded man-woman nursing a child and understand that this kind of distortion, this evil distortion, is being preached and taught in schools and in the culture as good.
Carmen: This just occurred to me as you were talking, and I was thinking, connecting in my mind what’s happening in Massachusetts in relationship to public accommodation laws and the demand for even churches to use the pronoun of the individual’s choice if they are in your church facility for any kind of public event, and then I’m thinking to myself my background is mainline Christianity, and I’m thinking to myself, “Let’s just imagine for a moment this person presents himself/herself to have their child baptized.” This is not outside the realm of possibility for a church in our country to need to be prepared to deal with in the coming weeks.
There’s just no way that churches are prepared for these conversations, and there’s really no way that Christians are adequately prepared for these conversations, either.
Rod: I was going to say that’s really true. I’m writing a book called The Benedict Option now and I’ve been talking to law professors and religious liberty activists about the state of affairs, what’s going on in the country, and what’s about to come, and every single one of them tells me that no pastor in America or very few pastors in America are preparing their congregations for the world that we are entering right now. It’s going to be a world of persecution. It’s going to be a world where people have to suffer for their faith.
Carmen: Absolutely. On the religious liberty front, let’s talk about this Time Magazine piece. Let’s talk about doctors who have to engage with and deal with people like the person who is featured in this article.
Rod: These doctors, they are not going to have the liberty most likely in the future to refuse to deal with that. We’re already seeing lawsuits where doctors who declined to treat transgender individuals because of conscience reasons are being sued. We don’t know how these lawsuits are going to be resolved in the courts, but if the courts accepts the progressive belief that gender is just a social construct and to deny someone of a gender they claim to be is to deny their identity and, therefore, their civil rights, then a doctor who refuses to do this stands to lose his or her license. Religious liberty experts tell me that we’re going to see this more and more in the years to come with doctors and other healthcare professionals, in particular, as well as lawyers.
Christians who are involved in these fields are going to have to choose between their livelihood and their faith, and it’s just going to be a devastating thing that we’re not even thinking about that right now.
Carmen: I think we’re already there on the life issue. I think that there are folks in the medical community who are grandfathered in, but anybody that is now going to, let’s say they’ve just graduated from nursing school and they’re applying for positions, there are these pre-qualifying statements that you have to sign if you want to work somewhere that basically says, “I have no problem and would actively participate in any abortion-related procedure.” I think that folks are not aware of just how deeply into our cultural practices some of these what we have considered very high-brow cultural issues. They are right down in the daily living of many, many Christians in terms of their profession.
Rod: Absolutely. Not just those in the highly educating professions like medicine and law. We’re seeing this happening now with school teachers, public school teachers. In Fort Worth, Texas, of all places, the school superintendent put out a rule saying that all school teachers are going to have to stop using he and she and start referring to students as scholars and students as a way to make the school more welcoming to trans students. I know he got a lot of push back on that, and I don’t know how it was ultimately resolved, but the thing that chopped me was this was not Massachusetts. This was not San Francisco. This was Fort Worth, Texas. Right here where I live.
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, last week, a pastor told me that a woman had come to his church, it’s a Southern Baptist pastor, and said that her middle school daughter came home from school, public school, and said, “Mom, I am a boy. You will call me by this boy’s name. I will wear boy clothes.” The mother went to the school to see the guidance counselor to say, “What the heck’s going on with my daughter?” The guidance counselor took the daughter aside and offered to reeducate the mom into being more trans friendly. If this can happen in public schools in a deep red state like Louisiana or Texas, it’s happening everywhere.
Carmen: I think we need to be, even though we don’t know her name, we need to be lifting up that mom because you and I both know that the state will intervene before they will support that mom and her rights. There is a push to becoming alongside even very young people who imagine themselves to be something other than they are.
Rod: This is something that’s even new to me, and I tend to keep up with this stuff. Earlier this year, I went to church in suburban Baltimore visiting a friend of mine, and a woman at the Coffee Hour took me aside and said, “You have no idea how far this transgender stuff has gone in the public schools around here in suburban Baltimore. The schools are pushing it hard and heavy. People call you an alarmist,” she said to me, “But you’re not an alarmist. Trust me on this.” This same woman wrote me last month and said that now her daughter has come home from high school and declared that she’s transgender, and the school is deploying all it’s resources, and of course, the culture of the school, to support this, and it breaks her heart.
The woman doesn’t believe her daughter’s transgender at all, but that’s the way the culture is going, and it’s in the schools.
Carmen: What’s next on the religious liberty front or something that folks need to be paying attention to that they might not, otherwise, be paying attention to?
Rod: I think the thing that we need to watch for is the protection of our institutions, meaning Christian colleges, as well as churches and Christian high schools. What we’re going to see is when, the case you brought up earlier when say a mother, a lesbian mother, a gay mother or father bring their kids to be baptized in the church. Of course, the church wants to do that. That’s what the church does, but lawyers are telling these Christian high schools, for example, that if you accept a child of gay and lesbian parents, you’re running a risk of opening yourself up to lawsuit because if you accept them, then an argument could be made that homosexuality doesn’t matter.
You’re having pastors and head masters of school saying we can’t be the church if we have to turn these kids away. The lawyers are saying if you don’t turn them away, you’re going to probably be sued, but this is something to watch very closely because there’s been tremendous battles on this front.
Carmen: Thanks for being with us.
This is an excerpt of our interview with Rod Dreher, edited for clarity. Listen to the full interview, which includes our discussion about Hillary Clinton’s obfuscation on her health and an update on Louisiana flooding,.