The thing about the zeitgeist police is that they haven’t been trained to think critically. I should probably say it isn’t their fault; they were born this way. (Don’t you find it interesting, by the way, that the phrase “born this way” has passed out of vogue? I guess it doesn’t sell as well for the transgender issue as it did for the gay rights movement.) The bad news here is that these people can be difficult to reason with– not because they’re stupid, but because reason doesn’t have the same weight in the public square as it might have a number of years ago. The good news with all this is that some of the same arguments they use can be used against them. Call it rhetorical Judo.
I have a friend who works as middle management in a big company, and has come up against this recently. Some time ago corporate sent out a mass email detailing how employees are to welcome clients to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity. My friend (let’s call him John), after a short period of prayer and seeking counsel, met with his boss to tell her he could not enforce the company’s policy. There are a number of ways he could have approached this conversation, and many of them would have been good. What he said was that enforcing the company policy would violate his identity as one who belongs to Christ and therefore is under obligation to uphold the God’s laws and God’s proclamations about the world. John was being serious, of course. By referring to his convictions as a part of his “identity” (which they are), he forced his supervisor to make a decision. If she attempted to impel him to comply with policy, she would be making a statement to the effect that his identity is somehow less valid than those of the transgender stripe. If, on the other hand, she agreed to exempt him from having to enforce the policy, she would be admitting that there are valid opinions other than the prevailing secularist view, a concession not currently well tolerated by our culture-war overlords.
I should say this about John: he has been commended and promoted more than once for his work ethic, his creativity, his leadership, and his competence. This isn’t the case of the Christian dole bludger who wants to laze around and then act the part of a paladin when the chips are down. John has been living his Christian witness all along.
John’s boss, surprisingly, sympathized with him. She also, unsurprisingly, passed the buck higher up the corporate chain. He had a meeting with a special HR team, and they told him he would not be required to enforce the company transgender bathroom use policy. This is an amazing outcome, especially for where John lives (in a large, progressive city) and where John works. It’s not everything– the company is still being immoral, of course. But it is significant that John is no longer being asked to bow the knee on this issue.
Wiser men than I have been saying this for a while, that we need a theology of Christian resistance. I agree, and I think we need to go further. We not only need a theology of Christian resistance, we need heroes of Christian resistance. I’ve said before that the stories we tell envision our values, but they also reinforce our values. They strengthen our convictions. Many Christians are now or will shortly face fearful circumstances at work where they feel forced to choose between their much-needed income and their faith. They feel trapped. What they need to know is that they are not trapped. The culture war, no matter how bleak things appear, is not over. It is decided, of course– it was decided the moment that Jesus put aside his shroud. Because he is risen, we can challenge and engage culture faithfully. Not everyone will have an outcome quite like John’s– in fact, I imagine that for a while, he may be the exception to the rule. Nevertheless, the snow has stopped, a warm breeze has picked up, and the whisper runs everywhere from ear to faithful ear– “Aslan is on the move.”