When the New Normal is Abnormal

We need to call the new normal for what it is – abnormal.

The late, lamented political cartoonist, Bill Leak, said shortly before his death that it was becoming harder to produce cutting edge material because what was once considered satirical and outrageous when he first began his craft is now the new normal.

And in that vein a friend texted me this the other day after the Australian Deputy Prime Minister was forced to resign:

Who’d’ve thought, mid-90s, post Clinton affair, that a western political leader would be forced out for infidelity within a single generation. And yet an Anglican priest in Queensland can become a woman and stay married to their wife.

To which I might add,”…and remain an Anglican priest because they believe that they are better equipped to minister to people now.” And so does the diocese in which they serve.

Strange, strange times not merely ahead of us, but currently upon us in both culture and church.  The push for deep autonomy, especially focussed on sex and gender identity, is throwing up all sorts of curve balls, and that’s only going to increase.

And it will (is) raising all manner of tensions in areas of public life such as sport.  And with the Commonwealth Games set to take place here in Australia in two months, we see the start of what will become all too common:

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The Sydney Morning Herald reports it like this:

The 39-year-old was a national junior record-holder in the male 105kg class before transitioning in her mid-30s.

Rival athletes complained that she had an unfair advantage after winning gold at the Australian Open this year, lifting 123 kilos in the snatch and 145 kilos in the clean and jerk.

Notice how the paper seamlessly moves between “male” and “her”.  It’s not just grammar and syntax that sub-editors need to have an eye out for these days. This is not about not feeling a level of sympathy for someone whose gender dysphoria has pushed them to such a radical change.

But not so much so that I’ve only got a few coppers of spare change sympathy for those athletes who, having had to battle illicit drugs for decades in their pursuit of victory, now have to battle celebrated superior competition.   They’re being told to grin and bear it.

Sports are on notice.  And it’s a minefield, because when elite sport and elite levels of money are concerned I am pretty sure that all sorts of “inclusive” ideas about who or who not is running in the lane next to you will go out the window.

The single minded devotion that elite athletes have to their sport, and their desire to reach the pinnacle is being sideswiped by society wide experimentation.  Expect a few more boos and a few less handshakes all around with athletes competing in the gender they were born with (hard to imagine even having to say that 20 years ago), find themselves off the podium.

And by athletes I mean female athletes.   It will never be the other way around, that women will transition and compete in men’s sport at the absolute elite level.  So female athletes are the ones most affected.  But I guess that doesn’t concern those whose career is in sociology or who are lecturers in Cultural Studies 101 at The University of Second Rate Degrees.

Look, I’m a bit of a runner, but not much of a runner.  I managed top fifty in the Perth HBF Run for a Reason in 2016 at the age of 48.  Four women, all sub-elite or elite runners in Perth beat me.  But only four – and all much younger.  That is simply to say that if I switched genders, even at my age, I’d be nigh on unbeatable in my age category and would do pretty well across the board.

Which is all just a way of saying, we haven’t even scratched the surface of the complications coming our way when it comes to gender identity issues. And it’s not a way of signalling my desperate running intentions.

However we are supposed to be comforted by all of this, according to the Herald:

A spokesperson for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation said organisers planned to make the event “the most accessible and inclusive Games in history”.

Well I guess in thirty years time we will look back fondly on these Gold Coast Games as the last mostly level playing field in international competition, before the sociologists get their talons into it and demand a seat at the table.

And then of course, there’s this, which shows where elite sport could really progress if they put their minds to it.  Because despite my earlier predictions in a blog post in January, we have not yet reached peak stupid:

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Different but equal.  Remember the time we were able to say that about men and women?  Now it’s about animals and humans.  This is a billboard at a central Melbourne railway station.  It’s not a subversive poster in a damp tunnel down the back end of the canals in some seedy backwater.  Front and centre in the city.

Still I guess BeFairBeVegan didn’t have the chutzpah to put a picture of a lobster on the poster, even though, according to their theological framework (and it is theological), that’s what they would have to believe.  But then again, this new progressive game has always been about aesthetics trumping ethics. “Just look into those eyes and say they’re not equal, go on, I dare you“, it seems to say.

And notice there’s no reference to “created” in that “different but equal”.  They’ve ripped off the biblical text and ensured it’s hermetically sealed off from the transcendent mind.  The immanent frame will decide the new ethic for the public square thank you very much.

Perhaps Melbourne’s rail system could put its money where it’s mouth is and reintroduce horse drawn carriages as their primary mode of transport under that same monicker – see how far it would get them.

“Yes, yes we know you need to be in the CBD in fifteen minutes, but isn’t that just a little bit industrialist of you to favour the horseless carriage?”

I guess we can take comfort – for the time being anyway – that we are still permitted to say “different but equal”, because the pace of change means that in twenty years time we could be lining up to race against horses at the Commonwealth Games.  Not much of a chance of a human podium finish in that one.

Sounds ridiculous really, but take a look again at the opening quote of this piece.   For I’ve seen this doing the rounds, even approvingly by theologians:

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Okay, so humans in their sinful state have not looked after their planet.  But the Genesis account is clear in how it presents binary groupings (binary being anathema to the post-Christian frame).  The creation account of Genesis with its “light/dark”, “earth/sky”, male/female”,  “Creator/creature”, “human/animal” binaries is Enemy No1 for this new way of thinking.

The Biblical view of humanity as the pinnacle of creation, given the task of overseeing and tending the rest of the creation is set on a collision course with the increasingly public demands for sign up to these agendas.

Is this alarmism?  No, just reality.   It’s almost astonishing that we’ve reached were we have this quickly.

And I don’t say it grumpily.  I’m saying it as someone involved in pastoral ministry who is figuring out how to equip the people of God, especially the younger generation coming through, who are going to have to wade through all of this without being drowned by it.

Of course, there’s no going back to Eden.  Let’s not forget that.  Brokenness and sin have intertwined so that we have lost any semblance of what true normal is.  There’s no way back, only a way forward through Christ to a new creation.

Hence, insofar as our fellow humans are, like us, broken and sinful, such travesty of truth in the public square is something to mourn and pray about.  There’s no room for pride or self-righteousness.  Our own sin should make us all too aware of that, and should drive us in repentance to the cross of Christ daily.

If anything all that we’re seeing in this manic drive towards a post-Christian foundationalism is that, actually, there are no foundations left to drive towards.  There’s just a chasm into which our culture will spiral further.  This thing hasn’t bottomed out.  All we’re left doing is wondering what it might look like when it does.

Christian leaders are just going to have to counter this tsunami of Folly – and it is Folly with a capital “F” – with a wisdom that is not of this world, that is from above.  We’re going to have to embed the Biblical framework so deeply into the hearts and minds and wills of our people that, just like the experts on counterfeit money, they’ll know the truth, and the direction that the truth takes, so well, that they won’t swallow all of this hook line and sinker.

Because, as outrageous all of the above would have sounded to most of us just those short 20 years ago when Bill Clinton, kept his job despite his power-differential dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, it’s quickly becoming the new normal.

We’d better get used to it.