Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images
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The religion of self-worship

Rowan Williams calls it a “sacred journey” — but trans ideology is a new faith altogether

Steve Chalke of the Oasis Trust, and former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, have with others written this in a letter to the Prime Minister:

To be Trans is to enter a sacred journey of becoming whole: precious, honoured, and loved, by yourself, by others and by God.

In one sentence this brings into the open what a good deal of the LGBT+ movement has become: it is now a sacred quest, an agenda no longer driven science, common sense, or simple compassion; but by a transcendental vision, a desire for mystical fulfilment and a metaphysical belief in unseen realities. This is, more than anything else, a religion.

But it is not Christian religion. What you consider to be sacred depends entirely on what you worship as holy — “sacred” and “holy” translate the same words in the Bible. Christianity sees the holiness of God as in many ways the centre and goal of all things. God’s holiness is his absolute moral purity; his infinite height above and distance from evils and impurity. More than that, it is the white heat of goodness — so much that we, whose hearts are terribly unclean, cannot stand in his presence. Our God is a consuming fire. In the famous vision of the prophet Isaiah, the flaming creatures who attend his throne have to cover their own eyes in his presence, as they call out “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts”. How much more should mere humans with our grubby hearts and minds tremble at the thought of him.

The LGBT+ movement is a religion

Yet this Holy God, in Jesus Christ, calls us out of and away from ourselves, to not only worship him without fear, but to become holy ourselves. “You shall be holy, because I am holy”, says God in one of his most memorable Biblical sayings. Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me, said Jesus: find rescue from the polluted thoughts of your own heart and have it restored to reflect in some small way the purity of God himself. Christianity is a call to abandon self and encounter and become like the truly Sacred God.

Chalke and Williams, on the other hand, think a sacred journey is one made in the opposite direction. Not a journey denying self, but a journey which pursues it. Not seeking to conform my soul to the Holy God high above me, but seeking to conform my body to some supposed mysterious internal identity. For in this religion it is the Self within which is the object of worship. The Self is God. The Self is the Sacred. And everything — my lifestyle, my sexual behaviour, even the shape and function and integrity and health of my body — must be sacrificed in the sacred journey to satisfy it.

And so the Chalke/Williams letter has exposed an uncomfortable, but now unavoidable truth about some at least of the LGBT+ movement. It is a religion. And it is a religion which teaches that spiritual enlightenment — sacred “becoming whole” — comes through bodily harm. In this, it most closely resembles forms of paganism, seeking transcendental satisfaction via the drastic mutilation of the flesh. This needs to be faced as a reality. And it has some pretty strong consequences.

The Prime Minister must go further and cancel plans for a “conversion therapy” ban

First, this puts an ocean of clear blue water between those who hold such views and anything which can reasonably be recognised as Christianity. Christianity teaches that the body is good, a good creation of the good God. The sexual differentiation of male and female bodies is held up in Scripture as of first significance in what it means to be the image of God. It is not a prison to escape from, as the Greeks thought, nor meat to be slashed to gain the attention of the gods, as the Canaanites thought. Our God himself took a human body, and though he offered it as a sacrifice, that was to save our bodies from the grave. And so like his body, ours will be raised again to eternal life, with their wounds healed, that we may live as bodies and souls united eternally in God’s presence. Christians know that our bodies are made to be temples of the Holy Spirit, not sacrificial victims to be offered in the hope of satisfying the Sacred Self.

Second, this speaks directly into the current political mess about the so-called “Conversion Therapy“ ban. The Prime Minister has been quite right to cancel the planned LGBT+ conference this summer rather than buckle in the face of campaigners’ fury about dropping Trans from the ban. An ideology which teaches that self-mutilation leads to spiritual enlightenment is one which cannot can be followed any longer. The era in which government has simply assumed that righteousness will always be on the side of the LGBT+ campaign groups must now come to an end.

But the Prime Minister needs to go further and cancel plans for a “conversion therapy” ban in its entirety. The government’s own research has demonstrated that it is not necessary: “the evidence-base for further legislative measures is weak… there is already legislation to address acts which inflict physical harm… therapies are already subject to regulation through professional frameworks”, said the government document leaked to ITV last week, and it is right. The campaign for the legislation was never about dealing with a real danger but satisfying a religious zeal for cultural dominance.

But more importantly, what has now become clear is that the proposed legislation has been aiming at the wrong target. It is not orthodox Christians, who teach that we should live not for self but for the Holy God, restraining sexual desires to the marriage of one man and one woman, who pose a risk of harm. No, it is those who promote a religion of enlightenment by bodily modification.

Christians teach children that their bodies are good, to be loved and cared for; this new religion tells them that they are to be carved up to match the mysterious “gender identity”. Christians believe that bodies are God-given, to be valued and accepted, whose very nature and design teaches precious truths about who we are; whereas this new religion teaches that bodies are mere “walking meat skeletons” (to quote one BBC video for teens), a mere container for the Self, whose structure and function mean nothing and should be ignored, blocked, or even disposed of altogether. Who, do you think, is more likely to cause harm?

When chemical sterilisation and physical mutilation are promoted as a “sacred journey to wholeness”, it is time to realise that those who say such things are not offering the rest of us solutions. It’s time to begin to see them as, just perhaps, part of the problem.  

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