In his December 12 commentary in the New York Times, Frank Bruni laments the loss of intellectual diversity on America’s campuses. “One of the most striking aspects of what we’ve seen and read about recently at an array of colleges, including Yale, Brown and Amherst,” says Bruni, “is some students’ insistence not just that their viewpoints be acknowledged and respected but that contrary ones be discredited, renounced, purged.” Going further, Bruni states: “I think we’re surrendering an enormous opportunity by not insisting that colleges be more aggressive in countering identity politics, tamping down partisan fury, pulling students further outside of themselves and establishing common ground.”
While I’m grateful that Bruni is admitting this, I would argue his concern is simply more evidence of progressives creating the very monster that now threatens to consume them. The LGBT identity game that Bruni himself—at least in some measure—has embraced, inevitably leads to the loss of human freedom he now bemoans, for human flourishing is won or lost upon the definition of what it means to “be” human. If the leading voices in the media miss this simple truth, they are missing the real story that feeds all others.
Consider three recent news stories that highlight the inevitable ontological chaos stemming from subjective “identity” claims:
- A middle aged man in the United Kingdom claims the identity of a pre-adolescent girl which his new family celebrates
- People who identify as pets and thereby claim they are really dogs and cats at heart, get plastic surgery to that end. Why not celebrate their “identity”? That’s who they “feel” they are!
- Some poor souls claim that their true identity is to be disabled. They actually remove body parts because they “feel” they should be without eyes, arms, or legs because this is “who they
If anyone can ignore the empirically obvious male/female distinction and simply decide to be something other than what biology and science has dictated, then why not become a dog or a cat, a 6-year-old girl or an amputee? If a man is a woman just because he “feels” like one, then why can’t he be a cat if it strikes his fancy? Why can’t he be Shirley Temple? Why can’t he be a double amputee? Why can’t he “be” a pumpkin for that matter?
By arguing for subjective identity claims rather than what is obvious and objectively real, progressives such as those at the NYT have unleashed this Kraken of illiberality that they now bemoan. All hell is breaking loose on our campuses and in our culture and it all goes back to this ontological arrogance described in Genesis 3 that shouts, “I shall be as God! I will decide what’s human and what’s not!” With such god-like power, why not “discredit and purge” all those who disagree?
Endnote: The shame of all the above is that the Church has bought the lie. We have been complicit in this grand deception. This mess is our fault. When we started having a coddling conversation about subjective identity claims rather confronting such talk as delusional, we lost the battle before it even started. And we know better. Christians, of all people, understand that our identity is in Christ, not in fabrications and feelings, and it is in this identity alone that we are truly set free.