The dark side of Inclusivity

By James Caspian

Perhaps it is in the post-post modernist vacuum, filled with a polarised and simplistic furore on social media over anything and everything, that identity politics and the philosophy of critical theory – where the end result is that people are either villains or victims – have taken residence.

Every spiritual and religious tradition with ancient roots has taught the same essential truth, that the supreme transcendent consciousness is essentially pure Love, and that whilst the ways to this may seem many there are some ways that are recognisable and have been trodden before by sages. The teachings and the way of Jesus, whilst being simple, are not easy. A core tenet is that everyone is welcome. Everyone. Anyone may hear the call and answer it. No one will be turned away.

The Church, any church, provides a place and a structure where spiritual practice can take place.

Identity politics – where groups of people form exclusive social and political alliances according to the group to which they belong or identify takes many forms; for instance a religion, race, nationality, sexual orientation, political or philosophical viewpoint. Within the last decade a new and widely misunderstood and opaquely explained identity has been widely embraced not least on the back of a ‘no debate’ policy. Thus has gender identity become a kind of secular religion for many people.

Politics, like religion, has its tenets and its dogmas. Its drivers have taken it to every institution in the land and embedded it by using every means as its disposal. Not all have been edifying. The Equality Act 2010 has the unenviable task of trying to hold the ring between competing and sometimes conflicting rights, including claims about gender identity, which in themselves often lack legal definition. (It was the philosopher Foucault who said that legislating about something plays a part in bringing it into being).

The Act created categories of people with ‘protected characteristics’ which are thus given special status, for instance: age, sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, beliefs, and gender reassignment. The Act was the culmination of decades of civil rights being dealt with on a piecemeal basis. The drive to achieve equality of opportunity and acceptance in society of those who had historically been discriminated against required consolidation as well as much consistency and fairness as possible. For example, people who had transitioned to the other sex, or were visibly gender role non- conforming, often found it difficult to obtain employment in the mainstream prior to the Equality Act.

Casual discrimination and censoring was commonplace. I had a friend who, on transitioning from male to female, was banned from attending the Mormon church and even from setting foot in the building. (She sat defiantly every Sunday on a chair outside as the congregation filed in and out). So the Equality Act serves as means by which to put an end to such crude discrimination.

However every light casts a shadow. The shadow that has emerged in the name of equal rights and tolerance is of course, one of intolerance. The more vociferous advocates of social justice and critical theory, just like those before them in countless religious, philosophical and political belief systems, discriminate against anyone who does not conform to their views and beliefs. They cite these not as being beliefs but as concrete reality and the only acceptable way to see the created order. Thus what has come to be known, reasonably or not, as ‘gender ideology’ purports that gender identity has a concrete and unchangeable reality more real than biological physical sex. To disagree makes a person the enemy of the belief system and to be destroyed in some way.

Consider the Reformation, when Henry VIII replaced the Pope as the head of the Church in England. The result was a bitter divide between Catholic and Protestant. Some would say it still lingers. Disagreement on Christian doctrine intertwined with the politics of power and money led to the deaths, torture and imprisonment of many. It was centuries before the Roman Catholic Relief Act permitted Catholics to hold high office again.

While there are political and philosophical beliefs of many persuasions present within any church or religion, that is not spiritual practice. If a church gives a special place to any one political stance, then it should give it to all. Yet of course it can’t, and doesn’t do that, because spiritual teaching goes beyond the limitations of human ego.

The politics of diversity and inclusiveness – like all movements – has a light face and contains a dark shadow. That is human nature. There are many different such movements and any proponent of them is welcome in a church. None should be singled out as deserving a special welcome any warmer than that given to any other. All are welcome.

Ultimately all identities are manifestations of ego, and all spiritual teachings are that God is beyond ego.

James Caspian is an active Anglican and a former church warden. He is a psychotherapist and researcher in the fields of trangender and transexuality with more than 20 years experience. His research into detransitioning was stopped by his university, a move he challenged by applying for a judicial review in the courts, which despite being prevented by legal technicalities succeeded in drawing attention to the increasing phenomenon of transition regret and detransition. Read about his case in the Civitas Report, and for more background, have a look at his archived 2018 crowdfunder. He is a founder-member of Thoughtful Therapists.

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