Are You Being Shaped By This Subversive Ideology? (4)

11 December 2020

5.5 MINS

‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.’
~ Romans 12:2

This is part 4 of a multipart series exploring the ideas around the secular ideology of Critical Theory in the book ‘Cynical Theories: How Universities Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity – and Why This Harms Everybody’, by authors Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay. You can read part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.

The Australian state of Victoria is set to introduce legislation banning so-called ‘Conversion Practices’, which seek to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity. On the surface these laws are aimed at stopping cruel and degrading practices not seen in Australia for decades. But they could also penalise anyone who merely encourages others to live according to the Bible’s view of sexuality and gender.

Thus, Christians and other religious people in Victoria are increasingly finding themselves on the wrong side of the law when it comes to gender and sexuality.

But what’s the ideology that’s driving such a (draconian) law? Why does this law seek to penalise people for merely encouraging others to live according to a Biblical sexual ethic?

Undergirding and informing such laws is an ideology known as ‘Queer Theory’.

Queer Theory — another form of Critical Theory — challenges traditional views of gender and sexuality, and informs much (although not all) LGBTIQ advocacy.

What does Queer Theory believe? Here are some of its main points:

1) The ‘Normal’ Is a Social Construct

Queer Theory believes gender and sexuality are merely cultural inventions.

Queer Theory sees the categories of sex, gender and sexuality as not biologically real, but merely artificial constructs. It thus rejects biology (e.g., the distinction between male and female).

Prominent Queer Theorist, Judith Butler, has the following views:

Butler’s view is that people are not born knowing themselves to be male, female, straight, or gay, and thus do not act in accordance with any such innate factors. Instead, they are socialised into these roles from birth by their near ubiquity and the attendant social expectations and instructions (normativity)… It is, for her, only by taking up these roles and “performing” them according to those social expectations (performativity), that people create the (oppressive) illusion that roles themselves are real, stable, and inherently meaningful.[Pluckrose and Lindsay, p. 102]

Queer Theory thus talks about ‘normativity’, the idea that some things are more common or regular to the human condition, thus more normative from a social (and moral) perspective, than others. [p. 94] Our society has ‘hetero-normativity’ (the idea that heterosexuality is the accepted norm), and ‘cis-normativity’ (the idea that a person’s sex and gender match). [p. 94]

Queer Theory doesn’t like such (or indeed any) norms: it sees them as oppressive:

2) The ‘Normal’ Is Oppressive

Especially to sexual minorities who fall outside the ‘normal’ categories.

Queer Theory sees norms — especially gender and sexual norms — as inherently oppressive. It presumes that oppression follows from categorisation, which arises every time language constructs rigid categories of sex (male and female), gender (masculine and feminine), and sexuality (straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and so on), and “scripting” people into them. [p. 89] That is, these societal expectations (norms) of being straight and ‘cis-gender’ generates a cultural and political power, which constrains and oppresses people who fail to identify with it. [p. 95]

This oppression can take many forms, including stigmatisation, vilification, and even violence toward those who fall outside the ‘normal’.

Thus, the aim of Queer Theory, like all postmodern Social Justice movements, is to bring liberation to the oppressed:

3) Queer Theory Aims to Liberate People From the Normal

Especially from gender and sexual norms.

Queer Theory has the political goals of liberating people who do not fall neatly into sex, gender, and sexuality categories. But not just those who fall outside the norms: Queer Theory aims to liberate everyone from the oppressive gender and sexual expectations of society. Thus, gays and lesbians; transgender people, bisexual — people of minority gender and sexual identities known as LGBTQ. [p. 90]

4) Queer Theory Has a Radical Distrust of Language

Baked into the ideology of Queer Theory is a radical distrust of language — per its postmodern roots. Language generates cultural power, and in this case the power of making some things normal. Thus the ‘queer’ in Queer Theory has become a verb, which means to question and disrupt the (normal) meaning of words, ‘unmaking any sense of the normal, in order to liberate people from the expectations that norms carry’. [p. 94]

Queer Theory and The Christian Worldview

As strange as it may sound, this radical ideology has some resonance with the gospel, as follows:

1) An Acknowledgement of the Power of Norms

Societal norms and expectations can be powerful, even as most of us are often unaware of them. But if you’re a minority, you’re keenly aware of them. Think of how LGBTQ people must have felt in Australia in decades past. Which, to some degree, is how increasing numbers of Christians are feeling today (especially if they work for various strands of the public service, or big corporations, which celebrate sexual diversity).

Norms are powerful, and can in various ways ‘oppress’ people who are outside those norms (e.g., by stigmatising people who believe/behave differently to what’s expected).

2) An Acknowledgement that Gender Norms are Influenced by Culture

Expressions of gender — e.g., what it is to be a man, or a woman — are heavily influenced by wider culture. Thus, what it means to be a woman in 2020 Australia is different in many ways to 1901 Australia. Or even today, we expect boys and girls to like certain colours and activities: girls to like pink and play with dolls; whereas boys to like blue and play with trucks, and sport.

But many of these gender expectations are culturally influenced. [1]

And yet, even as we resonate with parts of the underlying beliefs of Queer Theory, there is good reason to reject it.

Problems With Queer Theory

1) Queer Theory Neglects Biological Reality

The most obvious problem with Queer Theory is its near total rejection of biology, when it comes to gender, sex, and sexuality. Its idea, for example, that heterosexuality is merely a social construct neglects the reality that humans are a (hetero)sexually reproducing species. [p. 110] Being heterosexual, then, is not a made-up social construct, but a physical reality.

2) QT has a Warped View of Humanity

Queer Theory, like so many Social Justice Theories, has a warped view of humanity. Sex — male and female — are not arbitrary and made up, but are a crucial part of our humanity as God’s image bearers: God made us male and female (Gen 1:27). The idea of gender being malleable and fluid is not a physical observation, but an ideological belief.

Furthermore, when it comes to sexuality, we are designed to be heterosexual beings (Gen 1:28, 2:18,23). Just because a minority of people have same-sex attraction does not mean therefore that sexuality is arbitrary.

3) Parts of Queer Theory Have Been Rejected By Many LGBTIQ activists

Interestingly enough, elements of Queer Theory is rejected by many in the LGBTIQ community, not to mention those pushing politically for gay rights. [p. 110]

Take for example the 2017 marriage plebiscite: the ‘Yes’ campaign’s message was not one of ‘sexuality is a cultural construct’, but rather a political liberal message of ‘we’re people too, entitled to the same rights as the rest of society’. Thus, more of a traditional civil-rights paradigm, rather than a Queer Theory paradigm.

As Queer Theory Goes Mainstream

And yet, as many elements of Queer Theory are increasingly mainstreamed, this will pose increasing challenges for Christians and others who believe in a Biblical view of sexuality. Legislation in places like Victoria is placing the promotion of Biblical sexuality into the ‘oppressive’ box: a development that will probably gain steam for the foreseeable future.

But Christians have nothing to be ashamed about. The Bible’s teaching on humanity, sexuality and gender is not ‘oppressive’ or harmful: it is good for all of us. Living according to our Maker’s Design leads to flourishing, not harm. Of course, in a fallen world all of us have some measure of brokenness when it comes to our sex and gender.

But ideologies like Queer Theory, which warp and distort our Maker’s plan for us, leads not only to pressure on those with alternate views, but hurt and pain for those who swallow its beliefs.


[1] Of course, we would add there is a biological component to these expectations: research shows that women, on average, are more drawn to jobs involving people (e.g., childcare, teaching, psychology); whereas men, on average, are more drawn to jobs involving things (e.g., mechanical trades, engineering).


Originally published at
Photo by Daniel James on Unsplash.

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