Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The Micaiah Moment

King Ahab wanted to go to war over a city that used to be Israel’s and was now Syria’s. Four hundred prophets gathered at his command to confirm his exercise of heart. They had no word from the Lord to offer, but that didn’t stop them telling the king exactly what he wanted to hear. After all, it was the politically expedient thing to do. Every man there knew what he was expected to say, and everyone played his part.

Everyone except a guy named Micaiah, who hadn’t bothered to attend the gathering because he knew the game that was being played, and he was a true prophet of God.

Back to him in a moment.

Truth and Consequences

Behind the scenes God was at work. Ahab’s plan would be God’s way of taking him off the board. But God in his grace left Ahab the option of choosing his own fate. He sent his servant Micaiah to tell Ahab exactly what was happening: that his prophets were lying, and that this battle would end in defeat and his own death. In short, Micaiah told the absolute truth in a situation where everyone was lying through their teeth.

Now, I don’t imagine every single one of the false prophets had it in for the king of Israel and were secretly plotting his death by giving him bad counsel. Probably none did. But they knew very well that if you tell an evil man what he doesn’t want to hear, you will probably end up in prison like Micaiah did. So they did the expedient thing. If Ahab won the battle, they looked like heroes. If he lost, each man was just one voice in a huge crowd that had all said the same thing, none of whom would likely be singled out for retribution. Safety in numbers and all that. The political insiders who knew how the game was played were looking out for the prophets too. The messenger who went to summon Micaiah said to him, “Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.” Nobody cared about the truth. Everybody cared about the consequences for themselves personally.

Them and They

You probably know how the story ends, but that’s not actually what I want to think about today. I read one of the saddest pieces I’ve ever come across online the other day, and I want to share it with you. Our ongoing cultural landslide into the abyss makes it pretty much inevitable that one day you or I will have our own Micaiah moment. It is probably a good thing if we stop and consider how we will answer before the issue is thrust in our faces.

The article in question is from the odious Huffington Post, and it’s written by a person named Kelsey Smoot. It’s called “If You Think My Pronouns Are Optional, We Can’t Keep Being Friends”. I say “person” because I really cannot tell from the photograph whether Kelsey is a woman taking male hormones or a man taking female hormones. She calls herself transmasc / nonbinary, both terms most Christians would have to look up to understand. I did. It almost makes it easier to refer to Kelsey by her preferred pronouns, which are “them” and “they”.

Misgendering That Doesn’t Miss

Could you do that? Consistently, I mean ... and assuming you wanted to in the first place. I can assure you I couldn’t, which is exactly what Kelsey’s friends and acquaintances are discovering. Even those who love and care for her reliably get her pronouns “wrong”, which is to say they get them right: they reflexively call a gender-dysphoric girl ... a girl. Which she is, notwithstanding her presumably genuine desire to become something she is not.

I say “presumably”, because for many young people today, picking a letter or three from the ever-lengthening LGBTQ+ alphabet to describe themselves is nothing more than a pose. It’s yet another self-defeating way of standing out from the crowd by following the crowd, much like piercings, tattoos and hair dye. For many teens it lasts about as long as a fashion trend. For others, it’s a way of playing troll. Average male athletes who identify as women to find themselves an easier field in which to compete are in this category, as are the cynical creeps who invade women’s public washrooms under the pretense of expressing their gender identity. A friend’s daughter “went transgender” because she wanted a partner and no boys in her grade were interested. Believe me, she tried. She has no authentic feelings about her new identity; it was a purely pragmatic move that is now not only socially acceptable but also gets you PC brownie points.

In this case, Kelsey sounds like a real person expressing real (if very unproductive) feelings, and I take her at her word. She has bought into a false, unscientific and cultic movement designed to break down cultural norms and cause chaos, not least in her own head.

Taking Experiences Seriously

This is where Christians often go wrong in how they approach gender dysphoric young people. Nate Collins at Christianity Today thinks our problem is that we need more “listening to actual transgender people and taking their experiences seriously”. But Collins is assuming there is some kind of authentic and largely-consistent “transgender experience” to understand, when in fact there are multiple reasons people opt to try on the transgender identity and see how it fits. Does a Christian need to understand a thief’s, a drunk’s or a prostitute’s experience and take it seriously to effectively witness to thieves, drunks and prostitutes? Getting people to talk about their experiences often only makes them feel more validated rather than challenging wrong ways of thinking.

“Misgendering” is an increasingly dangerous misstep these days, kind of like telling the king he’s guaranteed to lose his battle with Syria. It won’t get you tossed in prison yet, but it could definitely lose you your job if you work for an employer with a significant number of social justice types in positions of influence. That is not the issue here. Kelsey is not about to take anyone before the American equivalent of Human Rights Commissions or seek out ways of getting them fired. She just wants her friends and family to “get it”, and if they don’t start “getting it” soon, they will no longer be in her life.

Reality Doesn’t Care

But in or out of the office, preferred pronouns are just another way of trying to change reality by the imposition of the human will. That never works. It doesn’t work even when the people involved agree in principle with your position.

Here is one instance Kelsey describes:

“In addition to longstanding relationships, new connections are often marked with a similar tension regarding my pronouns. Recently, a friend recounted a conversation she had with a friend of hers in anticipation of our upcoming first meeting.

Though I don’t recall ever explicitly articulating a maximum quota on misgenderings per new acquaintance, she forewarned her friend with surprising accuracy, ‘You have about 2 or 3 hangouts with Kels where they will be fairly understanding of that mistake. Beyond that, they’re pretty unlikely to pursue a friendship with you.’

Aghast, the friend responded, ‘Wait, you mean to tell me that if we’ve spent time together on five separate occasions, gotten along otherwise, and I misgender them, they won’t want to see me again?’

‘Correct,’ my friend replied.

‘That’s ridiculous,’ her friend countered. ‘If that’s true, Kels is going to live one lonely life.’ ”

Precisely. Nobody seeks out relationships with people who deliberately put hurdles in the way of every exchange and are constantly looking for reasons to dump you. It’s easier to find your friendships where they are not a constant tug-of-war between wills or ingrained habits. Moreover, it’s the people who love you most who face you up with the hard realities; in this case, that getting everyone to lie to you (even if you could accomplish it) will never change how you feel about yourself and it will never make you what you are not. The ones who simply tell you what you want to hear don’t love you at all. They love something else: peace, virtue signaling, whatever.

But this is the future Kelsey faces if she continues to let the media and the ideologues who are manipulating her dictate how she thinks about her “rights” and about what will ultimately make her happy. She will continue to insist that the liars lie to her as the prophets lied to Ahab. Her mantra “You’ll have to do better” is the equivalent of telling people “So long.” That’s the effect it will have.

New Creations and Cultural Pushback

I have genuine sympathy for somebody like Kelsey who is deeply unhappy in her own skin, but what she needs from Christians is not one more addition to her stable of sycophants and enablers, but rather one or two Micaiahs who will politely and lovingly say the equivalent of “I won’t do that because it will not help you. I have something that will any time you are open to hearing about it.” Maybe at this point Kelsey has no interest in hearing about an identity that is not gender-based, but it is the only sort of identity that will ever meet the needs of her troubled, lonely heart.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” That’s the only identity that matters.

But saying it in this cultural climate is going to come at a cost, so we had better start thinking about that now: Am I prepared to be somebody’s Micaiah, or am I going to be one of the false four hundred? Because those are the choices. I don’t see a third option out there.

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