In his newsletter for last weekend, our parish priest reflected on martyrdom in the light of several feast days occurring around this time: St Oliver Plunkett, Sts John Fisher and Thomas More, St John the Baptist and, today, Sts Peter and Paul. The italics added below are mine:
Some martyrs were ordered on pain of death to deny Christ and conform to false worship, and refused. Others, like John the Baptist, paid with their lives for preaching a message that was uncomfortable for those in power, or for standing firm on a point of principle, like Thomas More and John Fisher. Perhaps we find the last category most puzzling, in an age when religion is seen as a purely private matter. Yet persecution of a different form certainly occurs when people publicly express opinions that are out of step with certain fashionable orthodoxies, and find themselves, not martyred (in the West at least) but effectively silenced and excluded from discourse.
More and Fisher were martyrs not only for truth, but also for conscience, and for freedom. Many people today are uncomfortable with the idea of objective truth, a reality that they must accept and conform to, rather than invent for themselves. If truth is considered subjective and relative, conscience is even more so. And being subjective, these things must be kept private, so as not to intrude on the freedom of others, including the freedom not to be challenged by differing points of view: that is the way many people seem to think today. However the Christian faith is one that cannot simply be privatised. It is not just a question of proclaiming Christ to the world, which is indeed the heart of the church’s mission, but even more a matter of simply living out our faith and putting into practice the values of the gospel. If the highest of these values is love, we should remember that love sometimes requires us to speak up for the good of others, rather than simply keep quiet.
Father did not directly refer to it, but his words prompted me to think about one of the "fashionable orthodoxies" of our day, namely, the widespread acceptance of ideas of LGBTQ identities. Public conversation has to all intents and purposes replaced talk of biological sex with talk of gender, a somewhat less exact concept (though, interestingly, when Matthew Paris argued recently in the Times newspaper that the experience of gay men in 1989 was not one of wanting to change in any way their identification as male, he appeared to restore, at least for some within the LGBTQ community, biological sex to contemporary debate). The term "gender assigned at birth", for example, is being promoted as an alternative to biological sex.
.... gender isn’t about someone’s anatomy, it is about who they know them self to be. There are many different gender identities, including male, female, transgender, gender neutral, non-binary, agender, pangender, genderqueer, two-spirit, third gender, and all, none or a combination of these.
When I read this extract from a website aimed at teenagers (a site called teen talk, with a .ca domain name), I did wonder: are young people being subject to an ideology that essentially says to them "you can choose from a list" as far as "gender" is concerned, rather than learning to grow in a given biological sex, male or female? Is it really sensible to ask young people to, in effect, choose "who they know them self to be", rather than helping them to grow in living the reality of a male or female sex?
[I was struck on first reading this extract by the last part: "... and all, none or a combination of these". It really does suggest the idea of gender as being something that a young person can make up, separated from any reality of their biological presentation. Indeed, the next paragraph begins: "There are many more gender identities than we have listed..."]