Let me take just a minute and talk to my fellow religious Jews about transgenderism.
As any user of the (dangerously addictive) site TV Tropes knows, there is a certain type of plan hatched by fictional villains called the Xanatos Gambit. This is a maneuver by which the bad guy so outthinks the good guys that even when the good guys have won, they have lost.
Consider the plot of the entire first three episodes of Star Wars (if it’s not too painful). Darth Sidious creates a breakaway from the old republic that starts a huge war. This eventually causes the republic to, out of fear, 1) distrust the Jedi order, 2) trust a massive clone army left to them by a mysterious benefactor, 3) cede emergency powers to Chancellor Palpatine in the galactic senate. So when the day eventually comes that the head of that breakaway power is cut off (literally) and their forces sent running, the good guys have become the bad guys, from within, without anyone noticing, and by winning their own war they have lost it.
What if I told you that you are part of a Xanatos Gambit right now, namely, human history?
How could we know? Looking for the cataclysmic end result of the Xanatos gambit before it comes to pass doesn’t help. What if you tell the average patrician of the republic that the chancellor is really an evil dictator in disguise, that his defense force is really an imperialist power bent on domination, and that trust in your own side will lead you to great evil? Not to fulfill Godwin’s Law, but you would, in all likelihood not be taken seriously in your ramblings since no one else can see what you can see until it’s too late.
Similarly, I could tell you that the whole world will soon come to recognize the falseness of materialism and the truth of a reality beyond the empirical and quantifiable universe. I could tell you that G-d is like Xanatos, and he will win in the end. Telling you this would make me seem like a conspiracy theorist, a dreamer out of touch with the reality that G-d is dead and has been for over a century. If I insist that this is the direction in which we must move because that is the end of history according to the prophets, it falls flat. What are prophets compared to our own eyes?
No, the key to seeing the Xanatos Gambit is not to go around claiming the truth of its end goal. The key is to find the process as it takes place, the villain’s tells. If I could show you how a massive standing clone army is dangerous for the republic, especially if its source is untested, you may begin to doubt; if I told you how much worse it would be if the chancellor received emergency powers, you may begin to wonder. Once there are enough tells, enough examples of things which on the surface seem to be for our good but at a deeper level will be our downfall, our sense of the trap we are in becomes much more solid.
Even if we know from prophecies that history arcs toward a recognition and knowledge of G-d, it is hard to see how we are getting there. Our frustration is compounded by the niggling words of those great rabbis who insist we must be nearing the end of history, that time when the world will know G-d. How does the math work out that history is ending but we seem further from G-d, collectively, than we ever have? It would seem that to the average mind, the natural appearance of the world is winning out against any conception of a higher power.
But there is mischief afoot.
The first time I became aware of it is in the strange case of the big bang. You see, the whole cosmological concept of the big bang makes most religious people nervous, since they think of it as science’s G-dless understanding of the world’s origins which took place, like, billions of years ago for whatever baroque reasons Stephen Hawking told it to, and all of this doesn’t sound like the first verse of the Torah/Bible at all. This is, forgive me, a narrow, ignorant, and downright stupid understanding. Not because the Torah’s account is false and the big bang theory comprehensive. Not even because two things which are both true cannot be in contradiction.
It is a stupid understanding of the situation because the big bang theory is a huge win for the religious understanding of the world, even though very few people see it that way. You see, for the longest time, empiricists were quite comfortable in the belief that the universe has always existed. The idea that the whole thing had a beginning at all was a decidedly religious belief, one known only through prophecy; some might be surprised to learn that Maimonides fervently denies that one can logically, from observation of the world, prove that it did not always exist. Only the Torah can tell us that, he says. And so — when scientists began to study the background radiation of the universe, and came to the conclusion that the whole thing had a beginning, this was probably the single greatest concession to the religious understanding of the world since the enlightenment. And we have a bunch of religious people sitting around feeling somehow that the big bang is an anti-religious idea.
You see, the big bang is one small facet of a huge Xanatos Gambit. As G-d seems to be out of reach from the front windows, He is in fact sneaking in the back door. It is a firmly established fact in the minds of most that the universe had a beginning. That idea is not going away. And as long as the beginning doesn’t go away, there will always be intellectual access to the idea of a beginner, a creator. In a subtle way, G-d is firmly planted in science more than He ever has been before.
Okay, you might be thinking, but it’s not exactly the case that everyone that believes in the big bang believes in G-d. All of this seems rather far-fetched. Are you sure it’s a Xanatos gambit and not just a strange coincidence in an otherwise pretty G-dless culture? Furthermore, if this is actually G-d revealing himself, why would He do it in such a strange, backward way? Why not sign his name on distant stars along with the message “I created the universe, love, The Almighty”?
These questions bothered me for some time, and they even made me doubt my understanding of the big bang. That’s when I recently saw a second tell, a second glitch, a second example of the gambit: the ascendancy of transgenderism.
More even than the big bang, transgenderism as an idea is antithetical to the religious mind and traditional morality. A disease, some call it. A rebellion against the truth, others say. The religious people say, “How can you fight against biology and call yourself a man when you are chromosomally a woman, or vice versa?” It is interesting any time a science is called upon to defend a religious view, and this statement scratched at my mind for some time. There’s something here, I thought. Something strange. And then it hit me.
Transgenderism is an argument for the existence of the non-material person, dare I say, of the soul. Think about it: A transgendered person is arguing for the ascendancy of how they feel over what they look like and what their DNA says. They are saying, a woman is a person with the soul of a woman, and if the biology says otherwise, the biology can take a hike. “That’s not an argument for a soul,” you may be thinking. “It’s just an argument between their brain and the rest of their bodies.” But that’s simply not true. There is absolutely no reason why the random bits of biological matter that make up the brain ought to have more to say about your gender than, pardon me, the matter that makes up the genitals. If a human is a purely material being, why defer to some matter over other matter? Some random noise arising from the grey matter in the head has no priority over the chromosomes in every cell, and on the contrary — that matter is dangerous for the creature’s fitness and survival, and ought to be ignored from the much clearer and demonstrable traits of the sex organs.
The only reason to listen to Bruce Jenner when he says he wants to be Caitlyn Jenner is if you believe that he, that is, the subjective individual speaking to you from within the meat and bones you see with your eyes, ought to be able to decide what he is for himself. There is a person in there beyond the body’s matter; there is a soul.
How strange, I think, as I read the various posts about this issue on the Internet, that no one sees it this way. All the people who are supposed to advocate for the soul’s presence are too busy being shocked that our society has reached these lowly depths, etc. etc.
Hold on a minute, though. I don’t actually mean to suggest that a belief in the validity of transgenderism equates with a belief in the soul, do I? It’s like the big bang all over again. A lot of cosmologists don’t believe in G-d; a lot of transgender people don’t believe in the soul. It seems hard to say that this is an example of religious beliefs sneaking into the popular consciousness; on the contrary, it seems more an example of the inability even of enlightened secular thinking to shake off all of its religious trappings. If we are really reaching some divinely ordained end of times in which He will be revealed, why not just, you know, reveal Himself? Why would these ideas be sneaking into the collective consciousness?
For the same reason any villain needs to run a Xanatos Gambit. To assure victory, and to express one’s complete dominance. You see, G-d did reveal himself. The villain made a straightforward attack. There was a time, now enshrouded in the mists of history, when G-d was known. The problem was, the world didn’t really get it. Victory was incomplete, technical. G-d was such a powerful idea that the world became religious, but G-d did not want religiosity per se; He wanted to be known everywhere, and there were always people, societies, and ideas who were turned off by religiosity and the religious way of life. And so, a stalemate, with most of the world becoming religious but total victory out of reach.
The only option was to circumvent the dichotomy, to slowly work the dialectic back-and-forth between the religious and non-religious until the lines became blurred and the two sides could intertwine, and that unity itself would be the knowledge of G-d, that religion and antireligion could work on and sharpen each other until the dichotomy breaks and they each give way to their higher grounding.
There is so much more to say. We could talk about how the dialectic of the Xanatos Gambit, in which both sides are really in accordance with G-d’s plan and even when religion “loses” G-d wins, effects both religious and non-religious ideas. The traditional moral understanding of “gender roles” gave way to feminism and feminism in a very real sense is giving way to transgenderism, and all three of these steps are part of a process pointing toward to true G-dly identity of the individual.
There will come a time when even the desires and feelings of the individual become secondary to their G-dly purpose. The groundwork for that time has already been laid. And the next time we, as the religious people, hear a new idea that makes us cringe, that goes against everything we know to be true, we should take a second look at it.
We should take a second look, and await the springing of the trap.
Image from Flickr.
Originally posted on Hevria.