The Sexless Agenda Neo-pagans want to blur the distinctiveness of God’s creation
In 1993, Teena Brandon, a teenager in the US town of Lincoln, Nebraska was brutally murdered by some local youths. She had lived the initial years of her life as a girl, but then she experienced a “sexual identity crisis”, and as easily as she flipped her name around, she assumed the identity of a boy — transforming herself into Brandon Teena.
As one commentator expressed it, she was driven by the powerful impulse to find her true self in the sexually uncharted zone between male and female. And at the Academy Awards in the year 2000, Hollywood, and much of the watching world, stood to its feet to applaud actress Hilary Swank, as she accepted an Oscar as best actress for portraying the troubled youth in Boys Don’t Cry who was born a female but wanted desperately to be a male.
Is this tale a tragic, all too familiar reflection of a troubled and sexually confused society that is coming apart at the seams? Is it an expression of discontentment, a longing to have what one cannot possibly have in all its fullness? Perhaps. But what if it is more than that? Hollywood may be helping promote the sexual confusion of this modern age, but as we know from Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. Hollywood is simply echoing ancient, gnostic beliefs and pagan spirituality, dressed up as New Age enlightenment, which is asserting its influence over ever-widening circles of society.
How are we as Christians to respond to these renewed waves of pagan spirituality? More importantly, how do we seek to honour Christ in a world that more and more seeks to tear him down?
There is a growing body of evidence that the New Age movement is really not all that new at all, but rather a modern form of ancient gnosticism. In a nutshell, gnostics believed that matter, including the body, is an inherently limiting prison or even evil drag on the good soul or spirit of the person, and that the spirit is essentially divine — “a spark of God”, dwelling in the tomb of the body.
For the gnostics, salvation meant achieving a special kind of knowledge not generally known or even available to ordinary Christians. That gnosis, or knowledge, involved awareness of the true heavenly origin of the spirit within, its essential divine nature as an offshoot of God’s own being. In this understanding, Christ was an immaterial, spiritual messenger sent down from the unknown and unknowable God to rescue and bring home the stray sparks of his own being that had become trapped in material bodies.
Listen to any New Age guru for a few minutes and you will start to identify some common themes. Lutheran theologian Carl Braaten defines the current revival of paganism as the belief in “a divine spark or seed (which) is innate in the individual human soul. Salvation consists in liberating the divine essence from all that prevents true self-expression. The way of salvation is to turn inward and ‘get in touch with oneself’.” The focus of looking inward, adds Christian theologian Peter Jones, in The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back, is not to recognise one’s sin, but to discover how good and powerful — how divine — one is.
At the heart of gnostic belief is the teaching of oneness — that there are no boundaries in the universe. The Disney movie The Lion King embodies these beliefs perfectly. The Lion King teaches that everything in the universe is a part of a mass of energy. There is no place for a Creator. The circle of existence consumes even God himself. This teaching is known as monism.
“As does the Gnostic, the New Age believer identifies the real human problem as ignorance,” writes Jones. Well-known New Age thinker, Shirley MacLaine says: “Individuals across the world are tapping into their internal power to understand who they are and using that knowledge to elevate their lives and their circumstances to a higher octave of happiness and productivity.”
What is androgyny?
At the heart of pagan spirituality is a ‘mystical, unitive experience — a state in which distinctions disappear and opposites are joined’. Androgyny, on the sexual level, reflects and confirms such an experience. “The androgyne is the physical symbol of the pagan spiritual goal, which is the merging of two seemingly distinct entities, the self and God, and a mystical return to the state of godhead prior to creation,” writes Peter Jones.
Androgyny seeks to transcend gender differentiation by merging male into female and female into male, creating a “sexless” being.
What spiritual implications does physical androgyny have? Simply, and significantly, that the joining of the opposites (male and female) is the destruction of creational distinctions. In a world where distinctions are eliminated, the ultimate spiritual distinction — that of Creator and creature — vanishes as well. And with cosmic consequences.
“In this new Age of Aquarius, where there is neither good nor evil, the ultimate liberation of mankind will finally be realised — liberation from ethics, from guilt, from sexual norms, and from God,” writes Peter Jones.
What does ancient gnosticism have to say about androgyny?
Gnosticism refers to a body of heretical teaching denounced by the church Fathers in the early Christian centuries. In more recent times, people use the term to include any form of religious belief which emphasises any kind of dualism or the possession of “secret knowledge”.
In a groundbreaking article on ‘Androgyny: The pagan sexual ideal’ in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Peter Jones says that examples of “religious” androgyny can be found in Syria and Asia Minor in the third century BC, but that its clearest and closest expression in that area comes from the Roman Empire at the beginning of the Christian era. The worship of androgynous priests is well documented in ancient historical literature, and the androgynous (and homosexual) state is recorded as being one which transcends the “barriers” and “boundaries” of gender specificity and heterosexuality.
In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, it is stated that to become a true disciple, one must become a liberated gnostic, untrammeled by the sexual distinctions of the original creation. One must become autonomous and move beyond the bondage of one’s sex.
These are evil traps. For women this means moving beyond the female state, marriage and childbearing.
What does the Bible have to say about androgyny?
From the Creation account in Genesis, we learn that there is a purposeful distinctiveness in all that God created. There is light and darkness, there is land and sea, there is earth and sky, there is male and female, and there is Creator and creature. This distinctiveness is a hallmark of creation.
The pursuit of androgyny denies this basic distinction between Creator and creatures, between God and man. Gender distinctions, therefore are part of God’s original design for mankind. We do not attain a “higher spiritual state” by transcending these distinctions, but rather in understanding our completeness in Christ.
Just a cursory glance around the world today presents us with a startling array of contradictions — and if you begin to look carefully, it will become clear that there is a leaning towards an androgynous ideal in much of what we consider current fashion. Consider for a moment the progression of fashion — shoulder pads, pant suits, “his pants for her”, unisex haircuts, unisex shirts, and unisex shoes. Several years ago Calvin Klein released a perfume named “Contradiction” — and it was promoted as being “designed to reflect the variety of modern lifestyles”.
Are these simply innocent expressions of taste or style? Perhaps. But what if these realms which are largely considered non-religious are subtly working their way into the Christian mind, such that we begin to accept, and even approve, the world’s thinking that there is a higher ideal than maleness or femaleness — that it is commendable to strive for androgyny in various parts of life?
Some commentators state that the road to the perfect androgynous balance involves the destruction of the traditional male-female differentiation via sexual alternatives and New Age feminism. This explains why it is now “cool” to be gay, lesbian or bi-sexual. It’s simply the new pagan ideal.
Where to from here?
The trendiness of declaring oneself homosexual or bisexual is being seen in increasingly younger people. The media — both the “gay” press and time-honoured, venerable magazines and newspapers such as Time magazine — are rallying to support the cause of the so-called gender blur.
What the press fails to mention is that the choices people make regarding their sexual preference are not isolated. As one commentator said, “It is no longer a case of you do your thing, and I’ll do mine.” The choices people are making are deeply religious — though they themselves may not even realise it. In a world with no distinctions, God fades into oblivion, at least in the minds of those seeking to tear down the walls of distinctiveness.
The primary distinction between Creator and creature is the template from which all other distinctiveness must be understood. As people start blurring the lines of distinction, it inevitably leads to the ultimate denial of the supremacy of God. God has created our distinctiveness, not to oppress us, but to demonstrate His purposes for us — to live in vital, life-giving relationship with him.