Jeffery J. Ventrella, J.D., Ph.D., is Distinguished Fellow of Law and Culture at the Center for Cultural Leadership and Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs & Training for the Alliance Defending Freedom. He kindly agreed to answer a few pressing cultural questions:
CCL: Jeff, what seems to be the direction of the Supreme Court in light of recent decisions?
JJV: The Court has taken a decided interest in religious liberty and free expression matters, and has typically resolved them in ways which preserve privacy and/or expand liberty. We will know more at the end of the term (in June) as there remain some key matters awaiting resolution.
CCL: In today’s cultural ferment, why is it necessary for churches and Christian ministries to understand the Christian worldview?
JJV: The Gospel is good news about real reality and applies to that reality – put differently, the Gospel only makes sense when considered and applied in the world as God created it.
Moreover, this is the time for moral clarity, moral conviction, and moral courage. And, we must be bold (graciously bold, of course) in proclaiming and demonstrating that it is the Christian worldview that spawned human flourishing and the Western legal and political tradition of liberty for all persons – the early Christians opposed gladiatorial combat, infanticide, and slavery; then they worked to change the culture and the culture’s law accordingly.
Now we have the same opportunity because the Christian worldview supplies the justification for justice, liberty, and human flourishing for all. Orthodox theology correlates to orthodox ethics, personal, social, and public: self-government, families, associations, churches, and the state.
CCL: How is transgenderism is affecting conservative churches, and how should they respond to it?
JJV: The Trans Moment, as my friend Ryan Anderson calls it, is totalistic and absolutist, meaning that it seeks to impact and affect all areas of life (and therefore the church) as well as coercing conformity/affirmation, eliminating dissent. It arises in conservative churches by wrapping itself in supposed compassion: “Hey, Samantha is confused and wants to be called ‘Sam’ because she thinks she’s a boy and is demanding to participate in the boys’ small group and be called ‘he and him.’” Often, a well-intended compassion drives practices or policies to “accommodate” these demands in the name of “journeying” with the confused person.
The problem here is that doing so in this way transgresses creational norms and the 9th Commandment by imposing the girl’s confusion on others and requiring them to pretend a non-reality: that a girl can become a boy simply by subjective desire. The fact that every person possesses inherent dignity via the Christian worldview (Imago Dei) does not mean that the person also possesses comprehensive authority to rightly require others to affirm her in her dysphoria.
The Christian worldview teaches us that we must love God and neighbor — in that order. Misplaced compassion inverts that crucial order, which is what emergent folks like Brian McLaren explicitly, though wrongly, taught. The Trans Moment therefore undermines anthropological reality “from the beginning” which Jesus reaffirmed is the precise normative locus of and for sexual and human ethics (Mt. 19). The answer is to love God and then neighbor in that order in all that the church does.
Creational norms comprise humanity’s “instructional manual,” and to depart from it to any degree delegitimates the church’s foundational confession: Jesus is Lord. Of what? All of the creation, whether on heaven or on earth. Matter matters, and first things matter to all things, including matter.