A reader writes with relief and perplexity at Biden

Published February 24, 2021
Tags: Mailbag

Just looking for some advice, I’m deeply relieved that Trump is gone and I felt grossed out by him almost every day, but I’m in a weird spot because I don’t like Biden Harris either, I’m already grossed out by them 1 day in, most notably surrounding Title 9 executive order around Trans, I have 2 daughters who are athletes and I shouldn’t have to feel like a bigot because they don’t want to play tennis or run against boys, I felt like Biden’s timing on this was all wrong, I feel like the perfect example of someone wanting to give him a chance, and then I get poked in the eye day one,

Am I just politically homeless, maybe that’s ok, there’s thankfully not an election anytime soon,

Sorry to spoil your relief around Trump, which I share

There’s nothing wrong with feeling politically homeless.  Here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come. (Hebrews 13:14).

One of the many silly things said about me by the MAGA cult where accusation is always confession is that I care more about “loyalty to the Democrats” than I do about the Faith. This coming from a theopolitical cultus that elevated devotion to a dimestore antichrist to a litmus test for Catholic faith and routinely excommunicated me from the Church more times than I can count for failure to believe and profess Donald Trump as the Only Begotten President of God.

In fact, I regard political parties as nothing other than tools for implementing Catholic Social Teaching and firmly believe in dropping them the instant their utility is expended.  The idea of loyalty to a party is foreign to me.  You might as well feel loyal to a wrench when it is time to use a screwdriver.  Use what tool you need when you need it and then use another tool when you need that.

So we don’t have to agree with Biden about everything, nor feel loyalty to the Democratic party.  He is wrong about some things and right about others.  Trump was wrong about virtually everything, as is his evil party of nihilist predators.

That said, Biden is getting an awful lot right so far and the Dems are orders of magnitude closer to pursuit of the common good than the MAGA Freak Show GOP. 

With respect to the LGBTQ matter, for many Christians, literally any form of kindness or respect to LGBTQ folk is intensely threatening because many  Christians neither believe that the most basic fact about them is their bearing of the Imago Dei, nor that Jesus died and rose for them.  For these Christians, (and not a few of them are Catholic) the fundamental and only fact is that they are sinners rejected by God and enemies to be excluded.  In short, such Christians begin not with Catholic faith in the Imago Dei,  but with the Calvinist notion of total depravity and the conviction that the most fundamental truth about them is sin.

My approach to such things as LGBTQ issues is to start with the fact that LGBTQ folk, like all human beings, are made in the image and likeness of God and to ask, “Does a given policy affirm the basic dignity of human beings or does it constitute an injustice to somebody else?” I’m not super-interested in sports and so such questions as the one you raise have not been uppermost in my mind.  I can certainly see the case to be made that this an injustice to women athletes who are not, on average, as physically strong as biological males.  I have no idea what the science says about this though, so I’m basically speaking out of ignorance.  You may have a real point. I don’t know.

But, on the whole, the affirmation of human dignity seems to me to be a more fundamental good than this particular issue.  My hope is that people of goodwill can iron out the bugs with respect to such things as sporting competitions and come to some sort of satisfactory arrangement, perhaps via some system of handicapping if the science shows that there really is an injustice occurring.

Anyway, my basic point is that there is not a reason in the world anybody owes mindless fealty to a political party.  At the same time, my main impression is that there is an awful lot to be grateful for in the dawning days of the Biden Administration and it would be churlish and graceless of me not to thank God for it.

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Blessings on you and yours as your keep striving to navigate these complex times!

Mark

22 Responses

  1. Don’t make it too complicated. On things like title IX, title X and financing foreign abotion programs the Bishops will oppose Biden , if they haven’t already.On other matters, most notably immigration, prison system, racial equality and attempts to abolish the death penalty, they will offer support.

    All this should be pretty evident for any Catholic. Unlike continental Europe, Anglo-Saxons never had any relevant parties that make at least an attempt to be a fully Catholic party. In that sense, you *should* all be politically homeless.

    As to which administration deserves one’s vote, that’s a matter of conscience and prudential judgment for each Catholic citizen.

  2. Good response, Mr. Shea! I’d also like to encourage you’re reader: You’re not alone. It is a profound relief to have a functioning adult in the White House again, even if I disagree with him on many things. So the question for Christians is: What now?

    As Mr. Shea has rightly pointed out: Keep our eyes on the real goal. We are members of the Kingdom of Heaven first and foremost and before being citizens of any republic. Caesar may warrant our loyalty. He never warrants our love.

    Keep praying for our leaders. All of them. Even the ones we have the most disagreements with. But in so doing, let’s work on our own logs before we worry about everyone else’s splinters. The Church still has a lot of house-cleaning to do before it can take to the streets and start lecturing people. And even if we finally get rid of all the logs out of our eyes, I’m still not sure lectures are the best approach. I far prefer the methods of St. Francis and St. Ignatius to Bill Donohue.

    Finally, hold Biden and the Democrats to the same standards as everyone else. Three years from now, Biden may not be the best candidate, even within his own party. I very, very reluctantly voted for him this time, simply because it was a matter of continuing to watch the house burn down or at least let the guy with a few buckets have a chance. But in 2024? Who know? There may be a better candidate. Or not. We’ll see….

    1. The GOP will never field a decent candidate again. It has become a crackpot cult and a party of treason, paranoid conspiracy kooks, racists, and nuts. It cannot be salvaged. It must be destroyed.

      1. I’m not optimistic either. But never? The GOP did give us Teddy Roosevelt. Who knows? In a hundred years, the GOP might discover its conscience again. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

        But I’m not all that optimistic Biden will seek a second term, which would put the playing field open to other Democrats. And there, I’m afraid I’m not terribly optimistic either. The Democrats had a chance to put forth a candidate who actually does care about the poor, the middle class, the environment, main street businesses, and health care. They had Warren and Sanders. But instead, they keep pushing war-mongers and corporate puppets like Clinton and Biden.

        It’s all concerning, but not our ultimate concern. The Kingdom of God doesn’t depend on the success or failure of the American Republic.

      2. We should also remember that there are still a remnant of non-lunatic Republics. I certainly don’t agree with John Kasich on everything, but I don’t think he has given obeisance to the lunacy running rampant in his party.

      3. The few remaining semi-Normals in the GOP would be better employed becoming Democrats and working with the only Normal party than in the fruitless effort of keep the Freak Show going. It needs to be destroyed. When species go extinct, other species evolve to fill the ecological niche left vacant. The Dems will do that, becoming the Biden center right and the AOC/Sander progressives. The GOP are now enemies of the United State and must be fought and beaten. It cannot be saved.

      4. Historically, that happens once every several decades. A party implodes then morphs into something else. If Trump does indeed make a comeback, I suspect that yes, the Republican Party is over. He’ll foment a Civil War within the GOP. Whatever is left standing will barely resemble the party of Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan.

        I wouldn’t count on AOC/Sanders being a lasting influence on the Democratic Party though. Sanders’s age is against him. AOC, while I’m sure she means well, continues to come across as passionate but naive; she doesn’t yet have the maturity or wisdom needed to be real leader. Maybe she’ll grow into it?

      5. He’s already fomenting Civil War in the GOP. And he has won. The nuts are overwhelmingly in command of the party. Even if Trump dies tomorrow, the lunatics *are* the party now. People like Cheney and the handful of semi-Normals are the despised minority. It’s Marjorie Taylor Greene’s party now.

  3. Mark, as your resident gay activist, I want to thank you for your decent, thoughtful, and, well, Christian response to your correspondent. I would like to take the chance to respond to your correspondent myself, because it might do him or her some good to hear from someone who knows a bit more about the subject. So here goes. There are two stories I want to relate first.

    Some years ago, I think it was Fox News that did a story about the danger presented by poisonous snakes to you, Ms. Average American Housewife, in YOUR VERY OWN HOME. Apparently, on perhaps two occasions, someone had found a snake in their home, and perhaps have even been bitten. I really don’t remember, it was a long time ago. But the intent of the story was to sell FEAR. Millions of snakes, millions of people, thousands upon thousands of square miles of land, maybe two incidents, and yet, poisonous snakes in your home with something to worry about. I’ve hiked all over the United States, indeed, all over the world, and I’ve seen a few snakes while hiking. A few of them might even have been poisonous. And yes, people getting bitten by snakes happens, usually because they weren’t paying attention, or thought that wild animals aren’t wild. But the point of the story was not to inform, but to sell FEAR: What you can do to protect your home and family from those horrible, horrible snakes. DANGER! DANGER!

    About a decade ago, Congress repealed the infamous and vicious “don’t ask don’t tell“ ban on gay people in the military. We were probably the last civilized country on earth to do so, and we finally did. During the congressional hearings and votes, we had to listen to all of the religious right nut cases, err-um, religious leaders and politicians, explain that our very existence was in peril if gay people serve their country. Never mind that gay people were serving their country, and never mind that there was virtually no incident to be concerned about. And certainly, never mind the toll on our security because translators of arabic and farsi were kicked out at a critical time. Again, the product that they were selling was FEAR – fear of the other, fear of gay people, fear of a mythical unknown, and fear of something that had proved to be absolutely a non-issue despite all of the fear mongering. As a self-respecting gay man, It was never clear to me whether I was supposed to be a willowy, limp wristed, lisping bottle blonde Who could unman a red blooded American boy just by being in the same room with him, a dangerous sexual predator who would spend all of my time in the military hanging around the showers and ogling and seducing the straight boys, or at least the not so-straight boys, or a musclebound, mustachioed, hairy, murderous psychopath who would kill you as soon as look at you, but who not uncoincidentally would be wearing a tutu. Or all three.

    And no, I’m not making a word of this up. These were all real objections. Well, not real in any normal sense. And yes. Not one word of this turned out to be true. Fancy that!

    So what does this have to do with your correspondent? He has been sold a bill of goods, and the items on the bill were FEAR and IGNORANCE. The price paid is the easy coin of other peoples lives.

    Six years ago, after the religious right failed in their decades long quest to demonize and exclude gay people – although the fear mongering, and their thirst for power and money has not been slaked – religious conservatives needed to find another apparently easy target for the never ending animus towards anybody who does not fit the bill of what they think God wants. They decided to pick on people who are transgender, whatever that means this week. Hermaphroditic, intersexed, ambiguous genitalia, gender dysphoric, gender fluid, gender non-conforming: all of these realities were put into one big pot BY people who know NOTHING, and used to once again raise the level of fear, loathing, and ignorance to a fever pitch, again at the expense of innocent people.

    Bathroom bills proliferated with the fear that somebody was going to attack YOUR daughters or YOUR wives if transgender people used public restrooms. The absolute fact that there have been virtually no such incidence of transsexual individuals attacking women in public restrooms didn’t stop anybody. The man who is raping little girls is more likely to be their father. The perv hanging around Public restrooms is not going to be a transsexual person. All they’re looking for is it a place to pee. If you want the guilty parties in attacks on women and girls, then I would suggest that you look at heterosexual men. But there is no money, power, dominion, or fear in that. And certainly, not self reflection.

    Many of the conditions I listed above are biological, and very well known. They are not myths. Intersex people exist. Gender dysphoria is a real medical condition that has been known for nearly 100 years from a medical point of view. It has been studied, treatments proposed and explored. It is also a real thing. Anthropologically, transgenderism has been known in the number of cultures: the two spirits of Native Americans, the hijra of India, the mahu of polynesia, the kathoey of Thailand. A few years ago, pope Francis started talking about gender philosophy. He was totally wrong about it, but at least he was somewhere in the ballpark. When that wasn’t selling, the radical right religionists move to gender ideology, which simply does not exist. The only ideology present is the idea that maybe we should be treating people with love and respect, trying to make their lives better and not worse, especially through the mechanisms of social bigotry, ignorance, fear, religious dominionism and right wing politics.

    So what does this have to do with your correspondent? His fears are real, but what he is afraid of is mostly imaginary. At the three gyms that I have belonged to in the last 23 years, there were occasionally trans men who were members. It was obvious to anyone who is paying attention, but most people were not. These trans men were simply trying to blend in and get in a work out. They weren’t bothering anybody. I don’t hang around women’s locker rooms, but I certainly have known a number of women who do. They have not reported any problem with the trans women who go there. In fact, whatever problems have existed in women’s locker rooms were not due to the trans women who went there, but to the biowomen that objected to their presence. The trans women were not men who decided to dress up as women, so that they could ogle women. They weren’t there to flash their Genitalia if they had not gone through the surgery. We gay and trans people have co-existed for centuries with heterosexuals and cisgendered people. We know how to behave ourselves, because it can be worth our very lives if we do not.

    Gender dysphoria – the idea That physical sex and the psychological gender of people are not always in sync – is a real thing. No one is trying to convert anyone. No one is in it for the money, because there isn’t any. No one is pushing surgeries. There is no ideology, not much of a political movement. Gender dysphoria affects about 1/2 of 1% of the population. Many children become aware as children that they are gender dysphoric, Just as many children are quite well aware that they are gay long before they have any idea about sexuality. (I knew when I was three. I just didn’t know what it was. But I knew!) The majority of gender dysphoric kids go through it, but never get any surgery. They do get help, though, AS DO THEIR PARENTS AND FAMILIES. No one is coerced into surgery. Surgery is not performed on children. Puberty blockers, totally reversible, can be administered to reduce the stress of gender dysphoria. Medical and psychological care Have been developed over decades, and are based upon best standards, not upon ignorance or frivolity. And certainly, not upon money or ideology.

    SOME gender dysphoria kids are interested in sports. And so, we are right back to fear-based locker rooms and fear-based restrooms. But so far, it has mostly not been a problem. The right wing imaginations of hordes of boys pretending to be girls so that they can look at naked girls ignores the reality of teenage boys, the availability of porn on the Internet, the realities of gender dysphoria, and the realities of sexism, because that certainly plays a role in this as well. Teenage boys are certainly not pretending to be girls so that they can dominate girls and WIN in GIRLS’ sports. That would make them girls, and sexism dictates that the worst thing for a boy to be as a girl. and of course, sexism plays a huge role in transgender hysteria. Maybe that is what right wing and conservative religious politicians might be doing, but that says more about them than it does about actual transgender boys. As Mark says, with the right wing religious, accusation is always a confession. ALWAYS.

    A trans friend of mine put it this way: “Oh, but I DO see the problem, and the problem is weaponized faith. That’s what the furor over imaginary gender ideology and anti-transgender hysteria is about”.

    More specifically, what she was referring to what I always write about: a faith system which creates an in group, and which castigates certain minorities or “out-groups” in an effort to elevate the perceived status of the in-group, creating a pecking order, with the in-group conveniently placed at the top. They have been doing it with gay people for decades, as they did with Black people, Jews, women, muslims, and just about everyone else. Their in-group has a problem, though: it has reached an impasse with its traditional victims, and is now looking for someone else. In this case, gender dysphoric individuals. Weaponized faith has been losing traction steadily for the last several years, with the trend continuing to this day, as the out-groups they wish to stand on and/or trample becoming more accepted and integrated into society, which is slowly but surely Learning to accept some new ideas, especially the one that says that different does not mean the same thing as dangerous.

    The fear mongering of the religious right about trans people and gender dysphoria is not much different than their former fear mongering about gay people, and BOTH are very similar to their former pastime of witch burning. The question is, why have we become more afraid of the witches than we are of the people who wanted to burn them alive?

    I would suggest to your correspondent that he or she start learning about gender dysphoria and transgender issues, rather than blaming the good and moral Mr. Biden for not toeing some totally bogus and imaginary line in the sand, drawn by religious conservatives to distract the people from their total failures as leaders, arbiters of morality, or decent human beings. In the five weeks since Mr. Biden took office, our response to the coronavirus has moved from promoting aquarium cleaner and denying that the plague exists to nearly 2,000,000 vaccinations a day. That is leader ship. That is what your correspondence should be looking at. I doubt that Mr. Biden is going to be pardoning any felons anytime soon.

    If your correspondent really wants to live out his Christian witness, then I would refer him to Jesus, whose sum total of words on the subject of either homosexuality or gender dysphoria can be found in the following quote: “_______”, And who’s summation of the totality of the law can be reduced to this: “don’t be a jerk.”

    I’m not saying that he is, but ignoring all the good that Mr. Biden has accomplished in just five weeks in favor of being upset over a minor theological point is not going to make his life, or the life of any gender dysphoric person better.

  4. We agree with the USCCB on the “equality” act, it’s a disaster and we wish Biden adminstration was supporting it, am not celebrating this white house, even though glad to see the last one gone, good article l, we have no true home here, and stuff like this reminds us

    1. @vince

      Really? Is it equality at the disaster because it gives gay people the same right to be discriminated against on the basis of religious belief? The Very seem right that you have? Same rights that have beenGuaranteed to gay people in 21 states, with no ill effect, except to make some religious people butthurt?.

  5. Mark, thanks for conveying our conversation, but I think your readers are misunderstanding what I was trying to say, I agree wholeheartedly that the starting point on all LGBTQ issues is love and respect, where I disagree on the title 9 issue is that woman having their own sports leagues has given the world tremendous goods, leadership strength for woman, perserverance, endurance, etc, if there were only 1 league at any sport, men would win everything because they are naturally, physically different, that’s just a biological fact, and in that 1 league scenario, the world is deprived of all the good that girls abd womsn gain, when you add trans woman to a sport, you take something from girls, as a father of girls who play sports, I don’t agree with that

    1. @ tony

      So, will you start a trans league for trans kids only, or will you just tell Trans kidsthat they are not welcome, there will be no sports for them? They tried the same solution in the US Army when faced with integration: let’s just have all black regiments, but with white commanders. we wouldn’t want to upset the important people.

      Have you investigated whether it is actually a problem, or just another manufacture of hysteria where there isn’t a need for it? Part of the treatment plan for trans kids to help them deal with gender dysphoria is taking puberty blockers, which are fully reversible. So puberty, which brings great deal of muscle development to boys and girls, but as you noted, differentially, may actually be the deciding factor.

      Again, 1/2 of 1% of the population are gender dysphoric. Of that population, what percentage want to participate in competitive sports? Is there actually a problem? Do they actually have an advantage?

      I’m not dismissing your concerns as a father. I think girls sports programs should be as fully funded as boys sports programs, with participation open to everyone. As a gay man, I am very conscious of the distinctions that Have been made, and used invidiously and viciously, to separate out gay boys from the world of “normal” boys. And not one of those distinctions had any purpose but to tell gay boys and gay men “ you’re not good enough and you don’t belong here.“

      1. I’m not sure Tony is wrong. We have separate boys and girls sports for the same reason we have separate weight divisions in wrestling. Highly skilled wrestlers who happen to be small ought to be able to win something, and that won’t happen if they have to compete against huge guys who can just twist them into pretzels. Talented athletic women won’t win much of anything if they have to compete against men. (Compare the men’s vs. women’s world records in, well, just about any sport.)

        Sports organizers want to preserve the integrity of women’t sports by keeping them women-only. But today the definition of “woman” is fuzzier than it used to be, and organizers are having to confront questions that didn’t exist (or at least could be ignored) a generation ago.

        My 0.02’s here is that anyone who went through male puberty should be banned from women’s sports no matter how they identify today. I agree that isn’t fair to everyone, but I’ve read and thought a lot about this issue and I am doubtful that any better solution exists.

  6. @ joel

    I don’t disagree with you, Joel, but I would also want to know that there is an actual, extent problem first before I instituted a blanket ban.

    That is why I made it a point to mention puberty blockers, which are now used routinely for this purpose.

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