The Dominionist Collapse: When Transpeople Face Theocracy

Lynnea Urania Stuart

 

It’s reactive and reductive, embraced by braggart and bigot; and it’s running away with the standard of Conservatism.  Its survival depends upon innuendo more than logic despite the fact that some highly educated people work from the heart of the movement.  Dominionism burst upon Congress in the likes of people like Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, and Mike Huckabee.  But the movement that’s Dominionism cannot last, threatening an intellectual collapse that could drag America and the world into a new Dark Age, attacking transpeople every step along the way.  It will collapse because logic will eventually overrule innuendo and propaganda while the masses turn against Dominionism in growing disgust and the environmental collapse of the planet awakens them to the folly of its religio-political policies.

 

ABOUT DOMINIONISM

Christianity brought Dominionism to the world through the likes of Constantine and Theodosius, the latter of whom cosigned the Edict of Rome on August 6, 390 CE which declared “male effeminacy” a capital crime punishable by burning.  The Edict became part of the Corpus Juris Civilis while driving underground transpeople who had previously enjoyed a respected, even priestly status for centuries.  Dominionist rulers opened the floodgates of what would become a more generalized Abrahamic Oppression of transpeople against which we struggle today.1

Dominionism may be defined as the political doctrine that religion, most particularly the most prominent denomination or alliance in a region, must control the reins of political power and government control in order to assure the goodness of society.  This means integration of church and state.  In this respect Dominionism follows the Post-Millennialism of Augustine in The City of God despite the fact that most of today’s Dominionists are Pre-Millennial instead, some of which make informal tests of fellowship out of Pre-Tribulation and Post-Tribulation in eschatological teachings.2

In the United States, Dominionism has largely taken the form of the Evangelical Alliance that has included Conservative branches of Baptists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Campbellists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and other denominations in cooperation with Roman Catholics, and to some extent, Messianic, Conservative and Orthodox Jews.  This alliance has established the popular stigma of the “cult”, most particularly against Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Scientists, the now defunct Worldwide Church of God of Herbert W. Armstrong, and to some extent, the Seventh-Day Adventists.  However, they have not clearly defined what a cult should be outside their own accepted concept of orthodoxy.  In terms of an actual modus operandi, the Evangelical Alliance often displays much of the cultic abhorrence they criticize, carrying the traits of exclusiveness and enforcement to the political arena.  Beginning with the work of Rev. Jerry Fallwell and the Moral Majority in the 1980 presidential election, Dominionists have worked to seize control of the Republican Party, and consequently, the United States.3

 

HR 2796

Republicans produced a decidedly anti-transgender platform in its 2016 Platform.  It reads:

 

“We emphatically support the original, authentic meaning of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. It affirmed that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” That language opened up for girls and women a world of opportunities that had too often been denied to them. That same provision of law is now being used by bureaucrats — and by the current President of the United States — to impose a social and cultural revolution upon the American people by wrongly redefining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation or other categories. Their [sic] agenda has nothing to do with individual rights; it has everything to do with power. They [sic] are determined to reshape our schools — and our entire society — to fit the mold of an ideology alien to America’s history and traditions. Their [sic] edict to the states concerning restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities is at once illegal, dangerous, and ignores privacy issues. We salute the several states which have filed suit against it.4

 

After the GOP won continued control of both houses of Congress and the White House, the GOP now seeks to execute this platform in legislation.  On June 7, 2017, the GOP introduced HR 2796, also titled the Civil Rights Uniformity Act.  The act explicitly seeks to strip a broad spectrum of civil rights protections for transpeople:

 

SEC. 3. Prohibition of policies redefining sex to mean gender identity.

(a) Rule of Construction.—In determining the meaning of any Federal civil rights law, and of any related ruling, regulation, guidance, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the words “sex” and “gender” and their equivalents shall not be interpreted to mean “gender identity” or its equivalent, and the words “man” and “woman” and their equivalents shall refer exclusively to a person’s genetic sex.

(b) Rule of Interpretation.—No Federal civil rights law shall be interpreted to treat gender identity or transgender status as a protected class, unless such law expressly designates “gender identity” or “transgender status” as a protected class.

(c) Definition of “Federal civil rights law”.—For purposes of this Act, the term “Federal civil rights law” means any Federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex or gender, including title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. 1681 et seq.), the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000a et seq.), the Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq.), the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111–148), and any other Federal law or provision thereof prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex or gender.5

 

The bill, problematic enough in its definition of sex and gender on the basis of “genetic sex,” went to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice on July 12.  Whether the subcommittee thinks through the illogic of presumptive “genetic sex” remains to be seen.  But the bill opens up an entirely new discussion between legalities and ethics.

 

ETHICAL REALITIES AND LEGALITY

Anyone who has taken a college class on Ethics has probably faced a common faux pas: one cannot generally debate ethical points using legal precedents.   What’s ethical often differs from what’s legal.  That can include medical decisions directly affecting transpeople.

We as transpeople typically assert a fundamental right to transition, detransition, and even to re-transition provided that actions do not inflict harm or otherwise violate the rights of others.  Medical ethics, however, are necessarily more guarded than this precisely because they follow a Consequentialist, but not Utilitarian approach.6 Consequentialism proposes that favorable outcomes determine right action.  But Consequentialism faces a fundamental challenge in terms of the Remote Effects Problem: that we cannot know a priori that immediate results will translate into good results on the long term.7 When it comes to the willingness of practitioners to treat transpeople with a therapy involving transition, we’re often perceived with a large question mark amid a general nervousness about malpractice claims.  Not all who transition do so successfully and long term studies concerning outcomes continue today to address Remote Effects.  These studies continue as sources for vigorous debate.

 The ethics of Dominionism, however, decidedly follows the Divine Command Theory of MoralityDivine Command asserts that right action follows what God has ordained in holy writ.  But what holy writ means calls upon the interpretations of religious leaders despite the biblical claim that scripture (or at lease prophecy) is not a matter of private human interpretation.8  It’s inevitable that interpretation falls back onto religious leaders because only prophets claim to have direct communications from God and no prophet has full acceptance in every communion.  We see disagreements in interpretation through every religious debate in which both sides in an argument refuse to budge from preconceived doctrines and dogma.  We see those disagreements manifest in the massive schisms in Christianity since before the Reformation.  When addressing trans acceptance, Christians are divided.  Some read the Bible and find a basis for acceptance.  Others read the Bible and reject us as an “abomination”, often couching their rejection with the disingenuous claim of “loving the sinner but not the sin.”  No real position exists concerning transpeople apart from these factions because those who “don’t know” have taken no position at all.  But the broad disparities in the positions of scholars among the denominations automatically render legislation on the basis of Divine Command necessarily imprecise, divisive and consequently unstable.

They’re unstable because Law demands a formulation of decisions upon precise definitions and relations as to what may be permitted through codification and enforcement.  When pertaining to transpeople and their collective diversity, definitions often fail.  Nobody has ever defined “transgender” once and for all.  That definition has shifted widely since first appearing in the 1970’s.  For that matter, our presence has opened up vigorous debate in terms of defining maleness or femaleness.  It’s confusing to many because America has relied upon religious tradition, not medical realities, to define a rigid gender dichotomy while excluding all others possibilities.  Consequently, Dominionists perceive transpeople as disrupters of the social order.

 

GENDER DYSPHORIA AND LEGAL RECOGNITION

Some transpeople who oppose medical gatekeeping have vigorously challenged the authority of medical and psychiatric practitioners.  Instead, transition’s sometimes regarded as something automatically owed by right.  Some have gone as far to say that gender dysphoria is “self-diagnosed.”  There’s a reason that view of “self-diagnosis” is wrong.

It’s wrong because a diagnosis is a medical or psychiatric determination based upon collectively established criteria, carrying legal ramifications.  Only a medical or psychiatric professional can diagnose.  “Self diagnosis” is nothing more than a suspicion till supported by a qualified third party.

For example, this past winter I suspected retinal damage after a fall because I persistently saw flashing arcs of light that consistently followed specific eye movements.  My suspicion proved to be correct when an ophthalmologist diagnosed a horseshoe tear in my retina and immediately referred me to eye surgery.  The ophthalmologist diagnosed on the basis of observation and established medical criteria.  I didn’t make that diagnosis.  I only suspected something to be true.

The same applies to professionals who write letters recommending transition.  Anyone can sense gender dysphoria because of various experiences in one’s own mental, emotional, and sociological disposition.  But a diagnosis demands more than subjective belief.  Gender dysphoria, like other conditions, must be determined upon clinical criteria.  It’s why certain states require a treating physician to sign an affidavit for change of the gender marker on a driver’s license.  It’s why an endocrinologist writes a recommendation for gender confirmation surgery.  That physician’s signature has legal ramifications more relied upon than the patient’s.  I might believe that deep inside I’m one gender or another and my belief may be correct.  But legal criteria require confirmation by a third party deemed expert enough to testify to one’s condition as fact. While, morally speaking, one may have the right to transition, securing legal recognition also matters.

It’s one reason why the Standards of Care and the Guidelines for Psychological Practice are important, provided through the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) and the American Psychological Association respectively.

 

RELIGIOUS BELIEF AND LEGAL RECOGNITION

What many religious people don’t realize is that a sincerely held religious belief can also lack legal recognition unless that belief is sanctioned by others, preferably by an established religious institution; much in the same way as a belief of having gender dysphoria needs verification through a professional diagnosis.

Think about that for a moment.

Consider, for example, the Vietnam War when 18-year old males were drafted for combat in the 1960’s and early 1970’s.  Some draftees were devout Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists; conscientious objectors about killing for a human government (the former) and combat on Sabbath (the latter).  Adventist conscientious objectors were often admitted to a Medical Corps, though this provision was abandoned with the close of the Vietnam War.9

Of course, anyone could claim to be a conscientious objector in an attempt to get out of participation in maneuvers or out of cowardice.  Third party verification was required for accommodation.  Just making a statement would not suffice.  Military authorities look suspiciously upon anyone claiming in the middle of a term of service to have converted if it means getting out of an assignment.  Stories abound in Adventist circles about incarceration of conscientious objectors during the Vietnam Era who had been rescued by the church’s military liaison.10

Third party verification also is typically demanded by an employer who must make accommodations for religious practice whenever they come into conflict so long as accommodation does not pose an undue hardship upon the business.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidelines for this:

 

“When an employer requests additional information, employees should provide information that addresses the employer’s reasonable doubts.  That information need not, however, take any specific form.  For example, written materials or the employee’s own first-hand explanation may be sufficient to alleviate the employer’s doubts about the sincerity or religious nature of the employee’s professed belief such that third-party verification is unnecessary.  Further, since idiosyncratic beliefs can be sincerely held and religious, even when third-party verification is needed, it does not have to come from a church official or member, but rather could be provided by others who are aware of the employee’s religious practice or belief.[128]

“An employee who fails to cooperate with an employer’s reasonable request for verification of the sincerity or religious nature of a professed belief risks losing any subsequent claim that the employer improperly denied an accommodation.  By the same token, employers who unreasonably request unnecessary or excessive corroborating evidence risk being held liable for denying a reasonable accommodation request, and having their actions challenged as retaliatory or as part of a pattern of harassment.

“It also is important to remember that even if an employer concludes that an individual’s professed belief is sincerely held and religious, it is only required to grant those requests for accommodation that do not pose an undue hardship on the conduct of its business”11

 

THE TIDE OF LIMITATIONS

Religious liberty, however, isn’t absolute.  A parent in Christian Science would be prosecuted for denying his child medical care if it’s clear that treatment could have saved the child’s life.  Honor killings, today most common among Muslims aren’t exonerated in American courts.  Neither can any church carry out the kinds of pogroms against people of other faiths like what Orthodox Christians have perpetrated against Jews for centuries.  Forced conversions, a feature of Christianity throughout its bloody history, won’t be backed by law… yet.

In the case of employers, the issue of proselytizing in the workplace has been addressed by the EEOC in terms of hardship upon a business.  What’s lacking are the rights of employees to be free from being compelled to convert to a religion as a result of an employer sanctioning a campaign of proselytizing as in cases of religiously operated educational institutions that appear from time to time.  Neither have churches done much to make freedom from proselytizing a matter of accommodation because the churches prefer to fight proselytizing by equipping their own members for religious debate.  But internal conflicts resulting from proselytizing can force businesses to either forbid them through hardship claims, or to terminate employees on the basis of religion, the latter being preferred by many Conservative religious bodies.

Let’s say that the current trend for Dominionist control of government continues to the point in which no legal recourse for those outside the Evangelical Alliance can exist.  It’s a condition of American becoming a fully theocratic state.  Forced conversions often happen in such a milieu.  Some, like the Seventh-Day Adventists, have believed for over a century that this version of Christo-Fascism is inevitable, even established in prophecy.12

 

A LOGICAL CONUNDRUM

Transpeople, many of whom are either Atheist or representing religious minorities outside the Evangelical Alliance, can find a special role to play in such an unfolding drama.  The need for 3rd party verification for liberty claims by religionist and transperson should be more or less on par with each other as exists today.  But if religion demands forced conversions, these 3rd party verifications could be challenged for religious claimants in a way transgender claimants cannot.

A milieu of duress logically demands that we question the validity of claims of having freely made decisions.  Claims concerning liberty in conversion in such a milieu may be legally accepted but morally and logically they cannot.  However, nobody who has voluntarily gone through a process of transition needs anything beyond the documents supporting transition to evidence a past claim of gender dysphoria.  Given the hoops we jump through, it’s difficult for anyone to claim that a transsexual has had surgery under duress.  Simple existence as a post-operative transsexual speaks for the fact itself.  What remains in a totalitarian theocracy is its decision to either accept the resulting logical disparity that demands reform or destroy the transsexual who dares to challenge the religious claims of those having been converted under duress.  In the case of such a challenge, other minorities can take notice and rise up, each with issues of their own.

It’s a condition like what Tertullian described, saying, “semen est sanguis Christianorum” (The blood of Christians is seed).”13 But the blood of martyrs resulting in political and religious reforms isn’t limited to religionists.  For example, the persecution of Galileo Galilei by Catholic authorities spurred a rise of popular interest in science and added to scientific fervor.14 Just like Galileo brought an ascendancy of scientific interest and contributed to the decline of European religious tyranny, transpeople have the potential to spark such a reevaluation of religious liberty claims that can fuel a popular uprising of its own, leading ultimately to a crash of Dominionists’ theocratic grip.

 

A PHILOSOPHIC WARRANT

In which case, transpeople, especially those who transition, need to understand the logic of liberty claims:  their own as well as those of religionists.  For that matter, transpeople do well to understand philosophic ideas including ideas that demand religious literacy.  We should be able to teach them.  Such an understanding not only helps to refine one’s own thoughts about the self and the universe, but may bequeath a treasure for future generations that may arise in a more congenial age.  It may come in a time of environmental ruin and depopulation of the planet resulting from the madness of Dominionist policies rooted in the classic lust for gold, greed, and converts to what they claim is God.

Movements inevitably lead to political machines before becoming monuments to the “good old days.” But a more congenial age would be a time earned with an end to the Abrahamic Oppression that has gripped Europe and other parts of the world since Theodosius cosigned the Edict of RomeIt will also be a time earned for the meek who inherit the Earth, and not because they’re too timid to refuse it.

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REFERENCES:

Image: Modified details of 2 public domain images.  Left is a statue honoring the ideal of protecting the worshipper from the state, commissioned by the Jewish anti-defamation league B’nai Berith and sculpted by Moses Jacob Ezekiel.  It stands in Fairmont Park, Philadelphia; right is a detail from a protest for trans rights, Flikr.

  1. Lynnea Urania Stuart. “Alas, the Charioteer” Transpire (November 25, 2016, accessed July 19, 2017) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/alas-the-charioteer/.
  2. Unless otherwise noted, the author relies upon her own experience with the Evangelical Alliance having participated in evangelism from 1974 before her exit from the Campbellists in 1978 and the Seventh-Day Adventists in 1995. Post-Millennialism claims that Christ returns after a 1000 year rule of the church on Earth.  Pre-Millenialism claims the 1000 rule happens after the return of Christ.  Pre-Tribulation and Post-Tribulation refers to whether a secret rapture, or taking up of “real Christians” into heaven, happens before or after a period of mass persecution of Christians.  Eschatology is a branch of theology pertaining to the end of the world.
  3. (n.a.) “Taking Over the Republican Party” Theocracy Watch (Updated February 2005, accessed July 19, 2017) http://www.theocracywatch.org/taking_over.htm.
  4. Republican National Platform Committee. “Republican Platform, 2016” (presented to the delegates of the GOP National Convention August 2016)
  5. HR 2796, Section 3 (bill introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Olson, Babin, Abraham, and Hartzler on June 7, 2017)
  6. Utilitarianism consists of 2 versions of Consequentialism that posit that right action must be determined upon the greatest number of sentient beings made happy (Jeremy Bentham) or determined upon a rule affecting the greatest number of people made happy (John Stuart Mill). The Consequentialism of medical ethics does not take statistics on societal happiness into account.
  7. “A priori” refers to what can be known ahead of time as opposed to “a posteriori” which refers to what can be known after the fact.
  8. 2 Peter 1:20.
  9. Gary R. Councell. “Adventists and Military Service” Spectrum (July 23, 2012, accessed July 19, 2017) http://spectrummagazine.org/article/gary-r-councell/2012/07/23/adventists-and-military-service .
  10. Related by Seventh-Day Adventist pastors to the author in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
  11. (na.a) “EEOC Compliance Manual, Section 12-4: Reasonable Accommodation” Directives Transmittal Number 915.003 (July 22, 2008, accessed July 19, 2017) https://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/religion.html#_Toc203359518 .
  12. (n.a.) “The Image of the Beast” End Times Prophecy (n.d., accessed July 20, 2017) http://www.end-times-prophecy.org/image-of-the-beast.html.
  13. Tertullian. “Apologeticus Pro Christianis” 50:13
  14. Briggs, Kenneth A. “Scholars Are Still Embattled Over the Case of Galileo” New York Times (April 28m 1981, accessed July 20, 2017) http://www.nytimes.com/1981/04/28/science/scholars-are-still-embattled-over-the-case-of-galileo-madisonwisc.html?pagewanted=all.

 

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