In a recent blog post, titled "Gay as a Pope tweet," Douglas Wilson laments the decline of masculinity and uses Pope Francis as his paradigm case for male effeminacy.
Now I don't disagree with Wilson on the issue of the decline of masculinity; in fact, I've made the same point quite a number of times. Things have gotten so bad, in fact, that I notice the word "sissy" is now commonly spelled in articles with asterisks, as if it were an obscene word: "s***y." Meanwhile, of course, words that really are obscene are used freely and without self-censorship.
I would go so far as to say that men who find it necessary to spell the word "sissy" with asterisks are, well, sissies.
I just remarked to my wife the other day, after having watched John Wayne's performance in True Grit (which I do as an act of masculine hygiene at least once every couple of years), that the kind of character John Wayne portrayed is virtually absent in modern movies in which male roles are made up largely of overgrown adolescent weenies.
Yes, I said "weenies." Without asterisks. And if you're a male who doesn't like it, then you're a sissy.
I officially attribute the modern problem with male effeminacy to the absurd gender ideology that has become so fashionable over the last ten years. The idea of this school of thought is to get beyond gender altogether. Of course there's really no way to do this.
Gender isn't something you can either invent or change. It's a given. It is something settled by nature and you can do little about it.
To think that you can somehow invent new gender categories is like thinking you can invent new primary colors. Problem is, there's blue, yellow, and red. Period. End of story. If you want to come up with another one, good luck. And if you suffer from the delusion that you are actually capable of doing this, then you need to be committed to whatever the colorific equivalent is of a mental hospital.
Similarly, when it comes to gender, there is male and female. And some of us like that just fine (a great benefit in a world in which you can do little about it anyway).
I know there are people who really think that just because Facebook now has 52 "gender identities" that there must really be, in fact, 52 gender identities. But all of these "gender identities" are ideological fictions manufactured by stitching together the pieces of masculinity and femininity they got by cutting up the originals.
There's a whole story to be written about how people ever got the idea that you could really do this in which postmodern thinkers like Jacques Derrida would play the major roles, what with their rejection of "binaries" and all that.
Of course as soon as you reject binaries, you create a new binary; namely, the binary of a world with binaries and a world without them. There are two kinds of people, Richard John Neuhaus once said: people say there are two kinds of people and people who don't say that.
The people who think you can transcend gender or invent new genders can only play off the two poles of male and female. They never get beyond that. They never really invent anything different that is not some knock off of the originals. There's no way to reboot nature. You've got to live with what it gives you.
So, then, I agree with Wilson on the problem. But his choice of examplars leaves something to be desired.
Pope Francis? A sissy? Really?
I have this underlying urge, being a Catholic (and a male), to throw down the gauntlet and demand satisfaction, but that would imply I wear gloves. And you know how that would go down with certain people.
To prove his point, Wilson cites several papal tweets which he thinks exemplify effeminacy. Here are the examples he uses:
“Advent begins a new journey. May Mary, our Mother, be our guide.”Now I doubt if they chest bump in the Vatican after every tweet, but I'm trying to figure out what is effeminate about these expressions. Is there something less than masculine about the grammatical subjunctive? Is there something hairless about hope? Wilson does not elaborate. Instead, he pines for "days of the badass popes."
“Advent increases our hope, a hope which does not disappoint. The Lord never lets us down.”
“There is so much noise in the world! May we learn to be silent in our hearts and before God.”
Maybe he could do a tweet: "There is a crisis of effeminate popes. May they be replaced with more masculine ones."
While I don't get a testosterone rush every time I read a Vatican tweet, maybe there is just something that gets lost for certain people when these expressions are translated from the more manly Latin in which, as I understand it, such things are written at the Vatican. And then, of course, there is the matter of the whole Twitter form of media, which doesn't exactly lend itself to any kind of meaningful expression in the first place.
Maybe if there was a way to adequately transcribe grunts and belches and other common masculine bodily sounds into the 140 character format of a tweet, there would be some hope of whipping the Twitter world into more masculine shape.
But, more to the point, I find it rather ironic that Francis--a man who forswore a car to take the bus to work when he was an Argentine bishop, who has taken on the lethargic bureaucracy of the Vatican, and who has been willing to pick fights where he thought it necessary to get the Church into a more evangelical shape--could be plausibly portrayed as effeminate. But it is probably easy to see it that way from the comfortable confines of a safe little Idaho town.
I'm trying to imagine the results of applying the criteria Wilson wants to apply to Pope Francis to--oh, I don't know--Jesus. Someone who goes around saying things like "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" would make an easy target for ancient Hebrew bloggers on the lookout for the weakly constituted.
I like Doug Wilson. He's one of our few great evangelical wits. Wait, let me check ... He may be the only one.
But he's wrong about the Pope.