Jesus and Academic Culture Part 5

Answering Concerns and Critics


     In our last article, we explained in some detail what exactly Critical Theory (CT) is, its history, and its relationship to critical theories (CTs). They remain all the rage in academe. We also talked about how we thought this emerging social change ideology fits with Christian theology. We brought up the concern that CT and CTs define—we alleged at times its thought leaders tendentiously define—the terms it uses in its analysis of social ills. We also talked through how we thought their modus operandi for social change comports with Christian theology.  

      In spite of our serious concerns about both of those things, we found that CT and CTs touch on many social issues and ills of importance and relevance, even to the extent that Christians can sometimes find common cause with some of its adherents. We can agree that sometimes adherents of CT and CTs identify areas in society that are in need of reformation—perhaps even drastic reformation.  Which ones qualify needs to be discussed and determined on a case by case basis.

The Frankfurt School

Photo credit: internet

     More recently we’ve tried to highlight some of the issues we have been talking over with you in an 11 minute video entitled A Primer on Critical Issues and Its Uses, which you can see here.  

     We appreciate the positive feedback we received from many regarding the content of the first four articles in this series, Jesus and Academic Culture, especially for the most recent article in the series, article #4.  Nonetheless, for the purposes of clarity and greater completeness, we wish to respond in some detail to some of the concerns that were raised in discussing that article with many of our colleagues. You may wish to go back and review article #4, which we’re now discussing, using this link. Now, to six of the concerns (in no particular order) that were raised when we talked with people who read the article.

Your concern #1: Your article seems to support the status quo relative to important social concerns.

Our response:

      It is possible to interpret what we said in a way that does seem to support the status quo regarding social change. However, in calling into question or rejecting some of the definitions of what constitutes (social) justice as defined by some Critical Theory (CT) thought leaders or substantially rejecting mainstream Critical Theory modus operandi, we did not mean to say (and in fact did not say) there is not in any way a need for any particular social change they suggest, or that Christians should not participate in common cause with anyone who does wholly share our worldview.  

     We do think at times politics can create strange—or at least unanticipated—bedfellows. What we intended to say and believe we did say is that any cooperation deserves careful thought and careful execution, and where possible, to be sure to make distinctions about what we do support, why we support it, what we don’t support, and how all that follows (sometimes with qualifications) from our worldview and Scripture. That is the least we can do, because we think there is an important distinction between our scriptural worldview and other worldviews and other scriptures…including secular worldviews.  Consider this quote:

    "Our business is to present the Christian faith clothed in modern terms, not to propagate modern thought clothed in Christian terms…Confusion here is fatal."  J.I. Packer

Your Concern #2: Critical Theory and critical theories (for instance, post-colonial critical theory, critical gender theory, critical race theory and so on…) are doing some real good. Why attack a theory or theories that are doing so much good in transforming a flawed culture? Isn’t this just a red herring that leads us off track?

Our response:

     This concern is somewhat similar to Concern #1 above. The criticism is, roughly, why not get out of the way or at least stop “attacking" something that is doing good when it is so hard to change culture for the better? Are we not in some way straining a theological and philosophical gnat and swallowing an immoral social condition camel? 

     Because the first and second concerns are somewhat similar, they can be answered in a similar yet non-identical way. We neither wish to impede the progress of social improvements that are actually making for a better society nor attack or criticize CT and CTs unnecessarily. Nonetheless, it seems to us that Christians have two justifiable reservations: 

     1) They can properly have sincere and reasonable doubts about certain definitions, identifications, and prioritizations that CT and CTs use to frame social issues and problems. 

     For instance, besides the relevant factual conditions claimed, cannot reasonable people differ about what is the criterion that must be met for an identity group to reach “victim status,” and cannot reasonable people differ about what those identity groups are entitled to?  Typically, those questions are settled in the court of public opinion and especially the legal system, but aren’t there important theological, moral and ethical questions that stand above those rulings?

     There are also questions about what the terms like “equality” and “equity" mean (Endnote 1). For example, do CTers mean equality of opportunity or equality of result, and is it racist to support equality of opportunity and not equality of result? Both have been proven hard to reach, but could it be that trying to reach the equality of result demands that we live increasingly in a totalitarian society? Cannot reasonable people differ about their willingness to pay those kinds of costs to achieve that kind of equity? 

     2) Cannot Christians also properly have concerns about the way proposed public policies for solutions are undertaken?  In doing so, it is not necessarily about being a stick in the mud or being passive aggressive. It can be about a Christian's desire to live a good life by being thoughtful and discerning. It could be about being deliberate when we try to foster a good society and a good government. It can be about whether the way things are implemented creates a "divide the cultures (and identity groups) and conquer” mentality. Let me explain.

     It seems to us that human trafficking is a serious social problem that in a very practical way degrades people made in the image of God (Endnote 2). It makes sense that where and when Christians in a given culture can play a role in reforming policies and/or help create conditions that ameliorate this tragedy—especially in a redemptive way—they can properly do so. It may even be possible to support common cause with people who hold other worldviews, but share a concern about this social ill.

     The question really is when we come to the table, what perspective do we come with? Do we bring our own history of mechanisms we deem worthy of addressing social ills? How do we think about issues like the separation of church and state?  For instance, we can ask what can we learn from our history about trying to solve these kinds of problems and to what extent can we redemptively aim to solve this on-going problem? Our past shows we have tried hard to solve social ills like this (Endnote 3). 

     For instance, Christians tried to solve the admittedly serious problem of the ill effect of drinking alcohol on families at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.  Ultimately “Prohibition" was the public policy that was “crafted" to solve that. We should ask how well that worked and what, if any, were the unintended consequences of that strategy? Why was that public policy abandoned after a time? Shouldn’t those kinds of failures give us pause and create some reluctance to quickly and thoughtlessly endorse schemes that use the force of the state to curb behaviors deemed socially unacceptable?

     Another concern we wish to raise under this question is the problem of what we call the "end justifies the means” way of thinking about social “solutions.” We maintain that not all ends justifies all means, and serious Christians do not want to create new and greater problems in the future than what we are dealing with, by adopting tactics that can backfire. The wise course of action is not always easy to discern.  

     Ironically the demand for what amounts to “social justice” played a major role in providing the conditions that gave the opportunity for Hitler (and people like him) to rise to power, and that eventually—only about 20 years later—led to World War II with a cost of about 60 million additional livesAt the end of World War I the Germans were forced to sign the Versailles Treaty in Paris, which was aimed by the Allies at getting a just settlement to the human and financial costs of that war. How do you calculate the loss of millions of people’s lives—Britain suffered the loss of a generation of some of its best and brightest men and women and how do you put a price tag on that? Well, they and others did put a price tag on that and Germany was forced to pay what we now consider to have been onerous reparations. The result? The results included that post-war Germany was humiliated, broke and angry. In the following decade its citizens were subject to rampant inflation, unemployment and ruin.  

     Therefore, it is not out of the realm of plausibility to say that the Allies demand for justice—something you might well think they were entitled to—brought on even more severe consequences for the whole of the world than did World War I. Surely that social policy backfired in a relatively short time and we should not forget that lesson. Fortunately, the Allies tried not to repeat those mistakes after World War II with the introduction of things like the Marshall plan, which incidentally turned out much better. Sometimes mercy and enlightened self-interest can trump an “eye for an eye” brand of social justice. Right now, some thought leaders within the Critical Theory pantheon clearly endorse the “eye for an eye” brand.

     That being said, we therefore think it is worth our time to do careful analysis of the alleged problems that CTers define, identify and prioritize and take time to be sure that our “solutions,” whatever they are, are likely to accomplish meaningful goals with as few unintended and negative consequences as we can. Thus, watch being stampeded in the name of timely justice to make foolish policy.  

Concern #3: Your article seemed to suggest CT and CTs are ideologies "taking over” and dominating almost all of academia and large areas of the general culture. Your description made it sound like one of those conspiracy theories.

Our response: 

     I think the important words in that allegation/question are the words, “...made it sound like...”  That’s because we did NOT present it as a conspiracy theory, even though, if you will, ideological propaganda does have its “conspirators.”  

     Indeed, ideologies of many stripes have their propagandists and “conspirators," who wish and work to see their ideas win the day—and they can create strange bedfellows who may cooperate and form common cause in some cases. The allegiances can in some sense be a loose, a non “card-carrying” pact, but enforced by social approbation or disapprobation.

      And when ideas on one side gain momentum they can be propelled in a way that may seem like a “giant” conspiracy, when it is not.  However, we did not make that kind of accusation in this case. We saw and affirmed in our article that CT and CTs momentum in culture is a result of a complicated and complex path that has reached a consensus in some very important parts of culture—especially academe.  Its roots (as we explained) go back more than a century, but it is all the rage in academe presently. Knowing its history is important, but judging its works by its current results is even more important…and avoids the genetic fallacy.

     We did not claim that Critical Theory's and critical theories' “march through the institutions” was a giant conspiracy—especially a secret one.  

     We think their march’s success depended on a number of things: 1) it appealed to a sense of axiological fairness that is widely shared, 2) it is partially explained by its beginnings in academe that touted free speech and academic freedom, where its ideas could flourish, spread, and “trickle” down once accepted, and 3) it because some of its advocates were in many ways clever, persistent, and technologically resourceful in implementing its agenda.

     Our concern was not about identifying or “stopping" a giant conspiracy.  Rather because of CTs influence, we wish to more deeply understand what the thought leaders of this ideology mean to say and do and what are the present consequences, good and bad of that ideology. Thus, in qualified ways we can affirm some things and in other qualified ways we can strongly demur. 

     It seemed the proper thing to do was to inform Christian scholars and teachers about Critical theory's and critical theories' roots and shoots, its subtleties, and encourage our friends to think about such an ideology and its modus operandi in a more Christianly way. 

     Βy the way, that piece of political analysis (article #4 in the series) was not intended to directly or indirectly endorse any political party or candidates for office. It was part of a general intention to encourage Christian scholars to think Christianly about the academic disciplines as a whole and more immediately think about this puzzle because of its deep relevance to many theological and philosophical matters that are presently in the forefront of cultural awareness. 

Concern #4:  You don’t seem to realize you cannot bring about social change without using intimidation and coercion (that is, getting and using power to bring about change).

Our response:

     Critical Theory's thought leaders' perennially assert that nothing of significance can be accomplished in terms of effective social change without society’s “victims” identifying what they want to change, gaining power and gaining enough of it to force change. 

     However, 1) this approach seems to overlook important cultural examples to the contrary. What about what Mahatma Gandhi and his followers accomplished in India through largely pacifistic means?  What about what Dr. Martin Luther King accomplished by means of a non-violent protest?  

     And, 2) most importantly for Christians, what method of social change did Jesus endorse? Did Jesus' life and ministry suggest his disciples carry the day in the Roman world by force? Hardly. Did he encourage his followers to start an Empire wide insurrection? We think not. 

     That does not mean social ills cannot be properly defined and prioritized with the intention to do something significant to improve or ameliorate the situation. However, it is not lost on us that we have good reasons to be suspicious of the attempt to coerce people and societies as a primary strategy to get them to behave themselves. The end game of getting people to be good by force is totalitarianism and we find that repugnant…apparently some important thought leaders in CT and CTs do not find that repugnant.

Concern #5:  Doesn’t Christian theology support Critical Theory?

Our response: 

    It depends on how you define the terms. We have discussed this elsewhere (especially in our previous article), but we think most of the contemporary expressions of Critical Theory and critical theories have important problems with both defining, identifying, and prioritizing social ills in objective and relevant ways that fit the Christian's understandings of what it means to be human (Endnote 4). Secular culture has its own agenda and timetable and while we are not lobbying for a theocracy, we do not think religious views should be entirely excluded from the public square or conversation.

     Also, relevant to your question, some of its tactics to bring about social change seem at odds with the life and ministry of Jesus and are at odds with the examples proposed for social change in the New Testament as a whole. We think the tactics of "divide and conquer" and “cancel" culture,” to name a couple of things that are part and parcel of CT & CTs, are beyond, way beyond what we think our Lord would endorse.

     It’s not that the Christian faith has no touch points with CT and CTs when one considers social ills, social justice and social change—we have said before we think there are even some situations where serious Christians can find common cause with some advocates of Critical Theory and critical theories. 

     However, we have advocated for being very careful about doing so and the need to explain and limit our support in various ways. Christian thought leaders should certainly resist being stampeded by social acceptance into buying into CT and CTs entire secular agenda because we are, if not only, accountable before God for how we use the influence He has given us.  

Concern #6 You seem to make a big deal out of how thought leaders in CT and CTs define the terms of the debate.  Why are you so tenacious about bringing up that concern?  Isn’t all this stuff about definitions really too hair-splitting to seriously concern ourselves with?

Our response: 

    Good question! We can think of at least two reasons: 

     1) Definitions play a big role in understanding the relevant moral/social situation that is focused on, and unrecognized tendentious terms can capture or frame the terms of the debate/discussion. Capturing the terms of the debate plays a big role in establishing the public narrative…and the public narrative will carry forward with it all of the assumptions that it has imbibed and endorsed.  

     What makes this important is that the “narrative” can make opposing views, from the start of the conversation all the way to the policy making deliberations and decision making, seem implausible. That kind of social leverage, understood in terms of controlling the public narrative, can tilt the discourse and subvert good and effective public policy by “disqualifying” or giving short shrift to any differing views.  

     2) In considering the "defining, identifying and prioritizing problems," a serious issue is that many CT and CTs thought leaders often have an idiosyncratic understanding of the nature of definitions. That subtle wrinkle regarding their understanding of the nature of definitions should not escape our notice. 

     How so you may ask? What difference would that make? This is where things get a little complicated, more abstract and harder to parse out; but we think this drink of water is worth the walk for it. 

     A shared belief (in some cases a shared assumption) by many sophisticated CT theorists and CTs theorists and activists is that human language is not per se about the “real” world. For them it is about how subjective social convention and subjective social construction theory, implicit in their ideology, properly dominates not just some categories of communication theory, but sometimes all. 

     About the only use of the term “reality" that comes up in this way of addressing it is that they often talk about "the reality of social discourse;” but, there’s a difference and an important difference between the “reality" of social discourse and whether discourse captures anything about an objective reality. We think Christian scholars should appreciate its subtleties and consequences, so here is what we think about this.

     We agree that language symbols are used to construct meanings for things we wish to communicate and convey, and we agree that we can come to view “our world” from different epistemic perspectives. However, this way of understanding discourse can be pushed comprehensively and we think much CT and CTs literature has been pushed too far (Endnote 5) from an acceptable—nothing new—version of recognizing that people come from different epistemic situations to the conversation. It has gone onto endorsing a view where reality itself is only a created or constructed entity.   

     The most radical CT and CTers hold (often seem to assume) a theory of language and communication that asserts that we humans do not have cognitive or sensory access to an (the) objective world: 1) some of them reject the view that any “world" exists independent of our ideas or opinions.  And, 2) others of them will grant there is an objective “world” independent of minds, but they also believe we cannot know its nature or essence—we may know the “world” is out there and that it is even causing our perceptions, but they are skeptical we have access to its nature. Since that’s the case, they argue, our access to independent reality is thought to be cut off by our epistemic position; the only “reality” worth talking about is only the social discourse constructions that we agree to make.

     Seldom discussed explicitly, these two conceptions of what is commonly called perceptions become insinuated into the public analysis and policy making apparatus in a way that they become the only viable alternative that are available. Both, from their point of view, all we have is our subjective "linguistic and symbolic” constructions of the world, much of which, if not all, are created socially or by convention.  

     Both of these ways of thinking can seem reasonable if applied to some categories of thought. For instance, we presently do not believe that what we call “money” has intrinsic existence in and of itself, but that its existence and value come into existence by fiat—by means of a social convention or social construction.  Similarly, civil offices like the office of the “President of the United States” and who is the President of the United States are also created by social convention—we agree on the specifications and if someone has fulfilled those specifications then they are in fact, the President of the United States.  No problem thinking about those types of categories in these ways.   

     On the other hand, we also think there were things like mountains, oceans and dinosaurs on this planet earth before humans came along and named them conventionally. Those things (their essences) existed before our conventions tried to identify and name them—that is, before humans even existed. What we have in fact constructed were the language symbols we invented to name them. 

     Nonetheless, it follows from that latter understanding of objectivity, that those things in themselves, whatever they were, were not so constructed merely by language or symbols.  And, if that’s the case and we think it is, it is a serious problem for those who understand all language and communication in terms of an all embracing constitutive—constructive—metaphysical theory. Its subjectivity is self-referentially incoherent. It cannot be sensibly believed. So much the worse for any worldview or ideology that adopts such a tenet. The problems multiply from there.

     For example, elements of an all-embracing subjectivity perspective are imbedded deeply and sometimes "invisibly” in critical gender theory, to the extent that their theory implies human gender and sex categories are merely human constructions; and then it follows from that there is no external objective reality, that is besides “social reality,” that could anchor those symbols…at least not one we could know.  You, no doubt can see where this is going to go (Endnote 6).

     We maintain that if the conventional theory of naming things is absolute, then it also follows from that theory that any definitions so conceived within the theory are arbitrary and unconnected to any objectively knowable reality. And it follows that we can, for instance, define not only gender and sex categories any way “we” want, but also anything else in the same manner. They even could make the gender definitions fluid...and some thought leaders in CT and CTs think that’s just fine (Endnote 7). 

     However, besides the problems identified above with the implications of an all-embracing subjectivist theory, there also seems to be the problem of "bumping into reality itself;” mountains, oceans and dinosaurs care little if we define them as not existing in reality or wish to name them deserts, continents and mammals.  

    Indeed, the kind of irrealism metaphysical theory we are criticizing entails (if you believe it) that if we agree that Covid-19 does not exist, then it follows that it does not exist! Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead. With a theory like that we can not only define away all of our Covid-19 problems, we can also throw in all of the social problems we thought we had to boot. We just need to change our minds and agree that there are no social problems—and then in that conception of what reality is there will be no social problems. 

     This absurd (metaphysical) irrealism thinking is some serious kind of nonsense, some of which brings swift consequence.  Unfortunately, in some cases the consequences are insidious and take a while to be recognized.  

     A relevant question is what there is to do about all this. One way would be to confront those thought leaders with the options before them.  However, that doesn’t guarantee any success, because they may simply think (or say) the reason you believe what you do is because you have an interest in getting or keeping power for your identity group.  As such, they may not even want to engage with you about any of this. They may merely desire to “cancel” you.

     Another possible way those thought leaders could respond would be to suggest we do not have enough common ground to avoid talking past each other. Their tactic might be to try to help us to see that what we think about there being, in principle, a real world out there independent of us, is really a naive view. They may also propose, in that vein, that the more sophisticated approach would be to accept their picture of the world—entirely subjective though it may be. While we’re not opposed to conceding vast areas of discourse and “knowledge” are fallible, that proposal, we think, is a bridge too far.

     However that may be, let’s begin to conclude this essay by saying something about how we can enter into meaningful conversations with some of them. Of course, there are many ways subjectivism as a worldview or ideology comes to be embraced, but some of them embrace it because they think it really captures what the real world is like.  That is to say, they hold that the only objective thing we know is that everything is subjective. Some of those folks who came to embrace subjectivism in or through this path may be worthy of an extended conversation.  

     You might have to dialogue quite a bit to find out how they came to hold the views they do, and you may have to learn to ask good qualifying questions to “pin down” their current thinking, but that’s not so bad. However, you likely cannot ask these questions or listen to their responses like a prosecuting attorney might because that might put them on the defensive and less willing to engage with you.  

     Nonetheless, if they engage long enough with you and with good will, it is not unethical to see if you can help them to see their ideas may be in self-referential disequilibrium. Somewhere along the line, you might be able to ask some questions that help them to see how they might embrace both objectivism and subjectivism in untenable ways.

     Unfortunately, subjectivists cannot have it both ways. For example, they cannot sensibly say they “believe in science” and hold that “science is truth” in any objective sense, as they seem to want to do at times, if those claims are meant in only some subjective arbitrary sense. That follows from their own theory. Michel Foucault, a postmodernist thought leader in the movement, says that science is just another means for oppressors to oppress their victims. It’s even been argued by some that there is a “whiteness” oppression involved in the way mathematics is understood (not just taught), but when you pin them down on just what that is or even how it’s been taught, it typically is not a compelling enough an inequality to overthrow by revolutionary means.  

     It also follows from their subjectivist theory that whatever their conclusions are, they are also arbitrary and biased all the way down, which is exactly what you’d expect they were trying to avoid when pleading their case for social change. This manifestation of the most radical form of post-modernist thought permeates other ideas held by important thought leaders in Critical Theory and thought leaders in critical theories. Those ideas and the ideologies they infect create the conditions where their theories pathetically (but maybe in a praiseworthy manner) hoist themselves on their own petard.  

     What Christian thought leaders need to do is call attention to this problem. It is subtle enough that not everybody sees what is going on, but this is where you can play a role, especially if you can do it in a clear and sophisticated way. 

     It involves getting them to explain without equivocation 1) whether their methods, theories and definitions are meant to be understood as entirely subjective… or 2) both objective and subjective at the same time and in the same sense. 

     However, there is a third option, which admits that linguistic constructions of reality can be fallible, but holds that reality, whatever it is, is for the most part independent of their opinions and values. Such a view does allow for two senses of the objective/subjective distinction: epistemic and ontological senses and for a class of utterances that make something the case. In the latter instance, there are utterances representing the thing we are trying to make to be the case as already being the case. For instance, the examples we gave above of how certain logical forms, like declarations of what it means to be President of the United States or what constitutes money (but could also include things like driver’s licenses, parties, summer vacations, and so on) are created by repeated respresentations.   

     If they take option one, follow the implications of where their choice leads. If they wish to self-define their project through the subjective option, why think anything they have to say is in any sense objective—their theory requires them to admit it’s just their subjective and biased opinion.  

     If they take the second option, it is a straight forward contradiction in terms.  It cannot be sensibly held.

     If they claim (from a secular perspective) their methods and conclusions are attempting to be objective for the most part in their understanding of society and social ills, they must give us an account of facts, values and ethics that supports their objectivity claims that does not borrow theistic (and especially Christian) support. That’s not easy to do.  Further, you have the intellectual right to hold their feet to the fire regarding the difference between good statistical evidence (aiming at objectivity) versus “lived experience” (understood subjectively) in their propaganda. It also seems fair to say that if they adopt this third option, much of the steam and radicalism of their ideology will be dissipated… and rightly so.

     However, it is possible that some Critical Theorists and those who hold to critical theories’ various communal definitions, identifications and prioritizations for social justice policy will explain their adherence to the third option in Christian terms—even though the roots and the shoots of CT and CTs' thought leaders and what they have produced have been typically staunchly secular. 

     With these folks, some of whom are brothers and sisters in Christ, the conversation should be around how they arrived at their methods, social definitions, identifications and prioritization and how the values they claim allegiance to and the modus operandi of fixing society the way CT and CTs strongly suggests “fits" with the life example of our Lord. This involves discussing the social policy mechanisms found especially in the New Testament, and all of Christian theology and reason. This will not be an easy conversation because of the need for nuance and recognizing the subtleties of expert testimony from both sides—suspicions about motives on both sides will abound—but the ongoing conversation is one that needs to take place for the sake of all which is at stake.  


End Notes

Endnote 1: See Merriam-Webster definitions of the two terms, see article by ThoughtCo for a diversity and inclusion definition, see also the Annie E. Casey Foundation for their version of these definitions plus their definitions of what they call “other racial justice definitions,” see also article in The American Conservative, “'Equity' is Not 'Equality' Comrade" for their spin, but maybe the thing to see is that Christians need to try to understand what our text means (not just says) about these concepts, as well as to what extent to we are required to apply and to achieve these ideals in a secular society.

Endnote 2: Human trafficking is, first of all, an offense to God and God's nature, because He is the ultimate standard of being and doing good. Human trafficking violates the intrinsic dignity and worth He endowed to people as a part of His Creation, and what He expects of us. What humans do to or how they treat other humans in “human trafficking cannot change the objective value and worth which has been endowed to them, either individually or in identity groups, but it can affect how people subjectively perceive or experience human dignity and worth.  The truth is the truth independent of how people treat it or perceive it. When humans mistreat other humans, they miss the mark of what God intended for His Creatures and despite the ubiquity of sin, God takes such violations seriously, because the consequences affect “the being” of the perpetrator and the victim and “the doing” of the act brings consequences to both the victim and the perpetrator. In short, the mistreatment affects the truth, beauty and value of His Creation.

Endnote 3: Perhaps one of the most noted attempts at “Christian" social cures was the temperance movement of the 19th century that culminated with Prohibition becoming law through the 18th Amendment (proposed 1917, ratified 1919 and in effect beginning 1920) and its subsequent repeal in the 21st (1933) Amendment to the Constitution.  See History Channel article on the 18th and 21st Amendments.  For a more recent example of Christian attempts at curing social issues, see “The Trouble with the Christian Adoption Movement in The New Republic. This is not to say that all Christian past attempts or future attempts at curing social issues were or will be “failures.”  However, it does show some of them apparently have been unsuccessful, and we should take note of that.  

Endnote 4: We very briefly discussed this in Endnote 2.

Endnote 5: For an interesting and clarifying discussion of the power of and the limits to creating “social reality” see John Searle’s Oslo University lecture and check our notes from that lecture here

Endnote 6: The discussion/debate among forms of gender realism (or essentialism) and gender nominalism is ongoing, at least in feminist theory. See feminists Charlotte Witt, Natalie Stolijar, et al. for their arguments and take on this.

Endnote 7: A practical reductio ad absurdum on this is that if gender identity is a social construction of the type that allows you declare what your gender is, then what you declare, by definition of the social construction approach is, in fact, your gender; then, by adding gender fluidity to the prescription, not only will that allow you to change who you are, but also to change it whenever you declare it. This would appear to be a major advantage that would allow you to enter or remain in a victim status for a certain period of time and reap those benefits under the law, but also allow you to change your mind to take the advantages of the oppressor status when and where you so desire. Under the most subjective Critical Theory regime, who is to say you are not who you declare you are, even as you explore and re-explore the gender options available? © Academic Connections, International