Let me bore you for a minute with a little church history. During the 1530s, in an effort to criticize what he and his fellow Lutherans perceived as false doctrines within the Roman Catholic Church, German theologian Philipp Melanchthon busted out some Latin in article XXIV of a document called the Apology of the Augburg Confession. “Ex opere operato,” he said. “When it comes to the intertwined issues of the divine worship service and the Lord’s Supper, all y’all papists have gone full ex opere operato.” That’s not a direct quote, mind you. I’m paraphrasing.
The literal translation of “ex opere operato” is “out of the work having been worked,” but Melanchthon essentially used it to mean “by the mere outward act” as a criticism of how he believed Rome’s understanding of the sacrament greatly downplayed the importance of faith in receiving Christ’s righteousness.
“We believe faith is necessary to receive the forgiveness, life, and salvation that Christ puts into the Lord’s Supper. You guys believe that people get those things simply by the mere outward act of taking part in the sacrament. We believe that we receive righteousness through faith. You believe you get it simply by going through the motions,” Melanchthon essentially argued.
Many Roman Catholics, of course, believe Melanchthon’s “ex opere operato” accusation unfairly represented their position, which is a debate I’m happy to have with my Catholic friends at another time. However, if Rome’s position angered Melanchthon and his fellow Lutherans, encountering the arguments of modern social justice warriors on gender identity would have stupefied them.
Why? Because if Catholics were insisting that believing the words is not as important as going through the motions in order to become righteous, well, that’s nothing compared to those who insist that going through the motions of speaking the proper transgender-affirming words will make you righteous, even if you actively disbelieve every word coming out of your mouth.
The Hypocrisy Is Obvious
Let’s be clear about this: Those who insist Martin Luther King Jr. will have died in vain if transgender people don’t get to use their preferred public restrooms don’t believe anything they’re saying. Or, to paint with a slightly narrower brush, they don’t believe the heart of what they’re saying—namely, the idea that there is such a thing as gender identity, entirely separate from biological sex.
While they certainly believe (as we all do) that there are men who feel they are women, they don’t believe (again, along with the rest of us) that those men actually are women—something that becomes quite obvious every time they scream the opposite.
If, for example, Caitlyn Jenner has always been a woman (presuming he doesn’t go back to having always been a man), why did ESPN stop short after crowning “her” sportswoman of the year? If it’s an indisputable truth that your anatomy has no bearing on your identity, and that Jenner was therefore oppressed all her life by those who made her pole vault with males simply for the crime of having male anatomy, why didn’t ESPN refuse to do business with the NCAA until it stops doling out the same oppression to the student athletes it forces to compete in “men’s” basketball and “women’s” lacrosse? Clearly ESPN didn’t believe Jenner really, truly was a woman his entire life. So why did the network say so?
Well, aside from chasing ratings, they said it because the gods of social justice have decreed that the way you become righteous is by speaking in defense of those the gods deem to be oppressed, and, within this theological framework, you don’t have to actually believe they are oppressed. In fact, you can manifestly believe the opposite, as ESPN did, as long as you say the right words. As long as you go through the motions, righteousness is yours. Ex opere operato.
If North Carolina’s bathroom bill was boycott-worthy because no woman should be denied access to the ladies’ room simply because she has a Y chromosome, why didn’t boycott bandwagon hopper-onner Jimmy Buffett threaten to stop licensing his name and songs to all Margaritaville restaurants until they gave that same freedom to their customers? The answer is obvious. Buffett didn’t issue that threat because he doesn’t believe that Doug becomes Delilah simply by declaring himself female. However, he still acted like he did because the mere act of publicly declaring the truth du jour he rejects made him more righteous than those sinners in the Tar Heel state.
It’s All Just Left-Wing Hocus Pocus
When many people raised concerns that sexual deviants would take advantage of “choose your own bathroom” policies, and when those concerns proved to be perfectly justified, why did so many on the Left scream about conservative hysteria instead of seriously addressing the question of how to legally distinguish between fake transgender and real transgender?
They did so because they know full well that the main thing a sexual predator claiming to be a transgender woman has in common with a man who has “transitioned” to female is that neither one is what he says he is. The only difference between them is that the former is pretending out of malice and the latter is pretending out of brokenness. But acknowledging this might have resulted in changing their positions, and changing their positions would have required them to stop saying the magic words they didn’t believe, the magic words that made them holy ex opere operato.
If these examples aren’t enough to show that social justice warriors don’t believe what they’re saying concerning the right to self-identification, just watch this video of college students struggling to tell a short white man that he’s not a tall Chinese woman. Note their facial expressions and body language. These are not the countenances and postures of people who are confident in their assertions. These are the nervous smiles and fidgets of people who know full well that their words are manifestly untrue, that they don’t believe a one of them, but that they’re going to keep saying them anyway because they want the righteousness that comes through the mere act of saying the transgender-affirming words.
As all these examples show, nobody believes that a 37-year-old man who declares himself a woman either has become female or has been female his entire life. It’s also obviously beyond frustrating to have “bigot” screamed at you by those who don’t actually believe in gender identity any more than you do, but the problem isn’t really solved by showing them, as that video does, that they don’t really buy the SJW talking points they’re selling. Rather, the problem can only truly be solved when they see that the righteousness they so desperately want doesn’t come from their own mindless obedience, but from Christ’s own perfect obedience.
Relativism Is Just the Accelerator to Moral Despair
Many conservatives, especially conservative Christians, are convinced that the root cause of this reality-denying self-identification insanity is the heavy diet of moral relativism that most Americans have been consuming for several generations. But moral relativism is really just the accelerant.
The cause is moral despair, a crisis of conscience that has grown and festered in those who desperately need to hear the Author of righteousness tell them how to find it yet have cut themselves off from the book and the house where the answers are given. The man created by God needs to find peace in the light of God, and when that man refuses to see the light where it shines, he will grow so tired trying to find peace in the darkness that he’ll gladly latch on to any ideology that promises it with little effort, no matter how absurd that ideology is.
Sports journalists applauding the courage of an athlete who endured the kind of sex-segregated oppression they themselves still perpetuate might need to be mocked to open their eyes, but the thing they most need is to have placed in front of their freshly opened eyes the cross of Jesus Christ, the cross that brings true peace with God to all who believe in the forgiveness it has won.
Aging musicians who condemn states for mirroring the bathroom policies of their own self-promoting enterprises need to see that insincerely parroting a bunch of transgender talking points won’t take away their sins, but the blood of Jesus already has. Those who shout “transphobe” at anyone who refuses to confess the transgender creed that neither of them believes need to hear that it’s God himself who will provide the righteousness they’re so spectacularly failing to manufacture themselves.
Those who shout that hair length determines gender but genitalia doesn’t need to hear us say, “We know you don’t actually believe what you’re saying.” But more than this, they need to hear us say, “When you invent silly, easy ways to please the god of your imagination, you’re only doing this to hide from the true God whose judgment terrifies you. But the time has come to stop being afraid, because Christ has placed all the righteousness you need in the word, the waters of baptism, and the sacrament of the altar.”
“So stop flailing around in the darkness trying to escape the sins that Christ has already struck dead and to unlock the doors of the kingdom that Christ has already opened for you. Righteousness doesn’t come ex opere operato. It comes extra nos, from outside of us, from the bloody cross and empty tomb of Jesus Christ that become yours through faith in his promises. Because of Christ, God has declared you righteous. You can stop saying stuff you don’t believe now.”