26 January 2018

Don’t be ‘orrid; don’t be a twerp

From Edward Poynter, Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon, 1890

First off, I ought to give credit where credit rightly and deservedly belongs. I was inspired to write the following from a much more concise (and, to be honest, much better-tempered) Facebook post by Teena Blackburn of Eastern Kentucky University.

The scientific facts are as stands: a healthy man from any ‘race’ of people, is capable of having natural and fertile offspring without any aid of technology, with a healthy woman from his own or any other ‘race’ of people. Without the aid of technology, no two men are capable of having natural and fertile offspring together. Without the aid of technology, no two women are capable of having natural and fertile offspring together. Regardless of the ethical implications, there is therefore one factual conclusion to be drawn. Race is a fiction, at least insofar as it regards genetic viability. Biological sex, on the other hand, is not a fiction.

Well, what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? I hear you cry.

Though they may not agree on anything else, the recent exchange of petitions and missives from Orthodoxy in Dialogue and the Traditional Workers’ Party proves that they do share one belief in common: that there are only two sides and one must be forced to choose. The problem? The OriD side apparently believes that you can dispense with traditional Orthodox anthropology on the nature of the human body whilst still somehow maintaining that races are equal. And the TWorPs believe that you can dispense with traditional Orthodox teachings on racial equity without also undercutting a sexual ethic that favours the family. They both grasp at what they see as the one bedrock truth without seeing that those two truths are connected.

Both the OriDs and the TWorPs, for all their mutual grandstanding about how they (and only they) stand within the main of the Orthodox tradition, miss a key element of the larger picture. Just as the heresiarchs of our early days as a Church overreacted to one another and lost sight of the larger divine-human image of Christ in the process, so too it seems the heresiarchs of our day are overreacting to one another and losing sight of the larger image – not of divine things, but in this case of the merely human.

How about this for a novel solution, then? The ‘races’ are equal and commensurate on the most fundamental possible biological standard – the proven capability of any healthy man of any ‘race’, and any healthy woman of any other ‘race’, to have natural, viable and fertile offspring together. That’s the the reality and duality of biological sex, along with everything else that implies. However much I may disagree with him on other political matters, there is good reason at this juncture in our history to be thankful for someone like Father John Whiteford of ROCOR, who is willing and able to publicly stand up for both realities, and not lose sight of their broader anthropological meaning and purpose. It’s possible – and indeed necessary! – to be neither an OriD nor a TWorP on this question.

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