Published June 23, 2023
Recent protests by Muslim parents in Maryland and California against Pride Month and the erosion of parental rights in the cause of queer and transgender ideology are an interesting development. For Christians, they should be an encouragement. At this moment in time, it is good to know that there are others who share the same concerns for children as we do. Yes, there are clear and insurmountable theological differences between Christianity and Islam. But all parents in this earthly city share a common interest in the protection of children.
For the left, of course, such protests should be a cause for heart-searching. It is commonplace now to see objections to whatever is the latest progressive orthodoxy on sex and gender as a function of “whitewashing” or Christian nationalism, as a recent article at Red Letter Christians makes clear. The arrival of Muslim concern over what is being taught to children contradicts the whitewashing/Christian bigotry account of concern over modern attitudes to sex and gender that the progressive left likes to tell itself and impose upon everybody else. Of course, anyone with a passing knowledge of Saudi Arabian Salafism would know that. But Saudi Arabia is, I guess, a long way from the Bay Area.
It is one of the often-unremarked ironies of American progressivism that, in its demand to unmask the ways in which Western culture imperiously imposes its categories upon everybody else, it imperiously imposes itself upon everybody else. This is not historically unique to America. It is a pathology found in all dominant powers. Britain did the same at the end of the 19th century, at the height of her imperial power.
Then it was the values of English culture and the demands of the British economy that were being imposed upon the world. Today it is the values of the ongoing sexual revolution. And the sexual revolution is as Western as cricket and cream teas are English. American sexual and gender progressivism is thus the latest idiom of the imperialism it purports to despise.
In past decades this has been most evident in the obsession with legal abortion as the metric for judging the status of women’s rights worldwide—perhaps a priority for the wealthy career woman in Manhattan but hardly a top ten concern for someone in sub-Saharan Africa worried about access to clean water. And now we have a new version of this myopia that both afflicts and enables Western imperialism: the conflation of opposition to transgender and queer dogma with white supremacy. In reality, of course, it is the obsession with transgender and queer dogma that is the latest imperialist move by the West in its efforts to make every other culture look like California.
Muslims are going to be a major headache for the left. They clearly do not fit into the narrative that opposition to LGBTQ+ ideology is a function of white Christian nationalism. And the leftists themselves formulated a category of hate—Islamophobia—that could well come back to bite them as protests such as those in Maryland and California occur in the future and demand a serious response.
Christians should therefore pay close attention to the rising concern among American Muslims with the promotion of sexual and gender ideology and the erosion of parental rights. If nothing else, it exposes the dishonesty of the left’s use of the sanctimonious rhetoric of inclusion and respect for other cultures with which it likes to clothe itself. The Muslim community—and the Muslim vote—could be critical in years to come on the key cultural issues facing America today, particularly in the areas of sex, gender, education, and parental rights.
Imperialists are utterly predictable. They are all incapable of understanding or accepting differences, contemptuous of those who do not look like them, destructive of cultures, and dismissive of those who oppose them as ignorant savages. Whether they sport a conquistador’s sword, a pith helmet, or a Pride flag, the imperialist project of cultural conquest and conformity is always the same.
Carl R. Trueman taught on the faculties of the Universities of Nottingham and Aberdeen before moving to the United States in 2001 to teach at Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. In 2017-18 he was the William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life in the James Madison Program at Princeton University. Since 2018, he has served as a professor at Grove City College. He is also a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing editor at First Things. Trueman’s latest book is the bestselling The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. He is married with two adult children and is ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.