Embracing Our ‘Givenness’
BOOK PICK: A Review of ‘Unraveling Gender’
The Battle Over Sexual Difference
By John Grabowski
TAN Books, 2022
200 pages, $24.95
To order: tanbooks.com
In the second book of C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy, Perelandra, the main character, Ransom, finds himself on a newly created unfallen planet. He has been sent to help the first man and woman of this new planet obey God and avoid Original Sin, while another man, Weston, has traveled by space craft in an attempt to corrupt this new world. At one point, Ransom encounters a trail of mutilated frogs, a sight that makes him sick to his stomach on this new, untainted planet. He then sees Weston’s body, now possessed by an evil spiritual being, picking up frogs one by one and ripping his long sharp fingernail through them.
This image from Lewis came to my mind when I read John Grabowski’s descriptions of gender ideology in his new book, Unraveling Gender: The Battle Over Sexual Difference, as gender ideology leads to a mutilation of our understanding of our bodies as given to us and leads to self-mutilation through surgeries.
Grabowski first began studying the Church’s teachings on gender, sex and the body more than 30 years ago. After defending his doctoral dissertation, he continued his work in the areas of marriage, family and sexuality and served on the Pontifical Council for the Family with his wife. Unraveling Gender is his well-researched, thorough explanation of what gender ideology consists, the problems it causes, and the response the Church gives to it through Scripture and Tradition.
What is most striking is his description of it as a spiritual battle against “the powers of evil.” He explains that the spiritual battle shows the truth of human sexuality is not against people who do not know it, but instead against “the ideas they promote and disseminate, and the spiritual roots of these ideas, that are the primary opponents in this battle. In a Christian context, the language of warfare always has a spiritual referent.”
He describes gender ideology as a distortion of our nature:
“Gender ideology’s ideas and views of the human person are antithetical to both human reason and to Christian faith. When implemented, they work to undermine the goodness of the human body, the reality of sexual difference, the distinctive gifts of men and women, sexual complementarity, the connection between marriage and the gift of children, and the irreplaceable nature of the family as the basis of a healthy human society. When these goods are threatened, all the members of society suffer and their ability to flourish is jeopardized.”
Like in Lewis’ fictional Perelandra, evil works in our world to destroy nature as God has created it. It seeks to twist the goodness of creation into something unrecognizable from God’s beautiful handiwork. This happens via attempts through medical means to change the body of a human to match the “gender” that they feel that they are. This is seen in the separation of the unitive and the procreative end of marriage and the treating of children as a commodity. Grabowski explains that “[a]t its heart, gender ideology seeks to redefine what the body is for and what it does.”
After explaining the roots and problems of gender ideology, Grabowski teaches beautifully and clearly the truths we know through Scripture and Tradition about our sexuality as humans. He explains that the correct response to gender ideology is to mercifully teach the giveness of our existence. He says, “we must interpret the whole of creation out of nothing and the existence of the human person as a gift springing from God’s eternal and unconditional love.” We are meant to accept ourselves, body and soul, as we have been given to ourselves and in imitation of our Creator, give ourselves to him in return, and become fully human through giving ourselves to others.
Grabowski’s book is a great resource in its own right, but it also has extensive footnotes that point the interested reader to other sources to continue their understanding of our spiritual battle with gender ideology and the great freedom there is in embracing our giveness. It is a timely book and an essential read for anyone who wants to understand how to give an educated response to the pressures of gender ideology.
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