I've seen over the last 2 weeks lots of criticism and discussion around sexuality. So over the next few days- I’ll give a series of tweet threads that interact with some of the critiques, mainly from the Left.
1. The Therapeutic Self:
1. The Therapeutic Self:
The modern therapeutic self is a recent approach to identity. We are to look within at our desires—especially our sexual ones--and then determine (Freud) or create (Foucault) who we are, not allowing anyone else to validate or define us or make us feel guilty. 2/11
We are then to demand that the world affirm our expression of ourselves. Anyone who questions our self-view is by definition doing violence, questioning our very existence, and denying us agency. But why should we believe and accept this understanding of identity? 3/11
In most of the non-western world, identity is communal. You don’t get to define yourself—identity is negotiated with the community—and self-esteem comes more from doing duty to God, family, and others rather than from satisfying desires and self-interest. 4/11
When the therapist says: “Don’t let anyone tell you who you are—you decide who you are!”—at that moment he or she is ironically imposing a very individualistic, western, ‘white’ way of understanding identity on the patient as if it is the only approach possible. 5/11
It is “white” because it was grounded in the Enlightenment & Freud, & framed to be a new form of social liberation vs oppression, and based on Foucault’s account of language and power. And as noted, non-white cultures are far less individualistic and do not think this way. 6/11
This gives us 2 problems. Problem #1 is that you cannot discover a ‘real you’ by looking at your changing and contradictory inner feelings. You will need a standard of values by which we will sift our inner drives & determine which ones characterize our ‘true’ & ‘false’ selves. 7
Christians believe the Bible gives us that standard to determine our de-humanizing desires and our right, humanizing ones. Problem #2 is that the modern identity is highly performative. You must realize your inner dreams and desires or constantly perform your suffering. 8/11
This leads to fragility and a need for constant re-affirmation. No wonder any criticism at all is crushing or feels “controlling”. Christians’ deepest identity is in Christ, who loves and accepts us counter-conditionally, despite all our flaws. 9/11
So Christian identity is received, not achieved, taking enormous pressure off of us to perform and merit our affirmation. Most of the criticisms of the biblical sex ethic assume the modern ‘therapeutic self’ as a given—it is assumed as self-evident to all when clearly it is not.
Please consider the deep critiques of it as given by MacIntyre, Rieff, Taylor, Lasch, and others. Realize your identity may have been hijacked by a very individualistic, western, ‘white’ way of understanding identity. It is not the only approach possible. 11/11