Post-Reality’s False Worship: Why Transgenderism and Virtual Reality May Be Humanity’s Worst Idolatry Ever
Last week I introduced the idea of “Post-Reality.” That means a stage of culture sinking even deeper than post-Christian or post-truth, centered on attempts to deny, displace, and/or up-end reality itself. It shows up most obviously by far in the transgender movement, but almost as much in virtual reality, including much social media. There will be much more to explore here. I hope others join me in it.
No bad idea is ever a totally new idea, and this one is no different. Post-reality is nothing more (or less) than the next, further extension of the deep error Paul wrote about in Romans 1:18-23.
Where the Slide to Sin Begins
These six verses introduce an important passage showing how sin starts out bad and keeps getting worse. It begins with nature worship, according to many commentators, including Larry Alex Taunton in an excellent, widely read Twitter thread over the weekend: Sex: From Feminine to Frida. I might have agreed with that before I began paying post-reality some attention.
Now I’m not so sure. “Nature worship” doesn’t fit so well with post-real themes of denying one’s biology, hiding away in VR, or even driving with one’s eyes on the GPS map instead of the scenery. And that isn’t where Paul begins in the first place.
Paul’s line of thought in this passage begins with suppressing the knowledge of God, (verse 18). Note that he is talking specifically about creation-related knowledge here: “For [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (verse 19).
The fatal move follows. It comes not with idolatry or with false worship of any sort at all, but with rejecting true worship: “Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.”
Idolatry (including nature-worship) is the usual outcome, common among ancient and tribal cultures. If we include such things as money and power under that heading, then Western culture of late has been only superficially different.
Wanting to Shove God Aside and Take Over
We’re in a different place now, though, as post-reality pushes the error back one step earlier. Up until now the typical error has been failing to honor God based on how He is revealed in His creation. Post-reality fails to honor His creation. Its whole effort is bound up in trying to undo His creation and improve on it. Instead of, “We won’t honor the Creator who made all this,” it’s “We’re going to set this world aside, remake it, and be creators ourselves.”
Post-reality gives God a shove like no other: “You think you’re something special, God? Just watch! We’ll show you how how to create things!” As for giving Him thanks, instead it’s, “You want us giving thanks for this mess you made? Seriously? Step aside, you bumbler. We’ll show you how it’s done.”
That may sound extreme to some, but I believe original context supports it. There’s still idolatry in it, but the god is no longer “out there” somewhere. To paraphrase Pogo, “We have met the idol and he is us.” The power we now ascribe to ourselves is no less than the ancients ascribed to Baal, Zeus, or Odin. The power to change one’s gender is undeniably the power of a god, and we have become a world filled with small gods.
The result remains. Paul writes, “they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” In his day the darkness showed up in “exchanging the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” We’re past that now. No idols for us. Who needs them, when we can install ourselves as gods?
There is good news here, too, thankfully. Simply put, reality wins. God still rules reality, and God Himself always wins.
These small gods, these post-reality creator wanna-bes, will find out soon enough there is still a much bigger God to deal with, and a much “real-er” reality. A better reality, too. One for which we can give thanks, where bad things may happen, but the Creator in charge doesn’t have to convene a committee to decide whether they’re okay here or not.
He is good, and as He proved through Christ’s cross and resurrection, He even knows how to flip evil on its head and make good come of it. It is good for us to experience that for ourselves, by facing evil (our own and others), trusting God, and seeing Him overcome it (in ourselves and in others).
The Better Way is the Real Way
We don’t have to like every piece of reality. You can wish governments could grow money on trees. If you want, you can fantasize about infinite green energy built from terribly finite mineral resources.
You can concoct a media-controlled reality without enemies or human error — especially not in any large Asian countries — and blame bats for the virus that changed history. Those bat-viruses were “reality” just a few weeks ago, remember? Reality created by post-realists, that is. “Reality” that demonstrates what happens every time, as it succumbs now to real reality.
My advice: Stick with real reality. Honor Him, and give Him thanks. Don’t let your foolish heart be darkened. Post-real created realities will crumble, but the real reality in which we live will last, and its Creator is very, very good.
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the highly acclaimed Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.