When I was a student in the 1980s, one of my left-wing, feminist friends said that the Prime Minister of the time, Margaret Thatcher, ‘was not really a woman’. At the time, I laughed it off.
But I thought about it again this week when the Labour MP Rupa Huq told a fringe meeting at their party conference that the conservative Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, was ‘only superficially Black’.
She may have said this because Kwarteng is perceived as ‘the wrong sort’ of Black because he is Eton educated, wealthy and a Tory. Huq has since apologised and been suspended from the Labour party.
Both the private comment about Thatcher and the public one about Kwarteng were wrong and stupid. But I think there is a deeper link between the two. And its roots are in a centuries-old philosophy called Gnosticism.
Gnosticism is a belief which promotes a radical separation between the world of physical matter with that of the spirit. At its root, it believes that matter was the creation of a lesser god, whereas the supreme God, being pure spirit, does not sully himself with the material world.
Gnostic thinkers could not accept the Christian belief that God became man, the doctrine of the incarnation. But the thinking infiltrated Christianity and sought to warp the faith into a more dualistic philosophy. Gnosticism was one of many heresies that the Church has had to battle with.
In 1999, the then England football manager Glenn Hoddle, spoke to a journalist about disabled children from a standpoint of his New Age, pantheistic beliefs.
Hoddle believed that our souls are continuously re-incarnated: our bodies come and go, but our souls are eternal. The law of karma decides what kind of body you get next time round. Thus, if you get a disabled body in one lifetime it’s bad karma working from a previous one when your eternal soul inhabited another body.
There was a widespread hostile reaction to Hoddle’s words. The Prime Minister of the time, Tony Blair, always adept at reading the public’s mood, quickly stated that Hoddle should resign. Despite decent results on the pitch, Hoddle was sacked by the Football Association. It was a sign that perhaps orthodox Christian belief is more culturally embedded in our nation than many assume.
Today, we see Gnostic influences on the rise through ideologies which seek to challenge the idea of humanity as an integration of body, soul and spirit.
Gender dysphoria is a complex condition that has been in existence for generations. But today there is a growing ideology around trans issues which promotes the idea that people can ‘inhabit the wrong body’. Biological sex is less real or significant than our inner feeling as to who we truly are. If there is a mismatch, it is the body which should be altered.
On the other hand, our inner, spiritual self is sacred and must suffer no interference. In fact, to suggest our inner-self should change is sacrilege.
Thus for some biological maleness or femaleness is superficial. In the same way, being Black is not about genetics and skin pigment, but about having an inner ‘Black identity’. Thus Kwarteng is not truly Black because he is, in his inner soul, an educated and privileged Conservative. Mrs Thatcher was not truly a woman, because underneath a feminine bodily exterior, she was a strong, ruthless leader.
Christians should reject influences that deny the integration of body, soul and spirit. All components of our humanity are God-given and are sacred.
Fully integrated hope
Humans are created in the image of God. And God became human in the person of Jesus Christ. The eternal future God promises is not a disembodied heaven with spirits floating about on clouds but an earthy, renewed and fully integrated creation. What the Bible describes as ‘a New Heavens and New Earth’ (Isaiah 65:17, Revelation 21).
Therefore, what we do with our bodies, and other people’s bodies, is of critical and eternal importance. Matter matters. This is why care for our creation is such a key priority. It is why we should care about people’s physical destitution, their mental health and their spiritual welfare.
Gnostic influences live on and must be rejected. It is why Rupa Huq’s remarks about race, Glenn Hoddle’s about disability, and much of the trans ideology is dangerous. Separating body, soul and spirit does great harm. What God has brought together, let no one separate.
Rev. Martin Kuhrt is Vicar of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Aylesbury
This guest article was written in response: Listening to the ‘others’ we talk about