Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Certain news items strike me as so ridiculous that they seem like hoaxes worthy of The Onion or Lark News.  I thought this when I read recently that new applications for passports will now have two slots for guardians: “parent one” and “parent two.” 

I immediately thought of Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat,” where “Thing One” and “Thing Two” help to bring utter chaos to a household while a mother is away from a young boy and girl.  

The bouncy twin troublemakers are very popular with children, even as they inspire anxiety due to their disregard for order and good conduct.  All I could picture for the passport applications was an entire nation of red jump-suited parental units (to use the old “Coneheads” slang) having their names scribbled onto forms for government recording purposes.

The change to the forms, however, is significantly more serious that something out of Dr. Seuss.  According to the report, the terms “mother” and “father” are outmoded relative to today’s culture.  The shift is not, according to one source, “an act of political correctness,” but rather is a response to changing views about how to define “family.” 

Remember in high school when you were assigned George Orwell’s 1984? 

Perhaps you didn’t actually read it, but in class I’m sure you at least talked about “Newspeak.”  The goal of this rigid circumscription of language was the elimination of words, which eliminated people’s ability to think or even conceive of ideas.  A paucity of vocabulary meant a paucity of freedom.  Synonyms were winnowed out.  The main character of 1984, Winston Smith, works as an editor of sorts, redacting text for “inappropriate” words or content.  Another character, Syme, says of their work, “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

If we are going to try to eliminate parenting altogether, as apparently is happening in New York City, where in 2009 46% of all pregnancies in the Bronx ended in abortion, then why should we merely redefine the terms “mother” and “father” when we can eliminate them altogether?  After all, they are rigidly related to gender.  They are functions of the “olden” notions that mothers bear  children from their bodies and nurse them with their bosoms and nurture them in ways that are particular to their gender; that fathers sire children and protect them and admonish them in ways that are particular to their gender.  Gender, after all, is a construct unrelated to our physical organs.   “Female” and “male” are interchangeable, right?  There is no difference, right?  So let’s get rid of them and replace them with “human.”  This would not change our culture would it? 

In fact, let’s rewrite the best-selling text in English and see if we can’t just root out those Oldspeak words that bedevil us so greatly.   Let’s start with this passage, Genesis 1:27; after all it’s totally redundant since it is repeated so many times, such as in Matt. 19:4, Mark 10:6, and other places where it is echoed. 
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

Newspeak says it should be streamlined to
“So God created humans in his own image.”

Oops, we need to reduce that a little more to reflect our changing views of the world.  There.  That’s perfect:

That’s what we are left with.  God help us. 

I mean,

Dear Reader,

Your charitable support for First Things is urgently needed before July 1.

First Things is a proudly reader-supported enterprise. The gifts of readers like you— often of $50, $100, or $250—make articles like the one you just read possible.

This Spring Campaign—one of our two annual reader giving drives—comes at a pivotal season for America and the church. With your support, many more people will turn to First Things for thoughtful religious perspectives on pressing issues of politics, culture, and public life.

All thanks to you. Will you answer the call?

Make My Gift

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles