The recent “Vanity Fair” cover featuring Bruce Jenner posing as “Caitlyn” is something none of us will ever be able to un-see. This singular airbrushed, photo-shopped mishmash of visual cues is a disturbingly effective expression of both wounded human nature and the nature of evil. And we need to have some understanding of what it is we are seeing.
While the ‘Jenner’ ideology embodied in this image is deeply related to “gender ideology,” they are not the same, because ‘Jenner’ ideology is not only focused on the experience of gender dysphoria, but also on the display and celebration of that experience.
What follows has a lot to do with evil, but has nothing to do with judging personal moral guilt. Given that gender dysphoria involves some form of significant illness or psychological confusion, Jenner’s personal moral culpability in all this will always remain between God and him. Rather than naming the “sin,” we need to name the evil at work in the “Caitlyn” cover shot. We need to give a proper diagnosis so as to consider a proper remedy.
First, we must recognize that “evil” isn’t a created thing unto itself. Evil is the deprivation of the good, the absence of the good, or even the “twisting” or distortion of the good. Let’s examine how the goodness created by God has been distorted or marred in this “Vanity Fair” image.
The root of the word “glamour” points toward allure caused by enchantment (literally, as in a magic “spell”) by means of some artifice or external force. The cover image of “Caitlyn” is precisely this—an artifice contrived by induced hormones, make-up, lighting, and digital manipulation, all to tempt a clamoring public to conclude that a 60-plus-year-old husband and father makes a more attractive “woman” than does his ex-wife (a sentiment shared over and over by the unfortunately amused public).
All sin is said to be some form of self-idolatry. The image itself—again, without judging Jenner’s personal moral guilt—depicts the very essence of self-idolatry. “Caitlyn” has, objectively, put himself in God’s place by declaring himself—not God—the ultimate “creator.”
What is portrayed as a glorious and brave achievement—a man “transitioning” to a woman—is at its core a form of death. Death is the dis-integration of body and soul. Distorting or obliterating the created goodness of a man’s body is a kind of “killing”—the attempt is to separate the man’s body from the man’s soul. The portrait of “Caitlyn” is an icon of this deathly separation of body and soul.
Though the “act” here is not a sex act but rather the climactic pretense of a man emerging as a woman, the essence of the image counts as pornographic because it’s a deliberate display of this act to third parties, does grave injury to the dignity of the participants, makes Jenner himself an object of base pleasure and illicit profit, and immerses all involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. See Catechism Paragraph 2354.
At its root, the “Caitlyn” image is diabolical in a literal sense. Satan revels in finding the most sublime means of mocking the human person, the crowning of God’s creation. The Father of Lies loves seeing people laid low by confusion and the desolation of fear and uncertainty. One would be hard-pressed to find an image that does this more eloquently than the “Caitlyn” cover. This is our twisted 21st-Century version of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Underneath all these deprivations and distortions of good, the original good created by God is not altogether destroyed. Though perhaps barely recognizable, it remains. “Caitlyn” is really Bruce, and in the “Vanity Fair” image, objectively, he remains precisely the kind of deeply wounded person that Christ Himself loved personally and died for on the Cross at Calvary. None of us can afford to forget this great truth about Bruce Jenner and his Savior.
Above all, this diagnosis of evil contains within it an invitation for all of us to help with the crucial spiritual healing that will be necessary for Bruce to rise again from the sepulcher he calls “Caitlyn” and be brought to new life, clothed not in women’s garb but as a man covered in the grace-filled dignity that comes from a loving relationship with—and acknowledgment of—our true Creator. Imagine if our intercessory prayers were to make this Bruce Jenner’s ultimate “transition,” back to both true God and true self. Please pray.