How should we think about what has come to be called “gender ideology?” How does gender ideology actually look a lot like a religion? What is the view of truth that underlies the gender ideology discussion? We’ll answer these questions and a lot more with our guest Joel Berry, co-author of The Babylon Bee Guide To Gender.

Joel Berry is a writer for the Babylon Bee, a satire news site and author of several books including The Babylon Bee Guide to Wokeness and The Postmodern Pilgrim’s Progress.

Episode Transcript

Scott: How should we think about what has come to be called ‘gender ideology?’ How does gender ideology actually look a lot like a religion? What is the view of truth that underlies gender ideology discussion? We’ll answer these questions and a lot more with our guest Joel Berry, one of the founder’s of the Babylon Bee website and co-author of a book called the Babylon Bee Guide to Gender. I’m your host Scott Rae, this is Think Biblically from Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Joel thanks so much for being with us, I loved your book, I loved the Babylon Bee site; it’s a lot of fun.

Joel: Thank you. Thanks for having me, Scott. It’s an honor to be here and it’s nice to talk to someone who appreciates the work.

Scott: Well, some of our listeners might not be familiar with the Babylon Bee. So, tell us what it is, what should people pay attention to.

Joel: The Babylon Bee was started back in 2016 by a guy named Adam Ford who was an atheist all his life and he kinda had this miraculous conversion to Christianity. And back in 2016 he had this idea to do something similar to The Onion. So if you’re familiar with The Onion, it’s a fake news site like the Babylon Bee and they kind of do dry, snarky style news that’s very funny. And they had put out a headline, after the Obergefell decision put out by the Supreme Court, that said something to the effect of ‘four Supreme Court justices suddenly realize that they will soon be the villains in an upcoming Oscar winning movie.’ And it’s kind of clever, even if you're the Onion, I mean they're leftist, but even if you’re on the right you can kinda see that there’s a note of truth to that. I’m sure, I don’t know if the movie has come out yet, but I’m sure it will be made at some point. And so, Adam thought “Why aren’t we doing this?” So he started this thing, The Babylon Bee, our editor-in-chief, Kyle Mann, came on within a few weeks of The Bee being founded. And it was kind of an overnight success, it was weird because people really latched on to it. And the initial attraction was that you had these guys who were Christian and they were writing funny stuff, which is kind of unheard of—I mean since when have Christians been funny? And it was poking fun at church culture in a good natured way. I think a lot of the times when Christians see themselves represented in pop culture, it’s in a way that is clearly written by people who don’t understand Christianity, or hate Christianity. So, here were these people making jokes in a way that was affectionate towards Christians, that was doing it from the inside. And then Trump was elected, this was in 2016 Trump was elected, and, as you well know, the evangelical world kind of had this huge schism over Trump. I think a lot of people were angry, a lot of people were frustrated. A lot of comedians of that time lost their sense of humor because Trump was such a polarizing figure. So we thought well Trump is really funny, and what if we make fun of Trump in a way that is also good natured and isn’t coming from a place of hatred and anger. And from there, it just blew up. And since then we’ve done church jokes, we still do church jokes. They don’t get as much traction and shares as our political humor does anymore. But, we still do church jokes, we do a lot of political satire, and now we’re just competing with the absurdity of reality everyday; a reality that gets more and more absurd.

Scott: So, tell our listeners about some of the other Babylon Bee guides that have been written.

Joel: Yeah, so, a few years ago we wrote our first one which was The Babylon Bee Guide to Wokeness, which was when ‘wokeness’ was a huge buzzword. And we kind of examined everything that wokeness entails from race, to gender, to activism. We talked a lot about ANTIFA, and these guidebooks are very funny, cartoonish written guides. Kind of written in the voice of a leftist, they have a lot of stick figure illustrations and diagrams, teaching you how to do stuff. For example, in the Guide to Wokeness, we had a chapter on fight moves, activist fight moves, how to destroy a Nazi. So that was our first book, and our book last year was The Babylon Bee Guide to Democracy, where we kind of just poke fun at both sides, the left and the right and the crazy political system in America. And then, this year we have The Babylon Bee Guide to Gender, and that just felt like the next natural thing for us; we’ve been making these jokes for years now. Gender ideology is very much the main cultural conversation going on right now. There’s a lot of angst, and frustration, and anger over it on both sides. And so we thought, yeah well, it’s time to give this the ol’ Babylon Bee treatment.

Scott: So tell our listeners a little bit: what are you trying to accomplish with this book on gender?

Joel: First of all, we want to bring some levity to the conversation. Gender ideology is pretty dark, and there’s a lot of evil in it. And there’s a lot of people who are wringing their hands in worry over this. We think a lot about, ya know, I have young kids, we think a lot about: what world are our kids going to grow up in? I think there’s a place for righteous indignation, there’s a place for anger, but we wanted to introduce some laughter. Because I think we want to remind people that, as imposing and scary this cultural movement seems at times, it really is very silly and ridiculous and it deserves to be laughed at. I think laughter brings courage. When we can laugh at the monster it suddenly isn’t scary anymore. Our goal is to entertain, our goal is to induce laughter, but, ultimately, our goal is to give people courage and help them realize that it doesn’t take much for this entire worldview to collapse in on itself. And we just have to be strong, we have to be courageous, and remember who’s in charge, who’s in control. We serve a God who’s still on the throne, and we can be happy warriors when we remember that.

Scott: I think, too, the laughter that is generated does a lot of really helpful things. For one, it introduces some levity into topics that are so divisive, which I think is helpful to take ourselves a little less seriously. And I think in our cultural moment, that’s something badly needed. So, it seems to me you’re providing a really good service that is a particular benefit in the cultural moment we’re in. So, Joel, as you know, there’s a ton of material out there about gender and gender ideology. How would you summarize the book’s general take on the gender ideology discussion?

Joel: What we did, in this case, was we wrote it kind of in a leftist voice. So, you’re reading this book as if it was written by someone who adheres to gender ideology. And we’re really just kind of reviewing what gender ideology is, what it says, and we’re stretching it a little bit. We’re exaggerating a little bit. I think the irony of this is that it did not take that much exaggeration to be really funny. You can almost, you could write a straight book about gender ideology and a lot of it would read like satire. I think the general take is that it’s silly. There’s a lot that you say about it: that it’s dangerous, that it’s damaging, that it goes against natural law, and that it goes against God. Our take is it’s really ridiculous and none of it makes sense at all.

Scott: That’s interesting to hear, that that’s part of what satire is, is to exaggerate to make a point. But, as I read through the book, I wondered to myself, how much did they actually have to exaggerate? Because a lot of the things that you mentioned, I think people who were not familiar with the gender debate would take: oh, they're just making that up. But, not so much, and I think a lot of the stuff that you point out I’ve read and I’m familiar with. So, it sounds like there—how much exaggeration was there?

Joel: Not much at all. What we did, is we kind of ground things in the first couple chapters. We have a chapter on men, and we have a chapter on women. That was kind of fun because we got to put a bunch of those classic male-female differences jokes in there. And then from those first few chapters, you just kind of jump off the diving board into this insane world where nothing makes any sense and anything goes. The funny thing is, too, since we wrote this book, late last year and early this year, things have gotten even more insane. There’s probably a few things that are even outdated at this point. I think we discuss like 432 genders in the book, I'm sure there are plenty more at this point. It can be hard to keep up with reality. One of our favorite quotes is from G. K. Chesterton, “Satire is diminished in this current epoch, because reality has become too absurd to be satirized.” That was back in, a hundred years ago, and here we are now and it’s really hard to keep up with the craziness.

Scott: So you’re just, you’re more just reporting what you’re seeing as opposed to satirizing it.

Joel: Yeah, that’s almost—we kind of see ourselves as reporters from a clown world where we are serious journalists and the voice of The Babylon Bee, if you read our articles, is kind of a dry, serious tone. But the content of what we’re talking about is just so silly and ridiculous. Yeah, that’s kind of the voice of The Bee.

Scott: Give our listeners a couple of examples from the book of things about the gender ideology that you’re poking fun at.

Joel: Let’s see here, I mean, what we did is we had our men and women chapters. Chapter three, we discussed the rest of the genders, 437 other genders, and in that chapter we have something called “the generator,” which will help you determine what your gender is, so you can plug in some information about yourself and it will give you your gender. And that’s really how arbitrary it is. I think one of the points of gender ideology is that it doesn’t necessarily matter what your gender is. It can change, it can be fluid. What really matters is whether or not you subscribe to this ideology and whether you accept it all the way. It’s a religion in that sense, you’re either in or you’re out. And, ya know, that’s really—when it comes down to it, this is, I think, just the latest iteration in our culture of the oldest struggle in existence. Which goes all the way back to Lucifer saying, “I will be like the Most High. I’m not going to let my creator define who I am, I’m going to define who I am. I’m going to be my own god.”

Scott: That’s right.

Joel: And that’s what this is, we have a generation that says “I am not gonna let myself be defined by my creator. I’m going to choose that for myself.” And, that’s really the core of it. And whether or not this movement will last, I don’t know. I think it will probably collapse in on itself at some point. But that lie, that central struggle, between God and man, and between humility and pride will always take new forms through the years. Who knows what it will be next, but I’m sure The Babylon Bee will be there to make fun of it.

Scott: I’m sure you will. And I think that’s a great point about the original lie. There’s actually nothing new about this. The temptation for Adam and Eve was that they would be like God, with a maker’s view of reality. Which is, as you know, very different from being the recipients view of reality.

Joel: Yes.

Scott: So, a lot in the book I thought was really insightful. And those insights came when I stopped laughing. But there’s a lot about the power of language when it comes to gender, that you all highlight. How are some of the ways that you highlight that, how do you think the culture’s view of language has changed over the years?

Joel: Yeah, well I think the way that language should work and the way it was viewed in the past is that there is a reality all round us, it exists independent of us, there are truths that exist independently of us. And language is meant to describe reality. And I think what has taken place in the last few decades, with the postmodern movement and the, whatever it is now, post-postmodern movement, or whatever, is this idea that language doesn’t describe reality, language creates reality. Ya know, you hear it a lot with the whole idea of ‘my truth and your truth.’ That we define what truth is, we define what reality is. It doesn’t matter if it conflicts with what can be observed in the outside world. If it conflicts with what people might think or believe, it’s your truth. And it just goes back to that idea of people wanting to be their own gods. They’ve rejected the truth that’s been given to them, that’s been revealed to us in creation and God’s word and they want to make their own version of it.

Scott: I think this whole gender area is a really good example of the cultural moment of living your truth. We simply designate a lot of the things that we deem to be true simply by the power to designate them. Now, you mentioned there’s a different view of truth that underlies the gender discussion too. A much more subjective view of truth, help our listeners understand where that came from, and where do you see this subjective view of truth which is based on how I feel. Whereas, the objective view of truth is how I feel is irrelevant to whether something’s true or not. Subjectivity is the only thing that matters in the determination of truth. Where do you see this subjectivity in the gender ideology discussion?

Joel: I recently finished a really good book, you may have had this guy on your podcast, I’m not sure but Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self—

Scott: Oh, yes. We did.

Joel: It’s really revealing as to how the line of thinking that traces its way back to French philosophy and this idea of your inner self is where the truth lies and that a good life is living the, ya know, most authentic life. Revealing your inner self to the world—

Scott: You do you.

Joel: You do you. Exactly. Kyle and I wrote a novel a few years ago, where it has the same character in it who;s just this chill kind of nice guy and he always says: “You do you.” It’s his catchphrase. I mean, I think—we have, we’re in this age where everything that has been passed down to us from our ancestors, from the scriptures, from just common sense and wisdom is being deconstructed. And, they’re really, they’re trying to replace it with something from scratch. They’re trying to rebuild a new kind of moral order, a completely new world view out of whole cloth. And it’s so flimsy, and so self-evidently built on nothing. It just, it doesn;t take much for it to fall down. And I think there’s weird stubbornness where—I get the sense that people that subscribe to this ideology don’t even deep down believe it themselves. I think they’re consciousness tell them that what they’re saying isn’t true. But it’s almost this stubborn pride of “I don’t care that it’s not true. I don't; care that it’s nor right. My will is all that matters.” Kind of a “better to reign in hell, than serve in Heaven” type of outlook.

Scott: Yeah, the different view of truth, that is a huge cultural shift. I think you’re right to poke fun at that, because in reality nobody acts like this consistently. And I think even the ‘you do you’ idea is going to break down eventually. And I think you all do a good job pointing it out and pointing toward what that breakdown link will actually look like.

Joel: I wonder sometimes too, “What’s next for us? How far can things dissolve?” How far can this deconstruction go before something else reasserts itself or a cultural movement even worse reasserts itself in the form of a tyrant or something. One wonders what the end point for this is because it can’t go much further than it already is now.

Scott: Yeah, we’re getting close to seeing a u-turn, culturally. And seeing this come back more toward what we would call a more sane view of what gender is all about. Now I know, you had also mentioned in the book that genderized ideology has a lot in common with what religions do. Can you spell that out a little further? Particularly, you poke a lot of fun at that, too, but I think there’s a really serious point to be made there. That the adherence of the gender ideology that’s rampant in the culture today does have characteristics of adherence to traditional religions.

Joel: Yeah, absolutely. I think that it has a lot in common in that these are things that have to be taken on faith. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense, you just have to believe it. This ideology they have doctrines. They have dogma. They have things that you have to recite. They even have their own version of phylacteries, in the form of pronoun pins. I remember going to a convention once and they, at the door, as you went in they had these big baskets where you could pick a pin that had pronouns on it so that you could wear these big yellow pins with your pronouns on them. And I saw that and thought the purpose of this is not to help people to be more polite and use each other’s proper pronouns. The purpose of this is to show everyone who is in and who is out; who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. Ya know, and that’s just this religious iconography that goes along with it. They have a whole priesthood. They have leaders that you’re supposed to follow and honor. They have an entire language that goes along with it that doesn’t make sense unless you subscribe to the entire thing. They have a—they threaten you. I remember recently I was talking to someone, on the left, who was talking about how cruel it is to tell a child that if they don’t believe in Jesus then they’re going to hell. But they have their own version of that. They’ll tell people, they’ll tell children, that if people don’t affirm your gender, or if you deny your gender, or don’t live true to your gender then you’ll commit suicide. Ya know, they have their own horrific end that they threaten people with. And so, I think it’s very similar to lots of other things we’ve seen: climate, Gaia worship, with the environment. We see it with people who are way too far into politics. Anything can become it’s own idol if you allow it to be, and that’s really what this is. This is a new golden calf. And the role of the prophet is to make fun of these golden calves. And anything that sets itself up against God is going to do a lot of damage, it’s going to hurt a lot of people. But it’s also—there’s some inherent comedy with an idol. The idea that you have this stone image that you have to carry—it’s your god—but you have to carry it around. And be careful, it might fall over. There’s even a message, I think in the Old Testament, where one of the prophets warns the idolaters, “You better nail down your idol. Because a light breeze might come along and tip it over.” And that’s what we’re doing at The Babylon Bee, we’re just making fun of idols. Not just because it’s good comedy, but because we, as Christians, have something that is a lot better. We have the answer. And we want people to know our Savior, who has the answer to all these problems and all these questions that cause people to dive into these different damaging ideologies. Jesus has the answers to all those. And he is a better king, and he is the true God. And we want people to turn to him. We want people to see that hope that we have as comedy writers making fun of this stuff. That it’s not just coming from a place of cynicism or that we’re trying to deconstruct everything ourselves but we’re also trying to point to where the truth is.

Scott: You did a whole chapter on deconstructing the nuclear family that has a lot of rhetoric that you cite, that originally I had thought clearly that’s an exaggeration. But, the more I read it, the more I’m thinking “Ya know, probably, not so much.” A lot of that’s not fabricated, it’s not made up, it’s not an exaggeration. It’s really some of the rhetoric that people are saying out there. Did I get that right, and, if so, why is deconstructing the nuclear family such a focal point of the book?

Joel: Well, it's weird that it’s come under attack—you might remember back when Black Lives Matter was doing its thing after George Floyd. You could go on to the website of Black Lives Matter and they had their kind of statement of faith, so to speak, and one of their points was talking about deconstructing the nuclear family. And everyone was kind of taken aback like why is that a part of Black Lives Matter? And when you realize a lot of these ideologies kind of flow into each other, one of the central tenets of this ideology is to attack what is really something that was designed by God. I think there’s confusion with the term ‘nuclear family.’ People get wrapped up in this kind of Western, 1950s, idea of a man, a housewife, a dog, and two kids. But when I think of the nuclear family, what I’m talking about is, ya know, what Jesus said, I think in Matthew, when he said “God made them male and female and said therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. And therefore, what God has joined together let not man separate.” And I see that union between a man and a woman, marriage, as designed by God, as a picture of Christ and the church. That’s the nuclear family, that’s like the building block of a healthy society and a healthy culture. Is a family, is a man and a woman joined in marriage who love each other, who are raising their children and teaching them. And in order for gender ideology to succeed, they have to, first, separate kids from their parents. They have to undermine that relationship because parents want to protect their kids from this stuff. You see Marxist ideology entering into there, too. He had this idea of parents being the oppressor class and kids being the oppressed class. And so you have to separate kids from parents and then you have to separate husband from wife, and you have to put a wedge in that relationship. I think it’s all this kind of movement to dissolve these bonds of relationship and hierarchy and mutual submission and service that God has created. And create these individual gods, unto themselves. It’s replacing this idea of the family with this idea of autonomy. I’ve been thinking about this idea of autonomy lately. This idea of autonomy had become the only moral north star that the left side has is this autonomy. When you think about it, there’s nothing Godly or Christ-like about autonomy. I mean, God Himself lives in a Trinity. The Son submitted to the Father and they were in relationship to each other. And human beings are made in His image, God made us to be in relationship to each other and in these families. And that has to be destroyed. Satan wants to destroy. We kind of play with this idea in the book of God as this evil patriarch and the hero Satan came along and he was the first one to help dismantle this patriarchal, oppressive, nuclear family when he helped Eve escape the domineering leadership of Adam. So we kind of write it from the perspective of a leftist. But it really is how they talk and really is how they see the family. That’s why I always go back to if we were to fight this, if we are to oppose this the first thing that we need to be looking at is our own families, and our own children and our relationship with our spouses. Making sure that we’re building Godly, Christ-honoring families.

Scott: Here, here. I appreciate that emphasis, not only in the book, but the way you’ve explained that. Joel, this has been so fun. This has been a really rich conversation and I want to commend to our listeners not only the book, The Babylon Bee Guide to Gender—I think you’ll have a lot of fun reading this. But also, if you’re not familiar with The Babylon Bee site, I’d really encourage you to be a regular reader of the things that they post. It’s just a fun, lighthearted, satirical way of looking at the news, at current trends, at current events. And you guys are doing a great job with that, it’s a lot of fun. So, we’re really grateful for your work on this and, especially for your work on The Babylon Bee.

Joel: Thank you, we really appreciate that. And, I guess, I’ll also say, too, that this book, we are 100% fan supported at this point. Social media doesn’t allow our articles to get out like they used to; we can’t rely on ad revenue anymore. Selling these books and people who subscribe to The Bee that’s how we make our money. All the support for this book is really appreciated. I think people who buy it, they won’t regret it. It’s a really fun thing. It's a really fun gift. I encourage people if you want to support The Bee check out the book for sure.

Scott: I would encourage definitely more support. Grateful for you coming on with us, thanks so much, Joel. Much appreciated.

Joel: Thanks for having me, appreciate it.

Scott: This has been an episode of the podcast Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith and Culture. If you want to submit comments, ask questions, make suggestions on issues you’d like us to cover or guests you’d like to consider us you can email us at