Transgenderism, which claims that mindset and desires, not physical bodies and chromosomes, determines gender, is all the rage now. Some claim their gender is always in flux, or they transcend gender altogether. Cool, but soon to be passé.
Otherkin, or therians, might be the next wave. These persons believe they are in fact not persons but animals, actual or mythological. There’s been a reality program about them, of course. Inevitably therians will demand that government subsidize surgical transitions to animal appearances, and why not!?
Some might now smirk about therians, but not for long. Soon, skeptics will be bigots, and we’ll all have to nod with great seriousness when a neighbor or coworker claims to be a lion or dragon. After all, in our current postmodern age, each autonomous individual has a right to define his own identity and reality, while demanding societal affirmation.
Trying to stride way ahead of the next wave, I’m proposing a new form of identity claim for which I have a special affinity: transchronology. It will refuse confinement to any particular time and place. Transchronologists, or transchrons for short, move effortlessly across history and cultures, claiming who they really are, in an era and place suitable to them.
So if your neighbor says he’s actually an Aztec warrior from Mexico in the 1500s, believe him! Or her! You’ve no right not to. The old Cary Grant movie, “Arsenic and Old Lace,” courageously pointed to this long suppressed phenomenon by featuring a character who claimed to be Teddy Roosevelt, busily digging the Panama Canal in the basement of his spinster sister (and murderous) landlords. Supposedly he was insane, but now we know he was wonderfully transchron.
In this bold new era I myself will delight in several transchronological identities. Here are just a few of my new personas that seem very real to me, because they are!
It’s 1943, and Madame Chiang Kai-Shek is squeezing my hand as our plane evades Japanese zeros over the Pacific. I’m helping her write her upcoming speech to Congress, which will triumphantly persuade the U.S. to fund China’s resistance against Japan. I am a close advisor to China’s seductively charming First Lady, prompting rumors in Chungking that our intimacy is more than professional. In fact, our relations are quite correct and I am also close to her husband the Generalissimo, based on the common Methodist faith we three share. We together dream of a free, democratic, and Christian China. As our plane soars through the clouds, she and I peer out the portal, silently praying together for the liberation of her occupied country.
Its 1789, and I’m in a carriage with newly elected George Washington in route to his New York inauguration. I had served on his military staff during the Revolution, but our friendship is based on shared faith in God’s plans for our new republic. He is especially intrigued by the new sect known as Methodism, of which I’m an adherent. In a moment of spiritual zeal, the General has the carriage stopped by a river and demands that I baptize him as a Methodist. “Sir, I must follow the Wesleyan path to perfection!” he implored. How could I refuse?
It’s 1862, and the clock in President Lincoln’s office tolls loudly, reverberating through the silence. I and other cabinet members are stunned by his announcing a promise to God that he would free the slaves after a military victory, which has now occurred at Antietam. Salmon Chase is swallowing nervously, and William Seward is coughing. The President looks pleadingly at me. He knows that Methodists are historically anti-slavery, and he and I have passed many late evenings in deep theological discussions. With the rest of the Cabinet quiet, I speak: “By all means, Mr. President, you must keep your sacred promise!” Lincoln warmly smiles and nods.
It’s 1941, and President Roosevelt has asked me to accompany him to his first summit with Winston Churchill off the coast of Nova Scotia to craft the Atlantic Charter. At times he calls me to his side during grueling negotiations, hungry for my counsel. On Sunday morning, aboard a British warship, there is a joint worship service, during which the assembled sailors and officers, with their chiefs of government, sing “Onward Christian Soldiers.” FDR glances at me with a smirk, and exclaims loudly to an amused Churchill, “I prefer Methodist hymns.”
It’s 1979, and newly elected Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is addressing her ecstatic supporters. She’s asked me to stand at her side for reassurance. We share together a common Methodist background, which she cherishes. “I’ll need you in the difficult days ahead,” she whispers in my ear, as the crowd roars its approval.
It’s 1898, and President William McKinley, a devout Methodist, is unable to sleep, pacing and praying, struggling to decide what he should do with the Philippines newly acquired in the Spanish American War. He summons me from my home across Lafayette Square, as he often does. “Of course, you must lift them up, and democratize them, as people for whom Christ died,” I tell him, as he responds with smiles and nods of relief.
It’s 1649, and I am a senior advisor to the new Puritan regime of Oliver Cromwell, although I’m suspected of Arminian beliefs. For his role in provoking war with Scotland, Cromwell has decided King Charles I must be executed, and he cajoles various Puritan officials to sign the death decree. Some shake with apprehension, but I cheerfully grab the quill pen and affix my signature. “It’s so time to move on!” I definitively pronounce, as Cromwell vigorously shakes his head up and down with approval.
It’s 1784, and an aged but vigorous John Wesley invites me to join him on the preaching circuit. I stand in the crowd as he proclaims salvation to joyful audiences, but he is troubled in his spirit, as he confides to me later. Should he grant autonomy to American Methodism and appoint Francis Asbury as its bishop? I sense the weight of the decision but respond immediately. “Yes, Rev. Wesley, God has raised you and him up for this very purpose!” Wesley stares at me momentously before he grabs a pen and paper, then he calls for his horse.
All of these great moments seem very real to me, because of course they are real. It’s my reality, which nobody can dispute, not in the current era, when everyone can reinvent themselves in countless ways. Now I think Thomas Jefferson is trying to reach me as he reconsiders Unitarianism for Methodism…