The Briefing 05-15-14

The Briefing 05-15-14

The Briefing


 May 15, 2014

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


It’s Thursday, May 15, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.


The transgender challenge will present evangelicals in this generation with a lifetime challenge. That is, it is not going to be a short-term challenge. Furthermore, it is a deeper and more urgent challenge even than the challenge of homosexuality. It is the inevitable result of a sexual liberation movement that has set loose far more than may have been even intended at the beginning. Furthermore, the transgender movement is now facilitated by medical technologies and by shifts in the worldview that weren’t even conceivable a generation ago. But they are now, and the transgender movement is now progressing in this culture with rapid speed. And it is presenting evangelicals and evangelical churches with enormous challenges and with challenges that are going to have to be faced and thought through with the full wealth of Christian conviction and very quickly.


One of the things that I point out when I talk about this issue to evangelical leaders is the fact that no worldview except for biblical Christianity can handle this question. One of the things that becomes very apparent, in terms of the cultural controversies over the transgender movement, is that the secular worldview can’t handle its own convictions on this issue. It can’t hold to a consistent argument. As a matter of fact, if you hold to a secular worldview, the transgender movement presents you with conflicting moral absolutes. For instance, you claim that it’s an absolute that the individual gets to decide at any moment in time what his or her gender identity is, and then you claim, on the other hand, that sexual orientation is something that is biologically or genetically fixed and something that is unchangeable. And so you have two contradictory arguments and, furthermore, in terms of any policy decisions, you have trouble on the left, the right; you have trouble in the North, South, East, and West. There is nowhere you can go where there is not trouble.


Just recently we looked at an example of this in terms of the prison in Harris County, Texas, there in the neighborhood of Houston. And there in that prison, which is a men’s prison, you have a special department that is isolating those who are men, at least they were born men, and they have had some kind of sexual reassignment surgery or they’re undergoing some kind of hormonal treatment or they intend to—in other words, they’re presenting themselves as women. According to the law there, they are to be treated as women. If they declare themselves to be women, they are to be called women. If they present themselves as women, they are to be given female names. They can even get new legal documentation to match their female identity, but they cannot move to a female prison. Why? Because the female prisoners in the female prison do not want them. They do not consider them women. And, furthermore, they claim that it would not be safe to have men, who are now presenting themselves as women, in a women’s prison.


The same kind of controversy happens in school systems all over the United States where in states like New Jersey and Massachusetts and California, either school districts or legislators or courts have moved to order that the schools have to open restrooms, locker rooms, and other single-sex facilities to teenagers who may claim that they were born with one sex, but now identify as another. And that leads to an infinite number of complications and, quite honestly, even those who are trying to serve the cause of sexual liberation, those who were sold out in support of what they considered to be the movement, aren’t certain what to do. And that’s because their worldview simply can’t sustain the kind of moral absolutes in collision that the transgender movement represents. As I often say, when you look at this issue you realize that no worldview but biblical Christianity has an adequate answer to it. When you consider worldviews such as existentialism, sexual liberationism, enlightened self-interest, radical personal autonomy, social constructivism, feminism, rational choice theory, humanism—they all fail under the weight of this challenge, as current policy debates demonstrate very clearly.


And one of them exploded just yesterday in Louisville, Kentucky; right here in Louisville at Atherton High School. As the headline in yesterday’s edition of the local paper, The Courier-Journal, declared: “Transgender Controversy Reopens Louisville Schools Discrimination Debate.” As The Courier-Journal reports:


A Jefferson County high school finds itself embroiled in a debate over gender-identity and discrimination after complaints that a transgender student is being allowed to use the girls’ bathroom and locker room.


A freshman student at Atherton High School who was born male but identifies as a female received permission from Principal Thomas Aberli to use the girls’ facilities, prompting complaints from several students and “about a dozen phone calls from concerned parents.”


However, the issue has also bubbled over into a public meeting that will be held today here in Louisville at Atherton High School. The principal said, “I have a responsibility to ensure that all of our students and staff are treated fairly and justly.” Well no one in the world can argue with that, and if you rewind time and space about a generation, no one would consider that the issue that is now at the center of this controversy would even factor into that affirmation. He went on to say, “At the same time, I also have a responsibility to educate our community on an issue that many are not familiar with and inform them about the rights of transgender individuals.” By the way, a very clear thing to watch in rhetoric is exactly what happened in that principal’s statement. The first thing he said was this: “I have a responsibility to ensure that all of our students and staff are treated fairly and justly.” You wouldn’t think that that could be followed with any kind of conditionality, and yet his next words, as reported in the paper, were, “At the same time.” In other words, he’s in deep trouble here. He’s in trouble because of the inadequacy of a secular worldview and a secular set of policies to deal with this. Having abandoned sexual rationality, having abandoned any kind of fixed understanding of gender or sexual morality, a secular culture finds itself simply arguing with itself over what to do with this kind of claim; the claim that a 14-year-old or a freshman in high school, who was born a boy, can now claim to be a girl, and demand to use girls bathrooms and locker rooms, and that everyone else is simply going to have to deal with it. Well as this story makes clear, a lot of parents and students aren’t ready to deal with it. But as The Courier-Journal reports, one of the big issues here in Louisville is that the school system does not have an antidiscrimination policy that includes gender identity. It does include age, color, disability, marital or parental status, national origin, race, sex, sexual orientation, political opinion, affiliation or religion, but it doesn’t include gender identity, and that’s going to be a new consideration by the board, largely prompted at least in part by this controversy.


In response to this, another rhetorical lesson comes to us. This time by school board member Carol Haddad, who said the school board is against “any kind of harassment and discrimination.” Well the school board should certainly be against any kind of harassment. That’s clear. But when she says the school board is against any kind of discrimination, that’s insanity. I think I know what she means. She means that the school board is against any kind of discrimination that all right-minded people at this point in history appear, by poll data and political pressure, to be against, but I guarantee you the school board will continue to discriminate on the basis of sexual behavior. I can promise you that. The question is where and why.


The report in The Courier-Journal also points to the fact that this is a national challenge. As the paper writes, the controversy comes nearly two weeks after the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights issued guidance under its Title IX programs, extending federal civil rights protections to transgender students. Listen to the next statement in the paper’s report: “However, it doesn’t offer specific advice on the use of school facilities.” In other words, your government is now extending, through the executive branch of the government, Title IX demands for nondiscrimination to those who are claiming transgender identity. The law does not specifically do that, but this federal agency is claiming the right to do it—that is, the Department of Education and its Office for Civil Rights—and yet even as it says that it’s going to extend these nondiscrimination principles to those who are identified as transgender, it isn’t going to offer any specific advice about how schools are supposed to accomplish that. By the way, Title IX is often referred to when we’re talking about intercollegiate athletics, and that’s where most Americans probably know about it. But that points to another part of this entire controversy that many people simply haven’t consider closely, and that is the fact that the Olympics are an arena for vast transgender controversy and so are athletics, especially at the collegiate level. Why? Because is an individual who is born male, but now identifies as female, who’s playing against women or on a women’s team, is that an unfair advantage? One of the big controversies at the most recent Olympics was how to determine if someone is actually female or female enough in order to play as a female or compete as a female in the Olympics, but there again you have two conflicting principles. You can’t have the principle that only women can compete as women in the Olympics, but anyone has the right to claim to be a woman under the new understanding of the transgender revolution.


In a very revealing letter from the schools sent to parents earlier this week, the school declared an agenda item on the council—that’s the council meeting to be held today—will also be discussing its Policy 500 school space. “You may have read about the issue of gender identity in our school newspaper. We’ll discuss the addition of a nondiscrimination statement to our policy on the use of school space that will include gender identity.” In other words, they are announcing they want to now include gender identity in the policy. The new policy would read: “Atherton High School shall not discriminate in the use of school space on the basis of age, color, religion, disability, marital status, national origin, race, sex, sexual orientation, nor gender identity.” Well that’s very interesting, but what’s attached to the letter gets a lot more interesting.


In an incredible enclosure with the letter sent by the school to parents, there’s an excerpt from a book by Bowers and Lopez written in 2012 which is entitled, Which Way to the Restroom?: Respecting the Rights of Transgender Youth in the School System. Included in this excerpt is a set of definitions. As the authors say, to deal effectively with gender equality issues, a knowledge of the terminology is essential. Listen to this next statement: “Gender identity relates to a person’s inner sense of being male, female, or something on a continuum between or even beyond these two concepts.” In other words, according to this authoritative text included in the mailing from the school to parents here in Louisville, gender identity include something that could be in between male or female or, as it says, even beyond. What in the world is beyond? Well whatever it is, it has to be covered by this new nondiscrimination policy.


In the event this is not sufficiently confusing, the text also reads “gender identity does not equate to sexual preference or orientation. For example,”—now this is the very example given. This is from the text of the book excerpt in the mailing to parents:


For example, a transgirl, born as a boy by sex, who is attracted to males, is heterosexual, not gay. Transpersons can have the same spectrum of orientation as anyone else and they can be straight, gay, bisexual, or asexual.


In other words, in this document, mailed as an authoritative statement to the parents of students at Atherton High School here in Louisville, it is said that gender identity could include the fact that someone who is now of a different gender than the one with which that individual was born can at that stage now be gay or straight, heterosexual or homosexual or asexual or bisexual or anything in between, but everything is now reversed. At the end of the excerpt, there’s another sentence like this:


For example, remember that if a transgender child identifies as a male and is attracted to females, “he” is straight, not gay, and vice versa. On the other hand, a transteen may in fact be gay when they’re attracted to persons of the opposite sex.


But if you’re lost in that, then you’re rational and you understand the irrationality of the kind of position the worldview that is here articulated. And you have to have some level of sympathy with school administrators trying to figure a way through all this because they are confronted with competing moral absolutes. But that’s a true test of a worldview. A worldview that is rooted in truth does not have conflicting absolutes. That’s something that is very important and that’s why the Christian worldview and only the Christian worldview can sustain a rational consideration of these issues. Because when you have conflicting moral absolutes, you have a problem. But in this case, it’s perhaps important to say that you not only have a problem, you have Exhibit A of why it’s almost a sure thing that there will be a mass exodus in public schools in fairly short order.


Staying on the issue of education, but shifting topics, a very important article at The Atlantic by W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia focuses on how young adults succeed or fail to succeed in the college experience. He writes:


I find that young adults who as teens had involved fathers are significantly more likely to graduate from college, and that young adults from more privileged backgrounds are especially likely to have had an involved father in their lives as teens.


Wilcox is a very important researcher when it comes to America’s families and this research points to something of fundamental importance; also something that is especially important to the Christian worldview. And that is the fact that God had a purpose in giving children by His intention in the natural family both a father and a mother. And as the research cited by Brad Wilcox makes very clear:


A U.S. Department of Education study found that among children living with both biological parents [both the father and the mother; their biological parents in the home], those with highly involved fathers were 42 percent more likely to earn A grades and 33 percent less likely to be held back a year in school than children whose dads had low levels of involvement.


Now that’s a blockbuster piece of information. When you’re thinking about the role of the family and you think about what makes for success with children and then later when they’re young adults, it turns out, as Brad Wilcox makes abundantly clear, the absence of a father counts massively and the presence of an involved father is an almost incalculable asset. After all, you’re talking about an incredible difference here. Those with highly involved fathers, as teenagers, 42% more likely to earn A’s than children who lacked involved fathers.


In this essay, Brad Wilcox goes so far as to say:


In particular, the [research] suggests that when it comes to college graduation, though father involvement matters for most young adults, it seems particularly important for young adults from moderately and highly educated homes.


Now what does this point to? It points to something that we’ve discussed with Charles Murray on Thinking in Public and we’ve discussed on The Briefing from time to time, and that is this: the new divide on the family is largely socioeconomic and educational. Even as there have been other patterns related to demography and geography, to family origin, to race, and many other patterns, the reality is that the great marriage divide in this country is now between those who have a college education and those who do not. The most likely to marry and stay married are those with a college education. And the most likely to receive a college education and to work through the educational process to obtain it are those who come from homes where you have both biological parents in the home with both biological parents having a college education.


While the political class seems to be obsessing about the issue of income inequality, Brad Wilcox and other researchers are getting to the bottom line of how it happens. And you can’t take the family out of the equation. That is abundantly clear in this research. You can’t take marriage out of the equation and you can’t take the father out of the equation. If, indeed, the presence of an active father is the single biggest contributor to the fact that a young woman or a young man will complete a college education and actually graduate, there you have an irrefutable fact that simply flies in the face of those who argue that fathers are unimportant, that marriage is simply a lifestyle choice, that it doesn’t matter if children are raised in a home where their biological parents are raising them and are highly involved in their lives.


Bradford Wilcox in this essay suggests some ways in particular that fathers are important, both in the lives of young girls and young boys, eventually young men and young women, but he also says there’s good news about parental involvement across the board for those who have biological parents in the home and there’s good news for those who have fathers in the home. Keep in mind the fact that there are some reports indicating that something like half of America’s children will at some point between birth and the end of adolescence be without a father in the home, but for those who do have fathers and do have involved fathers, the good news is that fathers are spending more time with their children than in recent decades. According to new research, fathers have almost doubled the average amount of time they spend with their children each week from 4.2 hours in 1995 to 7.3 hours in 2011. In one sense, this is the real inequality, isn’t it? It should break our hearts. It should also lead us to understand why these problems grow ever worse. If you have an inequality, in terms of the father’s absence or presence or the father’s involvement or lack of involvement, and if it comes down to the fact that the children who have, have more and they have an abundance, they have a father whose actually spending more time with them, is more involved than in the past, spending almost twice as much time in terms of measured hours in the week than was true just in 1995, that in contrast you see the absence of that father involvement. You see the absence of the father in the home as a far larger loss than maybe we even knew to recognize.


Again, the Christian worldview should inform us that we knew that already. And, furthermore, we know that it’s not a sociological accident. It’s not just something that can be measured in sociological terms. It’s a theological fact. It’s a fact of creation. It’s a fact of the family and of marriage and of God’s intention that leads to human flourishing, and if you destroy that which leads to human flourishing, you end up with results in which humans don’t flourish. And in contrast, where that picture is intact, humans flourish, as this research makes abundantly clear. Christians don’t affirm the natural family because of a sociological research project. We affirm it because of the authority of Scripture, but at the same time, we do recognize that this sociological data is a part of the common grace of evidence of the fact the God’s word is true and God’s intention was good. And where God’s intention is honored, the family flourishes.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. Remember the release of Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Call with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1) Secular worldview’s absolute values clash in Louisville school transgender controversy

Transgender controversy re-opens Louisville schools discrimination debate, Louisville Courier-Journal (Antoinette Konz)

Atherton High School to discuss transgender student’s bathroom access, WLKY (Ann Bowdan)

2) Involvement of father key factor in student success

A Key to College Success: Involved Dads, The Atlantic (Bradford Wilcox)

Coming Apart- America’s New Moral Divide: A Conversation with Charles Murray, (Albert Mohler with Charles Murray)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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