The Briefing 10-09-14

The Briefing 10-09-14

 The Briefing


October 9, 2014

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


It’s Thursday, October 9, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Continued spread of Ebola reminder that plague is not merely a matter of the past

Well, now we’ve reached a whole new level of concern. The death, announced early yesterday morning, of Dallas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan brings an exclamation point to the crisis that is now being faced by public health professionals not only in Texas, not only in The United States and not only in West Africa but virtually everywhere in the world.

This is because one of the things has been brought to our attention, in this medical crisis, is the fact that we truly do live in a global community. Transportation networks make it possible for someone to get on a plane in West Africa and fly usually to a European destination only to be getting on another plane and end up in the United States. We are no longer in a situation, as was the case throughout most of human history, well up to the midpoint of the 20th century, when local issues would stay local. The global situation means that when a contagion like Ebola breaks out now in West Africa it is probably only a matter of days or weeks before there’s the very real danger of the spread of the contagion to other parts of the world. Potentially to all parts of the world.

The tragic nature the case in Dallas is accentuated by the fact that the man who died of the disease, Thomas Eric Duncan, almost assuredly caught the disease and West Africa in his role as a good Samaritan, helping a family whose daughter had evidently contracted the disease. There is no reason to suspect that when he got onto that airplane and came to the United States, he believed he had the disease. Although public health officials have rushed to say he must’ve known that he been exposed to it. In any event, the tragedy is compounded by the situation with his extended family and loved ones there in Dallas. As Manny Fernandez and Dave Phillips of the New York Times report,

“For Louise Troh word of the death of her fiancé Eric Thomas Duncan unfolded Wednesday as everything else has since he was found to have Ebola – at a distance.”

The paper then reports that Dallas County Chief Executive Clay Jenkins and the Rev. George Mason of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas drove to the home where Ms. Troh, age 54, has been under quarantine with her 13-year-old son and two other young men, all of whom had been living with Mr. Duncan during the time he began to show symptoms of The Ebola virus.

“They have been [says the paper] under orders from state health officials not to leave the premises for 21 days.”

That is the maximum incubation period for the virus. The New York Times quoted the pastor in this situation – that’s the Rev. George Mason of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas who said,

“We never sat down, we did not touch them. We kept about a 3 foot distance from them at all times. This is simply a matter of extreme caution.”

Public health officials there in Dallas are scrambling to explain why Eric Thomas Duncan was turned away from a hospital earlier in September when he showed up with symptoms of the Ebola virus. Evidently, hospital officials did not surmise that he might actually have the disease, even though he told them he had come there from West Africa. When he did show up at the hospital on September 28th he lived only eight days after arriving, not only with signs of the disease, but with a full-blown virus. Furthermore, the period of time between when he first went to the hospital and when he went back with the full-blown disease allowed him the opportunity to expose many others to the virus. Before he lost consciousness, Mr. Duncan said that was the greatest regret that he faced in the entire situation which led up, of course, to his own death yesterday morning.

In the United States transportation officials indicated a new line of scrutiny, with passengers coming from West African nations to be subjected to a thermometer test in order to determine whether or not they have a fever, as they enter the country. But many public health officials have rushed to say that simply will not be enough, since there is a 21 day incubation period for the virus. Someone could show up, fully exposed to the virus, and one who would develop it later, but at the time of arrival showing no indication of fever whatsoever. Meanwhile, the map, globally, of known and suspected cases of Ebola continues to grow and there is no sign of at this point, that health officials either in West Africa, nor in the rest of the world are getting an adequate handle on this challenge.

The Bible reminds us that there have been several persistent enemies of humanity; poverty, war, famine and of course, plague. And in this case, the situation with Ebola reminds us of the fact that is much as we believe or want to believe that plague is a matter of the past, this kind of pestilence is actually something that will never leave us; not until Jesus comes. Not until there is a new heaven and a new earth. Because so long as we live in a Genesis 3 world, germs and viruses find a way to mutate into even more dangerous diseases. We should be exceedingly thankful, those of us who live in the advanced West, for having such improved and advanced medical services. For having such things as antibiotics and, of course, vaccines and other medications that cannot only be used to treat many of these deadly diseases but also in many cases to prevent them. But one of the things that Christians must always keep in mind, with the biblical worldview ever in focus, is that when it comes to matters of these viruses, germs and infections, we are always playing defense. And humanity from time to time is reminded, tragically, of  just what it means, in the face of disease, to be constantly on the defensive.

2) Lincoln, Nebraska middle school policy of gender neutrality reveals secular influence of universities

Just last week on The Briefing we discussed a new acronym: PGP, for ‘preferred gender pronoun.’ This is part of the sexual revolution, the gender revolution taking place on American college and university campuses, and even as we discussed some of the materials being handed out to students on those campuses. We suggested a very soon. This kind of gender or sexual revolution is almost certain to come to a campus near you, but we were talking about college and university campuses – the kind of campuses where for the last several years, there’s been an effort to blur the distinctions between male and female actively even to deny the ‘binary system’, as it’s called, of separating humanity and the genders of male and female. The preferred gender pronoun chart found in some these materials points out that according to the new ideology every single individual gets to choose what that individual wants to be known as when it comes to a gendered or nongendered pronoun, and it can be in constant flux; what a person says that person’s preferred gender pronoun is today might change tomorrow. And as those who celebrate this revolution of made very clear everyone else is simply going to have to get in line and get used to it, even though this kind of proposal is absolutely irrational and insane. Furthermore, it won’t even work; there’s no way to keep up with an endless number of individuals with an endless number of preferred pronouns. The fact is that this is now becoming standard fare on many college and university campuses and as I said, it’s coming soon to a campus near you. But what I didn’t know last week is that the next time one of these stories would break the headlines it would be on a college and university campus, but in a middle school. Katherine Timpf reporting for National Review Online writes,

“A Nebraska school district has instructed its teachers to stop referring to students by “gendered expressions” such as “boys and girls,” and use “gender inclusive” ones such as “purple penguins” instead.”

We’re not making this up.

One of the handouts passed out the middle school teachers in Lincoln, Nebraska in Lincoln public schools reads like this,

““Don’t use phrases such as ‘boys and girls,’ ‘you guys,’ ‘ladies and gentlemen,’ and similarly gendered expressions to get kids’ attention… [Instead], Create classroom names and then ask all of the ‘purple penguins’ to meet on the rug.”

The document according to Timpf also warns against asking students to line up as boys or girls and suggest asking them the lineup by whether they prefer skateboards or bikes, milk or juice, dogs or cats, summer or winter talking or listening. “Always ask yourself; will this configuration create a gendered space?”

I was able to get a copy of the handout given to these middle school teachers. It came from the group known as Gender Spectrum, and in one of the enumerated issues listed on the sheet, I read this;

“Provide an opportunity for every student to identify a preferred name or pronoun. At the beginning of the year or at back-to-school night, invite students and parents to let you know if they had a preferred name and/or pronoun by which they wish to be referred.”

Now there’s that PGP – preferred gender pronoun. But this time it’s not one of the liberal college campuses were talking about, it’s a middle school system in the Lincoln public schools of Nebraska, of all places. We’re not talking about Berkeley, California. Here, but Lincoln, Nebraska.

Another one of the handouts identifies a figure known as a ‘genderbred person’ – not gingerbread, but genderbred – although the drawing looks like a gingerbread cookie. The genderbred person is divided by identity, attraction, expression, and sex. ‘Identity’ is pointing to the brain, ‘attraction’ is pointing to the heart, ‘expression’ to the entire body, and ‘sex’ points to what could be called the private parts. I’m going to clean up the instructions on the sheet, but let me read this much.

“Gender is a tough subject to tackle. There are many facets to consider, and many pressures at play. And we’ve all been conditioned in such a way that our first instinct is almost unanimously wrong. But we’re going to tackle it. Coming to our aid, I would like to present you the genderbread person. Now let’s talk about it.”

Well there’s a lot to talk about in this case, of course, but one of the things we need to talk about is the response of the parents in Nebraska’s public school systems to what’s going on here in Lincoln. What will the parents of these affected middle schoolers do? Will they simply allow their children to be influenced in such a way by the gender revolutionaries? Are they basically going to hand their children over at these most impressionable ages to those who are trying to indoctrinate them that the very idea of a boy and a girl is an outmoded unanimously wrong gendered category that simply has to be left behind?

National Review magazine indicates the school superintendent Steve Joel said that he was happy and pleased with the training documents. “We don’t get involved with politics,” He told KLIN Radio “We don’t get involved with gender preferences. We’re educating all kids and we can’t be judgmental.”

Now one might surely hope that a school superintendent would be a bit more coherent than that, but it’s hard to achieve clarity when the proposal is this radically wrong. It’s hard to imagine how parents in the Lincoln public school system can take such comments seriously when the superintendent says we don’t do politics and we don’t do gender preferences, when that’s exactly what they’re doing. That’s exactly what they get caught doing.

The big picture here for Christian parents is the realization that the revolutionaries when it comes to the new morality want the minds of your children. And they understand very well that the way to get at them is in the school system, as well as to the larger entertainment system in the media. The two main vehicles for reaching the minds of younger Americans are the public school system and popular culture, and the left is increasingly in charge and in control of both. And this kind of evidence coming from Lincoln, Nebraska tells us that no place is safe, but it also tells us something else the Christian ought to note very carefully.

We often look at something like the electoral map, commonly divided into red and blue. We look at that vast heartland of America painted deep red, and we see the two coasts that are deep blue. There is a deep and undeniable moral divide in America and it is at least partly geographical. The further you get toward the coast, the more liberal the culture tends to become in a state like Washington state the coast is very deep blue, while in the east, the more rural areas tended be deep red. So when we’re looking at a national map, we need to keep in mind that that national perspective can mask some very local realities. And that brings to our attention a very important principle of moral change now taking place in America. It’s not just the two coasts that are deep blue, it is also college and university towns, or at least many of them in the main. Sociologists recognize that the closer you get to a university community, the closer you get to an academic center, the more the society turns left, the more one finds agreement with the very most progressive ideals. The more you see evidence of the sexual revolutionaries and the more secular the space becomes. And of course the Christian worldview explains those things very commonly if not always tend to go together.

You’ll recall that I’ve mentioned before, Peter Berger that great sociologist of secularization who pointed out that the most radical waiver secularization didn’t affect most of the United States uniformly. But as he said about two decades ago, the kind of secularization you find in Europe didn’t work in the United States, except in one place, and as he said, it worked profoundly on the college and university campus.

So as Berger said some time ago, if you want to find the most thoroughly secularized space, take a trip to Europe or to your local American college or university campus. That’s not true of all campuses, of course, but it is true, and increasingly true of most of the major academic centers in the United States.

And so when you look at a state like Wisconsin, you’ll notice that there is a very important blue dot over the city of Madison, where the University Wisconsin is found. In the red state of Texas the most famous blue dot is the city of Austin, where the University of Texas is found, and evidently increasingly in a state like Nebraska a deep red state, there is an increasingly blue dot over the city of Lincoln. And the latest evidence of that quite tragically comes in the form of a handout to middle school teachers in Lincoln, Nebraska. As my late father-in-law, a proud native of Nebraska and two-time graduate of the University of Nebraska, would surely say, “Aw nuts!”

3) Connecticut effort to control homeschooling attack on parental rights over children

The rapid expansion of homeschooling in America can surely be traced to developments such as these, but homeschooling itself is now in the headlines as Matthew Hennessey of City Journal reports that in Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Sandy Hook advisory commission has returned the curious and controversial draft recommendation, that is, as Hennessey reports, the state should increase its oversight of homeschooled children with emotional or behavioral challenges. As he writes,

“The proposal has outraged the state’s homeschoolers, who, like homeschoolers everywhere, are keenly aware of their sometimes conditional freedoms. In Connecticut, as elsewhere, the law allows parents to homeschool if they choose. But the practice has always been viewed as threatening by left-wing academics, social architects, and teachers’ unions—all well represented [he says, on the governor’s] 16-member panel. Sadly, this is only the most recent assault on the rights of Connecticut homeschoolers.”

Hennessey’s report is actually quite ominous and it points to the fact that the sexual and moral revolutionaries see homeschooling as one of the great enemies of their cause. Hennessey points out that after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school, the Connecticut Governor appointed this panel that brought an interim report in 2013. In that report, nothing was said of homeschooling whatsoever.

Now he writes

“The panel has determined that among the things that went wrong in the run-up to that tragedy was that the killer, Adam Lanza, was homeschooled briefly as a teenager. They are recommending the state give local officials approval power over parents who wish to homeschool children with social, behavioral, and emotional challenges.”

Commissioner Howard I. Schwartz Psychiatrist in Chief at Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living said, “Given the individuals involved in the tragedy that formed the basis of this commission, we believe that it is very germane.”

He also said, “The facts leading up to this incident support the notion that there is a risk in not addressing the social and emotional learning needs of homeschooled children.”

As Hennessey writes,

“inherent in the draft recommendations is the commission’s belief that government and state institutions have and should have the ability to shape social outcomes.

‘We need a holistic approach that will follow children from birth to adulthood; identifying risk factors, reinforcing protective factors, and promoting positive development throughout.’”

That was said by University of Connecticut law professor Susan R. Schmeiser, who also helped to draft the recommendations, according to Hennessey. She said the school should serve as “a locus of this more integrated system of care and should adopt a comprehensive, integrated approach that is not reactive but proactive.”

As Hennessey writes, “A reformed school mental health system should do more than just scan the horizon for disorder.[She said it should, to use her words]prioritize social and emotional learning within the curriculum.”

As Hennessey then says,

“Couched in Schmeiser’s jargon, the committee’s recommendations may seem unobjectionable, but they’re really an opportunistic bid for in loco parentis—schools as substitute families and teachers as substitute parents.”

The bottom line, as Hennessey makes very clear, is an assault on parental rights, with the understanding that the community and in particular school officials have every responsibility and right to determine what students ought to be taught, the context in which they would be taught, the outcomes that are be sought in education, and whether or not parents are in any way qualified to be the educators of their own children. As Hennessey also writes and I quote,

“Nuances aside, the issues raised by the commission’s draft recommendations are fundamentally about agency: Who’s in charge of a child, and who decides how, where, and what that child learns? Is the first and final decision about a child’s development made by the family or by the state, as represented by the local school district’s trained professionals?”

Hennessey’s final paragraph demands our attention. He writes,

“Governor Malloy’s handpicked commissioners have indulged a dangerous impulse, common on the left, to reorder society at the expense of the family. In the process, they have trampled on the rights of homeschoolers to raise their children as they see fit.”

One of the aspects of the proposals found in this report is that homeschooling parents would have to submit a plan, a learning plan with proposed outcomes in order to be approved as homeschoolers. And furthermore, the state would reserve the right to the school district and its professionals to judge whether or not the parents are successful in bringing about the desired social outcomes.

In other comments about her panel’s report, law professor Susan Schmeiser said,

“We need a holistic approach that will follow children from birth to adulthood. Homeschooling,[she said] may not adequately address those children’s needs. Or help them develop the skills they will need to function in society.”

But the basic dishonesty behind all of this is the fact that Adam Lanza was in the public school system from kindergarten through the eighth grade. And his removal to a homeschool situation was made at the suggestion of his therapist. This development should help all Christian parents to be aware of the fact that it is not just homeschooling that is in the bull’s-eye of the social revolutionaries. It is the whole idea of parents and parental rights.

The 20th century in the United States saw a vast erosion of parental authority and parental rights. This went back to the public school movement in the early 20th century, when luminaries such as John Dewey, one of the primary agents of secularism in America and also one of the architects of the modern public schools, said that one of the functions of the schools should be to reduce the likelihood that children would bear the moral and religious prejudices of their parents. He called for the public schools, back in the early decades of the 20th century, to be the engines of creating a new common American identity that would reduce the influence of parents and raise the influence of the larger society.

The revolutionaries at work on this panel in Connecticut are representing the same logic, but it is now operating at a much higher intensity and in a much more brazen manner that was found in the 20th century. The 21st century in America is going to find parents in the position of having to make very clear that we intend to be the primary educators of our children- that indeed they are our children. They are given to us for our care and they are our responsibility. Homeschooling parents in Connecticut are rightly going to have to push back against Governor Malloy’s panel and the suggestion that the homeschoolers would have to get approval for homeschooling from some kind of public school authority. But Christian parents understand something even more fundamental: we will give an answer to God for how we raise our children; that is much higher standard. But it also means that it is God that will hold us accountable, not the government, for the raising of our children. This significant alarm from Connecticut should be heard everywhere in America.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. 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) Continued spread of Ebola reminder that plague is not merely a matter of the past

Death of Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas Fuels Alarm Over Ebola, New York Times (Manny Fernandez and Dave Phillips)

2) Lincoln, Nebraska middle school policy of gender neutrality reveals secular influence of universities

School Told to Call Kids ‘Purple Penguins’ Because ‘Boys and Girls’ Is Not Inclusive to Transgender, National Review Online (Katherine Timpf)

12 easy steps on the way to gender inclusiveness…, Gender Spectrum

3) Connecticut effort to control homeschooling attack on parental rights over children

Connecticut Targets Homeschoolers, City Journal (Matthew Hennessy)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me using the contact form. Follow regular updates on Twitter at @albertmohler.

Subscribe via email for daily Briefings and more (unsubscribe at any time).