The Briefing 12-04-14

The Briefing 12-04-14

The Briefing


December 4, 2014

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


It’s Thursday, December 4, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Grand Jury decision in Eric Garner case reveals law insufficient to respond to a moral crisis

Late yesterday it almost seemed that the headlines had accidentally jumped two weeks – backwards because once again the headlines began to tell us that a grand jury decision had been reached and the grand jury decision was one in which the jury decided not to bring criminal indictments on any charge against a white police officer in the death of a black man. This brings us right back to Ferguson, Missouri but that’s not where the scene is in yesterday’s development, but rather in Staten Island, New York. And in this case, it wasn’t a black teenager but rather a black father of six – a man who was suspected of selling cigarettes illegally in a bus terminal there in Staten Island – who was under arrest and resisted arrest and was eventually put in a chokehold by a white police officer only to die from that chokehold.

The case of Eric Garner is different than the case of Michael Brown because in the case of Eric Garner you actually have video testimony. Major media in the immediate aftermath of the death of Eric Garner were showing a cell phone video account of the arrest, of the chokehold, and eventually of Eric Garner’s death. And that led to the presumption on the part of many that that video evidence would be sufficient for any grand jury to bring a criminal indictment against the police officer in this case. And there are very serious issues here involved just given the New York City’s own guidelines, chokeholds are forbidden and yet in this case a chokehold was used, it was used on video, and was used to fatal force for a man who was under arrest for a nonviolent crime.

The act of selling cigarettes illegally is certainly a crime but it is not a violent crime. And yet as you look at the video, it is also clear that Eric Garner was resisting arrest but resisting arrest in that form is also generally not something that is responded to with the kind of overwhelming force – indeed the chokehold – that led to the man’s death.

The deep divisions that became very apparent in American society over the death of Michael Brown came right to the surface once again just about two weeks later when all the sudden the death of Eric Garner became a similar focal point. There are differences in these cases, there are differences in the locales, there are differences in the deliberations of the grand jury, but a lot of that will be lost in terms of the public conversation because what it looks like, at least to many Americans, is a second time that a grand jury failed or refused to bring a criminal indictment against a police officer.

On one side of the public argument will be the very clear and valid point that resisting arrest is never a good idea. And furthermore, resisting arrest brings on the very likelihood of a violent, perhaps even in terms of deadly violence, response from the police. But when it comes to Eric Garner the situation was that even as he was resisting arrest, he was not resisting arrest violently and that is demonstrated on the video. And that’s what led many people, especially those in New York, to believe that it was almost inconceivable that a grand jury would not bring a criminal indictment against the police officer.

But that raises a very important issue for the Christian worldview. We’re looking here at a situation that demands a moral response; it also demands a legal response. One of the problems with the law is that it is insufficient to respond to every moral crisis – even one that involves a police officer, even one that is captured on video. Because the law itself has to put into its own structure the kinds of protections for police officers and for others who are actually assigned by society the use of deadly force and that’s why it is so often the case that grand jury’s fail to bring criminal indictments against police officers to use deadly force – whether with a gun or in this case with a chokehold – in the line of their duties.

We actually expect police officers at times to break the law in order to serve the public. We expect them to do this, for instance, in terms of speed limits, in terms of a chase. We expect them to use violence in a way that we would not allow a common citizen to use violence. We assign to them a certain responsibility because they are acting on our behalf. This leads to the very crisis, not only in the situation in Ferguson, Missouri but now also in Staten Island. That requires a trust between the community and its police force, a trust that is clearly tenuous right now, endangered by these kinds of incidents, and in sad and very urgent need of rebuilding and rebuilding quickly.

More about that in just a moment, but right now we need to recognize that there are many things that are wrong, clearly wrong, immoral, spectacularly immoral, but they are not illegal. The law itself simply is not capable of covering every moral question, nor of resolving every moral crisis. And in this case the grand juries, if we presume that they acted in both cases rightly on the basis of the evidence, they were not making a statement about the morality of the situation in terms of his totality. They were bringing a very discreet, isolated and specific decision. And that decision has to do with whether or not an indictment was to be brought against a specific criminal statute.

The law is one of God’s greatest gifts to his human creatures. Without the law we would be in a situation quite literally of lawlessness. But the law itself is not competent, nor capable, to resolve all of our issues, which is one of the reasons why you have infinite misery which seems to be visited upon the courts by people who go to the courts in terms of tort litigation, lawsuits, divorce suits, or even criminal prosecutions, only to know that justice was evaded. There are clearly very legitimate moral issues, meta-issues, huge issues, having to do with race relations in America when it comes to Michael Brown case. Those are not the issues that can be well decided by a grand jury facing a specific set of facts and having to make a very specific decision about the law – those are two very different things. It is often the case that we are looking for a moral satisfaction out of a situation that cannot possibly produce it.

In the situation in New York the reality is compounded by the video. We are actually able to watch this event; we’re able to see it unfold. There seems to be no doubt, in terms of the video, that Eric Garner was in some sense resisting arrest and yet he was doing so in a way that certainly did not appear to be threatening to the officer. But the officer responded with what turned out to be deadly force. Did he intend it to be deadly force? That is unknown. It was against the principles and the policy of the New York Police Department for this officer to use a chokehold. Was it against the law? That’s another question altogether. Did the situation have anything to do with the reality that Eric Garner is a black man? That is beyond the capacity of a grand jury to infer or to decide. Nor was it the question that was presented to them. It is however the question that is presented in the public square and it’s a question that isn’t going to go away.

And one of the things that Christians need to recognize is that these two cases, related only in terms of the grand jury involvement, present cases in which many people among us – including many African-American followers of the Lord Jesus Christ – are asking very deep and pressing questions about whether or not the American justice system is fair; and not only fair in a general sense, but fair quite specifically to African-Americans.  Conservatives, including conservative Christians, who have a rightful concern to uphold the law and uphold the system and structure of law and uphold law enforcement officers and to respect and to encourage them with great gratitude, we have an automatic reflex which leads us to say if there is a dispute between the police and an aggrieved party are prejudice is to side with the police; and there is actually a moral instinct there that is to be honored.

On the other side of the moral divide you have people who say look, there’s another moral imperative and that is to make sure that all persons are treated equally with the acknowledgment that any honest American must make that there had been structural and systemic issues of discrimination and prejudice against minority groups, including and especially, African-Americans. And that’s a reality that will be conceded by virtually anyone, including responsible spokespersons for law enforcement in America.

Once again, the first African-American President of the United States was very much on the spot needing to respond to the Garner situation even as he had to the Michael Brown controversy in Ferguson, Missouri. Speaking yesterday from the White House, the President said,

“…it’s time for us to make more progress than we’ve made. And I’m not interested in talk; I’m interested in action. And I am absolutely committed as President of the United States to making sure that we have a country in which everybody believes in the core principle that we are equal under the law…we are not going to let up until we see a strengthening of the trust and a strengthening of the accountability that exists between our communities and our law enforcement.”

That’s the kind of responsible statement that a President ought to make. And in this case, that same President of the United States is not only a lawyer but a former, at least part-time, law professor at the University of Chicago. He understands the law and he understand how a grand jury works and he was very careful not to suggest that a grand jury had made a mistake but rather that the grand jury had not resolved the problem.

In the most important section of the President’s remarks he said, and I quote,

“…right now, unfortunately, we are seeing too many instances where people just do not have confidence that folks are being treated fairly. And in some cases, those may be misperceptions; but in some cases, that’s a reality. And it is incumbent upon all of us, as Americans, regardless of race, region, faith, that we recognize this is an American problem, and not just a black problem or a brown problem or a Native American problem.”

Not just a black problem, or a brown problem, or a Native American problem – this, said the President, is an American problem. And this is an American problem, it is indeed an American opportunity, it’s an American responsibility. Our responsibility as a nation is to deal with this issue and to do it head on – to bring to the table, to bring to the public conversation, everyone who needs to have a voice in this and the to make certain that the rule of law is understood as absolutely necessary for the very kind a society in which we want to live. And that respect for police is absolutely necessary in the kind of society in which we want to live. And we want to live in a society in which teenage young men, African-American or otherwise, are not encountering police because they are suspects in a crime and thus you have a situation that can escalate as it did in Ferguson, Missouri. At the very least we recognize that all of these things are tragedies and we recognize that there is responsibility – human responsibility – that is embedded at every stage in every one of these. It’s now our national responsibility to have not only a national but a rational, caring, compassionate, and deeply honest discussion about what it will take to rebuild the kind of trust the president of the United States has rightly called for.

2) Proposed Minnesota sports transgender policy reflects profound consequences of sexual revolution

Next, while thinking about the kind of society we want to live in and be a part of, a very important article appeared this week at the Federalist by Stella Morabito; the headline is enough to get your attention, “Minnesota Plans To Eliminate Gender Distinctions For High School Sports.” I looked at the article and wondered, could that be an exaggeration? Well as it turns out, in one sense, it is. But in a deeper and even truer sense, it isn’t.

A closer look at the article is in order. Stella Morabito writes,

“Minnesotans are currently facing a fast and furious onslaught by the transgender lobby, which seems to be dictating policy to the Minnesota State High School League. The MSHSL decides policy for all extracurricular activities in public, private, religious, and home schools. It’s currently in the process of outlawing all sex distinctions in high-school sports. [Today according to this article], it plans to install an athletic policy granting transgender students the choice to play on either boys’ or girls’ teams.”

Stella Morabito writes that what is really going on is that…

“…there would be no accounting for sex differences in high school sports on the field or in locker rooms, bathrooms, and hotel rooms.”

The new policy will forbids any camaraderie, she says,

“…rooted in the biological reality of one’s sex, or any consideration of the reality of the opposite sex. In fact, to affirm that reality would basically be a crime [according to this new policy]. So the policy would ultimately abolish girls’ and boys’ sports alike.”

Now, that’s where the article is a slight exaggeration. The new policy doesn’t actually eliminate what will be labeled girls and boys sports. For the main part, there will still be girls teams and boys teams but this is not an exaggeration in terms of what Stella Morabito is actually writing about because as it turns out, those who will appear on girls teams and those will appear on boys teams are those who appear as girls and boys because they say they are in terms of their gender identity – not because they were born that way.

Morabito writes that Minnesota is a major trigger point for this policies application across the nation. If you haven’t noticed, she writes,

“…the trans agenda is being pushed throughout the nation in a media shock-and-awe style intended to have folks get with the program, just like the proverbial teenager who says: ‘Well, everybody else is going along with it.’ For the moment, on paper there will still be the illusion of male and female teams under this policy. . . . except that anybody claiming to be transgender can play on either the boys team or the girls team. In other words, there will not really be boys’ teams or girls’ teams.”

Morabito then writes,

“Follow me?”

Well at least some parents in Minnesota are resisting the trend. One parent put an ad in the Minneapolis Star Tribune stating

“A male wants to shower beside your 14-year-old daughter. Are you okay with that?”

According to the media report, Minnesotans sent in more than 10,000 protest emails to the league in the aftermath of that ad and many showed up at the meeting. The group then tabled the decision until today when it meets again and is expected to go forward with adopting the new policy. In her report, Stella Morabito not only quotes the policy to be considered, and expected be approved today, she also goes at background materials – including policy statements found at the league and published on its own website.

Here’s one of them, and I quote,

“It is important for policy-makers to understand that transgender girls (who were assigned a male gender at birth) are not boys. Their consistent and affirmed gender identity as girls is as deep-seated as the gender identity of non-transgender girls. The belief that transgender girls are not ‘real girls’ is sometimes expressed as a concern that allowing transgender girls to compete on girls teams displaces opportunities for ‘real’ girls to participate”

Now the very use of those quotation marks is meant to insinuate that there is no such thing as a ‘real girl,’ girl is now simply a social construct; it’s simply a matter of sexual identification, of gender identification. And that is the gender doublespeak that is now ruling his rationality in much of America – and believe it or not, to be considered today in Minneapolis for Minneapolis schools.

A couple of things come immediately to mind in terms of that paragraph just read. The first thing is it’s factually wrong. It’s not only ideologically loaded, it’s factually. The reality is that when the statement writes that the consistent and firm gender identity of transgender girls is as deep-seated as the gender identity of non-transgender girls, that is refuted by the facts as reported recently by the Wall Street Journal, that a majority of teenagers and children who experiment with this kind of transgender identity, abandon it at some point later. The other thing that should come immediately to mind when you read a paragraph like that is this: it’s unlikely that a group of athletic supervisors came up with that language and if that’s your assumption, it turns out you’re entirely right.

I decided to look behind the statement that was published on the Minneapolis leagues website and I found that the statement was derivative of one that was published; you’re not going to be surprised at this, at what is known as the National Federation of State High School Associations. And you’re also not going to be surprised that they really didn’t come up with this either – they hired it out. They franchised out that responsibility to an academic by the name of Pat Griffin. Pat Griffin is identified as Professor Emerita of Social Justice Education at the University of Massachusetts. She also has what is known as “Pat Griffin’s LGBT sport blog” and it’s a blockbuster of worldview information let me tell you. For instance the most recent article that is up was posted February 28, 2013 and it’s against the use of any statement about family in the biographies of coaches published in athletic programs. She writes, and I quote,

“This personal information added to a professional biography is intended to provide the reader with information that rounds out the professional profile with a glimpse into the person’s family life.”

This is information such as,

“Coach Jones and her husband Frank have two children, Jane (2) and Linda (4).”

And she goes on to say,

“No big deal, right? Just a little piece of personal information volunteered by the staff member or elicited by sports information personnel.”

But then Griffin writes,

“I want to make the case that this common practice in sports media guides or on athletic department websites is actually quite a big deal.  The decision whether or not to include this one sentence description of family in a professional profile is inextricably tied to heterosexism whether intentional or not, and provides an incredible opportunity to reflect on and take a stand against heterosexism in sports.”

So what’s she calling for? She says, make no reference, in terms of high school coaches, to whether or not they have a family because that’s heterosexism. Why? Because she says, in the first, place people generally don’t do the same for people in a same-sex relationship and so you would think that what she’s calling for then is doing that. Just leveling the playing field so that when a coach is mentioned, it’s mentioned that the coach is married to someone of the opposite gender or whether the person has relationships with someone of the same gender. That’s not what she does. She says, no, that would be heterosexism too because that would imply that having a family is better than not having one.

Later in her essay she writes,

“The invitation is to look at that one sentence at the end of professional bios through the lens of heterosexism and see it for what it is: a small piece of heterosexual privilege that places non-heterosexual coaches and other athletic staff at a disadvantage and can put them at risk of being discriminated against.”

I read that from her blog just to give an indication of the worldview that is behind the policy to be considered today for the schools, the high schools, in the state of Minnesota. This is one of those new stories that you might expect to be bylined in Berkeley, California or perhaps in somewhere in Massachusetts or New York State. But we’re talking about Minnesota here. We’re talking about the very heartland of the United States, which tells us, as Stella Morabito writes, that what we’re looking at here is a shock and awe advance of the transgender agenda in a way that has left many communities, many parents and Americans, absolutely unprepared in terms of response.

Stella Morabito also writes the what’s being counted on by these who are pushing the agenda is that the people in the communities won’t even understand what’s going on until, we might say, it’s too late. Because in the actual policy, and I’m holding a copy of it here in my hand to be considered today by the Minnesota State high school league, there is nothing that states explicitly what Stella Morabito says is going to happen and yet it is explicit if you understand what the words mean.

For instance, we read,

“If the administration of a member school is notified, in writing, by a student, the student’s parent(s)/legal guardian(s) that a student has a different gender identity than listed on the student’s school registration records or birth certificate and that the student wishes to participate in athletics in a manner consistent with their gender identity as provided by state statutes and federal law, schools must review the following as each participation determination is made.”


“Gender identity used for school registration records.”

And then second, and listen carefully,

“Documentation from medical personnel, acting within their scope of licensure, that the individual has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and is receiving appropriate clinical treatment.”

Well, in that case, it would cover virtually anyone that any medical professional is ready to say or to certifying in any sense, is experiencing gender dysphoria and simply now, with the force of law, must be recognized as the gender with which the individual wishes to identify and is now, according to this policy, free to play on any team, to enter any bathroom or locker room, or to participate in any terms of athletic trip staying in hotel rooms according to the gender identity with which the individual identifies; which may have nothing to do with the gender assigned at birth.

From the Christian worldview perspective what we’re looking at here in terms of the transgender agenda is a moral revolution that is deeper and more consequential even than the normalization of homosexuality. Because the elimination of gender distinctions, in terms of biological gender identity is assigned at birth, is something that will lead to a massive confusion at the very heart of what it means to be human. We should note that according to the biblical worldview the assignment by the creator of human beings as male and female, and that being a biological essence revealed at birth and in creation that is made so abundantly clear in the first two chapters of the Bible that anything that follows necessarily builds upon that very understanding.

If nothing else, what the first two chapters of Genesis help to underlying is the fact that we don’t know what it means to be human except as to be gendered humans as male and female. Now, of course, there are many people who will immediately respond that there are certain persons who were born with a nonspecific gender identity – that’s a very small fraction of people and that’s not who were talking about here. We’re not talking here about persons who are intersex or have no clear biological sex assignment at birth, we’re talking about people who intentionally do not want to identify with what was clearly identified in terms of biological sex at birth.

According to these news reports of the league in Minnesota is going to be making their determination today concerning this policy and in a matter of hours, at least on those terms, we will understand their decision – the bigger decision comes thereafter. What in the world will the people of Minnesota now do with this? What will parents of Minnesota now decide when it comes to the participation of their own children enter to the public schools and school-based athletics. And the bigger question will come to all of us as Christians seeking to live faithfully under the authority of Scripture. How in the world do we make sense of a world that is throwing itself into such deliberate and intentional confusion? How do we make sense to a world that is simply intoxicated with nonsense?

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) Grand Jury decision in Eric Garner case reveals law insufficient to respond to a moral crisis

In Eric Garner Chokehold Case, Grand Jury Is Said Not to Charge N.Y.P.D. Officer, New York Times (J. David Goodman and Al Baker)

Obama Says He’s Committed to Fairness After Garner Decision, NBC News

2) Proposed Minnesota sports transgender policy reflects profound consequences of sexual revolution

Minnesota Plans To Eliminate Gender Distinctions For High School Sports, The Federalist (Stella Morabito)

Participation in MSHSL Activities by Transgender Student Athletes, Minnesota State High School League

Transgender Surgery Isn’t the Solution, Wall Street Journal (Paul McHugh)

History of the Minnesota State High School League,  Minnesota State High School League

Developing Policies for Transgender Students on High School Teams, National Federation of State High School Associations (Pat Griffin)

The Power of One Sentence: Heterosexism in Coaches’ Biographies, It Takes a Team (Pat Griffin)


R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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