The Briefing 05-22-15

The Briefing 05-22-15

The Briefing


May 22, 2015

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


It’s Friday, May 22, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Pot edible fad presents nationwide challenge police, parents, and even children

Here’s a headline that appeared earlier this week in the New York Times, New Police Challenge: Finding Pot in Lollipops and Marshmallows. This is something to which every parent needs to pay close attention. Catherine Saint Louis reporting for the Times tells us that even in places like Alabama and Tennessee police are confiscating marijuana in the form of edibles – in particular in the form of candy. As Catherine Saint Louis writes,

“After nearly 20 years on the job, Jim Jeffries, the police chief in LaFollette, Tenn., has seen his share of marijuana seizures — dry green buds stashed in trunks or beneath seats, often double-bagged to smother the distinctive scent.

“But these days, Chief Jeffries is on the lookout for something unexpected: lollipops and marshmallows.

“Recently his officers pulled over a Chevy Blazer driven by a couple with three children in tow. Inside, the officers discovered 24 pounds of marijuana-laced cookies and small hard candies shaped like gingerbread men, plus a tub of pungent marijuana butter perfect for making more.”

She goes on to say,

“The bags of Kraft marshmallows looked innocent enough. But a meat injector was also found in the car. After searching the Internet, Chief Jeffries realized that the marshmallows probably had been infused with the marijuana butter and heat-sealed into their bags.”

“‘This is the first time that we have ever seen marijuana butter or any of this candy containing marijuana in the county; we hope it’s the last time.’”

Well Chief Jefferies, I fear not. And is not just Tennessee, we’re looking at a major moral change on the entire American landscape when it comes to the issue of marijuana. And, as has been predicted, it’s not just the expansion state-by-state, it is also the radical expansion of the problem of how marijuana is going to be delivered – and in this case we’re talking about marijuana coming in the form of marshmallows and lollipops. As Saint Louis writes and I quote,

“Pot edibles, as they are called, can be much easier to smuggle than marijuana buds: They may resemble candy or home-baked goodies, and often have no telltale smell. And few police officers are trained to think of gummy bears, mints or neon-colored drinks as potential dope.

Some experts worry that smuggled pot edibles will appeal to many consumers, particularly adolescents, who are ill prepared for the deceptively slow high. Impatient novices can easily eat too much too fast, suffering anxiety attacks and symptoms resembling psychosis. Already, young children have eaten laced sweets left within reach.”

Now I’ve had conversation with parents, for instance in Colorado, who have seen their children and teenagers come across marijuana laced edibles even in the homes of neighbors – potentially even extended family – and this is a very dangerous development. But of course from the biblical worldview it points to how sin can never be localized and limited as proponents of marijuana legalization try to argue that it can be; it simply can’t be. And now you have the New York Times writing about something that took place in Lafollette, Tennessee, where you have police officers who are now all the sudden discovering that gummy bears might not just be gummy bears.

Later in the article Saint Louis also points to the fact that those who are trying to push the marijuana business are having to find new ways of expanding product lines and the edibles are the main way to do that. And of course you have the edibles that are now so easily transportable and in many cases, as this article makes clear, are actually laced with extremely potent forms of marijuana. Jonathan Caulkins, co-author of “Marijuana Legalization,” has been studying this for years and said,

“In a world where THC [that’s the active ingredient people are looking for in marijuana] becomes inexpensive, you would like to differentiate your product from other people’s products in ways that allow you to maintain a higher profit margin,”

Well the obvious is also true, they offer opportunities for all kinds of bad things to happen. It’s really interesting that you have law enforcement saying, ‘we’re not ready for this, we’re not ready to have to differentiate between a gummy bear that is just a gummy bear and a gummy bear that is dope,’ and if that problem is hard enough for law enforcement, how hard will it be for a 13-year-old? This is one of the problems that is unleashed by the legalization of marijuana, and as we have noted, this change in the moral landscape doesn’t come isolated from all others – this is part of the great transformation of American morality right before our eyes.

2) Use of energy drinks, ADHD drugs for productivity reveal redefinition of ‘normal’ energy

Next, in some ways an even more interesting story; this one made the front page of the Times. It is by Hillary Stout and it’s entitled, Selling The Young On ‘Gaming Fuel,’ and what this reporters writing about is the fact that the makers and marketers of energy drinks have found a new buying population: teenagers – especially teenage boys – who are involved in heavy video gaming. Stout writes,

“Two popular video gamers in black T-shirts posed as snipers wielding real semi-automatic guns at an outdoor range, blasting orbs of fruit and cups of deep orange liquid in ultra slow motion. ‘Introducing Blood Orange,’ announced a video of the spectacle.

“In the days afterward, online followers from hardcore gamers to middle-schoolers on Xboxes ordered tubs of the stuff, the latest flavor of a powdered energy drink called G Fuel that is marketed as a secret sauce to enhance focus and endurance for virtual battles.”

One cherub-faced YouTuber, named Michael according to the Times said,

“Oh, this is gonna taste so good!”

Even as his unmade bunk bed was visible in the background. Stout goes on to report,

“G Fuel and a competitor called GungHo are a new incarnation of energy drink, growing in popularity while the energy drink industry as a whole has been under scrutiny because of deaths and hospitalizations linked to consumption of caffeine- and sugar-laden beverages. Traditional energy drink makers have also been playing to the growing gamer culture in some labels — Mountain Dew Game Fuel (with extra doses of caffeine) and Nintendo Power Up Energy Drink.”

As Stout explains,

“The industry is tapping into the rock-star allure and young online fan base of ‘professional e-athletes,’ analysts say, with sponsorships of gaming competitions and players. Gamma Labs, the company selling G Fuel, heavily promotes a Call of Duty clan including those would-be snipers in the video ad.”

Stout then says,

“While major energy drink makers – including Red Bull, Rockstar and Monster – voluntarily agreed to stop marketing to children under 12 because of the adverse health effects publicly associated with them, a congressional report released this year excoriated those companies and others for continuing to target teenagers, whose brains and bodies are not yet fully developed.”

The marketers of these drinks are directing them to adolescents, calling them “brain energy” and “natural Adderall.” Again, this should be of concern to parents but one of the questions I think any Christian reading this article would have is, where are the parents in so many of the lives of these children and teenagers? Because after all the article reports,

“Last year a 14-year-old in Norway collapsed and fell into a coma after reportedly drinking four liters of energy drinks during a 16-hour Call of Duty party…”

On the other hand, the article indicates that there are some parents out there who are at least somewhat engaged and concerned about their children. It turns out that one 14-year-old discovered after he had spent AU$100 buying one of these powdered energy drinks that he had it confiscated by his father. One 13-year-old boy writing to the company itself on Twitter said,

“I’m a big fan, just wondering if you could send me some gfuel cus my parents won’t let me get some. I watch all you vids. Reply??”

The New York Times says there was no reply. It’s really interesting that the sole focus of this article is on the physiological effects of these kinds of energy drinks. There’s virtually no attention whatsoever to the larger effects of the gaming culture itself, even as the article registers concern that this gamer culture is reaching deeper and deeper into adolescence at younger and younger ages.

One boy using these products said,

“It makes me more focused while playing Call of Duty and I definitely see improvement, and it gives me very natural energy,”

He didn’t catch the irony of calling it a ‘natural energy’ after he just attributed it to a drink. Ethan York, a high school junior in Lancaster, California, said that drinking some of these products helped him improve his home run average significantly on an MLB baseball videogame he plays. He also lamented that these drinks are too expensive for him to consume regularly. But he did say this and I quote,

“It really feels like you have genuine energy, like you’ve just had a 30-minute-to-an-hour nap,”

But of course he didn’t have a 30 minute to an hour nap; instead he got this out of a bottle. And it’s very telling that it is becoming more and more routine for teenagers to think that the energy they need comes from a bottle. And there also redefining what normal is. That’s what’s really interesting here, because we’re looking at a redefinition of what normal energy and normal focus would look like. And the occasion of this is the intensity of a videogame and the experience of playing.

But next before we consider this just an issue of teenagers, the New York Times has also reported that it is adults not at younger ages but at older ages who are now showing up more routinely misusing pills, especially ADHD drugs, not in order to videogame but rather just in terms of their professional lives. Alan Schwarz writing for the Times quotes Kimberly Dennis, the medical director of Timberline Knolls, a substance-abuse treatment facility outside Chicago, who said,

“You’d see addiction in students, but it was pretty rare to see it in an adult, [speaking of the misuse of these ADHD drugs]”

She then went on to say,

“We are definitely seeing more than one year ago, more than two years ago, especially in the age range of 25 to 45,”

Again, when we were talking about teenagers we talked about the redefinition of normal energy, a redefinition of normal focus. You also see this when it comes to adults. One of the women quoted in the story, in this case in her late 20s said,

“It is necessary — necessary for survival of the best and the smartest and highest-achieving people,”

So now you have a proposed redefinition of normal in the workplace. Professional normal is now going to be defined by normal on drugs. As Schwarz said,

“…many young workers insist that using the drugs to increase productivity is on the rise — and that these are drugs used not to get high, but hired.”

The biggest increase in the use of these ADHD medications is now among adults aged 26 to 34 – where it almost doubled just in terms of the last four year period. In a sense of how this is transforming some workplaces, one employee said,

“It’s like this at most of the companies I know with driven young people — there’s a certain expectation of performance and if you don’t meet it, and I’m not really worried how, someone else will.”

It should be of concern to all of us that here we have a redefinition of the normal human experience, whether for a teenager or for an adult, in something that is chemically altered. Whether recognized or not this raises some of the deepest worldview issues of our consideration, what does it mean to be human? And how do we maximize what God has given us as our human potential? Do we maximize it by the use of some kind of natural means or do we turn to an external means? Whether it’s the form of an energy drink, or in this case the misuse of ADHD medications? In any event we’re watching a redefinition of the baseline of normal human performance; driven on the one hand by video games and on the other hand by professional pressures.

3) Addiction to porn and video games present crisis of masculinity, says pschologist

But next when it comes to boys and young men in America, one leading psychologists – one of the most are influential psychologists of recent American history – is warning of the end of masculinity and of the fact the boys and young men now face a crisis of pornography and videogame use. This isn’t coming from a Christian authority; it is coming from a professor emeritus at Stanford University. Psychologist Philip Zimbardo was saying that boys risk becoming addicted to porn, video games, and Ritalin. Stuart Jeffries, who is reporting on his new book first published in Great Britain, says,

“In the UK today, a young person is more likely to have a television in their bedroom than a father in their house by the end of their childhood. And even if fathers are around, their sons don’t engage with them much: boys spend 44 hours in front of a TV, smartphone or computer screen for every half hour in conversation with their fathers.”

Zimbardo’s book is not available in print yet in the United States, but it is making waves all over Great Britain where it has been published and the research applies to both sides of the Atlantic in terms of a crisis of masculinity when it comes to boys, teenagers, and young men. We’re looking at a very ominous set of developments and it should tell us something that hear you’re looking at one of most eminent psychologist and a secular university who is saying we have a huge problem. And he documents that problem very well.

His new book is entitled, “Man (Dis)connected: How Technology Has Sabotaged What It Means To Be Male.” He ask the basic question by the way, why do boys need fathers? And he answers that in a way that comes from a secular worldview but is embedded with a great deal of wisdom. He says that fathers offer children a different kind of love than mothers, and in his view, without the father’s influence especially on boys there is a very important missing element of expectation. He makes very clear that fathers have a set of expectations for boys that mothers in the main do not have. And that if you take that set of expectations out of the daily experience of boys in the household, then you face a crisis of masculinity and by any measure we’re already looking at the effects of this on both sides of the Atlantic.

Zimbardo and his co-author Nikita Coulombe argue that what’s happening in terms of the experience of boys simply isn’t happening with girls.

“They argue that, while girls are increasingly succeeding in the real world, boys are retreating into cyberspace, seeking online the security and validation they can’t get anywhere else.”

This is a truly devastating article.

“They are bored at school, increasingly have no father figures to motivate them, don’t have the skills to form real romantic relationships, feel entitled to have things done for them (usually by their parents) and seek to avoid a looming adulthood of debt, unfulfilling work and other irksome responsibilities. As a result, they disappear into their bedrooms where, he argues, they risk becoming addicted to porn, video games and Ritalin.”

In a very interesting turn Zimbardo ask why it’s boys who are retreating into this digital world rather more than girls. And according to the research, boys are more likely to retreat into cyberspace because as Zimbardo says,

“Boys have never been self-reflective. Boys are focused on doing and acting, girls are more focused on being and feeling. The new video-game world encourages doing and acting and not really thinking. Video games are not so attractive to girls.”

He also argues that the ready availability of so much pornography is simply distorting the lives of young men and boys because they are now bombarded with sexual stimulus without any narrative at all. There is no connection to a human being, there’s no requirement of romance, and there is no relationship. He argues about this toxic introduction, in his words, to human sexuality on the part of so many boys and he says,

“When you see 100,000 instances of it, it becomes the social norm.”

Zimbardo also warns that the entire world of pornography is going to be significantly changed with technological developments that are going to make it even more insidious in terms of its effect upon all its users, but in particular upon the young.

Reuters reporting on Zimbardo’s work says,

“For those who think online video games and porn are passive online activities that have no real consequences in the real world, take heed.”

Zimbardo argues that excessive solitary playing of video games and watching pornography is seriously damaging the social development of young men – that’s from the Reuters report. But Christians looking at this have to recognize it’s not possible that this is damaging only the social development of boys and young men – it is savagely affecting their moral development as well. So put all this together and consider the delay of marriage that is also marking the American scene and look at the fact that so many boys simply are not moving into adulthood and you can see a pattern.

Evidently this professor emeritus of psychology at Stanford University has seen a pattern. Back in 2011 he gave a widely distributed TED talk on the subject, and now he has expanded it into a book. As I said, it has been published in Britain, not yet in the United States. But it should indeed tell us something that here you have a secular psychologist, one of the most recognized in modern America, saying that the problem is that these things are now rewiring the brains of boys and young men.

The best research on this from a Christian worldview perspective has been brought about by William Struthers, a professor at Wheaton College near Chicago, in his book “Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain.” I wrote about this back in 2010 at and will put up the link to that article with today’s edition of The Briefing.

4) American culture now discouraging taking on adult responsibilities

Finally, just to note that some of these patterns are getting larger secular attention, writing in the Washington Post columnist George Will writes about, once again, the delay of males going into adulthood. He blames it on the larger culture but he also blames it on fact that this culture is increasingly honoring all the things that do not encourage young men to grow up and is discouraging the very things that would lead to adult responsibilities. He points out that many of the modern philosophies of child rearing do everything to try to protect children from actually growing up. He cites Mark Hemingway writing at The Federalist, who asked the question,

“You know what it’s called when kids make mistakes without adult supervision and have to wrestle with the resulting consequences? Growing up.”

He cites also David Pimentel of Ohio Northern University writing in the Utah Law Review who points out that even as right now children have never been safer, there are more regulators and bureaucrats and others who are trying to come around to say children have to be protected from growing up. In a section that should concern every parent George Will goes back to 1925 pointing out that the Supreme Court then affirmed the right of parents “to direct the upbringing and education of their children,” then he writes,

“Today, however, vague statutes that criminalize child ‘neglect’ or ‘endangerment’ undermine the social legitimacy of parental autonomy.”

He’s writing about one of the things that have now caught a lot of secular attention and that is so-called free range parenting, where parents are now finding themselves in trouble simply for letting kids play even in the front lawn or simply even just to walk to school. Will write that these new social expectations,

“ignore the reality that almost every decision a parent makes involves risks. Let your child ride a bike to school, or strap her into a car for the trip? Which child is more at risk, the sedentary one playing video games and risking obesity, or the one riding a bike?”

Finally, he quotes Penn State historian Gary Cross who says that adolescence is being redefined to extend well into the 20s and what he calls the clustering rights of passage into adulthood (marriage, childbearing, permanent employment), “has largely disappeared.” Cross writes that in 2011 almost a fifth of men between 25 and 34 still lived with their parents where many play video games – well there is that issue recurring again. So while we’re looking at the problem of teenagers and their video games and their energy drinks, George Will comes back to report that the average videogame player is a male, 30 years old. He warns that American males are now in the position of slouching in his words from adolescence to Social Security, skipping adulthood altogether.

Christian parents have to understand that it is one of our central responsibilities to help our children into and not away from the responsibilities of adulthood. Even as we are concerned about the effects of all these things on everyone’s children, our first responsibility is for our own.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For more information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to For information on Boyce College just go to

I hope you and your family have a wonderful Memorial Day and I’ll meet you again on Tuesday for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) Pot edible fad presents nationwide challenge police, parents, and even children

New Challenge for Police: Finding Pot in Lollipops and Marshmallows, New York Times (Catherine Saint Louis)

2) Use of energy drinks, ADHD drugs for productivity reveal redefinition of ‘normal’ energy

Selling the Young on ‘Gaming Fuel’, New York Times (Hilary Stout)

Workers Seeking Productivity in a Pill Are Abusing A.D.H.D. Drugs, New York Times (Alan Schwarz)

3) Addiction to porn and video games present crisis of masculinity, says psychologist

Psychologist Philip Zimbardo: ‘Boys risk becoming addicted to porn, video games and Ritalin’, The Guardian (Stuart Jeffries)

Porn and video game addicts risk ‘masculinity crisis,’ says Stanford professor, Reuters (Robert Galbraith)

Hijacking the Brain — How Pornography Works, (R. Albert Mohler)

4) American culture now discouraging taking on adult responsibilities

Punishing parents who deviate from the government-enforced norm, Washington Post (George Will)


R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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