The Briefing 11-04-15
Tags: 'Nones', Audio, Democrats, Illinois, Middle Class, School, Transgender
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Wednesday, November 4, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Yesterday was election day in much of the United States with governorships at stake in Kentucky and Mississippi and Louisiana with marijuana on the ballot in the state of Ohio, and with an equal rights ordinance, a nondiscrimination ordinance known as the bathroom ordinance at stake for voters in the city of Houston, Texas. We’re actually going to talk about the returns on those elections tomorrow because at this point we do not have adequate and comprehensive reports that would enable us to know exactly where this election is going. By later this morning, we should have that data, we’ll be talking about it tomorrow.
Illinois school rebuked by government for denying transgender unrestricted locker room access
In the meantime, big news came yesterday, on the front page of the Chicago Tribune and coming also in terms of major media, such as the New York Times. Duaa Eldeib, reporter for the Chicago Tribune tells us, Illinois largest high school district violated federal law by barring a transgender student from using the girls locker room. Federal authorities concluded this on Monday. The United States Department of Education’s office for civil rights spent nearly two years investigating palatine-based Township high school District 211 and found,
“A preponderance of evidence”
That school officials did not comply with Title IX that is the federal statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. This is a much larger story than may even at first appear. Because what’s actually at stake in this is something is going to reach eventually every school system and every community and it’s going to reach every family, it’s going to reach every neighborhood in terms of the expansion of the transgender revolution and we’re looking at a very significant intrusion, we’re looking at a very significant expansion of the transgender logic in this particular federal decision. What the Chicago Tribune tells us is that a young student who was born male but has identified for years as female has been allowed in this Chicago suburban school district to identify as a girl and be recognized as a girl, to have the name changed to that of a girl, has been allowed to use the girls restroom and to participate in girls athletics. But the entire issue came down to this, whether or not this student born male and still of course biologically male but identifying as a girl, would have unrestricted access to the girls locker room, including open changing areas and the United States Department of Education, its office for civil rights ruled yesterday after two years of investigation that the school district in Chicago, that is suburban Chicago, was going to have to allow this student, born male still of course biologically male, unrestricted access to the girls locker room, including common changing areas and shower areas.
Now to state the matter clearly here is the stunning reality, the United States Department of Education has now told this school district and of course the effect of this will not be limited to this one Chicago suburban school district, this is now nationwide in terms of its implications. The United States federal government has now ordered this school to allow a biological male, otherwise known as a boy, to have unrestricted access to the locker room for girls. This story is one that is going to get a lot of attention and it deserves a lot of attention and this points to something we’ve discussed so many times on The Briefing. The logic of the transgender revolution is like a universal acid. It’s like an acid that is so powerful it eats through the container that was meant to contain the acid. After eating through the container, it eats away at the table upon which the container was standing. After eating away the table, it eventually because of its power as an acid dissolves even the room in which the table was located. You continue the logic. That’s what has been set loose in the transgender revolution. There is no seeming stop to where the logic will now push and the internal moral contradictions of this movement are apparent as is the question of who is being protected and whose rights are now going to be respected. The word rights here, including the modern revolution and rights in which rights previously unknown and unknowable to human beings are now being enforced with the full power and authority of our federal bureaucracy and with the course of power that comes that federal government authority.
Here’s how the Chicago Tribune gives us the details,
“The student, who has identified as a girl for a number of years, filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights in late 2013 after she [you’ll note the pronoun she is being used here] was denied unrestricted access to the girls' locker room. District and federal officials negotiated for months, and a solution appeared imminent as recently as last week, when the district put up privacy curtains in the locker room.”
So let’s just pause here for moment. After two years of conversation this school district, said the way we’re going to solve this is not to bar this biological male from the girls locker room, but rather to put up privacy curtains and the school district was going to require this student to use those privacy curtains, but the federal government has said that requiring the student to use those curtains thus denying that student unrestricted access to the changing area and the showers was an infringement of the student’s constitutional rights. Daniel Cates, the superintendent of the school district there in Illinois, insists that his school district is complying with the law and with the Constitution and also with common sense. He said this,
“The students in our schools are teenagers, not adults, and one's gender is not the same as one's anatomy.”
He then went on to say this and just imagine how stunningly controversial these words are now given the logic of this moral revolution in 2015. Here’s what he said,
“Boys and girls are in separate locker rooms — where there are open changing areas and open shower facilities — for a reason.”
We need to face squarely what we are confronting here. We are confronting the logic of the transgender revolution that says that teenagers ought to have the right to declare themselves to actually identify with the opposite sex in terms of the biological sex with which they were born, the opposite gender and then to demand, and here’s the stunning new word, unrestricted access even to public changing areas in terms of the girls and boys locker room and the showers. Now let’s just state the obvious. This means that according to this federal dictate, this school district is supposed to allow in open changing areas and in the showers and the locker rooms, in the girls changing area and in the girls shower area to allow someone who was biologically male to have unrestricted access. Now even before you confront the issue of just what constitutes someone recognized as being transgender and that’s confronted in terms of this policy, even when you try to follow the logic of the transgender revolution where is this now going to lead? This is an absolutely unworkable situation. Just how many parents are going to allow 14-year-old daughters to be in a room naked and changing and showering with someone who is clearly biologically male? We’re not talking here about something that is merely a gender construct in terms of a social reality, we’re talking about physical space and we’re talking about physical realities and we’re talking about a federal government that yesterday said that a school that does not allow a transgender student to have unrestricted access to the changing room of his or her choice is a school that is out of compliance with Title IX and that will have not only financial consequences for the school. But as the article in the Chicago Tribune and the similar article in the New York Times makes clear, there will be further legal ramifications as well.
To state the matter just about as clearly as it can be stated, a school district like this in a city like Chicago that receives millions and millions of dollars that require federal affirmation, cannot survive being found out of compliance with Title IX and so this is not merely a question of funding, this is a huge issue of federal coercion and it has got the attention of many people in Chicago, it deserves the attention of everyone in this nation because the question is how is this logic going to play out? Now just a matter of some time ago, we were being asked where’s the harm in terms of this moral revolution? Where is anyone else’s rights being infringed upon in terms of this moral revolution? And here’s where we see exactly where someone else’s rights are now being infringed. What about the rights of these 14, 15, 16 year old girls not to have someone who is clearly biologically male changing right in front of them? David French writing at National Review points out the incongruity on this as I’ve described it, these are conflict in moral absolutes when he writes this,
“Let me get this straight — if the school district allowed someone to post pictures of a nude man in a classroom, that would be blocked as sexual harassment, but if a nude boy changes next to women in a locker room, that’s equality? Apparently so [according to our Federal Government].”
David French then cites a statement from the ACLU that stated,
“What our client wants is not hard to understand: She wants to be accepted for who she is and to be treated with dignity and respect — like any other student.”
That was said by John Knight, the director of the L.G.B.T. and H.I.V. Project of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, who was as attorney representing the student.
He went on to say,
“The district’s insistence on separating my client from other students is blatant discrimination. Rather than approaching this issue with sensitivity and dignity, the district has attempted to justify its conduct by challenging my client’s identity as a girl.”
Now let’s just imagine the leap of logic that is behind that statement. Here you have the ACLU attorney, saying that it is the district that is being blatantly insensitive and is denying human dignity by suggesting that the student is not a girl. Then David French writes,
“Identity as a girl?” This poor kid doesn’t have a chance. He’s surrounded by people who are indulging his mental challenges, lying to him — as social-justice warriors do — for the sake of a sexual revolutionary ideology so radical that it now even trumps the rights of girls to be free from involuntary exposure to male nudity at school. This won’t end well for the boy, for the girls in the school, or for the use of the law as a rational instrument of justice.”
That’s a profoundly accurate sentence, but we need to work backwards. First of all, he mentions the use of the law as a rational instrument of justice – that’s now how the law is being used here. The law is now being used as a blatant and very crude instrument of moral revolution. He then backs up and says it won’t end well for the boy or for the girls at the school and note those are categories that every previous generation of humanity understood, boys and girls, and now we’re being told that these categories are merely gender constructs and that they can be changed in terms of one’s perceived gender identity, but that doesn’t change what’s going to happen in the locker room when the students are not clothed, but rather changing. It’s not going to change the reality that is going to be all too apparent in the shower; it’s not going to change the reality in terms of the molecular identity of this child. It is not going to change the reality in terms of the skeletal structure that identifies this student as a male, no matter what legal issues may ensue, no matter what kind of radical theory may apply this is still a boy and not a girl.
But before leaving this issue we have to recognize how front and center this must be in the 2016 presidential race, because as we have two opposing candidates eventually representing the two parties, this is going to be an issue that will be and must be at the center of public debate and of citizens making decisions about the vote. Because it is virtually certain that it is impossible for the Democratic nominee not to support the entirety of this moral revolution, including this decision made by the Obama Administration’s Department of Education. It’s almost equally inconceivable to believe that a Republican presidential nominee would not oppose these very directives and remember, this comes from the administration. It all comes down to who serves as president of the United States and if nothing else, this story that comes from a suburban Chicago school district and, frankly, where Ground Zero is the girls locker room in one single high school, it illustrates what’s at stake on a far broader and more comprehensive landscape as the nation thinks of its decisions made in the upcoming election.
Rise of white, middle-age deaths in US reflects consequences of moral behaviors
Next, yesterday’s editions of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and many other newspapers in this country had a front-page story. The headline in the Times was,
“Rise in deaths for U.S. whites in middle-age.”
Headline in the Wall Street Journal,
“The Death Rate Is Rising for Middle-Aged Whites.”
And that’s a stunning thing after decades of death rates falling, especially among white middle-aged adults in the United States, those death rates have begun to rise. That is a stunning reversal and it demands very close attention and it is a stunning discovery, stunning because it just has been made clear because the statistics have been amply and comprehensively reviewed by two economists, one of them, Angus Deaton, the Princeton economist who just a matter of days ago, won the Nobel Prize in economics. Angus Deaton, along with his wife Anne Case, conducted a study in which they were looking at several statistics and something they weren’t even looking for left out of them and that was this unexpected rise in death rates among middle-class whites.
Now the attention being given to the story in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times and elsewhere is about just what this tells us about our society and it’s really interesting that they get to something of shared common importance and that is that this rise in death rates is really due to behavior and to specific behaviors, to the behavior of misusing drugs and alcohol, and especially prescription drugs that is what makes this particularly a middle-class problem and furthermore, largely a middle-class white problem. Reporting for the Journal, Betsy McKay tells us,
“White, middle-aged Americans are dying at a rising rate, a new study shows, a startling reversal that suggests addiction and mental-health issues are setting back decades of gains in longevity.”
It turns out that the one other issue that has to be added to alcohol abuse and drug overdoses is suicide, suicide rates among white middle-class Americans have risen so significantly that they have affected the overall death rate. As McKay writes,
“Suicide, alcohol abuse, drug overdoses and chronic liver diseases,”
Those by the way are tied to the previous two, drugs and alcohol use. She goes on to say,
“They largely drove the rise, which occurred between 1999 and 2013, according to the report published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Those causes of death offset declines in other major drivers of mortality in midlife, such as lung cancer.”
The New York Times article cited Samuel Preston, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on mortality trends. His one word response was,
He went on to say,
“This is a vivid indication that something is awry in these American households.”
Just think about that in moral terms. Here you have a sociologist responding to a study undertaken by two economists and the lesson is inherently moral. And it has to do with the family. Again, Professor Preston said,
“This is a vivid indication that something is awry in these American households.”
The Wall Street Journal story adds that no other rich country, that is no other advanced Western democracy has seen a similar reversal and the trend is at odds with other falling death rates, including those for minorities, and including, of course, deaths, even among middle-class whites having to do with cancer, heart disease and other diseases.
The New York Times article concluded by citing Ronald D. Lee, professor of economics, professor of demography and director of the Center on Economics and Demography of Aging at the University of California, Berkeley, he was radically taken aback by this new data. And then he said,
“Seldom have I felt as affected by a paper. It seems so sad.”
Now, here you have some amazing statements found in the New York Times and in the Wall Street Journal in which matters economic, sociological, demographic, political are instantly translated into moral terms and operating from a Christian biblical worldview, we understand why. This is an appropriate human response. The most appropriate response to this is sadness and grief and shock and the understanding that something has gone wrong as the sociologist said, something is awry in these households. But the other thing we need to note is that this stunning reversal in the decline of death rates, now even an increase in death rates is tied to behavior, tied to inherently moral issues. We’re not talking about diseases that have come from without us by virus or malignancy, we’re not talking even about accidents, we’re talking about behaviors, we’re talking about drug abuse, in particular prescription drug abuse, we’re talking about alcohol abuse, those leading to skyrocketing rates of death in terms of liver damage and liver disease and we’re also talking about suicide, we’re talking about behavioral issues. This is very, very, very sad. And, indeed that’s how that sociologist ended the story the New York Times. It is very, very, very sad. It’s also very revealing because this tells us that in an America in which there are such advances in health and in healthcare, in which there are abundant medical miracles as we call them in terms of new treatments, antibiotics and all the rest. The one thing that modern medicine can’t eliminate is the problem of sin as it comes out in issues of behavior and something is behind this, something is going on in this country and in our households that will help to explain this and again Christians understand something urgently and immediately and that is that when we’re looking at the statistics about the breakdown of marriage and the breakdown of the family, when we’re looking at skyrocketing rates of loneliness and when we see all kinds of these pathologies translated into self-destructive behaviors, we come to understand there’s something behind this and it’s not just a medical problem, it’s not even just a moral problem. It is deeply a spiritual problem.
What’s really important to recognize is not only that the study appeared and that it has shocked so many social scientists, economists and politicians. Not only that it appeared on the front page of both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, but that in both of these news stories, the moral point was immediately understood and the sadness immediately followed. And before leaving this, let’s recognize once again, what’s not really in question here. This is not about economic deprivation; these are middle-class whites. These are not people who are facing economic insecurity, these are people who are facing other issues, deeply moral issues and as is made abundantly clear in this article, deeply spiritual issues as well.
'Nones' supplant Catholics as largest group in Democratic Party
Finally, the Pew Research Center is out with another massive report on America’s religious landscape, we’ll be looking more closely at various dimensions of this report. But what’s worthy of note today is that the Wall Street Journal yesterday ran a headline,
“Religious ‘Nones’ [that’s N-O-N-E-S, no religious affiliation] Multiply in Both U.S. Political Parties.”
That headline isn’t wrong, it’s just not exactly right. Because it’s not just that the religious nones are now multiplying in politics, but that as the blockbuster first paragraph of the story tells us,
“Americans with no religious affiliation have supplanted Catholics as the largest such group in the Democratic Party, according to a new Pew Research study set to be released on Tuesday.”
In the Democratic Party heretofore Catholics have been the largest single identifiable religious group and now they still hold 21 percent of the party as of 2014. But the nones, that is the seculars with no religious affiliation, according to this new study they now represent 28 percent of Democrats and those identified as Democratic leaning adults. That’s a noteworthy development in and of itself, but it also tells us about how the worldview held by many Americans is changing and how that worldview change eventually leads to political change as well. Now, recent studies undertaken by people such as Robert Putnam at Harvard University have indicated that the greatest criterion in order to predict an individual’s vote in terms of liberal or conservative, Democratic even or Republican, is whether or not that individual attended worship the previous week before the election. It turns out that religious identity and not only that, religious involvement are the clearest predictor of worldview and the clearest predictor of political choice in terms of even the partisan divide in the United States.
The Democratic Party has been trending secular recent years, but this is a really noteworthy development. We’re talking about seculars, the nones, no religious affiliation whatsoever, now becoming the largest single identifiable religious group in the Democratic Party’s constituency. When we think about the political future the United States, we need to recognize that this worldview divide is apparently growing and not shrinking, and that has all kinds of implications for our national politics, but it also means that as we try to understand these things from a worldview perspective it’s becoming easier in one sense, because studies like this are helping us to understand why the divide appears as wide as it does and that’s because as the study makes clear, the divide is as wide as it is. And the other interesting thing to note finally is how religion enters the picture, and enters the picture so decisively and that gets back to the issue we discussed over and over again, even in a very secular age, theology matters. Even in a story about secular people, theology finds its way in and Christians understand why. And we also understand why even more is at stake than the Pew Research Center and Wall Street Journal yet understand.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information go to my website at AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to BoyceCollege.com.
I’ll meet you tomorrow for The Briefing.