The Briefing 11-06-15

The Briefing 11-06-15

The Briefing

November 6, 2015

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

It’s Friday, November 6, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Cultural confusion over transgender movement now focused on transgender bathroom access


In the aftermath of Tuesday’s election, especially in Houston, Texas there are some big issues for us to think about not only in terms of what happened, but in terms of the cultural response. And oddly enough there are three words that are absolutely essential to what’s happening in the cultural conversation right now and those three words are bathrooms, hate and fear. We’ll take them in that order.

First of all, bathrooms. The New York Times ran an article yesterday, the headline,

“In All-Gender Restrooms, the Signs Reflect the Times.”

Aimee Lee Ball writes about the Whitney Museum of American Art moving to a new location. and as it was preparing it had hosted a discussion about what it means for a museum to be a safe and welcoming space. The next line is,

“Providing restrooms for everyone on the gender spectrum was near the top of the list.”

The director of accessing committee programs for the museum said,

“We invited artists of all gender identifications in and we heard loud and clear that it was something they really needed access to. Rather than being euphemistic, we decided to be direct.”

So all bathrooms in this new Museum are titled all gender restrooms. This article in the New York Times indicates that even amongst those who are committed to the transgender revolution it’s not exactly clear what to do with bathrooms. As the New York Times article says,

“Schools and universities (including Johns Hopkins and Michigan State), museums (like the American Folk Art Museum in New York City and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City), restaurants both trendy and modest (such as the Pass & Provisions in Houston and the Midtown Cafe in Santa Cruz, Calif.) and even the White House (in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building) are recasting the traditional men’s/women’s room, resulting in a dizzying range of (often creative) signage and vocabulary.”

Now let’s back away from the New York Times story for a moment and consider what’s at stake. What we’re looking at here is that the culture war and the cultural confusion, the moral revolution has now reached the bathroom and the big issue here is not really about plumbing, oddly enough, this vast change is coming with ramifications for plumbing and particularly for bathrooms and the question is, who uses which bathroom? Who has the right to which restroom? Who decides how this new bathroom regime is supposed to take shape and what’s supposed to happen or not happen? One of the very interesting things about this article is the fact that there is no unanimity about what to do if bathrooms aren’t single user bathrooms. If they are single-user bathrooms than a gender identification really isn’t all that important. But the article is clear that once you get into a common bathroom space, well that’s a very different question. And that’s especially a very different question when it comes to younger people, in particular children and teenagers.

Now the New York Times is on something of a role on articles on bathrooms because in the last several days it has run a series of articles about bathrooms and about how bathrooms are playing into the particular controversies having to do with the transgender revolution. Here’s an article that appeared on Wednesday,

“As Transgender Students Make Gains, Schools Hesitate at Bathrooms.”

This article by Julie Bosman and Motoko Rich takes us to that suburban Chicago school district that we discussed earlier this week. That’s the school district where the Obama Administration has served notice that the district must allow a transgender teenager, this is a biological male to have unrestricted access to the common changing areas and to the showers in a girl’s locker room in the high school and that has led to an enormous national controversy and we would understand for good reason. But as these two reporters make clear, one of the interesting things about the situation in Chicago is that even people who have signed on to the transgender revolution didn’t sign on to it to the degree that they’re ready for 14-year-old girls to be confronted by 14-year-old biological males identifying as girls in the high school locker room and changing area. When you think about it, we come to the oddest place in America’s moral life where issues of who goes to which bathroom are all the sudden the matter of cultural controversy and if the transgender revolution progresses of inevitable moral controversy.

You have statements such as that may by Thad Ballard, he is the president of the Elko County school board in northeast Nevada, he told the New York Times,

“I think it’s an issue that people are thinking about a lot.”

Now let me just back off for a minute and say, let’s consider the fact that no previous generation of humans living evidently had to worry about who uses which bathroom. This is an entirely new cultural controversy and then we get to his further statement when he said,

“When has it ever been appropriate for a biological boy or a biological girl to be in the opposite restroom of their gender?”

He continued,

“We’re all trying to think of the best way to protect the rights of all of our students, whether they’re transgender or not.”

Now what’s really interesting about that is that he had to put the word biological in front of the words boy and girl, because otherwise those words are simply no longer definitive categories and that’s the inevitable moral results of the transgender revolution. But as I said, the New York Times has been on something of a role when it comes articles on bathrooms because that what has to do with bathrooms in a high school that appeared on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the very same newspaper on the very next day ran another story on bathrooms, this one on the front page with the headline,

“Houston rights laws undoing the bathroom.”

This story harkens back to Tuesday’s vote in Houston, where citizens of that city by an unexpected margin turned back what was billed as a nondiscrimination ordinance and did so over against cultural pressure and did so with the issue of bathrooms being front and center in that controversy and cultural conversation. As reporters Manny Fernandez and Alan Blinder report, the issue of bathrooms became front and center precisely because in an early version of the ordinance there was an explicit statement that was very clear that citizens who identify as transgender can use any bathroom they so wish. And yet, what’s not so clear in the article but is clear in the controversy is that even as some of that language was changed the effect of the ordinance would remain the same. And that’s why opponents of the ordinance pushing for its repeal and again it was successful by roughly 60-40 vote they were able to say that the bathroom issue was all that important and evidently to the citizens of Houston it turned out to be. But that’s one of the most interesting aspects of this, here you have the most influential newspaper in the United States talking about bathrooms, day after day after day, in a controversy that would’ve been inconceivable just a matter of a generation ago, but is now inevitable. Inevitable because the meltdown over the issue of gender identity that comes with the LGBT revolution eventually can’t make much progress until the bathroom issue is solved. And that’s where we see the kind of government coercion coming from the Obama Administration in Chicago and we also see the kind of pushback coming from the citizens of Houston.

But the word bathroom is the first of three words here. The second word is hate. That gets to an editorial that ran yesterday in the New York Times in which the editors of that newspaper lamented the fact that the citizens of Houston had turned down this ordinance that is that they repealed it and they did so by explaining that the only rationale behind the vote of those citizens could have been hate. The headline of the editorial reads,

“In Houston, Hate Trumped Fairness.”

That’s a very alarming headline, but the opening sentence in the editorial is even more alarming and alarmist. This is what they wrote,

“Sometime in the near future, a transgender teenager in Texas will attempt suicide — and maybe succeed — because vilifying people for their gender identity remains politically acceptable in America.”

Now what could explain that kind of alarmist language? It was the decision by citizens of Houston to repeal that ordinance that would after all have gotten to the issue of bathrooms. But what we need to note in this case is that word hate. It’s in the headline of this editorial and it’s in every paragraph of what the editors are presenting as their moral argument. They are arguing that the only possible reason why anyone would resist the logic of the transgender movement is hate.

Now what’s really important in that is not so much that they made the argument, but that for all intents and purposes we must assume they believe it. In other words, they have so bought into the LGBT revolutionary logic that it is inconceivable to them that there could be any other logic. It’s inconceivable to them that someone could be operating out of a different worldview. A worldview based in a knowledge of male and female as gifts of God in creation to human beings in terms of the goodness of gender as one of God’s gifts to his human creatures. Now what we need to note is that that represents virtually every single human being who ever lived until very modern times and in some very modern places. That is to say, only in societies that are marked by moral hyper modernity, such as the United States, particularly places like Manhattan where no doubt the editorial board of the New York Times finds moral anchorage.

But we also need to recognize that this is an attempt to marginalize all opposition to the totalizing logic of the LGBT revolution, an attempt to make anyone who opposes the LGBT agenda as simply driven by hate and irrationality. Indeed in this article, there is the explicit parallel drawn between what voters did in Houston and the old Jim Crow system of racial segregation. And again, what’s really striking is not that someone would make that argument, but that they would believe it and there’s no reason to believe the editors of the New York Times don’t believe what they’re saying here. But we also need to recognize that this represents one of the walls that those who are pushing this moral revolution are now hitting and that is the fact that when you put an issue like this before the voting public, the voting public doesn’t follow necessarily and in many cases such as in Houston by a decisive margin the moral dictates of the cultural elites and that’s driving the elites crazy. And what you also need to note is that virtually anyone who lived in any previous generation is being identified here as driven by hate, in terms of an understanding of sexuality and gender, and most of the people living in the world right now are now being identified as driven by hate in terms of their worldview and assumptions of gender and sexuality. And let’s not stop there, this means that the editors of the New York Times, clearly believe that their fellow Americans by the untold millions are driven only by hate because they dared to disagree with the moral dictates of the editorial board of the New York Times. But we also need to note very carefully how the word hate applies here and how it functions in this moral discourse. It is the only explanation on the part of many driving this revolution of why anyone might oppose their demands.

The third word of our consideration today is fear, because that is the twin to hate. And in the response to the vote in Houston the word fear came up again and again, most significantly from the Mayor of Houston herself, Annise Parker, the first openly gay Mayor of a major American city. It was her drive with the city Council that led to the passage of this ordinance in 2014 and it was her attempts to actually subpoena the sermons of evangelical pastors that led to one of the nation’s most significant religious liberty crises of recent times. But in response to the fact that the ordinance was repealed by such a decisive vote in Houston, the Mayor said this,

“This was a campaign of fear mongerings and deliberate lies.”

She was never really clear in the statement about what the lies were and that’s because they weren’t really able to point to anything said in terms of the bathroom logic, for example, as being untrue. It was just inconvenient for the supporters of the ordinance. But one of the very interesting things here is the use of the word fear mongering and that word fear. This is the other argument we’re now confronting in the culture. Those who say that the only reason why anyone would not go along with these proposals is either hate or fear. The fear of the other, the fear of those who are involved in same-sex relationships or have a same-sex sexual orientation or the fear of those who are struggling with transgender issues and furthermore, the fear of those who are now demanding to have access, unrestricted access for a 14-year-old biological male to the shower room and changing areas currently populated by 14-year-old biological females. The use of the word hate and the use of the word fear, those are the two twins that are now being used in moral argument and this is another way of trying to dismiss anyone who opposes the whole LGBT revolution as being driven by either hatred or fear. That is the only way many people are either able or willing to conceive of the reality. But let’s look at this again, just as with the word hate, this means that the people who are pushing this argument really have to imply, if not to state openly that at least there is the risk that the vast majority of Americans, not to mention the vast majority of people on earth are evidently marked by the same fear.

What we’re looking at here are moral arguments we need to understand clearly and we need to confront in terms of honesty. The use of these two words is a major mechanism of trying to shut down the argument, and of trying to lead people who would oppose the LGBT revolution to simply be silent and to acquiesce, but what we’re looking at here is a great challenge for Christians who are called to truth telling and that truth telling means not only stating what we believe, but as the New Testament tells us also, being ready to give an answer, being ready to give an argument for why opposition to the sexual revolution isn’t driven by hatred and isn’t driven by fear, but is driven by a love of God and love of neighbor which is Christ’s command. The way these three words are functioning just this week in our nation’s moral vocabulary is a signal of what we’re up against in terms of the cultural challenge. But the real test for the Christian church is whether we are up to this challenge, whether we are ready to tell the truth even when people call it hateful or fearful if we’re willing to tell the truth because we know it is neither. It is actually driven by concern for our neighbor, even as we know how we should be concerned for our neighbor by our love of God, which is first and primary.


Part II

Parental busyness used as reason for institutionalizing day care, less time with parents


Next, there is no doubt that we are experiencing massive changes in family life and evidence of that has come in articles based in a study and the articles have appeared at the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post and just about everywhere else and it’s based upon a study that was recently undertaken by the Pew Research Center about modern families and modern family life and the stresses faced by so many modern families in terms especially of the two-parent family, in which both of the parents are working. Now, sometimes it’s interesting to find out what other people think will be interesting, and that’s especially true when a major study like this comes out and you find out what the press does with it, because this tells us this is where the press thinks the interesting parts really are to be found. Sometimes when you look at the study the even more interesting parts aren’t in the story, they are in the news media coverage. But there is something really interesting here, in the article for instance that appeared in the New York Times by Claire Cain Miller begins by telling us,

“Much more likely than not to grow up in a household in which their parents work, and in nearly half of all two-parent families today, both parents work full time, a sharp increase from previous decades.”

Now let’s just telescope from this article for moment. How in the world can it be new that a majority of children are growing up in a home where parents are working? As a matter fact, that can’t be new, the new has to be found somewhere else. And the new was found in this particular paragraph by telling us that what’s new is that half of all children currently being raised in two-parent families are being raised in two-parent families where both of the parents are employed full-time. Okay, well, that’s a little bit different, but it does tell us about a major transformation in the way that many families are operating. It tells us about the financial pressures faced by many families and it tells us also about the stresses that are then translated into the life of the family and especially in the process of parenting and child rearing. But the article also tells us a very great deal about the limitations of social policy at any level resolving this kind of issue. For example, the New York Times article says,

“The data are the latest to show that while family structure seems to have permanently changed, public policy, workplace structure and mores have not seemed to adjust to a norm in which both parents work.”

Now oddly enough, the response to this in terms of policy, as is found in the New York Times is the suggestion that the response to this should be more parental leave, especially with newborn children and child care for afterschool time. Now, one of the things that should concern us in this sense is that that is actually institutionalizing less time with parents, at least in terms of the afterschool care and what we’re also looking at is the fact that when the family begins to be weakened something else has to step in and that something else is almost always the government. And when the government steps in in something like this, it is always clumsy and inefficient or sometimes even worse. Now as we’ve reminded ourselves from time to time, the issue here is the Christian doctrine of subsidiarity. A doctrine that reminds us that in the doctrine of creation God has given us at the smallest level the most important relationships, which is to say a relationship between a husband and a wife and parents and children is far more important than the relationship between a citizen and the government. And furthermore, subsidiarity reminds us that if the institution writ small, that is marriage and the family are weakened, the larger society can’t possibly make up for that weakness. It might do something to help in a small way, but to put the matter is clearly as I know, no government can raise a child the way only a parent can.

There are some other interesting materials in this article, including the fact that moms don’t think dads are doing as much as dads think they’re doing in terms of time with kids and work in the household, but there’s something else that’s also very revealing in the article that appeared both in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times and furthermore in the Washington Post and elsewhere. The insinuation in most of these articles is that it really doesn’t matter if it’s a mom or a dad in certain functions in the home and that’s something that appears to be defied not only by moms and dads, but also by children who continue to think there’s some difference between moms and dads.

Part III

Child and teen overuse of technology cutting even into sleep


But finally, there was another study that was released this week and it also has important ramifications for Christian families. This one is reported by Matthew Diebel of USA Today, it’s a new report released by Common Sense Media, that’s a San Francisco-based nonprofit group that tracks children and their technology use and there’s some astounding five-year update data in terms of the report that was issued this week. Common Sense data tells us that the average teenager between the ages of 13 and 18 spends almost 9 hours a day on entertainment media, which according to this study includes things such as checking social media, music, gaming or online videos and then comes the statement,

“And that’s not including time spent using media for school or homework.”

Now amongst the very important insights in the study is the fact that teenagers believe multitasking is just normal and as the article says, they are absolutely insistent that multitasking sometimes with four or five platforms and devices simultaneously doesn’t affect their study time or their homework. At least USA Today is honest enough to say that flies in the face of all available research and perhaps even their report cards. There’s some material in the study that will not shock you, such as the fact that adolescent boys are far more likely to be involved in extensive gaming than adolescent girls and adolescent girls are more likely to be involved in extensive social media, interaction with relationships. That’s not going to astound you if you’ve ever met an adolescent boy or an adolescent girl, much less been one. But what is also astounding and concerning in this report is that not only is study time and reading time, not only are they being marginalized by the digital lives of teenagers and children today. But perhaps more importantly and with very long-term implications, sleep time is being marginalized as well.

As a matter of fact, the headline in the USA Today article is this,

“Multitasking teenagers pick texting over sleeping.”

I took a look at the study and there is another interesting insight and that is that teenagers as it turns out are very much unable, by and large, to limit themselves when it comes to the use of digital media and by the way, let’s not throw teenagers under the bus. How many adults are really good at that either? But one of the take homes in this article is that if there is going to be any change to this pattern it’s going to have to come from parents who actually parent and involve themselves understanding that digital media is not just a reality all around us, it’s a threat. A threat in the sense that multitasking teenagers are choosing texting over sleep and there is not going to be much credibility for parents to deal with this if the parents are making the same choices.


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I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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