The Briefing 06-23-17
Tags: Audio, Childhood, Gay Pride, LGBT, Sexual Orientation
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Friday, June 23, 2017. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
The history of "Born this way" and why the LGBT movement is phasing it out as a slogan
You’ve heard the narrative, virtually everyone in this country has heard the narrative. The story has been told over and over again. It’s been driven throughout the culture pervasively in its depths and in its breath, and the story has been extremely effective. I’m talking about the story of sexual orientation. This is a story that’s been driven by Hollywood. It’s been driven by academia. The story comes down to this: the new story of sexual identity and of sexual orientation in this society. We are told that we are simply born the way we are. We are born with a fixed sexual orientation. Now there’s a story behind the story. But before we get to that, let’s talk about the story that landed on the front page of USA Today this past week.
The article’s by reporter Alia E. Dastagir. The headline,
“‘Born this way?’ Sexuality not that simple”
“Some people resist the notion of being gay from the first day.”
“‘Born this way’” has been the rallying cry of the mainstream gay rights movement, a simple slogan cited as the basis for both political change and cultural acceptance…. Getting America to believe that people are born gay — that it’s not something that can be chosen or ever changed — has been central to the fight for gay rights.”
The ‘born this way’ mantra, a ubiquitous part of the pride celebrations taking place this month, doesn’t reflect the feelings of all members of the LGBTQ movement. Some argue that it excludes those who feel their sexuality is fluid, while others, she writes, question “why the dignity of gay people should rest on the notion that they were gay from their very first breath.”
So USA Today now runs a front-page story telling us that the story has changed, the story that USA Today amongst virtually all others in the mainstream media have been telling us over and over and over again. What makes this story particularly important is that USA Today understands the political and cultural importance of that story and of the fact that a change in the story is pretty significant. USA Today’s lead paragraph tells us that the idea that persons are born gay is what was driving the energy and the moral rhetoric of the gay-rights movement that, as we know now, was so stunningly successful. In my book on these issues and the Christian understanding of these issues, We Cannot be Silent, I make reference to a book I discovered on the “new book” table of a major bookstore back in 1989. The book was entitled,
“After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90's.”
We know now that that book was the most effective public relations strategy for the gay-rights movement, and it was then known as the gay-rights movement. It hadn’t expanded in the ways now reflected in terms of the initials LGBTQ and that expanding number of consonants. But we also need to look at the fact that this book written by Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen was not only an argument for how the gay-rights movement should make its case, it’s actually in retrospect exactly how the movement did make its case. In chapter after chapter, Kirk and Madsen indicated how the gay-rights movement would have to change its argument and therefore change the story that Americans understood about the morality of sexual behavior and the origins and the very existence of the idea of sexual orientation.
Back in their book, they argued that homosexuals would advance their cause by arguing explicitly that they were born that way. They offered very candid public relations advice. And, by the way, the authors were public relations consultants. That’s not an accident. They wrote, and I quote, remember this book was published in 1989,
“We argue that, for all practical purposes, gays should be considered to have been born gay–even though sexual orientation, for most humans,” they concede, “seems to be the product of a complex interaction between innate predispositions and environmental factors during childhood and early adolescence.”
So it’s interesting to note that these two authors even back in 1989 acknowledged that sexual orientation was more complex than the arguments that the gay activists would make, and that’s even how they refer to themselves. They went on to write very explicitly,
“To suggest in public that homosexuality might be chosen is to open the can of worms labeled ‘moral choices and sin’ and give the religious intransigents a stick to beat us with. Straights must be taught that it is as natural for some persons to be homosexual as it is for others to be heterosexual: wickedness and seduction have nothing to do with it.”
That tells you something about the intellectual and cultural conversation on these issues back in the end of the 1980s, but one of the things that this book makes very clear is that the vast majority of Americans had not even heard of the idea of sexual orientations even by the year 1989. But they would hear about it a great deal thereafter, and the argument that would be put forth not only those who identified as part of what they then called the gay-rights movement, but by the cultural elites in terms of academia Hollywood, the totality of entertainment, the mass media. They all told the story over and over again.
Now as Christians think about this, even before we look further at the USA Today article, we have to come to understand that there is something to the category of sexual orientation. There’s something to the understanding that most human beings, most adults and adolescents, simply don’t know where some of their own sexual thoughts and inclinations may come from. But one of the things that we also know is that there’s been a concerted effort to try to argue that it is basically innate, it’s predetermined, it’s probably biological or genetic, and in any sense it is supposed to remove the entire category of morality from the entire discussion. That’s the stunningly successful part of the fact that they told the story over and over again, that the story was driven so deeply and widely throughout the entire culture.
But we’re talking about this issue today not so much to look backwards, but to look at the present and forward. What we’re looking at today is the fact that the newspaper USA Today understands that this story is changing, that the very people who were telling the story and driving the story are now changing the story, and USA Today is right. That is significant.
The article continues by citing Jane Ward, a professor of gender studies at the University of California at Riverside. She said,
“There are a lot of lesbians who subscribe to the ‘born this way’ narrative, in part because it's become almost an obligatory story. If you support gay rights then you have to believe that.”
But she goes on to say,
“There's now almost 50 years of scholarship on how people come to understand their queerness.”
That’s the word she uses. And for some people, it’s something they claim ownership of over time. The USA Today article then goes on to say it’s not a hard choice between “born this way” or “I chose this way.” They cite research published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest in which we are told researchers wrote that,
“Whether sexual orientation is a choice is a poor phrase for advancing our understanding of sexuality. We choose our actions,” according to the researchers, “not our feelings.”
But the fact that the story has been told and that the story is being revised comes down to this statement in the USA Today article,
“The story we've long been told is that a combination of genes (such as xx or xy chromosomes) and early exposure to sex hormones (such as testosterone or estrogen) make us who we are. They influence the formation of ‘male brains’ and ‘female brains,’ and that same process, it’s been said, also shapes ‘gay brains’ and ‘straight brains.’… biological factors,” according to this story, “drive our sexual desires, our personalities, what toys we play with as children, what jobs we choose when we become adults.… Gay and straight. Male and female. We’re just wired differently.”
Then Dastagir writes,
“As the patchwork of studies that make up this story receive more and more scrutiny, holes appear.”
So the story that we were told is the real story of human sexuality and especially sexual orientation is now a story that USA Today tells us, and we note tells us now, is full of holes. By the way it’s really interesting to note that the holes in the story are being pointed out by researchers who were largely making the new arguments that the LGBTQ movement is making. These arguments include the fact that there are many who don’t want to say they were born this way, who actually want to champion a certain form of personal autonomy, to make very clear that they did not merely find this sexual orientation imposed upon them. They very willingly and gladly identify in terms of the sexual orientation they now claim.
And also there is the new issue of fluidity. This was explicitly identified as heresy in the story that was told by the gay-rights activists in the 1990s and beyond. But that heresy has now become something of a new orthodoxy and that has become very, very evident once again in the expanding consonants that make up the LGBTQ movement.
There are several observations from a Christian biblical worldview that are really important here. As I said earlier, there’s no reason for Christians committed to that biblical worldview to deny the existence of something like sexual orientation. But there’s every reason for Christians to understand that this cannot be merely a matter of some kind of biological determinism. The Scripture doesn’t speak of us that way. Rather, the Scripture speaks of the totality of everything that makes us a human individual of being affected by and essentially corrupted by sin. And that corruption is going to show up in many different ways. It’s going to show up in the fact that there will not be a single human being who will stand on the day of judgment without sin. And that means in terms of humanity’s sexual sin as well.
A second thing Christians have to understand is that there is absolutely no biblical category whatsoever for arguing that our sexual behavior is in any way determined by factors outside of ourselves, that human sexual behavior is something that the Scripture makes very clear is our personal responsibility. Thirdly, there is no rationale in Scripture whatsoever, there’s no room in Scripture at all for arguing that somehow we can claim a sexual orientation that can be in conflict with the clear teachings of Scripture.
The biblical worldview can certainly accommodate and understand the claim that every single human being north of puberty experiences sexual impulses that are unbidden. They are uninvited. But the Christian biblical worldview having understood that that’s the reality then turns in the power of the Gospel to say, but that cannot be the end of the story. A sovereign, omnipotent, gracious, and loving Creator made us in His image, gave us the gift of sexuality, boundaried that gift of sexuality within the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and makes very clear our moral accountability for every dimension of our lives, including our sexual lives. He has shown us the way that is right and good, and furthermore, he has called us to faithfulness and to obedience. Those categories in Scripture are abundantly clear.
But in terms of the larger culture, the important thing to recognize here is just how effective this story was. It’s important for us now to know the very people who were making the argument, who were telling the story, that very movement is now changing the story, but changing it only after the story had such a dramatic and apparently lasting impact upon the culture, changing the argument, shifting the ground from morality to “born this way,” turned out to be an act of cultural, revolutionary, public-relations genius. It never was the true story in terms of how we should understand it. It certainly was never the complete story, and now USA Today announces the very people who were telling the story are now changing the story.
What does it say about the LGBT revolution that "Pride" events are now more corporate & less radical?
By the way next, this particular USA Today article mentions gay pride month in June of this year, but there’s a very interesting article that appeared in the New York Times in recent days. The headline,
“Is Pride Still for Queer People Like Me?”
Again, that’s the word that’s used in the headlines in the New York Times by the author Krista Burton, who writes for the online magazine Rookie. What’s the complaint? Well in this case, the author of the article is complaining that gay pride has been overly successful, that now gay pride celebrations have been embraced by major American corporations to the extent that they’re becoming consumer events, not so much revolutionary events in a great moral struggle. Burton says that contemporary gay pride events in major American cities look more like advertising opportunities than a cultural revolution. Of course one argument you can make to her immediately is your cultural revolution is pretty much already happened, and that very victory is indicated by the fact that so many American corporations want to join the party now as part of their own self-identity and branding. And furthermore, they not only want to join the party in terms of corporate sponsorships, they now want to pay for the party.
She says she wants to go back to the revolutionary good old days in terms of her recollection in which “drag queens waved from vintage cars,” she writes, “their sequins glinting in the sun and their hair heroically refusing to fall flat in the heat. Dykes on Bikes roared past.”
“The riders were topless, and I was thrilled on my deepest, gayest level. Pride was a party, a huge gay party, and I had never been so excited to be invited, or felt so instantly welcome, anywhere.”
In terms of our interest in the story, one factor is what it tells us about how a revolution in morality happens and the role of the culture and corporations in the process. Looking back at the old gay pride events and then fast forwarding to the future, Burton writes,
“Now it feels like Pride is one long advertisement for which company is the most,” socially progressive. She says the “most woke, and this blatant ‘We, too, are so accepting, give us your dollars’ messaging is off-putting. We see you, Miller Lite,” she writes, “with your oddly wholesome, rainbow-spattered ads.”
And then Burton asked the question,
“Where were you before it was in your best financial interest to be accepting of queers?”
There again we see how the entire culture has changed. What was once undeniably understood as a fringe event, a radical event undertaken by people who were coming from the margins in terms of sexual acceptability and persons who were furthermore understanding themselves to be revolutionaries in a great movement to change the culture, they’ve now been joined by major American corporations, some of the biggest names in American business, who want to make very clear that they are on the side of the cultural revolutionaries. Thus it’s gone mainstream. It’s now become a branding opportunity for major American corporations and cultural institutions. That concerns Krista Burton writing from her own worldview. Understanding it from our worldview, it should concern us as well.
Childhood redefined: Antidepressants for 6-year-olds, Botox for 8-year-olds, & no playing in the sand?
Next, it’s opportune and urgent that we look at the issue of the redefinition of childhood, first of all in the United States but also around the world. I’m currently in Great Britain where just in the last few days I’ve seen a series of articles in major British newspapers registering concern about what’s happening to children and adolescents in this country. Two articles in particular caught my attention. One of them has this headline appearing in the Times of London,
“Hundreds of children aged six and under on antidepressants.”
Kat Lay, identified as the health correspondent for the Times, tells us that to the shock of many medical professionals it turns out that a good number of British children even school age—in particular here we’re talking about those who in the United States would be first-graders and then preschoolers—actually being now on prescribed antidepressants. Why is that such a huge story? Well there’s no doubt that children can be sad. But what we’re looking at here, the problem that’s acknowledged in this article, is that something is surely wrong with the fact that so many British children six and under are being prescribed antidepressants as a way of dealing with that sadness. The question is openly asked in the article if that’s actually going on at all or if this is just a way of trying to medicate these kids in order to sideline their problems, to medicate them as a shortcut to what actually is the child’s cry for help.
In terms of worldview we’ve looked at the vast shifts that have taken place in Western nations. The very rise of the therapeutic culture, what Philip Rieff called the triumph of the therapeutic a generation ago, in which big questions of existence in meaning and morality are now just transformed into therapeutic challenges. But we’re also looking at a pharmacological revolution and the fact that in far too many cases, medical professionals and mental health professionals are giving out prescriptions, and furthermore Americans, and we now know people in other parts of the world as well, are demanding them and they’re getting them as a way of trying to solve problems that can’t be solved pharmacologically.
Now let’s be clear. This is not to say that these pharmaceuticals are never needed and should never be prescribed. It is to say here you have a secular culture, a secular newspaper like the Times of London and the medical professionals cited in the article saying we do believe we have a problem if so many children six and under are now being routinely prescribed antidepressants.
But another major British newspaper in almost exactly the same time registered the question about how plastic and aesthetic surgery is now being marketed to teenagers, and in particular to teenage girls. A culture with corrupted standards of beauty and one that furthermore sexualizes children and teenagers is a society that also finds a commercial opportunity. Laura Donnelly as the health editor for the Daily Telegraph writes,
“Girls just eight years old are being targeted by cosmetic surgery apps, with ‘revolting’ new tactics used to groom an ever-younger market, experts have warned.”
The paper cites a regional British Council on bioethics who says that teenagers and children under age 18 “should be banned from getting fillers, botox or plastic surgery,” except for medical reasons.
The council also call for restrictions on online games and advertising that promote such ideals. At this point Christians thinking from a biblical worldview have to remind ourselves that the world around us has absorbed and embraced an understanding of beauty and sexuality that is horribly distorting and very dangerous, especially to young people and especially to young girls.
But the most interesting article to appear in the redefinition of childhood in recent days appeared in the United States and in the Wall Street Journal. The author is Lenore Skenazy. She is a contributor to Reason Magazine. The headline,
“Experts Want Kids to Have a Fun-Free Summer.”
“It’s summer! Time to dig in the sand, gulp from the hose, play at the park, and leap with joy. Unless,” she writes, “you’re a kid—in which case, find yourself a comfy sofa in a dark, quiet room and settle in. This is the season your parents are bombarded with the kind of warnings previously associated with incoming torpedoes. The basic message: Don’t have fun, it’s too dangerous.”
Now Skenazy actually documents real advice being given out in public by authorities, we are told, on children and child rearing. They include the American Academy of Pediatrics and Parents Magazine. The APA recently ran a blog warning parents,
“Studies show that children playing in the sand are more likely to become ill than children merely walking on it. And the risk of illness increases with digging in the sand, being ‘buried’ in it, and digging in wet sand.”
So as Skenazy says we should tell children not to play with wet sand but dry sand, but the APA says,
“Dry sand presents problems, too. Discourage children from lying directly on the sand.”
And don’t let them go barefoot. The advice:
“Have children wear lightweight, ventilated, hard-soled footwear that covers the toes. “
The blog said,
“This helps prevent stubbed toes, lacerations, puncture wounds, and burns from hot sand. Ideally, footwear should be worn for wading in the water.”
The experts warn parents that children shouldn’t have too much sun, but then they turn around and say the other problem would be not getting enough sun in processing vitamin D, they’ll get rickets. Now we’re also told that going outdoors can be very, very dangerous because the outdoors includes such enemies as insects, among them bees. So some parental advice is offered that bees are attracted the flowers, so don’t put fragrances or floral patterned clothing on kids. So don’t let your little girl wear a floral bathing suit at the beach, no matter how modest, and run barefoot in the sand, lest she be infected by the sand or a bee mistake her for a flower.
Parents Magazine, by the way, says that you shouldn’t really take your children to most parks either. The magazine said you should keep children away from parks “if you see cement, asphalt, dirt, or grass: These surfaces are linked to head injuries.”
Skenazy also writes that the parental advice authorities warned that if your child should dare to go outdoors and should get thirsty and should need a drink of water, the child must take care never to get a drink of water out of the hose because that hose might have leached PVCs and other additives which “can cause birth defects, liver toxicity, and cancer.”
Now if all that advice is true, then I’m simply doomed as a boy who grew up in Florida barefoot in the sand and on the grass out there with the bees and regularly drinking water out of the hose. Christian parents need at least to read an article like this and understand we’ve got to take care lest the very idea of childhood itself be doomed.
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I’m speaking to you from London, England, and I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.