The Briefing

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Tuesday, Apr. 24, 2018

Tags: Amazon, Audio, Chicago, Church Attendance, LGBTQ, Schools

Transcript

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

It's Tuesday, April 24, 2018. I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part

How morality, not just economics, factors in to Amazon’s search for HQ2

We've been watching the coalescence of cultural forces, all apparently moving in one general direction. That direction is towards a fundamental shift in morality. It is towards a new understanding of truth and of beauty and of goodness. It is towards a shift at the most fundamental level of how a society thinks morally and how its moral intuitions are forged and framed. But in order to achieve that kind of fundamental change, you've got to move a lot of the cultural furniture, and a force powerful enough to move that furniture is one we ought to know, recognize and reckon with.

Increasingly, we see that major American corporations and corporate leaders are fulfilling that kind of role. They are building that kind of force. They are trying to demonstrate, sometimes absolutely fawningly, just how committed they are to this progressivist, liberal move in the culture and especially in morality, particularly sexual morality. There's no better example of this in an article that recently appeared in The Washington Post. The headline of the article: "The unspoken factor in Amazon's search for a new home. Jeff Bezos' support for gay rights." Jonathan O'Connell is the reporter. He tells us, "When Amazon executives recently toured the Dallas-Fort Worth area, one of 20 finalists for a second company headquarters, local officials touted its growing workforce and low taxes as perfectly suited to accommodate 50,000 planned Amazon jobs."

But look closely at where the reporter goes in the next sentence. "But," he writes, "the local team also brought an unexpected guest: the Reverend Neil G. Cazares-Thomas, pastor of a predominantly gay megachurch in Dallas. He impressed upon the Amazon representatives, we are told, how inclusive and welcoming the community has been to him, his husband and the 4,000 congregants at his church, that according to people," The Washington Post says, "familiar with the meeting."

Just with a few introductory sentences in this article, here's what we're looking at. We have Amazon and it's now very famous search for what it calls HQ2, a second headquarters. It is likely that that will involve $5 billion worth of real estate investment, including building the largest facility yet for this kind of operation. It would be a building larger than the Pentagon. We're talking about the addition of something like 50,000 new jobs and an infusion of upwards of tens of billions of dollars in the local economy. There's a lot at stake here.

Close observers of a company like Amazon looking at this kind of search have indicated that given the parameters that Amazon had listed the Dallas-Fort Worth area, just to take one example, would be very advantageous. A large workforce, a highly educated workforce and low taxes. The low tax rates would be very important, because the shareholders at Amazon are looking for a way to achieve even more margin, and low taxes are a big part of that.

Some 20 finalists have been identified by Amazon as it's seeking this HQ2 location and amongst them would be areas even around Washington, D.C. Here you have The Washington Post writing about the Amazon representatives meeting, however, at DFW. That's in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Now what's the distinction between the region around Washington, D.C. and Dallas-Fort Worth? It's not just the weather. It's not just the topography. It is also the taxation and it is the availability of real estate and a workforce at lower cost than would be found in areas in the American Northeast.

All that makes sense, and the Dallas-Fort Worth area would be high on any list, given the parameters publicly identified by Amazon for its search. But as we're thinking about this, The Washington Post has found the most interesting aspect of the presentation made by Dallas-Fort Worth officials, not so much to be economic but moral, and it is the presence of the pastor what's identified as an LGBT megachurch that attracted the interest of The Washington Post.

It is interesting to note that this church, the Cathedral of Hope in the Dallas area, was identified as the first openly gay megachurch. It is played a role in many of the controversies over LGBT issues. It tells you something of the population of those who identify as LGBTQ in the Dallas and Fort Worth areas. But just consider this. Texas has already seen as largest city Houston years ago elect an openly gay mayor. Dallas, as this story points out, is the home of an LGBTQ megachurch as it is styled. You have many municipalities and local areas in Texas that have adopted LGBTQ friendly legislation, and the Texas capital city Austin is known not only for its now infamous motto "Keep Austin Weird," but for the fact that on these issues and many others, it is progressive far beyond the rest of the state. A blue dot in the middle of deep-red Texas.

So, you would think that Texas would offer just about everything that Amazon is looking for, except this Washington Post article says, "That because the state of Texas is not yet adopted legislation demanded statewide by the LGBTQ community, it should not be the chosen site for HQ2 of Amazon." At this point, The Washington Post article takes a very interesting twist, "In the high-stakes contest to become Amazon.com's new location, it, that is bringing this openly gay pastor, may have been a shrewd move. Although the company's search materials don't make it explicit," says The Washington Post, "Amazon has quietly made rights for and acceptance of gay and transgender people part of its criteria in choosing a second headquarters, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity."

The Washington Post report then continues, "As Amazon executives recently toured finalist locations to help select what they've dubbed HQ2, they asked public officials about what sort of," and here's the words used 'compatible cultural and community environment.' The wording we are told is from the company's search parameters that each city would offer, adding to speculation about whether Amazon will choose a liberal stronghold."

The article in the Washington Post indicates that according to some observers, the city of Atlanta, which also offers just about the same kinds of advantages as the locations in Texas, Atlanta is out according to the sources behind the Washington Post article because Georgia has also not passed that comprehensive LGBTQ legislation demanded by the community. The Washington Post summarizes Amazon's intention to find a region or a city of "compatible cultural values" as one of the several issues that Amazon has said it is taking into consideration as it chooses its new second headquarters' location.

The Washington Post article, however, does not so much merely corporatize this as a priority for Amazon. It personalizes it in the founder and CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos. It points out, for example, that he was a major unexpectedly generous donor behind the effort to legalize same-sex marriage. We are seeing company after company and CEO after CEO join the moral revolution and do their best to further its legislative and political aims. We have seen companies, we're talking about publicly traded companies side with the moral revolutionaries in order to join what they see as the wave of the future. We have seen CEOs leverage economic power and their personal celebrity.

We have seen, for example, what happens in real time and space in government when, for example, the state of Georgia was considering religious liberty protection legislation, the governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, an elected Republican, vetoed the legislation because he feared the impact, the negative fallout from corporations headquartered in or near Atlanta, or the possibility of future headquarters that might be lured to the city or to the state.

You've seen what's at stake when companies such as Amazon leverage their own potential economic development and investment with this kind of moral revolution. It's almost as if they are saying to the entire country but in this case to some specific locations, "It's your money or your morality, you choose."

If you're just trying to understand the reach and the speed of this moral revolution, just consider we're talking here about Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, and we're talking about an economic development team trying its best to lure Amazon, making sure that amongst those who are there for the event is the pastor of an openly LGBTQ megachurch.

Just consider the photograph from the event. That photograph would have been impossible, impossible just a generation ago, but given the way the moral revolution has reshaped the entire world, it's now impossible even in a city like Dallas or Fort Worth that such a picture would be any different than it was.

Part

Massachusetts schools adopt new curriculum aimed at normalizing LGBTQ lifestyle

But as we're thinking next about other major forces behind this kind of moral change, we can't ignore the schools, and most importantly the public schools in this regard. Yesterday's edition of the Boston Herald from Massachusetts reports, "Bay State schools will be able to try a new curriculum with LGBTQ-themed history, English and health this fall that proponents say is an effort to help all students see themselves reflected in classrooms."

Now, let's just step back for a moment. This is exactly what we now expect will take place on most college and university campuses. This kind of revisionism, it's a very intentional revisionism. Those who were the prophets of the sexual revolution believe that they are liberating humanity from the shackles of an outdated and oppressive morality. Therefore, they want to use every lever at their power in order to achieve the most forceful cultural change. The public schools offer the most immediate arena for bringing that kind of revolution to the youngest of Americans.

You'll also notice that without the slightest hesitation or equivocation, the article gets right to the point about a new curriculum "With LGBTQ-themed history, English and health." Now think about that for just a moment, "history, English and health." I think most of us can immediately understand how those health lessons might be completely redefined, even as the human species is redefined at the level of something so basic as male and female, but what about history and English? Again, the antecedents, the prior developments are amongst the elite academic institutions, but it didn't stay there. It quickly filtered into the generalized college and university culture, and now it is reaching down not only to the high schools but also even into elementary schools.

The moral revolutionaries know that if they can gain control over that curriculum, they will shape the minds of generations yet to come, and that's exactly what the prophets of the moral revolution want to do. They want to seize the opportunity to use the public schools and at the center of the schools, the faculty and curriculum, to bring about this fundamental moral change.

The most important part of this article comes at the conclusion where a teacher, she's identified as an English teacher at Belmont high school, Kristin Comment, said that she already tries "to include gay, lesbian and bisexual authors and stories, like Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway in her lessons just so kids can see themselves reflected." I'm still quoting from the article, "And she tries to normalize being gay just like when she talks about Walt Whitman, a gay poet and journalist." But it's vitally important that we recognize a word that appeared in that sentence and will appear again before this article is concluded. It's the word "normalize." We are told that this teacher is seeking to normalize being gay. Later in the article, we are told that teachers can do a lot to help normalize LGBTQ. That according to the reporter would go a long way to make students feel safe.

Now the word normalize means exactly what it sounds to mean. It means to make it normal, to take something that was recognized as abnormal and bring about a different moral perception so that what was abnormal is now normal. It is normalized. For decades now, we've been noting that that is exactly the aim of the moral revolution, to normalize an entirely new set of moral principles and judgments.

The teacher herself used the language when she said, "I don't think there is enough yet." Speaking of discussion of LGBTQ issues, she said, "It's really up to classroom teachers to normalize being LGBTQ in the classroom. It's not only talking about it in the curriculum but being careful in the language they use, respecting the pronouns students use or not making heterosexist assumptions." Looking at the article in the Boston Herald, it appears that the teacher herself used the word normalize more than once. That tells us a very great deal.

Part

What worldview will be taught as ‘teachable moments’ arise in public schools?

Next, we turn not to Boston but to Chicago where just recently the Chicago Tribune ran an article, the headline: "Supporters rally for gay teacher amid discrimination claims after he told 1st-graders about same-sex marriage." In this case, the reporter, Amanda Marrazzo reports that a bouquet of flowers was sent to a teacher from his husband on Valentine's Day and it set off a controversy and claims of discrimination in a rural community at the edge of the Chicago area, resulting, we are told, in a subsequent standing-room-only school board meeting.

Now, this article was published in one of the nation's most influential newspapers, the Chicago Tribune. I'm going to read the second paragraph exactly as it is printed in the newspaper: "When Nathan Etter, a first-year music teacher at Prairie View Grade School in Burlington, received the bouquet from his husband, some first-grade students asked who they were from. He said he answered honestly and that some students reacted with comments like ‘ewww’ and ‘gross.’”

Now the report of how the first-graders responded is not all that surprising. It just might be that almost any demonstration of romance would be considered rather off-putting to first-graders, but it's also telling that they used expressions of moral disapproval when their own teacher indicated that he had received on Valentine's Day a bouquet of flowers from the man he identified as his husband. But then the article tells us that the teacher who's been married to another man since August, "Said he used the interaction as a teachable moment making very brief comments about respect and tolerance and explaining how some families have two moms or two dads." Now, this led to no little debate amongst parents in the community. Some supported the teacher and his teaching.

According to the report, the parent of three children in the district, whose husband is also a teacher, said that she had welcomed this teacher's "teaching moments." She said that Etter was doing his job by teaching social and emotional characteristics. "We are behind you," she said. Apparently, some parents were less pleased, although it's interesting that they weren't given any real voice in the article. Instead, the article focused on the accusation that the school board had discriminated against the openly gay married teacher by telling him, and this is coming only from the union that he should "stick to the curriculum." Now remember that, because it's very important. Tie this story back to the story from Boston, where it is a change in the curriculum there was evidence of how this moral shift is going to take place. Here you have a teacher told to stick to the curriculum, but the very point of changing the curriculum is so that all teachers will actually have to stick to it, regardless of the moral messaging.

Now think about this article about first-graders in Chicago, go back to the Boston article where the teacher spoke of her own mission to normalize the entire world of LGBTQ associations, and then understand that this teacher teaching first-graders said that he had seized upon what he called a teachable moment. And we can't underestimate the fact that every teacher in every classroom experiences many of these teachable moments. The question is, what is going to be taught? And it's not just a "what" as we're thinking about what some people would term as mere facts, we're talking about "what" as it comes to the most basic worldview and moral understandings. This first-grade teacher went on to acknowledge there been no discipline taken against him, but he says that he wants to "continue to live his life authentically and to use teachable moments as they arise."

Part

Schools become the new battleground for the sexual revolution as the number of transgender teachers increases

But next we shift to yet another report. This one coming courtesy of National Public Radio. NPR tells us that the nation's schools are increasingly including transgender teachers upon their faculties, and this is making a difference. Three different articles on transgender teachers by NPR in just a matter of a week. But one of the most interesting aspects of one of these articles is that even as the difficulties faced by transgender teachers are identified, according to the article, "Whether they work with special needs students or English language learners, teenagers or young children, they are also role models." The article tells us that these transgender teachers "expressed a deep sense of mission."

So we began by looking at Amazon and the reality of corporate pressure in changing morality and now we are looking at the public schools and we've seen examples in Chicago and in Boston and a national report from NPR. What combines them all is that there are now so many teachers and so many of those who are framing the curricula in the schools who have a sense of mission in order to be role models to find teachable moments in order to normalize a new morality.

We can't say that we weren't warned nor can we really look ourselves honestly in the face and say that we are surprised, but these articles put together, even just one of them individually, should be sufficient to indicate where the new battleground is going to be found. It's going to be found wherever children are found, because shaping the moral understandings of children in the rising generation is what the game is all about. And those who are trying to press the moral revolution, even through coercive means, understand that if they can gain the levers of authority in all of these cultural institutions, especially in the schools, that's not just the big game, they see on the horizon what they think will be game over.

Part

Regular church attendance remains one of the best indicators of how one will vote, view question of same-sex marriage

But finally, as you're thinking about how the moral revolution moves even geographically and we think about the inevitable linkage between theological worldview on the first hand and then moral perception and judgment on the other hand, you have to think of the role that geography plays. Interesting data recently mined from research undertaken by the Pew Research Center, major media looking at the research tended to look at the fact, that according to this kind of survey instrument increasing percentages of Americans year-by-year say that they approve LGBTQ relationships and also that they approve same-sex marriage.

But Rob Beschizza, looking at the report, mined out some very interesting data points and one of them is this. If you are looking at where you will find the greatest resistance to the legalization of same-sex marriage or the normalization of same-sex marriage, you would look in the United States to two states. Those would be the states of Mississippi and Alabama. Indeed, according to the research, it is the state of Alabama that remains the one single state most resolutely opposed to the normalization of same-sex marriage. Mississippi is fairly close behind.

Behind this article is an absolute confidence in the victory of the moral revolutionaries. Don't make any mistake. This is a map that is intended to show the isolation of those in Mississippi and Alabama who won't get with the program, but from a worldview perspective, what's most interesting would be the final words in the article: "As of 2018, for the first time in Pew's research, more Americans over 65 favor same-sex marriage than oppose it." The final words, "To find a broad national demographic opposed, you would have to filter your way down to categories like Republican Boomers or Weekly Church Attendees." Those last three words are really, really important, because what they disclose is the fact that one of the most unbreakable links in this entire equation of moral change is whether or not someone regularly attends church.

Just a few years ago, two Harvard professors argued that whether or not one attended church weekly was the most likely determinator of how one would vote, even in presidential elections. In this case, the data is mined in order to make the link between weekly church attendance and where one stands on the question of same-sex marriage, but it's one thing merely to read or to hear facts and percentages, it's another thing altogether to see it on a map, where the map tells the story. The least churched areas of the United States are the most avidly supportive of same-sex marriage, and by reverse, the most churched areas of the country are the least supportive. That's not an accident, whether it's on a map or on a chart.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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