Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Briefing

June 20, 2018

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

It’s Wednesday, June 20, 2018. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

What exactly is a pregnant man? The Christian mandate of clarity in the wake of mass delusion

The day after Father’s Day, 2018, The New York Times treated its readers to a full one-page article in the print edition, with the headline, Yeah, I’m a Pregnant Man. What? The reporters Jackie Malloy and Denise Grady, they begin the article with these rather unforgettable words, and I quote. “Paetyn, an impish one-year-old, has two fathers. One of them gave birth to her.”

The next paragraph. “As traditional notions of gender shift and blur, parents and children like these are redefining the concept of family.” Before we go further in the article, just looking at those few words, we need to note something. Those last words I read are that, “Parents and children like these are redefining the concept of family.” But what we need to note is that that process of the transformation and redefinition of the family is not a passive development. It’s not a passive story; it’s an active movement.

That means we also need to understand that The New York Times and other elite media and so many in control of the culture and the entire process of producing the culture are not just observing a passive process. They are active participants in making that transformation happen, and not only that. They are celebrating the transformation. There is no other way to explain this full-page article in The New York Times. There’s no other way to understand why The New York Times would not only report on, but in the context, to celebrate the fact that here you have a baby, Paetyn, identified as a one-year-old now, who has two fathers, one of them who gave birth to her.

But as we have seen in so many situations, when we look at the language that is used, and at this point, we’re hardly an inch into a full-page article. What we see is a great deal of embedded meaning. For example, when you read the sentence that simply says that, “Here is a baby who has two fathers; one of them gave birth to her,” any sane human being at any previous period of human history, and I would argue very candidly any sane human being now, any intellectually honest human being now would say, “No, he didn’t.” That’s because basic to human self understanding is the distinction between male and female.

It’s so basic that it’s one of the building blocks of biology that is still right now taught in schools. Why? Because you cannot have reproduction without male and female. You cannot have reproduction without a mother and a father. You cannot have reproduction without a male and a female cell. You can’t have reproduction, even now, in this age of reproductive technology, on the terms that The New York Times wants us to take for granted here. But as the story unfolds, it tells us also a very great deal about our contemporary reality. We are told that Paetyn’s father, Tanner … Now, that would be one of the individuals claimed here to be a father.

Her father, Tanner, age 25, is a transgender man. He was born female but began transitioning to male in his teens and takes the male hormone testosterone. In his words, “I was born a man in a female body.” We are told that the biological father, who was the partner to the first individual, is David, age 35, identified as a gay man. So here you have a transgender man … it is claimed … who is partnered with a gay man, so identified, and they are in The New York Times, because together, they had a baby. They had a baby the old-fashioned way.

Now, as anyone who could read an elementary biology text would know, that would mean that one is a male and one is a female regardless of how either one of them identify their gender identity or sexual orientation. But we are living in an age that is calling for a mass experiment and a mass conspiracy in self-delusion. As Christians are looking at this, we are of course understanding the necessity of responding pastorly, responding kindly and graciously, but we also have to understand that Christianity is about the truth.

We, as Christians, understand that we can’t know ourselves, much less anyone else truly, unless we know ourselves as our Creator made us. That means knowing ourselves as a creature made by a Creator who has shown His glory in us, and who has made us every single human being in His image, who has given us the gift of life, and who, as Creator, has the sovereign right to give us identity. But we also understand that one of God’s gifts is common grace and that explains why every civilization throughout the history of humanity has found a way to reproduce.

It explains why every single society throughout all of human history has found a way to understand the basic, unchangeable difference between men and women. Every single human society, by common grace, has come to an understanding of how reproduction is to take place, and every human society has valued that reproduction and honored it. One of the individuals cited in the article here is one of the two fathers of this little girl, said to The New York Times, “She’ll grow up in a very diverse home.” Well of course this little girl’s growing up in a very diverse home. But we also have to understand it is a very confused home, and The New York Times is simply amplifying and magnifying that confusion.

Now keep in mind that this is The New York Times, not only the most influential single newspaper in the United States, but arguably the most influential single newspaper in the world. Trace then what follows in this story. “Paetyn’s fathers are both drag performers at a local club near their home in upstate New York. To protect their privacy, only their first names are being used. Trans men,” according to The New York Times, “have conceived on purpose, but Tanner isn’t one of them. In his case, it happened by accident after he missed a few doses of testosterone, and he didn’t suspect he was pregnant until the morning sickness hit.”

“It was a shock, but,” The New York Times says, and I quote, “both he and David said that from the start, there was no doubt that they wanted the baby.” Now, one of the basic fundamentals of the Christian biblical worldview is understanding that our anatomy, our physiology is not an accident. It’s not an accident for the entire human species. The differences in anatomy and physiology, between the male and the female, are not accidental either. They are a part of God’s purpose for humanity, and not only that. As Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 make clear, our anatomy and physiology is actually a part of the goodness of creation, and it is a part of what makes human beings human.

It was God who said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” It was God who created the woman out of the man, it was God who created the one for the other, and it was God who made certain that as humanity was identified in distinction to all the rest of creation, the act of creating human beings was not complete either in Genesis 1 or in Genesis 2 until there was both man and woman in the garden. Now, when you look at an article like this, remember that The New York Times intends for us to take it at face value. We’re supposed to just take this as the new normal, the new state of affairs, the new truth, the new reality.

But one of the things that Christians understand is that real reality, what Francis Schaeffer referred to as true truth, tends to shine through even in the midst of confusion. How does it do so in that paragraph I just read? It does so because we are told that these are two fathers that they are two men, and yet we are told that one of them who is transgender and began transitioning in the teens, we are told that that person became impregnated and eventually gave birth to a baby, because that individual missed a few doses of the male hormone testosterone, which is to say there was an attempt to try to intervene in the normal physiology of a female body.

And when there was a lapse in taking the hormones that were not supposed to be in that female body but were ingested previously in that female body, it started to act just like … now remember this … a female body. Later, in the article, we read, “Tanner had to stay off testosterone until the birth, but he had no interest in ever identifying as a female again or dressing as a woman.” “Yeah, I’m a pregnant man,” he told friends and acquaintances. “What? I’m pregnant. I’m still a man. You have questions? Come talk to me. You have a problem with it? Don’t be in my life.”

Now that’s the kind of logic that we would expect, and pastorly, we can understand. This is an individual who says, “If you don’t agree with me and you can’t affirm reality as I am here claiming it, then I don’t want you in my life.” But this is also important for us to understand in the context of the fact that these two individuals cooperated with The New York Times in what became a full-page article celebrating the fact that, as it is claimed, here you have two fathers, one of whom gave birth to a baby. So, we’re not invading this individual’s privacy. This individual gave all this information to The New York Times for publication.

And thus, behind that, we understand that there is the desire to normalize and to celebrate this newly-claimed state of affairs on the part about the paper and the individuals interviewed. Later in the article, the reporter speaks of Tanner again, saying, “He did not expect to fall in love with a man, but that is exactly what happened with David, a longtime friend, who had not quite envisioned himself with a transgender man as a partner.” “Tracing his own path,” the paper tells us, “from bisexual to lesbian, drag king, transgender man, gay man, pregnant man, Tanner laughed and said,” and I quote, “I’m literally every letter of LGBTQ.”

Just a bit further in the article, there’s another rather stunning fact that is revealed here, and I quote. “On the birth certificate, he is identified as Paetyn’s mother, something that he and David hope eventually to have changed so that they are both listed as fathers.” Now wait just a minute. New York State’s one of the most culturally and socially liberal states in the union. So you’re telling me that in New York State, right now, a birth certificate lists a mother and a father? Well of course, in this case.

Even as you’re trying to go to parent A and parent B, there are going to have to be medical records indicating which one of the two, parent one, parent two; parent A, parent B; mother or father, as we would normally speak gave birth to this child. That is not a medically unimportant fact. That is a fact that it is important to every single baby that is born. And furthermore, it is a fact that is very important to human identity. We begin our story, every one of our stories, one way or another with the fact that we emerged from the womb. Every single one of us, as human beings, emerged from a womb.

The identity of that womb is important to our self-understanding. Even later in the article, we are told that the individual who gave birth to this little girl did not want to nurse her simply because that was too feminine, so the individual had surgery to make that impossible.

Part II

Looking for the light that shines through even the deepest confusion

We also need to note in this full-page article in The New York Times that as the truth shines through, even as the truth shines through without the intention of the newspaper or the persons involved, the truth sometimes comes through in ways that are shocking. The shock itself is a part of the truth.

I read you this paragraph. “What do they imagine for Paetyn?” “I hope she’s independent, has a successful career and an amazing family, and I hope she runs some sort of movement at some point for equality,” David said. He went on to say, “I think she will, because of having two gay parents and a dad that had her.” He also according to the paper wishes for her to have a better childhood than he had. David identified in the story then went on to say, and buckle up for the shock, “I hope she’s a lesbian. Then we won’t have boys coming to the house, and we won’t have to worry about her getting pregnant.”

So once the shock wears off for a few seconds, recognize the deeper truth that is coming through here. Here, you have one of the parents identified of this little girl, stating on the other side of this entire context of confusion, on the other side of the claim that this baby has two fathers, one of whom gave birth to her. On the other side of the entire situation, we are told that one of the men identified as her father. In this case, actually, the biological father says that his hope for this one-year-old girl is that she would be a lesbian, because if she is a lesbian, then they won’t have to worry about boys coming over and there will be no risk of pregnancy.

Now, this is where Christians have to step back and understand. This is almost as if Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 have been played in reverse, made the opposite of what we find in the Scriptures. If human identity is not just being changed, it’s being turned upside down. It’s being transformed. It’s being reversed. It’s being contradicted. Christians must never read this kind of article in an attitude of moral triumphalism, as if we are far too smart and far too clear for any kind of confusion like this to infect us. No, there is no room in the Christian worldview for moral triumphalism. Instead, there is room for humility, but that humility must be grounded in truth.

The only real humility, the only real kindness, the only real compassion is a compassion that is grounded in truth, and this is where Christians understand. We will be absolutely lost, as lost as anyone else if we had to come up with that truth, if we had to construct or invent or even search out that truth. But the reality is that the truth is right before us. As the Scripture makes clear, every truth that truly needs to be known in this article, every truth necessary to clarify, is embedded in all of creation. It is there for everyone to see.

Despite the intention of this article, it really shines forth, even if it does so in shocking ways. Christians often reflect upon the fact that it is hard to know where we can possibly go from here. And here, you have one individual who says that in that one individual experience is everything related with LGBTQ. It won’t stop with Q. Finally, Christians must understand that our shock must be followed by something other than revulsion. Our shock has to be followed with the understanding that the only rescue is divine revelation and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Christians have to understand that on the other side of this kind of shock must come the understanding that we have to seek understanding. The affirmation of the fact that we, if all of the rest of the world loses its mind, cannot lose ours, not because we’re smarter, but because we know that God has spoken in His word and that He has revealed all we need to know about this reality in creation. Here’s where Christians have to affirm, and we must affirm publicly, even as we affirm humbly the fact that reality can’t to be contradicted, that our culture may conspire to deny even the realities of the order of creation, but it won’t work.

This is where Christians also on the other side of shock have to understand that the right response is being heartbroken, and that heartbreak comes down at least to this. At the center of this story, but not in the center of this article, is a one-year-old little girl. Don’t forget that fact.

Part III

Too important to be excluded? Theological relativism on display as remains of Stephen Hawking interred in Westminster Abbey

But next, the day before Father’s Day, on Saturday, June the 16th of this year, The New York Times ran into another article that is also really important from the perspective of worldview analysis. Here’s the headline. Hawking Enters Britain’s Valhalla, Where Space Is Tight. The articles by Stephen Castle, and it has to do with the late Stephen Hawking, one of the most famous scientists of the modern age.

The article begins, “Being laid to rest in Westminster Abbey is perhaps the greatest posthumous honor that can be given to any Briton. When Stephen Hawking’s ashes were interred here on Friday, they were placed between the remains of Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, two of the giants of science.” The placement of the remains of Stephen Hawking within Westminster Abbey is a huge story in the history of science. It’s a huge story in the history of Westminster Abbey, and it’s huge with significance of worldview analysis. As it turns out, this is no real surprise. Indications were that Stephen Hawking, given his prominence and fame, would be a likely candidate to have his ashes placed there in Westminster Abbey, along with the memorial statement.

The Very Reverend John R. Hall, the Dean of Westminster Abbey said, and I quote, “We buried Isaac Newton here eight days after he died. We also took an immediate decision in 1882 about Charles Darwin,” and it was the Very Reverend John R hall, who, as Dean of Westminster Abbey, made the unilateral decision that Stephen Hawking would also have his remains placed within the historic abbey. Westminster Abbey itself is one of the most historic sites in all of Christendom, and as you are standing at Westminster Abbey, you are standing where Christians have worshiped corporately, consistently through that period, going back for well over a thousand years.

It became famous as the burial place of kings, when the very last of the Anglo-Saxon kings, Edward the Confessor, was buried there in the year 1066. After the Reformation, Queen Elizabeth I claimed Westminster Abbey as being under royal patronage, and it became officially a shrine and a place for the interment of British monarchs. No less than 17 crowned kings and queens are buried in Westminster Abbey. Amongst them is included Queen Elizabeth I. The last British monarch to be buried at Westminster Abbey was King George II, buried there in 1760.

Since then, British monarchs have preferred Windsor as the place of their burial. In the case of Stephen Hawking, it is interesting to note that it was cremains, the remains after cremation that were placed in the abbey. That’s because for one thing, the abbey, after all these centuries, is running out of space. Infamously, in the year 1907, the abbey was expecting the cremated remains of Angela Burdett-Coutts. She was a very prominent British philanthropist. But instead, the abbey received her body, and having agreed to her placement there in the abbey, they had to bury her standing up.

Westminster Abbey is famous, as a repository, for the remains and remembrance of so many famous figures in the history of Britain. The abbey features what is known as Poets’ Corner, where many poets and literary figures are buried or at least memorialized with plaques on the wall or statues. Analyzing this by worldview points to some very interesting parts of the story, some of which are included in the mainstream media coverage, and some of which are not. For one thing, we should note that even a very secular society, like Britain looks to a very, very Christian place, such as Westminster Abbey, as the repository of the nation’s memory. What exactly does that say?

And furthermore, the worldview contradictions are made even more acute when recognizing that Stephen Hawking was identified as either an agnostic or an atheist throughout virtually all of his adult life. Here, we note with interest that the Dean of Westminster Abbey offered a very interesting argument for why someone, who was publicly identified as either an agnostic or an atheist, will be buried in England’s most historic place of Christian worship. The dean said this, “Whether he was actually an atheist, whether he was actually an agnostic, what his position was is not to my mind entirely clear.”

“My position,” he said, “is quite simply this. Whether a person believes in God or not, if someone is achieving extraordinary things, then I believe God is in that process.” Now, that statement might be defined as in a certain sense quintessentially Anglican. It is also, judged by virtue of Christian theology, quintessentially nonsense. Just consider the absolute theological relativism in that statement by the Dean of Westminster Abbey. Again, “Whether a person believes in God or not, if someone is achieving extraordinary things, then I believe God is in that process.”

How in the world are we to make moral sense of that statement? What exactly is the achievement of extraordinary things? Undoubtedly, by any human estimation, that would include people who would be otherwise morally reprehensible. I’ll go on and say I don’t think the Dean of Westminster Abbey meant the statement is quite so relativizing, as it appears in the simple words. But what you do have here is an explanation for why a man, identified throughout his adult life, as an agnostic or an atheist, will be buried in Britain’s most venerable place of Christian worship. That requires some explanation, and the explanation in this case is simply, he was too important to be left out, too popular not to be allowed to be placed in Westminster Abbey.

But this is where Christians finally have to pause and consider this. Stephen Hawking’s earthly remains, reduced now virtually to dust, are now placed in Westminster Abbey. Given the fact that the worship in Westminster Abbey is ordered by the Book of Common Prayer, and given the fact that the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer includes so much scripture, and also includes the explication of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The remains of Stephen Hawking, either atheist or agnostic or who knows, those remains are now going to be surrounded regularly by the reading of Christian Scripture and by the reading of a liturgy that even now includes the explicit Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are of course many ironies in this article, but Christians must recognize even if no one else does that final irony.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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