briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

It’s Tuesday, June 11, 2019. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

An Infinite Array of Gender Identities? Why Even The Revolutionaries Are Scared Now

During the tumultuous 1970s, comedian Lily Tomlin, famously quipped, “I’m trying to be cynical, but it’s hard to keep up.” That problem, the fact that it’s hard to keep up must be a particular perplexity for the cultural left these days and particularly on the LGBTQ front, specifically, when it comes to the T. There have been two massive articles just in recent days in the New York Times that illustrate this quandary and both do it brilliantly, if indeed the New York Times is trying its best to keep up with the moral revolution. The very struggle is a part of this story. The first article appeared on May the 29th written by Amy Harmon. The headline: “Which box do you check? Some states are offering a nonbinary option.” The subhead in the article: “As nonbinary teenagers push for driver’s licenses that reflect their identity, a fraught debate over the nature of gender has arrived in the nation’s statehouses.”

The article begins by telling us about El Martinez, who, “started asking to be called by the gender-neutral pronouns, ‘they,’ ‘them,’ in the ninth grade.” The next words, “They have fielded skepticism in a variety of forms and from a multitude of sources about what it means to identify as nonbinary.” Now, you need to look at the language. Here we are told about a young person, at this point, there is no gender assigned. That turns out to be the point, but this is a young person who ask for the pronouns that are supposedly gender neutral, ‘they’ and ‘them.’ Now let’s just be really clear, ‘they’ and ‘them’ throughout the history of the English language have referred to the plural. Here the subject of the sentence is a singular, either a boy or a girl, though unwilling to identify as either a boy or a girl.

Harmon then goes on to explain, “There are faculty advisors on El’s theater crew who balk at using they for one person, classmates at El’s public school on the outskirts of Boston who insist El can’t be multiple people, and commenters on El’s social media feeds who dismiss nonbinary gender identities like androgyne, a combination of masculine and feminine, agender, the absence of gender, and gender-fluid, moving between genders as lacking a basis in biology.”

Now we are only two paragraphs in the first of these two massive articles, but notice what we already see. One, an absolute breakdown in language. If ‘they’ and ‘them’ can now refer to the singular rather than the plural, then you actually have here an immediate testimony that those who are involved, for example, in a theater crew don’t know who we are talking about when we talk about they and them that could be singular. That’s just one problem.

The other problem that comes up immediately here is the fact that you have people who oddly enough are saying that these new terms, androgyne and agender and gender-fluid, “are lacking a basis in biology.” Why are they saying that? It’s because they lack a basis in biology. Now, as for that struggle about trying to keep up, it’s clear that the New York Times editorial and reportorial team is trying to keep up. These articles demonstrate they’re not exactly sure how to keep up. Neither is the Massachusetts state legislature, a rather infamously liberal state assembly that has become one of the first in the nation to consider a bill to add an X option for nonbinary genders to the M for male and F for female options on the Massachusetts driver’s licenses. Even as the Massachusetts legislature was considering adding X, transgender and other gender-fluid advocates demanded that the bill would be amended to offer drivers 29 other gender options that would include pangender, two-spirit and genderqueer.

The New York Times tells us, “Rather than open the requisite debate on each term, leaders of the Democratic-controlled House shelved the measure.” Let’s just note before we go further what we are really looking at here. When you consider those letters, LGBTQ, the T meaning transgender, we thought we knew what we were talking about as troublesome as it was just a matter of say two years ago. Here’s what we thought we were talking about. We thought it meant lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transgender meaning someone who was making the claim—as was on the front page that is the cover story of Time Magazine infamously when the magazine declared just a couple of years ago the transgender moment—we thought we were talking about individuals who were born anatomically male who wanted to identify by gender as female and those who were born anatomically female who wanted to present themselves as and be considered as male. We thought that’s what we were talking about.

It turns out that’s not what the transgender activist community is now talking about. That’s now hopelessly old school according to that old thinking that is now just a matter of a couple of years old. In the imaginations of most people, transgender still use the categories of male and female, but now we are in a situation in which the liberal Massachusetts state legislature shelved a bill to add an X as an alternative to F and M because there were now demands that there be no less than 29 additional gender options. Of course, one of the reasons why the legislation was shelved is because it won’t stay 29. It’s going to be 89 before you can turn around. For that matter, given the fact that there are about 300 plus million Americans, it could be according to the logic that is now becoming clear about 300 million different options.

By the time you are just a few paragraphs into this New York Times article, you find the fact that the director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, a coalition that is championing yet a new version of the bill acknowledged, “An anxiety that many people, even folks from the left have that there’s a slippery slope of identity and where will it stop?” Here’s what we need to know before we even progress further. If the left is now concerned asking the question, “Where will it stop?”, then we are really looking at a moral revolution that is out of control. As we progressed through the article, we discover this statement, “For their part, some binary people suggest that concerns about authenticity in grammar sidestep thornier questions about the culture’s long-standing limits on how gender is supposed to be felt and expressed.”

Well, let’s reflect upon that for a moment. What were the pre-existing limits back in the old days that we supposedly have overcome that supposedly set the basic understanding for human beings when it came to sex identity and gender? Well, that was easily reduceable to those M and F words, “male” and “female.” That’s really what we were looking at. In one version or another, every single society throughout all of human history as far as we know, everywhere at all times has understood male and female. Different words for the concepts, but male and female, boy and girl, man and woman, husband and wife, one way or another, every language, every society has arrived there clearly until recently. The New York Times then reports, “The wave of proposed gender-neutral legislation has prompted debate over whether extending legal recognition to a category of people still unknown to many Americans could undermine support for other groups vulnerable to discrimination.”

“It has also highlighted,” says the New York Times, “how disorienting it can be to lose the gendered cues, like pronouns, names, appearance, and mannerisms that shape so much of social interaction.” Now that’s one of those paragraphs that we just have to be thankful for. We look at a paragraph like that in the middle of this article from the New York Times, and regardless of what the reporter wants to be able to say, the reporter has to acknowledge that our entire social experiment, our entire culture, civilization itself requires a basic ability to say, that’s a man, that’s a woman, that’s a boy, that’s a girl. To understand cues such as pronouns and even as the article says, appearance and mannerisms that shape so much of social interaction. Now here’s something else to note. Even as we are supposedly as a society engaged in this headlong embrace of this new sexual and gender ideology, it really isn’t working out.

Just consider, any kind of social interaction where it still matters if someone is a man or a woman, a boy or a girl. You’ll notice that the vast majority of people in the United States, even right now, still quite naturally look for either a male or female bathroom. They’re just looking for it. Either a men’s or a women’s locker room, boys or girls. That is still the bulwark of our civilization and let’s face it, as much as the sexual, moral and gender revolutionaries wish it otherwise, our civilization still depends upon that basic structure. So much so that when we talk about exceptions, they actually only make sense because they are exceptions. When they’re no longer exceptions, then sheer chaos is all that remains. This New York Times article, the first one continues by making very clear that those who want to join the moral revolution fully on this question now are uncertain how to do so.

The article says that part of it might be a generational divide indicating that younger Americans are more open to gender-fluid, but it’s not really clear how open the younger generation is when it comes down to having to establish, let’s just say language, definitions, policies, laws. When it comes to a general statement, I’m in favor of this. It looks like a lot of younger Americans are willing to sign on. When it comes to actually having to establish policies, even the liberals who are invested with that responsibility are finding it very difficult, even impossible to accomplish. We’ve looked at many of the contradictions of this revolutionary age and one of them is the collision between traditional gender feminists and the transgender revolutionaries. Gender feminism, one of the major ideological movements of the late 20th and into the 21st centuries, still a very potent movement. It holds that it only makes sense to be a feminist if you know what a female is, who a female is. When it comes to the transgender revolution, it is basically a solvent when it comes to the feminism argument.

If indeed being a female is a state of mind, then you can’t really have feminism. One traditional feminist cited in the article says that when it comes to these gender X bills “to deny the reality of sex means we’re not able to name, address, and fix systemic sex-based oppression and exploitation.” In other words, you can’t really argue that F is being discriminated against by M if you get to decide whether you’re an F or an M.

One transgender activist, a student in Maryland arguing for the fact that there is no right way to be a girl or presumably a boy. This young activist said, “The gender binary is a system of control that a lot of nonbinary people are invested in destroying and this is a step toward that.” Now as Christians, step back for a moment, recognize that when we are told here that the gender binary system is a system of control, it is. Let’s acknowledge that. It is. Systems of control are what constitutes societies. That’s how you have a civilization.

You say, we’re going to do this. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to be this. We’re not going to be that. We’re going to legalize. We’re going to sanction. We’re going to recognize these relationships, but not those. We’re going to allow this kind of behavior but not that behavior. That’s the very essence of civilization. You can’t have a society without it. The question is not whether there is going to be a system of control. The question is, is there going to be a legitimate, authentic, rightful system of control? This is where we have to look at civilization that has been guided not only by special revelation in Scripture in the Christian tradition but has also been guided by general revelation, even the natural law. This is why we explained in the structures of creation, God has himself indicated this system of control that every single civilization has discovered, even a system of control that is innate in the consciousness of what it means to be human beings because we’re not evolutionary accidents.

We are creatures made in God’s image. That’s that system of control is actually built into the structures of the human consciousness. If you hold to an evolutionary viewpoint, you simply have to say, somehow evolution created these structures of human consciousness that seem to show up over and over again. Of course, a society that wants to liberate us from those systems and structures of consciousness says what we need is therapy in order to overcome these very structures. Of course, we don’t overcome these structures, which is why those who are even pressing for the leading advance on the LGBTQ revolution can’t keep up with their own revolution. They can’t even keep up with the language.

One final sentence from this first article, “Several nonbinary teenagers emphasized that they were not looking for a way to be a boy or a girl that stretched conventional definitions. Their gender identity was a visceral feeling, they said, not a political choice and one that could bring with it social ostracism.” The key issue here is our understanding of the sentence, “their gender identity was a visceral feeling,” they said. “A visceral feeling.” This is where we have to understand that we are not defined by our visceral feelings no matter who we are. We simply, according to the Biblical worldview, can’t trust our visceral feelings about understanding who we are. Our visceral feelings and if all in the world can very well, if not, almost always in every case lie to us about who we are. That’s why we need revelation, general revelation and more importantly, special revelation, holy Scripture.

Part II

The Revolutionaries on Sex and Gender Have Set a Trap For Themselves: The Problem of Radical Self-Autonomy

As remarkable as that first article was in the New York Times, just a few days later on June the 4th, note that is within the span of one week, a massive essay appeared in the New York Times Magazine that’s released on Sunday. This article is by Daniel Bergner and its title is, “The Struggles of Rejecting the Gender Binary.” The subhead: “Not everyone identifies as male or female. This is what it’s like to be nonbinary in a world that wants to box you in.”

Now again, let’s just remind ourselves, the biblical worldview reminds us that it is the entire structure of creation that wants to bind us in. It’s indeed the Creator whose intention is to box us in. Now, the article is several thousand words long. We’re simply going to have to summarize and look at some of the most important points, but trust me, it’s an extremely important article. In worldview analysis, as one of the most important articles to appear in a very long time. It begins with the very illustration of the breakdown of language we’re talking about and that breakdown continues throughout the entire essay. I went to the trouble of marking all of the confusing personal pronouns that I could discover in this multi-thousand word article. It turned out that at least 170 times I was able to find a pronoun that simply doesn’t make sense.

The article begins by telling us about an individual who had been born male and began to think that he was actually identified by a female gender identity and thus there had been the assumption that what he should do is to transition to a female gender identity and rename himself as Hannah.

In the process of following what was again revolutionary just a couple of years ago and thinking of the transgender revolution, in trying to follow that logic, this individual discovered that he is actually neither according to his own self-understanding a man or a woman, male or female and so there is now this middle, very ambiguous undefined territory—this individual who had a male name as he was born male and is still of course, XY chromosomal structure. Here you have this individual who was old school transitioning to be a female according to this ideology who now is deciding to transition only to some kind of gender nonbinary identity no longer leaving his male name for the female name Hannah, but now looking for the nongender name Salem. The article also tells us, we’re just a few sentences in, that he wants to be known by the pronouns that are supposedly gender-neutral, they/them. Here’s the next sentence, “They’d failed, so far, to get their parents, their sister or their two remaining friends to understand and accept that they were neither a man nor a woman, that they were nonbinary, gender-fluid, gender expansive. They’d chosen the name Salem to fit with their identity, but they’d almost never asked anyone to call them by it.”

Now even reading that sentence, I recognize that I’m up to 171. I missed one they in this confusion, but the confusion is really the point. The English language cannot bear this kind of ideology. It doesn’t make sense anymore. Throughout this article, and at least now I’d have to tell you 171 different cases, what should be a he or a she is that they or them or some kind of derivative thereof and it doesn’t make sense any more than it makes sense in this article. They’d failed so far to get their parents, their sister. Well, all of this is not about a they. It’s about a he or his or him. Now, one way to detect the fact that this is a fatal breakdown in language is to consider this. Let’s just put this in a context of a 911 call.

Let’s just put it in a context we can all understand. There has been an accident and in that accident there is an individual who has been injured, thus the 911 call, “He has been injured.”

“Well, how was he injured?”

“Well, they were injured by having apparently broken bones. They seem to be in pain.”

“Well, are we talking about one man or two? Are we talking about a man or a woman? Are we talking about one person or many people?”

“Well, we’re talking about one person. They’re hurting.”

Well, what sense does that make? How in the world do you have any kind of language coherence when all of a sudden pronouns become a matter of gender ideology and you have people saying, “I’m no longer a he or she, I’m a them or I’m a they.” Of course there is no individual who is a them or a they. It makes no sense. It’s a breakdown of the language. Here’s where Christians understand, there’s a far more fundamental breakdown of meaning behind the breakdown of language. It is a subversion of truth and this means there can be no coherence on the other side of such a breakdown.

If I could summarize this massive article, it would be this: the gender revolutionaries have now set a trap for themselves. They have said the individual autonomy is the ultimate source of meaning when it comes to sexuality, marriage, relationships, gender, personal identity, you name it. It turns out that if individual autonomy is the only determining issue, then every individual gets to be autonomous and that means that M and F or LGBTQ are actually out the window. Now, it is an endless permutation.

Even in this article we read this: “An abundance of labels with subtle distinctions are in play. Neutrois and gender nonconforming and demiboy and demigirl and pangender and genderqueer are among the array of closely related identities that could confound any demographer.” Now, what’s that about? It’s about the fact that even the people happy about the revolution who are trying to count it, they can’t count it because there are no established categories. The definitions are all in flux and frankly, autonomous individuals are making up new self-definitional words just about every 15 minutes. No one can keep up. No one can keep count.

Now, as a writer and former newspaper editor, I did note the extreme attempt to be consistent within this article, especially with this revolution in pronouns, but at some point, that very consistency meant that the reader of this article couldn’t keep up, couldn’t make sense of what was being said. The coherence of the article began to break down, but that’s because the coherence of the worldview was abandoned long ago.

Part III

The Sadness and Brokenness the Sexual Revolutionaries Leave in Their Wake

As a Christian reading this article, you are heartbroken. Your heart is very moved by the brokenness that you read about here. Here’s the statement, “Logically and philosophically, for Kai, bodies signified nothing; physiology was without meaning. ‘But I do — I care, very much,’ he said. Logic and longing were irreconcilable. And for someone as smart and scientific as Kai, this was barely endurable. The contradiction between anatomical irrelevance and anatomical yearning was an existential challenge.” What’s so broken there? Well, it becomes very clear is that distinction between anatomical irrelevance in ideology and anatomical yearning in personal experience. This revolution is making promises it cannot keep.

In the parlance of today, it is writing checks it cannot cash. It is promising happiness and it even wants to say that anatomy isn’t important, but even some of the people who say, I believe that anatomy is not important, they are broken over the failure of their anatomy to meet their identity or their identity to meet their anatomy. In other words, anatomy does matter, even perhaps most urgently to the people who say it doesn’t matter. This is about an individual covered in the story who’s identified as being assigned female at birth, who assigned male in self-identity later uses masculine pronouns but is clearly struggling deeply with self-identity and understandably so. The gender revolution, the larger sexual and moral revolution is a lie. All lies come with deep brokenness and pain, devastation and destruction. In Christian worldview analysis, there’s another dimension of this big New York Times story that is equally urgent because it tells us that there are some who now acknowledge that their agenda is to completely eliminate the entire meaning of gender, of any kind of stability or structure in gender whatsoever.

We are told about the author of a book entitled, You’re in the Wrong Bathroom, who’s identified as, “something of a visionary outlining a future when technology that’s already near sensate prostheses, virtual reality that’s thoroughly immersive will make our relationships to our bodies artistic, the results of acts of creation.” The sentence actually goes on from there where we dare not to go, but let’s go to that expression that our new gender identity is going to be an act of creation. We’re going to create ourselves. We can be artistic, but notice the word creation there. Isn’t that interesting? It sneaks right up on us. Creation, that implies a Creator. Who is the Creator? Well, in this case, the worldview says the creator is the autonomous individual, but there has to be a Creator and it can’t be the individual who is created. There has to be a Creator, a divine Creator, capital C Creator. If there’s a capital C Creator, a divine Creator, then he actually determines who we are not only as male and female, but in other respects as well.

We are not given the right as individuals to artistically construct ourselves, even in defiance of biology. Now, looking at the first article I talked about the fact that there are some gender revolutionaries who want to eliminate society’s basic structures, even of male and female. Not when it just comes to individuals, but when it comes to the entire society. That comes out in the second article, “Jacobs spoke about foreseeing a time when people passing each other on the street wouldn’t immediately unconsciously sort one another into male or female, which even Jacobs, as the author of the book, reflexively does.”

“I don’t know what genders are going to look like four generations from now,” the author went on to say, “I think we’re going to perceive each other as people. The classifications we live under will fall by the wayside.”

Well, I’m just going to go out on a limb here and say that is not going to happen. I’m absolutely confident that’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen the same way you can tell a class of third graders that there is no distinction really between male and female and that you can be born male and consider yourself female or vice versa and to look at the boys and girls and they’re not buying it. Why are they not buying it? It is because they understand intuitively that being a boy or a girl, male or female is a given and it’s a given that they understand very clearly. When they see a baby’s diaper changed, it’s a given. When they decide, I need to go to the bathroom, I go to this one or I go to that one. Even as there are now celebrated official policy stipulated exceptions, the very existence of those exceptions again proves the rule. Yesterday, just as I was thinking about how to discuss these issues on The Briefing, a release came from the Vatican indicating that the Vatican’s congregation for Catholic education just yesterday released a statement entitled, “Male and Female Created He Them: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender.”

This statement released just yesterday coming with the full authority of the Vatican, makes it very clear that the Roman Catholic church is not joining the gender revolution. The document actually condemns, “calls for public recognition of the right to choose one’s gender and of a plurality of new types of unions, in direct contradiction of the model of marriage as being between one man and one woman, which is portrayed as a vestige of patriarchal societies.” The bottom line, the Vatican said over against the hopes of the transgender and gender revolutionaries said just yesterday that the official teaching of the Vatican is going to be that someone born biologically male is male, period. Someone born biologically female is female, period. What’s also interesting is the fact that the Roman Catholic church in this document said that it is that way because otherwise there is no coherence to human society, even to marriage as the union of a man and a woman, a male and a female, born that way, living that way, in covenant that way.

For Christians, the ultimate authority of course comes down to Scripture and this is what evangelicals understand clearly and this is where we would also affirm that the most important words in the title that people document are the words drawn from Genesis 1, male and female created he them. For biblically-minded Christians, that’s the beginning, that’s the end, that’s the middle.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’m speaking to you from Birmingham, Alabama, where I’m attending the meetings of the Southern Baptist Convention. I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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