Monday, October 28, 2019
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Monday, October 28, 2019. I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
How Controversial Can a Chicken Sandwich Be? Only Chick-fil-A Location in U.K. Will Close After Backlash From LGBTQ Activist Group
Just how controversial can a chicken sandwich be, or more precisely a restaurant that serves famously chicken sandwiches? That question is raised by headline news from the United Kingdom and the importance of this story for today is that in fact the story is coming from the United Kingdom.
Derrick Bryson Taylor reporting for the New York Times tells us, "Just days after Chick-fil-A’s first restaurant in the United Kingdom opened and amid protests by activists about the company’s opposition to same-sex marriage, the chain said on Saturday it will close the site in six months.”
The story in the Times continues telling us that The Oracle, which is a shopping mall in Reading where the restaurant had leased space, told the BBC it would not allow Chick-fil-A to stay beyond its initial six month pilot period and that the company that runs the mall said it was the right thing to do in an official statement after a call to boycott the chain by a group known as Reading Pride, a local lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender advocacy group.
So before we go any further in the story, we have yet another headline concerning a company, Chick-fil-A. We've seen these headlines in the United States, we've seen some cities turn down the opportunity for Chick-fil-A to operate in its airports. We have seen many in New York City indicate that Chick-fil-A is something of a moral invasion force, a worldview invasion force, disguised as a chicken sandwich in the liberal precincts of Manhattan.
And now we see a similar kind of story coming from England, the town of Reading, where a shopping mall that had allowed Chick-fil-A to obtain a lease said that the lease was going to be canceled after the six month pilot period and in the words of the mall, "It was the right thing to do," implying, by the way, that the mall's administration had made a mistake in allowing Chick-fil-A to gain the lease in the first place. If it's the right thing to do to cancel the lease, then certainly it must have been the wrong thing to do, at least in the worldview of the company now, to extend the lease.
But that tells us what's really going on here. The New York Times goes on to report that it was an LGBTQ activist group known as Reading Pride that demanded that the lease be ended, and now we are told the demand was quite successful. But I want to go to the activist group's statement in what they released to the mall and to the public. They said, "We are staunchly opposed to Chick-fil-A setting up shop in the U.K. and certainly in Reading. The chain's ethos," said the statement, "and moral stance goes completely against our values and that of the U.K.,” the United Kingdom, “as we are a progressive country that legalized same sex marriage and continues to strive towards equality."
Note the language that's being used here. The country is described as a progressive country. That means very clearly a company that in the view of Reading Pride wouldn't allow Chick-Fil-A to operate as a business. And as a country that has demonstrated its progressive morality by legalizing same sex marriage, and a country, claimed the activist group, that continues to strive towards equality.
So what's the problem here? Is Chick-fil-A refusing legally to recognize same sex marriage? No, it's not. Is Chick-fil-A somehow offering overt moral messaging to the citizens of the United Kingdom as the price they must pay in order to obtain a Chick-fil-A sandwich? No, of course the company is doing no such thing. So how, we must ask, did the United Kingdom described here as a progressive country be declared to be at odds with Chick-fil-A, which is after all a company best known for its chicken sandwiches and other food?
Well it turns out quite predictably that Reading Pride is going back to internet research that revealed comments that had been made for example, by Dan T. Cathy, the company's chairman and chief executive. He had been quoted in 2012 saying that Chick-fil-A believed in, "The biblical definition of the family unit." And that statement had been made in response to press reports that the Chick-fil-A Foundation had donated funds to groups within the U.S. “working to prevent the legalization of same sex marriage." That's the press claim, but is that true? Did Chick-fil-A actually donate to groups, "working to prevent the legalization of same sex marriage?"
Well, looking at the list, what is clearly at stake here is the fact that Chick-fil-A supported several Christian organizations and Christian ministries that define marriage is alone the union of a man and a woman and all of that was enough to trigger the controversy. For example, one of the donations listed within international press reports as being illustrative of the problem was to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for a camp for children. Let's just state the obvious: This is not a campaign against same sex marriage. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, however — here's no surprise — is a Christian ministry that is committed to Christian truth, and it defines for its own staff and in accordance with relevant policies the fact that marriage is and can only be the union of a man and a woman. It is a Christian ministry caught guilty of holding to Christian convictions on this issue. We are also, we're reminded talking about a camp for children. This is now transformed and what we need to watch is how this happens in the media. It is a massive public relations attempt to try to brand any Christian ministry that defines marriage according to biblical standards as being an organization that is seeking to oppose same sex marriage.
Now, do Christian ministries based upon a biblical definition of marriage oppose same sex marriage? Yes, but that is not the central purpose of virtually any of the organizations that at least are continuing and that are at stake when it comes to this controversy. This is a very successful activist program to try to rebrand Christian ministries as being primarily about what they then define as a repressive and regressive morality. But we need to note very importantly, just how successful these efforts turn out to be. It didn't take much pressure for Oracle, the mall in Reading, England, to cave to this kind of pressure. And furthermore, morally to seek to backpedal as if they regret the very idea that it was ever a good idea or a legitimate business move to extend the lease to Chick-Fil-A. Notice the disappearance of any ethos of tolerance and the fact that the very engine of enterprise is now being used as a great machine to crush any kind of moral opposition.
Chick-fil-A is a company that was established by a Christian family. It's a closely held private corporation. It has reflected a pro-family ethos and it has also been very clear about the fact that even as it is closed on the Lord's Day as a matter of conviction, the convictions of the Christian faith are the very background and foundation upon which the world exists upon which Chick-fil-A has established its business. But you'll notice that overwhelmingly this is a tactic that is being used now by the cultural left and in particular LGBTQ activist groups. Just to give you a counter example, when was the last time that you saw a conservative city that caved to pressure from a conservative activist group that the city had to stop doing business or the mall would have to stop leasing space to say Ben and Jerry's ice cream, famously identified in its activism with the cultural left?
This should remind us of an article that appeared not in the U.K. but in New York City, in the magazine, The New Yorker, a very clear indicator of the cultural elite and its thinking in this country. Dan Piepenbring wrote the article entitled, “Chick-fil-A's Creepy Infiltration of New York City.” Note those words, the company's “creepy infiltration of New York City.”
Piepenbring wrote, "During a recent lunch hour, I was alone on the rooftop of the largest Chick-fil-A in the world. The restaurant on Fulton Street is the company's fourth in Manhattan and it opened to the kind of slick corporate friendly fanfare that could only create a new chain location. The first 100 customers had participated in a scavenger hunt around the financial district. As an award ceremony, the management honored them with a year supply of free chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. But the main purpose of the article was not to cover the grand opening, but the enormous threat that Chick-fil-A poses to the moral integrity of Manhattan." That according to the moral left.
Piepenbring wrote, "New York has taken to Chick-fil-A. One of the Manhattan locations estimates that it sells a sandwich every six seconds, and the company has announced plans to open as many as a dozen more storefronts in the city. And yet the brand's arrival here feels like an infiltration in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism." This is, as I pointed out when the article appeared back in 2018, one of the most explosively revealing statements we will ever see about what is happening in our country and how the secular left looks at Christians or for that matter, even at a company that was established by Christians.
You have words here such as infiltration in the headline, even “creepy infiltration,” and that is a signal of the fact that Manhattan as represented by this author and more importantly by The New Yorker says, "Manhattan is now safe from any kind of Christian influence. Thank you. Keep your biblical Christianity far, far away from Manhattan. If you dare to show up here, even in something as indirect and innocuous as a chicken sandwich— a chicken sandwich that doesn't come emblazoned with a Bible verse or with any kind of statement against same sex marriage — if you dare nonetheless to infiltrate Manhattan, no, we're going to call you out for your creepy infiltration."
As evidence of the danger of this infiltration of Manhattan, Piepenbring wrote, "Its headquarters in Atlanta are adorned with Bible verses and a statue of Jesus washing a disciple's feet.” Now, at that point, I suppose the moral inhabitants of Manhattan are expected to gasp. The story continues, "Its stores close on Sundays. Its CEO, Dan Cathy, has been accused of bigotry for using the company's charitable wing to fund anti-gay causes, including groups that oppose same sex marriage." You'll notice by the way, that Piepenbring though clearly condemning Chick-fil-A for having anything to do with Christian ministries that hold to a traditional biblical understanding, he at least wrote more carefully in this regard than the accusations we saw in the United Kingdom. Piepenbring said that, "Chick-fil-A has funded anti-gay causes, including groups that oppose same sex marriage."
Now again, that's an exaggeration of what Chick-fil-A has actually done, and it is an indictment and an attempt to suppress Christian ministries that are after all about something else — the Fellowship of Christian Athletes — but do hold to a Christian understanding of marriage and sexuality. But Piepenbring goes further to quote Dan Cathy as having said years ago, "We're inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’" Piepenbring went on to say, the company has since reaffirmed its intention to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect, “but it has quietly continued to donate to anti-LGBT groups."
So again, what are we talking about? We're talking about groups such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. That's all it takes now to be one of “them” when it comes to the cultural left. But I've used that term specific here. It's more of the secular left committed to the moral and gender revolution, but what we need to know is that it has effects on the entire culture. It's not just the left there in Reading, England, that will now not be afflicted with the very temptation of buying chicken sandwiches in Chick-fil-A. No one in Reading, England, is going to be able to do so, and these activist groups have made very clear that their goal is that there never will be another Chick-fil-A sandwich sold in England. That's the world in which we now live.
Why Do Democrats No Longer Use the Word “Rare” When Describing Abortion? A Massive Moral Shift in the Change of Language
But now we're going to shift the issue back to the United States and to the issue of abortion with a Vox headline, "How the Abortion Debate Moved Away from Safe, Legal, and Rare." Anna North is the writer of the article, and it's actually quite useful. She writes, "Democratic politicians used to say, abortion should be rare. Here's how that changed.”
That is a particularly disclosive line in and of itself because it's true that Democratic politicians used to say, and we're not talking about the 19th century here, that abortion should be rare, and that has changed. It has changed as reflected in the 2020 race for the Democratic presidential nomination. It has also changed even in the course of the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination. We're watching a moral argument changing and unfolding over time.
Tulsi Gabbard said at the Democratic presidential debate a few days ago, "I agree with Hillary Clinton on one thing. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare." Now that's really interesting because it was Hillary Clinton's husband, Bill Clinton, then governor of Arkansas running for the 1992 Democratic nomination that tried to rebrand the Democratic Party's position on abortion as demanding that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. That meant legal, supporting Roe v. Wade and furthermore opposing just about any kind of limitation upon abortion; safe, intended by Bill Clinton to mean basically the line of Planned Parenthood that this is about a woman's reproductive health; but also rare. Now “rare” became the word of controversy here.
When Hillary Clinton ran for president the first time she used her husband's language that abortion should be safe, legal and rare, but by the time she was the Democratic nominee in 2016 she was saying safe and legal, but she particularly was not saying rare. Vox explains the reason for this is that activists for abortion complained that the word “rare” as a goal for abortion indicated that there just might be something even slightly wrong, not to mention deeply immoral, about abortion. Once again, you have the fact activists for abortion are complaining that even Democratic candidates aren't doing enough to support abortion rightsm and furthermore, they're not doing enough to remove what they've identified as the stigma of abortion. Again, from a Christian worldview perspective, that's going to be impossible because God has created a universe in which an act as heinous as killing the unborn baby in a woman's womb is never going to be free from stigma.
The article at Vox cites the fact that Hillary Clinton used the language of safe, legal and rare in her 2008 presidential campaign, "The language was likely meant to appeal to people who supported the right to an abortion in principle, but still felt morally conflicted about the procedure, a large group, according to some polling." But the article in Vox continues, "Many abortion rights advocates argued that calling for the procedure to be rare play stigma on those who seek it."
The article by Anna North cites abortion activist, Destiny Lopez as saying, "There's a fundamental notion of bodily autonomy that we've been fighting for as advocates and activists on this issue for years." She went onto complain that, when candidates say that abortion should be rare, it "completely negates all the work that we've done to really make this about the ability to decide what's best for your body, for your family, for your community." Now notice what is emphatically made very clear in that statement. It is the fact that the abortion activist group wants to put light on anything other than, anyone other than, the unborn child.
The article in Vox continues, "Over the years, Democrats have become more sympathetic to this view. By 2016 Hillary Clinton had changed her message saying only that abortion should be safe and legal." And Vox goes on to say, "It was part of a broader shift in the party toward more full throated support of abortion rights." The article goes on, "During the 2016 primaries, both Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders called for a repeal of the Hyde Amendment,” which bans federal funding for most abortions. The article states, "Today, all the Democratic presidential candidates including Gabbard, support allowing federal funding for the procedure along with a slate of other reforms aimed at increasing access."
But says Vox, as Tulsi Gabbard’s statement showed, "The framing of safe, legal and rare isn't gone. Her comment,” says Vox, "and the conversations surrounding it were a reminder of not just how much the Democratic Party has changed in recent years on abortion rights, but of the divisions that still remain." This is the only part of the article I find problematic because I don't think those divisions actually remain in any meaningful way, especially when you're looking at the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and specifically at the front runners. Not one of them will come anywhere close to suggesting that they had ever believed at any point, even in the past, that abortion should under any circumstances be rare. Thinking about this shift again, just think about Hillary Clinton, as the Vox article makes clear back in 2008, when Hillary Clinton said that abortion should be safe, legal and rare, at one point, she actually insisted, "By rare I mean rare,” which means now by not meaning rare, she profoundly does not mean rare.
The article at Vox is not criticizing the Democratic Party, not at all. It's just pointing out the shift in its policy. As Anna North writes later, "In 2016 the Democratic Party added a call to repeal the Hyde Amendment to its official platform. Today, all the Democrats running for the 2020 presidential nominations say they support allowing federal money to pay for abortions even former vice president Joe Biden, who earlier this year supported leaving Hyde in place now calls for its repeal." And finally the Vox article goes back to analysis citing an analyst watching the Democratic movement here by saying that this is now part of “a general shift in moving away from stigmatizing people who need and have abortions."
It's just really important for us to note the massive moral shift reflected in this change of language. It's not a small thing. It wasn't a small thing that Bill Clinton had spoken of abortion as necessarily being rightly, safe, legal, and rare by his argument. It is the fact that his wife picked it up in 2008, dropped it in 2016, and now not one candidate as a front runner in the Democratic Party will come anywhere close to it. What's important here is not so much the partisan analysis; that’s simply obvious. What's important is for us to recognize that this reflects something far bigger as a moral change than what's taking place merely in one political party. It's taking place in the larger society. The great partisan divide in the United States, that worldview divide over something as basic as abortion, is now growing even deeper and wider and it's reflected in the language and to the credit of Vox, they noted the shift in the language.
Athletic Competition Clashes with the Transgender Revolution: When People Keep Score, the Cultural Delusion about the End of the ‘Gender Binary’ Is Revealed
But there's another story to which we need to pay attention. This one reported in the national and international media but mostly revealed on Twitter. It has to do with cyclist Rachel McKinnon. As National Review magazine reports McKinnon is "a biological male who presents as a woman." And National Review magazine now reports that McKinnon has won the women's world championship and set a women's world record in the qualifying event.
The magazine goes on to report, "McKinnon, a Canadian philosophy professor at the College of Charleston won the same event in 2018. In an interview with Sky News, McKinnon said that attempts to level the playing field for women's sports by discriminating against transgender athletes,” just notice the word order there, "was the equivalent of denying their human rights." McKinnon said in a statement, "All my medical records say, female. My doctor treats me as a female person. My racing license says female, but people who oppose my existence still want to think of me as male. So if we want to say that I believe you're a woman for all of society except for this massive central part that is sport, then that's not fair."
Now I'm going to state that McKinnon has a point. If people are going to offer the delusion or the illusion that McKinnon is a female in other dimensions and if does appear to be inconsistent to deny that same designation to sport. But that's really the point, isn't it? The demand here is that we do enter into this cultural delusion to the point that we are willing to declare in every context that someone who is a biological male presenting as a woman is to be recognized as a woman.
So why does sports competition now rise to such an issue? Well, the answer is really simple. People in athletics keep score and furthermore there has been, and by nature necessarily is in many competitive events, a very clear distinction between competition among biological males and competition among biological females. This was famously, and now we're told erroneously, what society had previously thought was the right and proper way of understanding competition between boys and men in one arena, and girls and women in another arena.
But now you have the rules completely changed or at least the demands that the rules change. But the point is that Rachel McKinnon, a biological male who presents as a woman, has now for the second time won the women's world championship. And yes, some female cyclists are indignant and so are some traditional feminists. As National Review tells us, "Victoria Hood, a former cycling champion and manager of a British all-female cycling team, challenged McKinnon telling Sky that, ‘It is not complicated. The science is there and it says that this is unfair. The male body, which has been through male puberty still retains its advantage. That doesn't go away. I have sympathy with them,’" she said. "They have a right to do sport but it's not a right to go into any category they want."
In response, McKinnon released a statement in which McKinnon denounced Hood for having, "an irrational fear of trans women." Notice again the language: “irrational fear of trans women.” That's a way of dismissing the fact that this is an argument that is the argument made by Victoria Hood who had been a previous cycling champion. McKinnon is making the argument that throughout virtually all of human history would have been recognized as not only right and proper and natural and obvious but unavoidable and uncontroversial, but not anymore.
In a tweet McKinnon stated, "Many people claim to support trans women but often they only support us until our lives impact them in any meaningful way. In my case, people literally say they support trans women but not in sport." McKinnon ended her tweet with the words, "There can be no but." There is no but, not in sport. But when you look at it, you understand that McKinnon is seeing a level of hypocrisy. People who do say, "I am entirely with the transgender revolution." Until it comes to something like women's or girl's sport.
At that point they say, "Our tolerance has been exceeded, this doesn't make any sense." But the problem is they have tried to argue as McKinnon states, "That it does make sense up until this point." But of course that's the point that Christians have to understand. There's a fundamental rebellion against creation here. It doesn't start with the issue of sport and it won’t end with the issue of sport. But you know what? The issue of sports and athletics does clarify the issue, as I said, because people do keep score. There are statistics and it matters who has won the championship. It matters who is broken the world record.
And intuitively just about everyone still understands that it makes a difference if a biological male presenting as a woman is competing in the female sport. Just in case anyone might miss the point, McKinnon pressed her case with another post on Twitter, "I have yet to meet a real champion who has a problem with trans women. Real champions want stronger competition. If you win because bigotry got your competition banned, you're a loser."
Again, just notice the very blatant, obvious, and yet potentially successful effort to try to reframe this entire equation. And notice the fact that this just isn't true, by the way, not only at the basic level of nature. It's also not true when it comes to the fact that if you are a champion that has a problem with trans women, you're not really a champion. That's not true of Martina Navratilova in tennis. That's not true of Victoria Hood when it comes to international cycling.
But before Christians leave this story, we really do need to understand the necessity of consistency. That's another principle of the Christian worldview. It doesn't make sense to say, "We don't believe that the word ‘woman’ or ‘female’ or ‘girl’ makes any real difference over in other areas of life, but all the sudden we think it does make a difference in sport." That is an inconsistency. We're watching a secularizing world mired in inconsistency and whenever that inconsistency is pointed out, it's our responsibility to see it for what it is. But this is where Christians also have to recognize that the last thing we should hope for is for the world to be even more consistently wrong.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'm speaking to you from Omaha, Nebraska, and I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.