Thursday, November 14, 2019
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Thursday, November 14, 2019. I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
The LGBTQ Revolution in Entertainment: It’s Really a Battle for Hearts and Minds
Sometimes the moral revolution is actually quantified. That's the case in headline news. For example from USA Today, "Record Number of LGBTQ characters.” The article is by Bill Keveney, and he writes, "More LGBTQ characters than ever are populating TV shows especially on the broadcast networks and streaming services, but cable hasn't improved by that measure in the past year according to GLAAD's 2019–20 Where We Are on TV Report."
So just with that lead paragraph, we are told that this organization is keeping score as it has to do with the depictions of LGBTQ characters. You might imagine there's more to the story and indeed there is. Keveney reports, "The broadcast networks, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and CW have reached another new high in LGBTQ representation in the 2019–20 TV season.” That again is according to the annual GLAAD update that was released just last Thursday. “The report,” according to USA Today, “found LGBTQ characters are expected to represent specifically, you need to note, 10.2% of series regulars on prime time scripted series on the major networks, a record high, that best last season's record of 8.8%. It surpasses the 10% goal set by GLAAD, the world's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer media advocacy organization a year early."
Work backwards from there. We are told that a year before the target date established by GLAAD, GLAAD comes back to say the target has been met and it has been met in TV and in streaming broadcasting with a record number of LGBTQ characters, particularly in what are identified as scripted programming. That means it's a series, it's ongoing, there's a script and there are characters who are clearly identified. Working backwards, we also know the numbers. 10.2%, we are told, over the last year up from 8.8% specifically the year before. So, we had a 10% goal that was exceeded by the number 10.2% up in one year from 8.8%. Well, who's keeping score and what exactly is going on here?
In order to understand that, we have to go to the original document itself, the report released by GLAAD. It's title is “Where We Are On TV 2019–2020.” Sarah Kate Ellis writing for GLAAD tells us, "GLAAD has tracked the presence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer characters on television for 24 years and this year marks the 15th study since expanding that focus into what is now the Where We Are on TV report. A great deal,” she writes, “has changed for LGBTQ people in America since that first year where GLAAD counted only 12 series regular LGBTQ characters across all of broadcast and cable. Yet our community,” she writes, “finds itself in 2019 facing unprecedented attacks on our progress."
This is the kind of language that is used by this kind of activist community, but before looking at the language in the report, let's just consider the language in the name because that turns out to be very important in worldview analysis. The name of the organization is pronounced to GLAAD, but it's spelled a G-L-A-A-D. Originally that stood for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, but they don't use that language anymore. We see the same pattern with NARAL that was formally the National Abortion Rights Action League, but it now just calls itself NARAL. That is indicative of the fact that these groups brand themselves.
But there's something more when you're looking at GLAAD. You will notice that every time it describes itself, you have a sentence like this, “GLAAD,” which stood for Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, “GLAAD has tracked the presence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer characters on television for 24 years.” That's actually not even true, because if you go back 24 years, some of this language isn't even existing yet. Furthermore, you will notice that every time they tried to describe who they are, they put the word “lesbian” before “gay.” Why? Because it was claimed that putting G for gay men before L was another form of sexism. So, they didn't change the name that they have branded GLAAD, but they don't talk about GLAAD anymore because they're not glad to spell it out. Now instead, they describe themselves in very different terms using some terms that as we just said didn't even exist when the organization was established and certainly weren't available publicly for public conversation.
But it's just interesting to note the language they use also cites the fact that they have exceeded the goal that they set 10% and a year early. They hit 10.2%, but that's not enough. That's the whole point of their report. That's not enough because, as they say, even as they are trumpeting their success a year early, they dare to go on to say, "Our community finds itself in 2019 facing unprecedented attacks on our progress."
Here's something else we need to note in understanding the culture. Activist organizations like this can only raise funds if they indicate that there is a panic for which they are the solution. This is an organization that is just bragging that its goals were met a year early so they have to move the goals. And that also tells us how this kind of organization functions in cultural change. It can't ever say, “This is exactly where we need to be,” because if they ever say that, then they're going to have to stop raising money. They can only raise the kind of money they want if they go out and scream, “The problem is even worse than we thought. You've got to give even more now.”
Of course, there's an even deeper issue here beyond the fundraising and it is the fact that these organizations only have political traction because they can say we represent people against whom discrimination has been the norm, and thus you can only further your aims if you can indicate that the discrimination was even worse than we thought or was affecting an even greater percentage of the population than we dreamed. So, just consider the fact that even as this report was released indicating that that 10% goal had been reached a year early, GLAAD said that actually the right goal will not be 10% but 20%, and if this society is going to be just, 20% is where we must get in quickly.
In the introduction to the report by Sarah Kate Ellis, who's the president and CEO of GLAAD, she wrote, "Even as we congratulate the industry for accepting and meeting GLAAD's previous challenge, it is not enough just to have an LGBTQ character present to win an LGBTQ audience’s attention. There needs to be nuance and depth to their story and the slate of characters should reflect the full diversity of our community." She doesn't stop. She goes on, "GLAAD and Harris polls accelerating acceptance study shows that 20% of Americans age 18 to 34 are LGBTQ, and this applies across demographics. The general social survey from NORC at the University of Chicago this summer found that 23% of black women in America, 18 to 34, identify as bisexual and the university's GenForward Survey reports that one in five Latinx millennials are LGBTQ."
Now, we just need to recognize that what's going on here is political coercion serving a moral agenda that is packaged in a very sophisticated way. It is addressed to Hollywood and Hollywood is just primed to be susceptible to this kind of argument, but it's not actually an argument. It is a demand. It is a political demand that is disguised as an argument. Just look at the argument itself, if you take it as an argument. We are told that 20% of Americans aged 18 to 34 are LGBTQ. Well at the same time, all the best evidence indicates that if you're looking at LGBT, you're only looking at about 5% of the population. Indeed even less than 5%, something like 4.7%. That's a long way from 20%. So, how do you get to 20%? Well, that's why they require that last letter Q, which means either queer or questioning.
If you use the word “questioning,” it means people who when asked on some kind of survey say that there is some question or they're going to identify with some kind of question as their own identity. They're suggesting that they are questioning. Now, when you look at the age range that you see here, you shouldn't be surprised that given the cultural pressures and the moral confusion, there would be some who say that they're questioning. Furthermore, the quickest way to be cool on the local campus is to identify as something, but the vast majority here are not covered by L, by G, by T or by B. It has to be covered by something else.
Then the oddest thing here is where we are told that the NORC survey, that is an authoritative survey taken at the University of Chicago, found that 23% of black women in America, 18 to 34 identify as bisexual. You don't even have to look very closely at the actual NORC data to understand that is a very odd number to pull out. It appears odd in this report, and the fact that it is cited as it is means that this group is stretching to find some number it can site in order to justify its 20% demand, but leaving the numbers for just a moment, notice that there is actually demand in that previous paragraph for how the depictions must come about.
Here you have the letter demanding, "There needs to be nuance and depth to their story,” meaning LGBTQ characters, which means GLAAD and other activist organizations are policing not only the numbers right down to the decimal point, they are also policing how the story is told. That means, by the way, that there can be no negative depictions when it comes to mainstream media, negative depictions of LGBTQ characters. All the depictions have to be positive. Furthermore, they also have to have what GLAAD demands as nuance.
We also come to understand that in the midst of all of this confusion and political activism, the idea, indeed the ideology of intersectionality is always very close at hand. Intersectionality goes hand in hand with identity politics and the claim that the more complicated the identity, the greater the discrimination. So, notice this paragraph embedded within the deep text of the report. "On broadcast, there are 85 black women, 21% of all women regular characters, 43 Latinx women 11%, 36 Asian Pacific Islander women 9% and 35 women of another race or multiracial 9%, there are 203 white women, 50.5% of all women, regular characters. One non-binary character is white."
Now, there are all kinds of issues here. The most fundamental issue is identity politics that identifies an individual's identity by means of these markers rather than first of all being a human being made in the image of God, but beyond that, you also have the fact that intersectionality is an ideology that feeds on itself. Just consider the fact that some disability activists have complained that there is no accounting in this report for LGBTQ characters who might also be differently able. That's the new ideology or disabled in some way.
But looking at that one paragraph that I isolated from the report, how in the world is GLAAD even able to count exactly where some individuals fit? Let's just look at one figure in this report. For example, the report claims that there are 43 Latinx women, that's the term they use, and 36 Asian Pacific Islander women, but how exactly do they know the racial or ethnic background of all of these individuals? What kind of presumptions are they using? I mean if you follow the ideology of identity politics as this report is steeped in it, then don't you have to ask every single individual what their identity is right now and how they want to be counted right now and in how many different ways they want to be counted right now, just like we're supposed to be asking people what their preferred personal pronoun is right now?
Going back to these numbers, we do see the open demand no longer for 10% but 20% which amounts to something like four times the actual representation if you are trying to count according to the distribution of the United States population. This is why Hollywood is so much more liberal and the products that they put out are so over-weighted when it comes to this kind of representation. Hollywood is actually the last place where it makes sense for even more representation, because Hollywood is where this representation is outlandishly demonstrated as compared to the rest of the country.
So, what does this really come down to? It isn't about Hollywood, it's about the people who are watching the products of Hollywood. That is the real issue, and that's made clear in the second paragraph of the letter from Sarah Kate Ellis, and Christians need to hear every word of what she writes. She says this, "The role of television in changing hearts and minds has never been more important. Indeed," she says, "our nation's cultural institutions are being called to stand in the gap at this tumultuous time in the history of our movement for full acceptance."
Notice the straightforwardness of that language. “The role of television in changing hearts and minds” is what she points to. So, you understand that's really what it's about. It's not just a battle for your eyeballs, by the advertisers, it is a battle for hearts and minds that is being undertaken by those who are behind the cultural productions of Hollywood and those who are trying to bring pressure, quite successfully so, on Hollywood and what it produces.
It is also the case that we have many Christians in America who are saying one thing and doing another. They say, “We shouldn't put up with this,” but then they go and buy the ticket. They pay for the streaming services. They let this programming into their homes and show it to their own children. They say, “We're not going to put up with it,” but they do.
Is Global Acceptance of LGBT Issues Increasing? Gaining Moral Affirmation and Change through Coercion
Next, that leads us to another leading cultural indicator along these lines. It also came out just in the last few days. It is a report from the Williams Institute at the School of Law of the University of California in Los Angeles, UCLA. The title of this comprehensive report: "Social acceptance of LGBT people in 174 countries measured from 1981 to 2017.” The author of the study is Andrew R. Flores. The issue here is that some countries are praised, although satisfaction is expressed of no country, but other countries are denounced because they are inadequate, according to this study from UCLA, in the social acceptance of LGBT people.
Now, no doubt LGBT people amongst others are endangered in some societies and that is wrong, but what's being demanded here is not physical safety and security. What is being demanded here is moral acceptance. What we have straightforwardly in this research report is the claim that without total moral acceptance, there can be no safety. Now, that's the logic we need to understand that is driving so many of the influencers in our society. They bought this argument, hook, line and sinker. They believe that moral acceptance is the only possible demand to make of everyone. That means every citizen, every consumer, every viewer of the programming. This means every voter. It means every church, every denomination, every school, everything, period.
In the introduction to the report entitled “Understanding Acceptance and Exclusion,” the issue is defined. "As defined here, acceptance is a broad concept which encompasses social beliefs about LGBT people as well as prevailing opinion about laws and policies relevant to protecting LGBT people from violence and discrimination and promoting their equality and wellbeing."
Notice the logic of the series in that sentence. It begins by speaking of protecting LGBT people from violence but then goes on to demand also protecting LGBT people from discrimination. Recognize how broad a category that is and then promoting their equality and wellbeing. By the time you get to page nine of the report, it is clear that central to the target problem they are identifying is anyone who believes that there is anything morally wrong with anything covered by LGBTQ and you can add to that whatever will come in the future.
I read from the report, "In addition, some questions such as the Gallup World Poll ask the respondent to use morality as a criteria to arrive at an answer. However, moral opposition does not necessarily equate to a lack of support for an individual or a policy, particularly in liberal democracies where questions of private morality may be distinct from policy discussions." Again, here you see the argument in so many of the modern Western liberal democracies that it's all right, we guess, if you hold your own private religious opinions as long as it stays private.
But the report also cites the World Value Survey, which makes clear the acknowledgement that at the end of the day there's no escape here from the fact that some of this judgment is theological. The survey poses, "Please tell me as to each of the following actions whether you think it can always be justified, never be justified, or something in between: homosexuality." Then the report says, "The notion of justification is odd, because homosexuality is rarely seen in a framework of having to be proven. For some, justification may have a theological meaning of being declared righteous or guiltless."
Now to a Christian, that's incredibly interesting. Where does that language come from? You'll notice that the language about being righteous or guiltless is here defined as being essentially theological. The clear point is that anyone who holds a theological definition of right and wrong, the righteousness or guilt must be part of the problem.
Looking at the report, it is interesting to note that the nations of Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Canada, and Spain, they are estimated to have the highest levels of acceptance, and "all have increased in their levels of acceptance. The least accepting countries.” we are told, “which are also experiencing decreased levels of acceptance are Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Senegal, Tajikistan, and Somaliland."
Even as yesterday on The Briefing, we talked about the United Nations taking an increasingly activist posture when it comes to a pro-abortion agenda, the same thing is now reflected in this study. This is the kind of research that is cited by groups such as the United Nations in order to say these are the good countries, those are the bad countries. The good countries need to be even better and the bad countries need to get in line. Now, some of these countries are very clearly acting unjustly. They are acting in a way that leads to violence against persons who are identified as LGBTQ. You will notice that if this were a report simply about addressing violence, it would be a different report. This is a report that is trying to coerce moral change all the way down to the eventual demand that there must be a moral affirmation of homosexuality and the entire LGBTQ array.
Phillip E. Johnson, Brilliant and Courageous Truthteller, Dies at 79: Understanding the Centrality of Creation to Christian Theology
Finally, as we're thinking about worldview, I want to honor the late Phillip E. Johnson, a dear friend and a great and courageous defender of the Christian faith and one of the most incisive critics of evolution of modern times. Phillip Johnson was brilliant. He graduated from Harvard at the top of his class and then went to the University of Chicago Law School. He later served as a clerk, not only to the chief justice of the California Supreme Court, but also to the chief justice of the United States, Earl Warren. He later earned a teaching post at one of those distinguished law schools in America, Boalt Hall, the law school of the University of California at Berkeley, but it was his book that was published in 1991, Darwin on Trial, that brought him to the attention of many Christians and others in the United States.
This book was based in Phillip Johnson's experience as a lawyer. As a lawyer, as he tells us, he was quick to recognize a bad argument when he saw one. In Darwin on Trial, he famously wrote, "I approach the creation evolution dispute not as a scientist but as a professor of law, which means among other things that I know something about the ways that words are used in arguments. What first drew my attention to the question," he wrote, "was the way the rules of arguments seem to be structured to make it impossible to question whether what we are being told about evolution is really true."
He went on to say his second urgency was "that the very person to insist upon keeping religion and science separate are eager to use their science as a basis for pronouncements about religion." He then cited Richard Dawkins, the best known evolutionist of our times who said, "It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet someone who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane or wicked." Dawkins said, "I'd rather not consider that."
Phillip Johnson was exactly right. So many of the people who say religion and science have to be kept absolutely distinct, they themselves do not keep them distinct pronouncing upon religion and generally pronouncing upon an affirmation of atheism as if they have any idea what they're talking about. They use their scientific prestige and the culture to make theological arguments for which they are by no means qualified.
Then he noted there was a religious dimension to Darwinism. "Another factor that makes evolutionary science seem a lot like religion is the evident zeal of Darwinist to evangelize the world by insisting that even nonscientist accept the truth of their theory as a matter of moral obligation."
It should be encouraging, by the way, to Christians to recognize the Phillip Johnson was an unbeliever until something happened and that something was that his young daughter was invited to Vacation Bible School at a local church. That daughter's exposure to Vacation Bible School eventually led to the fact that Phillip Johnson became a Christian. He became a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then we should also be encouraged that this brilliant law professor having converted to Christianity and found Christ then took seriously the responsibility to apply the same intellectual vigor and courage to Christianity and to the truths of the Christian faith that he had previously demonstrated when it came to matters of the law. As a relatively young Christian but a very experienced lawyer, he began to listen to the claims made by evolutionists and he recognized a problem. As he said, "Something about the Darwinist rhetorical style made me think they had something to hide."
The closer Phillip Johnson looked to the dominant theory of evolution taught in his own university and elsewhere, he began to recognize that it could not possibly account for the world as we know it for the real world. He pointed, for example, to the nearly infinite complexity of the world, and he said that whatever evolution can explain, it can't explain that.
Theologian Fred Sanders wrote a very moving tribute to his friend, Phillip Johnson. They had been fellow church members in Berkeley in the 1990s. Phillip Johnson was the law professor and recent convert to Christianity. Fred Sanders was the theologian beginning his work on defending Trinitarian theology. But as he recalls, it was Johnson who "showed real interest in my work on Trinitarian theology, but he wanted me to understand," writes Sanders, "that it would always sound imaginary to anybody who had already had their intellects formed by a prior decision against the metaphysics of Christian truth. He was right," wrote Sanders. "The broad basic outlines of creation had to be established if Christian theology was to win any kind of hearing."
That's an absolutely brilliant insight, and it took Phillip Johnson and Fred Sanders together to bring it to us. What we have here is Phillip Johnson who understood the secular mind saying that to the secular mind that was established on a secular metaphysics or understanding of reality, any talk of God, not to mention Trinitarian theology, would sound like nothing other than the operation of the imagination.
But the bottom line of this argument is just incredibly important to us. As Fred Sanders writes "The broad basic outlines of creation have to be established if Christian theology is to win any kind of hearing." That means that without the basic assertions of a biblical notion of creation, there is no version of Christian theology that will make any sense, will have any coherence, and will correspond to biblical revelation.
Furthermore, to those whose minds are already established by what Phillip Johnson rightly indicted as a naturalistic, materialistic understanding of the entire cosmos that excluded the very possibility of the existence of God, as both Sanders and Phillip Johnson understood, if you start there, you can't possibly give any credence to theology whatsoever. This insight helps us both to understand the reality of the secular mind and the centrality of creation to Christian theology.
Phillip Johnson was a dear friend to me and a brilliant defender of truth and a brilliant opponent of error. He was born in 1940, he died just a few days ago at his home in Berkeley, California. Such is the kingdom.
Thank you for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at AlbertMohler.com. You can find 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'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.