Friday, November 15, 2019
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Friday, November 15, 2019. I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Sprite Ad Depicts Parents Celebrating Children’s Non-Binary Gender Identity: When Corporations Go Beyond Virtue Signaling to Virtue Preaching
Commercial advertising is a window into the soul of our culture, and not just in the United States but elsewhere. As we are living in an increasingly global society, what happens elsewhere doesn't stay there. Consider the fact that there are headlines in the United States about a now infamous advertisement that took place on television in Argentina just in recent days. It was an advertisement for the Coca-Cola product, Sprite. As the daily wire ran in its headline, “Sprite Runs Argentina Ads Celebrating Moms Helping Children Cross-Dress.”
Indeed, that's exactly what the ad is, and it is not only conservative sites who see this as a problem. It is also LGBTQI activist sites — and yes, that's how one of the sites identifies itself — that is also celebrating the ad and actually posting the entire television commercial for viewing here in the United States. And the viewing is a lot more shocking than just hearing about the advertisement or reading about it, because the visuals are overwhelming and the background is the music “You'll Never Walk Alone,” from the legendary Broadway musical Carousel.
But the point is emphatically clear: right-minded parents beginning with moms, but by the end of the commercial including dads, celebrate the fact that their children born as boys and girls are now identifying as non-binary or the boy identifying as a girl or the girl identifying as a boy. And the visuals narrate the story. You have a mother putting makeup on an apparent teenage boy. You have the opposite taking place with parents facilitating the hiding of a young girl's feminine features. You're looking at an unmistakable messaging that is coming and it's not just in Argentina. Perhaps one footnote to this, is that this particular advertisement has not yet run in the United States, but we should brace ourselves for the same advertisement here. We are after all talking about a global corporation that is based in the United States and not just in the United States, but in the Georgia city of Atlanta.
Coca-Cola released a statement earlier this year that said, "Coca-Cola is proud of its history of supporting and including the LGBTQI community in the workplace and its advertising and in communities throughout the world. From supporting LGBTQI pride parades, to running rainbow colored billboards, Coca-Cola has demonstrated its commitment to protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression."
Now notice the words here. Here you have Coca-Cola talking about its messaging to the larger culture, but couched in what it defines as its responsibility to protect its employees. We should notice this is one of those claims that becomes extremely suspect upon closer inspection. Coca-Cola might well have the concern for its employees given its policies — there should be no doubt that that is its intention — but the messaging is to the larger culture. Coca-Cola depends upon millions and millions of people buying those carbonated products and other lines every single day, and that's in Argentina as well as it's true in the United States.
And what we have here is even deeper than the corporate progressive virtue signaling that we've seen over and over again because even virtue signaling does not quite explain the depth and the passion of this particular advertisement in Argentina. This is not just virtue signaling. This is what we might call virtue preaching. There's an activism. There's an intentionality. There is a preaching of the new sexual revolution that is clearly coming through this Coca-Cola advertisement.
Also, back in May, Coca-Cola's chief diversity and inclusion officer Lori George Billingsley said, "We are thrilled to receive a 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. Our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equality and our support for our colleagues, family members and friends is intrinsic and enduring. We have always and will continue to demonstrate this commitment through both our policies and actions."
As we noted about another institution just recently, when you have the language “we have always,” this is almost always deeply dishonest. I can guarantee you 100%, to quote the score of the Human Rights Campaign for Coke, I can absolutely assure you that if you go back just a few years in time, you will not find Coca-Cola or any of its brands associated with something like the LGBTQ movement and especially when it comes to the T. That probably wasn't even imaginable back in the ancient times of say, the last decade, when Coca-Cola was sending a very different moral messaging.
But this news story from Argentina tells us how so much of the corporate world is now realigning and how an advertisement in Argentina is now supposed to send us a moral message here in the United States.
Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Disagree on the T in LGBT: The Clash Between Feminism and Transgenderism
But then, I want to shift to a very different but related story and this one has to do with a recent BBC interview that took place in London with Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. What became very evident in that interview was that even the relationship between mother and daughter, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, demonstrates something of a very persistent cultural and generational divide even on the Left. Hillary Clinton represents the baby boomers. Chelsea Clinton represents gen X, but in this interview they clearly represent two different ways of understanding the T in LGBTQ.
As James Kirkup for the Spectator reported, "Hillary Clinton's BBC interview in London is making headlines mainly about Russia, but students have the debate about transgender rights and self-identification should pay close attention to another moment in the interview. For Clinton, this means Hillary Clinton, “still one of the most prominent women of the Left of politics in the world said there are legitimate concerns about the way the move to recognize transgender identities might affect women. ‘Those concerns,’ she said, ‘should be recognized,’ in the interview with the BBC."
The point to make about Hillary Clinton here is that this is the second time she has talked about the issue and that dates back first to earlier this year when Hillary and Chelsea Clinton did an appearance together, and it was reported in the Sunday Times of London. But as James Kirkup reports, the Clintons were possibly surprised by the question when it came up months ago, but Hillary Clinton could not have been surprised by the question when it came up again just recently in London by the BBC. And thus, this must represent her settled and very thoughtful position on the issue. She genuinely does believe that there is a collision between feminism and the transgender revolution, and in this regard, even though she is an iconic woman of the Left, she appears to be more unwilling than her daughter to join the LGBTQ revolution in fall, especially again when it comes to the T.
In the interview that appeared months ago in the Sunday Times of London, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton did disagree over whether or not an individual who was born male and still had male apparatus should be recognized as a woman. Chelsea Clinton said, "Yes, that individual should be recognized as a woman if the individual claims to be a woman." But as the Spectator reports Hillary Clinton expressed doubt. Instead what Hillary told the BBC in the more recent interview is this, "I do think there is a legitimate concern about women's lived experience and the importance of recognizing that and also the importance of recognizing the self-identification." She went on to say, "This is all relatively new. People are still trying to find the language for it, trying to sort it out. I think in the right mindset this can be understood, but it's going to take some time."
Now, you can understand that many in the LGBT community are saying that Hillary Clinton has run out of time to think about this, especially as there's renewed speculation that she has at least some interest in entering the 2020 race for the Democratic presidential nomination. In any event, Hillary Clinton is clearly cultivated her identity as the iconic female figure of the left in the United States. But here's where we also understand just how fast paced this moral change is in the LGBTQ revolution and particularly when it comes to the transgender revolution.
Now there's something else to keep in mind, Hillary Clinton was raised within the context of second wave feminism in the United States and she became a very ardent adherent of that second wave feminism. But as many of those feminists pointed out, feminism only works if you know who a female is. That feminism was based in the understanding that the uniqueness, including the biological uniqueness of women was exactly what defines a woman. And thus, women's experience was what defined second wave feminism along with its political agenda.
Hillary Clinton went to and graduated from Wellesley College where she famously gave the student commencement address, and Wellesley College is identified as one of the most prominent women's liberal arts colleges in the United States. Also the richest, by the way, with an endowment of over $2.1 billion. But this collision between the transgender revolution and historic feminism first appeared on these colleges, particularly with respect to who does and does not gain admission to those colleges.
I went to the website of Wellesley college and pulled up its statement on admissions. It's dated from March of 2015 when the college said, "Our board of trustees voted to update our admission policy to provide clarity for transgender and non-binary students who would like to apply for admission." Notice the language used next, "Our trustees and campus community engaged in a wide-ranging, respectful, and thoughtful discussion about what it means to be a women's college in an age of changing understanding of gender identity." That's very carefully constructed language. That means we want to continue to consider ourselves a women's college when we no longer have a clue who a woman is.
A further jump into irrationality, but political correctness is found in this sentence: "Wellesley's mission to provide an excellent education to women who will make a difference in the world is only strengthened by broadening our understanding of what it means to be a woman and fostering an inclusive community of women who are prepared for a rigorous academic environment that challenges them to achieve."
The next paragraph: "Wellesley will consider for admission any applicant who lives as a woman and consistently identifies as a woman. Therefore candidates assigned male at birth who identify as women are eligible to apply for admission. The college also accepts applications from those who are assigned female at birth, identify as non-binary and who feel they belong in our community of women. Those assigned female at birth who identify as men are not eligible for consideration for admission."
The most amazing part of that statement is where the college tries to define its new very open-minded view of admission to include applicants who “feel they belong in our community of women." But then the very next sentence excludes some who just might according to their own self-understanding in the modern ideology feel that they belong in the community of women.
James Kirkup makes a point that many in the media and in the larger culture want to paint conservative Christians and other traditionalists outcast from the culture as the only people who will not join the transgender revolution. But that's not true and it's not honest. Just ask Martina Navratilova, a gay rights activist who does not believe that a male identifying as female should compete in female athletics. Or, as we see right now, just ask Hillary Clinton who is supposed to be a champion of the entire LGBTQ agenda, but evidently isn't quite there when it comes to T.
Now it tells us something else about Hillary Clinton that she indicates she's trying to get there, saying that the problem is finding the language for it. "Trying to sort it out." You'll remember she did say, "I think in the right mindset this can be understood but it's going to take some time." So she's quite certain that those who do affirm the entire transgender revolution must be right, including her own daughter.
But when it comes to Hillary Clinton, she is still arguing that there must be something to what she defines as “women's experience” and that was central to that second way feminism. She's not ready to give that up. But eventually the 2016 Democratic nominee for president of the United States and former US Secretary Of State and indeed iconic figure of the Left is going to have to figure out that she's not going to keep her iconic status if she doesn't as quickly as possible figure out what that right mindset is and join it enthusiastically and apologize before the entire world forever having thought that she had known before who a woman is and who a woman is not, because the entire background of this article is the assumed cultural reality that in this interesting dynamic between Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, it is Chelsea that truly represents the future and not Hillary.
The New Political Activism: Boston and San Francisco Foreshadow the Trajectory of American Politics
But next, we shift to a very different context and to two cities, one on the East Coast and one on the West. On the East Coast, we'll be looking at Boston. On the West Coast looking at San Francisco. The point made in two very different articles, one in the New York Times and the other in editorial in the Wall Street Journal, is that when you look at those two cities and you look at the elections held just a couple of weeks ago, you really are looking at a massive lurch when it comes to America's political culture as represented in these two very influential cities.
The headline in the New York Times was about Boston, "Election reshapes Boston council challenging the old political order." This has to do with Boston city council. It has to do with local government there in Boston. Boston represents East Coast establishment liberalism. It has for a very long time, and the city government there in Boston has represented that very long-term establishment political liberalism. But yet the whole point of this story by Ellen Barry is the fact that in the recent election that old establishment liberalism gave way to a very new ultra-liberal activism.
As the New York Times reported, the election produced “a city council dominated by progressive women and people of color." One of the points made by the Times is that the election in Boston indicated the old political order is over and that old political order had been based, at least in part, on city patronage. That is that people got elected to office and stayed in office by offering the right people jobs in city government. As the Times report tells us, "For generations, local elections in Boston were an exercise in bean counting in which incumbents kept careful track of politically loyal families." One individual said, "You would go out and knock on doors and you'd hit a multifamily house. You'd say the Sullivans are on the first floor. They have five votes. The O'Malley's on the second floor have four votes. You kind of generationally knew who lived where."
So in Boston, this led to the development of a neighborhood system that was in place, at least through the end of the 20th century. But then things began to change. The old Left had been replaced by a new Left, but in the elections held most recently, the old new Left has been replaced by a new new Left considerably to the left of the old new Left, which was to the left of the old Left.
One of the issues to watching so many of these city-wide elections is the fact that some candidates are being elected who openly identify, like Bernie Sanders, as some form of socialist. Bernie Sanders’s brand is that of a Democratic socialist. But the Left is represented in the newly composed city council there in Boston, pales over against the editorial that appeared in the Wall Street Journal that is focused on San Francisco. The paper's editorial began, "The deterioration of the City by the Bay has been tragic to watch. From the Tenderloin to Mid-Market to the Mission, open use of narcotics is commonplace, homeless encampments dominate public spaces, and human feces dot the sidewalks. The middle class has fled punishing housing costs, and neighborhoods are increasingly plagued with burglaries and property crimes.”
Now remember that that introductory paragraph told us of the breakdown of human civilization in San Francisco. With narcotics commonplace, homeless encampments dominating, and human feces dotting the sidewalks of the streets and the parks. But in the next paragraph, the editors write, "Last week San Francisco voters said, ‘More, please.’ Weekend ballot counts clinched the election by a thin margin,” says the Journal, “of far-left public defender Chesa Boudin as district attorney. Mr. Boudin has been described as part of a wave of ‘progressive prosecutors,’ like Philadelphia’s Larry Krasner, who are winning elections in liberal cities. These prosecutors lecture the public about racism, take an adversarial tone toward police, and often oversee a spike in crime, especially in poor and minority neighborhoods.”
Now anyone hearing the last name of this newly elected District Attorney will recognize a name in infamy in crime there in San Francisco and elsewhere. His parents were members of the Left-wing terrorist group known as the Weather Underground. And as the editors remind us, they were in prison for felony murder for their role in perpetrating the Brinks Heist of 1981, in which their accomplices gunned down to police officers and a security guard.
The editors continue, "Mr. Boudin says rightly that he shouldn’t be judged by his parents’ actions. Yet he made their incarceration a centerpiece of his campaign, explaining that it showed him the injustice of the criminal-justice system. He rarely if ever expressed sympathy for the murdered officers, and San Francisco’s police force was a major target of his campaign.”
After he graduated from college, the newly elected district attorney had gone to Venezuela to work for the dictatorship of Marxist, Hugo Chavez, and in 2009 he actually wrote an article hailing the dictator's successful elimination of term limits legislation.
The editors, trying to be open-minded here, then wrote, "A Marxist can in theory faithfully enforce the laws of California yet Mr. Boudin says he won't. ‘Crimes such as public camping, offering or soliciting sex, public urination, blocking a sidewalk, etc should not and will not be prosecuted.’” That is what the candidate then ensured the ACLU in a candidate questionnaire.
In their final paragraph, the editors say, "Californians look like they're intent on empowering a Leftist leadership model that is worsening living standards for all but the most privileged Silicon Valley and Hollywood residents."
Here's one of the strange parables of our day. You have people living in these areas who complain, often rightly, about income inequality, and yet this represents the most income unequal section of the entire nation of the United States of America, and those who have are doing their very best there to keep the have nots out even when the have nots would be described as comfortably middle-class. And it would be unfair to say that San Francisco is representative of the United States of America. We should thank the Lord for that. But the reality is that San Francisco does point towards the future and we should be very concerned about that.
When you think about the trajectory of American politics, understand that many of these issues, and many of these candidates emerged first in a local context, but they so often don't stay there.
Penance or Punishment? How the Story of Modern Prisons Explains Far More than You Might Think
And at the same time, Christians understand that there is a real debate about the issue of mass incarceration and there are patterns in that mass incarceration that should concern all Christians operating out of a biblical worldview. We simply have too many people in prison, and there can be no doubt that there is a radical disparity in racial and ethnic terms when it comes to the patterns of that mass incarceration. All Christians operating out of a biblical worldview should be very concerned about those patterns.
But we also have to recognize that other recent headlines, draw our attention to the fact, that modern society has never really figured out what we are trying to do with prisons and penitentiaries, what we're trying to do with incarceration in the first place. These headlines include the fact that New York City has announced that it is going to eventually close its infamous Rikers Island incarceration facility, and instead is going to spend what is now estimated as a $9 billion investment in order to build several new high rise jails or prisons in the New York area in order to meet the incarceration needs of metropolitan New York.
Justin Davidson writing the cityscape column for New York magazine tells us, "It will take an estimated seven years and nearly $9 billion to rehouse the equivalent of a small college’s student body into secure vertical dorms. That's more,” he says, “that it will cost to rebuild LaGuardia airport that serves 30 million passengers a year and he points out these numbers are extremely optimistic.” It will surely take in New York much more than seven years and much more than $9 billion. But the interesting point about this article is the fact that progressives, as they style themselves in New York, aren't really sure what they are to do when it comes to a prison in the first place.
As the article says, "For as long as there have been prisons full of abjection and despair, there have been plans to replace them with showcases of decency." But no one's really sure what a showcase of decency would look like as a prison. Now, something Christians need to keep in mind is that prisons are a fairly recent development in the first place. Throughout most of human history, jail was a place where someone might be for a very brief amount of time awaiting trial or execution. The rise of the prison came with the fact that fewer crimes were defined as capital crimes and yet they were understood to be serious crimes or felonies, in which case some kind of prison term appeared to be a more humane option, and of course, it was more humane.
As you look to the Bible, especially say the New Testament and you see references to jail and prison, those are places where either someone is being kept awaiting trial, such as the apostle Paul, or they are places for the long-term penalty of repaying a debt. Basically, you are held hostage until your loved ones coughed up the money to gain your release. The modern prison, as we know it did not emerge until the 19th century under the leadership of Jeremy Bentham who defined the optimal prison as a panopticon, a facility where jailers would be able to keep a constant view on all of the prisoners at all times.
This was also defined as a more humane means of punishment than the others available to societies at the time. And as you're looking at prisons, recognize that London's New Gate prison that opened in 1816 is considered to be the very first state operated prison in world history. That's just barely 200 years ago. In the United States, the first major state prison opened as the Eastern State Penitentiary in 1829, in Philadelphia.
But an interesting point from a Christian perspective is that many of these prisons were actually called Penitentiaries such as Eastern State Penitentiary, the first major state prison in the United States. What did it mean that they were called penitentiaries? Well, it's referring to the fact that they were supposed to be places where those who had committed awful crimes would be sent until they were penitent, they were sorry, they were rehabilitated and ready for release into the general population. But the sad story of American prisons and penitentiaries is that they have been unable to produce any predictable pattern of penitence, any predictable pattern of rehabilitation, so that those who've been in prison can reenter the general human population. And Christians understand that at least in part, at least fundamentally, that is because the modern age cannot and will not come to an adequate understanding of sin.
But it does tell us something that the word “penitentiary” is essentially a theological word. With penitence only actually making sense in a Christian or biblical worldview.
But finally, speaking of our inability to make sense out of evil, as Thursday morning dawned, especially in California, the news came of another school based shooting, this one in Santa Clarita, California.
We'll come to understand more of the facts of this tragedy over time, but one of the issues we have to face is that we will never as human beings be able fundamentally to answer the question of why, other than the biblical answer of sin, of evil, and of darkness in the human heart. But even as we pray for the students in that school and for the entire community of Santa Clarita, California, and even as we're thankful for gospel ministries, strong in the gospel that are located right there, we are sobered by the realization that even as so many people want to argue today that morality is relative, no sane person is going to argue that what took place in that school in Santa Clarita, California, was anything other than, much less, less than evil.
Thanks 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 on Monday for The Briefing.