Tuesday, December 17, 2019
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Tuesday, December 17, 2019. I'm Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
No Company Can Avoid the LGBTQ Revolution: After Recent Controversy, Sexual Revolutionaries Force Hallmark Channel to Practice Corporate Repentance
A company that had done just about everything to avoid controversy now finds itself at the center of a controversy and, it turns out upon a closer look, that this is a very interesting development and one with rather significant worldview implications.
The company is the Hallmark Channel and, of course, this time of year, it is known for its bland and inoffensive and overwhelmingly popular form of Hollywood entertainment, an entertainment form that has become so stereotypical that “Hallmark Channel Christmas Special” is now just about all you need in order to identify a certain kind of cultural product. And that cultural product has studiously attempted to avoid all controversy.
But all that's over because of a controversy that emerged in the New York Times and a headline last Saturday, which was this: “TV Channel Pulls Ad with Brides Kissing.” Heather Murphy reported, “The Hallmark Channel pulled four TV ads featuring brides kissing each other on Thursday after a targeted campaign by a conservative group."
The report goes on, "Asked to explain why the ads had been rejected, an employee of Hallmark's parent company said the channel did not accept ads that are deemed controversial," that according to an email exchange shared with the New York Times. The report goes on, "A spokesman for Hallmark said the women's public displays of affection violated the channel's policies, but he declined to comment on why a nearly identical ad featuring a bride and groom kissing was not rejected."
The larger story is a series of six ads. The ad with the two brides kissing was the one that attracted the controversy and, indeed, after it was originally aired on the network, a conservative activist group complained and in response to that complaint, Hallmark pulled the ad. They then cited principle, you'll recall that principle or policy, was that the channel did not accept ads "that are deemed controversial."
Now, let's just stop for a moment and recognize that means that two brides kissing might be controversial, but a bright and a groom kissing would not be considered controversial. Therefore, the bride and groom ad continued to be aired, but the two brides kissing ad was not. Now, you can immediately predict what happened. Even as a conservative activist group called for an end to the airing of the two brides kissing ad, the overwhelming power of the sexual revolutionaries quickly overwhelmed like a tsunami. So much so, that Hallmark reversed itself as quickly as was corporately possible.
And also, following what should be now easily predictable, Hallmark is now going to be required to do corporate repentance and now to openly celebrate the very ad and the subject of the ad that the company had forbidden just a matter of days, indeed, you can almost say, hours earlier.
Now, the huge worldview implications here are not really being much considered in the public controversy. That's our business to consider, and we're going to have to look a little further at some of the comments made on both sides of this controversy to understand what those very big dimensions really turn out to be.
For one thing, you have the statement that was made by the spokesperson for Zola. That's the company that ran the six ads. The spokesperson said, "The only difference between the commercials that were flagged and the ones that were approved was that the commercials that did not meet Hallmark standards, including a lesbian couple kissing." Notice, by the way, the change in the language from two brides kissing to a lesbian couple kissing. But just in case anyone missed the point that was being made by the company in going public with its protest, the chief marketing officer, Mike She said, "All kisses, couples, and marriages are equal celebrations of love and we will no longer be advertising on Hallmark."
Notice that very carefully packaged language. “All kisses are equal. All couples are equal. All marriages are equal.” That's not just marketing lingo. That is the very language of the moral revolution. If you go back to the argument that won the day in the Obergefell decision of 2015, that legalized same sex marriage, and you go to the justice at the time, Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion legalizing same sex marriage, his argument was that denying saying sex couples the right to marry in the same kind of legal marriage that a man and a woman could obtain, that it caused what amounts to dignitary harm. This idea of dignitary harm means a harm to their dignity, and thus the argument is here that the federal government must state clearly that all kisses and all couples and all marriages are equal. That was the basis of the Obergefell decision. And now of course, you have the fact that it's the basis of the protest against Hallmark. But again, you can predict this, it is now also the message that is being preached by Hallmark, clawing its way as quickly as possible away from the controversy.
By Monday, the CEO of Hallmark Cards, Mike Perry, was saying, “The Crown media team has been agonizing over this decision as we've seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused. Said simply, they believe this was the wrong decision. We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused." Molly Biwer, identified as senior vice president for public affairs at Hallmark, said on Sunday night that after the initial decision had been made, "Crown media had been in agony over the hurt that this has caused. Hallmark has an unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion."
An unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion, but of course, the policy wasn't exactly unwavering, was it? But echoing the very moral claim made by Zola, she said that in reversing the decision Hallmark now "truly reflects who we are as a company. We celebrate all families." And you can also predict that a part of the corporate repentance that is now required is that Hallmark is going to have to review all of its policies and all of its programming to make sure that it now meets the entirety of the demands of the sexual revolution.
A spokesperson said, "Across our brand, we will continue to look for ways to be more inclusive and celebrate our differences." A spokesperson for Hallmark also went on to describe the mission of the company in these terms. "Our mission is rooted in helping all people connect, celebrate traditions, and be inspired to capture meaningful moments in their lives. Anything that distracts from this purpose is not who we are. We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused."
Now, let's just zoom out for a minute and think about the larger issue. This is, after all, a company that has existed primarily in the public mind for over a century as connected to greeting cards. You think about Hallmark, you think about greeting cards. You also need to think about the essential banality of greeting cards. Those greeting cards have to say something, or almost say something, but they can't really say almost anything without risking being too specific that it will not fit some situation. You can't have a card for every single sentiment.
Therefore, they have to be grouped around particular kinds of interests or expressions. So as you look at the card section, depending upon how large or small it is, they are basically pre-manufactured ways of saying almost something. Sometimes there can be a little profundity in the prose, but let's face it, that's extremely rare. If there were too much profundity, the cards wouldn't sell. Instead, you now see an entire revolution in society over the course of the last several decades by the kinds of cards that are sold.
You see the impact of divorce. You see the reality of the decline of marriage. You see cards that are intended to be utilized by couples speaking to one another who clearly aren't married. There are even cards now that celebrate divorce, and there is even a business of divorce announcements. You consider the fact that there are so many families in which there are step parents and step children and so many so-called blended families. You come to understand that a diversity of family forms, as is now being celebrated in the culture, is actually something that is commercialized in the greeting card aisle, not to mention, a Hallmark store.
Then, consider furthermore that the moral revolution showed up in the greeting cards quite early. In order to make certain that someone else didn't steal the business, you had the major greeting card companies ready to be first in line with LGBT themes. And they're trying to cover the entire waterfront. It's an expanding waterfront. They've still got work to do. Consider also that the Hallmark Channel is a commercial enterprise in itself, but it is, in one sense, just a TV channel that is a basic representation of the same kind of storyline in its cards, only extended.
That leads to the first reason why I was going to discuss the Hallmark Specials and the Hallmark Channel in the course of discussing the Christmas celebration and how it's manifested in American culture. The point I was going to make then is that the Hallmark Channel gets away with a certain kind of programming. Its audience is intended to be primarily, indeed overwhelmingly, middle-aged and middle-class females. There are others who watch, but they are also, not accidentally, the primary purchasers of greeting cards. You might also want to add perhaps the primary recipients as well.
Saying Something Without Saying Much of Anything At All: Hallmark Greeting Cards and Movies Attempt to Diversify to Include Absolutely Everyone
So, long before the specific controversy over the kissing brides commercial that was pulled and then re-instated, the New York Times, just a few days earlier, had already run an article about the failure of Hallmark to pull off trying to be diverse and inclusive with Hanukkah specials to join with the Christmas specials. The Christmas specials can't be too much about Christmas. They certainly can't be theologically about Christmas, and the Hanukkah specials, in the name of diversity and inclusion, turn out not to be too successfully focused on Hanukkah either.
The subhead of the article in the New York Times on the 14th of December, before the brides gate scandal, was this: "Just When You Thought Made for TV Christmas Movies Couldn't Get Cheesier." It turns out that the Hanukkah specials followed the same predictable script as the so-called Christmas specials. They just included openly identified Jewish characters who were celebrating at least somewhat Jewish traditions. One of the points made by the critics, the Jewish critics, of the Hanukkah specials is that they over did it a bit.
Nancy Coleman, the critic writing the article, tells us about the Hanukkah specials. "We get mechanical, textbook definitions of menorahs and dreidels. The Christmas-celebrating mom suddenly appears in an ‘Oy Vey’ apron with a platter of homemade latkes. A small child smiles and declares, ‘I think Hanukkah rocks.’ It would take remarkably little editing to turn the whole thing into a Jewish ‘Get Out.’”
But then, Coleman makes this disclaimer: "These films can't be critiqued as high art. There's a reason they have a devoted following after all. They're delightfully predictable, easily digestible. You know there'll be a happy ending usually after a snowball fight where the characters fall on top of each other and their faces end up this close."
But in worldview analysis, the most interesting point made by Nancy Coleman was at the end. "Hallmark and Lifetime don't need to reinvent the candy cane here. When you think about it, Christmas isn't really at the heart of these Christmas movies at all. There are trees and stockings and true love and all that, sure, but Christmas movies aren't religious. They're not even all that spiritual. They're just spirited. There's no reason the films that throw some Hanukkah in should be any different."
That's actually quite insightful. The movies aren't really religious and they're not even spiritual. They're just spirited. That's a good distinction. It tells us that in much of mainstream America, just a little bit of religion or something that's religion-ish is going to get you by. Christmas is something that can't be avoided and is a commercial opportunity for endless entertainment of a certain formulaic sort. Then, of course, there's criticism that Christmas excludes other groups, and so Hallmark comes out with Hanukkah movies as well. And then, they're critiqued by Jewish viewers as being just as formulaic as the Christmas movies.
But you can forget all that because banality and boring is not what you get when Hallmark reaped the whirlwind of a controversy over the ad about the brides kissing that was withdrawn and then reinstated with the moral revolution showing all of its energy and power and effect — and the fact that the company capitulated in very short order, and is going through the kind of public repentance that the revolutionaries now require.
But the biggest issue of all for Christians to consider is the word "normal" or "equal." Those two words show up again and again here. “All kisses are equal. All couples are equal. All marriages are equal.” Hallmark says that's true. It's what it meant all along. It never meant to say anything else. It was a wrong decision to withdraw the ad. They really do believe that all kisses are equal. A man and a woman kissing, that's equal to a woman and a woman kissing. That is the new absolute orthodoxy that no company, however controversy averse and no matter how boring, can avoid.
If you're going to exist in post-Christian America in the wake of the LGBTQ revolution, you're going to have to learn how to get the policies right, and if you dare get the policy wrong, and every company is going to mess up according to the revolutionaries in its own way, then you're going to have to learn the public grovel, the art of the public corporate repentance.
But again, the big issue here is that what is being demanded, absolutely demanded — it's not just an assertion, make no mistake, it's a demand — is that we all recognize, get this, all kisses are equal. Do you understand that? All couples are equal? All marriages are equal. If you don't get that, then you really have no place in modern America according to the demands of the revolutionaries.
If you insinuate in any way that a man kissing a woman as a husband and a wife, or as one who might become a husband and a wife, if you suggest in any way that that might be different, theologically different, might be morally different, might be indeed as Christians or say ontologically different — that is different in the very sense of reality — if you suggest, even to the slightest degree, that all kisses might not be equal, then this is what you should expect to reap. It is a fierce whirlwind.
So all this discussion about the Hallmark Channel, just to say it helps us to understand where convictional Christians really stand in the world of 2019 about to become the world of 2020. The word "normalize" is one of the words used over and over again because it's exactly the right word. What we are watching is the demand to absolutely, unequivocally, irreversibly normalize LGBTQ relationships, gestures, kisses, and depictions in the media, to normalize them. In order to normalize them, you have to equalize them.
But there's one final issue in worldview analysis. It comes down to this: Asserting normal doesn't actually make anything normal. And asserting equal, even over and over again, as if it's an almost Soviet commanded repetition, well, that doesn't make anything equal. Stating over and over again that all kisses are equal, might now be good, even demanded, required, corporate policy in modern America, especially in entertainment, but that doesn't actually make all kisses equal.
That's going to be the great frustration of the moral revolutionaries. They are inordinately successful in driving their point through the culture. They do have enormous leverage and, of course, they're willing to use that leverage even to the point of coercion. They are increasingly persuasive in the courts. They have already won the campuses of higher education. They would appear to have Hollywood absolutely locked up. So what could stop them? Well, here's where the Christian worldview says what will stop them is creation.
Creation simply shines through. It shines through in the thinking that is inside people's minds, even if it does not show up in their public comments. It shows up in the necessity of having to say all kisses are equal. If all kisses really are equal, then you don't have to say all kisses are equal. It's simply a fact of the Christian worldview that we understand that God's act of creation shines through so much that when people look at a man and a woman kissing, they're not going to see something contrary to creation.
When they see two women kissing romantically, as in this wedding scene, then they are going to see something contrary to creation. And whether they know to articulate it that way, and whether or not they are willing to say it out loud, you can simply count on the fact that because of the power of the revelation of God in creation and the knowledge that he has implanted within every single one of us, that knowledge is there. It may be, as Romans 1 tells us, suppressed, but it's there.
‘You Cannot Have Mr. Scheer’s Beliefs and Be the Prime Minister of Canada’ — Andrew Scheer Is Out as the Leader of the Conservative Party in Canada
Next, yesterday, we looked at link that the political earthquake that took place in the United Kingdom and its national election. We also have to recognize that Israel is now going to face its third national election in the matter of less than a year. And that because of the failure yet again of either of Israel's main political parties to form a government. Just to state the obvious, this is an indication of the fragility of electoral democracies.
Now, Israel's commitment to democracy has not collapsed, after all, they're getting ready to have yet another vote. But if you have to have three national elections in the course of less than a year, then something is demonstrably wrong. There is deep political turmoil in Israel and we'll be looking as that election comes yet again in a few months and what that will mean for America's chief ally in the Middle East.
We're also going to be looking at other developments. I was recently in Canada and talked about the election that took place now just several weeks ago there, the federal election that led to the return of Justin Trudeau, the leader of the Liberal party — and in his case, liberal is an understatement — to office as prime minister, but also demonstrated the fact that there was turmoil within the conservative party, especially over its leader, Andrew Scheer.
Well, Andrew Scheer had been given a matter of months to regroup his leadership in the conservative party. His leadership was questioned because the party was expected perhaps even to win the federal election. It did indeed make advances, but it failed to gain a majority of the seats. But the point is that Andrew Scheer is now out as leader of the conservative party in Canada, and there is a huge parable there that Christians in the United States should look at very carefully. Why is Andrew Scheer out? Why did people even in his own conservative party want him out? Why did he lack the credibility to continue as the leader of the conservative party?
Well, when you're looking at Canada, the word “liberal” really does describe the Liberal party. Indeed, it is turning itself into a leftist party. We saw similar developments in the Labour party in Britain. We see right now similar patterns in the Democratic party in the United States, but in Canada, the Liberal party has become even more liberal. It has become aggressively secularist. It has also moved very aggressively to redefine human dignity and human rights in keeping with the secular and LGBTQ revolutions.
The interesting thing to note is that the conservative party in Canada has not actually become more conservative. On social issues, it is basically just a pale shadow of the Liberal party. And thus, what was the problem with Andrew Scheer? Andrew Scheer is a Roman Catholic, and he had, at one point, opposed same sex marriage, and his church, of course, the Roman Catholic Church, is ardently opposed to abortion.
But here's what's really interesting to note: When he was running in the federal election as head of the conservative party, he made very clear that the conservative party would not, in any way, move in any form, even one inch towards any kind of pro-life policy. He made very clear that, given his leadership of the conservative party, the conservative party was not only begrudgingly acceptive of same sex marriage, it was indeed celebratory of same sex marriage.
J.J. McCullough, global opinions contributing columnist for the Washington Post, summarized it this way: "Scheer did not run against same sex marriage. He proposed no changes to Canada's regime of unregulated abortion among the most liberal on earth. Yet, because Scheer is often characterized as a devout Catholic, calls himself personally pro-life, and won't answer no when asked if homosexuality is sinful, the self-appointed guardians of Canadian public life have declared him representative of a type of diversity that's flatly unacceptable."
Indeed, new Democratic party leader in Canada, Jagmeet Singh, bluntly, put it, "You cannot have Mr. Scheer's beliefs and be the prime minister of Canada." Now, Christians should listen to those words very, very carefully. Let me repeat them. “You cannot have Mr. Scheer's beliefs and be the prime minister of Canada.” Now, Mr. Scheer is not even pushing those beliefs. As a matter of fact, it's a very weak representation of those beliefs, but he is identified as a Roman Catholic.
How long will it be before a similar spokesperson in Canada says that someone who holds to the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be the prime minister of Canada? Someone who holds to the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be the prime minister of Canada? How long is it, and it can't be long, before someone says you can't be an evangelical Christian in Canada and serve as prime minister? That is the very same logic.
Similarly, though you can count on the fact that political correctness means no one's going to say this, the same logic means that no adherent of Orthodox Judaism can be prime minister of Canada. And no Muslim, actually faithful to Muslim teachings, can be the prime minister of Canada. It will be too politically incorrect to say those latter two things, so they won't. But as J.J. McCullough points out, that statement that “You can't have Mr. Scheer's beliefs and be prime minister of Canada,” was made by the head of the new Democratic party, Jagmeet Singh.
What's the issue? Mr. Singh is a Sikh. What's the problem there? Well, it turns out that the Sikh theological authorities also do not support same sex marriage. And it should also be clear that the historic Sikh affirmation of the unconditional gift of life would make it very hard to support a so-called woman's right to abortion. When this reporter emailed the World Sikh Organization of Canada seeking clarification regarding where the faith stands on same sex marriage, McCullough received this response: "The Sikh Rehit Maryada (Code of Conduct) does not permit same-sex marriage, and the Sikh’s highest authority, Sri Akal Takhat has made it clear that gurdwaras cannot conduct same-sex marriages."
So by this logic, the very same politician who said, “You cannot have Mr. Scheer's beliefs and be the prime minister of Canada,” should also, supposedly, at least include himself in the fact that he can't be prime minister of Canada except for one very important distinction. Mr. Singh has been really, really clear that on these moral issues, he sides with the Canadian moral revolutionaries, not with the teachings of his own theological authority.
He said about his views about same sex marriage, “They're completely in line. My views spiritually are fully aligned with supporting same sex marriage, including a woman's right to choose. I have no, any sort of ambiguity with my personal spiritual beliefs."
By the way, the main headline point made by Mr. McCullough is also extremely important. He is pointing out that Canada's liberal culture has one great moral imperative, and that is inclusion and especially diversity. But the point is that, in the name of diversity, diversity is actually not tolerated at all. Canada is becoming morally one of the least diverse societies on earth, especially when it comes to the ruling class. The headline in the Washington Post was this: "What Andrew Scheer's Fall Says about Canada's Hypocritical Embrace of Diversity." Speaking of this situation, McCullough writes, "Whatever that is, it is clearly not an unqualified love of diversity for its own sake." And he concludes, "Progressives should stop pretending otherwise."
You put all of this together from the Hallmark Channel to the toppled conservative leader in Canada, and it all points to a common process of cultural coercion. And in both cases, you saw the same kind of language, “inclusion,” “diversity,” “equal,” “acceptance,” “normal,” but saying it's so doesn't — let's just remind ourselves — make it so.
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 tomorrow for The Briefing.