briefing, Albert Mohler

Monday, February 17, 2020

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

It’s Monday, February 17, 2020. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

The Order of Creation Shines Through Despite Efforts to Redefine the Family

Interestingly, with all the big issues in the world swirling around us, Valentine’s Day last Friday seems to be a continuing interest on the part of the culture, including elite culture, including newspapers, such as The New York Times in yesterday’s Sunday edition. Several headlines that grab our attention. The theme seems to be relationships, and that means romantic relationships and there are some huge worldview implications here on display.

I’m going to tell you upfront the biggest of the worldview issues that appears here. It is this: a fundamental truth of the Christian worldview is that even in a world of human sin, even in a world in which the corruption of sin is visible, even in a world that loves lies more than the truth, the truth tends to shine through, and that also means that the order of creation tends to shine through. Even if the society says we are rejecting the order of creation, even if survey after survey indicates that Americans are forfeiting and moving away from the order of creation, even if American teenagers say because they’re supposed to say and they know they’re supposed to say, that they don’t care about gender in the order of creation, well, it turns out that the order of creation continually shines through, and it often shines through to the frustration of those who are trying to overthrow it or at least to deny it.

Now, just consider Sunday’s edition of The New York Times—fascinating article that was the very theme of the review section. The headline, “The Gay Secret To Better Marriage.” Now, as you’re looking at that, you have to say, “Well, this is one of those articles that was probably inevitable.” Here’s what we’re being told. We were told back during the 1980’s and ’90s, and into the first decade of this century that if gay marriage were to be legalized, it would be fantastic for the entire society. Why? Because we would learn a whole new way of being married. There would be a reordering of the entire institution of marriage.

Now, just note that has been the goal of the moral revolutionaries, to try to completely destabilize marriage, and in particular, to destabilize a biblical definition of marriage, which is the understanding of marriage, that is in the order of creation. Creation cries out man and woman. Creation cries out male and female. You don’t get little birds without a male and a female bird. You don’t get little bears without a male and a female bear. You don’t get babies without a male and a female cell, and the order of creation, as it turns out shows pretty visibly in this article. We were also told once same-sex marriage was legalized, that there would be a lot for straight couples to learn from homosexual couples, from same-sex couples, and that also shows up in this article, but it’s going to be really interesting to see how it does show up.

Stephanie Coontz is the author of the article. No real big surprise there. Stephanie Coontz has been one of those most published authors over the course of the last several decades, arguing two things. Number one, that the family should be redefined. Then, she has also been arguing in book after book and article after article, “Look, watch, observe. The family is being redefined, and that is a good thing.” Now, her particular worldview is honest. It’s driven by second-wave feminism. It’s the understanding that the liberation of women, and for that matter, the emotional and relational liberation of humanity, will only be possible if the traditional patriarchal marriage model of a man and a woman, a mother and a father and their children in the home is destabilized, if it is radically reformed. She’s written books to make that argument. She’s also tried to provide a lot of evidence to say, “Look, the family is being redefined.” Christians observing this know that, of course, yes, there are efforts to redefine the family, and tragically, there are implications, there are consequences of that redefinition of the family, and we see that all around us.

We see what has happened with the destabilization of marriage, what has happened with the normalization of divorce. We have seen what has happened with the normalization of sex outside of marriage, cohabitation, and hookup culture and all the rest. We have seen what happens when children do not even know to which parents they belong. We’ve seen what happens when boys try to make the transition from childhood to adolescence to adulthood without a father in the home. We have seen the economic disadvantage that comes to families without a mother and father married to one another in the home.

We have seen all of this, and of course, same-sex marriage has come rather quickly, and it has arrived in a very big way. Now, you have this predictable headline, “The Gay Secrets To Better Marriage.” Stephanie Coontz writes, “It’s been legal across the country for nearly five years now, and same-sex marriage hasn’t killed heterosexual marriage. In fact, it appears that many different-sex couples would have happier and more satisfying marriages if they took a few lessons from their same-sex counterparts.”

Now, you could have predicted that opening line 10 years ago, 20 years ago. It’s the kind of argument you now expect from a newspaper like The New York Times from an author like Stephanie Coontz. “Look, the family’s being redefined successfully. We need to celebrate this.” Indeed, same-sex couples have a lot to teach opposite sex couples, as if you had to even use that kind of language in any previous generation of human experience. But she goes on to say that, “Researchers recently asked three sets of legally married couples, heterosexual, gay and lesbian, ‘to keep daily diaries recording their experiences of marital strain and distress.'” She then tells us, “Women in different-sex marriages reported the highest levels of psychological distress. Men in same-sex marriages reported the lowest.”

Now, you look at that and you would say, “Well, evidently, women are distressed when they are married to men, and evidently, men are not all that stressed when married to other men.” What do we make of that? Well, as the article unfolds, it actually makes a lot of sense. It turns out that when a man and a woman are married, being different, male and female, they have different kinds of expectations, they have a different affectional profile, and one of the things that second-wave feminism has a hard time dealing with is that men and women are not identical emotionally.

But that actually comes through in this article. It’s not denied in this article. It turns out, by the way, at least according to the research brought by Stephanie Coontz, that the last five years of legal same-sex marriage has demonstrated oddly enough that same-sex male couples are more stable than same-sex female couples. That’s very interesting because the prophets of same sex-marriage have predicted exactly the opposite. Then, the issue is raised in this article, “Why would a woman married to a woman create a bond that is emotionally high-intensity?” Well, the article basically says, “Figure that out for yourself.” When you’re looking at a man married to a man, or at least what is now legally defined as married to a man, they can basically decide we are not going to bring any emotional intensity into the marriage. It turns out, that argument doesn’t work so well in a lesbian arrangement.

But this article also makes clear that when a woman is married to a man, and let’s remind ourselves, Christians, that’s the only marriage that we believe actually exists, there is not perfect harmony. For one reason, that is very obvious. When you’re looking at a biblical model and theology of marriage, it is not identical to identical. It is one made in the image of God with another made in the image of God, but “male and female created He them,” and there is a difference in the emotional relatedness, the affectional profile, and the personality and the expectations that a man and a woman bring into a marriage. They also, according to a biblical theology, have different functions within marriage, but of course, modern sociology tied to the sexual revolution can’t accept that that’s real, except it actually turns up again and again in this article.

It turns out that even in same-sex relationships, we’re told by Stephanie Coontz, this means a new egalitarianism, but at the same time, other research is coming out saying it actually doesn’t turn out that way. There’s actually research indicating that in both lesbian and gay male so-called marriages, there is some kind of distinction in roles that shows up that tends to shadow somewhat what would happen if they were not of the same gender. One seems to be more interested in working outside. One seems to be more interested in working inside. One is a bit more fastidious than the other. One is the one who is better in a crisis. The other is the one who is the emotional center of the relationship. Again, you’re looking at a very interesting phenomenon that should not surprise Christians. Even when the order of creation is denied, it tends to show up in surprising ways to a secular society, frustrated by the fact that the order of creation still shows up.

Interestingly, Stephanie Coontz writes at one point, “There are powerful historical reasons heterosexual marriages are subject to more tension, miscommunication, and resentment than same-sex relationships. What distinguished heterosexual marriage through the ages,” she writes, “was not how many people were in it, but the sharp distinctions it mandated regarding the duties and authority of its members.”

Now, let’s just back up for a moment and take the word “duties,” at least part of this is absolutely biological. There’s the order of creation again. It is a biological reality that women will gestate and bear children. It is a biological reality that only a woman, let’s just stay in the biblical worldview and not think about the gender confusion of the age for a moment, it is just a biological reality that only a female can nurse an infant. Even in a world so frustrated by the order of creation, there is no ability to overcome the order of creation, and that’s reflected in this article when it says, “There are powerful historical reasons heterosexual marriages are subject to more tension and miscommunication.” Well, after all, when you are looking at marriage, what she calls traditional marriage, the union of a man and a woman, you are looking at the union of a man and a woman.

If God wanted marriage to be a union of same, then you’d have to rewrite the entire Bible, because Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 make very clear that God’s perfect plan in creation was not for the same when it comes to the entire complex of what we consider to be biological sex and gender, but rather different. Now, Christians understand that in a fallen world, those expectations, those roles, those biblical teachings can be distorted, corrupted, or even exaggerated, but the reality is the difference is still there, and it’s not just there in the clear teachings of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, it is there in even the historical narratives of Scripture. You can’t read or understand Scripture without understanding that—well, what does the world call it now?—gender binary that is there from the very beginning of the biblical story.

There’s another interesting twist in this article where Stephanie Coontz tells us that there has been an effort, even among heterosexual couples for decades, to overcome this idea of traditional marriage, but then, she writes, “Once children come along, old marital traditions reassert themselves even more.” Christians would respond to that by saying, “No kidding. Who knew?” But Stephanie Coontz gets right to her point in the very next paragraph. “Here’s where same-sex couples can offer their different-sex counterparts useful tips. Since same-sex couples can’t use imputed male-female differences to sort out who does what, they rely less on stereotypes.”

Now, just think for a moment, the word “stereotypes” here makes very clear the moderate insistence that there is no fundamental distinction between men and women, and thus marriage should be completely essentially egalitarian. You’ll also note here that we’re being told that same-sex couples, “Can’t use imputed male-female differences.” You know what that implies—it doesn’t just imply, it states? And that is that male-female differences are imputed. That is to say they’re not essential, they’re just imputed. Try telling that to anyone who actually wants to have a baby.

Another interesting point comes up in this article, “Back before same-sex marriage was legalized nationally by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, there were those who tried to make the case that same sex-marriage would have a conserving, traditionalizing influence on gay male couples in particular, given the pattern of gay male homosexual promiscuity.” But as this article twist the tale, Stephanie Coontz tries to tell heterosexual married couples that maybe they can learn something from gay male couples who are very open about all their sexual expectations, including non-monogamy. “Maybe,” she says, “if heterosexual couples adopted that kind of openness, then there would be less tension in the marriage.” Of course, Christians would respond by saying, “Yes, there would also be less marriage in the marriage. That is the destruction of the very idea of marriage.”

Stephanie Coontz goes so far as to say that it’s not true that “gay and lesbian couples have all the answers for heterosexuals trying to discard the habits of traditional marriage.” She goes on to say, “Having a double dose of masculine or feminine socialization and a relationship can pose its own problems.” The kind of logic she points to is found in this sentence, “But perhaps because they don’t have a woman in the household keeping track of the emotional temperature, gay men are much more conscious than heterosexual men of monitoring their partner’s needs for emotional support so that they can provide support when it is really needed.” Now, at this point, I’m not going to try to unpack all the logic or illogic of that sentence, but let it sink in for just a moment.

Part II

God’s Design Shows Up in Surprising Ways: Echoes of Truth in the Midst of Cultural Confusion

There’s no way to discuss everything in the Stephanie Coontz article, but remember, it appeared in yesterday’s print edition of The New York Times. It appeared just a little bit earlier in the digital edition, and thus, yesterday’s New York Times site actually had some response to the Stephanie Coontz article, and it was invited in the form of a forum in the newspaper. The whole point of the forum is to provide, “Advice on how to navigate away from traditional roles and expectations.” Evidently, that’s just a clear statement that that’s the agenda of The New York Times, reflective at least in theory. Remember that for just a moment, at least in theory of the secular elites.

Here’s an item of advice that was sent in by one from a same-sex couple. “I’m in a same-sex relationship and we’re constantly flummoxed by how our heterosexual parent friends don’t split the nighttime childcare and sleep loss. There seems to be such an ingrained sense that if you birth the child, it’s on you to sacrifice all the sleep. In our house, parents are parents. There’s no artificial distinction like fathers do this and mothers do that.”

Now, just notice again, all difference. Every conceivable differences here dismissed as an artificial distinction. Now, just one indication of what happens when you just jump down into a vortex of this kind of confusion is found in this paragraph. “I’m a transgender man. My wife and I had to negotiate the change in social expectations, going from a ‘lesbian’ to ‘straight’ couple.” Lesbian and straight, by the way, put in quotation marks. Let’s just move on. “I have a very time-consuming job and before I transitioned, my wife did most of the housework. Now, those dynamics feel oppressive. I’ve stepped up how much I do, but it’s still a source of stress that I can’t do more. When we were a same-sex couple, the process of balancing household duties was something we worked out together. Now, it’s not just about our relationship, but how we relate to gender and society. That’s a lot of pressure to put on dishes.”

But the most interesting accusation in this forum, published yesterday by The New York Times, is that when marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and remember, Christians, that’s all we believe marriage can ever be, it can never be truly egalitarian no matter how progressive the husband and wife may declare themselves to be. “I’m surprised at how my straight female friends who are feminists and have advanced degrees and progressive politics do so much more of the emotional labor, childcare, and housework than their husbands. I often want to ask,” says this particular person, “Do you see what’s happening here? Are you really okay with being the traditional wife? It’s hard,” this writer says, “to imagine them having a satisfying relationship with the inequality that seems baked into even the most progressive straight couples I know.”

Part III

A Cry from the Heart: High Schoolers Still Want to Have Traditional Gender Roles in Parenting

Okay, hold that thought because we’re going to go next to an article that appeared just a few days before in the very same newspaper, The New York Times Print Edition, February 12, just two days before Valentine’s Day. Here’s the headline, “Young Men Favor Gender Equality, but Not Vacuuming.” Claire Cain Miller is the author of this article, and what she tells us is that young people, as a whole, both male and female say that they are committed to a non-traditional, progressive, egalitarian marriage, and yet, when they actually get there, that’s not what happens.

As the article continues, it turns out that when high schoolers are asked questions about their expectations of marriage and family, high schoolers choose the traditional ordering of family as by far the concept or model of family that they not only prefer, but that they want for themselves. Now, there’s the biggest obstacle of the sexual revolution. It turns out that those who are supposed to be the perfect products of the sexual revolutionaries aren’t so perfect as products. The whole point of this article is that so many young people, this includes teenagers, but also young adults including married young adults, they say they’re committed to overcoming all kinds of gender expectations, but when it comes to housework, when it comes to other kinds of duties, it turns out the egalitarianism isn’t very practical, or at least, the revolution hasn’t gone very far.

Claire Cain Miller writes, “Young people today have become much more open-minded about gender roles, it shows up in their attitudes about pronouns, politics, and sports, but in one area, change has been minimal. They’re holding onto traditional views of who does what at home.” She continues, “A new survey from Gallup found that among opposite-sex couples, those aged 18 to 34 were no more likely than older couples to divide most household chores equitably.” She goes on to say, “A sociology study published last month found that when high school seniors were asked about their ideal family arrangement with young children, almost a quarter said it was for the man to work full-time and the woman to stay home, a larger share of teenagers than desired any other arrangement.”

The zing and zap in her article shows up in the next sentence, “The fact that home wife doesn’t look all that different from half a century ago surprises researchers because in most other ways, attitudes about gender roles have changed a lot.” Well, no doubt, attitudes towards gender roles have changed a lot, but the problem is if a family is functional, it has to function, and if marriage and family are to function, then different functions are going to have to be allocated to different roles within the marriage, first of all, and that means between the husband and the wife.

It is also interesting that the study that was undertaken here continues to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Needless to say, the vast, vast majority of American high school seniors are really only thinking of marriage in terms of a man and a woman. One of the issues that should both haunt us and give us hope is the reality that these high school seniors clearly are determined that there must be a parent in the home with young children, period. There is a very clear statement here, coming from America’s 17-year olds that children, especially the youngest children, need a parent in the home. This is not only the response to a survey, this is a cry from the heart.

The largest percentage of teenagers actually defined their expectation and hope about a family structure for young children, is that there would be a mother and a father married to one another with the mother at home with the children.

There’s so much more in this article, but I want to look to one paragraph that operates as something of a hinge. Claire Cain Miller writes, “A flaw in surveying high school seniors about these issues is that they are not yet working in parenting, but other research has shown that young people in the throes of the work-life juggle indeed choose more traditional roles in the home.” In other words, you really can’t trust that these high school seniors are going to maintain this same judgment when they’re actually working and when they are establishing their own families, except research indicates that that’s exactly what they do.

Both of these articles also indicate that if there is a major change that has taken place in the roles and expectations of mothers and fathers in the home, it is that fathers are now spending more time with their children, and that of course is a very good thing, but that also should be understood as a recovery of a more creational model. That’s the way God intended it from the beginning.

Part IV

Egalitarian Dating? Not So Fast. Even in 2020, Most Women Have Traditional Expectations of Dating Relationships

Finally, as we’re thinking about a series of interesting articles that appeared timed for Valentine’s Day in the larger society, one more, this one from The Atlantic. It’s by Ellen Lamont. Here’s the headline, “If You Want a Marriage of Equals, Then Date as Equals.” Lamont identifies herself as a feminist sociologist, “Long interested in how gender influences our behavior in romantic relationships.”

She goes on to voice the same frustration, seen elsewhere, and that is that even as you’re looking at a progressive era and young people declare themselves to be progressives, there is more gain in gender equality at work than at home. Kind of the same thing, but she as a sociologist is very keen to point to what she sees as part of the problem, and that is that the entire process of dating is profoundly not egalitarian. Here’s the most interesting thing: It turns out that even the most progressive women do not have a very progressive expectation of equality or equity when it comes to the dating relationship. Just to put one matter clearly, they still expect to be asked by a man, they still want a man to ask them to date, to dinner, to whatever, and they still want the man to pay for it.

Now, the point being made by Ellen Lamont, the feminist sociologist is, I guess maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised that progressive marriages turn out to be not so progressive when they weren’t progressive when they were dating, but the biggest problem here, by the way, is not necessarily the expectation of a man, that shows up very clearly, but it is the expectation of a woman. That turns out to be the biggest obstacle to her egalitarian vision of dating. It turns out that real women, who are really looking for a real relationship that would lead to a real marriage aren’t thinking really progressively.

Oh, and don’t be surprised about where this article ends. This article ends with the feminist sociologist telling heterosexual couples that if they really want to learn what it is not to have a problem or imbalance in this gender distinction in the romantic relationship, then heterosexual couples should learn from, yeah, you got there already, LGBTQ couples, who after all, by definition, don’t have the possibility of a gender imbalance in the romantic relationship.

Let’s just go back as Christians to Romans 1 where we are told that sinful humanity tries to suppress the truth in unrighteousness, but the reality is that God’s revelation even in creation is so powerful that it continues to shine through either in evidence or even in the attitudinal frustration of those who are trying to upend the order and can’t find it. The order of creation—and there’s something very sweet, very incredibly powerful about this—the order of creation actually shows up in the hearts of 17-year-old high school seniors, speaking about their own yearnings, expectations, and hopes for their own marriage and their own family. Well, as we come to a conclusion, I’d hoped today to have time to talk about a theological understanding of why more men are wearing beards. That’s going to have to wait for another day. I promise you, it’s going to come soon.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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