briefing, Albert Mohler

Monday, February 24, 2020

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

It’s Monday, February 24, 2020. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Bernie Sanders, Avowed Democratic Socialist, Wins Nevada Caucus in a Landslide: A Reshaping of the American Political Map

Saturday’s Democratic presidential caucus in Nevada is now history and history is going to record that independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won by a landslide. The results indicate that he received about 47.5% of the vote. The second place vote recipient was former vice president Joe Biden, who received 20.8% of the vote. That means that Bernie Sanders, who is after all a Democratic Socialist by his own identification, is now unquestionably the front runner for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, and it also means that he received more than twice as many votes as the candidate who came in second, former vice president Biden. Now this may give a little bit of extended life to Biden’s campaign, but it provides for the Sanders campaign an unquestionable momentum heading into Tuesday’s South Carolina primary.

This is a reshaping of the American political map. The worldview implications are huge. Just think about the fact that we are on the precipice, as a nation, of seeing one of the two major political parties in this country nominate an avowed socialist. He identifies himself as a Democratic Socialist, as that party’s nominee. This sets up the fact that we may well be looking at Socialism being front and center in the electoral choice made by Americans as we come to the November presidential election. That hasn’t happened ever in American history, not with a major candidate of one of the two parties, but it looks like that is what is shaping up. And on the Democratic side, we have to recognize that at this point, Senator Sanders has enough momentum that if the party does deny him the nomination, it is likely to lead to a massive loss of support within the Democratic party.

But this leads to another issue in worldview analysis. The major worldview contrast in this country in politics is between the Democratic and the Republican parties. That two party system has basically held sway in American politics going back to the period immediately after the first president of the United States, George Washington, who warned in his farewell address against the development of American political parties. But by the time he issued that warning, that two party system was basically already in place. Back during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it was the Democratic party versus the Whig party. With Abraham Lincoln in the middle of the 19th century it became the Democratic party versus the Republican party. Those two parties are extremely old. The Democratic party is the oldest existing political party on the planet. The Republican party is the third oldest political party found anywhere in the world.

And political parties are arguments. They are organized arguments, and thus that great worldview contrast is between the two different arguments made by the Republican and Democratic parties. By the time we get to the party conventions when those conventions at the national level adopt their party platforms, you’re going to see that contrast in extremely distinct form. But we also have to step back for a moment and recognize that there is also a bit of ideological conflict within the two parties, but this is especially true amongst the Democrats.

Michael Barone, who is the keenest observer of the history of American political parties, has said that when you look at the Republican party, it has always been marked by a general unity around a set of ideas. The Democratic party has instead been a constellation of different interest groups each with their own ideological agenda. They have been ranging from the center left to the far left, but at this point in the Democratic party, it’s increasingly clear that the far left is in the driver’s seat, and this gives Senator Sanders and his campaign enormous momentum heading into Saturday’s South Carolina primary and especially the delegate-rich Super Tuesday primaries, soon to come.

But consider the ideological issues that really are apparent here. When you’re looking at Bernie Sanders, you’re not only looking at a candidate who is, in 2020, as he was in 2016, an avowed Democratic Socialist. You’re also looking at the fact that his background is actually even more classically Socialist. What does Democratic Socialist means? It’s an effort to try to separate the Socialism that is advocated by Bernie Sanders from non-democratic forms of Socialism. But as any honest observer of Socialism has to recognize, Socialism is by nature coercive. It can only accomplish its means by redistributing the engines of power and production and economic mobility in a country. It has to transfer wealth, otherwise, there’s no Socialism in the Socialism.

Now, Bernie Sanders is honest, at least to this point. He is very clear in running against not only the Republican party, but also the establishment of the Democratic party. He’s an avowed enemy of what he identifies as neoliberalism. That was the effort on the part of Democratic centrists, especially represented by someone like Bill Clinton in the United States, or if you look to the United Kingdom, former Labour party leader and prime minister Tony Blair. They sought to modify capitalism as they saw it, but they basically held to a form of market economics. In their time, especially in the 1990s there were those who believe that Socialism had become electorally impossible in Western nations, most importantly of the English speaking world. But all of that is now changing and as Americans and American Christians think about what it will mean to have a Socialist candidate running for president as the Democratic nominee, if this turns out as it appears momentum is indicating, then what is set up for November of 2020 is a titanic battle of ideas.

Now, what this also means, I pointed out, that there’s a battle of ideas within the parties. This means that in the Democratic party, the ideas that are winning on the ground, and that’s what matters. The ideas that are winning on the ground with at least a plurality of voters are very progressive Socialist ideas. Now, another political phenomenon that we need to watch in coming days is how the party establishment, which Bernie Sanders blamed for his failure to reach the 2016 presidential nomination, how that party establishment seeks to convince some people not to enter the race, but to leave it. Most importantly, the argument is going to come from those who are in the Democratic party establishment, that some of those who are identified as moderates in the current 2020 race need to exit in order to consolidate opposition to Bernie Sanders.

But here’s another interesting political observation with worldview implications. If the party wanted to do that, it would have needed to do that long before now. They have now allowed a nearly unstoppable political force to form. And they did so because they didn’t want to repudiate Socialism in months behind us because they wanted to attract the voters who wanted to vote for Socialism. And guess what? They were actually successful at that, beyond all of their political intentions. The Democratic establishment wanted Socialist-inclined voters, but it didn’t want a Socialist candidate. But it turns out that the two go together, because ideas are powerful and eventually political parties become the embodiment of those ideas. That’s exactly what we are watching on the Democratic side right now.

Part II

The Fastest Moral Change in a Civilization in History: How the LGBTQ Revolution Pushed Its Morality Through Society in a Decade

Next, I want to shift to front page news in USA Today just a few days ago, on the front page there was a headline that teased an inside section article. The headline that was the teaser says “Progress towards equality uneven.” Up ahead, we see the words “LGBTQ Rights.” The subhead: “Over the decade, major strides are countered by setbacks.” Very interesting. As we look to this front page article that continues inside, what we are going to see is not only an indication of the revolution in morality, particularly sexual morality and the understanding of gender that has and is transforming our society, we’re also going to understand, as Christians, a bit more of what we are up against when it comes to even how these issues are discussed.

USA Today is interesting in this light because it’s a generally liberal newspaper, as the media are at least generally liberal, especially the old establishment media, but when it comes to USA Today, remember that it sells itself as America’s newspaper. The article’s by Susan Miller of USA Today, the headline inside is “LGBTQ Rights: Here’s what has changed since 2010.” So this is a 10 year retrospective. That’s going to be interesting to us as Christians because we know that over the course of the last decade, there has been massive moral change in our society. If USA Today is going to talk about it, we need to listen to what they’re saying and understand the lessons we need to learn from this same decade period.


Susan Miller writes, “In 2010, no states outlawed conversion therapy for LGBTQ minors, forbade health insurers from excluding transgender related coverage, or offered gender neutral option on licenses and birth certificates. But 10 years later, at the dawn of a new decade, roughly 20 states have these protections in place.” Susan Miller then asks the question, “Breakthroughs? Or evidence of a plodding pace on the road to LGBTQ equality?” Now let’s be serious. There is no way you can talk about LGBTQ issues as advancing at a plodding pace. We are looking at the fastest moral change in a human civilization that is as yet recorded in human history, and this kind of moral change can be traced.

I’ve often talked about the research indicating that moral change on other issues including, say, the abolition of slavery took the better part of three centuries to accomplish. But when it comes to the LGBTQ Revolution, we’re talking about an absolute upending of an entire moral system, or for that matter, an understanding of reality when it comes to the T, the transgender in LGBTQ, and it has all basically taken place since about 1970. But all the major gains actually have taken place in the 21st century.

But Susan Miller, and this article turns out to be perhaps more important as an article than as a survey of what’s going on in the LGBTQ progress as it is identified here over the last decade. Consider the fact that when she starts out saying, for example, that in 2010 there were no laws that forbade health insurers from excluding transgender related coverage, well just consider the fact that almost no one would have understood exactly what that even would be just 10 years ago. There’s a journalistic pattern that we’re going to track through this article.

A spokesperson for the Movement Advancement Project, which as it turns out is an organization, an activist organization that released a report earlier this month on the status of LGBTQ rights in 2010 to 2020—the journalistic point I want to make right here is that you have a news article of massive scope written in USA Today based upon a report by an activist group that was seeking just this kind of news story in order to further its agenda. That’s how the mainstream media works. You will notice that it only works on one side of the moral and political divide. If you had a conservative group that was putting out this kind of report, you wouldn’t have this kind of coverage. Why? Because the moral trajectory of the society is what you have the mainstream media now attempting to ride and to define. It’s all in one side of the equation. But that becomes even more apparent later in the article.

We are told that this organization, MAP, or Movement Advancement Project, is “a think tank that maintains a database on laws affecting LGBTQ people,” and we are told that it shows, “a split in the policy landscape in 2020. Nearly half of the country, 46% lives, in states earning high or medium grades for equality because of protections, but the other half, 45% lives in states with low or negative rankings.” Well, once again, let’s just pay close attention to how this game is being played. It’s being played across the cultural landscape. Medical centers are being graded or ranked on how LGBTQ positive they are. Colleges and universities and their campuses ranked about how LGBTQ positive they are. You have the cities, municipalities, metropolitan areas that are graded the same way, and here we have states that are graded. Of course, the whole issue is this: If you have a grade, you imply that you should seek a high grade or an A. You should avoid a low grade or a C or a D or an F. But the people who are giving the grades are grading according to their own curve and there’s no doubt where the curve is with the Movement Advancement Project. But there’s a lot more here for us to observe.

Another word in this article that we need to pay heed to is the word “backlash.” Backlash is a morally negative word. You have progress and advancement on one side, and then you have regress or backlash on the other side. Let’s look at how this works. Susan Miller writes “But midway through the decade backlash has also started to sprout. The background of this is the Supreme Court’s legalization of same sex marriage and the Obergefell decision of 2015,” that’s the midpoint of the decade from 2010 to 2020. But what she points to is that midway through the decade backlashes started to sprout. Now, let me just point out the obvious. You can’t have a backlash against same sex marriage until same sex marriage is a thing. There couldn’t have been backlash against the legalization of same sex marriage nationwide until there was the legalization of same sex marriage nationwide. But backlash used as a term here is a moral insinuation that those who define marriage as the union of a man and a woman are morally backward. Their response, our response to the legalization of same sex marriages is thus backlash.

You then read these words, “Many,” remember, these are backlashes, “many took the form of religious exemption laws that let people, churches, and sometimes businesses cite religious beliefs as a reason not to enforce a law.” Again, where’s the logic here? You can’t have any requests for an exemption from a law before the law exists. But now anyone who critiques the law or ask for an exemption from the law, ask here being a rather weak verb is defined as a backlash. Here you have the insinuation that, for instance, a Christian florist or a cake baker or photographer operating on Christian conviction is now guilty of representing a backlash, though that Christian photographer has changed no policy whatsoever.

Here you see what’s going on in the mainstream media. The norm is now completely redefined. The norm before the legalization of same sex marriage was that the entire civilization was based upon the understanding that marriage is and could only be the union of a man and a woman. But on the other side of this intentional revolution in morality, if you don’t agree with that new norm, then you are simply out of the mainstream. You are backwards, you are guilty of a backlash.

There are a couple of other interesting observations to make in this light. For one thing, this report, this group from the Movement Advancement Project makes very clear an interesting fact, and that is that even though the LGBTQ Movement has failed in many statewide legislative or policy initiatives, it has won in many metropolitan areas. Now that’s very interesting because here’s where we also have to look at the American landscape and understand that the closer you get to a metropolitan area, the more secular the population becomes and the more morally liberal a population becomes.

So you take a state like Florida. The sociologists and political scientists are always perplexed by Florida because Florida’s metropolitan areas, at least many of them, especially on the Southeast coast, are very, very liberal, out of step with the rest of the state, which isn’t so liberal at all. And thus it turns out that in every election cycle, people tend to look at a state like Florida and say, “Well, if you’re on the Democratic side, why doesn’t everyone vote like Miami?” Meanwhile, you have the reality that these metropolitan areas are generally far more liberal.

Another classic example of that would be a state like Wisconsin, which is a generally, actually increasingly conservative state, but with some incredibly liberal metropolitan areas such as Madison, not by accident the home of the University of Wisconsin. Because even as you get closer to a coast, you generally go closer to a liberal secular environment, and the same is true when you get closer to a metropolitan area. It is even more the case that as you approach a major academic center, the environment becomes more socially liberal and more secular.

So you look at a state like Texas. Now on the electoral map, it at least has been for decades now, a very red state. But it’s now dotted by extremely blue metropolitan areas. Not only cities like Austin, but also cities like Dallas and Houston that are at odds when it comes to, say, LGBTQ policies with the remainder of the state. But we’re also seeing some states morally and politically transformed, at least when it comes to politics and policy before our eyes. The classic example right now is the state of Virginia. For decades in the past, it was also a very red state, and there were those who were indicating that it had shifted into a purple category. But if it was ever purple, it didn’t stay purple for long. Virginia is now a solidly blue state and that’s largely because of population transfers into Northern Virginia and many of those transplants to Northern Virginia are from far more liberal regions of the country, including the West Coast.

Part III

Female Sports or the Transgender Revolution? An Inevitable Collision Now Moves to Court in Connecticut

But next, we’re going to shift to another story. This one is datelined from Hartford, Connecticut, and that turns out to be very interesting. Pat Eaton-Robb of the Associated Press reports this story. The headline: “Girls sue to block participation of transgender athletes.” A lot to look at here. One of the things we are seeing is one of two of the most inevitable collisions on the current cultural landscape. Collision number one between the LGBTQ revolution and Christian conviction or religious liberty. You’re seeing that collision played out all across the country. The second big collision is between the LGBTQ movement and traditional second wave feminism, and of course all the women’s rights movement that emerged from the 1950s and especially the ‘60s and ‘70s. But we also have to recognize that to some degree there is another collision and it’s between L and G and B and T.

Consider the recent controversy about tennis star Martina Navratilova, who after all was at one point, she was identified as the most famous lesbian in the world, but she got into controversy because she argued that men identified as women and called transgender women should not be able to compete against biological women in sports because it was inherently unfair. And that led to Martina Navratilova being told she was, you know the words, on the wrong side of history.

But I want to look at that second collision, the collision between traditional feminism or the women’s rights movement and its goals on the one hand and the LGBTQ movement, particularly the T on the other hand. Well, what we’re looking at in this story is the fact that the families of three female high school runners have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block transgender athletes in Connecticut from participating in girls’ sports.

Why Connecticut? Because Connecticut is one of those states that has a policymaking panel for interscholastic sports that says that a high school student must be able to compete according to that student’s declared gender identity. And thus you have the families of these three female runners who are suing in federal court saying that that is a violation of Title IX. That is the federal law that says that there can be no discrimination based on sex. The parents of these girls are charging that allowing biological males to compete as females destroys the very idea of female athletic competition.

The complaint reads, “Because schools are permitting males to compete as girls and women, girls and women are losing competitive opportunities. To American girls, those born with XX chromosomes, the message is ‘Give up, you can’t win.’” Now, if you’re thinking about a revolution in morality and in the worldview that has taken place, it’s hard to come up with a better example than the fact that in a federal court complaint, one has to define female, as in girl or woman, as one born with XX chromosomes. Now, the reality is that no one would have thought anything otherwise, or thought that it would be necessary to say such a thing until very, very recently, on the other side of a complete confusion of biological reality.

There are other arguments that are made here. One of the attorneys on behalf of the girl said, “Forcing girls to be spectators in their own sports is completely at odds with Title IX, a federal law designed to create equal opportunities for women in education and athletics. Connecticut’s policy,” said the attorney, “violates that law and reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women.” Well, there’s that inevitable collision. It’s no fun being a feminist if you don’t know who a female is. It’s certainly no fun being a feminist if those who have XY chromosomes can claim the protections that you have argued for and fought for in the name of women. It’s no fun for feminists to claim a victory in Title IX if those who are actually boys or males can compete against girls as girls and displace them in athletic competition.

Now, by the way, the backlash here, I use that word intentionally, coming from the transgender movement is very, very powerful, and the courts are generally on their side. For example, one of the most liberal magazines in the United States is The Nation. The headline in The Nation is this, “In Connecticut, do transgender women have the right to play?” Now notice what’s going on here. That headline uses the phrase “transgender women.” If you use that vocabulary, you’ve already given away the argument. If you’re going to call people “transgender women,” then you’re implying they’re women, and legally that becomes a very significant vocabulary act, and that’s exactly intentional. And the article explains, “There is a right wing campaign afoot using the presence of transgender intersects and gender nonconforming women in sports as a stalking horse to attack the already limited and precarious civil rights held by the trans community. Around the country,” this is The Nation reporting, “Around the country, legislation is being introduced aimed at keeping high school trans athletes off the playing field, but a new level of TDS,” if you don’t know that particular vocabulary, The Nation says that’s Trans Derangement Syndrome, “is being posited by a lawsuit in the state of Connecticut.”

Why do you need to look at that paragraph? Because you will notice how the vocabulary works. We saw that vocabulary function with the word “backlash” in the USA Today story. You see it here by declaring the reality of transgender women. And furthermore, this particular article refers to transgender intersects and gender nonconforming women in sports. Well, by the time you do that, you can see how the battle lines are now drawn, and at stake here is whether or not you could have girls sports or athletic competitions at all. The fact is that those who are born with an XY chromosome and develop as males, that’s what the XY chromosome determines, they will actually have physical attributes that give them a physical advantage, including stride, muscle mass, and skeletal formation that doesn’t change simply by declaring oneself a female. And furthermore, the chromosomal reality is still there.

Here’s a Christian worldview principle we need to keep in mind. I refer to it in this way: Ontology trumps autonomy. What does that mean? We’ve talked about it before. Ontology is a theological word that means reality or being. Ontology is what God created when God created the heavens and the earth. What he created is real. That reality is ontological and that reality trumps autonomy. The claim that we can determine who we are. What’s the point? Well, you can declare yourself, if you’re a male, you can declare yourself to be a female. You can even dress like a female. You can change your driver’s license in many states to say you’re a female. As we talked about on The Briefing last week, you can get your elementary school teacher to refer to you as a female. You may also move so far as to have puberty suppression drugs. You may even go so far as to have surgery, which amounts to actually the mutilation of the body. But nonetheless, you can’t change the chromosomal identity. You actually can’t change it to the extent that if you indeed go through this entire process and at some point there is an archeological excavation that includes your grave, those future archeologists are going to do a genetic test and they’re going to come up with XX or XY regardless of the moral revolution, and what’s declared now to be a nonbinary human reality. The fact is you can’t get humans without a binary reality, otherwise known throughout human history without complexity as male and female.

The key issue for the Christian worldview is understanding that God made the world by his will, out of nothing for his glory. Any act, no matter the form of that act that tries to hide the reality of creation is described in Romans 1 as a part of that human conspiracy to rob God of his glory by suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.

But we are now living in the midst of a society that has declared a war upon that creational order. We as Christians at least have to understand what is happening. And today on The Briefing, we’ve looked at how the vocabulary deployed by those around us indicates how moral change is being driven through our society, an attempt to try to posit moral autonomy as more powerful than biological creational reality. But we do know this, the end result will be an unthinkable human tragedy.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’m speaking to you from Kingsburg, California, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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