briefing, Albert Mohler

Thursday, June 4, 2020

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

It’s Thursday, June 4, 2020. I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

An Update from Minnesota: New Charges Brought Against Officers Involved in George Floyd’s Death

Before turning to other issues, a brief update from events in Minneapolis. Law enforcement officials there yesterday upgraded the charge against former police officer Derek Chauvin from third degree murder to second degree murder and charges were also brought against the three other officers involved in the arrest and the subsequent death of George Floyd. Now, there is so much to consider here, but I want us to understand that most importantly, the rule of law takes time. That’s not an accident.

It takes time because as you’re looking at a situation like this, there has to be a fair adjudication of the issues at every stage in the development, not only in the jury trial, which should come later, but even in the process of bringing about an indictment after an investigation, even to the extent of having sometimes to invoke the role of a grand jury or of even higher prosecutorial authorities. The authorities there in Minnesota had already brought a third degree murder charge and a second degree manslaughter charge against the former police officer. There was enormous political pressure, but political pressure doesn’t turn into jury convictions, and that’s one of the points of our justice system that needs to be remembered.

One of the things you have to keep in mind from a Christian worldview is that yes, we are in a situation of national urgency and there were demands coming from the streets and also from major political and cultural leaders that arrest needed to be made. There was a sense of unrest that the third degree murder charge of depraved indifference to human life was not adequate for the crime that was documented in the video. But the rule of law means that someone has to take responsibility for actually framing a case, for forming charges, for bringing about the entire process of arrest, and eventually, the kind of jury trial that Americans are guaranteed by our constitution.

There are other issues here. Our constitution guarantees what is often called a speedy trial process. But in the United States, justice is now taking longer than ever before. All kinds of reasons for that. Prosecutors and law enforcement are often charged with acting slowly on the front end because after all, they want to make certain that the charges they bring will stand in court. Every T crossed and every I dotted, they want to make certain that there is no way the charges fail before they get to a jury trial and they don’t want them to fail there. On the other hand, as you’re looking at the slowing down of the American judicial process, a lot of that’s coming from the defense side rather than the prosecutorial side. It has become increasingly clear that one of the tactics used by many defense councils is to try to slow the process as much as possible.

In any event, the rule of law means that there is law and there are rulings according to the law, and there is a process that is intended to ensure the greatest approximation of justice and equity and fairness possible in a human courtroom and in a human course of law. So even as we continue to pray for peace to return to the streets, and for justice to reign in our society, and for wrongs to be made right, even as we pray for this and we pray for a return to safety and security and order in American cities, we also understand that we face a moment of great national challenge. These criminal charges are a part of that challenge. And that challenge continues as we think about the course of the justice system in weeks and months to come. But it is likely to be weeks and months to come. And not just a few months, but many months. And even as we understand the importance of the rule of law, we understand that the rule of law rightly and constitutionally conducted, takes time. It’s up to Americans, all Americans to give the justice system time to do its work. And also the expectation that it will indeed do its work and do it justly.

Part II

When You Deny the Creation Design, Chaos Ensues: The Collision Between Transgender Advocacy and Female Athletics

As we turn to other stories, it is very clear that other headlines simply will not wait, events roll on. One of those headlines came in recent days, I’m going to point particularly to an article that appeared in The New York Times with the headline, “Including Transgender Athletes Breaks Law, Trump Administration Says.” Very interesting headline. It’s actually a complex headline that doesn’t tell you much about the story. You have to look further. The reporters, Michael Levenson and Neil Vigdor write, “A high school sports policy in Connecticut that allows transgender students to participate in athletics based on their gender identity violates federal law and could cost the state federal education funding, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has found.”

The next paragraph, “The finding came after the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian organization filed complaints against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and the Glastonbury school board on behalf of three high school student athletes.” We are also told that the ruling was issued on May the 15th, but did not become public until last Thursday. “The policy is also being challenged in court. The students contended that the policy gave transgender students an unfair advantage in athletic competition and in the race for public recognition that is critical to college recruiting and scholarship opportunities.”

This is a massive story. It really is. And it’s a part of a massive pattern in our society of trying to deny biology, ontology, that means being as God created it, and even simple human reason. We are looking at a massive experiment in human self-deception that our society, at least at many levels, is trying not only to embrace, but to enforce. And that is the T in LGBTQ. And what we have here is a real time, real life collision between that worldview that is now summarized with the word “transgender” and the real life experience of girls in high school in Connecticut trying to compete in sports. It is a massive story. Let’s look at it more closely. First of all, let’s look at the facts on the ground so to speak.

You have high school interscholastic sports, and they’re divided between boys’ and girls’ teams, boys’ and girls’ competitions. Why? Because there is an ontological difference, a biological difference between boys and girls. And in many of these events, if boys were competing against girls, boys would have a physical advantage, girls would have a physical disadvantage. So girls would be less likely to win. Boys would be more likely to win. And the win is not just for a ribbon or a trophy, it is often for other more powerful forms of recognition, such as college athletic scholarships. This is big.

And thus when you bring in the T, the transgender, you deny that basic rationality of the world dividing high school interscholastic sport between boys’ and girls’ competitions, and you do have those who are biologically male who are competing now against those who are biologically female. And this particular legal action was brought by girls. They’re not only biologically female, they’re quite aware of it. They embrace their identity as girls and their argument is simple. Girls now won’t win girls’ competitions for sport because those who are biologically male claiming to be girls will have an advantage.

And they already have plenty of proof on their side as they and lawyers with the Alliance Defending Freedom took the issue to court, and also took the issue to the Department of Education of the United States federal government. Charging that school authorities in Connecticut in allowing biological males to compete with biological females in girls’ sport were actually violating the 1972 law often summarized as Title IX that prohibits sex discrimination in programs that receive federal funding. And the Connecticut public schools receive federal funding. Therefore, Title IX applies to them.

And these girls and their families and their lawyers made the very persuasive and rational case that allowing boys, regardless of how they identify themselves, to compete in these sporting activities, these athletic activities with girls, put the girls at a disadvantage. And the disadvantage comes with consequences, not only the losses in the athletic record books, but the losses when it came to more tangible issues such as college scholarships.

The argument made on behalf of the high school girls said that allowing transgender students to compete on female track teams, that’s the particular athletic event identified here, “Denied female student athletes athletic benefits and opportunities, including advancing to the finals and events, higher level competitions and awards, medals recognition, and the possibility of greater visibility to colleges and other benefits.” The important issue here is that the Department of Education ruled in favor of the girls and their complaint and gave the school system there in Connecticut 20 days to remedy what the department has declared is a violation of Title IX.

Now the clash of worldviews becomes very, very clear with this paragraph, “Transgender rights advocates denounced the finding calling it another attempt by President Trump and education secretary, Betsy DeVos, to trample civil rights for transgender youths.”

Now just notice, here’s the worldview, demonstrated, fully evident in words. On the one hand, you have words like “male” and “female,” “boy” and “girl,” “girls’ sports,” “boys’ sports,” you can follow the pattern. On the other hand, you have language such as “transgender rights,” “transgender youth.” You also have the situation in which you have those who are undeniably biologically male, who are now referred to nonetheless as girls, because that is their chosen gender identification and school authorities in Connecticut as elsewhere, following the logic of the LGBTQ movement have said that that gender identity is what prevails. So if a biological male says, “I am a girl. I’m to be treated as female.” Or for that matter, as we now know, it’s even more complicated because inevitably, the transgender ideology has devolved further into this idea of nonbinary gender identity, which means neither boy nor girl, neither male nor female. And all of this of course creates regal life chaos.

That’s a basic principle and inside of the Christian worldview. When you deny the creation order as God has given it to us for our good and his glory, when you deny the creation order, you get chaos, chaos at every turn, chaos at every angle. That’s exactly what you’re looking at here. But now we reach the point that these two arguments are now classically being put forward in one case concerning high school girls making their complaint in the state of Connecticut that they are now being disadvantaged and treated unfairly by the fact that they’re not just competing against other biological females, but in effect, against biological males.

We have similar kinds of situations and collisions coming from elsewhere across the country. And it’s not only track, it is also wrestling and other kinds of athletic events where the world’s being turned upside down. And furthermore, it’s not just, of course, high school and secondary interscholastic sports. It is also the entire world of college athletics, professional athletics, and beyond that, the entire world of athletic endeavor, perhaps most classically represented by the events known as the Olympics.

I want us to look more closely at one particular paragraph in this article. The Times reports, “Last year, a report by the Liberal Center for American Progress found that students who said they’d been discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity were significantly less likely to get relief from the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights under the Trump administration than they had been under the Obama administration.”

Let’s think about that paragraph for a moment. It says that those who were advocates for LGBTQ, particularly for students characterized or identified in identity politics and even in contemporary parlance as LGBTQ, they had been more likely to get a successful result from the Obama administration than from the Trump administration.

Is that true or false? Well, it’s probably undoubtedly true. Is it right or wrong? Well, that’s a different issue. You are looking at the fact that elections have consequences. The election of President Obama had a set of consequences. The election of President Trump had a set of consequences. And behind those two candidates, the platforms of their two parties and the voters who supported those two candidates, you’re looking at the fact that these two very different worldviews appear—a worldview in which it makes perfect sense, or at least it is claimed that within this worldview, it makes perfect sense that biological sex is completely separate from gender identity, that gender identity has to trump biological sex, that autonomy trumps reality. And instead you can simply say, this individual, though born biologically male is a girl, must be referred to as a girl, must be recognized by a name that is chosen as a girl, must be listed as a girl and able to compete as a girl in girls’ competitions. The other worldview says that doesn’t make any sense. Biology and identity have to go hand in hand together. And you’re also looking at the fact that that argument says that boys and girls rightly have different athletic competitions because after all, there are physical reality based distinctions between boys and girls that don’t have to do with cultural prejudice or any kind of social construction, they begin with a biological reality.

But here’s where Christians thinking in a biblical worldview who clearly understand that when you are looking at gender identity, the gender of male and the gender of female—“gender” itself an interesting word to use here, we use to refer to the male sex and the female sex—are rooted in creation, God’s original, good, perfect intention to create human beings made in his image as male and female. But here’s where Christians need to understand that our imperative moral argument in the middle of this is not merely about the reality of biology, the binding reality of biology. It is also about justice.

And here’s where we need to be very careful lest this argument and issue be misconstrued. Because as you’re reading The New York Times, it would appear that a quest for justice, for justice for transgender youth is what is driving the LGBTQ advocates. And a denial of justice is what is driving those who hold to the traditional understanding of male and female who argue that biology is essential when it comes to understanding our identity and who argue against the LGBTQ revolution. If you were to look at this article, you would think, well, you have a quest for justice on one side and a quest to deny justice on the other side.

This article, when looked at fairly, puts that to the lie. Instead, you have two rival claims of justice. And in this case, it’s made very clear by having two different groups of young people on whose behalf these arguments are made. One group of young people is identifying as transgender. And in particular, in this case, it’s biological males who want to compete as females. They’re arguing that it is unjust for them not to be allowed to identify as girls and to compete in girls’ sporting events. But on the other side, you have another group of young people.

In this case, a group of young women who are claiming that it is unjust, it is a denial of justice due them to allow biological males with physical advantage to compete in girls’ events and to take away their medals and their trophies and their scholarships. Here’s what we need to note: When you’re looking at this kind of issue, even as it’s construed in the media as one argument for justice, and the other argument, either against justice or ignoring justice, rightly construed, it is two different arguments about justice.

And that reminds us of something even more fundamental. Under those two rival arguments for justice are two different rival understandings of reality. And that’s where Christians always have to understand that when we’re arguing over these issues, we’re not just arguing over policy. We’re not just arguing over politics. We’re not just arguing over ideology. We’re not just arguing over the United States Department of Education. We’re not just arguing about tracking field events in the interscholastic competition in the state of Connecticut. We’re talking about rival and incompatible understandings of reality. That is how deep this divide now shows itself to be.

Before leaving this, I also want to look at how the article ends. The reporters tell us, “The finding came amid a national conflict over whether or how to regulate transgender athletes. In March, Idaho became the first state to bar transgender girls from participating in girls’ and women’s sports and to legalize the practice of asking girls and women to undergo sex testing in order to compete.” The final words, “The debate has become a wedge issue, especially among conservatives trying to rally support for Mr. Trump.”

Let’s just think about that for a moment. Is this a wedge issue in politics, perhaps even in an election? Well, of course it is. Wedge, meaning it is an issue that helps to define the issues and the distinctions between candidates. But let’s just be intellectually honest here. Where did this argument begin? It did not begin amongst those who hold to a biblical understanding of gender and sex and sexuality saying, “This is what we want to be established in law.” It began with sexual and moral revolutionaries trying to do the opposite.

I can guarantee you that by the time you look at the fullness of the 2020 presidential race, now expected to be the incumbent President of the United States, Donald J. Trump against former Democratic vice president, Joe Biden, this is going to be an issue, not on one side, but both sides. And not just in a minor way, but likely in a major way. Because when you elect a president of the United States, you are electing the nation’s chief executive who will determine who will be the secretary of education and who will be in place through the administration to adjudicate these processes. So yes, all of this is going to be on the line on election day in 2020. And not just on one side.

Part III

A Heartbreaking Article about Parenting a ‘Nonbinary’ Child: The Responsibility of Christian Parents to Teach Their Children the Truth

But as we’re thinking about this issue, I also have to talk about an article that appeared just in the last couple of days, also in The New York Times. Not an accident that mainstream media keep bringing these articles and issues again and again and again, and again. The headline on this article by Sandy Jorgenson is, “The Hardest Part of Having a Nonbinary Kid Is Other People.”

Here you have a mom writing about the struggles that she and her husband have with a nonbinary seven year old identified as M. And their challenge they say is made more difficult by a society that continues resolutely to define itself in terms of the gender binary. There’s a lot to look at here, but most importantly, I just want for a few minutes for us to focus on how this mother conceives of these issues and of her role as a parent. Because she writes that she and her husband from the beginning, “Weren’t the blue for boys, pink for girls type. We let M dress in the clothing they gravitated toward and wear their hair in whichever style they liked. We made a point to shy away from anything overtly gendered or from the notion that our child was only entitled to half the world’s opportunities. Still,” the author says, “we were happily raising our child as cisgender without thinking of it.”

Even if you didn’t look at any other portion of this article, this is going to tell you something that Christians need to recognize and it’s actually prior to any consideration of LGBTQ issues, and that is the power of parents to define reality for children because that is really, whether intended or not, the most important point made in this article. These parents, a mom and a dad in this case, defined reality for this child in such a way that from the beginning, they were really denying what they decry as the gender binary. And the language they use wasn’t subtle at all when they said that they resisted, “the notion that our child was only entitled to half the world’s opportunities.” Even defining the child prior to some kind of nonbinary expression as having been raised cisgender, the very word “cisgender,” it’s much like the word “heteronormative.” It implies that being heterosexual or being a biological male identifying as a male or a biological female identifying as a female, that that’s just another identity in this swirling swamp of identity politics.

The article is heartbreaking at every level, including the use of the word pronoun, “they,” for this single child who is one of the couple’s two children. The seven year old is referred to time and time again as “they,” as a preferred pronoun. Again, just think of the fact that parents have to be involved with the child even in thinking about a pronoun by which the child is going to be known, but the parents have told us that from the very beginning, they were resisting the traditional gender binary. So here’s no surprise, their child is the great example of what it means to ignore that gender binary.

Now, the point for Christians is this as time is running out on us today: Christian parents, we actually have the responsibility to teach our children biblical truth and the order of the world as God has given it to us. And that means as male and female. So that means not only that we are not doing the wrong thing, but that we are doing the right thing when we refer to male and female, man and woman, daddy and mommy, brother and sister, boy and girl. We’re not doing the wrong thing, we’re doing the right thing. And as this article also makes clear, the way that parents define reality for very young children is likely to be the reality that those children inhabit for the rest of their lives.

The purpose, by the way, behind this article is to argue that society is wrongfully repressing the nonbinary identity of children and is thus oppressing them in a way that is harmful. Once again, as we conclude, we have to recognize, here are two rival claims of justice. These parents claiming that an unjust resolutely binary world is responding unjustly to their child. The other argument is this: It is unjust to force upon the entire society and upon other children and other citizens, a notion that is openly irrational and will harm all.

But don’t expect that to be recognized in the mainstream media’s coverage of these headline stories. But that’s why we have to look beneath the headlines and through the stories to understand what’s really at stake.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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