Tuesday, September 22, 2020
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Tuesday, September 22nd 2020. I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
There’s Cultural Pushback to Gender Reveal Parties— But It’s Not Just About Wildfires. It’s About Rejecting the Gender Binary
In America, it's known as the gender reveal phenomenon. And it's been in the news in recent days, particularly because of one gender reveal that got out of control, leading to a wildfire in California that has caused now, we are told, over a billion dollars in damage and has led to the death of one firefighter. That's not the first gender reveal party to get out of hand. As Taylor Lorenz reports for the New York Times, "At a party last July, a car inadvertently burst into blue flames. That September a crop-dusting plane crashed after dumping thousands of gallons of pink water across a field in Texas. The following month, a woman was killed by flying debris from a device meant to shoot out colored smoke in Knoxville, Iowa." We're also told that the California fire is not the first to be caused by a gender reveal party gone bad. We're told, "In 2017 a fire was sparked at an Arizona party, resulting in more than $8 million in damages and 45,000 acres of destroyed land."
Now in Christian worldview terms, I want us to look at you might call a subset of the big question, and then we're going to look at the big question. As you think about the gender reveal party phenomenon, the New York Times article by Taylor Lorenz goes on to say that there are a couple of issues, a couple of problems, that become apparent. Number one, societal pressure. As Alia Wong noted in The Atlantic a matter of years ago, young Americans are formally over-celebrating many life events and in a way that their parents would not understand.
Now here's something that really is important, this over-celebrating. When you go back a matter of decades, you had young people graduate from high school and college and not much else. Now people have to graduate from everything. There has to be a formal party for every occasion and every even minor life transition. We also have to note as Christians that as religious observances and ceremonies have fallen to the side, secular observances that taken on an outsize importance, even when they're frankly artificial. Now, I'm going to argue the gender reveal is not artificial, but this over-celebrating is something that certainly is a reality we can recognize. There's an over-celebration of issues that has led to the fact that some of these parties, frankly, get out of hand.
The second issue was societal pressure. And yes, we can certainly see that. As a matter of fact, the phenomenon of the gender reveal party phenomenon has almost everything to do with the rise of digital and social media. Take social media out of the equation, and a gender reveal party becomes something that is mostly an intra-family, or intra-friendship-circle affair. That's understandable. Social media changes everything, but it also ups the ante, so to speak.
In order to gain attention on social media, you have to outdo whoever has done a gender reveal before you. There has to be more pink, more blue, more surprise. There have to be more cute little videos of older siblings who are registering shock and sometimes disappointment of sorts when the pink or the blue is revealed. There have to be more moments of hilarity. You have to have a bigger and bigger smoke bomb. You have to have a bigger and bigger reveal, even if you end up with a crashed plane in the backyard.
There is also one other dimension of this, and you can't escape COVID-19 in the picture. Because, we are told, so many of the normal patterns of life are disrupted with the pandemic that gender reveal parties have become an altogether newly intensive phenomenon on social media. Again, you add together the social pressure and the over-celebrating, you add together the way social media works, and you've got us fairly explosive combination, no pun intended.
But those are the issues of lesser significance when put over against the larger complaint that is now made about the gender reveal parties. As the New York Times article says, "Many critics of gender reveal party say the events are out of step with current times, and over-reliant on the notion of gender as a binary." You knew this was coming. You knew that the major complaint against the gender reveal party wasn't going to have anything to do with over-celebrating or social media or even one-upsmanship. It was going to be those dreaded words in our contemporary context, boy and girl. Except of course they're not dreaded, except by those who tell you and tell all of us that they dread and reject the use of those words.
As a matter of fact, the references to male and female, boy and girl, that are now so much a part of the gender reveal phenomenon, are a continuation of something that God has put into creation, a testimony to that fact, and a continuation of the fact that human beings, in order to make rational sense of the universe around us and even our own bodies, have had to use those immediate words, male and female, man and woman. And of course, boy and girl, son and daughter, brother and sister. It's all a part of an inescapable whole, a network of truth that reveals God's glory in the world, God's purpose for us as human beings. But that's all part of what we are now told is a gender binary that is oppressive. So here you have reality running into headlong collision with the new ideology of the sexual and gender revolution.
The reality is that even now, except in the most unusual circumstances in a delivery room, when a baby is born, the parents are congratulated for having a boy or a girl. There're gender reveal parties, even amongst so many of the younger generation who say that they're way past the gender binary. They're not when it comes to their own expected baby. They're not when it comes to the gender reveal party that they're about to put up on social media. What you have here is another reflection of the fact that reality always wins.
But you also are looking at the complaints against the gender reveal parties as telling us something very, very basic. That is to say basically wrong about the directions and the ideologies of so much going on in our culture. The article in the New York Times that tells us that many critics of the gender reveal parties describe them as out of step with current times and over-reliant on the notion of gender as a binary, they go on to tell us that one of the problems in the background to all of this is that people make so much out of pregnancy in the first place.
The New York Times article tells us about one expectant mother, Morgan Neal, who hosted an outdoor gender reveal party to announce that she was going to have a little boy. She explained the excitement and the celebration by saying, "My whole family is literally all girls. The last boy we had was 25 years ago. It was my older brother." So she was saying, "Pregnancy is a big deal to people, especially around here. It's a way," speaking of the gender reveal, "to celebrate being pregnant and bringing life into the world." Well, very sweet sentiments. But what kind of moral sense does it make to be told that "pregnancy is a big deal to people, especially around here."
Now, just hold that mind as you consider the fact that this article was published in the New York Times and the woman who is cited here is now, we are told, identified as living in West Virginia. So evidently in West Virginia, unlike presumably in New York City, pregnancy is a big deal. As this mother said, "Pregnancy is a big deal to people, especially around here."
Now here's something I want us to think about. My guess is that for parents in New York City, pregnancy is a very big deal. It's supposed to be a big deal. It has to be a big deal, even in an age of such moral insanity with rampant abortion, and opposition to the gender binary, with a plummeting birth rate. If anything, that should make every single pregnancy all the more special, which again is a part of the problem, perhaps, behind the over-celebrating, if pregnancy were more routine and there were more babies being born, it just might lower the social pressure on every single pregnancy or gender reveal. But again, the most important thing we're looking at is the opposition to the idea that the gender of a gender reveal party is to be tied to biological sex.
Now, Jenna Karvunidis, the blogger who came up with, we are told, the original gender reveal party, she now says that she regrets ever having done such a thing. And she goes on, at least in some press reports, to express personal concern. She said, "It wasn't even really about the baby's gender. It was just about getting my family excited." Except as much as she might want to say now it didn't have a whole lot to do with gender, it had everything to do with gender, and there's no intellectually honest way to suggest otherwise, but she goes on to apologize by saying, "I didn't see it as problematic back then. It was more annoying, like when someone wears your outfit. Then I was raising my daughters and one of them wouldn't play with anything unless it was pink." She went on to lament, "It seemed like that's where it would start in the baby's life, and after you were either a pink person or a blue person." Well, exactly right. The issue here, by the way, is not the color pink or the color blue. It is the reality of male and female made in the image of God.
But in an article on the gender reveal phenomenon published recently in the Los Angeles Times by Sonja Sharp, we're actually told that at least some transgender activists believe that a part of the current popularity of the gender reveal party is anxiety by parents that their own child might eventually be transgender. The article then cites as authority a professor at the University of Pittsburgh named Jules Gill-Peterson, we're told, author of the book Histories of the Transgender Child. This professor said, "Because trans kids are way more visible and known, that makes people really want to double down on the idea that gender is a thing in their child that belongs to them."
The professor continued, "Maybe things are not like the 1950s any more, but we still really want kids to be boys or girls." Well, yes, professor, we still want kids to be boys or girls, because we believe that it's God's intention that those children be boys or girls, and that God determines that those children are boys or girls, and that that is a display of His glory and the goodness of the creation that He has made. The interesting thing here is how many people are now pressing back against the gender reveal party because it flies in the face of the idea that there is no gender binary.
I mentioned on The Briefing some months ago, as a matter of fact, an article that appeared in the New York Times magazine. It was the ethicist column, in which a woman asked the ethicist at the New York Times magazine if it would be morally permissible for her to attend a gender reveal party in this age that is so resistant to the idea of the gender binary and which goes on to argue, in this new gender revolution, that it is up to the individual far later in life to determine whether or not the individual is going to identify as male or female.
You might say that the gender reveal party of the new revolutionaries is going to have to take place somewhat later. But then again, they're not even agreed about how much later, and furthermore, given the ideology of this absolute personal autonomy, the smoke might be blue, then pink, then blue and maybe pink again. But it's actually more complicated than that, because the rejection of the gender binary means there is no real pink and there is real blue, which is to say, there is no ontological female and there is no ontological male. They're just social constructions. Yes, human biology and human reproduction require a certain form of plumbing, but that doesn't have anything to do with personal identity. That's what we're told. And the gender reveal party phenomenon and the popularity of that phenomenon, even if they're getting out of hand, it's a testimony to the fact that people really do think, even now, absolutely now, in that gender binary.
It is fascinating, however, how many people want to tell us that they don't believe in it. A few years ago when I wrote my book, We Cannot Be Silent about the sexual and gender revolution, one of the things I pointed out was that this is a matter of great frustration to the transgender revolutionaries. I cited one in the book, who said, "We will never be able to achieve victory so long as in the delivery room someone shouts out, it's a boy or it's a girl." Well, here's the problem. It's hard to imagine, even in this morally-confused age, that someone's not going to cry that out in a delivery room.
“Gender-Creative” Parenting as a Sign of Our Times
But leaving the arena, though very interesting, of the gender reveal party phenomenon, I move to something that is a more direct challenge to moral and gender sanity. And this is found in an article in the current edition of Time magazine. It's by an author identified as Kyl Myers. Now don't miss the headline. "I didn't assign a gender to my kid. It's up to them to decide what identity fits them best."
Now here's where Christians need to pause for a moment, because too many Christians are going to say, "That's wrong. It's wrong to say, 'I didn't assign a gender to my kid.' We should assign a gender to our kid." But that's also wrong. We as Christians have to recognize that it's actually our responsibility to recognize and celebrate and affirm the gender, the biological sex, that the Creator has chosen. But it's really clear that in the worldview of this article and the revolution, the Creator has disappeared from the picture altogether.
The writer of this article in Time magazine's current edition tells us that this author and the author's partner decided not to assign a gender to the child they were expecting. The author writes, "We weren’t going to assign a gender or disclose their reproductive anatomy to people who didn’t need to know, and we were going to use the gender-neutral personal pronouns they, them and their. We imagined it could be years before our child would tell us, in their own way, if they were a boy, a girl, nonbinary or if another gender identity fit them best. Until then, we were committed to raising our child without the expectations or restrictions of the gender binary."
Now let's just note that in order to make this argument, the English language had to be sacrificed, but the sacrifice of the language pales in significance over against to the sacrifice of truth. But the origins of this shouldn't be so surprising when we consider the fact that the author goes on to write, "I have a gender studies degree and a PhD in sociology."
Now the couple named this child, the gender of which they are not disclosing, Zoomer, and Zoomer is going to go by the pronouns they, them and their. But writing about life as a professor, the author tells us "There was no shortage of gender-disparity statistics, but I felt confident that progress toward gender equity was gaining momentum. In my Sociology of Gender and Sexuality course, I would lecture on discrimination against queer people, the motherhood penalty, men’s higher suicide rate, violence against transgender women of color, and the way intersex people–those born with biological traits that aren’t typically male or female–are stigmatized or completely overlooked. But," says the author, "I also taught about the victory of same-sex marriage equality, more women running for office, fathers demanding family leave, the rising visibility of transgender actors in the media, and the movement to end intersex surgery." But the author goes on to say with every new semester, the number of students coming by with troubles increased. "These 18-to-20-something-year-olds were feeling crushed by gender stereotypes. I could relate."
Now I want to interject something here. What we're looking at right now is the revolution that is taking place in reshaping higher education and the intellectual elites, Hollywood, the engines of cultural production. And if you go onto a major college or university campus, this is the ideology they're going to try to absolutely enforce upon students there. But there's something else to note. This is not a professor of math writing this article, but a professor, we are told, of sociology with a gender studies degree. And the author has just told us of all these 18-to-20-something-year-olds feeling crushed by gender stereotypes. And here's what I want to tell you.
I have a theory, and I'm going to stand by this theory, that by in large, the 18-to-20-something-year-olds who are crushed, we are told, by gender stereotypes are the 18-to-20-something-year-olds who would take the kind of class taught by this kind of professor. But along with the author, we just lost sight of Zoomer, the child here, they them or they're. And the author tells us, "The goal of gender-creative parenting is not to eliminate gender—the goal is to eliminate gender-based oppression, disparities and violence. The aim isn’t to create a genderless world; it’s to contribute to a genderfull one." That's neologism, a newly invented word. Genderful.
"We as a society have an opportunity to shake up childhood gender socialization in a way that creates more healthy and equitable adulthoods for everyone. What have we got to lose? The patriarchy? Good riddance." Later in the article we're told, "When people think of gender-neutral, their minds often go to a grayish beige, potato-hued color palette. But we don’t dress Zoomer in burlap sacks, or only give them toys the color of Wheat Thins. We give them options, and they thoughtfully pick what they like the most."
The article concludes with these words. "I’m witnessing my child create their own gender—and who Zoomer has become is greater than anything I could have imagined or assigned. Instead of us telling the children who they should be, maybe it’s the children who will teach us how to be. We just have to get out of their way." The author, by the way, we are told, is the author of the new book, Raising Them: Our Adventure in Gender Creative Parenting.
Now, one issue we simply have to confront here is the fact that this article didn't just appear on some blog or on the internet. It was published online and in the current print edition of Time magazine. Go back for the better part of the last century, and Time magazine is the most famous and influential news magazine in American history, and it has defined middle America for most of those decades. Does this kind of approach now define middle America? Well, I'm going to argue it does not, but that's to the frustration of the cultural and intellectual elites who are trying to remedy that. That's why this kind of article appears in the way it does, celebrated and focused in Time magazine. Time magazine is telling us, "This is the way you should think. This is the way all right-minded parents should think. If you care about your child, the singular them, then you will want to raise your child in just as liberated a manner as these parents are raising Zoomer."
And just in case you missed the point, The Washington Post ran an article just this month by M. Boone Mattia. The headline, "Transitions: A mother reflects on her long journey of reconsidering her child's gender." But the article begins, "We have three girls. Once, we had a boy. The day we finally let him go, my husband consulted YouTube instructions for a tinfoil origami boat, like what our little boy had exuberantly sailed down street gutters on rainy days." Well, we're told that this was simply a poetic act of letting their son go because their son is now another daughter. Again, "We have three girls. Once, we had a boy."
Now the article is written at least in the voice of the mother, making reference also to the father, and the parents say, "To be clear, we've seen dear friends suffer through the death of a child. This was nowhere close. We still have our child, but we have lost our son." Now, again, just reflect upon the fact that throughout all of the millennia of human history and human experience, this is genuinely new. And if it's not shocking, then something's basically wrong. This had better be shocking, for parents to say, "We still have our child, but we lost our son. We now have three daughters. Once, we had a son."
But Matthew is now Maisie, and these parents are writing about how they have dealt with this. But the point I want us to consider is that The Washington Post has run this article because just like the article in Time magazine, the point of the article is you should think in just this way too. This is exactly as you and any other right-minded parent should think about a child. If Matthew wants to become Maisie, well, that's just a part of that individual's development. Deal with it. If you thought in terms of that gender binary, a boy and girl, and you thought at one point you had a boy, you had a son, that was about you and not about the child.
That's the modern mentality that is being forced on just about everyone in our society. But think about this. Time magazine, that magazine of middle America that gave us that article just this week by Zoomer's parent, is the very same magazine that just in 2014, just six years ago, declared the transgender tipping point. Now, my point is this. Six years? That's just the blink of an eye, if even that, in human history. If you're looking at a child less than six years old, you're looking at a child that wasn't born when this supposed tipping point had been reached. We're talking about declaring a revolution in human experience on the basis of just, say, a few years of supposed that human experience and ideology.
A Word to Christians: It’s Not Enough to Reject Modern Gender Insanity. We Are Called to Rejoice in God’s Good Creation of Human Beings as Male and Female
But bringing all of this to a conclusion according to the Christian biblical worldview, Christian parents need to remember this. Christian thinkers need to remember this. It's not enough to affirm the reality of males and females, not enough to affirm the reality of boy and girl. It's not enough to see the insanity of these Time magazine articles, The Washington Post, the New York Times and all the rest. It's not enough to see through the ideology of the gender revolutionaries. We have to understand that it's not enough for Christians to reject the transgender ideology and affirm the goodness of God's creation and making us as male and female. It's not only something we must settle in our hearts. It's something that rightly we must celebrate.
That is to say, we must rejoice in the fact that God has made us to His glory, has made every single human being in His image, and has made us male and female. In this sense, the most important gender reveal party of all took place in a garden in the very beginning of time. And in that garden, God created the very first man, Adam and out of him, he created the very first woman, named that by Adam, who declared, "She is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman because she was taken out of man." And that first gender reveal that rightly took place in that garden is a reflection of the glory of God and the perfection of God's creation.
God's own verdict on his creation was the word "good." And in biblical theology that word "good" means perfect according to God's design. God did it and he declared his work to be good. How dare we, as the creature, declare it to be anything else?
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
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