Thursday, October 29, 2020
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Thursday, October 29, 2020. I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Virginia Mollenkott, Feminist Author and Activist Dies at 88: A Reminder That Reimagining the Creation Order Leads to Reimagining the Creator
Even as almost all the mainstream media and most of the cultural conversation is attuned to the 2020 presidential election, and frankly, little else, today on The Briefing, we're going to look at some ongoing issues of Christian concern that are also reflected in contemporary headlines that should have our attention.
The first comes from Tuesday's print edition of the New York Times. It's an obituary. The headline, "Virginia Mollenkott, Who Rooted Her Feminism in the Bible Dies at 88." Now, for anyone who has been for the last several decades following the trajectory of American feminism, add to that the interaction between American feminism and American religion, add to that the LGBTQ revolution, well, the name of Virginia Mollenkott or Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, as she has also been known, it would be extremely well known.
And of course, something has to explain why the New York Times would give almost a half page in the print edition of Tuesday's newspaper to someone who was considered a feminist biblical scholar or theologian. Why was she important? Well, she was important because she was herself a symbol of the great moral revolution and the great revolution in biblical interpretation and the interaction with feminism that emerged in the last half century.
Let's just consider one of the first paragraphs in the obituary, "Raised in an evangelical household that disavowed her lesbianism, Dr. Mollenkott became a scholar of the Bible whose books on feminist and gay spirituality offered an expansive, inclusive theology that embraced not only women as equals to men, but gay, bisexual, and transgender people too." Now that's a very interesting paragraph in and of itself, but the paragraph actually is an understatement of what would follow.
Consider the very next paragraph speaking of the late professor Mollenkott, "She pointed out that Adam, for instance, was male and female before he got lonely. She noted biblical passages that argued for the eradication of all sorts of categories like race, class, and gender. And she wrote about how gay people could use the experience of oppression to find compassion and empathy for those who might be hostile toward them."
Now, Virginia Mollenkott is indeed one of those names that jumps out at us from recent American Christian history and in particular from recent American evangelical history, because she in herself became a test case for evangelical identity. And at the very same time that many American evangelicals were trying to wrestle with the questions that were posed to us by the emergence of second-wave feminism. But when it comes to Virginia Mollenkott, she was way past second-wave feminism.
She eventually would argue for the elimination of gender as a meaningful category. But looking at how the mainstream media covers the story, let's go back to that sentence where we're told out that Virginia Mollenkott had "pointed out that Adam, for instance, was male and female before he got lonely." I'll just pause there to say, that's not actually what the biblical text says. In fact, the biblical text emphatically does not tell us that Adam was not male or for that matter as it is put here was both male and female before the creation of Eve, before he got lonely, as the passage says.
But actually, looking to the Scripture, the Scripture tells us something very different. As a matter of fact, looking at Genesis 2, after we are told that God made human beings in his image, male and female, we are told that Adam went through the exercise assigned to him by the Creator in naming the animals. And he named them. And the animals came by two by two. Wouldn't be the first time, by the way. The same two by two pattern will show up in the history of Noah and the ark. But going back to Adam and the naming, Adam gave all the creatures their name, and whatever name he gave that creature, that was its name.
And then the Bible tells us, but there was no compliment, there was no helper found that was fitting for Adam. That tells us that he was male, but there was yet no woman. And then the biblical passage in Genesis 2 tells us that God put Adam into a deep sleep and out of Adam, he formed woman. And then Adam made the declaration when he saw Eve and was fully conscious, he declared, "This is now flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones. She shall be called woman because she came out of man." And thus Genesis 2 tells us exactly how God having already created Adam then created Eve, and they were created male and female.
Adam did not become male only with the creation of Eve, the female. He was male from the very beginning. But of course it didn't have a great deal of meaning until the entire meaning of the human species was completed with the creation of Eve, with the woman. Thus then you had Adam and Eve in the garden, and of course they were naked and not ashamed. There was no shame because after all this was God's perfect intention.
But then you'll notice also as the New York Times summarizes Mollenkott's narrative, "She pointed out that Adam, for instance, was male and female before he got lonely." But the Bible doesn't say actually in Genesis 2 that Adam was lonely. It's kind of implied. But the actual fact is that the Bible tells us that God said, "It is not good for man to be alone." Adam didn't say, "I'm lonely. Give me a wife." It was God who said, "It is not good for man to be alone." The Bible points to the fact that it is God who is sovereign throughout. It is not even Adam who asks for a wife. It is God who nonetheless provides him with one.
The obituary in the New York Times tells us that Virginia Mollenkott died on September the 25th at her home in Pompton Plains, New Jersey. She was 88. Deborah Morrison, a long time friend and former partner said the cause was respiratory failure and pneumonia. Dr. Mollenkott, the Times tells us, had already made a name for herself in evangelical circles in the 1970s as the author of five books about feminist theology when her sixth entitled, Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? Another Christian View, appeared in 1978.
The Times then tells us, "It quickly changed the conversation around gay people and evangelicals, and helped usher in a new era of gay spirituality." Well, that's pretty much the way the New York Times would like to see the story, but the backstory is this. By the time you get to the 1960s and the 1970s, American Christians in general and American evangelicals in particular are struggling with some of the questions presented by the larger society. And the society was struggling with the questions of feminism.
Now, there were at this point the arguments of what's been called second-wave feminism associated with authors such as Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan. This was the argument that all of society needed to be restructured because of the inherent oppression of women and the denial of absolute equality between women and men. Now, here's where the Christian worldview reminds us that yes, there is absolute equality as we are both made in the image of God between males and females, boys and girls, men and women. But the Bible makes clear that even as we are both equally created in the image of God, there are different roles that are assigned to us. And there is a different pattern that is assigned to us when it comes to men and women in the family, in the home, in the church with larger ramifications throughout the society.
What is most clear in scripture is the pattern of complementarity that is of the relatedness between men and women that is revealed very clearly in scripture, first of all, in the home, and then secondly, in the church. But Virginia Mollenkott and others like her believe that this was nothing less than an expression of patriarchy and oppression.
And of course, she rooted this in the entire biblical worldview. She became an exemplar of the kind of so-called biblical interpretation that began with the idea that the biblical text is a fallible testimony to human religious strivings, first amongst Israel, and then amongst the Christians, and that where there was evidence of any kind of inequality in scripture, those passages had to be redefined or largely eradicated, corrected in terms of a new interpretation.
But what emerged very quickly from that is that if you are going to argue that the passages that restrict women in any way are thus illegitimately interpreted and need to be reinterpreted so that they no longer are binding on the church, then very quickly you face the fact that the very same argument, the very same hermaneutic, that's the theological word for the interpretation of scripture, the very same interpretive pattern that would lead to the feminist conclusion also leads to the LGBTQ conclusion.
There was actually no clearer representation of that than Virginia Ramey Mollenkott herself. She was born to a very clearly conservative evangelical family, but as Penelope Green, the obituary writer for the New York Times tells us, "When she was 11, Virginia fell in love with a 21-year-old woman, and when her mother discovered the relationship, she sent her daughter to a Christian boarding school near Orlando, Florida."
This school also, like Virginia Mollenkott's mother, did not accept lesbianism as a biblical option, but the student then went on to Bob Jones University. At Bob Jones University, she met a young man whom she married, Fred Mollenkott, thus the name Virginia Ramey Mollenkott. She wasn't married to him for long because she came to the conclusion that she wasn't heterosexual. But she was also teaching at Bob Jones University at that time as an instructor in English.
According to the New York Times, it was Virginia Mollenkott's graduate work at the PhD level at New York University that led her to her eventual method of interpreting the Bible. She did her PhD, writing her dissertation on John Milton, the 17th century English poet. He's most famous, of course, for writing Paradise Lost. According to the Times, "Her deep dive into Milton's work liberated her thinking about the Bible. She began to read it more critically as a literary as well as a sacred text. In studying Milton's writings about love and marriage, and about divorce over incompatibility, she found the resolve to divorce Mr. Mollenkott in 1973."
Now at this point, it's already clear that by 1973, Virginia Mollenkott's liberalism, her feminism and her lesbianism set her in contrast to and in contradiction to not only her mother and the Christian school to which she had been sent, but also to Bob Jones University and eventually to marriage, leading to the divorce from her husband.
Now, that was 1973, keep that in mind. By 1975, Virginia Molenkott and several others feminists who at that point did identify as kind of a liberal evangelical tradition, they formed what was known as the Evangelical Women's Caucus. The first Evangelical Women's Caucus conference was held in Washington DC in late November of 1975.
Let's just do the math, that's 45 years ago. So 45 years ago, evangelical Christianity in the United States was presented with a pretty stark decision. It was either going to hold to a traditional biblical understanding of sexuality and of gender. That means what it means to be male and female, or it was going to capitulate, that's probably the best word for it, or to surrender to a liberal method of biblical interpretation and theology that was already taking over mainline Protestantism, leading of course, not only to the ordination of women as pastors, but to a basic embrace of the entire LGBTQ revolution, and eventually to demands to reimagine God in terms of gender.
A press release from that first Evangelical Women's Caucus conference in 1975 said that it brought together 360 women "who are both feminists and conservative Christians." Well, as it turned out, and you can predict this, there was basically a decision to be made between feminist and conservative Christian. But there was something else working in the background, and that was the LGBTQ issue as we would now call it.
By the 1980s, the Evangelical Women's Caucus would actually split over the question of lesbianism. The Evangelical Women's Caucus, which I'm going to argue was not legitimately evangelical at all, eventually became not just the EWC for Evangelical Women's Caucus, but the EEWC for Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus, emphasis upon ecumenical, not evangelical. The group that wanted to support the basic feminist and egalitarian aims of the EWC that withdrew from the organization over the issue of lesbianism became known as CBE or Christians for Biblical Equality.
The Evangelical Women's Caucus would go on first to affirm civil rights as they were defined for LGBT persons, but then would go on basically to affirm the entire array of issues related to LGBTQ, including transgender. The book that was written by Virginia Mollenkott along with Letha Scanzoni, that is the book entitled, Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? Another Christian View, sought to offer a revisionist interpretation of scripture, which would turn the plain meaning of scripture upside down on issues of homosexuality.
The obituary in the New York Times points to Virginia Mollenkott and says, "She was the author of 13 books all written in long hand on a yellow legal pad on social justice and feminist theology, as well as on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues." She also lectured, we are told and led retreats. The next paragraph tells us, "In 1999, Dr. Mollenkott received a lifetime achievement award from Sage, a nonprofit group that supports older LGBTQ people for in the words of the organization, "Challenging homophobia in Christian institutions.''
In the year 2001, she received a Lambda Literary Award for the best book in the transgender category. That book was entitled Omnigender: A Trans-Religious Approach, which explored, we're told, "non-binary experiences in Christian and other religious traditions in early biblical texts." I'll just tell you that book is one of the strangest books I have ever read in my life, but I did read it in preparation for my own 2017 book entitled, We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong.
In dealing with the transgender revolution, I wanted people, especially the vocal Christians to understand what is actually at stake. I think many conservative Christians in the United States simply don't understand how basic is the rejection of creation order when it comes to the transgender revolution.
About 20 years ago, having written the book, Omnigender, Virginia Mollenkott was arguing that boys and girls should be raised without any reference to their anatomy. And of course you also have the fact that there had to be a leveling. There had to be absolute equality. And so what did that mean even for men and women, but also for boys and girls? It meant bathrooms that were exactly the same. Virginia Mollenkott decided that the urinal, a piece of plumbing was itself a clear example of male privilege. It had to be done away with.
Virginia Mollenkott by that point was calling for a new future that would guarantee an individual the right to control and change one's own body by means of everything from cosmetic surgery to hormonal treatments, to complete gender reassignment surgery. But of course, she's arguing both for the renovation of the bathroom and the renovation of the human being.
The death of any human being has to come with a sense of sadness, and especially, especially in the case where there is the kind of theological despair we must have when it comes to someone such as Virginia Ramey Mollenkott. By the time she had concluded her work, she was really not just repudiating what she considered to be a conservative Christian tradition, she was really repudiating the very doctrine of God as revealed in scripture. But her obituary also reminds us of the fact that many of the issues confronting evangelical Christianity today are not new.
Her book, Omnigender, is about 20 years old. Her book that she wrote with Letha Scanzoni now goes back about 45 years. The emergence of what was then known as the Evangelical Women's Caucus is a reminder of the fact that these issues have now confronted us, and this is why denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention had to establish very clearly a commitment to the inerrancy of scripture and to the pattern that is revealed in scripture concerning humanity by God's design for God's glory, making us as male and female. This is why a commitment to what is known as biblical complementarianism is I believe essential to a genuine evangelical consistency.
But there's also another point, an even more fundamental point of the Christian worldview, a principle of thinking that Christians should think about and should affirm very clearly, and that is that if you allow yourself to let's just say reimagine the creation order, eventually you will be reimagining the Creator. And that is exactly right down to the words about reimagining God of the affirmation that Virginia Ramey Mollenkott made.
Paris City Councilwoman Calls for Women to Deny the Existence of Men: An Argument for Unreason
Of course, in the larger culture, these issues continue on. We shift to an example that now comes from Paris. This was reported in the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom. It has to do with a French city councilor in the city of Paris, that is Alice Coffin, who has released her latest book entitled Lesbian Genius, in which she calls for women to eliminate men from their minds, and also that the ultimate solution to female emancipation is in acting as if men simply do not exist.
Now, let me just point out the obvious here, if persons were to follow that example, the human race would come to an end. According to the news report from London, "Reflecting on feminism and lesbianism in the year since the French feminist, Simone de Beauvoir, penned The Second Sex, that was her famous work, she claimed that the only way for women to be truly emancipated is to eradicate men from their lives completely." As the Paris city councilor said, "It's not enough to help one another, we have to erase them. Erase them from our minds, from our pictures, from our representation. I don't read books by men anymore. I don't watch their movies. I don't listen to their music," she writes.
Now, I raise this, not just to make light of it because it's not light, but to point to the fact that this is the kind of argument that is now being made by someone who is actually an office holder in France. For women, emancipation will come simply by denying the existence of men. But again, you're going to have to deny your own existence if you're going to categorically deny men. She says she doesn't read books by men, she doesn't watch films by men, but she is a part of a government and even a city council in Paris that includes men.
It turns out it's not even metaphysically possible for men to ignore the fact that women exist or for women to ignore that men exist. And it's also a matter of God's blessing to us all that most men don't want to ignore that women exist, and most women don't want to deny that men exist. That's a good thing all the way around.
Now, of course, Simone de Beauvoir, along with her husband, the philosopher of existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre, they were themselves an infamous couple at least to those who hold any kind of biblical worldview. They were also lionized as absolute idols of the intellectual left, and both of them were sexually indiscriminate, with Simone de Beauvoir identified not only as a feminist, but also as at the very least bisexual.
But one of the points to be made here is that once you liberate, that's the word they would use, once you liberate yourself from any objective reality of male and female, and the world that that implies, then you end up eventually arguing for unreason.
An Alarming Phenomenon on TikTok: Straight Teenage Boys Advertise Themselves as Homosexual on TikTok in Order to Get Attention — And Mom Is Proud?
But we're going to leave Paris and now go to Atlanta. But the articles in the New York Times, the headline, "'Gay? No, Homiesexual.'" The subhead, "Straight young men are posting suggestive videos with their buddies on TikTok." Alex Hawgood is the reporter. The article is absolutely bizarre.
I mention it not so much to draw attention to these young men and boys who are supposedly straight, we're told, but they're posing in homosexual poses for TikTok because they want to get attention. We're told of Connor Robinson, a 17-year-old, a teenager in Britain. We're told he is a star of TikTok, and we are told, "Between the daily drip of shirtless dance routines and skits about his floppy hair, Mr. Robinson posts sexually suggestive curveballs that he said, break some barriers."
Well, break some barriers, they do. Another male teenager by the name of Elijah Finney is also in the story, and they partner up in some of these TikTok postings, but the New York Times tells us, "But as racy as the video is, fans are under no pretense that the two are in the throws of gay puppy love. Mr. Robinson and Mr. Finney"--remember we're talking about teenagers here--"identify as heterosexual, but as some TikTok influencers have discovered, man on man action is a sure fire way to generate traffic.
And even as we were told that one video was uploaded in February, it has now received more than 2.2 million views and 31,000 comments. By one estimation, about 90% of those who are following this particular new homisexual trend on TikTok are female, including a reportedly very large audience of teenage girls. This evidently also has something to do with TikTok, parents ought to note. We are told by the Times, "The youth-oriented social media platform is rife with videos showing ostentatiously heterosexual young men spooning in cuddle puddle formation cruising with each other on the street while walking with their girlfriends, sharing a bed, going for a kiss, admiring each other." I'm going to stop there.
Mel Ottenberg the creative director of Interview Magazine who's quoted in the article says, "These boys feel like a sign of the times." He, by the way, offered a feature of the teenagers in their underwear. He said, "There doesn't seem to be any fear about if I'm too close to my friend in this picture, are people going to think I am gay?" The editor went on to say, "They're too hot and young to be bothered with any of that."
The article in the New York Times goes on to acknowledge, "As recently as a decade ago, an intimate touch between two young men might have spelled social suicide. But," we're told, "ffor Gen Z, who grew up in a time when same-sex marriage was never illegal, being called 'gay' is not the insult it once was."
Eric Anderson, a professor of Masculinity Studies, yes, that's a discipline we're told, at the University of Winchester in England said, "Young men on TikTok feel free to push the envelope of homosexual behavior because they've engaged in an era of declining cultural homophobia even if they don't recognize it as such." Again, the moral revolution documented in a bizarre story.
But the story is more important even as it really is bizarre because of what is cited here about one 16-year-old in Atlanta, whose mother is actually quoted in the article. Now, we're told that even as he is posting this kind of post on TikTok as a 16-year-old in Atlanta, Georgia, his own father has called his videos, "Really weird and gay." But then the article turns really strange, and I hope that Christians are listening closely, 'His mother was also taken aback by his public displays of affection with male friends, but now appreciates the pressure that high school boys are under to stand out. "If you are just straight-up straight now, it's not very interesting to these kids." That's a statement made by this teenage boy's mother who went on to say, "If you are straight, you want to throw something out there that makes people go, 'But, he is right?' It's more individual and captures your attention."
Now, I'll just be honest to say that I find this enormously alarming. It is also frighteningly clarifying. Here we have a mother talking about her teenage son who is now we are told heterosexual, but offering himself for homosexual advertisement on TikTok. She now makes the incredible statement, "If you are just straight-up straight now, it's not very interesting to these kids."
Now, the fact that those words would be said, the fact that those words would be said by the mother of a teenage boy, the fact that those words would be said by a mother speaking to the New York Times, just consider what that tells us. Remember her words, "If you're just straight-up straight now, it's not very interesting to these kids." So that's it. We now have the mother of a teenager saying straight up straight is just boring. You got to understand that now.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
I did deal at length with the Christian worldview and these issues in my book that came out just a few years ago entitled We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong. It's available through your local bookseller. In this book, I try to set these issues out. But here's the quandary, look at how the issues are coming at us, look how fast they're coming. It really is difficult to keep up.
For more information and resources, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on twitter at twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.