The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Thursday, December 3, 2020

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

It’s Thursday, December 3rd, 2020.

I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

A Bizarre and Delusional Fairy Tale That Just Won’t End: Hollywood Star Comes Out as Transgender

Sometimes, it seems like we are stuck in one very long, very strange fairy tale. So many of those tales begin with something like, “Once upon a time,” and what those words tell us is what’s going to follow isn’t true. It’s a world of make-believe. There’s something to be learned from it, so let’s enter into this world of make-believe together. But of course, reality isn’t a world of make-believe. There’s a clear difference, but we’re living in the midst of a society that is blurring that difference all the time. You have to wonder how honest this is. How many people honestly are saying to themselves, “When I talk over here, I’m in the midst of a fairy tale, but when I talk over here, well, that’s the real world?”

I’m talking about the LGBTQ revolution, and I’m talking about the most problematic letter in LGBTQ, that’s the letter “T,” when it comes to turning the entire world upside down. So just consider headlines from recent days, for example, the New York Times. “Elliot Page, Oscar-nominated Juno star, announces he is transgender.” That’s just the headline. Now, what this tells us is that the one identified here as a he is actually a she, biologically a woman previously known as Ellen Page, the star of the movie Juno, and also other productions. And Ellen page is now identifying as Elliot Page, but the New York Times has gone right along announcing that he is transgender. Now, just consider for the moment that we’re trying to go along with this. We’re trying to enter into this world that isn’t real, but is being talked about as if it’s real. And in one sense, this is a real headline in the New York Times.

No doubt about that. But does using the pronoun “he” make anyone a he? Now, that used to be a big question, used to be a big question because the use of those pronouns, “he,” “she.” Or for instance, just a word like “male” or “female,” “boy” or “girl,” used to correspond to something that was objective, biological. The big theological word is ontological. It’s real. But now we’re talking about these words in a way that we’re supposed to actually understand it’s not real in a biological sense. It’s not real in, for instance, a bodily sense, but we’re told that it is real in a headline sense, but we know that that’s the great problem.

The headline isn’t actually about anything that’s real, but the headline itself is real. What we’re looking at is a massive exercise in common societal self-delusion over the issue of sex and gender, gender identity, sexuality, biological sex.

It’s all being intentionally confused, but it is important that we as Christians step back and understand, first of all, how we understand the categories of male and female. Secondly, how we understand a revolt against those categories. And third, how we see the attempt of this revolt actually coming apart. It simply doesn’t work.

You can have a headline in the New York Times that says Elliot Page announces he is transgender, but then you immediately have to tell the world who in the world you’re talking about, because the world doesn’t know Elliot Page. The world actually knew Ellen Page, or at least many following Hollywood did. And thus the headline just introduces a story. The headline itself wouldn’t tell you anything except there is an individual identified as Elliot Page using the pronoun he. But as it turns out, the whole key to understanding this is that it is Ellen Page who is actually who was known to the American people, to those who have been watching Juno and other movies. Now, Page’s coming out came after the actor had previously come out as gay.

And you’re also looking at someone who was married to a woman. Now, that previously meant that she was a woman married to a woman, which means there you have the “L” in LGBTQ, but now this is an individual claiming to shift from the “L” to the “T.” And by the way, we are told that the wife is simply going along, actually posting on Twitter that she’s quite happy with this. Just recently, a Christian parent commented to me, “By simply raising the issue, how in the world do you try to explain this to your 10 year old son, or for that matter, daughter?” And I said, “Well, maybe the greater challenge is going to be trying to explain this to 65 year old grandmother or grandfather.” We’re talking about a world being turned upside down. And yes, it is going to fall to Christian parents to explain to their 10-year-olds, their 14-year-olds, and their 24-year-olds, the age is actually all-inclusive now, what’s going on here and what it means.

But it’s also becoming impossible. Here’s something just to note. It is becoming impossible, according to the ideology of the transgender revolution, to talk about who anyone actually is at any given point in time, because identity has now become something that is absolutely fluid. The gender binary, we are told, is absolutely false. We have broken out of the prison of what it means to be made male and female, and in a newly liberated age of humanity, we are who we say we are right now. Notice that this is the second so-called coming out of this individual just since Page has become rather well-known in American entertainment. Now, once again, the Christian worldview makes very, very clear that our sex is a matter of ontology. Our personal identity is indeed a matter of our embodiment that God made us, every single one of us, in his image.

God gave every one of us a body. God as creator has the absolute sovereign unilateral right to tell us who we are. Now, in a world of brokenness there’s confusion, but Christians have to understand that our responsibility is to clarify the confusion in biblical terms. And in biblical terms, the Bible is just abundantly clear, not only in explicit texts such as Genesis 1, “Male and female created he them,” but the entirety of the fact that what’s now being derided as the gender binary is a consistently reinforced theme throughout all that scripture. Right to the book of Revelation, we have a man and a woman in the garden in Genesis 1. We have men and women from every tongue and tribe and people and nation in the great eschatological vision of the book of Revelation.

It’s also interesting to look at Page’s comment. As the New York Times tells us, “Page came out publicly as gay in 2014. At that time, Page said, “I am tired of hiding, and I am tired of lying by omission.” But it’s interesting here. We are told that Page said this and the words reported by the New York Times, “He announced,” “Those are the words that he said,” says the New York Times, “at a Human Rights Campaign conference in Las Vegas.” Now, that’s back in 2014, but this gets to the fact we can’t even tell any one story anymore. We can’t even identify who anyone is. Because back in 2014, when Ellen Page came out of the closet as gay, Ellen Page was a woman, and still is by the way, but was identifying as a woman and was using the female pronouns in such a way that if you go back to that program of the Human Rights Campaign conference in Las Vegas in 2014, you will not find Elliot Page.

Part II

The Transgender Revolution Brings Only Confusion, Not Clarity: Obituary of Famous Transgender Author and Adventurer Is Actually Impossible to Understand

Now, frankly, this gets to something that I’ve had to think about for a long time, and the reason I had to think about it was because of James Morris. Perhaps you know of James Morris, perhaps you don’t. James Morris was a British adventurer, also a major British historian, a fascinating historian. I first came to know his work with his three volume magnum opus entitled the Pax Britannica trilogy. Pax Britannica, referring especially to the 19th century and the vast expansion of the British Empire, those three volumes told the story of the British empire at its height. It was a fascinating work. I’m an anglophile, I’m fascinated with England. I was fascinated with the work. James Morris, as I said, was not only a historian, but also an adventurer. And it was James Morris the reporter who was right along with Sir Edmund Hillary in the conquering of Mount Everest.

I’m proud to own a beautiful Folio Society Edition of the three volumes of Pax Britannica, and the name imprinted on the spine is the author James Morris. But the obituary for James Morris turned out just a few days ago to be this, “Jan Morris, author and transgender pioneer, dies at 94.” Now I had to think about this issue for some time, because this was before it was virtually being discussed by anyone. All of a sudden, I noted that the books that had been attributed to James Morris became attributed to Jan Morris, and we’re talking about a generation ago. But James Morris indeed renamed himself, and re-presented himself to the society in the 1970s as Jan Morris.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, quote, “The British author lived as James Morris until the early 1970s, when she,” that’s quoting the article here, “underwent surgery at a clinic in Casablanca and renamed herself Jan Morris. Her best-selling memoir, Conundrum, which came out in 1974, continued the path of such earlier works as Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Autobiography, and presenting her decision as natural and liberating. Morris said at the time, ‘I no longer feel isolated and unreal. Not only can I imagine more vividly how other people feel, released at last from those old bridles and blinkers, I’m beginning to know how I feel myself.'” Now, let’s just stop and think about this for a moment. We are talking about the obituary for a very celebrated adventurer and historian who died at age 94, and who came out, to use that language, as transgender in the early 1970s when it was almost unknown.

But it’s also really troubling to find out how impossible it becomes to tell this story straight. Because after all, I mentioned that back in 1953, James Morris had accompanied Edmund Hillary in that 1953 expedition that saw Hillary become, at least as history records, the first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Of course, he didn’t do so alone. He was accompanied by Sherpa guides, and he also had with him the journalist, at least for most of the way, James Morris. But notice how the LA times describes that “as a young reporter for the London Times, she accompanied a 1953 expedition to Asia led by Edmund Hillary, and on the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, broke the news that Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay had become the first climbers to scale Mount Everest.”

Now, notice again the pronoun was she, but James Morris was very much James Morris at the time. No one looking back for a report by Jan Morris would find any such 1953 report. And if you did find the 1953 report by James Morris, James Morris would decidedly be a he. And it becomes impossible even to go back and do history now if we are told that a he can become a she, even retroactively. And it’s not just Mount Everest. James Morris was also a journalist who had covered such issues as Egypt during the Suez Canal crisis. It was James Morris who also dealt with the coverage of the Adolf Eichmann trial in Jerusalem for the crimes of the Holocaust. The irony in all of this is reflected in the LA Times obituary, “To the outside world, James Morris seemed to enjoy an exemplary male life. She was 17 when she joined the British army during World War II, served as an intelligence officer in Palestine, and mastered the manly virtues of courage-loyalty self-discipline.”

The obituary goes on to say, “In 1949, Morris married Elizabeth Tuckniss, with whom she had five children. One died in infancy.” Now, again, let’s just try to unpack that for a moment. This is once upon a time, but it’s not exactly. This is presented as a factual obituary in the Los Angeles Times, one of the world’s major newspapers. And it intends to be factual, but in order to intend to be factual in a way that will meet the demands of the modern revolutionaries, it has to become irrational. Now, just consider again, we are told about James Morris living an exemplary male life, indeed adventurer, incredible courage right there on the front line of history in so many different ways. But on the frontline of history, this was not Jan Morris. It was James Morris. The one who accompanied Edmund Hillary was definitely not Jan Morris, James Morris.

The one who had joined the British army during World War II wasn’t Jan Morris, but James Morris. And here’s where it gets even more sensitive if also more real. We are told here that Morris married Elizabeth Tuckniss, with whom she had five children. No, that’s impossible. It takes a male and a female to produce babies, and it was as James Morris that these babies were produced along with James Morris’s wife. But in another strange twist in this very strange tale, which by the way is, no, we are being told what should be received as standard fare, we have the fact that this couple divorced but continued to live together as friends.

Now, as I said, one of the issues here is just to recognize that this world of make-believe won’t hold together. Let’s say, for example, that you want to republish the Pax Britannica trilogy. Do you do it under the name of James Morris, or Jan Morris? Because we’re told it was actually somewhere between the second and third volumes that the author decided to change gender or sexual identity.

For that matter, how do you do a news story or an obituary? Well, you do so by completely mangling the English language. That’s just one indication of trying to mangle our understanding of reality. The problem is that you can’t actually keep this story straight. If you’re going to go back and look for the military records, don’t look for Jan Morris. You better look for James Morris. You can claim and even demand that you can just retroactively change that, but it’s all a part of this massive exercise in cultural delusion.

Now we must, as Christians, understand the deep hurt, the deep pain experienced by anyone who would undergo this kind of confusion. In Christian concern, we would respond with mercy and compassion, but the Christian worldview says we have to respond with truth. And in the midst of that horrifying, painful, no doubt excruciating confusion, we have to bring clarity.

Now, notice the world is trying to bring clarity. The revolutionaries are trying to bring their own form of clarity, but it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work in an obituary. It doesn’t work in history. It doesn’t work on the spine of a book when you identify an author. It just doesn’t work. But of course, those who will not join this moral revolution are living on something like borrowed time. How long is it until even saying the truth is so censured, so criticized, perhaps so made illegal, that the culture says you can’t even think the truth anymore? You certainly can’t speak the truth. If you think that’s scare language, just listen to what’s going on in the culture around us. I assure you, it’s not. How long will it be before Christian parents raising their children in a Christian worldview understanding of sex, sexuality, creation, gender, biological sex.

How long is it until Christian parents are told it’s a form of child abuse to reinforce these beliefs with your children? How long is it until we are told that’s just unacceptable in public discourse? Well, you can expect that to come as quickly as possible. As quickly as the revolutionaries can slam the door, they’re going to do their best. And we as Christians had better understand what our task is: to tell the truth in the pulpit from the word of God. To tell the truth in our homes to our children. To tell the truth in public, because we have no choice, because Christianity is a public truth and creation is a public truth. But next, even as I said this doesn’t work on Mount Everest, it doesn’t work in the military. It doesn’t work in an obituary. It also doesn’t work in the toy department.

Part III

The Sexual Revolution Comes to the Toy Department: Children Don’t Care Whether They Play with Dolls or Toy Soldiers . . . Right?

The Guardian recently ran an article by Lisa Selin Davis with a headline, “When children’s stores reopen, let’s leave boys’ and girls’ sections behind.” Now, this comes up again and again, because over the course of the last now almost 10 years, there has been an orchestrated effort to try to say that distinctions between boys and girls, masculine and feminine children, the distinction between boys’ toys and girls’ toys is not only outdated, it is oppressive. It is limiting.

Now, of course, by the way, it is limiting. The entire use of a distinction is to limit. If a thing is this and not that, it’s this and not that. The law of non-contradiction that goes back to Aristotle says that if this is not that, then consistently, this is not that. It’s wrong to say that that is this, if this is not that. If you’re following me, it’s because you understand common sense.

You don’t need Aristotle to make that point clear. But as you are looking at this headline story, it also tells us that there is a massive revolt against creation that comes right down to the toy department. As Davis writes, “Back in February, when people still went to stores to buy things for their kids, a California state assembly member, Evan Low, introduced AB-2826. The bill would require retailers with 500 or more employees to stop dividing toys, clothes, and childcare items into boys and girls sections. Those who didn’t would face a $1,000 fine.” Davis goes on, “To some parents, this seemed overboard and unnatural. Scientist Barbies and macho black Easy-Bake ovens are one thing, but forcing stores to abandon gendered sections? That ignored biological reality.” Well now, by the way, that’s exactly true. Those parents are exactly right, but let’s notice something else.

What seems to be missing from this liberal newspaper’s worldview is the fact that the government shouldn’t be intruding into these policies in the first place. If a store wants to have a boys toy section and a girls toy section, that’s up to the owners of the store, and the managers they hire. If a store wants to eliminate the boys section and the girls section, well, it can rename itself Confusion “R” Us, but the bottom line is that that should be up to the store. Parents should have the right to choose in whichever store they want to buy toys for their children, but it’s not just the government intrusion issue. The far larger issue is that The Guardian, the writer for The Guardian in this case, writes about the parents who think that gender is based in biological reality as parents who are outdated, and we had better make sure the stores don’t cater to them. The stores have to join the moral revolution.

Lisa Selin Davis tells us in this article that the identification of boys and girls as pink and blue actually goes back only to the middle of the 20th century. We’re told that it was one that department stores had debated once the idea of separate colors for each sex took hold: “Initially, Filene’s, Best’s and Marshall Fields declared pink a boys’ color, since it was associated with red. Blue was for girls, recalling the Virgin Mary. Pink became more associated with girls in the 1950s, courtesy of President Dwight D Eisenhower’s wife’s obsession with it – we’ve all seen those mid-century ‘Mamie pink’ bathrooms.” Well, we haven’t all seen them, but once you’ve seen it, you won’t forget it.

“But,” says Davis, “there is nothing natural about these childhood gender divisions, nor are they good for kids, even if they are good for retailers’ and manufacturers’ bottom lines. Many mistake these cultural shifts for biological realities, taking offense, or worrying, when their children don’t stay on their respective side of the pink/blue divide, no matter how recent that divide is, or how much of a cultural construction.” Now, there’s just a basic dishonesty built in this article. If you go, for example, to any kind of museum and you look at children’s toys from, let’s say, not the middle of the 20th century, let’s go back to say the 18th century, you’re going to find dolls.

Guess who was playing with the dolls? Not generally the boys. If you are looking at toy soldiers, one of the most iconic toys of the Victorian era, you’re likely to find those toy soldiers in the room of a boy, such as the thousands of toy soldiers mobilized into historic battles by Winston Churchill as a boy. Now, the point is that it wouldn’t be morally wrong for either child of either sex to pick up either toy or be attracted to it.

The point is it is wrong to suggest that there isn’t a basic difference, and that that difference doesn’t work its way out through the entirety of the culture, and that that difference works its way out with how boys and girls perceive reality and even perceive the toys with which they are most likely to play.

Now, here’s another issue that comes up, another basic issue of dishonesty. If you take boys and girls of a certain pre-school age and you put them in a situation in which there would be, say, non-gendered toys, you’re going to find that the boys and the girls play with them. Plenty of studies indicate that. If you are looking at something domestic, like say, a play kitchen, well, both the boys and the girls will play in the play kitchen. But if you watch them, they are likely to imply gendered roles, even in the kitchen.

Because in most homes, yes, make no mistake, that’s still what they see. But as children get older into the school-age years, they tend to move into deeper identity boys as boys, girls as girls, girls with girls, boys with boys, understanding that reality, and they tend to play that way. It’s not to say that there’s an easy line that defines the blue from the pink in every respect. It is to say that when it comes to the affirmation of the fact that boys are boys and girls are girls, it ought not to be scandalous nor suspect, nor actually questioned that it will work its way out in toy choice and in play as well.

A couple of years ago in addressing this issue, I cited an article in which one mom, trying to be as liberal and with it with the sexual revolution as she could be, expressed exasperation because her two preschool boys wouldn’t go along with the program. Even when she gave them dolls, say, Barbie-sized dolls, they turned them into guns and started pointing at one another and playing Cowboys and Indians with the dolls.

Part IV

Non-LGBTQ Actors Chastened for Playing LGBTQ Characters — But If the “Non-Binary” Ideology Is True, How Could Anyone Rightfully Portray Anyone Else?

But finally, there’s a big article on the front page of the life section of USA Today, just in recent days, the headline, “Cisgender actors in LGBTQ roles still spark debate.” David Oliver is the reporter, and we’re being told that one of the big moral crises in Hollywood is the fact that Hollywood producers keep casting people who aren’t transsexual or gay. Now, I don’t like the word cisgender, but it’s the word that’s used here in this headline. Cisgender implies that not being homosexual, not being LGBTQ, is somehow an identity unto itself. That’s not true. We have to fight that. But nonetheless, it’s in the headline. We’re being told that it’s a scandal, it’s a troubling issue in Hollywood that as with it as Hollywood is trying to be, they keep casting non-LGBTQ actors in LGBTQ roles.

And again, the “T” turns out to be the big issue. Oliver begins the article by saying, “Hollywood celebrities just can’t quit playing LGBTQ characters – even when they mean well.” They mean well, but of course the implication of that is that morally, it’s wrong for a non-LGBTQ actor to play an LGBTQ role. But if you’re going to be consistent, then that means LGBTQ. That means a “Q” shouldn’t play a “T,” a “T” shouldn’t play a “B,” a “B” shouldn’t play an “L,” and a “G” shouldn’t play an “L,” and an “L” shouldn’t play a “G.” If you’re going to stick with your theory, you better stay consistent. But then we’re actually being told that there isn’t a gender binary, and so there is no fixed identity. So there’s no fixed identity. How in the world do you make any film and cast it?

How do you publish any book and put a name on the spine? One of the most interesting statements in this article was made by Susan Stryker, identified as Barbara Lee Distinguished Chair in Women’s Leadership at Mills College in Oakland, California. She said that straight people playing transgender roles is akin to racial impersonation trans-face, the professor said as a reference to blackface, but then the professor said this: “Casting particularly well-known cis-actors”–that means straight actors–“in trans roles helps perpetuate the idea that trans-ness is a kind of deception, and that really underneath it all, we’re just cis-people in drag.” She said it, not me.

So thanks for listening to The Briefing, boys and girls.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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