The Briefing

The Briefing

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Tags: Audio

Transcript

It's Thursday, February 25, 2021.

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

Part

Silencing Truth: Amazon Removes Book Critiquing Transgender Ideology by Conservative Author Ryan T. Anderson

The term cancel culture is now used quite regularly in America's public life. Sometimes, it's actually referring to what can fairly be described as a cancel culture. Sometimes, it is merely a way of trying to dismiss a very legitimate disagreement. But what we're looking at right now, when it comes to one single book by one author, is an example of cancel culture that should be concerning to all, especially to those who are conservatives in the United States, and especially conservative Christians.

At issue is a recent book by Ryan T. Anderson. Recent as in, in the last three years. The title of the book, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment. Ryan T. Anderson is now president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a very influential intellectual think tank in Washington, DC. For years, he was associated with the conservative Heritage Foundation in the same city. Ryan T. Anderson is very well-known as a defender of traditional marriage and of the moral order that historic Christianity and Western civilization have both embraced, until, at least when it comes to Western civilization, in very recent years.

But that civilization of course, and let's look specifically at the United States, is now being transformed by moral revolutionaries. And the main acronym of importance right now on the front lines of that revolution, well, we're looking at the initials LGBTQ, sometimes followed by either "I" or a plus sign. Another very ominous development in our lifetimes.

But what we're talking about with this book is the fact that Amazon has now delisted it. Right now, the largest online source of books, the largest online source of eBooks has delisted this book. And in the only statement available from the company, it indicates that the book has been delisted because it violates Amazon's content standards. Now, as Ryan Anderson himself has pointed out, the book has been sold on Amazon for something like three years. The content of the book, let's just underline this fact, has not changed.

So what has changed? In all likelihood, what we're looking at here is the result of a concerted effort by LGBTQ activists. And this isn't a conspiracy theory, they have told us that they are going to try to bring this pressure, pressure on companies such as Amazon to delist or to cancel. I don't like to use that word, but now we're actually looking at a case. To remove a conservative argument from public consideration.

In this case, of course, you also have the very dangerous moral change in which arguments are now not honestly presented in terms of any kind of disagreement and principle or in truth, but rather they are presented as opportunities for harm. And this has been especially effected by the LGBTQ activist community, claiming that arguments, any kind of argument upholding a traditional understanding of marriage, any argument that might dare to suggest that the transgender identity is not legitimate, much less what's being called sex reassignment surgery, or now as you often see it, gender alignment surgery. There's an Orwellian form of newspeak.

But as you're looking at this, you recognize that we are looking at the fact that many people are now arguing, apparently with some real success in the larger culture in general, but specifically with a company like Amazon, a company that has openly embraced its own very liberal identity. We're seeing the success of an argument that publishing anything contrary to the new morality of the moral revolutionaries, the sexual revolutionaries, is a form of harm. And thus, to protect Amazon's customers, Amazon is basically saying that this book violates its content. It has not yet been specific in what way that's supposedly true. And it's removing it from public consideration in so far as Amazon and its massive online platform and marketplaces are concerned.

Now, the Wall Street Journal has rightly reported on the fact that this is now a matter of concern to at least some United States senators. Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg reporting for the Wall Street Journal told us yesterday, "In a letter to Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos dated Wednesday, Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, Mike Braun of Indiana and Josh Hawley of Missouri said, a book by conservative scholar Ryan T. Anderson, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment was no longer available on Amazon nor on its Kindle and Audible platforms." They wrote to Amazon saying that the company "has been unable to provide a sufficient explanation" as the journal said as to how the book, "supposedly violated a vague, undefined, offensive content standard."

Now, later in the Wall Street Journal article, we read that an Amazon spokeswoman "didn't have a comment regarding the letter." The company we're told "declined to provide specifics regarding its decision," saying in a statement earlier Wednesday "that it reserved the right not to sell certain content based on its content guidelines for books." The company said, "All retailers make decisions about what selection they choose to offer. And we do not take selection decisions lightly."

Now, here's the ominous issue here, it's not just about one author and one book. It's not even just about one issue. Although, this issue is very much on the front lines of controversy, and it's going to remain that way for some time. We're looking at the fact that if this book offends the content standards of Amazon, what's really offensive are the historic understandings of sexuality and gender, even of creation and biology and personal identity that have been central to biblical Christianity.

And so if this book actually offends the content guidelines, then let's just state the matter very clearly, so with the Bible. Not only that, so with just about any book by any author that would dare to represent anything like a orthodox Christian. And that means just a biblical Christian, a straight forward Christian tradition affirming work on the transgender issue, human sexuality, homosexuality, the entire LGBTQ array. We are really here looking at clear evidence of an attempt to shut down the argument, so that only those who hold to and affirm the transgender revolution will have a say. And then, of course, it becomes a very interesting question, this is not just theoretical, just how far must one go in affirming the transgender revolution to continue to have one's content not policed by a company like Amazon?

Now, there's another big issue here. We just need to face it. Even in the context of COVID-19, we've seen Amazon now take on an outsize influence in the entire publishing and distribution ecosystem for books, and for that matter, a great deal more in the United States. Amazon is not just another company. It has become something that is close to a company that dominates not only in one sector of American business, but in many sectors of American business. Being shut out of Amazon does not mean that one is completely without voice or access to publishing in the United States. But it does mean that selling a book for that matter, communicating in argument, is now significantly hindered and hampered by the corporate policies of Amazon.

And let's make no mistake. As I mentioned, Amazon is a company committed to a very liberal worldview. Now, when you hear that, in at least in terms of previous generations of Americans, they might not have understood what it would mean to say that a company is liberal or conservative. But in the current, very politically-charged, ideologically-charged moral revolution-driven environment, companies are taking sides. And not only that, there are very few companies that take any conservative side. Instead, major American corporations, especially in sectors online such as Amazon, they're falling all over themselves to try to demonstrate that they are completely committed to even subservient to the moral revolutionaries who would dare to think otherwise.

In recent years, indeed decades, we've looked at the fact that the American academic environment is increasingly a place where conservative arguments are non-existent, shut down, considered illegitimate, shouted down, or for that matter, even prohibited from being spoken or even a speech to be presented. We've seen that on campus after campus. And of course, it's even more acute in many classrooms where even universities themselves report that there are virtually no conservatives in many departments. Students can go through an entire course of study and many majors in numerous academic institutions in this country and never meet either a conservative argument or a conservative professor.

It's going to be very, very difficult for Amazon not to respond to a group of United States senators writing this kind of letter. After all, Amazon also operates in a context of politics and law. And there are big questions, especially antitrust questions, about Amazon that will certainly be growing in intensity. This kind of headline just underlines how that is now virtually inevitably true. But it's going to be very, very interesting to see how Amazon does respond to these senators. And we're going to be watching this story very, very closely.

By the way, I would commend to you an episode of Thinking In Public, a conversation that I conducted with Ryan T. Anderson about his book, When Harry Became Sally. You can't, at least as of right now, evidently get the book on Amazon, but you can listen to my conversation with Ryan T. Anderson about this book at Thinking In Public. The link will be posted today at the website for this edition of The Briefing.

Part

An Urgent Threat to Unborn Life and Religious Liberty: In Confirmation Hearing, Xavier Becerra’s Real Agenda Becomes Very Clear

But meanwhile, as we've been talking about the confirmation hearings for Biden nominees, such as Xavier Becerra, the former Attorney General of California now nominated to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services. We talked on The Briefing yesterday about an exchange between Mr. Becerra and Utah Senator Mitt Romney. Romney pressed him on his opposition to the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. His answer was, at the very best, evasive. Basically it came down to the fact that he just keeps making the argument that he upholds the law, but that's an argument that simply won't hold water, but he is holding to it.

In an exchange yesterday on the issue of abortion, Xavier Becerra was confronted by Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse about action that he had brought against the group known as the Little Sisters Of The Poor in order of Catholic nuns when he was the Attorney General of California. And he did bring that action. But in the conversation, he tried to deflect the entire issue saying that he really hadn't personally brought action against the Little Sisters Of The Poor, but rather he was simply trying to uphold the law of California.

Now here's what we need to note. This is not just an evasion. It's a very interesting argument that demands a response. Here, the former Attorney General of California is basically saying that California law, a very pro-abortion law, justified in his position, demanding that the Little Sisters Of the Poor be denied protections that had been given to them, both in a ruling that was handed down by the United States Supreme Court. That was a ruling that pushed the issue back, but also clarified the fact that the Little Sisters Of The Poor had a very legitimate religious liberty interest and action that had been taken through executive order or administrative policy by the Trump administration. And again, Mr. Becerra simply goes on to say he was just upholding the law.

But here's what we need to note. He is using the term the law really to justify or summarize his own very progressivist moral agenda. When you're looking at the issue of the Little Sisters Of The Poor, remember that you're looking at the most famous conflict between the Obama administration's infamous contraception mandate and the issue of religious liberty. The Obama administration basically went out of its way to punish groups, such as the Little Sisters Of The Poor. It could have come up with an adequate exemption, but it didn't. Thus, it kept bringing the power, the coercive power of the federal government against this order, a rather well-known and famously named order of Roman Catholic nuns to coerce them to offer contraceptive coverage for employees that violated their own consciences, including the potential inclusion of abortive fashioned forms of contraception or birth control.

The exchange between Xavier Becerra and Senator Sasse was pathetic, not on the part of the Senator, not at all, but on the part of the nominee by President Biden to be the next Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. And as we have mentioned on The Briefing repeatedly, if Xavier Becerra does become Secretary Becerra, we are looking at very hard and challenging times ahead for religious liberty. We've known that in some sense, Xavier Becerra tells us we're looking at this challenge in an urgent sense.

Part

Gallup Releases New Research on Percentage of US Adults Who Identify as LGBTQ: What Should Christians Think about This New Report?

But next, we need to look at a really, really big story about research that was undertaken by the Gallup organization. USA Today ran a story in yesterday's print edition that has received a great deal of attention, the headline is this, poll 5.6% of US adults identify as LGBTQ. The subhead is this, record 18 million reflects how society is changing, says editor Gallup. Now, before we even look at the research, before we look at the story, we simply look at the headline. This headline is intended to tell us there are many, many Americans who identify as LGBTQ. The emphasis here is on many. But as we shall see, the actual research reveals what you could call a very different picture.

Susan Miller's the reporter for USA Today. She begins her story with this, "A record number of US adults, 5.6%, identify as LGBTQ, an increase propelled by a younger generation staking out its presence in the world, the poll Wednesday shows. The survey by Gallup marks more than a one percentage point jump from the last poll in 2017, in which 4.5% of adults identified as LGBTQ. The estimated 18 million adults who identify as LGBTQ represent an upward trajectory since Gallup started tracking identification in 2012." That according to Gallup Senior Editor, Jeff Jones. Jones said this, "It reflects what we are seeing in society and the way society is changing." That's one of those statements that is obvious. It doesn't say a great deal, but the emphasis here is upon change. Society's changing. This is a record number, a record percentage of Americans identifying as LGBTQ.

Now it's 5.6%. What's been the jump since 2017? We're told 1%. Now I want to interject something here. Given the height publicity, given the LGBTQ revolution, given the positive presentations and the ideological malformations presented by the revolutionaries, I am honestly surprised that the increase from 2017 until this recent research is only 1%. But there's something else here we need to notice, and that is the fact that the numbers here are presented as if they are very, very large. But again, we're looking at 5.6% of the total population, just round that up to 6%. That means 6% compared to 94%.

Now, it's arguable that we are looking at a significant increase in the number of people who are publicly willing to declare themselves as LGBTQ. But wait, just a minute. We don't know how public this is at all. We just know that these were the answers given to pollsters. And it is very interesting to us, not completely unexpected. They were looking at a very significant generational pattern here. The younger the cohort, going to the youngest adults and what's identified as Generation Z, they are far more likely than older Americans in every single generation and every single decade of age to identify as LGBTQ. The research released by Gallup tells us that of Generation Z, that is young adults now aged 18 to 23, one in six or 15.9% identify as LGBTQ.

Now, what in the world does that mean? What are we to make of this? Are we really looking at the fact that in Generation Z, roughly 16% are actually identified as LGBTQ? Well, as you look more closely, what we do know is that according to this, at least in this sample, roughly 16% of Generation Z respondents told a researcher or responded on a survey that they were LGBTQ.

Now, looking at this again, the main agenda behind releasing this kind of research is to say there are many, many LGBTQ people in the United States. It is a growing percentage. But it's also interesting to note that just in recent years, Gallup has also put out research indicating that Americans vastly overestimate the percentage of Americans who are rightly identified as LGBTQ.

A Gallup report that was released on the 27th of June in 2019, that's less than two years ago now, was actually headlined, Americans still greatly overestimate US gay population. That research began with this assessment, quote, "US adults estimate that nearly one in four Americans are gay or lesbian. Gallup had previously found that Americans have greatly overestimated the US gay population recording similar average estimates of 24.6% in 2011 and 23.2% in 2015. In each of the three polls, this report tells us in which Gallup has asked this question, a majority of Americans estimated this population to be 20% or greater."

Now, why would Americans overestimate the percentage of people who are LGBTQ? I would argue that one reason is because that population is simply now so loudly present and so positively presented in the American media entertainment in the total public environment. Given the volume of attention to these issues and the demands for the kind of acknowledgement and confirmation, the presence that is demanded of LGBTQ characters and storylines, the fact that even Hallmark holiday specials are now evaluated and measured by how many gay characters are presented or LGBTQ characters and how positively they are presented and how central the LGBT storyline is. Well, it does explain why, if you were just observing the culture, you would wildly overestimate the number of LGBTQ people.

But at the same time, you also understand that the kind of headline that comes out from USA today, and it does give a figure here, 5.6%, it is still presented as if this is a revolutionary change. It's not actually revolutionary. And from one perspective, it can be understood, especially as you look to the younger Americans. And I simply have to say, that greater concern, even than this, should be addressed to the younger Americans who aren't even in this research. They are younger than can be classified as adults. The reality is that we're looking at a great deal of social experimentation. We are looking at reaping what has been sown in a society that draws attention to, and only positive attention to this kind of LGBTQ identity in which we have seen social contagion, especially amongst adolescent girls, and especially on the issue of transgender identification. We are looking at a situation in which we have to expect this percentage to grow larger.

But there is a huge question, a huge question beyond this, and that is, how many of those who are here identifying themselves in this study in some way as LGBTQ, how many of them will do that in just a matter of, say, a few years? One of the things we have seen is that, on the "T," the transgender revolution, many young people who, as children and adolescents, identify as transgender at some point do not identify that way looking into the future.

There are some very interesting data points. For example, women are more likely than men to identify as LGBTQ. And that's extended also in research to girls, higher percentage than boys. Women are more likely to identify as bisexual than men, 4.3% to 1.8%. That is a huge distinction. And looking at the research, it's very interesting to see a report such as that reported in Quartz in 2019 in which we read, "The number of Americans who identify as bisexual is on the rise." But then, in the next paragraph we read that the researchers, D'Lane Compton and Tristan Bridges show that the change, "Has been almost entirely due to an increase in the number of bisexual women. The population of men who identify as bisexual has barely budged. Even more specifically, they find that the upswing in bisexuality among women has been concentrated among young women of color, specifically Black women."

Now, unpacking all of this will take more than even a summary of this research will allow. And furthermore, it is difficult at times to know how much confidence to place in any of this research, because we are actually looking at how Americans self-report on this issue. There's no accountability for whether this is based in any form of fact or not.

Reporting yesterday on this new research from Gallup, the Washington Post through reporter Samantha Schmidt reported it this way, "Jasper Swartz recently realized that nearly all of their friends are queer in some way. They were eight years old," says the story, "when same-sex marriage became legal in Maryland, about 12 when they realized they were attracted to girls, and 14 when they came out as non-binary using they/them pronouns. Jasper grew up scrolling through gay memes on Instagram and following transgender influencers on YouTube. They attended a diverse public middle school in the Montgomery County, Maryland that taught lessons about sexual orientation and gender identity in health class. But at that point," Jasper is quoted as saying, "I was already familiar with this stuff they were teaching." And then we are told that Jasper is indicative of Generation Z, that group of young Americans, "That is breaking from binary notions of gender and sexuality, and is far more likely than older generations to identify as something other than heterosexual."

Now, again, we're talking here about a moral revolution that becomes increasingly clear through the deliberate confusion of the lead sentences in this article, because we're looking again at that pronoun “they.” For the first time in the history of the English language and this form of usage, we're being told that their applies to a singular individual named Jasper. But one of the things we need to note here, and Christians need to note this quite specifically, is that this kind of report is not presented merely as if to report this is the way that it is. But it's actually contextualized in such a way that it's presented as, this is the way it should be and get ready because it's going to become even more this way in the future, deal with it.

But there's another reason to doubt at least much of what we have in this report. And it has to do with the fact that we're told over and over again that this massive increase has been reflected in a radical increase in the number of LGBTQ people who identify as "B" or bisexual. And as we have seen, this means even more pervasively, LGBTQ women who are identifying as bisexual. But here's the problem, what exactly does that mean? Is it reflected in any way in the actual lifestyle or sexual practices or relational patterns of the individuals in this research? There is no really clear way to know. It's simply a matter of percentages that are reported and are trumpeted in the media, as if we are being told the moral revolution is working. Look how many more people are identifying as LGBTQ.

And Christians do know that, especially as we are looking at young adults, such as Generation Z, something big really is happening here. But in actual fact, it is very, very difficult to imagine that in truth, one out of six young adults in Generation Z is actually in any meaningful lasting public way LGBTQ. But one last note on this, how much courage would it take and how possible is it even that it might happen that researchers might report, and that major media might report on the research, in order to say, "The number of Americans identifying as LGBTQ has actually been reduced. It's smaller."

No, I think we all know that the media are going to continue to report that the research indicates that the number is getting larger, their percentage is growing bigger. And thus, we're going to have to be asking the question...no, it's a related set of questions...as to why it would be so, and what this tells us. Not only about the research, but what it tells us about our mission field and what it tells us about the very real human beings about whom we care in the midst of all of this. And that means those who identify as LGBTQ and, add to those, those who do not.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to 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'm speaking to you from Nashville, Tennessee, and I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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