Friday, May 21, 2021
It's Friday, May 21, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Dealing with Alienation and Authenticity in a Broken World: Real Problems Misdiagnosed and Mistreated by a Secular Worldview
Today, we're going to be looking at some issues of personal identity and personal affirmation. We're going to be looking at the intersection of so much of the contemporary moral revolution with identity politics but we're also going to be looking deeper. Just yesterday, I taught a three hour class. I'm teaching a boys college class on the dangerous ideas of the modern age. Yesterday, we were discussing both Marxism and existentialism. Don't worry. I'm not going to give you the entire three hour lecture. But in that time with the students, I pointed out that one of the key issues in Marxism is the fact that Karl Marx said that human beings are alienated. That's the beginning of the problem that he saw communism as the answer to. Now, clearly he starts with a false analysis and he gets to a murderously false conclusion. But nonetheless, he's right about alienation.
He's just wrong about what it means. He thought that the primary alienation was the alienation of the worker from his work. But actually we know that the primary alienation is the alienation of the creature from the Creator. And of course, Marx is a materialist. He's an atheist. He doesn't acknowledge the primary fundamental alienation of the creature from the creator because he doesn't believe in a Creator. But we also need to note that there's a second issue that arises here and that's authenticity. If alienation is the problem, at least some in the modern age has said that the answer to it is authenticity. Just be yourself. Make yourself by a series of decisions, existentialism, a philosophy that goes back particularly to France but with vast influence in the modern age, says that there is no God, there is no ultimate meaning. There is no transcendent reality. Human beings are lost in the cosmos but we can create ourselves by making decisions that reflect our authenticity.
Now, you take all that together. Alienation and authenticity. Christianity speaks to both of those but in explicitly biblical and gospel terms. The ideologies of the modern age are speaking to real problems but they misdiagnosed the problems and horrifyingly missed the solution. But we also need to recognize that these big issues of alienation and authenticity show up again and again and again in the headlines. And today we're going to look at, at least three of those headlines and trust me, authenticity and alienation are at the very core of what's going on here.
Lego Commercializes the Moral Revolution by Introducing LGBTQ Set: We All Need Affirmation, But Where Can We Truly Find It?
You might not think so at first because the first issue we're going to talk about is a toy. One of the world's most famous and most lucrative toys. We are talking about Lego. And we have headlines coming yesterday. For instance, CNN, a story by Zamira Rahim. Here's the headline, "Lego unveils first LGBTQ set ahead of Pride Month." Now wait just a minute. Have the previous sets produced by Lego represented some of sexual identity? Were you thinking about that when you bought Lego or played with Lego? Well, no. What we're seeing here is the fact that the moral revolutionaries have based their entire argument upon an idea of personal identity in which sexuality is the most important thing about you. Even if it's an invented sexual orientation or identity. Now we're told that just in time for pride month, which is the month of June, Lego, the Danish company is going to be coming out with a first kit. A first set that is LGBTQ affirmative. The article in CNN begins this way. "Lego fans could build castles, jungles and entire town centers with the right set of bricks."
But from June, the company will launch a brand new product. Its first ever LGBTQ-themed set named, "Everyone is awesome." We're told that the 346 piece set contains 11 figures. Each has an assigned rainbow color. Again, a CNN reported, "Lego said Thursday that the model was inspired by the classic rainbow flag." You probably got that in your imagination already. We're also told that that is "an enduring symbol of solidarity for the LGBTQ community." We're also told that the product will go on sale in order to mark June as pride month. The sets designer, Matthew Ashton, who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community. He says a proud member. His comment was this, "I wanted to create a model that symbolizes inclusivity and celebrates everyone no matter how they identify or who they love." You hear that language. You hear that refrain over and over again as the celebratory chorus of the moral revolutionaries but did you know it would come down to toys?
It comes down now to a Lego set and even as Lego has previously been pretty much known as a liberal company, its toys were not sexually identified until all of a sudden they are. And you'll notice that what sexualizes all of this is not the larger culture. It is rather the agenda of affirming LGBTQ+. Don't forget that plus sign. We'll be finding out where that goes, partly by watching Lego. Joe Nellis identified as a spokesperson for the United Kingdom's LGBT Foundation told CNN, "Having LGBT inclusive toys creates a space for families to let LGBT children know that they are loved and accepted." He went on to say, "Growing up in a world, which often tells you there's something "wrong" can lead to a person developing a deep sense of shame. Something we know can have a long lasting impact on both mental and physical health."
We are also told that the set is intended as a celebration of the LGBTQ community within Lego. As a matter of fact and among those identified as the company's adult fans. The person again, who designed the set, Matthew Ashton said, "I am fortunate to be part of a proud, supportive and passionate community of colleagues and fans. We share love for creativity and self-expression through Lego bricks. And this set is a way to show my gratitude for all the love and inspiration that is constantly shared." Remember again that the set is entitled, "Everyone is awesome." Now, it almost sounds by that title is if they're making fun of themselves. Everyone is awesome. Awesome is a very interesting word. And by the way, Christians use it far too often. The word awesome means worthy of all. Few things actually are worthy of all. But the most important thing is to recognize that God himself is actually the proper subject of our all. Of course, fans of Lego were recognized that the theme, "Everything is awesome," is now "Everyone is awesome."
And you'll notice a problem with both of those statements. What exactly does awesome mean? Even if you understand how the word has been devalued in our society, is everyone awesome? Is everyone awesome all the time? Are you going to speak of everyone is equally awesome? Does it have anything to do with sexual identity? And as everything is awesome, everything really is awesome. I don't think so. It's a branding message but it's also a branding message that fits into the model confusion of our time. We don't actually believe that everyone is awesome as defined by character, as defined by behavior, as defined by any number of things. We do believe that everyone is equally made in the image of God and every single human being bears equal dignity and thus infinite worth. The statement, "Everyone is awesome," basically sounds like the understanding that everyone must have a trophy.
And even as we can see that there's a sense that that has pervaded the entire culture. The reality is you have to wonder if even the people who were saying it, mean it. In the sense that it points to the infinite value of every single human life. Yes, that's true. And it's actually because God has made it true. Awesome. But as for the "Everyone is awesome" Lego set, Helen Russell of The Guardian in London tells us that when we're talking about inclusion, we really are talking about inclusion. And I promise you, I am not making this up. It turns out that in all but one case, now follow this. This is really crucial. All but one case, no specific gender has been assigned to the figures, "Who are intended to express individuality while remaining ambiguous." So, "awesome" here is ambiguous, and ambiguous is awesome but that's not all to it.
Just one character is not ambiguous. What would be the meaning of that character? Well just wait for it. It turns out that the one figure that is not ambiguous is described as a purple mini figure with a highly stylized beehive wig. According again, to Matthew Ashton, who is the designer of the set, this particular character, "Is a clear nod to all the fabulous drag queens out there." So, now we're going from "awesome" to "fabulous", a word that has a particular meaning in this context but you need to note something. In order to be as inclusive as Lego is now determined to be, it has to say that not only must you have ambiguous characters, many of them in all the different colors of the rainbow flag, but if you're going to have a drag queen, then that person is going to have to be gendered because the whole point of being a transgressive anti-gender gendered person is that you know this is actually a man who is in drag as a woman.
If you're into noticing irony and contradiction. Yep. Well, you're looking at it right here. But again, when you're looking at a moral revolution against creation, you're going to find irony and much worse. You're also going to find contradiction. The contradictions written into the entire equation. But the article in The Guardian cites Michael Aston at greater length. He said something very important. "Growing up as an LGBTQ+ kid. Being told what I should play with, how I should walk, how I should talk, what I should wear. The message I always got was that somehow I was 'wrong.' Trying to be someone I wasn't was exhausting. I wish as a kid, I looked at the world and thought, 'This is going to be okay. There's a place for me." I wish I'd seen an inclusive statement that said, 'Everyone is awesome.'"
I want us to think about that for a few moments because it's very easy to look at an article like this and say, "This is just pathetic. It's another demonstration of the celebration of moral confusion that is at the very center of our culture." It's very easy to say, "This is insanity." It's easy to say so because it is. This is insanity. But there's something here we really need to look at closely. And that is a deep brokenness that reflects a hurt and that reflects a deep human need. We need to ask a practical question. Is it true? Because this is important to us.
Is it true that a child playing with this new "Everyone is awesome" Lego set is going to feel affirmed. If that child, for instance, is nonconventional in sexual orientation, as someone represented even in an ambiguous way by this set and the characters. Is it actually going to make that child feel affirmed? I don't know. That clearly is the intention here. I think it probably will not. It's hard for me to believe that a child in a moment of individual anxiety but any of these huge questions is going to find any kind of adequate solace in a set of plastic bricks.
But again, here's where Christians need to lean in. And the Christian worldview tells us, listen carefully. There's a brokenness here. There's a hurt here that cries out for Christian attention. That hurt is at the deepest level of personal identity. That anxiety is at the deepest level of personal security. There's a pain and anxiety. There is very clearly a fear that is represented even in the voice of a child here for which the answer supposedly is the "Everyone is awesome" Lego set. Now, Christians, again, looking at this, understand this is brokenness. Undoubtedly. Christians, look at this note that this is actually moral rebellion now being actually commercialized by Lego, a business that does something like $7.2 billion a year in annual business.
If you're absolutely cynical, you say, "This is not only a way to join the moral revolution." In a clearly graphic way, "it's also a way to increase the bottom line of an already very lucrative multinational corporation." But let's bracket the cynicism for a moment. Let's understand the brokenness that we see here and let's understand that every single human being made in God's image, yes, every single human being by sin alienated from the Creator, every single human being has the fears and the anxiety. The needs and the insecurities that are reflected here in the voice of those who are struggling with sexual orientation. The real revelation here is not that both adults and children. And so much of this article is supposedly about children but it turns out to be more about adults. It is very clear that there's a particular struggle here. There are particular anxieties.
And I think the rest of us can understand that. But we also as Christians, need to understand that the problem is not perceiving anxiety. The problem would be a failure to perceive it. The fact that there are many people who think, "I really don't have a problem," because they're not described as LGBTQ+. The Bible is really, really clear about God's intention for humanity, making us male and female. He's really, really clear about the fact that the only legitimate expression of human sexuality, whether it's in actual behaviors or even in presentation, is that which is completely consistent with God's word. Yes, we understand that. But we also have to understand that when it comes to brokenness, every single human being has to get in line after Adam. Every single human being. And here's where we also need to recognize that it would be a very thin hope to believe that any kind of fulfillment, even for the shortest amount of time, any kind of affirmation could actually come out of a box of plastic bricks.
The answer of identity politics in the modern sexual revolutionaries is to say the way to feel better about yourself is to be told that your fine. Indeed not only tolerated but celebrated in society for who you are. Christians need to come back and say, "Well, the who you are really is the primary issue. But the who you are," according to Scripture, "is a human being made in the image of God." The who you are according to Scripture, no matter who you are, no matter to use this language whom you love, the reality is that you are a rebel against a holy God. And that every single human being is diagnosed with the very same problem. The problem of sin.
And the Scripture makes clear, it's the entire theme of Scripture, that God's love towards sinners is a redeeming love in Christ. And that God's made the provision for us to be redeemed by the blood of the lamb and that all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and repent of sins have our sins forgiven but it's not just that. We are actually made new creatures in Christ. A new man, a new woman in Christ.
We're not only regenerated in terms of the gift of faith and of new life. We are becoming new creatures in Christ and declared to be so. Just about every Christian, if honest, has to admit that we tried to find affirmation security. We tried to find an escape from fear in something else, other than Christ. The reality is that we came to Christ by God's grace, only after we had tried something else, maybe everything else and it failed. So yes, shame on the LGBTQ community for demanding this kind of affirmation. Shame on Lego for providing it, of course, with a profit motive for pride month. But more than anything else, it's a reminder to us that there is a deep human need and it is not unique to those who are now the intended purchasers of the "Everyone is awesome" set. It's a problem that is common to all humanity. For whom the only answer is singular Christ.
Where Should We Look to Find Our True Selves? What is “My Truth?” — Demi Lovato Announces New Self-Identification as Nonbinary
But next, just to try to think this issue through. At another level, we go to the story, the headline articles about Demi Lovato. The singer who became very well known as a child performer on the Disney channel. And of course, the stories have been coming out one after another, this week. The headline in the Washington Post and the article by Paulina Firozi is, "Demi Lovato announces they identify as non-binary, will use they, them pronouns." Very interesting. Takes us back to my introductory comments about alienation and authenticity. This one's really about authenticity and you'll understand what I mean when you consider the language that is used in this article.
Demi Lovato, according to this article has said, "They identify as non-binary and will change their pronouns to they, them. A revelation, said the Washington Post that comes after more than a year of healing and self-reflective work."
We're told that the singer made an announcement in a video released on Wednesday of this week as, "They launched a new podcast series." And again, the English language is basically destroyed here. Anyone looking at this article from say, I don't know, ancient history, say five years ago, would have no understanding of how they can make any sense here. They is a plural pronoun. You look at this article and it really doesn't make much sense except in the new logic and the new language of the moral revolution. It kind of makes that Orwellian sense. Lovato made the statement, "I felt that this best represents the fluidity I feel in my gender expression and allows me to feel most authentic and true to the person I both know I am and still am discovering." Again, that language. "I felt that this best represents the fluidity I feel in my gender expression and allows me to feel most," wait, there's that word, "most authentic and true to the person that I know I am and I'm still discovering."
Now, just think about that. The word "authenticity" is right there. It goes right back to existentialism saying there are no fixed categories. Human beings are basically lost in a meaningless universe but we create ourselves by making decisions, even declarations that make us authentic. That actually represent and construct the self. That's the project that so many people in the modern age think we are all about. Constructing yourself out of self-presentation and certain declarations and certain actions, certain behaviors that just define us as who we are because otherwise we don't know who we are. There is no fixed meaning to who you are, or I am, according to the modern worldview. So, we've got to construct ourselves as best we can. But you'll notice that even as the word authentic, actually appeared in the statement by the performer.
You'll notice how much the statement reflects, "I feel, I feel, I feel," and here Christians understand we are feeling creatures. You bet we are. That both reflects the fact that God made us for his glory as feeling creatures but it reflects a deep danger. And that is that we will be led by our fallen feelings, which after all turns out to be just about the least dependable part of our consciousness and thinking. But the feelings are powerful. And no doubt, there are many people who have very mixed feelings about themselves. That should actually be described once again as universal. Every single human being should have mixed feelings about ourselves, if we are honest. But the big issue for Christians is understanding that we actually can find ourselves only by going outside of ourselves and looking to an objective reality. In this case, our creator.
In teaching the class yesterday, I pointed out to the students that the Puritans got this just about right when they pointed out that the last thing we can trust to know ourselves is a mirror. The only authority we can trust and the authority we can always trust is the mirror of God's word. The other language that comes up again and again in this article comes from Lovato saying "It was the first time in so long that I've ever heard someone else speak my truth and then realize, "Oh, that's my truth too."" In this case, the artist was talking about a first release of a podcast entitled, "4D with Demi Lovato." And the first guest was someone who identified as Alok Vaid-Menon, "A gender nonconforming author and performance artist." It's that person whose words Lovato said had actually given affirmation. That's my truth too. That's my truth. Here's the problem. We talked about it before on The Briefing. This issue of my truth.
It goes back to that idea that authenticity is something that we're actually creating by defining ourselves and declaring ourselves, declaring our truth. And look, if there is no objective truth, if there is no transcendent meaning, if there is no God, then your truth and my truth are just about as good as anything else. And frankly, all I've got is my truth. I guess I'm going to hold onto it as long as I can. The problem is that's not much to get you through the night. Lovato speaking of this self-discovery said, "This is my truth. And I can't shove it down or suppress it any longer, or I will end up where I did a few years ago. Every day of my life, I'm going to do whatever I can to live my truth to the fullest and be as loud as I can with it so that other people feel comfortable living their truth as well."
There as we come to a conclusion is the absolute sterility of modernity staring us in the face. As if we can actually encourage one another by saying, "You lean into your truth. I'll lean into my truth." It's almost as if anxious, modern people are saying to each other, "Hey, let's just keep repeating this over and over again." My truth, my truth. You find your truth. She'll find her truth. He'll find his truth. They'll find their truth.
I don't believe that the individual cited in this story believes anything other than what they're saying here. I really don't. They're not lying to us but what they are saying is nonetheless a lie. And it's a lie that human beings can say to ourselves over and over again. And if we're not careful, it is a lie that Christians can fall prey to. If we ever speak about the gospel or anything else for that matter as my truth. Jesus didn't tell his disciples in John 14, "Hey, I want to share with you my true." He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the father but by me."
So, we see that the brokenness of the world around us. The brokenness we know in ourselves cries out for authenticity. Yes, but an authenticity that means only something that can come by the gospel of Jesus Christ and by the grace of God. That can only come by regeneration. Not by self-affirmation. And certainly nothing that can be ours by opening a box of plastic bricks. A society that is at war with truth can't actually dispense with it. It just translates everything into my truth. And at least for Christians, that's the place to start because we can say you're right to talk about truth, but I want to tell you not about my truth but the truth.
But if we fail to hear the pain of the world, that deepest of all human needs coming through in these articles, then shame on us.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at www.albertmohler.com. You can find me on Twitter by going to www.twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to www.boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.