The Briefing

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The Briefing

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

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It's Wednesday, May 26, 2021.

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

Part

It’s Hard to Stay on the Cutting Edge on the Left: NYC Pride Bans Gay Officers Action League from Pride Month Gatherings

One of the issues we're discovering as we look at the current cultural moment in the United States, we're seeing a pattern that's repeated over and over again, is the fact that it's very difficult to stay on the cutting edge of the left, even when you buy into the idea that all of these movements are basically about human emancipation in one form or another, as you have the intersection of identity politics and this postmodern morality. And, of course, the fact that in social media you have instant judgements being made just about everyone and everything. Well, sometimes you get a picture of our modern confusion, and in particular, the fact that the left just keeps marching left. When you look at an organization in the news right now that is known as GOAL, that's G-O-A-L, and it's a group of police officers and other law enforcement officers from the area of New York.

It is officially called the Gay Officers Action League. Now, just listening to it, understanding that this is an LGBTQ+ identified activists advocacy group within New York law enforcement, you would think that, that would be a group that would be embraced by the left, but it's not. As a matter of fact, the organization that is leading, at least officially leading the pride activities for June in New York, has announced that it is going to ban those identified as corrections and law enforcement exhibitors through at least 2025. According to the statement from New York City Pride, the step will "improve safety as violence against marginalized groups, specifically BIPOC, black indigenous people of color and trans communities, has escalated."

So here you have a group that certainly would see itself on the cutting edge of social change, and yet it's not. It has now been told that it is now so far left behind in the moral revolution that it's not going to be allowed to march. It's not going to have official representation, and law enforcement officers even out, LGBTQ law enforcement officers and correction officers are being asked not to show up at events in their uniforms. Now you'll notice how the story begins. It begins with the fact that you have the gay police group that is complaining about the fact that it has been banned. For example, on Monday, May the 17th, USA Today wrote one of the first articles on this controversy, the headline, "Gay Police Group Blasts New York City Pride for Banning Cops." But again, the explanation that was made by New York City Pride is that the presence of these police officers would be intimidating, and would be morally wrong. That banning the police officers, even the LGBTQ organization of police officers, would "improve safety."

And what's cited here as the problem is violence against marginalized groups. And notice, again, the language that was used there. You have to stay up on the language, because the language is the actual representation of the moral change. The moral change comes. It shows up in a change of language, in this case, those identified as BIPOC, black indigenous people of color, but then there's a "T" added. The initials are just BIPOC, but the groups identified as BIPOC are black indigenous people of color. Well, I get that, but then trans communities. That doesn't exactly fit. There has to be a "T" here somewhere. The statement coming from New York City Pride went so far as to say the New York Police Department "is not required to lead first response and security at NYC Pride events." "All aspects of first response and security that can be reallocated to trained private security, community leaders and volunteers, will be reviewed." The organization known as GOAL, the Gay Officers Action League said that for many years, New York City Pride, they thought had been a valued partner.

In a statement this group said, "The abrupt about-face in order to placate some of the activists in our community is shameful." From a worldview perspective, there's something to notice here just in terms of these competing statements. Notice that both of them moralize, both of them are making moral judgments. Now, as Christians we understand that we are moral creatures. So in essence, our most important arguments are always going to be moral arguments. But for Christians, the question is, what morality, whose morality? Is it an objectively true morality? Is it a merely socially negotiated morality? Or is it the ever vaporizing morality of those who actually consider themselves to be inventing an altogether new morality? That's what the LGBTQ movement actually represents.

But notice here, you have both of these groups. You have the gay officers' group making a moral argument, it's shameful to exclude us, but then you have the New York City Pride organization also from within the LGBTQ community explicitly so saying no, including those who would be uniformed officers, and representing law enforcement and correction would actually be intimidating, it would be harmful, it would be a representation of violence, and that would be wrong. How in the world do we know what's right and what's wrong? Well, here's one lesson for us. If you're going to invent an entirely new morality, then you're going to have to basically admit that's what you're doing. And there is always going to be someone to show up behind you to say, well, if we're inventing new morality, I want in on it.

You saw this happen when the second wave feminists were displaced by the gay activists, as they were known then. You had people making the argument, we've got to revise the entire moral structure of Western civilization in order to meet feminist concerns, but coming that were the then labeled gay liberationists, or the gay activists, who said, well, if you're going to come up with a new morality in order to meet the feminist concerns, then you're going to have to meet the gay concerns as well. But then that's an ongoing project, L-G-B, and then don't miss what follows, T, because as we so often point out, the transgender argument is actually contradictory, not only to the feminist argument, just consider the battle over professional women's sports, but it's actually contradictory to even the gay and lesbian argument, because as figures such as the gay man, Andrew Sullivan, and the lesbian woman, Martina Navratilova have made clear, there's no point in being gay, or lesbian, if you don't know who is, and is not a man, and who is, and is not a woman.

The convoluted moral reasoning of the group known as NYC Pride becomes clear in one of the statements from the organization, "The sense of safety that law enforcement is meant to provide can instead be threatening, and at times dangerous to those in our community who are most often targeted with excessive force, and, or, without reason. The steps being taken by the organization challenge law enforcement to acknowledge their harm and to correct course moving forward." But we also need to note something else. That was a news story that broke on the 17th of May. But in the last several days, you've had those from within the LGBTQ community actually speak out and say, no, New York City Pride is wrong to ban the LGBTQ Officers Association. Once again, we see that moral arguments are being made and made, remade, and made again. That's not to say that they're morally right, they are profoundly not morally right. It is to say that they are inherently moral, and that moral judgments are being made.

For example, columnist Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post, himself identified with the LGBTQ identity, made this moral judgment. "If you've been to a pride parade, you know it's a celebration of acceptance and inclusion. That's why it's beyond troubling that a community made up of so many, who've been rejected by their families because of who they are, is now turning on its members because of what they do for a living. This is wrong. This is short-sighted. This is a mistake." Those three short sentences, this is wrong, this is short-sighted, this is a mistake. The issue there is that first sentence most importantly, this is wrong. Well, Mr. Capehart, how would you know that it's wrong? It's wrong according to what objective standard of morality? It's wrong according to what enduring, indeed eternal moral principles and moral convictions? Clearly, we're talking about moral judgments here that not only are not eternal, they don't even last very long. We're talking about moral judgements that get reversed, and transformed, and added to just about hour by hour in the course of this moral revolution.

Will the Gay Officers Action League be allowed to march and be represented in uniform in the New York City Pride events in June? Well, time will tell, but here's what's important. Even the people who have judged this particular LGBTQ group to be unworthy of representation in the parade, because they have been left behind by history and moral judgment, the reality is that the people who made that judgment are about to be left behind as well, on that you can count.

Part

John Cena Apologizes to China, in Mandated Mandarin Chinese: Why Do Major Culture-Making Institutions Continue to Surrender to the Repressive, Autocratic Chinese Regime?

Next, we need to look at something that is going without much notice in Western societies, and that is the moral capitulation, the absolute moral surrender of so many cultural authorities, and those in the culture making industry, to the repressive regime of China under the control of the Chinese Communist Party. We have seen major corporations such as Apple, major industries in the West, capitulate to China without admitting that that's what they're doing. They operate in China under the rules of that repressive regime, even as, in this country, and in other parts of the world, they advertise themselves as avatars of moral progress.

And what we're looking at now has to do with the entertainment industry, and in particular the actor known as John Cena, the former professional wrestler with the WWE. He is the current star of the movie "F9," which is the latest installment in the franchise known as "Fast & Furious." Why are we talking about John Cena? It's not because we care about the movie. It's because we care about his capitulation to China, and the groveling language that he had to use. There's a story behind this. Trust me, it's worth paying some attention to. The New York Times reports, "John Cena, the professional wrestler and star of 'F9,' apologized to fans in China on Tuesday after he referred to Taiwan as a country, while giving a promotional interview." Well, all we have there is just an opening sentence. And we're told that John Cena has now apologized to people in China after he referred to Taiwan as a country.

What's going on here? Well, remember that going back to the communist revolution in China, the Nationalist Government found refuge on the island of Formosa establishing Taiwan as a democratic outpost there off the shore of what became a communist dominated mainland China under the control of the Chinese Communist Party. The West, going back to the 1950s and beyond, identified freedom with Taiwan and repression with China, but in the course of the last several decades, with China growing in military strength and geopolitical significance, government after government basically abandoned Taiwan. The United Nations could not have Taiwan and China as member nations, so when China came in, Taiwan was effectively kicked out. Furthermore, you have some Western nations that clearly identify Taiwan and respective government identifying Taiwan as an ally, the United States is principle among them, but we are looking at the fact that an increasingly aggressive China is claiming more and more territory as simply a part of China to simply be acknowledged always as a part of China.

This would include Macau, it would include Hong Kong, the Chinese Communist Party violated terms of the agreement with Britain about the transfer of Hong Kong. Hong Kong was to remain for decades an autonomous province with its own system of representative democracy. Well, that's been crushed. The freedom of speech has been crushed. The freedom of the press. The freedom of assembly has been crushed in Hong Kong. And now you're looking at the same thing threatened against Taiwan. Why are we talking about John Cena? It is because the new movie that he is starring in known as "F9," from that "Fast & Furious" Franchise, is going to be released first in Taiwan. In an interview with a Taiwanese broadcaster John Cena had said, speaking in Mandarin, "Taiwan is the first country that can watch the film," but China responded vociferously. That's simply unacceptable. They can't allow a major American figure to even make a statement recognizing Taiwan as a country.

What we need to note is the apology that John Cena then responded to toward China. Now, remember, why would he do this? Is it because China could throw him in jail? Unlikely. Is it because China is going to send agents to arrest him? Unlikely. It is because he has a big financial stake in this very movie, and anything that he will produce, or act in later, being watched in China, and that means under the control of the Chinese Communist Party. When you have a totalitarian government, you must be totally in line. Listen to the language of this apology; "I made a mistake. Now I have to say one thing, which is very, very, very important. I love and respect China and Chinese people. I am very sorry for my mistakes. Sorry, sorry. I'm really sorry. You have to understand that I love and respect China and Chinese people." Now if that sounds obsequious, it's because it even stretches the limits of obsequious as a term.

When you have to speak to yourself as being very, very, very sorry about something, that's very, very, very important. Sorry, sorry. I'm really sorry. Well, if you have to express the fact that you have made a mistake over and over again, and it's simply by saying something that throughout much of the world is considered profoundly true, that Taiwan is a country. Well, what you're looking at there is an enormous power of repression. What you're looking at is a very thin skinned government for one thing. But then again, if you are totalitarian, you have to be thin skinned because if you ever allow even the slightest crack in your argument, that crack is going to grow larger. Something else to note in this particular case is that so many people in China are now basically following the line of the Communist Party there. The Communist Party has been so effective in indoctrination that the Communist Party doesn't even have to send out a particular dictate about how fans are supposed to respond.

For example, one post that was noted on Weibo, which is the Chinese social media platform, said this, "Please say Taiwan is part of China in Chinese, otherwise we will not accept your apology." Well, there you have the kind of dictatorial demand, not only that an apology must be made, but that the apology must include these specific words. As the report in the New York Times indicated, "Western companies and celebrities that do business in China, and it could be very big business, especially for the entertainment industry, are often forced to walk a political tight rope to not offend Chinese sensibilities. For many, this is achieved by staying as far away from politics as possible, steering clear of questions about mass detentions in Xinjiang, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, or the status of Taiwan and Tibet. Examples given by the New York Times include Daimler, the famous German automaker that manufacturers the Mercedes Benz brand. We're told that in 2018 Daimler had to apologize to China "after the Mercedes-Benz Instagram account quoted the Dalai Lama, who many in China view as a dangerous separatist advocating Tibetan independence." So you cite the Dalai Lama. You have to apologize.

The fashion industry also has a very big financial stake in China, and by the way, that's in one sentence, coming and going in terms of the manufacturer and the sales, even the raw materials for many of these fashion products. We're told that the list of companies that have been in trouble in the fashion industry include the Gap. Gap created a t-shirt that we're told omitted Taiwan, parts of Tibet, and islands in the south China sea, from a map of China on the t-shirts design. We're also told, "The luxury brands, Versace, Givenchy and Coach said in 2019, they all made mistakes when they produced t-shirts that identified Hong Kong and Macau as countries." The apology from Versace sounds very much like the apology from the actor Cena, "Versace reiterates that we love China deeply, and resolutely respect China's territory and national sovereignty." It's almost as if the language was itself written by the Communist Party. It's almost as if it was.

Famously back in 2019, it was the NBA that found their self on the hot seat when Daryl Morey, who was then the general manager of the Houston Rockets, indicated in his social media statement support for protestors for democracy in Hong Kong. The NBA quickly had to reassure the Chinese Communist Party that it was determined to play ball according to the Chinese rules. And furthermore, you had major stars such as LeBron James, who also as the New York Times suggests, "offered a China friendly response," saying that the then basketball manager, "wasn't educated on the situation at hand." Why would LeBron James, and figures of similar stature, be involved personally in this situation? Well, for one thing, because of the untold millions of dollars involved in the NBA, but also because of the sale of branded merchandise, which sometimes is branded with the very names of the players who are involved in these stories. They have to keep China happy.

In worldview analysis, this reminds us not only of some of the very complicated evil we find in a fallen world, it also tells us that the system that militates against freedom is a system that sometimes reaches right into the central institutions, culture making institutions, professional sports institutions, the major economic and business institutions, that supposedly operate in a free society in order to change the rules of the game. If they're going to do business with China, and with the friends of China, another reminder of the fragility of freedom in the modern world.

Part

What Do Our Buildings Say About Us? What's Really Behind the Brutal Political Upheaval at the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts

But finally we're going to turn to architecture, and this takes us back to Washington, DC. Headline news that President Joe Biden has purged the Arts Commission that advises Congress on public architecture. As was reported by Elizabeth Blair of NPR yesterday, "On Tuesday afternoon, President Biden announced his intention to appoint four new members to the US Commission of Fine Arts, the body that oversees design and architecture of federal buildings in Washington, DC. Their positions are appointed by the president and do not need to be confirmed by the US Senate."

The president and his administration were taking hardball action here against this federal commission. And they did what no president in American history has done before, and that is to fire current members of this presidential commission, including the chairman. The persons who were ejected here were all appointed by President Trump. But more importantly, they represented a certain commitment to a classicist architecture. Now, why are we talking about this on The Briefing? It is because architecture is one of the leading indicators of the direction of a society. Architecture is about aspiration, and architecture is itself a form of language. When you look at major moral change, you often see that represented in buildings, in architecture, in architectural styles, before you see it anywhere else. And, of course, the architecture often remains.

When the United States was a very young nation, when George Washington was the nation's first president, he indicated by the assignment of the very design of Washington, DC, that it was to harken back to classical Greek and Roman architecture. And thus the most famous buildings in American history there in Washington, DC, follow that very classical plan. What did that design decision indicate? It indicated that the young nation was claiming to stand on the shoulders of Greece and Rome, especially in the ancient democratic traditions, even if they live shortly in Greece and in Rome, they at least created a philosophical foundation upon which the young Republic would stand.

The two major streams feeding Western civilization are the classical cultures of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, and then Christian civilization based upon the dominance of the Christian Church in the society. Now, if you're just thinking, in very general terms for the sake of time, when you're thinking that classical stream, you think of Palladian architecture, the Greek and Roman architecture, you think of the Doric and Corinthian columns. You think of the proportionality, which by the way, is a reflection of creation order. Even the ancient pagans understood that there was an order in creation, even a dimensionality and proportion in creation. And classical architecture is about making a statement of enduring even eternal truths. That's why you can look at the ruins of ancient Rome, you can look at the leading buildings in Washington, DC, and you see a very clear continuity. That second stream of classical Christianity that feeds into Western civilization, that's also represented by architecture, and at it's very height, you would say that the great symbolic architecture of that Christian contribution is the transcendence of the Gothic. Just think about the soaring nave, the central way within a giant Western cathedral, and that cathedral architecture, and the classical Gothic style, that also represented continuity with the ancient world, but it represented that medieval contribution.

It is very interesting that when the United States was established as a young nation, it did not seek to emulate medieval Europe in its architecture, it rather sought to emulate ancient Athens and ancient Rome. What was the United States saying? It's saying there is a continuity between Europe and the United States. The American revolution was really more of a reformation than a revolution. It sought continuity with those streams that built the entire Western tradition, but it wanted to say, we're not just bringing Europe to the United States, we're bringing classical commitments, that classical experiment in democracy, and philosophy, and culture, and order, that is the inheritance of Greece and Rome. But in recent years, Washington, DC, representing the rest of the country, has become increasingly dotted with modernist structures, even postmodern structures, even the architectural style first named in France as the brutalist style. Massive slabs of concrete, concrete and steel and glass, representing not an enduring statement of moral truths, but rather the fact that we now live in a machine age.

These buildings are not so much built to human scale as they are built to a scale that is not found in nature. Even before we really had a good understanding of what modernism meant, and morality, and then the culture, modernist architecture and modernist design was announcing a break with that classical Western civilizational pattern, even before the term postmodern meant anything in terms of cultural analysis in the United States, postmodern architecture had come to this country representing another major break, representing the fact that you would have a pastiche, just a collection of different styles in order to indicate there is no basic objective truth. Leading, by the way, to the observation that you might want a postmodern architect, but that postmodern architect better be dependent upon a very non postmodern engineer if the building's going to stand up.

Postmodern architecture may be advertising the claim that there are no absolute truths, but let's just point out that gravity remains unimpressed. The fact is that when during the Trump administration, this body, which is officially known as the US Commission of Fine Arts, indicated that there should be a return to the discipline of classical style in the United States, the modern architectural community, the modern artistic community, the aesthetes of the cultural revolution, hauled in protest in what took place this week with the US Commission of Fine Arts, removing its chairman and the majority of those who had been appointed by President Trump. It's an effort to say, don't worry, the avant-garde is back in control, expect more steel, expect more glass, expect more concrete, lots of it. Expect more statement of a rejection of any objective reality, expect more celebration of the rejection of creation order and proportionality. Look for a lot more brutalism, look for a lot more modernism, look for a further continued rejection of that classical tradition. Look at the transformation of Washington, not only Washington, of course, but other cities as well, but Washington in particular.

Look at the architectural transformation of Washington and understand this is not happening by accident, it is happening by intention. It is the replacement not only of one architecture with another, but one major cultural statement with another. By the way, there is a reason why the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College follows a very important discipline of that classical architectural tradition. It matters. It matters in brick and mortar and columns. It matters in ways that go far beyond architecture. Our buildings don't say everything about us, but our buildings do say something very important about us. And what this development in Washington means, is that something important is changing. And that change is not good news.

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'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me using the contact form. Follow regular updates on Twitter at @albertmohler.

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