Wednesday, June 30, 2021
It's Wednesday, June 30, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
The Supreme Court Dodged the Transgender Question Again, But It Cannot Avoid the Issue Forever — And It's a Problem of Its Own Making
There are an array of important issues to which we need to pay some attention on this last day of June in the year 2021. For one thing, the Supreme Court of the United States in recent days tried it's best to dodge once again, the question as to whether or not this newly invented right of transgender identity extends to the rights of biological males to use the locker rooms, the bathrooms, and the other facilities assigned to biological females. This case came from Virginia and the Supreme Court decided not to take the case on appeal.
Now, as the mainstream media are declaring this means that there is at least temporarily a victory for the transgender activists and a loss for those who would hold to what I would describe as biological sanity, moral clarity. But here's what we're looking at, the Supreme Court created this problem in its Obergefell decision of 2015 legalizing same-sex marriage and in its Bostock decision had to down just last year on an array of LGBTQ issues related to non-discrimination statutes. Even as the Supreme Court dealt with the same sex marriage issue, it understood that these other questions were looming, and even in the majority opinion in the Bostock decision handed down last year, Justice Neil Gorsuch recognized that the court was not deciding on questions of bathrooms and locker rooms. He acknowledged that, that would require further action by the court, but the court basically demonstrated a form of cowardice in recent days, by not taking a case that clearly presented these issues.
As we pointed out on religious liberty questions and so many other issues, the Supreme Court cannot indefinitely, infinitely, avoid these questions. Eventually it is going to have to deal with these questions and big questions related to American liberty, American culture, American morality, American sanity, are hanging in the balance.
California’s Game of Virtue Signaling and Moral Coercion: CA Bans State-Funded Travel to 5 More States—Now 17 Total—Because of LGBTQ-Related Policies
Meanwhile, while we are speaking about moral insanity in the United States, let's go to the state of California, where in recent days the attorney general of that state has identified five additional states to which California state government officials will not be allowed to visit in state funded travel precisely because these states are understood to be inadequately excited about the LGBTQ revolution.
Now, this amounts to what is now 17 states that are on the forbidden list in the state of California. The California Attorney General, Rob Bonta, added in recent days the states of Florida, Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia to the list. Now, just remember, the 17 states amounts to fully one third of the states in the United States of America. Here, you have one state, California, that is so committed to the activism of LGBTQ+ movement that it is now stating that it basically is not going to share a relationship with one third of the other states. Before the five new states were added the 12 pre-listed states were Texas, Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
Again, now you have the addition of Florida, Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia. Now, what are we really looking at here? There is a huge question as to whether or not this action by the state of California is even constitutional. There are constitutional and statutory requirements on the states concerning interstate commerce, any number of other issues, including transportation, but here you have political activism baring its teeth, the state of California saying that it is not going to allow its representatives, its officials, its government workers, to go to one third of the sister states in the United States of America. California's Democratic Attorney General, Rob Bonta, in explaining this told the Associated Press, "Make no mistake, we're in the midst of an unprecedented wave of bigotry and discrimination in this country, and the state of California is not going to support it."
Now there's a sense in which taken at face value this is something like the state of California declaring that it is going to relate to other states as a matter of what amounts to foreign policy. By the way, the state of California is predictably hedging its bets to some extent on this because the attorney general's rule does not prohibit what's classified as essential travel. How's that for an echo of many of the controversies of the COVID-19 pandemic, when you had states and you had other government officials trying to declare often unconstitutionally, what is an essential business and what is not, but this kind of exemption means that as the Associated Press reports, California will continue to recognize travel as needed to enforce California law and to honor contracts signed before the states were added to the list. "Travel to conferences or out-of-state training are examples of trips that can be blocked."
This is virtue signaling on the part of an American state, in this case, the nation's most populous state, but we have to know that even as this is symbolic action and it's virtue signaling, it is also part of a larger project of cultural coercion. The state of California that represents not only this kind of travel and government activity, but frankly a huge amount of the nations' industry and business, it's basically saying that the states that are on this naughty list of 17 states are on the wrong side of history, California declares itself on the right side of history, and behind this is not just virtue signaling, there is a form of economic force, of economic and political coercion as well, California knows it. It intends to wield it.
Or you might say in other words, the state of California is trying to tell the residents of a state like Alabama, that it will decide what is best for the people of Alabama. But you'll notice that this is the kind of near totalitarian demand that is being made routinely by the moral revolutionaries. They will have their revolution, if you stand in the way, you may well be crushed.
The Destruction of the English Language Continues: The F.A.A. Recommends That All Aviation Terminology Be Gender-Neutral
But next I also want to note that a part of what's being crushed in this moral revolution is the English language. In budget proposals coming from the administration of President Joe Biden, you have the English language being crushed with such nonsensical ideological language as pregnant people, instead of, of course, saying pregnant women. But what this represents is not only a corruption of language, it is actually pointing to the larger corruption of sanity, but that's exactly what the moral revolutionaries are demanding.
When it comes to language, just consider the destruction of an entire language system when it comes to pronouns in the English language, and you have press stories, you have Hollywood, you have all kinds of conversations going on in the culture in which you have a plural pronoun, "they," or "their," or "them," that is now being used for singular individuals that destroys even the ability to know the number of persons one is talking about, but that kind of clarity, that kind of sanity upon which Western civilization has depended, it is now being completely deconstructed. It is considered utterly dispensable by the moral revolutionaries who, again, will have their revolution, even if it means the destruction of the English language.
And if not the destruction of the language in phrases such as, pregnant people, then you also have the changes in the language that are intended to update the moral revolution. The New York Times, for example, recently ran an article by Isabella Grullon Paz, the headline was this, "Airman to Aircrew: FAA"--that's Federal Aviation Administration panel--"recommends a move to gender neutral terminology." Now there's some interesting background to this. As reporter Paz tells us, "A Federal Aviation Administration Advisory Committee recommended this week that the agency replace words and phrases like airman and man-made with gender neutral terms like aircrew and manufactured, as a part of an effort to set a more inclusive tone."
Now, let's look more closely at this. I promise you it's going to be worth it. I often point out the frustration of the atheist who want nothing to do with any form of theism, but can't even use the word atheist without using the word theist, which is a reference to God. But you also have the fact that as you see the FAA trying to get rid of all gendered language, some of it is going to be very difficult to eradicate, and that's based upon the fact that in the Western tradition, when we talk about, say the word man, it refers not only to male human beings, but to humanity itself, to the human species. Now there are those who say that, that's a form of patriarchal oppression, but the reality is that it is going to be impossible to go through the entire catalog of the English language in order to remove all of those supposedly gendered references.
You can change man-made to manufactured, you can change airmen to aircrew, but as you'll notice the report that came out from the FAA, there's a bit more to it than that. For one thing, we are told that this has come up because of the necessity of updating language specifically related to drones, that is, now you're going to know this is a verbal fault here, that means unmanned aircraft. We're told that the committee had convened a task force made up of members representing labor airports, local government and aviation "to replace gender specific language in the drone industry that might serve as a model for the rest of aviation." One of the statements made by the committee was this, "As it grows and matures, the drone industry has an opportunity to use an embrace gender neutral language that defines it as an industry that is respectful, welcoming, and brings value to the receiver." That's what every one of us is looking for from a drone.
Trish Gilbert, who was identified as co-chair of the task force and executive vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, indicated frustration that the number of women as air traffic controllers has not increased much from when she joined the profession in 1989, the number there was 16% to the current number, which is basically 16.8%, not even a full percentage point larger. She said, "The needle has not moved much." She went on to add that she hoped adopting the new terms would, in the words of the New York Times, "help make aviation more inclusive to women and other underrepresented groups." Later in the article we are told that the updated language included recommendations to replace aircrew for airman, technician for repairman, fabricated for manmade, and traditional aviation for manned aviation." Now, simply there I'll point out those terms don't mean the same thing.
Traditional aviation, what does that mean? A traditional shape, a traditional route? The word "unmanned" or "unhumanned," perhaps if you're trying to use gender non-specific language, it means something very different than just traditional aviation. So now we're being told that aviation without a human being is nontraditional aviation. The committee also recommended changing another word that according to the New York Times isn't necessarily a gendered word, but they say maybe it's become that, arguing that some say that men have used the term to undermine female coworkers, whether that's true or not, I don't know, but given the inferences in this article, I'm not going to use the word. I'm simply going to say it's the part of the airplane up front where the pilots sit.
Where Are Americans on the Issue of Abortion? Definitely Not Where the Abortion Rights Movement Claims
But then on another issue I want to mention before the month comes to an end, the Associated Press ran an article by David Crary and Hannah Fingerhut indicating that "a solid majority of Americans believe most abortion should be legal in the first three months of a woman's pregnancy, but most say the procedure should usually be illegal in the second and third trimesters according to a new poll." Now, one of the things we need to recognize as Christians, let's just think about this for a moment, is that we do not do morality, or moral judgment, by poll. We're not looking to polls as authoritative, they are merely indicative. They tell us where people are responding to questions, where they might be on any number of issues.
The important thing here in worldview dimension is to understand that even as the Bible clearly settles the question of the dignity and sanctity of unborn human life, Americans are not settled on the issue, and that represents a moral challenge to us. A challenge in truth-telling, a challenge in persuasion. And what you're looking at here, however, is a very clear indication that Americans aren't where the secular left insist they are on the issue of abortion. For instance, you have the mainstream media repeatedly overwhelmingly saying the vast majority of Americans intend to uphold the Roe v. Wade decision, they support the Roe v. Wade decision, the infamous Supreme Court decision on abortion of 1973. But the fact is that if you scratch even just under the surface you find out that the majority of Americans do no such thing.
Now, Americans are confused on the issue. We certainly must limit the fact that a majority of Americans repeatedly say that they support some kind of right to abortion in the first trimester. But the big issue here is to recognize that the American conscience is very unsettled on the issue of abortion. The American conscience is profoundly not settled in the way the pro-abortion movement wants it, which is total unrestricted access to abortion until the moment of birth. Here you have this acknowledgement and this report by religion news service based upon an associated press and ORC poll, that the vast majority of Americans are extremely unsettled and troubled by abortion in the last trimester. According to this poll about 80% say that there ought to be a presumption that abortion should not be legal in that third trimester. When it comes to the second trimester, a clear majority, 65%, say that abortion should usually be illegal then. This is a direct contradiction to the claims of the abortion-rights movement, it is a direct contradiction to so much of the reporting that is presented to the American people in the mainstream media.
Michael New, who teaches at the Catholic University of America, pointed out, "This helps to counter the narrative that the abortion policy outcome established by the Roe v. Wade decision enjoy substantial public support." Again, the thing to recognize here is that the numbers aren't close. We're talking about 65% in the second trimester, we're talking about 80% in the third trimester. Again, those numbers do nothing about the actual morality of abortion that's declared in Scripture it is revealed by God. It is a principle that is rooted in the right of the Creator to assign the dignity and sanctity of human life, but when it comes to our moral challenge in this day, this tells us that the pro-abortion movement has not been winning, certainly not nationwide. Arguably Americans are more pro-life in 2021 than they were in 1973 when the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down by the Supreme Court.
That represents a certain form of moral progress, and interestingly it points out that there is, in the human conscience, and we understand that in theological terms, there is in the human conscience a basic reverence for life that cannot be overcome, or at least has not been overcome, by the abortion-rights movement. Not totally, not comprehensively, not evenly, not even close.
Critical Theory Invades the Tolkien Society: The Ruthless Army of Ideologues Comes for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Beloved Works
But finally, on today's edition of The Briefing, I want to turn to two crucial fronts in which we see the reality of critical theory working its way out in the society, the ideologies of the left working their way out through two rather unpredictable dimensions. In this case, we're going to talk about J.R.R Tolkien, and we're going to talk about apple pie, and we're not going to confuse the two.
First of all, when it comes to J.R.R Tolkien, we're talking about one of the towering literary figures of the 20th century whose works, of course, endure. We're talking about a man who understood the horrifying challenges of the modern age and wrote over against a background of horrors, such as the first and second World Wars. We're talking about a man who wrote out of the historic Christian worldview, even as he created an alternative universe that represented his own way of telling the human story, a human story that he actually personally believed in ways that were consonant with historic Christianity. Whether it's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, or his other writings, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote against the deconstruction of meaning and the subversion of morality of the modern age. Thus, you would think that any serious society that would be established in his honor would also honor him by continuing his understanding of the basic worldview that was necessary for Western civilization, but sadly you would be wrong.
The world of theory is one in which it is presumed that what exists must be oppressive and it must be undone by theorizing how there must be interlinking systems of oppression that have produced all of this. Those interlinking systems of oppression includes a Western law, Western history, and, of course, historic Christianity in the midst of all of this, and, of course, also the great body of Western literature, all of it must be deconstructed. You add to the world of theory, the outlook of the critical theorists, and they further this world of theory by arguing that it must be a ruthless critique to quote Karl Marx, it must be applied to every dimension of life. It must be a never ending, never ceasing approach of theory and critique. And the critical theorists have now invaded the society named for J.R.R. Tolkien. And it's not just the critical theorist, it is the dimension of critical theory that extends to sexual ideologies, buckle your seat belts, we're going a long way here from The Hobbit.
The Tolkien Society is going to be holding its 2021 meeting on Saturday, the 3rd of July, and Sunday, the 4th of July. The seminar is described in this way, it is "a short academic conference of both researcher-led and non-academic presentations on a specific theme pertaining to Tolkien's scholarship." The theme for this year's seminar, Tolkien and Diversity. The statement for the meeting says, "While interest in the topic of diversity has steadily grown within Tolkien research, it is now receiving more critical attention than ever before. Notice the word critical there. "Spurred by recent interpretations of Tolkien's creations and the cast list of the upcoming Amazon show, The Lord of the Rings, it is crucial we discuss the theme of diversity in relation to Tolkien. How do adaptations of Tolkien's works open a discourse on diversity within Tolkien's works and his place within modern society? Beyond his secondary world, diversity further encompasses Tolkien's readership and how his texts exists within the primary world. Who is reading Tolkien? How is he understood around the globe? How may these new readings enrich current perspectives on Tolkien?"
Among the topics to be considered: "Representation in Tolkien's works, race, gender, sexuality, disability, class, religion, age, et cetera, and Tolkien's approach to colonialism and post-colonialism." How about the papers to be presented? Well, the first one listed is this, "Gondor in Transition: A Brief Introduction to Transgender Realities in The Lord of the Rings." You say you saw no such realities there. Well, that is because you are trapped in your own system of oppressive discourse. This paper is going to liberate you from that. Another paper is this, "The Invisible Other: Tolkien's Dwarf-Women and the Feminine Lack." Nicholas Burns is presenting a paper entitled, "The Loss of Indigeneity, Identity and Anti-racism. Another paper, Pardoning Saruman?: The Queer in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings."
Robin Reed is presenting a paper entitled, "Queer Atheists, Agnostics, and Animus. Oh my!" The most interesting and troubling paper, at least according to its title, might well be this, "Something Mighty Queer: Destabilizing Cis-hetero-amatonormativity in the Works of Tolkien. Yes. You heard that right, "Cishetero-amatonormativity." If you understand that concept, you're probably pretty deep into critical theory and sexual ideologies. Let's just point out the obvious, J.R.R. Tolkien was not, nor are his works. This is deconstruction, which means basically tearing down an entire literary edifice, such that the intention of the author and the words of the author are understood themselves to be a part of an oppressive cycle from which this kind of theorizing is supposed to liberate us. What it liberates us to is absolute nonsense and the sexual ideologies of our day.
And it's not just sex, of course, it is the entire system of critical theory that undermines any understanding of objective truth and the authority of a text.
Apple Pie Is a Symbol of Genocide and Colonial Oppression? Deconstruction Now Comes After Your Dessert
But actually I want to point out that this kind of critique and theory certainly combined undermines a great deal more, it's not just the existence and authority of an author and the importance of a text, not to mention the continuation and defense of any kind of moral sanity, it is also going to change what you eat, or at least how you feel about what you eat on something as basic as apple pie. How? You wonder. Well, just wait. Here's the answer. Raj Patel wrote an article recently at the Guardian of London indicating that apple pie is emblematic of human oppression and what he calls food injustice. He argues that this kind of food injustice he describes, and apple pie in particular, is part of a "vast and ongoing genocide of indigenous peoples."
First of all, he says that the apple was brought to the new world by Spanish colonizers. And then we are told that Americans didn't even really invent apple pie, instead Americans just customized and created a variant on what he describes as an English pumpkin recipe, "by the time the English colonized the new world, apple trees had become markers of civilization, which is to say property." Yes, because as it turns out, the apple pie is also emblematic of the oppressive reality of capitalism and private property. And it's not just apples that are the symbol of colonizing, it is also the sugar that goes into the pie, because the sugar trade, as he points out, is deeply involved in the history of empire and colonialism. Perhaps you don't think about this when you have a slice of mom's apple pie, but Raj Patel writes, "it is easier to misremember. In the drama of nationalist culture, the bloody and international origins of the apple pie are subject to a collective amnesia in the imagining of American community the dish is transformed into a symbol of domesticity."
By 1910, he writes, it's possible for a theater review to celebrate a wholesome play as, "as American as apple pie." Using the language of critical theory he says that sugar, the apple pie, the apple itself, represents what he calls a commodity fetish. That's a term that by the way has historic roots in Marxism, and Marxism is very much behind this. Raj Patel writes, "Scratch the surface of a bar of chocolate, a tuna sandwich, or even a chicken nugget, and you will find the horrors of international trade, violence, exploitation, poverty, and profit capitalists logic is everywhere the same, but countries are capitalist in their own ways. The apple pie is as American as stolen land wealth and labor. We live its consequences today." Yes, all of that, between two layers of what you hope is a flaky crust.
And by the way, it's not just the apple pie, it's also the burger. Raj Patel writes, "Consider the burger, America's red meat Republic has long been the arena for struggles for justice. This is true even within the most iconic job in beef production, the one featured alongside apple pie at the US Department of Defense's greatest hits of American iconography, cowboys." Yes, if you are for human liberation, you are against the cowboy, and you are against apple pie, and you are certainly against any cowboy eating apple pie. The article was, of course, not coincidentally timed as Americans are coming up to the celebration of Independence Day on the 4th of July. And yes, many Americans will be having, or at least wishing they were having, apple pie. These stories remind us that everything is now ideological in the larger society and in the left, the left of our society, basically all that's left is a system of competing ideologies, and the destructiveness that comes by the application of this kind of theory, rigorously, ruthlessly, and, of course, often ridiculously.
Christians recognize that there are serious issues in wrestling with history, but this is not a serious way of dealing with those questions. This is a way that basically denies any objective truth, rejects the entire world of facts, and says that everything is just a competing system of narratives. And what you have here is a deliberate intention to subvert the narratives of J.R.R. Tolkien, and even the narrative of the apple pie and the cowboy.
No one said that maintaining sanity in these troubling times would be an easy task, but at least we take that as our task on The Briefing.
I want to thank you for listening, and on this, the last day of June of this year, we come to the last edition of The Briefing for the 2020-2021 season.
We'll be back in August with the new season of The Briefing that will begin on Monday, August 2nd. But I want to thank you for listening this year. I want to thank you for your interest in this program and for following the conversation that we hope starts here, but doesn't stop here. We are committed to the application of a Christian worldview and helping Christians to think through these issues, issues that are coming at us fast and furiously.
I want to thank you for listening. I also want to express some special things as we come to this final edition for The Briefing for this season. This is the 2472nd edition of The Briefing. And as I thank you for listening, I want to express some special thanks.
First of all, to Caleb Shaw, for over two years, he has served as the producer of this program. He's not leaving our world, he is instead moving to be chief of staff in my office, but he has served tirelessly and devotedly as the producer for The Briefing, he's also a dear friend. And I want to thank him along with his wife, Ruthie, and their little girl, Annie, for the many interruptions that have come in the middle of the night, in the middle of the day, and it all points in between, that have led to work for The Briefing.
Continuing through the season has been the devoted service of engineer, Ryan Modisette, again, who is essential to this program, and greatly appreciated. I'm thankful to you for listening. I'm thankful for the many who contribute to my life, and contribute to this ministry, and contribute to the conversation.
The headlines will keep coming at us and the issues will loom ever larger, and we'll be back, Monday, August 2nd, for the new edition of The Briefing. Lord willing, I'll meet you then.
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 on Monday, August 2nd, for The Briefing.