Monday, August 9, 2021
It's Monday, August 9th, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Is Marriage Just a Sexist Institution? The Modern Revolt Against Marriage Doesn't Lead to Liberation — Quite the Opposite
Marriage is one of God's most precious creations given to humanity, given in creation itself. Marriage is central to any biblical theology pointing to the fact that it appears in the first two chapters of the book of Genesis and then becomes a metaphor for the relationship between Christ and his church at the very consummation of the age.
We also understand that a part of God's intention in giving us marriage is that marriage would become the very foundation of human culture and human civilization. Marriage becomes absolutely essential and Christians have understood it as the union of a man and a woman, essential that is to any civilization, essential to any culture. It's also very, very important, even absolutely fundamental to a Christian understanding and a Christian ethic.
Even those who are not married actually have their orientation to human society and culture through marriage one way or the other even as their own parents, according to the biblical plan, would have been married to each other. We understand that in a sinful world, there are deviancies from that norm, but we also understand that that just makes the gift of marriage as God gave it, as God defined it, all the more important.
Now, one of the ways to understand the modern age is that the rebellion of the age eventually had to arrive at a rebellion against marriage. It took some time because it defies not only law and convention, it defies biology. We'll discuss that just momentarily. But first, we need to recognize that when the modern age sets itself against marriage, it sets itself against civilization. It gets the very possibility of a healthy and productive, flourishing civilization. And this is therefore an injury not only to the civilization writ-large, but to every single member of that civilization.
But as you're looking at the modern rebellion against marriage, understand it didn't start with same-sex marriage, it actually started with a loosening of sexual morality in the 19th century. And then it took the shape of something that was rather unexpected, and that was the development of contraception. That is to say birth control that separated marriage in the marital conjugal act from procreation. Eventually procreation will be severed from sex, sex severed from procreation, and both of them effectively severed from marriage.
We also need to understand that the push for some kind of medically-predictable and dependable contraception or form of birth control was brought about by those who were indeed the prophets and prophetesses of modernity. They demanded the scientific investment in the eventual production of what would be an effort to allow women to be free from any kind of necessity of becoming pregnant and thus having a baby.
And of course was more than that. It was also, as we understand, became very, very central to the population control ideology, the idea that there are just too many human beings. We're going to be looking this week at the fact that that ideology certainly continues even against all evidence. But nonetheless, there was this first major issue, which was the liberalization of sexual morality. And then there came the rejection of that biological constraint by means of birth control.
The next big issue was the redefinition of marriage by making it conditional. The arrival of so-called no fault marriage that basically means people are married for so long as they want to be married. They need not be married any further. It's no longer a permanent institution upon which the entire civilization can depend on the permanency.
The next big shift was actually the shift towards what's called same-sex marriage. Christians understand that there actually, in God's view, according to the very structure of creation, is no such thing as same sex marriage. But we do understand it is a legal and a political reality where you have legislatures, and even more often, courts that have put something called same-sex marriage in place on par with marriage is the union of a man and a woman.
So we have two men being married, we have two women being married, at least according to the law and according to the courts. But what we need to note is that that was followed in such short order by another development and that is the subversion of gender itself. Now, we're talking about headlines that are as current as just say the last several days of USA Today.
Now, here's something else to think about as Christians consider the culture. For most of its relatively brief history, USA Today, published by the Gannett Company, has been something like a news digest.
There are reporters working for the paper, especially in its sports section, its news section, there are culture writers, it does produce material, but the material tends to be very short and intended for a very general audience. It was often criticized as McPaper when it first appeared a generation ago.
But USA Today has actually turned itself into an engine of the moral revolution and the gender revolution. It's hard to imagine a single major media source that is so insistent, virtually daily, on pushing the LGBTQ revolution and the ideologies behind it.
Now, what would be the central obstacle to that revolution? The central obstacle is marriage so that modern rebellion against marriage now reaches a new stage. USA Today recently ran a couple of articles. One of them was by Sara Moniuszko. It was entitled, "Why Marriage Is Still a Sexist Institution, And What We Can Do About It."
Now, reporters are always responsible for the headlines of their stories, but this one actually is reflected in the writing of the story itself. But notice the audacity of it, why marriage is still a sexist institution. In other words, there's a moral verdict against marriage, it's inherently. But then the promise of the fact that we can do something and what we can do about it.
The article begins taking us to the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, which we are told cast a shadow over weddings. "It shone a light on a major issue with the institution of marriage."
Here's the next paragraph: "While marriage is a joyous milestone in many people's lives, experts say there is no denying the institution has a history of sexism that in many cases can still be felt today. That doesn't mean forward-thinking, young people need to shun marriage, though some are doing just that. The experts agree awareness is an important first step towards progress."
There's so much in just a few words there. First of all, I want to look at the end, the last phrase, "The experts agree awareness is an important first step toward progress." What in the world is an expert in this category? Who are these experts? Well, she does go on and cite some people, but the point is now we are being told sociologically of two new moral authorities.
First of all, the experts on marriage, they're very progressive-thinkers mentioned in this article. And then speaking of progressive "forward-thinking, young people" who we are told must be, of course, forward-thinking and thus must be suspicious of marriage. The article goes on to cite Jocelyn Olcott, the Director of Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Duke University.
The article says that she argues that we have made strides in recent years, but as the paper says, "Marriage is sexist. History is still seen in how heterosexual couples divide up household labor and childhood care responsibilities. That became especially evident in the pandemic when many women abandoned their jobs in order to care for and homeschool kids."
Olcott said, and I quote, "COVID really was like a black light on how precarious that progress was because as soon as the crisis hit, that maldistribution reasserted itself." Now let's think as Christians. Let's think biblically as best as we can. Is there a distinction between men and women that is clear in creation, clear in scripture? Absolutely, yes. Is there a difference in the role of men and women in marriage or the husband and the wife? Absolutely, yes. Likewise of the father and the mother, there's a clear distinction.
Can that distinction become distorted by human sin? Of course, it can. It can be exaggerated outside of its biblical context. It can be misused or even abused. But in reality, this is an article that is suggesting that the experts say, "The problem is with the maldistribution itself." But here's where we need to note something. Just think about a newborn baby. That newborn baby requires a very maldistributed set of responsibilities or simply things a mother can do, must do, will do that a father can't do and won't do.
Now, again, sin can enter in and all this can be distorted, but the fact is that God has created us in such a way that biology makes very clear there is in some sense, a maldistribution. Now, the feminist came along in, especially the 20th century, and argued that the idea that women would have their primary attention in the domestic sphere and men in the external sphere, historians, especially writing from the left, have argued that that was a new thing.
Well, it did take a new form because when you had the industrial revolution, you had men beginning to work in such work context as factories. You couldn't have men working in factories until you had the rise of factories. And yes, there was something like the rise of a cult of domesticity even when it came to the presentation of wives and mothers in the home. Even when you look at television advertisements, especially the 1950s, '60s, and even into the '70s, yes, you had a lot of stereotypes just look at the television programs.
But here's the thing, those stereotypes weren't just stereotypes. They actually were at least a representation of what was considered normal life. And that's what really didn't change from, say, the 18th to the 19th, to the 20th century. There has always been, throughout human history, what USA Today criticizes as a maldistribution of responsibilities when it comes to domestic responsibilities between men and women, between husbands and wives.
And the fact is that nature itself has made that rather mandatory. Now, I've made clear as often as I can that sin can distort that, but the reality is still there. And you'll notice this article basically argues against that reality, not just basically, straightforwardly. We're told, "Marriage before the 1970s was legally constructed as a sexist institution." That's according to Juliet A. Williams, professor at UCLA in the Department of Gender Studies.
Now, this is accurate in many ways, this part of the article that says there's been a revolution in marital law when it comes to, say, the legal recognition of women as economic and political agents, not only able to vote, but also able to own property, there's been a massive change there. But it is still the case as this professor that on average women who are married are financially better off than unmarried women.
Now, the thing is that's presented as if it is evidence of a problem. This is what Christians understand. That's actually evidence of the fact that when creation and God's word are honored, we actually have human flourishing. We have economic success. We have indeed greater financial security. What this newspaper sees as lingering sexism is actually not just a hint. It's just prima facie evidence of the fact that marriage was intended to work just this way.
The article gets very straightforward when the same professor is quoted as saying that we "live in a society where women are still incentivized to tie their fortunes to men, as opposed to being independent from them." Now, I guess that's what they teach in the Department of Gender Studies at UCLA. No real surprise there. But you'll notice however, that women aren't buying the hypothesis. The fact is that, yes, you not only have a society that incentivizes marriage with a man and a woman coming together in marriage, but there is a natural understanding, just looking at the evidence, that those who are married fare better financially than those who do not.
The argument here is that the society should somehow seek to undo the incentive for not only women, but for men to get married.
The article then cites a lecture on women's studies, gender and sexuality at Harvard University, who says that there are "a number of ways we're told in which sexism is present in the institution of marriage today for heterosexual couples, including 'The assumption and societal pressure that women and any subsequent children have the surname of the husband.'"
Is that just a representation of patriarchy? Well, certainly it hearkens back to a patriarchal age, but the fact is, it also leads to cultural and civilizational sanity so that people know who a family is. And when you're looking at the reality of a patrilineal family, you're looking at the fact that most people are going to continue to think that way and not just for historical reasons.
One of the chief responsibilities of any civilization is to create a context in which men have to take financial and other responsibility for their own offspring. One of the ways in society and in human history where that has been done is by making certain that fathers give their surname to their children in order to make clear he is responsible for them.
USA Today is looking for a big revolution. Juliet Williams of UCLA quoted in the article already is quoted again as saying, "I think it's interesting how many younger people are just opting out of marriage and don't see it as relevant to their happiness." Instead, we're told she suggests that there are changes that need to be made on both a societal and individual level. "The goal is more thoughtfulness around the consequences of giving weddings and marriage a pass as we try to untangle all the knots that continue to constrain women and men and their full flourishing, and that maintain the overall inequality of women compared to men."
Now, when it comes to that maldistribution within the household, the article says, "Williams recognizes that it's difficult to push back against division of labor in the household, but says it can be helpful to start by recognizing how much stigma there is against women who don't love taking care of the kids, for example."
Now, let's just back off for a moment. Let's just assume that we're having a conversation in which at least some mother says she really doesn't like taking care of her children. I just ask you to find the civilization in which there's not going to be a negative response to that. But there's progress on this front because I can imagine very few circumstances in which a man, a husband, a father can say he finds no joy in taking care of his children. I can see very little chance that in our day, especially amongst Christians, there's not going to be a very negative judgment made against that man for making that statement of irresponsibility.
Interestingly, Professor William says, "We don't want to deny that there's agency at play and people's replicating traditional division of labor in the household. But I also think we want to be honest that our desires are conditioned by the incredibly fierce judgment and condemnation that even in 2021 bears down on anybody who's, in any way, gender-nonconforming."
Well, there's gender non-conforming, but notice something else. She basically says that she doesn't want to deny, "There's agency at play." What does that mean? It means she actually can't deny with intellectual honesty the fact that an incredible number of women actually want marriage. the way traditional marriage is defined. We're told that the wedding ceremony is being redefined by some who are skipping white dresses, which Professor Williams says, "historically were meant to symbolize virginity." That's a quote, and yes, that whiteness was indeed to symbolize virginity. And it's very morally-telling that even many brides who certainly can make no claim to virginity still want to wear a white dress so at least when they dress up for their wedding, they act as if it were so.
The Modern Age Pushes to 'De-Gender' Weddings? Civilization's Survival Depends On God's Creation of 'Male' and 'Female' — And Our Respect for God's Plan
But just a few days after that article in USA Today appeared, another by Charles Trépanier appeared with the headline "Weddings without gender? More couples want to de-gender how they tie the knot."
This article is explicitly about gender nonconformity when it comes to the transformation of wedding ceremonies. But let me say from the onset, even as you read this article, you recognize we're talking about a tiny percentage of the weddings that are being done. The kinds of things that are described here, you are not likely to see in a wedding, but you are likely to see them prominently displayed in USA Today as a trend.
The article tells us, and this is supposed to be a blockbuster, that many of the most cherished and traditional wedding practices have revolved around gender. Who would have known that? Actually, everybody would have known that. That's about as obvious as saying that the ocean is full of water. It's nonsense to act as if that's some kind of sophisticated cultural criticism.
Yes, marriage is about gender. Look at the marriage ceremony. Look at the picture of marriage in the scripture. Look at just about every single marriage you can find throughout human history documented in normal human life and every civilization on planet earth for thousands of years. But then the USA Today article tells us, "From who's allowed to be a bridesmaid or a groomsman and what you call them, to who gets walked down the aisle, more traditions are getting modern twists as couples seek to be more inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community and consistent with a feminist view of gender.
The article then cites Amy Shack Egan identified as a wedding planner in Brooklyn who said, "There are a lot of rules and etiquette around weddings and a lot of them are, frankly, sexist and outdated and they need to be rethought." I've seen couples get so creative and make choices that really feel right for themselves and their partnership so that a wedding can actually feel empowering."
Because after all, I presume, that's the way USA Today thinks a wedding should feel. Empowering. What would empowered look like? Well, the article cites one young woman who's identified herself as a wedding photographer in San Diego. She, we are told, got married in 2019, but a white dress, "Did not feel like it honored my personality." So we're told, instead, she opted for a blue gown with vibrant floral patterns. We're also told she declined to take her husband's last name with the aim of, "Not giving into the system of patriarchy."
Well, that's evidently what empowerment looks like. Now, remember, USA Today is telling us about the sexist traditions of weddings that need to be done away with one of them would be a father walking his daughter down the aisle as if it's one man giving a woman to another man. There's an entire biblical story behind that, biblical picture and biblical theology, by the way. But USA Today is making the point that that's inherently sexist, thus we should presumably do away with it.
But the only woman who's cited in the article about this practice actually asked her father to give her away. And furthermore, we're told that one poll indicated that the vast majority of women wanted to keep the same. Well, if the article began with that, it wouldn't be much of a news story, would it?
We're told that there are some couples who are deciding that they really don't have bridesmaids and groomsmen, they just have friends that are not necessarily assorted by gender at all. The article then tells us, "Despite de-gendered trends becoming more popular among couples, the $51 billion wedding services industry is still playing catch up when it comes to inclusion."
The article then cites a business woman whose company, "Fierce Productions, specializes in non-traditional celebrations. Well, she has to hope that this is a business trend. Doesn't she? The article also does acknowledge, and this is important, that the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015 has also "cast gender traditions in a new light."
Now, even this article makes clear it has done so mostly amongst those who are same-sex couples. Common grace, and remember for Christians that means the very structures of God's grace given to us in creation in the natural order, that kind of creation general common gray shines through when we are told that for same-sex couples seeking to be married, "These traditions can be especially tricky for same-sex couples."
Well, of course they can because the very notion of marriage, even when you think about a wedding cake, and Time magazine and many others have tried to offer pictures of wedding cakes with two grooms or two brides, but the fact is that's still shocking. It's because it's shocking in light of creation, not just tradition.
One issue that does become very clear in this article is that young couples who want to be seen as, well, the other article said progressive and forward thinking, they need to think about what kind of signals they're sending if they want to be sending what are described here as a very progressive signals even if they are "not queer or gender queer." A lot of social pressure there.
But one of the most interesting aspects of this article is the heading weddings are for couples, not society. The article says, "Perhaps most important, the trend away from gender traditions means people are thinking more deeply about weddings and what the ceremony means to them." That's in order to say it's about them not about society.
Well, here's where we need to recognize something. In the history of marriage, in the history of weddings, we should say, throughout society, it is profoundly about society. It is a social, legally-sanctioned relationship. It is a public announcement. It's a legal filing. And yes, the public nature of the wedding, even with required witnesses throughout Western history is a way of saying, this is essential to our civilization and we are setting it apart. We're even creating a ceremony. We are honoring it. We are witnesses to it.
The article cites another authority as saying that the big challenge is reconciling tradition with progress. Well, that's one way to put it. And there's something to that challenge, reconciling tradition with progress. But we also need to note something that's not in the article. And that is that the greater challenge is rejecting a creation order. That's a far greater challenge.
The challenge as depicted in this article comes down to this concluding statement, "In every aspect of life, there's that balance between how things have been done in the past and evolving and making new traditions. A lot of the traditions are sexist and are geared towards your male-female couple. And I don't think it needs to be like that. I think people are recognizing that it's okay to go away from that." I think your experience, as well as my experience, even the experience of looking around our society everywhere but where the mainstream media, and for that matter, the moral progressives are trying to paint a different picture.
The reality is, for reasons of common grace rooted in creation, the society is never going to get that far from that male-female picture of marriage because it can't. And let's just point out the obvious. The biological continuation of the human species depends on it.
Germany's Prosecution of a 100 Year Old Former Nazi Guard Underlines the Moral Mandate of God's Justice, in This Life and the One to Come
But finally, as we're thinking about human beings as inherently moral creatures, a very important headline, a rather shocking headline coming from Berlin in Germany.
The Wall Street Journal's headline is this: "Ex-Nazi Guard, Aged 100, Is Set for German Trial. The man who according to the German legal system is not named is described as a 100-year-old man, who's going to be tried, "On charges of aiding and abetting mass murder while working as a concentration camp guard, making him one of the oldest defendants in a case brought against alleged Nazi era perpetrators."
He has been officially charged with complicity in the murder of more than 3,500 inmates of the Sachsenhausen camp on the outskirts of Berlin. The Wall Street Journal tells us, "He's alleged to have worked there between 1942 and 1945 as a member of the SS Nazi militia."
Now, why would any civilization, why would any culture, any nation, seek to bring to the bar of justice a man who is 100 years old for crimes that took place more than seven decades ago, indeed more than 75 years ago, at least in the beginning? Why is that such a moral imperative?
Well, the prosecutors in Germany are saying that it is such an imperative because the crimes were so horrifying and justice is such an important human mandate. Now, this is a secular report, but this is where Christians have to understand. Yes, indeed there is such a moral mandate, and yes indeed we do have a civilizational responsibility to bring perpetrators to justice even if they are now 100 years old.
There's a little bit of desperation here no doubt as prosecutors all over are recognizing that the opportunity to prosecute persons for the horrible crime of the genocide in the Third Reich, the Holocaust, especially against the Jewish people, that time is running out fast. As a matter of fact, virtually all of the possible defendants who might arise in the current time were teenagers at the time the war was at its midpoint if not at the end.
We are looking at a 100-year-old defendant. That tells us something about the strength of the conscience that God has given to every single human being. We cannot not know, that these crimes were so horrible that they must be answered at the court of justice if there is any opportunity whatsoever, even if the defendant is a 100-year-old man.
But there's another issue behind this. And that is the fact that the German prosecutors have said in other reports that they felt like they had to move expeditiously on this trial because otherwise this man would never have to face justice. This is where Christians know that as important and urgent as human justice is, as necessary to any civilization, for reasons that God has given us in his word and created in us by conscience, the reality is that Christians know that there will be no one who will escape full answer and full judgment for his or her sins, for each of our sins.
The Scripture says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." And the Scripture says that every single sin and every single sinner will be called to account at the bar of justice, which is before the throne of Almighty God. There will be no escaping that justice. And as Christians know, in the words that beautiful hymn, there is only one plea. As that hymn says, "I need no other argument. I need no other plea. It is enough that Jesus died and that he died for me."
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.