The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

It’s Tuesday, August 17th, 2021.

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

Part I

Mythology of the American Left Is That Theology Does Not and Cannot Matter — Even in Afghanistan. But the Taliban Are Theological, Even if the Media Are Determined to Ignore Islam

The pictures coming from Afghanistan just get worse. Now we have video images of Afghans trying to get onto American military aircraft, even stowing away in the wheel compartments. And then there is the video that has now been confirmed the bodies falling from those airplanes, or what I should say are human beings falling from those airplanes, and of course, to their death. That shows you the desperation that’s now on the ground there in Kabul and elsewhere.

But there’s another big picture behind all of this, and we’re going to be looking at several dimensions of this today. Yesterday, I gave full coverage to what had taken place as of a Sunday night given the fall of Afghanistan, the Taliban now clearly in power, and the White House response. But what makes the story newsworthy today is what’s happening on the ground and in the air there in Afghanistan, but also what is not happening in the United States. In particular, the president of the United States is not rethinking the strategy whatsoever, but is instead doubling down.

It is very interesting to see that we are at a transitional moment in American politics, indeed, a transitional moment for the administration of Joseph Biden as president of the United States. It’s a very interesting thing that has happened just over the course of the last, say, three to four days, but intensely over the last 48 hours. Even the media that have been absolutely fawning towards the president had begun to become rather critical, not only critical in terms of a general mood, but specifically indicating grave concern about the direction taken by the president, and making very clear that it is the president who bears responsibility.

The New York Times headline is this, “Biden Owns Final Failure in Afghanistan.” Now that’s a very carefully written headline. It doesn’t say that Biden owns, that is, is responsible for, the entire disaster in Afghanistan. That’s a disaster that is actually centuries upon centuries in the making. Even in immediate history, we are talking about four different presidential administrations in a row, two Democrat, two Republicans, dealing with Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 terror attacks in the United States.

But looking at what’s happening right now in Afghanistan, and the fact that there has been an absolute collapse of civil order, an absolute collapse of morality, an absolute collapse of the American presence, it is really interesting to see David Sanger of the New York Times begin his article with this, “Rarely in modern presidential history have words come back to bite an American commander in chief as swiftly as these from president Biden a little more than five weeks ago when the president of the United States said this, ‘There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States in Afghanistan.'”

Well, of course, as of early in the day on Sunday, those images were already here, the images that the president said would not happen. He said, “There’s going to be no circumstance where those images would appear.” But then things went from bad to worse. The president was in that comment five weeks ago, making reference to about 45 years ago when Americans in desperation were being evacuated off the roof of the United States embassy in Vietnam. But the fact is that the situation in Afghanistan is so bad that by nightfall on Sunday, the American embassy had closed, the American flag was down, and there was effectively no American embassy anywhere in Afghanistan. The situation in Saigon was actually better than the situation in Afghanistan, but not only then, but now. The situation has deteriorated since.

There are so many urgent dimensions to this situation, but one of them just comes down to the role of a leader, and in this case, the leader of a constitutional republic, in this case, the president of the United States who was also commander in chief of the American armed forces. Now there have been times in American history in which it has been hard to tell whether it is the military leading the president, or it is the president leading the military. You can have a very complex set of relationships there.

For one thing you do have the military represented by not only the joint chiefs of staff, the chiefs of staff of each of the divisions of the American military, but you also have the reality that they come with military expertise, they come often by the time they reach that level with senior combat command, they have a military authority. Presidents often defer to their military judgment. But in the case of Joe Biden in Afghanistan, we now know that the opposite was the case. The president rejected the entreaties coming from the Pentagon and senior American military for a matter of weeks.

Now it’s important to recognize that America’s constitutional order is based upon civilian control of the military, that is, the elected president as commander in chief. We are not a military government. So, the president as commander in chief has enormous responsibility and enormous authority on behalf of the American people. But here’s the issue. That means that when the president does act in this way as commander in chief, and when we now know he is acting over against the advice of the military, the political responsibility falls on him and on him alone.

President Biden seemed to understand that. In statements he made yesterday in his public comments, he stood by his decision. He doubled down on his decision. He said he knew it would bring criticism. But nonetheless, he said, he is even more assured now that it was the right decision. Now that raises the issue of what would be the contrary evidence to the president’s determination. In other words, what kind of proof would have to be demonstrated that plan was wrong. That indeed, chaos and confusion revealed that the plan was broken and wrong from the start.

The president’s comments to the American people on Monday afternoon just didn’t seem to be tied to reality. The president spoke of rapidly evolving events. Then he said this, “My national security team and I have been closely monitoring the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, and moving quickly to execute the plans we had put in place to respond to every contingency, including the rapid collapse we’re seeing now.” There is just no intellectual plausibility to the fact that there were any adequate plans to be executed that were in place to respond to every contingency, including the contingency that has taken place, and has shown that the Americans did not have a plan, did not make adequate preparations, had vastly underestimated both the weakness of the Afghan regime and underestimated the strength of the Taliban.

Later in his comments, the president said, “I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces. That’s why we’re still there. We were clear-eyed about the risk. We planned for every contingency. But I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you.”

Again, for the second time, he says they planned for every contingency. So, they planned to have the humiliation of the American embassy closed, the flag taken down, the seal removed, and no adequate access even to any kind of location to protect Americans? They planned for that? That was a contingency? Bodies falling from airplanes, Americans stranded, and America’s allies endangered, that was a contingency?

The president spoke truthfully the fact that the Afghan security forces just collapsed. The president said, “The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.” Well, just think about that. He said they had planned for everything, and everything was basically going to plan. They had a response that was premeditated to everything. And yet he went on to say, it did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.

The president continued, “So what’s happened, Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed sometimes without trying to fight. If anything,” said the president, “the developments of the past week reinforce that ending us military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision.” Now just thinking about how complicated some of these situations can be, it’s important to recognize that what the president doubled down on was the time to withdraw U.S. forces.

And you can make the argument that the president had a point to make about the time. There never is a good time. This was a bad time. Anytime might’ve been a bad time. But that avoids the issue that there were other commanding issues here that needed to be addressed, not only the time, but the manner and the strategy. It’s the manner and the strategy that were abject failures. They’re tied to the issues of the timing. And for some strange reason, the president of the United States thought that September the 11th, which will be the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, was a good symbolic date to end American involvement in Afghanistan.

The president was also right when he said that the terrorist threat has metastasized well beyond Afghanistan. He mentioned Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, Al-Nusra in Syria, and of course, ISIS, the Islamic state, which by the way, the mainstream media calls ISIS because they want to avoid using the word Islam or Islamic.

But that gets to the other vast worldview issue we really need to note, now so many hours into the urgency of this catastrophe at Afghanistan. Notice how little attention, almost no attention at all, how much virtual silence you now hear in the mainstream media about the reality that the Taliban are not a secular army. They are a jihadist group of Islamic fighters.

The mythology of the American left is that theology doesn’t matter, and that any reference to Islam as in a clash of religious worldviews is just a form of disguised racism, or something they often refer to as Islamophobia. There is an allergy to recognizing that Islam is a theological reality. That is to say, it makes theological truth claims. Its morality is based upon its theological structure. And jihad is baked into the logic of the Koran, separating the entire world into the world of Islam and the world of war. What is the world of war? It is where faithful Muslims struggle to bring the yet unconquered parts of the world under the rule of Sharia law.

It’s interesting to hear people talk about the humanitarian disaster as if what will be taking place, including the oppression of women, is just based upon some kind of tribal habit in Afghanistan. It is not that. It is what is claimed to be the application of the Quran. It is coming with a religious, not a secular, authority. It is driven by religious, not secular, ambitions. It is driven by religious, not secular, passions. Yet another reminder for Christians that everything is theological. Sometimes you have to look under the surface. Sometimes, as in this case, it’s right on the surface. It is the surface.

Part II

The Logic of Moral Revolution: As Teenagers Need Driving School, So Children Need Sex Education. Apparently Anything Is Plausible Once You Abandon All Moral Sanity

But next we come back to the United States. One of the criticisms often made in the Islamic world about the United States is the fact that the United States and the west have simply embraced so much abject sexual immorality and nonsense, decadence and depravity. Well, here’s some evidence for you. The New York Times recently ran an article that was on the front page of the print edition about sex education in a prominent Manhattan school. In this case, it’s the Dalton School. And the big story is that the overwhelmingly liberal parents who send their children to the Dalton School evidently finally decided that they weren’t going to tolerate just any form of sex education when first graders were being told about sex acts.

But, of course, the point of the New York Times article is that those parents, those very liberal parents who send their children to such a liberal school, turn out to be, well, small-minded like parents often are when it comes to these issues. Valeriya Safronova is the reporter in the article, and the article begins, “Sex education is a sensitive subject. But during nine years at the prestigious Dalton School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, seven of which she spent as the director of health and wellness, Justine Ang Fonte seemed to be handling it with success. She developed curriculums for students from kindergarten through the 12th grade, hired three other health educators, and organized documentary viewings, discussions, and workshops for parents.”

“She was also a regular speaker at educational forums, like the National Association of Independent School’s People of Color Conference, and offered workshops and presentations at other New York City Schools. Those included Columbia Grammar and preparatory school.” And it went on to say that parents who have complained because of some of the issues that were being taught under the guise of sex education.

Let’s back up a minute. What in the world is the Dalton School? It’s described here as a prestigious school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The school goes back to 1919. There are some big worldview issues that are implicated here. For one thing, the Dalton School, begun in 1919, was a part of the progressivist educational movement in the United States. That was based upon a theological shift, a shift towards a more secular understanding of human beings, a shift towards the understanding of children not as sinners, but rather as citizens to be molded into good citizenship in a very liberal and progressive way.

Figures behind the Dalton School included Helen Parkhurst. She was the originator of the Dalton method, as it was known. But also John Dewey, the most influential philosopher of the 20th century, who was one of the major engines of both secularization and secular humanism in the United States. And by the way, this kind of liberal education does not come cheap. Now just wait for this. The yearly cost of educating a single child for a single year at the Dalton School is, at current rates, $55,210. That’s right. For $55,210, your child, too, can be taught about very explicit sex and even sex acts in the first grade.

The sex educator now no longer with the Dalton School had said, “I equip them with a way that they can exercise body agency and consent by knowing exactly what those parts are, what they are called, and how to take care of them.” Predictably, New York Times tells us, “Multiple sex educators interviewed for this article said there was nothing inappropriate about her classes there or at Columbia. All of it was in line with current national sex education standards and the World Health Organization’s International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education.”

I’m just going to guess you’re not reassured by that. You shouldn’t be. Anything that would pass the guidelines of those kinds of organizations is going to be coming from a worldview that is not going to be biblical Christianity. I don’t think you’re surprised about that, either. One professor cited in response to this, identified as a professor emeritus of developmental psychology at Cornell University, said that the educator’s lessons “Filled a necessary niche, but express concern ‘that parents were not part of the process of deciding what needs or should be taught.'” So, it’s a process issue.

Another issue of controversy in the sex education curriculum, presumably for older children and teenagers, was nonetheless what is called pornography literacy. The New York Times explains, “Pornography literacy classes teach students how to critically assess what they see on the screen. For example, how to recognize what is realistic and what is not, how to deconstruct implicit gender roles, and how to identify what types of behavior could be a safety or health risk.” Yes, for your teenager at the low, low cost of $55,210 a year, if you can get your child in the school.

There’s a bluntness about all of this. The New York Times says, “Across the country, priorities around sex education have expanded beyond the prevention of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections to include unhealthy relationships, body positivity, sexual orientation, reproductive justice, and gender identity.” Oh, you bet it has.

One of the educators cited as an authority compared this kind of progressive sex education to teaching math or English or, get this, driver’s education. The source said, “We don’t let the kids grab the keys when they’re drunk, turn our backs and say, ‘Gee, I hope it all works out.’ We put a lot of effort into teaching young people to drive in a way that doesn’t hurt themselves or other people. Sex education does that same work, but related to sex. It prepares young people to emerge into young adulthood.” Now just think about this statement. This is presenting as morally plausible the fact that there is a moral equivalence between drivers education and driving and sex education and sex. But when you abandon all moral sanity, evidently just about anything is plausible.

No longer connected to the schools, this sex educator is nonetheless pressing on. Again, Justine Ang Fonte is this educator. The New York Times tells us, “Ms. Fonte is planning to write children’s books about inclusivity, produce podcasts, give talks in and outside of school settings, and consult for TV shows. Doing what she does, teaching, but through other media, she hopes, will help her spread her message far beyond the Upper East Side.” In other words, perhaps coming to a school near you.

But the issue we need to understand is that this radical redefinition of sex education, and yes, it is a radical redefinition, might not be mirrored in your school district or in the local school down the street or in your community. But the entire zone of plausibility and reality has been shifted that it is more like that than what parents would expect sex education to be or ought to be.

Part III

No Clandestine Conspiracy Here: Sexual Revolutionaries State Goal of ‘Queer Inclusivity and Gender Expansiveness Across All Grade Levels and Subjects’— Parents Have Been Warned

Not long after that article had appeared at the New York Times, USA Today ran a major article. The headline, “Let’s talk about queer sex, the importance of LGBTQ inclusive sex education in schools.” This by David Oliver of USA Today. The big issue here is that what is being preached by USA Today, and yes, that is the right verb, is that sex education must be, as is phrased here, LGBTQ inclusive. And it’s not just inclusive as in reference to the LGBTQ issues, but rather advocacy of, rather radical advocacy indeed.

Almost immediately in the article, there’s the citation that, “Just 8.2% of students said they received LGBTQ inclusive sex education.” That according to the organization identified here as LGBTQ education nonprofit GLSEN National School Climate Survey. Now I’m not going to spend much time on this, but this is another one of those issues where a special interest group poses as doing research, presents that research as the reason why you should support and give to the organization, and why the mainstream media should run this kind of story, which of course the mainstream media is just dying to do.

Melanie Willingham-Jaggers is quoted in the article, the director of GLSEN, who according to USA Today, “compares the fight for inclusive sexual education to that of critical race theory, noting people can favor long held narratives over the truth.” Now wait just a minute. One of the key issues and one of the primary errors of critical race theory, or any form of critical theory, is that you replace the world of facts and argument with narratives.

Now what’s the difference? The use of the word narratives implies that that’s all there is. It’s just different stories about how the world is as it is and what the world might be. And so, you are not tied to the world of fact and argument. You are tied to deliberation of narratives. And the narratives that have been marginalized in society are now to be given the center role in order that the marginalized might be mainstream. That’s exactly what the LGBTQ movement has been arguing. But we need to recognize as Christians that if you accept that all there is, is just a battle of narratives, you’ve already lost the war.

Melanie Willingham-Jaggers quoted in the article is saying, “What we’re having right now in our country is a debate around what responsibility we have to our children when it comes to educating them. Queer inclusive sex ed is not critical race theory. But what you see in both of these arguments is do we teach our children what is true in reality and history of nature, or do we teach them what we want them to know?” Now, again, some nights you just have to unpack words. Since when is there a rightful juxtaposition or contrast between what we want our children to know and what is true in reality in history of nature? This is the kind of verbal nonsense that Christians need to learn to see through immediately.

There is much in this article that I cannot and will not even read aloud. Remember, it’s from USA Today. I’m not going to read it aloud on The Briefing. But you do have the very same authority here, the head of this LGBTQ advocacy organization saying, “Without LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education, queer and trans youth are left in the dark when it comes to making informed decisions about their health, understanding their body, understanding how their body relates to other bodies out in the world. ‘When sex education labeled some topics as controversial,’ she said, ‘it hurts all students by failing to provide a full and medically accurate understanding of sexual health.'”

By the way, the direct assault upon creation and God making us in His image, male and female, is evident in the fact that what is argued for here in USA Today is this LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education that would begin as early as the fourth grade with this instruction, “Instead of saying girls menstruate or boys produce sperm, for example, you can say people who menstruate and people who produce sperm to incorporate trans and non-binary people.”

This person, Scout Bratt, identified as Outreach and Education Director of the Chicago Women’s Health Center said, “We are trying to infuse queer inclusivity and gender expansiveness in the curriculum across all grade levels, across all subjects.” It’s certainly clarifying that that statement is made right out loud. That is the ambition. That is the goal. You don’t have to suggest that that’s some kind of clandestine conspiracy because this person said it right out loud, and said it to USA Today. That is the goal, “trying to infuse queer inclusivity and gender expansiveness in the curriculum across all grade levels, across all subjects.”

Now Christians looking at this, and there’s far more in this article, but just looking at this situation need to understand something. Sex education can never be neutral. It just can’t be, because after all, it’s about sex. You might have some kind of fairly morally neutral and merely objective understanding of, for instance, driving is in driver’s education. But there is no way that can be true when we’re talking about sex and what’s referred to here as sex education.

But also notice something else. Back in the middle of the 20th century, there was an understanding that children and teenagers, and teenagers in particular, needed to have some level of sex education that would rightly be described basically as biology. That’s understandable. But we’re not talking about biology here. In fact, we’re talking about the refutation of biology in the transgender ideology. We’re talking about marshaling the schools into a great engine for pressing the entire LGBTQ agenda and the LGBTQ ideologies.

Another line in the article, by the way, says this, “Like bulls in china shops, LGBTQ advocates smash preconceived notions of sex education.” Well, they’re intentionally smashing preconceived notions of just about everything else as well. A moral sense would tell us that a society that would accept this level of depravity isn’t merely decadent, it’s doomed.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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