The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

It’s Wednesday, September 29, 2021.

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

Part I

ACLU Changes Ruth Bader Ginsberg Quote To Include Gender-Neutral Language — Less Than One Year After Her Death, Is RBG Already ‘On the Wrong Side of History?’

Well, evidently, the left is going to edit you even after you are dead. That’s what happened to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She died last year. The ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union, put up a tweet in recent days that edited, that is to say reworded what Ruth Bader Ginsburg had said during her 1993 Senate confirmation hearings. The issue, you may not be surprised, was abortion. Here’s what Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in 1993 when she was asked about abortion. She was then nominated by President Bill Clinton to sit on the Supreme Court. This was during the Senate hearings about her confirmation. She was, of course, eventually confirmed to the court. She was asked about abortion, she was incredibly straight forward.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg said then, “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.” That was an expressly pro-abortion position. Now, that should come as no surprise because Ruth Bader Ginsburg by that time was well-known as one of the most effective feminist attorneys in the United States. She had headed a project for women’s rights for, wait for it, the American Civil Liberties Union. But now the ACLU is putting up a quote by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, only it’s not exactly what Ruth Bader Ginsburg said. You heard that quotation back from 1993, you’ll notice how it was loaded with female references. After all, it’s about abortion, it’s about the possibility of pregnancy.

She said, “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It’s a decision she must make for herself. When government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.” If you’re counting that over and over again, Ruth Bader Ginsburg who headed this women’s project and was after all one of the nation’s most prominent feminist attorneys, she dared to speak about females. But you really see that in the quotation the ACLU put up on a tweet, a pro-abortion tweet, in which they supposedly cited, quoted Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That tweet quote from the ACLU stated her words this way, “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a person’s life, to their well-being and dignity.”

And the quote went on to say, “When the government controls that decision for people, they are being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible their own choices.” Just notice the difference here. Now, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was on the cutting edge of liberalism for virtually all her adult life, she is now being dead for just about a year, she is already on the wrong side of history when it comes to using female or gender-specific language assuming there is a gender binary, people are either male or female, and holding to the idea that the left now considers hopelessly irrational and out of date that it is women who get pregnant, not men. Now, to cut to the chase, the ACLU, as in recent days, had to apologize for that tweet. But they didn’t apologize for the intent. They just said evidently, it is wrong to change the wording of someone now dead.

Now, the ACLU didn’t hide the fact it was changing the words, to put the inserted new words in brackets as if to say, “We have updated Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” But nonetheless, even someone like Michelle Goldberg, yes, Michelle Goldberg, one of the most liberal columnists for any American newspaper but in this case for The New York Times, Michelle Goldberg ran a column, a very insightful column with the headline, “The ACLU Errs on RBG,” meaning Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Goldberg’s words were straight forward. She says that this kind of action by anyone on the left is that kind of “self-parodic blunder the right salivates over”. In other words, she starts out by saying, “Look, the main thing that’s wrong with this may well be that it gives conservatives something to point at.” Well, we certainly are pointing at it. But the reality is it’s wrong for a deeper level.

Michelle Goldberg was really clear about the differences in the two quotations. She went on to say this, “It’s somewhat Orwellian to rewrite historical utterances to conform to modern sensitivities. No one,” she says, “that I’m aware of use gender-neutral language to talk about pregnancy and abortion in 1993.” Now, 1993 is almost 30 years ago. In 1993, human beings, virtually wherever they lived, whatever language they spoke, had some way of saying women get pregnant. Michelle Goldberg is certainly right. Alternative ways of trying to express pregnancy as related to gender came after 1993 when Ruth Bader Ginsburg made that statement to the United States Senate. She goes on to say, that is Michelle Goldberg goes on to say, “It wasn’t until 2008 that Thomas Beatie became famous as what headline sometimes called the first pregnant man.” Well, there you notice that’s also gendered language. It’s irrational.

Yes, men can’t get pregnant. In this case, the reality is if you’re pregnant, you’re not a man, you may call yourself a man, the press may call you a man, there may be headlines about you being the first pregnant man. But if you are pregnant, according to human rationality, the pattern of creation, common sense, everywhere all the time, going all the way back to human history, you are not a man. Goldberg speaks of this chronological issue when she writes, “There’s a difference between substituting the phrase, pregnant people for pregnant women now, and pretending that we have always spoken of pregnant people.” Indeed, we have not always spoken of pregnant people. And I’m going to argue that right thinking people now should not speak of merely pregnant people. But there’s a deeper issue here and that’s what makes this particular headline news story of great interest in worldview analysis.

Christians looking at this need to understand all kinds of basic issues are implicated in this article. For one thing, Michelle Goldberg goes on to say that one issue of concern in all of this is how issues that had traditionally been related to the agenda of second wave feminism are to be evaluated over against the claims of those who are in the LGBTQ revolutionary front. And as I’ve often pointed out, you really can’t avoid an inevitable collision there. That collision is going to take place. Because if you’re going to be in a position where you won’t even say women when it comes to pregnancy, or for that matter, if you’re a pro-abortion when it comes to abortion, then basically you’re just going to marginalize women using the language of contemporary identity politics. In some sense, you’re denying the existence of women. The LGBTQ ideology has no place of stopping. It’s like an acid that burns through everything.

Intersectionality, another ideological facet of the left right now, intersectionality says that there are different points of oppression and you can have individuals, they may have different points, it’s not just man and woman. The woman may be identified as minority when it comes to ethnicity or race, or there might be an issue of disability, or there might be LGBTQ identity. The collision of all these different identities and identity politics and anything that, for instance, feminism was seeking, well, the collision there becomes very apparent. Who wins here? Is it Martina Navratilova, who after all says that those who are born male should not be able to compete in elite athletic competition as females? But she’s making a feminist argument, she’s also an out of the closet lesbian. But she is rejecting part of the transgender argument. You really can’t have them both.

It may be the case that Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, who apologized for that tweet, it may be that he was prompted to do so by the heat from Michelle Goldberg’s point. And Michelle Goldberg cites his words of apology in her column in The New York Times in which Romero said, “Having spent time with Justice Ginsburg, I would like to believe that if she were alive today, she would encourage us to evolve our language to encompass a broader vision of gender identity and sexuality.” So, here you have the head of the ACLU saying, “Yes, we misquoted her. Yes, we did so deliberately. But we’d like to think that if she were alive today, she would have evolved on this issue, gotten herself just in time on the right side of history. But dying last year meant she was on the wrong side of history.”

Michael Powell for The New York Times writes an article, a news article headline, ACLU Apologizes For Tweet That Altered Quote By Justice Ginsburg. And in this, Anthony Romero, the executive director, said that it was a well-intended change of language. Romero went on to say, “We won’t be altering people’s quotes. It was a mistake among the digital team. Changing quotes is not something we ever did.” Well, Mr. Romero, it’s not something you ever did until evidently you did it because if you didn’t do it, you wouldn’t be apologizing for it. If you’re apologizing for it, you did it. There’s a wake-up call. Speaking of the issue of intention, The New York Times article says, “While he vowed that the ACLU would not repeat this error, he insisted it ‘was not a mistake without a thought.'” Oh, you can count on that. It was not a mistake without a thought, it was a mistake with a thought. The thought is the problem, Mr. Romero.

The thought is that it doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or a woman when it comes to being pregnant, that the phrase pregnant people is somehow morally superior to pregnant woman even though that is a denial of biology, every principle of human reproduction and common sense, not to mention the pattern of creation. Romero went on to try to explain this mistake that was not without a thought by expressing the thought. “My colleagues do a fantastic job of trying to understand the reality that people who seek abortions are not only women.” He went on to say, “That reality exists.” Well, that reality is a constructed reality, it is not a biological reality. It might be a reality in the minds of those who populate the ACLU. It is not something that is going to be on the minds of those who are studying biology or human reproduction. Romero openly thinks that if Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn’t say pregnant people back in 1993, she should have, he went on to say, “In today’s America, language sometimes needs to be rethought.” Well, it’s being rethought, all right. And reality itself is increasingly being denied.

Part II

‘It Was Not A Mistake Without A Thought’: Even As ACLU Apologizes, The Left Rethinks Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Second Wave Feminism in Light of LGBTQ Issues

But next there’s a related issue here and it’s really important. This has to do with the left. Yes, the left rethinking Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Go back just about a year. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for a period of time, had been lionized as the great heroine of American feminism and of moral liberalism. She was understood to be the great heroine as the liberal lioness of the Supreme Court of the United States. She was considered the most formidable liberal in the United States. But now, the left is rethinking Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And it goes far beyond just the issue of abortion, it goes far beyond, of course, the issue of a tweet that had been edited after her death. Now, the big issue here is that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was of absolutely heroic status to the left last year. This year is quite different. That’s how fast the left is moving.

Here’s how fast this moral revolution is pushing us. You can have heroic stature last year and be significantly rethought this year. And by the way, not because someone’s discovered something they didn’t know about you, they didn’t uncover a new statement made by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, they didn’t find some evidence, they didn’t know their own thinking has shifted so much in one year. Now, why would the left be rethinking Ruth Bader Ginsburg? A couple of interesting things, first of all, the issue of gender when it comes to the LGBTQ revolution. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in terms of nearly the totality of her jurisprudence and legal argument assumed the gender binary, that there are men and there are women. And as a feminist attorney, she was out to protect what she characterized as women’s rights.

But notice that is now under fire from the left. It is being subverted by intersectionality and identity politics. Second way feminism, which was one of the most powerful engines of moral revolution over the last several decades in American public life is now seen as something that belongs to the age past, not the present age, not to mention the age to come. Here are a couple of other things about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Not only was she a prominent feminist attorney who thought as a feminist when she operates as a feminist attorney, but she also made some statements about the legalization of abortion that are now considered very dangerous by the left. Now, what am I talking about? Did she waiver her support for abortion rights? No, she was an absolute ardent defender of what she characterized as abortion rights and it’s hard to know what kind of restriction on abortion she would ever have considered constitutional.

So, score her on the extreme pro-abortion side of that judicial spectrum. But she said something very, very important. In comments made to a law school audience, she expressed that the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 may have been a mistake by the Supreme Court. It legalized abortion on demand, but Ruth Bader Ginsburg said it might have been better if the issue had been left to the states so that state-by-state, the abortion issue might have been legislated and that might’ve taken longer but it might have, in her view, led to a more stable, nationwide support for legalized abortion. Now, she might be right about that or she might be wrong. She certainly is right that the Supreme Court made a massive deadly mistake in the Roe v. Wade decision. She wouldn’t agree with the word deadly by the way.

But nonetheless, there’s no question that the Supreme Court didn’t settle the abortion issue in the Roe v. Wade decision. The entire pro-life movement was basically produced by the pro-abortion of Roe v. Wade. The nation’s divide on the issue of abortion right now can be traced directly back to the arrogance of nine justices on the Supreme Court believing that this was an issue the Supreme Court itself ought to decide. That decision by the way was 7-2. There were seven justices in the majority, only two in the minority. But there’s another issue when it comes to Ruth Bader Ginsburg that is sometimes mentioned only sotto voce, only mentioned with a very soft voice. It’s mentioned this way.

You know, we wouldn’t be as the left in the position we’re in right now if Ruth Bader Ginsburg had retired rather than died on the bench so that Donald Trump could appoint, could nominate her successor. Tactically, in terms of strategy, just in terms of her decision to stay on the court even after she knew she had numerous medical diagnoses and was advanced in age, there are many now on the left who are saying, “You know, Ruth Bader Ginsburg bears responsibility for getting us in this situation, of by most counts something like a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court,” a liberal seat switched to a conservative justice, Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

And there are those on the left right now who are saying, “Look, Ruth Bader Ginsburg needs to be rethought.” She held onto that seat at our expense and we now have a conservative justice rather than a liberal justice because she should have quit while Barack Obama was president and not just try to stay on the court in order to leave on her own timing. Now, as Christians, we understand that making the moral evaluation of people in history requires continually going back for a look. And furthermore, we also understand that over time, sometimes you learn something about a figure from history you didn’t know before, historical figures, such as so to say, dead presidents. Sometimes, we re-evaluate our understanding of a president based upon a document that all of a sudden has discovered. Something that’s discovered about the life, all this requires something of a rethinking.

Furthermore, in historical analysis which, by the way, is always analogical, Henry Kissinger made that point over and over again, history is analogical, eventually, you are making an argument that this is like that. This thing is like that thing, this event needs to be interpreted like that event, this is connected to that, that is history by analogy. As time goes on, the analogies change. Just to give an example, if you’re going to be evaluating someone like, say, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, president of the midpoint of the 20th century titanic political figure, well, even just looking from 2021, Roosevelt might look somewhat different than in 2018. It’s not that Roosevelt changed, it’s the analysis or evaluation that changed. Christians understand that that kind of evaluation is a necessary discipline. But that kind of evaluation, if it’s responsible, actually changes over a long period of time.

You’re not talking about a long period of time since the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg when you had so many say women or people on college campuses running around with t-shirts about notorious RBG. No, that was just a year ago. She died just over a year ago. But already, she finds herself being evaluated, re-evaluated and re-evaluated by the left. Because the left is in a phenomenally high velocity movement. It is moving so fast that a Ruth Bader Ginsburg goes from being in one column to another in just a year. We’re not talking about a generation, we’re not talking about a half century of evaluation, we’re talking about just about one year. And that means, by the way, that that window was going to get shorter and shorter pretty soon. On the left, you can go from being on the right side to the wrong side in something like, oh, I don’t know, maybe a week. But that is not just a prophecy. In the age of social media, it has already happened.

Part III

Getting Rid of ‘Balanced’ News Coverage: GLAAD Calls for Silencing Voices That Counter LGBTQ Movement

But finally today for The Briefing, as we think about how the culture changes, how the media works for that kind of change and how forces of the moral revolution collude with the media, well, let me give you a prime example. It appeared in yesterday’s print edition of USA Today, headline in the article by a team of reporters from USA Today is this, “Report: South Lags in LGBTQ Coverage.” The subhead is this, “GLAAD,” that’s G-L-A-A-D, “survey tracks spread of misinformation.” Now, wait just a minute. Over and over again on The Briefing, I just have to underline a pattern we need to detect. And that is when an activist organization for this kind of cultural, moral change in GLAAD, G-L-A-A-D, is indeed as USA Today calls it here, the leading activist group concerning LGBTQ issues in the media. When they put out a study and it’s reported as news, we should understand that’s a problem.

It’s the equivalent of one side in an argument saying, “Here’s a study, we put it out. It proves that we’re right. Why don’t you write a news story about why we are right?” You’re never going to find an article in USA Today in which they take, for instance, a conservative think tank’s research and say, “Look, this demonstrates X or Y.” They’re not going to say that. They’re not going to say it because this is a one-sided cultural effort. It is collusion between the mainstream media and the moral revolutionaries, in particular, those who are pushing the LGBTQ agenda, the pro-abortion movement, you to see all these different issues in which there is just outright cooperation and collusion. That’s basically what’s going on here. Here, you have an article that presents itself as a news story and yet the basis of the news story is a survey by an activist organization. But in this is some really, really fascinating stuff.

There’s a new issues here to which we really need to pay attention, some new arguments. The USA Today reporters tell us, “A survey released Thursday,” that would be last week, “from GLAAD, the nation’s leading LGBTQ media advocacy group, underlines the problem, much work needs to be done by media outlets to accurately cover the LGBTQ community and combat misinformation.” Now, notice how that language is used. Those holding to the view of human sexuality that human beings have held to for millennia everywhere, that’s now described as misinformation. And yet, on the other hand, what’s described here as accurate media coverage by responsible media outlets is going to be entirely in favor of whatever’s the current demand of the LGBTQ movement. And by the way, remember that plus sign. LGBTQ is going to be followed by other letters. The article in USA Today also says that this problem of misinformation is more concentrated in the South than other regions of the country.

We are told that in so many areas of the south local media, and this is really about local media, that would be your hometown newspaper, local television, it would be local news reporting, we’re told that LGBTQ persons are slided or there’s actually misinformation. Remember how that’s categorized, how that’s defined when it comes to local news coverage. The article claims that the South is, “a hotbed of anti-LGBTQ legislation”. The article ends with this though. This turns out to be really important. “GLAAD’s analysis raised concerns that Southern media outlets misunderstand the motivation and practical effect of anti-transgender legislation.” In other words, if the coverage isn’t what GLAAD wants and what the transgender activists demand, it’s because the media misunderstand. There, you see how the argument works. If you don’t agree with us, it’s just because you misunderstand. You need to be corrected. You must hold to the correct position according to the LGBTQ activists or you are inaccurate, you misunderstand, you are misinforming.

But the killer sentence is the end of the article. Listen to this. “GLAAD advised news outlets to avoid including anti-LGBTQ perspectives in attempts to achieve balance because, ‘human dignity is not a two-sides issue.'” So, there you have it, it’s the outright demand that any kind of claim, any kind of argument against the LGBTQ orthodoxy is now to be rejected. The idea of balance in news reporting is to be rejected because the revolutionaries say, “There is no place for a contrary argument anywhere. Get the message, shut them up, marginalize them, silence them, we’re moving on.” And to the media outlets, there is an explicit challenge, indeed a threat. If you don’t move with us, then you too will be left behind in the dustbin of history.

This article is important in so many ways but that final killer sentence is just incredibly important. Where right out front, explicitly, not even hiding the agenda they say, ditched the idea of balance in news reporting because on our issues, balance is unacceptable.

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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