The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Thursday, December 16, 2021

It’s Thursday, December 16th, 2021.

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

Part I

‘My Femininity Does Not Define Me’: Historic Women’s College Faces Reckoning of the LGBTQ+ Revolution As Non-Binary Students Demand Recognition

Let’s just say for a moment that you are committed to being the most radically liberal, progressive person you could possibly be. Let’s just say that you say, “Let’s take the brakes off. Let’s just go as far left as we can,” because you want to stay on the right side of history and you want to be on the leading edge of change. Well, good luck with that. There’s huge evidence about that problem that comes with news from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia because one of the issues is if you want to stay on the left wing of the left wing, well, understand those wings are fluttering fast. And when it comes to LGBTQ issues, well, that’s where you see the leading edge, and the leading edge here represents insanity which is actually the point. This is what we need to think through.

Melissa Block reporting for National Public Radio takes us to Roanoke, Virginia and the campus of Hollins College which had been established in 1842 on the principle, now get this, this is in writing, “that young women required the same thorough and rigid training as afforded to young men.” So, Hollins is an historically women’s college. That is to say it defined itself that way back in the good old days, those old repressive epics when human beings knew the distinction between young men and young women.

Now, as you’re looking at this, go back to 1842, and recognize that in most of the prestigious colleges and universities in the United States, women could not gain entry. They were not just male only by a gender policy saying women had to go elsewhere, there was a very clear tradition in Western civilization in which it was boys who were educated, not so much girls. It was young men who gained access to college, not young women, and this is one of the reasons why you had the development of these women’s colleges, but it was all about difference, all about the difference between men and women. Hollins University represented that, and it developed its own culture, women who are going someplace, and even as there was the claim that young women should have the same level of academic training and academic opportunity as young men, again, what no one could have imagined back then was that there would be confusion about who is a young woman and who is a young man, writ large and embraced by the larger culture.

But now this report in National Public Radio tells us that the issue of gender is now very controversial on the campus of Hollins College, but it’s not newly controversial. As a matter of fact, the college developed a new policy back in the old dark ages of 2019, that is to say probably about just two years ago, couldn’t be more than two years ago. But now what we are told is that many of the students on campus feel that they don’t want to be designated as women. For example, one of the first students referenced here is Kendall Sanders, and we are told that in Kendall’s first year at Holland University, Kendall came to the conclusion, “Girlhood does not define me. My womanness, my femininity does not define me.” We are told that she is now a senior, but identifies as non-binary and uses the pronouns, because you want to know this, they and them. You didn’t ask, but she’s telling you anyway.

But the issue is this. You’re looking at an historically women’s college that has changed its policy to allow anyone identifying as a woman to gain mission and to study in the college. So, that’s anyone who identifies as a woman. That means that there are people who are biologically male who are identifying as women who are currently students at Hollins College. That is the policy that came into effect in 2019. But that’s not enough. Again, if you want to stay on the left wing of the left wing, if you want stay with it when it comes to the LGBTQ revolution, you have to recognize that non-binary is the new thing, and that means that it’s not enough to allow all people, regardless of their genetic structure, to say, “I’m a woman, and thus I should gain admission to and should study at Hollins College.”

Now, many of these students, and at least one faculty member cited in the story, we are told they’re demanding it ought to be irrelevant what gender you are, and non-binary ought also to be celebrated within the college and admitted. NPR tells us, “Hollins is among the latest schools to revise its policies,” explaining that the 2019 change came “in recognition of our changing world and evolving understanding of gender identity.” Now, from a Christian worldview perspective, that’s the issue. Once you accept that your understanding of truth, your understanding of sexuality, your understanding of gender should evolve, well, buckle your seat belts because you’re going to have to keep on evolving. Here’s a policy that was put in place in 2019, with it, on the edge. Not anymore.

Now, one of the things that tells us, by the way, is that as you’re thinking about the terminology, LGBTQ, well, one of the interesting things is that included within T, but now demanding its independent recognition is B or maybe NB, non-binary. Now, this is the rejection that human beings should even be defined as male and female, or that it’s repressive to say that all human beings should be defined that way. Even once you’ve accepted the fact that a man can identify as a woman, a woman can identify as a man, that’s not enough. Now, you have this non-binary or spectrum identity, and Hollins does not currently by its 2019 policy allow non-binary students to be accepted nor to continue. All students right now have to identify as women. These students are saying, “That is so yesterday.”

NPR is trying to explain this, by the way, “Under Hollins’s previous policy dating from 2007, revised in 2013, and in 2016.” Again, established 2007, already revised twice, and then a new policy again in 2019, “If a student assigned female at birth began transitioning to male while enrolled, they were required to transfer out.” Now, according to the new rules set by the board of trustees that trans male student can remain and graduate from Hollins. “Hollins’s guiding principle on admissions is that it will consider applications from those who ‘consistently live and identify as women.'”

Now, you’ll notice it doesn’t say women. It doesn’t say female. It says those who consistently live and identify as women. We’re told that other “historically women’s colleges are using very similar language.” This would include Barnard, the College of St. Benedict, Spelman, and we’re told that that definition explicitly includes transgender women, but not students who don’t identify in any way, certainly not consistently, as a woman. Megan Nanney reported in the story, says, “My students at these colleges, they laugh at that, and they’re like, ‘What does consistently living and identifying as women even mean?'” as if that’s a ridiculous question. Now, let’s just note that throughout virtually all of human history, that was not only not a ridiculous question, it wasn’t a question. We’re told that this particular individual taught at Hollins in 2020 to 2021, and her next sentence is absolutely priceless. You need to take it to the bank. “And I’m like, ‘Well, that is the question that gender study scholars have always asked, right?'”

Well, here’s the point. There haven’t always been gender study scholars. That is an entirely new thing. Human beings didn’t need gender study scholars when everyone just acknowledged the truth in creation that God made us as male and female. But nowadays, well, this the new liberation, the new revolution in a job description. So many of the students cited here say the most amazing things. Diana Combs of Bethesda, Maryland, who “considers it a plus that Hollins is an historically women’s college,” now remember that, she says, “I just feel safer overall. Especially since we have no frats here which is a lot better. So, yeah, horses and all women. Yay.” The horses here refers to the equestrian program at Hollins.

Another student is identified as Willow Seymour from Las Vegas. We’re told that the admissions policy doesn’t make sense to her. “Personally, I think it’s pretty offensive to exclude non-binary people. I know that historically it’s a women’s college, but a lot of people will see it as like a refuge from patriarchal structures, and non-binary people deserve to be as much of that as anyone else.” But now perhaps it needs to be renamed, not as an historic women’s college, but rather as an historic anti-patriarchal structures whoever that might include college. Seymour goes on to explain this in a way that she evidently thinks is a clincher, “I think that’s a really messed up thing, having to hide a part of yourself just to go somewhere.” Who would’ve thought it?

Now, remember, this is a women’s college. That’s what its president says. That’s what its head of the trustee board says. That’s what its web page says. That’s what it said since 1842, but another student cited in the article, speaking of the policy says, “I think that’s something that should be phased out because so many people here are going places who are not just women, you know?” The non-binary option is being chosen we’re told by many students there are in Hollins who don’t want to identify as women, even though they have to, to gain admission and also to remain as a student. People who are saying that not recognizing non-binary makes them “feel ignored.” One of the students said, “It almost feels like I’m battling against what Hollins’s board of trustees has kind of placed as this looming cloud over students at Hollins.” The chair of the board, Alexandra Trower responded, “I have a lot of compassion and empathy for those feelings, but we are a women’s institution.”

Well, the kind of thing we’re looking at here is a picture of an institution on the brink of continual revolution. It’s like the Jacobins, the left wing of the French Revolution. They kill the royalty, they kill aristocracy, and then there’s no one left but to kill each other. You have to be more radical, more revolutionary than the next guy, and anyone who’s not with you is a part of the old patriarchal, oppressive, aristocratic, monarchical structure. Off with their heads.

The article deals with the controversy and consternation on the campus of what’s now Hollins University and also other historic women’s colleges. But the NPR report goes on to say, “Overshadowing this discussion is the fact that a dozen historically women’s colleges have either closed or gone co-ed in the past seven years, faced with declining enrollment or financial trouble.” Each school, we are told, is trying to figure out how to adapt in a more gender-fluid world. Well, I don’t know, just look at these professors, just look at these students cited. Why in the world would the enrollment be going down? How could you possibly explain why fewer and fewer people want to go to these colleges? What could possibly explain it?

If you can figure that out, you’re living in the reality-based world, a world in which you don’t need gender studies professor in order to understand the distinction between boys and girls, men and women, and to know it’s not just a matter of cultural construction. By the way, you look at this, and you recognize it goes back to the principle that only certain forms of life lead to children, and none of those referenced in this particular article is likely to produce a child, not naturally anyway. Maybe that explains the declining enrollment as well.

Part II

Who Should and Who Should Not Vote? New York City Just Decided Citizenship is Not an Issue in Determining the Answer to that Question — What is at Stake?

But next we’re going to shift to a very different issue, and this has to do with who can and who can’t vote in a jurisdiction, who should and who shouldn’t vote. That’s a very volatile issue these days, but New York City has made it a very interesting issue with the fact that the New York City council recently voted to give non-citizens the legal right to vote in New York City. Citizenship is now not a defining issue when it comes to voting in New York City.

It’s also important to say that New York City doesn’t have the right to redefine the election qualification process for the state of New York, nor for the United States of America. This doesn’t change state and federal elections, but it does change New York City, and it’s going to change New York City in a big way because eventually this could amount to as much as 10% of the entire electorate. Now, remember how close a lot of elections are? That means that this could well be the deciding factor in many elections in New York City, and that’s actually the point. That’s the intention. And by the way, that’s going to lead to some very interesting repercussions. We’ll get to those in just a moment.

First of all, we just need to deal with what the city council in New York has done. Reporters for The New York Times put the issue squarely, “New York City became the largest city in the country to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections after the city council overwhelmingly approved legislation granting the right to more than 800 legal residents.” A couple of details here. It means that those who are illegal in their immigration status in the city of New York are not supposed to be given the right to vote, but those who have legal status but are not yet citizens or are not planning to be citizens, they can vote.

The big picture here has to do with the fact that this is not just a matter of making a political statement. This is going to lead to a huge political shift. It’s an intentional shift. It’s a shift at whose expense. Very interesting question. Who will be the big losers here? Well, by the time this vote had taken place, you can count on the fact that the black leaders in New York City had almost assuredly come to the conclusion that this will be at their expense. So, if you’re talking about this vast increase in those who are non-citizens who are immigrants who are going to be voting, that is going to dilute every vote of the New Yorkers who could vote before this policy change, and that’s going to change a lot when you’re talking about 10% of the population.

Now, that doesn’t mean that those who now can vote in New York under this category will all vote one way, but it is very clear that the political left in the United States at large thinks that they have a great deal to gain by giving persons who are not now qualified to vote that right, and thus, you see that point being made all over the country. But this isn’t all over the country. This is in New York City. This isn’t the first city to take such an action, but it is the largest city to do so.

Now, from a Christian worldview perspective, what are we looking at here? Well, we need to consider that the crucial question is the question of citizenship. Does citizenship matter and should citizenship matter? Now, how do you get the notion of citizenship? Now, it’s older than you might think because some people will say and some political scientists argue that citizenship only really makes sense in the modern age with the emergence of the nation state. What the problem with that?

Well, for Christians, the first problem with that is the Apostle Paul because when the Apostle Paul is being persecuted for his faith and he’s being threatened with execution, remember that he was beaten, and he goes on to say that that was an illegal act. No court had the right to beat him because he is a Roman citizen. He claims Roman citizenship. He claims citizenship in the Roman empire, a citizenship that then, as now in the modern nation state, grants certain rights and privileges that do not belong to non-citizens. The Apostle Paul could not have invoked that principle in his defense. He could not have presented the charge that he is a citizen of Rome if citizenship were not a category. It was a category then. It is a category now.

But let’s just go back to the rise of the modern nation state. That is the big game-changer because the implication of a world of nation states is that everyone, at least hypothetically, should be qualified to be a citizen somewhere. That’s the new thing. Back during the time that citizens of Rome had that category of citizenship, others basically had very little claim to citizenship at all. But here’s what we’re looking at. The rise of the modern nation state implied that all persons hypothetically should qualify for citizenship somewhere. And by the way, you think about that right now. You say, “Well, here’s a person. That person is not a citizen.” Well, the question is what is that person not a citizen of? What state, what nation is that person not a citizen of?

The reality is that since the rise of the modern nation state, nations like Poland, Lithuania, Canada, the United States, Australia, Paraguay, since the rise of the modern nation state, the assumption is that the way you become a citizen is first and foremost by being born there to citizens. But it’s also true that at least hypothetically in the modern political reality of the nation state, those states allow others not born in that national territory to gain citizenship, or at least, the rights similar to citizenship. But that’s not even because as you look at a nation like Korea, not so easy. As you look to some other nations like Israel, not easy at all. The law of returns stipulates how one must be identified even by matrilineal descent in order to claim the right to become a citizen.

You look at the United States. Well, at various points in American history, various laws, policies, and arguments have held sway. But the bottom line is that most of us in the United States can at least trace our own American ancestry to someone or several people who were not born in the United States, but who came to the United States, became naturalized citizens, but we having been born here are, are natural citizens. But the notion of citizenship is politically and morally important because it implies obligations both ways. It means that the citizen has a certain set of obligations to the nation, and the nation has a certain set of obligations to the citizen. It is a reciprocity of responsibility and privilege. Now, that means that nations have to take citizenship seriously because they can’t recognize every person on planet earth as a citizen of their country.

Now, the argument being made right now effectively by people for open borders means that citizenship should be destroyed as a meaningful category. But we have to recognize citizenship is an invaluable category that must be preserved and not destroyed because if everyone is a citizen of everywhere, no one’s a citizen of anywhere, and there is no government that takes responsibility for me. One of the things we need to think about is that that biblical principle of subsidiarity says that, of course, meaning and truth subside in the lowest, the most basic foundational structure. So, that means the family is more important than the neighborhood. The neighborhood’s more important than the city. The city’s more important than the state. The state’s more important than the country in terms of where responsibility for the most meaningful endeavors take place. Just to put it another way, you don’t want the Pentagon raising your baby.

But subsidiarity also means that even as I am most responsible for taking care of my children first, the Bible says that, if a man won’t take care of his family, won’t feed his family, then he shouldn’t eat. But I also have obligations as a Christian in the covenant community of my church. I have obligations to my local congregation of which I’m a member that I do not owe to every other congregation, and that goes the other way. My church has responsibilities to me. That is to say the congregation of which my wife and I are a part, we have obligations made to us even as we make obligations to the church. You take that to the community. You’ll notice that the higher up you go in the order of complexity, the more anonymous this becomes, and thus, the United States of America doesn’t have a personal relationship with every citizen, but it does have an individual responsibility to every citizen, and it is a responsibility. It cannot, and I’m not saying should not, must not, I’m simply saying pragmatically, it not extend those same obligations to every single person in the world. It simply can’t.

And by the way, the fact that it can’t is not just based in economics, though it is economic. It’s not just based in politics, but it is political. It’s also based in the fact that there’s very little, let’s just say everyone is a citizen of the United States of America, there is virtually nothing, even if you claim that that’s true, that Washington could accomplish for someone in Sub-Saharan Africa outside the reach. Well, you just get the picture. The same reason the Pentagon can’t raise your baby, that’s why the government of the United States can’t offer the rights and privileges of citizenship to everyone.

What you have here undertaken by New York City council is basically the subversion of the idea of citizenship because when it comes to a constitutional order in which elections are a part of the privilege of citizenship, if you allow non-citizens to vote, you’ve just effectively treated them as citizens. But, you say, maybe these persons should become citizens. Well, that might be true. That is why we have a naturalization process. That’s why there is a process by which those who are here legally, most of them have at least some possibility of gaining citizenship.

One of the issues you have here is the collision between those whose worldview is shaped by a cosmopolitan, globalist vision, and those who understand the nation state to be absolutely essential, and I’m in that second category, and that’s because I believe that in God’s providence, the rise of the nation state has actually accomplished an unspeakably great deal for human flourishing, that there’s been more protection given to more human beings by the existence of the nation state than by any other political mechanism in all of recorded human history. We belong to a nation, the same way the Apostle Paul could say to Christians, by the way, that we’re citizens of a heavenly kingdom, he could in the earthly kingdom make very clear he was proud to invoke his Roman citizenship. He was urgent to do so. In the same way, we should see citizenship in our earthly experience as one of the great protections for human beings in safety, in security, in democracy, and in liberty, and we need to understand that undermining that is not going to aid human flourishing. It is going to reduce it.

But here’s what we also have to recognize. If we’re going to have elections, if we’re going to have a constitutional order with elections as one of the mechanisms whereby the citizen participates as a citizen, then if you allow persons to vote who aren’t citizens, you are basically saying, “We are opening our election to those who are outside the reciprocal obligations of the state and the citizen.” And as you look at that, you recognize that makes both the state and the citizen of less importance.

The Washington Post, by the way, dealing with this story gives us some math to which we ought to pay attention, “Approximately 1 million adult non-citizens live in New York City which amounts to 20% of current registered voters.” 20%, that’s an astounding number, and that will change the politics of New York. But as we’re having this conversation today, and as we are committed to human flourishing, the greatest danger here is not that it will change the politics of New York, but that what you see here is an effort to try to change the notion of citizenship that marks the United States of America. Make no mistake. That’s the real agenda here, and that’s why this headline is of such importance.

Part III

The Revolutionaries Will Come for Everyone. This Time it is Wonder Woman as Comic Book Series Reveals She Has A Girlfriend (and a Boyfriend).

But finally, today, as we’re thinking about the revolution in morality taking place all around us, one of the things we need to recognize is that the revolutionaries will leave nothing untouched.

No area of the culture, they can leave nothing untouched, and that includes Wonder Woman, just in case you were wondering yourself. Wonder Woman, we are told, in a new release has a superhero girlfriend. That’s in the new DC Comics series. I’m not going to go into this very far, you can trust me on that, but it’s really interesting to be told that Wonder Woman is now herself non-binary or at least bisexual. She has both boyfriends and girlfriends, and a quite romantic, passionate kiss, we are told, appears with a woman, her new superhero girlfriend in the new DC Comics series.

It is important for us to recognize that there’s nothing very funny these days about the comics. They are called comics, but there’s nothing comical going on here. But we are seeing here that what’s called the comics are being taken over by the moral revolutionaries, and by the way, we need to recognize something. The beginning of the modern comics industry included the fact that many of the people who were in that business from the beginning had very marked leftist sympathies. That became a little bit different during the Cold War when you had the emergence of very patriotic superheroes, but these superheroes now are not so much patriotic as they are, well, sexually and gender confused, and that’s the point.

So, just get ready. Nothing’s going to be untouched. No storyline will be unchanged. There will be demands for representation everywhere which means that no one is safe, including Snoopy who, after all, may be told, whether he wants to be told or not, that he’s a non-binary beagle. Let’s hope that Snoopy has the sense to say no to that.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again and tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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