The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

It’s Wednesday, January 26th, 2022.

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


Part I

The Moral Revolution is Running Ahead of Moral Sanity — And Is Steamrolling Women’s Sports in the Name of Transgender Inclusion

Today, we return to the transgender issue because we have to. Not only because this is one of the most important issues facing the world today, but because this is one of the most pressing headlines facing modern sport. In order to understand these headlines, we go to the University of Pennsylvania and to the world of women’s sports, in particular, the women’s swim team at the University of Pennsylvania. And in particular, one member of that team, Leah Thomas. Leah Thomas has identified as a transgender woman or a transgender female. The point is she is sweeping the events. She is winning so many of the events, and this has become an issue of great controversy, understandably enough, because single handedly, the person identified as Leah Thomas is basically raising the question as to whether or not the very idea of women’s sport, not to mention many other dimensions identified with women, can exist after the transgender revolution.

As Billy Witz of The New York Times reported just this week, “As Samantha Shelton, an accomplished Harvard swimmer churned through the water in the 100 yard women’s freestyle on Saturday, the University of Pennsylvania’s Leah Thomas seemed content to sit on her hip in the adjacent lane. Shelton chugged ahead from the start, plowing through the water and carrying the lead. But as she did, Thomas cruised along beside her, seemingly as unhurried as if on a training swim. Thomas’s broad shoulders and long arms, hallmark features of an elite swimmer, mimicked a windmill with the ease in which they pulled her along.” Then came the final turn. “As Shelton came out of it, continuing to fight on her way to a seasoned best time, Thomas with her long rhythmic powerful stroke, ate up the margin between them until she had surged pass for a near body length victory. A moment later, the swimmers removed their goggles and acknowledged each other, Thomas reaching over the rope to offer a fist bump to smiling Shelton.”

Then as Witz reports, “The gesture might have been nothing more than a nod of appreciation between competitors or could it have been something more symbolic. A symbol of acceptance?” The question is acceptance of what? Here you are talking about a Harvard woman swimmer who was ahead and had expected actually to do incredibly well in the event, but her competitor in this particular event, her main challenger appeared to be swimming almost casually. That’s exactly the picture that Billy Witz of The New York Times gives us. Until in the final phase of the event, Leah Thomas surged ahead appearing to have no trouble at all doing so. And by the time the event was over, there was a full body length of win on the part of Leah Thomas. But Leah Thomas is, remember, identified as a transgender woman, which means she is biologically a male, even if there are hormone treatments going on.

The reality is that having gone through male puberty, you have the explanation for what Billy Witz basically just slipped in the article, and that is Thomas’s broad shoulders and long arms. He writes that these are hallmarks of an elite swimmer, but in this case, they are hallmarks of an elite swimmer who went through puberty as a male, and of course is male. The rejection of common sense, the rejection of creation order and the transgender revolution has largely been pushed by ideologues who have been stunningly successful. Yesterday, we saw how these ideological forces pressing the transgender revolution have been so successful as to actually force many professional groups, even pediatric and psychiatric groups to basically come to terms with their demands.

In the Times coverage, Witz makes some interesting comments such as this. “So much is open to interpretation each time Thomas jumps into the pool.” The next statement. “She is a transgender woman and has excelled this season while competing on the women’s team. She owns the best marks in the nation among college swimmers in the 200 and 500 freestyle.” That means 200 and 500 meters. “But for some, her success also set two pillars of the sporting ethos, inclusion and fair play in conflict.” Well wait just a minute. As you look at the history of sport, exactly what would inclusion mean? You look at the 20th century and certainly the inclusion of persons without regard to race or ethnicity became a very crucial issue. But the word inclusion is actually not found in any of this conversation, including sport, until you get to the kind of transgender LGBTQ array of issues. And all of a sudden, inclusion means something very, very different.

And inclusion here is presented as one of the two pillars of the sporting ethos. Fair play is the other. Now, as you look at the history of sport, fair play has been central to the definition of an ethos or an ethic of sport. But if you’re looking at this situation, you have inclusion and fair play in conflict. What’s losing? What’s losing almost every single time is fair play. The modern sexual and moral revolution is just steamrolling through everything, and that includes basic the destruction of women’s sport. The major media coverage of this particular controversy is incredibly interesting because there is some candor here. We saw the fact that yesterday on The Briefing, talking about the question as to whether or not, teenagers should receive therapy before transitioning, and that includes hormone treatment, surgical treatments and the rest.

It reflects the fact that there are at least some second thoughts among some clinicians and some professionals working with teenagers that maybe we ought to slow down here. I think a similar pattern is evident right now. I think there is a sense of panic, perhaps at least anxiety on the part of many who enthusiastically want to be proponents of the moral revolution, but they also want to be proponents of fair play. Or for that matter, they may even be committed to something like ideological feminism. Remember that feminism made a huge focus upon women’s sports. Let’s just remind ourselves of some history here. The feminists identified women’s sport as a crucial issue because they made the connection between males and the participation of boys and young men in sport and their advancement in other sectors of society. This similar kind of claim was made about voluntary associations, like the Boy Scouts, corporate structures and all the rest.

But the issue of sport, the focus on sport had to do with the fact that men and boys had benefited tremendously by sports at the individual and team level. And there was a huge investment of money and cultural attention in those events and women ought to have equal access. But from the very beginning, the understanding was that fair play would require for most athletic and sporting events, different contexts for men and women. Different teams, women would compete against women, girls against girls, boys against boys, men against men. That was the understanding. That’s the only way that fair play, that basic fairness and justice could pertain. And that isn’t because of devotion to sport. Women can be just as devoted to sport as men. They can be just as disciplined in their application of sport, in their training. But what they can’t be, and this is so deeply rooted as Christians understand in creation, what they can’t be as women is a man. And what men can’t be is a woman.

International and national sporting organizations at both the professional and the volunteer level or the amateur level. And by the way, the amateur level is where most of the heat and controversy is right now. And you’re mixing the two by the time you talk about the Olympics. But as you are looking at every level of sport, all of a sudden, we are now recognizing that there is exactly what we had predicted, exactly what any sane person saw coming. There is a collision, not only between feminism and the transgender agenda and movement. There is also a direct collision coming between the interest of women and girls on the one hand, when it comes to sport, and the ideologues and revolutionaries pressing transgender agendas. Billy Witz, the reporter here also tells us that last week, the NCAA, that’s the National Collegiate Athletic Association “amended its decade old policy for transgender athletes.”

Let’s just stop there for a moment. Notice that that’s supposed to sound like a long established policy, a decade old policy. Just consider human experience going back at least three millennia. What are we talking about? We’re talking about something so recent that everything here is the blink of an eye. That’s how fast this moral revolution is playing out. But one of the things we’re watching here is that predictably, the moral revolution has run ahead of any kind of moral sanity. The Times article continued, “Transgender women who are required to be on testosterone suppressing drugs for 12 months before becoming eligible to compete in women’s divisions now must meet testosterone threshold set by the national governing body of the sport they play.” The new thresholds we are told, “could be in place as soon as next month in advance of the NCAA’s Winter Championships, which for women’s swimming is in mid-March.” Then in parenthesis, we read this: “A transgender man may not compete on a women’s team once he has begun taking testosterone.”

The insanity actually continues here but what we are noticing is that the flurry of news articles and television coverage that has come in the wake of Leah Thomas’s emergence as a so-called women’s athlete or swimmer in collegiate sport. What we’re witnessing here is at the very least, a lot of people asking now, wait, just a minute. What are we actually doing here? What are we actually saying here? As you look at the coverage, you also come to understand that there are those who intend in every way to sound like champions of LGBTQ inclusion and that means transgender inclusion. But they haven’t figured out how to do it. There are also some very interesting acknowledgements of just how fast this revolution is working its way out. So fast indeed, that once again, the proponents of it, can’t keep ahead of it.

Just consider the statement from Amy Wilson, the NCAA’s Managing Director of Inclusion. So here you have someone on the frontline, bureaucratically trying to keep up with this issue, but she says that so much is in flux: “It’s a continually evolving space.” Well, of course it is a continually evolving space because you’re talking about a revolt against creation order. You’re talking about an exercise in communal insanity on the part of society. It is a delusion that by the way, is demonstrated to be a delusion when you consider the picture that is presented by the language in this New York Times report. And remember the New York Times is about as pro LGBTQ as you can get. Because the description here is of a swimmer whose arms and body are very different than the arms and bodies of other swimmers on the University of Pennsylvania women’s swim team.

The language itself gives us a picture of the fact, this isn’t really a woman. This is a person who politically, ideologically is being presented as a woman, claims to be a woman. And according to the current policies of insanity, is competing as a woman, but she is winning with a man’s body. Even if that body is undergoing some kind of hormone treatment, the fact is that that male body, having gone through male puberty has physical, skeletal, structural advantages in the water and out of the water that make this a farce. There is another statement in the New York Times coverage, which turns out being accidentally humorous. The article tells us, “While there have been an increasing number of transgender athletes who have transitioned while in college, the ones who generate the most attention and criticism are transgender women who compete in women’s events and who win.”

Now, again, just recognize what’s going on here. In other words, when you’re talking about the transgender revolution, if there are athletes who really are women, but they are presenting as men and claiming to be men, and if they get on men’s teams, they generally don’t win. They’re not a threat to the male athletes. But the moment you have a so-called transgender female, which means a male in physiology, and as Christians understand, in truth, then you really have a male on a female team. And that means coming with all the male advantages.

Dr. Mohler returned to this issue on Thursday’s edition of The Briefing and made a correction. Listen to Thursday’s edition for coverage here

Part II

An Affront to God, His Created Order, and History: Why the Transgender Revolution Will Not Ultimately Prevail

The new policy announced by the NCAA just in recent days, comes down to the fact that every event or every sport’s going to have to decide some kind of testosterone level as a boundary marker. But that’s not acceptable to transgender advocates, such as Pat Griffin, the University of Massachusetts swim coach. We’re told that Pat Griffin was involved in drafting the original NCAA guidelines for transgender participation. Pat Griffin said, “They caved and panicked in the light of the public pressure. And they’ve come up now with a policy that I’m not even sure how they would enforce.”

On the other hand, very clear moral sanity and perhaps a sense of courage comes from Nancy Hogshead-Makar, who is a three time Olympic gold medalist swimmer. And she has argued according to ESPN that the NCAA should ban transgender women from competing as women “unless they can demonstrate that they don’t have an unfair advantage.” Now, of course what’s embedded in that statement is the realization, indeed the assumption, that there will be an unfair advantage, that this is just ontologically wrong. It’s biologically wrong. It’s morally wrong. We are then told, “As a member of the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group, Hogshead-Makar has been an outspoken critic of existing policies governing transgender athlete participation from youth sports to collegiate to international competition.” She’s quoted as saying, “It remains unclear if the NCAA women swimmers will have to compete in an unfair playing field, or if current women’s records held by Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky are at risk. Justice delayed is justice denied,” she said. “And that will certainly be true for these women.”

And that raises another very important moral issue, even a practical issue, but emphasis on the moral dimension here. When you’re looking at the history of sport, you’re looking at the history of women’s sport, you’re looking at the records that have been set. Those records are now endangered by biological men who are ideologically and politically identifying as women. So it’s not just that this participation of transgender women in sport is unfair to the biological women who have sacrificed so much to compete in those sports. It is also unfair, looking backwards through history because records that were hard won and hard earned by women and girls are soon to be toppled by boys and men claiming transgender identity and going on just to trample over the records and achievements of those who, as women in girls, had set the milestones of the past.

Nancy Hogshead-Makar also made a very important statement in The Washington Post on this issue: “This topic is very uncomfortable for people. They don’t understand it. And so they took the lazy way out. The lazy way out is saying, put them in the women’s category.” She concluded, “To blow up the women’s category is just not the answer. This makes to women’s category meaningless.” Similar statements have been made by other high achieving women in sport, including Martina Navratilova who’s found herself in a great deal of controversy for arguing that women’s sport should be limited to women. And when it comes to Martina Navratilova, once again, we get a picture of just how fast the steamroller of this revolution is going forward because Martina Navratilova is not only one of the most famous women athletes of the last say 100 years, but she is also openly gay. She identifies as a lesbian and has been an activist for gay rights, but she understands you really don’t have any category of gay women if you can have men and boys identifying as women.

And of course, when it comes to sport, well, here’s where biology is simply intruding on the picture to say, wait just a minute. Males and females are different. And male and female bodies continue to be different even if you convince your ideologically and politically that one can become the other. They can’t. This simply returns us to the fundamental Christian understanding that you can have women’s sports, or you can have the transgender revolution, but you cannot have both. But this also reminds us that the Christian worldview is deeply rooted in truth. It’s rooted in ontology. That is the word for being, it’s rooted in creation, it’s rooted in God’s purpose and it displays God’s glory. But it also reminds us that even as all of God’s attributes are held infinitely and perfectly in his divine being. So also when you look at something like this, which is a rebellion against creation, it not only raises problems of being, it also raises huge problems of justice.

Let’s just put it this way. It is unjust to women athletes that biological males would be allowed to compete in so-called women or female sports. It’s unfair to girls. It’s unfair to women. It’s unfair to the living. It’s unfair to the dead. It’s unfair to generations yet to come. But it also points to something even more fundamental that we need to recognize here. And that is that human society, human culture, human nations can’t exist, they cannot perpetuate themselves while rebelling against God at the level of a rebellion against creation. It just won’t work. It won’t work biologically. It won’t work reproductively. It won’t work in terms of justice and morality. It simply won’t work. And about that issue, Christians understand not only that it is true, but why it is true.

And the answer to why ends up being a question of who, and that who does not make reference first of all, to us as human beings. It makes reference to God, our Creator.

Part III

‘If You’re Carrying More than Five Dollars in Nickels, You Might Just Be A Felon’: How Many Crimes Exist at the Federal Level? It’s Evidence of Government Out of Control

But now let’s turn to another interesting issue. This development has come up before, but has come up in a new way because of a report that is out now by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, and also the Heritage Foundation. It addresses a very interesting question. Just how many crimes exist, according to federal statutes, federal code, federal regulations, and the bureaucratic policies of federal entities? The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal asked the question this way, “How many federal crimes has Congress created?” They went on to say, “The question seems like it ought to have a straightforward answer that citizens can look up. In fact, it’s more like asking how many genes are in the human genome. The answer they say is in the many thousands, but despite decades of counting, no one knows for sure.”

Now one of the interesting aspects to our contemporary civilization is that in its massive bureaucratic and legal complexity, we actually don’t know how many laws exist. We don’t know how many crimes exist. If you’re looking at this report that has come out from the Mercatus Center and The Heritage Foundation, this effort to try to count the code, which is the first since 2008, we are told, depended upon an algorithm that looked at federal documents, regulations, policy statutes, looking for key phrases, such as shall be punished or shall be fined or imprisoned in the 2019 Federal Code. By this measure, they found 1,510 criminal sections: “By examining some of those sections at random, they estimated that they encompass 5,199 crimes in total.” The Heritage Foundation report, we are told, “notes that there is no single place where any citizen could go to learn all federal criminal laws.” And even if there were, some “are so vague that no reasonable person could understand what they mean.”

Now, one of the recognitions made by our constitutional and national founders, the framers of our Constitution understood that the problem with having a federal government is that it will do things. Now, the reason there is a federal government is because we need the government to do certain things. The problem is the government doesn’t stop with those things. As Thomas Hobbes, the philosopher warned, what you have is the danger that the government will always turn itself into leviathan. It will always turn itself into an ever expanding entity. It will take over more and more of the society. One of the ways it does this is not just by passing laws, as in Congress adopting legislation and a bill being signed into law by the president. No, we’re also looking at bureaucratic policies. We’re looking at the promulgation of all kinds of policies and regulations that actually do have the force of law, and even become a part of the nation’s criminal code.

But how many laws are in existence? How many of those implicate crimes? How many crimes might it be possible to commit according to our federal government? The fact is nobody knows. The federal code has grown so complex, bureaucrats are continually promulgating new policies, and by the way, the old policies stay on the books. The editors of The Wall Street Journal make reference to the fact that the study found a 2006 regulation that carries a potential 5 year prison sentence, “For bringing more than $5 of nickels out of the United States.” How many nickel felons are there when it comes to people crossing the border continuously just on everyday business? If you’re carrying more than $5 of nickels, you might be a felon. The editors of the Journal do a good job of summarizing the report, “By running their algorithm on past versions of the US Code going back to 1994.”

By the way, that’s not ancient history. That’s about just over 25 years ago. The researchers “Also estimate the rate at which criminal laws are proliferating.” There were about 36% more criminal sections in 2019 than 25 years earlier for an overall growth rate of 1.27% per year. We’re then told “More than half the growth took place from 1994 to 1996.” Just think about that. That encompasses no more than three years. But we are told that more than half the growth took place then. Those were the years by the way, the early years of the Clinton administration. “Since the mid 1990s, the biggest annual increases were the years, 2005, 2006.” That was 2.48%. “2011, 2012,” 2.76%.

But the point is that these numbers just indicate the bare minimum of the expansion of the Federal Criminal Code and of all the regulations and bureaucratic policies that come with the force of federal law, even of criminal law. That raises an interesting question. How many felonies have you committed thus far in life? How many federal laws and regulations carrying a criminal penalty have you committed? How much time do you owe? How many times have you been tempted to take more than $5 of nickels out of the United States? Being evidently a future infamous nickel smuggler. There is a bigger issue here, and this needs to have Christian attention. And that is this.

When you’re looking at the law, you’re looking at something God has given us. God is the first law giver. He gave the first law in creation. He gave the second law, the canonical law, the scriptural law, the revealed law, as a part of the covenant that he made with Israel. And you also have the laws that we find in the law of Christ in the New Testament. But as you’re looking at government necessarily promulgating and codifying law, what the government is not authorized to do and should not have the power to do is to simply promulgate law to the extent that no sane person, no conscious person, no living person, or number of persons even knows how many potential crimes might be committed by the citizens of this land.

In this sense, Christians understand that the expansion of the law becomes the subversion of the law because the law loses moral authority if it comes down to something like $5 of nickels. The report also reminds us that there is the problem of having both the states and the federal government have the ability to prosecute what amounts to the same crime. And there was a Supreme Court decision in 2019 that indicated that this practice of having the federal government or the state government prosecute after someone was found innocent at the other level, the same crime, the Supreme Court found that that did not invoke the double jeopardy protection of the U.S. Constitution. There’s a sense in which Christians believing in law and order, not wanting criminals to get off would be very happy to have a prosecution come along at the federal level, if a guilty person by one reason or another was not found guilty of the crime at the state level.

But wait just a minute that same procedure can be applied to innocent people in order to increase their likelihood of pleading guilty in some kind of plea negotiation rather than to face the danger of a second trial. And that can also come with crushing financial consequences and thus conservatives and Christians need to look at this and recognize this also gives increased power to the leviathan state. But with all of those issues before us, Christians also have an even more basic affirmation to make. And that is the thankfulness that we should express to God for giving us a law that is precious, that is revealed, that is clear, that comes to us in revealed words in the inerrant text of scripture. And that comes to us as God’s gift because he loves his human creatures enough to give us such righteous laws. This was as Moses reminded the children of Israel, one of God’s greatest gifts. God had chosen Israel, unworthy as Israel was, by grace to be his vessel for righteous law in the world.

In other words, looking at this new report, we should have concerned about our government and a whole new realization of the greatness and the love and the mercy of our righteous God.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’m speaking to you from Atlanta, Georgia, and some of you may have heard airplanes taking off in landing at Hartsfield-Jackson, International Airport. They’re even louder than I am.

I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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