The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Thursday, June 16, 2022

It’s Thursday, June 16, 2022.

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

Part I

Join the Revolution, Or Else: The LGBTQ Message Our Government is Preaching Internationally

Well the United States government put out a huge statement LGBTQIA affirming for Pride Month, and guess who doesn’t like it. Well for one thing, the emirate of Kuwait. The BBC, that is the British Broadcasting Corporation has put out a news release indicating that Kuwait has criticized the United States embassy over pro-LGBT tweets. Interesting. Now, one of the things we need to note here from a worldview perspective is the fact that when you’re looking at different systems of morality, there is one system of morality just in terms of, say, putting these systems side by side that simply can’t abide claiming that morality is endless plastic and elastic. That is the claim that morality is revealed. So let’s just talk about that.

This is a huge issue for Christians to think about. As we think about moral judgment, there is a certain subjectivity. We have to apprehend the problem, we have to think it through, we have to analyze, and sometimes you can get two people of good will on a question, say, like tax policy. That’s a moral issue in it’s own way, but you could have good people of good will thinking clearly who come to different conclusions about tax policy. But the point is that when it comes to issues in which, say, scripture is specific and when it comes to human sex, gender, the definition of marriage, the management of human sexuality, what God permits and what He does not permit, well it turns out that that’s a matter of divine revelation which means, for Christians, nonnegotiable, which means to say we are not coming up with this. It has been revealed to us by God. Now, we’ll simply note that is the central truth claim of Judaism and Christianity of the Old Testament and of the New Testament that God has spoken. The 10 words or the Ten Commandments or ten words given to Moses by God, revelation, two tablets of stone, and of course the entirety of Scripture.

But here we’re talking about Kuwait so the religion here is not Christianity and it’s not Judaism. It’s Islam. What’s the point? The point is that if you take all the moral systems of the world and you try to divide how they came about, the ones that are resistant to any claim of moral relativism or any moral revolution that would just come in and say, “Yes, but morality changes,” they are systems based upon a claim to revelation. The one thing that claims of religion have in common is that there’s the claim that God has inspired, revealed, given a text, and thus those who acknowledge the authority of that text have nowhere to go. There is no alternative. There is no way to negotiate. For that matter, what is written in words doesn’t evolve. It doesn’t relativize. It doesn’t change.

Now, the most famous way to look at this is from the Ten Commandments. Just think about the King James translation because that’s the way most people think of it. You’ll recognize, “Thou shall and thou shalt not.” Now, other ethical systems, other systems of morality would include claims that morality is purely relative. It’s relative to time. It’s relative to space. It’s relative to circumstance. Situational ethics became very well-known, notoriously so in the 1960s especially as a way of trying to explain away traditional sexual morality based upon Christianity. Now, situational ethics said that acts are right or wrong depending upon the situation. That’s the term, situation ethics. Moral relativism says that there is no fixed objective moral truth. It is instead something that is relative to time and space, to culture, to opportunity, to a particular time. Moral relativism of course is one of the great themes of the worldview associated with Western liberalism, but there’s another even more recent moral system and that’s the claim that all morality is just socially constructed. It is just a human artifact. Human beings individually and most importantly collectively simply construct a moral code according to their own prejudices, according to their own moral judgments.

Now by the way, the Scripture says that even as you’re thinking about morality, thou shalt, thou shalt not, it is based upon the righteousness and justice of the self-existing, self-revealing God. Now, let’s be really, really clear. Christians and Muslims disagree about the identity of the one true God and disagree about the revelation that God has given us. As you think of Islam, the claim is that the Quran given simply by dictation, transmission without any personality involved on the part of Muhammad, that it has superseded the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments. That’s the Islamic claim. My point here is not really to look at that more closely because we as Christians understand that Muslims consider the Quran their most holy book in a way that, by the way, Christians don’t look at the Scripture as holy. We don’t look at a copy of the Scripture as something to be venerated. Right? We understand it as the word of God which is to be studied, learned, preached, taught, and obeyed.

But the interesting thing here is that the BBC’s reporting on the fact that Kuwait has criticized the US embassy there in Kuwait City for having offended Muslim moral judgment by promoting tweets that were pro-LGBTQ. Now, there has been other activity undertaken by U.S. embassies variously across the world. For example, when I was in London just a couple of years ago coinciding with what would be declared by the State Department to be its observance of Pride Week, you could walk by the American embassy at night and see the American embassy in London illuminated as a giant Pride flag. I found no kind of pride in that. This report by Leo Sands for the BBC says that US officials there at the American embassy in Kuwait had “posted a rainbow flag and a message of solidarity from President Joe Biden for Pride Month, but we are told Kuwait officials criticized the embassy for supporting homosexuality and demanded it didn’t happen again.” The next statement, well it’s certainly a summary. “Rights for LGBT people are severely restricted in Kuwait and it is illegal there for men to be gay.”

Now, the first reason I wanted to draw our attention to this particular article, this news happening is because it draws the distinction between a claim of revelation-based morality and one that is simply the idea that morality is relative, that it’s situational, that it’s socially constructed, and we need to recognize that so many people in our country and in our society, particularly on the left, are absolutely convinced or at least they say they are that morality is merely situational, relative, socially constructed. By the way if it is, then you could change it, you will change it over time. Situations change. Relativity means that change will happen and thus morality will change. If morality is socially constructed, then you can deconstruct it which is one of the massive projects of the liberal progressive academy.

But the second reason I raise this issue is just to remind Americans that our government is assuming a moral message and is preaching that moral message on behalf of the American people with the imprimatur of the American government with the force and power of American self-government and our entire democratic experiment behind it. The Biden administration is saying to the world to be an American is to stand for this new morality and to change yours, and that’s why the Kuwaitis are so upset. It is because this isn’t just a message about, “Oh, this is what Americans believe.” This is a very clear message that is sent to this particular Muslim country that your morality is wrong. How’s that by the way for foreign relations? How is that for diplomacy?

Now, a distinction between Kuwait and the United States is not only that a majority of Americans identify as Christian in some form and you have a very clear Muslim identity for Kuwait. It’s that Kuwait has an official state religion and that official state religion is Islam. The Kuwaiti officials responded to the American declaration of Pride Month by saying, “Foreign embassies must respect the public order of Kuwait and its official religion.” The United States State Department, by the way, defended its actions and this is really important in moral terms for Americans to recognize. A spokesperson for the United States State Department told the BBC, “The United States proudly advances efforts around the globe to protect all individuals, including LGBTQI+ persons, from violence and abuse, criminalization, discrimination and stigma, and to empower marginalized populations in local civil society, including the LGBTQI+ community.”

Now, you notice a mixture of arguments within that statement. As we’re thinking about trying to protect all persons from violence and abuse, well that makes sense, but that statement doesn’t end there. It goes on to demand positive support for the moral revolution, and you can understand why the people and the government of Kuwait have said, “Look, you’re in Kuwait. That message might work in Washington. This isn’t Washington.” But the most important thing for us to recognize especially as American Christians who are listening to this program is that the American government is proselytizing for a new morality. It is diplomatically, that’s not even the right word, forcefully pushing for all the nations of the earth to join this new morality. This is what’s most disappointing and troubling. It is claiming that it is messaging this, that is furthering this moral agenda in our name. So oddly enough, I want to join in an official protest with the government of Kuwait. In this particular message, the United States State Department is not speaking for this American.

Part II

If You Lead the Moral Revolution, It Just Might Come Back to Bite You: ECLA Denomination Calls for Resignation of First Transgender Bishop

But next, we’re going to shift to another issue. It’s somewhat related. Religion News recently reported on the fact that the first transgender bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. By the way, evangelical here is a historic reference. I would certainly not consider this mainstream liberal Lutheran denomination to be evangelical. That goes back to the German usage of the word that meant Protestant. No, this is not an evangelical denomination, but it is a denomination where the presiding bishop has now requested the resignation of the first transgender bishop. So this must be an interesting story. Well it is an interesting story. It is a story, first of all, of the rejection of Scripture and the embrace of a nonscriptural morality.

Now, we talked about that. We also talked when this particular first transgender bishop was announced. We talked about something very important as we’re thinking about how Christians should understand the scripture, how we should study and obey the scripture. If you’re going to disobey the Scripture and you’re going to do so, for example, by getting to electing a transgender bishop…. Let’s just assume for a moment your church has bishops called bishops. If you’re going to get there, you don’t get there just jumping from, say, a very clear orthodox Christian affirmation to all of a sudden you’re ordaining transgender persons. So you say, “What are the steps along the way?” Well for one thing, the argument for ordaining or, say, consecrating an openly transgender member of the clergy, minister, pastor, or bishop, it’s actually the same hermeneutical structural argument that is used by those who are proponents of women serving as pastors or as teaching elders in churches. You’ve got to look at the scripture and say, “Well there’s another way to think about this. There’s a way around that. That’s just a local concern there as Paul is writing to the Corinthians or writing to the Ephesians or writing to Timothy.”

Now, as you look at this, you can understand there’s a way out of this. Well if you’ll find a way out of the biblical definition of the office of pastor or teaching elder in that case being limited to men, then you can also create a pathway for deciding that the clear biblical statements about human sexuality, that those also simply don’t apply. But I’m not talking here about the appointment actually of the first transgender bishop of an American denomination. I’m talking about the presiding bishop saying that this first transgender bishop needs to resign. Now, if a liberal denomination gets to the point of ordaining or consecrating an openly transgender bishop, then calls for that bishop to resign, something big must be going on here.

RNS reporter Emily McFarlan Miller tells us, “The presiding bishop of the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States has asked its first transgender bishop to resign amid criticism over their removal of the pastor of a Hispanic congregation on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in December.” Yeah, that’s all one sentence, but as you’re looking at this, you’ll notice the first thing is the problem of pronouns. Here we are told that this is the first transgender bishop to resign amid criticism over their removal. Just one of them, but you’ll notice that this new set of pronouns of the moral revolution completely confuses the English language. Emily McFarlan Miller reports, “In a report to the church published just a few days ago, Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, announced she had requested Bishop Megan Rohrer’s resignation from the denomination’s Sierra Pacific Synod.”

Why? Well the most important issue is because the transgender bishop fired basically or removed the pastor of a Hispanic congregation on the very day that so many Hispanic Christians celebrate in that tradition The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Evidently, that was so culturally insensitive the bishop has been called upon to resign, but the presiding bishop doesn’t intend to take this further than a call to resign. According to RNS, “She does not plan to pursue disciplinary charges against Rohrer.” That was criticized by Hispanic Lutherans, but she went on to say, “I believe that Bishop Rohrer has lost the trust and confidence of many constituents both within and without the Sierra Pacific Synod.”

Now, why exactly are we talking about this today on The Briefing? Just because there are so many issues here for us to recognize. One is the importance of submitting to scripture and all that it reveals. So by the time you get to a transgender bishop, an awful lot has to have been compromised and confused. For one thing, here you have a presiding bishop who is a woman I believe in direct violation of scripture, but you also have a denomination that has moved so far from scripture that the reason this bishop is demanding that another bishop resign is about a breach of denominational etiquette that is described as an unwise decision and potentially a form of clerical abuse. But as you’re thinking about all the incredible moral confusion here, that’s really what we need to see. It’s just this incredible moral confusion based upon theological confusion.

I simply want to end this consideration by reading one additional paragraph from the RNS story. “In addition to criticism from Asociacion de Ministerios Latinos de la ELCA and African Descent Lutheran Association, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries suspended Rohrer’s membership in late December after they dismissed Rabell-Gonzalez. In a written statement at the time, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, which organizes queer ministry leaders in the ELCA, accused Rohrer”–now, remember this is the first openly transgender bishop in the denomination–“of an existing pattern of behavior that doesn’t align with its vision, mission, and values ‘specifically as it pertains to being an anti-racist organization.'” I guess another big lesson for us to consider here is that once you unleash this kind of moral confusion, eventually it’s going to do a U-turn and come back for you. Once it does, you can’t claim an objective morality because you’ve already denied it. Once it comes for you as you have pushed this kind of moral revolution, there’s nowhere for you to go.

Just ask former revolutionaries like the Soviet revolutionary Leon Trotsky who found himself on the wrong side of Stalin and then found himself on the wrong side of death. If you’re going to start a revolution, then don’t really be surprised when the new revolutionaries come for you.

Part III

The Moral Revolution Barreling Towards Your Children: Eighth Grade Boys Accused of Hate Crimes for ‘Mispronouning’ Classmate

But as we’re thinking about revolution, and this is just really important. I hope parents and others are really hearing this. As we think about the revolution, understand they’re coming for our children. In particular, recent news has come they’re coming for a group of eighth grade boys. These eighth grade boys are now being accused of something that amounts to hate crimes for insisting that boys are boys and girls are girls, something they have figured out by the time they’re 13 and in the eighth grade.

This particular report comes from Wisconsin where we are told that this past April the 25th, local officials “accused three eighth grade boys of sexual harassment and launched a Title IX investigation for something called mispronouning.” These children, these eighth graders, say Rick Esenberg and Luke Berg, “used her to refer to a classmate who wants to be called them.” The two writers then tell us, “It’s easy to dismiss this as bizarre. You won’t find mispronouning in the Wisconsin statutes or US code. It hardly resembles the egregious aggression that we associate with harassment. It doesn’t in and of itself constitute conduct ‘so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to education’ as Title IX law on harassment requires. But the stain that such a charge could leave on these boys’ reputations and the harm inflicted upon their futures is real.”

Now, something else that should alarm parents is the fact that, as reported here, the parents first heard about these charges when they received a call from the local school district that their sons “were about to be charged with sexual harassment under Title IX.” The article continues. “There had been no prior warning or discussions with the families about pronoun use at school nor did the district initially explain what the boys had done to warrant being investigated for a violation of federal law. We’re then told when the families were finally informed that the alleged sexual harassment, the boys’ potential federal offense, was using incorrect pronouns, terror quickly turned to bewilderment. ‘Is this real? This has to be a joke,’ said one of the parents.”

But sadly enough, of course it’s not a joke. It is real. We’re talking about three eighth grade boys being brought up on charges of sexual harassment for referring to what appears to be in this article a female classmate with the pronoun her. Esenberg and Berg are absolutely right when they say, “Apparently any failure to comply will subject an adolescent to frightening inquisition.” They’re also right when they say parents need to stand up against this wherever it rears its ugly head. They also write sympathetically, “Middle school is hard enough as it is. Young students shouldn’t live in fear of punishment if they don’t follow the left’s ever-changing fads about speech.”

Well let’s just step back for a moment and look at this in a Christian worldview perspective. A part of what we are called to do as Christians is to speak to everyone with respect, but it goes back to what I discussed in terms of the positive affirmation being demanded by the sexual revolutionaries. You not only have to treat people with respect. You have to do so while endorsing and celebrating whatever might be their sexual behavior or gender claim or identity. Well you just go down the list. This is where Christians are going to face an incredible onslaught and an incredible challenge in an increasingly rebellious society. It’s not just eighth grade boys. It’s going to be everyone, but the fact that you have these authorities threatening eighth grade boys with a federal offense based upon Title IX for referring to a classmate as her, the fact is that what you’re looking at here is an effort to try to force compliance not just with social pressure, not even just with the regulatory state, but with a threat that could basically mean that these boys would find their futures compromised if they ever tried to apply for a job, if they ever tried to apply to a college. They will then become the mispronouning trio.

But this also gets to the very term we just used there. As the writers of this article point out, you will not find mispronouning either in a dictionary or at least any stable, any kind of responsible dictionary. You’re not also going to find it in federal law. You’re not going to find it there yet, but you can see here that there are bureaucrats, school officials, and others who are trying to move mispronouning into being the effect of what in the 20th century was called a thought crime, the thought crime that becomes a word crime. Mispronouning is the ultimate, if ludicrous, example of a word crime. This case points again to the fact that the people who are pushing this moral revolution, they’re coming for the law. They’re coming for Title IX. They are coming for levers of legal coercion, but they’re also coming for our eighth graders. Just think about the eighth grade. Think about eighth graders. Here you have eighth graders who are being accused of sexual harassment because they understand the distinction between boys and girls.

Now, in an increasingly complex age, it’s going to be increasingly a challenge for Christian parents to be able to say, “Eighth grade boys, here’s how you respectfully respond to a classmate in this situation or that.” But I think another likely outcome, indeed perhaps a more likely outcome is that a lot of parents might think about having this conversation and instead turn to their eighth grader or younger or older, male or female, boy or girl and simply say to them, “I’m pulling you out of this morass of moral confusion.”

The problem of course is writ large across our society where mispronouning, if not mentioned in the law now, is likely to be soon and we’re all likely to be accused at one point or another of a thought crime which is a moral crime which is a word crime. Christians understand that in the battle of morality as in the battle for everything else, words matter. It also tells us a very great deal that one of the necessary achievements of human civilization, and that is knowing the difference between boys and girls, is being dismantled right before our eyes, right down to the crime of mispronouning.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I am today in Anaheim, California and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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