The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Monday, October 17, 2022

It’s Monday, October 17th, 2022.

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

Part I

Virginia Legislator Proposes Criminalization of Parents Who Do Not Affirm LGBTQ Children

Sometimes an issue arises in public conversation and you take a look at it and you say, “There’s a lot here.” Later, you find out there’s not as much there as you thought. Sometimes the opposite is the case. You consider an issue and you find out there’s a whole lot more at stake than even had been admitted at the onset.

I’m talking about a headline news story out of Virginia, and it has caught the attention of The Washington Post. That turns out to be crucial. Over the weekend, The Washington Post ran an article of the headline, “LGBTQ Bill on Child Abuse Creates Uproar in Virginia and Beyond.” Laura Vozzella and Gregory Snyder are the reporters on the story. And as I said, it’s important that The Washington Post, a liberal, secular newspaper with a national reputation is reporting on this story because otherwise, it might just be seen as a local story in Virginia. It becomes quite a bit more significant when The Washington Post is taking account of the story.

Now, the headline tells us about an LGBTQ bill on child abuse that creates an uproar and, as the headline went on to say, in Virginia and beyond. The issue at stake here, at least the precipitating issue, is proposed legislation there in Virginia. But this isn’t just about Virginia, this is a story that should have the attention of every single Christian, every single parent because the integrity of the family and the rights and authority of parents are directly at stake. And the subversion of parental rights is, in this case, explicitly coming as a part of the LGBTQ revolution.

What’s actually at stake here? Well, let’s start where The Washington Post starts, “A Northern Virginia legislator found herself at the center of the Nation’s LGBTQ culture wars after saying she would reintroduce a bill that barely made a stir when she first submitted it two years ago.”

Now, let’s look at that lead that tells us that this particular legislator had put forward the same legislation, or just about the same legislation two years ago; it didn’t get much attention. Now, that shouldn’t have too much of your attention because as you look at state legislatures, as you look at the United States Congress, all it takes is a sponsor and a co-sponsor, in most cases, to get a bill somewhat in the process. And the reality is the vast majority of them are never read by anyone at any time. But at this point, I have to say if this bill didn’t get much attention back two years ago, it certainly should have.

The next statement in The Washington Post report, “The measure proposed by delegate Elizabeth R. Guzman, Democrat of Prince William County, would expand the definition of child abuse to include inflicting physical or mental injury on children due to their gender identity or sexual orientation. We’re told that Democrats scrapped the bill in 2020 because they said it was redundant since child abuse was already illegal in the state legal code.”

But The Washington Post tells us that everything changed this year in terms of the reception in response to this bill precisely because of a report in local television news. In this case, Nick Minnick was the reporter for Channel Seven News. That’s WJLA. And he began his report with these words, “Delegate Elizabeth Guzman is a social worker, and she’s planning on reintroducing a bill in Richmond that she says would help protect LGBTQ children from their parents and guardians who are not affirming of their child’s sexual orientation and gender identity.”

And he begins his report on the specifics by saying, “Virginia parents could face a felony or misdemeanor charge if they do not affirm their child’s sexual orientation and gender identity, according to a state law maker, with plans to introduce the legislation in Virginia’s upcoming legislative session.” Now, it shouldn’t be necessary to say that this is one of the most explosive issues to arrive in terms of the intersection of parental responsibility and parental rights and the LGBTQ revolution. It also shouldn’t surprise us that this is coming from a social worker, given much of the worldview that is held, especially in the left wing of that profession.

But you’ll notice that the big news in this report is that parents could be held criminally liable. They could be charged with a criminal offense which would include a felony offense if they are judged to have exerted or exercised some abuse against an LGBTQ minor, a child, someone in their home. Now, you look at that and you say, “What might that look like?” Well, you know the ideology that is current, and that is that if you fail to affirm, that is a form of harm.

And a form of harm can be easily translated legally into a form of abuse, and thus you can understand why it doesn’t take a great leap of the logic to understand that one essential result of this bill could be that at least the threat of charges, if not the charges themselves, could be brought against parents who, on the basis of their own parental authority and their own say Christian worldview, cannot affirm a child’s declaration of a non-binary or a transgender identity or it’s actually covering the entire spectrum, LGBTQ+.

The legislation makes that clear.

Part II

‘The Bible Tells Us Just to Accept People as They Are’: Virginia Legislator Offers Theological Argument (of a sort) That Contradicts the Bible

Now, back to The Washington Post; its article is at least in part a report about the report at WJLA News. And that report about the report said that the situation related to the proposed legislation by Delegate Guzman, it had faced a very new reality because of the TV report in which Guzman said that she had been misrepresented. She called the report inaccurate.

The Washington Post is, of course, writing from the left, and it’s very LGBTQ+ affirming. Its report says this, “Guzman’s measure speaks only to physical or mental abuse inflicted on a child. There’s no mention of gender affirming medical treatments, although some Republicans suggested the parents might be accused of inflicting emotional abuse if they are not supportive of their child’s LGBTQ identity.” Well, where did that idea come from? And I would suggest it probably came from reading the actual proposed legislation, which I did. And I have the legislation before me. The original language, going back to 2020, says that it is a felony violation of Virginia law if a parent or other person responsible for his, meaning the minor’s care, creates or inflicts, threatens to create or inflict or allows to be created or inflicted upon such child a physical or mental injury on the basis of the child’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

Now, that’s the statement. And just understand that you don’t have to look at any kind of legal textbook in order to get the very clear picture of what’s going on here because when you’re talking about physical or mental health, and when mental health, including by the profession that is represented by this legislator, when that profession says that an unwillingness to affirm is a form of harm, then you don’t have to read between the lines; this particular issue is right here in the text.

And if you doubt it, let me read to you from section two on the first page of the proposed legislation. And this is the 2020 text. It would define as a felony violation if a parent or other person responsible for a minor “neglects or refuses to provide care necessary for his health.” Very interesting because you know exactly what that’s talking about because that is exactly the argument about so-called gender affirming surgery or hormone treatment. When you talk about what medical providers increasingly define as necessary for the health of those who declare themselves non-binary or gender non-conforming or transgender, then this is exactly what we’re talking about.

The legislation goes on. And here’s where the exception language proves the point demonstrably and horrifyingly, “However, no child who in good faith is under treatment solely by spiritual means through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination shall, for that reason alone, be considered to be an abused or neglected child.” You’ll notice the key word there is alone. In other words, that kind of religious teaching, that kind of religious conviction could very much be a part, it just can’t be the only factor that might constitute evidence of a crime, “Further, a decision by parents who have legal authority for the child, or in the absence of parents with legal authority for the child, any person with legal authority for the child who refuses a particular medical treatment for a child with a life-threatening condition shall not be deemed a refusal to provide necessary care if, one, such decision is made jointly by the parents or other person with legal authority and the child. Two, the child has reached 14 years of age and is sufficiently mature to have an informed opinion on the subject of his medical treatment. Three, the parents or other person with legal authority and the child have considered alternative treatment options. And four, the parents are other person with legal authority and the child believe in good faith that such decision is in the child’s best interest.”

Just consider what we just heard there. Notice the language about a life threatening condition, and then go back to the language being used right now in terms of the arguments about the morality of harm that are now directed towards parents, cultural authorities, educators, preachers, pastors, and others who cannot join the transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming, LBGTQ+ revolution.

Just recall the fact that the LGBTQ+, and especially the transgender activist community are openly claiming, with the support of many so-called medical professionals, that a refusal to cooperate with or to support or to allow what is, in Orwellian double speak, called gender-affirming surgery, which means removing the anatomy of a male in order to appear as a female or removing the anatomy of a female to appear as a male, that is now presented as a threat to life and health. Don’t believe any legislator, any media authority or any cultural influencer who tells you, “Oh, that doesn’t have anything to do with subverting the rights and authority of parents.” It is actually a threat to criminalize parents for being parents.

The television station has, by the way, put up now the entire record of the 20 minute conversation with the legislator, and yet you have the actual documentation by transcript of what’s going on here. For example, the legislator, Elizabeth Guzman, actually explained to the television reporter, Nick Minnick, this, “If the child shares with those mandated reporters what they are going through, we’re talking about not only physical abuse or mental abuse,” she went on to say, “the job of that mandated reporter is to inform Child Protective Services,” quote, “and then that’s how everybody gets involved. There’s also an investigation in place that is not only from a social worker, but there’s also a police investigation before we make the decision that there’s going to be a CPS,” that is Child Protective Services, “charge.”

The reporter then asked her, “What could the penalties be if the investigation concludes that a parent is not affirming of their LGBTQ child? What could the consequences be?” The legislator answered, and please hear these words clearly, quote, “Well, we first have to complete an investigation. It could be a felony. It could be a misdemeanor. But we know that CPS charge could harm your employment, could harm their education because nowadays many people do a CPS database search before offering employment.” Do you hear the threat there? The threat there is not only in terms of a criminal charge, either a misdemeanor or a felony, but also of making certain that parents in this case become, effectively, unemployable.

The reporter also asked the legislator if she was not concerned that this would infringe upon free speech or religious freedom. And then the reporter said, “What do you tell those parents who might be learning about this bill who don’t feel like they want to necessarily affirm what their children are feeling when it comes to their sexual orientation or gender identity?” The legislator answered the question, “I’ve been asked that question by knocking on doors. The Bible says to accept everyone for who they are, so that’s what I tell them when they ask me that question, and that’s what I will continue to tell people.”

You’ll notice that what’s not here is any affirmation of religious liberty, any acknowledgement of Christian conviction or any acknowledgement of the rights of parents incontrovertibly denied here. She instead just misrepresents the Bible by saying, “The Bible says to accept everyone for who they are.” That is profoundly not what the Bible says. The Bible points us to love of neighbor and respect for all and the understanding that every single human being is made in the image of God and thus has the sanctity of life and has dignity, but it doesn’t say that we must accept everyone for who they say they are.

Now, going back to The Washington Post article, one of the interesting things we need to note is that many Democrats and, so far as I can tell, just all the Republicans that have been cited here, but many Democrats, including democratic leaders in the legislature there in Virginia, they don’t want any part of this bill. At least they don’t want any part of this bill the way it’s written, and they don’t want any part of it for now. How long do you expect that to last? One of the big lessons of the election of Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin just a matter of a year ago, one of the big lessons in that Virginia election was that parents aren’t going to put up with their rights and their integrity being questioned. They are not going to turn their children over to the state as wards of the state.

We’ll continue to follow this story, but I want us to recognize this isn’t just about Virginia, it’s about the entire nation. It’s about the inevitable logic of the moral revolutionaries. It’s about the fact that parents are nearly universally understood in the LGBTQ activist community as the great obstacle that have to be overcome if that revolution is to press forward. And you also understand, and there’s a certain amount of not only radical ideology but what can only be described as moral insanity here. There’s an incredible focus on pushing the transgender agenda down age to as young an age as possible. Given the process of physical and sexual maturation in the human being, I think we can understand why that is so.

We can understand why the agenda is so absolutely transparent increasingly as we understand the way they argue about a morality of harm, saying that a failure to affirm is a form of harm. Now you have the threat of child abuse charges being brought against parents explicitly when it comes to their own offspring or to children under their care, you see the direct threat that this legislation represents. And we have to understand that what is remarkable here is not the agenda but the accidental and rather embarrassing candor with which this agenda was made transparent.

There’s going to be more to this story. We’ll be following this story with you. I can only hope that every single Christian church, Christian leader and Christian parent understands what is at stake here. This is now something real. You can find it yourself in the proposed legislation.

And just keep in mind that when some people say, “Oh, don’t worry, this legislation doesn’t have a chance,” well, that’s been said about an awful lot of legislation that got its chance very quickly.

Part III

Engaging Cultural Vernacular: How ‘Top of Mind’ Jumped into Public Discourse — And How Cultural Influencers and Marketers Are Fighting For Space in Your Brain

Next, I’ll transition by saying I hope that for Christians and, in particular, Christian parents, this particular issue is top of mind. Now, where did that expression come from and why did I use it? Well, from time to time, I want us to look at the language of the culture around us because that language signals something to us. Language is how we communicate, language expresses, language constitutes meaning, and yeah, we better follow a phrase like that.

It’s a phrase that actually showed up in a rather defensive statement made by the White House as related to the fact that the president of the United States had called out a deceased member of Congress, asking if the congresswoman were present at an event. In response to that, the White House press secretary said that the late congresswoman had been “top of mind for the president at the time, and he simply articulated her name because her name connected to the legislation he was discussing was top of mind.”

Well, what in the world does top of mind mean? Well, if you’ve been involved in marketing, you would know because, as this term is being used now over and over again… And that’s the way language works, by the way. I tracked over the last several days how this phrase, top of mind, which wasn’t top of much of anything in terms of our cultural conversation until quite recently, is now showing up a headlines all over. For example, a story about the response to King Charles III on the part of younger British citizens, the headline in one major article was this, “One Thing Is Top of Mind for Many Young Brits, and It’s Not the Royal Family.”

This top of mind language has shown up again and again. What exactly does it mean? Well, for one thing, it is a powerful metaphor that you can pretty much figure out. This means very much a focus of attention. You’ve been thinking about this so much that the issue’s at the top of your mind; it’s at the forefront of your thinking. But it’s not accidental that this term emerges from a couple of decades ago in the discipline, in the business of marketing.

In marketing, the theory of mind is something that is used in order for marketers who are trying to advertise, they’re trying to sell you something, they’re trying to figure out how to get in your brain so that when you think of pretzels, you think of their kind of pretzels, or when you think about snacking, you think about pretzels that leads to their brand of pretzels. You think about car, here’s car. You think about electronics, here’s electronics. Here’s their name, here’s their brand. The big goal in this marketing is in order to be top of mind so that when someone thinks about a product, they think your brand, they think about you. You want to be top of mind.

And you can understand why this would be so applicable, say, to someone running for elected office. You want to be top of mind when it comes to voters. You want your issues to be top of mind. This metaphor, this phrase, which is, after all, a marketing term, top of mind, reflects the fact that unique to human beings is the ability to try to envision getting in another person’s mind.

Now, in one sense, that’s the essence of communication. It is certainly, in terms of human beings, at least one important dimension of relationships. It is also something that is acquired as a capacity by human beings over time. Babies generally don’t have much of a capacity for understanding another’s mind. Young children, by the way, often do not yet have that capacity.

One of the hallmarks of early adolescence, even given the physical changes that come in the child’s brain, is the development of complex cognition and the acquisition of abstract thinking. And as I often point out, there aren’t many six-year-old philosophers, but there are a lot of 16-year-old philosophers because six-year-olds aren’t asking the big questions of life in terms of complexity, they are generally quite satisfied with a simple answer to a simple question. 16-year-olds not so much, which is why parents have to learn to talk a whole lot more when you’re talking with a 16-year-old.

But it also tells us a lot about human nature, that those who are trying to get our vote or are trying to sell us products very much have this kind of top of mind agenda, and so do those who are trying to sell a moral revolution, those who are trying to sell a vast cultural changes, those who are trying to sell, those who are trying to market a revolution in morality, a change in the nation’s moral, cultural, and political landscape. And we understand that’s exactly what’s going on. And the evidence of that is the fact that those who are trying to bring it about tell us right up front that is what they’re trying to do by all means available. And this kind of top of mind strategy is one of those means.

I said it showed up first in marketing. For example, just a couple of documentation issues here. In June of 1990, an article about selling, for instance, products for people to lose weight, the article said that fighting fat is “a top of mind concern among consumers today.” Four years later, in December of 2004, a business article said that those who are directing and leading America’s corporations that better keep investors in mind and they better be thinking about what is for investors’ top of mind interests. Six years after that, in 2010, the New York Times reported on Facebook, saying that, “It is clear that privacy issues are top of mind for Facebook.”

The power of that language, by the way, is that it’s fairly easy to understand what that means even before you are told that’s what it means, but I want to point to what it means. The people are using that term, and they’re using it directed at people like you, and they’re using it at me. They’re using it at all of us; and that’s really the point. We are the subjects of a barrage of constant communications, arguments, advertisements, messages, and all the rest trying to get us to have what the cinder of those messages wants us to have top of mind.

Somehow we get from 1990, remember, that’s over 30 years ago, when a report about marketing, advertising and business tells us that some businesses were reflecting this particular top of mind concern. We get from that to the White House Press spokesperson just coming out and saying that, for the president, this particular person was top of mind. And you’ll notice everyone appeared to know exactly what she meant, even if, by the way, they weren’t buying the argument.

But I’ll bring to conclusion this addition of The Briefing just by saying I hope it’s clear by now that we are warned that there are many people, many marketers, many firms, many product developers, there are many moral messengers, there are many politicians and others who are trying to get their name, their agenda, their new moral reasoning, their new understanding of sexuality, their new claims about gender and LGBTQ and all the rest top of mind for all of us. It’s just another way of saying that there are very many powerful forces trying to tell you how you are supposed to think.

And I just want to encourage you to keep top of mind the responsibility of Christians to think as Christians, not about some things some of the time, but as God will give us faithfulness, all things all of the time. For Christians, we can put it this way: Faithfulness to Christ has to be always 24/7 until Jesus comes or we die, top of mind.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information about The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information about Boyce College, just go to I’m speaking today in Carrie, North Carolina.

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

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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