Friday, January 27, 2023
It's Friday, January 27th, 2023.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
M&Ms Cancels Their Spokescandies: How the Candy Controversy Provides a Window into Our Culture
Well, at least for now, the M&M spokes candies are no more. They have been put into obeyance, if not into retirement, and the multicolored figures who had been the spokes candies for M&M's, well, they are currently also a matter of intense controversy in the United States. And this is not one of those issues that defines the future of civilization in and of itself. It is, however, a very interesting little window into how culture works, and in our incredibly intensely politicized age, how this works at warp speed. And it also reveals that you have two Americas and they're both looking at the same spokes candies, but they're no longer seeing the same thing. Now, the most intense part of the controversy right now is, at least according to the mainstream media, between Fox News host Tucker Carlson and the company Mars Wrigley.
And you have the mainstream media narrative that what happened is that Tucker Carlson decided to politicize the spokes candies for M&M's and changes made by the advertising team behind the spokes candies, making it the new front and the culture war. So now you have headlines such as this how M&M's found itself in the culture wars. You also have an opinion piece of the Washington Post headline, the articles by Molly Roberts, the headline's this, M&M's accept Tucker Carlson's invite to the culture wars. So this is all just about the culture wars.
And in this case, it's basically artificial, goes the argument. Tucker Carlson just made this up. But where did it actually come from? This is where things get really interesting. And behind all the controversy and all the media talk right now, there is something here for intelligent Christians to think about and to think about in worldview terms. Because as we're trying to understand how the culture actually works, well, in the weirdest way, this is showing us how our culture works or at this point, how it doesn't quite work.
So just to set the stage here, M&M's, a very popular candy, remember the old phrase, melts in your mouth, not in your hands, multi-colored, external covering. It's basically a very brightly covered chocolate. And M&M's, very popular, M&M's peanuts also very, very popular. And of course, you're looking at the fact that the advertising team that came up with the idea of spokes candies was really onto something very powerful in the modern media age because these were animated M&M's and they each had individual personalities.
And M&M's, as a company and the advertising head behind it, they accentuated and took advantage of the value of these spokes candies and the development of personalities. One was cranky and at least one was overtly, say flirtatious. But not now. That's what caught Tucker Carlson's attention. Not now. Changes were made to the spokes candies that basically de-emphasized the flirtiness and even the femininity of at least one, if not two of the M&M characters, or spokes candies.
And that led Tucker Carlson to bemoan the fact and he went further in his criticism. He was pointing to this as something like the decline of civilization, and he was making that argument at least partly tongue in cheek. But he was also pointing to something that M&M's brought on itself. So many in the mainstream media have said, "Look, Tucker Carlson is making something out of nothing here." Well, I don't think that's true. But the reason that I don't think it's true is not because Tucker Carlson wouldn't have his own agenda here, but because M&M's started this. Not so much with the invention of spokes candies, but rather with how they decided to make a cultural statement with the changes they made, the very changes that Tucker Carlson criticized.
Now, just to fast forward, we know the end of the story, at least at this point. The company has retired the spokes candies, as they called them, and is moving to a different advertising strategy. But here's the deal, M&M's, the company behind it, Mars Wrigley, really did make a statement that reflects the changes in the spokes candies and in their presentation.
For example, the recent changes that came to these anthropomorphized figures, that is animated candies, they were announced by M&M's itself. They described the change in the green M&M character as having made her less feminine, but "better represented to reflect confidence and empowerment as a strong female and known for much more than her boots." So just to make the statement here, it feels at least at one point, like it's a little stupid to be talking about M&M characters. It's a bit frivolous to be talking about this controversy.
Strange Business: Why are So Many Corporations Entering the Culture War?
But here's where things really do matter. Companies can't have it both ways. They can't pass out all this messaging and transform very well-known animated candy characters and do so with statements that are intended to be very progressive and politically correct and then complain that there's no deal here when someone presses back on this transformation. Multiple candy companies and other major corporations have been offering special packaging.
Again, sometimes timed with gay pride week, rainbow colors and all the rest. In many cases, there is absolutely no subtlety whatsoever. Jamie Johnson of the Telegraph in London reports that last September, "A new oval shaped purple M&M was added to represent the peanut version of the chocolate. Just weeks ago, Mars said that for International Women's Day, the company would release special female character only packaging."
So here's the really important point, just don't think merely about the spokes candies, just think about this, here you have a symbol of the fact that corporations are now entering the culture wars themselves. They are declaring themselves combatants and co-belligerents when it comes to the effort to reshape the culture. If you are offering special rainbow themed gay pride packaging, and if you are redefining your M&M spokespersons, or spokes candies, claiming that they are after all, intended to reflect a change in the culture, then just understand you have acknowledged that you have an ideological cultural and moral agenda. And thus, pushback on it is just fair play.
But as we're thinking about this, it just gets more interesting the further you look. For example, this week on Monday, the overarching company, Mars Wrigley, released a statement that began with the words America, let's talk. The company, through the statement said, "In the last year, we've made some changes to our beloved spokes candies. We weren't sure if anyone would even notice." And then they went on to say, "We definitely didn't think it would break the internet." The company, through its statement, said this, "But now we get it. Even a candy's shoes can be polarizing." This was the loss of the heels for one of the spokes candies. And by the way, that was unquestionably an effort to try to well change the gender identity of that spokes candy.
But here's the most important thing, Mars Wrigley said that they now get it, that even a candy's shoes can be polarizing. And then they said that being polarizing is not what they intended; it's "the last thing M&M's wanted, since we're all about bringing people together. Therefore," said the company, "we have decided to take an indefinite pause from the spokes candies." So there goes another part of America, M&M spokes candies, they're gone. The personality of the irascible one, gone, the flirtatious of the green one, gone. Tucker Carlson was pointing to the transformation of these figures as another sign of the decline of civilization, and there are plenty of those.
M&M's though is pressing back saying they didn't want any of this controversy. They didn't want to break the internet. And instead, all they are about is "bringing people together." But let's understand this much, Fox News is a business and Mars Wrigley, the candy confectionary company, M&M's is a business. And this is where Christians need to understand that businesses, well, they think like businesses. The problem is when businesses take a side and then try to act like they didn't do so.
So let's ask ourselves a question. Why do corporations exist? Well, legally, corporations are identified as legal persons. That is to say a corporation can act like a person would act. It's a limited liability arrangement. So you can invest in a company without taking on responsibility for all of its liabilities. Companies, the development of the modern corporation, that's one of the biggest additions to human happiness and to human wealth and to the success of the economy that we can even imagine.
But what is the purpose of a business? Well, you ask a business school dean and time's passed, that business school dean generations ago would get the answer right, corporations exist to build the business and increase the wealth of the stockholders. In other words, when you have a formation of an idea, like say an M&M, which by the way is I think a very good idea, when you have that idea, you have a product that will sell, you form a corporation so that you may sell that product and make a profit and build wealth in a company. That is all good work. The point I want to make here is that M&M's, the company behind it, Mars Wrigley, two very famous confectionary names put together, that corporation actually exists in order to grow, to make business, to make a profit, and to increase the value of itself and for its stockholders.
So as you're looking at this, understand, here's the problem. Major American corporations now aren't satisfied to be in the candy business, they have to be in the culture change business as well. The pressure from the left is enormous. The Progressivist left has been putting pressure on American corporations and especially major brands for the last several decades saying, "You have to take a stand. You have to take a stand when it comes to feminism. You have to take a stand when it comes to well, foreign policy. You have to take a stand when it comes to the LGBTQ issues. You have to take a stand when it comes to abortion." That's a part of what's going on right now. Just think of the conflict between the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, and the Disney Corporation.
In a free world and in a free market, M&M's has the right to make its product and it also has the right to choose how it will advertise itself, including whether or not the company uses colorful spokes candies. That's up to the company. But what is not up for debate is that Mars actually exists and the company that owns it basically exists in order to sell candy. It was not founded in order to change the world. When corporations take on these mission statements about changing the world through multicolored candies, you simply need to step back and say, "All I want from you is an M&M. I prefer the ones with peanuts. That's all I want. I don't want a world changing message. I don't want to buy woke progressivism. All I want is a candy that melts in my mouth, not in my hands."
But then by the same token, you need to understand that Tucker Carlson is a serious figure who makes serious arguments, and he does so from the enormously influential platform of Fox News. But Fox News is itself a business. And by the way, conservative media wouldn't exist in terms of organizations, corporations such as the Fox empire, and in particular Fox News. It would not exist if the left didn't keep coming up with all this material, right down to the spokes candies.
One of the points we need to make is that Christians simply need to understand how the economy works, how the world works, and understand that companies do what the company thinks is to its advantage. Mars is not here trying to serve human happiness. It's not trying to change the world. It may say it's doing so, even in ways that signal to the left. But actually, what the company's trying to do is to sell you candy. Just please keep that in mind. We're also in a marketplace of ideas and people are trying to sell you ideas. This is where, Christians, understanding the battle for the mind as well as the battle for the dollar and the battle for your taste buds, all this comes down to the fact that everything really is laden with worldview significance, even things that shouldn't be in this highly politicized world right now, even if they shouldn't be, they are.
By the way, this controversy about M&M's was driven by the company itself. It's the one that opened the door here. But it's true that even when I was a child, M&M's had a certain kind of conspiratorial vulnerability. I can remember when I was in the elementary school being told that boys shouldn't eat, and I'll simply say, one color of the M&M's, that that color was the girl color.
There have been other meanings claimed about M&M's as well, but I will just give some advice to the company. Just make candy and call it candy and make it well. Make it safe, make it attractive, make it tasty. That should be enough. You shouldn't require an ideological commitment of your consumers just to bite down on a candy, even a chocolate covered peanut.
Biden Administration Orders Mail Order Abortion Pills Be Sent Through Mail, Saying No one Knows How They Might Be Used? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
But next, we turn to questions.
Always good questions of listeners, sometimes I point out in The Briefing that a clustering pattern of news coverage or of cultural conversation can often indicate something big that really is happening in the society. And the same thing is true this week in questions sent into The Briefing.
So many questions on the same theme, indeed, the same question being asked in several different forms. Here's the catalyst for the question. I discussed the fact that the Biden administration, and this includes directives that would affect the U.S. Postal Service as well as the FDA, the Biden administration is saying that even where you have states where abortion is illegal, the male can and must continue to deliver Mifepristone, the so-called abortion drug, abortion by mail. And they're doing so under the mandate of the federal government and with the legal argument that those who are delivering the mail can't know how the drugs would be used.
Therefore, there is no complicity on the part of the government in actually carrying out an abortion, in a state where abortion, under those circumstances, wouldn't be legal. And when I say I got a pattern of response, let me just say that in my hands right now, I have a small stack of questions and they're all asking the same thing. Here's the summary. Why can abortion pills be sent to states where abortion is illegal, but other companies then cannot do the same with other items such as guns and ammunition? And furthermore, the Biden administration's argument here, several listeners picked up on this, the argument is, look, this is legal because people can't know actually how these things are going to be used.
Well, how can you limit that argument to abortion pills? And furthermore, that's a matter of what we can only call intentional dishonesty. Everybody knows what abortion pills are for. It is a moral fiction to say, "We don't know what someone's going to do with this pill." Well, the answer to all those listeners, and I'm going to summarize it as quickly as I can, the answer is you are onto something here. And that is the fact that the Biden administration's policy is an act of political desperation that doesn't have an adequate moral basis.
And of course, you could say on the one point, it couldn't because it's all about furthering the destruction of life in the womb. But even in the technical sense here, what the Biden administration is doing is saying, "Look, you must make these pills available. Why? Because of the demand for abortion. But you don't have to concede that abortion is the reason why the pills are being sent." That is a legal and it is a postal and it is a moral fiction.
Now, just as we go into the weekend, I think it's important to note that the federal courts are taking up this question, and in particular, the FDA's new mandates. We'll be tracking that next week and in weeks to come.
Why Do Conservative Christians Refer to an Unborn Child as ‘Preborn’ and Not Just as a Baby? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Similarly, on the question of abortion, a listener writes in, Dawn in this case, asking the question, why do conservative Christians, why do pro-lifers, refer to the unborn as pre-born? "Why would a baby not be referred to simply as a baby?"
She goes on to say, "We know it's a baby from the moment of conception." Well, indeed we do, and that's one of the points we make. But the word baby, just in terms of communication, is not one that can be directly related to abortion in every case because you might not even know what you're talking about because an abortion is not just the termination of a baby's life, but in particular, of a baby not yet born.
So I want to say, Dawn, you're exactly right in moral terms, and this is one of the illustrations of why sometimes we have to use language, words, we have to use vocabulary and vocal constructions that aren't exactly what we want to say, or at least it's not all we want to say. Because even when we talk about the pre-born, we're actually talking about pre-born human beings, or actually about pre-born babies in this sense. But the word baby, just in how it communicates, would certainly include, for those of us who are pro-life, the unborn or the pre-born at every stage. But just using the word baby would not yet explain why we're talking about abortion and why we are condemning abortion as the termination of unborn human life.
By the way, you're onto something else here, Dawn, the word pre-born, that's a neologism. That is another way of saying it's a newly invented word. Why the word pre-born rather than unborn? Well, that is because seeking moral clarity, pro-lifers began to speak not so much of the unborn, but the pre-born, implying that the very existence of the pre-born implies the fact that allowed to develop they will be born. And abortion is the interruption of that process.
Is It a Right Application of Scripture to Use the Poetry Portions of the Bible for Specific Doctrinal Statements? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Another listener wrote in to ask about my use of Psalm 139 in making a pro-life argument. That's where David spoke very clearly of the Lord knowing him in his mother's womb and knitting him together in his mother's womb. And this writer asked the question, "Is it a right application of scripture to use the poetry portions of the Bible for specific doctrinal statements?"
Well, that depends upon the specific poetry and the section, because some of the Psalms are clearly didactic. They are indeed deeply doctrinal and theological. Speaking, first of all, doxologically, that is to say of the glory of God, but sometimes also speaking not just in terms of poetic structure, but in terms of doctrinal statement about the very character of God.
Furthermore, when you look at a passage such as Psalm 139, you're not just talking about something like a metaphor. You're not just talking about something with poetic structure. David is making undeniably serious claims to truth, to fact, even to knowledge that is revealed to him and only available to him because God revealed it to him. The writer says, "For example, elsewhere in the Psalms, the Lord co compares himself to a mother hen longing to take the children of Israel under his wings and even mentions covering them with his feathers."
But he goes on to say, "We don't believe that God actually has feathers. No, we actually don't believe that God is actually a hen either. That clearly is metaphorical language." And so I appreciate this question and I'll simply say in the way the question is asked, it is also, and I think this is interesting in itself, in the way that the question is asked, it is also answered.
Our Family’s Pediatrician Requires Me, as a Parent, to Leave the Room During Our Daughter’s Well-Child Visit. Should I Be Alarmed? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
But next, a question that should be of concern to all Christians and in particular to Christian parents. This mom writes in, the mother of two young children saying, that in her area, pediatricians are requiring the parent to leave the room during a portion of what's defined as a well-child visit. And that evidently beginning when the child reaches the age of 11. And we are told that the doctors are asking about substance abuse and sexual health, and also they may be asking about gender identity. And this is a parent who's outraged at this, and the fact that the parent is told to leave the room. I think it is an area of extreme cultural and familial danger.
So let me just say that at least the effort in the beginning on the part of many to have the medical professional spend some time alone with the child or alone with another medical professional in the room, it was intended to allow a child being abused, that is suffering physical abuse, to report that abuse in a way that might not happen if the child were not alone and in a context with medical professionals where the child could safely disclose that information. That, we need to recognize, is not a crazy idea.
Now, that kind of context can and will be abused. We need to understand that. And at the expense of parents who've done no wrong thing. But nonetheless, that is not an insane concern, and we understand how this got started. But like so many other things, how it gets started doesn't mean this is how it ends, or even this is where it is right now. Because right now, this parent is rightly concerned. Indeed, I think would even be rightly outraged to know that medical professionals, and this would include doctors and others who are acting in a medical capacity, are now asking questions of children as young as 11. And they are questions that are directly related to sex, sexual activity, and even gender identity in some cases.
And I'll go beyond the question that was asked by this listener and say that one of the issues we also need to face is that in many jurisdictions, children of a certain age are able to get even contraceptives from medical authorities explicitly without the knowledge of their parents. And so here you have a parent taking a child for a well-child visit at a pediatrician's office, and when they are out of the room, because they're told they have to leave the room, no one actually knows, or at least I should say the parents actually do not know what went on in that session.
And furthermore, their child may be walking out with something like the equivalent of a prescription for birth control with the parents not even aware. And yes, I think this parent is on very good ground in being concerned about the gender questions because even as the professions, including the profession of medicine is being taken over by the ideologists, well, this is exactly how such a context becomes extremely dangerous.
Is the Push to Keep Students' Transitions Hidden from Parents a Trojan Horse to Sever the Long-held Cultural Feelings Around Minor Consent? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Similarly, a question came in from another listener about the fact that as we discussed on The Briefing of educators who are encouraging and acknowledging what they claim to be the gender transition of students, explicitly without telling parents, indeed, deliberately not disclosing this to parents. And this listener writes in to say, "Is this potentially opening the door for lowering the age of consent?" That is consent to sexual activity on the part of children.
And to this listener, I'll simply say, this is very, very smart, this insight, but it points to a hypocrisy and to a contradiction on the left right now. The left wants to continue to say that a child cannot give consent for sex. And by the way, they're absolutely right about that. But then they want to contradict that very principle and turn around and say that a child has the right to declare a gender transition, even to demand medical treatment and alignment with it.
So to this listener, I'll simply say, you are listening to the culture carefully, and you are listening to the left contradict itself here, and we need to note, with very dangerous effect.
Why Did God Make Satan If God Knew He Would Be Bad? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter From an 8-Year-Old Listener of The Briefing
Finally, a question from an eight-year-old girl, Sadie asked, "Why did God make Satan if he knew Satan was going to be bad?" Well, we've discussed this question similarly, and I think it's just very interesting that so many children being raised in Christian homes come to ask this question.
I take that, by the way, as a very healthy sign, that when you have children who are being trained in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, they learn to ask questions that are explicitly tied to biblical teachings. And we should recognize that is a good and welcomed thing. These are the kinds of questions we should dignify and the kind of questions we should want to answer.
But Sadie, you have to tell you sometimes the only way we can answer this question is to say, because this brings God greater glory. He did this because triumphing over Satan would show his power, most importantly, in the Lord Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ, he showed his power over Satan in such a way that we wouldn't have seen his glory in that way, had Satan not done bad and disobeyed and paid the consequences.
Sadie, you asked such a sweet question. And you know, it's not wrong to ask this kind of question. You did the right thing. But sometimes, even the big people in your life, even the adult Christians in your life, don't have an answer to this that is drawn directly from Scripture. The Scripture never says, "Here is exactly the answer to Sadie's question."
But those of us have been studying the Bible for a long time, we can see how these things fit together. And understanding how these things fit together, let me just tell you, Sadie, God does all things to bring himself greatest glory and to show us the greatest demonstration of his love and power. Sadie, bless your heart.
Thanks again for the question.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
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