Tuesday, January 31, 2023
It's Tuesday, January 31st, 2023.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
A Bit of Recovered Sanity in the UK: British Government Puts Halt to New Scottish Gender Change Law
We're looking these days at an increasingly-clear choice between sanity and insanity on any number of issues, but particularly as we are looking at our society with the LGBTQ revolution. Now, today, I want us to look at just a couple of developments, but they're very important developments. And every once in a while in the battle between sanity and insanity, a certain pattern of sanity breaks out, if only shortly, and often it is geographically located. Now that turns out to be the case as you're looking right now at Great Britain, at the United Kingdom. You are looking at an outbreak of a bit of sanity. Now, the sanity there has come in numerous forms.
Number one, you have the shutting down of certain so-called gender-reassignment clinics there, especially one notoriously known as Tavistock, that had been carrying out procedures, medical and surgical, on young people, and at least in some cases, on adolescents. The British medical establishment had been for it until it was against it. And right now, this outbreak of sanity in Great Britain means that at least in that one country, there is beginning to be a bit of ground regained in terms of just basic moral and biological sanity. Now, don't get too hopeful about this because the British have not gone very far. The point is, and this tells us as a sad commentary on our age, that recovering just a little bit of sanity from the insanity right now actually makes headlines virtually everywhere.
One of the latest headlines coming out of the UK is this, and it simply comes down to the fact that the British government has halted the advance of a gender law having to do with trans identity non-binary, the entire LGBTQ array, but in particular the issues related to sex reassignment or so-called sex or gender-affirmation surgeries. You have the UK putting a halt to a Scottish law. Now, that should make headlines, right? Because we're talking about Scotland adopting this law and London saying, "No, it can't advance."
But this gets to one of the very interesting and convoluted relationships that now marks the British Constitutional Order. Is Scotland a part of the United Kingdom? Well, yes, although there is a liberation movement, a nationalist movement there. And as you're looking at Scotland, does it have its own parliament? Well, yes, it does. Does it have full authority over the destiny of the nation and its laws? Well, no, it doesn't. That's a major sticking point between the Scottish nationalists and those who want to preserve the United Kingdom, which includes not only England, but also Wales and Scotland, and of course Northern Ireland.
But as increasingly is the case, by something of different arrangements with each. And in the case of the Scottish Parliament, there has been what has been called a devolution, that's the reversal of evolution. In this case, there has been a shifting down of political authorities according to this vocabulary, from London to Edinburgh, and that leads to a very interesting twist in this. And that is that the United Kingdom government, and of course that is seated in London, has power over the Scottish Parliament and over Scottish law by what is known as Section 35. Section 35 was put in place 25 years ago when these new powers were invested in the Scottish Parliament.
And here's what makes the situation really interesting and historic. The use of Section 35 in this case is the very first time that the British government has said no and has acted to contravene an action undertaken by the Scottish Parliament. And this action under Section 35 finds the British government saying no to a Scottish gender law that would have, according to the Wall Street Journal, "Made it easier for transgender people to get official government recognition of their acquired gender by removing any need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and lowering the age from 18 to 16."
Those last words are absolutely important, the "lowering of the age from 18 to 16." Now that is something that is being demanded by LGBTQ activists just about everywhere, including here in the United States. But it is really, really interesting that the very first time in a quarter century that the British government says No, citing Section 35, it says no to the Scottish Parliament, is over this issue. And yes, the most important part of it was the lowering of the age from 18 to 16.
Now again, I simply point out there's a bit of sanity breaking through here, a bit of sanity and shutting down clinics such as Tavistock. A bit of sanity with the British health system, basically, asking harder questions about so-called gender transitions that are being asked in many other places. You have the British medical establishment at least asking hard questions about all of this, that's in contrast to what's going on largely in the United States in our own medical circles. And you also have, in this case, the British Parliament saying, "After a quarter century, we're finally going to invoke Section 35 to say no to this."
But there's another aspect of sanity here, which is in itself important, and that is the reason why the British government said that it was invoking its power to set aside this Scottish law. It said it was doing so, or at least many of the members in parliament who spoke to it said that they were doing so in order to preserve, hold for it, the rights of women. At least one member of Parliament, spoke out loud about the concern that so-called transgender women could include themselves in spaces and in programs that were assigned by British law to, well, actual biological females.
Now, as we have seen and as we just have to acknowledge over and over again, you can't have these two things at once. You cannot have the transgender revolution and feminist achievement. You can't have them both. You're going to have to choose one or the other because feminism makes no sense, and as a matter of fact, women's rights as a movement makes no sense, if the society says, well, hey, virtually anybody can be a woman.
By the way, the Scottish law didn't even require, and I read that from the report, it didn't even require a medical evaluation. In other words, you say you're a woman, according to the Scottish law, guess what? You have to be recognized as a woman. The chief official in Edinburgh known as Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, she described the action by the British Parliament is "a full frontal attack on our democratically-elected Scottish parliament and its ability to make its own decisions on devolved matters." She went on to say, "If this Westminster veto," and of course by Westminster she means the house of the British Parliament, she says, "if it succeeds, it will be the first of many."
Well, again, an outbreak of sanity that is resisted by continued insanity, and there's a very open question in any of our Western societies these days as to whether insanity or sanity will reign at any given moment, but never count insanity out.
Redefining Moral Issues as Healthcare Access: Evaluating the New Dictionary of the Sexual Revolutionaries
Speaking of outbreaks of sanity, I want to give credit to the state of Utah. It has become the first state in this year to ban so-called gender-affirming care for transgender minors. Again, it's basically the same issue, but in this case, it has to do with medical procedures either authorized or explicitly not authorized by the state government there in Salt Lake City related to medical practice in the state. Susan Miller of USA Today reports that this way, "Utah has become the first state this year to ban gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youths. Part of a wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation brewing in state houses."
Now, USA Today is an enthusiastic cheerleader as a media source for the LGBTQ revolution, more so in terms of just the volume in the proportionality than even what you find in most other liberal media sources. But in this case, Susan Miller of USA Today, again, she describes this legislative action now signed into law by Governor Spencer Cox, she describes, her words were, "A wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation brewing in state houses."
Now, the very way that that lead sentence is written, it just openly, unquestionably insinuates that this is a wrong action undertaken by the state of Utah. It's just another way of noticing how language works in this kind of media report. She went on to say, "The state's Republican-dominated legislature fast tracked to the bill, which prohibits transgender surgery for those under the age of 18 and bars hormone treatments for minors who have not yet been diagnosed with gender dysphoria."
Now, just notice something, and I want you to go back to the fact that when stories broke having to do with major medical centers in Nashville and elsewhere, you had the medical establishment having been caught actually carrying out transgender procedures on young people, come back and say, "Those are not done on teenagers, they're not done on minors. No, that's against medical practice." But over and over again, you see that these are being carried out, at least in some places. And when you have a prohibition here, it makes headline news as some awful development coming from the backward state of Utah.
Now, remember how the logic of this is working. Remember how the cultural conversation on this is moving and then listen to this line from the report. "So far this year, at least 10 other states have introduced bills targeting such healthcare access for transgender and gender nonconforming people. The states are Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia."
But again, notice how this was written. This is at least as important as the issue itself. Understand how the media plays this game. We're told that at least 10 other states, how will this be expressed, "Have introduced bills targeting such healthcare access." So the obvious implication of that is that this targeting is wrong and that these procedures should simply be acknowledged and accepted as healthcare access. This is the kind of language you need to watch for as you listen to the press and as you pay attention to the cultural conversation. People who redefine all these moral issues as merely healthcare access, and remember it's done on abortion too, they are revealing the hand they are playing.
I'll simply read one other line because it does the same thing in different words. "In 2022, at least 15 states restricted access to gender-affirming care or considered laws that would do so." So again, just look at that gender-affirming care being not affirmed. That would look like a bad thing until you understand what has been now, in an Orwellian sense, redefined as so-called gender-affirming care. Let's just say it's the opposite of affirming the gender assigned at birth. The governor released a statement when he signed the bill saying that he believed that it was just a good idea to hit the pause button on, "these permanent and life altering treatments for new patients, until more and better research can help determine the long-term consequences." As I often point out, the use of the word experts these days is often more about propaganda than actually about some kind of considered honest conversation.
Experts are brought in here, but this points to something else, and that is that in the United States, as in contrast, at least right now for a moment of sanity in Britain, the big medical associations, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, well, USA Today is quick to say they disagree with this kind of action undertaken in Utah. But then let's just, for the sake of honesty, flip the equation. Does that mean that they are then all for the access to this kind of surgery on the part even of minors?
That would be a helpful clarifying statement because they can't have it both ways.
Worldviews and Ideologies Collide Over Social Media: Meta Grapples with Photography in Cases of Transgender and Non-Binary People
But even as today, we want to recognize that at least a bit of sanity has broken out in the United Kingdom and in Utah. We also want to recognize that insanity continues to break out and perhaps as an even wider pattern. So in this case, I want to turn to headline news that came in the form of the New York Times, this is also being reported by other major media. Here's the headline in the Times, "Instagram and Facebook should update nude photo rules Meta board says."
Now Meta is the parent company to both Facebook and Instagram, and wait for it, it turns out that those two very popular, very powerful social media sites make a distinction, now, hold on to this, they make a distinction about the posting of photographs that involve no clothing on the upper body. They make the distinction between males and females.
Now, here's the distinction. Males may post pictures without a shirt, but females may not. Not if the actual photographs show, at least parts of the body that Facebook says, should not be shown the same way that a man without a shirt or a boy without a shirt can be shown. I'm not going to say more. You can figure that out. Now, how in the world could this become controversial? This is just a matter that really doesn't even gain much attention, not to mention traction when it comes to life as most people live it. You go to the beach, well, when it says there is no topless swimming, it does not refer to boys and men, it refers to women, and the reason is we are anatomically different.
There was an earlier movement to try to claim that this was discriminatory undertaken in the 1960s and '70s by feminists. This was actually a very interesting protest movement, I'll put it that way, on many liberal college campuses back in the 1960s and even the early 1970s with women, female students claiming that to be equal, they had to be equally able as the young men on their campuses to appear at even athletic events and at athletic facilities, if nowhere else on the campus, without shirts. But you know, that argument didn't get very far. And by the way, one of the reasons that argument didn't get very far is not just common sense and creation order. It is also the fact that at the very same time, there was the claim coming from the very same feminists about the objectification of the female body, and in particular, in depictions that were overly sexualized and downright pornographic.
And so at least some of the feminists recognized, "Look, we actually can't make both of these arguments at the same time. We can't simultaneously argue that rules requiring the coverage of the female body and the upper body are discriminatory when we are also complaining about the sexualized exposure of the very same bodies under the guise of either sexualized advertising, or even more crudely, in pornography." But here's where there emerged in interesting twist in the feminist argument, and this goes back to the influence of Marxism, especially cultural Marxism on the American college campus in the 1960s and '70s. The argument was this, it's all about agency. It's who gets to do this. So in other words, the argument was a man or males shouldn't have the ability to objectify women by looking at such photographs, but if women want to express themselves, they should be fully free to do so.
But here's the problem. How in the world do you have a law, any decent kind of policy, that supposedly makes a judgment based upon agency? The bottom line is you can't, and that brings us to the current situation with social media because you don't really have a jury of people looking at all of these postings and saying, "Is this one legitimate or is that one not?" No, this is all automated. It is all based upon algorithms. It's all based upon photographic recognition, and agency just doesn't matter. But this is where the situation just gets a lot more complex because it was problematic enough when the categories were male and female. And at least if you go back to the feminist movement, even if you go back to the young Marxist protestors on the campuses of America in the 1960s, they were confused about a lot of things, but here's what they weren't confused about, who was male and who was female. They weren't confused about that.
But this headline news coming from Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, it says that it has decided, or at least it's oversight board has decided that it is going to have to, "clarify its guidelines on photographs." And this is not occasioned by a feminist complaint. It is occasioned by a transgender non-binary complaint. Yeah, you should have seen this coming. Now, I am going to read to you from this New York Times article, but don't worry, I'm not going to use the language that is found here.
The statement from the company said, "The restrictions and exceptions to the rules on," I'll just say nude photography, "are extensive and confusing, particularly as they apply to transgender and non-binary people." Well, oddly enough, I want to say that I agree totally with that statement. That the rules of Facebook and Instagram are though extensive, probably also confusing as applied to transgender and non-binary people.
And here's what I want to come back and say, but if you're going to talk about transgender and non-binary people, give up on trying to have a policy, that's not confusing because the entire enterprise here is a deliberate attempt to confuse creation order. Now, just to let you know what's coming, according to press reports, Meta has 60 days to review the recommendations that have come from its oversight board, and a spokesman for Meta told The Times that they would publicly respond to every single one of the board's recommendations by mid-March.
So let me just state the obvious here. At least we ought to figure out that what we see on our Facebook and Instagram feeds just might get a lot more complicated as of the middle of March. Because if you look at how the Silicon Valley companies just entirely abandon reality in order to serve the demands of the LGBTQ revolutionaries, I'll just make a prediction, this can't end up well. But before leaving this issue entirely, I just wanted to say that I was sent an article that appeared in Vogue Magazine. Now, remember what Vogue Magazine, at least historically, has been, an article about women's fashion for women. Daisy Jones is the reporter on this article.
And yet, this article tells us that it is unconscionable that it has taken so long for Meta to consider changing its policies on all of this. It's an amazingly non-feminist, indeed, I would say, non-female argument. This author says this, "There is simply no way of knowing a person's gender based upon what their body looks like full stop." Now, I'll just say again, we can divide all of humanity between the people who would agree with that statement and the people who could not possibly agree with that statement. There really is no middle ground. As this author says, "Full stop." This Vogue writer goes on to say that Instagram's adult nudity policy "begins to look not only misogynistic and transphobic, but also genuinely absurd."
Now, I'll say that agreement on these contested issues is going to be virtually impossible, but I will agree with Vogue on two words. Those two words I think are absolutely essential to this entire issue.
Those two words, "genuinely absurd." That's genuinely true.
Look at This Case: Federal Jury Acquits Pro-Life Activist After Arrest for Supposed Violation of The FACE Act
But finally, today we need to know some good news that was reported in the press. A federal jury yesterday acquitted a pro-life activist known as Mark Houck, who was charged with violating what is known as the FACE Act. That's F-A-C-E, which refers to the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. And that law is being used against pro-lifers in order to say, "You can't impede someone or harass someone," or you might even say, "bother someone, who is seeking to gain an abortion by going into an abortion clinic." And it has sought to restrict the activities of pro-life activists and those who are trying to counsel women seeking abortions outside abortion clinics.
But the point to be recognized here is that yesterday, a federal jury acquitted a man who had been charged. And not only was he charged, but as National Review reports, even as he once charged, had offered to appear voluntarily to the Court of Justice. I'll just quote here, "The Biden Department of Justice chose to make an unnecessary show of potentially deadly force, sending 20 heavily armed federal agents to the Houck residence." So instead of just allowing him to come in and face the charges, they sent all of this in what was a massive display of federal force.
Now, here's the point I want to make. The Biden administration, and in particular statements made by the vice president and some that were connected to the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Biden administration has been saying that it is going to do everything possible to expand access to abortion, particularly abortion pills, medical abortions as they're known across the country, and to oppose any effort to restrict them. And you also see that the Biden administration is using the Department of Justice to try to make it more difficult for pro-life protestors to carry out a campaign on behalf of life against abortion outside abortion clinics. At least in this one case, the man who was arrested and arrested with such a massive display of federal force was acquitted by a federal jury. We can be thankful for that.
By the way, the man who was acquitted was acquitted at least in part because he made a very plausible argument that he had been defending his then 12-year-old son, who was with him at this event from being actually physically accosted by someone who was protesting for the other side, for the pro-abortion side.
So as you're thinking about the consequences of elections and in particular of a presidential election, just to remember that the president, once elected, has the power to nominate an attorney general of the United States, who heads the Department of Justice, and that includes vast, vast power that will either be used, or as we increasingly know, misused.
We should note that at this point, the cultural left in this country, and that includes the political left, appears increasingly eager to use government force to push its points.
And make no mistake, abortion is in so many ways its first point.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
I want to speak to you in particular if you are weighing and considering God's call to Christian ministry. If so, the question should not be, will you prepare for ministry, but with whom and where will you prepare for ministry? As a seminary president, I want to tell you the with whom is an even more important question than where, because when you look at theological education, you are underlining the centrality of a faculty. You're choosing a faculty with whom you will study.
At Southern Seminary, you'll have the opportunity to study not only with the best published faculty in theological education, but with those who are faithful in serving the cause of Christ, the church, and upholding the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. You'll have the opportunity to meet this faculty, and I'll be glad to meet you at Southern's Preview Day on April the 21st. This Preview Day is Southern Seminary's premier campus visit experience. You can engage with our faculty, tour the campus, and we'll work with you in discerning the Lord's will for your ministry and preparation.
You can register at sbts.edu/preview and you'll receive two nights of complimentary meals and lodging for your visit. I hope to see you in person for Preview Day on April the 21st.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.