The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Thursday, February 16, 2023

It’s Thursday, February 16th, 2023.

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

Part I

Mourning with MSU: A Christian Response to the Horror and Riddle of Evil

The entire nation is mourning with the campus of Michigan State University after a mass shooting there on Monday night left three young college students dead. And after about a three-hour extensive manhunt, it was discovered that the lead suspect and suspected shooter in this case had ended his own life. That was a man who was known as Anthony Dwayne McRae, identified as 43 years old, and here are some stunning developments. There is no clue as to why this took place, where it took place, and there is no indication that the students who were killed and those who were injured were even targeted in any particular way. Now, this raises a host of issues that the Christian worldview has struggled with for a very long time.

Indeed, all human beings just thinking through these issues have to think through these questions. There is no indication of a motive here, none at all. There is no indication of any claim that this man had against Michigan State University. As a matter of fact, the only documentary evidence that was found indicated his complaints against two other schools far away from Michigan State University. And yet on Monday night, he unloaded on that campus and killed three very young college students. And as you’re looking at this, you recognize the question of why isn’t inescapable question, and this is something we simply need to consider through the lens of the Christian worldview.

The Bible is straightforward and of course honest and dealing with evil. It grounds all human evil in human sin, going back to Genesis 3. But even as we’re thinking about evil, we understand that sometimes evil appears to be at least partially explainable to us. In other words, we can understand that here is a motivation for a crime. There was the crime. The motivation for the crime, the incentive for the crime doesn’t make it any less criminal, but there is at least some moral and intellectual satisfaction in knowing this is why that person committed this crime, committed this sin, did this evil deed.

But one of the most vexing aspects of evil that the Christian worldview has struggled with for two millennia now is the fact that at least some human, moral evil turns out to be absolutely inexplicable. Now, this raises a host of other issues. There might be more information found that would indicate why Anthony Dwayne McRae killed those three students and sought to unleash terror and death there on the Michigan State campus on Monday night. We might later have some evidence that would indicate the pattern, the thinking, give us some rational explanation, but we also have to know right up front that that information might never be forthcoming. We might never have that information. This horrible crime might remain at least in human knowledge, in this age, permanently beyond our reach. And we can add that to the long catalog of human evil that is inexplicable.

Now, one of the things the Bible tells us about evil is that again, ultimately all evil is inexplicable in terms of anything other than human rebellion against God. The creature’s rebellion against the Creator, which is in itself, Christian theologians have recognized from the beginning, is in itself irrational and rightly understood, insane. That is to say it was deranged for Adam and Eve to sin against the command of their Creator. It was irrational in that sense because even as the Creator had given this particular order and it grounded Adam and Eve, made in his image in the garden and given them all the blessings of being in direct fellowship with him in the garden, it was by that human reckoning insane to forfeit all of that simply by breaking the command.

But then again, it’s not totally insane, and even Satan himself made very clear. He didn’t tempt Adam and Eve simply by suggesting to them that it might be a convenient, good, pleasurable thing to break the command of God. He made very clear that it was an attempt at self-deification. It was an attempt at dethroning God as Creator and putting themselves in the center of the universe. That also is made clear by Jesus in the gospels.

But this is also something that Christians need to keep in mind. In our understanding of the world, our understanding of history, our understanding of humanity, indeed even of evil and sin and criminality, we do understand that in this life we will never have adequate answers to the question of why. In this case, what we see is that a secularized society has a much harder time dealing with this. Because after all, the Christian worldview based upon the Christian truth claim, begins with the existence of the self-revealing God, self-existent and glorious and morally perfect God who will make all things right.

Remember at the end of the biblical story, every eye is dry and every tear is wiped away among those who are in Christ. Now we’re not there yet. We will at that point no longer see through a glass darkly. We will see him face to face. But in this age, Christians had the comfort of knowing several things that a secularized society doesn’t know, and for that matter can’t know. Number one, the existence of God, his benevolence, his sovereignty, and the fact that at the end of the day all things will be explained. The second thing is that not only does the biblical worldview say that at the end of the day all things will be explained. In some sense it says that at the end of the day, justice will be perfectly upheld. The righteousness of God will be infinitely, completely, exhaustively exhibited.

Now at this point, we just need to observe and frankly even sympathetically to understand that when we are watching an increasingly secularized society distant from the Christian worldview, sometimes just openly opposed to the Christian worldview, when we see that society try to answer these big questions, it comes up with incredible frustration. And you also come to understand that those who demand justice and righteousness in this age will never be totally satisfied. Now, it is our responsibility in obedience to Christ to seek to bring justice and righteousness wherever we may, but regardless of how good the law enforcement system is, regardless of how righteous would be the set of laws and how regular and regulating the services of the courts may be, the reality is there will never be perfect justice in this life.

But there’s another final thought here. Even as we are praying for all those who are affected by this killing at Michigan State University, it’s a reminder to us that evil is always closer than we want to think or that we might imagine. And yet we are simply regularly shocked by this kind of moral evil and the Christian understands we should be because we should be thankful for God’s restraining grace that more people do not do such horrible things. And we should also be thankful for the common grace that explains that even in an increasingly secular society, there is a virtual consensus even in this morally confused age that what this man did on that campus was deeply evil and that it is our society’s responsibility to call it what it is and to seek to prevent it in the future.

Now, there’s a great debate over how that might happen, but the bottom line is this. We should be thankful for that bare minimal moral consensus, which still is rather remarkable in this secularized age, and we need to understand that sometimes at least that moral consensus, that this kind of shooting is just nothing other than evil. Sometimes that becomes an opportunity to bear witness to how it is that we as human beings even know the difference between good and evil in the first place.

Part II

The New York Times is Not Sufficiently LGBTQ?: Contributors Write Letter Chastising Paper for Insufficient Support of “Transgender Care” for Children

But next, looking at changes in our culture, sometimes well, illuminating events take place where you don’t expect them and from sources you might not expect. And I think it’s fair to say that The New York Times probably did not expect a group of contributors to write what amounts to a public letter complaining about the fact that in their view, The New York Times is not sufficiently pro LGBTQ. Put the emphasis on T or transgender. We have to come back to this issue time and time again because it seems like every day our society is directing some new major attention to this question, to this issue. And as we’re looking at this, you need to understand that we often refer to The New York Times as a very liberal newspaper. It has seen itself as a champion for the LGBTQ movement, now for a matter of decades. And yet The New York Times isn’t liberal enough, isn’t pro LGBTQ enough, certainly when it comes to the T, say these critics. It’s not you might say woke enough. And so this letter is intended to be a wake-up call for The New York Times.

The letter is addressed to Philip B. Corbett, who is the associate managing editor for standards at The New York Times, and the complaints come very quickly. “We write to you as a collective of New York Times contributors with serious concerns about editorial bias in the newspaper’s reporting on transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming people.”

Now, what makes this particularly important for The Briefing is that we have discussed several of the articles of their complaint on previous editions of The Briefing. We have looked at, for example, the front-page story that indicated that the collision between the transgender movement and transgender activism on the one hand, and the rights of parents on the other when it comes to minors who might declare themselves to be non-binary or transgender, the acknowledgement of parental rights and the issue of balancing parental rights and what are seen to be by the left, the rights of the LGBTQ movement. Well, what you see here is the fact that these contributors to The New York Times and they are now joined by hundreds upon hundreds of signers who’ve simply signed on or you might say piled on from the left here. The reality is that that’s not enough.

According to these contributors, there are not two sides to this issue; there is only one side. And one of the things we need to know is that the language in this letter is itself right out of the hem book of Cultural Marxism. And also, the leftist movements and ideologies that trace their way all the way back to the beginning of the 20th century, where the argument based in Marxism itself is: There are not two sides to any important moral story. And thus you have those in the name of the left who for the better part of the last century or more have simply said: There are not two sides to this issue. Two sides-ism, according to some Marxist theory, is actually a part of the problem and an indication of corruption.

This letter coming from the left, you need to understand that this letter coming from the left also underlines one of our major concerns, and that is the moral importance of language. So these who are writing to condemn The New York Times for not being LGBTQ enough in terms of favorability, they argue that an article by Emily Bazelon, we mentioned it on The Briefing, “The Battle Over Gender Therapy,” referred to one person as patient zero, “a trans child seeking gender-affirming care.” Okay, I want us to look at that sentence. I want to read the entire sentence now because I think this sentence is one of the most explosive I’ve read in a very long time. “For example, Emily Bazelon’s article, ‘The Battle Over Gender Therapy,’ uncritically used the term patient zero to refer to a trans child seeking gender-affirming care, a phrase that vilifies transness as a disease to be feared.” Okay, there was a big switcheroo in that sentence that I want us to note exactly what it was.

The complaint is that this article referring to a trans child, quote, that’s from the article, “a trans child seeking gender-affirming care.” The reference to that child…. And again, the word child’s right here in the sentence. The reference to that child as patient zero vilifies transness as a disease to be feared. Now, what’s going on there? Well, this actually has a very interesting pedigree, a very interesting history. If you were to go back to say the early decades of the 20th century, and even if you were to go back to a year as recent as say 1971, the entire medical establishment, according to the official medical standards, the official medical definitions of say homosexuality, it was referred to as a pathology. It was referred to as a disease. It was indicated as a disease that called for a certain course of treatment.

Now, those who were behind the original gay rights movement, the homosexual liberation movement, it called itself at one point, one of their main goals was to get the medical community to redefine homosexuality, same-sex affection, same-sex behavior, as something other than a disease. And they did that by political pressure. And that political pressure is incredibly well documented at both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association. Within about a 24-month period, both of those organizations due to intense LGBTQ lobbying had just reversed course. They just redefined homosexuality, homosexual relationships and behaviors as what was a disease yesterday, but is absolutely not a disease today, just in a matter of a vote.

But there was more to it than that because the psychologists and psychiatrists wanted to keep on having the ability to bill people for their psychiatric and psychological services. You can’t do that in an insurance age without having an official diagnosis, even a diagnosis number that you can use in billing. And so they had to have a way to keep the billing coming. And so having decided that homosexuality is not a psychological or a psychiatric disease, they decided that the mental disease was being in any way uncomfortable by being a homosexual. In this sense, that could be a diagnosable issue for which mental health professionals could bill patients or bill insurance companies. But there is more to it than that because the immediate context of this was saying that if there is such a personal difficulty with this kind of identity, it has to be forced upon a homosexual person by of course the oppression of a society.

Okay, so what you see in this letter is the attempt to do the very same thing when it comes not only to the transgender part of the equation, but here’s what’s so urgent for us to recognize. But when it comes to minors, when it comes to children and teenagers. And so you have here the open claim that even in referring to a child who after all is seeking medical treatment… Let’s be clear. What the child was seeking or others were seeking on behalf of the child was medical treatment, but, now just notice how important language is here, the reference to that child as patient zero, and this is on the very front page of this letter, that is described as “vilifying transness as a disease to be feared”.

Now, what this tells us is something we already know, and that is that the battle over language is eventually the battle over reality. Don’t let anyone tell you that just changing the language doesn’t change the reality. Now, it doesn’t change the reality, the fact that this is a boy or this is a girl, but it changes the reality of something like what is medical care and what is the society to think about these things? What kind of moral judgment is society to make? You change the language, you have just changed everything.

You go back, for example, to the 1960s and the 1970s when there was a concerted effort to replace the word adultery with something like the phrase, an extramarital affair. Now, the moment you take away a biblical word that clearly gives a moral verdict such as adultery, and you change it to something like an extramarital affair or in some cases there were even references to it as a fling or a simply non-marital relationship, well, all of that becomes a minimalization of the sin. All of it becomes a moral evasion. One of the key insights of how this took place in the 20th century was offered by a law professor, who said the way it works is that it moves from condemnation to euphemism to acceptance. Euphemism’s really important. You name it something else.

And that’s why I read that sentence in detail exactly as it appears in this letter because you want to look at a battle over language. Let me refer to it again.

Part III

The Transgender Revolution Is Not Going as Planned: Why the Average American Still (Rightly) Recoils at the Transgender Movement

The claim here is that The New York Times vilified transness as a disease to be feared because of its reference to “a trans child seeking gender-affirming”. Okay, there’s the battle over language, gender-affirming care. There is no honest reference to what is actually included under that category because even now, even in writing this letter, if they actually mentioned what they were talking about, they would bring moral revulsion, which is the exact thing they are trying to bury, to submerge and to deny.

But here’s where we also need to understand there is something going on here, and I’ve talked about it even as recently, just a few days ago on The Briefing. The transgender revolution is not going as planned by those who are seeking to direct and engineer it. Oh, it’s going as planned when it comes to medical associations, hospitals, research centers, and of course the cultural elite, the academics and all the rest. Where it’s not going as planned is down on street level where the average American, regardless of how they may answer a survey question, clearly isn’t going along with this, certainly not going along with all of this. And furthermore, there are evidences of a limitation upon how far this is going to get without a very significant backlash.

And you might just say that at least a part of what The New York Times has been doing in reporting is being honest about the fact there is a backlash. There are backlash questions and backlash forces. There are people who are saying, you know, I am willing to let bygones be bygones when it comes to L and G and B, but when it comes to T, you’re talking about something here that is simply beyond moral imagination. Now, Christians understand that it’s all a part of a package. LGBTQ is all a part of a confusion and a corruption, and all of it is contrary to Scripture.

But nonetheless, we do observe that our neighbors in a highly secularized age, even as they have been generally wanting in recent years to prove just how open and accepting they are with L and G and B, and who knows any number of other letters. When it comes to T, well, not so much, at least not so much once you talk about anything in detail.

Now, the clearest evidence of this, by the way, is the fact that there is actually a major reconsideration on transgender issues, at least in terms of referencing young people, children and teenagers in Great Britain, and we’ve talked about this. The nation’s largest transitioning clinic known as Tavistock has simply announced that it is stopping all procedures and most treatments when it comes to young people and transgender or non-binary identity. And there is already a backlash forming there in Great Britain about the fact that there are children upon whom hormone treatments and surgery have been done for whom even in the minds of those children and young people themselves later on was a mistake.

Dr. Paul McHugh, who was one of the early persons to sound the alarm, especially when it comes to teenagers and young people, by the way, he had been a part of founding one of the early transition or transgender treatment centers at John’s Hopkins University’s medical center. The fact is that nonetheless, he came back and said, all of this is wrong. It’s all malpractice. It is all against medical ethics. And he warned even then that what the medical community was going to see is an enormous number of lawsuits and legal challenges that are going to come by people who say their lives were ruined or horribly harmed by what were declared to be the standards of care prevalent when they themselves were younger, and in many cases, this means children and teenagers. And you might imagine that injuring a child or a teenager can and should bring grievous legal consequences. Paul McHugh said to the medical establishment, “You have been warned.”

But even as we talk about the backlash, there are countervailing forces coming from the left and wow, this is one of them. You’re talking about a very long list of contributors to The New York Times saying that a paper as liberal as The New York Times is a part of the problem. This is using that kind of neo-Marxist analysis. You’re either part of the problem or you’re part of the solution. And by, well, I’ll just say even acknowledging there are two sides to some of these arguments, The New York Times has become the enemy of the transgender movement.

Now, this letter was not released just so that there will be headlines about it. This letter was released as a form of leftist pressure on The New York Times to stop acknowledging there are two sides to these issues, to get with the program and abandon the standards of journalism merely to adopt the language that is required by the transgender movement in the United States. Now, we can just hope that some prevailing standards of journalism will remain and that the transgender movement just doesn’t get everything it demands here.

But if it does, it will come as no basic surprise to those of us who’ve been looking at the mainstream media and operation for recent years. And it’s one of the reasons why we better be very thankful that there is in this country at this point, an ecology of alternative news sources. Because already it’s been the case, that if all we had was the mainstream media, then we’d be in very bad shape when it comes to knowing the truth. But the fact is, and this letter serves as a warning in this direction, as we look to the future, the mainstream media are not likely to be less liberal, less irrational, less ideologically committed, but more so.

Part IV

Who are the Cultural Warriors?: The Self-Deception of Those Certain of Victory on the Left

And I’ll simply conclude by pointing to an article that appeared…. Well, where else? In The New York Times by editorial colonist, Paul Krugman. The title of this article is “Who Are The Culture Warriors?” The next two words, “Not Democrats.” This is an article written by a very liberal man. He’s a Nobel Prize winner in economics. He’s one of the most liberal, and by the way, caustic contributors regularly to the editorial page of The New York Times, but his point here is that there are culture warriors, but they’re really not on the left. He says, oh, there are a few on the left who can be annoying to social liberals, “But few have significant power, and they certainly don’t rule the Democratic Party, which isn’t locked into a closed mental universe, impervious to inconvenient facts, whose denizens communicate in buzzwords nobody else recognizes.” I just had to point to that because here’s a person who has been a part of driving the Democratic Party, and he would by extension, seek to drive the entire society far, far, far to the left on these issues.

And here you see the self-deception of the left in its assumption. Indeed, its assertion in this case, that its positions on these issues, and let’s understand, they’re so far ideologically to the left when it comes to sex, marriage, abortion, just go on the list. Those are the normal and supposedly normative positions of the society. If you press against those, guess what, you’re a culture warrior. Here’s what we need to understand, that the left has been in control of this culture for so long that they believe that pushback is culture war, and that they’re just culture. They never acknowledge that they came into that position of cultural prominence by waging a culture war from the left.

The culture war we have right now in which the left and the right are at least to some extent, pushing against one another, that is a situation they themselves brought. Because those who are operating on the basis of defending, say the unborn, or objecting marriage as the union of a man and a woman, we didn’t raise those issues because the inheritance of previous centuries was the opposite.

No. Instead, those issues were raised because the leftists were seeking to subvert them, to corrupt them, to deny them. It’s the left that’s been moving society in a different direction, and the evidence of that is nothing less than the entirety of multiple thousands of years of human experience and human history. You can go back centuries and ask someone what marriage is, and I can guarantee you they, rather than the ideological left in the United States, will get the question right.

The answer for Christians is not to get bitter or angry over this, but simply to channel that indignation into actually pushing back against those who are pushing the culture into this kind of devastation.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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