The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

It’s Tuesday, February 21, 2023.

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

Part I

Guilty of ‘Targeting’?: The Cultural Rhetoric Surrounding Those Resisting the Sexual Revolution and LGBTQ Ideology

Sometimes it’s not just the issue itself, urgent and controversial, though it may be. Sometimes the story to which we need to pay some attention is not so much the issue as how the issue is discussed, how the issue is shaped in cultural conversation, and perhaps even more pointedly, how it is presented to us in the mainstream media.

Now, in order to the fact that over the course of the last several weeks, we’ve had to discuss rather repeatedly the issue of transgender identity and the newspaper known as The New York Times.

Over the course of the last several weeks, we’ve had to look repeatedly at how those issues have intersected, how The New York Times has dealt with these issues, not because The Times is just one of the world’s most influential newspapers, but because it is indicative of the cultural conversation around us.

We saw, for example, just a few days ago, the fact that on the front page of The New York Times, the paper in a very large, very extensive report raised the issue as to whether or not parents should be understood to have some kind of rights when it comes to understanding that the school systems in which their children are involved are affirming a transgender identity.

And of course, one of the most amazing things is number one, that the article ran and in one sense it’s tragic, but nonetheless it is surprising that it’s tragic, that The New York Times acted as if it might be possible there are two sides to this issue, but nonetheless, the predominant idea was that teenagers and young people, children need to be affirmed in their LGBTQ identity and if that means keeping parents in the dark, then so be it.

But as I said, the fact that even this newspaper recognize there just might be two sides to this story, questions of course are going to consider this in almost opposite terms when it comes to which side is right, but nonetheless, it is interesting as we saw just last week that a number of contributors, indeed a very large number of contributors to The New York Times, they issued an open statement condemning The New York Times for acting as if there might be two arguments here, two sides to the story.

But it’s also just very interesting to look at how in the mainstream media. In The New York Times is just an example here. In the mainstream media, it is writ large. That is to say it is now just what we expect to see parents and others who will not go along as those who are described as the enemy, and for that matter impediments to human happiness and to the security and even the health of their young people.

But we also see something else and that is that the verbs that are used when, for instance, legislation has passed or when a policy is handed down, that is often the language of attack or the word that seems to come up more and more again these days is target or targeting.

Now, let me tell you how it comes up, and it comes up so often that in social media and in the mainstream media, this is just the way that customarily it’s becoming the norm. This is how the mainstream media target conservative positions when it comes to opposing the full array of the agenda of the LGBTQ movement.

If you will not go along enthusiastically, with all the demands and all the policy aims of that movement, then if you adopt any policy contrary, if you as a legislator vote for legislation that might in some way, for example, be out of sync with the LGBTQ ideologues, then you are in favor of or perhaps even personally guilty of targeting transgender youth and young people or targeting the LGBTQ community.

I just want us to note, as in worldview perspective, we’re trying to understand what’s going on around us. There is both an honesty and a dishonesty that is involved here. There is a sense in which there’s at least a bit of honesty because we are looking at the fact that there are many who actually buy the LGBTQ ideology, hook, line, and sinker as they say.

They are enthusiastic proponents of this liberationist sexual ideology that says, the way to liberate human beings to be autonomous and to be themselves and to be fulfilled and to be happy, is to affirm whatever gender or sexual identity they claim.

And so I just want to say frighteningly enough, they believe so much in this ideology. They’re not lying when they say that they believe, that anyone who holds to say an objective understanding of gender and sexuality, anyone who holds to the consistency between biological sex and gender, anyone who holds to the fact that marriage should be and only be the union of a man and a woman, anyone who believes there should be any limits on human sexuality, at least among those who are defined as capable of giving consent, they are simply enemies of human happiness. Enemies of human flourishing.

We just need to understand this. Some people actually buy that. They also believe that or they have convinced themselves of that. But as I said, there’s dishonesty here as well. And in the use of a language like what we see here of attacking or targeting, when it comes to LGBTQ youth, just any policy that says, that there should be any restrictions on the affirmation of young people. If there should be any concern whatsoever about children declaring transgender identity, then if you adopt a policy, you are targeting the trans community. That’s what we see over and over again these days.

Now, at the political level, let’s just understand that that is a very effective strategy. At the rhetorical level, it’s a very, very successful strategy because once you use the word attack, well, just think about Russia attacking Ukraine, there is a good side and there’s a bad side just in terms of the understanding of what attack means.

Now, let me offer you a concrete example of what we’re talking about here. It’s an article entitled, “How Red States Are Attacking Families.” There it is right in the headline, attacking families. Megan Stack is the contributor. She’s identified as a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times and an author who’s been a correspondent in China, Russia, Egypt, and elsewhere. In this case, reporting from Jefferson City, Missouri. The headline again, “How Red States,” that means conservative states, “are attacking families.”

Now, wait just a minute. Red states are supposedly conservative states and conservative values are family values. So how is it that red states are attacking families? Well, as you might guess, this has a lot to do, indeed, it has everything to do with the LGBTQ revolution. But what’s embedded here is a bigger lesson we had better learn fast.

The article begins, remember it is reported from Jefferson City, Missouri. That’s the heartland of America. That’s the point in locating the story there, and it centers on a family and in that family, parents and in that family, at least one child identified as an 11-year-old, “transgender boy.”

Now, let that just sink in a moment. We’re talking about an 11-year-old child here. But the big story is that in Missouri, legislators are considering further restrictions on LGBTQ issues, particularly in the schools and for that matter on sports teams, and that is simply described in the headline here as red states, as in Missouri in this case, attacking families.

Now, again, just consider the language. Attacking families. The verbal picture there is quite aggressive, but as it turns out what is being presented here is an argument that if a state adopts some kind of policy or for that matter, it could be an institution, it could be a school, it could be your Christian school or private institution.

If you adopt a policy saying that only biological females may play and compete on girls or women’s teams, then you are, well, here’s the verb, you are attacking transgender individuals. But if indeed the individual is a minor, is a child or a teenager and that child’s parents affirm the transgender identity, well then you end up with this headline, “How Red States Are Attacking Families.”

Now, in this article you see similar language about targeting trans individuals, trans students, trans teenagers. Targeting in this case simply means adopting a policy that has anything to do with transgender claims or with the concrete practical question of who gets to compete and to play on which team.

Later in the article, by the way, another child is introduced and this child isn’t even 11, this child is four. I read to you from the article, “A therapist explained that the four-year-old Avery was transgender.” And in this case, the mother, “Had never heard this term before and wasn’t sure what it entailed, but the family was rattled enough to pay attention. On the advice of their doctors,” We are told, “they started allowing Avery to live as a girl. The day Avery first headed off to school in girl’s clothing, Ms. Jackson recalled, this child seemed very happy for the first time in a very long time.”

Now, if you’re thinking about personal identity here and you’re talking about something as basic as gender, just bracket what you know to be true as Christians in terms of the givenness of that maleness or femaleness. Let’s just say that you do somehow want to describe this as a personal project. Are you actually going to download this upon a four-year-old child? Do you really take a four-year-old child’s expressions like this seriously as determinative of the actual supposed gender identity of that child?

Now, I’ll just say, this is simply a form of cultural insanity. Now, let’s be clear, it’s a form of cultural insanity if the person involved is 40, but let’s face it. It’s an altogether different level of insanity when the person is four. Later in the article we encounter language such as this, that there was, quote, “A backlash against transgender rights that was underway.” Later in the article we find this familiar language of targeting transgender rights.

So here we have attacking, backlash, targeting. Just notice the rhetorical power in public debate and in emotional form of that kind of language. Targeting, attacking, backlash. All of this is something is very aggressive, and if you are indeed targeting someone, oh, that would be a problem. If you’re attacking someone, that would to say the very least be a problem.

But here you have the words targeting and attack, and also add to that the word backlash and others found in this kind of coverage. You have that assigned to people who don’t believe that transgender rights are actually real. And so in other words, the Christian biblical worldview doesn’t respond by saying, “We think that transgender rights should be minimized. We don’t actually believe that transgender rights are real.”

Now, we believe the human rights are real, and for that matter, we’re not talking about storming into someone’s house, but we are talking about the demand being made that there be public recognition, public affirmation, and for that matter, the use of government and the public schools and social work and all the rest as coercive agents to force compliance with this new understanding of gender and sexuality. Well at that point, if you protest at all, well, get ready to be accused of attacking. Get ready to be accused of targeting. Get ready to be accused of being a part of a backlash against moral progress.

More than anything else in this segment of The Briefing today, I wanted to just alert us all to the way this kind of language is being used. I want us to understand it’s not accidental nor is it ineffective. It puts conservatives and certainly it puts those who hold to a biblical worldview and it puts conservative parents in a rather defensive position, because after all, you got to say, “I’m not targeting, I am not attacking. I am seeking to well just affirm reality including biological reality, and I’m contending for my child not to be coerced into complicity in this effort to try to bury the truth in unrighteousness.”

Part II

Drag Queens Halted in Tennessee? Red State America and Bans on “Male and Female Impersonators”

Now, I’ll simply say that to give the benefit of the doubt, and this is hard to do in this case, let’s just say this person’s never seen one of these drag shows, but the fact is that anyone who has seen what is presented here in the media, even for many of these events that are aimed at children, the reality is if they’re not sexual, well nothing sexual.

And let’s just point out something else. If you are talking about transgender, let me give you a clue. You’re talking about sexuality. And when you look at what it takes, just to give an example, because a drag queen operates just as way to take a male grown body and try to impersonate a female, you’re going to have to exaggerate certain sexual features. To say it’s non-sexual is to make this into our argument nonsense.

But once again, in this case with a local report right here in Nashville, Tennessee, in the Nashville Tennesseean, we see the same kind of language erasure, attacking, targeting. It’s all right here and virtually it’s every day. By the way, this is Giles County, Tennessee, and it just reminds me that there’s no safe place in the United States from having to say certain things out loud these days, and even make certain statements using very careful language in crafting policy in law.

The newspaper tells us that, “According to the new park rules for the Agri-Park,” that means the agricultural park, “in Giles County, “nudity, live performances which involve the removal of clothing or garments, performances of male or female impersonators, the performance or simulation of sexual or indecent acts, public indecency and the display, distribution or sale of sexually oriented materials or pornography are prohibited.”

Now, let me just state the obvious fact here, that if you tried to explain this to those who were on this county commission, just a matter of say a generation ago, they would’ve thought you were insane for even talking about the necessity of such a regulation or policy. But this is what we faced these days. And again, my purpose today is not just to look at the moral issue, but at the moral warfare, given the language. And I want us to look at another example from this article about the “agri” part policy here in Tennessee, in this case in Giles County, Tennessee.

One other spokesperson has mentioned here. This is Maureen Holland identified as a civil rights and employment attorney in Memphis who currently serves as the section chair of the LGBTQ section of the Tennessee Bar Association. This lawyer said, “It’s disturbing, this rule along with the bill that just passed in the Senate is designed and intended to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, not just individuals who engage in drag shows, but also individuals who are transgender and or non-binary. And this essentially criminalizes cross-dressing as well.”

Well, actually, I think to some extent it was intended to criminalize cross-dressing, especially in a context that was clearly identified as transgender. Now, you might say that the language that was adopted by this commission looks a little bit outdated when you talk about male and female impersonators, but I think that’s rather refreshingly candid given the fact that in this moral and gender and sexual revolution, we have progressed to the point where it is virtually impossible to use any kind of language. That doesn’t sound out of date if you’re talking about biological reality, because according to the progressives in our society, biological reality is out of date.

The lawyer cited here, by the way, was actively involved in the Obergefell case before the supreme court, and in that case in 2015, the supreme court founded, invented a right to same-sex marriage. So this is all a part of a rather consistent approach here. This lawyer speaking of the Giles County policy and also speaking of the proposed state law, said, “This law seems to be specifically designed to harm the LGBTQ community.”

So again, you see how all of this is presented as an effort to harm the LGBTQ community rather than an effort to protect children. That tells you how the cultural struggle in this country has come down to language such as this, and we had better pay careful attention to this language.

Part III

Restrict or Prohibit Vice? Merely Encourage Virtues?: A Debate That Reveals the Moral Confusion of Our Times

But next I want us to look at another essay, and this one also tells us a lot about where we are as a culture. This particular piece appeared in the Atlantic with the headline, “America’s Gone Too Far in Legalizing Vice.” It’s by Matthew Loftus. And that’s certainly an interesting argument that America’s gone too far in legalizing vice.

Now, the word vice refers to behavior that would normally be sanctioned or prohibited or certainly in many cases made, illegal. The context here is entirely negative in moral terms, and so even as you might say that there are greater and lesser vices in terms of moral transgressions and moral dangers, the fact is that the word vice is inherently negative. Just think about the police and the vice squad, often related to prostitution or some other kind of sex trafficking or similar.

But in this case, as is made very clear early in the article, this is really about the legalization of marijuana and add to that, the legalization of gambling. And this author Matthew Loftus very perceptively says, “Look, there are limits to just how this is going to work.” And if you take something that has been, and I would say rightly was defined as a vice and you make it an industry and you try to mainstream it in society, just what are you setting loose.

Now, even as the article begins, Matthew Loftus tells us, “Our hearts and minds are shaped not only by reason, but also by our habits which are just as often inexplicably self-destructive as they are reasonable.” Now, interestingly, that’s a statement that seems to echo some of the primary refrains of Christianity. We do not know ourselves so well. The heart is deceitfully wicked, said the psalmist who can understand it.

But Matthew Loftus in this article points to two particular issues, as I said, the legalization of marijuana, which has no surprise brought problems, and the expansion of legalized gambling, which has brought similar and very predictable problems. Now, these are two issues that are quite commonly in the headlines these days, gambling and especially legalized gambling, and the spread of legalized gambling and also the legalized use of marijuana.

But Loftus then writes, “When arguments are made for loosening the government’s restrictions on vice, usually proponents make their case with idealistic situations. Shouldn’t responsible independent adults be able to make decisions for themselves about how they spend their money or use their body?” He goes on to say, “This seems appealing, and there certainly are well-informed adults who gamble and use marijuana judiciously.” Now, that’s a crucial sentence, but then he goes on to say, “But focusing on these ideal cases and basing our laws on them disregards millions of people who suffer because of their addictions, and it obscures the underhanded tactics of companies who make money off the misery of addicts.”

Now, there’s something here we need to note, and this is something that’s increasingly common in our society in terms of moral confusion. You have the open argument, and in this case it’s rather implicit. You have the open argument that this is something that in proportion would be a problem, but if it gets out of proportion, it’s of ice. This is when you shift from say, the problem of gambling to what’s redefined as problem gambling. It’s not the problem of marijuana, it is the problem of problematic marijuana.

Loftus goes on to explain, “The industries that profit off addiction want to frame the question of access around responsible use and occasionally suggests that some people might have a genetic predisposition to addiction.” He continues, quote, “This individualistic framing allows them to avoid talking about how much effort they’re putting into making their products as accessible as possible. Even more important, it elides,” He says, “the question of whether we are all better off when it’s easier to start an addiction and harder to escape one.”

Now, it’s just really important to recognize that this author recognizes the difference between virtue and vice. And furthermore, he wants to encourage virtue and he wants to discourage vice. He says this, “Just as people can be sucked into addictions, we can also work to develop the virtues inside us so we can be kind, generous and self-controlled throughout our lives.” But Loftus is demonstrating genuine and no doubt, sincere moral concern, but his answer to this is attempting to limit vice. Not to eliminate it, but to limit it, to restrict it, to put legal boundaries around it.

He says this, “Some judicious restrictions are better for everyone. Gambling should take place in casinos not on smartphones, and marijuana should be used only under a healthcare provider supervision.” He goes on to say, “We will need a lot more than a few regulations to help one another grow in virtue but right now, vice and its lobbyists have an unfair advantage that needs to be taken away.”

So what do we say about this kind of argument? Well, at least it represents something that is morally superior, vastly so than most of the moral arguments we see in the public square today. For one thing, it’s just healthy to see a writer that speaks openly and rather affirmatively of the distinction between virtue and vice. And he seems in a very clear way to prefer virtue to vice, and to be concerned about the dangers that vices bring to individuals and to society.

But I was struck as I read his article that this is exactly how many cultures and even cultures in the English-speaking Western tradition have dealt with these issues, have dealt with moral questions. See, but by saying, “Let’s encourage virtue, let’s try to limit vice.” It’s a sign of the moral insanity of our times that increasingly we encourage vice and tend to disregard if not to sanction virtue.

But there’s something even more fundamental here, and I think Christians need to understand this. Virtue and vice are not just labels that we put on things we like and dislike. They’re not even just labels we put on acts that we consider healthy or unhealthy, those that have good consequences and those that will bring bad consequences.

We actually believe as Christians that there are acts that are inherently right and wrong. There are objectively real vices and objectively real virtues, but the Christian worldview also understands this. We will never eliminate all vice, but attempting to create a policy of a halfway house, say to limit legal gambling to casinos and keep it off of smartphones.

Well, Christians understand that in the long-term big picture of the Christian biblical worldview, that is a losing strategy, because something like gambling simply won’t stay in casinos. It will leap onto smartphones and before you know it, it is something that is affecting your family as well. And when it comes to pornography, same thing. When it comes to marijuana, increasingly the same thing.

And that’s why for Christians, the language of vice and virtue is never enough. Much of that is dependent upon time and space, where you are and of what culture you are apart. We can’t speak only of virtue and vice. We actually as Christians have to talk about right and wrong, that which is righteous and that which is sinful.

By the way, one last thing. One of the elements missing from any of these arguments is the fact that our governments have turned themselves. They transformed themselves from entities that tried to limit these vices to institutions that try to tax them and gain income from them.

The government may, on the one hand tell you that it believes that problem or habitual gambling is wrong and dangerous, but on the other hand, that same government is enticing you to buy that lottery ticket or an even more extreme form of gambling, telling you that riches are right around the corner. We increasingly see around us cultural authorities and even governments that claim virtue, but they’re making money off of vice.

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 on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to

I’m speaking to you from Nashville, Tennessee, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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