The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

It’s Tuesday, June 6, 2023.

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

Part I

India’s Deadly Train Crash: Human Error or Mechanical Failure? Sometimes it Comes Down to Both

India was once a part of the British Empire. It has been independent since about the midpoint of the 20th century. It is now considered to be the world’s most populous nation in terms just to the size of its population. It also is a place with an infrastructure, much of which was begun under the conditions of the British Empire, some of which has been expanded, some of which has been radically modernized, but much of which has not.

One of the sad headlines coming to us in recent days is a massive death toll from the collision of two trains and, by the way, eventually the involvement of a third as well. As of last night, it’s expected that the death toll would be right about 300 and might possibly rise. This is something also rather ominous when you think about it, it’s reported as one of the most deadly train collisions in India in recent history, which tells you there have been many collisions of trains over the course of India’s long history, and its long history with trains and its massive population.

You’re looking at the fact that it is estimated that eight billion train rides happen in India every year. That’s eight billion. That is such a massive number. You’re also looking at huge moral questions that arise in the aftermath of this kind of disaster because we’re not talking about a hurricane, we’re not talking about a tornado or an earthquake, we’re talking about the failure of a human engineered technology. It’s also coming in the midst of a very, very hot political season.

When something like this happens, you have the immediate accusation that it’s somebody’s fault, and then you have the immediate pushback that this is an equipment error or it’s some kind of failure of the system. It’s likely that it’s going to turn out to be both. But that system itself is also put together by human beings who are morally responsible. It is also true that, in a fallen world, there are no perfect systems. Lots of issues come to mind here.

This is a massive human tragedy and it’s the kind of human tragedy that is just made all the more real with the fact that you have an older technology, in this case trains, passenger trains, that collide leading to such a calamity with very modern technology, including social media, bringing immediate reports, some of them accurate, some of them less accurate.

But at times, it’s important for us to pause and just look at the numbers. Again, you’re looking at eight billion train rides in India in a single year. You’re looking at India, in just the last year, spending about $30 billion in updating and upgrading its train system. But that’s something like just a down payment on what’s going to be a massive, massive cost.

You also have political realities. In India right now, one of the political realities is that there are those who are blaming the current government for spending money on brand new, highly engineered, high technology trains that often run at very high speeds and not spending that money on fixing some of the existing rail lines and the existing rail technology. Not only that, but recent reports in the international media indicate that the current Indian government actually cut back spending on the updating of older train technology in order to spend more money on new rail technology.

Of course, what you’re looking at here are political decisions that come with consequences. You’re looking at political trade-offs and that means that there will be winners and there will be losers. You’re also looking at an effort to try to come up with political accountability, which sometimes is possible but often is frustratingly impossible in these kinds of situations.

All of this comes against another background, which should be of interest to us all, and that is that much of the current concern about safety and many of the current innovations that have led to safer transport. These are perhaps even more recent than you might think. Throughout most of the history of the human engagement with trains, trains have been considered modern miracles but, at the same time, they have also brought opportunity for massive damage and even massive carnage.

Back in 1980, it was estimated that India saw the derailment of 475 trains a year. Just think about that. Think about the trains filled with all the people and all the cars and all of these trains and 475 derailments in a single year. The number is now considerably lower, which just tells us that not only do technologies improve, but you also have greater expectations of people now that the systems will be safe and will be made more safe.

Those doing the reporting on India have to step back and say, “This is a horrible tragedy, but train safety in India has probably never been higher,” at least in terms of the kinds of documented accidents with fatalities. That is precious little comfort to the families who are grieving. It’s not just those who are grieving the dead, it is also the fact that something like 1100 persons were injured in this train crash, many of them seriously injured, and that’s going to mean a real stress upon the healthcare system and many families as well.

It is a reminder to us all that we are dependent upon technologies at every turn, not only in India, but also in the United States. Wherever you are hearing this, we’re dependent upon technologies that indeed can make life transformed into something far easier, far faster, far more mobile. At the same time, in a fallen world, there is no such transportation that comes with no risk and there’s also no risk that comes without some level of human responsibility.

Figuring all of that out is going to be a very vexed and contentious issue in India. In a fallen world, especially when you’re looking, again, at eight billion train rides in a single nation, there’s going to be a lot to figure out here. Hopefully, with some good effect, we can hope for this out of just about any tragedy like this to make future tragedies like this less likely.

Part II

Just One Issue of USA Today Reveals the Transformed Moral Landscape: It Also Reveals Finger-pointing at Both Parents and Christianity

But next, we’re going to shift to looking at how culture changes and, in particular, we’re going to be looking at something like Pride Month and, inevitably, we have had to turn to this issue in various dimensions of it day after day, but it’s good to step back for just a moment and remind ourselves that this is not an accident. This is coming as a part of a concerted effort to change an entire culture in terms of the moral code.

For instance, you even have the language that’s used here, Pride Month, that came out of the effort to try to suggest that what society had held and Christianity had affirmed very clearly to be aberrate relationships and sinful behaviors were instead to be representations of human pride rooted in, we need to note, the argument that the pride is primarily in the identity.

But here’s where you have some honesty that still breaks through. There’s also the fact that it is claimed that there’s pride in the behaviors and that becomes very clear at many Pride events. At virtually every Pride event, there are those who identify with the event who will not play by the code to suggest that you should play up identity and play down behavior, anything that might scare the general public. The closer you look at these events, the more you can tell that moral barrier after moral barrier is falling.

Now, earlier, we ended up in the ramp up to Pride Month talking about the fact that there were so many major American corporations and retailers who had clearly gotten themselves out on a limb on this issue. In particular, Anheuser-Busch with Bud Light and then Target, most notoriously, but those companies just got caught extending themselves a further out in terms of what should be outrageous than much of the corporate pack. The corporate pack is still moving very much in the direction of playing to the LGBTQ movement and, for that matter, is now playing to the entire cultural left, which in so many ways is pulling all the major strings as we think about the direction of our culture.

But it’s also important to look at a couple of other dimensions, and one of them is something I mentioned before, but I want to document with a bit more specificity. It’s not just that you have a concerted effort by the mainstream media, it’s that even among the mainstream media and just about every single media outlet, every single newspaper, every single cable network, they’re all trying to give the signal of their involvement in support for Pride Month, some of them a bit more than others. Just like Target and Anheuser-Busch got found a little bit beyond what some other corporations were doing and they get caught and called out on it, the same thing is true in some of the media.

In particular, when it comes to print media and its web representation, one of those that is really pushing the limits, not just in Pride month, but just about every day of the year is USA Today. I went to look at just yesterday’s print edition of USA Today and I want to look at four pieces and understand how all this fits together in a pattern that intelligent Christians really need to learn to recognize and understand.

For one thing, you had the business section front page with an article report, legislation fueling inequity in more states. We’re going to come back to that in just a moment. The opinion piece, the lead opinion editorial, “These senators worked to save same-sex marriage.” In the sports section, a headline story, Russian tennis player has put it all on the line by coming out. And then, an article in the front news section that turns out to be most important in moral and worldview terms. The headline, homeless LGBTQ youths face hostility from their parents. As I already said, that turns out, by far, to be the most important of the articles.

But going back to the business section, that front page article with the headline, legislation fueling inequity in more states. Let’s note first the language issue, and this is the ideologically driven shift from talking about equality or inequality to equity and inequity. They’re not the same thing. Equity is now argued to be the end result.

In other words, equity is the end result of what inequality produces. The argument is actually far more ideologically slippery and, for that matter, more dangerous than that because the argument is that it doesn’t matter whether or not a system is fair, it only matters whether or not the right outcomes come out of it.

Now, in other words, that means even if there is no overt discrimination against LGBTQ persons, the argument is there still must be a certain pattern of representation and achievement with those who identify that way or the system is marked by inequity.

Now, just understand that that basically comes with a threat of extortion. It basically comes with the threat that if we judge the outcome of your hiring system, of your budget, the outcome of your laws or anything else, your admissions policies, to reflect what we will declare to be an inequity then you are guilty of that inequity. You are morally required to fix it.

Of course, that also requires that you come up with some measure of saying, “Well, here is what equity represents.” Two things to note there. For one thing, those who are arguing for equity will often just keep insisting upon the fact that there’s inequity that has to be remedied, and they won’t tell you what equity would represent. They don’t give you a specific goal. They just say, “More. Equity demands more.” When will that be satisfied? You figured out the answer by now. It means never.

The next thing you need to note is that when you have this demand of equity, who gets to define the terms. Turns out to be all important because, in many cases, you have the claim that equity requires X, Y, or Z based upon an extrapolation of how many persons in any population and any employee base in a corporation and any student body in a school should be or might be represented by these identifications and this identity politics mix. And so, you also have people who have every reason to inflate all of those numbers, which is going to lead us to a final consideration today.

But, first, let’s look at this actual report. It’s by Charisse Jones in USA Today. Again, yesterday’s print edition. The article begins, “For the second year in a row, there was an increase in the number of states that grew more hostile to the LGBTQ+ community.” Now, how would we know that? “According to a new report shared exclusively with USA Today.” Now, we need to step back before we even look at this report and remind ourselves of how this war is fought.

This war of report versus report is fought by giving an exclusive leak of the report to USA Today that runs a news story as if this is news. But, meanwhile, it turns out that this report comes from an activist group and this activist group has no reason to tell us the truth and every reason to paint the issue in its ideological terms. USA Today just presents this as if it represents fact. While the fact is that it doesn’t represent fact.

We’re told, by the way, that there are good guys and bad guys. Every report like this has to frame it that way. We’re told that the best report here was New York state as the most equitable state for the third year in a row. Now, that’s also interesting writing because the article began for the second year in a row, there was an increase in the number of states that were judged to be on the bad list.

But now, for the third year in a row, New York is the most progressive state. It had a score of 93.67. Now, just ask yourself the question, is this something that New York is now supposed to put on the welcome to New York signs? Is the sign supposed to say Welcome to New York, we scored 93.67 out of 100 points from the 2023 out leadership state LGBTQ+ business climate index.” That’s a lot to put on a sign.

We’re also told that the worst state, so if New York was the best state, Arkansas ranked as “the worst” in regard to support for the LGBTQ+ community with a score of 32 out of 100. At least, New York got a fraction. It was 93.67. Arkansas just got a flat 32. There are also those who are making improvement, according to this news article. We’re told “West Virginia was the most improved with a score that rose 5.47 points to 51.60, while it turns out there’s another state that is on the worst of the bad list declining the most. That would be the state of Kentucky. Kentucky’s score “declined 7.08 points to 39.85, the steepest drop of any state.”

Now, Christians looking at this understand that we’re in a war of competing moralities. We’re in a war of competing media narratives and it’s not an even fight because the mainstream media are overwhelmingly now just basically subservient to the LGBTQ+ sexual and moral revolutionaries. It’s not true that conservative Christians say there’s no moral issue here. It is true to say that Christians would have a very different understanding of what the moral issues are.

Furthermore, you’ll notice how the activist group works here. The work here is done by claiming that all of this can be reduced to math. It can be reduced to a score. You can have a scorecard of those who are doing well and, at the same time, the scorecard can tell you who’s doing horribly.

Now, why would anyone care? Well, the reason why this particular kind of study is done is, number one, to change public opinion, to drive public opinion along the lines of the ideology behind this. There’s a second thing and that is to scare off business, and that’s the big point here. This particular article, appeared on the front page of the money section, the financial section of USA Today. That’s not an accident.

The argument here is that businesses should not locate in Arkansas or Kentucky, but should consider instead going to New York, California and New Jersey or, for that matter, maybe even West Virginia, which was, according to this study, the most improved state. But if you look at the numbers, not improved all that much.

Something else to note in this is that the activist community uses this kind of report in order to exert political leverage and that leverage, by the way, not only on politicians but also on major American corporations, suggesting that corporations, sporting events, associations, not hold meetings, not hold conventions, not hold athletic events, not hold NCAA championship rounds, in states that are on the bad list, but instead do business only in the states that they declare to be on the good list. That’s not without consequences and, by the way, politicians are often very much attuned to those consequences.

This also points to something else, which is a major issue we have to consider on The Briefing over and over again, and that is that once you have momentum gaining for this kind of massive social movement, it becomes something that basically takes on a life of its own. That’s what’s taking place right now in terms of the revolution in sexual morality around us. You have numbers that simply don’t add up to that many people being identified as LGBTQ.

Again, we’re going to end on that in just a moment. But nonetheless, you have the cultural pressure coming with the insistence that this is the most important issue, you and your law firm better get behind, you and your campus had better get behind, you and your corporation had better get behind. The big threat that is held out to so many of these organizations is that they will be found behind the times, behind the new moral curve.

The final statement in this article is a quote from one official who said, “If you have economic power, you can have influence on policy.” That’s the point and, trust me, the activist community understands that point full well. The article in the sports section was by Dan Wolken, the columnist, and it had to do with a Russian tennis player who’s come out of the closet.

Of course, the coming out of the closet is very much celebrated and what is considered to be and diagnosed to be the homophobia that makes this problematic is condemned. Wolken makes his point clear and the entire point of the article clear in just one paragraph where he writes, “Every famous athlete who comes out as LGBTQ+ has shown their own form of bravery, navigating highly personal stakes in an unusually public way.”

But one of the things we need to point out is that that coming out is almost always met with cultural celebration. It is people like Dan Wolken who make certain that that’s the case. It’s increasingly the leagues and those who are the owners of the teams who make sure that that’s the case. These days, you come out of the closet, you don’t get put on some kind of bad list in terms of the people in control of the culture. You get about half a page in USA Today and a columnist talking about how heroic you are.

The piece on the editorial page is by John Wood Jr. and the title, again, was the Senator’s work to save same-sex marriage. It’s a celebration of bipartisanship declared here between Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Susan Collins, rather liberal Republican senator from Maine. Wood says he interviewed both of these senators just thinking about their victory and what was called the Respect for Marriage Act which, let’s just remind ourselves, was legislation that offered federal protection to same sex marriages.

There was the fig leaf of also arguing that it gave federal protection to interracial marriages, but that was not the point of controversy. Everyone knew it was about the same sex marriage. This column is just written as a celebration of what is seen as a bipartisanship on the right side of the moral revolution. Of course, from a Christian perspective, this was a grave injury to marriage. But USA Today, in this opinion piece, just basically says, this is what we can hope for looking to the future and, of course, they’re working for that kind of future. That’s the whole point of running this kind of editorial.

But the most significant article to appear is the one with the headline, homeless LGBTQ youths face hostility from their parents. Claire Thornton is the reporter here. This is an article that originates in USA Today and was published online and in the print edition. The point here is that this article argues that, in the main, parents here are the problem. The moral situation is set up so that if parents are not entirely affirming of LGBTQ identity, relationships, behaviors on the part of their children, then they are the problem.

Now, remember, the first word in the headline had to do with homeless LGBTQ youths and the accusation here is that an unwillingness of parents to affirm LGBTQ identity, behavior, relationships, is what has led to the homelessness. No doubt there are a lot of complicated issues here, and no doubt homelessness on the part of LGBTQ youth or anyone else is a big problem. No doubt this does increase the likelihood that many young people are going to become the victims of sex trafficking and other kinds of immoral activities, even criminal networks. But the point here is that parents are identified as the problem.

There’s actually a bottom line argument that is made here when we read a statement by Josh Egeland, identified as program manager of David’s Place. “LGBTQ+ youth primarily experience homelessness due to family rejection. We know that that’s the primary theme.” But then follows this paragraph, and this really changes the moral context. Listen, “Even if parents don’t literally kick their LGBTQ child to the curb, homophobic and transphobic treatment from parents is traumatic and causes many youth to flee.” You’ll notice how the moral situation is now here fundamentally changed. It’s not, we’re told, so much that parents are kicking their LGBTQ children out and putting them on the street, it is in the failing to affirm them totally with many of the children then leaving on their own. It’s all the parents’ fault.

The very next section of the article, I kid you not, comes with this subhead, religious beliefs can influence rejection. The problem is twofold, we’re told. The problem is parents and it’s the religious beliefs of these parents. “Clients often attribute their parents homophobia or transphobia to religious beliefs, said Kate Barnhart, founder of New Alternatives, a drop-in for homeless queer youths in Manhattan.” Barnhart went on to say, “If I have a young person in my office who’s new and talking about being rejected by their family, I can say, ‘Is your family very religious?’, and they’re almost always like, ‘Yes,’ Barnhart said.”

I’m not going to look further at the article, although the article takes up a full half page in the print edition of yesterday’s USA Today. I simply want to make the point, the messaging here is not subtle. The messaging here is that if parents don’t get with the moral sexual revolution, they don’t get with the LGBTQ+, don’t forget the plus sign, revolution, they don’t get to the point of eager affirmation of whatever sexual identity or gender identity claim their offspring may make. If, of all things, their convictions are driven by religious beliefs, then they’re going to have to be dealt with.

Part III

There Is More (and Less) to This Story: The Inverted Math of the Moral Revolutionaries

But one final thought here is that this also comes down not only to a war against religious conviction and, let’s face it, that means in the main Christian conviction, it also comes down to a war of statistics. One of the things we need to look at is that many of these statistics are just wildly off from any kind of objective and accurate count.

Just to give you one example, and they’re not talking about this in the activist community in Pride Month, the Census Bureau’s released statistics on 2020. The Wall Street Journal headline was this, “Same sex couples accounted for 1% of households in 2020.” Let’s just say, they’re not getting 1% of the attention of the media celebration or, for that matter, of the political demands. That’s a story in itself. I have to wait for another edition of The Briefing.

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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