The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

It’s Wednesday, June 14th, 2023.

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


Part I

Don’t Buy the Book Bans Propaganda: The Issue is More Complicated Than the Revolutionaries Want You to Think

A lot of discussion these days about book banning and book bans, and as we’ve discussed previously, we need to be very careful about that language because usually there is no banning of a book. It is instead a controversy over who gets to decide what’s in a library, who gets to decide what is in a school curriculum, who decides what children will and will not confront in a library and might read.

The big issue here is a basic conflict. It’s between those who say that the answer is professionals should make these decisions or parents should make these decisions. State after state, what we have seen is that this is the major conflict. We have to understand that this conflict is so deep that people on both sides simply almost can’t understand that anyone would hold the opposite position.

If you look at this long enough, you understand that’s exactly what’s going on. For years, libraries have been under the control of professional librarians. Now, just something to put as the footnote here. Professionalization is one of the ways that a couple of things happen. Number one, what’s called rationalization. So you establish, okay, these are the rules of how a library should operate. You walk in a library, this is what you should find. Rationalization means it should be reasonable and it should be the same everywhere. So a library in Dubuque should look like a library in Detroit and it also means something else. It means that a library that might be in an elementary school should sort of look like an library in the local university.

Now, not exactly of course, but nonetheless it should also be professionalized, rationalized and then professionalized with the profession dimension of that meaning the only librarians get to say who a good librarian is, what it means to be a good librarian. The same way that the doctors say, “You don’t get to say who’s a good doctor. Other doctors do.” You want to know who’s qualified to practice law? Don’t ask your uncle, ask the American Bar Association. If you have the certification, the professional recognition or credential from the organization, then you’re supposed to be judged according to this logic only by your fellow professionals when it comes to your profession.

Here’s where the Left’s capture of the professions has everything to do with why parents become the problem. It is because once the left has captured the profession, and it has, profession after profession, not in every profession to exactly the same extent on exactly the same schedule, but let’s face it, there is no way that you could have say medical professionals insisting that a boy can be a girl and a girl can be a boy unless there has been an enormous takeover of that profession by something other than medicine. The same thing is true when it comes to librarianship, and this has been going on as a struggle for a long time. That’s why for years you’ve had organizations of publishers and authors who have been claiming that there are book banning movements.

Now, by the way, there have been throughout human history some efforts to ban books, but that language is now being used in an almost absolutely dishonest way. Because most people are not trying at all to ban books, as in you can’t publish them, it’s illegal to sell them, you can’t send them through the mail. No, these days it’s basically saying you can’t use that in the curriculum and you’re not going to put that book in front of my children in the library. That’s an inappropriate book. The “professionals” are fighting back saying, “You’re just parents. You don’t have any right to make these decisions. We’re the professionals. We know.”

Here’s where, as you look at the statements by many of the professional organizations, particularly the American Library Association, one of the things you note is they are taking positions that are decidedly on one side of the cultural divide. It’s not the conservative side, it is the progressive side.

When it comes to say, trying to bring about a change in morality, LGBTQ issues, gender issues, you’re going to see an awful lot of Heather Has Two Mommies and you’re going to see things far beyond that. That’s almost antique now. You see the kinds of narratives that have been in place when you look at the controversies over specific books. Frankly, many of those books are dealing with explicitly sexual themes that would’ve been unimaginable on any score for any reader when I was in school.

Yet we’re told now this is a matter of ensuring the safety of those who are young people, perhaps claiming or struggling with some of the same identity, sexual behavior orientation questions, but that implies something else. That implies that libraries are supposed to be now arsenals for the affirmation of what is now demanded as the only acceptable morality on the terms of the cultural left.

I want to back up and say for a moment, not all librarians hold to this worldview, not all librarians make this decision. It is to say that the profession, and in this case the profession of librarians is basically, like almost all the other professions, it is moving to the left. Its standards are that way. As I say, it comes down to a competition between the professionals and the parents. Because district by district, library by library, school by school, parents have been basically told for decades, “You don’t get a say in this. This is not your decision to make.” When it comes to a lot of these libraries, for an awful lot of decades, there wasn’t that much for parents to be upset about.

But the point is, we are now involved in the most basic questions of gender, sexuality, morality, even anatomy, and this is now being downshifted, and this is not an exaggeration, downshifted to preschoolers. I was in Texas just a matter of a few weeks ago, went into a local bookstore, and frankly, I had to buy as a matter just of having proof a series of books written for preschoolers, and let me just tell you, it is filled with the most activist LGBTQ ideology you could imagine, but it’s complete with drawings and art and cute little characters.

The message, the worldview is anything but cute. But it’s really interesting to look at an article that I recently saw in the Sun Sentinel, that’s the Fort Lauderdale Florida newspaper. The headline is, “Book Bans Spreading Beyond Florida.” Well, of course Florida is ground zero largely because of Governor Ron DeSantis and the legislature there passing laws that the cultural left finds absolutely unthinkable and unacceptable.

But there’s also a bit of Associated Press honesty here that these book bans, as they’re calling them, are not just found in Florida but elsewhere. Now, I remind you, the propaganda use of the term book ban is itself a part of the media’s enabling of this kind of approach. If parents protest against a book, then they’re blamed as being book banners. The article, by the way, cites the American Library Association this way, “The number of attempts to ban or restrict books across the U.S. last year was the highest in the 20 years the American Library Association has been tracking such efforts.”

So let’s just do a reality check here. Let’s seek to be careful as we think about this because if indeed last year saw the highest number of challenges to books in libraries in the last 20 years, you can ask yourself the question, so which way does this go? Does this highest number of protest against books or complaints against books, is this rooted in the fact that the collection of books has changed or is it reflected in the fact that say new people are showing up to make the challenges?

So as you have a record number of challenges, that could be because you have a record number of offensive books or it could be because there are a record number of people making a set of complaints against a certain number of books. The point is the very fact that there are record number of complaints doesn’t tell you anything about the validity of those complaints.

I also want us to note something else. It’s the use of a word. Just see if you hear it when I read it here, “EveryLibrary, a national political action committee, said it’s tracking at least 121 proposals introduced in state legislatures this year targeting libraries, librarians, educators and access to materials.” I

 hope you heard the word, it’s the word targeting. Did you catch that? The choice of a word like that and the media’s use and allowance of a word like that tells us that it’s already bought into a moral argument because let’s just state the obvious, the very verb, it’s a participle in this case, targeting, implies that this is something that ought not to be done. The use of the term targeting here comes with ominous overtones, and yet let’s remember that in an age in which there is admittedly far too much violence, the word targeting here is used about someone saying that book shouldn’t be available to people this age in that library.

If you can get away with calling that targeting, then you’ve already won a significant media and moral victory and the left’s winning it over and over again right here in this article.

But there’s another interesting aspect to this. Remember the headline was about these efforts, book bans, they are described spreading beyond Florida. Well, if like a virus or in the South, kudzu, they are spreading, where might they be spreading? New York, Oregon, Montana?

No, it turns out that the states that are mentioned are states like Arkansas, where Republican Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a law set to take effect this summer that could impose criminal penalties on librarians who knowingly provide harmful materials to minors. Another state mentioned is Indiana, another state, Texas, after Texas, Oklahoma. In Oklahoma we’re told, “The state school board has approved new rules that prohibit pornographic materials and sexualized content in school libraries and allow parents to submit formal complaints.”

Now, wait just a minute. This is supposed to be a problem? It’s supposed to be a problem that the state school board in Oklahoma is saying that there should be rules to prohibit pornographic materials and sexualized content in school libraries? By the way, what is the draconian penalty here? The law “allows parents to submit formal complaints”. That is supposed to be a threat? Parents who can issue a formal complaint? Wow, what will they think of next?

The article, by the way, goes back to Ron DeSantis, the Governor of Florida, saying, “DeSantis insists books aren’t being banned, preferring to call the forced removal of some books, ‘curation choices that are consistent with state standards.'” It’s a battle of words on both sides, to be sure, but the left is the one controlling the narrative here and gaining so much by using the term book bans. But you’ll notice that the way the article describes the effort is that the governor “Prefers to call the forced removal of some books.”

Well, what other kind of removal is there? Books don’t remove themselves. Someone’s deciding to put the book in. Someone decides to take the book out. In any event, it’s a decision about what books should be in the library.

The words forced removal here don’t have to do so much with the book, but with who’s making the decision. You see the point, again, if professionals are making the decision, well, that’s just fine, even if the professions are sold out to one side in the cultural conflict.

But if parents get involved or the government gets involved or the governor gets involved, well, that’s dirty pool. There’s something else here, and this requires us to think again, pause for a moment. “Librarians, free speech advocates and some parents and educators say the push is driven by a small conservative minority that happens to have outsized clout in Republican primaries like the one DeSantis is now competing in.” You know what that doesn’t explain? That doesn’t explain all those states I just mentioned.

It doesn’t explain how this is happening outside the context of say a race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. It doesn’t concede that this has been an election changer when it comes to parents asserting their authority in states such as Virginia. By the way, if indeed this is just about a minority of parents, you have to ask the question, “A minority where?” If you take all the parents and you add up say states like Massachusetts and New York and California and then say Oklahoma and Arkansas and Indiana, yeah, you might be looking at the fact that this might break down into which there’s a minority of parents who would follow this same particular set of guidelines and putting books in.

But here’s the point, people don’t just live on a statistic or survey form. They live in actual states. In states like Florida, guess what? Those concerned parents, those concerned citizens, they’re not a minority. If they were, Ron DeSantis would not be governor. There would not be the majority power in the legislature that is currently there. They didn’t get there by self-appointment. They were elected. Yet, no one is really claiming that in a state like New Jersey, the numbers would turn out to be the same.

That’s the reason why you should expect that in states like New Jersey, you’re going to see different books in the library than in states like Alabama. You have different positions on abortion and different positions on art museums and different positions on economic issues. If you’re shocked by that, then I don’t know what you understand about this country.

Part II

The Bible is Pornographic Now?: Utah School Board Pulls Bible from Elementary School Libraries

But at this point, I want to shift to another headline news story, and this one’s getting a lot of attention. I’ve had a good many contacts about it. The Washington Post headline is this, Protestor opposed to book bans gets Bible pulled from some Utah schools.

This particular story ricocheted all the way across the Atlantic. The Times, in many ways the most elite of the daily newspapers in London ran an article with the headline, “Sex-Ridden Bible Banned from Schools in Utah.” Now, there’s a lot going on here. You say Utah, the first thing many people think about is the influence of the Mormon Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as it officially calls itself. Mormonism has outsized influence there in Utah, but not as much influence as it used to have.

Utah is now part of the Intermountain West in which frankly, you’ve got a lot of cultural and social liberalization taking place as well. But the point is that there’s a tension here because it’s the Bible that’s been taken out of some libraries because one activist, in order to push back on conservative activism within the libraries, decided to take the highly symbolic and politically explosive act of making accusations against the Bible, accusations about violence, accusations about sexual imagery and explicit sexual material. You just go down the list. Evidently, at least in some school districts, the Bible has been pulled based upon this complaint.

At least one school district, the Davis School District there in Utah has taken this very action. Someone submitted a complaint about the King James Bible, “Arguing the text was pornographic by our new definition”. Now listen to this, this is in the Washington Post, “A school district committee determined that the Bible was not age appropriate for elementary and middle schoolers, though it ruled that the text does not contain the type of sensitive material the law seeks to keep out of schools.” The school board acted. “The Bible was pulled from seven or eight elementary and middle schools and will stay in high school libraries,” Davis School District spokesman Chris Williams said via email. The decision has been appealed by another person in the district.

The explanation comes next, “The Bible’s journey through the Davis School District review process, the semester after Utah’s new law made at one of the states with the most book removals comes amid a national surge in efforts to restrict what students read. To supporters of the Utah law, the outcome was a signal of the system properly functioning. To opponents of book banning, it showed the flaws.”

Now, I really want to make an argument, and the next sentence is absolutely crucial to making the argument because it’s going to take a twist, a turn you might not expect: “Lawmakers who backed to the law didn’t strongly object to the removal, indicating that the ability to pull books was more important than the loss of the Bible from school library shelves. State Senator Todd Weiler, Republican, who sponsored the bill in the Senate said he hoped the district’s decision will be overturned, but he called the Bible’s removal a fair trade for the removal of other books containing what he described as explicit, X-rated content.”

I told you it was going to take an interesting turn and it did in just that one sentence because here you have some political leaders behind offering the ability for people to make complaints against books that are objectionable.

You have some of the same politicians saying, “If the Bible’s taken out based upon that argument, I’ll accept that rather than to give up the entire power to make complaints against books and have very explicit sexually related materials taken out of the library. If I lose the right to do that, I will accept that someone might make a complaint against the Bible and in some cases the Bible might be removed.”

I’m raising this in order to say here we finally get down to the bottom line in understanding where we stand, and where we stand is this. We are now looking at a country so polarized on these issues that some people believe that a library should have in it available to everyone of every age the most sexually and gender ideologically driven material that is imaginable.

When this state senator, State Senator Todd Weiler refers to “explicit, X-rated content”, I can just assure you that some of these books have just that. Some of the books that the left is complaining about being pulled, especially on LGBTQ issues, they involve not just a discussion of sexuality, they discuss the mechanics of sex.

So let’s just ask ourselves the question of having the Bible taken out of the library in order to take out pornographic material, is that an acceptable loss? I think the only answer to that question is let’s just understand once again where we stand. Where we stand is in a nation so divided there are people who want X-rated materials in and people who do not want X-rated materials in, sexually explicit materials in. There are people who want the Bible in the school library and there are those who say they’re offended by the Bible in the school library.

We’re now becoming the kind of country in which you’re going to have to have two school libraries because you have two different worldviews, two different sets of priorities represented in two different book collections and two different lists of the books you want banned.

Now, as I say, the word banned here is not really legitimate at all. I would say the books you want restricted. Because a book ban really means you can’t publish it, you can’t own it, you can’t sell it. That’s not even on the table here. All that’s on the table here is who gets to make legitimate necessary decisions about which books should be in what libraries for readers of what ages.

Part III

The Argument Over Book Bans Becomes National Issue: President Biden Announces Coordinator Position to Monitor “Growing Threat” of Book Bans

But one final issue for us to think about in this dimension is that this is now a matter of national politics. It’s a matter not only of national debate, it’s not a matter just of local political controversy, it’s a matter of national policy, and no one made that clearer than the President of the United States last week with the announcement coming from the White House.

Here’s the headline, “Fact sheet. Biden-Harris administration announces new actions to protect LGBTQI+ communities,” just notice how many letters have been added by this White House. But here’s the thing, now we are told that the White House is creating an office or at least a position that is going to review bans on books or efforts to try to remove books.

The effort is “to shield LGBTQI+ Americans from book bans that threaten their rights by announcing that the Department of Education will appoint a new coordinator to address the growing threat that book bans pose for the civil rights of students.” So just about everything you need to know about our cultural conflict is distilled there into one sentence from a White House press release.

Part IV

‘Even the French Are Blushing’: France’s Finance Minister Sparks Controversy After Publishing Steamy Novel

It’s not about worldview polarization in the United States. In fact, in order to understand this story, we have to go across the Atlantic. We have to go to France. Now in France, we just need to note that the definition of sexually explicit has generally been considerably more liberal than in the United States, at least over the course of the last several decades, or say the last half century.

Indeed, the term French literature sometimes was something of a euphemism for pornography. It’s not to say all French literature is pornography, it is to say France had different standards about what was considered more or less acceptable in terms of sexual explicitness.

So why are we talking about this today? Big headlines in France, they have to do with a new book, which is extremely explicit in sexual terms. But the point is it was written by the government’s finance minister. It would be like the United States Secretary of the Treasury wrote a steamy, absolutely pornographic novel and had it published such that people are seeing it in the airport book stalls and they’re seeing it at the local discount store.

The Wall Street Journal gets right to the point with the headline, even the French are blushing. Now again, you see the inference there. It takes a little bit more for the French to blush, but evidently now they’re blushing. But the finance minister is not. But here’s where you also get to another very interesting fact because even as the finance minister is facing controversy about this book, the controversy is coming on two different grounds. One of them has to do with the finance minister writing something so, well, explicit or steamy. I’ll just say that that is a line that has not been crossed in the United States, at least not yet.

It’s actually very hard to imagine in the United States a major political figure including a cabinet member, a member of the president’s cabinet writing something that is so explicit when it comes to sexuality. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine a member of a president’s cabinet writing a major literary work during the time of that cabinet service. Because in the United States, we do not have the same literary culture as you find in France. France is so proud of its literary culture that it considers politics secondary to literature. But there’s another dimension to the controversy and that comes down to something I guess Americans could more readily understand perhaps, and that is this.

How exactly does the finance minister of France, given all the challenges to the financial situation and the economy of France, how does he have time to write any novel, not to mention such a sexually explicit novel? There’s some people in France who are saying, “Frankly, I don’t care about the sex. I want to know what’s he been doing on the job.”

All this gets mixed together when you consider this opening, “Several explicit sex scenes in the new book by the French Finance Minister have given the book a flush of attention and force the government of President Emmanuel Macron to explain how one of his most senior members has time to write novels when people are struggling with high food and energy prices.”

I just have to look at that and say, “Maybe this is just about France.” But the controversy there appears to be about the finance minister’s time, not his imagination, nor his novel. The finance minister, by the way, said that he is not going to be writing another book immediately. He said, “After a book that is required so much time, maturation in work, there will be a long period without writing.” He went on to say, “One needs to let things rest.” The finance minister also explained why he writes by saying, “It’s a very deep inner necessity that gives me balance.” The finance minister said, “I’m just trying to be 100% myself.”

Well, evidently, the French people right now would like their finance minister to be something less than 100% himself.

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

Today I’m in New Orleans, Louisiana, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me using the contact form. Follow regular updates on Twitter at @albertmohler.

Subscribe via email for daily Briefings and more (unsubscribe at any time).