Wednesday, June 28, 2023
It's Wednesday, June 28th, 2023.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Vice President Harris Visits NYC for Pride Month: The Political Strategy of the Biden Administration and the Celebration of the LGBTQ Revolution
Headlines keep coming at us, as do the issues, with June coming to a conclusion. June is always a really big month, precisely because it's the month when the Supreme Court term ends, and we're still awaiting several big decisions that might be handed down over the course of the next day or so. We'll be watching that with you very closely. But June also marks another major cultural development in recent years in the United States, and that is Pride Month. Now, Pride Month is just basically now two words. Sometimes it's just one word, simply identified as pride, but of course we know that it's not just a celebration of pride, it is a particular celebration of LGBTQ+ pride. That's a major turning point in our society.
The success of getting the entire culture to agree on a calendar that designates one month, and by the way, of course, the rest of the year, the other 11 months are also basically celebrated almost the same way by many in society, but the concerted effort to come up with one month in which there is just constant, immersive, overwhelming, tsunami-like cultural messaging when it comes to the normalization of everything LGBTQ+. But we also need to note a couple of other issues about how culture works before this month comes officially to an end. As I say, it may be difficult for you to know that the month has come to an end, because of the way that society now works. It's basically 12 months a year. But nonetheless, as Pride Month comes to an end, we need to notice a couple of things, and this tells us a lot about how moral change takes place in a culture.
It also tells us about the strategies to bring about that kind of massive moral change. So for example, with Pride Month coming to an end, at least officially, because June's going to run out of days, the Biden administration wanted to have at least one big parting shot. Now remember, the Biden administration began the month to great fanfare, with an event at the White House that can only really be described as pornographic.
And that also just points to this administration's complicity with an effort to try to normalize all of this, in a way that requires a suspension of imagination and moral judgment. You simply have to say, "Oh yes, the president and other powers that be are telling me this is something I should celebrate. Something in which our society should find pride." We can only hope that there's still some residue of moral sanity in a society where we can only hope there are more people who say that than actually believe it.
But with the month coming to an end, the president sent the Vice President, Kamala Harris, to New York, and in particular to a visit to the Stonewall Inn. Now that's the site, the historic site, a so-called gay bar at the time, it was the site of a police crackdown that led to a 1969 riot, that according to most historians of the gay rights movement, the LGBTQ movement in America, was the spark that lit the flame. The vice president evidently decided she was going to associate with those who had partied a bit hard there at the Stonewall Inn. Kurt Kelly, identified as a co-owner of the bar, said, "Gay Pride was yesterday. So I'm like," waving his hand next to his head. The vice president of the United States responded, Liam Stack of The Times tells us, by commiserating, "I get it," said the vice president. "The morning after."
If that seems a bit smarmy to you and I think it should, the content of this article just gets worse. The headline, Harris Reassures LGBTQ Community of Party's Support. That means the Democratic Party's support. One of the big issues we need to see here is that the worldview divide over these issues in the United States is now inescapably partisan. That's not just a media overlay. That's not just what one party of the two major political parties would say.
When it comes to the Democrats and the Republicans, quite frankly, not all Republicans are anywhere near a biblical position on these issues, but it's virtually impossible right now to have any identification with the Democratic Party, and be anywhere near an historic biblical understanding of human sexuality and gender. The vice president being sent to the Stonewall Inn under these circumstances as Pride Week comes to an end just puts an exclamation point on that observation.
The partisan issue here is made clear by Liam Stack when he writes, "As Pride Month comes to a close, Democratic elected officials have sought to reassure LGBTQ+ people of their support, making gestures both concrete and symbolic, even as threats against the community proliferate on both the national and local levels." Now, just hold on for a moment because you'll notice there is a citation, even as threats against the community proliferate. Well, we're going to come back to that in just a moment, but as the article continues, "It's not an accident that New York was where this story is date lined. New York is a leading center of gay culture, and elected officials there have responded to the worsening political climate for LGBTQ rights in other states with a slew of measures in recent months."
So this is an article that begins by telling us about the visit by the Vice President of the United States to the Stonewall Inn, but then the scene in the article shifts to New York State government, where we are told Governor Kathy Hochul and the state legislature have been moving to make New York, "A safe haven for transgender people and their families, including those who travel here from out of state."
The New York legislation, by the way, goes so far that it prohibits state law enforcement officials in New York, "From cooperating with out-of-state agencies that seek to obtain information about transgender healthcare provided in the state." The article then goes on to quote New York Governor Kathy Hochul as saying, "As other states target LGBTQ+ people with bigotry and fearmongering, New York is fighting back. These new laws will enshrine our state as a beacon of hope, a safe haven for trans youth and their families, and ensure we continue to lead the nation on LGBTQ+ rights."
Now, when we talk about states, for example, looking at a national map by states, we talk about states being red or blue. This is an example that blue states are, in the main, just getting bluer, even as the argument would hold on the other side, red states are just getting redder. There are some states that are not clearly yet blue or red, or seem to be moving from one to the other, but what we see here basically is a state like New York positioning itself as leading the new vanguard for LGBTQ+ rights. And notice that that is extended explicitly to an insistence that teenagers, adolescents, should have access to so-called gender-affirming care.
By the way, the vice president, back when she was an elected official in California, or from California, when she was in the United States Senate, she did everything possible, including performing same-sex unions, to make her support for the LGBTQ movement and the normalization of its goals. She's been a big proponent for a very long time.
The vice president, there at the Stonewall Inn not by accident, said that it "pained her," said The New York Times, to see state laws being passed almost 20 years later like the Florida measure that, according to the Times, "bars discussions of sexuality and gender identity in schools," and which critics refer to as, "Don't say gay." The vice president said this as a parting shot, "We can take nothing for granted in terms of the progress we achieve. We have to be vigilant. That is the nature of our fight for equality."
Very interesting use of the first person pronoun there in the plural, our. Our fight for equality. In this context, our fight seems to imply not only the Biden administration but clearly the Democratic Party as well. She knew she was among friends and fellow partisans and we come to understand the vast worldview implications of this divide on such a basic moral issue in the United States.
And make no mistake, the vice president was speaking very clearly, as was the governor of New York, about whether or not teenagers should have, well, let's just put it the way they did, access to the kinds of treatments that would on the one end have to do with hormone treatments to delay puberty. And when it comes to surgery, go even beyond, and even as there are people saying that doesn't take place, we have medical authorities reporting it does take place. I want to point to another dimension as Pride Month comes to an end as well, in terms of worldview analysis. The Times also reported a major article of the headline, "Report Cites Over 350 Anti-LGBTQ Incidents in 11 Months."
That would be the 11 months before Pride Month. Maggie Aster is the reporter in this article, but the point to which I want to draw attention is that so many of these so-called incidents don't turn out to be much of an incident at all. Evidently this would include, for example, a protest against a drag show at which children would be attending. And as you look at this, you recognize this is, in our context, in our culture, this is the way so many fights about the future of the culture are fought out. They're fought out in claims about these kinds of so-called incidents, or anti-LGBTQ incidents.
Now clearly there would be included in this some genuine incidents about which we would all agree in which criminal behavior took place, and perhaps even physical threats were made. But in the main, what we're looking at here is the battle, a propaganda battle, in which victimization is one way of getting attention. And we're also looking at the fact that the definition of incident here is just kept rather deliberately vague.
At one point, even in the article, Sarah Kate Ellis, the president of the activist group GLAAD spoke of such examples as, "That revolting anti-gay comment you saw on a neighbor's social media page." Is that an incident? And also understand we have Christians who are simply putting on social media a statement of quotation of a Bible verse, and that's being claimed by some people as an incident.
There is no doubt that there are some people who are responding in inappropriate ways to this moral challenge, but we also need to recognize that the LGBTQ movement doesn't recognize, and explicitly will not recognize, legitimate protests and legitimate comments that would defend, for example, a Christian biblical understanding and worldview. Anyone who dares stand against the momentum of this movement is likely to be charged one way or another with homophobia, or hate speech, or something similar.
One final note on this issue. The Vice President of the United States made this very well publicized visit to New York, another signal of two things. Number one, the presidential campaign is heating up, and number two, the reelection campaign for the Biden-Harris ticket believes that this kind of appearance is, well, to put a spin on it, a ticket to electoral success in 2024.
We Can’t Lose the War Over Words: On the Importance of Language and the Attempted Relabeling of the Killing of Unborn Life as ‘Healthcare’
Next, another reference to what we see taking place in the media, sometimes in the courts, just in terms of the language, because the language really matters. That's one thing Christians always have to keep in mind. The language always matters. That includes the use or misuse of a word like pride, but it's also very important that we recognize that when, in recent days, a judge in Wyoming blocked the Wyoming law that would've banned the use of pills for abortion, the judge involved insisted on talking about reproductive healthcare, defining abortion as healthcare.
That became particularly important, because we're talking about the state of Wyoming, and Wyoming's constitution actually includes an explicit guarantee that adult citizens in that state have the right to make their own healthcare decisions. That, by the way, would be dated in 2012. That points to another basic problem here. We need to at least register this as a footnote in this story. There's a libertarian drive on the part of many, who believe that this kind of law or this kind of constitutional amendment would increase personal liberty, including the liberty as you might see here, to have control of your healthcare.
The problem is that when healthcare is then redefined to include such issues as abortion, the language that was put in the constitution may have quite unexpected consequences. But it was that constitutional language going back to 2012 that was cited by this judge in putting at least a temporary halt on the ban on abortion pills there in Wyoming. And it's just important to recognize that she cited, that is, the judge cited, that constitutional language about reproductive healthcare, or even just about individual healthcare, and she clearly went on to put the hold on the legislation precisely because she defined abortion as a woman's healthcare.
But it's not just for a woman, of course, it's now for a person. At least Judge Owens did use the word woman as in this sentence, "Essentially, the government under this law is making the decision for a woman, rather than the woman making her own healthcare choice." She went on to say, "Which is what the overwhelming majority in Wyoming decided that we should get to do."
So big worldview implication here, if you get to redefine abortion, which is the intentional termination of the life of a baby within a woman, if you can get away with recharacterizing that as just healthcare, you can in this case get away with it, even with the support of a judge. It's also very important to recognize that the lawyer representing the state of Wyoming and defending the legislation addressed that argument, saying that abortion is not rightly defined as healthcare, because, "Getting the abortion doesn't implicate healthcare, because it's not restoring the woman's body from pain, physical disease, or sickness." That's actually a very good argument, but the point is, the judge clearly has a different understanding of healthcare, and was willing to impose that upon the state.
This is not the end of this story, but it's a very revealing turn in this story, and it tells us again that what we should expect in the continuing fight for the dignity and sanctity of unborn life, one of the issues we're going to have to confront over and over again, is the attempt by the pro-abortion side to say, "We're not even talking about abortion, we're just talking about a woman's reproductive health," or in this case, just a citizen's healthcare decisions.
The Marketing of Book Bans for Political Traction: The Genuine Delusion of the Progressive Left
But next, as we're talking about language, we need to understand another issue of language that's now frequently being deployed by the left, and that is the phrase book bans, or banning books.
Now specifically, that basically does not exist in the United States of America. Which is to say that if you look at a government that actually bans books and makes the printing, the publication, the dissemination of those books illegal if not impossible, criminal penalties and worse, that simply does not happen in the United States of America. But what we have instead are those claiming that if you say and if a parent says, "I don't want my child to be exposed to that book," or, "That's an inappropriate book for a specific library," you are thus trying to ban the books.
Now, we've been talking about that for a long time because we have seen this with booksellers and librarians and others, particularly in the activists left, just using the language of book bans in order to try to draw attention to what they basically want, which is their sole say in whether books are in a library. We're talking about professional groups of librarians that are predictably on the left, virtually every single time. If you doubt that, just go to the websites of the major librarian organizations, and those who set the professional standards, and look at the kind of resolutions that are adopted, and the kind of causes they talk about.
Claire Savage, reporting about a recent meeting of the American Library Association in Chicago, said, "Book bans and how to fight them is a major focus of the meeting." The event description for the event there in Chicago said, "With an unparalleled rise in challenges, in bans and legislation suppressing access to books and learning materials in libraries, schools, and universities, it is more important than ever to join forces in the fight against banning books."
Now, it's just important every once in a while to remind ourselves that just because you say something loudly and frequently doesn't make it true, but you understand this is the point they just keep making. I mentioned the American Librarians Association. The ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom is headed by a woman named Deborah Caldwell Stone and she said, "Addressing book censorship and protecting library users' intellectual freedom, protecting librarians' ability to provide for information in their communities, is at the forefront of this year's meeting."
Now, one of the things we need to note, and this is just a matter of fact, just think about this for a moment. Books do not automatically end up on the shelf. Books do not automatically end up in a library. Someone has to purchase the book, someone has to procure the book, someone has to choose the book. There isn't a local library, a school library, even a university library, that doesn't have to make choices about which books to buy.
The point here is that the librarians are resisting citizens and parents having virtually anything to say about that process. If a parent complains about a book, that is an attempt, according to this language, to ban the book. The article cites a woman identified as Christine Immuran. She is further identified as director of the Youth Free Expression Program of the National Coalition Against Censorship. The article states that, "Parents always have the right to choose what their children read, but they don't have the right to restrict access for the whole community." That was attributed to Christine Immuran, who also said, "You can't just concede to demands of a particular group of parents and to censor libraries."
What that statement camouflages is the fact that somebody is making these decisions, and by the way, that somebody is probably somebody's parent, or at least had parents. In other words, this is a deliberate effort to try to fog the entire issue and just to say, "Leave it to the professionals," and that's the way vast moral change happens in a progressivist direction in a culture. Because the professions are far more rapidly caught by the moral revolution, and they begin to align themselves in policy, in hiring, in everything that they do, including in spending and in book buying, in order to align with that adopted agenda.
Once again, what we see here is that public enemy number one, according to so many of these professions, and this is especially true the closer you get to children and teenagers, public enemy number one is identified with the simple one word designation, parent.
And along these lines, a truly important article was offered by Barton Swaim in the weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal. The headline is this, "The American Left's Fantastic Threats." Speaking of President Biden's reelection and announcement warning that, "MAGA extremists are lining up to repeal bedrock freedoms," Barton Swaim writes, "It was a perfect expression of the paranoid state in which American progressivism finds itself." He continued, "Leave aside for a moment the line about dictating what healthcare decisions women can make, a euphemistic reference to abortion." I'll pause there and say, that's exactly what we've just been talking about.
Swaim continues, "The other threats on Mr. Biden's list, banning books, telling people who they can love, and voter suppression are literally non-existent." Swaim then writes, "Mr. Biden isn't engaged in the time honored political craft of exaggeration. He's seeing things that aren't there." Later in the article, speaking of the book ban issue we've just been discussing, Barton Swaim writes, "This strange urge to tremble at the presence of imaginary beasts is accompanied by an astonishing lack of self-awareness. The closest thing to real book bans in the U.S. today is perpetuated by precisely the sort of people who bewail book bans. Major publishers have canceled books by authors ranging from J.K. Rowling to Senator Josh Hawley because they ran afoul of progressive sensibilities." Barton Swaim sees something deeper at work here than just politics, as if you could ever say just politics, because politics actually is never just politics.
But Swaim writes, "Right-wingers of a cynical mindset will insist that Mr. Biden and the Democrats are deliberately manufacturing these threats." He goes on to say, "I'm not sure. I tend to think the impetus is some mixture of short-term opportunism, a post-religious need to find righteous causes, and genuine delusion." That's even scarier, isn't it? Barton Swaim is arguing that the Democrats in this case, including the President, and as we've just seen the vice president and others, they are not so much lying as they are deluded.
Now, only they know which is true, but the point is, we need to recognize it's one of those two options. I'll step back from the article at this point and simply say what we are seeing here is indeed political opportunism. It's not by accident that some of this language was used in the video that the Biden campaign released in order to announce his reelection effort.
We really are talking about an orchestrated public relations strategy, one that frankly has been stunningly successful. The American Library Association and others wouldn't keep talking about book bans if they didn't believe they're gaining traction in the society by doing so.
Kamala Harris didn't go to the Stonewall Inn in New York by accident, and what we see over and over again is the effort to try to use symbolic actions along with very dramatic, and indeed, Barton Swaim is right, delusional language, in order to get media attention. And by the way, this wouldn't work if the media did not so immediately capitulate and join in sounding the delusional alarm. Delusion evidently sells newspaper space. It sells advertising. It certainly leads to clicks and page views. Trust me, they're counting on it.
Pride Month Is Not Enough Now?: Rachel Levine Calls for ‘Summer of Pride’ — And It Won’t Stop There
But finally, just watching how culture works, you had Pride Day that turns into Pride Week, that turns into Pride Month, but predictably, Pride Month isn't enough.
Just in recent days, the Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary, the person who goes by the name Rachel Levine, who is a biological male and is identified now as the highest ranking transgender official in the federal government, Dr. Levine released a video with this message, "Happy Pride, Happy Pride Month, and actually let's declare it a Summer of Pride. Happy Summer of Pride." Another way of saying a month is not enough. Let's keep it going.
Holding a designated military rank by virtue of holding this position in the Federal Health Service, Admiral Levine posted, quote, "Today officially marks the first day of summer. All summer long," this was back on June the 21st, "all summer long, we will be celebrating the Summer of Pride. I see it," said Levine, "as an opportunity for change in our communities, states, and nation. It will take us all, but together we can create a wave of change. Let the Summer of Pride begin."
Honestly, that's enough to make you long for fall, but in reality, this is just the kind of challenge we're facing, and it won't end with the summer.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.