The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

It’s Wednesday, August 23, 2023.

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

Part I

‘The Company Will Shift Its Pride Merchandise Assortment’: Target Acknowledges Customer Backlash Over Pride Displays

Back when some major brands were getting themselves into big trouble during Pride Month and the lead up to Pride Month and the aftermath of Pride Month, you had companies such as Target and of course Bud Light, you had big brands that got into big trouble. Now, last week we looked at the financial analysis coming from sources, including not only say the stock market, but coming from authority such as the Wall Street Journal, a series of articles on the impact of this controversy on Bud Light. And there were some very familiar patterns that we grew to understand here.

Number one, you had people saying, “Look, the brand was already in trouble. So even though there was this Pride controversy, it’s hard to know how much it actually cost the company because Bud Light was already a declining brand.” And yet you had people at the very same time come back and say, “Yeah, you know what? Those consumer choices are still really being felt. Just look at the sales figures. Just look at how Bud Light fell basically with a so-called transgender influencer named Dylan Mulvaney.” It was not a coincidence and at least many were right upfront honest to say, “It wasn’t a coincidence. This brand crashed itself in this controversy.”

The American people, the consumer base for Bud Light, it’s not going along with the transgender revolution, certainly not with this in-your-face kind of approach that Anheuser-Busch and its successor company took in this case, but now it’s time to revisit Target. And just like Bud Light, you have a series of articles coming back because of financial reports and the stock market records.

So for instance, headline, once again, the Wall Street Journal, the big financial paper, “Target, like Bud Light, Stung by Culture Wars.” Now, that’s not an old story, that’s just in the last few days. In other words, it’s still hurting. Target is still hurting over this. You read the article and the claim is made that Target’s getting over it, sales are returning to something more like normal, but a couple of things are important here for Christians to think about. Economic decisions really do matter, and especially in a world in which a company like Target has to basically sell itself in the stock market, not as holding its own but as constantly growing, growing in particular when it comes to revenue, growing when it comes to competition, growing when it comes to profit margins. All that got hit pretty badly in the controversy over Target’s absolutely egregious, even over the top by standards of it’s hard to go over the top when it comes to Pride merchandise and Pride push. Target was so clear in your face against its own consumer base that it has paid a big price.

And even if Target appears to be recovering some lost ground, the headline in the financial pages of the Wall Street Journal tells the story, “Target, like Bud Light, Stung by The Culture Wars.” Remember, this is the same newspaper that just a few days before had run articles offering analysis as to the damage to Bud Light. Now, Target is, “Like Bud Light,” right in the headlines and we know exactly why.

Sarah Nassauer is the reporter in this lead story, “Target, much like the brewer of Bud Light, discover the cost of getting caught in the middle of hot-button social issues in a politically divided US.” So the Wall Street Journal, at least in terms of its financial pages, isn’t making a moral judgment. It’s very carefully not making a moral judgment. It’s just saying, “You know what? There is a culture war in the United States. Target took sides, it got bruised. Maybe there’s a lesson here.”

“Sales at both businesses”–that means Bud Light and Target–“suffered over LGBTQ marketing efforts that backfired and caused shoppers who both opposed and supported the company’s marketing campaigns to call for boycotts.” So once again, just understand what’s in that sentence. When it comes to Bud Light and Target, we are told that those who were pleased by the campaigns were disappointed when the companies backed off. Those who were very displeased by the campaigns weren’t satisfied by the back off.

So the companies are saying, “Look, we can’t do anything right.” And yet this is where Christians need to say, “Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do what’s right and take our business elsewhere.” There’s an acknowledgement here. “Target said shopper backlash over its Pride Month collection as well as cautious consumers pushed sales sharply lower in the most recent quarter.” So there’s a bit of honesty there and it’s also important for us to recognize, declining sales are impacted by this issue. That’s very, very clear, but there’s more to the picture and we should acknowledge that as well.

When you’re looking at the economic conditions, you’re looking at consumer choice, you’re looking at the relative amount of money that consumers have in elective choices than a brand like Target might have a certain amount of challenge just keeping up in terms of its revenue, but you add this misstep and of course that’s a mild word to use here, it’s more than a misstep, you add what Target did, and this is not entirely new, remember, Target’s been in your face on LGBTQ issues and other things, largely trying to please the progressivist, trying to transform the society rather than let’s just say middle American families who had been the company’s very solid consumer base, you’re looking at a situation here in which it’s not surprising the company is suffering.

Again, front page of the financial section. Here’s the back page of the very same edition. “Target’s customer backlash may be the least of its problems.” The article is saying Target may get past the Pride Month issue, but their basic business model is now at least in question. The back page article in the paper says this, “There are two important questions now around Target, how lasting the impact of the shopper backlash will be and whether the company which leans heavily on more discretionary items can retain market share among price sensitive shoppers?”

So front page of the business section, “Target, like Bud Light, stung by The Culture Wars.” Back page, “Target’s customer backlash may be the least of its problems.” In any event, in worldview analysis, all of this turns out to be pretty relevant and important. That front page of the section article on Target included a statement by Brian Cornell, identified as Target’s longtime Chief Executive. Here’s what he said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, “As we navigate an ever-changing operating and social environment, we are applying what we learned.” The paper says, “He said customers view its stores as a happy place and it wants to continue to be such a destination for all.” The CEO said, “It’s that place that they go to get away from everyday life.”

Well, that’s not consistent with what Target was saying during Pride Month. That’s not consistent with this massive retail real estate they put right inside the front door so that every mom coming in with her children in middle America had to walk past the display of all this obvious Pride merchandise, including of course, famously, tuck swimwear. The Journal reports that Target’s Chief Growth Officer had told the paper, and this is the paper’s words, “The company will shift how it sells Pride in other Heritage-Month collections going forward.” The Chief Growth Officer for Target, according to the paper, “Said the company would have a slightly more focused assortment, adjust its store displays and reconsider the mix of brands itself.” What Christians need to hear that is that the Chief Growth Officer of Target is basically sending the assurance to the Pride community. Well, we’re going to find out how many Americans are even interested to know what Target’s slightly changed assortment of merchandise for Pride Week is going to be in 2024.

Part II

A Major Redefinition of Parenting: USA Today Urges Parents to Build a Back to School Kit to Prepare Their Children for ‘Safe Sex’ and ‘Safe Drug Usage’

Well, next, it’s back to school time, right? Well, of course it is. We’re going to be talking more about some of the big worldview issues that are at stake, but I have to talk about Monday’s edition of USA Today. An article that appeared right on the front page, here’s the headline, “Back To School Make Health Kit.” Now, this is primarily addressed to parents of college students. They’re going to be going out of town. They’re going to be living on campus, some of them for the very first time. Parents, according to this front page article, just might want to put together a health kit, but here’s a signal of what’s gone wrong.

When you look at the subhead in the article, “Parents can include naloxone, contraceptives and COVID tests.” Adriana Rodriguez is the reporter for USA Today, and let me tell you, it gets to the contraceptives and the sex stuff really, really fast. Remember, this is a suggestion that parents should make a back to school health kit for their college students, but it’s not just for college students. This is also directed at parents of high school students. That’s explicit in the article. Just listen to this quote, “Pins, binders, graphing calculator, check, check, check. What’s less likely to appear on school supply lists, however, are health related items for teens and young adults, whether they’re heading to high school or college.”

Now, listen, this gets interesting real fast, “But the health landscape has changed drastically over the past three years and it has become more difficult to know how to prepare. However, experts say”–don’t you love that statement, ‘experts say’?–“Experts say there’s more information and resources parents can use than ever before.” Well, just hold on. This is where the article goes. Number one, contraception. “Looking ahead to the spring semester, parents can consider the newest addition to over-the-counter contraceptives, a progestin only birth control pill called Opill, which was approved by the FDA in July.” But the article goes on to say, “Don’t wait until the spring semester next year when Opill will be available because you can basically cover the bases right now.” Here’s a list they offer: condoms, spermicide, contraceptive, sponge. All this remember is supposed to be in the health kit the parents are supposed to put together not only for college students but for high school students. In other words, this is your business, parents. If you’re a smart parent, then you are getting your youngsters ready for sex.

The article goes on paragraph after paragraph, extolling other forms of contraception, hormonal birth control pills that still require a prescription just to make sure you get all this, shots, patches, and other devices I’m not going to go into in any detail. The suggestion here is just really clear. If you are with it, parents, you are with it to get your kids. And remember, this isn’t just college students as if Christians would say just college students. This is also high school students. They get your young adults and your teens ready for campus, ready for school, and this is what it looks like. First thing on the list, related to sex, but the article goes on from there and you say, “Well, where does it go from there?”

Well, it goes to drugs, fentanyl in particular, fentanyl test strips and naloxone. This is just really, really dark added to dark. Here you have parents being told, “Look, your kids are probably going to use drugs when they go off to college or even high school.” Remember, high school’s directly addressed here. “They’re going to go to high school or college, probably going to use drugs. You know what? They need to use drugs safely, following safe sex.” Basically, here’s the argument for safe drugs, “So be sure that they can test for fentanyl and also be sure to have the antidote to a fentanyl overdose on hand. Put that in your emergency health kit when you send junior or his sister off to college, or for that matter, just take them to the bus for high school. Better make sure you have the drug issue covered too.”

Last on the list of what parents should be concerned about when it comes to the so-called health kit are issues related to COVID-19. I’m not even going to go there. We’ve talked about that enough, but the point is that’s actually the last thing that USA Today even mentions here. You got sex and drugs before that. That’s the health kit that parents of college and high school students are told they need to put into place just so your teenage and young adult offspring are ready for school. And remember, that’s exactly how they start the article. The words are these, “Pens, binders, graphing calculator, check, check, check. What’s less likely but is needed,” the newspaper says, “Is all this related to what is inherently moral behavior,” or as Christians understand, immoral behavior.

There’s an assumption here, by the way, two things, big worldview issues we need to understand. Number one, do you notice how once again, a moral issue is just redefined as a health issue? That’s what you see happening on the abortion issue where a woman’s reproductive health is what the left now talks about because they don’t want to talk about abortion. They just talk about a woman’s reproductive health. So you have the redefinition of health in ways that, well, I’ll just say this, certainly are not healthy, and in the extreme sense, they’re not morally healthy.

The other thing we need to recognize in worldview terms is that there’s a redefinition of parenthood here. Parents are no longer the moral authorities who are understood to have the responsibility to say, “This is how you should live. If you’re going to college, by the way, if I’m going to pay your college bills, this is how I fully expect you to live.” What you’re seeing here is the redefinition of parenting where parents are basically the enablers of their own adolescent and post-adolescent offspring in whatever behavior or identity or whatever activities the young person may choose, and that includes sex and drugs, just understand that.

And it doesn’t say that parents are to celebrate sex and drugs and misbehavior by their kids, but it does say they are to facilitate it. That is a major redefinition of parenting. I can just tell you that my parents wouldn’t have recognized this conception of parenting. Their parents wouldn’t have recognized it either, and they certainly wouldn’t have expected a newspaper like USA Today to put this on the front page. The fact that it is on the front page tells us not just a lot about USA Today. It tells us a lot about what USA Today thinks about the USA today. Christians’ understanding that we are to be in the world but not of it, understand we face a whole new challenge as this front page article in USA Today makes abundantly clear.

Part III

The Incoherence of the Transgender Revolution: The New York Times Sports Section Confuses Itself Over Who a Woman Is

Okay, but next, while we are talking about interesting things, let me tell you very interesting analysis. You could do this on your own. Sometimes they say, “Don’t try this at home.” I’m going to tell you, try this at home. Try this kind of comparison. Look at developments in the culture. Look at say television news reports. Look at newspaper news websites and notice there’s a basic schizophrenia here. I mean by that, a double mindedness, even a contradiction built into it. They say one thing over here and another thing over here and don’t seem to notice, you can’t believe those two things at once.

Now, for example, recent sports coverage. Now, I’ll tell you, the fact that I like the sports coverage tells you a lot to do with the importance of sports to the culture. And in this case, for example, the New York Times over the weekend ran a full page article. It’s a full page. Here’s the headline, “How a non-binary runner rose to the top of track,” and it basically tells us about a non-binary runner as identified here and there’s a celebration.

Understand this profile is one entire print page in last Sunday’s edition of the New York Times. In real estate, in the media world, that’s just massive. The New York Times is making a point. “We’re all for this non-binary runner who has now risen to the top of track.” So why are we talking about this today? Well, we’re talking about it because of the other articles that ran in the same sports section in the same day’s edition of the same newspaper in which you had references to girls and women as if those are rather important categories. The New York Times even has a label for a certain section called women’s sports.

Now, wait just a minute. Over here, non-binary. Over here, women’s, how exactly does that work? How do you have a biological male claiming to be a woman? That person by the way, is not appearing under the women’s sports section even in the New York Times. Here’s a headline that did appear, “For Australia’s best female athletes, there is no shortage of opportunities.” Once again, huge article, full page in the print edition. And let me just say what’s pretty clear in this article, and that is that on this page, the New York Times knows what a female is. That’s just instructive. On page 26 of the print edition, the New York Times knows who a woman is. On page 27, one page later, they seem to have lost the knowledge.

The next day, and let’s just recall, that means Monday, Monday of this week. How’s this for a headline? “For Girls in Spain, Women’s World Cup Win is a Joy and Catalyst.” Now, that’s a big story of course, with Spain’s women winning the Women’s World Cup in soccer. And notice the headline again, it’s real clear about knowing about girls and women. They show up in the headline, “For Girls in Spain, Women’s World Cup Win is a Joy and a Catalyst.”

So Sunday’s edition seemed to have mixed messaging, page 26 and page 27. The next day’s edition, once again, the headline seems to make a lot of sense. The reader is supposed to know who a girl is and the reader is supposed to know who a woman is.

The incoherence of the revolution that comes down to transgender and non-binary is made really clear. Even when you have a newspaper like the New York Times, and I’m just using this as an example, you have news coverage like this. You have a national, international conversation like this, and people try to say basically two things at once and they’re clearly contradictory. You have people who want to say, “Look, you look at women’s sports, you look at girls’ sports, you’re looking at something we need to celebrate,” and then over here you say, “Well, we’re not really clear what those categories mean.” We’re going to talk about non-binary and in the main, of course, the controversy is when a biological male was to compete as a female, but in some of the non-binary equations, you also have those who are biologically female who are identifying as male.

But the point is you look at the news coverage, you look at the cultural conversation and you see people on the left who really are trying to be with it. They are trying to be with the revolution. They’re having a hard time pulling it off because if you are going to be for girl sports, you’re going to have to pretty much figure out who a girl is and you’re also, if you are a newspaper like the New York Times, you’re going to have to use words that you assume your readers understand, and I think that’s still a fair presupposition.

I really think it’s fair for the New York Times to assume that its readers know what a girl is and what a woman is, especially when it comes to girl sports and women’s sports. But then they’ll turn around and it’s not just on the front page, not just on the editorial or the opinion page, it’s also in their own sports pages. They’re going to try to play the other side of the field on this as well as if transgender non-binary makes sense, as if it makes sense for a biological female to claim to be male, or as is more pressing in sports, for a biological male to claim to be female and to claim a right to compete as a female on female teams against females. Again, those identified in the very same newspaper coherently as girls and women.

Part IV

FIDE Faces Down the Transgender Revolution: International Chess Agency Bans Transgender Women from Women’s Competitions

But then just when you think things can’t get any stranger, along comes a report in the Washington Post. How’s this? “FIDE Bans Transgender Women From Women’s Chess Competitions.” Now, wait just a minute. When it comes to all those other sporting events, all those other competitions, the argument is there’s something physical at stake here. There’s something physical. You have a body that goes through male puberty. It has advantages when it comes to oxygenation, when it comes to lung capacity, when it comes to skeletal structure, that simply aren’t going to go away even with hormone treatments. And so the argument is if you have a biological male who wants to compete with women, that’s unfair, and it’s an argument that in many cases doesn’t come down to any kind of deep worldview analysis. It’s just they’re saying this is just a matter of mechanics, a matter of anatomy and physiology, but what’s that got to do with chess?

Chess is not exactly a contact sport, at least it’s not supposed to be. So here’s the Washington Post report, it’s by Kelsey Ables, “International Chess Body Bans Transgender Women From Women’s Competitions.” Again, we’re talking about chess. How does this work? “The international governing body for chess has released new policies that prohibit transgender women from competing in women’s events and will strip some transgender players of their titles.”

Wow. These are fighting words, “Under the new guidelines from the International Chess Federation, known by its French acronym, FIDE, individuals who transition from male to female have no right to compete in official events for women until further analysis is made, which could take up to two years.” Additionally, the report says, “If a player holds titles in women’s categories and transitions to male, the women’s titles are to be abolished. While if the player transitions from male to female, the titles will remain.” So seriously, this is the new policy of the international governing body for chess. It says that it’s not just a matter of going through male puberty when it comes to oxygenation, lung capacity, skeletal and muscle development. It’s also about chess. So how exactly is this argument being made?

Now, get this. Get this. Here’s how the argument’s being made. There might be, the chess authorities are investigating, there just might be an inherent biological male advantage when it comes to chess. Now, what would that be? It’s not shoving the piece across the board. We’re not talking about a contact sport. What are we talking about? We’re talking strategy as it plays out in the game of chess. It turns out that the vast majority of highly ranked chess players are men, are males, teenage boys. It turns out that it’s a lopsided competition in chess.

Now, the Center for Trans Equality doesn’t like this. It says the new policy, “Relies on ignorant and anti-trans ideas,” and is, “Insulting to cis women, to trans women into the game itself.” Now, let’s notice something else. This organization goes by a French name. It’s acronym, FIDE. This is an international body, and you’ll notice it’s making some really, really clear statements. You can’t be a biological male and compete as a woman. If you transition even after you’ve won, they will strip you of your titles. That’s a pretty aggressive stance being taken by this governing body.

Richard Pringle, in the article identified as a professor of sociology and education who studies gender and sexuality, says this, “There’s not that physicality dimension to chess. It’s a game of strategy.” He opposes the policy. He says, “It suggests that males are somehow strategically better. It’s not just transphobic. It’s anti-feminist too,” he said to the ban, “Adding that it was likely a political decision rather than an issue of fairness.”

Now, there have clearly been outstanding female chess players, both girls and women, and chess competitions are basically open to anyone, “Both men and women can compete in the World Chess Championship and while there’s a Women’s World Chess Championship, there’s no male equivalent,” so that’s really interesting. So a woman can compete in the general event, but there is a women’s event. That’s the event that only women may participate in. So there’s no statement here that women can’t compete with men, only the fact that trans women, as they style themselves, can’t compete with women in the separate women’s category.

But let’s telescope back for a moment and recognize something. If you go back in history, just say 20 years or so, one of the big arguments that’s leading to bestsellers, especially in the so-called self-help section of bookstores and libraries, one of the big interests was understanding the differences between the male and the female brain. Now, in ideology, this is sometimes referred to as gender essentialism, arguing that there’s an essential distinction between male and female.

Now, of course, any sane person recognizes that in anatomy and physiology, but the suggestion here is it’s also about the operation of the brain. Some of you may be old enough to remember when a bestseller was, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. We think differently, as if from two different planets. Okay. Now, you fast-forward to today and it’s considered something like a thought crime to believe that men and women think differently and operate with a different kind of process, even that is traceable to the brain and to cognitive patterns and competition and strategy and all the rest.

By the way, one of the things that was very much emphasized during that period of essentialism, just a matter of say 20 years ago or so, was that men had superior capacities in say, spatial awareness. That is to say where objects are on a table. Women had far superior… No kidding here, no joke. Women had far superior ability and relational patterns, and anyone who denies that I think is denying something just as obvious as anatomy and physiology.

When it comes to strategy, it’s just a matter of fact that more young boys are drawn to chess and games of similar strategy than our girls. And by the way, chess is also spatial. You are moving objects on a board. It’s a matter of mixing and matching the strategy and the physical movements of physical objects on a board. Of course, the Digital Revolution puts it on a screen, but you know what I mean. It is about strategy and movement and spatial awareness. It’s not to say women lack those things. It’s not to say women can’t be good at those things. It’s not to say women can’t be drawn to those things, interested in such pursuits, and frankly, can’t earn championships at them. It is to say there is an imbalance here that simply can’t be explained by prejudice, patriarchy, or for that matter, discrimination.

One final thought on this. It does tell us something that this is an international organization that governs chess. In the United States, the transgender ideology has gained a attraction and the power to cancel other speech that simply isn’t true even in many other, say, more liberal nations, even in much of Europe. You also see this when it comes to the United States and medical establishments and other authorities saying that there wholeheartedly for transition for adolescents and young adults.

You don’t see that in most European countries. They may even be more liberal on some issues, but when it comes to this, they’re still pretty steadfast and thinking that male and female is more of a distinction than some Americans, especially in the elites here want to insist. So many people want to argue that there’s no essential distinction, no essential difference between men and women, or if there is, it’s merely anatomical and that can be corrected. You have this chess body that now comes back and says, even in the face of that pressure, in the face of that revolution, in the face of that ideology, basically dares to say, at least for now, checkmate.

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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