The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

It’s Wednesday, September 6, 2023.

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

Part I

U.S. Elites Question Support for Transgender Procedures: Rise of Gender Reassignment Surgeries Now Giving Medical and Media Professionals Pause

We’ve been experiencing such a transformation in ethics and indeed a transformation of worldview in a rapidly secularizing and liberalizing western civilization and it’s hard to keep up. And it’s also hard to know just how evenly this civilization is moving in a more secular and more leftward direction. But over time, it has been clear that it is the gender and sexuality issues that are the clearest indicator and perhaps also the most powerful engines of that revolution in a more secular and more progressivist or more liberal direction.

But one of the things we’ve had to consider as Christians is whether or not there are any limits to just how far that revolution can go. Now, when you’re looking at the big picture, the fact is that it’s clear this is a still unfolding revolution. But it’s also clear that there are certain limitations, at least right now, certain cultural, moral, even ideological limitations right now that are causing a bit of a hiccup in the inevitable progress, at least as the progressives see it, of society moving more leftward on these issues, the revolution and sexuality and gender moving into ever more radical directions.

The big issue here, of course, is the T in LGBTQ. The transgender issue or the gender issue in particular, the intersection of, say, feminism and the transgender ideology. This has become one of the most dangerous places to be in our society. Now, as we’re thinking about this, we as Christians just need to recognize that even as we know human beings are made in God’s image and even as we know a part of that includes a moral knowledge that is simply inescapable, we come to understand why when you all of a sudden get to the T in LGBTQ, there’s a sense that this has gone a step too far, this is moving too fast.

And where you have, say, biological males in the space where biological females had felt secure among females before, well, even progressivist parents are beginning to say, “You know, I am all for the revolution. I am enthusiastically for the progressivist direction, but I don’t want my teenage daughter changing in a locker room with teenage males. I don’t want her to face that kind of challenge. There’s something not right about that.” And you also have that sense, that moral sense that we know is not an accident, it’s not put there by evolution, it’s put there by God, the Creator, a moral knowledge that when you’re looking, for example, at a university women’s swim team and there is one male on it and he’s immediately recognizable as a biological male, he happens also to have defeated some of the women for some of the supposedly women’s competition–you look at that and the average person just says, “That’s not fair.”

Now, as Christians, we have to keep reminding ourselves that this is not just a matter of some kind of moral intuition, this is actually something that’s real, truly real. This is what we call ontology. This is being. That’s the very thing that Genesis is all about, in Genesis 1 and in Genesis 2, ramifications of course in Genesis 3 and following. There’s some very big developments along these lines on both sides of the Atlantic. We’re going to start on this side, in the United States, where the New York Times is reporting this major research released in the Journal of the American Medical Association on the rapid rise of the number of so-called gender-affirming surgeries. They used to be called sex reassignment surgeries. Before that they were called transsexual surgeries even before the word transgender entered the ordinary parlance of Americans.

But you might expect that there would be a rather significant increase. And we’re told that between 2016 and 2019, “Gender-affirming surgeries intended to align patient’s physical appearance with their gender identity nearly tripled in the United States.” That again, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, popularly known by its acronym JAMA. Here’s the next sentence. “The number of procedures rose from about 4,550 in 2016 to 13,000 in 2019, and then dipped slightly in 2020.” And that’s at least partly of course because of COVID. So let’s just look at the numbers between 2016, 2019, a rise of 4,550 to 13,000.

Now this raises a huge question, and this is very sensitive, but this is exactly where we need as Christians to probe the question, does this mean that there was a radical increase in the number of persons who understood themselves to be, say, transgender? An increase, when it comes to the surgeries, of 4,550 in 2016 to 13,000, just three years later in 2019? I think we all recognize that it is extremely unlikely that this was merely some kind of supposed self-discovery. What we are clearly seeing here, and it goes beyond these initial numbers, is that there is at least something to the idea of a social contagion going on here. This becomes something that seems to take hold in society, but as we’re going to see, it’s not evenly distributed.

When we talk about this uneven distribution, let’s consider the 48,000 patients, we’re told, who underwent surgeries from 2016 to 2020. Just let that number settle in for a moment. 48,000, we are told, underwent some kind of procedure along these lines from 2016 to 2020. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get too specific here. But let’s just say that it becomes clear that what is declared to be a transition from female to male is far more common than going in the other direction. That’s very consistent, by the way, with reports coming about adolescents who are identifying along these lines. And when we say social contagion, we’re pointing out that this is a phenomenon that at least in some degree is showing up in concentrations of populations, for example, even in individual high schools. This is something that at least is correlated.

Now, in terms of scientific language, that means there seems to be where this shows up, that also shows up. There is an insistence among scientists, so that does not mean causation. But nonetheless, I think we can all understand there’s something going on here when a pattern falls out this way. The other big thing to watch here is what we’re seeing in terms of age. I’m going to read it exactly as this report states it. “Just over half of all patients were ages 19 to 30. About 22% were ages 31 to 40. And almost 8% were ages 12 to 16.” Now, wait just a moment. Wait just a moment. We’ve been told over and over and over and over again that these surgeries aren’t performed on minors, and yet this is a full 8%.

Now remember, that’s 8% of 48,000. That is a massive number. And this is exactly how this game is being played in our society. We have seen it in local hospitals and medical centers where there has been a denial that such surgeries are done. And then when it turns out the federal reports are released and the numbers are known, the story changes from we don’t do this to, we almost never do this. Now, again, I’m not going to go into any detail here, but I am going to edit one sentence here where the report tells us that the number of, I’m going to say, the most serious of these surgeries “Increased with age,” which researchers attributed to the “Higher complexity and,” no kidding, this is their term, “Definitive nature of the procedure.”

Yep. I think we can agree that the word definitive does apply there. But remember when we’re told that some of these surgeries, particularly on minors, just don’t happen except when obviously they do happen. Now, just consider this particular little caveat put into the report. “The data accounted only for surgeries in inpatient and ambulatory settings and did not include cases in which surgeons omitted certain gender related diagnosis codes.” Well, if you’re paying attention, alarm bell should be going off because that tells us that some doctors are presumably–intentionally–not stating that this is related to gender in such a way as to make these statistics less discernible.

And even the New York Times said, “As a result, the study’s findings are ‘almost certainly under captures of the real figures.'” And that was attributed to one particular doctor who’s involved in the report. And that would be Dr. Jason D. Wright, the chief of gynecologic oncology at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. We’re told that he led the research. Now, one of the things I’ve been pointing out in some of the press coverage here in the United States is how some, even in the elite media who are editorially and in terms of worldview, very much committed to the entire LGBTQ array, indeed they tell us that right up front, they seem to be hedging their bets a little when it comes to some of the transgender surgeries and some of the gender transition claims.

It’s almost as if they think it just might be that someone’s going to be drawing these stories up and digging this data out in order to say, “You know, you guys were doing these things. And when you reported these things, you did not provide any context.” Well, the New York Times does say this, “Much of the national discussion is centered on treatment for adolescents. Earlier this month, the American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirmed its guidelines regarding gender-affirming treatment, but also commissioned a fresh review of the research after European health authorities found uncertain evidence for its effectiveness.” Now, just notice again, the New York Times as well as some of these doctors are now inserting this little caveat very conveniently at the end, ” You know, we may have to reconsider all of this.”

Part II

‘The Gender War is Over in Britain’: The UK Takes Up More Conservative Position on Transgender Issue

Now, why would they be thinking in these terms? Why would there be this defense mechanism showing up? Well, in order to understand that, as troubling as these developments are, we need to consider what’s going on on the other side of the Atlantic, and in this case, in Great Britain. And in Great Britain, the big news right now on this is what the Labour Party really doesn’t even want to be big news. But it is big news, and it should be to us, because here you have the far more liberal party in terms of, say, the last century in British politics, taking an actually more conservative position on the transgender question. The development in Britain is so big that The Atlantic, which is an American publication, ran a story with a headline, The Gender War is Over in Britain.

Helen Lewis is the author of the story, and what she’s telling us is that there has been this major restatement of even the liberal, the Labour Party’s position on the LGBTQ issue in particular on the T. Helen Lewis writes this, “When Keir Starmer…” By the way, he has been, since 2020, the head of the Labour Party. When he, “Wanted to change the Labour Party’s stance on sex and gender,” now get this, “He didn’t give a set peace speech or hold a press conference. Instead, the leader of Britain’s main opposition party stayed in the background, leaving Anneliese Dodds, a shadow minister with a low public profile, to announce the shift in a short opinion column in the Guardian.”

Now, the Guardian is just, in the view of many people right now, pretty much another London newspaper, but it historically was the newspaper of the Labour left. So here you have the historically very leftist paper reporting on the leftist political party, and the fact that it has reset its position on what’s identified here as sex and gender, but it’s done so in order to try to keep it quiet. Indeed, the head of the party didn’t come out and make any announcement. Instead, he sent out a person known as a shadow minister with a low public profile. Now, what’s a shadow minister? Well, this means that if you’re the opposition party in Britain, especially of the two major parties, the Tories or the so-called Conservative Party on the one hand currently holding majority in Parliament, but that majority very much threatened by shifts in public opinion, and by the way the Conservatives have governed over the course of the last few years.

The right word party in Britain is the Tory Party, the Conservative Party. They right now establish all the ministerial positions. And thus, when you are looking at the cabinet, all the ministerial positions, the minister of this and the minister of that, they are all Conservative Party members because that’s the way a parliamentary system works. But in order both to make arguments in terms of policy and to set the stage for elections, the opposition party names a preliminary cabinet. In other words, this is who would be the health minister if we were in majority in the government. This is who would be the defense minister. This is who would be the foreign affairs minister if indeed there were to be a Labour majority, which by the way is pretty much predicted in Britain’s next general election.

Now, the Labour Party in Great Britain was headed for years by a man who was known as Jeremy Corbyn. And Jeremy Corbyn was very much a man of the old left. And that means if there were two options, Jeremy Corbyn would be predictably the one to take the most leftward of all the options. He led the Labour Party to spectacular electoral defeats. And that’s why he was replaced by Keir Starmer, a fresh, younger face, and obviously one who was willing to take some risks in redefining the party. Because when he sent the shadow minister out to make the announcement, the announcement is basically that even the Labour Party is going to be in a far more conservative position than it was, say, seven or eight years ago, or perhaps even seven or eight months ago, on the T as in transgender question.

And when you look at the release and you look at the background and you look at what’s going on in Britain’s Labour Party, the big issue here is that they really see a forced option between standing for the rights of women and standing for transgender rights. It is as if they come to the conclusion, you can’t possibly do both of those things at once. Now, if you look at it that way and you understand that this moral issue is developing more quickly on the other side of the Atlantic, that is to say in Britain, than it has here, it was quicker on the front end of the revolution, it’s been quicker in the reconsideration, which is one reason why I think the New York Times seems to be looking over its shoulder on this issue, as does the American Academy of Pediatrics. And I think they do well to be looking over their shoulder. They’re in a very wrongful and injurious and hurtful position.

Now, when you look at the actual article by Anneliese Dodds, that is the shadow minister of the Labour Party who was assigned to make this argument, she starts out by insisting that the Labour Party is going to lead on the reform of transgender rights. And that means that of course they’re identifying as pro transgender. Now, I want to be very clear. This is not a conservative statement by a liberal party. This is a cautious statement, a reset statement by the more liberal of Britain’s two political parties. And on this issue, it might not now be the more liberal party. That’s another interesting question. What will the Conservative Party do on this issue in weeks and months ahead? Huge question.

It’s very interesting that in calling for a modernization of what in Britain’s known as the Gender Recognition Act, the Labour Party is saying, “We need to rethink some of these issues simply because of the danger to girls and women posed by the fact that the British position was increasingly, before this kind of reform, it was heading very much into just allowing persons to declare a gender and gain access to, say, a female changing facility or a female bathroom or anything else like that.” And here you have the Labour Party saying, “You know, that’s just actually not going to work.”

You got to love the British when they write a sentence like this, “The safeguards that were supposed to protect women and girls from predators who might abuse the system were simply not up to scratch.” Yeah, indeed. They were not up to scratch. One of the things that the transgender revolutionaries have been pressing for in England or in Great Britain in the United Kingdom was dropping the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria. And now, the Labour Party is saying, “The requirement to obtain a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria remains an important part of accessing a gender recognition certificate.” “That’s especially the case now that gender dysphoria is no longer classified and stigmatized as a psychiatric disorder.”

So here, the Labour Party is trying to say, “Look, we’re progressive. We really are progressive. Trust us. We’re progressing on progressivism. But on this issue, well, not so much. The previous more liberal policies,” to use their words, “not up to scratch.”

Now, you’ll notice the Labour Party is not turning to a truly conservative position here. It’s not truly conserving the essential differences between men and women, but it is having to trim its sails in a more progressivist direction. Listen to this sentence: “We need to recognize that sex and gender are different as the Equality Act does. We will make sure that nothing in our modernized gender recognition process would override the single sex exemptions in the Equality Act.”

Now, just notice very carefully this sentence. “Put simply, this means that there will always be places where it is reasonable for biological women only to have access.” Listen to this, “Labour will defend those spaces, providing legal clarity for the providers of single sex services.” I would presume the reason why the Labour Party leader didn’t release this himself and why it wasn’t released from the headquarters, it was instead inserted as an opinion piece by a shadow minister, in other words, it was slipped under the back door, it’s because they know this is going to be controversial. But it’s telling that the Labour Party knows it has to make this kind of statement. And indeed it turns out that at least some of the pressures were coming from historic feminists.

Now, by the way, just do the math. Just do the math. If you are considering as a liberal party how you’re going to gain a constituency and win an election, let me just put it this way. If you want to win an election as the party of the left, you’re going to need an overwhelming vote on the part of, say, feminists and more liberal women, and there are a lot more of them by an unbelievable factor than there are any number of persons who identify as transgender or non-binary or anywhere on what’s presented as some kind of spectrum there. The fact is, you can’t win an election that way. And it appears that the Labour Party has just figured that out.

Now, before leaving this, I simply have to say that on this very same issue, the Labour Party might right now be in a more conservative position than at least some in the Conservative Party, because the Conservative Party in Britain, I know this is confusing, isn’t really all that conservative anymore. It is, on most issues, somewhat more conservative than the Labour Party. But the reality is that on the sexuality issues, you can go back to the last three British prime ministers and understand that, particularly former Prime minister David Cameron, he was all for redefining the Conservative Party as anything but conservative on LGBTQ issues.

But you also see how the politics and all of this works. You can see where the trip wires and the cancel culture and the political correctness or woke culture really comes in here because the Labour Party is, let’s be honest, trying to have it both ways. They’re trying to say, “We are gung-ho for the transgender revolution, but if you really are a transgender woman, we really don’t favor a policy that says that, say, a space reserve for biological women has to admit you as well.” Someone’s eventually going to figure out there’s a basic contradiction or at least a huge incongruity here. So this is where Christians also have to understand that the only return to sanity is a return to full sanity.

But Christians also understand that when you are looking at the edifice of the great challenge of the revolution in gender and sexuality, even the definition of marriage and even the definition of person, human personhood these days, every little crack in that edifice might be important. When it comes to Britain’s Labour Party, this is a pretty big crack in the foundation. And it’s going to show. It’s going to show up in controversy. It’s going to be an issue in the next election. It’s going to be very interesting to see where the Conservative Party comes out in terms of policy on this.

Labour has staked a flag on this issue. The Conservative Party is going to have to respond one way or the other.

Part III

Catholic Single-Sex Universities Betray Their Mission and Doctrine: College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University Adopt Contrarian Gender Admissions Policies

But even as Britain’s Labour Party seems to have achieved some degree of clarity even unexpectedly on this issue, we need to cross back over the Atlantic and come back to the United States for an illustration of very sad confusion on this issue. And as is increasingly the case, this confusion is found exactly where you would have official clarity on the question. Two same-sex Catholic colleges in Minnesota, two of them, one historically female, that would be the College of Saint Benedict, and one historically male, better known Saint John’s University, they have both redefined their student categories.

Remember, this is a women’s college and a men’s college. Keep that in mind. But both of them are now going to “Support every student’s right to self-identification.” Both of them are now committed to “Creating spaces that allow women, men, and those who do not identify within the binary, including transgender, non-binary, gender-fluid, and gender non-conforming individuals.” If you’re confused by this, see if this sentence clarifies it a little bit, “The College of Saint Benedict says it will accept both female applicants as well as male applicants who ‘now consistently live and identify as female, transgender, gender-fluid or non-binary.'” Basically, the so-called men’s college is taking the same tack.

Now, one of the things this brings to mind is the gymnastics that have been performed in recent years by some of the so-called historic women’s colleges in the United States, which are almost, by definition, radically liberal unless they’re radically pro LGBTQ, even if that destroys what it means for a women’s college to be a women’s college. When you look at some of them, they’ve come up with seven or eight different potential categories. The only category that cannot apply or continue as a student at some of these schools is a male, biological male that is, identifying as a male. You’re out. Any other combination, any other permutation, in.

Now, this development is reported on by the Catholic News Agency, and that reporter Daniel Payne is pretty clear that even as these two Catholic schools are supposedly under the supervision, one of a monastery and the other of an abbey, the fact is that these schools are now adopting a policy that is in direct opposition to the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. And on that, this is not a matter of any kind of confusion. This is a direct policy challenge to the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church on this question.

Just in June of this year, let’s just say three months ago, the bishops, that is the Catholic bishops, in the United States, as this report says, “Approved a major revision to their healthcare guidelines regarding transgender identifying individuals, with the bishops moving forward with guidance that forbids Catholic facilities from performing procedures that ‘aim to transform the sexual characteristics of a human body into those of the opposite sex.'”

That’s a very clear statement. I can only wish that many Protestant denominations with similar hospitals and medical care guidelines would muster the courage to say something with that clarity. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Oklahoma City, that will be Archbishop Paul Stagg Coakley, published a pastoral letter and he noted the immense pain that is suffered by many persons who identify as transgender. But nonetheless, he affirmed Roman Catholic teaching that the individual is to “Surrender to the truth of biology.” That is, surrender to the truth. In other words, the truth is not going to surrender to the transgender identity. That’s a bold statement. It’s one that’s being contradicted by these two supposedly Roman Catholic institutions, supposedly same-sex institutions that seem to have forgotten exactly what that means, even though the bishops just reminded them what it meant a matter of weeks ago.

Both of these schools on their websites say that they remain rooted in what’s defined as their historic missions as Catholic and Benedictine liberal arts colleges. That language about being rooted in historic mission, it’s something of a tip of the hat towards retaining some form of orthodoxy, but it’s a sign of warning to any denomination or any church. When you see that kind of language about being merely rooted in historic mission, you have a big problem. Let’s just say that you can almost count on the fact that when you look at the actual policies of that school, well, let’s go back to that British expression, they’re not up to scratch.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to

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

I’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).