Tuesday, September 26, 2023
It is Tuesday, September 26, 2023.
I'm Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
What Happens in Britain Doesn’t Stay in Britain: Report Finds Massive Shift in Britain’s Moral Landscape, And That Trajectory Is Fully Evident in the U.S.
I'm speaking to you from Britain and big news here is the fact that the latest British Social Attitude survey has come out. It's the 40th in a row. For the last 40 years, this particular survey has tried to measure the moral landscape in Great Britain and listeners in America understand that what happens in Great Britain, what happens in Europe, it's pretty soon what's happening in the United States. We're looking at a bellwether indication of moral change, not only in Great Britain but in the western world. Patrick Butler reporting for the Guardian tells us, "From attitudes to gay sex and single parenting, the views on abortion in the role of women in the home, Britain has evolved into a dramatically more liberal-minded country. Over the past four decades, a landmark study is found".
Now, there are a couple of things we need to note. First of all, the media source here is the Guardian. Now, I'm here in Britain. I've been able to look at the social survey itself, the article in the Guardian's very fair. The Guardian is the left wing newspaper. What you need to understand editorially is that it is basically very happy with the announcement that the change in social and moral convictions on the part of Britain that change's been remarkably to the left over the course of the last 40 years.
The second thing I want to note is the dramatic character, the absolute historical necessity of pointing to the fact that what's happened means that Britain is in moral terms, a different country than it was 40 years ago. That is a fact is openly acknowledged within this report. Patrick Butler reports going on to say this, "The transformation in public opinion on many social and moral issues described by one of the studies or searchers as a near revolution is captured in the latest British Social Attitudes. BSA survey."
The article continues, "Examples of the ascendancy of liberal views include attitudes towards same-sex relationships. 50% of respondents said these were always wrong in 1983 compared with 9% in 2022, and a woman's right to choose an abortion supported by 76% now against only 37% when the question was first asked 40 years ago." It doesn't end there. Just listen to this and see if this doesn't sound familiar regardless of whether you're in Britain or the United States or elsewhere in the Western world, "There have been similarly seismic changes in public attitudes towards sex before marriage, having children outside wedlock and traditional gender roles in the workplace and the home to the extent according to the BSA." That's the survey that Britain "now looks and feels like a different country from 40 years ago." Now that's the killer line right there.
Britain now looks like a different country than it did 40 years ago. Now, this reminds us of the fact that we've been talking about the truth, that the vast change in the moral and cultural landscape in western nations, and I'll speak specifically of the United States, much as here is reported about Great Britain, means that in moral terms, we're a different country. We're not even the same country that we were going back, say a generation or at least two generations ago, but the pace of social change is something that is puzzling--even those who are taking such surveys and sociologists trying to understand this at the academic level. Theories of social change try to explain how and why social change does take place, moral change does take place and the assumption on the part of the academic field has been that in general terms, it takes a very long time to bring about something like a vast moral change, certainly a moral revolution.
Just to take the classic example that's often used in the Western experience, the question of slavery, it took the better part of four centuries for there to be a reversal of the moral judgment on slavery. From believing that slavery was a good to believing that slavery nearly in universal terms is an evil that took about four centuries, but we're living in a time of far faster social and moral change. I think we all recognize that, but sometimes it is helpful for Christians to have a look at a quantification of this. You're talking about 40 years, 1983. The vast majority of people in Britain remember this is the source of this survey, the vast majority of people had a universally negative verdict on same-sex behaviors. But now you're looking at the fact that the vast majority have exactly the opposite. They have a very positive view, or at least as we're about to see, they say they have a very positive view of same-sex relationships, so in issues like abortion, same-sex relationships, sex before marriage, children outside of marriage, there has been a fundamental reshaping of the entire cultural and moral landscape.
This is often referred to as a moral revolution. I've written in books and in various writings in times past about the fact that we're now living in one of these moral revolutions, living through one of these moral revolutions. A moral revolution isn't just a shift on a moral issue, it's a shift on the entire moral landscape. So you look at an issue like abortion, that really preceded the same sex legitimization, but the normalization of abortion came earlier, but I think we can understand the moral logic is still there. And what you have to have is a unified field theory, so to speak, of how this kind of thing can happen, and this is where we understand that people don't just change their position on something as basic as abortion. They don't just change their position on something as fundamental as marriage.
They only change their convictions, they change their position when something even more fundamental is changed. And this is where Christians understand and even many sociologists are ready to agree that it is the loss of belief in God and in particular the God of the Bible and the binding authority of Christianity in the culture that is the sole sufficient explanation for how this could have taken place. If Christianity still had binding authority in the civilization, there would be no legalization of abortion. If Christianity still had a binding authority, then the fundamental definition of marriage, both in scripture and in creation would be honored, it would be defended, it would be exclusively recognized, but we're now living in a very different world. So the fact that two things need to be noted here is something we need to pause upon for just a moment.
Number one, we're looking at vast comprehensive moral change. Two, we're looking at specific issues in which that change has been an accelerant. And by the way, one of the things you need to note in a time of a revolution in morality is what say social status, social capital, or you might even put it in more middle school terms, popularity requires. If you want to be popular on a middle school campus today, you really can't come out against same-sex marriage. You can't come out against the so-called victories of the sexual revolution, or if you do, you're going to pay a price. You're going to pay a price in decreased popularity, at least in most schools, certainly in most public school systems. And you're going to pay a price in decreased social capital, you're simply going to have less social capital to spend, and that's a very high cost for a 14-year-old or a 12-year-old or for that matter, a 60-year-old.
We just know it's particularly more acute the younger you go in the population, which is why the progressives believe themselves to be winning an irreversible win. It is because if you can create a situation in which young people understand that the only way to gain social capital is to accept this new morality, well, then time is on your side. You have every reason to believe that a progressivist wave is simply going to transform all of society. A first glance at this British social values survey would tell us us exactly what we're looking at. We're looking at the social convictions of the British people changing so much over the course of the last 40 years that as at least one of the researchers says, "It's like it's an entirely different country." Later in the report it suggested that if someone were to be able to go back in time, say to the 1970s, such a person, for instance, coming back to the '70s in Great Britain wouldn't recognize the place as the same country, and this is where I think most Americans need to acknowledge we're in exactly the same position.
If someone was to go back to 1970s America, you're going to be looking at a completely different moral code. There are continuities to be sure, but on the most contested, the most controversial, the most leading edge issues of the day, the movement has been decidedly to the left, and I think we recognize that that's been true for about a half century. But there's something else in this report that demands our attention. There's something here that the Guardian and those who've done this survey have now a difficulty, a challenge in explaining it is because on one issue, actually fewer Britains hold to a progressivist or liberal position than they did just 10 years ago. On one issue, there's been a remarkable change, and it is not to the left, it is to the right. And on this issue, well, let's just say we understand that an awful lot is hanging.
The World Wrestles with the Transgender Revolution: UK Angling Team in Uproar Over Biological Male Competing on Women’s Team, and Gavin Newsom Vetoes AB-957
We're talking about the transgender issue. This major survey in Great Britain says that on that one issue, the vast majority of Britains are now reflecting less support for transgender claims and transgender ideology that was true just a few years ago. Here's how the Guardian reports this issue, "However, the study notes that attitudes towards transgender people recorded only since 2016," so it's actually less than 10 years, 2016 to 2022, "Appear more volatile with a recent sharp decline in public support." "The proportion of the British public describing themselves as not 'prejudice' towards transgender people fell from 82% to 64% just between 2021 and 2022. Similarly, while 58% of the British public agreed in 2016 that transgender people should be able to have the sex on their birth certificate changed if they want, that support had dropped to 30% by 2022, suggesting an 'overall gradual erosion' and support towards transgender rights since 2018.'"
Now, let's just step back and say this is really important, but this is where we also understand as Christians something that the secular sociologists are going to have a hard time explaining. This is where as Christians, we understand that creation order is very hard to deny for very long. You can try to deny creation order. Another way you might put this in a more traditional moral language to say there's a natural law, you can only violate the natural law for so long. Now, as I often pointed out, one test of a worldview is whether you can operate by this worldview and have babies, and let's just say you adopt the transgender ideology or for that matter, the LGBTQ ideology writ large, you can't get babies. But there is some level of interesting material here certainly for Christians to reflect upon the reality that creation order is making it very difficult for the average person in Britain to buy into the transgender revolution even when the progressivist wave explains why they clearly wanted to.
In 2016, a vast majority of Britain said, "We're all in support of the transgender revolution," but now it's dropped precipitously and actually even between just two years, 2021 and 2022, so how did this happen? Well, for one thing, there's been a lot of publicity and public commentary, public awareness about what the transgender ideology has meant. You have a picture in the United States of a biological male standing their poolside on the University of Pennsylvania women's swim team, and you come to understand this is a biological male who never came in say, the top ranks as a male swimmer, but is now one, defeating biological females, supposedly as a woman, and society says we're supposed to celebrate that. Now, of course, Christians look at that and say, "That's a revolt against creation. Your average secular person has no such category," but they do look at that and say, "That just doesn't look fair."
Now, here in Great Britain, something else has happened just in the last several days that illustrates this problem. There is a national women's angling team that is to say fishing team as The Sunday Times reported. The article in this case is by George Greenwood. "Members of England's ladies angling team have refused to compete in the world championship after the inclusion of a transgender woman in their team." "The dispute centers on the selection of Becky Lee, Burt Whistle Hodges in the competition squad, Heather Lindfield, who has captained the England team quit earlier this year over the issue, members of the squad had previously pulled out of the Home Nation Shore Fishing Championship because of Hodge's selection. It comes amid a wider debate about whether it is fair to allow transgender women to take part in competitive sport." "Transgender campaigners make the point that gender affirmation treatments can significantly lessen the biological advantages of being born male, and there are rarely transgender only classifications for members of their community to compete in, especially at an amateur level.
Gender critics"--so this tells us that in Britain there's now a category for those who are rejecting the transgender ideology--"on the other hand say that including those born biologically male in competitive teams undermine women's sport due to their unfair physical advantages. Now, as you listen to The Briefing, you may remember that just a matter of say a few days ago, I discussed the fact that you have European contexts that are now making very clear that only biological females can compete in women's chess events. Now, why would that be the case? Well, the argument is, and this is an argument that has prevailed in Europe, is that there are enough differences in the brains of men and women that it's actually a different category of competition when it comes to chess. Women have certain intellectual advantages. Men have certain intellectual advantages.
You look at chess, it is disproportionately male, disproportionately male in disposition, disproportionately male in interest. You look at elementary school boys playing chess, you don't see a similar number of girls playing chess. There are differences in the male and female mind. We as Christians understand that is creation order. But it is interesting that even in highly secular Europe, they understand well, it's at least a biological fact, but we're not talking about chess here, we're talking about angling, and some of you probably didn't know this was a pretty significant international competitive sport. And notice that the issue here is that Britain's women's team has said they're not going to compete and they're not going to compete because an external authority told them that they had to have a biological male on their team. Now, this gets more interesting when you look at the actual argument of the women anglers who are saying, "Look, men have a great physical advantage. Biological males have a great physical advantage in casting."
As a matter of fact, the claim is made in this article by some of these very well-known women anglers that the average man as a competitive angler can cast twice as far as the average woman. Thus, this England women's angling team would actually have an advantage because of this so-called transgender woman who's on the team. But the rest of the team is saying that's not how they want to win, that's not how they want to compete. And so, they decided the team itself is simply going to resign rather than to go ahead. Now, here's what's interesting in Great Britain--well, let's just compare it to the United States--in the United States, you can imagine that the vast number of media authorities would be very quick to jump on these women and tell them they're being discriminatory. What's really interesting in Britain, and perhaps this is telling for us, is that there's a lot of public support for these women in making this decision. And similarly, you have sport by sport this arising in controversy.
So just to bring this to a summation for today's edition of The Briefing, we're talking about vast moral change in England, but as an American, I recognize the very same trajectory is taking place in the United States. The assessment made by these researchers is that someone who was taken back to 1970s Britain wouldn't understand the culture in moral terms. And I think some of us are old enough to recognize we not only find that familiar, that's the very experience we've had ourselves. We understand we are living in moral terms in a very different time, and this is where Christians have to understand that what is required of us is continuously, faithfully, consistently thinking through these issues in accordance with biblical truth and the command of Christ, the Lordship of Christ, which means we have no choice on these matters that are revealed in scripture. We have no middle ground actually that we can accept on these issues.
We believe that marriage is one thing and it's one thing only, well, just to put it in a way that might get your attention. That's the position we're stuck with because we've got nowhere to go from the Bible. We've got nowhere to go for that matter from creation order. But it's also very significant before we leave this to recognize that the transgender issue may represent a certain boundary, at least for now, time will tell. But it's at least some kind of boundary where you have in Britain people who are trying to join the progressivist way, they're trying to be a part of this liberalization of the society, but they can't go there. And you also have reports coming out right now, the British government that is to say the conservative government but with vast support from the population is now working on policies to make very certain that gender identity of children of minors cannot be hidden from parents. And you have statements being made that sound like they come right out of biblical Christianity such as, "it is not healthy for children to keep secrets from their parents."
Now, that verse is not in scripture, but that is a biblical truth and it certainly is not healthy for public school and state officials to be complicit in a conspiracy to hide these issues from parents. Now, recall that right now, even as I speak, this is a hot burning issue in several school districts in the state of California. It's been headline news, we've discussed it on The Briefing. In California, you have a liberal democratic governor who by the way, oddly enough just vetoed a bill that would make gender identity and gender expression on the part of children if parents are in disagreement would have been a required factor in parental custody hearings. The governor vetoed the bill. Now that's extremely significant. Why did he do that? Well, there are probably about three explanations. Number one, he probably had a pretty good idea that wouldn't stand up in court.
Number two, he probably had a pretty good idea that that could be used against other issues in the LGBTQ revolution. The third issue is he probably even more clearly understood that if he ever intends to run for the office of President of the United States, he could not have that particular bill hanging around his neck. Gavin Newsom is a social progressive. He's a social liberal, which is why so many people on the left in California are surprised. But he's also a political figure and politicians do in the end tend to act like politicians. There's going to be more to this story, but there's not less to this story and we'll be following it all together.
A Progressive Vision of the Family But with Traditional Roles? — Sociologists Struggle to Explain Persistence of Creation Order
Okay, but next we need to shift to another issue in this particular survey, and at this point we need something just a little lighter for us to think about. But it's also related, but it is fascinating that other headlines in Great Britain about this particular social moral values survey include headlines like this, this time it's from The Sunday Times. "At last, men think the chores should be shared" the next, "Just not in their own household."
Well, it turns out that this survey has indicated that a vast increase in the number of men affirming the fact that men should share domestic chores that has been reflected by the survey. And yet, when the survey is taken as to how that actually translates into the lives and households of the British people, not so much. Sarah Ditum reports it this way, "The annual British Social Attitude Survey published last week isn't just a landmark piece of research into what the public really thinks. It's also a yearly feelgood festival of progress. Look how far we've come as a nation. In 1983 when the first survey took place, Britain was a much crustier place." This is traditional British language, "much crustier" place than it is on abortion and premarital sex. "We're far more tolerant now, up and up we climb in the graphs ascending to evermore liberal heights."
This is The Sunday Times, just a matter of two days ago, "A retreat on acceptance on trans issues might suggest a wrinkle in that narrative." But then later in the article it says, "Otherwise, it's more egalitarianism all the way including our private lives. In the 1980s, the separate spheres vision of heterosexual relationships remain strong. Man out in the world hunting and gathering women mildly tending the hearth." Now, the writer says, we changed. According to this survey, "In the latest research, only 9% agreed that a man's job is to earn money and a woman's is to look after the home and family down from 48% to 1987." I'm going to pause there for a moment. It is at least interesting to know that in Great Britain as recently as 1987, 48% of all the respondents male and female held to an incredibly traditional understanding of the roles of men and women.
Let's just state the obvious. 1987 is not exactly ancient history, but in moral terms. Well, this article makes very clear it seems that way, but here we are writes this author, "In the beautiful gender balanced future, our feminist foremothers imagined. The only problem is that the words part of the equation seems to have dramatically outstripped the deeds side because when you actually ask people about what actually happens in their home rather than what they think should happen in a notional home, you get a very different set of data."
Now, this is an article that could run several different ways. This is a part of the research that you might take in several different directions. My purpose in raising it today is to say that creation order wins out in ways that frankly sometimes perplex just about everybody in the equation. It is interesting that in moral terms, more men say they need to help out with domestic chores.
But later in the article it's pointed out that many wives have come to the conclusion that it's not so much just a man's unwillingness to take on these tasks, but they're frank incompetence at accomplishing these tasks. One of the things that is true of both men and women is that both get frustrated with the other. And by the way, this is not always a gender equation. Sometimes just one person gets frustrated with another person and simply decides, I'm not going to ask you to do that. I'm just going to do it myself. I know how to do it. I know how I want it done. Well, we know how that works in marriage and it's not always absolutely predictable. There are husbands who are fantastic cooks and there are women, of course, who have incredible professional lives. But here's what I want to point out as a Christian, the basic understanding of the roles of men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers in the home, it's far more resilient for reasons that puzzle sociologists that actually should give us at least a bit of satisfaction and understanding.
Here you have a feminist who is saying, you know, the words aren't matching the deeds. We're living in a time in which, at least according to the progressives, men have reached the point where they say they know what they're supposed to do, but they're not doing it. Similar report, and I'll end on this for The Briefing today, the Financial Times and other major newspapers in Great Britain are discussing the fact that in the City of London, that means the financial District of London, paternity leave is not taken by many men who qualify for it. And this is one of those situations in which I don't think there's a right and nor wrong. I don't think the Christian worldview says there's a thou shalt and a thou shalt not. But I do think it's very interesting to say the least, that a lot of these men don't take the paternity leave.
Now, when the Financial Times and others ask the question, why are they not taking the paternity leave, it is because they said they will lose professional opportunity. They will lose traction in their profession, and I think demonstrably that's true. I don't think that's just a fear. There are numerous points of documentation in the professional literature that it makes that clear, and I think it's because we understand there are some incommensurate goods that the secular world doesn't understand. There is the good of professionalism and there is the good of say, full-time parenting at home, and those two are going to come into conflict and there are going to be at the very least, hard decisions made and what you have in the modern feminist dream, but it's not just feminist. And in the modern liberal progressivist dream, you never have to have trade-offs, and everybody just goes with the leftward flow of the society.
But it just doesn't work that way, and it doesn't work that way. The level of the individual, it doesn't work that way. The level of society, evidently, it doesn't work that way in the level of marriage, but notice there's something else. Something else very interesting here. The entire article assumes that when you have two people who are in this kind of relationship, they are accurately described as a man and a woman. And over and over again, even in a liberal age, you'll notice when people talk about marriage in the family, if they're just talking naturally, they end up talking about a mother and a father and their children. Now, that tells us something. It doesn't tell us that we don't have a problem, we know that we do. It doesn't tell us we don't face challenges, we know we do. But it does tell us something about the fact that creation order, that God's intention in creation, God's glory and creation still shine through. Sometimes in ways that still shock us as believers. We need to note that.
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.
Anyone who knows me understands that I take a great deal of inspiration and understanding how we should handle these things, analyze these things, confront these things, and do so with courage. I take a great deal of that courage from one man in history that has been an interest of mine from the time I was a little boy. That man is Winston Churchill. We need similar courage in this day to understand what we are up against and why we actually must press on to victory. I'm speaking to you live before an audience in the Churchill War Rooms in London, and I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.