Tuesday, October 24, 2023

It is Tuesday, October 24, 2023.

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

Part I

Comprehensive Sex Education is at Odds with Sexual Morality: The Threat of Progressive Sex Education to Parental Rights and Creation Order

We continue to track events in the Middle East, but now we’re going to turn to the United States and some issues that deserve attention that haven’t received the attention due simply because of the rush of world events.

Big developments when it comes to the school systems in the United States and big controversies over those schools. Controversies over schools, for instance, in California, or at least some areas in California, where the California state government has attempted to step in, in order to prevent expansions or explicit acknowledgements of parental rights on issues including LGBTQ when it comes to gender identity of students, et cetera. But the Associated Press has recently reported that one of the old controversies is a new controversy again, and this is exactly what Christians should expect. The headline in the article by Hannah Fingerhut at the Associated Press is this, Stricter State Laws Chip away at Sex Ed in K-12 Schools.

Now, this story turns out to be really important, not just because of the information that is in it. It’s important because of the way the entire situation is cast. The tilt of the article is given away. The default position of the cultural left in this country is given away by the headline, stricter state laws, is that good or bad? Well, the headline says it’s bad, “chip away at sex ed in K-12 schools.” The obvious implication of this headline is that stricter state laws restricting sex education in the states, well, that’s a bad thing. It’s being chipped away.

Here’s how the AP article begins: “A dozen state or county agencies have parted ways with tens of thousands of dollars in federal grants meant to help monitor teenagers’ sexual behaviors and try to lower rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.” So here we’re being told that some school systems, some state and county agencies are backing away from what had been we’re told here, a federally driven approach. “The withdrawals reflect a shift in many states that is further complicating and polarizing sex education in K-12 schools. As some Republican led legislatures more strictly regulate when and what students learned about their bodies. The new laws are part of a broad push to fortify parents’ rights and strike LGBTQ plus content from the classroom, core themes that have flooded the campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.”

Now, I hope you caught something in all of that. I hope you caught the fact that the way this article is written, the default position would be that Republican politicians shut up on these issues, that Republican office holders stay away from this issue. It’s none of their business, and more importantly, that parents stay out of this. Let the experts have their way when it comes to sex education. Notice how it’s packaged here at is attempts to “lower rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.” And then also we are told here that the experts should regulate what students learn about their bodies.

Now, one of the most basic issues that we face in the modern world in our particular times and even in our context is the fact that increasingly the cultural elites believe that our children belong to the state. That’s the very clear implication. Sometimes it is the clear argument that is being made. We have these children, you have these children, and they are your responsibility, except when it comes to the most important issues, you’re basically working for the state. You are an extension of the state. That’s the way the cultural left increasingly–honestly–sees parenthood. So the whole implication of the way this article in the Associated Press begins is that you have Republican politicians daring to go where they just need to keep out of it because whose business is it after all the sex education of young people and the public schools, and then parents, well, parents need to stay out as well because we are told that the threat here is a broad push to fortify parents’ rights.

So everything’s loaded in this article, and so is the first word in the next paragraph. This is one of the most dangerous words. This is an alarm word. When you hear this word, you need to have all of your defenses ready. “Experts are concerned students won’t reliably learn about adolescence, safe sexual activity or relationship violence, topics they say are especially important since sexually transmitted diseases rose after the pandemic and access to abortion is increasingly restricted.” I hope you felt an earthquake there, because in that paragraph, beginning with the word ‘experts,’ well, again, that’s the word you need to watch out for. When you have a journalist use the word experts on a controversial issue like this, you can count on the fact that these experts reflect the prevailing elite. That’s exactly why they’re called experts. That’s why the press, by the way, doesn’t name them in most cases, simply cites the fact that there are experts out there, and guess who would not be classified as experts? We’ll say parents or politicians, government leaders who would dare to step into the arena on these issues.

But something else is in this earthquake in a single paragraph because we’re told that the danger here–that is, what’s concerning the experts–is that children, students, and teenagers, they won’t reliably learn about adolescence, “safe sexual activity or relationship violence.” The big words there most importantly are safe sexual activity, because now you are invoking an entire ideology about sexual behavior among children and teenagers and for that matter, unmarried people. Safe sex doesn’t mean anything like following a biblical sexual morality to which many families are very committed. It instead means facilitating sex without biological consequences. That’s the best way to put it, and that’s the only way I can really put it on The Briefing. It is to facilitate sexual behavior where it ought not to happen without biological consequences. And those biological consequences would include both pregnancy and disease.

Because pregnancy and disease are the only two things that these experts are really concerned about. They’re not concerned about the hearts of young people. They’re not concerned about upholding any rational standard of sexual morality. And as a matter of fact, what is advertised here is what the experts demand in terms of knowledge about safe sexual activity. It is actually, in many cases, sex education that is intended to educate young people on how they may fulfill themselves by doing these things.

Well, as I say, I hope you felt that earthquake because there’s another tremor coming and it’s in the very next sentence. Listen to this, “Anne-Marie Amies Oelschlager, a pediatric and adolescent specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital said a trained, trusted adult is critical for young people to get good information versus other less trustworthy sources like social media.”

Now, as a Christian, I want to say at least a part of that sentence makes sense that is a trusted adult, but you’ll notice that’s not the expression here. It is a ‘trained,’ trusted adult, and that means certainly not a parent because that parent hasn’t been trained. Parents, after all, just a parent, just a mom, just a dad, just a parent. What do parents know? They’re not trained. Instead, you need an expert. So we’re back to the word expert. You need an expert to be in charge of sex education for children and teenagers in the schools, and you trust these experts to bring their expertise as trained, trusted adults. Now, that raises another issue, which is that this is not just someone who is not a parent, it is someone who is actually displacing parents in this case. It’s a lot more serious than it may first appear to be.

Now, skipping several paragraphs, I want to point to other language. “Advocates for comprehensive sex education say the restrictions in early education may prevent kids from getting age appropriate foundational knowledge that they build on each year.” That was said by Alison Macklin, who’s identified as director of policy and advocacy at what the Associated Press acknowledges is the progressive sex education organization SIECUS.” Indeed, progressive is not the wrong word there. It is progressive, and it has been from the beginning, it has been an engine of the sexual revolution and it is targeting and has from the beginning, targeted children and teenagers, teenagers in particular for its messaging.

But the other thing I want you to hear–it’s not just experts, it’s not just a trained, trusted adult–is advocates for comprehensive sex education. The key word there is neither sex nor education, it’s the word comprehensive. Comprehensive sex education is ideologically driven. It’s presented here in the Associated Press as if all right-minded citizens to say, “Well, of course, I believe sex education should be comprehensive because who would want non-comprehensive or un-comprehensive sex education?” The answer to that, the way it’s defined by these experts, the answer to who would be offended by it and who wouldn’t want it would be, Christian parents, emphatically.

Because what is defined in it’s very clearly defined as comprehensive sex education is directly at odds with biblical morality, period. And these days, by the way, it’s not just at odds with biblical morality, it’s at odds with creation order, especially when it comes to the T in LGBTQ.

Another tremor I want you to feel in this and just understand the threat is found in this sentence. “You were never going to teach a first grader a trigonometry lesson, but…” And this is continuing the quote. “They have to have foundational knowledge in first grade to be able to get to that in high school.”

So when they’re talking about sex education and they are talking about students in K-12, guess what? They mean K-12. They mean K, they mean one, they mean two, they mean three. And as you look at this, you realize this is absolute insanity, but it’s being presented in this news article as if it should make perfect sense and all right-minded citizens should say, “No, we need to get parents, we need to get religious leaders, we need to get Republican politicians because that’s exactly how they are identified here out of this equation because after all, what do they know?”

And just in case you wondered the degree to which parents are seen as the problem, this article cites David Walls, executive director of The Family Foundation, which is a Christian organization here in Kentucky, and it had been advocating for the more restrictive understanding of sex education in Kentucky Public Schools. The Associated Press says that speaking of parents and others who were concerned, “The consensus was sex education in elementary school wasn’t necessary or appropriate in any context.” So that, again, is citing David Walls. The article then says, “Many parents disagree with the boundaries around what is considered age appropriate by sex ed advocates, particularly when it comes to gender identity, and as Mr. Walls said, the idea that biological sex is not an immutable characteristic.”

So all that’s just simply to say the Associated Press said there’s another argument, but it’s another argument that is the problem. It’s a contrary argument to the ideologues who press the sexual revolution and the advocates for so-called comprehensive sex education who want to control this–the experts–who want everyone else to back out. In this case, a very clear argument is made that there really is a consensus among, well, you could say most parents, that all of this isn’t going to fly and they don’t want their children presented with this. They don’t want the sexual revolutionaries to have the access to their children in the public schools. But you’ll notice here that it’s those parents, it’s those political leaders, it’s those Christians who are concerned about this, who represent the problem in the view of the experts.

The clear insinuation is we need to just get out of the way and let the experts do their job. I think it’s just really, really important for Christians to understand that it is you or the experts in this situation and at stake are the hearts, the minds, the souls, the bodies of your children. And I just want to give the strongest exhortation I can possibly convey: Don’t turn your children over to the experts.

Part II

A New Abortion Rights Group in Illinois? Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Billion Dollar Push for Abortion. And for the White House?

But next, thinking of the vast cultural changes and the cultural challenges we face in the United States, I think most Christians clearly do understand that preserving unborn human life is a top priority. It’s a non-negotiable top priority. It is one of those issues around which we cannot go. It’s an issue on which we cannot surrender. But we’re also looking at the fact that the political opposition to the protection of the unborn is absolutely fierce and it’s increasingly well-funded. And as we’re looking at the United States, it is clear that we have a huge job to do as pro-life advocates in helping our fellow citizens to understand what is at stake and what actually happens in an abortion and why it is our responsibility individually and as a nation, as a people to preserve and protect unborn human life.

As I say, these groups are increasingly well-funded. They’re getting a lot of attention. The cultural elites obviously love them. The progressive Left has made this basically a central issue. We understand why it’s central to their understanding of an autonomous morality that is absolutely freed from any kind of biological restraint, including pregnancy. And that means they cherish the so-called right to abortion as a central achievement to civilization. And you’re looking at the fact that’s not just the elites when it comes to Hollywood, it is also political forces, and sometimes all this comes together.

The New York Times was reporting just in recent days that the governor of Illinois has individually created a new abortion rights group, and he’s in a position to do that, not only because he is the Democratic governor of Illinois, and Illinois right now is one of the most pro-abortion states in the union, but because he is a multi-billionaire, putting his own personal fortune behind this effort. As Maggie Astor, the Times reports, “Governor JB Pritzker of Illinois is starting an advocacy group to promote abortion rights around the country, seeking to blunt the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v Wade, and to elevate an issue that has energized Democrats in elections.”

Now, one of the things we need to note is that there is a very odd horse race going on right now, and it’s not declared, but it’s getting increasingly interesting. And that race is to succeed Joe Biden as the standard bearer for the Democratic Party, and at least a future prospect for a Democratic presidential nomination. Right now, there are three governors who are very much in the race for that preeminence in the Democratic Party after President Biden. Those three governors are Illinois Governor JB Pritzker already mentioned here, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and California Governor Gavin Newsom. All three of them want supremacy over the other two in democratic politics. And all three of them are increasingly eagerly enthusiastically pro-abortion, basically abortion without restriction, period. And in all three other states, they’ve already made a political difference just that way.

But now you have JB Pritzker. So this isn’t just about Illinois, it’s not just about abortion. It is about the fact that this billionaire wants to be president of the United States. And he is a billionaire several times over. The Times pretty much acknowledges this when it reports, “Mr. Pritzker, who easily won reelection last year has not said how much of his own money he will invest in the new organization, but he’s worth billions of dollars.” So in other words, there is no limit to what he can spend. And this is not just about abortion, but it is about abortion, but it’s also about abortion becoming central to the messaging and the platform of the Democratic Party in a way that that pro-abortion party had not ever pushed before. You’re going to see this in the 2024 election cycle. We’ve been warned. It’s not just this organization. The Democratic Party is going to go for broke on the issue of abortion.

And in coming days, we’re going to look at what that means right now with a looming vote in the state of Ohio, and we’ll turn to that in just the next couple of days. Right now, we’re just looking at Illinois, we’re looking at Governor Pritzker. We’re looking at this announcement. We’re looking at the reality of billions of dollars funding what is two-pronged. Number one, a shadow run for national prominence in the Democratic Party. And this is so incredibly telling. The second part is the connection of that ambition with abortion. It is absolutely alarming, but this is the challenge we face. We better face it honestly.

Part III

What Would Mickey Say? Disney Goes All In For Sports Betting as Gambling Spreads Across the Culture

But finally, for today, we need to talk about Disney. And the big news about Disney right now is the new enterprise that Disney is entering, and that is legalized sports betting and Disney’s getting into it in a very, very big way. Front page of the exchange section of the Wall Street Journal reports, “Disney agonized about sports betting” and then in bold all caps headlines, “Now it’s going all in.” So Disney, which had been very concerned that involvement in sports betting would tarnish its reputation as a family-friendly corporation has decided that the opportunity to make billions of dollars is just more than it can resist. And so it’s getting into gambling in a very, very, very big way.

The story in terms of the leadership at Disney, and this policy does get kind of complicated, but it’s really interesting. Bob Iger had been the chairman, the CEO of Disney, and he had been against the expansion of Disney, and in particular the property it owns the equity ESPN, the big network. It had been opposed to direct involvement in betting. Bob Iger did retire. He was followed by Bob Chapek. Bob Chapek was basically then broomed. Bob Iger came back, and when Bob Iger came back, guess what? He’s now a big advocate for Disney getting into the business of legalized sports betting.

The Wall Street Journal tells us that Iger “warmed up to sports betting. His adult son’s use of sports betting apps opened his eyes to its popularity with a younger audience. He said that it is inevitable the sports watching and sports betting will go hand in hand, and he blessed the company’s inside efforts to find Disney a partner. Getting involved with gambling was the only way to ensure that ESPN is able to continue to attract younger audiences he reasoned.” It’s interesting that Iger with their mention his own sons and their involvement in sports betting because he’s pointing to a demographic reality, and Christians need at least to take note of this, the vast majority of the customer base for these sports betting apps and firms are young men between the ages of 18 and 35, 18 and 35.

So we’re actually talking about college students here and we’re talking about college students who after all are a very rich cohort, right? We’re talking about college students here being trained and enticed to enter into legalized sports betting. And just remember the house always wins. So these students are actually being seduced into this. These young men are being encouraged into this by businesses that have everything to gain by getting their money, even as they have almost everything to lose. And of course, it’s all set up with all the enticements of the gambling, all the excitement, all the tie-in to sports at virtually every level. And of course, the promise of competitive betting, because that just adds to it.

Because if you get young men who are betting and they’re placing bets and they’re basically competitive with each other, even as the teams or the athletes are competitive on the field or on the court, all of a sudden you make it participatory and it is enormously attractive. It is also enormously lucrative, and that’s what Disney understands. And this article makes clear, Disney has decided that its opportunity to make untold hundreds of millions of dollars potentially, ultimately, billions of dollars in sports betting is worth more than their family friendly image.

And here’s the thing, they actually think they can get away with doing both at the same time. This is an old game Disney’s been playing. They think they can get away by playing both games at the same time, presenting themselves as a family-friendly entertainment company with all of its parks and all the rest, and at the same time holding onto corporate equities that are bringing in vast sums of money that are playing on a very dangerous side of the street in moral terms.

Now, of course, Christian parents and others are already alert to the fact that the so-called family friendly entertainment side is not nearly so family friendly as the Disney brand for so many decades would imply. There are openly transgender characters, all kinds of things. There are storylines, all kinds of themes are being worked into what is packaged as entertainment. Disney is not a non-combatant in the culture war, and we already know that. We already know that Disney is very active on so many of these issues. After the very high profile confrontation between Disney and especially its big park, Disney World in Florida with Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis. The Disney company had indicated it was going to step back from some of its public messaging, but actually all that means is that it’s going to step back from some of that messaging, is certainly not stepping back from its basic policies, nor the fact that it employs so many people. And remember, that’s what the chairman said at the time. It employs so many people who are so committed to the LGBTQ agenda that it’s just impossible that those arguing for more family friendly content can possibly win the argument.

But as we conclude, we need to recognize that Disney has just turned 100. The Walt Disney Company was established on October the 16th, 1923. So we’re talking in recent days the 100th anniversary of this company. The company was something of an accident. It was founded by the two brothers, Walt and Roy Disney in Los Angeles in 1923. Of course, it became famous for its animated movies, for its characters, for its theme parks, for its family friendly brand. It might not have happened. Walt Disney’s first major animated character was not a mouse but a rabbit. A rabbit known as Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. But Oswald was not a lucky rabbit for Walt Disney because he lost control of the character and he had to invent a new character in order to have a product for his new company. But it wasn’t a rabbit. It was a mouse.

A mouse who appeared first in a feature known as Steamboat Willie, and a mouse who later became known as Mickey, an iconic figure if there ever was a rodent who had iconic status. In today’s dollars, Disney struck it rich. Its feature film Snow White in 1937 took in what would now be $1 billion at the box office. Now, nothing’s coming close to that today. That tells you something of the entertainment culture at the time. And of course, it was followed by releases such as Pinocchio and Fantasia about a decade later. But World War II was not a good time, and the Great Depression was not a good time for the expansion of any kind of business in the entertainment industry. Nonetheless, Disney pressed on that is to say most importantly, Walt Disney, and one of his great aims was to establish amusement parks. The first one was in Anaheim, California. It opened in 1955, and Mickey now had a house.

That was leveraged with Disney World in the state of Florida, which opened in 1971. There are now multiple Disney Worlds or Disneylands, including one in Shanghai, which by the way is majority owned by the Chinese government. But a lot has changed in terms of Disney, and of course part of that is ideological, part of that is very much a part of the moral equation in the revolution taking place around us. Eventually, all those things show up, and where you find the cultural and creative elite, that’s where you tend to find that leading edge on these things, which is why now Disney finds itself so often in controversy, and frankly, for good reason, there is that controversy.

But as a corporation, Disney also faces other headwinds because Disney is not alone as an entertainment company. It’s not even particularly supreme or unrivaled as an entertainment company. There are now many out there, particularly when it comes to streaming media and entertainment. You not only have Disney, you’ve got Amazon, you’ve got Netflix, you’ve got, well, you could just go down the list. Disney is now one option among others, but Disney’s quite certain that it owns a certain equity those other companies do not have. And so Bob Iger is going full speed ahead, at least for the years he has left as chairman with the expansion of Disney. And the big thing to note here is that now sports betting is a big part of that future.

That wasn’t foreseen with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the word lucky all of a sudden takes on a new ring when you think about it. It wasn’t seen with Mickey Mouse. And Disney’s going to be careful enough that at least at this point, Mickey Mouse is not going to stick his neck out to do a commercial for sports betting at ESPN. But it all is one company. It all is one pot. And eventually, well, it’s all a participation in what is now the near ubiquitous reality of gambling reaching its tentacles into almost every element of American life.

One final issue, and it tells us a lot about ourselves. It tells us about Disney. It tells us about the gambling industry. It tells us about how moral change is repackaged in vocabulary: gambling, in this case, legalized sports gambling or sports betting is being reclassified as a form of entertainment. Now, that’s been attempted by the gambling industry for quite a while now, and you can imagine that industry is seeing this as an enormous gain, because if you have Disney behind the reclassification of gambling as entertainment, you’ve actually won a very great deal in terms of traction in American culture.

And so that means for Christians, we’re looking at an ever more complex, ever more difficult challenge of figuring out how to spend every single dollar in this society, including the dollars we would spend for the entertainment of our own children and grandchildren. Now we understand there’s a lot more at stake than you were betting on.

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.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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