Protesters hold national flags during a demonstration against a reform legalising same-sex marriage and adoption, that will be debated by parliament next week, in Athens on February 11, 2024. Some 4,000 people according to police responded to a call by Orthodox religious groups. They gathered on central Syntagma Square, waving Greek flags and brandishing crosses and banners opposing same-sex parenthood.
Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The Briefing.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024.

It’s Wednesday, February 21, 2024.

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

Part I

Greece Becomes First Country to Defy Orthodox Church to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

Big headline news comes from the nation of Greece. That’s not altogether common, but it comes at this time precisely because the nation of Greece–it’s government–has now legalized “same-sex marriage,” and in so doing it becomes the very first country in the Orthodox dominated world, to take this legal step of legislating approval for “same-sex marriage.” In a further complication, same-sex couples will now be able to adopt children and be given custodial rights. This is a major moral shift. And it’s taking place in one of the oldest countries, in one of the oldest civilizations on earth. It is taking place at the very heart of the Greek Orthodox Church, and it has taken place–by legislators there in Greece–in the face of very clear opposition from the Orthodox Church in Greece.

So what’s going on here? Well, in the first place, there are many on the cultural left in the United States who keep complaining about Western cultural imperialism, and yet that’s exactly what this is. That’s exactly what the progressives are trying to force upon Africa. That’s exactly what many in the Biden administration want to force through American foreign policy. When it comes to issues like the LGBTQ revolution, same-sex marriage, all those Hollywood concerns about political pressure on other nations, they go away, because after all, this is in the name of what they define as human liberation. 

So let’s just look at the development in Greece. What does it mean? Greece, by this action, has become the 16th country in the European Union to allow same-sex marriage, but it is the first nation defined as an Orthodox Christian nation to do so. Back in 2015, Greece extended recognition to same-sex relationships and partnerships, but that was not extended to marriage.

But the current prime minister of Greece decided he wanted to go forward with this proposal. Frankly, it didn’t have the support of all in his own party. But a coalition was put together, especially with leftists there in Greece. And this came in the defiance of the Orthodox Church in Greece, which very clearly understands marriage to be, and only to be, the union of a man and a woman. The Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, had made very clear that he thought this was a human rights issue. That’s the way he presented it. That is to say, same-sex couples have a human right to marry. They should have the equal right as a man and a woman to marry. Now, that’s not an argument that’s altogether new, but it is an argument that we need to understand hasn’t grown any less false over time. Even as time has passed here in the West, where you had a supreme court here in the United in 2015, that ruled in favor of same-sex marriage and legislated it in all 50 states, and mandated it in all 50 states.

Now you have in Greece, the very same logic, it’s just arriving a little later, but nonetheless, it is still just as false. The report in the New York Times says this, “In addition to recognizing same-sex marriages, the legislation clears the way for adoption, and gives the same rights to both same-sex parents as a child’s legal guardian. Whereas today, such rights have applied only to the biological parent.” “It would also affect the daily lives of same-sex couples.” The Prime Minister told Parliament, “Allowing those with children to collect them from school, to be able to travel with them, to take them to the doctor.” Well, a lot of that was already allowable by other means, but you can understand how this becomes a very powerful political argument. But still, in Greece? What about the history and the influence and the power of the Orthodox Church in Greece? This raises some huge questions.

It also raises some questions of history. This story, along with many others, brings to light the fact that between the West, in terms of Western Christianity, and the East, in terms of Eastern Christianity, there is a fundamentally different idea of the relationship between the church and the state. And for that matter, the relationship between, say, the government and the church. So let’s just think of it in those terms. In the West, that is to say what’s called western civilization, we’ve long had arguments about the relationship between the church and the state, but the understanding has been that they are two different entities. Christians understand, each with an assignment from God, but they do have very clearly defined distinctive roles to play. Throughout different controversies and developments in Western history, you have had arguments about what is the right relationship between church and state, but you’ve also had a very clear understanding that the ruler and the religious leader, even in a situation in which you had something like the Holy Roman Empire, there was still a distinction. And over time, in Western civilization, that distinction became clearer. 

But in the lands dominated by Eastern Orthodoxy it’s a different picture. There, the relationship between the church and the state is described as symphonia, and that means moving together, common action. And so there is no notion of the separation of church and state in these historically Orthodox countries the way that there is in the West. So just to make the matter clear, when you talk about Orthodoxy, you’re often talking about national identity. It’s the Greek Orthodox Church. It’s the Syrian Orthodox Church. It’s the Russian Orthodox Church. It’s the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. That’s a very different symbiosis of church and state than you find in the West. But where is the symphonia when it comes to this action by the Greek government? This isn’t symphonia, this is dissymphonia. This is the government in Greece saying “We’re going in a very different direction than the Greek Orthodox Church.”

So what we’re witnessing here is not just the liberalization of the institution of marriage and the sexual morality in Greece. What we’re seeing is kind of a fundamental rewriting of the relationship between church and state in that culture. And the opposition of the Greek Orthodox Church and its authorities to this legislation was abundantly clear, and yet it passed. And so here’s a big worldview issue for us. We need to recognize that in the modern world, you have the tug coming from the secular and you have the tug coming from the historic Christian. And the fact is that increasingly, in nation after nation, the secular tug is the more powerful tug, especially when it comes to politics and culture. And now you’re seeing the same story, the same narrative is being played out in Greece. 

The Times report notes this resistance saying, “In a country that remains one of Europe’s most socially conservative, where the traditional family model was still predominant, and the influential Orthodox church views homosexuality as an aberration, the measures have met some pointed resistance. The Holy Synod, the Greek Orthodox Church’s highest authority, argued in a letter to lawmakers this month that the bill ‘abolishes fatherhood and motherhood, neutralizes the sexes’ and creates an environment of confusion for children.” Now, there was a time when the Orthodox Church in Greece speaking with that specificity would have simply ended the conversation, but pointedly, that is not what happened now. 

And the ultimate cultural agenda is also made clear, and that’s why I cite this section from the Times report, “Supporters said the changes were a crucial step towards granting full rights to gay people and their children and [listen to these words. They’re especially crucial] opening up minds in a society where traditional heteronormative attitudes prevail.” And so in affirmation, out of the blue with astounding honesty, telling us that the real agenda is to simply change the way the people think about the most basic issues, right down to heteronormativity. And if you have to have that defined for you, it’s probably already too late.

Part II

St. Patrick’s Cathedral Turned into Transgender Celebration: Memorial Service for Transgender Activist Scandalizes Church

But next, we’re going to shift from Greece to Manhattan, right here in the United States of America. A really big development that made salacious headlines. Sometimes those headlines don’t point to something important. I think in this case they actually do. And part of this is because the story evolved over just a few days. So let me just tell you how the story broke. Remember, this is Manhattan, the very heart of glittering New York City. The heart of the progressive left in the United States, and at the heart of the city, of course, are some very famous, very historic churches. The most famous of them being St. Patrick’s Cathedral right there in the heart of Manhattan. So what happened to St. Patrick’s in recent days? Well, it was a funeral.

But the story broke in the New York Times with the headline, “Celebration at St. Patrick’s for a Transgender Activist.” The subhead, “Funeral held at cathedral where activists protested the church’s stance on AIDS.” Liam Stack is the reporter, and he tells us that the pews at St. Patrick’s Cathedral were packed last week, “For an event with no likely precedent in Catholic history, the funeral of Cecilia Gentili, a transgender activist and actress, former sex worker and self-professed atheist, whose memorial functioned as both a celebration of her life and an exuberant piece of political theater.” And wow, was it all of that and more. There are several reasons we need to talk about this, and the magnitude of it’s part of it. You’re looking at something big enough to get this kind of headline in the print edition of the New York Times. Stack reported, “Over 1000 mourners, several hundred of whom were transgender, arrived in daring outfits, glittery miniskirts and halter tops, fishnet stockings, sumptuous fur stoles, and at least one boa sewed from what appeared to be $100 bills.

Mass cards and a picture near the altar showed a haloed Ms. Gentili surrounded by the Spanish words for transvestite.” I’m just going to euphemize the next word. “[Prostitute], blessed and mother above the text of Psalm 25.” Wow. So I’m old enough to remember when St. Patrick’s Cathedral was famous for something else, when St. Patrick’s Cathedral was the very symbolic heart of Catholicism in New York City, particularly of immigrant Catholicism, and specifically of Irish Catholicism. After all St. Patrick, it was a veritable, indomitable, unmissable, unmistakable symbol of Catholic pride in the United States. And a succession of Catholic Cardinal Archbishops stood in that cathedral and very bravely held forth against the LGBTQ revolution, sometimes right down to the point of having gay protesters, in gay pride parades, outside the cathedral, and protesters who even invaded the cathedral. Now, Cardinal Dolan, the current Cardinal Archbishop of New York City, has himself been pretty vocal on these issues.

And this headline appeared to be a surprise and an aberration, because you wouldn’t expect that St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the authorities of the cathedral of the diocese there in New York would have allowed this kind of celebration, which quite frankly can only be described as bacchanalian and pornographic. It was not only in violation of the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, it was pornographically so. And as a matter of fact, the situation was so extreme, so sinful, so blatantly violative of Catholic principles and Catholic dogma, that the Archbishop ordered that a massive reparations be told, basically in order to cleanse the cathedral of the scandal. 

Now, I read that first sentence from the Times report because I want you to understand the New York Times thinks this was a great thing. It’s a fantastic thing. Whereas just a matter of a generation ago you had Catholic Cardinal Archbishop standing on the steps and there on the platform of St. Patrick’s Cathedral being very clear and refuting the LGBTQ logic. And now, well, you have a transgender, former sex worker, atheist, whose funeral is being held or memorial service, it was actually called, was being held in St. Patrick’s Cathedral with the permission of the cathedral authorities and becoming a platform for what was openly pornographic and just, well, to use the favorite word of the sexual revolutionaries, transgressive. Let’s just say without going into any further detail, they transgressed. 

Liam Stack wrote about what he saw as progress, “That St. Patrick’s Cathedral would host the funeral for a high-profile transgender activist who was well known for advocacy of behalf of sex workers, transgender people, and people living in HIV, might come as a surprise to some. Not much more than a generation ago at the heights of the AIDS crisis, the cathedral was a flashpoint in conflicts between gay activists and the Catholic Church whose opposition to homosexuality and condom use enraged the community. The towering neo-gothic building became the site of headline grabbing protests in which activists chained themselves to the pews and lay down in the aisles.” But the entire point of this article is, “Well that was then, but this is now.” Now you have Cecilia Gentili, remember, this is a transgender individual, a man with a female identity, also an atheist and a former sex worker, who’s being celebrated in a pornographic event. One of the most well attended events, by the way, in the recent history of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. What could go wrong? 

Well, within a very short amount of time, within a day, even within hours, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese there in New York City, was quickly clarifying the issue. The Guardian in London, that’s a major British newspaper on the left, noticed the development and reported on it. “The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York City has condemned a funeral service for the transgender activist Cecilia Gentili at St. Patrick’s Cathedral after congregants cheered her for being celebrated as the mother of all, [I’ll say prostitutes].” The article continued, “Gentili was an activist and actor known for advocacy on behalf of sex workers, as well as an atheist, and the author of,” well, I’m not going to go at that either. “The archdiocese,” according to this article, “however, condemned the funeral, saying some mourners behaved scandalously at the service. [I think that’s in the understatement.] The statement released by the archdiocese stated that it had no idea our welcome in prayer would be degraded in such a sacrilegious and deceptive way.” According to the pastor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, “the church had not known of Gentili’s background or beliefs when it booked the service.” By the way, among other things celebrated there in the cathedral, in this rather salacious event, was a celebration of what’s called sex work. And without going into detail, one of the persons advocating for the approach taken by this transgender individual to sex work was “Sex work to Gentili was work just like any other.” 

This absolute turning of the moral world upside down, and quite frankly in this case, very clearly advocating for, not only the LGBTQ revolution, but for transgression, for the transgender revolution and for sex work. It’s hard to come up with a longer list of things that are directly in contradiction to Roman Catholic teaching, but were here celebrated at this event. Now, again, the Roman Catholic authorities have come back and said, “This was unauthorized. This shouldn’t have happened. We were lied to.” And according to Roman Catholic sacramental theology, the space had to be cleansed, basically, by this mass of reparations. And I’m sure that there will be some policy changes and some additional questions asked, and it may be that a few heads roll within the entire structure. But my point is this, let’s just go back, because it’s important to recognize that regardless of whether this had been authorized or unauthorized, the fact that it happened, and the fact that it happened as it happened, just tells us a whole lot.

And there are people who look at this just for the sensational headlines and frankly, it is a freaky, fascinating story. The fact is, nonetheless, there are some huge lessons here. For one thing, those who are surprised by this transgression, frankly haven’t been following the way this moral revolution has worked from day one. Because it’s a part of the playbook, a part of the game book, a part of the policy and the strategy of the LGBTQ, and for that matter, the larger sexual revolution, to use transgression as a way of tearing down moral boundaries. And that became very clear, even in manuals, for the early gay rights revolution, going all the way back to the 70s and to the 80s. Especially as you get through the 80s and into the 90s, there are those who are saying, “Look, transgression is what you have to do. And not only that, you don’t fear the cameras, you want the cameras. Not only that you don’t fear the attention, you want the attention. You put all of this right there in visual, in front of people, and eventually they’re moral objections to it will break down.” 

Furthermore, the very logic of transgression, in terms of moral change, this is important, Christians need to think about this, is that if you transgress a very clear moral principle, let’s just say marriage, and by that we mean heterosexual marriage, if you transgress it flamboyantly, you might get a cultural opposition to that. But you know what, you might move the meter just a little bit. And so what conservatives often miss, in this strategy of transgression, is that they’re not really wanting transgender people in pornographic outfits performing lewd acts in a feather boa near the altar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. They don’t necessarily want you to say that’s normal, but you know what? That expands where the range of normal was just before all of this happened. And that means that someone who now shows up a little bit less flamboyantly, a little less transgressively, appears to be a lot closer to the normal. That is one of the key strategies of how the moral revolutionaries have worked, and how they’ve succeeded so radically over the course of the last several decades. 

The other thing we need to note here is how moral revolutionaries, who claim an identity within a religious body, actually become co-conspirators to help undermine that group’s teaching. And that’s exactly what’s happened. Catholic liberals, of course, loved the event and hate the archdiocese response. And that’s just absolutely predictable. Among Catholics, one of those liberals is the Reverend James Martin, identified in the Times as “A well-known Jesuit writer who advocates a more inclusive approach from the church.” That’s an understatement. He’s one of the go-to priests on the left that the American media love to go to in this kind of situation. Reverend Martin said that it was “Wonderful that the cathedral had agreed to hold the transgender service.” And you look at this and you recognize this is exactly how it works, and this is why the media loves these folks and why conservatives in these churches and denominations and religious groups understand it’s a loaded gun that’s pointed at us. Martin went on to say, “To celebrate the funeral mass of a transgender woman at St. Patrick’s is a powerful reminder during Lent that LGBTQ people are as much a part of the church as anyone else. I wonder if it would have happened a generation ago.” You wonder if it would’ve happened a generation ago? It didn’t happen a day before it happened. This is the kind of absolute nonsense that liberals get away with just about every single day. 

“I wonder if this would have happened a generation ago?” You know the answer to that? No. 

Would this have happened a week ago? No.

Part III

How LGBTQ Activists Play the Cultural Game: What the Response to the Transgender Activist Memorial Service at St. Patrick’s Reveals About the Strategy of the Left

You also see, and of course, this is an organically Catholic context here, where you make the claim that LGBTQ people, including the person celebrated in this mass, a man presenting as a woman and an atheist or an agnostic, depending upon description, “Are as much a part of the church as anyone else.” You know, it’s not just gay and straight, it’s also, according to the liberal logic, believers and unbelievers. It’s all the peace. A ritual cleansing had had to happen at St. Patrick’s Cathedral before. And on a related issue, and I’m thinking here of the late 1980s, when the then-Cardinal Archbishop of New York was John Cardinal O’Connor. And he was confronted with thousands of people in a gay pride protest, who not only were outside the cathedral, but came into the cathedral, and they were protesting the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

And in particular, the teaching of the church is upheld by the Archbishop there. And they even poured blood there inside the Cathedral of St. Patrick’s just in order to make their point. You can understand why, given Catholic sacramental theology, the space had to be cleansed and re-consecrated then. But now we’re talking about something very, very different. And frankly, it just tells you how the sexual revolution works. This time, the story was about something held in St. Patrick’s Cathedral with the permission of the Cathedral. So many questions to be asked here about how it could have happened, but the point is it did happen. And the point is that it revealed the strategy of transgression and it also reveals another strategy of the left, even when you don’t have what you claim you have, continue to claim it in order to change the narrative understood by the public.

So in this case, you’re going to have the LGBTQ activists who are going to be talking about the massive crowd in the cathedral. They’re not going to talk about the Catholic authorities apologizing for the event ever taking place in the first place. No, this is how the game is played. And if you’re talking about where the game is played, well per square inch, it’s hard to imagine, it’s played out any more intensely than what you see in a place like Manhattan.

Part IV

Ontology Grounds Gender and Sexuality: The Unchanging Categories of ‘He’ and ‘She’

But as we conclude, we just need to do a bit of reality therapy for Christians because we have to think about and talk about these issues. And we often have to think about them and talk about them even as we’re citing official reports, research, media reports. And that means that at times we just have to come back and be honest and say, “We need to do a little bit of clarification here.”

When you have pronouns used, such as used in the media reports about this funeral or memorial service in St. Patrick’s, Cathedral, if you’re going to quote the article, sometimes you have to quote the language they use, including the pronouns. But let’s just remind ourselves, as Christians, we are obligated to an organic objective understanding of human gender, which means we’re talking about male and female, created he them, and that is not something that is plastic or susceptible to change or transformation. From time to time, we’re going to have to talk about these issues and we’re going to have to even talk about how we talk about these issues. And even as we seek to speak about all human beings with appropriate recognition of human dignity, we can’t talk about all gender claims with any equal concern or respect, even for plausibility. It’s also important that we speak to one another, we speak to ourselves, frankly, and we speak in public and in private, in such a way that we have to continually ground ourselves in ontology.

That’s a big theological word for, being. That’s reality. That’s truth. And we come back and say, when God said male and female, he created us. Those are constant categories. And even as the world around us is showing its rebellion by playing with all these categories, and frankly doing so in ways that will lead to grave human injury, we have to be the people who sometimes have to clarify a conversation and say, “Okay, here’s how it works. Male and female, continue as male and female.” And by the way, that also only makes sense if we keep our story, our theology, our world view, and our language straight inside and outside of the cathedral. 

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website at You can find 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.

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