June 23, 2014
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Monday, June 23, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Big news out of the United Kingdom over the weekend where the British government has banned the teaching of creationism in all three schools and academies. As United Press International reports, the government has released a new set of funding agreements that includes clauses which specifically prohibit what is identified as pseudoscience; otherwise explicitly named as creationism. From the government’s statement:
The parties acknowledge that clauses 2.43 and 2.44 of the Funding Agreement [which preclude the teaching of pseudoscience and require the teaching of evolution] apply to all academies. They explicitly require that pupils are taught about the theory of evolution, and prevent academy trusts from teaching ‘creationism’ as scientific fact.
Later UPI reports:
The funding agreement defines creationism as “any doctrine or theory which holds that natural biological processes cannot account for the history, diversity, and complexity of life on earth and therefore rejects the scientific theory of evolution,” and [the government statement] goes on to note that this idea [of creationism] is rejected not only by the scientific community but most mainstream churches as well.
This is obviously a story that bears some closer attention. One thing becomes immediately clear: what in the world are free schools and academies? Creationism has been banned for any number of years in the main government-funded schools, but in the United Kingdom, the schools are often sponsored by churches and by other groups. They would be known in this country as charter schools. Now any school that receives any government funding from the British government is now banned from teaching creationism and this includes schools that are identified with churches. Thus, the government says, “If you accept our funding, you’re also going to accept our curricular decisions. If you accept government funding, then you’re not going to be able to teach creationism.”
As a matter of fact, the second thing that requires our closer attention is the definition of creationism, and this is exceedingly important. Let me repeat the statement from the government. They identify creationism as “any doctrine or theory which holds that natural biological processes cannot account for the history, diversity, and complexity of life on earth.” This is a classic statement of materialism or naturalism. It is a worldview that is now being enforced upon all students and all schools receiving funding from the British government. The British government now mandates a naturalistic worldview as the only acceptable worldview and the only way that anything related to the existence of the cosmos can now be taught in terms of British school pupils.
In another interesting twist, UPI notes that the discussion of beliefs about the origin of the earth, including creationism, are permitted in religious education classes as long “as it is not presented as a valid alternative to established scientific theory.” Several other British media sources are getting to the point, and the point is this: creationism can be taught in some way in religious education classes so long as it is put alongside other “myths.” So long as it is presented in mythical form, claiming no form of factual knowledge, no form of the relation of factual truth, creationism can be taught, but it can emphatically not be taught as relating in any way to the way that the cosmos came about.
One of the most interesting aspects of this account is that the government statement says that any account of evolution must be one that would account for everything that now exists, the complexity and diversity of life, and that includes, as the statement makes abundantly clear, human life as well. The influential website Politics UK says that this is a secular triumph as the government bans creationism from free schools and academies, and, of course, it is exactly that. It is the triumph of a materialistic and naturalistic worldview now being forced upon all British schoolchildren, but wait just a minute. It’s actually upon all British schoolchildren who are studying in schools that receive, to one degree or another, government funding.
Finally, in this case, this is the last emphatic point. American Christians had better watch this very, very carefully because the same principle that applies now in the United Kingdom applies by extension here. Where there are schools that receive government funding, the government has at least some say in the curriculum. Eventually the government will have all the say the government wants, if the government sends funding to a school. The only way that we can maintain the actual integrity of teaching in Christian schools is if Christians are paying for the schools. The moment you accept any form of government aid, government loans, government financial support, you invite just this kind of mandate into your curriculum. This is fair warning. It happened over the weekend in United Kingdom; it could happen to a school near you in very short order.
Also over the weekend, USA Today ran a headline story that gender is losing its impact with the young. USA Today was reporting on research released by the group known as The Intelligence Group. As the headline in the news article by Sharon Jayson says, a new survey of those aged 14 to 34 finds that gender doesn’t define a person the way it once did. Sixty percent, says the research, think gender lines have blurred. Almost two-thirds say their generation is pushing boundaries. As Jayson writes:
They’re young. They like things their way. They don’t like stereotypes and steer clear of conformity. Because young people ages 34 and younger are legions larger than the dominant-until-now-Baby Boom generation, their likes and dislikes command lots of attention. High on their list is gender identity – a concept they’re increasingly resisting.
Jamie Gutfreund, who is the chief strategy officer of The Intelligence Group, said, “Gender stereotypes are conformity.” The survey, by the way, reveals that “gender is less of a definer of identity today than it was for prior generations. Rather than adhering to traditional gender roles, young people are interpreting what gender means to them personally.” Now as Sharon Jayson’s report in USA Today goes on, this front page article indicates that America’s millennial generation—and those who are now identified as ages 14 to 34—are bending the gender rules. As a matter of fact, many of them, according to this report, are rejecting the idea of gender altogether. The findings revealed that more than two-thirds agree that gender doesn’t define a person the way it once did. Sixty percent think the gender lines have been blurred; two-thirds say their generation is pushing the boundaries of what it means to be masculine and feminine; 42% say that gender roles today are confusing. Bruce Tulgan, the founder of a management research and training company in Connecticut, describes what he’s observed as fluidity: “They would say not just men and women; it’s everyone along the spectrum. Everybody has his or her own gender story.”
Now the article’s rather extensive and many young people are quoted within it. Those cited include a woman who is studying at the University of Maryland, College Park who has been competing with the school’s boxing club. Also in terms of bullet points in the article, it is noted that college campuses have been at the forefront of this revolution, creating gender-neutral bathrooms, gender-neutral housing, allowing students to live with any roommate, regardless of the roommate’s sex or gender or the sex or gender with which the person may identify. USA Today reports that this trend is accelerating on American college and university campuses, becoming not exceptions now, but increasingly the norm. Also, state governments are now moving towards gender-neutral language. According to Kay Warnock, a policy specialist of The National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver, 30 states out of the 50 have at least by now addressed the gender-neutral issue.
Then the research points to this generation not as children, but as parents. As the oldest American Millennials begin their early years as parents, USA Today reports, they are adopting this genderless approach. Gender neutrality is evident, from decorating baby’s rooms in neutral colors, rather than more traditional pink and blue, to selecting more gender-neutral toys, to baby names they’re choosing, which are largely gender unclear, including things like Peyton and Rowan.
The article also points to an award-winning 2013 novel known as Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. He won a major science fiction award. It got attention for its complete and extensive non-gendered language. The narrator of the story doesn’t use gender-specific pronouns to describe the characters, whether the character is biologically male or female.
There are several other bullet points as well, but at the end of the article, Sharon Jayson simply summarizes by saying that the Internet has been a major factor in leading to this revolution in gender identity among younger Americans. Well when you look at this article and you see its front page coverage in USA Today, we can certainly see that, to some extent, this is newsworthy. As a matter of fact, this is marketing news, and marketers need to get a handle on these things because their main purpose is knowing how young people think in order to sell things to them, in order to market everything from consumer goods to lifestyles. But there’s something else from this article that is also fundamentally important. One of the things that becomes clear in this kind of social science research is that increasingly people answer as they are supposed to answer, as they think they are supposed to answer. One of the things that becomes increasingly clear in this kind of analysis is that you have an enormous number of young people in this generation who feel the necessity of answering one way whether or not they actually feel that way or not.
Now just as a matter of anecdotal evidence, soon after I saw this news article, I was in two different social locations. One of them was a shopping mall and the other one was an evangelical church. Unsurprisingly, in a very large evangelical church, I had no problem whatsoever identifying the difference between boys and girls and young men and young women. They dressed according to their gender identity, which accorded with their biological birth. They seemed to be absolutely clear about who was a boy, was a girl, who was a young man, who was a young woman. But I also found myself in a major suburban shopping mall, and there I noted the same thing. Almost everyone I saw, even as I was alerted to it by this article, appeared to be wearing clothes that clearly intended to identify with one gender, not the other. Furthermore, even on college and university campuses, even on some of those liberal and progressive college and university campuses, the reality is the majority of students dress and present themselves exactly according to the gender in which they were born.
Taking all of this as a whole, I have no doubt whatsoever that America is undergoing a radical revolution on issues of sexuality and gender, but when it comes to these gender issues, even those who are pushing the periphery indicate that it is a very small percentage of Americans who are actually experimenting with this kind of gender bending as it has been called. So this makes front-page news in USA Today and it makes front-page news in the context of a marketing report, but you have to wonder when you look at this kind of research and you look at the media coverage about it, what’s actually being marketed. In this case, it’s probably the claims of a revolution.
Shifting to the issue of gambling, and, in particular, government-sponsored gambling, just a few days ago, we looked at the closing of a major casino in the state of Mississippi, an indication of the overbuilding of casino gambling facilities throughout the United States. Now Scott Calvert and Jon Kamp report:
Racetrack casinos used to contribute as much as $240 million a year to Delaware’s tax coffers. But as the Northeast becomes saturated with gambling venues, the state’s casino revenue has tumbled, prompting a new industry request—for a tax break.
Delaware’s Governor Jack Markell is quoted as saying, “It’s a different world for the Delaware casinos.” The journal reports that 26 casinos have opened in the area since 2004. That’s in Delaware, New Jersey, and West Virginia, fueling a 39% increase in total annual gambling revenue in the mid-Atlantic and in New England, according to a study by the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. Within 100 miles of Philadelphia, there are now 24 casinos, a big shift from the early 1990s, writes the journal, when Atlantic City, New Jersey, enjoyed an East Coast monopoly. At least a dozen more gambling spots are in the pipeline for Massachusetts to Maryland, raising fears in states such as Rhode Island that their casino tax windfall is at risk. Richard McGowan, who is a casino expert at Boston College, said. “The casino building boom is a direct declaration of war—indirect war—by the states. What they’re saying is, “I want the revenue. I want the revenue back.’” The state of Pennsylvania, for example, has rocketed, according to the journal, since 2006 to become the state with the second most gambling revenue, coming in second only behind the state of Nevada.
One very interesting aspect of this article is that the journal reports that the state of New Jersey, to take one example, takes a 9.25% cut of casino revenue. So the state of New Jersey has a very deep interest in inciting its own citizens to risk their money in gambling, and not only their own citizens, but the citizens of any state nearby where they can entice people to get on a bus or in a car to come to gamble away their income. Now recall that single paragraph in which we read that 26 casinos have opened there in the region since 2004, leading to—and this is a rather remarkable figure—a 39% increase in total annual gambling revenue. That article appeared on the front page of Friday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal.
Yesterday’s edition of The New York Times, in the op-ed section, included a very important article by the social scientist Barbara Dafoe Whitehead. She’s the director of The Civil Society Initiatives at the Institute for American Values. She writes:
In a referendum in November, voters approved as many as seven new casinos to join New York State’s existing nine gambling facilities. And New York is hardly alone. In recent years, 23 other states have legalized and licensed commercial (as opposed to Native American) gambling facilities. In the casino-dense Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions, where 26 casinos have opened since 2004, most adults now live within a short drive of [a casino].
And what becomes very clear is the point she makes in her article. The closer casinos come to where people live, the more likely people are to gamble at one. “As casinos have spread into de-industrialized cities,” she writes, “dying resorts and gritty urban areas, the rate of gambling participation has grown among lower income groups.” This comes back to a point we make over and over again. These two articles demand that we return to the issue. Gambling is attacks upon those who are willing to risk their money. And as it turns out, those who are most likely to risk their income in a vain hope of winnings are those who have the lowest income of all—the most impoverished Americans.
Barbara Dafoe Whitehead then writes:
In America’s increasingly two-tier economy, casino industry leaders realized that they didn’t have to cater exclusively to well-heeled consumers in order to rake in profits. Payday lending, rent-to-own stores, subprime credit cards, auto title loans and tax refund anticipation loans all evolved to extract high profits from low-income groups. And the newly established state-licensed casinos have their methods, too.
What makes his article by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead so important is that it tells us the insider information of how the gambling industry is enticing Americans of low income to continue to gamble, and not only that, but to gamble more and more. She cites research from the University of Buffalo in the State University of New York at Buffalo State. Those studies indicate that the exploitative effects of casino gambling on lower-income Americans are seen in the fact that the casino gambling participation and frequency of visits have increased among the lowest income Americans. “Easy access to casinos,” she writes, “is one key factor.”
Living within 10 miles of one or more casinos more than doubles the rate of problems from excessive gambling. Another factor is easy access to slot-machine gambling. Women and the elderly have become more likely to gamble in recent years, partly because of a preference for nonskill slot-machine gambling.
And the casino industry has perfected means of enticing people to gamble more and more. Barbara Dafoe Whitehead says that the slot machine has become the key to extracting money from people with lower income. She writes:
Most regional casinos are essentially slot parlors. Slot machines are nowadays sophisticated computerized devices engineered to produce continuous and repeat betting, and programmed by high-tech experts to encourage gamblers to make multiple bets simultaneously by tapping buttons on the console as fast as their fingers can fly.
The goal is not to clean out the gambler in a single visit; it’s to provide an experience that will induce the gambler to prolong the time spent on the device [and to come back again and again].
As she writes:
A second goal is to ensure that gamblers visit more often and continue to do so over time. Through player loyalty cards and other marketing programs.
But then there’s even more. It turns out that the casinos have a profile of gamblers in which they try to predict “predicted lifetime value.” In other words, how much they can get out of every gambler of every type. The addictive nature of these slot machines is not an accident. It’s the intention. As Barbara Dafoe Whitehead writes, this is done by inducing the gambler to prolong the time at the device.
The slots achieve this by carefully regulating the rhythm, tempo and sound ambience of the play, while doling out occasional small wins even as the players’ losses slowly increase.
One way these computerized pickpockets milk their customers is by generating “near misses,” whereby the spinning symbols on the machine stop just above or below the winning payline. The feeling of having come oh so close to a win prompts further play.
But it’s not just the slots that have become the machinery for separating citizens from their money. As Barbara Dafoe Whitehead writes:
Examining 15 types of legal gambling, the researchers came to a striking conclusion: Casino gambling had by far the most harmful effects on people at the lower end of the income ladder.
Some months ago I reported that statisticians indicated that one was more likely to die of the accident of having a coconut fall on his or her head than to win one of these Powerball lotteries. And lotteries and the slot machines and the casinos as a whole now represent what it means for our states, that is, our governments, to prey on their own citizens. It’s a very sad tale and the desperation of these states to have even more revenue from gambling is fueling them to do even more to entice their own citizens to lose their money so the state will gain.
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. We’re taking questions right now for the new season of Ask Anything: Weekend Edition that will begin late summer. Just call us with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.