The Briefing 11-03-16

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LGBT community to Peter Thiel: Being gay is about political identity, not sexual identity

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Will Airbnb's new "community commitment" eliminate discrimination, or is it just virtue signaling?

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Who's leading the opposition to expanding gambling in New Jersey? Area casino magnates

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Transcript

The Briefing

November 3, 2016

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

It’s Thursday, November 3, 2016. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

LGBT community to Peter Thiel: Being gay is about political identity, not sexual identity

What does it mean right now to be gay in America? That’s not a question that is as simple as might first appear. At the center of the recent controversy over whether or not he is gay is Peter Thiel, and in this case it isn’t that has been outed. He has declared himself a gay American for some time. It’s a question as to whether the rest of the gay community recognizes him as being gay. The LGBT community has been pushing a moral revolution, and one of the issues we need to note is that the definition of LGBT is evidently itself something of a contentious issue. The LGBT revolution has been continuing in America for decades. And now it has reached the point where there are those within that movement who are going to deny to some who declares themselves openly gay that they aren’t authentically gay.

What’s behind this controversy is the fact that Peter Thiel, the cofounder of PayPal, has indicated that he will give over $1 million to the candidacy of Donald Trump for President of the United States. In the view of some LGBT activists, that means that Peter Thiel, regardless of his sexuality, isn’t now actually gay.

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We’ve now reached the point in this moral revolution where the news is no longer that someone has been outed, that is, someone has been identified as being homosexual, that is, being dragged out of the closet, so to speak, against that person’s will. No, the issue now is that some people who declare themselves to be gay are being told they’re simply not gay enough.

Now as we look at the issue more closely, here’s what’s going on. The LGBT community wants to police who is and is not considered LGBT. And when it comes to the issue of sexual orientation and sexual identity in America today, this moral revolution has reached the point where it’s not even just about sexual behavior. It is now about political identity. The accusation against Peter Thiel is that he is something of a traitor to the LGBT community by his support for Donald Trump. That controversy emerged at The Advocate, that’s the major LGBT magazine in America. But it has also reached headlines now. The New York Times business day on Monday of this week ran a headline,

“Peter Thiel Defends His Most Contrarian Move Yet: Supporting Trump.”

David Streitfeld, reporting for the Times, writes,

“Peter Thiel likes to take the path not taken. He has paid students to drop out of college, thinks Silicon Valley is overrated, backed a plan to build cities on the high seas and helped propel an electronic form of money into general use. His contrarian approach to investing and to life has made him rich and celebrated.”

But then the Times continued,

“It took something truly conventional — donating money to a presidential candidate — to incite demands for his banishment.”

“Demands for his banishment” simply because he has dared to support and to support financially the Republican nominee for the Office of President of the United States. Now in terms of worldview, this tells us something of how the cultural elites inevitably not only coalesce around the common worldview, but they then bring forms of coercion to try to keep everyone in line. When it comes to Silicon Valley, one of the things we need to note is that it is one of the places where income inequality is most acute. In Silicon Valley, there’s a huge distinction between the billionaires and the rest of the folks, and yet these are the folks who are supposedly very concerned about income inequality. As a matter of fact, a study of zip codes in America indicates that the zip codes that are most liberal in the part of the rich in terms of income inequality also tend to be the very zip codes that demonstrate the very highest degree of income inequality. Go figure.

But going hand in hand with that is the fact that when you have a worldview, you inevitably have those who will coerce and police the boundaries of that worldview, and that’s what’s happening now in terms of the LGBT revolution. USA Today reporting on the same story says this,

“Tech billionaire Peter Thiel, facing intense criticism for his financial support of Republican Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, struck back Monday against the Washington and Silicon Valley ‘elites’ he said are ignoring the economic difficulties afflicting many Americans.”

In light of Thiel’s defense of his support for Donald Trump, USA Today reports,

“Some in the tech world have called for Thiel to be dropped from the boards of the social network giant Facebook and California incubator Y Combinator over the donations. Thiel, who made his fortune co-founding PayPal, said the pushback has not affected his business dealings in ‘any meaningful way.’”

Now note the use of the language here. In the New York Times we are told that Peter Thiel is being threatened with banishment from Silicon Valley. In terms of USA Today, we’re being told that there are many in Silicon Valley who are now demanding that Peter Thiel, because of his political stance and thus his libertarian leanings that are exposed, that he be dropped from the boards of Facebook and another major incubator company there in the Silicon Valley.

Interestingly, Peter Thiel got right to the heart of the issue as he responded to The Advocate for questioning whether or not he could still be considered gay. He said,

“The lie behind the buzzword of diversity could not be made more clear. If you don’t conform, then you don’t count as diverse, no matter what your personal background.”

That’s a clear distillation of what’s actually at stake here and what’s made clear in terms of this controversy. Peter Thiel might be gay, but he’s not now gay enough for the LGBT revolutionaries. Thiel also pointed directly to the problem with the buzzword “diversity” because, as he makes clear, it is so often advocated by those who really do not intend diversity at all, but actually its absolute opposite.

Thiel is indeed himself a contrarian. He has identified himself as openly gay, but he has also identified himself as politically libertarian. The thing to note there is that there has been a transformation on that question as well. Some of the early LGBT revolutionaries themselves were calling for a libertarian approach, that is for a nonjudgmental kind of moral relativism—live and let live. But now you’ll notice that has changed into a form of coercion on the other side of this moral revolution, a coercion that has gone so far that the LGBT revolution is ready to say to an openly gay person in America, a very well-known person, “You’re not actually gay because you disagree with us in terms of your political worldview.” That tells us something explicitly about the LGBT revolution. It is not only about sexual behavior or even only about sexual relationships, as if you could say “only.” It is about an entire worldview, and a worldview that is now becoming increasingly apparent, and a worldview that is baring its teeth even in terms of someone who is publicly identified as being gay and has done so for some time now.

Will Airbnb's new "community commitment" eliminate discrimination, or is it just virtue signaling?

This form of moral coercion on the other side of the revolution was also made clear in a policy statement now announced by the business Airbnb. As Joy Pullman reports at The Federalist,

“More than a decade ago, a hip Californian friend told me about this sweet couch-surfing website you could use to travel the world inexpensively. It eventually morphed into Airbnb (then “airbedandbreakfast.com”), which I came to prefer over booking hotels when I travel (which is regularly).”

She said,

“For one thing, I liked the atmosphere of a home over that of a hotel. Hotels are sterile, anonymous, isolated, and boring. They are also more expensive and somehow rarely near a nice sidewalk that takes you to an interesting little street. I also like to have a kitchen available, because I hate travel food. I have had so many good experiences meeting new and very different people as my Airbnb hosts that my husband and I have even discussed listing our own guest room just as a social experiment, to meet even more people from around the country and globe.”

But then she writes,

“Well, not any more. In a supremely arrogant act of needless virtue-signaling, the short-term-rental website has banned people with either religiously or scientifically informed views about human sexuality (or both). Sunday—a day of worship, of course—it informed me that to continue using their services I would have to sign their religious creed.”

Now you might think that it’s something of an exaggeration for Joy Pullman to say that what she was required to sign is a religious creed, but when it comes to the realization that behind every kind of moral statement is a theological meaning, you’ll come to understand exactly why she calls this a religious creed. The Airbnb community statement, as it’s known, was released on Sunday as amended.

“Earlier this year, we launched a comprehensive effort to fight bias and discrimination in the Airbnb community. As a result of this effort, we’re asking everyone to agree to a Community Commitment beginning November 1, 2016. Agreeing to this commitment will affect your use of Airbnb, so we wanted to give you a heads up about it.”

Then the question in terms of the policy statement,

“What is the Community Commitment?”

Here is the text:

“You commit to treat everyone– regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity sexual orientation, or age– with respect, and without judgment or bias.”

Then the question is asked,

“What if I declined commitment? If you decline the commitment, you won’t be able to host or book using Airbnb, and you have the option to cancel your account. Once your account is canceled, future booked trips will be canceled. You will still be able to browse Airbnb but you won’t be able to book any reservations or host any guests.”

Pullman then writes,

“In sum, you are only allowed to use Airbnb if you agree that race, sexual preference, disabilities, and so forth will have no bearing on your decision to live with someone for a few days. Beyond that, it is a pushy, socially conscious way to weed out of the Airbnb ‘community’ anyone who doesn’t agree with the Left’s identity politics.”

She then makes the direct statement that, now,

“Airbnb refuses to do business with anyone who doesn’t agree with them politically.”

Furthermore, she makes clear that in both ends of Airbnb—that is both the guests and the host—there has always been some form of discrimination. And then she makes the absolute moral sense that discrimination is inevitable in terms of making major decisions in life. And furthermore, discrimination is inevitable one way or another in running a business in either point like Airbnb. The question is, is it a legitimate discrimination? Pullman concluded her article by saying,

“Ironically, Airbnb’s “diversity” policies reduce the diversity of its community and the possibilities that people on all sides of every different “identity” can positively interact. Airbnb’s new policy pushes me to think of identity politics-mongers as insulated crybabies whose political lobby divides and attacks people. It teaches me to fear them because they use their power to push me into possibly unwanted interactions, which increases my threshold of resistance, rather than letting me decide to take a risk because I feel safe and uncoerced. This is a loss for community, diversity, and tolerance, not a gain.”

Actually, I think the argument can be made far more powerfully than Joy Pullman made it in the pages of The Federalist, and that is because when you’re talking about the intimacy of one’s own home—after all that’s the very idea behind Airbnb—you are talking not only about the extension of some kind of accommodation, you’re talking about having someone who will be welcomed, at least for some time, into one’s own home.

And the reality of this goes back to what we just saw in terms of the moral revolution and the issue of Peter Thiel. That kind of discrimination is not going to go only one way. I think it’s fair to assume that there will be some LGBT couples who would not want to invite an evangelical pastor and his wife into their home in terms of the proximity of that kind of accommodation. Now from a Christian worldview perspective, we should eagerly hope for some kind of interaction and conversation between people who share disparate, even conflicting, worldviews. After all, the gospel of Jesus Christ compels us to seek people out in just that same light. But we also have to note that that’s quite different than trying to bring a form of moral coercion upon an entire community and repackaging it in order to firmly establish the ideology of the secular left as the only available morality, and furthermore, to package it in terms of what’s called a community statement. To say the very least, when you add the word coercion to community statement, it doesn’t feel like much of a community statement any longer.

Finally on this issue, when it comes Airbnb, it’s safe to say that what’s really going on here is the virtue signaling that Joy Pullman writes about. The reason for that is quite simple. People are going to continue to discriminate in terms of how they use Airbnb. The issue is they’re now being required to sign a statement that they will not, and I think what’s behind this is the company’s ability to claim that they’ve required this statement to be signed by everyone, whether or not they actually intend in any meaningful way to police it or not. Virtue signaling is what takes place when an individual or an organization or, in this case, a corporation wants to send a public signal of just how virtuous it is. And all of this just underlines that when you experience a moral revolution, the coercion behind it can come quickly, indeed, very quickly.

Who's leading the opposition to expanding gambling in New Jersey? Area casino magnates

Next, in terms of the shift in morality in American culture, one of the things that has happened over the past 30 to 40 years is the increased acceptance of gambling in America. And it’s not just the increased moral acceptance of gambling, it is also the fact that you have government in the position of sponsoring and organizing and licensing the gambling, and benefiting by the very fact that its citizens risk their money and lose their money, and a great deal of it will end up in the tax coffers of the states. This puts the governments in the position—that is the governments of the states in particular—of preying upon their own citizens, the very opposite of the rightful role of government. The issue of gambling is going to be on the New Jersey ballot this coming Tuesday, and as Charles Bagli reports for the New York Times,

“For those looking for a good bet on election night results, the smart money in New Jersey says a referendum on whether to expand casino gambling in the state is headed for defeat.”

Raymond J. Lesniak, who is a Democratic State Senator who has long favored this expansion, said,

“It’s over. There’s no chance it will win.”

Now the New York Times adds “at least this time around.”

Now this looks like a genuinely interesting story. Perhaps this tells us of some kind of major moral development. Perhaps after all these years of states pushing gambling on its people, after the disasters that this has brought, what you might now have is a moral change of heart, some kind of moral reconsideration of coming back to senses. But a closer look at the story indicates that’s not even close to what’s going on here.

In the first place, one of the reasons why this referendum expanding gambling in New Jersey is likely to fail is because of the financial failure of gambling in that state, in particular casino gambling thus far, especially in the city of Atlantic City. And what we need to note is that the very people who are behind in profiting by the limitation of legal casino gambling in New Jersey to the city of Atlantic City are those who are fighting the expansion elsewhere. This isn’t so much, it turns out, a moral argument about whether or not gambling is right or wrong, helpful or unhelpful, whether or not it is a blessing or predatory. No, that would be a sane conversation. Instead, what we have here is the revelation that moneyed interests protect their own interests, and never is that more clear than in state-sponsored gambling, and in particular in casino gambling in the State of New Jersey.

As the New York Times reports,

“At a rally on the Atlantic City boardwalk on Thursday, Don Guardian, the mayor, a Republican, called on opponents of the measure to deliver an “absolutely crushing mandate” to discourage proponents from ever trying to revive the issue. Five casinos in the city have closed in the past two years, thousands of jobs have vanished and the local government is awaiting a potential state takeover.”

Bob McDevitt, the president of the union that represents Atlantic City casino workers, said,

“We have to make that spread as big as possible so it doesn’t come back again.”

In other words, what they’re saying is the referendum has to meet such a defeat that no one tries to reach into our territory, ever, ever again. Now why would the people behind this expansion have brought the measure in the first place? It’s because New Jersey has lost billions and billions of dollars in promised tax revenue. And so the government there in New Jersey, at least many legislators and others behind the measures, are arguing that so much money is being lost to neighboring states that New Jersey has to expand its legal casinos or it’s going to lose money to states like New York, and this amounts to billions of dollars. Those behind the expansion of legalized casino gambling there in New Jersey have come up with a public relations message that is entitled,

“Our Turn New Jersey.”

They’ve argued that,

“Pennsylvania and New York have stolen billions of our gaming revenue.”

And, said the Times, they promised “that new casinos would bring the money back and provide hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild Atlantic City and finance state programs for older adults.”

Now notice what’s promised here. In many southern states, in particular the legalization of gambling in the form of state-sponsored lotteries, it was sold to people who would’ve been under normal conditions morally opposed to gambling because of the promise that this would improve the schools and would avoid having to raise taxes. Now you note that in New Jersey they’re being told that if they will only vote to expand legalized casino gambling in that state, it will help the elderly. The money is made very clear when we are told the casino revenues in New Jersey reached a height of $5.2 billion. That’s in just one year in the year 2006. But then that revenue began to fall. Again we’re talking about $5.2 billion.

And finally we have to note something incredibly important that’s revealed in this story, in this controversy, that will be on the referendum this coming Tuesday in New Jersey. When something fails as spectacularly as casino gambling has failed in that state, when it fails to deliver on its promises, when it turns out that it has led to financial loss rather than great financial gain, when it turns out that the state becomes financially dependent upon this kind of casino revenue, what is the answer? The answer isn’t after the failure to say, “Maybe this was a bad idea.” No, you need to note the answer coming from so many is that the only response that makes sense is to expand the legalized gambling. This reminds me of that old adage you might remember, the rule of the holes. If you’re in a hole, for crying out loud, stop digging. But then if you follow that logic, you wouldn’t be into the entire enterprise of gambling in the first place.

Dr. Mohler recording The Briefing