The Briefing 09-26-17

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Discussion over whether to arm British police represents not just a policy debate, but a moral one

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For one British retailer, labels on kids' clothes are now a vehicle for the sexual revolution

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Contrary to predictions, last Saturday was not the end of the world

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Transcript

The Briefing

September 26, 2017

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

It’s Tuesday, September 26, 2017. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

We’ll see why British police are debating whether to carry guns. We’ll see a British retailer try out labeling all of its clothes boys and girls, and last Saturday, you may have noted, was not the end of the world. We’ll talk about why.

Discussion over whether to arm British police represents not just a policy debate, but a moral one

Our worldview determines a good many issues and influences almost everything we do. And a culture represents the impact of worldview and assumptions, many explicitly theological assumptions, coming right down the law enforcement and the understanding of what is necessary in order to understand and restrain evil. An interesting headline came from the Wall Street Journal in recent days. The headline is this,

“Britain Weighs Arming More Police.”

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This points to a rather significant distinction well recognized between the police force in the United States and police in Great Britain. The British bobby as he is known was dressed during Victorian times in blue and that continues to this day, blue in distinction to the red traditionally associated with the British armed services. Thus the bobbies, the army of bobbies so to speak, was to be an unarmed army. The Bobby walking the beat was understood to represent the neighborhood, the community where he served, and being armed with a baton or nightstick was considered to be all that should be necessary in terms of the maintenance of order and the restraint of evil. But all of that has changed in the 21st century. And it has changed rather remarkably just in the last several weeks and months. The public conversation in Britain is now turning to the fact that the defense of the public, the defense of that very community or neighborhood, now might depend upon the police being armed rather than unarmed. And in this case, that means armed with guns.

Amanda Colletta reporting for the Journal from London tells us,

“In a police station in a crime-plagued South London district, Sgt. Guy Mantoura recently sent his night-duty officers off on their beats with batons, incapacitating spray, handcuffs and six Tasers. In a tradition many see as quintessentially British, none was issued a gun.”

But the article continues that after five terror attacks in Britain just in the last several months, along,

“with a recent rise in crime, pressure is increasing on police in tradition-bound Britain to reassess their 188-year-old policy of not routinely arming officers.”

The article tells us that this is not only a 188-year-old policy, but that the primary defenders and supporters of the policy have been until recently the police themselves. The assumption of the police has been that the entire community, including the police, would be safer if the police were understood by custom not to be carrying a gun, and thus not ready to use lethal force. But all that is being rethought in Britain right now. And it’s being rethought after several members of law enforcement agencies have been killed in the line of duty as they have faced terrorists and other criminals who decidedly are armed with guns even as they are not. Coletta reports going to Clive Emsley, a reporter of history and criminology, the open University in Britain. He said,

“There is a much stronger movement for arming the ordinary bobby than I can ever remember.”

Coletta then tells us,

“One factor likely animating that shift was the fatal stabbing of unarmed police Constable Keith Palmer as he stopped terrorist Khalid Masood from entering the Parliament buildings in March.”

Members of law enforcement in Great Britain quoted in the story indicated that they see both sides of this controversial question. It’s not an easy thing to reverse, almost two centuries of tradition, and a tradition that has gone to the very heart of the identity of the police there in Great Britain within the community. But there is an understanding that the equation has significantly changed. As one of the police officers said, if you are facing down someone who has a gun a Taser is not particularly effective. And now it’s becoming more common to hear the argument that it’s not just arming police that would protect the police, but rather arming the police, that is necessary to protect the entire community.

Going back almost 200 years, we have to remember that the original bobbies and most of their successors have been sent out and into the night and on the patrol armed with a nightstick and a whistle and that was considered all that would or should be necessary. And also consider that during that time, the London police have stared down and have encountered crime spree after crime spree. Remember also that it’s not just the London bobby but the London detective forces that have been often commemorated in some the most memorable literature and go beyond that some of the frontline television dramas from the BBC and others that continue with very high popularity today. But there is a moral change detectable in Britain, and it comes down to the controversy reported here in the Wall Street Journal and now regularly discussed in the British media. And the worldview implications are actually massive.

It raises the question as to just what would be necessary to restrain sin and evil, and there is the haunting, indeed humbling recognition, that at times the government must protect the community with what can only be described as lethal force or at the very least the threat of lethal force. There’s something very sad about the recognition that this controversy is now necessary in Britain. There’s something rather nostalgic about the fact that Britain is now poised to modify if not to radically change a tradition that goes back about 200 years. But there is also the recognition that this is a cogent reasonable response to a clear and present danger. This will represent not only a policy change. It’s a moral change, and it needs to be recognized as such.

For one British retailer, labels on kids' clothes are now a vehicle for the sexual revolution

We’ll stay in Great Britain for the next issue where we are told by the New York Times that in Britain the gender debate is now spilling into the children’s aisle.  I’ll Dan Bilefsky is the reporter for the Times in a story that takes us into British retailing. The background of this is that some British retailers in particular makers of clothing and department stores there in Great Britain are reinforcing dangerous and rigid gender stereotypes by identifying certain clothing as for boys and other clothing as for girls. Similar controversies have arisen here in the United States not only about clothing, but also about toys. But there’s an interesting twist on this story. The article takes us to some retailers who were criticized for the reinforcement of these rigid gendered norms – that is the norms of being a boy and a girl – but then we are told,

“But now, some consumers are saying John Lewis has gone to the other extreme, after news reports that the chain has removed gender-specific labels altogether from its brand of children clothes. Instead it is putting ‘boys & girls’ or ‘girls & boys’ tags on these items, whether trousers or skirts.”

This one of those articles that simply gets more interesting and more revealing as we proceed along because it’s clear that the background of this article is the assumption of the rightness, the goodness, the timeliness and the inevitability of the LGBT revolution. The assumption is that every dimension of society is simply going to have to give way to the claims of this revolution and included in that list of course would be retailers. But as we have noted, and we will note again on The Briefing, there is a breakdown of this kind of logic. And often it comes even from those who are trying to push it. Because here we are told that there is not only a backlash against John Lewis for putting girls and boys or boys and girls into every article of clothing, and let me just ask you to use your imagination, every item of clothing, but there’s also the recognition that this does not clarified but confuse the vast majority of parents and children, otherwise known as boys and girls who are going into a retailer hoping to find clothes.

The article points to a group of parents known, no kidding, as Let Clothes Be Clothes. It’s identified as the parents group,

“that has led the drive for gender-neutral clothing, praised the new policy, noting that resistance to the change was reminiscent of the antiquated era of the 1950s and chauvinists opposing women wearing trousers.”

The group said,

“Gender is not sex, gender is a set of ideas, or traditional values — formed over time — about the role of men and women in society.” They went on to say, “Retailers exploit these negative ‘stereotypes’ about gender to sell more clothes and make more money. By doing this they perpetuate gender stereotypes.”

They applauded John Lewis saying that they have,

“basically said they’re not going to do that anymore.”

But what they apparently have done is to confuse just about everybody. It turns out by the way that if you’re really going to label all clothing boys and girls or girls and boys you’re not only going to have to change the labels you’re going to have to intermix all of these issues otherwise you’re going to once again start to reinforce those rigid gender stereotypes. But here’s another little fact the turns up in the story. It turns out that teenage boys are not going to look through endless racks of skirts in search of the clothing they know is for them. And there’s another issue that turns out to be important here. You got there before me, and that is that some of this clothing actually has to do with the physical construction of the body. It’s not just a matter of gender stereotypes.

Andrew Bridgen, a member of the British Parliament, who not coincidentally is the father of two teenage boys, said he thought the move could,

“prove confusing for parents.” In his words, “This is the onward march of the P.C. brigade. I wonder how many parents going to John Lewis will be looking to buy a dress for their 6-year-old boys? Men and women and boys and girls are biologically different despite rumors to the contrary. If you have sons, why do you want to waste time wading through the dress section?”

In terms of worldview analysis, the most interesting things is that even though there are many people, including many parents and undoubtedly many teenagers as well, who have convinced themselves that they are entirely for the sexual revolution. It begins to break down in matters of practicality, such as buying clothes in a department store. The retailer may decide that it is going to put the labels in its clothing either girls and boys or boys and girls, but that doesn’t mean that girls and boys are going to decide to follow the labels.

Contrary to predictions, last Saturday was not the end of the world

Next we’ll come back to the United States, well for that matter the entire world, where the big headline is that the world did not end on September 23. The world didn’t come to an end Saturday. In some parts of the United States and elsewhere in the world, there was a great deal of attention to the fact that an author, a self-published author, by the name of David Meade – he’s the author of what’s identified as end of the world survival guides – had predicted that the end of the world would happen on Saturday, September 23, 2017. I waited for a few days after September 23 just to make very clear that this did not happen. But we knew in advance that it would not happen. But we also knew that there would be millions of people who would be either anxious or fascinated to know if it would happen.

Kimberly Winston, reporting for Religion News Service tells us,

“Meade’s ideology, laid out in his book ‘Planet X — The 2017 Arrival,’ is described by the author as “a compendium of information from every sphere—astronomical, scientific, the Book of Revelation and geopolitics.”

Winston notes there’s a bit of astrology added in too. She then summarizes,

“Meade is the latest in a very long line of American self-proclaimed prophets who claim they know when — sometimes to the hour — the biblically predicted ‘end times’ will arrive. And while it’s fun to laugh at his belief that the ‘Planet Nibiru’ will collide with the Earth this week, the failed prophesies of some of his predecessors have, at times, led to important religious movements or illuminating ways of thinking about faith.”

Now that last part of the sentence requires a closer look. There’s no question that throughout Christian history there have been waves of what is known as apocalypticism sometimes millenarianism, which is the argument that the end of the world is coming at a specific time that is going to be followed by the millennial reign of Christ and a day of judgment, and it comes right down to the proverbial man wearing a sandwich board on the public square saying the end is near. And of course the biblical worldview does tell us that the end is near. The biblical worldview reminds us that we are looking at a biblical narrative of creation and fall and redemption and consummation that points to the fact that history is linear – that is to say it is not as according to Asian worldviews cyclical. It is not a giant wheel. It is a line that includes at all times in our history past and present and future. And that future is not just an open book. The Scripture reveals to us the direction of that future and also details about the end of human history and the coming reign of Christ. But what’s really interesting here is how susceptible supposedly secular people are to an explicitly religious if off-base warning that the world is going to come to an end.

According to Religion News Service, Wikipedia has detailed,

“over 170 different religiously motivated predictions of the end of the world.”

In the 19th century in the United States especially in the northeastern states, there was an entire pattern of this kind of millennial thinking, warning about the coming Apocalypse, and furthermore, many cults and sects in this country have also emerged from this kind of speculation. Perhaps the most famous or infamous of these in recent years was 2011 when Harold Camping, identified as a Christian radio media mogul had picked not just one but two alternative dates in which the world is going to come to end of 2011. To state the obvious, neither of those dates was the last day. But it also points to the fact that Christians are not called to be the setters of dates and the anticipation of the calendar. Instead, we are told repeatedly in Scripture that we are to be watchful, and furthermore, when the Lord returns we are to be found busy at the task that he has assigned us.

It’s interesting that the secular world can become so fascinated with such speculation, but this kind of thinking should be an embarrassment to biblical Christians who understand that indeed we are told in Scripture to be aware of the times and the seasons. But we are not given specificity, and furthermore that responsibility is set over against not only the assurance that Jesus Christ is coming and that human history will one day come to an end, but also the recognition that those times and seasons are set over against the grand dramatic narrative of Scripture. It is those times and those seasons that are to have our attention. I know for certain that the Lord is going to return and history is going to come to an end and that great day of the Lord revealed in Scripture will take place in space and time and history. But I’m also very aware that I do not know when that date is and I’m equally aware that no other human being does. We know that God knows and that’s enough. In the meantime, our task is to be found faithful.

Dr. Mohler recording The Briefing