The liberal backlash over Dave Chappelle's Netflix special directly impacts Christians and the future of religious liberty, even if believers may find his comedy to be repulsive, says theologian and author Albert Mohler.
Activists within the LGBT community have called for Netflix to pull the special due to Chappelle's comments on the transgender community and his agreement in the special with author J.K. Rowling, who has argued there are real differences between biological women and transgender women. In 2020, Rowling tweeted, "If sex isn't real, there's no same-sex attraction. If sex isn't real, the lived reality of women globally is erased."
If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 6, 2020
Some LGBT activists labeled Rowling transphobic and called her a "trans-exclusionary radical feminist" (TERF). Rowling is the author of the Harry Potter book series.
"I'm Team TERF," Chappelle says in his special, The Closer, which is rated TV-MA. "I agree. I agree, man. Gender is a fact."
Chappelle added, "Every human being in this room, every human being on Earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on Earth. This is a fact."
Netflix has faced pressure from filmmakers, actors and even Netflix employees to pull the special.
Mohler said on his podcast The Briefing that he was "not commending" Chappelle's comedy or the "very rough language" used in the special.
Still, Mohler added, Christians should follow the arguments being made against Chappelle. Mohler is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
"LGBTQ+ activists … have largely pressed the advance of the LGBTQ revolution in society by arguing that saying anything negative, saying anything critical at all, denying any one of this very radical claims of the LGBTQ movement is to cause harm," Mohler said. "They've largely sold that argument to a generation of younger Americans for whom that has become an inflexible principle. But let's note that principle does shut down speech."
Rowling and Chappelle, Mohler said, "may be big enough" to resist cancel culture. Others, though, are not.
"And here's where Christians need to understand," Mohler said. "The argument about harm isn't intended just to shut down comedians, even off-color comedians. It's not intended just to shut down the voices of major professional athletes like Martina Navratilova. It's not just to shut down corporate speech and bring just about every power in our society to heal.
"When it comes to the LGBTQ agenda, this will affect what is taught in our schools, Christian schools, Christian colleges, Christian academies, and what is preached in our churches," Mohler added. "The argument of language and message as harm is not just going to be directed against prominent comedians, or for that matter, non-prominent comedians. It's going to be directed at every single Christian, particularly at the Christian church and the pulpit of that church. And that means that oddly enough, this isn't just a controversy about comedy or even just a controversy about free speech. You can understand this is a religious liberty matter as well."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Sean Rayford/Stringer
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.