April 4, 2014
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Friday, April 4, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Brendan Eich is out as CEO of Mozilla. That’s the organization behind the popular Firefox web browser. Why is he out? Because of a controversy that erupted over the fact that he had given back in 2008 a contribution of $1,000 to the effort to pass Proposition 8. That was the constitutional amendment that was passed by 52% of California’s voters, defining in that state marriage as between a man and a woman. Of course, that proposition was overturned by federal court decisions and the United States Supreme Court basically allowed that decision to stand back this past June. But the furor over Brendan Eich points to the big pattern in terms of the change in this society in the wake of this massive moral revolution normalizing homosexuality. As Alistair Barr reports for The Wall Street Journal:
But that simply wasn’t enough. They called for his resignation and eventually, yesterday, they got what they called for: Mr. Eich resigned as CEO of Mozilla. In a statement Mozilla released yesterday, Mr. Eich said:
I have decided to resign as CEO effective today, and leave Mozilla. Our mission is bigger than any one of us, and under the present circumstances, I cannot be an effective leader. I will be taking time before I decide what to do next.
Also yesterday, Mozilla’s executive chairwoman, Mitchell Baker, apologized to the world and especially to Mozilla’s employees for Mr. Eich’s appointment. She wrote:
We have employees with a wide diversity of views. Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public…But this time we failed to listen, to engage, and to be guided by our community.
But what this points to, of course, is the closing of the American mind on the issue of the homosexual revolution, and the fact that those who at any point had resisted that revolution will now find themselves facing public controversy if they take on any public role; in particular, in the corporate world. Roger Kay, president of technology research firm Endpoint Technologies told The Wall Street Journal:
CEOs are now held to a higher standard than they used to be. Some of that is because of the Internet. All this information is out there and that can be shared through social media.
But the most important sentence yet written about this controversy was written by Alistair Barr. He wrote:
The controversy around Mr. Eich's appointment demonstrates how gay marriage has grown to be seen as a bedrock civil-rights issue by many. In Silicon Valley, many see it as a nonnegotiable issue. Failure to support it is akin to tacitly backing the old race-discrimination laws of the 1950s and 1960s.
That is a profoundly important sentence. Alistair Barr gets right to the heart of the issue. As it turns out, it is exactly the case that those who have opposed at any point the celebration and normalization of homosexuality or the legalization of same-sex marriage now find themselves being painted as bigots, as prejudice homophobes, who have no place in polite society and certainly not in public policy, nor, emphatically in this case, in the corporate world, especially in Silicon Valley.
The lead sentence in the report on Mr. Eich’s resignation in The New York Times was equally emphatic. Written by Nick Bilton and Noam Cohen, they write:
In Silicon Valley, where personal quirks and even antisocial personalities are tolerated as long as you are building new products and making money, a socially conservative viewpoint may be one trait you have to keep to yourself.
As Bilton and Cohen report, the furor on the Internet over Mr. Eich’s appointment had led to the boiling point. One online dating service known as OkCupid set up a letter visible to those visiting its site on Firefox that took its aim at the chief executive officer. According to that letter:
Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.
But the letter at OkCupid, which has since been taken down, also said:
Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.
If nothing else that kind of language demonstrates the vehemence of those who are now opposed to anyone like Brendan Eich serving in a role such as CEO of Mozilla, and, again, remember that all he did was to give $1,000 to the campaign to support Proposition 8 back in 2008.
But let’s think for just a moment. Back in 2008, who supported the definition of marriage as exclusively the union of a man and woman? They would include such political figures as Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama. President Obama and former Secretary of State Clinton both changed their positions in or after the 2012 presidential campaign, but back in 2008, they agreed with Brendan Eich in terms of the definition of marriage. So why are they now celebrated in the culture and Brendan Eich was forced to resign? It’s because both the president and the former secretary of state have publicly apologized for having held the previous position; something Brendan Eich said that he would not do. He said that he would stand for the full inclusion and equal treatment of Mozilla’s gay employees, but he refused to go back to 2008 and he refused to speak of his own considered opinion on the issue of same-sex marriage now. That was a fatal mistake, at least in terms of retaining his post. He’s out and the point is emphatically made.
Even some proponents and theorists of gay rights are alarmed at the development. Andrew Sullivan, among the most influential gay writers in the world, expressed his own outrage over Mr. Eich’s resignation. He said that Mr. Eich had been “scalped by some gay activists.” He then continued:
If this is the gay rights movement today — hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else — then count me out
Another brave voice of protest came in the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle. Columnist Debra J. Saunders wrote this:
Winning has made some advocates less tolerant, not more so. It's not enough that they won, they have to make opponents grovel in penance.
She’s writing here, of course, of those who are the proponents of the legalization of same-sex marriage, and, as she says, winning hasn’t made those proponents more tolerant, but less so. And she goes on to say that what they now require is that their opponents—and these are her words—“grovel in penance.” As she says at the end of her article, all hail tolerance and diversity.
Brendan Eich is now out as CEO of Mozilla and that tells us a very great deal because he will not be the last to be either hounded out of such a post or excluded from consideration for such a job simply because at some point in the past, even many years ago, the individual had taken such a small step as giving a $1,000 contribution to a political campaign to support the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, when the then Democratic president of the United States and so many others in the Democratic Party and on the left shared that opinion then. The difference is some have since groveled and others have not.
This is one of the most ominous developments in our culture in recent years because what it demonstrates is the fact that those who are now pressing the agenda for the legalization of same-sex marriage and the normalization of homosexual behavior and relationships are now going to accept absolutely no dissent. They’re going to purge public ranks wherever they have influence of anyone who had the temerity or the conviction, even years ago, to take even a minor step against their agenda. That tells us a very great deal, and as Alan Bloom wrote many years ago a book famously entitled, The Closing of the American Mind, what we now see here is nothing less than the closing of the American heart. Brendan Eich is now the first and most public casualty in this kind of effort to eradicate all dissent. He will not be the last. We do not know yet who will be next, but the bigger issue here is the signal that his resignation sends. The signal that it is now quite possible in a short amount of time to hound someone out of office and out of influence for having held such a position or having taken such an action even many years ago. In that sense, his resignation yesterday will become one of those landmark days in terms of the moral revolution. We’ll remember this day for many years to come.
There was another very ominous development yesterday and it was on the opposite coast. In New York, a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court ruled just yesterday that New York City can constitutionally bar religious groups from holding services in school buildings. That reverses a lower court decision that had given these congregations at least some time in terms of their use by rental of New York City’s public schools. The background of this is very interesting. There are so many of these schools that are empty, of course, on Sunday. Many of these schools in New York have auditoriums and those auditoriums are available for rent by community groups. Over the last several years, those auditoriums on Sunday have been rented by a large number of congregations, especially evangelical congregations and, most specifically, evangelical church plants. There has been a kickback in terms of the church’s use of these facilities. On the one hand, there have been secularists led by those, including the American Civil Liberties Unio,n who have gone so far as to argue that allowing church groups to meet in these auditoriums sends a signal that those schools are giving some kind of public endorsement to specific religious groups. On the other hand, there’s been a specific targeting of many of these evangelical congregations on the part of those who have complained about the teaching of these churches, specifically, you will not be surprised, their teachings about the sinfulness of homosexuality. As Benjamin Weiser and Sharon Otterman report for today’s edition of The New York Times:
The ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit — reversing Judge Loretta Preska of Federal District Court in Manhattan — comes almost three years after it held that the city’s ban on worship in public schools did not violate the First Amendment right to free expression.
The judge, writing for the 2 to 1 majority on the panel, that was Judge Pierre Leval, wrote that the city’s ban on the church’s use of the facilities was “consistent with its constitutional duties.” He went on to argue that the ban did not violate the Constitution’s guarantee of a right to the free exercise of religion. Donna Lieberman, identified as executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union—it filed, by the way, a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the city’s ban—called the ruling a victory for religious freedom. She said, “When a school is converted to a church in this way, it sends a powerful message to students and to the community at large that the government favors that particular church.”
Now one of the interesting things reported in the national media is the fact that of the nation’s 50 largest public school systems only one—and that is New York—bans or intends to ban the use by churches of such public school facilities. That also tells us a very great deal. The future use of these New York public school auditoriums by many of these churches, numbering now in the dozens if not in the hundreds, is now very much in question. The church that appealed to the lower court decision, that church is identified as the Bronx Household of Faith, announced that it would appeal the panel’s ruling. That appeal can go to the Full Circuit Court or, eventually, all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
What we’re looking at here is a very serious infringement of basic religious liberties, and in a way that demonstrates something of the closing of not only the American mind and heart, but of the American public space when it comes to evangelical Christianity. And make no mistake; the churches that are targeted in this case are almost exclusively evangelical Christian congregations. But we’ll have to watch this case very, very carefully because if it stays where it is with this panel’s decision, it endangers not only the availability of such space for congregations in New York, but everywhere in the United States, because this is after all a US Court of Appeals and it will have a direct impact only within its area, its own circuit, but it will set a precedent that will eventually inform the entire nation. And that, we should note, is the truly dangerous development of the ruling that was handed down yesterday.
Earlier this week, we reported on those first legal same-sex marriages within the United Kingdom, including both Britain and Wales. We also discussed the fact that this has put the Church of England in a very precarious position. But we also noted that the Church of England had basically put itself in this very precarious position by sending such an uncertain sound on larger theological issues before the issue of same-sex marriage, but specifically on the issue of same-sex marriage. The Church of England officially even now defines marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman, but some of the church’s top leaders, including at least several bishops, are calling for an open defiance of the church’s ban on the performance of same-sex ceremonies. Furthermore, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby announced on the eve of those first legal same-sex ceremonies in England that the Church of England would drop its public opposition to same-sex marriage.
Then comes a report published in Religion News Service, a report by Trevor Gundry, indicating—and this is not coming as a surprise to us at this point—that attendance figures released by the Church of England show that Sunday worship attendance continues its downward slide and now stands at about half of where it was 45 years ago. This leads to a very important insight. Those churches that accommodate their theology, moving in a more liberal direction, hoping to retain their membership and attendance or, perhaps, even to achieve some outreach into the secular community, find that their numbers consistently decline. As Trevor Gundry reports, the report from the Archbishops’ Council Research and Statistics Department, released just days ago, shows that on average in 2012, 800,000 adults or about 2% of Britain’s adult population attended church on Sunday. That’s 2%, and that’s down from 1.6 million just in 1968. As so many observers of the church have noted, those churches and denominations most determined to make themselves relevant at any cost find themselves increasingly irrelevant.
Finally, I want to note that a week ago today, an American hero died. He was Commander, later Admiral and Senator, Jeremiah A. Denton, Junior. As a Naval aviator, he was shot down over enemy territory in Vietnam and taken as a celebrated prisoner of war. As Robert D. McFadden reports The New York Times:
The prisoner of war had been tortured for 10 months and beaten repeatedly by his North Vietnamese captors in recent days, and there were threats of more if he did not respond properly when the propaganda broadcast began. Haggard but gritty, Cmdr. Jeremiah A. Denton Jr. slumped in a chair before the television cameras.
Pretending to be blinded by the spotlights, he began blinking — seemingly random spasms and tics. He answered interrogators’ questions with a trace of defiance, knowing he would be beaten again and again, but hoping that America would detect his secret message in Morse code.
To a question about American “war atrocities,” the captured pilot said: “I don’t know what is happening in Vietnam because the only news sources I have are North Vietnamese. But whatever the position of my government is, I believe in it, I support it, and I will support it as long as I live.”
The North Vietnamese, who had lost face in terms of what they hoped to be a propaganda victory, were infuriated when they learned that Commander Denton, in the Japanese-taped interview broadcast on American television on May 17, 1966, had blinked out the letters T-O-R-T-U-R-E. It was the first confirmation that American prisoners of war were being subjected to torture and atrocities during the Vietnam War. This heroic American put himself at further risk, even after he had been tortured several times, through the ingenious mechanism of overturning, indeed, reversing a North Vietnamese propaganda effort and simultaneously coming up with the ingenious method of sending a signal by Morse code through the blinking of his eyes, knowing that eventually Americans would observe what he was communicating.
Jeremiah Denton spent seven years as a North Vietnamese prisoner of war. Upon his return, he became a rear admiral in the United States Navy. Later, he was elected by the citizens of Alabama to a term in the United States Senate. He died on Friday of last week at the age of 89. As the editors of The Wall Street Journal noted, even though he ingeniously and courageously sent that message by blinking his eyes, in the moral sense, Jeremiah Denton never blinked. And as they concluded their editorial statement, they quoted the statement that he made after he was released after seven years as a prisoner of war. His statement was this:
We are honored to have had the opportunity to serve our country under difficult circumstances. We are profoundly grateful to our commander-in-chief and to our nation for this day. God bless America.
His death and his courageous moral example should not go without our consideration and our comment. Individuals like Jeremiah Denton, along with their example of courageous service and leadership, are those who purchased American freedom and defend it even still. At the website for today’s edition of The Briefing, you will find a link to the video of Commander Jeremiah Denton’s heroic appearance on television back in 1966. You will see the blinking of his eyes; the blinking of his eyes, as The Wall Street Journal rightly said, of a man who didn’t blink.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing. Remember that tomorrow will bring another release of Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Remember to call also with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. 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. I’m speaking to you from Destin, Florida, and I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.