The Briefing 04-09-14

The Briefing 04-09-14

The Briefing


 April 9, 2014

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


It’s Wednesday, April 9, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.


Yesterday, President Obama waded into controversy, a controversy of his own making. He returned to a theme he first raised in the State of the Union Address earlier this year in which he claimed then and yesterday that women earn only $.77 for every dollar that a man earns. The president returned to this issue as he was announcing a policy by his administration that would put strictures on federal contractors in order to alleviate this pay disparity. But as Michael Shear and Annie Lowrey of The New York Times report, critics of the administration were quick to turn the tables on the president and note that Mr. Obama’s White House fairs only slightly better than the very national averages he cited. A study released in January of this year showed that female White House staff members earn an average of $.88 for every dollar a male staff member earns. But this gets right to the heart of the issue. Recently, former President Jimmy Carter used the same statistic, and yesterday, the president went back where he had gone before, but the statistic that women earn only $.77 for every dollar that a man earns neglects the fact that those statistics do not take into consideration marital status, time in the job, levels of education, and the fact that men, far more likely than women, are likely to negotiate their salaries.


This is an issue also addressed yesterday at Katie Packer Gage writes:


Equal pay for equal work. Sounds pretty simple, right? We all agree that a woman doing the same job as a man should not be paid less just because she’s a woman.


Democrats consistently ignore data from neutral sources that indicates that when you actually compare men and women with the same background and education doing the same job, equality of pay has been largely achieved. PayScale, a compensation data company, has shown that in careers from software developer to nursing to construction project manager to human resources administrator, women are within 1% to 4% of men in terms of pay equity.


Similarly, Mark J. Perry and Andrew G. Biggs, writing for The Wall Street Journal, report this:


The supposed pay gap appears when marriage and children enter the picture. Child care takes mothers out of the labor market, so when they return they have less work experience than similarly-aged males. Many working mothers seek jobs that provide greater flexibility, such as telecommuting or flexible hours. Not all jobs can be flexible, and all other things being equal, those which are will pay less than those that do not.


Now this gets right to the heart of the issue: much of this is simply propaganda, a false issue. When you’re looking at the claim that women earn $.77 for every one dollar a man earns, that doesn’t take into consideration the fact that women often prefer the jobs that actually pay less, that offered things that are important to them, in terms of their lives not only as women, but potentially also as wives and mothers. And that is the big issue. As is so often the case, it is the issue of motherhood that is the defining dividing line in this kind of controversy because women who are not mothers, who continue in the workplace on the same schedule as men, tend to earn as much as men. It is women who leave the workplace and then re-enter the workplace or re-enter the workplace and negotiate a more flexible work pattern that really are in the position of earning significantly less than men. And when you ask Americans what’s fair, if you asked them, “Should women be paid as much as men for the same job?” the answer immediately comes down to yes, but if you take gender out of the equation and ask Americans, “Do you believe that people should be paid differently due to work experience, length of tenure on the job, willingness to work long hours, and etc.?” then the vast majority of Americans say that it is fair to pay those people differently. But what we have here is a case in which the issue of gender really isn’t the operational issue; it’s the issue of motherhood. And that gets to one of the biggest problems in our modern society. Just how should we recognize motherhood in terms of our national policies whether it’s related to wages paid to employees or insurance or any other number of issues in the society at large?


Another very interesting study came out just recently in terms of time management. And as it turns out, Americans now have more leisure time than ever before or at least more time under their individual control, except for one category, and that is mothers. If you look at it simply in terms of gender, men report far more time, in terms of their leisure and in terms of their self-determination, than do women, but if you take out the issue of gender and just asked about mothers, it turns out that the women who are not mothers have just about as much leisure time and flexibility as men. It’s the mothers who are bearing the primary responsibility and it is they who find their time especially crunched. In other words, motherhood turns out to be such a definitional issue that it separates women from other women when it comes to wages, job experience, job expectations, in terms of flexibility and tenure on the job, and other very related issues. It also has to do with the fact that mothers—not just women, but specifically mothers—are those that have the highest demands made on them in terms of the entire society. If you line up the entire society, all the vocational categories, all the gender equations, and everything else you can imagine, recent studies indicate that this singular issue that defines the difference is motherhood. That is a huge insight, and from a Christian worldview perspective, it certainly points to the centrality of motherhood, in terms of our understanding of the operation of the family, of the raising of children, of the care for the entire family, because, after all, motherhood and the role of the woman in the family, this is not related only to the care of children, but also disproportionately to the care of aged adults and others as well. And what we’re looking at here is a very clear, general-revelation affirmation of the importance of motherhood. And when it comes to these economic issues, such as the one addressed by the president yesterday, the reality is that this is bigger than any government can address. Governments simply cannot compensate adequately for motherhood. The contributions of mothers and the burdens placed upon them go far beyond anything any government can alleviate. What we’re looking at here is the fact that we come to the basic Christian principle that where the family is strong, government can be weak, but where the family is weak, government will always be strong. And in the case of this issue raised by the president yesterday, this is going to lead to a very, very interesting political debate, and what needs to happen more than anything else is a bit of honesty and clarification injected into this national controversy. We’re not really talking about men and women. We’re talking about mothers and everyone else. If that issue gets clarified, it will clarify more than employment data and salary statistics. It will clarify to a significant extent why the family is so important and why God gave the institutions of marriage and family to all of His human creatures and why mothers in every civilization throughout all of time bear the primary responsibility that no one else can or will bear.


And speaking of motherhood, a very interesting testimony again to the power of family, parenting, and motherhood comes from Ginia Bellafante, writing in the Big City column in The New York Times. Here’s the headline from Sunday’s paper: “The Time to Start Education Isn’t Prekindergarten; It’s Birth.” Very interesting debate that is now dividing those on the cultural left. As you know, Bill de Blasio, who is the new mayor of New York City, has put a premium on pre-K education, and he has won, through the state of New York, tens of millions of dollars to begin investing in a radical expansion of pre-K education for the citizens of New York City. The argument that the mayor is using is this: children need to get into schools earlier than ever before in order to get a head start, so that they do not fall behind their peers in school. But here’s the problem. It turns out that the big issue is not the neighborhood the child lives in nor the socioeconomic bracket the child comes from, but rather the biggest indicator of whether the child is going to do well in school is how many words that child hears in terms of active conversation in the household. And that’s why the headline reads, “The Time to Start Education Isn’t Prekindergarten; It’s Birth.”


Time and again, recent research has demonstrated that children learn verbal ability—and that translates almost immediately into reading ability—as they are engaged in conversation by adults, but not just conversation, even active listening. And as it turns out, children do not learn the same kinds of skills from listing to voices on digital devices or in the electronic media. Listening to the television is not the same thing. The most remarkable growth happens when the child is engaged in conversation, especially when the child is drawn into the conversation with an adult, hearing an adult use adult words and talk, well, with the thousands of words that can happen in a very healthy conversation.


The disparity in terms of the number of words heard by some children as compared to those heard by others can be a disparity in the millions of words before the child reaches school age. And now you have people on both the left and the right who are beginning to say we need to pay more attention to how we can get more words spoken by more adults into the lives of these children. But that’s where the issue of the family arises unavoidably because it is only in the context of the family, and especially when you have adult parents in the homes with the children, that the children are going to have the benefit of this kind of very vocal parenting. And it also points out that where you have a single-parent, you have a radical reduction in the total number of words that a child will hear; a very odd and perhaps unexpected affirmation of the importance of the two-parent family.


But as Ginia Bellafante reports, there’s now a division among social liberals, political liberals, as to how we should interpret this kind of research because there is the concern that this will mean that people will now begin judging parents on the basis of how many words their children hear. Well, let’s just point to the obvious. If we now know that this volume of words makes such a remarkable difference, there is going to be a judgment made about the relative number of words that one child hears as over against another. As she writes:


There has been a squeamishness on the left to create sweeping policy out of the kind of intimate intervention implied, a fear of the judgment and condescension ferried in exporting the habits of West End Avenue to Central Brooklyn or the South Bronx. No one wants to live in a world in which social workers are marching through apartments mandating the use of colorful, laminated place mats emblazoned with pictures of tiny kangaroos and the periodic table.


In other words, the kinds of things that parents do with many of these children who are getting a leg up, in terms of the educational experience, in terms of what they received before they ever get to school. But this is where Ginia Bellafante is onto a huge issue that all who are concerned with the Christian worldview should pay attention to, and that is this: the government, when it decides there is a problem, decides that the government should solve the problem. And if the government decides that problem is that these children aren’t receiving enough intellectual stimulation in their homes, then there’s nothing to stop the government from mandating that there needs to be more intellectual stimulation in the home. That is leading even some on the left to worry about an army of social workers going into the homes of rather impoverished and underprivileged New York families and saying this child is endangered because the child is not receiving enough words.


From a Christian worldview perspective, it is certainly our hope that all children will flourish and that we should do everything as a community to help every single child flourish, but the reality is this research, pointing to the number of words a child hears from an adult, points to the importance of the two-parent family, of the importance of the intact family, of the importance of having parents in the home with the children, not the children raised in institutional settings, and so it’s very interesting that the new development on the left is going to be how in the world to handle this data. Does it point to the fact that there should be a new realization of the importance of the family and of parents being home with their children? Or, on the other hand, does it point to some liberals that the understanding of the state’s going to have to do even more than they imagined? The bad news for those is that the state is incompetent to do that. The bad news for all of us is that the state might try.


Finally, an article dealing with an issue that hits directly close to home. Lisa Cornwell reporting for the Associated Press in an article that ran late last week; the headline is “Catholic Teacher Restrictions Are Questioned.” As Cornwell reports:


The doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church is so complex the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is giving teachers a cheat sheet on some of the things that can get them fired.


A new contract proposal from the diocese specifies some violations of Catholic doctrine that could put teachers out of a job — including abortion, artificial insemination and “homosexual lifestyles” — and extends forbidden behavior to include public support for those kinds of causes, drawing some complaints that the language is overly broad and a cynical attempt to make it harder for wrongfully terminated teachers to sue.


Well, this article is about the Roman Catholic Church, but the issue is hardly only about the Roman Catholic Church. This gets to the right of any church or, for that matter, synagogue or mosque to define the terms of its own employment and the employment for those who will teach in its schools associated with the mosque, with the synagogue, or with the church. This is an article that hits just as close to home for evangelical schools and churches as to the Roman Catholic Church and its dioceses and schools. The article by Lisa Cornwell insinuates that there is something unfair and unseemly, cynical even, about a diocese stipulating the kind of things that can get a person fired, in terms of the violation of Catholic teachings. But that gets right to the point because, as a matter fact, the diocese is doing this because it has become legally necessary to specify what things can get one fired. Increasingly, there is a rebellion within the Roman Catholic Church by even some who would teach within official Roman Catholic schools against the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church holds the right to terminate those who will teach something that is contrary to the official doctrine and teaching of the church. That should be unsurprising, but some of those who have been terminated charge that they were terminated without any clear grounds for the termination. That’s why the diocese has decided to give a very clear set of indications of exactly what can get one fired working for the schools of that diocese.


The article in the Associated Press indicates just how infuriating that is to some on the cultural left, who simply cannot imagine that having demanded specificity, it’s fair to give it to them, but that’s exactly what the diocese is doing. The diocese received demands that it specify what things can get a teacher fired, and then it gave those specifications, and then those, who hold jobs within the diocese or are observing the controversy, responded that it’s unfair, totalitarian, and oppressive for the church to give such specifics. This is where evangelical Christians have to say with a clear set of understanding that we know the hymnbook from which this song is sung. This is exactly the same kind of pattern faced by evangelical institutions, evangelical churches and denominations. The reality is that if you hold to the certain specific doctrines and teachings and if you expect those who will teach within your schools to affirm and agree with those teachings and not to teach contrary to them, you’ll find yourselves in hot water with the model of academic freedom and individual autonomy that is now prized in the high worship of the church of the left. The church of the left simply cannot abide the fact that there will be doctrinal requirements for teaching, and, as a matter fact, even though the left has its own orthodoxies, they’re the orthodoxies that it will never admit operate the same way as the doctrinal requirements of a church.


A spokesman for the diocese in Cincinnati said that the new contract “simply requires that if you are going to represent the Catholic Church as a teacher, you are not going to publicly oppose the teachings of the Catholic Church.” Now I simply have to ask the obvious question: in what possible world would that be controversial? In what possible set of understandings would that be surprising? In other words, we’re now living in a time in which the world is turned upside down; when it is treated as unfair that a Roman Catholic Church would expect a Roman Catholic teacher to teach Roman Catholic teachings in a Roman Catholic school. But the same thing holds on the evangelical side where there are those who seem to be absolutely amazing and shocked, indeed outraged, that an evangelical church would expect those who teach in an evangelical school to teach the evangelical doctrines held clearly by that evangelical church. That’s exactly why the founders of the school I lead, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote an original confession of faith in 1859 that stands still today that states that every professor is to teach in accordance with and not contrary to all that is contained therein. The founder of the school, James Pettigrew Boyce, added “without equivocation or mental reservation;” in other words, without any crossing of the fingers.


In an age that has adopted a radical view of personal autonomy and a radical suspicion of any kind of doctrinal accountability, in an age in which many people have adopted a relativistic understanding of truth, in an age in which people think they’re simply owed a job, you now have the reality that the decision made by the diocese of Cincinnati is treated as a radical proposition. Going back to Lisa Cornwell’s article, she writes that last year a federal jury found that the Cincinnati archdiocese had discriminated against a teacher fired for violating Catholic doctrine when she became pregnant through artificial insemination, and the jury awarded her $171,000. The following sentence is absolutely crucial: “The teacher said she didn’t know artificial insemination violated Catholic doctrine.” Now you’ll forgive me for suggesting that a teacher in a Catholic school who doesn’t know that the Catholic Church teaches against artificial insemination may be in the position in which the teacher’s competence needs to be questioned or honesty, not just the knowledge of the issue. How in the world can anyone not know that the Roman Catholic Church teaches against the use of artificial insemination, but let’s just skip over that for a moment. Notice that it is in response to that jury decision in that federal court trial, in response to the teacher who said, “I didn’t know that that was against the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church,” it’s in response to that that the Roman Catholic diocese said, “Okay, we want everyone to know exactly what the teachings are and exactly the positions that we expect to be held.” And now there are those who criticize saying that’s oppressive and that’s unfair. Well that’s the world we live in; a world in which it seems to be absolutely controversial and shocking to people that a Catholic institution intends to remain Catholic. From the evangelical Christian perspective, here’s the issue. We need to understand clearly that if we do not state very clearly and expect absolutely that those who teach within our institutions will uphold very clear standards of articulated doctrine, then we should not be surprised that evangelical institutions remain evangelical for a very short time. Again, that’s the world we live in, and as this story in the Associated Press makes clear, if we do specify what we believe and what we expect, expect to be criticized for being clear.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. Remember Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Call with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to Let me remind you that I’m speaking this week at Together for the Gospel, along with many other friends and several thousands who have come to join with us. You can watch the sessions at I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1) In pay disparity, gender isn’t operational issue – it’s motherhood

As Obama Spotlights Gender Gap in Wages, His Own Payroll Draws Scrutiny, New York Times (Michael Shear and Annie Lowrey)

Equal pay or opportunity for outrage?, CNN (Katie Packer Gage)

The ’77 Cents on the Dollar’ Myth About Women’s Pay, Wall Street Journal (Mark J. Perry And Andrew G. Biggs)

2) Education begins in home at birth, not in government institutions through Pre-K programs

Books, and Compassion, From Birth, New York Times (Ginia Bellafante)

3) Religious institutions setting standards of termination now “unfair and oppressive”

Catholic teacher contract gets exact on behavior, Associated Press (Lisa Cornwell)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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