The Briefing 05-12-14

The Briefing 05-12-14

The Briefing


 May 12, 2014

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


It’s Monday, May 12, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.


The end of last week brought big news on the same-sex marriage front. That’s not so surprising, but there are some interesting angles on the developments that took place late last week. The first had to do with the state of Kentucky. The governor of the Commonwealth, Steve Beshear, had filed an appeal over against a federal district judge’s ruling that the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was itself unconstitutional. Governor Steve Beshear, however, faced a significant challenge, and that is that the Democratic attorney general of the state, that is, Attorney General Jack Conway, had announced that even though he had previously appealed the decision by the federal district court, he would no longer do so because he himself believes that any ban against same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The Democratic governor of the state Steve Beshear then was required, if he was going to appeal the ban, to go to independent attorneys, and he did so, hiring a law firm out of Ashland, Kentucky. That law firm’s filings for the appeal appeared at the end of last week. The lead attorney for the firm, Leigh Gross Latherow, released a 32-page filing. And in the filing, she makes a very compelling argument. The argument is this (reading from the filing itself):


Same-sex couples are materially different from traditional man-woman couples. Only man-woman couples can naturally procreate. Fostering procreation serves a legitimate economic interest that is rationally related to the traditional man-woman marriage model. Thus, same-sex couples are not similarly situated to man-woman couples, and the distinction drawn by Kentucky’s statutes is rationally related to a legitimate interest of Kentucky.


That’s a very important legal argument because the successful challenges against the same-sex marriage amendments have argued that there is no rational state basis behind the legislation. Now this law firm representing Kentucky’s governor says there most certainly is and that rational state interest is in fostering the economic development of the state, building the population of the state by procreation, which uniquely emerges from the man-woman bond, which is the very essence of the state’s interest in marriage.


There are some aspects of her argument that bear an even closer attention. For instance, when she argues that fostering procreation serves a legitimate economic interest, that is, in the words of the filing, “rationally related to the traditional man-woman marriage model,” she says that in contrast, same-sex couples—and here is some very interesting language—“are not similarly situated to man-woman couples.” That language in the law, being “similarly situated”, is an argument about whether these should be considered equal. Should a man-man couple or woman-woman couple be compared equally as being “similarly situated” with a man-woman couple?


Now along comes the governor of Kentucky through this filing to say this is not a commensurate bond. This is not an equal relationship. The state has a legitimate interest in privileging the man-woman bond in marriage because that bond alone can bring about the procreation which is the rational state interest. That language of being similarly situated is a very important issue of language not only for the law, but also for the Christian worldview. That language of being similarly situated points to a basic issue that is important to the Christian worldview and that is that you compare like to like, not like to unlike. And in this respect, marriage in the Scripture is privileged over all other unions precisely because it is the singularly situated union of a man and a woman that fits the model that leads to human flourishing, to the procreation of children, and not only to their procreation, but to their raising and to the furtherance of the civilization itself.


Now in a very interesting response to that published in the Louisville Courier-Journal’s coverage, Laura Landenwich, who was one of the plaintiff’s lawyers, that is, the lawyers for the same-sex couples, said that Kentucky’s view “that marriage is designed to procreate the species is offensive.” Now that’s an even more interesting statement. So now you have an attorney for the same-sex couples arguing that any statement that marriage is intended to be associated with procreation as its end and its state privileged purpose is offensive. That’s a very revealing statement; certainly far more revealing than this attorney recognizes because the attorney is saying that procreation actually has nothing to do with the state’s interest in marriage whatsoever. That turns millennia of legal tradition and cultural experience on its head. Now you have her continuing:


Most Kentuckians — on both sides of the issue — view marriage as a social partnership, a spiritual bond, a commitment to navigate life together. Children are often a part of that shared journey, but the relationship extends beyond that.

Well now she’s making two contradictory arguments. On the one hand, she’s saying marriage has nothing at all to do with children. It is, as she says, just a social partnership, a spiritual bond, and using her rather poetic language, “a commitment to navigate life together.” And then in her second statement, she admits that perhaps there is a legitimate interest in procreation. She says, “Children are often a part of that shared journey,” but she said that the relationship extends beyond that. She can have one argument; she cannot have both arguments. Either marriage has nothing to do with children—and that’s insanity—or it has something to do with children, but extends beyond that. Of course, marriage extends beyond that. In that respect, she’s right. People on all sides of the argument agree on that. No one who defends the traditional understanding of marriage says that it is only about procreation, but it is certainly about procreation and that has been a civilizational interest from the very beginning. As a matter fact, it is found in the very pages of Scripture, but not only in Scripture, it’s found within the annals of history, of human history, of every generation, of every age and epic.


In Andrew Wolfson’s coverage in The Courier-Journal, he goes back to the federal district court judge—that’s John Heyburn here in Louisville—and cites that in his ruling he rejected the idea that procreation as a legitimate reason for gay marriage bans, saying exclusion of same-sex couples on those grounds, in the judge’s words, “makes just as little sense as excluding postmenopausal heterosexual couples or infertile couples.” Now that’s also nonsense because no one has argued that the procreation of children is the only purpose of marriage; rather, that it is a central state interest in marriage. Furthermore, no sane person has argued that couples—heterosexual couples—presenting their selves for marriage should be required to undergo something like a fertility test. Rather, it’s not the individual couple in mind, but rather the law’s vision of the union, of the man-woman union, as the union that is by its very structure, by its very biological composition, inclined toward the procreation of children. Thus, it receives this kind of civilizational sanction.


Wolfson also writes, “The appeal also doesn’t address gay couples who give birth through surrogates or other alternatives.” Well the interesting thing here is that the word procreation actually doesn’t rightly apply to those same-sex unions. By some technological means of biotechnology or surrogacy or other means, that kind of couple may be able somehow to have a child, but the very word have there is uniquely situated as something that has meant something other than what it has meant throughout most of human history until the very recent times when the biotechnological revolution and advanced reproductive technologies have begun to change the very definition of what it means to have a baby. But those technologies have not changed the way we would define procreation; at least not in any sense that human beings would’ve understood for thousands and thousands of years.


The other major development came Friday in the state of Arkansas where in that southern state it was not a federal judge who handed down a ruling that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry; rather, it was Polaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza. It was a local circuit court judge who made the ruling, evidently, at least at this point, with statewide affect. As the Associated Press reports:


[He] paved the way for the marriages Friday with a ruling that removed a 10-year-old barrier, saying a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed by Arkansas voters in 2004 banning gay marriage was “an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality.”


His ruling also overturned that state’s 1997 law banning gay marriage. The situation in Arkansas, however, today is one of chaos because the judge did not stay his decision as other judges have customarily done. Instead, it has been left up to Arkansas’s 75 County clerks to decide if they would issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. At least one did. In Eureka Springs on Saturday, a deputy county clerk issued a license on Saturday morning to Kristin Seaton and Jennifer Rambo of Fort Smith, Arkansas, who spent the night in their Ford Focus the night before in order to wait for the office to open. They were then almost immediately married, being married through exchanged vows in an impromptu ceremony on a sidewalk outside the courthouse, officiated, according to the Associated Press, by a woman in a rainbow-colored dress. Unlike the attorney general of Kentucky, the attorney general of Arkansas, Dustin McDaniel, announced his intention to appeal to the High Court, that is, to the Supreme Court of Arkansas. He made that announcement late Saturday night, but not before at least 15 same-sex marriage licenses were issued in Northwest Arkansas in Carroll County, as the Associated Press reports, “heralding the arrival of gay marriage in the Bible Belt in the U.S. South.”


Shifting to Africa, much attention has rightly been paid to the abduction of over 200 teenage girls from a girl’s school in Nigeria on the 14th of April. The girls are still missing and the leader of Boko Haram, the Islamic insurgency that kidnapped the girls, has said that the girls are going to be sold as wives, sold into sexual slavery. Meanwhile, the international press is continuing to report on the story and the larger story is even more haunting than you might imagine—for the kidnapping of over 200 teenage girls and the killing of almost 100 teenage boys is not scary enough. Here’s something that might be even scarier. When you think of the group of Al Qaeda, it is clear that that group scares most of the world, but one group scares Al Qaeda. That group: Boko Haram. As Adam Nossiter and David Kirkpatrick of The New York Times report, this group is now scaring Al Qaeda. On a web forum hosted by Al Qaeda featuring a picture of Osama bin Laden, one man wrote, “Such news has spread to taint the image of the Mujahedeen.”  Another wrote: “I have brothers from Africa who are in this group. They are like the Quran walking the earth.” In other words, Boko Haram scares Al Qaeda. Other observers are noticing the same thing. Bronwyn Bruton, an Africa scholar at the Atlantic Council in Washington, said:


The violence most of the African rebel groups practice makes Al Qaeda look like a bunch of schoolgirls. And Al Qaeda at this point is a brand — and pretty much only a brand — so you have to ask yourself how they are going to deal with the people who are doing things so hideous even the leaders of Al Qaeda are unwilling to condone them.


“Boko Haram,” writes The New York Times, “is in many ways an awkward ally for any of them.” Even more frightening is what appears later in the report, where scholars say “Boko Haram now represents a growing challenge to Al Qaeda as it seeks to cultivate more such affiliates among loosely Muslim or Islamist insurgencies across Africa, almost all of them even more brutally violent” than the most violent wings of Al Qaeda.


At the same time, Rick Gladstone of The New York Times very helpfully reports on the “Real Threat in a Known Market for Children.” Gladstone writes:


When the leader of the Boko Haram extremist group threatened to sell hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian girls “in the market” in a rambling online video posted this week, he was not necessarily making an irrational boast.


Doing just that is entirely possible in parts of Nigeria and elsewhere in the developing world, human rights investigators and researchers of child trafficking, sexual slavery and forced marriage said. However egregious it may sound, in some areas the buying and selling of women and children, particularly young girls, has long been an underlying problem.


Benjamin Lawrence, a scholar at the Rochester Institute of Technology—he spent much of his academic career tracing this kind of sex slavery—said, “It’s very well documented. There has never been a period of time when child slavery didn’t take place.” He said if he were to visit any number of West African countries, “I would have no difficulty within a number of hours in finding a place to procure children.”


Susan Bissell, a child rights advocate internationally, said that there were at least 1.2 million known cases annually of child trafficking globally, and she says that’s a gross understatement because of situations in this context, it’s totally clandestine. She also said that for every 800 victims, one person is convicted. That’s out of 800: one conviction. “A powerful indicator,” writes The New York Times, “of why traffickers often operate with impunity.” Groups like Boko Haram, she said, “are functioning in a part of the country where there just doesn’t seem to be any rules.”


One other very ominous indication in this report is that 230 million worldwide, at least almost a quarter of a billion children do not have birth certificates, and this makes them in legal terms virtually impossible to trace. Susan Bissell, speaking again, said, “This is 2014, and we have the technological capacity and we’re interconnected, and yet we just can’t seem to protect our children.”


So as you hug your own children tonight and put them in bed, be thankful for the fact that you know where they are and who they are, and, furthermore, that someone else knows where they are and who they. Just imagine how horrifying it would be to have parents whose children are not in their beds, who were abducted or murdered in their schools, and, furthermore, some of them now threatened to be sold into slavery and no one knows where they are. No one knows how to prove who they are. No one knows how to track where they go. When you look at this you realize just how vulnerable so many people in this world still are.


Coming back to the United States, one of the most shocking cultural developments of the year 1968 was the release of a film by director Roman Polanski. The film was known as “Rosemary’s Baby.” It became a cultural milestone in the moral transformations of the 1960s. The movie was about a young couple, an American couple, transplanted to Paris where the woman, the wife in the couple, was raped by Satan and became pregnant. Now that very plot would be shocking enough, but the actual way that it was depicted in the movie went far beyond where most Americans had ever believed a mass-market film could go. It started to redefine American cinema and, of course, it led to a stream of imitators and those who would take the genre far further. But now NBC television is out with a miniseries also of “Rosemary’s Baby.” It’s a remake of Polanski’s 1968 film, and as Rachel Donadio of The New York Times reports, “The new version is far gorier, but also aims to be more psychologically complex.” And in the time period between 1968 and 2014, this tells a great deal about ourselves. For instance, this new NBC television version is advertised as being postfeminist, implying that the 1968 Roman Polanski film was pre-feminist. As Rachel Donadio reports,


Mr. Polanski’s version was made [in the words of the new director, Polish-born director Agnieszka Holland] “before the feminist revolution, really.” She was sitting in her trailer during a break in the filming. Back then, Rosemary “was in some ways a victim — to the men’s world, to the world of power and Satan,” she said. “My Rosemary is much more willful and stronger.” But she added that Rosemary remains a victim to the nature of motherhood, “dependent on the people who decide, instead of her, what to do with her body.”


In other words, this is an undisguised attack upon motherhood. Just in case you wondered if that were true, Donadio goes on to report:


In her rendering, Ms. Holland said, she used Rosemary to explore “how complex and complicated motherhood is, and pregnancy, and how difficult it is for women to accept this growing thing inside her body.” She continued, “The notion of postnatal and prenatal depression, and the feeling that you don’t own yourself anymore, that you’re not yourself anymore, it’s a quite important subject of ‘Rosemary’s Baby.’”


And this is being brought mass-market to America not just on the widescreen as it was in 1968, but to the television screen in 2014.


And in a further reference to how far we have now come and where America now is morally speaking—and also France—Ms. Holland said that the producers of the series wanted it to be even sexier than it will be. But Ms. Holland reminded them, says Donadio, that while disemboweling and other varieties of graphic violence are permitted on primetime American television, female nudity is not. “It tells you something about the country,” she said. Well it tells you something about France where it would be allowed, and it tells you something about this country where almost anything else is allowed.


Evidently this new NBC series is so important that The New York Times offered not one, but two major full-length essay reviews in successive editions of the paper. The film critic Alessandra Stanley, writing for The New York Times, says that even as “Rosemary’s Baby” was shocking in 1968, “black magic is all over the place and now almost humdrum.” In other words, it might not be so shocking in the year 2014.


Perhaps the most insightful statement made about the series appeared in the pages of The Wall Street Journal’s weekend edition, where Nancy DeWolf Smith wrote, “So much has happened since [she means since 1968], in our lives and in the world at large, that there is hardly anything left to offend against or desecrate.” She spoke about Rosemary as the victim of this sexual attack and pregnancy in the original movie. She says that back when people watched it in 1968, it was shocking and people sympathized with Rosemary. She says this, however, now “today, it’s harder to feel much of anything.”


From a Christian worldview perspective, we have to recognize that even as Hollywood is trying repeatedly to say something to us; Hollywood also says something about us. And the coverage about “Rosemary’s Baby,” both the movie from 1968 that was so shocking to American morality and the miniseries that is now going to be on NBC, which is even gorier and more explicit, but is expected to be somewhat humdrum because of how the society has changed, Hollywood is now telling us that we are a very different society than we were in 1968. We’re a society in which it is difficult to shock. As Nancy DeWolf Smith said, “So much has happened that there is hardly anything left to offend against or desecrate.” That’s a horrifying indictment of a culture. But it’s not just about any culture, it’s about our culture. Our society is now, even in the view of a secular movie analyst, so far from the world of 1968 that it’s almost impossible to find anything that would be considered sacrilegious, anything that would offend, anything that would shock, morally, sexually, or otherwise. Perhaps the most positive proof of that indictment is the fact that this is not now a movie one would have to buy a ticket to see in a movie theater and somewhat infamously so. Now it’s broadcast in prime time on NBC. If anything speaks to the current situation of our culture, perhaps this one fact says it all.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. Remember the weekly release of 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 I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1) Same sex marriage ban in Kentucky defended on basis of state’s interest in procreation

GREGORY BOURKE, et al. v. STEVE BESHEAR, in his official capacity as Governor of Kentucky
DEFENDANT/APPELLANT and JACK CONWAY, in his official capacity as Attorney General of Kentucky

Beshear lawyers say gay marriage threatens Kentucky birth rates, Louisville Courier-Journal (Andrew Wolfson)

2) Arkansas same sex marriage ban struck down by local circuit judge

Arkansas to appeal same-sex marriage ruling, USA Today (AP)

3) Predatory Boko Haram intimidates even Al Qaeda

Abduction of Girls an Act Not Even Al Qaeda Can Condone, New York Times (Adam Nossiter and David D. Kirkpatrick)

Real Threat in a Known Market for Children, New York Times (Rick Gladstone)

4) NBC remake of Rosemary’s Baby reveals dulling of society’s sensibilities

Bedeviled Anew by a Pregnancy, New York Times (Rachel Donadio)

Wanting a Child in the Worst Way, New York Times (Alessandra Stanley)

There’s Something About Rosemary, Wall Street Journal (Nancy DeWolf Smith)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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