The Briefing 05-16-14

The Briefing 05-16-14

The Briefing


 May 16, 2014

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


It’s Friday, May 16, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.


A few weeks ago we discussed a development in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the local Catholic archdiocese is requiring all the teachers in Catholic schools to sign a contract that states a very clear understanding of the moral expectations of anyone who would teach in the Catholic schools. Why would this be controversial? Well because they hadn’t done it before. Why are they doing it now? Well that’s an interesting story in itself. It turns out that across the nation an increasing number of teachers being fired for violating Catholic teaching are suing that they did not know the Catholic teaching or they did not know that they had to abide by, and they seem to be shocked, absolutely shocked, that a Catholic school would expect his teachers to be Catholic or at least to teach in accordance with Catholic teaching or to live lives in terms of their own personal morality that would be very much in line with Catholic morality or would at least not flaunt divergence from Catholic moral teaching. If that seems like common sense to you, then you’ll understand why many of us are scratching our heads over why this is such a controversial issue in Cincinnati, Ohio. Because, after all, the teachers there in Cincinnati in the Catholic schools said that they had no list of the things they were to keep in mind. They had no list of the individual requirements. They didn’t know which teachings they were not allowed to violate. They didn’t know which moral principles they had to abide by, so the archdiocese released a list and that’s where the controversy ensued because the teachers, after demanding a list, didn’t like the list they got.


And the kickback is interesting in itself, but the controversy took an interesting turn in recent days when one veteran Catholic teacher there in Cincinnati said she wouldn’t sign the contract. The teacher is Molly Shumate, and according to The Courier Journal here in Louisville, when she stared at the Cincinnati archdiocese contract, she thought of her son. Her son, a teenager, is openly gay, and for that reason, she did not sign the contract. And she states that it’s a violation of her conscience to be forced to choose between her employment and the support of her son. But as Michael D. Clark, reporter for The Cincinnati Inquirer, says, that even though this teacher was “a lifelong Catholic and devoted teacher,” she was stunned by the lengthy contracts, starkly-detailed restrictions on her personal life, and the freedom to publicly support her now 22-year-old son. She said, “In my eyes, there’s nothing wrong with my son. This is what God gave me and what God created and someone I should never be asked not to support.” She went on to say:


If my son were say to me, “Will you go somewhere with me that is supported or run by gays and lesbians?” I would have to tell him no according to that contract. And if my picture was taken, what would happen?


Well this is a very interesting development and it’s very revealing as well. It reveals a great deal about the teachers who now must make the choice as to whether or not they will sign the contract, but it’s also very revealing about the schools and the archdiocese of Cincinnati. It tells us, for one thing, that this new clarity follows along obscurity. In other words, the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati bears a good deal of responsibility for evidently having been quite lax in recent years such that its own Catholic teachers didn’t know what Catholic teaching required. But the teachers also are very revealing in their response to this contract; acting as if it is somehow an imposition upon their constitutional rights as Americans to be required to uphold Catholic teaching if they’re going to get paid to teach in Catholic school.


Now if that story would be located in Cincinnati alone, it would be interesting, but it’s not. As a matter fact, recent headlines indicate that the same pattern now prevails in Catholic schools across the nation from Oakland, California, to Cleveland, Ohio. Datelined Cleveland, Ohio, on May 13th: Cleveland Catholic Diocese is now asking teachers at 104 elementary schools to sign a more detailed morality clause. And according to Patrick O’Donnell, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, this has sparked a strong reaction from readers and several questions. Now, again, since we’re trying to get to the bottom of this controversy, what would this contract require in terms of moral issues? Well The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:


The contract, which prohibits teachers from engaging in any listed behavior…such as public support of positions contrary to Roman Catholic teaching, including but not limited to, publicly supporting abortions, euthanasia, assisted suicide, embryonic stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, surrogate parenthood, direct sterilization, or so-called homosexual are same-sex marriage or unions.”


Now let’s be honest. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of Catholic moral teaching would know that there’s nothing controversial here, at least in terms of the fact that these are things the Catholic Church has taught and required and expected for decades. Nothing new here; nothing new at all. What’s really revealing is the fact that Catholic teachers are now saying it’s an imposition on our conscience, maybe even an imposition on our constitutional rights, to have this kind of moral requirement or, for that matter, a didactic requirement (you might call it a creedal requirement) to act and to teach only in accordance with Catholic teaching.


Well this is very revealing when you think about that what’s revealed here is the fact that these Catholic archdiocese have failed to hold forth Catholic teaching in the past even as they’re trying to catch up now. It’s very revealing that the teachers are upset, but in several of these cities it’s even more revealing that the parents are upset. Oakland, California, is a clear example of this. As the teachers there in Oakland, California’s Catholic schools are being required to sign this kind of contract, its many parents who’ve gone to the local media, saying that this is tyrannical. This is, as one parent said, tantamount to the Spanish Inquisition. This is an imposition of the church’s authority where it has no business. Let’s just ask the obvious question: If the Catholic Church has no business exercising authority over Catholic schools, in one sense are Catholic schools Catholic? By the way, the simple clause in the Oakland Catholic teacher contract is this:


In both the employee’s personal and professional life, the employee is expected to model and to promote behavior in conformity with the teaching of the Roman Catholic faith in matters of faith and morals, and to do nothing that tends to bring discredit to the school or to the diocese of Oakland.


Now, again, you would think that any fair-minded person would see that as what would be expected of anyone who would teach in a Catholic school.


But the big issue here is not just for Roman Catholics. My concern has far more to do with evangelical Christians. What do we do with this? We this tells us that if we really do expect confessional integrity, if we really do expect evangelical teachers, evangelicals teaching in our schools to teach in a way that is legitimately evangelical, we’re going to have to be very clear about what is expected. That’s why, for instance, the only education that will continue, in terms of any Christian integrity, in terms of any biblical fidelity, is one that is clearly creedal, that is to say, confessional in nature. The founders of the institution that I have the privilege of leading, organized around this principle that every professor must sign to teach in accordance with and not contrary to all that is contained therein. Where did that language come from? That was the historic confessional language of Protestantism. That was the language that was used at Princeton Theological Seminary up until the early decades of the 20th century. That’s what Protestant confessionalism looks like, and even though it’s shocking, extremely revealing that evidently there are many Roman Catholics who don’t know that the Roman Catholic Church actually teaches something it expects its teachers to teach, it would be an even greater embarrassment to know that there’re evangelical Christians who might be stuck in the same confusion and it would be even more revealing that Christian institutions or Christian churches or denominations would allow that confusion. If so, what it reveals is theological irresponsibility, and where it heads is towards the loss of the faith in a single generation, and if you wonder if that can happen, just consider where it already has.


Shifting the scene to Europe, but also to the World Wide Web, the European Court of Justice, on Tuesday of this week, ruled that individuals in Europe have a right to disappear on the Internet. It’s actually a partial disappearance order that was issued by this European Court of Justice. It was a ruling that was directed to Internet search engine such as Google, charging that those corporations, those corporations that sponsor these massive search engines, must, if they’re going to relate to anyone in Europe, offer a way for individuals to demand that they disappear from the search engine.


Now the reason why it’s not stated very clearly that they’re disappearing from the Internet is because this ruling applies only to the search engines, not to the originating webpages. So, just to be very clear, if there’s a newspaper article that lists your name, if you’re a European citizen, you cannot demand that the newspaper article disappear. You can demand that Google not link to the newspaper article or at least not link it to your name. If that sounds like a partial victory, it’s also partial insanity. In other words, this isn’t going to work. As a matter of fact, it’s the kind of thing that is often handed down by judges who have no knowledge of evidently what their ruling. As several observers on both sides of the Atlantic have pointed out, this makes sense to anyone who doesn’t use the Internet. The moment you begin to use the Internet, you realize how ridiculous this is. But as Craig Timberg and Sarah Halzack of The Washington Post point out, we can understand why people might want to disappear. As they write, tens of millions of people have had the painful experience of cruising the Internet and discovering something mortifying about themselves. And many have immediately been seized with some variation of falling question: How do I make that go away before my parents, spouse, boss can see it? They went on to write:


For Europeans, the answer became clearer this week when the continent’s highest court ruled that individuals have a right to demand that Google-search links to unflattering material be deleted, a step toward what privacy advocates there have christened “the right to be forgotten.”


Well, as I’ve said, this is offering more than is actually going to be delivered because even as the court has ordered Google to do this, no one actually has much confidence that Google could do this if they wanted to do it. And furthermore, even if Google did it, knowing how the World Wide Web works, these materials wouldn’t be lost. These links wouldn’t simply go away. If they didn’t appear on Google, they’ll appear somewhere else. The lesson for all of us is this: if it’s on the World Wide Web, it’s there until Jesus comes. At least in terms of your expectation, my expectation, if it’s on the web, it isn’t going to disappear. If it’s put up on the web as information, as content, as image, it’s going to stay. And this is a false promise by this European Court, the kind of things that sometimes courts do, but the interesting thing from a Christian worldview perspective is this: we can understand the desire to disappear, the desire to be forgotten, but it isn’t going to happen.


Now, again, the biblical worldview comes back to say the least thing we should be concerned about is being found rather permanently on the World Wide Web. It’s almost as if we wonder if the World Wide Web knows our every action and our every thought and is keeping a record of it and we will be judged by it and for it, but the reality is we don’t believe the World Wide Web has that power. But we do believe that a holy and omniscient God does and we do believe that we’re going to be accountable not only for every word, for every image, for every deed, but for every idle thought.


What you have here is a secular society that wants to disappear, that wants to have a right to be forgotten, and you can understand just how pressing that might be. You can understand how a guilty conscience over something on the Internet could lead you to want to be forgotten and to want to disappear, but there is no actual way to disappear and no court can deliver on this promise.


This relates to a story that appeared last week in USA Today. The headline is “States Move to Ban Revenge Porn.” Trevor Hughes reports that the big issue in revenge porn is this: states are beginning to crack down on the fact that people are embarrassing former romantic partners who had shared intimate photographs, and by putting them up on the web to embarrass, they are then causing harm to the one who originally took the compromising photograph. Now let’s be very clear. From a Christian perspective, everything about this is wrong. Everything. The pornography’s wrong. The sexually explicit image is wrong. The lack of a marital context is wrong. The posting of such material is wrong. All of it is wrong! The whole ambition of revenge is absolutely wrong. The Bible would condemn every single aspect of this, but it is one of the most revealing new stories to come around in a very long time because what you have here are courts trying to put an end to revenge porn, trying to make it a crime, trying to make it a criminalized offense so that people can be arrested for this, and if they misuse—notice the key word here is misuse—a sexually explicit photograph that was sent from one romantic partner to another, there can be criminal consequences. But I have ransacked news media to find any acknowledgment of the underlying moral issue here, and, thus far, I have found not one major American media source that acknowledges that if you don’t have this photograph taken in the first place, it can’t be used against you by someone who wishes either to bless you or to curse you. In other words, no one’s talking about the individual responsibility of not participating in a pornographic act in the first place. So, again, this is very revealing. From a Christian worldview perspective, it reveals the insanity of a human creature so confused that we will try to re-create a morality on the other side of an immorality. We will create an immoral image and then we will try to come up with moral consequences for misusing an immoral image. And you wonder what kind of sinful creature could come up with something so devious and insane, well the Christian worldview answers that too. Where you look? The first place is in the mirror.


Finally, as the week comes to an end, three stories having to do with modern parenting, and from a Christian worldview perspective, what this tells us is that modern parents are seized with all kinds of strange anxieties. And furthermore, we’re often misparenting when we want to parent even at the highest level.


The first is a story that appears in The Wall Street Journal by Yuliya Chernova, and she writes about a woman soon to be a mother. This is Aleks Swerdlow, who is expecting her first baby in July. She owns several wearable devices, including a fetal heartbeat monitor. She wants her newborn to eventually where devices too. “I love gadgets, wearable specifically,” said Ms.Swerdlow (she’s 29), “so it seemed a natural extension to have that available for my child, especially if it allows me not to worry about how the baby is sleeping and breathing.” So what kind of gadgets we talking about here? Well wearable gadgets for infants now include the Mimo Baby, a set of three baby bodysuits that cost $200 that includes a device used to measure restoration, skin temperature, and body position, broadcasting these constantly by Bluetooth technology to mom, who evidently is watching every single moment for skin temperature, body position, respiration rate, and other meaningful medical data that mothers have had to track every second throughout human history.


But if that’s not enough, for $250, moms can by the Owlet Baby Care sock. That’s a smart sock made by the company that senses a baby’s oxygen saturation and heart rate, and constantly broadcasts this to mom via Bluetooth. With the acknowledgement that there might be some children with particular risks for whom this might be important, the obvious question is what kind of parent thinks they need this kind of technology attached to a baby? As one observer said, “Evidently human parents have found a way to parent children and raise them safely for 6,000 years without recourse to this kind of technology.” What this technology reveals is just how paranoid, just how scared, just how frenetic so many American parents are. We tend to forget that parenting is a natural endeavor; that pregnancy is a natural gift; that the gift of children is something that human beings have celebrated as one of God’s greatest gifts to us from the very beginning of the human race, going back to Adam and Eve. And in Eden, there would’ve been no need for this kind of a monitor, and, frankly, in this fallen world, there still is very little need for this kind of monitoring gadgetry. What is really needed is just common-sense parenting. So, parents, here’s good news: Chill. What your children need is your attention and you’re going to care for them. You don’t need all these monitors, and woe unto the child who in the crib is wearing a smart sock.


But evidence number two that American parents are going insane, The Wall Street Journal has a major article on the problem for sports parents. It features a 12-year-old boy who is a student of Taekwondo. The article is by Kevin Helliker and he writes that this 12-year-old boy’s mom and stepfather are paying $6,000 a year for a 12-year-old boy to have Taekwondo lessons and participate in Taekwondo competition. Now, undoubtedly, this is having some good affect upon the boy, who appears to be learning and is doing so well after a year of practice that he’s in a national championship. If he is successful in years coming, then they’ll have to spend thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars more, including just a thousand dollars in travel expenses to get to the national competitions; and then, of course, the outfits and the clothing, estimated at about $750; registration for the term, that’s $500; and personal class instruction, $2,100—in total about $6,000 a year. The obvious point is this: most parents can’t afford anything like this and it probably isn’t rational to spend anything like this. And furthermore, the most interesting part of this story in The Wall Street Journal is that, as it turns out, if you look at Olympic athletes, it is the parents who spend less and force the issue less and push their children less who tend to produce Olympic medalists. You look at Olympic medalists; most of them don’t get there because their parents are paying $6,000 a year for them to take Taekwondo lessons nor were they paying all that money or pushing them so hard to succeed. Rather, they had an inner drive, they had God-given ability, and they had the opportunity to develop those abilities.


Well this is obviously not yet a norm, but the fact that it’s becoming so popular that The Wall Street Journal gives a front-page personal journal section to it tells you something. It tells us, once again, that America’s parents are losing touch with rationality. What our children need is our time. It’s great for them to be involved in sports, but if these sports begin to cost $6,000 a year, this explains a great deal about why we’re treating our children as we do. It also explains why so many of our children are missing teenagers as well from church activities. It’s because if we’re making such a priority out of sports, if they’re involved to such a degree in sporting activities, if the investment is so great in the field of sport, something’s going to come up short, and all too often, as virtually every pastor and youth minister can tell you, what’s coming up short is church.


Finally, staying on the theme of parenthood, yesterday’s edition of The New York Times, in the personal tech column, included an article by Molly Wood with the headline: “How Young is Too Young for a Digital Presence.” Well most of the article is imminently un-useful, having to do with advice to parents about what to do. For instance, the relative morality of cheating that put your child as an infant on Facebook even though they’re supposed to be 13. There are all kinds of issues in this, but the most revealing thing is the final paragraph in this article by Molly Wood. She concludes:


If anything, a child today who grows up and discovers he has no photos on Facebook or Instagram might think of himself as an unloved anomaly. In an age of obsessive digital detailing, if a child grows up unrecorded, what is his identity at all?


Well if you’re looking for ample evidence of cultural insanities as we go into the weekend, there it is. Asking the question if our children really have an identity, if they look back at adolescence and find out that they’re every move wasn’t tracked and traced and recorded and documented on the Internet, do they have any identity at all?


Perhaps more than anything else that shows the collision between the biblical worldview and the modern secular worldview. The biblical worldview says that your identity isn’t something you earn or document; it’s something given to you by your Creator, something determined by the God who made you for His glory. The secular worldview says you better come up with some way to identify yourself and create an identity. And in this digital age, evidently, the digital world is where some people are trying to do that. What a pathetic question. If your child doesn’t have a digital identity, does he have any identity at all?


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. Remember tomorrow’s release of Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Remember also to call with your question in your voice. Call 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. For more information, go to my website at Remember the free e-book you can get by going to my website. That e-book is God and the Gay Christian: A Response to Matthew Vines. It’s available free 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 Monday for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1) Confusion over Catholic school moral contracts reveals need for confessional integrity

Catholic school teacher backs gay son, shuns contract,  Louisville Courier-Journal (Michael D. Clark)

Oakland Diocese requiring educators to conform to church teachings, San Francisco Gate (Joe Garofoli)

Catholic School Teachers At Diocese Of Oakland Required To Sign Morality Pledge Covering Personal Life, CBS

Catholic schools’ new “morality clause”: The Cincinnati dispute, a key Supreme Court case, and what schools are affected, (Patrick O’Donnell)

2) “Right to be forgotten” affirmed by European court a false promise

In Google case, E.U. court says people are entitled to control their own online histories, Washington Post (Craig Timberg and Michael Birnbaum)

3) Banning revenge porn attempt to recreate morality on the other side of immorality

Aim, shoot, regret: States move to ban ‘revenge porn’, USA Today (Trevor Hughes)

4) Technology and sports insufficient replacements for a parent’s attention

Oh, Baby: Wearables Track Infants’ Vital Signs, Wall Street Journal (Yuliya Chernova)

The Problem for Sports Parents: Overspending, Wall Street Journal (Kevin Helliker)

5) Digital presence not basis of a child’s identity

How Young Is Too Young for a Digital Presence?, New York Times (Molly Wood)


R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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