The Briefing 06-25-14

The Briefing 06-25-14

The Briefing


June 25, 2014

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


It’s Wednesday, June 25, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) United Methodist court reinstates defrocked minister in disregard of doctrinal fidelity

The big news today comes out of the United Methodist Church. Yesterday, in the middle of the day, the news broke that a court of that church had overturned the conviction of the Reverend Frank Schaefer who had been removed from the role of United Methodist ministers because of his violation of the teaching and discipline of the church through the fact that he conducted a same-sex union ceremony for his own son. As Michael Paulson and Emmarie Huetteman for The New York Times report, a one-time Methodist pastor was stripped of his clerical credentials because he presided at the wedding of his gay son is being reinstated; a startling reversal for a large Protestant denomination that, like many, is riven by divisions over same-sex relationships. As the paper makes clear, a United Methodist Church appeals committee—that is a nine-member committee made up of laypeople and clergy—on Tuesday said that it decided to overturn the punishment of Frank Schaefer, who himself has three gay children, and it also reflected the even more fundamental fact that this is a church that is now not going to defend its own doctrine and discipline—at least not according to this appeals court. Frank Schaefer had been stripped of his clerical credentials after he admitted to the fact that he had conducted the marriage ceremony of his gay son. And he also indicated that he would continue to act in defiance of the church’s doctrine and its book of discipline. And though the court in Pennsylvania found him guilty and removed his clergy credentials, this appellate court has now reversed that punishment saying that it was too harsh. Adding insult to injury, the appellate court ruled that all that was necessary was a 30-day suspension from ministerial duties and then it ruled that that had already taken place. It was ordered that he would be returned to the clergy roster and compensated for the time other than that 30-day suspension.


The New York Times has it exactly right when they summarize that his case has become a test of the denomination’s willingness to enforce its own rules. There’s no question about where the United Methodist Church stands in its discipline and doctrine. Its book of discipline defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and it furthermore declares all homosexual practices to be incompatible with Christian teaching. In an explicit prohibition, clergy are prevented from performing same-sex weddings. The denomination says that it also does not ordain self-avowed practicing homosexuals. But The New York Times is also right when it reports that there is widespread civil disobedience within the church. I reported just a few days ago that a group of very influential conservatives have called for the church to divide, saying that schism is now necessary because it has already happened, and making clear that the defiance of the church’s doctrine and discipline is something that there appears to be no consensus in the church to confront. And this appellate court’s reversal of the conviction of the Reverend Frank Schaefer just makes that point even more glaringly apparent.


There’s another very interesting twist to this story, and that is Frank Schaefer, making very clear as he talked to the press, that if he were not reinstated in Pennsylvania to the United Methodist Church, he would go to California where another United Methodist bishop made very clear he had a job for him waiting. We also reported days ago that a centrist group—at least it defines itself as a centrist group—within the United Methodist Church is calling for what it calls a way forward, a proposal to grant each local United Methodist Church the authority by a super-majority vote of its members to approve of same-sex unions and marriages and to welcome same-sex clergy. Christianity Today reported that the plan also endorses giving each annual conference, that is, regional administrative bodies worldwide, permission to decide on whether to ordain practicing homosexuals. A group of very prominent so-called centrists have gotten behind this proposal, saying that what is needed is conversation. The document they signed is described as “a conversation starter not a perfected conclusion.” This is where Rod Dreher reports at The American Conservative:


Ah, the old “conversation starter” or “dialogue” trick. Any time you see a progressive member of your church try this, you must understand that this is the wedge that they will use to pry the orthodox out. The “conversation” will be one-sided, and will not end until the orthodox have surrendered or left, because the progressives will never, ever take “no” for an answer.


This is the reluctant conclusion to which many of these rather stalwart conservatives in the United Methodist Church have now come. One of the most prominent of those conservative ministers is Maxie Dunnam, a retired United Methodist pastor who was also a former president of Asbury Theological Seminary here in Kentucky. As he said, “Schism isn’t now something that has to be now prevented in United Methodist Church; it’s too late for that. It’s already happened.” He said, “We can no longer talk about schism as something that might happen in the future. Schism has already taken place in our connection.”

2) Solution to PCUSA membership decline not more liberal theology

Meanwhile, you will recall that just last week the Presbyterian Church USA—that’s the liberal mainline Presbyterian denomination—voted to approve both same-sex marriage and their own clergy performing same-sex weddings in the states where it is legal. In a very interesting article, Carol Howard Merritt writes at The Christian Century—that’s the old historic periodical of the Protestant left—she wrote:


During this General Assembly, the PC(USA) made some historic moves. One of the main ones was that there was an authoritative interpretation passed so that pastors who serve in states where marriage equality is legal can preside over those ceremonies.


Now, I’m hearing from those who didn’t agree with the vote saying that with marriage equality, our decline will be greater than it has been in the past. What odd logic. We were declining for years when we had policies that barred LGBTQ people from being ordained. And now, somehow allowing for same-sex couples to have their union blessed by God in a church means we’re going to decline faster? If you’re on a road to decline, don’t you want to switch directions? Well, that’s what we’ve done.


Well this is one of those arguments that’s so simply pathetic it’s hard to believe that anyone has made it with a straight face. Here you have a denomination that has been imploding because of its liberalism with churches leaving by the dozens and members leaving by the tens and hundreds of thousands, and now you have someone on the left of the denomination saying, “Here’s good news: now we’ll have an influx of new members because we are so friendly now to homosexuals.” Speaking of the likelihood of further decline, she writes, in a rare moment of honesty:


Of course, in the short run, that will be true. Churches have been poised to leave the denomination if this passes. And, our church has a median age of 61, which means there will be membership loss. But, I want to assure those who are nervous, it’s going to be okay.


We can at least give the captain of the Titanic credit for not making that kind of ludicrous claim.

3) Legalized marijuana brings social disaster beyond what legislators anticipated

Shifting the issue to marijuana, this has become one of most interesting conversations amongst American Christians, especially where you find churches in those states that have begun to liberalize their laws concerning the use and possession of marijuana. Just days ago, Jack Healy of The New York Times had a front-page story entitled, “After Five Months, Colorado Sees the Downside of a Legal High.” The downside, as this report makes very clear, is considerably down. “I think by any measure the experience of Colorado has not been a good one unless you’re in the marijuana business,” said Kevin Sabet, who is executive director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes legalization.


“We’ve seen lives damaged. We’ve seen deaths directly attributed to marijuana legalization. We’ve seen marijuana slipping through Colorado’s borders. We’ve seen marijuana getting into the hands of kids.”


That last line is especially important because the state of Colorado said as it passed this legislation that it would prevent marijuana from getting into the hands of minors, but it has been unable to make good on that claim. According to sources in Colorado, the industry has now generated $12.6 million in taxes and fees. Though, those are not quite even as high as industry insiders had projected when the legalization was promised. Unintended consequences of the Colorado law, according to police and law enforcement officials there, include the fact that there are now increased break-ins in homes where people are stealing the marijuana because it is so easily disposed of and turned into cash. Furthermore:


Many of Colorado’s starkest problems with legal marijuana stem from pot-infused cookies, chocolates and other surprisingly potent edible treats that are especially popular with tourists and casual marijuana users.


On Colorado’s northern plains, for example, a fourth grader showed up on the playground one day in April and sold some of his grandmother’s marijuana to three classmates. The next day, one of those students returned the favor by bringing in a marijuana edible he had swiped from his own grandmother.


Let me just say, that’s an America I don’t recognize: an America, where you have fourth-graders trading marijuana-laced edibles that they had taken from their grandmothers. But this is also an indication of why the moral shift on marijuana is now taking place. Many of those who were teenagers and young adults in the 60’s haven’t gotten over their addiction to the kind of use of intoxicants marijuana included, that they became habituated to, in that very, very interesting decade.


Furthermore, John Gates, the district’s director of school safety for that school district, said, “This was a kind of unintended consequence of Colorado’s new law.” Then he went on to say, “For crying out loud, secure your weed. If you can legally possess it, that’s fine. But it has no place in an elementary school.” Well my guess is this: had the legislature there in Colorado been given this kind of news report in advance, they wouldn’t possibly have been able say the things they said in support of their votes to legalize marijuana.


Colorado and other similar states are also now having to come up with new laws concerning driving while intoxicated or under the influence of marijuana, leading to a whole new revolution in the law as well. But make no mistake, it is big business. A recent article by Heather Perlberg indicated that a vast growth in the sale of warehouse space in the state of Colorado is directly attributable both to the current use of those who are storing, growing, and selling marijuana, but also to the anticipated explosion in revenue and volume as legal marijuana becomes a major industry within that state.


Meanwhile, even as The New York Times has been firmly situated on the cultural left for decades now, Saturday’s edition of that newspaper ran a column by T.M. Luhrmann. It was entitled “Candy’s Dandy, But Pot’s Scary.” It was a very interesting piece that indicated that there is a continuing and undeniable link between schizophrenia and marijuana use. Luhrmann who is a professor of anthropology at Stanford University writes about a major study that was published in The Lancet—that’s one the most respected medical journals worldwide—indicating that of the test sample of Swedish subjects that those who used marijuana 50 times or more were six times as likely 15 years later to have been diagnosed with schizophrenia than those who said they had not used it.


Now Lurhmann’s a very influential scientist, and thus, she’s not claiming that there’s direct causation between the use of marijuana and the later incidents of schizophrenia. But as she makes very clear, it is at least a significant warning that you have a six-fold increase just after 50 uses of marijuana in the association of marijuana use and a diagnosis of schizophrenia. She writes that most studies now affirm that there is a 50 to 200% increased risk of schizophrenia among marijuana’s heaviest users. She concludes:


Right now, for many people, marijuana conjures up the mellow calm of the Rocky Mountain high. But that mellowness is associated with a set of cultural cues that may not be shared by all who buy legal cannabis. Alcohol is a factor in about 40 percent of violent crimes, according to surveys of perpetrators. Let’s hope that the meaning of being high doesn’t migrate.


Remember that the next time someone tells you that the legalization of marijuana will come without any kind of social disaster.

4) Precocious social behavior in young adolescents detrimental to healthy maturation

Next, a couple of very important issues related to children and early adolescence. The New York Times yesterday had a headline article entitled, “Cool at, Adrift at 23.” Jan Hoffman writes:


At 13, they were viewed by classmates with envy, admiration and not a little awe. The girls wore makeup, had boyfriends and went to parties held by older students. The boys boasted about sneaking beers on a Saturday night and swiping condoms from the local convenience store. They were cool. They were good-looking. They were so not you. Whatever happened to them?


This article is extremely important, especially for all those who care about early adolescents. The bottom line in this article is abundantly clear. Those children who at that age showed very precocious social relationships and social behavior turned out at early adulthood to have rather negative consequences. Thus, the headline: “Cool at 13, Adrift at 23.” There was a very clear correlation as revealed in this research that was published yesterday in The New York Times between those children who had very precocious socialization in early adolescence and those who had deep, deep pathological problems in early adulthood. And it turns out that in early adolescence, the things that make for social popularity are often disastrous later in life. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. But one of the most fundamental issues, in terms of this kind of research, comes down to the fact that many of these early adolescents are actually being pushed into early socialization by their parents. That is a very ominous warning that comes in this article. There are many parents who think they’re doing their adolescents a favor by pushing them forward in terms of their socialization, by making them appear older than they actually are, by trying to help their early adolescents, in this case middle school-ers, appear cool and, especially in this case, cool to their peers.


But this article is fundamentally important, especially as it appears in The New York Times as it has, because it tells us that the kids who were most cool at 13 are in profoundly uncool situations, by and large, by the time they reach their early 20s, and it’s because they have picked up bad behaviors and also because they have failed to pick up responsible behaviors. Joseph P. Allen, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia that was behind one of these major studies, said, “The fast-track kids didn’t turn out okay.” He furthermore said, “To be truly mature as an early adolescent means yours able to be a good loyal friend, supportive, hard-working, and responsible. But that,” he said, “doesn’t get a lot of airplay on Monday morning in a ninth-grade homeroom.” The article also quotes B. Bradford Brown, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He’s a specialist in adolescent peer relationships. He made a similar point, and one of the things that becomes clear is that this relates to both boys and girls. In either case, with either gender, when these children are pushed forward or, for that matter, they push themselves forward in terms of this socialization, it often leads to devastating personal consequences.


The research also offers a great deal of promise to anyone who has struggled through these years, and that means virtually all of us. Greater social acceptance tends to come very shortly after early adolescence, when older teenagers find themselves very comfortable in a peer group of one form or another, and many of those peer groups actually reinforce good behavior rather than poor behavior. It’s a parent’s responsibility not to force these children, not to encourage them into early socialization, not to encourage them into this kind of precocious behavior or this precocious kind of personality profile, but rather to encourage them to associate with the kinds of peers who reflect their own values and worldview, who, in the end, will be an assist toward the kinds of responsible maturation that needs to mark these years, rather than an enemy of that same kind of responsible maturation.


And there’s profound good news here for anyone listening who is 13 and considered uncool. Just hang in there; your time is coming. Those who were at 13 are profoundly uncool in their early 20s.

5) Social understanding of autism does not match actual scientific consensus 

I’ve given considerable attention to the controversies over the over-medication and over-diagnosis of certain syndromes and pathologies, especially in young boys, especially those boys in school age. Now what comes to my attention is an obituary by Paul Vitello in The New York Times of Dr. Lorna Wing, who died in Great Britain earlier this month at age 85. She should be well known to us because it was she who in the modern age helped us to understand that autism isn’t a single thing, but rather a mental disorder of many gradations. As Vitello wites, “affecting people across the spectrum of intelligence — and who gave autism in its mildest form the name Asperger’s syndrome.” In an extremely interesting obituary, Paul Vitello writes:


[Lorna Wing] is best known for rediscovering the work of Hans Asperger, an Austrian psychiatrist who first described a form of autism in a group of intelligent, verbally adroit boys who were indifferent to their schoolwork but intensely interested in one or two subjects, like trains, dinosaurs or royal genealogy.


Asperger called these boys “little professors” because even though they didn’t have much interest in their school work, they were intensely interested in some very specific topics, like dinosaurs or, as he said, other kinds of things that would interest young boys. In other words, they are very intelligent and they’re very verbal when they want to be, and so Dr. Asperger said, “Whatever’s going on there, it’s a lack of socialization, but it isn’t a form of autism that will prevent these boys from later success in life.”


In 1981, Dr. Wing published a paper entitled, “Asperger’s Syndrome: A Clinical Account.” So just back in 1981, the entire category of mild autism or high-functioning autistic or Asperger’s syndrome actually came into our nomenclature and understanding. She made the then controversial assertion that Asperger’s syndrome reflects the fact that autism is indeed a spectrum. It’s not a simple thing and the diagnosis of autism doesn’t mean just one thing in the case of all those who actually fit the diagnosis. She said that milder forms of autism come down to “a lack of ability to understand and use the rules governing social behavior.”


Now, as The New York Times makes very clear, this has become the scientific consensus. Interestingly, at the end of her life, Dr. Wing was herself diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, but when she was still functioning as a research scientist, she gave an interview in which she said she had come to believe that most people, most adults, have some autistic traits:


I do believe you need autistic traits for real success in science and the arts, and I am fascinated by the behaviors and personalities of musicians and scientists. One of my favorite sayings is that nature never draws a line without smudging it. You cannot separate into those ‘with’ and ‘without’ traits. They are so scattered.


I offer that because it’s good news to anyone who’s struggling with the issue of autism or trying to understand it. As it turns out, there are many who are given the diagnosis of autism who can be highly successful in life, and, as Dr. Lorna Wing made very clear, some of the things that are diagnosed as autistic traits are actually necessary for great success in many areas of life, such as science and many dimensions of the arts.


But finally, that leads to another article that appeared just in recent days in the authoritative London newspaper The Times, in which it is indicated that middle-class parents and teachers in Great Britain are now pressing for a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder upon boys who basically are bookish. Several leading British psychiatrists now describe this as the medicalization of normality. These boys are being prescribed drug such as Ritalin and Prozac, which have been massively abused, because there are those who are trying to diagnose these boys as having disorders because then they get more funding for their schools. The article makes the very interesting point that as these diagnoses increased, they increase exponentially. As soon as you form a support group, additional diagnoses are demanded. Professor Sir Simon Wessely, who has recently taken over as president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, last week said:


When did you last hear a kid called bookish or shy? At what point do those normal traits become social phobia or Asperger’s, or when does a naughty kid become ADHD? Now those are socially defined, and where psychiatry sits on those is often not where the public think.


So I end again saying every parent and anyone who cares about children and young people had better pay attention to this. Being bookish or shy is not a disease, and, furthermore, being naughty is not a disease. It isn’t something that needs to be responded to with a diagnosis followed by medicalization and therapy. Most often what is needed is parental attention and what used to be called discipline. No doubt there is something real to autism—we all know that—but when you look at the skyrocketing rates of diagnosis and medicalization, something other than medical science is afoot. But perhaps it does take this very illustrious British psychiatrist to puncture the balloon of cultural perception. What the culture and the society think autism is actually doesn’t meet the disorder as psychiatrists now believe it to be. Something has gone horribly wrong when we think we need a diagnosis for a child being a child.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. 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 Remember that right now we’re taking questions for the upcoming new season of Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. That season will begin in late summer. Just call with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1) United Methodist court reinstates defrocked minister in disregard of doctrinal fidelity

Methodist Panel Reinstates Defrocked Pastor, New York Times (Michael Paulson and Emmarie Huetteman)

The Mainline (Re)Forms Further To The Left, American Conservative (Rod Dreher)

2) Solution to PCUSA membership decline not more liberal theology

Why the PC(USA) can grow because of marriage equality, Christian Century (Carol Howard Merritt)

3) Legalized marijuana brings social disaster beyond what legislators anticipated

After 5 Months of Sales, Colorado Sees the Downside of a Legal High, New York Times (Jack Healy)

 Ganja Gets Warehouse Owners Buzzing as Pot Farms Thrive, Bloomberg (Heather Bloomberg)

Candy’s Dandy, but Pot’s Scary, New York Times (T.M. Luhrmann)

4) Precocious social behavior in young adolescents detrimental to healthy maturation

Cool at 13, Adrift at 23, New York Times (Jan Hoffman)

5) Social understanding of autism does not match actual scientific consensus 

Dr. Lorna Wing, Who Broadened Views of Autism, Dies at 85, New York Times (Paul Vitello)

Doctors under pressure to label bookish children as mentally ill, The Times (Chris Smyth)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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