The Briefing 08-15-14

The Briefing 08-15-14

The Briefing


August 15, 2014

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

It’s Friday, August 15, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Explosive growth of Islam in US indicator of vast change in Christian mission field

There’s a building boom in the United States, specifically, a boom in the building of mosques.  Two different stories in The Wall Street Journal this morning point to the explosive growth of Islam in the United States.  The first story is located in Anchorage, Alaska where Tamara Audi writes

On the edge of this northern outpost an unfamiliar sight is emerging: twin minarets. Alaska’s small but growing Muslim community is building the state’s first newly constructed mosque. “This is our future,” said Osama Obeidi, one of the Muslim-Americans leading the building effort for the Islamic Community Center of Anchorage. “We have second-generation Alaskans now, and new people coming all the time. We need a place to call home.”

As Audi explains, the new mosque to be built in Anchorage is a 15,000 square feet building which is expected to be joined by a community center and a Sunday school building shortly.  As Audi writes

The mosque is perhaps the clearest sign yet that Islam in the U.S. is rapidly pushing beyond traditional population centers such as Detroit and Los Angeles. As the number of American Muslims grows through both immigration and higher-than-average birthrates, domes and minarets are sprouting in areas as varied as the eastern mountains of Kentucky and Louisiana’s parishes

The Wall Street Journal also explains that the building boom of mosques in the United States is due to the growth of Muslims who have been born here rather than those who emigrated from other countries.  In one very important paragraph in the article Audi writes

The Muslim population in the U.S. is expected to more than double by 2030, to 6.2 million, according to a 2011 Pew Research Center study. By then, Muslims are expected to represent 1.7% of the U.S. population, making them as numerous as American Jews or Episcopalians today

That’s a stunning statistic, and one that Christians ought to keep very much in mind.  We’re talking about here an explosive growth of Islam, not in the terms of growing into the tens of millions in the United States, but as this article makes very clear, citing the pew study, if there are indeed 6.2 million Muslims in the United States in 2030, that will be more numerous than American Jews or Episcopalians today.  As a matter fact, given the fact that Episcopalians are in such decline in terms of membership, it’s likely that the Muslims in 2030 will vastly outnumber the Episcopalians.

Recently, the Hartford Institute for Religion Research indicated that there’s been a 74% increase in the number of Muslim congregations established between the years 2000 and 2011.   That’s an increase to 2106 Muslim congregations in the United States, up from 1209 in the year 2000.

In a second article, also found in today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal, the same reporter Tamara Audi reports that as Muslims are building so many of these new mosque they’re facing one problem: they don’t have enough religious leaders, enough trained leaders for their communities.  The leaders are called imams, and as Audi makes very clear, the number of imams has been vastly outstripped by the number of buildings, and the number of Muslim congregations.  One of the problems here is differing expectations, she explains, between imams, in terms of what’s expected of them in the larger Islamic world, and what Americans expect.  As it turns out, American Muslims tend to have expectations of their imams that are at least partly shaped by the expectations of many Christian congregations for their pastors.  They are looking for a youth director, a marriage counselor; they’re looking for someone other than one who merely leads in prayers, as is the central duty of an imam.

There are a couple of interesting and clever notes about this new mosque to be built in Anchorage, Alaska.  For one thing, the floor is going to be heated, something that might come in handy given the fact that Muslim prayers are done on the floor.  The second thing is that the Muslim congregation there in Anchorage had to make a special appeal the Muslim experts and scholars worldwide because during the month of Ramadan, Muslims are supposed to fast from sunrise until sunset, and as you know, at some points during the year, Alaska has very little night at all.  Meaning, there’s almost no time to eat and the only time that would be available is in the dead middle of the night.  Muslim scholars around the world advised the congregation that they could fast from sunrise to sunset according to the time of sunrise and sunset in Mecca rather than in Anchorage.

Christians looking at these reports had to recognize that were looking at here is a vast change in our own mission field.  Furthermore, even as Christians are aware of the great battle for hearts and minds and souls, we’re aware of the great conflict of worldviews.  For most of the last century it appeared that the great worldview collision would be between Christianity and either Marxist communism or modern secularism, but as this report makes very clear, not only in the United States but in many other parts of the world the great competitor worldview is not secularism, nor is it now the passing ghost of communism, it is instead the resurgent form of Islam.  Looking at this challenge, Christians should have two very important observations, indeed convictions.  The first is to remind ourselves that religious liberty is not just a convenience, it is a conviction, and that means that we have to apply religious liberty to our Muslim neighbors as much as we claim it for ourselves.  Some Christians are regrettably turn to trying to prevent, by zoning regulations or other mechanisms, the building of these mosques.  That is a terrible mistake, and not only is it wrong, it also is an act the can turn very quickly on Christian congregations, as well.  The second, and more important observation that Christians should make, the conviction that we should affirm, is that this reminds us of the imperative of the Great Commission and when we look at our own mission field here in the United States of America, and given this little glimpse into our own state of Alaska.  We have an incredible responsibility to our neighbors, to all of our neighbors, and that includes our Muslim neighbors, to be people of the gospel.  That means not only a people who live by the gospel, but who reach out to our neighbors with the gospel.

The great conflict of worldviews is not just a conflict of ideas and ideologies, it is so; not just a conflict of theology and doctrine, it certainly is so.  It is most fundamentally a battle for hearts and souls.  A battle with eternity at stake, and that’s why Christians, looking at stories like this appearing in today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal, should respond not with fear, but with an understanding of the challenge that has been placed before us.  A challenge to reach out to people made in God’s image,  here in the United States who are identified as Muslims, who as we know desperately, desperately need the gospel.

2) Closure of massive Atlantic City casino parable of the empty promises of gambling

Well, in terms of changes on the American landscape, contrast that building boom in mosque and the picture that new mosque being built in Anchorage, with a new story that appeared in The New York Times this week.   The headline is this, “Revel, Atlantic City’s Newest and Largest Casino is Closing.” Charles Bagli reports that Atlantic City’s ailing casino industry is losing, not only a player, but its biggest player.

Revel Casino Hotel, the newest and largest casino in town, will shut down in September, putting more than 3,000 employees out of work, the owner announced on Tuesday after failing to find a buyer for the hulking blue-glass tower on the boardwalk.

And, it is hulking.  It was a $2.4 billion project as a casino and a hotel.  It opened just two and a half years ago.  It is a 57 story building, a massive complex, one the most expensive casinos ever built anywhere in the world, and furthermore, as The New York Times reports it’s not only closing, it’s going to join two other boardwalk casinos that are also scheduled to close in coming weeks.  As the Times summarizes

The loss of three casinos in the next few weeks would leave Atlantic City with eight casinos, and an industry that has been battered by competition from smaller casinos that have opened in Pennsylvania since 2006.

One kitchen steward at the casino said that “it’s a gloomy time for Atlantic City.”  Even gambling industry executives suggest that the casino should never have been built, but of course it was built, and now is going to stand as an empty 57 story, $2.4 billion parable.  A parable to the emptiness of all the promises of gambling, any form of gambling – in this case, casino gambling.

But, just one day before that story appeared in The New York Times, the same paper had a front-page story entitled “Albany Doubling Down as Casino Boom Fades.”  In this case, Charles Bagli is one of the reporters joined by Jessica McKinley, and as they explain New York State is charging headlong into the casino business with for full-service gambling resorts expected be approved this fall and open as early as next year, and talk of a torrent of new revenue, thousands of new jobs, and a powerful economic jumpstart for long depressed upstate communities.   The main supporter of this new effort to expand gambling, to massively expand gambling in the state of New York, is none other than the states Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is largely staked his reputation, and his pledge for economic expansion, on the single issue of expanding casino gambling.

To its credit, The New York Times is very dubious about the proposal, as the reporters write:

analysts, economists and casino operators warn that the industry is already suffering the effects of fierce competition, if not saturation

They go on to say:

The longstanding image of gambling as a no-doubt winner for state governments has quietly gone the way of a bettor’s bankroll after too many hours at the tables.

They look specifically at the actual case the governor made for expanding casino gambling, and they wrote

The Cuomo administration had similarly projected sanguine estimates last year of employment growth from the new casinos: nearly 3,000 permanent jobs, and an additional 6,700 temporary jobs in construction, estimates based on seven casinos in Pennsylvania, including six of the state’s largest, along with the most successful casino in Maryland.

They then write:

Curiously, all seven of the Pennsylvania casinos saw declines in slot machine revenue over the past year.

About the new casinos, Geoff Freeman, identified as chief executive of the American Gaming Association said:

“The shiny new objects attract all of us as customers…  “The question is what happens when the ‘Grand Opening’ sign is taken down.”

Well, keep that in mind when you remember that 57 story shiny object, now to be empty, in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

All of this is explained in a major article in The Atlantic by David Frum, who argues that the best way to wreck a local economy is to build casinos.  Just to take one measure of economic value, what about the value of properties close to the casinos?  As Frum reports:

The impact of casinos on neighboring property values is “unambiguously negative,” according to the economists at the National Association of Realtors.

There is every good reason to understand why that would be the case.  Furthermore, as Frum writes:

People who live close to a casino are twice as likely to become problem gamblers as people who live more than 10 miles away. As casinos have become more prevalent, so has problem gambling: in some states, the evidence suggests a tripling or even quadrupling of the number of problem gamblers.

If you put this all together, then a couple of things to come immediately clear.  In the first place, the Christian worldview has been very clear and consistent about the sinfulness of gambling and about the fact that the entire gambling industry basically turns the Christian economic ethic upside down.  It turns the work ethic upside down, the savings ethic upside down.  It turns the benevolence ethic upside down, and furthermore, it violates one of most basic Christian principles, and that his love of neighbor.  To do one to others as we would do unto ourselves would lead us to understand that we would not inflict, either the danger, the potential or the reality, of gambling upon our neighbors.

3) Secularism clearly linked with normalization of same sex marriage

This week the Morning Mix column of The Washington Post ran a story with the headline “LGBT (that’s lesbian gay bisexual transgender) Americans are Less Likely to be Religious.”  As Weber writes:

Americans who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender are not quite feeling the whole religion thing as much as other Americans.

He cites a new Gallup poll that revealed that almost half of all LGBT adults are not religious, compared to just 30% of non-LGBT adults would report the same. Only 24% of LGBT adults identify as ‘highly religious’ defined in this case as meaning they regularly attend religious services and say religion marks an important part of their day-to-day lives. In terms of the larger population; 41% identify themselves as highly religious. This is also something is understandable from a Christian worldview for any number of reasons, individually and corporately. At the individual level there may be any number of reasons why in LGBT individual would not attend church, or at least regularly, and that might have a great deal to do with what the church or synagogue (because this isn’t just a Christian sample) or a mosque might teach about homosexuality and same-sex relationships. There may be other factors at the individual level as well but when it comes to the corporate level, the worldview level, there’s a lot more to be considered.

For instance almost everyone who looks at the revolution in sexual morality and in particular at the normalization of homosexual behavior has only been made possible by the lessening of religious morality and its binding hold on the culture. Furthermore, sociologists would describe this – as you know – as the process of secularization. It is a more secularized society in almost every single case worldwide that moves towards a greater acceptance of homosexuality. Those societies that are not secular are resolutely opposed to normalizing homosexual behavior

A similar issue was addressed in a recent article at the Public Discourse by Mark Regnerus, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He’s undertaken a major report in which he demonstrates that “churchgoing Christians who support same-sex marriage are also more likely to think pornography, cohabitation, hookups, adultery, polyamory, and abortion are acceptable”. He goes on to say, “it’s reasonable to expect continued change in more permissive directions.”

Regnerus’s research is thorough and it’s very interesting. He makes clear that when those who identify themselves as Christians (and this is dealing with individuals), when individual Christians say that they’ve come to the place of the endorsed same-sex marriage, it’s usually not only same-sex marriage that they endorse. As his research makes very clear, those who make such an affirmation also tend to be much more likely to affirm other things that the Christian moral tradition and Scripture have clearly condemned. Again his list includes “pornography, cohabitation, hookups, adultery, polyamory, and abortion.”

Regnerus is a very capable researcher and a very insightful analyst and he points to some issues of urgent Christian. In the first place he makes very clear that the great moral shift towards the affirmation of homosexuality and same-sex relationships also requires a tremendous amount of readjustment in terms of the total worldview – the total theological worldview, as well. Beyond that he also points to the fact that the chronology is important. As he suggests it is unlikely the individuals first come to affirm same-sex relationships and behaviors, and then go back and adjust the other moral issues.

He affirms (quite rightly I think) that the adjustments on the other issues in all likelihood almost assuredly preceded the shift on homosexuality. As he writes;

More likely the sexual morality of many churchgoing Christians shifted years ago, and the acceptance of same-sex marriage as licit Christian action follow significant change rather than prompts it.

In his article Regnerus writes,

At a glance, there is a pretty obvious fissure between Christians who do and do not oppose same-sex marriage. More than seven times as many of the latter think pornography is OK. Three times as many back cohabiting as a good idea, six times as many are OK with no-strings-attached sex, five times as many think adultery could be permissible, thirteen times as many have no issue with polyamorous relationships, and six times as many support abortion rights.

Here, once again, we face proof positive of the importance of worldview and also of another factor we need to keep in mind. Human beings tend to move towards consistency in worldview. We don’t live very well with an inherent inconsistency, certainly on moral issues. If we have someone who shifts the worldview on an issue of sexual morality on one count there is almost an assurance that over time the other questions a sexual morality will shift as well. This new research makes that point emphatically clear.

Furthermore an even more basic affirmation is this; once one abandons the clear teachings of Scripture on one question, there is almost an assurance that that trajectory be continued on other questions. Certainly on the related questions.

Regerus makes one final fascinating observation and that is this; if you look at the positions on so many these issues amongst those who identify as Christians but affirm the normalization of homosexual relationships and behaviors he says when you actually end up with is a pattern that basically matches the larger secular society. In other words, once you reach this point your worldview basically looks like the secular worldview. And once you abandon the authority of Scripture you lose all defenses against falling into the inevitable secular mind

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 I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) Explosive growth of Islam in US indicator of vast change in Christian mission field

A New Mosque Rises—in Alaska, Wall Street Journal (Tamara Audi)

Imam Shortage Crimps U.S. Mosques, Wall Street Journal (Tamara Audi)

2) Closure of massive Atlantic City casino parable of the empty promises of gambling

Revel, Atlantic City’s Newest and Largest Casino, Is Closing, New York Times (Charles V. Bagli)

Albany Doubling Down as Casino Boom Fades, New York Times (Jessica McKinley and Charles V. Bagli)

A Good Way to Wreck a Local Economy: Build Casinos, The Atlantic (David Frum)

3) Secularism clearly linked with normalization of same sex marriage

LGBT Americans are less likely to be religious, Washington Post (Ryan Weber)

Tracking Christian Sexual Morality in a Same-Sex Marriage Future, The Public Discourse (Mark Regnerus)


R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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