The Briefing 08-20-14

The Briefing 08-20-14

The Briefing


August 20, 2014

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

It’s Wednesday, August 20, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Response to ‘Purge’ hoax reveals fear of humans that law might be removed

“In five seconds you will experience anarchy” – those are the opening words to the theatrical trailer for this summer’s movie known as The Purge: Anarchy. Last summer the movie was known as The Purge, and taken together these two movies have now entered American popular culture, even if they were not blockbusters at the box office. And recently, both of these movies had gained attention – especially in cities such as Louisville, Kentucky – because the cultural phenomena that appears to have erupted in social media. Last Friday night many people in Louisville were quite concerned because a teenager sparked a crisis in the city by announcing that there would be a purge in Louisville on Friday night. What is it you ask? Well as USA Today explains,


The horror movie, released [this summer, that is The Purge: Anarchy], creates a world in which the government lifts every law for a 12-hour period, making all crimes — including murder — legal… [as well as]…suspending all emergency services.


What we’re looking at here is a movie that depicts a dystopian – that is the opposite of a utopia. If a utopia is a perfect world, a dystopia is a perfectly awful, evil, deadly, world.  And you can’t really conceive, in terms of the moral imagination, anything that would be more dark and deadly than the world that is described in either the movie The Purge or The Purge: Anarchy.  Anarchy is actually the right word for this, because that is the moral state of the absence of law or legal authority. What’s really interesting from all this is what the movie and the response to the movie and the cultural phenomena now in social media, what it tells us about the utility of the gift of law, what it tells us about the goodness of the fact that God created us in His image as moral beings and the goodness of the fact that God has given us the gift of the moral law. Without the moral law, we simply don’t have any measure of what is right and wrong – there is no structure of conscience in the universe, there is no moral sense of gravity, there is no restraint upon human evil.


The threat in the larger culture that USA Today is writing about, the threat in Metropolitan areas from Texas to Colorado to beyond is that there would be something that would mimic The Purge, in terms of their own community. Frankly, the actual fear is that some kind of false information sparked on social media will lead some people into the very set of conditions that these movies demonstrate – a murderous and deadly set of conditions which people operate without any law and society itself breaks down. Where law enforcement is suspended and even crimes, up to murder, are simply not matters of legal or moral consequence. But of course the very fact that these movies are gaining popular attention, even some conversation in the larger culture, tells us that these are issues that immediately spark human fears and no little amount of human imagination. It is a part of the human imagination to just wonder what it would be like if we were in a world without legal authority and without the restraint of law. In fact, most people, most human beings, at some point in their development have thought that they might even have wished for an escape from the moral law and from the reality of moral responsibility. But the more you think about it, the more dystopian this actually appears to be. The more deadly and dangerous we understand a world would be if laws removed.


Of course, Christians, armed with knowledge that is given to us by God’s revelation in Scripture, are already warned of the effects; as the Old Testament tell us, when every man does what is right in his own sight. We remember, for instance, the bedlam estate of moral anarchy that God judged in terms of bringing the flood, giving the entire Noah narrative its moral sense of meaning. We need to understand that from the biblical perspective, the great fear is not that the law would be given but that the law might be forgotten, or even that it might be removed. Many Christians, evangelical Christians in particular, are fully aware of the fact that the law is a positive reality – even as we often speak of it in the negative, reminding ourselves, as the Scripture makes abundantly clear, that we are saved by grace and not by the law. As a matter fact, wherever you find a clear understanding of Reformation doctrine – making the gospel crystal-clear – what you find is a clear distinction between grace and law. But we also need to understand that grace can’t possibly appear to be grace unless to get to the laws is understood within its context. This is the point that the apostle Paul makes emphatically in Romans 7, where he himself asked the question: if the law kills me and slays me by his negative judgment is it then evil? And the apostle Paul says, by no means, it certainly is not evil. It is God’s gift to tell me the accurate diagnosis of my problem – which is that I am a lawbreaker, I am a sinner, and to point me towards the only salvation from that peril and that is: the redemption that is accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ.


In evangelical theology, the laws have been spoken of as having at least three uses. One of the uses is to show us our need for the Gospel, the other use is to restrain human evil, and the third use is for instruction to godliness and faithfulness in the Christian life. Now, when we look at the Gospel, we come to understand what it means to be saved by grace and not of works – not to be saved by the law and not to confuse the Gospel with moralism. Far too many evangelical Christians end up speaking disparagingly of the law, in such a way that the movie The Purge actually brings to our attention. The dystopia of The Purge and its successor movie The Purge: Anarchy, the fact that you have law enforcement officials and the writers of USA Today concerned that there may be actual attempts to mimic The Purge, all these things are very clear indicators of the goodness of the law and how thankful we should be for the gift of the law. How concerned we should be, as Americans now seem to be intuitively concerned, about what happened if the law were to be suspended and legal authority were to disappear. And these two movies appear to be dystopian and scary precisely because they are at least indicators of what would happen if the law were removed and if legal authority were to disappear.


It’s hard to believe that there’s much of a serious threat of Americans actually trying to mimic this movie in any wide scale approach, but one thing is clear: this conversation helps us to understand why the law is such a gift, and why the restraining power of the law in human society is so absolutely necessary. If the movies, known as The Purge and The Purge: Anarchy are in any sense entertaining, it is because it is not only fascinating but horrifying to imagine a world in which the law has simply been suspended; in which there is no moral accountability. And even worse it’s possible to conceive a world in which there is no moral conscience, there is no binding sense of moral knowledge that is a source of the restraint against evil that is so necessary in human society.


Christians looking at the controversy over these movies need to recognize that a basic theological point is being made, a point that is central to the Christian worldview. The understanding that the world we live in is dangerous enough because of sin and its consequences in God’s judgment upon human iniquity. But it will be far worse if God did not love us so much that he gave us, as one of his gift to humanity, the moral knowledge that is part of being made in His image and the restraint of the law that is given to us in order that we might not kill each other, and rob from each other, and do everything that will be imaginable, even without the knowledge of the evil that is thereby done.

2) Confusion from legal marijuana indicate importance of law as moral teacher

But oddly enough, even as there’s a lot of cultural conversation about those two movies, there’s even more conversation about a more lasting and troubling issue – and that is what is known as legal marijuana. In this case as well, what we see is a testimony to the necessity of law, not only to the existence of law, but to the law rightly reflecting what leads to human happiness, to human order, and to human flourishing. For instance, looking again to USA Today a major article appeared on the front page entitled, “Colorado Aims to Produce More Legal Pot.” This is one of those headlines that even just a couple of years ago would’ve made no sense whatsoever, but it makes a rather awkward since now. And as USA Today reports, here’s the problem for the state of Colorado: Colorado legalized recreational marijuana and intends not only to make it available, but to make money off of it – in terms of revenue to the state. So in order to regulate this newly legalized marijuana trade, it has come up with ways whereby there are authorized growers and authorized distributors, in order to sell marijuana to people who would otherwise legally be able to buy it, in order that the state may gain some tax revenue.


But here’s the reality, there aren’t enough people growing marijuana through these legal channels for Colorado to get the income that it thinks it needs. Colorado’s actually battling now a black market in marijuana, which is the very thing they promise to be eradicated, if only legal marijuana were to be made available. But it turns out that is not enough marijuana being sold through these legal channels for Colorado to get the tax income that it promised itself and its citizens. As Katie Kuntz of USA Today reports,


As a result, Colorado state regulators are trying to increase the amount of marijuana produced and sold by legal retailers.


Ron Kammerzell, identified as Colorado’s deputy senior director for enforcement for the state Department of Revenue said,


Right now, we are pretty significantly under what should be produced


Now remember, this is the Department of Revenue, this is about tax income. Here you have an official, the Colorado government, saying ‘we’re selling marijuana but we’re not selling enough of it, we need to sell more, and in order to sell more, we need to grow.’ So what we see here is a parable of what happens when you tamper with the law without understanding the consequences.


Some of those consequences are made quite clear in an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on August 14, the writers were William J. Bennett and Robert A. White. Bill Bennett is well-known as the first drug czar, he was the first director of the National Drug Control Policy and was so under President George H.W. Bush; Mr. White’s an attorney at Princeton, New Jersey. As they write, “Legal Pot Is a Public Health Menace.” A couple of paragraphs in their article make the issue very, very clear. As they write,


In the journal Current Addiction Reports found that regular pot use (defined as once a week) among teenagers and young adults led to cognitive decline, poor attention and memory, and actually decreased IQ. On Aug. 9 [that’s just a matter of less than two weeks ago], the American Psychological Association reported that at its annual convention the ramifications of marijuana legalization [and as this article in the Wall Street Journal indicated] Krista Lisdahl, director of the imaging and neuropsychology lab at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, saying: “It needs to be emphasized that regular cannabis use, which we consider once a week, is not safe and may result in addiction and neurocognitive damage, especially in youth.


Bennett and White then say,


Here’s the truth. The marijuana of today is simply not the same drug it was in the 1960s, ’70s, or ’80s, much less the 1930s. It is often at least five times stronger, with the levels of the psychoactive ingredient averaging about 15% in the marijuana at dispensaries found in the states that have legalized pot for “medicinal” or, in the case of Colorado, recreational use. Oftentimes the level of that chemical, known as THC, is 20% or higher.


That is a radical multiple of the marijuana that was available in the 1960s and 70s. Bennett and White conclude,


There are two conversations about marijuana taking place in this country: One, we fear, is based on an obsolete perception of marijuana as a relatively harmless, low-THC product. The other takes seriously the science of the new marijuana and its effect on teens, whose adulthood will be marred by the irreversible damage of their brains when young.


They say,


Supporters of marijuana legalization insist that times are changing and policy should too. But they are the ones stuck in the past—and charting a dangerous future for too many Americans.


But add to those two articles, yet another that testifies to the importance of the law and to getting the law right, and making sure that the law teaches the right things.


Writing on August 18, in the New York Times, Tara Parker-Pope reports that one of the big problems that parents and educators, especially in states where marijuana has been legalized, are now facing is the fact that what they’re saying to their kids doesn’t match what their actually saying to themselves – and the kids know it. Tara Parker-Pope reports,


These are confusing times for middle and high school students, who for most of their young lives have been lectured about the perils of substance abuse, particularly marijuana. Now it seems that the adults in their lives have done an about-face.



And that’s exactly what has taken place. In state after state, you might say around dinner table after dinner table, parents are now acknowledging that they’re using what had previously been illegal, and which they are now saying is prohibited for their own children. Tim Ryan, an anti-drug educator who works with middle school and high school students said about these kids,


They are growing up in a generation where marijuana used to be bad, and maybe now it’s not bad


Meanwhile, the New York Times itself has been arguing over the last several weeks for the legalization of marijuana. And in its own reporting, in this story, it indicates the acknowledgment of just how dangerous marijuana use can be for teenagers and adolescence. It turns out the many of today’s adults, even parents, are confusing their own children and teenagers about what’s right and wrong because, here’s the point, they’re confusing their own kids of a right and wrong because of their contortions with the law.


The fact fundamental to both of these stories is very important. Having to do with the movies known as The Purge and having to do with the confusion faced by so many people, especially young, people over the issue of marijuana. The Purge movies remind us of how important the law is and what a gift the law is to restrain evil. The law makes civilization possible, and makes moral meaning possible – you take away the law and you take away the lawgiver and you have nothing left but moral anarchy. And the story about the legalization of marijuana and these new complications in states like Colorado, well they point to the fact that it is not only important to have the law but to get the law right – because the law is a teacher, it is a profoundly important moral teacher, and when you mess with the law, you mess with the morality. And there are a lot of confused teenagers in Colorado who are trying to figure out the confusion that they have just received from their own parents.

3) Sexual identity revolution recipe for moral anarchy

Finally, another testimony to moral confusion – this one of an even darker variety – Allen Metcalf for writing in the Lingua Franca column of the Chronicle of Higher Education tells us what we supposedly have learned in the last several years and what remains to be learned over issues of gender and sexual orientation and all the rest. He writes in the column,


It continues to be an education. Back in the late 20th century, we learned (as we had kind of known all along) that people were not simply male or female, but heterosexual or homosexual. The latter we learned to designate as gay, as opposed to straight. And then we learned to separate homosexuals by gender as gay or lesbian. So far, so good.



That’s a rather powerful paragraph when you consider the fact that what he’s stating there as what we learned is exactly what many people in the society around us think we did learn. But he is actually just getting ready to make his big argument. As he continues,

But then, as we investigated sexuality and gender identity more thoroughly, other types made themselves known. [And he says we learned] There were bisexuals, [he goes on to define that] …[then we learn that there were] transsexuals.


He says,


This gave us four types of exceptions from the older categories of heterosexual male and heterosexual female


By the time he says we reached the early point in 21st century we had not only heterosexual males and heterosexual females, but lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals… so in other words as that point the initials LGBT began to make sense.


A convenient abbreviation [he says] a convenient abbreviation to help us remember them all. (And [he says] we learned that transgender might be a better term than transsexual



So, these are things he says, we’ve been learning. But Metcalf’s recounting isn’t incomplete – not by a long – because as he suggests, we’re now learning more and more. What are we learning? Well he says for instance, we are learning there are intersex people who are neither male or female he defines that as a separate category of conversation, by the way, and then he says we add to those the asexual’s because even though they are just 1% of the population, and even though they say they don’t care about sex, they have to be counted as a new sexual minority – as well to be added to the alphabet soup. He then goes on and says,


And so, putting it all together, we get the abbreviation LGBTQQ2IA. Not so easy to remember. So someone came up with an alternative, the anagram Quiltbag.


The definition found in one gay dictionary he cites is this,


It stands for Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer. It is meant [says this definition] to be a more inclusive term than GLBT/LGBT and to be more pronounceable (and memorable) than some of the other variations or extensions on the LGBT abbreviation.


And folks, I’m not making this up.


Metcalfe, who writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, is speaking to the academic community, goes on to explain the Urbandictionary has a slightly different interpretation of this. Identifying the options as,


Q – Queer and Questioning

U – Unidentified

I – Intersex

L – Lesbian

T – Transgender, Transexual

B – Bisexual

A – Asexual

G – Gay, Genderqueer


Now keep in mind that here you have an educator, writing to the other educators of America, about how to remember these things. As you think about the expanding alphabet soup, and even as he traces the development, principally heterosexual male and heterosexual female to LGBT, and then on to – well, I won’t even repeat all the rest – he makes very clear that these options are hardly the last word. He says,


As gender-studies research continues, and discussion proliferates, other variations are likely to emerge.


Write that down as an almost certain understatement. He concludes, and this is really important to hear:


So young people nowadays have choices to make that they didn’t face before. And it’s not a once-for-all choice; they can question and redefine themselves at any time. They even need to let others know the pronouns by which they should be addressed. I’ll discuss these next week.


So let’s stay tuned for that article, adding to the confusion of that incredible alphabet soup he recited and yet with a straight face here you have an educator saying this makes moral sense. And furthermore, you have someone straightforwardly arguing that these are things we have learned, as if this is some kind of set of objective truth that have been placed before us. But he actually pull the rug out of his own argument by making very clear, this isn’t an objective reality at all – this is simply a socially constructed reality in which sex and gender are considered to be endlessly plastic.  In which, as he says,


Young people nowadays have to face choices they didn’t face before.


Well those choices are actually forced upon them by these sexual revolutionaries. And then he points to the truly revolutionary character of their assessment when he says,


And it’s not a once-for-all choice; they can question and redefine themselves at any time.


That’s a recipe for exactly the kind of moral anarchy we began talking about on the program today. And you’ll notice, that is not just something depicted in movies, it’s not just something discussed by legislators, it’s not something driven by intellectuals with an ideological agenda, and they make that agenda clear in articles such as this, published in this week’s edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Keep in mind all this is not just about an intellectual debate, it’s about a battle for hearts and minds


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) Response to ‘Purge’ hoax reveals fear of humans that law might be removed

Social media ‘Purge’ campaigns spark fear of bloody copycats, USA Today (Lindsay Deutch, Kelsey Pape and Ryan Haarer)

‘Louisville Purge’ takes toll, Louisville Courier-Journal (James Bruggers)

2) Confusion from legal marijuana indicate importance of law as moral teacher

Colorado aims to produce more legal pot, USA Today (Katie Kuntz)

Legal Pot Is a Public Health Menace, Wall Street Journal (William Bennett and Robert A White)

Legal Marijuana for Parents, but Not Their Kids, New York Times (Tara Parker-Pope)

3) Sexual identity revolution recipe for moral anarchy

LGBTQQ2IA, Chronicle of Higher Education (Allen Metcalf)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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