The Briefing 09-05-14

The Briefing 09-05-14

The Briefing


September 5, 2014

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


It’s Friday, September 5, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Displacement of any typical family structure in America reflects decline in marriage

Everyone knows that family structure in the United States is changing and has changed, but now proof positive of that fact has become very clear in report released yesterday by an organization known as the Council on Contemporary Families. The bottom line of that report is this, the 1950s, stable, intact, nuclear family that was the basis of the identification of the American family in that era and throughout most of the rest of the 20th century has been displaced. But the bottom line is also this; it has not been replaced by any other family form, but rather to a rather anarchic distribution of diverse family forms. As you look at the report that came out yesterday, it points back to the fact that in 1950s the average household was made up of a mother and a father married to each other – the father working outside, the home the mother identified as a homemaker inside the home, and they gave primary tension during years children were in the home to raising those children from infancy until launched as successful young adults. And now everything about that picture is fundamentally changed. As Brigid Schulte of the Washington Post reports today,


The iconic 1950s family of the breadwinner father going off to work and caregiving mother taking care of the homefront, has been described by economists as the most efficient family structure. Everyone has a distinct job to do in their “separate spheres” of public and private life. And in the 1950s, the majority of children were being raised in such “typical” families.


Then Brigid Schulte writes,


We all know that’s not true anymore. But perhaps what we haven’t fully understood yet is that today, there is no one “typical” family.


Now one of the most interesting things about this report, and even more interesting about the Washington Post coverage of it, is just how much affirmation there is of the importance of the natural family; described here as the traditional family. Because in a way you don’t often find in the secular press, you have here a very clear affirmation in the Washington Post that the distribution of labor between a father working outside the home and a mother concentrating mostly inside the home, is recognized by economists as being, in the words of this report, the most efficient family structure. There’s also something else here, you have a very clear affirmation that for most of recent human history, and that’s not talking about going back years or decades, but centuries, this has been the family form that has worked best; especially since the Industrial Revolution came at the midpoint and at the end of the 19th century, in which fathers who had largely been working inside the domestic sphere on the farm, or with some kind of workplace almost attached at the home, then began going to work – as in going to a factory.


As Brigid Schulte a reports, the breadwinner, homemaker family, the norm since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, is being replaced by a new norm of diversity. Again the group that put out the support is known as the Council on Contemporary Families, and speaking to that report Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland said,


There hasn’t been the collapse of one dominant family structure and the rise of another. It’s really a fanning out into all kinds of family structures, different [he said] is the new normal.


Cohen pointed out that in the 1950s 65% of all children under age 15 were being raised in traditional breadwinner and homemaker families, today only 22% are. So if you go back to the 1950s, 65 out of 100 kids under age 15 being raised in homes – dad working outside the home mom working primarily inside the home, identified as a homemaker. Now, looking at all American children under age 15, only 22 out of 100 are living in that kind of a home. So does that mean that now most children are being raised in the context in which both father and mother, married to each other, are working outside the home? That’s where you might jump in terms of your imagination, but as this report demonstrates – that’s not the new normal either. As a matter fact, if you look at all the children being raised right now under age 15 in homes where you have the father working outside the home, the mother working primarily inside the home, that’s 22 out of 100, but if you take where both mother and father, married to each other, are now working outside the home, it’s just 34 out of 100 – we’re hardly at that point just over 50% of all children. What about the rest? Here are a couple of very interesting statistics; 23 out of that 100 are now being raised by a single mother – and of those single mothers, only half have been married at any point. 7 out of 100 now live with a parent who cohabits with an unmarried partner, that category, the report indicates, was so rare in the 1960s that our own Census Bureau didn’t even ask the question or track the data. I think it’s important to go back to a comment made by Philip Cohen, the sociologist at the University of Maryland who, speaking about the support, said:


The big story, really, is the decline of marriage.


That is a profoundly important sentence. The big story, undoubtedly, is the decline of marriage. He went on to say,


That’s what’s really changed. From the 1950s to 2010 [as the report states], married couple families dropped from two-thirds of all households to 45 percent […]


In other words, so dominant that it was at least two thirds, now to being less than one half.


Quite frankly looking at this report through the lens of a Christian worldview, this is a very confusing picture that comes in the focus. For one thing, a report like this is almost never done without some kind of ideological preconditions. The people who put the report together have an agenda; the report may be surprising to them in terms of what the data will reveal, but the reality is almost no one looks at something like this out of a totally dispassionate interest. The interest of the Council on Contemporary Families is, at least in part, to demonstrate the diversity of contemporary families. And in this research project they have thoroughly documented that claim, but there’s more to it– there’s more behind this. Philip Cohen again, remember he’s a sociologist at University of Maryland speaking to the report, he said speaking of marriage and divorce, acknowledging that the problem of the decline of marriage is the big picture here and revealing the fact, which just about every report will indicate, that single mother headed households are the most vulnerable in every way – especially economically. He then says,


Truthfully, we don’t know what the ‘right’ level of marriage is for people to be happy. Likewise with divorce [he says]. Everyone acts like divorce is bad news. But if there were no divorces, it would mean that no one took a risk. Or changed. What’s the ‘right’ level of divorce? We don’t know.


Well, yes we do Professor Cohen – we do know what the right level divorce is. As the author Pat Conroy said in one of his novels, every single divorce is the death of a small civilization – indeed the smallest of all civilizations; and the death of that small civilization weakens the entire civilization. Even if you are not looking at this though the lens of the Christian worldview, any objective pragmatic understanding of the decline of marriage would lead to disaster in terms of human happiness and human flourishing. But when you look at this, you recognize that even many, who are now looking at the situation of family structure, are doing so having jumped in their own worldview so far past the stable intact natural family of the past, that they now can’t even imagine that there could be a new normal. And as it turns out, the data revealed there probably isn’t a new normal.


But this is where Christians have to speak to the issue out of genuinely Christian conviction. Even if our society does not recognize a new normal or any normal at all, we have to recognize that there is a norm revealed in Scripture. And without regard to whose working where, or what responsibility’s undertaken by whom, the responsibility of parents together to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, the responsibility of a man and a woman before they have children to enter into marriage together in the monogamous, covenantal, fidelity that is marriage, and the responsibility they assure to the larger society as they take those public vows together and then keep them, we understand that that is the Bible’s very clear norm – that that is what points to the only way that human beings will actually flourish. And as many people will look at this report and find new evidence, or new arguments, about how America should simply give up on any norm of family life, well this demonstrates is that when you abandon the norm, what you get is not human flourishing but as even the data in this report will make clear, you get disaster.

2) Decline of family radically affects education system in New York

Now keep that in mind when we look back just a couple of days to Wednesday’s edition of the New York Times in an op-ed piece written by Clare Huntington, a law professor at Fordham University, she’s the author of new book entitled Failure to Flourish: How Law Undermines Family Relationships. She writes an article entitled, “Help Families from Day 1.” The background to her argument is the fact that Mayor Bill de Blasio, there in New York City, is pushing for universal pre-K preschool for all children in New York, arguing that that’s the way that will lead to the flourishing of those children. But even as the Mayor has been pretty successful just in the last several weeks in opening admission and access to pre-K preschool for a good number of children in New York City, this particular writer Clare Hungtington says it’s not going to be enough. To quote from her article she says,



I don’t want to rain on the pre-K parade, but we can’t pretend that school preparation begins at age 4. Four is better than 5, but zero is far better than 4.


What is arguing for? She’s arguing for governmental intervention in the raising of children and getting them ready for school from, in her words, year zero – in other words, from the moment they are born. Her articles really interesting because she affirms this pre-K expansion undertaken there in New York City, but she points out that by the time a child reaches the age of three or four, much ground has already been lost. And so what she’s calling for here is government intervention, changes in reforms in the law, and many other kinds of innovations that go all the way to neighborhood development, and the way that parks are designed, in order, somehow, to make certain that these children have greater opportunity in years ahead to be ready for school.


But the fundamental issue in her article was this, it goes back to the very thing we talked about repeatedly on The Briefing – when the family is strong, the government can be small, but when the family is weak the government has to be huge. And the report that came out just yesterday by this Council on Contemporary Families, showing that there is now a de-normalization of family life in the United States, it explains why just one day earlier in the New York Times an article came out saying that changes in family life have left so many children vulnerable, that government intervention to get them ready for school can’t now be limited even to pushing back the age of beginning formal school programs to age 3 or four, it has to begin at age 0. The fundamental thing to recognize here immediately is, when you have had families in tact raising children effectively and, use the language of the Washington Post, efficiently, you didn’t need for this kind of program. As a matter fact, you can simply look at two parallel lines you may never had conceived as being parallel before; line one, the decline of the family, line two, the absolute restructuring of American school education for children beginning at younger and younger ages. Those two parallel developments are parallel for a reason – the one has brought about the other. And it wasn’t the fact that changes in the educational system impacted marriage and family, it’s that the de-normalization of the natural family has led to the fact that the schools now take on, not only the responsibility of education – that was their original purpose – but the responsibility of parenting children, and taking care of children, and protecting children; feeding children, nurturing children. And we just have to point out that schools at their very best, government at its very best, is just not up to that task. We certainly must want every good thing to happen to every vulnerable child, but we can’t solve the problem if we can think that it any point government can step in and fill the gap left by the displaced family.

3) Decline of English Methodists reminder secular world has no place for secular denominations

Developments in the world point us back, time and time again, to the fundamental process of secularization that is reshaping Western societies. As these societies move further and further into the modern age, they appear to becoming less and less religious – in particular, less and less theistic; that is actual belief in a personal God is declining and secular worldviews are increasing. And that explains also why more liberal denominations are crumbling, because in a secularizing world, when denominations begin to secularize themselves, they really lose any purpose whatsoever. It turns out that secular people don’t need denominations or churches at all – even secular denominations and churches. Headline that appeared this week in Religion News Service says this, “Methodists in England ‘like an iceberg … crumbling into the sea’.” Trevor Grundry reporting for Religion News Service in Canterbury, England says,


The Methodist Church in Britain is hemorrhaging members and has been described by a leading religious affairs commentator as “a bit like an iceberg that’s just crumbling into the sea.”



The researcher who made those comments is Linda Woodhead, a sociologist at Lancaster University. She’s responding to the publication of a report entitled Statistics for Mission, it shows the Methodist Church is dramatically collapsing in its membership to about 200,000 in the United Kingdom in this time, and that’s just over the last decade – a fall of about one third of the church’s total membership. And it’s not just church membership that’s collapsing; it’s also attendance in the churches. Where there has also been about a 30% drop in attendance just over the course of the last decade. Professor Woodhead said,


It’s totally dying out. On current trends, they (the Methodists) will disappear, very soon.


Trevor Grundry reporting again for Religion News Service writes,


The brothers Charles and John Wesley were ordained Anglicans who defied the Church of England’s stuffy establishment by holding open-air meetings and writing more than 6,000 hymns urging industrial and agricultural laborers to turn their backs on alcohol and gambling. In America, Methodists were popular because they helped fill a spiritual vacuum created by Anglicans who deserted their flocks at the time of the American Revolution.



He says Methodim “around the world number between 70 million and 80 million people.”


Well looking at his report, I simply have to say, he misses the point about the theological origins of Methodism. I think both John and Charles Wesley, who would be offended by the way he describes the origins of their movement, but as you look at it, you do recognize this – Methodism was once one of the most vital Christian movements in the English-speaking world. And as you look across, for instance, the Bible Belt, even as Baptist churches may have been more numerous, Methodist churches were right behind them. And for the longest time, the denomination that became the United Methodist Church was the largest non-Catholic denomination in the United States of America. In the US, Methodism, like other mainline Protestant denominations, has been in decline for about four decades now. But what’s taking place in the United Kingdom in Britain is huge, their actually talking about Methodism disappearing within the lifetimes of those reading this report.


There is a lot to be observed here – the failure of a church to respond missiological to the challenge of the culture around it, the secularization of a denomination, theological liberalism, and the loss of evangelistic fervor, those are all things that certainly play a part. But the reason I draw attention to this article is because of a comment made in response to this report by the former vice president of the Methodist Church in Great Britain, Richard Vautrey, who said, “Let’s not dwell on our pain, but instead celebrate each God-given day we have left.”


And all I have to say to that is this, if your response to a report about the demise of your church is that you shouldn’t dwell on the pain, but instead “celebrate each God-given day we have left,” you don’t deserve any days left.


Jesus Christ commanded his church to be people on mission, and that means reaching people with the gospel that saves. And any church that says we’re simply going to celebrate each God-given day we have left, rather than looking at a secularize culture and seeing it is a great evangelistic opportunity, that’s a church, that for any number of reasons, doesn’t have many days left.

4) Berkeley requirement of free pot for low-income residents the extremity of moral insanity

Finally, an article that quite frankly defies the imagination. But it’s not satire, it’s real and it’s published – not in a satirical newspaper but in the New York Times. The headline is this, “Berkeley Pushes a Boundary on Medical Marijuana.” The Berkeley, you now already know, is Berkeley, California. As Ian Lovett reports for the Times,


Since the birth of the Free Speech Movement half a century ago, this city has prided itself on its liberal values and policies, be they generous benefits for the needy or a look-the-other-way attitude toward marijuana use. Now, the city is bringing those policies together with a new amenity for the poor here: The marijuana will be free. Beginning next August, medical marijuana dispensaries in this city will be required to donate at least 2 percent of their cannabis to low-income residents. The City Council approved the requirement this summer — unanimously no less — with the hope of making the drug, which can sell for up to $400 an ounce at dispensaries, affordable for all residents.


The Mayor of Berkeley, Tom Bates says,


The city was simply trying to ensure equal access to a drug he emphasized was medicine


It may well be that there is some justification for medical marijuana, but that justification would have to be proved by medical authorities and not by politicians – especially politicians that have already acknowledge of the reasons whereby they want to legalize marijuana. But this article in the New York Times on Berkeley California’s mandate for free marijuana for low income residents cites as one great moral authority none other than an undergraduate, a young man at the University of California Berkeley who told the interviewer for the New York Times


I believe in living a certain kind of lifestyle that’s very stress free. I’ve noticed that just from smoking, everyone calms down.


Ian Lovett for the New York Times says that as this young man was interviewed he was,


Smoking marijuana that he said had been prescribed to him for insomnia.


Well in this case, here you have a young man who describes his medical problem as the fact that he needs marijuana to,


Live a certain kind of like that’s very stress-free.


And speaking of the indigent men who were gathered around him there in Berkeley, California he said,


These people deserve it. A lot of these guys have the same problems I have.


I bring your attention to this article just to point to the extremity of moral insanity in this generation. What is really, truly, striking about this article is that it clearly makes moral sense to somebody. This mandate in Berkeley was passed by the city government unanimously, and presented to the country as a model that other community should follow. And just imagine the complications that will come out of this, obviously the biggest complication in California is that medical marijuana doesn’t stay medical. Furthermore, medical marijuana limited to adults doesn’t end up being restricted to adults. In the state of California for a 15-year-old teenager the first cigarette that teenager smokes is far more likely to be marijuana than tobacco –  because after all, people in California will tell you,  tobacco is bad – marijuana, it’s medicine.


One of the complications is security. You’re going to love this statement in terms of complexities from the New York Times,


Dispensaries, which are prohibited by California law from turning a profit, will also have to hire security guards to patrol nearby, in order to deter crime (though, true to Berkeley’s character, the guards will not be allowed to carry firearms).


In other words, they’re going to have to persuade people not to do bad things.


Once again, the mayor of Berkeley, California is rather honest about where he thinks this is headed. He says the city’s mandates is just another step toward legalization for recreational use, and the mayor said so much the better; “I think what we’re seeing now is an evolution towards full legalization. It’s coming. It may not be in the next few years, but it’s coming.”


So what we have here is moral insanity, at least what I think most Americans will still recognize as moral insanity. But the question is for how long. Mayor Bates of Berkeley, California says that it’s in evitable that legalized marijuana is going to be coming, and he says the sooner, the better. And he just might be right – because this is the kind of moral insanity that spreads like a contagion. Given the pace of moral change all around us, a new story that appears to look ludicrous coming from Berkeley, California can soon be headline news in your town as well.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information to my website 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


If you’re struggling with whether or not God has called you into the Christian ministry, we would look forward to an opportunity to discuss that with you at an upcoming  Seminary Preview Day at Southern Seminary. The next is coming up on the 17 of October, for just $25 we’ll cover your two nights of lodging as well as your meals on preview day. For more information, go to Remember this – a call to preach is a call to prepare.


I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) Displacement of any typical family structure in America reflects decline in marriage

Unlike in the 1950s, there is no ‘typical’ U.S. family today, Washington Post (Brigid Schulte)

The ‘Leave It to Beaver’ Family Has Been Left Behind, U.S. News & World Report (Tierney Sneed)

Family Diversity Is the New Normal for America’s Children, Council on Contemporary Families (Philip Cohen)

2) Decline of family radically affects education system in New York

Help Families From Day 1, New York Times (Clare Huntington)

3) Decline of English Methodists reminder secular world has no place for secular denominations

Methodists in England ‘like an iceberg … crumbling into the sea’, Religion News Service (Trevor Grundy)

4) Berkeley requirement of free pot for low-income residents the extremity of moral insanity

Berkeley Pushes a Boundary on Medical Marijuana, New York Times (Ian Lovett)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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