The Briefing 09-24-14

The Briefing 09-24-14

The Briefing


September 24, 2014

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


It’s Wednesday, September 24, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Pew reveals moral revolution accompanied by some second-guessing

Just about anyone with the slightest sense of perception understands that America is now undergoing a vast cultural and social change. We’re actually seeing something that can only be called a moral revolution before our eyes. But many people assume, including many proponents of this moral revolution, that what has to take place is a forward arc of progress, an unbending arc in one direction. But a recent study released by the Pew Research Center on Monday indicates that, at least in the short term, it’s not quite so even as many had expected. There are many interesting aspects to this study, but one of the most interesting of the perspective is how the national media responded to it. For one thing, the headlines, if you read them separately, would lead you to understand that the news stories weren’t even dealing with the same report.

Yesterday the New York Times reported on the study. The headline of the article, “Growing Majority in US See Religion Losing Sway;” on the other hand the Associated Press also ran a major story on the same report, but the headline in most newspapers of the AP story with something like this, “Support Drops for Same-Sex Marriage.” When you look at those two headlines, the casual reader would assume those reports have nothing to do with one another – but they do. We’re talking about the same research project and we’re talking about the same major release of information from Pew on Monday. And both of these headlines are verified by the report itself. The interesting thing is that there were several reporters or editors that looked at the same report and came up with very different understandings of what the main point was. Or, you might say, what they wanted the main point to be.

I’m not suggesting actually anything nefarious or evil in this; nothing diabolical or sinister. Simply the fact that reporters and editors, journalists, all, are human beings too – who also have an agenda. The idea that anyone can be totally objective and unbiased is simply not fitting in terms of the Christian worldview. We understand that we all operate out of a worldview and that worldview means that we are not, indeed we are never, so objective as we might like to think ourselves to be. But when we’re looking at this report the came out from Pew, both of these headlines become very important. In Michael Paulson’s report in the New York Times he begins by writing,

“The secularization of the United States appears to be affecting the world of politics. A growing majority of Americans see religion as losing influence in the public square and many regret that trend.”

Paulson does a pretty good job summarizing the report. He points out that the Pew Research Center reported that 72% of Americans believe religion is losing its influence on American life. That’s up considerably from the year 2012. He also notes that is a striking development in a nation where religious arguments, leaders, and voting blocks, had been playing an important role – and had done so for a long time. He writes on, any declining influence of religion is perhaps a natural side effect of the declining religiosity of Americans. That’s also profoundly true. And later in the article he also writes the poll also found the support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry, which had been rising in recent years, has dropped to 49% from 54% in February and 50% say it is a sin to engage in sexual behavior up from 45% last year. Well, Christians need to take a pause whenever we see this kind of research and remember that while we find these kinds of surveys interesting and revealing, what the surveys do not reveal is what anyone should hold in terms of a moral conviction. You can’t get morality from a poll, but you do understand the moral values of Americans as reflected in this kind of research. Christians looking at this should recognize that one of the things that comes immediately to mind is that you can put support for same-sex marriage and secularization side-by-side. They are definitely correlated, as virtually everyone on both sides of this argument understands. If you simply look at a map of the United States, you can see that the density of Christian population and support for same-sex marriage are inversely correlated. That’s easy to understand. Where you find the greatest percentage of Christians, you find the lowest support for same-sex marriage. Flip the coin and an increasingly secularized society is increasingly open to the normalization of homosexuality and the legalization of same-sex marriage.

The coverage of the survey that was found in the Wall Street Journal in an article by Tamara Audi pointed out, from the survey, that an increased number of Americans indicated that there concerned that there isn’t enough religion in American politics – in other words, that American politics is becoming too secular. She also writes,

“According to Pew, six in 10 Americans still want members of Congress who have strong religious beliefs—a number that hasn’t changed since 2010. Fewer Americans—30%—believe the Obama administration is friendly toward religion, down from 37% in 2010. Far more Republicans—59%—support church involvement in politics than Democrats, at only 42%, according to the study.”

There’s very little here that is really groundbreaking, but the totality of the survey and the importance of it in terms of this cultural moment, means that it is worthy of our consideration. Let’s ask the question, why, when there had been a recent pattern of increased support for the legalization of same-sex marriage and the normalization of homosexuality, why would there be at least a short-term turn in the other direction? Well, perhaps you’re familiar with the real estate term ‘buyer’s remorse,’ that’s well-known in the real estate market; sometimes by car salesman as well. It turns out that when Americans – or any people that matter – make a major purchase, they often find themselves, almost immediately after making the purchase, remorseful about having made it. There is a pattern about this that follows with the excitement of making the purchase, the excitement of receiving the item or moving into the house, gives way to a sense of remorse or at least questioning as to whether was such a good deal after all. Eventually most people settle into their house or continue driving the car. But when it comes to this kind of moral change, it appears that at least some Americans are beginning to have second thoughts about the trend that they had reported themselves to support as a matter of just a few weeks ago. If nothing else, it appears that a significant percentage of Americans are having second thoughts about the normalization of homosexuality. There is a greater percentage of Americans, according to the study, indicating right now that they consider homosexual acts to be sinful than the same study found in the same kind of questioning just a matter of months ago. Is that a major cultural shift, a major moral shift in direction? Probably not. But it does indicate that moral change doesn’t take place without some fits and starts, and without, some of a least what might be called, buyer’s remorse.

The coverage in the Wall Street Journal also points to the second major issue at stake here: that is the encounter between America and its increasing secularization – including the secularization of politics. Americans appear to be having a bit of buyer’s remorse on that issue too. Just a matter of months ago, a larger percentage of Americans said they wanted religion and politics to be completely separate – as if that were possible by the way – but at least they stated that they believed it ought to be so. Now, an increased number of Americans are saying they’re afraid that it might be so. Are Americans schizophrenic and divided in mind about this? In some sense – yes. A significant percentage of Americans often say they want religion and politics to be completely separate, but once you begin to see that separation become operational, an increased number of Americans say this isn’t such a good idea after all. If nothing else, a vast majority of Americans want to make certain that those they elect to office do believe in God. Indeed “have strong religious beliefs.” That’s 6 out of 10, and that doesn’t mean that the other 4 out of the 10 wanted secular politicians; it just means that they wanted more mildly religious politicians. There are very few Americans who will tell a pollster that they want to elect an openly identified atheist to public office. This is something about which the atheists have been complaining. But this study points out that as much as Americans at least sometimes want to say, perhaps because they think it’s what ought to be said, that religion and politics out to be completely separate, when they actually see what happens when a secularizing politics begins to predominate; they get quite concerned about what the actually see. The data in the Pew report gives is no indication that there’s a likelihood these long-term trends are going to be reversed, but it is revealing that there is a good deal of second-guessing going on. From a Christian worldview perspective, that second-guessing tells us something.

2) White House intruder reminder how those who trust in chariots and horses will be disappointed

Shifting the topic to the intruder that climbed over the White House fence and actually gained entry to the White House before being apprehended by the Secret Service – the follow-up news accounts concerning this rather surprising incident are also very revealing. You have an article that appeared in yesterday’s edition of the New York Times. Michael Shear and Michael Schmidt report,

“Secret Service officers stopped Omar Jose Gonzalez last month as he carried a hatchet in front of the White House, but let him go even though [the Iraq war veteran] had been arrested this summer in Virginia with a mini-arsenal of semiautomatic weapons, a sniper rifle and a map clearly marking the White House’s location.”

Yesterday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal includes this paragraph in an article by Michael Phillips and Jeffrey Sparshott,

“In July, Mr. Gonzalez was arrested in Virginia on felony charges of evading arrest and possession of a sawed-off shotgun, police and the prosecutor said. Police also found sniper rifles, handguns and a cache of other weapons in his vehicle, as well as a map of Washington with a line drawn to the White House, Virginia State Police said. He was released on bond.”

Now keep in mind that the White House is supposedly the most closely guarded, most secure facility, on planet earth – and here you have a man who was arrested and was charged with felony counts, who was known to have an arsenal of weapons and rounds by the hundreds, in terms of ammunition, who was arrested carrying a hatchet in front of the White House and then was released. What in the world is going on here? How in the world could this have happened? How can the world’s most sophisticated security operation let someone gain entry actually into the White House, supposedly the world’s most secure location? How in the world was the front door apparently unlocked to the White House of all things? In the aftermath of Friday’s intrusion, congressional leaders said there would were be a flurry of investigations into this latest development – yet another embarrassment to the Secret Service. But you know, I thought of something else. I thought of that verse in Scripture that reminds us that those who trust for security in horses and chariots will be put to shame. President Obama said what a president would have to say in the aftermath of this particular embarrassment to the Secret Service. He said he thanks all the brave men and women of the Secret Service who protect him and protect his family. But if you’re President Obama in this situation, you have to wonder just how proficient the Secret Service is. After all, the President, the first lady, and their daughters, had just left for Camp David before a man, armed with a folding knife, entered through the front door of the official presidential residence.

We stand in long security lines in airports, we go through security checks for all kinds of events, we have security cameras documenting moves made in a city like London, and there are supposedly very few places where – at least in terms of public – you’re not on camera somewhere. That same trend seems to be expanding now to cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City – a not to mention Washington, especially since the terrorist attacks of September 11 with the rise of the kinds of threats coming from Al Qaeda and Islamic State. We supposedly have a vast security apparatus and we should be very thankful at times it clearly works. The Secret Service has foiled attempt to harm presidents. The national security apparatus has foiled terrorist attacks. But just like those of old who put their trust in horses and chariots, only to be put to shame; those who trust in modern security systems will likely face the very same shame. Just think of the red-faced Secret Service, embarrassed now after the revelation that an intruder crossed the lawn and entered the front door the White House. The front door the White House evidently wasn’t even locked.

3) Extreme secularism of the New York Times evident in sheer ignorance of Christianity

In terms of secularization, one of the most secularized components of American society is made up of elite media. And sometimes they profoundly miss the obvious; especially when it turns out the obvious has to do with Christianity. Mollie Hemingway writing at the Federalist points out that the New York Times has done it again – the most respected, well-funded, well-resourced newspaper in the United States of America gets Christianity wrong, not just slightly wrong but profoundly wrong again and again. She reminds us back in April 2013 the New York Times had to run a correction that ran like this,

“An earlier version of this article mischaracterized the Christian holiday of Easter. It is the celebration of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead, not his resurrection into heaven.”

Of course the phrase ‘resurrection in heaven’ doesn’t even make theological sense, but how can anyone, even in the most secularized stratum of American society, not know what Easter is about in terms of historic Christianity? How can someone who is a part of the intellectual elite, hired in the reportorial core of the New York Times, not know enough about Christianity – even just in terms of a cultural knowledge – to know what Easter is all about or what Christians believe about Christ. But they’ve done it again, writing about the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. The reporter for the New York Times indicated that this church is where many Christians believe Jesus is buried.

Jesus is buried?

The verb tense betrays the enormous ignorance, even the unrecognized ignorance, of the New York Times who had a reporter who evidently believes that Christians believe that Jesus is buried anywhere, and you had a copy editor, perhaps even a series of copy editors, who didn’t even recognize the problem. The verb tense is the issue; Christians do understand that Jesus was buried in Jerusalem, but Christianity is predicated upon the absolute truth that Jesus is not buried there now, but instead has risen from the dead. The New York Times, that often publishes corrections such as the one about the Easter story last April, corrected the story but didn’t run a correction. They didn’t want to draw attention to the problem with their own news article. At the end of her essay on this controversy, Mollie Hemingway writes,

“In any case, maybe the New York Times can get an in-house Christianity consultant to help them navigate the topics not covered in journalists’ education any more.”

What she doesn’t say needs to be said. If the only way that reporters and editors in a newspaper like the New York Times are going to learn what Christianity teaches is by having to have some kind of course or seminar in the subject, that just points out how totally secular the worldview of that newspaper really is. This is perhaps the world’s most respected newspaper, and it messed up the resurrection of Jesus Christ – two years in a row.

4) Lawyers jockey for chance to represent same-sex marriage case before Supreme Court

Well, the writers of the New York Times might not know much about Christianity, but they do know a great deal about the nation’s court system. Adam Liptak, finally, writing in yesterday’s edition of the New York Times tells us that lawyers working for the legalization of same-sex marriage coast-to-coast are now jockeying with each other, and amongst one another, trying to be the legal team with the plaintiff who will eventually have the name on the case that these lawyers believe will mean the legalization of same-sex marriage coast-to-coast. Their jockeying, trying to be the legal team with the plaintiff to get the case before the Supreme Court on appeal from the US circuits, that is the appellate courts. And what we’re looking at now is a very clear indication that the Supreme Court is going to take one of these cases, and it’s very important to say one of these cases, and it’s likely to be hearing oral arguments as early as January or early February of 2015 with an eventual decision to be handed down by the last day of June of next year.

Just about everyone on both sides of this issue understands that the Supreme Court is poised to act. And it’s very revealing isn’t it, that the legal team is now pushing for the legalization of same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court want to be the one who will take this to the final decision. They want their name written into American legal constitutional and political history. They’re looking for the plaintiff to have just the right story, just the right claim, just the right case, and they want to have their name right there in terms of the winning side of what they see to be an inevitable court victory. Evan Wolfson, longtime advocate for same-sex marriage and one of the pioneers in the effort said,

“Every attorney in the world, it seems, is now eager to be the one that stands before the court in the freedom to marry case,”

Well, not every attorney in the world, Mr. Wolfson, but no doubt plenty of them.

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’m speaking to you from Jacksonville, FL and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) Pew reveals moral revolution accompanied by some second-guessing

Public Sees Religion’s Influence Waning, Pew Research

Many Americans Want More Religion in Their Politics, New York Times (Michael Paulson)

Poll: Support for Gay Marriage May Be Leveling Off, ABC News (Rachel Zoll)

More Americans Support Mixing Religion and Politics, Wall Street Journal (Tamara Audi)

2) White House intruder reminder how those who trust in chariots and horses will be disappointed

White House Intruder’s Past Raises Concern, New York Times (Michael D. Shear and Michael S. Schmidt)

Accused White House Fence Jumper Had Earlier Arrest Record, Wall Street Journal (Michael M. Phillips and Jeffrey Sparshott)

3) Extreme secularism of the New York Times evident in sheer ignorance of Christianity

Will Someone Explain Christianity To The New York Times?, The Federalist (Mollie Hemingway)

Hoping War-Weary Tourists Will Return to Israel, New York Times (Matthew Kalman)

4) Lawyers jockey for chance to represent same-sex marriage case before Supreme Court

Seeking a Same-Sex Marriage Case Fit for History, New York Times (Adam Liptak)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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