The Briefing 10-01-14

The Briefing 10-01-14

The Briefing

October 1, 2014

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


It’s Wednesday, October 1, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Medical response to Ebola case in Texas example of value of worldview undergirding society

Ebola has come to the United States – in this case not someone who had Ebola and was airlifted here, but someone whose first diagnosis was right here in the United States, in the city of Dallas, Texas. As Reuters reports,

“U.S. health officials said [yesterday] the first patient infected with the deadly Ebola virus had been diagnosed in the country after flying to Texas from Liberia, [it’s] a new sign [said Reuters] of how the outbreak ravaging West Africa can spread globally.”

It turns out that this individual came to the United States by air from Liberia on the 19th of September, just a matter of days later – well at least by yesterday – he was diagnosed as having the Ebola virus. So just in recent weeks we’ve had warnings coming from many in the international community and from those especially who are health authorities, that what we’re looking at in Ebola is not something that has thus far been managed – not even close; it threatens now to break out of West Africa. And yet we were told over and over again that it was unlikely that a case would ever appear here in the United States. Well as unlikely as it might have been, it’s now in actuality. And even though the same news report indicates that American health officials are quite certain they have the ability to isolate this case and to handle the challenge of this infectious virus, the fact is that Americans now have to know that the virus is here and that it has emerged here in a fresh case; and even though there is a direct tie to Liberia, the reality is that there can be a direct tie to any number of other cases that could emerge as well. We’re talking about a disease, that thus far has resisted every effort to contain it, and a disease that has a mortality rate of at least 50 to 90%. Those are daunting numbers. But even as this news comes with a fresh shock to Americans, there are some reassurances that are in order.

In the first place, much of the problem in West Africa is the lack of a public health infrastructure, and even entire social infrastructure, to handle this kind of a public health challenge. And furthermore, this case didn’t come out of a vacuum – it did emerge from a contagion that happened in West Africa. It was not a contagious situation that happened here. But of course so long as this individual has this disease, he is deeply infectious. And for that reason, public health authorities in the United States now have to be on a whole new scale of alert. But this should lead Americans, even as we are forewarned, about the fact that an Ebola cases has happened here, this should also lead Americans to be very thankful for a public health apparatus, an entire public health system that is attribute to the achievement of human civilization. And as Christians, we are mindful of the fact that that kind of social system requires a certain worldview to undergird the entire culture. You take away the worldview, you take away the social cohesion, you take away the culture, and that means you also take away the public health system. I for one look at the news coming out of Texas and I am fairly reassured that American health authorities can indeed handle this challenge. If I were elsewhere in the world, I wouldn’t have that kind of confidence. And for that reason, we need to recognize that confidence is hard-won; and we also need to remember that it can be quickly lost.

2) New California active consent law reveals a sexual morality built only on consent

Shifting to the state of California, we know that every single society includes a morality; a moral system that holds the society together and gives it common meaning. And at the center of every moral system is a way of regulating the most intimate matters in human life; that is to say every moral system includes a sexual morality – however minimal. And as for Western civilizations, we have had what can only be described as a thick sexual morality, that is – a very comprehensive and complex sexual morality. It was simple in the sense that it centered in on marriage, but it had many boundaries and many rules by which marriage was protected and the sanctity of the intimate relationships between a man and a woman were honored. But now we’re looking at a far more complicated morality, we’re looking at a far more minimal moral system. And the evidence of that comes in California, where Governor Jerry Brown on Monday signed into law, as the very first state to do so, that all the universities in that state receiving any funding from the state must agree to adopt a policy on sex among students that amounts to ‘yes means yes’ rather than merely ‘no means no’.

As Richard Pérez-Peña and Ian Lovett report for the New York Times,

“Facing what many regard as an epidemic of campus sexual assault, some colleges have cracked down on binge drinking, others have reined in fraternities, while still others are training incoming students not to be passive bystanders when they see signs of trouble. But [they say] the most talked-about new approach, adopted by many schools in the past year, is to require mutual ‘affirmative consent,’ [affirmative consent, usually put in quotation marks to indicate it as a new term] and not just passive acquiescence, before any sexual contact. California has raised the stakes becoming the first state in the country to pass a law obliging every college to have a consent policy or lose state financial aid.”

A couple of paragraphs in this article are absolutely crucial. Jane Stapleton is a researcher who advises colleges on sexual abuse policies, she’s co-director of the prevention innovations program in the University New Hampshire. She said,

“In a lot of places, there is little to no evidence behind the measures being taken, that doesn’t mean they won’t work. It means we don’t know.”

So what we’re looking at here is a rather desperate response to an epidemic of campus rapes. And we need to stay to this point, that if there is campus rape at any level, it is a horrible sin. And we need to understand that a sane society does everything it can to prevent this kind of sin – indeed this kind of crime – from happening. An epidemic of this kind of crime points to a basic social problem, a basic failure on the part of the society. And California Governor Jerry Brown, following the lead of many modern sex educators and those establishing the kinds of policies that we just read about, they’re saying the way to establish safety on college campuses is to try to regulate the kind of sexual lifestyle that is now encouraged their by requiring this affirmative consent, rather than just passive acquiescence.

Under California law, says the New York Times, signed by Governor Brown on Sunday night,

“Colleges must require ‘affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity,’”

Now that’s not language from the newspaper, that’s language from the governor. The law he signed says that every single college must require, and listen to these words again, “affirmative conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity” – which can be according to the policy and the newspaper, either verbal or communicated through actions.

“Consent [says the New York Times] to one kind of contact cannot be taken to mean consent to another. So an encounter that progresses from kissing to intercourse would require not one go-ahead but several.”

Now when we’re looking at the intersection of the Christian worldview and the headlines of the day, this one demands our attention. It’s awkward to discuss and it’s rather horrifying to conceive, but what we’re looking at here is the sexual insanity – now signed into law by the state of California, indeed signed by its governor – that establishes that sanity somehow allows for a policy of affirmative consent that is defined in just the way the California legislation defines it; as requiring positive, ongoing – well, to use their words here – to require ‘affirmative conscious voluntary agreement’ to engage in any kind of sexual activity, and that is the only morality. It has to be, look at those three words, ‘affirmative, conscious, and voluntary” – that’s all that is required. The only issue here is consent; all those other words are simply to define what it means for an individual to consent to a sexual activity. But then you’ll notice this consent, this ‘affirmative conscious voluntary’ agreement has to be acknowledged, or at least expressed, over and over again as the kind of acts may escalate in terms of a sexual encounter. Furthermore, they can be verbal or communicated through actions. If you’re confused about this, is not because you don’t understand the policy, it’s because you do. And because any sane individual looking at this policy understands this can’t possibly deliver on what the governor promises. This can’t possibly deliver sexual sanity out of insanity, because this just institutionalizes the insanity.

Just a few years ago, college campuses were considered to be ruled by what were called parietal rules. And the principle of in loco parentis, whereby college administrators and faculty were understood to stand in the place of parents; assumed to have the same kind of concern for students that parents would have if these students were actually still living in the parents homes. These parietal rules, these rules about in loco parentis, were in place in such a way that they also were to keep sexual activity not orderly and consensual but not happening. And that’s what has changed utterly since the 1960s. The sexual revolution has now swept aside all sanity on these issues, and not only that but all sanity in terms of the policies. Because a policy that once said that a young man and a young woman should not engage in sexual activity unless they are married, has now given way, after various fits and starts in all kinds of steps in between, to the governor of California on Sunday night signing into law that was announced on Monday morning – a law that says that for sex to be moral, for it to be legal, it merely needs to be consensual. But in order to be consensual, it has to be, well, consented to by a positive statement that has to be verbal or through actions – whatever in the world that might mean – that would indicate that it is indeed affirmative, conscious, and voluntary.

The editorial board of the New York Times has already said they think this kind of policy makes sense, but even in their news story, well, there are embedded clues that this isn’t going to work. For instance, Pam Thomason, the U.C.L.A. official who oversees compliance with Title IX, that’s the federal anti-discrimination law, she says,

“I think the disciplinary panels find it easier to find a student responsible for sexual assault. They can ask, ‘What happened that made you think consent was affirmative, unambiguous and conscious?’”

So in other words, if you’re going to try to bring charges against, presumably, a young man for a sexual assault, now you have an administrator saying this law will make it’s easier because it’s easier to ask him “What made you think that there was an affirmative, unambiguous, and conscious consent?” On the other hand, Emma Goldberg, also cited in this news article – she’s a junior active in a group known as Students Against Sexual Violence at Yale – said,

“Affirmative consent is an absolutely necessary standard and Yale University [she says] does a fantastic job of conveying that to students,”

Those are her very words. But these are the next words in the article,

“But it’s obviously quite difficult for administrators to adjudicate affirmative consent, and there is always room for improvement in enforcement of these policies.”

Those are her words. Just consider the first of her words in that sentence, “it’s obviously quite difficult for administrators to adjudicate affirmative consent,” so now you’re putting college and university administrators in the position of judging students by means of these disciplinary panels as to whether or not they actually received the kind of affirmative consent by words or by actions that are required by these kinds of policies. And if you think that’s going to work, just imagine how difficult it is to talk to a teenager about what just happened in a conversation moments ago. How in the world are you going to talk to college students in a reasonable way when these kinds of charges are made and there is no absolute definition of about what kind of action or words would be necessary for this kind of affirmative, unambiguous, consent? The problem with this is that consent is just too thin a moral principle; it just isn’t an adequate sexual morality. This is the insanity of a society that says we’re going to turn young people lose and we’re going to tell them that they can have all the sex they want so long as it is consensual. We will decouple sex from marriage, we will decouple sex from any morality except the morality of consent, and then we’ll try to define that consent. And of course this isn’t the first effort; this is just the most recent effort because all the previous efforts at consent have failed.

The previous policy was basically no means no, if a young woman says no, that no is binding. But that isn’t good enough, so now it’s yes means yes. But the yes isn’t going to be any more clear than the no -not in moral terms. If you’re wondering, as most must be wondering, what this means about American colleges and universities, the entire culture American higher education, what it means is that the average college University campus right now is a carnival of rampant sexual immorality. But it isn’t called sexual immorality and it isn’t even considered sexual immorality, not only by the students but also by the faculty and administrators.

Erica E. Phillips writing for the Wall Street Journal yesterday writes,

“During her freshman year at the University of California, Berkeley, Meghan Warner was raped by a fellow student and sexually assaulted by a second student. She didn’t report it at the time, she said, because she didn’t realize [it was rape.]”

So now you even have a problem in terms of defining rape to where it’s not understood that it was rape when it happened but only later. Many people are now saying that the real problem here is education and there’s no doubt that education is needed. But the education that’s being offered here will offer morality that simply can’t sustain any kind of responsible moral judgment. Now just listen to where this goes on,

“Now a junior, Ms. Warner has since led peer workshops on sexual assault and consent—and has encountered many students as uninformed on the topic as she was. [It gets worse, hold on.] At a recent session with some fraternity members, Ms. Warner said, ‘jaws dropped’ when she explained that sex with someone who has blacked out from drinking amounts to rape. They didn’t even know that was illegal or wrong,”

Well at this point we need to break the glass and declare an emergency. If these fraternity members didn’t know that having sex with someone who had blacked out from drunkenness was wrong or illegal, then something is wrong in terms of the total context here. Now, you have to doubt whether this is actually plausible, that anyone with the slightest amount of moral knowledge would be unaware of the fact that sex under this circumstances would be immoral – but of course what’s being denied here is that marriage has anything to do with this, or that there should be any expectation of students not having sex until they are married, or of any expectation that the university or the college should have an interest in that. And instead the only interest is in trying to negotiate students into safe patterns of sexual immorality. And that’s the problem; there aren’t any safe patterns of sexual immorality. When you have the President of the United States, the Governor of California and so many others who are claiming that we have an unsafe situation on American college and university campuses because of an epidemic of rape, we don’t disagree with them. Christians with any sense about them will say, ‘no that’s absolutely so, this is a profoundly unhealthy and immoral situation.’ The problem is where these secular leaders want to move the situation isn’t actually to a higher morality, it isn’t actually certain that anything is going to be safer. But the proposals made by these secular leaders simply will not get the college campus to a safer place. In this case, consent doesn’t equal safety and it certainly doesn’t equal morality; and that’s the whole problem.

When it comes in the legislation signed into law by Governor Brown on Sunday night, Christians responding to this need certainly to say that what is needed is not less, but more – much more, much more morality than is offered here, much more moral clarity that is found within this legislation, much more in terms of rules and boundaries than just consent – however consent may be defined. When you reduce sexual morality to nothing more than consent, then you’ll spend the rest your time in endless debate about what constitutes adequate consent. If all you have is consent, the question is when do you have enough?

3) Hong Kong protests over loss of democracy exposes autocracy of one-party government

Shifting our focus to Hong Kong, on Monday night demonstrators filled the streets of Hong Kong and the Chinese government is expected to crack down. As the Wall Street Journal said very ominously, if those protesters are waiting to see what the Chinese government is going to do, just consider what happened in Tiananmen Square just a matter of a generation ago. I mention this because we need regularly to be mindful of the fact that there are autocracies on this planet, there are dictatorships that continue, and there is a continuing sad tragic and deadly experiment in Communism that is now represented most centrally by the communist party and its government there in China. That one party system of rule is now extended to Hong Kong since a matter of just about a generation ago; it was transferred from the British Empire to the Chinese government and it was transferred with assurances made by the Chinese of protecting democracy. But now when it comes to elections in Hong Kong, the Chinese government claims the right to pre-approve candidates, which makes democracy of course a sham. And what’s really a tragedy here is the thought that anyone actually trusted China in the first place. The one thing you can trust, a one party system of government to do is to do whatever is necessary to serve the ends of that party. That was true whether it was the Communist Party that was ruling of the Soviet Union and it’s true of the Communist parties to others Eastern Bloc countries and it’s true of the Communist party right now in China. If you have one-party, you have one-party rule, and if you have one-party rule, you have a dictatorship no matter what it might be called. And right now there lots of people in Hong Kong who appear to be waiting to see if China is going to crackdown. At this point Western observers who know China best say, it’s not a question of if, it’s only a question of when.

4) Tennessee abortion vote crucial moment for protection of unborn infants

Meanwhile on November 4, when the election comes up all eyes are going to be on Tennessee, where the voters of the state, for the very first time, get to vote on the issue of abortion. The legislation is known as Amendment 1, as is explained by Anita Wadwhani of The Tennessean there in Nashville,

“A ‘yes’ vote would amend the state constitution to give lawmakers more authority to enact abortion restrictions. A ‘no’ vote would preserve the state’s unusually strong protections. Whatever the outcome, it could have an impact well beyond Tennessee’s borders.”

Here are a couple of facts about Tennessee: Tennessee is in danger of becoming the Mecca for abortion in the deep South, or even in the Mid-South. As a matter fact Russell Moore, head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention said,

“Tennessee is sort of becoming the abortion capital of the Bible Belt,”

Why? Well it’s because the Tennessee Constitution, as it currently stands, offers what are interpreted to be expansive protections for abortion rights, which has made it difficult for pro-life forces – including the legislators there in Tennessee – to come up with common sense responses to abortion and limitations upon the practice. As Wadwhani writes,

“Abortion opponents have fought for 13 years to get Amendment 1 on the ballot. They say that Tennesseans don’t want to live in a state known as an abortion destination and that lawmakers should not have their hands tied in making ‘common-sense’ abortion policy decisions.”

One of the things to note by the way is that some of the abortion clinics in Tennessee are glad to be destinations for those coming for abortions from other states. One abortion clinic in Nashville even offer discount coupons for those coming from out of state, a rather perverse demonstration of the business behind abortion. At present, the state of Tennessee has seven abortion clinics – that’s down from 16 in 2000, but still more than any of its neighboring states with the singular exception of North Carolina. We’re looking here at the fact that once again geography matters, and when it comes to abortion geography can matter profoundly. But the citizens of Tennessee have an opportunity to make their geography matter differently than it does now – ending, or at least reducing, the fact that their state is an abortion Mecca. That is a moral tragedy for any state and especially a state where the voters get to have their say; as the voters of Tennessee certainly do on November 4. We can only hope and pray that the voters of Tennessee will take a stand for the sanctity of human life and for the sanity of constitutional government.

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) Medical response to Ebola case in Texas example of value of worldview undergirding society

First Ebola case diagnosed in the United States: CDC, Reuters (Julie Steenhuysen and Sharon Begley)

2) New California active consent law reveals a sexual morality built only on consent

California Law on Sexual Consent Pleases Many but Leaves Some Doubters, New York Times (Richard Pérez-Peña and Ian Lovett)

When Yes Means Yes, New York Times (Editorial Board)

Campus Sexual Assaults Draw Greater Scrutiny, Wall Street Journal (Erica E. Phillips)

3) Hong Kong protests over loss of democracy exposes autocracy of one-party government

Pro-Democracy Protests Shake Hong Kong, Wall Street Journal (Isabella Steger, Fiona Law, and Prudence Ho)

4) Tennessee abortion vote crucial moment for protection of unborn infants

TN abortion rights at crossroads, The Tennessean (Anita Wadwhani)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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