The Briefing 10-02-14

The Briefing 10-02-14

The Briefing


October 2, 2014

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


It’s Thursday, October 2, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Data shows marginalization of marriage to matter of status, not expectation

New data is coming out from the U.S. Census Bureau, analyzed by many research organizations; indicating that marriage is right now, in the year 2014, in even bigger trouble than perhaps we had thought. Look back to the year 2012, and one in five adults age 25 and older had never been married – that’s one in five, about 20%. Go back to 1960, only 10% of Americans, indeed only 9% of American adults age 25 and older, had never been married. This is demonstrating an underlining once again, a trend that many of us have seen and feared – and that is the marginalization of marriage in American life. First to the point, that is no longer seen as necessary; and secondly to the point, that it amounts to, in many circles, little more than a status achievement. It is no longer the moral expectation. We’re involved in a massive social experiment in the present to see if you can have a society that does not respect marriage – that does not have marriage as the central relational expectation. No previous society known to human experience has been so organized, but in our post-Christian, postmodern, post-whatever age, a considerable number of Americans have decided that marriage is now one of those things we can well do without.

Wendy Wang and Kim Parker, looking at this data from the Pew Research Center, indicated that not only do we have the statistical information that there has been now a vast increase in the number of American adults who have never been married, but furthermore the research also indicates that only 46% of Americans believe that all persons are better off if marriage and children are priority. Now you’ll notice the number, 46% – that’s less than 50% – which means a majority believes that, to use the language of this research, just as well off – that is people are just as well off if people have other priorities. That’s a frightening bit of data. What we’re looking at there is an explicit statement that a majority of Americans now think that marriage is no longer necessary, either as a moral template or as an avenue to human happiness. When only 46% of Americans say that society and individuals, parents and children, would be better off if children and marriage are priority together, we’re looking at a social disaster and we’re looking at it straight in the face.

There are those who look at the same data and say we should simply embrace it, we should celebrate it.  Brittney Cooper writing at, she is, according to the column, a professor of women’s and gender studies in Africana studies at Rutgers University. She says that much of this conversation amounts to a national moral panic that she says must stop. She points back to the 1950s and says that’s where many Americans with a marriage concern are trying to take us. In other words, back to the future – trying to go back to some golden marriage age in the past. And certainly there’s some that will be quite satisfied to do that. But what you have in the worldview behind Brittney Cooper and so many others who write at is the suggestion that society and its individuals can do quite well – thank you very much – without marriage. And in her case she says that this periodic moral panic, and she accuses not only the right but the cultural left in America, of coming to the same periodic panics – she says that simply has to stop. For instance, Cooper writes about the writer Isabel Sawhill, who has recently signaled an alarm about the fact that marriage is been marginalized in America and she’s writing not from the right but she’s writing from the left. Cooper responds that she finds this kind of thing still very irksome. She says,

“Frankly, I find these episodic moral panics, even the ones that appear in Sawhill’s subdued and pragmatic tones, to be tiresome, repetitive and lacking in creativity.”

Her final sentence,

“We don’t need more rules to police parents of unconventional families. We need better options for what families can look like in the first place”

But if you’re looking for a collision of worldviews, you don’t have to look to just the collision between the right and the left, you can look in this case at the collision between the left and the further left; in this case between Isabel Sawhill, a person of the left, and Brittney Cooper of the further left. And here you have even someone who is suggesting that when you have liberal scholars who go so far as to say, maybe marriage is a big issue, maybe the marginalization and subversion of marriage isn’t such a good idea. Even when you have that coming from the left, there are people on the further left who are suggesting that it’s simply time we acknowledge that there is no such thing as a normative family, we should simply embrace the modern anarchy we have over couplings and relationships and even the things we call marriage, and leave that old ideal behind – as a relic of patriarchy and an oppressive former morality. But what we’re looking at here is also an acknowledgment; when you even consider the statement that what we need is more creativity when it comes to family forms, you can only wonder where that more creativity could possibly take us. Because when you look at where the family is today, when you look at the data coming from the Census Bureau even in its most recent reports, it’s hard to imagine the you can come up with many different permutations of how human beings can be related to one another – much less how they can conceive and have children and then raise them. When major research like this is released, sometimes what is even more interesting are the responses to the research – more interesting and more revealing in the end than the research itself.

For instance when you look at American liberals looking at these reports about the family, you see the left and the far left, you see not only Brittney Cooper writing but also, as we’ve seen, Isabel Sawhill, and now writing in the Atlantic, Michael Wear. He writes about the American family making a comeback, and he points to President Obama and he points to President Obama in two ways. In the first sense, he points to the president and the fact that the President has recently, in speaking about economic inequality, spoken of the importance of the family. A couple of very interesting observations here, in the first place, Michael Wear is exactly right. He’s pointing to the fact that when you look at President Obama’s more recent statements, he is returning again and again to the family as essential to the building of society; and of course to a thriving economy, and to the removal of all kinds of social pathologies – or if not the removal of them, at least the lessening of them. It’s important that the President sees this, it’s important that he injects it into the national conversation. But the president’s argument has a severe limitation – he will not define what the family is. You’ll recall that in his evolution from 2008 to 2012, he evolved from an opponent of same-sex marriage to a supporter of same-sex marriage. Back in 2008 he said that marriage must be respected as the central institution of human society and as a traditional institution that was embedded with moral wisdom. When it came to the year 2012 in his reelection campaign, he said all that had to be put aside in light of the demand that all persons have access to marriage – including same-sex couples. But what was lost in all that, what gets confused in the President’s message is how you define the family if you’re going to help it. Because in terms of policy, or for that matter – simple logic, you can’t help what you cannot define. And that’s why the left finds itself particularly tied in knots over these questions. It wants to talk about the family – at least many people on the left wants to talk about the family – the eclipse of marriage, even many people on the left recognize, was not only a bad idea, it has led to a very disastrous effects. But there’s no recovery if you won’t talk about what the family is and what the family must look like and how the family must be defined – getting right to the central definition of the family which starts with marriage.

Furthermore, if, as Michael Wear, you’re talking about President Obama, there’s a second aspect – and this is one that conservative Christians need to take to heart and need to think about. When you look at President Obama and you think not so much about what he says but what he does, you have an example in President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, of two people who represent what marriage was intended to be; in terms of the fact that a man and a woman are united in a lasting commitment. Indeed we know that marriage is to be a lifelong commitment, but at this point – they ought to be commended as President and First Lady for demonstrating the stability of marriage. Furthermore, the President and the First Lady had been diligent in pointing out that their children benefit by being raised within the context of having a mother and a father, and the President and the First Lady have demonstrated real parental devotion to those children – making those children and their welfare, those two girls, a priority. Not only in terms of their private lives, but also in terms of their public statements. In this case what we need is what we said before; we need the President not so much to practice what he preaches, but to preach what he practices.

A recent report came out indicating that when it came to one White House staffer, it was the President who intervened in his life to point out the importance of marriage and its durability, the point of marriage as a mark of adulthood. In this case speaking to a young man, he said one of the markers of manhood is to get married. And yet that’s not something the President says in terms of his advice given to the nation. That advice, though sound in every respect, is not found in how the President often addresses legislation. And so as we look to the left and we have to concede also often to the right, we find that we often do not fail to live up to what we preach. But the opposite problem is also urgent. Christians have to recognize it’s not enough to practice what you preach – that’s essential but it’s not enough. We also have to preach what we practice.

2) Millennial women more conservative in own marital decisions than in politics

Finally, as we’re thinking about all this new research about the family, Catherine Rampell writing at the Washington Post points out that the research is also indicating why many women among the millennial generation aren’t married. And the answer overwhelmingly is they’re not willing to marry a man who does have a steady job. Here we’re looking at the radical inequality among the genders when it comes to the employment situation, especially among the millennial generation. And the point in the Washington Post article by Catherine Rampell is the fact that what we need is intervention in the lives of many young men if they’re going to have the kinds of jobs that would make them good marriage prospects when it comes to many of the women in their own generation. But there’s another point that’s made here, and it is made profoundly. It turns out the many of these millennial young women, who declare themselves to be revolutionaries in so many issues of sexuality, gender, and marriage, and all the rest, it turns out there rather conventional when it comes looking for a husband. And that gets back to the point I was making about the Obamas, even though they are the central symbols of a party that has joined the moral revolution, they in terms of their own domestic life have done nothing of the kind. And also when you look at this report coming out about millennial women, these are women who say, overwhelmingly in terms of social science data, that we should join the moral revolution. But when it comes to looking for a husband, they’re not looking for a revolutionary, their looking for man with a job. That tells us a great deal, it tells us that the desires that young women have perhaps don’t change all that much, regardless of what they think they’re supposed to say. The data coming up in these reports on marriage, or the lack of marriage, the data coming out from these Census Bureau reports is analyzed by so many research organizations the very research that is now analyzed by the Washington Post in this column points out to the fact that most of these young women – just looking at their own words – say that what they’re looking for is a trustworthy man of integrity with a job. And they do understand something that is of vital importance and is affirmed in the biblical worldview. Where you find a man, you should find a job; and where you find a man at work, you find a man who is far more likely to be seen as a prospect for marriage than a man without a job. And we understand that would be for good reason.

Next, shifting from these reports on marriage to a recent report on same-sex marriage – Time Magazine reminds us that on October 1 of 1989, Denmark became the first country on the planet to grant legal status to same-sex couples. They were defined there as domestic partnerships; that’s 25 years ago on October 1. Then you look at the fact that it was in 2001 that the first nation on the planet legalized same-sex marriage; that nation was the Netherlands. But looking back to the anniversary of October 1, 1989, you’re talking about 25 years, and when you thinking about the scale and the velocity of this moral revolution, perhaps that 25 year hallmark is really important for us to consider. Because as Time Magazine’s Sam Frizell points out, if you look back 25 years, virtually the vast majority of Americans 25 years ago said that domestic partnership would be morally wrong. They said that same-sex marriage would be unthinkable. It was such an overwhelming majority that most of the pollsters and survey takers in America suggested that it would be decades –  multiple decades – before Americans would have any change of heart on the issue of same-sex relationships; especially when it came to something as radical as same-sex marriage. But a quarter of century later, it appears that everything has changed. As Sam Frizell writes,

“It’s easy to forget how much societal mores have changed. In the intervening years, views on same-sex marriage have flipped, with 59% of Americans supporting it and just 34% opposed, according to a March 2014 poll by the Washington Post-ABC News.”

3) In 25 years since first legalization of same-sex unions social perception changed radically

Now back 25 years ago, Walter Isaacson wrote an article for Time magazine about the decision in Denmark and Isaacson made an argument for same-sex marriage. But as Frizell says, it must’ve sounded eccentric in 1989. It has become, in his words, mainstream in 2014. That tells us a great deal. What was eccentric, so far outside the bounds that no one even took it seriously 25 years ago, is now mainstream.

Finally on this topic, how mainstream is it? The Pew Research Center indicates that when the Census Bureau released the data last week on marriage for the first time ever included among married couples were same-sex couples. Now the interesting thing about this is that even as the Census Bureau included them, it isn’t sure exactly how to include them and it isn’t even sure how many of there are. It is sure that they are so few they don’t change any of the major statistics on marriage, but this just points out the fact that even as we’re looking at trying to talk about marriage we’re losing the ability to define it – not only in terms of academic theory and public policy, but even in terms of math – even the Census Bureau isn’t sure how to count people who are now married.

4) Rise of jihad brides reveals need of family for stable society

Next, we’ve all been concerned by reports coming out of Europe and now Canada and the United States about young Muslims being mobilized for jihad; joining groups such as the Islamic State, traveling to countries outside the United States as a way of eventually getting to nations like Syria and Iraq in order to join ISIS, or the Islamic State. And we’ve been primarily talking about young men who have become jihadi, stories about young men from cities such as Minneapolis and London and Brussels. But now also not just about young men, but also about young women – even teenage girls. A report comes from Great Britain’s newspaper The Telegraph that at least one young girl, a 15-year-old named Yusra Hussein, she’s believed now to be heading to Syria to join the Islamic State terrorists. And her parents say that their heart is torn by their daughter’s disappearance and they have pleaded with her to come home. They said,

“Please dear Yusra, I love and I miss you [this said by her mother], my heart is torn, and I want you home as soon as possible.”

Now both her mother and her father have spoken of their increasing concern for their daughter, but the likelihood is that she is already with the Islamic State and has already become a part of jihad. She and several other teenage girls now missing from Great Britain are expected to have become jihad wives to young jihadis in the Islamic State. And this brings up a very interesting article that appeared last week in the international media, especially in article by Raja Abdulrahim in the Los Angeles Times. As Raja Abdulrahim reports,

“Months after declaring an Islamic caliphate, Islamic State, which has seized large [areas] of Syria and Iraq, is seeking to address a need of any viable nation: women.”

This is at present, as the Islamic State, primarily an army. And as an army of course is made up overwhelmingly of men, indeed in terms of the active soldiers within Islamic State, they are all men. Many of them are very young men, including not only young men in their 20s but also teenagers as well – and they want wives. And now in Internet posts and social media messaging, the extremist Sunni militants are recruiting females to marry their fighters and have children together. As Abdulrahim reports, this is part of a larger strategy of state building. Rita Katz, director of the site intelligence group which monitors online activity by militant organization said,

“They are treating the Islamic State as a country that needs women. The message is: ‘You are coming to marry someone immediately and have kids and cook.’ They’re building a state.”

Abdulrahim reports,

“Female recruits who have made the trek are chiming in: On sites like Twitter, Tumblr and, they use the abbreviated and grammar-challenged writing characteristic of the Internet, employing lots of LOLs and emoticons even as they advocate attacks on religious minorities, quote extremist religious leaders and cheer [on] the beheading of American journalists.”

Remember we’re talking primarily about teenage girls. These are the teenage girls who use those emoticons at the same age to talk about their romantic crushes and all kinds of things with their adolescent peers. But at least some are being mobilized for religious extremism and for violence – indeed for jihad. This tells us a great deal about societies, no society can exist as a society just of young men. Young men inevitably have what psychologist Gail Sheehy called the ‘urge to merge,’ and they are looking for wives. And a society can’t exist merely by recruiting soldiers, eventually it has to recruit wives for those soldiers – and in this case, not only women but very young girls.

And they are being recruited for the most traditionalist of roles. They are being told, come and marry and immediately plan to bear children and to cook for us. Perhaps the most amazing thing to many people in the modern age is that there is a significant tug on the hearts of many Muslim teenage girls to join this kind of jihad. Not to join the jihad by taking up a gun, but by joining the jihad by taking up the kitchen and by becoming mothers and by marrying soldiers and by building up society in so doing. Again, one of things that shines through this is the necessity of marriage and the necessity of family to a society. So even in the situation in which you have so many postmodern states in the post-Christian West trying to act as if marriage doesn’t matter, in contrast you have the Islamic State saying marriage matters so much that we now need to recruit wives for our soldiers in order to build a society. Well if it takes wives and husbands to build a society at the beginning, it also takes wives and husbands to keep a society alive. And it should be to our absolute humiliation, facing the grief of these parents who have lost their daughters in England, to understand that perhaps the Islamic state know something that we have denied – the importance of marriage after all, and marriage as a husband and a wife.

5) Secret Service director resignation reveals eccentricity of Washington politics

Finally, yesterday a parable played its way out in Washington DC when Secret Service director Julia Pierson resigned after she and her agency were humiliated by the fact that an intruder was able to cross 70 yards across the White House lawn after climbing the gate, entered the unlock front door the White House and eventually made his way we now know all the way to the second floor of the executive mansion. It was impossible for her to maintain credibility as head of the Secret Service when an intruder like this was able to get to the second floor of the executive mansion. But the parables not just who resigned, in this case the head of the Secret Service, but who hasn’t resigned in Washington under even greater embarrassments – such as the head of the Internal Revenue Service. Even after multiple embarrassments, including the singling out of conservative organizations for particular scrutiny and supposedly the accidental loss of recorded information time and time again – always by accident. The national media will be talking for sometime about the resignation of Secret Service director Julia Pierson, there ought to be more conversation about the people who, under even greater embarrassment, has not resigned.

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) Data shows marginalization of marriage to matter of status, not expectation

Record Share of Americans Have Never Married, Pew Research Center (Wendy Wang and Kim Parker)

The American family is a myth: Why our national moral panic must stop, Salon (Brittney Cooper)

The American Family Is Making a Comeback, The Atlantic (Michael Wear)

2) Millennial women more conservative in own marital decisions than in politics

 For millennial women, ‘the one’ must have a steady job, Washington Post (Catherine Rampell)

3) In 25 years since first legalization of same-sex unions social perception changed radically

This Is How Much More Popular Same-Sex Marriage Is Today Than in 1989, Time (Sam Frizell)

 For first time, census data on married couples includes same-sex spouses, Pew Research Center (D’Vera Cohn)

4) Rise of jihad brides reveals need of family for stable society

Mother of 15-year-old ‘jihadist’ Yusra Hussien says her ‘heart is torn’ as she pleads with her to ‘please come home’, The Telegraph (Gordon Rayner)

Islamic State recruiting women to ‘have kids and cook’, Los Angeles Times (Raja Abdulrahim)

5) Secret Service director resignation reveals eccentricity of Washington politics

Secret Service Director Resigns in Scandal Over Security Lapses, New York Times (Michael S. Schmidt and Michael D. Shear)


R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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