The Briefing 10-13-14

The Briefing 10-13-14

The Briefing


October 13, 2014

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


It’s Monday, October 13, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Second US Ebola case reminder humanity has not mastered plague, despite medical advances

The news out of Dallas yesterday is deeply concerning. An American healthcare worker has contracted the Ebola virus while caring for the Liberian man who came to the United States, developed the disease, and died in a Dallas hospital last week. Healthcare authorities described what is called a “breach of protocol” for the fact that the healthcare worker has contracted the disease. This comes after thousands of people have developed the disease in West Africa, and thousands of them have died. It comes as the death rate in West Africa is now somewhere between 60 and 70%, and in some locations close to 90 to 100%. And it comes after we were assured that American healthcare professionals would be in good position to deal with the threat of the Ebola virus. This comes after we were told that healthcare workers have been thoroughly briefed and were completely ready to deal with the disease should it appear in the United States. And the so-called breach of protocol that led to this healthcare worker developing the disease is not the first breach of the protocol.

As a matter fact, the man, Thomas Eric Duncan, who developed the disease in the United States after contracting it in West Africa; when he grew sick and went to a Dallas area hospital on 23 September, he was turned away and given antibiotics – only later to show up on the 28th with a full-blown case of Ebola. And now we know that the radically contagious disease was spread to at least one of the healthcare workers. And this came of course a week after the same ominous development came in Spain, where the Spanish medical authorities were completely scandalized and traumatized by the fact that a nurse assistant there had developed the disease after caring for an Ebola patient in Madrid.

What we’re looking at here is the fact that humanity is facing a new plague, and this new plague is one that is obviously catching the most skilled medical professionals on the planet unprepared and by surprise. We are now being told by authorities, including sources at the Centers for Disease Control, that the Ebola virus was never actually expected to show up here in North America. It showed up, of course, first when there were airlifts of some American medical personnel who contracted the disease and were treated – all of them at this point quite successfully – here in the United States; either in Atlanta or in Nebraska. But now we have the story of a healthcare worker in Dallas who has contracted the disease and has a case of Ebola.

And we also have the euphemistic description of a breach of protocol that led to this. And the protocols are absolutely extensive, because now are being told by health authorities in Texas that virtually everything they knew to do was done – or at least they thought it was done. This indicates just how dangerous it is if there is even the slightest breach of protocol, and in this case an almost assuredly unknown breach of that medical protocol. The protocol itself, medical authorities say, is still quite substantial and safe. There should be no reason why the American healthcare system should not be able to stop this disease from being spread to others. But now, following the example of Spain, the same thing has happened here.

A further concern is the fact that this healthcare worker was not listed among the 48 people being watched for the disease after Thomas Eric Duncan showed up at the hospital and was confirmed to be an Ebola patient – in other words, there could be others. And it also comes after the woman in Texas, who has now developed the disease, was surely in contact with many others – especially her family. She remains unidentified, but the virus is all too well identified and now we have the first case of Ebola spread as a contagion in the United States of America.

The panic that spread through the Spanish medical authorities is now surely spreading to the United States and its medical authorities as well. Evidence of that came yesterday when President Barack Obama, being updated about the fact that the disease had been transmitted in the United States, ordered federal authorities to take even more steps to make sure that hospitals and healthcare providers are ready to follow all the proper procedures in dealing with the Ebola virus. The statement from the White House said that the President had ordered federal authorities to take all immediate additional steps to ensure that hospitals and healthcare providers nationwide are prepared to follow protocols should they encounter an Ebola patient. What’s interesting, when you look at the statement coming from the White House is that virtually everything that was said in the statement was said a week ago – there’s nothing new here. And there really nothing new to say – not in terms of what should be done, but there is clearly something that should be said in terms of what must be done.

But as we watch and see Americans, not just healthcare authorities but grassroots Americans, growing more and more concerned about this virus, we come to understand that humanity has not defeated the ancient foes that include plague. Even though we have the radical medical advances for which we should be just astoundingly thankful when it comes to antibiotics, modern surgery, and antisepsis, and all the rest – the reality is that viruses are still deadly and furthermore, they can continue to develop, mutate, and they continue to spread. And when you’re looking at a virus as deadly as the Ebola virus, there is no set of protocols that can guarantee 100% that the disease will not spread. And that is a matter that should humble every single human being, including the proud people of the United States who are proud of our medical authorities, and our modern medical system, who now want to face the recognition that even the most advanced medical system, with the most advanced medical protocols, can experience what is called here a breach of protocol – and that breach of protocol can be nothing less than deadly.

2) Supreme Court acting as barometer of evolving morality in same sex marriage non-decision

It was just a week ago today that the United States Supreme Court decided not to decide the issue of same-sex marriage nationwide, and yet that momentous non-decision has now led to the fact that there are either 30 or 31 states that are likely now to have legal same-sex marriage. That count was 19 as of just a week ago, but now it’s either 30 or 31 – we’re not actually sure. And this points to a very interesting development just in recent days. The first of these development came at the end of last week having to do with the states of Nevada and Idaho – because just one Supreme Court Justice, Anthony Kennedy, in just one 24 hour period, first put a stay on a federal judge’s decision that Idaho must have same-sex marriage and then just in the same 24 hour period, removed that stay. Now this led many people on the left, as well as on the right, to a process of handwringing in both concern and consternation. Because it hardly seems to fit the decorum of the highest court in the land that in 24 hours you would have just one justice issue conflicting orders.

Furthermore, it’s about an issue as important as marriage. And furthermore in this case, the justice is the very key hinge justice with a hinge vote on the issue of same-sex marriage. Gay-rights advocates, advocate for same-sex marriage, point to Anthony Kennedy as the crucial fifth vote in gaining the momentum toward the legalization of same-sex marriage. And yet it was the same justice who now apparently, according to his own clerks, misread the issue and then 24 hours went back to the right position. One liberal commentator was so frustrated he said, evidently it matters whether Anthony Kennedy is ruling on the issue before or after lunch. And while lunch hardly seems to be the issue, this rather eccentric way of dealing with an issue of such momentous importance is something that does not add credibility to the United States Supreme Court, no matter which side of this issue one is on.

But the issue of the math comes down to the fact that all the states covered in the Supreme Court’s inaction last Monday amount to about 30 states – in fact to exactly 30 states. But then there’s another state that entered the fray just yesterday – yes that’s on Sunday – when a federal judge in Alaska ruled that that states 16 year old ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional; which would make Alaska either within the 30 or now the 31st state. Even the New York Times reporting on these developments said that evidently now same-sex marriage is legal, to use their words, “in about 30 states.” That also points to a certain confusion over this issue that does not add to the credibility of the nation’s highest court. The court was trying, many legal observers believed, to protect its reputation by not ruling on the issue. But by not ruling, they have certainly diminished their reputation by first appearing to be cowardly and secondly by adding confusion to confusion when it comes to issue same-sex marriage.

Christians watching this development, having the first concern as marriage itself, also have to have the concern about the legal process. And one thing becomes apparently clear – very, very clear – and that is the fact that the least political branch of our government turns out to be far more political than it claims to be. As a matter fact, looking at the issue of same-sex marriage the Supreme Court did not rule on the issue until 2013, in striking down the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA as it was known, the legislation by the federal government that defined marriage for the government as the union of a man and a woman exclusively. The court had opportunities to do that earlier, but it did not do so until public opinion had shifted. But the court’s responsibility, its constitutional charge is not that of a barometer of public opinion, but rather as interpreters of the United States Constitution. And that just points to the revolution in constitutional law that is represented by the current trajectory of the Supreme Court. It is now, according to its own words, now ruling in light of evolving public opinion and the evolving understanding of American moral values. And that just points out the fact that the Constitution itself is not what is really being judged, it is now the current situation and the current status of American moral values. We should expect to look to survey takers and researchers to tell us what American moral values are, not to look at the evolving judgment of the United States Supreme Court on the evolving morality of the American people.

3) Colorado faces moral insanity of celebrating marijuana for adults while condemning for teens

And speaking of evolution of American moral values, it may well be that the issue of marijuana would compete with the issue of same-sex marriage in terms of being a barometer for just how American morality is changing. And we’ve seen that on the issue of same-sex marriage where there’s been a revolution in morality, not in the matter of a century nor a half-century or even a decade, but just about 5 to 6 years. As a matter fact the last 24 to 48 months have been absolutely crucial in terms of documenting the change of opinion on the issue of same-sex marriage among Americans. The issue of marijuana legalization is almost just as rapid in terms of the moral change that is here reflected. And just last week the editorial board of the New York Times added its own moral authority to calls for the law to be changed in the states of Alaska and Oregon and also in the District of Columbia when it comes to legalizing marijuana. The headline of the editorial in the New York Times a simple, “Yes To Marijuana Ballot Measures.” And the ballot measures in all three of these jurisdictions, Alaska and Oregon and the District of Columbia, decriminalize or legalize the possession and use of a certain amount of marijuana – generally defined as recreational marijuana – for those who were aged 21 and older. And in every one of these cases, broken out into separate paragraphs in this editorial the editorial board of the New York Times says it’s time to get this done.

There’s one absolutely crucial paragraph in the New York Times coverage, it reads this way:

“Opponents of legalization warn that states are embarking on a risky experiment. But the sky over Colorado has not fallen, and prohibition has proved to be a complete failure. It’s time to bring the marijuana market out into the open and end the injustice of arrests and convictions that have devastated communities.”

The most crucial part of that paragraph is where it says that the sky over Colorado has not fallen. It’s just been about a year since the state of Colorado decriminalized and legalized marijuana; in what is called recreational marijuana. Well it may well be that the sky over Colorado has not fallen, but it certainly appears to be drooping in one sense because in the very same day that the New York Times editorial board ran that editorial as it’s lead voice on the issue for the day, that very same day the Wall Street Journal ran an article by Dan Frosch and it was datelined from Denver, Colorado. And it deals with the fact the Colorado is dealing with a huge problem when it comes to trying to get minors there, those under age 21, from using marijuana. It turns out that all of these promises, that marijuana will be available only to those 21 and older, are worth absolutely nothing because the state of Colorado’s experience is that teenagers are now more likely as their first smoke to have marijuana than tobacco.

Getting right to the point, Dan Frosch writes,

“In a state where legal marijuana seemingly is everywhere, Colorado public health officials have taken an unusual approach to warning teenagers about the dangers of the drug: likening young pot smokers to laboratory animals.”

Now this is one of these news stories that if it appeared virtually anywhere but in the Wall Street Journal, you’d have to wonder if it’s credible – but it’s actually credible and it’s actually being done in the name of the state of Colorado. As Frosch reports,

“Does Marijuana really cause schizophrenia in teenagers? Smoke and find out,”

That’s on a sign that also says,

“Subjects needed. Must be a teenager. Must smoke weed. Must have 8 IQ points to spare,”

As Frosch reports,

“The public-awareness campaign, which was launched in August and includes television commercials, [he says it] may not be having the impact the state intended. [That’s likely to be an understatement. As he continues,] The cages, which were first set up in Denver, have been criticized by Colorado’s legal pot industry and mocked by some young people, who have dismissed it as a scare tactic.

Now, you wonder why they’re mocking the state of Colorado? Because the state of Colorado is publicly displaying laboratory rat cages sized to fit American teenagers, with a water bottle attached to the side, suggesting that teenagers who are smoking pot are actually subjecting themselves to a medical experiment – just like they are lab rats. The campaign is funded with $2 million in grants from the Colorado Attorney General’s office; foundations have kicked in money, additional money has come from the city of Denver and the County of Denver. Frosch writes,

“In addition to the lab-rat campaign, the state legislature has allocated $5.68 million [that’s $5.68 million dollars] from marijuana sales taxes this fiscal year for the department to engage in a more sweeping prevention and education effort [around pot.]”

That money is drawn for marijuana sales taxes. Mike Sukle, who is Denver’s advertising agency and who designed the lab rat campaign said, it is – and these are his words –

“…a ‘monumental task’ to get young people to avoid marijuana, given the excitement over legalization [in Colorado].”

And thus Frosch reports, his group conducted focus groups of young Coloradans seeking to figure out what messages would resonate; they settled on the 8 by 12 foot cages which stand about 9 feet tall and have a giant water bottle fashion to them. And now you might understand why teenagers and young adults in Colorado are making fun of this effort. It is because it’s the kind of effort one can only make fun of.

As we discussed just recently, even the secular press is dealing with the fact that there’s a moral quandary at the heart of Colorado’s pot legalization. That quandary is this: how do you tell teenagers and young adults they can’t do what adults can do? And as the Colorado media has also pointed to, the problem is excruciatingly different for many Colorado parents. How can they openly celebrate the legalization of marijuana and use it in their homes and then tell their teenagers that it’s dangerous? Now there are medical study showing that marijuana use is particularly dangerous to the teenage adolescent mind; that the development of the adolescent brain can be considerably impacted with the loss of several IQ points by the early use of marijuana, and the consistent use of marijuana can have even more devastating results. But as anyone who has been a teenager or knows a teenager knows – trying to tell teenagers that something is uncool, if adults are yelling that it is extremely cool, is almost impossible. It is impossible for Colorado parents, using marijuana and celebrating its legalization, to say to teenagers, “Oh there might be some loss of 8 to 10 IQ points if you use weed.” There might be some teenagers who will be move by that argument, but their likely teenagers that would already be moved by the medical evidence long before this advertising agency decided to put up 9 x 12’ lab rat cages as a visual experiment and warning. What these cages are actually communicating is this: it is morally insane to celebrate the legalization of marijuana and the use of it, especially by adults, especially out in the open, and then say to teenagers you shouldn’t use it. That’s not making sense to Colorado teenagers; it’s not making sense because their parents and other adults are undermining the moral authority to say “no.”

There was an eminently forgettable book published about a generation ago entitled How To Get Your Kids To Say No In The 90s When You Said Yes In The 60s. The book wasn’t worth reading, but the title is worth a million dollars; and that is the quandary we now face – or at least it’s the quandary now faced by the state of Colorado – because those kids of the 1960s now got their way politically – they legalized marijuana; and how will they say to their kids and now to their grandkids “no” when they’re even now they are saying yes.

4) Changing name of Columbus Day superficial attempt to address issues of colonialism

Finally, today is Columbus Day in United States. It’s been so ever since the 400th anniversary of Columbus landing of Bahamas in 1492, because it was in 1892 that the United States President Benjamin Harrison first established the American celebration of Columbus Day. But you won’t know its Columbus Day this year in the cities of Seattle and Minneapolis you won’t know it because as far back as 1992 Berkeley, California is thought to be the first city, says CNN, to adopt Indigenous Peoples Day, but this year now Seattle and Minneapolis have joined also – identifying the day as Indigenous Peoples Day. According to CNN 16 states, including Alaska, Hawaii, and Oregon, don’t recognize Columbus Day as a public holiday, South Dakota has changed it to Native American day ever since 1990. What we’re looking at here is some pretty deep worldview significance, because it tells us that in this life virtually everything is political – including holidays, and especially what you call holidays.

Communities that change the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day, or something similar, find that they too face a political backlash; sometimes from Italian Americans for whom Columbus Day has been a very proud national holiday. The controversy over the holiday points to controversy, a deep moral controversy, over the entire issue of colonization, the entire movement of colonialism, the fact that when Columbus came and supposedly discover the New World in 1492 there were already people here and they had been here for some time. They weren’t exactly indigenous either. As a matter fact, the history given to us by anthropologists is that people migrated here according to the current anthropological explanation from somewhere in Africa generally across land bridges or by other means. And so even indigenous peoples aren’t truly indigenous, they’re just more indigenous than the people who came later.

But a controversy over this holiday points to the fact that a moral issue as huge as colonialism, its effects, and its impacts, can’t be reduced to a simple matter of right and wrong. Because undoubtedly colonialism, like so many other major historical developments, brought great progress; it brought great advantages and advances to the places where it reached. But it also brought great harms, and especially harms to indigenous peoples. It would seem that perhaps the best way to deal with this would be to say there were positives and negatives; there were things that colonialism brought that we certainly don’t want to give away and there were things that were in the worldview of the colonists that were not something that we would not want to embrace now. So perhaps it would be better to say we’re going to have a day to reflect upon the legacy of what it meant for Columbus to come to the New World to be followed by so many millions of others. The fact is that now all of us here have been born into a society that has been shaped not only by the indigenous peoples, but also by the colonialism that brought so many others here – including most of us. A serious moral conversation about that would always be in order, but just changing the name of the holiday doesn’t suffice for that serious moral argument. But perhaps for today it will simply suffice to say that worldview is at stake, even with a holiday and what you decide to name it.

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) Second US Ebola case reminder humanity has not mastered plague, despite medical advances

Second U.S. Ebola Case Confirmed; Caregiver Remains in Isolation, NBC News (Maggie Fox and Elisha Fieldstadt)

Obama Orders Immediate Federal Action To Help Halt Spread Of Ebola, Huffington Post (AP)

2) Supreme Court acting as barometer of evolving morality in same sex marriage non-decision

Supreme Court Allows Same-Sex Marriage in Idaho, New York Times (Adam Liptak)

Judge Blocks Alaska Gay Marriage Ban, New York Times (AP)

3) Colorado faces moral insanity of celebrating marijuana for adults while condemning for teens

Yes to Marijuana Ballot Measures, New York Times (Editorial Board)

Colorado ‘Lab Rat’ Campaign Warns Teens of Pot Use, Wall Street Journal (Dan Frosch)

4) Changing name of Columbus Day superficial attempt to address issues of colonialism

Instead of Columbus Day, some U.S. cities celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, CNN (Emanuella Grinberg)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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