The Briefing 10-22-14

The Briefing 10-22-14

The Briefing


October 22, 2014

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

It’s Wednesday, October 22, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Pres. Obama’s public shifts on same-sex marriage reflect moral shifts in larger society

The moral revolution that is so reshaping our society seems to loom forward right in our eyes virtually every single day. Now, in the October 27 edition of The New Yorker, law analyst Jeffrey Toobin offers an interview with President Barack Obama about his nominees to the Supreme Court. And in the midst of this conversation with the president, Jeffrey Toobin asks him about his position on gay marriage. And as the New York Times now reports, the president’s response indicates his full evolution on the issue of same-sex marriage.

The word evolution was the president’s own, as he has spoken repeatedly of the fact that his views on the subject of same-sex marriage have evolved. But as we’re considering the process of moral change, when we’re looking at the political and legal realities that are now framing so many of our headlines, when we look to the question ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ the President of the United States now offers us a classic example of how moral change is taking place in the United States – or how moral change has taken place in a single individual, but not just a common citizen, but the one who has been elected as President of the United States.

Peter Baker’s very brief article in the New York Times on the interview is just a paragraph, but as he writes,

“President Obama says he now believes that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage in all 50 states but expressed support for the more incremental approach taken by the Supreme Court. [He went on to write] Mr. Obama opposed same-sex marriage until 2012, when he came out in favor of letting states decide the issue for themselves and urged them to embrace such unions. In an interview with Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker, posted online on Monday, he said same-sex marriage should be a right for all Americans regardless of where they lived. But he added that ‘given the direction of society, for the court to have allowed the process to play out the way it has may make the shift less controversial and more lasting.’

Baker then ends the article,

“The court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year and, in a separate ruling, effectively allowed same-sex marriage to proceed in California.”

That one paragraph news item in the New York Times simply fails the test of saying enough. Furthermore, there is a mistake – a very obvious mistake – imbedded in Baker’s report. The mistake is found in this sentence,

“Mr. Obama opposed same-sex marriage until 2012, when he came out in favor of letting states decide the issue for themselves and urged them to embrace such unions.”

The problem is, the President did not oppose same-sex marriage all the way until 2012; more about that in just a moment.

First, we need to look at the interview itself. Jeffrey Toobin is a legal analysis for CNN, he often writes for The New Yorker, he is one of the nation’s most influential journalists, and he scored a big coup with an interview with President of the United States. The major focus of the interview was a review of President Obama’s looming legacy in the federal courts. Toobin writes,

“Obama has had two hundred and eighty judges confirmed, which represents about a third of the federal judiciary. Two of his choices, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, were nominated to the Supreme Court; fifty-three were named to the circuit courts of appeals, two hundred and twenty-three to the district courts, and two to the Court of International Trade. When Obama took office, Republican appointees controlled ten of the thirteen circuit courts of appeals; Democratic appointees now constitute a majority in nine circuits. Because federal judges have life tenure, nearly all of Obama’s judges will continue serving well after he leaves office.”

That is the major focus of the Toobin interview with the President, and it is a major focus of our concern as well. Time in again we are reminded that elections have consequences and the election of the President of the United States often has consequences – especially in terms of his ability to appoint federal judges – that last not only far beyond his electoral term, but often generations beyond. The same mistake made by Peter Baker shows up also in the interview by Jeffrey Toobin. He writes,

“Obama opposed marriage equality until May of 2012. He told me that he now believes the Constitution requires all states to allow same-sex marriage, an argument that his Administration has not yet made before the Supreme Court.”

That’s a very significant sentence because here the President of the United States shifts his position from that which he articulated in May of 2012 when he was running for re-election, at that point he did say his position on same-sex marriage had evolved to the point that he now affirmed it. But he also said that it should be left up to the states. In his interview just published with Jeffrey Toobin he says to the contrary, it should not be left up to the states but rather the federal courts, at whatever level, should force the states to endorse and legalize same-sex marriage. Toobin recognizes that this is a major issue and as many in the media have suggested, it is the final step in the evolution of Barack Obama’s position on same-sex marriage. But he also notes, and this is a matter of integrity and honest, that his administration (that is the President’s own administration) has not yet made the argument that the President just made before the Supreme Court – even when it had the opportunity.

This issue of evolving on the question of same-sex marriage is not unique to President Obama, but he certainly is the most influential political figure to have traced his own evolution on the issue or at least a good part of it. Similarly, former Senator and Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, also waited until after 2012 to endorse same-sex marriage – well in advance of an anticipated race for the democratic presidential nomination.  But looking at President Obama as a test case in terms of the moral and political change in America, it is important to consider the fact that here you have the New York Times and The New Yorker – two very influential media outlets – suggesting that the President’s evolution is basically one of three steps. According to this scenario, the President opposed same-sex marriage up until 2012, he certainly opposed it is 2008 when he was running for the office of President. And in 2008 he said that marriage was the union of a man and a woman, exclusively so, even though he was – as he described himself – a fierce opponent of civil unions or domestic partnerships. In 2012 he announced that he had evolved to the place where he now supported the legalization of same-sex marriage; leaving it up to the states. And in 2014, in this interview with Jeffrey Toobin, the third stage now appears when the President says, ‘no it shouldn’t be left up to the states, the courts should finally decide the issue.’

But this three stage scenario simply doesn’t fit the facts, and this makes the story not less interesting, but far more interesting. Back in 2012, shortly after the President announced his new support for same-sex marriage, Becky Bowers of wrote an article entitled, President Barack Obama’s shifting stance on gay marriage. But as she demonstrates, and is well attested and documented, the President’s evolution on the question of same-sex marriage is far more complicated than that three stage process between 2008 and 2014. Quite memorably, Bowers writes,

“Obama was in favor of same-sex marriage before he was against it — and before he was for it again.”

She goes back to 1996 when Barack Obama was then running for a state senate seat in the state of Illinois. He then told one of the gay newspapers in Chicago, a paper known as Outlines, that he supported same-sex marriage. That was in 1996, and in that year, on the forum granted to him by the newspaper, he wrote,

“I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”

Bowers then notes that when the questionnaire was sent by the same newspaper two years later, the future president wavered. He said that he was ‘undecided.’ In 2004, when he was running for the United States senate, the future President said,

“I am a fierce supporter of domestic-partnership and civil-union laws. I am not a supporter of gay marriage as it has been thrown about, primarily just as a strategic issue. I think that marriage, in the minds of a lot of voters, has a religious connotation. …”

In 2006 he defined marriage in his book The Audacity of Hope, defining it as between a man and a woman. In August 2008, just four years later when he was running first for President of the United States, he told California pastor Rick Warren,

“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix.”

He then told Warren,

“I am not somebody who promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions.”

Just a few weeks later, still running for president the first time, he told MTV,

“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage.”

But in 2010 he told a group of liberal bloggers,

“I have been to this point unwilling to sign on to same-sex marriage primarily because of my understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage. But I also think you’re right that attitudes evolve, including mine.”

The President’s acknowledgment of what he termed an evolution in morality, referencing himself was a sign of things to come. And that evolution showed up in 2012 when running for re-election, he endorsed same-sex marriage and called for its legalization but not by the courts but rather by political action state-by-state. And then the evolution was complete just this week in that important interview published in The New Yorker when he tells Jeffrey Toobin, ‘Now’s the time for the courts to act.’ He believes there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage for all Americans, regardless of the state in which they live. Now here’s what we need to watch, the general pattern of President Obama’s evolution on the issue of same-sex marriage is described as him having been against it, then for it, now for it all the way to the courts; but in reality he was for it before he was against it. Or it actually follows this pattern: he was for it, then he was ambivalent, then he was ambivalently for it, than he was fully for it, now he’s fully for it all the way to encouraging the courts to act and to force the legalization of same-sex marriage coast to coast.

We do not have the ability to read another person’s mind or heart, but we do have the ability to read their words. And in this case President Obama’s words are quite clear about his evolution; up and down some kind of strange evolutionary trail. But the main purpose in pointing to this today, given the president’s most recent statements in his interview is that it’s not so much really about the president’s full evolution on this issue, but the larger society. Just about everyone close to President Obama concedes that they understand that he’s always been for same-sex marriage. But they have even acknowledged, rather openly, even within his campaign that the president as candidate was forced to speak against same-sex marriage, simply by political expediency. But the moral change that has taken place in this country has not only removed that expediency, it has actually shifted its direction. So the president who had to say he was against same-sex marriage in 2008 is now believed to have politically benefited – just four years later – by endorsing same-sex marriage. And now that the evolution is even further complete, the president appears to be positioning himself for a place in history on what so many call the ‘right side of history,’ believing that the legalization of same-sex marriage will in quite short order become something that is just seen as a necessary and natural outworking of America’s liberty motif; of its principle of freedom and of course of equality and inclusion.

But before we leave this we need to note something else; if President Obama, representing so many in his generation and cultural elite, actually supported same-sex marriage all the way back in 1996 (and the president clearly did in his own handwritten affirmation), then that tells us that the moral shift that is now taking place in the larger American culture first took place amongst the intellectual elites. They first took place amongst liberals and progressives who came to the understanding that marriage simply had to be revolutionized. And they have used all manner of means in order to accomplish that revolution. What we’re noticing in the political arena is simply the outworking of what had been happening at a much deeper level. At deeper levels of the culture, including not only the law but popular entertainment Hollywood and the entire cultural equation.

So perhaps the take-home of the interview in The New Yorker and the larger consideration of President Obama’s evolution on the question is this; once again, elections have consequences. And furthermore,  politics reveals the moral shift, it doesn’t so much cause it; it reflects it. That is reflected in the president’s changing positions on same-sex marriage; from 1996 to 1998 to 2004 to 2008 to 2012 to 2014. Perhaps only the president knows where he will land next.

2) Enormous demographic shifts in US present new Great Commission opportunities

USA Today in today’s edition tells us that we are in a massive period of demographic change that they are calling the ‘second great immigration wave in American history.’ But the USA Today cover story is not only dealing with the increasing diversity of the American culture – especially in terms of race and ethnicity, it’s also pointing to the fact that for the first time in American history this immigration wave is touching not just the coast and not just the major cities, but much smaller areas as well. As reporters Greg Toppo and Paul Overberg write,

“Cities and towns far removed from traditional urban gateways such as New York, Miami, Chicago and San Francisco are rapidly becoming some of the most diverse places in America…[they go on to write] Small metro areas such as Lumberton, N.C., and Yakima, Wash., and even remote towns and counties — such as Finney County, Kan., or Buena Vista County, Iowa— [they’ve seen a stunning new diversity in terms of waves of immigration].”

But then comes this stunning insight in the USA Today front-page story; this means, says the paper, that

“the next person you meet in this country — at work, in the library, at a coffee shop or a movie ticket line — will probably be of a different race or ethnic group than you.”

This is a bold assertion and documentation of the fact that the new immigration trend has brought demographic change to the extent that the white minority in America – that’s right minority – is now outnumbered by those of different races and ethnicities to the point that whatever one’s race or ethnicity, the person you are most likely to meet next in a random setting is someone of a different race or ethnicity, and that’s just now.

Discussing the new measure of the Diversity Index, the reporters write

“This is just the beginning. Barring catastrophe or a door-slam on immigration, the Diversity Index is on track to top 70 by 2060, [and that will mean that] there will be less than a 1-in-3 chance that the next person you meet will share your race or ethnicity, whatever it is: white, black, American Indian, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Hispanic.”

In one truly revealing anecdote, the reporters tell us that when health authorities went to the area – to the neighborhood – where the Ebola victim who died in Dallas had been resident, they discovered that even in that very small neighborhood in housing complex they had to translate their message about the urgent health considerations into eight different languages.

Commenting on the new report, William Frey, author of a new book entitled Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics Are Remaking America, he said, ‘we should be really happy that we had this large minority growth in the United States.’ He went on to say that the new minorities of Hispanics, Asians, and multiracial Americans, are arriving at the very same time the white population is growing very slowly and soon is to be declining for the younger part of the population. As Frey points out, if we did not have these new waves of immigration coming (with the immigrants often having children a higher birth rates than the Americans they are joining) we would now face a net reduction in the American population and that would have all kinds of negative consequences for the country. And as USA Today says, William Frey puts it rather bluntly, noting that in about 10 years the USA’s white population will not only be crowded out; it will actually start to shrink.

Frey said,

“A lot of people don’t realize this…It’s the full-scale demographic scope of all this that’s really important for us to get our arms around because it’s really important for our future as a country.”

And undoubtedly, this massive change is very important for our country. But this is where Christians have to understand it’s even more important for the church. We are now looking at the reality that America is becoming a vast, fascinating, multiethnic and multiracial mission field. We are now becoming a nation where we can reach so many people groups, including previously unreached people groups, right here in our own nation. And often, as this remarkable story in USA Today today’s edition points out, right in our own neighborhoods – not only on the coasts, not only major cities, but often in smaller regional communities and even in the small and rural and agrarian communities that dot the map of the United States.

We will either look at this and see it merely is demographics, or we will see it as Christians must as a Great Commission opportunity. We will see that we face, and our churches face, the very real challenge of arranging our ministry and strategizing our missiology and directing our hearts and minds so that we are ready to be a Great Commission people with the new America very much in view. And as this article in USA Today – and again this is today’s edition you can go and read for yourself – is not just a matter of what America is about to be, it’s a matter of what America already is. In terms of the Great Commission, right here in our home, right here in the United States, right in our own towns, we’ve never faced such a Great Commission responsibility. We have never faced such a Great Commission opportunity.

3) Rise of divorce among those over 50 reveals depth of marriage crisis

Finally, while we’re thinking about demographics, we need to point to something that should concern us. Brigid Schulte, writing for Washington Post, tells us that there’s a new demographic trend we also ought to understand; and that is this there is a massive surge in divorce among older Americans.

She writes,

“Since 1990, the divorce rate for Americans over the age of 50 has doubled, and more than doubled for those over the age of 65. At a time when divorce rates for other age groups has stabilized or dropped, fully one out of every four people experiencing divorce in the United States is 50 or older, and nearly one in 10 is 65 or older, [this] according to a new report by Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin, sociologists at Bowling Green State University.”

This is devastating news. This is telling us that America’s divorce culture has now reached all the way from the most traditional age of divorce, and that is in the 40s and 50s, into the later period of adult life, after in many cases sustained decades of marriage. One out of 10 divorces now taking place for those 65 and older.

This is the kind of information that should shake us to the core in understanding the depth of our marriage crisis. Even as we understand that the headlines are so often on the issue of same-sex marriage (and that question simply cannot be avoided not even, it seems, for an hour), the larger issue of marriage is pointing to the reality that it’s crisis began long before same-sex marriage was ever imaginable. Long before someone like Barack Obama would even be asked the question. Long before same-sex marriage was on the horizon, it was divorce that was the fundamental reality, the subversion of marriage. And there can be virtually no question that over the long haul, it will be divorce it will cause far more damage to marriage than even the legalization of so-called same-sex marriage.

Interesting, one of the reasons some observers are suggesting that there is this rise – and that is an exponential rise – in the number divorces among older Americans is that Americans are living longer and marriage is just aren’t lasting that long. But this is where Christians had better get right; we are not making about the continuing marriage for a very long time. We’re making a vow to continue in marriage ‘till death do us part.’ That’s a fundamental difference, and we’d better get fundamentally right.

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 Fort Lauderdale, Florida and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1) Pres. Obama’s public shifts on same-sex marriage reflect moral shifts in larger society

The Obama Brief, New Yorker (Jeffrey Toobin)

Obama Broadens Support for Same-Sex Marriage, New York Times (Peter Baker)

President Barack Obama’s shifting stance on gay marriage, Politifact (Becky Bowers)

2) Enormous demographic shifts in US present new Great Commission opportunities

Second immigration wave lifts diversity to record high, USA Today (Greg Toppo and Paul Overberg)

3) Rise of divorce among those over 50 reveals depth of marriage crisis

Till Death Do Us Part? No way. Gray Divorce on the Rise, Washington Post (Brigid Schulte)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me using the contact form. Follow regular updates on Twitter at @albertmohler.

Subscribe via email for daily Briefings and more (unsubscribe at any time).