The Briefing 11-05-14

The Briefing 11-05-14

The Briefing


November 5, 2014

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


It’s Wednesday, November 5, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) ‘Wave election’ for Republicans points to deepening worldview divide between two major parties

Campaigning over the weekend, President Obama had said,

“The American people are with us on all the big issues. [He continued,] You know it. I know it. The polls show it.”

Well the voters didn’t show it yesterday and what happened in the midterm election held yesterday was what is classified by political scientists as a wave election. The wave actually became evident early on Tuesday evening and it continued throughout election night. By the end of the evening, even as some key elections are still yet to be called, it was clear that the Republican Party had gained control of the United States Senate. For the first time in eight years Republicans hold control of both the house and the Senate. And the pickup in the Senate was even beyond what most Republican analyst had estimated. With Senatorial elections in the states of Louisiana and Alaska still pending, the Republican Party had already picked up seven seats. This is a massive change in terms of America’s political system; this is not the same impact as is seen in a presidential election. But this midterm election, coming in the sixth year of President Obama’s administration, is a massive check upon his presidential power and inevitably it will be seen as a political judgment upon the President’s leadership; for he is not only President of the United States, he is also the effective and symbolic head of his own political party – in this case the Democratic Party.

Key Senate elections were won by Republicans in the states of West Virginia, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, and also in the state of North Carolina. The change of party control in the Senate will mean that the Republicans will now hold key decision-making positions, especially in terms of the key committee chairmanships; those are given to the party that has the majority of senators in power. Furthermore, the Senate’s very important constitutional role in the confirmation of presidential appointees also will be a major factor in the last two years of the Obama administration. This is going to be a very interesting two years ahead of us. We will have an incumbent Democratic president in the last two years of his second term; we will have Republican control in both the House of Representatives and in the United States Senate.

Claiming victory last night in his own Senatorial contest in Kentucky, Senator Mitch McConnell, who is also the Republican leader in the Senate, pledged to work with President Obama in a bipartisan consensus where that is possible. Later today President Obama is himself expected to address the nation with his response to the midterm elections. Americans are going to be watching – almost assuredly they are going to be watching somewhat warily – in order to see if indeed the President of the United States and a Republican-controlled Congress can govern together on issues in which there might actually be common concern and common action. But yesterday’s election results, especially as seen in the Senatorial races, also points to the continuing and deepening partisan divide in America.

Christians watching this have to come to the quick understanding that this partisan divide is not merely a political issue, it’s not merely an ideological issue, it is, in a very important way, a worldview issue; because what divides these two parties is not a matter primarily of personalities nor regionalism, what divides these two parties are their visions of political reality. And beyond that, their visions of morality – even what it means to aim for human flourishing. When you look at these two parties and you look at the ideological and worldview divide that now separates them, you also come to understand something of even greater importance and that is that the divide isn’t basically found between these two political parties, the parties actually represent the great worldview divide amongst the American people; amongst the electorate. When it comes to so many of the most controversial and pressing issues facing our country, the base – that is the most loyal voters for both of these parties – are actually deeply at odds with one another and the division is inescapably, inextricably, a worldview conflict. The basic definition of reality, the basic understanding of human life, the basic understanding of morality, something as deeply controversial as marriage, these issues now separates these two parties – especially among their most devoted adherents.In terms of looking at the Republican wave election last night it’s also important to recognize that several very strategic governorships were also on the line. Republicans won key contests in states including Florida, Iowa, Kansas, and even the state of Massachusetts – one most deeply blue, that is deeply democratic, states in the entire nation. There were other very important issues also faced by voters in respective states, in the state of Oregon voters supported what was known as Measure 91 – legalizing marijuana following the example of the state of Colorado. Even after we should note, the governor of Colorado warned other states that they should avoid the kind of reckless experimentation that he suggested his own state had engaged in by legalizing recreational marijuana two years ago. In Washington, DC – that is the District of Columbia – voters approved what is known as Initiative 71, likewise legalizing recreational marijuana. It is important to note however that this will have nothing to do with the vast areas within the district that are controlled by the federal government. And the since the DC government is eventually under the control of Congress, Congress may step in. Voters in Alaska faced a similar proposition known as Measure 2, but as of early this morning it is unclear if that measure passed. Meanwhile in the state of Florida an effort to legalize so-called medical marijuana narrowly failed. It gained more than 50% of the vote but that was short of the 60% that was necessary in order to effect the change.

On the issue of abortion the states of Colorado and North Dakota turned back so-called personhood amendments; those are amendments that would have criminalized any assault upon an unborn fetus. In the case of Colorado, it was the third time that state’s voters had turned back such a personhood amendment. In the case of both states, it was a significant setback for the pro-life cause. But the pro-life cause won a huge victory in the state of Tennessee; there voters approved what was known as Amendment One; an amendment to that state’s constitution that would allow significant restrictions upon the availability of abortion. This became especially important because Tennessee had become a so-called ‘destination state’ for abortions in terms of the American Mid-South. But the vote in Tennessee also was deeply revealing because in that state the vote on Amendment One demonstrated a very significant moral divide, political divide, and as we well know, thus a worldview divide between rural and urban voters in that state. Urban voters overwhelmingly voted against Amendment One and thus in favor of unrestricted abortion rights. On the other hand, voters in rural Tennessee overwhelmingly voted for Amendment One – this simply affirm something that political scientist have known for a very long time and that is that rural voters in general tend to vote in a far more conservative pattern than urban or metropolitan voters; having to do with the fact that the context of the city itself clearly has a liberalizing effect. It may be the effect of drawing together persons who have a more liberal worldview but sociologists also indicate that the process also works the other way around; that is that person who move from a rural to a more metropolitan environment actually tend also to shift politically in terms of that movement. That tells us something, it tells us that worldview is also at least partly dependent upon context. That context might determine what one hears, the arguments that are available and furthermore the kind of worldview that has simply taken as normative, taken as normal within that particular context.

2) Voting analysis reveals that behavior can sometimes shape worldview

While considering the meaning of the election, a rather amazing article appeared in the op-ed pages of the New York Times yesterday. It was written by Jason Weeden and Robert Kurzban; Weeden is a lawyer and psychology researcher, Kurzban is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. They are the authors of the new book entitled The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind: How Self-Interest Shapes Our Opinions and Why We Won’t Admit It. From a Christian worldview perspective their argument is really fascinating. As they began,

“As America completes another costly, polarized and exhausting election cycle, it’s commonplace to characterize our society as being divided into warring tribes of liberals and conservatives. But [they say]this view oversimplifies the causes of our political differences.”

Their argument continues,

“Most people aren’t ideologically pure, and most don’t derive their opinions from abstract ideologies and principles. People are more strongly influenced by the effects of policies on themselves, their families and their wider social networks. Their views, in short, are often based on self-interest.”

Now just taking those two paragraphs at face value, why should Christians think about the argument? Should we accept the fact that self-interest actually guides political decisions? Well, from a Christian biblical perspective we should understand that this should be expected. We should expect that in a fallen world, in a world in which sin corrupts virtually everything and no one acts on purely objective terms, that it would be nearly impossible for all of us – or for that matter for any of us – to escape the moral calculation about our own self-interest. As these researchers make very clear, self-interest in this sense is not limited to an individual perspective but to our family, to our group, or to our community. In making their argument the researchers write,

“This point may seem obvious, but it is overlooked by many political scientists who focus on other explanations: parents and peers, schools and universities, political parties and leaders, and that abstract and nebulous catchall, ‘values.’ But the most straightforward explanation, demographics, is also the most persuasive.”

Now the authors are really onto something here that should interest Christians and interest us deeply because he’s writing that as we consider how political opinions and political decisions are formed, what they’re really writing about is how worldview is formed and this gets really interesting. Further in their article they write,

“Self-interest is not limited to economics. People who want to have sex but don’t at the moment want babies are especially likely to support policies that ensure access to birth control and abortion. Immigrants [they write,] favor generous immigration policies. Lesbians and gay men are far more likely to oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation. Those who aren’t Christian are far more likely to oppose discrimination based on religion. Those who do best under meritocracy — people who have a lot of education and excel on tests — are far more likely to want to reduce group-based preferences, like affirmative action.”

But then they go on and what they write is extremely interesting,

“A focus on self-interest helps explain why three-quarters of people who went to church as children don’t attend church in their 20s. The young people most likely [they say] to abandon the church are those engaging in the kinds of lifestyles — involving alcohol, recreational drugs, premarital sex and nonmarital cohabitation — that religious conservatives condemn.”

Now what are we to make of this? Well we should make a very great deal of it because it points to something that is deeply biblical and something that virtually every Christian leader, parent, or pastor has to come to understand. On the one hand we understand that worldview determines behavior, we understand exactly how that happens; what we believe becomes inevitably played out in our lives. But we also need to understand that these researchers are onto something of vital importance; not only does our worldview determines behavior but the contrary is also true – our behavior can and often does affect our worldview.

The illustration they give of young people is very instructive. Those young people who are involved in the kinds of behaviors they indicated: premarital sex, non-marital cohabitation, and recreational drugs – those are the kinds of things that the average sinner simply wants to try to justify. Being involved in sinful activities, the sinner wants to justify that sin and in order to accomplish this, in order to rest more comfortably with conscience; the sinner goes to the next step of trying to realign the worldview in order to arrange an ideological and moral justification for the behavior. So Christians need to understand, these researchers are onto something real here; not only does worldview determines behavior but behavior can determine worldview.

These two researchers are primarily interested in how this plays out in the political sphere in terms of political electoral decisions, but Christians looking at this same article need to understand that something deeply biblical is being affirmed here. As the researchers very specifically point out, when young people get involved in these activities their worldview often shifts because of these activities and the attempt to justify these activities, such that they leave the worldview commitments they may have gained from their church and from their parents and replace them with a new set of worldview presuppositions that are at peace with their behavior. Or as these two researchers write,

“Despite their early socialization, as adults start making their own decisions, their religion and politics usually align with their interests.”

The results of this midterm election will give intelligent Christians a great deal to think about. But when it comes to the larger issues at stake, the midterm election is simply one episode in a very long story, a story of political engagement that should lead Christians to continue to think ever more seriously about what’s really at stake.

3) Scope of moral revolution evident in two radically new perceptions of parenthood

Meanwhile as the moral revolution continues to swirl around us, evidence comes in the form of two articles that appeared in Sunday’s edition of the style section of the New York Times. The first article is written by Ilana Kramer, she is one individual in a couple, a lesbian partnership that involves a same-sex marriage. And she writes in this article of how she and the person identified as her wife ended up having a child. And the story is one of those that could only be told and can only be understood in the most recent of times. She writes,

“For us, as a same-sex couple, creating a family was exciting but complicated. We had spent more than a year deciding if a known or unknown donor was the right path. Ultimately we decided [she writes,]we preferred the challenge of our child grappling with too many people rather than with too few in the biological questions that were bound to arise. We also knew we wanted something that might be impossible: a donor whom we already valued as a familiar man in our lives whom our future child could have a nonparental relationship with.”

She goes on to describe how she and her partner eventually were able to have a child with the donor assistance of the husband of a heterosexual couple, in this case a married couple, who also at virtually the same time decided to have a child. One thing we simply need to note, we must note, is that a lesbian couple married or in this case unmarried simply cannot have a child – not in any normal sense. They cannot do it without some kind of external intervention and some kind of reproductive technology. Without going into biological detail, in this case the technology was rather uncomplicated and the donor was certainly someone who wasn’t anonymous; this wasn’t sperm obtained from a sperm bank but rather from a friend. The man in this case, named Wilson, is married to Angela. Ilana Kramer then writes,

“We all agreed that Angela and Wilson would be almost like aunt and uncle types, without Wilson in a paternal role, emotionally or financially.”

At the end of the article, with both couples having a new baby, they met up. Ilana Kramer then concludes her article,

“We laid our baby on the ground next to theirs, we four parents cooing more than the two of them. But one thing was clear: Angela and Wilson’s daughter was undeniably theirs, and our son was joyfully our creation.”

But wait just a minute, writing that it’s so doesn’t make it so. In this case, the son born to this lesbian couple is here claimed to be their creation, but the article itself makes very clear in its narrative that the baby was only born because of the contribution made by the man who was the husband in the other couple. Just a matter of a generation ago this kind of article would’ve been unthinkable in the pages of the New York Times. Furthermore in moral terms, it would’ve been unthinkable that such an act would’ve been celebrated, certainly not in one of the nation’s leading and most influential newspapers. But that’s how the world has changed and how the moral revolution has now progressed. We also need to note that what the moral revolution now has brought us to is the fact that when we talk about having a baby we are profoundly now talking about a process, at least in potential, that is radically different from what having a baby has ever meant in any previous human generation.

The second article I present as evidence was found in the same section of the same newspaper on the very same day. In this case, Bruce Feiler writes an article entitled “This Weekend, College Is for Everyone” and what he’s actually writing about is a parents’ weekend recently held at Wesleyan University; and the article is really interesting. Because he writes about the fact that in the transformation of the American college and university context, the parent’s weekend has now taken on an entire new meaning. Even just a few years ago most colleges and universities still had some remaining sense of what was called ‘in loco parentis’ – that is the legal principle that colleges were expected to act as parents in the place of parents in the college situation with young people. Now most colleges and universities have long forfeited that responsibility, and as Bruce Feiler’s article makes very clear, the moral revolution means that the entire context is utterly transformed. In times past a parents’ weekend at least involved parents and the opportunity to find out if their college and university age offspring were behaving. But now it’s the behavior of the parents that is often a concern for the same universities. What kinds of concerns about parents might colleges have? Feiler writes,

“Another problem is that parents may try to relive their bright college years. At the University of Arizona, the Campus Alcohol Coalition posted a four-point ‘Don’t embarrass us’ plan in advance of Family Weekend. Entries include: ‘Don’t play beer pong with our friends’ and ‘Don’t get drunk.’ Reports of parents fraternizing with students are also not unheard-of. One student posted on the website College Confidential, ‘During Family Weekend I slept with my roommate’s dad.’ She added, ‘I’m sorry Emily.’

Feiler goes on to write,

“On one hand, there’s something mildly amusing about the heated atmosphere at Family Weekend. Parents who once said, ‘Don’t trust anyone over 30’ are now trying to pretend they’re under 30 themselves, giving their children tips for opening the keg and briefing them on negotiating with pot dealers. But it also raises a deeper question: Are we seeing a fundamental change in the relationship between college-age children and their parents?”

You know, from time to time some event happens or some article appears that simply makes it impossible to ignore the scope of the moral revolution we are now experiencing; this is one of those articles – at least it was for me. Because here you have Bruce Feiler of the New York Times writing about the fact that colleges and universities are now having to be worried about the behavior of parents on family weekend. Furthermore he writes so explicitly about what some parents are doing and in one of the most ominous sections of this report he tells us that parents are now – on family weekends – giving advice to their college and university offspring about how to open a beer keg and how to negotiate with pot dealers. Thus when Bruce Feiler asked the question,

“Are we seeing a fundamental change in the relationship between college-age children and their parents?”

The bigger question is what kind of moral revolution could produce parents who have present this kind of problem, who would need this kind of warning, who would be this kind of worried to college and university administrators? Not only has there been most assuredly a fundamental shift in the relationship between college age students and their parents, there’s also an even larger issue and that is the moral shift that would make any of this makes sense as published in Sunday’s edition of the New York Times. This is the world we are living in, here is further proof.

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 Kansas City, Missouri and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.



Podcast Transcript

1) ‘Wave election’ for Republicans points to deepening worldview divide between two major parties

A Most Pivotal Election, Wall Street Journal (Fred Barnes)

National election results 2014, Washington Post

Voters pass wage hikes, legal pot; divide on abortion, USA Today (Greg Toppo and Laura Mandaro)

2) Voting analysis reveals that behavior can sometimes shape worldview

Election 2014: Your Very Predictable Vote, New York Times (Jason Weeden and Robert Kurzban)

3) Scope of moral revolution evident in two radically new perceptions of parenthood

It Was in Giving That They Received, New York Times (Ilana Kramer)

This Weekend, College Is for Everyone, New York Times (Bruce Feiler)



R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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