The Briefing 12-08-14

The Briefing 12-08-14

The Briefing


December 8, 2014

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


It’s Monday, December 8, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Democrats lose last Senate seat in South due to accelerating secular agenda

The political event of the weekend was the defeat of three-term Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who went down to a 57-43 loss to Representative Bill Cassidy in the runoff from the November 4 midterm election. In terms of congressional math, this solidifies the new Republican majority in the United States Senate but the bigger issues from a worldview and from a cultural perspective come down to what this means in terms of the region, the Democratic Party, and the future.

Mary Landrieu did serve three full terms in the United States Senate. Furthermore, she came from what amounts to political royalty in the state of Louisiana. Her brother is the current mayor of the city of New Orleans, her father was a prominent politician, and Mary Landrieu has been herself on so many ballots in Louisiana in recent cycles that, for many people, it would’ve been inconceivable, even just a couple of years ago, that she could lose an election like this. And yet she has, and she lost it rather spectacularly.

Political observers knew that she was going to lose, or at least was very likely to lose, when the Democratic Senatorial committee pulled its advertising funds out of the race even though it was the last major race standing. Political pundits will be looking at this for some time; they will do an analysis of the campaign and try to come to some political science explanation of why Mary Landrieu lost. But the New York Times actually got to the most important issues even before the election took place on Saturday and they did so giving careful attention not only to the political dimension but to the cultural and worldview issues at stake also.

But in the middle of last week Nate Cohn writing for the New York Times, even before Saturday’s election, pointed to what Mary Landrieu’s defeat would mean – it would mean that there is now no Democratic member of the United States Senate from the South; and defining it out this way means all the way from North Carolina to the state of Texas. If you draw a line between North Carolina and Texas you would not find one state that has even one Democratic member of the United States Senate. Furthermore, as he writes, the disappearance of southern Democratic conservatives means that there are very few members of the House of Representatives than Democratic Party in the same states. And furthermore, where there are Democratic members they are almost always in order defined as majority minority districts.

In his opening paragraph Cohn writes,

“After President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he reportedly told a fellow Democrat that the party had lost the South for a long time to come. It took more than a generation for old Southern loyalties to the Democrats to fade, but that vision is on the verge of being realized this weekend.”

And of course it was. And if you read the opening of Nate Cohn’s article it appears that, in terms of his analysis of this, it all comes down to race but by the time you end the article you have a very different picture. Cohn writes,

“Mary Landrieu, a Democratic senator from Louisiana, lost re-election in Saturday’s runoff election, as expected [and we insert, as she did], the Republicans vanquished the last vestige of Democratic strength in the once solidly Democratic Deep South. In a region stretching from the high plains of Texas to the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas, Republicans control not only every Senate seat, but every governor’s mansion and every state legislative body.”

Now if we just step back for a moment to get some historical perspective, Nate Cohn goes to exactly the right place, which is 1964 in that comment made by then-President Lyndon Johnson. He did say it’s rumored that Georgia Senator, Richard Russell, that the Democratic Party had lost the South for a generation because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and his leadership in that vote. But a historical perspective also requires us to realize that that was fully 50 years ago. And as Nick Cohn indicates, there’s something a lot more than the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at stake here. As a matter fact, that 50 year perspective reminds us that for most of the last 50 years, and that means all the way to Saturday, at least some Democratic strength was still found in the solid South. But it began to evaporate. First in terms of presidential elections when Democratic candidates began to lose the southern states they had accounted on for many decades. And then there came another blockbuster and that was the fact that as you had the South becoming more Republican, you also had Democrats becoming far more liberal; something that Nate Cohn acknowledges in his article.

If you go back to 1964, Democrats held or controlled nearly every southern state and southern state legislature. And again to his credit, Nick Cohen indicates that the big issue here really isn’t the matter of the Civil Rights Act but rather the culture wars that have so characterized the last several decades. For instance, in his article he writes,

“Today’s national Democratic Party is as unpopular in the South today as it has ever been, in no small part because the party has embraced a more secular agenda,”

He then quotes Professor Merle Black, he’s a professor of political science at Emory University and he is well regarded in terms of his observation of politics in the South, and he said,

“It’s a completely different party than it was 20 or 30 years ago. When the Democratic Party and its candidates become more liberal on culture and religion, that’s not a party that’s advocating what these whites value or think.”

He was speaking in particular of the white voters in the South. Again while acknowledging the racial issues that are in play in politics in the north and the South, but especially in the South, he also writes, and this is very important,

“Yet nonracial factors are most of the reason for Mr. Obama’s weakness. The long-term trends are clear. Mr. Kerry, for instance, fared worse than Michael Dukakis among most white Southerners, often losing vast swaths of traditionally Democratic countryside where once-reliably Democratic voters had either died or become disillusioned by the party’s stance on cultural issues.

Pay close attention to the following statement. He writes,

“It seems hard to argue that the Democrats could have retained much support among rural, evangelical Southern voters as the party embraced liberalism on issues like same-sex marriage and abortion.”

This article is important because it does get down to the worldview issues that are being played out in terms of the political headlines. And also because Nick Cohn in this case offers a very insightful analysis of what’s really going on. He concludes the article,

“It remains to be seen whether Republicans will continue to fare so well after Mr. Obama leaves the White House. Yet a Democratic rebound seems unlikely anytime soon. With Republicans now holding the advantage of incumbency, unless the region’s religiosity dims or the Democrats relent on their full-throated embrace of cultural liberalism, it may be theirs for a generation.”

What’s really important here is the diagnosis of why the Democratic Party has loss so much support in the South. And in this case not only Merle Black but Nate Cohn himself, in terms of the analysis offered, says it comes down to the culture wars and it comes down to the great cultural controversies of the last several decades. And the two things in particular that both men mention and that is the cultural liberalism when it comes to so many social issues now embraced by the Democratic Party, and furthermore what lies even more fundamentally at stake and that is the secularism of the party, also openly embraced at great cost in the South.

For much of the last two decades or so political scientist have been talking about the Republican Party growing more conservative. And yet political scientists are now pointing to something they really hadn’t noticed and that was that the Democratic Party has become even more liberal than the Republican Party has become conservative. So what we’re looking at here in terms of the cultural, social, and worldview issues at stake is a divide that is growing so wide that you’re finding Americans who really aren’t having any kind of hard decision whatsoever when they go to an election such as the citizens of Louisiana did this past Saturday. They’re going to elect a United States Senator in a runoff election but as they understood they are also going to elect a worldview, to elect an understanding of life, to elect a basic ideological and philosophical definition of reality.

Sociologist, news media types, and political scientist may debate this election in the larger pattern for any number of years to come. But right now Nate Cohn makes a very important point, and he makes it especially for the Democratic Party – if the party continues to hold to what he calls their “full throated embrace of cultural liberalism,” those are his words, it’s likely to be doomed in the South. And furthermore, even though this is not addressed in this article, this is what is costing the Democratic Party coast-to-coast, north to south, in so many districts and in so many states.

We understand that worldview matters and it always matters and it matters supremely in something like the political decision that was made by voters in Louisiana last Saturday. But it’s also very important to note that these same issues are now lining up to frame the coming 2016 presidential election. And most observers of the Democratic Party are suggesting that the only real conflict in that party is likely to be between the left and the further left, leading us to wonder, in terms of that party, whether it’s going to become even more full throated, to use Nick Cohn’s term, in terms of its embrace of cultural liberalism.

Before leaving the article it’s just very important to note that even here in the New York Times, even in this very important article, the link between secularism – that is a secular worldview – and political and cultural liberalism is made abundantly clear – and not only by the author of the article but also by the political scientist he quoted, Merle Black. That’s an important thing for them to observe, it’s an even more important thing for Christians to observe.

2) Unraveling of UVA rape story reveals importance of truth in confronting tragedy of rape 

Speaking of the culture, the big controversy over the weekend has to do with the magazine cover story that appears now to be falling apart but the controversy is only growing hotter. And this controversy is one that Christians have to watch with many different dimensions of concern. The article headline in the New York Times on Saturday was, “Report of Rape at a Fraternity Begins to Fray.” The article is by Richard Pérez-Peña and Ravi Somaiya, it’s datelined Charlottesville, Virginia and the reporters write,

“An account of sexual assault in Rolling Stone magazine that shook the University of Virginia and horrified readers showed signs of crumbling on Friday as the magazine admitted to doubts about its report of a premeditated gang rape at a fraternity party and the fraternity issued its first rebuttal of some details.”

The reporters go on to say that,

“Rolling Stone’s backpedaling came after … days of critiques that questioned aspects of its article about a woman who asked to be called Jackie, and concessions by campus activists against sexual assault that they had doubts about some parts of her account.”

On Friday Rolling Stone magazine published a note to readers from its managing editor, Will Dana who stated,


“In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced.”


Now it’s hard to come up with an issue that is more morally significant than rape and certainly the kind of premeditated organized rape that was described in the Rolling Stone article. But before we go any further we need to place this in the context of the ongoing controversy about sexual morality and especially the issue of rape on America’s college and University campuses. There have been outlandish claims made of late, including the claim now often repeated in the media, that one out of five young women is raped during the college experience. Now I say that’s outlandish because I don’t believe virtually anyone, even those repeating it, believe it to be true. That’s not to say that rape is not a crisis and that it is not altogether to pervasive, it’s not to say that it’s not an institutional responsibility, it is to say that the truth really matters and it really matters when a story like this begins to unravel.

Just to the issue bluntly, by the way, in the one out of five claims, I don’t believe that America’s parents would actually send their daughters to colleges and universities if they for a second believed that kind of claim. Nor, I would add, would law enforcement officials allow such a crime ridden environment to continue – not with those kinds of numbers. The numbers are assuredly horrifying but it’s also horrifying when the truth is treated so superficially. And that gets to the heart of the controversy that erupted in such a hot and very important way over the weekend because as it turned out Rolling Stone magazine has had to admit, in terms of successive clarifications, that it didn’t fact check the story, that it allowed the woman named Jackie in the story – acknowledging that’s a pseudonym – to tell the story and then to ask the reporter, who it also turns out, was looking for the story, not to fact check and not to talk to those that she had accused of raping her. Rolling Stone now admits that that was a problem. Now, recall that on Friday when it released its clarification it stated, and I want to repeat the words,

“In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account,”

Notice the next words very carefully,

“…and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced.”

Keep those words in mind as you hear that late last night Rolling Stone issued another clarification and this time not blaming the young women at the heart of the story, but rather taking responsibility, saying,

“These mistakes are on Rolling Stone, not on Jackie. We apologize to anyone who was affected by the story and we will continue to investigate the events of that evening.”

Frederic Frommer, reporting for the Associated Press on Rolling Stone’s clarification of last night, suggests quite openly that the magazine issued the second clarification because it got so much heat for the first one. And, as he says here, the magazine struck some critics as “blaming the victim.” That’s some of the new language of the new sexual morality and it’s laden with all kinds of moral importance.

That term ‘blaming the victim’ first emerged out of conversations in the aftermath of the so-called Moynihan Report on race from the 1960s when as Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then working as a domestic policy advisor in the Nixon White House, pointed to spiraling pathologies in the nation’s African-American communities – even documenting the truth –  but Moynihan, in tremendous controversy, even though he later became a very liberal Democratic Senator from New York (indeed he held the seat was later taken by Hillary Rodham Clinton) –  Moynihan, it was accused, had blamed the victims even by documenting the kinds of pathologies that he did in the report that later, at least popularly, bore his name. But in this case the use of the language ‘blaming the victim’ is being put into the larger context of what is being described as a rape culture in America’s college and University campuses. The most distressing part of the controversy over the weekend however is the fact that, at least for some people, the truth itself no longer really matters – what they really care about is what they claim is the larger truth that these kind of sexual assaults do happen.

Without going into the details of the story and the now described discrepancies, these things are frankly too graphic for this discussion, the reality is that the story indeed is falling apart. Indeed it’s falling apart spectacularly so much so that Rolling Stone magazine has had to basically retract the story in a large sense by offering these two successive clarifications. Furthermore, even the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, other major media sources, are beginning to look at the story and note that it was, in its essence, irresponsible journalism from the start.

The reporter for Rolling Stone was Sabrina Rubin Erdely. She is described, in terms of the media, as a veteran reporter on these kinds of stories. However, as the editors of the Wall Street Journal noted also on Saturday, and I quote,

“The larger problem, however, is that Ms. Erderly was, by her own admission, looking for a story to fit a pre-existing narrative—in this case, the supposed epidemic of sexual assault at elite universities, along with the presumed indifference of those schools to the problem. As the Washington Post noted in an admiring profile of Ms. Erdely, she interviewed students at several elite universities before alighting on UVA [that’s the University of Virgina] ‘a public school, Southern and genteel.’”

In other words, say the editors,

“Ms. Erdely did not construct a story based on facts, but went looking for facts to fit her theory. She appears to have been looking for a story to fit the current popular liberal belief that sexual assault is pervasive and pervasively covered-up.”

Looking at the national media coverage, it is really interesting to see how difficult the New York Times, the Washington Post, and so many other newspapers have found covering this story and the fact that it’s falling apart – because the very accusations made against the University of Virginia are now, they feared, to be made against themselves in terms of how they handle the story; even if the story does fall apart, as it now apparently, very clearly, is.

The same obvious difficulty in handling the story is clear in the current issue of Time magazine this week where Eliza Gray has a multi-page article in the center the magazine entitled “Fraternity Row.” And Time, even after at least the first clarification from Rolling Stone magazine, says that the story is still important even if the original Rolling Stone story turns out not to be true.

But by almost any measure the most interesting and alarming response to this controversy has come in the pages of the Washington Post by Zerlina Maxwell, identified as a political analyst, speaker, lawyer, and writer. According to the Post, she typically writes about national politics and cultural issues including domestic violence, sexual assault, and gender inequality. She then writes these very chilling words, and I quote,

“In last month’s deep and damning Rolling Stone report about sexual assault at the University of Virginia, a reporter told the story of ‘Jackie,’ who said she was gang raped at a fraternity party and then essentially ignored by the administration. It helped dramatize what happens when the claims of victims are not taken seriously.”

Maxwell then continues. She writes,

“Now the narrative appears to be falling apart: Her rapist wasn’t in the frat that she says he was a member of; the house held no party on the night of the assault; and other details are wobbly [that’s Maxwell’s word]. Many people (not least U-Va. administrators) will be tempted to see this as a reminder that officials, reporters and the general public should hear both sides of the story and collect all the evidence before coming to a conclusion in rape cases. This is what we mean in America when we say someone is ‘innocent until proven guilty.’

She then writes, stunningly enough,

“In important ways, this is wrong. We should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says. Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist.”

Now there have been any number of very important legal controversies in America, not only over the last 200 years but even you could save the last 200 days, and yet nothing that I ever seen in all my observation of these discussions comes even close to this article that appeared under the name of the Washington Post in which a lawyer, writing as a columnist for the newspaper, says that the presumption of innocence is something we can now do without as Americans.

Just to make sure that her point is heard in its clarity, she writes and I quote again,

“Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist.”

And, as she makes clear in her article, this means even if the rape didn’t happen and if the rapist is innocent. She acknowledges that the falsely accused rapist could face difficulties. She writes,

“The accused would have a rough period. He might be suspended from his job; friends might defriend him on Facebook.”

But again, and remembers Zerlina Maxwell is a lawyer after all, as well as a columnist for the Washington Post, she also writes in her argument,

“…is not a legal argument about what standards we should use in the courts; it’s a moral one, about what happens outside the legal system.”

Where, evidently, truth is just too expensive to use in this kind of controversy.

Hats off to Hanna Rosin, another very veteran writer on these affairs writing at for saying the problem is found at Rolling Stone; its journalistic failures in this case. But she says she’s not buying the argument that the truth doesn’t matter. Rosin writes,

“One thing I heard several times when trying to do re-reporting [she means of this story] myself: Many people had doubts about the details in the story, but didn’t really care, as long as it was effecting change at UVA. I don’t agree.”

She goes on to say,

“I still hope we can salvage some good from this episode, even if Jackie’s story proves false. Perhaps one thing we should look at is how we treat victims of sexual violence so differently than other victims, and whether that serves them.”

Now the most important thing about Hannah Rosin’s article is that she suggests that this new hyper ideological concern about rape really isn’t helping the victims of rape – the real victims of rape. Furthermore she says, the media is showing a lower standard of evidentiary interest when it comes to rape accusations over against other accusations. And once again she says, that’s not going to serve rape victims well in the long run.

From a biblical worldview perspective, as I said at the beginning, it’s hard to come up of anything more morally significant than rape. It is one of the vilest crimes addressed not only in the law but also in the Scripture. Christians must also be on the front lines of making very clear that rape must be opposed in every way possible and it must also be said that Christian should be on the front lines of calling for every legitimate instance of rape to be investigated and documented, and for every rapist to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

But there are two additional observations that have to be made here. One of the most profound is that offer by Hannah Rosin writing at – it does not serve the real victims well to have this kind of approach taken when stories fall apart. Those who are arguing that the truth really doesn’t matter actually devalue every actual rate that is taken place and make it easier for rape to go unreported and unprosecuted. And of course Christians looking at this have to understand that as we’re living in this culture, that for a long time was described as being postmodern, one of the main facets of the culture, at least on the part of some, especially on the cultural left, is the truth itself doesn’t exist – everything is a matter of interpretation and every truth claims is just social construction.

But you know it’s really interesting that the story began to fall apart not because of ideology but because of facts and the lack of facts – the discrepancy of claims became so important that even Rolling Stone magazine, one of the brand names of the cultural left, had to issue a clarification and then another clarification. And Hannah Rosin’s right, you can count on further clarifications to come.

But the last observation about this story, important as it is, comes down to the fact that Christians also understand the impossibility of creating any stable ethic that will protect human flourishing and human dignity if the entire understanding of the integrity of sexual morality is redefined in the wake of the new sexual revolution. If indeed you come down to the issue that the only thing that really matters in terms of the morality of sex is consent, then you’ll be involved in a constant debate over what might constitute rape, and you’ll come up with a constant debate about how anyone might prevent having young people get engaged in all kinds of abuses sexual relationships once they are told to have sex – just to have safe sex, and make sure you have consent.

The vast majority of controversies – legal, political, moral, and otherwise – over what’s happening in terms of the sexualized culture of American college and university campuses and we must acknowledge the very real problem of rape, much it is simply lost in the fog of trying to create an artificial sexual morality on the other side of having abandoned the only sexual morality that works. But the closing comment simply has to be where we began: the issue in the beginning, in the middle, and in the end is truth. And if Christians ever lose sight of that, we’ve lost sight of everything.

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 tomorrow for The Briefing.




Podcast Transcript

1) Democrats lose last Senate seat in South due to accelerating secular agenda

Dems’ final insult: Landrieu crushed, Politico (James Hohmann)

The Democrats’ Southern Problem Reaches a New Depth, New York Times (Nate Cohn)

Demise of the Southern Democrat Is Now Nearly Complete, New York Times (Nate Cohn)

2) Unraveling of UVA rape story reveals importance of truth in confronting tragedy of rape 

Rolling Stone Cites Doubts on Its Story of University of Virginia Rape, New York Times (Richard Pérez-Peña and Ravi Somaiya)

A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA, Rolling Stone (Sabrina Rubin Erdely)

Rolling Stone Now Doubts Victim in UVA Rape Allegation, NBC29

A Note to Our Readers, Rolling Stone (Will Dana)

Rolling Stone Clarifies Its Apology on UVA Story, Associated Press (Frederic J. Frommer)

Like a Rolling Stone, Wall Street Journal (Editorial Board)

Crisis on Fraternity Row, TIME (Eliza Gray)

No matter what Jackie said, we should generally believe rape claims, Washington Post (Zerlina Maxwell)

Blame Rolling StoneSlate (Hanna Rosin)


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).