The Briefing 01-06-15

The Briefing 01-06-15

The Briefing


January 6, 2015

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


It’s Tuesday, January 6, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.


At the stroke of midnight this morning, Florida became the 36th state in the union to have legalized same-sex marriage. This came in the aftermath of a judicial decision made by federal district judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee last year; the hold on the judge’s decision expired at midnight tonight. Over the weekend the state of Florida abandoned its legal appeals to either continue the stay or to reverse Judge Hinkle’s decision. The state had appealed his decision to the fifth US circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. But as of midnight this morning, same-sex marriage became legal in the entire state of Florida. That is something of a technicality because several hours earlier in Dade County – the biggest city their being Miami – a local judge had lifted the stay hours earlier; meaning that same-sex couples in Miami could get married hours before same-sex couples elsewhere in the state.


The attention now turns to the various County clerks in Florida’s counties where same-sex couples were lining up at midnight and before to gain marriage licenses. Several of the County clerks were making extraordinary opportunities for same-sex couples, especially County clerks in southeastern Florida – several of whom announced that they would not only be eagerly opening their offices at midnight but would also be setting a stay on the state statutory three-day limitation between the granting of a marriage license and the marriage ceremony. The County Clerk in Palm Beach County announced that she’ll be doing so granting so-called hardship exemptions.


According to the Palm Beach Post, Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller Sharon Bock announced that she would preside over a group marriage ceremony of same-sex couples just after the midnight hour. She also announced that she would not only be conducting the ceremonies but she would be celebrating them,


“We will have wedding cakes and coffee. It’s an historic event and that is why we are celebrating it as such”


But the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel announced that not all County Clerks are going along with this celebration. The paper reports that at least five north Florida counties have chosen to stop performing wedding ceremonies entirely because of moral or religious objections. The paper cites Duval County Clerk Ronnie Fussell who told the Florida Times Union,


“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. Personally it would go against my beliefs to perform a ceremony that is other than that.”


In a revealing moral twist to the developments here in Florida, the Sunday edition of the Palm Beach Post included the headline “Tourism Pros see Florida as Gay Wedding Mecca” The story is a very interesting account of how tourism officials here in Florida expect the advent of same-sex marriage to be a huge economic boon not only for the nation, but most particularly, for the state; already drawing much of its income from tourism dollars.


The article by reporter Jeff Ostrowski quoted Nikki Grossman, head of the greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, she according the paper has been talking up South Florida as a same-sex wedding destination.


“We believe having marriage legal in Florida is really going to drive business our way. South Florida is poised to be wedding central.”


The paper also cited Shanie McCowen, identified as a wedding planner, who is opening a location for wedding planning business in Florida:


“Her Boca Raton company, Rainbow Bells, handled 52 same-sex ceremonies in New York last summer. With Florida opening to gay marriage on Tuesday, McCowen aims to expand. She’s interviewing potential employees, shopping for office space and bracing for the moment when she’s too busy to attend every wedding arranged by her company.”


McCowen appears again in the article in a very revealing way when the paper writes,


“Because weddings can be so expensive, they’re an ideal economic engine, wedding planners say. Rainbow Weddings charges as little as $500 for a simple ceremony, but the tab for a not-so-simple event is many times that. McCowen said she has arranged weddings in helicopters, on boats, even at a horse-racing track.”


She then says,


“There are no rules. It’s already against the grain of your traditional marriage, so I tell people, ‘Do whatever the [blank] you want.'”


From a Christian worldview perspective, that’s an incredibly revealing statement because this wedding planner, celebrating the commercial appeal of the arrival of same-sex marriage and looking to radically expand her business, says that when it comes to planning a same-sex ceremony the situation is already so outside the bounds of traditional marriage the couple should feel free to do whatever they may want.


The revealing part of that statement is the acknowledgment that same-sex marriage is so unlike “traditional marriage.” That is, marriage as it is has been known through two millennia and more of human experience as exclusively the union of a man and a woman. That union of a man and a woman has implied a certain form to the marriage ceremony itself, even in a more secular rather than a sacred context. The very fact that the marriage of a man and a woman is establishing a conjugal union in terms of human experience – again even in a rather secular context, even far outside where Christian revelation has any normative influence – there still has been a ceremonial understanding of what is taking place when a man and a woman make public vows to each other to form a monogamous marital union for not only themselves but for the generations that should follow. And not only as a private institution, but as an institution fundamental to society that has a most public importance.


The Christian worldview analysis of this also points to the fact that the world is quite ready to find an economic reality, an incentive, to the advent of something like same-sex marriage. The arrival of legal same-sex marriage in Florida is now being championed as a tourist opportunity, and a great opportunity for the state of Florida not only to increase its wedding business but its tax income from that business itself. The head of the Fort Lauderdale convention Bureau announced that she was going to be going to extraordinary lengths to try to attract same-sex marriage business; not only to her city but to the facility she supervises.


In another very interesting moral twist to the tale, divorce attorneys in Florida are also getting ready for an avalanche of new business as same-sex couples will not only be marrying but also divorcing. The Palm Beach Post cites Joseph Karp, an attorney in Palm Beach Gardens who said,


“Divorce, alimony, support —all of these issues from the negative side of marriage will come to the fore.”


The arrival of same-sex marriage is thus being championed as a great opportunity for capitalist gain, reminding us at least of the statement attributed to Lenin in which he said that when the time came to hang the capitalists, the capitalists would bid for the contract on the rope.


As the most basic molecular structure of civilization itself, marriage is being redefined before our eyes in a vast social revolution. It is extremely revealing that there are so many who are rushing to be on the front lines of profiting from this revolution – not only celebrating it, but profiting thereby. There are a couple of other huge developments on the same-sex marriage front and one of them could come before the end of this week. As Robert Barnes reports yesterday for the Washington Post, as gay marriages begin this morning in Florida, the Supreme Court is expected on Friday the justices to meet in their own private conference to decide whether or not they will take up the same-sex marriage issue in the 2015 term.


The reality is that if the justices do not decide to take up one of these cases by the end of January, they will not have time to hold oral arguments and decide the case by the end of this term in June 2015. The likelihood that the Supreme Court would take up the issue of same-sex marriage has increased dramatically when in the last part of last year, justices for the sixth US circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled in contradiction to other appellate courts finding that the states in their jurisdiction had a constitutional right to forbid same-sex marriages. The reality that there are now conflicting courts of appeal leads to the reality that the Supreme Court is almost certain to take up the case, and rather quickly. Observers on both sides of the issue expects that as early as Friday, or at least within the next two weeks, the Supreme Court is likely to announce that it is taking up at least one of the cases coming up from the states that have had judicial decisions against their legislation or constitutional amendments limiting marriage to the union of a man and a woman.


Very interestingly, Barnes cites a study undertaken by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law that now says that 70% of Americans live in a jurisdiction where same-sex marriage is legal. That’s a moral revolution again we are witnessing at warp speed. Just back in 2013 when the US Supreme Court struck down the defense of marriage act in its now infamous Windsor decision, just nine states and the District of Columbia had legal same-sex marriage. The arrival of same-sex marriage in Florida this morning means that Florida is the 36th state – that’s an increase from 9 to 36 in the process of less than two years, indeed of just about 18 months.


An interesting analysis of the public response to this moral revolution comes from veteran political reporter Susan Page in a front-page story that arrived in the New Year’s edition of USA Today. Writing about seven trends that marked the year 2014, she identified the fourth as “on social issues: Americans shrugged.” She then writes,


“A wave of federal court rulings in 2014 allowed same-sex couples to marry in 19 additional states, more than doubling the number of states where gay marriage is permitted. Nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population lives in the 35 states where gay men and lesbians are free to wed.”


But in the most interesting portion of her article she writes,


“The public reaction? What public reaction?”


“Opponents are pressing forward with a challenge that is likely to make it to the Supreme Court, but as a political issue, gay marriage seems to be fading even as the debate over another wedge issue, abortion rights, remains unrelenting.”


So Susan Page says that the vast majority of Americans have decided simply to go along with the revolution; by acquiescence if not by support. Of course Susan Page has also acknowledged even in her article that the reality that same-sex marriage has been legalized has been overwhelmingly by action of the court’s, not by action of the people.


It’s a very telling indication of the scope of the moral revolution we are now experiencing. Our society is now engaged in a vast headlong rush into what can only be described as one of the most radical social experiments ever undertaken by any society at any time. We can see in the future not only the current marital revisionism, but something like marriage nihilism in the future where marriage can mean virtually anything. Just think about the comment made by the wedding planner about a same-sex marriage ceremony: ‘just do anything because as traditional marriage recedes, all that is left is whatever anyone wants to determine that marriage is,’ and right now they’re doing so with the sanction of courts and judges.


Another very interesting dimension of the developments in Florida has to do with the response of ministers and churches. The arrival of same-sex marriage, legal in the state of Florida, means that in very short order everyone is going to know where every pastor stands, where every church stands, where every denomination stands. One interesting aspect of this has to do with churches that have allowed their facilities to be used by nonmembers for wedding ceremonies, usually with a fee. The reality is that if courts decide that those church facilities are thus public accommodations, they may fall under nondiscrimination or antidiscrimination laws. The church will then find itself in a legal position of great tenuousness if the church says it’s going to allow the nonmembers who are opposite sex couples to marry but not same-sex couples. The impact of this moral revolution is going to lead pastors and churches, virtually all Christians, to have to come to terms with exactly what our convictions are on marriage and sexuality.


But there’s more to this than first meets the eye because the reality of this moral revolution, with all of the religious liberty entanglements that will come with it, is likely also to underline the importance of ecclesiology. We’re going to find out where the church is, we’re going to find out where the churches are that will stand by the word of God. We’re also going to find where the churches are that understand the importance of regenerate church membership, of church membership that is meaningful and convictional – not just a matter of the church roll or convenience. We’re also going to find out how many churches are going to be able to sustain their ministries simply by their congregations, rather than relying on outside business from such things as weddings. Churches may have gotten by with that kind of business in an age of cultural Christianity, but with cultural Christianity evaporating before our eyes and the society around us growing increasingly hostile to evangelical Christianity, that’s a business that Christians just may not be able to afford.


From a Christian worldview perspective, another very interesting milestone passed last Thursday with the death of Mario Cuomo at age 82. The three term governor of New York State was one of the most formidable figures of American politics in the 1980s and into the 1990s. He is also, in himself, one of the most interesting cases of liberalism in American public life. He was a standard-bearer for Democratic liberalism in a day in which the society was actually turning more conservative. Mario Cuomo was a phenomenal orator. His keynote addresses and other presentations to Democratic national conventions often upstaged the nominee for president. You can ask Walter Mondale or Walter Dukakis just what it felt like to have Mario Cuomo steal the show in trying to endorse them. Liberal Democrats longed for Mario Cuomo to run for the office of President of the United States and he flirted with it in both 1988 and 1992, but in the end he decided not to run. The other standard-bearers for Democratic liberalism who did win the nominations – in 1984 Walter Mondale and in 1988 Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis – lost overwhelmingly. That left many Democrats in the position of wondering what might have been if Mario Cuomo had indeed decided to run.


Mario Cuomo saw himself as the quintessential American success story. Born to Italian immigrants, he went to college, graduated from law school, and eventually entered politics. After an unsuccessful run for mayor of New York City in 1977, he was elected governor and he served three terms before being defeated in the 1990s by George Pataki, a Republican – even as Cuomo was seeking a record fourth term. Ironically, Mario Cuomo died on Thursday, the very day that his son Andrew Cuomo was being sworn in for a second term as governor of the very same state.


Governor Cuomo also died even as the Democratic Party is being split between its liberal and even more liberal wings with the current front runner for the Democratic nomination for president – Hillary Rodham Clinton – being challenged, at least in theory, from the left with figures such as Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, someone who represents something more like the Cuomo tradition. There’s more than a little irony in this as well because in 1992 Bill Clinton won the Democratic nomination with Cuomo’s support and was eventually elected not only to his first term but to two terms as president of the United States, running against Cuomo’s form of liberalism. Clinton presented himself as a new kind of Democrat, one who would fight taxation and cut the budget – which, interestingly enough, he did at least in part. But now the Democratic Party is headed more in Mario Cuomo’s direction, even as Cuomo’s passing marks a very historic milestone for that party and for the state of New York.


But from a Christian worldview perspective, there’s something more important here at stake. In 1984 Gov. Cuomo went to the University of Notre Dame, The Citadel of American Catholicism in order to deliver an address about religious liberty and political responsibility. The address was controversial even before Gov. Cuomo arrived at the University of Notre Dame. It was controversial for a very important reason; Gov. Cuomo was an avid proponent, politically, of abortion – a defender of abortion rights and a defender of the fact that the state of New York actually paid for abortions even as it is now by taxpayer subsidies.


The arrival of Gov. Cuomo on the campus of the University of Notre Dame was controversial because the Roman Catholic Church officially teaches not only that abortion is a grave sin but also that it is nothing less than murder. In his address, Gov. Cuomo famously declared himself to be personally pro-life. He said, and I quote,


“My church and my conscience require me to believe certain things about divorce, birth control and abortion. My church does not order me — under pain of sin or expulsion — to pursue my salvific mission according to a precisely defined political plan.”


What Gov. Cuomo was arguing quite transparently was the fact that he would claim to uphold the church’s teaching while, as governor of the state, doing precisely the opposite of what the church taught. He said, and I quote,


“For me life or fetal life in the womb should be protected, even if five of nine Justices of the Supreme Court and my neighbor disagree with me. A fetus is different from an appendix or a set of tonsils. At the very least, even if the argument is made by some scientists or some theologians that in the early stages of fetal development we can’t discern human life, the full potential of human life is indisputably there.”


But Gov. Cuomo went on to argue that as governor of New York his responsibility was not as a Catholic believer but rather as a secular public servant. And he argued that even as he was personally and privately opposed to abortion, he was publicly supportive of abortion for the reason he cited in the speech of religious liberty. He said that he had no constitutional authority to use Catholic teaching in terms of his responsibility as governor. Very interestingly Gov. Cuomo was hardly consistent in terms of this argumentation because when it came to capital punishment he claimed that as a Catholic he was opposed to it; citing that in terms of his political opposition to the death penalty as well.


In making this rather famous argument Gov. Cuomo was actually following a trajectory that had been set by politicians before him; notably, the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy. Sen. Kennedy had made the same kind of argument; that he was personally opposed to abortion but that he saw it as an essential matter of women’s rights and thus he was politically supportive of it – we would add ardently in support of it. But the grounds for this kind of argument go even further back – particularly in the Kennedy family – back to the 1960 presidential campaign when then candidate Sen. John F Kennedy spoke to a group of southern Baptist pastors in Houston, Texas, assuring them – also very famously – that even though he was a Catholic, it really wouldn’t make any difference in terms of his political leadership.


The reality of the situation is not limited of course to Roman Catholics. Gov. Cuomo serves as a parable of those who in a liberal and secular age try to argue that religious conviction actually has no place in terms of the laws of the state. But as James Antle pointed out in This Week Magazine, this is an argument that falls flat on its face when applied to other areas of the law. Antle argues that there are ample places where the law intersects with official religious teaching and people see no apparent conflict. As he writes,


“Uncle Sam outlaws theft even though the Ten Commandments say thou shalt not steal. Homicide is illegal even though the Ten Commandments say thou shalt not kill. Many religions teach us to care for the poor. Cuomo would not argue that social welfare spending therefore violates the separation of church and state.”


The important lesson here from a Christian worldview perspective is in no way limited to Roman Catholic politicians and the Roman Catholic Church, but rather evangelicals must also take note of those who claim to be evangelical Christians but who try to separate their personal convictions and their public leadership; whether in politics or in some other arena of important human activity. Our convictions on a matter are fundamental as the sanctity and dignity of human life cannot be relegated and restricted to the private sphere. The issue of abortion is not something that is simply a theological dispute; it is a matter of life and death. It is absolutely not only hypocritical but murderously so for a politician to say that he believes that abortion is murder but that it must remain legal. That is absolute moral nonsense.


Even as millions of Americans weren’t even alive when Gov. Cuomo gave that address at the University of Notre Dame in 1984, the issues are still front and center in terms of our national life. Very interestingly Mario Cuomo once told the New Republic magazine “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” On the issue of the sanctity and dignity of human life, Gov. Cuomo’s prose was the problem.


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 West Palm Beach, Florida and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1) Legalization of gay ‘marriage’ in Florida reveals economic underpinnings

Same-sex marriages begin in Miami-Dade County, Miami Herald (Patricia Mazzei and Steve Rothaus) 

Wedding planners, tourism officials see dollar signs from gay marriage, Palm Beach Post (Jeff Ostrowski)


2) Possible Supreme Court ruling on gay ‘marriage’ will certainly reveal where churches stand

As gay marriages begin in Florida, Supreme Court is set to meet on issue, The Washington Post (Robert Barnes)

No Kardashians: 7 stories from 2014 that matter most, USA Today (Susan Page)


3) Death of Mario Cuomo reminder that personal convictions cannot be separated from politics

Mario Cuomo, Ex-New York Governor and Liberal Beacon, Dies at 83, New York Times (Adam Nagourney)

What Mario Cuomo got wrong on abortion, The Week Magazine (W. James Antle III)

Mario Cuomo Had the Most Divided Mind in Politics, The New Republic Magazine (Sidney Blumenthal)

Mario Cuomo Had the Most Divided Mind in Politics

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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