The Briefing 01-07-15

The Briefing 01-07-15

The Briefing


January 7, 2015

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


It’s Wednesday, January 7, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.


Just hours after same-sex marriage became legal in the state of Florida the proponents of this moral revolution were declaring victory – not only in Florida but in the great cultural conflict this great moral revolution now represents. Columnist Michael Mayo of the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel was declaring that conservatives have simply lost the fight. He cited the Rev. O’Neal Dozier, an opponent of gay marriage, founder of the Worldwide Christian Center Church in Pompano Beach, who said,


“We’re feeling that it’s futile; we’ve lost this cultural fight.”


Mayo then wrote,


“That, as much as anything, is what made this historic day in Florida even more surprising”


Mayo’s column drew attention to the fact that there were few, if any, protesters about the arrival of same-sex marriage even as the ceremonies began shortly after midnight. Mayo was also making the point that even those who have opposed same-sex marriage are now accepting that it is a legal reality, at least in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Mayo openly speculates that cultural and moral conservatives are simply throwing in the towel.


Now that’s a very interesting analysis and there’s a great deal of truth to it, but his understanding of the underlying moral reality is what set him at odds with those who oppose same-sex marriage on deeply moral and theological grounds. Mayo celebrates the arrival of same-sex marriage as a clear demonstration of moral progress and he simply doesn’t understand why moral conservatives just won’t go along with the party. He does point to the irony as he writes,


“In the same County where Anita Bryant launched her anti-gay crusade in the 1970s, in the same Florida where 62% of voters – almost 4.9 million – approve the 2008 constitutional amendment, all the opposition seemingly vanished into thin air”


What Mayo doesn’t understand is that the opposition hasn’t simply faded away; it is now a new political reality, a new legal reality. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, an opponent of same-sex marriage, said the obvious when the courts refused to intervene in the Florida case simply allowing US District Court Robert Hinkle’s decision to overturn the constitutional amendment of the state – that is a constitutional amendment, that amendment cited in this article passed in 2008 that defines marriage as exclusively the union of a man and a woman. But as Jeb Bush said, this is simply a matter of the fact that the courts have spoken. Moral conservatives are not raising up an army to oppose the American regime, moral conservatives – Christian conservatives among them – are not launching some kind of armed counterrevolution. But this doesn’t mean that the great cultural debate is over, it does mean that we’ve now entered a very different moral terrain. It’s a moral terrain that is made different especially by the intervention of the courts. The courts making this decision overturning even as Mayo’s article makes clear, a decision supported by 62% of Florida voters as recently as 2008.


Mayo’s column cites John Stemberger, head of the Florida Family Policy Council, who said “America is still divided on this,” and America still is. He went on to say,


“The US Supreme Court is the final frontier and we haven’t heard from them. We’re in this for the long run – beyond my lifetime”


That’s a very prescient statement. It’s an absolutely important and vital statement. This is not a short-term battle, this is not a skirmish that is going to be begun or ended in the courts. The legal battle may be decided there but the long-term moral battle is something that is very different and one of the things we’re going to have to watch for is how this society actually adjusts to a new form of marriage – or at least what is claimed to be marriage. When same-sex couples are declared to be married, using the very same term –  implying the very same covenant that has been held by humanity for millennia to be the union of a man and a woman – were going to see what the long-term consequences of that moral revolution might be. There are good reasons to believe, given a biblical worldview, that those who have championed this revolution in the present are going to be very much scratching their heads in befuddlement when they see the results of this revolution play out in the future.


Mayo clearly understands exactly what is at stake in this debate in terms of the push for what is called same-sex marriage. It’s the push for legitimacy, moral legitimacy. As he writes,


“It means legitimacy. It means being on the same footing as heterosexual couples, not being second-class citizens, not having to explain to kids why their parents can’t get married.”


One of the most pathetic dimensions of this moral controversy is that the proponents of same-sex marriage won’t get with they demand – they simply won’t get the legitimacy that they crave for, even when the state legally declares that a man and a man or woman and a woman can be married, everyone understands that the word marriage has actually been transformed, it has been redefined. It is not simply the admission of new people into the union of marriage; it is a fundamental redefinition of marriage itself. So even though the same word may be used, it will no longer carry the same legitimizing effect in terms of its moral importance.


That’s one of the most interesting dimensions of all of this; there is even now the tacit admission amongst those who are the great marriage revolutionaries that what they’re actually doing is changing marriage fundamentally. That is exactly what at least some of those who are the proponents of same-sex marriage have been pushing for all along. Some gay activists admit openly, suggesting, that the legalization of same-sex marriage is just a halfway point towards relativizing marriage altogether – that’s what I discussed as marriage nihilism in the last couple of days.


One of the most important things for Christians to recognize however is that John Stemberger is exactly right. This is a generational battle, for that matter it’s going to include more than one generation. Marriage didn’t get into trouble in the last decade, or even in the last 20 years. The subversion and the redefinition of marriage didn’t begin with the claim that legitimacy had to be granted to same-sex unions. As a matter of fact, the arrival of no-fault divorce and rampant extramarital sexual activity, the legitimization of heterosexual sexual misbehavior preceded any demand for the legalization of same-sex marriage or at least any traction for that cause.


In reality we have already been in a battle over the issue of marriage, over the reality of what marriage is, for the last several decades and it’s going to continue for decades to come. Just remember that in 1973 when United States Supreme Court handed down the Roe V Wade decision declaring that the issue of abortion was effectively settled, we’re talking about what is now more than 40 years ago and abortion is, if anything, hardly settled in American culture. As a matter of fact, the headlines going into the year 2015 have already dealt with the fact that it is even more likely that the Supreme Court will take up abortion cases in this term than even issue of same-sex marriage.


Operating out of a biblical worldview, Christians understand what is at stake and we also understand that God has placed in history a providential display of his own judgment such that tampering with or rebelling against the institution of marriage as one of His good and most gracious gifts, is going to come with very damaging consequences. We don’t celebrate those damaging consequences, but we do understand that they are telling a story. They are revealing, even as the breakup and fracturing of the family is revealing in our present time, what happens when you subvert marriage and family. The inevitable damage upon the society is already abundantly clear and the arrival of same-sex marriage will just accelerate those trends.


The real test for Christians in particular is whether or not we continue to honor marriage; first of all in our own lives and then most especially, in our own churches, and then whether we had the continuing courage to bear witness to the reality of marriage as one of God’s most important gifts to humanity – publicly as well is privately.


Next, we often speak about the impact of demography of population trends on moral issues and societal changes and that’s why it’s important to note that as the year 2015 dawned, there’s a reshuffling of the states at the top of the population charts in the United States. Most importantly, New York State exchanged places with Florida; Florida moving into the number three slot and New York State falling to number four. The most populous state of course is California followed by Texas; now comes Florida and then comes New York State. That’s a fundamental re-shifting of the American equation. It will change Congress because congressional seats are apportioned according to the population of the states. In the next census, it is almost absolutely assured that Florida will gain seats and New York State will lose even more.


The Northeast and the so-called Rust Belt states have been losing population now for several decades. And the state of California is now also in danger of losing population, especially to neighboring states with lower taxes and more accessible middle-class lifestyles. Just about any analysis of the moral dimension of the demographic equation gets to the fact that in the United States the most progressive elites are coalescing on the two coasts; on the West Coast with California and Oregon and Washington carrying the league and then on the East Coast – particularly in the Northeast. Those also tend to be the areas in which the basic social patterns of the left are accelerated over those that are found in the South and in the Southwest. The great heartland of America is also a place where more conservative values prevail, thus when you look at electoral maps of the United States in a presidential election and you look at those states that are colored red versus those that are colored blue – with blue being Democratic and read being Republican – every one of those maps for the last half-century has looked as if Republicans have won in a landslide but that’s because the states are counted not as they are counted in terms of electoral votes.


The big population shifts of the last decade have been into the cities, meaning into a more cosmopolitan, a more liberal environment and towards the south, a contra indication in a more conservative direction. But the future of the nation, politically at least, and for a good matter culturally as well, will have a great deal to do with how the so-called swing states develop in the future. And Florida is one of the most important of those swing states.


And it’s not inconsequential that it now ranks number three in US population. Meaning, that in short order, the Florida congressional delegation will be ranking third. When you consider the top four, California and New York State are solidly liberal, very democratic – socially and culturally progressive. The state of Texas is solidly red – very morally conservative except for some isolated Metropolitan areas such as Austin which houses the University of Texas. But the state of Florida, as we said, it’s up for grabs. The latest state to have legal same-sex marriage is a state that may reflect in so many ways, the future of the country. For that reason and more, it bears very close watching.


Florida is of course also a very interesting laboratory for church life as evangelicals are understanding the complexities of reaching out to a highly complex and pluralistic, very diverse, society. Just as California was the great evangelical laboratory of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, it may well be that the state of Florida is the great interesting laboratory for evangelicals for the decade to come.


The influence of the cultural elites in America bears very close watching and that’s what makes an article that appeared on the front page of the New York Times yesterday nothing less than absolutely fascinating. The article is written by Robert Pear and it’s about the response of the faculty of Harvard University to changes made in their own healthcare plan necessitated as their own University administration is made clear by the ObamaCare legislation, the faculty overwhelmingly supported. As Pear writes,


“For years, Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will now be applied to the Harvard faculty, and the professors are in an uproar.”


Now, if you’re familiar with the old statement that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, but in this case the gander is made up primarily of tenured professors at Harvard University – a university that by its own reckoning and recording indicates that the vast majority, that is well over 95%, of the political contributions made by its faculty were to Democrats and have been in a similar pattern for recent election cycles. There are some departments in Harvard in which it’s virtually impossible to find a moral, political, or cultural conservative. Not only did the Harvard faculty overwhelmingly support Barack Obama for president, again that was documented, but they also were heavily involved with several key members of the Harvard faculty in the development of what became the Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare. But now as Robert Pear writes,


“Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the heart of the 378-year-old university, voted overwhelmingly in November to oppose changes that would require them and thousands of other Harvard employees to pay more for health care. The university says the increases are in part a result of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, which many Harvard professors championed.”


It turns out rather unsurprisingly that Harvard University, one of the wealthiest institutions in the history of the world, has offered a premium benefits package to its employees – especially to its tenured faculty. But those days are over and the Provost of the University, who was himself an architect of the ObamaCare legislation, now says that it is virtually impossible for the University to continue that very premium benefits package. For one thing, the ObamaCare legislation demands a tax beginning in 2018 on so-called Cadillac programs – exactly the kind of program that Harvard now offers. Furthermore, the Affordable Care Act requires a form of cost-sharing between the employees and the employer, in terms of the healthcare package, and that’s something the Harvard faculty have avoided until now. Of course as Robert Pear makes very clear, the vast majority of employees in America have never had the kind of benefits package that the Harvard faculty has until now enjoyed. They are now, at least in a minimum way, in a similar position to most employees that also have an employer-based program.


But they don’t like it one bit, they are even claiming that it is unjust that the kind of cost-sharing that is now involved in Harvard’s new benefits plan – again the same thing found in most other employer plans – is unjust because it taxes the sick, making it less likely that some people will go to get medical care if they have to pay some of the cost. But that’s the very logic of ObamaCare, the very program that they championed. They were for it for others, but they’re not for it for themselves.


Now in one sense, hypocrisy is nothing new to the human condition. And conservatives are just as open to the charge of hypocrisy on some issues as our liberals. But on this kind of issue, it is a particularly ironic form of hypocrisy because on this issue they weren’t merely supportive of the ObamaCare act and of Pres. Obama himself, they were avidly supportive to the point that several of their own tenured faculty members were involved in the crucial policymaking decisions that went into the Affordable Care Act itself. In other words, they weren’t just for it; they were in large part represented by their own faculty members in bringing the act into the form by which it eventually passed Congress. And of course as we remember, it passed both houses of Congress barely and without a single Republican vote in either chamber.


One of the premier academics behind the Affordable Care Act was none other than Dr. Alan M Garber, who was then a professor at Stanford University, now irony of ironies he’s the Provost – or chief academic officer – at Harvard University. And now he is having to defend these very benefit changes to the people who said they supported it when it was for someone else, but not for themselves. And speaking of academics involved in the formation of the ObamaCare legislation and in its legislative passage, no one was more infamously involved than Jonathan Gruber, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology right next to Harvard University there in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At the end of the year 2014, Jonathan Gruber became infamous for having publicly declared that the math behind the ObamaCare legislation was falsified in order to cook the books because, as he said, it was necessary to fool Congress by the numbers in order for the passage of the legislation to take place.


Jonathan Gruber appeared before a House committee by the end of 2014 and apologized for making the statement but his statement stands not only because he said it, but because it is verifiably true. The Congressional Budget Office was handed cooked books and they passed on those cooked numbers to Congress and those numbers were publicly used in the passage of the legislation. But as syndicated columnist Mona Charen notes, we should really be watching Jonathan Gruber – not so much for ObamaCare but for a different issue and that issue is abortion.


As she writes,


“Recall that the 2005 best-seller “Freakonomics” made a huge splash with the claim that Roe v. Wade was responsible for the drop in crime America experienced starting in the 1990s. The theory, [she said], was that fewer unwanted babies began to be born after 1973. These aborted babies did not turn 18 in 1991 and, accordingly, did not commit crimes, leading to the dramatic drop in crime.”


She goes on to say,


“It turns out that the study on which the ‘Freakonomics’ authors based their chapter on abortion and crime was authored by none other than Jonathan Gruber (and others). In their 1997 paper, Gruber and his co-authors concluded that ‘for the marginal child not born due to increased abortion access, the odds of living in a single parent family would have been roughly 70 percent higher, the odds of living in poverty nearly 40 percent higher, the odds of welfare receipt 50 percent higher.’ They continued, ‘From these results, we estimate that the legalization of abortion saved the federal government over $14 billion in welfare payments through 1994.’”


Mona Charen goes on to say, let’s suppose for a moment that Gruber is right – that abortion is somehow tied to a lower crime rate. Before she says that however she very effectively devastated the argument. She goes on to say,


“But let’s imagine that Gruber was right — that legalizing abortion eliminated a big cohort of the criminal element and led to a drop in crime. Did every one of those aborted criminals merit the death penalty? … Before trial? Before the crime itself?”


“Gruber’s thesis that abortion caused America’s crime drop is almost certainly false.”


Mona Charen also wrote,


“Considering that 30 percent of abortions are obtained by African-American women, though they constitute just 13 percent of the female population, Gruber was in effect arguing that reducing the number of poor black children was, not to put too fine a point on it, a positive good.”


She concludes her essay, and I quote,


“If it makes you uncomfortable that such a person helped design Obamacare, you’re not alone.”


But Jonathan Gruber is also not alone. That very interesting article that appeared on the front page of yesterday’s edition of the New York Times tells us that the Harvard faculty is overwhelmingly opposed to policies applied to themselves that they were quite ready to apply to the rest of the nation. And then Mona Charen comes back, pointing in a very similar way to MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, pointing out that the real problem is not so much that he cooked the books for ObamaCare but that his worldview makes abortion a positive good.


When you understand that one simple fact, everything else begins to fall in the place. And we begin to understand why some academics with outsized influence, with a worldview that is so distant from the rest of Americans, have an influence that is not only important in legislation but in matters of life and death. Justifying abortion by arguing that babies not born won’t be in poverty, won’t be raised in single-parent homes, and eventually won’t add to the crime rate. Most frightening of all, keep this in mind, those kinds of discussions, that kind of research, that kind of worldview and argument, won’t stay limited to a conference or seminar table at MIT or Harvard University. Inevitably, they make their way into public life and that’s why the battle of ideas is inevitably a matter of life and death.


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) Victory of same-sex ‘marriage’ in Florida shows fight for flourishing is generational battle

Mayo: Gay marriage foe says ‘We’ve lost this fight’, Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel (Michael Mayo)


2) Shift of most populated states finds Florida may be the next laboratory for evangelicals

Florida Passes New York to Become the Nation’s Third Most Populous State, Census Bureau Reports, United States Census Bureau


3) Harvard professors, who were integral to the Affordable Care Act, chaff under implementation

Harvard Ideas on Health Care Hit Home, Hard, New York Times (Robert Pear)


4) Jonathan Gruber proves battle of ideas is of the highest consequence — life or death

Who Had the Worst Year? Jonathan Gruber, Townhall (Mona Charen)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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