The Briefing 02-03-15

The Briefing 02-03-15

The Briefing


February 3, 2015

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


It’s Tuesday, February 3, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Obama budget proposal reveals worldview and philosophy of government

President Obama yesterday presented a budget. As Julie Hirschfield Davis of the New York Times reports, it is more a utopian vision than a pragmatic blueprint – and that’s really saying something considering that’s coming from the New York Times. As Davis explains,

“It proposes a politically improbable reshaping of the tax code and generous new social spending initiatives that would shift resources from the wealthy to the middle class.”

Actually, those last words are something of a questionable statement. But certainly that’s the point that President Obama was seeking to make in terms of releasing his budget. His budget was a $4 trillion blockbuster, and indeed it does bust the budget.

Every Christian couple knows that when setting a family budget you’re making a very important worldview statement. You really find out what you believe when you make your spending priorities. Sometimes, in all honesty, you see it in retrospect when you see where your money has gone. There you have a revelation of your actual priorities, the priorities that reveal something of an economic x-ray of your own worldview priorities as well.

The same thing is true of the national government; its philosophy of governing shows forth in its budget, its priorities are very clear in what is budgeted. The vast majority of the United States budget is not discretionary at all. For the better part of the last half of the 20th century and now into the 21st century, most of the budget is established by mandated payments on the national debt and even more importantly, payments for various entitlement programs.

The actual discretionary portion of the budget is very small and that’s exactly what President Obama seems to be very frustrated by. He is seeking to overcome what he called “mindless austerity” in terms of the kinds of budget caps that have been placed by Congress in recent years, and he’s called for a rather significant increase in spending. And even as the New York Times said, it is indeed “more utopian vision than pragmatic blueprint.”

Again, taking the example to the family, sometimes a proposed budget is a way of starting a discussion, maybe even prompting an argument, and that’s exactly true in the political context of Congress. President Obama is clearly intending to start an argument and it’s an argument he really doesn’t have with Congress as much as, like many other Presidents, the President is actually starting an argument that he hopes will win the hearts and minds of the American people.

It is very interesting that he used this expression of “mindless austerity” in terms of previous budget caps just days after the Greek people elected a far left government precisely in opposition to financial austerity. But let’s look at that phrase for just a moment: “mindless austerity.” In terms of the American budget, not to mention the Greece, but in terms of the US government’s budget, what does that ‘mindless austerity’ mean? It means slowing down our failure to pay the obligations of the future. In other words that ‘mindless austerity’ is nowhere close, regardless of what either party claims, to meaning that the United States government is spending only what it takes in. That hasn’t been true for a very long time. We are shifting a massive debt to our own children and grandchildren. The real question, regardless of which party is making the argument, is exactly how much of that debt is to be increased, handed off to our children and grandchildren?

A couple of footnotes in terms of this particular story – there is a wide bipartisan appeal to shifting the corporate tax code in some way; modifying it. The essential issue in the corporate tax code is that there is an enormous incentive right now to American corporations keeping their cash offshore – outside the United States – so that it is not taxed at the levels of the United States in terms of corporate taxation. Now what we’re looking at is a world situation in which even if governments may keep corporations captive, they can’t keep capital captive. The capital will flow to where there is least resistance and greatest opportunity for profit. And that’s the real danger to the United States in terms of our corporate tax code.

That very high rate of corporate taxation is now leading to many corporations keeping the money offshore. President Obama is threatening, or promising – proposing you might say – a massive one-time corporate tax. And yet it’s almost surely dead on arrival in Congress and there is a good chance that President Obama’s really counting on that – which is another part of the lesson to be learned here. Sometimes the argument is to be overheard rather than heard. Sometimes, when you’re looking at something like this, it really isn’t an effort on the part of President Obama to get a budget through Congress. Sometimes it’s an effort to make a political statement, and in this case – once again, it’s very telling that even the New York Times knows that – this is a utopian statement rather than a very serious presidential budgetary proposal.

But the other footnote here is also important. In terms of this kind of political dynamic, it often really doesn’t matter all that much what the President says or what, in response, congressional leaders might say. What matters in the greatest sense is what happens behind closed doors. And in those closed door discussions there’s likely to be a very long process of working out what eventually might be expected to be a proposal that will meet with some kind of agreement by the White House and Republican leaders in both houses of Congress.

But make no mistake, even as there is politics going down here on both sides, the reality is there is a worldview issue being hammered out here as well – just like for our family budget or a church budget, the budget of the United States reflects its priorities and also reflects its understanding of the future and its commitment to – or lack of commitment to – any kind of financial responsibility. Perhaps more pressing it also indicates whether we’re willing to pay our bills or to shift those cost to our children and grandchildren. It’s been the shifting to future generations that’s been the practice of recent years, and if that pattern holds, it is really setting up our children and our descendants beyond for a financial disaster.

2) Father of the Pill, who enabled division between sex and procreation, dies

From time to time I’ve remarked that some of the most important articles that appear in newspapers are not new stories but obituaries. One of the obituaries that appeared in Sunday’s edition of the New York Times is this: Carl Djerassi, 91, a Creator of the Birth Control Pill, Dies. Many people reading these obituaries, especially in a newspaper of record such as the New York Times, are not familiar with the fact that these obituaries are largely written in advance – they have to be. It would be virtually impossible in just a quick matter of days to accumulate the amount of information and reflection that is necessary for this kind of obituary. Instead what you have are vaults, effectively, of obituaries that are written in advance and then finished when the occasion arises. And that tells you something, it tells you that an obituary of this size, published in Sunday’s edition of the New York Times, indicates that long before Dr. Dejerassi died the editors of the Times had decided his would be a death worth noting.

Robert D. McFadden writing for the Times tells us,

“Carl Djerassi, an eminent chemist who 63 years ago synthesized a hormone that changed the world by creating the key ingredient for the oral contraceptive known as ‘the Pill,’ died on Friday at his home in San Francisco. He was 91.”

Dr. Djerassi, as McFadden reports,

“…arrived in America as World War II engulfed Europe, [he was] a 16-year-old Austrian Jewish refugee who, with his mother, lost their last $20 to a swindling New York cabdriver. He [later] wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt [the First Lady of the United States], asking for assistance, and obtained a college scholarship.

As McFadden says,

“It was a little help that made a big difference.”

We have observed, as necessary, from time to time the fact that it was the development of the oral contraceptive known as the Pill that became the technological catalyst for the sexual revolution. You couldn’t have that revolution without that little pill. And as McFadden writes about Dr. Djerassi, he obtained a patent on the very first antihistamine but he’s more famous for the fact that his work on the science of birth control is, as McFadden says,

“…helped engender enormous controversies and social changes, altering sexual and reproductive practices, family economics and the working lives of millions of women around the world.”

Now by any honest estimation it is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of the Pill. Not so much medically and technologically as morally and in terms of social change.

In another interesting twist on how the Pill as we know it, the oral contraceptive came to be, is the fact that there have been people who been hoping for such a pill for a very long time and yet as is so often the case, it wasn’t a search for the Pill that led to the Pill – rather it was a search for fertility drugs that eventually led to the opposite effect; it was the search for fertility drug, an interest in what was believed to be a fertility drug, that led to the oral contraceptive.

As McFadden writes,

“Scientists had long known that high levels of estrogen and progesterone inhibited ovulation. But synthesizing them from animal or plant extracts had proved expensive and ineffective for use as oral contraceptives.”

He goes on to write,

“The synthesis by Dr. Djerassi and his colleagues, Dr. George Rosenkranz and the student, Luis E. Miramontes, was economical and effective for oral use. All three names went on the patent.”

Then he writes,

“At first, the team deemed it a breakthrough for fertility, not birth control. While its significance as a pregnancy inhibitor was soon recognized, five years of trials were needed to demonstrate its relative safety and effectiveness. Even then, drug companies were reluctant to market the Pill, fearing boycotts of their products by religious groups and others opposed to birth control.”

One other footnote in terms of how the oral contraceptive came to be so much a part of American culture: when it was first released for medical use it was authorized for use and prescription only for married women – claimed to be intended only for married women. And when the decision was handed down by the Supreme Court the decision known as Griswold in the 1960s, striking down any law against availability for the oral contraceptive, it struck down only those laws restricting availability of the Pill to married women. It took a subsequent Supreme Court decision sometime later to include all women in terms of its sweeping judgment.

The obituary of Dr. Carl Djerassi gets to the point of just how transformative the Pill was in terms of the moral equation when McFadden writes,

“Use of the Pill spread rapidly, producing vast economic and social effects. It gave women unprecedented control over fertility, separating sex from procreation. It let couples plan pregnancies and regulate family size, and women plan educations and careers. It also generated debates over promiscuity and the morality of birth control.”

Now that’s a very revealing statement. It’s a really accurate statement. The New York Times deserves credit for getting the point of the obituary of Dr. Carl Djerassi as it relates to the history of the Pill and its effect. You’ll notice a couple of expressions in this obituary that are not commonly acknowledged by the secular press or for that matter the secular culture. One thing is, and to cite the exact words again, it separated sex from procreation. That is exactly the point. That separation had not actually been effective for humanity from the very origins of humanity and Adam and Eve in the Garden all the way down to the 1960s. Which raises another point that should be emphatically clear in this obituary – we’re talking about a fairly recent moral revolution. We’re talking about a moral revolution that is younger than I am. And even as that benchmark loses its cogency year-by-year, the reality is we’re talking about something that is barely a half a century old and yet people alive today, thinking of the Pill as just a part of the sociological furniture around us, failed to understand that this massive revolutionary transformation is – at least in most cases – younger than their grandparents, if not their parents.

So once again an obituary tells us something of our own times, the passing of Dr. Carl Djerassi last Friday and his obituary that appeared over the weekend in the New York Times tells us that a moral transformation, a revolution that has been underway for some time, was tremendously accelerated by this technological advance. A technological advance that was first considered to be a boost to fertility, not to the avoidance of children, but as the article says, did separate for the first time in human history effectively, sex from procreation. And as for the impact of that, it is impossible to calculate.

3) Houston woman’s ‘self-marriage’ reveals irrationality of society without definition of marriage

Milestones of the moral revolution seem to be occurring at rapid speed and frankly all around us – even in some unexpected places, in some unexpected ways. Here’s a headline that first appears to be something like clickbait on a comedy website; the headline, Houston woman marries herself in elaborate ceremony. But this isn’t a comedy website, it’s the Houston Chronicle; the newspaper of record of Houston, Texas. Reporter Craig Hlavaty reports in the January 26 edition of that paper,

“A woman who vowed that she would marry herself if she didn’t find love by the time she turned 40, actually married herself earlier this month in a lavish ceremony here in Houston, according to reports.”

Now, one of the first things we need to say in response to that sentence is: once again, just because someone calls something marriage doesn’t make it marriage – in particular what we would think would be the universally ludicrous idea of marrying oneself. But as much as this story, at least in terms of his headline, might appear to be something marginal that we could ignore the actual content of the article says it’s probably not.

Houston Chronicle reports,

“Yasmin Eleby married herself at the Houston Museum of African American Culture on January 3 in a lavish ceremony with10 bridesmaids in attendance, plus family and other guests on hand to celebrate the event.”

So we have a massive pseudo-wedding in which a woman is marrying herself. The actual expectation of this woman in terms of what that is supposed to mean is never made clear anywhere in the article, which once again, appeared in Houston Chronicle. The newspaper considered this story newsworthy, otherwise it wouldn’t have sent a reporter and it wouldn’t have reported it. But the newspaper itself seems to lack any understanding of exactly what to do with this story.

I think the most important paragraph is probably this:

“According to John Guess Jr., the CEO of the complex [that is the Houston Museum of African American Culture], the event was very much in line with the forward thinking normally found at the HMAAC, which welcomes and invites people of all sexual orientations to enjoy and rent the facility. The surrounding community, Guess Jr. says, has fully embraced the HMAAC.”

What in the world does that mean? Again, this is a major American newspaper putting its own reputation on the line by running this as a serious new story – which it intends it to be. And horrifyingly enough, apparently it is.

So when you think about the moral revolution and exactly where it’s headed, just keep in mind the CEO of this Museum in Houston that says that this woman marrying herself in this elaborate ceremony on the grounds of this institution  “is very much in line with the forward thinking normally found that the institution” and then consider what in the world it would mean for him to say that it’s a demonstration of the fact that the museum “welcomes and invites people of all sexual orientations to enjoy and rent the facility.” Does this now represent some new sexual orientation? If so, what would it be? It’s certainly not named in the article.

My purpose in raising this article is certainly not to be salacious and it’s not frankly just to point at this woman and the very odd spectacle of her marrying herself, at least in her own mind, it’s not just to point to this as an indication of the cultural confusion around us, it is to point to something that’s even far deeper. Here you have a situation in which no one present seems to have thought there was necessarily anything wrong with what was going on. As a matter of fact, from the woman and her family members, to those who served as her bridesmaids, to the director of the facility, they seem to think that this is just the next thing to celebrate.

What this really demonstrates is that once a society is lost a stable definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, there is nothing that becomes incomprehensible. There is nothing that then appears to be irrational. There’s nothing that won’t be, at some point, on the list of the next thing to be celebrated in terms of a forward thinking institution – such as this director claims that his Museum in Houston certainly is: forward thinking, so forward thinking as to embrace this because they embrace all sexual orientations. Whatever we might ask this supposedly sexual orientation is.

And just to put this in context, imagine that you had heard about this story two or three years ago. If you can imagine back that long in moral terms. You probably would’ve thought that such an article would’ve appeared on a tabloid or something that was openly satirical – not to be taken as real. But in this case, you know it’s real, you know it has the ring of truth – not just because it appeared in Houston Chronicle, but because it absolutely makes sense given the trajectory of our times.

4) Impact of  24/7 economy on family structures cannot be ignored

Finally when it comes to the massive changes experienced by the family, most of them devastating at least in part in recent years, it’s important to recognize that there are legitimate arguments brought by both the left and the right in terms of what has happened to the family and why. One of the strongest arguments made by conservatives is that eventually, culture determines the shape of the family. A series of personal disciplines and moral choices eventually creates the reality of the family. One of the very cogent arguments made by the left is that you cannot take economics out of the picture. That vast economic disruption inevitably affects the family.

One of the most important issues for America’s future is establishing a conversation that allows both of these arguments to be made in a rational context in which the arguments can be made and in which these issues can be debated with the family, with strengthening the family, as a common concern. One of the arguments made by the left is that the disruption of a market economy has led to damages to the family that involve the fact that marriage has largely been marginalized by its lack of economic importance in this period of economic transformation. And furthermore, that the family’s been weekend by an economy that threatens to pull parents away from children and eventually, all family members apart from each other.

Anyone really concerned about the family and children has to look seriously at those arguments as well. All you have to do is look at an article that appeared in the weekend edition of the Financial Times from London to understand that there is an argument to be made; that there are certain economic forces in this society that really are tearing the family apart. In the businesslike section of the weekend edition of the Financial Times, there is a headline: Night at the Nursery that Stays Open. It is by Emma Jacobs and it’s about a childcare facility in London that offers 24 hour childcare. It shows as the picture for the article 3 rather adorable preschoolers who are brushing their teeth before being put to bed – but not at home with their parents, but rather in a day care facility in London.

As Jacob writes,

“It is 6.30pm on Friday night. As millions down their proverbial tools, don their glad rags or slump in front of the television, in a Victorian house in Catford, southeast London, they are gearing up to work. Here, amid the brightly coloured building blocks and finger paints, Maria Quiroga, the manager of Baytree House nursery, is shepherding a trio of three-year-olds into the bathroom to brush their teeth. Upstairs, toddler-sized beds are made, story books chosen.”

She goes on to write,

“These children have been dropped off by their night-working parents. The nursery offers 24-hour childcare, seven days a week, in response to shifting working patterns. While standard childcare hours tend to be 7am to 7pm, or more typically, 8am to 6pm, this nursery wants to accommodate parents’ hours by taking children at 6am and allowing pickups as late as midnight. In a few cases, as with the children being cajoled into bed tonight, they sleep overnight on the premises.”

Now in terms of the picture here we know in our hearts it’s not good. This isn’t the way it should be. We really do know that these children belong at home with their parents. We can be thankful that at least right now they have a warm bed and a safe place. But we know this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

Quite honestly we’ve all come to depend upon that 24/7 economy and for one thing there is good many seminary students able to find employment at odd hours precisely because of that economy and employers willing to hire them for those late-night shifts. Perhaps we ought to remember that sometimes when we order something in the middle the night, just taking for granted that 24/7 economy, we should reflect at least on the fact it does come with real costs.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. We’re glad to announce the resumption of Ask Anything: Weekend Edition, the first new edition will come out February 14, that’s a Saturday morning. Remember to call with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. I’m looking forward to resuming the program of Ask Anything: Weekend Edition.

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 again tomorrow for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1) Obama budget proposal reveals worldview and philosophy of government

 In Budget, Obama’s Unfettered Case for Spreading the Wealth, New York Times (Julie Hirschfield Davis)

2) Father of the Pill, who enabled division between sex and procreation, dies

Carl Djerassi, 91, a Creator of the Birth Control Pill, Dies, New York Times (Robert D. McFadden)

3) Houston woman’s ‘self-marriage’ reveals irrationality of society without definition of marriage

Houston woman marries herself in elaborate ceremony, Houston Chronicle (Craig Hlavaty)

4) Impact of  24/7 economy on family structures cannot be ignored

Night at the London nursery that does not close, Financial Times (Emma Jacobs)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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