The Briefing 03-30-15

The Briefing 03-30-15

The Briefing


March 30, 2015

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


It’s Monday, March 30, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Media skews Indiana’s religious liberty law as anti-gay, showing extent of moral revolution

Indiana governor Mike Pence went on television yesterday to defend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was adopted by the state of Indiana last week, leading to no small amount of controversy. Indeed the controversy has become something of a firestorm and it was in response to that that governor Pence went on ABC’s “This Week” program and told host George Stephanopoulos that the media is reporting on the law in Indiana was reckless and shameless – saying that the state of Indiana had been hit with what he called an avalanche of intolerance.

Now in social media on Friday I expressed the very same concern. What we’re looking at here is what seems to be an almost deliberate misrepresentation of the law. There are some credible exceptions, but for the main part what we’ve been seeing in the national media conversation is irresponsible, shameless, and reckless – just as the Gov. of Indiana set. For example, Saturday’s edition of the New York Times included a headline that did not identify the bill as a Religious Freedom Bill but rather, Right to Deny Service to Gays Stirs Broad Uproar. Well just to set the record straight, this law, which has but on the federal books in that version for well over two decades, has never been found to have led to an act of discrimination against someone on the basis of sexual orientation. And the issue of sexual orientation isn’t even mentioned in the Indiana law, and yet the New York Times headline was that it was a bill to give a right to deny service to gays. That, it explained, was the reason for the “broad uproar.”

But even in the opening paragraph of the article the reporters, Michael Barbaro and Erik Eckholm, write in a different tone. As they wrote,

“An Indiana law that could make it easier for religious conservatives to refuse service to gay couples touched off storms of protest on Friday from the worlds of arts, business and college athletics and opened an emotional new debate in the emerging campaign for president.”

Well notice what happened between the headline of the article and the lead paragraph – the situation changed rather remarkably. Now one thing to note, reporters are not responsible for the headlines that end up in the print, or for that matter on the online edition, of most of their articles. They write the article and some editor supplies the headline. So you have an editorial issue when it comes to the headline, and one might think the headline would at least be accountable to the opening paragraph of the article. But in this case it is certainly not.

To the credit of Barbaro and Eckholm, the two New York Times reporters, they do give a good deal of attention to the fact that even as there has been an immediate national backlash against the law. As they write,

“Some legal experts say the potential reach of the Indiana law, and many like it, has been exaggerated by opponents.”

They cited Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia, who said,

“The hysteria over this law is so unjustified. It’s not about discriminating against gays in general or across the board, it’s about not being involved in a ceremony that you believe is inherently religious.”

The article cited former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who said by social media on Thursday night:

“Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today,”

Well let’s just note as a matter of historical record that it was none other than her husband who celebrated his signing of the law at the national level back in 1993. But as is so often said in politics, evidently that was then and this is now. On the other hand the article cites Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, identified rightly as a gay-rights group who said,

“The possible discriminatory effects are real,”

Well let’s just notice something. You can’t actually use the word ‘possible’ and ‘real’ in one sentence in that way – either the dangers, according to her understanding, are possible or they are real. Discrimination in this sense can’t be both possible and real – it is one of the other. And at this point the law hasn’t even taken effect.

Again that’s the article that appeared on the front page of the New York Times on Saturday. You’ll recall the headline, Right To Deny Service To Gays Stirs Broad Uproar and the fact that in the opening paragraph the reporters said that the law,

“…could make it easier for religious conservatives to refuse service to gay couples,”

Again, remember the word “could” because the same word appears in an article on the same day in the Wall Street Journal by reporters Mark Peters and Jack Nicas. As they wrote,

“The national spotlight is shining on Indianapolis, but a week early.

Indiana’s largest city, which is preparing to host the NCAA Final Four, and the state as a whole face a growing backlash over a religious-freedom law that has drawn a hostile reaction from defenders of gay rights, who say it could result in discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

Again – and I give credit to these two reporters also – they cited Daniel O. Conkle, a professor of law at Indiana University Maurer School of Law who said,

“The reaction to this is startling in terms of its breadth—and to my mind—the extent to which the reaction is uninformed by the actual content of the law,”

But this article also cites the backlash, including the fact that the CEO of the group known as Salesforce Incorporated said on Twitter Thursday that the cloud computing firm was canceling all programs that would

“…require its customers and employees to travel to Indiana and ‘face discrimination.’”

And yet this point, there is no particular evidence of the fact that any discrimination will take place. But if you look at the headline in the New York Times and abundant other evidence in the mainstream media, it’s clear that what they’re trying to do is to argue that this is all about gay rights; and yet, it isn’t, at least not at this point. If it does become that that could lead to a different kind of conversation because what we’re looking at here is the fact that this law, which has been on the federal books for over two decades, has certainly not led to that effect. But it has put government at the national level on notice that it cannot infringe upon the religious liberty of American citizens without having a compelling and substantial reason for doing so.

But that brings up, once again, the editorial in the Washington Post that I cited in Friday’s edition of The Briefing; that’s where the editorial board of the major newspaper in the nation’s capital actually had a sentence that read,

“For instance, a bill the Georgia Senate approved this month bars the state government from infringing on an individual’s religious beliefs unless the state can demonstrate a compelling interest in doing so.”

The editors then go on to criticize the bill. Now let me state again, that means they’re criticizing a bill that, in their own words,

“…bars the state government from infringing on an individual’s religious beliefs unless the state can demonstrate a compelling interest in doing so.”

As I asked Friday, does that mean that the editors of the Washington Post actually believe that the state should be able to compromise a citizen’s religious freedom without a compelling reason for doing so? The question in this is why the controversy now? And the answer also helpfully comes from the Washington Post yesterday in an article by Philip Bump. He asked the question, why the backlash against Indiana and not the other states with similar laws? You might also expand his headline to say ‘why not a backlash against the federal government’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act? His one word answer to his question: timing. He writes this,

“Gov. Mike Pence can’t seem to figure out why his state has been the focus of condemnation and boycotts after having passed a version of ‘religious freedom’ legislation that already exists in 19 other states [we can also say, also the federal government]. Pointing out those states, Pence told a reporter from the Indianapolis Star, ‘I just can’t account for the hostility that’s been directed at our state.’”

Bump then writes,

“We can. Pence’s problem is that the 19 other laws were largely passed well before the recent and dramatic swing toward support for gay marriage — and after a similar bill was vetoed by the Republican governor of Arizona.”

I mentioned the Arizona development last Friday. The important issue is this: here you have a major secular analysts saying we do know what it’s going on here, its timing. We do know the difference between, we might say, Hillary Clinton’s stance on the issue and her husband’s stance on the issue: it is almost exactly 22 years. That’s the length of time between the passage of the national Religious Freedom Restoration Act and Indiana’s passage of the law last week. 22 years has meant a moral revolution; 22 years means that in 1993 no one was talking about same-sex marriage because even as a matter of the law, it simply didn’t exist.

But, once again we say, that was then and this is now. And now we’re on the other side of this vast moral revolution. And as we see, when a moral revolution takes place it’s a linguistic revolution, it’s a legal revolution, it’s a cultural and social revolution, it’s also a political revolution – that’s why you can almost invariably predict exactly how someone’s going to come down on this issue by where they stand on the political spectrum. But that’s a big change, because back in 1993 we remind ourselves this was passed by the United States Congress without a single dissenting vote and in the Senate by a vote of 97 to 3 – that was then and this is now. And what has changed, well Philip Bump has it exactly right in yesterday’s edition of the Washington Post, what has changed is the legalization of same-sex marriage. That, in effect, has changed everything. And those operating from a Christian worldview knew that inevitably it would.

I mentioned two groups in particular along with the corporate community on Friday, and both of them appear once again in terms of this new story. The first is the mainline Protestant denomination known as the Disciples of Christ – the Christian Church, which is headquartered there in Indianapolis. It has announced that it just might move its biennial meeting away from its host city simply because of the passage of this legislation. And of course one thing we need to note there is how the issue of same-sex marriage specifically, and the issue of LGBT issues more generally, has drawn attention to that deep chasm of divide, a basic biblical and theological divide between churches and denominations. In some churches it’s within the denomination, and in others it can even be within one congregation where there is biblical confusion.

But what we see here is that there is an increasing, not a decreasing, divide between the liberal denominations – including the Disciples of Christ and more conservative evangelical. And the distinction isn’t just over marriage. What this points to, once again, profoundly is the fact that it is the issue of biblical authority that always is found at the foundation.

The second organization we mentioned is the NCAA. And I have been raising for some time the question of just how different institutions organization schools and colleges will land when the NCAA makes it a matter of decision over these very issues. In Friday’s edition of the New York Times there was a headline in the sports section by Marc Tracy: New Indiana Law Creates Quandary for the NCAA. As Tracy writes,

“A new law in Indiana allowing businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples in the name of religious freedom…”

By the way, that isn’t yet demonstrated certainly that it means that one couldn’t serve same-sex couples. This is where Douglas Laycock’s point is very important; where law professor pointed out what is specifically at stake is participation in what a Christian could well consider a religious service – such as weddings. That’s a very different thing. But Tracy goes on to say this,

“…has put sports officials under pressure to evaluate whether to hold major events in Indianapolis.”

This is not only by the NCAA – that is basically headquartered there – this is also about a host of other organizations in sports including major league sports having to do with the city of Indianapolis – not just the state of Indiana. As Tracy writes,

“[Indianapolis] annually hosts the N.F.L. scouting combine and the Big Ten conference championship in football. It hosted Super Bowl XLVI in 2012 and the Final Four in 2010.”

And of course it is also doing the same this year.

“It is scheduled to host the women’s Final Four next year and the men’s Final Four again in 2021.”

We’ll see how these things hold. But in the meantime an announcement has been sent. The NCAA is going to take a stand on this issue – of that you can be absolutely clear. And as a voluntary association it can set the rules for its own membership. And when the NCAA does so it’s going be very revealing not only about something like the city of Indianapolis, but also about the true convictions of any number of colleges and universities and other organizations.

2) Nicholas Kristof reminds liberals not to caricature Christians

Next, from time to time I’ve given attention to opinion pieces that have appeared by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. He himself is no stranger to controversy, and yet everything he writes is worth reading; and in this case, the article that is written is impossible to ignore. He writes about Dr. Stephen Foster, identified as the son and grandson of Christian missionaries. He works in a rural hospital near Lubango, Angola, and by any moral measure he is doing very important and sacrificial work. He’s helping those who, without his medical expertise and ministry, might otherwise not have any medical treatment. And he has had to do so in the face not only of all kinds of diseases, not only with sometimes very rudimentary equipment, but he’s had to do so in the face of rebel armies – including gunfire – and he has had to do so sometimes in the face of something like a six-foot cobra.

Nicholas Kristof writes with admiration of Dr. Stephen Foster, but it’s the introductory paragraphs to his article the really demand our attention because they reveal something we really need to understand. What’s important here is not just what Nicholas Kristof has written, but it’s important to understand the audience to which he knows he’s writing: the readership of the New York Times. He writes and I quote,

“One sign of a landmark shift in public attitudes: A poll last year found that Americans approved more of gays and lesbians (53 percent) than of evangelical Christians (42 percent).”

Kristof then goes on to cite some controversial statements that have been made by some evangelicals. And quite frankly he draws attention to statements that we might wish had not been made as they were made. It is certainly something we should admit that sometimes evangelical leaders make statements that can cause us embarrassment, but that’s not the main issue here; as Kristof makes abundantly clear when he writes,

“Today, among urban Americans and Europeans, ‘evangelical Christian’ is sometimes a synonym for ‘rube.’ In liberal circles, evangelicals constitute one of the few groups that it’s safe to mock openly.”

Now again, I want you to hear his words exactly as I read them:

“In liberal circles, evangelicals constitute one of the few groups that it’s safe to mock openly.”

That’s an amazing statement of candor coming on the editorial pages of the New York Times. He then goes on to write,

“Yet the liberal caricature of evangelicals is incomplete and unfair. I have little in common, politically or theologically, with evangelicals or, while I’m at it, conservative Roman Catholics. But I’ve been truly awed by those I’ve seen in so many remote places, combating illiteracy and warlords, famine and disease, humbly struggling to do the Lord’s work as they see it, and it is offensive to see good people derided.”

Now let’s try to think about this carefully. Here you have a statement written by one of the most influential opinion writers in the United States, Nicholas Kristof, who is also a very prominent voice for human rights. And we should note that what we see here is in one sense a reflection of what we read about in 1 Peter 2, where we are told – Christians are told – that we are to behave before the secular world in such a way that even when they criticize us they end up praising God by looking at our good works. It was Jesus himself who told his disciples that we are to do good works in order that the world may see those works and give praise to our father who is in heaven. But what we note here is the amazing candor Nicholas Kristof when he writes about not just those evangelicals who have made controversial statements, but evangelical Christians in general when he writes, and again I simply cite his words quote,

“In liberal circles, evangelicals constitute one of the few groups that it’s safe to mock openly.”

That’s something that we’ve known of course has been true, but it’s rarely conceded or admitted in this kind of privileged real estate when it comes to the media. We’re looking here at a massively important, very revealing statement.

Now, shame on us if we make statements that should bring on our own embarrassment, but what we’re looking at here is just the fact that being an evangelical Christian, holding to biblical conviction on any number of issues, can simply get one mocked to liberal circles simply for being an evangelical Christian. Well the state the matter in terms of a moral bottom line from a biblical perspective, shame on us if we say something that causes us, or much less causes the gospel embarrassment. But shame on those who consider themselves so open-minded and tolerant until it comes to evangelical Christians, who according to Nicholas Kristof constitute one of the last groups it’s safe to mock openly. The New York Times likes to consider itself the newspaper of record, and in this case it has but that statement on the record.

3) Debate over motherhood as a job exposes shallow understanding of parenthood

Finally, I regularly cite the Financial Times of London, that’s one of the world’s most important newspapers and it has a great deal to do with the business culture of the international scene, particularly from the United Kingdom. And in the last several days it ran an article by Lucy Kellaway, and it’s on work column entitled Motherhood is tough and intense but it’s not a job. She enters into a controversy that is evidently very current there in Britain over whether or not motherhood should be considered a job.

Evidently this has come in something of cycles. Back in the 1970s it was moms who seem to insist that being a mother was a job. That was because even as there were many women entering the workforce, mothers wanted to say ‘our work, our job, is important too,’ But then there was a backlash against that, we are told by Kellaway, and now it is considered controversial to say that motherhood is a job; instead it’s a calling, it’s not a job she says because you can’t quit and you can’t be fired from it. Well what’s really interesting from a biblical perspective is what she reveals when she tells us that Saatchi & Saatchi, one of Britain’s most famous advertising and management firms, has decided to come up with a job description for a mom.

In terms of management theory, according to Kellaway, the firm concluded that mothers played eight different roles – especially emotional roles. They are: carer, fan, friend, hero, safe house, partner in crime, coach and rule breaker. I have no interest in trying to take that a part because fundamentally I think I’m incompetent to do so. I’ll let a mom do that, to put it another way, that’s a job for a mom. But what is interesting when you look at this article is that you have a controversy over motherhood that can only have happened in our modern or post-modern age. This is the kind of controversy that would’ve been inconceivable in virtually any other moment in human history.

And it also points to something else: if you’re actually trying to come up with a job description for mom, you’re probably missing the point. There is no way from a biblical perspective that being either a mother or a father can be reduced to a job description; as is now so common in the business world. That’s because from a biblical perspective the family is an organic whole that is centered in the covenant institution of marriage that begins with a man and a woman becoming husband-and-wife and hopefully becoming also father and mother. That organic whole is not something that can be reduced, either being a husband or a role, to something like a modern position description.

Now it’s described in Scripture –  the complementarian roles between the husband and the wife are described, as are the responsibilities of both mother and father, not as a job description but rather as a covenantal role. That’s a fundamentally different thing. No management theories ever going to get to it, nor will any controversy over whether or not motherhood is a job. Whatever motherhood is, as its valorized and respected in Scripture, it certainly is not less than a job, it’s more than a job. It is, as the Christian worldview makes very clear, a covenant role and a calling. That something I don’t expect Saatchi & Saatchi or the Financial Times quite to understand.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. Remember the release of Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Call with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. For more information go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to  For more 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) Media skews Indiana’s religious liberty law as anti-gay, showing extent of moral revolution

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence Says Controversial ‘Religious Freedom’ Law Won’t Change, ABC News (Stephanie Ebbs)

Indiana Law Denounced as Invitation to Discriminate Against Gays, New York Times (Michael Barbaro and Erik Eckholm)

Indiana Religious Freedom Law Sparks Fury, Wall Street Journal (Mark Peters and Jack Nicas)

Gov. Mike Pence signs ‘religious freedom’ bill in private, Indianapolis Star (Tony Cook)

Keeping them safe from gay marriage, Washington Post (Editorial Board)

Why the backlash against Indiana and not other states with similar laws? Timing., Washington Post (Philip Bump)

Controversial Indiana Law Puts Pressure on N.C.A.A. and Other Leagues, New York Times (Marc Tracy)

2) Nicholas Kristof reminds liberals not to caricature Christians

A Little Respect for Dr. Foster, New York Times (Nicholas Kristof)

3) Debate over motherhood as a job exposes shallow understanding of parenthood

Motherhood is tough and intense but it is not a job, Financial Times (Lucy Kellaway)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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