The Briefing 04-14-15

The Briefing 04-14-15

The Briefing


April 14, 2015

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


It’s Tuesday, April 14, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Rubio announces candidacy for presidency, revealing importance of timing in politics

Yesterday Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio announced that he would be a candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. The announcement of course did not come as a surprise; it has been known for months now that Rubio was planning a presidential bid. But what makes his candidacy so interesting, at least in terms of his announcement yesterday, is that Rubio is now going to be running against his political patron of many years – former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

For many years Bush and Rubio have been understood to be politically almost like father and son, but now the two are going be squaring off for the Republican presidential nomination and in all likelihood squaring off in a big way in what they both share – that is the home state of Florida.

One very interesting observation was made by Julie Pace of the Associated Press. As she wrote yesterday, when Marco Rubio makes his announcement that he will run for president, he will have to answer a very simple question – that the two word question – why now? She then writes,

“The 43-year-old Rubio, a rising star on Capitol Hill, could wait four more years, even eight, and still be a relatively young candidate.”

But in this case Julie Pace writes about something deep political importance. In politics, as it turns out, timing is virtually everything. There are candidates that look very promising in one 4 year cycle, only to disappear almost entirely from the national view in the next four year cycle. But if we are saying that timing is everything, we also mean that context is everything. The political field on the Republican side is very crowded, on the Democratic Party side less so. That’s an understatement of course – Hillary Clinton’s at this point the only announced candidate. She’s expected to be the only major candidate.

Back in 2008 Hillary Clinton looked to be the dominant character on the Democratic side, the dominant candidate probably in the entire race. But she didn’t even win the Democratic nomination in 2008, she’s almost certain to win the Democratic nomination in a cakewalk in 2016. On the Republican side back in 2012 there was speculation that New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie would be a formidable candidate, but he decided not to run in 2012 and now it appears that his candidacy might not gain much traction in 2016.

What does it mean from a Christian perspective, from a worldview perspective, that timing means everything? Well it means this: historical context really does matter. It matters what’s going on in terms of the issues, it matters whether or not the nation is at war, it matters whether or not the nation is worried about being at war. If you go back to the election in 1968 it’s almost certain that the Republican candidate Richard Nixon won in large part because he was understood to have tremendous expertise and experience in foreign policy and that was, in so many ways, a foreign-policy election. But if you fast-forward to the year 2008 when Barack Obama was elected, foreign-policy was not much of an issue except for the fact that all the Democrats were pledging in their own way to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s going to be interesting to see what the American people are really looking for in the year 2016; first of all in the primary cycle on the Republican side and then in the general election.

2) In pending political race, reality is many Americans hold to neither party’s ideology

And that’s where, from a worldview perspective, a really interesting analysis comes in yesterday’s edition of the New York Times from liberal columnist Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winner in economics. Writing in the immediate aftermath of the announcement made by Hillary Clinton on Sunday he writes that we should pay no attention to what he calls personality-based political analysis. He then writes,

“In any case, there has never been a time in American history when the alleged personal traits of candidates mattered less.”

His point is quite clear. In his analysis, going into the 2016 presidential race,

“…each party is quite unified on major policy issues — and these unified positions are very far from each other.”

So here you have a statement being made by a major opinion former and influencer in the United States who is suggesting that personality really doesn’t play much of a part when it comes to the presidential campaign – it’s all, he says, going to be about ideologies not individuals, it’s going to be about the positions taken by the two parties without much respect to the standard-bearer in the presidential election of either party will be.

There’s a sense in which almost anyone who is knowledgeable about the political situation would agree with Paul Krugman. This is indeed going to be an ideological election, the two parties are so distant on any number of issues; not only economic and foreign-policy issues but issues, as we’ve discussed, but about such things as the definition of marriage and the understanding of sexuality and the sanctity of human life.

But a Christian worldview reminds us that we are never merely rational creatures. As fallen human beings we’re often not as rational as we think ourselves to be. There will be, Krugman’s absolutely right, deep and abiding policy and ideological distinctives between the two parties. Indeed it will not be an overstatement to say there will be a moral and ideological chasm between the two parties. But what Paul Krugman really doesn’t want to address is the fact that a frighteningly large percentage of the American electorate isn’t committed to either of these ideological or worldview positions.

Let’s just think about that for a moment. If you talk to just about anyone in terms of the American political structure, if you look at the pattern of recent presidential elections, two things almost immediately stand out. The first is the bare fact that there is a huge so-called swing vote in America. There is a significant percentage of the population, or of the electorate, perhaps as much is 20 to 25% that swings between the two parties – even as the two parties are so separated by wide policy differences, even on such basic worldview issues. That’s the first thing to note. The second is the fact that another frightening percentage of Americans will indicate that they decide for whom they will vote, when it comes to the presidency, only in the last few days even in the last few hours.

Now what comes to mind? Well this comes immediately to mind: they’re not making a choice based upon rational analysis, because if they were making a choice based upon the ideological and the political positions taken by the two candidates in the two parties, their decision would’ve made long before they say they’re making it. Why? Well it is simply because all the positions are going to be very well documented long before we get to the election. By the time you get to the election there will be almost no opportunity for a policy surprise.

The only surprise, and this runs counter to Paul Krugman’s analysis, any surprise that comes late in the presidential campaign is almost surely going to be attached to a candidate’s character and personality, not to the positions between the two parties or between the two presidential candidates themselves. That’s why when I saw Paul Krugman’s analysis published in yesterday’s edition of the New York Times, my first thought was that I would actually prefer a world in which people make decisions are more rational basis because then we can make the strongest argument in defense of marriage, in defense of the family, in defense of an understanding of government that is restrained and limited, in defense of the sanctity of human life, and we can hope to persuade a large percentage of our fellow citizens about those positions. But what we actually understand is that elections often aren’t one on the issues like that, they are instead one precisely where Paul Krugman says this race will not be won, and that is on personality.

And by the way, when it comes to personality politics the reason why Americans pay so much attention to the personalities of the presidential candidates is because what they’re really looking for are two things. First of all, signals of character. They’re looking to see if they can imagine this candidate sitting in the Oval Office making the decisions that will surely come to a President of the United States. And they understand, looking at American presidential history, that much of that history is the story of character, And then secondly, they’re also looking at a candidate, quite bluntly, to decide whether or not they want to look at this person and here from this person for the next four years in terms of setting the national conversation in terms of representing the people of the United States.

On The Briefing our main attention will be given to the policy issues at stake in the election, but over against Paul Krugman we have to admit when it comes to the electoral decisions made by millions of Americans we can only wish that policies were the real issue at stake. Rather, it’s more likely to be what Paul Krugman says it won’t be – and that is personality. But the good news is that a concern for personality also reveals a deeper concern, a concern for character. In very short order we’re going to find out exactly what interest the American people and so will the candidates running for their votes.

3) Call for abolishing marriage as taxation category to conform to lifestyle of lesbian couples

Next, an article that simply demands our attention appeared in yesterday’s edition of USA Today. It was written by Lily Kahng, identified as a visiting law professor at Cornell University, also a member of the law faculty at Seattle University; the headline on the article, Marriage Tax Hurts Lesbians. Now, as I said, this is an article that simply demands our attention. I want you to think back to when the advocates for the legalization of same-sex marriage were first making their case. They made the case over and over again that all they were asking for was what they called marriage equality – allowing a man and a man or woman and a woman to enjoy the same social sanction that was identify with being a man and a woman united in holy matrimony. There were asking for one other issue they called equality, and that was equality under the tax laws. They pointed repeatedly in the media and in the courts to the unique set of protections and advantages given to married couples in the tax law and in other matters of legislation.

But now this article makes clear that’s not enough. That’s not all that the advocates of same-sex marriage are pressing for. As a matter fact Lily Kahng writes,

“But the tax equality promised by Windsor…”

Remember that was the Supreme Court case handed down in 2013 that effectively struck down the federal government’s Defense of Marriage Act. It was that decision that, according to majority opinion writer Anthony Kennedy, meant that the demand for marriage equality would have to be met by the federal government. But the Windsor decision, says Lily Kahng, isn’t enough. She says,

“Based on my research and analysis, women in same-sex couples will be less likely than people in different-sex couples to enjoy the benefits and more likely to suffer the detriments of marriage taxation. This is because their marriages are less likely to comport with the traditional model of marriage, in which one spouse is the breadwinner and the other spouse is the homemaker.”

So what we have in Lily Kahng’s article is an open demand that marriage be decentralized in terms of tax policy. Now this isn’t what they were saying when they called for the legalization of same-sex marriage, what they said that they wanted was to get into the institution of marriage in order to enjoy its benefits. But now Lily Kahng is writing an article that appears of all places in USA Today, billing itself as the nation’s newspapers, saying that equality in that sense isn’t enough. Why? Because as it turns out, and this is the central part of her article when it comes to same-sex couples, especially in her case to lesbian couples, she says they aren’t arranged like heterosexual couples and she now demands that the tax code come to terms of that difference.

There you have the agenda made very clear, there you have proof positive in addition that the revolution when it comes to marriage and the issue of same-sex marriage won’t stop, can’t stop, with the legalization of same-sex marriage. As I said, in this article Lily Kahng’s view, her agenda, is transparent, it’s crystal-clear. She writes about what she calls,

“…the tax law’s systemic bias in favor of one-earner married couples and against two-earner couples. Although there has been a steady rise in the number of two-earner couples generally, women in same-sex couples are even more likely than people in different-sex couples to both work outside the home, according to demographic statistics and other sociological and economic research.”

She then says,

“When they marry, they will be less likely to receive marriage bonuses and more like to incur marriage penalties.”

She then writes, and this is the most important paragraph,

“The solution is straightforward: Congress should abolish the joint return for married couples and require each individual to file his or her own tax return. Individual tax returns would eliminate the unfair and irrational marriage penalties imposed on women in same-sex couples and other two-earner married couples.

“Only by abolishing the joint return can we begin to create a tax system that will allow a diversity of intimate relationships to flourish and fulfill the promise of Windsor.”

So there you have it. Even before the United States Supreme Court is going to hold its oral arguments on the case of same-sex marriage, an expectation that the Supreme Court will rule that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states even before the oral arguments in that case are being held, you already have – in what bills itself as the nation’s newspaper, USA Today – an opinion piece published inside that paper demanding that the tax laws be revised so as to abolish marriage as an issue of taxation altogether.

There’s a bigger agenda there know it’s important to note that many defenders of the traditional, natural family are also concerned about the marriage penalty in federal taxation. But that’s not the real issue here, the real issue here is that Lily Kahng has written an article suggesting that the marriage taxation structure as it exists now simply doesn’t serve the needs of lesbians and therefore, she argues, marriage should simply be abolished as a meaningful issue in taxation altogether. That’s a far more radical proposal than many Americans might recognize when they see her article. It’s the kind of radical proposal that wasn’t just likely but absolutely necessary, at least in logical terms, once the agenda of same-sex marriage became a matter of cultural momentum and of constitutional law.

4) Article makes clear reproductive freedom more sacred than human life to pro-choice agenda

Next, another really important article appeared in yesterday’s edition of the New York Times. It was written by Deborah Tuerkheimer, identified as a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan and also is a professor of law and Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. The headline in her article is How Not To Protect Pregnant Women. She’s writing from Chicago and says this,

“In the wake of a savage attack on a pregnant woman and the removal of her fetus, Colorado lawmakers are planning to introduce a bill that would criminalize fetal homicide. If the bill passes, the state would join nearly 40 others that make fetuses a distinct class of victims.”

Now once again we note that this case is like so many others. The baby here is referred to resolutely and consistently merely as a fetus. That’s a signal, a linguistic signal, of what’s coming in the article. She then writes and I quote,

“This would not be the first time that lawmakers exploited an extraordinary incident of violence against a pregnant woman to promote the rights of fetal victims.”

With that sentence Deborah Tuerkheimer clearly signals the fact that she is going to be opposed to any legal recognition of the unborn child. She then goes on to say,

“Opposition to the creation of fetal victimhood has focused largely on the threat to abortion rights.”

Note just a moment, here you have the word ‘threat’ but the word threat isn’t used against an unborn child, or even against the mother in this case, but against abortion rights. She says,

“This is a legitimate concern, but affording victim status to a fetus has implications beyond the erosion of abortion rights. [In other words she says, there could be even something worse.] Legally severing a fetus from the pregnant woman has the effect of pitting her interests against the fetus’s.”

Now this is a situation that is not unknown even to ancient medical ethics, but in ancient medical ethics there is the understanding – whether in the Greco-Roman culture or in any other cultures so far as we know – that there was an important issue when it came to the life within the womb. Even if it was understood that the life of the mother could supersede in importance the life of her child when it came to medical intervention, it was still understood even in terms of ancient medical ethics that the unborn child was an issue of moral significance. But now what we see, as we’ve noted in the aftermath of some of these recent controversies, the current abortion-rights movement wants to accord and recognize absolutely no meaning, no value, no sanctity, no respect, no legal protection to the unborn child in the womb at virtually any point in gestation or pregnancy.
In the most frightening section of her very frightening article she writes this,

“Of course, the impulse to punish violence against pregnant women differently is widely shared and understandable. In the case of the Colorado stabbing, the victim, Michelle Wilkins, suffered an injury that was entirely entwined with her pregnancy, an injury not specified in the statutes covering assault and attempted murder that already carry lengthy prison sentences.”

This is the key issue. Here are her next words and I quote,

“Granting fetuses victim status, however, does not address the core harm. When violence is done to a pregnant woman, her reproductive freedom is trampled.”

I have rarely seen one sentence, or one paragraph in this case, that jumps out with such moral clarity and with such alarm. Here you have a professor of law at a respected American University (Northwestern University) writing in one of the nation’s most influential newspapers (the New York Times), making such a radical and for that matter of invasive statements that the most important issue even when a pregnant woman is attacked and her baby dies is “her reproductive freedom.”

That’s it. There you have the worship at the high altar of reproductive freedom that actually marks the abortion-rights movement as we confront it today. When you’re looking at that deep moral chasm between Americans on issue the sanctity of human life we understand that that word sanctity is really, really important. From a biblical worldview perspective that word sanctity points to sacredness. Now why is human life sacred? Why is every single human life, at every point of development, sacred?

It’s because as Christians we believe that life itself is a divine gift and that the human being, every single human being, is made in God’s image. Christians do not believe that human life is sacred because of who we are, but rather because of whom the creator is. That’s a very important issue for Christians to keep in mind as we consider the importance of worldview and that deep chasm that separates so many Americans at the worldview level when it comes to the sanctity of human life.

But I raise the issue in order to say that those on the other side of this moral divide, those who are in the pro-abortion position, also believe in an almost sacred right. But in this case it isn’t a right to life, but as we see in this paragraph in the article in yesterday’s New York Times, it is the virtual sacredness of a woman’s reproductive freedom. That in itself is an extremely revealing understanding.

But we need to note something else as we consider these two articles not separately but now together. They appeared in USA Today and the New York Times. What is in common in both of these articles is not the subject matter but the fact that both of these articles, radical in their own way, were written by law professors at influential American law schools. That points to the fact that when we’re thinking about how cultural and moral change happens, ground zero for much of that change is at the level of the law school because the law schools are in so many ways the primary think tanks of legal and legislative revolution.

It was the rise of so-called critical legal theory in the 1960s brought about by radical approaches to the law that has now become rather standard fare in many law faculties and in many law schools; the understanding that the law is to be transformed into an engine for social and moral change. And the social and moral change now has, as one of its primary issues of agenda, the legalization of same-sex marriage.

As the article by Lily Kahng makes very clear, it won’t stop with that. And as the article by Deborah Tuerkheimer also points out, when it comes to the sanctity of human life we’re looking at a divide that isn’t merely in the law but it is a divide that is a matter of grave legal consequence. It really matters what’s being taught in law schools. These two articles together make that point abundantly clear.

Add to that the fact that the courts and the legislatures, that is the framing and interpretation of the law, now represent the primary arenas for where moral change is documented and driven in American culture. Once again what’s happening in the law schools is of utmost importance – not only for the present but also in predicting the future.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to Remember we’re taking questions for Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Call with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. For more information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to For information on Boyce College just go to


I’m at The Gospel Coalition 2015 Convention in Orlando, Florida and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) Rubio announces candidacy for presidency, revealing importance of timing in politics

Ready to step into 2016 GOP race for president, Florida’s Marco Rubio sees his time as now, Associated Press (Julie Pace)

2) In pending political race, reality is many Americans hold to neither party’s ideology

It Takes a Party, New York Times (Paul Krugman)

3) Call for abolishing marriage as taxation category to conform to lifestyle of lesbian couples

Marriage tax hurts lesbian couples, USA Today (Lily Kahng)

4) Article makes clear reproductive freedom more sacred than human life to pro-choice agenda

How Not to Protect Pregnant Women, New York Times (Deborah Tuerkheimer)



R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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