The Briefing 04-23-15

The Briefing 04-23-15

The Briefing


April 23, 2015

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


It’s Thursday, April 23, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Human trafficking bill finally passes in Senate despite conflict over abortion restriction

The logjam finally broke when it came to the sex trafficking bill that had been held up in the United States Senate because of the issue of abortion. If you missed the linkage between those two issues let me remind you that just a matter of a couple of weeks ago the United States Senate had been poised to pass a bipartisan bill that would have crackdown further on sex trafficking – one of the major scourges of humanity and something that is increasingly coming to the attention of the United States Congress. And yet that bill that had been expected to pass without any major opposition at all, had failed to proceed when Democratic staffers found out that the bill included a provision, that had been there evidently all along, that would’ve prevented proceeds from a fund to be established from seizing the assets of sex traffickers to be used to pay for abortion.

Well as we said back when the story broke, it’s a very revealing development when the United States Senate is poised to crackdown on sex trafficking and the bill fails because Democrats, number one had read the bill, and because secondly they were so determined to support abortion under almost any circumstance that they said they would not support the bill if it did not pay for abortions. On the other hand you had Republicans who said they would not go forward with the bill if it did pay for abortion. And then the Republican majority in United States Senate announced that the nomination of Loretta Lynch as the next Atty. Gen. of the United States would be held up until the sex trafficking bill impasse had been resolved.

Now at the beginning of this week it was announced that the impasse had somehow been resolved. And the resolution of that impasse tells us a great deal about how politics is done and about how the issue of abortion is often handled not directly but indirectly; and we might say not so honestly but rather dishonestly. But we also have here a reminder of how different issues that are seemingly disconnected can be connected because of political agendas and because of the necessity of putting together enough votes – either for the nomination of the new Atty. Gen. or for the passage of the sex trafficking bill. When you have the necessity of putting together at least 60 votes in order to achieve cloture in the Senate – that is to move forward a final vote – at that point you often have the practice of linking issues that would in no other context be naturally linked.

First, to the sex trafficking bill: it did pass yesterday, rather late yesterday, but by a vote of 99 to 0. 99 senators eventually voted for the sex trafficking bill, no Sen. voted against it, but there was one senator who did not vote. So remember the impasse was over abortion, not sex trafficking itself. How did it get resolved? Well as Emmarie Huetteman and Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times reported yesterday, and I quote,

“The bill hit a snag last month when Democrats said they had become aware of an anti-abortion provision, blocking the legislation from moving forward as they demanded that Republicans remove language barring victims from using criminal fines in a victims’ fund to pay for abortions.”

The next paragraph is especially crucial when you think about how politics actually happens,

“As a compromise, the fund will now essentially be split in two. One pool of money, collected from criminal offenders, will be deposited into the general fund of the Treasury and used for non-health care services, which will not be subject to abortion restrictions. Other money would come from that already appropriated by Congress for Community Health Centers. It would be available for health care and medical services and would be subject to longstanding laws restricting the use of federal funds for abortions. Many victims would be able to obtain abortions under the laws’ exception in cases of rape.”

So what does that paragraph tell us? It tells us that the two issues that wouldn’t be naturally linked – that is the issue of sex trafficking and abortion – that did become linked because of this bill only became resolved in terms of the impasse between Democrats and Republicans when both sides were able to find what amounts to a face saving victory. The creation of these two separate funds is the mechanism by which both parties can say to their own constituencies that they held fast. The Republicans are able to say that they did not retreat on the hind amendments restriction against the federal funding of abortions and the Democrats are able to say that they did not vote for a sex trafficking bill that would have added new funds that would’ve been restricted by the Hyde amendment.

My main purpose in pointing to this story today is to point out, once again, as we go back to the impasse that we are looking in America at a divide over the sanctity of human life that is sold radical that at least a significant numbers of the members of the United States Senate would not vote for a bill that would have crackdown on sex trafficking because in their view that bill would have added to the restrictions on abortion that are now in place by the Hyde amendment. That tells us a very great deal.

But also tells us in a fallen world politics looks pretty much like this. It comes down to a paragraph in which both sides can now claim that they didn’t retreat, even though both sides to some extent did. And it also tells us that when it comes to the issue of abortion, the divide is almost every day seemingly deeper than it was the day before. And when it comes to the Christian worldview there are few issues that can be more revealing than that.

2) Republican candidates’ approach to same sex marriage reveals tension between two values

Speaking of politics, yesterday’s edition of The Guardian had a very interesting article when it comes to Republicans and the issue of gay marriage. As we discussed on The Briefing at the end of last week, one of the unexpected developments in recent days has been Republican candidates talking about gay marriage, but talking about mostly whether or not they would attend a same-sex marriage ceremony. As we went into the weekend last week the candidate was Marco Rubio, but as The Guardian reports virtually every major Republican candidate, or presumed candidate, is now being confronted with the question about same-sex marriage and with the same kind of question, ‘Would you attend a same-sex marriage ceremony?’

But just to deal with that issue straight on, as I have argued over and over again, we need to remember that attendance at a wedding is a moral statement and is always throughout weddings been understood as a moral statement of the rightness of the union. That’s why I have argued that no consistent Christian can argue that I oppose same-sex marriage on the one hand but I can show up at a ceremony that celebrate same-sex marriage on the other. But the point of The Guardian article really isn’t so much about the morality of the situation but with the politics and that’s actually what makes it even more interesting. Because as The Guardian is arguing in the headline of the story, Republicans are in knots over gay marriage ahead of the Supreme Court decision.

Now we’ve often noted in anticipation of the oral arguments in the Supreme Court same-sex marriage case coming up on the 28th of this month, that when it comes to politics politicians rarely want to be put on the spot on an issue that will likely cause controversy and may cause them to be represented in the media in a way they do not want, and may cause than either to lose votes or even to alienate entire constituencies by how they answer the question in a yes or no fashion. And so The Guardian’s point in this article is that the new Republican way, the way at least chosen by some Republicans to try to find some middle ground on this issue, is to say I’m opposed to same-sex marriage but I would go to a same-sex ceremony if I were invited or if it were a family member or loved one who was involved.

The Guardian calls this verbal jujitsu and I think we can understand why they came up with that compound. They then said,

“This verbal jujitsu adds a new layer to the dilemma facing the Republican party on marriage equality: how to give tacit approval with one hand, but deny legislative approval with the other – without drawing too much attention to the cognitive dissonance.”

Now, that raises a very interesting category for the Christian worldview: cognitive dissonance. That’s a phrase that comes in the world of psychology and psychiatry that refers to the fact the human beings sometimes say they affirm two seemingly contradictory things and affirm them at the same time. Of course we might point out that it takes a certain degree of clear thinking even to achieve cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance actually occurs when people know that they’re trying to hold together two contradictory statements or two contradictory truth claims. Cognitive dissonance doesn’t actually take place if the individual isn’t stressed in some way by the pain or at least the struggle of holding two contradictory positions at the same time.

But now The Guardian is saying that when it comes to at least many Republicans they are facing, not just candidates but members of the party writ large, they are finding themselves in the position of cognitive dissonance. And it’s interesting how the Guardian defines that. Again, they define it as the dilemma now facing Republicans on marriage equality – remember their words – how to give tacit approval with one hand but denying legislative approval with the other. Now that’s an odd and unexpected confirmation of the point I made about this situation when it comes to opposing same-sex marriage and on the other hand attending a same-sex marriage ceremony. Even The Guardian now understands that that actually isn’t a consistent moral position, and they identify what is at stake in precise moral terms.

They’re saying that on the one hand the temptation is to give tacit approval; that is not explicit, that means approval by being present but not approval by having to say I approve. And then they talk about the reluctance on the other hand to denying legislative approval. And so you have at least some people, and it’s not just Republicans that have been caught in this position, who want to say, ‘I am not in support of same-sex marriage, but I’m sort of in support of going to a same-sex ceremony.’ That’s not the only way that cognitive dissonance on this issue is showing up. And frankly it’s not just showing up among politicians of either party, it is showing up amongst many Americans who are also trying to do exactly what The Guardian describes: to explicitly or officially oppose same-sex marriage, or perhaps to say they believe that marriage is actually the union of a man and a woman the way it’s always been through human history, but they also want to give – and here’s that key expression – tacit approval.

That’s a very interesting point from a Christian worldview. It points us right to the book of Romans 1:32 where the apostle Paul, and we have to go here rather frequently these days, says that God’s judgment is upon those who also give approval to what they know to be sin. As we’ve noted the really interesting turn in this entire discussion is likely to come immediately after the Supreme Court rules one way or the other and the anticipation is that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states. At that point politician who had been on the hot seat are likely to say, ‘look the issue is now settled, let’s move on’ – it’s interesting to note that before it happens. You can almost write it down that’s going to be what comes. And The Guardian notes that, and it also notes that this has been a bipartisan dilemma.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this article that is ostensibly about Republicans is actually about a Democrat and that Democrat is none other than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Guardian writes,

“Recognizing that states may soon prove inconsequential to the discussion, the Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, last week shifted her stance and came out in support of gay marriage as a constitutional right.”

As we have noted back in 2013 after she left office as Secretary of State, she came out in favor of same-sex marriage but as a matter for the states to decide. Now she said just last week she believes that it is a basic constitutional right. The Guardian again stated this,

“The former secretary of state was previously an avowed member of the ‘leave it to the states’ camp, an issue that has earned her criticism in progressive circles [that is circles of course that are in favor, ardently in favor, of legalizing same-sex marriage].”

The article just gets more interesting. The Guardian writes that even as Clinton positioned herself to face the general electorate, at least one or her potential primary opponents refuse to let her get off that easy. Now whether or not she faces an opponent in the primary the one Democrat that is most likely to oppose her is Martin O’Malley, the former Gov. of Maryland. And he told The Guardian that he was

“…glad Secretary Clinton’s come around to the right positions on these issues”.

After releasing a video in which he claimed to have been for same-sex marriage for some time now – long before former Sec. Clinton. Now the article just gets more interesting,

“However, Clinton campaign aide Karen Finney twice told MSNBC on Monday [that’s just three days ago] that Clinton has always supported gay marriage, and it was the media’s fault for not asking her the right questions.”

Well, it’s just a matter of fact that Sec. Clinton indeed opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage. Before she was merely not for the legalization of same-sex marriage, before she was for the legalization of same-sex marriage if it were left up to the states, before just a matter of a week ago she was for same-sex marriage and as a constitutional right. The Guardian then says,

“But despite Finney’s efforts to pin the blame on the media, just last year Clinton said ‘marriage had always been a matter left to the states’ in her view during a memorably tense interview with NPR’s Terry Gross. And as recently as last month, a Clinton spokesperson did not respond when asked for her position on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.”

So between the, I’m against it, I’m a little bit for it, I’m greatly for it, I now for it for everyone, was the other position was ‘I don’t actually have a position, you can ask my spokesman and get no response.’ The great moral lesson, the great worldview lesson, as we are observing all of this is that there is evidently a bipartisan dilemma. Not only that, it’s not just the politicians dilemma. They are the ones who right now are having microphones thrust in their face, but we can count on this: every single American – and that means every American Christian – will face the same kind of question. And the temptation we can now understand is going to come; right now it is the temptation to give tacit approval without officially or explicitly doing so.

After the Supreme Court rules there’s going to be another temptation, to say I was actually for it all along, or I was against it in the way you might think. There’s going to be a very interesting process of moral dissembling that is of trying to create a new moral narrative that is going to come along. It’s easy, it’s quite revealing, to look at Sec. Clinton, or for that matter Pres. Barack Obama, on this kind of evolution – that’s the word the politicians often use. It’s also interesting to note that at least some Republicans are trying to evolve on the issue in some way, or at least find some wiggle room or middle ground, in a very tense political and moral context. But we’re not just looking at politicians here; we’re looking squarely in the face of a challenge that will come to every American, and a challenge that every Christian is going to face.

And the great test that will come to us is: this will we maintain fidelity to all that God has revealed in his Word; knowing that it not only points to his glory but also to human flourishing? And will we do so without cognitive dissonance? Fidelity to the Scripture, fidelity to the gospel, does not allow for cognitive dissonance.

3) Americans approve gay marriage legalization on basis of practicality, not Constitution

Next, when it comes to that Supreme Court case – again the oral arguments will come on the 28th of this month – it’s very interesting that this week USA Today came out with a front-page story in which the headline is: no turning back on gay marriage. Susan Page wrote the article and it’s the kind of article you should expect to come in a barrage in coming days with the Supreme Court oral arguments now looming before us. And it also tells us a great deal about how America’s opinion culture is indeed trying to move on, saying this is an unstoppable movement, there are no significant arguments against, no credible arguments against the legalization of same-sex marriage so you better get in line.

One of the interesting things about the USA Today front-page story is not the headline as so much as the subhead. It tells us a very great deal and not just about same-sex marriage or even just about morality, the headline is no turning back on gay marriage, the subhead reads like this: “in poll majority say it’s no longer practical for court to ban unions.” Now that leads to a very important issue from the Christian worldview. How is a court to rule on the basis of a legal text? In this case the Constitution of the United States.

You see when it comes to the actual process whereby judges should confront a text, the issue has always been what does the text require, what did the framers of the text intend, how does the plain language of the text lead to its necessary interpretation? Now what’s interesting is that evidently that traditional way of looking at the relationship between the text and its interpretation isn’t even present in the minds of a majority of Americans if this poll is to be taken seriously and I see no reason why it should not be. You’ll note that the majority of Americans, according to the subhead on this story, don’t believe that it’s practical for the Supreme Court to do anything other than to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

The Constitution basically is absent from the entire equation, it’s not even a part of their thinking. They’re thinking in purely pragmatic terms. They’re thinking what should the court do in order to get to the right place and the right place right now in the minds of a majority of Americans is one way or another, towards the legalization of same-sex marriage. That’s the great moral shift we have experience. But we also need to note this isn’t just a moral shift, it’s also a shift in the way the High Court is expected and understood to operate.

The majority of Americans don’t seem to be saying that they believe the Constitution of the United States, in any reading of the words, calls for the legalization of same-sex marriage. They’re saying it’s not practical to rule otherwise. That tells us a great deal about the moral shift that is taking place in America. And it tells us something else: how Americans now understand the Supreme Court to operate and how they understand a text to operate as well. How does the text operate? It apparently isn’t even present in their thinking.

4) Editorial dismisses religious liberty concerns while attacking religious liberty

And next, back to the issue of this great moral shift taking place around us, back to the worldview consequences, and back to that London newspaper, The Guardian, we find an editorial that appeared on 17 April; the headline, The Guardian view on religious liberty: Christians in the West have nothing to fear. It’s a very interesting, very revealing, editorial in which this very liberal newspaper in London tells us that Christians really don’t have to fear anything in terms of religious discrimination or in terms of the loss of religious liberty. As they argue, it really comes down to whether or not belief can be coerced. And they argue that no Christian is going to be compelled, in our heart, to believe in the rightness of same-sex marriage, but we’re going to have to comply with it when it comes to all areas of the law and in the pervasive application of that law to the culture.

But what’s really interesting is the paragraph in which the editors of the guardians write, and listen to these words carefully,

“In the west we privilege conflicting but broadly liberal values. We no longer privilege the authority of the Bible. So, once we have determined that discrimination against homosexuals violates the principle of equality – and that is the settled position in both law and public opinion now – the fact that some people are compelled by their consciences to disagree does not exempt them from behaving as if it were true. There cannot be a special exemption for mistaken beliefs held on religious grounds when these harm others.”

There is so much there to be taken apart, but just note: here you have the editors of one of the most significant newspapers in the English speaking world declaring, “We no longer privilege the authority the Bible.” Now that’s not so interesting, the fact that modern Western secular societies don’t privilege the authority of the Bible, what’s interesting is the acknowledgment in that statement that Western societies once did. You’ll look at that language carefully: ‘we no longer privilege the authority the Bible.’ So when you look at this great moral revolution it’s only possible because of the loss of biblical authority in the larger culture. And it is acknowledged right here, explicitly on the editorial page of The Guardian.

But there’s something else. That paragraph began with the Guardian’s editorial board saying, ‘we privilege conflicting but broadly liberal values,’ that’s also interesting because one of the points we come to again and again is the fact that this moral revolution itself has conflicting liberal values. Those liberal values point to an inherent problem in the worldview that produces the secular age and the new moral revolution. This gets back to cognitive dissonance, even on the side of those who are pressing for this moral revolution. There is no absolute agreement as to how these conflicting, but broadly liberal, values, according to The Guardian, are to be decided, how they eventually will be applied.

But notice also the final sentence because recall the fact that the Guardian said that religious liberty isn’t threatened because there is no coercion of belief, but then listen again to the final sentence that the editors wrote right here in print. They said:

“There cannot be a special exemption for mistaken beliefs held on religious grounds when these harm others.”

We don’t have time to look at the entire sentence, but just note this: here you have a secular newspaper that says it is speaking up for religious liberty and that religious liberty for Christians really isn’t even in danger. And then they use the phrase ‘mistaken beliefs.’ So here’s the really interesting thing, whether or not they recognize that they are saying this. They’re saying it: they’re saying it in public and they are saying it in print.

They’re not just saying that Christians have to get in line; they are saying that Christians hold to mistaken beliefs. That’s a radically revealing statement, but perhaps the most revealing thing is that it doesn’t appear that the editorial board of The Guardian even understands that they have said this. They live in such a secularize world they can assume that it simply makes sense to them to put in public and in print that what Christians are holding to are simply a set of mistaken beliefs. And then they tell us religious liberties are not in danger. So what does that tell us? It tells us that religious liberty is in big danger

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. 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 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.

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Podcast Transcript

1) Human trafficking bill finally passes in Senate despite conflict over abortion restriction

Senate, Clearing Hurdle, Sets a Thursday Vote on Loretta Lynch, New York Times (Emmarie Huetteman and Jennifer Steinhauer)

2) Republican candidates’ approach to same sex marriage reveals tension between two values

Republicans in knots over gay marriage ahead of supreme court decision, The Guardian (Sabrina Siddiqui and Nicky Woolf)

3) Americans approve gay marriage legalization on basis of practicality, not Constitution

Poll: No turning back on gay marriage, USA Today (Susan Page)

4) Editorial dismisses religious liberty concerns while attacking religious liberty

The Guardian view on religious liberty: Christians in the west have nothing to fear, The Guardian (Editorial Board)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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