The Briefing 06-12-15

The Briefing 06-12-15

The Briefing

June 12, 2015

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

And it’s Friday, June 12, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Shared understanding of value of marriage does not equal shared understanding of marriage 

One of the most important issues we can face, confront in terms of the contemporary cultural scene is that there is, and this is good news, an increased attention to the importance of marriage. This is something that is relatively new and it’s something that is especially noteworthy for the fact that so many people across political, social and moral divides are becoming rather agreed on the fact that marriage is important. They’re not agreeing on why it’s important and how the issue is to be addressed, but they are understanding that marriage is being marginalized and that it is coming with some very deleterious effects in terms, not only of the culture writ large, but especially of young people, children and teenagers.

For instance, a recent article in the Associated Press by David Crary suggests that people on both sides of the political divide are beginning to agree on the marriage issue. And when it comes to the reason why, well he gets to some of the data,

“Among college-educated relatively affluent couples marriage is doing pretty well where education and income levels are lower it’s often a different story, higher divorce rates, far more children being born out of wedlock, including many to single mothers.”

Crary cites an article in which some people at least across a spectrum of the American political divide indicated their agreement on the fact that marriage is a very important issue that needs to be addressed. They said in this statement,

“Marriage as culture war in America can now be replaced by marriage as common cause.”

And yet, because a look at that article indicates just how difficult this is going to be because we don’t have a shared understanding of the why or the what of marriage and when it comes to that statement several of the signatories are very much in favor of same-sex marriage as it’s called. There’s not even an agreement upon what marriage is. But this article by David Crary in the Associated Press also uses some language that would’ve been, by any measure considered odd, perhaps even offensive just a generation ago, no, just even 10 years ago.

David Crary speaks of his alarm and the alarm of many people around the culture at the number of children being born outside of wedlock, the radical increase now about 41% of all babies born in America and a majority of those born to women in their 20s. He also speaks with lament and concern about the marginalization of marriage and the fact that fewer Americans are actually getting married. Now that’s moral language, that’s the kind of moral language that people on the secular left have largely tried to do their very best to avoid in terms of the last decade or 20 years or so. But now the irrefutable evidence of the damage that comes to culture and in the lives of individuals with the marginalization and subversion of marriage, well it’s becoming so clear that people on all sides of America’s political and moral divide are in agreement or at least in increasing agreement that the weakening of marriage is a problem.

It’s also very interesting that the article by David Crary is unable to point to any assured policy way of addressing the situation and that’s because even though there might be a shared understanding that there is a marital crisis, there is not a shared understanding of what it means or what to do about it. Similar evidence came in an article published in recent days at USA Today, it’s by Trish Regan and the headline of this article is,

“Marriage is going out of style, and that could hurt.”

Well that’s interesting, but listen to the subhead,

“Matrimonial malaise can damage economy.”

So here you have an article about marriage, registering a concern that really isn’t moral, it’s about money. As a matter fact it’s on the front page of USA Today’s money section and that again should tell us something. It tells us that even those whose primary concern is financial and economic understand just how central marriage is well to the economy and that’s exactly what Trish Regan’s writing about. She writes,

“This decline in marriage is the last thing a fragile economy needs. Historically, a rising household formation rate has contributed to America’s financial success. People meet, they marry, they buy a home, they have children and they buy more things. One new household adds an estimated $145,000 to the U.S. economy thanks to the ripple effect of construction spending, home improvements and repairs.” She says, “That ripple effect is disappearing as Millennials increasingly chose to live at home.”

And as she makes also clear, increasingly choose not to get married. Now even though this assuredly is not her point, one of the points we should gain from this article importantly from the Christian worldview is that here we have evidence of the centrality of marriage. We talk so often about the fact that God gave humanity marriage as his gift for human flourishing. And here you have affirmation of that in an article that says if marriage is marginalized the economy suffers. The entire economic system is weakened if people don’t get married and do the things that married people do. If they don’t achieve the kind of financial stability that marriage uniquely brings about. She does point to that stability when she writes,

“Marriage and family also provides a sense of stability that encourages prosperity — especially for men.”

She cites an American Enterprise Institute study that indicates that,

“young married men, ages 28-30 make, on average, $15,900 more than their single peers, while married men ages 33-46 make $18,800 more than unmarried men.”

Again that’s a really important testimony to the centrality of marriage as God’s gift for human flourishing to his human creatures.

2) Consequences of single-parent family inescapably apparent in children’s lives

But we also note that marriage was in the news yesterday in this case, in the New York Times and other major media. David Leonhardt, writing for the New York Times writes about what he calls the north-south divide on two-parent families. He writes,

“When it comes to family arrangements, the United States has a North-South divide. Children growing up across much of the northern part of the country are much more likely to grow up with two parents than children across the South.”

He goes on to say,

“It’s not just a red-blue political divide, either. There is a kind of two-parent arc that starts in the West in Utah, runs up through the Dakotas and Minnesota and then down into New England and New Jersey. It encompasses both the conservative Mountain West and the liberal Northeast.”

He then says,

“Single-parent families, by contrast, are most common in a Southern arc beginning in Nevada, and extending through New Mexico, Oklahoma and the Deep South before coming up through Appalachia into West Virginia.”

Now all of that is important, but the first sentence of the next paragraph is far more important when he writes,

“These patterns — which come from a new analysis of census data — are important because evidence suggests that children usually benefit from growing up with two parents.”

That’s a stunning statement. Again, that appears in the New York Times. Once again we have a statement in a secular news authority that makes very clear that the breakdown of the two-parent family, the fact that children are now more likely to grow up without both the father and the mother in the home is coming with dangerous consequences. Leonhardt citing a study by W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia, who along with Nicholas Zill produced the article entitled,

“Red State Families: Better Than We Knew.”

That was also released yesterday in this case by the Institute for Family Studies. It’s a major research study that’s going to get a lot of attention and deservedly so. Looking at the research Leonhardt in the New York Times points out that divorce is no longer the main reason that children do not grow up with both of their parents. Now we’ve known that for some time. It’s interesting for the New York Times to document it in this way. If divorce is not the main reason for the fact that so many children are in single-parent homes, then what would be the reason? The reason why most of those children who are growing up in a single-parent home are doing so is not because of divorce, but rather because of the absence of marriage in the first place. This same article in yesterday’s New York Times also states,

“Boys who grow up with two parents seem to end up substantially stronger economically, according to a survey of the research by David Autor, an M.I.T. economist. Girls appear less likely to become pregnant as teenagers, according to another study. Among the reasons: Households with two parents tend to have more money and some less tangible benefits, including less stress, more involvement from grandparents and less unexpected change.”

Now you’ll notice how there is a steadfast attempt in this article and in that paragraph to do everything possible to avoid moral language and try to describe it merely in terms of sociology and even in terms of economics. But it is interesting to note that there are other parallel studies that don’t just talk about the two-parent family and they don’t just talk about the economic advantages of the two-parent family. Again, as Christians we would understand why that would actually be so. But rather there are studies indicating that it is specifically the absence of fathers in the two-parent home and the absence of fathers in terms of the life of children that is leading to so many of these effects, or to put it another way, when you have a father present in the home the risk of a teenage girl getting pregnant goes down demonstrably and if you have a father in the home the chances are that the boy growing up in that home is going to thrive not only economically but in other ways. The chances that thriving goes way up with a father in the home and way down without the father in the home.

It is really interesting that David Leonhardt says that this is a north-south divide, not so much a red blue divide, but the actual study that was published yesterday in the Institute for Family Studies has the headline,

“Red State Families: Better Than We Knew.”

You can actually look at the north-south divide, you can look at the red blue divide, but one of the main issues that was addressed by Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas Zill has to do with the fact that it turns out, according to their research that there is a blue state model for family success, and there is a red state model for family success and they’re two different models. In the blue state model, people tend to get married after they have an education, they tend to get married and stay married, and they tend to have children only after they are married. Then there’s the red state model which is based more in a moral argument where you have the authority of the Christian tradition very clear on what constitutes marriage and sexual morality and for that reason you also have the red state model where people are more likely to get married and stay married. But in the red state model it’s not so traceable to economic issues as it is to moral issues. Either way you look at it this is a really important study but the most important aspect of the study is actually the cultural conversation about it.

The article in the New York Times was as interesting to me as the study itself. Several times on The Briefing I pointed out that when you have the blue state model you have people who need to preach what they practice. Here you have so many suburban and urban liberals who are actually living very conventional family lives. They are staying married to each other and not divorcing. But they refuse to make a moral argument about the fact that it ought to be so. And that’s why you see it trying to be reduced here to matters of economics, rather than morality. But on the flipside we have far too many conservatives, and this is the red state problem by and large, where the problem is not so much that they need to preach what they practice, but rather they need to practice what they preach. You have far too many people who would identify themselves with a very conservative understanding of what marriage ought to be, but they don’t hold themselves to that very clear moral understanding of marriage when it comes to their own behavior and their own lifespan. But from the biblical worldview perspective, the one absolutely central issue is this. God has given us marriage and the family for our good. They are the context given to us for human flourishing. Where there is a weakening of marriage, where there is a weakening of family, human flourishing is going to be diminished and human lives are going to be hurt.

We are now so far into this sexual revolution, one of the major causes of the subversion of marriage, that it’s becoming virtually impossible to deny the pathologies, to deny even the sociological evidence. It’s also clear there are some major economic issues that are here at stake. There are some economic patterns that also play into this entire picture of marriage and the family. But Christians looking at this understand that the morality always precedes the money. It’s an achievement of sorts that people recognize that the marginalization of marriage is an economic problem, but they’re not going to do much about it until they realize it’s a moral problem as well.

3) Impact of modernized economies, societies on men economic and moral

Next, we need to turn to the cover story in The Economist. It’s a very important magazine, one of the most influential in the world. The cover story is,

“The Weaker Sex.”

And it has the male symbol on the cover. Under the headline,

“No jobs, no family, no prospects.”

As is the custom of The Economist, there’s a major research analysis essay inside the magazine it is several pages long, several thousand words long. And then there’s a leader editorial in the beginning of the magazine that makes very clear the magazine’s position on the issue and why the magazine considers the issue to be so important. In the editorial entitled “The Weaker Sex” they say,

“Blue-collar men in rich countries are in trouble. They must learn to adapt.”

It’s a very interesting article and again, it’s looking at some very irrefutable evidence, evidence of the fact that many men are falling behind in the society, not only many men, but there are even more boys who are falling fast behind in the society. The statistics, once again, are impossible to ignore. They’re just exceedingly clear. The Economist, like so many others, we’ve just mentioned tries to avoid moralizing language. But even in the editorial they write,

“Boys who grow up without fathers are more likely to have trouble forming lasting relationships, creating a cycle of male dysfunction.”

That’s not a very clear moral statement but it does point to a very clear moral problem. The Economist is after all, primarily interested in matters economic and they’re looking at the massive changes in the economy in pointing to the fact that it’s more difficult than ever before for many young men, or for that matter, middle-aged and older men to find their way in this economy, especially those who do not have higher education. And then looking at boys, they point out that boys are actually ill-suited for the classroom experience in so many schools today and even whether or not ill-suited to the context, they often have very few male role models to encourage them in terms of making academic progress.

What makes The Economist story really important from the Christian worldview perspective is how it documents some of the other things that we’ve been concerned about. For instance looking at the breakdown of marriage and the family, very central to the story in terms of the effects on men, there’s a very interesting and ongoing section in his article about the impact of contraception, about the arrival the birth control pill. Acknowledging what many of us have been pointing out for a very long time and that is that the pill basically made possible the sexual revolution, which made inevitable the problems that both men and women are now facing in terms of the breakdown of the family and marriage and the problems that are being downloaded onto children, especially those children that do not have the benefit of the mother and father in the home.

Right now girls are far more likely to graduate from high school and then to go on to higher education. On the average undergraduate campus today, women far outnumber young men and that’s a radical change from the enrollment patterns of just 20 years ago. The main point of The Economist by the way, is that men and boys are simply going to have to learn how to adapt because those blue-collar jobs as they’re described that were once the backbone of the male economy. Well The Economist says, they’re just not coming back. And then the article says,

“Jobs that reward muscle alone are not coming back, so men will need to pump up their brains instead. Several countries are experimenting with ways to make school more stimulating for children in ways that boys will appreciate. The OECD suggests offering them books they might actually enjoy—about sports stars, perhaps, or dragons.”

Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank suggests,

“Giving boys gizmos to fiddle with and more breaks so they can run around outside and let off steam: all helpful, and all things that might be appreciated by girls, too. A greater appreciation of anti-boy bias among teachers would help, as well, as would more men teaching.”

Well it’s really interesting stuff and once again, the economist is doing its dead level best to avoid making any kind of direct moral point. But what’s really interesting is that, as this article, massive as it is comes to an end they can’t avoid making a moral point even if they make it weakly.

Here’s the last sentence in the article,

“There are many ways to be a man, but not all of them are equally honorable.”

Well that’s not exactly a strong moral statement, but it is a moral statement. And that’s an indication that perhaps all those defenses against making a moral argument or confronting moral truth are breaking down.

4) Ten-year old bullying online reminder online and real-world behavior equally moral

Finally as we go into the weekend, the New York Times had another interesting article in recent days that I’ve been holding for just the right time. And I think this is that time because it ties to so many of the other issues discussed today on The Briefing. Here’s the article, its headline is,

“Lord of the Screen.”

It’s the disruptions columns in the New York Times by Nick Bilton. Bilton writes about visiting recently his 10 year old nephew named Luca. He says he visited him and as he saw the boy, the boy spent the entire weekend checking his mother’s iPhone, then this sentence,

“But, sadly, he wasn’t having fun.”

Why? Bilton explains,

“Like millions of other boys, he is obsessed with Clash of Clans, a super popular game played on smartphones. For those of you (like me) who have never played Clash of Clans, it is an online multiplayer game made by Supercell, a company in Helsinki, Finland.

“Players band together to create a community, or clan, and then attack others to earn gold and elixirs. It has all the juicy stuff you’d imagine would pique the interest of 10-year-olds, including goblins, destruction and in-game chat.

“But what makes the game irresistible for some is its cliquish and exclusionary nature. The game creates a kind of social hierarchy, with different tiers for troops, kings, queens and other characters. Clan leaders are also given the power to exclude users, or to promote or demote other members within the clan.”

Now it turns out that the reason for his 10-year-old nephew’s sadness is that the 10-year-old had actually been mean to other players online and had demoted them or kicked them out of the clan. Then some of those friends created a new clan and wouldn’t let him in. He felt so ostracized that every few minutes, he had to go to his mother’s smart phone in order to find out if he had been let in and he wasn’t and he was devastated.

The story gets even more interesting when Bilton tells us that it was the father of one of the other boys who came to Luca’s mother and told her there’s a problem here, you need to check Luca’s use of the smart phone. Bilton then writes, if all this sounds terribly childish, let’s not forget we’re talking about 10-year-old boys, but it also illustrates why this is so important. He says he quotes Caroline Knorr, parenting editor of Common Sense Media who said,

“Social patterns in the real world are replicated in the online world.”

And just in case you missed her point, Nick Bilton gets right to it when he says everything you fear 10-year-old boys can do on the playground, they’re actually doing online. The difference is nobody is watching, nobody is seeing.

The story also cites another digital expert who in this case is even more relevant because he’s the father of a 14-year-old boy who got into similar trouble online. He told Bilton,

“You have to remind your children that just because you’re on a computer, the rules haven’t changed.”

Well that’s really an important point isn’t it? You know that article here is entitled “Lord of the Screens” and it’s because as Nick Bilton said these 10-year-old boys, and some of them were younger and some of them were older, had created a world that is actually hauntingly like the William Golding novel Lord of the Flies.

This article constitutes a wake-up call for us all. It’s also a reminder that these are issues that can be extended to any age group, but it’s a reminder; particularly to parents that what’s going on online is just as real, morally speaking, as what goes on in other parts of life that you can more easily observe. It’s interesting that Nick Bilton says, it’s the parent’s responsibility to monitor all this and make sure nothing bad happens. I think there are probably some other parents who would say the risk of something bad happening in this case is simply too great to let it run even with some form of supervision. But it’s important that all of us recognize whatever our age, that the main point of this article is very clear, all too quickly the Lord of the Flies can become the Lord of the screen.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to For information on Boyce College just go to Remember we’re taking questions for Ask Anything Weekend Edition; a new edition of the program will be released tomorrow morning. To call with your question, in your voice, call at 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058.

I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1) Shared understanding of value of marriage does not equal shared understanding of marriage 

Marriage Today: Rich-Poor Gap, Later Vows, Gays Gain Access, Associated Press (David Crary)

Marriage Opportunity: The Moment for National Action, Institute for American Values (Marriage Opportunity Council)

Regan: Marriage is going out of style, and that could hurt, USA Today (Trish Regan)

2) Consequences of single-parent family inescapably apparent in children’s lives

The North-South Divide on Two-Parent Families, New York Times (David Leonhardt)

Red State Families: Better Than We Knew, Institute for Family Studies (W. Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas Zill)

3) Impact of modernized economies, societies on men economic and moral

The weaker sex, The Economist

4) Ten-year old bullying online reminder online and real-world behavior equally moral

Lord of the Screens, New York Times (Nick Bilton)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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