The Briefing 06-16-15

The Briefing 06-16-15

The Briefing

June 16, 2015


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

  It’s Tuesday, June 16, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview. 1) Jeb Bush unsurprisingly announces candidacy, leaving both parties with question of dynasty To no one’s surprise the 2016 presidential race in the United States grew more interesting yesterday. Again, it wasn’t a surprise - former Florida Governor Jeb Bush announced that he would be a candidate for the Republican nomination for the office of President of the United States. The former governor made his announcement at the Kendall campus of Miami-Dade College there in the area of Miami. He was not a surprise but it was a big day for the Bush campaign. Political analysts on both sides of the aisle generally credited the former Florida Governor with a rather unexpectedly good performance in the speech and in his campaign’s general release yesterday. In particular, there were two videos which caught a great deal of attention. In making his announcement yesterday, Mr. Bush made very clear he will be a serious candidate. He leads Republican candidates in terms of fundraising but to this point, his campaign has not caught fire the way some Republican analysts had expected. There are some huge issues looming before all the candidates for the Republican nomination for the office of President, but when it comes to Jeb Bush one of the central questions is whether or not he will run taking advantage of his last name. As the former governor said yesterday he does not intend to be handed the Republican nomination. That’s a good thing by the way, he certainly will not be handed that nomination. He also spoke of the need to prove himself as a candidate. He also in recent days has made clear that he is not ashamed of his family name. But there is clearly an issue here that’s going to be difficult for him to deny. The very way that he became the governor of Florida, the same way his brother George W. Bush became the governor of Texas and later president was at least in part due to the fact that their father, George H.W. Bush had been President of the United States. And the way that George H.W. Bush got started in his political career was at least partly attributable to the fact that his father Prescott Bush had been a member of the United States Senate. So we’re looking at the fact year that we are confronting political dynasties. On the Republican side the Bush dynasty, on the Democratic side the Clinton dynasty. And Americans are actually divided perhaps even within individual voters as to whether or not they want a Dynasty. Americans overwhelmingly say that they do not, but when they go to the voting booth they often vote in a way that is contrary to what they say. Just think of the name Kennedy when you’re thinking of family dynasty in the United States. We do not believe in a hereditary monarchy, but we do believe in the enduring political value of a name. The prominence of the names Bush and Clinton in the 2016 election cycle should remind us that the Bush or Clinton names in one way or another and in two years both have appeared in the election cycles of 1980, 1984, 1992, 1996 and 2008, now again in 2016. In one way or the other as candidates, someone with the name Kennedy was a part of the presidential election cycles of 1956 1960, 1968 and 1976, at least in terms of the primaries. On the Democratic side, one of the key issues faced by Hillary Clinton is how or to what degree, she will or will not identify with the incumbent President of the United States, Barack Obama, on several issues most pointedly in recent days, trade policy. As Peter Nicholas of the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, “Hillary Clinton re-launched her presidential campaign over the weekend by saying she would be a “fighter” for families struggling to pay bills and save for retirement. But for weeks she avoided picking a side in the fight that has bitterly divided her party: the pending 12-nation, Pacific Rim trade deal.By Sunday, her reluctance had become untenable. “In a speech in Iowa, Mrs. Clinton aligned herself with the party’s congressional liberals, saying their concerns about free trade were valid and that President Barack Obama, who is pushing for the trade pact, should work “to make sure we get the best, strongest deal possible.” Now one thing to note is that that’s the politician’s way of appearing to say something while saying very little. After all, did anyone expect that she would say that the President should work to get something less than the best strongest deal possible? But what was politically significant about what Mrs. Clinton said on Sunday was that she very clearly did distance herself from the President of the United States and as the Wall Street Journal indicates she sided quite decidedly, even if the words don’t appear to mean so, with the congressional left, with the liberals in her own party in Congress. 2) Journalist argues marriage merely political reality preventing poor from success Meanwhile, on the Republican side there are some other issues that are very, very interesting to watch. One of them is going to be how Republicans deal with social issues. Charles Blow writing in yesterday’s edition of the New York Times writes about what he calls, “Jeb Bush and single mothers.” This article is actually a lot less interesting as it refers to Governor Bush and a lot more interesting as it makes very clear what’s at stake in terms of much of the conversation that will surround this election. Charles Blow is a very well-known liberal columnist for the New York Times, he writes about the fact that, “Last week, Jeb Bush was asked to answer for a passage from his book from two decades ago, “Profiles in Character,” in a chapter titled “The Restoration of Shame,” in which he blamed the “irresponsible conduct” of births to unmarried women on a flagging sense of community ridicule and shaming.” That again is the words of Jeb Bush as interpreted in this case by Charles Blow. “Bush responded, according to MSNBC: “My views have evolved over time, but my views about the importance of dads being involved in the lives of children hasn’t changed at all. In fact, since 1995 … this book was a book about cultural indicators [and] the country has moved in the wrong direction. We have a 40-plus percent out-of-wedlock birth rate.” [He continued:] “It’s a huge challenge for single moms to raise children in the world that we’re in today and it hurts the prospects, it limits the possibilities of young people being able to live lives of purpose and meaning.” Charles Blow actually pushes back on that, saying that the problem with single motherhood really isn’t all that big a deal and saying that perhaps the worst thing imaginable would be to reinvigorate a moral discussion about the question of whether or not children are born to married parents or whether they have parents, including a mother and a father in the home. The New York Times and other major media have been pushing far to the left on this kind of family and marriage redefinition for a long time. That’s why to so many on that side of the moral equation, the arrival of same-sex marriage just makes perfect sense, at least in theory, if not in practice. But Blow wants to make the point in his column that Jeb Bush is wrong to focus on the problem of out of wedlock births and the impact that has especially on children. This harkens back to the fact that a few decades ago in the late 1960s and early 1970s already the sociological evidence was piling up; indicating that single motherhood, children born outside of wedlock represented a very serious social and economic problem, not just a moral problem. But this gets to a major worldview divide in America. Does the sociology produce the morality or does the morality produce the sociology? In this kind of question, Christians need to think very carefully. For one thing we do not deny that sociological issues can play in the moral experience. But we must insist, armed with the biblical worldview, that morality always precedes sociology in terms of the importance of the question. That’s because we believe the morality produces the sociology and there’s no way around a sociological problem as a moral base without dealing with the moral problem itself. Charles Blow in this column on Jeb Bush takes the opportunity to criticize the former Florida governor for moralizing rather than dealing with this as a mere political or economic issue. But on this score, Governor Bush is absolutely right. This is a moral question before it is anything else. In his article, again it was published yesterday in the New York Times, Charles Blow writes, “We spend quite a bit of energy blaming births to unmarried women for our woes, but that is only part of the picture. The other part is the way we as a society treat those women and the fathers of their children. Instead of endless efforts to sanctify marriage, the emphasis should be on finding ways to support children and encourage more parental engagement from both parents, regardless of marital status. This includes removing all barriers and penalties for people, especially the poor, to cohabitate.” That is an explosive paragraph. It’s incredibly interesting. It is urgently important. What we have here is an argument for making marriage itself a nonissue, not only morally but in terms of national policy as well. We need to note something very significant; this is a huge jump for the left as represented here by Charles Blow. Because even those on the cultural left have insisted that marriage was vitally and is incredibly meaningful even when they sought to redefine it. Now he’s saying we should actually, let me just quote again, “Remove all barriers and penalties for people especially the poor to cohabitate.” There is abundant sociological evidence available now that cohabitation is disastrous for children. For one thing, cohabitation in America no longer leads to marriage; it has become a substitute for marriage. And cohabitations are growing shorter and shorter in terms of duration. In other words, cohabitation is the problem not the answer to the problem. And yet we have Charles Blow writing here that we need to avoid what he calls “endless efforts to sanctify marriage” and instead emphasize “ways to support children and encourage more parental engagement from both parents.” Well that’s an interesting concept - both parents. When you look at the revolution that’s taking place in the family there’s no necessity of even having the words, both parents. When it comes to so many of these children born outside of marriage, there really is no meaningful second parent in their lives at any point. Furthermore, why would such a parent, merely defined perhaps here by biology, take responsibility for greater involvement in the lives of his or her children? The answer is quite simple, marriage has been the legal, cultural and social institution that has upheld that responsibility and cultural expectation. You take marriage out of the picture, as Charles Blow here very straightforwardly suggests that we should, and what you’re left with is no binding moral argument whatsoever. You have nothing more than a call for government to remove barriers to cohabitation and to apparently come up with some way to convince people they ought to be engaged in the lives of their children to come up with something that will be a substitute for marriage. But that’s the real issue here. The Christian worldview reminds us there is no substitute for marriage and what we have here is an argument that’s about to be joined. It’s interesting that the very day that Jeb Bush made his announcement that he will become, mark this - the 11th declared candidate for the Republican nomination, a major columnist in the New York Times says, well, then it’s time to talk about the family. Well of course it’s time to do so. It’s just incredibly telling that he chose this day and this candidate on this occasion to make that point. 3) Ohio legislature considers conversion therapy ban, viewing sexuality as unchangeable Next, yesterday’s front page of The Columbus Dispatch included an article by Emma Ockerman entitled, “Conversion Therapy in the Crosshairs.” It’s another very interesting article that appeared here in Columbus as the legislature here is considering bills in both the Ohio House and Senate to outlaw so-called conversion therapy, in particular for legal minors. As The Columbus Dispatch reports, “Two bills, one introduced in the House and one in the Senate, would make it illegal for Ohio’s licensed medical professionals to practice what’s most often referred to as reparative, conversion or sexual-reorientation therapy on a minor.” As The Columbus Dispatch indicates, “Similar legislation already is on the books in New Jersey, California, Oregon and the District of Columbia.” Several other states are considering it as well. The paper also accurately points out that the psychotherapeutic professions have largely repudiated any kind of therapy that would even seek to change sexual orientation or to reorder sexual desire. This includes the American Psychological Association that passed such a resolution in 2009 and the American Psychiatric Association that did so 11 years earlier. It’s really interesting. Both of those organizations had until the early 1970s, 1973 is the key year, diagnosed homosexual orientation, homosexual desire and homosexual behaviors as psychological or psychiatric disorders. That was changed under what is now acknowledged to have been intense political pressure and now it’s cited as a scientific finding, although it wasn’t even really claimed to be scientific when the effort was undertaken to change the policies of the two organizations in 1973. A really interesting paragraph in the article reads like this, “Most professionals avoid trying to sway a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity anyway, Dr. Jim Broyles of Grove City Psychological Services said. It could be considered an ethical violation by state licensing boards, and Broyles said “research is saying that it’s very, very unlikely that a person’s sexual orientation is going to change.” Well, that’s an interesting statement –  as I said a very interesting paragraph – in and of itself. For one thing, it makes clear that mental health professionals are now largely under this kind of political and social pressure unwilling even to address someone who might want to change his or her sexual orientation, in particular anything that might have to do with changing someone’s sexual pattern of orientation from homosexual or same-sex related to heterosexual or opposite gender related. Note that’s very telling in itself, but it also points to the fact that in this politically correct revolution, it’s going to be very difficult to answer some very basic questions. What happens when someone shows up at a psychiatrist or psychologist or a therapist or even more chillingly, a minister’s office and says what should I think about my sexual feelings? Well this article tips its hand in using as its very first illustration someone who was operating out of the historic Christian understanding of sexual morality and telling someone that homosexuality is a sin. That is now held up as what must not happen. And of course the setting here is largely therapeutic or psychological or psychiatric but it’s very clear that the intended target goes beyond those professions and right into the kind of conversation that a parent might have with a child, a friend with a friend, and of course as I said even more chillingly, the kind of conversation that a pastor might have with a church member. It’s anticipated in terms of local political analysis in Ohio that one of these bills will make a great deal of progress and will eventually pass and gain the Governor’s signature. That’s going to be a very interesting development here in Ohio, but it’s simply following the same kind of trajectory that has been seen elsewhere. And what we have here is a culture of political correctness that is committed to a moral revolution that hasn’t even thought out the consequences of what it’s doing here. One of the questions we need to ask from a Christian perspective is simply this, what about someone who shows up saying, even in a secular context to a secular psychological or psychiatric authority, I don’t understand my sexual feelings. I don’t know how those feelings should be addressed. I don’t know how they should be directed. How in the world will any professional given this law be able to give any meaningful response? Any meaningful response that is, without fear of eventually losing one’s professional license. 4) Author presents evolutionary argument for dominance of human species, undermining its uniqueness  Finally in terms of worldview, a really interesting column by opinion writer, Michael Gerson of The Washington Post. Gerson writes a piece that has been entitled, “Species succeeds because it can work toward big things.” The species by the way, as Homo sapiens he’s talking about human beings. He writes, “About 2 million years ago, a genetic mutation resulted in the human species — social, restless but consigned to the middle of the food chain, breaking open the bones of carrion for marrow after the lions left. As a species, we were pretty slow starters. For most of those 2 million years, we used the same stone tools, entirely unconscious of the need for iPhone upgrades. Individually, no doubt, we could be the life of the party. Collectively, we migrated across the Earth without leaving much art or history. Several species of humans — Homo erectus, Homo soloensis, Homo neanderthalensis and the rest — lived the relatively healthy, relatively happy hunter-gatherer lifestyle. “Then, perhaps 150,000 years ago, came Homo sapiens.” Just remember that introduction and then keep in mind that he is writing his column in response to a new book by Yuval Noah Harari entitled, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Gerson’s not buying the argument entirely. Harari’s writing from an entirely secularist perspective in which he’s arguing that what makes human beings, Homo sapiens, distinctive is our ability to create communal meaning. He writes, “Much of history,” says Harari, “revolves around this question: How does one persuade millions of people to believe particular stories about gods, or nations, or limited liability companies? Yet when it succeeds, it gives sapiens immense power, because it enables millions of strangers to cooperate and work toward common goals.” He calls this so-called mythic glue. Now what’s he referring to here? He’s saying that what distinguishes human beings from other beings is the fact that we alone have the capacity to create harmonious cooperative human community and we do so he says, unlike other beings, unlike other animals in particular, because we are able to create narratives and stories that give us common identity in common meaning. They give meaning to life. But Harari doesn’t believe that any of those things are true. As Michael Gerson writes, “Harari consigns all those myths to the realm of fiction — not only religions but the whole enterprise of humanistic, rights-based liberalism: “There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws, and no justice outside the common imagination of human beings.” Gerson then responds, “With a kind of courageous consistency, he argues that the life sciences reveal sapiens as nothing more than a bundle of neurons, blood and bile. And that, he concedes, destroys the whole basis for ethics, law and democracy.” Well, of course, that’s a key insight. Michael Gerson is exactly right, that when Harari consigns all that meaning to nothing more than a humanly created set of myths, he undercuts again the whole basis for ethics, law and democracy. He undercuts the very basis for his ability even to make the claims that he makes. On the basis of what makes human beings special. In other words, Michael Gerson says, Harari maybe a genius but he’s eventually undermining his own argument. Well, that’s interesting, so far as it goes. Let’s remember how Michael Gerson, a former senior speechwriter for President George W. Bush began the article. He began by articulating a very clear secular understanding of evolution that eventually we are to understand produced Homo sapiens as something of a mere mutation. Now Michael Gerson is exactly right. He is incredibly wise to recognize that Yuval Noah Harari has written a book that includes a self-defeating argument. You can’t argue for meaning and then suggest that meaning is nothing more than a mythic construction. But what Michael Gerson doesn’t understand is that embracing this very notion of evolution he has also embraced a self-defeating argument. He may criticize Harari for failing to see the self-defeating nature of his argument, but you have to wonder what does Michael Gerson think will be the lasting importance of humanity, the real eternal significance of humanity, the real meaning of humanity of human life, human dignity, human rights, if we’re nothing more than an accidental mutation, or for that matter if the mainline narrative of evolution is even close to being true in terms of how human beings came to be. One of the most important things we can think through in terms of worldview is how arguments have to work. They can’t be self-defeating. That is one of the truest and most important tests of the Christian biblical worldview. It doesn’t contradict itself. It is a comprehensive and for that matter, a seamless understanding of the meaning of life, of the origin of human beings, of how the universe came to be, how morality works, all of these questions eventually come back to a question of why, that the Christian worldview makes clear- is actually a question of who or whom? The evolutionary worldview simply can’t carry the weight of human dignity. This article in its own way makes that point. Christians looking at an article like this have to recognize exactly what’s at stake. Either the story begins, in the beginning God or eventually, and at this point Michael Gerson is exactly right. There is really no meaning anywhere at all forever.   Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information go to my website at You follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to For information on Boyce College just go to I’m speaking to you from Columbus, Ohio, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1) Jeb Bush unsurprisingly announces candidacy, leaving both parties with question of dynasty

Jeb Bush announces presidential bid: ‘We will take command of our future once again’, Washington Post (Ed O’Keefe)

Full text of Jeb Bush’s presidential announcement, Politico (Staff)

Hillary Clinton’s Silence on Trade Proved to Be Untenable, Wall Street Journal (Peter Nicholas)

2) Journalist argues marriage merely political reality preventing poor from success

Jeb Bush and Single Mothers, New York Times (Charles M. Blow)

3) Ohio legislature considers conversion therapy ban, viewing sexuality as unchangeable

Some Ohio legislators want to ban conversion therapy for gay, transgender teens, Columbus Dispatch (Emily Ockerman)

4) Author presents evolutionary argument for dominance of human species, undermining its uniqueness 

Species succeeds because it can work toward big things, Washington Post (Michael Gerson)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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