The Briefing 11-02-15
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Monday, November 2, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Kentucky governorship election's significance elevated by conflicts over gay marriage, Kim Davis
Election Day 2015 comes tomorrow and in three states governorships are at stake. Those three states are Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana. In Kentucky, the Republican candidate Matt Bevin will be facing off against the Democratic nominee Jack Conway, currently the state’s attorney general. The interesting thing about the Kentucky race is that one of the most important issues is something that right now is not before for the state in terms of the legislative agenda, but it may soon be, that is the issue of same-sex marriage. The citizens of Kentucky had adopted a constitutional amendment defining marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman, but that came under fire from the United States federal district court judge who ruled that the Kentucky constitutional amendment is unconstitutional. That set the Commonwealth of Kentucky in an interesting position and it grew more interesting, because the Attorney General of the state, none other than Jack Conway, refused to defend the Kentucky constitutional amendment in federal court. That led to the governor of the state, another Democrat Steve Beshear, hiring an independent counsel to defend Kentucky’s constitutional amendment in court because the constitutional officer assigned that responsibility, Attorney General Jack Conway refused to do so, saying that he found the constitutional amendment discriminatory. All of this led, of course, to the eventual Obergefell decision in which the state of Kentucky was very much at the center the story, when the Supreme Court in June of this year handed down its decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
But the issue of same-sex marriage hasn’t departed the scene. As is now well-known nationally, the case of a Kentucky County Clerk, Kim Davis, has gained national attention and that has put the Commonwealth of Kentucky back in the headlines and on the hot seat with the issue of same-sex marriage, because the upcoming general assembly is expected to take up the question as to whether or not the legislature will remove Kim Davis from her post because of the fact that she has refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses, or that is marriage licenses to same-sex couples, so long as she was required to put her name on the licenses. This is going to set up a very interesting situation in Kentucky that will extend beyond the gubernatorial election, but there should be no question that this has become one of those issues that has been a focal point in terms of issues of morality in the 2015 Kentucky gubernatorial race.
The interesting thing to note in this is that even as the Supreme Court handed down its decision, just this past June legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states that doesn’t mean that the issue is over. That’s a very clear lesson to be learned here. The outworkings of the logic of same-sex marriage, the bureaucratic and policy issues that pertain to same-sex marriage, the moral revolution that has led to the legalization of same-sex marriage, these issues will not end with the Supreme Court’s decision any more than on the abortion issue, the Roe V. Wade decision in 1973 settled the issue. Now as we look to the 2015 Kentucky election for governor it’s clear that this is not the only issue of public concern, but it’s also clear that the issue of same-sex marriage and the issue of Kentucky’s Attorney General not defending the Kentucky constitutional amendment in federal court that these are illustrative of the larger worldview divide between the two candidates. It’s going to be an interesting election, expected to be very close in Kentucky tomorrow and as we will see the issue of same-sex marriage is not a standalone issue. It is tied to a host of other issues as well. And how Kentucky goes in this race is going to send a signal of how these issues are likely to develop in other states as well.
Before leaving this particular race, I need to note, as a matter of disclosure that Matt Bevin is a personal friend and he has been a very generous donor to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, but personal issues aside because of this issue and others the eyes of the nation are likely on election day tomorrow to be looking very closely at Kentucky. They’ll also be looking at at least two other major elections, one in Texas and one Ohio. They are not for the office of governor. In Ohio the issue is a constitutional amendment that would allow the limited legalization of recreational marijuana. This is a very interesting development, interesting on at least several grounds. In the first place, it’s interesting that this vote is taking place in Ohio. Heretofore most of the legalization issues that have arisen amongst the states or the District of Columbia have taken place along the coasts and in more liberal areas than the state of Ohio.
Amendments to legalize marijuana in Ohio sow confusion as big business co-opts industry
Another interesting issue is that if Ohio indeed adopts this constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana, it will be the first state in the nation to do so without going through the, at least heretofore, intermediary step of legalizing so-called medical marijuana. But the issue in Ohio has taken a very interesting turn in recent weeks, and that’s because in many ways the focal issue in Ohio is now framed as a marijuana monopoly. If Ohioans adopt this constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana, they will actually be creating in effect, a marijuana monopoly in terms of the for-profit industry and there are some clear moral and worldview issues for us to note here. In the first place this entire effort to legalize marijuana has been in effect bought and paid for. Political activists have poured millions and millions of dollars into this effort to legalize marijuana in the state by this constitutional amendment and they had been funded by the very people likely to be making hundreds of millions, eventually billions of dollars through the sale of marijuana. In effect, the constitutional amendment, if adopted, would set up a monopoly in which legal marijuana in a commercial basis can be grown on only 10 specific parcels of land that happen to be owned by private industry that intends to go in a big way into the marijuana business.
As many have noted all across the nation, nothing like this has ever happened before. Where state voters have been asked to adopt a constitutional amendment that would in effect give a monopoly on legal marijuana to 10 particular parcels of land and the owners and controllers of that property and now the Ohio state legislature has responded by putting another constitutional amendment on the same ballot before the voters of Ohio that would preclude any constitutional amendment that would benefit specific private industries in this way. This sets up a very interesting constitutional situation in Ohio, particularly if both of these amendments were to pass, because that would mean that tomorrow the citizens of Ohio would vote for two contradictory constitutional amendments. At this point, no one knows exactly what would happen in Ohio if that were to happen, it would certainly send the issue to the courts and there’s no telling where that might go. But the worldview implications of the vote in Ohio are really, really interesting. Because what this tells us is that the legalization of marijuana and the moral normalization of its use is now being funded directly, honestly, and right up front by big business. As the New York Times has noted, this is a shift from the symbolism of the hippie movement for marijuana legalization to the men in suits. As Mitch Smith and Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times report,
“Issue 3, as the proposed amendment is known, is bankrolled by wealthy investors spending nearly $25 million to put it on the ballot and sell it to voters. If it passes, they will have exclusive rights to growing commercial marijuana in Ohio. The proposal has a strange bedfellows coalition of opponents: law enforcement officers worried about crime, doctors worried about children’s health, state lawmakers and others who warn that it would enshrine a monopoly in the Ohio Constitution.”
As the reporters say,
“The result has been one of the nation’s oddest legalization campaigns. It pits a new generation of corporate investors against grass-roots advocates.”
By the way, advocates for the legalization of marijuana. There are those who want the movement for legalized marijuana to be noncommercial. But one of the things we need to note from a Christian worldview perspective is that when you sent something loose in society there is always an economic dimension and where there is an economic dimension surely as big as the commercial market for marijuana, then you’re going to have big business move in in a very big way. The New York Times story tells of how the political movement behind this was started as political activists funded by these commercial interests got the necessary signatures and got a constitutional amendment on the ballot. One of the persons cited in the article had said,
“We have clearly taken this from the tie-dye to the suit-and-tie approach, there is no question about that.”
One of the industry’s spokesperson said,
“Right, wrong or indifferent, this is the way legalization is moving in this country now.”
In one sense, those operating out of a Christian worldview should understand that this shows the natural progression when an issue like marijuana moves from being a so-called grassroots movements, no pun intended, to now being a major corporate push. And now you’re also seeing that there is a cultural backlash, but the interesting backlash in terms of the New York Times isn’t coming from those primarily who are against the legalization of marijuana, but rather those who may be for it, but are against the commercialization of it. But as this article makes very clear, one way or another that commercialization is going to take place. That’s a very important issue for us to note. Marijuana is surely not the most important moral issue facing the nation, although it is a very large moral issue. It’s a large issue as we have seen because marijuana is not a neutral substance. It is indeed intended to have a hallucinogenic effect and that sets up a host of moral issues. But as we’ve seen also, marijuana becomes symbolic of the larger moral revolution and we have noted as many others have on both sides of the issue that the issue of the normalization of marijuana and its legalization of so-called recreational marijuana has tracked the moral movement in the nation on the very question of same-sex marriage.
In terms of morality and how these moral issues come about, one final observation, as the New York Times tells us,
“Perhaps the group’s most contentious marketing effort has been Buddie, an anthropomorphic marijuana bud [that means a cartoon character] who looks a bit like a spear of asparagus wearing green cowboy boots and a blue cape, and who has been turning up on college campuses around the state. Critics liken him to Joe Camel, the cartoon character accused of marketing Camel cigarettes to children.”
As the reporters tell us,
“On the campus of the University of Cincinnati on Thursday, Buddie posed for photos and found no shortage of fans among students; most eagerly accepted free T-shirts (with messages like “O-High-O”). Many who stopped were passionate about legalization. Others said it mattered little to them. One, Lee Idoine, told campaign workers who accompanied Buddie that he “worried about the big businesses getting an edge on the market right away.”
We’ll be watching the situation in the state of Ohio very carefully.
Possible overturn of Houston 'bathroom ordinance' threatens city's progressive reputation, economic status
We’ll also be watching the city of Houston where another major issue is also on the ballot. As Sandhya Somashekhar reports of the Washington Post, the issue in Houston is a so-called nondiscrimination law. As she writes,
“The campaign to pass the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO, has become a priority for national gay rights groups and the city’s gay mayor — as well as for local business leaders, who fear an economic backlash similar to the one that hammered Indiana earlier this year if it is not adopted. But with an election set for Tuesday, polls show voters are divided on the measure — and some analysts are predicting defeat.”
The next sentence is very interesting. She writes,
“One reason, they say, is the provocative claim that the measure would permit “any man at any time” to enter a women’s bathroom “simply by claiming to be a woman that day.” Opponents have dubbed the measure “the bathroom ordinance.”
Now there’s an important background story to the situation in Houston and many of you will recall it immediately. Back in May 2014, the city of Houston’s city Council adopted the similar ordinance; virtually the same language and they adopted it under the leadership of Houston Mayor Annise Parker, a Democrat who was the nation’s first big-city openly gay Mayor, when she was elected back in 2009. But voters in Houston have the opportunity by means of a referendum that requires signatures on a ballot to get it before voters to repeal an ordinance undertaken by the city Council. That led to an epic showdown, because even as a sufficient number of signatures were gathered, largely by churches and church leaders in order to put the issue before Houston voters, the opportunity to repeal, the Mayor of the city backed by the city Council sued the organization that had gather the signatures and led the repeal effort. And then in a stunning development that is still without precedent in American history, the Mayor of Houston through the city attorney ordered five pastors in Houston to turn over as a matter of evidence, their sermons preached on the issue homosexuality, any sermon preached on homosexuality during the time that the repeal effort was underway. It was one of the most clear and indeed blatant violations of religious liberty in our time and one of the most obviously unconstitutional efforts undertaken by any political leader in the United States. When Houston’s city attorney sought to subpoena the sermons from the pastors, the mayor took to Twitter and tweeted,
“If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game.”
That statement coming from an elected official in the United States, “their sermons are fair game”, should be some of the most chilling words that any of us can hear in terms of religious liberty. Under political pressure and legal pressure the Mayor and the city Council along with the city attorney had to back off the request for subpoenas for those particular sermons, they did not back off the attempt to shut down the repeal effort. This came this past July, before the Texas Supreme Court when that court ruled that the ordinance would either have to be repealed or the matter would have to put directly to the voters. That’s what’s taking place tomorrow.
In a very interesting op-ed piece, very revealing in its own way, Mimi Swartz, the executive editor of Texas Monthly wrote this piece in the New York Times in which she says,
“Houston likes to call itself the city of the future. This is, after all, the nation’s fourth largest metropolis and one of its most diverse. Oil is in a temporary slump, yes, but skyscrapers and luxury condos are still rising all over town. World-class architects are gussying up our parks and museums.
“But our super-sophisticated self-conception is now endangered, thanks to months of strife that have led to Proposition 1’s appearance on the Nov. 3 ballot, a measure also known as the “bathroom ordinance.”
Now one of the most interesting things about this op-ed piece is that Mimi Swartz clearly wants to say that it’s not about bathrooms. But she’s never actually able to say that. The reason for that is simple; it is in essence about the bathrooms. Instead, Mimi Swartz is arguing that this particular antidiscrimination ordinance is basically for everybody. This is what she writes,
“It is designed to protect the populace from discrimination in housing, employment and just about everything else, on just about any basis: race, age, pregnancy, religion, ethnicity, military status, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Now what’s really very sly about that is that in that long list, the only thing that would actually be new are the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. That’s because everything else is already covered by either local, state or federal coverage and antidiscrimination and generally on all those issues at all three levels. Thus, it is disingenuous to suggest it’s just an innocuous comprehensive antidiscrimination law. The only thing that’s controversial about it in this case, and the focal point, the only thing that is really new in terms of the coverage under this ordinance will be sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s going to be very, very interesting to watch what the voters in Houston do tomorrow. They’re also by the way going to be electing a new Mayor, but there’s something else also to note here and that’s the corporate angle, even as in Ohio in this case, it’s just as upfront. Because as was the case of the Boy Scouts of America and as this new story in the Washington Post said, as was the case in Indiana, when that state’s legislature adopted a form of the religious freedom restoration act, and then that legislation was signed into law by the governor, the state of Indiana faced an enormous backlash and now you have this warning coming in the Washington Post and in the New York Times that Houston may lose its national and international reputation as being a progressive and sophisticated city. It may lose its attractiveness as a seat for corporate offices and Fortune 500 corporations. If indeed the voters of Houston do not adopt this antidiscrimination ordinance and one other thing to note is that, as in Indiana another issue looming in the background is sports and the big money and prestige that comes with big sporting events. Advocates of the ordinance are warning their fellow Houstonians that if they do not pass this measure at stake might be Houston’s rights to host the Super Bowl in 2017.
Indications are that the bathroom issue has been very, very important to Houston citizens and that’s because, in spite of the fact that people tried to dismiss the issue, it is actually something that will be covered without question in this new ordinance and this has led to a lot of people in Houston asking some very basic questions and of course, as we have seen this points to the fact that the transgender revolution has a giant conflict of liberties at its very core. And the issue of bathrooms and who may use which bathroom is indeed very much at stake, and that’s one reason why we’ll be watching Houston, among other places, very closely tomorrow.
Discussion of dying sun reveals secular worldview expectation of end of world
Finally, in terms of worldview, every comprehensive worldview has to answer at least four questions. Why is there something rather than nothing? What’s gone wrong with the world? Can anything be done about it? And where is everything headed? That last question has my attention when a recent story ran in the Wall Street Journal. Here’s the headline,
“Far in Space, a Glance at How Earth May End.”
It shows us that regardless of worldview, everyone is concerned with how the end will come and what shape it will take and that includes those who operate out of an exclusively materialistic or naturalistic worldview. As Gautam Naik for the Wall Street Journal reports,
“Astronomers have made the first direct discovery of a planet being ripped apart by the tremendous forces unleashed by a dying star, a possible glimpse into how the Earth will end its days.”
He goes on to tell us,
“The cosmic drama is occurring 570 light-years from Earth in the constellation Virgo. There, a sun-like star is reaching the end of its life and, in the process, annihilating its solar system. Specifically, the researchers discovered a small planet being vaporized by the star’s searing heat and ripped apart by its gravity.”
Later in the article he writes,
“Our sun will go through a similar process about five billion years from now, scientists say. Because of its nearness to the sun, there’s a chance that Earth will be engulfed by the red giant that forms.
“Even if Earth survives the sun’s red giant phase, other forces will claim it. The subsequent white dwarf that is created could destabilize the orbits of planets—including Earth’s—and cause many of them to fall toward the white dwarf and disintegrate. That appears to be the scenario unfolding in Virgo.”
He then cites Carole Mundell, head of astrophysics at the University of Bath, England. He said,
“It’s a glimpse into the future of Earth.”
“It reinforces the idea that we are in a much more hostile environment than we sometimes imagine.”
Well, no doubt we are in a far more hostile environment than many imagine. The really important thing for us to recognize is that the worldview implications are clear. Even as the modern scientific secular materialistic worldview must answer in its own way the question of origins, it does that we should note, at least in part with the Big Bang theory and theory of evolution, it also is accountable to answer where history is going and here you have evidence of how that fits into that materialistic naturalistic worldview as well. What we need to note is that every intelligent person really does believe that it’s all going to come to an end. The question for every worldview, of course, is how and by what? Or as we would say, by whom?
Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information go to my website at AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to BoyceCollege.com.
I’m speaking to you from Tampa, Florida and I’ll meet you tomorrow for The Briefing.