The Briefing 03-31-16
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Thursday, March 31, 2016. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Corporate America sees big business in joining the moral revolution
For some time now we’ve been observing how a moral revolution takes place and we’ve been watching how business interests indicated the tide of the turn of this revolution by their support of the LGBT movement and their opposition to any law that movement opposes. In particular, we have looked at the corporate pressure brought in Georgia against that state’s legislature and Governor Nathan Deal, and we saw the Governor cave to that pressure by vetoing a law that was a religious freedom bill that had been adopted by the state’s legislature. But now we have evidence on the other side, and a really important piece of evidence at that. We have a column by Dana Milbank of the Washington Post. He writes,
“You can have your Coke with a smile today.
“On Monday, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a conservative Republican, said he would veto a bill that would have legalized discrimination against gay people, responding to an outcry from corporate interests including Coca-Cola, Home Depot, UPS, Walt Disney, Delta, Time Warner, Comcast, Netflix, Apple and the National Football League. As state legislators pushed the “religious liberty” bill through, Deal told them: ‘I hope that we can all just take a deep breath, recognize that the world is changing around us.’”
Now first just notice how Dana Milbank, a liberal columnist, described the bill. He says that it was a bill that “would have legalized discrimination against gay people.”
Well, the first thing we need to note is that the bill was simply largely a recapitulation of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, overwhelmingly adopted by Congress, signed into law by Pres. Bill Clinton in 1993. No one then claimed that it was somehow in any way a bill that would legalize discrimination against gay people. What has changed is the entire moral landscape. Here’s primary evidence of it. But the other thing to note is how Dana Milbank begins the article:
“You can have your Coke with a smile today.”
He was referring to the fact, of course, that Coca-Cola is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. It was one of the corporations that brought political pressure against the Georgia Governor. Milbank then wrote,
“Georgia’s governor vetoed the bill because it received massive public exposure and there was a resulting outcry from corporations concerned that it would offend customers and workers.”
Now wait just a minute. When you look at the actual percentage of the population in any way covered by the label LGBT, you’re not talking about any sizable percentage at all, perhaps about 3% of the population. So what’s really going on here is that these corporations are afraid of organized political pressure, that same organized political pressure they in turn brought against the Georgia Governor. It’s not so much that they were afraid it would offend customers—certainly not the vast majority of their customers—but rather that they would be targeted by LGBT organizations and they couldn’t stand the pressure, therefore they put the pressure on Georgia’s Governor. But the most important section of Dana Milbank’s column in the Washington Post is where he writes,
“Corporate America is traditionally conservative, reluctant to react to social controversy and divisive issues. But as public sentiment shifts dramatically on gay rights and as pro-equality millennials become a large bloc of consumers, business is shedding its reticence.”
Now that’s the really important section of the article. Many people wonder how in the world has a moral revolution on this scale happen so quickly. And the answer is, there are various tipping points in the society. A worldview perspective helps us to understand that one of those tipping point is about sexual morality. At one point, a company can’t afford to be associated with gay rights. At some other point, it can’t afford by its own measure not to be associated with gay rights. How in the world does that happen? There is organized political pressure; there is concentrated economic pressure; but in all of these cases the corporations are really bending to what they perceive to be the will of the public, but not so much in the present, as in the direction of the future. That’s what’s really telling here. Even as Dana Milbank makes his point, he says once again that,
“As pro-equality millennials become a large bloc of consumers, business is shedding its reticence.”
That tells us a great deal. Those who are behind the corporate branding and marketing, those who are behind the corporate pressure brought against the Georgia Governor, they are those who are looking to the future and they are seeing it more gay friendly than ever. They are seeing the LGBT agenda become part of the normal landscape. That’s what Christians have to understand. This is the cultural challenge that we now face. Milbank gets right to the point of the corporate pressure when he writes,
“Though it’s not clear whether that broader shift to the left will occur among corporations, there is no doubt that a dramatic change has occurred on gay rights. When the Georgia legislature took up legislation giving religious groups the right to deny services to gay people, corporations by the dozen voiced their objections. Disney and Netflix said they would stop filming in Georgia, and the NFL said the bill would jeopardize Atlanta’s hopes of hosting the Super Bowl.”
Now keep in mind that when Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced his veto of the religious liberty legislation on Monday, immediately there was an outcry from defenders of the legislation that the Governor had caved to corporate pressure. Now from the left we have further confirmation. Dana Milbank writes,
“Governor Deal said he wouldn’t ‘respond well’ to ‘threats of withdrawing jobs from our state.’”
But as Milbank said,
“Respond he did.”
And that’s really the point, his response was his veto, and he cravenly caved to the pressure from these corporations. By the way, Dana Milbank contrasts what happened in Georgia with what happened in virtually the same week from the state of North Carolina, where just days before the Georgia veto North Carolina’s Governor signed a bill assigning restrooms according to biological sex assigned at birth. That legislation recognized by most citizens still as common sense legislation overwhelmingly supported by the general public will target the state of North Carolina for corporate opposition. There are and will be not only lawsuits against the bill, but enormous pressure against the state of North Carolina to withdraw the bill. Dana Milbank indicates just how that pressure will come and he clearly believes that North Carolina should follow the example of Georgia. The Governor of North Carolina, Milbank says,
“…should have done what Georgia’s Deal proposed: take a deep breath, and recognize that the world is changing.”
There you have it again. The world is changing; you’ve got to be on the right side of history. That’s the message to which the Georgia Governor succumbed. That’s the message that, at least to this point, the North Carolina Governor has resisted. We’ll find out in short order if the North Carolina Governor and that state’s legislature will withstand that pressure.
Same-sex marriage "messaging tactics" are being easily adapted by climate policy advocates
Another very important article telling us how a moral revolution takes place, an article that demands our Christian worldview attention—this is by Carol Davenport, and it appeared in the New York Times. The headline:
“Climate Policy’s Advocates Take Page From Same-Sex Marriage Playbook.”
As Davenport writes,
“Two months ahead of a federal court hearing on President Obama’s signature climate change rule, a coordinated public relations offensive has begun — modeled after the same-sex marriage campaign — to influence the outcome of the case.”
He then goes on to explain,
“A national coalition of liberal and environmental advocacy groups, state attorneys general, mayors and even some businesses are adhering to the strategy that a network of gay rights and other advocacy groups began in the months before the Supreme Court heard arguments in the same-sex marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges, last year. Those advocates cannot be certain, but they said they believed it had influenced the opinions of the justices, who ruled in June that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.”
Now, here you have a blockbuster of an article from a Christian worldview perspective. In the first place, it tells us that when moral revolutions happen, they tend to ride on the coattails of previous revolutions. And so when you look at the sexual revolution various aspects of that revolution unfolded. To put the matter bluntly, all of them have modeled themselves in one way or another after the Civil Rights movement. The feminist movement gave birth to the LGBT movement and eventually to the movement for same-sex marriage. Now you’ve got the gay-rights movement that has given momentum to the transgender rights movement, and now you have the news coming from the New York Times that the climate change movement is trying to follow the very same playbook. The straightforward acknowledgment in this article is that they are using the precise playbook used by the LGBT community in terms of putting pressure on the Supreme Court on the issue of same-sex marriage.
The second big issue in terms of this article for us is the fact that it tells us that the Supreme Court is believed by those who eventually won on the same-sex marriage case and those who hope to win in the Court in terms of the climate change case, they really believe that public pressure plays a role in the decision-making of the Supreme Court. Now here you have a straightforward admission from the left that this is how they believe the Supreme Court works and that’s how they intend to play this particular issue. Now what we need to note here is that the Christian worldview helps us to remember that there is no position of intellectual or worldview neutrality. And there is no real position of worldview isolation. In other words, every single human being has a worldview. No one has a mental state that is absolutely neutral, everyone actually has prejudices and intuitions of beliefs and convictions that frame the way we understand reality. There is no one who comes with a blank slate.
Furthermore, we come to understand that even in the branch of government that is supposedly most shielded from public pressure, the reality is they care what their peers think as well. Those who sit on the Supreme Court worry about what law schools, deans, and professors think. They wonder about how history is going to judge their particular decisions whether it’s in the majority or in the minority. But the really important thing for Christians to remember here is the claim that the Supreme Court is not a political branch of the government is manifest nonsense. And here you have those who are trying to influence the Court from the left who are making that abundantly clear, and their playbook is the subject of a major article in none other than the New York Times.
Later, this particular article makes these points:
“While developing the campaign, the environmental advocates closely examined the messaging tactics of the same-sex marriage efforts — particularly the message that the issue affects individual lives beyond the gay community.”
Now that’s a stunning sentence. It tells us that those who are trying to push this particular agenda, and thus influence the court are using “messaging tactics.”
Now that’s another aspect of how moral revolutions take place. That’s how social change takes place. This helps to explain why many of the same people who were against same-sex marriage just a few years ago now tell pollsters that they’re all for it, insinuating that they really were for it all along. How was there such a change? And why now are people believing that they have to be on Side B of this issue rather than Side A? Well, the words “messaging tactics” are very important here. All kinds of authorities in the society are sending these messaging tactics. Hollywood actors and actresses send them all the time; even Hollywood movies very overtly send these messages—sitcoms and TV dramas, the entirety of the entertainment industrial complex is about sending messages, messaging tactics, the same thing from academics and politicians and those in many other arenas of American public life. You change the culture by messaging tactics that win, and there’s a concerted strategy behind them. That’s what we’re looking at right here.
On gay marriage, one expert said,
“On gay marriage, it was that everyone has a friend, a neighbor, a sibling who could be impacted.”
That citation comes from Joshua Dorner, a strategist—there’s the word—at the Washington political communications firm SKDKnickerbocker, who worked on the same-sex marriage public relations campaigns ahead of the Supreme Court argument. The same message, we are told, could be applied to a campaign on climate change “showing how it directly impacts people’s lives.”
Once again, the messaging tactics, the messaging campaign; the really big issue for us is simply this: we note that moral revolutions happen in a succession of waves, much as waves come up to the shore. One follows another, one falls on the energy of the other, and that’s exactly what’s happening when ‘issue A’ turns to ‘issue B’ to ‘issue C’ and ‘issue D’ in a succession of moral revolutions that take place, none of which can be explained just simply on its own as if it happened out of the blue, every one of which can actually be explained in terms of how it follows the one previous and of course it also makes very clear, the moral revolution like this just continues. There are new waves ever crashing on the shore, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing right now. The tactics of the one lead immediately to the strategy of the next.
Evangelical identity crisis: Are Trump's evangelical supporters really evangelical?
Next, the Washington Post is out again with another important article on evangelical identity, this one by Geoffrey Layman, who teaches at the University of Notre Dame. The question on the headline,
“Where is Trump’s evangelical base? Not in church.”
“One of the most surprising parts of the 2016 election has been evangelical Christian support for Donald Trump. In the 20 states where primary or caucus exit polls have been conducted so far, Trump has won an average of 36 percent of the vote from white ‘born-again or evangelical Christians,’ good for a plurality in 12 states and only slightly lower than his support (38 percent) among all other Republican voters. Many in the evangelical community have wondered how their religious brethren could possibly back a twice-divorced candidate whose commitment to moral and cultural conservatism appears shaky at best.”
But Layman is exactly right, many evangelicals, this evangelical included, are clearly wondering how our “religious brethren” could possibly back a candidate like Donald Trump. But this is where Layman offers some very important information. First of all, he offered that Trump has won an average of 36% of the vote from those identified as born again or evangelical Christians. Now note that means that 64% have voted for someone else. That would be a landslide, the vast majority of all those who identify as evangelical are not voting for Donald Trump. But what about the minority who are? Layman writes,
“The key to understanding Trump’s support among evangelicals is to realize that some evangelicals’ commitment to the faith is shaky, too. Trump does best among evangelicals with one key trait: They don’t really go to church. In short, the evangelicals supporting Trump are not the same evangelicals who have traditionally comprised the Christian Right” and voted, as he makes clear, for more authentically conservative candidates.
So what’s going on here? Well, first of all, you have the word “evangelical” being used in a multiplicity of ways. In the first place, this article cites evangelicals as a voting bloc, but without any theological or spiritual definition. That’s the problem. So then you ask the obvious question, if the evangelicals who are voting for Donald Trump, according to the research, are evangelicals who don’t go to church, who are evangelicals who don’t go to church? And what kind of evangelical are they? The blunt answer is this: they are evangelicals who aren’t actually evangelical. Evangelical, if it means anything important in terms of worldview and theology, it refers to the fact that there are believing Christians who are members of evangelical churches who eagerly embrace the faith once for all delivered to the saints and have had a born-again experience with the Lord Jesus Christ.
The very understanding of evangelical points to regeneration and the new birth; it points to a commitment to Christ, to a confession of Jesus Christ as Lord into repentance from sin; and it of course points to the fact that an evangelical who is genuinely evangelical will be deeply involved in the life of a church. The evangelicals described in this article as those not likely to go to church, very rarely found in church and having, as Layman writes, a “shaky” hold on the Christian faith, they are those who are not evangelical by any spiritual or genuinely theological definition. Biblically speaking, they’re not evangelicals. In other words, these are evangelicals who are evangelical only as a political scientist may identify them.
Now this is where, as I’ve mentioned on The Briefing, some embarrassment is due to American evangelicals, real evangelicals, self-conscious confessing evangelicals. We’re the evangelicals who have to know that sometimes we have found comfort in inflated figures, believing that there might be 55- to 75-million evangelicals in the United States. There are not 55- to 75-million people in evangelical churches on a given Sunday. That should tell us something. And now this is a wake-up call for the fact that if the word “evangelical” is going to mean anything, it must be biblically and theologically defined, not merely sociologically defined or as defined by a political scientist. This wake-up call in this election is important for us all. And it’s a wake-up call, not only about politics, it is not only a wake-up call about the election, it’s a wake-up call about evangelical identity. And at the end of the day, that’s actually a far more important issue.
Hedonism isn't disappearing, it's just looking for a buyer: Playboy looks to sell franchise
We began The Briefing today looking at that article by Dana Milbank, the column in which he explains how major American corporations have joined and are now fueling the moral revolution. But we also need to look at another business page article, this one from the Wall Street Journal. In this case, Steven Perlberg and Dana Cimilluca are writing about Playboy magazine. You’ll recall that we discussed Playboy magazine and I ran a major article on it in recent months as the magazine indicated that it was no longer going to publish nude photographs of women in the print edition of the magazine. This was not because there had been a moral change at Playboy magazine, rather the fact that pornography is now so ubiquitous and universal in the culture that no one is going to pay for a magazine that offers what can be found on the Internet for free. That tells us a very great deal, a very tragic word about our culture. But Playboy is back in the financial pages. The headline of this article:
“Playboy explores sale after revamp.”
As the reporters say,
“Playboy Enterprises Inc. is exploring a sale, according to people familiar with the situation, a move that comes soon after the storied magazine publisher ditched nude photos and launched a revamp for the digital age.”
Well, it turns out that Playboy has been losing money and has been losing cultural cachet for some time. That also tells us something about how pornography hasn’t decreased, it’s just radically increased in the digital age. But there’s something even more important in this article. It has to do with the fact that even as Playboy has announced the change, its founder isn’t at all happy with it. And now we have a portrait of our moral situation from the financial pages of the Wall Street Journal. I read,
“For six decades, Playboy helped shape the American discourse on sex, but in the past several years it has been fighting to maintain that pre-eminent cultural status amid sliding magazine sales and a digital landscape that makes adult material widely available. The magazine has a circulation of about 800,000, down from its peak of 5.6 million in 1975.
Over the past few years, Playboy Chief Executive Scott Flanders has cut costs and shrunk head count after taking over as the company’s top executive in 2009.”
The report been tells us,
“The company has endeavored to attract a younger audience as its long-standing brand of hedonism, with ‘bunnies’ and ‘playmates,’ became increasingly outmoded.”
Hold on just a minute; we need to recognize that the use of the word “hedonism” here is very important. Hedonism goes back to ancient Greece. It was an explicit worldview that says that the purpose of life is merely pleasure, defined by Playboy as sensual pleasure. It tells us a great deal that in this article, a financial article in the Wall Street Journal, there the worldview of hedonism is found—mentioned, we should note, even by name. But we also need to note that what the article says is passing is not hedonism, but rather Playboy’s particular brand of hedonism.
The article then concludes by citing Cooper Heffner, he’s the 24-year-old son of the founder of Playboy, Hugh Hefner. According to the article,
“Mr. Hefner’s 24-year-old son, Cooper, criticized the move to remove nudity from the publication as well as the decision to sell the mansion and said his role in the company had diminished due to a difference of vision with the board.”
What’s really important for us is that here the Wall Street Journal cites hedonism as a worldview, a worldview represented by Playboy magazine in a certain style. It also tells us that in the modern age, we are confronted with not only hedonism, but different brands, different marketing styles of hedonism. But the clear implication of the article is that one way or another, hedonism is here to stay. It’s one of the major worldview competitors to Christianity. Christianity alone offers a worldview that explains why we were given the good gifts God has given us to be used exactly as God has instructed them to be used, not only to maximize his glory, but human flourishing as well. Playboy magazine has flaunted the Christian sexual ethic and has promoted hedonism now for decades. The fact that its circulation is falling is not good news when you consider the fact that it’s falling primarily because no one now has to pay for what Playboy once charged. The clear implication of this article is that hedonism is not passing away, it is just taking on a new face.
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 Stanford, Kentucky and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.