The Briefing 04-26-16
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Tuesday, April 26, 2016. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Pro-abortion vs. more pro-abortion: Democratic candidates vie for funds in race to the left
This nation’s conscience has been torn over the issue of abortion for many decades now, but especially since 1973. That’s when the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down, legalizing abortion by the United States Supreme Court. But now we find a very interesting set of fissures on both sides of the abortion debate. On the pro-abortion side, it is really interesting to see how the Democratic Party is now torn between those who are pro-abortion and those who are even more pro-abortion. That story was made abundantly clear over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal. The headline of the story:
“Spending by Emily’s list leaves Democrats divided.”
Now Emily’s List is a group that emerged in recent decades of prominent Democratic donors, and they give only to pro-abortion candidates. But what makes this really interesting is that the current debate over Emily’s List is when the list supports a candidate for the Democratic Party who is pro-abortion over against another candidate who is also pro-abortion. What we’re witnessing here is the Democratic Party moving in such a pro-abortion direction that the only interesting question seems to be which candidate for the Democratic nomination is more pro-abortion than the others. The Wall Street Journal article by Christina Peterson also includes a piece of information missing to most Americans when they hear—even the most politically informed—hear about Emily’s List, they’re likely to think that the pro-abortion Democratic fund-raising organization is named for some woman whose name is Emily. It turns out that’s not true at all. Emily is instead an acronym for ‘Early Money Is Like Yeast,’ meaning that the organization intends to spend money early in political campaigns in order to have maximum pro-abortion influence.
The center of this controversy in terms of Emily’s List is the state of Maryland, where there are two major Democratic candidates vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination for a Senatorial seat from that state. Both of them are very pro-abortion. One of them is an African-American woman, the other is a white male. It turns out that Emily’s List has decided to put major backing behind the African-American woman. But both candidates, we should note, are avowedly pro-abortion. As the Wall Street Journal reports, and I quote,
“At the heart of the debate is the question of whether Emily’s List’s super PAC should help fund the campaigns of women battling Democratic men with similar or identical stances on abortion in a year when control of the Senate and White House are up for grabs.”
It’s a really interesting debate to watch in terms of the Democratic Party and its future. But what it tells us is that what we’re witnessing is the coalescence of the Democratic Party around a solidly definitively pro-abortion stance in which the only variations now are pro-abortion and even more pro-abortion. As we are looking at the larger worldview implications for this country, it tells us that at the level of politics, at the level the partisan divide in this country, the divide is growing wider, not smaller. It also tells us, or at least reminds us, that when we’re looking at many of these issues, in this case the sanctity of human life, there is no way to avoid a partisan fallout in terms of how the issue is actually engaged in the public square. Put simply, there is now no place whatsoever in the Democratic Party at any level—state, local or national to say the very least—for anyone who is a pro-life candidate. That’s the position that is now virtually excluded in terms of the Democratic Party.
GOP front-runner Donald Trump breaks from Republican orthodoxy on LGBT issues
But what about the future of the Republican Party? What we have witnessed in recent years and in recent election cycles is the fact that these two parties have represented this massive divide in terms of worldview. It has been impossible in terms of the Republican Party to consider a platform that would not define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, that would not be solidly pro-life. It has also, at the same time, been incomprehensible to imagine the Democratic Party platform that was not pro-abortion, including not only a defense of abortion under virtually any circumstances, but also a call for taxpayer funding of abortion. That divide is likely to continue, but there are questions now on the Republican side. And those questions are caused by the unexpected popularity of Donald Trump in terms of the race for the Republican presidential nomination. But even as the issue of Donald Trump and abortion is complicated by the fact that before he was running for president he held to an essentially pro-abortion position before adopting what is now by his definition, a pro-life position, the larger issue of interest in recent days when it comes to Donald Trump and moral issues is the question of sexuality and the transgender identity issue as related specifically to the question of bathrooms. Now to indicate just how interesting that story has become, on two successive editions of the New York Times there were headline stories raising the question. On April 22, the headline was this:
“Trump Breaks for Many Republicans on Transgender Restroom Issue.”
Just one day later, a far broader headline on the front page of the paper,
“Trump flouts GOP dogma on gay issues.”
The first story is by Ashley Parker, and she goes back to the fact that in response to a question after the North Carolina legislature had adopted the bill identifying the proper use of bathroom by biological sex assigned at birth and after the governor of that state had signed the law, Donald Trump said,
“North Carolina did something — it was very strong — and they’re paying a big price. And there’s a lot of problems. And I heard — one of the best answers I heard was from a commentator yesterday saying, leave it the way it is, right now.”
Now that convoluted language rather typical of Donald Trump points to the fact that what he was saying, in his own way, was that he wished North Carolina had not adopted this law, and he went on to state that in his belief a person should be able to choose whichever bathroom they might wish according to their own perception of their gender identity. What the New York Times is pointing to in this first article is the fact that in taking this stance, Donald Trump sets himself over against the majority position in the Republican Party, the very party he intends to lead as a presidential nominee.
But where the story gets more interesting is in the next day’s edition of the paper. Just looking at how to read a newspaper, when you see a story like the one that appeared on the 22nd and then you see a larger story on the same issue the very next day that is moved to the front page, this tells you that the editors of the newspaper think this is a far bigger story than was apparent just the day before. Thus on the 23rd, the New York Times ran an article that suggested that Donald Trump is now flouting GOP dogma on gay issues. That’s a very radical expansion of the claim that was made in the headline just a day before.
Maggie Haberman reports by openly recounting an anecdote that goes back to 2005 when Elton John and his longtime boyfriend, David Furnish, entered a civil partnership. Donald Trump said,
“I know both of them, and they get along wonderfully. It’s a marriage that’s going to work. I’m very happy for them. If two people dig each other, they dig each other.”
Now running for president, Donald Trump says that he believes that marriage should be reserved to the union of a man and a woman. But when those two men got married, he thought it was a very good idea; he endorsed it and said he thought they would make a very happy couple. As the New York Times reports,
“It is his views on gay rights and gay people that most distinguish Mr. Trump from previous Republican standard-bearers. He has nurtured long friendships with gay people, employed gay workers in prominent positions, and moved with ease in industries where gays have long exerted influence, like entertainment.”
Gregory T. Angelo, the president of a pro-gay organization among Republicans known as the Log Cabin Republicans, said,
“He will be the most gay-friendly Republican nominee for president ever.”
Now in the next paragraph, the New York Times states the divide between Republicans and Democrats that remains on the issue. For instance, they write,
“Of course, Mr. Trump is not as embracing of gay rights as the Democratic candidates are; he said during this campaign that he believes that marriage is between a man and a woman, a position he has held since at least 2000, when he briefly flirted with a bid for the presidency.”
Now at this point we need to watch the newspaper’s coverage very carefully and follow the chronology that they set out not in one, but in two different articles. It takes the two together in order to get the story straight. They argue that back in the year 2000, Donald Trump adopted a position defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. And he did so, they note, coincidentally, when he was flirting with the idea of running for the Republican presidential nomination then. That’s 16 years ago. But it was five years later in 2005 when he made the affirmative statement concerning the union of Elton John and his partner. And now it’s 2016, when Donald Trump holds the position that marriage should be between a man and a woman,
“But he does not emphasize marriage as an issue, and he makes no mention of it, for example, on his campaign website, which focuses on issues like immigration and trade.”
So putting this all together, it might be impossible to know exactly what Donald Trump believes about abortion or about the issue of marriage or the larger LGBT array of issues. But this much is clear: he doesn’t want to talk about them. That’s what might be the most interesting development on the Republican side of the equation. Donald Trump is now the front runner for the Republican nomination and, even though he holds to the positions that you might expect would have to be held by a Republican presidential candidate, he doesn’t hold them in a way that even finds a place on his website he doesn’t want to talk about these issues.
But perhaps the issue of greatest consequence in this article that appeared, the second article in the New York Times, is that Donald Trump, according to this article, has supported amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include a banner discrimination based on sexual orientation. Mr. Trump said,
“It would be simple. It would be straightforward. It’s only fair.”
We need to note that is an extremely radical proposal. That is basically what is being called for by the Democratic presidential nominees, and this will put the issue of religious liberty right in the very center of the target in terms of this cultural transformation. But another interesting twist in the story in the New York Times comes as the paper documents a friendship between Donald Trump and an openly gay participant in his program known as the Celebrity Apprentice. That particular man spoke of Donald Trump and his support for traditional marriage saying,
“I was tempted to say, marrying multiple times is not traditional marriage.”
But perhaps from a Christian worldview, that’s the most interesting analysis we should reflect upon. And that is the difficulty, the awkwardness, some might even say the implausibility, of a man was had multiple marriages and has flaunted monogamy as an expectation of marriage, turning around as a political candidate and defending marriage as exclusively the union of a man and a woman. Because of course the biblical definition is one man and one woman for one lifetime. That might also require us to be very clear about the distinction between traditional marriage as defined by some and biblical marriage as defined in the Bible.
Boycott Target? What does it mean to be a Christian in the marketplace?
Next, it is always important for Christians to think very seriously about the moral and worldview implications of how we operate in the economy as consumers, as economic agents. The most recent flashpoint for that discussion comes as the retailer Target has announced that it will be the first major corporation to have a policy on bathrooms. And, in this case, it is a very wide open policy stating publicly that the corporation expects to allow anyone to choose to use any bathroom based upon their own self-perceived gender identity. On its own website, Target announced that it is,
“…continuing to stand for inclusivity.
“So earlier this week, we reiterated with our team members where Target stands and how our beliefs are brought to life in how we serve our guests.
“Inclusivity is a core belief at Target. It’s something we celebrate. We stand for equality and equity, and strive to make our guests and team members feel accepted, respected and welcomed in our stores and workplaces every day.”
But the statement from Target on its corporate website goes on to cite the very kind of legislation that we previously discussed in terms of Donald Trump when the company states,
“Target supports the federal Equality Act, which provides protections to LGBT individuals, and opposes action that enables discrimination.”
Now when you look at those words carefully and consider the context and the syntax of that sentence, it’s very clear that this is a corporate statement opposed to any definition of religious liberty that would in any way be considered discriminatory by anyone on the LGBT spectrum. Furthermore, it puts this company in the position of making very clear moral judgments.
Now that’s really important when you consider the Wall Street Journal and another article with the headline,
“Big Business Speaks Up on Social Issues.”
Mark Peters and Rachel Emma Silverman have written this article together in which they document the rather astounding revolution whereby American corporations, and especially America’s largest corporations, now have decided that it is in their corporate interest to crusade upon certain moral issues, certain social questions. And the fact that this is such a revolution is what explains the story on the front page of a section of the Wall Street Journal. As Peters and Silverman report,
“Companies used to avoid hot-button social issues, fearing that any strong stance could alienate customers and staff. Now, executives say it is far more risky to stay silent on issues such as gay rights.”
Now as I began, this raises a host of issues about how Christians should operate faithfully in an economic context. The first thing we need to recognize is that we are economic agents. That’s a part at least of what it means to be made in the image of God. And wherever you have human beings you will have transactions being made. Adam Smith pointed out in the most fundamental work on economics in human history that that’s necessary, because eventually, if you put two people together in a community, one values or needs something the other has and is willing to offer something else in exchange. That at its very essence is an economy, and thus it is laden with moral importance from the very beginning. Nothing we do in an economic world is not connected in some way to a basic moral question. And yet we’re also, we remind ourselves secondly, living in a fallen world in which there is no perfect economy and there is no perfect economic stance from which to operate without some complicity in larger moral questions in the economy.
That gets to the third issue, and that is this: when Christians are thinking very carefully about how to be faithful as Christians in an economy, we do so knowing that we have choices we can make, but we do not have the choice of not being economic participants. So many Christians are asking the question, should we now boycott Target? Just judging from an historical perspective, oftentimes boycotts do not work. They are far easier to declare than to carry out, and even when they are carried out they sometimes do not have the effect that was intended when the boycott was organized and declared.
Now this doesn’t mean that an individual economic action is unimportant. It does affirm the fact that as Christians are considering where we will do business and where we will not, there are a multiplicity of issues that complicate the question. But the bottom line is, would we spend money in a corporation, in a shop, in a store or restaurant, in any kind of business where that business might be publicly not only not allied with our convictions, but perhaps even publicly stating opposition to them?
Now once again, this isn’t as easy as it might appear. Because if you’re considering Target making this announcement, it could be—and we’ll have to look at this much closer—that Target is merely stating publicly, perhaps for its own publicity, what other corporations are actually doing more covertly or quietly. One of the issues that is raised by the Wall Street Journal article is the seeming inevitability of most American corporations, especially publicly traded corporations that are active in the stock market, from inevitably turning in the same direction. It’s a question of when, not if.
Christians will indeed decide if they want to do business with Target, knowing that Target has now targeted our own convictions in terms of the company’s website. But we will also have to be honest in understanding that there are other companies that are going to fall in exactly the same line, and we’ll get there perhaps sooner even rather than later. And furthermore, there are other companies that may be participating in things that we would also oppose of which we are not aware. That again doesn’t mean that the boycott is wrong. It does point to the fact that boycotts often just don’t work, because as the economy moves, people move on and the boycott becomes something of a forgotten history.
Christians have to understand that in a fallen world, every aspect of an economy is fallen, and that means that there is no safe place to stand, there is no safe business in which to shop. Even if we know the owner of the shop and we know how he or she organizes the business, there’s a supply chain behind and a web of relationships beyond. That doesn’t mean this isn’t important. It does mean that it is complex, and you can’t reduce faithfulness to something as easy as the question of boycott, yes or no? Should Christians boycott Target? That’s a question that I do not believe has an answer. Should you boycott Target? That is a matter for your Christian conscience. Those are two separate issues, and it is the second question that should have priority for individual Christians.
Obituary recounts amazing life of a teenager who escaped Germany then returned to spy on the Nazis
Finally, in recent days we’ve looked at interesting questions. Yesterday, we looked at a debate having to do with whether a 43-year-old man should be paroled for a murder undertaken when he was 14. We looked at claims, furthermore, coming from neuroscience and from legal advocates saying that human beings really don’t develop a strong moral identity and moral decision-making until some point after age 18, perhaps somewhere in their 20s. We talked about that confusion yesterday, but here’s a bit of clarity, and that clarity comes, as is so often the case, in an obituary. And the obituary came recently in the New York Times, here’s the headline:
“Frederick Mayer, Jew Who Spied on Nazis After Fleeing Germany, Dies at 94.”
This is one of those obituaries we better read right now, because we’re not going to be seeing many of these in the future. These are veterans of World War II, heroic veterans, in this case an especially heroic veteran. Frederick Mayer was a German teenager who fled as a Jew from Nazi Germany for Brooklyn in 1938. But as a teenager he became convinced of the horror of the Hitler regime and he was recruited by the OSS, that is the American and British spy service, in order to parachute back behind German lines, wearing a German soldier’s uniform, pretending that he had been a German soldier who had become lost in maneuvers, and offering intelligence that was decisive at critical points during World War II. Eric Lichtblau writes about Mayer,
“…who as a German Jew fled Nazi Germany for Brooklyn as a teenager in 1938, only to parachute back into Nazi-controlled Austria seven years later as an American spy on an improbable secret mission, died on April 15 in Charles Town, W.Va. He was 94.”
Now, again, we’re not going to see many more of these obituaries. This young man was a teenage boy when he volunteered as a spy. He died this past week at age 94. Former Senator John D. Rockefeller said,
“Mr. Mayer is one of the great unsung heroes of World War II,” John D. Rockefeller IV, then a Democratic senator from West Virginia, said in 2013 in presenting him with a military award for his covert work with the Office of Strategic Services.”
He’s described in the obituary as being a young man, “soft-spoken and slight of build, [who as a boy] did not look the part of a spy.”
By the way, that obviously made him an excellent candidate to be a spy. But the interesting thing from our worldview consideration is this: no one is questioning whether or not this young man did the right thing in leaving the security of a home in Brooklyn after he had fled Nazi Germany as a teenager, only as a teenager to go back as a spy, parachuting behind enemy lines, putting his life at risk, to say the very least, in order to help the Allied cause against the Nazi regime.
One of the most interesting things about Fred Mayer, as he became later known—he had been called Fritz as a boy, but after the war he thought that sounded too German—one of the interesting things about him is that he is credited for his bravery in saving lives on both sides of the enemy lines. His most crucial work was in cutting off supplies from the Nazi regime that would’ve led to further battles that would have had casualties on both sides of the war. So while asking the question about whether teenagers are capable of moral action and are morally responsible, just think of this one young man who as a teenager put his life on the line in such a courageous way to save many other lives. It’s interesting that we asked the question of moral responsibility about a teenage murderer not, we should note, about a teenage spy.
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 about The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to boycecollege.com.
I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.