The Briefing 08-12-16

The Briefing 08-12-16

The Briefing

August 12, 2016

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

It’s Friday, August 12, 2016. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events Christian worldview.

Part I

Marijuana to remain illegal under federal law despite recent gains in several states

There was big news at the intersection of the federal government and the issue of marijuana yesterday. As Donna Leinwand Leger reports for USA Today,

“Marijuana advocates who hoped the cascade of states moving to legalize medical marijuana would soften the federal stance on the drug faced disappointment Thursday as the Drug Enforcement Administration announced it will keep marijuana illegal for any purpose.”

And she went on to report,

“Marijuana will remain a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Substances in Schedule 1 are determined by the Food and Drug Administration to have no medical use. States that allow marijuana for medical use or legalize recreational use remain in defiance of federal law.”

That’s a really important statement. It indicates that even in the year 2016, perhaps we should say especially in the year 2016, there is now a deep divide between many of the states, 25 of them as a matter of fact, along with the District of Columbia, and the federal government, and it’s on a question of intense controversy—the question of marijuana, either the medical or the recreational use as they are defined. The 25 states plus the District of Columbia that legalized some form of what’s called medical marijuana had from the beginning of those efforts placed themselves in direct conflict with the federal government. Clearly they and many others had hoped that there would be a change, a softening in the federal government’s position. Yesterday became clear that is not going to happen.

Here’s what’s so important about this: we’ve been tracing the fact that marijuana is an interesting barometer in terms of our moral revolution. The pattern whereby marijuana has become increasingly accepted and normalized in society has followed many of the same milestones, the same basic pattern as the normalization of LGBT issues and behaviors. But there’s a crucial difference as well, and that difference has to do with generations. On the LGBT issues there’s a very clear generational distinction. The younger one goes in the population, the more likely one is to accept LGBT relationships and behaviors as normal. In contrast, a lot of the energy and pressure for the legalization of marijuana is coming from the children of the 1960s, those who had their adolescence and young adulthood during that very pivotal generation in American history, particularly America’s cultural and moral history.

The moral questions related to medical marijuana are complex, confusing, and sometimes very emotionally contested. There is not now an adequate scientific or medical basis to really judge whether or not there is any positive medicinal value to marijuana or to any of the important constituent parts of that drug. On the one hand, you have parents in particular who are saying that medical marijuana in some form has been very helpful to their children, in particular children who have suffered from disorders that include seizures. You also have many other Americans, not just children, who are saying that marijuana has had a positive medicinal impact upon their lives, something unavailable by other means. On the other hand, there are many who are using the excuse of medical marijuana as a very thinly veiled, barely disguised effort to use marijuana without any kind of adequate medical need or justification. That is probably the case, federal officials believe, in the vast majority of the states where medical marijuana has been approved in terms of the people who are actually using it.

The Drug Enforcement Agency’s announcement yesterday is really huge news. Citing the fact that the Food and Drug Administration continues to declare that marijuana has no real medical use, the DEA declared yesterday,

“There is no evidence that there is a consensus among qualified experts that marijuana is safe and effective for use in treating a specific, recognized disorder.”

Those are really important words. They are words crucial to the legal environment here. Because what is required for any normal drug to be approved by the FDA and thus recognized by the Drug Enforcement Agency is that the drug must do exactly what is denied here. That is, it must be shown to be safe and effective in treating a specific recognized disorder. The DEA statement yesterday went on to say,

“At this time the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.”

Some interesting issues swirl around this. It had been expected by many that the Obama Administration would take a softer line on marijuana; clearly even in the last months of the President’s administration that’s not happening. We also have the continued pattern in which half of the states of the United States of America have now tried to make legal what the federal government adamantly declares to be illegal and thus, by federal law, it is still illegal for marijuana to be used for any purpose anywhere except under tightly controlled laboratory experiments.

The decision announced yesterday to keep marijuana on the so-called Schedule One under the Controlled Substances Act places marijuana along with other drugs such as heroine. Many marijuana advocates have claimed that’s absolutely ridiculous and officials with the DEA yesterday made clear they don’t believe that marijuana is as dangerous as heroine. But what they do believe is the advocates of normalization have not yet made their case scientifically and medically.

The USA Today report also included this sentence,

“On other points, the DEA report noted marijuana has a “high potential” for abuse and can result in psychological dependence. It said around 19 million individuals in the U.S. used marijuana monthly in 2012 and that contemporaneous studies showed around 4.3 million individuals met diagnostic criteria for marijuana dependence.”

It should tell us something that even as the Obama Administration has been a leading engine of revolution in terms of so many other moral issues, it is not on the issue of marijuana, and it reaffirmed that stance as recently as yesterday. It remains a federal crime as of today for any private American citizens to possess, to grow, or to use marijuana for any reason.

Part II

New American Bar Association rules could spell end of Christians in the legal profession

Next, it may seem that most Americans would be unconcerned about the fact that the American Bar Association has adopted a new provision in its code of ethics known as the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, but UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh makes the point that this is a very huge development indeed. Writing this week at the Washington Post, Professor Volokh makes the case that the ethics code of the American Bar Association has been adopted by many states in terms of what is binding on attorneys in that state. This law professor’s leading concerns are freedom of speech and freedom of expression. He sees this as the threat of the American Bar Association and thus of many states by their coercive power as well of cracking down on attorneys who will not join the moral revolution or who will not hold certain politically correct positions or may even seek to represent those who also are outside what is now the politically correct mainstream. The new code includes this language,

“It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to . . . engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law.”

Professor Volokh also drew attention to these words,

“Conduct related to the practice of law includes representing clients; interacting with witnesses, coworkers, court personnel, lawyers and others while engaged in the practice of law; operating or managing a law firm or law practice; and participating in bar association, business or social activities in connection with the practice of law.”

According to this very influential professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, what this really represents is the fact that,

“The ABA wants to do exactly what the text calls for: limit lawyers’ expression of viewpoints that it disapproves of.”

We’ve been tracing the fact that one of the most ominous developments in the sexual revolution, now the larger moral revolution, impacting law, politics, society, economics, the law, and every dimension of American life is that increasingly professionals, those whose jobs require a professional certification, are likely to find themselves out of step with their profession and thus in trouble, perhaps even out of a job. We’ve been seeing that the so-called conscience clauses that had honored the consciences of professionals such as nurses and doctors and pharmacists are falling out of favor and, for that matter, falling away. We saw this most classically at the end of the past U.S. Supreme Court term when the Court refused to take the case of Christian pharmacists in Washington State who said that their consciences had been infringed upon by the state’s regulations that they must distribute and be actively involved in the distribution of contraceptives, all forms of contraceptives, including those that could function as abortifacients. That’s precisely the kind of conscience clause that had been honored in the past, but now pharmacists in Washington State and in many other states as well do not have their consciences honored, even when there are alternatives available.

The crackdown in terms of the moral revolution is going to be extended to virtually every discipline and every profession. But some professions are certainly on the frontline. The issue of the American Bar Association is particularly crucial because so many of these issues are hammered out in courts of law and so many of the driving engines of this revolution are explicitly legal, originating amongst lawyers, often in law schools. So the adoption of this kind of restrictive code of ethics, as it’s billed by the American Bar Association, as professor Volokh demonstrates also taking on the coercive power of law in at least some states, could effectively shut down the free expression and free speech of the very lawyers who you would think would contend for that basic constitutional right. Again, Professor Volokh’s summary is that this new code effectively serves to limit lawyers’ expression of viewpoints that the ABA disapproves of. You can imagine just what those might be.

It’s really interesting that authorities and organizations that had been so adamant in refusing to adopt this kind of formula back during the Cold War when the issue was communism—they’re now ready to use the very same methods of coercion against those who will not join the sexual revolution, who cannot due to their own religious convictions. Writing yesterday at the American Conservative, Rod Dreher wrote this,

“So, let’s say that a lawyer in a state that adopts this new ABA guideline joins the Catholic Law Society. Given the Catholic Church’s official position on homosexuality, would she face professional sanction simply for joining such a group? The potential for oppression and persecution is enormous.”

The kind of restrictive and coercive policies embedded here in what’s advertised as a code of ethical conduct for lawyers will not end with lawyers or, for that matter, with pharmacists and doctors and nurses. It will eventually feed down into not only every profession, but virtually every job. School teachers, for example, are very much on the front lines of these issues. It’s just a matter of time, probably a very short amount of time, before those in the teaching profession and allied fields find themselves facing the same kind of threat. Many already do at least at the local level. We’ll be watching these developments very carefully.

Part III

What does the lack of character in this presidential race say about the American voter?

Next, here’s a headline for you,

“2016 is the year of the messy private life — and the year when it no longer matters.”

The article was written in the national section of the Washington Post by Mary Jordan. The point she’s making is that both of the major party nominees this year have very messy private lives, and yet those messy private lives didn’t keep them from gaining the nominations of their two respective parties—Donald Trump, the Republican nomination and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nomination. Mary Jordan makes the point, she makes the observation, that that makes this year different than any previous year, any previous cycle in American presidential politics. Something huge is going on. When it comes to Donald Trump, Jordan simply summarizes his,

“…two very public divorces, his extramarital affair with a beauty queen who became his second wife and his five children from three marriages.”

There can be much more written, of course. When it comes to Hillary Clinton in terms of her marital life, the scandal is not so much attached to her but to her scandalous husband, former President Bill Clinton. That needs no further elaboration, and yet it is worth our attention that at virtually every point Hillary Clinton enabled her husband and covered for him in terms of politics. Though neither Bill Clinton nor Hillary Clinton have been married to anyone else, their marriage is, to say the very least, unconventional.

At least until recently, American voters had expected, if not required, that their presidential candidates represent at least marital stability. As evidence of that, just go back to the year 2008 when former Democratic Senator John Edwards was forced to withdraw from the presidential race when he was caught in a scandalous affair, or go back to 1988 when the same thing happened to former Senator Gary Hart, then very much the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

It’s really hard to imagine what the two major nominees could have done in the year 2016 to invalidate their support with at least many American voters, and that says far more about the voters than it does about the candidates. That’s the really significant worldview dimension here.

Part IV

A Canadian newspaper takes a look at how American Amish look at the 2016 election—and it's classic

There is a very interesting story related to this that comes from outside the United States about what’s happening inside the United States. Toronto’s leading newspaper, The Globe and Mail, looks at the Amish and considers this group that is now scratching its heads as it looks to the candidacy of Donald Trump.

Alexander Panetta reports from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the heartland of the American Amish community, and points to the fact that the Amish are famously known for shunning attention and for trying to do their very best to suppress ego. As Panetta writes, they simply lack categories to understand someone like Donald Trump. Furthermore, given the fact that they avoid the media and electricity, they actually probably haven’t heard Donald Trump speak. But about him they have heard a very great deal. As Panetta writes, in this county in Pennsylvania you find,

“An entire community of people has survived this election season with the chastity of its eardrums never once penetrated by the sound of Donald Trump’s voice.

“Many Amish have never heard him speak. They’ve read newspaper articles about him, learned about him through word-of-mouth, but have never had the full sensory experience because their traditionalist faith forbids television, radio and the web.

“So the reactions are spontaneous and physical when a reporter visits this farming community and attempts to impersonate the outer-borough twang of a candidate who brags about his billions, his beautiful wife and the gold-garnished skyscrapers adorned with his name.

“Eyes pop in surprise. Bellies burst in laughter. Heads shake in disgust.”

This is the kind of brilliant reporting that comes from a newspaper that understands there’s a big story here. How in the world would a group like the Amish respond to the candidacy of someone like Donald Trump? Actually the story is also about how they would consider the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, and they don’t support her either. They simply can’t imagine a woman candidate running for President of the United States. It doesn’t fit their theological worldview. The Amish are, as the newspaper notes, very committed to family structure and to a traditional understanding of biblical sexual morality and, for that reason, they generally would support Republican rather than Democratic candidates at the national level in particular. And they would especially hold many of the moral positions that are far more Republican than Democratic in terms of the party platforms. So this group would traditionally be more encouraged by the Republican candidate. And yet, as the reporter says, that,

“…begs the question of how a casino-owning, publicity-seeking, wealth-worshiping, serial-marrier of fashion models gains the support of people who don’t gamble, eschew glamour, detest divorce and consider bankruptcy repugnant because it means you’ve broken a promise.”

But the Amish overwhelmingly could not support Hillary Clinton, not only because of the positions of her party, but because she is a woman—that doesn’t fit their worldview either. So what’s an Amish voter to do? As it turns out, the answer is the Amish don’t vote. Given their Anabaptist theology and tradition and the fact that they see themselves as separated from the larger community and independent of any kind of political structure beyond their own community, they don’t vote. Less than 5 percent of the Amish in Pennsylvania are believed to have voted in the last presidential election.

Though the reporter for The Globe and Mail doesn’t make this point explicitly, he certainly does implicitly: embedded in this context is the very clear affirmation that one’s theological worldview inevitably determines the way we understand politics. That’s true for ourselves; it’s true for the Amish; it’s true for everyone.

Part V

Eric Liddell understood the glory of the Olympics, but he gave his life to a far greater glory

Finally, today at my website at, I’m posting an article entitled, “‘God Made Me for China’ — Eric Liddell Beyond Olympic Glory.” The Olympics are very much about glory, and this includes the 31st Olympiad now underway in Rio. Americans are likely drawn to the pomp and ceremony as much as to the athletic competition. The medal ceremonies themselves represent both climax and catharsis with athletes awarded the coveted gold, silver, and bronze medals placed around their necks. As I write,

“It was not always so.

“When Eric Liddell, ‘the Flying Scot,’ won the 400 meter race and the gold medal at the 1924 games in Paris, there was no awards ceremony. Back then, the medals were engraved after the games and mailed in a simple package to the victors. But, even without the medal ceremony, there was glory. Liddell instantly became a hero to the entire United Kingdom and was recognized as one of the greatest athletes of his age.”

It’s hard for many Americans to imagine anything, anything more important, anything more glorious than winning the gold medal at the Olympic Games.

“Americans of my generation remember Eric Liddell largely because of Chariots of Fire, the 1981 British film written by Colin Welland, produced by David Puttnam, and directed by Hugh Hudson. The film was a surprising success in both Britain and the United States, winning four Academy Awards including Best Picture. The musical score for the film by Vangelis won another of the Oscars, and its theme is still instantly recognizable to those who have seen the movie.

“To its credit, Chariots of Fire recognized Eric Liddell’s Christian faith and testimony.”

One of the central dramas of the movie was the fact that Liddell famously refused to compete on Sunday given his Christian convictions. This eliminated him from the 100m race in which he was the international favorite. He had to compete in the 400m race later in which he was considered to be disadvantaged. But he won. He won the gold medal and he won his place in Olympic history, considered by many as one of the most outstanding runners in all of world history.

The movie Chariots of Fire ends with the magnificent and sentimental words of the anthem Jerusalem, including William Blake’s famous words,

“Bring me my Bow of burning gold; Bring me my Arrows of desire: Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold! Bring me my Chariot of fire!”

Then the screen fills with these words in text,

“Eric Liddell, missionary, died in occupied China at the end of World War II. All of Scotland mourned.”

That’s how the movie ends. But the important point for our Christian recognition is this: so far as Eric Liddell was concerned, the most important part of his life is what happened after the Olympics, and after his athletic competition. He left Olympic glory in order to go to China as a missionary. He had been born in that country to missionary parents; he would return to that country as a missionary. He would marry, have three children, and die under the circumstances of the Japanese concentration camp in which he was interred during World War II.

Many Christians can remember and often cite Liddell’s most famous lines from Chariots of Fire,

“God made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.”

Well, God did make Eric Liddell fast and he did run for God’s glory, but those words were not actually from Liddell; they were written by Colin Welland and put in the voice of Liddell as played by actor Ian Charleson. What Liddell did say and said more than once is that God made him for China. In China, and most particularly in that Japanese internment camp in China during World War II, Liddell’s witness for Jesus Christ was legendary, noticed by Christians and non-Christians alike. He was a man of integrity and indefatigable service, and that also was to the glory of God.

In my article released today I try to tell some the most important aspects of the story of Eric Liddell in China—of his missionary service, of his love for the gospel of Christ, and of his absolute determination to try to tell as many people as possible of the gospel of Christ while he had time, while he ran his race. Eric Liddell considered the Olympics so important that he prioritized training and the discipline of his life in order to win an Olympic gold medal. But that wasn’t the end of his story, nor did he see it as the main purpose for which he had been born. He was called to something far more important than the Olympics, and that was the service of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Eric Liddell died in the last weeks before the liberation of that camp by the Allies in 1945. The Olympics are indeed glorious. But as Eric Liddell understood, there is a far greater glory, and as the Olympics are being watched by so many millions, this is the right time to go back and remember Eric Liddell’s story. God did make Eric Liddell to run. But as Liddell understood, more importantly, God made him for China.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information go to my website at where you’ll find the full article I’ve written on Eric Liddell posted today. You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to For information on Boyce College, just go to

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

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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