The Briefing 09-16-16

The Briefing 09-16-16

The Briefing

September 16, 2016

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

It’s Friday, September 16, 2016. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

ACC pulls championships from NC, citing "principles" of inclusion and nondiscrimination

Luke DeCock, a sports columnist for the Raleigh newspaper The News & Observer, said,

“It used to be basketball and barbecue were the two areas where North Carolinians shared common ground regardless of politics. Now we’re down to barbecue.”

The columnist was pointing back of course to the decision that was announced on Monday of this week by the NCAA to pull seven major championship events from the state of North Carolina as a punitive action because of the state’s House Bill 2. That was the bill that was passed earlier this year that indicates that persons using government bathrooms, that is bathrooms in government facility such as schools, should use the bathroom that corresponds to their biological sex. Because of that and because of that alone, North Carolina is being targeted by a massive pile-on. This is a form of moral, political, and economic pressure that indicates how a moral revolution pushes forward and pushes hard and pushes fast.

Reporting in Wednesday’s edition of the New York Times, Alan Blinder and Marc Tracy cited Ed Southern, a writer about sports in North Carolina.

“It is something that North Carolinians take pride in, and have taken pride in for so long,” he said. “Especially when it comes to college basketball, we tend to be pretty snobbish.”

That has led, the reporter said, to a big question that is now facing many North Carolinians.

“Why did a political firestorm about transgender rights have to shut down basketball courts and baseball diamonds?”

That’s an understandable question, of course, and the answer to that question is that the state of North Carolina is now facing a very strong effort to coerce it to reverse that legislation and to affirm the LGBT revolution, especially when it comes to the very sensitive and controversial and pragmatic issue of bathrooms. The bigger question is, why have bathrooms all of the sudden become such a major front in virtually every cultural conversation having to do with even something like the NCAA and intercollegiate sports? The answer is, the moral revolution has forced the issue.

Then yesterday, the very next day in the edition of the New York Times, the same two reporters indicated this:

“The Atlantic Coast Conference announced Wednesday that it would move neutral-site championships for this academic year, including its football title game in December and its women’s basketball tournament in March, out of North Carolina in reaction to a state law that curbed anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

As Tracy and Blinder indicated, this decision came just two days after the NCAA made its announcement. The announcement that was made by Commissioner John Swofford of the ACC included this language,

“The A.C.C. Council of Presidents made it clear that the core values of this league are of the utmost importance and the opposition to any form of discrimination is paramount. Today’s decision is one of principle.”

Well, of course the ACC is going to claim that this is a matter of principle, and let’s give them for a moment the credit that perhaps it is. That’s more credit than they deserve, but for a moment, let’s consider that this was just an act of principle. The principle as stated here is,

“The ACC’s opposition to any form of discrimination,” a principle they said that is, “paramount.”

Well, what kind of discrimination is ruled out by this policy? The ACC will continue to discriminate on any number of fronts as will every one of its member schools. What this really means is that the ACC, the Atlantic Coast Conference, following just two days on the heels of the NCAA, is bowing to political pressure and deciding to expand its list of what it considers wrongful discrimination to include the LGBT issues. And make no mistake, it’s the “T” that is the essence of the issue here; it is the transgender revolution.

Now when you look at this you recognize that even if the ACC is to be taken at its word, that it is acting merely on principle, the presidents of the member schools of the ACC have now articulated a principle they claim that they will not be able or they will not be willing to enforce. They will be very selective in their admissions process. Furthermore, they’re very discriminating when it comes to choosing members, not to mention scholarships, for the basketball squad and other athletic teams. They’re very discriminatory when it comes to any number of issues, they just want to make very clear that they are now avid proponents and indeed celebrants of the LGBT revolution. That’s the bottom line. That kind of comment was made by one of the presidents of the member schools, in this case, James P. Clements, he’s the president of Clemson University. He said,

“The decision to move the neutral-site championships out of North Carolina while H.B. 2 remains the law was not an easy one, but it is consistent with the shared values of inclusion and nondiscrimination at all of our institutions.”

There are two of those words we have to watch very closely. We hear them a great deal, but they are often applied without any particular kind of moral clarity. The two words here: “inclusion” and “nondiscrimination.” They simply don’t mean what they appear to mean here at face value.

There is more to the story, of course. The decision by the ACC on Wednesday may be a bigger emotional hurt or a bigger injury to pride for the state of North Carolina even than the decision of the NCAA on Monday. The ACC is headquartered in North Carolina. Four of the conference’s 15 members are in the state. J. Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., said,

“When you’re talking about native North Carolinians, and particularly those of us who grew up in the A.C.C., this is a pretty powerful statement against the birthplace of that conference.”

It’s a powerful economic statement as well. House Bill 2, as the legislation is known, was supported by Gov. Pat McCrory. He’s now facing a reelection challenge and his challenger is Roy Cooper, the state’s Attorney General. He has come out against the bill, and thus you have a situation with the Republican incumbent being challenged by a Democratic rival, and the Attorney General said,

“This is not just about sports. This is about communities in North Carolina suffering real economic blows.”

That language indicates the kind of political and economic coercion that is embedded in this decision from the NCAA and now from the ACC. When the Democratic Attorney General said, “this is not just about sports,” he is clearly speaking the truth. It’s about moral pressure in terms of the sexual revolution. When he says, “this is about communities in North Carolina suffering real economic blows,” he is using that economic pressure in order to bring political pressure to reverse House Bill 2 and also to score political points as he is running for governor. All that’s to be expected in a political context, but this particular contest indicates how all of the sudden bathrooms and transgender issues and now intercollegiate sports, the NCAA and the ACC, have become a part of a very divisive context in North Carolina.

This is the kind of situation we’re going to see elsewhere. It will probably take different forms in different states, certainly in the state of North Carolina the pressing issue is now college basketball, the larger arena of college sports, the NCAA, the ACC and as Mr. Decock said, it has reduced the issues of commonality in the state of North Carolina from basketball and barbecue to just one—and that for now is barbecue.

Part II

"The times, they are a-changin'": Orlando sports columnist mocks NC in bid to ACC

Next, an indication from another state of how this kind of issue becomes a part of the national conversation and further moral, political, and economic coercion. Mike Bianchi, writing in yesterday’s edition of the Orlando Sentinel, wrote an article that was headlined,

“ACC should bring its championship football game to Orlando.”

Bianchi is a regular columnist, sports columnist, for the Orlando Sentinel, and he writes,

“A public message of inclusion and advice for Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford:

“Move your ACC Championship Game to Orlando, where our football stadium and the public restrooms inside our football stadium are open for business.

“Whether you’re black or white, rich or poor, gay or straight, bisexual or transgender,” he says.

He then attempts to land a few blows directly on North Carolina when he writes,

“We have everything the ACC is looking for in hosting a big-time event: Great weather, a newly refurbished stadium, plenty of hotel rooms, fan-friendly attractions, a world-class airport, a long, a proud history with the ACC and progressive politicians who aren’t dinosaurs.”

It turns out Bianchi concedes that December 3—that’s the day that the ACC football championship—on that date the stadium in Orlando is already booked; it’s book for the state high school championship football games. But Bianchi is willing to boot the high schoolers in order to bring in the ACC. Bianchi makes no doubt where he stands in terms of the moral revolution. He writes,

“But even if Orlando can’t find a way to host the game, let’s just be thankful we live in a progressive, inclusive city that simply doesn’t tolerate discrimination. It’s unfathomable that North Carolina’s politicians are so stodgy and stubborn that they are willing to stand steadfastly by their discriminatory law despite the fact that they are driving away millions, if not billions of dollars, in commerce.”

Well, there’s that very raw form of political and economic coercion. Bianchi concludes by writing,

“As Bob Dylan once sang during the protests of the 1960s, ‘The times, they are a-changin.’ Well, then, when are the old, out-of-step politicians going to get with the times and realize their archaic prejudices don’t fly anymore. Inequality is not going to be tolerated — not in government, not in business, not in sports.”

Well there, there is simply a laughable moral principle put forth, the idea that inequality isn’t going to be tolerated in sports. Bianchi really doesn’t mean what he states there. He means this particular form of what he identifies as inequality is now politically incorrect and is not to be tolerated, but is rather to be targeted. That’s what he really means.

“Here’s hoping the ACC, the NCAA, the NBA, Google, Apple and everybody else takes a good look at what’s happening in Orlando — one of the most accepting and inclusive cities in America.”

Of deepest interest to the Christian worldview by analysis here is what we see as a form of geographic one-upsmanship in the moral revolution. Here you have a representative of the city of Orlando, a sports columnist in the city, who is writing that the ACC, having repudiated North Carolina, should now move to Orlando. There’s no reason why another city or a sports columnist for another city shouldn’t make the same argument and even take it further than Orlando. We’re going to be seeing this again and again, and it’s not just going to be cities. It’s going to be states, or perhaps even entire regions. We’re going to see a kind of revolutionary one-upsmanship when it comes to this kind of proposal and this kind of controversy.

We saw this kind of pressure brought against the state of North Carolina when it adopted a religious freedom law. We’ve seen this same kind of thing in terms of pressure brought against states like Arizona under similar kinds of circumstances. And what we see quite regularly is that under this kind of political and economic pressure, many politicians tend to adjust their positions.

It will be interesting to see what happens in North Carolina, but that’s actually the point. This kind of coercion brought against that state is a warning not only to the politicians of North Carolina, but to the politicians in any other state. You better be careful in terms of violating any of the demands of the LGBT revolution, because a punitive action is very close behind. It could come in any number of forms, but now the initials tend to be coming one after another: NBA, NCAA, ACC. That’s a veritable alphabet soup of moral revolution.

Part III

Democrats refuse to pass Zika bill because it doesn't include money for Planned Parenthood

Next, we shift to the issue of the sanctity of human life and at the center of this issue is Washington, D.C., the United States Congress, Planned Parenthood, and the Zika virus. Congress, the Senate in particular, has been struggling to pass legislation that would radically increase federal funding to fight the Zika virus. It is being called for by many Americans, by several American state governors, and of course there’s enormous political pressure to get this legislation done. So what’s the problem? Well, the key sticking point is Planned Parenthood. It’s easy upon reflection to understand why. All this additional federal funding in terms of Planned Parenthood would come because there are those who want to increase the dollars that would go to organizations fighting the Zika virus by means of “reproductive health,” as it is styled. Of course Planned Parenthood would be at the very center of that issue.

Republicans in the United States Senate and those in the majority in the United States House have been adamant that Planned Parenthood must not receive any of this increased funding, and the Democrats have been just as adamant in response. They have held up the passage of the legislation, the Democratic minority that is, in order to make the point that they will not approve even a measure to fight the Zika virus if eventually those funds are not available for Planned Parenthood.

Now that raises a really interesting question. How did one organization, just one, become such the center of a political firestorm that can hold up even the passage of legislation to fight something that is as clear and dangerous a threat as the Zika virus? And that reveals a great deal in terms of worldview about why Planned Parenthood represents far more than Planned Parenthood. For Republicans in the United States Congress, Planned Parenthood represents everything that is a threat to the sanctity of human life. To the Democrats, in general terms in both houses of Congress, Planned Parenthood is a firewall of sorts in terms of their advocacy for what they understand to be women’s rights and what they style as reproductive freedom.

What it comes down to is the Democratic Party’s steadfast support for abortion under any circumstances, and Planned Parenthood is by far the nation’s largest provider of abortion. Planned Parenthood, therefore, always represents more than just an organization. It’s a cause. It’s a cause that those who support the sanctity of human life will fight against and those who support what they style as abortion rights will fight for, even when political divisions might be transcended by a common enemy such as the Zika virus, that even the Zika virus is no match for this nation’s moral divide over the issue of abortion.

Remember also the pro-abortion forces had been brazenly seeking to use the threat of the Zika virus in order to break down barriers to abortion, including any kind of legislative restrictions or restrictions on funding. They’re also trying to use the issue of the Zika virus as a moral wedge to move public sentiment on the question of abortion and the sanctity of human life. Planned Parenthood is inevitably at the center of this conversation and controversy. It has been in controversial headlines for the last couple of years, especially for a series of videos in which it was revealed that the organization was involved in the taking and then the transfer for money of body parts from aborted children.

Planned Parenthood and its defenders have stalwartly insisted that the organization has not been found guilty of violating any federal law and thus of any criminal activity. But that’s beside the moral point. Planned Parenthood actually had to apologize for the argument and the language used by its chief medical officer in one of these videos in which she very callously talked about strategically planning abortions in order to obtain usable tissues and body parts from unborn babies that were torn apart in the womb in order to obtain those tissues.

We are looking here at the great moral divide in America, perhaps the deepest moral divide of all. We’re also looking at the fact that Planned Parenthood in its last completed year of reporting, that’s 2014-2015, according to its own report, “performed 323,999 abortions [in the United States].”

As LifeSite News analyzed, that means one abortion by Planned Parenthood every 97 seconds, 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the United States. It is also true that Planned Parenthood already receives about a half-billion dollars a year in tax sourced income. That’s about $530 million a year, most of it in the form of Medicaid reimbursements. Again, Planned Parenthood is the biggest abortion provider in the United States. According to one analysis, it aborts 160 unborn children for every one child it refers for adoption.

It is now almost universally true in the United States that the moral divide over abortion is a deepening political divide. The Republican and Democratic parties at least to date have held absolutely contrary positions on the issue of abortion and, of course, on the question of Planned Parenthood.

In the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton, who is now the Democratic Party’s nominee, has been described, by the New York Times no less, as the “candidate from Planned Parenthood.” It’s also really interesting that in 2016 in the Democratic primary race, when Hillary Clinton was facing off against Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Planned Parenthood actually for the first time in its history endorsed her. There had never been a primary endorsement, Republican or Democrat, by Planned Parenthood before. That raises the question, why in 2016 when both of the major Democratic candidates were avidly pro-abortion? The answer is because Hillary Clinton was seen as an even more powerful ally for Planned Parenthood than Bernie Sanders.

The legacy of Planned Parenthood goes back to 1921 when Margaret Sanger established the American Birth Control League in Brooklyn, New York. That organization became Planned Parenthood by renaming it in 1942. Margaret Sanger is herself not only the founder of what became Planned Parenthood, she’s also one of the darkest figures in American history in terms of the moral revolution. She was a promoter of abortion and an advocate for redefining sexual morality. Something you generally do not hear from Planned Parenthood is the fact that Margaret Sanger was also a eugenicist. She was a race theorist. She had stated, for example, that one of her causes was to assist the race toward the elimination of the unfit. That race is the human race. And you can imagine who would be included in that category of the unfit. That is the language that was directly analogous to what we heard from the Third Reich at the midpoint of the 20th century.

Part IV

Could religion's decline precipitate economic decline? Question has secularists worried

Finally, having seen dimensions of how moral change takes place around us and why those who operate from a Christian worldview should very carefully watch this kind of political, economic, moral and sociological development, here comes another matter of economics. The Washington Post reported yesterday that a study has been released that indicates,

“Religion contributes more to the U.S. economy than Facebook, Google and Apple combined.”

It comes from an article just published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion. A closer look at the report indicates it’s not really very clear what the point of it would be. The story seems to bring an interesting headline, but the story itself is not so interesting. The researchers are a father-daughter team, Georgetown University’s Brian Graham and Melissa Graham of the Newseum. And in their 31-page breakdown they try to describe the ways religion contributes to the U.S. economy. Their definitions that go into the study are going to be somewhat contested and, once again, I don’t think the story is all that important.

What is important, however, is an article that ran in U.S. News just after the release of the report. This headline,

“Could Religion’s Decline Spell Damnation for the U.S. Economy?”

We can get the point of the analysis pretty quickly if indeed religion is such a big part of the American economy, that it’s bigger than Facebook, Google and Apple combined, then if any weakening were to take place in terms of religion there could be vast economic consequences.

Once again, if you go back to the original report, it’s not clear exactly what news is to be found there. The really important news, it turns out, is the fact that those in the American elites, those who basically either were very blasé about the idea of secularization or they actually promoted it, they were glad to see America becoming more secular. Perhaps now they’re having some second thoughts that are driven by economic concern, if not panic. The U.S. News story says this,

“The societal impacts of this trend should not be understated. With $1.2 trillion of economic contributions on the line – or roughly $5 trillion per the Grims’ more extreme estimate – waning religion could imperil jobs, company revenues and aid provided to those in need over the next few decades.”

As Jesus said,

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

And now we notice that there are those who really didn’t seem to have much concern about the state of religion in America at all, if indeed there are going to be economic consequences of secularization, well then maybe they’re in a slight panic to see if they can take a closer look. The economic effects, said this article, of waning economic power from religion should not be underestimated. It tells us a great deal that what finally gets the attention of many is the possibility of an economic effect.

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I’m speaking to you from Orlando, Florida, and I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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