The Briefing 10-24-17
Tags: Audio, Australia, Coffee, Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood, Same-Sex Marriage
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Tuesday, October 24, 2017. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
We’ll observe developments in the marriage debate in Australia. We’ll see bishops perform a theological dance. We’ll see doctors argue that even arguing over same-sex marriage is harmful. We'll see Hollywood do its best to get over its panic without changing any rules, and finally we’ll hear about a $55 cup of coffee.
Marriage down under: tracing developments in the same-sex marriage vote
On the front of marriage, one of the most important developments is taking place right now in the nation of Australia. As we had seen some months ago, Australia's government has been under increasing pressure in recent years to legalize same-sex marriage. It's one of the standout nations in the English-speaking world at present, and the argument was becoming very clear. The argument was this: Australia is simply out of step with the rest of the modern world. It is out of step with the rest of the modern English-speaking world. It is the outlier and it needs to get in line. That's exactly the kind of political pressure that has been brought on the Australian government. And in return the center-right government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull turned to a most unusual way of dealing with the problem, or perhaps dealing with the problem in a sidewise manner. Rather than adopting legislation that either would or would not legalize same-sex marriage, the government instead turned to the people of Australia and asked them to vote.
It was a vote that was itself legally contested. It's a vote that is not legally binding, but it is a vote that is expected eventually to include the voices of about 16 million Australian citizens. And of those about 11 million have already voted in the mail and vote in which the question is simply answered yes or no. Should the marriage act in Australia be modified so as to include same-sex marriage, legally recognized? Those who were arguing yes, demanding the legalization of same-sex marriage, do so arguing as we have heard this argument so many times before that Australia must make this move if it is to be found on the right side of history. And furthermore, those who represent the yes vote had indicated in every way possible that they were confident that the vast majority of Australia citizens supported legalizing same-sex marriage.
But that very question and that confidence is in doubt in terms of this mail in vote. The vote will conclude by the fact that all of the ballots have to be received by November 7 at 6:00 p.m. By November 12 it is expected that the Australian Bureau of Statistics will be able to report on the results of the vote. That does not automatically or legally require the Australian government to vote in terms of its legislation even in line with the vote of the Australian people. Though in terms of political plausibility, it's quite clear that the government was setting itself up so that it could say the people had spoken and then act accordingly.
It should go without saying that in terms of this government and its leadership this was not exactly a profile in courage. However it is becoming a profile in cultural and moral change, and it’s also becoming a very interesting front for all kinds of developments related to the story that tells a great deal not only about Australia but about the modern world. For example, CNN reported just recently with the headline,
“The simple yes-no question dividing Australia's suburbs”
Now in Australia as in other major English-speaking countries or for that matter even beyond the English-speaking world, the closer you get to a metropolitan area. The closer you get to the core of the center, the more likely the population is to be marked by social and political liberalism, which is to say in most countries the elections are actually won or lost in the suburbs. And that's probably going to be true of this mail-in ballot on same-sex marriage in Australia, and the report by Lucie Morris-Mar for CNN tells us that if you go outside of Melbourne Australia to a rather typical suburb you will find people believing very strongly on both sides of this ballot question. The reporter begins,
“Few issues have divided the Australian public in recent times as much as the vote on same-sex marriage. As of mid-October, almost 11 million people, or about 67.5% of registered voters, had returned their surveys…. Recent polls,” said CNN, “suggest most are saying ‘yes.’ Though for some, the only answer will ever be ‘no.’”
But on the other hand, those who are pushing the same-sex marriage question and advocating for legalizing same-sex marriage appear to have less confidence at this point in the matter than they did before the vote was undertaken. There are several reasons they’re already given for why the vote, the yes vote, may be short of their expectations. The arguments they brought forth are that people are not necessarily voting their conscience, but of course that's an open question since this is indeed a secret ballot. Meanwhile, when it comes to the polling question, it’s actually more likely statistically that people are responding dishonestly in polling rather than in terms of the ballot.
There is also the argument that many Millennials, and they are more likely than perhaps older Australians to support same-sex marriage, the fact is that there is concern that many Millennials simply will not vote. That's a recurring concern when it comes to young people in the vote and especially amongst those who are pushing for a leftward direction in the culture who often tend to be disappointed whether the issue is a question or a candidate with rather lower-than-expected or lower than had been hoped turn out. And when it comes to the Millennials, there's an interesting twist we've already mentioned, and it's come up again and again in the mainstream media. There is a very low degree of certainty that Millennials actually know how to get a ballot posted in the mail.
Some of those who have been arguing for – that is for the yes answer to the question – have also complained that no provision was made for Australians under the age of 18 to vote. In a very interesting article, one 17-year-old Australian said that she was frustrated that she wasn't allowed to vote because the issue is like going to affect laws that will like be in effect in the future. That we would point out would be like true for any legislation, but there you have at least some of the reasons being given. But the big reason the yes campaigners are saying that their vote may be less than expected, and indeed there is even a risk they acknowledge that the yes question could be defeated, well now they're saying it's because Australians are operating out of fear. That's one of the issues that lurks in the background of the CNN report, but it needs to be brought to the foreground. What exactly are the fears that are being articulated here? Well the big one is this: the religious liberty or in terms of the larger question of cultural and legal coercion in the aftermath of legalizing same-sex marriage. Now at this point speaking from the United States, I would simply have to say to friends in Australia all you have to do is to look to North America look to Canada or look increasingly to the United States and you will see exactly why the legalization of same-sex marriage is and inevitably is a violation of religious liberty. It will lead to coercion. It will lead to violations of conscience on the part of Christians and others who believe that marriage is and must be defined as the union of a man and a woman only.
Australian bishops perform a ‘theological dance’ on same-sex marriage
An even more interesting article from a theological perspective emerged from a major British newspaper the Guardian where reporter David Marr offers us an article with the headline,
“In the same-sex marriage vote, the bishops have soft-pedalled on sin”
He's talking about the Australian bishops, and he's including in this indictment both Roman Catholic but especially Anglican bishops, most or at least some of the Anglican bishops. And he points out that even many of the church leaders in Australia who are encouraging their flocks to vote no don't want to answer a straightforward question about homosexuality and sin. Marr writes and I quote,
“Sin and damnation have figured little in the arguments of the last months. The deliberate strategy of the no campaigners,” he says, “has been to muffle their profound hostility to the LGBTQI whose lives are in question here.”
Marr cites a man identified as Rodney Croome, a veteran gay rights campaigner, who said he’s pleased that the Christian churches have been relatively and perhaps even intentionally silent about the sin question. He says,
“That's a step.”
And then Marr writes,
“Instead, they’re executing,” he means Christian leaders here when, “he calls a theological dance.”
“They are putting forward a positive vision of the universe based on the idea of a divinely ordained complementarity between the sexes into which homosexuality doesn’t fit and same-sex marriage fundamentally threatens.”
Now I want to stop for a moment. I want to pause and reflect upon the fact that this man who opposes the summary he has just given has perhaps given us one of the most accurate summaries of why biblical complementarity matters and matters ultimately and utterly in terms not only of the Australian debate over same-sex marriage, but about marriage wherever it is found. His words are actually so important they deserve repeating. Speaking of Christian leaders who aren't speaking directly of sin at least in his words, he says,
“They are putting forward a positive vision of the universe,” so good so far, “based on the idea of a divinely ordained complementarity between the sexes,” again so good so far.
There we are talking about the complementarity with which the Bible even opens in terms of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Male and female created he them in his own image. He has created human beings, male and female. And furthermore, in Genesis chapter 2 it is made abundantly clear that human beings are made as male and female for that complementary relationship. That's exactly the word that gay rights campaigner Rodney Croome uses to summarize here. That's exactly the right word, again so good so far. He continues to say that homosexuality doesn't fit into that divinely ordained complementarity into that positive vision of the universe, and thus he says same-sex marriage fundamentally threatens this positive vision of the universe based upon the idea of a divinely ordained complementarity between the sexes
In this article, Marr argues that many of the leading Roman Catholic clerics though instructing their flocks that they should vote no on the question of legalizing same-sex marriage are doing their utmost to avoid dealing directly with the question of the sinfulness of homosexuality. That you could argue is following the example of the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, who has repeatedly taken something of the same tact. But it's also interesting here that the secular journalist from London looking at the situation in Australia points out, there's a basic incongruity there perhaps something of a clerical sleight-of-hand or what that gay rights campaigner called a theological dance.
The other bishops of concern in Marr’s article are the Anglican bishops. Australia of course has a very long Anglican tradition being a part of the British world from its inception as a modern nation. And yet the Australian Anglicans are divided between those who are very liberal and those who are very conservative. And that comes right down to even the bishops of the church. The archbishops of Sydney have historically been the very centers of conviction and of influence in terms of evangelicalism within Australian Anglicanism. Furthermore, Sydney is a very important metropolitan area not only for the nation in general but for evangelical influence in particular. And as Marr indicates in this article, the current Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies has been very, very clear, not only on the question of how he urges Australians to vote that would be no on the question of same-sex marriage, but he's also been very clear about what the Bible teaches about homosexuality and about marriage.
Australian pediatricians attempt to shut down even an argument over same-sex marriage
Finally, on this issue, it's also very interesting to note an article that appeared in the Courier Mail there in Australia, indicating that,
“Australia’s top paediatricians have warned that discriminatory rhetoric in the gay marriage debate is harming the wellbeing of children in same-sex families.”
The article pretty much follows from that lead. But the interesting thing that's revealed here is the politicization of medicine, and we've certainly seen that as medical authority has been invoked as a very important energizing force and a legitimating force in terms of the moral and sexual revolution. But the other thing you see here is a blatant attempt just to shut down the argument by arguing that the argument itself is harmful in this case to children who were involved in same-sex families. This is yet another sign of the fact that in the wake of this moral revolution even the ability to articulate serious moral arguments is being shut down because the argument is that the argument itself is harmful.
Fear of ‘sexual innuendo’ is not a bad thing: An update from Hollywood
Next I want to shift back to the Harvey Weinstein controversy in the United States. I want to make just a couple of observations as we’re now about three weeks into this controversy. Observation number one, notice how quickly a major scandal that we are promised will transform the entire culture moves to the back pages and eventually off of public conversation. We were told just a matter of a couple weeks ago that the revelations and then the confirmation of allegations concerning Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein would lead to the fact that there would be a new revolution in Hollywood and throughout the entertainment industry in which this kind of sexual conduct would no longer be tolerated. But then, almost as quickly as those assurances were made, there was a backlash in which you had figures such as Woody Allen asking if this meant that Hollywood was going to be experiencing a new witch hunt. Woody Allen himself being a very interesting if not ironic figure to raise such concern, since he has himself been involved in very serious accusations of sexual misconduct. But that's just considered to be almost routine if not just collateral damage in terms of Hollywood. Furthermore, there were then open questions asked as to how Hollywood can be posing in terms of moral purity on this question when it continues to profit by the very products that it releases that celebrate and portray the very behavior it now assures us that it condemns.
But there's something else I’ve really been seeking to listen to in terms of this conversation, and that is the fact that even some who have been saying that the situation related to Harvey Weinstein must be corrected so that it can never happen again don't exactly want to adopt rules that commonsensically would make that behavior less rather than more likely. One of the most interesting places to see this is on comments on the CNN news program that is hosted by Michael Smerconish. Shortly in the aftermath of the Weinstein revelations, he had on his program a woman identified as Ripa Rashid, Co-President of the Center for Talent Innovation. According to Smerconish, she's been a management consultant for many firms including Time Warner. He then asked her,
“Ripa, do you buy into this that one of the unintended consequences might be this chilling effect on the workplace?”
This chilling effect, well what is he talking about? Ripa Rashid responded,
“sadly, yes.” She went on to say, That's the reality of it. It was bad enough to start off with…. Some of the data we’ve tracked,” she says, “over the years shows that 64 percent of senior men avoid one-on-one contact with women to start off with because they're afraid of sexual innuendo.” She then continued, “Obviously this is going to make it much worse not just for the men but for women, too. Fifty percent of the women in our studies avoid one- on-one contact with senior men for that reason because people are going to think.” She said, “I myself have had experiences working all over the world as a management consultant, where when I've been having a drink with a senior colleague coming back from a hotel and people have thought I am an escort. I mean, this is the reality. Women are still sexualized in the workplace. And until we're seen as equal thinkers, innovators, creators, when we're still primarily seen as sexual beings still, it's going to make it worse.”
Now to be honest, that's exactly the kind of conversation I expected would develop. What is going on here? Well just remember a few months ago when controversy surrounded the Vice-President of the United States Mike Pence when he announced that he following the example of many other Christian leaders would never have a one-on-one meeting with a woman without the presence of his wife or without some other person in the room. And furthermore he announced that as governor and as congressman and now is vice president of the United States he had followed a policy, a policy of not being alone with a woman who was not his wife. And that which by the way is a policy that is followed and must be followed by many Christian leaders, a policy that is absolutely vital I would argue for personal integrity, that policy was written off as if Michael Pence was just an outdated dinosaur holding to old rules that were unjustifiable in the present age.
But wait just a minute. Here you have Hollywood and the cultural elites crying out that Harvey Weinstein should have been prevented from being able to prey on women. So now you have people who are actually saying, wait a minute, don't change the rules don't change the rules in such a way that you might reasonably prevent someone else another Harvey Weinstein from being able to prey on vulnerable women. No do not change the rules because if you change the rules it implies something less than the argument that gender really doesn't matter in the workplace. But of course that argument flies in the face of the fact that gender actually matters everywhere. Now remember this came just days after the Weinstein scandal broke, and here you have a major spokesperson, a management consultant for Hollywood companies, speaking on behalf of women saying whatever you do don't change the rules. But it’s also really interesting to look at the statistics that she cited. She evidently knows them very well. She had them immediately at hand in terms of answering Michael's preconscious question. She came back to say that research had indicated,
“that 64 percent of senior men avoid one-on-one contact with women to start off with because they're afraid of sexual innuendo.”
Well here the Christian worldview simply reminds us that being afraid of sexual innuendo is not in itself a bad thing. One of the complaints made by some in terms of interpreting the scandal and what it could mean for changing rules said that it's lamentable that some senior male executives will now only meet with females in a conference room rather than in a private room with a closed door. Again, this is the subject of a complaint that women are being treated differently than men, and of course women are in that case being treated differently than men. And here you have the demand being made by this particular consultant that the only answer to all of this is to de-sexualize the context. I’m not exactly sure how in the world to answer that particular set of objections, but I will observe this is really hard to take coming from Hollywood, the argument that the only answer to this is to de-sexualize the context.
What does a $55 cup of coffee say about us? We’re not sure, but it certainly says something
Finally, on a regular basis we see news articles that simply lead us to observe evidently this is who we are becoming as a nation. These are articles and news stories that don't exactly have a very clear righteous or unrighteous element. They simply are very interesting, very revelatory about who we are as a people. Recently the Wall Street Journal ran a front-page article with the headline,
“Here's the coffee you ordered. Your total comes to $55.”
The article by Charles Passy in the Wall Street Journal tells us that restaurants especially on the two coasts are now offering special brews of coffee for as much as $55 a cup. Charles Passy reporting for the Wall Street Journal tells us that especially on the two coasts but even in points in between Americans who complain about hard economic times are now spending as much as $55 for a single cup of coffee. And it's all about making a statement about taste. One customer who just spent $24 for a special cup of coffee said,
“It’s got this creamy texture that reminds me of dough or yogurt.” “As for the flavor: ‘It’s blueberry pie.’”
What exactly this new story tells us about ourselves, I'm not sure, but without doubt, it does tell us something.
Thanks for listening to the Briefing. I want to remind you that today at 2 o'clock Eastern time I'm going to be hosting another Ask Anything Live broadcast. Again today at 2 o'clock Eastern Time I'll be taking your questions on Facebook Live and at YouTube. Submit your questions by going to albertmohler.com/askanything, then join us today 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time at facebook.com/AlbertMohlersbts. 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’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.