Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018

Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018

The Briefing

February 14, 2018

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

It’s Wednesday, February 14, 2018. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Today we’ll see who gets angry when a church school teacher is fired for violating church teaching. We’ll see why North Korea is winning the political Olympics, and we’ll look at the meaning of the human heart, romance, and Valentine’s day.

Part I

Who gets angry when a church school teacher is fired for violating church teaching?

Sometimes when we are looking at a headline we have to ask why is this a story, and the bigger story is the fact that it is a story. Here’s a story that doesn’t appear to be news worthy. A Catholic school in Miami has fired a teaching for living and acting in such a way that contradicts Catholic teaching. If you were to rewind American History just a few decades this wouldn’t be a story at all, it certainly wouldn’t be headline news. In our case, it’s interesting most importantly because the story which is right now about a Catholic school in Miami could just as easily be about an evangelical Christian school in Dallas or Atlanta or anywhere else.

The story comes to us first in a headline from the local ABC affiliate that’s TV 10 in Miami. The headline, “Openly gay teacher fired from Miami Catholic school after getting married.” Well, we can summarize the story very quickly this way. A very popular teacher in a Catholic elementary school in Miami over a weekend gets married to her lesbian partner, posts the news of the marriage on social media, and then apparently is surprised when Catholic authorities terminate her employment in a Catholic school.

Now, just to remind ourselves as if we need to remind ourselves, the Roman Catholic Church holds to an official teaching that homosexual behavior and homosexual relationships are objectively disordered, that they are always and under every condition morally wrong. The official dogma of the Roman Catholic Church says that marriage is and can only be the union of a man and a woman. You wouldn’t know that listening to many liberal Catholics, you might even be confused about that if you’re listening to the current pope. You wouldn’t be confused about that if you simply read the official dogma and catechism of the Roman Catholic Church.

The teacher in this case was Jocelyn Morrfi, identified as a seven year veteran teacher at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School there in Miami. She was, according to the press report, abruptly fired last Thursday by the school’s principal, Dr. Carlotta E. Morales. According to the news report, Morales sent a letter home to parents that very day describing what had been a difficult and necessary decision. Furthermore, this is deeply rooted in a dynamic that has been known to citizens of Miami at least since April of 2014.

At that time even as a judge in Florida lifted the state’s ban on same sex marriage, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Miami, Thomas Winsky, he’s obviously in charge of Miami’s Catholic archdiocese and its schools. He sent a message to all employees of the diocese and in that statement he reaffirmed that every person employed by the church, regardless of whether the employee is or is not a practicing Catholic, is expected to abide by Catholic teaching including the church’s opposition to same sex marriage.

The letter back in 2014 warned employees of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese  there that they could be punished and even terminated for activities “even if it occurs outside the normal working day and outside the strict confines of work performed by the employee for the archdiocese.” Now, we remind ourselves we’re talking about this because here is a news story and the very fact that it is a news story is the story. Here you have a news story that should basically be dog bites man. The old adage is that it’s only news if man bites dog. We’re not talking here about man bites dog, we’re talking about Catholic Church enforcing Catholic doctrine.

This should not be newsworthy. The fact that it is newsworthy is because of dynamics within that school in Miami and also the dynamics in the larger culture, both of them should have our attention. First, the dynamics within the school, outrage is coming to the school from the parents of students in this Roman Catholic classroom, the students of this teacher, no doubt the teacher was very, very popular. You have outrage being expressed by parents who say that the archdiocese is out of bounds for firing a Catholic elementary school teacher for flagrantly and publicly violating Catholic doctrine.

One mother said, “I’m upset. The way they handled this was just unbelievable.” The father of another student told the press, “What she does at home, that’s none of our concern. The fact is, she maintained a high moral standard at school and was inscribing in our kids a sense of community and love.” Now we just have to unpack that for a moment. Here you have the father of a second grader who has lost a popular teacher but has lost a teacher over a violation of the Catholic moral code and, in this case, the Catholic Church is merely affirming in sexuality and marriage what the Christian Church has affirmed for 2,000 years.

In this case, the father goes on to say that the teacher is to be praised for maintaining, these are his words, “a high moral standard at school.” You’ll notice the bifurcation here, the division into two different worlds. He says explicitly what she does at home, that’s none of our concern. Now, let me just be clear, the man’s not being honest there. There is certainly a limitation to what even that very liberal father would agree is acceptable conduct at home. Putting it a different way, even that father would have to admit that there could be some conduct at home that would invalidate the moral status of being a teacher entrusted with children.

You’ll notice here how the moral revolution has simply rearranged the furniture, moved it virtually across the room. Now one’s sexual conduct, at least in terms of LGBT definitions, is considered in bounds. Let’s just ask the question. What if this man were to discover that this teacher outside of the classroom was involved in polygamy or polyamory? My guess is, that might change the moral equation. In any event, it simply points to the arbitrariness of this father’s outrage and an arbitrariness that’s absolutely insane.

It’s insane if one considers that a Catholic school is expected to operate by Catholic doctrine and Catholic moral teaching. We shouldn’t assume that this kind of parental outrage in the aftermath of the termination of the teacher will be limited to a Roman Catholic school in Miami. There is every likelihood that in some schools that would consider themselves explicitly Christian, evangelical by conviction, there would also be parents who would say, “Look, we need to make a divide. Let’s make a division between what happens in the privacy of the teacher’s home and what happens in the classroom.”

Here we simply have to note, that is not only impossible, it’s also illogical and usually you should note those two things go together. In response to the outrage and the public controversy, that public controversy is the second context in a city like Miami, a city that now declares itself aggressively pro-LGBT, a school like this simply stands out as a great irritation and embarrassment to the entire society there. Thus, you can count on the fact that there will be a tremendous amount of civil pressure upon the school to surrender the policy upon the Catholic Archdiocese to surrender Catholic teaching.

In a statement made by the archdiocese to the Washington Post, a spokesperson said, “Any Catholic teacher who signs a contract with the Archdiocese of Miami is acknowledging that policies and procedures will be followed and will abide by the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church.” We need to note this very carefully. We have become a society in which it seems to be incoherent to many that the Roman Catholic Church would enforce Roman Catholic doctrine and teachings even amongst Roman Catholic employees in Roman Catholic schools. The logic isn’t exclusively Roman Catholic, that church bears certain responsibility for sending ambiguous signals, particularly from the current pope in recent years, but this is a situation we need to watch very closely. We need to watch it and be aware.

The arguments that we now see, the backlash against the Roman Catholic Church in Miami for firing a teacher for violating Roman Catholic doctrine, that very same argument is likely to show up very close to you wherever you are, in a school that may identify as evangelical or solidly committed to Christian teaching. We’re about to find out just how solid that commitment is and one final note on this story. It is very important that you can look back to a letter written in 2014 in which that Roman Catholic archbishop stated the position of the church explicitly before this became an issue. We simply need to turn this in reverse and ask, if the leaders of schools and churches with which you are concerned have had the similar courage to issue such a letter reminding all employees and indeed all parents of the policy before it becomes headline news.

Part II

How North Korea is winning the war of propaganda at the Winter Olympics

The next, we shift from Miami to Pyeongchang, South Korea and the 2018 Winter Olympiad, given the nature of the Olympics you might expect, that the big news there would be sports but the far bigger news turns out this time to be politics. That’s not all that surprising, given the location of the 2018 games in South Korea. It becomes even less surprising with the news that came just a few weeks ago that there will be a combined North and South Korean Olympic team for at least some selected events.

Then the politics of the story began to unfold in an even more dramatic way. Of course, it unfolded with the visit of a member of the dictatorial Kim family to the South Korean games, and that is Kim Yo-jong, the sister of the current North Korean dictator, Kim Jung-un. She, according to many in the western media, effectively stole the show. It’s not just the sister of the dictator, it is also the very chirpy North Korean cheer squad that also has gained a great deal of attention.

Here is where we need to understand what’s going on and we need to understand the inevitable collision between politics and sports that ends up with what can only be described as a war of propaganda. That war of propaganda is now being battled as we are looking at the stage of the winter games in Pyeongchang. There can be no doubt that North Korea has scored some really big wins, huge political wins, in the propaganda war. This is where we need to think very carefully and push back on the very cheery American sports commentators who seem to be avoiding the true nature of the North Korean regime and handing one of the most deadly totalitarian, murderous regimes in modern history a big propaganda victory in the 2018 Winter Games.

For one thing, you have the existence of this cheering squad. Of course it gets a lot of attention but what’s not getting a lot of attention is the fact that this amounts to a massive act of propaganda and what is less reported is the fact that North Korean security agents are keeping a very clear view upon these cheerleaders. Furthermore, even escorting them to the bathroom lest they try to escape and turn to South Korea for political asylum. You’re talking about a paranoid and murderous regime, you’re talking about a regime that kills people, at times, simply because in the leadership they stop applauding before others. That would make cheerleading, by the way, an unusually dangerous sport or activity when it comes to North Korea.

Furthermore, the media, especially the western media, seem to be playing right into the North Korean play book. All those camera scenes of those cheerleaders are avoiding the fact that those cheerleaders are the public face being put forth in this Olympiad for this horribly murderous regime, a murderous regime that makes it a capital crime even to own a copy of the New Testament. Some others have pointed to the deadly irony of the fact that we are able to look at this North Korean cheer squad even in events at night because of the blazing lights available at the Olympic venues.

Meanwhile, if you look at a satellite map, in the middle of the night South Korea is aflame with light, electric light, demonstrating technology and electricity. Meanwhile, the North is almost solidly dark, one of the darkest regions on earth. You would think that it is uninhabited but of course it’s not. It is just, as it is so often known even by its own references, a hermit kingdom seeking to keep the rest of the world out.

On Monday, USA Today helpfully reminded us that in 2006, 21 members of another North Korean cheering squad that had also gone to South Korea for an international athletic event, they were sent to a prison camp for merely talking about what they saw in South Korea. You also see something of the insidious nature of Communist propaganda in the fact that the cheerleaders cheer apparently regardless of the athletic prowess or even of the score of their own team, it’s all about the visuals. The propagandists understand that eventually the visuals win.

Cable giant CNN found itself in no shortage of controversy after it ran a story on the dictator’s sister, the headline in the online edition at CNN is this. “Kim Jong-un’s sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics. As the story unfolds, it’s clear that CNN was talking about the fact that the dictator’s sister by appearing smiling and placid had indeed stolen the show, but what is the meaning of this?

Well, the meaning is that the dictator sent his sister as an emissary with a very clear political mission and it should be revealing to us that at least at this point her political mission appears to have been quite successful. It’s a charm offensive. Over and over again, the western media going back to to the Soviet Revolution in 1917 have shown themselves to be susceptible to this kind of charm offensive. It’s easy to understand why. That doesn’t decrease the moral responsibility, it simply increases the fact that there is a responsibility upon western media to make very certain that they are not being charmed even as they are looking at cheering squads or a dictator’s sister.

Even as people are talking about how placid and friendly and peaceful she looked, let’s just remind ourselves of what the North Korean government identifies as her official title back in North Korea. That is, she’s the Deputy Director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the North Korean Communist Party. That’s not a title that you find often under her name, in the line under her face as she is shown at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Part III

The meaning of the human heart, romance, and Valentine’s Day

Meanwhile, we shift to the fact that today is Valentine’s Day. As celebrated and observed in many places around the world, it is a day, ever since Medieval times, associated with romantic love and especially with the pairing of a man and a woman, eventually within marriage. The day was officially known as the Feast Day of St. Valentine, a saint, it is claimed by the Roman Catholic Church, to have been a martyr in the third century. Ever since the Medieval period, this particular feast day has been transformed into a festival of romantic love.

Now before going further we should also note that it has been transformed in modern America into one of the most lucrative opportunities for a holiday. Valentine’s Day now ranks behind only Christmas and Halloween in consumer spending, and there is big consumer spending to be had. A consideration of the transformation of Valentine’s Day also allows us to understand the transformation of romantic love in marriage over many centuries. Going back to the Medieval period the clear ethos, the standard was romantic love that would lead to marriage but that marriage was often arranged by families, not so much by the man and the woman who would eventually wed.

The Medieval and ancient world of course knew an ethos of romance but it was only as they saw the dawn of the renaissance that there emerged in western societies the idea of companion at marriage, the man and the woman arranging their own marriage on their own romantic terms. Yet as we now see, marriage has been transformed again and again, harmed greatly by the moral transformation that came with divorce, harmed greatly of course by the redefinition that we’ve experienced in marriage just over the last few years, largely at the hands of the courts. Also, we should note, at the hands of the court of public opinion that marriage now redefined utterly after the US Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same sex marriage.

Looking at Valentine’s Day also reminds us of the central symbol of Valentine’s Day which is a heart. I mention this as we’re thinking about the heart shaped emblem often associated with Valentine’s and with romantic love. Where in the world does that shape come from? It turns out it really doesn’t come so much from the shape of the human heart, that is the beating heart anatomically vital within our chest. It refers instead to a symbol of romantic love that is believed to have appeared in the sixth century BC which is the image of the Sophium plant which was understood to be either a reproductive assist or perhaps even an aphrodisiac.

In a recent book entitled The Amorous Heart, Marilyn Yalom looks at the history of the heart as symbol throughout western civilization. One of the things that she notes is the fact that it wasn’t even commonly assumed that the heart had the major responsibility for blood circulation until that was officially recognized in year 1628 when the English physician, William Harvey, first accounted in a scientific way for the circulation of the blood with the heart as its pump.

Now as is noted in the book, it’s almost certain that ancient peoples understood the heart’s role but not in such an explicitly scientific or mechanical way. This leads to a huge question. Why then do we speak so naturally about the heart as the seat of the individual, the seat of emotions, and the seat of love and moral judgment? We should note that this is not only something that we see in Medieval Europe, this is something that we find explicitly within scripture.

The Scripture over and over again in both the Old and the New Testaments, refers to the heart as the center of who we are. In the book of Job, Job actually abstracts himself from his heart observing his heart, wondering if his heart is walking differently than it should. Furthermore, we have the reminder in scripture also coming from the Old Testament, that the heart is deceitfully wicked. Who can understand it?

The biblical understanding of the heart is rooted to the totality of biblical theology, a totality that points to the fact that the heart is indeed the seat of the emotions. We speak naturally about the heart, speaking not of the heart that beats within our chest as an organ of circulation, but rather of the heart is that which reveals the interiority of who we are, the true self, our emotions, our moral conditions.

The Bible says that we are to hide God’s Word in our heart that we would not sin against him. That of course does not refer to the organ of circulation, it refers to the innermost self, the true self. Christians of course have every reason to celebrate romantic love and even more reason to celebrate the reality of marriage, the union of a man and a woman, for a covenant vow of a lifetime. We have even more reason to celebrate that, understanding both love and marriage as God’s gifts and understanding marriage as the context, the expression of romantic love, certainly its goal.

It’s also important for us to recognize that the Christian knowledge of the heart and the Christian understanding of love, they don’t exactly make for exciting greeting cards that are likely to get a lot of cultural approval on Valentine’s Day. It’s virtually impossible to imagine a commercially successfully Valentine’s Day card that would have as its message the heart is desperately wicked, who can understand it?

The Bible has a lot more to say about the heart of course and the Bible is very clear in affirming the gift of romance, and love, and marriage. But don’t expect biblical realism in greeting cards—that’s not what they’re about.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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Happy Valentine’s Day, I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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