Friday, April 20, 2018
Friday, Apr. 20, 2018
Tags: Audio, California, Chaplains, Cory Booker, Mike Pompeo, Religious Freedom
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Friday, April 20, 2018. I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
California set to enact legislation barring sale of any books expressing orthodox Christian beliefs on sexuality
Wherever they have been found, whenever they have lived, under whatever political circumstances, Christians have always borne the responsibility of being faithfully Christian regardless of the political and social circumstances. At many twists and turns in church history, this has been excruciatingly difficult. We need to note, at no time in church history could it or should it have been easy. But in our moment right now in the post Christian west, we are facing some challenges that previous generations of Christians, at least in our civilization, have never faced before.
But it's beyond that. We are actually facing some moral questions, some basic issues of moral revolt, that no previous generation of Christians had to face. And the terrain is changing so very quickly. Yesterday in the nation's most populous state, California, the General Assembly adopted legislation that would make it illegal to sell, for example, a book that represents traditional Orthodox historic Christian teaching on gender and sexual orientation. Under the guise of consumer fraud legislation, assembly bill 2943, passed yesterday by the General Assembly and now send on to the California Senate, would make it a so called unlawful business practice to engage in, here's the legislation's language, "A transaction intended to result, or that results in the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer that would, for example, offer to engage in or do engage in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual."
Now we've already seen the State of California and some other states move to make it illegal for any kind of licensed counselor to be involved in any effort to change an individual's sexual orientation, particularly minors. That's already illegal in the State of California. Now here is where we need to understand that what we're facing is not just consumer fraud legislation. That's not even plausible. What we are facing here is the effort by the state, and by that I mean the government, in this case it is the government of the State of California, to make it virtually illegal for anyone to represent Orthodox Christian teaching on issues of gender and sex and sexual morality.
Now just keep in mind that this is being packaged as consumer fraud legislation, meaning that it would be, according to the State of California, fraudulent and illegal to offer in any way to have anything to do with a change in sexual orientation, or for that matter, one's sexual identity. Now keep in mind the fact that under the guise of this consumer fraud legislation, there is an inclusion of virtually everything that has any kind of transfer of money. That would involve the sale, for example, of a book. But according to experts in California, it could also refer to paying a pastor. And what we're looking at is an undeniable infringement of religious liberty. But we've seen this over and over again, those who are the revolutionaries pushing for the moral revolution, especially on the LGBT issues. They are setting out to eradicate, even by force of coercive law, anyone who would represent any world view that would stand in their way.
Now for years we have been told that warnings like this have been nothing but Christian paranoia. But now we're looking at something that actually passed the California General Assembly yesterday and is expected to sail through the California Senate. David French at National Review got it right when he described this action as, "extraordinarily radical." Those are two words which generally do not need each other in order to make the point. When you say something's radical, that generally makes the point. Or when you say that something is extraordinary, that usually is sufficient to make the point. Something described as extraordinarily radical is something that surely should have our attention.
But as we're speaking about this legislation being radical, let's understand that a part of the radicality of the radical nature of this legislation is the fact that it now elevates sexual orientation or sexual identity to something that is beyond question. But that's deeply problematic, not only from the viewpoint of Orthodox Biblical Christianity. It's very problematic even given some of the claims that some of the persons within the LGBT movement make. Some of them argue that sexual orientation is very changeable. That's an argument that is increasingly popular because of the transgender movement. So what we're being told here is that when someone comes to a counselor, or for that matter perhaps even a pastor, and says, "I'm uncomfortable with my sexual orientation and I would like to see how I might perceive or experience a different sexual orientation," if that involves anything that just might come close to a financial transaction, even explicitly including the sale of books, well, that would now be illegal in the State of California under this legislation.
Now remember that the legislation explicitly targets what are called sexual orientation change efforts. Now think about that for just a moment. Just about any Christian church involved in any kind of authentic Biblical preaching is going to be challenging every single person who hears the scriptures to obey the scriptures and all that God commands. And that includes our sexual behavior, but it also includes our understanding of sexual orientation. A part of the doctrine of sanctification central to Christianity is the fact that Christians are to be taught and are to be formed by the ordinary means of grace, most especially the preaching of the word into the image of Christ. And that would include every dimension of who we are. And that of course would include what we perceive as our gender identity and sexual orientation.
A briefing paper released prior to the California General Assembly's action by the Alliance Defending Freedom indicates that at its core, assembly bill 2943, and I'm quoting here, "outlaws speech whether offered by a licensed counselor, a bestselling author, or even a minister or religious leader. It targets a specific message that an adult who is experiencing unwanted same sex attraction or gender identity confusion can find help to address those issues for censorship. The breadth of this censorship is staggering," says the ADF. They then offer these examples, and I quote again. "A licensed counselor could not help a married mother of three, who is experiencing unwanted attraction to a close female friend or confusion over her identity, overcome those feelings. Two, a religious ministry could not hold a conference on maintaining sexual purity if the conference encourages attendees to avoid homosexual behavior. Three, a bookstore, including online bookstores, could not sell many recently published books challenging gender identity ideology and advocating that those beliefs should be rejected by society. And four, a pastor paid to speak at an event addressing social topics could not encourage attendees that they can prevail over same sex desires or feelings that they were born the wrong sex."
Now an incredible number of Christians have simply had so much faith in the American political system that they have reassured themselves that this kind of thing simply can't happen. But this legislation isn't just potential, it was passed yesterday by the California General Assembly. And furthermore, it was passed after members of the Assembly knew exactly what they were doing. And those who were driving this legislation are amongst those who have driven similar kinds of legislation, both successful and unsuccessful, in the fairly recent past.
Christians no longer welcome? What’s really behind the line of questioning in a Senate committee hearing
But while we're looking at things actual, not merely potential, we need to look at something that also actually happened just in recent days. In this case it was a Senate hearing for Mike Pompeo, who has been nominated by President Trump to be the next United States Secretary of State.
Eugene Scott, reporting for the Washington Post tells us that New Jersey Senator Cory Booker confronted nominee Mike Pompeo, currently Director of the Centra Intelligence Agency, asking him if he believed that homosexuality is a sin. During the time that he was in Congress representing Kansas, then Representative Pompeo was very clear about his support for a definition of marriage as exclusively the union of a man and a woman. He was also opposed to the legalization, therefore, of same sex marriage. During the hearings held on April the 12th, Senator Booker asked Pompeo, "Is being gay a perversion?" Pompeo answered, "Senator, when I was a politician, I had very clear view on whether it was appropriate for two same sex persons to marry. I stand by that."
Senator Booker then asked, "So you do not believe that it is appropriate for two gay people to marry?" Pompeo answered, "Senator, I continue to hold that view." Senator Booker, who took office as a United States Senator representing New Jersey in 2013, from 2007 to 2013 was the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey. He is also often spoken of as a potential 2020 democratic presidential nominee. Senator Booker then turned to Director Pompeo and asked him if he believed that if he were to be Secretary of State, he could deal fairly with all State Department employees, including LGBT employees. Mr. Pompeo said, "Yes."
Senator Booker then raised the issue of whether or not, as Secretary of State, Mr. Pompeo would continue the advocacy for LGBTQ issues that was particularly characteristic of the State Department under President Obama. Mike Pompeo, as a Congressman and thereafter was well known as an Evangelical Christian and a member of well known Evangelical congregation, in this case Presbyterian in Kansas. The beliefs that he articulated when he was in Congress were exactly the beliefs of his church, a church that left a liberal Presbyterian denomination and joined a more conservative Presbyterian denomination precisely over the PCUSA, that is the Presbyterian Church USA's advocacy of same sex marriage and moved to normalize the entire array of LGBT issues including ordaining openly gay clergy.
The Washington Post summarized the issue this way, saying that Mr. Pompeo, "has a long record of opposition to same sex marriage based on his religious views." Now hold that thought for just a moment and recognize that the very day after the hearings, on his own personal Facebook page, Senator Booker released a statement saying that he would oppose Mike Pompeo on his nomination to be Secretary of State. And he raised this issue of LGBT rights and made it largely the driving issue explaining his opposition to Mike Pompeo.
The senator wrote, "I believe you can't lead the people if you don't love the people." He then went on to explain that he was going to vote against Mike Pompeo on his nomination to be Secretary of State. By the way, there was no surprise there. The only surprise is the fact that Senator Booker made LGBT issues and the religious beliefs of Mike Pompeo the crucial issue. He described Mike Pompeo as extreme, referring to "his extreme views on women's health." Now that's simply code language for the fact that Mike Pompeo has been consistently pro-life. That's simply summarized here in the code language that Cory Booker expects his constituents and political supporters to understand.
I go back to the senators words referring to Pompeo's "extreme views on women's health." There's the code language. It's really all about abortion. He then writes, "Among other troublesome comments, he has stated that he believes homosexuality is a perversion and that he will fight to end the right of same sex couples to marry." By the way, that second part is not sustained in the historic record. There is no contemporaneous statement by Mike Pompeo saying that he has any ambition to reverse the legalization of same sex marriage. He has stated that he is opposed to same sex marriage and opposed to its legalization and that his position now is the same position that he held when he was in Congress.
Booker then wrote, "What are same sex married couples serving our country in the State Department to believe about a leader who has pledged to end their legal right and most intimate bond?" He goes on to say, "Again, in countries around the globe, gay people face violence, torture, and other human rights violations. Our country must stand against such evil. And at home, we must set a standard for love, honor, and the respect of all." He went on to concede, "Mike Pompeo pledged to me over and over again that he would treat all those under his leadership with respect and treat them equally." But he went on to say, "I am not sure how you truly lead others, not to mention love thy neighbor, and still view a fundamental and innate part of who they are as a perversion."
Now here's what's important to note. Here you have a sitting United States Senator, one of 100, who is stating very clearly that he will never support anyone who holds to the traditional Biblical Orthodox Christian understanding of homosexuality and marriage to a high position of government, in this case, as Secretary of State. We should make absolutely no mistake, Senator Booker has left no room for any kind of misunderstanding. No one who holds now to a traditional Christian Biblical understanding of gender, or sex, or sexuality, is going to receive any vote for confirmation to a Senate confirmation required office.
At the most fundamental level, the biggest problem is perhaps the fact that Senator Booker, an agent to the United States government as an elected United States Senator, is applying a religious test for public office. The United States Constitution explicitly prohibits any official of the United States government from applying such a religious test. And this statement on Facebook and in his public statements during the hearing, what you have is Senator Booker explicitly, without the slightest evasion or hesitation, applying a clear theological test. Is it really so theological? Well, just consider the next paragraph in the Facebook statement.
Senator Booker writes, speaking of Pompeo, "He and I are Christians. We believe in the ideal and mandate, love thy neighbor." And then he says, "There are no exceptions to this." So now you have Senator Booker identifying the only understanding of Christianity that he as an elected official of the United States government will accept. What is that singular acceptable form of Christianity? It's a form of Christianity that would claim to continue the name, but to deny the clear teachings of scripture. Anyone who continues to hold to the clear teachings of scripture, held by millions and millions of Christians in the United States today, but more importantly held without equivocation by Christians throughout 20 centuries, is now to have no place in a Senate confirmation required office in the United States government.
So as we think about the big picture of how moral change happens in a society, we come to understand that the culture changes first, driven by numerous influences, a consumer culture, entertainment culture, the media, higher education. And then downstream it is translated into political power, usually by the facility of the courts, with the courts usurping the question. And then you have elected representatives very quickly showing how they get in line and become enthusiasts for the new morality. And here we have to note as Christians, that's not enough. You not only have to have the culture change and then the politics change, bringing in even legal coercion, you have the politicians becoming the high priests of a new religion, a new acceptable religion, a new acceptable form of Christianity, Christianity without any part of the Bible that speaks to the historic Christian understanding of sexuality and gender and marriage.
Army chaplain under fire after refusing to facilitate a marriage retreat for same-sex couples
But there may still be some who say, "Well, we're talking here about the State of California, but that's California. Or we're talking about a democratic senator from New Jersey and the Secretary of State, but that's a long way from me." Well, how about this article? This one also appeared the same week. The headline in the Army Times, "Army chaplain faces same sex discrimination claim. Lawyer says he was following Army guidance." The Army Times is an inside newspaper in the military, specifically in the Army. And Kyle Rempfer, the reporter for the Army Times, tells us, "An Army chaplain is fighting back against an investigator's recommendation that he should be disciplined after refusing to facilitate a marriage retreat that includes same sex couples."
Earlier this year the Army Times reports this week, Army Major Scott Squires was serving as a chaplain at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. There, he told a soldier he was unable to conduct a marriage retreat that included the soldier and the soldier's same sex partner due to his church's restrictions. Now in this case, the word church actually refers to the Southern Baptist Convention, which does not claim to be a church, but rather a denomination of churches. But nonetheless, the important part of the article here is that the Southern Baptist Convention's theological authority to define its own membership is being questioned because you have an advocate who brought the charge against this chaplain, arguing that the Army should now de-certify the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Evangelical Protestant denomination in the United States, from the privilege of certifying chaplains for the military simply because the Southern Baptist Convention continues to hold to a Biblical understanding of sex, gender, sexual behavior, and sexual orientation.
The Southern Baptist Convention's historic confession of faith, known as the Baptist faith and message, explicitly articulates what Southern Baptists have believed ever since the formation of the denomination, that marriage is exclusively the union of a man and a woman, and that human sexuality is to be ordered by scripture, as also is to be gender and gender identity. But just in case again, there might be any misunderstanding about what is at stake, Mikey Weinstein, well known as the founder of what's known as the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, that's a secularist organization that has been targeting the very idea of military chaplains, and furthermore has been arguing for a moral revolution within the United States military. He specifically identified the Southern Baptist Convention's certification authority for military chaplains and argued that it should be reconsidered by the military because of this case.
Weinstein then said, "They're saying the Army requires them to follow their endorsing agency, which is demanding that its chaplains follow something that our Supreme Court found was legal." Weinstein then went on to say, "Then our argument is that the Defense Secretary ought to disqualify that particular entity as a chaplain endorsing entity." And again, just in case there is any chance of misunderstanding the agenda, Weinstein went on to say, and I quote, "If you're going to view same sex couples as a sin against God, you can either hold your tongue, change your attitude, or get out of the military." Don't miss it. The words are absolutely explicit. They are recorded here in this news article by the Army Times. Weinstein said, "If you're going to view same sex couples as a sin against God, you can either hold your tongue, change your attitude, or get out of the military."
Now I spoke of Senator Booker saying that the moral revolutionaries are now presenting the only acceptable form of Christianity. But that's true not only in the context of the Senate, it's also abundantly clear in the context of this controversy in the United States Army. Mike Berry, attorney with the First Liberty Institute, who is representing the Army chaplain said, "If their chaplains," meaning the Southern Baptist Convention, "were no longer welcome because of their religious beliefs, that would be a clear violation of the Constitution. And then what happens to all the other endorsing agencies that hold similar views? That would be the Roman Catholics, Muslims, and many others. Are they also disqualified now?" He went on to say, "It would virtually eliminate the chaplain corps."
But we need to note, that's exactly what is behind all of this, the effort to eliminate, not just virtually, but actually, the entire chaplains corps. Secularists working hand in hand with those who are promoting this moral revolution, they're often one in the same people, have targeted the United States military as one of institutions that must be utterly transformed if the moral revolution is to be perpetuated and made permanent. But there is a huge problem with that, at one level, a pragmatic problem. The kind of people who tend to enlist in the United States military are not the same people likely to enlist in this moral revolution. And beyond that, the kind of people who enlist in the United States military and enlist in order to be chaplains, are overwhelmingly not those who are signing up to join the moral revolution.
It's hard to imagine just how fast this moral revolution has progressed, but just think of these headlines from a single week in the United States of America. Holding to Orthodox Biblical Christianity, we're now told you can't serve as the United States Secretary of State. You probably can't serve in any other major public capacity. You can't serve as a chaplain in the United States military. And now, at least if this legislation passes the Senate and is signed by the governor in California as we expect, you can't even sell your book in that state representing Orthodox Biblical Christianity on these issues.
I'm reminded of the fact that several years ago, an oceanographer told me that one of the most ominous aspects of a tidal wave is that even as it grows higher in the open ocean, it also begins to move faster. The tidal wave is so deadly because as it grows higher, it also grows fast. And this tidal wave of moral change appears to be acting just like a tidal wave. But as we watch this tidal wave and seek to understand the moral realities around us, and seek as Christians to understand how to be faithful, even perhaps especially in these times, we have to understand that the tidal wave isn't just a what, it's a when. And these articles make clear, the when is now.