Monday, May 7, 2018

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Briefing

May 7, 2018

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

It’s Monday, May 7, 2018. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

After series of moves to the left, Boy Scouts officially drop the ‘boy’

Policies and procedures are easily changed. The laws can be changed in a relatively short amount of time. The most resistant entities in a culture to change are institutions and that’s why the institutional headlines that came across the American mind last weekend should have our attention. Here are the headlines that relate directly to a change made by the Boy Scouts of America, we might say the most fundamental change we could imagine. The Washington Post headline, “Boy Scouts getting a new name as they welcome girls.” The Associated Press headline, “As girls arrive, Boy Scouts change iconic name of flagship program.” But it was USA Today that got to the headline most clearly, I quote, “Boy Scouts drop boy from name of program.”

Rachel Siegel reporting for The Washington Post wrote: The Boy Scouts of America announced last year that it would welcome girls for the first time in its century-long history. Now the organization’s flagship program, long known as the Boy Scouts, has a new name to promote the message. And it’s missing the word “boy.” Boy put in quotation marks. Beginning in February 2019, it will be known as Scouts BSA.

In a comment made to the Associated Press, Boy Scouts of America Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh said that many possibilities have been considered during what he described as lengthy and incredibly fun deliberations before the new name was chosen. He said, and I quote, “We wanted to land on something that evokes the past but also conveys the inclusive nature of the program going forward. We’re trying to find the right way to say we’re here for both young men and young women.” But then Surbaugh went on to predict oddly that both girls and boys in the new program known as Scouts BSA would refer to themselves simply as Scouts rather than adding “boy” or “girl.”

Here we see the Boy Scouts of America, like other major institutions, not only reflecting the change, but the inherent confusion at the center of this change and that confusion is evident in the fact that the Chief Scout as he is known is here saying that both young men and young women are to be included and welcomed, and yet they are simply to be known as Scouts, not as Boy Scouts or as girls who are in scouting, just Scouts.

This reminds us of the depersonalized and degendered forms of address that were common to the Communist revolution in which the reference was simply to comrade or to the French revolution where all human beings in France were simply, regardless of status or gender or age, they were simply known as citizen. Chronologically, we have gone from citizen to comrade to scout and every one of them represents a titanic shift in the respective culture.

John Bacon reporting for USA Today began his report by stating: The Boy Scouts of America doubled down last Wednesday on its quest to become the youth organization of choice for boys and girls, announcing it will drop “Boy”, again the word put in quotation marks, from the name of its signature program.

But in order to apply worldview analysis and understand what is happening here, we need to look at a bit of history. It was back in 1910 that the organization now known as the Boy Scouts of America was organized. It followed a program organized along similar terms and with the very same goal and with the very same name in Great Britain. Scouting was a movement begun for boys, and by the time the Boy Scouts of America had been formed, there was a very clear cultural context. In the late 19th and early 20th century, there were concerns about what was called by some the boy crisis, a crisis that was understood even then. The Industrial Revolution had led to the concentration of boys and young men in urban settings often with more time on their hands than was healthy. Furthermore, there was the understanding that many boys have been alienated from time outdoors, from the normal preoccupations that boys had known simply as a matter of course and life over previous centuries.

The scouting movement emerged with a clear moral purpose, thus, character was at the very center of scouting, and the understanding was that boys and young men needed the camaraderie of that kind of male fraternity. They also needed a form of structure. They needed an aspirational culture that’s represented in the different ranks and merit badges to be earned and they would find great fun and fulfillment in being involved out in nature in such adventures as hiking and camping and swimming, all the activities that have been hallmarks of scouting from the very beginning.

The scouting movement was also vaguely religious. Vaguely is an important term here. It was explicitly religious in the sense of the kind of character that it intended to inculcate in boys and young men, preparing leaders. But it was a kind of vague religiosity that was very common in the Victorian age and very common on both sides of the Atlantic, in England and in the United States, in the early 20th century. That kind of vague religiosity was also represented in other organizations such as the YMCA which was originally, you’ll recall, the Young Men’s Christian Association.

The kind of vague religiosity that characterized the Scouts’ religiosity that was translated into the vocabulary of character when it came to the Boy Scouts was vague enough that major scouting movements could emerge not only in Protestantism where it first emerged, but also as represented in sponsorships by Roman Catholics and later by Jewish organizations and eventually Mormons with Mormons becoming in some ways the single, most important religious movement directly involved in the sponsorship of scouting. But that civil religion was explicitly clear on issues of character, so clear as a matter of fact, representing the former consensus of virtually all religious bodies on these questions that the Boy Scouts of America went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States in the year 2000 winning a victory in the case known as Boy Scouts versus Dale that recognized the right and even the responsibility the Boy Scouts of America to be very clear that Scouts would involve an affirmation of a basic heterosexuality and any expression of homosexuality was to be out of bounds in the Boy Scouts either when it came to membership or to leadership.

What’s important in this sense is to recognize that as recently as the year 2000, that’s less than 20 years ago we should note, the Boy Scouts of America was so firm in its determination that it defended its right on these grounds all the way to the United States Supreme Court where it won but then followed the trajectory. In 2013, the Boy Scouts of America basically reversed its policy announcing that it would allow, at that point, openly gay scouts, that is young people involved in scouting. They said, at that time, that it would include the members, the scouts, but not leaders. But in 2015, that changed and once again the Boy Scouts of America indicated a basic policy change allowing not only gay scouts but also gay scouting leaders. Then in early 2017, the Boy Scouts announced that they would allow transgender scouts to participate and that eventually also leaders who are transgender as well. Then in October of 2017, both of these last two developments, just last year in October of 2017, the Boy Scouts of America indicated that in many of its programs, including its most important program, it would begin to include girls.

Then came the announcement last week that the Boy Scouts of America for its major program, known as Boy Scouts, is going to be changing the name to remove the name “Boy,” and furthermore, young people involved in scouting are going to be just scouts. But in the most interesting footnote that may be the most important and revealing aspect of this entire picture, the program formerly known as Boy Scouts that will now include both boys and girls, neither of whom would be referred to as either “boys” or “girls,” a program that is now going to be known as Scouts BSA will in its most important and largest program still segregate boys from girls. There will be boys only programs and there will be girls only units. Why? Because there is the concern that if boys and girls are put together, girls will not have the opportunities for leadership that they need and are the intention of the program.

The Associated Press’ story put it this way. The program for the older boys and girls will largely be divided along gender lines with single sex units pursuing the same types of activities earning the same array of merit badges and potentially having the same pathway to the coveted Eagle Scout award. But in discussing concerns that have been raised about how exactly operationally boys and girls are to be included in this program now known as Scouts BSA, Chief Scout Surbaugh said that having separate units for girls and boys, as the Associated Press explained, “Should alleviate concerns that girls joining the BSA for the first time might be at a disadvantage in seeking leadership opportunities.”

Now, there are some fascinating subtexts to this story, including the fact that the Girl Scouts of America are adamantly opposed to the Boy Scouts for taking this action that effectively puts the new organization as Scouts BSA in direct competition for girls against the Girl Scouts. Also a part of the background is that before the Boy Scouts began to liberalize on these moral issues, the Girl Scouts had forged ahead. Going back to the 1970s and ’80s, the Girl Scouts were already moving in a more liberal direction than the generally and stalwartly conservative Boy Scouts at least until after the year 2000.

Part II

Amidst fast-paced moral revolution, few organizations have shifted as rapidly as the Boy Scouts

But another very important dimension, especially as it relates to the moral and sexual revolution, is understanding that the announcement made on October of 2017 that the Boy Scouts would now include girls came only after the 2013 announcement that the Scouts would accept gay scouts, the 2015 announcement that the Scouts would involve gay scouting leaders and the earlier 2017 announcement that Boy Scouts would also include transgender participants.

As we put this into the context of chronology, just remember that the Boy Scouts went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States to state that they had the right not to do any of these things in the year 2000, less than 20 years ago. As we’re thinking about the velocity of the sexual and moral revolution taking place around this, there are few institutional stories that are quite so clear as what has happened to the Boy Scouts of America and of course we have to understand the fact that in the larger culture, words including “male” and “female,” “boy” and “girl,” “man” and “woman” and the entire complex of words upon which our civilization has required for millennia, those words can only be used now in very limited circumstances and usually with irony. In more general terms, they’re going to be avoided at all costs even in an organization that have been established proudly and had operated for over a century as the Boy Scouts of America.

One of the issues we need to see here is the progression we are told that something will not happen and then we are told that it will. When there is the concern that that will lead to something else, we’re told that that would never happen but it does and then we are told that it won’t go any further but it does again and that’s what’s happening between 2000, 2013, 2015, early 2017 and late 2017 and now in May of 2018. As of February 2019, what had been known as the Boy Scouts will simply be known as Scouts BSA.

I have to go back where I began to say that when you are looking at cultural change, the entities most resistant to that change are the most venerable institutions. That’s why the sexual revolutionaries have directed so much of their attention, their litigation and their pressure at forcing these most basic and venerable institutions to bend. Step by step, Americans seemed to be accommodating themselves to the sexual and moral revolution, but is still must be shocking to the vast majority of Americans that the Boy Scouts of America is now going to be unable in its main program to use the word “boy.” We also should note that when this kind of revolution takes place, those who hold to the prior set of moral commitments and understanding of character now have to look to new alternatives. That’s why you see groups as diverse as Roman Catholics and Mormons and Protestant Evangelicals looking for new alternatives.

Amongst Christians, one of the new alternative organizations for boys continuing the kind of ethos that had represented the Boy Scouts of America is known as Trail Life USA. But the ideals and moral commitments, the worldview that have been institutionalized in the Boy Scouts of America, at the very center of American culture, will now have to survive, oddly enough, as a counterculture. In a general sense, that’s the unfolding story of biblical Christianity in the United States, a great shift from the center of the culture into a new identity as a counterculture.

Part III

Iowa adopts new pro-life legislation that will be very hard for the Supreme Court to ignore

Next, as we’re looking at big developments in the culture, we need to look at new legislation that has become the law of the state of Iowa. As USA Today’s headline announces, “Abortion bill aims for Supreme Court.” The New York Times headline, “Iowa passes abortion bill with Roe v. Wade in sights.” The USA Today and New York Times articles understand exactly what’s going on here. Stephen Gruber-Miller reporting for USA Today tells us, “Iowa Republicans took a step toward passing the strictest abortion ban in the nation this week,” that would be last week. “One that is likely to end up in court if it becomes law.” But then the paper asked, “But which court?” It goes on to report Iowa lawmakers passed the bill early last Wednesday advancing the legislation to Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds who we would add signed the legislation into law on Friday.

USA Today then reported, “Republicans said they hope their law will face a legal challenge so it can advance to the US Supreme Court. “Their goal,” said the paper, “is to overturn the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade, which established that women have a constitutional right to an abortion.” Notice what’s going on here. USA Today says that it understands why Iowa has adopted this legislation first by the legislature and then signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds. It understands that the motivation behind this law is to force the Supreme Court of the United States to face once again the most basic questions related to abortion.

USA Today points to the developments in Iowa and says, “Let’s understand what’s really behind this. It is an effort to overturn or tremendously to revise the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion that was handed down to by the Supreme Court in January of 1973.” Julie Bosman and Mitch Smith reporting for The New York Times similarly explained the story, “But the Republicans pressing the Iowa legislation are making a decisive turn away from the small incremental measures of the past that have, in their view, merely chipped away at abortion rights. They have a new, longer-term goal,” says The Times, “in their sights: reaching a Supreme Court that could shift in composition with a Republican in the White House, potentially giving the anti-abortion movement a court more sympathetic to its goal of overturning Roe v. Wade.”

Now, these explanations offered by USA Today and The New York Times along with other major media, including The Washington Post, point to what is a major shift. It is a shift away from incremental legislation that is pressed back on the margins of abortion. We’ve seen a good deal of that in the last 20 years in various, more conservative pro-life states. What has taken place in Iowa is the passage of legislation that would outlaw the vast majority of abortions, and thus, this sets up an inevitable court challenge and that’s exactly what the legislators and the governor are looking for. They understand full well what’s at stake here. They understand that in passing this legislation they have set up a challenge that will certainly come first to the level of federal district court, then at a circuit court of appeals and eventually they want to see this case go all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. This is not unprecedented but it’s very important and it is a new development in the pro-life cause.

The new development is this. Intentionally passing legislation that everyone knows will bring on a court challenge precisely in order as a strategy to get the question of abortion once again before the US Supreme Court. Now, as the major media have just about all recognized the Supreme Court has not wanted to deal with the most basic questions related to abortion for many years now. In just the last several years, the court has declined to take some similar cases. But Iowa has now adopted legislation that would be very, very difficult for the Supreme Court to ignore.

At the very center of the legislation that became the law in Iowa before the end of last week is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, a direct challenge that is premised upon the medical understanding of the unborn child that has changed utterly since 1973. The increased evidence of the fact that that unborn child is indeed a person and if a person deserves the protection of that individual life, the understanding even by means of the ultrasound of the activity and the personality of the unborn child, the reality that the logic of Roe v. Wade so deadly in its consequences has become more and more apparent, and over time it has also become more evident that Roe v. Wade was not only artificially constructed as a way of finding a legal argument to legalize abortion, but it has now been demonstrated to be false in its central premise.

There is no hidden agenda here as The New York Times acknowledged. It’s absolutely in the open. Those behind this legislation want to set up a challenge to Roe v. Wade that the Supreme Court of the United States cannot avoid or resist. It’s right out in public undenied and explicit exactly as it should be, and thus, it just may be that the state of Iowa has fired the first shot in actually bringing Roe v. Wade again before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Part IV

In the face of opposition from tech companies, Kansas and Oklahoma adopt legislation protecting faith-based adoption agencies

Finally, another story along similar lines, this time the legislation is in Kansas, in Oklahoma. As the Associated Press reported last week, “State lawmakers in Kansas and Oklahoma have approved legislation to grant legal protections to faith-based adoption agencies that cite their religious beliefs for not placing children in LGBT homes. Supporters of such measures,” said the Associated Press, “argued that the core issue is protecting a group’s right to live out its religious faith, while critics saw them as attacks on LGBT rights.”

Now, as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that in both Kansas and Oklahoma, the legislation was prompted by the fact that religious adoption agencies were threatened with being pressed out of the business of adoption and foster care ministry because of the requirement that they must, if they continue in those ministries, deny their own convictions related to human sexuality and the definition of marriage, and for that matter, the proper family context for the raising and care of children.

The precedence for this are very alarming. The first state to really go forward with legalized same-sex marriage was the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In the wake of that development, Catholic charities which had been the largest adoption and foster care organization in the state of Massachusetts had to get out of that enterprise entirely and stopped serving families and children because Catholic charities would not compromise their convictions on the nature of marriage.

In 2011, the state of Illinois ended it is contract with Catholic charities there because of the same reason, and according to the Associated Press, Catholic charities has also stopped handling adoptions in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco over similar kinds of requirements. But what we need to note is that of course this won’t be limited to Catholic charities. It would involve Evangelical Christian adoption and foster care agencies in the very same policies facing the very same dilemma.

But as we’re thinking about larger lessons in our cultural context, we need to understand that once again major technology companies, many of them based in Silicon Valley, went to both the lawmakers and Kansas and Oklahoma warning that they should not adopt to this legislation or they will be, as you’ve heard it before, on the wrong side of history and not only on the wrong side of history, but on the wrong side of the economy.

It’s also interesting and important to note that several of these technology giants have banded together in an organization known as TechNet that officially wrote to the legislators in Kansas and in Oklahoma warning them that they should not adopt this legislation. In the Associated Press article, there was a very important sentence, “In Kansas, both sides of the debate agree that the state’s foster care system is overloaded.”

What we are going to see here is a very interesting dilemma on the part of many states, not just Kansas and Oklahoma, but other states as well. Which are they going to choose? To have more children served through foster care, especially in the hands of qualified Christian ministries, or to force those Christian ministries out of the entire enterprise because they will not bend the knee to the sexual revolution? That’s the dilemma that is going to be faced by lawmakers, by courts and by the states. It’s eventually a dilemma that is likely to be nationalized in the very important sense. But what we have to understand here is that already we have seen in cases such as Massachusetts and Illinois that the state has chosen political correctness in the sexual revolution even over the care and adoption of children. In those two states, this collision is not something that might happen, it has already happened. Those religious ministries that have been involved in foster care and adoption that cannot accept the demands of the moral revolutionaries, then they’re going to have to find something else to do and abandon families and children.

As a final issue of worldview analysis, just consider the fact that the two states that have adopted this legislation are Kansas and Oklahoma, right in the heart of the country. Once again it demonstrates the inherent worldview distinction growing between the metropolitan, more urban and liberal states of the Coast, and the more conservative states of the Heartland and so as the sexual and moral revolution press this on, we come to see that one nation under God doesn’t look in so many cases like one nation at all.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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