The Briefing

Additional Reading

Part

Part

Pew Research Center

Public support for the death penalty ticks up, by Baxter Oliphant

Part

National Review

Advice for Incels, by Kevin D. Williamson

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Tags: Audio

Transcript

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

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

Part

Proposal to divide California into three separate states reveals political frustration, will be faced by California voters in November

The United States is a union of 50 states. It began with 13 states, famously, 13 original colonies that became the first 13 states of the United States of America when the U.S. Constitution came into effect in the year 1789. Since 1789, 37 additional states have come into the Union and they have done so by Article 4 Section 3 Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitutions. That clause, often known as the New States Clause, reads quote, "New states may be admitted by the Congress into this Union but no new state shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state, nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states or parts of states without the consent of the Legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress." End quote.

Now, the United States became 50 states in the year 1959, first when Alaska entered the Union as the 49th state and then when Hawaii entered the Union as the 50th state. And the 37 states that joined the Union since 1789 all came into the Union under the New States Clause of the Constitution. Since 1959, there have been suggestions that both Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia become states, but neither of those movements has caught much political momentum, and the reason is not just that we would have to change the American flag from 50 to 52 stars. It's more importantly an issue of maintaining the political equilibrium of the United States. In both of the cases, Puerto and the District of Columbia, the population votes overwhelmingly democratic, which means that there is no Republican constituency in either house of Congress to encourage the District of Columbia or Puerto Rico towards statehood status.

Furthermore, when the constitutional order of the United States was established and when Washington, DC, was established as the national capital, it was decided in the original founding vision that the capital city of the United States of America, the seat of Congress and the residents of the White House should not be part of one of the 50 states, but rather should be an independent federal district, as it was originally known. The District of Columbia was set up as a part of no state belonging then to all 50 states and to all the American people.

That historical and constitutional background is important because a measure to turn one state, the state of California, into three states, will now, we know, be faced by California voters in November. In an honest assessment, it still isn't likely either that California voters are going to decide to cut their state into three, nor is it probable in any conception that the United States Congress would agree to that kind of proposal. Furthermore, even if under some kind of almost science fiction scenario California voters and Congress were to agree, this is an issue that would almost assuredly be tied up in the federal courts ad infinitum. It's hard to imagine how this could become even constitutionally, politically, or economically possible. But the very fact that it has now as a proposal ended up on the California ballot in November tells us a great deal about modern America politically and culturally.

The proposal that California voters will face in November was the brainchild of Tim Draper, and it's not the first time he has tried to put such a measure before California voters. Previously, his effort was to split California, not into three states but rather into six states. So, he's tried to find some kind of less radical proposal, if indeed you can talk about cutting California into three parts is something less than radical. Draper was a founding investor in Skype, Hotmail, and Tesla. He is a billionaire with a lot of money to influence politics, but it's not really likely that he's going to be able to use even a billion dollars or more to leverage California voters and influence them into joining in his proposal.

But what this tells us politically about California is very important. California is the most populace state in the Union. In 2017, California's population was estimated to be almost 40 million, 39.54 million people. And furthermore, its economy is vast. By most rankings, if California were an independent nation, it would rank as the fifth largest economy in the world. But, California has two United States Senators, that, according to the wisdom of the United States and its constitutional order. That constitutional order understood the Senate as being the upper House. The Senate as being where every state would have equal representation. New Hampshire has two senators, California has two senators. But, when it comes to the House of Representatives, the congressional seats are set by population. The important thing to remember here is that California, as the most populace state, is also represented overwhelming as the largest single state contingent in the United States House of Representatives, with 53 congressional districts and thus 53 seats in Congress. Remember, there are only 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 53 of them are representing California.

Draper has argued for years that California is so large as to be ungovernable and that it is not fairly represented, especially in the United States Senate. If you were to have split California into six states, there would now be 12 senators. If you split California into three states, there will now be six senators. All of this has vast political consequences, and it's very interesting to consider those consequences. Most political scientists believe that if the proposal to split California into six states had been successful, three of those states would be almost permanently democratic, and the other three would be tossup or swing states. If you were to divide California into the three states proposed by Tim Draper, in all likelihood, at least two of those states would be solidly democratic. In the electoral map language we would say solidly blue. The other would not be red. It would be purple, a swing state, at least for now.

The proposal that would be faced by the voters in California in November would not only divide California into three states, the basic outlines of the three states are provided in the ballot measure. The state that would now be known as California would include Los Angeles and some other portions of mostly coastal California. Northern California would include Sacramento, San Francisco and the Bay Area. That would include what we refer to as Silicon Valley. Southern California would include not only San Diego, but most of the eastern desert and mountains of California, along with the city of Fresno. Now, what makes this particularly interesting is that Fresno is fairly north, in the central valley of California. That rich and very important agricultural region within the nation's most populace state, but it's also the region that is the most predictably Conservative and Republican.

In an historical context, it's also interesting to note that since California entered the Union on the 9th of September in the year 1850, there have been no less than 200 different proposals to cut California into a plurality of states. As we think about the moral culture of the United States, California has become increasingly associated with the most liberal world views in the United States. And, as we think about California's electoral condition, we need to understand that not one Republican holds statewide office, nor has a Republican held statewide office in California for years.

But, what's also really interesting to contemplate here, is that many of the Democrats who would presumably gain the national level by splitting California into three or six states are not heartily endorsing this proposal. Why? Well, it's because if you are an entrenched politician, you probably like the map pretty much as it is right now. When it comes to the two democratic Senators representing California, they're not pleased with this proposal, because they probably are quite pleased with being senators representing, by any measure, the richest and most populated state in the Union.

But, as you're thinking about the moral landscape of the United States, who would be more likely to benefit, conservatives or liberals, by this kind of division of California from one state into three? The answer is long-term it is probably likely that the liberal wing of American culture would be the big winner. Interestingly enough, the 2020 ballot in California is expected to have a measure to be put before voters for California to secede from the Union. Many liberal Californians look at the rest of the United States and say they do not want to be part of a country that could be even considered so conservative as the United States of America.

Meanwhile, another of America's most powerful, most populated, and most economically advantaged states, the state of Texas, a state that has normally in recent electoral years been not blue but deep red, Texas has often considered, at least as a political proposal, the idea of seceding from the Union. But it's really unlikely that either Texas or California voters will decide to secede from the Union and furthermore, it turns out that that's not really much of a decision for voters to make. It's politically inconceivable that the United States Government would allow either Texas or California to secede from the Union, so what all of these proposals amount to, as every one of them is politically implausible, is a statement of political frustration. And California voters will have this strange opportunity in November to express just how politically frustrated they are. But I do know this much; if you ask American voters how frustrated they are, they just might tell you.

Part

Americans grapple with moral questions surrounding violent crime as support for the death penalty rises

Next, we shift an issue to the death penalty, and we go to The Dallas Morning News, Tuesday's edition of the Dallas paper, which ran a headline, Death Penalty Support Rises. The article cites recent research released by the Pew Research Center. It was released on Monday, indicating that now 54% of Americans say they are in favor of the death penalty, but that's up from 49%. And that 49% is dated just two years earlier. Now, what's really important here is to understand that a rise in support of the death penalty runs counter to the trend over the last several years. As we look at recent American history, we look back to the 1990s to understand that since that period, relative support for the death penalty has been in decline rather consistently. But we also have to understand that as we go back to the 1960s, support for the death penalty began to decline. It did so until the early 1970s when support for the death penalty began to go up again.

One of the things we need to note here is that relative crime rates in the United States have something demonstrably to do with public support for the death penalty. And, as we look at the data that came out on Monday from Pew, the indications are that an increase in support for the death penalty in the United States might have something to do with a perceived rise in violent crime, and especially the larger moral question that crime brings. The Dallas Morning News report summarizes the situation this way, quote "Support still remains far below the modern highs registered in the mid 1990s when four out of five Americans backed the death penalty amid surging violent crime rates nationwide. Since then, capital punishment has grown far less popular," says the paper, "and has been utilized much less frequently with states imposing and carrying out fewer death sentences." End quote.

Now, as we think about the Christian conscience and the Christian world view on the issue of the death penalty, several issues come immediately to mind. First of all, the death penalty is stipulated in Genesis chapter 9 in that passage we know as the Noahic Covenant, in which God makes very clear that a murderer forfeits his or her own life by taking the life of a fellow human being. Precisely, Genesis 9 tells us because every single human being is made in the image of God and thus the destruction of human life by murder is the intended destruction of God's image. God takes this very seriously and he tells His human creatures to take murder very seriously, as well.

In Western Civilization, Europe and in North America, the death penalty has been under moral reconsideration since the 18th century. But, even as we see popular support for the death penalty in the United States, representing four out of five Americans in the 1990s, we have to put that in the larger context, that the death penalty, under such conditions, is generally limited to the crime of intentional or premeditated murder. It's not so much generalized support for the death penalty, as the understanding that there are certain crimes that simply cannot be answered with a lesser penalty. That basic moral reconsideration of the death penalty that goes back in western cultures to the 18th century is based upon an increasingly secular understanding of the human being and the question as to whether any human being is actually beyond the reach of moral rehabilitation.

In more recent decades in the United States, as in other western countries, the death penalty has come under a new level of reconsideration because of the fact of racial and socioeconomic disparities in the application of the death penalty. To put the matter bluntly, an African-American or a poor or a minority defendant is far more likely to be sentenced to the death penalty and for the death penalty to be carried out. In some jurisdictions in the United States, it is almost practically impossible for a wealthy person to face execution or capital punishment. The reason is simple, wealthy persons can afford sophisticated legal defenses and those defenses usually come with rather successful arguments against the death penalty.

But, as we think about moral change and the moral world view, it's also clear that an increase in a secular understanding of humanity also leads to a redefinition of murder. Murder becomes a violent crime, not the intended destruction of the image of God. But, as we think about the data that came out Monday from the Pew Research Center, what should cause us to think very carefully is this question; what is the most basic issue that has led to an increase in public support for the death penalty in the United States just in the last two years? I'm going to offer the suggestion that one of the main drivers of this increase in support for the death penalty is the fact that even modern secular Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to say that all persons, regardless of their horrible crimes, are potential candidates for moral rehabilitation.

Just consider some of the mass murders and mass shootings that have taken place over the last couple of years. The reality is that somewhere in the human heart and in the world view of just about every intelligent person is the understanding that some crimes are simply so horrifying that no remedy other than the death penalty will do. There is a political divide over the death penalty in the United States. According to Pew, 77% of Republicans support the death penalty, 35% of democrats support the death penalty, but those figures have to be put into a parallel analysis of the world view of Republicans versus Democrats across a range of moral issues. If you think about that larger range, there's no surprise in this kind of partisan disparity on the question of the death penalty.

But, politically speaking, the biggest change on the issue of the death penalty over the last two years hasn't come amongst Republicans or Democrats, but very importantly, among political Independents. The important figure to watch here is that in just the last 24 months support for the death penalty among political Independents in the United States has increased from 44% to 52%. That's way outside any kind of statistical abnormality. We're looking at something of a genuine moral shift on the question of the death penalty amongst those Americans who identify as neither Democrat nor Republican. One way to look at this data is to understand that those voters, by definition, are swing voters, and swing voters, over the last two years, have swung to a greater affirmation of the rightness of the death penalty.

But, as our final consideration on this issue, we need to remind ourselves that this kind of survey generally ask a very surface question, "Do you or do you not support the death penalty?" The really interesting question to ask Americans would be, "Do you or do you not support the death penalty? If so or if not, why? If so, under what situations and for what crimes? And if not, how in the world do you intend for a justice system to answer some horrifying crimes with anything else?" Those are actually not only deeper but more important questions, but they're questions that simply can't be summarized in a survey.

Part

Which story is more likely to end with two people living happily ever after: Meeting at happy hour or meeting at church?

The magazine National Review recently ran an article by Kevin D. Williamson then entitled Advice for Incels. Incels, in case you're not up on this concept for contemporary culture, are young men who are very angry because they define themselves as involuntarily celibate. These angry young men who identify as Incels are now largely identified with a digital community, which is emerging mostly by means of the internet and the digital world, but sometimes this world emerges horrifyingly into the headlines. This was the case in recent weeks with a massacre that took place in Toronto. As Williamson says, in this massacre, a man drove a truck Islamic state style into a crowd leading to the death of 10 people and the injury of an additional 13. As Williamson says, "It also introduced the wider world to the term Incels," involuntary celibates, which he defined as sexually frustrated young men, who, as he said, "apparently intend to try to transform themselves from figures of fun into figures of terror," end quote.

Williamson writes with insight when he puts this into the context of the Sexual Revolution. He writes, "In the 1960s and 1970s there were some social disruptions touching marriage and family life. It was, they told us, a sexual revolution." But as Williamson goes on to say, "The thing about revolutions is somebody loses. The so-called Incels," he says, "are some of the losers in that revolution, though not the only ones, or socially speaking, the most significant ones." He says the most significant losers would be the abandoned single mothers. "But," says Williamson, "the situation of the Incels is worth considering."

But Williamson, as in so many other cases, is very clarifying in this article when he points out that, oddly enough, and probably accidentally, the Incels are pointing to the bigger problem. It's because the word celibacy doesn't actually mean not having sexual relations. It means not being married. He's absolutely right when he points out that it would be the word chastity that refers to refraining from sexual activity. Celibacy means refraining from marriage. But the really interesting aspect of Williamson's article is the fact that it is entitled Advice for Incels. And then the question would come, what would be the advice? And here's where we need to watch closely. Williamson writes, "If you are a sexually frustrated young man, the smart play would be to join a church." He went on to say, "Seriously, join a church."

Williamson makes the obvious mathematical or demographic point that one of the reasons Incels should go to a church is because churches have a lot of females, including young females. One of the problems is, that we have discounted and marginalized in our society the way for a lot of young men and young women to meet and to form friendships or fellowship that could lead to something more romantic, and most importantly, could lead to marriage. But the most clever and important portion of Williamson's article isn't so much deeply theological as it is practical with a deeper point. His point is this; churches tend to be very focused on marriage and marriage should be the focus of anyone who is looking for the kind of sexual relationship that the Incels say they are lacking. And remember here, the issue is not celibacy but what these young men claim is involuntary celibacy.

In the striking and most understandably shocking portion of the article Williamson wrote in order to get the attention of these young men, he wrote these words, quote, "Consider that there are women in the room," he means at church, "who might not only be interested in dating you, but who might be persuaded to make a public pledge right there in the church to have sex with you for the rest of your life, and enter into a legal commitment fortifying that arrangement." Of course Williamson is talking about marriage, and the picture of marriage that comes with the formal commitment at a wedding. The understanding of marriage as a covenant and the understanding that that covenant is comprehensive between a man and a woman.

What this language tells us is that here you have Kevin Williamson saying to young men who declare themselves to be involuntarily celibate that the problem is that you have forgotten that celibacy is with reference to marriage, not just with reference to sex. But he also points out that the way a romantic narrative begins has a great deal to do with how it ends. He compares these two very different romantic introductions. Number one, quote, "We hooked up after knocking down six mango madness margaritas apiece at Happy Hour at Bennigan's." Compared to a second way to begin the narrative, "We met at church." But the obvious and very important story is this; you compare those two different opening lines and then ask yourself which story is likely to end with two people, a man and a woman, living happily ever after.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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