Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019

Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019

The Briefing

January 15, 2019

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

It’s Tuesday, January 15, 2019. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

As House leaders strip Steve King of committee assignments, Christians must be clear that there is no place for any argument for racial superiority

Huge worldview issues are at stake in headline news from Washington D.C. last night. Mike DeBonis reporting for The Washington Post tells us House Republican leaders on Monday move to strip Representative Steve King of his committee assignments over his recent comments about white nationalism.

House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, said, “We will not be seating Steve King on any committees in the 116th Congress.” This came after the steering committee of the GOP in the House met on Monday night. As the Post tells us, the decision of the panel was unanimous, but it must be ratified by all House Republicans.

Now what’s behind this? This is a nearly unprecedented action, especially given the unique issue here at stake and the context of recent Congressional history. The controversy behind the unusual action taken last night was explained by the Post this way, “The most recent controversy was touched off when Congressman King asked in a New York Times interview published last week, ‘White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization, how did that language become offensive?'”

This is not the first racially tinged comment made by Representative Steve King. He was, in 2018, elected to a ninth term in Congress. Until last night, he had served on the House of Representatives, judiciary, agriculture, and small business committees. But all that came to an end last night. This is an extremely strong action taken by the Republican conference in the House of Representatives. It amounts to Steve King’s own party denying him a seat at the table in any committee in the House of Representatives.

Given the way the House works, this means that there will be nothing for Congressman King to do except to vote on the final form of bills and other procedural matters that will come before the House. It robs him of any influence whatsoever in the formation of policy, unless it has to do with a bill he himself initiates. And you can almost count on the fact that that means any such bill is dead on arrival.

How did Steve King become such a pariah in the Republican party so quickly? Well, The New York Times and other major media are pointing out that there are incredible sensitivities in the 2019 context that have underlined the fact that this kind of language is not only unacceptable in Congress, it is often downright dangerous. And when you consider what Representative King said here, it was a premeditated effort to try to confuse several issues that must responsibly be kept apart.

As we look at this issue, what’s most important to recognize is that Steve King, as an elected member of the United States House of Representatives, by means of this statement in particular and other previous statements, gave cover to, assent to, and support for an idea of white American national racial supremacy.

Republicans especially at the national level were very quick in this case to identify their outrage at Representative King’s statements. Newly elected United States Senator Mitt Romney of Utah said that he should quit. The Majority Leader of the United States Senate, Mitch McConnell said that if he does not understand why white nationalism is so evil, he should “find another line of work.”

Kevin McCarthy, who currently leads the Republicans in the House of Representatives, did not rule out working with Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, in arranging for a motion of censure against Representative King. That is one of the very strongest actions available to the House concerning a sanction against one of its own members.

Republican leader McCarthy went on to say, “This is not the first time we’ve heard these comments,” and he continued, “that is not the party of Lincoln and its definitely not American.” At this point, we simply have to correct the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives by pointing out that even as it certainly morally must be true, that a statement of white nationalism is definitely not American, that has not always been the case.

American history includes the fact that notions of white racial superiority have been woven within many of the political arguments that have been used in American political systems, going back to the time of the founding of the nation. And, you simply have to note as a matter of historical fact, that at one point the Constitution of the United States included a very clear affirmation of white racial superiority.

But it certainly is the case, as the Minority Leader made the case on Monday night, that such arguments have no place in American society in 2019. And we also have to recognize that this something that politicians now must face as a basic political reality in modern America. But this is where Christians also have to understand for us much more is at stake here.

Now, as you’re thinking about the statements made by Representative King, one of the most lamentable of of the aspects of what he said is the fact that he confused three different categories. He said, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization, how did that language become offensive?” Now, the first two of those categories are extremely similar, white nationalists and white supremacists. In both cases, the unifying figure there is race as evaluated by skin color. It’s a statement of white nationalism, a statement of white superiority. The third category he lumped in with those first two categories was Western civilization. That’s something that is quite different than white nationalism or white racial superiority. Then what would that be?

Well, let’s understand that there has been an effort over the course of the last say 50 or 60 years, especially in elite higher education in the United States, to offer an argument for cultural relativism, for the idea that all cultures are basically of equal value. Now, that’s one of those arguments that you would think would simply fall flat on its face. It’s made by people who almost universally are saying such things within the context of Western civilization with the goods and achievements of that civilization offering them the legal and cultural protection to make such an argument. You couldn’t make that kind of argument in much of the world because cultural relativism is, even on its face, a ludicrous idea.

Furthermore, it insinuates something almost as insulting as the notion of the relativity of religion. You’ll have people say, “All religions are basically the same, they’re all equal, they’re just different ways of getting at the same ultimate spiritual reality. They all lead to the same place, they just follow a different path.” That is insulting to anyone who anyone who actually is an adherent of any one of the major world religions and understands that anyone who does hold to any kind of theology and any kind of major religious understanding does have a very clear notion that all of these world religions are not seeking the same ends. They are not all seeking the same goals. They certainly are not all worshiping the same God.

As a matter of fact, if you want to look at inherent contradictions, just take as two examples Christianity and Buddhism. They are not only seeking different paths, they are actually following completely different systems. Buddhism believes in a cyclical understanding of history and it believes that the human spirit or the mind is trapped within a physical body from which it is trying to escape. It understands in that great cycle or wheel of life that there are deaths and births that are continuous and thus the idea of reincarnation. There is the notion of karma or a similar kind of vocabulary by which one form of life dies to emerge as another form of life and depending upon the previous life, enters either a higher or a lower form of life.

Furthermore, classical Buddhism holds as its goal the achievement of nothingness, which is the exact opposite of Christianity, which holds to a linear understanding of history that states that we have only one life to live, that there is no such thing as reincarnation, that it is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment, that points to an eschatology that isn’t nothingness, but rather the fullness of the kingdom of Christ. And so it is an absolute insult to say that all world religions are the same. Religious relativism is one of those intellectually dishonest arguments that can only gain credence amongst people who don’t want to look seriously at the subject they are discussing.

The same thing is true when arguments are made for cultural relativism. Now, at the same time, Christians have to understand that there is no truly Christian culture. There is no culture that is without sin because Genesis 3, again according to the biblical worldview, tells us not only that every single human being is sinful, but that everything that humans do, individually and collectively, is tainted by sin. Thus Christians operating out of a biblical worldview are forbidden to worship at the altar of a perfect superior culture.

But we are also, as those who honor the truth and who understand the importance of worldview and the fact that worldview eventually leads to cultural ways, values, morality, and structures, we do understand that it is absolutely ridiculous to argue that all cultures are the same, to argue for a cultural relativism.

So this takes us back to the action amongst Republicans in the House of Representatives Monday night. If cultural relativism is a bad argument and arguing for the superiority of Western civilization honestly and in Christian terms is not wrong, then where was Steve King wrong? He was wrong in the first two categories where he put in the word white. Making the civilizational claim a racial claim. That is a category error of the first degree and it is precisely the kind of error that gives credence to those who are arguing for the intellectual indispensability of cultural relativism to resolve the stain of racism.

In that sense, Steve King offered exactly the wrong argument and he did so, as Representative McCarthy noted, repeatedly. This was not something that is merely a matter of unfortunate vocabulary or of some kind of mistake with a Congressman speaking to a reporter. This is a pattern and it is the pattern that explains the very decisive action taken by the House GOP Steering Committee on Monday night.

The Christian worldview leaves absolutely no margin whatsoever for arguing for racial superiority, for the superiority of individuals over other individuals or groups over groups based upon skin color. The very arguments that Steve King used in that statement given in an interview in The New York Times is the kind of confusion that Christians must steadfastly avoid.

And it does tell us a very great deal that Republicans, in this case, acted so quickly and decisively with leaders, not only including the ranking Republican in the House of Representatives going on the line, but also the Majority Leader of the United States Senate and many others as well. If there is any sign of hope in this situation, and in this sense there is, it is to realize that a statement like this is now met with a very clear response very quickly in the United States Congress. That at least represents real progress towards making real the statement made by Minority Leader McCarthy when speaking of the comments he said, “It’s definitely not American.”

Part II

Deep moral divide revealed by court battle over exemption to Obamacare contraceptive mandate

Next, we turn to a religious liberty issue that reveals the deep moral divide in the United States. The headline came in Bloomberg News, “Judge Blocks Trump Plan to Revoke Obamacare Contraceptive Rule.” Now, the dateline of the story is January 13, 2019. The reporter for the story is Erik Larson and the first question any informed American should be asking is, how can we be talking about this in headline news in 2019?

As you think about this story, you have to recognize that what has taken place is that a U.S. District Court Judge, in this case, Judge Haywood Gilliam of Oakland, California, has now issued a preliminary injunction against “the final rules for the new Affordable Care Act exemption.” He handed this down on Sunday. He limited his action to the 13 states that had filed suit against the Trump administration.

So what in the world is going on here? Well, this takes us back to the initial passage of Obamacare, as it was known, formerly The Affordable Care Act, that was the comprehensive healthcare reform pushed through by the Obama administration that passed Congress without a single Republican vote. One of the biggest objections to the bill was the fact that it offered what was called a contraception mandate. It was a portion of the law that mandated that all employers, with a very flimsy inadequate religious exemption, must offer coverage for contraception of all forms to all women employees without any charge whatsoever to the woman.

The biggest issue there in the first place was the narrowness of the religious exemption. For example, Bloomberg News identifies that exemption as applying to houses of worship. That, from the very beginning, was a huge problem. Since 2013, just to take one example, a Roman Catholic order of nuns known as The Little Sisters of the Poor has been involved in litigation against first the Obama administration and now the federal government because of the mandate which violates its own religious convictions.

Understand this meant that employers, including Christian colleges and universities, religious ministries and others, would have to offer coverage for contraceptives that would include those forms of contraception which are believed by many to be abortifacient, actually to cause abortions. This is a huge crisis of conscience. And again you ask, how can we be talking about this in 2019? After all, we are now years after the United States Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case extended the exemption to closely held private corporations such as the Hobby Lobby Corporation. But that particular Supreme Court decision did not cover religious ministries and organizations, Christian colleges and universities.

The Trump administration, early upon taking office, sought to begin formulating rules that would extend that exemption to cover those other religious ministries and then a matter of months ago, the Trump administration announced that it would be extending those same protections to private corporations similar to the kinds of guidelines that have been handed down in the Hobby Lobby case. But almost immediately, and this is what’s important, several of the attorney’s general of more liberal states began to sue the administration because of these guidelines.

It’s incredibly telling to consider the coverage in Bloomberg which states that the Judge’s decision which “which may be appealed, ramps up the culture war triggered by President Donald Trump’s attempt to extend ‘religious freedom’ rights,” religious freedom put in scare quotes, “from churches to companies, a move that in 2017 triggered litigation backed by rights groups and Democratic-led states.”

Now wait just a minute. Reading this report, you would think that the culture war over this issue erupted only when the Trump administration took office and began formulating these guidelines. That is an irrational and intellectually dishonest claim. The culture war dimension of this was started by the Obama administration when it handed down that contraception mandate and then when the Secretary of Health and Humans Services in the Obama administration handed down guidelines that offered no real acknowledgment of the religious liberty and conviction rights of Americans on this question.

The preliminary injunction handed down by the judge in California affects California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

Now you’ll note that I stated most of these states are liberal states and thus citizens in North Carolina and in Virginia may be wondering how they got listed. Well, again, elections have consequences and in both of those cases, the election of Democratic governors or Democratic governors and attorneys general led to this result. So, whether they want to be or not, the citizens of North Carolina and Virginia now find themselves litigants in this particular case against the Trump administration.

There are so many lessons here, one of them has to again with a religious liberty being put in scare quotes as if it’s not something that’s real, not to mention a Constitutionally honored, respected, and protected right, but something that has merely been invented by the far right in order to thwart the contraceptive revolution.

But something else we need to note here is the fact that the left basically worships at the altar of abortion and contraception to the point that any restriction whatsoever, even on coerced payment for contraception, becomes something that is absolutely unacceptable. And you see that kind of argument especially when you look at the statements by the attorneys general of states like New York and California.

Part III

Sexual revolution marches onward, this time in California’s new framework for sexual education

But next, speaking of California, that state’s Department of Education is about to accept a new draft of a framework for the curriculum for the public schools in that state. And as you might expect, there’s a lot in here for Christians to be very concerned about. EdSource released a story with the headline, “Parents, educators should scrutinize concepts of gender and sexual identity in the state’s health education framework.” The framework, as the headline explains, creates guidelines for the curriculum in California’s K through 12 schools.

Now, I downloaded all 1,000 pages of the report and looked through all the sections that seemed to be of greatest concern, and I can simply say, there’s a lot to be concerned about here. You’re talking in the first place about the public schools in the United States and in the largest, most populous state within the union. You’re talking about a state that sets the pace for so many others. You’re also talking about a state that is doing its very best to push every dimension of the moral revolution, and of the LGBTQ revolution in particular, in every way possible.

And so you ask the question, in how many ways would that be possible? Well, consider this, at one point in the framework with students aged pre-K to third graders in mind, gender is described as “boy, girl, both, neither, trans, genderqueer, non-binary, gender fluid, transgender, gender neutral, agender, neutrois, bigender, third gender, two spirit,” and it goes on.

A lesson plan for one recommended book, again we’re talking about K through third grade, offers three layers of what’s known as the gender wheel. And students are told, “grown ups look at a baby’s body when they are born and make a guess. This is the sex assigned at birth, male or female.” Then in parenthesis, “sometimes people get this confused with gender, but gender is much more than the body you are born with.” Remember, we’re talking about children ages five through eight.

Also directed in the K though three section is the suggestion that sexual organs or reproductive organs should not be identified as being male or female since there are, according to the logic of this new framework, males who have female reproductive organs and females who have male reproductive organs. So instead, the teacher is encouraged, and encouraged here is an understatement, to use only the accurate anatomical names for the organs. Referring to them never as either male or female.

Now you can imagine where this jumps when you’re talking about high school students. I read from the document, “9th through 12th grade students continue to explore and develop their individuality and identity. As such, students may have various gender identities and sexual orientations,” this goes on to explain sexual orientation as referring to a person’s romantic and sexual attraction, gender identity refers to one’s internal deeply held sense of being male, female, neither of these, both or other genders, and “may not necessarily correspond with an individual sex assigned at birth.”

Teachers are told to celebrate this, understanding “students may not conform to the social norms of binary gender identities of male and female and it is important to be as sensitive and responsive to student’s needs as possible. Be mindful of students, identify gender pronouns, and aware not to make assumptions based on appearance.” There’s a whole chart here, indeed a series of charts, about how teachers are to understand this and interpret these issues to their students.

At one point in the draft framework, the text reads, “Some students may be non-monogamous and the term partners may be used to be more inclusive.” And the teachers are told that this that means like words boyfriend and girlfriend are probably more about the past than the present or the future. And students are also to be told about open relationships, including polyfidelity, “which involves more than two people being romantic and/or in sexual relationships which is not open to additional partners,” and it just goes on and on.

But Brenda Lebsack, in this story, points out something that is of extreme importance, particularly in California, and that is the fact that there is no parental opt out for these areas of the curriculum. California law says that parents do have the right for opt out on sex education or HIV prevention education, but not in health education, which would include “instruction or materials that discuss gender, sexual orientation, or family and do not discuss human reproductive organs and their functions.” So virtually everything in this framework can be accomplished without parents ever having the prior knowledge or the opportunity of the opt out of their students.

So what’s behind all of that? It must be the frank admission that those who are trying to bring about a moral revolution in this country understand that this accomplished by the means of gaining control of the schools, which means how the mind and worldview of the young will be framed. You should make no mistake, there has been concerted effort going on for decades now to reach the hearts and minds of America’s children and particularly to go around their parents and to go around their churches in order to frame the understanding of reality that will take the shape, take the possession of the younger generation and doing so without parents or church authorities or anyone else being able to stop, much less to correct what is being taught to children.

There’s another dimension to this which many Christians just fail to understand, and that is that throughout so much of this literature is the fact that parents are considered more likely to be the problem than the solution. And indeed, there are many who argue that the role of the public schools is to correct the religious prejudices that children are likely to encounter in their homes. You can figure out immediately what that means.

One final observation on this story, when you look at this kind of curricular framework, you have to recognize that this becomes dominant for a very long period of time. And California, that is by statute about eight years. But the reality is, as many have pointed out, the current framework by which the California public schools operate, was put in place in 2002. That means almost 17 years ago. So you are looking here at a framework that is likely to be, not only influential, but determinative in the state education in the nation’s most populous state for about a generation.

And there can be no mistaking what those who established this framework want the children of the nation’s most populous state to believe. What they want the understanding of those children to be when it comes to sex, gender, sexuality, marriage, family, and the list goes on. And parents in California and elsewhere cannot say you were not warned.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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