Thursday, February 7, 2019
Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Thursday, February 7, 2019. I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Knowing where we stand: Washington Post columnist says anyone who holds to biblical morality is a bigot
Sometimes in just one article, one opinion piece and a national newspaper, all of the worst arguments gather together as a perfect storm. And as we consider moral change in this country, and world view analysis that must be applied to our experience of the culture around us, there is no article in recent months more important than an opinion piece that ran just days ago in The Washington Post. And it is by veteran Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen. The headline of the opinion piece, “It's Not Just Northam, Republicans Must Confront the Bigotry of the Pences Too.”
But even before you look at the actual text of the opinion piece, the headline alone seems to tell us there is a big problem here. The background to this, of course, are the charges being made against the governor of Virginia, who finds himself in a very difficult position with embarrassing photographs, indicating a repetitive pattern of racism going back to his experience as a student in a medical school and as a young man. There are numerous calls for him to resign. Understandably, the Democratic party has decided that he must go. Richard Cohen, a liberal columnist for The Washington Post says that by his logic, if it's time for Governor Northam to go, it is also time for Vice President Mike Pence to go. Why? Because he alleges they are guilty of equal bigotry. Indeed, he seems to believe that the Pences, both the Vice President and his wife, may be guilty of an even more heinous bigotry.
Cohen wastes no time getting to his thesis. He says this, "I have a question for those Republicans who, along with Democrats, demand the resignation of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam for the abhorrent photo that appeared on his page in his medical school yearbook. If bigotry is repugnant, why not demand the resignation of Vice President Pence for his ugly views on homosexuality? And while they're at it, why not insist that Pence's wife Karen resign her position at a school that discriminates against gays and lesbians?" We have also seen the argument that has tried to create an absolute moral parallel between questions of racism, discrimination on the basis of skin color, and anyone who holds to any kind of understanding that LGBT behaviors and relationships and orientations just might be sinful. The very idea that there might be anything wrong whatsoever when you're looking at the array described as LGBTQ and whatever will follow, well, you are identified as a bigot.
So in his lead paragraph, Richard Cohen gets right to it, saying "Bigotry is repugnant, but if so, then Republicans, if consistent, should demand the resignation of the Vice President of the United States, and they should insist that his wife should resign her position at a Christian school." Now, let's just pause for a moment and recognize that even as we saw this coming, it is really important to understand that the argument has appeared in The Washington Post this very week. It is almost as if Cohen was waiting for just the right opportunity, the opportunity that was presented by the controversy surrounding the Virginia governor to say, "I've been waiting to make this point, bigotry is bigotry, and that means that Vice President Pence, in this case, symbolically representing conservative Christians, they should be recognized as bigots and expunged from the public square."
Cohen continues in his article, "I can guess their answer. The Pences are deeply religious, and their views on homosexuality are based on their religious convictions. To this I say, so what? The Bible was used to justify slavery. And in my own time, racists cited this or that biblical passage to assert that racial segregation was precisely what God intended. The curse of Ham, or the mark of Cain, both used to add biblical authority to the rantings of bigots. The mark or the curse is now on the Pences, who share views that in our nation's history have caused much suffering including violence."
Now, when we're analyzing by a world view perspective, this kind of argument we need to try to be calm and to pause for a moment and say, "Consistent with the world view of this writer, how do we understand this argument?" Let's peel back the onion, so to speak. Let's go back to the presuppositions. Richard Cohen has identified in other places the fact that he is basically secular, he's not marked by any particular religious beliefs. His biographical information says he was raised in a Jewish home but as I've said, he has made clear that he doesn't hold to any particular religious beliefs. So, operating out of a secular, cosmopolitan, journalistic perspective, so far as he sees it, the Bible being misused in one place means that whenever it's used, it must be being misused in another place.
So, also trying to pause and take account of this argument, let's ask the question, "Was the Bible misused to defend slavery? Was it misused to defend racial segregation?" The answer to that, honestly, has to be yes. There were defenders of slavery who misused the Scripture to defend a race-based chattel slavery system that is not sustainable by any kind of biblical argument. And, furthermore, those who defended segregation often pointed in ways that were clearly not in keeping with a proper approach to Scripture, with scriptural authority or with a rightful hermeneutic, they used Scripture in order to make indefensible arguments, again, based oh skin color. So just in candor and honesty, we must concede in public argument as well as private conversation that the Bible has indeed been misused.
So the question is, are conservative Christians misusing the Bible now in our understanding of human sexuality, our definition of marriage, our understanding of sexuality and gender? Now, that's an important question. We should not be afraid to ask that question. If we are misusing the Scripture, then we must stop misusing the Scripture. But this is where we have to take a long view and a responsible study of Scripture and ask ourselves if there is any other way to read the Scripture with integrity than the way conservative Christians read it?
So that raises a host of questions. Number one, is there a clear teaching in Scripture concerning sexual morality, the nature of marriage, sexuality and gender identity? The answer to that is clear. It is not just isolated verses that someone might take out of context. It is specific words and specific texts within the larger context of the entire canon of the 66 books of Scripture. It is something that is deeply rooted in biblical theology, affirmed not only in isolated text, but consistent throughout the entire Bible, both the Old and the New Testaments. One of the most amazing things is indeed how in the New Testament, every single major teaching of the Old Testament law on sexuality, it's grounded again, repeated in the New Testament. Much of it from the voice of Christ Himself.
Furthermore, when you turn to a crucial text, such as Romans Chapter 1, the apostle Paul is clearly not only writing as someone who is well aware of the Old Testament moral law. He is also writing as an argument that is grounded in creation, making very clear that a biblical conception of human sexuality and gender and sexual morality is grounded not only in those specific texts of Scripture, which will be sufficient, but furthermore, within the very structure of creation. Paul makes that abundantly clear. It is consistent throughout the Scriptures. It is repeated over and over again. In most cases, it is not only a matter of a positive command, but also a negative command that corresponds to it.
It is abundantly clear that the sexual morality and the creation ethic that is revealed in Scripture is not just for some people at some times, but was intended by the Creator for all people in all places at all times. So even as in Scripture, it is clearly illegitimate to justify slavery on the basis of skin color in any context at any time. It is also clear that there is an unchanging biblical command and morality and ethic when it comes to sexuality, gender and sexual morality that applies to all people everywhere, without question. But now we have to return to looking at Cohen's article. He says, "The other thing Republicans would be sure to say is that racism is different than mere, mere is put in quotation marks, anti-gay bias." Later he writes, "Homophobia is a staple of the racist right." He goes on seeking to document that.
But what we need to understand here is that, in effect, Richard Cohen, not just in effect, in his actual words, he is arguing that anyone who holds to a view that homosexuality is sinful, that marriage should be defined only as the union of a man and a woman, anyone who holds to an objective reality of gender that is essentially assigned by biological sex, anyone who holds to those views, is nothing more than a bigot. Now, just consider for a moment, what would that mean? What's not acknowledged in Cohen's article is what we now have to ask. Are you speaking of all Orthodox Jews as bigots? Are you speaking of the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church as nothing more than bigotry? Are you rejecting Mormons and Muslims and anyone else who holds to an understanding of the sinfulness of homosexuality? Are you calling all of them bigots? You must, because of the logic of this insidious article.
Cohen goes on to describe the particular bigotry he assigns to Vice President saying, "He has linked same-sex couples to a societal collapse and even once seemed to support conversion therapy," which Cohen says, "is a form of torture. "A Vice President," he says, "who has expressed such intolerance is a dangerous model.” Well, there's more here than we can cover now, but what we must not miss is that Cohen is throwing together everything he can imagine as evidence of bigotry, which comes down, again, to the idea that homosexuality might be sinful. That, according to Cohen, is simple bigotry. It can't be anything else. It must be excised from society. Those who hold to it must be exiled from any kind of public influence, much less from being Vice President of the United States.
Speaking of the Christian school where Karen Pence has announced she will return to teaching art part-time, Cohen writes, "No one is advocating a law requiring Immanuel Christian to practice tolerance, both in its pedagogy and its hiring practices, but the First Amendment that guarantees the school's rights also gives us the right to criticize." Now, note with extreme care the words that follow. "It is simply wrong to foster a belief that homosexuality and same-sex marriage are immoral.” That's the kind of sin that you look for in an article like this. Notice the circle that Richard Cohen has drawn. It is bigotry to say that homosexuality and the entire list he's talking about here, is immoral, it's wrong. But you'll notice he comes back to say it's simply wrong to foster a belief that homosexuality and same-sex marriage are immoral. He's making a moral judgment about any moral judgment that homosexuality might be immoral. It is immoral to say that homosexuality is immoral.
Now, in biblical world view analysis, one of the issues we need to confront and we see it right here, is that everyone, every intelligent person holds to some structure of sexual morality, even those who say that they do not. In this case, Richard Cohen representing the secular left, believes that something is immoral, but in his case, it is believing that anyone's sexual behavior, in the case of at least the behaviors he indicates here, might be immoral. He still uses the word immoral. He begins that sentence with the words, "It's simply wrong." Let's note, that's a moral judgment.
Cohen ends with this kind of equivocation, "I have been torn about Northam - about whether a single yearbook photo negates a lifetime of tolerance." Let me just interject here. The issue with the governor is not simply as if you could say simply, a single yearbook photo, but he says, "I am not torn about Mike and Karen Pence. They are figures of consequence and their bigotry, regardless of their religious justification, has to be confronted.” And evidently, Richard Cohen, columnist for The Washington Post, decided that this was the time and this was the place for Richard Cohen to declare that confrontation.
Now, there's a convoluted background to all of this, as well, when you see this kind of article and you notice the name like Richard Cohen, you should at least ask yourself, what is his background? That is to say, what has he been involved with before? What kind of previous writings might serve as something as a prelude or introduction to this particular piece of our focus today? Now, all you have to do, just looking at the archives of journalism, is to understand that Richard Cohen is no stranger to controversy. And you will also note that a great deal of that controversy has come from people further to his left, who have accused him of writings that are racist. Now, I'm not going to go into kind of detail talking about his background, but simply point to the fact that intelligent Christians must always understand there is a background. Everyone has a background, every article has a background, every argument has a background. You need to look at that background, see where the argument comes from, see where the author comes from.
But as we bring this consideration to a close, two additional huge world view principles we need to observe very carefully. The first is, this inevitable collision between religious liberty and the newly defined sexual liberties. And you'll notice the assumption of Richard Cohen, and we must generalize that to so many others who will be represented in The Washington Post, not only on the staff but amongst his readers. The cultural left in the United States has come to the conclusion that any kind of moral opposition to homosexuality is simply bigotry. The bigots need to get out of the way. If they won't get out of the way, then they must be pushed out of the way. We must be exiled.
But there's an even more important issue, a more important world view principle we need to note here. What would represent the commonality, the basic issue that is at stake here? It's not just sex. It is sex, it's not just sex. It's sexuality, it's not just sexuality. It's the LGBTQ array, it's not just that. It is, if we understand rightly what's at stake here, the very idea that morality is something fixed and objective, eternally true, and furthermore, divinely revealed.
The real antipathy here addressed to the Vice President and Mrs. Pence, and to conservative Christians, dismissed here merely as bigots, it's not just our understanding of sexuality drawn from Scripture. It's the fact that we dare to draw anything from the Bible, because here is the real horrifying offense, it's just so unacceptable, to the secular world. We actually dare to say, "God said." The secular mind simply cannot accept the fact that there could be anyone who dares to say we believe in a morality that God has revealed, that the Creator has revealed, that's thus binding and has ultimate authority. They believe that anyone who holds to a biblical morality is a bigot and anyone who really believes in divine revelation must be an idiot. That's where things stand. That's where we stand.
What does Planned Parenthood mean when it says it wants "reproductive justice"?
Next, we turn to a story right here in Louisville, Kentucky, published in the local newspaper The Courier-Journal, the headline Planned Parenthood Gets Boost. The subhead, Alliance with Pacific Northwest Affiliate Will Provide More Money, Legal Muscle. The writer is Andrew Wolfson, of the Courier-Journal and of the USA Today Network. Wolfson writes, "To better fend off attacks from conservative lawmakers and governors, Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky is joining forces with its far larger and richer counterpart that serves the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii.”
Well, the obvious question to ask with this news is, why? Why would Planned Parenthood of Kentucky and Indiana all of a sudden more or less merge with Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii? Wolfson explains, "The CEO of the combined alliance said have it will more money and legal muscle to fight what were described as “unrelenting attempts to undo constitutionally protected rights.” The Alliance will now have a combined annual budget, we are told, of as much as $90 million, and we are also told that the merger is “part of a conscious effort of affiliates in blue states to help patients and organizations in states that are less hospitable to reproductive freedom.”
We have to look at this understanding that this is supposed to be a news story, a straightforward news story. It is above the fold on the front page of the print edition of what has been a major American newspaper, the Courier-Journal. In the article, however, you'll notice that Wolfson refers to abortion and other services in the terms that Planned Parenthood wants, reproductive freedom. Wolfson does cite some pro-life authorities responding to the story. Margie Montgomery, Executive Director of Right to Life of Kentucky said the move shows that Planned Parenthood is running scared. Kentucky's governor, Matt Bevin, also responded on Twitter after the announcement, calling Planned Parenthood "The largest purveyor of bigoted eugenics ideology." He went on to say that the organization is "Unabashedly about money and politics, not about women's health.”
But later, it's also clear that the Courier-Journal itself is taking a position. Consider this paragraph in a news article, "Planned Parenthood advocates for freedom and individual choice and sexual health and for reproductive justice. It also provides head-to-foot physicals for men and women, breast cancer screenings, all federally approved contraception, and medical and surgical abortion at some sites, but not at either of its clinics in Kentucky.” Not explained there is why the abortions are not performed at those clinics. That is the result of legal action undertaken by the state of Kentucky. But you'll also note that this news article simply uses the language that Planned Parenthood again, "Advocates for freedom of individual choice in sexual health and for reproductive justice.”
Now, that term, reproductive justice, what does it mean? Well, it is one of the new moral mantras of the pro-abortion movement demanding that all persons at all times, that means all women at all times and places, regardless of economic background, must have access to an abortion on demand.
Reproduction, race, and sex-selection abortions: Why abortion isn't the fundamental right sexual revolutionaries say it is
That article really didn't come as much of a surprise in the Courier-Journal, neither did an opinion piece that ran just a few days later by Joan Kofodimos. The headline, "Hypocritical Abortion Bill Would Hurt People of Color in Kentucky." We need to pay really close attention to this article. She writes, "Kentucky legislators are back in Frankfort with another hypocritical and dangerous bill intended to threaten pregnant people's access to reproductive healthcare.”
Now, sometimes a massive moral or world view development can happen in words that go beneath the radar. You'll notice here there's a reference in this introductory sentence about pregnant people. People, we should note, don't get pregnant, women do, female people do. But we're living in an age in which it is considered discriminatory to talk about pregnant people as women. Kofodimos continues writing, "Under the guise of freedom from discrimination and ethical and humane treatment, House Bill 5 seeks to prohibit physicians and other medical professionals from performing abortions if they have knowledge that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion in whole or in part because of the sex, race, color or national origin, diagnosis, or potential diagnosis of Down Syndrome or any other disability.”
Now, just as we saw in the State of the Union Address in the response and the non response to the President's call for an end to late-term abortion, here you have an argument that abortion must be defended as an unconditional right, a fundamental right under every single circumstance, for again, pregnant people, even if the abortion is for the reason of destroying the baby because it is not of the desired sex, it is not of the desired race, it has some kind of disability. You will notice the fanaticism of the pro-abortion movement. It bears its teeth very clearly in this article, and it's not over.
Kofodimos writes, "What's wrong with supporting non discrimination in human rights? Take a closer look, and you will see that this bill will have the exact opposite effect. It would feed bigoted stereotypes and threaten physicians' ability to care for all patients." From a moral perspective that statement is just insidious. She goes on to say, "People of color already face disproportionate barriers to accessing healthcare and race-based abortion bans make the barriers even higher.”
Seriously, one of the issues that is often just unacknowledged in the United States is that Civil Rights leaders, earlier in American history, including at the time of Roe vs. Wade and long after, understood that there is a disproportionate effect of abortion in the African-American community. And thus you had major civil rights leaders who identified abortion as a particular targeted evil towards African-Americans in this nation. This included major figures such as the Reverend Jesse Jackson who had a very clear pro-life position right up until the time he decided to run for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, and he changed his mind.
Later, Kofodimos writes, "Similarly, sex-based abortion bans have been strongly opposed by Asian-American advocacy groups because they feed on racist stereotypes.” Now, let's ask, are there racist stereotypes? Of course there are, but is there a documented pattern of sex-selection abortions in many Asian nations and now documented as continuing in immigration patterns in other nations including the United States? And the answer is yes. The pattern of sex-selection abortions and we should note this means overwhelmingly a preference for boys rather than girls, is such a moral and furthermore a demographic problem that it now affects the populations of many nations in Asia and also in South Asia. This is just a documented fact acknowledged by those governments.
One of the big issues throughout much of history is that when confronted with the knowledge of evil, people said, "We didn't know. We didn't see it. It wasn't seen. It wasn't heard." Well here, there's no excuse. It's not as if we don't have this article. We have this argument. We see it with our own eyes. We hear it with our own ears. We cannot say that we do not know that this kind of evil argument is being made. And with effect.
Final thoughts on the issues we have discussed today, this is where Christians must understand that we have to build a comprehensive argument. We have to base our arguments, not only on Scripture, and the clear texts of Scripture, but in a biblical theology, in an argument that makes very clear a consistent use of Scripture, a consistent obedience to Scripture. It's where we have to understand that it is impossible to be obedient to Scripture if we don't know the Scriptures. It's also very important for Christians to understand that if we do not arm our own churches, our own children, our own students with these arguments, we can hardly blame anyone other than ourselves when they find themselves confronted with other arguments and they have no answer.
This is where Christians must come to understand that if we do not ground our own churches, our own beliefs, our own minds, our own children, hearts and minds together, if we are not grounded in a deep knowledge of Scripture, in a deep Christian commitment to biblical truth, the revelation of Scripture, unchanged and unchanging, then we are ensuring the infidelity and the faithlessness of the church in generations to come. But that might actually be too optimistic a timeframe. Given the challenges we face now, it's not enough to be worried about the church in the future. The question is, will the church stand for biblical truth right now? We're about to find out.