Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Briefing

March 26, 2019

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

It’s Tuesday, March 26, 2019. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Religious liberty is challenged again as the moral revolution targets religious schools

It is now set up to be one of the epic confrontations of our time, right at that crucial intersection where religious liberty and the moral revolution collide. The headlines have come in recent days from cities like Louisville, Kentucky, Indianapolis, Indiana, and New Ulm, Minnesota. The issue is the right of religious schools to hire and to fire personnel on the basis of their religious teachings, teachings especially on issues of gender, human sexuality, and the definition of marriage, limiting marriage to the union of a man and a woman, and limiting legitimate sexual expression to that union, the marriage of a man and a woman.

Just in Sunday’s edition of the Louisville Courier Journal here in Kentucky, the Your Turn column was written by Allison King. She began the article writing “I want to share with you my story about how the Archdiocese of Louisville’s LGBTQ discrimination affected me personally.” She continues, “Last May, my 11-year school counseling career with the Archdiocese of Louisville was forcibly ended because I admitted to being married to my same-sex partner of 15 years. I tried to walk away gracefully,” she writes, “but 10 months later, the hurt caused by the assault on my character and integrity is still fresh. I’m a product of Catholic high school,” she writes, “and my positive experience as a student was one reason I sought employment in Catholic schools. I wanted to work with kids and be a role model for them as my teachers were for me.”

Well, apparently, just before the end of the last academic year, at least some parents had complained to the school’s administration, operated by the Archdiocese of Louisville of the Roman Catholic Church, that at least this school counselor was living in public contradiction to the official teachings and moral expectations of the Catholic Church. The Catholic authorities, the school authorities then responded by trying to arrange what’s even described in this article as a graceful exit. But now you have the counselor whose job was terminated at the Catholic school complaining that the Catholic school, operating on the basis of Catholic conviction, was wrongly discriminatory against her. And she also makes the argument that the school was basically invading her private life with public consequences.

Allison King continues her account, “Four days before the end of the school year, I was summoned to a last-minute meeting with the principal and parish priest at Holy Spirit School. The priest began by saying he had heard nothing but good things about me. Then the principal read the following prepared statement: It has been reported that you have introduced someone as your wife to some students. We are not here to determine what was said or to judge a lifestyle, but we need to know if it is true that you are married outside of the church and contrary to church teachings. According to the Archdiocesan Catholic Witness Policy, such an action is not consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Allison King then wrote, “I felt ambushed and shamed.” The former counselor goes on to to tell more about the story, but her basic point is to complain that the Archdiocese of Louisville and the administration of this Catholic school was wrong to terminate her for being in a marriage that was contrary to Catholic teachings, even as it is acknowledged that the Catholic Witness Policy of the Archdiocese makes clear that no Catholic employee, certainly an employee of the school in this situation, can be in a state of direct contradiction with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

It’s also interesting that this particular counselor, a former counselor now, says that in this confrontation she felt ambushed and shamed. Well, I guess you could understand how she might say she was ambushed in this particular conversation at that moment in space and time and history, but it’s actually impossible and illogical for her to say that she is ambushed by a policy that is a well-stated policy consistent with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and with normal expectations about what that would mean for those who are the teachers and the counselors and the administrators of such a school.

Now, all of these stories and these recent headlines have to do explicitly with Catholic schools, but evangelical Christians have to understand that the logic of what is going on here is immediately applicable to evangelical Christian schools as well. This is where we are now headed as a society. We’re headed into this open confrontation. This explains a half page article in the print edition of Sunday’s edition of the Louisville Courier Journal. It explains a very large news story on the very same issue published in yesterday’s edition of the same newspaper. It explains another half page in the print edition article that appeared in Sunday’s edition of the New York Times. The beat goes on. This is a concerted effort to bring cultural pressure against any school, any institution that will stand against the moral revolution, that will say that it is going to stand on the basis of religious conviction rather than to join the moral revolution and its logic and its worldview.

The effort here is clear, as is its aim. It is to coerce religious schools to abandon their religious teachings because the new morality simply demands it, public acceptance will demand it. And in these articles, there is also the argument that the law should demand it, that governments should demand, that courts should decree that religious schools cannot operate on the basis of religious conviction.

All of this was foretold in the oral arguments for the Obergefell decision that legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, that by a Supreme Court decision that we could see coming. In the oral arguments for that case, Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts both asked the solicitor general of the United States then. The solicitor general was Donald Verrilli, serving the administration of President Barack Obama. Both the Chief Justice and Justice Alito for example asked a hypothetical question of the solicitor general, “What if a Christian university were to have married student housing, could the school discriminate recognizing married students eligible for housing as only men married to women, women married to men? Could they discriminate against same-sex couples?” The solicitor general now infamously but also very honestly said, “It will be an issue.”

Indeed, it is an issue, not just in housing and in hiring, but in admissions for these schools. What is being demanded by the moral revolutionaries is that religious schools, and let’s just legally define the issue as religious schools, must abandon their religious convictions if those convictions are contrary to the new morality of the sexual revolutionaries. And let’s be very clear, we are primarily here talking about the LGBTQ revolution. But as the story from Sunday’s edition of the New York Times points out, there are heterosexual issues invoked here as well. The big issue is the moral revolution. The big demand is religious schools must abandon religious conviction. And if religious schools will not willingly abandon religious conviction, then the secular authorities should coerce that they must do so, must enforce the new morality even at the violation of religious liberty.

Going back to Sunday’s article here in the Louisville newspaper, the writer, Allison King, went on to say, “Once I confirmed that I was married, they told me I could either resign or be terminated because I was in violation of the Archdiocese’s Christian Witness Policy, which everyone working for the Archdiocese,” and she means its agencies, parishes and schools, “must sign.”

“Interestingly,” she wrote, “it came into existence in 2016, a year after same-sex marriage became legal. Since it clarifies that not living according to Catholic teachings can be cause for termination,” she writes, “it effectively makes the forfeiture of the federal right to marry a condition of employment for LGBTQ staff.”

Now, she’s making an accusation there, and of course the accusation is true. If a Catholic school is going to be faithful to Catholic doctrine, it must insist that employees abide by that doctrine. And yes, that does mean that the Catholic Church, and here we could simply insert so many other religious bodies, certainly Biblically-minded Christians, do not recognize same-sex marriage and cannot recognize same-sex marriage.

The interesting thing we need to note here is that the author of this article clearly expects the readers of the article to sympathize with her position and to join the call for the coercion of the Roman Catholic Church. And once again, it won’t end with the Roman Catholic Church.

It’s also interesting to see how she continues, she said, “I agonized over signing it,” that means that employment agreement, “in 2016 and 2017,” but ultimately, she says she did for several reasons. “First, as an employee, especially a non-Catholic, I never dreamed that my employer would extend its reach that far into my private life. Second, my qualifications as a counselor were the same then as before I married in 2016, and during the first nine years I worked for the archdiocese.” Now, once again we simply have to ask the question, how could there be any surprise here?

But there’s another very interesting argument that appears in several of these articles, the articles that marital state is a private matter beyond the interrogation of an employer. But here’s where Christians have to remind ourselves, marriage has never been merely a private matter. It is by its very nature a public institution. It is the nature of marriage as a public institution that led those driving the LGBTQ revolution to seek and to demand the legalization of same-sex marriage. If it wasn’t a public institution, then it wouldn’t matter what the law says. Marriage has never been merely private. It has always been public. And thus, you have a contradiction here. She says that she didn’t believe that the Archdiocese would invade that far into her private life, but being married means it’s no longer just private.

It’s also interesting to see in several of these articles that those who are complaining about these policies say that they are inconsistent because the religious employer is making an issue of marriage while not invading the private lives of people when it comes to their understandings or practices related to birth control or other kinds of issues. That’s an issue of course that is rather unique to the Roman Catholic Church as a matter of church law.

Allison King continued, “To enforce the Christian Witness Policy, administrators would have to delve into peoples’ personal lives. It would force them onto morally uncomfortable and ethically shaky ground.” Now, if you’re looking for evidence, absolute substance of what a moral revolution looks like, look no further, it’s right there in that sentence. It is the fact that the language of ethically shaky ground is now put on a religious school that would operate on the basis of religious conviction. It is taken off of the sexual morality that had been the proper moral concern of society for millennia, and is instead shifted to the religious conviction. That’s what a moral revolution looks like. It is not just a shift in morality, such shifts or transitions happen all the time over time, it is rather a complete reversal. It is now the moral judgment about homosexuality or same-sex marriage or anything related that is considered ethically suspicious, if not just de facto wrong. And it is all of those forms of sexual expression, at least the list that is publicly acceptable so far, that is now supposed to be beyond ethical scrutiny. That is a complete reversal.

The article that appeared yesterday in the Courier Journal, just one day after that opinion piece, went back over much of the same material, but Allison King had been involved in a public demonstration against the Archdiocese of Louisville over the weekend seeking the kind of public pressure to bring about a change in the policy. Speaking about that, she said, “I knew I had an opportunity to speak up about an injustice. It took me a while to get over the anxiety.” Again, you see the evidence of a moral revolution, a moral revolution in which now the Catholic church holding to Catholic teachings is described straightforwardly as unjust.

The story from Indianapolis is hauntingly similar. Vic Ryckaert, reporting for the Indianapolis Star, tells us, “Roncalli High has been wracked by controversy, after the Catholic school in Indianapolis placed a longtime guidance counselor on administrative leave after learning she was in a same-sex marriage.” The next sentence, “A second Roncalli High School guidance counselor has been told she will lose her job because she is in a same-sex marriage.”

It’s at least interesting to note that here you have several news articles having to do with two different cities and two different sets of Catholic schools in which at least three individuals have lost their jobs in those schools, all three of them interestingly as school counselors, because of their conflict with the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Archdiocese there in Indianapolis released a statement saying that at least one of these counselors had lost her job because she’s in a civil union that is “contrary to a valid marriage as seen through the eyes of the Catholic Church.”

The issue that makes the Indianapolis case so interesting, and perhaps in this case alarming, is the fact that we are told that a discrimination charge has been filed against the Catholic school system before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That’s clearly a claim that the school is acting in violation of civil rights. Once again we see that collision, we see the argument being made, we see the call for coercion, in this case an appeal to a federal agency with coercive power.

It’s also really interesting to see one of the statements made by this attorney, “We are shocked and saddened that Roncalli,” that’s the high school, “and the Archdiocese have targeted this exemplary guidance counselor for discriminatory and retaliatory enforcement of Church doctrine.” Look at those words, “discriminatory and retaliatory enforcement of Church doctrine.” Now, we have to face the facts here. Any church, any religious body that cannot discriminate, or even in this case retaliate, on the basis of its own religious doctrine is not free to be a religious institution. It’s not free to be a religious school.

But we also find out just how much public pressure is behind this when we discover that in many of these cases it is the parents of students in these Catholic schools who are demanding that these popular figures be returned because they’re quite willing to join the moral revolution, at least in these cases. They’re bringing pressure against the Archdiocese and against the Catholic schools.

It’s also very telling that Ellen DeGeneres, very well-known as an activist for LGBTQ causes, had also had at least one of these former counselors on her very well-known television talk show.

Part II

Can a religious school actually operate by its own religious convictions? Increasingly, our society is shouting “No."

The interesting twist in the article that appeared in Sunday’s edition of The New York Times, an article datelined from New Ulm, Minnesota, adds another interesting twist. Tammy La Gorce is the author of the article, which is in the Vows column, that is in a marriage column, of the New York Times Sunday edition, the headline this, “Spurning a Deadline to Wed, Then Finally Tying the Knot.”

We are told in the article, “When Melissa Marti saw the email that caused her to sit in her driveway sobbing into her steering wheel, she knew she was going marry Seth Visser. She just didn’t know when.” She went on to say, “We had been talking about it for years, we had even started making plans.”

“But,” says the article, “meeting a deadline to present a marriage certificate to the Roman Catholic school where she worked as a dance coach was not something she was willing to do. And so, in June 2018, a few weeks after she got the email that made her sob, she quit.” The article goes on to tell us that this individual had been coaching the Sonics dance team at Cathedral High School for nearly 20 years when officials of the Catholic schools there in New Ulm wrote to her to say that her contract renewal was being delayed because of her living arrangements, which were under investigation. Cohabitating, the email stipulated, was contrary to Roman Catholic teachings about marriage, “being a moral prerequisite to living together.” Now imagine that. We are supposed to be shocked, and not only shocked, but offended, when this article tells us of the religious school that was actually operating on the basis of its religious convictions. We’re supposed to be outraged.

There’s also a basic incoherence to so many of these arguments. Just take this paragraph, “Ms. Marti is not Roman Catholic, though she often attended church with her flock of dancers at Cathedral High. ‘I always felt supportive of the Catholic Church,’ she said. ‘I never went against what they taught.'” Well, she obviously did. Her co-habitation is indeed going contrary to what the Church teaches. But here you’ll notice this strange kind of two story universe that so many people live in, a world in which doctrine is in one story, private life is in another story, and never the two are to meet. Francis Schaeffer warned about this years ago with his two story theory of truth, in which truth is up at one level and meaning is in another level.

And as we’re thinking about how the cultural pressure works, of course we are talking about a half page, more than that, in the print edition of Sunday’s New York Times. We’re also talking about the fact the story tells us that the assistant dance coach quit in solidary with the head coach. We’re told that many parents are outraged. But we’re also told that the former head coach made this statement, “People still stop me to say they’re blown away by what happened, that this could happen in 2018.” In other words, you might’ve expected that religious bodies would live by religious conviction, and that religious schools would operate by religious morality decades ago, centuries ago, in the Dark Ages, back in medieval times, but certainly not in the modern age, unquestionably not in the year 2018 or now in 2019. This is supposed to be something that our civilization has outgrown.

I’ve given this much time to these three different illustrations because each one of them in its own way brings a different dimension to what’s taking place, giving us a fuller picture of what we’re going to face as Christians in a very clearly increasingly post-Christian world. We’re going to be facing arguments, we’re going to be facing neighbors, we’re going to be facing governments that increasingly tell us, “You can’t possibly really intend to operate your religious school by religious conviction, not in 2019. What were you thinking?”

Part III

Despite the defeat of the Islamic State, the greatest threats of the Caliphate—its theology and ideology—remain

But next, let’s shift from the United States to our involvement in the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Over the weekend, the Trump administration announced a total victory over the Caliphate, announced by the Islamic State, announcing that the final two villages that had been in control of ISIS had been taken, and that the Caliphate is not no more.

There are so many things to look at here. For one thing, we have seen repeated premature declarations of victory over different forms of terrorism, including the Islamic State. But we are looking at something very different than we have seen at least in recent centuries. We are looking at the fact that for instance if you shift from Al-Qaeda, that was the group responsible for the 9/11, 2001 attacks, if you shift from Al-Qaeda to the Islamic State, the difference is that the Islamic State operated as a state. It operated as a state with territory, increasing territory, massive territory at one point, especially territory in much of what is now Iraq and Syria. And it declared itself to be a Caliphate. It declared itself to be a successor to the religious vision of Mohammed and to a Caliphate, which is a defined state which is under the rule of the Koran.

And here we’re looking at the fact that the historic nature of Islam defines the world as separated into two different spheres, the world of Islam, which means the areas under Islamic rule, defined by the Koran and the rule of the Koran, and the rest of the world is the world of war, where Muslims are to be in a struggle to bring that part of the world, eventually all the world, under the Islamic control and under the rule of the Koran, Sharia law.

Even as Islam has gone through many centuries, especially since the 7th century, there have been a succession of declared and often territorial Caliphates. The last major Caliphate was the Ottoman Empire that declared itself to be the inheritor of the mantle of Islam that was a Caliphate between the years of 1517 and 1924. 1517 very interesting of course because it was also the year that Martin Luther famously nailed those theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg. And 1924 is not an accident either. The Ottoman Empire, long described as “the sick man of Europe,” finally collapsed in the aftermath of the First World War.

The Islamic State claimed to be the inheritor of this Islamic mantle, and they did establish what they claimed to be a Caliphate. They did control a tremendous amount of territory. And what took place within that territory under their rule was ruthless. Just think of all those videos of beheadings and other atrocities. The Islamic State ruled by terror. But as a state, it did develop some of the competencies of a state, and it took a concerted amount of military energy to destroy the state.

It is true, as the Trump administration announced on Saturday, that the final villages have fallen, and that at this point, not one square inch of any territory is being held under the Caliphate of the Islamic State. That we must recognize is a significant achievement.

But at the very same time, we have to understand that the greatest threat to the Islamic State was never its territorial claim. It is its idea. And here is where so many Westerners, especially increasingly secularized Westerners, fail to understand the power of the illogical ideas. They operate in such a secular space, they have such secular minds, they can’t understand that there are millions of people around the world who are driven by a primarily essentially theological worldview. And that is certainly true of the Islamic State.

The fall of the Islamic State has also led to a quandary, a tremendous challenge, for Western nations, even in this military victory. The question is what to do with the thousands and thousands of people who had been cooperating with and sometimes fighting for the Islamic State. All this goes with the recognition that even as the Caliphate has disappeared, the threat of terrorism and the battle will go on.

One of the former Islamic State fighters made a statement to The New York Times, “Maybe the group will be defeated in Syria, but not elsewhere. Sure, in Syria they are down to nothing, but in the deserts of Anbar, they live on. And in Asia and in Africa, they are still fighting.” The end of the Caliphate of the Islamic State is unquestionably good news, but it doesn’t mean the end of the Islamic State as an ideology, as a movement, and as a theology. Only the most secularized and utopian of Westerners could convince themselves of that.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at AlbertMohler.com. You could 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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