briefing, Albert Mohler

Thursday, April 2, 2020

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

It’s Thursday, April 2nd, 2020. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

The Moral Revolution and The Media: How Activist Organizations Hide Behind Deceptive Research with Press Complicity

It’s incredibly telling when you look at what major media are considering to be legitimate news stories in the middle of the pandemic. One of the things we have to consider is the fact that a lot of the news we see is actually prompted by something that isn’t really news at all. It’s often just a disguised form of public relations that is battling for public attention, usually with some point to make. That’s exactly what is characteristic of so many activist groups. They put out what is billed as research or a major report because they are certain that the mainstream media will give them attention, and this is one of the ways that the moral revolution has been accelerated and made evermore widespread in our society.

An example of that came just in the last several days, consider how many media outlets have given attention to a report out from the Southern Poverty Law Center, as it styles itself, the SPLC. The headline at NBC was this, “Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups on the Rise in US, Report Warns.” Julie Moreau is the reporter in this case and she tells us, “The number of anti-LGBTQ hate groups soared 43% last year rising from 49 groups in 2018 to 70 in 2019 according to a recent report from the Southern Poverty Law Center.” The report stated, “Groups that vilify the LGBTQ community, in fact, represented the fastest growing sector among hate groups in 2019.” NBC said, “The SPLC found the surge in anti-LGBTQ groups occurred amid an overall decrease in hate groups last year, which dropped to 940 from an all-time high of 1,020 in 2018.” They went on to make a political point saying that the surge was “possibly fueled by continued anti-LGBTQ sentiment and policy emanating from government officials largely,” said NBC, “attributing it to the Trump administration.”

Now, let’s just consider what we’re looking at here. For one thing we need to consider as suspect anytime you have a category such as hate group and then you have a specific number. The numbers you’ll recall in the NBC lead indicated that there was an increase of not just a good number but a 43% in anti-LGBTQ hate groups as identified by the group, and they went on to say the total number of hate groups had dropped from exactly 1,020 to exactly 940. Now, there are some massive questions to be raised here just in terms of logic. For one thing, what in the world is defined as a hate group? Who’s doing the counting and what exactly does this count represent? What it actually represents is a massive public relations effort that has been repeatedly successful when undertaken by groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center. But anyone who is observing these stories has to recognize that as soon as you hear the words put together, Southern Poverty Law Center, then you should expect whatever follows to be a political point and not a legitimate news story.

I hold the entire report in my hands right now. The cover reads, “The Year in Hate and Extremism 2019.” And again, the organization is the Southern Poverty Law Center and this is a report from that organization covering the calendar year 2019, but the first thing you have to recognize is that this is a group, an activist group that raises dozens of millions of dollars a year precisely because it identifies these kinds of groups and raises money in order to confront them or at least to identify them as you see here. Now, one of the things you just need to recognize is that here is an activist group and frankly, they do exist all over the political spectrum which can continue to exist and justify its existence and justify any expansion of its existence only by threatening that the problem is always getting worse.

When the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies itself, it uses these words, “The Southern Poverty Law Center based in Montgomery, Alabama, is a nonprofit civil rights organization founded in 1971 and dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society.” Something else we have to recognize is that there is always at least some legitimacy to some of these charges. When you consider the definition of a hate group as an organization that is attempting to single out some Americans for specifically negative treatment, sometimes even violent treatment, the reality is that, again, across the political spectrum, there are such groups, but you’re also looking at the fact that when you define the groups the way the Southern Poverty Law Center defines a hate group, you have very legitimate Christian ministries thrown in with organizations that can only be considered as extremist and dangerous.

To put the matter as straightforwardly as possible, amongst the groups identified as hate groups in this report would be groups as extreme as the KKK and as mainstream evangelical as the Alliance Defending Freedom. The political nature of the report is very clear. I’m reading from page 12 onward. Speaking of what’s identified as the anti-LGBTQ movement expanding, the report says, speaking of president Trump, “Though Trump promised during his campaign to be a real friend to the LGBTQ community, he has fully embraced anti-LGBTQ hate groups and their agenda of dismantling federal protections and resources for LGBTQ people while his Department of Justice has filed amicus briefs with the Supreme Court in support of anti-LGBTQ lawsuits, some of which were brought by the anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom.” You also have references here to the Family Research Council, to President Trump speaking in person, as if that’s supposed to scare us, to the Values Voter Summit.

Then the report says, “Staffers from organizations that vilify the LGBTQ community have been hired by the Trump administration and have influenced and written its policies. Numerous protections for LGBTQ people have been removed through executive action.” It continues through making its charges. Then it states, “According to a report by Lambda Legal, a third of the more than 50 US circuit court judges nominated by president Trump have a “demonstrated history of anti-LGBTQ bias.” The Lambda Legal organization went on to say that the justice system is “now indisputably in a state of crisis.”

Now, one of the things you have to recognize here is that you have an activist group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, citing a report from another activist group on the same side of the culture war as if this is further evidence of the point they are trying to make. But the point they’re trying to make of course, is to vilify anyone who would stand against the moral revolutionaries, anyone who would stand for a classically biblically Christian understanding of marriage, of sex, of gender, and of sexuality. I’ve talked about this organization before. For one thing, you have them singling out organizations like the American Family Association, D. James Kennedy Ministries, the Family Research Council, the Family Research Institute and the Alliance Defending Freedom, but they do not list an organization such as, oh, I don’t know, the Roman Catholic Church, which officially in its teaching teaches on the issues of homosexuality and gender, exactly what the Southern Poverty Law Center represents a hate group.

Now, what does it tell us? It tells us that this group is rather selective in identifying the groups that they find loathsome and identify as hate groups. They’re not going to identify the Roman Catholic Church because that’s politically not feasible. But it’s very telling that they have strategically identified some clearly evangelical ministries. And as I have said and will say again, if you look at many of the organizations listed in this report, they are profoundly loathsome. No one would want to have anything to do with them. Certainly, any biblically minded Christian. But mixed in with those loathsome groups are legitimate evangelical ministries. And what you have here is an effort to try to marginalize the voice of those ministries and to draw a very clear line in the culture. And notice that the moral revolutionaries are doing this again and again. You are either on the side of what the Southern Poverty Law Center calls inclusive democracy or you are in one way or another representing a hate group.

On page 23 of the report, the Southern Poverty Law Center declares, “The organizations on the SPLC list vilify others because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Prejudices,” says the report, “that strike at the heart of our democratic values and fracture society along its most fragile fault lines.” Now, the very next statement is this, “The FBI uses similar criteria in its definition of a hate crime, ‘a criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.’”

Now, again, notice that the Alliance Defending Freedom is nonetheless identified here as a hate group. Consider the word that was just used, the definition of the FBI that was just cited. You recall the FBI talks about a criminal offense against a person or property, but the Alliance Defending Freedom exists to defend the rights of Christians and others in the public square simply on the basis of the US Constitution. The Alliance Defending Freedom has defended, for example, ministers and Christian leaders, but also florists and cake bakers and photographers and others who are being singled out for discrimination and for the violation of religious liberty in the name of the sexual revolution.

My point here is simple. The mixing of these categories together is not accidental. It is an effort to gain media attention in order to identify, first of all, a threat that this group must claim in order to justify its fundraising, but also, and this is far more important to me, pushing an agenda that the media then reports as news when it’s basically just another report in the form of public relations activism coming from the organization.

It is interesting to note that the Southern Poverty Law Center as it is known, was established in 1971 and the words actually meant something then, Southern Poverty Law Center. The organization was made up of attorneys who at least said they were acting on behalf of the poor in the South who could not afford legal representation. But back in 1986, the organization changed its mission or at least broadened it in order to combat what it identified as “right wing extremism.”

In an article by David Graham published in the Atlantic in 2018, Graham noted that the group mixes its research and activist strains and it’s done so making a ton of money. Its endowment in its report in 2018 was $471 million. Remember, this is supposedly the Southern Poverty Law Center. It has an endowment, endowed funds of almost half a billion dollars. According to the same report, it spends 49% of its annual budget on programs. Now, you could simply flip the figure. That means it spends 51% on something else. And when you look at these organizations, a great deal of that something else includes massive salaries and expenses for fundraising.

Just last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center attracted unwanted attention when it fired its founder, attorney Morris Dees. Bob Moser, who had worked at the organization, wrote a lengthy article published at the New Yorker. Remember the New Yorker is a rather liberal magazine. That’s an understatement, representing the thinking of the intellectual classes, especially in New York. The article appeared there with the headline, “The Reckoning of Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

And the fact that Bob Moser wrote the article having been involved in the organization is quite important. Moser writes of the incongruity between the organization’s name and it stated mission and what actually takes place mentioning that he had been greeted by a co-worker at the Southern Poverty Law Center with the words, “Well, honey, welcome to the poverty palace.” The point made by Bob Moser in the article in the New Yorker is that over time, the Southern Poverty Law Center had been transformed from a legal activist group to a social and political activist group with hundreds of millions of dollars on the line, and the mission had been transformed, at least in one sense, into the mission of raising as much money from Northern liberals as possible.

Speaking of Morris Dees, the founder of the organization, Moser wrote, “The great Southern journalist, John Egerton, writing for The Progressive, had painted a damning portrait of Dees, the center’s longtime mastermind as a “super salesman and master fundraiser who according to Moser, viewed civil rights work mainly as a marketing tool for bilking gullible Northern liberals.” Morris Dees actually said to journalist John Egerton, and remember this is decades ago, “We just run our business like a business. Whether you’re selling cakes or causes, it’s all the same.” Keep that in mind as you consider this headline news story, keep that in mind as you understand how moral change takes place in our society, keep that in mind when you look at various news reports and you begin to detect they are basically public relations releases for reports that may not actually report anything meaningful at all.

A spokesman for the Alliance Defending Freedom responded to the report by rightly pointing out the incongruity of declaring the moral purpose behind this organization and releasing this report to media fanfare in the midst of a genuine pandemic.

Part II

Bring Us the Hospital, Leave Your Christianity at Home: New York Politicians Condemn Samaritan’s Purse Field Hospital for Those Battling COVID-19

But next, we turn to another very related news story. Interestingly, this one also comes from NBC News. It’s by Tim Fitzsimons. The headline: “Group Behind Central Park’s COVID-19 Field Hospital Run by Anti-Gay Evangelist.” Yes, every single one of those words is in the headline. “Group Behind Central Park’s COVID-19 Field Hospital Run by Anti-Gay Evangelist.” Well, what in the world is this about? Well, what it’s about is Samaritan’s Purse, but Fitzsimons reports, “Within the open greenery of Central Park, a 68 bed field hospital has been erected to care for patients battling COVID-19. The outdoor facility,” says NBC, “which we staffed by 60 to 70 medical professionals is being led by Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian humanitarian organization run by Franklin Graham, son of the Reverend Billy Graham.”

Well, so good so far. This would appear to be good news. You would think that the city of New York and the residents of New York and the media in New York would consider it a very good thing, to say the very least, that an organization like Samaritan’s Purse is actually now building a 68 bed field hospital in New York, which is the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. But the very next statement in the NBC News report is this, “While the organization has been applauded for delivering an overflow hospital for Mount Sinai’s overcrowded Manhattan facilities in a matter of days, it has raised eyebrows because of a public request for Christian volunteers and a policy that volunteers adhere to its 11-point Statement of Faith.” The article continues, “10 of the 11 items pertain broadly to doctrinal issues including one that human life is sacred from conception to its natural end, but only one singles out a class of people.”

Here’s the offending statement: “We believe God’s plan for human sexuality is to be expressed only within the context of marriage, that God created man and woman as unique biological persons made to complete each other.” Statement nine of the statement of faith reads, “God instituted monogamous marriage between male and female as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female.” Now, let’s just stipulate very quickly, that is just historic Christian teaching. Here is a Christian organization—it’s identified as an evangelical Christian humanitarian organization that requires its volunteers, keep that in mind, its volunteers. They are volunteering themselves. They are endangering themselves for the health and welfare of others in New York City. They are doctors and nurses and other volunteers for a Christian humanitarian evangelical organization, and thus there are suspicions that they just might hold to evangelical convictions.

NBC then continued, “On Monday, New York state Senator, Brad Hoylman, called upon Graham “to publicly assure LGBTQ New Yorkers that they will receive the same treatment as anyone else at the Central Park field hospital.” Now, that appears to be a request, but it is actually a moral accusation. Let’s just recognize it for what it is. Here you have a New York state Senator who identifies as openly gay, insinuating that Samaritan’s Purse would discriminate amongst patients based upon LGBTQ identity. That’s just illegitimate.

And furthermore, by citing the doctrinal convictions of Samaritan’s Purse, it is insinuating that it is wrong for Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian humanitarian organization, to operate on the basis of evangelical Christian conviction. It’s just very sad. It’s very sobering to see New York City officials respond as did the Mayor of New York City. In his news conference on Tuesday when he was asked about Samaritan’s Purse, “which is opening the Central Park facility,” he was asked, “Do you have any personal concerns about their organization? Did you choose not to attend?” That meant the opening of the field hospital because of that?

Mayor Bill de Blasio, well identified as a very liberal Democrat said, “Well, when I heard originally, Andrew,” speaking to the reporter, “that there was an organization that was going to help Mount Sinai address COVID-19, I thought, that’s fantastic. I don’t have the fact that it was moving so quickly was something I found positive. “Then,” said the mayor, “when I heard more about the organization, and particularly some of the things I read from Graham, meaning Franklin Graham, the founder and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, it was very troubling to me,” said the mayor. “And I said immediately to my team that we had to find out exactly what was happening. Was there going to be an approach that was truly consistent with the values and the laws in New York City that everyone would be served and served equally?”

The mayor went on to say, “We’ve received those assurances from the organization.” He then went on to speak of his conversation with the CEO of the larger hospital system who assured the mayor that they would continue to cooperate with Samaritan’s Purse only and so far as Samaritan’s Purse was good to the agreement. But just step back and wonder what’s going on here. Here you have an evangelical Christian ministry putting lives on the line and investing what will be millions of dollars to try to help the hospital system in New York City in the middle of a pandemic, but you’ll notice that LGBTQ activists are upset even that the city had to turn to an evangelical Christian organization. Senator Hoylman made the statement graphically.

As the New York Daily News reported, Senator Hoylman said that Franklin Graham “better put his hateful rhetoric in the past and focus on the task at hand.” So instead of saying thank you for this ministry extending millions of dollars and enormous risk to take on this responsibility, the state senator basically threatened the organization and its founder. He went on to say, “Sadly, beggars can’t be choosers. New York needs every ventilator we can get, but homophobic pastor Franklin Graham and his field hospital operation in Central Park must guarantee all LGBTQ patients with COVID-19 are treated with dignity and respect.” As if Samaritan’s Purse would do anything other than that.

Senator Hoylman also told NBC News that it is “a shame that the federal government has left us in the position of having to accept charity from such bigots.” This tells us a great deal of where we stand these days, and the point here is not special pleading on behalf of evangelical Christians. It’s not just bemoaning the situation in the United States, it is understanding that what Christians are called to do in the face of this kind of accusation is do what we would be doing anyway. Help where we would be helping, assist where we would be assisting, love where we would be loving, serve where we would be serving.

One thing is profoundly clear. We can’t count on a secular society being grateful, but our concern is not the world’s gratitude, but rather the fact that we’re faithful to the commands of Christ. Just consider the fact, however, that this tells us something of a seismic change in the United States. Just consider the names of most of the hospitals that are in your community. There are likely to be St. this or St. that established by Catholic orders or Catholic diocese. They’re likely to be something like a Lutheran Hospital here in Louisville. The Methodist Evangelical Hospital was here for years. Baptist hospitals, Baptist East, Baptist this, Baptist that.

You can go down the list hospital by hospital, school by school, organization by organization, orphanage by orphanage, children’s home after children’s home and you’re going to find that the vast majority of them were established by religious organizations for explicitly religious purposes. And in the United States, that means overwhelmingly Protestant Christianity and then the Roman Catholic Church and then also others—just refer to the fact that the hospital system that Samaritan’s Purse is helping out is identified as the Mount Sinai Hospital, a hospital established by the Jewish community in New York City.

Now, to be honest, as you look across the landscape of America, there’s not much Baptist left in most Baptist hospitals, similarly Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, you go down the list. The same is profoundly true of most institutions or hospitals that had been established by historic Judaism as well. But the point is this, a secular society now demands comprehensive secularization.

Part III

When the World Hates You, Serve Anyway: Why Christians Meet Needs, Even When Facing Opposition

In its own way, New York City wants the hospital, but it doesn’t want the Christian ministry behind it. It desperately needs this field hospital, but it doesn’t want the hospital being brought by Samaritan’s Purse. But just consider this for a moment. It really doesn’t have any choice. It turns out that in many cases, the only organizations able to help are those Christian organizations that are ready to help precisely because of an extension of their Christian mission. They want Christian doctors and nurses to come to New York City, but they only want the doctor and nurse part not the Christian part. But no one seems to be asking the question, why are they going? Because the answer to that question is they’re going precisely because they are Christians.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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