briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

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

It’s Tuesday, May 12, 2020. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

“Helping in Jesus’ Name” Now Intolerable in New York City: An Evangelical Ministry Is Guilty of Being . . . Evangelical

In the midst of this pandemic, there are few parables more powerful than the parable of Samaritan’s Purse in Manhattan. As you know, the evangelical Christian ministry headed by Franklin Graham had set up an emergency field hospital in cooperation with New York’s vast Mount Sinai Medical Center. Eventually, it set up another emergency field hospital near Central Park and it was announced that it was going to also create an emergency field hospital within New York’s Episcopalian Cathedral Church of St. John, the Divine. That didn’t happen. It was a huge story, we talked about it on The Briefing. It didn’t happen largely because of the evangelical Christian convictions of Samaritan’s Purse, particularly when those convictions ran into conflict with the LGBTQ revolution.

If anything, the controversy actually picked up steam in recent days with a statement most importantly made by speaker Cory Johnson of the New York City Council. The council speaker said, “This group,” meaning Samaritan’s Purse, “which is led by the notoriously bigoted hate spewing, Franklin Graham, came at a time when our city couldn’t in good conscience turn away any offer of help. That time has passed,” he said last Friday. “Their continued presence here is an affront to our values of inclusion and is painful for all New Yorkers who care deeply about the LGBTQ community.”

Let’s just step back and look at what we are witnessing here. As I said, it’s a parable, a very powerful parable. Samaritan’s Purse, of course, was founded some years ago by Franklin Graham, the son of the late evangelist, Billy Graham, and it has been about doing good works ever since. It has offered assistance in times of poverty, in times of famine, natural disaster, and yes, in the midst of a pandemic.

It has a major program offering medical assistance and what it brought to New York was the ability to create an emergency field hospital in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, to do so quickly, and to do so at its own expense—expenses estimated to have been at least 1.8 million dollars, likely a good bit more.

There was controversy almost from the beginning. As soon as Samaritan’s Purse began to set up the hospital, those in the LGBTQ movement began, along with other political leaders, to complain about the very fact that Samaritan’s Purse was involved. Then, of course, the authorities decided to look more closely and what did they find? They found Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian ministry, guilty of being an evangelical Christian ministry, guilty in a couple of ways.

In the first, Samaritan’s Purse has never hidden from the fact that the entire organization was established, first and foremost, for the purposes of Christian evangelism, bearing witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Secondly, and most notoriously, in the eyes of the moral revolutionaries, Samaritan’s Purse required certain commitments of the volunteers and the medical personnel who worked within the emergency field hospital. Remember, for the most part, they brought the volunteers, they brought the hospital, they also brought the medical personnel.

The requirement was that volunteers in the Christian ministry identify as Christians, identify with historic Christian doctrine, and also identify with the definition of marriage as revealed in Scripture as the union of a man and a woman, and that meant biologically male, man, and biologically female, woman. Now, one of the remarkable things, of course, is the fact that in no previous generation would any Christian ministry have had to require any such statement but, of course, this is biblical Christianity and Samaritan’s Purse is committed to biblical Christianity.

That is now beyond the pale of the acceptable. To the political literati in New York City, it is beyond the tolerable of the LGBTQ community there. I go back to that statement made by the speaker of the city council. “This group, which is led by the notoriously bigoted, hate spewing, Franklin Graham, came at a time when our city couldn’t in good conscience turn away any offer of help.”

Now, let’s just pause for a moment. Is the speaker saying that had it been any other context they would have turned away the kind of free and voluntary assistance coming from Samaritan’s Purse? The answer implicit in this is yes. But speaking of the time when New York couldn’t, in good conscience, turn away any offer of help the speaker said that time has passed and went on to say, again, just to remember these words, “Their continued presence here is an affront to our values of inclusion and is painful for all New Yorkers who care deeply about the LGBTQ community.”

Now, of all things, just notice what’s not here. What’s not here is any statement of thanks for an evangelical Christian ministry that not only expended funds but brought an army of volunteers and medical personnel who put themselves at risk on behalf of efforts to try to save New Yorkers in the midst of the pandemic.

A report by Yonat Shimron at Religion News Service tells us that by the time the speaker of the New York City Council made that statement the field hospital’s medical staff had treated 191 patients. That meant 191 patients who were not out on the street, and 191 patients who were not left in their homes, and 191 patients who were not forced into the already overrun New York City hospitals. That’s the very reason why Mount Sinai Medical Center turned to Samaritan’s Purse to erect an emergency field hospital.

Now remember, just a few weeks ago we discussed the fact that there was to be another of these emergency field hospitals erected in the naive, that is, in the central space of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, but that didn’t happen because the LGBTQ community had complained. It also did not happen because the extremely liberal clergy of the Episcopal Church in New York City were embarrassed by the idea that Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian ministry, would operate under its own convictions in the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. We saw the fact that back when those headlines came, Episcopal officials basically said that Franklin Graham and the Episcopal Church in New York represent two very different understandings of Christianity. Well, that’s certainly the case.

Liam Stack and Sheri Fink reporting for the New York Times yesterday wrote this: “The last patients have been discharged from the Central Park Field Hospital run by Samaritan’s Purse, the evangelical organization led by the Reverend Franklin Graham. It’s white tents will soon be dismantled and sent to new makeshift coronavirus wards as far away as Ecuador and Alaska.”

Now note again, Samaritan’s Purse has now been found guilty of doing what it was established to do, helping people in the name of Christ, as far away as Ecuador and Alaska. Of course, Samaritan’s Purse has been, and is now, eagerly involved in these kinds of efforts all over the world. The reporters for The Time summarize the issue this way: “The presence of Samaritan’s Purse in one of the country’s most liberal cities kindled a culture war in New York’s coronavirus response, drawing criticism from elected officials, religious leaders, and LGBT groups unnerved by Mr. Graham’s past statements on Islam and gay issues, as well as by a requirement that the organization’s employees be Christians who oppose same sex marriage.”

Now, again, they were caught guilty of being an evangelical Christian ministry. Notice the next paragraph, it’s absolutely crucial. “Critics have included members of the Episcopal clergy whose objections to the group’s position on gay issues and non-Christian faiths helped scrap a proposed field hospital inside the cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Later in the article we read this: “Much of the criticism of Samaritan’s Purse stems from the group’s requirement that employees and volunteers sign a statement of faith affirming their belief in Jesus Christ and their view that ‘marriage is exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female.’” Now, according to the New York Times, Franklin Graham defended that requirement on Thursday of last week saying it was important to ensure that, “Our work and our presence is united.” Now, let me stop for a moment.

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College are confessional institutions. What does that mean? It means that we hire only those as members of the faculty who are not only willing to teach within our confession of faith but who eagerly want to teach. They believe exactly what is revealed and required in our confessions of faith.

The same principle ought to be true of any legitimate Christian ministry. If you do not state clearly what your beliefs are and make those obligatory throughout the institution, then you can basically just watch your institution collapse to the left. It has happened over and over and over, it’s happening right now. Without that kind of confessional or convictional accountability, then a Christian organization begins to stand for basically any definition of Christianity, which eventually means no definition of Christianity.

Just looking denomination by denomination, it’s hard to find a better parable, that is to say a more apt parable for that than the Episcopal Church in the United States. Listen to this paragraph coming from the Episcopal Bishop in the Diocese of New York. He said that the attitude of Samaritan’s Purse was a key reason the plan to set up a field hospital inside the Cathedral of St. John the Divine had been shelved last month.

Notice the New York Times saying this: “The Bishop said that Mr. Graham espouses ‘an exclusionary view and a very narrow view of what constitutes being a Christian.’” Now, one could never accuse the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York of holding to a narrow view of what constitutes being a Christian. You actually would be hard pressed to come up with any actual definition that the Diocese of New York would adopt about what it means to be a Christian other than something that is so generic that it would include non-Christians.

That point was made emphatically clear by the New York Times. The New York Times gets the theological point even if the liberal religious leaders in the city do not. The New York Times wrote, “The statement of faith would have made it impossible for non-Christians to work in the cathedral,” he said. Now that’s such an important sentence we can’t possibly just race past it because, after all, we’re told here that the Christian statement of faith would have made it impossible for non-Christians to work in the cathedral. Well, who would have thought that people who would be working in a supposedly Christian cathedral would be Christian? Again, this was a work entirely undertaken by a Christian ministry.

Furthermore, according to the Diocese, the cooperation with Samaritan’s Purse “would also have required Episcopalians to,” and in the exact words of the statement, “repudiate all the good work that’s been done in the Diocese of New York around the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people.” Now, over the course of the last several years, we’ve been looking very closely at the inevitable collision between the LGBTQ revolution and religious liberty but notice what we’re seeing here, this isn’t precisely a religious liberty issue. Here we see an inevitable collision between the LGBTQ revolution and medical rescue. No one has been able to put any substance to the charge that Samaritan’s Purse has ever discriminated when it comes to medical treatment on the basis of sexual orientation or anything else, that’s not even alleged here. It is simply the fact that Samaritan’s Purse dares to hold to historic biblical Christianity.

Now, again, Samaritan’s purse and Mt. Sinai Medical Center and the mayor of New York eventually made very clear there was no discrimination. There was no actual intention of discrimination, far from it when it came to medical treatment, but that’s not enough and that’s not really the ground of offense. Speaking of Franklin Graham, the New York Times said that he had said that Samaritan’s Purse had never denied care to anyone because of a difference of belief overseas or in New York. Then listen to this: “But some New Yorkers have been skeptical. The organization’s slogan, ‘helping in Jesus’ name,’ was on trucks outside the field hospital and Mr. Graham delivered an Easter sermon on Fox News from the site.”

Now, notice again, the affront here is that Samaritan’s Purse trucks actually had the words “helping in Jesus’ name” on the trucks. That is treated as an affront to all New Yorkers. That tells us a great deal of where we stand in this country, at least where we stand in Manhattan. Remember, those who are in Manhattan intend to make their moral judgements obligatory upon the entire nation.

You’ll also notice the complaint that Franklin Graham dared to preach a sermon. That was, a sermon that was telecast worldwide through Samaritan’s Purse’s avenues of publicity and communication. It came from the site of the hospital. No one in the hospital was required to hear anything, no one’s medical treatment was ever in question. The fact that on that spot of land Franklin Graham had dared to preach the gospel, that’s too much; and those trucks with those words, “helping in Jesus’ name,” what an affront.

Listen to this section of the article later. We’re told that a member of the Reclaim Pride Coalition, which has organized protest to Samaritan’s Purse, said that Franklin Graham’s group “had made many LGBT New Yorkers feel personally attacked and personally at risk.” Now, just notice the language here, “personally attacked.” Attacked how? Well, certainly it doesn’t mean physically, it doesn’t even come close to that. It simply means that the existence of an evangelical Christian ministry holding to biblical beliefs, in the new language of identity politics, is considered a personal attack and to put one at risk. This statement came directly from the spokesperson for the Reclaim Pride Coalition. “Just because they say that they wouldn’t recoil or try to proselytize you or start praying over you loudly about how Jesus will change you or save you, all of this comes to mind whether it is an actual possibility or not.”

Now, at this point, we are not only in the zone of intolerance to biblical Christianity, we are in the twilight zone. Of course, we’re also on the print edition of the New York Times. This spokesperson for the LGBT organization, Reclaim Pride Coalition, says, “It doesn’t even really matter if none of this was even possible, the idea that it was imaginable is simply unimaginable, intolerable.”

In years to come, there’s going to be a lot to remember from lessons learned in this pandemic but in the crucible of this crisis we certainly see the issues come acutely into clarity. This is a very tragic clarity, it’s a heartbreaking clarity, but let’s face it, it is a clarity. The lesson here is that right now, in some portions of the United States, indeed in America’s largest city and one of the most influential cities in the world just coming to help people, if your trucks say “helping in Jesus’ name,” is intolerable.

Part II

Pushing the Sexual Revolution in the Midst of the Pandemic

I need to shift from that to another article that appeared yesterday. In this case, it appeared in USA Today. It’s an entire page in the print edition. The headline, “Crisis Compounded for LGBTQ Americans.” The article is by Patruce Jean-Charles. The subhead: “COVID-19 Bias Pummel Vulnerable Community.” The article goes on to tell us that the LGBTQ community is uniquely vulnerable in the midst of the pandemic. Again, it’s a full page article in the print edition. You’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of words but what’s lacking is any particular evidence that any of this is true.

The report tells us early in the article, “The coronavirus outbreak is pummeling LGBTQ Americans, especially those of color, leaving a population already vulnerable to healthcare and employment discrimination suffering from high job losses and a growing rate of positive cases, according to preliminary data collected from multiple LGBTQ advocacy groups.”

Now, there are so many interesting issues for us to consider here. First, is it imaginable that the LGBTQ community could be suffering, even disproportionately, in the midst of the pandemic? Of course, that is imaginable but even as the article indicates there are multiple reasons for that being imaginable, and some of them are outside the control of the rest of the culture. You’ll also notice there’s no particular data cited here. Instead, we are told that this is simply according to “preliminary data collected from multiple LGBTQ advocacy groups.”

Again and again on The Briefing we talk about the fact that whether you’re on the right or the left assorted data in a preliminary form, coming from advocacy groups, doesn’t deserve this kind of coverage, that tells you the coverage is actually about something else. That something else or the political aims of the LGBTQ community, and that’s made abundantly clear in the article. Again, a full page article in USA Today that’s getting a good deal of traction also in its digital form across the worldwide web.

The other thing you need to note is that articles like this that aren’t citing any particular research or evidence get picked up as evidence in themselves. You’ll see other articles that come along citing this article, and sometimes not even citing the article, instigated by the fact that every other newspaper and major news outlet, especially on the left, is going to decide, “We’ve got to have an article like this too.” More on that in just a moment.

One other very revealing statement later in the article is that medical records don’t list that kind of sexual orientation information, so how does anyone know? Listen to this paragraph which is supposed to answer the question: “While we do not have official numbers on how many LGBTQ people have contracted coronavirus or have died because of it …” Now, let’s just pause there for a moment. That’s a big, “We don’t have this information.” The article continues, “We know, in addition to health disparities, LGBTQ people are employed in the industries primarily impacted by the pandemic such as retail, nightlife, restaurants, and they are more likely to live in poverty, be food insecure, and uninsured.” Who’s the source for that? Tyrone Hanley, Senior Policy Counsel of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, we’re told the first national LGBTQ legal organization founded by women in California.

Again, just even look at that descriptor. You wouldn’t have, under normal circumstances, a newspaper identify an organization like this by its own advertising slogan, the first national LGBTQ legal organization founded by women in California. Now let’s be clear, we do not want anyone to suffer in the midst of this pandemic, we don’t want anyone to get this virus, we want to protect everyone imaginable. But as you’re looking at so much of this, you are also looking at issues that are behavioral, that’s made clear in the article.

One of the issues that comes up are primarily sexually transmitted diseases. Now, we want those persons to be protected as well but, again, some of this is outside the control of the society that is being blamed here for taking a posture that puts LGBTQ persons at an unusual risk. Again, according to a Christian biblical worldview, we are to care for all people, we are to love all people, we owe all people the truth, and that includes the truth revealed in Holy Scripture, the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It also means that we have to understand when we are observing a moral revolution that one of its results are articles like this that don’t have any very clear argument to make, but are nonetheless powerful evidence of the push in the culture towards this revolution, even in the midst of the pandemic, which takes us back to the controversy surrounding Samaritan’s Purse.

Part III

How Is Your Home Operating During the Stay-at-Home Orders? Husbands and Wives Disagree on How Much Husbands Are Doing

Finally, I mentioned the fact that when you have an article on an interesting issue, it often becomes the catalyst for articles to appear just about everywhere else on the same theme. The New York Times ran an article in the print edition on May the 7th with the headline, “Moms and Dads See Split of Lockdown Chores Differently.” The reporter was Claire Cain Miller, it is a very interesting article.

It tells us one thing, that when you are looking at the conditions of the pandemic, when you’re looking at households that have a mom and a dad, let’s be thankful for those households, the mom and the dad do not have exactly the same responsibilities nor are the domestic responsibilities divided evenly 50/50. Now, anyone who’s ever been married probably came to that conclusion already. The implication here is that that represents a form of discrimination against women, mothers, wives. No doubt, even as Mother’s Day was just two days ago, mothers bear an inordinate responsibility for the ordering of the household. Without those mothers doing what they do it becomes less likely that children will be fed, that there’ll be wearing clean clothes, that they will follow their school assignments and get their homework done. That’s simply the matter in just about every home.

Of course, Christians also understand that there is a distinction between fathers and mothers that doesn’t allow fathers to be slackers in any way, but it’s not an accident that primarily throughout human history fathers have been the parent more outwardly directed and mothers have been those more inwardly directed. It simply requires a certain refresher course in biology to understand at certain points why that is so and must be so.

There is an ironic poignant and very revealing data point in all of this and that is, that when husbands and wives, also known as fathers and mothers, are interviewed about the percentage of the housework done by the man, the man consistently offers a far higher percentage number than the woman. Again, the headline of the article, “Moms and Dads See Split of Lockdown Chores Differently: Fathers see themselves doing a larger percentage of the total work labor in the home than moms are observing on the same calculus.”

Robert Reisman, Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago said, “Being forced to be at home is amplifying the differences we already know exist.” In the most significant ironic number, 21% of the men in the survey said they’re doing all or most of the household work when it comes to the lockdown but only 3% of their wives affirmed that number. It’s also the case, as this article makes clear, that the employers of many men expect them to give undivided attention to their jobs. Again, a very consistent pattern and the explanation for it doesn’t merely come down to gender oppression.

As I started out, that article becomes a catalyst for another one. That was on May the 7th, then you turn around and on May the 11th, Dalvin Brown of USA Today runs an article with the headline, “Couples Juggle Domestic Duties.” The subhead: “Men think they’re taking on more, women disagree.” Now, according to USA Today, this data would come from YouGov in partnership with USA Today and LinkedIn.

You see another pattern worthy of note in a quote from Lindsay Stark, Associate Professor of Social Work at the Brown School at Washington University. She said that mothers in heterosexual relationships often shoulder most of the childcare. The big issue for our observation is the fact that the article just blithely cites heterosexual relationships as if that’s just another choice, just another lifestyle option. Well, all this simply tells us, in a very clear way, where we stand in the midst of this pandemic. It’s most important for us to recognize that what happens in the midst of the pandemic is likely, in moral terms, to continue long thereafter.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

Boyce College remains committed to supporting the discipleship of the local church and helping younger Christians deepen their faith in the midst of an increasingly secular culture. Join me this summer for the D3 Youth Conference, an online, travel-free event that will allow churches to commit to a summer youth conference without the current uncertainty of potential restrictions or pending cancellations.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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