Wednesday, August 26, 2020
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Wednesday, August 26, 2020. I'm Albert Mohler, and this is the Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Advice from a Preacher to a Political Party: Don’t Miss an Opportunity to Make Convictions Clear
One week after the Democratic National Convention, the Republican National Convention is in full sway. Most of the events are not in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the legal address of the convention will be, but rather in Washington, DC. The COVID-19 pandemic required both of the two major political parties to forego what had been an every four year circus that did have political consequence. In recent years, the event had turned into a giant pep rally for whichever party was holding the meeting. And it was also a tremendous media platform.
Throughout much of the 20th century, the dynamism that came out of the party convention meant a very great deal to the eventual vote. It's debatable right now, as to whether or not the party conventions have much impact on the election. Much of the language comes down to asking whether or not there is a bounce, that is a political rise in the polls and in public interest after the conventions. And truth be known, there are basically three different audiences that watch these events. First of all, you have the party loyalists for the two parties. They're going to watch. They're going to watch under any circumstances. In most cases, they're going to like what they see. They're going to be energized. They're going to be excited. The party loyalists are the first audience.
The second audience are political junkies, this is across the political spectrum. You've got people who might have any number of political identifications, but they're not going to miss one of these party conventions. And you have people in the press, for instance, that will tell you, they have been at 10 or more of these party conventions. The political junkies, they're going to watch. They're going to be interested. So first it's the party loyalists then it is the political junkies--by the way, it's like a Venn diagram, those do overlap--but the third is more interesting and that is the leadership and those most interested in the opposing party.
So yes, you had a lot of diehard Republicans watching every minute of the Democratic National Convention and hating almost every minute, but not wanting to miss a minute of what they would hate. The same thing is going to be taking place as there will be many diehard Democrats watching the Republican convention just to get themselves more filled with ire as they look at going into the final weeks of the election cycle. It's been that way for a very long time, ever since these events have been basically seen to the public by means of television. You're talking especially about the late 1950s through the late part of the 20th century and into the 21st century, now with streaming video. The three major audiences are still there.
Is it better for the party that goes first or the one that comes second? And by the way, generally they're separated by more than just a matter of a weekend, but the Democrats had to postpone their convention because of COVID-19, and with the weeks running out, the two political conventions ended up being back-to-back here in August. Is it better to go first or better to go second? You can make the argument either way. The argument for going first is that Americans aren't tired of watching political television. The argument for going second is that you have the last word.
Either one of those can be seen as advantageous, but it's also now most important to understand that it's not basically a decision. The pattern for the better part of the last half century is that the party that holds the White House goes second. And so incumbency is the basic rule. So since the Republicans currently hold the White House, the Republican convention would come second. The Republicans are going to do their very best to make it count. We'll be looking at the speeches and also at various issues of the convention tomorrow on The Briefing.
But today here's one thing I want to note. There's something glaringly absent from the Republican National Convention, and that is the adoption of a party platform in 2020. I believe that is not only a glaring omission, but a tragic mistake. I think the party's leadership has made a massive miscalculation. They're saying that they didn't have time to prepare a platform because of preparations and COVID-19, but they have now missed an enormous opportunity to make clear, in text, in print, so that all can see the major ideological differences and policy differences between the Republicans and the Democrats.
I have used these party platforms in recurring cycles to show just how the two parties have moved in virtually opposite directions on so many issues. Now, the safety for the Republican party is that the 2016 Republican convention platform will be in place and unamended. But I do think the party has missed an enormous opportunity, four years later, to put another stake in the ground and to make very clear the party's convictions on many, many issues. I'll speak quite candidly and say that the party needs to hit hard its commitment to the sanctity of human life, its position on questions related to abortion, its defense of, indeed, insistence of the Hyde amendment continuing so that American taxpayers are not coerced into funding abortion. It needs to make very clear the commitment of this party to a conservative judiciary. And it needs to make very clear the commitment of this party to religious liberty.
Making this convention more about personality than about policy might have some political advantages, but it also has very lasting political disadvantages. And I want to speak to one of them right now. President Donald Trump has demonstrated his commitment to the defense of life, to policies that will uphold the defense of life. He's made that very clear, not only through executive orders and presidential actions, but also perhaps most importantly, through his appointments to the federal bench, including the Supreme Court. The president has made that commitment very clear. There is no sign whatsoever of any change in that commitment going forward. Indeed, he has made very clear his intention to continue that commitment, but here's the problem that anyone who cares about these issues must watch very, very carefully.
There is no adequate assurance that the Republican party, as a political party, that by definition is out to seek its own political advantage, and that means to get as many people in the party, and even more importantly, more members of the party elected to office, there is no assurance that the Republican party will maintain these convictions. And I think there is a vulnerability that is exposed when a party platform is not enthusiastically put forward at every single National Convention. These issues nailed down and made clear so that no one can question where this party stands on these issues and where it expects its candidates to stand not only in the present, but going forward.
I'm thankful that the very clear commitments of the 2016 Republican platform continue, and yes, there's still going to be that radical distinction between where the Republicans stand on these issues and where the Democrats stand, as made extremely clear in the platform that they adopted just a matter of a week ago. But I am concerned about the future and I believe that it was a grave mistake. I would be a preacher giving advice to politicians here when I say, don't ever miss an opportunity to fly the colors boldly and say what you believe and make it stick.
A Battle for the Future of Canada’s Conservative Party is a Sign of the Times
But that then leads to a second issue of our consideration today. And for this, we leave the United States and go to Canada, but it is because these are issues that have direct relevance to what is going on here, as well as in Canada. The conservative party in Canada, chose in recent days, a new leader. As Paul Vieira of the Wall Street Journal reports, "Members of Canada’s Conservative Party picked Erin O’Toole, a former military officer and veterans minister, to be the new leader in results revealed Monday morning, entrusting him with leading the country’s main political opposition party back to power against a scandal-weary Liberal government." The conservatives were in control of the Canadian government and thus chose the prime minister until 2015, when the liberals won under the charismatic political figure of Justin Trudeau. Trudeau was returned to office, although without a plurality in parliament, in the 2019 election held last October, and he defeated the then conservative leader, Andrew Scheer. There are huge lessons here.
Andrew Scheer was identified as a devout Catholic and many in Canada argued that that was simply too much. Too conservative, too committed on issues such as abortion and, say, opposition to same-sex marriage. But Scheer didn't even run on a platform, I lament to say, that was very clear on marriage, nor did he make abortion an issue. As a matter of fact, again, I lament, regret to say this, he said nothing that would indicate that he intended to lead his party in a challenge to Canada's laws on abortion that are some of the most liberal on earth. I wish he had.
But nonetheless, the very fact that he was a Roman Catholic was simply enough for many people in Canadian politics, and especially in Canada's elite culture, to say, "That's simply too much." J.J. McCullough writing for the Washington Post last year said this, "Scheer did not run against same-sex marriage. He proposed no changes to Canada’s regime of unregulated abortion — among the most liberal on earth. Yet because Scheer is often characterized as a “devout Catholic,” calls himself “personally pro-life” and won’t answer “no” when asked if homosexuality is sinful, the self-appointed guardians of Canadian public life have declared him representative of a type of diversity that’s flatly unacceptable."
McCullough continued, "Or, as New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh bluntly put it, 'You cannot have Mr. Scheer’s beliefs and be the prime minister of Canada.'" Now we have often observed that culturally and morally, and yes, you could say to some degree, politically, Canada tracks more closely with Western Europe than with the United States, even though we share North America and what's often described as the world's longest continuous peaceful border. Canada is more liberal. Canada is more morally progressive. To use the language that some would use, it is more secular than the United States, but you will notice parallels here.
You will hear the very same thing, as a matter of fact. One of the things we're going to turn to in the course of The Briefing, considering where we stand this election, is that the current democratic vice presidential nominee, Senator Kamala Harris, had actually, in a hearing, confronted an appointee from the Trump administration, challenging him--he was a member of the Knights of Columbus--as to whether or not he actually knew the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, because it was implied that would invalidate someone holding this kind of federal position. But Andrew Scheer lost the party leadership position largely because he lost the federal election. And that meant that the conservatives had to choose a new leader. And that meant that in choosing a new leader, they had to decide where they were going to stand on any number of issues.
So what is the election of Erin O'Toole as head of the conservative party in Canada telling us? Well, it doesn't tell us how conservative Canada's Canadian party is likely to be, but it does tell us that those who are arguing for a more liberal direction for the conservative party, basically lost. And it's interesting for us to note that that argument came from inside and outside the party. Political pundits and the opinion class in Canada had chided the conservative party that if they did not get with the program and adopt more liberal positions and choose a more liberal leader, they weren't going to have any hope in future Canadian elections. Inside the party, the same kind of arguments came. The world is growing more liberal. Our society is growing more secular. We're going to have to adopt new positions. We're going to have to leave all those old moral commitments behind.
The reason I raise this issue so pointedly today is because that is exactly what will be happening, and indeed, it's already happening amongst Republicans, both inside and outside the party. Just about everyone in the opinion class in the United States is telling the Republican party, but I want to note, has been telling the Republican party for the last 40 years, that it's too conservative to win elections. And inside the party, there are always those who want to move the party to the left. They will say, "Move it to the center." But if you are a conservative party, moving to the center is moving to the left. The bottom line is that there's no purpose for having a conservative party in Canada if it's not conservative. There's no reason to have the Republican party in the United States if it is just going to be a mirror image or a lagging-behind sibling to the Democratic party.
The fact is that it is urgently important that the Republican party in the United States and the conservative party in Canada, both be truly conservative parties and understand what that means and make those commitments clear and understand that there is no reason for their party to exist, unless it has a coherent argument that is an alternative to the liberal party in its own nation. Erin O'Toole by the way, is something of a return to a certain character in Canada's history. And that is one who sees Canadian identity as an extension of British identity. Erin O'Toole, once asked who he admires in the world, responded with the name of Queen Elizabeth II. That might not sound likely to be too controversial to American ears, but in Canada, where there is an anti-monarchial movement, it is rather controversial.
Mr. O'Toole is also known for his military service. And again, that says something about his political profile and his commitment to his nation. It's going to be interesting to see how the future of the Conservative party in Canada plays out. It's going to be very interesting to see how the Conservative party in Canada defines itself. And that's exactly what we are watching this week on the part of the Republican party in the United States.
Why the Political Class Misses the Obvious in Demanding ‘Gender Equality’ in Congress
But third, I want to turn to a different issue. This was a headline story in the Washington Post. It was actually published in the opinion section. The headline was this, asking the question, "What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?" Sergio Pecanha is the author of the article, and the implication of the article is that the United States is far behind in gender equity when it comes to, for example, looking at Congress, the House, and the Senate. 52% is given to be about the population of women in the United States, but the composition of women in either the House or the Senate is nowhere close to 52%. That would be the gender equality or gender equity that is being demanded by many.
The article begins, "In the past century, since the passage of the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, Americans developed nuclear bombs, traveled to space and invented the Internet. But the country has not come even close to achieving equal representation for women and men in politics." We're told that the United States is listed as 83rd in a global ranking of women in the lower house of the legislature. He says, "Right between Tajikistan and Armenia." The number and percentage of women in the House and in the Senate has risen in recent decades, but the bottom line of this article is that if the current growth continues on the current pattern and at the current pace, it will be 60 years before the United States Congress reaches gender equality.
In worldview analysis it's also very interesting to see a point made in this article. We're told that there is a gender distinction when it comes to liberal-conservative divides. By the way, we know that. We've seen this data before, but it's fascinating that the argument here is that a Congress that would achieve gender equality would be a considerably more liberal Congress. That's baked right into this article's argument. But again, the article ends on that 60-year figure pointing to 2080 as the year at which, at the current pace and rate, there would be gender equality in the United States Congress.
But we need to step back for a moment and recognize what's missing from this analysis. And that is a differential, not only between the numbers and percentages of men and women elected to the House and to the Senate, but the number of men and women and the percentages of men and women who actually run for office and do the things that get one ready to run for office to be likely to be elected to either the House or the Senate and that, in a Christian worldview analysis, points to something else. Not only is there a worldview distinction and political preference, even liberal-conservative, between men and women, this article makes clear that women have been, for some time, more likely to vote for Democrats and men for Republicans.
But what is not mentioned in this article, because it's not thinkable, is that there is a distinction in whether or not more men or more women want to run for political office. There is something here that is incommensurate, but what's not acknowledged is the fact that men and women are not identical. And that it is not just a matter of social pressure. It's not just a matter of patriarchy. It's not just a matter of discrimination. It's not even just a matter of biology. It is also a matter of what men and women want. What is unthinkable to our secular society is that there would be any good reason why a woman wouldn't want to be in Congress. What's unthinkable, and for that matter, as this article makes almost abundantly clear, unspeakable, is the fact that there are many, many women who will choose to spend more time with their families and to invest their time in other pursuits than politics.
Now, the fact is that there are many women who are very active in politics and making a difference in politics. In the conservative movement this has been true from the very beginning, but especially from the 1970s onward, on issues such as abortion, but they still see their primary role and their primary identity as being identified with the home and with the raising of children and with all that they do in a myriad of responsibilities that do not gain the admiration of the secular left. Just assumed in this article in the Washington post is that there must be an injustice if there is not gender equality in the composition of the United States Congress. And you have the same thing going on with demands about the membership of corporate boards, the boards of nonprofit institutions, such as universities and hospitals, you just look across the entire spectrum. The argument is you should be able to look and see absolute gender equality everywhere you look.
But here's another problem. That very question has now been upended by the LGBTQ revolution. If you consider yourself a moral liberal, or a moral progressive, you're going to have to say that you don't believe any longer in a gender binary. So what difference does it make or what consistency does it make, if you're going to use all this language about gender equality? In the end, I found this article extremely interesting, not so much for what's in it, but what's not. And that's the acknowledgement that it just might be that even in 2080, there won't be what's demanded, and that is gender equality when it comes to the composition of Congress. But it might not be because of injustice. It might be because of the choices made by women.
The Church that ‘Mirrors the Society’ Is No Longer Salt and Light: A Warning
But then, finally, this takes me to an article that recently ran in the Christian Century, that is, the historic flagship magazine of liberal Protestantism in the United States. The second news article in the current edition, it has a headline mirroring society is this, "A slight majority of the clergy in the Church of Sweden are female. The Lutheran body, which began ordaining women in 1960 now has 1,527 men and 1,533 women among its ordained leaders. The latter group," says the article, "includes the Archbishop of Uppsala and several other bishops." Elizabeth Oberg Hansen, a pastor in Stockholm said, "It's a mirror of society. It's as it should be." The article concludes, credited to the Associated Press, "The Church of Sweden was the official state church until 2000."
Now, the point I want to make is this. Here you see a church that has decided that it is supposed to mirror society in every way. That is exactly the quote from this pastor, herself a woman, "It's a mirror of society. It's as it should be." Now, one thing we hardly need to note is that the Church of Sweden has not been a growing enterprise for a very long time. It's not growing in influence. It's not growing in theological fidelity. It's not growing in numbers. One of the things we have seen is that a decreasing number of people in Sweden even care about referring to the church when it comes to funerals. And fewer babies are A, being produced and B, being baptized into the Church of Sweden.
But this is what happens in a very liberal society with a very liberal church that decides that the role of the church is to mirror society. Completely missing from this analysis is that the Bible speaks to the role of pastor and defines the gender distinctions between men and women. And the Bible is very clear that women are not to serve as pastors of churches. And furthermore, when you look at what's happening in Sweden, you do nevertheless, come to understand how these arguments are made. It's the same argument that is made about boardrooms. It's the same argument that we just saw in the Washington Post about Congress. The point really made in that Washington Post article is that America is not so committed to the equality of women if it doesn't have equality in Congress. And yet on the other hand, here you have the Christian Century celebrating the fact that in the Church of Sweden there is a mirroring of society. Slightly more women pastors than men. "It mirrors the society," said the pastor. "It's exactly as it should be."
This is what happens when a church is no longer tethered and committed to the word of God, when the word of God is not the final authority in what the church believes, in what it preaches and how it structures itself. This is exactly what happens when a secular idea such as gender equality, in this sense, is pressed forward in such a sense that it violates Scripture, but nevertheless, mirrors the culture. It just struck me immediately that the words celebrated by this pastor in Sweden are exactly the warning to us. Those are those words, "It's a mirror of society." That is exactly what the church is not to be.
We're to be salt and light, telling the truth to a society. We're to be ordered by the word of God, as a little civilization in the midst of this larger civilization, where Christ rules in his church by God's word. In a fallen world, you can count on the fact that that means that the church can never, if faithful, mirror the society. Here's a truth. The church can't mirror the society and minister to the society at the same time. It's really going to be a choice of one or the other.
Well, today, lessons from the Republican National Convention, the Conservative party in Canada, the United States Congress, and the Church of Sweden. What an interesting world in which we live.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing as always.
It was my great honor to preach the opening convocation message for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College. The title of the address was "Learning in Pandemic Time," a reference to an address, a sermon given by C.S. Lewis in 1939, entitled "Learning in War Time." The text for the message was the 91st Psalm, the first six verses. I hope you'll find it an encouragement. It was posted yesterday morning. You can find it live right now at albertmohler.com. There you can also find other resources and information. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.