The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

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

It’s Wednesday, December 9, 2020.

I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Once You Go Down the Road of Identity Politics, There Is No Return: Just Look at the Biden Appointments

It’s hard sometimes just to keep a straight reasonable frame of reference looking at so many of the issues that are thrown at us day by day. As a matter of fact, the social and moral changes taking place in the world around us are now happening at such a pace that it’s very difficult to keep up. It’s also difficult to keep up with the sides of the argument, especially as you’re looking at the left. For example, on December the 4th, NBC News ran a story by Dan Avery. Here’s the headline, “Biden Administration on Track to be Most LGBTQ-inclusive in US History.” But then just four days later, The Washington Post with the headline, “LGBTQ+ Caucus Wants to See More Representation in a Biden Administration.”

Now, there you appear to have warring headlines. There’s the big news that a prospective Biden administration is going to be the most LGBTQ inclusive in history, or is the actual truth that it’s falling short of the demands of the LGBTQ revolutionaries? Well, the fast answer is yes, both of those things are true. It’s almost assuredly true that Joe Biden’s administration will be incredibly pro-LGBTQ, so much so, that it will fulfill his campaign pledge to be the most LGBTQ- friendly and inclusive administration in history.

But it’s also simultaneously true that that will not meet the demands of the revolutionaries, who after all, keeping score, as they do by intersectionality and identity politics will never by definition be satisfied, even if the actual percentage representation of LGBTQ+ people, as they define them, in the administration far outstrips the actual percentage amongst the American people. But we’ll have to leave that for a moment and look at the actual claims in these articles.

Dan Avery writes this, “President-elect Joe Biden has repeatedly vowed to make LGBTQ rights a priority in his administration, but he won’t be working alone. The former vice president,” writes Avery, “has already tapped LGBTQ appointees for several key roles and gay rights advocates are hopeful that more will be named, including the first out cabinet member confirmed by the Senate. There’s also a push,” says Avery, “should an opening become available for him to nominate the first openly LGBTQ justice to the Supreme Court.”

Now, one of the things we need to note here before we even look at these two articles and the underlying reality, is that the big worldview issue of identity politics looms as the really overarching issue, because you’re looking here at the fact that once you go down the road of identity politics, there is no return. Not only that, there is no stability because there are as many different identities to be claimed as there are human beings.

Given the fact that identity politics now says, it’s not just a matter of who you are but who you identify to be, then that means that you actually have as many identities as you have human beings and seconds on the clock. That identity can change, or it can become more complex or more intersectional at any point. But you also need to understand the political reality, the way the political game is played. Let’s just be honest, a little inside politics here. There is an inside game and an outside game, but it turns out to be the same game. The inside game is this. You have people in the room who make the decisions. Most importantly, you have the president of the United States, when it comes to appointments. But the outside game is putting pressure on the inside game, and that comes by the kind of articles that you see.

We’ve looked at the report from the Human Rights Campaign. We’ve looked at demands from the Democratic secularists of America, and now you have an array of LGBTQ agencies who also want to get in line, and their demands have to be public. That’s the nature of politics. If they don’t make public demands, then they will not get what they demand on the inside game. The outside game has to be won before the inside game is won. What you’re watching right now as a Democratic administration is coming into focus, it’s the outside game becoming the inside game.

The article by Dan Avery includes this, “On Sunday, Karine Jean-Pierre, an out lesbian and Chief of Staff for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, was announced as Deputy Press Secretary. Pili Tobar, an immigration rights advocate and former aide to Senator Chuck Schumer, was named Deputy White House Communications Director. Tobar, a lesbian, also worked as a communications director for the Biden campaign. In November,” we are reminded, “Carlos Elizondo, who is gay and was Biden’s social secretary when Biden was vice president, was named White House social secretary.”

Notice here how the score is being kept. Over here you have one column given one issue of identity politics, it might be race. Over here you have another column and this has to do with sexuality. Of course, this raises the very toxic idea of intersectionality. Intersectionality is what comes naturally. After you play the game of identity politics, you have to score points as to how many identifiers you may have in identity politics, claiming multiple levels of oppression. Thus, you have this statement coming from Ruben Gonzales, identified as vice president of the LGBTQ Victory Institute. Avery tells us that this organization “trains and advocates for queer candidates at all levels of government.” Gonzales noted that the LGBTQ people named to the incoming administration “so far are all people of color.” Gonzales said, “I think it speaks to the president-elect’s understanding of intersectionality.”

Now here’s something to note. I think it’s fair to say that even if you were to go back just a matter of a few years, a news story on the personnel appointments in a presidential administration, in some kind of mainstream media, like NBC News would not have used the term intersectionality. But nowadays it’s exactly the term you see, right here, early in the article because identity politics and the idea of intersectionality are winning big in the culture. You have a keeping a score, a scoring of identity points. What you have here is a celebration on the part of the vice president of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, that a victory for identity politics and intersectionality is represented by the Biden administration coming into focus. But it’s more than that because Gonzales actually credits Biden himself off as having this understanding of intersectionality.

We can understand why, and it’s because Biden, even as he was running for president and the Biden transition team keeps sending signals of how they’re keeping score on intersectionality. It came to the fore yesterday in the official announcement made by Biden himself that he would be appointing Retired General, four-star general Lloyd Austin to be the incoming Secretary of Defense. That’s one of the big four cabinet positions. Here’s what’s really interesting. Intersectionality works both ways. You score points with the left by playing intersectionality, but you can never play the game perfectly, as I say, because intersectionality is endlessly morphing. For example, by the time you say, printed out the news story concerning Biden’s appointment of Lloyd Austin, General, Austin, if confirmed, would actually become the first African-American Secretary of Defense, a headline appeared at Politico, “Biden’s Pentagon pic frustrates women who sought a different history-maker.”

Now, that goes back even to the 2008 presidential election, when the Democrats famously had a choice between a white female nominee, that would have been Hillary Clinton and an African-American nominee. Of course, that was then Senator Barack Obama. The Democrats at the primary process, chose Barack Obama rather than Hillary Clinton. Thus you had the fact that there were those who were arguing for the first female Democratic nominee, who were very frustrated that instead what they got was the first African-American Democratic presidential nominee.

But in order to bring that to completion, eight years later, they actually nominated Hillary Clinton as the first female Democratic presidential nominee. She was actually of course, the first female nominee of either party for the office of president, but nonetheless, he wasn’t elected in 2016. The point is this. Everybody’s keeping score. Even a Joe Biden, trying to keep up with his pledge after all, he made it, to have the most diverse and representative administration in history, he is not going to be able to satisfy the ideologues of intersectionality because you can never score enough points.

Even as he announces the nomination of the first black Secretary of Defense in American history, he is being condemned for not choosing a black woman. The simple and profound point is this. Once you start playing this game, there’s no end to it. There is no bottom to this well. Of course, all this came, even as major media broke on December 4th, that you had organized African-American groups and you had organized Hispanic groups and organized feminist groups, go down the list, making their demands as to the kinds of appointments that Joe Biden should make. But we’re going back to those two articles, the first declaring by administration on track to be the most LGBTQ-inclusive in US history and then the other in the Washington Post four days later, saying that the LGBTQ+ caucus wants to see more representation in a Biden administration.

We saw that, that first story at NBC News by Dan Avery credited the former vice president for having an “understanding of intersectionality.” But then you also have this article. Remember, this is the one that is celebrating. It says, “Biden has also named LGBTQ personnel to his transition team, including the HMC review teams responsible for scrutinizing federal agencies before he takes office. According to a release from the Biden-Harris team, roughly 40% of agency review members represent communities historically underrepresented in the federal government, including people of color, people who identify as LGBTQ+ and people with disabilities.” Now, again, just imagine what that flow chart looks like.

But that second article by Jacqueline Alemany at the Washington Post, the one that says that the LGBTQ+ caucus wants to see more representation, it cites this communication from that caucus, that’s LGBTQ+ equality caucus stating “While your administration is on track to beat the most diverse in American history, we ask that you continue your commitment to diversity by ensuring LGBTQ+ professionals are included in your cabinet and throughout your administration. The fact is that the LGBTQ+ community remains underrepresented at the highest levels of our government.” That said in a letter addressed to Biden and vice president-elect Kamala D, Harris from the nine caucus co-chaired, obtained by the Washington Post column, Power Up. But it’s also really important to find out who is doing the advising to the transition team here.

Avery’s article tells us, “Chai Feldblum, a former Equal Employment Opportunity Commission member, who was instrumental in drafting the Americans With Disabilities Act and Deputy Assistant US Attorney-General, Pamela Karlan, co-counsel in United States V Windsor, which struck down part of the Defensive Marriage Act, are reviewing the Department of Justice and related agencies for the Biden transition team, including the Federal Election Commission and the Commission on Civil Rights.” Now, it’s really important that we understand something. These names are recognizable. There’s something going on here. You don’t have to wonder the kind of advice being given. This tells us, we really don’t have to wonder as if we ever did what would be the disposition or the policy structure of a Biden administration.

The name Chai Feldblum here is really important. She’s a former law professor and is now teaching law again, but she was also for a time, an Obama appointee to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She also is a very honest scholar. She’s an activist for the LGBTQ community. She participated in an exchange that was dated before the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. This was a conference that had to do with the obvious implications of same-sex marriage for religious liberty. Chai Feldblum participated honestly, in that forum, but what she said is absolutely chilling.

Speaking of that inevitable collision between sexual liberty, that’s the LGBTQ definition of sexual Liberty and religious liberty, Feldblum said this, “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win. Sexual liberty,” she said, “should win in most cases. There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases, sexual liberty should win because that’s the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.” So, here you have someone who actually served on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, someone who was very candid before the legalization of same-sex marriage by the Supreme Court, to say that once that happens, religious liberty should almost always lose, so much so that she said she couldn’t think of even one case in which religious liberty should win. She’s now advising the Biden transition team on the kinds of persons who should be appointed and the kinds of policies that should be formulated in the federal government.

Again, we can’t say we weren’t told.

Part II

Can a Baptist School Operate by Baptist Convictions? Labor Department Protects Religious Liberty in New Regulations — But for How Long?

But that issue of religious liberty, and here we are again, takes us to another recent headline. This one has to do, somewhat surprisingly, with the United States Department of Labor in this case. As reports, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia has formalized changes in the regulations and in the legal judgment of the Department of Labor, in favor of religious liberty of employers. Now here’s the headline at, “Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, legalizes workplace discrimination on his way out the door.” Well, the headline editorializes and the editorials written by Mark Joseph Stern, again, a very familiar name, understanding that he’s been a very active advocate for and litigator for the left for some time now, and especially against many claims of religious liberty.”

But he writes about the fact that all of this goes back to Executive Order 11246S signed in to effect by Lyndon Johnson in 1965. As Stern tells us, “Johnson’s order barred discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. Presidents later added sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity to the list of protected traits. Today, there are about 4 million employees of federal contractors who benefit from these protections. The Department of Labor enforces presidential prohibitions against discrimination in these workplaces.” Now, you need to note something else. This is indeed an Executive Order. This isn’t legislation passed by Congress and thus any president, elected at any time, going through the proper process can simply change these executive orders. But we are now told that even as President Trump has authorized the Secretary of Labor to move forward with these changes, they are to the great displeasure of the left.

Stern goes back to the fact that President George W. Bush modified the Executive Order, in order to make possible the fact that a religious employer could hire out of the same religious identity, to use an example that Stern has given us here, “A Baptist college, for example, could hire Baptist professors.” Now, you need to note that it’s interesting that such a thing would be required in the first place. Many Americans will be surprised to know that before that clarification and change made by the administration of President George W. Bush, it would have been technically wrong or illegal even, for a Jewish organization that might participate in one of these federal programs, to hire a Jewish director over a non-Jewish Director. But nonetheless, that was the state of affairs. That tells you a very great deal.

We’re talking about nearly a decade ago now, but you’re also looking at the fact that Secretary Scalia, the son, by the way of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has broadened the religious liberty protections. But what’s most interesting is not the fact that he’s done so, even as Stern tells us the incoming Biden administration will go through the same process to reverse what Secretary Scalia’s put in place. The reason why we’re talking about this today is because of the illustration and argument that is given by Mark Joseph Stern in this article. Because even after telling us about how the George W. Bush administration policy had changed things, we’re now being told that the Scalia policy will go further.

Now, remember that we had been told that under the first change, “Bush’s exemption merely covered an employer’s preference for employees of a particular religion. A Baptist college,” he says, “for example, could hire Baptist professors,” but then we’re told, and this is really important.

Please listen carefully to these words. We’re then told, “Scalia’s rule alters the definition of religion to include ‘acceptance of, or adherence to religious tenets as understood by the employer. Stern, then writes, “So a Baptist college could not just favor Baptist employees, but demand that its employees adhere to its interpretation of specific Baptist teachings.” He goes on. “If an employee practiced her faith differently from her boss, she could be fired. This exemption includes not just religious exercise,” he says, “but every facet of life.” He goes on, “An employee who takes birth control gets a divorce or obtains an abortion could be fired for violating her boss’s religious ‘tenets.'” Tenets put in quotation marks as if they’re not real. “A gay employee could be fired for marrying his partner. A transgender employee could be fired for transitioning.”

“Any personal decision,” he writes, “that contradicts religious tenets as understood by the employer would serve as grounds for termination.” Now, again, let’s just turn this around. What are we being told here? We’re being told that we should consider irrational, unacceptable intolerance, a policy that would allow a Baptist school to be a Baptist school, to operate by Baptist convictions. We’re not just making that as some kind of guess or assumption. We’re being told that in actual words and sentences right here in this statement. This is one of those situations where in worldview analysis, you need to turn it around. What if, therefore, this argument prevails? Well then, a Baptist employee Baptist institution–I didn’t make up the illustration, he did–that might obtain an abortion, could not be disciplined for that. That could not be any decision made in hiring or in firing or for that matter, marrying a same-sex partner.

Now, this is exactly what the defenders of religious liberty have warned is coming fast. It’s like a steam roller coming at us, in which we’re being told it’s okay if you’re Baptist, but your institution can’t be Baptist in any meaningful sense. That’s exactly the argument that takes us back to the fact that the most chilling announcement in recent days is the fact that Joe Biden intends to nominate Xavier Becerra, the Attorney-General of California as the head of the department, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, because Becerra has already told us that he doesn’t believe that religious institutions even have a claim on religious liberty.

Part III

Controversy Over Cleats in the NFL? Players Who Support the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Are Out of Bounds According to LGBTQ Revolutionaries

But then finally, just to understand how all of this comes around, we need to look at an article that appeared at the site Outsports. It’s by Cyd Zeigler. The headline is this. “Zero NFL players choose LGBTQ cause for their cleats, 3 support anti-gay group.”

Now I’ll have to admit to you, I had no idea what this was about. I didn’t even know that cleats were so much of a political statement. But it turns out that the NFL has an official program known as My Cause My Cleats, that becomes a fundraiser for the organizations, which are the cause of the respective NFL player. That makes sense. Every NFL player has the opportunity to choose a cause and to identify that cause with his cleats. Here’s the problem, according to Outsports and Cyd Zeigler. Zero NFL players have chosen an LGBTQ cause, but instead, in contrast, three support what’s identified as anti-gay group. Now, that’s interesting. What would be an anti-gay group? Well, in this case, it is the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Now, let’s just state the obvious. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes was not established to be an anti-LGBTQ organization. That wasn’t even on the screen.

No one would have known what that meant when the Fellowship of Christian Athletes known as FCA, was actually organized. But instead, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes was, oh, I don’t know, a fellowship of Christian athletes. It was intended to offer spiritual support, sometimes outrage. It was intended to create fellowship among Christians who shared an interest and participation in athletics. It is operated at the high school level at the collegiate level and yes, even at the NFL level. These NFL players have identified the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as the cause with which they would bring attention and hopefully funding with their cleats. But, that’s not what’s most important to us. What’s most important to us is understanding that all the Fellowship of Christian Athletes had to do, to be identified in a headline here as an anti-gay group was simply to hold to a Christian biblical understanding of sexuality, marriage, and gender, which is what virtually all Christians throughout all time have held without reservation as based in the doctrine of creation and clearly revealed in Scripture from beginning to end, period.

That’s all it takes these days to find yourself in a headline as an anti-gay group. That’s all it takes. The offending passage in the core statements of belief of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes is this. “We believe God’s design for sexual intimacy is to be expressed only within the context of marriage. That God created man, and woman to compliment and complete each other. God instituted marriage between one man and one woman 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 man, and one woman.”

But, the three NFL players who chose the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for the My Cause, My Cleats campaign, that will be Cody Davis of the New England Patriots, Koda Martin of the Arizona Cardinals and Case Keenum of the Cleveland Browns, they’re castigated here as representing anti-gay bigotry, because of their choice of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which just happens to be a Fellowship of Christian Athletes holding to traditional biblical Christian beliefs. That’s all it takes in these strange days to be called out of bounds.

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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