Monday, February 22, 2021
It's Monday, February 22nd, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
What Is a Moral Revolution? It’s Not Just a Change in One Area of Morality, It’s a Comprehensive Change of Society
We need to telescope back just a bit and remind ourselves of the definition of a moral revolution. A moral revolution is not merely a change in morality. It's not just a change in some kind of issue. That's a part of the larger moral picture. We're talking about a complete transformation of the moral picture itself. Now, as we've been looking at moral revolutions throughout human history, we've seen several, but the most recent is a sexual revolution that is now taking the shape of a complete moral revolution that is a complete comprehensive transformation of morality. And as I have often discussed, the final stage of this is coercion for those who had held the previous beliefs that are now repudiated by the society.
Theo Hobson, a British liberal thinker defines a moral revolution this way, I've come back to it time and time again, because I think it makes sense, "That which was repudiated must be celebrated. That which was celebrated must be repudiated. And those who will not celebrate must themselves be repudiated." In other words, when you look at the picture of Western society on an issue, like just take LGBTQ issues, the previous centuries, how many of them? Well, virtually, all of them held that there was a basic opposition to nature, a basic opposition to law, a basic opposition to morality in any of the letters known as LGBTQ. Throughout most of those centuries, some of those letters wouldn't have even been imaginable, but in the course of the sexual and moral revolution that has taken place, that which was condemned is now celebrated and let's face it. That's what it is. It's not just tolerated, it's celebrated. It's celebrated in society, it's celebrated in advertising, it's celebrated in Hollywood, it's celebrated in Academia, and the demand is, we must all celebrate.
But that second requirement is that which was celebrated must be condemned. And so society's previous moral judgment can't just be said to be one among other options. It has to be said to be comprehensively wrong. The entire Judeo-Christian moral tradition is now not only not dominant by the dominant intellectual centers. It is declared to be wrong, antithetical to human happiness. It must be done away with.
And then the third issue is personal, those who will not celebrate simply are going to have to get out of the way. Now coercion is the point to be made here. Eventually, every society courses some morality. One of the giant myths of our day is that there are some people who want to codify morality and other people who don't. That's not really true. The fact is that the left and the right both want to codify morality, the differences, which morality will be codified. It's not just law. That's the point.
One of the things we need now to recognize is that sometimes the law is the last change, not the first change. The first change because intuitions and emotions tend to drive other parts of the society before law. The first changes came in entertainment, they came in business culture, they came in advertising. Did I say entertainment? Entertainment turns out to be the leading edge of the moral revolution and that kind of entertainment culture is also a coercive culture. Just ask the people in Hollywood who can't get a job now, because they're not with it. Just to ask what's going on in Hollywood? Which scripts get approve, which scripts do not? Who gets to decide how many LGBTQ characters presented how positively? And how many different relationships have to be in virtually every new consumption?
That's a form of coercion. Just take academia. There is no more coercive environment on planet earth than higher education. Trust me on this. It is inherently coercive. Some worldview will prevail. Someone's going to decide who gets hired, someone's going to decide who gets tenure, someone's going to decide which textbooks get used, someone's going to decide what the student rules are going to be. Yes, every single academic institution is committed to a worldview, whether that institution acknowledges it or not. And every one of those worldviews comes with its own form of moral coercion, but the law is catching up, or at least there are many who are demanding that the law must catch up.
As we have seen throughout the 20th century in particular into the 21st, the left has most often gone to the courts to change the law. But one of the things we've seen recently is that the leftist found limits on the use of the courts.
Now, there are two reasons for that. For one thing, the courts can only decide certain issues that come to the court presented in the case. The second thing is the Supreme Court of the United States and increasingly the federal judiciary has a conservative bent as compared to higher education and Hollywood. You look at Hollywood, or you look at the University of Chicago. You look at the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court is by far, and it's hard to exaggerate this, the most conservative of those institutions or forces in society.
House Democrats Introduce the Equality Act, Celebrated by Biden Administration: The Greatest Threat to Religious Liberty in American Public Life in Decades
But now you have the LGBTQ revolution, squarely demanding a final success in law. And this is known as what they propose to be the Equality Act. And just last Thursday, Democrats in the United States House, along with colleagues in the Senate, announced they were moving forward to introduce the Equality Act in Congress. It was introduced in the House last week.
Not only that, this time the Equality Act is coming before the House with a Democratic president who has declared his active support of this legislation. Now, the legislation came up in the last Congress, but Donald Trump was president then. He said that he would not sign the legislation, even though it did pass the house. The legislation known as the Equality Act did not pass in the Senate, and of course the Senate then had a Republican majority.
What's the landscape now? The landscape is this President Biden, as he was running for office. And now that he is in office, has sworn publicly his eager support for this legislation. Even stating that passage of this legislation eventually getting his signature as it comes to him from Congress is one of the first goals of his administration. Something to be accomplished in the first 100 days. But now you have the House that under a Democratic majority that was actually a larger Democratic majority in the last Congress did pass the Equality Act. It passed the House. It didn't pass the Senate. It actually never got to the floor of the Senate because the Republican control, but Democrats are now effectively, if minimally in control of the United States Senate. The Senate majority leader is now Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, not Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. And Schumer will attempt to bring this bill to the floor.
But here's something that's also very interesting, even though Democrats in the house have a smaller majority, the fact is that that party is now so scared of it's left wing. It's almost impossible to believe that the Equality Act won't pass one way or the other, even if there's not a single Republican vote. But in the Senate, the picture is different because the Senate will require a super majority. It will require at least 60 votes.
There are 50 democratic senators. That means that if all 50 democratic senators support the bill, it's hard to imagine they will not, they will need at least 10 Republican votes. Right now, it's hard to imagine where 10 Republican votes could come from, but you can easily see 1, 2, 3, 4. As time goes on, there might be more.
One of the things we have to note is that Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney, we should remind ourselves, a former Republican nominee for the office of president of the United States, he said that he could not support the Equality Act because of its lack of religious Liberty provisions. Now, just in case you think that's a big statement, understand that what was really happening there is that Mitt Romney was sending a signal. The signal was this, "If there were to be negotiated some kind of religious liberty protections that he would accept as acceptable, that he might support the Equality Act." Well, if Mitt Romney of Utah might support the Equality Act with certain amendments, the reality is, it would be likely to pass one way or the other.
Here's something else we need to watch. There are numerous Republicans who would rather something like the Equality Act pass, get it done, get it off the table, get them off the political hot seat. There are some in the Republican party who would say, "Let's just get past this issue. Society is moving on. If we don't move on, we're going to get left behind." Most of them right now, can't come close to saying that out loud. They have to find another way to say it. We're going to be watching and listening carefully. We're going to see what they're saying when they say it, but we've been warned.
But let's just remind ourselves what the Equality Act is. Samantha Schmidt writing for the Washington post described it this way, "The Equality Act would amend existing civil rights laws, such as the Civil Rights Act in 1964, and the fair housing act to explicitly ban LGBTQ discrimination in the workforce, housing, education, credit, jury service, and other areas of American life." Now those other areas of American life are, need we say this, massively expansive.
One of the other things we need to note is that there are no truly meaningful religious Liberty exemptions or protections in this legislation. Now, why is it that way? Well, it's that way, first of all, because the Democratic majority that passed the bill in the last Congress doesn't see the need for those protections and actively opposes it. But the absence is also due to the fact that there are expected negotiations.
Now here's the problem for Christians. It's a dual problem. Number one, let's say that someone like Mitt Romney or another Republican Senator comes up and says, "Hey, we've negotiated religious liberty protections. Here's what you need to watch." Those religious Liberty protections will almost assuredly be merely for churches, synagogues, mosques, and explicitly Christian institutions serving a definable Christian purpose. And for instance, what we saw in the logic of proposed California legislation was that you can have a Christian university say, and most of that university would come under the Equality Act, no exception, but when it comes to, say the training of ministers in a Christianity or ministry department, there could be an exception. Here's what we need to note.
The freedom of religion, the freedom of religious expression, the liberty that is America's first liberty and religious freedom can't be reduced to that. If it's reduced to that, it basically becomes an iceberg melting in a larger progressive ocean. Part of what is explicitly left out of that is protection for Christians in the workplace. And here we're talking about Christian cake bakers, photographers, florists, just think of weddings, but of course it's a larger issue than that.
Now the Supreme Court has said, and this is the Hobby Lobby case. The Supreme Court has said that there can be exemptions, a constitutional exemption when it comes to privately held corporations, closely held private corporations. But you're looking here at a very thin hope unless the Supreme court rules far more expansively in favor of religious liberty. The fact is, we can't count on being saved by any court at any time, and the logic of all of this is rolling on.
The second issue to watch is this. You have not only some senators who actually want to pass this kind of legislation and move on, you have some who would even identify as evangelicals. I'll call them either in the mushy middle or on the left wing of evangelicalism, they see opposition to the LGBTQ revolution is the great embarrassment to Christianity, even to evangelical identity. They want to get past it. Some of them will try to find a way just like those Republican senators. They'll find a way virtually anyway, the fairness for all argument that has been taken on, even by some Christian institutions, evangelicals, and again, talking about those who identify as evangelical, but so far as I'm concerned are trying to redefine evangelicalism in a leftward way. The reality is that they are basically saying, "Look, we'll protect our own institutions. We demand an exemption, but when it comes to the people in our churches who work in the workplace, when it comes to students on a college university campus, when it comes to any other arena, well, we're just going to have to let that go." Well, I'm unwilling to just let that go.
Two other quick things we need to look at. I mentioned the Washington Post by intention. Samantha Schmidt's article tells us about the legislation, does a pretty good job of reviewing the legislative terrain, but there was an editorial also published in the Washington post. It was dated February the 19th.
So we're just talking about a few days ago and there is one particular portion of this editorial championing the Equality Act that I want to bring to our attention. The article actually ends, the editorial concludes with these words, "Some senators argued that the Equality Act lacks sufficient religious liberty protections." Now that's the opening sentence. Are they going to acknowledge a legitimate religious Liberty issue? We'll notice where the editors of the Washington post go. "But engaging in public commerce comes with a price. Business owners cannot pay their employees less than the minimum wage. A cake shop owner must follow health and safety regulations, even if he does not believe they are necessary. A landlord should not be able to refuse to rent an apartment to a gay couple. The government should respect private worship, but it also has a high interest in ensuring activities occurring in the public square are fair and equitable."
Wait just a minute, a bomb went off in that paragraph. Actually, several did, but the biggest one is this where we are told here that the distinction is between private worship and activities that occur in the public square. You'll notice the logic of the editors of the most influential newspaper in the nation's Capitol, one of the most influential newspapers in the United States, this paper's editorial board now makes a clear distinction between what they identify as private worship and the public square. Notice what they're saying to Christians is, so long as you keep your beliefs, and your worship, and your doctrine, and your ethics private, we're going to tolerate you because the constitution says we have to, but the moment you bring it into public, you're in our arena and we can shut you up and we can shut you down. And yes, that is exactly what the editorial board of the Washington post is arguing. If you dare to come out in public, we can't shut you up, we will shut you down.
Now we saw a matter of a couple of years ago, Frank Bruni, an openly gay, but quite intellectually honest columnist for the New York Times tell us that religious liberty is good in so far as it goes so long as it is limited to what we believe in our hearts, and our homes, that is to say, and in our churches. You'll notice that's the private sphere, the same argument. Keep it private. We'll tolerate you because we have to, but make it public, we'll shut you up, we'll shut you down. We need to notice right now what happened last week in the introduction into the United States Congress of the Equality Act, and we need to understand something else.
This bill would represent the greatest threat to religious liberty in imaginable decades in American public life. This would be the single greatest threat. It will be very, very difficult for any Christian college university to operate in Christian conviction. It would be very, very difficult for any Christian ministry that's not defined as a local church to actually uphold any historic Christian doctrine, but it has the full support, the eager support of the man who is now president of the United States and is championed by many for skillfully avoiding the culture war issues. We need to notice this. President Biden is not avoiding the culture war issues. He is pushing these issues as far as he can to the left, but because of the mainstream media want the push in the same direction, and because so many of the get along go along crowd are determined to move on in the same direction, they are simply applauding him for the fact that he says it with a soft voice, rather than with tweets, with a lot of capitalizations, and exclamation points.
This is what is the official statement from the president of the United States, Joseph R. Biden Jr. on the introduction of the Equality Act in Congress. He applauds the Congressman and the entire congressional equality caucus for introducing the act, then he says this "Every person should be treated with dignity and respect. And this bill represents a critical step toward ensuring that America lives up to our foundational values of freedom and equality for all." He goes on to say, "Full equality has been denied to LGBTQ plus Americans and their families for far too long. Despite the extraordinary progress, the LGBTQ plus community has made to secure their basic civil rights. Discrimination is still rampant in many areas of our society."
The Equality Act said president Biden provides long overdue federal civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity locking in critical safeguards in our housing education, public services, and lending systems, and codifying the courage and resilience of the LGBTQ plus movement into enduring law. The president concludes by congratulating himself upon the executive orders affirming the LGBTQ plus community and his first days in office. He goes on to says it's time for Congress to secure these protections once and for all by passing the Equality Act, "Because no one should ever face discrimination or live in fear because of who they are or whom they love."
First of all, I just want to say, here you see the kind of camouflage language. It's all about dignity and respect, but we're not here looking at any kind of dignity and respect for conservative Christians, Orthodox Jews. The millions and millions of Americans who believe in a revealed morality and can't define marriage as anything other than a man and a woman, and have the constitutional right to organize our churches, synagogues, mosques, and ministries in just that way. Instead, dignity and respect here is a one way street, but it's not just that.
Notice the formulation the White House has chosen. The president of the United States has affirmed LGBTQ+. The + is there. I didn't just read it. It's there. That plus we need to note has no limit. That + is there as a stand in for whatever follows and the president's own very deliberate moral obfuscation here comes down to saying no one should ever face discrimination or live in fear because of "Who they are or whom they love."
I'm going to state this right now, President Biden does not actually believe that. He is lying to the American people when he says that. He's using language he knows will be heard one way and understood another way. What is he saying here? He doesn't really mean there should be no boundaries on who they are or whom they love without going into detail. There are still sexual acts, sexual relationships that president Biden and those in Congress will be supporting this legislation do not, or at least do not now support.
But the fact is, this is the argument they think will win. And they have reason to believe that, because as far as we look at the last several decades and years of American history, this is the argument that has won. And by the way, I gave them credit here. I said this is intellectually dishonest, and it really is. But I also gave them credit for not yet being willing to accept everything that will come with that plus, but then again, these are the same people who were opposed to same-sex marriage and were opposed to the LGBTQ revolution until they weren't. So we need to note that pattern too.
There’s Nowhere Left to Hide on Issues of Sexuality: Christian, Are You Ready to Give an Answer about the Clear Teachings of Scripture?
But next I want to make the fundamental point that eventually we're all going to know where everyone stands on these issues. There are people who have tried to hide, there are people who've changed their position, there are people who have just been relatively silent on these issues, there are some people who may believe something now different of what they believed years ago. That issue is profoundly raised with the controversy that is located in Washington DC, in Washington's National Cathedral, and has to do with popular Christian pastor and author, Max Lucado.
The controversy emerged because Max Lucado was in a series of preachers preaching virtual sermons for the nation's national cathedral over the course of the last several weeks. He preached one message, and that message became the object of intense controversy, so much so that the Bishop of the Diocese of Washington and the Dean of the Cathedral, basically had to fall on their swords and apologize for being so insensitive as to ever invite someone as an evangelical like Max Lucado. The central point of their apology was the fact that they had underestimated the great evil in their eyes and hurt from his 2004 sermon preached on the topic of same-sex marriage.
You can't really find that sermon now, nor can you find an article that had summarized the sermon that had appeared in a prominent Christian website. It appears to have been scrubbed, but in the aftermath of the controversy, Max Lucado wrote a letter to the cathedral community. He said, "It was a high honor to serve as your guest preacher on February 7, 2021. It has come to my understanding that my presence in the cathedral is a cause of consternation for many of your members." He went on to say he was invited to the Washington National Cathedral to preach on the topic of the Holy Spirit. "My desire was to highlight the power of the spirit to bring comfort in these chaotic times. However, instead of that sermon, many only heard my words from many years ago."
And then Mr. Lucado said, "in 2004, I preached a sermon on the topic of same-sex marriage. I now see that in that sermon, I was disrespectful. I was hurtful. I wounded people in ways that were devastating. I should have done better. It grieves me that my words have hurt or even been used to hurt the LGBTQ community. I apologize to you and I ask forgiveness of Christ. Faithful people," he continued, "may disagree about what the Bible says about homosexuality, but we agree that God's Holy word must never be used as a weapon to wound others. To be clear, said Mr. Lucado, "I believe in the traditional biblical understanding of marriage, but I also believe in a God of unbounded, grace, and love. LGBTQ individuals and LGBTQ families must be respected and treated with love. They are beloved children of God because they are made in the image and likeness of God. Over centuries," he continued, "the church has harmed LGBTQ people and their families just as the church has harmed people and issues of race, gender divorce, addiction, and so many other things we must do better to serve and love one another."
He had a concluding paragraph, but that's the central portion of his letter. Now here's the issue I want to raise. I don't know exactly what Max Lucado believes about the LGBTQ issues, but I will have to say there's some very problematic statements in here from the perspective of orthodox biblical Christianity. For one thing we're told here that faithful people may disagree about this issue: "Faithful people may disagree about what the Bible says about homosexuality." But he goes on to say, "We agree that God's Holy word must never be used as a weapon to wound others." Yes, it must never be used as a weapon. On the other hand, it is defined in scripture as a sword. And so we understand that the spirit uses it to define issues.
We also understand that if we are looking at clear biblical texts and make no mistake, the issue of homosexuality and the definition of marriage are clear biblical texts, I think it is not faithful to say that faithful people may disagree about what the Bible says about homosexuality. I'll go further. I think what we're looking at as a major dividing line in the church. Faithful Christianity is bound to the word of God as Luther said. It is bound to the clear teachings of scripture. We're going to have to let that argument stand and make it very clear to say the faithful people may disagree about this. Well, here's what I want to say, and I want to say it very clearly and plainly. Those who are using the interpretation of scripture to undermine the clear teachings of scripture, and the Christian doctrinal, and ethical consensus of centuries, I do not believe that can be defined as faithful.
Mr. Lucado does say very clearly that he believes "in the traditional biblical understanding of marriage." Well, I understand that, but does he believe that to have private or public consequence? What's his position on the legalization of same-sex marriage? What's his position on the entire LGBTQ+ array of issues? Well, the controversy is now raised and the question becomes unavoidable.
There is nowhere for any of us to hide on this issue. Sooner or later, we have any public voice or public role. If we have any claim on evangelical or orthodox Christian identity, that means just biblical Christianity, then we are going to have to make our convictions clear on this. There is not going to be any halfway house of ill-defined faithfulness. Faithfulness, as it turns out, in love and in truth will have to be defined. And not only that, we do have a lot of definition here for one thing, we definitely know where the Episcopal Church USA stands. We definitely know where the Episcopal Diocese of Washington stands and it's Bishop. We definitely know where the dean of the cathedral stands. We know where most of liberal Christianity stands.
Indeed, most is an understatement. Eventually, everyone's going to know where every one of us stands. So you better figure out where you stand.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. 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'm in Nashville, Tennessee, and I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.