The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

It’s Wednesday, August 11, 2021.

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

Part I

The High Velocity Fall of Andrew Cuomo Brings His Political Career to an End As He Resigns in Disgrace as Governor of New York. Not Even His Own Party Can (Or Wants To) Save Him Now

It was a surprise, and yet it really wasn’t a surprise. Yesterday, the Democratic governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, announced that he would be resigning from that office within 14 days. This brought to something of an end, but only something of an end, to a controversy that had begun to surround the New York state governor. It was not only a controversy, it became a scandal. Not only a scandal, but multiple scandals. But one of them in particular is what brought him down and it brought him down, as the New York Times put, in a way that was marked by both velocity and verticality. He fell fast. He fell far. He fell so far that you have to remember, he was elected three times as the governor of the state of New York.

He took office first in 2011. He will have served, basically, a decade in office as one of the most powerful states in the union. Not only that, he is the son of a former governor of New York who served three terms in office himself. Andrew Cuomo was the 56th governor of the state of New York, and he’s going to be followed by the lieutenant governor who will become the first woman to serve as the governor of New York state. But it is the big picture about Andrew Cuomo that’s most important in worldview analysis. And one of the places we need to look is to, not only the news coverage, but the actual words of the governor in his parting statement. The big thing to note here is the scale of the accusations against the governor. Just think of the scale. We’re talking about a report of more than 150 pages released by the attorney general of the state who, by the way, is of the same party. More on that in just a moment.

It documented numerous women who made very specific charges with detailed allegations against the governor concerning sexual misbehavior that arose, according to the legal experts in the state, to the level of sexual harassment, and perhaps even to the level of sexual assault. Even as the governor was contemplating his fate, the reality is that legal options are beginning to close to him, not to mention political options. It is likely that he will face criminal investigation, if not criminal charges, at the local state and perhaps even the federal level. By the time his resignation was read yesterday, Andrew Cuomo had lost almost every single major political ally. Both the United States Senators from New York, both Democrats, called for governor Cuomo to resign from office. So did the Speaker of the House of the United States, a Democrat. So did the Speaker of the Assembly in New York, a Democrat. So did the president of the United States, another Democrat who had been a very long time political ally of the New York Governor.

But looking at this from a Christian worldview perspective, we’re looking at a human drama. We’re looking at a political drama. Of course, we’re looking at a moral account that is unfolding here. But one of the things we need to take note of would be the actual text of the statement made by the governor yesterday. One of the things we would first note is that there is no genuine or authentic apology in this. The governor, basically, presents himself as a victim rather than as the perpetrator. The victim of political forces so dark and malevolent, he says, our political system cannot survive these kinds of strains. What is markedly absent from the New York governor’s account is anything akin to repentance and acknowledgement of the gravity of his misbehavior, multiple scandals, multiple misbehavior, lying in a way that likely cost human lives when it comes to the death of the elderly in nursing homes in the context of COVID, repeated corruption scandals, including the fact that he stopped an investigation when it began to get close to him. But it was the sexual allegations, the allegations of sexual misconduct, that actually led to the governor’s fall.

But when you look at the statement, when you listen to the governor’s words yesterday, what you saw was what amounted to a political defense. And by the way, not by accident, the governor only spoke after one of his personal attorneys had come out to try to debunk or to counter many of the charges made in the allegation. Here’s the bottom line. If the allegations had no credibility, then why did the governor resign? But that’s another story. Let’s look first at the actual text the governor spoke yesterday. Speaking of the allegations, they are, after all, the reason supposedly he has resigned. He said this, “The most serious allegations made against me had no credible factual basis in the report. And there is a difference between alleged improper conduct and concluding sexual harassment. Now don’t get me wrong,” said the governor, “This is not to say that there are not 11 women who I truly offended. There are. And for that I deeply, deeply apologize.”

Now, here’s one of the things we need to note. It is a political act to use the word offended, putting the offense on the part of the women rather than himself. This is what is sometimes called a pseudo apology. It’s not an apology because I did something wrong. It’s an apology because what I did evidently offended some people and I’m sorry you are offended. Now, it is not impossible that there is a moral situation in which someone is wrongly offended. But if someone is wrongly offended, you don’t apologize to them for being offended because, after all, you haven’t done anything that should justify the offense. In the case of these women, we have the opposite situation. The governor acted in ways that are now well documented against them. They were not merely offended. The governor is an offender.

Let’s put this in a different context. Let’s say that someone comes up to a pastor who just preached a biblical sermon, a sermon that is filled with biblical truth. Very candid, but very clear, unapologetic, biblical truth. Someone comes up and says, “I was offended by your message”. Well, the pastor ought not to apologize for that offense. After all, he did nothing wrong and, furthermore, he was simply preaching the word of God. The word of God may bring offense. Therefore, in the sense that the apostle Paul mentions, it may be offensive, but it is an offense for which we cannot and must not apologize. On the other hand, if the preacher is confronted by someone after the sermon who says, “You didn’t preach the word accurately,” or, “You said something that is not sustainable biblically,” or, “You said something improper.” Well, there might be the cause for offense. In that case, the pastor should not say, “Well, I apologize for the fact that you were offended,” but rather, “I apologize because I said something wrong.” You understand, I hope, the difference there.

In this case, what the governor is accused of doing with lengthy documentation, repeated scandals and a very lengthy scandal heritage, the fact is he has done something wrong. Repeatedly, he has done wrong. His apology should be for what he has done, not for how others have seen it or responded to it. But remember the charges against him and the scale of those charges. And here the governor’s words, these are supposedly his words of apology or something like an apology. “I have been too familiar with people. My sense of humor can be insensitive and off putting. I do hug and kiss people casually, women and men. I have done it all my life. It’s who I’ve been since I can remember. In my mind, I’ve never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn. There are generational and cultural shifts that I just didn’t fully appreciate and I should have. No excuses.”

Just consider the rationalization the governor offered there. What I did wasn’t wrong if you rewind history just a little bit. I do the same thing. I’ve always done the same thing. This is the way I’ve always acted, kissing and touching and making these kinds of remarks both to men and women. I’m just going to offer the suggestion that it is unlikely that that was ever true because, otherwise, you would have a long list of men who long ago would have put an end to it. The fact is that the governor objectified women sexually and felt the liberty to actually not only invade their personal space, but to do so in ways that were physical and sexually suggestive and, in some times, a combination of all of those things and more.

It’s also very interesting that he ended that paragraph by saying no excuses when the entire paragraph was an excuse. The governor, who has been known for very hard boiled politics his entire political career, going back to the tenure of his father as governor said, “Now, you know me. I’m a New Yorker, born and bred. I’m a fighter and my instinct is to fight through this controversy because I truly believe it is politically motivated. I believe it is unfair and it is untruthful, and I believe that it demonizes behavior that is unsustainable for society.” Now, there’s a bit of confusion when you consider those words, because when he discusses the demonizing of behavior that is unsustainable for society, does he mean his behavior? No, it doesn’t appear so. He means the behavior of his political enemies who demanded that he should resign.

The governor was facing an almost sure and likely speedy impeachment and his removal from office. By the way, the impeachment might continue. Why would it do so? Well, because if the governor is impeached and convicted and removed from office formally in that way, and that can be done even after he resigns, he will be legally barred from any future run for statewide office. That could be very important. But there is one other paragraph that demands to be shared. The governor said this, “New York tough means New York loving, and I love New York and I love you, and everything I have ever done has been motivated by that love. And I would never want to be unhelpful in any way and I think that, given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing and, therefore, that’s what I’ll do because I work for you. And doing the right thing is doing the right thing for you because, as we say, it’s not about me, it’s about we.”

That is the kind of language that might fit some political context, some moral context, somewhere sometime, but absolutely does not fit yesterday in New York in statements made by Andrew Cuomo, the governor resigning in the face of a scandal. The New York Times headline announcing the governor’s statement said that his term was then ending in disgrace. That’s a good word. It is ending in disgrace, whether or not the governor recognizes it.

Part II

Political Self-Defense Masquerades Apology — A Close Look at Andrew Cuomo’s Resignation Speech: What’s Missing?

Christians who are looking at this need to think about the first and primary moral issue, which is the sexual misbehavior of the governor towards women, and it was a serial set of offenses. It’s a reminder to us of the scale of this kind of offense that takes place in the larger society. We also need to note that there were these concentric scandals having to do with even life or death when it came to the scandal concerning the handling of COVID.

Remember the governor won a special Emmy last year for his handling of COVID on television. That’s an irony now. It was an irony then, frankly. But just considering all of these scandals, the reality is the first and foremost issue is the objective nature of the wrongdoing. In Christian understanding, biblical understanding, this means that the first and foremost issue about our sin is the objective reality of our sin. Our subjective understanding of the sin, our even subjective understanding of shame, doesn’t change the objective nature of the sin and the objective nature of our guilt. But we also have to understand that in manifold dimensions, the biblical doctrine of sin, even original sin, total depravity, the totality of a biblical understanding of sin is made extremely clear in the saga of Andrew Cuomo. Here’s an interesting question. How is it that he was removed from office? What kind of political pressure was brought against him?

You might expect that the Democratic governor of a very liberal state like New York in this sense would be complaining that it was the other party that did me in. It was the Republicans that did me wrong. It was partisan advantage that led the Republicans to undermine me and remove me from office. What’s wrong with that statement? Well, he didn’t make it because it’s not even plausibly true. There are no Republicans who are in any position in New York or on the national level to force Andrew Cuomo to do anything, and especially to resign from office.

No, the political forces that eventually required the governor’s resignation, they were Democratic forces. The Democratic President of the United States, the Democratic Speaker of the House. By the way, President Joe Biden–there’s some ironies here too–had been a long time ally of Andrew Cuomo. And the ironies, of course, have to do with the fact that there have been allegations of sexual misbehavior, at least raising to the level of harassment when it came to the former vice president and current president of the United States. It was Democrats in the United States Congress, both the House and the Senate. It was Democrats in the New York Assembly that basically brought about the governor’s resignation. They forced his hand because he was without political support, without allies and about to be impeached and removed from office by a vast Democratic majority in the New York State government.

Now let’s be clear, sexual misbehavior rising to the level of sexual scandal is hardly limited to one of the two major political parties in the United States. But in this case, the point for us to consider in worldview analysis is that Andrew Cuomo was not, in this case, undone by his political enemies, but by those of his own political party. Then you ask a couple of questions. Question number one, just how recently did the news of the governor’s misbehavior come to his political allies? The fact is it isn’t plausible in any rational world that this was new information in totality. No, this is what happens in the aftermath of almost every scandal like this. People come out of the woodwork to say, “Oh, I did see some of this. I knew some of this was happening. It was awful. It’s a good thing it finally caught up with him.”

The moral point here is that in the world of politics, politics in a fallen world, political allies will often cover for other allies as long as they possibly can, until the point that they can’t. That raises a second issue. Why all of a sudden could Andrew Cuomo be tolerated no more? It is because, in terms of public perception, that’s the external issue, but also internally just requisite support collapse tends to come very, very quickly. The assault may take a long time to form. The storm clouds may take a long time to gain power, but reality is that when the system hits, the collapse is often very, very fast and the collateral damage is also likely to be extensive. Andrew Cuomo will not be the only person in office, even if that means an elective office in the State of New York, who is likely to disappear from the public roster in relatively short order.

We will undoubtedly learn a great deal more about this story in time to come. But just as we think about historical consequence, we are reminded, as Christians, that there are always consequences to our behavior. And in the sense of historical moment, we need to recognize that resignations like this, the governor of a state as powerful as New York, with a name as politically potent as Cuomo, it doesn’t come very often. And for that reason, August the 10th of 2021 is going to be remembered for a long time, not only in New York but far beyond.

Just one final issue, by the way, from governor Cuomo. In his political defense disguised as a resignation statement yesterday, the governor made claims about his political legacy there in New York. And one of the things that he bragged about was passing what he called marriage equality, that is legalizing same-sex marriage. He even acknowledged “creating a new civil right.” By the way, if it’s a civil right, if it is a genuine right, you didn’t create it. That just demonstrates the difference between a rightful understanding of human rights and a very wrong and toxic understanding. But then he went on to say that he had accomplished something else. He legalized love for the LGBTQ community. He legalized love. Maybe you didn’t know that was within the job description of the Governor of an American state to legalize love. If only. But like every revolution, even the sexual revolution destroys, eventually, its own, maybe especially the sexual revolution.

Part III

Mandatory Military Draft Registration for Women? A Country That Will Conscript Its Wives and Daughters to War is a Country at War with Nature Itself

But, next, we turn to another story in the sexual, the gender revolution. This one comes also from Washington DC, and it has to do with the fact that the Senate Armed Services Committee, in proposing its annual defense policy bill, included a provision that will require young women to register with selective service. That is for young women to have to register for the draft. That would be the first time such would become the case in the history of the United States. And that is something that would have been, throughout most of our nation’s history, implausible, unthinkable, and unimaginable. But now, it’s actually being forwarded to the House by the Senate Armed Services Committee in this provision. Rebecca Keel, writing for The Hill, actually put out an article with the headline, “Up Next in the Culture Wars, Adding Women to the Draft,” as if this is nothing but a controversy that’s going to be stoked up by conservatives who were just looking for issues that we can add to the ever expanding list of offenses that are included in the culture war.

But the reality is this is a really, really big story. We’ve seen it coming for some time. There has been a concerted effort in the United States, in the name of gender equity or gender equality, to say that there should be no jobs, there should be no professional roles, there should be no sectors of the economy or public service that should be differentiated between men and women. The military was one of the last bastions of resistance to that logic, simply because there are physical differences that actually do matter and will always matter in much of what is considered military activity and defined as military readiness. There are different physical structures to men and women. And, yes, you’ll notice that even in this controversy, there’s the assumption that we do know who a man is, we do know who a woman is but, nonetheless, skip over that clarity because it’s probably temporary.

But understand that the issue here is that the logic of the gender revolution, the logic of second wave feminism, has not worked its way out rather thoroughly. Interesting things to note here. Back in the 1970s, when conservatives, Christian conservatives in particular in the United States, were arguing against the ERA, the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution, it was eventually stopped, but there’s a continuing story there as well. Nonetheless, during the ’70s, when conservative Christians made the argument that the adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution would lead to the fact that young women, along with young men, would be required to register with selective service, that was claimed by supporters of the ERA to be false, irrational scaremongering. But here it is. It took a while to get here, but that’s the way it happens in this kind of moral change. It takes a while but then, all of a sudden, things come in a hurry.

Just consider, same sex marriage, the transgender revolution, the war on the definition of boys and girls, men and women in sports. The transformation of the Olympics. Just consider the changes in our language. More on that in just a minute. But consider the fact that now we are talking about the fact that it’s not just Democrats, it’s overwhelmingly Democrats, but even some Republicans are saying, “Look, the logic of this is really clear. If it is fair in the name of equity or equality for young women to be able to serve in any area of the armed services, in any battlefront, in any category, then how can you say that it is legally or constitutionally permissible to limit the required registration for selective service to young men rather than young women?”

Now, by the way, the United States has had, basically, an all volunteer armed services since the 1970s and the end of the Vietnam war. But the reality is that all young men in the United States, who are legally defined as citizens of the United States, they have to register for selective service sometime around their 18th birthday. Failure to do that is not just bad etiquette, it is a crime. Not so for young women. But if, indeed, equality means equality in every respect, then you can see exactly where this logic is leading. I’ll be honest. I’ve been surprised sometimes by the blowback when I make the argument that no society can escape the judgment for the way it constitutes its military and for the failure to make a rightful distinction between men and women.

Now, at the point of America’s volunteer military, because it is volunteer, you have had the expanding logic of the fact that any limitation upon areas of service ought to be considered wrong. Now, there are arguments back and forth on this, but I’ll make the argument that put in the grand scheme of the Christian worldview and over against the grand tapestry of history, a society that will send its women into war is a society that, to some significant extent, is at war with itself and at war with nature. There’s another principle behind this and that comes down to the fact that an all voluntary military is actually an aberration in terms of national history. That’s not the norm when you consider actual conditions of warfare. Yes, there have been long periods without a draft. There have been long periods, frankly, without much of a standing army in some of our national history.

But the reality is that if the United States needs to ever institute the draft, if this proposal is put in place, young women and young men would be drafted together. There would be no distinction between the two. And at that point, you have to understand another logic. It’s a logic that we have made clear from the very beginnings of the controversy over women in combat. If the argument is, and this is how we’ve heard the argument over decades, that women must have an equal right to serve in those combat roles then, if that logic is right, there is no defense against the logic that women should be just as susceptible to registration and being called up for the draft and to being sent by conscription and by assignment into combat.

The reality is that Americans are likely to be very, very offended at that point if their daughters and, for that matter, their wives are drafted into military service and sent into combat. But if you have bought into the logic that women ought to have an equal freedom to serve in those combat contexts then, inexorably, whether you recognize it or not, you have bought into the logic that women should be on an equal basis forced to do so.

I’ll go ahead and make an argument that I think is based in scripture, based in general revelation and based in a review of human history. One of the achievements of civilization is that, under normal circumstances, wives and daughters are not sent into war as are husbands and sons. There’s another issue here, and this goes back to something that was articulated during the 1960s and ’70s, and that was the fact that Western societies are growing more resistant to military action. There could be something good about that in the sense that we can look at many unjustified military incursions and military actions in the past, and there have been some that have been worse than unjustified. But the reality is that if you are going to have a nation, that nation must be willing to defend itself. Not only willing but able to defend itself and that means that it must, under certain circumstances, and this is where Christian just war theory comes into play, be willing to use force when necessary.

Here is an interesting question, and I think you intuitively will know the answer to it. Will having women conscripted into the armed services make a country like the United States more or less willing to use force to defend itself? I am thankful for every man and every woman who serves in the American Armed Services and wears the American uniform or has so served and has so worn. But the reality is, we’re looking at a policy matter here and nations are responsible for their own policies and those policies do not come out of a vacuum, and that’s why these issues require a Christian consideration.

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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