Thursday, August 19, 2021
It's Thursday, August 19th, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Are Americans Just Deciding Not to Work? It’s Vexing Economists — And Should Concern Us All
Cataclysmic events such as pandemics sometimes have unexpected consequences. Indeed, you should expect the unexpected. But just think about the Black Death, the great plague that took place between the years of about 1346 and 1353, and just think about Europe, where somewhere between 40 million and 200 million people died. Somewhere between 40% and 60% of the entire population of Europe at the time wiped out by that particular plague and pestilence. Just think about that. Something close to 200 million people. But one of the unexpected consequences is basically tied to the rise of the middle class in the West. You might wonder how that happened. Well, it happened because of a shortage of workers.
Workers were largely powerless up until the 14th Century because they were trapped within an economic system that had very little growth and they had very little leverage. After all, they kept having more babies and that meant there were always more workers, and as long as there were more workers, they didn't have to be paid very much. But after the Black Death, after the plague there in the 14th century, all of a sudden, workers became very scarce and therefore they became portable and they became valuable. People moved from one village to another because of wage inflation. The raise in wages helped to at least set the stage for what would later develop as the middle class, and the middle class is the backbone demographically of Western civilization. So, again, economic consequences of a pandemic. But what we're looking at right now is an interesting parallel. It's not on the same scale. Let's be very thankful for that, looking at 40% to 60% of the population who died in the course of the Black Death in the 14th century.
COVID-19 nowhere near that scale. Of that, we're very, very thankful. But there are already economic consequences to the COVID-19 pandemic, and one of them has to do with employment, and in this case, it's an interesting story and one that should cause us concern as Christians thinking about the dignity of work and the importance of work. For example, The Economist, one of the world's most influential periodicals, published there in London, came out with an article in recent days with the headline telling us that people across the rich world may have lost their taste for work. Very interesting. Now, as you look at this, recognize that The Economist isn't named The Economist by accident. The origin of this very periodical goes back to the origin of economics as a recognized discipline, a discipline of human study, a human science, trying to understand human economic behavior. Now, remember, where you talk about that kind of issue, you are at the nexus of the biblical worldview.
The first economic worldview is presented in the first chapter of the Bible in Genesis 1. More about that in just a moment. But the issue is, The Economist asking out loud whether or not people across the rich world have lost their taste for work, and it turns out this isn't just about COVID-19. We're talking about the pandemic creating a stress point that is revealing some patterns that had begun before. For one thing, even under the circumstances that led up to, say, the year 2020, there were people who were deciding to retire earlier. One of the reasons may have been the fact that the stock market and investment markets had been doing so well in recent years. Some people decided they could retire earlier than they had expected. But that doesn't add up to enough people to make the demographic numbers make sense here. Instead, you have to look at the fact that there are many younger people who are not retirement age, they're not approaching retirement age, they should be actively involved in employment and in the economy, but they are not. You ask the question, why?
Well, The Economist recognizes that there has been disruption in the economy. There was a shutdown. There were certain industries that were particularly affected with the loss of jobs or a shutdown of economic activity. Construction follows certain waves of highs and lows. You have similar things happening sometimes in retail. But the fact is, that doesn't explain it either. You also have to look at the fact that governments have put in place disincentives to work. Now, I'm just going to argue that, that is one of the most dangerous things that government can do, and this government is determined to do it. Just in the last several days, the Biden administration has announced increases to the monthly amount given through the SNAP program for food assistance, and by the time this policy is put in place, it will actually offer to the average American family of four that is offered this kind of assistance more money than the average family spends on food right now even as you're looking at the average family, not just the average family on assistance.
That tells you that there's something more going on with the Biden administration's plan that is making sure that people are fed. It means that more people are becoming more dependent upon the federal government and more people have even less incentive to work. One interesting thing that's in this Economist article is the fact that even though there are many, particularly in the mainstream media, who talk about the economic impact of the COVID-19 recession, as it's been called, upon women, it turns out that is not the case. This is not a she session, as many people say. As The Economist writes, "It is commonly believed that school closures have made it impossible for parents, particularly mothers, to take a job." The evidence for this is mixed though. Analysis by Jason Furman, Melissa Kearney, and Wilson Powell III concludes that extra joblessness among mothers of young children accounts for a negligible share of America's employment deficit." As The Economist says, "Despite talk of a she session early in the pandemic, in most rich countries, the worker deficit for men remains larger."
There is also a change in the economy away from migration. Fewer people were moving from city to city, state to state in order to take jobs or to take, say, raises or enhanced jobs, and instead they largely stayed in place to an unusual extent during the pandemic. But it's going to be very interesting to see if there's a resumption of previous patterns of migration. And already there had been warning signs in the economy that fewer people are willing to take jobs if that disrupts them from their community and from their settled state. They would rather stay where they are at lesser employment rather than to move for greater employment. Now, Christians look at that and say, "That's not necessarily the wrong thing." We believe in the responsibility of kinship and family and rootedness, but we also understand that, when you are looking at a national economy and a global economy, sometimes the people have to move with the jobs or the jobs simply are not filled.
A lower labor supply, again, it goes back to the fact that there are some people who are actually retiring earlier. That's not negligible as a factor. It can't explain the whole, but you are also looking at the third broad reason that is given according to The Economist is the fact that there are shifting attitudes. That's the biggest issue for our consideration. Shifting attitudes towards what? Shifting attitudes toward work. Now, this is something we come back to again and again, because the biblical theology that begins in Genesis 1 begins with human beings made in God's image. Male and female in his image, God created every single human being, and then he gave us the responsibility to take dominion, to exercise dominion. That doesn't mean the misuse of the resources of the world that God made as the garden he assigned us, but rather it does mean the use and the stewardship. And indeed, dominion means it is a good thing to build a city.
It's a good thing to build a shelter. It is a good thing to start a business. It is a good thing to work. As a matter of fact, very early in the Book of Genesis, a part of what has made clear about the image of God, the imago Dei, the image of God shows up in the fact that even as God is creator or even as God is worker, in some sense, so we are as well. Where does that show up? Well, it shows up for instance, perhaps most emphatically in the Book of Exodus in Exodus 20 and in the 10 Commandments, where in the Sabbath command we are told that God labored for six days in the creation of the world, then he rested. So likewise Israel was commanded, God's covenant people, to work and labor for six days, and then to rest on the Sabbath. What does that tell you? It tells you that God presents himself as laboring, and those who are made in his image are commanded to labor as well.
It's very interesting when you look at a worldwide global picture, one of the things that becomes very clear is just how desperate many people around the world, particularly many men trying to take care of their families in many of the cultures of this world, how desperate they are to find a job and to keep a job. One of the most interesting things going on right now is mass migration from places such as Northern Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa to places like the United Arab Emirates where there's a big building boom, where so many people are moving there in order to work. They are leaving their families and going afar in order to work. The same thing is true here in the United States, where you see people coming and you have remittances, as they are known, with people making money in this country, sending money back to their families and their kin who are located in other worlds from which they came, other nations.
This is a fascinating phenomenon, but it also raises another question. Are the young people in your house being trained, educated, prepared, are they being parented in order to work? Are they thinking of work as that to which they are called? Now, let's understand that even as we look at the Sabbath Command in the 10 Commandments, when we are told that God labored, that doesn't just mean something like a salaried job or an hourly wage. It does mean deployment for the good of humankind in something that is noble and important work in such a way that if it's the mother in the home, if it's the miner in the mine, if it is the carpenter there in the shop, if it is the grocery clerk checking you out in the grocery store, it is good work. It is important work. It is work. One of the things that becomes clear is that government sometimes has a pernicious role in this. When government intervenes in the economy, it sometimes has a very negative effect.
And not only that, when you have the creation of a welfare state or a dependency culture, well, you have just created a disincentive to do what human beings were made to do and what a thriving society requires people to do, and that is to work, to labor, to invest, to contribute to the society. We are now looking at the fact that it is not so much a crisis of people retiring early as it is people entering the workforce late, if ever. I must tell you, that question that was published in The Economist really did catch my eye that people across the rich world lost their taste for work in a very real sense. According to the Scriptures, that means we have lost our taste for being human beings made in the image of God. That is indeed a haunting question seen in that light of biblical theology.
Chief Justice John Roberts Prediction Nears Fruition as Harvard Law Today Argues for the Legitimacy of Polyamory
But next, we're going to shift to a very different issue, which is also very important from a Christian worldview perspective. We're talking about the periodical Harvard Law Today.
Now just imagine what we're talking about. It is associated with the Harvard Law School, which is associated with Harvard University, which goes back to Harvard College. It goes back to 1636. We're talking about the most elite academic institution in the United States. We're talking about its law school and now we're talking about Harvard Law Today and an article that appeared just this month entitled, "Polyamory and the Law." Now, the article has to explain, has to define polyamory, and for interesting reasons, by the way. It's not because you can't figure out what “poly” means, or “amory,” for that matter, but how polyamory is different from polygamy. It turns out you're going to need a lot of sexual theory in order to make that distinction clear. Well, the article in Harvard Law Today basically is about the fact that people associated with the Harvard Law School are helping to try to build momentum for a revolution in the acceptance of polygamy and polyamory and polyamorous relationships to be recognized in the law.
The article is by Elaine McArdle, identified as Harvard Law School correspondent, and the article begins, "Natasha Aggarwal," she's of the Class of 2021, "didn't know much about polyamory until spring when she became a clinical student of the LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic at the WilmerHale Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. But after working at the clinic with the newly created Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition, Aggarwal, a corporate lawyer from India who came to HLS last year to study feminist theory says, 'Now I feel very, very strong wrongly about it.'" Oh yeah, you caught that. A corporate lawyer from India comes to Harvard Law School to study feminist theory and comes out with very strong beliefs on behalf of polygamy or polyamory. Yep, that's what American law schools do for you these days.
She went on to say, and I quote, "People have been fired from work because their boss discovered they were polyamorous. We are told that she's continuing her work as a summer fellow in the clinic. It's a problem for health insurance, for living arrangements such as leases and deeds." And she said, "That's just a few of the areas that need legal protection." Now, here's the definitional part. Pay close attention to this because the way they define the terms is as interesting as the fact that the article exists. "Polyamory is a form of non-monogamous relationship involving more than two adult partners at the same time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved." That according to the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition, also known as PLAC, which was established in the fall of 2020, yes, that's how recent this is, 2020, by a psychologist and five lawyers focused on LGBTQ plus issues. Among them was Harvard Law Lecturer on Law Alexander Chin, as of 2015 Founding Director of the LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic. Later in the article, Chin is described as "the first openly transgender editor of the Harvard Law Review".
Back to the argument, back to the definition. Polyamory, remember this, a form of non-monogamous, just hang onto that, relationship involving more than two adult partners. So if you have two, that's not yet polygamous or it's not yet polyamorous. You have to have at least three or you don't qualify. But the argument here is that polyamory, which is this consenting adults more than three in a non-monogamous relationship of some kind, the argument here is that justice demands that they must be recognized as having legally sanctioned relationships tantamount to marriage. But then you have the question, well, why is it discussed as polyamory rather than polygamy? Well, that is because polygamy is back in the bad old days when it was a patriarchal institution with a man with plural wives. "No," they say, "that's oppressive. We're not about polygamy. We are about polyamory and there is no monogamous expectation. These are non-monogamous relationships.
Speaking of polygamy, that is as in a man having multiple wives, we're told that, that is "a practice frowned upon as patriarchal and one sided by many polyamory advocates." But then the article tells us, "Yet despite the emphasis on love among its adherence, polyamorous relationships have few legal protections and people and families face discrimination in such basic needs as jobs, housing, and obtaining health insurance for more than one partner." We've talked on The Briefing about the fact that there are three communities in the northeast there in Massachusetts that have approved recognition of non-monogamous polyamorous relationships. But the argument here is that, that should be true of the entire country. Indeed, the entire world should be so enlightened as to create some kind of legal sanctioned, legal recognition, and legal protection for these polyamorous relationships.
The article goes on to make that case over and over again. It talks about recognizing those who "consider themselves to be a family." Just think about that. Instead of an objective definition of a family, which is the very cornerstone of civilization, now you have the subjective definition, which is whatever people may consider to be a family if they "consider themselves to be a family." The article's filled with all the jargon of modern critical theory, including the fact that if you do not desire to be or identify as polyamorous, nonetheless, you should be on the right side of justice and moral progress by identifying openly as an ally of the polyamorous. Attorney Aggarwal from India identified earlier in the article said, "I don't quite understand why polyamory is problematic." She went on to say, "From my perspective, it just means there is more love in the world, that your heart is so big you're capable of loving multiple people in the same capacity at the same time."
Now, this is Harvard Law Today. Just consider this, this is the Harvard Law School, perhaps the most or certainly one of the most prestigious law schools in the United States. It is itself an absolute engine for a revolution against the very Western Civilization that gave it birth. This is one of the most subversive arguments that you could find anywhere, and, of course, it's coming with all the new moral unction and force of these moral and sexual and gender revolutionaries. We are told that we are not to be concerned about polyamory, nor should we have any negative moral judgment of it, because it just means more love in the world. If you accept it and recognize it, if you involve yourself in polyamory, it just means that your heart is so big. Again, I'm quoting this attorney, "you are capable of loving multiple people in the same capacity at the same time."
Now, I mention that as you consider humanity, the biblical worldview begins right there in Genesis 1 with human beings male and female made in God's image. But you'll also recall that it's not just a dominion mandate. It is a reproduction mandate. Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. By the way, in biblical theology, that's not just have more babies. It is you are made in my image, I want to see more of my image. "I am glorified," God says, "to humanity when a man or woman come together in the covenant of marriage and have children through the conjugal union." That brings glory to God. There are more image bearers in the world. God affirms that very point, by the way, in the Noahic Covenant in Genesis 9 when God discusses the penalty against murder, because it is the slaying of someone made in his image. The article, by the way, in Harvard Law Today is basically about what a great thing we're to think it is that Harvard Law School's on the front line, is on the cutting edge.
It's not accidental or incidental that the three municipalities that have offered some kind of sanction and moral recognition to polyamorous relationships are there in the neighborhood of Harvard Law School. And we're told Harvard Law School students are getting vital experience on the ground during their law school time by being involved in advocacy for these polyamorous relationships. Now, one thing to keep in mind is that if you go back to the year 2015, the Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage, indeed mandating legal recognition of same-sex marriage nationwide, the Chief Justice of the United States, John G. Roberts Jr. indicated in a very clear descent to the majority opinion that if the court went so far as to redefine marriage, which is after all central to human civilization for millennia, to redefine marriage in terms of genders saying that it's no longer a man and a woman exclusively, it can be a woman and a woman or a man and a man, the Chief Justice said, and he was certainly right about this, that it is a less significant move to change the number. The gender is a more significant issue than the number.
And certainly, by the way, that follows biblical history as well. Jesus made clear in the Gospel of Matthew that God's plan from the beginning was one man and one woman. Jesus went so far as to say, "What God has put together, let no man tear apart." But the point is as you're looking at this that the celebration of polyamory and certainly the moral sense that this has to be the wave of the future, that was the warning that came back in 2015. Yes, back in ancient history. We're talking about six years ago when the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, who is still the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, when he made that statement and the people who were pressing for same-sex marriage and the moral left in this country said, "It's outrageous that he would jump to that conclusion. That is scare language."
Well, here we are, six years later, and the article appears in Harvard Law Today. And that tells you a very great deal, first of all, about what happens when you start a subversive revolution in morality. It's easier to start than to stop. There is no stop, which is again why there is a plus sign at the end of LGBTQ+. It is because there's the understanding, this is where it starts, by no means where it ends. The second thing to know is, the very people who said it's irresponsible to warn of this, are the people saying now, "Well, what a good thing. It's coming at last."
Did God Create Disgust, or Is It an Evolutionary Trait Necessary for Survival? Worldview is Everywhere — Yes, Even in “Festival Toilet” Videos
Now, finally, I wanted to turn to an article that appeared in the New York Times, the headline, "Skin Crawling Blame Evolution". The subhead, "Scientists Are Studying Disgust and What Makes Our Flesh Feel Creepy." Sabrina Imbler is the reporter in the article and she tells us that evolution has evidently produced an impulse of disgust, which human beings develop over time, perhaps at least partly because there is wisdom in disgust such as not eating spoiled food.
It turns out we are told that evolution favors those who don't eat spoiled food and that disgust must be one of those evolutionary features that led those who came, well, a long time before us to learn the hard way that eating spoiled food means your genes don't get replicated. This article tells us about the fact that there are academics, including graduate studies at UCLA, who are studying the evolution of disgust. And they are, I kid you not, watching over and over again YouTubes that are disgusting in order to try to identify in a scholarly sense what makes them disgusting. And just in case you weren't disgusted yet, "The video the researchers found most disgusting was titled Dirty Festival Toilets." Yeah, while we're talking about higher education, some poor set of parents out there is pouring thousands of dollars of tuition money into UCLA so that junior can watch videos of dirty festival toilets, and, we can hope, be disgusted. The very idea of paying that tuition is also disgusting.
The article also tells us about professor Tom Kupfer, identified as a psychological scientist at Nottingham Trent University in England. He and his team are looking at why there are certain patterns of disgust that are identified with a human disgust towards "clustered holes." We're told that this researcher and team are "presenting findings to colleagues on trypophobia," the aversion to clustered holes experienced by some people. "His data showed that participants with trypophobia often reacted to hole-y images, that means images of clustered holes, with the urge to itch or scratch." But in case you're wondering, what in the world this has to do with the Christian worldview? Actually, quite a bit. It has to do with disgust. It's interesting here that the modern secular materialist worldview has to say that must be tied to evolution. That must be the source. It also implies that disgust is often morally misdirected.
There's actually nothing morally right or wrong about clustered holes. It's just a matter of evolution gone wrong, or in the case of no eating spoiled food, evolution supposedly gone right. But here's the point. The biblical worldview also tells us about disgust, but it tells us that disgust is something that is actually a part of human experience because God made us so. Leon Kass, one of the greatest moral philosophers of our age, refers to this as the wisdom of repugnance. He's writing from a Jewish perspective, very much informed by the Old Testament, pointing out that even in the holiness code having to do with what Israel is to eat or not eat, disgust is demonstrated as something that is to be morally informative to the people of Israel, and we would say as Christians also to Christians. Leon Kass was Chair of the Presidential Commission on Bioethics during the administration of George W. Bush. He was the head of the commission that brought the recommendation that it would be morally wrong to destroy human embryos in order to conduct medical experiments or to use human embryos in that experimentation.
He pointed out that there is a rightful disgust about using human beings in embryonic form simply as means to an end in medical research. But you'll notice that the moral progressives have pushed way past Leon Kass and his commission on bioethics and now you have the Biden administration basically opening the flood gates for federal funding of the very same research. And that is, I say this word carefully, disgusting, and the response to it should indicate what Leon Kass rightly called the wisdom of repugnance. In that repugnance, there is wisdom.
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'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.