The Briefing

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The Briefing

Friday, November 12, 2021

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It's Friday, November 12th, 2021.

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

Part

‘The School Board Revolt': Understanding Parental Response to the Infusion of Moral and Sexual Revolution in Schools

The Wall Street Journal calls it the school board revolt. And of course, this sent shockwaves through the political system and just in recent weeks with developments in state by state, school board by school board, but with the off-year elections that took place last Tuesday. Big news, schools at the center of that news, that was clearly the driving issue in the winning candidacy of Glenn Youngkin, now the governor-elect of the state of Virginia. And there is justifiable outrage on the parts of parents and ordinary American citizens and what is going on in the public schools. But this editorial in the Wall Street Journal points to the fact that there are those who see this as a school board revolt or a revolt at the school boards.

Also a revolt in electoral terms. According to the Wall Street Journal editors, the group Ballotpedia "has examined the political views of 278 winners of school board elections across the US. It found that more than one in four victors campaigned against critical race theory, COVID mitigation measures, or both." The editors of the Wall Street Journal point to parental fury. Now on the critical race theory or the critical theory front, one of the things I pointed out consistently, I want go back to in a future addition of The Briefing is how you have so many in the media, such as NPR, CNN, and also many of the major newspapers say, look, critical theory isn't being taught in the schools. It's a college level or graduate level issue of consideration and curriculum. But the bottom line is it is being taught because it being filtered down.

It is the end result of CRT that shapes how history, social sciences, any number of other issues including as we know now, alarmingly enough science and math. It is being mainstreamed in American schools. And not just critical race theory, but critical theory. But the point here is none the less, the school board revolt. Now, if you're talking about a revolt, we can understand in historical terms, in Christian worldview terms, that can be good or bad. A revolt could be a revolt against lawful authority, or the revolt could be a revolt against tyranny. Well, which is in this case? Well, in this case, it is a victory for citizens. It is a victory for parents. Here's what we need to consider. And this is extremely important, not just to our Christian understanding of the schools, but to our Christian understanding of human society. When we think about education, the think about the education of children, the formation of the minds, hearts and thinking of young people.

You understand that if you want to change society, you want to gain control of the educational of children. Now, we pointed out before this does not mean that everyone in the public school system from teachers to administrators, to principals, to school board members buys into the model. But one of the driving issues behind the development of the public schools as a state project in the United States was driven by the left as a way of liberating children from the prejudices of their parents. Many of the formative educators in terms of this tradition from Horace Mann to John Dewey argued for were a common school is a way of creating a common culture. They argued for it in what they called patriotic terms. American needs a common culture taught in the schools so that children no longer think of themselves as Italian Americans, German Americans, you could go down the list, but rather just as Americans.

But that means, it also means set children from what were described as the religious prejudices or the religious worldview of their parents. And that meant, and this is just an honest assessment. That meant that early in the 20th century, there were many who said, look, Catholicism is the enemy of American democracy. We need to stop Catholic parents from having an overtly Catholic influence on their children. Now, Christians, all Christians, American citizens should be outraged at that thought. But anti-Catholic bias and animus at the time, just in social and political terms meant that there were many Americans who said, no, maybe that's a good idea. Maybe we need to separate children from the Catholic faith of their parents. But of course, it turns out that that knife cuts both ways. And nowadays with a secular culture in the ascendancy, it is basically any religious beliefs held by parents that are now considered to be suspect by many who are formative influences and authorities in the school movement.

Now, again, there are many Christians, many wonderful people who are teaching, leading, administering in the public schools. That's not the issue. The issue is what is the world view driving the entire project and where is coercion being driven through the entire system? That's where we see the increased federal control over the schools is a net liberalizing force just by definition it is. But particularly as you are looking at public education in the United States. That public educational project was established on the idea of local school boards. And here's the point, those local school boards were to be made up of representative citizens. And those representative citizens were to be actively involved in the raising of children. That didn't mean all of them were parents, some of them would've been grandparents. Some of them would've been aunts and uncles. But it was not to be a class of professionals or politicians distant from the community.

They were rather to be representative of the community. That's where we see parental outrage now being directed at many school boards that are profoundly not representative of their community. And in order to understand how that happens, we just need to remember how ideology and politics often work and what happens when they collide. When you look at the profession of education, as it is nurtured in the education schools, those education schools are overwhelmingly very liberal, very progressive in their moral outlook by their own self designation. And that means that inevitably, the moral and theological truth claims of Christianity are an obstacle. An obstacle that must be overcome. You see this in battles over evolution, battles over or sex education. You see it in battles over just about anything, including the definition of the family, including the very definition of marriage, including the operant sexual morality that is one way or another going to be taught to children on the authority of the school.

There are a couple of other issues going on here we need to think about. One of them he discussed before on The Briefing and that is the fact that under the conditions of COVID, especially in the early months with the shutdown of the schools, many parents got a very eye-opening dose, an exposure to what's being taught to their children. And that amounted to not only the quality of education, but the content of that education. And there are many parents who have become quite alarmed because of what they saw, both in the quality and the content of what was being given to their children. Parent after parent, many of them have sent me their own observations, evidence from curriculum in which they were hearing things being taught to their children and well they recognize they have a problem. You can draw a line from that to these school board meetings and school board elections.

Something else that is going on is that under the condition of COVID and under the social pressures that we have endured with all these controversies being rightly in most cases directed at these school boards, many citizens who really hadn't been even listening in on Zoom teaching, they started looking into what was actually being taught in their schools. And in many cases, the response brought outright alarms.

Now, here's another interesting development. This is a news story that appeared in the Texas Tribune. It has to do with books that had been used in public schools in Texas, that had in libraries. The Texas Tribune reported on November 8th, that the governor of Texas, Greg Abbot had targeted two books. They're representative of other books as well, two books that have now been removed by schools that center on LGBTQ characters. And we are told that one of the books includes a graphic illustration and the other includes depictions of sex. The article's by Cassandra Pollock.

And let me just tell you, without going into any detail, that particular way of expressing this is a very significant understatement. We're really talking about graphic sexual representations of LGBTQ activities. I'm not going to go any further, but that much needed to be said. This past Monday, the Texas governor told state education officials in the word of this report "to develop statewide standards preventing pornography and other obscene content in Texas public schools." The Tribune said that the governor cited two memoirs about LGBTQ characters, which include again, graphic images and depictions of sex. The governor of Texas issued a directive to the Texas Education Agency, the Texas state library and Archives Commission and the state Board of Education. And that came, we're told just days after the governor told another entity of the Texas Association of School Boards to determine the extent to which "pornography or other inappropriate content exists in public schools across the state and if it is found to remove it."

Well, it will be found because anyone who knows how this literature has been disseminated to the schools and just how graphic it is understands that this is not a Texas problem. This is not a problem of just one or two books. This is a problem of the infusion of the moral and sexual and gender revolutions into the curriculum and into the libraries of the public schools in so many different cases. You look at the list that are put together by associations of school librarians. You find the list of books that are recommended by LGBTQ organizations, and then find their way onto the list that are recommended by professional librarians. You look at the ideological bent of the schools of library science. You come to understand that when you look at a group like the American Library Association, you're looking at a very liberal interest group. It is very much now a representation of the ideology of the left.

The Texas governor's pushing back and of course there are those who are pushing back on the Texas governor. And this is good politics for the Texas governor. It's also something that's morally necessary, he's doing what's right. He's doing so because many of these books were identified by parents and other citizens, as well as students, by the way, for their offensive and troubling content. But just notice the pushback. This is in worldview analysis, something that we should really note. The pushback comes in those who say, who's the governor of Texas? This should be left to the education professionals or who's the governor of Texas, or who are these parent who are these citizens? This is a matter best left to the professional librarians. That's the problem. It's not that we shouldn't have professional librarians and professional educators. And it's not that we shouldn't have programs that train and prepare and educate educators and others, including librarians, including curriculum writers.

The problem is who's doing the teaching, who's deciding who teaches in these schools and what you have here is a self-reinforcing liberal ideology in which there is very little crack in the entire system for even the slightest amount of conservative influence. One final thing we need to note. It is very, very interesting to see the kinds of statements made and the sources of the statements made from those who will defend these books and books like them. There are those who will fight to the end to have these books included. And even in their most graphic representations, you need to look at those arguments and understand just how straightforward and candid they are. And then you'll understand why there are now lines in many places for those who are ready to take their place running for the local school board, or certainly as parents or citizens to show up at the next school board meeting. Because if this is happening in Texas, you could be pretty sure it's happening at a school system very close to you.

Part

How Should Christians Think About Social Justice? Does It Correlate to Critical Theory? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters From Listeners Of The Briefing

Next, we're going to turn to the Mailbox, some really good questions. I'm always glad to hear from listeners. We can't get to all the questions. We can't even get to all the really good questions, but we'll get to as many as we can. Choosing those that address issues of particular consequence and particular relevance. Joe wrote in to ask about social justice as a category. He says that he is himself completing PhD studies in higher education at a major university. He even says Christian university. But he says, he's been surprised by some of the classes which "seem to take current events as issues of social justice." I'm not all that shocked, Joe. There are many universities that may claim in some sense to be Christian universities, but frankly what's taught, especially in so many of their professional schools is actually more about the profession than anything than is legitimately Christian.

So I don't know the university. I'm glad you didn't put the name in the university in here. I'm simply going to say that's a big concern at many universities that would be classified as Christian universities or schools. So many of these professional studies programs, the problems bigger than that as a matter of fact. But especially in the professions, many of these programs reflect the profession more than any kind of cognitive commitment to the Christian worldview. Let me be clear, that's not true of all these programs and all the universities that claim to be Christian. And let's be thankful for that, but it is an increasing problem. And what's described here is the problem in some of these programs, this one happens to be a PhD program in higher education where many current events are presented as issues of social justice. Joe then asked, how should Christians think about social justice?

Well, first of all, very interesting phrase, social justice, because at face value, it makes obvious sense. We will believe that justice, God's demand for justice, God's own character as justice, his command that we seek justice should have a social dimension. And that's absolutely true, it should. And this is where we understand that our Christian lives are not only about our commitment to a Christian personal biblical ethic, but also in some sense to a Christian social ethic. But that means that what we're looking at is the fact that our ethical principles are not merely private. They're not privatized. We believe that Scripture in terms of God's revealed will makes a claim upon our personal lives, yes. But God makes a claim upon the totality of our experience, including society, law, politics, economics, but here's where the word justice combined with social now means something that is a bit more than that.

It has become more infused with ideology. Where did the term come from? Well, it can be argued that the term social justice was first popularized among Roman Catholic thinkers, trying to make a distinction between private morality and social morality. But social justice in this sense often became procedural and it often became laden with the understanding that society itself. It's not just the argument that it should be adjudicated, it should be organized according to principles of justice. But rather that is the Christian responsibility or for that matter, it is the culture's responsibility to undo civilization. To use a rather Marxist category of analysis to try to go and ruthlessly critique all of society in order to ferret out in justice, assuming that the laws that exist are probably more part of the problem than part of the solution. And that means by the way, that a lot of what is the Christian inheritance in our civilization is targeted by those who, yes, do hold to a worldview driven by critical theory as the problem rather than the solution.

Human liberation it is often proposed comes in liberating humanity from those very structures. That is to say that these days, those who are arguing primarily in an ideological sense for social justice, they assume that means a leftist ideology, a leftist practice, a leftist understanding of society and politics and economics, you go down the list. Again, that isn't to say that everyone who uses that term implies all that. It is to say that that term right now is so deeply embedded and that particular ideological context, that it's very hard to separate it. Here's where Christians do understand, we are called to seek justice in every dimension of life and every arena. It would be inconsistent for Christians to say, we believe that justice is to be applied in our private lives, but not in our public lives. To say it should apply in terms of our personal, private morality but not in terms of public morality and law.

I guess the easiest way to answer this is to say that when you're thinking about justice, we just need to think about biblical justice. That's a bigger category than any of us can actually handle. It's bigger than any of us can fulfill given our fallenness, our sinfulness, our finitude. But our understanding should be that a straightforward understanding of justice as is revealed in scripture and was preached by the prophets with social implications is not a different kind of justice than what we would rightly require in the classroom, in the family, on the playground, in a court of law, when it comes to personal or to social moral responsibility. The idea that social justice can be decoupled by the way from individual or personal morality is another one of the modern conceits we need to understand. There are many people who will be ready to go march in the streets for what they demand as social justice, who also demand the right to flaunt that very same moral impulse when it comes to their own say sexual, gender or moral lives.

Part

Does Classical Liberalism Conserve More Than Contemporary Conservatism? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters From Listeners Of The Briefing

Another letter came from a listener, very concerned about language and rightfully so. Colin wrote in to discuss the distinction between classical liberalism and classical conservatism, or at least classical liberalism and contemporary conservatism. He says that classical liberals "desire for the government to possess minimal power." But he goes on to say, "Contemporary conservatives claim for government to possess or desire for government to possess minimal power, unless government power can regulate or conserve some key principles, however defined." Well, I don't think this is as much an issue at the classical level than Colin might think. But it does point to the fact that when you think about the phrase classical liberalism, people hear that meaning liberalism in our contemporary political context. That would mean the left. Say, Roosevelt's liberalism, Lyndon Baines Johnson's liberalism, or the liberalism of, well, the prevailing worldview on American college campuses today.

That's not what we're talking about. Classical liberalism uses the word liberal as in the word liberty, that is the conservation and protection of ordered liberty. In that sense, when you're talking about classical liberalism, here's the strange and confusing thing to many people, that includes traditional conservatism. Now there might be some who would call themselves conservatives these days, who might want a big government so long as they decide what that big government will do and what kind of laws it will put into place. But that's not really conservative. Conservatives like classical liberals of which they are a part, understand the necessity of a very limited government. Indeed, in our founding era, the clear understanding of a government of enumerated powers. That means government doesn't have any powers that are expressly numbered within the constitution of the United States.

But here's the problem Colin, and you go on to say that there are some conservatives who have no problem with the use of government coercion to enforce conservative values. But here's the issue. Every government's going to coerce, it's going to enforce, it's going to require certain values. Someone's values are going to be behind government laws, policies, principles, regulations, and all the rest. I don't think there's any conflict whatever for conservatives to say that we should seek a limited government, a very restrained limited government that nonetheless will uphold the very truths that are necessary for a society to experience and to preserve ordered liberty. There are those who would say, well, that's conservative seeking to use the state. But that's also conservatives as well as classical liberal saying that is actually the purpose of the state. To be as a background entity in order to put in place and preserve laws and structures necessary for ordered liberty. And then to get out of the way of individual citizens living their lives in accordance with that orderly constitutional system of laws.

Part

Is A Human Embryo A Human Life? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters From Listeners Of The Briefing

Finally, for the mailbox for today, a question from Marty about IVF technology and about the human embryo. And this is a very thoughtful question. Marty says that she and her husband listening to The Briefing and our recent conversation about the tragic story coming from California about an IVF mix-up that led to embryos being switched before a transfer into the wombs of two mothers and two couples discovering that they actually had what was defined as another couple's child. We talked about the abstraction. That is the Christian principle that the further you abstract from God's intended mechanism and context for a good.

In this case, the good being reproduction and the context being the conjugal unit of marriage, the further you abstract the more moral danger or moral risk you incur. But the question came down to this about the human embryo. And Marty says, we believe the human life begins at the moment of conception and therefore the fertilized egg is now a human being with an eternal soul. Then she says, we considered what happens in a lab where egg and sperm are brought together. Well, what does that mean? She summarizes in a situation in which that embryo is destroy. Well, that's exactly the point, Marty. That is exactly the point. Now, the ensoulment is a very interesting question because that's actually more a Catholic question than an evangelical question. And that's to say that it's a part of historic Catholic, moral conjecture in teaching. We don't actually believe in ensoulment. We believe that the soul and the body are actually united when God says, let there be life in such a way that there is no possibility of a human being without a soul.

It's not that the soul is later added. It's that when God creates a human being and says, let there be life, there is both body and soul. And as you're thinking about, for example, our future state in heaven, well, we are told that that will be an embodied state. We'll have our glorified body, body and soul will be united. Death right now is described as a temporary separation between the body and the soul. Which we're created in such a way that there never was a body without a soul, or for that matter a soul without a body, in terms of our biblical understanding. And thus God said, let there be life. There was life that was embodied in sold life. But Marty, the bottom line is exactly what you and your husband are affirming here. And that is that a human embryo is a human life. And we have to understand that treating a human embryo with disrespect is treating a human being with disrespect.

Destroying an embryo is destroying a human being. Now, the law may not recognize that. Indeed, of course, right now the law does not recognize that. But Christians, we must recognize that. We must recognize that we don't get to choose an arbitrary point after fertilization where we can just come to an agreement the human life begins. No, we have to take it all the way back to fertilization. What most Christians refer to as conception but we really mean fertilization. That moment when God says, let there be life. There would be some who would say, well, it's extreme for Christians to say that even in embryo, a human embryo is a human life. But we have to turn that question on its head and simply ask people, where would you say human life begin and on what authority and what about the life before that life? How do you explain that? What we should seek is Christian consistency, biblical consistency, not only in our doctrine but in our defense of human life.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

I'd love to hear from you, your own questions. Send to mail@albertmohler.com. Go to the website, hit the mail button. However you get the question to us, I'm just thankful for listeners who ask such good questions and make us think together. For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter, I go into 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 speaking to you from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and I'll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me using the contact form. Follow regular updates on Twitter at @albertmohler.

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