Wednesday, November 17, 2021
It's Wednesday, November 17, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
“Build Back Better Bill” Takes Aim at Religious Liberty — Intentionally
For years now, we have seen a collision coming, like two locomotives coming on a track. One of them is entitled the moral revolution. One of them is known as religious liberty. Those two trains are running in opposite directions at one another. And that's the huge problem.
And as we have seen, the setup in our entire cultural moment is for the moral revolution to win at the expense of religious liberty. And what that means, of course, is that the newly invented artificial rights of the sexual revolution are threatening to take the place, indeed to displace the actual recognition and respect for religious liberty that is demanded by the United States Constitution. Now, yesterday's edition of The New York Times had a front page article.
Here's the headline, "Looming fight on faith, funds, and childcare." Luke Broadwater reports on the story and he tells us "a coalition of religious groups is waging an intensive lobbying effort to remove a non-discrimination provision from President Biden's ambitious pre-kindergarten and childcare plans fearing it would disqualify their programs from receiving a huge new infusion federal money."
Now, when you look at this, you would say, "Well, this can't be entirely new," because we're looking at the fact that the government's been involved in funding many of these programs before. But as this article makes clear, what has been hidden in the giant social spending bill proposed by the Biden administration is language that would change the rules. The most substantive change might not have been recognized at first.
It's a change from funding these programs through block grants given to the states to changing the situation to direct funding by federal programs. Now, here's the big difference. There had been organizations, even ministries, Christian organizations that had participated in those programs funding by the block grants. That meant that they did not come directly under the non-discrimination provisions required by the federal government. But the change proposed here is not accidental.
It's very intentional. It's an intentional effort, and it's being demanded by some on the political left, an intentional effort to bring all of these programs under the moral revolution mandated by the federal government. And that means that religious institutions and religious organizations would not be able to operate these schools in a way consistent with their own beliefs, especially when it comes to the gender and sexual morality revolution, the entire array of issues, most importantly summarized as LGBTQ.
Now, as Broadwater reports, "The fight could have major consequences for a central component of Mr. Biden's $1.85 trillion social policy bill. And we're reminded that the House, as at least promised by its democratic leadership, is going to deal with it as soon as this week." But it's clear that at least some people are waking up to the fact that if the law is passed as it is, it would basically mandate the moral revolution throughout many religious organizations and institutions, or they would simply have to go without the funding.
Now, that raises another set of issues that has to do with religious organizations taking this kind of funding. But the reality is that many of these organizations and ministries taking care of children and involved in childcare do so basically because of a need, and they do so understanding that there are massive costs. The federal government pays for some of those costs. But as we see here, when the federal government involves itself in funding, eventually it will seek to control.
That's just a basic principle. That's the reason why The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Boyce College don't take a penny of tax money. But at the same time, I'm going to argue for religious liberty on behalf of all. And that means even for those ministries that are involved in these kinds of programs on behalf of society and will basically be starved of funding intentionally targeted by those who are trying to press the LGBTQ agenda.
Now, even as Broadwater reports, "The provision at issue is a standard one in many federal laws which would mandate that all providers comply with federal non-discrimination statutes." Then he summarizes, "Religious organizations whose childcare programs are currently exempt from such laws argue that it would effectively block many of their providers from part, while civil rights advocates contend it is long past time for such institutions to comply."
Now just notice the heavy boot of government of moral coercion found in that very statement. That those who are arguing for this as a part of the rights revolution contend its "long past time" for such institutions to comply. Again, notice it served. Christian ministry, they're coming for you. It's noteworthy, if not unexpected, that two of the religious groups cited as being very concerned here are the Roman Catholic Church and the organizations connected with Orthodox Judaism.
It is because Roman Catholics and or Orthodox Judaism are very involved in these kinds of programs and with the kinds of federal funding that would be at stake if this provision is left in place. Now, remember from the get-go, the Biden administration and the democratic leadership in the House and the Senate intend to ram the social spending bill through the Congress without a single re-vote.
Therefore, this isn't at this point a Republican versus Democrat issue because the Republicans are cut out of the equation. But it does reveal an interesting debate, and now inescapable debate among Democrats. On the one hand, you have Democrats such as West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin who say they want to protect the rights of religious organizations to participate without having to violate their convictions.
But it's really interesting that Broadwater then tells us, "But in the House, Democrats are just as adamant that the provision be retained in order to prevent federal money from flowing to any organization that discriminates. Defenders include the Congressional Black Caucus and Representative Robert C. Scott, Democrat of Virginia and chairman of the Education and Labor Committee who wrote it into the social policy legislation." Interesting angle here.
Now we're told the who, the what, the when, and the why. We are told who actually wrote this provision into the law. But then we read this, "The fight over preschool and childcare programs is among the major conflicts that remain to be resolved before the social policy legislation can clear Congress and be signed the to law by Mr. Biden. The member of Congress who demanded this provision and that would be, again, Democratic Representative Robert C. Scott of Virginia."
He said, "The Build Back Better Act must not allow government funded discrimination in employment or in the provision of services to participants in publicly funded programs." Now, again, we're told that this particular member of Congress, along with another wrote a letter to the Speaker of the House demanding this provision be preserved in negotiations between more moderate and more leftist Democrats and between the House and the Senate democratic majorities.
In that letter, they stated, "We believe that allowing such discrimination financed with public funds collected from all taxpayers is wrong. We are asking you to oppose any effort to remove or change the non-discrimination provisions included in the childcare and universal preschool provisions of the Build Back Better Act." Now, consider that we're talking about 400 billion, that's with a B, dollars.
But we're looking at the fact that when you have this kind of vast spending bill, and this is an extremely vast spending bill, a completely irresponsible spending bill, a spending bill that even the president and democratic leaders claim is actually more about transforming our society. And that means morally and socially as much as about economics. When you're looking at this kind of bill, the devil, as they say, is always in the details. There are some real demons in these details.
The bill itself and the big picture is bad enough, but now we are seeing how the coercive power of the state is going to be used to crush religious organizations that will not get with the program, get on the right side of history, according to the moral revolutionaries and, as you see here, those who are in the driver's seat in the Democratic Party. Later in the article, Broadwater says, "The debate is the latest skirmish in the battle over the role of religious organizations in participating in government programs."
Well, you have statements coming from Roman Catholic and Orthodox Jewish leaders. They are not the limited set of those who will be covered by this provision. But nonetheless, they are in the center of the bullseye. But once again, we face the reality that if religious liberty is threatened for anyone, it's threatened for everyone. In this country, if it's threatened anywhere, effectively it's threatened everywhere.
We're talking here about the establishment of this massive legislation that is openly intended to be a reset of our society. This tells Christians, this tells religious organizations, institutions, denominations, congregations, it tells us where we stand. It tells us at least where those driving this legislation want us to stand. And remember, this is legislation open only avidly pushed by President Joe Biden and his administration. This is the bill that they say will transform the way Americans live.
Now, we know at least one of the dimensions of what that transformation would mean. It means pushing everyone in the line with the new LGBTQ revolution. You're going to go there one way or another, and the funding is at stake. It may be true that there would be many Christians who would say, "Well, this isn't about me. It's not about my interest. It's not about my religious organization or favorite institution." But understand this, the coercive power of the state goes far beyond what is detailed in this kind of funding program.
You can also think about the fact that this very same argument is certain to be used when it comes to federal student aid programs at Christian colleges and universities. You can see that coming. We all know it's coming. And just understand profoundly that if they're coming with this revolution for the Orthodox Jewish preschool, they're coming for yours as well.
The Moral Revolution Shows Up on the Playlist: ‘Queer’ Artists Hit the Charts in Contemporary Christian Music
But next, I want to tell you upfront that what we're going to be talking about here is a really big, really important development. And it's one that to some degree or another has basically been sneaking up on Christians. And what we see here is how insidiously the moral revolution works its way through everything, even warming its way sometimes into our ears, or at least into many ears who may not recognize what they are hearing. Kathryn Post reporting for Religion News Service tells us, "With last month's release of Late Bloomer, Christian singer/songwriter Semler has now topped Apple Music's Christian chart twice in one year.
And the EPs, that means the extended plays, "Hallelujah (In Your Arms)" is currently featured on Spotify's Top Christian Artist playlist." It's a song we are told "the 31 year old Los Angeles-based artist calls an anthem of queer joy." Summarizing the situation, RNS tells us, "This is not your mother's Christian contemporary music." Well, of course, it's not. This is a revolution.
It's a revolution that is upending Christian biblical teaching morality, the Christian church's understanding of sexual morality and marriage that is held for 2,000 years. And yet it is coming to us piped through music that is now topping the charts identified as Christian contemporary or contemporary Christian music. The RNS report also tells us that this artist known as Semler's previous extended play, it was entitled "Preacher's Kid," carried a parental advisory warning, and was recorded at home.
We're told that Semler has 20,700 followers on Twitter, 38,700 on Instagram, and 174,000 plus on TikTok. "By dropping music directly on streaming apps and utilizing social media, there are songs about everything from gay love to uncomfortable coffee dates with queer condemning Christians can find their audience." Semler said, "The community is a wide assortment of people who for whatever reason found themselves on the outs of religious establishment, of organizations of faith, and yet still felt called to a relationship with God."
Now, Semler is an artist identified as queer, that's the word in the actual media report, and evidently female, but nonetheless using gender neutral pronouns. That's what makes at least some of the article and, for that matter, the English language now largely incomprehensible. But the point here, the larger point is about the moral revolution that is now being channeled through what's identified as Christian music, contemporary Christian music.
The RNS story very helpfully makes clear that the main response coming from that contemporary Christian music community is silence, the refusal to say anything, to take any position. But the clear input of this article is that that entire community is increasingly inclusive of those who are openly gay, LGBTQ, even using the designation queer. Again, the artist declared this piece an anthem of queer joy. What about some of the establishment artists in contemporary Christian music?
The RNS story mentions that some prominent Christian artists have voiced support for gay rights earlier this year. Two are spelled out, Jon Foreman of Switchfoot and Amy Grant, both of whom "made headlines for standing up for the LGBTQ community."
The RNS report also cites sometimes by name, sometimes not participants in the contemporary Christian music industry who say that there would be more statements of LGBTQ inclusion, more gay affirming statements if people felt free to make those statements without losing their jobs or losing their sales, losing their Christian audience. Now, for some time we've been aware of the fact that at least many of these artists who bill themselves as Christians are actually not living lives consistent with any kind of biblical morality.
And when it comes to liberal theology and liberal moral revolutionizing, well, it turns out many of them have been rather quietly supportive of this revolution. But now it's becoming a much louder support. You turn the volume up. It can be very loud. But it's hard to imagine anything louder than an artist's description of a song as an anthem of queer joy. There's nothing about a hidden agenda there. It's right out in the open. It's actually in your face, as well as in your ears.
This article also tells us right here in text that there are many in the industry that would include one contemporary Christian music music director who had confirmed that they would be much more LGBTQ affirming if not for the fact that they work for organizations that have to keep the Christians happy. They can't come out and just blatantly publicly violate biblical morality.
This particular director unnamed stated, "A lot of us are more passionate about finding more ways for inclusion and we speak about it privately quite a bit. There are definitely days," this person said, "when I question, am I part of the problem? But nonetheless, this person identified as he said, "The goal and hope is maybe we can slowly break down walls and boundaries and be part of the solution long-term." Again, that's just incredibly telling.
This is as if we have moral subversives working within these organizations that bill themselves, advertise themselves as Christians, including at least a significant portion of the contemporary Christian music monolith. And we're being told that they are using a subversive agenda to try to change your views of sexual morality without having the courage to tell you publicly, openly that's what they're doing.
The article also cites Jennifer Knapp, identified as a singer/songwriter and Dove award-winning contemporary Christian music artist, who sold more than 1.5 million albums "before walking away in 2002 feeling fatigued by the genre's theological boundaries." When she returned to music in 2010 we're told, she publicly announced that she is gay. Well, again, here you have someone saying that they were fatigued by the genre's theological boundaries.
Now at least Jennifer Knapp had the honesty to leave and state her disagreement. There's another very telling dimension to this report. This media report tells us that at least some in contemporary Christian music are arguing that if the music genre identified as Christian doesn't move in a more LGBTQ affirming direction, they're going to lose a considerable future audience.
I think Christians need to make this issue very clear if they do abandon Christian understandings of sexual morality, gender and marriage, well, they may gain a new audience, but at the cost of losing their soul. Something else, by the way is going on here, and that is the effort by some like the artists Semler to try to draw out some of the more established and longstanding Christian artists, individuals, and groups for open support of the LGBTQ movement.
The statements about Switchfoot and also Amy Grant are indicative of the direction that this is going. RNS ran another release by Kathryn Post back in September, indicating how Switchfoot's Jon Foreman had posts a video supporting LGBTQ rights and freedoms. The RNS story told us something of the background to this, including the fact that Semler, whose full name is Grace Semler Baldridge, was involved in what eventuated as this video.
Meanwhile, that same media source, Religion News Service, back on February the 10th of this year had released an article by Emily McFarlan Miller that began, "For the second straight day, an openly queer Christian artist has the top Christian album on iTunes." Now that again was Semler. It's just really important that Christians understand that this moral revolution is transforming every dimension of life, every dimension of the arts, every dimension of culture, and that includes contemporary Christian music.
We also understand that artists, those involved in the creative community, have more than the general population, and this is particularly true among Christians, tended towards more liberal or progressive positions on many issues that would be doctrinal and moral. Well, here's proof positive, and here we're not talking about a slippery slope. We're talking about an absolute crash. We're about to find out where everybody stands.
And eventually that will mean every major Christian artist, every genre of Christian music. Well, just about everyone everywhere because the world around us is demanding that sides be taken and positions be articulated. And of course, the moral revolutionaries are demanding you had better articulate their positions and you had better join their revolution, or you're going be left behind in the dust bin of history.
But those who hold the biblical fidelity must understand, it's a healthy thing when people have to say where they actually stand on these issues and what they actually believe. Some of what's disclosed may help you to understand much of what you were hearing, but maybe not hearing in some of the contemporary Christian artists you thought were safe. Now, let's be clear. There are some really faithful Christian artists out there, and that includes some classified in contemporary Christian music.
For that we should be grateful, but we're about to find out where everybody stands. These are news articles coming at us in a flurry, coming at us in a hurry that tell us we shouldn't be surprised when we find out how many have joined the moral revolution and left biblical Christianity far behind.
‘Plagues Strike Egypt’: References to the Bible Are Never Far Away — Even in the Headlines of the New York Times
Finally, for today, an article that appeared in yesterday's print edition of The New York Times. Just consider this headline from yesterday's newspaper, "Plagues Strike Egypt."
Then the continued headline, "Sudden floods, then four inch scorpions called death stalkers." Now, that article should have your attention. For one thing, it just tells you how deeply woven into our imagination in Western civilization is enough Bible for people to recognize that when you see a headline, "Plagues Strike Egypt," something important is going on here. Now, to be certain, The New York Times is not suggesting that the recent travails in Egypt are the result of God's wrath being poured out.
This is not, according to The New York Times, a replay of Exodus, but we are being told that Egypt has suffered from a series of sudden floods. And then in the aftermath of the floods, the emergence of four inch scorpions whose venom is so deadly, they are called death stalkers. How big a problem is this? Well, The New York Times reports that last Friday night, at least 503 people were stung by these scorpions and had to receive medical treatment.
Thankfully, there is an anti-venom. But at this time, the stores are being depleted simply because there are so many bites because there are so many of these, let's face it, very large four inch scorpions, and they're biting too many people. The Times then tells us, "With its vast deserts, Egypt is normally heaven for scorpions, 24 species in all, which make their homes in desert boroughs or under rocks and can survive for weeks on end with no food or water."
The Times tells us, "They are such longtime inhabitants of the country that two ancient kings borrowed their names and the ancient goddess Isis was said to have escaped danger with the help of seven scorpions who also took the form of a goddess Serket in Egyptian mythology." Well, there's the background. But the reality is that children bitten by these scorpions can die and even fully grown adult human beings can be put in danger and can go through a very difficult time of recovery even with the medical treatment.
We certainly hope for the protection and preservation of the people in Egypt in the midst of these floods and also in the midst of these scorpions. But as you think about this headline and the fact that The New York Times ran it, beginning with the words Plagues Strike Egypt, you recognize that even this secular newspaper, well, it recognizes itself that something happened in the past that makes those words give special significance.
Of course, Christians also understand that the final plague that God sent upon the Egyptians who would not release his covenant people Israel, well, the final plague was far worse, just imagine that, than even a widespread outbreak of four inch deadly scorpions. Thus, Christians understand that the stakes, as we're thinking about God's judgment, are not less than the horror of those scorpions, but infinitely greater even than that horror.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can find 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 speaking to you from Fort Worth, Texas, and I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.