The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Thursday, November 18, 2021

It’s Thursday, November 18, 2021.

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

Part I

Moral Revolution of Unprecedented Nature: Biden Administration Seeks to Strip Right From Christian Colleges to Operate According to Historic, Christian Beliefs on Gender

Let’s say that you and some of your friends want to start a Christian college. Let’s say that you hold to the radical idea that a Christian college ought to teach Christian truth. Let’s say that you hold to the further radical idea that the students and faculty of that college ought to live by Christian truth, ought to live by Christian morality, ought to hold to and live out a Christian understanding of gender, marriage, and sexuality. Just to say the obvious, those would’ve been uncontroversial assertions just a matter of a few decades ago. You might think just a matter of a few, well, years ago, maybe a few minutes ago. But you would be wrong because right now, the official policy of the federal government under the instruction of the Biden administration would make that impossible.

This is exactly what is at stake in a lawsuit filed in the federal court by the College of The Ozarks located in Point Lookout, Missouri. The College of the Ozarks is taking this action in federal court against the Biden administration because as its president has stated recently, the Biden administration “has declared that we must start letting men into our young women’s dorm rooms, showers and locker rooms, or else face the wrath of the federal government.” We’ve talked about this case and the issue, even the college on The Briefing before, but this week, a federal court hearing is going to be held on this issue and is going to be held in the eighth circuit of the US Court of Appeals. Timed for that, the president of the college released an editorial statement for where the Wall Street Journal as published in yesterday’s print edition. And in this article, Jerry C. Davis goes on to say that, “The Biden administration issued a February memo under the fair housing act declaring that it will eradicate housing discrimination.”

The president then said, “If we don’t cease what it calls gender identity discrimination, the federal government will punish our 115 year old institution via laws that were written to stamp out racism.” Now, what’s he talking about here? Well, what he’s talking about is a ruling, a guideline that was handed down on February the 21st of this year, and it has to do with the fact that the Biden administration had issued instructions stating that so far as the administration is concerned, the federal government’s laws and regulations against discrimination, particularly in housing and in higher education, are going to be interpreted as including gender identity. You could just insert the entire range, LGBTQ, and that’s all going to be listed under the word sex.

Now, the Biden administration is claiming that last year’s Bostock decision, handed down by the Supreme Court, gives it such justification. But we also need to note that the administration pressed through this rule while not going through the regular process, and furthermore, we need to understand at a far more fundamental level, this is an absolute and insidious attack upon religious liberty. It is telling a Christian college it cannot operate on Christian terms. Something else we need to note, this regulation will not apply only to the College of the Ozarks. It doesn’t even apply only to colleges that receive any kind of federal funding. If it stands as it is, it will mean that every single Christian college, every single Christian school, and for that matter, don’t think this will be limited to higher education, it will eventually have to treat biological males as females if they claim to be so. We’re talking about a moral revolution of unprecedented nature. We’re also talking about now the use of the government, the federal government, as a coercive agent to basically tell Christian institutions, you can’t operate on the basis of your Christian convictions anymore.

Davis writes with amazing straightforwardness. He tells us, “College campuses have certainly been super spreaders for the sexual revolution, and since then, some campuses implemented co-ed dorms. But until now, no one has forced private colleges to reject the wisdom of having separate dorms for men and women, half of whom are teenagers. Nor has the federal government compelled colleges to deny the basic biological reality that there are two sexes.” But of course, you’ll notice that that language was written as in that was then, but this is now, and the now in this case is the activism of the Biden administration. President Davis speaks about his own institution saying, “College of the Ozarks has a singular purpose, to provide a topnotch Christian education for students who cannot afford to attend college elsewhere. Our religious beliefs define who we are. Our students know these beliefs, most share them, and all commit to respect them when they join our community. We don’t enforce our principles with the edge of the sword, but like most colleges, we establish clearly defined expectations for students, faculty and employees.”

Davis goes on to say that the Biden administration’s regulation effectively violates religious liberty and our first amendment rights in two ways. As he says, “First, it squelches our right to speak the truth that men and women are different and that we respect their dignity and privacy by providing excellent housing to both in separate dorms. Second,” he says, “it suppresses our religious right to provide affordable education to young people in an environment that lives by the truth of Genesis 1:27. Male and female, he created them.” Let’s zoom back for a minute and consider what’s at stake here. We really are looking at a fundamental challenge to religious liberty. You could put it even more strongly. We are looking at a federal rule making authority which if left in place will basically deny the right of any Christian institution of higher education to continue to exist and operate as a Christian institution based upon historic Christian biblical doctrine.

Again, this is no exaggeration. We are looking at a federal rule making authority that will basically make it impossible to operate housing as a Christian institution. Over time, we have seen that that inevitable collision between religious liberty and the newly developed artificial liberties of the sexual and gender revolution, that these will come down to three predominating issues, housing, admissions, and hiring. It tells us a lot that this particular rule has to do with the housing part because that really does get down to whether or not a Christian college can operate in any way on Christian terms. If you can’t say that housing needs to be separate for unmarried men and women, you have a problem. If you cannot operate your housing as a Christian institution based upon the understanding that God created human beings as male and female, and that those are biological not merely cultural realities, and that personal identity is linked to that biological sex. If you are told you cannot house your own students in that way, then basically, your college is being turned into an engine of the sexual, moral and gender revolution.

We’ll be watching this case very, very closely and as it unfolds, we’re likely to see how the government, and especially the government under the Biden administration, is going to be pressing its case for the right, indeed they would say the mandate, to enforce the moral revolution through every single dimension of society. Now, again note, this is a Christian college. This is a Christian college that has never hidden its Christian commitments. This is a Christian college that is just basically being asked to be left alone to operate on the basis of its Christian convictions. But this is the great danger of a continued slide into rule through an administrative state. Just notice something, this is just a political fact. This particular regulation, this particular ruling or requirement that there would be non-discrimination on the basis of gender and gender identity or sex when it comes to housing, this never would’ve gotten through Congress. There’s no way this would’ve gone through the democratic process.

No, all of this is now coming through the revolutionary coercion of two forces. Number one, the federal courts. Number two, the federal bureaucracy, the ever expanding and omnivorous administrative state. Now notice something else. Conservatives have made great headway in recovering at least some level of sanity and responsibility in the judiciary, but what is increasingly unbridled and out of control and pushing this country radically to the left are the nameless people who run the administrative state. And frankly, the people themselves are not so much the issue. The administrative state, as we were warned in that great work of the enlightenment, Leviathan, it never ceases until it consumes all power. It doesn’t matter what you call your government. If it eventually becomes an administrative state, it is the state that becomes the ruler overall.

Before leaving this story entirely, I took a look at some of the authorities giving advice to colleges and universities about how to conform to and comply in light of these new regulations, and most of them were quick to say that the best practice is simply now to allow students to stipulate their own gender identity, even to change their gender identity. The basic advisement is you are on very thin ice if you tell any student that they can or cannot do anything or be anything when it comes these days to sex and gender. A second big danger behind the administrative state is the consulting world ready to tell institutions, you’ve got to get in line or pay the price.

Part II

As Texas Board Rejects Sex Ed Materials, Christians are Reminded that Education — Of Any Sort — is Never Morally Neutral

Next, and I’m speaking to you from Texas and yesterday’s edition of the Dallas Morning News ran a front page article about sex education. It has to do with the fact that the State Board of Education in Texas on Tuesday failed or declined to adopt middle and high school health instructional materials that according to Corbett Smith of the Dallas Morning News, “addressed such topics as contraception, gender identity and self-harm.” Now, the paper seems to lament the fact that the school board declined to adopt this curriculum, stating “The decision could leave school districts to fend for themselves on how best to address new health curriculum standards approved just a year ago in a less fevered environment.”

I found one paragraph in this article of particular interest: “School systems, leaders and elected bodies have been under heightened scrutiny over the past year as conservative advocates and constituents stoked fights on library materials, mask mandates, and the perceived infusion of critical race theory into lessons.” The really, really interesting thing here is the fact that concerned parents here are just dismissed by the identification, and this is a dismissal in this context, as being just conservative advocates and constituents. Well, that’s another sign of how moral change happens, how a sexual and gender and marriage revolution gets driven through society, how these ideologies of the gender revolution just get mainstream, is by shaming people who would dare to protest them. By shaming parents who would dare to say, “That’s not going to be taught to my children.”

Well, the general article by the way is about the state board here declining to take action to approve several different curriculums, and as you look at it, you come to understand that was probably for very good reason. I don’t know exactly what they were dealing with. I don’t know ex exactly why they made this decision, but I’ll tell you this, had they adopted many of these curricular formats, they likely would’ve faced an enormous amount of pushback from parents and from citizens in the state. It’s also interesting to note that even as some of the issues that are described as in the proposed curriculum for eighth graders, I’m not going to be able to mention some of these things today on the briefing. That should tell you something.

Elsewhere in the article, some of those same things I’m not going to mention are indicated as being part of proposed curriculum for students as young as those in the sixth grade. I’m not going to take much more time to talk about this particular front page article in the Dallas Morning News. I want to use it in order to indicate just how crazy our society has become. We are talking about sex education, or at least we’re talking about what is called or categorized as sex education, but it just gets to a point that Christians have to understand based in a biblical worldview, there is no morally or ideologically neutral way to talk about sex and sexuality and gender.

It is an impossible dream to believe that there ever could be neutral ground. Someone’s morality is going to be taught, someone’s morality is going to be celebrated, someone’s morality is going to be infused through this curriculum. And you understand why there’s so much pushback. It’s because the morality that is implied and explicit and so much of this curriculum is the ideology that is the direct contradiction of biblical Christianity. Furthermore, these days, it’s the direct contradiction of human biology. It’s the direct interdiction of common sense. But this is where we are these days, and the issue may be postponed in terms of judgment for some time in Texas but I can predict this pretty confidently, not for long.

Part III

Beto O’Rourke Announces Run for Texas Governor — But Will Texas Elect Self-Proclaimed Progressive ‘Man of Destiny’?

But next, let’s talk about politics, worldview and how they come together, and things we ought to be watching as we look to the upcoming midterm elections and gubernatorial elections coming up in the year 2022. It’s going to be a very interesting electoral year in the state of Texas, and again, I’m speaking to you from Texas. And it was just this week that former congressman and former Democratic presidential candidate, Beto O’Rourke announced that he is going to be running for the office of Texas governor. Now, the media have immediately jumped to the conclusion that the likely electoral face off is going to be between incumbent Texas governor, Greg Abbot, and former Congressman, Beto O’Rourke. And they are promising that this is likely to be a close race.

Well, whether it turns out to be close or not, it is going to be a very interesting race. Now, just a couple of footnotes here. Neither Governor Abbot nor Beto O’Rourke has yet the 2022 nomination of his party for the office of Texas governor. Both of them are considered front runners, the incumbent Republican and the very well-known Democratic candidate who has actually achieved something of celebrity status, both nationally and within the state of Texas among Democrats. But there’s a lot to look at here. For one thing, Beto O’Rourke is not just a Democrat. He’s a Democrat who made his name by his own self-identified brand as a centrist, but that was all put to the lie when he ran for the 2020 democratic presidential nomination. In that process, in which by the way he didn’t fare very well, Beto O’Rourke actually demonstrated himself to be, at least when convenient, representative of the far left of his party.

He, for instance, said right out loud that it was his intention to use the federal government to confiscate what he would define as assault weapons from citizens. Remember, we’re talking about a race for the governorship in Texas. But far more alarmingly, it was in his run for the Democratic presidential nomination that Beto O’Rourke in October of 2019 said that he believed that the federal government should strip all tax exemptions from institutions or organizations that would not openly recognize and celebrate same sex marriage. The notice was served. Just remember where we began the briefing today, talking about the College of the Ozarks. Beto O’Rourke actually said out loud what most of the Democratic candidates likely believed but dare not to have said. He said that the federal government, and he implied other governments as well, but specifically the federal government should strip tax exemption from religious organizations, including Christian institutions, that would refuse to bend the knee to be-all and to worship at the altar of the sexual revolution.

He said it out loud and he said it in public. It’s going to be impossible for him to deny having said it. But it’s also very interesting to see how much speculation there is in Texas about the fact that Beto O’Rourke is really a celebrity candidate who has tripped up often on his own celebrity. He basically declared himself to be the man of destiny in 2019, 2020, but the Democratic Party itself didn’t seem to believe he was so, particularly at the national level. But when it comes to Beto O’Rourke, it’s also really interesting to see the kind of branding that he is presenting as he looks to run for the governorship in Texas. He has accused the Republican incumbent governor, Greg Abbot, of being divisive. Now, interestingly, that was one of the same charges he made against United States senator, Ted Cruz, when he ran against him.

But what does it mean to accuse someone who’s a political leader of divisiveness? Especially when you are the crown prince of divisiveness. It just points out that much of what goes on in politics is a matter of blaming someone else for what is true about yourself. And in this case, Beto O’Rourke, who after all, just remember, a matter of bare months ago declared that Christian institutions should be stripped of tax exempt status if we will not join the sexual revolution, he says that those on the other side are divisive. I appreciated the fact that Mark Davis, columnists for the Dallas Morning News, saw through this. He wrote, “Can we please begin the year of Beto’s gubernatorial run by admitting that virtually all political ideas are divisive, and that is as it should be?” He went on to say, “Presuming primary success by both O’Rourke and Governor Greg Abbott, the incumbent will run on achievements that four to 5 million Texans will probably vote for, and some similar number of millions will probably vote against.” Really, really interesting.

Mark Davis is pointing out that regardless of just the numbers that will come at the end of the electoral process, the fact is Texas is going to be divided in this gubernatorial election between voting for the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate. There are going to be very few who will walk into the voting booth and say, “Hmm, I’m not really sure how I’m going to vote. I’m going to flip a coin.” Not likely. And when it comes to these issues, you’ll notice the fact that Mark Davis points out, politics is about divisive issues. It doesn’t work in politics if you have two parties and the candidates basically hear each other in debate and say, “I agree with that entirely,” or, “I have no idea why I’m running. He’s doing a good job.” No, the whole point of politics is to refine political leadership and to refine public policy by having divisive ideas debated, candidates openly running against one another on issues, and allowing the citizens to choose A or B. That’s what the democratic process is all about.

Beto O’Rourke is also going to have to face the Texas voters with his very pro-abortion position. We’re going to have a very interesting year ahead, looking at not only this race but other races.

Part IV

Senatorial Realities: Lisa Murkowski Fights for Re-Election in Alaska Amidst History of Controversial Political Decisions Within the Republican Party

And speaking of those other races, I want to look at two senatorial realities from opposite ends of our country. First of all, going to Alaska, where Senator Lisa Murkowski announced last Friday that she would formally seek reelection. As Emily Cochran of the New York Times pointed out, this means “formally entering what is expected to be the most expensive and challenging race of her political career.” Now, this is an interesting article because just think about the political reality. You have Alaska, one of our youngest states. It is a state that has elected both Republicans and Democrats, but being a more rural state with a sparse population and facing many of the issues that Alaskans have faced, it has predominantly elected Republicans when it comes to many of these statewide elections.

Lisa Murkowski would appear to be an absolute natural because she comes from a political dynasty in a young state. She is a third generation Alaskan, that’s a pretty good pedigree in Alaska, and her father, Frank Murkowski held the very seat that she now holds in the United States Senate before being elected Alaska’s governor. But that then raises a very interesting twist in Alaska history. How exactly did Lisa Murkowski become United States senator? Well, follow this closely. Her father held the seat. Her father was, from that seat, elected to the governorship of Alaska. Once he was governor, he had to resign the Senate seat. He also had the power to appoint someone to fulfill his Senate term. He appointed his own daughter. How do you like that for putting the dynasty in political dynasty? I don’t know about your family, but that’s a pretty nice Christmas present.

But as you’re looking at Lisa Murkowski, she’s a Republican. She is the second longest tenured Republican woman in the United States Senate, and she has had a very interesting political career. On many issues, she is to the left of many of her constituents and certainly to the left of much of the Republican Party nationwide. Part of that has to do with the fact that this is Alaska, and as you go further west, and it’s really impossible when it comes to the North American mainland to go further west than Alaska, the reality is that conservative politics tends to bleed into a libertarian mood, and many of her policies are actually quite libertarian rather than conservative. She has been basically pro-abortion, though she would describe herself as pro-choice and she has voted for some restrictions on abortion, but the reality is she is certainly not clearly pro-life.

There will no doubt be a strong Democratic challenger in the race and she is going to be primaried by a more conservative Republican, but that happened to her before. In 2010, she was primaried from the right and she lost the Republican nomination. So how did she maintain her seat? She actually won the election through a write in bid in the general election in 2010. Now, here’s the thing, and she’s very proud of this. She won a write in vote to hold her Senate seat when the write in required voters to spell her name correctly or the vote wouldn’t count. She had to teach Alaska voters to vote for her, and then she had to teach them how to spell Murkowski correctly. She did both. The question is can she pull off that kind of trick again?

Part V

Vermont Senator of 48 Years, Patrick Leahy, Set to Retire — What Can We Learn From the Shift in the State’s Political Landscape During His Tenure?

Finally, word came this week that Senator Patrick Leahy, who’s the longest serving member of the United States Senate, would be retiring. He would not run for reelection next year. Assuming he fulfills this term, he will have served 48 years in the United States Senate, putting him in the top five of all who have ever served in the United States Senate in terms of tenure. But that nearly half century has also seen the state of Vermont make a rather remarkable political transition. For many decades, it was actually a rather conservative, predictably Republican state with a basically agrarian community.

But all that has changed over the last several decades and Vermont is now seen as a very liberal libertarian culture, represented in the Senate not only by the very liberal Senator Patrick Leahy, but also by a non-Democrat who identifies himself as a Democratic socialist who votes with the Democrats, none other than Senator Bernie Sanders. All this reminds us that every single election, every single primary, every single midterm election, general election, every election for the school board, keep in mind, is an election at which worldview issues are at stake. It’s important for Christians in the United States to understand, every election matters. Every election, everywhere, every time, worldview at stake.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’m speaking to you from Fort Worth, Texas, where last night, I delivered my address as president of the Evangelical Theological Society. We’ll post that to our website soon.

I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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