Friday, December 3, 2021
It's Friday, December 3rd, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
The Covid-19 Omicron Variant: What Do We Know? And Why the Ensuing New York City Draconian Measures in Response? — When Will the Politics of Covid End?
The COVID-19 pandemic predictably is brought out some of the best and some of the worst in humanity, as you're thinking about some of the best, just consider all the first responders and medical personnel, who, especially during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, put their lives on the line and helped to keep so many people alive who otherwise simply would've died by the virus. Just think about all those who really served very sacrificially. And by the way, that sacrificial service continues among so many medical professionals, doctors, nurses, so many others across hospitals and other facilities in the United States. There have been family members who have given such brave care to fellow family members. It has brought out the best. There have been churches who have been really tested in faithfulness and has brought out the best in so many of those churches.
But it's also brought out the worst. It has brought out the worst in terms of opportunism, it's brought out the worst in terms of many ideological extremisms, it's brought out the worst in terms of so much of government deciding that it has seen the opportunity to move in and when government moves in, it virtually never moves out. And what we see going on right now in at least one big news store is an indication of just how these patterns have become now so entrenched that we are pretty unsurprised by them. So let's just talk about Omicron for a moment. We're talking about a new variant of COVID-19. It was detected first in South Africa and the people in South Africa, including the medical authorities, evidently did exactly the right thing. They detected the pattern, they detected a difference in the virus, they identified a mutation and they notified the world of that fact, but then came a cascading series of decisions, and not only that, a cultural pattern that we recognize now.
Number one, whenever there is some new threat or what's presented as a new threat concerning COVID-19, the market's panic. And you understand why, you look at airlines? You look at the travel industry, you look at so many different industries and already so much economic disruption with inflation and supply chain problems and all the rest. Retailers have just begun to crawl out from all of their experience in the last several months, stores are just being refilled with people, and for that matter also with merchandise, and you also have the fact that the travel industry had just recently sort of come back to life, but now you have a genuine threat or at least what is presented as a genuine threat.
Here's something else we need to note. No one basically knows much of anything about the Omicron variant or mutation of COVID-19. Almost no one knows anything. The assumption is because it has something like 50 mutations that it might be more transmissible. It might also be more dangerous, but at this point, there is no adequate data to know either. If there is a prevailing danger from Omicron, it appears that it might be indeed more transmissible. The immediate question comes, well, what about current treatments? What about current vaccines? Will they be up to the defense against Omicron? And understand so much as at stake, economically at stake, in terms of life and death, in some cases, being at stake, in terms of future of children in schools, the future of entire sectors of our industry. Then of course we know there are religious Liberty implications here. There are implications for human dignity here. But what I want us to look at is the fact that this predictable political response tells us a great deal about our culture.
You have many people who say, okay, the most important thing to do right now is to alert the government to expand its powers and to exercise those powers just upon the threat that there might be a new mutation that might bring some kind of new threat. Now, for example, the new governor of New York, the new governor of New York is the governor of New York, precisely because the former governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo had to resign his office in the midst of a scandal. And remember the scandal was twofold. The scandal was mostly about claims of sexual behavior and sexual abuse undertaken by the governor, but there were also accusations, very credible accusations backed up with proof, that he had openly lied about COVID and about his government's handling of COVID especially when it came to deaths of the aged in nursing homes. And it looks like the governor and his administration were involved in outright fraud.
When governor Andrew Cuomo did resign in disgrace albeit also in defiance, the then lieutenant governor of New York became the governor and that is Kathy Hochul and she almost immediate declared a state of emergency, a disaster emergency in the state of New York after the variant was detected in South Africa. What sense does that make? No one knew then, and frankly, no one knows right now much about this variant, but that was the cause for the governor of New York, indicating the exercise of draconian measures within the state, including control over what kind of surgical procedures are and are not authorized within the state's hospitals. There was no rush to the hospitals because of Omicron, that couldn't possibly have happened yet. There is no indication or adequate knowledge at this point as to whether Omicron will ever represent that kind of threat. The point is she pulled the trigger. The question is, why?
The editors of The Wall Street Journal point out that there's another reason behind this, and that is the fact that there is a hospital crisis in New York, but it was at least in part, if not largely caused by the governor's own rather extreme position on a vaccine mandate for health workers. It turns out that many of those health workers didn't go along with a mandate, unless they're not working in these hospitals, the hospitals are short staffed, but it's not because of Omicron, not one case had yet been detected in the United States, much less in New York state when the governor announced this decision. There's more to it, but there's even more to it than that. The big issue in terms of the more to it is that government, the public health authorities are using COVID, they're using Omicron, they're using the entire context of the pandemic in order to reorder much of society in a way that will leave gut government more powerful.
Ross Douthat, the columnist for the New York Times, recently asked exactly the right question. When will the political leaders in the blue states decide that the pandemic is over? You'll notice something very interesting. They have basically not been willing to indicate what level of infection or what level of hospitalization will be adequately low to justify returning to normal or letting go certain emergency or so-called emergency powers undertaken by government. When will the public health authority say, "You know, I think this pandemic is over." The reality is many of them will never declare it to be over and there will be successive mutations. And furthermore, among the medical community, there is an increasing assumption that there will never be a post-COVID-19 age. Rather, the virus will continue to be present at some level, certain persons will continue to be sick at some level. And of course, when you're looking at any kind of virus, including the common cold or more acutely, the flu, influenza, you're looking at the fact that there will be a certain number of deaths.
The question is what's the objective standard? What is the acceptable level of infection? How do we know when we do and do not have an emergency? What would and would not justify these draconian government decisions and the intrusion of government power? How would we know? Let's be clear. I am not a COVID denier. I am not anti-vaccine. I am anti-vaccine mandate and I am against COVID as a pretext for the government through public health authorities, governors and others, basically to rearrange the entire political order of the United States in a way that will not be honestly admitted in their view should be irreversible. But as we will note in a future discussion on The Briefing, one of the problems we face right now is that some of the people who're claiming the mandate of science and are saying trust the science, believe the science, what they're not get thing is right now is anything that legitimately can be called science.
The Disappearance of Real News: What the Saga of CNN’s Chris Cuomo Tells Us About News Media Today
But next, I want us to note that the same thing is true in so much of what is packaged as the news. And thus it was news only in a very artificial sense that Chris Cuomo is now indefinitely suspended by the cable news network, CNN, where he had been a for so long. Here's what we need to think of in the moral context. Andrew Cuomo was the governor of New York, Chris Cuomo was a television personality, was hired by CNN as a major news anchor. Jeff Zucker, who is the head of CNN news hired Chris Cuomo, gave him this primetime slot. But interestingly, because there were immediately questions of journalistic ethics when you have two Cuomos who are brothers, one in the news, one a news maker, governor of one of the most powerful states in the union, the ethical issues arose to the point that CNN said that Chris Cuomo would have no engagement with Andrew Cuomo, the governor in his official capacity at CNN, but COVID-19 became the excuse to forget all of that.
And so for week after week, almost night after night, Chris Cuomo, the supposed journalist on the supposed news network, CNN, had his brother on as what can only be described as something of a bromance, a TV personality, and Andrew Cuomo was presented as the paragon of virtue and how to handle COVID-19, remember, he eventually would go down in a scandal over that very issue, and Chris Cuomo was his great defender. They had a jocular back and forth that was supposed to be entered to entertaining, even as Andrew Cuomo was given so much prime time coverage, simply as a political advertisement for his moral heroism and successful management of COVID-19, all that of course, going down later in flames.
But the point is that when Andrew Cuomo's sex scandals and everything broke, it became known that Chris Cuomo of CNN was only complicit in having his brother on his program. CNN was not only complicit in changing its moral rules, its journalistic ethics to allow that, but it turned out that Chris Cuomo had been actively personally involved in trying to help his brother defend himself against the accusations of sexual abuse.
And now all of a sudden, just this week, suspends Chris Cuomo indefinitely, what does that mean? Why did it happen? Well, the, why did it happen? It is because the attorney general of New York released thousands of pages of data of evidence making very clear that Chris Cuomo was far more personally involved in the defense of his brother than had been admitted. But here's the thing, almost no one in the news industry surprised by this, almost no one who understood the situation is going to say, well, that's surprising. In other words, CNN was willing to let this run out as long as they possibly could, having basically redefined their own journalistic ethics because of the popularity of the two Cuomo brothers. But this is what happens in so much of the entertainment industry that kind of celebrity has a stale expiration point and scandal is what brought it all down. Will it bring down Chris Cuomo as it brought down his brother? I don't know. That's going to be up to CNN.
But my point is this, I used the expression about the celebrity or entertainment industry because that is what so much of what is called now the news industry has become, we just need to be honest. That's what it is. It is a commercial product that is also now largely operated independently of what was classically defined as a news function. This is a problem not only is CNN, but elsewhere where so many of these cable news networks are simply selling a product and repeating a message over and over again to the same audience. But there really is a need for journalism in the United States.
There really is a need for a responsible news media in the United States. The only thing you can say right now is that there's some kind of check and balance between these news networks, because obviously they're listening to each other and you have the competitors to CNN who are very, very happy about the fall of Chris Cuomo and the controversy at CNN. But the reality is there is something deeply problematic about so much of the news industry, because so much of the news industry right now, is really not about news.
Should Our Country Have A Mono-Religion? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters From Listeners Of The Briefing
But next it is Friday, and we're going to turn to the Mailbox.
I'm always glad to receive questions from listeners. And by the way, you're sending in some really good questions more than I can possibly take as we are looking at this week by week. But I want you to know I'm very thankful for you and I'm always glad to receive your questions and we will get to as many as possible.
The first question comes from Derek and it's about pluralism religious freedom in the United States. The statement we discussed on The Briefing in which the former national security advisor to the president, Michael Flynn had made the statement that we are to have one nation under God, and that means one religion. And then Derek asked, "Putting aside his comments, I wanted to ask you about cultural and political context to the first amendment of the constitution. My understanding is that the first amendment isn't advocating for pluralism as our secular society would have it, but rather restricting the federal government from establishing a specific Christian denomination for the nation."
Well, and Derek has an informed background to this. Indeed, I've argued that Protestantism, not just Christianity in general, but Protestantism is the main worldview that produced our constitutional order and our entire experiment in ordered liberty. But it is really interesting to note that when the constitution was ratified, you had different states as they were then known, not just colonies, now after the revolution, they're states and those states have come to different arrangements. They have different religious traditions, they have different religious majorities.
You had some states such as New England with an extremely strong congregational culture and sometimes established churches. You had other states that had different arrangements. You had Maryland with at least a Roman Catholic tradition. You had Pennsylvania with at least a Quaker tradition. You had Anglicanism dominant in some of the colonies. The question was whether or not you could have a nation that was not based upon an established church. Now, it's interesting that that was one of the arguments that was actually made by King George III against the idea of the American Revolution or eventual American independence. He understood his responsibility as the crowned Monarch not only to perpetuate the interest of England or Britain more generally when it came to maintaining the American colonies, but also he saw his responsibilities of Protestant monarch and as the head of the church of England. In other words, he had a religious as well as a political ambition.
So when you look at America's constitutional order, in one sense, it did concretize some form of pluralism because there was pluralism in the United States at the time the constitution was written and certainly at the time that it was ratified. And you had incommensurate theological arguments, the Congregationalists in the New England area, the Anglicans say in Virginia, the Baptist in Rhode Island and Roman Catholics in Maryland, they were making very different arguments, contradictory arguments, not only when it came to religious arguments, but when it came to the application of those religious doctrines in public life. And so there was at least some form of pluralism.
And by the way, England had an established church, it still had some form of pluralism. Now, it was a very awkward arrangement. There was no religious liberty yet the way it would be ensconced in the United States. And by the way, if you're going to have an established church that has to at least mean something. But you did have the fact that there was some pluralism that was acknowledged even within the United Kingdom, if nothing more than the fact that you had a prevailing officially Protestant, England, and a majority Catholic Ireland.
But then I think Derek raises a very good question. Should we hope for a mono religion in the culture? And the answer to that is No. In the general sense, however, I'm not going to forfeit the fact that if America leaves that general Protestant commitment, that general Christian commitment when it comes to the inheritance of the Christian worldview, I do not believe that this experiment in ordered liberty can last.
But when it comes to officially say recognizing a true religion, a true church establishing, and by the way, whether or not you would use the word establishing, if you're deciding by government authority, there's one true religion, you are establishing that religion, then the obvious question is which religion would it be? And in that case, you would be conscribing conscience. And that is essential to understanding the American experiment in ordered liberty. It is based upon the power and the right of conscience. You should not make someone say something religiously or theologically that they do not believe. You must not make them members of a church in which they are not off authentic believers. And by the way, that's not just American. I am speaking unapologetically as a Baptist.
But Derek, there are two things I want to say here. And that is even as there should be no established church, there can be no monoreligion without coercion, and for that matter, without dishonesty. The reality is that I believe that this society only works on the basis of the Christian commitments of the Western worldview, that is the worldview of Western civilization and Christians bear the responsibility, evangelical Christians, to share the gospel with everyone, believing that if anyone repents of their sin and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, they will be saved.
Do the Other Apostles (And the Gospels) Agree with Paul’s Gospel Message About the Death and Resurrection of Jesus? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters From Listeners Of The Briefing
Another interesting question came from Craig, and it's presented as something of a challenge, a challenge to reconcile Paul and the other disciples, the other apostles, or you might say the four gospels in terms of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
He goes on to ask, why do we need Paul? And then he says, "I do not find Jesus Christ and him crucified in anything the disciples preached or believed." Well, I think you need to look more closely, Craig, because that is exactly what you will find by looking at the four gospels. That's exactly what you will find by looking at Matthew or Mark or Luke or John. It's especially clear just to make the argument succinctly in the gospel of John, where as early as John 3, Jesus speaking to Nicodemus speaks of himself as crucified. When he says just as the bronze serpent was lifted up by Moses and the wilderness, so also must the son of man be lifted up. And of course it's right after that, that we have the words For God so loved the world that he gave his own begotten son that whosoever believes in him might not perished, but have everlasting life.
You also have the entirety of the apostolic preaching in the book of Acts. Just to give one example. And it begins real clearly. Just look at Acts 2 in Peter's sermon, look at Acts 4, again, Peter and John, before the Sanhedrin. Then fast forward, let's just go somewhere like the book of Hebrews in the New Testament.
But there's a bigger issue here, Craig, it's a good issue for us to confront because these days there are many people who simply want to dismiss Paul because they do not like what the Holy Spirit gave us through Paul. They do not like Paul's letters. They do not like the restrictions on sexual behavior that are given to us by the Holy Spirit through Paul. They do not like the definitions of marriage. They do not like Paul's emphasis upon the reality of sin. They do not like Paul's absolutely essential teaching of justification by faith alone. They want to find some wiggle room, some way out of this. But here's where we have to recognize that the scriptural truth claim comes down to the fact that every word of scripture is inspired and every word is fully inspired and we have no right as Christians to oppose Paul to the apostles.
We have no right as Christians to oppose any New Testament writer against another. We have no right to say, we will prefer say the gospels, the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but we don't like John because there's too much glory in it and we don't like Paul because there's too much justification by faith in it and we don't like the sexual morality here.
Well, the point is you can't go shopping in the Bible for what you're going to accept as the word of God. Every single word of Scripture is God's inspired, revealed word. You deny any word of it, whether it comes on the Apostle Paul or the gospel of Matthew or for that matter in the prophet Isaiah or from Moses in the Pentateuch and you are denying the Bible as the word of God. You don't get to question Paul. You don't get to question Peter. We don't get to question the prophets.
We don't get to question the veracity of Scripture.
Where Do We Find A Theology of Homemaking in the Bible? What About Missional Motherhood? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters From Listeners Of The Briefing
Then a really good question that came in from Kelsey.
And Kelsey's asking about a theology of biblical homemaking and the understanding, the importance of missional motherhood. Kelsey I want to tell you, you really encouraged me with this question and let's just go to the fact that it's in creation. It's in creation where God created us as male and female. He gave us the order, the command that we are to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. You have the revelation concerning the man and the woman, Adam and Eve in the garden.
You have the creation of marriage. The household, the honoring of the household comes so early in scripture because it's so central to creation and to God's plan. And that means that God's plan is for the family to begin with the marriage of a man and a woman, is a monogamous covenantal unit, and that means also the children that are given to that marriage. And that means that after the role of husband and wife, comes the essential role of father and mother and that's to the glory of God.
And so biblical motherhood is not some kind of 20th century evangelical middle class invention. As you look at the history of humanity, dating from creation, and as you look at the history of the Christian Church, dating from the New Testament, you will see the household code such as in the writings of the Apostle Paul, let's go back to Paul again, that make very clear the honoring of the family and the honoring of the right ordering of the family and the roles of the husband and the wife and of the mother and of the father. And so I want to tell you, Kelsey, biblical homemaking, theologically is as early as creation and it is all the way through the entire testimony of scripture.
And then you raise the issue of missional motherhood, and this question coming from a high school senior is just really, really encouraging. And I want to tell you that for Christians, we're called to be missional wherever we are. We're called to be missional in the workplace. We're called to be missional in school. We're called to be missional when we're sitting on an airplane, we're called to be missional when we're waiting in line. And certainly a part of God's plan for women is the role of being missional mothers, and that means the not only raising children to be good citizens, even the world recognizes that as a priority, but raising children eventually to reflect the glory of God and hopefully to come to a saving knowledge of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and to be not only our sons and our daughters, but our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Again, thanks for this question. And Kelsey, we're going to look forward to seeing you on the campus of Boyce College next fall. To all of you, send in your questions, continue the conversation. If you take issue with what I say, well, tell me so.
Let's talk about what's on your mind and let's talk about these things as Christians seeking the mind of Christ and seeking to bring all thoughts captive to Christ, accountable to Scripture.
Let's do it together.
In the meantime, thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my 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 on Monday for The Briefing.