Wednesday, January 19, 2022
It's Wednesday, January 19, 2022.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
‘Ordinances and Resolutions Like This are Intended to Change the Culture’: Totalitarian Demands of the Sexual Revolution Collide with Religious Liberty in Indiana
We're going to start out today with two really huge stories with vast worldview implications. One of them has to do with comments made in the United States by a native of Sri Lanka about China. But the first story has to do with a direct threat to religious liberty, not in China, but here in the United States. And for that, we have to go to the Indiana town of West Lafayette. Steve West of World Magazine has the best coverage pointing out that Faith Church there in that Indiana town has, for 45 years, operated a free biblical counseling ministry for members of the community. But now he tells us, "That outreach is now threatened by a city council proposal that would penalize anyone who talk with minors to help them overcome unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria."
The issue at stake is a proposed ordinance identified as 31-21, and that proposed ordinance that has already been delayed twice but is coming up again would prohibit unlicensed persons from practicing what is described here as conversion therapy with those who are under the age of 18. And it comes with a big bite, a proposed penalty of up to $1,000 per day for those who violate the ordinance. As West describes, "It defines conversion therapy as any practices or treatments that seek to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender." So, what we are clearly looking at here is what we have seen in other jurisdictions, including most recently in Canada, also legislation that is pending before parliament in Britain, we're looking at a direct collision between the autonomy, the local church, the freedom of gospel ministry, religious freedom in the most specific sense, and the new totalitarian demands of the sexual revolutionaries.
What you have taking place here in Indiana, just underline that for a moment, Indiana, what is taking place here would effectively deny religious liberty and the freedom of ministry to an evangelical congregation in West Lafayette, Indiana. Dr. Steve Viars is the pastor of that congregation, Faith Church, and he said, "We're not fighters. We're not people who are just looking to get into it with somebody. We want to love our community and biblical counseling is one of the ways that we've chosen to do that." The pastor also pointed out that like the pending legislation in the United Kingdom and in Scotland, and what we have seen coming out of Canada and even some American jurisdictions, it would actually criminalize speech on the basis of biblical truth between Christian parents and their own children.
Josh Greiner, one of the pastors in the area, responded with an argument that was published just this week telling us, "The West Lafayette City Council is proposing Ordinance 31-21 which prohibits unlicensed persons from practicing conversion therapy with minor age children with the penalty of $1,000 per day for violators." The statement goes on, "Faith Church was started 58 years ago and for the last 45 years has hosted a biblical counseling center for people in our community. We currently have 32 counselors offering 68 hours of biblical counseling to members of our community each week free of charge at multiple locations." The pastor continues, "The reason faith counselors and others choose not to be licensed is because we have dramatically different counseling presuppositions than the secular world. We have never practiced conversion therapy or used the term because we find this practice that was developed by the secular counseling community to be barbaric and harmful to persons experiencing same sex attraction."
What becomes very clear here is that this ordinance in this town, in the State of Indiana, is directly intended to shut down biblical counseling. You'll notice that as I read from the proposed ordinance, which is supposedly coming back up for consideration on February the 7th, you'll notice that the language here is addressed to legal strictures against unlicensed counselors. That means directly, most importantly, at Christian counselors, at biblical counselors in the context of a local church. But I view some language here that requires some explanation, and behind this are some vast worldview issues. During the 20th century, particularly at the midpoint and towards the end of the 20th century, some who identified as evangelical Christians began to integrate their theological concerns with the contemporary currents of psychiatry and psychology.
Now, that integrationist platform became incredibly popular. It launched many people in the national and international prominence. But biblically-minded Christians understood that there's a problem. For one thing, the scripture makes clear, you really can't integrate the Christian biblical worldview with any other worldview. But it's also important to note that psychiatry, as a modern humanistic discipline, emerged as a rather intentional effort to try to supplant the church's counsel on so many different issues. It begins with a different understanding of human being. That's one of the reasons why it has been generally described as a humanistic discipline. That is to say, it's based in a more humanistic understanding. Syncretism is the term that refers to trying to mix two different worldviews or two different sets of principles or truths together, or at least truth claims.
And syncretism or integrationism has been very, very popular among evangelicals. The problem is that that integrationism brings into the therapeutic context forms of thought that are really incompatible with scripture. That's the reason why at Southern Seminary, for almost the past 30 years, we have been in a position of replacing the old Christian counseling movement, the old pastoral counseling movement, with a far more biblical system known as biblical counseling. That is to say, we understand that the most important function of counsel, when it comes to the local church, is the biblical counsel, the counsel most importantly to believers directly from scripture. And there is no state licensure that is implied by the biblical counseling. It is a ministry of the church, it is strictly defined as a biblical ministry of the church. There is no accident in the fact that the biblical counseling movement emerged out of a very deep biblical and theological concern.
The concern on the part of many Christians, particularly more reformed Christians, that there had to be a form of biblical counsel that was far more conformed to scripture and under the authority of scripture, using scripture itself and looking to scripture as the sole authority for even how we would counsel an individual, whether it be through a life crisis or just about the reality of life in general, and what it means to be human, and what it means to experience life.
Counseling on the Basis of the Sufficiency and Authority of Biblical Truth: The Ministry of Biblical Counseling
You'll note here that this particular proposed legislation in the City of West Lafayette, Indiana is a direct attack upon the right of churches to be churches, on the right of Christian ministers to practice Christian ministry, even of the right of parents to give biblical counsel and guidance to their own children. And one of the reasons that becomes so clear is because the conversion therapy ordinance, in this case, isn't just about conversion therapy.
Because the reality is, the biblical counseling movement doesn't use any form of what is genuinely or legitimately called conversion therapy, that is a discredited form, it's a discredited secular therapeutic device. Instead, we're talking about the right and the responsibility of Christian churches to counsel, most importantly, first of all, Christians on the basis of the inerrant, infallible Word of God. This ordinance would make that a criminal act in this American town. And remember, we're talking again about the State of Indiana. Josh Greiner, one of the pastors, gets right to the point when he goes to the proposed ordinance saying that it affirms that, "Conversion therapy is defined as practices or treatments that seek to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings towards individuals of the same gender."
Now, just recognize that if this ordinance is passed in this American town, and by the way, it won't stop here, if this ordinance is passed, it means criminalizing normal orthodox biblical counsel, biblical preaching, and biblical parenting. And this is in the United States of America. As the pastor points out, Section 2(e) of the proposed ordinance adds that, "Counseling is defined as techniques used to help individuals learn how to solve problems and make decisions related to personal growth, vocational, family, and other interpersonal concerns." This ordinance has no exception for Christian churches, but what it defines there is explicitly what Christian churches do. What is defined here is also explicitly what Christian parents are not only authorized, but commanded by God to do. But just in case you were wondering how big this story is and what its importance might be for you, your family, your church, your community, wherever you live, just consider the news story that was released on December the 7th of last year by WFYI.
This was back at an earlier stage of this developing story. This particular report indicated that the city council had, at that point, decided to postpone a vote on this ordinance as the report says an ordinance that "would abandon the use of conversion therapy." But as we've seen, the issue here really isn't conversion therapy, it's Christian ministry. But what's really interesting in this particular article is not the comments that are made by the local pastors committed to biblical counseling. No, it's a comment in the news story made by Shannon Kang, who is a member of that council and is identified in the article "as a queer person herself." She wanted the vote to take place. She said, "Until all of our vulnerable populations in the city are protected, we cannot stand by and say that we've done enough. This is extremely important to me." She also said that she felt that the language of the ban was clear and "wouldn't infringe on constitutional rights." Of course, that's absolute nonsense.
But what is really important is how she continued in her comment. She said, "Ordinances and resolutions like this are intended to change the culture. I'm not asking that these people who do it would convert, but it sends a message into what sort of community they are living in and it sends a message to our vulnerable communities as well." That is an astounding statement. It's an incredibly revealing statement. And you have to wonder if the one who made the statement wouldn't like to pull it back. But we need to understand exactly what this member of the city council said. She said explicitly as a member of the council, identifying as a person herself, that against the language of the article, "Ordinances and resolutions like this are intended to change the culture." The astounding nature of that statement is that it is a candid confession of the fact that that's what's going on here.
It's an attempt to change the culture, to completely turn Western civilization on its head, to tell the Christian Church that it is going to have to change its message, that we Christians are going to have to change our message. We're going to have to revise our moral understanding. Now, she says she is not demanding that biblical churches convert, but she is demanding that they stop operating on a biblical basis. And yes, the big point here is to change the culture, which means you convert or you're on the wrong side of history. And as these activists now demand, you'll be on the wrong side of the law. And it's not just you, but it's your church. I want to come back to the issue of biblical counseling. Biblical counseling is one of the most encouraging and important movements in biblical Christianity of the last several decades.
Biblical counseling emerged as an intentional effort to reject the integrationism that claimed you could combine humanistic secular psychology and biblical truth, and instead to counsel just on the basis and on the authority of biblical truth. And biblical counseling doesn't seek licensure, programs like the one at Southern Seminary and at Boyce College, do not lead to the seeking of certification by the state. We're not looking for state licensure, we're looking to equip Christian churches and Christian ministers to conduct truly Christian counseling on an authentically biblical basis. The biblical counseling movement is very well represented by this church in this Indiana town. It is operating on the basis of its own biblical convictions and it understands counseling rightly, not as seeking some form of therapeutic intervention by psychology or psychiatry.
That is not the church's proper role. The church's role is to apply what is preached in the pulpit, in the lives of individual Christians, helping them to make connections and application by the sufficiency and authority of the Word of God so that their lives are conformed to obedience to Christ. And thus, by the power of the Holy Spirit in the means of grace, our lives are conformed as Christians to Christ, to Christ's likeness. The threat of this proposed ordinance in this Indiana town is not just a threat to a particular kind of counseling. It is a threat to the integrity, the autonomy, the freedom of gospel churches to conduct gospel ministries, not only at the level of the congregation, but right down to the level of individual counsel. But it's not just that. As these pastors in Indiana have pointed out, this ordinance, if it is passed, would also tell Christian parents that their proposed speech, based upon their own biblical convictions to their own children, would become outlawed, a criminal act.
And yes, this is in the United States of America. We'll be following this story and we'll provide updates as it continues to develop.
‘Not Until We Can Take Care of Ourselves Will I Prioritize Them Over Us’: Billionaire NBA Owner Says Genocide of Uyghurs in China is Below His Moral Bottom Line
But next, speaking of developing stories, we turn to comments made by Chamath Palihapitiya. He is a Canadian and American venture capitalist. He is indeed a billionaire. He was born in Sri Lanka. And in a recent podcast interview, he just said, and the background here is investing, in global investing, he doesn't care about the fate of the Uyghur people in China. It's not going to factor into his financial and investment decisions. He said, just being honest, he doesn't care about these people. And he implies that for the United States or for people to believe that it's morally wrong to invest in a way that would hurt the Uyghur people, he says that that is just basic nonsense. But I want to look directly at the very words he spoke.
In the podcast All-In, that was released on January the 15th, just a few days ago, the issue of the oppression, indeed the genocide of the Communist Party in China against the Uyghur people, and that's a variant of a Muslim identity, they're in China, and yes, we are talking about not only oppression but genocide, this particular investor said, "Nobody cares about it. Nobody cares about what's happening to the Uyghurs, okay? You bring it up because you really care and I think," he's pressed back by the cohost, "What do you mean nobody cares?" He said, "The rest of us don't care. I'm just telling you a very hard," he was interrupted again, "You're saying, you variously don't care?" And then, Palihapitiya said, "I'm telling you a very hard, ugly truth, okay? Of all the things that I care about, yes, it's below my line, okay?" The podcast interviewer then pressed him on the incredible statement that he had just made.
He says that he cares about some things. "I care about climate change. You know, I care about a bunch. I care about America's crippling and, you know, decrepit healthcare infrastructure. But if you're asking me, do I care about a segment of a class of people in another country? Not until we can take care of ourselves will I prioritize them over us." And understand, the prioritize them over us means, my bottom line, my investment fund, my money. Now, what we are looking at here is one of the darkest statements made by anyone in public or private life that has come to light in a very long time. We just remind ourselves as we have discussed on The Briefing that the Chinese Communist Party has tried to wipe out the Uyghur people. Genocide, legally defined, is exactly the right word here. Uyghur communities have been destroyed. Uyghur families have been divided. There are Uyghurs who have been sent and are being sent right now to concentration camps, just like in Nazi Germany.
We also face the truth that the Chinese Communist Party is using the most draconian means even to try to prevent the Uyghur people from reproducing and having children. This is a dark moment. It is one of the darkest moments thus far in the 21st century. And here you have a major investor who has a 10% stake in the NBA team, the Golden State Warriors, he says this concern is beneath his level of concern, below his moral bottom line. He doesn't care. What's really going on here is the effort of so many people and the NBA here, not a coincidence. So, many people to say, "We're not going to pull back a bit in doing lucrative business with the People's Republic of China, because after all, we're making money. Who cares about the morality?" And the NBA has been in controversy in terms of selling out to China for a long time. It's important to recognize that Palihapitiya just didn't back off, he instead drilled down.
When the conversation continued, he said, "And I think a lot of people believe that, and I'm sorry if that's a hard truth to hear, but every time I say that I care about the Uyghurs, I'm really just lying if I don't really care. And so, I'd rather not lie to you and tell you the truth. It's not a priority for me." This investor said that he believed concern for human rights was a so-called luxury belief. And then, he turned to the United States. He said, "So, until we actually clean up our own house, the idea that we step outside of our borders with, you know, the us sort of like, morally virtue-signaling about somebody else's human rights track record, is deplorable." Now, here's what I want us to note. Let's just stop for a moment and look at the language. One of the issues that we discuss regularly on The Briefing is that to be human is to make moral judgments, continuously, inevitably.
And that's because at least a part of what it means that we are made in God's image is that we're moral creatures. We just can't help making moral judgements. Now, notice that this particular billionaire, born in Sri Lanka, holding citizenship in Canada and in the United States, he says that this issue is beneath his moral concern. But he uses language like deplorable. But what he says is deplorable, that is something that should be absolutely denounced morally, is people in the United States or in the West telling China that it should not commit genocide against a beleaguered religious minority there. Now, if human beings learned anything, and by the way, human beings don't learn very well for long, but if human beings learned anything from the 20th century, it should be that it is morally deplorable not to confront genocide when it is taking place right before our eyes.
Need we remind ourselves of the killing fields of Cambodia, of the concentration and the extermination camps of Nazi Germany, need we remind ourselves of the moral failures of so many in the West and the 20th century, but here you see how money works. So often, big money is not going to be stopped by the moral concerns of what's going on in China. As I said, the National Basketball Association, he's a 10% owner of a major team, let's just say that the Golden State Warriors, and even as the NBA came out and said that he wasn't speaking for the association, he wasn't speaking for the team, the reality is, the press and others have known for a long time that the inevitable collision will come between the NBA and China because China, as a totalitarian government, doesn't demand compromise, it demands surrender.
Just last year, when a player for the Boston Celtics referred to Chinese President Xi Jinping as a brutal dictator and made other comments, China responded by threatening the future of the NBA there in China. Back a few months ago, CNN reported that China, at the present, makes up at least 10% of the NBA's revenue of about $8 billion. So, you can do the math, 10% of $8 billion. That is now represented by China. And furthermore, China has a major investment in so many American enterprises, whether it is known or unknown, public or shadow, and the reality is that the Chinese market means that there are many who, in the name of profit and in the name of business expansion and even in the name of saying it's deplorable to make moral judgements, they simply wash their hands and say, "We'll do business with China."
And we saw that the very same instinct took place in American businessmen and Western businesses doing business with the Bolsheviks after that revolution in the Soviet Union in 1917, doing business with other deplorable regimes, most importantly, doing business with Nazi Germany. And there were many American firms that were caught with great embarrassment, but not enough embarrassment when it was discovered that they were doing business with Nazi Germany long after it was known that Nazi Germany was an evil totalitarian killing regime. In terms of the NBA history, just think about going back to the year 2019 when the then general manager of the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey, set off his own controversy. He tweeted on behalf of demonstrators in Hong Kong who were demonstrating for the preservation of democracy.
Eventually, even as this created a crisis is for the NBA with China, that means a lot of money was at stake, the NBA actually said that Morey's comments were regrettable. In other words, it's not regrettable that China commits genocide, it's regrettable that someone representing the NBA would have the courage, the temerity to say so against Chinese pressure. But just to remind ourselves of what is at stake here, just in conclusion, let me go back to the statements made by Chamath Palihapitiya. And what he said is so chilling, I want you to hear it again. In response in this interview to a question about the genocide of the Uyghurs and after the issue had already been raised, this investor comes back to say, "But if you're asking me, do I care about a segment of a class of people in another country? Not until we can take care of ourselves will I prioritize them over us."
And this statement is made by a native of Sri Lanka who now lives in Canada and the United States in such safety. He makes this comment as genocide is being carried out against the Uyghur people in China. About this genocide, he says, "Yes, it's below my line," meaning the line that deserves his attention, "okay?" Christians are reminded that the Scripture tells us that we will one day give an answer for every deed, for everything we have done, and for every word, even every idle word, much less, premeditated words.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.