Tuesday, June 21, 2022

It’s Tuesday, June 21st, 2022.

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

Part I

From ‘Til Death Do Us Part’ to ‘As Long As We Agree to Be Married’: The Radical Redefinition of Marriage Triggering the Avalanche of Our Current Cultural Crisis

We look at all the different moral revolutions of our time, and yet one of the most fundamental is often neglected. And that goes back to the issue of divorce. Long before the Supreme Court and the moral revolutionaries redefined marriage from being the union of a man and a woman to being a union of a man and a man or a woman and a woman, even before all the different permutations of the sexual revolution that have taken place, basically it was the divorce revolution that started a great deal of this. And it can be argued the divorce revolution was as fundamental as we can imagine because it redefined marriage from being a lifelong institution, that is a commitment, a covenant uniting, a man and a woman in an exclusive marital relationship, to something that was no longer until death do we part, to a more recent legally accommodated, for so long as we both agree, we want to be married.

Now that was a fundamental redefinition of marriage. Something you need to understand is this. If you were to go back to the early 20th century, every single historic Christian church, every single one, absolutely condemned divorce said that it was contrary to the nature of marriage and to the purpose of God, and to the responsibility of society. Every single church and denomination, you could say worldwide, but let’s just say in the Western world was unanimous on that issue.

Now, those churches recognize even as the scripture recognizes a very narrow justification for divorce on the basis of say adultery or abandonment or false pretenses. In other words, there are some marriages that are actually ruled never to have been marriages legally. The Roman Catholic Church came up with an entire system, not only of divorce, but of annulments. That wasn’t particularly helpful to say the least, but nonetheless, there was unanimity that lifelong marriage as a covenant was essential to civilization. And that was the only understanding compatible with biblical Christianity.

Jesus himself had made very clear that marriage was to be respected by everyone. And even as the Book of Common Prayer order of worship that we understand for the ordinance of marriage, it’s very, very clear in that language. Again, you know that language, “What God has put together, let no man tear asunder.” But tearing asunder has been the order of the day. Go back to the early 1960s. That’s within my own lifetime. And it was clear that the state said only under the most unusual circumstances proved in court could there be a legal recognition of divorce, a granting of divorce and a dissolution of a marriage. But even then many religious denominations, many Christian churches and denominations said, even if the state says that we don’t have to recognize that. But as you get to the late 1960s and the early 1970s, everything began to change on the divorce question and so-called no-fault divorce came along.

A state like California was again, a pioneering state in this regard. And the then governor of California, the Republican Governor Ronald Reagan actually signed into law, a very permissive, very liberal, no-fault divorce law. Now he later regretted that, but nonetheless, the damage was done. It was done throughout the society. Over time, most states have adopted similar legislation and these days, many young people just frankly, wouldn’t even understand that there ever had been a situation in the United States, much less, just say a generation ago when the divorces that are now so routine, then would’ve been unthinkable.

But The Economist, and we turn to this journal from time to time because it is one of the most informative and authoritative journals of news and opinion worldwide, it’s published in London. It has a global audience. It recently ran a report with a headline, “Breaking Up Is Less Hard To Do.” The interesting thing to note here is that The Economist thinks this is a very, very good thing. The subhead in the article, which comes dateline from Sydney, Australia is this, “Ending a marriage is getting quicker, cheaper, and a bit less adversarial.” Now you might wonder why would The Economist, just think of the name of the very periodical The Economist, why would it think that this is a good thing?

Well, it is because if your concern is merely present economics, then you might tell yourself that the ability to say, move and take a new job, the ability to express yourself, the entry of women into the workforce, all of that is facilitated by an increasingly permissive divorce culture. But I would simply answer to The Economist, if you are concerned about the present and the future, even just of the economy, then you are sinking your own ship if you make marriage something that is even easier to destroy, because it is marriage in the establishment of families that produces children.

And even if you’re just interested in future consumers and shareholders for your stock, you better be concerned about the following birth rate, which can itself be traced to the revolution that brought us no fault divorce. But The Economist, again, this report is dateline from Sydney, Australia. It is hot on the fact that now in Australia, for example, many couples aren’t even looking at divorces so much adversarial, that’s just something to be jointly negotiated. Now reports in The Economist do not have a reporter or an author’s name, instead were just told, “No imper pretends that divorce is ever sure to be amicable, but in the rich world, it is gradually being treated more as a relationship problem, less as a legal one, alternatives to adversarial court battles are becoming more common. Fewer countries require blame to be apportioned. All this makes the process a little less ghastly for couples and their children.”

Well, just pause for a moment. Hold on. The process a little less ghastly for couples and their children. You just need to note something, that was the very argument that was brought in the 1960s. It was actually as then governor later, President Ronald Reagan acknowledged it was the argument that he followed. He later would repudiate it. The idea that you’re somehow sparing couples and children hurt feelings by making the divorce of parents and the breakdown of a marriage, easier to obtain. It’s an insidious logic. If you just throw away marriage together, maybe you’ll make the process even less complicated. That’s moral insanity, but it gained ground in the United States in the sixties and seventies. It’s gaining ground in The Economist right now. Evidently it’s gaining ground in Australia.

As is so often the case, these liberalizing trends begin in Northern and Western Europe. The Economist tells us, “Sweden got rid of the need to blame one spouse in 1915. Australia ditched in 1975. In 1969, California became the first American state to do so”–that’s that bill that was signed by Governor Reagan I pointed out–“New York, the last. The trend,” we are told, “is proceeding elsewhere. In no fault jurisdictions. The state does not need to know why a marriage is ending. The many countries still require a cooling off period before the break is formally complete.” Later in the article, we read this, “In many jurisdictions that have waived fault, couples can file for divorce together.” Samantha Woodham identified as a British barrister, that’s an order of lawyers said, “Psychologically, that’s huge, ending the blame game means couples start their divorce in a less rancorous way.” You see the argument, you see how it goes, make divorces easier because after all, what’s of such importance, that could be at stake?

The logic is taking hold. The Economist reports, “Since 1990, divorce has become easier in at least 30 of the 38 members of the OECD, a club of rich countries.” Alternatives to litigation are spreading. In mediation, couples seek an agreement with the help of a neutral referee. In Norway and in Australia most divorcing couples with children must at least try it. In England, the Economist tells us they must listen to information about mediation, unless violence has occurred. The Dutch seek mediation without recourse to a court in 41% of divorces. Now what The Economist commends right after that is something that is called collaborative divorce. Now, when you put two words together, you create a compound. You know that from your understanding of English, English usage, English grammar, the structure of the English language. So as you’re talking about collaborative divorce, you’re putting together collaboration and divorce. What have you done?

Well, you have just suggested that divorce is about talking. It’s about negotiating. So the breakup of a marriage, what is supposed to be a permanent institution that is lifelong and monogamous and respected, upon which society depends for its very existence, it is now to be done away with, merely by a process of collaboration that ends in divorce. This is a society committing moral suicide. And if you’re wondering what that kind of moral suicide looks like for a society, just consider this paragraph: “Businesses are getting in on the act. Divorce Hotel, a firm from the Netherlands, with branches in America and elsewhere, offers a concept based on mediation to ensure a professional, fast and affordable way of divorcing. We see your separation, not just as the end of your marriage, but also as the beginning of a new phase in your life.” We’re then told, and I quote, “Couples stay in separate rooms at a luxurious hotel where mediation lasts over a weekend. You can have a massage or game of golf between sessions.”

Now The Economist is one of the most serious periodicals on planet earth. This is an article, a report that is meant to be taken seriously. The Economist seems seriously happy about these developments. I think we should be seriously concerned. Here you’re talking about making divorce a luxury resort process where you can play golf or get a massage, at the very time the family is breaking up. One Southern author, Walker Percy said very presciently that “divorce is the death of a small civilization.” That’s exactly what it is. It’s the death of a small civilization, the smallest of all civilizations, a couple and a family. You’re looking at a disaster for the larger civilization. But hey, who needs a disaster when you can go to a luxury hotel, have someone just do some say side wise negotiation between massages and golf games? And both parties having entered the marriage can now exit considering it a growth opportunity, and a very pleasant resort experience.

It was celebrities in Hollywood back in the United States a few decades ago, who started trying to redefine divorce in a positive way, along with the new age trends of the time, defining abortion as conscious uncoupling. Oh, that’s all it is, just an increase of a higher consciousness in order to uncouple from a spouse who has limited your self-esteem or your spirituality. And you can now be free to be you, which is after all what we’re supposed to be told we are to do, and who we are to be, just to be ourselves. Of course, even writers such as C.S. Lewis reflected the deep biblical understanding that the worst thing possible for human beings is to be told you just be you.

I’ll simply end as the article ends with these words, “Across the world, divorce still involves copious tears, regrets in vituperation, but the removal of the judicial application of blame and the trend towards speedier, cheaper and less adversarial ways of ending marriage are surely lightening the burden of unhappiness”–listen to these last words, and I quote–“especially on children caught in the middle.” Oh yeah. Do this in the name of the children, the very children who had one home, but may now hope for two, and are looking at a situation where the most stable institution God had created for them to grow and to develop and be nurtured and loved had just been torn apart. But hey, after all it took place at a resort.

Part II

‘Scromiting’, Increased Risk of Schizophrenia, and Violent Behavior: Maybe Marijuana Isn’t So Safe After All

But now I want to shift to another very important issue. And the importance of this issue is made clear by writer Allysia Finley, writing for the Wall Street Journal. She’s an important member of the editorial board. She wrote an article in recent days with the headline, “Cannabis and the Violent Crime Surge.” It’s really important, not only because the Wall Street Journal ran this article, but because most in the media are ignoring the reality.

Now, why does she write the article? Well, she’s pointing to recent spikes in crime, violent crime, and she’s actually pointing to recent mass shooting incidents, particularly those involving young men. And what she points out is that the media are not just under reporting the link to cannabis. In some ways they’re outright misreporting it. Finley writes, “The stigma once attached to marijuana has vanished. 19 states have legalized cannabis for recreational use and politicians of both parties increasingly treat it as harmless. Asked during the 2020 presidential campaign about her pot use in college, Kamala Harris now vice president giggled and said, ‘Marijuana gives lots of people, joy and we need more joy in the world.’ But,” as Finley writes,” the public needs an honest discussion of its social and public health risk, which include violence and mental illness.”

She very importantly gets to Alex Berenson he’s the author of the book, Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence. He pointed out that the New York Times “had curiously removed from an article about the Uvalde school shooting, a former coworker’s recollection that he complained about his grandmother, not letting him smoke weed.” The Times, says Finley, didn’t append a correction to the story as it might be expected to do when fixing a factual inaccuracy. She then continues, “Assuming the alighted detail was accurate, it would fit a pattern.” Mass shooters at Representative Gabby Giffords’ constituent meeting in Tucson, Arizona, 2011, a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, 2012, the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, 2016, the shooting at First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, Texas in 2017 and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 2018 were reported to be marijuana users. “It could,” she says, “be a coincidence, but increasing evidence suggests a connection.”

Now Finley then raises the issue. Isn’t the whole point of marijuana to make one mellow? But she then goes on to say, it has the opposite effect in many people, particularly it has the opposite effect in many young brains, developing a dependency that can lead to very, very dangerous behavior, both to the individual and as we now know to society at large. But even as our society seems to just think that marijuana is fine, we should note the THC, that is the hallucinogenic chemical that is found in marijuana or cannabis, it’s now present in the cannabis that’s sold in the United States at rates that are at least four times what they were just back in 1995. And that can mean 20 times as much of the hallucinogenic effect as was true in the joints as they were known, smoked on college campuses in the 1960s.

As Finley writes, “It’s much easier for young people to get hooked. One in six people who start using pot while under 18 will develop an addiction, which doctors call cannabis use disorder. Of course, there you have it. A banal name, cannabis use disorder. As they use the drug more frequently to satisfy cravings, they develop psychological and social problems.”

In the state of California after recreational marijuana was legalized, Roneet Lev, an addiction specialist who had led the emergency department at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego said, “That cannabis emergency room visits climbed 53%, just in the three years following the legalization of recreational marijuana.” That took place by the way, in the year 2016. “Daily marijuana emergency room visits in San Diego, nearly quadrupled between 2014 and 2019.” Dr. Lev went on to say that cannabis induced psychosis is fairly common. In one of the more grotesque reports I’ve seen in the media lately, we are told that a certain syndrome is increasingly common in hospitals, in which you have cannabis users showing up, “Scromiting: screaming, and vomiting. There’s no antidote.”

Some patients we are told, “Spend weeks in the emergency room waiting for placement in mental health clinics.” So now you have a new word scromiting. But we’re also told, and I report, “A meta-analysis examining 591 studies in January concluded that early marijuana use among adolescents was associated with a significant increase in the risk of developing schizophrenia.” Well, the article goes on. By now you should have the alarm. There is nothing safe about the use of cannabis. And the younger you go and the higher, the THC level you go, the more dangerous it becomes. And the more you have marijuana consumed in the form of so-called edibles and in other form, the effect just gets higher, especially as I said, as you go younger in developing brains. And what we’re looking at here is something that our society doesn’t want to deal with.

The moral revolution of marijuana can be traced directly back to the sexual revolution, the foment on America’s college campuses, marijuana, it was explained should simply be accepted as something that is harmless. But of course, nothing like that’s ever harmless. It’s ridiculous to suggest it’s harmless. But there’s something else for Christians to understand. Even if these other concerns about marijuana did not exist, and they do, including the link to the violent behavior on the part of some young people, particularly young men. And for that matter as this report says, older persons too. The reality is Christians seeking to follow Christ as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and obedience to scripture, and in conformity to the gospel, we should never seek to have a loss of our control, our mental faculties, our consciousness. We don’t need an increase by some means of chemicals in our consciousness. What we need is a clear conscience. And furthermore, as you’re thinking about even the claims that all marijuana does, it’s not a hallucinogenic some say, it’s just an enhancer just makes you mellow.

Well, that points to a chemical dependency, that by the way, points to other issues. This is not something that is healthy for an individual or for a society. An altered state of consciousness, regardless of what you want to call it, that is not something that we should seek. Instead, we should seek the clear mindedness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. By the way, related to this in California recently, there have been all kinds of efforts to try to figure out how to put their social justice agenda in a very woke society, hand in hand with the marijuana revolution. Well, you’ve got to make certain that all of the woke issues are covered as well, so that everybody in the name of equity has a way to get into the marijuana business. But even as you look at the reports coming out of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and other major California cities, that may work out in woke theory far better than it does even in woke practice.

You’re looking at the fact that you have many societies that have tried to deal with this drug issue one way or the other. But in the United States right now, as we saw, even before this, experiments in much of Europe, say just the Netherlands and the city of Amsterdam, efforts to try to say, look, let’s just turn this into a commercial enterprise. But then in the name of social justice and income redistribution and all the rest, you’re going to have to privilege those who might not have access to a capitalist demonstration of the cannabis economy. So all kinds of ridiculous arguments are being made. But it’s also just an illustration of what happens when you set this kind of crazy thinking loose.

Pretty soon, you’re trying to figure out how to maximize profit for the state, taxing marijuana, how then to deal with an illegal market, that as it turns out, predictably is a lot bigger than the legal market, how to distribute legal licenses in such a way that all the people demanding equity are satisfied. Of course, they never will be. But you have to also look at the fact that in California, there are open concerns, also reported in the media, about the fact that, well, you don’t want a cannabis dispensary too close to say a hospital or a playground or a school or any number of other institutions. And it turns out, they’re kind of hard to avoid. So even as you say, no, we want to spread all this out. You’re going to end up with a concentration of your legal marijuana outlets at the very place where probably illegal marijuana is being sold in a concentrated form as well.

Part III

A Parable of Modern Technology: Internet Explorer Dies After 27 Years

But I’m going to end today noting an obituary.

It’s not an obituary for a person, no worry. It’s an obituary for a product. And that product was Internet Explorer. It turns out it’s dead. Microsoft has killed it.

It announced some time ago that Explorer was no longer going to be supported, but as it is, what was once the most popular internet browser, frankly, the first commonly used internet browser in the world among consumers. It is now no longer supported because it no longer exists. Internet Explorer has died.

Here’s another irony for you. One of the signs that Internet Explorer was in decline is that people were using Internet Explorer in order to download other internet browsers, then to abandon Internet Explorer. Now that just shows you something about the obsolescence that comes in all kinds of products, very fast for technological products. But it also reminds you that something that could just be seemingly as essential as well say a piece of furniture in your house, Internet Explorer is now something that well, just to state the issue clearly, most younger people listening to The Briefing today never used and probably never heard of.

Internet Explorer by the way, was released by Microsoft in 1995. But now fast forward, what web browsers are most commonly used? It turns out the Google’s Chrome has about 65% of the world’s share of the internet browser sector. You follow that, Apple Safari has only 19%. And from there they really fall off. You have Edge, the newer product put out by Microsoft, at about 4%. But that’s just a little bit ahead of what had been another big internet browser phenomenon known as Firefox. The Associated Press had it right when it said that “Internet Explorer now joins Blackberry phones, dial up modems and Palm Pilots in the dust bin of tech history.” One parable for us all to consider is that dust bin of tech history is growing very high, but also very fast. That’s another point about the society around us, at least in terms of technology. And remember technology impacts individual lives and society at large, the pace is now coming with incredible velocity. Today’s absolute mainstay can become something that children in just a few years and teenagers have never heard of.

Finally, the problem is that many people think that moral change should be expected just in the same way, just that fast. Moral principles upon which civilization has depended simply thrown into another form of the dust bin of history.

We know better. We better know better.

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.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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