Monday, November 14, 2022
It's Monday, November 14th, 2022.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Barely a Red Ripple? Democrats Claim Thin Majority in the Senate. We Await Further Word on House Races
50-49. That is the current count in the United States Senate. By any measure, it means that the Democrats will continue to have a thin majority and thus control of the United States Senate. That's a big disappointment to conservatives and Republicans. Frankly, it flies in the face of prognostications and predictions just before the election, but it turns out that the election did not represent any kind of so-called red wave. It wasn't even much of a red ripple.
At this point, the Republicans, though thought to be in the lead for the House majority, do not even yet have control of the lower chamber of Congress. Of course, Joe Biden continues as president of the United States. That means that there was no red wave. There was no conservative correction. It may be that in certain states, in certain offices, and it may be that in the United States House, there is a changed game plan, but the profound issue is that there is still a political stalemate in this country, and we're looking at a country that is both deeply divided and rather evenly divided when you look at electoral votes and particularly close electoral contests.
We'll be talking more about this in days to come, but one of my rules on The Briefing is that I do not talk about things that have not happened that are likely to happen very soon. We'll save our time and our attention for when we know, for example, how the House situation settles out. Furthermore, there is still one open Senate seat, and of course that is the seat that is going into a runoff between incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock and the challenger, Republican nominee, Herschel Walker. That will not be held until the 6th of December. Brace yourselves. Even if you are outside of Georgia, you're likely to be hearing a lot about that runoff election.
That's just the way politics is played these days.
Go Figure: New Research Shows Married Couples Have Greater Financial Wealth Than Cohabiting Couples — And Sociologists are Scratching Their Heads as to Why
But there are some really massive issues of worldview significance, and I want to pay primary attention to them. First of all, a report that came out in the Wall Street Journal in recent days, and it points to some underlying research. The research really isn't all that surprising these days, but it does turn out to be very important, very important for one thing, because the Wall Street Journal has given it so much attention. One of the principles of the Christian worldview is that the structures of creation shine through. That is to say they continue to be resilient even in the face of subversion.
They also tend to be visible even when people want to try to render them invisible. Let's just talk about the importance of marriage for a moment. But why did I mention the Wall Street Journal? Why did I mention research? Why then jump to the orders of creation? Because sometimes that's just the way the issues unfold. The article ran in Wednesday's edition of the Wall Street Journal is by Julia Carpenter. It takes up most of the full page in the print edition of the paper. The headline is this, "Moving in but not moving up. Unmarried face wealth gap."
Now, the interesting thing here is that it's not just the unmarried who face the wealth gap as compared to married couples. It is cohabiting couples that face a wealth gap when compared to married couples, even when these couples have been basically together for the same amount of time. Marriage is working out to a financial advantage that cohabitation simply doesn't produce. Now, you have secular sociologists, marriage specialists, family studies scholars who are trying to figure out what's the secret to marriage that cohabiting doesn't turn out to equal.
Julia Carpenter begins her report this way, "A walk down the aisle can be a route to greater wealth and prosperity for couples in the U.S. Married people have higher net worths and are more likely to be homeowners than their unmarried counterparts their age are. The mystery though, she writes, is why cohabiting but unmarried couples struggle to build wealth in the same way." She then gives us some rather astounding numbers. "As of 2019, the median net worth for cohabiting couples aged 25 to 34 was $17,372, a quarter of the 68,210, which was the average for married couples of the same age range. That according to data produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis for singles, by the way, they come even further behind with a net worth at the same age of 7,341."
Again, compare that to almost 10 times that value for married couples of the same age. Again, the numbers 7,341 for singles, for people the same age cohabiting, 17,372. For those the same age, 25 to 34, who are married, the net worth 68,210. A lot of that has to do not only with savings but also with home ownership, which is one of the most important financial achievements of most couples in the United States in terms of building wealth and building for the future. But you'll notice that the Wall Street Journal is asking the question that has been posed by several others, and that is, "Well, if you have two people who have some exclusive relationship, and they're living together under the same roof, they're domiciling together, to use the term."
"They've been together for the same amount of time, and they make the same amount of money. Why is it that the married couple turns out to have an incredibly significant financial advantage over the cohabiting couple?" Now again, Christians, just wait a minute. Listen to the data. Let's figure this out, and then we're going to get back to what this means understood by the Christian worldview. Now from a purely secular perspective, you can understand why people are scratching their heads. You have this couple. You have that couple. They're together at the same ages for about the same amount of time.
They both claim to have a romantic relationship and to be domiciling together, but couple A is married, and couple B is merely cohabiting. When it comes to net worth on average, well, again, 68,210 for the married couple, but only 17,372 for the Cohabiting couple. Why? Well, the Wall Street Journal article suggests, "While there are legal and tax benefits to marriage, research suggests the financial security and long-term mindset of those who tie the knot may also be a powerful driver of wealth. More married couples pool their money such as sharing saving accounts and investing together to achieve certain goals. Cohabiting couples are less likely to combine finances and investments."
Well, I wonder why they would be so. Actually, that's pretty easy to figure out. A married couple, by definition, becomes a single economic unit, but this tells us something fundamentally important. It has even caught the attention of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The couples who are merely living together, cohabiting do not represent the same singular economic unit. To a far lesser degree, they invest their money together. But when it comes to real estate ownership to owning a home, it turns out that it is far more likely that that takes place among married couples, and that is the one single economic step that has the greatest impact for most couples on their long-term financial wealth and security, owning real estate, owning the home in which they live.
In turns out it's also a lot more likely when a couple is married rather than merely cohabiting. Again, just figure this out. Why does this take social scientists? Why does it take the Federal Reserve Bank to figure this out? Now, frankly, I'm glad this issue has the attention of the Wall Street Journal, because you have one of the most influential newspapers in the world giving attention to what turns out to be the importance and centrality of marriage defined as a man and a woman living together in an exclusive covenant relationship that is recognized even by the state, and furthermore, as we know, has been recognized and has been privileged in one way or another by every single civilization in all of human history.
Now, again, hold the theological issue for just a moment, because I promise you we're going to get there. But looking at the interest expressed both by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and by the Wall Street Journal, I just want to remind us that this kind of research has been out there for some time.
As recently as about four to five years ago, a report came out entitled The Financial Implications of Cohabitation Among Young Adults. That study was reported in the media including U.S. News and World Report in 2018. The headline, "People who lived together before marriage have less money."
The U.S. News Report said, "The study found that those cohabiting for the first time were worth $26,927 less than married couples who never cohabited." That study, by the way, was undertaken by researchers from Iowa State University and Kansas State University. Again, that was several years ago, but then again, even before that, the data was already building up. You have young couples. They get married. They tend to save money. They pool their resources. They make their decisions together. They agree on an investment and saving strategy, and central to that saving strategy and that investment plan is owning their home, and thus they move to it.
Cohabiting couples, they may say that they have something like marriage, but it doesn't turn out to be anything like marriage in economic terms. Here's the data, and it's coming not only from those university researchers. It's coming also from the Federal Reserve Bank. It is an issue of such economic significance that the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis considers it a matter of fundamental economic importance for the nation. A lot of people are talking about and concerned about the fact that a lot of younger adults aren't in a position to buy a home, but buying a home throughout just about all of American history has been something that has been an achievement of most married couples.
It turns out it's a much larger challenge for those who live without marriage, or those who are living without a marriage contract but living with someone else, cohabiting. Again, these are averages, but as you look at the nation, the averages are what is telling. On average, you're talking about a multiple of wealth experienced by couples who are merely married to each other. This is where you have the fact that the Wall Street Journal considers this as such importance. It gave almost a full page in last Wednesday's print edition to this research. One young couple that is cohabiting, well of that couple, the woman said, "We're already saving a lot of money in splitting the cost of most things. I don't understand how married couples are accumulating wealth in a way we're not doing."
Well, let me just point out that splitting the cost on an apartment doesn't turn out to be anything like a plan for investing together, but not just together as one in buying a home. It turns out that is a fundamentally different economic as well as a fundamentally different moral question. Now, it should really interest us as Christians that this has caught the attention of the Federal Reserve Bank and of the Wall Street Journal because after all, both that newspaper and that bank are primarily concerned about what this means in economic terms, but this is where Christians understand that the economic data points to more fundamental moral and individual and personal realities.
This, Christian, is where the theology comes in. As I point out, it's always there very close to the headlines. But in this case, it's particularly close to the surface of this headline, because the theology comes in at this point to remind us that marriage is not simply some sociological development. It is a part of the goodness of God's creation. When God made human beings, made us male and female in his image, He gave us the institution of marriage, and told us to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth to take dominion. You will notice that that was addressed to the man and the woman together, in the institution, in the covenant of marriage, and that becomes very, very clear.
Now, those who are not married can also contribute to the economy, and can also contribute to taking dominion by business or by some political movement or any number of other things, planting a crop or establishing a business. It's not to say that single or unmarried persons can't do that. It is to say that building family wealth, and that starts with marriage, and then two marriages added children. Building family wealth requires and provides the context for people sacrificing together in a long range plan in which joint ownership is simply taken for granted rather than something that has to be achieved by ongoing continual negotiation and agreement among cohabiting persons.
When we speak of the two becoming one, of course, that points to the conjugal relationship, but it also points to the economic relationship. A part of the strength of marriage, especially when a couple marries young, is that all of their basic professional and economic and financial decisions are made together. They are made together with an eye to the future. Once children are added to that marriage, well, all of a sudden, the horizon becomes longer. Then when grandchildren are added, the horizon just becomes all the more extended generation by generation. It's almost like you would find that in the Bible, but of course you do.
Just think about Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. Think about the entirety of the biblical revelation, and understand that what is so central that it is in the first chapter of scripture seems to be surprising to people who are asking the question now in economic terms, "Why are couples that are cohabiting following so far behind in economic terms couples of the same age who are married?" By the way, I decided to take a deep dive on this issue, because I wanted to go back to some of the research I had seen in years previous. I found one particular research project that tried to point out that it's not so much marriage that is the secret sauce, but the people who are getting married are choosier than people who are merely cohabiting.
In other words, they said it's a selection bias. People marry in ways they think will be to their long-term advantage in a way that they don't always calculate when it comes to merely living together. Again, who would've thought it? All of this is quite clear, of course, in scripture, but it is also affirmed in the Christian theological tradition, I think, in particular of the vows for the colonization of marriage that are revealed in the Book of Common Prayer, the Church of England from the year 1559, one of the high water mark achievements of the Protestant Reformation.
The language from that marriage ceremony still exists in most Protestant marriages today. Going back to the very text from 1559, which quite frankly is easier to hear than to read, the third purpose that is stated for God's institution of marriage is this. Thirdly, for the mutual society, help and comfort that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity into which holy state these two persons present come now to be joined. The next statement, "Therefore, if any man can show any just cause why they may not be lawfully joined together, let him now speak or else hereafter forever hold his peace."
You have to love that language just before that declaration about marriage being intended by God for the mutual society, help and comfort, and listen to this sweet language, "That the one ought to have of the other." The one in this case is both the husband and the wife together in the holy covenant of marriage. But our understanding of the goodness of marriage and God's gift of marriage doesn't go merely back to 1559. It goes back to Genesis 1 and the beginning of the entire story of human existence. Sociologists may be a bit late catching up on the importance of marriage, but those who know the Scripture know that's actually how the entire scriptural story begins.
‘Republicans Traded the Election of 2022 for a Generational Goal’: The Reversal of Roe. Was It Worth It?
Next, I want to return to another public conversation that's white hot and is going to continue to be so in American public life. That is the issue of abortion. A lot to talk about there, especially in the aftermath of the election, which was by and large an unmitigated disaster for the cause of the sanctity of human life. But Ross Douthat, a columnist for the New York Times, and a conservative thinker, helps to put it into context with an argument that I have not yet seen put this way, and it's important that we hear his words. Douthat offers an article that was published by the New York Times, very liberal newspaper, but in this case a conservative writer.
He offered his piece on Sunday. The headline is, "What Pro-Lifers Lost and Won." We might wonder, "What in the world did pro-Lifers win?" You might say, "Well, it was a few elections when it comes to electing pro-life candidates to office." You can consider something like the overwhelming margin of the reelection of Governor Ron DeSantis there in Florida, but that's not what he's talking about. Frankly, as we're looking at the fact that several states voted directly on abortion, and every one of them was a disaster for the cause of human life, well, what are we talking about here?
He gets there by recognizing, first, just what a disaster last Tuesday really did represent when it comes to the constitutional amendments concerning abortion, the passage of radical pro-abortion amendments in California and Vermont and Michigan, the failure of pro-life amendments or pro-life measures in the states of Montana and Kentucky. Yes, absolute disaster. As I put it, unmitigated disaster. But then he offers this particular analysis. He says that Republicans having worked so long. Of course, this is not only in terms of legislation but also in terms of Republican presidents making nominations of conservative judges and justices to the federal courts, ultimately to the Supreme Court.
Ross Douthat does put this in perspective in a way we might not have considered when he writes this, "In other words, Republicans in 2022 traded a larger margin in the house, and maybe a Senate seat or two for a generational goal, the end of Roe v. Wade. Furthermore, writes Douthat, and more than that, they demonstrated that many voters who might vote pro-choice on an up or down ballot will also accept for the time being pro-life legislation in their states." By the way, that is extended, I would argue, to voting for pro-life candidates if they have the support of the electorate.
The most important aspect of Douthat's argument is that we could see the disappointment in these midterm elections as nonetheless coming with the fact that there was a generational achievement on the part of pro-life politicians and pro-life voters. In this case, that means overwhelmingly the Republican Party, a trade-off of a larger margin in the house, a trade-off of winning the Senate. He says, "Maybe one or two Senate seats attributable entirely to this issue." It was a trade off, but he says, "It was a trade off for the election of 2022 over against the achievement of a generational goal, which was the reversal of Roe v. Wade."
A very key insight in Douthat's argument is this, "If you were to go back to say January or February of 2022, and you could say to pro-life voters, "Look, here's the deal. You could have a disappointing election in November, but you can see the end of Roe v. Wade, or you can see a more successful election in November, but you have to give up hope of ever reversing Roe v. Wade." I'll be honest, I would take the reversal of Roe v. Wade over the electoral win. Now again, our job is to try to achieve both, but the fact is that the election was a disappointment for the pro-life cause. But nonetheless, we are still going into the end of 2022 with the most significant headline news story being the reversal of Roe v. Wade after almost 50 years of deadly precedent.
By the way, Douthat wrote another analysis piece just before the election, to which I want to return for just a moment. The headline of that piece that ran just three days before the election is this, "In 2022, reality has a conservative bias." Now, where does that language come from? Well, actually, it comes from the comedian Stephen Colbert, who said some years ago, indeed it was 2006, and he was giving a bone to the left here, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias." That was condescending, but it reflects the worldview of the Hollywood and entertainment media elites. But nonetheless, he said it clearly believing what he said, that reality has a liberal bias.
Ross Douthat came back, and said, "Hey, with the midterms looming, it looks like reality has a conservative bias." Well, it turns out that was not a bias that turned into an electoral wave, but the point is that Ross Douthat was still onto something when he made that argument because he says this, "Listen to how among the Democrats, the conversation about crime has changed from just a year ago, much less two or three years ago." Just consider the fact that much of the conversation in the United States, perhaps just under the pressure of inflation and the threat of a recession, all a sudden, there's a bit more realism when it comes to a lot of the economic conversation.
Not enough of it, we might add, but still, it is just a reminder that even as you're looking at reality, it doesn't have a conservative or a liberal bias. Reality is reality, but conservatives and liberals are at the point now of disagreeing even over what reality is. In some cases, when it comes to, say, moral principles, you have many on the left who are arguing there is no reality behind moral statements whatsoever. But in any event, every once in a while, you see arguments like this that demand a little bit of attention and some reflection. Ross Douthat in this case has offered us two opportunities for that kind of reflection.
A News Story with a (Very) Weird Twist: Norwegian Princess Relinquishes Royal Duties to Marry American Celebrity Shaman
But finally, as we're thinking about things true, but yet gone weird, consider this headline, "Norway Princess chooses shaman over royal role." In this case, the reporters, Emma Bubola and Henrik Pryser Libell, "In recent decades, royals around the world have relinquished their official roles because of scandals and family feuds, or to marry commoners or divorcees. This week, a Norwegian princess quit her royal duties for her love for a shaman." That is to say a new age guru. It turns out that that's outside the boundaries of the royal house in Norway. Listen to this, "Princess Martha Louise, the 51-year-old daughter of King Harold and Queen Sonya of Norway, got engaged in June to Durek Verrett, and American celebrity shaman and the inventor of the spirit optimizer, a healing amulet that he sells on his website for, just get this, $222."
The Times goes on to tell us, "Since their engagement, the Norwegian news media and the public have kept a spotlight on Mr. Verrett, criticizing him for saying he used the amulet to fight the coronavirus, or having suggested that cancer was a choice, and for having said that he was a 'hybrid species of reptilian.'" It turns out that this relationship has gone on for a matter of years, and the Norwegian royal house has been trying to separate itself from one of its own daughters. But when marriage entered the picture, well, push came to shove, and the princess faced a choice: stay a member of the royal family with the duties and responsibilities, appertaining thereto, or go and marry the shaman, hybrid reptilian, wearing an amulet or not.
Princess Martha Louise, now Martha Louise, "said the decision was amicable, and King Harold said in a television interview that he and Mr. Verrett agree to disagree." According to international news reports, this princess or former princess claims to be able to see, and that is see as in S-E-E, visualize people's feelings. She claims to have ongoing conversations with horses and other animals and angels as well. But it turns out in Norway, even with the public, that was a step too far according to a poll taken as far back as 2012, that's 10 years ago, "15% of the Norwegian population believed that Princess Martha Louise communicated with angels and dead people, but 47% thought that her practices had a negative effect on the royal family."
Of course, at some point, the churchmen had to enter the picture. In this case, one of the bishops there in Norway said, "There was a line between talking to angels and talking to the dead, and warned that the princess should not cross it." Talking to angels, well, okay said that bishop. Talking to the dead, not okay. By the way, the Times also says that a Norwegian newspaper commissioned scientist there in Oslo in Norway to examine the emulates that are sold by the shaman. According to one professor who analyzed the results, "They consisted mainly of plastic with only one dye that is a color dye, separating the light bringer and the ancient truth amulets."
Well, the princess and the shaman, maybe Disney will make this into a new animated feature, but wait just a minute. So far as I know, at least at this point, there's not a transgender character, so I guess that's out.
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.
Today, I'm in Denver, Colorado, and I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.