Tuesday, November 29, 2022
It's Tuesday, November 29th, 2022.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
A Direct Assault Upon Christianity and Conservatives in the Public Square: Justice Amy Coney Barrett Called to Recuse Herself from Case Due to Biblical Views on Sexuality
There are some really strange but very important arguments that are now appearing in public conversation, and on both sides of the Atlantic but mostly having to do about the moral sexual gender revolution here in the United States and the inevitable conflict and confrontation with religious liberty. And it's coming in some very interesting ways.
Number one, an argument has now appeared in which it is asserted that Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett should recuse herself from cases related to LGBTQ issues in general, but in particular from a case that's going to be heard in oral arguments on December the 5th. It's a case that has to do with the right of a Christian website designer not to be forced to use those creative skills to express a pro LGBTQ conviction, which the web designer does not hold. That case again coming before the Supreme Court for oral argument on December the 5th and the upcoming nature of that case is why all of a sudden the controversy has now emerged.
The argument first emerged in a major way in a liberal London newspaper known as The Guardian. Now, you may ask why should anyone care that a liberal London newspaper has any opinion whatsoever or would run any report of any kind having to do with the question as to whether or not a justice of the United States Supreme Court should recuse herself from a case. The reason why is that we now live in a digital universe in which you have newspapers such as The Guardian in London that actually become a part of American political and cultural moral discourse.
The same thing's true, by the way, on the other side of the Atlantic. It is not uncommon to hear citations from the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal as you are in public conversation there in Britain in the United Kingdom. But nonetheless, the Guardian ran an article and the article says that some former members of Amy Coney Barrett's "secretive faith group, the People of Praise are calling on the U.S. Supreme Court Justice to recuse herself from an upcoming case involving gay rights." And this is the article again saying, "Barrett's continued affiliation with the Christian group means she has participated in discriminatory policies against LGBTQ+ people."
Now, let's just look at the argument and then we're going to look at the fascinating background to it and we're going to understand that there is a lot more here than may meet the eye or the ear. What are we talking about? Well, first of all, you'll notice the fact that this news article is supposedly brought about by the fact that former members of the same faith group have now come out saying based upon what the group teaches and on what the group does, that is in ordering its life according to Catholic practice and the practices of the group known as People of Praise, then Justice Amy Coney Barrett should recuse herself because she cannot judge fairly or justly or impartially on a case that has to do with LGBTQ+ issues.
Now that's an interesting argument, isn't it? It's an argument that if you belong to some kind of so-called faith group that holds a position that might be considered discriminatory against LGBTQ people, then if you do sit on the United States Supreme Court, you must recuse yourself because you are a part of a religious body that holds a view on the subject at hand.
But there's actually more to this argument as you might understand. For example, Stephanie Kirchgaessner who is the reporter on the story, tells us that the critics of Amy Coney Barrett, the Supreme Court Justice, "point to Barrett's former role on the board of Trinity Schools Incorporated, a private group of Christian schools that is affiliated with People of Praise and in effect barred children of same-sex parents from attending the school." You'll notice the very interesting words there, in effect.
Now what you're looking at here is the fact that the schools, known as Trinity Schools, are basically reflecting an historic Christian understanding of sexuality, gender, marriage. And thus, what you have here is not just a complaint about one justice on the United States Supreme Court. It's not relevant to just one case coming before the court, and it is not just based upon one religious group. This is a broad side argument that if you are affiliated with a religious group that has a strong conviction on LGBTQ issues and that is not an entirely affirming conviction, then you're basically to be canceled, disqualified, you should not be a part of the public conversation, and you certainly should not be sitting on the Supreme Court of the United States ruling and deciding on such an issue.
Now remember I pointed out the words in effect in that statement, and then you have this from the report, "A faculty guide published in 2015, the year Barrett joined the board said that 'blatant sexual immorality, which the guide said included homosexual acts, had no place in the culture of Trinity Schools. The discriminatory policies were in place before and after Barrett joined'."
Now let's just think about this for a moment. What do we actually have here? We have here a Christian school operating on Christian principles that have been held by Christianity from the inception of the Christian movement going all the way back to the New Testament and consistent through 2,000 years of church history. Judge from this perspective, the school that should be considered dubious is a school that would dare to call itself Christian, but doesn't actually hold to Christian truth, to Christian moral judgment on the issue of homosexuality, the broader array known as LGBTQ+.
And here's what's really, really interesting. No one in this article seems to understand something that is fundamentally important, and that is that the People of Praise group, and that is a small, somewhat, somewhat at least reportedly sectarian group of Roman Catholics, it's something of a voluntary association, something of a sorority or fraternity, a group of families of Catholics who are deeply involved in the Catholic movement and also deeply involved in what at least had been as reported part of the Catholic charismatic movement.
The point is this, the actual doctrines that are at stake here aren't doctrines of the People of Praise. They're not doctrines of Trinity Schools Incorporated. They're not doctrines of the charismatic Catholic community or that movement. They are doctrines of Christianity. Period. Everywhere. All the time. Wherever biblical Christianity has been or is found.
So the logic of this argument is that if you are a member of the People of Praise, and for that matter I guess the argument would be if you have ever been a member of the People of Praise, it reminds us of the kind of interrogatory language that was used in the United States Congress during the Red Scare of the 1950s, "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?" That was the famous question that was asked. Well, now are Americans to be asked, "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the First Baptist Church? Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Roman Catholic Church? Are you now or have you ever been a faithful biblical Christian holding to the doctrinal convictions of Christianity through two millennium?" If you think that that's not so much a pressing question, let me tell you, it is the only important question behind this development in the news.
We're talking about a serious charge made against a justice of the United States Supreme Court, but that serious charge is merely being seriously Catholic in this case. But as I say, this isn't really a Catholic issue. The same charge could be brought against anyone belonging to an evangelical church that actually holds to evangelical Christian doctrine.
Now, there are a couple of subsidiary issues here that also really are important. You often hear accusations against this institution, that movement, but the reality is the behind all of that stands, for example, the institutional power and reality of the Roman Catholic Church. Now, let me just take the political obvious, and that is this. You have groups that are going to say, "Amy Coney Barrett should be disqualified from at least hearing this case if not from sitting on the Supreme Court because she and her family historically have been involved in the movement known as People of Praise and she sat on this board of a Christian school. That should disqualify her."
No one's pointing out that the doctrinal, the moral issue at stake, and that is the inherent sinfulness of homosexual acts wasn't invented by the People of Praise. It wasn't just embraced by the Trinity Schools Incorporated. It is the historic teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. It is the historic teaching of Christianity in all of its major forms. It is indeed the current catechetical, doctrinally, authoritative teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that teaches that each and every homosexual act is intrinsically disordered.
But you know what? The left doesn't want to take on the Roman Catholic Church per se, because that's going to be rather awkward. And I say this as an evangelical Christian, that's going to be rather awkward for a couple of reasons. Number one, you can't win an election in the United States if you acknowledge that your real enemy is something as big as organized, as rich, as powerful as the Roman Catholic Church. You also have to face the fact that if you're going to make the Roman Catholic Church an issue, you've got some really awkward political situations you're going to have to negotiate.
Let's mention one, the President of the United States, Joe Biden, who often describes himself as a devout Roman Catholic. But on this issue, does he hold to Catholic doctrine? No, he does not. Okay, so does the left want to draw attention to the fact that Joe Biden, the devout Roman Catholic, wanting the votes of Roman Catholic voters doesn't actually believe what the Roman Catholic Church teaches, he actively defies it on issues of LGBTQ revolution on issues like abortion? No, you don't have the left wanting to draw attention to that.
So that's why they refer to the People of Praise group because that group can look rather scary. But behind it, let's just face the fact is the entirety of the Christian tradition through 2,000 years and the clear authority of scripture... There's another issue here. Would raising this issue itself pass constitutional muster? And you may say, "Why would you ask that question?" Well, it is because the Constitution includes this language, "But no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." No religious test. That is not language invented by conservative Christians in 2022. That is language found within the text of the United States Constitution. No religious test. That no religious test applies to President Joe Biden. It applies to another liberal Roman Catholic who defies Roman Catholic teaching the current speaker of the House of Representatives, Representative Nancy Pelosi of the state of California. It also applies to a Mormon. It applies to a Buddhist, it applies to an evangelical Christian. No religious test means no religious test.
Now, that doesn't mean that voters can't include religious worldview in making decisions going into the voting booth. It means that no one can be constitutionally questioned or disqualified. If appropriately put in office and appropriate elected by the citizens, there is no government applied religious test allowable.
By the way, the Roman Catholic dimension of this would also be complicated by the fact that Justice Sonia Sotomayor is also a Roman Catholic, even though she is assumed on this issue, as in most other issues, to be a liberal, and that would mean voting on the other side of fellow Catholic justices, including Justice Amy Coney Barrett. The reality is that if you're going to make the argument that being a part of this religious group is just qualifying in this case, then you're going to have to deal with some rather messy implications of your argument.
But drawing this to a conclusion, we need to understand that the argument is easily understood as a direct assault on the ability of conservative Christians to participate in the public square and to adjudicate on public issues. The argument here is your religious beliefs disqualify you because your religious beliefs are outside the appropriate pale of discourse in the United States of America.
And here's where you see a lack of courage on the left, because the left again, it doesn't have the courage to come out against the First Baptist Church. It doesn't have the courage to come out against the Roman Catholic Church. It doesn't have the courage to come out openly against, for example, the official doctrinal teaching of the Mormon church. It doesn't do that in terms of a frontal attack. Instead, it tries to come at someone like Justice Amy Coney Barrett through a group known as People of Praise and say, "Gotcha, we found your group discriminating on the basis of sexuality and on the basis of gay activities, gay behaviors, the LGBTQ array." And by the way, to be human is to make judgments. And judgments are a form of discrimination. We discriminate between this and something else. There are rightful and wrongful applications of discrimination, but there's no human being who isn't discriminating one way or another just about every waking moment.
Ominously enough, I think the greatest fallout from all of this is making this kind of discourse more acceptable to American public culture and the application is not most importantly actually towards someone sitting on the Supreme Court of the United States. The argument is more likely to be addressed to those say in professions, in medicine or in law, or those who would serve as a school superintendent or the member of a school board arguing, "Well, if you are going to stand with historic Christianity, you are clearly outside the pale when it comes to participation in this civic or civil context, or for that matter as an employee of this corporation."
If you don't think that threat is coming, you are simply not seeing clearly.
Horrific Tragedy and Heinous Sin Against Image Bearers: Fatal Shooting in LBGTQ Club in Colorado Springs Was Evil, and Much About the Shooter Remains Unclear
But next I want to talk about another pattern of argument. Very sadly, two Saturdays ago, there was a very tragic attack upon a gay club in the city of Colorado Springs, Colorado. By the end of the shooting, five people were dead, others were injured. Let's be really, really clear from the onset here. Any kind of murder is an assault upon the Imago Dei. It is one of the most heinous crimes, one of the most serious sins addressed in scripture. It is wrong to murder. "Thou shalt not kill." In that case, that means murder. This is a breaking of one of the most important moral principles known throughout humanity. And to do so in a concerted way, the kind of crime that is now reported is a mass shooting, just compounds and multiplies the sin and the shame. And furthermore, to target a particular group because of your animus towards that group, that also has to be at least morally significant. We are looking at sin, compounding sin, compounding sin.
But we're also looking at a very ominous development of argument that is becoming quite apparent, indeed as apparent as the front page of USA Today yesterday. The headline in the article read, "Experts feared Attack was likely the subhead anti LGBTQ bias has been building," they say. Will Carless is the reporter. He begins by saying, "The people paying attention to extremism in America knew an attack like the one at Club Q was coming. Experts who monitor the far right have watched for months as public aggression towards the LGBTQ community in general and the transgender population in particular has ramped up end."
So you notice the argument here is that it was just a matter of time until this kind of attack took place because of arguments against LGBTQ behaviors and refusals to celebrate those lifestyles and criticisms of events such as Drag Queen Story Hour have been building. And thus, the argument here is all same people should draw a direct connection between those criticisms, those critiques, those rejections, those moral objections in particular to LGBTQ acts, lifestyles and relationships. You should draw a direct line from that opposition to mass murder that took place in Club Q. It was just inevitable. Again, the headline experts feared attack was likely.
So what was the building opposition that supposedly created all of this? Well, we are told that conservative media has become obsessed with drag shows in particular. "Extremists have been joined by everyday American conservatives fueled experts say by right wing media." And they go on to say, "The target of their outrage previously obscure events ranging from drag shows to children's books, readings." Well, let's just notice that USA Today has done more than probably any other single newspaper to make those supposedly obscure events anything but obscure. We are looking at the fact that Drag Queen Story Hour is not something that was just a passing rare event in certain select libraries. It is now becoming something so routine that it is showing up in rural America and places where no one would believe that such events would take place.
And we are supposed to celebrate Drag Queen Story Hour and the reading of books with LGBTQ themes to children. We are supposed to celebrate that or we are contributing to a culture of violence. That is the argument. We need to understand it for what it is because it's highly connected to the argument about justice Amy Coney Barrett. The argument is that if you hold to the Christian churches' historic understanding of these issues, you're not only outside the moral, political, cultural mainstream in the United States, you are a threat to public order. You are a threat to public decency. You are a threat to public safety. You are adding to this.
And you'll notice the argument goes on and it cite reports on Fox News that refer to the subversive sexualization of children via drag shows. Well, by the way, that is something that concerns a good many million of Americans. "Meanwhile, Republican politicians like Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have put opposition to transgender rights at the center of their political agendas." So again, that is what is directly cited as a part of the inciting of violence that led to events such as the shooting at Club Q. You'll notice the moral implication here. It's as clear as a bell. If you do not join in the celebration of all things LGBTQ, then you are adding to potential for what might be inevitable violence.
Now, let's also just point out what is now known, and that is that the situation there in Colorado Springs in the shooting that took place there in Club Q, the motivations and all the rest are anything but clear. The shooter, at least the man who's been arrested for the shooting, has a very complicated background and furthermore has been known for threats for violence for some time to local law enforcement authorities, the previous threats having nothing to do with LGBTQ issues. And furthermore, he, at least according to his lawyer, claims a non-binary gender identity. Does that matter? Does it not? We don't know. But what we do know is that the kind of article that is now appearing, drawing that direct line between say, Christian moral convictions on the one hand and violence at Club Q on the other, that is absolutely illegitimate.
But here's what we need to notice. There is an avalanche of this argument now happening.
‘Extremism Experts Saw This Coming’: Some Claim Biblical Doctrine of Sexuality Led to Colorado Springs Hate Crime — Watch Out for This Argument
And what we see when we look at how moral change takes place in a society is that this kind of argument begins to be made, and it begins to take hold. And before you know it, it becomes the central media narrative. And that's exactly what's happening right now. It is becoming a dominant media narrative.
A part of that narrative has to do, by the way, with the fact that Colorado Springs is sometimes referred to as nothing less than a mecca of evangelical Christianity. It is the home to major Christian organizations, Christian ministries, Christian mission efforts. It has taken on at least in parts of that metropolitan area, distinctive evangelical caste. But what you're looking at here is the fact that there is also in the background an event that took place in 1992, which was in the state of Colorado, adopted what was known as 2. And that was an amendment that prevented local jurisdictions from adopting pro LGBTQ anti-discrimination measures. That was ruled unconstitutional, by the way, four years later by the Supreme Court in the Romer versus Evans decision of 1996.
But here's one of the things to note. The argument is once again that you can draw a line from that event back in 1992 to a mass murder that took place in 2022. And we're supposed to believe that that's a straight line, and that for example, voters back in 1992 and those who helped to frame that amendment basically in effect set the stage for the violence that would follow 30 years later.
It's also interesting to note a report that was offered by NBC News. It includes this language, "Colorado Springs has long been considered a stronghold of evangelism, an identity of Christianity that has history of opposing LGBTQ equality. It is home to several of the most anti LGBTQ organizations in the country, and at list some of the organizations that are headquartered there in Colorado Springs, Colorado." Another news source, by the way, this would be the New York Times referred to Colorado Springs as known for many years as the "Vatican of Evangelicals." Well, evangelicals don't have a Vatican, but nonetheless, it has often been referred to as something of a western capital of evangelicalism in the United States.
But going back to the NBC News story, you'll hear the reference to evangelism as an identity of Christianity that has a history of opposing LGBTQ equality. I'm quite certain that it is the word evangelicalism that is intended there, but I want to come back again and say, dear NBC News, you might want to note that that same position, that same conviction, that same moral declaration on LGBTQ issues and in particular on homosexuality, is held by evangelical Christians holding to faithful evangelical Christianity, is held by Roman Catholic, it is held by those in the Eastern Orthodox churches in terms of the official teachings of those churches. Which is to say, dear NBC News, what you are taking on here is what is known as Christianity. It would be helpful if you acknowledge that.
In the article at USA Today, one person quoted in the article said, "When you present the existence of LGBTQ people as a threat to children, as a threat to the country itself, that's how it's being framed a lot. That's putting lives in danger." Well, once again, you understand that the only way to avoid that charge is to basically say, "Okay, I'm now entirely for the LGBTQ movement, all of its relationships, all of its demands, the open public embrace, and celebration of all things LGBTQ," because otherwise you were told you are putting lives in danger.
But here's where I simply want to end by saying that there isn't a coherent thinking human being in the United States or elsewhere who doesn't believe that certain things are righteous and certain things are unrighteous, that certain acts are legitimate and other acts are illegitimate, that certain relations are right and other relationships are wrong. But you'll notice that that argument is not extended with any kind of consistency. We're looking at a major revolutionary moment in our society, and the revolutionary rhetoric is aimed in one direction.
But once again, the big issue here is Christians understanding that what is going to be required of us is more on these issues than what's required of previous generations, because we are living in a revolutionary situation and we had better understand it, acknowledge it, and be determined to be faithful in it.
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 informational on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.