The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

It’s Tuesday, December 13th, 2022.

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

Part I

Conservative Christians, Why Draw the Line over Gay Marriage?: A Case for Upholding the Biblical Definition of Marriage in Our Society

Well, just yesterday, E.J. Dionne asked us the question. The Washington Post columnist asked conservative Christians this question, why draw the line here? And by here, he means it opposition to same-sex marriage. The title of his column that ran yesterday at the Washington Post sets the issue squarely. A “Question to conservative Christians on gay marriage. Why draw the line here?” Well, E.J. Dionne ask the question and it is a serious question. It is a question that deserves a serious answer and it’s up to conservative Christians to answer this question. Why draw the line here? But how does E.J. Dionne set up the question? How does he set up this challenge? He begins by telling us that he celebrates what he calls the victory of marriage equality, last week as the United States House adopted the amended version of what is called the Respect for Marriage Act.

Dionne says that the victory of same-sex marriage, “Became inevitable once LGBTQ Americans came out in large numbers.” He then wrote this, “Suddenly even the most traditionally minded discovered that people they loved, respected and cared about were not heterosexual. Given a choice between abruptly abandoning relatives, coworkers and friends are opening our hearts, most of us chose the better option.” It’s why, said E.J. Dionne, support for same-sex marriage has skyrocketed reaching 71% in the most recent Gallup numbers. Now those numbers, I don’t contest. There is plenty of evidence that support for same-sex marriage in this society has not only increased but has skyrocketed. Furthermore, I think E.J. Dionne is probably right in claiming that one of the major moral factors behind this massive change on the moral landscape is the fact that many people simply lost the will to hold to any kind of conservative sanction, against individual sexual behavior and sexual orientation.

I do want us to note how Dionne uses the language here. He says that on the one hand, you had people who held to say a traditional biblical sexual morality that has been generally historically associated with Christianity for two millennia. As compared to those who responded by in his words, “Opening our hearts.” Saying, most of us chose the better option. Now let’s just state that this is rhetorically loading the dice, so to speak. By implication, those who do not support same-sex marriage have not opened our hearts according to his logic.

Consistent with what he has written before, E.J. Dionne says that, “In truth, opposition to marriage equality is not disappeared.” He points out the most that republicans voted against the Respect for Marriage Act and that’s both in the House and the Senate by the way, but I’ll just insert here a sufficient number of Republicans, particularly in the Senate, joined with Democrats in this measure to push it over the line. And now of course it is headed today for the signature of the President of the United States in a White House ceremony. We’ll talk more about that in just a moment.

Dionne registers concern not only about the fact that there is still political and moral opposition to same-sex marriage. Including at least the majority of Republicans right now in both the House and the Senate. He also is quite concerned about the 303 Creative case just heard in oral arguments before the Supreme Court. And he sees the claim made by conservative Christians in that case as lacking in validity and furthermore, opening the door for what he sees as the exercise of outright prejudice. But then the most important part of his article begins with this, “But such questions also invite us to examine the case from a different perspective. Why do conservative Christians want this exemption in the first place?” This refers to the Supreme Court oral arguments last week.

He answers this way, “That question is neither naive nor rhetorical. Many traditionalist Christians view homosexual relationships as sinful. I think they are wrong,” he writes. But I acknowledge that this is a long-held view. Yet he says, Many of the same Christians also view adultery as a sin. Jesus was tough on divorce. “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder. He says in Matthews gospel.” Inciting Jesus as avowedly against divorce. Well, he is absolutely right. Of course, the interesting thing is that he doesn’t go on to cite Jesus as making very clear that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. The challenge from Dionne arrives with these words, “But unless I’m missing something, we do not see court cases from website designers or florist or bakers about refusing to do business with people in their second or third marriages. We do not see the same ferocious response to adultery as we do to same-sex relationships.”

He goes on to say, “Conservative Christians in large numbers were happy to put aside their moral qualms and vote twice for a serial adulterer. Why the selective forgiveness? Why the call to boycott only this one perceived sin.” In his judgment, “What we are seeing in the opposition to same-sex marriage is less about religious faith than cultural predispositions. American attitudes towards homosexuality have certainly changed radically, but so have our attitudes towards racial and gender equality. Are not these moves toward greater openness, all expressions of the equal God-given dignity of every person?” He rounds the bend in his discussion when he writes, “I hold religious freedom as a high value and see religion as on the balance of positive social force.” Yes, he says, “The latter view is increasingly controversial among people who share my politics. I support well-crafted legal exemptions to protect the autonomy of religious institutions and the free exercise of religion, but these cannot become a defensive discrimination in the marketplace or in our legal system.”

Now working backwards here, I’ll simply point to the fact that if you do have exemptions, then they do allow some form of discrimination. And again, I must come back to the fact that the law is an endless process of making discriminations. That is not a word that left alone makes any clear moral sense. The law makes a very clear distinction, a discrimination between those who pay their taxes and those who don’t, those who obey the law when it comes to something like a speed limit in those who do not. And there are all kinds of forms of discrimination and many of them are absolutely valid. That’s the point. If you are looking at two candidates for say, a position in the federal government and one is clearly more qualified than the other, well you would think that discrimination would apply in the same way that it would if you need heart surgery. I want the best heart surgeon with the very best educational pedigree.

I will be very discriminating if in that position and that makes moral sense. At the same time, the Christian worldview makes clear that there are wrongful forms of discrimination and this would include racial discrimination. It would include discrimination against image bearers of God that would deny the fact that they are image bearers. But when it comes to what we’re talking about in this case, which is after all same-sex marriage, along with a host of other issues, the E.J. Dionne adds in. Well, the fact is that discrimination as he defines it, is basically the right of historic Christian institutions and others of very clear religious faith and conviction to hold to those convictions not only in private but with public consequence. It’s also interesting to note that in those last sentences I read, E.J. Dionne basically says that the view that on balance religion is a positive social force is well, in his words, increasingly controversial among people who share my politics.

Well, that’s an interesting admission, that’s a concession that’s important to understand in its context. Here you have E.J. Dionne who is a political liberal saying, look, in this political class, it is simply true that it is increasingly controversial that religion is a positive social force. I have no doubt that columnist E.J. Dionne sees himself as an imminently reasonable man. He’s certainly a very intelligent person. He graduated from Portsmouth Abbey School and then he went to Harvard University. After that, he became a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England and for that institution he eventually earned a doctor of philosophy in sociology. Since 1993, he has worked as a columnist for the Washington Post. He is often on television including public television. He is a widely known public intellectual and he makes very important and usually very clear arguments. He is also on the other side of the fence from conservatives and he recognizes that. He has written a succession of books and in at least a couple of them, he basically offers advice to conservatives about how to preserve conservatism.

But at the end of the day is a conservative, I would have to say what would be preserved is a conservatism that liberals would like. Dionne is one of the most influential intellectuals in the United States associated with a Catholic identity, that’s very important to his identity. He has written for years as a colonist for Commonweal, which is very well known Catholic publication, a liberal Catholic publication. Now, it’s also very interesting to note that E.J. Dionne has not always been for same-sex marriage. As a matter of fact, in 1995, he wrote an article in which he suggested that same-sex marriage was a step too far. In that 1995 article also published at the Washington Post, Dionne was responding with a generally very appreciative response to Andrew Sullivan’s recent book published at the same time. The book was entitled Virtually Normal, an argument about homosexuality and Andrew Sullivan made what he called a conservative argument for same-sex marriage.

A lot more to say about that. But what’s important to recognize right now is that in 1995, the argument against same-sex marriage made sense to none another than E.J. Dionne. In 1995 responding to Sullivan, he said this, “I am less convinced by his insistence on the word marriage to apply to them.” Meaning publicly recognized, committed homosexual relationships. He says, “That word and the idea behind it carry philosophical and theological meanings that are getting increasingly muddled and could become more so if it were applied even more broadly.” In other words, he said there are philosophical and theological issues at stake and it would be important to recognize those and not to threaten those. So you some other word for what you will call these relationships, but don’t call it marriage. That was 1995. By his book published in 2008, E.J. Dionne was arguing to the contrary. Although to his credit, he was acknowledging that he had held the contrary position as recently as 1995. But at least back in 2008, E.J. Dionne was not asking conservative Christians why the line would be drawn here.

He seemed to understand it in 2008. He wrote this, “I do not expect social conservatives or religious traditionalists to accept these arguments immediately or without qualms.” Indeed, he wrote in the book entitled, Sold Out Reclaiming Faith in Politics After the Religious Right again, 2008. He wrote, “Indeed, to the extent that I still agree with what I said on this subject in 1995, I understand how hard it is for people who live traditional lives as in fact I do to accept gay marriage. I worry as they do about the problems’ marriage confronts. I agree with them entirely that for all its problems, the two parent family is in most cases still the best mechanism we have to raise children and that family breakdown is the enemy of economic equality.” So we have one position in 1995, another position in 2008, and now in 2022, the man who said he basically understood conservative theological reservations about same-sex marriage, he said that in 2008.

In 2022, he’s turned around and said, what are you guys thinking? It’s also interesting to note that in 2008, E.J. Dionne did go on the record to say that even if same-sex marriage was not a winning issue in 2008, politically winning, he meant. He said that it shortly would be, and on that he was certainly right.

Part II

Answering E.J. Dionne: Explaining Why Conservative Christians Cannot Just Accept Same-Sex Marriage and Move On

But I think perhaps the most interesting dimension of E.J. Dionne’s challenge to us pointing to same-sex marriage and then saying, why draw the line here? I think the most interesting thing is that he poses this question against the background of all kinds of insults and injuries to marriage and the family. And by the way, he is absolutely right about all those insults and injuries to marriage and the family. Divorce, yes, first and foremost. Adultery, yes, very, very clearly a threat to the integrity of marriage.

Serial divorce and serial remarriage, yes, again, a scandal. A scandal to the society and insofar as Christian churches and others tolerate it or even celebrate it is a scandal there as well. But E.J. Dionne is also right that there have been a number of surrenders and concessions and compromises made by political conservatives on the definition of marriage, and it is to conservative shame. Especially on issues such as the liberalization of divorce laws. And yes, there have been conservative heroes who were a part of this, including Ronald Reagan during the time that he was governor of California. Reagan, by the way came back later and said that he believed the law liberalizing divorce had gone too far. But nonetheless, there is no doubt that you have a political consensus in the United States right now that is pretty well settled on divorce law and making divorce readily accessible and available. I think that is a tragedy.

I believe God will judge this nation for its complicity in divorce and for its injury to marriage. But E.J. Dionne did ask the question, why draw the line here? And I think we need to get to the answer. Why draw the line here? It is because unlike divorce and adultery, which after all accept a definition of marriage, you have in what is called same-sex marriage, a rejection of any stable objective definition of marriage. Marriage is no longer the union of a man and a woman, it is declared to be what marriage is not and cannot be.

A same-sex relationship, to use the historic language of Christianity, lacks many of the capacities and many of the dignities of marriage. Most importantly, it lacks the procreative possibility. A man and a man and a woman and a woman cannot on their own, alone, the two of them together create a baby. It can’t happen.

If you’re looking for an historic Christian argument about how marriage factors and functions in this case, look no further than the stable language of the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. It declares these functions and responsibilities of marriage in turn listing them one by one in ways that are abundantly clear and remember that in the marriage ceremony by the Book of Common Prayer. But if you say you don’t know what that language is, I’ll simply say almost any Protestant ceremony of marriage is based one way or another on the language of the Book of Common Prayer. And for this, by the way, you don’t have to look at ancient history or go dust off some ancient book. Just look at the video of Prince William marrying then Kate Middleton in the year 2011. The language recited from the Book of Common Prayer in that very dignified ceremony declared all of these necessary functions of marriage, and it did so in such a public way that I thought at the time the Church of England is here basically declaring the impossibility of same-sex marriage.

An awful lot of people watching that wedding may have thought themselves supporters of same-sex marriage, but the official language of that ceremony made same-sex marriage absolutely impossible. But we have to take this one step further, what is the biblical basis for drawing the line here? It has to do with the fact that according to scripture, same-sex sexual relationships are not merely contrary to scripture, but contrary to nature. That is what is different. That is why, just to give an example, throughout Christian history, you would have something like polygamy that would not be judged as harshly as say, homosexual relationships or the claim of something like homosexual marriage. It is because polygamy is judged to be wrong. It is judged to be sinful. Jesus again, made that very clear, but it is not in the same sense, the same-sex relationships and behaviors are against nature.

It is really interesting that in Romans chapter one, when the Apostle Paul is talking about same-sex relationships. And by the way, he mentions both female and male same-sex relationships, he explicitly defines them as against nature. And by the way, he’s not singling them out as the only sins of consequence. He is underlining the fact that those sins, sinning against the revealed law of God in Scripture and against the revealed order of God in creation represent just how sinful human beings, by the way, not some of us, but all of us actually are.

But it’s really key to understand that that term against nature, which is not some kind of theological language Christians invented, it’s the language in Romans 1. It’s the language of Scripture itself that’s absolutely indispensable to our moral knowledge. So when E.J. Dionne says, why draw the line here? I’ll simply say it’s because scripture draws a very clear line here. Even as you have adultery and divorce, as grave injuries and insults to marriage, and they bring about grave damage and danger to a society and in particular to the most vulnerable, starting with children.

And even as I would strive for legislation, and this might be what’s shocking to him, I would strive for legislation that would reverse no-fault divorce and would of course make adultery a part of the criminal code. I spoke of that on The Briefing just a matter of days ago. Unless that sound like some kind of a bizarre notion, I would simply invite you to find out whether or not your state right now has some criminal sanction against adultery. And if it is not identified as a criminal act that can bring a social sanction, it is at least factored into considerations including negotiations that have to do with divorce. We are living in an age in which our society wants to act as if it has escaped or outgrown all moral scruples. But the fact is that still is not the case, and by our moral nature given to us by our creator, I will argue it will actually never be the case.

I gave this much attention to the challenge from E.J. Dionne and the question he posed today because he asked in public, right in the pages of the Washington Post. And he asked it openly, and I assume if he asked the question, he was actually inviting an answer. My guess is that he will not like this answer. And I fully recognize that in our society, you’d be hard pressed to find even a conservative Republican who would have the theological conviction to look into a television camera and say, yes, I believe that homosexual acts are against nature, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are against nature. And conservative Christians, by the way, are perfectly capable of any number of forms of moral hypocrisy, but arguing for marriage as the union of a man and a woman and exclusively so is not a form of moral hypocrisy.

We may be on the losing side of the argument in politics, but on the basis of divine revelation and the history and tradition of the Christian Church, including by the way the Roman Catholic Church of which E.J. Dionne is a member in communion. The fact is that the Christian Church through 2000 years has known exactly what marriage is.

And thus I’ll simply say that one of the reasons to draw the line here is that the Christian Church has drawn the line here for 2000 years, and I think rightly so.

Part III

‘Shark Week’ Under Fire for Lack of Diversity After Study Finds Too Many Shark Experts Named ‘Mike’ — Yes, This is a Real News Story, at The Washington Post

But next, as we’re thinking about accusations of a lack of diversity or intolerance in the society, we could recognize, yes, that can happen. Yes, we can recognize there could be wrongful displays of a lack of diversity, wrongful displays of a form of moral intolerance.

But Shark Week, seriously? Well first you might say that Shark Week is discriminatory because of its exclusive focus on, now hold it for a minute, sharks. It is thus a speciesist phenomenon on its own, but that’s not what the Washington Post is raising. Daniel Wu in the column in morning mix. So here’s the headline, “Shark Week Lacks Diversity, Overrepresents Men Named Mike, Scientists say.” Now, at one point, I just want to say there is so much here, this is almost like being served dessert in worldview terms. First of all, you have the media habit of simply saying something like scientists say or according to experts.

But let’s leave that and let me just say the subhead in the article is this, “Researchers say discoveries programming overwhelmingly featured white men as experts while emphasizing negative messages about sharks.” So yes, someone’s going to speak up for the shark. Saying most of the messages were negative messages, which by the way is what makes sharks most interesting.

I grew up in Florida. I grew up as a boy fascinated with sharks, and yes, I am amazed by sharks. I see the beauty of sharks. I do not want to share the water with sharks. That is to say sharks in proximity, because I have seen some of the things that happen when that occurs. One of my goals in life is to have lunch, not be lunch. Now, the Post tells us that Shark Week is now a 34-year-old tradition on the Discovery Network and it’s faced criticism in the past. “Scientists and TV critics blasted the event in 2020 for announcing a roster of TV specials that featured six white men out of eight named experts.” Someone actually tallied up the total and we’re told that over the course of the last 34 years, there have been 229 experts. Not 228, not 230. 229 and of them 90% were white and 78% were men.

We are told, “Carlee Bohannon, a marine biologist and co-founder of Minorities in Shark Sciences.” Yes, there’s a group, Minorities in Shark Sciences. “Praised the study for putting numbers to her and her colleagues longstanding concerns about diversity in both the media and shark science.” Yes, evidently there is a field simply known by the Washington Post as shark science. “When Bohannon founded her organization with three other black scientists in 2020, it was the first time any of them had met other black women in their field.”

I think it is perfectly wonderful that people of all kinds of races and ethnicities and backgrounds get involved in shark science. I think that inevitably discovery is probably going to feature a more diverse array of experts. The experts also included an unacceptable number of white men named Mike. That verdict comes down in these words, “In a study published last month by the Public Library of Science, their research claims that discoveries programming emphasized negative messages about sharks, lacked useful messaging about shark conservation, and overwhelmingly featured white men as experts, including several with the same name. The program featured more white experts and commentators named Mike than women.”

It just tells us a great deal about our culture, that somebody went to the trouble to count all of these experts and give us this data. It tells us something that The Washington Post considered this so important that it ran the article with the headline just as I read it. But given the way our society works, I want to tell you who’s not likely to show up on a Discovery Special about sharks during the next shark week, a white guy named Mike.

So to all the guys named Mike, I’ll simply suggest when it comes to a specialization in animals, you better choose an animal other than a shark. And don’t you dare name a great white shark, Mike.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at You could call me on Twitter by going to For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to

I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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