The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

It’s Wednesday, April 12th, 2023.

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


Part I

“I’ll Affirm Your Lifestyle If You’ll Affirm Mine”: A Powerful Engine of Change in Our Cultural Moment

One of the big intellectual questions of our time as we seek to understand the world around us is how moral change takes place and why does it appear to move slowly until all of a sudden it appears to move very, very fast? Well, we come to understand that there are some basic realities that are at stake.

Number one, I would argue that there’s something like a steady state of moral outrage, culture by culture, century by century. People just transfer the object of that outrage from one thing to another. Outrage about homosexual behavior somehow doesn’t go away into no outrage. It gets translated into outrage against those who won’t join the moral revolution. And so you have the old sin, homosexuality, and the new outrage when it comes to society, which is what is often by the left called homophobia.

And so you’re looking at the fact that moral change requires an explanation. How exactly does the society get from A to B to C? Well, the velocity of that change has clearly become another puzzle. But USA Today, in recent days, ran a front page article with this headline, “Poll: Support for LGBTQ rights higher than ever.” The subhead, “But gap widens between Democrats and Republicans.” Mark Ramirez is the reporter for USA Today on this story, and he’s reporting by research from PRRI that is the Public Religion Research Institute identified as “the nonpartisan group that conducted the poll.”

Now, I just want to point out several things. Number one, there are multiple stories here and they’re all just based upon this one headline account in the USA Today newspaper. So why is it a multiple set of stories? Number one, you have the PRRI angle.

It is described here as a nonpartisan group that conducted the poll, but something we need to note is that nonpartisan does not mean non-ideal ideological. Those are two very different things. And PRRI certainly appears to have an agenda, and behind that is a history. PRRI is often in terms of the people who are presented as spokespersons, making arguments for moral change in one direction. And so there’s probably something a little less than subtle to this headline. That’s one dimension. The second dimension is USA Today. This newspaper wasn’t forced to run this story. They decided to run this story and they decided to run this story by giving it prominence above the fold on the left side of the front page. They are saying this is very, very important. One of the things we have noted is that there’s an increasing trend in the mainstream media to just trumpet about any story that appears to be advantageous to the LGBTQ community.

Why would that be? Is it because of an ideological commitment? Well, certainly partly so that shows up in any kind of sociological analysis of the media elite. They tend to be elite not only in terms of their status, but in terms of their rather firm commitment to the left.

But there’s something else here, and that is the fact that USA Today understands that it as a newspaper has what it might define as a social mission. And you see this over and over again in the media. You hear media authorities speaking of their responsibility to be advocates for the LGBTQ community. In other words, they’re putting their finger on the scales. It’s just important that we recognize that.

But we also understand as Christians that the world is changing around us and that this kind of survey probably does represent, even if it’s loaded on one end, it probably does represent some very important analysis that might just be deserving of our attention.

Let’s look at that headline again. It basically tells us support for LGBTQ rights is higher than ever, but then it goes on to say that there’s a big distinction between Democrats and Republicans. Now, again, let’s just pause for a moment. Is that the automatic set of categories you might put in place? Well, it turns out it’s not even the most interesting category in the report itself. It turns out that the most interesting category in this report is actually religion, religious beliefs, far more than partisan identification.

But then there’s another issue, and that is that if you’re talking about partisan identification, that is to say Democrat or Republican. You are actually to a considerable extent simultaneously making a statement religious or less religious, and that turns out to be verified in this research as well. Melissa Deckman, CEO of PRRI, the Public Religion Research Institute, said, “Familiarity makes people more accepting of those rights,” meaning LGBTQ rights.

“When you look at generation Z, more younger people are identifying as part of that movement. So as Americans become exposed to more LGBTQ people, it’s having the effect of making them more supportive.” Now, that statement is important for us to take note, and it’s also something that we recognize is at least partly true. Indeed, it’s largely true. People do tend to adjust moral judgment based upon proximity to human beings involved in that particular activity, associated with that lifestyle, et cetera. Christians are often puzzled by this. Why is it that say having an openly gay neighbor or friend may lead to moral change in terms of the moral judgment about homosexuality? Well, let’s just remember that God made us as relational creatures made in his image, and the image cries out to the image that is to say there is a natural affection of one human being for another.

Love of neighbor is one way of putting this. But we also understand that that should not establish our moral understanding other than to affirm what is clearly biblically true, the dignity of every single human being, the sanctity of every single human life. We affirm that, and yet we have strong biblical foundations.

But when we get to the issue of behavior, let’s face it, one of the earliest human temptations is this, I will rationalize your misbehavior if you’ll rationalize mine. Another way to put it is I’ll call your lifestyle normal if you’ll call my lifestyle normal. That’s a part of the cultural exchange that’s going on right now. And it’s also a part of what we’re witnessing in the breakdown of that kind of logic because you had the feminists and the feminists are only feminists because they know who a female is. You begin to bring in the transgender revolution and the feminists are all of a sudden on one side of the equation. They were liberals yesterday, but they’re considered obstacles to human liberation now.

But you can’t have it both ways. Either a woman is a woman or you can have just about anyone claimed to be a woman, and thus the woman’s issue becomes infinitely more complex, and that’s an understatement. But this article is also arguing for a progressivist assumption. That progressivist assumption on the left is that basically moral change is going to happen and it will happen in a progressive or liberal direction just a matter of how fast and how evenly. And we need to note that this is exactly what the left expects.

We also need to note that to a certain extent it’s also what the right expects. It’s also what conservatives expect. As you look at this, I think most honest conservatives understand that vast moral change is happening, and it is not only happening as a fact, it’s also happening as a fact fast. And so we look at moral change in this country just on say, the LGBTQ issues, but you can add some other issues as well.

Marijuana would be another parallel example, and you see vast moral change taking place, and it’s not just you might say in the same decade, in the same city. You see that moral change even in some cases in the same people, those who answered a poll one way five years ago, answer it differently now. Their mind has changed whether they are actually honest enough to admit that or not.

But then the partisan issue does come up. USA today makes that clear in the use of breakout quotes and subheads in the article. For instance, support rose faster among Dems. That is to say Democrats. I quote, “The institute’s 2022 American Values Atlas Survey collected answers for questions about gay marriage, non-discrimination laws, and religiously based service refusals from nearly 23,000 adults nationwide.” “It found that about “eight in ten people favor laws protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from discrimination and employment housing and public accommodations.”

But then we are told, even as you look at this, there is a partisan distinction. This paragraph, “Nearly two thirds of Americans continue to oppose letting businesses refuse service to LGBTQ people on religious grounds.” Let me stop for a moment. Did you notice how negatively that is put? A Christian acting on Christian conscience in a business context is here simply dismissed as someone who is refusing service to LGBTQ people on religious grounds. Now, again, let’s just understand what we’re talking about here. We’re not talking about defending the rights of say a Christian grocer to refuse to sell groceries to LGBTQ people. That’s not at stake here. We’re talking about artists and others who were involved in rather intimate and artistic expression being told, you’re going to have to use that form of expression in order to support what you believe to be immoral.

The wording here is not accidental, but then we are told, “Democrats were more than twice as likely than Republicans to oppose such refusals.” So there’s the partisan divide. PRRI wants actually make the argument both ways. They want to say, look, all of these restrictive rules, all of this that they would claim as anti-LGBTQ legislation is opposed by a majority of Americans. But that majority’s far larger when you look at the Democrats than the Republicans.

But of course, this begs an obvious question. Why is it that Republicans who are elected to office holding very conservative principles on these issues, why are they elected in the first place? And that’s where Christians need to understand that want people say to up pollster, depending on, at least in part, how a pollster frames and asks a question isn’t actually where they stand on an issue when they have to make the decision going into the voting booth or for that matter, even making a decision about policy A or policy B. The polls just don’t equate exactly to the reality.

We’re not denying that there is moral change taking place, and we’re certainly not denying that our culture is becoming far more LGBTQ affirming. But the way it is looked at in this article and the way it’s editorialized in the prose, it tells us something about the agenda that is behind this. But then the religious issue does very much come up.

Speaking of support for the LGBTQ agenda, and particularly in these contexts, we’re told that there’s a big religious difference. 70% of Jews, Muslims, Buddhist, and Black Protestants support LGBTQ positions. So again, more than 70% of Jews, Muslims, Buddhist and Black Protestants. When it comes to Hindus, even greater 77%, Hispanic Catholic, 78%, and Unitarian Universalist 88%. 88%. That’s massive. So who exactly are the Unitarian Universalists? Well, let’s just put it this way. They’re not Christians. They’re not Christians because they deny the Trinity.

That’s what makes Unitarians unitarian going all the way back to just after the founding era of this country, Unitarianism was the quintessence of theological liberalism, a denomination clearly established upon heretical doctrine and rather proudly so. Are we surprised that those who are theologically liberal are morally liberal too?


Part II

Further From Scriptural Revelation So More Immoral?: PRRI Study Reveals Theology Matters

No, that just points to another insight of the Christian worldview. Human beings tend towards a certain kind of consistency. If we’re liberal in our theology, it means that we do not believe in God having a character of justice and righteousness or revealing himself verbally in scripture, making very clear moral commands and demands of us. And those were basically free to invent whatever morality we want. Unitarian Universalists would say that they want a morality that changes with the times to meet modern needs, and you can now guess what some of those needs are, but that’s the liberal side of the equation.

On the other side, we’re told that just half of Orthodox Christians support this LGBTQ inclusion on this scale. Jehovah’s Witnesses, 50%. Fewer than half of Latter-day Saints, that is the Mormons, 46% and white evangelical Protestants, 37%. Theology matters. We know that. We say it often, but here is statistical information to help that become very clear because when you’re talking about evangelical Christians or conservative Protestants, what is the main distinction with all these other groups? The main distinction is actually scriptural authority that in this case is the doctrinal distinctive of evangelical Christians that is to use the pollster’s term most salient. That is to say the most crucial factor here is actually the evangelical view of Scripture.

And as you’re looking at others, you recognize Scripture doesn’t play the same role. It’s not just Unitarian Universalists even among orthodox Christians. That doesn’t mean Christians who hold orthodox doctrine. It means those associated in the Eastern cultures with the so-called Orthodox churches. They tend to be less clear in terms of their own biblical stance on some of these issues. Although it is also clear that in the liturgy of those churches, there’s a very clear conservative doctrine that comes through. But you also have in the East a certain assumption, a certain embrace of mystery that at least gives some license to be a little less literal with the biblical text.

Evangelical Christians have nowhere else to go. We’re absolutely bound by the biblical text and the biblical text, let’s just be clear, isn’t changing. But there’s something else I want to point to here, and that is that if you look at actual Eastern Orthodoxy, as you look at the historic Orthodox churches, the fact is most of them still by their official teaching are very clear on issues of biblical sexuality and gender.

They’re very clear on marriage. And furthermore, where the water hits the wheel in public policy in nations dominated by Eastern Orthodoxy, you’ll notice rather traditional laws are very much in effect. And so here’s where you look at these polls and you say, well, if you’re talking about so-called Orthodox Christians, and again, that doesn’t mean Christians who hold to orthodox theology, little “o,” it means those in the Eastern churches in the United States who responded to this poll the way this poll was written. Maybe that has something to do with it.

So putting this all together, it’s just important to recognize that conservative Christians certainly understand that the society is changing at the moral level. We understand that that is a basic challenge to the integrity of evangelical Christianity. We understand that the allure, the attraction of liberal Christianity is saying, look, you can change the doctrine, you can change the morality and still call yourselves Christian.

But we understand that those who are committed to biblical authority have nowhere to go, but the clear teaching of the biblical text. Now, that isn’t the end of the matter in terms of our responsibility, but it is the beginning of the matter. It does establish where we find our ethical grounding and what we believe to be morally true. Not because we’re so smart to figure this out, but because God has revealed his will in creation and in his word.


Part III

State Governors Partake in Blatant Political and Moral Defiance: Liberal State Leaders Stockpile Abortion Pills

But the next thing we need to talk about is the abortion pill issue, because of course, right now it’s very much a matter in dueling federal courts. But as we think about differences in the United States, state by state, we need to look at moves made by several very liberal pro-abortion states. And their pro-abortion extremity or extremism in this case is becoming abundantly clear. For examples, certain states have announced that they are stocking up on the abortion pill, mifepristone, in particular, the pill at the center of this legal action.

They are stocking up, and in some cases they are stocking up to the tune of millions of dollars. What is the importance of this statement about stocking up on these pills? It is defiance against any pro-life measure. It is defiance against this federal court in Texas and this federal court judge. And furthermore, it is an act that is blatantly political on the one hand and moral as in immoral when it comes to the other hand, but it is likely to be politically popular in these states.

What are the states? Well, for example, New York State, Kathy Hochul announcing her government is buying pills. Jay Inslee of Washington. He was one of the first, by the way, to make the announcement that the state was buying pills through the budget for the prisons by the way. In Massachusetts, Governor Maura Healey has announced that she too, by executive order, is buying mifepristone.

Indeed, the headline in the Boston Globe tells us that she’s actually buying a stockpile to ensure access to medication abortion. And then you have California, the nation’s most populous state, California governor Gavin Newsom, the liberal’s liberal, said on Monday that he has made plans by executive action to secure an emergency stockpile by his description of up to 2 million pills of misoprostol.

Now, as you notice these announcements, there’s two different drugs. You have mifepristone, that’s the one that the federal judge in Texas has said was illegally or procedurally affirmed by the FDA unless he put a squash on it. That’s been appealed by the Biden administration. We don’t know exactly how that’s going to turn out. You have a dueling federal judge on the other coast that would certainly cover California and Washington, but in this case, you have to watch which drug is being cited here.

In the case of California, the press tells us that it’s misoprostol. But, “Officials say California currently has more than 250,000 of the pills already on hand, which were purchased for about $100,000. That’s enough pills to cover an estimated 12,000 misoprostol-only abortions according to a spokesman for the governor. And the state is prepared to purchase more.”

In Washington, Governor Jay Inslee announced he was buying the other drug, a three-year supply of mifepristone. That is the drug that is the subject to this court action. But what you see here is the extremism, this incredible extremism of pro-abortion governors and pro-abortion states to say we’re so committed to abortion that we’re going to declare it basically a state emergency if a woman doesn’t have access to an abortion, and to do so by means of a pill that brings about the abortion itself.

Now, just remember that the majority of abortions undertaken in the United States right now are by pill. It’s by either of these two pills or it’s by a combination that seems to be what is pharmaceutically described as preferred. You also have a major statement coming out by pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors complaining against the federal court decision. You have a lot of political momentum building here, and it just shows, here’s the saddest, most heartbreaking thing, it shows the absolute determination, the absolute enthusiasm for abortion on the parts of some in our society, and they’re not just peripheral people.

And it also shows, again, the distinction between the states. You have states that are going to be very, very pro-life, and you have states that are going to be very, very pro-abortion. And increasingly we know exactly which state is which. There are some swing states, just look at Wisconsin. New Supreme Court election, things may change there. But the reality is, in a lot of states, we already know where that state government stands, and you have these very pro-abortion governments that are taking what can only be described as extreme action.

I’ll go back to the fact that the California announcement says that Gavin Newsom is trying to create a stockpile of up to 2 million of these pills. The culture of death operates on really big math. That’s really scary when you think about it.


Part IV

Majority of Millennials Own Homes Now – Here’s Why That Matters

Okay, I want to end on a very different kind of story. This one is on the front page of USA Today just as a real estate story. It’s on the front page of the money section as well with a different angle. The money section front page tells us this, “Majority of millennials now own homes.” We’re told that generationally the baby boomers still dominate the home-owning market. Bailey Schulz is the reporter on the story by USA Today, and we are told that current studies indicate that for the first time, a majority of those in the generation known as the millennials own real estate, that is to say, own their own homes.

Now, why is that significant by a worldview analysis? Well, there’s a very interesting truth. It’s a political truth, an economic truth, a sociological truth underlying this kind of story. There’s also a part of American history that many Americans don’t remember. When you look at the origins of America’s constitutional order, those who were given the franchise, those who were given the ability to vote were men who owned property. That was a very clear insistence on the part of the founders.

Now, various expansions of the franchise included those men who did not own property, and then men and women, and of course there have been further expansions as well. But the reality is that that distinction between those who do own property and those who do not own property, it’s not incidental. What were the founders thinking of? Well, what they were thinking of is this, those who actually own property have a deep investment in the future of the society in terms of preserving their investment in that property, and not only for themselves, but for their legacy, for their family.

That’s deeply rooted in Western civilization. It’s frankly something very common to civilization period. As you look across the globe, there’s a distinction in terms of behavior. There’s a distinction in terms of spending and saving. There’s a distinction that simply corresponds to those who do own property and those who do not.

So what would be the worldview issue there? It has to do with the owning a property and with understanding that once you have invested your gain in property, once you’ve taken the risk and made the achievement of buying property, you have a very clear incentive to try to preserve that value. Thus, you act differently. That’s one of the most interesting things. So as you look at a society, a society in which more people rent tends to vote in more liberal patterns, societies that are marked by higher rates of property ownership, and in particular home ownership of people living in the homes they own.

Well, that is overlaid with far more conservative voting patterns. Now, voting’s not everything, but it’s something, it’s big. It tells us there’s something going on here. And when you have a change of behavior that shows up in a change of voting patterns, you have to ask the question why. It turns out the people who own property have an interest in maintaining value. They have an interest in supporting order. They have an interest in having an economy in which you’d have rising or appreciating values of real estate.

That’s not accidental. There’s a reason why the United States government has as a matter of stated federal policy to try to help as many American citizens as possible own their homes. What difference does it make? Will people who own their homes act differently than those who do not? That’s not to say all people don’t own homes misbehave and all people who own homes behave.

That’s not it. It just changes the moral horizon, and it also does so in a multi-generational pattern. That is to say that if you look at differences in wealth, family by family, much indeed it’s true. Now to say most of that difference is in real estate. If your grandparents and your great-grandparents and your parents owned homes, and now you own a home, that is likely to mean expanding wealth in that family line. If you have a break in that home ownership, then you’ve got a break in that line. That doesn’t mean instant poverty, it doesn’t mean necessary poverty at all, but it does mean there is a break in an investment chain which builds wealth in a family generation by generation.

It’s also really important to recognize that the Bible honors families taking that responsibility, seeking to take care of a farm, seeking to buy property, seeking to protect that property, seeking to enhance that property in order that their children and their children’s children may benefit by that investment and hard labor.

Much of it is associated with property, and that takes us back to a biblical theology where it is really, really clear that even as God made us this earth and he gave it to us as our habitation, the fact is that the ownership of property is something that is almost as old as the biblical story. You go back to the patriarchs of Israel, you go back to the laws of Israel, you fast-forward to the parables of Jesus, and what do you find? A very consistent use of the metaphor and the reality of property ownership. And that means real property, real estate and what that means for a family.

So does this mean that as a majority, millennials now own property, they will vote more conservative? Well, that’s not a direct correlation, but there’s something else to overlay here, and that is that generations, at least on existing patterns, tend to be more conservative as they are older than they were when they were younger.

You take the children to the sixties, the students on the sixties, campuses as a prime example, they’ve gone from long-haired hippies on the campuses with all the things that those hippies did. They have now gone to living in planned communities in Florida where they now drive around in golf carts, and they have a very different lifestyle in mind.

And yes, it turns out that many of those in that generation who once were campus radicals, or at least they were a part of that generation, they’re now living in very conservative communities, and they are very concerned with maintaining not only for themselves, but for their children and their children’s children, a legacy. There’s something right and biblical about building that legacy.

So all that to say, there’s always more to the headlines than often appears. USA Today says, isn’t it interesting that a majority of millennials now own homes? And we say, yes, it’s very interesting. It also will turn out to be important. How important? Well, time will tell, but this is about a lot more than real estate.




Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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