The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

It is Wednesday, August 2, 2023.

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

Part I

The Big Sort: Our Unprecedented Polarization That’s Being Mapped Out State by State, Often Sharing a State Line

Well, now we have plenty of evidence to answer the fundamental question: Is the polarization among states more a matter of perception or reality? Well, here’s the reality: It’s reality.

As you look at this, you recognize that increasingly states are becoming so deeply blue or so deeply red that you are really looking at a level of political polarization in this country that can be mapped out state by state. Now, this tells us a great deal about the terrain we face and for Christians, it also tells us a great deal about our mission field. Indeed, even as we understand the political and the cultural divisions, we understand there’s more to it than that.

On The Briefing, we frequently recognize that when you look at a scale of political progressivism on the one hand, and then secularization on the other hand, you see parallel tracks. The deeper the blue, the deeper the liberal, the more secular you get. The deeper the red, the deeper the conservative. And, as it turns out, those who are more deeply conservative include a far higher percentage of those who identify as Christians, especially as evangelical Christians.

Now, as you look at the history of our country, of course there have been periods of very deep polarization. During the 19th century, this came to the point of civil war. But as you’re looking at a map right now, it doesn’t map out just with anything as simplistic as north-south and the issues are very different. But at the same time, we are looking at a map that reveals a level of polarization that at least on moral issues is unprecedented in this country in terms of the scale of moral disagreement and in the scope of the issues. We’re talking about a very long list, and of course Christians understand that because these issues are inherently interrelated. You tell me your position on abortion, I’ll have a pretty good idea of what your position is likely to be on LGBTQ normalization. They’re not exactly the same issue. Of course they’re not, but as I mentioned already in another pattern, they do follow parallel trajectories. As we think through the issue of worldview, we understand that’s not an accident.

One of the patterns we point to repeatedly is what I call the three Cs. The closer you get to a campus, the closer you get to a coast, the closer you get to a city, the greater the social liberalism and the more likely you find a secularizing pattern. It’s been that way for a long time. Notoriously, even during the early age of travel and world exploration, the coasts were generally more liberal than the heartland. Just consider two states: Oregon and Idaho. Yes, they share a border, but they do not share much else.

So many in the political sphere want to reduce everything to politics, and the politics turn out to be very important. They also turn out to be illustrative or indicative. You look at the politics, you’re going to understand far deeper issues. Nicholas Riccardi, writing for the Associated Press just in the last few weeks, looks at what he refers to as a pattern of US polarization, which is actually leading to people moving from one state to another. We can use Oregon and Idaho as an example again-these two states, in many respects, have a shared terrain but they have entirely different tax laws, approaches to education, and views on a host of ethical issues.

And yet, even in deep blue or deep red states, there are exceptions. In Idaho, it’s more a matter of the cities. The closer you get to cities in Idaho, the closer you get to at least some level of increased social liberalism and secularization. That’s to be expected. By the same token, if you look at the map of Oregon, coastal Oregon (which happens to be the center of population as and thus the center of gravity in terms of state politics) is very liberal. But, if you go to the eastern part of Oregon, you find a far more mountainous region that is far more rural and,  no surprise, far more conservative. That reality explains why there is a movement there in eastern Oregon for several counties to secede from Oregon and to join Idaho. Probably not going to happen, but the very fact that we’re talking about it tells you just how deep the polarization has become.

The article that appeared by the Associated Press, and again the reporter was Nicholas Riccardi, tells us that this is not just something that’s being mapped out in politics these days. It’s something that is leading citizens to move from one state to another.

This particular pattern also gets down to state politics. Indeed, in 28 states, the party in control does not merely have a legislative majority, but a super majority, which means they can overturn the veto by a governor. The fact that you would have so many states that are this deeply blue or this deeply red is a new development in terms of American history.

What does this tell us as Christians? Well, for one thing, it tells us that geography does matter. Those who live closer you to more rural areas will find more conservative politics and lifestyles. Now, at this point, I don’t think political scientists have a very good rationale to explain that. I think we as Christians do at least understand that the closer you get to agriculture, or, to put it another way, biology, the closer you get to the fact that if you want a calf, you’re going to have to have a male cow and a female cow. The LGBTQ Rainbow Revolution isn’t going to change how that works on the farm.

As farmers are involved in agriculture, they recognize they are dependent upon the changing of the seasons and even the gift of rain. They understand what may be described as an organic view of the world. Or to put it another way: a lot of the ideological nonsense that is everyday life on the American liberal college campus isn’t going to work down on the farm. It never has worked. It never will work.

But this also tells us that in a state like Idaho there are exceptions to how deeply red the state is, especially when you move closer to a major city like Boise and the university there. The closer you get to a city and a university campus, well, there you also have an increased level of social liberalism. So as you’re looking at the massive universities that are overwhelmingly liberal in most situations, you can have a red state with blue islands. This works in the other direction, too. As you look at a very blue state that is overwhelmingly progressivist, the closer you get to farms and rural communities, the political dynamics radically change.

We understand that worldview matters. It always matters, and we’ve come to understand that there are patterns, some of which are new, including people moving from states to another state just to move from red to blue or blue to red. What isn’t new is the fact that geography has something to do with the culture and the operational worldview held by the majority of people residing in that context.

The Associated Press article is interesting. It refers to that “big sort,” which is a term that’s been used for decades now, referring to the fact that people tend at least to want to live in areas where you have people who share the same worldview. But there’s more to it than that right now because we are seeing an unprecedented level of migration from blue to red and from red to blue, and yes, it’s going both ways. You have people in blue Oregon, Washington, California, on the coast, increasingly moving to places like Idaho. You also have people who are living in states like Texas or Florida who are moving to blue states.

This means, as the Associated Press article points out, that the patterns of political migration mean that more conservative states are becoming redder while more liberal states are becoming bluer.

What does this mean for our country just politically? Well, for one thing, the maps are not equal, especially when it comes to population. The red states tend to be smaller states than many of the blue states. When you look at Florida and Texas, both of them red, both of them very large, but when you think about the old constituencies that build up so much of the electoral map, especially in the electoral college, you go up the West Coast, you go to the East Coast, you go to the Midwest where you understand why blue America considers itself the natural political majority, if not the majority of states. And just to remind ourselves of how the electoral college works, a candidate can win a majority of states and still lose the presidential election because the electors are assigned by population.

The politics is what gets so much of the attention. The New York Times had front page article citing Tim Story, chief executive of the National Conference of State Legislatures, and he said, “We’ve always known that California was progressive, Texas was conservative, but now it feels like almost every state is a kind of falling into one of those categories.” Just in the last several weeks, USA Today ran an article by Itzel Luna with a headline: “Four in Ten Californians are Considering Leaving.” Now to understand that we have to add yet another level and that’s the economic level because one of the reasons so many Californians are thinking of leaving California is simply because of the high cost of living. But the moral, social, cultural and political issues are there too, and we understand they’re actually related. So related as a matter of fact that the Associated Press article cites a real estate executive and realty firm owner in Denver who says that the issue of politics is now the top issue. The issue that people raise with him when they’re coming to buy houses has a lot to do with the fact that they are intentionally leaving a redder state in order to move to a bluer state. This realtor said this issue wasn’t mentioned a few years ago. Now it’s number one on the list.

All this gives us a lot to think about, not just in terms of politics, culture and morality. But we’re also talking about the missiological challenge-the challenge to Christian churches. And we understand this is rather complex, the challenge in the country in a more rural area is not going to be exactly the same challenge that is faced in suburban and urban, more cosmopolitan areas. It’s also true that as you look state by state, it’s going to be a different equation.

Now, here’s where we understand that years ago, people were talking about the conservatism of the Bible Belt that became more generalized into the Sun Belt. But as you’re looking at the Bible Belt these days, it is less of a Bible Belt than it used to be. Consider, for example, a state like Georgia with the energy in the metropolitan area of Atlanta. That metropolis is trending more liberal than the more rural parts of the state, but it’s also trending ever more powerful in terms of population and political clout.

But finally on this issue today, I want us to think about the fact that we’re not just talking about something of interest. This isn’t just a matter of say, understanding how to read a political map. It’s not just a matter of selling real estate, not just a matter of trying to figure out the divergences in worldview and political, cultural, moral polarization. It’s also about life and death. This is what Christians have to understand, and this is where we have to end. If you are a baby in the womb, the likelihood that you would be aborted is far greater in some states than in just a state across the state line. Similarly look at issues like so-called transgender treatments for children and teenagers. You could have a divergence that could be a matter of grave consequence just depending on which side of the state border you live or your family lives.

I think it’s very clear that in the United States polarization between red and blue in terms of politics, that’s one thing. It’s a very important thing. It’s the thing that makes the front page of these newspapers and furthermore is the obsession of the media and the political class But for Christians, we have to understand there is far more to it than politics. Just to consider the issue of abortion alone, we are talking about a matter of life and death. We dare not forget that.

Part II

Rep. Nancy Mace Makes a Memory: Big Issues Arise in the Aftermath of the Representative's Prayer Breakfast Comments

But next we shift to a matter of a lot of cultural conversation, much of it absolutely unproductive, but nonetheless deeply revealing. I’m talking about a prayer breakfast in South Carolina last week and comments made by one member of Congress, and then the response to those comments. The prayer breakfast was being chaired by Republican South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who’s also running for the Republican presidential nomination. This particular prayer breakfast hit the headlines because of comments given by representative Nancy Mace who represents the first congressional district there in South Carolina.

She got up to speak at the prayer breakfast and her most infamous words were these: “When I woke up this morning at 7:00, Patrick, my fiancé, tried to pull me by my waist over this morning in bed and I was like, ‘No, baby, we don’t got time for that this morning. I’ve got to get to the prayer breakfast.'” She then smiled at the audience and continued, “He can wait. I’ll see him later tonight.”

Now, the member of Congress, in this case, Nancy Mace, is serving in her second term in the United States Congress. She was the first woman to graduate as a member of the Corps at the Citadel. She’s now pretty much a fixture in Republican politics in South Carolina. She has been twice-married and is now clearly living with her current boyfriend identified here as her fiancé, and clearly this was a reference to what we might call intimate behavior.

There was certainly awkwardness that is related as you look at the video of the event, but it’s also interesting to note that in the aftermath of those statements about sex outside of marriage and cohabitation, you understand that something basic has changed in the United States for those kinds of comments made at that kind of event to be possible. You also understand that in retrospect, a host of issues really are put on the table here. You have the issue of premarital or extramarital sex. Undoubtedly it’s there. You also have the issue that these comments were made on the Republican side of the political ledger and they were made at a prayer breakfast. She didn’t show up and make those comments and discover later that this was a prayer breakfast. She mentioned that context in her own words.

Now, this kind of prayer breakfast is both a religious or quasi-religious and a political event. But if you put the words prayer breakfast together, you at least expect is some kind of basic respect for the Christianity that is held by, or at least claimed to be held by the majority of people who are there in the room. These events are often exercises in what’s called civil or civic religion. Nevertheless, I know of no previous example (in terms of particularly a deep red state) where anyone showed up-much less a member of Congress-and joked about fornication or premarital sex. Every part of that just falls apart in terms of plausibility.

I decided I needed to watch the video of the entire event. Much of it was absolutely what you would expect. It was absolutely predictable in terms of a political prayer breakfast. But the comments made by Representative Mace, they really were, well, let’s just say an innovation. But she also went on to give something of a Christian testimony about how she had not been a church attender. A few years ago, however, she started attending a church there in South Carolina-an evangelical church. You go to the website of the church. It uses the term seeker sensitive. It claims to have a very modern approach to ministry. It is a multi-site megachurch. It is the church that is also associated with the host of this prayer breakfast, Senator Tim Scott.

So let’s just try to take this apart for a moment. We have several crises that overlap. Number one, the crisis of sexual morality. You either believe this is a crisis or not. You either believe that Christianity’s longstanding and central understanding that marriage-the union of a man and a woman-and sexual morality are essential to biblical Christianity, or you don’t. That point is made emphatically clear in 1 Corinthians, where the Apostle Paul took the issue of sexual immorality in the church head on in terms of a sin that threatened the very integrity of the gospel, the power of Christianity, and Christian witness there in the city of Corinth.

You also add to this that the Christian worldview when it comes to the role of the civic state is that the state must be seen as obligated to uphold the morality that recognizes what’s pre-political, and that includes marriage. Now, we’ve seen erosion on that in the United States for a very long time, but a great deal more has to happen in terms of that erosion for a member of the United States Congress to show up at a Republican prayer breakfast and brag about involvement in premarital sex.

Part III

"Keep Your Conduct Among the Gentiles Honorable"- Sexual Morality is Essential to Biblical Christianity

But there’s more to it for Christians. It’s not just a political controversy, it’s not just a moral problem. It also points to a basic theological problem, a spiritual problem.

How is it that anyone can be a part of a church, hearing the preaching of that church any length of time and not understand that sexual morality is commanded in Scripture and that marriage is defined in Scripture? Just how long could you possibly attend a Bible-teaching church without being confronted with that? Furthermore, it’s a deep gospel issue because it raises the question: we are saved from what to what? And as you think about this, you come to understand that repentance is very much a part of the gospel itself. A part of how the Holy Spirit calls us to respond to Christ in faith is that we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and we repent of our sins.

Interestingly, this church’s confession or statement of faith includes a section on the Holy Spirit where we read this: “He,” meaning the Holy Spirit, “guides believers into all truth and convicts people of their sin. He comforts us, gives us spiritual gifts, and makes us more like Christ.” You’ll notice what’s included in there. The Holy Spirit guides believers into all truth and convicts people of their sin. There’s something extremely sober, extremely serious about that we need to recognize. We also just need to recognize the absolute incompatibility of showing up at a prayer breakfast with the kind of comments with which this member of Congress began the presentation.

In the aftermath, you have to ask the question just how big an issue is this? Just how important does this turn out to be? And I want to suggest that in retrospect, this does not recede into the background as relatively unimportant. It instead just reminds us that Christianity in the United States is facing a crisis of conviction and authenticity. There is simply no way that those comments in that context can be seen as acceptable in light of biblical Christianity.

We understand the notion of young Christians who are learning how to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, but we also need to recognize something that just has to be said. We’re not talking about a Christian being confronted with evidence of say, premarital sex and grave sin. Instead, we had someone who identifies as a Christian and is an elected member of Congress showing up at a prayer breakfast basically to brag about it.

Let me just conclude by looking at the New Testament to 1 Peter 2:11-12. Peter writes to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ: “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” The next phrase, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable.” That was not just the Holy Spirit’s instruction to Christians in the first century, but to Christians now and until Jesus comes. And that includes wherever we are, with whomever we gather, and it certainly means it includes a prayer breakfast.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website at You can follow 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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