Wednesday, June 12, 2024

It’s Wednesday, June 12, 2024. 

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

Part I

The U.S. Has Seen A Major Moral Shift in the Public Conscience on the Legalization of Marijuana and Same-Sex Marriage in Just About 7 Years — How Did This Happen?

We need to take some time to think about moral change, how it takes place in our society. I think almost everyone listening to me is at least old enough to recognize some pattern of moral change. You can see it in the United States, like on the issue of abortion, we’ve seen the acceleration of demands for, and political energy for, abortion rights. We’ve seen that develop just in the last two years in a way that was perhaps unexpected. We also have the terrain on the LGBTQ revolution. We have other vast areas of moral and cultural change, and I think it’s really important that we pause to think about how that change takes place and at least track the trajectory on some of these issues. Because if we don’t, we’re going to find ourselves in a very strange territory very fast. 

We need to learn some of the lessons of history, and we also need to understand how moral change is being championed and driven by some people today using arguments that we need to be able to recognize. So let’s just think about that. Moral change takes place when it’s measurable, that people held one moral judgment at this point in history and it’s measurable that they hold a different moral judgment at a different point in history. Now, by the way, there are two ways to think about that. One is that you have different people at point one than you have at point two. The other is actually more troubling, and that is that you have the same people at point one and point two. So thinking about moral change, it’s one thing to think about say two or three generations where the person in the first generation and the person in say the fourth generation have a different moral understanding.

That’s one thing. But if you’re talking about moral change in a small amount of time, a shorter amount of time, well that’s very different. By the way, the greatest illustration of that I know in the United States is on two issues where you basically have the same people who changed their mind on the question. That’s the only logical conclusion you can come to looking at the numbers. So the two issues are same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana. On both of those issues over a very short amount of time, you had a flip. Interestingly, the numbers are just about the same on both of those issues on both ends. So at one point you had 70% of Americans who said they did not believe marijuana should be legalized in any form, and 30% who said they did. Then about seven years later, seven years later, about 70% of Americans at least say they believe that marijuana ought to be legal in some sense, in some context for some use, and only 30% said “no,” in no use.

70-30, flipped. The haunting thing is that the same thing is true for same-sex marriage. If you go back to the last decade in a seven-year period, we went from 70% of Americans saying it should not be legal with 30% saying it should be legal to in a matter of time, 70% saying it should be legal and only 30% saying it shouldn’t be legal. When you’re talking about seven years, you’re talking about the same generation. Clearly there’s some people who pass on the scene, there’s some new babies, but they’re not answering poll questions. You’re talking about basically the same people, drawn from the same sample. The reason why people on both sides, both liberals and conservatives aren’t really arguing about these numbers is that on both ends of these issues, we can pretty much do the math and we’re pretty much agreed that’s what the math looks like.

So as you’re thinking about that, we just need to recognize a lot had to happen in those seven years, right? A lot had to happen. You had Hollywood messaging, you had political decisions, you had, and I go back to Hollywood, the media tidal wave on this issue, I think in retrospect we can now see was just tremendously effective. This is where you also understand that for instance, just to take one form of art, let’s just take a movie, movie’s a massive narrative depiction, and it includes so many different things. I mean, for one thing, I don’t know if you ever went on a date or have ever been out say as a husband and a wife, when you have kissed each other and an orchestra has all of a sudden, as if in nowhere started play. Now that doesn’t happen in your life. It does happen in the movie.

All of this is orchestrated, the narrative, the text, the dialogue, the visuals, the music, it’s all calculated to bring about an emotional change. Here’s something we as Christians need to understand, the liberalizing movement in this country, the progressivist ideologies have often been wedded to incredible artistic ability and the power of the media in such a way that Americans were moved first at the emotional level, the rational just followed. Now by the way, the Christian worldview tells us it’s supposed to work the other way. We are to discipline our emotions. We’re to discipline our feelings by the truth. But in a fallen world, I think we all recognize an awful lot of our neighbors, and a temptation that comes to every single one of us, is that our emotions can have a powerful impact and influence on our beliefs. 

Now, there are policies on campus, the influence, by the way, of higher education for that matter, the influence of liberal movements in the public schools. All of this basically conspired. Not to mention advertising, also just huge. Advertising had a massive impact on bringing about this moral change. You recognize in seven years you can have a 70-30 split, flipped. But as you’re looking at this, you also recognize one of the other tools that was used, one of the other weapons we might even say that was used in this cultural warfare was polling and surveys and statistics. We mentioned the 70-30 split. Well, you know how you frame those questions has a lot to do with how claims are made in the public. I want to take us to another article, and this one’s on the issue of same-sex marriage. It appeared just recently in the Los Angeles Times. It’s by Karen Kaplan. The headline of the article is “What 20 Years of Data Tell Us About Same-Sex Marriage.”

Okay, so this is the 20 year mark of when the first same-sex couple was legally wed in Massachusetts. This is after the Goodrich decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court. That was years before the U.S. Supreme Court would hand down the Obergefell decision in 2015. So that’s the 20 year anniversary, and so many in the media have gone back. I mentioned already that USA Today ran a really important article, very revealing with the headline “Millennials Reflect on 20 years in Same-Sex Marriage,” in which they pointed out that those who are now young adults have never known a time when same-sex marriage wasn’t legal somewhere. Of course after 2015 in all 50 states by the Supreme Court. But going back to this article in the Los Angeles Times, what it promises is what 20 years of data tell us about same-sex marriage. Now, one of the first things I want to say is that the article doesn’t deliver on answering that question. It doesn’t really tell us much about same-sex marriage.

Nonetheless, the article begins by telling us that there was opposition to same-sex marriage going back 20 years ago. “Much of that opposition was fueled by fears that expanding the definition of marriage beyond the traditional union of a man and a woman would undermine the institution and be destabilizing to the families.” Listen to this, “Researchers at the Rand Corporation decided to find out if those predictions turned out to be true.” Okay, interesting setup here. So you have a major think tank, in this case the Rand Corporation that has decided to find out if the negative impacts on marriage and the society held true on the 20th anniversary of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. “A team from the Santa Monica-based think tank spent a year poring over the data, the result is a 186 page report that should be reassuring to supporters of marriage equality.” Now, I’ll just state, and I really mean this, I think had the data, as assembled by this think tank come to a different conclusion, I don’t think we’d ever know about it.

There wouldn’t be a news story about it, but the way culture works, this is a news story telling us, “Hey, we’ve got numbers now. We’ve got research showing that the bad things that conservatives said would happen if same-sex marriage were approved, they haven’t happened.” Benjamin Carney, who is an adjunct behavioral scientist at Rand, according to The Times, the LA Times tells us, “If there were negative consequences in the last 20 years of the decision to legalize marriage for same-sex couples, no one has yet been able to measure them.” Now, I just want to pause for a moment. Fast forward for a minute. This is where Christians understand that our concern doesn’t begin and end with social science. It doesn’t begin and end with a white paper from a think tank. The moral damage, the cultural damage, the family damage we’re talking about is not something that the Rand Corporation is necessarily going to be able to find in a 20-year retrospective. In which case, by the way, in the beginning the numbers were so small anyway. 

We’re talking about damage to society in destabilizing its most basic institution. You get what you look for when it comes to looking for numbers. I’m not surprised that the Rand Corporation came back with this kind of report, all 186 pages of it. I can just say we need as Christians to recognize the questions asked by Rand. They’re not the same questions we would ask. Okay. The article asked, does marriage make people better off? Carney summarizes it by saying, on average, yes, “People who are married experience fewer health problems. They live years longer, they make more money and they accumulate more wealth than people who marry and divorce or who don’t marry at all.” Increased psychological health, other things mentioned. Listen to this, “Unhappy marriage is very, very harmful, but most people who are married are happy. That’s why they stay married.”

Now, that’s one of the examples of the kind of language that’s used in so much of this reporting, which just says, “Hey, this is obvious. You should obviously know this.” But as you look at that, you recognize there’s no real data that’s indicated there about same-sex marriage. It’s just telling us that marriage comes with benefits. Christians knew that already, and we shouldn’t be surprised that to some extent for some time, pseudo marriage or even false marriage brings certain benefits. But you know what’s not documented here is the fact that same-sex marriage hasn’t worked out like the same-sex marriage movement uniformly hoped. For one thing, marriage among LGBTQ people, is often not defined even in moral terms the same way it’s defined say by Christians or by traditional heterosexual couples in terms of sexual exclusivity and other issues. 

Another telling thing comes with this statement, the question, what did you find? The scholar said, “We found 96 studies across a range of disciplines. Some are in economics, some are in psychology, some are in medicine, some are in public health.” Another researcher said, “We wanted it to be research that actually measured something. There were a number of more qualitative or theoretical or legal arguments that we excluded.” Oh, that’s very telling. So they wanted numbers that told them something. They excluded “more qualitative or theoretical or legal arguments”. That’s excluding a lot. That’s where Christians need to recognize this is like blowing a hole in the bottom of your boat.

By the time you get to the end of this LA Times article, there’s something else that’s really interesting. The question came, why has same-sex marriage helped at least many same-sex couples in terms of what’s being measured by this report? The scholar responded by saying, “The mechanisms for mental health have been described by minority stress theory. Living in a society that is constantly sending you a message that you are less worthy of equal treatment is stressful partly because it leads to discrimination. Being the target of discrimination is stressful and that stress has real mental and physical consequences.” So what’s being said here is that the development of same-sex marriage changed the fact that so many LGBTQ people or couples felt themselves to be troubled by minority stress theory. Now that they are able to get married, that minority stress theory according to this argument has been reduced. 

Well, I look at that and I just have to ask, I wonder if it really has had that effect. I don’t think, by the way, they’re able to cite any numbers in their numbers consciousness to actually prove that. But in moral terms, it does strike me. I wonder, I wonder, this is clearly a desire for legitimation. It’s a desire for normalization of same-sex relationships. I have to wonder if that’s actually delivering on what they had hoped for. I have to think at least in one very clear way it’s demonstrable that’s probably not working out as is claimed, and that is the fact that even when you look at this article, you look at the headline, you look at the study, you look at even the attempt to celebrate same-sex marriage, you know what they’re talking about here, it’s same-sex marriage. 

They’re not just saying marriage as if everyone knows that also includes same-sex marriage. No, they’re talking about same-sex marriage. The fact that that is, to use the language of some, a thing, that tells you that it’s actually probably a bigger thing than they recognize. Christians also recognize it’s a bigger thing than even many Christians seem to understand.

Part II

Ronald Reagan and No-Fault Divorce in American Law: The Moral and Tragic Results

But next we’re going to shift to a prior question. So if you look at moral change in the United States, you don’t start with LGBTQ issues. Frankly you’re going to have to decide to start somewhere. I think when you look at the revolution, the sexual revolution, the moral revolution, the revolution in family life that has taken place at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, one very important place to start is with the issue of divorce.

Now, when I talk about this in an historical explanation, I don’t usually start with divorce. I usually start with birth control. Because the sexual revolution was only possible because of the development, at about the midpoint of the 20th century, of what can be called effective birth control. Obviously I have huge moral concerns about that entire enterprise. But the point is that so long as being involved in a sexual relationship meant having babies, there were certain limitations upon the sexual revolution. The advent of the birth control revolution was an opportunity to escape that moral boundary and it was taken by many. So the birth control revolution, we’ll talk about that another time. Right now we’re going to talk about the second big revolution, which was the divorce revolution. 

So you really can’t have the modern revolutions, LGBTQ, any number of other forms of expressive individualism, you can’t have the redefinition of marriage if marriage means, now get this, the union of a man and a woman which is legally sanctioned, legally recognized, and by power of law, is almost never broken up. In other words, if marriage is not only the union of a man and a woman and nothing else, and it is to last until at least one of the spouses dies and nothing else, then when divorce is very difficult to get. You know what? A sexual revolution’s pretty hard to push. So as you look at the giant revolution that reshaped our society, reshaped marriage, has been reshaping the family and we have so many concerns about that. It’s important to go back and say, “Well, how in the world did that happen?”

You look at the birth control revolution, we can pretty well track how that happened, how it happened in terms of technology, how it happened in terms of law, Supreme Court decisions, for example. Similarly on the issue of divorce, we have to look at the fact that there was an historical story behind all this. Now, by the way, the story legally on same-sex marriage is not primarily a federal story. It’s not primarily told by going to the Supreme Court of the United States as it was on birth control or on abortion. Now, in this case, it means going particularly to the states, going to state legislatures and looking to governors. So okay, where are we headed with this? Well, we are headed into a bit of an awkward conversation about how so-called no-fault divorce came into American law. It’s because one of the great heroes of the conservative movement in the United States, that is President Ronald Reagan, when he was Governor of California, signed the first big no-fault divorce law in American history.

He thought he was doing a good thing. I think it was a very bad thing. He thought he was doing something that would lead to increased human happiness and decreased human tragedy. I think it did exactly the opposite. I think predictably we can understand that what Ronald Reagan did as Governor of California, which frankly wasn’t even controversial basically in California at the time, it led to other moral results that have led to basically cultural and moral disaster. But even if the LA Times was telling us about that research on same-sex marriage, it comes back on a different issue in a different article to tell us about the history of no-fault divorce and to take it right to their own state, California, and right to then-Governor Ronald Reagan. They tell the story and the story they tell is of an attempt to humanize divorce. Now, to understand that, you have to understand that Ronald Reagan had been through a very dehumanizing divorce.

He had been married first to Jane Wyman, a very famous actress, and at one point her career was doing better than his, and he became very involved in conservative politics and she was disinterested. He was looking at political ambitions. She was not looking at those ambitions and she initiated the divorce. But in order for the divorce to be granted, one of the parties had to be found guilty of infidelity or some other horrifying wrong as a legal cause, and that meant the only way to get divorced, before no-fault divorce, was through divorce law that had to find a fault. One of the two spouses had to be found guilty of violating the marital covenant before a divorce of the marriage would be granted, which is also morally interesting, isn’t it?

It’s interesting that the states felt that it was their responsibility, we’re not talking about ancient history here. We’re talking about the early 1970s. We’re talking about the states believing that their responsibility was to recognize marriage as something that existed prior to the state, and that’s why the fault divorce laws or the traditional divorce laws meant that someone had to prove that the marriage had been morally dissolved. What the state was doing was actually just recognizing that. That’s very significant, tells us how fast the secularizing of our culture has taken place. The article by Patty Morrison at the LA Times just brings up some things that are really dark parts of the marriage and divorce picture going back in American history, even going back in the history of California’s no-fault divorce law.

For example, there was an entire industry of people who played the part of paramours or the partners in adulterous relationships in order to provide an opportunity for someone to take a picture so that it could be taken into court. In other words, the two spouses who might agree to divorce had to agree which one of them was going to be photographed with someone else in a motel room or something in order to try to prove without refutation that the divorce was irretrievably harmed, and thus maritally nonexistent. As you look at this, you recognize it’s a very perverse culture. You know about the power of sin, the power of sin to create a market of people who are selling their services. One woman is documented as showing up in numerous divorces as the woman she simply posed in a hotel room with someone in order for a photograph to be taken.

You have to have the photographer there by contract. An appointment has to be made. What a dark picture, again, pun intended, you get out of that. A few days after Labor Day in 1969, Governor Ronald Reagan signed the nation’s first no-fault law into effect. Then Governor Reagan said this, “I believe it is a step towards removing the acrimony and bitterness between a couple that is harmful not only to their children, but also to society as a whole.” The governor went on to say that he recognized divorce as a tragic thing, but he said that no-fault divorce would “do much to remove the sideshow elements in many divorce cases.” Well, my previous explanation even of someone selling her services for a photograph to be used in court, that’s a part of what Governor Reagan was talking about, the sideshow elements in many divorce cases. 

But this article in the Los Angeles Times is actually occasioned, is brought about by, the fact that you have the current speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, who’s dared to violate the new moral code by saying that no-fault divorce might not be a good idea. By the way, he’s absolutely right. It’s not a good idea, but here’s the LA Times and another saying, “No-fault divorce is now so much a part of our culture. It’s ridiculous to say it might not be a good idea. Do we want to go back to those bad old days when one party had to be found guilty of violating the marital covenant in order for a divorce to be granted?”

You look at this and you recognize, just to state the obvious, if you put the Speaker of the House and the worldview represented by this article side by side, they inhabit two very different moral worlds. They represent two very different worldviews. Again, important thing for us to recognize. But I’ve got to get to this sentence in the article before leaving this issue, it’s in the LA Times. It states this, “What changed at about the same time no-fault began was that a couple of decades of legal and cultural shifts, which many conservatives deplore, began making life different, larger and better for married and unmarried women.” Now we’re back to that progressivist understanding of history where things are just getting more and more liberal all the time, and as they get more and more liberal, they’re just getting better and better for everybody. 

The point I want to make is that not only is that powerful, it’s untrue, but I think the left honestly believes it. I mean, they call themselves progressives for a reason. They see history moving forward as a progression. They think that it’s following a direction that generally goes their way. In terms of philosophy, they’re the representations of a new fangled Hegelianism in which something better is inevitably out before us in the unfolding of history. Oh, and by the way, the LA Times does acknowledge that there just might be a problem with all this, or at least no-fault divorce may have brought at least a couple of complications that aren’t good for women.

Listen to this, “A weakness that emerged in no-fault,” meaning no-fault divorce, “is that fault based divorces with evidence of abuse or adultery theoretically gave some power to the woman who is usually the injured party.” One scholar cited on this said, “Often alimony was awarded on the basis of that because typically the economically weaker party is going to be the most harmed by divorce.” So in other words, it turns out that before no-fault divorce, it was the case that many women were put in a stronger position because it was clear the marital vows have been violated by their husbands at their expense and to their injury. But that then in conclusion leads us just to consider the moral disaster of calling something no-fault divorce.

In a fallen world, divorce is going to be a mess any way you look at it. The dissolution of marriage is, as even one novelist noted, the breakdown of one civilization. You look at that, it’s not going to come without great pain, it’s not going to come without great cost, but as you look at no-fault divorce, you look at traditional divorce and you understand how the issue has developed over time. You also understand that the very term is, one, before we leave it, we ought to think about “no-fault divorce.” This is where the Christian worldview reminds us that if human beings are involved and something bad happens, and by this I don’t mean some rock falling on someone, but something that is the result of human moral action. The Christian worldview tells us that where human moral action becomes problematic, there is some fault somewhere. The very use of the term no-fault is dressing up something in a way that any honest person needs to recognize is not true. 

Part III

The Moral Disaster of the Term ‘No Fault Divorce’: Human Sin, the Breakdown of a Small Civilization, and the Weakening of Society

Well, finally, let’s just recognize that the issue of divorce is indeed that collapse or breakdown of a small civilization, the small civilization of the family, but the Christian worldview also reminds us that that small civilization is necessary for there to be a larger civilization. So we don’t disagree that the family, that marriage, is a smaller civilization than say the United States of America or of our state or of our community or of any other collective. We do understand that if marriage is weakened, everything beyond marriage is weakened. If the small civilization of marriage fractures, everything around it is going to fracture.

We can also recognize, just as a final thought, that when you turn to sociology to tell you if what you’re doing is right or wrong, you’re not going to get any clear moral answer. What you’re going to get is numbers. But we as Christians need to understand that our need is for something far greater than numbers. It is for an authoritative word, which means we need to know what God has said about these things. When it comes to marriage, God made it and he defined it.

Meanwhile, let me ask, are you driving to Indianapolis for the Southern Baptist Convention? I’d like to invite you if you are to visit Southern Seminary and Boyce College here in Louisville, Kentucky on your way, or as you travel home. Visit our world-class bookstore, you’re going to love it. Meet our faculty, see our newly renovated library, enjoy a drink in our coffee shop, and just come and enjoy being on this beautiful campus and being thankful for what the Lord has done here.

We want to thank Southern Baptist for your generous support, for your prayers, and for your faithfulness to this institution. For details, and we’ll also send you a free drink coupon, visit That’s simply I hope to see you here. 

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website at You can follow me at Twitter or X by going to For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to

Today I’m in Indianapolis, Indiana for the meeting at the Southern Baptist Convention, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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