September 23, 2015
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Wednesday, September 23, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Overtly political nature of Pope's visit celebrated by 'cafeteria progressives'
So this is what ‘peak Pope’ looks like, in terms of the massive cultural event that represents the visit of Pope Francis to the United States. Yesterday at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington D.C., both the President and the Vice President of the United States officially welcomed the Pope to this nation. One of the first things we need to note is that Pres. Obama almost never does this. He welcomes guests at the White House; he has very rarely if ever gone to Andrews Air Force Base to welcome a foreign guest. Furthermore, it’s the first time in American history that both the President of the United States and the Vice President had welcomed any foreign guest to Andrews Air Force Base. At that point it’s also worth noting the Vice President Joseph Biden is the first Roman Catholic Vice President of the United States.
But the point being made here is emphatically made, the presence of the President and the Vice President welcoming the Pope is a very clear indication of the political value of this event to many in American culture. It is also worth noting, indeed, it is essential to note that almost no one in the media or in the culture referring to the Pope’s visit identifies him as a head of state, although that is the legal justification for the fact that he is here on a state visit. Instead, virtually everyone refers to him as the Wall Street Journal did as,Show Full Transcript
“The head of a religion of some 1.2 billion world-wide.”
In the national and international media his arrival in the United States has been described as the arrival of the head of the Roman Catholic Church and the leader of approximately 40,000,000 Catholics in the United States. So when you look at this, you recognize that the diplomatic fiction about the Pope arriving in a state visit as a head of state is really betrayed by the fact that almost no one in terms of explaining the meaning and significance of the papacy summarizes the meaning of the papacy in those terms. Instead, the Pope is described as the leader of the Catholic Church which he is and that’s the point. There are other issues, of course, to observe but most of them will unfold in terms of the Pope’s public pronouncements during his visit. Today he will appear at the White House and tomorrow for the first time in American history he will become the first head of the Roman Catholic Church, the first Pope to address a joint session of Congress. We’ll be observing that troubling development with a great deal of interest.
Yesterday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal had a very significant editorial entitled, “The Politics of Pope Francis. As the editors wrote,
“Pope Francis arrives Tuesday on his first visit to the United States, and the welcome event illustrates his unique and paradoxical appeal. The Argentine pope is being celebrated more for his embrace of progressive economics than for the Catholic Church’s moral teachings.”
The editors praise what they call the Pope humility and then they wrote,
“Yet the pope will also visit the White House and speak to Congress, and this is where his tour takes on an extra-religious resonance. Pope Francis has overtly embraced the contemporary progressive political agenda of income redistribution and government economic control to reduce climate change.”
They go on and write,
“Secular progressives who disdain the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion, same-sex marriage and divorce are ignoring all of that catechistic unpleasantness and claiming the pope as an evangelist for their agenda. You might call them cafeteria progressives, after the old line about Catholics who are selective in which church teachings they follow.”
This is a very important insight. The editors of the Wall Street Journal, which is after all a secular paper, says that the problem with the Pope’s visit is that it is overtly political because this Pope is overtly political. They then point to something that has not been acknowledged in much of the secular media. If the Pope came to the United States on a decidedly religious mission he would appear as the head of the Roman Catholic Church and he would visit primarily at least, Roman Catholic churches, institutions and schools. But as the editors of the journal note, when he appears at the White House and especially when he appears before a joint session of Congress, everything takes on an inevitably political context and the Pope knows it. Furthermore, the Pope in terms of his public statements and especially in terms of his major encyclical he has overtly entered into political territory, making political arguments, and thus it’s disingenuous for people to claim, especially those in the media and in the government that the Pope is not coming in terms of a political agenda. He of course is very much coming in order to push his agenda. He’s made that abundantly clear and we can expect he will do so before the joint session of Congress.
But the editors of the Wall Street Journal are onto something really interesting when they call the secular progressives who are celebrating the Pope on some issues as cafeteria progressives. In other words, they’re taking the parts of the Pope they like and they are rejecting the embarrassment of the parts of the Pope’s teaching that they certainly do not like. The cafeteria progressives, that very term, comes from the fact that there have been many, especially amongst conservative Catholics who have complained about so-called cafeteria Catholics for a number of decades. Cafeteria Catholics are those who approach the Catholic faith as if they’re going to a cafeteria, they’ll take this dish, but not that one. They want this but not that doctrine. They want this teaching, they like this position taken by a Pope, but they ignore or reject others. But it’s really interesting that the editors of the Journal point out that many secular progressives are also cafeteria progressives. They like this Pope, in part, but not in whole and what they’re hoping is that he will signal a significant shift to the left, during his visit here and that leads to a final observation about the Pope’s visit for The Briefing today and that is this – what the Pope says will be significant and it will be interesting. We’ll be watching and listening closely, but furthermore, what the press, what the media, what government officials, what the larger popular culture says about the Pope, what they claim about the Pope, how they interpret the Pope’s message, that’s going to be a very interesting aspect of this story as well and in the long run, perhaps actually the more interesting and urgent part of the story.
Justice Scalia critiques judicial activism of courts, relativization of Constitutional text
Next, a really important story that stands at the intersection of so many of these issues. The Associated Press reported yesterday that Justice Antonin Scalia of the United States Supreme Court had given a speech in which he spoke directly to how the Constitution is interpreted and he also spoke directly to his concerns about the recent Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage. As Adrian Sainz of the Associated Press reported,
“U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Tuesday criticized judges who believe the Constitution is a “living” document, saying they amount to policy makers who are rewriting it and making moral decisions for the entire country about same-sex marriage and other issues. He also referred to this summer’s same-sex marriage ruling as “extreme.”
Now as we discussed and looked so closely at that Supreme Court decision this past June, we noted that Justice Scalia had made very similar arguments in his dissent that was published along with the majority opinion legalizing same-sex marriage. But in a speech he gave to about 500 people at Rhodes College in Memphis yesterday, he was delivering the school’s annual Constitution Day lecture, he went directly at the Obergefell decision, but he also went at two other dimensions that are really important. One is the current direction of the court. You’ll recall that he describes it in that opening sentence as extreme, but furthermore, he looks at the issue of how the Constitution is interpreted. Justice Scalia is one of the most influential legal minds in America for the last generation, or perhaps the last two generations. Justice Scalia basically became the most important intellectual defender of a way of looking at the Constitution described as ‘originalism’. As Justice Scalia, rightly I believe, has argued that the Constitution is to be interpreted as it was originally intended. First of all, as it was originally written that is, we are bound to the words, but then as it was originally intended. That is, we are to understand the words as they stand, as they were written, as they were intended to be understood by the original authors.
Now at this point we need to note the parallels between Justice Scalia’s concern about how the Constitution has been reinterpreted as a so-called living Constitution, that is its meaning evolves over time. The parallel between that constitutional interpretation and the way the liberal Bible scholars have begun to interpret the Bible and that, of course, began back in the late 19th century, especially in terms of a continuous argument and it grew and expanded in influence throughout the 20th century, the essence of the liberal interpretation of the Bible is that we make a separation between supposedly what it says and what it means but that’s exactly what Justice Scalia says is taking place in terms of liberal interpretation of the Constitution. When he gave the address at Rhodes College yesterday he distinguished his view of the Constitution and its interpretation—he calls it originalism—with those who are claiming that the Constitution is a living document,
“Which views the document as one that evolves and changes over time without being amended.”
Justice Scalia going right at that liberal interpretation of the Constitution said,
“They’re not adhering to the text; they’re operating as policy makers. They’re not interpreting the constitution. They’re writing one, they’re revising one.”
Justice Scalia is making an essential point and the Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage in June is the perfect example of this very troubling development. The jurist on the Supreme Court, those five justices who voted in the majority, were acting as Scalia said as moral agents not as interpreters of the Constitution. No one can claim with credibility or a straight face for that matter, that the framers of the Constitution intended anything like the legalization of same-sex marriage, much less the mandatory recognition and legalization of marriage as anything other than the union of a man and a woman. Justice Scalia is exactly right. They’re not adhering to the text, the judges who go in this direction, instead, they’re not even interpreting the Constitution, as Scalia says they’re writing one, they’re revising one, but they’re not going through the process whereby the Constitution is amended, they’re merely using their method of interpretation to relativize the text. Once again, that’s exactly what we see in parallel form in the liberal interpretation of the Bible.
In a very interesting section of his speech, Justice Scalia pointed to the fact that judges even justices of the United States Supreme Court do not have any particular moral insight. He asked the question,
“What is it that I learned at Harvard Law School that makes me peculiarly qualified to determine such profound moral and ethical questions as whether there should be a right to abortion, whether there should be same-sex marriage, whether there should be a right to suicide?”
And then rather ironically, intending humor, he said,
“It has nothing to do with the law. Even Yale law school doesn’t teach that stuff.”
Scalia is a graduate of Harvard rather than of Yale. Speaking of the Obergefell decision that was handed down in June, he described it as,
“The furthest imaginable extension of the Supreme Court doing whatever it wants.”
He also described it as,
“This court’s threat to American democracy.”
Elaborating on his thoughts, the justice said,
“Saying that the Constitution requires that practice, which is contrary to the religious beliefs of many of our citizens, I don’t know how you can get more extreme than that,” he said. “I worry about a Court that’s headed in that direction.”
Speaking of the Supreme Court of which he sits he said,
“You should be upset because these people are making a new Constitution and they are terribly unrepresentative of the country.”
Those observations by Justice Scalia represent a very important insight to what’s happening in the thinking of the United States Supreme Court. At the very least, it tells us how Justice Scalia is concerned about how his colleagues on the court are interpreting the Constitution and we should note the extreme concern he registered in these comments. That’s not just a matter of constitutional interpretation; this has a great deal to do with the very direction of our culture, which is exactly Justice Scalia’s point. The court has assumed authority far beyond its constitutional mandate and, in terms of its interpretation of the Constitution; it is increasingly unbound by the words or the intention of the Constitution and its framers.
Single-issue politics, Doritos, and national park proposal reveal success of moral revolution
On the front of the moral revolution and in particular the revolution on the issue of homosexuality, there are a couple of really interesting developments. First of all, the current edition of Bloomberg Business Week includes an article indicating that for many in the business community, the LGBT issue has become a matter of single issue politics, single issue emphasis. As the magazine reports, Scott Garrett, a Republican who has represented northern New Jersey since 2003 should be a lock for reelection. In 2014, he won by more than 12 points. As chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees capital markets, he’s been in favor of rolling back the Dodd Frank act and other regulations, making him a darling of banks, hedge funds and exchanges which have raised millions for his campaign. But as they say, that was then, this is now. The article continues,
“But Garrett, one of most conservative members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation has lately attracted attention for his other policy positions.”
And a specific policy position they’re talking about is a negative judgment on the morality of homosexuality and opposition to the Supreme Court’s judgment back in June. And now, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, major accounting firms, the big four in particular, have defunded his campaign. All four of those firms according to BusinessWeek had signed an amicus brief supporting same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court in the Obergefell case. Others, according the article, that is other corporations have gone even further, AT&T, J.P. Morgan Chase, they have actually met with a potential challenger to this Congressman in order to further their agenda and the big issue here, the solitary issue of concern is the LGBT set of issues. That’s really what’s going on. So even when BusinessWeek gets to the end of the article, they published these words,
“The bottom line, the Republican chair of the House subcommittee for financial markets has lost banker support over his social views and this is not a matter of his social views on a range of issues, it is singularly the range of issues having to do with the LGBT revolution.”
And this is telling to us because as we have noted, one of the ways the cultural and moral revolution gets accelerated is when the business community begins to understand that being visibly seen supporting that agenda is in their business interests. We’ve seen how that’s been happening over the last few years, but we’ve seen how it has accelerated to warp speed, especially in the months leading up to the spring court decision and in the months and weeks thereafter. We are seeing major corporations turn on a candidate they have supported in the past simply because of his views on homosexuality. That should really tell us something. If it’s happening in this context in this congressional race, just imagine how it’s taking place in an almost infinite array of other context in the business world.
The second development also has to do with how businesses are serving and encouraging the moral revolution. The USA Today network has reported that Doritos is supporting the LGBT community with a special edition of its chips described as rainbow chips. As the article from USA Today which comes originally from WT-SP TV in Tampa reports,
“A bag of Doritos chips will soon look like the rainbow.
“The company has partnered with the It Gets Better Project to announced a new, limited-edition product to celebrate and support the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the boldest, most colorful way possible.”
And that boldest, most colorful way possible has to do with the fact that as the article says,
“Doritos Rainbows chips is the first Doritos product made of multiple, rainbow-colored Doritos chips inspired by the Pride flag.”
That is the gay pride flag. You won’t find these chips on the shelves of your local supermarket, they’re going to be available only by mail and as the article says, they’re going to be available to,
“People who donate $10 or more in support of the project.”
The Doritos will be then posted to them. A spokesman for Doritos, that is for the parent company Frito-Lay said,
“Time and again, our consumers have shown us, there really is nothing bolder than being true to yourself and living life to the fullest. With Doritos Rainbows chips, we’re bringing an entirely new product experience to our consumers to show our commitment toward equal rights for the LGBT community and celebrate humanity without exception.”
That highfalutin moral language coming from a spokesman for Doritos is a clear sign again of how a moral revolution gains influence and spreads in terms of its acceptance in the larger society. Rainbow colored Doritos chips are one thing, but the kind of language coming from the spokesman for the company indicates that they want to be seen. They want emphatically to be seen and publicly to be seen as major proponents of the moral revolution. Once again, they say that the chips are to,
“Show our commitment toward equal rights for the LGBT community.”
And then follow these next words,
“And celebrate humanity without exception.”
Let me just state something that should be obvious to us all. No one looking at a Doritos chip, no matter the color, is going to interpret this sheer essence and meaning of that product as to, “celebrate humanity without exception.”
It’s hard to believe that a corn chip can deliver that kind of moral message, but on the other hand, the spokesman for the company can and we need to note, he certainly did.
Finally on this issue, another headline that’s very interesting, this one in the New York Times this week,
“Lawmakers Seek National Park in Honor of Stonewall.”
The so-called Stonewall rebellion that took place in the late 1960s is seen as the historic origin of the gay rights movement. Now, as Alexander Burns reports for the Times,
“Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York and Representative Jerrold Nadler of Manhattan unveiled a campaign on Sunday to create a national park honoring the Stonewall uprising, vowing that they would mount a petition drive urging President Obama to grant protected status to the site of a pivotal early clash in the movement for gay equality.”
Now as the article continues it elaborates on the point being made by the senator and the Congressman about why a national park is necessary and timely when it comes to the gay-rights movement. But our concern is simply this, whether you’re talking about the decision of corporations to drop a candidate or you’re talking about the decision of a corporation to launch a new product line of rainbow Doritos or when you look at a pair of politicians who believe it’s in their political interest to be seen as proposing a national park at the site where the gay-rights movement began, what you’re looking at is a coalescence of the gay-rights movement in terms of this moral revolution, such that you’re now going to have or at least it’s proposed to have a national park, rainbow Doritos chips and you’re looking at a whole realignment of the culture. It’s going to show up in many and various ways. It already is. And what these developments taking place in just a few days tell us is that what we’re looking at is a comprehensive realignment of the entire culture in order to conform itself to the new moral reality. At the center of it is the Supreme Court and that’s why we looked at Justice Scalia’s statements. But the outworking of the revolution will not be complete until every single dimension of the culture is realigned and that’s what we’re looking at and we’re seeing it happen very quickly.
Liberal synagogue hosts Planned Parenthood fundraiser illustrating worldview divide between liberal and conservative parts of religion
Finally, when it comes to the clash of worldviews over the question of abortion, I’m speaking from Nashville, where the local paper the Nashville Tennessean yesterday had a headline,
“Synagogue takes Planned Parenthood event in need of a home.”
When we’re looking at the great moral divide in this country over the question of the sanctity of human life, specifically over the question of abortion and when you’re looking at the very center of controversy on that front right now being Planned Parenthood. It tells us a great deal that a Jewish synagogue has decided publicly to make a statement by hosting a Planned Parenthood fundraiser. So when we’re looking at the great divide, morally speaking, we need to understand and Christians especially must understand that it is at an even deeper level a religious divide. It is a theological divide, it is of course a worldview divide and what we need to note is that when you’re looking for instance at the issue of abortion. When you’re looking specifically at the organization that’s called Planned Parenthood, you will see that there are liberal denominations, whether they be Jewish or Christian, at least in terms of their identification that eagerly support not only abortion, but also Planned Parenthood. On the other side, you have evangelicals and others who clearly understand that nothing less than the sanctity of human life is at stake and abortion is nothing that can be reduced to the moral category of mere choice. It is instead, rightly understood as murder. And here we see a liberal Jewish synagogue not only supporting abortion, but hosting a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood. How we can only wonder does a people that historically traces itself back to Moses justify such an abhorrent thing? How can a people trace their history to Moses surviving the murderous intentions of Pharaoh only to celebrate and host a fundraiser for an organization that routinely murders babies in the womb? Well, the liberalization and the secularization of much of the American Jewish community is what’s behind this. But still, we simply have to ask, how is a headline like this really possible?