The Briefing 03-15-16

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LGBTQ groups pressure NCAA to sever ties with Christian colleges requesting Title IX waivers

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Some secular observers see problems with open marriages, but fail to make moral argument

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China's Communist Party attempts to regulate reincarnation to control its Buddhist citizens

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Transcript

The Briefing

March 15, 2016

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

It’s Tuesday, March 15, 2016. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

LGBTQ groups pressure NCAA to sever ties with Christian colleges requesting Title IX waivers

Well, the other shoe has dropped—or at least we can sense it dropping. The headline comes from the website Inside Higher Ed, the headline:

“Gay Rights Groups Urge NCAA to End Ties to Colleges Requesting Title IX Waiver.”

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The article is short, but it gets right to the point. Jake New writes,

“In a letter sent to the National Collegiate Athletic Association on Wednesday, more than 80 lesbian, gay and transgender organizations urged the NCAA to ‘divest from all religious-based institutions’ that discriminate against transgender students. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education extended Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the civil rights law that prohibits gender discrimination on campuses, to include transgender students. According to the group Campus Pride, more than 50 religious colleges have since requested or received waivers to this part of Title IX so that they can expel or not admit transgender students.”

The press release coming from the group of LBGT organization said,

“As people of faith or spirit we call upon the NCAA to act on its stated values as an LGBTQ-inclusive organization and divest from these schools who are willfully and intentionally creating an unsafe environment for LGBTQ students.”

That came in a statement from Jordyn Sun, identified as National Campus Organizer for Soulforce, a gay rights group focused on religious colleges. The reference to the other shoe dropping goes back to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who in one of the Court’s decisions on gay rights and in his dissent indicated that all that remains was for the other shoe to drop—and the other shoe in this case is dropping on religious liberty. This story goes back to 1972 when Congress adopted the legislation, now known as Title IX—that’s legislation that limits or prevents federal funding, including federally insured student aid to institutions that discriminate on a number of bases including gender. In recent years under the Obama Administration, that law has been extended. Its Title IX provisions to LGBTQ issues as well. Now you have what we have seen coming for some time. The moral revolution is now taking the shape of a group of LGBTQ-inclusive organizations—that’s how they identify themselves—now calling upon the NCAA to divest itself, again the language was from all religious-based institutions that discriminate against transgender students.

In recent years, a number of Christian colleges and universities have asked for and received waivers from the Title IX provisions having to do with LGBT issues. By the way, those exemptions were written into the law all the way back in 1972. All that the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education has been doing is simply following the law, and those Christian institutions have had the right to request and to receive those very exemptions. The exemptions require an institution to indicate that it has long-standing theological convictions that would be compromised by the Obama Administration’s Title IX reading and that the organization is under the control of a church or a religious organization. And now you have a very clear indication of the kind of pressure that is now being brought directly against those institutions and also directly on the NCAA. What we’re looking at here is a closing of the cultural moment. We are seeing LGBT organizations, exactly as the Chief Justice of the United States indicated in oral arguments in the same-sex marriage case last year, they are moving to defund and to culturally isolate any institution that stands over against this moral revolution. The kind of pressure we’re looking at here is not at all subtle. It’s an overt attempt to try to marginalize Christian institutions that will not join the moral revolution and to marginalize them, in this case, where it might hurt a very great deal.

The threatened penalty here is exclusion from participation in the NCAA. That is absolutely massive when it comes to American higher education and to the larger context of American culture. We’re looking here at an overt attempt to try to state that these Christian schools are outside the cultural mainstream and simply don’t belong. The moral revolutionaries are now arguing that these colleges and universities based in Christian conviction do not belong on the list of federally approved institutions for federal student aid. They are also now arguing directly to the NCAA that that organization legally defined as a voluntary association is obligated by its own claim to LGBTQ-inclusive policies to divest in terms of relationships from all religious-based institutions that in the eyes of the LGBT revolutionaries now discriminate. We’re looking here at exactly what we’re going to face in many other arenas. Some already are present, including in the economic arena in terms of America’s major corporations, in professional arenas including professional organizations such as the bar associations and medical associations. We’re seeing the same kind of pressure brought and now we’re looking at an overt attempt to pressure the NCAA to take action. As I’ve said, we have seen this coming for some time. The other shoe has already dropped—that is the first shoe, the shoe that has to do with the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states by decree of a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court. That sets the stage for following actions that we can see and we can predict even now. We have indeed predicted this very action.

The moral revolutionaries understand what will be the result of the NCAA divesting from these Christian institutions: it will mean their continued and advanced cultural marginalization. That’s exactly what they’re looking for. As a matter of fact, that’s overtly what they are demanding. We also need to note that it’s going to be difficult for the NCAA to withstand this kind of pressure. That’s because the NCAA, along with many other organizations, they have done their very best to show that they are in sync with the LGBT agenda and that they intend to be an inclusive organization by that determination. The stage is now set for every meeting of the NCAA’s governing body to be an arena for conflict over this issue until the NCAA finally succumbs to this pressure. The question is, quite honestly, whether that’s sooner or later. In all likelihood, it’s going to be sooner.

The second thing we need to note is that this is a key pressure point in which we’re going to find out just how Christian some of these Christian colleges and universities really are. Will they remain true to their biblical convictions, the very convictions that have led them to legally request Title IX exemptions when the result of that is divestiture from the NCAA? That’s going to be a very huge cost, and we’re going to find out in relatively short order just how many institutions are going to pay that cost. What’s going to happen when at your local Christian college or university, the NCAA finally shows up and says, “You’re either going to have to compromise your convictions on marriage, on sexuality, and on gender, or you’re out of the NCAA, out of the NCAA recognition, out of the athletic elite, out of tournament play.”? It’s going to be a very revealing process, and now we can see that it is inevitable. The announcement that came at the website Inside Higher Ed is just one signal of the kind of battleground we’re going to face in virtually every arena. In this case, the arena has huge significance. Because few things are more central to American culture than the culture of sports, and that is particularly true on America’s college and university campuses. This little press release at Inside Higher Ed is not little at all—not in terms of cultural significance. This is a thunderclap on the cultural horizon.

Some secular observers see problems with open marriages, but fail to make moral argument

Speaking of cultural horizons, next we turn to a news story that appeared in the Style section of the New York Times this past Sunday. The article is by Tammy La Gorce, and the article is entitled,

“The Secrets to an Open Marriage According to Mo’Nique.”

The reporter writes,

“From the outside at least, the actress Mo’Nique and her husband of 11 years, Sidney Hicks, would seem to be in the middle of a rocky marriage. Both have had sexual relationships with other partners for years — and continue to do so. And each is well aware of the other’s escapades.”

That’s because the couple insists that they are in a so-called open marriage and have been so for a decade. Now according to the Times they have begun a podcast that plays on their unusual partnership. It is known as “Mo’Nique and Sidney’s Open Relationship.” It plays on Play 11, the CBS podcast network. Now what’s so important about this is not one Hollywood celebrity couple involved in an open marriage. What’s really significant is that this appears in the Vows column of the New York Times in its Sunday edition. As La Gorce writes,

“The open-marriage concept has been around for a long time, but some marital experts (though not all) say that couples interested in reaching a golden anniversary, or maybe even a first one, should be wary of following the example of Mo’Nique and Mr. Hicks, who are both 48.”

Now the controversy in the case of this couple goes back at least 10 years to when Mo’Nique gave an interview to Essence magazine and as the article in the Times makes clear, she was shocked when many people seemed to recoil in horror at her bragging about the essence of an open relationship. As the article in the Times says,

“The ferocity of the reaction to that Essence article surprised Mo’Nique, who won an Oscar as best supporting actress for her performance in the 2009 film ‘Precious.’”

In the article in the Times Monique says,

“People didn’t understand.”

And in response to her interview in Essence she says,

“People lost their minds.

“We got into this knowing that we both wanted to be with someone who’s going to allow you to be who you are. I think one of the most romantic things you can do as a couple is be honest with each other. And we are.”

Now there’s another really interesting aspect of this article in the New York Times. Even as this couple claims that their open marriage gives them what they describe as “a level of flexibility” —how’s that for a euphemism?—the interesting thing is that the New York Times has run this article. That’s interesting in the first place.

The second interesting aspect is that the New York Times seems to believe that the idea of an open marriage is not such a good idea. That’s how the article begins as it draws attention to the couple’s podcast. The article cites Douglas LaBier, a psychologist and the director of the Center for Progressive Development, a Washington-based organization. He said that,

“From a psychological perspective, people shouldn’t assume that openness in a sexual relationship is bad. What’s at the core of it is a desire to form a healthy relationship.”

Describing the new openness in America’s marriage culture, LaBier said,

“I see a much more tolerant, nonjudgmental openness emerging.

“Everyone is different. You figure out what works for you, and if it’s not imposing something on someone else or hurting someone else, it’s acceptable.”

Now before we go any further, let’s note that here you have someone who is speaking for an organization known as the Center for Progressive Development—that signals exactly what we should be looking for here: a very left-wing organization that seems to be championing the sexual revolution all the way to the idea of open marriage. But as I’ve said, the interesting thing about this New York Times article is that even the New York Times seems to think this isn’t such a good idea. The article cites Dr. Deborah Carr, a sociology professor at Rutgers University, who says that if this is the future of marriage, it may take a good while to get there. As the article explains, Dr. Carr argues that while society may have become more tolerant of some aspects of sexuality, like same-sex relationships and premarital sex, views on sexual affairs—that is to say adultery—by spouses remain essentially unchanged. She said,

“As much as attitudes have liberalized over the past 30 years, this is one that really doesn’t budge.”

Now the article goes on to cite other arguments against open marriage. The article cites another authority, identified as Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at the Kinsey Institute—that’s the Kinsey Institute for the study of human sexuality. This is, we should note, hardly a conservative Christian organization. She’s the author of the book Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage and Why We Stray and she says that even as people have been in open marriages for a long time,

“They never end up working long-term.”

The article then says,

“The reasons open marriages don’t work are biological.”

The paper then offers an argument based in evolutionary biology. But this is where Christians reading this article need to note that the very existence of the article tells us something. The very fact that CBS in terms of its web network is now offering a podcast by this couple advocating an open marriage tells us something else. It also tells us something that those who are declaring the advent of open marriage seem to be talking to even a minority of those who consider themselves sexually liberated. Even this spokesperson for the Kinsey Institute for the study of human sexuality—again, that’s a very liberal organization in its essence—argues that these open marriages generally don’t work very long. The Christian worldview comes back to remind us that marriage is the monogamous, covenant union of a man and a woman; and that’s why the historic Christian vows have stated as based in Scripture that that monogamous commitment is to extend “till death do us part.”

Now we have seen a sexual revolution that has redefined marriage; it’s redefined it in terms of an increasing acceptance of adultery, an increasing acceptance of everything related to the LGBT agenda, an increasing acceptance of premarital sex, an increasing acceptance of cohabitation. But once marriage vows are given, even this confused and highly sexualized society draws the line at adultery. And, as we should note, even those who might not draw the line at adultery for others, when it comes to their own marriage, they fully expect fidelity. Now here again the Christian worldview would remind us that we as made in God’s image have a moral consciousness that cries out to us even when we’ve tried to argue to the contrary. And that’s why even those who declare that they are very happy or at least open to the idea of an open marriage, it turns out they aren’t so happy and they’re not so open once they experience what a so-called open marriage represents. There’s good news here in one sense and that is that this society still seems to note some moral limits. But a closer look reveals there’s really bad news here and the bad news is probably worse than the good news. The bad news is that there’s no argument in this article that really comes from a moral perspective. That seems to be absolutely verboten, that’s out of bounds. You can’t say that it’s wrong, simply that it probably won’t work.

“If you want to reach your 50th anniversary,” said one, “or even your first anniversary, maybe this isn’t such a good idea.”

But we need to note that arguing that something just doesn’t work or perhaps isn’t a good idea isn’t a moral argument that has traction. It doesn’t have any binding commitment.

To put the matter bluntly, there’s a vast difference between saying that adultery is wrong and saying that it’s probably not a good idea. The vast chasm between those two moral judgments—one in essence, actually a genuine moral argument and the other no moral judgment at all—what you basically see there is the chasm between the Christian worldview and whatever’s left when the Christian worldview is rejected and when it is sidelined in a society. When the Christian moral tradition, when a biblical understanding of marriage is seen as just too restrictive, just too patriarchal, just too intolerant, just too objective, what you have here is an effort to say, well, there still might be good reasons to keep those marriage vows. But they are not moral reasons, they’re just reasons of practicality. It turns out that this so-called open marriage generally doesn’t work. It should also tell us something that even the flag-bearers for the sexual revolution don’t want to live that revolution out in terms of its logic when it comes to their own marriages. That should tell us something.

China's Communist Party attempts to regulate reincarnation to control its Buddhist citizens

Next, shifting to China, we have seen that that nation in more recent months has become even more repressive when it comes to religious liberty, in particular against Christian churches. But now comes a headline story in a recent edition of the Los Angeles Times, and the headline states that China is now attempting to regulate reincarnation. Jonathan Kaiman, reporting for the Los Angeles Times, writes,

“In China it’s not easy to become a living Buddha. First come the years of meditation and discipline, then comes the bureaucracy.”

It turns out that China is trying to establish an official database of those who are identified as “living Buddhas”—those who are understood to be officially reincarnated. They are also claiming, as the Communist Party is in control in China, to have control over who might be reincarnated or who ought to be. This has to do, of course, with the collision between the Communist Party and the Buddhist tradition, especially in nations such as Tibet. And what you are seeing here is the Communist Party trying to repress Buddhism in Tibet by trying to establish an official list of who has been reincarnated and who has not. As the Los Angeles Times says,

“The effort appears to be part of a broad attempt to control what happens after the death of the current Dalai Lama, Tibet’s enormously influential 80-year-old spiritual leader who lives in exile in India. Tibetans consider him to be the successor in a line of leaders who are believed to be reincarnated.”

As the article makes clear, the Dalai Lama had to flee China in 1959 after a failed uprising in Tibet, where he is understood to be the spiritual leader. The Communist Party now claims that social instability is threatened by the existence of too many “fake living Buddhas”

And so, the Communist Party wants to regulate who is recognized as an official “living Buddha.” The Communist Party has handed down what is known as State Religious Affairs Bureau Order Number Five that, as the Times says, frames reincarnation in terms of national security. The order states,

“The selection of reincarnates must preserve national unity and solidarity of all ethnic groups and the selection process cannot be influenced by any group or individual from outside the country.”

—read in there the Dalai Lama. Christians looking at this news story—a headline story in the Los Angeles Times after all—will note first of all the issue of reincarnation. That indicates the vast cultural divide between the East and the West, the vast theological and worldview divide between Christianity and Buddhism. Buddhism has at its center an understanding of a cyclical view of history and a cyclical view of life that includes the threat or the promise of reincarnation. It’s a promise if Buddhist believe they have lived a good life and may be reincarnated to a higher life form or a higher human cast, it is indeed a judgment if they live a life that is punished by a lower level of life in terms of reincarnation. In any event, reincarnation flies right in the face of the biblical worldview that establishes not a great cycle of history, but rather a linear understanding of history that is central to the Bible—that is history with a beginning, a middle, and an end; a past, a present, and a future; not a great cycle of life, certainly not reincarnation. To the contrary, the Bible states that,

“It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment.”

But not only do we see the great worldview distinction here—the great theological distinction between Christianity and Buddhism—we also see the essence of a repressive regime, an autocratic, dictatorial regime—in this case, the totalitarian power of the Communist Party in China, a totalitarian party that is trying to extend its reach not only in this life, but even in what are presumed to be lives to come according to Buddhist doctrine. And that includes the power of the Chinese state bureaucracy to decide who’s a real Buddha and who is a fake living Buddha.

And as is the case with every totalitarian regime, the central goal is the perpetuation of the Communist Party and its hegemony, its monopoly on power. Again, the statement from the Communist Party is clear, State Religious Affairs Bureau Order Number Five, that states that reincarnation must take place in terms of national security; that it must preserve national unity and solidarity of all ethnic groups; and that the selection process must eventually be under the control of the Communist Party, as everything must be according to the total claim on power of a totalitarian government—in this case, the Communist Party.

This is an amazing story, amazing at every conceivable level. The story functions as something of a parody of a parable about communism and totalitarianism. It now seeks to reach even from this life to lives beyond trying to regulate reincarnation. Every Communist Party has in effect tried to regulate every dimension of life from cradle to grave. But in the case of China with this announcement, it seems to be cradle to grave, cradle to grave, cradle to grave, and so on.

Dr. Mohler recording The Briefing