The Briefing 09-14-16

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The piling on continues: NCAA pulls championship games from North Carolina over HB2

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Nonsensical theology: How Tim Kaine reconciles same-sex marriage and his Catholic faith

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Italy's Fertility Day campaign backfires, but still spotlights country's disastrously low birth rate

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Transcript

The Briefing

September 14, 2016

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

It’s Wednesday, September 14, 2016, I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

The piling on continues: NCAA pulls championship games from North Carolina over HB2

We’re about to find out just how much college basketball means to the state of North Carolina. As Emma Margolin reports for NBC,

“It was one thing when the NBA pulled the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte over North Carolina’s House Bill 2 — a measure widely criticized as discriminatory toward the LGBT community — but mess with college sports in the Tar Heel State, and HB2 might really be in trouble.”

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Margolin goes on to report that,

“Late Monday, the NCAA announced it was pulling seven championship events out of North Carolina in the coming school year over the state’s so-called “bathroom law” — legislation best known for barring transgender people from using government building bathrooms in accordance with their gender identities.”

Now at this point we simply have to stop and note the language that is used here. The proponents of the legislation that passed in North Carolina and is now law known as House Bill 2, or HB2, explained, as the law is quite explicit, that the law would require those using government bathrooms as using those that are assigned to their biological sex. You’ll notice that the statement in the legislation is positive, that in those facilities people are to use the bathrooms that correspond to their biological sex. NBC, in reporting the story, says that the legislation is the opposite, or at least they describe it in opposite terms, in negative terms as,

“Barring transgender people from using government building bathrooms in accordance with their gender identities.”

Margolin goes on to report that,

“Given how important college sports are in North Carolina — a state that has hosted more men’s basketball tournament games (251) than any other in the last 65 years — the NCAA’s move could put more pressure on lawmakers to repeal HB2 than ever before.”

This is the kind of story we’re going to see again and again. At least this is the kind of story we’re going to see until those who are pressing for the transgender agenda have their way everywhere, in every situation, in every state. What this headline signals is the NCAA, one of the most important cultural organizations in America, taking sides in this moral controversy, and taking sides when the NCAA believes that it is both necessary for its own self existence and safe.

We’ll note that the NCAA didn’t have any such policy and as a matter of fact wasn’t pressing this issue in any way until the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in the Obergefell decision in 2015. But now you have the NCAA deciding that it is in the organization’s best interest to take sides and, clearly in this case, to side against the state of North Carolina and to do so in a way that is calculated to bring maximum humiliation and maximum pressure upon the Tar Heel State.

Dr. Thad Williamson, cited in the story as associate professor of leadership studies at the University of Richmond and author of a book entitled, More Than a Game: Why North Carolina Basketball Means So Much to So Many, said,

“College sports has been the biggest thing in North Carolina going back 70 years. For most people,” he continued, “it’s the thing that bonds families together. Seats get passed down to grandkids. It’s a huge part of everyday life in North Carolina. I think [the NCAA’s decision] is going to get a lot of people speaking about HB2 and realizing that nationwide revulsion against this law is not going away anytime soon.”

Now let’s pause once again. What is cited here is nationwide revulsion against this law. Well, that’s simply not true. As a matter of fact, there is no widespread majority opinion in this country that suggests that transgender persons should be able to use the bathroom simply of their choice of gender identity. There is widespread opposition to that very idea, and it is not just isolated in some areas of the country. Though it’s clear there are states like North Carolina that have been willing to put this assumption, this moral judgment, into law, it’s also perhaps important to note that this professor at the University of Richmond who wrote this book about why North Carolina basketball means so much to so many actually said for most people, it’s the thing that bonds families together. We should pause just a moment to imagine whether or not that statement could possibly be true. No one should doubt the fact that college basketball and the larger arena of college sports or, for that matter, sports in general is something that is often a matter of family identity and family pride and often even family preoccupation. But is it really fair to say that for most people in North Carolina it’s the thing that bonds families together? If so, families in North Carolina are indeed in big trouble. But that has nothing to do with House Bill 2.

The story grows larger when we understand that the action is not limited to the seven championship games pulled by the NCAA from the state of North Carolina. We discover that another very potent athletic force, the Atlantic Coast Conference, is considering similar actions. John Swofford, the ACC commissioner, said,

“On a personal note it’s time for this bill to be repealed as it’s counter to basic human rights.”

Now at this point we not only have to hit the pause button, we need to hit a full stop. Let’s consider the language made by the ACC Commissioner that the bill in North Carolina is counter to “basic human rights.” Now if we’re going to responsibly use the language of basic human rights, we’re talking about human rights that should’ve been respected in all places by all people at all times. That’s what is really illuminated here. What we see is that the LGBT revolution has now reached the point that the ACC Commissioner and the NCAA, the NBA, and others feel like all of the sudden they are under the pressure to declare these rights as they are now invented to be basic human rights. To put the matter both succinctly and bluntly, basic human rights are not rights that all of the sudden emerged as politically correct just in the last few years and in only the isolated parts of the globe such as North America, specifically the United States of America.

The pressure to join this revolution and to be publicly postured as understood to have joined this revolution—not only to join it, but to celebrate it—is cited elsewhere in this article revealed in a statement made by the President of Duke University, Richard Broadhead. Speaking on an MSNBC program on Tuesday, the Duke President said,

“Duke agrees with the decision. It was the NCAA’s to decide, and obviously they have many things to try to compute, and I think at the end of the day they regarded this as a fairness and equal rights, equal protection kind of issue. Certainly that’s the way that we see it.”

Well, that’s the way Duke now sees it, but of course it now sees it this way, having previously seen it in a very different way.

In my book on this issue, We Cannot Be Silent, I cite British theologian Theo Hobson who discusses what is necessary for a moral revolution to come full circle. First, what was condemned must be celebrated. That’s the shift in the moral position of the larger culture on the question of sexuality, and that means specifically homosexuality. So first what was condemned must be accepted. Secondly, what was accepted must be condemned, and that refers to the church’s historic teaching on human sexuality. It was not only accepted, it was at the center of the culture. But the moral revolutionaries not only demand that it must be displaced, but that it must be condemned. But finally and very tellingly, Hobson says that for a moral revolution to come full circle, those who refuse to celebrate must be condemned. That’s why you see so many politicians, so many organizations such as the NCAA, the NBA, and now perhaps even the ACC, making very clear that they not only accept the moral revolution, but they celebrate it. They are not only saying that they think the moral revolutionaries have won, they understand that the win was so large that they have to be seen as publicly celebrating the victory. And not only that, they want to be seen as piling on those who simply, at least to this point, have neither joined the revolution, much less celebrated it. Right now that means that the state of North Carolina is in the very center of the moral revolutionaries’ target.

Nonsensical theology: How Tim Kaine reconciles same-sex marriage and his Catholic faith

Next, we should not be surprised when a major Democratic politician celebrates the LGBT revolution. That is now part and parcel of the identity of the national Democratic Party. It’s unimaginable that a major party’s leader, especially one of the party’s nominees for the offices of president or vice president could stand in any other position than publicly celebrating the moral revolution, and in particular something like same-sex marriage. Furthermore, the full array of LGBT issues is a set of issues that we should note that is constantly expanding. But sometimes the most important part of our consideration is not that the argument was made. In this case, that’s not really newsworthy; it’s how the argument was made.

In this case, the argument was made by the Democratic vice presidential nominee, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine. Speaking to the Human Rights Campaign, a major LGBT organization, the Democratic vice presidential nominee said,

“As a devout Catholic, for a long time while I was battling for LGBT equality, I believed that marriage was something different.”

Now that was said Saturday night at the HRC event. Notice once again the specific form of the politician’s language,

“For a long time while I was battling for LGBT equality, I believed that marriage was something different.”

He has to apologize to this group for the fact that until the year 2013 he did not advocate same-sex marriage or the legalization of same-sex marriage. Now he has to go and at least posture before the Human Rights Campaign as making very clear that even though on the record he held a position that they find repugnant, he’s joined the revolution and now he is ready to lead it. Once again, though, this is not really newsworthy, the fact that the Democratic vice presidential nominee went to speak to the Human Rights Campaign event and made very clear the fact that he and his party have joined the moral revolution. That’s not what’s newsworthy. What’s newsworthy is how Tim Kaine made the argument. He said,

“I had a difficult time reconciling that reality [that is the reality he now calls same-sex marriage] with what I knew to be true from the evidence of my own life, with the teachings of the faith that I had been raised in for my entire life.”

Here he is talking about the Roman Catholic Church, a church that now, even now, officially teaches that marriage is and is only the union of a man and a woman for a lifetime. Like so many other liberal democrats or liberal Catholics, Senator Kaine declares himself to be a devout Catholic. But you’ll note he’s devout in his own terms, which in this case means directly rejecting the official dogmatic teaching of his church on marriage, which is very clear and unequivocal. But the Senator went on to say that while Catholic doctrine does not allow for what is described as marriage equality, in the CBS News report,

“His interpretation of the Bible celebrates diversity.”

The Senator said, and I quote,

“My church also teaches me about a creator in the first chapter of Genesis who surveys the entire world, including mankind, and said it is very good.”

The Democratic vice presidential nominee then went on to say,

“Pope Francis famously said ‘Who am I to judge,’ and to that I want to add ‘Who am I to challenge God for the beautiful diversity of the human family?’ I think we’re supposed to celebrate it, not challenge it.”

Now we have a theological disaster here. It’s also a disaster of biblical interpretation and the biblical authority. The Senator said that his view on same-sex marriage and the LGBT issues change because of his understanding of what is revealed in Scripture in the first chapter of Genesis. He rightly says that in the Genesis account God declared his creation to be very good. But you’ll note that the senator also is very clear in understanding that that verdict on divine creation was made by God in the first chapter of Genesis. But we come to understand that here biblical theology is absolutely important. It’s absolutely essential because what Senator Kaine has done is to completely reverse the meaning of Genesis 1 by rejecting or failing to understand that Genesis 3 comes so quickly on the heels of Genesis 1. What is celebrated by the creator as being good is creation in its perfect form. It is creation before the coming of sin. It is creation before Adam and Eve violated the law of God and willingly disobeyed and brought the verdict of sin and death upon themselves and upon all their progeny, all those who came after them. That means every single human being.

Because of Adam’s sin, condemnation and guilt fell upon all human beings who followed him and, furthermore, that changes everything from Genesis 3 forward. When we see creation, we do see the glory of God revealed, but we also see, as the Scripture makes equally clear, the reality of human sinfulness and its consequences made clear in the creation. That means that we cannot look at creation now and say that is good simply because it exists or simply because it is even morally or physically possible. That is why we are dependent upon Scripture, the entirety of Scripture, to reveal to us not only the law of God and the message of the gospel, but the entire structure of biblical truth revealed in biblical theology that tells the story of how human beings were created in God’s image and then sinned against him and how that sin brought not only the verdict of death, but brought corruption and brought the effects of sin, the distortion and the disruption of sin, in the entire world—and we see that, of course, in the arena of human sexuality. That’s why Christians, including the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church to this day, will base that moral understanding upon the very clear moral teachings in Scripture.

But Senator Kaine’s theology here, or his biblical interpretation or hermeneutic, is not only that which violates the integrity of Scripture, it is also absolutely theological and nonsensical. Given what he has just declared, he is unable, he has just made himself unable, to reach any moral verdict against any human behavior or against any human sexual practice. He has just said that the diversity of all sexualities among human beings are actually a reflection of God’s created design. He can’t now pick and choose amongst them. But you’ll notice that’s exactly what the moral revolutionaries want to do. They want to add the initials LGB and T to that which is authorized in terms of human sexuality. But that’s why it is so important that yesterday on The Briefing I talked about the fact that a major constitutional law attorney in the United States has filed a suit before the United States Supreme Court. He has filed an appeal in which he is going to advocate, if he has the opportunity, for the legalization of polygamy. So LGBT and now coming, of course, is P.

Governor Kaine’s argument leaves him absolutely intellectually and morally—not to say biblically—defenseless against making any argument against polygamy or, for that matter, virtually anything else. It is absolute nonsense to look at the world as we see it and say that’s exactly what God intended and thus we must bless everything. Of course, Senator Kaine won’t do that. He just has been selective when speaking to the Human Rights Campaign, selectively citing Genesis 1 where it is convenient for him.

But that gets to some other issues as well, including the fact that we have an entire series of politicians, certainly those in the national Democratic Party, who had been opposed to same-sex marriage until they, after it was politically defensible and even politically expedient, declared themselves to be new converts to the moral revolution and to the recognition and legalization of same-sex marriage. President Obama, Hillary Clinton, you go down the list, including former President Bill Clinton—they were against same-sex marriage until they were all of the sudden for it. And it’s also important to note: they were all against same-sex marriage, at least officially, until fairly recently. The moral revolution, however, is going to celebrate converts wherever it can be found, especially when they will go to a group like the Human Rights Campaign and make the kind of argument that Virginia Senator Tim Kaine made on Saturday night.

Italy's Fertility Day campaign backfires, but still spotlights country's disastrously low birth rate

Next, a major national effort to encourage the birth of more babies in Italy has backfired. Gaia Pianigiani of the New York Times reports,

“One ad pictured a woman holding an hourglass next to the words: ‘Beauty has no age limit. Fertility does.’ Another portrayed a pair of baby shoes wrapped in a ribbon of the Italian flag.

“They were,” she tells us, “part of a government effort to promote ‘Fertility Day’ on Sept. 22, a campaign intended to encourage Italians to have more babies. Instead, the ads set off a furor, were denounced as being offensive, and within days were withdrawn.”

The reporter goes on to say, however,

“What they did succeed in doing, however, was to ignite a deeper and lasting debate about why it is that Italy has one of the lowest birthrates in the world, and what can be done about it.”

This has been a story that has ricocheted across the international media. Fortune magazine in the United States, major European newspapers and others have taken notice of the fact that the Italian government is so worried about the low birth rate in that country, a disastrously low birth rate for the nation, that it is trying to do whatever it can to encourage Italian couples to have babies. And this public relations campaign, intending to be somewhat humorous in getting the attention of Italians, instead brought forth a great deal of offense, and it was withdrawn, even though according to the New York Times the day will continue to be observed, whatever that means.

We are told however, that in Italy there were charges that encouragement from the government to have babies amounted to a form of fascism. Now there’s something to that in the sense that the fascist government of Benito Mussolini during the period before and during World War II did indeed encourage people having babies, couples having babies in order to strengthen the state. But that’s sort of like assuming that if the fascist said that children ought to drink milk that it’s fascist to suggest that children ought to drink milk.

The reality is every nation depends upon a thriving birthrate. The birthrate in Italy is now so low that it is far below the replacement rate. Now while some people may say, “What’s the big deal about that?” the reality is that it makes the economy and the society absolutely unworkable. A birth rate this low means that the society’s economy will melt down. It means that there will not be new workers that will be taking the place of older and retiring workers. It means that the number of elderly will outnumber the number of young people who can take care of them and economically support them. At every level it is a disaster for the civilization or for the society, in this case the nation of Italy. And of course the biblical worldview makes very clear that this falling birthrate is itself contrary to God’s intention.

In Genesis chapter 1—we’ve cited that already thanks to Senator Kaine—where in chapter 1 verse 28 we are reminded that God’s command to human beings was that we be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with his glory. But in 2015, just 488,000 babies were born in Italy. That’s the fewest since the country was first unified in the year 1861. With just 1.37 children per woman, compared with the European average already low at 1.6, we’re looking at the fact that Italy is now the outlier in that region in terms of its disastrously low birth rate. The government of Italy decided it had to do something, and it declared something that previous generations would’ve considered more than slightly ironic, declaring a national fertility day. Italians did respond to it with outrage. Feminists didn’t like it one bit, and there were others who complained. But as the New York Times reports in a fascinating paragraph we read,

“The problem is not a lack of desire to have children, critics of the campaign say, but rather the lack of meaningful support provided by the government and many employers in a country where the family remains the primary source of child care.”

What does that wording tell us? It tells us that the New York Times is claiming that a large number of Italians believe that the problem is that the nation continues to believe that the family should be the primary source of childcare. Given the way the article is written and the very point of this paragraph, readers of the New York Times are supposedly looking at this report and saying, “Well, of course, it’s nonsense to think that the family should remain the primary source of childcare.” But what’s nonsensical is the idea that somehow government can replace the family as the primary source of childcare. This tells us something of a moral change in Italy and in Europe and furthermore, around the industrialized advanced economies of the world including the United States, in which it’s now considered odd that the family should be seen as the primary source of childcare, the primary context for the raising and nurturing of children. The fact that so many people in Italy, and presumably it would be expected that so many readers of the New York Times, would think that the family shouldn’t be the primary source of childcare, well, that tells us a very great deal, not only about Italians, but about ourselves.

Dr. Mohler recording The Briefing