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Transcript: The Briefing 04-10-14

The Briefing

 

 April 10, 2014

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

 

It’s Thursday, April 10, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

 

Robert Barnes of The Washington Post reports:

 

The nationwide legal battle over same-sex marriage escalates [today] when a federal appeals court reviews the first in a string of unanimous judicial rulings that state bans on gay marriage cannot stand in the wake of last summer’s Supreme Court action.

 

As Barnes announces today, “a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver will be considering Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage.” You’ll recall that that was stricken in December of last year by a federal district court judge in Salt Lake City. So let’s review the situation. The Windsor Decision handed down by the US Supreme Court last June invalidated the federal Defense of Marriage Act. That set the precedent, as Justice Scalia said in a scathing dissent, for the fact that it basically invited challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage. Ever since the Windsor Decision was handed down last June, every single state or federal court decision on this issue has been in favor of the legalization of same-sex marriage and of the unconstitutionality of the state bans on same-sex marriage. Now we’re going to have these cases arrive at the various US courts of appeal in the various circuits. The 10th Circuit appears to be first. So the case being argued before the 10th Circuit today is from Utah; next Thursday, it will be from Oklahoma. But that just begins the process. Robert Barnes is exactly right. There are so many states and federal courts that are now involved that there will be several circuits at the appellate level that will also be involved and that sets up the inevitable likelihood that it will be soon that the US Supreme Court will be taking up the question of same-sex marriage again.

 

But The Washington Post also reports—and it’s the same reporter, by the way, Robert Barnes—that the lawyers who were successful in overturning California’s ban on same-sex marriage (that was Proposition 8) at the Supreme Court last summer, that is Republican lawyer Theodore Olson and Democratic lawyer David Boise, are targeting the state of Virginia as the state of origin, at least they hope the state of origin, for the eventual case that gets to the United States Supreme Court. And this gets to a very important moral issue that is disguised as a legal issue. Legally, the lawyer say, that Virginia is an attractive target—Olson speaking here—because it’s rejection of same-sex marriage and civil unions is so complete. He says, “The more unfairly people are being treated, the more obvious it is that it is unconstitutional.” Well, let the lawyers debate the law, but from a moral perspective, what this points out is often how these cases arrive not only before the nation’s courts, but before the court of public opinion. The attempt, in terms of this social revolution, this great moral change that is taking place around us, the attempt is to consistently place those who desire to be married in so-called same-sex marriages as being discriminated against and oppressed, and, therefore, the state that is clearest on the issue of marriage is the state that according to these plaintiff lawyers is the state that is most discriminatory, where, as Olson says, the harm against his clients is more obvious in such a way that it proves the supposed unconstitutionality of a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage.

 

So what we have here is very interesting from a Christian worldview perspective. What we have, in terms of the law, are attorneys who are shopping the various states to find the case that on the political grounds appears to be the most attractive to them, and, in that case, it appears to be Virginia. But the reason why Virginia’s chosen is because the Virginia constitutional amendment is so clear, which, in other words, means that the state that might be in the best position, from a legal defense, is the state that is least clear. That’s interesting on its face.

 

The likelihood that these cases will soon arrive before the Supreme Court was also recognized by those who brought the case against DOMA, and the lawyer for Edith Windsor in that case, Roberta Kaplan, said, “This just takes it one step closer to the Supreme Court, which will likely decide the matter for the entire country.” So what kind of schedule are we looking at there? Well, in all likelihood, the Supreme Court will take that case in its next year, that is, sometime in 2015, and, in all likelihood, the case will be settled, the decision handed down, before the court takes its summer recess in 2015. The reason for that is the fact that these cases are coming was such a velocity that, frankly, surprising observers on both sides of the political spectrum, that the court is going to be in the position of being unable to allow conflicting lower court decisions to stand for any appreciable amount of time because the public cannot take that kind of tension within the country, and without a stable legal precedent, this will lead to chaos across the courts. One of the things the Supreme Court almost surely does not want to do is to invite a tidal wave of litigation that it will eventually have to settle. In all likelihood, in other words, the path of least resistance for the United States Supreme Court is to do exactly what Justice Antonin Scalia said it was doing as a half measure back in 2013, and that was federalizing the legalization of same-sex marriage. As Justice Scalia said then, all that remains is for the other shoe to drop. And as these cases are now making their way up to the federal court level, what you can hear is the approaching drop of that shoe even sooner than either side in this debate thought possible just a matter of months ago.

 

Speaking of moral change, that’s one of the most interesting things from a Christian worldview perspective. The question: How is it that a society or a culture undergoes this kind of moral change? Sociologists, historians, theologians, and others, observing a society, note that on various issues moral change takes place. In some cases, it moves in a basically more conservative direction, but generally in a more liberal direction. Just to give an example of that; in a more conservative direction, that is, towards a restraint on personal behavior, the issue of drunk driving is a very different moral issue now than it was just 30 or 40 years ago. Just think of American primetime television when you had friendly drunks such as Otis on “The Andy Griffith Show.” That would be impossible now because society is settled on the fact that there must be a restraint on personal behavior when it comes to drunk driving. So from a moral perspective, that is a move in a more conservative direction, but on most issues, the direction has been the opposite, in more liberal direction against any legal restraints on personal behavior, especially as this relates to romantic relationships and the issue of human sexuality.

 

But now Matt Grossman, writing The Washington Post, offers a headline, “US Policy Has Gone Liberals’ Way for 70 Years.” Grossman’s a political scientist at Michigan State University. He’s the author of the work, Artist of the Possible: Governing Network and American Policy Change Since 1945. He’s looking at the major direction of moral and political change in America over the last century. He says that for at least the last 70 years, it is liberalism that has been in the ascendancy. From a worldview perspective, that’s a very significant because, as we remarked over and over again, one of the things to watch is the fact that changes in individual lives and especially in living relationships, changes that specifically relate to the family, always relate also to government. It’s not a one-to-one equation, but it is a correlation that is very easy to track. The massive growth in the government has come at the same time that there has been a displacement of the family. As sociologists Peter and Brigitte Berger noted several decades ago, the marginalization of the family and the taking over of so many family responsibilities by other agents, especially agents on behalf of the state, this has led to a massive growth in the size of the government. Coming back to Matt Grossman’s article, he argues that over the last 70 years, every major legislative or executive change has come in the direction of a larger government, in the direction of political liberalism. He writes:

 

I combed through hundreds of history books covering American public policy since 1945, tracking the most significant domestic policy changes that made it into law and the actors that historians credit for those changes. Of the 509 most significant domestic policies passed by Congress, only one in five were conservative, in that they contracted the scope of government funding, regulation, or responsibility. More than 60% were liberal. They clearly expanded government. When policy change occurs in the executive branch, it is even less likely to be conservative; only 10% of the executive orders and agency rules that policy historians cited were conservative.

 

Now this is where, from a Christian worldview perspective, there is something very important to watch, and it’s something that you don’t have to have the Christian worldview to observe. Even political scientists, who operate out of a basically secular worldview, have noted the very same thing. Government tends to take care of itself. It tends to feed on itself and to protect itself in such a way that even those who are elected on an agenda of shrinking the government, basically accomplished very little other than perhaps shrinking the size and rate of the growth of the government. In other words, the government never has contracted, not in the last 70 years. Every single movement has been a movement towards expansion, not one actually towards contraction. As Grossman writes, “Not surprisingly, liberals play a greater role in bringing about new policy.” And, yet, as he also relates, those who are identified as conservatives often also bring about policies that lead to the expansion of government. For example, it was Richard Nixon, the Republican president from 1969 to 1974, who led to a massive expansion of government, even as he claimed to be speaking for the so-called silent majority that wanted government to be limited. On the other hand, Ronald Reagan, who was elected in 1980 with the stated goal of eliminating the Department of Education, basically supervised the expansion of the federal government and of the Department of Education. Now, arguably, indeed in fact, it’s almost certain that under Ronald Reagan, the government expanded at a much smaller rate than it would have under either of his Democratic opponents, but Grossman’s point is this: the government has never basically contracted. Over the last 70 years, it has continually expanded, and almost every policy initiative has led to a rather significant expansion of the government.

 

But from a worldview perspective, the most important part of his essay is this paragraph:

 

The arc of the policy universe is long, but it bends toward liberalism. Conservatives can slow the growth of government but an enduring shift in policy direction would be unprecedented. History shows that a do-nothing Congress is a conservative’s best-case scenario.

 

That’s a very interesting analysis. The background of this is the political debate over the current Congress, and many people are complaining that the current Congress should be limited and criticized as a do-nothing Congress. Grossman comes along as a political scientist to say, “If you’re a conservative, a do-nothing Congress is about the best you can hope for.” But the main point of my interest is his previous sentence: “The arc of policy universe is long, but it bends towards liberalism.” That’s a paraphrase of a famous statement by Martin Luther King, Jr., who said that the arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice. Grossman, taking the same logic, says that it bends towards liberalism. His main point is about liberalism as defined by the expansion of government, and that is itself interesting. But my point is this: where you find the expansion of government, you find the contraction of private life.

 

Peggy Noonan wrote about this recently in a very important article in The Wall Street Journal. Over the last half-century, there has been a massive expansion of public life at the expense of private life. The amount of experience that is now lived out in the public life under the domain and scrutiny of government is now larger than ever before; that lived within the domain of the merely private is smaller than at any point in American history. But from a worldview perspective, Christians have to think about this at an even deeper level. And that is, that a basic moral change is required for this kind of political change. This kind of political change does not drive the moral change, although it may accelerate it. This kind of political change is only possible because of a previous moral change. This is something that’s very important to the Christian worldview. The Christian worldview understands that the politics is produced by the culture, not the other way around. The Christian worldview based in Scripture understands that it is the people who produce the politics, not the politics the people. In other words, whom do we blame in this situation? We can only blame the American people. It is the American people who, after all, elect their representatives and leaders. It is the American people who define the limitations of the possible when it comes to politics. The very fact that the things we’re talking about here are rendered possible, indeed, even actual, by the American government is evidence of the fact that a moral shift is taking place in the American people. That’s where the problem really lies and that shows us the scale of the problem that we face.

 

Yesterday, we talked about several social science reports indicating the disparity between men and women, including the claim made by President Obama that women earn only $.77 for every dollar earned by a man, and we pointed out that the distinction really isn’t between men and women when you look at the data; it’s between moms and everyone else. But moms are back in the news today. The Pew Research Organization has put out a major study, indicating that for the first time in many decades the percentage of mothers who stay home with their children has risen. As Laura Meckler reports for The Wall Street Journal, after decades of decline, the share of mothers who stay home with their children has risen over the past dozen years and that means that in 2012, 29% of mothers with children under age 18 stayed home. If the mother is married, it’s even more likely that she would stay home. Pew attributed the trend to a mix of demographic, economic, and societal factors, including an increase in immigrant families for whom it is now more common to have a mother stay home, a rise in the number of women who said they were disabled and unable to work, but that’s only about 15% all that together. The other 85%, the vast majority of married, stay-at-home mothers, say they chose not to work outside the home in order to care for their families. That’s a very important statement, and from the Christian worldview, that gets right to the heart of the issue.

 

And the response to this report is extremely revealing. Slate.com and many who are commenting in the news have pointed out that this is by their estimation a lamentable development. In other words, it’s a sad thing that the number of women staying home with their children has now increased after decades of decreasing. There’s a very important analysis to be seen here. What we have in response to this research is either a sense of celebration that something good is happening here or a sense of loss that something tragic is happening here. And that reveals a basic fault line in our society between those who believe that the ideal should be that there would be a parent at home with the children—and that would mean in most cases a mom at home with the children, and for reasons that are not only sociological, but also biblical—and those on the other side who think that the equality of women can only happen if motherhood is not an impediment to women being absolutely equal to men in the marketplace. That basic dividing line may be as clear as a moral dividing line on any issue in America today. And when you look at issues in the culture, ranging from abortion and sexuality to the nature the family, when you get down to this report from Pew, you’re actually down to where people have to admit, I think this is good or I think this is bad; I think this is a positive development or I think this is negative. And in terms of worldview significance, it’s hard to come up with anything more basic or important than the response to this data.

 

From a Christian worldview perspective, it is a good thing that there are more mothers at home with their children, but there’s even better news here. It is even a far better thing that 85% of women who are at home with their children, of married women, say it is because they want to be there. That may be the thing that infuriates the cultural left more than anything else because 85% say they are not trapped there, they want to be there, and if 85% of the married moms who are at home with their children say they are there because they want to be there, that tells us something that is more important than any political response to the data. It tells us that there is something in these moms that makes them want to be at home with their children, and it also tells us that many of those other mothers in the workplace probably also want to be at home with their children. And that also tells us something important; in terms of who is trapped where, that’s a very interesting question. Are the women trapped in the workplace and would rather be home with their children? Or are they trapped at home and they’d rather be in the workplace? There are certainly women on both sides of that equation, but the very fact that this report came out with such a stunning countercultural message, that tells us that the family isn’t dead and that motherhood is still a very live factor, even as it surprises those who produce the data.

 

Finally, just days after Brendan Eich was forced out as the CEO of Mozilla, because back in 2008 he had given a $1,000 contribution to the Proposition 8 drive in California, Kirsten Powers reports in yesterday’s edition of USA Today that Kickstarter, that is the funding organization on the Internet for businesses, had turned down a movie about the crimes of abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell. Kirsten Powers reports:

 

After [the producers of the film] complained publicly, embarrassed Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler claimed on Twitter that the allegation [that Kickstarter had rejected the movie] was false. Strickler released an e-mail accepting the Gosnell film, but failed to mention that it was accepted only after the filmmakers withdrew in frustration.

 

In other words, it was all falsehood.

 

The producers released e-mails from Kickstarter demanding that references to stabbing babies and “similar language” be removed. The “acceptance letter” came March 28, the day after the producers withdrew their proposal.

 

Let’s just review this case. Kermit Gosnell was an abortion doctor in Philadelphia. He was found guilty of multiple counts of murder for infanticide, for killing live babies, and for various crimes that even the abortion rights industry had to condemn. He is not merely the alleged perpetuator of these crimes; he is a convicted criminal who avoided the death penalty by accepting life in prison without an opportunity of parole. And, yet, Kickstarter would accept the film only after demanding that references to stabbing babies, which the court determined actually took place, and similar language be removed. What’s really alarming is what Kirsten Powers reports next:

 

Kickstarter explained its reasoning for blocking the movie by writing, “We understand your convictions … however … our Community Guidelines outline that we encourage and enforce a culture of respect and consideration, and we ask that that language specifically be modified.”

 

So why are we talking about this? Well as Kirsten Powers makes clear, Kickstarter evidently has a rather eccentric way of applying that set of standards. For instance, they feature an album entitled, “Incest is the Highest Form of Flattery,” and others that I will not even mention on The Briefing. In other words, what you have here is the specific, intentional targeting of a movie showing the crimes of an abortionist, and doing so while Kickstarter claims it’s because of the aesthetic and moral guidelines of their site. And yet, it’s clear that it was targeted directly at the fact that this would put the abortion industry in a very bad light.

 

So what Kirsten Powers reports is that Kickstarter rejected the film because it would put the abortion industry in a bad light, but what her report in USA Today accomplishes is to put Kickstarter in a bad light. What we also see here is exactly what Kirsten Powers suggests; that what we saw with Brendan Eich last week and what we see with Kickstarter this week indicates that there is a closing of the public space for any honest conversation about same-sex marriage, homosexuality, or now even abortion. Evidence coming in yesterday’s edition of USA Today; it will not be the last.

 

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. Remember Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Call us with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com. Remember this is the last day of the national conference of Together for the Gospel. You can watch the sessions at live.t4g.org. I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.