We live in a world of screens that compete for our attention. Though it’s easy to be attracted to the things competing for our attention on our phone, television, or computer screen, it takes a little more work to really notice things that are going on all around us. The same can be said for the way we approach the Bible. We often have a superficial understanding of a given passage because we rarely take the time to really observe what the text is saying.
On this program, Michael Horton discusses this issue with Jim Gilmore, author of Look: A Practical Guide to Improving Your Observation Skills. Join us for this special edition of the White Horse Inn.
“If we consider reflection, I think at one level, the difference between, let’s say, watching a video and reading a book is you seldom stop the film to say I’m going to think about this scene right now. You’ll do that with a book but there’s even a further step away as to not have anything that’s in between and observing your surroundings. I think we’re losing our sense of reflection.
“We’re losing a sense of quietness. Sometimes you put those ear buds on because it’s noisy, so you’d rather listen to your own music than the street noise, not a bad decision. So part of it is a call not just for more reflection but for more quietness. I think what’s happening with social media particularly is just making the world increasingly noisy, noisy being the lowest form of intelligence that exists. It’s not even data or information. It’s just this random stream of just blah, blah, blah. It all to me sounds like what the adult sounds like to the kids on Peanuts. It’s the getaway from that world.” – Jim Gilmore
The move to the therapeutic in society has been induced by several cultural developments. The intense psychologization of men’s attitudes and feelings as the primary subconscious level of “who we are,” the altering definitions of justice as primarily the accommodation of society to remove all barriers from self-expression and empowering fulfillment of the self, and the movement to the individual subject as the arbiter of that freedom to happiness apart from external structures and forces. The good life of justice, freedom, happiness have been internalized to such a degree that boredom and the external forces which upset that interior life are now seen as the greatest of evils. Justice has been re-defined in the last century as the removal of external barriers and the material empowerment of the individual towards the good life perceived to be desirable.
Men’s attitudes and feelings have come to arbitrate justice and goodness in the late modern society. Safety and security have been held out as the primary good of Western culture above what previous generations saw as essential to promoting the good life, namely liberty, self-reliance, and responsibility. Conventional ideals of moral responsibility have gradually become subordinated to state interpreted therapeutic ideals. “Modern culture is unique in having given birth to such elaborately argued anti-religions, all aiming to confirm us in our devastating illusions of individuality and freedom,” writes Philip Rieff in his magisterial, The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Jacques Ellul argued in the mid-century that whenever a culture’s ethical outlook could not keep a pace with its technological developments, propaganda was the fated result – the subconscious alteration of men’s attitudes and feelings through technological means of domination. Modern cultural production has moved into the business and technique of manipulating a sense of wellbeing under what Jürgen Habermas has called a “therapeutocracy.” (Timothy W. Massaro, “Therapeutic Culture,” WHI [blog], October 05, 2015)
(This podcast is by White Horse Inn. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)
You won’t believe what one lingerie company is doing to show what makes a woman truly beautiful. I’ve got a great story for you. Get a hankie.
When it comes to lingerie companies, we’ve gotten used to some pretty graphic ads. You know the kind I mean: ones that feature impossibly perfect, airbrushed models wearing frilly and revealing underwear.
But the other day I came across the most amazing lingerie ad I’ve ever seen. No, I was not reading a Victoria’s Secret catalog. I was watching an online ad created by the Thailand branch of Wacoal, a Japan-based lingerie company. It was part of a three-part series called “Beauty Inside.” And it magnificently depicts the true value of women.
The first ad opens with a married couple sitting nervously in their doctor’s office, holding hands. “After trying so hard for many years, she finally got pregnant,” the husband says. But today they’re getting some bad news.
“I know it’s hard,” the doctor says sympathetically. “But please make a decision as soon as possible.”
The couple, clearly stunned, drive home, hold one another, and cry.
“On that day at the hospital,” the husband relates, “the doctor told us that she’s got cancer. She has only two choices. First, she might be cured if she took chemotherapy. But that may cause our child a disability. Or we might lose our baby. The alternative is to keep our child. But she might have to fight the cancer alone, without any remedy.”
The woman cries as her husband holds her. The next morning, she gets up and walks to the living room, where the baby’s crib is still sitting on its box. She runs her fingers along the crib and makes a decision: “I will do it for you, baby.”
The mother begins putting the crib together and plays with a stuffed animal, anticipating her child’s birth. Now she is back in the hospital, in labor. When her doctor holds up her healthy baby, she cries with joy. After cuddling and kissing her child, the mother hands him to her husband. She smiles at her little family as a nurse takes her down the hall and into the chemotherapy room.
These ads—which are both profoundly pro-women and pro-life—have become a global phenomenon. Millions of people have watched them online. Clearly they’ve hit a nerve—and I think I know why.
First, most lingerie ads focus on women’s bodies, suggesting that a woman’s appearance is the most important thing about her. But these ads challenge young women to value themselves in other ways: To celebrate strength and sacrifice, courage and compassion.
They’re teaching women something else, as well: that a worthwhile man will value them, not based on outer beauty, which is fleeting, but on inner beauty, which is based on character. And when life throws them a curve ball—such as cancer during a pregnancy—a strong man will help his wife through it.
Finally, I believe modern young women may be getting tired of being encouraged to take the easy way out when they run into a problem—such as a problem pregnancy. Women are, I think, moved by the idea that self-sacrifice is noble, and can be the source of great joy.
It’s hard to watch this ad without crying, especially when you find out it was based on a true story. Whether it meant to or not, the Wacoal company gives us a perfect illustration of 1 Corinthians 13:7: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
I hope you’ll watch these ads, and share them with your friends, sisters, and daughters. Their positive messages will help cancel out the hundreds of negative ones that bombard young women every day.
And you just might consider buying the woman in your life some lingerie, not from Victoria’s Secret, but from the company that teaches that the value of women is in the nobility of their character.
(This commentary originally aired March 2, 2017.)
The Beauty of Women: I Will Do It for You, Baby
As Eric highlights, the true value of a woman is not found in appearance but in integrity of character. To see this demonstrated in the arts, watch the Wacoal “My Beautiful Woman” ad series. We’ve included the links below:
By Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.
I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
When did the Kennedy family change its mind on abortion? Why are the media ignoring a big story from Alabama? We’ll talk about the rise of the occult and headlines from Africa and from Washington D.C.
Often times we fail to understand how issues develop over time. Huge questions that are raised not just by the what, but the when and the who of major moral and worldview changes in the United States. There’s a huge question to be asked about the question of abortion. It goes all the way back to the late 19th century, the early decades of the 20th century, when most of the crusading newspapers in America that are now avowedly pro-abortion were at that time just as equally avowed as antiabortion. They were entirely pro-life. The New York Times, for example, built its circulation at one point in its history by crusading against abortion, the very practice it now champions as a basic human right.
But sometimes when it comes to the question of worldview change, the question of who requires us to press on to the questions of when and how. How and when did an individual’s position on abortion, a question so fundamental as the sanctity of human life change? And that comes very much to mind in the aftermath of a controversial story we discussed last week on The Briefing, the decision by the Republican Governor of Illinois Bruce Rauner to violate his own pledge and reverse his word and go on to endorse legislation that would expand taxpayer-funded abortion in the state of Illinois. And in the aftermath of that story, as predicted, even those who are pro-abortion aren’t going to give the governor any credit for violating his word. They are arguing that he did so only under intense political pressure. One of the people making that argument is a declared candidate on the Democratic side, a challenger to the incumbent Governor Rauner. In this case, it is an Illinois businessman by the name of Chris Kennedy, and Chris Kennedy is none other than the ninth child of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, one of the most famous political families in the history of the United States.
In an article in the Chicago Tribune by Rick Pearson, I read,
“Democratic governor candidate Chris Kennedy declared Thursday that if elected he would ‘govern as a feminist,’ as he sought to intertwine his family’s political heritage with women’s issues at a luncheon featuring his mother, Ethel Kennedy, and two of his sisters.”
Now that’s just according to the political playbook of the Kennedy family. It goes back to the first run for Congress by then young man and navy veteran John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Much of the campaigning was done by his mother and by his sisters and the same pattern now is extended to the state of Illinois and the Governor’s contest with Chris Kennedy as the latest member of the Kennedy family to run for office. And make no mistake, as this article indicates, with Chris Kennedy declaring that he would, “govern as a feminist.”
One of the central messages he sent was his absolute affirmation of abortion rights and his determination at any cost to defend those abortion rights under any circumstances. But that raises a really interesting question. When did the Kennedy family change its position on the issue of abortion? It’s a lot later than you might think. When it comes to John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States, and his brother Robert Kennedy, well neither of them had any association with what you might call a pro-abortion position. But when it comes to Ted Kennedy, the third of the brothers to be elected to the United States Senate from Massachusetts, well Ted Kennedy was elected to office as a United States Senator as a pro-lifer only later did he become pro-abortion.
In a letter to a constituent dated August 3, 1971, then Senator Kennedy wrote,
“When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings and not to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.”
That was Senator Kennedy then. Senator Kennedy later became a staunch defender of abortion rights as if the Kennedy family had never been pro-life. But the big question is this: when did the Kennedy family change its position on abortion? Because that story is going to tell us not only about how moral change takes place within a family, even one of America’s most powerful political families, but how that change takes place within the nation writ large. Anne Hendershott writing at the Wall Street Journal almost a decade ago reminds us that in the early 1970s before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, a good number of prominent Democratic politicians who would later be pro-abortion were avowedly and officially pro-life. But the change in the Kennedy family goes all the way back to a meeting that was held in the summer of 1964. She writes about it telling us that the Kennedy family and its advisers and allies met with leading theologians and Catholic college professors to try to come up with a way that they could promote abortion with, “a clear conscience.”
One of the most important figures in the meeting is a former Jesuit priest named Albert Jonsen. As Hendershott tells us years later Johnson would write,
“about how he joined with the Rev. Joseph Fuchs, a Catholic moral theologian; the Rev. Robert Drinan, then dean of Boston College Law School,” later we would note a United States Congressman, “and three academic theologians, the Revs. Giles Milhaven, Richard McCormick and Charles Curran,” again I quote, “to enable the Kennedy family to redefine support for abortion.”
And as the story unfolds, we come to learn that in that meeting in the summer of 1964 some leading liberal Catholics figures convince the Kennedy family that there was a way around the clear Catholic teaching opposing abortion, and furthermore that they could make a distinction between their own political personal convictions and how they voted as a member of Congress or as a Senator. Speaking later to a pro-abortion group, Father Milhaven recalled,
“The theologians worked for a day and a half among ourselves at a nearby hotel. In the evening we answered questions from the Kennedys and the Shrivers. Though the theologians disagreed on many a point, they all concurred on certain basics . . . and that was that a Catholic politician could in good conscience vote in favor of abortion.”
Well it’s important for us to recognize that then and now such a politician is voting in absolute conflict with official Catholic Church teaching on the sanctity of human life and the question of abortion. About that there can be no debate. But the appearance of a new Kennedy on the scene in Illinois running for governor pledging that if elected he would govern as a feminist and support abortion reminds us that there once was a day when many prominent Democrats and other political figures were pro-life until all a sudden they weren’t. A story that was told in connection with the former President of the United States Bill Clinton, the former Vice President of the United States Al Gore, and furthermore individuals such as the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who was avowedly pro-life, charging that abortion was actually an effort to try to reduce the number of African-American babies until he decided run for office and predictably became pro-abortion.
But it’s not only the gubernatorial race in Illinois edition that should now have our attention on this issue. It is also the Senatorial race in the special election in the southern state of Alabama. And in that election, the big news has been the Republican nominee former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore of the state, a very controversial figure, whose choice by Alabama Republican voters as their nominee indicates a significant shift in that Republican Party in the state of Alabama and a very clear repudiation of national Republican leadership. But even as most of the media attention has been directed to Roy Moore and even as the media are promising that all of a sudden it is actually a contested race in Alabama between the Republican and the Democrats former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, I would suggest that the mainstream media are doing their best to stay away from a really big story here. And that is this, this former U.S. Attorney is not only avowedly pro-abortion, even as he is running for the United States Senate in Alabama, he is so for abortions that he opposes the Hyde amendment that would protect American taxpayers being forced to pay for abortion.
But to its credit, the most influential newspaper in the state, the Birmingham News and at least some in the mainstream media in particular, MSNBC’s Meet the Press program have not avoided the question entirely. On Meet the Press Daily Chuck Todd pressed the question of abortion to Jones, who responded that he is, “firm believer that a woman should have to freedom to choose what happens to her own body.”
He went on to say, “I’m going to stand up for that, and I’m going to make sure that that continues to happen.”
Doug Jones said, “I want to make sure that as we go forward, people have access to contraception, they have access to the abortion that they might need, if that’s what they choose to do.”
So Chuck Todd went on to press with the question, “So you wouldn’t be in favor of legislation that said, ban abortion after 20 weeks or something like that?”
That is the legislation passed by the House of Representatives just last week. In response Jones said, “I’m not in favor of anything that is going to infringe on a woman’s right and her freedom to choose. That’s just the position that I’ve had for many years. It’s a position I continue to have.”
And then, as if all that’s not shocking enough, in a Senatorial candidate in the state of Alabama, Doug Jones continued by saying that once the child is born, he says that he would, “be there for that child.”
In the astounding statement he said, “That’s where I become a right to lifer.”
That means that there is no point before the birth of the child when Doug Jones running for the United States Senate in Alabama would consider himself pro-life. And he has made no secret of the fact that he is unreserved in his support of abortion at any point in a pregnancy and that he would go on to coerce taxpayers to pay for the same. But it’s one thing for an avowedly pro-abortion candidate to run for statewide office in the state of Illinois, lamentably as we’ve seen the incumbent Republican Governor Bruce Rauner is pro-abortion, not to mention his likely Democratic challengers in the next elections, but moving to the state of Alabama an overwhelmingly historically pro-life state, is it really plausible that a Democratic nominee has what’s considered to be at least a chance for election in this situation in the Senatorial race from Alabama, holding to a position as radical as Doug Jones position is? And a position he’s not hiding but discussing right in public with Chuck Todd at MSNBC’s Meet the Press Daily. There’s no question that the mainstream media consider the nomination of Roy Moore to be a genuinely big story with nationwide significance, and there’s no arguing that they’re right. But the question is where in the world are they on a story of equal interest and for that matter shock value? We’re talking about a major Senatorial candidate in Alabama who holds to such a radical position on abortion and says it right out loud. Where are the mainstream media on this question? That in itself is a big story.
But next I turn to the pervasive and continued challenge of the occult not only in terms of the worldwide phenomenon, but also here in the United States. First looking worldwide, Religion News Service, just in recent days, ran an article by Doreen Ajiambo. Its title,
“Witch doctors are sacrificing children in drought-stricken Uganda”
The dateline of the story is from Uganda, and the reporter tells us that there has been a resurgence of the sacrifice of both children and women, human sacrifice not only in Uganda, but also in several neighboring African countries. Moses Binoga identified as a police officer who heads the nation’s Anti-Human Sacrifice and Trafficking Task Force said that at least seven children and two adults were sacrificed in rituals last year, seven children and six adults in 2015. But experts internationally say that the actual number is likely to be significantly higher. Doreen Ajiambo continues her report,
“Times are tough in Uganda, and people are looking to sacrifices to improve their fortunes. The worst drought in over half a century has hit parts of East Africa, leaving more than 11 million people in this landlocked nation facing food insecurity and 1.6 million on the brink of famine, according to the Ugandan government.”
Joel Mugoya identified as a traditional healer in Uganda said,
“There is no food due to the ongoing drought, and some believe that this has been brought by ancestral spirits. So there is a high desire for people to conduct sacrifices so that they come out of this problem.”
By the end of the report to Religion News Service, we are told that,
“Other countries in Africa reported to be practicing child sacrifice include Tanzania, Nigeria, Swaziland, Liberia, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.”
The headline is incredibly horrifying, but we also have to keep in mind that it points to the fact that when you read the Old Testament, you come to understand that this is hardly a new practice. And it was God’s covenant people Israel who was told even commanded over and over again not to sacrifice their children. The Lord made very clear that unlike the Canaanite idol Molech not only did He not desire or demand that the sacrifice of a child He absolutely forbade it. The Old Testament makes clear just how much God detests any form of murder, especially child sacrifice. And we find in the New Testament that it was Jesus who took this entire picture and put it on its head when he said allow the little children to come unto me for such is the kingdom.
But at this point, you can almost sense that many Americans would say well I know that the occult is a continuing presence, a continuing challenge in some parts of the world, those countries listed were all in Africa, but certainly this wouldn’t be true in hyper modern, very secular America today. But we should be humbled by the recognition that one of the most central figures in the social life of America’s Capital city Washington D.C. has recently written a book in which she makes very clear her continuing fascination and participation in the occult. That figure is Sally Quinn, a well-known society presence and author. She was also married for years to Ben Bradlee, who was long the editor of the Washington Post. Now she’s written this book Finding Magic in which she comes out very publicly about her occult side.
In a recent profile on Sally Quinn occasioned by the publication of her new book, the Washingtonian Magazine reported,
“Beyond the particular anecdotes, this book is Quinn’s coming-out as an ardent believer in the supernatural. For the longest time, she declares, ‘I had been afraid to discuss my occultism for fear people would think I was crazy, and then I was reluctant to discuss my blossoming faith for fear my friends would think I had gone over the edge.’”
But as the Washingtonian said, “But now Quinn is going all in.”
All in, indeed, for in this book and in the magazine profile, Sally Quinn documents her own participation in the occult to the extent that she says in her own words that she put three hexes on persons who subsequently and rather quickly died. Now what’s so important about this is that here you have a person who has been and still is at the very center of the social life of Washington D.C., the Capital of the United States of America. And now she is to use her own words all in when it comes to the occult and all out when she speaks about it in public. That tells us a great deal, of course, about Sally Quinn, but it also tells us a great deal about high society in Washington D.C., which upon reflection tells us a great deal about ourselves.
But a similar story appeared in Religion News Service from Greece. The headline,
“In Greece, the evil eye is trending.”
Jenny Lower tells us that, “The term refers to negative energy caused by another’s jealousy, which Greeks believe can cause minor troubles and even physical symptoms for the victim.” The evil eye symbol, we are told, “is popping up everywhere, from handmade soap to chic hotel lobbies.”
The booming popularity, according to the report, “appears to reflect a growing interest in New Age spirituality as well as the psychological toll of Greece’s ongoing debt crisis.”
Well I would at least score that argument for some creativity. Now you have the argument that a turn to the occult in New Age spirituality is really caused by economic anxiety, the nation’s debt crisis. But later in the article we are told that many of the consumers of these products to ward off the evil eye are actually not from Greece at all. They tend to be as the article reveals American tourists. The American tourist presumably are not motivated by the Greek debt crisis. Later in the article there’s the open acknowledgment that it’s a return to superstitions. One person, an American high school art teacher from Panama City, Florida, said, “‘I’m like a spiritual, karma, what-goes-around-comes-around’ type of person. ‘For me, the evil eye is a preventer of evil energy.’”
Speaking of the shift from traditional Christianity to the New Age movement, one person said and I quote, “The evil eye is like the new trendy cross.”
The most interesting dimension of this report is what becomes very clear, and that is that this return to superstitions comes in the midst of what is supposedly simultaneous turn to secularism to a secular worldview. But as we learn over and over again that secular worldview is never a) secular for long or b) as secular as many will claim. But the line in the article about the evil eye jewelry becoming a substitute for the cross, well that just tells us that those who have been wearing the cross as jewelry might well never have recognized it as meaning much more. But the ultimate issue here is the fact that what’s revealed about the secular worldview, once again, is that it’s a vacuum. And a vacuum never exists for very long. A vacuum is fragile, and eventually it is going to be filled by something. And what we see now is that if it is not filled by biblical authentic Christianity, it will be filled by something else perhaps in New Age spirituality, perhaps superstition, perhaps even the occult.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to @albertmohler.For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to boycecollege.com.
(This podcast is by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)
This week in the “Shed” we go way off the grid and have multiple tools of the week as we venture inside the mind of teenagers with our guests…John, Lindsey and Sean.
Join us as we talk about the teens’ perspectives on:
One topic that was of unique interest to us was the pressure for teens to feel they’re making “an impact in the world,” is that healthy or unhealthy?
Eventually we circled the wagons and asked the teen panel to offer recommendations such as:
As we reflect on this episode it’s worth asking… Are we asking our teens these types of questions and allowing them to share their experiences? Are we a safe person to ask and get honest answers?
Right, wrong, or indifferent, you will get to hear the scoop from teens, what they want, how they feel, and allow you to make your own conclusions on how we as a culture can best love our teens.
In recent election cycles, the pollsters have ended up embarrassed and with egg on their face because their predictions turn out to be so wide of the mark. But not this time, not yesterday, not in France. In the French presidential runoff election yesterday, the pollsters had it just about right. They had predicted in the days leading up to the election that Emmanuel Macron would defeat Marine Le Pen and by a wide margin. In those days leading up to the election, they suggested it just might be a 60/40, but it turned out it was actually even wider than that, about 65/35 in terms of the results that are available this morning.
And the headlines that almost immediately reverberated around the world announced that this was a victory against the right not only in France, but in Europe. There were many who immediately began to speculate that perhaps the populist high tide had been reached, at least in Europe. The high tide here was traced back to the Brexit vote in 2016 in Britain and to the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. The suggestion was that perhaps populism had had its day and the voters were ready to move on. There are a couple of very interesting patterns to note right off in the French election. In the first place, the vast majority of those who voted in France yesterday indicated that they were not so much voting for a candidate as against a candidate. The majority of French voters were voting against Marine Le Pen and her party, not so much for Emmanuel Macron, who had never before been elected to any office in France, nor of his party. It was a negative far more than a positive vote. That is something that is suggestive of a certain fragility of democracy, but nonetheless this is an electoral result that has led to a great deal of relief throughout much of Europe.
Marine Le Pen was identified along with her party, the National Front, as the party and the candidate of the right. But this is where Christians operating in terms of an analysis by worldview have to understand that we have to make an important distinction between the political context in Europe, especially continental Europe, and here in the United States. When in the United States the word “right” is used in a distinction between left and right, it usually means Republican on the right, Democrats on the left, and it always tends to mean liberal, meaning the left, and conservative, meaning the right. But in Europe it’s quite a different picture. Now to make that clear just consider the fact that the National Front and Marine Le Pen are clearly identified as the candidate and the party of the right in France, but Le Pen actually holds to very liberal positions when it comes to many political and especially economic issues.
In the United States, the adjective “conservative” points to a certain pattern of commitments, ideological policy commitments, philosophical and moral commitments, related to a notion of liberty and a limited notion of government and the exercise of property and free markets in terms of economics. And what you have nonetheless in France is the fact that the right tends to stand for populism and nationalism and often protectionism. Not only that, it often points to very leftist political and economic policies. For example when Marine Le Pen was reaching out for support beyond her own part, she didn’t reach out to the center from the right in France. She reached out to the left and not only to the left but to the far left. She actually went after voters who had voted for openly socialist candidates.
Now why would she have done that? Well it’s because Marine Le Pen and her party hold to basically very statist understandings of the economy, and furthermore, Le Pen and her party seem to have very little understanding of how an economy actually works and what makes for wealth.
The French economy has been in a stagnant situation for decades and furthermore is now in a very fragile situation. The French economy is on the verge of becoming a wreck. That is why the conservative and socialist parties, having traded places and traded power for basically the last several decades, were both rather unceremoniously removed from the political equation.
The French economy is desperately in need of growth, and it is in need of increased productivity. But Marine Le Pen in a situation that puts her very much on the economic left is actually supportive of reducing the age of retirement in the country and also the number of hours that are worked. In the very time that France needs more productivity, she’s calling for an increase to dependence upon the state. At the very time that France needs more economic liberty, she is calling for policies that would determine actually the opposite. Emmanuel Macron was identified in this election as the centrist candidate, but his economic and political policies, though typically French, are nonetheless far more conservative than Marine Le Pen.
Sohrab Ahmari writing at the Wall Street Journal points out that in terms of the far left and the far right in French politics, to use his expression, “illusions die very hard.”
He cites the philosopher Pascal Bruckner. He said,
“The French try to erase historical experience.”
His compatriots “have forgotten the experience of 1989 and only see the bad aspects of capitalism and liberal democracy.”
This is very strange. There are so many in Europe who are actually operating on the basis of some kind of sentimentality, thinking that the good old days were on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
All this should at least tell us that when we’re looking at something like elections in France, which are very important in terms of worldview analysis, we have to look below the surface and understand that the traditional American distinctions between liberal and conservative don’t fit neatly at all in terms of continental European politics.
There’s something else that is very interesting. The suggestion was that this particular presidential election in France represented something of a pause on the official secularity, the official commitment to secularism of the French Republic. The modern French government is predicated upon a commitment to what is known as laïcité—that is the laïciteziation of the society—the secularization of the society. And this is been a hallmark of French culture, especially enshrined by the French left going all the way back to the even before the second world war.
But in terms of the current French Republic, this has been an official commitment. This is deeply rooted in the tradition in France that goes back to the French revolution, which was itself a secular revolution, radically so. Isaac Stanley-Becker, writing in the Washington Post in anticipation of the election, writing from Paris, he pointed out that religion continues to be a very important factor in voting “even though the country is secular.”
Then he said this, and it’s very revealing. Remember the context is France, the occasion was the French presidential election, and this is what he said,
“People without religion vote left. People with it vote right.”
Now this is something that holds true just about everywhere this kind of analysis is applied. Those who hold to a theistic worldview tend to be far more conservative than those who operate from a secular worldview. Even when terms like left and right and liberal and conservative are somewhat garbled, it’s at least very clear that there is a conservative influence when it comes to religious belief and there is a liberal pattern when it comes to a more secular worldview. In France the vast majority of those who do claim a religious identity claim a Roman Catholic identity, but even as this article indicates, whereas in centuries past France went to war to defend Roman Catholicism, it is now home to one of the largest atheist and agnostic populations in the world.
The interesting thing from this analysis is the fact that Emmanuel Macron is recognized by many inside and outside of France to be far more theological than previous French presidential candidates, especially winning candidates. But that raises an interesting question. Just how theological does one have to be to be considered more theological than others in France? It turns out not recognizably theological whatsoever. One authority cited in the article was Jean-Dominique Durand. He is identified as an expert on the history of contemporary Christianity. He’s also served in politics as the Deputy Mayor of Lyon. According to the article, Durand said that Emmanuel Macron’s political discourse “is marked by Catholicism, even though he does not proclaim his faith quote is marked by Catholicism, even though he does not proclaim his faith. He doesn’t say,” according to Durand, “I’m a Christian,” but Durand went on to say,
“Look at the words he uses — goodwill, benevolence, welcome — or the way he addresses people as ‘my friends.’ It’s a program that is marked by humanism and respect for others, particularly immigrants, and I think you could say this came from his education and from the social doctrine of the church.”
Now “his education” means a Jesuit Catholic education and here, of course, the social doctrine of the church is the social doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. But you’ll notice that here you have a religious historian, or at least one who is identified as an expert on the role of religion in contemporary France, and he says that Emmanuel Macron, who won the election yesterday, is a Christian in terms of the reversal of something of the secularist tide. But the evidence for this is that he uses the vocabulary with words like goodwill, benevolence, welcome, and that he addresses people as my friends.
Now at this point, professing Christians simply have to scratch their heads and wonder that anyone could think that this is anything remotely close to a theological, much less a theistic, language. If this is supposedly evidence of the reversal of official secularism in France, then one would simply have to with amazement wonder how could there be any politician with any discourse that would not be similarly, well, to use this term, religious? If using words like goodwill, benevolence, and welcome and calling voters my friends is an exhibition of an anti-secularism, a reversion to something of an overtly religious worldview, then again we can only wonder what in the world the French would think of a legitimately theistic argument. If anything, this tells us very little about Emmanuel Macron and his religious commitments and his worldview and just about everything about the sensitivities toward secularism that have been held to be absolutely essential in terms of the identity of the Fifth Republic in France.
Finally on the story in terms of lessons in the French presidential election, on The Briefing we regularly track this vast revolution in morality, in particular sexual morality, that is utterly reshaping the West, and there are several patterns here that always demand our attention. One of them is reflected in this Washington Post story I just cited earlier, and that’s the fact that voters who tend to be more secular tend to vote more liberally and those who tend to be more religious tend also to be more conservative. That’s because there is an understandable link in terms of that pattern. But there’s another pattern that is also clear in the French presidential elections, and that is the pattern that the more secular a nation is, the more it tends to embrace and to accelerate this sexual revolution, particularly the revolution in morality. The more religious a country tends to be, the more reticent it is to embrace, much less to accelerate, that very same revolution.
Now in those terms France is not only among the nations that have been most fast to embrace the sexual revolution, France has in many ways driven that sexual revolution, and it has been fairly proud of it. The French political class has demonstrated a sexual morality that would still even today be unthinkable in terms of American politics.
Just going back several decades now, former French President François Mitterrand had in terms of his official family not only his wife, but also his mistress. At his state funeral, both were officially recognized: his wife and his mistress and all the assorted children. That would still not be thinkable in terms of the United States. And when it comes to the man who yesterday was elected the president of France, well, there too is an interesting development in terms of sexual morality, an interesting distinction between Europe or in particular France and the United States when it comes to sexual morality and the understanding of political leadership.
Now what’s interesting about Emmanuel Macron? Well what’s interesting is that his wife is much older than he. But what’s far more interesting is that the relationship began, this love interest began when he was a 16-year-old boy and she was his 39-year-old teacher. This would still lead to not only a good deal of conversation in the United States, it would still be an outright scandal. Not so much in France. But we also need to note that when the relationship began between the 16-year-old boy and 39-year-old teacher, she was not only far older than he, she had children, all of whom were older than he, and she was married. In fairly short order, they were actually themselves married, and they still of course remains so today. And as a couple, they’ll be moving into the French Presidential Palace.
The 2016 American presidential election indicated that American voters are willing to take a different view in terms of sexual morality and presidential leadership than in the past. But this is still a rather interesting distinction between what we see in France and in the United States. The narratives are very different.
Oh and finally, one other thing about chronology here, Emmanuel Macron becomes the youngest leader of France since Napoleon. He is still in his 30s. The 39 year old Emmanuel Macron will take over the French presidency from François Hollande. Here’s what’s interesting. When François Hollande took over as a party leader in terms of French politics, Emmanuel Macron was only two years old. We’ve seen generational shifts in politics before, but rarely do you see a shift of this scale.
Next in terms of the liberal-conservative divide in the United States, one of the places this has shown up more than anywhere else is in the media, and the media in the United States, particularly the old-line media, have tended to be quite liberal and quite self-consciously so. In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, Dean Baquet, the editor of the New York Times, indicated that his newspaper, the vanguard of liberalism in the mainstream of American political culture, just might need to rethink whether or not it was adequately serving the public. There might be, he indicated, the need for some additional voices. He particularly indicated the fact that his newspaper tended to be tone deaf when it came to the religious concerns of many Americans far less secular than those who were in control of the New York Times.
But over the weekend in the public editor column of that paper, Liz Spayd pointed out that the New York Times has taken at least some efforts try to bring in some new voices. One of them was Bret Stephens who had been writing for years at the Wall Street Journal. He recently was enticed to join the editorial team of the New York Times. Now Bret Stephens is hardly an extreme conservative. As a matter fact, he’s something of a mainstream political figure. He is certainly more conservative than liberal on many issues, in particular foreign-policy issues, but this is no individual who represents any extremist possession or anything close to it. But it turns out what makes this article really interesting, the public editor article in the New York Times, is that what Liz Spayd indicates that the readers of the New York Times, themselves evidently quite liberal, are not really open to hearing more conservative voices.
One of the accusations often made against American conservatives is that conservatives tend not to want to be confronted with liberal arguments. And on The Briefing as I point out, that is a problem. We can’t possibly understand our own position, well, unless we understand the arguments being made by others. We should not only tolerate those arguments being made, we should welcome them, and we should pay close attention to them in order to make our arguments even better. But it turns out as this public editor column in the New York Times demonstrates, quite clearly, the left is actually no more receptive to hearing conservative voices than conservatives are to hearing liberal voices. Spayd writes,
“Now, as the 100-day mark of the Trump administration approaches, it’s time to ask: Is The Times following through on its promise to put an outstretched hand toward Red America?”
Meaning more conservative America, those red states. She then asked,
“And, just as crucially, are readers ready for it?”
Well, she answers her own question saying that the New York Times is by her estimation actually doing something to try to reach out to Red America. But the readers of the New York Times, at least many of them, vocal readers, aren’t pleased about this at all. Most particularly they weren’t pleased with adding Bret Stephens to the editorial page. Liz Spayd also goes on to say that if the New York Times is going to include more conservative voices, they can’t be limited to the editorial and opinion pages. They have to be involved and included in news stories as well, and that turns out to be an even greater irritation for the liberal readers of the New York Times. Spayd writes,
“The Stephens episode touches the third rail of a debate surfacing as The Times looks to include a wider range of views, not just on the Opinion pages but in its news columns. It raises the question of whether readers want rules around who should be heard and how. And it raises the even larger issue of whether The Times should be a paper for all of America or whether it’s already been claimed by one side.”
Now as I have pointed out in the past, the New York Times deserves credit for even having the public editor column. There aren’t many institutions in the media of this kind of prestige who openly and regularly ask the question, are we actually doing our job? Spayd gave some interesting examples of articles that have incited ire from readers of theNew York Times. Then she goes back to Dean Baquet, the executive editor the paper,
“There’s no question a lot of our readers do not want us to provide stories that show we’re open.”
But he went on to say,
“But what they want is not journalistic.”
Now this is a problem not only amongst liberals, but also amongst conservatives, and one of the problems in terms of our worldview-polarized society is that all of us, if not careful, listen only to the voices that agree with us. We tolerate only those who will make the arguments and provide the news coverage and offer the analysis with which we already agree.
One of the very interesting things that also comes through in this article is that some of the liberal readers of the New York Times are very offended when someone who holds a conservative position is treated in a way that is journalistically sympathetic. Now there is something here even more fundamental than the conservative liberal analysis that is at the center of this article. That’s the fact that a journalist does have the power to present or to fail to present an individual or an argument with sympathy. This is even more fundamental issue, and one we ought to think about very carefully as Christians. When we are watching the news or listening to a program, when we are reading analysis or news in terms of the print media, those who are crafting the story at the level of writing it and various levels of editing it are making decisions about who or what is to be presented with sympathy, with whom is the reader supposed to sympathize.
Now the Liz Spayd article is first and foremost about the New York Times trying to reach out to Red America by its own reckoning and by its own evaluation. But as the article comes to a close, it turns out there’s an even bigger issue here, and that’s the reminder that when we read a product or watch or view and entertainment products or any news products, those who are producing it, those who are delivering it to us, intend for us to sympathize with individuals, with storylines, with narratives, and with positions. Keeping the facts very much in mind will make us far more faithful and accurate in the reading, watching, and analyzing what is thrown to us by the ever-expanding universe of modern media.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to @albertmohler.For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to boycecollege.com.
(This podcast is by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)
This week, we are digging in on how to protect our kids from today’s media that tells them that their only value comes from their sexuality. From Rihanna to Flo Rida to Nicki Minaj… sex sells. But what is the motive behind it all?
Now, for Merv’s household, they got rid of cable television altogether. He knows this doesn’t mean that his kids won’t encounter this “sales pitch” outside of their home, but it is Merv’s and his wife’s first line of defense when it comes to protecting his kids from this ever prevalent message. He’s aware that he can’t completely seclude his kids from the entertainment industry’s sexual content, but as long as he can take efforts to break up the consistency, then an effective first step is taken.
But what about breaking news or sports? Merv learned that, even in this age of HD television, you can get a couple handfuls of channels with an over-the-air “rabbit ears” antennae. Couple this with Netflix (with parental supervision filters)
What Merv and his wife have now noticed is that, by breaking up the consistency of sexually provocative messages, when his kids are exposed to today’s rap videos, or other sexually charged shows, they are repulsed by it.
You see, Merv and I view all these sexually explicit shows, commercials, music videos, YouTube videos, etc., as tricks of the enemy. And they aren’t going anywhere. There is too much demand out there, and their producers are simply meeting the demand.
It’s simple economics.
It’s also basic biology.
The pituitary gland sends hormones that, if left unchecked can cause even a man with a beautiful wife and amazing children, a nice house and cool car (basically everything a man could want) to go out and cheat on his wife. Most teenagers today see this behavior and it baffles them. They don’t understand the biology. They aren’t aware of how the man’s pituitary gland sends signals down to his testicles, which release testosterone and sets the whole engine into motion. And it doesn’t take much at all to get things rolling.
This is what inspired Merv to write “Baby Girl You Are A Dime, But He Cheated On You With A Nickel”. For many guys, even if their wife has more than twice the value as the girl they see in tight pants, the “nickel” in tight pants grabs a hold of his attention and he loses control.
All this to say that infidelity, divorce, and single parenthood will continue to increase so long as men are constantly bombarded with sexually charged messages from entertainment and other women.
Even the basic vocabulary in our love songs doesn’t make sense. “I want to make love to you”. How does this make any sense? No person can create love. It’s simply not logical. And it takes love right out of the equation and turns it into nothing more than animalistic sex.
And that’s how lives get ruined: from the wrong, inappropriate words being whispered or body parts being exposed that lead to raging hormones, causing men and women, boys and girls to go down the wrong path.
It all boils down to value. How valuable do you see yourself? How valuable do you treat the person you love? Where does your value come from?
To purchase the entire DVD set of the Summit Lecture Series, visit summit.org.
If you think about it, today’s New Atheists must believe in some kind of objective Moral Law. It is almost impossible for anyone to reject.
For instance, here’s something that happened to me a while back:
While I was teaching philosophy at UNLV, I was invited to be on a panel discussion called “Sex, Laws and Videotapes”. It was actually a discussion about morality and the media, and they had invited a very eclectic group for the panel, including myself, several lawyers, some radio “shock-jocks”, and the wife of one of my colleagues who happened to homeschool her kids, among other panelists. It was a real hodge-podge of people who typically wouldn’t hang out together voluntarily.
Nevertheless, it was a compelling discussion where each of us had the opportunity to share our thoughts about morality and the media.
But when Beth, the homeschool mom, shared her thoughts and criticisms about he media, and explained why she chose to homeschool her kids, she was lambasted. One particular girl in the audience objected and accused her of not doing her children justice by secluding them and robbing them of the social and educational benefits of public education.
Then, I had my turn to express my objections to contemporary media, and that same young lady shot her hand up and asked, “Who are you to judge?”
Now, for someone in my line of work, this was almost too good to be true. On one hand, she had just issued a very strong judgment against Beth, and then soon after, she issued a denial to me that one could make judgments.
So, the first thing I did was answer her rhetorical question.
“Who are you to judge?”, she asked.
I replied, “Who are you to ask this question? Several minutes ago, you asserted that Beth had somehow violated some moral rule by homeschooling her children; and then you didn’t hesitate to issue a judgment against me and my criticism of modern culture and media. So, how is it that your head doesn’t explode from maintaining both belief systems simultaneously?
She began to cry at that point.
The point of this story is that people will often suggest that we shouldn’t judge others, and then they turn right around and make judgments themselves. The truth is that making judgments is inevitable. Culture, like nature, abhors a vacuum.
This type of thinking has even made its way to political issues. Even when you get away from God and philosophy and move toward politics and philosophy, you see that many people believe that within the public square, the government can be neutral on moral questions in the same way that we should all be neutral in regards to morality.
The truth is that it simply can’t be done.
In studio with me, once again, sitting in for my dad is Executive Producer of the e2 media network, Joel Fieri with Real Stuff My Boss Says.
Now, as a news junkie and video professional, I LOVE Media! When I started my career, I set out to be an investigative sports broadcast journalist, and a daily dose of watching ESPN and CNN was as regular to my day as breakfast cereal and coffee, and I’ve watched more hours of television and movies than any sane person would recommend. Therefore, for decades, I have not only been a fan, but even a proponent and defender of the media at large.
But, Joel sees a problem occurring in regards to what is largely reported these days and the Church at large.
Too often, the Church falls into the habit of believing our own bad press.
There seems to be a conflict between today’s news media and today’s Western Church. As Joel puts it, there’s a caricature out there of Evangelical Christians being nothing more than Bible-thumping, right-wing nut jobs. You see this in television, movies, and even in news reports and commentaries. Now, while anecdotally, this caricature may have some merit to it, since there are idiots everywhere – both in and outside of the Faith. But, as Joel always says, God works to save our souls, not to miraculously change our personalities or make us smarter.
But, today, the very idea that somebody would choose to be a Christian, to believe in a God that we are all accountable to, to follow God’s word as an animating force in their life, and to have the nerve to tell the rest of our culture that they need to get in line with God… it’s all very offensive to those who are in darkness.
Now, in the real world – besides the fictional caricatures Joel described – we have the Westboro Baptists protesting slain soldiers funerals, street corner preachers screaming “The end is neigh!” at the top of their lungs, or Young Earth Creationists who claim that dinosaurs didn’t really ever exist. As a rational, thoughtful, caring, compassionate, and loving Christian, sometimes I just want to approach them and say, “Shut the heck up!”
Joel admits that these extremes do exist, but they are the minority on the fringes, not the masses when it comes to representing Evangelical Christianity today.
But, what about earnest, well-intentioned Christians who are simply outside of the “norm” when it comes to sharing their faith with others? I remember hearing a message several years ago from Kirk Cameron when he said that he would sometimes drop Christian tracts into occupied stalls at public restrooms, taking advantage of the “captive audiences” that were there. While many people hearing Kirk’s talk admired his boldness, one pastor friend who I was sitting next to was cringing at every word. “Why Kirk? Why encourage these things? We’ve already got enough bad press out there!”
Yet, if Kirk were to toss out 5,000 tracts and only one person actually reads it, is engaged by it and changes their eternal destination because of “Radical Kirk’s” actions, isn’t it worth it? And, as Joel says, if the worst thing that “Radical Christians” are doing is tossing tracts into bathroom stalls, is that really that bad, especially compared to the atrocities to humanity that so many other groups are carrying out across the globe these days?
But, either way, the world is not going to understand pretty much anything that committed Christians are doing these days. That much is even promised in the Bible in Matthew 10:22,
“You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
But, the truth is that the vast majority of Christians aren’t Kirk Cameron – in fact in most cases across western culture, Christians go largely incognito when it comes to expressing their faith.
Yet still, the bad press remains prevalent in today’s culture. Dating back to the ‘60’s, when Time magazine put “God is Dead” on its cover and the culture started telling Christians to keep their religion to themselves, inside their homes and churches because it’s not welcome in the public arena. Even twenty years ago, there was a prevailing thought in the U.S. that if you were born in America, then of course you were a Christian, since we are a Christian nation. But not anymore.
Today, Evangelical Christ Followers are branded as being bigoted, intolerant haters.
There simply appears to be forces moving faster than ever to not only be neutral to Christianity instead of supporting it as before, but actually working against today’s Christians, depicting the Church as evil.
So, how should we effectively present what we view as the Bible’s definition of God, men, women, how we all relate and where we all come from without compromising? Why is it that when we, as a culture, used to be able to hold differing opinions and even humanely debate these issues, but now Christians are broad-brushed as “haters”, “bigots”, or “…phobes” if we dare hold to Judeo-Christian, Biblical values?
Or, the better question may be this: Why does the Church, at large, fall in step with this broad-brushing bad press instead of digging their heels in and saying “NO! THAT’S ENOUGH!”?
According to Joel, it’s because we all want to be liked. Very few of us really like to make waves. In fact, if we would listen to renown atheist Penn Jillette, we might be filled with more conviction.
(Jillette has been famously quoted as saying, “I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life. … How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? … If I believed beyond the shadow of a doubt that a truck was going to hit you, and you didn’t believe it and that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point at which I tackle you.”)
Also, too many Christians approach their non-believing community timidly, with the thought that if they just let their loving actions speak for themselves, then maybe the culture would learn to like them… then maybe down the road somewhere, after gaining credibility, it would be okay to express what the Bible says about certain things.
However, this goes against what Jesus Himself said:
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.” (John 15:18)
Another factor, according to Joel, is that in America, Christians have never been the “outsiders” before. Yet now we are. So we are historically unprepared to deal with this perspective toward Christianity and the Bible.
The truth is that Evangelical Christians are by and large the most generous people in our society, they are the most likely to volunteer in their communities, they are most likely to help their neighbors in need, and most likely to help at their local schools and youth organizations. In fact, most health care in the U.S. was pioneered by people firmly rooted in Judeo-Christian values.
So, in light of all this, how should we respond to the bad press of: We hate women since we are against abortion; we hate gays because we believe marriage should be only between one man and one woman; we hate Muslims because we believe Jesus is the only way to God?
The truth is that some of this press is warranted. There are some Christians out there who have handled these issues very badly. But we shouldn’t allow these imperfect slim minorities to define who we – the masses of Evangelical Christianity – are. Nor should we wait until someone can come along to perfectly dictate our message before we say anything.
If you think about our message at its core: “We are imperfect, fallen people. But God has sent His Son to redeem the world and make us perfect”, then by definition, we’re not going to communicate our message to the masses perfectly on this side of eternity. We’ve just got to do the best we can. But the key word there is DO. Don’t sit idly by and allow the bad reputation that is developing silence you if you are a follower of Christ.
And definitely, don’t fall into what Joel sees as the real danger heading the Church’s way: Not persecution from our culture. Not even a “caging in” by our local governments. But, the real danger is the coming days when our desire to be liked becomes so strong that many Christians will align with those who are doing the persecuting, caging, or silencing.
So, where does the solution to all this begin?
Prayer. Understand that this bad press is actually what the Bible promises. So, just because we are receiving opposition, bad press, and even lies told about us, and even though some Christians do behave imperfectly, realize that this doesn’t delegitimize our message or change our mission or responsibility to be “salt and light” in our culture.
As Joel puts it, if we take the Biblical example of Lot – someone who tried to live near the city of Sodom, but not be “of Sodom”. But before he knew it, he was living inside the city, and was eventually on the City Counsel. Then, when God sent His messengers to the city and the people wanted to attack them, Lot had no credibility when he attempted to stand up to them. Meanwhile, Abraham stayed away from Sodom and instead interceded for the city, begging God that if there were only ten righteous men living there that the city would be spared.
Well, there are many more than ten righteous people living in our culture today. So, we are definitely not too far gone and definitely worth the time and effort to pray for a redirection and change of course in our culture.