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When the United Church of Cabot in Vermont asked voters to approve repairs to its historic church building with public funds, they agreed. However, someone raised an objection, but historic church buildings deserve repairs just as much as historic secular buildings. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing 

 Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Historic Churches Deserve Repairs Too

In Vermont, the United Church of Cabot needed repairs. Specifically, this historic church asked the voters to consider repairing the steeple, stairwell, along with other minor repairs.

The community uses the building for a variety of meetings and events. The taxpayers were even asked whether public funds—about $10,000—should be used to pay for these repairs.

When the voters agreed to the project, someone raised an objection.

A Vermont district court enjoined the repairs, concluding that the state’s constitution categorically prohibits the public funding of houses of worship.

But, the Vermont Supreme Court disagreed. In sending the case back to the lower court, it said that the “plaintiffs will have to demonstrate that painting the church building and assessing its sills is more like funding devotional training for future clergy.”

Well, that’s a difficult task.

If we have learned anything from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Trinity Lutheran it is that our country’s dedication to separating church and state means neutrality toward religion, rather than hostility.

If Vermont expends taxpayer dollars on other historic buildings, it is anything but neutral to refuse funding for an historic church building. The logic that claims that anything religious must be purged from public participation simply because it is religious is simply wrong, it goes against decades of precedent, and destroys our country’s rich heritage of diversity.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. 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.)

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I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Today, three questions: who decides if a judge is well-qualified, can we separate art from the artist and what is really comprehensive about comprehensive sex education?

Who decides if a judge is well-qualified? Politicization of ABA exposed in recent evaluation of judicial nominee

Every culture requires certain central institutions, pillars, foundations of the culture that make the culture itself possible. In terms of American society, American culture, government is one of those essential pillars. It’s only one, but nonetheless it is a very important pillar that makes our culture possible. And within government the role of the courts is extremely important. The courts and thus judges and justices fulfill a very important responsibility of stewardship on behalf of the entire society. The rightful functioning of the courts is a prerequisite then for the rightful functioning of the entire society. But that raises a crucial issue, who will sit on those courts? Who will be the judges and the justices?

Now from the very beginning this has been not only a constitutional and legal question. It has been a political question. And here is where in terms of worldview analysis we need to think very carefully. The founders and framers of the American constitutional order did not say that it would be right and healthy if judges and justices were appointed by members of the bar in particular, looking to the profession of lawyers and saying you choose from amongst yourselves who you believe should serve on the courts. Rather appointments to the courts of judges and justices, that authority was put in the hands of elected representatives most importantly in the constitutional responsibilities of the president of the United States, but not to the President alone. Our Constitution requires not only that the president would nominate, but that the United States Senate must confirm anyone appointed to a federal judgeship or ultimately to the United States Supreme Court.

Before even entering into contemporary controversies, we need to recognize just how wise that system is, and also what was intended, what was made very clear in terms of that constitutional system and requirement. What is made clear is that the courts belong to the people, and ultimately the people get to decide who will be the judges in the justices because the people will elect the representatives and the chief executive of the nation who will make the nomination and then proceed to the confirmations. In the late 1700s when the American constitutional order was coming into being, there were three very central professions to every Western society. They were the clergy and the lawyers and the doctors. Law, medicine and ministry were the three central professions. Since then, of course, there has been a multiplication of vast expansion of the number of recognized professions, and since then something else has happened. The professions have become increasingly self-designated, self-policed and self-defined.

Now from a Christian worldview analysis even at this point, one of the things we should think about is the fact that when you’re looking at these professions you are looking at professions that for the most part became exceedingly, explicitly secular over the course of the 20th century. And in the case of many of these professions, they moved in a decidedly liberal direction, sometimes with no apparent tie to their own professional identity and responsibility. The next observation in terms of worldview is that the professional societies, associations and organizations thus have in our contemporary culture an outsize influence. And sometimes an influence that isn’t well known by the American people. Here is an example drawn from contemporary headlines of controversy. Here you have the Wall Street Journal reporting and I quote,

“The American Bar Association has been a key gatekeeper for the federal courts since it began evaluating judicial nominees in the 1940s, but,” says Joe Palazzolo, reporter for the Wall Street Journal, all this is changing.

But for that matter it’s not a particularly new controversy. It has been a controversy building for a matter of years. Later in the article he writes,

“For decades, the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, the evaluation committee’s formal name, has evaluated judges for their competence, integrity and judicial temperament, issuing grades that range from ‘well qualified’ to ‘not qualified.’”

He then summarizes and I quote, “The ratings are meant to help presidents and senators, who may not be familiar with individual judicial candidates, make informed nominations and votes.”

But over the course of the last several decades, the American Bar Association has moved progressively and very clearly to the political left. And for that reason, President George W. Bush and now President Donald Trump have derecognized the American Bar Association as having a first word in terms of certifying and evaluating presidential nominees to the federal courts. That has of course not stopped the American Bar Association and its standing committee from issuing its grades and its evaluation of nominees to the federal courts. That’s what leads to the most immediate controversy. It has to do with a judicial nomination from the state of Nebraska. In this case the nominee to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis from Nebraska is the former Deputy Attorney General of that state, Steven Grasz.

As Palazzolo reports,“Tensions between Senate Republicans and the association, the largest organization of lawyers in the nation, have escalated in recent weeks after the ABA pronounced a Nebraska lawyer unfit to serve on the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,” why? Because of his, “‘deeply-held social agenda.’”

Palazzolo then tells us that in his submission of papers to the Senate panel Mr. Grasz wrote that a member of the evaluation committee that interviewed him for the American Bar Association repeatedly referred to Republicans and conservatives as you guys or you people and also asked for Mr. Grasz’s personal views on abortion, the death penalty and adoption by same-sex couples. The interviewer for the Bar Association said the lawyer tried to pressure him to admit that his personal views would infect his judicial work. William McGurn writing in the Main Street Column for the Wall Street Journal summarizes the issue this way,

“The object of the ABA’s attention is Leonard Steven Grasz, a former Nebraska chief deputy attorney general who’s been nominated for a seat on the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The ABA has slapped Mr. Grasz with a ‘not qualified’ rating, saying he’s too biased and too rude to be a judge. Given that much of this rating,” says McGurn, “is based on accusations that are not detailed and from accusers who remain anonymous,” he says, quite rightly, “it reveals more about the organization that issued it than it does about,” the man at the center of the report.

Now it’s interesting that just about everyone who is writing about this controversy mentions that the word rude appears in this report without any particular documentation whatsoever. It’s not even defined. There is no elaboration. It’s also increasingly clear that the judgment of the Bar Association against this particular nominee has virtually nothing to do with his judicial temperament, but everything to do with his views, his personal views on controversial moral and social issues. Views that are clearly at odds with the American Bar Association, but views that also we must recognize represent tens of millions of Americans and furthermore represent the Chief Executive of the nation, the President of the United States, who is entrusted by the Constitution with the right to make such nominations. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse has openly condemned the American Bar Association for what he sees as a personal assassination attempt. He said and I quote,

“The ABA is running a smear campaign based on the idea that Steve is a kale-hating, puppy-kicking monster,” but says the Senator, “no one in Nebraska on either side of the aisle recognizes that man.” That is, the man described by the American Bar Association.

The Senator also said in recent comments on the floor of the Senate, “We should completely dispel with the fiction that the American Bar Association is a fair and impartial arbiter of facts.”

Once again, we need to remind ourselves that the American Bar Association Committee accused this nominee of holding to a, “passionately held social agenda.”

You put that together with the fact that the interviewer for the Bar Association spoke to this nominee in terms of you people, and we have a pretty good idea of just how antagonistic the Bar Association is to conservative nominees precisely because they are conservative nominees. And we should note holding to positions that are anathema to the Bar Association on issues such as, most importantly, abortion. In terms of the maximum influence of the ABA in this process, we date that back to the invitation granted to the Association by President Dwight Eisenhower, but that was the 1950s. That was when professional societies and organizations when the professions themselves were growing vastly in terms of influence and authority in our society. But we now know in retrospect that was also the very era when they began to swerve politically, and almost every one of them swerved significantly to the left. As Christians think about our society and how it actually works, here’s a pretty good lesson for us all. A lesson that comes in just a couple of words from an American Bar Association interviewer to a presidential nominee, speaking of “you people.”

Can you separate the art from the artist?

Next, given all the controversy and debate over art and artists and well a new avalanche of sexual and moral accusations, the New York Times asked a question that really must be asked, and we have to think carefully as Christians about the answer. The question is this: can you separate art from the artist? Now we need to keep in mind that the fundamental argument about separating art and the artist has come from the cultural left rather than from the cultural right, but it is a question that gets pressed upon every single one of us when it comes to our own engagement with entertainment and art, or for that matter, with many other aspects of our lives and culture as well. But just considering what’s happened in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein accusations and those related to actor Kevin Spacey and so many others, of course historically, the Roman Polanski charges going back several decades in the United States, the question has been, can you actually separate art and the artist in such a way that you can appreciate the art, you can appreciate the movie, you can continue to watch the television program while being filled with moral repulsion against the artist or the actor or whoever is involved in this particular dimension of art?

Amanda Hess writing in the Critics Notebook column of the New York Times raises this issue anew, and even as she writes the article, it’s clear she understands that the terms of debate have fundamentally changed just in the course of a few years. In her article asking this question, she points back to a roundtable published in 2009 by the very same newspaper, her newspaper, the New York Times. At that time, the center of the controversy was about Roman Polanski who committed a horrible sex crime against a young girl, and yet he was protected by the artistic class and furthermore still celebrated even to the point of being given an Academy award after all of this was well known. That was back in 2009, and in this roundtable several people prominent in American culture and the cultural elites at least defended to some extent the idea that you can fundamentally separate art and the artist. Jay Parini, a well-known writer who taught then at Middlebury College asked the question, can one really separate the art from the man or woman who creates that art? Then he answers, the answer is yes, definitely. He then expanded to say there are many examples in history, too many great artists who were terribly flawed human beings, behaving very badly and hurting those around them. If anything, audiences easily make this distinction, he said. Nobody looks at a Picasso painting in a museum and says quote,

“I should not take this work seriously because Picasso cheated on his many wives and was abusive to his son.”

Now at this point I have to interject from a Christian worldview perspective, the fact that Mr. Parini misses the point that most of the people looking at that painting, for instance a Picasso at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, will be unaware of the moral context. The elites have access to that information when, especially when it comes to elite art, the rest of us simply do not have. But I would also want to make a point from a Christian worldview perspective that when it comes to an artist like Picasso, those particular accusations were actually of a piece with his larger commitment to what we would call the overthrow of traditional Christian sexual morality. Damon Lindelof, a television producer, said that he had recently considered this question back in 2009 when he was walking through a major European art museum, and as he considered art and the artist, he thought to himself, “Man oh man, what a load of perverts.”

And yet Lindelof said he went on to consider that the art was still beautiful. He said, “It is still eternal.”

So even as he seems to understand there is indeed a moral dimension, especially to the artist, he’s suggesting that we can look at the art independent of the artist. But here again, just keep in mind the fact that he admits that as he walked to this museum his first thought was, “what a load of perverts.”

Mark Bauerlein who teaches at Emory University actually makes an argument suggesting that,

“The moral scruples that constrain bad behavior work precisely against the artistry needed to describe,” he means for example, “Satan corrupting Eve and to portray a rebel without a cause.”

Bauerlein went on to say, “People understand that, and so they judge the sins of artists and writers more lightly, perhaps taking a vicarious pleasure in them. Only,” he says, “when the artist goes too far does a moral push-back arise.” He summarizes, “it’s a delicate compromise, ever-shifting as general social standards evolve.”

Well we’re talking about a roundtable, the New York Times in 2009 and let me tell you those moral standards have evolved even amongst the cultural elites in terms of what they now believe is moral and is to be expected in terms of moral judgment when it comes to artists or actors or producers or at least they say that moral judgment is changed or it has at least changed for some time for some people. Jonathan Gilmore in the roundtable who taught philosophy and humanities at Yale University at the time said,

“One may condemn an artist for her odious views without that compromising one’s defense of the art in which those views are revealed.”

I understand the argument, but I don’t think it’s quite that simple. I think as we are walking through a museum, or reading a book or we are, for that matter, observing a movie, the reality is we inescapably make these judgments if we have the information. At the very least, we understand you can’t completely separate art and the artist. You don’t have the art without the artist, and furthermore as Amanda Hess makes clear in her recent article of the Times, the reality is that we tend to play up the role of the artist in interpreting the art. She candidly points to Hollywood, suggesting that if you can understand this principle anywhere, you can understand it there where Hollywood plays up the role of the artist in the art. As she says,

“Meanwhile, the entertainment industry seems quite interested in conflating the art and the artist as long as it helps sell movie tickets.”

So recognizing the fact that we can never completely sever art in the artist, this doesn’t mean that we go through the great museums of the world taking down paintings. It does mean that we as Christians understand that we have no art without the artist, and you never have an artist of any kind because you never have a human being of any kind who is not a moral creature. And that morality is going to show in every dimension of the individual’s life. Amanda Hess seems to recognize in her more recent article in the New York Times that the fundamental separation of the art and the artist is impossible even as the cultural left has been arguing for that separation for decades now. From a Christian perspective perhaps we should put it this way, we understand that you really can’t understand art, you can’t rightly understand the meaning of art without understanding the artist. And once you understand the artist, you can ever separate the artist from the art.

Comprehensive sexual revolution in the name of comprehensive sexual education

Finally, headline news out of Lexington, Kentucky, coming from the Lexington Herald Leader, the headline, “Abstinence, birth control, intimacy? What should Lexington sex education classes teach?”

Well, it turns out that the catalyst for the article is the formation of a group known as Lex Ed, which is committed to bring, “comprehensive sex education to Lexington.”

The purpose statement of this alliance is,

“We believe that Lexington’s schools deserve comprehensive sex education including medically-accurate information about reproduction and preventing pregnancy, STI prevention, healthy relationships, sexual violence, consent, self-esteem, LGBTQ health and identity, and domestic violence.”

The organization’s coordinator said that sex education across public schools in Kentucky, well, she says it’s inconsistent. She went on to say, “many schools center their sex education around abstinence.”

I’m not going to go into any details of any sex education curriculum. I’m simply going to say that by now we know exactly what we’re dealing with when we see the term comprehensive sex education. It sounds good. Who would want a sex education that isn’t comprehensive? But what we need to understand is that that is now well recognized code language for bringing the sexual revolution, a moral revolution to a public school classroom K-12 near you. That purpose statement pretty well indicated the commitment of this organization to that sexual revolution. But just in case we missed the point, the allied organizations behind the coalition include the National Organization for Women, the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Fairness campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy organization in Kentucky. It’s being presented to the people of Kentucky as if what we really need is just a more comprehensive sex education. But what this really represents is a comprehensive sexual revolution. And this is where Christians have to remind ourselves over and over again when you say sex education you’re saying morality. The only question is whose morality?

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.)

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I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

We’ll see a resurgence of paganism in a supposedly secular age, we’ll see why Halloween is growing darker and darker, why evangelical Christians should care about what’s happening on a Catholic college campus, and this is the week in which we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

The secularization and liberalization of higher education and the danger of arguing the Peace Cross is anything other than a Christian symbol

We’ll trace once again a pattern of the secularization of religious institutions of higher education in this country. We’ll see why the politicization of higher education, the liberalization of higher education, means that inevitably the sexuality issues become front and center, and we will come to understand the danger in arguing that the cross is anything other than a Christian symbol even in order to defend a war memorial.

The concerns of the heart are still rightly very much directed to Sutherland Springs, Texas, and grieving families, a grieving congregation, an entire grieving community there, but the political discussion of the week is likely to be dominated by the new Republican sponsored tax reform legislation. If adopted, it would be the most comprehensive reform of the American tax system since the 1980s and the Reagan administration. But as we will see in a closer consideration of that proposal later this week, as we look at tax policy in a nation, we’re looking at the heart of its economic considerations, a balancing effort. And that also means that there are always very hard choices to be made. In every reform of the tax code there are both winners and losers, and we’re going to be looking at the fact that when a tax system is adopted by a government, certainly a government the size of the government of the United States, it is embedded with economic disincentives and incentives. They are both in place in order to change economic behavior and eventually economic behavior tends to conform to the new tax code. So it’s going to be a very interesting week in terms of the political and thus the economic debate, but it’s already an interesting week on other fronts as well.

Tracing the pattern of secularization at religious higher education institutions

Just a few days ago on The Briefing we looked at a controversy on a Catholic university campus that should be of intense interest to American evangelicals. That campus is Georgetown University. It’s traced all the way back to the revolutionary era in the United States, and of course it has been considered one of the leading Jesuit institutions of higher education in the world. It’s also, this is no secret, increasingly secular and liberal. There have been very serious charges about the theological direction at Georgetown University made by conservative Catholics, Catholics who actually believe Catholic theology. But what’s been going on that campus has everything to do with the sexual revolution as well. The original controversy has to do with charges made against a group of students, an officially recognized student organization known as Love Saxa, an organization that dares actually to believe and to contend for the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church on matters of sexuality. In particular, it defines marriage just as the catechism of the Roman Catholic Church defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. As the leadership of Love Saxa has said, Catholic teaching simply doesn’t allow for any other definition of marriage.

But this has run into a head-on collision with the fact that Georgetown University has openly claimed in terms of its administration to be the most gay friendly Catholic university in the nation. Two students on behalf of a larger group of students brought charges against Love Saxa claiming that they violated the moral standards of the university concerning how students are to treat one another and speak of one another because any organization that would actually define marriage and human sexuality the way the Catholic Church does would be offering a doctrine of hate to the fellow students at the supposedly Catholic Georgetown University. Just last week the student government was unable to come to a decision after hours of debate, but all that changed as the Washington Post reported on Saturday, it changed on Friday. As the Post reports,

“A panel of Georgetown students decided not to take action against a pro-heterosexual-marriage campus group that had been the subject of a complaint accusing it of fostering hatred and intolerance.”

The Post report continues, “After deliberating behind closed doors until after midnight Friday, the Student Activities Commission voted 8-to-4 that no sanctions should be imposed on Love Saxa, which advocates for marriage as ‘a monogamous and permanent union between a man and a woman,’ the group states in its constitution.”

Now the report in the Washington Post goes on to offer considerable detail about the fact that the two students who brought charges against Love Saxa are now threatening that they’re going to appeal the decision by the Student Activities Commission to the official administration of Georgetown University, an appeal you can be sure the administrators of Georgetown would very much like to do without. As the Post states the matter rather diplomatically,

“The committee’s ruling is not binding, and is merely a recommendation to the university’s director of student engagement, who can choose to accept, amend or reject it. The issue,” says the Post, “will now probably come before the university on appeal, raising the question of how administrators at Georgetown, the United States’ oldest Catholic and Jesuit institution of higher learning, will handle the controversy.”

As you might expect, the student government organization indicated that it had taken the complaints offered by students seriously, but it did not find that it ought to defund and derecognize Love Saxa. This also has to be placed in the context of enormous public scrutiny, including the scrutiny of many Catholics around the country waiting to see if the student government would vote that a student organization that holds the Catholic doctrine could not be recognized on a Catholic university campus. One of the students who brought the charges told the Post that the decision is, “a big step backwards.”

He went on to say that the decision, “calls to question the university’s reputation and self-made claim of being the nation’s most queer-friendly Catholic campus.” He went on to say that funding of tuition money for Love Saxa, “advocates for traditional marriage and against queer marriage and queer lives.”

Ultimately, he said, speaking of LGBTQ students on the campus, “we’re being forced to pay for people who hate us.”

That’s the kind of language that is now just taken for granted on public university and elite private university campuses, but the big point here is that this is Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic and Jesuit institution in the United States. But it is abundantly clear that Georgetown has been moving away from Catholic doctrine for decades now, especially since the 1960s and 1970s. And the student is not exaggerating in this case. There can be no question that Georgetown’s administrators have been working very hard also as driven by the universities increasingly secular and liberal faculty to be just as these students say the most LGBTQ friendly Catholic University campus in the nation.

Why the liberalization of higher education forces the sexuality issue front and center

Now, in order to understand this in context no one believes that this decision is likely to be final, and everyone understands the decision was made under duress with an awful lot of people, especially Roman Catholics in the nation, getting ready to be outraged if Love Saxa had been defunded and derecognized. But it’s probably only a matter of time. The reason why that is so is of upmost importance in terms of the Christian worldview. In the last report on this issue I discussed the increasing secularization of religious higher education in the country, but speaking of this specific pattern, Anne Hendershot writing in the current edition of City Journal published by the Manhattan Institution actually names it for what it is. The headline of her story, “Taking the Catholic Out of Catholic Universities.”

As she says, “Rather than embrace the good, the true, and the beautiful, many of the schools,” that is the historically Catholic schools in this country have, “adopted the politically correct fads of secular universities.”

That’s exactly what we see here on the campus of Georgetown University. Hendershott points back to 1990 and the concern of the Pope then, Pope John Paul II, that Catholic universities were revolting against Catholicism. In that year the Pope handed down an encyclical named ex corde ecclesiae, and in it he required that every Catholic college and university must have a certificate known as a mandatum from the local bishop ensuring the orthodoxy of Catholic doctrine and morality taught on the campus. It led to an outrage on the part of American Catholic college and university administrators, and there has barely even been lip service given to the Pope’s command. Furthermore, as Hendershott says professors on many of these campuses who actually support Catholic teachings, “have come under siege on their own campuses, usually with little support from their academic administrations.”

Hendershot points in particular to Georgetown University and a 2013 official charge made against the University by William Peter Blatty, the novelist and author of the novel The Exorcist. He filed what is known as a Canon law petition with the Vatican demanding that Georgetown University be denied the right to call itself Catholic. He told an interviewer at the time that proclaiming Georgetown to be Catholic is dishonest. He said that the University presents a Catholic façade and alumni dinners, in the novelist’s words, “they will make sure there is a Jesuit in a collar at every table, like the floral arrangement.”

Blatty identified Georgetown University as in his words the leader of the pack of the Catholic colleges, “failing to live up to their Catholic identity.”

So, what’s the most important take-home for this for American evangelicals? Well we need to recognize that most of what is called Christian higher education is no longer even remotely or distantly Christian. The process that these Catholic observers are noting taking place on Catholic University campuses has happened overwhelmingly when it comes to the Christian colleges and universities in this country. And that would include, by the way, almost all of the major institutions of private higher education in this country. Almost all of them were established as officially and confessionally protestant at least in terms of their founding worldview, and they continued for a very long time trafficking off of their Christian reputation, even as they trampled upon Christianity’s doctrines and moral teachings.

But it is also the case that there are still some continuing Christian colleges and universities that take that Christian commitment very seriously and offer a comprehensively Christian and biblical academic preparation for young people. But they are relatively rare. They’re getting thinner and thinner on the ground, and the great danger reflected in this controversy at Georgetown is that Catholic parents and Catholic students will assume that an institution is Catholic simply because it claims a Catholic identity. The same danger comes to evangelical parents and students who may often believe that a college that was established by evangelicals is still in terms of its convictions on doctrine and morality distinctively evangelical. That has to be tested.

But there are two other ancillary observations here. The first is there really are no Catholics who can be all of a sudden surprised about Georgetown University. It has been sending the signals of its liberalization and its secularization for decades now. It’s a little late all of a sudden to catch on. But secondly, when you are listening to the arguments made by Georgetown by the administration describing the University when a university is advertising itself as the most LGBT friendly university in the Catholic world in the United States, you can hardly be surprised that it’s doing its best to live up to its advertising.

The danger of arguing the Peace Cross is anything other than a Christian symbol

Next we shift to another story in the area of Washington D.C. As the New York Times reports,

“Five miles from the United States Supreme Court, a 40-foot-tall World War I memorial in the shape of a cross has stood for nearly a century. Now, it is at the center,” as Emily Baumgaertner says, “of a battle over the separation of church and state that may end up on the court’s docket.”

She goes on to tell us that the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit declared last month that the Peace Cross as it is known in Bladensburg, Maryland and sits on state owned the land of the state has been maintained at public funds is unconstitutional. As Baumgaertner reports, this could lead as a ruling to the fact that the nation is effectively cleansed of memorials on public grounds across the country that could be construed as religious, specifically as Christian. The New York Times piece is sounding the alarm about the fact that the Supreme Court might have to rule on this case, and thus face again a question that it has not only sought to avoid in decades past, but has hopelessly confused in terms of its own decisions. In 2005, the Supreme Court handed down not one but two different decisions in terms of this kind of question, the constitutionality of religious symbols and messaging in public monuments. And the two different decisions based upon cases from two different states led to two different conclusions handed down by what’s supposed to be one Supreme Court.

Several things become very clear in this story. This past weekend I went to Bladensburg, Maryland, in order to see the piece cross for myself, and it’s clear to state the very obvious that it’s a cross. It’s also clear that it was erected as a World War I Memorial, specifically a memorial to the 49 fallen soldiers in American uniform in World War I who had served from Prince George’s County here in Maryland. It was established by a private organization. But it was eventually deeded over to the state, and the state has maintained it for the last several decades. This has lead of course to secularists complaining that a cross in the form of this kind of memorial on public property maintained with public funds, well you’ve guessed it, is an unconstitutional establishment of Christianity as the state religion.

Now I also noted that most of the people driving by the Peace Cross in Bladensburg apparently gave very little attention to it, but this just points to the fact that there are people using the very language included in the New York Times article on the part of one of the legal defenders of the cross who are seeking to cleanse the nation at any cost and at all costs of any kind of overt Christian symbolism that just might be anywhere near public property. One of the constitutional scholars cited in the New York Times article is Douglas Laycock at the University of Virginia Law School. He said that the 2-1 ruling by the three-judge panel was absolutely right. He said that indeed the cross,

“asserts the truth of one religion and, implicitly but necessarily, the falsehood of all other religions. Its secondary meanings,” said the professor, “as in honoring war dead, are entirely derivative of its primary meaning as a symbol of the Resurrection.”

In the arguments made before this Federal Court of Appeals, it was interesting that some of the opponents of the cross said that they would have less concern about a posting of the 10 Commandments because after all Moses was a lawgiver and the government is also a lawgiver. But of course that obscures the fact that the secularists have been doing their very best to also make certain that there is no biblical reference whatsoever even within the precincts of the American judiciary where we might note it is often prominently displayed in public buildings, including the home of the United States Supreme Court.

But the other interesting thing for Christians to note here is not just the fact that secularists have such an allergy, even to Christian symbolism in this culture, that tells us something about the increasing secular hostility, but it also points to the fact that some of the arguments made by the defenders of the Peace Cross should be rather alarming to Christians who believe in the gospel and thus see the cross and the empty tomb as God’s definitive acts, the atonement accomplished for our salvation. And thus Christians, Christians who love the gospel and Christians who thus love the cross can never defend the cross as an essentially secular symbol. But that’s exactly what the defenders of the cross in this case might have to do legally. There can be no question that the historical origin of this particular memorial was a desire by the citizens of Prince George’s County, Maryland to honor the 49 fallen of World War I from their own county. That’s a very dignified and solemn and honorable concern. But it’s clear now that some of the very defenders of that Peace Cross in a now very secular moment are going to have to argue at least constitutionally that even though it’s a Christian cross, it doesn’t actually represent Christianity, not theologically or spiritually.

In this case, even though I disagree with Douglas Laycock’s analysis of whether or not the court ruled rightly, I believe that it did not rule rightly. It is interesting that he said that the secondary meanings of the cross, “as in honoring war dead, are entirely derivative of its primary meaning as a symbol of the Resurrection.”

There is a good bit of theological truth in that statement even if we differ with the legal analysis offered by this professor. So as Christians honestly and understandably press back against the secularist pressure to completely cleanse as in theological or doctrinal cleansing the entire nation of all public references to Christianity, something by the way, that is not only mean-spirited and purely at odds with the American founding in terms of the founders own Christian references, but it is also irrational and it’s something that can’t possibly actually be accomplished. Just try to deny and to destroy and to eradicate every reference to biblical Christianity in American history. But this controversy does serve to remind us that we had better listen to ourselves as we make public arguments. And one of the arguments we must never hear ourselves make is any argument that defends a memorial in the shape of a cross at the expense of the atonement accomplished on the cross and in the empty tomb. Any denial of the power of the cross is just too high a price to pay in order to defend the cross as a war memorial.

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.)

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Justice Alito Challenges Americans to Protect Religious Freedom

Justice Alito is a proven defender of religious liberty. You may recall he authored the court’s opinion in Hobby Lobby, protecting the religious consciences of family-owned businesses. Learn how he’s challenging Americans to protect religious liberty at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito recently gave remarks to a group in New Jersey. His 45-minute presentation proved to be quite sobering.

Justice Alito Challenges Americans to Protect Religious Freedom

Image: Chip Somodevilla

Justice Alito is a proven defender of religious liberty. You may recall he authored the court’s opinion in Hobby Lobby, protecting the religious consciences of family-owned businesses. In other opinions, he has warned of the impact the sexual revolution may inflict upon the religious liberty of Americans.

In his latest remarks, however, Justice Alito told the audience, “You don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. A wind is picking up that is hostile to those with traditional moral beliefs.”

But, the good justice ended with a word of caution and challenge. He said, “We are likely to see pitched battles in courts and Congress, state legislatures and town halls. But the most important fight is for the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans. It is up to all of us to evangelize our fellow Americans about the issue of religious freedom.”

That’s where you and I come in. Freedom—and especially religious freedom—is not a given in human history. It is something each generation must renew for itself. Telling the story of religious liberty, and its blessings, to one another is part of our responsibility as Americans. It’s also how we preserve liberty.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

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I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Halloween’s Dark Side, Georgetown’s Catholic Club & the 500th Reformation Day

We’ll see a resurgence of paganism in a supposedly secular age, we’ll see why Halloween is growing darker and darker, why evangelical Christians should care about what’s happening on a Catholic college campus, and this is the week in which we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

WHAT THE HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN TELLS US ABOUT THE RESURGENCE OF PAGANISM

We live in the midst of a culture that considers itself, defines itself, as secular. It considers itself pervasively secular, and with every passing year increasingly secular, and, yet, as Christians consider that claim, we also have to look at what happens every single year, especially, most recently, on the very last day of October. It’s the holiday that is now so well-known as Halloween. It has ancient roots — we’ll be looking at those in just a moment — but the most important thing to recognize is that it can now be argued that Halloween is the biggest spiritual holiday on the American calendar. Now, in order to make that argument, you have to understand that this society has been ardently secularizing the holidays that have been known as Christmas and Easter, the festival of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. When it comes to the birth of Christ and of the resurrection of Christ, those two central holidays of the church year have now been taken over by a consumer society, and so far as that society is concerned it’s more about Santa Claus and Easter bunnies than anything else. But when it comes to Halloween, we need to note that we are seeing the opposite pattern. We are seeing a holiday that has been re-spiritualized. Indeed, it has been increasingly paganized, repaganized. But of course that’s going back to its roots and before we go there we need to recognize that the issue that is most important for the Christian worldview is understanding what the society increasingly sees as the point of Halloween, and the biggest observation to be made there is that Halloween, in recent decades, has grown ever more dark. It’s darkness has now become the central issue in terms of its cultural fascination, and that cultural fascination also makes Halloween a big consumer event. The annual consumer spending on holidays right now has Christmas still ranked number one, Halloween ranked number two, and Valentine’s Day ranked number three; all the other holidays are distantly behind. That consumer behavior tells us something of what’s going on in terms of these holidays, but the most interesting pattern is the big jump that Halloween has made. Just a matter of a few decades ago, Halloween was a peripheral, rather minimal, American holiday, wasn’t big in terms of retail or consumer behavior. It wasn’t big in terms of cultural impact. It was largely thought of as a holiday for children associated with school parties and childhood trick-or-treating, something very different than what Halloween now represents, and this is caught the attention of those who are taking a close look at American culture.

Historian Nicholas Rogers is the author of the book Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, he’s a professor of history at York University in Canada. He speaks of the rise of Halloween in modern America as a transgressive holiday, that is to say it’s no longer really about children innocently dressed up in costumes, it is rather about adults celebrating and emulating transgressive behavior, morally transgressive behavior, but beyond that, theologically transgressive behavior. It is an opportunity now seized by this society that calls itself secular to demonstrate not only an interest in spirituality, but an interest in specifically pagan forms of spirituality, and amongst those some of the darkest forms.

In his book, Rogers very carefully traces the historical development, most importantly, the pagan roots of what we now know as Halloween. It wasn’t known as Halloween then. Actually interestingly enough, Halloween was the name that was given to this particular season of the year, a three-day period by the medieval Christian church, but long before that you have to go back to ancient European Celtic pagan practices. As Rogers makes clear, this was rooted in the Celtic festival known as Samhain. It is spelled S-A-M-H-A-I-N but pronounced sao-win, and this was a festival that came at the summers end in pagan Europe. As he explains, 

“Paired with the feast of Beltane, which celebrated the life-generating powers of the sun, Samhain beckoned to winter and the dark nights ahead.”

Now, even as we go back to ancient European Celtic paganism in terms of the roots here of Samhain now traced to Halloween, we also need to concede that there is ample documentation of the fact that there were animal and human sacrifices historically associated with that pagan festival. Now there’s also an historical basis documented by some historians to the fact that what we would now call transgressive sexual practices were also a part of the ancient festival and its pagan celebrations, and we would also simply have to note that that wouldn’t be entirely shocking given the sexual practices of ancient paganism that were often associated with festivals of one kind or another. And for that matter, you don’t then just have to go back to pagan Europe into the Celtic practices, you can look at the ancient near East and the Canaanites just for another parallel example.

AS HALLOWEEN GROWS DARKER, CHRISTIANS ARE TO BE PEOPLE OF THE LIGHT

But what gets the attention of many of these secular historians observing American culture today is the big question as to why supposedly postmodern, post-Christian Americans have embraced Halloween and have particularly darkened Halloween with what appears to be a consumer-driven, intentional re-embrace of this ancient paganism — the darkest roots of the holiday and the ancient festival. All of this can basically be traced to the last 30 years or so with the 20th century. As you go into that period, you’ve got something like “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” as the iconic matter of entertainment, but by the time you get to the end of the 20th century, you are looking at “slasher” films and some of the darkest cinematic presentations of evil and of violence that Americans have ever tolerated. But now not merely tolerate but apparently celebrate. It tells us something that this fascination with the occult comes as America has been sliding into post-Christian secularism. While the courts remove all theistic references from America’s public square, the void is being filled with a pervasive fascination with evil, paganism, and even new forms of the occult.

But it’s also of note that both secular and Christian Americans tend to be rather equally unaware of how Samhain became Halloween. That too is an interesting part of the story of the Christian church. During the medieval centuries, the Christian church, medieval Catholicism in particular, began to pick up many of the festivals of the ancient world, especially of ancient Europe and its traditions, and, in effect, embraced them and Christianized them, and the Christian church, in terms of medieval Catholicism, chose a three-day period, which would represent October 31, November 1, and November 2 as a holiday season in the church year known as “All hallow tide.” The three days were identified — I’ll work backwards — as in terms of November 2, “All Souls Day” or “the day of the dear departed,” that’s a day in which the church recognizes the dead; and then, working backwards, November 1, which is “All Saints’ Day,” a day of celebrating the saints officially canonized and recognized by the church; and then October 31, which would be “All Hallows’ Eve,” the eve before All hallows tide involving All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day. But in terms of our modern, secular, and consumer society All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day have been basically disregarded and it’s all come down, oddly enough, to the night before, All Hallows’ Eve, but it is interesting that in this consumer-driven society, re-embracing the dark side of this holiday, it’s interesting to note that All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day have basically been now marginalized, indeed, disregarded, and all the attention is on what historically was the day of preparation for those two days All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween.

A parallel development to this re-darkening of Halloween has been the fact that many Christian parents and Christian churches have become increasingly concerned about the involvement of their children, and, furthermore, their own involvement in any kind of holiday that has now become so expressly and explicitly dark. So embracing of not only transgressive behavior but frankly of pagan and occultic practices. One of the hallmarks of the Christian worldview, of the worldview based in Scripture, is that it and it alone can explain evil in terms of its origin, in terms of its reality, in terms of its threat, and, of course, eventually in terms of its defeat, but that’s the whole point. The Christian biblical understanding of evil is the only worldview that can take evil as seriously as evil deserves, but at the same time it never allows evil to have the last word, and one of the most pervasive and continuous of biblical themes is the absolute prohibition against ever celebrating evil in any of its manifestations. The Christian is not allowed to celebrate evil, is not allowed to celebrate death, and is not allowed to celebrate the darkness, but rather, we are to be a people of the light and we are to celebrate in Christ the victory over evil, and of course the victory over death.

Perhaps there is an inverse relationship between a society’s understanding of the festival of the resurrection on the one hand, and this celebration, this re-darkened pagan celebration of death. In that light, one of the biggest, most important questions we can ask of any worldview is this: Which has the last word, good or evil, life or death? The answer to that question determines everything, and it will be interesting to see how many people knowingly or unknowingly answer that question in their own way on Tuesday.

CATHOLIC STUDENT GROUP AT CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY UNDER FIRE FOR PROMOTING CATHOLIC BELIEFS

But now we shift to Washington DC in the campus of Georgetown University for a story about a meeting that is going to be held today, a big step for that university, a university that goes all the way back to 1787. That is, even before the U.S. Constitution. The university was chartered in 1829. It is the oldest Catholic institution of higher education in the United States, and it is considered to be the premier Jesuit institution of higher learning outside of Rome. Why is this such a big deal for evangelicals? Because just consider the headline that appeared in the Washington Post, “Georgetown Students Have Filed a Discrimination Complaint Against a Campus Group Promoting Heterosexual Marriage.”

We knew that this story had to come. The question was when and the question was where. Well, the answer the first question is now, even today, and the answer to the second question is Georgetown University. That Catholic institution, by the way, is not so important as the meaning of this event. This is not just limited to Catholics in terms of interest; although, there must be many Catholics who are interested in what will take place today, but rather, this raises the huge question for all of us as to whether in this postmodern age, in this age of moral relativism, in this age of legal same-sex marriage, any religious institution can continue in terms of even allowing students to hold to the religious convictions the university supposedly represents.

This is a big story and it just gets more interesting. As the Washington Post reports,

 “A Catholic student group at Georgetown University that promotes the benefits of traditional marriage risks losing its funding and other university benefits after being accused of fostering hatred and intolerance.”

The group’s name mixes English and Latin is known as Love Saxa, and as the Washington Post says,

“[It] advocates for marriage as ‘a monogamous and permanent union between a man and a woman.’”

That’s in the constitution of this student organization at Georgetown University, a university that is formally Catholic, and by its historic identity, Jesuit. A university that as a Catholic university certainly understands that the official catechism of the Roman Catholic Church defines marriage just as this student group does. In other words, what we’re looking at here is the huge question as to whether a Catholic university has any room for Catholic students.

The article in the Washington Post at least sets the issue squarely with these words,

“That definition of marriage happens to be in line with that espoused by the Catholic Church, raising the question of how administrators at Georgetown, the United States’ oldest Catholic and Jesuit institution of higher learning, will handle the controversy if it eventually comes before them.”

What’s going to happen today on the campus, we are told, is that the larger body of student organizations is going to decide whether it will recognize or reject the recognition of Love Saxa as an official student group. If they lose that recognition, they lose a certain amount of funding from the university student affairs budget, but they also find themselves basically identified as a pariah organization, not welcome on campus, not welcome to use rooms, not welcome to advertise their meetings, much less to trumpet and communicate their message. This story just gets more interesting, it gets a lot more interesting, when we see that the immediate controversy arose because of a column published in the Hoya, which is the Georgetown student university newspaper. It was written by the head of Love Saxa, a young woman by the name of Amelia Irvine, she wrote the article beginning,

“I’m a 20-year-old virgin. I know what you probably think about me.” She says, “I’m also the president of Love Saxa, a group dedicated to healthy relationships and sexual integrity.”

She goes on to say that even though the group has been misunderstood, she wants to set the record straight, and this is an organization that is committed to historic Catholic understandings of marriage and sexuality and to chastity, a word that in some of the campus discussion has been openly mocked. In her article, she also said this,

“I will address another highly-debated topic: same-sex marriage. Love Saxa’s definition of marriage does not include same-sex couples, as we believe that marriage is a conjugal union on every level – emotional, spiritual, physical and mental – directed toward caring for biological children. To us, marriage is much more than commitment of love between two consenting adults.”

Now, let’s simply interject here. That’s the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. Shortly after that opinion piece ran in the Hoya, the editors of the student newspaper officially responded in an editorial in which they stated,

“Love Saxa’s constitution also identifies it as ‘a space [for students] to discuss their experiences of the harmful effects of a distorted view of human sexuality and the human person.’”

The editors then said, “By characterizing the LGBTQ experience as ‘a distorted view of human sexuality and the human person,’ Love Saxa has codified a mission that is fundamentally intolerant and hateful.” The editors continued, “Moreover, Love Saxa has also publicized its opposition to the right to marriage for members of the LGBTQ community through its actions.”

They went on to say, indicting the organization that they had dared to have someone on campus to speak like Ryan Anderson, a well-known defender of marriage and a fellow at the Heritage Foundation. The editors then concluded:

“By actively advocating a limited definition of marriage that would concretely take rights away from the LGBTQ community, Love Saxa differentiates itself from other Catholic organizations on campus. Though these other groups may agree with Love Saxa’s definition of marriage, actively and vigorously promoting this definition — one that is directly intolerant of the LGBTQ community — is not a primary focus of their missions, as it appears to be for Love Saxa.”

In other words, this Catholic student organization on the campus of America’s oldest Catholic University, a university that still claims a Catholic identity, this student organization is now being accused of holding beliefs that are, let’s get this straight, absolutely congruent with the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Los Angeles Times recently ran a piece asking the question, “Are Georgetown Students Intolerant for Agreeing With the Pope?”

The words I read from that editorial against Love Saxa in the Hoya are amazing enough, but the editors go on to say:

“Though Georgetown is a Catholic institution that respects the church’s view of marriage, its student groups nevertheless have a responsibility to care for and protect the entire student body.”

Now, let’s just understand what’s going on here. This is what we can only describe as Orwellian doublespeak. It’s the language of saying we respect the Catholic Church’s teaching, but when someone shows up on this campus to teach it, we will not only disrespect them, we will seek to eradicate them from the campus discourse. Of course the background to this also is very interesting, Georgetown University in the 1990s adopted a statement of its Catholic identity as being one of “centered pluralism.”

According to one of the deans there, the centered pluralism means that Catholicism anchors or centers that identity, but that its religious identity is reflected in its students and faculty as pluralistic. So, in other words, pluralism rules. What we see here is Georgetown University openly embracing a non-Catholic identity while simultaneously claiming to be Catholic, claiming to respect the teaching of the Catholic Church, while not respecting anyone who actually teaches that teaching. No doubt some Catholic historians will look back to the secularization of the American Catholic University in an episode such as 1967 in the Land O’ Lakes statement that was adopted under the leadership of the then fairly new president of the University of Notre Dame Father Theodore Hesburgh, and even as there were many Catholics then who understood that it was opening the gate to the secularization of Catholic higher education, well most of them probably couldn’t have imagined a time when a student group at Georgetown University would be accused of the crime of actually holding to classical Catholic teaching.

For evangelical Christians, the big issue to observe here is that this pattern won’t stay on the campus of Georgetown University, we’re going to see this pattern show up again and again because the secularization of higher education, well, it’s not limited to Georgetown University, it’s certainly not limited to Catholic institutions. It is found rather overwhelmingly in institutions that were established unquestionably on historic and confessional Protestant commitments, and what we have seen is the secularization of college after college, university after university, including many that still claim, oddly enough, some continuing Christian, even Protestant identity. They might claim, we’ve seen the formula now at Georgetown, to say that they respect the teaching of the historic church, they just won’t respect anyone who teaches that teaching.

THE REFORMATION AT 500 – ISSUES MOST IMPORTANT THEN REMAIN IMPORTANT NOW

But, of course, invoking that historic confessional Protestantism points to the most important events of this week: The commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation. That commemoration and celebration is going to focus much of our attention this week, and rightly so. I wanted to discuss some these headline stories that we needed to discuss this week in order that during the week we can look not only to the headlines, but also to the meaning of the Protestant Reformation, and understanding the issues that were most important then that turn out to be equally and enduringly important now. Was the Reformation necessary? Was it a failure? Was it effective? Is it over? Those are huge questions, questions that we rightly face at any time, but especially as we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. So while millions and millions of Americans get ready to celebrate Halloween. We’re going to get ready to commemorate one of the most important events in the history of the Christian church. While millions get ready to celebrate paganism, we’re going to celebrate the recovery of the gospel. It’s going to be a most interesting and very full week.

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.)

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A Satanist was imprisoned and fined after defacing a Jewish academy’s religious objects. But he didn’t understand one important truth about religious freedom. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

To Preserve Religious Liberty, We Must Respect Other Religions

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

The students and faculty of the Margolin Hebrew Academy were staying overnight at the Doubletree Hotel in Jackson, Mississippi en route to Gatlinburg, Tennesee. While there, they used a meeting room at the hotel to conduct their Sabbath worship service. A Torah, religious books, and musical instruments were left in the meeting room overnight with the intention of continuing with their worship the following morning.

To Preserve Religious Liberty, We Must Respect Other Religions

Image: Jackson Police Department

Justin Baker, a self-professed anti-Christian, anti-Semitic Satanist, was a security guard at the hotel that night and he discovered the religious objects. He spat on the Torah and defaced the books with profanity and phrases including “Hail Satan.”

Baker was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for his religious discrimination and required to pay $9,999.99 in restitution damages.

And, I somehow doubt he’s employed today as a security guard.

Baker may have been tempted to use religious liberty in a perverse attempt to justify his wicked actions, suggesting his adherence to the religion of Satanism motivated his actions.

He would be wrong.

Religious liberty is not a free pass to do what one likes. It is itself restrained for the good of religion as a whole and the dignity of the person. But, the principals of religious liberty never sanction destroying the property of another. Rather, religious liberty demands that we respect the religions with which we may disagree. When we break that societal, social compact and deny others the freedom to exercise their religion, it is proper for the authorities to enforce the penalties of the law.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

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and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Truth vs. The World – Dog Saver or Human Hater?

It is time for Truth vs. The World, where true stories are exposed so we can laugh and mock them when they need to be so people can grow up and actually deal with truth!

Here is a true story about the world we live in and why it’s a problem:

The daughter of the 8th richest man in the world, Georgina Bloomberg, flew to Puerto Rico on a private jet to rescue 30 stray dogs.

I guess that Sarah McLachlan song got to her!

The 30 dogs on the tiny island of Vieques were flown to the Palm Beach International Airport. (The mail men of Vieques thank you, by the way.) The dogs ended up on the island by flying on a commercial airline originally bound for Kankakee, Illinois.

Truth vs. The World - Dog Saver or Human Hater?

Source: Georgina Bloomberg/Instagram

The dogs were described as “living in poverty”.

Is this a social issue now?

Obviously most dogs live in poverty, still I bet they didn’t pay for that with a credit card!

Georgina flew on a private jet to pick up some dogs, isn’t she concerned about the exhaust and carbon footprint she’s leaving?

When asked if all the dogs would fit comfortable on the Jet she replied, “Of course! There is plenty of room in the overhead compartments!”

Bloomberg’s daughter said she was put on this earth to do good to animals… not humans… not unborn babies… not even starving children or people whose lives were destroyed by disasters… but animals.

As you know on this show we like to make fun of ideas and thoughts because we feel like liberty belongs to us, too. But, we do try to cut to the chase.

What are we really dealing with here?

As much as we love our pets, they do not have the imprint of the Creator on their souls… because they don’t have souls.

Well, maybe that’s the issue, that imprint has been marred in the soul of humanity, so we begin to rescue pets instead of people.

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California’s Fires, Marijuana Crops and Harvey Weinstein from a Christian Worldview

We’ll see one of humanity’s deadliest enemies: fire in northern California; we’ll see just how quickly concern emerged as marijuana crops are going up in smoke; we will see Hollywood expel one of their own leading figures for sexual misbehavior — the very misbehavior they sell in their movies; and we will trace the moral development back to the source.

FIRE IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA: ONE OF HUMANITY’S DEADLIEST ENEMIES

Some the most fast-moving and deadly wildfires in recent American history continue to threaten much of northern California, specifically the area popularly known as wine country. Over 200,000 acres have already been destroyed and much of it is absolutely flattened by the fire. That 200,000 acres is an area 15 times the size of Manhattan, and the fires have been deadly. As of yesterday evening, at least 40 people have been killed and in Sonoma County, California, alone 174 human beings remain missing. You’re looking at the destruction of over 5,700 buildings, houses, and other structures, and you’re looking at a fire that moves so quickly that law enforcement and first responder officials are telling us that many people were trapped by the fire; they were unable to run or for that matter even to drive out of the fires because the fires were moving so quickly. Swept along by high winds and also accelerated by the very unusual dry season that California has experienced just in the last several weeks and months, and that upon what is considered to be a multi-year drought. We can only imagine the anguish and the anxiety there in northern California. Many people lost their homes, others have lost their livelihoods, most devastating of all, some have lost their loved ones, and others do not yet know they have.

One of most haunting figures in the news reports is that 174 people remain missing in Sonoma County. Officials and loved ones there hope and pray that many if not all of those 174 will be found alive, but the fear is that at least some of them will not. Even as these headlines came out of Northern California, other headlines told us of similarly deadly wildfires in the nation of Spain, those fires are believed to have started in Portugal, and back in June of this year forest fires in Portugal — also fast-moving, trapping many people — killed at least 69 people, caused, it is believed, by a dry thunderstorm. Of course, we’re called to pray for all those who are in danger, all of those who suffered loss, our hearts go out to them, and of course we also want to honor those very important first responders. In particular, firefighters and other rescuers who put themselves intentionally in the line of fire in order to save other lives, and one of the interesting things that is going on there in Northern California reminds us of the particular value of human life because all of the major television networks and others covering the fire have made clear that law enforcement and fire officials there have had to make the decision that human life is valuable above all other goods. An entire community of buildings can be lost, it’s the community of persons, of human beings, who are most important, and furthermore, it’s not just a community or a collective of human beings it is every single human life.

It’s very important for us to note an affirmation of the biblical worldview, even amongst persons who do not believe that they hold to anything like the biblical worldview, or even just a residual remainder of it, but you do see in this context of urgency and deadly danger how there is the immediate recognition that human beings, above all others and all else, deserve our utmost and most urgent rescue in consideration. It’s also very humbling for us to recognize that historians make the argument that the development and the control of fire was essential to the very conception of human civilization. Civilization amongst human beings requires the ability to cook food and also the ability to harness fire in order to provide warmth and to use its energy for that which aids human life and even in some senses makes human existence possible, but at the same time fire, which can be such a friend to humanity, can also be such a deadly enemy.

CONCERN EMERGES AS MARIJUANA CROP GOES UP IN SMOKE

When it’s out of control, fire is a deadly contagion that spreads, as we have seen now in northern California, more quickly than the human imagination can even bear, but it’s also really interesting to note how quickly the media get to some other stories. You might think first of all the personal interest stories; those are very important in terms of our understanding of the events, but how’s this for headline? Trevor Hughes, reporting forUSA Today, gives us this story:

“Pot Farmers Fear Crops May go up in Smoke.”

Similarly, Daniel Victor and Maya Salam of the New York Times gives us the headline:

“Northern California’s Marijuana Crop Burns off in Wildfires.”

The story in USA Today begins with these words from Calistoga, California,

“Marijuana farmers and dispensary owners across Northern California are nervously watching as wildfires burn through some of the state’s prime cannabis growing areas and destroy valuable crops, which could drive up prices for consumers across the country.”

Now, given the gravity of what we’re talking about here, isn’t it at least a bit shocking that here you would have a lede paragraph inUSA Today that tells us that the net result of all this, something that should be lost to our attention even now, is the fact that prices for marijuana might go up in the aftermath of the fire.USA Today quoted Eli Melrod, identified as the CEO of Solful Dispensary in Sebastopol, in northern California. He said, “This is right smack in the middle of people’s harvests … It couldn’t have been worse timing, frankly.

The USA Today story goes on to tell us something that was rather shocking to me at least, “A single marijuana plant can be worth up to $5,000, but,” USA Today tells us, “pot growers can’t get crop insurance like traditional farmers or the vintners whose grapevines tend to get most of the attention here.”

The explanation to that comes later in the story where we are reminded that marijuana is still considered a class 1 forbidden and illegal substance by the federal government, and, thus, there is no availability of crop insurance, and furthermore, the entire business of marijuana has to be conducted — to this point — in cash, even in a state like California, which has legalized what they call recreational marijuana. But the USA Today story plus the New York Times story also gives us a very different vantage point of the finances behind what’s going on here. We are told in the USA Today story that the legal business of cannabis there in the state of California brings about $2.76 billion of revenue into the economy; that’s $2.76 billion in terms of the legal cannabis business, but then we turn to the New York Times article published on virtually the same day and it tells us that even as California, “has long been the country’s illicit hub of growing marijuana,” that illegal market in California is estimated to be $7 billion a year. Now you can quickly do the math and understand that the illegal market in California is more than twice the size of what’s considered there to be the legal cannabis growing market, and furthermore, as these articles make clear, a part of the problem is that many of these marijuana growing areas are purposefully hidden within the other vegetation. In other words, they’re right in the middle of the fires. USA Today also quoted Jessica Lilga of Alta Supply, identified as a statewide wholesale cannabis distributer based in Oakland, she said, “It’s just sad that we live in this underground world where we can’t discuss the true extent of the damage.” She went on to say, “All remaining growers who did not literally lose their crops will be affected.”

Now, USA Today also says it is unclear, an interesting choice of words, exactly how many people even work in the cannabis industry in Northern California, and even how many cultivation operations, as they are called, exist. It’s very telling how quickly the mainstream media got to the story of marijuana, even in the context of these very deadly fires. It didn’t take them long to get there. Actually, it didn’t take them long at all.

HOLLYWOOD EXPELS ONE OF ITS OWN LEADING FIGURES FOR THE VERY MISBEHAVIOR IT SELLS IN MOVIES

We will stay in California for the next issue of our concern, which is the expanding and unfolding scandal concerning the fallen Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein. As Brooks Barnes of the New York Times reported on Saturday,

“Hollywood’s de facto governing body, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, voted overwhelmingly on Saturday to “immediately expel” Harvey Weinstein, breaking with 90 years of precedent and turning one of the biggest Oscar players in history into a hall-of-fame pariah.”

Oh, there’s a big story here, but at the center of the story is not just Harvey Weinstein, but Hollywood and the Hollywood culture. Hollywood more than any other collective of people on earth is adept at virtue signaling and even the mainstream media understands that that’s in large part what’s going on right here. Virtue signaling by the 54 member board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The big expansion of the scandal here has to do with the fact that it’s now clear that many people knew that Harvey Weinstein was a serial abuser, a serial sexual abuser of women, and yet they didn’t stop it, they didn’t do anything, they didn’t even talk about it, or least they didn’t talk about it in any way that mattered. The most authoritative sources inside Hollywood and the most influential observers of the culture in the mainstream media are clearly pointing to the fact that there was a conspiracy of silence that involves some of the most significant power figures there in Hollywood. That would include producers, directors, actors, and for that matter just about everyone that’s a part of the entertainment industrial complex, but we also know that that virtue signaling is taking place here because of the language used by the Academy. In their statements in which they said that the vote was “well in excess of the required two-thirds majority.”

The statement from the Academy said:

“We do so not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues, but also to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over. What’s at issue here,” said the statement, “is a deeply troubling problem that has no place in our society.”

Now here’s what’s so important, I’ll give credit to the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, even the Hollywood reporter, some of the most influential news media covering Hollywood; they have understood was going on here. Even as on Saturday, the Academy voted to expel Harvey Weinstein, included in the current and long-standing membership of the Academy are those who have already been known for and even convicted of sexual offenses against women, and in the case of director Roman Polanski, even of sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl. Brooks Barnes of the New York Times gets right to the issue,

“Although largely symbolic, the ouster of Mr. Weinstein from the roughly 8,400-member academy is stunning because the organization is not known to have taken such action before — not when Roman Polanski, a member, pleaded guilty in a sex crime case involving a 13-year-old girl; not when women came forward to accuse Bill Cosby, a member, of sexual assault.”

Barnes went on to make very clear that the Academy, having voted to expel Weinstein on Saturday, continues to have members it has accepted even in the midst of criminal convictions for sexual abuse of a minor, others have admitted to the same without criminal charges and the list of serial sexual abusers in the Academy is evidently both well-known and long-standing.

I go back to the official statement released by the board of governors of the Academy on Saturday when they said,

“the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over.”

Well, it’s not even over for the Academy, and it’s not over, by their own admission. The Academy statement also went on to say that it would “work to establish ethical standards of conduct that all academy members will be expected to exemplify.”

But Jo Ellison writing in the Financial Times of London, points out that the products of the members of the Academy are themselves sexually abusive and predatory. In the words of her column,

“Meanwhile, sexually graphic content and scenes of sexual violence have become so prevalent we barely even notice it any more, let alone feel any outrage.”

She’s talking about movies. She goes on to say:

“Film is bad, but so is television — currently being trumpeted as inhabiting a golden age and funded with huge studio investments.”

As you continue through her column, she ends by saying:

“That the Weinstein narrative has unfolded against the more general debasement of our screen culture [she says it can’t] be a coincidence — it’s a culture that, until last week, [she argues,] was being greenlit, produced and promoted by [Harvey] Weinstein.”

She says he’s only one predator; the entire business is predatory, morally predatory. Furthermore, in his column in yesterday’s edition of the New York Times, Ross Douthat points to the intersection of moral change in music and in the movies in the 1960s and 70s, and he cites the 60s and 70s because in his sickening admission in recent days Harvey Weinstein said:

“I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different.”

Ross Douthat points to the music culture of the 1970s also headquartered there in the Hollywood area and he cited Matthew Walther in his recent article in the magazine The Week, in which he says that much of the entertainment culture of the 1970s, including rock music and Hollywood was “a spree of statutory rape.”

But then, just to make the Christian worldview aspect of this so very revealing, Manohla Dargis, writing in the critics notebook column of the New York Times, offers us this headline at the end of last week:

“Weinstein Is Gone. Hollywood’s Sin Isn’t.”

The important issue here is not so much the article but the appearance of the word “sin” in the headline. Back in the 1970s, the very decade cited by Harvey Weinstein in explaining why he had abused so many women and also by Ross Douthat pointing to the moral change that took place then, in that very decade, the prominent psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote a book entitled Whatever Became of Sin? Dr. Menninger’s point then was that in that very permissive, therapeutic, and increasingly even then secularized culture sin had basically disappeared from popular consciousness in conversation, but now we see that in the year 2017 sin is back in the headline of the New York Times on the front page of the arts section in the critics notebook column. Why? Well the Christian worldview explains it fully. There’s no other word that will do; this is not just miss behavior, this isn’t just a transgressive action, this is a serial sexual abuser and we’re talking here about something that demands the word sin. But of course Christians understand, you don’t have to get to Harvey Weinstein, you don’t even have to get to Hollywood to find the word sin absolutely indispensable and necessary, absolutely accurate in pointing to ourselves as much as any other. But isn’t it interesting that on the one hand, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences kicks out someone for sexual perversity, but lets others remain as full members, even convicted of child sexual abuse, and then turns around and awards Oscars to films that represent sexual abuse and perversity.

I want to go back to the official statement released by the Academy on Saturday that statement in which they said that the Academy wanted “to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over.”

That’s what they said. We will soon find out they meant it.

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.)

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To most people, a pay raise suggests the recognition of hard work and appreciation from your company. However, after organizing his fellow law professors into a union, Sheldon Gelman lost committee appointments and soon his wife, Jean Lifter, was fired. Gelman received a raise, but the number caught everyone’s attention. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

A “Mark of the Beast” Does Not Mean First Amendment Violation

You probably have a similar opinion about pay raises that Sheldon Gelman and Jean Lifter did: they’re symbolic. Do a good job, and an increase in pay suggests that the company is grateful for the effort.

Gelman and Lifter were law professors at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Gelman organized his fellow law professors into a union with the support of Lifter, his wife, and over the objections of management.

The next Spring, the faculty, Gelman included, received a pay raise, but Gelman lost some committee appointments and, soon after, Lifter was terminated altogether.

One wouldn’t think much of it, but the dollar amount on the pay increase caught everyone’s attention. It was too intriguing to be coincidental. The newly organized union faculty received a raise of $666.

Taken alongside Gelman’s loss of committee influence and Lifter’s termination, the numerals seemed to send a message.

Gelman and Lifter sued alleging retaliation against a protected First Amendment freedom. But, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit wasn’t buying it.

There were simple explanations for the pay raise amounting to apocalyptic numbers. And, while Gelman’s union organizing was certainly protected by the First Amendment, there were no facts present to suggest the law school retaliated against him for doing so.

The lesson here is clear: if your paycheck shows the supposed “Mark of the Beast,” don’t assume your employer violated the First Amendment.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. 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.)

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I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Human Sacrifices to end Drought, Abortion and Other Atrocities that the Media Aren’t Discussing

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.

WHEN DID THE KENNEDY FAMILY CHANGE ITS POSITION ON ABORTION?

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.

ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE FLAUNTS PRO-ABORTION POSITION. WHY ARE THE MEDIA IGNORING IT?

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.

THE RISE OF THE OCCULT IN HEADLINES FROM AFRICA

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.

WHAT SALLY QUINN’S FASCINATION WITH THE OCCULT TELLS US ABOUT HIGH SOCIETY AND OURSELVES

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.)

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