The Briefing 05-08-14

The Briefing 05-08-14

The Briefing


 May 8, 2014

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


It’s Thursday, May 8, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.


Emily Letts is a 25-year-old abortion counselor at the Cherry Hill Women’s Center in New Jersey. She lives in Philadelphia. She is now becoming very well known in America because of a video; a video that she arranged to make herself. And the video is about her own abortion. Emily Letts, an abortion counselor and she’s also, as she identifies in interviews, a sex educator, decided to educate America about what she called “a happy abortion story,” and she decided to film her own abortion in order to make the point. She’s worked for about the past year at the Cherry Hill Women’s Center, counseling women who were undergoing abortions. She stated in numerous interviews that her original intention was to be interested in birth. She says she has a fascination with birth. She has a friend who was a doula, or birth counselor. But she decided not to become a birth counselor, but an abortion counselor. And as she discovered herself about a year into her experience there at the Cherry Hill Women’s Center, herself pregnant, she decided that she would have an abortion. She would have an abortion and she would have it filmed in order to present, as she has said, “a happy abortion story.” And the most macabre sense of this entire story is this: she really does believe that it is a happy story. She’s quite proud of it. In interviews, she has said that viewing her own video, it just makes her happy to see it. One of her main concerns, she says, is to help women overcome the stigma of abortion. In an interview with Cosmopolitan magazine, she says there are women who experience remorse after an abortion. She says:


I know there are women who feel great remorse. I have seen the tears. Grieving is an important part of a woman’s process, but what I really wanted to address in my video is guilt.


Our society breeds this guilt. We inhale it from all directions. Even women who come to the clinic completely solid in their decision to have an abortion say they feel guilty for not feeling guilty. Even though they know 110 percent that this is the best decision for them, they pressure themselves to feel bad about it.


I didn’t feel bad. I do feel a little irresponsible and embarrassed about not using birth control. I mean, Emily, wake up! What are you doing? I was going against the advice I give to patients all the time. So I had them put an IUD in after the abortion. I was able to learn and move forward. And I am grateful that I can share my story and inspire other women to stop the guilt.



The word guilt used in this context is very important. The secular world and the Christian understanding have an absolute collision over the issue of what guilt is, how guilt functions, and what it should teach us. As a matter of fact, the secular world, especially over the past 150 years, has been at war with the very notion of guilt, and sometimes it’s been at war with itself. The psychiatric and moral revolution represented by figures such as Sigmund Freud, suggested to the Western world and shaped the Western worldview into understanding that the whole issue of guilt is an allusion. It’s a matter of self-loathing. It’s the imposition of a morality that modern, progressive, secular people need obviously to overcome. Guilt, in this sense, is something that is imposed upon us by society, and that guilt that is imposed upon us by society is something that we should seek to overcome. If we have difficulty overcoming it, then we should seek therapy. The Western liberal worldview has been doing its very best to deny that there is an actual moral knowledge inherent in guilt, but, as I said, the modern Western worldview has been at odds with itself at times over this. For instance, what do we do with the Holocaust in the middle of the 20th century? The Western world had decided that guilt had no essential moral content. In other words, the Western liberal worldview has been trying to suggest that there’s no moral knowledge inherent in guilt; that guilt’s simply a matter that can be explained in terms of sociology or psychiatry. And yet the Western world has also had to face the fact that there is undeniable evil, and that evil should produce in the evildoer what can only be described as guilt.


On the other side, the Christian worldview sees guilt as a very important issue of moral knowledge, and that moral knowledge is a self-knowledge. The Bible makes very clear that we are made in God’s image. And to be made in God’s image is to be a moral creature and to have embedded within the very nature of who we are the knowledge that we are the doers of good and evil, and our evil condemns us. In our own hearts—and it’s not just a matter of sociology, it’s not just a matter of some kind of psychiatric projection. It’s a genuine moral knowledge. Now what should we do with it? The Christian worldview says we should come to a clear understanding of the fact that our guilt points to our need for redemption, our need for forgiveness. And as Christians well understand, we come to terms with the fact that we cannot solve this problem ourselves. It can only be solved by another; by one who is sinless. And that point us to the gospel of Jesus Christ, which alone can explain how our guilt can be forgiven; not merely overcome, but forgiven.


Now when you look at the clash of those worldviews just over the issue of guilt, you understand why Emily Letts is so determined, given the fact that she is such an advocate for abortion, to try to find a way to transform abortion into something that no longer brings guilt. But interestingly in these interviews, she’s saying something very, very important. She’s saying the women who come in for abortions generally, essentially feel guilty about it. Some of them even feel guilty for not feeling guilty. Again, that’s testimony to the fact that we are moral creatures made in God’s image and no video is going to overcome that. But it is interesting how this society has decided that this video is something important. It’s something important because if, indeed, you are trying your very best to deny that there is anything morally wrong with abortion and you’re trying to deny that the guilt of someone undergoing an abortion is something that should instruct us morally, then you’re trying to find some way of reframing abortion so that it looks like a happy story. The problem is no matter how good she is at making this video, no matter how happy she appears to be in undergoing this abortion, the reality is that there is guilt written all over this entire project.


In an interview that Emily Letts did with Philadelphia magazine, she says something very revealing. She says:


Yes, I don’t have any guilt. I feel like the reason people are going crazy over my story is because they want it. Women and men have been thirsting for something like this. You don’t have to feel guilty. I feel super great about having an abortion because it was the right decision for my life.


So here’s a woman who says abortion is no big deal morally speaking. “I feel super great about having had an abortion,” she says, and yet she recognizes that not everyone feels that way. And furthermore, she recognizes that many of the women who come in to get abortions, who she thinks should feel super great about having an abortion, don’t feel anything like super great about it. As a matter of fact, they leave the abortion clinic feeling like they had terminated an innocent human life because they have.


But what she has said in those interviews pales in significance to what she says in the video itself, especially in the closing seconds of that haunting video. She says:


It is about a month and a half after the procedure. I feel like I talk to women all the time, and, of course, everyone feels bad about this. Of course, everyone’s going to feel guilty. It’s a given how people should feel about this; that what they’re doing is wrong. I don’t feel like a bad person. I don’t feel sad. I feel in awe of the fact that I can make a baby. I can make a life. I knew that what I was going to do was right because it was right for me and no one else. I just want to share my story.


Well in those words, in the short space of about 100 spoken words, Emily Letts reveals an entire worldview. For instance, she says, “I know everyone’s feeling guilty about this. It’s a given how people should feel about this; that what they’re doing is wrong.” She says she wants to overcome that; that the sense of guilt that women feel over having an abortion is something that is simply imposed upon them by society. But she says, “I don’t feel like a bad person.” She says, “I don’t feel sad.” And then she says this. Her very next words are these: “I feel in awe of the fact that I can make a baby. I can make a life.” So she acknowledges, in just this span of the closing seconds of her video, that what was terminated, what was ended, what was murdered in that abortuary was a human life. Indeed, she each even uses the word baby. She says, in her own words, “I feel in awe of the fact that I can make a baby.” Is that what she thinks she’s done? She’s certainly right that that was a baby, but she is absolutely wrong that she made it. But there’s the worldview. She actually believes that she is not only the moral lord of her life; she believes that she is the creator of life; that she has made a baby. So maybe her worldview is explained by the fact that if she actually believes that she can make a baby, she can unmake that baby, and maybe that’s exactly the kind of protean self-expression that she is reflected here.


But then she goes on to say that that baby was life. “I can make a baby. I can make a life.” It’s almost as if she is saying explicitly, “I can give life and I can take life away.” But in terms of that Promethean self-expression, notice she also says, “I knew that what I was going to do was right.” How did she know that? Listen to her next words: “Because it was right for me and no one else.” A very interesting statement. In other words, her moral universe comes down to herself and herself alone. She’s the maker of life and she’s the taker of life. And she’s the determinator of what is right and wrong, and she says this was right for me and no one else because no one else matters.


Her worldview is also revealed in an interview she gave to Time magazine. She was asked, “Do you understand there’s a huge segment of the population that looks at you as a murderer; that you destroyed life that God created? You can’t deny this was at least potential life and that you ended it.” That’s a rather direct question; recognizing that comes from Time magazine. But Emily Letts then responds:


Yes. I do realize it was potential life. I have a special relationship with my ultrasound. People say it’s weird; it’s my process. I realize it was potential life and I love it in my own special way. I’m not living cavalier. I’m comfortable with my decisions.


So in her own words, Emily Letts says it was potential life. She otherwise says it was just life itself. And then she claims in the most bizarre way to have “a special relationship with my ultrasound,” and then she says that she loves the aborted infant “in my own special way.” In other words, she loved it by killing it. She also must surely recognize the moral insanity in what she’s saying because she also says these words: “People say it sounds weird; it’s my process.” Well what a process it is.


And, frankly, much as you would think that the pro-abortion movement might recoil in at least political horror from this, recognizing that it’s going to have the opposite effect of what was intended, at The Washington Post, Carter Eskew writes a very interesting affirmation, coming from the leading newspaper in the nation’s capital city. He writes this:


Letts, 25, decided not only to have an abortion, but also to film it and put it on YouTube. She did this, she says, to try to clear up some of the lies about the impacts on women’s health of the procedure and to lift some of the guilt that has been laid on women. For too long, those who believe in abortion rights have been playing defense, hiding behind political locutions like “safe, legal and rare.”


Let me point out at this point: the words are not coming from Emily Letts, but from the writer for The Washington Post, Carter Eskew. He continues:


The procedure itself may have come out of the back alleys, but the affirmative case for abortion, the necessary and positive impact it has had on millions of women’s lives who weren’t ready, able or desirous of having a child, has been in a shroud of shame. With her brave actions, Letts lifted it a bit.


Well if you think so Mr. Eskew, you better hope that Americans don’t watch this video because if they do, they’re going to get the opposite message of what was intended.


It doesn’t take much moral insight to recognize that we’re living in a time of widespread grotesque moral confusion. If you need more evidence of that, just consider something that appeared in Sunday’s edition of The New York Times. There’s a new column in The Times. It’s in the Style Section every Sunday. It’s in the Vows Section, but it isn’t about getting married. It’s about getting unmarried. The new column is entitled “Unhitched.” Written by Louise Rafkin, she explains, “In Unhitched, longtime couples tell the story of their relationships, from romance to vows to divorce to life afterward.” In other words, American culture is becoming so habituated to the issue of divorce, it’s becoming so much the normal and normative experience for many people, especially, I guess, the people who are expected to read The New York Times, that The Times has decided that in its Sunday Styles Section, which has been for well over 100 years an indicator of the social elite and its directions and tastes in New York City and beyond, they’ve decided they need a column on being unhitched. And, as you might expect, it’s quite a story. The couple who appears in this week’s edition of Unhitched is Hope Adair and Joe Weeks, identified as both 30. They became involved after graduating from high school. As Rafkin writes:


After college together, they married but divorced less than two years later after realizing they were headed in different directions. In separate phone interviews, Ms. Adair and Mr. Weeks discussed their lives.


So you heard this right. The New York Times is actually calling divorced persons to ask them how they fell in love, how they became married, how they got divorced, and how they’re doing now. They got married and both said the first year was kind of fun, but she said she couldn’t imagine life without him and had pushed for marriage, but he had already made the commitment. The first year was fun, but “though by the time the first year was ending, she wanted to move onto the next phase and focus on career more than community. She really wanted the two of them to live alone.” So in other words, she wanted be married, but she wanted for them to live alone. That became very clear when her next proposal was that they live in the same house, but in different rooms. He didn’t want to do it so, in the words of Louise Rafkin, “She called it.” What did she call? She called divorce. It’s clear that she wanted the divorce and the separation far more than he. That’s honestly displayed in this article. Rafkin asked, “Did you have second thoughts?” “Both thought they might reconcile,” she writes, “but she began to feel angry, making it easier for her to move on, while he wore his wedding ring for almost a year.” “I didn’t know what to do without her.”


Oh and they’re still close; at least to some degree. They talk about once a month, according to the article. They don’t look back in anger. Instead, they both made the point that a lasting marriage should not be the only criteria for success. But that was the point that was made particularly by Hope Adair, the woman in this former marriage. She went on to say, “You wouldn’t say a person is successful at their job if they hated it for 50 years, but stuck with it anyway.” No, Ms. Adair, I don’t guess the word ‘successful’ would fit there, but ‘faithful’ might or honesty in making a vow; something less than frivolous about leaving a marriage after two years because you decided that you were more interested in career that in community and you were just ready to move on.


What we have here is the perfect Exhibit A of what goes on in  society that decides it wants to overcome guilt not only in the issue of the sanctity of life, but on the issue of the sanctity of marriage. And when you think about all the confusions in our culture right now about marriage, many of them, perhaps even most of them, come back to this. When we decided that marriage could be temporary, that the marriage vow could be something that would be made and unmade at convenience, we pretty much decided to redefine marriage entirely, and all these court decisions on the issue of same-sex marriage are just coming back to say, “If you’re going to redefine marriage, we’re going to redefine it.”


Finally, yesterday, most of the major newspapers had headlines about a climate change report that was presented to the White House, and the White House is now presenting to the nation as a cause for major legislative and executive action. The headlines are including those such as found in The Financial Times: “US Warned on Extreme Weather.” As Barney Jopson reports:


The US is not doing enough to adapt to climate change, which is already affecting every corner of America and threatening its supplies of water, food and electricity, according to a report for the White House.

As President Barack Obama seeks to build more support for action on climate change, which he wants to be part of his legacy, a comprehensive assessment blamed it for more extreme heat, wildfires, torrential rains and seasonal allergies.



The report known as the National Climate Assessment included these words:


Despite emerging effects, the pace and extent of adaptation activities are not proportional to the risks to people, property, infrastructure and ecosystems from climate.


Now from a Christian worldview perspective we need to recognize that there could well be something very important to this climate change issue. There could be something here of vital importance to us when we consider our role as stewards of all that God has made, when we understand that the Genesis account gives us not only the responsibility of dominion, but that dominion comes with the responsibility of stewardship. We come to understand that we can’t reject a report like this simply because it tells us something we don’t want to accept.


But even as this report is shrouded in politics, it’s also very short on prescriptions for what exactly might solve the problem and that’s the real problem. When human beings look at a problem of this scale, assuming that the problem is exactly as they define it just for terms of this conversation, the response to it is not at all clear. The report itself says that our response isn’t proportional. Well what could be proportional? We’re not going to turn out the lights and give up heat during the winter. We’re not going to give up CAT scans and hospitals and mass transit. We’re not going to give up those things because they are vital to human health, human happiness, and human flourishing. And furthermore, we need to recognize that around the world the people who do not have those things want them. They want heat for their homes. They want food for their children and they want the kind of things that can only be brought about, at least at this point in technology, by means of that energy that comes by burning fossil fuels. In other words, this kind of report points to the fact that even the United States doesn’t know what to do. And even as the world comes up with continual platforms about what exactly must be done and done now, no nation has lived up to the commitments that they have assigned to themselves, much less to each other. The Kyoto protocols and others continually are moving ground because the politicians claim to achieve some major victory, only to leave the meeting and do virtually nothing of what they have claimed to do.


And if that’s not enough, yesterday’s edition of The New York Times in the business section has an article by Eduardo Porter. It’s the Economics Scene column. The headline is “At the U.N., a Free-for-All on Setting Global Goals.” The United Nations is trying once again to establish sustainable development goals known as SDGs. “The SDGs will provide the overarching narrative for how to make the world function adequately for its inhabitants,” said Jeffrey Sachs, a noted development economist at Columbia University. He’s heading the panel of experts advising the United Nations on this issue. But if you didn’t think the United Nations was already claiming too much authority and overreaching in terms of its mission, consider this as reported by Eduardo Porter:


Goals include mitigating climate change, guaranteeing industrialization and good jobs for all, and promoting peaceful societies and the rule of law. Meeting them might seem like a stretch, considering that so many poor countries failed to reach the last ones, which aimed at straightforward targets like alleviating poverty and reducing infant and maternal mortality.


But then Porter writes:


But the new batch faces extra hurdles. It is much more ambitious. The list so far includes 16 goals, with some 140 specific targets, aimed not merely at helping the poor but at saving the entire world.


I didn’t make that up. Those are his words. Eduardo Porter says the United Nations is trying to come up with a set of goals that will not only help the poor, but save the entire world. And this comes right after he acknowledges that the United Nations failed to meet the last set of goals, which were far more specific, definite, and less ambitious. So after the United Nations declared that it didn’t meet its last set of the goals, it’s coming up with new ones, far more expansive than the old ones. And the new ones aren’t intended just to solve economic, political, and health problems, but to save the world.


Now before we dismiss these goals completely out of hand, Christians need to recognize that many things on this list are not only right, but righteous. It would be a wonderful and good thing if they were accomplished and, furthermore, we should do anything within our power to see them accomplished. But that’s the problem. Some of these things are simply beyond any reach of human activity; certainly even of the United Nations. Certainly when the United Nations says that its goal is not only to solve some definite, limited problems that might be within our reach, but to save the world. That, dear friends at the United Nations, is above your pay grade.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. Remember the release on Saturday of Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. To call with your question in your voice, just call 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1)Emily Letts attempts to undermine moral sense of guilt by filming own abortion

Why I Filmed My Abortion, Cosmopolitan (Emily Letts)

Philly Actress Emily Letts Films Her Abortion for YouTube, Philadelphia Magazine (Victor Fiorillo)

Here’s Why This Woman Filmed Her Own Abortion, TIME (Charlotte Alter)

A brave voice among choice supporters, Washington Post (Carter Eskew)

2) Divorce column furthers cultural redefinition of marriage

With Hindsight in the Rearview Mirror, New York Times (Louise Rafkin)

3) After climate change report, UN takes on goal of saving world

US failing to adapt to climate change threats, says report, Financial Times (Barney Jopson)

At the U.N., a Free-for-All on Setting Global Goals, New York Times (Eduardo Porter)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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