The Briefing 08-13-14

The Briefing 08-13-14

The Briefing


August 13, 2014

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


It’s Wednesday, August 13, 2014.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Where is outrage in the Muslim world over atrocities in Iraq?

What do the Muslims around the world think of all the atrocities being done in Iraq, in Syria, and all over the Arab world at Muslim hands?  What do Muslims around the world think of the attempted genocide of the Yazidis by Isis in Iraq?  What they think about the fact that Muslim regimes are largely eradicating Christianity from the Arab world?  That issue took on a new clarity yesterday when the Vatican released a diplomatic statement asking the Muslim world: Where is the outrage? As The Guardian in Great Britain reports in the statement released yesterday the department in charge of interreligious dialogue of the Vatican said:

“The dramatic situation of the Christians, the Yazidis, and other minority religious and ethnic communities in Iraq demands that religious leaders, and above all Muslim religious leaders, people engaged in inter-religious dialogue and all people of good will take a clear and courageous stance. All must be unanimous in their unambiguous condemnation of these crimes and denounce the invoking of religion to justify them.”

Evangelicals should be rightly concerned that the Vatican is recognized as a nation state and thus exercises a diplomacy.  That issue aside for the moment, what the Vatican said on Tuesday is urgently important, and that raises the big question.  We ask it again. Where is the outrage in the Muslim world?  As The Guardian continues to report, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue said

Isis had committed “and was continuing to commit unspeakable criminal acts”. To reinforce the point, it listed some of the atrocities for which Isis is reported to have been responsible. They included “the massacre of people solely for reasons of their religious adherence”; “the execrable practice[s] of decapitation, crucifixion and hanging of corpses in public places”; “the choice imposed on Christians and Yazidis between conversion to Islam, payment of a tax (jizya) and exodus [or death]”; “the forced expulsion of tens of thousands of people, including children, old people, pregnant women and the sick”; “the abduction of women and girls belonging to the Yazidi and Christian communities as war booty (sabaya)”

Similarly from the United States, the Editorial Board of The Washington Times, in the nation’s capital, asked the very same question: Where is the Muslim outrage?  They pointed to a statement made recently by the Defense Minister of Australia.  He said that what’s going on in Iraq is the gruesome work of lunatics who represent what he called “a shocking misrepresentation of Islam.”  That raises a very obvious question.  If it is the misrepresentation of Islam, where are the Islamic leaders around the world who were saying so?  Indeed, the editorial makes the point that most of those who appear to be defending Islam over against these atrocities are not Muslims, but rather leaders of western liberal democracies.  They ask again, where is the Muslim outrage?  The editors then wrote:

This is an organized army, not a band of lunatics. They boast they will one day raise their black flag over the White House, and they’re attracting support from jihadist Muslims not just from Australia, but from all over the world. The ISIS boasting demonstrates intent, if not a likely prospect, of flag-raising on Pennsylvania Avenue, and extremist recruiting in places like Australia goes well, because responsible Muslims, whether through fear or indifference, remain silent. Muslims who don’t want their religion tarred with the brush of barbarians must speak up now. Raising a loud voice would be a good project for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is always eager to complain of American slights to Muslims.

Their final sentence:

If good Muslims think the crazies are misrepresenting the words and instructions of the Prophet Muhammad, they should say so, loud enough for all to hear. By their silence, they enable the perversion of their faith.

One of the major structural features of Islam is the fact that all branches of Islam separate the world into two different spheres: the world Islam and what is called the world of war.  Faithful Muslims are under an obligation to try to bring the rest of the world under the subjugation to Islamic rule, and that means, the world of war will continue until, according to the Muslim vision, the entire globe as part of the world of Islam.  It is certainly true that the vast majority of Muslims around the world are not active jihadists, but the big question is that raised by this editorial and by the Vatican. Where is the outrage?  Where’s the condemnation of jihad us on the part of other major Muslim leaders, not just the leaders of Western democracies trying to apologize for Islam, but where is the Islamic outrage and where the clear statements of, as the Vatican said, unambiguous condemnation of these atrocities?  That’s a question that needed to be asked, and it needs to be asked over and over again.

2) Abortion continues to be central issue, as efforts to adjust language reveals

Shifting to the United States, The New York Times ran two very important but seemingly unrelated articles on how opposing sides on the abortion issue are struggling with language.  The more interesting article is by Jackie Calmes.  It’s entitled “Advocate Shunned ‘Pro-Choice’ to Expand Message.”  She writes that the pro-choice, pro-abortion movement has been struggling with how to change the language since the pro-choice rhetoric doesn’t appear to have the traction in the contemporary cultural and political context that it once had.  She quotes Susan Staggenborg, a professor at University of Pittsburgh who researchers social movements, who explained it this way.

“‘Choice’ has been extraordinarily successful as a frame for the abortion-rights side because a lot of Americans may not like the idea of abortion but they definitely agree with the idea of choice,”

She continued:

“And they agree that it should be a woman’s choice in consultation with her doctor.”

Historians of the abortion rights movement point out that the movement shifted to the language of choice, rather than language of abortion very early, shortly before the Roe V Wade decision 1973, and they did so for an obvious reason.   The word abortion has inherently negative connotations, perhaps, even more now than was true 1973.   The moment had to move off of the language of abortion.  They had to stop using the word and the word choice seem to be the perfect marketing tool for trying to move public opinion.  And, as this professor said, it has been in that sense extraordinarily successful, and yet, as Jackie Calmes writes:

But by 2010 some abortion-rights activists began to sense in their outreach to young women, whose support was needed

that the word choice, the entire language of choice, was not so effective anymore.  The article cites Janet Colm, the President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Central North Carolina, who said

“The labels we’ve always used about pro-choice and pro-life — they’re outdated and they don’t mean anything,”

In an almost stunning admission within the article, Calmes writes:

Among the findings, according to several people familiar with them [that is the findings of those who are trying to suggest new marketing language quote]: Many young women, when asked whether they were pro-choice or pro-life, said pro-life. Yet they supported the Roe ruling.

Calmes reports that research undertaken by pro-abortion activists indicated that the choice language just didn’t have the traction that it had before.  As she writes

Results also showed the weakness of the pro-choice label… Planned Parenthood took the lead, conducting research on public attitudes throughout 2011 and then presenting the findings to allies in various meetings.

One leader Planned Parenthood said “It definitely was a bit destabilizing when we started.” Some of the older activists in the pro-abortion movement consider the question of language now to be infuriating.  One older activist said “I’m pro-choice and I won’t be bullied into saying anything different. This is nothing but a retreat and a shame!”

According to the article, the new plan to come up with a new form of language for the pro-abortion movement is to concentrate not so much now on choice but on “women’s health,” using that term to encapsulate an entire array of issues they hope will gain the attention, and the support of women.  This tactic and new language has indeed had some electoral success, especially in the last two cycles of elections, but the big issue is reflected in this article comes down to the fact that abortion still continues to be the central issue, and the pro-abortion movement has one huge challenge: it can’t get around the fact that its major impetus and concern is the legalization of abortion.

The other article, that appears to be relatively unconnected to the first, is by Jeremy Peters, and he writes about the fact that the pro-life movement is also struggling with language, not so much what words to use, but how much to say in explaining its position.   The point of his article is that when you look at recent election cycles many pro-life candidates had been trapped by the media in to talking about things that actually aren’t central to the abortion argument, and the advice of these political consultants is very easy to understand: keep it simple, and keep it short.  One of the interesting features of this report in The New York Times, a paper that is avowedly and aggressively pro-abortion, is the fact, and I quote

Polling also shows that large majorities think second-trimester abortions should be illegal.

There is tremendous popular support across the nation for a measure that would ban abortion after the 20 week point of gestation.   The bottom line in the political reality is the bottom line in the moral reality.  The issue is abortion, the sanctity of human life; the issue is the killing of unborn human life, and the fact that there is no way to disguise the agenda of killing with the language of choice.  It’s highly telling that the pro-abortion movement is running into its own exhaustion with the word choice.  It just isn’t functioning as an adequate linguistic fig leaf any longer.

3) Despite federal ruling abortion is not a right ‘like any other’

Over the last several weeks there been some very important abortion cases that reach the federal courts. One of the most important of these reached a federal district court in Alabama, a challenge to Alabama’s law that requires doctors performing abortions to have credentials from a local hospital, along with other considerations.  The federal judge in this case, Myron H. Thompson, declared the states Women’s Health and Safety Act unconstitutional because the law would’ve shut down three of Alabama’s five remaining abortion clinics.  The news coverage about this is itself very revealing.  Just the fact that there are so few abortion clinics in these states is itself of very interesting feature the reality, and it’s extremely telling.  It’s telling because it reveals the moral verdict on abortion that is nearly unanimous on the part of those who actually perform medicine.  The untold story, unrecognized by so many, is that most medical doctors don’t want anything to do with abortion, and that’s why as was pleaded in the case by pro-abortion activists in Alabama, if you require doctors performing abortions to have the kind of credentials that are required by a local hospital, there aren’t going to be any abortionist, and is because the hospitals don’t want to extend those privileges to abortion doctors.

It’s very interesting that virtually all the nation’s leading newspapers The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, almost all of them pointed to this reality.  The fact that those who are arguing that this law must be struck down argued on the basis of the fact that it was unrealistic or wrong to require doctors performing abortions to be credentialed by a local hospital.  But that also points to an even more important moral issue, and that is this, the fact that most doctors don’t want anything to do with abortion or abortionist tells us a great deal about the stigma that remains on abortion in the medical community.  Of course upon consideration, it’s easy to understand why.  The vast majority of doctors going to their profession, they enter their calling, in order to save lives not to take them, in order to heal not to kill. The very reality of abortion is something that can’t be hidden to medical professionals or the hospitals.

Another issue related to the Alabama decision deserves our very close attention.  In an op-ed piece written for The New York Times and published on August 6, that newspaper’s veteran reporter covering the Supreme Court, Linda Greenhouse, wrote a piece entitled “A Right Like Any Other.”  She pointed to Judge Thompson’s decision striking down Alabama’s Women’s Health and Safety Act, and she wrote:

There is so much to say about this remarkable 172-page opinion that it’s hard to know where to begin.

She celebrated the judge’s sweeping decision, and she celebrated especially, the reasoning that he used in his decision.  She concluded her article with these words:

Judges’ willingness to step outside the abortion frame and to weigh, from that broad perspective, whether the abortion right has become unduly burdened is something new and potentially of great value in the struggle to preserve women’s reproductive freedom. Even in the face of cynical and unrelenting political attack, the right to abortion can become stronger the more tightly it is stitched into the constitutional fabric, the more that smart and gutsy judges are willing to treat it as what it is, a right like any other.

Those last words are the words of her title, “A right like any other.”  Her arguments clear.  She’s saying that the right to abortion is a right just like any other, just like the rights that are enumerated, in for instance, the Bill of Rights, but of course abortion is no such thing, and it never has been such a thing, and the Supreme Court did not even rule that it was a right just like any other in the infamous 1973 Roe decision that is the very basis for this kind of argumentation.  As a matter of fact, in the Roe decision the court did find, by a divided vote, the fact that a woman according to the majority’s logic, had what they defined as a constitutional right to an abortion, but not a right just like any other.  Even that pro-abortion decision, the decision that made legal abortion on demand across this country, didn’t make abortion on demand legal at every stage of the pregnancy.  Instead Justice Blackmun, even in his artificial argument he tried to come up with in order to justify his pro-abortion position, in dividing pregnancy into three trimesters and arguing that the state had no right to intervene in the first three months, some right to intervene in the middle three months, and an almost unfettered right to intervene on behalf of the unborn child in the last three months.  One of the reasons that so many recent legislative efforts to curb abortions has been successful is the fact that the Roe v. Wade decision, murderous and atrocious as it is, did not find the declare and unfettered right for a woman to abortion at any time.  It wasn’t, as the court declared, a right just like any other.  The fight to preserve the dignity and sanctity of life will not be over until Roe is reversed, and frankly, not even then.  It won’t be reversed until the moral argument is so pervasive and convincing that women no longer seek an abortion.  But in the meantime, even as pro-abortion is continued to trumpet that Roe is the law of the land, perhaps they ought to read it.  It doesn’t say what they claim.

4) Over-parenting can hinder child’s education

Finally, as millions of American school children head back to the classroom, Amy Joyce wrote a very interesting piece for The Washington Post entitled the “One Thing You Must Do for Your Young Student,” and when she says young student she means very young: elementary school-age children and kindergarten students.  What did she say that parents must do?  Stop doing everything is what she says.  American parents are simply doing so much for their children that previous generations of children learn to do for themselves.  Children are now arriving at school and many of them, of course, are tragically under-parented, but the article by Amy Joyce points to the fact that there are many children who actually over-parented.  Their parents clean their rooms, put everything away, pack all of their things, unpack all of their things, tie their shoes, buckle will them in the car, and do just about everything for them.  It’s an interesting and insightful point about the way many children are being raised in America today by parents who are very committed to their children and very involved in their lives.  The point is very simple and profoundly important to understand.  Sometimes we can harm our children by doing too much for them.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. 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) Where is outrage in the Muslim world over atrocities in Iraq?

Vatican calls on Muslim leaders to condemn Christian persecution in Iraq, The Guardian (John Hooper)

Where is Muslim outrage?, Washington Times (Editorial Board)

2) Abortion continues to be central issue, as efforts to adjust language reveals

Advocates Shun ‘Pro-Choice’ to Expand Message, New York Times (Jackie Calmes)

Conservatives Hone Script to Light a Fire Over Abortion, New York Times (Jeremy W. Peters)

3) Despite federal ruling abortion is not a right ‘like any other’

Federal judge rules Alabama abortion law unconstitutional, Los Angeles Times (Alana Semuels)

Alabama’s Requirement for Abortion Clinic Doctors Is Ruled Unconstitutional, New York Times (Erik Eckholm)

Federal Judge Finds Alabama Abortion Law Unconstitutional, Wall Street Journal (Cameron McWhirter)

Federal judge: Alabama can’t enforce its new abortion law, Washington Post (Abby Ohlheiser)

A Right Like Any Other, New York Times (Linda Greenhouse)

4) Over-parenting can hinder child’s education

The one thing you must do for your young student Washington Post (Amy Joyce)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me using the contact form. Follow regular updates on Twitter at @albertmohler.

Subscribe via email for daily Briefings and more (unsubscribe at any time).