The Briefing 10-10-14

The Briefing 10-10-14

The Briefing


October 10, 2014

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


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

1) Assisted suicide plan of 29-year-old illustrates cultural demand for autonomy over end of life

Bill Briggs, reporting for NBC News begins the story this way;

“If everything goes as planned in her life, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard’s death will occur on Saturday Nov. 1 — in her bed, on an upper floor of her Portland, Oregon home, with cherished music filling the room.

Lately, though, [according to Briggs] nothing in Maynard’s life has flowed like she once dreamed — no children with her newlywed husband, no more time. She has brain cancer, grade 4 glioblastoma. In April, a doctor told her she had six months to live.”

Brittany Maynard is now on the front page of many the nation’s newspapers, and not only the United States, but far beyond. Her decision to end her life on November 1 of this year is caught the attention of many people around the world, and by her own effort in recent weeks, she’s become a symbol of the effort to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. Her own plan to end her life on November 1 is an indication of just where we have come as a nation in this discussion; because many people point to Brittney main art and the fact that she is a 29-year-old young woman and point to the fact that this just might get young people interested in the euthanasia issue as they have not been previously. Again, Bill Briggs, reporting for NBC News, he says that Maynard made three choices that are in his words, “elevating her final days to viral immortality” –  speaking of the viral in this case having to social media, not an infectious disease.

He says,

She moved with her husband, Dan, from San Francisco to Oregon — one of five states where doctors can legally prescribe life-ending drugs to the dying. She obtained the two bottles of lethal pills and selected the precise moment, place, guests and soundtrack for her last breaths. And she posted the reasons for all this in a video that, as of [Wednesday], had received more than 5 million views.”

That’s the use of the word viral. It has to do with her video, and it’s a video with a message. In the video Brittany Maynard says,

“I can’t even tell you the amount of relief that it provides me to know that I don’t have to die the way it’s been described to me, that my brain tumor would take me on its own. I hope to pass in peace. The reason to consider life and what’s of value is to make sure you’re not missing out. Seize the day. What’s important to you? What do you care about? What matters? Pursue that. Forget the rest.”

Her husband’s voice also appears on the video he says death with dignity allows for people who are in the predicament of facing a lot of suffering that they can decide when enough is enough.

Then Briggs reports,

“Advocates in the “death-with-dignity” cause — a decades-long push to give more Americans access to legal, end-of-life options — view Maynard’s crusade as “a tipping point.” They assert she seems to be engaging scores of younger people who likely never mulled this tortuous issue, typically faced by older folks.”

NBC cites Barbara Coombs Lee, president of the group known as Compassion and Choices, identified as a national nonprofit dedicated to expanding the rights of the terminally ill;

“This movement is gaining traction by the hour… You have had Stephen Hawking saying, ‘I want this option,’ and Desmond Tutu saying he is devoting the last years to death with dignity. Then, suddenly, here’s this thing with Brittany, and you say: ‘It’s really happening. The tide has turned.'”

Well time will tell if the case of Brittany Maynard is the kind of tipping point to some of the advocates of euthanasia and assisted suicide are hoping for. But that remains to be seen, because this kind of cultural change reveals itself over time, not in an immediate flash of headlines. But there’s really something interesting in the statement by Barbara Coombs Lee, the president of the group the names itself Compassion and Choices.

In her first illustration she says, “You have had Stephen Hawking saying, ‘I want this option.’” That’s very revealing because as you read the autobiographical materials from Stephen Hawking and other biographies about him, you come to understand that it was decades ago that he received a diagnosis of a terminal disease, and was given a very short amount of time to live. If he had followed the advice that many of the advocates of euthanasia and assisted suicide are now offering, he would’ve exited this world a long time ago. Thankfully he has not, and that just points to the fact that even when people try to pull out illustrations for their cause of euthanasia, many of them actually make profoundly the opposite point. You’ll note that as NBC reported, Brittany Maynard left California for Oregon because Oregon is one of the states in the US that has legal assisted suicide. Recent reports indicate that up to 750 people in that state have committed suicide in accordance with that law.

NBC report for Oregon ranks among the states with the highest suicide rates that came from Jennifer Popik, who is the legislative counsel for the National Right to Life committee, and she calls every one of these assisted suicides a preventable tragedy. In her comments,

“While the case of Brittany Maynard is tragic, the fact of the matter is that in the states where doctor-prescribed suicide is legal and records are kept, most people seek suicide not because they are experiencing pain from illness, but because they feel like they are becoming a burden or losing autonomy,”

It is at this point to the Christian worldview demands of the take a closer look at the assisted suicide movement, at the calls for euthanasia and understand what is really at stake. For one thing, one of the things we certainly come to understand is that when the sanctity of human life is compromised at one end-of-life spectrum in particular prenatal life, the unborn life, it inevitably becomes discounted at the other end as well. For instance, even the advocates of abortion and the pro-abortion movement concede that there are financial issues – they often cite them themselves in terms of the causation for abortion. But financial concerns also play a large part of the end-of-life spectrum, especially when there are calls for assisted suicide and euthanasia. One of the major arguments put forth in the European context is that there are far too many elderly people and others in advanced stages of disease using up too many scarce medical resources. And of course, you also have the implication that those who continue receiving these treatments become a burden on the society. Perhaps even a burden on their own loved ones.

No one can read the story of Brittany Maynard without understanding the sheer tragedy of all of this. The tragedy of a life at age 29 cut short by this kind of disease shortly after she was married, interrupting and in fact, ending her hopes to have children with her new husband, and to continue along a normal lifespan. The tragedy here is undeniable and we certainly respond with sympathy to this young woman and her loved ones. But we need to look at exactly what is being plotted here. It is a suicide. And the suicide that is plotted here is being accompanied with plans for who’s going to be in the room where exactly she will be, how the room is to be set up, and what is to be the soundtrack of her suicide.

One of the things has become clear in the experience of the states of Oregon and Washington by their own government reports is that most of the people who been seeking assisted suicide by means of this new legislation are not in the final stages of cancer, they’re not doing so because of untreatable pain – they’re doing so because they sense that they are losing autonomy, or that they’re becoming a financial burden, or they do not want to allow themselves to get into the end stages of disease where other kinds of things can happen that they want to avoid. But other medical doctor suggested the appropriate response should be palliative care. Palliative care that would relieve those who are at any stage of this kind of disease of the worst aspects of suffering. And furthermore, we almost all know people who received the diagnosis of a terminal illness and were told that they had only a few months to live, and many of them years later are still quite alive.

One of the things the Christian worldview reminds us of is that we are simply not sovereign over our lives. We’re not sovereign over our birth not one of us decided to be born and in terms of our death. It is a new thing made possible only by a radically secularizing society in which you have a mass movement calling for our own individual right of determination in terms of the end of our lives.

We can hardly imagine even fathom the sadness of the heart of the situation and is compounded by the fact that at least in terms of the media reports this is taking place in an entirely secular context. But Brittany Maynard’s decision to end her life and the way she is publicizing this decision with all of its choices and all of its preplanning made very clear, this points to the fact that there are hard questions that are now pressed upon us. At what point would it be right for an individual this kind of diagnosis to commit suicide? At what point would one enter into this kind of understanding and make these arrangements? At what point? When would it be too early? When might it be too late? One of the hard questions has to do with the fact that so many people are celebrating the elaborate plans this young woman has made for her suicide. This is the kind of thing that was plotted in some ways by the ancient Greeks, whom we are told sometimes plan to their desk with inordinate kinds of detail in order to surround themselves with the kind of people, the kind of experiences, even the kind of music they wanted at the end of their life.

But in terms of the Christian understanding of death, it is not understood in these terms. It is not something that is supposed to be planned and plotted with this kind of aesthetic consideration. For one thing – and this is absolutely fundamental to the Christian worldview – death is understood as the enemy. One of the signs of a radically and rapidly secularizing culture is that death is increasingly embraced not as enemy but as friend, as liberation, as means of escape. The Christian worldview understands that death is the enemy, that our mortality is indeed a result of God’s judgment and his wrath upon human sinfulness. And we also come to understand that the only way that death can be transformed is through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only those who are in Christ can understand what it means or death, not to be the end, but rather the beginning, and for death be transformed into sleeping as Jesus said, and waiting.

But one thing is certain, the Christian worldview also reminds us that when faced with a story like this; our response must be to pray for Brittany Maynard and all those who love her. And not only to pray for her and to pray for her healing and recovery, but also to pray issue will have an opportunity to hear the gospel, the word about life out of death, which is a word she, and every single one of us desperately needs to hear right now.

2) Canadian Christian’s job rejection reveals profound intolerance towards Christians

Next, the vast cultural change now taking place, especially in terms of morality, is revealing itself in some very interesting and some very deeply troubling headlines. Here’s one from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, just across our northern border. The article by Natalie Clancy has the headline “Trinity Western grant attacked for being Christian in job rejection.” This is one of those stories that hardly seems to be possibly real and yet the closer you look at it, the more real it clearly becomes an visiting published in the official leading most influential media source in the entire nation of Canada, the CBC.

Natalie Clancy reports,

“A Trinity Western University [that’s an evangelical university in Canada] says she was “attacked” over her religion by a Norwegian wilderness tourism company, just for applying for a job.

Bethany Paquette claims her application to work in Canada’s North for Amaruk Wilderness Corp. was rejected because she’s Christian.”

She is an experienced river rafting guide and she applied to be a wilderness guide for the company’s Canadian operations in the North. She says she was shocked when she read her rejection email that was sent to her by Olaf Amundsen, the company’s hiring manager. He wrote that Bethany wasn’t qualified and “unlike Trinity Western University, we embrace diversity, and the right of people to sleep with or marry whoever they want.”

So hear you have the hiring manager of a Norwegian company doing business in Canada, turning down a young experienced river guide not so much because she’s inexperienced – though that’s what they claim –  but as the correspondence from the hiring manager makes very clear, because of her evangelical identity and the fact that she graduated from one of Canada’s very rare evangelical universities.

There at Trinity Western, students have to agree to a covenant for having sexual intimacy outside heterosexual marriage, and that is led to no end of controversy in Canada, where the quest of Trinity Western’s law school for accreditation has run into all kinds of controversy. But actually the email that was sent by the hiring manager of this company in Norway to Bethany Paquette is even more revealing than the previous words have indicated.

He also wrote, and I quote,

The Norse background of most of the guys at the management level means that we are not a Christian organization, and most of us actually  see Christianity as having destroyed our culture, tradition and way of life.”

Well, what might be that way of life? Well it turns out they identify themselves as Vikings and Norsemen, and they suggest that it was Christianity (which by the way, was willingly embraced by the Norwegian people) they’re suggesting that Christianity meantt the end of that ancient lifestyle and worldview, and thus, as they say, Christianity destroyed our culture, tradition and way of life.

But what’s really important about that statement is that it’s becoming rather typical of some of the things coming out of Norway and beyond that Scandinavia and even generalized to Europe as a whole. And because Canada so closely identified with Europe, culturally speaking, we shouldn’t be surprised at the same arguments now showing up there. The CBC reports that Paquette wrote Amundsen back defending her faith saying,

“your disagreement with Trinity Western University, simply because they do not support sex outside of marriage, can in fact be noted as discrimination of approximately 76 per cent of the world population!!! Wow, that’s a lot of diverse people that you don’t embrace!”

She then concluded her email with ‘God bless.’ It clearly irritated Amundsen, who wrote back describing himself as “a Viking with a PhD in Norse culture. So propaganda is lost on me.” He also ended the email writing,

“‘God bless’ is very offensive to me and yet another sign of your attempts to impose your religious views on me.

“I do not want to be blessed by some guy… who has been the very reason for the most horrendous abuses and human rights violations in the history of the human race.”

Now, again, in this post-Christian age, we shouldn’t be all surprise of people hold to this worldview, or that there even talking in these terms, but for this to show up in official correspondence about employment with a major Norwegian company operating in Canada, this is far more revealing the just hearing this on the bus or in the subway is to people might be talking.

But just when you think it can’t get worse, it does, because in an email exchange that followed on the World Wide Web, the co-CEO of the very company responded to the controversy by saying,

“Trinity Western University believes that two men loving each other is wrong… we believe a man ending up with another man is probably the best thing that could happen to him… [He goes on to say,] But we do not force these views onto other people, and we are completely fine if a guy decided to go the emasculation route by marrying a B.C. woman.”

Now, again, this kind of language wouldn’t even be worthy of our attention but for the fact that it is revealed in official employment context in Canada. When the provincial Civil Liberties Association began to look into the situation Amundsen responded saying that Bethany Paquette’s job application had been rejected,

“solely based on the fact that she did not meet the minimum requirements of the position…[He then continued] Any further discussion after that, including the fact that we strongly disagree with the position that gay people should not be allowed to marry or even engage in sexual relationships, would have been a mere expression of opinion.”

Well it’s an expression of opinion all right but now it’s going to go into the legal process in Canada, where the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal is expected to review the situation very soon. But the real shock in Canada isn’t that these things were said these kinds of opinions are becoming more and more common, but rather that they were said in the context of an employment conversation and that raises it to a whole new level. That’s the only reason is made the Canadian media and that’s really the only reason is come to our attention as well. But it gets down to the basic point, the when you hear this kind of thing in this kind of context, you realize that this hiring director simply say what many others are surely thinking.

3) Discipline of KY Christian t-shirt company shows tolerance only extended in one direction by secular society

Meanwhile this week in Lexington, Kentucky a T-shirt company known as Hands On Originals was found to have discriminated against the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington when it refused to print the group’s Lexington Pride Festival T-shirts in the year 2012. That as the result of a human rights process that came to a conclusion this week. Cheryl Truman, reporting for the Lexington Herald-Leader says that now this company must agree if it’s going to do business in Lexington not to discriminate, and furthermore its employees are going to have to undergo diversity training within the next year. Hands On Originals told the tribunal that it declined a T-shirt order because it’s a Christian company and it disagreed with the message of the shirt. The shirt was a stylized 5 on the front, on the back was Lexington Pride Festival and a list of sponsors of the gay pride event.

But the Lexington Fayette Urban County Human Rights Ccommission released on Tuesday morning its judgment that Hands On Originals is in violation law is going to have to be in compliance with the law if it’s going to stay in business in Lexington. And of course, as I said earlier, its employees are now going to have to undergo diversity training, which is a form of ideological intimidation, and one that is intended to be just that. But you’ll notice something else here… Assume that there’s a company very similar to this one, that isn’t run and owned by Christians from an evangelical worldview, but rather by a same-sex couple. Would they then be required to print T-shirts that would be in violation of their own moral principles and their own moral judgment? That’s the current conundrum in our post-Christian culture. Those who are arguing for toleration become very intolerant when they’re in the position to judge what’s tolerant and what’s not. As in so many cases the regime of tolerance defines tolerance in only one direction.

4) Pew study indicates belief in God most significant factor in differing parental values

And speaking of tolerance, in recent days, the Pew Research Center’s come out with a major study on parents and the kinds of values there trying to inculcate in their children and what makes this really interesting is that the parents, not the children were evaluated in terms of their worldview. And as it turns out those who are very liberal and those who are very conservative tend to agree that one of the values that should be instilled in children is responsibility, and another one is a work ethic. Basically everyone across the political spectrum is in agreement at least that far. But when it comes to that word ‘tolerance’ it turns out that liberal parents, identified in the study is consistently liberal, tolerance is one of the main values they want to see in their children, whereas conservative parent put tolerance in a very different category.

But the most revealing part of the study isn’t about tolerance and it isn’t about responsibility and it isn’t about a work ethic. It’s about a as is defined in the study. It’s about religious belief. As the Pew Report reveals, the starkest ideological differences are over the importance of teaching religious faith. Among those who have consistently conservative attitudes across a range of political values, 81% think it’s especially important for children to be taught religious faith, 59% say for the three most important of the 12 qualities included in the study. Only by half, that’s 54%, of those with mixed ideological views say it’s important to teach children religious faith. 29% say is most important. But among those who are consistently liberal, just 26% rate the teaching of religious faith is especially important and only 11% regard it as among the most important child-rearing qualities.

Thus says Pew,

“the relationship between ideology and opinions about the importance of teaching religious faith is partly, but not wholly, explained by the strong association between religious affiliation and ideological consistency.[This gets really important.] About four in 10 consistent liberals are religiously unaffiliated, compared with just 6% of consistent conservatives, however, differences among ideological groups in these opinions hold even after controlling for religious affiliation and demographic factors.”

What does that mean? That means you can look at this study and you can look at the categories of very liberal and very conservative, identified and labeled here is consistently liberal and consistently conservative, and you can actually an almost direct correlation say secular and the less secular. It turns out that the gradation and political ideology here between consistently liberal and consistently conservative is also the gradation between very religious and exceedingly secular.

Once again we really shouldn’t be surprised by that, because it just points to the fact that most individuals over time actually worked towards consistency in worldview, not so much because of the determined intellectual effort to become consistent, but because the more they think through these issues, the more they have to make decisions based on their worldview, the more the worldview tends to come together as a cohesive whole. And in America, as this report from the Pew Research Center points out, those who are in the consistently liberal category tend also to be consistently secular, and those in the consistently conservative category tend also to be consistently religious.

Once again, Christians have a good explanation for that, because if you hold to revealed religion, then you really see the revealed truth of their religion as the very foundation of life. Not an interesting beginning point for discussion, but rather as the very word of God. That’s the great distinction in the worldview cleavage of our day. It shows up an issue after issue, but time and again, and in this case were helped by the Pew Research Center to see it, it comes back to the basic divide; theism. Belief or unbelief in God.

5) Family dining habits reveal inversion of authority in secular culture

And finally, as the week comes to an end, how about a story that brings together worldview, tolerance, parenting – just about everything you can imagine – secularization, morality, all-in-one, here it is. And the headline “When chicken fingers come off the Menu.” It’s written by Pamela Paul; it’s in the Food section of this week’s New York Times, and Pamela Paul writes about the fact that she has a friend who just happened to mention that her seven-year-old daughter had gone vegan.

“I stifled a sigh of relief [she said]. Thank God I’m not raising children in Brooklyn…. What a fool I was. This summer, my 9-year-old returned from sleep-away camp a vegetarian.”

The amazing thing about this article is not just that appeared in the New York Times, but that it was intended to be taken seriously. This is a worldview evidently shared by many readers, if not most of the New York Times in which it makes sense for an eight-year-old, a seven-year-old, a nine-year-old, to show up and declare him or herself a vegan or vegetarian and declare that mom and the entire household is to come to terms with this new moral and dietary reality.

Pamela Paul writes about herself. She says,

“I fear I am doomed to turn into the dreaded Restaurant Mom, tailoring meal planning to each of my children’s fancies. For the most part,[ she says] my other two kids continue to live in a world of chicken and cheese, though pasta now comes with turkey meatballs or chicken sausage on the side.”

The actual content of the article doesn’t demand much more of our attention, but what does demand our attention is that evidently for a very large sector of the readership of the New York Times. It makes sense for an elementary school child to show up and declare him or herself a vegan and say to mom deal with it. I can just imagine how that would’ve gone over in my home growing up.

This just shows the inversion of authority between parents and children that now marks so much of America’s secular culture. This inversion of authority means that it is parents have to come to terms with the children rather than children having to come to terms with the parents. And if indeed we had American moms turning in the restaurant moms, it’s because they allow their children to order off of the menu. That’s the problem in the first place. I can guarantee my mother never had such a concept.

But perhaps nothing else, this new story indicates that are parenting styles and our worldview come into an intersection in the oddest place on her child’s play with what they do we or they don’t eat or what they at least at this point, won’t eat. And it just might be that it’s at the dinner table such as anywhere else where we really find out who’s in charge.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information to my website at: before 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 on Monday for The Briefing

Podcast Transcript

1) Assisted suicide plan of 29-year-old illustrates cultural demand for autonomy over end of life

Why Newlywed Brittany Maynard Is Ending Her Life in Three Weeks, NBC News (Bill Briggs)

2) Canadian Christian’s job rejection reveals profound intolerance towards Christians

Trinity Western grad ‘attacked’ for being Christian in job rejection, CBC News (Natalie Clancy)

3) Discipline of KY Christian t-shirt company shows tolerance only extended in one direction by secular society

Hands On Originals discriminated against gay organization, hearing officer rules, Lexington Herald-Leader (Cheryl Truman)

4) Pew study indicates belief in God most significant factor in differing parental values

Families may differ, but they share common values on parenting, Pew Research Center (Kim Parker)

5) Family dining habits reveal inversion of authority in secular culture

Chicken Fingers Are Off the Menu, New York Times (Pamela Paul)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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