The Briefing 04-01-15

The Briefing 04-01-15

The Briefing


April 1, 2015

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


It’s Wednesday, April 1, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Anniversary of Terri Schiavo’s death reminder of how much ground culture of death has gained

Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the death of Terri Schiavo. She catapulted to national prominence in the year 2003 – that was 13 years after she had experienced what is now believed to have been a heart attack and after that point she was described as being in a persistent vegetative state. She was 26 years old when she had the heart attack, and of course 13 years later she found herself the symbol of an entire set of controversies over the end of life.

In 2003 her husband sought to disconnect her feeding tube which would lead inevitably to her death. The argument was that an individual diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state was unable to make end-of-life decisions that could be made by others, including the removal of the feeding tube. And yet one of the things we have learned in the 10 years after the death of Terri Schiavo is that some persistent vegetative states are actually reversible. In a very well-known case one young man who would have been in a persistent vegetative state for some time later emerged from that diagnosis. Now there are two questions that come immediately to mind: was that individual actually in a persistent vegetative state? Is a persistent vegetative state ever reversible? The answer to that may not be known. It may be outside the reach of modern science, but one thing is clear, either some people diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state actually are not or there are persons who have been in a persistent vegetative state who have responded to medical treatment and eventually have come out of that state.

In any event, the biblical worldview reminds us that we do not determine that someone is no longer a human being deserving of the dignity and sanctity of human life when one enters even into a persistent vegetative state. Even many Christians who understand how the sanctity of human life applies to a question like abortion are unclear as to how it applies at the other end of the life stage or life development at the end of life. And yet consistent pro-life ethic understands that it is our responsibility to contend for the dignity and sanctity of human life in every set of conditions, at every stage of development, regardless of the state of consciousness.

That is a very important issue, and many Christians actually don’t think that through. That’s why when it came to the year 2003 when Terri Schiavo’s husband won a court ruling that he could have control over her destiny and ordered the withdrawal of her feeding tube, that’s why there were many Christians who were confused about where one should stand on the issue.

In 2004 the issue took yet another turn as was reported by Beth Reinhard in Monday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal. Ms. Schiavo was 26 years old in 1990 when a heart attack left her in what court appointed doctors called a persistent vegetative state. After her husband Michael won the right to remove her feeding tube in 2003 Mr. Bush – that is then Gov. Jeb Bush – fast-track a state law overriding the court ruling. The tube was quickly reinserted. But the Florida Supreme Court struck down Terri’s law in 2004, at that point Gov. Bush reached out to then President Bush and there was an effort at the national level to achieve a legislative intervention. But eventually the decision was decided by a non-decision of the US Supreme Court when the High Court refused to take the case. At that point all the legal and legislative appeals had thus far been exhausted and the feeding tube was removed. And it was 10 years ago yesterday that Terri Schiavo died.

One of the interesting things to watch in terms of contemporary developments is how very few people even wanted to go back and remember that anniversary of Terri Schiavo’s death. That tells you how fast some people in our society want to get past all of these issues. That tells you also why there is so much traction these days for euthanasia and assisted suicide in many circles. And it tells you why – looking back over the span about 10 years – we come to understand that far more ground than we might like to think has to be reclaimed for the sanctity of human life.

2) Indiana Gov. proposes revision to law, reception reveals collision of worldviews

Yesterday afternoon national media reported that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is calling for the legislature of that state to revise the law – the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – that has led to so much national controversy. Richard Pérez-Peña reporting for the New York Times says the governor said,

“I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses the right to discriminate against anyone,”

One of the things need to watch very carefully is how language is being used; not just in terms of the governor statement, but in the entire controversy across our culture. The statement is being made, it was made by Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple in the Washington Post, it’s been made by many editorialists around the country, it’s been made by many people just in casual conversation, the statement is: ‘we do not discriminate against anyone.’ That statement, on its face, is a lie. It is fundamentally false. Every sane person discriminates in some way. Employers don’t hire just anyone, the Secret Service doesn’t just allow anyone to be a Secret Service agent –  although that theory has been recently tested – Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and virtually any other university don’t allow just anyone entrance into its freshman class, and people discriminate on many grounds including grounds of sexual morality.

Just consider the fact that polygamy is still illegal in most jurisdictions, and there are other laws still in the books, still supported by the vast majority of American citizens, when it comes to sexual morality. Discrimination takes place all the time. We actually congratulate some people on their discriminating taste, and I think just about any sane parent to say the very least would discriminate when it comes to hiring a babysitter. But when it comes to someone saying ‘we don’t discriminate against anyone at any time’ what you can count on, that is really being meant, is ‘we’re not discriminating on the ground of the current cultural controversy.’ And when it comes to statement like that right now, it is generally a reference to the fact that we don’t discriminate on the basis of marital status, or when it comes to sexual issues related to LBGT issues, or to the related set of controversies. That’s what’s really being stated.

Let’s be honest, we all know that’s what the Gov. of Indiana means and we all know that he is responding to other people (including the CEO of Apple) who said we don’t discriminate against anyone for any reason. By the way, Apple discriminates against some apps for its phones – including apps that represent Christianity and a biblical worldview when it comes to human sexuality. Apple as it turns out, does discriminate. And let’s just point to the obvious, not just anyone can work for Apple.

But what we’re talking about right now is that given the piling on we’ve been noting in recent days on The Briefing on this issue, the state of Indiana is feeling the heat to the point that it’s Gov. says ‘we’re going to bow to corporate interest, we’re going to bow to the Republican mayor of Indianapolis calling for the change, we’re going to bow to all kinds of conventions that are now threatening not to come, and we’re going to bow to pressure from groups like the NCAA and say we will make the law clear, so that it is evident that no business will be allowed to discriminate against anyone.’ Let me just say the bottom, line the obvious fact is, whatever revision comes to this law it will not accomplish what the governor said. But that doesn’t mean it won’t accomplish what the governor meant. That’s one of the very coded issues in a cultural controversy like this.

But in terms of how a law like this can be understood or misunderstood, represented or misrepresented, just consider competing editorials in yesterday’s edition of two of the most important newspapers in the country – indeed in the world. On the one hand, the New York Times, on the other, the Wall Street Journal. The New York Times has an editorial yesterday entitled, Religion as a Cover for Bigotry and the editors write,

“It is true that the law does not, as some opponents claim, specifically permit businesses to refuse to serve gays and lesbians. Its drafters were too smart to make that explicit. Instead, the law allows individuals or corporations facing discrimination lawsuits to claim that serving gays and lesbians ‘substantially’ burdens their religious freedom.”

Well, intellectual honesty compels us to admit that businesses facing this kind of discrimination claim might be able to make that kind of argument, but there’s absolutely no evidence that that would be a winning argument in court. There is no evidence whatsoever that this law would actually have that effect. And let’s just point to the obvious, the laws in effect nationally, it hasn’t had that affect; the laws in effect in the District of Columbia, it hasn’t had that affect. The law is effective right now in the state of Connecticut whose governor said he wouldn’t send state employees to Indiana. And yet it hasn’t had that effect. But you wouldn’t know that from reading many reports in the national media and many editorials like this one. The editors of the New York Times went on to conclude,

“The freedom to exercise one’s religion is not under assault in Indiana, or anywhere else in the country.”

That’s an amazing statement given some of the things going on, but it perfectly reflects – I’m sure – the worldview and the analysis of the editorial board of the New York Times. They went on to say,

“Religious people — including Christians, who continue to make up the majority of Americans — may worship however they wish and say whatever they like.”

Well there you see the constriction of religious liberty, the redefinition of religious liberty. We noted that one opinion writer for the New York Times, Frank Bruni, had actually written – you might say he said right out loud – that religious liberty should be confined to our places of worship, to our homes, and to our hearts; in other words, no public consequence. That’s basically what the editors of the New York Times said again yesterday. They said Christians may continue to worship however they wish and say whatever they like. So we have freedom of worship, so they say, which is not the same thing as religious liberty, and we have freedom of speech they concede, but when it comes to actually acting on behalf of our faith and any number of policy issues, you’ll notice that religious liberty here simply disappears – it has been defined out.

The editors concluded their editorial,

“But religion should not be allowed to serve as a cover for discrimination in the public sphere. In the past, racial discrimination was also justified by religious beliefs, yet businesses may not refuse service to customers because of their race. Such behavior should be no more tolerable when it is based on sexual orientation.”

There is one sense in which every Christian operating out of a biblical worldview should agree with the essence of that statement, but what’s really going on here is the one-to-one equivalents of racial discrimination and discrimination on the basis of sexual behavior. And what we need to note is that even those who write this editorial will continue, on some grounds, to discriminate on the basis of sexual behavior.

The other editorial appeared also yesterday in the pages of the Wall Street Journal; it was entitled The New Intolerance and the editors write,

“In the increasingly bitter battle between religious liberty and the liberal political agenda, religion is losing.”

So from the very first sentence, it’s evident that this editorial board is taking the opposite position and opposite understanding of the issue. The editors went on to say,

“Witness the media and political wrath raining down upon Indiana because the state dared to pass an allegedly anti-gay Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The question fair-minded Americans should ask before casting the first stone is who is really being intolerant.”

To the credit of the editors of the Wall Street Journal, they actually talk about the law. They write,

“The Indiana law is a version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that passed 97-3 in the Senate and that Bill Clinton signed in 1993. Both the federal and Indiana laws require courts to administer a balancing test when reviewing cases that implicate the free exercise of religion.

[That is] individuals must show that their religious liberty has been ‘substantially burdened,’ and the government must demonstrate its actions represent the least restrictive means to achieve a ‘compelling’ state interest.”

Now when you look at the Wall Street Journal editorial it ends, as you would expect, even as it began, taking the exact opposite position of the New York Times. That’s one clear evidence by the way, that Christians need to read more broadly than one media source because if you’re looking at just these two newspapers it’s not only the editorial pages, but inevitably other portions of the newspaper that will also reflects a very different worldview – and an informed Christian needs to be looking at more than one source of the news. But the editors of the Wall Street Journal also point to the very real factor that it was the Hobby Lobby case recently passed by the United States Supreme Court that has really, in large part, changed the way the left is responding to this law.

It is a perfect storm of the combination of the legalization of same-sex marriage, which comes with the ascendancy of those pushing that moral revolution, and the issue of the Hobby Lobby case in which the Religious Freedom Restoration Act at the federal level played such an important role. Those on the left in this country were absolutely appalled that the Supreme Court would rule in favor of Hobby Lobby, and yet that’s exactly what happened and it wouldn’t have happened without the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. And so what we’re looking at here is a head-on collision, not only between two editorial boards but two worldviews and that’s what’s really important in terms of our understanding.

Furthermore, opinion writer David Brooks of the New York Times, who himself supports the legalization of same-sex marriage, accuses those on the political left and those who are furthering the LGBT political agenda, of adopting a new and very dangerous intolerance when it comes to evangelical Christians Orthodox Jews. As he writes and I quote,

“…if there is no attempt to balance religious liberty and civil rights, the cause of gay rights will be associated with coercion, not liberation. Some people have lost their jobs for expressing opposition to gay marriage. There are too many stories like the Oregon bakery that may have to pay a $150,000 fine because it preferred not to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony. A movement that stands for tolerance does not want to be on the side of a government that compels a photographer who is an evangelical Christian to shoot a same-sex wedding that he would rather avoid.”

Well to state the obvious, evidently David Brooks is not looking at the same movement because this movement does, very decidedly, want to say to that the photographer does not have the right to act upon Christian conviction when it comes to a same-sex wedding.

3) Spa-like abortion clinic exposes lingering stigma against abortion in culture

Next, a very chilling article that appeared in Monday’s edition of the Washington Post by Sandhya Somashekhar. The articles headline is chilling enough; here it is and I quote, New Spa-like Abortion Clinic Is Part of a Trend to De-stigmatize the Procedure. Now recall that this is found in Monday’s edition of the Washington Post, the most influential newspaper in the nation’s capital. And the story is bylined there, it is reporting upon a set of medical clinics that appears in the Washington area; it’s known as Carafem. And as Somashekhar writes,

“With its natural wood floors and plush upholstery, Carafem aims to feel more like a spa than a medical clinic. But the slick ads set to go up in Metro stations across the Washington region leave nothing to doubt: ‘Abortion. Yeah, we do that.’”

Somashekhar explains: the clinic, opening this week in Tony Friendship Heights, specializes in the abortion pill and will be unique for its advertising. Its unabashed approach also reflects a new push to de-stigmatize the nation’s most controversial medical procedure by,

“…talking about it openly and unapologetically.”

This is a trend we’ve been watching; numerous interviews, videos, and books have been coming out with similar kinds of arguments. But as Somashekhar says,

“Plagued by political setbacks in recent years, abortion rights activists are seeking to normalize abortion, to put a human face on the women getting the procedure and, in some cases, even putting a positive spin on it.”

So just three paragraphs into the article this is what we know: we now have abortion clinics that are trying to advertise themselves with such frank language as this, “Abortion. Yeah, we do that.” They are also trying to style themselves as if they are spas and not medical clinics. And the unabashed approach, as the Washington Post makes clear, is an effort to de-stigmatize abortion. And even as Somashekhar says, to put a positive spin on what is described as the nation’s most controversial medical procedure.

Now let’s just notice something. You’ll notice whose absent from this article, the unborn baby; simply absent. The issue of abortion is reduced to a controversial – even if the most controversial – medical procedure commonly conducted in the United States. And when we’re talking about abortion, we here are confronting a public relations effort that comes along with a spa styled abortion clinic that is intended to remove the stigma of abortion.

Another interesting insight: from this article it is clear there is still a stigma attached to abortion. That’s something for which we should be very thankful and we should ponder why that stigma still attaches to abortion. There aren’t too many doctors who want to advertise that they are abortionists; indeed the effort is now underway in some states to require residents to have to do a rotation that would include abortion because so many of them, in some reports described as a vast majority of them, actually don’t even want training in abortion. They’re not going to medical school in order to become abortionists; they’re going to medical school in order to save lives and heal, not in order to terminate lives in the womb.

What we’re confronting in this article is an effort to de-stigmatize abortion because the stigma is still there. It is because even as the advocates of abortion understand Americans, though they may not by a majority support the repeal of the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, they still believe that there is something inherently wrong with an abortion. There is a stigma attached to it because even in our fallen state and in our confusion there is still in an innate understanding that the inhabitants of the womb are not simply an ‘it’ but a ‘thou.’ Not simply a biomass, but a forming human being; indeed a human being. And one of the things we are looking at is the fact that that knowledge simply refuses to go away.

Now this is a very chilling article because it tells us just how intent upon moral change, even on the issue the sanctity and dignity of human life, many in our culture are. There are few things I can imagine that are more macabre and frightening than an abortion clinic that is being styled like a spa. It certainly tells us something that the Carafem Pres. Christopher Purdy says to the Washington Post,

“We don’t want to talk in hushed tones, we use the A-word.”

Well, even calling it the “a-word” means that they don’t always use the “a-word.”

Melissa S. Grant, identify as vice president of health services for the clinic said,

“It was important for us to try to present an upgraded, almost spa-like feel,”

Just remember, that even by the definition of this firm that says it doesn’t decline to use the “a-word,” what they’re talking about is the intentional termination of an unborn human life. The President of the firm announced that he hopes, if successful, he’ll expand his model to other states. He then says,

“It’s fresh, it’s modern, it’s clean, it’s caring. That’s the brand we’re trying to create.”

Yes, and the Germans during the Holocaust claimed that they were achieving new levels of efficiency in killing. Just change the word efficiency to fresh, modern, clean, and caring. Let’s just point out that what we’re talking about here, again, is the killing of a human baby.

As I stated from time to time some articles appear that seem to be almost assuredly unreal, but this one is all too real, it appeared not in some satirical news site but rather in the pages of the Washington Post. The moral character of a nation, it’s basic worldview, is revealed in what becomes possible. Here’s the bad news: in America, it is now possible to read a story in the Washington Post that tells us, right out loud, of an abortion clinic made to look just like a spa.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. Remember the release of Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Call with your question in your voice to 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 more 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) Anniversary of Terri Schiavo’s death reminder of how much ground culture of death has gained

On Schiavo Case, Bush Treads Lightly, Wall Street Journal (Beth Reinhard)

2) Indiana Gov. proposes revision to law, reception reveals collision of worldviews

Indiana Governor, Mike Pence, Asks for Changes in Religious Freedom Law, New York Times (Richard Pérez-Peña)

In Indiana, Using Religion as a Cover for Bigotry, New York Times (Editorial Board)

The New Intolerance, Wall Street Journal (Editorial Board)

Religious Liberty and Equality, New York Times (David Brooks)

3) Spa-like abortion clinic exposes lingering stigma against abortion in culture

New spa-like abortion clinic is part of a trend to de-stigmatize the procedure, Washington Post (Sandhya Somashekhar)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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