The Briefing 05-20-15

The Briefing 05-20-15

The Briefing


May 20, 2015

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


It’s Wednesday, May 20, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Same-sex marriage legalization will reconfigure political, cultural landscape

A series of recent articles points to the deep worldview implications of so many of the headlines now surrounding us. And one of the most urgent of those headlines, recurring it seems almost every day in every newspaper and at every turn, is the expected Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. Linda Greenhouse writing a very important article for the New York Times asked what might be the obvious question: What Comes on the Morning after the Same-Sex Marriage Decision? She writes,

“Let’s assume, as I do, that the Supreme Court finds a constitutional right to same-sex marriage when it decides Obergefell v. Hodges sometime next month. What happens next?”

Now she asked the right question, that’s the essential question for us to think about even before the Supreme Court acts. What will happen next? Now there’s one issue in terms of how we understand the media that also comes into play here; Linda Greenhouse is not masking in any way her support for the legalization of same-sex marriage – that becomes very, very clear. She goes on to ask the question nonetheless, what will happen on the day after or the morning after? She says,

“It may be a morning-after landscape of more confusion than clarity, with some rain falling on the victory parades.”

In particular she identifies what she sees as a problem, the problem of conservative Christians. She says the conservative Christians,

“…claiming victimization by the onrushing tide of marriage equality, [conservative Christians] aren’t like to be deterred in their quest for the right to withhold goods and services from same-sex couples.”

Now one of the most interesting things is why she turns there, why she turns to that particular issue rather than to the issue that actually came up before the Supreme Court in oral arguments. And that issue is the direct collision between same-sex marriage and religious liberty, not just when it comes to those who may be involved in offering goods or public accommodations, but rather religious institutions that are deeply situated in the religious convictions of their sponsoring bodies. That’s a very interesting question, and it tells you how the secular media is focusing on this question.

She also points to a reordered political landscape on the other side of the Supreme Court decision. And interestingly, and with some perception, her main issue is what’s going to happen on the Republican side. Now that’s because there’s no question about what is going to happen on the Democratic side, the Democratic Party and both of the declared candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination are avid and ardent supporters of same-sex marriage. The question is what’s going to happen on the Republican side after the Supreme Court rules? Now again, Linda Greenhouse is assuming, as many are assuming, that the Supreme Court will find a constitutional right to same-sex marriage and thus legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states. She says that what’s going to happen on the Republican side is that you’re going to find Republican presidential candidates who are going to try, in her words, to find something to say that will alienate neither the base of the Republican Party nor the growing majority that supports a right to same-sex marriage.

One of the most interesting dimensions of this article is how clearly Linda Greenhouse comes out publicly in support of same-sex marriage – as if that’s just the default moral position. And she’s probably right if that is the default moral position of the likely readers of the New York Times – certainly of its staff and its editorial board; that’s been made abundantly clear. But it’s also interesting that you have people here on the secular left who are asking big questions about what’s going to happen the day after the Supreme Court rules, what’s going to happen on the other side of this great legal divide, this anticipated judicial decision. She’s right to see a reordered political landscape on the other side, and there’s no doubt that this is going to create an entirely new landscape for Republican presidential candidates. And that’s just symbolic of the fact it’s going to create a new landscape for virtually all Americans – especially for those Americans who believe that marriage must be the union of a man and a woman. Now Americans who hold to a traditional understanding of marriage are going to be set off as a minority who are now opposed by a decision of the United States Supreme Court.

It’s very difficult to overestimate the kind of cultural momentum that will come with that kind of decision. Here you have a secular reporter for the New York Times trying to figure out exactly what it’s going to look like on the other side. The interesting thing she does understand is that Christians who are rooted in biblical conviction can’t change that convictions simply because the Supreme Court has redefine marriage, that’s a crucial insight. It’s also very interesting that she assumes that even as conservative Christians who are committed to a biblical authority aren’t going to be able to change their position, and thus turn on a dime, she expects there will be political candidates who, twisting themselves like pretzels to use her metaphor, will find some way to land in a new position and in relatively short order.

Greenhouse offers her own advice – this is very telling in itself –

“If Republicans understand their own options and interests, they will accept a same-sex marriage ruling as a gift, and find something else to talk about.”

Now once again, here you have the advice that will be given by the secular left to anyone in American public life. If the Supreme Court rules, as they expect the court to rule, then just get over it and change the subject and don’t talk about this anymore. But the final revealing aspect of this very interesting article is where Linda Greenhouse cites Michelangelo Signorile, as she says,

“a well-known gay radio host and blogger, warns against what he calls ‘victory blindness,’”

She then writes,

“…he defines [this] as falling prey to ‘a kind of bedtime story that tells us we’ve reached the promised land.’ Getting beyond ‘mere tolerance’ and winning ‘full equality’ is likely to remain an elusive goal,”

Now why is it so interesting that she cites Michelangelo Signorile? It’s not just because he’s a very prominent gay activist, it is because – even though she doesn’t acknowledge it – Signorile is rather well known for making the argument that same-sex marriage is a way to destroy marriage rather than merely to force the redefinition of it. Signorile sees marriage itself as a repressive institution that needs to be overcome.

In an article he wrote years ago entitled I do, I do, I do, he argued that the gay-rights movement should seize upon the issue of marriage not because marriage itself is really the issue, but because it is a way of destroying heterosexual privilege. So when in her article she cites Signorile warning fellow activists about what he calls victory blindness and pushing on to what he says full equality, well we need to remember what he has himself defined as the ultimate end game, the ultimate goal. That’s not acknowledged in Linda Greenhouse’s article and that, quite obviously, tells us something.

2) Success of gay marriage compared against abortion aggravates abortionists

Next, one of the interesting aspects of our current media culture is that that culture keeps bringing up the issue of same-sex marriage and the related issue of abortion over and over and over again. That is simply a demonstrated and documented fact which leads to some very interesting questioning, such as: what in the word was Robert Putnam speaking about at Georgetown University last week when he suggested that it’s conservative Christians who keep talking about same-sex marriage and abortion? Now to that issue we should simply plead guilty because of the importance of those issues there’s no way we can remain silent about them.

But as you’ll note on The Briefing I’m generally citing a development in the secular media and these developments take place not just by the week, not just by the day, but almost by the minute. And the issues are related; they are not the same issue, but they are related and sometimes it’s really illuminating to see how they are related on the other side of the great moral divide. In order to gain some insight in that other side there is probably no better source than The Nation; that’s one of the most left-wing magazines in America tied for many, many decades to the radical left in terms of American politics.  Katha Pollitt, a very well-known abortion activist, has written an article in a recent issue of The Nation in which she’s trying to explain to the left why in her words marriage trumps abortion.

She’s looking at an interesting phenomena and it’s interesting to us too. Why is it that America has experienced a radical moral revolution on the definition of marriage, but on terms of the abortion issue America is becoming more conservative by almost every measure? More Americans are now pro-life than are pro-choice, and more Americans are now more pro-life even then they were in the past. Katha Pollitt is a very well-known activist for abortion and she is very concerned that America is, in her view, moving in the wrong direction on abortion and moving in the right direction on the question of marriage, and she wants to know why one is happening and not the other.

She actually offers some insightful argument, she says in the first place,

“Marriage equality is about love, romance, commitment, settling down, starting a family. People love love!”

But she says that abortion is not such a winning issue; it doesn’t provide the same kind of picture that those who are advocating for same-sex marriage are able to show the public. She says,

“Reproductive rights, by contrast, is about sex—sexual freedom, the opposite of marriage—in all its messy, …glory. It replaces the image of women as chaste, self-sacrificing mothers dependent on men with that of women as independent, sexual, and maybe not so self-sacrificing.”

She clearly operates from a very interesting worldview, but her analysis does tell us something. And we should recognize that there is actually some crucial insight here. I won’t go through all of her arguments but the most revealing is one you simply need to hear. She says and I quote,

“In marriage equality, there is no loser. But many, including some who call themselves pro-choice, feel that abortion creates a loser: the embryo or fetus. You have to value women a lot to side with the pregnant woman, with all her inevitable complexities and flaws, over the pure potentiality of the future baby.”

Well in response to that paragraph I simply have to say, so close and yet so far. She’s so close to understanding something really, really important here and that is that there is – to state the obvious – a loser in abortion. She considers the unborn child to be of no significance whatsoever and so she’s actually dying that there is any loss in abortion, that this is exactly why the secular left is losing the abortion argument when they make it this way. It is because you can’t have the ultrasound image of an unborn child taped up on the refrigerator door so that all the siblings can see it and show it around to coworkers and then argue that someone else’s unborn child at the same point of development is not an unborn baby – of course it is.

But the language found in that paragraph, though chilling, is one we need to hear. When she refers to the contrast between a pregnant woman on the one hand and then she says “the pure potentiality of the future baby,” you see again she is so close and yet so far. The reason they’re losing this argument is because no one actually looks at that unborn child and sees just pure potentiality – no, what they’re seeing is demonstrated reality, actuality, not just in the future but right now. She does ask a very important question, and one that Christians should think about very seriously: why is the moral momentum on same-sex marriage so different than the moral momentum on abortion? That’s a good question. We would certainly not agree with Katha Pollitt on her answer, her answer nonetheless is very revealing. We do agree with her that she asked an important question.

3) Fertility medicine without a moral worldview induces moral confusion over ‘excess’ embryos

A similar point arises out of an article that was published in recent days at the Washington Post; it’s by Ellen McCarthy and it’s entitled, Fertility Medicine Brings Babies And Tough Decisions. America, as we’ve often discussed, has become the Wild Wild West of advanced reproductive technologies with very few rules – if any in most cases – having to do with the access to reproductive technologies, even at the expense of human dignity. It’s very important that even the Washington Post recognizes this with a major article. It goes to a couple who had created an extra embryo – now remember Katha Pollitt’s term about the pure potentiality of the future baby? Remember that when the Washington Post reports on this embryo as “a potential child.” Actually, over and over again in this article the frozen embryo is referred to as a potential child. Now once again the Christian worldview tells us that it is not merely a potential child, this is a child. It’s a child in a very early stage of development, but it is a human being made in God’s image. It is fully deserving of the protection and the recognition of the sanctity of its life.

McCarthy then reports that this couple is,

“…among thousands of couples and individuals in the United States grappling with difficult choices regarding their stored genetic material. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that more than 600,000 frozen embryos are stored nationwide, in addition to countless more cryo-preserved eggs and sperm.”

Now let that just sink in for a moment. There are over 600,000 frozen human embryos in the United States for which there is no intended purpose. The Post cites Eric Widra who is medical director the Shady Grove Fertility Center who stated the obvious,

“Having embryos in limbo is a huge problem for our field,”

He went on to say,

“Parents are apprehensive or conflicted and don’t know what to do.”

The Post goes on to report,

“Most couples never consider the fate of excess embryos when they start down the path of fertility medicine. Especially for childless pairs longing to conceive, ‘addressing that is not on the list of priorities, many of them take a ‘we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it’ approach.’”

This article demands our attention because the chilling language that is included within it doesn’t appear to be so chilling to at least those who are saying it. Now let me just skip to that part of the story; we read about these excess human embryos and one couple. They were offered options for their so-called excess embryos; the options were to implant them, to offer them for donation to another couple, to pay the hefty annual storage fee, or have them destroyed. The wife said,

“And we did not like those options at all,”

The Post says that would’ve preferred to donate the embryos to science, but there wasn’t availability for that kind of donation at the time. Ultimately, hear the words I want us to hear,

“The couple decided to have the embryos destroyed, as neither felt a strong emotional attachment to them.”

Now as we encounter the headlines every day we come across things that are concerning and some things that are deeply chilling. This is one of those most chilling comments I’ve seen in a very long time. Here you have a couple who has decided to destroy their own embryos, let me read the words again: “as neither felt a strong emotional attachment to them.” So now we see the dignity of human life being minimized and subverted by the fact that here you have a couple that doesn’t feel a strong emotional bond to their own embryos. Well what we’re looking at here is a deep and insidious moral confusion. And yet it is the kind of moral confusion that becomes inevitable when all of these medical technologies arrive without a moral worldview capable of instructing about their use.

One woman described her own decision basically to destroy her own embryos by saying that she brought the vials home “burned some incense, held them and cry,” She said,

“I could’ve had the lab dispose of them, but this felt better to me, for whatever it’s worth.”

Well just imagine her own question: for whatever it’s worth? The human embryos here were destroyed. In this case they were destroyed along with the burning of incense and some tears, but they were destroyed in an intentional act.

Christians need to be very, very careful when it comes to these advanced reproductive technologies and this much is abundantly clear: the Christian worldview would demand that if these assisted reproductive technologies are used and if any embryos are created as a part of these technologies, every single one of the must be transferred to the mother – every single one of them – and this should take place only within the context of marriage. While we’re thinking about the deep moral confusions of our day, indeed the worldview crisis of our day, it’s hard to come up with anything in recent headlines that is quite so demonstrably horrifying at this. In terms of the worldview crisis of our age it is hard to come up with any more graphic example than this article recently published in the Washington Post, and in the picture of these embryos being destroyed –  wantonly destroyed – simply because no one feels – feels – a strong emotional attachment to them.

4) Pro-life politician not so pro-life in his personal life, revealing importance of consistency in life and practice

But finally an article that hits a little closer to home that appeared in this week New York Magazine – again this is coming from the secular left – the headline: Pro-Lifers Change Their Minds When Abortion Gets Personals. It is by Alex Ronan and it’s the article we might avoid but must not avoid because it’s not about the pro-choice side, it’s about the pro-life side. And it’s demonstrating that when it comes to pro-lifers some aren’t nearly as pro-life as they would have us to think.

Ronan points to a controversy emerging from Tennessee where Representative Scott DesJarlais is officially against abortion and recently voted for a restriction on abortion, but has been in the press because he and his wife have had abortions and he at one point had a mistress who he had pressured – according to press reports – to have an abortion. This has been running in much of the secular news. According to New York Magazine when the controversy over the mistress and the abortion emerged in his reelection campaign he said that his mistress wasn’t actually pregnant when he was recorded, indeed he recorded himself, pressuring her to get an abortion for a pregnancy he says didn’t exist. Nonetheless, the controversy does exist.

In his divorce trial, as New York Magazine says,

“[It was] demonstrated that DesJarlais had also supported his ex-wife’s decision to get two abortions before their marriage. He called the first a ‘therapeutic’ abortion because she was on Lupron at the time, which can cause birth defects …. Of the second abortion, he said the couple was struggling and that the abortion was a ‘mutual decision.’”

Why am I raising this article? It is because of the conclusion in New York Magazine. The whole point of this article, written by the secular left for the secular left, is one we desperately and urgently need to hear and that is that many pro-lifers actually aren’t so pro-life when it comes to their own situations. And the final quote in this article is from Jon Pennington who had done a PhD dissertation on the pro-life movement and it is a matter of judgment that we need to hear his final words. He said this,

“Most pro-life women oppose abortion with four exceptions: rape, incest, the life of the mother, and me.”

Now let me just state up front I don’t think at all that is indicative of most pro-lifers, and certainly not of most pro-life women, but it is indicated by the fact that hypocrisy is always crouching at our door. It is always possible to be pro-life in theory but not in practice and that’s the really horrifying thing that we have to face squarely in terms of this article that appeared yesterday in New York Magazine.

The deceitfulness of sin explains why sinners are always looking for an exception to the rule and that exception comes down to that short word that ended that quote: me. But it is not enough to be pro-life in theory, we have to be absolutely consistently urgently pro-life in practice, and that pro-life ethic becomes most crucial and most important when that pro-life issues, as this article says, gets personal. That’s when the worldview most matters.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. 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 We’re taking questions for Ask Anything: Weekend Edition released. Call us with your question, in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058.


I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) Same-sex marriage legalization will reconfigure political, cultural landscape

The Morning After the Same-Sex Marriage Decision, New York Times (Linda Greenhouse)

2) Success of gay marriage compared against abortion aggravates abortionists

There’s a Reason Gay Marriage Is Winning, While Abortion Rights Are Losing, The Nation (Katha Pollitt)

3) Fertility medicine without a moral worldview induces moral confusion over ‘excess’ embryos

Fertility medicine brings babies — and tough decisions, Washington Post (Ellen McCarthy)

4) Pro-life politician not so pro-life in his personal life, revealing importance of consistency in life and practice

Pro-Lifers Change Their Minds When Abortion Gets Personal, New York Magazine (Alex Ronan)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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