The Briefing 06-11-15

The Briefing 06-11-15

The Briefing

June 11, 2015

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


It’s Thursday, June 11, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) As global descent into terrorism continues, al Qaeda is broken by rise of ISIS

Here is a headline to haunt you. The Guardian reported late yesterday that the Isis onslaught has broken al Qaeda. As the report from The Guardian indicates al Qaeda, once the most feared terrorist group around the world, the group credited with and understood to be behind the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States, has not been defeated by forces of freedom and liberty but rather it has now been defeated, according to this report from a major British newspaper, by an even more dangerous terrorist group. The group now known as the Islamic State.

As The Guardian reports,

“Two of al-Qaida’s most important spiritual leaders have told the Guardian that the terror group is no longer a functioning organization after being ripped apart by Isis.”

The Guardian reports that several senior jihadists, especially located right now in Jordan, have indicated that throughout the Middle East al Qaeda has been,

“Drained of recruits and money after losing territory and prestige to its former subordinate division.”

The paper goes on to say,

“The ongoing war between al-Qaida and Isis has left the U.S. struggling to catch up with the tectonic shifts within the global jihadi movement”

This is one of those issues that came to light, especially in recent days, as the President of the United States made the public statement that the U.S. has no comprehensive strategy to fight the Islamic State. We’re looking at a situation that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld described as asymmetrical warfare. This is not the kind of war that the United States and its allies have been prepared to fight in the past. What is perhaps most striking in the present is that we still have no comprehensive military strategy to oppose groups like the Islamic State. And one of the most frightening things we can imagine is that a group of terrorists in its ambitions as clear in its history and as powerful as al Qaeda has now been, to use the words of some of his own leaders, “ripped apart by the Islamic State.”

This is one of those situations in which it seems that one demon is cast out only to be replaced by 70 others. That’s what we’re looking at here. We’re looking at the fact that the dissent into terrorism in terms of the world picture is one that is growing more ominous not less. In that sense the world is growing more dangerous not less, and we’re looking at the fact that when it comes to Islamic terrorism one force that had been feared beyond all others in recent history has now been supplanted by its former subordinate organization that is even more radical, even more dangerous, and an even greater challenge to the American defense strategy. If there’s one central issue that distinguishes the Islamic State from al Qaeda. It is that the Islamic State intends to establish a crusade for territory. It is claiming ambitions in terms of the caliphate; it is trying to establish not only a reputation for terrorism, it is trying to establish a workable state.

2) Contrary nature of abortion training to medical community evidenced by stigma

One of the most interesting journalistic contributions of recent days has been how the Islamic state, once it conquers territory, establishes two different trajectories. On the one hand, it establishes a reputation for terror, often by means of mass public executions; on the other hand it tries to establish a reputation for competence in local government. It is really interesting that we’re watching al Qaeda be ripped apart by the Islamic State. Indeed, according to The Guardian, it’s a process that has already taken place. Al Qaeda, according to this major British newspaper, is really a force no more. Whereas in recent years if we had seen that headline we would’ve thought that was unmitigated good news, we now know that in a fallen world bad news can lead to worse news. In this case, the demise of al Qaeda is at the expense of the rise of an even more dangerous jihadist organization. This has to lead us to look back about 20 years ago to when America thought we were entering a new and certainly safer world. That was an illusion. Now we know it. This headline is proof positive.

An incredibly important article appeared Tuesday at The Atlantic. The headline,

“The Scarcity of Abortion Training in America’s Medical Schools.”

One of the things we’ve remarked on, very common when it comes to the sanctity of human life, is that most doctors, to put the matter bluntly, don’t want to conduct abortions. They do not perform abortions. They don’t want anything to do with the abortion industrial complex. One of the other things that is also clear is that medical students by and large don’t want anything to do with abortion. To put the matter just as clearly as I can imagine, people do not go into medicine in order to kill but rather in order to heal and to save lives and that’s why one of the most interesting moral revelations of our contemporary moment is that even as there are so many people who are ardently pro-abortion and may even call themselves pro-choice, the reality is that most in the medical profession see those who perform abortions as pariahs. They want nothing to do with abortion.

That’s what makes The Atlantic story so interesting. The author of the story is Mara Gordon, who is identified as a resident in family medicine; keep that in mind, at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. In an absolutely amazing sentence, she writes,

“One of the reasons I went to medical school was to become an abortion provider—and, coming from a strongly pro-choice family, to use my medical training to increase abortion access in the U.S.”

That’s remarkable because it’s the only sentence like that I have confronted in years of reading all the literature I can see on the question of abortion. I have never seen someone say that they intentionally went into the medical profession, beginning with medical school through residency and into professional practice merely in order to enter the abortion business. As she continues her essay she writes,

“When I started medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, the culture war surrounding abortion still seemed abstract and far away.”

She writes about the fact that she is living in and received her medical education in a context where geographically, the majority is very pro-choice or pro-abortion. She writes,

“I grew up attending pro-choice rallies with my physician mom in Washington, D.C., and all my parents’ doctor friends supported abortion rights.”

Now what’s really interesting in that particular sentence is that she says her parent’s doctor friends supported abortion rights. She doesn’t say what’s very clear; they’re not actually involved in abortion themselves. That’s what makes her article so interesting. Writing about her own medical education at the University of Pennsylvania. She says,

“My medical education seemed to confirm my false sense that everyone working in healthcare felt the way I did about abortion access: Abortion was discussed in class as openly as blood pressure and diabetes, and spending a day in family-planning clinic was an opt-out, not opt-in, part of our clinical education. Many of my professors who work in family medicine routinely perform abortions for their patients, so when I started to think more seriously about a career in primary care, I assumed that making abortion part of my practice would be an easy decision.”

Then as she makes very clear, she discovered it wasn’t going to be so. She has come to recognize, she says, that there is a stigma that attaches to abortion providers. In her language she said,

“The stigma attached to abortion providers doesn’t just come from clinic protestors or grotesque billboards. It can come from within our own profession, too. It can be overt but it can also be more subtle, like a medical curriculum that doesn’t cover abortion care.”

Now once again, let’s just note where she has taken us in her argument. She tells us that she entered into the medical profession and went to medical school basically in order to become an abortion provider. She also was reassured by her own family context, very pro-abortion, and by her parent’s doctor friends, very pro-abortion at least in theory that abortion was just going to be medicine like any other medical calling. And then she says in her own medical education at the University of Pennsylvania, she had all those assumptions confirmed, but then went you look at the larger picture the confirmation goes away.

In a rather stunning if dated statistic going back to 2005, she says that,

“A survey of U.S. medical schools in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, only 32 percent of respondents said they offer a formal lecture specifically about abortion as part of their OB-GYN rotation, and 23 percent reported “no formal education” about abortion at all.”

So let’s just look at how that’s being defined here. That means that 32% of those who responded to the survey indicated that in the OB-GYN rotation at their medical school there isn’t even a single lecture on abortion – not one. That should tell us something. What it tells me is that most medical schools, most medical school professors, most doctors and most medical students believe that they’re going into the OB-GYN rotation in order to discover how to deliver baby safely, not how to terminate them to kill them in the womb.

In that same survey she cites,

“55 percent”, let’s just state the obvious, that’s a majority, “of medical schools reported that they offered students no clinical exposure to abortion.”

So even though this statistic is dated, it’s evidently the most recent that has been undertaken by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. That should also tell us something and what it tells us is that the majority of medical schools in the United States don’t want anything to do with abortion. And even if she’s talking about her own medical school education, my guess is that it’s a fairly safe assumption that most of the medical faculty at her medical schools don’t want anything to do with abortion.

Mara Gordon, the author of this essay laments the fact that in schools such as the University Of Arizona College of Medicine, abortions have been banned at that public facility since the 1970s and that was upheld by the United States Supreme Court. She goes on to say,

“Several other states, including Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas, also have laws in place that restrict or ban abortions in publicly funded institutions, including state universities.”

Now wait just a minute. She just told us how supposedly pro-abortion the culture of Philadelphia was, now she tells us that in Pennsylvania the law is in place that restricts the use of public facilities for abortions. Gordon cites Emily Garrett, a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota Medical School who said,

“I never would have seen an abortion had I not sought it out.”

Speaking of her own residency that will start in obstetrics and gynecology this summer, she plans to be an abortion provider in the future, but says she was able to come to that decision only through her involvement in an extracurricular student group that arranged shadowing opportunities at a Planned Parenthood.”

Emily Garrett is cited as saying,

“None of the physicians that I worked with [during the required obstetrics and gynecology clinical rotation] performed abortions in their practice.”

What does that tell her? On the one hand the article is really, really sad. It’s hard to imagine the author of this essay going into medicine primarily, if not exclusively, to become an abortion provider. The good news is that most people go into the medical profession, and that’s acknowledge in this article, not to terminate life in the womb, not to kill unborn babies, but rather to do everything to save life, to enhance life, to heal.

It’s also very interesting that this article reveals a disconnect between personal practice and the supposed political posture taken by some of these doctors. Gordon writes about the fact that her parent’s physician friends were supportive of abortion, but evidently they weren’t directly involved in it, at least most of them were not. And that seems to be the case when you look at the statistics. Most doctors, who are even pro-abortion by their political sentiments, turn out to want nothing at all to do with abortion as a matter of their professional practice. That should tell them something. We’ve got a huge battle on our hands for the sanctity of human life. Abortion remains one of the greatest moral scandals faced by humanity at any time and in particular by this generation of Americans. But this article does offer us some good news, an understanding that those who enter the medical profession by and large don’t want anything to do with abortion. And this young woman who does want something to do about abortion, she wants to commit her life to it, sadly and tragically enough, we find that she’s finding herself rather isolated in her own profession and even when it comes to medical school training.

The word that Gordon uses in her article is an important word in terms of the Christian worldview that word is “stigma.” There is a stigma she acknowledges that is attached to abortion and to medical professionals who are involved in abortion. She laments the fact that that stigma exists. But operating out of the biblical worldview, we understand why it does and why it must and why it always will. That’s because there is a permanent and indelible stigma attached to killing an unborn child. Let’s be thankful there is. Let’s pray there always will be.

3) Survey shows worldview positions tend to cluster in professions

Speaking of doctors and worldview issues – The Washington Post, Anna Swanson ran an article with associated church in recent days that is one of the most interesting things I have seen in print in a very long time. Here’s the headline,

“The Most Liberal and Conservative Jobs in America.”

The text of the article is very interesting, the graphics even more so if you go to the link to the webpage today, you’ll find that link and you can see the charts for yourself. Swanson tells us,

“You can probably guess that environmentalists and yoga instructors are more likely to be Democrats — and oil workers to be Republicans. But what about flight attendants, talk show hosts, and neurosurgeons?”

It’s a fascinating lead to a really interesting story. The charts follow the rather customary red blue division in terms of American political and ideological light. With blue meaning, leans left or Democratic and red meaning, leans right or Republican. It turns out when you look at the chart that park rangers are very blue, as are gardeners, chefs, comedians, professional poker players, union organizers, environmental scientists, floral designers, yoga instructors and Episcopal priests, very little surprise there. Leaning right, more conservative, are oil workers, pilots, loggers, motel owners, urologists, plastic surgeons, exterminators, car salesman, homebuilders, plumbers, surgeons, Sheriffs, farmers, cattle feeders, talk show hosts, business owners and neurosurgeons. Why? Well, the chart doesn’t actually explain necessarily why but it does tell us something very interesting from a worldview perspective.

It turns out that birds of a feather actually do work together. There is a clustering when it comes to professions and jobs. Why in the world would taxi drivers overwhelmingly be liberal? But they really are, overwhelmingly according to this chart. But almost as a mere image, professional truck drivers are very conservative. So why is it that conservatives are more likely to be truck drivers and liberals are more likely to be taxi drivers? Well, again, the chart doesn’t explain that. We can come up with some anticipations of why it might be so, some theories. It raises another question, why in the world among medical professionals, among doctors, would there be some such as pediatricians who are mostly liberal and others such as neurosurgeons, urologists and plastic surgeons who are rather more likely to be conservative.

Those in the Armed Forces wearing the American uniform are all more likely to be conservative than liberal, but the Marines in the Air Force turn out to be far more conservative than the Army and the Navy. The chart also ranks those who are in professional sports. This might actually redefine the category for some. But it turns out that the most conservative professional athletes are those involved in golf. The most liberal are professional poker players. In terms of the academic professions, well, they’re almost all really far on the left. As the chart indicates, economists are actually very liberal overall, but they still look conservative compared to anthropologists or for that matter, sociologist, archaeologists and historians.

As Swanson indicates in her text concerning the charts, it does make sense of a worldview perspective; it’s rather predictable that environmentalists and yoga instructors are more likely to be on the left. It’s probably more predictable, we can understand this, why oil workers would be on the right. But it’s really interesting that these charts underline the fact that we tend to cluster in terms of worldview.

Recent sociological work indicates that Americans tend to cluster, that’s the verbiage used by worldview, when it comes to neighborhood and neighborhood associations. We also tend to cluster when it comes to geographic areas, with people far more likely to be conservative in Dallas than in Boston. It turns out that worldview becomes rather predictable and clusterings having to do with geography, sociology, academia. But it’s a little more shocking, perhaps, to realize the extent to which worldview also separates people and brings them together in terms of job classifications and professions. So it turns out that question we were all asked, what do you want to be when you grow up, is more laden with worldview significance than some may realize. For some of these job classifications and professions we don’t know exactly why it matters. But the chart offers rather irrefutable proof that one way or another, evidently it does matter.

4) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar criticizes social injustice of prosperity gospel

Next, in recent days we talked about the dangerous heresy of prosperity theology. There has been good theological analysis, I’m glad to say, coming from biblically minded gospel minded Christians about the danger of prosperity theology. But what makes one essay really interesting of late is that it appeared in Time magazine. It wasn’t written by a theologian, it was written by L.A. Lakers basketball star, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. According to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, prosperity gospel is in his words, “War on the poor.” He says,

“The prosperity gospel is just another battlefront in that war. We could just shrug at the hundreds of thousands who willfully give up their money so their pastors can live in the kind of opulence that rivals that of the Roman Caesars. We could dismiss these worshipful congregants as victims of their own greed. But that would be misreading the situation. While greed may motivate the mansion-dwelling pastors, the congregants are motivated by hope of a better life. This is the same desperate, though misguided, hope that droves Americans to throw away $70.15 billion on lottery tickets in 2014, more than what was spent on sports tickets, books, video games, movie tickets and music combined. Who buys those tickets?” he asks. With one study concluding, “males, blacks, Native Americans, and those who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods” were more likely to play.”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also wrote,

“Americans have always had difficulty reconciling the lofty pursuit of spiritual enlightenment with the worldly hunger for material prosperity, especially if the former rejects the latter.”

He goes on to say,

“According to the purveyors of prosperity gospel, your friends and neighbors will know how righteous you are by the size of your bank account and the make of your car.”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s critique of the prosperity gospel is not itself gospel centered, it is rather socioeconomic but that also is important. One of the scandals of the prosperity theology is that indeed it preys upon people, indeed it rather strategically preys upon disadvantaged people and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is right to see that as a scandal.

But what’s even a bigger scandal is how the prosperity theology becomes a false gospel. That leads people away from the true gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ on the basis of his atonement accomplished for us. But we should also note this, even as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar does not share our concern about the prosperity theology and its evils. We should share his.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. At my website, you’ll find a new article entitled “Which Way, Evangelicals? There is Nowhere to Hide,” dealing with this very strategic week in the life of American evangelicalism on the question of marriage and sexual morality. At the website for The Briefing today, you can also find a number of very important recent articles in the media dealing with these very contemporary and urgent issues. 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) As global descent into terrorism continues, al Qaeda is broken by rise of ISIS

Isis onslaught has broken al-Qaida, its spiritual leaders admit, The Guardian (Spencer Ackerman, Shiv Malik, Ali Younes and Mustafa Khalili)

2) Contrary nature of abortion training to medical community evidenced by stigma

The Scarcity of Abortion Training in America’s Medical Schools, The Atlantic (Mara Gordon)

3) Survey shows worldview positions tend to cluster in professions

The most liberal and conservative jobs in America, Washington Post (Ana Swanson)

4) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar criticizes social injustice of prosperity gospel

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Prosperity Gospel Is War on the Poor, TIME (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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