The Briefing 04-18-16
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Monday, April 18, 2016. I'm Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian world view.
Deadly earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador tragically remind of inestimable value of human life
The earth shook in a deadly and devastating fashion on both sides of the Pacific on Saturday. In a single day, two great earthquakes, both registering over 7.0 on the Richter scale, struck in the nations of Japan and Ecuador. The earthquake in Ecuador was particularly deadly, with at least 246 dead and many, many wounded. In Japan, the death toll was 42, but the situation in Japan is complicated by the fact that so many people had to leave their buildings and have not been able to reenter in a region of Japan that is right now suffering from a very acute cold.
What we're looking at here is that earthquakes are among the most deadly and devastating natural occurrences. What we know is that throughout human history, earthquakes have often come and destroyed entire cities. They have wiped out massive populations, and they are not all that unusual.
We need to note seismologists looking at the occurrence of these two earthquakes in two different nations on the same day 9,000 miles apart, seismologists assure us that that is not particularly unusual, that there are between 10 and 30 of these earthquakes of this magnitude in a given year somewhere on the earth's surface. It was, however, a chilling reminder of what can happen when an earthquake strikes, in this case, two of them in two different nations on a single day.
This reminds us of course that the earth's surface is itself in motion. As Henry Fountain reported for the New York Times, the two types of earthquakes revealed this past Saturday, both of them deadly, are actually very different in form. As he tells us, the earthquake in Ecuador rated at a 7.8 on the Richter scale is what is identified as a "classic mega thrust event." It is a type that was first identified in 1964, identified with a massive earthquake that took place in the American state of Alaska. The paper goes on to say,
"A mega thrust quake occurs in the boundary zone where one of the planet's tectonic plates is sliding under another, a process called subduction."
We can actually picture how this would take place. Two massive plates on the earth's surface come into pressure against one another. Eventually, the pressure builds and one of these plates will go upwards and the other will go downwards. When that plate goes upwards, that is the site where this kind of earthquake takes place, and they are often exceedingly violent. These particular earthquakes can bring massive devastation and a very high death toll. The death toll in that earthquake in 1964 in Alaska would have been absolutely monumental had the state been more densely populated. These mega thrust quakes are considered to be the most powerful, including the two most powerful earthquakes yet measured; they included the 1964 Alaskan quake, that was at 9.2 in magnitude, and the one in coastal Chile that took place in 1960, a magnitude of 9.5.
That explains the Ecuadorian earthquake, but the earthquake in Japan was of a different type. It is known as a strike slip earthquake, and that takes place according to a very different kind of geological activity. The mega thrust quake in Ecuador came from very deep in the earth's surface. The earthquake in Japan came at a more shallow level. Now that's not to say that Japan doesn't suffer from the kind of mega thrust quake that affected Ecuador. As a matter of fact, we will all remember in 2011, the massive quake that affected that nation so devastatingly.
From a Christian worldview perspective, there's something really important in this paragraph in the New York Times article. I quote:
"Sometimes it seems that earthquakes are increasing in frequency because as instrumentation improves and more people occupy more parts of the world, more quakes make the news. The two earthquakes on Saturday both occurred in heavily populated areas with media and communications networks, so word got out quickly and easily."
Listen to this sentence:
"If one had occurred in the middle of the ocean, few people would have noticed."
Now from a biblical worldview, what this tells us is the singular importance of human life. It tells us what the scriptural worldview tells us, that God created human beings as the apex of his creative activity, creating the one creature made in His own image, the only creature who can define an earthquake, the only creature who can measure it, the only creature who will philosophize about it. Other creatures are affected by earthquakes, but only human beings made in the image of God are able to ponder them, but this also affirms the value of human life.
The reason we speak of these quakes as tragedies is because they did affect human life and that, though very sad, is an affirmation of the fact that human life has a certain sanctity and dignity that is marked by no other part of creation. Earthquakes and other natural occurrences of this deadly variety are reminders of what it means for all of creation to groan as the book of Romans tells us in Chapter 8, awaiting the appearing of the sons of God, that is, the coming of the kingdom of Christ. Until then, this world that as the hymn tells us includes many dangerous toils and snares includes among those dangers earthquakes. These two earthquakes happening on just a single day affecting so many in two different nations 9,000 miles apart is a testimony to a world that is groaning for redemption.
Obama's executive authority on trial in the immigration case before the Supreme Court
Next, attention will turn today to the United States Supreme Court where the Obama Administration will be before the nation's highest court defending President Obama's executive orders on the issue of immigration. There were two, in particular, executive orders handed down by the President in 2012 and 2014. The first was known as DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. As the press reports, that offers temporary protection from deportation and work permits to unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States before they reach the age of 16.
The other program announced in 2014 was an expanded version of that known as DAPA, or the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans. It offered similar protections, not to those who came to America before age 16, but rather to their parents. As we are told, that executive order offered similar benefits to unauthorized immigrant, parents with legal resident children who have been here since the year 2010. This national story and the national attention that will be directed to the Supreme Court today may obscure the fact that there are not really two questions before the Court, there is a single question before the Court, and that is the executive authority of the President.
Many people in the press and otherwise will discuss this as an immigration case and, in one sense, of course it is because immigration is the issue that is the substance of the President's executive orders that are now challenged in the Court. But of course, the issue of immigration is not going to be decided in this case of the United States Supreme Court. What is going to be decided are two executive orders handed down by one president.
Now the background to this and how it ended up before the nation's highest court is that 26 states have filed against the President of the United States for acting outside his Constitutional limitations in handing down these executive orders contravening, they argue, the power of the states and also the power of Congress.
Meanwhile, on the other side, 16 states have joined in supporting the President, so the President of the United States is now going to be making his case before the Supreme Court. Of course the President doesn't do that in person, he'll be represented by his Administration Solicitor General, but there are also face-offs between two different groups of American states—twenty-six on the one hand arguing that the President has exceeded his Constitutional responsibility, and 16 on the other saying that they want the President's executive orders to stand.
Now before turning to the issue of immigration, looking at the Constitutional question of the President's executive authority we need to note that there has been a tendency in recent presidential administrations to press the boundary in terms of that Constitutional limitation. But no incumbent president has come close to what President Obama has done in offering executive orders, handing them down through his administration when he has expressed frustration with Congress for either not acting or for not acting as he had intended. The 26 states that have challenged the President on this issue are arguing very strongly that the President has exceeded the Constitution and that, if this practice is left unchecked, the President can become basically an Emperor, handing down executive orders where the matters are left to legislation by the states or the United States Congress.
The President is going to be arguing that he has the Constitutional authority to hand down these executive orders, and the political background is that the President has grown increasingly frustrated at the fact that Congress, now with the Republican majorities in both houses and the majority of the states on this issue have not accepted the arguments on immigration that he has offered.
The worldview background to this includes the fact that the separation of powers written into the United States Constitution that limits the Court, that limits the Congress, and that limits the President to constitutionally-defined spheres of influence and responsibility and to constitutionally-limited powers—that separation of powers is vital because of our understanding of the doctrine of sin and that, if powers left unchecked, it will be misused.
Those who will be arguing against the President and his Administration in court today are going to be arguing that the President has done exactly that. But given the fact that this is a case before the Supreme Court, with immigration at the center of the public attention, there is no way that this will escape the nation's debate over immigration.
Here we need to note that from a Christian worldview perspective, we must affirm that this is a conversation the nation needs to have. America is operating with a split mind on the issue of immigration and with an incoherent immigration policy. Virtually everyone in America's political life understands that our current immigration policy is badly broken, but there is a basic political clash over the issue of immigration that now plays into the 2016 United States presidential race. That makes this kind of case particularly ill-timed. We need to note that the President is on the defensive as he goes into court today, precisely because lower federal courts have ruled against him.
This country must reach the point where we can have the kind of conversation on immigration that is required of us. We are facing a breakdown of moral order and of law when it comes to immigration, and we are also facing a conflict of worldviews when it comes to how this nation should receive immigrants. At this point, we simply have to note that this is a conversation that will require a de-politicization of the current political climate. It's the kind of conversation that, by definition, really can't take place in the midst of a contentious presidential campaign.
Regardless of who is elected President of the United States this coming Fall, it will be required of the American people and of all of our elected representatives that we enter into the kind of conversation on immigration that has been avoided for far too long. That will require a new maturity on the part of the American people and of our political leaders, and it will require a morality in terms of our conversation that understands that we are not just talking about laws and policies, we are talking about human beings.
The case before the Supreme Court today is primarily over the constitutional limitations on the office of President of the United States. The process of using these executive orders to extend the powers of the presidency did not begin with President Barack Obama, but he has pushed that practice further than any previous president in American history. Furthermore, just in recent days, the Wall Street Journal had a front page story indicating that President Obama, in the final months of his office, plans an entire raft of executive orders. The only limitation on that may be what happens before the Supreme Court of the United States today.
Hillary Clinton unwittingly affirms the personhood of the unborn in televised interview
Next, the issue of abortion is unavoidable in the 2016 U.S. presidential race and for good reason. It is one of the most central issues in America's moral life, but what we need to note is that even as Republican candidate Donald Trump put abortion in the headlines in recent weeks, it is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to whom these headlines should now be devoted. In a recent conversation with Chuck Todd, the host of NBC's program Meet the Press, the issue of abortion came up.
The first thing we need to note is that Chuck Todd asked some very important questions on the issue of abortion of the Secretary, and that's really, really important. The former Secretary of State was addressed on the issue of the status of the unborn child. Mr. Todd asked,
"When or if does an unborn child have Constitutional rights?"
That's a very important question, and we should credit Mr. Todd with having the fortitude as a journalist to ask that question. The former Secretary of State said,
"Under our laws currently, that is not something that exists."
Now wait just a minute. As we noted before, the mainstream media, heavily-dominated from the left in pro-abortion forces, tries to present pro-life candidates as being extreme, but it was the former Secretary of State who revealed the true moral extreme in this conversation with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press.
You'll note again that Mr. Todd asked when or if an unborn child would be recognized to have Constitutional rights. The former Secretary of State actually said that the unborn child basically doesn't exist,
"Under our laws currently, that is not something that exists."
To speak specifically, she meant that that unborn child does not have Constitutional rights, but where the former Secretary of State went off the reservation in terms of the pro-abortion argument is where she did refer to the unborn child as a child, and chillingly so. Mrs. Clinton said, and I quote,
"The unborn person doesn't have Constitutional rights. Now that doesn't mean that we don't do everything we possibly can in the vast majority of instances to, you know, help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy to have appropriate medical support."
Note immediately what Secretary Clinton said here. She used two words that absolutely undermine her extreme pro-abortion case. Mrs. Clinton went on to say,
"The unborn person doesn't have Constitutional rights."
"That doesn't mean we don't do everything we possibly can in the vast majority of instances to, you know, help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy to have appropriate medical support."
At that point, the former Secretary of State indicated the moral insanity and the abhorrent immorality of the pro-abortion position. Notice the fact that she went off the reservation of the pro-abortionists in using two words they never want to use of the unborn child. Those two words: "person" and "child".
You need to hear again what she said,
"The unborn person doesn't have Constitutional rights," but here she admits that unborn person is a person. She couldn't find any other language to use than 'person', but it is the pro-abortionists, and amongst them, the former Secretary of State is amongst the most extreme—it is they who have denied the personhood of the unborn child.
Wait just a minute, she also used the world 'child', but notice how she shifted the argument. She was asked about abortion, when an unborn child has Constitutional rights—she said that the unborn child doesn't have any Constitutional rights—but she went on to describe that unborn child as a person and as a child, and she said that in the majority of instances,
"You know, we need to help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy to have appropriate medical support."
In other words, when a mother wants to carry the baby to term, it's a baby, it's a person, but when she doesn't want to carry that baby to term, she is the only important moral entity. Here again, the former Secretary of State still used the word 'person' and 'child', betraying the reality of that unborn child whether she wants to acknowledge it or not, and she most profoundly does not. It's astounding that she declared in such unmistakable, uncompromised terms that the unborn child does not have Constitutional rights.
As Schow, writing for The Observer in New York says,
"It's the kind of conundrum that leads supporters of pro-choice to refer to babies in the womb as fetuses or clump of cells, but here Mrs. Clinton used the term 'unborn person' and 'child' indicating that what is in the womb is more than just tissue. On the one hand, she is using language that suggests she believed that what is in the womb is in fact a person, while at the same time suggesting that that person has no rights."
Schow also goes on to say,
"This also brings up the question of when the unborn person does have rights according to Mrs. Clinton. Roe v. Wade and subsequent court decisions made abortion legal until fetal viability."
This is why 43 states ban abortion with some exceptions past a certain point in the pregnancy. The important thing to recognize here is that Hillary Clinton has opposed recognizing the personhood, the fact that the inhabitant of the womb is a child, all the way up to the very moment of birth.
Jonah Goldberg, writing in the New York Post, pointed out that the former Secretary of State painted herself into a corner. She identified the inhabitant of the womb as a child and a person and then turned around and said that that child, that person, has absolutely no Constitutional rights. As Jonah Goldberg points out, Hillary Clinton tries to talk only about what she calls 'women's health'. She wants to talk about women's health and women's reproductive freedom, she doesn't want to talk about the inhabitant of the womb. That conversation with Chuck Todd forced her to do just that.
At this point, Jonah Goldberg brilliantly points to the incongruity held by many people such as Hillary Clinton, who we need to remember as the United States Senator even opposed the ban on partial birth abortions. As former and late Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said in that debate,
"Partial birth abortion isn't almost infanticide, it is infanticide. It is the murder of a child."
The incongruity that Goldberg points to is raised in the issue of the Zika virus. As he writes,
"Unborn children? Yes, both parties want to protect unborn children from disease carrying mosquitoes, but that bipartisanship falls apart when it comes to Planned Parenthood and the issue of abortion."
We're going to have to follow this issue very closely in this presidential election because human life is very much on the line. Human dignity is every day at stake in the issue of abortion, and though it isn't the only issue, it is the nation's unavoidable issue. That was made certain by the United States Supreme Court in 1973 in the Roe v. Wade decision. We need to note that both major candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, not only approve of abortion at virtually any point for any reason or no reason, but they also are arguing for tax payer funding of abortion and the repeal of the Hyde Amendment that has prevented until now the use of taxpayer money to pay for abortion.
The conversation on Meet the Press is really important because it reveals that even those who want to deny that the inhabitant of the womb is a person or a child, when they actually get to talking about that womb, they end up talking about a person or a child. When they want to talk about defeating the Zika virus and confronting the challenge of mosquitoes, they talk very freely about the unborn child. But when they want to defend abortion rights, when they want to redefine it as women's health or reproductive freedom, they do everything possible to avoid ever getting close to using the words 'person' or 'child'.
Hillary Clinton was at pains to argue that this person, this child, has no Constitutional rights, but the most important thing from the Christian worldview is understanding that that unborn child has the full sanctity and dignity of human life, the gift of the Creator. Let's ask again, who is the inhabitant of the womb? Take it from the former Secretary of State of the United States, it is a person and it is a child. If so, and of course it is so, how in the world can you justify killing it?
Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website at AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to Twitter.com/AlbertMohler.
Remember the big event that's going to take place on the 25th of April. On that Monday night, I'm going to be in conversation with veteran journalist Cal Thomas. We're going to be talking about God and Politics, the very issues we talk about on The Briefing, we're going to be talking about with each other. I'm really looking forward to that conversation. The event is free to the public and I hope that you, if possible, will attend. To make your free reservation, go to the website EventsatSouthern.com.
For more information about the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to BoyceCollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.