The Briefing 02-09-17
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Thursday, February 9, 2017. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
The chilling logic of abortionist Willie Parker: "A fetus is not a person; it’s a human entity."
A blockbuster of a short interview appears at the conclusion of this coming Sunday’s edition of the New York Times Magazine. It is with one of most infamous abortion doctors in America, Dr. Willie J. Parker, who operates in the state of Mississippi. Once again, the interview’s by Ana Marie Cox, and she gets right to the point when she asked Dr. Parker about his new book Life’s Work, pointing out that it,
“…is rooted in the fact that you have a moral and spiritual argument in favor of abortion rights, and you talk about your shift from someone who, for religious reasons, didn’t want to provide abortion to someone who, for religious reasons, did. Why did you consider that a ‘conversion’?”
And here you have a reporter for the New York Times speaking to an abortion doctor who’s explaining his conversion spoken of in spiritual, even theological terms from someone who didn’t want, we are told, to perform abortions, to someone who has made them, it’s no exaggeration, by his own declaration a sacred cause. Dr. Parker responded,
“I had to come to a crisis moment regarding a religious understanding that left me unable to help women when I felt deeply for their situation. So I needed to convert from a religious understanding that left me paralyzed to act on my deepest sense of connection to one that empowered me to do what I felt to be the right thing. It felt as life-altering for me to move from being unable to do abortions to being able to do them as it did to move from being a nonbeliever to becoming a believer.”
Now that’s one of those statements that simply has to be unpacked almost word for word. Here you have an abortion doctor who is making the case that he was religiously, spiritually, theologically converted away from basically some kind of pro-life position to not only a pro-abortion position, but to becoming one of the most well-known abortion doctors in the entire country. And notice he speaks of the fact that his reservation had been explicitly theological. He had held to a theological understanding that would not allow him to abort unborn human life, but then he points to the fact that he needed a conversion. In other words, he was looking for a way, any way, that could theologically or spiritually justify shifting from the preservation of unborn life to the destruction of unborn life. And presumably in this book that is not yet available, he makes the case, but in the interview he simply makes the declaration that he was converted from one side to the other.
To her credit, at this point, Ana Marie Cox raises the crucial issue. That is this, she says,
“You concede in the book that abortion is, actually, a life-ending process.”
Dr. Parker then responds, listen very carefully,
“Here’s the thing: Life is a process, not an event. If I thought I was killing a person, I wouldn’t do abortions. A fetus is not a person; it’s a human entity. In the moral scheme of things, I don’t hold fetal life and the life of a woman equally. I value them both, but in the precedence of things, when a woman comes to me, I find myself unable to demote her aspirations because of the aspirations that someone else has for the fetus that she’s carrying.”
Now that statement isn’t as clear as it might first appear. But it is clearly extremely troubling. Here’s what this doctor says. He says in the beginning,
“Here’s the thing: Life,” he says, “is a process, not an event.”
Well that’s a very serious argument. It’s an argument that underpins the Roe v. Wade decision and the entire pro-abortion movement in modern America. But what exactly does it mean? Well the argument’s straightforward. Life is not an event. It is a process. That means at some point what isn’t life becomes life. At some point what isn’t a person becomes a person. Well if it’s not an event, if it is a process, at what point does this life become a person, does it become valuable? What point are we obligated to protect it, rather than to destroy it?
Well there is no answer to that question given by Dr. Parker, but we’re left with nothing but the event of birth. But as we’ve seen with the bioethicist Peter Singer, birth itself is held by some people to be an arbitrary drawing of the line. You’ll recall that Peter Singer, who teaches at Princeton University, doesn’t believe that the child actually becomes a person at birth, but rather at some point in the process thereafter when that child develops communication ability, the ability to foresee the future, and to develop relationships. Now let’s just point out that certainly is not an event. It too is a process. But that means that according to at least some, not even birth is recognized as the event in which a human person must be recognized as a person. But working this backwards, we also come to understand that Dr. Parker goes on to say,
“A fetus is not a person.”
“It’s a human entity.”
Let’s just consider this for a moment. What in the world could that mean? The fetus, he says, “is not a person.”
Notice he doesn’t even say at some point in development the fetus becomes a person. He says,
“A fetus is not a person.”
Well just remember that a fetus is a fetus all the way to the very second of birth. At this point we need to recognize that this is a radical position, even in the pro-abortion movement. This goes far beyond Roe v. Wade. At least Roe v. Wade recognized that in the last trimester—that is in the final three months of pregnancy—there is every reason to believe that the inhabitant of the womb actually is a person. Of course that’s a very dangerous argument in and of itself, but at least Justice Blackmun in the Supreme Court back in 1973 recognized that in the last stage of pregnancy, the inhabitant of the womb is a person. But according to Dr. Parker, not at all. Life, he says, isn’t an event; it’s a process. He doesn’t answer the question, at what point does a mere human entity become a human person, human life?
But then we have to ask the question, what in the world is a human entity? That means absolutely nothing at all unless it’s just a stand-in for being a human being, for being a human person. But if it is a human person, then that person deserves the protection of life, not the destruction of life. That’s one of those statements that appears to say something but doesn’t actually, when you look further, say anything at all. What’s the distinction between a human person and a human entity? Well it actually comes down to something that can only be darker even than the question of abortion taken alone. This is exactly the kind of argument as we have seen that was common amongst the German doctors in the early 20th century and the Weimar Republic when they set the stage for the Third Reich when they discussed life unworthy of life. How else can you describe human entity? It is alive, but he says it’s not a person. It is life unworthy of life.
His worldview becomes abundantly more clear in the second part of that answer when he says,
“I don’t hold fetal life and the life of a woman equally.”
Now notice what he concedes here, “fetal life.” He had said,
“Life is a process, not an event.”
But then he turns around in the very same paragraph and he has no option but to say “fetal life.” He really gets to the honesty here when he says that he doesn’t hold fetal life and the life of the mother as having equal value. So he does believe that they have some value, both fetal life and the mother’s life. But he doesn’t believe that the fetal life is to be respected as much as the mother’s life, but he’s not talking about the mother’s life being forfeited here at least in terms of life and death. Instead, he’s talking about a woman’s aspirations. I’m not putting words in his mouth. That’s exactly what he says. He says,
“When a woman comes to me, I find myself unable to demote her aspirations”—and that means the baby is an obstacle to those aspirations—“because of the aspirations that someone else has for the fetus that she’s carrying.”
Now let’s just be brutally honest here. What would those aspirations that someone else has for the unborn child be? It would be the aspiration for that child to have a chance to live. The culture of death is rarely this candid, but it points to the power of this kind of short interview because there’s very little space for evasion or complication. Dr. Parker was asked some direct questions, and we have to respect the New York Times Magazine for asking these questions. They are the right questions, but chillingly Dr. Parker gives answers. And in these answers he does reveal the worldview behind the culture of death in terms that are rarely to be found so candid or so clear. But also, we need to note, in terms that devalue every single human life, not just the lives of the babies whose lives are extinguished in the womb.
Should tax payer money go to churches that counsel women to get abortions?
Next, for good reason, Planned Parenthood is at the very center of our national controversy over abortion, and the reason for that is quite simple. Abortion is the one thing that Planned Parenthood as an organization is adamantly and ardently determined to do, and for that reason Planned Parenthood can serve as a stand-in for the entire abortion controversy, and we find ourselves returning to it again and again because the headlines do the same and so does the national conversation. We shift to the state of Kentucky where in Louisville the Courier-Journal reports that the Kentucky General Assembly is considering a new bill that in the headline of the newspaper “targets abortion groups”
Morgan Watkins writing for the paper gives us a most remarkable lead paragraph. She writes,
“Many conservatives have touted "defunding" Planned Parenthood as a goal for years, but a new bill targeting that organization potentially could affect a wider range of groups, including churches, if Kentucky's Republican-run legislature approves it.”
Now as a churchman, that immediately gains my attention because I want to know how a bill that would be defunding Planned Parenthood could possibly impact the local church. Well here comes the explanation,
“House Bill 149 would prohibit public funds from going to any organizations or individuals that provide abortion services or are affiliates of that type of group. It includes exceptions for hospitals, universities and medical schools.”
Now there’s nothing in that that would yet be a tripwire for why churches would be involved in this conversation at all, not to mention in the lead paragraph. There must be more here. Later in the article we read,
“The bill says abortion services also include providing referrals to or information about facilities where abortions are performed as well as ‘providing counseling, advice, written materials or other information that encourages or promotes abortion.’”
We simply insert here that this is at least very similar to the Mexico City Policy that was signed back into law by President Donald Trump just in recent days. The story only gets more interesting when the paper reports,
“That definition could apply to members of the clergy who are asked to help women talk through their options, said Rev. Derek Penwell of Douglass Boulevard Christian Church in Louisville. That may not be the intent of this legislation, he said, but the bill is written so broadly that it could impact groups other than Planned Parenthood.”
Well this story’s really getting interesting. The paper then quotes Reverend Pennwell as saying,
“It’s potentially a way of limiting speech that should be protected and privileged. If I’m in a counseling situation, I don’t want the government to tell me what I can and cannot say.”
The paper continues that,
“Every church wouldn't be affected by it, but some churches do receive public funding. Penwell's church, for example, houses a daycare center that receives state grants.”
The pastor said,
“It winds up potentially setting up a situation in which the government can decide what is legitimate speech that clergy can offer in a counseling situation. What’s the next speech that they might want to have a say about?”
Well this is a really interesting story, and it only gets more interesting when the very same newspaper publishes an op-ed piece on the very same topic by, you guessed it, the very same pastor. It comes with a headline,
“Republicans proposed abortion bill muzzles clergy.”
In the article he basically repeats what is found in the news story, but he concludes,
“All Americans of faith ought to be able to agree: Government has no place telling clergy what they can and cannot say in the context of their pastoral counseling relationships. To argue otherwise is to abandon the call of clergy to be both prophetic and pastoral, not to mention to abandon some fundamental American democratic values.”
Now to those last words, I can only say, “Amen.” The pastor makes an incredibly legitimate point. No government should have the authority to tell any pastor what that pastor should and should not say in the pulpit particularly, but also in a counseling relationship defined here as a pastoral counseling relationship. So what’s the problem here? The problem is simple. This pastor wants to continue receiving state funding that, after all, is the funding that comes from taxpayers for his pastoral counseling. That’s the problem. He is absolutely right to point to the freedom of the pulpit and to the absolute privilege of the relationship between a minister and someone who is being counseled. That is absolutely fundamental, but there is nothing in the Constitution that says that that includes what is paid for by the taxpayer, either the taxpayer of the United States of America or the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Once you take government money for a program you are, by extension, acting on behalf of the government. That’s the very logic that liberals have brought against administrations such as that of George W. Bush in terms of that administration’s efforts to fund many social service programs through churches back during the first decade of the 21st century.
As I said then, the issue is where Caesar’s money goes, Caesar’s control follows. That is a message for evangelical Christians always to keep in mind. It’s why we should not make ourselves vulnerable or dependent in any sense upon receiving government money. This is why Christian schools, universities, and others who receive government money eventually have to come to terms with the fact that the government will have expectations for those funds. The freedom of the pulpit and the freedom of the pastor in the counseling situation, those should be absolutely paramount, but the issue is they shouldn’t be tax funded.
Spokesman claims Planned Parenthood is "the lynchpin" for growing a healthy future for families
But next, still dealing with Planned Parenthood, recently in Arizona I picked up the Arizona Republic, that’s the major newspaper in Phoenix. And last Friday, they ran an op-ed piece entitled,
“Stop politicizing Planned Parenthood”
It’s written by Bryan Howard who’s been the President of Planned Parenthood Arizona since 1997. That raises the interesting question: What in the world would it mean to stop politicizing Planned Parenthood? He writes,
“Planned Parenthood stirs a lot of passion, passion that seems destined to erupt again when politicians gather in Washington D.C. and here in Phoenix over coming weeks. I hear over and over again from thousands of Arizonans who passionately stand with Planned Parenthood that Planned Parenthood is the lynchpin, the essential ingredient for growing a healthy future for yourself and your family.”
In a later paragraph he writes,
“Planned Parenthood isn’t just ‘any’ health care provider. We are a unique and special health care provider thousands of Arizonans and millions of Americans trust. They turn to us because they know we don’t dictate or pontificate, we educate and liberate.”
Without belaboring attention to this story, the fascinating thing about it is what they claim in this article that Planned Parenthood is—the word “the” is italicized for emphasis—“the linchpin, the essential ingredient for growing a healthy future for yourself and your family.”
That’s almost messianic in its pretensions. It’s absolutely astounding, and yet here it appears in print in a major American newspaper in the voice of the head of Planned Parenthood Arizona. But the diabolical aspect of this is that Planned Parenthood is at the center of our controversy and efforts to be defunded precisely because it is not about creating the future of the life of that unborn child, but in millions of millions of cases of destroying it. But once again, we need to recognize what ties these last two stories together. It’s that defunding of Planned Parenthood. The defunding here has to do with the American taxpayer funding what Planned Parenthood does.
Study: Millennials think having sex is less intimate than going on first date or meeting the family
Next, Mary Bowerman writing at USA Today tells us about a major study indicating a seismic shift in the sexual morality of America’s millennial generation. Now just about everyone knows that this shift in sexual morality has taken place. The millennials are what is produced after generations that committed to a sexual revolution, the eventual breaking down of boundary after boundary. There’s no real surprise there. But the specifics in the study are still very interesting. Bowerman writes,
“If you thought sleeping with someone before a first date was a no-go, but texting during a date was OK, think again.”
The headline in the article is,
“Sex before dating okay. But phone cracked? Forget it”
Now that’s an attention-getting headline, and the story is worthy of our attention. Bowerman writes,
“While the rule of thumb may have been wait to have sex until a third date”—by the way, I would simply interject there, who knows where in the world that rule came from? That’s clearly not the biblical expectation—she continues, “34% of singles have had sex before a first date”—now remember let’s listen to the words, that is before a first date—“and Millennials are 48% more likely to have sex before a first date than all other generations of singles, according to the annual Singles in America survey.”
That is undertaken by the Dallas-based service Match and is now conducted by the organization Research Now. Bowerman then writes,
“Millennials especially are unencumbered by fears that may have held people back from having sex in the past, says Helen Fisher a biological anthropologist and chief scientific adviser to Match, who helped develop the representative survey of more than 5,000 singles.”
Now that’s a huge number of singles, but the important thing there to recognize is just how much has crept into this news article as assumption. First of all, the idea that somehow the old morality that has now given way was a morality that said you don’t have sex before the third date. There’s no documentation of where in the world that came from. But that tells you that that expectation was already the result of a previous sexual revolution. But then we read the article where we are told that millennials are unencumbered by, the word is “fears,” that may have held people back from sex in the past.
Now that insinuates that what held people back from having sex before marriage was fear. There’s no reference here whatsoever to any kind of sexual morality. There is no ought in this article whatsoever. There is no right or wrong. It’s as if those questions have simply been completely transcended. They’re also back in the past.
I think it’s not without our notice here that the authority cited in the article is a biological anthropologist, not exactly the authority to which we would think to turn in any previous generations for advice on sexual morality. In perhaps the most interesting, if troubling, portion of the article, Kimberly Resnick Anderson identified as a licensed clinical social worker and certified sex therapist says that,
“In many ways sex has become a less intimate part of dating.”
“We used to think of sex as you crossed the line now you are in an intimate zone, but now sex is almost a given and it’s not the intimate part. The intimate part is getting to know someone and going on a date.”
Furthermore, in this article the study reveals that it is considered more intimate to be introduced to a potential sex partner’s family than actually to have sex with a person. Now there’s so much here that demands attention from a Christian worldview perspective, but it’s also interesting just to note that the article appeared in USA Today as news. In other words, this is supposed to get our attention, and get our attention it does.
From a Christian worldview perspective, the most interesting part is where intimacy is discussed and where this sex therapist, explaining the millennials’ patterns of sexual behavior, says that it is considered less intimate to have sex and more intimate to develop a relationship even to go on a first date.
It’s hard to imagine a moral message that is more at odds with Scripture in terms of both the Old and the New Testament than what we find here, but it’s tangible evidence, documentary evidence indeed of that seismic shift in sexual morality that has reshaped the entire landscape of America and increasingly affects an entire generation.
But the other thing Christians need to recognize is that the Bible speaks directly to this, not just in terms of “thou shalt; thou shalt not,” that’s abundantly clear, but also by a biblical theology of intimacy. We need to recognize perhaps first of all that the Bible indicates that sexual relations are one of the most intimate aspects of human life. We know this by the very fact that a particular verb is used in the book of Genesis to describe sexual relations between Adam and between Eve. We are told that Adam “knew” Eve. That’s just not a matter of biblical modesty. It’s a matter of theological definition. Here that relationship between the husband and the wife is described as an intimacy that reveals the very essence of the person. It is through that sexual relationship in marriage that the husband comes to know the wife.
So this study in a USA Today article has our attention because of what it documents in terms of that entire sexual revolution, of which this is fundamental evidence. But it also points to what’s been lost, not just a knowledge of God’s purpose in creation, not just obedience to God’s law and command, but much more has been lost, including the very biblical idea of intimacy.
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. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, got to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.