The Briefing 10-10-17

The Briefing 10-10-17

The Briefing

October 10, 2017

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

It’s Tuesday, October 10, 2017. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

When did the Kennedy family change its mind on abortion? Why are the media ignoring a big story from Alabama? We’ll talk about the rise of the occult and headlines from Africa and from Washington D.C.

Part I

When did the Kennedy family change its position on abortion?

Often times we fail to understand how issues develop over time. Huge questions that are raised not just by the what, but the when and the who of major moral and worldview changes in the United States. There’s a huge question to be asked about the question of abortion. It goes all the way back to the late 19thcentury, the early decades of the 20th century, when most of the crusading newspapers in America that are now avowedly pro-abortion were at that time just as equally avowed as antiabortion. They were entirely pro-life. The New York Times, for example, built its circulation at one point in its history by crusading against abortion, the very practice it now champions as a basic human right.

But sometimes when it comes to the question of worldview change, the question of who requires us to press on to the questions of when and how. How and when did an individual’s position on abortion, a question so fundamental as the sanctity of human life change? And that comes very much to mind in the aftermath of a controversial story we discussed last week on The Briefing, the decision by the Republican Governor of Illinois Bruce Rauner to violate his own pledge and reverse his word and go on to endorse legislation that would expand taxpayer-funded abortion in the state of Illinois. And in the aftermath of that story, as predicted, even those who are pro-abortion aren’t going to give the governor any credit for violating his word. They are arguing that he did so only under intense political pressure. One of the people making that argument is a declared candidate on the Democratic side, a challenger to the incumbent Governor Rauner. In this case, it is an Illinois businessman by the name of Chris Kennedy, and Chris Kennedy is none other than the ninth child of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, one of the most famous political families in the history of the United States.

In an article in the Chicago Tribune by Rick Pearson, I read,

“Democratic governor candidate Chris Kennedy declared Thursday that if elected he would ‘govern as a feminist,’ as he sought to intertwine his family’s political heritage with women’s issues at a luncheon featuring his mother, Ethel Kennedy, and two of his sisters.”

Now that’s just according to the political playbook of the Kennedy family. It goes back to the first run for Congress by then young man and navy veteran John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Much of the campaigning was done by his mother and by his sisters and the same pattern now is extended to the state of Illinois and the Governor’s contest with Chris Kennedy as the latest member of the Kennedy family to run for office. And make no mistake, as this article indicates, with Chris Kennedy declaring that he would,

“govern as a feminist.”

One of the central messages he sent was his absolute affirmation of abortion rights and his determination at any cost to defend those abortion rights under any circumstances. But that raises a really interesting question. When did the Kennedy family change its position on the issue of abortion? It’s a lot later than you might think. When it comes to John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States, and his brother Robert Kennedy, well neither of them had any association with what you might call a pro-abortion position. But when it comes to Ted Kennedy, the third of the brothers to be elected to the United States Senate from Massachusetts, well Ted Kennedy was elected to office as a United States Senator as a pro-lifer only later did he become pro-abortion.

In a letter to a constituent dated August 3, 1971, then Senator Kennedy wrote,

“When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings and not to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.”

That was Senator Kennedy then. Senator Kennedy later became a staunch defender of abortion rights as if the Kennedy family had never been pro-life. But the big question is this: when did the Kennedy family change its position on abortion? Because that story is going to tell us not only about how moral change takes place within a family, even one of America’s most powerful political families, but how that change takes place within the nation writ large. Anne Hendershott writing at the Wall Street Journal almost a decade ago reminds us that in the early 1970s before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, a good number of prominent Democratic politicians who would later be pro-abortion were avowedly and officially pro-life. But the change in the Kennedy family goes all the way back to a meeting that was held in the summer of 1964. She writes about it telling us that the Kennedy family and its advisers and allies met with leading theologians and Catholic college professors to try to come up with a way that they could promote abortion with,

“a clear conscience.”

One of the most important figures in the meeting is a former Jesuit priest named Albert Jonsen. As Hendershott tells us years later Johnson would write,

“about how he joined with the Rev. Joseph Fuchs, a Catholic moral theologian; the Rev. Robert Drinan, then dean of Boston College Law School,” later we would note a United States Congressman, “and three academic theologians, the Revs. Giles Milhaven, Richard McCormick and Charles Curran,” again I quote, “to enable the Kennedy family to redefine support for abortion.”

And as the story unfolds, we come to learn that in that meeting in the summer of 1964 some leading liberal Catholics figures convince the Kennedy family that there was a way around the clear Catholic teaching opposing abortion, and furthermore that they could make a distinction between their own political personal convictions and how they voted as a member of Congress or as a Senator. Speaking later to a pro-abortion group, Father Milhaven recalled,

“The theologians worked for a day and a half among ourselves at a nearby hotel. In the evening we answered questions from the Kennedys and the Shrivers. Though the theologians disagreed on many a point, they all concurred on certain basics . . . and that was that a Catholic politician could in good conscience vote in favor of abortion.”

Well it’s important for us to recognize that then and now such a politician is voting in absolute conflict with official Catholic Church teaching on the sanctity of human life and the question of abortion. About that there can be no debate. But the appearance of a new Kennedy on the scene in Illinois running for governor pledging that if elected he would govern as a feminist and support abortion reminds us that there once was a day when many prominent Democrats and other political figures were pro-life until all a sudden they weren’t. A story that was told in connection with the former President of the United States Bill Clinton, the former Vice President of the United States Al Gore, and furthermore individuals such as the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who was avowedly pro-life, charging that abortion was actually an effort to try to reduce the number of African-American babies until he decided run for office and predictably became pro-abortion.

Part II

Alabama Senate candidate flaunts pro-abortion position. Why are the media ignoring it?

But it’s not only the gubernatorial race in Illinois edition that should now have our attention on this issue. It is also the Senatorial race in the special election in the southern state of Alabama. And in that election, the big news has been the Republican nominee former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore of the state, a very controversial figure, whose choice by Alabama Republican voters as their nominee indicates a significant shift in that Republican Party in the state of Alabama and a very clear repudiation of national Republican leadership. But even as most of the media attention has been directed to Roy Moore and even as the media are promising that all of a sudden it is actually a contested race in Alabama between the Republican and the Democrats former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, I would suggest that the mainstream media are doing their best to stay away from a really big story here. And that is this, this former U.S. Attorney is not only avowedly pro-abortion, even as he is running for the United States Senate in Alabama, he is so for abortions that he opposes the Hyde amendment that would protect American taxpayers being forced to pay for abortion.

But to its credit, the most influential newspaper in the state, the Birmingham News and at least some in the mainstream media in particular, MSNBC’s Meet the Press program have not avoided the question entirely. On Meet the Press Daily Chuck Todd pressed the question of abortion to Jones, who responded that he is,

“firm believer that a woman should have to freedom to choose what happens to her own body.”

He went on to say,

“I’m going to stand up for that, and I’m going to make sure that that continues to happen.”

Doug Jones said,

“I want to make sure that as we go forward, people have access to contraception, they have access to the abortion that they might need, if that’s what they choose to do.”

So Chuck Todd went on to press with the question,

“So you wouldn’t be in favor of legislation that said, ban abortion after 20 weeks or something like that?”

That is the legislation passed by the House of Representatives just last week. In response Jones said,

“I’m not in favor of anything that is going to infringe on a woman’s right and her freedom to choose. That’s just the position that I’ve had for many years. It’s a position I continue to have.”

And then, as if all that’s not shocking enough, in a Senatorial candidate in the state of Alabama, Doug Jones continued by saying that once the child is born, he says that he would,

“be there for that child.”

In the astounding statement he said,

“That’s where I become a right to lifer.”

That means that there is no point before the birth of the child when Doug Jones running for the United States Senate in Alabama would consider himself pro-life. And he has made no secret of the fact that he is unreserved in his support of abortion at any point in a pregnancy and that he would go on to coerce taxpayers to pay for the same. But it’s one thing for an avowedly pro-abortion candidate to run for statewide office in the state of Illinois, lamentably as we’ve seen the incumbent Republican Governor Bruce Rauner is pro-abortion, not to mention his likely Democratic challengers in the next elections, but moving to the state of Alabama an overwhelmingly historically pro-life state, is it really plausible that a Democratic nominee has what’s considered to be at least a chance for election in this situation in the Senatorial race from Alabama, holding to a position as radical as Doug Jones position is? And a position he’s not hiding but discussing right in public with Chuck Todd at MSNBC’s Meet the Press Daily.There’s no question that the mainstream media consider the nomination of Roy Moore to be a genuinely big story with nationwide significance, and there’s no arguing that they’re right. But the question is where in the world are they on a story of equal interest and for that matter shock value? We’re talking about a major Senatorial candidate in Alabama who holds to such a radical position on abortion and says it right out loud. Where are the mainstream media on this question? That in itself is a big story.

Part III

The rise of the occult in headlines from Africa

But next I turn to the pervasive and continued challenge of the occult not only in terms of the worldwide phenomenon, but also here in the United States. First looking worldwide, Religion News Service, just in recent days, ran an article by Doreen Ajiambo. Its title,

“Witch doctors are sacrificing children in drought-stricken Uganda”

The dateline of the story is from Uganda, and the reporter tells us that there has been a resurgence of the sacrifice of both children and women, human sacrifice not only in Uganda, but also in several neighboring African countries. Moses Binoga identified as a police officer who heads the nation’s Anti-Human Sacrifice and Trafficking Task Force said that at least seven children and two adults were sacrificed in rituals last year, seven children and six adults in 2015. But experts internationally say that the actual number is likely to be significantly higher. Doreen Ajiambo continues her report,

“Times are tough in Uganda, and people are looking to sacrifices to improve their fortunes. The worst drought in over half a century has hit parts of East Africa, leaving more than 11 million people in this landlocked nation facing food insecurity and 1.6 million on the brink of famine, according to the Ugandan government.”

Joel Mugoya identified as a traditional healer in Uganda said,

“There is no food due to the ongoing drought, and some believe that this has been brought by ancestral spirits. So there is a high desire for people to conduct sacrifices so that they come out of this problem.”

By the end of the report to Religion News Service, we are told that,

“Other countries in Africa reported to be practicing child sacrifice include Tanzania, Nigeria, Swaziland, Liberia, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.”

The headline is incredibly horrifying, but we also have to keep in mind that it points to the fact that when you read the Old Testament, you come to understand that this is hardly a new practice. And it was God’s covenant people Israel who was told even commanded over and over again not to sacrifice their children. The Lord made very clear that unlike the Canaanite idol Molech not only did He not desire or demand that the sacrifice of a child He absolutely forbade it. The Old Testament makes clear just how much God detests any form of murder, especially child sacrifice. And we find in the New Testament that it was Jesus who took this entire picture and put it on its head when he said allow the little children to come unto me for such is the kingdom.

Part IV

What Sally Quinn’s fascination with the occult tells us about high society and ourselves

But at this point, you can almost sense that many Americans would say well I know that the occult is a continuing presence, a continuing challenge in some parts of the world, those countries listed were all in Africa, but certainly this wouldn’t be true in hyper modern, very secular America today. But we should be humbled by the recognition that one of the most central figures in the social life of America’s Capital city Washington D.C. has recently written a book in which she makes very clear her continuing fascination and participation in the occult. That figure is Sally Quinn, a well-known society presence and author. She was also married for years to Ben Bradlee, who was long the editor of the Washington Post. Now she’s written this book Finding Magic in which she comes out very publicly about her occult side.

In a recent profile on Sally Quinn occasioned by the publication of her new book, the Washingtonian Magazine reported,

“Beyond the particular anecdotes, this book is Quinn’s coming-out as an ardent believer in the supernatural. For the long­est time, she declares, ‘I had been afraid to discuss my occultism for fear people would think I was crazy, and then I was reluctant to discuss my blossoming faith for fear my friends would think I had gone over the edge.’”

But as the Washingtonian said,

“But now Quinn is going all in.”

All in, indeed, for in this book and in the magazine profile, Sally Quinn documents her own participation in the occult to the extent that she says in her own words that she put three hexes on persons who subsequently and rather quickly died. Now what’s so important about this is that here you have a person who has been and still is at the very center of the social life of Washington D.C., the Capital of the United States of America. And now she is to use her own words all in when it comes to the occult and all out when she speaks about it in public. That tells us a great deal, of course, about Sally Quinn, but it also tells us a great deal about high society in Washington D.C., which upon reflection tells us a great deal about ourselves.

But a similar story appeared in Religion News Service from Greece. The headline,

“In Greece, the evil eye is trending.”

Jenny Lower tells us that,

“The term refers to negative energy caused by another’s jealousy, which Greeks believe can cause minor troubles and even physical symptoms for the victim.” The evil eye symbol, we are told, “is popping up everywhere, from handmade soap to chic hotel lobbies.”

The booming popularity, according to the report,

“appears to reflect a growing interest in New Age spirituality as well as the psychological toll of Greece’s ongoing debt crisis.”

Well I would at least score that argument for some creativity. Now you have the argument that a turn to the occult in New Age spirituality is really caused by economic anxiety, the nation’s debt crisis. But later in the article we are told that many of the consumers of these products to ward off the evil eye are actually not from Greece at all. They tend to be as the article reveals American tourists. The American tourist presumably are not motivated by the Greek debt crisis. Later in the article there’s the open acknowledgment that it’s a return to superstitions. One person, an American high school art teacher from Panama City, Florida, said,

“‘I’m like a spiritual, karma, what-goes-around-comes-around’ type of person. ‘For me, the evil eye is a preventer of evil energy.’”

Speaking of the shift from traditional Christianity to the New Age movement, one person said and I quote,

“The evil eye is like the new trendy cross.”

The most interesting dimension of this report is what becomes very clear, and that is that this return to superstitions comes in the midst of what is supposedly simultaneous turn to secularism to a secular worldview. But as we learn over and over again that secular worldview is never a) secular for long or b) as secular as many will claim. But the line in the article about the evil eye jewelry becoming a substitute for the cross, well that just tells us that those who have been wearing the cross as jewelry might well never have recognized it as meaning much more. But the ultimate issue here is the fact that what’s revealed about the secular worldview, once again, is that it’s a vacuum. And a vacuum never exists for very long. A vacuum is fragile, and eventually it is going to be filled by something. And what we see now is that if it is not filled by biblical authentic Christianity, it will be filled by something else perhaps in New Age spirituality, perhaps superstition, perhaps even the occult.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website at 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.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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