Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Briefing

November 30, 2017

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

It’s Thursday, November 30, 2017. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

​We’ll see the rise of abortion doula and why if you have to say normal, normal, normal, whatever you’re talking about is almost surely not normal. We’ll see a preschool near the nation’s capital accused of being unchristian because it intends to teach Christianity. And we’ll look at the world view conflict in the toy isle.

Part I

The rise of abortion doulas: If you have to say 'normal, normal, normal,' whatever you're talking about is almost surely not 'normal'

One of the saddest news reports I have seen in a very long time comes in a long form article recently published at the Washington Post. The headline of the article published in that paper’s style section is this,

“The long five minutes: Abortion doulas bring comfort during a complicated time”

Monica Hesse is the reporter. She tells us that more than 50 women had seen a flyer on Facebook or Twitter and responded to an email address in order to receive training to be an abortion doula. She goes on to say,

“doula, traditionally, was trained to support a pregnant woman through her delivery, explained a facilitator from a group called D.C. Doulas for Choice. Traditional doulas weren’t medical professionals,” says the Post, “but they could hold hands, offer distraction, supply heating pads. In a roomful of doctors and nurses focusing on the delivery of a healthy baby, a doula was focused solely on the emotional well-being of the mother.”

So here’s the twist in the tale,

“D.C. Doulas for Choice, a volunteer-based collective, believed pregnant women needed equal support if they decided not to become mothers at all,” this explained by the facilitator in the training session.

And so Hesse explains,

“if the aspiring doulas in this room made it through training, and apprenticed through a series of shadow shifts, then this is what they were signing up for:” just listen to these words, “To be in a surgical room with a woman through one of the most intimate emotional experiences of her life; to hold her hand while she has an abortion.”

Now we’ve talked about the very existence of abortion doulas in previous editions of the Briefing. This is not an entirely new development, but it’s one of the most telling developments of modern times. And this particular story in the Washington Post is particularly compelling. A doula is indeed traditionally a woman who helps another woman through the process of giving birth to a child. It’s true that even as medical professionals are primarily concerned about the process of birth and the health of the baby the doula was concerned about the emotional well-being, usually the coaching and encouragement of the woman giving birth. But now what we face in this truly horrible inversion of morality not to mention of maternity is a series of training sessions for doulas who are being trained to assist not a woman through the process of childbirth, but a woman through the process of un-childbirth, indeed an abortion.

The report in the Washington Post is mostly about the training session. But behind all of this is the reality of abortion and the particular challenge of being an abortion doula. We are told,

“Outside the clinic, abortion was vast and abstract. Inside, abortion was a five-minute procedure happening to actual people. To be an abortion doula,” says the Post, “meant being a part of the pro-choice movement at its most granular, most personal, where philosophical debates fell away.”

Now at this point before we proceed even a single word in terms of this article, we need to pause and recognize what’s being claimed here. Here we face the claim that inside the actuality of the abortion clinic abstract arguments, all ethical questions simply fade away, but if this article makes anything clear it’s the absolute contradiction of that fact because this article can’t get away from what’s described here as a philosophical question, indeed the biggest question of all. And that’s the question of human life and its sacredness. There’s another very telling aspect of this article, and it’s the straightforward reporting of the fact that what the training sessions for these abortion doulas comes down to is encouraging women to talk about anything but the abortion. Now just contrast that with the natural process of birth where a mother getting ready to celebrate the birth of her child wants to know about that child wants to know about the process of birth. Contrasted with that is the fact that the doulas even though it’s not stated this way are obviously there to distract the woman from what’s actually taking place. That’s made clear in this paragraph from the article and I quote,

“On the first day of training, a doctor had come in, a chic, funny woman who walked through the mechanics of the procedure, passing around medical instruments: a tenaculum, metal dilators. On the second day, they went over a list of neutral phrases and topics for if they found themselves not knowing what else to say: “It is almost finished.” “You’re so strong.” “Are you watching anything good on TV?” Ask what patients were planning to have for dinner — they wouldn’t have eaten since the night before. Talk about their kids. Patients who already had kids loved talking about their kids.”

As we should note they’re in the very process of ending the life of another of their kids. Another essential moral insight from this article is the fact that the abortion rights movement and those associated with it want to insist that every possible response of a woman undergoing an abortion is normal. One of the experienced abortion doulas speaking of women undergoing an abortion said this,

“Sometimes, what they need is just to hear that what they’re feeling is normal,” and she went on to say, “and it probably is.”

Here’s the paragraph,

“Some women might cry, and that was normal. Some women might feel only relief, and that was normal. Some might feel guilty about their relief. Feel drowsy after anesthesia. Feel woozy, in the patient lounge, while they sat with the other women who had just come out of their own procedures. Have cramps. Laugh. Want to talk about nothing but the final season of ‘Veep.’ Normal, normal, normal.”

Well let’s just state what should be obvious to us by now. Nothing in this article is normal. Nothing is normal much less normal, normal, normal. There’s a basic moral nihilism at the very center of this story. For instance one person offered that the best definition of a doula is water. When asked to explain it, she said,

“Taking the shape of whatever role is needed. Like water.”

Then another of the facilitators said,

“If someone getting an abortion calls it a baby, it’s a baby. If she calls it a fetus, it’s a fetus. If she doesn’t say anything, don’t talk about it.”

Now honestly it’s hard for me to imagine how in the world this article is supposed to be supportive of the abortion rights movement. If anything it shows the absolute moral vacuity. No it’s worse than that the absolute moral evil at the very heart of the act of abortion. Now remember that early in the article this reporter insisted that in the reality of an abortion clinic as the procedure is taking place the philosophical questions simply evaporate, but then listen to this paragraph in the very same article,

“An abortion was a five-minute medical procedure, and an abortion was a query into the literal meaning of life. It was the reason some people voted for presidents, it was a small collection of cells. Every possible thing that could be said about abortion had been said, but a lot had been said speculatively, because people with experience were too afraid to talk about it out loud. Abortion was a secret. Abortion was almost always a secret.”

So we were told at one point that the entire point is to avoid the philosophical questions about abortion, but then we have acknowledgment later in the article that every abortion is a query into the literal meaning of life. One of the women in the clinic undergoing an abortion mentioned her upcoming wedding. Another of the patients said,

“You’re getting married? That’s nice.”

And the first woman said,

““It was just the worst timing.” “‘I know it was,’” the other woman said. “‘I believe you.’”

It’s also very revealing that in this article the abortion doulas indicate that they often cry, one did after witnessing four abortions. But the question is if this is all normal and that unborn life means nothing then why in the world would anyone cry? Concerning the moral confusion at the heart of all of this one of the doulas said,

“‘Death can exist without it being murder,’ a doula replied, explaining how she could agree with the “life ending” statement but still believe in abortion. ‘I can love animals and still eat meat. I can do this kind of work because of these gray areas.’”

But by the time you reach the end of the article there’s an even deeper confusion. It’s hard even to follow the words because by the time you get to the end of the article one of the abortion doulas is actually acting as a birth doula, and after that birth mother has given birth, we read these words,

“life was sacred, and it could turn out in so many ways. The world outside marched on.”

We can certainly agree that life is beautiful, and we emphatically agree that life is sacred but what does it mean to make those statements and then say it could turn out and so many ways when one of those ways is life and another of those ways is death. There’s no question that the editorial page of the Washington Post has been ardently and consistently pro-abortion now for a matter of decades. This is a reportorial story in the style section of the paper. But still we have to wonder does this paper think that reading this article is likely to make abortion look more normal, even more attractive, more morally right? The article is tragic, but it’s also very important. And if you have to look at abortion and its response to abortion and say over and over again normal, normal, normal, what you’re really acknowledging whether you know it or not is that whatever this is it isn’t and can never be normal.

Part II

Preschool near Washington D.C. accused of being un-Christian because it intends to teach Christianity

Next I’m going to turn to another article recently in the Washington Post, this headline in an article by Joe Heim is,

“‘A breach of trust’: A preschool, a church and a change in mission”

It tells us about a small preschool in Bethesda, Maryland that according to Heim,

“has a big problem on its hands, and God,” we are told, “or at least teaching about God — is at the center of it.”

Heim then reports,

“For as long as anyone can remember, the Concord-St. Andrew’s Cooperative Nursery School has been educating young children without including much, or anything, in the way of religious instruction,” that according to numerous parents at the school, “some of whom attended when they were children. That secular approach was fine with many at the close-knit school, where families and teachers come from a range of religious, racial and ethnic backgrounds and find harmony in their divergent viewpoints.”

But we are told all of that appears primed to change. Heim then tells us,

“The school community was roiled in early October when the Rev. Susan Brown, the pastor at Concord-St. Andrew’s Church, told the school’s director that beginning next academic year,” here’s a quote, “all classes will incorporate age-appropriate Christian lessons in their daily activities.”

That according to a letter sent by the church to parents of students in the school. The interesting part of the story is the fact that parents, many parents, indeed according to this news report most of the parents, are absolutely outraged that a Christian church would dare to incorporate even a very milder minimal Christianity in a preschool program. One of the mother’s said,

““It feels like a crusade where they’re trying to bring God to the godless nursery school.”

Speaking of the school and its secular reputation today, she said,

“It took so much time and energy and devotion to build what is there now, and now it’s being stomped on.”

According to the news article back in October, the pastor distributed a handout, which we are told was obtained by the Washington Post, much as if this was something like the Watergate scandal. And we are told that the United Methodist Church had hired a director for children and youth ministries to help design and integrate new lessons into the curriculum. We are also told that the document had discussed,

“incorporating prayer and chapel into the regular schedule.”

Here’s where there’s a significant uptick in the energy of the article. Heim writes and I quote,

“The planned curriculum changes have not been well-received by many of the parents of the school’s 60 or so students. Although the preschool is housed in the church basement, parents say they chose to send their children to Concord-St. Andrew’s precisely because it did not teach religion and had a reputation, built up over its 60-year existence, as a school that welcomed children of all faiths — or no faith at all.”

Heim goes on to tells us that the parents did not complain about the fact that the school had a traditional cooperative aspect that required parents to help out in the classroom and elsewhere, but,

“they did not sign up for a school where religion is an organizing structure of the day.”

Now once again the Washington Post cites the handout as if it has found a bloodied piece of evidence when it goes on to say that the handout stated,

“The CSA Nursery School is not a secular organization; it operates under the church’s exempt status with all of the privileges of that status. As such, it must include religious education as part of its primary mission.”

Then we are told,

“The handout also references guidance from the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline, which sets laws and doctrine for the denomination.”

Well as you read this article, it would appear that many of the secular parents are assuming that this is nothing less than a fundamentalist takeover of those trying to enforce religious indoctrination on their sweet and precious otherwise secular students. One parent said,

“Complete disappointment, that was my first reaction,” and then she said, “disgust. What is happening? Why is this happening?”

Several of the parents quoted in the Washington Post article said that even as they had believed in the school and some of them had themselves attended this school they’re going to be taking their children out of the school because there’s going to be some kind of minimal Christian teaching, and there might even be prayer and it’s rumored that there could be a chapel service. Some of the parents who don’t like this direction at all complained about the fact that there was no compromise. One mom said,

“Some of us have said we wouldn’t have had such a negative reaction if it had played out differently, if the church had acted in a cooperative manner,” in order to find a compromise.

Well what exactly would that have looked like? At least one of the offended parents was honest enough to say that there wasn’t any ground for possible compromise and that parent said,

“We wanted to give the church the benefit of the doubt, but the way the church went about it was, in short, a very un-Christian thing to do. In truth,” he said, “bridges have been burned. If they wanted to resolve this amicably, it would have been a fairly easy discussion to have. A breach of trust has occurred.”

So let’s just look honestly at what we have here. Here we have a little tiny preschool in a United Methodist Church in Bethesda, Maryland, a church school that’s about 60 years old and for well it appears about 60 years has had very little church in church school. But now the pastor in accordance with the actual policies and regulations of the United Methodist Church in its book of discipline intends to have at least some Christian content. We’re not even told what kind of Christian content it is to be as this woman preacher of the United Methodist Church has sent out this announcement. But whatever it is it’s way too much for the secular parents there in suburban Washington D.C. And by the time you get to the end of the article, the world has once again been turned upside down. We’re told that the school has acted in a very unchristian way, seeking to include some kind of Christian content in a school that meets in and is sponsored by a Christian church.

Part III

Worldview conflict in the toy aisle: Barbie becomes an ambassador for same-sex marriage

Meanwhile finally we come to the collision between worldview and popular culture where the intersection is toys. We might like to think parents in particular that at least when it comes to toys there would be some cultural arena of worldview neutrality. But this is where Christians, we have to remind ourselves over and over again that there is no such arena that is worldview neutral and especially when it comes to products, consumer items, toys that are being directed at our children. Someone is doing that directing. Someone is doing that selling. And in most cases they’re selling more than toys. There is no greater example of this than a recent news reports that appeared in the Guardian of London telling us that Barbie has come out in support of same-sex marriage. It wasn’t subtle. The Mattel company put out a series of advertising photographs showing Barbie wearing a “Love Wins” T-shirt.

Anna Livsey reporting for the Guardian tells us,

“The campaign for same-sex marriage may be able to claim another high profile supporter: Barbie. The famous doll appeared to come out in support of equal marriage in an Instagram post promoting a collaboration with fashion blogger, Aimee Song. The post shows Barbie and a new ‘friend; – a doll version of Song – wearing matching T-shirts….”

The Guardian then asked the question as to whether or not it’s just that Barbie is supporting same-sex marriage or has Barbie come out of the closet. The Guardian, a very liberal newspaper by the way, then summarizes, and I quote,

“Mattel has increasingly aligned the Barbie brand with progressive causes. In 2016 it released a range of Barbies with diverse hair, face and body types, saying it hoped to promote healthy and realistic self-image so that girls can ‘find a doll that speaks to them’.”

Even more recently the company has released a series of “Sheroes” – that is,

“a range of dolls it says “recognises Sheroes – female heroes who inspire girls by breaking boundaries and expanding possibilities for women everywhere.”

But here is where I wish a newspaper with the depth of the Guardian would at least be honest and go back to the birth of Barbie. In the obituary for Ruth Handler who really invented the Barbie doll and helped to cofound the Mattel Corporation, an obituary that appeared in 2002 in the New York Times, Sarah Kershaw reminds us that Ruth Handler based Barbie upon a sex doll from Germany. Barbie was released in the United States in 1959 and was controversial from the start. Furthermore there is every reason to blame Mattel if you can blame anyone and Barbie in particular for sexualizing a vision of young womanhood and in particular of girls, handing to girls, in particular marketing toward school-age girls, a vision of a very glamorized and sexualized femininity.

It’s also important to note that amongst the earliest critics of Barbie were oddly enough conservative Christians and liberal feminists. Both of whom agreed that it was inappropriate to hold up a highly glamorized and sexualized anatomically exaggerated version of womanhood to young girls. So a doll that was rooted in pornography and then came to the United States in 1959 as a sexualized toy for schoolgirls has now become an ambassador of sorts for same-sex marriage. All this of course is not only a battle in terms of the consumer marketplace and the sales of toys. It is more than anything else a battle of worldviews, and as we should know, a battle for the hearts and minds of our children. All that to say as a timely reminder that one of the primary areas of worldview conflict is where you might not think of it – in the toy aisle at your local department store.

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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