Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018
Tags: Abortion, Audio, Australia, Canada, Same-Sex Marriage, South Korea
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Thursday, January 18, 2018. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Today we’ll see a radical revision of abortion rights from the Canadian Prime Minister. We’ll see government use coercive power to further its own moral agenda. We’ll see a very different vision of abortion as an issue in South Korea. We’ll see Australian wedding vendors celebrate a new product line, and we’ll come to understand same-sex weddings as a signal and explain a signal of what.
A radical vision of abortion rights from the Canadian Prime Minister as government uses coercive power to further its own agenda
An absolutely shocking story comes to us from across America's northern border in the nation of Canada. But upon reflection, some of the most fundamental issues raised by this story come down to the questions is the story really all that shocking? And secondly, what would it take these days to shock us? The story has to do with a speech given recently by the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. As Amanda Connolly reports for Global News Canada,
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doubled down Wednesday in Hamilton on his defence of reproductive choice in Canada at the second stop on his town hall tour across the country, saying groups seeking to remove the right of Canadian women to access abortion are out of sync with society.”
She went on to report,
“The comment comes weeks after Global News reported the government will require all employers that apply for federal funding to hire students through the Canada Summer Jobs program sign an attestation stating that their organizational mandate and the role they want to hire youth for respects the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the right to abortion”
The next sentence reads like this, the Prime Minister,
“said that while all individuals in a free society can hold any views they like on the matter of abortion, actively working to strip other Canadians of their rights is not okay.”
Now let’s just start to take this story apart. The first thing we are told is that the Prime Minister of Canada has been traveling around the country at least starting what's called a town hall tour. And in so doing when he got to Hamilton, Ontario last week, he unloaded a message having to do with his vision of liberty in Canada, and that liberty, his vision, is centered on the question of abortion. We are secondly told that he had also given an order through his administration indicating that the Canada Summer Jobs program for college students will be closed to students and to employers who do not upfront sign an absolute affirmation called in the story an “attestation” of the fact that they are going to require the support of the right to abortion.
But then the third aspect of the story has to do with this amazing argument made by the Canadian Prime Minister, an argument in which he claims to defend the rights of all Canadian citizens to hold any views they may so choose on the question of abortion but then says that Canadians have no right to seek to strip other Canadians of the right to abortion. He means by that we can only assume that you can hold in your hearts in the privacy of your homes perhaps even in the sanctity of your church buildings a pro-life position, but it violates human rights in Canada to seek to make that position influential and public policy to contend for the sanctity of human life in public. In the most crucial section of his speech, in this third point the prime minister said that any call explicitly for removing the right to abortion in Canada,
“is not in line with where we are as a government and, quite frankly, where we are at as a society.”
At age 46, Justin Trudeau is one of the younger leaders of a major Western democracy. But for Canadians, he was already a household name at least his last name was. His father, the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was Canadian prime minister from 1968 to 1979 and then again from 1980 to 1984. Pierre Trudeau, the father as prime minister, was for the 1960s and 70s and 80s an iconic figure on the Western scene when it came to political liberalism. His son brought the liberal party in Canada back into power after years in the wilderness using that famous last name and also his own charismatic personality.
But Canadians should have at the very least understood what they were buying when they bought Justin Trudeau and his platform as a candidate and as policies. Back in 2015 when he was running for office, Justin Trudeau gave an address in which he made very clear that he sees abortion as standing at the center of his liberal vision for Canadian society. He wrote this,
“One set of policies in postwar Canada generated more liberty for more people than any other. It was,” he said, “the decades-long effort of the women’s movement to gain control over reproductive health and rights. Indeed,” he said, “let me be perfectly clear on this point. The Canada we know today is unimaginable without widely available birth control and the legalization of choice.”
By that he means of course the legalization of abortion. He went on to argue in this speech from 2015,
“Every conceivable measure of inclusion and progress has moved in the right direction since women gained legally protected reproductive freedom in Canada”
Now just taking the prime minister at face value, back when he was running for office in 2015, he made the public argument indeed insisting by saying let me be perfectly clear on this point that he sees the right to abortion as at the center of modern Canada at the center of Canada's understanding of human rights and human dignity. And pushing his point beyond all reason, he argued that every conceivable measure of inclusion and progress that has taken place in Canada has done so in recent years on the back of and driven by what he identifies as reproductive freedom, the woman's right to an abortion.
The modern document known as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada traces its origin back to the administration, the last administration of Pierre Trudeau, the father. Now the son as he is acknowledging the fact that Canada had a commitment to human rights even before the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted, he stated,
“Now, for obvious family reasons, I’m tempted to claim that the Charter is responsible for the idea of Canadian liberty I am describing tonight. And let there be no doubt: The Charter certainly expanded freedom for all Canadians.”
He then put it in these words,
“We are all now free to marry whom we love, women are free to control their reproductive rights and, soon, we will be free to choose to die with dignity.”
Now just a couple of very important observations here. In the first place in one sentence the current Canadian Prime Minister when he was running for office identified three most important fundamental freedoms that he celebrates: the freedom of same-sex marriage, the freedom of abortion and the freedom of assisted suicide or euthanasia. We should note here that human rights as they were identified throughout Western history would've recognized until very recent times none of these rights as existent at all, and now the Canadian Prime Minister puts these three rights: same-sex marriage and abortion and assisted suicide and euthanasia at the very center of his understanding of human rights and human dignity and their role and place in Canadian society.
But in immediate terms the most troubling part of the Prime Minister's statement in recent days was his elimination of a pro-life position as having any place whatsoever in Canada's public conversation. Furthermore with a student jobs program, he has indicated his own willingness and the willingness of his government to use government coercion in order to make this point. Some of the Prime Minister's language is so shocking it has to be heard over and over again. In his speech just a few days ago, the Prime Minister spoke of pro-life convictions and then said this,
“When those beliefs lead to actions aimed to restrict a women’s right on what to do with her body, that’s where we draw the line.”
We in the context of the speech meaning himself and his government in Canada. This should remind Christians of the argument made by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni just a couple of years ago when he argued that religious liberty when especially it comes to an issue like the morality of homosexuality would protect the rights of American citizens to hold those beliefs in their hearts and in their homes and in their pews but not in public. Now you have the Canadian Prime Minister making a very similar argument but applied to the question of abortion. And we should note that a New York Times columnist has the power to influence and make an argument, but the Canadian prime minister has the authority and political power to create policies that would bind the Canadian people.
The two big lessons as we look at this story from Canada come down to the fact that here we see modernity celebrated and reduced to three human rights: three human rights that were invented by modern politics and modern courts, three central rights in terms of the sexual and moral revolution that we are now experiencing, the right as Justin Trudeau made clear to same-sex marriage to abortion and to euthanasia. And then secondly we need to understand very soberly and very frankly that when a government comes to this conclusion even a democratically elected government it will use whatever powers are at its disposal. It can do whatever it can get away with in order to use coercion to make that point, emphatically.
A very different vision of abortion as an issue in South Korea
Next on the issue of abortion, we switch from Canada to South Korea. The New York Times on January 14 ran an article by Motoko Rich with the headline,
“Push to End South Korea Abortion Ban Gains Strength, and Signatures”
Now the story, dateline from Seoul, South Korea, tells us that an organized pro-abortion movement is gaining strength and political traction there on the southern half of the Korean Peninsula. Rich tells us,
“Abortion is illegal in South Korea with just a few exceptions, such as when a woman has been raped or her health is at risk. It is one of just a handful of the world’s richest countries,” she says, “to have such restrictive abortion laws.”
But Rich goes on to tell us that,
“a group of women’s advocates is pushing to overturn the ban, and the country’s Constitutional Court is set this year to review a case that challenges the law’s constitutionality.”
Now the story in the New York Times goes on to explain that even though this legal ban is in place it is not often in enforced. Abortion is still regardless of this ban generally available, but it might be more restricted than it would be if abortion were fully legalized. But the most important aspect of this news story from South Korea isn't about this new effort to legalize abortion. It's about how the question of abortion, the reality of the killing of unborn life, is viewed in a country that comes from a very different worldview than many others who have also dealt with the issue. Rich tells us that the fact that abortion is criminalized even just as formal law in Korea attaches a stigma to abortion, and women who seek abortion are therefore,
“stigmatized and considered immoral” that according to one pro-abortion activist.
But what's really interesting is how we are told that in the 1970s and 80s with South Korea's population rising the government then,
“mounted a campaign to control the birthrate, issuing propaganda posters with slogans like ‘It’s too crowded in Korea’ and ‘Even two is too much.’”
One authority said, speaking of abortion,
“It was used as a population control means”
Later in the article we read this,
“In conservative South Korea,” as this obstetrician said, “Nobody really saw it as a right. Even among the activists, the idea of the right to have an abortion was considered a Western concept.”
Hold on here, the story goes on to tell us that now Korea like so many other nations South Korea is facing not a population challenge of having too many babies but the even more difficult challenge of having too few. So there is now government impetus towards encouraging couples to have children not encouraging them not to have children. The worldview analysis we need to apply here is understanding that even when you're looking at hugely urgent moral questions like abortion you're not looking civilization by civilization, culture by culture at the same way of thinking through what is at stake.
In South Korea we are told the issue of abortion has generally been treated as a purely pragmatic issue. The government according to this article would be either for it or against it not having anything to do with an understanding of the sanctity and dignity of human life not with any reference to the fetus and the right to life in any way, but rather simply looking at whether or not the population needs would imply the need for abortion or the need to prevent abortion. The comment by that obstetrician looking back over several decades at that this debate in South Korea has to be placed in dramatic contrast with the recent statements of the Canadian Prime Minister. Justin Trudeau identified abortion as one of three central rights that constitute the very meaning of human rights. Meanwhile the obstetrician in Korea said that nobody really sees abortion as a right at least historically in Canada. I repeat again,
“Even among the activists, the idea of the right to have an abortion was considered a Western concept.”
Well that's a really important observation because indeed the very general conception of human rights and of human dignity has a very great deal to do with Western civilization, with Western culture and with the biblical worldview and the historic Christianity that shaped that culture. Western civilization didn't come up with the basic idea of human rights from a secular fabric. It did so from the fountain of historic Christianity. It did so out of the strength of the biblical affirmation of human dignity and human rights based upon not an autonomous secular individualism but the biblical affirmation of the fact that every single human being, every human individual is made in God's image and thus possesses a certain dignity and a life sacred and worthy of protection and respect.
Finally as we are thinking about this Korean story, it's important to note that there is a resurgent pro-life movement and pro-life argument in South Korea. Where would that be coming from? Well, you're probably there already. It's coming from the increasing number of Christians and the growing number of Christian churches in Korea. As we think about this from the lens of a Christian worldview, as we think about this from the perspective of historic Christianity, we come to understand that is certainly no accident.
Australian wedding vendors celebrate a new product line
But next we turn to Australia the nation that recently legalized same-sex marriage. Isabella Kwai reporting for the New York Times tells us that one of the big winners in Australia is the wedding industry. She reports,
“At one of the first legal same-sex weddings held this week in Australia, two men pledged their lives to each other in front of a roomful of friends, relatives — and wedding vendors.”
We are further told that,
“As the couple recited their vows on Thursday in front of Sydney’s Harbour Bridge, a team of photographers and videographers captured the moment.”
We are also told,
“In total, more than 20 suppliers — including caterers, florists and planners — donated 40,000 Australian dollars,” that’s about 31,000 American dollars in order to throw the wedding.
It was a wedding intended to showcase Australia's wedding industry and a whole new product line now made legal with same-sex marriage. Kwai reports,
“Since Parliament approved gay marriage in December, analysts have predicted the expected increase in unions will create a 10 percent boom in wedding industry revenues.”
Wendy McColl who organized the contest for a free gay wedding – that was won by the two men by the way – said,
“The industry itself is just excited”
Well this industry, we are told, is newly excited sees a whole new commercial opportunity when it comes to the legalization of same-sex marriage. One authority cited in the article said and I quote,
“Australia’s not going to see weddings the way we’ve seen weddings in the past. That traditional structure is evolving.”
Well, of course it is. Because as the article makes clear, this whole new product line in what's termed the wedding industry will have to come up with new ways to define what marriage is even in terms of cakes or the figures on top of the cake. But beyond that it turns out that the fundamental change in marriage that is represented by these newly celebrated same-sex weddings, it will require even deeper changes. Well we’ve been warning about that long before the legalization of same-sex weddings, but this tells us something about how capital and capitalism responds to this kind of moral revolution. It will seize just about any opportunity.
That's not so much a critique of capitalism as it is a recognition of the fact that whether the issue is same-sex marriage or the legalization of marijuana folks will use whatever argument is at their disposal. They’ll use an argument about a new product line and a new commercial opportunity and expansion of industry if that will suit their purposes. And even as Lenin warned back in the early decades of the 20th century, there will be capitalists ready to use capitalism in order to further just about anything if they see a profit opportunity. So we should note that there were some moral opportunists who joined with financial opportunists in order to orchestrate and later then to celebrate the legalization of same-sex marriage and the weddings that would come with it.
One congregation celebrates same-sex weddings as a signal, but a signal of what?
But finally I turn to a related story not from Australia but from Great Britain where a major London newspaper, the Telegraph, recently ran an article with the headline,
“Liberal churches boosted by LGBT weddings as couples join their congregations”
Now this is the kind of claim made by many of the moral revolutionaries most particularly those in the liberal churches for some time. They've argued that if the church will just get with the sexual revolution just endorse homosexuality, same-sex unions and same-sex weddings this will be a great church growth opportunity for congregations and denominations. The headline that appeared in the Telegraph would indicate that it is already so. Again,
“Liberal churches boosted by LGBT weddings as couples join their congregations”
But you have to look beyond the headline to the story. And here's the bottom line of the story. The churches that are now celebrating same-sex unions in Britain are the churches that had already been losing members, hemorrhaging members, for a very long time. The central denomination identified in this article is Unitarian, which by any biblical estimation means it's not even a Christian church. Unitarians by definition deny the doctrine of the Trinity, the central doctrine of biblical Christianity. Thus, they deny the full deity of Christ and/or they deny the reality of the Trinity as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
In the British case this new story comes from the fact that academics at the University of Leeds and the University of York had issued a report saying that adopting same-sex marriage and celebrating same-sex weddings could be,
“‘a positive ‘brand’ for a place of worship.’”
One of those churches that decided to move in exactly this direction said that new members have been attracted to the congregation because it was a signal – that is celebrating same-sex weddings – it was a signal of the general liberalism of the congregation. By the way, here we are told that adopting same-sex marriage will lead to church growth. You should expect to hear that argument over and over again. And yet where it is to be found, the very way it's found actually tells the story. In this case one congregation is celebrating the fact that when a couple of same-sex couples joined they actually grew as a congregation right up to the number 30. The one thing that is right the only thing that is right about this article is the fact that it indicates that celebrating same-sex weddings comes as a signal, a signal to the larger culture about the general liberalism, the background liberal theology of the congregation. So it turns out that the headline isn’t true, but that point is emphatically true.
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, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to BoyceCollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.