Thursday, March 1, 2018

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Briefing

March 1, 2018

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

It’s Thursday, March 1st, 2018. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

The baby that never should have been? 'Wrongful birth' lawsuits define our cultural reality

The great seismic changes taking place in our culture are leaving nothing unshaped and unshaken, and this includes even one of the most primal of all human relationships: the relationship between parent and child. The redefinition of parenthood in this generation is taking place in part because of a moral revolution, but also because of fundamental revolutionary changes in technology.

We turn first to a cover story that recently appeared in New York magazine. The headline on the cover, “The son I adore is the son I shouldn’t have had.” The subhead, “The most bittersweet of love stories.” Jen Gann writes with the background of how technology has raised new questions and entire new sectors of law. Jen Gann and her husband are engaged in what previous generations would not even have recognized, and that is a wrongful birth suit: a suit against medical authorities for allowing these two parents to go ahead with a pregnancy without understanding that the child that would be born would be marked by a serious genetic disease.

With both powerful prose and breathtaking statements, Jen Gann writes about her toddler, a little boy named Dudley, who was born with cystic fibrosis. She goes on to explain the terror of discovering this diagnosis and knowing that the little boy, who appeared to be so perfect at birth was, genetically speaking, anything but. She writes with the background of the fact that cystic fibrosis had been throughout human history an absolute death sentence, with few children even living to kindergarten age. Now, advances have made it possible for a majority of cystic fibrosis cases in some locations to be adults. But there should be no mistake; there should be no misunderstanding. We’re talking here about a very deadly and horrifying genetic disease.

The absolutely shocking moral reality behind this story is that this mom, Jen Gann, has written an article about how much she loves this little boy, and yet at the same time, how much she would prefer that he had never existed. Gann and her husband are now suing the medical authorities because they say that genetic screening should have been done that would have identified both the risk and, in the case of this then-unborn little boy, the reality of the fact that he would be afflicted with cystic fibrosis.

When one woman, knowing the situation, asked the question, “But if you had known, what then?” Gann went on to write, “I know I did not use the word abortion, or bring up our legal situation, or explain the concept of wrongful birth. In a room full of people I hardly knew, with Dudley pushing a plastic car back and forth over a carpet nearby, I did not tell her that I do know exactly what it is would have done.”

As the story unfolds, it turns out that long before Dudley was born, the parents had already decided had there been any kind of abnormality detected, they would opt for abortion. She writes this, quote, “During my first pregnancy appointment at eight weeks along, it was Tag (that’s her husband) who asked the midwife whether most people did genetic testing. She told us most people did. We agreed to the test. The midwife wrote up the order. We were laying the foundation of a plan we’d discussed before I’d even gotten pregnant. If something were wrong, we decided we wouldn’t continue the pregnancy.” End quote.

Now before we move along this particular essay, let’s just keep in mind what we’ve been told here. In the first place, we’re told that this is a very new moral decision being made by people now routinely in America and around the world. Previous generations did not face this kind of question because there were extremely limited pre-natal diagnoses available; almost none in meaningful terms. Now, by the genetic testing made available almost routinely, if still expensively, prospective parents know — now you’re talking about parents with an actual unborn child — can make themselves informed by an entire array of tests, and then they’re making a decision. They are making a decision that previous generations did not even understand nor imagine.

Jen Gann goes on to explain the nature of a wrongful birth case. She says, quote, “The money awarded in wrongful birth cases goes towards the cost, usually astronomically high, of the child’s medical care. In other words,” she writes, “a mother desperate to help her child declares that she would not have had that child.” End quote. Later, she seems to understand exactly the moral context and what some persons, those who come from a pro-life position, would say in response. She writes this, quote, “For the pro-lifers who oppose wrongful birth suits, this paradox — what does it mean to fight for someone when what you’re fighting for is a missed chance of that person’s not existing — is reason enough” she says, “to eliminate the legal pathway altogether. Anti-abortion crusaders paint wrongful birth,” she says, “as an attack on those living with disability or disease. They accuse mothers like me of wishing our children had never been born; of seeking flawless, designer babies free of health issues. The language,” says Gann, “probably doesn’t help. No birth is wrong. Those against wrongful birth love to point that out.”

But before going further, let’s just consider two paragraphs on the same page of the print edition of the magazine; one in the left column, one in the right. On the right column, she accuses anti-abortion crusaders — that’s her word, although she also uses the term pro-lifers — of accusing mothers making this kind of case of, quote, “Wishing our children had never been born; of seeking flawless, designer babies free of health issues.” End quote. That’s the paragraph on the right column of the page. But just a few inches away on the left column of the same page, she says that she and her husband had agreed even before the pregnancy began — I’ll use her words here — “We decided we wouldn’t continue the pregnancy, that against the background if something were wrong.”

Jen Gann writes in remarkably powerful language and she reveals herself tremendously in this article. She lays her heart bare, but we need to look closely at what she’s arguing here and we also need to understand the importance of an article like this appearing as a cover story in a magazine like New York magazine. This particular magazine is intended to be primarily read by the intellectual and cultural elites in the city of New York, and the city of New York has an outsized influence in the larger culture. So what we’re looking at here is an argument for the rightfulness of these wrongful death suits, and the argument that even as some will accuse those who press these suits of wishing that they’re children had never been born, the actual truth is that those making the argument for the case are saying exactly that; they wish these children had never been born.

Later in this article, Jen Gann makes the accusation against the medical establishment when she says, quote, “I hate them for making me a mother whose biggest mistake was becoming one.” End quote. In reading the article, my heart immediately went out to Jen Gann and to her husband, and to this little boy, Dudley. It is an excruciating story. The cover story, by the way, has a photograph of Dudley drinking from a bottle, looking over his mother’s shoulder. He is absolutely adorable, with big blue eyes and curly blond hair. But I do not reject for a moment, I don’t mean to minimize even for an instant the incredible burden that Jen Gann and her husband, Tag, are carrying. Nor do I want to minimize in any way the suffering that might be experienced by this little boy.

But I do want to argue that just looking at the photograph on the cover refutes the very notion that this is a child who should never have been born. Furthermore, what’s missing from the moral horizon of the story is asking Dudley when he is years older if he, indeed, would wish that he never had been. But even if asking that question can make sense in grammar and syntax, from a Biblical viewpoint it doesn’t make sense. Not from a Christian worldview; it doesn’t make sense, really, from any moral worldview to turn to a human individual and ask that person would it really be better if you had never existed.

We need to look closely and honestly at where the logic of this question is leading us. It’s leading us to the understanding that prospective parents in this brave, new world of technology are now faced with the reality that every pregnancy is, as 1:Ephesus has pointed out, effectively a tentative pregnancy; tentative until there is enough evidence that the baby should be born. That’s the horrifying reality. And of course the implication here, looking to the future as well as the present, is that once these genetic tests and these diagnostic mechanisms become even more widespread, we will simply cease to see among humanity many persons who have added so much to what humanity means, reflecting the glory of God.

An issue like this tests the Christian and the Christian worldview. Do we really believe that every, single human being, at every stage of development from fertilization until natural death, under every condition — and that would mean afflicted by every illness — is a life made in the image of God; a person made in the image of God? Well, the Bible makes clear we absolutely do believe that. And we have to believe that even in the face of this kind of article; perhaps especially in the face of this kind of new development, ominous and heartbreaking as it is.

Part II

Parenthood redefined: Ohio judge nullifies parental rights after parents object to teenager’s gender transition

But next, we turn to a second issue about the redefinition of parenthood. This one, also very ominous, and perhaps in reality of mathematical terms, even more common; or at least we should expect or fear that it would become more common. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports, quote, “A Hamilton County judge has paved the way for a 17 year-old who wants to transition in gender to undergo hormone therapy. The case pitted the teen against his parents.” Now before we even go further, the phrase here is that the case pitted the teen against his parents. But the child was born a girl. The child now claims a male identity, and the 17 year-old has claimed the right to hormone therapy in order to undergo the process of gender reassignment.

The bottom line of the importance of this story has to do with the fact that a court in Ohio has found that the Christian parents will have their parental rights nullified, and instead those rights reassigned to grandparents because the parents, Christians in this case, did not agree with the medical therapy of the sex reassignment for their teenage child, and the court has intervened removing their parental rights and reassigning them to grandparents, whom we are told had pledged to the court that they would not stand in the way of the teenager’s determination to identify as a boy rather than as a girl; and furthermore, to undergo serious medical therapy in hormone replacement, and also moving towards a full array of what it means for sexual or gender reassignment.

The Enquirer reports that a visiting juvenile court judge named Sylvia Hendon had ruled in this case that the parental rights should be shifted from the parents to the grandparents in order that hormone therapy could begin at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The 17 year-old had been evaluated by a psychologist, but the judge ruled there must be further evaluation before the hormone therapy could begin. And the judge said that such counseling and analysis should look at, quote, “The issue of consistency in the child’s gender presentation and feelings of non-conformity.” End quote.

There’s no real surprise here. The therapeutic definition, the diagnosis, is gender dysphoria and the teenager’s being told by medical authorities, psychologists and psychiatrists, that the right way to proceed is toward gender reassignment. The parents disagree, and in any normal situation in any normal time, parents would have the say over the medical treatment of their own minor children. But in this case, no. We need to note the importance of what’s taking place here.

The sexual revolutionaries with new allies in medical fields are now turning to the courts in order to remove or terminate parental authority and even parental legal rights in order that a young person — 17 in this case but it could be younger in any other case — could move forward with gender reassignment. Of course the court has intervened, claiming that it is doing so in the best interest of the child. I’m holding my hands an actual copy of the court order issued by the judge. She writes, quote, “It is unfortunate that this case required resolution by the court, as the family would have been best served if this could have been settled within the family after all parties had ample exposure to the reality of the fact that the child truly may be gender non-conforming and has a legitimate right to pursue life with a different gender identity than the one assigned at birth.” End quote.

In those words is an entire revolution in human thought; an entire revolution in morality. What we are being told here by a juvenile court judge in Ohio is that it is simply a fact, she writes, that the parties should have been simply exposed to the reality of the fact that the child truly may be gender non-conforming. And then she continues in her argument that the child, thus, has a legitimate right — those are the judge’s words — to pursue life with a different gender identity than the one assigned at birth.

Now by the time you get from the elites discussing these issues, by the time you get from academics inventing an entire new universe of rights, until you get to a juvenile court judge dealing with a specific, real case in Ohio, well, you have just seen the entire world turned upside down morally speaking, also in terms of the general worldview. In what previous age could any part of this court order make any sense whatsoever? And furthermore, you can see just how much the ideology of the transgender movement has now moved into the mainstream, so much so that it is showing up in a juvenile court in the state of Ohio, right there in the center of the nation.

We have a juvenile court judge in Hamilton County, Ohio, speaking of the reality of the fact of gender non-conformity and the experience of this teenager, and then the legitimate right of a teenager to pursue life with a different gender identity than the one assigned at birth. Now notice here, by the way, that there is no reference to sex. There’s no reference to biology. There’s simply a reference to gender identity and the gender identity that might have been, the insinuation in this article is clear, wrongfully assigned at birth.

But there’s something else to be considered here. This is simply a medical or a biological fact. We are talking about a massively powerful set of hormones that are now, by court order, to be made available to a deeply conflicted and troubled teenager in order to alter the gender appearance. And furthermore, to alter in some sense, the secondary sex characteristics that were assigned to the child not by the parents, but by the child’s creator at birth; playing out, of course, through puberty.

Indeed, the Creator’s assignment wasn’t merely at birth. It was before the very moment of fertilization. It’s in God’s eternal purpose that was realized in the birth of this child. Furthermore, just to make the course of this kind of moral revolution exceedingly clear, this juvenile court judge in Hamilton County, Ohio has asked the Ohio legislature to remedy the absence in the juvenile law of any clear legal guidelines in this kind of case. She writes, quote, “That type of legislation would give a voice and a pathway to youth similarly situated as JNS without attributing fault to the parents and involving them in protracted litigation which can and does destroy the family unit.” End quote. That’s said by a judge who, acting in this case, effectively did destroy the family unit removing this teenager from the custody of her parents and instead granting custody to grandparents on one, solitary issue: the fact that the grandparents assured the court they would not stand in the way of the teenager’s gender sex reassignment.

But all Christian parents should be urgently concerned here because a signal is clearly being sent by this court case in Ohio. The signal is this: although in this case the issue may be a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, the reality is that we see here the signal that if any Christian parents deny to their own children, especially their teenage children, the right to proceed along the lines that are indicated by the moral revolution, they’ve been served notice that those parents may have their parental rights either compromised or even taken away. That would have appeared to have been an extremist scare language just a few years ago. But this is reality, and it’s reality right in the heart of the country in Ohio.

Part III

In aftermath of ‘Emperor for Life’ announcement, Chinese censors go into overdrive

But finally, as we are contemplating the power of government to bring about moral coercion, we need to keep in mind the story we talked about earlier this week on The Briefing, whereas China and the Chinese Communist party appear to be moving to remove any kind of term limit on President Xi Jinping, effectively creating what one analyst called a Chinese Communist emperor for life. But then came the story in the Financial Times yesterday indicating that China’s censors, always very close at hand in the Communist regime, in the aftermath of the announcement have now moved to limit any kind of public discussion. And they way they’re doing it, well, it’s just very interesting and incredibly revealing, almost like a parable for our times.

Yuan Yang reports, and I quote, “China’s censors have gone into overdrive to silence displeasure over the Communist party’s plans to scrap the presidential two term limit, even blocking the phrase ‘I Disagree’ on social media.” End quote. Now I’m just going to interject here, you heard it right. The Chinese censors, in order to shut down any kind of debate about the plans of the Communist party, have now decided to censor even the words ‘I Disagree’ on social media.

The story in the Financial Times of London continues telling us that phrases such as ‘I Disagree’ and ‘Lifelong Rule’ have been blocked from Waybo, China’s top micro-blogging site. So, also, are euphemisms such as ‘boarding a plane’ which, according to the article, is a Chinese form of saying something like ascending to the throne. In America, many of us are rightly concerned about the freewheeling world of social media and the internet, and the dangers that brings. But this story reminds us that there are dangers on the other side of a coercive government, an autocratic government gaining control of the internet, of communication, and even of social media.

But leave it to the creativity of some who are determined  to get their message out. The Financial Times article continues, and I quote, “Chinese internet users shared more oblique means to sidestep censors, such as a cartoon featuring Winnie The Pooh, the rotund bear who has drawn comparisons to Mr. Xi, hugging a pot of honey with the caption ‘Feed the thing you love and stick with it’.” End quote. But of course, the message comes down to the fact that the Chinese people have no say in the matter. It’s not so much for the people that they’ve made a decision and they’ll stick with it; it’s that the Chinese Communist party has made a decision and now the Chinese people, and all of us, are stuck with it.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’m speaking to you from Los Angeles, California, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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