Tuesday, Mar. 27, 2018

Tuesday, Mar. 27, 2018

The Briefing

March 27, 2018

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

It’s Tuesday, March 27th, 2018. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

The future of secularization: What trends in Europe reveal about coming generations

One of the most well-documented irrefutable trends of our times is the continued secularization of Western societies. This is more true in Europe than in the United States. It’s more true in Canada than in the United States. It is more true in western and northern Europe than in eastern and southern Europe, but the trend is undeniable and we have been seeing this ever since the beginning of the 20th Century.

The trends accelerated in the second half of the 20th century and by the time we entered the 21st century it has become very clear that the trend is accelerating beyond anything that had been anticipated, even by the prophets of secularization theory at the midpoint of the last century. But now a study comes out about young people in Europe indicating that the future may be even more secular than we knew.

Furthermore, the present is already far more secular than many had feared. The report comes from St Mary’s University, Twickenham in London, and it is a report that looks longitudinally that is across cultures and across national identifications at young people throughout Europe.

The research has produced some very interesting frontline data including the fact that the Czech Republic is the most secular of all European nations, as we’re looking young people and Poland is the least secular. No real surprise there given what we already know about the religious affiliation reports from the Czech Republic and from Poland. But it is a surprise when you consider the fact that the Czech Republic is really apart geographically of Eastern Europe rather than Western Europe.

So we’re looking at some trends here that tell us that even where we did not think secularization was happening so quickly perhaps it is. The study provides ample evidence and an analysis Stephen Bullivant who is a professor at the university responsible for the study. He described religion, religion in general throughout Europe looking at young adults as more ribband. It is headed towards death.

Professor Stephen Bullivant went on to say, “With some notable exceptions young adults increasingly are not identifying with or practicing religion, Christianity …” said the professor, “As a default as a norm is gone and probably gone for good or at least for the next 100 years.” But the reason Professor Bullivant cited that 100 years figures because it represents the outer reaches of any kind of research and the projections.

He doesn’t mean that in 100 years we should have some confidence that Europe is going to become more religious or more Christian. It’s just to say that given the current trends there’s actually no reason to believe that there will be any return to religion especially when looking at the rising generation.

Now yesterday, we looked at the impact politically, culturally and morally of a rising generation in the United States. Generational change is real and the most fundamental problem is that generational change last. The report in The Guardian a major London newspaper put it this way, “Europe’s march towards a post Christian society has been starkly illustrated by research showing a majority of young people in a dozen countries do not follow any religion.”

“The survey of 16 to 29 year olds found the Czech Republic is the least religious country in Europe with 91% of that age group saying they have no religious affiliation.” Let’s just stop there. That’s 91%, 91% of those aged 16 to 29. The report in The Guardian goes on to tell us that between 70% and 80% of young adults in Estonia, Sweden and the Netherlands also categorized themselves as non-religious.

On the other end of the scale, we have two nations Lithuania and Poland both overwhelmingly Catholic by historic tradition where respectively in Poland 17% of young adults identify themselves as non-religious, 25% in Lithuania. That points to the reality that those historically Catholic nations are now the outliers in Europe.

They may exist on the same continent but theologically and as we think of worldview they are incredibly distant from some of their very near neighbors. Neighbors as this report indicates even neighbors with whom they share a common border. Professor Bullivant went on to say on the basis of their research well respected in academic terms, “The new default setting is no religion and the few who are religious see themselves as swimming against the tide. He went on to conclude in 20 or 30 years’ time mainstream churches will be smaller but the few people left will be highly committed.”

Well that’s a truth we have seen played out over and over again already. The mainline Protestant denominations particularly looking at the picture in Europe have been largely evacuated of membership and evacuated even of attendance. In Great Britain, it is estimated that only about 7% of young adults even identify as Anglican, fewer identify by doing something as practical as attending a church service.

Now, looking at the velocity of change we need to recognize that the numbers reported here are virtually an inversion, a turning of the world upside down of what we would have seen in the same countries less than a half century ago, a half century in the course of human history is something like a blink of an eye.

In this blink of an eye, we have seen Europe transformed from a society that was self-consciously established upon the Christian heritage, upon the inheritance of Christian truth claims, upon the salience of Christian morality and even the authority of the Christian church. All of that is now not only gone as this research indicates it is no longer even a haunting memory.

A part of the progression that is traceable is that religious activity begins to decline and religious identification declines after the decline in religious activity. What does that mean? It means that young people are now the children and the offspring of a generation that may have identified in some way religiously specifically in some way as a Christian but it is likely that those previous generations.

This generation of young adults parents and grandparents had already indicated by their practice that decline in church attendance and religious activity. We then should not be surprised that the fall off, the inevitable result is what we see as these young adults not only did not experience that attendance but now they feel absolutely no social obligation whatsoever to identify with any kind of religious belief.

Actually, the picture may be worse than that. In many modern Western European nations it would now be to one’s social cost to identify in any way with any specific religious beliefs, and specifically with the religious beliefs of Biblical Christianity.

Ten pages into this research report from the university, there is a stunning piece of evidence one that is very compelling and should be the Christians. The reference is to Britain and France and to increasing secularization of young people in those two countries. Then the researchers write, “As can be seen, four out of every five young adult nuns that’s no yes in both countries, that’s Britain and France deny having had any previous religious affiliation.”

The researchers then write this explicitly, “That is they were brought up with no religion and have retained it into adulthood. That means therefore that one in five is a non-vert.” This is a relatively recent term to describe as per the Oxford Dictionary of atheism, “A person who was brought up with a religious affiliation but who now identifies as having no religion.”

The big number there is four out of five, four out of five of the young adults who now identify themselves as having no religious affiliation did not abandon any religious affiliation, they never knew a religious affiliation. Pointing once again to the fact that it is their parents and their grandparents who are the primary agents of their secularization.

It is interesting that the Oxford Dictionary of atheism now recognizes this new word non-vert as one would suppose the opposite of a convert. There are also some numbers that simply shock and get our attention such as this, “Among young adults in France, only 26% identify as Christians as 26%.” Consider the fact that in the same nation at the same time 10% of young adults identify as Muslims.

You simply have to add to that the fact that Muslim identification appears to be more resilient than Christian identification and Muslims in those nations are having more children than even those who identify as Christians in those nations. You’re looking at numbers that in the course of just a generation or two could actually be reversed.

In an article published over the weekend in The Telegraph another major London newspaper writer Will Heaven referred to the references in the report of religion as moribund and that the suggestion that Christianity, “Has probably gone for good as Europe’s default faith and then Heaven went on to apply this specifically to the United Kingdom to Great Britain.” He wrote, “It’s dismal news but it won’t surprise British churchgoers over the years they’ve seen the decline with their own eyes.” He speaks of his own life and of his own experience when he writes, “As a young chorister at Salisbury Cathedral I was struck by how grey haired the congregation was that packed the nave at the Sunday Eucharist. Later on, at my Monastic Secondary School the surviving monks were mostly in their dotage to be raised Christian at the turn of the millennium, at times felt like witnessing the end of something.”

That is an extremely important sentence. He writes of his experience as a young boy and as a young man in Great Britain. He writes of his own experience at church and in a church school and he says that being raised Christian as he was at the turn of the millennium, here are these words, “Felt like witnessing the end of something.”

We’ll have an also points to something else that’s absolutely shocking in the United Kingdom, it is the Church of England that is the official church the Queen of England is the secular head of the church. Furthermore, the Church of England has been central to British identity and the very notion of what it means to be English, but Heaven tells us that according to the latest data the Church of England now has fewer adult members than the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom, which is Evans says, “Could well undermine the church’s established status.”

Here we need to note that Britain which by definition is the very home of the English Reformation is now a nation that has more Catholic young adults than Anglican young adults, but it’s not because the Catholic young adults have been growing in number by any remarkable degree. It is rather that the Anglican young adults have been disappearing generation by generation.

Now, here we would point to a theological reason as the Anglican Church has largely forfeited its theological inheritance and moved itself into the position of being just another mainline protestant liberal denomination. Look again the difference between Britain then in 1953 when Queen Elizabeth the second was coroneted and now he speaks to the fact that the young queen in that service in 1953 promised as a part of her coronation oath, “To maintain the Protestant reformed religion.”

But Heaven goes on to say, “Her majesty knew that more than two thirds of the English population were baptized Anglicans.” But that world he says, “Has disappeared.” Her eldest son and heir to the throne the Prince of Wales Prince Charles says that he will not even receive the title Defender of the Faith first given to Henry the Eighth by the pope in the 16th Century. But rather he says he will accept only the title Defender of Faith, speaking he said of the faith that is in every one, no particular faith.

Here’s something else we need to note and a message that needs to be sent to the Prince of Wales. If and when he ever does become king there isn’t likely to be any faith, much less the faith for the prince become king supposedly to defend. We’ll have and then continuing his article says this, “Secularism is the dominant cultural force for Christians especially the trends are alarming, if they continue we are only decades away from complete statistical invisibility and near total atheism.”

Now, at this point informed observers of religion in Europe specifically here thinking of religion in the United Kingdom will understand and nod in agreement because just as we’ll have and said these trends have been observable for some time but the language is still shocking because the numbers even now are still shocking.

Will Heaven here isn’t talking about the marginalization of the Church of England, he’s not merely talking about the disestablishment of the Church of England. He’s talking about the invisibility of Christianity in England.

American Christians looking at this kind of research are often tempted to think, well that’s across the Atlantic Ocean that’s about Europe, it’s not about the United States but we simply have to reflect upon the fact that right across our northern border Canada is closely mirroring this pattern that is found in Europe, and we also have to recognize that the United States, a nation long thought to be the exception to secularization actually turns out to be secularizing just on a slower timetable, perhaps a longer timetable.

We also note that in the United States as we’re looking at generational change, we are ourselves looking at an increased and speeded up velocity of this secularization. So much so that in fairly short order we could be looking at similar research on the young people in this country, and that again ties in to the discussion on the briefing yesterday about political and moral change in the coming generations of the millennials and those identified now as Generation Z.

Part II

Does making abortion legal really reduce the number of abortions?

Next, staying in the United States, I want to look at a very different statistical report and I want us to look closely. This report is on abortion in the United States. NBC News reported it this way with the lead, “Abortion rates have fallen over the past 25 years, even as more countries are made the procedure legal and easier to get.” That according to a new report from the Alan Guttmacher Institute. That’s an institute that does not hide its pro-abortion sentiment and convictions but one that does have the respect, almost all across the board as it collects statistics and publishes that research.

NBC News went on to say this, “Country’s with the most restrictive abortion laws also have the highest rates of abortion.” Again, that according to the report from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, but then the report goes on in the third paragraph with this stunning math, “The report finds about 56 million abortions occur every year. 56 million abortions.” Now that means according to the biblical world view 56 million human beings murdered in the womb, nearly 50 million of them we are told in developing countries about a quarter of all pregnancies on the entire globe. About a quarter of all human pregnancies in a given year now result in abortion.

The report is troubling enough but the press coverage of the report is even more troubling, and as we’re thinking about moral change in the United States it’s also more revealing. The headline in that NBC News article is this and I quote word for word, “Abortion rates go down when countries make it legal again. Again, abortion rates go down when countries make it legal.” Here’s the problem. There is absolutely no support whatsoever for that claim in the report itself. That’s what the major media want the report to mean but it is not what the statistics in the report actually reveal.

Now, there are interesting revelations in this report and amongst the findings is that the countries that have so-called ‘restrictive abortion laws’ do not necessarily prevent abortion. Some nations with fairly liberal abortion laws have low abortion rates. The classic example would be Switzerland, which has the lowest abortion rate of any nation on earth at only five per 1000 women.

Here, we also need to note carefully that Switzerland along with most European countries actually has more restrictive abortion laws than would be found in the United States of America after Roe v. Wade. Another evidence of distorted media coverage appeared in The Guardian a liberal London newspaper, the same research cited in a story with the headline want to lower the abortion rate, support pro-choice policies. It’s by Jill Filipovic, the subhead of the article quote, “The chief lesson of a new report is that making abortion illegal or hard to get doesn’t end abortion it just makes it less safe.”

Now, looking at the report from the Guttmacher Institute there is undeniably, what reason would indicate we would expect and that is where abortion is legal it is defined in this report as safer. Why? Well, it’s for the simple reason that illegal abortion takes place in ways that we would expect and reason would indicate would be less safe for the mother than where abortion is legal.

You also notice here that the word safe only has reference to the mother certainly not to the unborn child who is being killed. Remember that that claim made in the headline at NBC News was, I’ll just read it again. Abortion rates go down when countries make it legal, but let’s just look at the numbers. The numbers in the United States are officially collected by three organizations, the most authoritative, the Centers for Disease Control of the United States government.

According to the CDC, the number of abortions reported in the year 1970. That’s three years before the legalization of abortion in all 50 states by action of the Supreme Court the number of abortions in America reported to the Centers for Disease Control in 1970, 193,491. Now in 1971, it went up to 485,816 other states legalized abortion. By 1972, it was 586,760 more states coming online with legal abortion.

In 1974, the year after Roe v. Wade 763,476 abortions according to the CDC in the United States. In 1980, were up to 1,297,606. The high watermark in 1990, 1,429,247. What’s the inevitable result of the actual data that is reported by the CDC? The legalization of abortion led to skyrocketing abortion rates in the United States of America.

If you’re just looking between the years 1970 and 1990, an increase according to the CDC our own federal government from 193,491 to 1,429,247. Now, the research does indicate that there have been falling numbers of abortion in recent years, but not falling all that much we are still looking at the very high hundreds of thousands of abortions in America. In 2014, 652,639. Why would the number of abortions be going down? Well, here again, there is a more funded mental explanation and that is that the number of pregnancies is going down. We know that already from the data so the headlines are misrepresenting this reality in more ways than one.

When it comes to some research like this and some statistics the numbers are interesting. In other cases, the numbers are not only interesting they are important, but in this case both the numbers themselves and the underlying reality and then you add to that the media coverage mean that these numbers are not only interesting, they are not only important these numbers represent the difference between life and the death.

Part III

Remembering the heroes of the past: the discovery of Juneau reminds us of true sacrifice and the value of life

But finally thinking of life the gift of life and the lives given in the service of this country in defense of life and the liberty—an important story that appeared in the media but gained too little attention over the weekend. It was published Friday in The New York Times, the headline of the article by Jacey Fortin, “Wreck of worship found 76 years after fiery end.” Now, what the story tells us about is the discovery of the U.S. Navy cruiser Juneau that was blasted apart as the Times tells us by a Japanese torpedo on November the 13th 1942.

This was a part of the infamous Battle of Guadalcanal there in the Pacific a crucial battle that was also a deadly battle for decades as the Times says, “The Juno was lost resting in pieces somewhere in the South Pacific.” But it was found just Saturday a week ago when as The Times tells us a research vessel funded by the Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen identified the wreckage about 2.6 miles underwater off the coast of the Solomon Islands.

Even in the context of the millions and millions of casualties of World War II on all sides, the story of the sinking of the U.S. Navy cruiser Juneau resonates in a special way in the American memory, a memory of indebtedness to one family. One family that in this infamous sinking of the cruiser Juneau lost not one, not two, not three, not four but five sons. Five brothers who served together arranged to be in the Navy together and asked to be on one ship together.

Five brothers all the sons of one family who died together on November 13th 1942. The five Sullivan brothers Joseph, Francis, Albert, Madison and George ranging widely and ages were raised in a family from Waterloo, Iowa. Under the conditions of secrecy during World War II, the news did not even get back to Waterloo, Iowa. The sinking of the Juneau until the Sullivan brothers mother heard from another mother that she had heard from her son that the cruiser had sunk and that all five of the brothers were dead.

Aletta Sullivan wrote in desperation to the Bureau of Naval Personnel citing the rumor that she had heard and then the rumor was confirmed. All five of her sons were dead. In January of 1943, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote to Mrs. Sullivan and in his letter he said, “I realize full well that there is little I can say to assuage your grief.” He went on to say, “That as the commander in chief of the Army and Navy I want you to know that the entire nation shares in your sorrow.”

75 years later, the news comes that the Juneau’s wreckage has been discovered but very few Americans will know anything about the lives of those who were lost, but 75 years later the moral debt remains, a moral debt to all of those who have given their lives and have given their family members to the cause of defending liberty. 75 years later, it’s important to remember this one family the Sullivan family in Waterloo, Iowa lest they too be forgotten.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter I go 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.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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