The Briefing

Documentation and Additional Reading

Part

Part

New York Times

Choosing Animals Over People?, by Nicholas Kristof

Part

New York Times

Pet Owners Gone Wild, by Margaret Renkl

Friday, April 13, 2018

Friday, Apr. 13, 2018

Tags: Abortion, Animals, Audio, Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood

Transcript

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

It's Friday, April 13, 2018. I'm Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part

Looking at the real legacy of Cecile Richards as influential media outlets celebrate her tenure leading Planned Parenthood

Time Magazine is basically celebrating the outgoing president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards. A profile by Belinda Luscombe published in the April 9 edition has the headline Outgoing Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards Still Wants to Make Trouble. That's also not coincidentally the title of Cecile Richards' new memoir, Make Trouble. But as the profile in Time Magazine begins, "For one of the most vilified women in America, Cecile Richards is very warm. She is self-deprecating, lively and attentive to guests. She apologizes for the terrible coffee an assistant brings from the office machine but drinks it anyway. Her mascara is a little smudged over her right eye. She looks down when thinking; it's not effortless for her. She is human."

Well, at first glance that appears to be a rather odd way to introduce a profile, speaking of someone as being particularly warm because they're human. But Time gets pretty quickly to the issue of abortion. "In a fractured America, the biggest fault line runs through abortion. In many ways, the rumble over abortion rights was the foreshock for the many ruptures the US is now facing." Then Luscombe says, "That means Richards is in the vanguard of leaders who have had to navigate their cause through very hostile terrain. Her strategy," says Luscombe, "as recounted in her new memoir, has always been to push harder into the storm. When she took the reins at Planned Parenthood in 2006, with no background in health care, the organization didn't even have a centralized website. It now does, and much more political heft. President Obama," we are told, "mentioned Planned Parenthood during the 2012 presidential debates. In 2016, it launched a voter-registration drive. It threw its weight behind successfully protecting the Affordable Care Act in 2017."

But then we are told, "The newfound influence was not without cost. In 2015, Richards faced five hours of mostly hostile grilling by Congress after some activists released video purporting to show that the organization illegally sold fetal tissue." Then in parenthesis Luscombe writes, "(Several investigating committees found nothing illegal, and the activists behind the footage later faced felony charges, which are ongoing.)"

The summary of all this Luscombe writes is that, "Planned Parenthood has largely prevailed." And indeed it has. That's the big story here, Planned Parenthood and abortion continue to prevail, and Planned Parenthood is here being celebrated along with Cecile Richards by Time Magazine. But this is not just a media celebration of a cultural figure supportive of abortion. This is Time Magazine celebrating the person at the head of the biggest baby-destroying industry in the United States, Planned Parenthood.

This is also Time Magazine obfuscating, confusing the reality. Notice the reference to that congressional testimony back in 2015. Time's words are very important as Luscombe writes the grilling by Congress came after "some activists released videos purporting to show that the organization illegally sold fetal tissue," and then in parenthesis Time says that several investigating committees found nothing illegal.

Well, what's not mentioned here is the obvious. Planned Parenthood was caught flatfooted and undeniably in the position of having its own chief medical officer explain how the unborn bodies of children were destroyed in the womb in order strategically and intentionally to preserve certain tissues which would later be transferred for cost to those who were using those tissues in medical experimentation. Now it became a legal technicality that this was judged not to be a sale, but what Planned Parenthood had to apologize for in a very embarrassing apology back in 2015 was for being caught red-handed talking so crassly about the destruction of unborn human beings and the retrieval of their tissues by strategic intention.

But we should note Planned Parenthood did not apologize for the murder of the unborn. Planned Parenthood did not apologize even for using the tissues of the unborn in medical experimentation. Planned Parenthood didn't apologize for the strategic destruction of the unborn human being in order to use specific tissues and preserve them while crushing others. No, Planned Parenthood just apologized for using insensitive language in that undercover video.

But that one sentence that Planned Parenthood has largely prevailed is largely true. It prevailed even in the recent budget bill that was signed into law by President Donald Trump and approved by two Republican held houses of Congress. So under Republican rule Planned Parenthood continues to prevail, continues to prevail at the rate of about a half billion dollars of US tax payer funding every single year. Planned Parenthood and its allies come back and say, "Well, that money doesn't go directly to abortions," and it does not. But the money goes to fund Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood is about abortion.

As worldview analysis what's also important here is to understand how Time Magazine as a major influential media outlet becomes here the endorser of Planned Parenthood. It doesn't say so in words. It says so in the entire context of the article and the fact that the article celebrating Cecile Richards exists in the magazine in the first place. And that same complicity is made clear in the obfuscation, the confusion of the moral issues that is found in the Time article. But then there is also the issue of what's not in the article. What's not in the article is the fact that under Cecile Richards Planned Parenthood successfully and diabolically redefined itself as being about healthcare, being a healthcare provider. Now you hear that language routinely. But of course it's not healthcare to the unborn child, it's execution.

What's also not mentioned in the Time article, and this is pointed out by Kristan Hawkins at The Federalist, is the fact that under the leadership of Cecile Richards during that tenure 3.5 million unborn children died, what Hawkins refers to as unspeakably cruel deaths and barbaric acts of abortion. But going back to the Time article, what is celebrated is Cecile Richards' very successful further politicization of Planned Parenthood and further expansion of Planned Parenthood's political influence. That was referenced when we are told that President Obama mentioned Planned Parenthood in that 2012 presidential debate and it was referenced again when Planned Parenthood was credited with a role in the 2016 presidential election.

Turning to Cecile Richards memoir, Make Trouble, it's very interesting that she offers considerable detail as to how exactly this happened. How for example during the 2016 race Planned Parenthood decided to endorse Hillary Clinton for the democratic presidential nomination, something that Planned Parenthood had never done in the past and over against the fact that Hilary Clinton's main opponent was also avidly pro abortion, Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders. So why did it happen? Well, it happened because Planned Parenthood wanted Hilary Clinton to be president of the United States and because they saw in Hilary Clinton the very best friend that Planned Parenthood has had or ever could have.

In her book Make Trouble Cecile Richards explains, "Senator Sanders had been a consistent vote for women's rights, but Hilary had been leading the fight her entire career." Cecile Richards continues, "After we watched her listen to the stories of patients and activists at the endorsement meeting, it was clear she would bring compassion, bold ideas, and a deep understanding of Planned Parenthood's work to the White House. The endorsement itself," Richard says, "was a production since we never endorsed in a primary before. We were breaking with  precedent," she wrote, "because we knew this election would have enormous consequences for Planned Parenthood patients and women everywhere so we did it up right."

Earlier in the book Cecile Richards also indicates why Planned Parenthood was so involved in the passage of the Affordable Care Act under President Obama, the legislation has been more popularly known as Obamacare, and how Planned Parenthood was successful in fighting every single attempt to keep abortion out of Obamacare. Including the fact that open misrepresentation was basically used by the Obama administration in order to gain some final then pro life democratic votes, but in the end Obamacare was a huge victory for Planned Parenthood and the organization knew it.

In the memoir she tells of a strategic phone call from President Obama saying that when he called he asked, "Hey Cecile, how's it going?" "Well, hello Mr. President," she said. "It's going just fine, thanks." The president then said, "Cecile, I wanted to call you because I'm making three phone calls today, the Catholic bishops, the Catholic Hospital Association, and you. Suffice it to say," said President Obama, "I think yours is going to be the happiest phone call I'm going to make."

Well, indeed it was, and under President Obama Planned Parenthood had not only the first president to mention Planned Parenthood very positively in a presidential debate. They had a friend when it came down to policy, arguably the most important domestic policy of the last 40 years.

Cecile Richards begins her book by the way when she talks of making trouble by making trouble in the sixth grade when she refused in her public school experience the recite the Lord's prayer with the rest of the class. Richards writes in the introduction, "Looking back, I'm not even sure I knew that it was unconstitutional to have to start each day with the Lord's prayer, but by God we did right after the pledge of allegiance. That morning though I wasn't having it. When the teacher asked me why I wasn't participating," Richards said calmly, "We don't read the bible in my house." Richards went on to say that the teacher's eye flew open. "I could see from her stricken look that she had taken my candor for cheekiness. I suppose," says Richards, "in a way it was."

Learning to think and analyze according to a worldview it helps us to understand that ultimately everything in an argument like this is tied together. This book is tied together in making trouble by refusing the Lord's prayer in the introduction and then by defending abortion virtually everywhere thereafter. It begins by explaining what it meant to be raised in a unitarian household with liberal progressive parents, including her mother Ann Richards who went on to be the very liberal governor of the state of Texas. That worldview analysis also helps us to understand why when so many in the mainstream media hold to the very same worldview, they look to Cecile Richards and Planned Parenthood and see both a cause and a celebrity to celebrate.

Oh, and by the way, Time Magazine finds it very important to insist that neither Planned Parenthood, nor Cecile Richards is going away any time soon. Both celebrates Time are going to continue to make trouble. This is how the culture of death advances, article by article, magazine by magazine, book by book, leader by leader.

Part

Why it’s essential to understand the categorical distinction between humans and animals

But next we shift to a very different issue, this also in a very influential media outlet, The New York Times. This was on April the 8th. Nicholas Kristof, a very well-known opinion writer for the paper, wrote a column entitled Choosing Animals Over People. He wrote from the Central African Republic and he asked a very serious question, "Are we betraying our own species when we write checks to help gorillas or puppies or wild horses? Is it wrongheaded to fight for elephants and rhinos or farm animals at home while five million children still die each year before the age of five?"

Kristof in the middle of his article goes on to say, "It's a legitimate question that I've wondered about over the years. But," he says," I've come to believe that on the contrary, conserving rhinos or gorillas, or speaking up for tortured farm animals at home, is good for humans, too." When thinking about this article by Nicholas Kristof we need to recognized he has asked a very important question, a legitimately important question, furthermore, an urgently important question.

Just think about how in our culture right now so many human beings have transferred their loyalty and affection away from fellow human beings and towards animals. Or as many cultural observers have noted, away from even having children to having pets, and transferring all of that expectation and that sentiment away from children and towards animals.

And then we also see in a secularizing culture, the rise of animal causes as paramount concerns. This is made very clear in a place like Hollywood where almost every actor and actress it seems has some adopted species of their ecological concern. This is where we also understand from a Christian worldview analysis that this is exactly the kind of confusion we would expect when a biblical anthropology is lost, that is a biblical understanding of humanity, that understanding going back most importantly to Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, making clear as it's seen in Genesis 1:27 that human beings, every single human being is made either male or female and always in God's image. What that means of course is that human beings are set apart and distinct.

But in a world in which that biblical conviction recedes onto the horizon, that distinction becomes very confused, and furthermore that distinction can appear to be merely arbitrary and perhaps even prejudiced. Now a part of what makes Nicholas Kristof's particular contribution here so important is because he has been such a stalwart defender of human rights and a stalwart defender of human causes. He has written regularly about humanitarian crises and he has often written from ground zero of those crises. But he's asking a question about the relative importance and the relative urgency of causes that concern animals over against causes that concern humans.

Thus when it comes to ask the question, are we betraying our own species when we write checks to help gorillas or other animals for that matter, he writes you'll recall that even as he understands the question as legitimate, he answers it saying it's not wrong to give to animal causes even when there are humans who have their needs. "At the broadest level, it's a mistake to pit sympathy for animals against sympathy for humans. Compassion for other species can also nurture compassion for fellow humans. Empathy," he says, "isn't a zero-sum game."

Later in the conclusion of the article he writes, "So compassion for elephants or rhinos or gorillas is not soggy sentimentality, but a practical recognition of shared interests among two-legged and four-legged animals. Go ahead and embrace animal causes without a shred of guilt," he advises. Well, thinking of this in biblical terms it's not so much that Nicholas Kristof is wrong. It's just that he isn't quite right. He's not wrong to say that we are right to be concerned about the animals, whether they be gorillas and giraffes or for that matter rabbits and chickens and pigs and calves. We should be concerned for animals. They too are a part of God's kingdom. They too are a part of God's creation. They too are a part of God's glory.

But what the secular worldview fails to understand is that there is still that fundamental distinction between human beings and other creatures. It's not enough to say that there is a commonality between two-legged and four-legged animals. In that sense human beings are not merely animals. It is Nicholas Kristof, the human being, writing this article about gorillas. It is not a gorilla writing this article about Nicholas Kristof. There is a categorical distinction.

It's not wrong to say that persons are right to support causes that would protect animals. It's just wrong to say that there is no relative scale of importance in which human beings are of infinite worth and animals are actually of lesser worth, even as they are still of worth. It's not an insult to the animal kingdom to make clear it is a kingdom of animals, and especially as Christians understand according to scripture that when God created the animals, he created them individual species by species, and furthermore, he even ordered the animals to reproduce according to their own kind. In those animals are reflected God's glory and the goodness of creation, a verdict that God gave to the creation by saying it is good.

But the bible is clear in that categorical distinction, a creation distinction between the animal kingdom and humanity. We are creatures, but we are not merely creatures as other creatures. Kristof deals with the question in a morally serious way and his basic humanitarianism keeps him from celebrating the care of animals over the care of human beings. Others don't have that restraint and take the argument for animal rights even further. But this is where Christians must take our own argument further and extend the biblical worldview to understanding that there is that categorical distinction between human beings and animals.

Part

Glory bearers vs. image bearers: Showing proper concern for animals without worshipping them

Another article that appeared in the same newspaper, The New York Times, this very week also about animals, reminds us that human beings can make another error, and that is confusing the different roles that God has given to distinctive animals and their species. Now what am I speaking about? I'm speaking about the fact that God has given us some animals primarily for food. He has given other animals in order to be very far from human beings, even a threat to human beings. And he has given other animals as virtual companions for human beings, in which God's glory has demonstrated in the dogness of the dog for example and in the dog's desire for human companionship.

But mixing those categories can cause all kinds of confusion and Margaret Renkl writing from Nashville in The New York Times writes about going to an event where she saw a man pushing a stroller and inside the stroller she thought she saw a fox. "It is a fox," the man said. Margaret Renkl says that she knelt for a closer look. "The creature inside drew back, but I could see it well enough to know it truly was a fox." The man evidently saw the shock in her eyes and he explained that this was a legally kept fox because it had been raised as a captive from the time it was a kit. And he went on to say that he had a family member who had a white fox. Later she said she saw a man leaving the event with a woman, also pushing a stroller, and inside that stroller was the white fox.

Renkl is concerned about animals but she's very concerned about this picture. She writes, "All over social media, I see images of cute baby animals being reared by well-meaning people who have found a cottontail rabbit's nest and assumed the little bunnies to be orphaned, or fledgling birds assumed to have fallen from the nest. In most cases," she said, "the babies are fine and the anxious parents are nearby, just waiting for the bumbling humans to leave them alone."

Renkl in this article offers a very important clarification even according to the secular worldview. There is, she argues, an understanding that some animals are meant to be companions and others are profoundly not meant to be companions. There's also something very biblical about animals in the wild rightly understood as wild animals. Such a Christian understanding of the wildness of the animal kingdom would combine what we learned from Genesis 1 with what we learned from Genesis 3.

One of the great gifts of the Christian worldview based in scripture is our understanding of the relative order of things, our understanding that human beings and human beings alone and every single human being is made in God's image and that even as other creatures are made for God's glory, they are not made in his image. They are glory bearers but they are not image bearers. That's a crucial distinction. It allows us to honor the animal kingdom and to be thankful for the animal kingdom without ever worshiping the animal kingdom. It allows us to understand the unique sanctity and dignity of human life even as we understand the very great gift of animal lives as well. It enables us to welcome some animals as companions along the way without ever confusing them with being human beings, and it allows us both to fear and to respect and appreciate other animals that are not meant to be our companions, but in a world red in tooth and claw actually represent a threat to us.

Furthermore, the biblical worldview allows us not just to observe the animal kingdom and God's glory in it. But also to use and to enjoy. That's a very important theological word, to enjoy. Enjoy means not only to appreciate. It means to use for the purpose that God has created. So when we use animals, we are not abusing them, we are not misusing them, but we do recognize that the animals were given to us for purposes including our food.

In Genesis chapter 9 God makes his covenant with Noah. He said to Noah, "He fruitful and multiply and fill the earth." But then in verse two we read, "The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything."

In this respect as in all others the great challenge for all of us but the great gift of the biblical worldview is to learn to enjoy the creatures God has given us without confusing them and certainly without worshiping them.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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