Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Briefing

March 19, 2019

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

It’s Tuesday, March 19, 2019. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

How four new laws in Kentucky help reveal the horrifying arguments that pro-abortion advocates are making

Big picture issues today, the first of them is abortion, which is never far from the headlines. Recent headlines coming from Louisville, Kentucky: “State to have four new abortion laws.” Take it from me. The newspaper did not mean this to be good news, but it is good news from a pro-life position. All four of these laws are significantly pro-life. All four of them are opposed by the pro-abortion movement with all of its force. All of them are expected to be signed into law. Some of them already have been by Kentucky’s pro-life, Governor, Republican Matt Bevin. But as the article in the courier journal indicates, these are for new laws in one single general assembly session, and there are more that might be passed in the final day of legislative activity coming up.

Deborah Yetter reports “Four of six bills to ban or restrict abortion in Kentucky won final passage as the 2019 session of the Republican controlled Kentucky General Assembly draws to a close. The four bills now go to Governor Matt Bevin, an anti-abortion Republicans for his signature.” She goes on to tell us that two have already been challenged in a federal lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union as unconstitutional because she writes, “The measures either nearly eliminate or significantly restrict a woman’s right to abortion.” Now, what makes this story very interesting is not just the location here in the state of Kentucky, but the fact that we are looking at the volume of bills passed in a single legislative assembly. This is likely to make history, pro-life history, in the state of Kentucky. Some of the laws cannot take immediate effect because at least one of the laws is written to provide Kentucky with a pro-life statue. In the event that the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand were to be reversed or vacated by the United States Supreme Court.

Now, let’s look at the bills in turn. The most important of them, one that has already been appealed and a federal court has put on hold is a law that would nearly ban abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy. This has to do with the so called Fetal Heartbeat Bill. It’s a bill that would say that abortion would be illegal and the unborn life would be protected once a detectable heartbeat is existing. Now that’s really interesting because just consider how you would have to make the opposite argument. This is exactly what the pro-abortion movement is doing. They are arguing that the heartbeat is of absolutely no moral or legal significance. Now, which side of this argument would you want to be on? Let’s just consider the fact that you don’t know anything about abortion, but you do know something at least about what it means to be a human being.

You know that a human being, the existence of human life depends a beating heart. We know that the beating heart is a sign of life, and thus if you’re just thinking about the argument and you don’t even know what abortion is, you would certainly want to be on the side of the argument that associates a beating heart with a human being, a human person. You would certainly want to be on the side of the argument that associates with the human person and entire understanding of human dignity and the sacredness of human life, but that’s where we see that there are now two diametrically opposed sides on the issue of the sanctity of human life and abortion in the United States. There is not really a range of positions on this question. Increasingly, the positions come down to two, and we’ll be seeing more of why that’s true in just a moment. But as the Courier Journal describes the most important of these bills, the Fetal Heartbeat Bill, it goes on to make clear that it would make illegal an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

But then the report tells us, “Opponents say it is unconstitutional and would virtually eliminate abortion in Kentucky, because many women don’t realize they are pregnant until at least six weeks. The ACLU, that’s the American Civil Liberties Union already has challenged it in a lawsuit filed in US District Court in Louisville.” Now, that’s very important. Let’s look at the argument that the Courier Journal says is offered by the opponents of this Fetal Heartbeat Bill. Their argument is that it would effectively ban almost all abortions because many women are not aware that they are pregnant until after the heartbeat has already been detectable. Now, let’s look at that for a moment. You’ll notice that that argument is a complete evasion about the nature of the unborn child. It’s a complete invasion of the fact that there is a heartbeat. It is a complete substitution only of a woman’s determination to abort her child.

That becomes the only important moral issue. This law they say is unconstitutional because it would virtually eliminate abortion because most women don’t know they are pregnant, and thus would not seek an abortion until after a fetal heartbeat is detectable. That tells us something. It tells us something about the experience of pregnancy. It tells us something about the very essence of life. It tells us something about the extremity and the desperation of arguments against this bill. The next bill detailed was house bill 148 this would be a complete ban on abortion. This is the law that Kentucky is putting into place in the event that Roe v. Wade is reversed, and now you have the pro-abortion side saying that is completely untenable to adopt a bill as if the Supreme Court might overrule Roe v. Wade. But wait just a moment. Didn’t the Democratic governor of New York and the leaders of the New York assembly make the very argument as they were adopting, passing and celebrating one of the most radical pro abortion laws in American history?

Didn’t they make the argument they needed to do so simply because of the threat that Roe v. Wade might be reversed? Yes, they did make that argument, but here we see the great divide in the United States that is now predictable, not just issue by issue or person by person or organization by organization, but state by state. You are looking at a radical moral distinction between the elected state government in the state of New York and the elected state government in Kentucky. It is almost as if those sets of elected officials are serving in a different reality in a different country, virtually on a different continent. That’s how deep this divide has become and how predictable it is these days, even geographically. Another of the bills that passed the general assembly would require physicians to tell women about certain realities of life and options available to them in the event they were considering an abortion. But in moral terms, one of the most important of these bills is the last one, a bill that is known as house bill five that would make illegal abortion based on race, gender, or the disability of the fetus.

We’ve already talked about this legislation, we’ve talked about the opposition to this legislation, but again we see the worldview alternatives laid absolutely bear. Either you agree with this legislation, which is required by any affirmation of the sanctity of human life or of human dignity, or you oppose it. If you support it, then you are saying that it would be wrong to abort any unborn child because of the diagnosis of disability or furthermore on any other protected issues such as gender or race, but just consider what the other side is arguing. They are arguing that a woman should have the right to demand an abortion for any reason or for no reason, even for the reason that the child is of the undesired gender or even for the reason that the child is identified by race, or even for the reason that the child is diagnosed as being in some way disabled.

One of our main Christian responsibilities in this age is to make the arguments clear and make people own the arguments they are making. In this case, the arguments made by the pro-abortion side are truly unavoidably horrifying, and we need to make them make the arguments. We need to force them to articulate these positions, and they’re doing so now with an amazing brazenness as you see in the case of the response to these four bills here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Part II

There is no middle ground on abortion: Why trying to compromise on the sanctity of human life is completely irrational when the opposing views are considered

But as we’re trying to understand what is going on, important analysis comes in the magazine The Week it is offered by Damon Linker, who has been observing American politics and moral issues for a very long time. The title of his article, “Why America is becoming more polarized on abortion,” he writes, quote, “If you’re looking to understand something about how and why American politics increasingly pits evermore, sharply polarized extremes against each other with compromise and consensus, not just elusive but seemingly inconceivable, you could do worse than study what is happening to abortion politics in the United States.”

I’ll just glide over for a moment. The fact that there is some irony in his use of the term “inconceivable.” He gets right to the political context and the fact that President Trump has made now two appointments to the United States Supreme Court, which are assumed to be strengthening the pro-life position in the United States and on its highest court, and then linker writes, “Faced with this threat, democrats have radicalized. Back in the 1990s,” he rightly observes, “They embraced Bill Clinton’s moderate defense of abortion rights, which promised to keep the procedure safe, legal and rare, but today they increasingly defend an absolute position and quote. Indeed they do.” Now, at this point you might say, “Well, that absolute position is at least more intellectually consistent when compared to some kind of moderating or compromise position. After all, we’re talking about whether an unborn child is or is not a human person deserving of rights.”

Damon Linker is one of those who argues that there ought to be a compromise. There ought to be a way forward, which would create some kind of national consensus or reflect a preexisting consensus. He writes this: “It doesn’t have to be this way, and if America’s political institutions were capable of measuring and responding accurately to public opinion, it wouldn’t be.” He continues, “Polls have been remarkably consistent over the years. A solid majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal, but the extent of the support varies widely depending on how far along the pregnancy is and the motives of the mother.” Now, what linker is arguing for is exactly what I believe is impossible. That is, creating some kind of middle ground on the question of the sanctity of human life.

Linker understands the problem and he writes and I quote, “Philosophers and ideologues hate this messy reality because it confounds the mind of the rationalist. Either a person is a rights bearing, human being from the moment of conception, in which case abortion is always tantamount to murder, or the entity growing inside the womb is a worthless clump of cells until it is born to a welcoming mother, which allows the morally unproblematic termination of a pregnancy anytime a woman asks for one.” But Linker describes us as a problem that could be overcome based upon a national consensus that would find some middle ground on the question of abortion. He blames America’s broken political system, its political institutions and leaders, from being unable to resolve this issue to find middle ground. He describes the two positions, however, exactly right. Either the unborn child from the moment of fertilization is a child deserving of protection, or it is a meaningless clump of cells that can be a boarded all the way up until the moment of birth to a welcoming mother.

He has written that extremely well, but just think about this for a moment. Even if you just look at the Fetal Heartbeat Bill, you are looking at the fact that those arguing for abortion have to make the argument that the heartbeat is morally insignificant. It should be legally and constitutionally insignificant, but there is no moral intuition common to humanity, thank God, because we are made in the image of God, that would allow any morally responsible person to say that a fetal heartbeat is truly morally insignificant. The reason why those identified by Damon Linker as moral absolutists can’t agree to any middle ground here is because there really isn’t any middle ground. If you hold to a pro-life position, if you affirm the dignity and sanctity of human life, you can’t say, “Let’s just compromise and kill some of them rather than all of them.”

Meanwhile, if on the pro-abortion side, they admit that any unborn child or furthermore any unwelcome child is deserving of rights and the protection of life, then that means that all children are at any point of continuum from fertilization all the way until birth, as Damon Linker says to a welcoming mother. Perhaps as we’re thinking about this in worldview terms, we just need to recognize that oddly enough, sadly enough, tragically enough, it has taken over 40 years for the American people to come to an understanding of the fact that there really isn’t any middle ground when it comes to the question of human dignity and the sanctity of human life. The saddest fact of all is that the polarization on this issue that you note, if you just compare the states of New York and Kentucky, is real and it’s deadly.

Part III

Should we have fewer children for the sake of the earth? Why the Christian worldview welcomes every single human being as an image bearer of God

But as we’re thinking about babies, let’s shift the subjects to an issue that was raised by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently during a question and answer session live-streamed on Instagram. As the Guardian in London tells us, “Even as the congresswoman was puttering in her kitchen, the rising star of the Democratic Party, one of the new frontline politicians to get the scale of the environmental emergency,” celebrates the Guardian, “pulled no punches and telling viewers that unless we take urgent, rational action on emissions, there is no hope for the future.” She then said this: “It is basically a scientific consensus that the lives of our children are going to be very difficult, and it does lead young people to have a legitimate question: Is it okay to still have children?” Now, I’ll just argue that as you think about the consequence of worldview issues, it tells us something that this question raised by the issue raised by this newly elected member of Congress has received so little attention in the United States. Again, that tells us something. We are looking at a woman who is now being taken seriously in America’s political scene, who has openly asked the question as to whether or not the environmental crisis presented by climate change is now as such urgency that young people should stop having children.

Now, let me be clear. She didn’t declare that it would be wrong to bring babies into the world, but the context of the article also made very clear she was making legitimate the understanding that it just might be wrong for young people now to bring more babies into a world like this. The Guardian then picked up on the Q and A with the congresswoman and wrote, “Faced with a future of social and political breakdown, flooding, deadly heatwaves and food shortages and a world full of politicians in various states of denial, why shouldn’t young people question whether bringing children in the world is a good idea?” Vox reported in response to the controversy that Business Insider had conducted an online poll this month that found that 38% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 agreed that climate change should be a consideration in the decision to have children. For Americans between the ages of 30 and 44, we are told 34% said that climate change should be a factor in having children.

Now again, let’s just step back and look at this for a moment. First of all, we have a news story based upon a relatively offhand comment made by a now celebrity politician of the left. We are talking about the member of Congress who in the House is the lead sponsor of what’s called the Green New Deal, but we’re also looking at the fact that there is a jumping on what is identified here is an online poll, as if we’re supposed to look at that and have an accurate understanding of what generation A or generation B might actually think about the question of climate change, and whether or not generations coming and the generation of young people now should have children. But it doesn’t take long to get to the underlying issues. You might recall the recent conversation about this movement of young people in order to draw attention to climate change as an urgent political reality, Greta Thunberg, the young woman in Sweden, the 16 year old who is heading the movement I discussed just days ago on The Briefing. That movement is taking up as one of its ethical imperatives, what is called generational justice, or the issue that the generation of young people now should demand justice from the generations before when it comes to matters that might impact them related to climate change.

Generational equity is another one of the terms. We are now hearing the argument that the generation of those who are adults now owe equity on the basis of environmental change to the generations coming. You also have something else. You have, in this case, the fact that this kind of generational equity or generational equality is being met with issues of, you name it, “reproductive justice.” That’s the term that is now a euphemism for so much of the pro-abortion movement, trying to transform the issue from abortion to what is claimed to be a form of social justice, in this case, reproductive justice. The article by Umar Irfan published at Vox goes on to say “The discussion of whether to have children on environmental grounds quickly leads to some important fundamental questions like what parents owe their children. Are the resources of this planet something we rightfully inherited from our ancestors, or are clean air, safe water and a stable climate things we are borrowing from our grandchildren?” The article continues, “The conversation can also raise controversial ideas like anti-nationalism, the philosophy that each birth has negative value to society, and the idea of limiting burse has historically been informed by pseudoscience and leaden with racism and classism often brought up by the powerful as a way to limit less desirable peoples.”

Well, that’s exactly right. The eugenics movement that fueled much of the energy behind the contraception revolution, behind the sexual revolution, behind the revolution that demanded abortion rights, and behind also the population control movement. All of those were largely driven by people who said, “We need more babies from these people. We need less babies from those people.” It was essentially racist and classist from the very beginning. It was one of the major arguments of the culture of death, but the way Vox suggests of getting around this is bizarre. “So for families navigating their impact on the world, it is all the more critical to make a decision about birth that ways philosophical, ethical, religious and environmental concerns properly to avoid these pitfalls.” Well, let’s just back up again for a moment and understand that the world is facing a dramatic population problem, but looking to the future, it’s not too many human beings but too few. We are looking at a falling birth, rate and we’ll be looking at this in successive additions of the briefing in closer detail.

We’re looking at a catastrophe that is represented by a birth rate that is too low, not too high, but we are also looking at the inevitable consequences of the anti-nationalist worldview, which is itself the inevitable consequence of a secular worldview. Eventually, you have to come to the conclusion if you are operating on purely secular terms, that we could do without a good number of human beings. Of course, the immediate problem becomes which human beings are we to do without? Here again, Christians must affirm the biblical worldview that every single human being is to be welcomed regardless of race, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of gender, regardless of anything, simply because the baby is an image bearer of God. In Genesis Chapter One, the first command given to human beings is to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, to fill the earth with the image bearers of God.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become now the most quoted, most cited Democratic leader eclipsing, even the top ranked elected Democrat in the United States speaker of the House Representative Nancy Pelosi. That tells us a lot about our social media age. It tells us a lot about the way digital media works. It tells us a lot about the leftward lurch of the Democratic Party, but the fact that this particular member of Congress has raised the question as to whether or not climate change should lead young people not to have babies. Well, let’s just say that should be a wake up call to us all.

Part IV

What are the consequences of following the example of Vermont? Examining the demographic and political makeup of America’s most European state

But finally, as we’ve been thinking about these big moral issues and geography and the difference it makes if you are, for example, in Mississippi or in Massachusetts, let’s just look at a state that’s closer to Massachusetts, a very interesting article that appeared in the Washington Post. The headline is “The rise and fall of the most European state in the Union.” Now, as the article unfolds is by Andrew Van Dam, he points to the fact that Vermont is the state in the United States that mirrors most closely Europe in culture, in birth rate, in worldview, in many other ways. Like much of western Europe, it is now socially liberal. It often elects people who are on the left. Remember that Senator Bernie Sanders, officially an independent but running for the Democratic presidential nomination, is a former mayor of Vermont’s largest city and is one of the senators from that state and has been since 1991. Sanders, of course, is an openly avowed democratic socialist. We’re looking at a fact that Virginia and Vermont are very different. Not to mention, Vermont and say, Wyoming. We are looking at two different worldviews that represent these two different states. That doesn’t mean everyone in the state, but it does mean the vast majority of the inhabitants and citizens.

It means the worldview, the culture that now dominates in the state of Vermont. Van Dam writes, “When we say Vermont is the most European state in the Union, we don’t mean it’s the widest in terms of ancestry, though advise with nearby main for that distinction. In terms of population trends, Vermont, we are told more closely resembles our friends across the Atlantic than it does most US states. More people die in Vermont than are born there,” as Van Dam says, “a phenomenon with little precedent in the United States. At least since 2010 Vermont hasn’t attracted enough immigrants from abroad to offset the residents. It is losing to other states. Demographers say that Vermont is expected to lose people steadily,” Van Dam says. Until at least 2040, it’s not to say it’s going to be reversed then, but that’s as far as the demographers dared to go. “Children under 15 makeup a smaller share of the population in Vermont than any other state, though the percentage in DC is even smaller. On the other end, it trails only main for the share of population 40 or older. By 2030 more than one in four Vermont residents is expected to be 65 or older.”

The estimates are derived, we are told, from a detailed analysis of five year age groups in the three past decennial censuses as well as the bureau’s 2017 population estimates. What does that tell us? It tells us that Vermont is getting very old very fast, but from a Christian worldview perspective, it tells us something. In addition to that, when Vermont has the smallest share of the population of children under age 15 that begins to skew the entire culture and political environment. If you do not have a lot of parents raising a lot of children, then the issues related to children can quickly be eclipsed by the issues of greater importance to those who are older, which by no coincidence, Vermont has the largest share of.

One of the questions faced by Americans inevitably at this political and cultural moment is whether or not we want to be more or less like Vermont, even though that’s not on the ballot officially, that’s one of the questions that Americans are going to have to face as one of the realities of our current political moment. The Christian should understand very clearly what would be the consequences of following the example of Vermont, but related to this as we come to the end of today’s addition to The Briefing, if you were are asked the trivia question, “Which state has the smallest, biggest city,” the answer to that question is also Vermont, where the city of Burlington, it’s biggest city only has about 42,000 people. That is the smallest, biggest city of any of the 50 states. Now you know.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website, AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just going to boycecollege.com.

I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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