briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

It’s Wednesday, April 17, 2019. I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Planned Parenthood is rebranding … or is it? The insidious reality of speaking of abortion as simply an issue of reproductive health

Is Planned Parenthood basically just in need of rebranding? That’s the question asked in a recent article at USA Today by Shefali Luthra and Anna Maria Barry-Jester. The question they ask is this, with abortion services in the crosshairs Planned Parenthood is reshaping its image, will it work? Now? That’s a huge question, isn’t it? Will rebranding Planned Parenthood work? What does work mean? Well, in the context of this article, it means allowing Planned Parenthood to get away with being the biggest abortion provider in the United States, but continue to have government support, and government funding, with pro-lifers unable to put a dent in the public relations image, or in the operations of Planned Parenthood.

But, this article turns out to be even more interesting than the question in their headline might at first indicate. Why? Because, we are taken explicitly into the internal thinking of Planned Parenthood. This is an article that, as we should note is basically sympathetic to Planned Parenthood. That’s of interest, because you’re talking here about an explanation of what Planned Parenthood is doing in its latest strategy. A sympathetic take, let’s consider the first sentence, “The Trump administration is pushing ahead with its reproductive health agenda. It has rolled out changes to the Title X Program, which funds family planning services for low income people that are designed to have a chilling effect on organizations that provide abortions, or include this option in counseling.”

What I want us to note there is the fact that the Trump administration, we are told here, is pushing ahead with its reproductive health agenda. Is that a fair characterization? It’s not totally unfair when you’re talking about the government’s Title X Program. But it’s not exactly fair, or accurate on the other hand, because the issue of abortion is here once again simply euphemized as reproductive health, but consider the latter words in that paragraph. We are told that the Trump administration’s policies are designed “to have a chilling effect on organizations that provide abortions, or include this option in counseling.” Just consider a very different ending that would have been just as possible for that sentence. What if the reporters told us this is part of the Trump administration’s effort to try to prevent the American taxpayer from even indirectly paying for abortion? Or, it was part of the Trump administration’s determination to try to uphold the sanctity of human life.

You’ll notice here that how the issue is framed makes a great deal of difference, but we’ve noted that this article is basically sympathetic. Now, we need to look further at what is being revealed here. The whole point of this article is that Planned Parenthood is very worried about its image. We should note it should be. The article continues, “Planned Parenthood known as a staunch defender of abortion rights is working to recast its public image. Under its president Leana Wen we are told it took office in November, the nation’s largest reproductive health provider is highlighting the breadth of care it provides, treating depression, screening for cancer and diabetes, and taking on complex health problems like soaring maternal mortality rates.” Again, notice the language. We are told here that Planned Parenthood is, “The nation’s largest reproductive health provider.”

How exactly are they defining reproductive health in order to determine what is the largest reproductive health provider? But, they do not say, and perhaps this is most important that Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the United States. You’ll see how this article is very sympathetic, but it also tells us that Planned Parenthood is now desperately concerned about its image, because that image translates into political support, and political support translates into financial support both from the government and from others, but now we’re told about the strategy, what is the new public relations strategy? “The strategy could buttress Planned Parenthood against the efforts by the White House, and other abortion proponents, but it’s complicated,” Said the reporters, “Even as the organization leans into its community health work, Wen …” That means Leana Wen, “the head of Planned Parenthood isn’t abandoning the abortion related services that have helped form the organization’s identity, and it’s opposition.”

Dr. Wen said this, “We cannot separate out one of our services. That’s not how medicine works.” Now, we’ve already talked on The Briefing about the fact that the basic public relations strategy revealed in the contemporary context by Planned Parenthood is to hire a medical doctor in order to claim that this is further evidence of the fact that they are basically a medical reproductive health care organization. What about abortion? Who wants to talk about abortion? Planned Parenthood doesn’t want to talk about abortion, but then, on the other hand, Leana Wen does talk about abortion. She’s been very upfront about abortion. One of the questions that comes out of this article is whether, or not the head of Planned Parenthood is really on board with Planned Parenthood’s new rebranding strategy?

Reporters Luthra and Barry-Jester write, “The effort to thread the needle could if successful change the public’s perception of Planned Parenthood, but if it backfires it could make the organization even more vulnerable. Some people they say are skeptical of the payoff given how polarizing abortion politics are.” The article then cites Karen O’Connor identified as a political scientist at American University who studies the politics of reproductive healthcare. She said, “The minute you start talking about abortion it’s a risky strategy.” She explained to the reporter in the words of the paper, “It’s likely to attract strong reactions from people who see abortion providers not as reproductive health professionals, but as baby killers.” She went on to say, “If I was doing it …” And, this is somebody who studies social movements and women’s organizations, “I would take abortion out of the equation, and talk about reproductive health is health care.”

Now, let’s just remember something that comes from about two years ago, in the very beginning of the Trump administration. Emissaries from the Trump administration went to the leadership of Planned Parenthood, and made an offer, what would that offer had been? The offer was this, and it came from the daughter, and the son-in-law of the President himself. The deal was that Planned Parenthood would get out of the abortion business, the Trump administration would stop all efforts to reduce its federal funding, but now we know that Planned Parenthood not only said no to that deal, but they said so emphatically, and then they went public with the offer Planned Parenthood did in order to embarrass the Trump administration, but, of course, it did not have that effect. What it did have the effect of doing with underlining the fact that Parenthood is mono maniacally committed to abortion even if it harms their reputation, even if it costs them taxpayer funding, even if they have to come right on in public, and say, “Yes, we are the central institution of the culture of death trade market.”

On the other side of the equation, Mallory Quigley who’s Vice President of Communications at the Susan B. Anthony List, that’s a prominent anti-abortion organization, she said, “This framing is simply a PR exercise. I don’t think this campaign will be successful, and I don’t think it will last long. I think Quigley’s exactly right. It is exactly nothing more than a PR rebranding effort, and furthermore, I agree. I don’t think it’s going to work. Why? Because, Planned Parenthood will not be able to run from the issue of abortion, but it’s actually even darker than that. There’s actually no evidence that Planned Parenthood wants to any degree to run from abortion. They want to run to it. They don’t want to run away from it, and they want to offer even more abortion services, and they continue to cast abortion in their words merely as reproductive health. That is one of the most insidious evil rebranding’s imaginable.

You’re talking about the murder of an unborn human being, being declared to be health, reproductive health. If you can get away with that, you can get away morally with anything. Late in the article we are told that Leana Wen is going around the country to individual Planned Parenthood affiliates in order to push this kind of rebranding, but on the other hand, when abortion comes up she can’t stay on the rebranding message. She goes right back to an ardent defense of abortion. Speaking to a group in Providence, Rhode Island, she said to applause, “Abortion is part of the spectrum of full reproductive healthcare, and we know reproductive healthcare is health care, and health care is a human right.” Now, notice where the logic of this is leading. It is not only the rebranding of abortion from being murder to being reproductive health care, it is also declaring that this is a basic human right.

That means two things. It means no government can pass legislation to get in the way of that basic human right, but it also implies the fact that there should be government support for, and that would mean taxpayer dollars toward what amounts to the murder of the unborn. There’s another dimension to this article. It’s something new in this context, it requires our attention. You see here the fact that a part of the rebranding is the activist’s leadership of the head of Planned Parenthood to try to get local affiliates to increase the breadth of the services that they offer non-abortion related health services. This would include mental health services, and to talk more about those non-abortion health services. This is where Christians need to think very carefully, and we better think pretty quickly. It comes down to this, we cannot be more satisfied with an organization like Planned Parenthood, because it does more of A if it continues to do B.

In this case, the fact that Planned Parenthood might expand its non-abortion related services, it doesn’t change the moral equation at all, because it is not going to back off of, or out of its abortion services. Indeed, it’s even worse than that. The expansion of the breadth of these services is not even truly because they want to offer the services, but because this article makes clear they want to rebrand their image. Once again, here you have an organization of the culture of death, the central organization of the culture of death caught revealing its own internal logic. It’s now out in public. This is published at USA Today.

Part II

Moral revolutionaries take aim at Michigan adoption agencies: Where the government’s money goes, it’s coercive hand soon follows

Next, we’re going to shift to the state of Michigan, an article by Kelsey Dallas begins, “A recent settlement between LGBTQ couples and the state of Michigan limiting the rights of faith-based adoption, and foster care agencies ended one lawsuit, but launched another.” This is one of those stories that’s a lot bigger than it might first appear. This isn’t just about Michigan ,and it’s not only about the ending of one lawsuit, and the beginning of another. What would those lawsuits be? The article begins by telling us that the settlement was between the state of Michigan, and LGBTQ couples. They were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU. They reached a settlement. Did that put the matter aside? No, it didn’t. Why did they bring a lawsuit against the state of Michigan? Because, they claimed that the state of Michigan allowing state funding to go to foster care, and adoption agencies that held to an historic understanding of marriage and sexuality violated their own rights.

The State of Michigan settled with the LGBTQ couples, but then that led to another lawsuit. The lawsuit was announced just in recent days. As Kelsey Dallas reports for the Deseret News, “The Becket Fund for religious liberty announced Monday that it’s suing Michigan and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of St. Vincent Catholic Charities, and to adoptive families it served. The lawsuit argues that it’s wrong for faith based adoption, or foster care agencies to miss out on government contracts simply because they won’t work with same sex couples for religious reasons.” Now, let’s look at this article. It really does pose something of what would appear to be a moral, political and judicial quandary. What would you say when you’re faced with the question, should organizations that are involved in foster care, or adoption be allowed to discriminate if they’re going to receive taxpayer funding for that mission and ministry?

The Baptist instinct tells me right away that receiving this kind of tax money is problematic in the extreme. Regardless of whatever losses might be filed, eventually, the principle pertains that where the government’s money goes its hand soon follows, a coercive hand, but let’s also back up for a moment, and recognize something very important to the history of adoption and foster care in the United States. The overwhelming majority of the agencies and organizations given to adoption and foster care in the United States were explicitly religiously based, and their mission was explicitly stated in religious terms. You’re looking here at the fact that Protestant Christians, and Roman Catholics have established the majority of the adoption and foster care agencies in this country. You’re also looking at something else.

Eventually, especially over the course of the last half of the 20th century, government at the local state, and even at the national level began to move into the adoption and foster care work. Where government came, government funding followed. Eventually, it’s not only government funding, but government regulation, but here’s the quandary for the government, even as the logic of the government is to coerce all recipients of government funding to join the government’s moral statements, in this case in the state of Michigan, that’s a pro LGBTQ moral statement. The reality is that there are not enough secular adoption and foster care agencies to take care of the children the state has in its own care, so this is the quandary, state by state, the states have depended upon religious organizations to care for the children that they declared to be under the secular care, and custodianship of the state.

There’s another huge issue here, and that is the fact that the moral revolutionaries want to demand that every single sector of society bow to the demands of their moral revolution, full acceptance, and normalization of everything that at least for now is categorized under the letters LGBTQ, and as we know, it won’t stop there, and that means that according to their own stated purpose, they’re going to try to silence every organization that dares to speak against that morality, and in particular, they are going to try to marginalize, and, of course, to rob off funding any organization that again will not join their moral revolution. Right now, who doesn’t? Who doesn’t join the LGBTQ revolution? Who hasn’t redefined marriage? Who hasn’t normalized the full spectrum LGBTQ? The answer comes down to mostly traditionalist Roman Catholics, and conservative Protestant evangelicals in the United States. Just about everyone else has already surrendered.

And, here you were looking at the demands in the lawsuit that was established by the ACLU on behalf of these LGBTQ couples. Don’t you love all the letters we have to use now? You have the settlement in which the state said, “Oh, you’re absolutely right. What were we thinking? We’re not going to allow funding to organizations that offend you by the fact that they hold to a traditional understanding of marriage. Furthermore, that they will only place children for foster care and adoption amongst couples that they believe to be actually married. That would mean a man and a woman. The moral revolutionaries aren’t about to stand for that, and the state of Michigan basically just surrendered, but there’s another interesting wrinkle in this story, and it has to do with Michigan law, a law that was adopted in the year 2015.

That law says that child placement agencies are not required to provide any services that conflict with their sincerely held religious beliefs. This according to a report from WCCM Channel 13. It goes on to say that, “The settlement however says the law does not apply if agencies are under contract with the state.” Now, let’s just look at what’s going on here. The settlement reached by the state effectively if we’re honest, it violates the legislative intent of that law that was adopted by the state of Michigan in 2015. To accept a settlement with LGBTQ couples in which the state says, “Yes, the law was passed, but we’re going to say that it doesn’t apply if the agencies are under contract with the state.” It simply betrays the fact that the law was passed in the first place precisely in order to do what the settlement now says the state will not do. The Becket Fund for religious liberty has now filed a new lawsuit against the state of Michigan for violating the rights of Catholic foster care and adoption agencies.

You’ll notice here that one lawsuit settled has simply led as that article said to a new lawsuit filed. This is going to mean further litigation, more court action, this is going to mean another inevitable collision between religious liberty, and the newly styled erotic liberty, but notice something else. When you are looking at a secular society with a huge adoption and foster care challenge, you will note that secular agencies are not rushing in to fill the void. What does that tell you? It tells you that evidently caring about children in that way, establishing adoption and foster care ministries, it comes from some kind of conviction, some kind of religious impulse, some kind of sense of obligation to children who are vulnerable, and in need, some kind of understanding of adoption, that values adoption beyond it being merely a civil contract, and a civil means to take care of a situation of a needy child in a secular world.

And, that’s why it’s not an accident that it is religious organizations that have founded that vast majority of adoption and foster care agencies, and it’s going to leave many states with an enormous problem. What are they going to do with the children who now are not going to be cared for? Because, the state would rather surrender to the moral revolutionaries than actually take care of the children.

Part III

Australian rugby star Israel Folau cut by national team because of his religious views, demonstrating that it is a rough world for those who stand against the sexual revolution

Finally, I’m now going to venture where I have never gone before on The Briefing, and that is to sports coverage, and the sport is rugby. Yes, I’ve never gone there before. Why is rugby in the headlines, and why does it have important worldview significance? Well, it is because one of the most famous rugby stars in the sport today has been terminated by his team in Australia, because while you’re looking at it again, he ran into conflict with the LGBTQ revolutionaries, and his conflict really does demand closer attention.

The player’s name, or the former player’s name now, is Israel Folau. He played for the Wallabies, and he was sacked. He was fired by the rugby team because he violated their moral standards. Here’s how the issue was reported in The Australian press, “A year after telling gay people that they were destined for hell on Instagram, the 30 year old doubled down on his hateful harmful rhetoric by sharing a meme that informed the masses that hell awaits drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters on the same social media platform.” Just a few days later, he was terminated by the team. I guess, you really can’t say that the Australian national rugby team did not hold to its convictions, because it cited those convictions in sacking Folau even as Australia was preparing for the World Cup of rugby coming in September.

A joint statement coming from Rugby Australia, and the New South Wales rugby union said, “Whilst Israel is entitled to his religious beliefs, the way in which he has expressed these beliefs is inconsistent with the values of the sport. We want to make it clear that he does not speak for the game with his recent social media posts.” The statement went on to say, “Israel …” Meaning Israel Folau, “has failed to understand that the expectation of him as a Rugby Australia and New South Wales Waratahs employee, is that he cannot share material on social media that condemns, vilifies or discriminates against people on the basis of their sexuality.” Now, let’s just back up for a minute, and understand what exactly did this man do? What did he post on social media?

Let’s go back to the fact that the 30 year old got into trouble a year ago for stating on Instagram that gay people are destined for hell. The article, by the way, includes some rather confusing language, because it accuses him of telling gay people that they are destined for hell on Instagram, but I think what it means is that on Instagram, he said this, not that they’re being sent to Instagram hell, but even as this would appear to be yet another of the articles telling us of the closing of the public space for any kind of biblical Christianity, and even as some people are going to rush into say, this was a pretty rude way to express a theological message, the fact is that all that being true, and we’re going to have to look at just how true it is. There’s actually an even bigger lesson here, a far larger theological lesson for the church.

We’re going to understand that, that big lesson comes down to the fact that we’re looking at a society that thinks all religious statements, all theological claims are simply matters that reveal an individual’s personal sentiment. That’s if you state that someone’s going to hell that means that you want them to go to hell. There’s simply no recognition of the fact that Christians believe that this is not just a matter of individual sentiment. In fact, it’s not really a matter of an individual sentiment at all when a believer affirms the gospel, rather, it is an understanding of the fact that God is just, and that he has spoken, and that he will do what he says he will do. Before leaving the first lesson let’s consider those statements that came from the rugby officials in Australia, and understand that they said, “All we understand that he has the right to his own religious beliefs, but he cannot express beliefs that are discriminatory against persons on the basis of their sexuality.”

Well, those are actually incompatible statements. They’re contradictory. You can’t say yes he deserves to have his own religious opinions, his own doctrinal understandings, and then, say, “But not those.” But, that’s exactly what they’re saying, or they’re saying, “Well, maybe he’s allowed to have them, but he sure better not express them in public.” Again, Christians can look at the statements made by Israel Folau on social media, and say, “That might not have been the most winsome way to share that message.” But, the bottom line is that winsomeness isn’t the issue, the issue is the fact that he has been sacked for holding to what is, let’s just be clear, biblical Christianity, and furthermore, you’re looking at the fact that it isn’t just Israel Folau. It was followed just a few days later by the fact that disciplinary action has been taken against a second rugby player, because he indicated that he agreed with Israel Folau in his own post. That can’t be tolerated either.

But, let’s also consider something else that virtually no one in the media seems to have noticed, and that is that the words which caused so much offense from Israel Folau are actually from the Apostle Paul. Paraphrased at least, they come from 1 Corinthians 6:9. Again, we’re being pointed to an Instagram meme that offended so many that Folau posted in which we are told that hell awaits, “Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, and idolaters.” Just compare that to 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul writes, “Or, do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived, neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revelers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Of course, Paul goes on to say, “And, such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the spirit of our God.” The word revelers is basically tantamount to what Folau said when he cited atheists, and once you understand that you see that Israel Folau was effectively sacked because he cited 1 Corinthians 6:9, he did so in public, and thus he was revealing attitudes, and a moral judgment that is incompatible with Rugby Australia.

You don’t have to know much about rugby, and I don’t, to know that it’s a very rough sport, but now this story tells us just how rough the world is becoming for those who will not surrender to the sexual revolutionaries, no matter what you play.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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