briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, December 13, 2019

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

It’s Friday, December 13, 2019. I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

It’s Not a Trojan Horse, It’s Planned Parenthood Undisguised: 50 Planned Parenthood Health Centers Are Opening in California High Schools

We’re standing on the threshold of some really big news, and next week on The Briefing, we’re going to be able to look at, for example, the outcome of the hugely important general election in the United Kingdom that was held on Thursday. Final results are not available for us to discuss them this morning. We’re going to be looking at the latest developments in the impeachment hearings in Washington, D.C. We’re going to be looking next week at the meaning of Greta Thunberg as Time magazine’s person of the year. And we’re going to be looking at the new policy on anti-Semitism in American college campuses announced by the Trump administration. But that’s next week. Today we’re going to look at some developments as we come to the end of the week that deserve our attention.

One of them is a news story from Los Angeles. Ariana Eunjung Cha reporting for the Washington Post tells us that Planned Parenthood is going to open reproductive health centers at 50 Los Angeles high schools. This is one of those stories that is intended to get our attention because it really is massively important news. If you are going to reach the next generation, the best way to reach them, that is to say, the most effective way, is to gain control of the schools. And when you look at the huge moral issues that are implicated in everything from contraception and sexually transmitted diseases to reproductive technologies and, most importantly, abortion, when you just mention the name Planned Parenthood, it becomes a summary for everything we’re talking about in the moral and sexual revolutions. And when you put Planned Parenthood and the public schools together, then you can imagine the explosive mix.

This is not a small experiment. Again, the headline in the Washington Post tells us that Planned Parenthood is going to open these reproductive health centers at no less than 50 Los Angeles public high schools. Cha reports, “Planned Parenthood is pioneering a new model of reproductive health services for Los Angeles County teens by opening 50 clinics at area high schools. The program – announced last Wednesday and launched in partnership with the school district and county health department – is believed to be the most ambitious effort in the country to bring these types of services to at-risk students in public schools.”

Now, it should come as no surprise that this is happening in the state of California. It is, in general terms, the most socially liberal state, and that’s because the state itself is not only trending far more liberal than other states, but its elected representatives, all the way from those who hold statewide office, all the way down to local representatives in school boards in many areas such as Los Angeles, are very liberal when it comes to morality and progressive politics. We’re looking at the fact that this is being reported in the Washington Post, a continent away from Los Angeles, precisely because there will be many people who will read this article and they will say, “This is exactly what we want. What we want is to reach high schoolers with the entire moral worldview and agenda of the sexual revolution, and there is no more direct way to do it than by gaining access to those students, and there is no more concrete way to accomplish that than establishing these so-called reproductive healthcare centers in 50 Los Angeles public high schools.”

The money is not insignificant. The Washington Post reports that the initial investment will require $10 million from Los Angeles County and $6 million from Planned Parenthood over the next three years. And we are told that given that funding, the centers “will offer a full range of birth control options, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy counseling, but not abortion for an estimated 75,000 teenagers. The program,” this wording is so important, “The program will also train hundreds of teens to be peer advocates to help provide information about safe sex and relationships.” This is the equivalent of telling us that this program, highly funded, is going to produce teenage sexual revolution missionaries to other teenagers. That’s exactly what’s being described here in other words.

The agenda is made extremely clear in a comment in the Washington Post article from Jennifer Rivera, a Planned Parenthood staffer who’s going to oversee the training, who said bluntly, “Teens listen to other teens.” So if you want to reach into a community like Los Angeles and you want to bring your moral agenda, then the way to do it is to establish these centers in which you will train teenagers to influence other teenagers, and all of these interactions in these health centers are going to be outside the scrutiny of both school administrators and, more importantly, parents. As the Post reports, “Information about the appointments will be in protected medical files not accessible to school officials. Under California law, minors can consent to certain medical services, such as receiving birth control or mental health counseling, and healthcare providers are not allowed to inform a parent without the minor’s permission.”

Now, just keep in mind that for Planned Parenthood, abortion is just another form of what they call reproductive healthcare, but also recognize that it is, at least at this point, too explosive to have abortion directly covered in these appointments in the school-based clinics. But if Planned Parenthood is there, just remember, Planned Parenthood is there, then abortion is going to be there on the horizon even if it is not in the conversation held officially within this context.

The article in the Washington Post also tells us that five of the centers have already opened. They opened in five schools just a few weeks into the school year. Now, we didn’t know about that. You have to wonder how many parents in those schools had any idea that these centers had been opened. But now they’re warned it will not only be five, it will be at least 50.

In another section of the Post report, we read, “Two public health officials, trained by Planned Parenthood, will be stationed full time at each school to provide education and counseling, and a Planned Parenthood nurse practitioner or other medical provider will come once a week. Now, the remarkable candor in this article is telling us that the two public health officials that are to be in each of these 50 centers are going to be trained by Planned Parenthood. This isn’t a hidden reality, it’s right out in public. And you can also see, again, how there is an explicit effort to go around parents.

One of the Planned Parenthood officials cited in the article is Sue Dunlap. She’s president of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. She said, “I do anticipate, as this becomes public, we will have a very normal and healthy debate around sexuality and schools and what it is to be engaged in family communication around a healthy adolescence.” But notice that all of these terms are being used by this Planned Parenthood official, and they’re being used according to the Planned Parenthood definition. What exactly is a healthy adolescence? Well, Planned Parenthood is ready to tell you. What exactly is a very normal and healthy debate around sexuality? Well, Planned Parenthood has already defined it.

This is just further evidence of the fact that the moral revolutionaries have control of much of the educational apparatus in this country. They largely have control of all of the elite colleges and universities, and as we discussed on The Briefing, it’s not just through the influence of faculty, but in many ways, by many administrators within the schools who basically are agents for this kind of revolution in morality. But it’s not just on the college and university campuses, it is also in the high schools. One of the ways this has become quite evident to us is in the so-called comprehensive health education or comprehensive sex education that is now being forced fed into many schools even far from these acknowledged centers of moral progressivism. There are places in states far removed from California whose children are going to be confronted with the health and sexual education that is manufactured elsewhere and is often delivered to those students outside of any parental knowledge.

There are so many Christian parents who think they know what is going on in the public schools their children attend, but you simply have to look at this and wonder, how much can parents even know? Did any of the parents even realize that these centers had been established? Now that they are informed that they are coming, they are also informed that parents will have no say whatsoever in what is taught through these centers or the services available through these centers. They’ll have no access whatsoever to the kinds of conversation their own teenagers will have both with other teens trained by Planned Parenthood and with the public health practitioners whose engagement with teenagers are going to be absolutely private.

Finally, on this story, I want to go back to another sentence in the Washington Post report because it is just so absolutely transparent. I read, “California has taken a leading role in pushing back against efforts by the Trump administration and conservative legislators to cut government funds for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, impose new restrictions on abortion, and shift the conversation about teens and sex toward abstinence.” Those are all the flag words right there. You heard Planned Parenthood and the word ‘abortion’ appears twice in the sentence. Of course, this is what Planned Parenthood is all about. And then the last word in the sentence was ‘abstinence,’ and that’s what Planned Parenthood is absolutely against, that is, as a moral norm, to be communicated to teenagers or, for that matter, to anyone.

You can’t even offer a defense of the Los Angeles school system by saying that, in this case, the school centers are some form of a Trojan horse. This is not disguised at all. They’re telling us right up front what these centers are going to be. It’s not a Trojan horse, it’s Planned Parenthood.

Part II

Don’t Lie to Your Children, Especially About God: The Importance of Knowing and Telling Your Children About the God of Truth

But next, I want to turn to an article that ran in recent days in the Wall Street Journal. It’s by Erica Komisar, a very insightful writer we’ve cited at several points on The Briefing thus far, but the headline of this article certainly ought to have your attention, the headline, “Don’t Believe in God? Lie to Your Children.” Komisar, who has done really pioneering work on the role of mothers and of families in the lives of children, writes in this case, “As a therapist, I’m often asked to explain why depression and anxiety are so common among children and adolescents. One of the most important explanations — and perhaps the most neglected — is declining interest in religion.” She continues, “This cultural shift already has proved disastrous for millions of vulnerable young people.”

Before we go any further, she is telling us here that the disengagement of many children and adolescents from organized religion has had a very damaging effect. It has increased rates of depression and anxiety. And as Christians, we can understand why. The biblical worldview tells us that this is exactly what we should expect will be the case, but we are certainly hooked on the headline. Where is this going, this idea of lying to your children? Well, she goes on to cite the problems of teenagers and children disengaged from churches and synagogues. She writes about a 2018 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology which explained “how being raised in a family with religious or spiritual beliefs affects mental health.” She tells us that Harvard researchers had looked at rates of religious involvement for approximately 5,000 people, and that they control the research for socio-demographic characteristics and maternal health.

What was the result? “Children or teens who reported attending a religious service at least once per week scored higher on psychological well-being measurements and had lower risks of mental illness. Weekly attendance,” she continues, “was associated with higher rates of volunteering, a sense of mission, forgiveness, and lower probabilities of drug use and early sexual initiation.” Now, those are certainly all good things, but she writes, “Pity then that the U.S. has seen a 20% decrease in attendance at formal religious services in the past 20 years.”

She then underlines her argument, “Nihilism is fertilizer for anxiety and depression.” But then she writes this: “The belief in God — in a protective and guiding figure to rely on when times are tough — is one of the best kinds of support for kids in an increasingly pessimistic world.” She concludes, “That’s only one reason, from a purely mental-health perspective, to pass down a faith tradition.”

Now, let’s just consider what’s there. There’s a whole lot. She tells us that children and teenagers who go to church or synagogue and are actively related to a faith community, have psychological and mental health assets that other children do not have. The rates of depression and anxiety can be traceable to decreasing patterns of church attendance. And then she goes on to talk about a concept of God. She says that a concept of God that includes the fact that God is a protective and guiding figure who is there when times are tough, she says that that’s a great support system for children and teenagers.

So far so good at least in understanding her argument, but then she takes the strange turn that is revealed in her headline. But she says, what then about parents who don’t believe in God? What are they to do when they know that religion is good for their children, but they themselves don’t believe in God? And this is where professor Komisar answers straightforwardly, you heard it in the headline, “Lie to your children.”

She’s absolutely blunt about it. When parents ask her, “How do I talk to my child about death if I don’t believe in God or heaven?” She answered, “My answer is always the same, ‘Lie.’ The idea that you simply die and turn to dust may work for some adults, but it doesn’t help children. Belief in heaven helps them grapple with this tremendous and incomprehensible loss. In an age of broken families, distracted parents, school violence, and nightmarish global-warming prediction,” she said, “imagination plays a big part in children’s ability to cope.”

Let’s just remind ourselves that we’re not talking about some kind of fringe article that bounced around in the digital world, we’re talking about an article that was published in the print edition of one of the most influential newspapers in the world, the Wall Street Journal. And we’re not talking about some kind of psychological crank who’s written articles just seeking clickbait on the internet, we’re talking about a researcher and a writer who is deeply thoughtful and is widely influential. And yet in this article, she is telling us that belief in God is very important for children, but it’s awkward for parents who don’t believe in God.

So when asked what those parents should do, professor Komisar says, “Lie to them. Lie to them. Tell them you believe in God, tell them you believe in heaven even when you don’t, because it will have a good psychotherapeutic mental health impact on those children. It will give them the power of empathy and understanding. It will lower their anxiety and risk of depression. It will give children and teenagers certain comforts and certitudes that will help them even if, she’s writing to parents, “even if you don’t believe in God yourself.”

Okay, let’s back up for just a moment and remind ourselves of something before we go any further at all. First of all, when she speaks about the concept of God, she speaks about God as a protective and guiding figure. But when we understand God, we understand he is not only a protective and guiding figure, he is also moral judge. He is the source of all morality. He himself is the source of all knowledge of right and wrong. Things are right because he says they’re right, they’re wrong because he says they’re wrong. And when you’re looking at the fact that children need a protective and guiding force, children also have, as Christians would understand, because they’re made in the image of God, a moral conscience that cries out the reality of moral judgment. And the very self-existed God, who is and will be in the end the perfect moral judge, is the same sovereign God who gave us the 10 commandments, and among other things, ordered that we are not to lie, and that has to include lying to our children. It also has to include lying to our children about what we believe about God.

But let’s step back just a little bit and consider the argument because, from a Christian worldview analysis, this is really interesting. It points to the fact that many people operate out of what is rightly called a functionalist view of religion. What is that? It means that they understand religion as being basically a man-made construction that has many social and personal benefits. The functions of religion are to provide a sense of divine oversight and guidance, a sense of comfort, an understanding of life after death, an explanation of morality. All of this is merely functional in the view of these observers of religion. They say, “Look, religious people have assets that other people do not have. They have sources of comfort and certitude and guidance that others do not have. They have a belief in life after death that makes this life all the more important and meaningful. They have hope that other people do not have.”

So there are many people operating out of exclusively secular worldviews out there who have this functionalist understanding of religion. They think that religion is evidently helpful for some people, and even helpful for the larger society. This functionalist view of religion has a long lineage within the history of our own nation. Some of our own founders were very clear that it wasn’t so important that everyone believe in God, but the vast majority of people in the country had to believe in God or there would be moral chaos.

But considering this article by Erica Komisar, the first thing we need to say is do not lie to your children, but even more importantly, we want to say, you should believe in God. When you consider what’s at stake here, we have to ask the question, does a functionalist view of religion come even close to explaining what religion is? Now, of course, here we’re talking about religion and Komisar is talking about synagogues, and for that matter, mosques, as well as churches. And, of course, a functionalist view of religion would tell us it doesn’t really matter. If the religion provides the function, then who cares what its belief system is.

But for Christians operating from a biblical worldview, the prior question is truth. We don’t want to have anything to do with any religious system that isn’t true regardless of its functionalist effects. We’re not looking to Christianity as a coping mechanism. We believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ because we believe it is true. We look to the Bible as our ultimate authority in life because we believe that it is true, that it is the Word of God, and every word of God is true.

Perhaps we ought also to recognize that in this article there is evidence of this huge gap that is open in the American heart and soul in which many people know that something extremely important, something even necessary, is now missing, and Komisar is not wrong. What is missing is belief in God. We can understand if one is operating out of this merely functional view of religion, that her argument make some sort of weird sense. But you also have to wonder what those children are going to ask when they reach a certain age and find out that their parents really don’t believe in God and they ask, “Why did you lie to us?”

But before I leave this article, I want to go to what I think is the most revealing sentence of all, and this is where she speaks to parents and says, “The idea that you simply die and turn to dust may work for some adults, but it doesn’t help children.” Let me just ask the obvious question, how does it work, to use her words, to believe that when we die, we simply turn to dust? How does that work? It certainly doesn’t work in underscoring any meaning to life. It actually affirms there is no meaning to life. It doesn’t make every moment in life meaningful and important in the scope of eternity because, after all, there is no eternity.

Frankly, if we’re going to turn to dust and that’s all there is, then what does it even mean to speak the truth or lie? Whatever you do, don’t lie to your children. Find out the truth about God. Find the true God, the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Find Jesus Christ who described himself as the way, the truth, and the life. Find Jesus, find the true living God, and then tell your children the truth about the God of all truth.

Part III

75th Anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge: History Really Matters and Liberty Is Never Free

But finally, as we go into the weekend, we need to recognize that this coming Monday is the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the biggest arm battle that ever involved the United States of America. It is known to most Americans and others in the English speaking world as the Battle of the Bulge. It began December 16, 1944, when roughly 400,000 Nazi troops broke out in France through the Ardennes Forest in an unexpected counter-offensive that caught the Allies by surprise. In the end, it did not stop the Allied advance in the defeat of Nazi Germany, but it did cost many, many lives. It also caused the forward momentum of the Allied forces that were pressed back and delayed at least five or six weeks from the eventual surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945. The battle began on the 16th of December. It was not over until the 25th of January of 1945. It would eventually involve more than 600,000 American troops, and it would also involve, over the course of those days, no less than 89,000 American military casualties, of them, 19,000 were American deaths.

The fact is that the allied invasion of Northern Europe, and what is now known as D-Day, spelled the doom of Nazi Germany, and it was thought that the Nazis were effectively in retreat, but all that changed on the 16th of December when Allies had obviously failed to pick up, by military intelligence, the largest counter-offensive of the war. The size and scale of the Nazi attempt to break out of the Ardennes Forest and to break the Allied lines is still stupendous in the imagination. They had somehow moved 400,000 men, 14,000 tanks, and about 2,600 armored vehicles that far without Allied knowledge. Later investigations indicated that dense cloud cover had given the Nazis a great deal of opportunity to make that movement into the forest and to ready their outbreak.

But the Allies were taken completely by surprise on the 16th of December, 1944, so much so that it took hours before the Allied command became absolutely convinced that the outbreak reports were real. As was so often the case, given their military doctrine of Blitzkrieg, the Nazis moved very quickly. They overtook a good deal of territory that had been conquered by the Allies, but they were not able to hold it indefinitely. The death knell of Nazi Germany was still very close. And by the time the Battle of the Bulge was over, it was only a matter of time before Allied forces from both the East and the West would converge and Nazi Germany would collapse and eventually surrender.

But all of this is just yet another reminder of the fact that liberty is never free and freedom is bought with the cost of blood and lives. You go back to World War Two and you recognize that even after all the horror of Pearl Harbor and all the other battles in the Pacific and the European theaters, even after the costly battle of D-Day that costs more American and Allied lives even than the Battle of the Bulge, people in the United States and elsewhere, including in the military leadership, believed that Nazi Germany was effectively defeated. But as they found out, quite tragically, not yet.

As always, war becomes a crucible in which morality, and leadership, and courage, and honor, and human depravity are all demonstrated in the extreme, and that was true in the Battle of the Bulge. But it’s also true that many of the most honored names in the annals of American military history can be traced to the fact that Americans came to know them primarily through the courage and valor they demonstrated in the Battle of the Bulge.

As always, this is a reminder that history really matters. It mattered who won the Battle of the Bulge. If the Nazis had won, the entire world history would be different, and by the way, the battle would have been known as the Ardennes Counter-offensive, but the Nazis didn’t win and the Allies did, and thus we know it as the Battle of the Bulge, the battle that, as we now know, was the last real turning point in the history of World War Two.

The 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge also reminds us that every year, there are fewer Americans who wore that uniform in that battle who are still among us. So if you see one, thank him.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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