Tuesday, November 10, 2020
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Tuesday, November 10, 2020.
I'm Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
There Is No Middle Ground on Abortion: Why Is Abortion Being Framed in Terms of Equality and Inequality?
We've given ample attention to the election in recent days, but now we're going to turn to some other issues of pressing Christian concern. One of them has to do with the issue of abortion when it is put alongside the word equality. Now, as we consider the issue of the sanctity of human life, the word equality doesn't seem to be the first word that would apply, but here's where we need to do some worldview analysis. To those who are operating from a very different worldview, it is equality or inequality that will become the number one issue. Recently, an article ran in the New York Times with the headline, "If Roe v. Wade Ends, a Tremendous Inequality in Access." A team of reporters for the Times points to the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, and raises the, "chances that Roe v. Wade will be weakened or overturned."
Then the reporters say, "If that were to happen, abortion access would decline in large regions of the country." A new data analysis shows in summary, they say, "Legal abortion access would be unchanged in more than half of states, but it would effectively end for those in much of the American South and Midwest, especially those who are poor," according to the analysis. And the analysis is offered by Caitlin Knowles Myers an economist at Middlebury College. She is also identified as the coauthor of the original research. But notice, the headline and the opening to this article say that if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, this would create a huge problem.
And the problem would come down to inequality to access for abortion when it comes to many women. In about half the states, according to this analysis, that access would be unchanged, but in the other half, you could look at abortion becoming effectively unobtainable, at least in legal terms.
Now there is of course, a legal and constitutional background to this. And that has to do with the fact that if the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 were to be overturned, and I certainly pray that it will be overturned, it would not then lead to a situation in which abortion is illegal in all 50 states. It would not affirm the sanctity of human life in each and every situation and condition, but it would invalidate the court's 1973 decision that ruled that a woman has a basically unquestioned right to abortion, particularly in the first trimester of pregnancy.
But what we're looking at here is this clash of worldviews. As we who hold to the sanctity of human life would look at this news, we would understand that the reversal of Roe v. Wade would create a moral good. It would create the opportunity in which there could be protections for the unborn that state by state could be voted into law.
But in this article coming from the New York Times, which is now unabashedly pro-abortion, what you have here is a situation in which the trumpeted headline raises the issue, not of the sanctity of human life, that issue never even arises in the article. But rather equality of access to abortion.
Now, in order for us to understand this, we actually have to go back to the period before the Roe v. Wade decision, when one of the arguments that was made then by abortion rights advocates was that it was unequal for women to be in the situation of having to carry a baby to term because men did not have to carry a baby to term. Now, of course, that's just a matter of biology, but if you're going to reduce everything to the issue of equality, you're going to end up with horrifying decisions and moral quandary, such as Roe v. Wade.
But of course, we just simply need to interpose some sanity here that did not create a situation in which women were on an equal footing with men when it comes to pregnancy. That is biological insanity. But there's something else to note here, and that is that many people who have argued, for example, that the pro-life position should be broader than opposition to abortion. They've often argued that when it comes to reducing abortions, the law really doesn't much matter, Roe v. Wade was not all that important.
Now that didn't make any sense. It wasn't plausible when they made the argument. But now we have this article coming from an unabashedly, pro-abortion position published in the New York Times telling us that if Roe v. Wade were to be reversed, abortion would be basically inaccessible in about half of the states, and thus the number of abortions would go down; way down.
This particular article says this, "Without Roe, the number of legal abortions in the United States would be at least 14% lower." That's according to Professor Meyer and her colleagues. "That could mean about 100,000 fewer legal abortions a year," they found. The number is "impossible to predict precisely because new clinics could open on state borders and some people may order abortion pills by mail or obtain illegal surgical abortions, which may be dangerous." Now notice, all the clauses built into that sentence.
Now, here is a big worldview divide over just one word. In this case, the word equality, or its opposite, inequality. It comes down to this. Christians recognize that there are many, very many situations in which equality or inequality would be the appropriate moral consideration. There would be questions in which justice or the lack of justice, righteousness or the lack of righteousness, would have something to do with something that could be measured by and evaluated by equality or inequality.
You would then have arguments about what might be the source of that inequality and what might be the remedy if indeed it's a situation in which equality and remedy are actually called for. But when you look at the issue of abortion, here's the point. Equality of access is certainly not the most meaningful moral category.
Now for Christians holding to a pro-life position, it's really not an appropriate moral category to any extent, but that really makes the point, doesn't it? Because looking at this article, coming from the pro-abortion position, it appears to be the only moral issue that makes sense. As a matter of fact, this article is written in such a way, both the headline and the body of the article, that it's clearly implied that an inequality in access to abortion should be the clincher argument that should lead all right-minded people to say, "Well then, we need to make certain that Roe v. Wade is not reversed."
And that puts us in the position of doing worldview analysis that indicates that the problem is much deeper than the language. The problem is the moral foundations, the basic understanding of reality. That conflict of basic frames of reality and understanding of morality, well all of that simply comes to the fore when you look at an article like this and realize you're looking at an unavoidable clash of worldviews. And furthermore, it's difficult to imagine exactly how you would find some kind of middle position or moderating position on this issue given the divergence of these two worldviews. You can't really meet in the middle on an issue as to whether or not human life is sacred.
And you really can't meet in the middle if you think that the basic issue is equality or inequality. The pro-life position can't be morally satisfied with Americans coming to a slightly greater understanding of the sanctity of human life, nor can those who had framed the issue of quality and inequality come to the conclusion that it's perfectly okay for Americans to lean in a way that's just slightly more equal and slightly less unequal.
And this just gets to another point of worldview analysis, and that is, that when you hear people claim that some people they'll often say conservative Christians hold to moral absolutes. Well, of course we do, but actually if we watch carefully and honestly, every thinking human being holds to some moral absolutes.
Somewhere the question simply comes down to what those moral absolutes are.
First Amendment Rights Trampled Upon by One University’s Student Government: A Pro-Life Student Group Would Create a “Hostile Environment”?
But then secondly, we turn to a report from Cedar Falls, Iowa as reported in the Des Moines Register. The headline is, "UNI"--that's University of Northern Iowa--"student government blocks anti-abortion group from forming a chapter, says it could create a hostile environment." Now, before we go any further, just consider the headline again. You'll notice that there's a refusal here to use the term pro-life. Instead, the term that the newspaper uses is antiabortion.
Cleo Kresjci is the reporter, and we are told, "A national debate is playing out here about free speech on college campuses and whether conservative viewpoints such as opposition to abortion rights are being restricted." Well, you can imagine if the article is raising the issue as to whether they are being restricted, they're being restricted.
The second paragraph of the article makes that clear, "Student government leaders at the University of Northern Iowa this week denied students' request to form a local chapter of Students for Life of America, a national nonprofit that opposes abortion, saying that allowing the student group to form could create a hostile environment on campus." Now Students for Life has appealed to the Student Supreme Court and they are also making very clear they will go to other courts if necessary.
But at this point, this student organized court says that the Student for Life application is, "Lacking in evidence of being an equitable, just and welcoming student organization for our students and community found on campus of the University of Northern Iowa." Now wait just a minute. Did you hear the bridge from our first issue to the second? The word equal is right there. We are told that the Students for Life organization is lacking in evidence of being an equitable, just and welcoming student organization. The word equalities cries out as one of the three main words used against this organization.
But we're also being told that the decision, which came just a couple of weeks ago, is now being appealed to the president of the University of Northern Iowa, whose name is Mark Nook. Encouragingly, there were signs that the university's administrators at least understood that more basic document known as the Constitution of the United States. A constitution that grants to students at public universities rights of free speech, free expression and freedom of assembly. And that would include the freedom to organize a group such as Students for Life.
A statement from the university's administration said, "The university of Northern Iowa is committed to protecting our students' first amendment rights and is concerned that recent actions by the student government violated UNI policy by rendering a decision that was not content neutral. We have provided the petitioning student organization with resources and encouraged them to appeal the decision, which they did. UNI will not uphold a decision that violates the first amendment and university policy."
Well, again, we can be at least partly relieved that the administration of this university understands that what the student government did in this case, the Student Supreme Court, it was effectively unconstitutional; patently so. But on the other hand, the scarier thing is understanding that here you have students, an official student body, that was intent on repressing the voices and the views of other students. Here's the truly scary thing. The administrators aren't in this case, the most restrictive. It's fellow students who have absorbed this mentality, that it is creating an unsafe space if there is disagreement with any of the privileged positions of the ideological left.
This is by the way, the combination of leftist ideology and emotionalism that is coming at the expense of the most basic principles of liberty in this country. On a sister campus, Iowa State University, a professor had actually passed out a syllabus by the way, in recent weeks, in which students who opposed abortion or the group Black Lives Matter were told that they were going to be dismissed from the class. That was in the professor's syllabus. That university administration put out a statement saying that the professor's syllabus was inconsistent with the first amendment, "The syllabus statement as written was inconsistent with the university standards and its commitment to the first amendment rights of students." But you'll notice the way that's written. If the syllabus is written differently, it might be rendered as consistent.
The ACLU Has Switched Teams: The Transgender Revolution Comes at an Enormous Cost and Female Athletes Are Paying the Price
But now we turn to yet a different issue, but it's related in terms of the worldview issues. Sandra Bucha has written an article for the Wall Street Journal, the headline, "The ACLU's Betrayal of Athletic Girls." The subhead, "Half a century ago, the group backed the right to compete equally. Now it wants biological males on female teams." Now, what Sandra Buka is writing about here is the fact that in 1968, when she was in high school and as a girl, she wanted to compete in interscholastic swimming, but it turned out that there wasn't a girls team. So, as she tells us, she was permitted to train with the boys team, but she wasn't allowed to compete.
She sued along with her father. And as father and daughter, they received help from the American Civil Liberties Union in 1972, filing a lawsuit against the Illinois High School Association on behalf of high school girls who wanted to compete, not only in swimming, but in other sports. The point is, she ended up losing the case. As she writes, "We didn't prevail in our lawsuit in part because a federal judge observed that males have certain physical advantages over females and therefore schools had valid reasons to keep athletic competitions separated by sex."
Now you will notice that about the same time, indeed in the very same year, 1972, Congress passed what became known as Title IX. And that was the law that said there could be no discrimination by schools receiving federal money when it comes to access to such goods as intercollegiate sports.
And this is why in recent decades, since 1972, there's been an absolute explosion in the number of, and the funding for, women's sports, when it comes to inner collegiate competition. You've seen this happening, but you'll notice something else. When Congress adopted the Title IX legislation in 1972, they did not say that what would be right and equal is to have sports without regard to gender. They didn't say that. They didn't say that at all. As a matter of fact, the entire Title IX system only makes sense if you know that there is a difference between males and females, and thus what was required by Title IX was equal access for women to women's sports, the same way that men have the right to access to men's sports in publicly funded universities.
And that includes any university or college that receives federal funding. But the point that's being made by Sandra Bucha going back to her situation in 1968, her lawsuit in 1972, is the fact that she and her father in filing that lawsuit on behalf of women and girls actually had support from the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU supported them in their quest for legal access and equality. But now the ACLU has switched teams effectively. The ACLU has joined the transgender revolution, but as this writer for the Wall Street Journal makes very clear, that means the ACLU is now arguing the opposite of what the organization argued on behalf of freedom and liberty just back in 1972.
And furthermore, the ACLU was making the same argument for decades and decades after that. Only recently, very recently, has the transgender revolution turned everything on its head. But as we see, the transgender revolution along with the entirety of the LGBTQ revolution represents not only a collision with religious liberty, we see that, but it leads to a collision with something even more fundamental, at least in the recognition of most people around the world. And that is biology. The way this writer puts it is this, "Past gains by female athletes are now being destroyed." She goes on to say, "Furthermore, every time a transgender female," that's the term that's being used here, a transgender woman or a transgender girl using the terms that are now forced on us.
"Every time a transgender individual gets a spot on a limited roster on a girls or a women's team, a girl or a woman loses that position. Every time a new record falls, it falls at the expense of a girl or a woman. Every time a biological male defeats a biological female, even if the biological male is being considered a transgender female, it comes at the expense of a biological female, otherwise historically known as a girl or a woman."
The writer goes on to tell us, "Women and girls are being displaced by biologically male athletes who have a clear physical advantage. Again, it is the female athlete who is being denied a spot on the team and the pursuit of her dream. And is now being told to watch from the sidelines." As Bucha says, "That's regression, not progress."
Amazon Hires “Intimacy Coordinator” for ‘Lord of the Rings’ Streaming Series: The Corruption of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Narrative
But finally, we turn to yet another sign of the times, and this has to do with what is now being revealed about Amazon's future series, "Lord of the Rings" in which you will have a depiction of the famous series of novels by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and of course, one of the most famous narratives in all the 20th century literature. One of the greatest narratives in setting out the reality of good versus evil, one of the greatest lyrical narratives ever to find its way into print, written by one of the masters of the genre. And make no mistake, J.R.R. Tolkien was writing from the deep reservoirs of the Christian tradition and that shows up again and again.
You have the product of his imaginative genius, his ability with languages, his fascination with ancient and medieval civilizations that amounted to the eventual Anglo-Saxon civilization, his use of language, his invention of entire alternative worlds, even right down to the maps of those worlds and the captivating story known as The Lord of the Rings. Most efforts to depict The Lord of the Rings in cinematography have fallen flat. An exception to that was the series of movies produced by Peter Jackson over the course of several years. But now Amazon, for its streaming service, is attempting to do the same, but it's making headline news and not for a good reason.
It appears that Amazon Studios is determined to update The Lord of the Rings with something that was specifically left out in any explicit form of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. And that is sex and nudity. As is now being reported, Amazon Studios has hired Jennifer Ward Leland, "a respected intimacy coordinator." The New Yorker tells us that it is her job "to oversee sex and nudity scenes and ensure that everyone is comfortable during filming." Now remember, this category of an intimacy coordinator is rooted in the pornography industry, especially in the aftermath of the Me Too movement. The question is, how can any form of sexually explicit cinema not be sexually degrading? Well, you hire an intimacy coordinator in order to say what can and can't be done under what circumstances, but the bottom line is, we are looking here at the corruption of The Lord of the Rings by Amazon.
We're being told that the entire purpose of hiring this intimacy coordinator is to add sex to the drama. And furthermore, there are signs that what Amazon Studios is going to try to do with The Lord of the Rings is to turn it into yet another sex and violence filled fantasy, such as the "Game of Thrones" series, which was commercially, wildly popular. And that probably is why Amazon is trying to use The Lord of the Rings in a way that exploit's Tolkien and his narrative, in order to achieve commercial success, and maybe some artistic plaudits as well.
Now, just imagine all of the worldview issues behind this. For one thing you're looking at to the fact that when an author is dead, the narrative can be hijacked effectively by someone else. You're also looking at the basic question of how exactly Amazon Studios gained the rights to The Lord of the Rings in order to make this series.
They are not doing it illegally. They have the commercial rights for this production. No one knows exactly what was arranged or negotiated between the Tolkien estate or the successor organization, and Amazon Studios in this case. But the fact is, we are looking at something which will be. If this turns out to be as true as it appears, the repudiation, as well as the corruption of the vision of J.R.R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings.
Now, one worldview issue here to look at is the fact that just about everything given enough time is corrupted. Even The Lord of the Rings. Even as recently as the Peter Jackson trilogy, "The Lord of the Rings" was intended to be presented in a way that Tolkien would have appreciated. Now there's a basic question as to whether Tolkien would have appreciated any making of his story into a film.
But nonetheless, the point is that he certainly would morally object. And that's an understatement to the corruption of his narrative by sexualizing it in the way that will be required or implied by the hiring of a now famous intimacy coordinator. Furthermore, the article in the New Yorker at the column "The Cut," telling us about this new version of The Lord of the Rings actually has words in the headlines that mean--I'm not going to read it to you--that tells you something when you have J.R.R. Tolkien, and that reality together, you have a big problem.
We're looking here at what the world does to any narrative. Anything that may even originate in something as innocent, at least innocent of sexuality, as The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien himself was aware of what he was doing in the creation of The Lord of the Rings and his other works.
He understood this because in his prose writings, he made very clear that as a conservative, traditional Catholic, he held to a deeply Catholic vision of sexuality. And that meant, largely consistent with the continuity of the Christian tradition, going all the way back to Bible times. Several years ago, I wrote an article based upon my discovery of a letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to his son, his son reaching manhood, the letter on the topic of sex.
Tolkien wrote to his son, "This is a fallen world. The dislocation of the sex instinct is one of the chief symptoms of the fall. The world has been going to the bad all down through the ages. The various social form shift in each new mode has it special dangers, but the hard spirit of concupiscence has walked down every street and sat leering at every house since Adam fell." Now you're looking at his powerful prose directed at a defense of a biblical sexuality.
He also understood exactly what he was up against and what his son would be up against in the modern sex-crazed world. "The devil is endlessly ingenious and sex is his favorite subject," Tolkien wrote to his son. "He is as good every bit at catching you through generous, romantic or tender motives as through baser or more animal ones."
Now notice exactly what Tolkien was doing here. By the way, is it not reassuring to know that at one time, fathers wrote such letters to their sons? But also here you have Tolkien explicitly establishing his understanding of sex and sexuality within the meta-narrative of scripture, rooting the fallenness of the world in the reality of Adam's fall. And speaking very specifically about the corruption of the sex instinct as he called it, and how the devil uses various guises in order to entrap human beings in sexual sin.
That was brilliant, faithful advice from a father to a son. And it is the absolute repudiation of what Amazon Studios apparently intends to do with Tolkien's classic, The Lord of the Rings. As this development reminds us, and Tolkien knew this, in this world nothing, and we do mean nothing, is safe from corruption.
I'll be posting that article entitled, "From Father to Son, J.R.R. Tolkien on Sex," at my website at albertmohler.com this morning, along with this edition of The Briefing. I think you'll find it very helpful and encouraging.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.