The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

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

It’s Tuesday, December 1st, 2020.

I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

The Duchess of Sussex Issues Heartbreaking Message After Miscarriage: Another Recognition of the Intrinsic Value of Human Life from the Moment of Conception

Several big cultural developments in recent days. We need to pay attention to them and think about them in accordance with the biblical worldview. Sometimes they are very revealing. Sometimes they tell us a great deal just by the language that is used. That’s the case with the first issue of our consideration, which is an opinion piece, a very emotional opinion piece written by Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. She writes, “It was a July morning that began as ordinarily as any other day: Make breakfast. Feed the dogs. Take vitamins. Find that missing sock. Pick up the rogue crayon that rolled under the table. Throw my hair in a ponytail before getting my son from his crib. After changing his diapers, I felt a sharp cramp. I dropped to the floor with him in my arms, humming a lullaby to keep us both calm. The cheerful tune, a stark contrast to my sense that something was not right.”

She then writes, touchingly, “I knew as I clutched my firstborn child that I was losing my second.” In this case, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, a member of the British Royal family, was speaking about holding her little son, Archie, her son with her husband, the Duke of Sussex, Harry. And as it turns out, there are not many articles written in this sense by members of the Royal family in Great Britain, either functioning or now non-functioning members of the Royal family. But the point is this. As you look at this very moving article written by the Duchess of Sussex, what becomes clear is that her loss, the loss of this child by miscarriage, was indeed the loss of a child.

She uses that word over and over again. She wrote, “I knew as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second.” Hours later, she says she was in a hospital bed, holding her husband’s hand. They began to understand what they had lost and “how we’d heal,” to use her words. She wrote about the fact that even as she had experienced the loss of this child by miscarriage, the reality is, very few people around her seem to know how to talk about it. She starts out by writing an article entitled “The Losses We Share” with the suggestion that perhaps the path to healing begins with three simple words: “Are you okay?”

Again, the article is quite emotional, and understandably so. The Duchess writes, “Losing a child means carrying an almost unbearable grief. Experienced by many, but talked about by few. She went on to say in the pain of our loss, my husband and I discovered that in a room of 100 women, 10 to 20 of them will have suffered from miscarriage. Yet despite the staggering commonality of this pain, the conversation remains taboo, riddled with unwarranted shame and perpetuating a cycle of solitary mourning.”

This is quite an important moral point to be made, but it’s a specific kind of moral point. It’s a moral point that only carries moral weight because the Duchess of Sussex has used the exact right word when referring to her loss. It was the loss, it is the loss of a child. Now of course in the background of this is the fact that we’re living in a society that has increasingly denied that the inhabitant of the womb is a person, is a baby, is a child. Instead, you see over and over again in the mainstream media the word fetus used. But the entire purpose of using the word fetus in those contexts is to depersonalize the baby, to speak of the baby merely as some kind of biological entity but lacking in human personhood.

That’s the entire worldview behind the culture of death. That’s the entire worldview especially behind the entire mega industry of death known as abortion. But when you begin to see cracks in the vocabulary, you see some light shining through. We saw this a matter of months ago when Chrissy Teigen, a famous television personality, also posted on social media and spoke openly about her experience of miscarriage. And she spoke openly about the fact that she was grieving the loss of the death of her unborn baby. Again, the use of the word baby. Not accidental. But it’s unavoidable. If you’re talking about loss, you’re not just talking about a fetus. You’re talking about a baby. You’re talking about a child. Chrissy Teigan used the word baby. The Duchess of Sussex uses the word child. But the point is essentially the same. This is an explicit effort by these two mothers not to depersonalize the loss, the death of their loved one.

It is rather to underline the scale of that loss, the enormity of that loss. But we need to recognize that in our society, we have reached the point of division over the issue of abortion here, that there are many people who will use the word baby or child about an unborn child in the womb only if that baby, only if that child, is wanted. What a terrifying thought, but that’s right where we are. If the baby is wanted, then you speak of the baby as a baby. If the baby is wanted, you describe the baby as a child. But if the baby is not wanted, is not desired, then the culture of death says, don’t use the word baby, don’t use the word child. Just use the word fetus. Or for that matter, biological mass in the womb. Just talk about the unexpected and unwanted by-product of reproductive activity otherwise known as sex.

Our hearts go out rightly to the Duchess of Sussex and to her husband, precisely because we as Christians know they have lost a child. They have experienced the death of an unborn child. It is medically referred to as a miscarriage. They know it as a tragedy. And it is precisely a tragedy because the child was a human being, is a human being, made in God’s image. That child only existed in the womb because the divine sovereign creator said, let there be life. And the biblical affirmation of human life means that we contend for the personhood, the dignity, and the sanctity of every single life from the moment of fertilization all the way until natural death under every condition at every age. But at least we can understand a little bit of light shining through this crack in the culture of death when we understand that even many of those who would supposedly support abortion rights and no doubt politically think they do.

They nonetheless will speak of the baby as a baby when it’s a wanted baby. And they feel some moral responsibility to grieve with mothers and fathers who have experienced the death of a child, an unborn child, because they are after all grieving. And we’re living in the midst of a society that is doing its best to insist that there should not even be moral stigma when it comes to abortion, because after all, that baby was not wanted, so it’s not a baby. But over here, we’re told that we are to sympathize. And of course, that’s right with those who experienced the death of a child, the loss of a child, precisely because that child was wanted. But Christians understand that we have to contend publicly for the fact that every single child, every single baby, born or unborn, is indeed a child, is indeed a baby, does indeed deserve life, is a life that is to be protected in the womb and beyond the womb.

We have to understand that anytime we look at this kind of situation, even as we recognize there is a secular hypocrisy going on here, we have to see that as a moral indication of the fact that even the culture of death, so now ensconced in this culture of ours, is not able to hold tenaciously to its own storyline.

Part II

Moral Opportunism in the Headlines in the Aftermath of Tragic Loss: A Lethal False Equivalence Between Abortion and Miscarriage

But this leads me to an article about the Duchess’s article, because this one is actually, and chillingly, more revealing. This article was written by columnist Danielle Campoamor. It was published by NBC News. The title of this article, Meghan’s Royal Miscarriage Story Underscores Broader Problem of Reproductive Stigma. Notice how she intends to shift the issue. The subtitle of this article, “Birth isn’t a romantic act dependent upon a few graceful pushes. Not every pregnancy ends with a baby. Not every person who gets pregnant wants to be.”

Now, what we see here is a very chilling example of moral, or in this case immoral, opportunism. What’s going on here? This columnist is writing that, even as it is right to grieve with the Duchess and the Duke of Sussex and the loss of their child, after all, it’s because they’re experiencing the loss. But that doesn’t mean that the abortion of the baby next door should have any moral consequence to us. It all comes down to personal autonomy. The great horrifying myth of the modern age. Campoamor writes, “In her heartbreaking New York Times op-ed, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex revealed that during a year of profound national and global trauma, she had suffered a miscarriage.”

Then, of course, she also reminds us of Chrissy Teigen who had also shared the news of her miscarriage. But then Campoamor writes, “But the shame women and men still feel about miscarriages is buoyed by something stronger and more nefarious than ignorance. Until we address and work to combat abortion stigma, we’ll never be able to stop judging those who are not physically able to carry a wanted pregnancy to term.”

Now wait just a minute. What are we looking at here? We’re looking at this kind of immoral opportunism, someone jumping on the Duchess of Sussex’ article in order to say, even though she wasn’t talking about abortion and even though she was talking about this baby as a child, the reality is that the only reason we have any problem with this is because we are not adequately celebratory and accepting of abortion. There is still stigma attached to abortion. Now notice, the Duchess of Sussex wasn’t talking about abortion. Emphatically not.

But the culture of death can’t let the Duchess’s testimony pass without trying to nullify it by making it not about miscarriage, but about abortion, and arguing that abortion stigma is actually why many people are reluctant to talk about their quite real grief in the aftermath of miscarriage. Campoamor says that the big problem is “tied to the cultural and societal pressure put on women to reproduce. When our bodies do not carry a pregnancy to term, this pressure can transform in to blame.”

Well, wait just a minute. No one was blaming the Duchess of Sussex. Everyone is sympathizing with her. But instead, this article is an attempt to say that there should be no blame because there’s no moral evil attached to abortion. It’s not only slippery, it’s sinister. Later in the article, Campoamor writes, “This antiquated, sexist belief that all women are meant to — and should want to — reproduce isn’t the only thing fueling both abortion and miscarriage stigma, however. We also need to rid ourselves of the idea that speaking out about bodily functions or sexual health is somehow impolite, selfish or dramatic. This,” she says, “is the same kind of reasoning that has been used to oppress and silence other minorities, notably people in the LGBTQ communities, for decades.” Now, Campoamor writes that she has experienced both abortion and miscarriage. But what Christians have to deny is the fact that those are morally equivalent.

But it’s also really interesting to see the rejection of creation order in her argument that the belief that women are meant to and should want to reproduce is antiquated and sexist and is the basic problem behind the confusion. But here’s where we need to note that what she dismisses as the antiquated, sexist belief that all women are meant to and should want to reproduce isn’t just a matter of societal pressure or some kind of social prejudice. It’s actually a matter of biology. The creation order only makes sense if we understand that both men and women are basically intended in creation to reproduce. And that is actually the first commandment that the creator gave to his human creatures. Now, we also understand that there are couples that have been unable to have babies, and there are people who wish to be married, who aren’t married, and there are those who are described by the apostle Paul in the New Testament as having been given the gift of celibacy in the service of the church.

But the idea that somehow it’s just antiquated and sexist to say that both men and women, but in this case, women, are meant to reproduce. It is simply a denial of biology. But once again, the scariest part of this article is the fact that it’s based on an absolutely unrealistic and unsustainable claim of human personal autonomy. But the secular worldview now sees that claim of personal human autonomy as the greatest good. Anything that would interfere with that autonomy is by definition, wrong, evil, repressive, something that has to be overcome. But it’s also true as we think about both of these articles, and we think about this public conversation, it’s a really good opportunity for Christians to say that moral stigma is a real and necessary reality. But that stigma is to be attached to sin. Not to anything that isn’t sin.

And so that means that we must state emphatically that experiencing a miscarriage is not sin. And we grieve with those who grieve. We understand, based upon a biblical worldview, the dignity and sanctity of that life within the womb. And we grieve with those parents who are suffering that loss. We don’t try to minimize it. We don’t disguise it. But we also must make very clear there is no stigma in it. In the same way that we rightly grieve the death of anyone else under any other condition, we certainly grieve with those parents who have experienced the loss of a child by miscarriage.

Christians are sometimes uncomfortable with using the word lost, as in lost a child or lost a pregnancy. Part of the problem is just linguistic. Of course, the reality is more than loss, but it is a loss. It is experienced as a loss, because we do believe that the inhabitant of the womb, every single inhabitant of the womb, even at the microscopic level, is a child. A human being made in the image of God.

It is a death. It is more than just a loss. But every death is a loss. And the experience of loss is not the wrong way to describe it. It’s not adequate, but then, what is?

Part III

Those Who Consume Culture Are Never Unchanged by It: Hallmark and Hulu Employ the Holiday Rom-Com as a Tool for the Sexual Revolution

But next we have to turn to another development that deserves our attention as we watch the culture around us and we try to analyze, by worldview, what’s going on. One of the things we need to recognize is that if you are pushing a moral agenda, a political agenda, a revolutionary agenda, a revolution, turning morality upside down in rejection of creation order in the law of God, then you use whatever mechanisms are open to you. And this is why, following even a classic Marxist analysis, you had the revolutionaries turn to the engines of cultural production. And Hollywood is one of those main engines of cultural production. And by Hollywood, we’re not just talking about the zip code in California.

We’re talking about the mega industry of providing and selling entertainment to the American people. Now, as you think about Christmas, and you think about this season, you recognize that the romantic comedy season is upon us with a holiday theme. You either love them or hate them and you know who you are. But the point is that the romantic comedy is now going to have to be completely transformed and accommodated to the demands of the new moral revolutionaries.

You may remember that the Hallmark Channel has found itself in all kinds of controversy because of a failure in previous seasons to come to an absolute celebration of same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage and all the rest, you could just say the entire array of LGBTQ. The Hallmark Channel made a decision last year during this season not to portray a same-sex kiss and then had to fall all over itself in surrendering to and paying public obeisance to the moral revolutionaries by saying that it was a wrong decision and that person is now out and they will never do anything like it ever again.

And just to prove the point, along comes this article on the front page of the entertainment section of USA Today, “Have Yourself An Inclusive Holiday On Television.” Erin Jensen is the reporter. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas on TV – and a modern-day Christmas at that. Cable networks kicked off their holiday-themed romance flicks last month with a slate of movies more diverse than ever. Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas and Lifetime’s, ‘It’s A Wonderful Lifetime,’ include an LGBTQ couple in a major storyline, a first for both.”

The article then cites the fare at Netflix before going on to Hallmark. “For Hallmark, whose winter programming provides a reliable ratings boost, the move comes nearly a year after a call to #BoycottHallmarkChannel over the network’s decision to yank ads for a wedding website showing same-sex couples kissing. The decision,” says USA Today, “was later reversed. In August, Hallmark aired its first same-sex union in a TV movie after pledging the previous month to increase LGBTQ representation.”

The hallmark movie that features the male same sex couple in romantic roles is entitled “The Christmas House,” and it’s pretty easy to predict how the story turns out. Hallmark Channel programming chief Michelle Vicary wouldn’t answer whether or not the two male leads share a kiss. Instead, as USA Today said, teasing, “You have to tune in to see.” I will not, thank you.

The LA Times’ Ashley Lee celebrated this with a headline, “Finally, Hallmark’s holiday fare makes a gay couple ‘part of the family.'” One of the actors in this particular movie said, “This scene is so beautiful and intimate because this couple has so much love for each other. It was magical. We were so honored to get to make history and represent LGBTQ couples just like in our personal lives.” Well, you’ve been told right up front what’s going on.

Meanwhile, the streaming channel Hulu is also gaining a good deal of mainstream media coverage with, for example, this article in the New York Times by Melena Ryzik, entitled, “A Christmas Romcom With a Twist.” Well, this twist is that it’s a female same-sex couple. And evidently the drama, the dynamic in the movie, is the fact that one of the characters isn’t out of the closet. But of course by the time the story ends, everybody’s out of the closet, and everybody’s happy about it. One of the actresses in the movie said, “I always felt as long as we felt solid going in, we could be like an aspirational, really self-assured couple, in a way that strips any kind of discomfort or internalized homophobia that is undeniably applied to same-sex couples in commercial projects. Like, did we seem like lesbians or were we just two women in love? And then we do a Christmas movie.”

Well, there again, you see exactly how this works. An explicit effort to try to disconnect any discomfort or internalized homophobia. That’s the term that’s used here for any moral opposition to homosexuality, which by the way, goes back to a moral intuition. And Christians understand that moral intuition, when directed towards the sin itself, is a rightful intuition.

An article on the same movie, known as “Happiest Season”–that’s the Hulu product–the article of the LA Times by Tracy Brown, identified as the digital editor, tells us the basic plot line of the film, including the fact that what one of the women has failed to mention to the other until they’re well into their road trip is that her family has no idea she has a girlfriend or that she’s a lesbian, and, “with her father in the middle of a political campaign, her plan is for the other woman to play her straight roommate.”

We’re then told, “It’s the perfect recipe for hijinks, heartbreak, and an eventual happy ending.” One of the actresses put it this way, “There’s something so nice about watching a Christmas romcom and knowing it ends with everything being fine. ‘m OK to go along this journey, and I can be scared when they fight, and I can be sad in this moment, and I could laugh, but ultimately, there’s this certainty that it concludes (and) it’s so nice to know that everything’s gonna be OK in the end.” Now just think about that for a moment, and just think about the actual rather insidious way that the format of the romcom, that’s a moral judgment just in and of itself, actually does assure people that everything’s going to turn out fine. It looks like disaster is here, it looks like that awkwardness is there, it looks like moral stigma is over there, but don’t worry.

For the rom-com to work as a rom-com, everything has to turn out in the end. It’s fascinating that in the voice of this actress playing the lesbian character in this movie, she says she was willing to take the risk of this plotline precisely because it was safe. Everything’s going to turn out well. It’s going to turn out happy in the end. And as Christians, we just need to recognize there’s so much going on here. But a part of it is the fact that culture really does work this way. In a fallen world, with a spirit of rebellion and revolution against a biblical worldview and a biblical morality, the fact is that the romcom is now being used as an engine for this moral revolution to turn the world upside down.

Because after all, if you begin to watch this story and you get drawn in, you know how the story is going to end. If it didn’t end that way, it wouldn’t be on Hallmark, it wouldn’t be making headlines on Hulu, and you couldn’t make it in Hollywood, because if it doesn’t end right according to the dictates of the LGBTQ revolution, then these days the movie’s not going to be made. And once the movie’s made, it wouldn’t get the headlines, the fawning headlines that are all over the mainstream media about this flurry of films.

But finally, there’s something even more ominous in this report from the Los Angeles Times by Tracy Brown that has to do with a statement made by one of the actresses in the movie. I’ll just let it stand for itself. Here’s what she said, “I’m really excited to start seeing coming out stories, queer stories, from really young perspectives and how that’s going to shift. What does it feel like for a younger person who doesn’t understand that it would be weird to not come out when you’re 10 or say that you always knew that you were gay.”

So notice something. You may think, or you may have thought that you knew who the intended audience for these romcoms was. But what if it turns out that the intended audience is actually someone who might be sitting on the sofa or in a chair near you who might be watching that romantic comedy and might be getting a very clear moral message about the rightness, the absolute rightness, of coming out of the closet at age 10. Once again, we’re just reminded how much culture matters. And culture, made up of the sum total of everything from language and dress to customs and policies, laws, and procedures, architecture, art. But yes, entertainment. It comes down to the fact that those who consume such entertainment are never unchanged by it. Those who inhabit the culture are never unshaped by it to some degree.

It’s going to take an enormous amount of biblical conviction for Christians not to be pressed into conformity with this culture. It’s going to take an enormous amount of biblical conviction for Christians, for Christian parents, and for churches to stand against this tide and to resist this pressure. It’s going to take standing against virtually everything that Hollywood is going to be throwing at us and throwing at our ten-year-olds.

But with a statement like this, take note. We cannot say that we were not warned.

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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