The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Monday, January 18, 2021

It’s Monday, January 18, 2021.

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

Part I

Horrifying Honesty from the Culture of Death: Planned Parenthood Isn’t At All Embarrassed About Providing Abortions

This is going to be a big week in the United States of America, and, in particular, a week that is marked by the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States. The inauguration of a president is always a history-making event, and it is always an event of significance. This one is going to be a bit different, simply because of the context of COVID-19, but it is also different because of the context of history. But we’ll be discussing the inauguration tomorrow and in particular, offering some suggestions as to how individual Christians, and particularly Christian families, can watch the event together and understand what is taking place in the shift of presidential administrations and in what our founders rightly understood would be the pageant of democracy. But with the inauguration two days away and any number of important headlines no doubt to erupt between now and then, I want to look at several important issues of worldview significance.

One of them has to do with recent interviews and articles with Alexis McGill Johnson, who is the fairly new president of Planned Parenthood. Now what’s not mentioned in either of these pieces I’m going to cite from the Washington Post and Time Magazine, is that Johnson basically became the president of Planned Parenthood because the group’s board ousted her predecessor, Dr. Lena Wynn, for making too much of women’s health and basically too little of abortion. That’s hard to believe actually, but nonetheless, there is no doubt that Alexis McGill Johnson is not going to be caught guilty of making too little of abortion. In an article that appeared in the Washington Post by KK Ottesen back at the end of December, the headline tells us that the Planned Parenthood president says that “saying abortion is a small part of what the group does is stigmatizing.”

There’s a lot right there in the headline. Consider the word stigmatizing. Consider the words small part. Now that goes back to the controversy about Dr. Lena Wynn, her predecessor as the head of Planned Parenthood. Lena Wynn was at one point the Director of Public Health for the City of Baltimore. She is a second generation immigrant, and she was very clear about the fact that her mission was women’s health and she insisted that that would include, necessarily, women’s reproductive health. She gave no quarter when it came to defending and advocating for abortion rights. But Dr. Lena Wynn had made the argument in defending Planned Parenthood, particularly in the political arena and in the media, she had made the argument that abortion is just a small part of what Planned Parenthood is about.

Now, let’s just consider that claim for a moment. It’s manifest nonsense. Planned Parenthood is the biggest factory of the industry of death in the United States. It is the biggest abortion provider. And it is also an organization that makes real money out of performing abortions. It’s also an organization that has been caught in the trafficking of tissues, if not for profit and direct payment then at least involved in the strategic killing of unborn human beings in order to have optimal access to particular organs and tissues. It’s one of the hardest things even to talk about.

Dr. Lena Wynn argued that all of this is in the context of a woman’s reproductive health, and she tried to argue that Planned Parenthood is really about a woman’s health, far more than about abortion. By the way, they really aren’t able, these days, to talk about a woman’s health, because instead, given the LGBTQ revolution and especially the “T,” they have to talk about people who might be seeking an abortion. People. How’s that as insanity added to insanity.

But nonetheless, insanity added to horrific immorality is what you have with the argument of Alexis McGill Johnson. This piece by KK Ottesen in the Washington Post tells us that Johnson, a political scientist, a social justice advocate we’re told, and president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, she goes on to say that it’s stigmatizing to refer to abortion as if, defensively, the organization wants to say it’s just a small part of what we do. Now, you’ll notice the abandonment of the pretense that it is just a small part. You’ll instead see the absolute unreserved, head on confirmation from the CEO of Planned Parenthood that the organization isn’t embarrassed about its abortion involvement at all.

Instead, she says that even making the argument that abortion is just a small part of what the group does is stigmatizing. She says this–answering the question, “But it is a very small part of all the things Planned Parenthood does, right?” That’s actually the question she was asked, the question, “Abortion is just a small part, right?” She answers, “Overall, certainly. But it is still a critically important part of what we do. So I think when we say it’s a small part of what we do, what we’re doing is actually stigmatizing it. Like it’s really not a big deal that Planned Parenthood does this. We’re a proud abortion provider,” she said. “We believe that abortion is healthcare. And we believe fundamentally that self-determination begins with being able to control your own body, and freedom begins with being able to control your own body. So I don’t like to marginalize it in that way.”

That’s an absolutely stunning statement. It was published just before Christmas so it escaped a lot of attention, but I can’t let it go any longer. I want us to look head-on at this article and understand what we’re being told here. The president and CEO of Planned Parenthood says, yes, measured one way it’s a fairly small amount of what we do. Again, I can test that. But nonetheless, she goes on to say, but even talking that way is stigmatizing. It’s marginalizing about abortion. And she says we’re not embarrassed about abortion: “We are a proud abortion provider.”

She then goes on to say two other things you heard. Number one, she says that self-determination begins with being able to control your own body. Freedom begins, she says, with being able to control your own body. Now recognize something. That was the argument made by the attorneys for abortion rights in the Roe v. Wade decision back during 1972 in 1973. The argument made by those attorneys back in the oral arguments for Roe v. Wade is that women could never be on par in a position of equality with men unless they were also, whenever they demanded to be, in the condition of not being pregnant, just like men were in the condition of not being pregnant.

Yes, you have followed exactly what they’re saying. That is the dark logic, at least partly behind, Roe v. Wade. But it’s this idea of absolute personal autonomy, this huge issue of worldview significance, we talk about regularly on The Briefing. It’s one of the most dangerous ideas of the modern age; this overarching, incredible, unbiblical, irrational view of personal autonomy, here redefined as self-determination.

Let me ask you an honest question. How far does self-determination actually get you? To what extent are you self determined at all? Did you decide to be born? Did you decide when and where to be born, to whom to be born? Did you decide to be male or female? Oh wait just a minute. Now we have the modern irrationality of the fact that that just might be a choice. But still, as we point out, that doesn’t change XX and XY chromosomes, it’s a demonstration of cultural and moral insanity. We actually don’t determine much about our own lives. We don’t determine, actually, the most important issues at the beginning of our life, even the context of our life and the flow of human history.

So the idea of self-determination is actually a rather artificial and dangerous idea extended now to the right, supposedly, of abortion, and to the fact that if a woman doesn’t have a right to abortion, she doesn’t have actual self-determination or freedom. But you’ll notice I slipped up again, using the word woman when those who hold to the mentality of Planned Parenthood actually can’t do so consistently. They’re now referring to people who might seek an abortion. People who have wombs. But we have to be the people who will not join that insanity, because we can’t, constrained by a biblical worldview. We understand that the people who have wombs actually are women and only women and always women.

It’s also interesting, by the way, that later in this article the interviewer asked, “Have you had conversations with folks in the anti-abortion movement? Do you reach across those lines?” Well, she begins by saying, “I certainly have had conversations with people who disagree,” but then later she says, “I also think there’s a lot of disinformation on the other side, and it’s kind of hard to have a conversation with someone who has anti-abortion, who is leveraging public dollars through crisis pregnancy centers to derail and impact someone who’s made a decision to access abortion. So I’m open to having a conversation. I am not open to not allowing people the freedom they need to make their own decisions.” So what does that mean? It means it’s an absolute lie to say she’s open to conversations, because as the paragraph unfolds it’s clear she will only have conversations with the people who already agree with her about abortion rights.

Now, it’s really interesting to know that it’s significant that the Washington Post has given her this major interview in which, through which, to make her arguments. Where’s the similar interview with a pro-life activist? But nonetheless, even more glaring, Time Magazine gave one of its back page interviews to Alexis McGill Johnson in the current issue of Time. It’s entitled Seven Questions and it tells us that Alexis McGill Johnson is going to talk about racial equity, working with Joe Biden, and the fight beyond Roe. In this she says, for example, that her top priorities, now that the Biden administration will be coming into office, is to support the elimination of the Hyde amendment. Now remember, that is something that came up during the democratic campaign. It came up in the 2016 Democratic National Convention platform. It calls for the elimination of the Hyde amendment, which was a bipartisan amendment shortly after Roe v. Wade, to ensure that the consciences and convictions of pro-life American taxpayers would not be violated by using tax dollars to support abortion, to pay for abortion.

Alexis McGill Johnson and Planned Parenthood have demanded, of the Democrats in particular, that they now oppose the Hyde amendment and pledge to eliminate it. During three decades in the United States Senate, Joe Biden consistently bragged about his support for the Hyde amendment. But in order to gain the 2020 democratic presidential nomination, he had to make a 180 turn and he did. And thus Planned Parenthood is counting on his support to eliminate the Hyde amendment.

Well, she goes on to say, as she interprets the 2020 results, that she believes that a progressive coalition has come together. And she goes on to celebrate Xavier Becerra, the Attorney General of California, who has been nominated by Joe Biden to be his Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Now, on The Briefing we talked about the fact that Xavier Becerra is one of the most staunch defenders of abortion rights, and one of the staunchest opponents of both religious liberty and pro-life organizations, using his power as attorney general to try to marginalize crisis pregnancy centers and to threaten religious liberty. More about that shortly. She’s very happy, of course, that Becerra has been nominated as HHS secretary: “It’s tremendously exciting. Becerra is a staunch sexual and reproductive health champion. He understands how urgent it is for us tackle inequity in our healthcare system.”

Now here’s something very sinister to note. Inequity here means that there might be someone somewhere who might not have equal access to abortion with someone else. That’s the notion of equity here. But it’s also very, very interesting to see where she talks about Roe v. Wade. She says, “Even with Roe v. Wade in place, access to abortion is still limited. As our reproductive justice colleagues always say….” Notice the phrase, “reproductive justice colleagues.” That’s not justice for the baby. That’s justice according to the far left. “As our reproductive justice colleagues always say, Roe was the floor, not the ceiling. We need to think about how do we go beyond Roe to fulfill the promise of safe, legal abortion for all. That’s not a single policy solution,” she says. “You know, it’s about the right but also the access.” Again, now you see the claim made right here in black and white in this article that there is a duty to provide for and to pay for abortion for any woman in the United States–wait a minute, any pregnant person in the United States–who seeks it.

But I want to read the last question and Johnson’s last answer. The question is this, “How is Planned Parenthood thinking about its own work in the context of health, equity, and racial justice?” Here’s her answer: “Planned Parenthood is a 104-year-old organization. The reckoning has hit us as well. It’s been very powerful to lean into the work and to think about, with the patient at the center of everything we do, how we develop a stronger intersectional claim that allows us to deliver care with the values that we espouse.”

What in the world was she talking about there? Well, she’s talking about the embarrassment that has come to Planned Parenthood that their founder, Margaret Sanger, was an eager eugenicist, basically arguing more children from the fit, less from the unfit. Minorities and those who were impoverished and those who had any kind of physical or genetic affliction were considered the people who were unfit, who should not have babies. In other words, Planned Parenthood and the entire movement that Planned Parenthood was just a part of, were actually based in racism. Explicitly so. And even though she doesn’t acknowledge that in any detail, she goes on to make very clear that Planned Parenthood has bought into the entire CRT intersectionality worldview, even mentioning the fact that Planned Parenthood is now determined to “develop a stronger intersections claim that allows us to deliver care with the values that we espouse.” There it is. She said it right out loud, and it shows up right here in Time Magazine in print.

Part II

Xavier Becerra’s Record Is Clear: The Incoming Secretary of Health and Human Services Targets Religious Non-Profits — And Religious Liberty

But next, since we mentioned Xavier Becerra, whose confirmation hearings before the Senate will be coming up soon, James Piereson and Naomi Schaefer Riley wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal. It was published last Thursday in the print edition, entitled Xavier Becerra’s Nonprofit Problem. What’s his problem? Well, he has been putting coercion, as the Attorney General of California, on nonprofits to follow his own liberal agenda. As Piereson and Riley write, “No federal agency works as much with nonprofits as the Department of Health and Human Services. That is one reason Xavier Becerra, President Elect Biden’s pick to lead the agency, will face opposition. His record as California Attorney General since 2017 and in Congress for nearly a quarter century, has been one of hostility to nonprofit institutions and the donors who support them.”

Now you’ll notice that one of the things he has tried to do is to use the equity argument to suggest that his understanding of equity, or a very liberal, progressivist, leftist understanding of equity, should be used as an evaluation as to whether nonprofits should be able to maintain their own autonomy, spend their own budgets, fulfill their own mission. And we need to note that this would include Christian ministries, Christian schools, Christian foster care and adoption agencies; all of which have been at the center of the bullseye of his effort to bring about a radical reformulation of society there in California. And also, he understands that there are legal constraints that define nonprofit status that, if they are manipulated, could basically force all conservative and Christian nonprofits to lose that status.

Piereson and Riley also mention something that I have covered and discussed thoroughly on The Briefing, and that is, amazingly enough, horrifyingly enough, Xavier Becerra, as the Attorney General of California and with roots to his experience in Congress, argues that religious liberty applies only to individuals and not to institutions. That means Christian schools, Christian foster and adoption care agencies, would not have any religious liberty rights. Now, that is a direct assault upon any kind of religious liberty in the United States. And furthermore, it is an affront to the very understanding of nonprofit law, even what it means to be a corporation in the United States. Because corporations, legally defined, become corporate persons but they’re made up of individuals, and the liberty of those individuals is extended to the corporation.

That’s the basis for even very recent Supreme Court decisions. If you deny that then you’re basically denying individuals the right to exercise their religious liberty by joining together with others of similar conviction to fulfill ministry and mission. Also, don’t miss the fact that his comments were directed right at Christian schools, colleges, universities, institutions, with the question of religious liberty. And the President Elect knows exactly what he’s doing, what he did, in making the nomination of Xavier Becerra. It is a radical turn of the federal government to the left on these issues.

In one section of the Wall Street Journal article we read this, “Mr. Becerra has also set his sights on religious nonprofits. In 2019 Mr. Becerra led a group of states in trying to stop the Trump administration from exempting religious organizations from rules, barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity. These included religious foster care agencies that find homes for some of the most vulnerable children but say that certifying a home with a gay couple violates their religious principles.” The article goes on to say, “Mr. Becerra has little regard for the protections the first amendment affords to religious organizations. Asked at his 2017 confirmation hearings in Sacramento about proposed California regulations that would have restricted state funds for religious colleges that mandated theology classes or a Bible-centered code of conduct, Mr. Becerra said, ‘The protection for religion is for the individual. And so, I think it’s important to distinguish between protections that you are affording to the individual to exercise his or her religion freely, versus protections you are giving to some institution or entity who is essentially bootstrapping the first amendment protections on behalf of somebody else.'” Note very carefully, and chillingly, that that logic can be extended directly to Christian congregations and churches.

Part III

The Importance of Worldview Is Evident Everywhere, Even in the Obituary of a British Double Agent Who Betrayed the West to the Soviet Union — And Feared No Judgment

But finally, as we bring this episode of The Briefing to a close, we return to the issue of spy craft and espionage with an obituary. This one for George Blake. The obituary headline in the New York Times was this: “British spy who betrayed the West in the 1950s dies at 98.” It turns out that he died in Moscow as a hero of the Soviet Union, but he had been the most effective spy, it is believed, on behalf of the Soviets even as he had been working for the British intelligence agencies. It turned out he was a double agent and one with deadly consequence. The information that he gave…. And he bragged about having given more classified information to the Soviets than any other British spy. His nefarious acts led to the death of any number of agents for the West. It turns out that even working for Britain he had become a very committed Marxist and a supporter of not only communism, but particularly of the USSR.

He was caught. He was sentenced to a very long prison term. His trial was considered so sensitive that the room was made soundproof, but he also, interestingly enough, escaped from prison. It’s an odd and unusual story, worthy of James Bond in itself. He was assisted in escaping the British prison by Soviet agents. He went to the Soviet Union. He was there celebrated as a hero. He died as a hero of the Soviet Union. Congratulated, even as the USSR is no more, by a former major KGB figure, that is the former Soviet intelligence agency, who is none other than the current President of Russia, Vladimir Putin.

In 2007, Vladimir Putin actually awarded to George Blake what was known as the Order of Friendship, and Putin said, “You and your colleagues made an enormous contribution to the preservation of peace, to security and strategic parity. This is not visible to the eyes of outsiders, but very important work deserves the very highest acknowledgement and respect.” Thus says the former KGB agent and current president of Russia. Some things never change.

But I’m mentioning him today for a theological reason, and that became very clear in an interview that he gave back in 2012. He was speaking to an official government newspaper in Russia. He said this, “I do not believe in life after death. As soon as our brain stops receiving blood, we go, and after that there will be nothing. No punishment for the bad things you did, nor rewards for the utterly wonderful.” Well, let’s just conclude with a clear affirmation here of the importance of worldview. This man’s worldview was simply materialistic. That was the official dogma of the Soviet Union. Materialism says there is no God, there is no meaning to life. We are just material beings and as soon as we die that matter simply dissolves. There is no judgment. There is no God. There is no afterlife. There is no heaven and there is no hell.

Now here’s what I want us to think about. That goes a long way in explaining how someone can sell out his own nation; how someone can transfer just short of 5,000 classified documents, leading to the deaths of many others. That’s how someone can adopt the mentality of Marxism and communism and betray those who are the closest to him. It is because if you believe that there is no God, no judgment, no heaven and no hell, then why not betray your friends? As a matter of fact, why not do anything? If you’re just matter and there is no transcendent morality, there is no divine judgment, there is no heaven, there’s no hell, well then you can justify anything. Anything at all. Or everything at all, as the case of George Blake, sadly enough, makes clear.

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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