Thursday, March 11, 2021
It's Thursday, March 11, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
A Controversy in Chile Over Failed Birth Control Pills? A Major Headline Raises a Timely Question — What Have Christians Believed about Birth Control Throughout History?
As Christians listen to the conversation in the world around us, there are really huge worldview issues that sometimes just land on the page or in the middle of a conversation. You observe this worldview issue as it emerges in the news, watching entertainment, sometimes coming out of a school situation from a campus, sometimes just in overhearing a conversation. At times, Christians need to understand that some of the headline news that comes to us, comes to us as if to announce something big has changed in the culture. And it's not so much what you see in this article, it's the fact that the issue here is even possible. It's potential. It's discussable. That in itself turns out to be news, but sometimes, you look at a situation in which it appears that the world's been turned upside down.
And one of the biggest ways we see this is in an article such as recently appeared in the New York Times, the headline, "Defective Birth Control Pills Linked to 140 Pregnancies in Chile." Now, you might say, why are we talking about this on The Briefing? We're talking about 140 babies in Chile. We're talking about defective birth control pills. Well, we're talking about it because the entire premise and context of the article is actually turning a moral world upside down. Ernesto Londoño is the reporter in the article and he tells us that indeed there has been a failure in the packaging of birth control pills in Chile. Now, that might not sound like such a big deal, but it turns out that the packets in question had pills for a month, but some of them were placebo pills that were to be used after the actual contraceptive pills had concluded a cycle.
So, you look at this and you understand that the actual complaint being made here is that the packaging was defective and some of the placebos got mixed in with some of the contraceptive pills. And that meant that women were taking them thinking they were taking contraceptives at the right time. The bottom line is, at least 140 babies, at least according to this news article.
What we're noticing in this news article is that those babies evidently represent a failure of medicine and a legal cause for a lawsuit and moral outrage. Here's where the world's turned upside down. It is the birth of babies, 140 of them, the birth of these babies is presented as a national tragedy that requires some kind of explanation.
But in order to understand what's going on here, we need to go backwards a bit in time and history and consider the entire issue of birth control and contraception and remind ourselves of a few very salient and important facts of the Christian worldview.
For one thing, let's just remind ourselves of some history. Until the third decade of the 20th century, not one organized representation of historic Christianity allowed for any kind of birth control to be used legitimately. That is to say, until less than a century ago, every single Christian church denomination, you could press back even further and point to Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and historic Protestantism. And the point is, in not one of those churches, was there any allowance for the moral or biblical use of birth control. All that began to change early in the 20th century. And it changed first amongst the Anglicans, particularly in the Church of England. A Lambeth conference of the Anglican bishops by about the time 1930, had allowed for the potentially legitimate use of some forms of birth control, but the Anglican communion was standing virtually alone. And by the way, that was not universally accepted within the Anglican communion. But the point is not another denomination in the Protestant world, not another branch of Christianity identified in the world around us, agreed with that conclusion of the Lambeth conference. It was an outlier.
Of course, it's not an outlier anymore. And by the time you fast-forward to our time, virtually every major Protestant denomination has caved on the issue, nearly entirely, doing an almost 180 degree turn. But you also have the fact that in Eastern Orthodoxy, the issue is just basically not very much discussed. In Roman Catholicism, there is still a ban on the use of any kind of artificial contraception or birth control. It is in effect and has been since the late 1960s, according to the papal document that was released then by Pope John VI, an absolute declaration of the illegitimacy of the use of birth control. But at the same time, you've probably seen the research indicating that a majority of Catholics in the United States, a very large majority, by the way, says, and they're self-reporting, that they ignore the Vatican's dictate on the use of birth control and they use it anyway.
Many evangelical Protestants, Protestants in general, you might say, but evangelicals in particular, were taken largely by surprise by the contraception controversy that emerged in the 1960s and '70s. Evangelicals really didn't have much of an argument because they really hadn't faced the issue. And it wasn't much of an issue in terms of reality until the development of the oral contraceptive, known colloquially as the pill, in the early 1960s. The pill changed everything. Let's just note the fact that it changed everything morally. The pill in itself became a chemical open door for illegitimate sexual activity to take place, premarital sex, extramarital sex, adultery. All these activities were freed from the likely consequence of a baby.
And we need to note that the contraceptive revolution was funded by and driven largely by those who had a feminist agenda on the one hand, saying that women needed to be liberated from the burden of pregnancy, from those who were trying to push the sexual revolution, who wanted to decouple sex from babies. And from those who had an anti-human perspective, whether driven by eugenics or simply by the concern of the time that was identified as population control. The effort to try to stop the growth of population, that in itself, a very, very anti-human philosophy. But nonetheless, those three ideologies came together in the confluence to celebrate the development of the pill.
And here's where we need to recognize that the Christian worldview has some very basic principles that we need to keep in mind here. Number one, as you're thinking about medical intervention, the Christian biblical worldview is not against, in general, medical intervention. If you have a headache, it's not wrong to take an aspirin. If you have an infection, it's not wrong to take an antibiotic. In general terms, it's not wrong to take a vaccine. It's not wrong to undergo surgery, it's not wrong to undergo medical treatment, unless there is an ethical problem with the treatment itself.
But there's something else we need to recognize. And that is that the Christian worldview and Christian theological reasoning throughout the ages, consistent with the biblical worldview, has affirmed the fact that medical treatment, if it's legitimate, any kind of medical intervention, if it's biblical, must be intended to, say, enhance life or to sustain life or to correct something that is wrong or to defeat an illness or to push back on a virus or to restore some kind of normal, physical, biological process that has been lost.
Now, just note this very carefully. Christians need to think about this really closely. That means that there is no Christian biblical concern with an individual, say, undergoing surgery to restore reproductive ability. There would be no major concern there. To restore reproductive ability, that would be a medical intervention that is in line with protecting a purpose for which God created the human body. Or you could extend that, a purpose for which God created the institution of marriage.
So, before even getting to the fact that we are looking at a deliberate effort to try to prevent pregnancy, and that means to prevent babies, let's be honest. The fact is that long before you get to that possibility, the Christian worldview says that medical treatment in order to protect or to restore a normal operation of the body is good because God created the human body this way. He created it with a purpose. He is assigned to those purposes. Restoring or protecting those purposes is good. Biblically, morally legitimate. Interrupting them or stopping them is a very different matter.
Now, I have written about the issue of birth control and the Christian conscience and various books and other projects. I can't go over all of that now on The Briefing, but I can tell you that the bottom line is that I believe that a biblical worldview tells us that the use of birth control or contraception should always be suspect. That doesn't mean it is never legitimate. It does mean it's suspect. It means we have to ask the question about the legitimacy of using it and not just assume that contraception is the norm and a birth by normal processes within marriage is some kind of aberration.
But here's where we go back to the article in The New York Times, because this article is written, the entire premise of this report is that we should all share an outrage that these babies were born, because after all, these women had taken what they believed to be birth control pills in order to prevent the pregnancy.
Now, one of the things we just want to note is that we're now living in a time where the claim of personal autonomy, even control over our bodies, has reached the point that there is no justification for birth control here. It's not even acknowledged to be a moral issue. The only moral issue that is acknowledged in this article is that birth control doesn't work. What we also want to see is that this is tied to other related issues, such as abortion, inevitably. It's not in the headline. It's not in the lead paragraph, but trust me, we get there pretty fast.
For example, Paula Avila-Guillén, identified as the executive director of the Women's Equality Center that monitors reproductive rights in Latin America said, "We've never seen such a systemic failure that lasted as long as is the case in Chile with such severe consequences." Again, look at the accusation here. This is a massive failure. Someone has to answer for this. Babies were born. A later paragraph gets right to the larger issue: "The case of the flawed pill packs exacerbated by the Chilean Government's perfunctory response has brought the debate about women's reproductive rights and access to abortion into sharp focus in a politically-decisive year when Chile will overhaul its political establishment."
Now, wait just a minute. How did we get to abortion? Well, if you follow the secular mindset at work here, you get to abortion. Because the assumption here is that if, for example, a birth control mechanism should fail, at least a woman ought to have the backdrop of legal, free, easily-accessible abortion, because the entire issue here is that the problem is the baby. As I said, you can count on almost every one of these articles eventually getting right to the issue of abortion. It already has.
But at the conclusion of the article, we read this. "Reproductive-rights activists hope the case will galvanize the movement to broaden abortion access in Chile which had an outright ban on terminating pregnancies until 2017." There, you see the agenda right there in absolutely candid words, both in the beginning of the article and now at the end. The opportunism is to jump from what's declared to be a crisis in malfunctioning contraceptives to the moral mandate for abortion access. That's exactly how this argument goes. We need to note it. We need to understand it when we see it, we need to be ready to counter it at an even deeper level than this kind of article assumes.
But then we move from the nation of Chile to Argentina. An article that appeared even more recently in The New York Times with the headline, "After Argentina Legalizes Abortion, Opponents Make It Hard To Get." Now, over the course of the last several months, we have discussed the legalization of abortion, or at least a broadening of abortion legislation there in Argentina. We've talked about the societal pressure. We've talked about the waning influence of the Catholic Church there. We've been talking about how this becomes an issue throughout Latin America. We noted the fact that abortion activists throughout Latin America, including, and this is very important, those who are paying the bills and pushing the agenda in the United States, they are hoping Argentina will be a sign of the future.
But here's where we need to note the central issue or complaint about this article. Daniel Politi is the reporter, and here's the major complaint. Even though abortion is now more broadly legal in Argentina, the complaint is many women still can't get an abortion because doctors don't want to perform them. Now, there's some good news for you. There is still some residual moral commitment to the sanctity of human life in the medical profession. So, even though the law has been changed, the doctors are by and large saying, "We're not going to perform abortions."
The article by Daniel Politi begins this way. "For the first time in more than a century, women in Argentina can legally get an abortion." But that shift in law may do them little good. In hospitals such as those in one northern province, "where all but one obstetrician have a simple response: No." Now, get the next paragraph. "Abortion opponents are reeling after a measure legalizing the procedure was signed into law in December, but they've hardly given up. They have filed lawsuits arguing that the new law's unconstitutional and they have made sure doctors know that they can refuse to terminate pregnancies, a message that is being embraced by many in rural areas." So, to understand this article, the good guys are the abortion rights proponents and those who push abortion and perform abortions. But the bad guys are those who oppose the legalization of abortion and are actually telling doctors that they have the legal right not to perform an abortion. The articles are really clear about those who are identified as the problem. It is the doctors who will not perform abortions.
Now, let's just note something here. Without regard to Argentina per se, just looking at the medical profession. One of the most important statements in all of medical ethics is that, which is this concept within the ancient Hippocratic Oath. First, do no harm. And furthermore, there is the injunction that doctors must not kill.
Later in this article, we read, "Argentina's abortion law marked a big shift for reproductive rights in Latin America, which has among the strictest abortion laws in the world, galvanizing movements to expand access to safe abortion in Colombia, Mexico, and Chile." Wait, just a minute. There's a word there. It popped up on both articles. That can't be an accident. One from March the 3rd, one from March the 7th. Did you hear that word? Galvanizing. The article on Chile tells us that reproductive-rights activists hope the case will galvanize the movement to broaden abortion access in Chile. You go back to the article about Argentina and we are told that the liberalization of abortion laws there, it is hoped will have a galvanizing effect. In this case, it says galvanizing movements to expand access to safe abortion in Colombia, Mexico, and Chile.
Now, just in case you might miss the etymology of what's going on here, galvanizing in this sense means to become an active incitement to an effect. In other words, to make something happen, to galvanize abortion access. But that goes back to the fact that galvanization is a process that catalyzes or incites a coating to be applied to metal in order to strengthen the metal. So, galvanizing in this case means inciting, just like a chemical process. The hope is that there will be a galvanizing for abortion. It can't be an accident that in the course of just four days, the same word is used about broadening abortion access in Latin America.
It's also interesting to note that in this Times article we're told that in one hospital, around 90% of healthcare professionals are conscientious objectors. That is, conscientious objectors to abortion. That tells us something. Nine out of 10, 90%.
Exporting Abortion: Examining the Clear Intent to “Galvanize” the Pro-Abortion Movement in Latin America and Around the World
But even as we turn from these two stories, we need to note something very sad but important, and that is that much of the impetus for these liberalizing efforts in much of the world, including the push for abortion and population control around the world, but particularly in South America, is being driven by very wealthy, very liberal people in the United States. Very powerful, political activist organizations in the United States, big foundations in the United States. This is not just a problem. It is an exported problem.
But speaking of that, it's really, really important to recognize that the current American administration under President Joe Biden is seeking to extend that malign influence around the world and to push this very pro-abortion agenda. Miriam Berger reporting yesterday for The Washington Post, tells us that the executive order that President Biden had issued the first week he was in office is "just a first step toward deeper changes to US foreign assistance that abortion rights activists have long sought and now see a path to achieving with both Houses of Congress and the Presidency under Democratic control."
The example here is given that Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois has introduced the Abortion is Healthcare Everywhere Act. By the way, look at the nomenclature of legislation. This is Orwellian. The Abortion is Healthcare Everywhere Act, as if calling abortion healthcare in legislation makes it healthcare. But nonetheless, we continue. She's introduced the legislation to repeal the 1973 Helms Amendment. What's that? It's analogous in foreign policy to the Hyde Amendment in domestic spending. It says that American foreign policy assistance, family planning assistance in particular, cannot be given to organizations that perform abortions. Now, again, why was that put in place back in 1973? That ring a bell? 1973 was the very year of the Supreme Court's infamous Roe v. Wade decision, and the United States Congress overwhelmingly judged that it would be morally wrong to use taxpayer funds to extend abortion. It was wrong because those funds were coerced, confiscated from the American people, but you'll notice how the political tide has changed and how the moral revolution has progressed.
And the Washington Post writes this article as if it's just axiomatic that it's wrong that the Federal Government would not spend these funds, which could be co-mingled with abortion. Later in the article, we are told that the Helms Amendment, get ready for this, has had a chilling effect, deterring, we're told, aid recipients from providing any abortion services for fear of violating US requirements. Let me just point out, that was the purpose. The chilling effect here, you'll notice that language, chilling effect. You're supposed to recoil from that. That's supposed to be something that's wrong, but actually it's right. The chilling effect here is protecting unborn babies.
It's also interesting that later in this article, we read this paragraph: "Other major healthcare donors, including Britain, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, don't isolate abortion and stigmatize abortion in their foreign policy or their foreign aid." That, according to Anu Kumar, identified as the president of Ipas, an international organization focused on safe abortion and access to contraception. That means pro-abortion. But we're told here that the United States is the outlier because other major healthcare donors, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden don't isolate abortion. But you'll notice that the United States Congress represents the American people, not the British people, not the Norwegians, not those who live in Denmark or Canada or Sweden, but you'll notice here the globalization of this entire agenda, the globalization of the fact that if the United States is an outlier here, it really owes a moral accountability to Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Britain and others, to get with the program.
You can count on the fact that this bill that has been introduced into the House is likely to make some pretty rapid progress. We're going to be watching it carefully, but let's just note, so will the rest of the world.
Why Would Some Jews Oppose an Anti-Semitism Resolution from the Kentucky State Legislature? The Controversy Deserves a Closer Look
But next, I want to go to a very different issue and this takes us back to the State of Kentucky. Speaking right here from Kentucky, the headline in this article by Yonat Shimron at Religion News Service, "This rabbi got Kentucky to adopt an anti-Semitism resolution, but not all Jews are happy." Now, wait just a minute. What's going on here? Well, I'm proud to say that the State of Kentucky, through its legislature, its general assembly, unanimously adopted a condemnation of anti-Semitism that comes with a concrete definition of what anti-Semitism is. Now, that's rather necessary if you think about it. If you will not define something, you can't really oppose it. Anti-Semitism is one of the longest and most insidious blights, moral blights on humanity. It is long and it is persistent and it requires definition in order rightly to oppose it.
The definition of anti-Semitism that was adopted in this legislation in Kentucky was offered by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. That's the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Now, that ought to tell you something about the deadly danger of anti-Semitism, its inherent evil and its historical actuality, not just in the past, but in the present. Now, it's also interesting that this same definition from the same organization has been adopted by some of the departments of our Federal Government and by some other legal entities, but Kentucky becomes the very first state.
But the article in Religion News Service tells us that not all of those who identify as Jewish are happy about this. Well, what could be the opposition? Well, the opposition is the fact that according to this definition, opposition to the state of Israel as a Jewish state is a form of anti-Semitism. Now, let me just state I believe that that is emphatically true. I think the definition coming from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance is absolutely accurate in this respect. Opposition to it represents another form of anti-Semitism, which is the very purpose of the definition. To point out that to deny Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state is in itself an anti-Semitic argument. Now, that's not to say that any argument about Israel is thus anti-Semitic or even any political argument within Israel. It is to say that opposing Israel as a Jewish state is not only a contradiction of the United Nations action that brought it into being politically. It's not only negation of the identity of Israel as a nation. It is also a form of anti-Semitism.
Now, this gets right down to some of the debates that are taking place on American college campuses and the divestment controversy. You have corporations under pressure, largely from Europe and from liberal and secular sources in the United States to oppose Israel because of settlements on the West Bank or other actions that are believed to be injurious to Palestinians. And the argument is that Israel must not be a Jewish state. It has no right to be a Jewish state. It must be some kind of secular state, that has a lot of Jewish people in the population, but could conceivably become a nation in which you have a Jewish minority or the Israeli state is not recognized as a Jewish state.
Now, there are not only historical but legitimate moral issues to be discussed in the Israeli-Palestinian question, but that's an issue beyond our conversation today. I'm looking at the fact that according to this report, "Some Jewish groups on the left insist the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition should not be used in a legally-binding way. They say the definition can be deployed as a tool to silence or ban critics of Israel and particularly of its policies in the Palestinian Territories." Kenneth Stern, by the way, an anti-Semitism expert for the American-Jewish committee helped to work on the definition. The idea behind it, he said, was to help European data collectors, "Know when to spot anti-Semitism. So it could be better monitored over time and across borders."
At the end of the article, there's a statement from Kentucky rabbi Shlomo Litvin. He, by the way, is the rabbi that led the general assembly to adopt this legislation, again, unanimously. He said, and I quote, "The Jewish community has published a well-researched, logical and understandable explanation of what anti-Semitism is. It's been recognized by the last three administrations. It's recognized by half a dozen countries. To suggest that Jews don't have a right to identify what hatred toward their people looks like is offensive itself." And to the rabbi's statement, I can only say, "Amen."
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
I want to tell you about something I'm really excited about. I'm going to be teaching a college-level class. It's entitled, "The Most Dangerous Ideas of the Modern Age." I think it's really important to take these ideas apart, to understand them, and to see how embedded in the modern age these ideas are now being propelled toward the future. These ideas are behind so many of the headlines we talk about on The Briefing, so many of the issues of our greatest concern.
It is a college-level class that's going to be taught through Boyce College. It begins on April the 8th. It's an eight-week class. We're going to have eight weeks of looking at several very dangerous ideas and then looking at them compared with a biblical standard, understanding how Christians should think through those ideas and their consequences. It all comes down to that. Ideas have consequences, and it's to those consequences and ideas that we will look. Again, that class is entitled, "The Most Dangerous Ideas of the Modern Age." The class begins on April the 8th, it's online and thus I'm hoping people from all over the world will join us. For more information, go to our website at sbts.edu/mohlercourse. That's it, just one word, mohlercourse, sbts.edu/mohlercourse.
For more information on these and other things, 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.