Friday, September 24, 2021
It's Friday, September 24, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Virtue Signaling Of the Pro-Abortion Message—Democrats in Congress and White House Move to Legislate Roe v. Wade
We need to note with special care, a vote that will be coming in the House today, at least it is scheduled for today and it is a vote on what is known as the Women's Health Protection Act. What you need to know about it is that it is the Democratic effort to make abortion the law of the land by legislation. Basically to codify the Roe v Wade decision, even as the pro-abortion movement knows that the Roe v Wade decision is headed into the headwinds of the United States Supreme Court with a case from Mississippi that is coming up just in a matter of weeks. What's interesting is not only the fact that this ominous bill is coming and we'll be talking about the bill and about its political prospects in just a moment. It's also telling to see how the national conversation is being framed about it.
For example, Carl Hulse's veteran reporter for the New York Times begins his news story on the Democratic House plan by stating that the House Democrats plan on Friday "to push through broad legislation to uphold abortion rights." Now notice this is a statement that at least at this level, treats abortion rights as if that is the reality but nonetheless, we continue quote, "Taking urgent action after a major Supreme Court setback as they brace for a ruling next year that could further roll back access to abortion nationwide." Now the reference to next year is when the Supreme Court will hand down its decision in this Mississippi abortion law case. The oral arguments are going to be held October the 1st, but we are looking at the fact that it takes months in order for the Supreme Court to hand down such a decision.
By the way, a little footnote, the Supreme Court generally hands down decisions of that magnitude at the very end of its term, just before it goes into summer recess. We're likely looking at late June in order to actually have that decision. But nonetheless, you will notice here that the default position is supposed to be abortion rights. What we're looking at here is that the mainstream media want to present abortion rights characterized just that way, as the default, as if it's in the Constitution right there in the language and has always been there and to present the pro-life movement as the aberration, that which is to be opposed.
But this becomes more clear later in this article where Hulse tells us, "The House vote will be largely symbolic given that the bill, the Women's Health Protection Act, has little chance of advancing because of Republican opposition in the Senate. But," he writes, "House Democrats' decision to consider it reflects their view that the issue could resonate strongly in the midterm elections next year, particularly if female voters see the Supreme Court action as a threat to rights that many believed had long been settled."
Here's what I want us to note. We're looking at the coverage of this issue and the impending vote that will be coming, we're told at least today in the United States House of Representatives. Notice that we are told that this bill is going to be opposed by Republicans and thus it has little chance of advancing. Well wait, just a minute. The reality is that we do not yet have the Democratic votes on this bill. And by that, I make reference to the fact that even though the Democratic party is stalwartly pro-abortion, now extremely, radically pro-abortion, there are still Democrats in both the House and the Senate who are in swing districts or swing states where, I'll just be honest, it is unlikely that even some of those Democrats are likely to sign onto a bill as extreme as this one. And so one of the things we see over and over again is that so many of the issues right now are being presented as Democrats versus Republicans, when actually some of the most interesting worldview action right now is going to be Democrat versus Democrat.
But at the even more fundamental level, let's just remind ourselves what we're dealing with here. We are dealing with legislation that would make abortion the law of the land by legislation. Now that points to something, is this an improvement upon the current national legislation legalizing abortion? No, it's not an improvement upon that legislation by the Democrats because that legislation doesn't exist. That is extremely important for us to understand. The United States Congress has never made abortion a nationwide right. A nationwide right to legal abortion, that has never gone through Congress. It has not been accomplished by legislation. It is indeed an act of judicial usurpation. The Supreme Court of the United States in 1973 simply arrogated to itself the authority to declare that abortion rights, basically abortion on demand, would be the law of the land in all 50 states.
What you see in this court case, the Dobbs case coming from Mississippi before the Supreme Court, again the oral arguments now just in a matter of days, what you see there is the clearest constitutional challenge to Roe v Wade ever or at least since the early 1990s in the Casey decision. You could certainly say it is the most important challenge to Roe since the decision was handed down in 1973.
There's also something else of extreme importance in the paragraph that I just cited from this New York Times article, I go back where we are told quote, "But House Democrats' decision to consider it," that means this bill coming today in the House quote, "reflects their view that the issue," that means the abortion issue, "could resonate strongly in the midterm elections next year," end quote. Now what's really important about that is that the New York Times, this radically pro-abortion newspaper, writing about the support for a bill, a radical bill coming from a radically pro-abortion party, the acknowledgement here right in the second paragraph of this news article is that this is blatantly political. House Democrats are going forward with this bill because they think that their support for this bill can help to mobilize their voters in the 2022 midterm elections. There you have it.
And that just reminds us that even as we're dealing with an issue of the moral importance of abortion, which means for Christians, the moral importance of the sanctity and dignity of human life, in the political process there is no way to remove it from politics but this is nonetheless an astoundingly candid admission that this is a crassly political act. And that's furthermore made evident by the fact that this bill is not going to get through the United States Senate. It's just not. And in that sense, Hulce's analysis is exactly right. Even if the House Democrats do force this through on what will be a party line vote, it can't get through the Senate on the same basis. And that is because the filibuster rule in the Senate means that in order for the bill to reach the floor, it must have 60 votes. And when it comes to this legislation, when it comes to this bill that would legislate Roe v. Wade, there is no chance that this bill is going to get 60 votes and that would require 10 Republican votes. It's not going to happen.
Even a basically pro-abortion Republican, like Senator Susan Collins of Maine says that she cannot support this legislation in its present form. Therefore, since the House is taking this up against the background of legislative impossibility, that tells you that they're doing it in order to exercise what you might call a congressional form of virtue signaling. They're virtue signaling loudly and clearly and so is the administration, by the way. The administration of Democratic President Joe Biden released a statement on Monday, a statement of strong support of the Women's Health Protection Act of 2021, as it is called.
The statement from the White House said, "The administration looks forward to working with Congress as the Women's Health Protection Act advances through the legislative process to ensure that this bill codifies and is consistent with the protections established by Roe and subsequent Supreme Court precedent." The administration statement went on to say, "The constitutional rights of women are essential to the health, safety and progress of our nation. Our daughters and granddaughters deserve the same rights that their mothers and grandmothers fought for and won and that a clear majority of the American people support. We will not allow this country to go backwards on women's equality." Now that is just political bluster. But what you see here is the fact that the Democratic party in general and the Biden administration specifically, the president of the United States individually, is now sold out to the most radical support for the most radical pro-abortion legislation, no holds barred, no conditions, even as it is known that right now there is no possibility of legislative passage. Now we have virtue signaling of a White House sort.
War of Polls and the War of Politics: Popularity Poll Of Supreme Court Justices Highlights Unrelenting Support of Abortion By Any Means Necessary
But next I want to turn to an article that appeared in Thursday's edition of USA Today, because it tells us a great deal again, of where we stand on this issue. The headline of the story by John Fritze is this, "Supreme Court Approval Rating Falls After Texas Abortion Case." Hang on for a minute. This is really interesting. Fritze writes, "Democratic support for the Supreme Court plummeted over the summer according to a poll released Wednesday that was conducted in the wake of a controversial decision allowing Texas to ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy." The article continues, "Nationwide approval of the high court fell to 49% in September, down from 60% two months earlier, according to the Marquette University Law School poll. That decline," the news article says, "was driven largely by Democrats whose support for the court nosedived 22 points."
Why is this so important? It is because here we are told about an approval rating by poll of the Supreme Court of the United States. Just remind yourselves of a basic civic lesson. The Supreme Court justices are not running for office. Just remind yourselves of a basic constitutional fact, Americans do not elect Supreme Court justices or the Chief Justice of the United States and thus these justices are not facing an election. Now, when you look at electoral politics, it is clear that the role of polls and surveys and public opinion becomes at some point just about determinative if not paramount. You're looking at the fact that if your approval ratings are too low as an electoral candidate, you are likely to depart from office the hard way.
But on the other hand, when you look at our constitutional system, the separation of powers and at the fact that justices are nominated by a president, they are confirmed by the United States Senate, they then serve life terms, the reality is that our constitutional order has been from the beginning an attempt to separate the Supreme Court from this kind of political analysis and overtly political context. But here you will see that the pro-abortion movement and furthermore, you could argue that others in America beyond the pro-abortion movement, just can't help themselves from politicizing even the high court when it comes to an issue like abortion. Here we're told about a poll.
It's also interesting to consider two other issues. For one thing, even at the time of the framing of the US Constitution, going back to the early period of the United States of America, the debate over the Constitution and the eventual shape of American government, including the separation of powers into the executive, the legislative and the judicial, included the argument that the judiciary must be the least dangerous branch of government. And at least in part, if not in main. The point that was made there is that the Supreme Court should be the least political of all of the branches of government.
But when it comes to an issue like Roe v. Wade, when it comes to an issue like abortion, particularly among Democrats because that's the point of this article, the Supreme Court is not polling so well right now. But then you have to ask yourself the question, why would this kind of poll be taken? Why would these results be released? Why would this news article be published in USA Today? It is because the justices of the Supreme Court are human beings as well and as human beings, we crave approval.
And in this case, this article appears as a warning to the justices of the United States Supreme Court, hey, you're losing popularity because of your decisions that do not uphold abortion. If you take any kind of swipe at Roe v. Wade in this upcoming case, the Dobbs case in Mississippi, you are likely to tank your approval ratings. But that's where we just have to hope, indeed, Christians have to pray that the justices of the Supreme Court in particular, the conservative justices of the Supreme Court will not care about public opinion but will rather care about the Constitution of the United States and doing what is right and what is good.
But finally, one more thought on this issue, time and again you see news stories coming out of surveys and polls. In coming days and weeks on The Briefing, we're going to be looking at the actual meaning of these polls, what they mean in reality, what they don't mean, the politicization of the entire context and how many of them are actually in some way authoritative and others are definitely not authoritative but those lesser ones may get more press attention than the more important ones. We'll be talking about the war of polls as a part of the war of politics. That issue in days to come.
Why the Briefing? What Does “Augustinian” Mean? Doctors Compelled to Perform Abortions? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners
But next, we're going to turn to the Mailbox. I'm always glad to hear from listeners to The Briefing and I'm always interested to know what you think and what you are seeing out there. I get good suggestions about issues that need to be discussed and some good feedback, sometimes some good argument that comes from listeners. And in any event, I appreciate you both listening and writing.
I want to start today with a college student, a college freshmen, first year student named Cora. And she's asking about why I began The Briefing, how long I've been doing it and why? And I think the why question is really good. It's a good question for me to ask myself from time to time. I began The Briefing in 2010. I had been doing a nationwide daily radio program and it was live and it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun because you had a live radio audience. You can have immediate questions sent in. There's a dynamism in that. But there are limitations in that, particularly when it comes to having to be on the air at a certain time, every day, regardless of other events. And given my travel schedule and other things that became very, very vexing. But the podcasting revolution happened at about the same time. Now, it wasn't clear where that was going but I really saw potential in it and so we shifted from the radio program to the program that is podcast as The Briefing.
And so we've been doing this for more than a decade now and I'm just really thankful for how the Lord's blessed it and for how people are using it. I appreciate the fact that people are listening. Cora wrote extremely kindly saying that she had listened to The Briefing and has been a listener. And that when she was in college the very first day, she says, "I immediately was able to distinguish that one of my teachers was trying to push her worldview on us." And the student goes on to say that the teacher was using words such as pregnant people and just other things that were very indicative of the fact that there was a very deep worldview issue here. And the teacher was indeed trying to push a worldview, not just as if you could say, just a change in vocabulary.
I will tell you also Cora, one of the reasons I do this is because there is a real opportunity in day by day, looking at the issues that are very much a part of our national conversation or at least ought to be and especially ought to have the notice of Christians in order that we can try to take a deeper look, a more incisive, more biblical look I hope than what's going to be offered out there in the larger world or even in much of the Christian media, where it's basically about talking just about the news and what happened. I want to talk about what it means. I want to talk about why it matters. I want to try to take it apart and say, "Look, this argument that you just heard over there, that article that we're just citing over there, the only way you can explain that article or that argument is by the fact that that person holds to a worldview that is revealed in this language, in this argument."
We need to understand what is the basic understanding of reality there? What is the basic conception of truth there? What is the basic understanding of humanity? Of what it means to be human embedded in that worldview? And it's because Christians are in a war of worldviews all the time and Cora you are on the front line of that particular battle. There is no place where that battle is more intensive than on the American academic campus. I'm very, very thankful for you. You're very kind to write me and ask this question and I pray God's blessings upon you and this paper and this assignment and frankly, your entire college experience. But I really want to thank you for listening to The Briefing. I really want to thank you for your own concern. For understanding all things, bringing all thoughts captive to Christ, to understanding all things through a biblical lens, through a Christian worldview.
Next, I received a very nice question from Monica, very insightful, asking about what I mean when I sometimes use the phrase of being an Augustinian Christian, what does that mean? Well Monica, thank you. I realize sometimes I do need to be careful to define the very terms I'm using but that is one of the primary terms I would use to describe myself and my understanding of a biblical worldview. Augustan was one of the most important theologians in the history of Christianity. He was a very important Christian in North Africa, which was part of the Roman Empire at the very time the Roman Empire was falling. And in that cultural emergency, Augustine sometimes referred to as Augustine and there's even a city in Florida named for him. The oldest continually inhabited city in the United States, St. Augustine, Florida.
Augustine sought to think through all issues, including the meaning of culture and the responsibility of Christians within a culture. Augustine was trying to answer the question that is found right in the New Testament. He was trying pastorally to answer the question, why did Jesus leave his redeemed people on planet Earth for this time having to deal with issues such as how we are to live amongst our neighbors, how we are to contribute to the civilization, how we are to try to preserve human dignity and the good things, the good things God has given us in the midst of a sinful age.
Augustinian theology, and of course Augustine in this sense, was just where he's right, reflecting what you find in Scripture, but thinking about it in ways that are very helpful to Christians even today. Augustan was trying to think these things through. And he understood, first of all, the sovereignty of God. The very first principle of all Christian thinking, which is the existence of the glorious, infinite God. Holy and righteous, the creator of the entire universe and Augustine referred to two cities. He referred to the city of man in the city of God. And he said that Christians are actually citizens of both of those cities, God, to his glory and in his perfection chose to leave Christians in this world right now as part of the city of man, which is a fallen world. It is a dangerous world but it's also a world in which God expects Christians to show his glory through faithfulness, faithful living, even in a sinful human society. And Augustine really helped to look at the Bible and say, "Look at the book of Genesis. Notice that God gives good things in creation. He gives them to all people."
A part of the Christian responsibility is to continue always to point to the goodness of those things because God has given them to us. But Augustine was also just extremely helpful in reminding us, even as Paul said that his citizenship was in heaven. But remember, this is the same Paul who made clear he was a citizen of the Roman Empire. Our ultimate citizenship is in the city of God. The city that exists only for the glory of God. The only reality there is the knowledge of God. And that is the world of redemption. And Augustine reminds us that though Christians are eternally there for some time for God's glory, by God's design, we are left here in the city of man. Augustan asked the question, what kind of difference are we supposed to make?
And that's just extremely helpful. That's why this tradition, which has so shaped Western Christianity, Christianity in the Western world, it has been driven by this Augustinian impulse to learn how to be faithful in the city of man because we are citizens of the city of God. The other thing that Augustinianism just reminds us of is the fundamental reality of two things. And that is the image of God, every single human being made in God's image but also the fact that as it is true, just as it is true that every single human being is made in God's image, every single human being is a sinner. Those two truths have to always be held together. And again, that's just a really important, indeed essential biblical principle. One of the things that means by the way, is that Augustinianism rejects any kind of utopianism on planet earth. And that's why sometimes you will see that people refer to an Augustinian refutation of humanistic utopianism. That's why the word is sometimes just extremely useful.
But next a question from Darren and Darren writes against the background we discussed on The Briefing of the fact that there are calls for the Mexican government to compel Mexican doctors to perform abortions. Then he asked, "Could we see compelled abortions in the USA someday?" Well, Darren, the reality is that there are those who are calling for compulsory abortion right now. That is to say that medical professionals should be by compulsion of law, forced to participate in abortion. And you see this in complaints against and efforts against so called conscience policies or conscious legislation, which says that doctors and nurses and other medical professionals may not be compelled to participate in abortion. You have people claiming that that is an abrogation of medical ethics. And you have even in Canada right now, open arguments that students should not be allowed into medical school unless they give a prior positive affirmation of the fact that they will perform abortions.
Thank you for your question, Darren. The reality is that this is closer to us than you might think. And we're going to be talking on The Briefing next week, as we have opportunity about the fact that this issue is arising right now, also in Spain. And as we're going to see, one of the things that tells us is that you may make abortion legal but you can't ever actually pull off trying to make abortion good. And Christians understand why that is so.
Finally, I just want to say, I wish we could get to even more questions every single week, but I want to thank you for the ones that you send or statements or arguments that you send my way. Thank you for your responses to The Briefing. And that means, thank you for listening to The Briefing. And I just want to end by saying, if I ask myself again, why do I do The Briefing? It is because persons have such thoughtfulness as you, listen. Listeners like you explain why I do this.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
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 on Monday for The Briefing.