Tuesday, October 12, 2021
It's Tuesday, October 12, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Abortion Rights = Trans Rights: A Portrait in Post-Modern Morality
One of the most important observations that Christians need to make, one of the most important principles we need to keep in mind is the reality that all truth eventually connects, that it's all part of a whole. It's a part of a piece, an entire fabric. This is true most fundamentally of God's self-revelation in scripture. It turns out to be a comprehensive entirety, not just isolated verses. It's also true when it comes to our worldview. Eventually, our worldview moves towards a form of consistency towards first principles. What we believe most fundamentally eventually rules in our decision-making, our positions on issues from X to Y to Z, A, B, C, you name it. So, one of the things we need to note right now is that in the white hot heat of controversy, for example, right now, the frontline issue being abortion, the reality is, everything's connected to everything else.
And at least some people recognize it and are actually trying to market it, they're trying to use it to their advantage. Jennifer Finney Boylan, a contributing editor at The New York Times, recently wrote an article, the headline, "Abortion Rights and Trans Rights Are Two Sides of the Same Coin." Now, Jennifer Finney Boylan also claims a transgender identity. In this case, the article is based upon the claim that when you are looking at abortion rights and what is identified here as trans rights, you're talking about two sides of the same coin. You're effectively talking about the same thing. The argument here is that if you are pro-abortion, you must be pro-trans, and if you are pro-trans, you must be pro-abortion. Now, as a Christian responding to this, having the opposite position on both of these issues, I want to say there is wisdom here. There is wisdom and understanding that these issues are together. They are connected. There is wisdom here, in this case, it's the wisdom of Christians' understanding that eventually, if you have no commitment to objective truth, then every cause demands your attention.
And if there is no objective morality, then whatever claim is made about any kind of moral relativism is one you're going to have to eventually buy. If you're pro-abortion, you're going to be pro-trans, if you're pro-trans, you're going to be pro-abortion, you may know individuals who are not both. But the argument made by Jennifer Finney Boylan is that if you are pro-abortion, you should be pro-trans. If you are pro-trans, you should be pro-abortion. Let's look at the argument. The article states, "I asked Jules Gill-Peterson, a history professor at Johns Hopkins University and an expert on anti-trans activism about the connection between these issues. 'Anti-abortion and anti-trans legislation are products of the same political coalition using the same scripts and tactics. In both cases, we see the protection of a fantasized imperiled child justifying heavy-handed police state policies that restrict actual women and trans rights and bodily autonomy. The language of protection, so highly moralized is the perfect alibi for rationalizing widespread harm.'"
Now, that is a perfect mash of postmodern porridge. It's all poured into just the economy of one sentence or two, it is an absolute mess. But it's a very important absolute mess. We need to take a look at these sentences very clearly. We are told that as you have this very liberal professor looking at the pro-life movement and at those who would uphold a biblical conception, even a nature-based, a biologically-based conception of gender and sex, this author says, "Anti-abortion and anti-trans legislation are products of the same political coalition." Now, we look at it at a more fundamental level. Of course, there's a political dimension, but the more important foundational issue is that our positions on these issues, our understanding of these issues emerge from our most basic worldview, our most basic understanding of what's right and what's wrong, our most basic pre-political understanding of what it means to be human.
But then you will notice that you have the argument that this is really about psychology. It's about using a psychological tool, in this case, "the protection of a fantasized imperiled child justifying heavy-handed police state policies." That's one of the long cherished arguments of the political left on both sides of the Atlantic. The political left smashing together Freudian psychology, union symbolism and left-wing politics comes up to say that what Conservatives do is to imagine an imperiled child and to try to protect that child by the use of a police state and claims of absolute morality, absolute right, absolute wrong, absolute law and order, absolute right and wrong when it comes to an issue like abortion. But we have to note that this is the kind of argument that can be turned on itself. Well then, what are the psychological roots of your argument? What kind of psychological fantasy is driving your liberalism?
If you say conservatives, imagine a vulnerable child and thus claim to protect that child. What exactly is the imagination that animates the left? Well, we know the answer. It is unrestrained human impulses, unrestrained eros, unrestrained ambition and power, and you have a morality unconstrained by any kind of objective truth. Boylan then writes, "Earlier this year, before turning their attention to abortion, Texas legislators attempted to reclassify transgender care for minors as child abuse." Well, let me be very, very candid. What is described here as transgender care for minors is a form of child mutilation. It is a form of child abuse. It is a denial of reality. It is an attempt to unravel the entire creation order and it will come inevitably with devastating consequences to a child. But remember, all of this started with the claim that Conservatives, moral Conservatives, have imagined a vulnerable child and then come up with policies to protect that child.
But then notice the very next paragraph in this article, "Let's be clear, it's not love to force a trans child to go through a puberty that will scar them for the rest of their life. It's not love to force a woman to bear a child against her will. It's not love to deny anyone autonomy over their own body." Oh, that sentence simply begs to be looked at more clearly. First of all, who's anyone here? Who is anyone? You might say, "Well, we know who anyone is, anyone's anyone." Well, what about the unborn child? Is that unborn child an anyone? Because if that unborn child is an anyone, then that unborn child, according to this argument, must have autonomy over his or her own body. But you'll notice that the unborn child here is not an anybody in this argument. Now, anybody is whoever is deemed by the left to qualify as an anybody.
You have here again this incredible claim of autonomy claiming that transgender care, as it's called here, and the right to an abortion are a demonstration of a person indicating and exercising autonomy over their own body. But then Boylan writes, "It is not love to enforce your own ideology upon people who are different from you simply because you do not understand their experience of being human." But wait just a minute. It is not moral Conservatives who are seeking to enforce our own ideology upon people, it is exactly the left that is doing that. It is the LGBTQ movement and the new sexual theorists who are seeking to enforce their mandate, their ideology on all humanity. That doesn't mean they're demanding that everyone become transgender, it means that they are demanding that everyone completely surrender to the transgender ideology even when we know it's not so, it's not true.
You'll notice the individual autonomy, it comes up again in this article, "In many ways, the decision to terminate a pregnancy is not unlike the decision to go through transition. It is a fundamentally private choice that can be made only by the individual in question, a person who alone knows the truth of their heart, who alone can understand what the consequences of their choices will be in the years to come." Again, the unborn child completely missing. But you'll also notice that what is at the center of the entire consideration here is the individual self of this supposedly autonomous human being, it is the person "who alone knows the truth of their heart". Now, here's something that is really hard but really necessary to say and that is the fact that the truth, the truth that rules the universe, the truth that actually is objectively true is not predicated upon your own self-understanding or your own acceptance of that truth as your truth.
But we're living in the new age of Oprah. Oprah has frankly almost replaced Sigmund Freud in terms of the popular imagination. What you're looking at now is that in the Oprahfication of truth and reality, you have people straightforwardly arguing that their truth is the truth, it's the only truth that does matter and it's their truth and only they know it. It belongs to them individually. You can't even question it, you can't scrutinize it, it is not for public display of its veracity or its falsity. "It's my truth. Get your hands off my truth, it's my truth even when it comes to," say, "destroying the unborn life within me. It's my truth. Even when it comes to telling you I was born a male but now you must recognize me as a female or non-binary or whatever it is, the imposition of my truth as the truth of the universe." But here's something we need to note, the universe doesn't take notice and it doesn't care.
The universe doesn't respond to your claim of trans identity as your truth by saying, "Well, I'll tell you what, let's just unwind that genetic code. Let's just rewrite DNA." That doesn't happen. The universe is not moved by your truth. But in the big worldview lesson here and here's what we need to understand, eventually, if you do not believe in objective truth, if you do not accept an authoritative revelation of objective truth, if you're willing to deny even biology in view of your preferred transgender ideology, then you have no defense against the argument that your autonomy for transgender identity simply slips into someone else's claim of autonomy to kill the unborn child within her. Eventually, if autonomy is your God, there will be sacrifices made to that God. The sacrifice might be surgical, the sacrifice might be the abortion of an unborn child. But eventually, your God of personal autonomy will require and demand sacrifices and those sacrifices will be made.
The Pro-Abortion Argument Goes For Broke —Presbyterian Minister Contends For Abortion as Moral Good
But next we're going to shift to another big story. This one appeared at USA Today, big worldview implications, you're going to see them right off. Rebecca Todd Peters is the author of the article, the headline is, I'm a Christian Minister Who's Had Two Abortions. Here's How Faith Informed Those Decisions. Now, one of the things we've been noting is the fact that decades and decades after the abortion movement really began in its modern form, decades and decades after the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, abortion still comes with huge moral stigma. It still comes with huge moral judgment. And I've made the argument that because of the imago Dei, because of the image of God, it's going to continue to do so. Doctors aren't going to go around bragging that they performed abortions, or if they do, they're going to be exceptions to the rule. People are not going to go around celebrating the fact that they've had abortions or if they do, they're going to be exceptions to the rule.
Rebecca Todd Peters is an exception to the rule. But she's an exception, as you might guess, on other grounds as well. She is identified as professor of religious studies at Elon University, the author of the book entitled Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice that tells you where she's coming from and she identifies as "a Presbyterian minister, a Christian ethicist, a professor of religious studies, a wife and a mother of two". So, there she puts in her ordination, her role as a Christian ethicist, a professor of religious studies, that's how she identifies herself. But then she says, "I have also had two abortions." Here's where the article gets really interesting. Because if you are going to try to remove the stigma of abortion, you're going to have to move abortion, not from being a moral sin and a moral negative to being morally neutral, that won't work.
Moral neutrality doesn't work. Everybody knows this is too big an issue to be morally neutral. You're going to have to somehow argue that it's not a moral evil, it is indeed a moral good. And we have now reached that point in the debate, we've now reached that point in the devolution of the pro-abortion movement, and we've reached it in this article. This author says, "I've also had two abortions. I did not make my abortion decisions despite my Christian identity and faith, but rather because of it." She went on to write, "The fact that the social, physical, and moral wellbeing of children is primarily the responsibility of parents meant that my husband and I thought carefully and deeply about our decisions to have and not have children." And she says, "I can say without a doubt that the two decisions we made to have children were far more morally significant than the decisions to end two pregnancies."
But that's where we need to stop and say, "That statement is very revealing of your own moral sentiments but not of the moral reality. The fact that you took the decision to abort those unborn children as being less significant doesn't make it less sign significant. And for that matter, if you have to make the argument, you might believe you're actually on shaky ground even in making it." But Rebecca Todd Peters goes on and writes this, "Guided by Christian principles that promote abundant life, seek justice and recognize the human dignity of women, the decision to end a pregnancy can be a morally good decision." Now understand, that's right where we are now. Now we have the claim, not that abortion's not bad or not bad in every circumstance, or not as bad as you think, or not that bad for me, now, the argument is, it can be an actual moral good.
And she goes on to write, "And in a world where the dominant Christian voices insist that abortion is morally wrong, it is time for those Christians who believe otherwise to say loudly and clearly that abortion can be a moral good." So, in just a matter of a few sentences here, in a matter of just one paragraph, we are told that the decision to end a pregnancy can be a morally good decision, we are told that it's time for those Christians who believe in that argument to say loudly and clearly that abortion can be a moral good. So, there's the big leap. Now, we've actually seen, we've witnessed ourselves in this article the leap over that vast canyon of common sense. Now, we're in the actual territory of someone claiming abortion is a moral good. We need to stop talking about it as being wrong, we need to stop even talking about it as being less wrong than people say, we need to go on and say it is a moral good.
But here's where I need to go back to our previous conversation. How do we know what is and is not a moral good? Who decides what's good? Who has the authority to tell us what's good? Well, first of all, biblical Christianity begins with the understanding that only God is good and that whatever good is, we come to know it by God's own revelation, a good God, the one and only God who is a good God has revealed to us His goodness and the meaning of goodness in the world. There is no real understanding of goodness. That isn't something other than sentimentality. Rebecca Todd Peters writes appreciatively of the fact that 19 ministers and two rabbis in 1967 announced a formation of what was known then as the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion. It was a pro-abortion group of mainline liberal clergy. And we need to note, this is not a hidden fact, liberal theology was one of the major engines of the pro-abortion movement.
Liberal theology denied the accuracy, the inerrancy, the stability, the trustworthiness, the objective truth of divine revelation and scripture. And once you do that, then you make up your morality on your own. And the point that simply ties together our first article, first argument and this argument is that if you do not believe in an objective-revealed truth, if your worldview is based upon truth as a negotiated reality, then whoever has the stronger political argument, whoever has the sway in the popular culture will inevitably pull you towards that contested, invented understanding of good. That's exactly what's going on here. But this is literally what the Bible warns about, those who call evil good and good evil. That is exactly what's going on here. This writer tells us that her mother shared with her the message, "You shouldn't have a baby just because you are pregnant, you should have a baby because you want to be a mother, you want to have a family."
Well, again, just consider what this reduces morality to. It reduces morality to whatever is good for you in accordance with your own definition of what is good and convenient or what seems right to you at the time. We also need to note that serious moral arguments are being made here. They are seriously, even to the point of being deadly wrong, but nonetheless, they're serious arguments. Listen to this, "Ending a pregnancy when one is not emotionally or physically able or ready to parent a child can be a morally responsible decision." Again, just listen to the words. This is straightforward, nothing hidden here, "ending a pregnancy that will interrupt one's education or career, the tools that enable people in our culture to prepare themselves to live stable and abundant lives can be a morally responsible decision". So, notice here that whatever the inhabitant of the womb is understood to be, it is less important than one's education or career.
Because after all, one's education or career are "the tools that enable people in our culture to prepare themselves to live stable and abundant lives". So, what's an unborn child as compared to that? Rebecca Todd Peters goes on to conclude, "What is missing in public life today is a nationwide presence of Christian leaders who can give full-throated support to this perspective. It's not that we aren't around, it is just that our voices are not being heard. We need more people of faith," she writes, "who will stand up and speak out in support of respecting women as full moral agents created in the image of God and capable of making the important moral decisions that shape our lives, our families, our futures. We need more Christians to stand up and testify," she writes, "that abortion could be a morally good decision and women must be trusted to make moral decisions."
Well, we can trust the fact that humans are going to make moral decisions, but those moral decisions are either right or wrong not primarily dependent upon what the human being thinks about right or wrong but rather what God has established as right and wrong, what God has revealed is right and wrong. You'll notice here that we are told that more people of faith are supposed to stand up and speak out in order to respect women "as full moral agents". Now, that's very, very interesting because the most conservative pro-life evangelical Christian believes that women are indeed full moral agents. But you know what? Full moral agents don't get to make up the morality. They are responsible for making decisions. They're either going to do A or B or C, but moral agency does not include the right to invent the entire moral structure. That's not moral agency, that's moral insanity.
Pro-Abortion Advocates Seek To De-Stigmatize Abortion In Impossible Battle Against God’s Moral Universe
But finally, as we're thinking about this, every once in a while, you have someone just make a statement out loud, you hear it or you read it and you say, "I need to document that," it is simply an astounding fact that such a thing would be said out loud and yet it comes again and again. October the 3rd, 2021 on Weekend Edition Sunday on National Public Radio, a woman named Kenya Martin, speaking of the marches for so-called reproductive rights that took place in recent days, Kenya Martin on National Public Radio said this, "And it's okay to have abortions after," I can't say all that but she means sex, "simply because you don't want to be pregnant." She continued, "I just didn't want to be pregnant. And I want you to know that if that's your experience, that's okay too. Your story deserves to be heard." In other words, destroy the unborn life within you, abort the baby if you simply don't want to be pregnant. That's just fine.
Danielle Kurtzleben of National Public Radio, speaking of the message sent by these women went on to say, "Abortion rights advocates are just playing defense. They're trying to prevent new laws in other states from passing, and they're looking ahead to future elections. But," said Kurtzleben, "one thing I also want to focus on is a rhetorical strategy that there was a lot of yesterday," that means at the march about destigmatizing abortion. And hear that again, destigmatizing abortion. That is, oddly enough, an acknowledgement that abortion carries stigma. We argue it always will. But she writes, "A rhetorical strategy that there was a lot of yesterday about destigmatizing abortion about, again, being open if you've had one and being unashamed about it." Then NPR played that clip from a speech by Kenya Martin from the National Network of Abortion Funds, again, the strategy, a rhetorical strategy, to try to destigmatize abortion.
I'll just simply tell you, it's not going to work. It might catch the attention of NPR, but NPR has been reporting on similar stories now for about 50 years. Just try destigmatizing abortion. It's not going to happen. Why, because abortion is so self-evidently wrong? Well, yes, actually, that's the reason why. But behind that is another why. And that is because God made and created unilaterally, sovereignly a moral universe in which it is impossible to make the good evil or the evil good. That is beyond our moral agency. But as Christians understand how these issues are now being shaped around us, we have to understand that, and here's the frightening thing, for millions and millions and millions of our neighbors, these arguments apparently make sense. Now, explaining that is going to have to wait for a future edition of The Briefing.
How can so many millions of our neighbors take these arguments seriously? It's because there's a more fundamental problem and about that, we will soon turn. In the meantime, it is quite enough for today but quite important for today that we document how these arguments are now being made. May our own consciences be seared even by hearing these arguments and may our faithfulness be heightened because of our understanding of what is at stake.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.