The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

It’s Tuesday, January 4th, 2022.

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

Part I

The Culture of Death Revealed Again: Addressing the Near-Unimaginable Moral Argument That Abortion is a Better Alternative than Adoption

Sometimes you really can’t imagine that an argument can be made, and once it’s made, you have to pay attention to it. That’s the case in an argument that is now recurring in several different contexts. The catalyst for this argument was the Supreme Court’s oral arguments in the Dobbs Case, the big abortion case coming from Mississippi. In this particular case, the comments that have incited so much interest were made by the newest justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

In the course of the oral arguments, Justice Barrett pointed to adoption as an alternative to abortion. And when it comes to that kind of experience, Justice Barrett is unique in the history of justices who have sat on the Supreme Court. She gave birth to five children. She is also an adoptive mother. She and her husband are adoptive parents.

But here’s the argument that now comes to the surface, outrage that Justice Barrett made the argument that adoption is an alternative to a woman seeking an abortion, outrage because we are told adoption is actually more traumatic for women than abortion, more traumatic, more dangerous. Well, you have to look at the argument in order to understand what we’re facing here.

David Crary and John Hanna reporting for the Associated Press gave us a story. The headline in the Lakeland Ledger in Florida is this, “Debate Over Adoption Alternative Renewed.” As Crary and Hanna write, there are those who are saying that Justice Barrett made a false argument in saying that adoption should be understood as a positive alternative to abortion.

Setting the stage for the debate, Crary and Hanna begin, “Year after year, several thousand people in the US,” by the way, very interesting use of the word “people” there. That just shows you again, the non-binary transgender revolution, because those people, we know are actually women. Those people, according to the argument here, the article, “Carry unintended pregnancy to term, and then offer the baby for adoption. It’s a choice commended by many foes of abortion.”

Now, notice here that the issue of adoption, the adoption of infants is simply brought up because of the controversy over abortion, as if it’s not an issue worthy of consideration unto itself. But Crary and Hanna continue, “Yet, despite a huge demand for babies from Americans yearning to adopt, perhaps 40 times more people opt for an abortion. And a large majority of those who proceed to give birth, make the choice to keep the child.”

Here’s a crucial paragraph, “The reason say people familiar with unintended pregnancies is that even in those circumstances, a powerful bond is likely to form between the mother to be and the developing baby, and to vastly complicate any decision to put the newborn up for adoption.”

So, let’s just face the facts here. Here’s the argument, adoption is more difficult for a woman than abortion. And thus adoption is not to be rightly understood as an alternative, morally or otherwise to abortion. But the argument has to be made more strongly than that. And it is in this Associated Press article, and it is an opinion piece that recently ran in the New York Times. One of the persons reporting here is Elizabeth Bartholet, a law professor at Harvard University and “an outspoken advocate of adoption.”

Now, if you hear a familiar refrain that name, Elizabeth Bartholet, well, that’s because she is a vociferous and radical opponent of the right of parents to choose to homeschool. That’s why we have discussed her previously on The Briefing. Her worldview appears to be quite consistent. But she says, “It’s ridiculous to say there’s no problem to eliminate abortion, just place the kids up for adoption.” She says, “It’s not going to be an emotion free non-event. There’s going to be bonding and connection, and a sense that it is unnatural act to give your child away.”

Now, perhaps the most chilling aspect of this entire report in the Associated Press is that it is presented as if in some way, this makes sense. In particular, you need to know this is a moral argument. This is supposed to make moral sense. We are supposed to believe that it makes more moral sense to say that adoption is an unnatural act than to say that abortion is an unnatural act. There’s an incredible acknowledgement here. And that’s the acknowledgement that the unborn is not a non-entity. The unborn child, as Bartholet says, “there’s going to be bonding and connection, and a sense that it’s an unnatural act to give your child away.”

Of course, here’s what we need to understand. It is an infinitely more unnatural act to destroy by choice that unborn life within you. Professor Bartholet, by the way, went right into direct contradiction to Justice Barrett, when she said that the justice’s comments were breathtakingly thoughtless, failing to acknowledge the deep emotional bonds as The Associated Press, that many parents have with their babies, even when they result from an unwanted pregnancy.

Now, again, you will note that in almost every single pro-abortion argument, the baby simply disappears. The unborn child is invisible, a non-entity, not worthy even of the slightest moral consideration. We are told that the only significant moral agent, the only significant moral entity is the woman who autonomously on her own terms is seeking an abortion. But you’ll notice here that when the alternative of adoption, of giving a baby up for adoption, making that baby available to parents who desperately want a child, that when the alternative of adoption is actually brought up, well, all of a sudden the child becomes a significant issue, but a significant issue who becomes a threat to the mother emotionally, because of the bonds that will thus be created between the mother and the unborn.

Now, remember, by the way, the article doesn’t even really want to use the word mother. It talks about people who have babies, not women who have babies, at least in the opening of the article. But Grace Howard also mentioned in this article, identified as someone who has worked as a doula, assisting people in childbirth and seeking abortions, she said that the bonds can become more powerful immediately after birth. She said, in her words, “Your body is like bond, bond.” By the way, speaking of worldview consistency, Howard is identified in the AP report as, “an assistant professor in justice studies at San Jose State University.” But you’ll notice that in this argument, and this is so very important for us to note, the argument about justice is that it is unjust to suggest that a woman who will bond with an unborn child ought to give up that child as an alternative to killing it, having it dismembered or destroyed in the womb, either surgically or medically.

By the way, just in terms of the need for adoption or the demand for adoption, we are told that in 2014, nationwide, there were only an estimated 18,000 private infant adoptions. That according to a group known as the National Council for Adoption. At the same time, that same year, 2014, there were documented 926,190 abortions according to the Guttmacher Institute. Again, just compare those two numbers, 18,000 versus 926,190. But then this article makes another astounding argument. And that argument is, because those numbers are so starkly divided, clearly adoption should not be understood as a genuine alternative to abortion, because here’s the argument, women overwhelmingly choose abortion rather than adoption. And thus to encourage adoption or in any way legally to restrict abortion is to trample on a woman’s autonomous choice or her power of autonomous choice, even when that choice is directed towards the intentional destruction of the unborn life within her.

The imbalance between the number of babies available for adoption and the number of people who are seeking to be parents by adoption, the article indicates here once again, that in 2014 there were 18,000 private infant adoption. That is to be compared with hundreds of thousands of Americans who want to adopt.

Another very interesting and alarming comment was made by a member of Congress, United States Democratic representative, Barbara Lee of California. And by the way, she has been one of the most prominent pro-abortion legislators in the house. She says that she had received a back alley abortion in Mexico after she became pregnant as a teenager. She said that adoption “is an alternative to parenting,” not to pregnancy. Her telling comment is this, “The fight for abortion rights is not about our individual stances on abortion or adoption, it’s about every person’s right to make decisions about their personal health. Your choices about your body health and family are nobody’s business, but your own.”

Now, let me just stop there for a moment because that statement is not only radical, it is inaccurate. And furthermore, in moral terms, it is insane. That sounds like a strong comment to make about a statement made by a member of the United States Congress. Well so be it, because I stand by it. You’ll notice that she says your choices about your body health and family are nobody’s business, but your own. That’s not even true.

When it comes to marriage, for example, marriage is legally defined in all 50 states. Family is legally defined in terms of parental rights, parental responsibilities. Divorce is a legal action, not just a word you invoke and put out into the air. All of these areas of personal life are ordered by law, including laws by the way, that have been adopted by the United States Congress on which representatively has voted. She knows better than what she’s saying here. But what you see is the ardent radicalism of the pro-abortion movement. And that is a radicalism that is being shown in its truest form in the desperate fear that Roe v. Wade may be reversed. Here you see that those who have been making the argument, describing themselves as pro-choice, they’re now just bearing the teeth when it comes to their absolute ideological, political and moral defense of abortion.

Now, I mentioned the opinion piece that ran into New York Times. I discussed it just about a month ago in December the 7th on that day’s edition of The Briefing. It was an article by Elizabeth Spears entitled, “I was Adopted. I Know the Trauma it Can Inflict.” That means the trauma of adoption on the part of the adoptee.

Now, you may remember this, Elizabeth Spears went so far as to say that her adoptive experience as an adoptive baby was almost idyllic. But then she goes on to describe the trauma, the trauma that was experienced by her birth mother who had bonded with her and then gave her up for adoption. And then also she even mentions the trauma of her siblings, who grew up knowing some way that there was a missing sibling.

Now, let’s just state the obvious. There is trauma here. We are talking about human brokenness in a broken world. We are talking about human emotional vulnerability. That’s true of all human beings. It becomes most acute where our personal lives become most contingent, and they rub up against the realities of difficulty tragedy in a fallen world.

So, no Christian should ever question that there is trauma, real trauma, potential trauma as well, that is involved in the entire structure and process of adoption. But here’s where we also have to understand as Christians, adoption is not just according to the Christian worldview, something that is morally acceptable. It is a moral good to the extent that it becomes a picture of our salvation in the New Testament. That’s to say, there is no human experience in which there is no risk of trauma. There is no moral gain in denying that trauma. But at the same time, that trauma does not become an excuse for terminating, extinguishing unborn human life in order to avoid whatever traumas may come to any of those involved in the equation in the future.

And by the way, Elizabeth Spears goes on, even to acknowledge that she’s making an argument that could, well, if her argument is taken to its logical premises or had been when her mother was carrying her, resulted in her own non-existence. She doesn’t consider that in any way a clincher argument.

Finally, when there is a piece like that, that runs in a newspaper like the New York Times, there are often letters that are in response and published in the paper, and they become also very interesting. That’s certainly the case in the example of the op-ed piece by Elizabeth Spears.

The arguments that came in letter form included one by Anne Matlock Evans of Napa California. In the course of her letter, she wrote, “The consequences of my mother’s pregnancy and the baby’s adoption, profoundly affected my mother and us children. She was traumatized by the pregnancy and the necessity of abandoning a child, especially so after caring for us, she felt ashamed, stigmatized, and less able to protect her existing children.” Again, a very complicated argument here.

No one should deny the trauma. No one should deny the fact that women sometimes are subjected to shame. Sometimes they are stigmatized for the decisions that they make even about adoption, but that’s where the Christian Church has to step in as an alternative, an alternative moral universe in which the choice for life. And that means unborn human life is always valorized, and where the choice of adoption on either end of the equation is gloriously respected.

Another letter writer in the same addition that would be Mary Kelly of Denver, wrote in about her experience of adopting a baby. And she writes this, “As our daughter told us that about 10 years of age, “Face it, I’m a mistake, and so are my brothers. No one gives up a baby unless they are a mistake.” Well, that’s one of those arguments that invites a gospel response, a response coming from the adoptive parent about the love for the child. And it must be said that Mary Kelly concludes her letter by saying adoption is a blessing beyond belief, and it is also fraught. Here’s where Christians understand, yes, many of the most important blessings in life are themselves fraught. But in this case, adoption is freighted with the glory of God and with the preservation and honoring of human life.

But you’ll also note that there would be some who would say that it would be better to avoid a situation in which a child at age 10 could ever say, or even guess at some moment, “I am a mistake.” Better the argument is now often taken that the child never existed in order that that assumption would never be articulated. Let’s just use the word fraught that appears in this article, that is a moral claim that is infinitely more fraught than any of the complications that may come with adoption.

We’ll be tracking that issue as it continues to unfold in the public square, vast worldview implications clear to us all.

Part II

Russia Threatens Invasion of Ukraine. What is Behind the Threats? And What Will the United States Do?

I want to shift to a big issue in terms of the global picture, also at clash of worldviews.

We’re going to look at two countries. We’re going to look at Russia and its conflict with Ukraine, but we’re also going to look at North Korea. And I’ll explain why. We’re going to be talking on the briefing and coming days about the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Soviet Union that took place at the end of the year, 1991. So, just about the end of last year, there was the 30th anniversary, three decades of time since the breakup of the Soviet Union. But now we talk about Russia. And Russia is not just the Soviet Union renamed. It is the successor to the Russian Federation, that was the center of what remained of the Soviet Union after its collapse. But that meant that many of the satellite nations that had basically been held within the Soviet sphere by force were liberated. And they became nations once again, on their own. This would include the Baltic States. It would also include Ukraine. Russia considered it, the Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union.

And with the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine, which is that massive country of land mass between Russia and the rest of Europe, Ukraine became a major issue for the West. How would the west handle Ukraine, which of in a part of the USSR but now wants to be a part of the West? Would Ukraine be welcomed into NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the defense packed of Western European nations and the United States, or would it simply be defended?

The United States made a deal with Ukraine as a young nation. The deal was this, “We will protect your territorial integrity, if you will give up your nuclear weapons.” Because of course, given the fact that the Soviet Union had placed so many of its nuclear installations in its Western areas, and that was then the frontier, Ukraine, a part of the Soviet Union. Once Ukraine became an independent state, you would’ve had one additional nuclear power. And NATO didn’t want that. Russia didn’t want that. NATO made the argument, it made the agreement. The United States put its own oral credibility on the line, stating that we would defend the territorial integrity of a free and democratic Ukraine over against any invader that would include most importantly, Russia.

Now, you know the headlines, right now, Russia has between 75,000 and 100,000 Russian troops, army troops right there on the Ukrainian border, threatening an invasion. What will the United States do? Well, President Joe Biden has appeared to be quite indecisive, not in terms of the scale of his outrage. He has stated that there will be severe consequences if Russia were to invade Ukraine. But at the same time, he has also indicated that those consequences would not be military, but economic. Now, just to state the obvious, if you have about a hundred thousand army troops on your border, economic consequences don’t sound like a really big defensive assurance.

Since the closing weeks of 2021, Vladimir Putin, the Russian autocrat, its president, has made very clear what he considers to be the bottom line of his demands. They basically mean the retreat of NATO, the United States and the West from the Baltic States and from Ukraine. No more military exercises. No more military installations. But you’re talking here about at least some nations that are a part of NATO and they are member states of an organization that has a mutual defense pact. You’re basically here looking at Putin, making the argument that the United States and NATO should aggregate their moral responsibilities to their own allies in order to pacify Russia.

Why does Russia have those troops on the border with Ukraine? Well, the biggest answer is geopolitical. And then that is that Russia is always paranoid that it’s going to be invaded from the west. That’s why Ukraine, the frontier was so important as a buffer area for mother Russia. But you also have the reality that Ukraine represents at least a claim to a genuine democratic form of government, an electoral world democracy. And that is a giant political threat in terms of the political openness in Ukraine to the totalitarian rule of Vladimir Putin and his cronies in Russia.

There’s something else here. And that has to do with Vladimir Putin’s understanding of mother Russia and his claim to be recapturing a lost age of Russian glory, that would’ve included when Russia had that political primacy over Ukraine. Now, interestingly, we’re going to talk about this in coming weeks on the briefing. Ukraine, or at least Kyiv or Kiev, the capital of Ukraine is actually the mother of the Rus’ people, the mother of Russia. In that sense, Vladimir Putin, definitely wants that under his control.

We’re about to find out what Joe Biden and other Western leaders are made of when it comes to Vladimir Putin and Russia, because Vladimir Putin is making abundantly clear what he sees as the stakes and the bottom line in this evolving conflict. The question is, where in the West, is there an equal resolve and a clear bottom line?

Part III

The Kim Dynasty and Decades of Human Suffering in the Name of Vainglory and Cult of Personality: The Significance of Worldview in the Challenge of North Korea

But we also need to note that at the end of last year, a 10th anniversary was marked in North Korea.

The 10-year anniversary was of the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un. He is the third member of the Kim dynasty to rule as the totalitarian dictator of North Korea, one of the most totalitarian states in the history of totalitarian government. You’re looking at the fact that at the end of World War II, Korea was partitioned. It was partitioned much like you might think of Europe, between the east and the west. But in the case of Korea, it was between the North and the South. The North came under the Soviet and Chinese, the communist sphere. The South came under the sphere of the Western allies.

And you had the Soviet Union quickly trying to find a patsy, that would stand in as basically a dictator in place on behalf of Russia. They chose Kim Il-Sung, who had been involved in the Korean Liberation Movement. And by 1948, he was the dictator of North Korea. His son, Kim Jong-il ruled from 1994 to 2011. So, between 1948 and 2021, you’re looking at one family. And by the way, in the communist world, there were very few family dynasties, but here is one.

It’s also really interesting to note that the worldview of North Korea is even more radically totalitarian and ideological than had ever existed, even in China and in Russia. In North Korea, you’re talking about an ideology that actually caused fear in both Moscow and Beijing. The Kim family’s authority is based on a cult to personality, and actually the deification of all three of the dictators of the Kim line. All three of them considered to be deified. That is they are claimed to be Deities, although in a basically ruthlessly, totalitarian and atheistic worldview.

And by the way, you can be executed in North Korea simply for being found with one verse of the New Testament. By the way, David Priestland in his classic history of communism entitled, The Red Flag, wrote about North Korea, saying that the Kim personality “also had echoes of Stalin’s mouth,” though its extravagance and intensity were of a different order. And here non-communist sources were crucial. The Kim family put together a cult of personality from communism, from Karl Marx and Ingles, from Soviet sources, Chinese sources, communist sources, but also Confucianism and ancient Korean paganism. All of that put together in a cult to personality that claims that Kim, whichever Kim it is as dictator is the incarnation of the Korean spirit and of self-sufficiency, known as the Juche ideology.

Worldview matters. It always matters. And here you see the conflict of worldviews. We’ve discussed this in the conflict of worldviews between the pro-abortion view and the pro-life view, between Russia and the West totalitarianism and representative democracy and freedom. You see here, the worldview distinction, even in the communist world, a dictatorship in the 20th century between Mao Tse-tung, Joseph Stalin and the successive members of the Kim dynasty in North Korea.

Kim Jong-un again, marked 10 years in office as dictator against all odds, by the way. He was very young when he took office. And it was not considered that he would be a likely survivor, but he has survived. How did he do it? Mostly by killing off all the opposition. By the way, North Korea faces a continual problem of starvation. And given its nuclear ambitions and American economic sanctions, it is also facing a complete economic meltdown. But as foreign observers note, the Kim family and its cult of personality are more intent upon maintaining the cult of personality than on feeding their own people, who are starving. But then again, they’ve been starving since the beginnings of communist North Korea in the aftermath of World War II. We’re talking about decades of human suffering in the name of the vain glory of a cult to personality. And we as Christians ought to at least note that sad fact when the milestone of 10 years has passed, and the clock is still ticking. The pages of the calendar are still turning, and the Kim family is still ruthlessly in power.

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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