The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Monday, January 31, 2022

It’s Monday, January 31st, 2022.

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

Part I

The Left Pushes for the Resurrection of the Equal Rights Amendment — And At Its Heart is the Issue of Abortion

Is the equal rights amendment now part of the US constitution? According to some, it became part of the constitution as the newest amendment to the constitution last Thursday, January 27th, 2022, two years after the state of Virginia became by their counting the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. So, the ERA became part of the constitution as of Thursday, or it didn’t. Actually, of course, it hasn’t, but that hasn’t stopped many of the proponents of the ERA including feminist groups, progressive groups, and many Democrats in the United States Congress, including the President of the United States to say that either it is now or should be part of the constitution because of Virginia’s vote two years ago, or even if that doesn’t work, the ERA should be passed.

President Biden made an official statement from the White House to that effect. No real surprise there. Every democratic president going back at least to the 1970s has supported the Equal Rights Amendment. What is it, or what would it be? The congressional authorization to send the issue to the states includes this text, “Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article. Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.” However, the resolution that was adopted by the Senate and by the House sending the issue to the states, set a deadline for the ratification of the equal rights amendment. If it were not passed by three quarters of the states by March the 22nd, 1979, it was not to become an amendment.

It was thus to fail. That deadline isn’t required by article five of the constitution, but Congress has put those kind of deadlines in before. The fact is that by March the 22nd, 1979, 35 not 38 states had ratified the equal rights amendment, thus it failed. The Congress went on and gave an extension, that extension through June 30th of 1982. The extension didn’t help. It still failed to reach the 38 states. Now, the reason we’re talking about this today is because some on the left have tried to resurrect the ERA by arguing that there is no constitutional basis for the expiration date, and thus pushing additional states to ratify. The 38 by their count was Virginia two years ago. And that set the clock according to them to win the archivist of the United States should simply include what we know as the Equal Rights Amendment in the text of the Constitution.

The archivist had indicated that he would do so, but a legal advisory by the Department of Justice in the year 2020 said that there was no constitutional basis for going forward on that plan. Let’s also look at the fact that five states in the 38 that are counted as having ratified the amendment, later rescinded did the ratification and that included four, who did so before the original deadline. So, anyway you look at it, the Equal Rights Amendment was not ratified. It did not become enacted either by the original deadline or by the extended deadline. And so there are those now who are trying to bring it back because they are arguing that the cause of feminism requires it. But as you think about the legal and legislative history of the United States since say, the early 1970s, you have to wonder what’s really behind this. Because as you look at the Equal Rights Amendment, most of what it is claimed the ERA would cover is already covered by legislation.

Now, some of the left say, well, that’s not enough. Legislation’s not enough because legislation can be reversed, it needs instead to be in the Constitution. But of course, even amendments to the Constitution can be reversed or rescinded. Just think about the prohibition on alcohol, prohibition as it was called. The Constitution was amended, it was reamended. But nevertheless, you understand what’s going on here when you just considered the fact that abortion is, and always will be the center of this question. But then just think about it for a moment. There’s a very interesting twist in this tale, because back when the feminists were pushing for the equal rights amendment, go back to the 1970s, there was not even a blip on the horizon of anything like the gender revolution. What sense does this make now? And furthermore, how would it even be interpreted with this language now? Given the Supreme Court’s lamentable Bostock decision last year, there’s reason to believe that the Equal Rights Amendment would cover just about anyone anytime.

So, something else has to be going on here. And what’s actually going on here is as virtually always, abortion. Now, there’s more to the picture. But that more to the picture becomes less significant right now because frankly, feminist have won so many of their aims from the very beginning of the 1970s. There has been a rather relentless push for all kinds of legislation, progressivist causes in the name of equality. That was the first word, and now equity. Progressives were absolutely confident that the ERA would sail through. And by the way, it passed in many conservative states before conservatives figured out what it was actually all about. And as a matter of fact, the equal rights amendment had an unintended effect. That unintended effect was to awaken a conservative movement in the United States originally led by conservative women, and an organization such as Eagle Forum headed by the late Phyllis Schlafly.

There was an awakening, the development of mailing list. There was the articulation of issues, and abortion, and feminism and related subversions of the family became very much a part of an awakened evangelical conscience in the United States. There’s a lot to this. As you might imagine, I actually knew Phyllis Schlafly. I spoke for her at national conventions. The fact is that we would not have the conservative movement as we knew it today without the efforts many dedicated women who were awakened to the political cause by two issues, feminism and abortion. And of course, those two are very much related. Phyllis Schlafly made the argument that if the constitution is to be amended in this way so that there is no rightful discrimination between men and women, while she pointed out in the early 1970s, that means a couple of that liberals don’t want to talk about.

One of them is, or at least they didn’t want to talk about it then on the left, women would be drafted just like men. Young women, just like young men would have to register for selective service. If there were a distinction, it would be according to the ERA, unconstitutional. The other issue very much in the center was abortion. Because remember, the argument that was made by the abortion rights forces in the 1970s, even before the Supreme Court in the Roe v. Wade decision is that equality was the issue. And since men could be in the condition of not being pregnant, women had to be guaranteed by constitutional right, the very same privilege of not being pregnant. And that meant that if they did get pregnant, abortion should be a constitutionally protected alternative. That was actually one of the major arguments presented by the feminist forces and by the attorneys arguing the pro-abortion side in Roe v. Wade.

It’s one of the issues taken up by the majority opinion in the court. Equality demands abortion so that a woman can be as unpregnant as a man, and thus unhindered in terms of professional development and other pursuits. Another thing proponents of the ERA did not want to consider at least honestly, and straightforwardly in public was the fact that looking at divorce law, marital law, family law in the United States, there are certain differences given to mothers, and those will be constitutionally undermined, if not constitutionally destroyed by the equal rights amendment. Just think about custody laws. Just think about family divorce law, all the rest. The reality is that there was also the question as to whether or not you can have separate anything. And it’s not just separate say, voluntary associations and private clubs, it’s also whether or not you could have men and women’s restrooms.

Now the restroom issue thus was made an issue of politics back in the early 1970s, and the left went into outrage saying that that was a conservative exaggeration, an overreaction. Just remember that when you look at all of the confusions over bathrooms and locker rooms in the United States today, the seeds for that confusion were well established in American public life by the 1970s because of these arguments. Something like 200 liberal law professors have said that the ERA is now an amendment, the constitutional issues are immense, but it is very important to recognize that there’s very little chance, if any chance, that the Supreme Court of the United States, even as a last bastion of reason, would allow this be considered an appropriate amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Especially since you had five states rescind their ratification, four of them before the deadline for ratification itself. But you have the left arguing that the power to ratify is not the power to rescind.

Basically the left will come up with an argument and has come up with an argument for everything possible to claim that the ERA is now part of the US constitution as of last Thursday. But the claim is largely laughable. But the issues, let’s face it, are no laughing matter. President Biden made an interesting statement calling for something like the ERA, calling on Congress “to act immediately to pass a resolution recognizing edification of the ERA.” Again, ridiculous. Not going to happen. But the president said, “We must recognize the clear will of the American people.” Now, I also want to go at least as far as looking at that statement and saying, well, the clear will of the American people was that this was not ratified in the term that was defined by Congress. Not even close when you look, get the time span.

But nonetheless, the president had said, “We must recognize the clear will of the American people and definitively enshrine the principle of gender equality in the constitution. It is,” the president said, “long past time that we put all doubt to rest.” But of course the main doubt right now when it comes to this kind of language is, what exactly is a woman? Is there such a legal category as woman or man? How do you prove that one is either a man or a woman, male or female when you buy into the transgender ideology that says that everything now is just basically a matter of will? Forces on the left like Eleanor Smeal, currently president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, former president of the National Organization for Women said, “The ERA’s been ratified. It is the law. It should be certified and published by the archivist.” She went on to say, “The fight now is that we’re going to enforce the ERA. Without enforcement, it’s just a symbol. We want the ERA enforced.”

Now, as we talk about the current political context and remind ourselves rather incessantly, that elections have consequences, if there were a major Democratic majority in both a House and in the Senate able to overcome a filibuster, no doubt, this kind of resolution would be passed. But even then it’s unclear what kind of constitutional basis the resolution would have. But constitutional basis is not the major concern of the left right now, rather simply forcing the issue, advocating the issue, claiming victory on the issue, pushing the issue at every opportunity. That’s actually what’s going on here. It’s also interesting to see how proponents of the ERA have tried to run rather silent on the abortion issue in connection to the ERA, until they get their victory. But it’s also clear that groups such as the Center for American Progress, one of the most influential and well-funded forces on the left points out that one of the major implications of the equal rights amendment is absolute, in their words, reproductive freedom. No restrictions on abortion whatsoever.

And that includes also forcing the American taxpayer to pay for abortion. Getting back to the claim of this reproductive autonomy, let me look at the very language that this article, the Center for American Progress uses. We are told here, “Equality means elevating the oppressed to enjoy the same rights and protections as the most privileged.” There you see you the kind of critical theory involved here. “This includes the freedom to make choices about one’s own body,” says the text. “Foundational rulings protecting reproductive autonomy”–and here you have citations, Roe v. Wade and others–“have made clear that reproductive autonomy is central to people’s”–notice is “people’s” here, not women’s–“people’s abilities to participate equally in society.” In other words, it gets right to the issue that equity requires that women be capable of being just as unpregnant as men. Now, conservative Christians thinking from a biblical worldview understand that there are legitimate and illegitimate distinctions made upon the issue of biological sex or gender.

There’s some distinctions that would be wrong and unjust, but there are other distinctions that are absolutely necessary, otherwise you are at war with creation itself. And of course, also at war with unborn life. But before leaving this issue, I just want to put it in historical context again. The United States of America came incredibly close during the decade of the 1970s to having a sufficient number of states ratify what was known as the equal rights amendment, and thus it would have for over a generation been part of the United States constitution. That would’ve eliminated virtually all the pro-life gains of say, the last 40 or 50 years. Just ponder that. Just think about that for a moment and remind yourself of how much is at stake.

Part II

‘11 Million People They Were Going to Kill. They Had Very Big Plans’: The 80th Anniversary of the Wannsee Conference and One of the Darkest Meetings in Human History

But next on this last day of January in the year, 2022, I feel it morally necessary to go back to one of the darkest chapters in all of American history. Because this month was the 80th anniversary, tragically enough, of one of the most horrifying meetings in all of human history.

It took place at a lakeside villa, a beautiful mansion in the suburbs of Berlin. The lake was known as Wannsee, one of two lakes, a greater and a lesser. Then what took place there was putting into effect the mechanisms of the final solution. The Nazi attempt to completely eliminate the Jewish people from the face of the earth. Historian Peter Longerich in his new book entitled, Wannsee, introduces the issue this way, “On 20 January, 1942, fifteen men met at a luxury villa on the Wannsee, the lake on Berlins Western outskirts. They’ve been invited by Reinhardt Heydrich, head of the right security head office, and they were almost all high ranking representatives of the Nazi state, the Nazi party and the S.S. They included four state secretaries, two further senior officials of equivalent rank and an under-secretaries. We know what took place in that meeting, not only because of vague historical references, but because of a complete set of minutes.”

Leave it to the Nazis. They kept minutes of everything, including this documentary evidence about the most murderous plans in all of human history. And of the thirty-some odd set of minutes, only one of them survived, and it was captured by the allies and was actually used in the war crimes trials at Nuremberg after the war. But a comprehensive understanding of these things had to await the unification of Germany, the fall of the Soviet Union and the opening of certain archives. And the opening of those archives included diary material from senior Nazis and others that the Soviets had taken as spoils of war. They had hidden them away, not even acknowledged that they existed, but once Germany was reunified, the East German archives were open. And that’s why historians have found so much, so horrifyingly much of the evidence of what took place there. As Peter Longerich mentions, these were high ranking officials and they were also just bland bureaucrats.

If you had just seen them meeting there at this mansion on the Wannsee that had recently been taken by the S.S. as a retreat center, these men were highly educated. As Longerich says, “The fifteen men included ten university graduates, nine of them qualified lawyers, eight of whom had a doctorate.” The minutes suggest that they discuss these matters in a purposeful businesslike and informed manner, in comfortable surroundings and in a positively idyllic setting. While expressing a variety of different views on matters of detail, not a single one of them raised concerns about the project as a whole, namely, the murder of 11 million Jews. That was the intention. Longerich summarizes it by saying, “Today, the minutes of the Wannsee conference are seen as synonymous with the coldblooded bureaucratically organized, and industrialized mass murder of the European Jews. As an almost unfathomable document capturing how the Nazi systems ideologically driven impulse to destroy was translated on orders of the regime’s highest authority into state action and mercilessly executed.” In summary, “No other document presents more clearly the overarching plan to exterminate the European Jews.”

One of the things we know now is that by the time that meeting took place there on that Lake Wannsee, the killing had already started. The mass killing, the intentional genocide of the Jewish people. The Nazi aim had moved from evacuating their occupied territory of Jews to exterminating the Jewish people. The meeting we know as the Wannsee Conference held on January 20th of 1942, was as difficult as it is in moral terms, even to say this about how to kill the Jews more efficiently. How to get the job done more quickly. That’s why all those senior Nazi leaders and their functionaries had gathered together in that place. And when you understand how calmly and with what calculation they made those plans, it simply defines the human moral imagination. But it’s so important that here we are, 80 years later, we need to be reminded of exactly what took place they are in that villa and why it mattered.

And it matters now. We know that by the time that meeting was held, Hermann Göring, senior official on the third rank, had already indicated to Reinhard Heydrich that he was to move more quickly in eliminating the Jews from Nazi occupied territory. And eventually that meant from all of Europe because of the Nazi plans. It was Hermann Göring who, in a letter to Heydrich on the 31st of July, 1941, used the language, a total solution to the Jewish question in Europe, and then “the final or this final solution.” I hold in my hands right now one of the documents that was used at the Nurenberg trial, one of the documents from the minutes of this meeting, indicating without question, the targeting of 11 million Jewish men, women, boys, and girls for extermination by the Nazi regime. 11 million. By the time the Nazi genocide machine was stopped, it had killed about 7 million Jewish people, it is estimated.

And so you see the fact that this meeting did have immediate, horrifying genocidal consequences. One of those that was present at this meeting was Adolf Eichmann. He was eventually captured by Israeli forces, tried and executed in Israel. But most of the people who attended that meeting either died of natural causes, or they died by the causes of the war itself. One of them, the highest ranking Nazi official president their Reinhard Heydrich was eventually assassinated by insurgent forces in Prague. Deborah Lipstadt, at a professor of Jewish history in the Holocaust said, “You read that protocol and it’s chilling. It’s all very camouflaged language, but then you look at the list of countries and the number of Jews they planned to kill, 11 million people they were going to go after, they had very big plans.” I have seen this lake outside of Berlin. I have seen the neighborhood in which this villa is located, and it is just chilling beyond words to know that this kind of meeting this kind of conversation took place there, was such murderous effect.

And then you go back to the antisemitism of the Third Reich, and you understand the diabolical forces that were put into play. Diabolical forces that led to the most ambitious, horrifying genocide known in all of human history. Biblical minded Christians must understand that it is a prime responsibility of Christians to see the Jewish people as not only our friends worthy of our protection, those made in the image of God whose lives are to be defended, but also we are to understand Israel as the vessel of covenant promises onto which we have been engrafted.

Our attitude as Christians towards the Jewish people must be one, and not only respect and love, but also of an understanding in biblical theology of the promises made to Israel, and the recognition that it is we who are honored to have been engrafted onto those covenant promises made ultimately, realize, in the new covenant of Jesus Christ.

Part III

‘Going to Services Shouldn’t Be an Act of Courage’: The Scourge of Anti-Semitism in America and Around the World

But before leaving this issue, we need to recognize antisemitism is not just a deadly virus of the past, not just a sin that was represented in the incalculable horrors of the Holocaust. It is a clear and present danger. Now it is a danger to the Jewish people. Antipathy to the Jewish people can be explained only in biblical terms. This sometimes takes the form of opposition to the very existence of Israel and efforts to try to undermine Israel as a Jewish state. It comes down to a continual form of antisemitism that raises its head sometimes both on the right and on the left. Deborah Lipstadt, that professor at Emory University, I cited just a few moments ago, in an opinion piece written about current antisemitism that was published in The New York Times, points out that it shouldn’t be an act of courage for Jewish people just to go to services, just to appear as Jewish people.

Something that should get our attention is a sentence she wrote in that essay, “For decades, when I got directions to synagogues in countries outside my own, be it Germany, Turkey, Poland, Italy, or Columbia, I would be advised that to make my search easier, I didn’t have to know the precise address. When I got to the street on which the building was situated, I was told I should just look for the police officers with the sub-machine guns. That’s where the synagogue would be. Also bring my passport and be prepared for questions.” Now, she wrote that after a man with British citizenship, with Muslim identity came to the United States and held synagogue attendees in an area north of Fortworth, Texas hostage for hours. Now, when Deborah Lipstadt writes about this in a way that’s so very compelling, we understand that there are many Jewish people around the world who have to live with at the constant fear of this kind of attack.

But surely we would think that this wouldn’t be true in the United States, but the headlines from Colleyville, Texas remind us that that’s a false perception. Just think about the mass murder that took place in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue in the year 2018. Professor Colleyville wrote, “I have not walked through the main entrance to my synagogue since October, 2018, after the shootings in Pittsburgh. For over three years now, that doors remained locked. When I ask why I was told it’s too wide open, it can’t be made secure. I understood.” She wrote, “You won’t find wide open doors at any synagogue in Europe or North America. It’s only after you get past the guards that you find the welcome is still there for those who seek it.” All that just a reminder that our Jewish friends and neighbors know that antisemitism is not just something of the past.

Even as we look at this tragic anniversary of an event that took beside that placid lake outside of Berlin in 1942. For Christians, it’s a reminder that the friends of God, the friends of Christ are the friends of the Jewish people. And we had better keep that very clearly in mind and understand exactly what the stakes are.

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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