The Briefing

The Briefing

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

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Transcript

It's Wednesday, February 2nd, 2022.

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

Part

The Pro-Life Movement Cannot Stop Until Every Human Life is Respected: Evaluating the Shifting Abortion Landscape And Its Effect on Upcoming Elections — And the Battles Ahead

The Supreme Court of the United States deals with very few insignificant issues, almost by definition, but the most significant issue right now that is confronting the court is the question of abortion again, let's just remind ourselves that the fact that the abortion issue is at the court is almost entirely the Supreme Court's fault, because of the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, an absolute moral and constitutional disaster.

But now with a very clear conservative majority on the court, the high court is now poised to deal with abortion again. And what's really interesting is that after the filings, in the case, after the court decided to take the case, that takes four justices alone. Then after the oral arguments in the Dobbs case from Mississippi, both sides basically understand that the entire landscape of abortion is about to be reshaped, it's about to be significantly altered, the map is going to be rewritten.

Now, let's be very clear, what conservatives hope for, what Christians hope for is an absolute reversal of Roe v. Wade, anything less than that will be a half measure by the court. Anything less than that will leave the basic immorality, the basic assault upon life, the basic legal fault, the constitutional errors of Roe v. Wade in place. But at the same time, everyone on both sides basically now expects that at the very least states will be given increased authority to pass laws restricting abortion.

So let's just take that for a moment, just considering the fact that at least that much is almost certain to happen, we hope for more, but at least that much is almost certain to happen by say the end of the month of June this year, when the court ends its term, what will that mean for the United States? Well, let's just look at the fact that the most basic issue it will mean is that the issue of abortion is returned to the states, all 50 of them, or at least to a significant extent, it will be returned to the states. By most counts 26 of those states will have outlawed abortion the moment the Supreme court hands down that decision.

The reason for that is that those states have so-called trigger laws, or they have preexisting laws that restrict abortion or completely prohibit abortion. And those laws were either on the books before Roe v. Wade, and they're still there, or they were adopted after Roe v. Wade to be in place in the eventuality that the court would reverse Roe v. Wade.

But as you're counting states, those 26 states represent just over half of all the states, but wait just a minute, that doesn't mean just over half of the American population, because those states are not evenly distributed in population. And as you're looking at the population of the United States, the reality is that two thirds of the population may still generally be in states where abortion is legal if not virtually legal unconditionally. And so you are looking at the fact that it will make a difference in the United States immediately for at least something like a third of the population and for over half of the states, but we can already see some issues developing and this will play a big role inevitably in the midterm elections coming this November.

USA Today has noted this in a front page article in recent days with a headline, "Abortion Debate to Drive Election." David Jackson is the reporter. The subhead says, "With stakes high, groups operate as if Roe is no more." The interesting thing about this article is not so much that it gives us new information, but that he does lay out the shape of the kinds of debates that are likely to come. And the fact that there are two mass movements now in the United States representing two sides in this extremely deep moral divide. You have one side that will be satisfied with nothing less than unrestricted abortion access paid for by the taxpayer, made available to everyone beyond moral question, normalized as if there is no significant moral issue here at all.

The other side, the pro-life side cannot, must not rest until every unborn life is protected, now there's more to the pro-life agenda. And of course that extends also now to the question of euthanasia at the end of life, but the point is there's a lot of work to be done, both sides recognize it, both sides have marshaled enormous constellations of institutions and organizations that are now raising untold millions of dollars in anticipation of a huge fight. And it's not just to fight over abortion law, it's a fight over who makes the laws. This is where we need to have a serious conversation today.

We know that every election is important, we know that elections have consequences. When you think about presidential elections, you can look at the Supreme court of the United States as an inevitable consequence. The resignation or retirement of Justice Steven Breyer opens the seat now to be filled by an appointment made by President Joe Biden, a Democrat, Steven Breyer had been appointed to the Supreme Court by another Democrat Bill Clinton. And even though the court is supposed to be nonpartisan, it is partisan, it has been for a very long time. You can look at the voting records of justices and you can pretty much predict whether or not that justice was appointed by a Republican or a Democratic president. You say it's not supposed to be that way, well, the issues are so deep right now, the predictability according to partisan identification is if not total then comprehensive.

But the point made in this USA Today front page article is quite legitimate and it needs our attention and it is the fact that people on both sides of this issue understand that we will be as a nation and as 50 states in a very long process of adjudicating the issue of abortion and it will matter entirely who is elected to offices. And that means not only the presidency, it means the governorships of the states. Once this question returns to the states, the role of governors is vastly increased. As we think about the importance, the salience of the abortion question.

And it's not just the governors of those states, it's the legislatures of those states. We're looking at the fact that a huge political dynamic and a huge political challenge will confront both sides on this argument. Both sides will have to marshal their best arguments and their best political ability and try to get people to the polls and convince people when they vote to vote according to the issue of abortion.

Now that raises an interesting issue, the historians and political scientists have been looking at which side is actually more likely to vote on the question of abortion as the first issue. Well, clearly it's the conservative side, the issue of abortion thus has benefited the Republican party by the Republican party's identification with the pro-life cause, and pro-lifers are actually more likely to vote for a pro-life candidate and to make that the determinative issue that has been true on the other side.

Now, one of the things you see is that the democratic party and democratic consultants are really scratching their heads to try to figure out if after the Supreme Court rules in the Dobbs case, that will change. And will it mean then that Democrats are more likely to make abortion the top rank issue. Now, let's be clear, the two parties are so divided on this, the eventual shape of the Democratic party is almost entirely pro-abortion. And you may say, well, you should say pro-choice, no, it's pro-abortion. Just look at the positions, look at the documents, look at the platform of the party, it can't be described as pro-choice, it is pro-abortion.

And then you look across the aisle and the contrast is true in the Republican party, there is more to both parties and there is more to the equation of voting, but it's going to be very, very interesting to see if indeed Democrats are able to make the issue of abortion so powerful for their party after the Dobbs decision that they will effectively try to deal with the issue at the states and make the mistake. This means also passing the equivalent of Roe v. Wade in national legislation. If they lose at the court, then they're going to extend incredible energy into winning at the ballot box.

There's big money at stake, for example, this USA Today article tells us that officials with Planned Parenthood "which spent up to 45 million during the 2020 presidential election cycle" said they are still developing a campaign budget for the midterms, but one spokesman for planned parenthood said, "It will be our largest midterm ever" to meet what was described as "a galvanizing moment in the abortion debate."

Now, just think about that money for a moment, 45 million dollars. You wonder about the relationship between planned parenthood and democratic candidates, well, in this case, it's reducible to a number, 45 million dollars. 45 million dollars spent on behalf of pro-abortion candidates in the last presidential election cycle, 45 million dollars is, let's just make very clear, an enormous amount of money.

On the pro-life side, we see in contrast that the Susan B. Anthony list, which offers support for pro-life candidates expended 52 million at the same time. So 45 on one side, 52 on the other, you're talking about together almost 100 million dollars. And this is just two organizations out of a constellation of many organizations on both sides. That tells you something and this is where Christians need to pause for a moment, what does that tell us? It tells us that this issue is of such deep significance to the American voter and to the American political process that both parties will try to find a way to use this issue to their advantage.

Now, the interest of pro-life Christians in this is not, and must not be primarily partisan, but it inevitably does have a partisan dimension, because you're not looking at two parties that offer viable alternative arguments, you're looking at two parties that stand in direct contradiction to the other.

Something else is interesting, spokespersons, looking at this from political strategy suggests that the Supreme court reversing Roe v. Wade will build support, wait just a minute for both parties. Now follow the logic of this, Republicans, especially Republican presidential candidates have been assuring voters that they were committed to the pro-life cause and that they would appoint Supreme court justices who would follow a constitutional doctrine that would render Roe v. Wade unconstitutional, they would defend the sanctity of human life and the integrity of the U.S. Constitution. And thus the argument is that Republicans should be rewarded for having worked so hard and then being faithful and successful in pushing the pro-life cause and in transforming the Supreme court of the United States, helping to build a culture of life and also building a culture of interpretation for the US constitution tied to its actual text.

But the argument in this article is that the mirror image will take place simultaneously, that Democrats will then be making their argument to their base saying, we are the only ones who can restore abortion rights, or at least can protect and contend for abortion rights in all 50 states, you should support us. So we can see how it is likely that the prophecy that abortion will loom large in November's midterm elections is almost assuredly true. It's assuredly true on both sides of the partisan divide. It is assuredly true regardless of exactly how the Supreme Court's majority opinion comes down in June.

Now, from a pro-life perspective and let's just remind ourselves again of the biblical mandate of the pro-life perspective, it is rooted in creation, it's grounded in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. The most important issue is that God made human beings in his image, every single human being is an image bearer, thus every single human life at every point of development since life is God's gift, not some materialistic accident. Every single human life includes that dignity inherently, that's not a dignity that we achieve that's a dignity that we are given by the creator, every single human being.

Let's remind ourselves of the language about the sanctity of human life, people use that language, it doesn't just mean the goodness of human life, it doesn't just mean the benefit of human life, sanctity sanctus goes back to the Latin root for holiness. It is the holiness, the sacredness of human life. And let's just remind ourselves that when we use words like holy and sacred, those are theological words that only make sense in a theological universe.

It is also as Christians understand logical that the main energy and the largest percentage of numbers in the pro-life movement come from Christian context. That is from those who hold to some understanding of a Christian worldview that grounds every single human life in creation by God and as the result of God's gift. But it's really important for us to understand that this is an issue that won't be resolved by the Supreme Court in June, it won't be resolved by the Supreme Court ever.

The Supreme Court reversing Roe v. Wade is necessary, but it is not sufficient to change the morality of the entire nation. That would still leave a majority of Americans living in a state where abortion is going to be legal in some manner. That means that there will be hundreds of thousands of babies aborted, even if the Supreme Court in this case rules as we hope and pray it will rule.

So when the Supreme Court hands down its ruling and if so many of us who've been praying for so much for so long, see the answer to our prayer in that decision, it will not be the end of the journey, it will be the beginning of a new phase in this journey, in the defense of unborn human life.

It doesn't mean that the war is over. it is just one battle, many other battles to follow. As this article makes very clear, 50 states, 50 battles, over and over and over again.

Part

Character in Leadership: Boris Johnson Under Fire for Scandals — Boiling Down to His Inability to Say No

But next, yesterday we talked about the issue of character, it's a hard issue to talk about in a postmodern, post-Christian age, it's a hard issue to talk about concrete terms. We saw yesterday, a former commissioner of baseball call for character to be removed as an issue for the election of individuals to the baseball hall of fame. I suggested that that argument basically falls flat on its face, by the way, Faye Vincent who made that argument did say that the use of steroids should not really be an issue at least if it was legal when it comes to making these decisions, but he said gambling should or at least perhaps ought to be a disqualifying issue.

Well, Mr. Vincent, that is a character issue, if one is the other is, so if you're going to say that character shouldn't matter and then you're going to say, well, maybe gambling should, you just destroyed your own argument? You divided your own thesis in half, one half as it war with the other. When it comes to American politics, American presidential politics, character issues have loomed large. And these have also been very difficult issues, whether it was Bill Clinton in the 1990s or it was Donald Trump in the period from 2016 till the present, we are looking at very difficult questions. And frankly, Christians have a hard time knowing exactly how we are to consider character issues in making so many decisions.

But right now I want to shift from the United States to great Britain and to talk about a major politician there, indeed the prime minister of the United Kingdom of great Britain, we're talking about Boris Johnson, head of what calls itself the Conservative Party. What we need to understand is that Boris Johnson and his party, but in particular Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, he is in very big trouble and character is at the center of his trouble. This is a man who led the Conservative Party to a massive victory in parliamentary elections in 2019, people were talking about Boris Johnson being Prime Minister for about 10 years, a decade of Johnson's leadership in British culture and in British politics.

And Boris Johnson is an almost cartoonish figure in British politics, he had been the foreign minister, now, he wasn't considered a great success at that. His unconventional nature, his out sized personality, his pranks, his sense of humor, his disheveled hair, his immoral lifestyle. All of that basically came together to be a very unhelpful recipe for a foreign minister. But now he's not foreign minister he's boss of the foreign minister, he's the Prime Minister. He came to the attention of many around the world as the mayor of London.

Now, again, he's head of the Conservative Party, but make no mistake, he's not morally conservative, either in his private life or in his public life. He's an ardent defender of LGBTQ issues, the conservative party is not in any genuine sense a pro-life party, it's not a socially conservative party. And that by the way warns us about what could happen in the United States. If the Republican party in the United States follows the example of the Conservative Party in Great Britain, then we will no longer have a Conservative Party.

Just this week Boris Johnson has had to address parliament in question time and defend his very continuation as prime minister. And behind this is a report that comes with 500 pages of evidence, more than 300 photographs. And here's the character issue of Boris Johnson and Boris Johnson's staff, especially in 10 Downing street, which is the British equivalent of the white house having parties with enormous amounts of alcohol being served in the midst of COVID lockdown and COVID restrictions. Now the issue of the COVID restrictions is really not my primary concern today, the issue is the hypocrisy of Boris Johnson handing down, as the head of government, those very rules and then flaunting them.

He didn't attend all these parties, in particular he didn't attend what may be the most controversial of them with British politicians including many members of the Prime Minister's staff, including senior staff gathering for what can only be described as a rather drunken festival the night before the next day, the world watched queen Elizabeth II dressed in black, sitting alone, watching the funeral of her own husband, the late Prince Philip.

In a report in the New York Times, one London nurse got to the heart of the issue, speaking of Boris Johnson looking not so much at what he did or what those around him were allowed to do, but rather the hypocrisy, "He broke his own rules." He required, with police power, the citizens of the United Kingdom to obey those rules, but he and his own staff flaunted the rules.

Now, when you're looking at the issue of character, this is not at this point a liberal conservative issue. This is a pretty clear issue by any moral code, this kind of hypocrisy is fatal for leadership. Now the scandals about Boris Johnson are actually far more numerous even than these parties and the vast amount of alcohol. And by the way, it takes an awful lot of alcohol for the British press to say, there's too much alcohol. It's also the fact that there were questions about renovations made to number 10 Downing Street and who was paying the money and how was that reported? And the scandals concerning Boris Johnson extend into his private life and also to pets, not his pets, but the pets of British people in Afghanistan who were trying to get their animals out while the rest of the world is trying to get human beings out.

But as we're thinking about morality in leadership, the most fascinating analysis, and this is not an accident it's found in The Economist, the most influential publication coming out of London. The Economist ran an article about Boris Johnson and his travails, with the headline, "Yes Man." The subhead is this, "An inability to say 'No,' has led the prime minister to this parlous moment."

An inability to say no. Now we need to know that's a political inability to say no. Under Boris Johnson's leadership, the conservative party has basically decided to push an expansion of the welfare state, he can't say no to government. When it comes to foreign policy, again, not enough no. When comes to his own staff, not enough no. When it comes to his own wife who at least The Economist says is probably behind operation pet rescue from Afghanistan, he was evidently unwilling to say no. When it came to the drunken parties, the parties with all the free flowing alcohol flaunting his own rules, he did not say to his own staff, no.

The Economist summarizes the moral issue here related to character in leadership, "A desire to say yes, built the prime minister's career and may destroy it. The article continues, "A troll through the archives of his predecessors reveals one word scratched again and again, no. The most important part of the top job is to shield the vast power and resources at his disposal from lobbyists hangers on and peddlers of bad ideas. The ministerial code, which Mr. Johnson stands accused of breaching is a list of thou shout nots to govern says the economist is to choose. And more often than not it requires choosing not to."

Now, the master of saying no was the late British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who actually was a conservative and Margaret Thatcher had two statements, very well known in terms of her approach to leadership. One of them was simply, no. She said no often and she made it stick. She made it stick over against the compromisers in her own party that she dismissed as wets. She also had another statement, Tina, T-I-N-A, an acronym for there is no alternative. She said there is one choice that is right and that means that every other choice by definition is wrong. There's one policy that is right, every other policy is wrong.

But when it comes to Boris Johnson, the saddest thing is that his inability to say no, evidently started in the mirror, in his own personal behavior. And that just gets to the point that that kind of loudish outlandish behavior, by the way, it's inconsistent with the leader of let's just remind ourselves the conservative party. It reminds us that conservatism as a political movement has always been about a disposition as well as policies. Boris Johnson has advocated some of those policies, but very little if anything of the disposition, but it is the fact that leadership demands saying no and that means saying no first of all in the mirror.

Couple of last thoughts, by the way, about this. You might say, well, as you're looking at American politics, that would mean the prime minister might be in trouble in the next election, but that would be a wrong assumption, because in Britain's parliamentary system, the citizens don't vote for prime minister, the members of the party and parliament do. And when it comes to deciding who is prime minister and leader of the party, a sufficient number of conservatives could topple Boris Johnson in a matter of days, will they? Time will tell. But when you have this much pressure and this much scandal attached to one person, very rare is the political party that decides we can't do without him.

If just 54 members of parliament from his own party sign a letter, he will face a vote of no confidence and let's face it, once you face that kind of vote of no confidence on these terms, you have already lost the confidence.

Part

The Moral Revolution Meets the Emoji: Apple Announces ‘Pregnant Man’ and ‘Pregnant Person’ Emojis in New Update

But finally today, as we're thinking about how moral revolutions work and how you see them at work, just consider the report that came telling us that Apple's new iOS 15.4 update is going to include emojis of a pregnant man and a pregnant person, not, you'll notice a pregnant woman.

Now, to be clear, there already was a pregnant woman emoji, because that comports with creation and with objective reality and common sense, but now we see how moral revolution in an update of an Apple operating system just has to follow along and now present two new alternatives, a pregnant man, let's just remind ourselves as Christians, there is no such thing and a pregnant person. Let’s remind ourselves also, there is no such thing. There are men and women made in the image of God and only women are able to become pregnant.

So here we have the confluence of two developments that we need to know, one is the development of the emoji, that's the less significant issue here, but a symbol that is supposed to carry meaning. And that's what's really important, that's what symbols do, they carry meaning, you bet this new emoji set carries meaning. The meaning is quite ominous.

The second thing is to recognize that in the midst of this moral revolution, you have people with a straight face who are the very same people saying, trust the science, who are saying trust the fact that a man really can become pregnant and carry a baby.

Our response has to be trust creation, no they can't. Based upon our consideration of this issue and the previous issue and Boris Johnson's inability to say "No," I think that's what we need, an emoji that just communicates, "No."

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can find 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.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me using the contact form. Follow regular updates on Twitter at @albertmohler.

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