The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

It’s Wednesday, February 16th, 2022.

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

Part I

A Drama With Life and Death Hanging in the Balance: Vermont Pushes to Become First State to Present Constitutional Amendment Establishing Abortion Rights

We all know that the abortion issue is squarely before the United States Supreme Court again. As in the Roe v. Wade decision 1973, as in the Casey decision 1992, the Dobbs decision, as it will be known in the year 2022 will be momentous. Pro-life Americans for the first time in a long time have the very real hope that we will see a reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision. But there are reminders of where that would then put us as a nation. It doesn’t mean that abortion would be made illegal coast to coast. It means that the question would be returned to the situation before Roe v. Wade, which means the issue would be returned to the states, and that means that we would go from one major battle over pro-life issues at the national level, with 50 different arenas thereafter, to 50 different contests in 50 different states.

Now, that’s true, but we also have to recognize that an incredible number of states are very pro-abortion and we have other states that are very pro-life, anti-abortion. So there are some states that already have trigger laws in effect to outlaw abortion nearly entirely if not comprehensively as soon as Roe v. Wade may be reversed. But you have other states on the other side, states like New Jersey, Rhode Island, Illinois, states that have been rushing to pass the most aggressively pro-abortion legislation imaginable. And then that takes us to the state of Vermont, a reminder of the kind of battle we’re going to face in the future in the defense of unborn human life. And this is something that is now going to go before the voters of Vermont, a constitutional amendment granting abortion rights in that state.

Now, to say Vermont is to remind ourselves that there are vast worldview implications at play here. It’s going to be good for us to think of about some of them. First of all, history. To say Vermont is to say a lot of history, most of the history of the United States, even the pre-history of the Revolutionary Era. To say Vermont is to remind ourselves of New England and of the fact that demographics matter as well as history. You’re talking about one of the regions in the United States that as a part of New England later became one of the most secular and liberal parts of the United States. It had been overwhelmingly more conservative, but various events, culture shaping influences led to the fact that New England became very, very secular. In one sense, New England in the United States is the part of our country that is most legitimately post-Christian.

If you compare the northeast to the northwest, both very secular, but the northwest, partly because of history, partly because of geography, never was Christianized or congregationalized as was New England, with many of those original colonies and states basically being defined by the majority religion. But we are talking about New England now and we’re talking about Vermont, and all you have to say when you think about Vermont is Senator Bernie Sanders, who after all is an openly avowed Democratic Socialist. He was the rather well known mayor of a very liberal city there in Vermont and, of course, he is now in the United States Senate. But to say Vermont is to say something else these days. As the Washington Post reported, and I quote, “Vermont lawmakers voted to move forward on a constitutional amendment that would guarantee the right to abortion and contraception, the first amendment of its kind in the United States.”

The paper goes on to tell us that the vote in the Vermont House was 107 to 41 for the proposed amendment. It’s known as Proposition 5, and given Vermont’s constitutional system as a state, this means that after the legislative action, this is now going to be sent to the voters as a proposition in November of this year. So we’re looking at huge news in November of this year in the midterm elections, the composition of Congress, the majority of the Governor’s seats in the nation, but we’re also going to be looking at the issue of this Constitutional amendment, Proposition in Vermont. Will Vermont become the first state to put in its state Constitution an absolute guarantee to abortion? You hear that as a big issue. I affirm this is a very big issue. But now looking at worldview issues and how so many of these issues come together, New England in this case is a more significant get modifier than Republican.

And so as you’re looking at the Vermont Republican Governor, Phil Scott, he in opposition to the larger Republican understanding and platform position on abortion, is for this constitutional amendment. He is for the ensconcing and establishing of abortion rights in the Vermont Constitution. He’s for putting it before the voters. There’s a larger national context, as Caroline Kitchener, reporter for the Post reminds us, “The proposal is part of a wave of abortion rights legislation to emerge in Democratic states this year ahead of a key Supreme Court ruling an abortion expected in the summer.” Now, it’s also interesting just to note that short of a constitutional amendment, since the recent threats as the pro-abortion movement would see it to abortion rights, 15 states have passed laws that affirm the right to abortion even if the Supreme Court should reverse Roe v. Wade.

Now, more states will have legal abortion. These are 15 states that have passed recent and very clear legislation ensconcing a woman’s right to abortion. Now, by the way, some of these are so old as to actually use the word woman. Get with the program, states. The Left has now outgrown the ability to use the word woman. One Republican lawmaker in Vermont very clearly opposes this proposed Constitutional amendment. That would be State Representative Anne Donahue, and she said perceptively that lawmakers are working on the assumption, by adding pro-abortion rights to Vermont’s Constitution, they are making the assumption that the mind of Vermont will not change on the issue. She said, “We as human beings have made a lot of mistakes at times when we thought we were doing the right thing.” She spoke about prior rulings by the Supreme Court on segregation and eugenics. She said, “When we start putting a current belief in the Constitution, I think we’re playing with fire.”

Well, that’s an interesting argument, but it’s not likely to get much traction in a state that is so ideologically and morally liberal and so committed to abortion rights. We’re going to be watching what goes on in Vermont very closely. It’s going to be very interesting to see the kinds of arguments that are being made. It’s also going to be very interesting, first of all, most importantly, to find out how the Supreme Court eventually rules before it goes into its summer recess. Then we’re going to be watching how that does or does not change the electoral dynamic in the state of Vermont, how it does and does not change the momentum and the context of this proposed constitutional amendment. It’s going to be a fascinating drama to watch.

And, of course, Christians understand it’s not just a drama, it’s a drama with actual life and death hanging in the balance.

Part II

Culture of Death Comes with an Industry: California Declares Itself Sanctuary State for Abortion with Roe v. Wade in the Crosshairs

There are other very ominous developments we need to watch and this tells you a great deal about the worldview divide in the United States. Take a state like California. California sees the opportunity of a reversal of Roe v. Wade as an awful thing in political and moral terms. It is overwhelmingly pro-abortion, particularly in state government. But when it comes to the reversal of Roe v. Wade, it also sees a potential commercial opportunity. That’s right, the culture of death comes with an industry of abortion, and there are vast millions of dollars involved in that industry. There are vast millions of dollars in the culture of death with all kinds of peripheral issues. California has declared that it intends to be what it calls a sanctuary state for abortion. Let’s just cut to the quick, that means that the state of California sees a commercial and moral political opportunity in a changed landscape on abortion at the national level. It sees the opportunity to become something like an industry leader in abortion.

There are indications that states like Illinois may be attempting something very similar. And just understand, there is big money here. There’s big money for organizations like Planned Parenthood. Just look at the exposes that have taken place in recent years showing the flow of funds. We are talking about the culture of death, and the culture of death runs not only on deadly ideology, it runs on deadly, bloody cash.

Part III

The Consequence of Creation Unraveled by Human Sin: China Faces Catastrophic Birth Rate and All of a Sudden Wants to Limit Abortion

But then we need to understand how the culture of death might try at times to pivot. But here’s one of the lessons we need to understand. Once you have embraced the culture of death, it is very, very difficult to get back and it’s virtually impossible to escape from the culture of death if you continue to accept its fundamental premise. That is the problem in China. So many problems in China, but one of the interesting headlines coming out of China in recent days actually is not about the Olympics, an issue to which we will have to return.

It is about the declining birth rate and the falling population there in China, which actually poses the greatest existential threat to the future of China as a civilization and as a nation. Its greatest threat is the fact that its people aren’t having babies. But wait just a minute, wasn’t that the effort, wasn’t that the aim of China over the course of the last decades of the 20th century? Wasn’t China worried about having too many mouths to feed? And so didn’t it use Draconian, horribly immoral efforts to try to cause a falling birth rate? Yes it did. China’s absolutely totalitarian One Child Only Policy actually legalized a limit of a married couple to one child. And in order to enforce that, the national surveillance state there in China went into the private lives of citizens. There were forced sterilizations. There were forced uses of contraception. There were forced abortions and it is now well attested there were forced instances of infanticide in order to keep the birth rate down, to keep the population down.

But here’s something Christians need to recognize. The comprehensiveness of the Christian worldview reminds us that when God gives us good gifts, most importantly, as in creation, they come as a whole. They don’t come as separate parts. So you try to take this part away and you injure the whole to the extent that it’s like pulling a thread out of a fabric. Now, that’s exactly what we have in the modern rebellion. But, of course, it’s not all that modern in one sense. Modernity has given the technology. The sinful impulses go back to Genesis 3. But the advent of modern totalitarian government, the surveillance state, and, of course, all the contraceptive revolution and surgical procedures, including mass abortion, all of that requires modernity. And China in this sense is absolutely committed to modernity.

It’s also absolutely committed to the culture of death, but it has an abortion problem. And now the headlines are coming out of Beijing that the Chinese Communist Party dominated government wants to cut China’s high abortion rate. As the Wall Street Journal reports, “China is stepping up efforts to reduce abortions in young women.” By the way, you’ll notice women again mentioned here. And then we are told this is signaling “a shift in official attitude toward a widely used procedure that has long been part of state directed family planning.” Later, we are told in the report from the Journal, “The wording in the plan comes as China faces rapidly declining births. China now allows couples to have three children, a shift from the decades long One Child Policy, one legacy of which is a dwindling number of women of child-bearing age.

Now, halt. Just wait a minute. That’s an astounding statement. The Wall Street Journal makes it and it just moves on. We need to camp out here for just a moment because here is something that reminds us of what happens when human sinfulness invades and creation is basically unraveled by human sin. So just look at this for a moment. We are told that China has a rapidly, disastrously declining birth rate. As we have mentioned before, the birth rate crisis is even worse in a country like Japan, but China is looking at catastrophe on a far larger scale. So China having tried to prevent births by all kinds of immoral means for decades, now wants to encourage births. But it turns out it is far easier in this sense to stop births than to create them and to encourage them. And here’s the other thing, just notice something. The statement is made that one of China’s problems is that there aren’t enough women of child-bearing age.

There aren’t enough women of child-bearing age, whose fault would that be? It would be the fault of the very government that is now identifying the problem and crying out in crisis. It would be the very Chinese Communist Party that has been in control of that totalitarian regime and has forced its materialistic, godless ideology on the entire country, convincing the country that human life is nothing more than a naturalistic, materialistic reality and process. There is no particular human dignity, that human rights in this sense are a Western abstraction based upon a Western worldview that China repudiates. But China now has a problem that is reducible to math, not enough people. And to overcome that you have another problem, not enough women of child-bearing age.

Now, about 20 years ago, the issue arose in China. Given China’s preference civilizationally and culturally for males and for the birth of boys, we now know that something like a genocide has been carried out against baby girls, and this was made even more effective by the development of ultrasound technology. But we also know that it was extended into infanticide. Now, the math here is actually pretty interesting because if you are taking a natural sample of pregnancies and live births, we are told that, that natural sample is going to be something like 50%, 51%, 52% male and something like 48% creeping up to 50% female. And you say, “Well, why wouldn’t it be half and half? Well, evolutionists would come back and say, “It’s not half and half because fewer boys survive. By the time you go along the age span, more girls survive than boys.” And so if you are an evolutionist, you’re just going to say that in a natural distribution evidently there are more males because it takes more male babies to get more adult males, at least for as long as it takes them to reproduce.

But in some regions in China and other nations as well the distribution of birth comes very much closer to something like 60/40. Now, 60/40 is not produced by any kind of natural distribution. 60/40 means there is some intervention in the womb or in the cradle to create these numbers. But this is where the Christian worldview reminds us that sin comes with consequences that simply don’t go away, even in the demography of a nation. So let’s say you adopt something like a One Child Only Policy, as evil as that would be. And then you add that to a preference for boys. Then you add that to the culture of death and you end up with decades of having more boys than girls. Well, that means have more men than young women when young people reach the age of appropriate marriage, and that means there aren’t enough brides. So there has been the problem throughout much of Asia, but particularly in China, of young men referred to as broken branches.

Now, they’re called broken branches because it means the family tree will break off at this branch. But the problem of an insufficient number of people in the first place, but also of young women, dramatically now points to the fact that this isn’t a problem that can simply be resolved. Government, even a totalitarian government like China, cannot create 20 year old young women. It is far beyond their imagination or power. Instead, they have to try to figure out how to have more babies with fewer women even as they have been incentivizing women not to have babies and even threatening women not to have more than one baby for decades. Here’s something else we can see in China, and this comes with ramifications for Western civilizations as well.

Once you begin to inculcate in your culture an understanding of the role of women that is not tied to marriage and motherhood, then you get exactly what you ask for. You end up with a generation or generations of young women who have been told that their picture of the good life is not to be tied to marriage or to motherhood, or if that is a part of their picture, it is by their choice on their timing according to their own understanding of how this does or does not lead to their own increased self-fulfillment. Now, trust me, I am not throwing young women under the bus on this because young men have already been there in terms of accepting the ideology of self-fulfillment and of autonomy and of this kind of moral liberty. And so what you now have is the fact that young women are acting like young men in so many of these areas and that is disastrous for civilization.

So we will transition from this issue looking at China, looking at Vermont, looking, frankly, locally and internationally on this issue. Just a lot to watch. Massive worldview consequences at home and abroad.

Part IV

Once Information Exists, It Will Be Used: The Surveillance State Is Rising, and the Threats Are Real

But speaking of at home and abroad, I want to come to an issue that many Christians probably don’t think about very often. I mentioned China and the surveillance state, but I think American Christians or Christians in much of the world and the West, think of surveillance as something that might be an irritation, but they fail to see, we sometimes fail to see the direct threat that the emergence of a surveillance state will pose to Christian liberties, to human liberties, to human rights, to freedom as we know it in the American compact.

A news story emerged in recent days and I held it for a few days intentionally because, as I think about The Briefing, at times, I want to see the response to certain news stories or the lack of response, because that also comes with an incredible indication of the operant worldview. In this case, it is the lack of attention. There has been so little attention, so little pushback, so little conversation. Just consider this headline. It ran on February 8th in the Wall Street Journal. Similar headlines ran in the Washington Post, in the New York Times so we’re talking about the ultimate mainstream media here. The Wall Street Journal’s headline was this, “IRS Ends Use Of Facial Scans To ID Taxpayers.” Now, again, this is not The Onion. We’re not talking about satire. We’re talking about the Wall Street Journal. We’re talking about an actual headline. Why aren’t Americans talking about this?

Richard Rubin and Laura Sanders for the Wall Street Journal tell us, “The Internal Revenue Service is scrapping its use of a private facial recognition system to authenticate taxpayers identities for online accounts, the agency said, after criticism from lawmakers in both parties over privacy concerns. IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said, “Everyone should feel comfortable with how personal information is secured and we are quickly pursuing short-term options that do not involve facial recognition.” Now, wait a minute. That means they were pursuing means that did include facial recognition. The IRS, our government, were you aware of that? The journal explains, “The IRS has been using the service from a company called for people to validate and verify their identities before opening online accounts and accessing sensitive personal tax data. The agency was also planning to phase out access to online accounts except through starting this summer. referred question to the IRS.”

Okay, so you didn’t have to use this system yet in order to file your taxes, but if you wanted to access certain information in your accounts, you got privileged access by using this system and the IRS intended to make you use this system within a short amount of time. There was bipartisan kickback. There was a good deal of pushback from lawmakers. And that included figures such as Senator Mike Crapo, Republican of Idaho, and Ron Wyden, Democratic Senator of Oregon. You don’t often see those two, for instance, on the same side of a concern or an issue. That tells you something here. But the bigger issue is who’s not talking about this, and that means not just other lawmakers. It doesn’t just mean other opinion makers. It also means you. It means all of us who simply have not responded to this with the kind of outrage that you would expect from Americans given at least past American reservations about any kind of government surveillance, not to mention facial recognition software.

But then again, how many Americans have just decided, “This is inevitable and so our government’s probably doing this anyway. But for that matter, so probably is the convenience store down the street, so what of it?” Well, you better ask that question very carefully when you consider how that kind of facial recognition software is being used to shut down human rights, to shut down human freedoms in a system of social credit under the Communist regime in China. And if that technology can be used that way there, that technology can be used this way here. And don’t fool yourselves. On many liberal American universities and many places where you would have an effort to try to shut down certain persons from being on the campus, certain voices from being heard, certain articles from being run, certain podcasts from being available, this kind of technology would be extremely effective, not to mention noticing for one reason or another who does or does not go to which church or for that matter synagogue or mosque at any given time.

But it’s also interesting to see that one of the main concerns driven by many of the politicians when it came to the IRS wasn’t just that the IRS was doing it or had hired this third party firm to conduct this surveillance, but that they were worried about the security of the information. Here’s where we need to be concerned about the fact that the concern is just about the security of the information. What about the existence of the information? Christians need to understand that once information exists, a principle of life is that it will be used. And then, as we bring this to a close, we’re looking at declining birth rates that are catastrophic in much of the world, and I mentioned Japan. We’re talking about the surveillance state. The intersection of those two come when you understand that in Japan there are not enough human beings to take care of the elderly and so we’ve looked at the development of robotics in Japanese nursing homes.

By the way, the demographic turning point of significance in Japan is indicated in at least one statistic that you may not have heard. And that is that, in Japan, the diaper sales for adults outstrips diaper sales for infants. If you’re in that position as a country, you just might have a problem. But now, a duo of reporters for the New York Times tells us that Japan is looking to watch out for wayward seniors who might be suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s by using surveillance technology in order to track their movements. The headline in the Times is this, “Japan Looks To Surveillance To Keep An Eye On Its Elderly.” The subhead, “The Grayest Country Is Deploying Electronic Eyes To Protect The Wandering And The Lost.” But the Orwellian overtones are unmissable. Well, you bet they are. Those Orwellian undertones are everywhere you look in this kind of article, everywhere.

The Times notes this, “The monitoring of older people has deepened questions of consent as electronic surveillance systems have become a fixture worldwide applied broadly, both in wealthy open nations like the United States and Britain and in authoritarian ones like China.” But, finally, we turned to a headline from yesterday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal, “Texas Sues Meta Over Facebook’s Facial Technology.” John D. McKinnon is the reporter in this story. Again, it takes us to the same basic threat. Here you have the state of Texas filing suit against Meta Platforms and in particular Facebook for having collected data in violation of Texas law. The Texas Attorney General accused the company of 10s of millions of violations of Texas law. Again, 10s of millions of violations. He said, “Facebook has been secretly harvesting Texan’s most personal information, photos, and videos for its own corporate profit. Texas law has prohibited such harvesting without informed consent for over 20 years.”

Meta said that the charges are without merit, but the Journal then says this, “Meta said that before it decided to shut down its facial recognition system, users were always provided with notice and an opportunity to consent when they use those services.” So before the company decided to shut down its facial recognition system, what it shut down, it can turn back on. There’s no easy answer to all this, but Christians understand that when you technology to a basic opportunity for sin, you should expect sin not only to happen, but to multiply, and with it the dangers.

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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