The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

It’s Tuesday, March 15th, 2022.

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

Part I

The Moral Clarity of War: Media Rightly Reports Heart Wrenching Story of the Death of Pregnant Mother and Baby as a Result of Russia’s Bombing of Maternity Ward in Mariupol — Using the Word ‘Baby’

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues. The war thus continues. The suffering continues, and this is not just a geopolitical story. It is a deeply human story. And the humanity of the story was made abundantly clear with the Russian attack upon a maternity hospital in the town of Mariupol. And in that town, it is now known there were several deaths and in that attack, we now know at least one pregnant woman died with her baby. So many interesting dimensions to this. The heartbreak is so tangible. It is so real, but I want to note something and that is that the worldwide press got this story right in referencing the woman and her baby.

Just noticed that in so many other contexts, particularly on the issue of abortion, many of those same media sources would go out of their way to avoid the use of the word baby. But as Christians, we understand that even as in the context of something that is morally excruciating, morally clear, reality shows itself in this kind of issue. And you see it in particular, in the grief of parents, when an unborn child dies. You see it in the grief of a community when there is something like this, whether it come by natural evil, or by moral evil, either way, there is no denying the reality that this was a woman and her baby. The baby we are told was delivered by cesarean section, but there were no signs of life.

Again, you just add to the moral complexity of the evil context of this war. And you come to understand that this story is now being replicated over and over again, but at least moral clarity indicates there are many who are getting the words right, the woman and her baby.

Part II

War Exposes the Surrogacy Industry in Ukraine: A Christian Consideration of the Issue

But speaking of babies in this context and babies and Ukraine, there is another dimension to the story that requires some very serious Christian worldview consideration. I have held off discussing this for several days, looking for additional information, doing some research, to find out exactly what we are talking about in the surrogacy industry in Ukraine. Why are so many of these media stories referring to women who are bearing the children of others? The reason is that Ukraine is a major part of the surrogacy industry across the world. And so National Public Radio runs a major story about a man who went to Ukraine in order to obtain his children, twins, who had been born to a surrogate. Now that’s a complicated issue to say the very least. But when you add the context of war, these issues just become more complex.

Ukraine generally requires that both biological parents appear inside Ukraine in order for the government to recognize the transfer of the children and the recognition of parentage. But in the context of war, do the same principles and rules pertain? This one man covered by National Public Radio identified as the father of the twins had gone to Ukraine while the mother was not there. But the issue I want us to think about is surrogate parenting. Here.

There are so many issues in the reproductive revolution that Christians often don’t pause to think about adequately, but here’s a headline. Here’s big news. For instance, the Wall Street Journal ran an article in yesterday’s print edition, headlined, “Babies born to Surrogate Moms are Stranded.” That article is by Isabel Coles. But the reality is we are looking at a huge story here that isn’t just about Ukraine, but as we have seen in so many other dimensions, it is war that brings this moral reality to our attention once again. It’s a good time for us to have a serious consideration, a Christian consideration of this issue.

We need to look at what we’re actually talking about here. The word surrogacy means on behalf of another, someone is a surrogate, a substitute, a stand in, in this case, it is a substitute mother, a substitute womb. This is a part of the modern reproductive revolution. This is something that was not possible, just a matter of a couple of decades ago. And certainly in a previous generation. No previous generation would’ve had any idea of what this would’ve meant. In previous ages, there were those who were identified as wet nurses. These were often used by the aristocracy or royalty. They were women who were not the mothers of children who nevertheless tended them even to the point of nursing. But when you use the phrase surrogate mother, you’re actually talking about someone whose reproductive capacity is now borrowed on behalf of others.

Now the Christian worldview tells us that for a married couple, the desire for a child is right. A married couple should desire. A child and marriage comes with the promise of children. But as we know that promise is not always realized. And there are couples who struggle with infertility or other issues in terms of pregnancy. And the reality is that this entire reproductive revolution has arisen at least in part because of the righteous hunger of so many couples for children. But the Christian world view reminds us that a righteous urge can often become the cause for a less righteous response that also get to the issue of moral complexity. This is going to require us to think very seriously for a few moments here.

The Christian worldview tells us that marriage comes with the promise of goods. This means moral goods and those moral goods include companionship. They include the conjugal relationship between the husband and the wife. They also include the possibility of children, in most cases, in the realization of the promise of children. And that promise is an expectation. But the Christian worldview also reminds us of the indivisibility of those goods. That is to say, when God gives us something, including the institution of marriage, we are to take it whole, not to try to isolate the goods we want from goods we might not want.

Now, for example, that means duration. One of the goods, one of the moral goods of marriage as God gave it to humanity is its endurance. It is to be a covenant that is not broken or violated until death do we part. And one of the things we need to note is that when a society begins to negotiate a way, the unity of the goods that God has given us, it is often in the name of one thing that leads to something else.

So just to give an example, you have a society that says, okay, we can redefine marriage in terms of its duration. We can adopt something like no fault divorce, but the next thing you know, you also have a contraceptive revolution and you have a biological reproductive revolution and so you have a married couple who says, “Okay, we want the conjugal relationship without the threat or responsibility of children. We want this, we don’t want that.” And of course you have others who are now saying, “We can redefine marriage in terms of number. We can redefine marriage in terms of exclusivity. We can redefine marriage in any way you want.” Which just gets to another Christian principle, which is once you begin to renegotiate something God has given in objective form, there is no end to the mischief that will result.

So we begin with the understanding that the desire for children on the part of a married couple is righteous. But does that mean that that married couple could go to any extent, could use any technology, could apply any means in order to obtain a child? Well, Christian moral reasoning says, “No, that can’t be true.” But what we’re talking about with surrogate parenting or surrogate motherhood is something that could only be possible with the development of several reproductive technologies, most importantly, in vitro fertilization.

So what makes this different than arrangements that might have taken place in the past is that you were talking about a new technology that takes place in a laboratory in which the male and the female cells are coming together, not by means of the conjugal relationship, but rather by means of the laboratory context and embryos than result. Now we’re not just looking at the issue of IVF or in vitro fertilization right now, that would take even more time. That’s a good consideration for the future. We are talking about the next step in which those embryos are transferred, not into the mother, the donor of the genetic material of the female eggs, but rather to someone else.

Now that someone else has to be female and that someone else has to be able to receive the implanted embryo or embryos, and then host the gestation of that baby until successful birth. That’s what surrogate parenting is all about. That surrogate mothering actually takes place in general terms by means of a contract. And so you’re not usually talking about the surrogate being a woman who is known by the couple, it has relationship to them. No. In general terms these days, it is an industry and it’s a global industry because actually as you look at these news reports, it is about American people and European people who are now wondering how they’re going to get their own biological children out of Ukraine when those biological children are now gestating in a surrogate mother or are about to be born or just have been born in Ukraine and the mother, the birth mother in this case is a surrogate, not the genetic mother. And you have the genetic father and the genetic mother now wanting to take custody of, and assume parentage of these babies.

That article in yesterday’s pre edition of the wall street journal by Isabel Coles begins this way, “In the basement beneath one apartment block in Kyiv, 19 newborns lie in plastic cuts. Their cries mingling with the blare of air raid sirens warning of incoming Russian strike.”

The article goes on to tell us, “The war in Ukraine has prevented their biological parents in Canada, Germany, France, and elsewhere from claiming babies born via the country’s mini surrogate mothers.” Now the Wall Street Journal tells us something that has been known for some time. The United States is perhaps the big market for surrogacy, but the second biggest market might well be Ukraine.

Now, is there a cultural reason for that? The likelihood is that the most important issue has to do with the legal context and the need of many young women for money. It is a money business. It is a financial transaction. And if you know anything about the surrogacy industry you know that it is often something that is outlawed in many countries, but the countries in which it is legal, it basically shows up as a contract business. And I often refer to the fact that the United States is right now, the wild, wild west of modern reproductive technologies with very, very little law. You also have other countries that are more like the United States. Ukraine, at least prior to the Russian invasion, had a more wide open legal opportunity, along with a population of women of childbearing age who have been willing to serve in this industry.

There’s a very range paragraph in this Wall Street Journal article that tells us a great deal without intending to do so. The article says, “Natural disasters, geopolitical upheaval, and most recently the pandemic have jolted the surrogacy market in Ukraine and other countries over the years.” The surrogacy market. So now we understand this is business and it is make no mistake, big business, but the Christian concern about it is not primarily the economics. It is the morality of the entire question of surrogacy.

Now, if Christians ask the question, is the use of a surrogate mother legitimate or illegitimate? Is it ever legitimate? Is it always illegitimate? The answer in general terms that would come through Christian reasoning based in scripture throughout the centuries would be, it is extremely suspect in moral terms. It would be difficult to understand how it how you could have many moral complications overcome in the context of surrogacy. It changes the entire definition of what it means to have a baby. I want to be clear. There are many couples, married couples who righteously desire a child and I would want and pray for them the realization of that hope. But again, all Christians would agree that there are at least some opportunities given the modern confusion to have a baby that would be clearly illegitimate.

So how does the Christian reason about this? It goes back to the unity of the goodness of what God has given us and the unity of marriage, the unity of the conjugal relationship between the husband and the wife, the gift of children is natural. Now, anything beyond that represents an abstraction. Now some of those abstractions are less morally consequential, but the big issue here is that the more complex, the more abstract the relationship becomes or the mechanism becomes, the more morally suspect it is. And just consider the fact that when you’re talking about a surrogate mother, you’re talking about a real human being made in God’s image. She is not intended to the glory of God to be a rent-a-womb.

Just about every birth mother will tell you about the experience of coming to know the child within it cannot be merely a product that child, it is a person, and it is a person who is developing or in the case of twins, it is persons who are developing within the womb and it is not only impossible and implausible to believe that there is no relationship there. It would be intellectually dishonest. It would be morally ruinous if there is no relationship there. So how does that relationship work out when you are looking at an industry that invites persons in European nations and in the United States to arrange for a woman they don’t know in a foreign land like Ukraine, who is often suffering from economic deprivation and is looking for a means of income and she is offered income by means of a contract with another couple who will pay to have their embryos transferred by laboratory into this surrogate mother in order that she would bear their children until the moment of birth when she would surrender them.

Now, another aspect of the Christian worldview that is helpful to us is that when you are looking at this kind of abstraction, which is the danger, the more you abstract, anything from its natural context that God has given us, the more moral risk you take on. That’s just a fact. When you’re looking at surrogacy, you have gone way, way up the scale of that moral risk. But the complexity itself often points to the problem. Here you have babies who are being born in Ukraine, but were being told they are French or Swiss or American babies. And they have just been born to a Ukrainian mother in a Ukrainian hospital. And you have people from other nations saying those are our children, and we must get them and evacuate them out of Ukraine.

Just to make the point clear. One of the issues is that no prior generation of human beings throughout all of human history could have even contemplated what we’re talking about here. It’s a fascinating issue, it’s a morally troubling issue. It’s a very revealing question, but it’s also something that needs to end on a different note. And that is this, and this is something Christians need to think about. And this always needs to be the last word on this kind of issue. And that is that even though many of these reproductive technologies are morally suspect, even though there are clearly some wrong ways for a child to be brought into the world. And you could start that, looking at issues of adultery and premarital sex for example. The thing we need to remember, the most important thing we need to remember is that the child himself, herself is never morally suspect.

The technology, the relationship, the act, the context that brought this life into being in human terms that may often be morally suspect, but there is no child that is morally suspect. That said, we as Christians need to understand that the language, the vocabulary of illegitimacy should never be attached to a child to a person ever. There are of course, many illegitimate means of bringing a baby into the world. But here’s what Christians know, based upon the consistent affirmation of Scripture, there is not, and has never been and will never be a baby who is himself or herself illegitimate. That baby is to be received, made in the image of God, as the gift of life. The baby is to be received as a good, even if the mechanism that brought that baby into life cannot be given the same verdict.

Part III

Socially Responsible Military Investments? Coming to a Socially Conscious Fund In Your Portfolio? The Left Grapples (Again) with the Moral Quandary of Defense Industries

But next, even as we’re thinking about the morality of war, fascinating article just appeared in the New York Times at recent days, it’s in the business section and it’s by Jeff Summer. And the headline is this, “War Prompts a Pitch for Socially Responsible Military Stocks.” Again, a very interesting article because what you have here is attention to an issue that drives us to the letters ESG. Now that means environmental social governance, and it refers to funds that say they are morally screened generally from a leftist direction.

So you have so many of these funds who are advertising themselves to be socially responsible. And over the last several decades, one of the sectors most routinely excluded from these rather progressive socially responsible funds has been defense contractors, the weapons industry, et cetera, but now all of a sudden, some of the leaders of those funds and some of the customers of those funds are asking the question, well, if the war in Ukraine is right and Ukraine needs weapons, maybe there would be acceptable investments in companies making the right kind of weapons for the right kind of reasons, the right kind of companies. And so this article in the New York Times says that the war has created an opportunity for at least some people to try to sell socially responsible military stocks.

Now, again, this is an issue that is coming primarily from the left, but here’s where the story gets really, really interesting. Once again, a paragraph in the article draws our attention to the quandary. After being told that there is now this urge, and by the way, this might be based upon just the understanding that there’s a great capitalist opportunity right now in these stocks. Nonetheless, here’s the paragraph that should have our attention. Speaking of those who are trying to bring about this kind of inclusion, we read, “They considered that until now many people with a progressive belt have rejected these arguments largely because of an elephant in the room.” Analytics at Citi Bank were cited. They said, “Stated simply, most defense companies have within their product range, arms technologies ammunitions, which are ultimately designed to harm incapacitate or kill humans.” They added, “The phrase, defense exports, will likely make ESG investors uneasy.” The Times then says, “One way of making arms exports more palatable they suggested is to point out that they have been scrutinized and approved by a democratically elected government.”

Now what should have our attention there? It is somehow shocking to some people that weapons manufacturers, manufacture weapons. Now Christians recognize any number of moral dimensions and moral complexities in our investments but we also understand that in a real world, real weapons are necessary. And thus, as you think about a morally screened fund, there would be good biblical grounds for understanding that the necessity of weapons in a war of violence in order to restrain that violence and to restrain aggression and defend human lives and human values, that would lead to an understanding that it could be not only acceptable, but righteous to invest in certain companies making certain kinds of defense products.

But it is really interesting here that the left has been so resistant. And now all of a sudden they’re thinking maybe we kind of over argued our case, but we also understand the problem. There is so much confusion on the left side of the equation as to when and under what conditions war might actually be justified. There can be no question. They think that Ukraine’s been invaded and has the right to fight back, but fight back with what, weapons? Turns out that weapons are weaponry.

One person from the left, who doesn’t like this at all said,” At a certain point when you start labeling things like weapons as sustainable investing or socially responsible investing or ESG, you will find that you are on a slippery slope.” He said. The Times then summarizes that this way, “Defending Ukraine or bolstering NATO defenses may have great appeal right now, but it may make more sense to simply call it what it is, military spending and not try to give it the same gloss as a project to stop global warming or reduce income inequality, or advance social justice or whatever else you may really consider socially responsible.”

The insanity in all this is arguing that those issues will matter if you are invaded and your life is terminated, so much at that point for trying to stop global warming. Jesus, you will recall said blessed are the peacemakers, but remember sometimes peacemakers have to use weapons in order to achieve and keep the peace. That’s a reality in a sinful and a fallen world. And in a sinful and fallen world, you want the right weapons to be in the right hands for the right reasons at the right moment, or to put it another way, just remember that President Zelenskyy famously, very famously now said, “I don’t need a ride. I need ammunition.” My guess is that right now, he doesn’t need a socially responsible mutual fund either.

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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