The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Monday, May 9, 2022

Friday, May 9, 2022

It’s Monday, May 9th, 2022.

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

Part I

A Doomsday Plane and Ominous Message?: Vladimir Putin Set to Deliver Speech on 77th Anniversary of the Defeat of Nazi Germany

This is going to be an absolutely huge week, both in terms of domestic issues and international affairs. And on the global scene, the big news is likely to be something that takes place today. And that is a speech that is going to be given by Russian president, Vladimir Putin on the 77th anniversary of Russia’s victory along with other allies, of course, including the United States over Nazi Germany, bringing the end to World War II.

Now, if there’s one great patriotic symbol that is shared by virtually all living Russians today in connection with the Russian memory of the 20th century, that would be the victory over Nazi Germany. Now, keep in mind that even as we’re thinking about the global consequences of Nazi Germany, the Nazi threat, remember that the Nazis actually invaded the Soviet Union. They invaded mother Russia.

Now, there’s a complex history behind that, of course, including the fact that Hitler and Stalin had actually adopted a pact at the expense of the Western nations at one point. But by the time the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, it was clear that Adolf Hitler saw a massive opportunity indeed, for what he called Lebensraum living room for Nazi Germany. He needed the land, he needed the bread basket Ukraine, he needed the Soviet Union defeated and much of its territory, a part of the greater German sphere.

So for the Soviet Union, World War II was actually a very different war than it was even for the United States, and even for other Western allies. The Soviet Union lost 27 million people in world War II. 27 million casualties. That’s a scale that is almost unimaginable in Western terms. But the Soviet Union also perpetuated itself by its victory over Nazi Germany. Stalin basically became not only the dictator and totalitarian leader, he became the great patriotic father of the Soviet Union during that period.

So in one sense, you had Nazi Germany representing a direct existential threat to Russia. On the other hand, victory over the Nazis gave Stalin and the Soviets a new lease on life. So what does that have to do with Vladimir Putin standing there before the great cathedral, St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow on this great patriotic occasion? It is because it is a particularly patriotic day. The greatest patriotic day in Russia’s calendar. And it is when we do expect that Vladimir Putin will level charges, not only against Ukraine, perhaps even officially declaring war, clarifying the terms of what he will see as a successful Russian war and invasion of Ukraine, but also offering a warning to the west in general, and the United States in particular.

There are some ominous developments that are already known. For one thing, one particular airplane. The airplane is the so-called doomsday plane, which has never been shown in such a patriotic display in Russia before. It is the plane on which it is believed the Russian president would seek refuge in the event of some kind of total war, including perhaps a nuclear exchange.

The fact that at this time with Russia threatening the use of nuclear weapons, having the president of Russia stand there before a great military parade while the doomsday plane flies over, well, that might actually be a stronger statement than whatever Vladimir Putin actually says today. But that’s likely to make news as well. As we will be considering this week, the war in Ukraine has now reached a point a particular danger in vulnerability for the West, including the United States.

We are coming closer and closer to a direct confrontation between the NATO forces in the West and the United States in particular with Russia. And that is an ominous new development. We’re going to have to be looking closely at that this week. And we’re going to be receiving some unmistakable signals sent by Moscow today. By the time of The Briefing tomorrow, it’s almost certain, there will be a lot to add to this consideration.

Authorities in Moscow connected to the Putin regime are indicating that the Russian president is planning to make Western headlines in his address today. So we’ll be watching that story with you.

Part II

Not So Fast, Let’s Look at the Data: Evaluating Jen Psaki’s Statement that ‘63% Support Roe’ According to Fox News Poll

But as we turn to the domestic scene, the big story continues to be the leak of the draft majority opinion in the Dobbs abortion case leaked from the Supreme Court. The investigation about the nature of the leak continues. But what we’re going to be looking at this week is the fact that the response to the news of this draft and the affirmation that the draft is legitimate, that came from the chief justice of the United States, John G. Roberts, Jr.

That is leading to some very, very significant moments and some incredible statements and some very important analysis that really does demand our attention. I just want to state at this point that future generations are likely to look back to, say, these days, this week, this period of months, between the leak of that document and when the Dobbs decision is handed down by the end of June, future generations, I believe, if the Lord tarries, are going to be looking backwards and understanding that some of the arguments that are being offered right now in these days and weeks, turn out to be the crucial arguments on which the future of the abortion issue in the United States turns.

But as we know as Christians, these issues are all related. And so the abortion issue is not separate from all of the other issues that are currently headline issues and very clear changes in the tectonic landscape of the United States. Some of them coming before the Supreme Court, some of them not. Or at least not yet. It’s hard to exaggerate. I think the importance not to mention the volatility of these issues as they are being debated right now.

Now, last week we had the unusual development of the White House press secretary then, Jen Psaki responding to a question in which the questioner, we now know it was Mona Austin of The Slice News who asked a question citing The Briefing, citing me by name and the White House press secretary responded. When Mona Austin raised the issue that I had mentioned on The Briefing, a criticism of the Biden administration stance on abortion and the fact that the president had basically said that he did not want the states to have any control over the abortion issue. He made that statement standing on the tarmac, waiting to board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews.

But once that issue was raised and the White House press secretary had to respond, Jennifer Psaki said, “And I would say with all due respect to the person you mentioned”–I’m the person–“even a Fox News poll earlier this month showed that 63% of Americans want Roe to stand. So I think that’s actually kind of an outlier position as it relates to the American public.”

Now, when I addressed the White House press secretary’s statement, I had to do so immediately, and I didn’t have the opportunity to have the full understanding of what the Fox News poll that she cited was actually communicating. But now, we have that opportunity. We need to go back and see if the White House press secretary then Jen Psaki is going to raise this Fox News poll and is going to use that as an argument against the Supreme Court striking down the Roe v. Wade decision, we ought at least to understand what that poll did state and how Fox News reported it.

You can count on the fact that Jen Psaki didn’t actually read to those who were there in that press briefing from the Fox News story by Victoria Balara. That story begins with these words, “While more than six in 10 registered voters continue to believe the U.S. Supreme Court should uphold Roe v. Wade, the latest Fox News poll also finds over half favor banning abortions after 15 weeks.”

Now, that might not sound like the breathtaking statement it is, but just wait for a moment. Because consider the fact that the Dobbs case coming before the Supreme Court is exactly over that issue, a ban on abortion after 15 weeks of gestation or pregnancy. So in other words, what the White House press secretary did was simply to take one particular data point out of this poll while ignoring the entire context. That’s pretty much what we assumed she had done, but now we can look at the polling data and see that’s exactly what she did.

Just to generalize about this Fox News poll, and by the way, Fox had it undertaken by a Democratic pollster, Chris Anderson, and a Republican pollster, Darren Shaw. The fact is that this poll basically tells us what most polls on the abortion issue have been telling us for a number of decades. Americans do at this point, favor some kind of a woman’s right to abortion, but they do not favor unrestricted access to abortion.

And once they come to understand what Roe v. Wade is, Roe is actually the very policy on abortion that a vast majority of Americans say that they reject. And that gets to another pattern in this polling. One of the things we need to understand of course, is that we don’t do morality by polling.

The polling is in indicative of the state of the American people at any given time or whatever population is being surveyed or polled. The point is not what should Americans believe, but in this situation, what Americans do believe or at least say they believe. Polling is a vast industry these days. Brands of toilet paper do this kind of polling in order to figure out how to gain consumer advantage. Of course politicians do so.

But if you remember anything about recent election cycles, what you remember is almost assuredly the failure of polls, accurately to predict many races. That would include most spectacularly, the 2016 presidential race in the United States. But even as you’re looking at this, you understand that the polling data is only as good as the methodology behind it, the scientific accuracy of the mathematics involved, but even more importantly, the framing of the questions.

One of the things we see as you think about polling on abortion over the course of the last five decades in the United States, is that it’s far more likely that Americans will support a so-called right to abortion in the abstract, but not in the concrete.

The moment you begin to describe any technique of abortion, most people are against it. The moment you begin to describe the unborn child, increasing numbers of Americans, oppose abortion. Given the overwhelming abortion positivity of the culture around us, particularly in the academic elites and so many political circles. And in particular in Hollywood and in the mainstream media, it’s fairly remarkable that any sizeable number of Americans would have a very well-informed position about abortion in the first place.

And as we’re thinking about criticism here, I would also criticize many evangelical pulpits and churches for failing to address this issue with sufficient clarity so that even the members of many of our churches understand exactly what is at stake when we’re looking at the termination of unborn human life.

Now, I remember the Dobbs case before the Supreme Court only came because the state of Mississippi enacted this legislative ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. And according to the Fox News poll that Jen Psaki mentioned, she didn’t tell you this, 54% of those polled indicated that they would wish for such a law to be adopted in their own state. Even when it comes to the current Texas legislation, which starts even earlier a ban after six weeks according to the same poll that Jen Psaki cited, 50% favor and only 46% oppose.

Again, I wish those numbers were even more dramatic with more in favor and fewer opposed. But the point is that is still a larger number in opposition than in support, even for a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. So one of the lessons here for Christians is that when we make the issue tangible and when we make the question clear, more Americans show up opposed to abortion. More Americans show up in an increasingly pro-life conviction.

Now, that news tells us something. Number one, it tells us that there is a great opportunity here. But it also tells us there’s an enormous job for us to do here. There’s an awful lot of education of our neighbors that needs to be undertaken here. There’s a great deal of education that needs to be directed to our own families and to our own children so that they understand what is genuinely at stake here.

Darren Shaw, one of the two pollsters involved in this Fox News poll summarized the results by saying this, “Americans’ opinions on abortion are more nuanced than is often assumed. 60% think abortion should be legal, but with restrictions, the question is where to draw the line end?” What most Americans don’t understand is that the logic of Roe and Casey is basically that there is no line to be drawn. And furthermore, even as you’re thinking about, say, President Joe Biden recognize that he and his party now support virtually absolutely no limitation whatsoever on abortion at any point up until the moment of birth.

You have to wonder not only how many Republicans know that, but how many people consider themselves Democrats actually know that and recognize that the extremism on the question of abortion is found right there.

Part III

Biden Administration Continues Commitment to Sexual Revolution as It Celebrates First Openly LGBTQ Person to Serve as Whitehouse Press Secretary

By the way, it’s also significant to mention that Jen Psaki is no longer the White House press secretary. She was followed in that role just days ago by Karine Jean-Pierre, who is identified in the media as “the first openly LGBTQ White House press secretary.”

Other reports indicate that she is both the first black person to hold that role and the first openly LGBTQ person to hold that role. She has also identified therein Washington as having a relationship with CNN journalist, Suzanne Malvo. An interesting comment about this was made by the openly LGBTQ columnist, LZ Granderson in the Los Angeles Times. And as he said, “Representation matters,” he wrote, “For nearly 100 years from the appointment of the first press secretary George Akerson in 1929 to Jim Psaki in 2020, there has never been an openly queer person entrusted with that responsibility.” It’s also important to recognize the White House in making the announcement made a great deal about that representation.

Part IV

Liberal Hermeneutics, Liberal Theology, and Liberal Politics: Your Reading of Scripture Eventually Dictates Your Political Views

Next, we’re going to shift to one of the arguments that has appeared in recent days in the aftermath of that leaked draft opinion by the US Supreme Court on abortion. One of the big issues that has emerged in the headlines has to do with religion and theology and the abortion controversy. And some people have been surprised to know that there are liberal religious people making liberal theological arguments on behalf of abortion.

Newsweek magazine, for instance, ran an article by Matt Keeley. The Headline, “Rabbi Reveals Why Abortion Access is Important and Supported by Scripture.” Now, as you’re looking at this, you recognize that rabbi is identified as Rabbi Daniel Bogard of the Central Reform Congregation. Reform Judaism is one of the three major branches of American Judaism. It is the most liberal of those branches and by liberal, it’s liberal in every way you can imagine.

But it’s also important to recognize that there is a distinction, historically between Judaism and Christianity on the issue of abortion. As you’re thinking about the beginning of life, Christians have been much more clear in answering that question than has been historic Judaism. Now in the Bible, there is plenty of warrant for respect for the unborn, not to mention the personhood of the unborn as reflected in the fact that even the psalmist, David refers back under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the time that he was an inhabitant in his mother’s womb and when his body was being knitted together, and makes very clear that God knew him even as he was in his mother’s womb.

So let’s be clear. The dignity in personhood of the unborn child is very, very clear. But as you’re thinking about historic Christianity, we need to recognize that Christians understood the issue in a different light, understanding that every single human being is made in God’s image. The logic of personhood, human dignity and respect for life eventually resulted in Christians very early coming to very clear pro-life positions and a very clear nearly universal condemnation of abortion make clear in, for example, one of the first teaching documents of ancient Christianity after the age of scripture known as the Didache.

One of the things we need to note is that there is a tie between liberal theology and liberal politics, especially on these moral and social issues. We shouldn’t be surprised about that because scripture and legal and moral tradition in a secular sense over time. Well, if you think about conserving those things, you are not going to be a supporter of same sex marriage. You are not going to be a supporter of abortion rights. Instead, you’re going to be leaning into very old arguments that have had very great traction based upon very deep tradition of moral judgment on these issues.

What is marriage? Again, there has been basically a consensus throughout all of human history, millennia of human history, that it is at the very base, a heterosexual relationship between a man and a woman. Even when there’s been confusion over number in a situation such as polygamy, which by the way is also condemned in scripture and by Christ himself who said that it was God’s plan from the beginning that a man and a woman should be married.

But even if you’re looking at questions and confusion over number or duration, there was no question about the fact that it was heterosexual, a man and a woman, and furthermore, a conjugal union. There was no debate about that. So where you find people in clear violation scripture just don’t be surprised to find liberal theology and liberal positions on these social and moral issues very much connected. And that means just in general terms, liberal theology and liberal politics, they do tend to go hand in hand.

So as you’re thinking about voting patterns, members of the mainline more liberal Protestant churches have a more liberal voting pattern as is reported in sociological research than members of more evangelical churches. And by the way, you see this all the time when there are more liberal authorities who are condemning conservatives and they’ll often speak of American evangelical Christians as being particularly conservative.

Well, in contrast, you have many people in the mainline Protestant denominations that are markedly liberal. But there’s another pattern there to note and that is that the elites and the leadership in many of those liberal denominations tend to actually to be considerably more liberal than many of the members in those denominations.

It is interesting by the way that this particular rabbi cited in Newsweek magazine made the statement, citing a statement by Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi that appeared in the Talmud. That’s identified in this report as “the primary source” of religious law and theology for the Jewish people. It’s a complicated question, but that’s not exactly wrong.

But nonetheless, this particular rabbi said, “A fetus is its mother’s thigh.” Or in other words, part of the pregnant person’s body. That’s the argument made by this very liberal rabbi. Well, the only thing I’m going to mention here, and I’m just going to mention it very quickly, is that in a lot of this ancient literature, thigh is actually a euphemism. I’ll just leave it at that. Let’s move on.

By the way, this rabbi himself recognized the distinction between Judaism and Christianity when it comes to interpreting the scripture and making these judgements. The rabbi said, “Fundamentally Christianity and Judaism operate in really different ways. Judaism has thousands of years of conversations, interpretations, philosophy, legal rulings, precedent that inform the conversation and the understanding of issues rather than an approach,” and here he’s speaking about Christianity, “which is based on how we interpret a particular text.”

Now again, the important thing to recognize here is that even this liberal rabbi recognizes that Christians are at least supposed to be arguing about the interpretation of a particular text. I’ll consider that a very important point made by that rabbi about Christianity. The question of course is how many Christians can claim to continue Christian identity while denying the clear teachings of that particular text.

Meanwhile, at NBC news, a report by Julianne McShane went at the same issue. Headline, some religion support abortion rights. Their leaders are speaking up. It begins again with a rabbi. In this case, a woman rabbi, Rabbi Mara Nathan identifies senior rabbi at Temple Beth-El in San Antonio.

She spoke about a sermon she had given the title of it was, “The Right to Choose is a Jewish Value.” Stating the reason why she gave the sermon, she said, “I do think that religious leaders have a unique role to play in getting the word out and forgetting people to understand that not all religious leaders are against a person’s right to choose.” Persons I want to point out in this quote in NBC news is in brackets indicating a substitution of something else.

Well, a quick look at the actual transcript of the rabbi’s sermon indicates that she used the phrase a woman’s right to choose. She did so repeatedly. Evidently NBC News has edited out a woman’s right to choose and replaced that with a person’s right to choose. Now, that again, tells you a very great deal.

Later, the NBC news report says this, “More than a half dozen major religions and denomination support abortion rights with fewer, some limits conservative and reform Judaism. The Presbyterian Church USA, the Unitarian Universalist Church and the United Church of Christ among others. But many leaders of those faiths says NBC news and religion experts say their positions are often not well known.”

I want to look at the first words in that sentence. You have to wonder how they got past an editor at NBC News. You have to wonder what exactly do these words mean? For example, listen, I’ll read them more slowly. “More than a half dozen major religions and denominations support abortion rights with few or some limits.” What does few or some mean? Some indicates, well, more than few, and the article just doesn’t tell us how many some might mean.

But nonetheless, what you’re looking at is a pattern and the pattern is of liberal religious groups and liberal denominations supporting abortion rights. And by the way that isn’t really new either. That goes back to the 1970s and organizations among liberal Protestants and dissident Catholic nuns, the article recognizes, in organizations known by names, such as a clergy consultation service. That’s a consultation about how to get an abortion, where to get an abortion, from whom to get an abortion.

And speaking of these liberal groups, they really are very liberal groups. The Unitarian Universalists, both of those words, by the way, put them on the far left wing of religion in general, the United Church of Christ. That’s perhaps the most liberal of the mainline Protestant denominations. And we’re told that, that denomination has supported abortion rights since the 1970s.

But the big point for us to recognize is that if you do hold to a liberal theology, which liberates you from the historic teachings of your tradition, and as Christians we would say the most crucial issue is separating or liberating yourself from the historic teaching of the Christian Church such as in the Didache going all the way back to the early church. More importantly, separating from the authority of scripture.

The article cite the Reverend Angela Williams identified as a pastor ordained in the Presbyterian Church, USA, “Which has supported abortion rights since 1970.” We’re told she’s the lead organizer of the Spiritual Alliance of Communities for Reproductive Dignity or, well, it’s spelled out as SACReD. Immediately after she’s identified, the Reverend Angela William says that she and members have a responsibility to, “Walk with folks through all their reproductive decisions, so we can see times where it’s an easy decision and someone says, ‘I’m not going to be pregnant right now.'”

It’s important to recognize that even conservative denomination such as the Southern Baptist Convention really were not clear on this issue when the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down in 1973. The denomination was then under more liberal or more moderate leadership. But I’ll say with gratitude that the issue of abortion was one of the important issues in what became known as the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention and increasing clarity on the biblical and theological imperatives concerning abortion marked the Southern Baptist Convention from the period of the 1980s until the present.

There is no doubt at present where the Southern Baptist Convention stands. Even though there are those who want to resist this generalization, it is just true. And it’s true even as recognized by scholarly research and also even by mainstream media reporting. When you look at conservative theology, there’s a clear tie to conservative politics. When you look at liberal theology, there’s a demonstrable tie to liberal politics.

It is not exact, but the point is it is overwhelmingly predictable. Eventually our deepest principles and our deepest convictions work their way out into our moral judgements and also into our politics. We shouldn’t be surprised about that. Indeed, we should take responsibility for that. That is one of our most important Christian responsibilities this day or in any day.

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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