The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Thursday, June 23, 2022

It’s Thursday, June 23rd, 2022.

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

Part I

When Will SCOTUS Drop Its Remaining Major Decisions? — A Look at the Landscape as the Big Abortion Decision Nears

All eyes right now are on the Supreme Court of the United States, where it is expected that as early as today and at the latest by sometime next week, the Supreme Court is going to hand down all of its remaining decisions for the current court term. Most importantly, among them, the Dobbs Case, having to do with abortion, a case that comes from the state of Mississippi and a case that could very well reverse the tragic Roe V. Wade decision of 1973.

Now, just to remind ourselves, there was a leaked opinion that came out as a draft, an unprecedented leak from the Supreme Court that indicated that five justices were ready to join in an opinion written by justice, Samuel Alito that would indeed absolutely reverse Roe V. Wade that would return the issue of abortion to the states. More importantly, it would return sanity to the interpretation of the Constitution where, of course, abortion is not mentioned. It is not implied. It is not included. The Supreme Court had followed during the period after World War II and especially in the 1970s and especially as you see in the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, legalizing abortion and forcing that decision nationwide.

And fast forward to the Obergefell decision legalizing same sex marriage in 2015. Of course, those are not rights that are protected in the Constitution, they’re not even imagined in the constitution. They were invented, they were discovered, according to a certain method of interpretation of the Constitution that has been basically one of the main drivers of cultural and moral progressivism in the United States. The larger issue of substantive due process, as it is sometimes called, means seeing in the constitution implications that are not there in the words.

And of course, going back to the invented right of privacy from the 1960s, all the way to the present. Most importantly, most tragically in the Roe v. Wade decision, we understand what is at stake. And we have to keep in mind that America in the year 2022 is very different than America in 1973. And I’m not just talking about demographic change, I’m not just talking about political or say, technological change, I’m talking about moral change over the issue of abortion. In 1973, most Americans really weren’t very concerned about the issue of abortion. And when it comes to most of the states, there was no raging debate over abortion.

But the Supreme Court changed all of that by nationalizing the issue and by forcing on the nation a regime of abortion rights that, of course, the founders, the framers of the Constitution never imagined. And which most Americans hadn’t imagined could be forced upon them by the Supreme Court of the United States. But that happened in January of 1973. January of next year is the 50th anniversary of that tragic decision. But the most important issue before us right now is recognizing that time is running out. The sands in the hourglass are running thin as the days come to a conclusion in this term.

And there are very clear signs coming from Washington DC, that indeed the decision may be released by the Supreme Court as early as this morning. We’ll be watching that with incredible interest. I know you will be, as well.

Part II

Morality, Public Opinion, and Constitutionality: Important Distinctions in the Abortion Debate

Now, one of the things we just need to understand as we’re thinking about the abortion issue is that we see some very interesting developments, very interesting revelations, indeed, in the national conversation about abortion as just about every informed citizen is anticipating the Supreme Court decision.

One of the interesting things we need to note is how people, especially those who are in favor of abortion rights, go back again and again, to two things. Number one, they keep talking about a woman’s right to abortion as if it’s in the Constitution, which it’s not. It’s in Supreme Court jurisprudence until perhaps as early as this morning, at least, we hope and pray so. The second thing they go back to again and again is public opinion. But here’s where we need to think very hard about questions of right or wrong and questions of public opinion and recognize that as much as we wish there would be an absolute overlap, there often is not.

We’re living in a morally confused age. The very presence of sin and the confusion of sin reminds us that as we look at our public conversation, we look at the national media, we may have a conversation with a classmate or a neighbor, the reality is that moral confusion abounds. It is a part of our Christian responsibility to avoid that moral confusion and to think in ways that are not only biblical but consistently biblical. But one of the things you know about public opinion is that it is consistently changing.

Now, I want to point to two different reports from the oldest and perhaps most authoritative of the public opinion organizations in the United States, that is Gallup. It’s most often referred to as the Gallup Poll. The organization is a research organization that does more than polls, but nonetheless, just say the word Gallup, going back to George Gallup, who established the company at the midpoint of the 20th Century. Why are we talking about Gallup? Well, we’re talking about it because of the Dobbs decision looming over us.

And the fact that Gallup has put out a new article, a new research report indicating public opinion in the United States on the question of abortion. And it raises, for Christians, as we’re trying to think through these issues in a biblical worldview, the intersection of public opinion, constitutionality and morality. We have to be very clear, those are not the same thing. Public opinion and morality are related but morality is not ultimately dependent upon public opinion. And that’s true whether public opinion’s running for us or against us. The political context is highly explained by whether it’s running for or against us.

But the basic morality of the question is not something that is up for a poll by Gallup or anyone else. The new Gallup report that came out June 2nd, just a matter of days ago, is entitled, Pro-Choice Identification Rises to Near Record High in the United States. Lydia Saad is the author of the report and the writer of the article and what she tells us is that recent polling after the leaked draft by Justice Alito, that would reverse Roe v. Wade, recent polling indicates that as she says there’s been a market increase in the number of Americans who identify as—here’s her word—”Pro-Choice, rather than Pro-Life.” And furthermore, “who say that they support abortion and an increase in the number of those who support abortion under any circumstance.”

Let’s just take a closer look at this. And remember what we’re looking at is what is presented to us as public opinion research. The report from Gallup begins, “A Gallup poll conducted mostly after the draft of a Supreme Court decision addressing abortion rights was leaked finds a market shift in public attitudes over the past year. After a decade in which Americans identification is pro-choice varied narrowly between 45 and 50%, the percentage has jumped six points to 55% in the latest poll compared with the prior measure a year ago.”

Indeed. I went back to look at the report from a year ago. It was by Megan Brennan. It was entitled, Record high 47% in US think abortion is morally acceptable. In one sense, the poll a year ago was more interesting because it asked the question about the moral acceptability of abortion, and what it reveals is that in the United States, we have people who think that abortion is the killing of an unborn human being and those who think that abortion is basically just a woman’s right to control over her own body, defined as her own reproductive health, with no further moral consequences whatsoever.

Now here’s the point I want to make. Those are not two legitimate positions. The biblical position makes very clear that unborn human life is a life made in God’s image. It is God who said, “Let there be life.” It is human life, not merely potential human life. But the moral confusion is instructive. We need to understand it. The recent report from Gallup did indeed come with research mostly after the controversy in the United States, over the leaked Supreme Court opinion. What does that tell us? Well, it tells us something, it tells us how political, how contextual public opinion on an issue of this moral importance turns out to be.

It turns out that Americans by a 6% jump—that’s a very big jump on a major moral question in just one year—have moved into a far more liberal position. Why? Well, number one, this same Gallup report tells us that almost all of that increase has come from within those who identify as Democrats in the Democratic Party. It also tells us that most of that jump has come, not only in those who identify as democratic, but those who are also women. It tells us that among men and among Republicans and among political independents, no considerable rise. But among those groups, there has been a rise.

Now you look at the fact that when you’re looking at women who are registering as Democrats, there has been a radical increase in public support for abortion rights. At the very same time that the Supreme Court is poised to reverse, we hope and pray, the Roe v. Wade decision. Now we understand that is predictable. We just need to understand when you look at public opinion, it is predictable. That when you have so much of a media onslaught, so many Hollywood personalities, so many political leaders in the democratic side of the aisle who come out saying, “Look, it is disaster that the Roe v. Wade decision could be reversed.”

We shouldn’t be surprised that there is a significant increase in those who say, “Oh, then it will be a very bad idea.” But what we need to note is that the moral reality of abortion doesn’t change regardless of what Gallup reports or what the American people believe or all the people in the globe. This just reminds us of the fact that the basic reality of morality, the basic existence of objective right and wrong is rooted in God and in His own moral character, indeed in His own moral perfection. It’s not even rooted in our understanding of it.

It is rooted in God. God has revealed this moral character to us. By the way, Paul says in Romans 1, He’s done so in creation, but He’s also done so in our conscience. But most importantly, He has done so in His Word, the scripture. Well, as you’re looking at this poll, Gallup doesn’t make a basic worldview distinction on religious terms. But we do because we have to. We have to understand that everything, as it turns out, comes down to whether or not you believe that every single human being at every point of existence is made in God’s image and that every single human life is thus sacred and is to be protected. You either believe that or not.

And one of the things we’re going to be looking at continuously on The Briefing, as we have in the past, is the fact that if you abandon a biblical worldview and if you abandon a biblical anthropology, that is to say a biblical understanding of human beings, then you also undercut any ability to have a consistent affirmation of human rights, including a right to life. But buried within this Gallup report is something else that is very significant even, or even, especially as we are anticipating the Dobbs decision from the Supreme Court. What’s that? It is that the pro-abortion position is becoming more radical among those who hold the position.

Now, you might also say that the pro-life position has been clarified over time and is being further clarified right now. That’s the situation that exists when a moral question comes with such clarity, forced within a context like a Supreme Court decision. We are eventually going to have to think according to one worldview or the other. There is, at the end of the day, very little middle ground. This Gallup poll and I read from the report says that the latest data, quote, “Show Americans are less likely than a year ago to say abortion should be illegal in all circumstances,” following six points to 13%, the lowest Gallup has recorded for this position since 1995.

At the same time, here’s the crucial part, quote, “The 35% wanting it, meaning abortion legal under any circumstances, is the highest in Gallup’s trend by one point after increasing slightly each of the past three years,” end quote. So that’s not a huge jump. But the point is about a third of Americans according to this report, believe that human life in the womb is of so little, if any, moral significance that abortion should be legal under any circumstance for any reason, at any point of pregnancy. That is an extremely radical position.

The fact that it’s growing, well, that tells us for one thing that people who hold to a pro-abortion worldview eventually—just by the force of conversation and clarity—end up either less or more pro-abortion. And when it comes to about a third of Americans, it turns out tragically enough the answer to that is, more. And yet that’s one third, as it turns out later in this Gallup report, we are told that still most Americans oppose abortion in the second and third trimesters. By the way, that’s an artificial distinction into three, roughly three month trimesters. But nonetheless, it is now a part of our moral conversation because of the Roe v. Wade decision.

The bottom line, we are told that about 58% of Americans continue to oppose the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. So let’s get back to that basic issue of distinctions even before the Supreme Court hands down that decision, perhaps as early as this morning. What is the distinction? The distinction is what is right and what is wrong. That is not ultimately established by a court. That is not ultimately established by any church or synagogue. It’s not ultimately established by any human body whatsoever. It is ultimately established only by God who is Himself perfectly just, perfectly good, infinitely righteous. He determines what is right and wrong, consistent with His own character. As I said, He’s revealed it in creation. He’s revealed it in our conscience. He has revealed it in scripture. And that doesn’t change regardless of what any human legislature may declare, regardless of what any human moral code may describe, regardless of how the Gallup organization describes what Americans think or anyone else thinks on a question. It is determined by God.

Secondly, when it comes to public opinion, that tells us a great deal about our challenge and about the landscape of our mission field. It doesn’t tell us what is right and what is wrong. It does tell us that if indeed American public opinion and that’s just taken in a nationwide sample, is going to set the moral terms, it’s going to be increasingly unsafe to be an inhabitant of any womb.

But the third thing we need to think about is that the task of the Supreme Court of the United States is not and constitutionally has never been to be some kind of elite group of robed intellectuals who just come up with what is best for the United States. No, instead they are to interpret the Constitution and to apply the Constitution. Now that comes with an understanding of the common good but that common good is embedded in the explicit words of the Constitution. Not in any reigning consensus of a group of nine legal intellectuals who find their way to the Supreme Court of the United States.

But that just points to the political dimension here, it really does matter which worldview is elected with a president of the United States. And thus, which worldview leads to appointments to the Supreme Court of the United States because eventually that will determine the decisions that are handed down by that very court.

Part III

‘The Supreme Court Is More Theocratic Than Secular.’: Evaluating Left's Response to the Supreme Court’s Decision on Religious Schools

There are other issues to which we will shortly turn including Buzz Light year, but nonetheless, first, I want to make one other comment going back to news from the Supreme Court this week. When the Supreme court handed down that decision that said that the State of Maine has no right to discriminate against religious schools in a program in which it gives funding to parents to choose the education of their high school children.

Now, I went into considerable discussion of this issue and the Supreme Court decision on The Briefing yesterday. I returned to it today, and this is always something I tell you it’s going to be of interest. The response to Supreme Court decisions is sometimes just about as interesting as the decisions themselves.

I want to point to a report from NPR, that’s National Public Radio. And here you’re looking at Nina Totenberg. Who’s been reporting for NPR on the Supreme Court for a matter of decades. In response to the decision about Maine, she goes to a professor, University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Marci Hamilton. Her response to this decision handed down by the Supreme Court is this. She says that she doesn’t see the Supreme Court stopping at this point because it has what she described as, “A more theocratic than secular viewpoint.” And then she went on to say as Nina Totenberg reports, “I think the Supreme court is definitely on a trajectory and the inevitable conclusion is that what they’re saying is that it’s unconstitutional to deny religious schools, the same funding that public schools get”

Now, I just want to point out that is not at all what the Supreme Court said. That was not at all what the Supreme Court meant. And even as Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. wrote the majority opinion. He said explicitly, “That is not what we are saying,” but he went on to say that the constitutional guarantee of the free exercise of religion means that what the state of Maine can’t do is empower parents to choose any school except a religious school, in order to qualify for that funding. The state of Maine doesn’t even have to have the program. The Supreme Court made it clear.

The Supreme Court doesn’t have to have a similar program. The state of Maine, however, if it is going to employ such a program and it’s going to send that funding to parents, to qualified schools, can’t merely disqualify religious schools. Now that’s an important decision, but you understand it is not what is being presented as in the secular media, in many different reports. But I want to go back to this professor who said that what we see here is that the Supreme Court being, “More theocratic in its viewpoint than secular.”

Theocratic, what does that mean? It means a theocracy, which is the rule of God, which means that it’s the direct rule of God in society, that the leading arguments and the most important realities are established by God Himself and communicated to us by revelation. Ancient Israel was a theocracy. God ruled by His Word at times through a king in Israel, but Israel and the United States are very different societies. Anyone who would suggest that the United States right now is anything close to a theocracy, either doesn’t know what a theocracy is or is being deliberately misleading.

But the listeners, through National Public Radio were warned, nonetheless, that the Supreme Court of the United States, that’s right, headquartered there in Washington, DC is not only a great grave threat to abortion rights, but is also increasingly theocratic. And that’s offered as the explanation. Now, what that does tell you is this, the allergy among the secularists in this country to any form of religious belief that matters is growing not only strong but stronger. So strong that just saying that the state might not, may not, shall not, discriminate merely against religious schools, turns out to be the establishment of a theocracy. According to this professor, we are all just about to become actors in one giant program of the Handmaid’s Tale.

Part IV

‘They Are Idiots to be Disregarded’: Lead ‘Lightyear’ Actor Reacts to the ‘Dinosaurs’ Who View Same-Sex Kiss In Newest Film as Negative

But finally for today, I promised you Buzz Lightyear. I give you Buzz Lightyear—the new movie that has come out by Pixar Disney. It is known as merely, ‘Lightyear’, and as Rollo Ross for Reuter’s News reports, “Walt Disney Company’s new animated Pixar movie Lightyear features a gay couple, the latest step by the company to show traditionally underrepresented groups on the big screen. Actor, Chris Evans, who plays the role,” that is to say, voices the character in ‘Lightyear’, applauded moves to reflect all types of people and said those who react negatively should be disregarded.”

I just want us to understand here. We’re talking about Disney, again, shockingly enough. We’re talking about Disney, moving big into representation of those described as marginal groups. And this means the enthusiastic support of everything included in LGBTQ+—and don’t leave out that plus sign. But here you also have the attitude of this particular actor speaking on behalf of this Disney product saying that those who find a lesbian kiss for a same-sex couple in a Disney movie troubling. If you find that troubling, you are, he said, “to be disregarded.”

These are the actual words he said, according to Reuters: “The real truth is that these people are idiots. Every time, he says there’s been social advancement as we wake up the American story, the human story, is one of constant social awakening and growth and that’s what makes us good.” Now again, this particular actor who voices the character in ‘Lightyear’ goes on to tell us that if we are not all in favor of this, we are idiots to be disregarded. What makes our society good? Well, I’m just going to paraphrase him here, is that our morality is endlessly changing.

Now, if you wanted to come up with some Hollywood character, a Hollywood actor or actress who would make the most horrifying statements, evidently you could not be so inventive as to do better than the actual actor, Chris Evans. Later in the same statement, he said this, “There’s always going to be people who are afraid and unaware and trying to hold onto what was before but these people die off like dinosaurs. He said, I think the goal was to pay them no mind, march forward and embrace the growth that makes us human.”

The direction of Disney here as represented with this new product and with an animated lesbian same-sex marriage kiss, it’s all been pointing in this direction. Director, Bill Condon, going back to the 2017 remake of ‘Beauty and the Beast’, had promised Disney fans a nice exclusively gay moment. It was to involve Gaston’s sidekick LeFou. Well, let’s just go on and say that there has been so much controversy over this by now, there is no one who has any right not to understand that Disney is drawing every line in the sand it can, in order to push America into a very progressive liberal pro LGBTQ position.

And we’re not just talking about gestures here and gestures there, we are talking about a deliberate effort to try to move the moral gauge in the United States in a very clear direction. Chris Evans also said that this is not enough, Disney needs to push further and so does Hollywood. The fact that there’s even controversy about this, according to Evan’s, “Reveals the fact that it’s long overdue and reveals the fact that it’s something that is still not the norm. So there’s still a long way to go.”

Well, here’s a news alert to Mr. Evans: No, it’s not the norm. It’s not the norm as you look across human societies. It is decidedly against the norm looking through human history. It is not the norm when you look at Holy Scripture, when you look at the institution of marriage, when you look at just about every civilization that has ever existed on planet Earth from the first second of human experience forward. No, the reality is it isn’t a norm because it still isn’t normal, and Hollywood declaring it normal doesn’t make it normal. And furthermore, just look around the world. It isn’t even normal around the world now, but it’s very normal in Hollywood.

And evidently it’s very normal with Disney, so much so, that you have a Disney actor here simply declaring that those of us who don’t get with this program are dinosaurs. We are idiots who ought to be disregarded. It would be tempting at this point to say that we should market T-shirts that say, “Chris Evans thinks I’m an idiot and a dinosaur,” except that would be giving too much credit to what Chris Evan thinks. But what’s really important for us in our thinking is to understand that his way of thinking is not only representative of so much of Hollywood, not just so central now to a message coming up from a company like Disney but what is being presented and marketed with animated attractiveness to our children and furthermore, to our own eyes.

We could also point to this matter of moral condescension from Hollywood actors and actresses towards mainstream Americans who dare still to believe in God, still to believe in marriage, still to believe in, say, the difference between boys and girls, men and women. Dinosaurs, well, that’s how it might look from Hollywood. But the only way Hollywood wins at this and right now—it often looks like they are winning—is if the rest of us continue to play their game. That’s a game we have to stop playing.

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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