The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Monday, August 8, 2022

It’s Monday, August 8th, 2022.

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

Part I

Is Corporate America Lining Up Against Pro-Life Efforts? Big Business Pushes Back Against Pro-Life Momentum as the Fault Lines of U.S. Politics are Being Redrawn State by State

Last week, the big news on abortion was bad news out of Kansas. This week, it is good news out of Indiana. But what we are watching is the shifting of the tectonic plates of morality and politics in the United States. The Supreme Court’s reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision that took place just in June, at the very end of that month, has set loose a cascade of political responses just as we expected would be the case. And, even as the High Court said that their purpose in reversing Roe v. Wade was to return the question to the people and their elected representatives, well, that’s pretty much what’s going on. In Kansas, it was a referendum. It went badly for the cause of life. Big lessons to be learned there.

In Indiana, it went well. It went very well for the cause of the sanctity of human life. Indiana’s legislature adopted a near total ban on abortion that offers exemptions only in the case of rape, incest, lethal fetal abnormality, or when the procedure is necessary to prevent severe health risk or death. Now, we’re going to be looking more at those definitions in just a moment. But the big news here is that Indiana, the measure passed, the legislation was approved,, it then went to the governor’s desk. Governor Eric Holcomb signed the bill almost immediately. He signed it within minutes of its adoption by the legislature.

So here we’re looking at two different states, and they are not moral or political extremes in the United States. For one thing, both Kansas and Indiana are stereotypically Republican. But at the same time, we’re not looking at the same measure. The state of Kansas does not have an unregulated abortion context. It has limitations upon abortion, but nonetheless, the vote by the people of Kansas, rather overwhelmingly to turn down a constitutional amendment last week, was extremely disappointing for the cause of human life, unborn human life.

But looking at the situation in Indiana, it’s quite encouraging, but it also tells us a great deal. For example, as we are looking at these moral plates, the very surface plates of our society shifting so quickly, it’s interesting to see who’s pushing back for the cause of abortion, who’s pushing back against pro-life momentum. And one of the interesting things we need to watch is that it’s not just political forces, it’s not even, you might say just activist organizations such as pro-abortion organizations. It is also in many cases, and this is crucially important, business. It’s corporate America. For example, Amber Phillips and Tom Hamburger wrote an article soon after the bill had been adopted there in Indiana with the headline, “Abortion law in Indiana leads to fallout for the state and politics”.

What kind of fallout are we talking about? Well, consider this, “After the legislation was signed into law, Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical giant and one of the state’s largest employers, warned that such laws would hurt its employee recruiting efforts and said the company would look elsewhere for its expansion plans.” Notice, that’s not just an economic warning, that’s an economic threat. On the skyline of Indianapolis and in the state’s culture, Eli Lilly is almost iconic. The endowment that was established by the Eli Lilly fortune funds many causes around the world, but it has had enormous impact there within the city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana. The company itself informed the government that it is going to be very concerned about this change in a very clear pro-life direction with this new law in abortion. “Given this new law, we will be forced to plan for more employment growth outside our home state.” Again, you see here, we’re not talking about a carrot and a stick, we’re talking about a bat and a rock.

Another major corporation with a big presence there in Indianapolis is Salesforce, and as the post reports, “The tech giant has 2,300 employees in Indiana, and it previously offered to relocate employees in states with abortion restrictions.” It didn’t respond specifically to the Washington Post for coming on this law, but the signals already sent. The chamber of commerce, which in most cities in most times for say the last hundred years, had been pretty predictably leaning Republican, and also leaning conservative, well on these social issues these days, not so much, if at all. The Post tells us that the chamber of commerce in Indianapolis “also warned the ban was passed too quickly and without regard for how it would affect the state’s tourism industry.” Notice here the chamber of commerce offered no apparent concern about unborn human life. Nothing here about the sanctity of life, nothing here about dignity. Nothing even to indicate a recognition of the moral importance of the question of abortion, just, “Hey, you got to watch out for the bottom line with those tourism dollars”.

Back in 2015, the state legislature adopted what was known as a RFRA, that is a Religious Freedom Restoration Act within the state of Indiana. It was signed into law by then governor Mike Pence. But the corporate response was nearly overwhelming. According to the Washington Post, Indiana lost out on 12 conventions and an estimated $60 million of business after it passed the law. Here’s what we need to know. Indiana came back, and this includes Indiana’s then governor Mike Pence, and rescinded the legislation and adopted a much milder version of the law, that was a loss for religious freedom.

Back to the chamber of commerce by the way, that chamber also released a statement saying that, “Such an expedited process”, that is the speed with which the law was adopted, “Rushing to advanced state policy on broad complex issues is, at best, detrimental to Hoosiers, and at worst reckless.” The chamber then asked a question, “Will the Indie region continue to attract tourism and convention investments?” With that kind of statement, the chamber of commerce made clear its bottom line when it comes to its moral concern. And the bottom line of the moral concern is the bottom line. It’s tourism dollars in this case, but it’s also the power of big business and the power of the state of Indiana in general and Indianapolis specifically to keep the corporations it is attracted there, and there are good many of them, and attract more.

This tells us that the fault lines of American culture, changing as fast as they are, are cracking along moral and political lines that now include American corporations, chambers of commerce and others. And you’ll notice that those forces are now largely averse to taking any stand that might be unpopular, particularly with the influence shapers in the United States. That includes mainstream media. It also includes the liberal wing of the investor class. And increasingly, now don’t miss this, it includes the younger, highly educated workers that are very socially liberal that these companies very much want to recruit and retain.

This is a very real fault line we’re observing right here. And it tells us a great deal that business is increasingly coalescing around a political agenda of opposing any further restrictions on abortion. That will not be insurmountable. We have to believe that, but it is going to be a major challenge. And it tells us something about the massive challenge that pro-life Americans, and in particular, pro-life Christians face in understanding that major forces that have vast, trillions of dollars, are increasingly deciding they want to put their weight against any effort to further protect unborn human life.

Spokesperson for the White House indicated the political agenda going on here indicating according to the White House that the Indiana law is just “another radical step by Republican legislators to take away women’s reproductive rights and freedom.” The Washington Post tells us, “Democrats are hopeful though that they can use what happened in Indiana to cast the entire Republican party as extreme on abortion.”

Now, if you’re looking at the party, that’s extreme on abortion as we’re going to see, that would actually be the democratic party increasingly in a pro-abortion position. But we also want to concede, and this is just an intellectual and moral fact, that the two sides are now pretty much reaching the point that the arguments are contradictory. And so if one party’s extreme in response, the other party will be seen as extreme. But we’re talking about two parties. And the democratic party is the one that began the social activism, pushing for the invention of abortion rights, getting what they wanted. Not through legislation by the way, but through the Supreme Court. Once they lost that, well, now you see the revenge. And the revenge comes back along with the accusation that if you oppose the current orthodoxy of the democratic party in a pro-abortion position, then you’re extreme. Christians are going to have to be used to being called such things. If you’re afraid of being called such things, you will end up being extremely unfaithful.

Following along the same shift in the cultural plates of our society, the Washington Post had another article that ran just in recent days. This one by Don L. Scott, Jr. It’s not pointing to the state of Indiana. It’s pointing to the state of Virginia and Virginia’s Governor Glenn Youngkin. The accusation here is that Governor Youngkin’s leadership is good for politics and good for the culture war on his side. But the Washington Post is arguing here, and by the way the author of this opinion piece is a democratic representative in the Virginia House of Delegates, the warning here is that Virginia, which had been ranked in the top five of all American states in attracting business is going to lose business. The headline or the opinion piece is Youngkin’s culture wars are good for him, but bad for Virginia business.

Again, watch the bottom line. The bottom line is financial. The bottom line is business. And in one sense, the bottom line is that if business is upset with your political direction or your moral principles, then you just might lose business. And at least what’s implied here is that that is the worst condition imaginable. As a democratic legislator, and that is a political opponent to Governor Youngkin there in Virginia, this writer also tells us as if we didn’t already know that the governors of other states, democratic governors, are going to see an opportunity here. “Democratic governors in other states are looking to recruit business from states that would restrict their employees’ bodily autonomy.” As, he goes on to say, Governor Youngkin is “hoping to do.”

Now just look at the language. These are corporations. It will be attracted by other democratic governors because of the concern that some state like Virginia might “restrict their employees’ bodily autonomy.” In any previous time, if you looked at that kind of argument, it would be virtually incomprehensible. But now you come to understand that’s a euphemism for abortion. And so that tells you something else. These corporations increasingly don’t want states to adopt restrictive laws on abortion. But the moral point is also clear, they don’t want to use the word abortion.

Part II

The Most Pro-Abortion President in U.S. History is Not Pro-Abortion Enough for His Party? They Also Complain He Doesn’t Like to Use the Word ‘Abortion'

But speaking of not wanting to use the word abortion, the president of the United States is not particularly inclined to use the word, although Joe Biden is the most pro-abortion president in American history. Some time ago on The Briefing and in a major article published at World Opinions, I traced in detail the evolution. We might say the devolution of Joe Biden from the time he was in the United States Senate and actually at times voted in what might be considered a Quai pro-life position until he just step by step accommodated to the increasingly vocal and demanding pro-abortion wing of his own party. And by the way, that is now not just a wing. It’s the party.

By the time Joe Biden was running for president in 2019, running for the democratic presidential nomination, he actually reached the point in which if he were to gain that nomination, which of course he did, he was going to have to forfeit the position he had held he said at great length on moral and political principle. He would have to drop his support of the height amendment preventing federal funding paying for abortion. Because the democratic party not only demands abortion at any point for any reason or no reason from conception all the way until the moment of birth, it also demands that taxpayers pay for it.

Now from time to time, you see articles talking about what must be the moral and theological, the religious angst and anxiety and struggle of Joe Biden, who after all goes on to identify himself as a Roman Catholic of virtually of return. But the official teaching of the Roman Catholic church is as clear as crystal. Abortion, the intentional killing of unborn human life is a massive sin. It is a sin the Roman Catholic church, at least officially, takes so seriously that the hierarchy of the Catholic church in the United States has openly debated whether or not Joe Biden, the most famous Catholic in America right now and the second Catholic president of the United States, the other was of course John F. Kennedy, those hierarchs have actually argued about whether or not Biden should be disallowed from taking communion.

And by the way, not just the president of the United States, but other Catholic officials including senators such as Dick Durbin in Illinois and the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. All of them have shifted to a very pro-abortion position. And they had to if they wanted to maintain traction and credibility, not to mention office in their own party. I have stated it flatly and I’ll do so again. Joe Biden may present himself as a Catholic, but he does so while using the force of his office to undercut, to subvert and to contradict one of the most important moral teachings of the Roman Catholic church.

A most interesting article just appeared in the New York Times, arguing that many in the democratic party think that even though Joe Biden is the most pro-abortion president in American history, he’s not aggressive enough on the issue. And one of the complaints is that he doesn’t like to use the word abortion. Michael Shear in this piece in the New York Times that just was recently released, Michael Shear identifies Biden as a practicing Catholic “who has drawn on his faith to shape his political identity and is now being called on to lead a fight he spent decades sidestepping.” And we’re told many abortion rights activists worry that he may not be the right messenger for the moment.

Earlier in the article, we are told this, “Inside the west wing, President Biden has made clear he is uncomfortable even using the word abortion according to current and former advisors.” Now the Times is right. As you observe the president in the White House, there’s a preference for evasive words such as reproductive health, the right to choose, terms that again, just steadfastly avoid the word abortion. It is very telling that towards the end of this article, aids for the president in the White House argue that every once in a while he will use the word, trying to defend the fact that he is not totally averse to using the word abortion, trying to placate those in the left wing of their party, that increasingly means the party.

The article tells us this, “Mr. Biden’s aids note that he has used the word abortion a handful of times since the ruling.” And in a statement on Saturday, condemning a new Indiana law banning almost all abortions, the White House used the term in reiterating support for reproductive rights. But then were told, “But some veterans of the abortion rights movement say they remain wary of a president who is uncomfortable with using the word. Others say they are willing to judge Mr. Biden by his actions.”

Well, this is just incredibly telling. Just consider what this article reveals. Now we knew much of this. We certainly knew all of the political devolution of Joe Biden on the moral question of abortion. We’ve understood the conflict by which he just claims his own political necessity and supposed change in conscience over against the official very clear teaching of his church. We’ve seen the fact that he’s changed so much that at one point he supported a constitutional amendment that would’ve allowed the states to reverse Roe v. Wade, or to act with legislation contrary to Roe v. Wade. You wouldn’t know that Joe Biden is at least genetically the same Joe Biden who is now president of the United States.

But nonetheless, this article is even more telling, not so much in revealing anything we didn’t know about President Biden, but in underlining the fact that the democratic party is now moved so far left of the democratic president of the United States on this issue that they’re speaking out loud about the fact that he just might not be up to his job. One activist for abortion quoted in the article said, “This is not necessarily the guy that I’m sure most activists wanted in the seat when this happened. It’s unfortunate because he has so much power and we need him to really get out of his comfort zone.”

Now here’s the irony. It’s a tragic irony. That person was Jamie L. Manson, identified as president of Catholics for Choice. Again, direct reputation of Catholic doctrine. This is one of the things that we’re going to watch. It’s not just true of Catholics. It’s more true of Catholics because of the strength of Catholic identity and tradition. But there are many people identify as Christian in some sense or even claim to be evangelical that similarly will deny evangelical convictions. They want the label in order to have the branding, but they reject the convictions. This is just one example. And Joe Biden’s not alone in it. Even alone just in this pattern in his own party on this one issue.

Andrea Miller, identified as president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, that’s a pro-abortion organization said, “Yes, there are limits to executive branch power. There are limits to what the president can do, but this just feels like you’ve got to push the boundaries right now. This is a time to pull out all the stops. This is a time to take risks.” But at the end of the day, the president got a big endorsement from a very clear pro-abortion organization and leader. This would be the president of the group known as NARAL Pro-Choice America. She said that there was some value in the approach taken by the president “which can appeal to a broader audience.” But the post then said, “She said the president should not avoid using direct forceful language in a moment when people are scared.”

But here’s the statement from the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America that tells us just about everything, and it’s the final statement in the entire article. “He’s done that. And he’s going to need to get more comfortable with that because this is the modern day democratic party. He’s getting there from what I can see.” Notice this, he’s going to have to get there. You’re talking about someone speaking to the president of the United States and yet his own party has moved so far into a radical pro-abortion position on this that he’s being told in the New York Times, no less, as well as personally and within his administration, “This is the modern day democratic party.” In other words, “You better get as far to the left you can on the issue of abortion as fast as you can, or you’re going to be left behind, Mr. President.”

There are many other big issues as we’re thinking about moral change in the United States. We’ll be looking at those of course in coming days, even coming days this week.

Part III

It’s Monkey vs. Humans in Japan: The Nation Wrestles with a Macaque Problem—and the Macaques Are Getting Smarter

But I end with an issue of an attack by monkeys, packs of monkeys you might say. And note, don’t worry, I’m not talking about monkeypox. Instead I’m talking about monkeys. Another headline. This one comes from Japan where we’re told that authorities in a Japanese city, in Western Japan said last week that they had killed a monkey that according to reporters is believed by local government officials who have been responsible for attacks on 56 persons. This will be in the city of Yamaguchi, where we are told according to these reporters for the New York Times that the 56 victims “were attacked by a monkey this month, including a baby girl injured in her home and a four year old girl pounced on at her kindergarten.”

Were then told that the monkey known as a macaque, the marauding macaque “killed on Tuesday will almost certainly not be the last to be executed in Japan for terrifying humans.” There are kindergartens and kindergartners who have been attacked. Local officials at preschools and kindergartens and schools have indicated that they’re having to stop letting children go out to play because of the marauding monkeys. One leader said, “We received a warning from the police this morning so we have stopped letting children play outside.”

Now, the Times explains how this problem came about. “Japan’s macaque population is thriving in large part because conservation effort started after World War II have been a tad too successful.” It is then explained, “The population recovery has paradoxically provoked and intensified human macaque conflicts to the point where people living near the animals now face serious risk of having their own habitats invaded.” Hiroto Enari, a primate expert said that in recent study, and this same professor then tells us, that a part of the problem here is that the more human monkey or human macaque interaction there is, the more the monkeys are learning to, well, outsmart the humans. In language, that should interest all of us. This particular professor at Yamagata University said, “Each attack essentially gives monkeys a chance to study the art of being a nuisance by removing roof tile, say, or terrorizing garbage dumps.”

Nonetheless, we’re told that the most serious danger that’s being considered here is the physical attack by the macaques and also that the animals could spread hepatitis B or other diseases to humans. We’re also told then just as a matter of historical interest, a human monkey interactions and even conflicts are not new, especially in Asia, “a region that has billions of people and a plethora of native macaque species.” I have to tell you, I found all of this interesting. The Times tells us that in Thailand, one particular city “has been under siege for years from crab-eating macaques,” a Southeast Asian species. “They became more aggressive during the coronavirus pandemic because their main providers of food, tourists, suddenly disappeared.”

Evidently, it reached to the point where the news has not only come to the United States, but people there in Japan are demanding that the government do something. And there in particular, we are told that the concern is that something is happening in the mountains, especially around Yamaguchi. And officials said something like what officials often say, but this one’s worth noting, “I don’t know if something is happening in the mountains. It’s hard for us humans to know.” Which is to say that in this world, macaques don’t tell humans their conspiracies against humans. Humans only find out when they happen.

And by the way, you just have to consider something about the sinister nature of all of this, when the reality is, that the more humans engage with the macaques to try to limit them, the more the macaque learn human behaviors and try to do such things as remove the tiles on houses, presumably perhaps to throw them at people. This official did say that a line has been crossed, “It might be acceptable and understandable if they just ate agricultural crops alone. But if they harm humans, we need to do something.”

Now, remember we are told that these macaques number by the thousands, they’re up in the hills, outside many of these villages and cities. One of these macaques, just one, is believe to be responsible for attacking 56 different people or at least carrying out 56 different attacks against humans. That doesn’t look good for humans. You also have to see just a bit of irony in the fact that even as the government agents are trying to do something about this, because after all so many humans are now under threat, including children back in that playground of the kindergarten where a four year old was attacked, well, local officials said the macaques are still running through the kindergarten’s playground.

Those of you who are in the know about great literature know what happens when you give a mouse a cookie. This is a warning of what happens when you give a macaque a playground.

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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