The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

It’s Wednesday, August 17th, 2022.

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

Part I

Running on Abortion: The Partisan Reality of the Moral Divide Is Clear as Democrats Run Hard for Abortion

There are some really huge issues for us to consider today, and it’s really interesting, and for that matter, a bit sobering, for Christians to note. We are living in what I think will long be remembered as some of the most strategic days in our nation’s history, perhaps even in the history of the west, particularly related to big moral issues. We have known for some time that we have been living in the midst of a vortex of change, and we have seen Supreme Court decision after Supreme Court decision, issue after issue arise, election after election come. But right now we are seeing what happens when just about all of this comes together at once. And of course the big issue, among many other big issues right now, is the abortion issue.

And one of the big issues to watch here is how abortion is going to play out in the 2022 midterm elections in the aftermath of the Dobbs Decision handed down at the end of June. So it was a game changer. Even as there had been, of course, that infamous leaked draft of the majority opinion indicating a reversal of Roe V. Wade, when it happened, let’s just be honest, both sides were morally shocked. I’m not saying they’re intellectually shocked. There are two different kinds of shock, and there might be more than two. But as you think of intellectual shock, that’s the surprise of finding something new, having something you believe corrected, a new discovery, something that changes your intellectual landscape.

Moral change is a bit different. It’s a sense that something drastic, something big, something seismic has shifted in the moral universe. And just to put it this way, the leaked opinion indicated that there might be that kind of moral shock coming, but the decision itself was the moral shock. And you can see it, interestingly, on both sides of the abortion issue. The pro-abortionist, they knew this was coming, but still, emotional shock, moral shock. On the pro-life side, we hoped and prayed this was coming for nearly 50 years. And yet, when it actually came, there was certainly a measure of moral shock. Here it is. But then the big question is, where do we go from here?

And on the pro-life side, there is a complicated answer to that because this is a huge issue. We have a big challenge. If nothing else, the complexity is made clear by the fact that the landscape now shifts the battle to 50 states rather than the national, the federal government. The headlines on abortion these days are increasingly coming from state capitals rather than from Washington D.C.

Now, that’s what we prayed for. Let’s remember that. We prayed for a reversal of Roe V. Wade so that that infamous precedent indicating that all women in the United States had a constitutional right to abortion, we hoped and prayed and worked for that decision to be reversed. It was, but that returns the issue to the state.

And so even as there were at least 51 different capitals that had our attention in the pro-life movement for the last five to six decades, the reality is, there are still 51 capitals that matter, but the 50 right now are the locus of the more intense activity than in the one. And in the 50 states, well, the midterm elections are well underway, and the Dobbs Decision, it turns out, was a game changer.

The New York Times ran a very interesting article on Monday about how the Democrats are spotlighting, that’s the word used in the headline, the abortion issue in their campaign advertising. Now, an interesting thing for us to note is that that is new. It is incredibly new in one sense. If you look back at previous elections for both the House and the Senate, the reality is that abortion was always there, but it was rarely the frontline issue.

What’s interesting to note right now is that there are many among the Democrats, now a solidly pro-abortion party at the national level, the reality is that Democrats are beginning to talk about it because they see it as at least potentially a big winning issue when it comes to the midterm elections coming in November.

Shane Goldmacher and Katie Glueck, writing for The Times, tell us, “Democrats all across America are using abortion as a powerful cudgel in their 2022 television campaigns, paying for an onslaught of ads in key House, Senate, and Governor’s races that show how swiftly abortion politics have shifted since the Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade in late June.”

Now let’s be clear, both sides have always known that abortion was a crucial issue. Not only that: on both sides, abortion has been a litmus test, and it has been for some time. So just to put the matter bluntly, it’s very difficult for anyone to gain any kind of major Republican nomination for office who isn’t decidedly pro-life and anti-abortion. On the other side, it has become virtually impossible for anyone who isn’t enthusiastically pro-abortion, virtually without restrictions, to gain access to the Democratic party’s nomination.

But now, as you think about the midterm elections, the states have a new importance because of the reversal of Roe and the issue of abortion. Well, here’s an interesting question: for whom is this supposedly now a winning argument? Who has the winning issue in abortion?

Here’s what we need to note with deep, moral, and worldview seriousness. It is the Democrats, representing a nearly uniform pro-abortion rights position, who believe that this is a winning issue for them.

Part II

The Disappearance and Moral Confusion of Middle Ground on Abortion Made Clear: Where Will the American Voter Land?

Now we need to step back for a moment and recognize that America is very divided over the abortion question, but not just over the abortion question.

As we often describe on The Briefing, the worldview divide in the United States is growing more stark, more evident, you might even say more extreme in the sense that the arguments follow out in a logical progression, but they’re also tied together. The definition of marriage, and the understanding of the dignity of unborn human life. Those are not directly related often when it comes to legislation, but in worldview, they are obviously very much related, and thus it’s not an accident that you have so many people who are moral progressives, they are ready to redefine human dignity. They are also very clearly ready to define sexual morality and even to redefine marriage.

It’s interesting to see, by the way, how The New York Times reports this story. We’re told that, as you look state by state, there’s some fascinating developments. We’re told that the Republican nominees in Arizona for both Senate and Governor were “confronted almost instantly after their primaries with different ads calling them dangerous for their anti-abortion positions”.

The two reporters then write, “With national protections for abortion rights suddenly gone and bans going into effect in many states, senior White House officials and top Democratic strategists believe the issue has radically reshaped the 2022 landscape in their favor.”

I continue, “They say it has not only reawakened the party’s progressive base, but also provided a wedge issue that could rest away independent voters and even some Republican women who believe abortion opponents have overreached.” Now I want to step back for a moment and let’s just look at the language here for a second. You’re looking at the language of overreach, and the overreach here is most importantly directed at the Supreme Court of the United States for having reversed the Roe V. Wade decision.

Here’s one of the issues of intellectual inconsistency in our culture on the left we just need to note very carefully. If the court was supposedly radical in June of 2022 in reversing a decision, then that decision, going back to 1973, the infamous Roe V. Wade decision must have been equally radical.

So in other words, if you’re looking at two forces, one pushing in one direction, one pushing in the other, how can one of them be radical and the other not? This is where we need to understand that the issue of abortion, like so many other major moral arguments in the United States, has been working out for a matter of decades, and what’s disappearing is the muddled middle.

And by the way, we just need to note, it has disappeared on both ends of the argument, and there are reasons why in worldview analysis this is so. Over the course of time, two things happen. Number one, logical positions work themselves out into greater consistency. And furthermore, the second thing is political. Political voters begin to vote more and more the way they vote.

So let’s put it this way. On the Republican side, and yes, in a partisan context, there’s always a partisan dimension, on the Republican side, if you were to go back, say, 30 years, you would find some pro-abortion Republicans. Where have they gone? Well, they’ve basically gone into retirement. Why did that happen? It is because, as you look at how elections work, it’s not just a general election, Republican versus Democrat in most contexts. It is a big, big, usually equally competitive race to get the party’s nomination. That’s true at the Congressional level. It’s even more true at the Senate level.

So if the party is moving into a pro-life position, then eventually, the way the primaries work, is this. You have someone who is pro-abortion or they describe themselves as pro-choice, and then on the Republican side, here comes a pro-life candidate. The pro-life candidate makes very clear that the pro-abortion or pro-choice candidate is out of step with the party. He rallies the increasingly pro-life voters in the Republican constituency. They eventually choose Republicans who are more Republican, pro-life candidates who are even more pro-life.

So you can look at many of the seats in the House and in the Senate. Beside those seats is an R, as in Republican Incumbent. In almost all of those situations, the individual Republican seat is being held by someone who is more pro-life than the candidate who had an R beside his or her name who came before.

But if that’s true on the Republican side among pro-life voters, the opposite is true in the Democratic party, but it’s the very same pattern. In the Democratic party, you can just look at an individual like, oh, let’s just start at the White House. President Joe Biden. President Joe Biden was for abortion rights, going back to his election in the Senate, when he was just a very, very young man, but with all kinds of restrictions he was willing to consider, even at one point voting for a measure that would’ve allowed individual states to outlaw abortion.

In the entire time, over decades he was in the United States Senate, he voted for and actively promoted the Hyde Amendment that prevents federal funding being paid for abortions. All that went to the side over the course of the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States with Joe Biden as his Vice President, and then even more emphatically when Joe Biden was running for the Democratic nomination 2019-2020. In one infamous turn, Joe Biden went from an unconditional supporter of the Hyde Amendment to an opponent of the Hyde Amendment, because it became very obvious he was not going to win the Democratic nomination so long as he continued to support Hyde. So it simply went away.

Now Joe Biden is, and I’ll stand by this, the most pro-abortion incumbent president of the United States in history. When another Democrat follows him, unless the trajectory is radically changed, that new Democratic president will be even more pro-abortion than Joe Biden. And you could say the same thing on the other side. That’s the point.

So where’s the middle? Is there a middle? Increasingly in American politics, the middle is disappearing, or the middle is growing more minimal. And we can understand that, in practical and in theoretical terms. Well, I hope you find this interesting. The theoretical terms come down to this.

When the issues become more and more defined, then some kind of compromise position in the middle just loses credibility, and the public loses interest. If you believe that every single unborn life is made in the image of God, every life is precious, then you really can’t enter into a negotiation about just how many abortions you think might be acceptable and on what terms.

On the other hand, on the pro-choice, the pro-abortion, the Democratic side, the middle has also disappeared because it’s not enough to say, “Oh, I’m for abortion, but I don’t believe the taxpayer should pay for it.” Well, if you think it’s a good thing, then why wouldn’t it be included in healthcare as mandated by the federal government and is paid under certain government programs? So even as the Democratic party becomes more pro-abortion, the Republican party becomes more pro-life, and at this point it appears that trajectory is likely to continue. Then the big question is, what exactly would a moderate or a middle position look like?

Now, before you say there couldn’t be one, politically we need to recognize at the theoretical level, you could come up with some kind of position. Now, again, from a pro-life perspective, I think it would be morally incoherent, but nonetheless, it might be politically saleable.

I must say that for pro-lifers, that is the big risk as we look ahead. That is to say that somehow, some kind of argument would come along to say, look, we just need to find some kind of settlement on this issue. And that’s where Christians understand, we have no right to write off certain unborn lives as politically expendable.

But going back to what we see right now, which is the disappearance of a middle or a moderate position on this issue, as if it were even theoretically possible, the pragmatic issue is this. There is no surefire political constituency for having a, “On the one hand, on the other hand,” position on this kind of issue. Voters don’t have a lot of patience to figure out on the one hand, on the other hand. They understand, “Okay, this one’s pro-life. This one’s pro-abortion. I make my choice.”

This article in The New York Times makes very clear that some Democrats think there is a big political opportunity after the Dobbs decision in going to voters in saying, “You had better vote Democratic because they’re coming for your abortion rights. Look at the Supreme Court. It has already reversed Roe V. Wade. If we have a Republican majority in the House or in the Senate, or God forbid,” they would say, “in both, then just imagine what will happen to abortion rights coast to coast.”

Now there’s a bit of dishonesty in that, because again, the question right now is returned to the states, but the Democrats are using this argument at the state level as well. The article cites Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster working, we are told, with multiple 2022 campaigns, “Rarely has an issue been handed on a silver platter to Democrats that is so clear cut.” She went on to say, “It took an election that was going to be mostly about inflation and immigration and made it also about abortion.”

Now, here’s where there’s something really interesting, and at this point, we don’t know the answer to the question: how exactly will abortion function in the November midterm elections? To what extent will it function? And that’s an interesting question. It should be a troubling question for Christian citizens in the United States looking at the election. It should be troubling to us that Democrats think, “They looked at this issue and see a great, big, fat, juicy opportunity.”

The Times itself analyzes the situation this way, “There are risks to focusing so heavily on abortion at a moment when Americans are also expressing intense anxiety over the economy, but Democrats are plowing ahead, particularly in key Senate races.”

The analysis also suggests that Democrats have increased hope that they might hold onto the Senate in particular because they see the issue of abortion as politically salient. That’s a very important word here. That is, it’s a powerful and relevant in the decision making of American voters, state by state.

But the worldview issues here are of interest to both sides. We are told, “The election is being closely monitored as a barometer of the issues power. Democrats have over-performed,” this is the article’s statement, “even in defeat in two special elections since Roe V. Wade was overturned in Minnesota and Nebraska.”

Now, the point here is that, right now, even the Democratic strategists don’t know how salient, how important that abortion issue was in those races, but they see an opportunity. That’s what’s important to us in worldview analysis. They see an opportunity and they intend to seize it.

The head of a group known as the Senate Majority PAC identified as a Democratic super-political action committee said, “I believe that abortion is going to matter because I think it cuts across demographics, and it really does get into many voters, including Trump voters and independents, and their concept of personal freedom.”

Now that really, really is important. We need to note, this is something new, so let’s pause for a moment. We’re being told this is not just about getting out the Democratic base with a pro-abortion argument. It’s about getting into the middle, for sure, at least they hope, but we’re not even sure how big the middle is, but you’ll notice the fact that they are actually running ads with a strategic intention of reaching out to some Trump voters, some who have voted Republican, with their argument for abortion rights. And as the article said, they even intend to reach out to some Trump voters, depending upon their “concept of personal freedom”.

This is where we see the difference between a pro-life position and what at least many libertarians or libertarian-inclined voters would understand. We understand the issue of abortion to be properly inescapably a matter of national legislation. We see the issue, and by the way, at the state and local level as well. We also see the issue of abortion as an unavoidable issue in moral terms, and we see it as part of a larger understanding of the state, that is the government’s responsibility to defend life, and that includes the lives of unborn human beings.

The libertarian argument, at least as presented by many libertarians, and furthermore, sometimes it’s not an argument, sometimes it’s almost a mood, especially among some voters. It is basically that the only word that matters is freedom. The only word that really is politically important is freedom. And so if you’re constraining freedom in some way, then, well, the argument here is that the Democrats have an opportunity to go after some Trump voters who are not classically conservative, but are just committed to freedom, to a more libertarian worldview.

I mention that just to point to the fact that we are likely to see a further political realignment, and that realignment could well be an increasing divide between conservatives and libertarians over these issues.

The political pact that basically held them together, during the time from the Reagan Revolution to the present, is really changed with the reversal of Roe V. Wade. Now, abortion’s not the only issue, but it is, to use a word you’ve heard over and over again on The Briefing today, it is the most salient issue.

Part III

Abortion by Pill: The New Pro-Abortion Strategy

There are two other big issues related to this. One is the fact that it is now becoming apparent that the pro-abortion movement is shifting not only its political and legislative strategy, but it is ready with a new medical and technological strategy as well, and that strategy is so-called medical abortions. That is, abortion by pill.

One of the things we have to watch is the fact that will become increasingly a matter of how abortion is delivered, particularly when it comes to early-term abortions, that would be abortions in the earlier weeks of pregnancy. Now, as you’re looking at this, of course, there could be some legislative remedies. There could be some laws at the state level, some already exist in some pro-life states, prohibiting the prescription and the distribution of these abortion pills.

There is increasing evidence that, in the aftermath of the Dobbs decision, there may already be about as many or even slightly more medical abortions, that is by pill, in the United States right now than other forms of abortion. And the pro-abortion movement believes that this is the way they will get around the reversal of Roe V. Wade.

This is also why many of them are calling upon the Biden Administration and President Biden himself to use the power of the Executive Branch to require a delivery by the U.S. Mail of any kind of prescription like that, regardless of the state in which the address is located. All this is going to be very interesting, and I’ll just say, looking ahead, it’s going to be very difficult for any Democrat running for a major office and the nomination of the Democratic party not to pledge in advance, to use every mechanism of government, including the Executive Branch, in order to make abortion available, and perhaps even more widely available, even in states that are very pro-life by the use of some kind of federal mandate.

It should alarm us that, in the aftermath of all this, there’s been an increase in so-called telehealth abortions. That means a woman doesn’t even go to an abortion clinic. She doesn’t even go to see a doctor. She doesn’t do anything locally. Instead, at the national, or even in some cases at the international level, an abortion is obtained by telehealth, by something like a Zoom call or a FaceTime call, some kind of proprietary platform where a prescribing doctor and a woman seeking abortion are able to make that arrangement.

It’s another reminder to us of what Christians know, and that is that every single technology comes as a two-edged sword. The same technology that can bring life, can bring death. The same technology that can bring lifesaving information, can mainline pornography. You just look at the fact that every technology in a fallen world comes with a capacity for good and with the inherent capacity for evil.

Part IV

‘Jezebel’ is Raging With Them: Feminist Publication Sees Increase in Readership in Aftermath of the Dobbs Decision — Ironically, They Don’t Acknowledge the Jezebel of Scripture

But finally, I want to turn to another development that tells us something of what’s going on right now. It is a focus on the fact that, after the reversal of Roe, The New York Times in another article by Katie Robertson tells us, “Readers flock to publications for women.” So the issue here is the attention by many women given to women’s publications, and the point here is that they’re pro-abortion, they’re on the more liberal side. But what’s really interesting from a biblical perspective is that one of the publications, the one publication that gets the most attention here, is entitled Jezebel. It is described by The New York Times as, “A feminist website started by Gawker Media in 2007.” We’re told that Jezebel has seen an 18% increase in traffic after the leaked draft that would reverse Roe V. Wade just a matter of months ago.

The Times then explains, “The surge of readers has buoyed a part of the digital media world that has declined in recent years with many sites aimed at women closing down. Now, readers are hunting out a feminist perspective and looking to writers who have closely covered the fight over abortion rights for years.”

Jessica Valenti, a feminist writer profiled in the article says, “Right now people are so angry, they want a place that is raging with them.” And evidently, Jezebel is raging with them.

It is interesting that The New York Times identifies Jezebel as a feminist website, but makes no reference to 1 Kings whatsoever. The New York Times makes no reference to Ithobaal, who, after all, was Jezebel’s father, the King of Tyre. There is no reference to Jezebel, the idolator. There is no reference to Jezebel as the most infamous female character, we might say, in the entire Old Testament.

If you want evidence of this, just look to the Old Testament and to both 1 Kings and 2 Kings, where the record is very clear, as was God’s judgment upon Jezebel. To name your periodical, your publication, now Jezebel is actually quite a statement.

But then again, when you think about those who are arguing for the pro-abortion position and they are flocking to a publication like Jezebel, it’s almost as if, darkly enough, it is a fulfillment of a biblical pattern.

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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