Wednesday, January 25, 2023
It's Wednesday, January 25th, 2023.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
The Right Side of History? Vice President Delivers Pro-Abortion Address in Wake of 50th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade
Vice President Kamala Harris is running point on the abortion issue and just days after the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, as we review the situation on Sunday and beyond, it is very clear that what we're looking at in the United States is what we have known has existed for a very long time. And that is a deep moral cultural worldview divide that frankly staggers the imagination.
When you're looking at the issue of life, either you see it as the termination of innocent unborn human life or you see it as basically nothing at all. You see the baby or you don't see the baby. It's as simple as that. And of course, in this sense, by seeing, I mean to morally recognize, we're going to talk more about seeing in just a moment, but right now what we need to understand is that the abortion issue is not just another issue.
There are even many evangelical Christians who wish we could simply move on, but so long as thousands upon thousands of unborn human beings are being destroyed in the womb, we can't possibly just move on. And furthermore, we have a political, moral and worldview responsibility to contend for life, understanding that this is not just a philosophical, theological, conceptual argument. We are, and we're the people who know this, actually dealing with a matter of life and death.
We need to look back and we expected to do so, the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, not just for an understanding of how those who support and defend the sanctity of human life should understand that tragic anniversary, but rather when we look at the other side of the argument and understand what they think they lost with the Dobbs decision and the reversal of Roe.
Kamala Harris, as I said, the current vice president of the United States is running point for the administration. There may be several reasons why she is doing so. First of all, you have the fact that President Joe Biden, who is not only of course, the president of the United States, but the de facto head of his party, the Democratic Party. He is not making, let's just say some of the strongest arguments he has made in his political career. There's something else going on here.
Kamala Harris, the vice president, is the first woman to serve in that role. And furthermore, she is not just a woman serving as vice president or even as she has identified a woman of color. She is also an ardent defender of abortion rights. Period. Rather pathetically, we need to note that President Biden really isn't trusted by his party on the issue of abortion and is not because he's not pro-abortion. He is. It is because during long decades in the Senate, he supported the Hyde Amendment, for example, that prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion.
I have written and discussed Joe Biden and abortion extensively, and one of the reasons we need to do so, is because he represents the rejection of the church's teaching that he claims. He claims to be a faithful Roman Catholic, quite ostentatiously so. But for decades now, he has flaunted the fact that in his political role, he openly defies the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. And in this case, it corresponds with the teaching of historic Christianity, underlining the sanctity and dignity of all human life, including unborn human life.
But Joe Biden is not considered progressive enough by so many in this party, including the increasingly young, increasingly secular, increasingly aggressive and ideological younger generation. They see Kamala Harris, at least at this point on this issue as more progressive, more predictable and more trustworthy.
Who is Kamala Harris? And of course, she had served as the Attorney General of California from 2011 to 2017. Pause for just a moment. The Attorney General of California is the attorney general of one of the most ideologically progressive or liberal and certainly pro-abortion states in the union. No real surprise there.
After serving eight years as the Attorney General in California, she ran for and was elected to the United States Senate, but she only served there from 1917 until early in 1921 because Joe Biden chose her as his running mate, and thus, even as Joe Biden as president, Kamala Harris is vice president of the United States. So yet why are we talking about her today? What happened on Sunday involving the vice president?
Well, she decided that on behalf of the administration, and by the way, the vice president in such an arrangement never actually decides this kind of thing. The White House and the staff of the president basically dictate what platform and under what terms a vice president may serve or speak. So just remember that in this case, that means that the White House decided to send Kamala Harris to deliver an aggressively pro-abortion message on the day, which was the 50th anniversary of Roe. But where would she go?
Well, the White House announced last week that she would be giving this address in Florida. Why Florida? Well, just think about it. Two reasons. Number one, first was to tweak the Republican governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis decidedly pro-life and perhaps a contender for the 2024 presidential nomination. And if so, almost assuredly a formidable challenge for any democratic ticket in that presidential election.
But there is a second reason, and that is this, Democrats are astounded at how quickly they have lost ground in Florida and they are looking for any issue that will give them political advantage. Surprisingly enough to many Democrats after the Dobbs decision last year, then appears that the issue of abortion has played well for Democrats at least so long as the issue is kept ambiguous and relatively vague.
So by going to Florida, the vice president for the Biden administration could accomplish two or three things simultaneously. Get credit from the left for advocating abortion. Get credit for lamenting the reversal of Roe, tweak Ron DeSantis and the Republicans in Florida and try at least to make some inroads in political terms in the Sunshine State. But what we need to note is that when Kamala Harris went to Florida, she not only went to Florida, she went to Florida's capital Tallahassee, and there she delivered a decidedly pro-abortion address.
And one of the things we need to note is that even as she openly lamented the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the policies that she and the Biden administration are now advocating go far beyond even Roe v. Wade and we'll be looking at that more closely in just a moment.
But Kamala Harris, the vice president, issued a challenge to the pro-choice, pro-abortion audience before her, that they press on in activism in order to regain the ground lost with the reversal of Roe. The location of the speech in Tallahassee makes political sense. I have no idea how to interpret the fact that she spoke at a location identified as a nightlife venue called The Moon. That doesn't sound like a place where the usual vice president will show up for a major address. It doesn't indicate an address that's supposed to be associated with history, and furthermore, it's just plain weird.
Speaking of the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the vice president said, "People live in fear of what might be next." With a good deal of energy, she said, "Today we are fighting back." But she made one statement of particular importance to which I want to point. The vice president in Tallahassee on the 50th anniversary of Roe said, "Let us not be tired or discouraged because we are on the right side of history."
Now, it is really interesting to consider that argument. Number one, it is likely that the vice president believes what she says. She probably does believe that she and the pro-abortion movement are on the right side of history. Where does that come from? Well, the most basic reality is that it comes from a liberal understanding of history in which history is following a direction that always leads towards what they define as progress. You might not be surprised to know that, that is a progressivist understanding of history and it fits with a progressivist worldview.
It unfolds from European history and from European philosophy and in particular the philosophy of Hegel. But the bottom line is, that it is a form of historical determinism, arguing that even though conservatives may do their best to try to hold back progress, progress is inevitable. In the modern age, we see an unfolding of ever increasing liberty by their definition ever increasing freedom and release from every form of oppression in the past. And by the way right now, of course, that means the oppression of biology as in being male or female.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of this progressivist understanding of history when he said that the arc of history is long, but he says it bends toward justice. That's just another way of saying that when you're looking at history, it's like an arrow pointing in one direction and that direction ideologically is progress.
Now, Christians do believe that history is like an arrow. It is pointing forward. We believe in past, present, and future, but we do not believe based upon a biblical worldview that the future just being the future represents progress. Nor do we believe that the current moment is in every way superior to all the epics that came before.
There are of course, many things to celebrate in this modern age. Just think about modern medical technologies, antibiotics, et cetera, air conditioning for that matter. But the reality is that in other ways we have experienced not progress but regress and at least on some moral issues that regress has been tragic and deadly. Just consider the abortion issue, but also consider the rebellion, as I said, against creation order even in the categories of male and female. Not to mention what Paul describes in Romans 1 as the demonstration of lifestyles and sexual behaviors that are contrary to nature.
‘We Deserve So Much Better Than Roe’: Pro-Abortion Movement Uses Dobbs Decision to Push for Abortion Rights That Far Exceed Those Brought By Roe
But I wanted to point to the vice president's speech and to the context of that speech, just as indicative of how the pro-abortion movement responded to the 50th anniversary of Roe. It didn't go as they expected. They expected Roe to be the enduring law of the land. And indeed, as we shall see, they expanded upon Roe and thought the nation would expand with it as well. And we also need to recognize in at least some places they have been right.
One of those places, not coincidentally, is the state of California. There are a good number of liberal states in this country, but California is the vanguard of the progressivist movement among the states in the United States, and it is doing its very best through its elected leaders, also other areas and authorities of cultural influence to push the state as aggressively to the left as is even conceptually possible.
But it is really important for us to recognize that the pro-abortion movement believes that even though the reversal of Roe v. Wade is a setback, that it will inevitably be a temporary setback and many are already claiming that on the abortion issue rather than losing, they are winning. The question for pro-life Christians is this, are they right?
Linda Greenhouse, writing the major commentary on the 50th anniversary of Roe for The New York Times, and by the way, she reported on the supreme court for The New York Times between 1978 and 2008, she said, "There is a case to be made," she says, "it seems to me that abortion access has won the culture war." Now, just wait a minute. Didn't Roe v. Wade just get reversed by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court? Yes, of course it did.
But Linda Greenhouse looking to the future says, "Don't worry too much, in the arc of history, this is just a very small setback. The case to be made," she says, "is that abortion access has won the culture war." She says, "Just look at the 2022 midterm elections. Just look at current polling in the United States. Look at the larger context internationally and just understand the decision by the supreme court is a temporary bump in the road."
Now, it also from that perspective is a convenient and perhaps even helpful bump in the road for the pro-abortion movement. And this is what many conservative Christians failed to see. The reversal of Roe was a long sought and absolutely necessary pro-life victory. But as we've often said, it didn't resolve the issue, it do the issue to the states. Where we now have 50 wars, plus the national war over the issue of abortion.
But for the pro-abortion movement, the reversal of Roe gives it what it sees as an opportunity. An opportunity for political influence and opportunity for fundraising, an opportunity for messaging. But here's what we need to note, an opportunity to press for even more for a legal abortion reality that is far beyond even what was laid down in Roe v. Wade in 1973. And timed with the 50th anniversary of Roe, you can count on the fact that there were several in the pro-abortion movement who wanted to be on the front lines to say, "We don't want to go back to Roe. We want to go far beyond Roe."
One illustration of this argument came from Susan Rinkunas in an article that was published time with the 50th anniversary of Roe at the website known as Jezebel. Now, just wait, just a minute. You know your Old Testament, if you're talking about a website and a journalistic source named Jezebel, you pretty much know what you're dealing with, but it is important to recognize that this argument is made, and as we shall see, this argument goes far beyond the radical feminism of Jezebel. It is actually increasingly a part of the mainstream of so many in the pro-abortion movement.
But speaking of Roe, Rinkunas asked this question, "Why would we fight to restore something that didn't guarantee true reproductive freedom for everyone? We can do better," she said, "and it starts by realizing that we can demand better." She went on to say that Roe v. Wade failed to the pro-abortion movement.
Now, why would they say that? Well, it's because the trimester structure built into Roe v. Wade, which did eventually lead to abortion on demand, did allow for in the third trimester states to at least restrict some abortions for some reasons under some circumstances. What we need to understand here is that for the pro-abortion movement, Roe never did go far enough.
For one thing, the advocates of abortion, even in the 1960s and 1970s, weren't merely advocating for legalized abortion. They were advocating for abortion to be understood as a woman's right and a right in the sense that would require the government to pay for abortion. We need to recognize that the pro-abortion movement was never satisfied with Roe.
This author writes, "I'm not interested in middle of the road compromises at all. Maybe that's what we end up with, but that's not what I'm starting with." She says that the feminist movement and the pro-abortion movement must simply demand that abortion be recognized as a woman's health and thus entirely up to the woman. And by the way, she makes very clear, Roe's formula, that the issue should be left in the early period of pregnancy to a decision of the mother and doctors. Well, this writer says, "Doctors don't have any room in this at all. As a matter of fact, doctors have no business. This is simply a woman's choice."
Now, by the way, I want to point out a moral contradiction there. You can't say that it's merely healthcare and then say the healthcare providers don't have any kind of influence or authority in the issue at all. You can't say that about an appendectomy, but here's where we need to know. This is where the left is going. Just consider the transgender so-called sex reassignment or gender affirming surgeries. That is a situation in which the patient basically says to the medical community, "You're going to do this, like it or not."
Now, some people might say this represents not the mainstream of the abortion rights movement, but something like that, movement's left wing, but that's not true. The same statement saying that Roe was never enough was made by Alexis McGill Johnson, who was the president of Planned Parenthood, in an opinion piece that ran Friday, and by the way, this is important, in the magazine known as Teen Vogue. So this is addressed to American teenage girls.
Alexis McGill Johnson said that she was finally, quote, "letting go of Roe." And she announced that she and Planned Parenthood were working on better and, "betting on better" for those in the future. She continued with these words, "Without the framework of Roe, we can advocate for the ceiling as we write ourselves back into the Constitution."
So Roe, they argue, was always just the floor. It was just the beginning. They weren't satisfied with Roe, and now they're not looking to reestablish the floor. In the words of Alexis McGill Johnson, the head of Planned Parenthood, no, they're not going for the floor, they're going for the ceiling. Well, don't say you haven't been warned.
By the way, to insert just one more footnote. It is interesting that in this article, even though it begins by talking about women, women disappear at a certain point and instead the article is about, "People who have abortions."
The article also cites Renee Bracey Sherman identified as founder and executive director of We Testify, that is, we are told, quote, "An advocacy group dedicated to abortion storytelling and culture change." She said, "What we are looking for at 'We Testify' is a visionary bill that ensures that every single person who wants an abortion is able to get one." Again, notice the language, every single person. But then notice where she goes.
Again, the demand, "That every single person who wants an abortion is able to get one without fearing any sort of criminalization or repercussions. That includes," she said, "young people, that includes people who self-manage, that includes incarcerated people and that includes people who are enrolled in Medicaid." In other words, taxpayer. You're going to have to pay for this.
This article and its argument conclude by the way, with a section marked, No More Concessions. No more concessions at all, go for abortion and go for broke. And again, they think they are winning this argument and the reversal of Roe v. Wade, they see as something that might actually serve as a catalyst to extend abortion rights. A wake-up call, so to speak, even though they lament the reversal in some ways, they like the politics that it has produced.
In days ahead, we will have cause to come back and look at more reactions to the 50th anniversary of Roe and what they mean in worldview perspective.
An Icon of The Left Steps Down from Leadership: Jacinda Ardern Resigns as New Zealand’s Prime Minister
But I want to shift right now from an issue that has been championed by feminists to a champion of feminism and a feminist icon who has just announced that she is resigning as the prime minister of New Zealand.
I'm speaking of current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. A young woman of extraordinary political consequence clearly, she rose to be the prime minister of New Zealand as one of the youngest persons ever elected to such an office, and she was elected as a woman and she became, by the way, only the second woman in world history to be a head of government who delivered a baby, became a mother in the process. But as you look at Jacinda Ardern, and you need to realize she came from the left and she became a heroine of the left.
Now, many Americans really came to know her in the context of COVID-19 because she quickly became what was recognized as a polar opposite to the current president of the United States at the time, Donald Trump. Jacinda Ardern was a cool, and by that I mean in personality type, a very cool, supposedly rational, enlightened progressive prime minister. And she set out by her own declaration to prevent New Zealand falling to the COVID pandemic.
She led one of the most extreme efforts to try to isolate her own country and shut down its economy in order to prevent COVID-19 from getting a toehold and then expanding in New Zealand. And it became draconian and extremely well known. And many in the progressive left in the United States were pointing to Jacinda Ardern and to New Zealand saying, "Look, that's exactly what we should do." But it became very clear that COVID was more powerful than the shutdown ideology in New Zealand, and eventually it became clear that just trying to quarantine the island wasn't going to work.
Furthermore, New Zealand faced rather daunting economic problems and rather understandably at the time, voters in New Zealand were willing to let those issues stay in something of a political abeyance for at least some period of time given COVID-19. But COVID-19 is now over, especially in the minds of voters and especially when it comes to excuses about the economy and the very leftist government of Jacinda Ardern really is not looking very good in economic terms.
Furthermore, her handling of COVID didn't turn out to be very good after all. And the legacy of a very heavy hand of government there in New Zealand during the COVID-19 pandemic, it's left a lot of bruised memories and she has a lot of political enemies. Nonetheless, she did stay in office as prime minister between 2017 and the present, and she said that she had become a totem. She had become a victim of the pandemic in her own way, and she was simply tired.
Well, one of the things I need to note is that when you're looking at this kind of political context, you have conservatives in the United States who are very interested in some conservative leaders outside the United States, and those leaders become at least a part of the influence on say, the conservative movement in the United States.
The greatest example of that in the 20th century was Margaret Thatcher, the British prime minister, who actually entered her office as Britain's prime minister shortly before Ronald Reagan was elected president. And the partnership between Reagan and Thatcher was pretty epic. But the same pattern is seen on the left, but more so.
On the right, you have a very clear understanding of the role of nations, on the left, not so much. So openly there were many Americans who basically on the left wished they had Jacinda Ardern as their head of government rather than the President of the United States. And there are many on the left of the Democratic Party, and increasingly that means the mainstream of the Democratic Party who would be far happier with a Jacinda Ardern than a Joe Biden.
Agnosticism in High Office: New Zealand as A Parable of a Post-Christian Age
But this also affords the opportunity for us to recognize that when you look at the South Pacific in this region, and you look at both Australia and New Zealand, but in this case New Zealand in particular, you are looking at some of the most secular societies on Earth in New Zealand in particular.
New Zealand has no established church, and it also has right now in its population, a majority who identified as having no religious identification or preference. And New Zealand is socially, morally and politically very liberal in a way that corresponds with the liberalism that runs in parallel with a secular worldview. It's not by accident, it's not by accident, no matter which side of the equator you're standing on.
In this case, Jacinda Ardern herself is an interesting parable of a post-Christian age. And it's also interesting to note, I think most people don't know this. She was raised as a Mormon, as a member of what they identify as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But she split over Mormonism, and when you think about her liberal and secular worldview, that sort of makes sense. But the issue that caused the division was gay rights, the LGBTQ agenda. She is, as you might imagine, ardently for it.
More recently, she has said, "I can't see myself being a member of any organized religion." Again, she identifies as an agnostic and as non-religious. Just to make that point very clear, perhaps she is often identified in photographs with her partner, not her husband, with her partner, with whom she had the baby. That became, as I said, only the second child born to an incumbent female head of government. So far, as we know in world history.
Measured in many ways, New Zealand is not only a progressive, but a very well educated and rather wealthy society, but it faces daunting economic challenges. Just consider the fact that last year, average house prices in New Zealand fell 12%. Imagine waking up in January of this year with a house that was worth not more, but a full 12% less than it was a year before.
But finally, something else we need to note. Resigning as prime minister and doing so under a great deal of political pressure and being blamed by many of your own citizens for an underperforming economy and for many bad decisions under the COVID-19 pandemic, you would think that might limit your prospects for the future, but no.
As a matter of fact, many of Jacinda Ardern's friends, they predict that she will land in a bigger platform, which so often happens in politics, especially on the left, where being a celebrity like Jacinda Ardern just might be more important than what will be demonstrated in a political record.
In any event, lots to consider here in worldview analysis. In any event, I just recognized that both of the major political leaders referenced on the program today are women. Kamala Harris, the vice president of the United States and Jacinda Ardern, the soon-to-be retired prime minister of New Zealand, and both of them, we should note, see themselves doing bigger things in the future. That's something to think about.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
Before leaving, I want to tell you about a very special class, I'm going to be teaching for credit, a regular academic course which will be available in the classroom and online for both Boyce College and Southern Seminary.
The class is entitled American Evangelicalism: The Controversies of Conservative Christianity in the Modern Age. We're going to be looking at the emergence of the evangelical movement in the United States. What defined it theologically? How was it organized? Why does it exist? What were the alternatives at the time, and what does it mean to be an evangelical?
We're going to do a tour of evangelical history, look at some of the most colorful characters of the last century of evangelicalism, and we're going to do a close review of the theological, moral, and cultural controversies that continue to shape the evangelical movement to this day. Just consider the class a combination of theology, church history, Christian ethics, and apologetics.
I'm looking forward to it. I hope you might join us.
The course is open to all undergraduate and graduate students. Our first meeting will be April the 11th, 2023. You can learn more and enroll by going to sbts.edu/mohlercourse. That's sbts.edu/mohlercourse. I hope to see you there.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'm speaking to you from Atlanta, Georgia, and I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.