The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Monday, June 19, 2023

It’s Monday, June 19, 2023.

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

Part I

A Massive Revolution on the Moral Landscape: USA Today Publishes Story Arguing That High Financial Cost of “Having a Baby” For LGBTQ Couples Is Discriminatory and Unjust

Every once in a while, you see a major development in the culture that simply crystallizes what’s going on in terms of trends, trajectories, great shifts in the moral landscape. Sometimes these stories come out of the blue. Sometimes there’s at least some context for them. And in this case, we’re talking about a front-page article that appeared over the weekend at USA Today during Pride Month.

Now as we have seen, USA Today is just about the most pro LGBTQ major daily newspaper in the United States. It has taken the occasion during Pride Month basically to push every button imaginable in finding every possible angle on a news story or a feature story. It’s been working the LGBTQ agenda into every single fisher in the culture in such a way as to try for maximum time and space emphasis on the LGBTQ revolution. And as we have seen at least a part of this in terms of the strategy is to so overwhelm Americans that there’s basically a sense of moral surrender to the inevitable. But at times there are clear obstructions to what at least are the stated goals of the LGBTQ movement. And one of those as Christians understand is called biology. One of them is simply what in theological language is ontology, that is being, or creation order, a more biblical way of putting it.

And so creation order establishes boundaries, limitations. It is God’s design. And even in a fallen world, there’s only so far you can go in defying that design. So what does this have to do with the weekend edition of USA Today in the front page? Well, everything.

So here we are in the year 2023. We are far along on the trajectory of a moral revolution, seeking to overthrow a Christian biblical morality right down to the definition of marriage, even right down to the definition of boy and girl and replace it with something completely new. The LGBTQ initials just stand for this giant revolution, but the revolution as Christians understand hits significant bumps in the road and sometimes the revolution seems to hit what amounts to a brick wall, a brick wall of reality. And yet when you look at those who are pushing this revolution, they see reality as something to get around or to go through, not something to accept.

The headline is this: “For LGBTQ+ community, the path to in vitro fertilization is harder.” Bailey Schulz is the reporter. This is a front-page article in USA Today, just as the nation went into the weekend a few days ago. The headline speaks of the LGBTQ+ community and then there is the claim that the path to in vitro fertilization, that’s IVF. This means the technology originally discussed as test tube babies, indeed it is IVF, in vitro fertilization, but it’s actually not in vitro anymore. That meant in glass. That’s just a stand-in for advanced assisted reproduction by means of what we call IVF. And here we’re told that for the LGBTQ+ community, the path to in vitro fertilization is harder.

Now even from an editorial perspective, that’s a weird headline because the word harder is a comparative. Harder than what? To what is USA Today comparing how difficult it is for the LGBTQ+ community to access successful in vitro fertilization? Well, it turns out that the harder here is as compared to heterosexual couples, and as you might imagine, there is a huge story here. I think this is nothing less than explosive.

So Schulz begins the story by telling us, “Shortly after getting married in 2016, Jordan and Carmella Graham were ready to have kids. The only problem for the same-sex couple: the cost.” Okay, wait just a minute, I read it exactly as it’s written. We are told this is a same-sex couple and they have decided to “have kids” and the only problem is the cost.

Now, I’m not going to go into anything graphic here. I’m simply going to say that Christians understand, indeed all human beings throughout human history have understood that there is another big problem with two people of the same gender or of the same sex trying to have a baby. It doesn’t work. It won’t work, it can’t work. But here we are told again, here’s the quote, “The only problem for the same-sex couple is cost.” No, the problem is that the entire relationship is an act of defiance against creation order. No, the problem is that even as you look at God’s act of creation, making human beings in his image as male and female, and then giving us the mandate to marry and then to multiply and to fill the earth, well, that all goes together with the promise of a reproductive context in which the obedience to that command is quite possible.

This is something that is learned by very, very young children. It takes a mommy and a daddy to make a baby. You can’t get a baby with two mommies. You can’t get a baby with two daddies. At least you can’t biologically. And yet here we’re told the only problem is cost. This represents this massive revolution on the entire moral landscape to the point that a newspaper like USA Today can write an article on the front page last Friday and offer that as the originating sentence, the lead sentence in the article. The only problem is cost. I think Christians understand there is a cost angle to this, but it’s way downstream of far larger issues.

But what is the cost issue here? “To get pregnant, they would need to go through in vitro fertilization, IVF. And a single IVF cycle, a period of about three weeks in which eggs are collected from an ovary, fertilized by sperm in a lab and then transferred to a uterus, can cost upwards of $20,000, including medication.”

Now, there are good many married couples, that is a man and a woman united in holy matrimony who find themselves facing infertility or a difficulty having babies. That was the origin of the IVF technology along with other assisted reproductive technologies. Now, I’ve written a good deal about this and talked about the grave moral issues related to IVF, but the one thing that even the most revolutionary scientists weren’t thinking about when IVF was developed a generation ago was the fact that it would eventually be used by those who would declare themselves same-sex couples.

But wait just a minute, it can’t exactly be used that way because even when you’re looking at the reproductive cells, it still takes a male cell and a female cell. But along comes the consumer market to commodify that, so now you can basically buy human reproductive gametes on the market. But the complaint in this article is that it is unjust for the LGBTQ+ community, that’s the way it’s identified here, to have to use this technology and to pay for it if indeed they want to put quotation marks around this, “have a baby.”

Part II

Will the American Insurance Payer Subsidize the Moral Revolution?: The Rising Tide of the Sexual Revolution Reaches Ever Higher

Furthermore, there is the Pride Month angle here. There’s the LGBTQ particular angle here. That’s where the article gets specific with this, “IVF and other fertility treatments are expensive for most people who want children.” Now let me just back up and say that’s bad writing. That’s also bad editing for no one to catch that because when you talk about most people who want children throughout human history, that has meant heterosexual couples and most of them have found a way to have a baby without assisted reproductive technology.

But nonetheless, there are indeed millions of otherwise healthy couples who do have issues here. But when you’re looking at this, you realize this is just propaganda basically, saying that IVF and other fertility treatments are expensive for most people who want children because most people want children don’t need these technologies.

But nonetheless then follows, “But LGBTQ+ couples face even higher financial barriers, advocates say, because state laws and insurance policies can make it more difficult for them to receive fertility coverage.” Okay, there’s a reason for that and that is because in insurance is supposed to take care of a situation in which there is an injury or illness, a life challenge to something that is a natural human capacity defined as health. Just to state the obvious, but evidently we need to state the obvious, and that is that when you have a same-sex couple unable to have a baby, that is not a health problem.

The article also makes clear that as you look at issues such as state medical aid and in particular medical insurance, that medical insurance oftentimes will cover in vitro fertilization for heterosexual couples who over a period of time are unable to get pregnant. And that’s just as simple as an insurance company say after waiting for a year and seeing if a baby comes, if it doesn’t, then we’ll talk about insurance coverage for advanced reproductive technologies, but you have to wait a stated period of time in order to see if nature simply solves the problem. If nature doesn’t, the insurance carriers say, come back and talk to us, and this is of course in consent with the medical community. But here’s the obvious truth. If you’re looking at a couple as a man and a man and a couple as a woman and a woman, waiting a year is not going to make any difference. Indeed, waiting for eternity isn’t going to make any difference.

But the point is that the inability of a man and a man to have a baby or a woman and a woman to get pregnant is not actually a health problem. It is not because of some injury or illness or lack of function. That is simply a defiance of biology. But the big moral point to see here is not just the defiance of nature, the revolting its creation order, it’s also something else. You also see here the implication that the current situation is discriminatory against same-sex couples and is thus unjust.

That’s the argument of this article. It’s not just implicit, it’s explicit. By the time you get to the end of the article, it’s not fair that same-sex couples don’t have insurance coverage in order to cover their access to advanced reproductive technologies, and in particular IVF or in vitro fertilization treatments.

An individual identified as medical director of Illume Fertility and founder of the group Gay Parents To Be, a resource for LGBTQ+ couples, said to USA Today, “We just want the same benefits as a heterosexual couple.”

Well, again, we just have to state the obvious and we are the first generation in human history to have to state this. That’s a rather humbling and troubling realization. When you’re talking about a heterosexual couple, when you’re talking about the benefits that come to them, one of the benefits is having a baby. And now you have the claim, “We just want the same benefits as a heterosexual couple.” Well, guess what? Creation is not going to deliver on that, so this means you’re actually going to have to redefine what it means to “have a baby.”

This same doctor, Dr. Mark Leondires said, “Anybody who wants to have a family and wants to bring a child into the world should be able to.” Okay, I’m going to assume that he means what he says when he says those words because he doesn’t even say any couple. He just says, “Anybody who wants to have a family and wants to bring a child in the world should be able to.”

Now should in moral language, where in the world does that should come from? How does that should fit? What does it mean when this activist says anybody who wants to have a family and wants to bring a child in the world should be able to? Now taken at face value, that means anybody. And by the time you get to the end of this article, you realize that there is no absolute reference here even to supposedly married same-sex couples. This is basically an argument that healthcare and healthcare insurance and the healthcare system should provide whatever assisted reproductive technology, so perhaps even surrogate parenting in order that “anybody who wants to have a family and wants to bring a child into the world should be able to.”

Now here we need to note that it is not by accident that there are biological limitations placed upon human beings. There are some very obvious metaphysical ontological limitations that are simply a part of being human. Now, just to state the obvious, we can’t be in two places at once. Even Dr. Seuss recognized we can’t be here and there and everywhere. There are other limitations just in terms of temporality. We are born on a certain date and our lifespan has a certain number of days, years, months. We are not without limitations. We’re limited in space and time. We’re limited in health and strength. We are limited in terms of chronology. We’re limited in terms of biology.

These activists are pushing back on the prevailing policies with medical insurance such as the definition of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which defines infertility. This is really important, and this is by the way, probably pretty politically incorrect these days and it’s probably going to be undone by some new revolutionary policy, not grounded in biology.

But the current definition of infertility at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is this: It is the inability to become pregnant after a year of attempting to become pregnant. At that point, there’s the definition of infertility, but that definition applies only to heterosexual couples. It’s actually irrational as it’s related to anyone else. And that’s recognized in the article because it’s the very premise of what’s supposed to be the problem. That policy is unjust because you can have same-sex couples and they can work at being pregnant for an entire lifetime, or we might say even longer and it’s not going to happen.

The article then says, “Nevertheless, insurance providers like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois have used similar language to define infertility in their policies.” When it comes to the actual insurance companies, well, they’re trying to have it both ways. They understand that financially, just based not on a moral argument, but a sheer actuarial, a sheer financial argument, they can’t possibly pay for anybody and everybody to have access to very expensive assisted reproductive technologies. And by the way, when you’re talking about anyone and everyone, you are talking not only about IVF, but surrogacy and all kinds of other very problematic costs.

One statement coming from the insurance establishment is this, “Every American deserves access to high quality, affordable healthcare regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age or disability.” And we’re told that this group, “firmly believes in this commitment and we strongly support the overarching goal to promote equal access to healthcare.”

But at the same time, they’re not arguing to undo the current setup in terms of insurance coverage for assisted reproductive technologies, which is basically limited to heterosexual couples who’ve been trying for at least a year to have a baby. In other words, they’re basically parroting back everything the LGBTQ community is saying until it comes to IVF technology and paying for it, and then the insurance companies are basically saying absolutely nothing.

The article also tells us that in California, lawmakers “have introduced legislation that would require health plans to provide coverage for fertility care, including IVF.” That means for LGBTQ couples as well. But here we simply have to note there is no way that even the state of California has the financial resources to pay for that. It simply is not going to work. It’s one of many issues that the California government, and in particular the California legislature, tends to pick up as a possible idea.

You have to put Governor Gavin Newsom in the same capacity, contemplating all kinds of possible expansions of vast government spending. But at the same time, California is actually facing a budget crisis and a massive shortfall in funding. This can be talked about all they want, but it’s going to be virtually impossible to bring this off in terms of say even the state of California through its state mandated healthcare plans.

But there’s something else. You are likely to see the effort to try to shift this to the entire American population of those covered by insurance carriers, simply finding some way to put all these massive costs within the entire insurance context, in which case you would have the majority of people covered by such policies having no need of these technologies subsidizing a moral revolution, which is now also a reproductive technological revolution.

It’s just fascinating to see the moral rebellion that is absolutely evident in this entire controversy.

It’s also interesting to look at the language. For instance, USA Today’s article says this, this is simply not to be missed, “But many of the mandates are exclusionary and ‘extremely heterogeneous,’ according to a 2022 peer-reviewed paper published in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology.” Let me just back up. Were told here that the mandates, these insurance policies are exclusionary and extremely heterogeneous.

Well, here’s a clue for you, reproduction, human reproduction is extremely heterogeneous. To put it another way, the only way this massive article that begins on the front page of the weekend edition of USA Today makes sense is if everything human beings have known about sex, gender, marriage, and human reproduction for thousands of years is to be overthrown with a newly defined human sexuality and understanding of human reproduction, which by the way won’t work.

The politics enters into it too. USA Today reports, “President Joe Biden’s 2024 fiscal year budget submission, for instance, included proposed legislation that would expand access to fertility treatment and adoption reimbursement to single veterans, veterans in same-sex relationships and veterans who need donor sperm, eggs or embryos to build a family.”

Now, those measures got stripped out before the actual budget provision was passed by Congress, but you’ll know it’s going to come back again and again and again. But even in the language used here, there’s a basic acknowledgement that what is being defied here is not a political reality, but a biological one.

There are other big Christian biblical worldview dimensions to a story like this, including the yearning factor. This is something that we need to see with a certain amount of sympathy. Not sympathy that extends to any agreement whatsoever with these policies or demands, but simply with the understanding that God has implanted within us a desire for children, but that desire is to be directed towards marriage as the union of a man and a woman. As the society tries to direct that urge towards anything else, it simply doesn’t work.

This article is just the latest evidence of that, but it’s being packaged in such a way that insinuates somehow that it is the responsibility of a moral society to overcome the limitations of biology. And another way to look at that is simply by saying in one sense, good luck with that, but we actually don’t mean good luck with that.

Part III

Brilliant Minds, Dark Turns in Life, and Big Questions: Two Recent Obituaries Raise Massive Moral Questions

But finally, for today, we’re going to look at two deaths, two obituaries, both of them producing a good number of news stories. One that made the front page of the New York Times is the death of Daniel Ellsberg, born in 1931, died just days ago in 2023. Daniel Ellsberg was at the center of one of the greatest political controversies in the United States of America when it became known that he was the source for the leak of something like 7,000 documents related to national security and America’s involvement in the military conflict in Vietnam. These became known as the Pentagon Papers, and they were one of the most massive leaks of U.S. intelligence information in the entire history of the nation.

Daniel Ellsberg was a highly trained government analyst when it came to national and intelligence. He had graduated as a boy from a prep school, then he’d gone to Harvard. He also held degrees from universities such as the University of Cambridge in England. He held a doctorate from Harvard, and then he joined what was known as the Rand Corporation, one of the most high-tech, high intelligence companies in all of the history of the United States in the 20th century. He eventually became an advisor to the United States Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara in the Kennedy, and later in the Johnson administrations.

At some point, Daniel Ellsberg with access to vast amounts of national intelligence data, decided that America’s involvement in Vietnam was immoral. And by the way, dimensions of it were clearly revealed to be immoral. That’s why the documents were kept secret. But he released the material, eventually leaking the material to something like 16 major American newspapers, and eventually this created one of the largest political scandals in the United States.

Daniel Ellsberg was clearly guilty of massive crimes against the United States, including breaking laws related to espionage. Eventually, there was no question that he was behind the leak, and there was also no question that it was intended to bring about a political effect. But even as charges were brought against him by the federal government, those charges were eventually dropped, and for a couple of interesting reasons.

One reason not so often mentioned is the inherent difficulty. Indeed, it’s a paradox of trying to bring someone into court for breaking the espionage act. Again, we’re talking about that in the headlines right now, even related to a former American president. One of the difficulties is that the prosecution must reveal in open court materials related to proving the case of breaking the espionage laws that might actually themselves release more information. That is in making the case, the prosecutors might actually violate national security. That’s one aspect of the difficulty when it came to Daniel Ellsberg.

But the bigger problem was that the government was found in involved in the case in ways that led to the judge just throwing out the case. It became impossible to prosecute. Daniel Ellsberg was either an arch criminal or a hero depending upon which side of the controversy Americans might be on.

But it’s also interesting that in a complex situation like this, things can go from bad to worse, and that’s exactly what happened because Daniel Ellsberg’s leak of these massive amounts of information came during the administration of President Richard Nixon, and yet it didn’t cover the years of the Nixon presidency. It covered, most importantly, the final years of his predecessor’s administration, Lyndon Baines Johnson. But Richard Nixon was horribly concerned about the leak of this kind of information. And if this kind of information could be leaked about the Johnson administration, it could be leaked about the Nixon administration.

And so eventually this involved the group known as the White House Plumbers. That was a break-in group working on behalf of the White House, and they eventually attempted to break into the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, and this became one of the biggest scandals in American political history, eventually leading to the entire scandal known as Watergate.

Daniel Ellsberg died, as I said, just days ago at age 92. It also tells us something about the flow of history that Daniel Ellsberg’s moment at the center of American politics and controversy was basically 50 years ago. And Robert McFadden writed his report when he says that this particular scandal “led to illegal countermeasures by the White House to discredit Mr. Ellsberg, halt leaks of government information and attack perceived political enemies, forming a constellation of crimes known as the Watergate scandal that led to the disgrace and resignation of President Richard M. Nixon.”

By the way, it is interesting that the New York Times in its coverage admits that a central player in this story was none other than the New York Times, which had decided to go public with printing much of the information that Daniel Ellsberg had leaked. That too became one of the great moral questions of the last half century.

The other death in recent days and went to mention is the death of Theodore Kaczynski, dying in a federal prison, perhaps by his own hand. Theodore Kaczynski was the man eventually convicted of being the Unabomber. Over a period of almost 20 years, he had strategically sent bombs, mostly in the mail, to prominent technology leaders in the United States. This included research scientists. It also included at one point Kaczynski arranging for a bomb to be on a 727 airliner that was operated by American Airlines. The bomb did go off, but the plane did not crash.

The press named this suspect, the Unabomber, because the profile was known as the University and Airline Bomber. In shorthand that became Unabomber. At the end of this process, Theodore Kaczynski would be identified as the Unabomber. He would be convicted in federal court. He would eventually be sent to a supermax prison in order to serve eight consecutive life terms. Now, the whole point there is that that’s largely a moral statement because just to state the obvious, no man can serve more than one life term.

We’re talking about yet another incredibly intelligent individual. Theodore Kaczynski was born in May of 1942. He eventually graduated from Harvard University and then did a research doctorate at the University of Michigan. But he quickly soured on society. He was capable of incredible academic work. Indeed, at one point, he won the award for the most outstanding mathematics PhD in the nation. But even as you’re looking at this, you recognize there is a darkness in this man that actually appeared rather early, as is often the case.

Theodore Kaczynski decided to turn on the modern world. He decided that modern technology was the problem, and anyone that had to do with the development of modern technology was thus the enemy. In 1995, he released a manifesto known as, “Industrial Society and Its Future.” It was a very dark, dystopian work indicating all kinds of fears and prophecies about the dangers of technology.

By the way, many of them were quite legitimate, but nonetheless, it was packaged in a worldview that was absolutely toxic. He went off the grid living in a cabin without electricity or plumbing, and yet he was able to undertake all of these bombings. And here you have tremendous intelligence that was evidently combined with a very, very dark, evil character and intent.

I mentioned that there were huge moral questions about the New York Times and other newspapers running the Pentagon Papers. There’s still huge moral questions looming over that entire controversy. There was also a moral question that was hanging over whether or not major American newspapers, in particular, a joint effort by the New York Times and the Washington Post would publish the Unabomber’s manifesto. Now, remember, his identity was not known. The FBI’s investigation was one of the most extensive, one of the longest, and at least by some reports, even to the date, the most expensive investigation in manhunt in FBI history, costing the FBI at least $50 million in the search.

But the New York Times and the Washington Post, and the Washington Post in particular, ran the manifesto because the Unabomber had said that he would stop sending the bombs if his manifesto got out. So what’s really interesting is that he went off the grid, but at the same time, you see the inconsistency. He wanted his manifesto published in the nation’s most influential newspapers. There’s an inconsistency there, but there was also the great moral question as to whether or not newspapers could publish this manifesto without taking moral responsibility themselves. Nonetheless, it was decided that they would. This was not a decision made in opposition to the United States government and federal authorities, but rather in some form of cooperation with them. And then something unexpected happened.

Ted Kaczynski’s brother that had already begun worrying about him and the brother’s wife had begun worrying in an even more pointed way. Those worries became crystallized when the manifesto was published, and Ted Kaczynski’s brother looked at the document and recognized specific language that he knew came from his brother. Thus, he turned his brother into the FBI. Eventually, Ted Kaczynski would be found guilty of 10 counts of transportation, mailing and use of bombs, and three counts of first degree murder.

It is very interesting that if you look at the Unabomber’s manifesto, there were warnings against some of the things that are now frontline worries, including what is now called artificial intelligence. Ted Kaczynski was smart enough to see that danger coming. Unfortunately, here you had a massive human intelligence wedded to a very deeply troubled soul.

Some things are very hard to explain, including timing in terms of our human understanding. Here you have two of the most infamous names of the 20th century dying within days of one another, both of them united by one thing, or you might say, two: massive intelligence wedded to massive moral problems, and also the involvement of major media in publishing the materials that they released.

The moral questions about both of these cases have yet to be settled, and it is a part of the brokenness of human society that in all likelihood, they never will be settled. At least not in this life, but as we know, this life is not the end of the story.

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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