The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

It’s Wednesday, August 9, 2023.

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

Part I

The Abortion Battle Rages On, But Is the Pro-Life Movement Ready? Pro-Abortion Movement Gains Huge Momentum as Ohio Voters Overwhelmingly Reject Constitutional Proposal

Bad news out of Ohio yesterday and into last night. It had to do with an election held there in Ohio with a very particular purpose. One basic question before the electorate there, and that was whether or not to change, and in this sense to raise the level of votes necessary to amend the state’s constitution.

Now you might say, “What’s that got to do with abortion?” Well, in this case, virtually everything, because the background of this is that in November, the voters there in Ohio are going to be facing the question of abortion, and they’re going to be facing it by a pro-abortion movement that is trying to put in the Ohio Constitution a far more liberal position on abortion, basically shifting abortion away from anything that can be made illegal until at least the time the unborn baby is declared to be viable.

That would be a more liberal position than where the Ohio legislation stands right now, but that’s being contested in court as well. There are some big issues here for us to note. The most important thing for us to see is that the issue of abortion is exploding all over this country in ways that the pro-life movement in one sense asked for, but is clearly not ready for. When I say the pro-life movement asked for this, I mean we were working hard for a matter of decades where the reversal of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. That 1973 decision, infamous as it deserves to be, established a woman’s so-called right to an abortion. It made it very difficult for states throughout the term of a woman’s pregnancy, basically to limit access to abortion and thus to protect unborn human life.

The reversal of Roe v. Wade came, well, just over a year ago, and that opened the door for states to move towards more restrictive laws on abortion–laws that would protect unborn life, and Ohio was one of those states. But, as I said, even as we asked for and worked for the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the pro-life movement has an enormous challenge in terms of defending human life in the political arena, state by state, as well as at the federal level.

Something to note about Ohio. Ohio had been the classical swing state in American presidential politics. The old adage was that if you’re going to win the White House, you have to win Ohio. That’s not technically true, but it is generally true and it’s certainly true for a Republican. But over time, the state has actually moved into a more Republican posture. Lots of reasons for that. One of them has to do with declining power of industrial America, declining power of organized labor, and also the fact that you had an awful lot of people who were moving to more liberal states that they wanted more liberal cultures. Ohio has been trending red, but as we see, when it comes to the pro-life issue, we’ve got big concerns and an even bigger challenge than we thought.

So what exactly happened yesterday and why does it matter? Well, an effort undertaken largely by pro-life leaders in the legislature to put before the voters a measure to raise the threshold needed to amend the constitution. For about a 100 years, that has been 50% plus one. That’s a very low threshold to amend or revise the constitution of a state. But nonetheless, knowing that this pro-abortion initiative was coming in November, pro-life legislators and leaders in the state sought to head that off by raising the threshold to revise the constitution to 60%. Not only 60% in terms of the vote, but practically all of the counties, 88 counties. The current situation is that you need signatures from about 44 of those counties. This would double that number to the total counties in the state. Regrettably, the measure was defeated.

Last night, it went down to a big defeat. It wasn’t even close. And as you’re looking at this, you recognize we just might have been seeing the likely vote in November, but only in this case held in August. It might be that just a matter of a few weeks from now, we see almost the same percentage. Big lessons for this. Number one, this didn’t work. It didn’t work because at least to many people, it appeared to be an effort to try to subvert the democratic process there in Ohio. Now, I don’t think that’s particularly fair, but I will say you can see how it could be packaged that way.

Just at face value, 50% plus one is an extremely low threshold for revising a constitution because the very idea of having a constitution, in particular, a written constitution, is that it would provide continuity. It would seem that a certain form of populism, probably almost assuredly in the historical background here, influenced Ohio to have a very low threshold. I think raising that threshold at least somewhat would be very healthy.

But in this context, voters turned it down. They voted in numbers greater than the last time they turned out in the polls. They voted in advance in terms of early voting, a multiple of what they had done in the past. We are looking at a very definitive statement, but we’re also looking at a statement that though ostensibly about the constitution there in Ohio, everybody knew it was really about abortion. And that’s where we need to focus our deeper concern here, because clearly we have a much bigger battle for the defense of unborn human life than many pro-life Americans believed or wanted to believe back in the period when the Supreme Court was poised to strike down the Roe v. Wade decision in the 2022 Dobbs decision.

When that decision was handed down, pro-life Americans believed that there would be tremendous momentum towards further restricting abortion. And of course, in some states there has been, but there are two different patterns we have to watch. One of them is that the more pro-abortion states have become even more pro-abortion. The Dobbs decision was used in a manipulative sense by pro-abortion politicians. Consider, for example, California Governor, Gavin Newsom who basically said, “Look, we need to liberalize our laws further.” And California even began moving towards paying for people outside of state to come to California in order to receive abortions. They made abortion into a crusade tragically enough.

But the second big movement was that we discovered there are two big demographic and political challenges to the pro-life movement. One of them has to do with the electoral map. That electoral map is fairly close, but not exactly the same when you look at say, red America and blue America. But as you’re looking at swing states, here’s the big problem. The swing electorate is nowhere near as pro-life as we had hoped they would be. They’re turning out to be far more supportive of abortion rights, or to put it technically more accurately, far more reserved or opposed to restrictions on abortion than they gave indications of being before the Dobbs decision. That tells you something of how little conviction there is on this issue on the part of many American people.

The second complicating issue that is certainly working against us here is demographic when it comes to generations. When you look at the pro-life movement, it really began among those who would be identified as baby boomers and those who were even a little older than the baby boomers. They were the ones who were shocked by the legalization of abortion and the Supreme Court’s judicial overreach and complete ideological reading of the Constitution in 1973. It took some time for the pro-life movement to gain traction, organization, and momentum.

In one sense, every generation thereafter was measurably pro-life than the one who came before. Now, the reason for that might be a little more subtle than you might think. It’s not just the persuasiveness of the pro-life movement, which certainly played a part. It was also the overwhelming persuasiveness of the ultrasound image.

As recently as 20 years ago, Time Magazine would run a cover story talking about the fact that younger Americans were more pro-life than older Americans, but now that’s no longer the case. Somewhere between 20 years ago and now a generational change took place, and I think we see it on the LGBTQ issues. We see it on secularization issues. We see it on many issues of a liberal or progressive spectrum. We see that this younger generation has moved significantly to the left, and that is particularly true of those in their 20s and those right now in American college and university campuses. We have an absolutely massive challenge to reach that generation with the pro-life message. Let’s just state the obvious. If we don’t, our cause is at least politically, legally, and legislatively lost in this country.

So let me just give you the really bad news that the voters voting in Ohio gave us yesterday. All it’s going to take is 50% of the voting electorate in the November election plus one in order to put a far more pro-abortion measure, not only in Ohio law, but in the Ohio Constitution. That’s very bad news. Let me give you worse news: given the fact that the pro-abortion movement secured its victory yesterday with such a healthy margin, it doesn’t have to turn out nearly as many of its voters in November to make the Ohio Constitution pro-abortion. It is unlikely that the pro-life movement will, in the matter of three months, will be able to shift the numbers in their direction.

So the pro-abortion movement there appears to have gained the momentum and the pro-life movement has a huge wake-up call, and it’s not just in Ohio. Consider what’s happened to the pro-life cause in terms of statewide elections since the reversal of Roe. Consider what happened in Wisconsin. Consider what happened in Kansas. Consider what happened in Kentucky.

By the way, on this one further issue of bad news, the vast majority of those surveyed about why they were voting as they voted in Ohio, they really didn’t speak usually of constitutional issues. They spoke instead of abortion. That too sends a signal.

Part II

Ideology and Political Power Play in Wisconsin Headlines: Justice Janet Protasiewicz and the New Rules of Political Engagement by The Left

But next, near to Ohio and very close to this issue, we also have to talk about what happened in Wisconsin in recent days. Indeed, Wisconsin now has a liberal majority on its state Supreme Court. That’s a story that has been unfolding, and it’s related to what we talked about in Ohio. Wisconsin right now is an extremely important swing state, and inside Wisconsin it is swinging in a more liberal direction. It is swinging in a more pro-abortion direction. The Supreme Court will turn out there to be very, very important. And back in April of this year, a special election was held to fill a Supreme Court Justice vacancy there, and the woman who won that election, Janet Protasiewicz, identified herself very clearly with the pro-abortion cause.

Now what we see, or at least what we saw in April in the conduct of that election was that the Democratic pro-abortion candidate coming from the left made no bones about the fact that she was going to indicate how she would vote on the court on issues related to abortion. She made her pro-abortion position very, very clear. Indeed, she ran on it. She basically ran on it because there has been a conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and that has been a great assist to the pro-life cause. Well, all that’s over.

What we saw there was the politicization and the open identification of a judicial candidate with political and ideological issues that are certain to come before the court. In just a relatively short amount of time, that would’ve been considered so inappropriate that just about everyone in society–the mass media and even both political parties–would’ve condemned a candidate for a judicial position who came out in advance and said, “Hey, you elect me, you’re going to get this. On this issue, here’s what you’re going to get. I’m going to reward you for electing me by giving you what you want on this case, on this issue, on that case, on that issue.”

And two things here. Number one, constitutionally, that’s deadly. It just turns the judiciary into a small legislature. So it’s for the separation of powers. But secondly, it’s just a naked undisguised effort by judicial candidates to say, “You can load the court by electing me, not only in terms of how I understand the law and the Constitution in a more conservative or liberal way, but I’m going to tell you in advance, I’m going to vote on A, B, C, and D. Choose your judge and choose your majority on the court.”

And let’s also note that liberal/conservative spectrum is the language that’s being used in this case. The Wall Street Journal’s headline story said this, “Wisconsin Supreme Court swings to left with new justice.” Now, again, just a matter of a couple of decades ago that would’ve been considered journalistically wrong to speak of left and right, but all that’s gone, let’s just know. And in this case, it is the progressivist, it is the liberal candidate who came right out and said, “Look, you vote for me, you’re going to get support for abortion.” We need to remember that.

Meanwhile, the report from the Associated Press ran with this headline, “Wisconsin’s High Court, which almost overturned Biden’s win in the state flips to liberal control.” Now, notice how much politics they put into that one headline. The 2020 presidential election was not at all on the ballot in this case back in April; but then again, it also trips our understanding of the fact that those kinds of electoral issues are never very far in the background and the Associated Press and the local press there in Wisconsin evidently thought that’s worth even putting in the headline. The ideological issues in the headlines, once again, they’re just really important.

Now, consider the fact that over the course of the last say 20 years, it was conservatives who were coming to the conclusion that the state courts–as well as federal courts– are really, really important on big issues. That’s something that many people neglected. And by the way, the default in this is that so many of those positions were basically held by Democrats, even in non-partisan elections. If you looked into it, you discovered the Democrats were largely in control. Republicans had to work hard to regain control. And by the way, it never reached more than about a 50-50 representation. But nonetheless, the left considered the courts its own territory and has been fighting back. And what we see right now, for instance in Wisconsin, is that the left is showing some real teeth and fighting back, and the left in this case is unabashedly even openly advertised as pro-abortion.

Part III

In a Fallen World, There Are No Ultimate Political Victories: A Call for Pro-Lifers to Keep Fighting the Good Fight for Life

In a fallen world, there are no permanent political victories. They never are permanent. We live in a world in which sin makes things fall apart, not come together. Sin makes things move from good to bad and from bad to worse, not in the other direction. It takes enormous energy to stop a movement leftward. It takes enormous energy to stop moral dissipation. It takes enormous discipline, even courage to stand up for truth when the truth is increasingly unpopular. And it’s also a matter of courage to look at the demographic and political and cultural trends and understand we’ve got a much bigger job ahead of us than we knew a matter of say a year ago.

But if we run from it, then did we sincerely believe what we said we believed about our convictions? We should expect that the fight for righteousness and justice will be a big battle till Jesus comes. If we find ourselves defeatist or we find ourselves fatigued and we let that move us into a position of no longer making any difference for the cause of life, then a couple of things would be true. First, it would indicate that all the effort of the last half century was nothing more than an exercise in futility. I don’t believe that it was. And secondly, we must not have really believed that the sanctity of human life was a central worldview issue as a matter of biblical truth. Well, I think it is. I think you believe it as well. We have a big task ahead, so let’s just remember this. Sometimes we need to encourage one another along the way.

So consider this encouragement and consider yourself encouraged. Now get busy.

Part IV

The Boy Scouts Are No More: What This Year’s National Jamboree Reveals About the Decline of Civilization

But next we’re going to shift to a very different story, and this one has to do with the Boy Scouts of America Jamboree. This was the first Jamboree of this scale since COVID, held just days ago in Glenn Jean, West Virginia. But what’s as important as what took place there is how the press are reporting it and what we’re supposed to understand this to mean. Mike De Socio for the Washington Post tells us, “Amid the hundreds of tents erected for the Boy Scouts of America’s National Jamboree, one especially stands out, decorated with a canopy of LGBTQ pride flags and a string of multicolored lights, its tables covered with bowls of rainbow bracelets, pronoun stickers and diversity patches.” Eighteen-year-old River Capell, who served as a scout volunteer, describes “Themselves” (that’s the pronoun here) as non-binary and pansexual and said fo the Jamboree, “This is my entire world.”

Then the Washington Post tells us, “Since the jamboree began last week, Capell has had plenty of company under the huge canvas. ‘There’s been days when there’s 2,000 kids in this tent alone, and that’s just, like, absurd.'” Now, I totally agree with the word absurd in this quotation, in this context. This is absolutely absurd. I say that as a former Boy Scout, who also was a Boy scout during the time when the Boy Scouts of America consisted in this membership of boys. Back in those days, the Boy Scouts of America even went to court all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States where they won in order to be a boys only organization, but then under immense corporate and cultural pressure, they just caved.

They admitted gay men as scout leaders in 2015. They admitted gay boys in one sense even before that, trans boys in 2017, and then ‘cisgender girls,’ in 2018. So once again, as you might go back to my days of being a boy scout and you talk to someone, the vocabulary doesn’t even make sense. What in the world is cisgender and how the pronoun, ‘them,’ relating to one human being? All of this just points to the massive rebellion against creation order that is represented by the entire LGBTQ array, but in particular, by the gender revolution and transgender and so-called non-binary.

By the way, time you get to this news report, you have no idea who anyone really is. As a matter of fact, just given the structure of the English language, you’re not even sure at times how many human beings you’re talking about.

A couple of big issues for us to think about here. Number one, this is how a moral revolution works. You have to tear down the institutions, you have to tear down the Boy Scouts of America. You do so in the name of liberating women, first of all, back in the good old days when you actually talked about men and women, boys and girls. But then the LGBTQ Revolution comes along and the ideological toxins, well, they just grow more toxic. And now you have the Boy Scouts of America, which has actually changed its operational name to Scouting USA, so that they don’t mention boys or girls, which I would say is at least some form of honesty from this organization. The progressives had to have it and they had it. And what do progressives do with an organization like this? They broke it.

Now, the entire purpose of this article in the Washington Post is supposed to tell us, “Look, this organization’s coming back after COVID, is coming back after having shorn itself of the idea that boy scouts are supposed to be boys. It is coming back after a sex abuse crisis. It’s coming back.” But as you look at this, you recognize that the Boy Scouts of America, that organization’s not coming back. The organization on the other side of this massive revolution in morality and this massive rebellion against biology, it is whatever it is, but whatever it is, it is not the Boy Scouts of America.

Now, as you think about that, you recognize there’s a lot at stake here. If you have an organization that has the word boy or girl in it in the first place, that’s supposed to mean something. But the transgender revolution has meant that you have biological males trying to compete with biological females, known as girls, on women’s teams. And then you also have girls who want to be boys, and you have biological females showing up in an organization that was the Boy Scouts of America. And you say, “How does that work?” Well, eventually you have a jamboree with a tent, with a rainbow flag passing out all kinds of trinkets with rainbow signs in which you have a single human being referred to as “they,” and the Washington Post thinks this is just swell.

The headline in the Washington Post article is, “Boy Scouts make Room for LGBTQ and Diversity at National Jamboree.” But here is the tragedy: the boys and girls have both basically disappeared. What you’re left with now are scouts with rainbow patches.

Oh, and by the way, if you make it all the way to the end of this report in the Washington Post, you’ll find an identification of the writer. So here it is. I’m reading it word for word. “Mike De Socio is a journalist based in upstate New York, an author of the forthcoming book, Morally Straight: How the Fight for LGBTQ Inclusion Changed The Boy Scouts and America.”

But the point to ponder is the main title of this book, Morally Straight, which is a part of the historic Scout oath. What does that even mean now to the Boy Scouts of America? What does it mean to be morally straight? Well, I think if they give you a straight answer, “straight” doesn’t actually mean straight.

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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