Tuesday, December 12, 2023

It’s Tuesday, December 12, 2023.

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

Part I

Texas Woman Travels for “Abortion Care” — Huge Issues of Morality and Language Arise in the Midst of Controversial Abortion Case

First, an update on the situation in Texas, which as of right now is not exactly a situation in Texas. That’s because Kate Cox, the Dallas area woman who had sought by going to the court to gain authorization for what she considered or claimed to be a medically qualified abortion–she had a district court basically rule with her until the Texas Supreme Court put that on hold–well, the news this morning came that she has left the state of Texas in order to get the abortion.

Let’s just remind ourselves of what is at stake here. Yesterday, we talked on The Briefing about the fact that when you have so many people talk about abortion, they talk about exceptions for the life and health of the mother. From a Christian moral perspective, those two issues are not irrelevant, the life and health of the mother. But the most important thing to recognize is that that particular language emerged from a situation in which the pro-abortion argument basically came down to making the argument that every single woman should be presumed to be seeking an abortion under whatever circumstances that might be found in order to preserve her life and health.

A part of that is because health became redefined as not only physical health but psychological health, which basically meant that so many women were in the position where they could simply claim that the unintended pregnancy or the unwanted pregnancy was something that affected their mental health or threatened their mental health. You could see how that supposed exemption just became what was basically the rule. Anyone could make that claim. It’s for that reason, the pro-abortion movement, the feminist movement pressed forward with the logic such that they then begin to demand abortion on demand. That is to say a woman should be able to obtain an abortion for any reason or for no reason simply because in her judgment it’s what’s best for her.

The Christian moral tradition, the pro-life tradition based in a biblical worldview, says that there may be some very dire situations, some incredibly dire situations in which the effort to save the life of the mother might not intentionally but nonetheless inescapably bring about the termination of the pregnancy and the death of the unborn child. Every word of that was very important. The Christian biblical worldview position is that abortion can never be the intended purpose of any operation, of any procedure. There is, however, the acknowledgement that in some very rare cases to save the life of the mother, it may be an unintended but nonetheless unavoidable consequence. That would mean extremely rare situations and in no situation can the death of the unborn child or the termination of the pregnancy be a goal unto itself. Period.

So many people, including a lot of Christians, are asking out loud, “Why is it that the pro-life movement opposes so many of these exemptions?” And the answer is because the exemptions turn out to be the rule. As you’re looking at this, you recognize that even this case, the case of Kate Cox that has received so many headlines and has attracted so much attention, there are some massive unanswered questions here. Now, what is presented is a woman who well along in her pregnancy was told that she was carrying a baby that was affected with a genetic abnormality that is incompatible with the continued survival of the baby after birth.

Now, from a Christian ethical perspective, that is a huge issue, but once again, the Christian biblical understanding of these things does not allow for any intentional action to bring about the end of a pregnancy. Any action necessary legitimately to save the life of the mother, that’s one thing. But any action that is intentionally to terminate the pregnancy is by that very nature disallowed, unethical, to be avoided and also to be as constant law that is there should be a legal protection for the unborn child against being terminated as a matter of medical procedure.

It has to be an unintended, if nonetheless expected secondary result of the primary effort to save the life of the mother by some kind of medical or surgical intervention. But, obviously, you could have all kinds of claims that there’s a condition that threatens the life of the mother. It was not at all made clear that this particular pregnancy in this woman in Dallas fit that category at all. There was no particular argument ever made in public as to why this pregnancy threatened the mother. The genetic abnormality in the infant, even if real, and let’s just presume it is real, was by most diagnoses incompatible with the long-term survival of the baby. But nonetheless, there is no automatic rationale or explanation as to why this would’ve threatened the life of the mother.

And then, again, you have people say, “Well, if not the life, then the health.” Yes, but are you talking about physical health or what? In the mainstream media, it’s as if you have just two different sides and it’s just a matter of one argument winning over the other. It’s the argument that a woman has this right to reproductive healthcare. That’s the argument made by Kate Cox and the pro-abortion movement that brought her case to the court.

On the other side, the mainstream media would present what it caricatures as an extreme position, and that means abortion with no exceptions. That is not the situation in Texas, but the point is the exception has to meet specified criteria. In order to understand not just what was happening here and maybe happening even right now (but outside the state of Texas because Kate Cox announced that she was simply leaving the state in order to obtain the abortion in a state where there wouldn’t be this legal complication), a part of the media background to this is evidenced in a Washington Post report that came out yesterday.

It’s by a pair of reporters for the Washington Post. The headline is this: “Texas woman at the center of an Abortion Ban Challenge leaves state for procedure.” The language is always important. Let’s look closely at the language. The Post tells us, quote, “Cox’s lawsuit has been widely viewed as a test case for other abortion litigation across the country. Advocacy groups have tried a variety of different approaches to overturn or temporarily block the bans in full or in part since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022. Most recently, several cases have centered on the women directly affected by the laws instead of abortion clinics or doctors.”

It’s the next sentence that’s key to our understanding: “While the Texas Supreme Court might have eventually ruled in Cox’s favor, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the organization representing Cox in this case, said she couldn’t wait any longer for abortion care.” Now, what makes that sentence particularly insidious from a moral perspective is the fact that abortion care is not a quotation marks as some kind of term of art. It’s not a quotation from the Center for Reproductive Rights. It is in the text written by The Washington Post. The language that killing an unborn child is now repackaged as abortion care, it also tells us a great deal about the viewpoint, the worldview of the mainstream media coming right down to the language deployed by the mainstream media in this kind of report.

Before leaving this situation and mourning this unborn child, we also need to recognize how the game’s being played and how, even as this particular woman left the state of Texas so that case basically goes away. She leaves the state of Texas and is going to, she says, obtain an abortion elsewhere where the legislation would allow for it in that state. It is also really interesting to note that the arguments that were made by this particular activist group and in this particular case, they are intended to do two things. Number one, to start setting up similar cases elsewhere; and number two, to bring about an adjustment in the public understanding of the question of abortion. They’re pretty certain that time is on their side. And I think those of us who hold to the dignity and sanctity of unborn life have to be quite concerned that they might be right.

Part II

So Does President Biden Really Want Funding for Ukraine? Border Funding to Stem Migrant Influx is Also a US Security Priority

But next, while we are in this case talking about a story that comes from Texas, let’s just stay on the southern border of the United States with Mexico for a bit and look at one of the most interesting and folding dramas in recent American politics. It has to do with the president of the United States, Joe Biden, and in this case not only the Republican majority in the House of Representatives but also Republicans in the United States Senate. Because on the issue we’re going to discuss right now, the Republicans in the House and the Senate are unusually unified.

This has to do with the fact that the Republicans are insisting that the administration put into legislation that would include military aid for Ukraine, that the administration would also put in meaningful resolution of at least some of the crisis in the American border, the southern border, and in particular the influx of immigrants, and in particular those who are claiming asylum, and in many cases are not being held but are being allowed to go into the general population.

We are talking about a radical increase in the number of persons who are entering this country without legal basis and are claiming asylum. There is simply no doubt what is going on here: the border’s out of control. It’s a simple fact that a country that allows its border to be out of control will cease at some point to be a country. But without being alarmist, let’s just say that at this point the United States has a very significant illegal immigration problem. Here’s where you see the Biden administration in a very interesting spot.

In the mainstream media, what you see right now is the Biden administration saying that Republicans are being obstructionist because Republicans are trying to attach increased border security. By the way, the Republicans have caught on to the reality. This is not just some kind of lip service. They’re demanding to border security genuine increase in border security to bring about a genuine decrease in the influx of those who are coming in and, in many cases, falsely claiming asylum. You have the Biden administration trying to present this in the mainstream media, trying to cooperate and presenting this as Republican obstructionism and Republicans doing something weird by trying to put together two things that don’t belong together in legislation. In this case, border security and military aid for Ukraine.

The Biden administration is trotting out officials and they are just trumpeting the argument that Republicans are doing a crazy thing here trying to put these two things together. And yet, let’s just remind ourselves that it was the president of the United States himself who put these things together. The original putting of these things together was not done by Congressional Republicans but by the Biden administration.

The background to this is that the Biden administration knows that if you put three things together, military support for Israel, military support for Ukraine, and support for immigration reform at the border and increase security, you have two things that might get the other thing over the finish line.

When it comes to military support for Israel, wide American support; when it comes for meaningful reform in our immigration crisis, you have actually overwhelming support; when it comes to Ukraine, you do not have overwhelming support. That is also, at least in the Biden administration’s original proposal, the vast majority of the funds that is going to Ukraine rather than the other two things put together. The Biden administration put all three things together in order to try to achieve a political victory, because anyone who was for two of those things might be taken over the line on the third.

But Republicans very successfully countered the move by saying that Ukraine and Israel are not the same thing, that there is an urgent need in Israel right now, and there is overwhelming support for Israel. It was the Republicans who said, “Look, those three things don’t go together.” But remember, they hadn’t put them together originally; the Biden administration had. Indeed, the president of the United States had. Take Israel out of the equation right now and you are left with the main political dynamic being Ukraine and the border reform, immigration reform, and you have the president who is wanting to get this military aid for Ukraine as quickly as possible and as much of it, or at least of his proposal as possible.

Republicans are–here’s something almost miraculous in political terms–the Republicans in the House and the Republicans in the Senate, they’re basically standing together on this, saying no to the Biden administration, because it is a national security package. Even as Ukraine is tied to national security issues, so is achieving national security at the nation’s southern border. Those two things, Republicans say, go together. The president was right to put them together. The president is now disingenuous to suggest that it’s the Republicans who put them together. It’s the Republicans who are now insisting that they stay together.

All right. What’s the political dynamic? I started out just a bit ago by saying there is widespread concern. Indeed, there’s bipartisan concern about an out-of-control border. Why won’t the president just declare victory on both of these things and move forward? It’s because he is scared to death of the left wing of the Democratic party, the left wing of the Democratic party, which is in control overwhelmingly and all out of size with its numbers. The left of the Democratic party does not want a meaningful border and certainly will resist any effort whatsoever to restrict the illegitimate inflow into the United States of those who are claiming asylum.

Okay, this is where things get even more interesting, because the Republicans are onto something else, and that is the approach of the White House. By the way, it’s not just this White House. A succession of White Houses, including Republican administrations has played games with this. Let’s just say that we reduce this to a matter of math we can all understand. Let’s just say that everyone is assuming that the number two is good, that you have two people who fit this category. Well, at present you have something like 10 people claiming that category every single minute of every single day. The Republicans are onto the fact that when President Biden says, “Oh, he’s committed to some kind of meaningful action,” coming back from 10 to 2 still leaves the big problem of the increase from two to six. This is how the immigration-migration border crisis has snowballed in the United States over the course of the last 30 or 40 years.

Part III

Rethinking Ukraine Crisis: America is at a Crossroads Over Ukraine Support, But Where is the Strategy?

But while we’re speaking about Ukraine, let’s go ahead and think about Ukraine, because some basic rethinking of the situation related to America’s support for Ukraine is coming. That’s not a matter of some kind of reckless prophecy; that is a matter of political reality. It is coming. Let’s remind ourselves of the timetable. It was in February of 2022 that Vladimir Putin invaded the nation of Ukraine. Ukraine being a sovereign nation, its borders had been respected by the international community and there were significant agreements between Russia and Ukraine. You also had, in the eastern part of Ukraine, portions of the nation defined as portions of Ukraine that were predominantly Russian-speaking.

Russia was claiming them civilizationally, Russia was claiming them linguistically, Russia was increasingly claiming that politically. And with the invasion of February, 2022, Russia claimed them nationally, claimed them militarily. Furthermore, it was clear that Vladimir Putin, an autocratic leader of an increasingly imperialistic Russia, was intending to seize in a meaningful way basically all of Ukraine and make at least much of Ukraine part of Russia itself and the rest of Ukraine part of a greater Russia territory that would be certainly under Russian control.

Okay. The United States and NATO allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and others came very much to the defense of Ukraine. There was an unexpected and unprecedented unity, basically, among Western nations and, in particular, in Europe, as to helping Ukraine and indicating support for Ukraine opposition to Russia and making the routine declaration that the Ukrainians had to be victorious if liberty was to survive and Europe was to continue as a safe project. But even as there has been an unusual unity in NATO, and you’ve also had some of Russia’s neighbors rushing to join NATO, at the same time, there is an uneven investment in the support of Ukraine.

The United States continues to be the most generous military supporter of Ukraine. There are other nations that are giving, other nations are contributing to the effort, but the United States has contributed the most in terms of money by far. The argument that was certainly made, and it was a convincing argument, I think, for the defense of Ukraine, came down to the fact that this is now a proxy war between Russia and constitutional democratic self-government, between Russia and the continued integrity of Europe, between Russia and any number of nations that will be threatened by an aggressive Russian bear set loose without any check.

The problem, though, now becomes clear, and that is that Russia is very determined to win at least some of its war aims here. Russia is playing a much stronger hand than Ukraine. The big issue is that, even as you have Western leaders, including the French president, the German chancellor, and the president of the United States saying this is entirely the call to be made by Ukraine in terms of any kind of settlement of this crisis. The fact is that that doesn’t really mean a lot when Ukraine can’t pay the bills in terms of what’s necessary for its defense, and even in coming days when President Zelensky of Ukraine comes to the United States and, of course, asking for more military aid.

What’s going to happen here? Well, again, the mainstream media kicks in and says that Republicans are now beginning to bulk at this funding. Well, Republicans have been reluctant, at least some Republicans for a very long time, and at least for arguably good reason. But at this point, the burden of proof really does fall on the Biden administration to say what its ultimate aims are here, because it’s increasingly clear that Ukraine is not going to defeat Russia. It’s increasingly clear that it is extremely unlikely that Ukraine is going to be able to push Russia back to the previous Russian border. Now, that’s not a good thing. It’s a bad thing, but it’s a real thing, and living with illusions is itself a bad thing.

At this point, the most important issue we can say is that when you’re dealing with issues of war and peace, and you’re looking at something like the Russian aggression against Ukraine.–that’s what it was, it was an unprovoked Russian invasion. That’s a very bad thing. Russia ought not to benefit by it. But in a fallen world, it might be implausible that any amount of Western effort is going to be able to return Ukraine in peace to the borders it had before the Russian invasion of 2022. That is not a good thing, but as I said, living with illusions is not a good thing. At least at this point, the only pushback that Biden administration is getting is from Republicans in Congress who are saying, “We want to know the plan. You’re going to have to reveal the plan,” and that assumes the fact that you have a plan.

Part IV

Fidel Castro’s Sister Supported the Revolution But Declared Her Brother a Tyrant: Juanita Castro Dies at 90 in Miami

But finally, for today, as we think about the clash of worldviews, and here Russia comes up, and the background to that, of course, being the former Soviet Union and the breakup of the Soviet Union. Before that, the great conflict known as the Cold War, which was a military conflict–yes, thankfully it didn’t become open war between the U.S and the Soviet Union, but it was military in terms of many of its manifestations. Of course, it was one of the greatest ideological conflicts of all of human history. When we think of that conflict, we tend to think of it writ large in the great big blocks of nations as they were known with the Soviet Union and its block and the United States NATO and that block, our block.

But this also comes down to very personal stories, and one of those erupted into the headlines in a frankly unexpected way just over the last several days with the death of a woman in Miami, a very old woman. She was 90 years old. What’s absolutely crucial about this woman who died in Miami is her last name, because her last name was Castro.

Juanita Castro was the sister of Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro, who led the Communist Revolution there in Cuba in the late 1950s into the ’60s and, of course, was one of the main agents for communism around the world.

He saw himself that way. He presented himself that way. He began as a revolutionary, but not as a communist, but he ended up as a communist revolutionary. But then again, he also ended up as a communist totalitarian autocrat. Now, what’s really interesting about Juanita Castro is that she was the sister to two Cuban dictators because it was not just Fidel Castro, but also his brother who succeeded him, Raul Castro. Why was the sister on the other side? Well, she didn’t start on the other side.

She started as a supporter of revolution. She started as a supporter of her brother, Fidel Castro. But when he put in effect a communist rule that represses and killed his own people, his sister broke with him. Juanita Castro became his critic trip. Gabriel writing her obituary for the New York Times tells us that she, quote, “grew disillusioned” with Fidel’s move to rural Cuba as a one-party communist state. His sister said, “He betrayed the Cuban Revolution, which was democratic and as Cuban as palm trees, as he himself used to say.”

The Cuban Revolution took place in 1959. By 1961, Juanita Castro was working with the CIA and with the American government. Her secret code name was Donna and the background to this was a betrayal. But she said this very clearly. She said that she herself had not betrayed the Cuban Revolution, but rather her brother had. Eventually, her brothers had. According to The Times Report and other sources, the brothers suspected that Juanita was working in some sense with the anti-Communist opposition, but, at least according to most sources, they did not imagine that she was actually working for the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States and with other American military and intelligence agencies. But as it turns out, she was.

By 1963, her situation had become untenable. And the key incident there was the death of the Castro mother, because when her mother died, she recognized that her brothers might well move against her, and so she fled. She fled originally to Mexico. When she landed in Mexico in 1963, she made very clear that she was breaking with the Cuban Revolution and with her brother. She said, “I cannot longer remain indifferent to what is happening in my country. My brothers, Fidel and Raul, have made it an enormous prison surrounded by water. The people are nailed to a cross of torment imposed by international communism.”

Well, the image of her brothers turning the island nation into a massive prison surrounded by water is one that clearly communicated her concern and the rationale for why she broke with the Cuban Revolution and why she broke with her brother, the Cuban dictator.

Juanita Castro moved to Miami. She lived among Cuban exiles never comfortably. Many of those exiles never trusted her, because after all, her last name was Castro. In any event, they blame the Castros with ruining the nation and sending their families into exile. But Juanita Castro opened a drugstore. She ran that drugstore for years until eventually it was bought by a national chain.

She sought to subvert her brother’s regime. She fought her brother politically. She betrayed her brother to the CIA and other American officials. But when Fidel Castro died, and many in Miami turned out in the streets to celebrate, it was a step too far for her. She would not celebrate her brother’s death. “That’s not Christian,” she said at the time, “That’s not humane.” All this is a reminder of the fact that human beings are born into an historical circumstance for which they do not ask. When it came to Juanita Castro, she did not ask to be born who she was, where she was, to whom she was, among brothers and sisters as she was. She didn’t ask to be Fidel Castro’s sister and Raul Castro’s sister, of course, as well.

She died just in recent days in Miami, Florida. A reminder to us that you never know who you’re passing on the street walking by on the sidewalk. How many times have you made a brush with history and you didn’t even know it? There must be many people in Miami right now asking themselves that question.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can find 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’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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