Wednesday, April 17, 2024

It’s Wednesday, April 17, 2024. 

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

Part I

‘It’s Kind of Murder. I’m Just Okay With It’ — Bill Maher Makes Chilling and Revealing Comments About the Pro-Abortion Position

Bill Maher, the American liberal comedian and commentator used to have a television program entitled Politically Incorrect, a show that ran from 1993 to 2002. More recently, he is the host of the program known as Real Time with Bill Maher. But in this case, what we’re really talking about is something that happened in real time, but it gets to a very real issue, an issue as important as life and death. We’re talking about the comments that Bill Maher made on his program Real Time with Bill Maher just in recent days on the issue of abortion. The comments were made last Friday, and the most important part of what he had to say, and in this case, I mean not just in terms of inciting controversy, but quite frankly of revealing the truth of the issue.

Bill Maher, talking about the issue of abortion in the background of the recent Supreme Court decision in Arizona, he said, “I can respect the absolutist position. I really can.” He went on to say, “I scold the left when they say, ‘Oh, you know what? They just hate women, people who aren’t pro-choice.” Maher went on to say that the issue is not that pro-lifers hate women, but rather that they have what he describes as an absolutist position on abortion, and that is, that human life bears dignity and is to be preserved from the moment of conception until natural death. Bill Maher actually understands that. Now, the entire issue is joined because Bill Maher on the program was talking about the comments made in recent days by the former President of the United States, Donald Trump, who’s currently running for president, and in one sense also running from the position he ran on when it comes to abortion in 2016.

Donald Trump now says there should be no federal legislation on abortion. He wants simultaneously to take credit for the three conservative Supreme Court appointments that led to the reversal of Roe V. Wade, a phenomenal pro-life success in 2022, but he says, “After all, you have to win elections, and right now, the public sentiment in the United States is decidedly against federal abortion restrictions,” he says. And so, he said the Republican Party and his presidential campaign are going to take the position that there should be no national legislation on abortion. The former president said, “We’ll leave it at the States.” Bill Maher picked it up because he detected a lack of consistency in the former president’s comments, and that’s because the former president was inconsistent, a point I made on The Briefing days ago.

But then Bill Maher went on, and remember, he is not pro-life. He is pro-abortion, but he does understand what is at stake, and that’s what made his statement particularly revealing and even more so chilling. Bill Maher went on to say, “The anti-abortion people think that abortion is murder.” He then said, “And it kind of is.” In other words, Bill Maher went on to say that so far as he understands the morality of the situation, abortion categorically is not wrongly described as a form of murder. He wanted to say that pro-lifers think it’s murder. Then he said, mark these words, “And it kind of is.” Now, let’s just pause for a moment, and recognize what Bill Maher has done there. He has said that in his view, those he describes as absolutists holding the pro-life position are at least consistent.

Not only that, he says that the pro-life argument is accurate when it states that abortion is a form of murder. He says that in such terms that he will come back and state, “And it kind of is,” but then he comes back, having just acknowledged that he kind of thinks that abortion is kind of murder, and says, here’s the chilling part, “I’m just okay with that. I am. I mean, there’s 8 billion people in the world. I’m sorry. We won’t miss you. That’s my position on it.” Now, one of the things we need to note is that Bill Maher is a brand. He’s a comedian, entertainment political commentator brand. He has been that for 30 years or so. Anyone who’s been watching Bill Maher during these years, someone who knows what he’s about, knows that he’s about controversy.

His earlier program was entitled Politically Incorrect, because he sought to scandalize just about everyone on the political spectrum in that program that first started about 30 years ago. More recently, he’s on HBO. That tells you something right away. His current program on HBO known as Real Time with Bill Maher includes Maher talking with other panelists or guests on his program, and they seek to sensationalize, and they seek to scandalize. Otherwise, no one would want to watch. So, as we’re thinking in terms of worldview analysis, let’s just say we know at least that a part of what was going on here is the entertainment value, again, chillingly enough that Bill Maher and his fellow cast members believed was actually a part of talking about this issue in public last week.

Now, we as Christians have to understand there is no joking matter when it comes to abortion. There isn’t now, there never has been. We are talking about life and death, and those of us who are described here as holding to the absolutist position are just holding to the only position that’s consistent in any sense, and that is that abortion is wrong categorically, and it is the termination of human life categorically, that it is rightly described in ethical terms as murder because it is the willful destruction of a human being made in the image of God. That was true from the moment of fertilization, and will be true until the moment of natural death. So, when Bill Maher describes those of us who hold to this position as absolutist, well, in the sense that we understand this truth in absolutist terms that it’s absolutely true, and that thus it’s absolutely wrong to arbitrarily come up at some point at which abortion would all of a sudden be acceptable on this side, and unacceptable on the other side, he understands the inconsistency of that argument.

So, and hear what in moral terms is actually so devastating in this case, Bill Maher says, “They say it’s murder. I kind of think it is, but I’m okay with that.” His exact words, again, “I’m just okay with that. I am.” So, there’s no misunderstanding here. He said he’s okay with this, with abortion being murder, and holding to a basically pro-abortion position. He understands what is at stake. He says he even agrees with the fact that this is some form of murder. But then he goes on to say, “I mean, there’s 8 billion people in the world. I’m sorry. We won’t miss you. That’s my position on it.” Now, as Christians think about a statement like this, we need to back up and say there are at least a couple of things going on here. Number one, there is the question as to whether or not Bill Maher means what he says.

Now, a part of his brand is that he speaks what he means, and he means what he says. So, there’s a sense in which it’s perfectly conceivable that Bill Maher actually believes what he said. Furthermore, over the course of his on-camera career, this isn’t the first time Bill Maher has said things that are not only politically incorrect, but quite frankly absolutely chilling. Now, the second dimension of what we need to think about and Christians need consistently to think about this, and that is that we’re dealing here with words that constitute a very clear proposition of meaning. As we’re thinking about that sentence, it really doesn’t matter who said it. The most important issue, “Is that statement right or wrong?” Then once we know whether that statement’s right or wrong, what will be the effect of that statement?

So, if this statement had been made by anyone on planet Earth, it would still be equally horrifying. It would still be equally heinous. It would still be equally morally devastating. The fact that Bill Maher said it is why we’re talking about it, because it took someone of celebrity, having a media platform to say this out loud with enough people listening, I wasn’t watching the program after all, that this has made the news wires. It has become the subject of wide public discussion, but this is one of those situations in which you look at public controversy, and you say, “In this case, it is absolutely justified. It is justified in absolute terms, because we’re talking here about life and death.” There are two dimensions of this.

Here, you have Bill Maher saying, and he actually agrees that abortion is murder, “kind of is,” he said, but then he goes on to justify it, and he justifies it with the most grotesque argument by saying, “It’s murder, but after all, we have enough people.” He says, “There’s eight billion people in the world,” and then he says, to the abstracted person who’s been aborted, “I’m sorry, we won’t miss you.” Now, when you think about that for just a moment, you recognize that that last statement is a part of the moral horror of abortion. It is simply part of the horribleness, the deep moral evil of abortion that we are saying to people, “We won’t need you. We won’t miss you.” What Bill Maher didn’t say here but is truly implicit in what he said is that we would be better off without you.

We’re talking about a planet that according to the Leftist ideology is overstressed. But at the very least, you’d have to say what Bill Maher said here is that there’s so many people, we won’t miss someone who is missing. But from a Christian perspective, that is absolute insanity. We will miss those who are missing. We may not be conscious of every single person we are missing, but one day, we will be. One other thing we need to note is that when we are talking about the eight billion people in the world, what Bill Maher is referencing there is the total population of those living right now on planet Earth, but the truth is that everyone who is now living on planet Earth was at one point born. That means that just before that was not yet born.

That’s something you don’t often hear people reference in this kind of debate over abortion, this kind of controversy over abortion. There’s no evidence that Bill Maher said anything about not missing someone who is alive outside the womb. That’s not something he apparently referenced in that statement. He was referencing those who were in the womb, and saying that particular population is the population of those who, if killed in the womb, won’t be missed. So, you might say on the one hand that Bill Maher here is to be acknowledged as having spoken the truth. He revealed the truth. He pulled back the curtain, and actually acknowledged that abortion is murder. The way he put it is to say that the absolutists think it’s murder, “And it kind of is.” So, he has acknowledged that abortion kind of is murder, but then he goes on to support it, even going so far as to say that he will not miss those, that we will not miss those who are aborted.

Now, quite honestly, in the midst of this debate, where life and death is actually at the center of the question, we often hear people say things that are careless. There’s a problem with it. We often hear people say things that are confusing. What is so shocking about this situation is that there is no lack of clarity here. There is no confusion here. We know exactly what Bill Maher meant, and we know exactly what he said, and in this case, they apparently happened to be exactly the same thing. But before leaving the program, I want to go back to something that has received far less attention, and that was the comment made by one other person on the program just before Bill Maher made the statements that have gone so viral and deservedly so.

Gillian Tett, who is the chair of the editorial board for the Financial Times of London, I cite that quite often. It is one of the most influential media sources on planet Earth. It is the very epitome of the British establishment. If you’re looking for an analog, it will be very similar to the British version of the Wall Street Journal. Gillian Tett who is the chairman of the Financial Times Editorial Board, that is an extremely powerful institutionally mainstream organization, she said, speaking about abortion in America, “The thing that’s crazy is at a time when America is facing so many geopolitical threats where there’s a huge tech revolution going on where the economy is faced with all kinds of challenges, the idea that you’re fighting an election around this issue seems to be just strange, back in the 19th century.”

Well, you look at that. Here, she’s saying that there are those in the society, certainly in the cultural elite, who thought that that issue might actually have been relevant back in the 19th century, but not now. Gillian Tett went on to say, and from an incredibly powerful editorial position in the worldwide media, she came back to say, “There are some real issues out there. The economy is faced with all kinds of challenges. In the American election, abortion is an issue? How retrograde, how backwards,” or to use her own metaphor, “how back to the 19th century.” Now, honestly, I am very thankful that so much attention has been given to Bill Maher’s comments. I could only wish that as much attention was given to Gillian Tett’s comment, because coming from someone as mainstream as she is in her position, that tells you how so many in the cultural elite think of the abortion issue.

It’s so 19th century, or to put it another way, that’s how little many people in the cultural and media elite think of the issue of abortion and thus of the status of the life of the unborn. You look at something like this, and your first thought might be that this is a grotesque confusion. It is, of course, but it’s worse than that. In this case, it is a fatal confusion.

Part II

Islam Before Our Eyes.: The Inevitable Collision Between the Muslim Project and American Culture Hits USC Commencement

But next, with similar urgency, we’re going to turn to another big controversy. We’re going to look at three fronts of this controversy, and it has to do with resurgent Islam in the United States. It’s being presented by many in the media mainly as a collision of religious conviction and free speech rights, but I want us to see there’s a lot more to this.

So, the first place we’re going to go is to the West Coast and the University of Southern California. The controversy at USC has to do with the fact that the provost, the chief academic officer of the institution has canceled the spring 2024 valedictorian from giving a valedictory address as part of the university’s commencement. Now, that commencement is huge. According to media reports, it annually draws about 65,000 people to a giant stadium in order for there to be a massive graduation of a very prestigious and powerful academic institution in Southern California, an institution which by the way was at least distantly established by the Methodists in California, but we’re a long way from that. Now, we’re looking at USC as a major research university of great prestige in the United States.

The fact is that the provost, Andrew Guzman, actually chose the valedictorian, because we are told there was a large number of students who qualified, and thus the provost chose in something of an academic student beauty contest. By that, I don’t mean physical attractiveness. I mean, in terms of meeting something like a politically correct profile, and because that’s really what it’s about at the University of Southern California. But the valedictory address has been canceled. Why? Well, it is because the young woman who was chosen by the provost, designated to be the valedictorian, and thus to give this address, she is a young woman identified as South Asian American and Muslim, and she was outed by fellow students and graduates as a major proponent of the Palestinian cause, and as someone who identifies with the Palestinian cause in Israel’s current war against Hamas in Gaza, she identifies also as Muslim, and she has at least linked to arguments criticizing Zionism as “a racist, settler colonial ideology that advocates for a Jewish ethnostate built on Palestinian land.”

So, we’re talking about a young woman who has clearly taken sides, taken the Palestinian side, and is identifying Israel as a Jewish ethnostate built on Palestinian land, and furthermore said that the ideology behind Israel is a racist, settler colonial ideology. Now, we’ve talked on The Briefing about the fact that this is now not surprising, but we also have to discuss once again the fact that this is often hidden behind the headlines. Even the people at this university really don’t want you to know what is at stake. They’re facing controversy here, because they canceled a valedictory address before 65,000 people, and the provost said it was done because of the threat of danger, presumably to the speaker, but also to other people in the multiple tens of thousands who would be gathered at this event.

The implication is that this could lead to an outbreak of protest and violence and mayhem, and that is not what the commencement is to be all about. So, let’s just back up for a moment. Let’s just say, The University of Southern California has been caught here in an act of political correctness, and many students are saying on the Left that they simply caved to corporate or political pressure and to the Zionist cause. This is a university that has put itself in this position. 

But furthermore, we are a culture that has put ourselves in this position, and I have to discuss on The Briefing today what is these days, well, to go back to Bill Maher’s program called Politically Incorrect, this is politically incorrect, but it is worldview essential, and that is this. There is an inevitable collision between classical Islam and the American project. There just is. There is a massive collision inevitable between the Muslim project and Western civilization, there just is. And The University of Southern California and so many others in the liberal elite want to have it both ways. They want to act as if they are cultural relativists when it’s convenient and politically correct, but when they face the reality that having this argument made at commencement just might lead to huge problems. And by the way, some of the students on the left are saying they’re not really concerned about violence, they’re worried about losing donor support. Well, bingo, to a certain extent, those students are absolutely right. 

As you reach out and try to say you have sympathy for the university here, quite frankly, the university is a part of the problem. You have liberal American cultural institutions saying there’s no problem between classical Islam and western civilization. It’s a form of Islamophobia to make that argument. Yet, as we’re considering right now, you have a big problem with that when you have the outbreak of something as irrefutable as Israel’s war on Hamas, that came after the terrorist organization on October the 7th, brutally attacked Israel, killing innocent people, and quite frankly, calling for the death, the non-existence of Israel as a nation. Now, you can imagine where the situation at USC is going. It is going into the court of public opinion, and in all likelihood, it will eventually go into the courts. But you’re also looking at the claim, on the one hand, that Islam really factors into this, and the argument that it doesn’t, but you know the argument that it doesn’t simply has no validity at all.

Finally, anyone looking at this honestly finds that out. You also have the deep inroads here of critical theory and Marxist ideology describing Israel as a Zionist project, “a racist settler colonial ideology that advocates for a Jewish ethnostate.” Now, as you might expect, there’s a little bit more to this. It’s fascinating, and it tells you a lot about higher education. How else is the University of Southern California complicit in this problem? It is because we are told that this graduate to be recognized as valedictorian had as a major, at the University of Southern California, biomedical engineering, and as a minor resistance to genocide. That is to say the University of Southern California has a minor, an academic minor in resistance to genocide.

Now, you might say, “Well, we should resist genocide. Any moral person would resist genocide.” Yes, certainly we should, but we need to understand that that is one of those academic fields that has been increasingly taken over by a neo-Marxist ideology, and thus the nation of Israel, which was established by the United Nations in 1947, ‘48, precisely because of the genocide of the Holocaust, it is now being blamed for genocide. Now, there is no doubt that Israel, just like the United States as a nation, is a moral actor, responsible for moral actions, but that’s not really what is at stake here. What’s at stake here is that this university has produced a student body. Not only that, it recruited it, and it has produced a graduating class that includes people that undoubtedly gained a lot of the ideology now turned on the university from the university.

Part III

Argument over Palestine Protest at the Home of Berkeley’s Law School Dean Raises Big Issues

But next, we’re going to just go up the coast. We’re going to go to Berkeley California. Already, you know this is going to be interesting, the University of California at Berkeley, the flagship state university. USC is a private university, although it takes federal funds. As you look at the University of California Berkeley, you’re looking at the metaphor, the symbol for campus liberalism in the revolts of 1968. Well, as you know, the University of California at Berkeley has a law school, and the current dean of that law school is Erwin Chemerinsky, who is a leading theorist on the legal Left, a major critic of the current conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court. Chemerinsky is Jewish, as is his wife.

Chemerinsky himself has faced opposition from students in this incredibly liberal law school in this incredibly liberal university, because he’s Jewish, and there have actually been cartoons and other things that are openly antisemitic. It has to do with the fact that you do have the same kind of pattern here. You have students who are identifying as Muslim or as Arab. They are identifying with the Palestinian cause. Erwin Chemerinsky and his wife, who is a professor in the law school held, very generously, a dinner for some of the members of the class there at the University of California Law School. What happened is that a Palestinian student, and evidently, there was at least the knowledge that something like this might happen. At their private residence at the Chemerinsky home, the student took a microphone, and commandeered the event in order to start to unleash a diatribe on Israel.

Now, the situation at this point is on video. I can just tell you in advance, it gets pretty messy. At one point, Chemerinsky’s wife physically tried to take the microphone away from the student. There was an exchange. I’ll just say in legal terms, it’s a mess. The student claimed to have a First Amendment Freedom. Chemerinsky, again, dean of the law school, major constitutional scholar of the Left, came back and said, “It’s a private residence. This is my private home. We invited you here. The First Amendment doesn’t apply.” Well, as I’ve already said, it gets really messy. My guess is it’s going to make the legal situation at USC turn out to be really tame. But this is another situation in which Erwin Chemerinsky, I think, has helped to contribute to this problem by identifying with the political correctness that has taken over America’s academic Left.

He has also made constitutional arguments, which by the way appear to try to extend something like First Amendment rights far beyond official state actors and official state space, government space. That is to say, Erwin Chemerinsky may have to go into court now and argue against, Erwin Chemerinsky. I just want to point out that here again, the academic, cultural, political Left in the United States has sown the seeds of this, and you simply can’t get around the fact that it’s not just a neo-Marxist ideology in favor of the Palestinians here, it is a form of ideological Marxism. It is a form of critical theory. It is a form that is destructive of Western civilization, and intentionally so. Because if you’re going to argue that Israel is an illegitimate state because of what’s identified as the ideology and critique of settler colonialism, then you can do the math real fast, so is the nation currently known as the United States of America. But we’re the nation that is currently engaged in this experiment, and denying that religion can matter, theology can matter, worldview can matter to the extent that this just could undermine the American experiment.

Part IV

Death to America Chants — In America? Dearborn, Michigan Becomes Epicenter of Controversy

But before we leave this today, we need to go to Dearborn, Michigan, where some of the folks there who are very clearly identified as Muslim have made that point emphatically so. Just a matter of days ago, a rally was held in Dearborn, Michigan, remember, Michigan, when some of those gathered were chanting “death to America.” Now, this made the mainstream media. This is not just something that appeared in the conservative media sphere. This made the Detroit Free Press. It also made national news coverage, and as there were deeper investigations into this situation, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. This is a very large Arab population. It is a center of Muslim influence in the United States, and just a matter of a few weeks ago in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, there ran an article entitled “Welcome to Dearborn, America’s Jihad Capital.”

That was written by Steven Stalinsky. As we’re talking about just being honest about this situation, this collision of worldviews between Islam and the West, and increasingly, those who champion the Palestinian cause, in so many ways, those who are making this kind of argument, they eventually get to “Death to America.” But in the article, Stalinsky makes this point, “Support for terrorism in southern Michigan has long been a concern for U.S. counterterrorism officials. A 2001 Michigan State police assessment submitted to the Justice Department after 9/11 called Dearborn “a major financial support center,” and, “a recruiting area and potential support base for international terror groups.” There is one major figure there in Dearborn, Michigan–Remember, Dearborn, Michigan, U.S.A.–on his Twitter account on October 7th, the day that Hamas savagely and murderously attacked Israel, he went on and retweeted a post that said, “The hearts haven’t been overjoyed like this in so long.”

Ingrid Jacques, an article that appeared as an opinion piece in USA today, just in recent days asked the question, “Why is Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, not condemning the statement, protesters in her own state crying out ‘Death to America?’” Jacques pointed out that even the White House, which is actively seeking Arab votes, and trying to placate the Muslim community in the United States, and that has to do with its policy towards Israel as well, and we all know it, but even the White House condemned the statement. There was an editor’s note appended to the current online edition of the Ingrid Jacques article, and that editor’s note is this, “This column was originally published Sunday morning. According to a Fox News report published Monday, a spokesperson for Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a statement to the outlet saying she condemned the Dearborn chants.”

Oh my. Well, we’re going to have to leave this. But evidently, the governor of Michigan couldn’t just put out a blanket clear statement, but rather, the editor’s note said that the statement was made to another news agency in which in effect, she said that she condemned the Dearborn chants. Remember again, that chant was “Death to America.” Just to make the point bluntly, that statement didn’t come from nowhere, and it is headed somewhere. That’s where we’re going to have to leave it today. 

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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