The Briefing 08-14-15

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Pro-choice journalist questions position after horror of Planned Parenthood videos

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Secular parents struggle with children's predisposition to believe in God

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Preschool teacher claims role in challenging sexual morality children learn at home

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Transcript

The Briefing

August 14, 2015

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

 

It’s Friday, August 14, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Pro-choice journalist questions position after horror of Planned Parenthood videos

Consider this opening line from a recent article,

“For the last 30 years, I’ve supported abortion rights. This year may be different.”

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This article for which the headline is, “I Don’t Know if I’m Pro-Choice After Planned Parenthood Videos.”

It points to something we’ve been hoping and praying to see since the release of these videos in recent weeks. We’ve been hoping to see genuine moral change take place. A genuine understanding of the fact that every single human life is made in God’s image and a genuine understanding that what is being depicted in these Planned Parenthood videos is not something that is merely gruesome, but is undeniably evil. Something that has to end, not only in terms of the dismemberment and the sale of body parts of these babies, but the killing of the babies itself.

Now this is where we get to the article by Ruben Navarrette, Jr. it was published in The Daily Beast. He says,

“The only thing I hate more than talking about abortion is writing about it. It’s no accident that, in 2,000 columns over a quarter-century, I have never—ever—written about abortion. I’ve avoided the topic like a root canal.”

So in this article published on August 10, Ruben Navarrette, Jr. says he did what he avoided doing for 25 years in 2000 columns and that is dealing with the issue of abortion. The headline and his opening line tip us off to the fact that at least until recent weeks, he had considered himself to use his designation, pro-choice when it comes to abortion. He describes the videos released about Planned Parenthood as gruesome. He says,

“It’s jarring to see doctors acting as negotiators as they dicker over the price of a fetal liver, heart, or brain, and then talk about how they meticulously go to the trouble of not crushing the most valuable body parts.”

Navarette actually goes to painstaking detail in several of his paragraphs in pointing to the actual content of these videos, in pointing to what is actually taking place here. He absolutely punctures the claim made by many advocates of Planned Parenthood that it’s not about the money. He cites the dialogue in which participants representing Planned Parenthood made very clear, it is about the money. Navarette then points to the fifth video released by the Center for Medical Progress and he says,

“This raises the possibility that no one wants to discuss—that some of the aborted fetuses exited the womb alive and they were either killed or left to die, their “cadavers” intact.”

After summarizing the videos with some very important specificity, Navarette cites a statement from the Center for Medical Progress that reads,

“Planned Parenthood’s system-wide conspiracy to evade the law and make money off of aborted fetal tissue is now undeniable. Anyone who watches these videos knows that Planned Parenthood is engaged in barbaric practices and human rights abuses that must end.”

This is where Navarette writes the most important section of his article he says,

“I agree with that assessment, and I’m pro-choice. At least I thought I was until recently. These days, each time, I express concern, outrage, disgust, or horror over another video—which should come with warnings that they may produce nightmares—some supporter of the organization responds by attacking me and insisting that I was never really pro-choice to begin with.

“Defenders of Planned Parenthood are trying to deflect criticism away from the organization and onto those who produced the videos. In the minds of true believers, those are the real culprits—guilty of releasing illegally obtained and “heavily edited” videos with the intent of destroying a valuable organization.”

At this point in the article, we need to note that Ruben Navarette, Jr. says that the videos were absolutely gruesome, that he was repulsed by what he saw and he very honestly relates the fact that it is an undeniable indictment of the abortion business as undertaken by Planned Parenthood, extending of course we now know to the sale of profiteering from the parts taken from those babies. But at this point, you might think the Ruben Navarette, Jr. would say that he has come to a pro-life position, that having seen the hideousness, the gruesomeness of these videos he comes to understand what abortion itself is all about. But then he writes this paragraph,

“After all this, I still consider myself pro-choice, as I have for the last 30 years. I staked out this position during my freshmen year in college. Even then, I understood the abortion debate was a tug-of-war between competing rights—those of the mother versus those of an unborn baby. I sided with the mother. And I tried not to think about the baby.”

That is an extremely revealing statement. He says that he looked at the moral equation, as he understood it and he sided with the mother and then he says,

“I tried not to think about the baby.”

All this, he explains, is happening in the 1980s, which was a particularly tense time in the abortion debate. He also says he came to this position because as a man he did not want to dictate terms on this issue to women. He then writes,

“As I’ve only realized lately, to be a man, and to declare yourself pro-choice, is to proclaim your neutrality. And, as I’ve only recently been willing to admit, even to myself, that’s another name for “wimping out.”

So 30 years ago after weighing the alternatives, Ruben Navarette, Jr. says he came to a pro-choice position. Now he says, having seen the gruesome and horrifying Planned Parenthood videos he’s not so sure. He’s very specific about what the videos reveal, he is very honest about the fact that he finds them repulsive, but then he concludes his article with these words,

“For those of us who are pro-choice, the Planned Parenthood videos are a game changer. As to whether that means I’ll change my view, I’m not sure. I’m on the bubble. Ask me in a few weeks, after the release of more videos.”

From a Christian worldview perspective, the most important aspect of this article is what it reveals about the fact that its author is still ‘wimping out’, to use his very own terms. You simply can’t confront the reality of abortion, as reflected in these Planned Parenthood videos, and then describe yourself at the end of your article supposedly reflecting moral anguish as being still on the bubble in terms of a pro-choice, pro-life or pro-abortion position. The so-called pro-choice position is just a pro-abortion position. It is disguised in language that attempts to make the issue the centrality of a woman’s choice, but that just points to the idolatry in our age, once again of personal autonomy and personal choice. The reality is that if you hold to a pro-choice position, you are holding to a pro-abortion position. When it comes to policy you are saying that it should be legal that a woman should have a right to destroy the baby within her own womb. That’s the inescapable logic of the pro-choice position. When it comes to certain questions, there’s no way to find any genuine refuge in a pro-choice position or being on the bubble as this author describes it.

In reality, there are certain questions that are so urgent, the status of these questions is so ultimate that one way or another we are answering the question and we’re answering it in terms of the fact that when it comes to the sanctity of human life, we will either stand for the sacredness of every single human life or we’re already deciding that other lives are not sacred and thus can be sacrificed. The good news from this article by Ruben Navarette, Jr. is that these videos are having an impact. The bad news in this article is that the impact is not yet the kind of substantive moral change we’re hoping for and praying for. That will come about not only when people say we need to stop this gruesome business in the body parts of babies, but when people say we need to stand up for the sanctity of every human life, and that means putting an end to the horror of abortion itself. I am thankful that this author is horrified by the Planned Parenthood videos. What we have to pray for is that he and millions of other Americans will be horrified by the abortion that underlies the entire enterprise.

Secular parents struggle with children's predisposition to believe in God

Next, when it comes to questions of primary or fundamental importance, questions that simply can’t be avoided, questions that we are answering one way or another whether we recognize it or not, the most fundamental question of all has to do with the existence and knowability of God. That leads to a really interesting segment that took place this week on the program PBS News Hour. In it, Wendy Thomas Russell, a parenting columnist for PBS sat down with Jeffrey Brown to discuss her new book, Relax, It’s Just God.

Russell wrote the book as a secular parent and it is something of a guide to secular parenting, especially how to talk to children, particularly very young children about God, when you hold to a secular nonbelieving worldview. She talked about being in the car,

“I was in the car, and my daughter announced to me that God had made her and that God had, in fact, made all children and all people.”

The host then said,

“And you thought?”

She said,

“And I was so — you know, she was so incredulous because she just thought, this seems like really big news, and how you don’t know it, mommy, is really beyond me.”

Well, as we say, out of the mouth of babes. Here you have a secular parent describing to a secular journalist why she wrote this book about secular parenting and she says she did so because of events like the one she describes in which with her very young daughter, she found herself in the car, the daughter announces to secular mom that God made her and all children and furthermore, when mom doesn’t seem to know this the child is surprised and frankly, somewhat anxious. Well, Wendy Thomas Russell doesn’t want her little girl to be anxious about the question of God. She herself doesn’t want to be anxious about parenting a child from a secularist viewpoint, and she also want to help other secular parents to figure how to raise secular children acknowledging the sensitive questions about religion. Thus the title of her book, once again, “Relax, It’s Just God.”

She told the moderator,

“I don’t mean to be flippant or insensitive in any way, but it does seem like there are certain topics that are hard for parents to talk about and to broach with their children.

“And, increasingly, religion is becoming a one of them, and in a lot of secular families, the word God is almost replacing sex as kind of this taboo subject.”

That’s hugely revealing. Just imagine what she’s saying here. She’s saying that in some secular homes parents are far more ready to talk about sex than to talk about God. They’re not so uncomfortable when their children want to talk about sex, but raise the question of God, and they are absolutely apoplectic. Wendy Thomas Russell has written this book in order to say the question of God really isn’t that big a question. It doesn’t mean that much, it’s not all that important. The very title of her book, “Relax, It’s Just God” is an attempt from a secularist perspective to say, if you really are operating from a secularist worldview then the question of God shouldn’t be that difficult because not believing in God, by definition, the people hold to a secularist viewpoint don’t believe the question about God to be of any great importance. That’s really the point from our consideration. How exactly does this work? Well, Jeffrey Brown asked Russell,

“Well, so give me an example of the most basic question of — your child says, mommy, does God exist and what is God or who is God?”

Russell then said,

“The way that I go about it is to say, that’s a great question, and I’m glad you’re thinking about it, that there are a lot of different ways that people describe God and describe what God is.

“And this is what some people believe, and this is what other people believe. And this is — and I don’t believe in God, but that’s okay. It’s all okay. And you get to make up your own mind about what to believe.”

By the way, this points to something that is really vexing to secular parents and of those who are trying to advance the secularist worldview. It is called the inference to design and the inference to God. It turns out that children, particularly very young children have a predisposition to believe in God. This comes from the fact that they look at the world and they simply can’t believe that it’s an accident. They are little pint-size theist in their own way, even before they have any real knowledge of theism. Of course, the Christian biblical worldview doesn’t explain this just in terms of an inference from design. It points to the fact that being made in the image of God, the child is an image bearer of the creator that the child cannot not know in some real way. Even Daniel Dennett of Tufts University, one of the so-called four horsemen of the new atheism writes very convincingly that when he was a child he assumed the argument from design. He assumed that the world was made and that a creator had made it, and that the creator had made him. Now just to state the obvious, secularist parents have a genuine challenge, a challenge of trying to convince children not to believe what they already believe. And that is that they are not accidents and that somebody made them and that the someone who made them loves them and brought them into existence.

I’ll be honest; I don’t think the argument made by Wendy Thomas Russell is going to gain much traction. When you look at a toddler and say that’s a great question, and I’m glad you’re thinking about it, that there are a lot of different ways that people describe God and describe what God is. When you say to a young child,

“And this is what some people believe, and this is what other people believe. And this is — and I don’t believe in God, but that’s okay. It’s all okay. And you get to make up your own mind about what to believe.”

Well, my guess is that most children aren’t even capable of the kind of thinking that Wendy Thomas Russell is suggesting here. Now in her book, once again, it’s entitled, Relax, It’s Just God.

She actually states the fact that she does believe that even very young children can handle complex theological thinking when it comes to understanding religion in what she says, “a non-indoctrinating way.”

But what the book is really about and we just have to be honest about this, is that it is a secularist manifesto for indoctrinating children in secularism. But from a Christian worldview perspective, even before we get to the issue of the children, the title of the book and the ambition of the author revealed the fact that she really doesn’t think the question about God’s existence is all that important. That’s why the first word in her title is ‘relax.’ That’s why the continuation of her title is ‘it’s just God.’ Now that reveals something also of very, very great importance. When we’re talking about the existence of God, it only appears to be a truly, profoundly fundamental and inescapable question if you do believe that God exists. If you don’t believe that God exists, if you believe that all religion is nothing more than a human cultural creation, then you really don’t have to believe that the question of God’s existence is very important whatsoever. But here’s the reality, when most human beings close their eyes and when they think most honestly, they know, they really do know that this is a truly important question. And that is not true only for adults; it is profoundly true for young people and perhaps particularly true for children. They can close their eyes at night and go to sleep because they really do believe in a very concrete way that someone loves them and is watching over them and cares for them. Ultimately, they can close their eyes and go to sleep at night and here we’re talking about children, but it’s also true for those of any age, because we really do believe that the one who loves us is the one who made us and even now is watching over us. There’s much more to Christian theism, of course, but it comes right down to this very essential fact, there is no more fundamental question in the existence of God. And there is no less likely way to succeed than by trying to say to people, “Relax, it’s just God.” Those words just simply don’t go together. Whether you’re talking to a two-year-old or to that two-year-old’s great-grandparents.

Preschool teacher claims role in challenging sexual morality children learn at home

Next, even as we consider how important it is to know that there are those who are trying to indoctrinate children into a secularist worldview. It’s also important for us to recognize that when it comes to basic questions about marriage and sexuality. There are those who are trying to reach our children at very young ages. That’s made clear in a cover story in the summer edition of Rethinking School. The author of the article is A.J. Jennings, identified as a teacher at Park West Cooperative Nursery School in Chicago and she writes about being an educator saying,

“I value conversation as a way to build understanding and transform perspectives. It is an incredible curricular tool for addressing issues of identity (e.g., race, class, size, gender, sexuality, ability, religion). It can be especially meaningful when our students initiate the conversations.”

Now keep in mind, she’s talking about students who are preschoolers here. In the article Jennings writes about the importance, even when dealing with children in nursery school to try to help them to overcome what she calls binary thinking.

“This is especially significant in early childhood education. As young children develop their understanding of the world, they tend to rely heavily on binaries. If we understand the binaries a child is working within, we can encourage that child to think of counterexamples or introduce counterexamples ourselves into the conversation. These provide useful stumbling blocks that encourage them to expand their thinking.”

And what she wants children to expand their thinking about has to do in this case with sexuality, sexual orientation and marriage and remember here she’s talking about very, very young children. Now the very idea behind this is something that has been increasingly influential in the larger world of education, especially since the 1960s when the idea of a progressivist education and critical thinking entered into the curricular designs of those who wanted to reach very young children. Because if they could reach the minds of very young children they could bring about the kind of social and moral revolution they wanted to see. In more recent years, those theories of education have filtered down to where most who are trained in terms of teacher education programs in the United States have at least some exposure to the expectation that this is the role of teachers in terms of the schools and in terms even of very young children. This teacher writes,

“I am acutely aware that my values may be different from those of families I serve. As teachers we live in a gray area—we each have our own ideas, biases, and values, often as varied as those of the children and families we serve. Regardless of any one of our ideological slants, a large part of our job is to help our students explore questions deeply and be able to think for themselves.”

But when we think about the education of our children and when we think about our children, here’s the word from the article that parents particularly need to keep in mind.

“Although I can understand a parent’s desire to pass along their ideas and values to their children, the hope that those conversations will happen exclusively in the home is unrealistic.”

The very example cited in this article has to do with the fact that in school settings increasingly, when children are heard to say boys marry girls and girls marry boys, teachers are being encouraged to intervene and say now, wait just a minute boys can marry boys too and girls can marry girls. Those who are pushing this massive moral revolution taking place around us know that it cannot be successful unless they reach the minds of the young and make no mistake that is where they are aiming. This is something that is very, very important for Christian churches to know and especially for Christian parents to know. When conversations like this come up, who will be guiding the conversation? When our children find themselves confronting these kinds of questions, who will be there with the answers? Who will be there in order to frame even how the answer is to be understood and where we are to find the answer? These are crucial questions, questions that no Christian parent can avoid or for that matter questions that no Christian can avoid when we understand our common responsibility to raise children and to live before children so that they will be raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. As we said, these are fundamental questions. They are inescapable questions; they are questions to which every one of us in our own way will give an answer. So also we have to keep in mind, will our children have to give an answer and our grandchildren and all the children who come after them.

Dr. Mohler recording The Briefing