The Briefing 09-29-15

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America's future culture, politics reshaped by surging immigration trends among Asians

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Volkswagen controversy exposes moral significance of trust to economy, civilization

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Embryo legal battle between divorcees reveals lack of moral clarity in society

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Transcript

The Briefing

September 29, 2015

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

It’s Tuesday, September 29, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

America's future culture, politics reshaped by surging immigration trends among Asians

A major study made headlines yesterday coming from the Pew Research Center indicating something about the changing nature of America demographically speaking. The headline in the Wall Street Journal yesterday was this,

“Asians to Surpass Hispanics as Largest Foreign-Born Group in U.S. by 2055.”

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This is the kind of story that appearing in the print edition on page 2 of the paper might escape the attention of many, but it shouldn’t, especially of Christians who are determined to think out of a biblical and Christian worldview. What we’re being told in this study is that the demography that is the demographic composition of America is changing right before our eyes and what we’re looking at here is a revolution in terms of the population of the United States, not just over the period of say a century but of a single generation. We’re talking here about the year 2055. As Miriam Jordan of the Wall Street Journal reports,

 

“Fueled by arrivals from Asia, immigrants and their children will account for the lion’s share of U.S. population growth over the next 50 years, according to a Pew Research Center study. Between 2015 and 2065, the U.S. population is expected to increase 36%.”

Now, let me just interject here. In terms of an international perspective, that’s absolutely remarkable. That is an astounding population growth at the same time that so many of the leading economies in this world, those nations are currently facing a severe population implosion. But as Jordan goes on to report,

“The U.S. population is expected to increase 36% to 441 million. Immigrants and their offspring will make up 88% of that increase, or 103 million people.”

Now here’s what’s important about this at the first level. We’re looking here at the impact of one worldview and the coming impacts of multiple new worldviews. This report reminds us that one worldview is in retreat. That’s the worldview of modern democratic American liberalism. It is the worldview that has led to the secularization of this country and it is a worldview that has also been tied to the decision to have fewer children. Now that’s not just in terms of Democratic liberalism, a part of the new worldview, it’s also the part of the new worldview in terms of the consumerism that shape so much of American society. But as we are watching Americans have fewer and fewer children, we would then expect that America would follow the same kind of population pattern as what is now seen in nations such as Spain or Japan. But that’s not what’s taking place and as this study makes clear, the reason the population is not decreasing, but is rather increasing is virtually entirely because of those who were coming from other nations to the United States. It is immigration that is making the difference. Remember that that very significant 36 percent increase in population is almost entirely due to immigration, 88 percent of that increase is going to come from people who are born outside the United States or who are born to parents who were born outside the United States.

That is pointing to a very different future for the United States than many had expected as recently as just a decade ago. As a matter of fact, this study is making headlines because it demonstrates an acceleration of the trends that have already been in place. But it’s unlikely that many Americans are actually paying attention to what these trends indicate. For instance, as Jordan writes,

“The Hispanic share of the immigrant population, 47% in 2015, will drop to 31% by 2065. Asians will rise to 38% of the total, compared with about one-quarter today.

Bolstered by Asian arrivals, the U.S. is on course to have no racial or ethnic majority group by 2055. That year, the country is expected to be 46% white and 24% Hispanic, with Asians representing 14% of the population—surpassing blacks, who will account for 13%. Today, the U.S. is 62% white and 18% Hispanic. “With the U.S. population becoming more diverse, this has the potential to reshape American politics,” Mr. Lopez said.”

Well, that’s an understatement. Of course, it is going to reshape American politics, but it’s also going to reshape every other dimension of American life. And one of the things that Christians must keep in mind is that this new data is indicating a massively transformed mission field right before our eyes, right here in the United States of America and we’re looking at the very good news that the world is coming to us. From a great commission perspective, this is indeed very good news. While other nations see their economies endangered by a shrinking population and a devastatingly low birth rate, due to immigration and to the birth rates of immigrants, we’re going to be looking at a nation that is going to be likely to grow economically in coming years, rather than to retract and we’re going to be looking at that as good news, especially as compared to other modern democracies. But from a theological and worldview perspective, there’s something else we need to note here. When the United States was established, even though it would never have been true that everyone shared a common worldview, and while it was certainly never true that every single American or colonist during that time was a believing Christian, the reality is that the culture was overwhelmingly shaped not only by Christianity, not only by an explicit affirmation of the Christian worldview, but by an affirmation of Protestant Christianity by the vast majority.

All that began to change in the last part of the 19th century and in the early 20th century with successive waves of immigration, including immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe and that immigration brought a radical increase in the Catholic population in the United States. And while collisions, sometimes political and worldview collisions, between Protestants and Catholics have been a part of American history, ever since those waves of immigration in the late 19th century, in reality, there is huge shared moral terrain between the Protestant and Catholic traditions precisely because both of them are rooted in the historic teachings of Christianity when it comes to so many moral issues. But when we’re looking at this new wave of immigration, when we’re looking at a complete reshaping of the map of the American population, we’re looking at the fact that many of these millions of immigrants and remember we’re talking about tens of millions of immigrants, we’ll be coming with very different worldviews than that worldview that shaped America and its founding era and the worldview that was summarized by the Jewish historian Will Herberg in the middle the 20th century as Protestant, Catholic, Jew, indicating that those three traditions together established the great moral backbone of America. It’s going to be very different when Protestant, Catholic, Jew no longer represents the identification or the worldview of a majority of Americans.

Now make no mistake here, from a great commission worldview perspective, this is undeniable good news. The mission field is quite actually coming right to us. That is good news. But it also represents a challenge to our churches to be ready for the mission field that is now taking shape before us. But there is also a challenge to us at the level of worldview. Increasing numbers of our neighbors, an increasing percentage of the population is likely to come with a very different worldview and that’s going to create some very real challenges for us as we look at the future of America. But while those who are looking at this headline may think primarily and political and economic terms, the article is basically slanted toward politics, as Christians look at an article like this and as we look at the study behind it our concern is far deeper. Our concern is for the hearts and minds of those who are coming to the United States and those who will be born here. And our concern is the future of the culture understanding that the Christian worldview is no longer going to be taken for granted by many who are now coming to the United States, but let’s also keep clearly in mind that many people who have been here for years and whose families were born here for generations also do not take that worldview for granted.

Volkswagen controversy exposes moral significance of trust to economy, civilization

Next, I was in Arkansas over the weekend and on Monday morning an important opinion piece appeared in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. It’s by Steve Brawner and the title is,

“Free market requires moral code.”

One of the things we’ve been watching in so many stories and headlines of late is the fact that our economy is demonstrating a severe strain when it comes to morality. That’s not exactly new, but what we are facing is a series of headlines that remind us that our economic lives are inherently and inescapably moral. Brawner writes about two recent developments, the most important of which is the controversy surrounding the German automaker Volkswagen or VW. As he writes,

“Volkswagen doctored its diesel engines so they would temporarily meet EPA emissions regulations while they were being tested, and then they would emit much higher levels when actually driven by car buyers. As a result, those cars performed better on the highways while releasing up to 40 times more pollution than the legal amount. Volkswagen did this in 11 million vehicles sold worldwide.”

Many of those we note in the United States. This has led to the resignation of the CEO Volkswagen, it has led to an international scandal and to the launching of several legal investigations, including some looking into the criminal activity likely at stake here. But Brawner is writing about the fact that this moral issue related to Volkswagen just points to the inherently moral nature of the economy. He goes on and writes about this particular example, that is Volkswagen, what difference did it make that Volkswagen was doing this? Well, as Brawner writes,

“Environmental considerations aside, the company lied and cheated its competitors and its customers. People thought they were buying a clean vehicle that ran great. Rule-abiding competitors were selling products that had a disadvantage against Volkswagen in the marketplace.”

And so the moral dimensions of this not only have to do with cheating and a very calculated high-tech form of cheating at that, it’s not only the customers by the millions bought cars that were actually falsely presented to them under claims that turn out not to be true, but it’s also true that all the competitors who were also selling diesel cars were at a disadvantage, not because of the reality of Volkswagen, but because of its calculated misrepresentation and so what Brawner is demonstrating is that the moral dimensions of the Volkswagen story, go out and out and out in concentric circles and they won’t end with the illustrations that are indicated here. As a matter of fact, when we’re looking at the economy, we’re looking at trillions and trill6ions of economic decisions made every day and at the very heart of any economy, any real economy is the element of trust. And there is nothing that is more moral at its core than trust. You take trust away and you can’t have civilization. You take trust away and you can’t even have a neighborhood. You take trust away and you really can’t have a marriage and you take trust away and you really can’t have an economy. We have to have a basic trust that when we’re buying something, it’s what we think we’re buying. We have to have a basic trust that when we’re buying something of significance like an automobile, there’s a company standing behind it that will put its integrity on the line. We’re also, keeping in mind the trust that the company’s going to be in business, even just to take care of our car and service it in years ahead. An economy is built upon those trillions and trillions of decisions each of which requires some level of trust. The higher the level of purchase, the higher the requirement of trust and when it comes to the sale of automobiles by the millions, we can now see that by any measure Volkswagen has damaged that trust.

Now one of the points that Brawner makes in his article is that the free market has a way of correcting this. He indicates the fact that once this news became known, the company Volkswagen suffered mightily in terms of the stock markets, and they’re likely also to suffer mightily in other ways as well. There will likely be criminal investigations and those should continue and proceed, but one of the things we need to note is that moral decisions were made by investors and by other elements in the economy as soon as this story broke and it was understood to be credible. That’s another important reminder of just how moral the markets really are, just how much morality is inseparable from our economic lives and from a Christian perspective, it just points out the fact that the creator who made us in his image, the creator who made us economic agents and the creator who made us moral agents, that same creator made us both moral and economic and one in the same time. That’s simply the way we are made. It’s not an accident. The Christian worldview and the Christian worldview alone explains why human beings and human endeavors are always when it comes down to the essence deeply moral. It’s because if human beings are involved it cannot otherwise be so. Whether you’re trading pennies or dollars, or millions or trillions of dollars, every economic decision is inherently moral. Volkswagen is learning that lesson now in a very hard way. Each of us must keep this lesson in mind every time we make a purchase.

Embryo legal battle between divorcees reveals lack of moral clarity in society

Next, you know you’re living in that brave new world when you see a headline like this one from the Los Angeles Times. Here it is,

“Embryo battles are likely to get a precedent in San Francisco couple’s case.”

Now let’s just remark in the first level, that the very fact that the words embryo battles are put together, that indicates something that is genuinely new in terms of the specific issue we’re discussing here. Maura Dolan reports for the Los Angeles Times,

“Dr. Mimi C. Lee and Stephen E. Findley had not been married long when he began to have doubts about the relationship. Now divorced, he is fighting to prevent her from having a child with their frozen embryos, made after Lee was diagnosed with cancer.”

Dolan goes on to say,

“The case, to be decided in the next several weeks, is likely to lead to the first legal rules in California for resolving embryo disputes. If Lee prevails, Findley could be forced to become a parent against his will. If Findley wins, it is extremely unlikely that Lee, now 46, will ever have a genetically related child.”

We’re looking at the fact we’re already living in that brave new world. The new world of biomedical technologies and advanced reproductive technologies now comes to a headline story like this. As Dolan reports,

“It is compelling and dramatic how these issues play out,” said Dr. Mark Sauer, a reproductive endocrinologist and professor of medicine at Columbia University.” These are embryos that will potentially live lives. It is not like you are bartering over the furniture in your house.”

We really need to pay attention to that sentence. Here you have a research reproductive endocrinologist, a professor of medicine at Columbia University, who was offering a wisdom here that we profoundly must-see. He is speaking about the aftermath of the breakup of a marriage, he’s talking about divorce, and he’s talking about arguments over the possessions legally defined of what had been a married couple. But when he’s talking about embryos, he says, listen to these words carefully,

“These are embryos that will potentially live lives. It’s not like you are bartering over the furniture in your house.”

Now looking at many of the stories that have already arrived to us on this issue, it is almost exactly like they are thinking they’re bartering over the furniture in the house, but they’re not of course. The Christian worldview reminds us that every single human being, at every point of development from conception until natural death is indeed a life worthy of preservation and demanding of honor and dignity. And here we have a story telling us that as Dolan writes,

“In a dozen similar disputes outside California, not one state high court has permitted someone to use an embryo over an estranged partner’s objections.”

But she goes on to write,

“But trial courts in Pennsylvania and Maryland — and an intermediate appeals court in Illinois — have in recent years ruled in favor of women who had suffered cancer and could not have biological children without the embryos.”

Well here we see the kind of moral confusion that’s endemic in a postmodern society. Lacking any kind of moral absolutes or at least any adequate set of moral absolutes, the society now goes to the courts to decide such astounding questions as to whether or not frozen embryos can be thawed and used against the wishes of one member of a former marriage or whether they must be destroyed. Now keep that in mind in order to avoid one member of the former marriage becoming apparent against his or her wishes. But then Dolan writes,

“There are an estimated 1 million frozen embryos in the U.S., but the law has been slow to catch up with technology. Legally, a person who wants to preserve fertility is less vulnerable if he or she stores frozen eggs or sperm, experts say [That is to say not frozen embryos]. Medically, that person’s chances of having a child are better if an embryo is created.”

There you see the trade-off in terms of this modern technology. But then there’s this astounding statement because of Judith Daar, identified as a professor at Whittier Law School, a professor at Whittier Law School, a clinical medicine professor at UC Irvine and chair of the ethics committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Now the most important part of that identification are those last words, let me just remind you, she is chair of the ethics committee of the American Society for reproductive medicine. Here are her astounding words,

“Technology got us into this problem, and technology will get us out.”

Well there you see the naturalistic, materialistic worldview of humanism in all of its audacity. This statement is being made in the background of this moral crisis and the issue now coming before this California court that once again technology got us into the problem and technology will get us out. Long live technology, let us all worship technology. That’s where this worldview goes and that’s where this worldview ends. This is a worldview that tells us if technology can be produced, it must be produced. This is the kind of technological determinism that tells us that someone somewhere is going to do this, so we better be the first to do it and we better figure out how to do it better. This is the kind of worldview that says yes, experiments on human cloning are going to be done in China, so even if we don’t believe they are morally right, we need to do it so that we get there first. This is the kind of technological determinism that represents a form of idolatry. Once again seen in the statement,

“Technology got us into this problem and technology will get us out.”

This is where Christians have to understand that it’s not exactly true that technology got us into this problem. Technology is not a force in and of itself. Technology is created by human beings who make moral decisions to create the technology and then must take moral responsibility for the dimensions in the reality of the technology they have invented and that is to say that technology did not get us into this problem, human beings did. I am absolutely certain that technology will not get us out of this problem, nor do I have any faith that human beings will get us out of this problem as well. And that’s because this massive shift in worldview that produces the problem is not something that can answered by technology and it’s not going to be answered by people who continue to hold to that worldview. It’s going to require a shift in the understanding of the dignity and sanctity of human life. Once you have these embryos created in this form and once embryos become commodities, then the kind of debate we’re seeing here between formerly married people, that kind of debates inevitable. How long will it be until embryos become a part of the probate process and are included in an individual’s estate?

But now that I’ve raised that possibility it’s also not just hypothetical. For instance, as the story continues,

“Tennessee’s highest court decided in 1992 that an embryo was neither property nor a person, but something that courts should treat with special respect.”

The story then tells us that in that 1992, Tennessee case, the court sided with the party who wanted to destroy the embryos. Then come these words,

“A probate court in Texas treated embryos more as assets, awarding 11 of them last year to the son of a couple who had been killed. The heir, who was 2, may decide when he is 18 whether to destroy the embryos or use them to create a sibling.”

Again, we’re not talking science fiction here; we’re not talking about some kind of scary prospect that just might happen in the future, we’re talking about a court case in Texas last year. Let me read those words again, last year this court in Texas awarded 11 human embryos to the son of a couple who had been killed. How old is the son? Two years old. Then these words,

“When he is 18 whether to destroy the embryos or use them to create a sibling.”

So now there are 11 human embryos in Texas that are frozen and are now in the custody of a two-year-old who will gain authority over them when he is 18, who will then decide whether he’s going to destroy the embryos or use them as the story says to create a sibling. A sibling from parents who will have died 16 years, at least, before the boy makes that decision. This is the brave new world in which we are living. It is a brave new world for which we have to take responsibility. It’s a new world that is demonstrating how the worldview of the society is changing and has massively changed and it is a warning of yet more headlines to come. It is a warning that once you set this kind of technology loose it will lead a society to places it never intended to go and just to state the matter again clearly, technology did not alone get us into the problem and most assuredly technology will not get this out.

Dr. Mohler recording The Briefing