October 6, 2015
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Tuesday, October 6, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian world view.
California right to die law signed by governor, furthering redefinition of human life
Well now we know, and what we know, is that California governor, Jerry Brown, has signed a bill legalizing assisted suicide in the nation’s most populous state. This makes California the fifth state to legalize assisted suicide and what’s really important is how this happened.
It happened in an extraordinary called session of the California General Assembly, and it happened only after the California Medical Association changed its long standing opposition to physicians being actively involved in bringing about the deaths of their patients by doctor-assisted suicide. The major moral shift on the sanctity of human life is now focused in this bill at the end of life and one of the things we should note, from a Christian world view perspective is this, once one begins to deny and to diminish the sanctity of life at one end of the line spectrum, inevitably, it will shift to the other end as well.Show Full Transcript
When you look at the increased cultural acceptance of euthanasia and assisted suicide, that is only possible because there has only been a major moral revolution on the issue of abortion with millions of Americans re-classifying abortion no longer as the murder of unborn human being, but rather as a matter of choice for women and a matter of their own personal liberty.
We’re now looking at a moral revolution that reaches to the beginning and the end of life. but that’ll lead us to a second conclusion; these issues diminishing the dignity and sanctity of human life, this revolution, won’t stop with the two ends of the spectrum. It will inevitably re-define human life at every point along that spectrum, which is to say at every age regardless of condition. There were many watching the California governor precisely because he was known not to have made any statement for or against to the bill and it was also clear that Governor Brown was wrestling with his own conscious in terms of signing this bill.
He is a former Jesuit seminarian and the Roman Catholic church, in particular Roman Catholic leaders in California, were dead set against the bill bringing pressure on the Governor not to sign the bill, but at the end of the day he did, and yesterday the Governor’s office released a letter addressed to the members of the California State Assembly, and this letter demands our close attention.
He wrote to the members of the Assembly that this bill “is not an ordinary bill because it deals with life and death.” Well that is profoundly true and here the California governor at least understood that life and death were in the balance on this bill. Now once you stated that way, you would think that the natural argument that would follow would be against assisted suicide, not for it. It is really interesting to hear the governor frame the issues as a matter of life and death, and then he goes on to affirm the so call right to death.
He went on to write,
“the crux of the matter is whether the State of California should continue to make it a crime for a dying person to end his life, no matter how his great his pain or suffering.”
Well once he states it that way, you have a pretty good indication of where he’s going, that is the Governor, but what we should note in that particular sentence is the fact that the issue really has to do with the criminalization of assisting someone to commit suicide.
By definition, the laws against suicide itself are meant to be matters of moral instruction. It is not so much to prosecute someone who might attempt to commit suicide, much less someone who actually could commit suicide that by definition is impossible, but it is to make a moral statement, to use the law as a moral teacher to point to the wrongness of suicide, in and of itself. What you really have here is the evasion of dealing with the fact that what is authorized in this bill is the participation of doctors, of physicians, in actively making it possible for someone to commit suicide; that’s why it’s called physician assisted suicide.
The governor went on to write,
“I have carefully read the thoughtful opposition materials presented by a number of doctors, religious leaders, and those who champion disability rights. I have considered the theological and religious perspectives that any deliberate shortening of one’s life is sinful.”
Well once again, simply know where he is headed, what he’s really doing here is saying that he had to overcome those theological concerns and clearly he did because he signed the bill into law. He continued writing,
“I have also read the letters of those who support the bill including heartfelt pleas from Brittany Maynard’s family and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.”
Now that’s really interesting. The first part was already known to us, that is that Brittany Maynard, the young woman suffering from terminal cancer who went to Oregon to commit assisted suicide, she had asked that her home state, that is the State of California, adopt a law similar to the law in Oregon. And that is exactly what California has now done. But the listing of the other individual in this letter at this point is really interesting. He mentioned Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Why Desmond Tutu? Well that is to invoke, by means of just using his name, a moral authority, but we need to note that Archbishop Tutu, who is a retired Anglican bishop from South Africa and was well-known for his fight against apartheid in that nation, solidly, clearly identifies with the radical left in terms of theology. This is someone who not only supports physician assisted suicide over against the historic teachings of the Christian church, this is somebody who also endorses the legalization of same sex marriage and normalization of homosexuality; it’s all the piece.
What’s really interesting here is that the Governor of California would mentioned a retired Anglican bishop from South Africa in trying to claim a moral authority and he’s doing so explicitly to counter the previous paragraph. He said, in that previous paragraph, “Once again, I’ve considered the theological and religious perspectives that any deliberate shortening of one’s life is sinful.” He overcame those perspectives and he citing, in the next paragraph, the fact that it was Archbishop Desmond Tutu from the theological left who helped him to do so. In the end he said, and these are very important words,
“I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death.”
Well that’s a very interesting argument for the Governor to make. It comes down to what he would want, he writes, in terms of an opportunity facing his own death. He says,
“I don’t know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill and I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”
Once again, we need to look carefully at that language. Here the governor of California, after acknowledging all the reasons against assisted suicide, at least summarizing them, he says that it might be, what he considers, the end of his own days, or at least what he might face if he had a terminal disease and was looking at the possibility of death. He wrote, “That he was certain that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options.”
Let’s just consider that for just a moment. Biblical Christianity does not present us with the fact that our life is enriched by considering this kind of option. That’s an extremely revealing section of the governor’s letter. He wants options at the end of life, but the very point of this is that once you make assisted suicide an option, it doesn’t stay just an option, it stays as a permanent reality according to this new law that will inevitably move from a so called right to die to a responsibility to die. In looking at a situation like this, it is important to ask the worldview question behind not only what happened, but why and in this case California Governor Jerry Brown gave us a very clear indication of why that doesn’t make the situation better.
It actually makes it worse because his why is even more dangerous than merely the what. Once you make life contingent upon whether or not we understand it to be valuable at any specific point, you begin to diminish life down to your own set of expectations which is exactly what Governor Brown here affirms in terms of his desire to have options at the end of this life. The Bible simply doesn’t recognize any such option. For Christians, a comprehensive affirmation of the sanctity and dignity of every single human life, at the beginning and the end, and at every point between is not optional.
South Carolina flooding reminder of need of all cosmos for redemption
Next, headlines and new images have driven us to concern for the coastal regions of the Eastern United States, in particular the state of South Carolina, which has been the epicenter of a historic storm. Of course, Hurricane Joaquin was off the Atlantic coast, but there was a massive rainstorm that was actually kept over the South Carolina region precisely by the hurricane in terms of the developments in the weather, and that dropped an unprecedented 17 inches of rain in about 24-hours of time in coastal Carolina including the historic city of Charleston. Students at the University of South Carolina at Columbia where receiving bottled water, as emergency provisions have been pouring in and as flood waters are continuing to rise. There are continuing dangers as those flood waters are going to be moving from inland portions of the state out to the coast, and they may be doing a great deal of damage in between.
At least ten deaths are now traced immediately to the historic rainfall in South Carolina. Even as we’re praying for people there in South Carolina, and as we are concerned and as emergency services are now being extended to this state. Even if we’re pondering the fact that we are told that this level of rainfall is, statistically speaking, about a one in one thousand year occurrence, we need to keep in mind what the Christian worldview would underline in all of this and that is that in the Garden of Eden there would have been a perfect equilibrium, a perfect balance between the need for moisture and the provision of moisture.
To put the matter simply, in terms of weather, there would be no drought and there would be no flooding. There would have been the perfect equilibrium, but the entry of sin into the world corrupted the entire cosmic system and the effects of sin were extended to creation, as is affirmed in Genesis 3 and Romans 8, to the extent that we now have a market imbalance. So in recent months we’ve been talking about the rise of drought in the Western region of the United States, particularly in the State of California, and now we’re looking at severe flooding in the State of South Carolina. That shows a disequilibrium. California doesn’t have enough, South Carolina has far, far too much, at least at one time and what we are looking at when we see this is the need of the entire cosmos for redemption.
In New Testament terms, it simply points us to the fact that when we see something like this we see what Paul describes in Romans 8. We see creation groaning, awaiting says the Apostle Paul, the appearing of the sons of God. That is to say, the redeemed and the eschatological coming of Christ when the kingdom is in its fullness and when we will live not in the garden, but in a city in the new Jerusalem, and when there will be once more that perfect equilibrium under the perfect reign of Christ. There will be no flooding and there will be no drought. There will be no famine. There will be no pestilence. Christ having conquered death will have conquered all of our enemies and in his kingdom everything will be right, but it’s not right now and headlines like this do prompt our immediate concern, our prayers for our neighbors and our hope that further damage can be alleviate. It also reminds us, as we look to the headlines, that we are never seeing anything that is presented as merely a natural occurrence.
When we are looking at drought in California and flood in South Carolina, we’re not just looking at headlines or the latest report from the weather channel. We’re looking at an entire cosmic system crying out for redemption and even if the secular world completely misses that most fundamental dimension, we dare not.
Non-theists overwhelmingly support abortion, exposing theological nature of debate
Next, speaking of the sanctity of human life and the worldview behind the ethic of abortion, there is a very interesting and revealing article that appears at The Guardian, is by Adam Lee. Just get this headline,
“Abortion opposition is a religious stance. Atheists must help fight for choice.”
Adam Lee writes that despite the public image of atheism as a “male and sexist community,” the non-religious he said are getting into the fight to preserve reproductive rights.
Well, here you have the great theological worldview division, that great cleavage between those who believe that every single life is sacred because it’s made in God’s image and to those who believe that there is no sacredness to life because there is no creator who made us. We’re looking at the great worldview divide between those who believe that human beings are made in God’s image and those who belief that human beings were never made at all. That we are simply some kind of cosmic biological accident.
“Atheists’ hugely lopsided support for choice is a simple reflection that opposition to abortion is inherently a religious position, just like creationism or opposition to LGBT rights. Anti-choice ideology [notice the language he uses there] is founded on the belief that a single-celled zygote possesses a supernatural appendage called a soul that makes it the moral equal of an adult human.”
Now there’s a lot of confusion in there. First of all, we do not believe that the soul is an appendage to the body, that’s a complete biblical misunderstanding, but nonetheless, he’s on to a more profound point and that is that the division over abortion is fundamentally a theological division. Later in his article he makes that fact abundantly clear when he writes, and I quote,
“The increase in pro-choice activity by atheists reflects wider demographics: the non-religious are by far the most pro-choice demographic in America.”
Now just consider those words.
Here we are told that the non-religious, the atheists and agnostics, the avowed secularist, are, to quote this article, “By far the most pro-choice demographic in America.” Well we can understand why. If one believes that human beings are themselves a naturalistic accident. If one believes that there is no creature because there was no creator than human life is simply something that can be re-negotiated in terms of value at any point and at this point, Lee went on to cite the Gallup organization that had written, and I quote,
“Americans with no religious attachment (self-identified atheists, agnostics, and those with simply no religious preference) identify as pro-choice by a 49-percentage-point margin over pro-life, 68% to 19%.”
Then Gallup said, and I quote,
“This represents the strongest propensity toward the pro-choice position of any major U.S. demographic (as distinct from political) subgroup.”
So if you take politics out of the equation and you focus specifically on other worldview implications, it turns out, Gallup tells us, that the group with the greatest propensity to support abortion, and again they said, “by far,” are those represented by religious non-believers, specifically atheists and agnostics. Lee, again, goes on to make the worldview implications clear when he writes,
“Non-believers have a long history of supporting choice, from the 1973 Humanist Manifesto which declares, “The right to birth control, abortion, and divorce should be recognized”, to individual activists like Anne Nicol Gaylor who fought both for secularism and for choice.”
Then he concludes, “Now more than ever, that’s a legacy that atheists should be proud to uphold.”
Well, if you are an atheist perhaps you would be proud of that worldview, but that worldview would be based in a comprehensive understanding of life that says that the human life is nothing but an accident. That there is nothing specifically sacred or dignified about human life, and thus as an accidental occurrence, human life is simply something that happened, and for that matter it can simply un-happen. While we are on this issue, time worldview to the understanding of the sanctity of human life, or the absence of that sanctity, we need to point out once again that this is true at the beginning and the end of life. It also true that atheists and other non-believers are the most likely to support assisted suicide, at the beginning and the end, at least we understand why.
Oppostion to police car decal 'In God we Trust' shows depth of secular opposition to truth claims of religion
Next, while we are speaking about secularism as a worldview, there was an interesting headline that appeared over the weekend, an article in the New York Times by Alan Blinder and Richard Pérez-Peña. The headline is this, “Police Agencies Defy Critics and Show ‘In God We Trust’.” The placeline for the article is Cedartown, Georgia, where I have had the opportunity to visit and to preach. There we are told the Chief Deputy, the Sheriff Johnny Moats of Polk County appeared in an office doorway one morning this month with a message he knew would delight his boss. Another Georgia law man had heeded Sheriff Moats’ suggestion to add `In God We Trust’ decals to official vehicles.
Then the reporters tell us,
“It was a small part of what has emerged as a big moment for the national motto, which has long been cherished by many Christians, criticized by those who say it infringes on the separation of church and state, overlooked by plenty and safeguarded by courts. In recent months, dozens of Southern and Midwestern law enforcement agencies have added the axiom to squad cars, usually to the vexation of vocal, often distant critics, and at the personal expense of sheriffs, police chiefs or rank-and-file employees.”
Sheriff Moats said that he found out about this movement to put the `In God We Trust’ motto on police cars and he spent his own money to do the same for his car and for others. Sheriff Moats defended his decision saying,
““If it’s on my money and it’s on the state flag, I can put it on a patrol car. Just about every single day, I have another sheriff calling and saying, ‘I’ve done it’ or ‘Can you send me a picture of your patrol car?’”
Now when you think about the great culture and worldview conflict between those Americans who believe in God and those who do not, and of course there are an endless number of variance between those two polarities, one of the things to note is the honesty embedded in this article. On the next page, in the continuation of the article, in the print addition, there is this subhead, “Objections from secularists may be fueling a practice.” Now that’s really interesting. Here you have the New York Times, one of the most secular bastions in terms of American media suggesting that secularist may actually be fueling the desire to put `In God We Trust’ on police cars because they are opposing it and they are going after sheriffs in places like Polk County, Georgia where the sheriff puts `In God We Trust’ on a police car.
Then there is this incredible paragraph,
“Some officials contend that their display of the motto is elementary patriotism, a four-word way of “standing up for America, standing up for our country,”
That is what Sheriff Moats said. Others in law enforcement say the stickers are a response to the battering their profession’s reputation has taken after more than a year of high-profile killings and extraordinary scrutiny,” but the reporters tell us,
“Critics worry that displays of “In God We Trust” on taxpayer-funded vehicles cross the threshold of constitutionality.”
Now let’s just think about that for a moment. How in the world can putting “In God We Trust” on a police car violate the constitution when “In God We Trust” is the official government sanction, government adopted motto of the United States of America. It isn’t simply a slogan someone put on a decal on a police car, it is officially, legally the national motto of the United States of America. Going all the way back to the United States Civil War, “In God We Trust” showed up on some coins that were issued by the United States Mint and thus by the United States government.
Furthermore, it has appeared on all coins in the United States, officially United States currency since 1938 and it began to appear on paper currency beginning in 1957. From a worldview analysis, the most interesting thing here is not the decision to put “In God We Trust” on a police car, the most interesting aspect is how much energy is devoted by people who are offended by the fact that the motto is there. When you look at the great cultural conflict that has taken place all around us, this is a relatively insignificant issue, that is a decal on a police car, but it is incredibly eye opening to understand just how vehement many secularists are in being offended even by the national motto even when it shows up on a police car. Even though it is the national motto. Even though it was adopted by our government and has been on our coins going back to the Civil War. Even though every piece of American paper currency since 1957 has had “In God We Trust” published upon them and every coin, even since the 1930s.
What we need to note here is that once seen is a deep allergic reaction to any assertion of the existence of God, much less any trust in God and this will not end with a controversy over decals on police cars. This is a far larger issue and we know it. This allergic reaction is not merely to passing police cars. It is to the central affirmation of the fact that there is any authority higher than the secular authority of the government of the United States of America. That is why that motto was put on our currency. It is a statement that even as the United States government is indeed the most powerful government on Earth, it is not the ultimate authority, God is and thus even as in the Old Testament we are reminded that our strength and security is not in horses and chariots, neither is it in nuclear missiles or a powerful economy.
At the end of the day, our trust is either in ourselves or in God, and those who are putting their lives on the line in our defense and protection every single day are well aware of that.