The Briefing 10-30-15

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Infamous China one-child policy changed to two-child policy due to demographic, not moral, shift

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Paul Ryan election to Speaker reveals significance of pageantry of American politics

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Historical and theological context of Halloween must be remembered, understood

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Transcript

The Briefing

October 30, 2015

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

It’s Friday, October 30, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Infamous China one-child policy changed to two-child policy due to demographic, not moral, shift

 

A surprising announcement came yesterday from the Communist Party in China, indicating that the party’s leadership had decided to resend that nation’s infamous one child only policy, and as we look closer at the story there is more and less year than many will expect and as at least some will report. We’re looking at the fact that the Communist Party of China is now lifting a policy that has been in place for about 40 years, a policy limiting couples in that country to just one child. It is one of the most draconian and one of the most evil policies ever undertaken by any government on earth at any time. And there is good news in the fact that the Communist Party is now lifting the law and yet there is less here than meets the eye. For the first thing the Communist Party will still determine that it will decide how large families will be in China. It is still as a Communist Party and as the extension of government it is now reaching into the individual lives of hundreds of millions of Chinese couples determining just how many children they shall have. The lifting of the one child only policy simply says that every couple in China can now have up to two children.

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The second thing we need to note is that what we’re looking at here is one of the most infamous laws ever undertaken by a government and it is a law that has had devastating moral consequences and we also need to note that those moral consequences have led to political and economic consequences as well and issues that go far beyond anything that can be measured in economic terms. For example, we are now looking at the fact that there are millions of Chinese missing from this generation. The urgency of the Chinese Communist Party has nothing to do with morality and everything to do with demographics. The reality is that China’s population is now aging so fast and younger Chinese are coming in decreasing numbers that there is no way the society is going to be able to handle its most basic needs. There is no way that the Chinese economy that has been growing for the better part of the last decade is going to be able to continue to grow when you have decreasing numbers of people coming in every new generation. And we’re looking at the fact that for the first time in recent months, the growth of the Chinese economy has slowed and that’s not something of merely economic importance. The maintenance of social order in China has been largely undertaken by the Chinese Communist Party on the promise that under its leadership economic growth will come continuously. There is now danger to the stability of the Chinese Communist Party because of the demographic revolution that it has spawned in this one child only policy.

Another thing we need to note is that there is no indication whatsoever that China’s Communist Party lifting this policy is going to lead to an increased birthrate. That’s because the situation is far more complicated than first appears. For example, one of the things that the Chinese Communist Party is going to learn is that it is one thing to try to limit how many children a couple will have, it’s another thing to try to increase the number of children a couple may have. Those are two very different moral equations. On the first one we’re looking at the fact that the Chinese communist government undertook this policy to limit what was then understood to be an explosive population growth in China, especially in the 1960s and into the 1970s. We’re looking at the fact that the Chinese Communist Party decided to put brakes on that population growth by determining that it would use coercion and the force of law and worse in order to limit Chinese couples to just one child. As they limited Chinese couples to one child, they used mechanisms such as enforced abortion, they used forced sterilization and they used forced infanticide. They were killing babies, they were killing babies in the womb, they were killing babies after birth and they were forcibly sterilizing women against their will in order to limit the population growth in that country. Story after story tells us, now well documented, about women who were dragged into abortion clinics and forced to have abortions. About the fact that babies were born live only to be killed by infanticide, of the fact that women were sterilized against their consent and the communist government incentivize local communist leaders to gain promotion by the application of whatever means were necessary in order to enforce the one child only policy.

We also need to note that this has led to a severe gender imbalance in the nation of China. China’s historic preference for male children, for the birth of boys, meant that an increasing number of girls were the object of abortion. An increasing number of girls were killed after they were born in infanticide and now it is estimated that upwards of 30 million Chinese men will never have wives, so-called broken branches by meaning that the family tree is now broken amongst these individuals. 30 million Chinese men will never have wives. That is leading to a social problem that goes beyond anything that could be measured in political and economic terms. We are looking at the fact that a government here, a godless secular government, an officially atheistic government had set itself by this policy over against not only the culture of life and the sanctity of human life, but over against the integrity of the family, especially the understanding of the intimacy of the family and of the right of a couple to make decisions related to their own reproduction.

Many Americans living today simply do not remember the totalizing claims made by communist regimes, for example, the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union, children were incentivized to betray their own parents for lack of communist patriotism. In the Soviet Union, the family was considered subservient to the state and marriage subservient to the state and only after the fall of the communist regime in the former Soviet Union did we come to learn just how draconian and horrible were the laws and the policies applied by that regime. But the same thing is now true still in China; the very existence of the one child only policy that was lifted yesterday is now just giving way to a two child policy. In any event, the Chinese Communist Party is claiming to have the same authority over Chinese citizens and it will lead inevitably to the same kind of infanticide and abortion and for sterilization.

But there’s something else and this was made very clear in an article that appeared yesterday at the Washington Post by Adam Taylor. In immediate response to the announcement by the Chinese Communist Party, Taylor reminds us that,

“The decision appears to have been driven by concerns that the country’s low fertility rate would create a crisis that eventually could threaten the legitimacy of Communist Party rule.”

So here you have the Washington Post, reminding us that the Chinese Communist Party made this decision, not for the good of people, not for the sanctity of human life, not out of respect for marriage, but out of concern for its own existence. But Taylor gets to other issues, including the documented facts of forced abortions and compulsory sterilization and infanticide. But then he points to the fact that there were other effects of China’s one child only policy as well. We’ve discussed one of these which is the gender imbalance and the missing millions; indeed some estimate hundreds of millions of girls throughout Asia, including China and India. Taylor goes on to say,

“The problem is likely to get worse: It has been estimated that there will be a surplus of 40 million to 50 million bachelors in China throughout the mid- to late 21st century.”

In a sentence so bizarre for the fact that it is real, Taylor writes,

“That figure leads experts to worry about the future stability of the country — polyandry has even been mooted as a potential solution to the problem.”

This is in the Washington Post. The Washington Post, one of most authoritative newspapers in the world, is telling us that the Chinese Communist Party has at least or is now at least considering polyandry as a solution. That means a form of polygamy in which one woman is wife to several men. The very fact that that idea has made its way into this report into the Washington Post tells you just how desperate the situation in China has now become. There are yet other effects, the children that have been born under China’s one child only policy, by definition, have not had siblings. The Christian worldview reminds us that the family as a unit is important in ways that go beyond just how it might be defined. It goes into also the dimensions of family life that come as a child has siblings and the experience of being a child with siblings is demonstrably different than being an only child. Now only children have certainly not been known throughout human civilization in human society. But what about a society of hundreds of millions of only children? And Taylor points to the fact that the nation is also concerned about the nearly 1,000,000 parents in China who had one child and have lost that child to death.

The article ends very mournfully citing one parent whose son died in a car accident, who said,

“Who will take care of his tomb after we are gone? Who will take care of ours?”

As we think about this issue through the lens of the Christian worldview, several issues are absolutely front and center. One of them is the sanctity of human life. We’re talking about a policy that is anti-nihilist, as it is known, that is against birth and has led to abortion and infanticide and for sterilization, just consider those moral realities. We also need to understand that this is a policy that has subverted the integrity of the family and the integrity of marriage, taking issues that should be respected as belonging only to a married couple and making them a matter of national policy by legal and physical coercion.

Third, this policy has led to the subversion of family life. With normal family life being disrupted by the fact that the progression from one generation to the other by the one child only policy means that these children do not have siblings and the only generational relations, they have are two potential cousins and that every generation that comes is smaller than the generation before. Fourth, we need to recognize that this is a direct redefinition of human romantic relationships in which you now have tens of millions of young men now growing to be older men in China who have no hope of a wife and will never have a hope of a wife. But lastly, we have here evidence of the fact that a totalitarian regime always does what is perceived to be in its own interest. China’s announcement yesterday did not come because there has been a moral change of heart in the Communist Party of China. It came because there is demographic, economic and political panic in the highest circles of that Communist Party. People looking at the headlines coming out of China about this announcement yesterday are likely to think that’s good news. But a closer look at the reality reminds us it’s not nearly good enough.

Paul Ryan election to Speaker reveals significance of pageantry of American politics

 

Next, big political news here in the United States is, yesterday, the United States House of Representatives elected Wisconsin Republican member of Congress Paul D. Ryan as the new speaker of the house. As Siobhan Hughes for the Wall Street Journal reported,

“The House elected Republican Rep. Paul D. Ryan as the chamber’s 62nd Speaker on Thursday, catapulting one of its youngest members to the top job in hopes that a policy-oriented, fiscal conservative could give the party a fresh start after years of strife.”

Yesterday, on the floor of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan received 236 votes, that constitutes a clear majority of members of the house and he has thus been elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Americans looking at this need to remember that the Speaker of the House is a constitutionally defined position. That’s over against leadership positions in the United States Senate that are chosen by Senate tradition and its own internal rules rather than set by the Constitution. In the House of Representatives, the Speaker is the chief convener and the chief parliamentary officer of the United States House of Representatives and we need to remember, he is after the Vice President of the United States, second in succession in terms of the death or incapacity of the President. Many Americans think of the Speaker of the House only when they see the President address a joint session of Congress and it is the Vice President of the United States and the Speaker of the House who are seated right behind the President and that’s because they are the two chief constitutional officers of the United States, behind only the President.

Paul Ryan is 45 years old and thus he becomes the youngest Speaker of the House since the time of reconstruction. He had indicated that he was not interested in being Speaker of the House because he made a priority of his family and amongst the negotiations that were required to get him to allow his election as Speaker of the House is that he would not function for his party campaigning every weekend away from his family. That is a political redefinition of the office at least in terms of its partisan responsibility, but that’s also very important to the picture of Paul Ryan’s election. Also very crucial is the fact that Ryan is a unifying figure in the Republican Party. He is undoubtedly a fiscal conservative and that united various strands of the Republican Party, or at least enough to get 236 votes. Another thing to remember about Paul Ryan, who you’ll remember was the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, is that Ryan is indeed a master of policy. This is a significant turn in terms of recent Speakers of the House who have been known primarily for their political authority and skills rather than their policy skills. There is no question virtually among people of both parties that Paul Ryan is the master of the budget of the United States and of the budgetary process. It’s going to be very interesting to have someone who is that involved in policy that knowledgeable about policy as Speaker of the House.

Finally, at least a part of the importance of what took place yesterday was ceremonial, part of the pageant of American democracy. These kinds of traditions are really important because they point to something. One of the things that caught the eye of many yesterday was that Nancy Pelosi, the Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, herself formally Speaker of the House when Democrats were in control, it was she among others who handed a gavel to the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. That caught the attention of many and was in photographs sent throughout the media and many people thought that was just something of a courtesy. It’s far more than that. It was a reminder the fact that even though there are two parties in the United States House of Representatives, the House is divided between a Republican majority of present and the Democratic minority. Even as there are two parties present it is one House, it is one House of Representatives, known popularly as the People’s house in America’s constitutional order and it was more than an act of politeness and kindness yesterday that led Nancy Pelosi, the former Speaker of the House and the Democratic leader of that House to offer the gavel to the new Speaker of the House of the opposing party. Now when it comes to the white knuckle game of politics, they’re going to oppose each other and we should expect it. That’s how partisan politics works. But it was a fundamental and important reminder that constitutionally there may be two parties, but there is one House of Representatives, by the people and for the people and of the people.

Historical and theological context of Halloween must be remembered, understood

 

Finally, many Americans would be surprised to know that commercially speaking Halloween is now coming up second only to Christmas in terms of spending. It’s a huge holiday, the commercial dimensions just one aspect. The other looming holiday in terms of consumer spending is Valentine’s Day, those are the big three. Christmas, then Halloween, then Valentine’s Day and when you look at the commercial aspects they point to some very important cultural realities and of course behind those cultural realities are moral realities as well. One of the key questions that should come to the Christian conscience is what we should think of Halloween. I’ve addressed this issue at many points including at several articles, one of which will be posted with this edition of The Briefing, but the thing that Christians need to keep in mind is that worldview elements of something like Halloween simply can’t be denied.

The pagan elements behind Halloween are not merely historical realities way back somewhere in history. They are continuing to the present and the evidence of that is in what’s going on in terms of so many Halloween celebrations. Behind the celebrations of Halloween and the symbolism are the pagan roots of Samhain that is the ancient Celtic Festival, which came at the end of the summer, but it was an explicitly theological event. Even the carving of pumpkins as The Telegraph recently reminded us goes back to the Samhain Festival when the Celts would,

“Carve turnips to ward off spirits and stop fairies from settling in houses.”

The issue of Halloween has had a hold on the Western conscience precisely because of its celebration of the dark side, of the occultic, of the demonic, of evil. The big looming moral and theological issue here doesn’t come down to children dressed up like cowboys and Indians, but rather to the celebration of the occult and that’s really what’s making the headlines these days. Halloween is actually in our times turning even darker and not only darker but highly sexualized.

In modern American culture, Halloween has become not only a commercial holiday, but a season of cultural fascination with evil and the demonic. Even as our society has pressed the limits on issues such as sexuality, the culture’s confrontation with the dark side is also pushed far beyond the boundaries that had been honored at least in the past. We’re looking at an increasing fascination in America with the occult, which comes we should note, even as America sliding into a post-Christian secularism. Even secular observers have noted that Halloween celebrations are becoming darker and darker and so is the paraphernalia associated with the holiday. But as Juliet Lapidos has reported for Slate the other big new thing that can be traceable in sales figures related to Halloween is how many costumes and how many other issues related to Halloween have become openly and overtly sexualized. As Lapidos writes,

“Costuming has been a part of Halloween since at least the 19th century, when Scottish and Irish children went “guising” house-to-house in exchange for coins. The Victorians enjoyed a good costume ball on Halloween, and some daring getups, like Gypsy outfits, were popular. But risqué costumes were not pervasive until right around Gerald Ford’s presidency, when gay communities in the United States adopted Halloween as an occasion for revealing, over-the-top attire.”

But the point of her article is that this is no longer limited to one community. It is now spread throughout American culture and one of the fastest-growing segments of the economy related to Halloween is the investment in and the display of overt and transgressive sexuality. As Lapidos writes,

“The popularity of “ultra sexy” wear does not merely reflect the 1970s drag-queen spirit but the more general skimpification of America.”

That’s very interesting in and of itself. That’s a term we ought to note, the increasing “general skimpification of America.” Halloween historian Lesley Bannatyne explained that,

“Halloween is a “rogue” holiday not connected to a historical person or a historical event, so celebrants are free to express whatever’s in the air at that particular moment.”

Well, perhaps in that light, it shouldn’t be so shocking to us that what’s in the air at this particular moment is an overtly sexualized and let’s use the word in this article, skimpified culture that is now demonstrating that sexual revolution in terms of what’s popular for Halloween. One of the things that Christians need to consider is that there are pagan roots and there’s a pagan background to many of the holidays on our calendar, but what makes Halloween different is that it alone is a celebration of paganism and the very attempt to recover in one means or another those pagan roots. As I said when discussing the Speaker the House there is often more to a photograph than we first recognize and now we also need to understand that there can be more to a holiday than we want to admit.

Dr. Mohler recording The Briefing