November 13, 2015
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Friday, November 13, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Utah judge separates child from lesbian foster parents affirming importance of father and mother
Headlines came from the state of Utah, as earlier this week a juvenile court judge had ordered a baby to be taken from lesbian foster parents and put instead in the hands of a heterosexual couple. For what the judge declared to be the child’s well-being. This story made headlines across the country, especially on Thursday. On Wednesday, the Utah division of Child and family services complained about the judge’s action and said that it’s response would be under review the spokesperson for the agency, Ashley Sumner, indicated that the Utah agency planned to review the decision and,Show Full Transcript
“Determine what options they have to possibly challenge the order.”
As Time magazine reports,
“The ruling came during a routine hearing for April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce. They are part of a group of same-sex married couples who were allowed to become foster parents in Utah after last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made gay marriage legal across the country, Sumner said.”
Justin Wm Moyer, reporting for the Washington Post yesterday indicated that the judge decided to end a plan that had been approved by the Utah family agency ordering instead the baby girl to be removed from her foster home,
“Because he said she would be better off with heterosexual parents.”
Gay-rights organization such as the human rights campaign immediately issued vehement responses as Time says,
“Outrageous, shocking, and unjust.”
The judge’s full decision is not disclosed to the public. It’s confidential because in this case a juvenile is at the center of the news. But the spokesperson for the agency said,
“She can’t speak to specifics of the case but confirmed that the couple’s account of the ruling is accurate.”
That is that the lesbian couple’s account of what the judge had ruled is accurate and the agency, according to Time is unaware of any other issues with their performance as parents or as foster parents. Speaking to the Washington Post, Chad Griffin, president of the human rights campaign, that’s an LGBT advocacy group, he said,
“Removing a child from a loving home simply because the parents are LGBT is outrageous, shocking, and unjust.
“It also flies in the face of overwhelming evidence that children being raised by same-sex parents are just as healthy and well-adjusted as those with different-sex parents. At a time when so many children in foster care need loving homes, it is sickening to think that a child would be taken from caring parents who planned to adopt.”
I read the full statement from the president of the human rights campaign; because it points to the direction this moral revolution is taking us. It’s the direction that makes it unthinkable and unspeakable that somehow there could be one family structure that is optimal for raising children. Of course Christians looking at the story through the lens of the Christian worldview understand that what is known as the natural family, that is a married mother and father and their offspring, or those who were then welcomed into their family that that is not merely something that is optimal for children, but it is something that was given to us by the creator for our good as the optimal context for the raising and the nurture of children. The statement made by the spokesperson for the Utah government agency is also really revealing. She said,
“We just want sharing, loving families for these kids,” Sumner said. “We don’t really care what that looks like.”
It is unclear at this point where this judge’s order will lead and whether or not it will stand. Given the direction of the courts it’s frankly unlikely that this will be the final ruling on this situation and as we’ve been looking at the moral revolution pressing forward it is increasingly unlikely that other judges will rule as he has. As a matter of fact, in a state like Massachusetts, the first state in the union to have legal same-sex marriage, not only state agencies but independent agencies have been required by law to place children not only for foster care, but also for adoption without discrimination in terms of whether the couple is heterosexual or homosexual.
Two things Christians need to note very carefully here. First, the way the cultural conversation is headed. It is headed in the direction that is very clearly articulated by this government spokesperson who said and I quote again,
“We just want sharing, loving families for these kids,” Sumner said. “We don’t really care what that looks like.”
But the problem is that those two sentences actually don’t go together as well as she thinks. Because if indeed we have the best interest of children in mind, we do have to be concerned with what those families look like. Now the Christian worldview is also clear that we should be glad that any child is fed and clothed and protected and cared for. That is fundamental. But the Christian worldview also tells us that there is one structure very clearly revealed in creation and in Scripture that is optimal for the raising of children. What we’re looking at secondly is that we are increasingly in a society that cannot even have a rational honest conversation about this. We are in a society that is furthermore, losing its conception of the family at the most fundamental level. When you have an official government spokesperson speaking for an agency that is concerned with child welfare to say we really don’t care what that looks like when responding to the family. We are looking at a very deep level of confusion even intentional confusion and we are looking at the weakening of society at its most basic level, which is the family. Now the Bible is filled with a great deal of candor and honesty about family life, about the reality of the family and about the effects of sin. The Bible is very honest about broken families. In the Bible we can find just about everything but we also find a very clear revelation of the fact that the optimal conditions for the raising of children are the presence of a mother and a father.
As a matter of fact, God is described in the Bible as father to the fatherless, which is an indication that being without a father is a problem. It is an unspeakable loss. The Bible is also clear about the fact that there are roles for mothers and fathers, for parents together as mothers and fathers raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We also come to understand the basic biblical principle that when we tamper with the most basic institutions given to us in creation, we create problems that reverberate throughout the entire society. And if we lose the ability even to be clear that the optimal conditions for the raising of children include a mother and a father married to one another, then we are actually buying into a cultural irrationality that will have long-lasting moral effects.
A society that doesn’t care any longer what the family looks like, is a society that increasingly doesn’t know how to define the family at all. The biblical worldview acknowledges the reality of broken families and yet the biblical worldview holds up that norm of the mother and the father with their children, indeed, a multi-generational understanding of the family by which one generation faithfully passes on that responsibility to the next. In terms of this cultural moment this story indicates that we are now passing on to our children and to our children’s children, an increasing irrationality about the family and a refusal to state the truth even when we know the truth.
Child murder of younger sibling raises horrifying reality of sin, human nature
Next, Jesse Harding Pomeroy was born in 1859, and shortly thereafter he became one of most infamous child murderers in American history. As a young boy he had already been convicted of luring even younger boys into a field where he assaulted them, scarring some of them, at least for life. He’d been sent to a reformatory, he was paroled back to his mother’s home when in the year 1874 he murdered a 10-year-old girl from South Boston name Katie Curran. Even after he was arrested for this crime, the girl’s body had been found in the basement of his mother’s dressmaking shop. He was also the lead suspect in another murder, the murder of a young boy, a murder of which he was never convicted, after he was sentenced to death by hanging for the murder of Katie Curran. Back in the 1870s the case of Jesse Harding Pomeroy became notorious in this country and it became a matter of widespread conversation because it raised a very difficult question, how can a child become a child murderer? What does that tell us morally about human nature and what does it tell us even about the moral culpability and responsibility of a child? Jesse Harding Pomeroy was not executed for the murder of a young girl, eventually; the sentence was changed to life in prison without possibility of parole. He ended up dying without ever gaining his freedom at age 72. But in those long years between his conviction as a teenager and his death at age 72, America continue to ponder the question, how is it that a child could come to the place of murdering another child? Those same questions sprang to our attention yesterday when the New York Times ran a story with the headline,
“8 year old held in death of 1 year old in Alabama.”
Alan Blinder writes,
“With its unadorned language and matter-of-fact tone, the announcement on Tuesday by the authorities in Birmingham, Ala., at first read like nearly any other law enforcement statement about a homicide investigation.
“But the fourth paragraph of Media Release No. 102 carried a startling revelation: The suspect charged with the murder of a 1-year-old girl was an 8-year-old boy. The boy, the police said, had “viciously attacked” the toddler because she would not stop crying while her mother was at a nightclub.”
As Blinder continued,
“The charge against the unidentified boy, among the youngest children ever charged with murder in the United States, immediately provoked questions about juvenile justice and how the authorities should approach those rare cases in which children are accused of killing even younger children.”
John C. Neiman Jr., a former Alabama solicitor general said,
“Anytime something happens involving a murder by a juvenile, particularly one of this age, it’s going to be a surprise. In this area of the law, there are simply no easy answers.”
Well, of course this comes as a shocking headline. Let’s be thankful we live in a world in which we are shocked by this kind of a headline. We should shudder to think that we would live in a world in which this kind of headline would be routine, but the story is not as unprecedented as that headline might indicate. That’s why I went back to Jesse Harding Pomeroy and that’s why if you look at history, actually there are several cases in our nation’s history in which very young children have murdered even younger children. It is true, however, that at the age of eight we are talking about something that is especially shocking. It’s different even than a young teenager committing such a horrifying crime.
The story made the nation’s headlines not just because in this case there is an eight-year-old suspected of killing a one-year-old, but because the eight-year-old has been accused of and charged with criminal murder and there are further complications in this case, it looks like several children were left alone by a mother who went to a nightclub. She has since been charged with manslaughter. According to media reports, the eight-year-old was the oldest child in the house. One of the big questions here is the criminal culpability of an eight-year-old defendant. The question immediately arises; did he have any adequate moral knowledge of what he was doing? Did he understand himself to be not only harming this child, but killing a one-year-old girl? Even in terms of the court proceedings, we may never know any of the answers to that question, because as we’ve said we are dealing here with a juvenile and according to the law of Alabama this will not be a jury trial if it proceeds, it will be held before a judge and all the records will be sealed. As a matter of fact, we do know that according to Alabama law, what this boy may face if convicted of murder at age 8, is the fact that he would be confined until age 21. In any case, he is being tried as a juvenile and of course he is a juvenile. This raises one of the biggest questions that confuses our culture. I went back to the case of Jesse Harding Pomeroy to point out this is not as unprecedented as we might expect, and not just in the United States but in world history. The reality is that we are horrified and astounded when a child commits such a horrifying act. We also understand that a child is a child even though our society seems to be increasingly confused about such matters; we do understand that there is a distinction in terms of conscious cognitive capability even in terms of some moral responsibility when you compare a very young child and an adult. But at the deepest level the society around us actually doesn’t know how to handle evil in any form, morally speaking, it really doesn’t know how to handle when a murderer is an adult, much less a child. The society around us is especially shocked when the murder in this case is believed to have been an eight-year-old, but having abandoned a biblical worldview it really doesn’t know how to explain moral evil when it is confronted in any form at any level by a perpetrator of any age.
But there is a particular problem here in terms of the modern secular worldview. Going all the way back to the French philosopher Jacques Rousseau, there has been the implication in modern secularism that the child is morally speaking, innocent and a blank slate. So from the modern secular worldview the assumption is that something outside this child has to explain how this horrifying crime took place. The impact of the philosophy of Rousseau and others in the modern secular worldview explains why so many modern educational theories assume that the child is morally speaking, either positively good or innocent and that the problem is somehow a society through experience, or teaching is going to imprint a bad moral understanding on to the child. Moral evil coming from a child is a particular problem for the modern secular worldview because it is hard to explain how a child can become so evil in such a short amount of time.
There is a lot to this story and as I’ve said, the likelihood is we will never come to a full understanding of it. And that’s not just because the court records are sealed, it’s because we cannot read the human heart but we can read the Scriptures and reading the Scriptures we come to understand that the child is not born a moral innocent. We are conceived in sin and we are born into sin and that sin nature shows up virtually immediately. Part of God’s grace in common grace to us is to establish parents in order to protect children somewhat from themselves and their own sin nature. Part of the problem here is clearly the fact you had several children alone with an eight-year-old as the oldest person in the room. Without doubt there may be external factors that are a part of the picture here in terms of the experience of this child. There is a picture of abandonment and deprivation that’s right here before our eyes. There is also the shared culpability with a parent who left these children alone. But in some way we now come to understand that police believe an eight-year-old physically attacked a one-year-old until the one-year-old was dead. At every level this story cries out for very careful thinking, but, of course, our first response is the right response, absolute heartbreak.
Effectiveness of crisis pregnancy centers alarming abortion supporters
Yesterday’s edition of the New York Times had a major opinion piece by Meaghan Winter and is entitled,
“The Stealth Attack on Abortion Access.”
And it has to do with a very important issue that we need to note and that is that those who are the proponents of abortion increasingly see right in the center of their target crisis pregnancy centers and the reason they do so is because they are very effective. Meaghan Winter is writing from a very strong and acknowledged pro-abortion position, and she is complaining that crisis pregnancy centers often come under the radar in terms of people understanding what they really are about. She also complains about the fact that pro-life forces subsidize these centers and provide them with funds while she says at the same time pushing to defund comprehensive healthcare providers, in particular Planned Parenthood. When we see an article like this we need to note it because it not only reveals the worldview of the pro-abortion perspective, but it also tells us by the very fact that this article appeared that crisis pregnancy centers are having a huge impact. That’s very important for all of us to understand. It is a very important issue in terms of the pro-life movement. Meaghan Winter writes,
“Today, thousands of women seeking low-cost health care are ending up at crisis pregnancy centers. Nationwide, there are more than 3,000 anti-choice centers advertising free services, like options counseling, pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. They now outnumber abortion clinics by at least three to one.”
Now Meaghan Winter intends to alert the liberal readers of the New York Times to the fact that this is an emergency. But for those in the pro-life movement this should come as real encouragement. It should encourage us know that there is so much dedication to the pro-life cause, there’s so much concern for preserving the life of the unborn that these crisis pregnancy centers now outnumber abortion clinics by 3 to 1. Meaghan Winter continues and we need to hear her words very carefully. She writes,
“These organizations and their friendly volunteers may seem innocuous, but the centers are often staffed by evangelical women who lack professional licenses and belong to religious organizations that actively discourage them from recommending contraception, let alone abortion.”
That is absolutely stunning language. Working backwards, licensure is not required or expected of volunteers at a crisis pregnancy center any more than at a Planned Parenthood location, but the bigger issue is that Meaghan Winter identifies these volunteers saying that they may seem innocuous, but the centers,
“Are often staffed by evangelical women.”
Clearly those words are intended to send chills down the pro-abortion spine. Meaghan Winter complains in this article that those evangelical women staffing these crisis pregnancy centers are basically coercing women into not having abortions. How are they doing so? Not by force, but by argument. But then she writes these words,
“The struggle for reproductive rights is inextricable from other movements for racial and economic justice. We will not achieve equal opportunity until a poor woman has the same sovereignty over her body and her future as a wealthy man. We must roll back the anti-choice legislation in our states that holds back equality.”
Now you’ll notice that she has changed the subject in that last sentence from the crisis pregnancy centers to what she calls anti-choice legislation, another sign of fact that the pro-life movement is actually winning some arguments and winning some hearts and even as we have affirmation in this article, the crisis pregnancy centers are right in the center of the bull’s-eye of pro-choice concern or pro-abortion concern precisely because they are effective, we also see here the worldview behind abortion in a way that isn’t new, but is certainly something that demands our attention. Those who are arguing the pro-abortion cause back in the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, the oral arguments were actually heard back in 1972 originally. What they were arguing even back then, is that a woman can only achieve equality if she has sovereignty over her body that is not compromised by a pregnancy. The worldview behind abortion is very clear when she says,
“We will not achieve equal opportunity until a poor woman has the same sovereignty over her body and her future as a wealthy man.”
But that notion of sovereignty is itself the problem. And in that sense, there is an original and enduring contrast between a man and a woman in terms of the body to begin with. There is no opportunity for a man to have within himself another life, but stating that way is actually to make the very point. This is another life. This is a person who has the dignity of life and the sanctity of life. But the worldview behind the pro-abortion movement here is clear and it’s crystal-clear. The argument is this, the only way a woman can be equal with a man is if she has the right to kill the unborn life within her. That is a twisted, perverse and murderous understanding of equality, but it’s in the very center of the pro-abortion argument. Meaghan Winter intends her article to be an alarm for the pro-abortion movement. Actually, as it’s well understood, it’s an alarm for the rest of us.