The Briefing 02-02-16

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Iowa Caucus resets political equation as candidates and their worldviews face real voters

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As India seeks to halt sex-selective abortions, USA still offers legal abortion-on-demand

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Britain legalizes genetic modification of human embryos for research, sidelines ethics

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Transcript

The Briefing

February 2, 2016

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

It’s Tuesday, February 2, 2016. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Iowa Caucus resets political equation as candidates and their worldviews face real voters

In electoral terms, 24 hours can change the world, and that’s what happened yesterday. For the past several months we’ve been dealing with political issues and with people focusing rightly on the 2016 United States presidential election, mostly in terms of polls and political expectations. But last night voters in Iowa in political caucuses cast the first meaningful votes in the 2016 race. And as we said, it changes everything.

The first thing that it changes is that it resets the entire political equation. Because now for the first time, not only are there delegates assigned, but there are actual numbers. There are voters who went into the caucuses and they voted. On both sides of the American political equation, in both parties, there was a major reset last night.

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On the Republican side, three out of four of all the voters who participated in the Republican caucuses voted for three candidates: 75.1% combined for candidates cruise Trump and Rubio. Ted Cruz came out ahead with 27.7%, but Donald Trump came in with 24.3%. The astounding reset came with Marco Rubio, coming in with 23.1%. You put all that together and, once again, even as there are multiple Republican candidates, only three came out on top in terms of 75% of the vote. That’s the math that really matters. That means that all the other Republican candidates combined came in with slightly less than 25% of the total caucus vote. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson came in with 9.3%; no one else broke 5%.

Now what happens in the aftermath of this is that the plausibility of different directions for the Republican Party becomes more clear. There are three major trajectories: Ted Cruz represents an insurgent conservatism, Donald Trump represents a very new kind of populism in the Republican Party, and Marco Rubio represents a more traditional conservative perspective. Even though Donald Trump consumed by far most of the press attention devoted to any candidate thus far in the 2016 race, we should keep in mind that last night was actually the first time that he faced an electoral choice and appeared on an actual ballot.

At base, every major political contest, every major election is a conflict, a contest of worldviews, and at the national level that contest is shaping up to be extremely significant. But within the two parties, within the two major political alignments in the United States, there is also a contest of worldviews. The worldviews that are now contesting for leadership of the Republican Party represent populism versus two different brands of conservatism. The differences on political questions between candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both sitting United States Senators, pale in comparison with the contrast between their versions of conservatism and Donald Trump’s populism. It is not yet clear—certainly in terms of the national equation—which direction the Republican Party will take. But on the Republican side what is clear is this: If you take the two Republican Senators at the top, Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Marco Rubio, last night they received together more than 50% of the entire Republican caucus vote in Iowa.

It’s shaping up to be a very interesting election as the primary season now begins with New Hampshire next week and then South Carolina to follow. On the Democratic side, the astounding thing is that the Democratic voters in the caucuses split almost evenly in an incredibly close call between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders. And on the Democratic side, you have another contest of worldviews before you ever get to the national stage. On the Democratic side, it is a choice between the establishment liberalism of Hillary Rodham Clinton, former First Lady, former Secretary of State, former United States Senator, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is an avowed Democratic socialist.

Now another factor we need to keep in mind is this: As the 2016 race was shaping up at the beginning of 2015, most observers were beginning to wonder if America was divided not just between two political parties, but between two family dynasties—on the one hand in the Democratic Party, a dynasty of the Clinton family and on the Republican side, a dynasty of the Bush family. But what we see as voters actually went into the caucuses in Iowa last night is that there is no reigning dynasty in America, not at this point. The fact that an independent candidate who isn’t even registered as a Democrat, who ran on a platform of avowed Democratic Socialism, the fact that that candidate, Bernie Sanders, last night did not concede defeat tells us a very great deal about the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party.

Another thing we need to keep in mind is the distinction between what happened last night and what is likely to follow. Last night was the Iowa caucuses; next week starts the primary season. The distinction is this: The Iowa caucuses were not all that important until just a few years ago; indeed, it was in 1976 that an insurgent Democratic Governor, Jimmy Carter, made the Iowa caucuses basically what they are today, as then Governor Carter understood that if he could organize and win in Iowa, he would place himself at the top tier of the Democratic candidates and build momentum going into the primary season. It turned out that that was a winning strategy for Governor Carter that propelled him to the Democratic nomination and eventually to election as president of the United States. Every insurgent candidate since 1976 has tried to follow something of the playbook that was established by Jimmy Carter in that year. But do the Iowa caucuses actually choose presidents? On the Republican side, maybe so, maybe not. It’s a mixed picture. On the Democratic side, more often than not, the winner of the Iowa caucuses has gone on to win the party’s nomination.

In terms of the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party, two very interesting endorsements appeared in the days leading up to the Iowa caucuses, on the one hand, the Editorial Board of the New York Times. It’s hard to come up with a more powerful symbol of the Democratic Party’s liberal base than the editorial board of the New York Times. The New York Times endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. The Editorial Board of the New York Times is very concerned with a Democratic nominee who can actually, in the view of that board, be elected. And as you look at the actual editorial published by the New York Times, it is clear they do not believe that Bernie Sanders can be elected President of the United States, even if he were to win the Democratic nomination. But at the worldview level, what’s really interesting is that the Editorial Board of the New York Times zeros in on the issues of their greatest concern. For example, the editors wrote this,

“Her knowledge [that is, Hillary Clinton’s knowledge] comes from a commitment to issues like reproductive rights that is decades old.”

The editors then wrote,

“She was well ahead of Mr. Sanders in calling for repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which severely limits federal money to pay for abortions for poor women.”

That’s an astounding statement. In the first half of the New York Times Editorial Board’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton, they go right at the issue of abortion, but they don’t just go with the issue of abortion, they take the issue much further. They are actually championing openly in this editorial their endorsement of Hillary Clinton, specifically because, in their words, she was ahead of Senator Sanders in calling for a repeal of the Hyde Amendment. We need to keep in mind that the Hyde Amendment was passed by Congress and signed into law; it’s named the Hyde Amendment after former Illinois Congressman, the late Henry Hyde, an amendment that prevents federal tax money used through various federal programs from funding abortion. And here they have put that exactly squarely in the center of their political bull’s-eye.

The New York Times editorial cited other reasons why they endorsed Hillary Clinton, rather than Bernie Sanders, but it is really instructive to us that the issue of abortion was so front, so central to their argument and so extreme in terms of actually championing Hillary Clinton for being first before Bernie Sanders to call for a repeal of the Hyde amendment. We need to keep in mind what that would mean. That would mean that if that amendment were to be repealed, the federal government would be in the abortion business, not just funding organizations like Planned Parenthood, but actually funding abortions.

On the other hand, the liberal magazine, The Nation, long a flagship periodical of the American Left endorsed, Bernie Sanders, putting their endorsement on the cover of the magazine stating,

“With integrity and principle, the Vermont senator is calling Americans to a political revolution.”

That’s what The Nation has wanted for decades, going back to the early decades of the 20th century and throughout the remainder of that century. Now in the beginning of the 21st century, they are openly endorsing a democratic socialist stating,

“We believe such a revolution is not only possible but necessary—and that’s why we’re endorsing Bernie Sanders for president. This magazine rarely makes endorsements in the Democratic primary (we’ve done so only twice: for Jesse Jackson in 1988, and for Barack Obama in 2008). We do so now impelled by the awareness that our rigged system works for the few and not for the many. Americans are waking up to this reality, and they are demanding change. This understanding animates both the Republican and Democratic primaries, though it has taken those two contests in fundamentally different directions.”

The editors concluded,

“Bernie Sanders and his supporters are bending the arc of history toward justice. Theirs is an insurgency, a possibility, and a dream that we proudly endorse.”

Over the next few weeks, many other questions will be answered about the forward trajectory of these two major parties in the United States. We’re going to know a great deal more about what both Republican and Democratic voters actually want as they are considering the future of their party. They are choosing among candidates, but to a degree heretofore not experienced in American elections, especially in the nomination cycle, they’re also choosing between radically different worldviews, not only when we get to the national general election, but even right now in terms of the party nomination races.

Christians always have to keep in mind elections are never merely elections, they are great conflicts and contests of worldview and eventually those worldview issues will be exceedingly clear. But in just 24 hours the Iowa caucuses hope to focus these issues for both of the parties. Where the two parties go from here is not yet decided. But what was decided last night are the contours of how this race will now be fought out in both parties. With over 75% of Republicans voting for three out of many candidates, and with Democrats voting virtually evenly in Iowa between a liberal Democrat, and a Democratic Socialist.

As India seeks to halt sex-selective abortions, USA still offers legal abortion-on-demand

Next, the scene shifts to India, where a very important article appeared yesterday in the Wall Street Journal with the headline,

“India Targets Illicit Sex-Selective Abortions.”

Once again, with the scene this time India, the issue is the sanctity of human life and the issue of abortion. Sex selection abortion in India, in China and in other Asian nations has led to the destruction, to the murder, of millions of unborn baby girls. The preference for boys in India and China and other Asian nations is so strong that the development of the ultrasound has led to search-and-destroy missions in millions of wombs where there are millions of missing girls over successive generations in those nations. The cultural preference for boys has intersected with the technological development of the ultrasound, allowing for women to find out if they’re carrying an unborn boy or an unborn girl, and if it comes back with an indication that the baby is a girl, or even likely to be a girl, abortion often follows. The details of the Wall Street Journal story reveal a horror of what we’re actually dealing with here. Reporter Suryatapa Bhattacharya reveals that what’s going on is that babies are being destroyed, once again, simply because they are identified as girls. She writes,

“Behind the door of a tiny storefront on a trash-strewn street in New Delhi, investigators trailing two women from this city found a hospital bed, a rusted metal gurney and a small ultrasound machine.”

She continues,

“Police arrested the shop’s proprietor, an unlicensed druggist named Jitendra Kaushik, on suspicion of running a lucrative—and, in India, illegal—side business identifying the sex of unborn babies so expectant mothers can abort female fetuses.”

Now let’s just step back for a moment. Here you have the Wall Street Journal, one of the nation’s most influential newspapers, a newspaper with a wide global reach, writing about this article, and included in these opening words is an implied moral judgment. What is that moral judgment? The moral judgment is that it is somehow, for some reason, wrong to abort a baby simply for being one gender or the other, in this case for being identified as a female. At this point in terms of a worldview analysis, we need to step back. Why exactly would that be wrong? In the article, it is revealed that India’s government is concerned because this has led to an imbalance between the two sexes. The reporter writes,

“As India has become wealthier, the demographic trends have worsened. In 1991, 945 girls were born for every 1,000 boys in India. By 2011, the female number had dropped to 918. Every year, 400,000 Indian girls go ‘missing,’ according to the United Nations Population Fund, the result of selective abortion, infanticide and neglect.”

So let’s look closely at what we’re dealing with here. We’re looking at abortion, at the intentional termination of unborn human life, and we are looking at abortion in this case for reasons of sex selection. Now that raises a huge question, why is this wrong? Is it wrong because it’s the termination of an innocent human life, an unborn human life, a life made in God’s image, a life that deserves to be honored and prized and welcomed? Or is it wrong merely for questions of sex selection? Reading the Wall Street Journal article, there is no implied moral judgment against abortion, merely against sex selection abortion. Now this is something that is very revealing. It tells us that there is even among those who may support abortion, a guilty conscience when it comes to sex selection abortion. That implies that there might be better reasons than other reasons for an abortion, and that leads us to the United States.

Why is there not a similar outcry against sex selection abortions in the United States? Well, the first reason is because the practice is not widespread, although there are very credible press reports that among some immigrant communities it exists in the United States. But this is what we need to watch. American Christians reading an article like this may think that this is a problem that is largely limited to Asia, but in reality in the United States there need be no reason given for an abortion. The Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 basically legalized abortion-on-demand, an abortion that a woman can seek and receive for any reason or for no reason. Prominent abortion defenders in this country, including many elected officials, basically argue for a woman’s so-called right to an abortion for any reason or for no reason.

A Christian looking at this needs to recognize that the fundamental issue is the sanctity of human life, every single human life. It is instructive to us that there still is a moral concern about sex selection abortion. But we also need to note that if you buy into the worldview of abortion in the first place, you actually have very little argument against abortion for any specific reason, because you just authorized it, for any reason or for no reason at all. This also tells us about the impact of technology in a fallen, sinful world. We’ve talked about the fact that many Americans have come to an increased understanding of the fact that the inhabitant of the womb is a person because of the ultrasound images that are now not only routinely given to expectant parents, but now routinely taped up on refrigerators, where brothers and sisters and other members of the family can see that ultrasound image and celebrate it as being an unborn child.

But this article in the Wall Street Journal makes clear that same technology can be turned to murderous ends, it can be used for murderous purposes. It can be used in order to identify whether the fetus, the unborn baby, is a boy or a girl in order that the mother might terminate a pregnancy if it is not the desired gender.

Sadly, many Americans, including some American Christians, might look at this headline and say that’s really horrible that this takes place in India. And of course it is horrible, it’s unspeakably horrible, but we also need to recognize that there is no legal reason this couldn’t happen in the United States. It does happen. In the United States medical testing is used to tell parents, for example, whether or not it is likely that their child is carrying the genes for Down Syndrome and if so, we now know the vast majority of those babies are aborted in the womb. We are on the threshold of genetic and medical tests and technologies that can tell us a very great deal about the unborn child, and that data is going to be used by many parents in order to eliminate pregnancies, to kill babies in the womb who do not meet their specifications and expectations. It tells us a great deal that this article seems to imply that it is wrong to abort a baby simply because of its gender. But we need to note that the article can’t go much further than that, because if it does it’s going to have to deal with the wrongness of abortion itself, with the evil of abortion not only for this reason, but for any reason. That is where this article in the Wall Street Journal does not go, but we must if we really believe in the dignity and sanctity of every single human life. And that is exactly what the Bible tells us. Every single human life, at every point along the continuum, under every condition, is a human life made in the image of God. It is our duty to protect it at every stage for every reason. It is our responsibility to protect and to speak for every unborn life facing any possibility of abortion for any reason whatsoever.

Britain legalizes genetic modification of human embryos for research, sidelines ethics

Next, shifting to Great Britain, another story with ominous tones for the sanctity of human life. The Guardian reports, here’s the headline,

“British researchers get green light to genetically modify human embryos.”

As the report says,

“Britain’s first genetically modified human embryos could be created within months, after scientists were granted permission by the fertility regulator to carry out the procedure.”

Britain’s human fertilization and embryology authority approved a license application by a stem cell scientist at the Francis Crick Institute in London,

“…to perform so-called genome editing on human embryos.”

We’ve talked before about the so-called CRISPR technology of genetic manipulation that has been proposed and has now been licensed by the embryology authority there in Great Britain. This horrifying story tells us that researchers in Great Britain have now been licensed to genetically modify human embryos after having created those embryos simply for medical research and then destroying them at either seven or 14 days. The policy given by the authority there in Great Britain actually requires the destruction of the human embryo at that stage lest it be allowed to develop any further. The concerns here should be very clear. David King, Director of the Human Genetics Alert said,

“‘This is the first step in a well mapped-out process leading to GM babies, and a future of consumer eugenics.’ He claimed the government’s scientific advisers had already decided they were comfortable with the prospect of so-called ‘designer babies.’”

Another pro-life advocate in Great Britain, Anne Scanlan said,

“The HFEA now has the reputation of being the first regulator in the world to approve this uncertain and dangerous technology. It has ignored the warnings of over 100 scientists worldwide and given permission for a procedure that could have damaging far-reaching implications for human beings.”

As the paper summarizes, there are fears that changes to an embryos DNA could have unknown harmful consequences throughout a person’s body and be passed on down the generations. That’s true, but that understates the problem. We’re looking here at the creation of human embryos that are going to be genetically modified and then destroyed. But the scariest passage in this article actually has to do with the rationale behind this. As the paper says,

“But supporters of the HFEA’s decision said it had arrived at the right conclusion, balancing the benefits to research and ethical considerations.”

Balancing them? Ethical considerations were simply cast aside. Darren Griffin, identified as a professor of genetics at Britain’s University of Kent said,

“While it is certain that the prospect of gene editing in human embryos raised a series of ethical issues and challenges, the problem has been dealt with in a balanced manner. It is clear that the potential benefits of the work proposed far outweigh the foreseen risks.”

That horrifying statement actually implies that the end justifies the means. But this man actually tripped himself up by saying that the benefits far outweigh the foreseen risks. Well, what about the unforeseen risks? But that dangerous statement was actually topped by the conclusion of the article where one scientist said,

“We should feel confident that our regulatory system in this area is functioning well to keep science aligned with social interests.”

That is a statement that points to moral disaster—not just a looming disaster that might come as the result of the research, but the moral disaster that is the research itself.

Dr. Mohler recording The Briefing