March 10, 2016
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Thursday, March 10, 2016. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Moral opportunists seek to seize on Zika virus crisis to push pro-abortion position
Moral opportunism is something we always need to watch for, and it is now staring us right in the face in the intersection of the Zika virus and the issue of abortion, especially in Central and South America. Ann M. Simmons, reporting for the Los Angeles Times yesterday, writes,
“As the Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects, spreads across Latin America, the demand for abortions is increasing in countries where there are few legal avenues to obtain one.”Show Full Transcript
She then cites Francoise Girard, President of the International Women’s Health Coalition—that’s a group based in New York that is a pro-choice, pro-abortion organization. According to the Times, it is a “nonprofit that advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights.”
“It has made the issue more salient and has highlighted the cruelty behind some of these restrictive abortion laws.”
Now this is a classic example of the kind of moral opportunism we ought to always be very careful to see. And in this case, it’s a particularly deadly form of that opportunism. Here you have those who are pushing for a pro-abortion perspective who are seizing upon the tragedy of the Zika virus now spreading very quickly throughout Latin America and the tie of that virus to very significant birth defects. And that has led to an opportunity for those who are arguing for a change in the abortion culture and a change in the abortion laws throughout much of Latin America. As Simmons rightly notes, in Latin America the region has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the entire world, and the reason for that is a long-standing understanding of the fact that abortion is a grave sin and a moral evil. But before we find ourselves even two paragraphs into the article, we find that quote from Françoise Gerard. Again she said,
“It,” meaning the Zika virus, “has made the issue more salient and his highlighted the cruelty behind some of these restrictive abortion laws.”
So what’s she actually saying? The use of the word “salient” is very important here. It means “clear.” When someone uses the word “salient” in this particular context. they mean that this crisis or this particular event has made another issue very clear. And thus she is saying that it’s the Zika virus that has made the logic of the pro-abortion position more salient to many in the society, perhaps even to some lawmakers. But then she goes on to characterize those laws that would restrict abortion—in other words, those laws that would uphold the dignity and sanctity of unborn human life—as being cruel. She says,
“The issue has highlighted the cruelty behind some of these restrictive abortion laws.”
Moral opportunism in this case is seen in the fact that those who have been long advocating for abortion rights in this region, those who are calling for universal abortion rights, they are now openly and even brazenly arguing right out in public that the Zika virus offers an opportunity—they might even say a mandate—for the society to come to terms with their position to accept their argument. As she said,
“[The Zika virus] has made the issue”—she means the issue of abortion—“more salient.”
The global elites solidly behind a pro-abortion perspective have joined their voices to it as well. As Simmons reports,
“The outbreak has prompted calls to loosen these countries’ restrictive abortion laws. Recently, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights called for ‘laws and policies that restrict access to sexual and reproductive health services” to be repealed as an effective response to the Zika health emergency.’”
Now while that statement is broad enough to include the issue of contraception, it is also specifically intended to include the issue of abortion—abortion to be included in what the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called here “sexual and reproductive health services.” This is, morally speaking, a euphemism that is an attempt to call something by something other than what it is. Abortion, the killing of an unborn human being, is here disguised as “sexual and reproductive health services.” We’ve seen that in the United States; we now see it coming from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. You also notice the bitter and deadly irony here. Here you have an office in the United Nations known officially as the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in which the office is calling for the right to life of unborn human beings to be sacrificed—not just, we should note, in terms of the arrival and threat of the Zika virus, but in more general terms. This is where the global elites have been pushing now for a matter of decades. Another evidence of this moral opportunism is seen in a statement that is quoted by Debora Diniz, she is the founder of Anis, a Brazilian abortion-rights group that is according to the article petitioning the country’s Supreme Court to change Brazil’s restrictive abortion laws. She said,
“We are not demanding the right to abortion in case of any specific diagnosis for the fetus.”
That’s an interesting statement, but then she goes on to broaden exactly what her demand is,
“We are demanding the right to be freed of the psychological torture of living an imposed pregnancy in times of an epidemic caused by a decades-old negligence of Brazilian policies in controlling the mosquito.”
How do we decipher? How do we discern that language? How do we take it apart and understand it? It is moral opportunism. Those who, as in this article, even as this paragraph says, have long been seeking to change abortion laws and to make abortion legally accessible in these parts of the country, they are now seizing upon the Zika virus as their unprecedented opportunity. Regardless of the country from which a headline like this appears, Christians operating out of a biblical worldview need to be alert to the potential for this kind of moral opportunism and to understand it, and to name it for exactly what it is.
California law that would ban travel to "anti-LGBT" states an attempt at moral posturing
Next, an excellent opportunity for Christian worldview consideration coming from the very same newspaper on the very same day: Yesterday’s edition of the Los Angeles Times on the editorial page included a column by Conor Friedersdorf entitled,
“California’s flawed LGBT rights bill.”
This is really interesting. Friedersdorf writes,
“In the coming weeks, California’s Legislature will consider a bill sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low that would ban most government-funded travel to states that discriminate, or allow private actors to discriminate, on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. The law would affect all agencies, departments, boards, authorities, commissions and colleges. Elected officials and their staffs would be exempt, as would travel needed to enforce state law, meet old contractual obligations or protect public welfare or safety.”
While making clear that he affirms the LGBT agenda, Conor Friedersdorf then writes,
“The bill’s upside is almost entirely symbolic. If it passes, Californians may feel morally superior; they’ll have fresh evidence of what has long been true: A majority of the California Legislature supports equality. And the bill may have some marginal negative effect on offending states’ economies.
“But consider the unintended consequences — including the marginal negative effect on this state’s economy.
“California employees will need to spend time and resources generating a list of verboten states.”
He makes very clear that if this bill passes, it will be almost entirely to make Californians feel better about themselves, even to feel morally superior when compared to other states, states that are, to be very clear, more socially conservative than the liberal state of California. Friedersdorf is making a very important point here, and he doesn’t mince words. As he says in the paragraph I stated, if the bill is adopted, it will make Californians feel “morally superior.”
If it passes, he says, Californians can take solace in the fact that they have a very liberal General Assembly, but that’s no surprise. Later in the article as he concludes, he calls the effort to adopt this bill a form of moral posturing. He says,
“A bill that elevates moral posturing at the expense of good outcomes should never become law.”
Friedersdorf is on to something big here, and he’s writing as someone who is an advocate for LGBT issues. He’s making very clear he believes that any form of discrimination on those bases is entirely abhorrent. That’s his very word. But he says the bill itself is nonsense; it’s moral posturing, and it’s going to come with an enormous negative cost to the state of California. Someone is going to have to police this law if it is effected; someone is going to have to come up with an updated list virtually day by day and week by week as to which states are allowable and which states are not.
He raises at least three or four very interesting examples of where California state officials will be basically unable to attend meetings if those meetings are scheduled in a state that is considered to be on the negative list according to this law. He then asked the question,
“If Texas runs afoul of the anti-discrimination bill, should state employees be forbidden from flying through the Dallas-Fort Worth airport on business, or denied reimbursement for food purchased during a four-hour layover?”
Friedersdorf, a man of the left, is using this particular legislation to make a very important point, and that is: some legislation is exactly what he identifies here, an effort by legislators and by the citizens behind them to feel morally superior about themselves. He openly describes this law as an effort at moral posturing since it really won’t make any difference; but it will be instead making a statement. The law, as we should note with respect to the law, is not intended merely to make a statement, but to make a difference. And as Friedersdorf points out, if this law does make a difference, it’s not likely to be any important difference. It’s just a way of making a statement of legislators and citizens believing that they are morally superior to other states, and by means of this legislation posturing themselves morally.
Now before leaving this issue and before leaving the General Assembly in California—for that matter, before leaving just the state of California at the center of this discussion—we have to understand that much is revealed here about human nature, regardless of the state of one’s address. The reality is that if we are not careful, moral posturing and an effort to believe ourselves morally superior will have an inordinate directive impact upon our own ethical decision-making. How can we be certain that when we come to a moral judgment—whether it’s a law or just a judgment we make in everyday life—how can we be assured of the fact that that judgment is not just ourselves trying to feel better about ourselves, to engage in our own form of moral posturing, to engage in our own effort to feel ourselves morally superior? The Bible’s very clear about this danger: the effort to make ourselves feel morally superior is something that comes very naturally to human beings after the Fall. And yet it is a very deadly temptation, not just deadly in terms of its effects on others, but deadly in terms of our own worldview and our own souls. So how in the world do we prevent this from happening? The New York Times recently ran a very important opinion piece similar to this in which you had an evolutionary argument that moral decisions are basically based upon this very thing, the effort to make ourselves feel good morally speaking about ourselves. How would we rescue ourselves from that predicament? Well, here again, biblically-minded Christians come back to that very issue. The Bible, our only rescue from finding ourselves mired in the quicksand of this kind of moral posturing, the endless effort to make ourselves feel better about ourselves by convincing ourselves that we’re morally superior, the only rescue is to make moral judgments upon the authority of another, and in this case, to make our moral judgments on the authority of God himself as revealed in his Word.
The only escape from this cycle of moral posturing and the effort to make ourselves feel morally superior is to base our entire worldview upon the inerrant and infallible word of God. And then, in humility, we have to admit to ourselves and to the watching world that our moral judgments are not based upon our moral or intellectual superiority. It’s not the result of our own effort at moral posturing. It is indeed the humble acknowledgment that our knowledge of all things—true and false, right and wrong—ultimately comes down to the Creator who loves us so much that he spoke to us and gave us his Word. So in just one day’s newspaper in one major American city, in this case the Los Angeles Times, in just one day’s edition we have examples of both moral opportunism and moral posturing. And in the case of moral posturing, it is actually named openly for what it is.
Redefinition of marriage led SCOTUS to rule unanimously for gay adoption across state lines
Next, shifting the scene from California to the state of Alabama, the Supreme Court recently gave a victory to gay-rights activists by ruling on Monday of this week that states must—that is not “may,” but “must”—honor adoptions by same-sex parents who may even move across state lines. As David G. Savage reports,
“Citing the Constitution’s full faith and credit clause the justices in unanimous opinion rebuked the Alabama Supreme Court for denying a lesbians right to visit the three children she had adopted and raised with her former partner in Georgia.”
Just a few days ago on The Briefing we looked at a story from Kentucky that made the point that family law is constantly now evolving. It is no longer stable precisely because the family unit, the family structure in America, is now, to use the terms of that report, constantly evolving. And here we have further evidence of that. Now we also see that what we’re looking at is a repudiation of the decision handed down by the state of Alabama’s Supreme Court. It was a unanimous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that states must honor adoptions by same-sex parents, even if they move across state lines. Now this raises a host of issues. The issue from my consideration today: I think the primary worldview consideration is not whether this particular ruling was right or wrong, it is rather the fact that this ruling was inevitable given the Court’s decision last June in the Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage. The point is this: Once the Supreme Court had redefined marriage to mean that a man and a man or a woman and a woman could be legally wed in all 50 states on the same basis as a man and a woman, then the Court set the stage for this as an inevitable consequence.
This is something we also need to watch in terms of worldview analysis when we look back at the Obergefell decision last June. Many of us were saying at the time, this is a moral revolution. It’s turning marriage upside down. It is a basic revision not only of marriage unprecedented in human history, but eventually of—wholesale—the family structure. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing here. The legalization of same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court did not begin this moral revolution. Nor will it end it. But it did become a very important turning point, and it will accelerate this moral revolution, a revolution that will transform the family—redefine the family—right before our eyes. That’s exactly what we see in a unanimous ruling just this week by the U.S. Supreme Court. A ruling that was—here’s that word again—inevitable given the direction set by a majority of that court back last June in the Obergefell decision.
Back when the Supreme Court handed down that decision, conservatives were told this isn’t going to change everything. The defenders of traditional marriage were told this is just an adjustment in the definition of marriage; and the Court’s majority itself said this doesn’t change everything, just the definition of marriage. But there is no such thing as “just the definition of marriage.” Marriage is too basic. It is too fundamental. When you redefine marriage, you eventually redefine the family utterly in a project that isn’t close to being finished, but which led to a unanimous ruling just this week from the U.S. Supreme Court, in this case awarding custody rights to the divorced party in a same-sex marriage. That tells you a great deal about where this moral revolution is headed, and the very fact that we aren’t seeing the end of it anywhere in sight yet.
"Bachelor gap" created by sex-selective abortion sociologically and morally objectionable
Shifting to China, a very important article appeared in recent days in the New York Times. It’s by Somini Sengupta and it is entitled,
“The World Has a Problem: Too Many Young People.”
It has to do with the fact that many demographers, sociologists, and political scientists—not to mention others—have been watching the fact that there is a huge boom in young people around the world and that’s disproportionate. It’s especially true in the so-called emerging or developing world, and it’s very true in a nation such as China—add to that its neighbor, India. As Sengupta writes,
“Already, the number of Indians between the ages of 15 and 34 — 422 million — is roughly the same as the combined populations of the United States, Canada and Britain.”
That’s just young people in the nation of India. But then Sengupta writes,
“By and large, today’s global youth are more likely to be in school than their parents were; they are more connected to the world than any generation before them; and they are in turn more ambitious, which also makes them more prone to getting fed up with what their elders have to offer. Many are in no position to land a decent job at home. And millions are moving, from country to city, and to cities in faraway countries, where they are increasingly unwelcome.”
Now just taking sociologists looking at this, there has been noted over the course of human history the pattern that where you have a very large population of young people, you have a great deal of social change. And this is particularly true, not just generally with young people, but with young males, boys, and young men, where they are concentrated in greater numbers, there is a much higher likelihood of social volatility. And that’s exactly what this article turns out to be pointing to: the reality that in so many parts of the world, restive youth are now presenting a massive social, economic and political problem. That’s a very interesting thing to come in an article in the New York Times. But then you might ask the question, what’s to be done about it and how is it explained? From a worldview perspective, one of the most significant paragraphs in the article is this,
“Perhaps most worrisome for some societies is the bachelor gap.
“In China, where girls have been systematically culled from the population, there were 34 million extra men in 2010, according to census data. In India, there are 17 million more men and boys between the ages of 10 and 24. That makes the marriage market even more competitive, which puts a man without a good job at a major disadvantage. Many are bound to be bachelors for life.”
The unhappy state of young men destined to be bachelors for life is problematic enough, but what we really need to note is the chilling language used so straightforwardly in this article in the New York Times. As I read, pointing to the nation of China and the nation of India, we are told that,
“Girls have been systematically culled from the population.”
Now think about that language for just a moment. That might make sense if we were talking about herding sheep or if we were talking about a herd of cattle. But in this case, we’re talking about human beings and, in straightforward prose, written in black-and-white on the pages of the New York Times, it is simply mentioned that girls have been, let me quote it again, “systematically culled from the population.”
How has that happened? By both abortion and infanticide, by killing baby girls in the womb when they are identified by ultrasound as being likely a girl and from beyond that killing baby girls after they are born, simply because of a preference for boys in so much of Southeast Asia, China and the Asian subcontinent. We’re looking in China and in India at staggering numbers. As the article says, in China,
“34 million extra men”—that is, extra men who would be of the age to be moving towards marriage and raising children; in India, the article says, “there are 17 million more men and boys between the ages of 10 and 24.”
The article tries to put this in sociological, even in economic terms saying that this makes the marriage market far more competitive. But that’s not really what we’re looking at here. This is not really about mere sociology and economics. It’s about morality, and it’s about what happens when human life is so devalued that girls are, here’s to use that straightforward phrase in the article, “culled from the population.”
But then we simply have to step back and ask, where is the moral outrage? This is, after all, the New York Times, a paper that prides itself on promoting feminism and the rights of women and girls. Where’s the moral outrage here when in its own pages it is stated that in two major countries of the earth—as a matter fact, the two most populous nations on earth—girls have been, well, this is their own paper, “systematically culled from the population.”
Where is the outrage? Where is the understanding that without abortion, this would not be possible? Where is the outrage about infanticide here? The reality is that we’re looking at a Western civilization that has grown itself so progressive that it is unable even to muster moral outrage when in its own print, in its own black-and-white newspaper, it states that women and girls have been, “systematically culled from the population.”
On that score, this is an absolutely astounding article. Astounding not for what is in it so much as what is not: outrage.