January 27, 2017
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Friday, January 27, 2017. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Abortion and the American conscience: 60 million dead, sacrificed at the altar of sexual freedom
There is indeed a new battlefront in the abortion wars, but before turning to that headline let’s just consider where we stand in terms of American history and the death toll of abortion. The Roe v. Wade decision was handed down in January 22, 1973. Since that time, there have been more than 60 million unborn children aborted in the United States of America, the death toll of legal abortion. Now just consider that number, 60 million. Today marks the March for Life and the conference Evangelicals for Life in Washington, D.C., a major effort by pro-life Christians to make a statement about the sanctity of human life. But consider the 60 million dead, the 60 million unborn children sacrificed at the altar of sexual and moral convenience in the United States of America. That toll of 60 million is a population that approaches the current population of the nation of France. It is larger than the population of Poland or Italy or Spain. We’re talking about a missing country in population.
When we’re looking at generations in America, just consider the fact that every generation, every birth year since 1973, has been lessened by at least hundreds of thousands of abortions that took place in that single year. And now we are looking at a death toll that has skyrocketed beyond 60 million. That number must weigh so heavily on the American conscience, but if it does not do so that tells us that this nation’s conscience has become numbed by the simple callousness of putting out of sight and out of mind the reality that 60 million Americans are missing, aborted in the womb.Show Full Transcript
The headline that has come down in recent days has to do with this newest battlefront we are told. The LA Times says that the battlefront is the fact that some states want to require burial or cremation for fetuses. Alexandra Zavis, reporting for the Times tells us,
“Tucked against a fence in an East Los Angeles cemetery, a long, flat headstone reads: ‘In memory of the 16,500 precious unborn, buried here, Oct. 6, 1985.’”
Behind that headstone is a very sad story. There was the discovery of 16,500 aborted fetuses in Los Angeles. The question was, how do we dispose—and that was the word—of these fetuses? But there were some in Los Angeles who wanted to have a religious service in order to observe the memory as well as the murder of these unborn children. It was later ruled by a court that it would be a violation of the separation of church and state, it was claimed, in order for there to be any kind of religious service, much less a Christian service of burial for these unborn children, and instead there was a secular service, which included at least the reflection on the fact that there had been 16,500 aborted fetuses that someone had to do something with. Zavis reports,
“Abortion defenders argued that they should be incinerated as medical waste. But abortion foes wanted to give them a funeral.
“In the end, the remains were buried in six wooden boxes.”
That gravestone is all that marks the graves of 16,500 unborn human beings. Zavis then points to at least five states that have moved to require burial or cremation of fetal remains from abortion. She writes,
“The new regulations vary by state, but the basic idea is the same: The remains of the unborn must be treated like the remains of the born.”
Kristi Hamrick, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based Americans United for Life, told the Times,
“A civil society does not throw the bodies of human beings into a landfill…
“But,” says Zavis, “advocates for abortion rights say that is an ideological viewpoint that the state has no business imposing on women. They see the regulations as part of a broader effort to curtail access to abortion by subjecting providers and their patients to ever more onerous and costly requirements.”
David Brown, a staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, said this,
“There is no health justification for creating a new system to handle tissue from certain medical procedures differently than from others. Every time you create a new and parallel system, it raises expenses, it raises complications and it raises the potential for confusion or mistakes.”
I think we need to take a very close look at the words that came from David Brown, again, identified as senior staff attorney at the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights in New York. He said,
“There is no health justification for creating a new system to handle tissue from certain medical procedures differently than from others.”
Notice the worldview of the pro-abortion ideology and its movement. Here is the official, very clear declaration that tissue from an abortion is the same as tissue from any other medical procedure. But of course there is no other medical procedure that is intended to interrupt an otherwise healthy pregnancy by killing the unborn child. Zavis later in the article says that the issue is likely to arrive at the U.S. Supreme Court. She writes,
“At the heart of these disputes is a fundamental question on which the Constitution is silent: When does life begin?”
Well, of course, that is a fundamental question. It’s one of the most important fundamental moral questions of our time, and it’s not only a moral question, it’s a question about reality. It’s a question that comes down to this. What is the status in reality, what is the status of that unborn child? Is it simply tissue? At what point then does it become something other than tissue? Is it simply potential life? At what point then does it become life? Is it simply a potential person? Then at what point does it become a person? The logic of the pro-abortion movement, at least at present, is that that personhood, that human life, really doesn’t begin and isn’t to be recognized until the child is born and separated from its mother’s body. But you’ll note there’s a huge inconsistency here in American law. Because in most states, if a murderer kills a pregnant woman and also kills the unborn child, he or she can be charged not with just one murder, but with two. At what point does that make sense? What we have here is a giant constitutional, moral and legal rationalization. But you’ll notice that the pro-abortion forces, the culture of death has to press this rationalization far beyond what you might think would be the breaking point.
Here you have the explicit argument that there is no life here, there is no person here, there is no unborn child here, there is only tissue. And it doesn’t matter that this is an abortion, it’s just a certain medical procedure that shouldn’t be morally distinguished from any other certain medical procedure. That’s moral nonsense, and that’s why the pro-abortion forces are so vehement in their opposition to this kind of legislation, because the burial of an unborn child killed by an abortion makes very clear that this is after all a person. That is the central moral truth that the pro-abortion movement has to deny at every turn, every day, every hour. Because if they ever admit the reality of that unborn life as an unborn child, their entire argument falls and they know it.
ISIS's theological claim: Terrorist group destroys ancient sites in the name of Allah
Next, in terms of worldview in the headlines, major international papers and those in the United States have been running articles over the last couple of weeks about the fact that the Islamic State, very much under siege by allied forces, has been destroying precious archaeological sites. One of these stories came on the Associated Press by Lori Hinnant, telling us of the destruction of 3,000 year old sites in the city of Nimrod in Iraq. She tells us,
“The giant winged bulls that once stood sentry at the nearly 3,000-year-old palace at Nimrud have been hacked to pieces. The fantastical human-headed creatures were believed to guard the king from evil, but now their stone remains are piled in the dirt, victims of the Islamic State group’s fervor to erase history.
“The militants’ fanaticism devastated one of the most important archaeological sites in the Middle East. But more than a month after the militants were driven out, Nimrud is still being ravaged, its treasures disappearing, piece by piece, imperiling any chance of eventually rebuilding it.”
Furthermore, the New York Times’ Dan Bilefsky ran a story having to do with a similar seize upon ancient structures in Palmyra in Syria. He writes,
“Islamic State militants have destroyed the facade of a second-century Roman theater and another ancient monument in the historic city of Palmyra, Syria, the Syrian state-run news agency reported.”
The news agency also said that,
“ISIS or ISIL had destroyed part of the theater and severely damaged a tetrapylon, a square structure of four plinths, each with four columns. The agency said the tetrapylon had two columns still standing and appeared to have been ‘intentionally destroyed using explosives.’”
Then the Times says,
“The smashing of the ancient structures was a further attempt by the group,” that is the Islamic State, “to impose its will by destroying monuments or artifacts that it says do not conform to its strict interpretation of Islam.”
UNESCO and other groups have referred to the destruction of these archaeological sites as so-called “cultural cleansing.”
But there’s something deeply theological that is missing from these stories. Furthermore, the biblical text is referenced in this article concerning the destruction of archaeological sites in Syria where we are told that the Islamic State is have not only destroyed the 1800-year-old Arch of Triumph, but also the nearly 2,000-year-old Temple of Baalshamin. Now there is the word Baal, and anyone who knows the Scripture should immediately recognize this is the most famous, even infamous idol of the Old Testament, Baal, and this is one of its manifestations in this archaeological site. This tells us something about the ancient nature of paganism and idolatry and it tells us something about the fact that the Islamic State is dead set to destroying every archaeological record of anyone coming before them. And here’s another very interesting theological point. The point has been made clear by several who understand the implications of this kind of destruction for the understanding of the Islamic State. It’s not just opposition to idolatry, after all there are no modern idolaters showing up at these ancient temples. No, the issue is that the Islamic State holds to an understanding of Islam that wants to wipe out the memory of the fact that there had ever been anyone before the rise of Islam in especially the eighth century of the modern age.
Here’s an interesting juxtaposition with Christianity. Christianity does not mandate, nor does it claim the cleansing of human memory from ancient idolatries and paganisms. Furthermore, it makes very clear that the victory of Christ and the coming of his kingdom will eventually be demonstrated by Christ’s triumph in terms of divine warfare over all false gods, over all idols, over every system of thought, every principality and power, every rival to rightful worship. Once again, we are reminded by these articles that theology is never far from the headlines.
Where are all the children? Absence of future generation in San Francisco spells doom for the future
Next we turn to San Francisco and a very, very different story. Thomas Fuller writes another front page article for the New York Times, the headline is this,
“San Francisco Asks: Where Have All the Children Gone?”
I think this is one of the most interesting articles to appear in a very long time. Fuller writes,
“In a compact studio apartment on the fringes of the Castro district here a young couple live with their demanding 7-year-old, whom they dote on and take everywhere: a Scottish terrier named Olive.”
Raising children we’re told is high on the agenda for the young couple, but not in San Francisco. Mr. Lee said,
“When we imagine having kids, we think of somewhere else. It’s starting to feel like a no-kids type of city.”
Now some years ago it was reported that the number of dogs in San Francisco was roughly equivalent to the number of children, and that’s not so much a story about a very large population of dogs, it’s rather about a very small population of children and the transfer of attention from that given to children to that given to dogs. It’s indicative of a radical worldview; it can only be explained as that in which there is an inversion of the very understanding for which God gave humanity the gifts of marriage and sex and reproduction.
Norman Yee, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors acknowledged,
“Everybody talks about children being our future. If you have no children around, what’s our future?”
But then we are told,
“As an urban renaissance has swept through major American cities in recent decades, San Francisco’s population has risen to historical highs and a forest of skyscraping condominiums has replaced tumbledown warehouses and abandoned wharves. At the same time, the share of children in San Francisco fell to 13 percent, low even compared with another expensive city, New York, with 21 percent.”
We need to notice that’s a radical distinction between Manhattan at 21% and San Francisco at 13%. Chicago stands at 23% which is just about the national average of the population under age 18.
“California,” we read, “which has one of the world’s 10 largest economies, recently released data showing the lowest birthrate since the Great Depression.”
That’s not a symptom of poverty, however, it’s a symptom of relative riches. San Francisco and its environs may be home to Silicon Valley and an entire technological explosion. But as the Times says, the sidewalks in San Francisco “display a narrow band of humanity as if life started at 22 and ended somewhere around 40.”
Courtney Nam, who works downtown at a tech start-up said,
“Sometimes I’ll be walking through the city and I’ll see a child and think, ‘Hey, wait a second. What are you doing here? You don’t really see that many kids.”
Peter Thiel, the billionaire Silicon Valley investor suggested that San Francisco is “structurally hostile to families.”
In part this is economic hostility. There has been a process of gentrification in San Francisco, which has made the city almost uninhabitable except to those who are very wealthy, or at least young people who are willing to live together in effective communes and shared living spaces.
But the second way that San Francisco is structurally hostile to families is the fact that San Francisco is the epicenter, if it can be named, of the LGBT revolution and the larger revolution of replacing and redefining the family.
Once again, we see that worldviews have consequences and one of most important of these consequences on a worldview shift of this dimensionality is that it’s reflected in birth rate. It comes down to the question, do we see human existence and the achievement of adulthood and the reality of marriage and family as pointing towards the necessity of having children? Now just remember that in the very first chapter of Scripture we find not an aspirational statement, not a mere suggestion, but a command from the Creator to the creature that we are to increase, we are to multiply, we are to reproduce. And furthermore, the biblical worldview tells us that God’s glory is in the reality of the multiplication of his image-bearers, that is, the expansion of the human population. Furthermore, it is made clear in Scripture that children are gifts and they are to be gifts that are not only welcomed, but they are gifts that are to be wanted.
We should note that this kind of headline would be impossible if not for the fact that this kind of city, San Francisco, is also representative of the new, far more secular reality in the United States. To put the matter succinctly, you could not have this revolution and reproduction, this fact that you have roughly the same number of dogs as children under 18 in San Francisco, without a previous development and that development is the great culture shift, the great worldview shift towards our new secular, well, at least far more secularized age. That shift to a more secular worldview makes very clear why human sexuality, even the purpose for human living, can be entirely redefined with children more or less defined as somebody else’s business or someone else’s responsibility, if not worse seen as burdens to be undertaken rather than as gifts to be received.
In worldview perspective, it’s hard to imagine a story that’s actually more important than this because it’s not only about San Francisco. As this story makes clear, San Francisco is the leading edge and it’s certainly indicative of a trend. But there are other major cities that are following in its example. That raises a crucial question, is the future toward San Francisco or away from it? And at that this point, as Richard Florida, the sociologist, points out, San Francisco still represents the aspiration of many other American cities. In other words, there are many other cities that actually want to be like San Francisco, rather than unlike the city. That all by itself tells us a very great deal.
Should teenagers have their own rooms? New book challenges the conventional wisdom
Finally, over the weekend last weekend, there was a book review in the Wall Street Journal of a new book by Jason Reid published by the University of Chicago. The title of the book,
“Get Out of My Room!”
The headline of the book review,
“The Chamber of Horrors.”
And what is it about? It’s about the development of the experience of teenagers having their own room. As Jason Reid points out, this is not the norm in human history, not by a long shot. As a matter of fact, it was only in the 20th century and then only later in the 20th century that socioeconomic flourishing led to the fact that many Americans own homes large enough for their individual children to have private bedrooms, and then especially during the 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond, it became the cultural expectation. And then came the redefinition of American adolescence. The development of the private room was not alone in that redefinition. The rise of the community high school, the invention of a period of life that was known as adolescence, the invention of the myth of the teenager, all of this was part of this great transformation in terms of how Americans understood themselves and their children. And of course adolescence is now a major marketing period for our consumer culture, and you’ll also note the fact that every civilization has at least some level of anxiety about its adolescents. That goes all the way back to ancient Rome and ancient Greece.
Jason Reid is an historian and he understands an important story when he sees it. His argument is that the rise of the teenage bedroom, to quote the Journal, “was the result of powerful forces, including shrinking families, growing affluence, increasing schooling and the advice of experts, a group of charlatans who at first enlisted God and then science (without evidence in either case) in place of common sense. The greatest beneficiary of these forces, aside from the builders who profited by selling bigger houses, were the teenagers themselves, who wanted their own rooms.”
Later in the review, Daniel Akst writes,
“It turns out that the teen bedroom is a useful prism for gaining perspective on a great deal of American social history, and Mr. Reid makes deft use of data to portray a changing nation and its people.”
Akst then writes,
“In this day of near-universal cellphone use, it may come as a surprise to learn that as late as 1946 just 51% of U.S. households had access to a [single] telephone.”
“The invasion of teen bedrooms by the internet has completed the room’s transformation from a place where kids were safely tucked away into a place where the world can all too easily intrude—and where teens can leverage their pranks to greater effect.”
As he writes,
“Reid shows that, just as tinkering teenage boys helped drive the radio revolution, they pioneered the hacking of computer networks. ‘We weren’t really sure what he was doing,’ said the mother of one hacker, ‘typing away at that computer all the time. I guess now we know.’”
Once again, worldview both reveals and helps us to understand what’s at stake here. Even architecture and living arrangements, even the existence of a teenage private bedroom, is revealing of a shift in worldview and a redefinition of the family and what it meant for a family to live together. And even in this secular book there is a great deal of moral warning about what it means for the internet to invade the teenager’s bedroom. That too comes with enormous consequences, and hacking is not necessarily at the top of that list.