February 2, 2017
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Thursday, February 2, 2017. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Politics & worldview: Is party identification a better indicator of who you will marry than religion?
The fundamental issue of worldview is always before us. We understand that it’s underneath the headlines; sometimes it actually jumps out of the headlines. Consider this recent article in the New York Times, it asked the question,
“Wedded to Your Party? A Measure of Identity.”Show Full Transcript
The article’s by Lynn Vavreck. She writes,
“People often ask me “who these people are” — those who elected Donald J. Trump or those who voted for Hillary Clinton. They’ll ask, “What’s the single best description of Trump supporters?” My answer often disappoints them. It’s quite simple: They’re Republicans. When they ask about Clinton supporters, the answer is similar: They’re Democrats.”
She goes on to say,
“It seems like a frustrating answer, but for more than six decades, party identification has been shaping the vote. Political scientists have long held that party labels do more than just summarize people’s views on issues and policies. They are expressions of an identity. This trait, like many others, may be learned in the laps of our parents and in our neighborhoods when we are young, the same way we learn about our ethnicities or religions.”
Now she doesn’t use the word worldview, but that’s exactly what this reporter is talking about. She says that if you look at the worldview represented by these two political parties, you shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that Democrats overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton and that Republicans overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump, the nominees of those respective parties. But you’ll notice that Vavreck goes on to say that the rate of party identification and predictable vote has actually been going up in recent years. That’s because it could well be argued that the two parties have never been further apart on basic moral issues, basic issues of vision, and basic worldview. That great moral divide now separates Americans between two parties and two different worldviews and that partisan identification, that partisan divide, is, as she makes very clear here, actually about far deeper issues.
She discusses it in terms of personal identity, our identity as a conservative or as a liberal, our identity as a Democrat or as a Republican. Well, Vavreck is making the point that recent researchers are pointing to the fact that that party identification is now so absolutely important to Americans that—now get this—that they actually do not want their child to marry someone of the opposite party. And that’s becoming now a very clear pattern.
Now if that’s shocking, just consider something that might be even more shocking. Back in 2012, a study published in Psychology Today even at that point pointed out that parents might actually be more concerned that their child would be in what you might call an inter-partisan or inter-party marriage than even an inter-faith marriage. What does that mean? It means that in terms of the personal identity that Vavreck is writing about it might be that for many Americans, politics trumps even religion.
Vavreck then points to some concrete data that she has assembled, indicating that if you measure between 1950 and 2017 American parents seem to be considerably more concerned that their offspring might marry someone of the opposing party. But of course that’s understandable when we consider the fact that between the two parties now you not only have a difference in policy, both domestic and foreign policy, you have a difference in understanding of the world. That became abundantly clear in the 2016 presidential election. So in that sense, we could put in partisan identification here as a part of personal identity as a marker for something that’s actually far larger or far deeper, and that is the sense of what is right and wrong, the way we look at the world, the understanding of something as simple as a definition of marriage and of gender and of family.
Summarizing her research, Vavreck writes,
“People in each party now share more similar views on issues and they are more alike in race and ethnicity. Americans are increasingly surrounded by those who are like-minded — and they seem to prefer to keep it that way for the next generation.”
But at this point, I want to suggest that the issue is probably considerably more intense than Vavreck recognizes. It’s because the partisan identification is, I believe, not the most important issue here. It is the great clash of worldviews, the fact that that partisan identification now implies an understanding of the world, an understanding of morality. And of course when it comes to contentious issues, we can pretty much now predict who will end up on which side of an issue simply by that partisan identification. That’s why in 2016 the rate of consistency between partisan identification and vote was higher apparently than even in recent election cycles, and that’s why so many American parents indicate they’d be deeply troubled if their offspring were to marry someone of the opposite party. Why? It’s because that would mean marrying someone who holds a very different worldview, a worldview so different that one could differently define marriage and sex and gender and an entire range of realities.
Furthermore, that 2012 article in Psychology Today argued that when we’re talking about the fact that that partisan identification seemed even more important than religious identification, it appeared to many Americans that making the jump from one faith to another was less significant than making the jump from one party to another.
Now at this point we simply have to interject that a part of this is the definition of inter-faith, because that definition, at least in terms of many studies, would call someone inter-faith if a Baptist married a Presbyterian or if a Lutheran married a Methodist. But theologically speaking, that’s not inter-faith. But what’s important to recognize here is just how important partisan identification is now to personal identity and, more fundamentally, that means to our worldview.
So as I’ve said, worldview often lurks there very close to the surface in the headlines, but in this one it frankly jumps out at us. And if you look beyond the shock value of the article, it comes down to something that makes perfect sense. Those of us who raise our children hoping that they will share our worldview want them to marry someone who also shares that worldview. But the Bible beat us to it in terms of that consideration, which is why the Bible tells us that Christians are not to be unequally yoked with someone who is not a believer. The distance in worldview is just too great.
States rush to preserve abortion on demand in face of possible federal restrictions
Next, it’s also important for us to recognize that that great worldview divide, that moral divide, is often made very concrete in the issues of current conversation and debate. Consider this headline in the Wall Street Journal,
“New York Governor Floats Abortion Law”
Leslie Brody reports for the Journal telling us that,
“New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for an amendment to the state constitution Monday that would codify a woman’s right to have an abortion in New York.”
Now wait just a minute. Here you have the Governor of New York calling upon the state to change its Constitution to add an amendment to the New York State Constitution that would guarantee a woman’s right to abortion in New York. But there’s even more to the proposal because the New York Governor goes on to argue that the state should itself pay for what’s defined as medically necessary abortions. Now just to update ourselves on that terminology, if you go back to the Roe v. Wade decision, it becomes very, very clear that “medically necessary” can be applied by a physician to almost any situation, including a situation in which that medical necessity comes down to what’s described as a woman’s real or potential psychological distress. The Journal says,
“The Democratic governor announced the plan at a rally supporting Planned Parenthood in Albany”—that’s the state’s capital, and we’re certainly not shocked by that, the Planned Parenthood connection—“saying that it was important to guarantee abortion rights in the state at a time when they seemed under threat at the federal level.”
Now there’s a little editorializing we should note in that reporting, but then listen to this,
“His proposal seeks to put an amendment on the ballot, which would take several years because two consecutive legislatures would have to approve it before putting the question to voters.”
That’s something of a break upon the constitutional amendment process in the State of New York. It’s not just two different legislative sessions, it’s two different legislatures. So it would take a few years to amend the New York State Constitution, but the important thing here to recognize is that New York, one of the states that had legalized abortion on demand before Roe v. Wade in 1973, with the threat of Roe v. Wade perhaps even distantly being reversed, wants to take the step to make certain that it is so clear about that state’s position on abortion that it is going to amend the Constitution, or at least the Governor has called for it. The article in the Journal goes on to say,
“Mr. Cuomo’s legal counsel, Alphonso David, said the exact language had yet to be drafted, but the governor wants to codify current protections that guarantee a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, and throughout pregnancy when necessary to preserve the mother’s life or health.”
Now once again, that’s just basically the language and the logic of Roe v. Wade that amounted, no matter what the words might say, to abortion on demand.
And it’s not just the state of New York, although, the New York Times editors addressed the new development in Oregon, and they’re enthusiastic about it. The headline is this,
“Protecting Birth Control Access in Oregon”
Listen to what the editors wrote,
“If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, coverage of birth control with no co-payment is one of many benefits that Americans could lose. Now legislators in Oregon have introduced a bill intended to protect access to birth control in the state, along with a broad range of other reproductive health care services, including abortion.”
Now before going further, let’s just consider the words that were thrown at us in this editorial. You will note that the headline of the editorial and the introductory sentence to the editorial suggested that the issue was “preserving access to birth control” in the state of Oregon. But in the end of the lead paragraph, we all of the sudden are told that it’s actually about a broad range of other reproductive health care services—that’s very slippery language—“including abortion.” Now how in the world can you get to the end of a paragraph like that and just attach the words “including abortion”? But that’s the way it appears here. The editors wrote,
“The measure would require insurers in Oregon to cover all types of contraceptive drugs and devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration with no co-payment, co-insurance or deductible. It would extend the same requirement to a number of reproductive health services, including prenatal care, well-woman visits, screening for sexually transmitted infections, voluntary sterilization and abortion.”
So two successive paragraphs we have abortion just brought in at the end, “including abortion” in the first paragraph and “abortion” in the second paragraph, both times abortion is included as part of what’s defined as reproductive health services. But of course this is not a means of reproduction, but a means of preventing reproduction. And furthermore, it’s absolutely revealing that it’s a list of services to be included in this bill that includes prenatal care and well-woman visits, screening for infections, but then adds abortion. It is so very subversive of the sanctity and dignity of human life to have abortion, which is the intentional killing of life in a human womb, listed amongst other things called reproductive health services. But abortion is so central to this worldview that it shows up in this particular paragraph,
“But the Oregon bill would go beyond the Affordable Care Act by establishing a comprehensive list of essential reproductive health services that must be covered without a co-payment. Its sponsors recognized that people need access to the full range of reproductive health care,”
Notice how many times over and over again they say reproductive health care. We’ve got it. We understand what they’re trying to do here. They’re trying to label abortion simply as part of reproductive health care, and they do it again and again and again. But then the editors celebrate the fact that these Oregon legislators intended to be very careful so that women might participate fully in society and the economy. They write, “especially for patients with high-deductible health plans, abortion can be prohibitively expensive even if it is covered.”
That’s one of those incredibly explosive sentences that demands our attention, because here you see the editors of the New York Times celebrating abortion as a way of leveling the playing field between men and women—as if that’s the real issue here—and then going on to suggest that in order to fully level that playing field, abortion must be not only legal and sanctioned, but also paid for.
Now remember that three-word invasion, that formula that we’ve already mentioned that they use over and over again? Well it comes one more time in the concluding sentence of the New York Times editorial,
“Oregon’s bill is a powerful defense, at the state level, of necessary reproductive health care.”
This is how the culture of death moves forward, evasively, three words at a time.
"Pregnant people," not "expectant mothers": British Med. Assoc. codifies doublespeak in new guidelines
Next, we shift to the United Kingdom where The Telegraph, one of London’s major newspapers, ran an article; the headline,
“Don’t call pregnant women ‘expectant mothers’ as it might offend transgender people”
That said by the British Medical Association. Laura Donnelly, healthcare editor for The Telegraph, writes,
“The British Medical Association has said pregnant women should not be called ‘expectant mothers’ as it could offend transgender people. Instead, they should call them ‘pregnant people’ so as not to upset intersex and transgender men, the union has said. The advice comes in an internal document to staff outlining a raft of common phrases that should be avoided for fear of causing offence.”
“A large majority of people that have been pregnant or have given birth identify as women.”
Now let’s just step back for a moment. Once again, this is one of the sentences that throughout almost every century of human existence would make absolutely no sense. That is, people who have been pregnant or have been giving birth are not merely identifying as women, they would be otherwise known under any circumstance as women. The Medical Association then advises doctors,
“We can include intersex men and transmen who may get pregnant by saying ‘pregnant people’ instead of ‘expectant mothers’.”
The elderly, by the way, are also included there. They’re not the elderly anymore. They “should be referred to as ‘older people’.”
Someone who had previously been identified as biologically male or biologically female should now be called “assigned male or female” as if it’s merely an arbitrary assignment. As The Telegraph says the British Medical Association explained that their “document was purely guidance for its staff on effective communication within the workplace, not advice to its 156,000 doctor members on how to deal with patients.”
However, we should note that when a policy like this is officially undertaken by an organization that regulates a profession, you can count on the fact that it will not be long until the regulations are brought right down to the member level. On pregnancy and maternity, the document says,
“Gender inequality is reflected in traditional ideas about the roles of women and men. Though they have shifted over time, the assumptions and stereotypes that underpin those ideas are often deeply-rooted.”
The article then goes on to tell us,
“It recently emerged that a Briton who was born a girl but wants to become a man has put surgery on hold in order to have a baby.”
A similar story to this emerged in the United States a few years ago with the headline that appeared in many major media announcing that America had its first pregnant man. But of course, common moral sense, common biological sense tells us that there is no such thing as a pregnant man. But we’re now living with the moral fiction that is now embraced by millions and millions of Americans, and we’re also looking at a moral revolution that finds cause to celebrate with that kind of sensationalistic announcement or headline.
The biblical worldview makes abundantly clear that there is no such thing as a pregnant man. To be pregnant is to be a woman. And that’s also oddly reflected in this Telegraph article because we are told that the person here who is pregnant “is legally male and had hormone treatment but not yet had sex-change surgery.”
Well, here’s where we have to understand it from a biblical worldview. Even having what’s called sex-change surgery or in the United States sex-reassignment surgery doesn’t transform one from being a male to a female or a female to a male. The change is cosmetic. It’s about appearances. The proof in this is the fact that supposedly changing someone from a female to a male does not mean that that individual can now father a child. And similarly, if someone transitions supposedly from being a man to being a woman, there is no transfer of that reproductive capacity.
There’s more to the Telegraph article. I read this,
“The guide also advises against using the terms ‘born man’ or ‘born woman’ in relation to trans people, as these phrases “are reductive and over-simplify a complex subject’.”
Well, it’s not quite so complex as might be claimed here. It’s actually fairly easy to understand. But there’s more, and the reign of political correctness seems to have no end,
‘“Mankind’ and ‘manpower’ should be avoided because it is ‘not good practice’ to use a ‘masculine noun”’, instead swapped for ‘humanity’ and ‘personnel.”
Now get this,
“Listing prefixes for names such as ‘Prof’, ‘Dr’, ‘Mr’, ‘Mrs’ or ‘Miss’ should not be put in a particular order on forms to avoid a ‘perceived hierarchy’.”
Now this is where the policy goes absolutely off the rails. Just remember, this is not a linguistic society or an academic society. This is not a guild of historians. This is the British Medical Association. Now let’s just state the matter clearly. If I need a doctor, I want that person to actually be a doctor, and I like to be reassured that the doctor is known as a doctor. Not only that, I want to know what kind of doctor this is, and I want to know what kind of medical school provided the education. It’s absolutely ridiculous to try to flatten humanity as if using the prefixes that identify persons by expertise is a somehow unwarranted use that implies hierarchy. Well, there is a hierarchy in a hospital. I want the people who have the medical education doing the medical treatment.
In response to all this confusion, the former Bishop of Rochester, the Church of England, Michael Nazir-Ali, said,
“I think it is sad that society is being pushed in this direction. God has made us man and woman, and mothers relate to their children in different ways than fathers. This ruling will confuse people about the vital role of mothers in bringing up their children.”
Well, that’s profoundly true, and I’m indebted to Bishop Nazir-Ali for telling me in a conversation years ago that I needed to look at The Telegraph on a daily basis. Well, this is what that’s led to, Bishop. I appreciate the advice. Neither of us knew at the time that it would lead to the British Medical Association announcement that there are no longer to be expectant mothers, only pregnant people.
In response to progressive policy changes, Christians leaving Boy Scouts for conservative alternatives
Finally, yesterday we discussed the report that came out earlier this week from the Boy Scouts of America that they would accept now transgender boys, as they’re identified—that is girls who are born as girls that are now identifying as boys—to participate in the Boy Scouts of America. And, of course, that’s just a part of the moral revolution we’re seeing around us, but it’s one that’s particularly shocking given the cherished position of the Boy Scouts of America historically in terms of American culture.
But yesterday the New York Times ran an article reflecting on the fact that it’s also true that there is a disproportionate number of scouting units that are sponsored by conservative religious organizations. Let’s just mention some in particular: historically, Southern Baptists, Roman Catholics, the Mormons, and also the Missouri Synod Lutherans.
There’s going to be response to this that was made clear by the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis that said that the announcement released earlier this week means of the Boy Scouts are “becoming increasingly incompatible with our Catholic values.”
And as the paper said, the Archdiocese expressed hope that the Scouts would “recognize their error.”
I don’t expect that to happen. This is not a haphazard decision by the Boy Scouts of America. This is rather just the next capitulation in terms of joining the moral revolution. Once they change their policy, which we should note they had previously defended all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, once they abandoned it in 2013, the announcement made this week about transgender scouts was really only a matter of time.
Also interesting, we have the pattern here that once one of these venerable organizations that had been so central to American culture capitulates, there is often the response of the formation of an alternative group. As the New York Times points out, when it comes to the Boy Scouts, such a group already exists. As Mitch Smith, reporting for the Times says,
“Such conservative alternatives already exist. After the decision to allow gay members, John Stemberger, a former scoutmaster, pulled his sons out of the Boy Scouts and helped start a new program called Trail Life USA.”
According to the Times,
“Mr. Stemberger said Trail Life, which he described as a “distinctly Christian scouting organization,” was active in all but a few states with nearly 30,000 members.”
Stemberger made the same point that I did about the fact that this decision was almost surely inevitable, but he reflected in The Times surprise that it come about so quickly. He said this,
“They are basically doing what gay activists want them to do because they lack the courage to defend their own tradition and their own Scout Oath and their own Scout Law.”
This is a pattern that we should note that has happened in our culture over and over again. Conservative denominations in many cases came out of liberal denominations of which they can no longer be a part. We have the same thing happening with conservative schools and conservative colleges and universities being established because of the liberalism of existing historical colleges and universities. And now we have Trail Life USA seeking basically to establish a distinctively Christian pattern of scouting, which would more or less look like Boy Scouts of America just a matter of a couple of decades ago. That’s a pattern we need to understand, and in a world that is growing ever more hostile to Christian moral conviction, it’s a pattern we had better expect.