May 23, 2014
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Friday, May 23, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Sometimes an article is not what it appears to be about or, furthermore, it’s not even about what the reporters think it’s about. Evidence of that came yesterday in the front page of The New York Times. Jeremy Alford and Erik Eckholm co-authored a report entitled “With New Bill, Abortion Limits Grow in the South.” The dateline is from Baton Rouge, where the Louisiana legislature on Wednesday passed a bill that, according to the reporters, could force three of the state’s five abortion clinics to close. That’s big news. It made the front page of The New York Times not just because of what is happening in Louisiana, but because other states in the region have already adopted similar laws. As they write, the action of Louisiana echoes rules passed in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas, and they say it raises the possibility of drastically reduced access to abortion across a broad swath of the South.
Now this raises an important issue, according to these reporters: “At what point is access to abortion so limited that it violates the right to the procedure guaranteed by the United States Supreme Court in 1973 in Roe v. Wade?” Now this is a very interesting question. On its face, the question appears to be this: Back in 1973, the United States Supreme Court handed down the Roe v. Wade decision, even though it was a divided court, a divided decision, still it’s the law of the land according to the United States Supreme Court. And that decision held that a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion, at least in the first trimester of pregnancy; less of a right in the second trimester of pregnancy; and no fundamental right in the third trimester of pregnancy. But the left, especially those who are ardently in support of abortion rights (and that’s most of the cultural left in this country), ardently opposes any restriction on abortion for any reason under any circumstances. That is reflected in this article that made the front page of yesterday’s New York Times.
But there’s something else in this article that is of utmost importance and it’s not what the reporters intended. You see, the big argument behind their question there is the fact that there must be a crisis if women are having a difficult time getting to an abortion clinic. They write later in the article about the fact that some women might have to drive 300 miles to get to an abortionist, to find a medical facility where abortions are offered. But doesn’t that raise a more important question, a more fundamental question? Why is access to abortion so rare? How can it be that the entire state of Louisiana has only five abortion clinics? After all, this says that the new law could force three of the state’s five abortion clinics to close. It is also reported that Mississippi has now just one functioning abortion clinic; something very similar to that in Alabama. How can that be? If there is such support for abortion and such demand for abortion, why aren’t there more abortion clinics? Why aren’t there more medical facilities offering abortion? The answer to that is even more instructive than anything that is addressed in this article. The answer is this: most doctors do not want to perform abortions. The reality is that even in the medical community, abortionists are looked down upon with medical condescension and professional distaste. It is true that even though many people argue for a woman’s constitutional right to abortion, even most doctors don’t want to have anything to do with the process, anything to do with the termination of unborn life.
Now I think there are some fundamental reasons why this is so. Doctors go into the profession to heal, not to hurt. They go into the profession to save lives, not to take lives. They go into the profession for reasons that are actually fundamentally contradicted by the entire reality and process of an abortion; of willfully, intentionally, terminating the innocent life within a mother; ending a pregnancy by terminating life. It must be an enormous contradiction in the medical mind. How do you work most of your life and train for so many years to learn how to heal only to use that knowledge and those skills to destroy rather than to save?
The interesting thing is what isn’t in this article. What isn’t here, on the front page of The New York Times and in the continuation of the story inside the paper, is an acknowledgment of the fact that if these abortion clinics are so few, that should say something. If, indeed, most doctors don’t want to have anything to do with the entire practice of abortion, that says something and it’s said loudly. And perhaps when you realize this, we come to understand why the ardent pro-choice, pro-abortion left is so insistent on opposing any restriction on abortion for any reason at any time. It’s because if there ever is an acknowledgment of what abortion is, if, indeed, there ever is an honest cultural conversation about what is involved in an abortion and how many doctors don’t want to have anything to do with it, well the pro-abortion side is likely to discover that closing three out of five abortion clinics in Louisiana really isn’t their problem. It’s the fact that if most doctors were left to their own devices, there wouldn’t be any abortion clinics at all. I would welcome an investigation on that question by The New York Times or any other major American newspaper.
Several issues of importance related to the family and, thus, very central to the Christian worldview appeared in recent days. One of them was an article by Thomas Sowell, a well-known economist at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He wrote an article about the fact that the escape from poverty is closer than people think and many people want to think. He’s very clear about the fact that the destruction of the family has been the most injurious thing to Americans when it comes to creating poverty and all the pathologies that go with it. And over against those who say that it’s simply blaming the victim to point to this reality, Thomas Sowell says the only way to help a victim is to actually get to something that helps, and that’s why he believes that addressing the family situation is vital. He writes:
Where there is no father in the home, as too often is the case, adolescent boys may choose as models irresponsible people in the world of entertainment or even in the world of crime.
Then there are the messiahs with a message. The most popular of these messages seems to be that all your problems are due to other people — people who the messiahs will help fight, in exchange for your loyalty, your money or your votes.
Some of the well-meaning people think that promoting young people’s “self-esteem” and being “nonjudgmental” is the way to go. Some even make excuses for them, either explicitly or implicitly, by using such words as “troubled youths” or “at risk” young people.
There are no magic solutions, at least none that I know of. Common sense, common decency, work and honesty are about all I can come up with.
Let me just pause there to say, can you imagine how refreshing and commonsensical, how fundamentally right that kind of sentence is. Where he says, “There are no magic solutions,” his response would be, “Common sense, common, decency, work and honesty.” Rare things to see affirmed in the mainstream media. He continued:
These things are not fancy or new or politically correct. But they have a better track record than much of what we are doing today.
Sowell writes for the Creator’s Syndicate, a syndicated columnist. This article appeared in the Investor’s Business Daily.
Meanwhile, just one day prior to the appearance of Sowell’s article, in The New York Times, Charles M. Blow wrote an article entitled “Poverty Is Not a State of Mind,” and he argues directly with the very point that Thomas Sowell made in this column and in others of Sowell’s recent columns. Thomas Sowell says you simply have to return to the fact that without the family you end up with these pathologies. It’s a simple matter of demonstrated truth, Sowell makes clear. The truth is that where you find the family intact, you find wholeness and the absence of these pathologies, at least in terms of the main. Where you find the family is lacking, then you find more and more of these pathologies and, as Sowell says, you can deny that all you want, but honesty doesn’t help anyone.
Meanwhile Charles Blow comes back to make the argument in a refreshingly candid way from the other side. He says that when conservatives in particular point to the family as the most important economic unit, they do so trying to argue basically for traditional marriage. Charles Blow cites former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who said, “A loving family taking care of their children in a traditional marriage will create the chance to break out of poverty far better than any of the government programs that we can create.” In response to that, Blow writes:
My qualm with the statement is the insistence on a “traditional marriage.” Loving families, of any formation, can suffice. While it is true that two adults in a home can provide twice the time, attention and income for a family, those adults needn’t necessarily be in a traditional marriage. Yes, marriage can have a sustaining and fortifying effect on a union and a family, but following that argument, we should be rushing headlong to extend it to all who desire it. In some cases, even parents living apart can offer a nurturing environment for children if they prioritize parenting when it comes to their time and money. Not all parents have to reside together to provide together.
This is what he’s writing. He then says:
There are many ways to be a loving family and to provide what children need. All forms of marriage are valid and valuable, as well as other ways of constructing a family.
Now I think the scariest thing about this column is that I’m fairly certain that Charles M. Blow believes every word he writes. I think he has convinced himself that it doesn’t matter what kind of marriage you have, it doesn’t matter what kind of family you have. He goes beyond the demand for the recognition of same-sex marriage and even says that marriages in which the parents aren’t living together, or, for that matter, non-marriages in which the parents are living together, can be just as helpful for children as when there are two parents in the home. Again, he says:
There are many ways to be a loving family and to provide what children need. All forms of marriage are valid and valuable, as well as other ways of constructing a family.
Well I don’t think Charles Blow is going to make an argument for those who are practicing polygamy in the American Southwest. As a matter of fact, I find it very hard to believe that he will actually support and endorse that. But he’s the one who, in the pages of The New York Times—prime real estate for any kind of media analysis—he’s the one who says there are many ways to be a loving family, and then he says, “All forms of marriage are valid and valuable.” Well seriously? You see, one of the problems we have in the current debate over the family is that most people often times don’t even mean what they say, especially that’s true on the left where many people make arguments I think they believe are absolutely politically correct, but in terms of the way they live their lives, they’re actually more conservative than what they affirm in public. And that’s one of the reasons why you look at recent data such as that coming from Charles Murray at the American Enterprise Institute and you come to understand that secular liberals on the left say one thing about the family, but they actual practice a far more conservative understanding of what it means to be a family. But then we have the mirror problem on the right where there are so many social conservatives who claim to say all the right things about the family, in public they affirm all the right things about the family, and yet in their own family lives they fall woefully short of their own commitments and supposed convictions.
The reality is that hypocrisy appears both on the right and the left, but what concerns me about this column is that I don’t think there’s any real hypocrisy here at all. I think Charles Blow has convinced himself of exactly what he’s writing, except for that part about all forms of marriage being equal. I don’t think he actually means that, but what he means to assert is that it’s wrong for social conservatives, or for anyone else for that matter, to point to the family situation and say, “You’re going to have to fix that if you’re going to fix poverty.” But that’s where Thomas Sowell is so refreshing in rejoinder.
Honesty is honesty, after all, and dishonesty doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t help to deny the obvious. And in one sense, that’s exactly what Charles Blow did just one day after Thomas Sowell’s column ran in competing newspapers. But, of course, it’s not just competing newspapers we’re talking about here. It’s competing worldviews. And these two articles make that abundantly clear.
Meanwhile, yesterday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal had not one, but two really important articles on the family and the intersection of the family and economics. And let’s remind ourselves, sometimes economic realities point to what people don’t want otherwise to affirm; that is, the importance of the family. And only those who operate from a biblical worldview understanding of the family know why these things are essentially necessarily so. But it is interesting that even secular people who don’t say the right things about marriage, when they look at the data, have to at least face the facts, in terms of the inflexible centrality of the family to human life. And furthermore, even some issues related to gender are far more inflexible than social liberals want to believe, even those who have convinced themselves that gender is nothing more than a social construct, even those who believe that social policies can basically eliminate the differences between the genders. For instance, a report coming from Stockholm, Sweden, in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal by Christina Zander says that even Scandinavia has a continuing gender gap when it comes to corporate chief executive officers. As she writes:
The view at the top of companies in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland [those are five of the most gender-progressive nations on the planet] illustrates how an abundance of policies aimed at closing Scandinavia’s corporate gender gap, including board quotas, are still falling short of putting women in the coveted CEO job.
The article quotes Karen Frøsig, who is the head of a major bank in Denmark. She’s also one of the very rare female CEOs of a public company in Scandinavia. She said, “At the executive level the cork is still in the bottle.” Zander goes on to report:
For nearly half a century, Nordic nations have pioneered efforts to close the gender gap. In Norway, 40% of board members must be women [that’s by a legal dictate], while Finland enforces softer director quotas. Each of these countries offers generous daycare benefits. Parental-leave laws are designed to distribute child-raising responsibilities between mom and dad.
And yet, as Christina Zander writes from Stockholm, it isn’t working. It isn’t working, as this article makes clear, because women still continue to bear most of the responsibility for child-rearing. And as the article continues later on, you have Jenny Wahlberg, a 41-year-old mother of three who has lived both in Sweden and abroad. She says, “It isn’t possible to combine a full-time career, not to mention a management position, with picking up your kids from day care.” Now notice something; those words, “while picking up your children from day care.” So in other words, even when you have the state offering free, excellent (by their definition) childcare, you have women who say, “Well that’s not enough because the children still at some point have to be picked up from childcare.” And as this woman says, it’s usually the mom who picks them up. Zander continues, “The need to leave work early to pick up the kids from day care is a major reason women turn down positions requiring long hours at the office.”
One gender equality researcher in Sweden said:
If you look at the number of women who put in more than 60 hours a week, they’re reflected quite well in the proportion of female managers.
Well that’s a very interesting statement. It’s extremely honest because what it states is this: if you take all the executives willing at that level to work 60 hours or more a week, there is no gender imbalance. No the gender imbalance comes prior to that, in terms of the number of people willing to work 60 hours or more a week. Sofia Falk, another businesswoman quoted in the article, said:
“Women, unlike men, include children when planning their careers.” Instead of offering more money or a company car, she said, the type of management incentives needed are an assistant or private child care, grocery shopping, shared management positions or technical solutions to be able to work from home.
Well that’s very interesting too, but, again, what’s most interesting is what really isn’t in the article and that’s the question of this: Are there not many women who would actually prefer to do their own grocery shopping? Are there not women who would actually prefer, even many of these executive women, to have their profession conformed to their child experience rather than to have their mothering conformed to their profession? That’s a very interesting question. It’s not a question that is directly addressed in this article. Why? Because even a newspaper like The Wall Street Journal, operating in a basically very secular world, would find it almost impossible to asked that question honestly. They would be treated as absolutely being condescending to women by even asking the question. But from a Christian worldview perspective, it isn’t condescending to ask a question that is rooted in an understanding of respect.
I said there was a second article in The Wall Street Journal. Right under that article is one that says “Study on Pay Finds a Daddy Bonus.” This one isn’t datelined from Scandinavia, but rather from the United States. Jackie Bischof writes, “Want a bigger paycheck? Having kids might be the ticket, but only if you’re a man.” The reporter cites a recent study by the City University of New York that found that men with children earned higher median personal incomes than any other population group in the city of New York, and that includes men without children and women with or without children. The report is entitled “The Mommy Tax and the Daddy Bonus.” The data were drawn from U.S. Census Bureau reports between 1990 and 2010, adjusted for inflation to 2013. Justine Calcagno, a social psychologist and Ph.D. candidate at the City University of New York Graduate Center said, “It’s sometimes called ‘the daddy premium.’ We just consistently see men with children earning higher personal incomes than all other groups.” So in other words, they didn’t look at any reason why it might be so, they simply looked at the data and they looked at who was making the most money, and those making the most money, out of all the possible combinations and permutations, is a man with children, known to be with children. This is where the article gets somewhat revealing, but only somewhat. Jackie Bischof writes, “A number of factors might be behind the findings, including sex discrimination in workplaces and gender discrimination in occupations.” Well they might be issues, but are they likely issues?
The article continues by pointing to social psychology, where we are told there are theories that favorable stereotypes about men with children might come into play. As Bischoff writes, these would lead to a more positive evaluation of male employees and, as a result, better compensation. Calcagno, the researcher quoted in the report, said:
There are some social psychologists who [describe] certain stereotypes about men with children—that they’re more warm, that they’re more devoted—all these sort of positive factors we attribute to dads. That may be one reason why employers are biasing in terms of their pay.
But that’s not at all even sustained in the article. There is no evidence that employers are biasing in favor of pay. In other words, that’s simply an extrapolation from the data. They’re not asking more fundamental questions. Well not until the very last line of the article where we read this:
Ms. Calcagno said she now plans to study the same data on a national level. She also expects to examine data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to see [now wait for this] if factors such as the number of hours worked have an impact on the findings.
So in other words, the most basic question that comes immediately to any thinking person was a question that wasn’t even addressed in the story and was addressed only in the last line of the article. What makes that even more insane is that that second article appears on the printed page immediately under the first. In other words, it’s as if the paper’s having a debate with itself: the first article informing the second of the most important question that wasn’t even asked. Oh, of course, it was asked in the very last sentence. Those who don’t read to the very last sentence would actually have a very misleading picture of the entire report and its meaning.
But let’s go back to the fact that there might be bias. Why would there be bias towards a man who has children? Well it is because, after all, it’s not just a stereotype that men with children are more responsible and mature. Men with children will also tell you that as soon as they have children, they’re more responsible and more mature.
But that takes us back to where we started with Thomas Sowell, where we are reminded that reality may be a difficult subject, but it’s even more difficult to avoid. Christian thinking reminds us that these things are not accidents. They are evidence of the fact that, even in a world at rebellion against the family, the strength of the family still shines through. Sometimes in sociological analysis; sometimes in economic reports; most of the time, I’m glad to say, in actual families. And the glory in that truth is not the glory of the family, but the glory of the Creator who loved us and gave us marriage and the family as two of His most precious gifts.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing. Remember the weekly release of Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Call with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com. I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.