Close

Encouraging and Engaging (e2) Christ-Centered
Media for the Church and the "Christ-Curious"

  • CONNECT WITH US
Print pagePDF pageEmail page

I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

SHOULD IT BE ILLEGAL TO BE A STAY-AT-HOME MOM? WHY FEMINISTS WANT TO TAKE THIS CHOICE AWAY FROM WOMEN

Should it be illegal for women to choose to be stay-at-home moms? If that sounds like an absolutely outlandish question—and it should—just keep in mind that it is a question now being asked in public in the nation of Australia. Behind this is the larger pattern of social and moral change within a society. It follows a predictable pattern. Something is proposed as a moral or social change that sounds absolutely unthinkable, then it becomes thinkable. It was implausible, but it gains in plausibility. Once it gains in plausibility, it becomes policy, and behind that policy is a form of political legal and social coercion. That kind of pattern is what should have our attention as we consider the controversy that has recently emerged in Australia, and of course it will not stay there.

Behind all of this is a report recently released by an organization that usually doesn’t garner a great deal of controversy. That’s the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the OECD. That international organization is actually a legacy of the United States and the Marshall Plan. That was the plan whereby the United States brought economic assistance to much of war-torn Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War. It was an effort to reach out and to rebuild, economically speaking, Germany and its allies as well as much of the rest of Europe. In the aftermath of World War II, that was necessary. But the OECD has continued in more recent decades, especially since 1960, as an organization that unites nations in the development of international trade and economic development.

The OECD recently released a report having to do with the relative employment rates and advanced economies. And in particular, the worldview of the OECD is that every single able-bodied adult should be a wage earner in the workforce. And that includes, of course, those who would otherwise be stay-at-home moms. This controversy emerged in Australia, but given the issues, it could’ve emerged in many other nations as well, including the United States. It came with a recent headline,

“Moms are economy’s greatest untapped resource, and we need to fix that.”

Should It Be Illegal To Be A Stay-At-Home Mom?

Image: Chicks On The Right

The reporter in this case was Liz Burke and as she wrote,

“Australia, we have a problem, and we’re not going to get away with it.”

“Away with it” had to do with Australia’s ranking in this particular study as relatively low in terms of the workforce engagement and, in particular, the large number of adults, in particular in this case, women who are stay-at-home moms who are not engaged in the wage-earning workforce. As she wrote,

“The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found the employment rate of women aged 25-54 years was in the lower third of OECD countries at 72.5 per cent. Australia’s employment rate of single mothers, 50.8 per cent was among the lowest in the developed world, with only Ireland and Turkey doing worse.”

Now before we go on, just consider that usage of words here “doing worse,” which indicates that doing better would mean fewer women staying at home with their children. She went on to report,

“Stay-at-home mothers were singled out as the ‘greatest untapped potential’ for Australia’s workforce and were creating ‘potentially large losses to the economy’, as were moms who worked part time.

“The provocative report,” she says, follows the fact that a major labor politician, Kate Ellis, “exited from politics, with the longtime politician citing difficulties reflected in the research.”

Now, again, this is the word “difficulties,” but notice how the politician herself described the situation.

“This had been a really hard decision for me … in the end it is a decision that I have made for only one simple reason.

“Whilst my son could travel with me as a baby, during the next term of parliament he will start school and have to stay in Adelaide. The simple truth is that I just cannot bear the thought of spending at least 20 weeks of every year away from him and the rest of my family.”

Now notice her decision it is presumed here is a problem, and a problem not just for the society in general, but very specifically for Australia’s economy. Just in a footnote to the larger story, the response to this particular politician deciding to stay home with her family was responded to with one columnist writing this:

“The parliament is still structured the way it was back in 1901 when the Australian states federated. That is, the parliament was designed for men and by men. Men who assumed parenting was the job of someone else. Modern public life remains utterly inconsistent with the realities of new motherhood and our country is the poorer for it.”

There’s no mention here of exactly what proposal this columnist made for making the Australian Parliament less by men and for men, it seems that nature more than anything else is the real enemy here. But that report was followed by an even more provocative proposal. In this case Sarrah Le Marquand wrote,

“It should be illegal to be a stay-at-home mom.”

Marquand, writing at The Daily Telegraph there in Australia, says that if there is any issue that is sure to gain controversy, it is going to be the topic of stay-at-home moms. She said,

“More specifically, the release of any data or analysis that dares recommend Australian women should get out of the living room/kitchen/nursery and back into the workforce.”

Marquand makes the argument that Australia’s economy depends upon an expanding workforce and stay-at-home moms are the largest identifiable problem in terms of full employment in that nation. Therefore, she goes on to make this analysis,

“So it’s not as simple as suggesting that the OECD’s rallying call to utilize the potential of stay-at-home mums is an insult to mothers — on the contrary, it is the desperately needed voice of reason that Australians cannot afford to ignore.”

Then the following paragraph,

“Rather than wail about the supposed liberation in a woman’s right to choose to shun paid employment, we should make it a legal requirement that all parents of children of school-age or older are gainfully employed.”

That is a very straightforward statement. She is stating that it should be a legal requirement that all parents, both mothers and fathers of children of school age or older must be employed. It would be a legal requirement; it would thus be illegal for a woman to choose to be a stay-at-home mom. Marquand simply dismisses the argument that women should be free to make this choice for themselves in terms of whether or not it’s liberating that a woman could decide to stay home. She described instead “the supposed liberation in a woman’s right to choose to shun paid employment.”

Now, again, you’ll notice the default is a woman being a wage earner in the workforce. The exception, the exception she wants to eliminate even as a possibility, is a woman who decides not to be in the wage earning workforce, but rather to invest her energies and her calling in her home, particularly in the raising of children.

We have seen several twists and turns in the development of the feminist argument and ideology, but here you have an author who calls for “a serious rethink of this kid-glove approach to women of child-bearing and child-rearing age. Holding us less accountable when it comes to our employment responsibilities is not doing anyone any favors. Not children, not fathers, not bosses — and certainly not women.”

But then she says,

“Only when the female half of the population is expected to hold down a job and earn money to pay the bills in the same way that men are routinely expected to do will we see things change for the better for either gender.”

She continued,

“Only when it becomes the norm for all families to have both parents in paid employment, and sharing the stress of the work-home juggle, will we finally have a serious conversation about how to achieve a more balanced modern workplace.”

One of the most influential feminist ideologues of the second half of the 20th century was Simone de Beauvoir. She was the unmarried partner of existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. And it was de Beauvoir who argued back in 1976,

“No woman should be authorized to stay home to raise her children. Women should not have that choice, because if there is such a choice too many women will make that one.”

That’s one of the most amazing and indeed spectacularly revealing statements ever made by an ideologue. In this case, she said women should not be free to make this choice, because if they have the freedom to make this choice, too many women will make it, that is the choice to stay at home with their children. In the view of the feminist ideologues, that would be an absolute disaster. Women choosing to stay home with their children would be the repudiation of the very ideology that supposedly was to liberate women to make their own choices in the first place.

The current controversy in Australia has to do with this report from the OECD and it is indeed the topic of a great deal of conversation. It’s a very serious issue, according to the OECD, that so many women are at home with their children rather than being deployed in the wage earning workforce. And we need to note that in terms of the unfolding moral revolution around us, this is a significant new turn, this is an economic argument that is now coming behind the moral argument.

That moral argument was made quite famously in the second half of the last century by figures such as Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. It was Betty Friedan who wrote about the woman in the home as being in a domestic concentration camp in so far she served as wife and mother to children. Friedan and her allies, also known of course for being advocates for legalized abortion in the name of feminism, argued that women should not be trapped in the role of being stay-at-home moms. But now you’ll notice that the argument has taken an entirely new turn. Now it’s not that women should not be trapped into staying home with their children, but rather they should not be free to make the choice to stay at home with their children.

As we look at this from across the Pacific Ocean, one of the things we need to note is that even if this controversy does not get transported to our shores in exactly these terms, the OECD report points to a new kind of argument we’re going to face, and that is the argument that women who are staying at home to raise their children are actually a drain on the workforce, a drain on the economy, an untapped asset for which there is moral responsibility. That’s something we need to note, because we can expect that this very same report is going to land in this country with some of the very same conclusions. One of the interesting things about Australia is that it, like Canada, amongst the dominion nations of the former British Empire had followed the British and European example in secularization more than has the United States, at least to date. Australia is a far more secular society. Even though there is a Christian tradition there and even though there’s a vital evangelical tradition, Australia never had the kind of generalized culture-shaping influence of Christianity that was the case in most of the United States throughout most of our history.

Here in the United States, the fact that this kind of story has not yet emerged with any kind of serious policy proposal almost surely has to do with the lingering influence of the Christian worldview. There is still a moral instinct, a reflex in this country amongst many people to respect the decision made by many moms to stay at home with their children.

STUDIES SHOW MOST WOMEN WITH YOUNG CHILDREN DON’T WANT TO TRY TO “LEAN IN” AND “HAVE IT ALL”

But next this takes us to another article that appeared at almost the same time. This was published in National Review, one of the most important journals of conservative intellectual discussion in the United States. The author was Stephen E. Rhoads, Professor of Politics Emeritus at the University of Virginia. The title of this article,

“Lean In’s Biggest Hurdle: What Most Moms Want.”

Now in the background of this article, Rhoads writes about the fact that academics and policy makers are perplexed by the fact that so many mothers decide either to stay at home with their children or they are engaged in something like part-time employment, or at any rate they are engaged with the workplace less than a man of a similar age. His opening illustration has to do with American academia and the regularly published complaint that there are too many men and too few women in advanced professorial roles. But as it turns out, men tend to continue in terms of their tenure-track, whereas many women do not. He then summarizes research findings and says this,

“One explanation for these findings could be that in the parental leave study, the female professors reported that they enjoyed doing most of these tasks, and they enjoyed them more than their male counterparts.”

That’s research language for the fact that study after study has indicated that women gain more in terms of self-satisfaction from being at home with children in the context of the home than do fathers. Then—and the background of this of course is the argument made in the 2013 book, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg—behind this is the argument that we have heard often in recent years that women who are not fully engaged in the workforce and furthermore making progress towards senior executive positions are letting down the team. Now Rhoads writes,

“Ignoring the stronger female inclination to nurture seems certain to thwart feminist efforts well beyond academia.”

Rhoads cites ample research indicating that,

Should It Be Illegal To Be A Stay-At-Home Mom?

Image: Rachel Wolfson

“Most women who have dependent children don’t want to work full-time, much less to put in the hours required of corporate titans. We should listen to these women, too.”

In a very strategic series of sentences, Rhoads makes this argument,

“Initiatives aimed at changing historic male and female parenting and work patterns are based on the view that these historic patterns are socially constructed. But pregnancy and childbirth are not gender-neutral activities. They are biologically constructed and can be exhausting. Pregnancy is often accompanied by nausea and fatigue, and two different studies found that six months after giving birth, more than 75 percent of mothers have not achieved full functional status.”

He continues,

“Even the roots of gender differences in parenting run deeper than societal norms and go beyond the simple fact that it is women who [nurse children]. Women’s greater inclination to nurture infants and toddlers is also rooted in hormones and in brain structure.”

He says this,

“Women’s bodies have more receptors for the nurturing hormone oxytocin than men’s, especially in pregnancy and during breastfeeding.”

At this point, the important thing to recognize is that Rhoads is arguing that being a mother versus a father is not just socially constructed reality, as the postmodernists and the feminist have been claiming for years, but rather it is, in his words, “biologically constructed.” There are very real differences. He goes on to make the argument that evolution too helps to explain the sex differences in nurturing inclination.

Now I cite Rhoads’ use of the arguments concerning biology and even evolution here to make a point. Here you have one of most important conservative intellectual journals in the United States, and even when it deals with this issue, debunking feminist ideology and so many contemporary arguments, you’ll notice that this author stays far, far away from anything that might remotely have to do with an argument that there is a Creator whose intention is reflected in his creation and in the fact that he created male and female as distinctly different complementary, one for the other, and that he created us with different roles, and that fatherhood and motherhood are not merely matters that aren’t just socially constructed, but also are not merely biologically constructed either—they are indeed divinely designed.

I appreciate the fact that Rhoads cites the 2012 Atlantic article by Anne-Marie Slaughter entitled,

“Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”

As he says,

“After its publication, according to one official biography, it ‘quickly became the most-read article in the history of the magazine and helped spark a renewed national debate on the continued obstacles to genuine full male-female equality.’”

He then continues,

“A year later, dismayed by the increasing numbers of highly educated women in their twenties who were declaring that they never wanted to have children, Slaughter took to The Atlantic again to emphasize the ‘sheer delight, pleasure, and wonder that child-rearing often affords.’”

She also said that “having children is the best thing I’ve ever done, by a mile.”

Anne-Marie Slaughter, of course, is one of the most accomplished women in contemporary America in professional terms. A professor of law at Harvard University, she has also been a very important foreign-policy figure in the United States State Department, and more recently she has been CEO of the organization New America. Rhoads writes,

“Slaughter’s thinking has continued to evolve. Just last year, the Washington Post reported that she has had ‘some pretty significant changes of heart.’”

In her words,

“When people say, ‘I’m home with my kids,’ I say, ‘You’re doing really important work,’ and I mean it. Whereas before, I was the classic woman that said, ‘Oh, what a pity.’ Like, ‘You’re not doing the real thing.’”

Rhoads says,

“One can’t read this interview without seeing how hard it has been for Slaughter to have spent so little time with her children. She vividly remembers the ‘deep dismay’ she felt the first time her child woke up at night and called for daddy, not mommy. Her sons are more likely to call her husband rather than her for advice or to share some good news.”

Looking back, Slaughter writes,

“Knowing what I know now, I wish I had taken one day a week when they were between 0 and 5 to be with them. I could have said, ‘Every Friday, instead of daycare, every Friday is a mom day.’ We would have done fun things. It would have mattered. And it would have been a pleasure for me.”

By the time you get to the end of Rhoads’ article he writes this,

“To help women thrive and achieve happiness as they see it, we must first acknowledge that most mothers — inside or outside academia — want to avoid full-time work, at least while their children are young. Proponents of ‘leaning in’ have no reason to believe they speak for most women or that they have a better understanding than women themselves of what’s good for them.”

He then asked the question,

“Why not try to accommodate the life preferences women in fact have?”

And of course the response to that comes from none other than Simone de Beauvoir, who argued that women should not be given this choice because if they have the choice too many will make this choice.

Just very recently on The Briefing we looked at the argument that was made that women with a college education and choose to stay at home with their children are wasting that college education. That’s one form of the new argument we are facing. We also looked then at the continuing subversion of the idea that it can be meaningful for a mother to stay at home with their children and to devote herself primarily, especially while her children are young, to the raising of those children.

But here you also see the next stage in the argument, and what’s truly alarming is just how fast this next stage has arrived. We’re looking at several arguments coming from different directions and they are coming consecutively and they’re coming at us fast. We need to note a couple things very quickly. We need to note the relative absence of any kind of explicit Christian worldview engagement with these issues; primarily it’s currently being discussed in the society entirely in terms of policy and economics and employment, or as we saw even in the article from National Review, biology. All of that is important, of course, but to the Christian it’s not nearly as important as understanding God’s purpose in marriage and the family and reproduction and in child rearing.

One of the other things we need to recognize is the constriction of autonomy and choice, this is a society that actually worships personal autonomy, but it worships choice only to the extent that people make the right choices in the view of the cultural elites. Christians will understand any number of factors may come into play in determining whether or not a mother is at home with their children or is engaged to one degree or another part-time or full-time in the wage earning workforce. Christians come to understand, however, that the most important issue is that there is a distinction between the roles of men and women, of mothers and fathers, and there is a distinction in terms of how we are engaged in the process of raising our children, and in the nurture of those children.

This is where Christians understand that the society around us appears to worship autonomy and choice, but the coercion that is coming at us means that what is really being worshiped is not choice and is not autonomy, not when people make the wrong choices, but is rather their own vision for the future good of human society. And that, as we now see, is a vision that requires all women to be actively in the workforce for the entirety of their adult lives. And of course, it’s expected the same of men and that also is just pointing to the fact that, increasingly, the creature that is made in God’s image is being reduced by policy makers and ideologues to nothing more than a cog in an economic machine.

There will be much more to talk about this week, there already is, but when it comes to the Christian worldview it’s hard to imagine any issue of greater importance than this or of greater relevance when it comes to understanding just what’s happening in the collision between the modern secular worldview and the Christian worldview. When an argument is made in public that it should be illegal for women to choose to be stay-at-home moms, we have transcended a cultural boundary that should have our attention and in a hurry. The greater likelihood is not that there will be a law making such a choice illegal, the fact is that other forms of coercion are probably even more powerful, including what we now see as the looming moral argument that women who stay at home with their children are a drain on the economy, because they are absent from the paid workforce. Expect that now to become rather standard cultural fare.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to @albertmohler.For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to boycecollege.com.

(This podcast is by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

OUR SUPPORTERS

  • Christian Podcast Directory - Audio and Video Godcasting
  • NCMC Logo12
  • cwd_link
    Over 18,000 wholesome, family friendly, Christian websites.
  • WM-ad-web-v2-489x486
  • RdR Large ad
  • easysite large
  • Talking Bibles Sidebar Ad
  •  Good News, Etc
Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Randall Krause filed a lawsuit against the Tulsa County Library Commission. Evidently, the Commission maintains a recycling program and, according to Krause, it constitutes an undue burden on the Free Exercise of his environmentalism. Learn what criteria the court uses to decide what constitutes a religion at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

A Federal Court in Oklahoma has ruled that despite the religious ardor of some of its adherents, Environmentalism is not a religion.

Randall Krause filed a lawsuit against the Tulsa County Library Commission. Evidently, the Commission maintains a recycling program and according to Krause, it constitutes an undue burden on the free exercise of his “Environmentalism”.

Krause alleged that the Commission had placed “fake recycling bins” throughout town, victimizing him and other adherents to Environmentalism.

Well, the judge didn’t buy the argument.

Environmentalism is not a religion

Image: Chris White

Dismissing the case, the court explained that Krauss had failed to establish that his Environmentalism was anything more than personal preferences and secular believes without foundation in any religion. And, even if it were, the “fake recycling bins” placed around town did not amount to a course of law meriting protection by the First Amendment.

Determining what is religion is difficult for any court. But, as the Supreme Court has explained, religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection.

But the court does require beliefs to be rooted in a religion in order to trigger protection under the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment.

For now, at least in Tulsa, Environmentalism does not constitute a valid religion. But it leaves me with one nagging question: Is a “fake recycling bin” just a trash can? 

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

OUR SUPPORTERS

  • Christian Podcast Directory - Audio and Video Godcasting
  • NCMC Logo12
  • cwd_link
    Over 18,000 wholesome, family friendly, Christian websites.
  • WM-ad-web-v2-489x486
  • RdR Large ad
  • easysite large
  • Talking Bibles Sidebar Ad
  •  Good News, Etc
Print pagePDF pageEmail page

I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

IN ONGOING CONFIRMATION HEARING OF NEIL GORSUCH, OPENING STATEMENTS ILLUSTRATE JUST WHAT’S AT STAKE

Yesterday was very interesting in terms of the confirmation hearings of Judge Neil Gorsuch nominated by President Donald Trump to be the next sitting justice of the United States Supreme Court. Yesterday was mostly about formalities, yet the formalities are important. They’re a part of our democratic traditions. The formalities included the fact that the prospective nominee would be introduced by Senators from his home state there in Colorado. The formalities involved opening statements, statements made by the nominee, but most importantly statements made by members of the judiciary committee of the United States Senate.

What we saw on display yesterday was the appropriate deference toward the Supreme Court. That is to say, every single senator, everyone in the room se

Neil Gorsuch, GOP Budget Cuts & The International Day of Happiness

Image: Jonathan Ernst

emed to understand the importance of the Supreme Court and the role that it plays within our constitutional system of government. Beyond that, the disagreements in terms of worldview and ideology were already on display. In one of the most important of those statements, very revealing in itself, California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein described the Constitution as a living, evolving document, a document she said that was meant to evolve along with the nation. There you have a rather classical statement of that liberal understanding of the U.S. Constitution and the rightful way of interpreting it.

At the same time you had some senators on the other side, such as Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who was equally clear about the fact that what the nation needed was a justice who would pay careful attention, indeed authoritative attention, to the actual words of the U.S. Constitution and to the intentions of the framers. But in terms of the statements made yesterday, I think the most revealing of all was made by Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, also a member of the Senate judiciary committee. In comments made before the nation, but comments particularly to the Senate judiciary committee, Senator Sasse pointed to the symbolic nature of the robe that a justice wears, that is a black robe. It is, as Senator Sasse said, neither a blue robe nor a red robe, that is it isn’t a Democratic robe or a Republican robe.

Now at this point we have to say that Senator Sasse was speaking in terms of the ideal, and he was correctly pointing to the fact that in our nation’s constitutional system the judiciary is intended to be nonpartisan. That is one of the reasons that the judges and justices at the federal level are confirmed for life terms. That’s a very important issue. That is to remove at least part of the partisan reality that might attend to either the other two branches of government. And of course even as Senator Sasse was speaking to this ideal, it is an ideal that virtually no one can reject as the ideal. That is to say almost no one with a straight face, especially including a United States Senator, would dare to say that the Court should be partisan and that judges should in effect wear blue or red robes. But as we said, that is the ideal that sometimes collides with the reality. The reality is that the Court has become highly partisan, especially over the last half-century, and we’ve also seen that there is a correlation between the constitutional philosophy that a justice takes to the Court and the partisan identity of the President who has appointed that justice.

But it was a service to the country that Senator Sasse expressed that ideal and that was very important for Americans to hear. But Senator Sasse went on to say that there’s a second reason for the black robe. It helps explain the calling of a judge to the judiciary. He said this,

“I said it was a loose analogy because the job of Supreme Court justice is absolutely not to deliver an eternal message from God. It’s to interpret a written, man-made Constitution as objectively and faithfully as they can, inserting their own opinions as little as possible.”

He then went on to say,

“When you put on that robe, you are also cloaking your personal preferences.”

But it was at this point that Senator Sasse made what I think is the most important part of his argument. It’s where he pointed to the Supreme Court among the three branches of the United States government as the branch that is responsible for speaking for the long-term voice of the American people. America is a constitutional Republic. It is a form of democracy. It is not a direct democracy. And among the three branches of government, the legislative, the executive, and the judicial, the judicial has the responsibility to make certain that a majoritarian rule does not violate the rights of others in the nation. And this gets to the point that it is the Supreme Court above all other branches of government and all other representations of the federal judiciary that must be the court of last resort.

Senator Sasse’s point was that when you look at legislation or when you look at elections of Congress or of a president, you’re looking at the short-term voice of the people. Senator Cruz actually spoke to the short-term voice of the people in this sense when he pointed to what he called the particular legitimacy of the nomination of Judge Gorsuch by President Trump because President Trump actually told the American voters in advance not only the kind of justice that he would appoint, but he offered a list of names that voters could consider. That’s also a very interesting argument coming from Senator Cruz. That’s about the short-term voice of the people, election by election, vote by vote. But Senator Sasse was pointing to the fact that the long-term voice of the American people is also a very, very important voice. And in that Senator Sasse was pointing to the United States Constitution and to the long tradition of judicial respect for the Constitution that has marked this country at least in terms of when the judiciary has been most faithful.

That idea of the long-term voice of the people is really, really important because at least some Americans would look at the Court, at an unelected group of judges and justices in the federal judiciary and to a group of judges and justices who are appointed for life terms, and they might think that’s fundamentally nondemocratic. But the genius of our founders was not only the separation of powers but in the assignment of particular stewardships to each of the branches of government. The particular stewardship of the judicial branch represented more than anywhere else at the Supreme Court of the United States is the stewardship of that long-term voice.

Years ago, it was G.K. Chesterton who argued that tradition is what he called the democracy of the dead. It is reverence for consideration for tradition that allows those who have now died to continue to have a voice. The framers of our constitutional order continue to have a voice through the U.S. Constitution. The states that ratified the Constitution continue to have a voice through the text of the U.S. Constitution. Successive generations, giving respect to the Constitution, at times amending the Constitution—their voices continue to be heard through the Constitution and through the United States Supreme Court.

Taking it back full circle, the argument made by Senator Feinstein and others about a living Constitution effectively nullifies the voice of the dead in terms of our national conversation and in terms of our democratic traditions. Here we need to understand that listening to those who framed the Constitution, listening to those who have given attention to the Constitution even by amending it, that is why originalism or strict constructionism or textualism—whatever it may be called—becomes exceedingly important. It’s because that is the system of understanding the Constitution that affirms that those who wrote it have the first say in what it means and that the words themselves, the syntax, the sentences, the propositions, are indeed the substance of what is to be interpreted.

The Supreme Court of the United States exists in its importance precisely because it is not to be driven by political expediency nor concerned about the latest election. The more recent politicization of the Supreme Court is a grave danger to our entire constitutional order. And even as yesterday was mostly about making opening statements and setting the stage for the kind of national conversation that’s going to ensue as the confirmation hearings continue, those traditions themselves are important, and those opening statements are not merely formalities. What was said yesterday is really important. We need to pause and consider why it is so.

MONEY, BUDGETS, AND MORALITY: TRUMP BUDGET FACES HURDLES ON BOTH SIDES OF THE POLITICAL AISLE

Next, another part of our important national conversation has to do with the budget of the United States. President Trump sent to Congress last week what’s called a skinny form of the budget, that is a preliminary announcement of his budgetary intentions. And President Trump, consistent with many of the themes he articulated during the election, made clear that he wants to cut federal spending. He’s going to increase spending on national defense. Again, that was a major theme of his campaign. But when it comes to many other areas of government, it’s clear that President Trump intends, at least by this announcement sent to the United States Senate, he intends to cut the budget. These budget cuts would affect certain federal departments more than others, particularly hard-hit will be the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, and also some other federal departments, including a major cut to the Department of Health and Human Services.Neil Gorsuch, GOP Budget Cuts & The International Day of Happiness

Now keep in mind that the vast portion of federal spending on social programs called entitlements, that all of that is basically off-limits by the declaration of President Trump himself. He made clear that he does not intend to cut any kind of funding that would go towards these major entitlement programs. From a conservative perspective, that’s a huge problem, because unless those entitlement programs are reined in, if there’s not a net decrease in spending over against the economy, we will eventually as a nation find ourselves unable to fund these very programs. And furthermore, once the nation creates a dependency in the part of citizens upon these so-called entitlements—after all we call them entitlements because Americans come to believe that they are entitled to these programs—if there is not a weaning off of this dependency, then eventually we will meet an absolute crisis not only in fiscal terms, but also in moral terms.

But something that has become exceedingly clear, even as President Trump has adjusted defunding organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts, what has become exceedingly clear is a basic principle of democratic government. And that is, once the government begins to spend money on something, it is virtually impossible to rein in that spending. And in terms of one of the long-term lessons of American political life, once you create a federal agency it is virtually impossible to eliminate that agency. This was clear when President Reagan campaigned in the 1980 election to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education. Not only was that department not eliminated during the two terms that President Reagan served in office, but by the end of his second term, as predictable, the federal agency was actually receiving even more budget money.

If there ever were to be an historical moment when the budget might actually be reset, if conservative hopes for a realignment of this budget were ever to be realized, it would have to be right now. The reason for that is straightforward. We have a Republican president. We have Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. The excuses made by Republicans in time past was that there either was not a majority in terms of one house or another in Congress or there was not a Republican president in office. Now there is absolutely no excuse for Republicans not making a very significant advance in reining in the federal budget. But just consider the kinds of headlines that are now becoming routine. Consider the headline such as the one from the arts section of the New York Times over the weekend, “Republicans Defending Arts Grants.”

As Michael Cooper and Sopan Deb report,

“At first blush it’s like a dream come true for conservatives: Donald J. Trump has become the first president to formally propose eliminating federal programs for the arts and humanities, which have long been in the cross hairs of Republicans, and the threat is all the more real because the party also controls Congress.”

And yet the reporters go on,

“But even with one-party control in Washington, the fates of the arts endowment and the National Endowment for the Humanities are far from sealed.

Several key Republican lawmakers are expressing support for the programs, which, since their near-death experiences during the culture wars of a generation ago, have taken pains to counter accusations of coastal elitism by making sure to distribute their grants widely across all 50 states.”

Any time there is the slightest effort to try to cut back on any portion of the federal budget, there are immediate stories piling one upon the other of the incredible distress this will bring to communities, of people who will be robbed of experiences or benefits they believe they are now entitled to receive by any cutback in terms of the federal budget. What this story tells us is that even when it comes to something like the National Endowment for the Arts—and notice this article makes references here to the near-death experiences it says of many these programs during what’s described as “the culture wars of the past.” Without going into detail, because that detail would be pornographic, the National Endowment for the Arts found itself in a great deal of controversy, particularly in the 1990s because of the federal subsidy of exhibitions that could only be described as both blasphemous and pornographic.

But if there is an argument to be made for cutting the federal budget, that argument is otherwise known as reality. And if that reality is going to have any kind of moral frame of reference, the federal government would cut first those programs that could be conducted by someone else, those programs that would relate to what the federal government must not of necessity do. The argument here, and you see it even this headline, is that there are those in both parties, even some Republicans, who are arguing that we can’t possibly really make cuts to the National Endowment of the Arts, much less to eliminate this entire program and turn it over to private funding because to do so would lead to hardships now we know in all 50 states. The argument is going to be made that cultural deprivation will set into the country if the federal government does not continue the funding of the arts to these programs, not only the National Endowment for the Arts but also the National Endowment for the Humanities.

President Trump also called for defunding much of public broadcasting, in particular National Public Radio. This too has been something of a bur in the saddle of conservatives for a very long time precisely because of the general, very liberal bent of this tax subsidized media service. But at the same time, there are conservatives who appreciate National Public Radio for its in-depth reporting. The question is, should this be a budgetary priority of the federal government? In an age in which there is an avalanche of news coming from almost every direction, how can it be justified that there would be millions and millions of dollars, tax dollars confiscated from the American taxpayers, that is used to subsidize what is by any estimation a generally liberal news source.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal pointed out that almost all of the controversy about President Trump’s budget proposal is coming down to an incredibly if not insignificant portion of the budget. The major portions of federal spending are off-limits even by the President’s own declaration. But the politics of this is also just unavoidable. Friday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal had a headline,

“Trump Budget Likely to See Major Rewrite in Congress Some GOP lawmakers praise plan to trim waste but object to cuts that hit close to home”

Now when you consider that headline, that’s the entire problem in a nutshell. If there is going to be any meaningful realignment of the federal budget that will mean less federal spending somewhere and that somewhere is going to be in some Congress person’s district. Given the reach of the federal government that means virtually every single congressional district. Every single United States Senator, every member of Congress is going to face the reality that if there are any budget cuts there will certainly be someone in that district and in that state who will be affected. The very same day, the New York Times ran a story with the headline,

“G.O.P. Finds Spending Plan Tough to Love.”

But any kind a budgetary reduction is going to be hard to love because there will be a price that will be paid for any cuts in federal spending in any program. Of course the failure to make these hard decisions—this is something that has been postponed by the United States Congress now for over two generations—the failure to deal with this will have catastrophic financial implications for our children and our grandchildren. Effectively, the overspending of the federal government today, it’s also true lamentably of many municipalities and state governments as well, that overspending is effectively a massive tax burden that is now being passed down to subsequent generations and that Judgment Day will not be long in coming.

Christians also understand that there is enormous moral investment in that word budget. When it comes to a personal budget and personal spending, when it comes to a family’s budget, when it comes to a congregation’s budget, that’s when we find out where the priorities really lie. It was Jesus himself who said, “Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.” And that’s especially true when we look at the kinds of headlines that are coming to us concerning the budget negotiations that will soon be very much a matter of increased headlines in Washington D.C. This is where Christians have to understand that far more than just matters of money are involved. There are also questions of morality, and some of these questions are very complicated.

There is no easy way to come up with a way of prioritizing the federal budget in every respect and bringing it into some kind of fiscal sanity. If it were easy, it would’ve been done by now. But saying this will not be easy is no excuse for not doing what Congress is elected to do, and that is to actually adopt a budget of the United States that meets with the standards of fiscal reality and rightfully reflects what should be done with the tax monies that are confiscated from American citizens. But there are many families who understand this temptation all too well, easier to decide tomorrow what you really know you should decide today. It is not merely wrong and impractical to defer the budgetary reality the United States. It is rightly understood immoral.

IS IT GOVERNMENT’S JOB TO MAKE US HAPPY? INTERNATIONAL DAY OF HAPPINESS HAD SOME ASKING THE QUESTION

But next we turn to the issue of happiness, and it turns out that yesterday was the International Day of Happiness. I hope you had a happy one. In any event, it raises the huge issue of happiness and how it has now become a matter of our global conversation, a conversation that’s really interesting the closer you look.

Tania Lombrozo writing for National Public Radio tells us that yesterday was the International Day of Happiness,

“the result of a UN resolution adopted in 2012 that identifies the pursuit of happiness as ‘a fundamental human goal’ and promotes a more holistic approach to public policy and economic growth — one that recognizes happiness and wellbeing as important pieces of sustainable and equitable development.”

Neil Gorsuch, GOP Budget Cuts & The International Day of HappinessNow in typical UN speak that appears to say something but doesn’t necessarily say anything. There are those who seem to remember that the United States Declaration of Independence refers to a right of happiness. But that’s not true. It is the pursuit of happiness that is recognized. It’s often not recognized that the founders of the United States understood that human happiness is not something that is universally defined. That is to say, there is the recognition even by those who framed and founded this Republic that human beings could rightly come individually to different definitions of what would make them happy. Indeed, some the most dystopian literature of the 20thcentury such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World points to the danger of having a government, or in this case the United Nations, come to a determination of the fact that we should be happy and then also decide what should make us happy. It is ironic but true and necessary to say that enforced happiness is not by any adequate definition true happiness.

Several recent news stories bring this to mind. A few weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times had a story with the headline, “Happiness minister takes job seriously.”

This is a government ministry in the United Arab Emirates. A woman whose name is Ohood bint Khalfan Roumi is the first happiness ministers of the United Arab Emirates. Ann Simmons, the reporter for the Los Angeles Times, tells us that Roumi is,

“Roumi is the minister of happiness for the United Arab Emirates, a role that was created a year ago when she was among five women appointed to the Persian Gulf nation’s 29-member Cabinet (bringing the number of female ministers to eight). Resolving domestic spats and tackling consumer complaints is not really Roumi’s job. Her position, the brainchild of Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai, is to promote happiness and a positive attitude in government, and life. Roumi says it’s no laughing matter.”

The minister of happiness said,

“This is serious business for the government. What is the purpose of government if it does not work toward the happiness of the people? It’s the duty and role of the government to create the right conditions for people to choose to be happy.”

That’s a statement that deserves a much closer look. You’ll notice the convolutions of it. Let me repeat it,

“What is the purpose of government if it does not work toward the happiness of the people? It’s the duty and role of the government to create the right conditions for people to choose to be happy.”

It wouldn’t take the most cynical observer of the story to ask the question if it’s not really in the interest of the government of any nation, in this case the United Arab Emirates, that its people would, in the words of the minister, choose to be happy.

Yesterday’s edition of USA Today had a front-page story on the fact that there’s now a ranking of countries by happiness; at the top were the Scandinavian nations; at number one, Norway. But a closer look at that article indicates that happiness is defined in this particular scheme as primarily about matters of economics. This is where the Christian worldview would have to bring about something of a correction to point out that happiness is, number one, not our main goal, but secondly that happiness is not something that should be defined simply by economic status. The Christian worldview would situate happiness within a far larger context of moral goods and virtues. Happiness is not to be discounted, but it’s clear in a biblical perspective that happiness can’t be commanded or orchestrated either. But don’t miss the importance of the fact that evidently yesterday was the International Day of Happiness. I predict that before long, the greeting card companies will come out with lines in which you can express your happiness, or at least your command to be happy, in alignment with this new holiday. But perhaps the most important aspect of this day is the fact that most of the citizens of the world most assuredly didn’t even know that it happened.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to @albertmohler.For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to boycecollege.com.

(This podcast is by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

OUR SUPPORTERS

  • Christian Podcast Directory - Audio and Video Godcasting
  • NCMC Logo12
  • cwd_link
    Over 18,000 wholesome, family friendly, Christian websites.
  • WM-ad-web-v2-489x486
  • RdR Large ad
  • easysite large
  • Talking Bibles Sidebar Ad
  •  Good News, Etc
Print pagePDF pageEmail page

The Supreme Court declared that the Bible was “worthy of study” and could be “presented objectively as part of a secular program of education” in the public schools.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Recently, we discussed the case of Abington vs. Schempp. I explained that the Supreme Court declared that the Bible was “worthy of study” and could be “presented objectively as part of a secular program of education in the public schools.”

But, as I said at the conclusion, exactly how that happens is a more difficult question.

Several groups, including the American Jewish Congress, National Bible Association, and the People for the American Way have agreed that the Constitution permits schools to teach about religion and the Bible without resorting to indoctrination in violation of the First Amendment.

How Public Schools Can Teach the Bible

Image: ABBY CARR

Here’s how:

  • The schools approach to religion should be academic not devotional.
  • The school should strive for student awareness of religions, but should not press for student acceptance of any religion.
  • The school may sponsor study about religion, but may not sponsor the practice of religion.
  • The school may expose students to a diversity of religious views, but may not impose, discourage, or encourage any particular view.
  • The school may educate about all religions, but may not promote or denigrate any religion.
  • The school may inform the student about various believes, but should not seek to conform him or her to any particular belief.

While it may be difficult to teach a course on the Bible at a public school, it is neither impossible nor illegal.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

 First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

OUR SUPPORTERS

  • Christian Podcast Directory - Audio and Video Godcasting
  • NCMC Logo12
  • cwd_link
    Over 18,000 wholesome, family friendly, Christian websites.
  • WM-ad-web-v2-489x486
  • RdR Large ad
  • easysite large
  • Talking Bibles Sidebar Ad
  •  Good News, Etc
Print pagePDF pageEmail page

I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

SCIENTISM AND ETHICS: SCIENTIST RAISES HOST OF ETHICAL QUESTIONS IN HUMAN EMBRYO, “EMBRYOID” RESEARCH

At the forefront of biomedical ethics is controversy over the experimentation that is now being conducted and might in the future be conducted with human embryos. A really interesting report came out last week on National Public Radio’s morning edition program by science editor Rob Stein. He writes, 

“Ali Brivanlou slides open a glass door at the Rockefeller University in New York to show off his latest experiments probing the mysteries of the human embryo.

“‘As you can see, all my lab is glass — just to make sure there is nothing that happens in some dark rooms that gives people some weird ideas.’”

At this point Rob Stein said that Brivanlou was “perhaps only half joking.”

But this is where we need to understand that this kind of joke is pointing to a very deep moral reality that actually represents an urgent moral crisis, and that is the fact that those weird ideas that this researcher talks about is actually not just science fiction, something that might happen in the future, it’s about what is happening right in his laboratory as reported in this NPR story right now. Brivanlou, according to Stein, knows that some of his research makes people uncomfortable. Stein says that’s one reason he’s agreed to give the science editor at NPR a look at what’s going on. The summary of the research is very clear. In this particular lab and others they’ve now discovered how to keep human embryos alive in lab conditions longer than ever before, at least 14 days. That’s the claim being made about Brivanlou’s lab and at least one other.

The big story here is the keeping the embryos longer than 14 days. And actually, the big story is the ability to keep those embryos available and alive for experimentation for over 14 days. Now why is that such a big story? Well, it’s a huge story as this NPR report makes clear precisely because 14 days had been established for two reasons. First of all, it was the point at which a moral boundary was thought to be crossed with what scientists at least had defined as “individuation.” But there was also a second issue, and that’s merely technological. It was not believed that laboratories would have the ability to keep those embryos alive past 14 days. To state the merely obvious, this is a human embryo that is in a laboratory situation and is not as embryos were intended to be implanted in a mother’s womb. But Rob Stein now reports Brivanlou in his lab and at least one other,

“Discovered how to keep human embryos alive in lab dishes longer than ever before — at least 14 days. That has triggered an international debate about a long-standing convention (one that’s legally binding in some countries, though not in the U.S.) that prohibits studying human embryos that have developed beyond the two-week stage.”

Now if you could see the story you would understand that there was a parenthetical statement there. Inside the parenthesis, speaking of this convention that embryo research could not continue beyond 14 days, we were told that this is one—a convention that is—that’s legally binding in some countries, though not in the U.S. Now that’s a very soon clarification, because not only is this kind of moral law not binding in the United States on medical researchers, but there are almost no legal restraints whatsoever in terms of human experimentation on embryos in the United States. Let’s be clear, at this point there is no law in the United States preventing experimentation on human embryos even to the point of attempting to clone a human being. That effort might be beyond our technological ability, but at this point it’s not actually against the law.

When Stein reports what’s going on in this laboratory and the pressing against current moral barriers, we are told that Brivanlou is using human stem cells to “create entities that resemble certain aspects of primitive embryos.”

According to the NPR report,

“Brivanlou doesn’t believe that these ‘embryoids,’” as he calls them in contrast to human embryos, “would be capable of developing into fully formed embryos, their creation has stirred debate about whether embryoids should be subject to the 14-day rule.”

Embryoids, Ethics, Islam and Pot

Embryoids like this one are created from stem cells and resemble very primitive human embryos. Scientists hope to use them to learn more about basic human biology and development.
Courtesy of Rockefeller University

So to cut to the chase, the key question at first is this, what would actually be the distinction between a human embryo, acknowledged by all persons to be a human embryo, and what this researcher wants to call merely an embryoid? Well, it becomes clear that origin is at least part of the explanation, because human embryos as they have been defined, are products of human cells, that is the male and the female reproductive cell. This particular entity he’s calling an embryoid would actually be the product of stimulating human stem cells to create something very much like an embryo. Of course, the question is, how much like an embryo? And the answer is that this particular researcher doesn’t think that these embryoids will be capable of developing into a fully human embryo, but there’s actually nothing biological that explains why they would not. This could well end up being a distinction without a difference.

Right here in this story broadcast last week on National Public Radio we see how researchers keep pushing past not only previously unreachable technological barriers, but moral barriers as well. We are told at one time this will be the absolute moral barrier that will protect human dignity, and the next thing you know, once the technological barrier is crossed or at least it looks like the technological barrier might be crossed, you see scientists arguing that now we have to loosen the moral concerns as well. For example, Brivanlou says that he welcomes debates about human embryo research,

“But he hopes society can reach a consensus to permit his work to continue, so he can answer some of humanity’s most fundamental questions.”

Now that’s exactly the kind of devil’s bargain that we see again and again. If you just allow us to cross this moral barrier, we will cure cancer. If you just allow us to cross the next moral barrier, we will eventually defeat mortality and death. And here we are told that if you just allow this researcher to cross this moral boundary,

“He can answer some of humanity’s most fundamental questions.”

What are those questions? Brivanlou said,

“If I can provide a glimpse of, ‘Where did we come from? What happened to us, for us to get here?’ I think that, to me, is a strong enough rationale to continue pushing this.”

There you have a very straightforward claim being made by this scientist. It’s a moral imperative in his view that we simply have to allow him to keep expanding this research in order to answer fundamental questions, questions so basic as, where did we come from? He claims he can answer those questions if we will just allow him to expand the moral boundaries to create embryoids, as he calls them, and to allow them to pass that 14 day limit.

But even as Stein tells us, for decades scientists thought the longest an embryo could survive outside the womb was only about a week, but this has now enabled scientists to continue research pressing beyond that to study “living human embryos at a crucial point in their development, a time when they’re usually hidden in a woman’s womb.”

Now there’s an amazing concession. The embryo, in other words, would be exactly where it belongs, in a woman’s womb. The researcher said,

“Women don’t even know they are pregnant at that stage. So it has always been a big black box.”

There is an absolutely amazing testimony in this article to the wonder of God’s creation, not only of the entire cosmos and even of human beings in particular as the only creature made in his image, but every single human being and that includes, of course, every single human embryo. One of the most amazing things in this article is that the researchers explain that,

“Those willowy structures are what embryos would normally extend at this stage to search for a place to implant inside the uterus. Scientists used to think embryos could do that only if they were receiving instructions from the mother’s body.”

Brivanlou said,

“The amazing thing is that it’s doing its thing without any information from mom. It just has all the information already in it. That was mind-blowing to me.”

Well to Christians, it should simply be an affirmation of the fact that God has implanted within this embryo the entire plan for its implantation in its mother’s womb, and of course God’s plan beyond that for the entire life of a single individual human being.

Scientism is actually one of the major rival worldviews to biblical Christianity in our age. Scientism holds that the experimental method of science, modern secular science, actually holds the key to discovering the basic knowledge of the universe outside of ourselves and inside of ourselves. Scientism holds that science is the authoritative form of knowledge, everything else has to conform to the norms of modern science, and furthermore, this creates a cast of specialists who are scientists who hold the upper hand in any kind of public debate. That’s exactly what we see in this article. The argument that we hear from so many scientists that if something can be done, it must be done and in the promise that if they are just allowed to do this they will bring about modern miracles. As Stein says,

“The two scientists think studying embryos at this and later stages could lead to discoveries that might point to new ways to stop miscarriages, treat infertility and prevent birth defects.”

Now just remember that Brivanlou a few paragraphs previous had promised to unleash and unlock the entire secret to the universe if only he would be allowed to proceed with this experimentation. Stein summarizes the report as telling us that Brivanlou and his colleagues now believe that they can encourage human embryos to live beyond 14 days, and thus to be subjects of human experimentation. They argue that this can be done so it must be done. It is acknowledged that the 14 day rule is actually in place for moral reasons. As Stein says,

“The 14-day rule was developed decades ago to avoid raising too many ethical questions about experimenting on human embryos.”

But Brivanlou now says it is time to rethink the 14 day rule. This is the moment, he says, and we are told that this debate is now taking place outside the United States.

Here we find another argument we will encounter over and over again, it comes down to this. If we do not conduct this research, then someone else will. Better we do it, comes the argument, given our superior morality than allowing others to do it, for perhaps nationalistic or even racial reasons. Another dimension is revealed when a bioethicist is cited from Case Western Reserve University, he also advocates revisiting the rule as it’s said here,

“It would allow more research to be done on embryos that are destined to be destroyed anyway, he says — embryos donated by couples who have finished infertility treatment.”

Well, what’s not acknowledged here is that we’re talking about a market in and experimentation on human embryos that are “destined to be destroyed anyway.”

At this point, the Christian worldview simply has to interject and say, here’s a huge problem when you’re talking about experimentation on human embryos, that’s one problem, and then destroying those embryos. Those who are committed to a biblical Christian understanding of human dignity and human personhood have to understand that what that means is the willful destruction of a human being, a human being at a very early stage of development.

I’m thankful that NPR at least quoted a bioethicist at Georgetown University who has very serious moral concerns. He said,

“Pushing it beyond 14 days only aggravates what is the primary problem, which is using human life in its earliest stages solely for experimental purposes.”

That researcher, Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, gets the issue absolutely right. Later in the article when Dr. Brivanlou tries to assure us that his embryoids that might become a human embryo would not actually become a human being. He offers us this comfort,

“They will not get up start walking around. I can assure you that.”

That is cold comfort, indeed, what we’re looking at here is the devaluation of human life, not only in the laboratory when we’re talking about a human embryo, but every single human life at every single point of development, every stage of life. It’s important for us to understand the major worldviews of the day, the rival worldviews to Christianity. Scientism is, as I said, one of the most important and powerful of those rival worldviews. And in this article we see exactly how the worldview of Scientism works. If it can be done, it must be done. If it might be done, we should be the doers. Technological barriers are meant to be crossed and if that means tearing down moral barriers, then so be it. The scariest aspect of this article is where the researchers talk openly about the need for another clear stopping point. What’s abundantly clear is that when it comes to the worldview of Scientism, there is no stopping point.

PEW: ISLAM IS ONLY RELIGION GROWING FASTER THAN WORLD’S POPULATION, WILL OUTGROW CHRISTIANITY IN 2070

Next in recent days, a major research report on Muslims and Islam was released by the Pew Research Center, one of the most authoritative research institutions in the world, especially when it comes to understanding religion and religious worldviews across the globe. As the Pew Research Center tells us, in terms of the key findings of this research, perhaps the biggest is that Muslims are now the fastest-growing religious group in the world. Muslims are actually the only religious group in the world growing faster than the world’s own population. Every other major world religion, Christianity included, is actually falling behind the rise of the population. So the population rate is growing faster than Christianity is expanding, and that’s true of every other major worldview with the exception of Islam.

There are a couple of reasons given for that. In terms of the Pew data, one of the most important of these comes down to reproduction. In the Muslim world reproduction rates are extremely high, as is the average age of the population. Those two issues, by the way, go together. The younger the population, the more likely there’s going to be a high rate of reproduction. In terms of basic numbers, we’re told that Islam is expected to grow by 73% between the years 2010 and 2050, even as the world’s population is going to grow by 37% over the same period. When it comes to Christians, the expectation is that those who identify as Christians, in terms of the global population will increase by about 35% over the same period. So to get this straight, Christian growth about 35%, growth in the population at large 37%, growth in Islam, 73%. That’s a massive fact.

In terms of projections, in 2010 there were 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, 2.17 billion Christians. But by 2050, there will be 2.76 billion Muslims and 2.92 billion Christians, again, more Christians than Muslims projected by the year 2050. But if the projections continue, all that switches by at least 2070 when Islam will have a larger number of followers than those who identify as Christians.

Embryoids, Ethics, Islam and Pot

Image: Vahid Salemi

There are many interesting dimensions in this research. For one thing, even though there are many Middle Eastern nations that are overwhelmingly Muslim, only a small fraction of the world’s Muslim population actually lives in the Middle East, only about 20%; 80% live elsewhere. The vast majority of the world’s Muslims live in Asia and in Africa. At present, the largest population of Muslims in the world is in the nation of Indonesia, but this research indicates that that country is likely to be eclipsed by India, which will remain overwhelmingly Hindu but still have the largest Muslim population of any nation on earth.

A final look at this research also tells us something really interesting. As The Telegraph reports,

“Atheists, agnostics and non-religious people will decline from 16.4 per cent of the world’s population to 13.2 per cent by 2050, the report added, despite growing in Europe and North America.”

So let’s just ask the question, if we’ve been talking about a resurgence of agnosticism and atheism, the rise of the so-called nones or those with no religious affiliation, how in the world can they actually be a declining portion of the world’s population? The reason for that is quite simple. The exception to that will be in Europe and in North America which are continuing a secular trajectory, but the other factors that will limit the growth of the total population of unbelievers is the fact that, well you’ve guessed it, they actually are the least likely of all of these religious groups to reproduce.

Atheists have lots of ideas and no shortage of theories, but it turns out they don’t have many children. One of the reasons we should also note that Christianity is at a falling birthrate is because so many Christians, especially in secularized nations, have made some peace with the secular worldview, and we also need to note that liberal theology is similarly tied to a fall in the birth rate among Christians. The research released last week is really important. It’s expected that it will be of great interest to political and economic leaders around the world. But to Christians it should serve as a wake-up call, a wake-up call about a vast change taking place not only in the global picture, but even more importantly in our mission field.

THE DEBATE ISN’T OVER: CALIFORNIA CITIES DEBATE MARIJUANA LICENSING EVEN AS IT IS LEGALIZED STATEWIDE

Finally, the issue of marijuana was back on the front page of several newspapers, two of them from California, yesterday’s editions of the San Francisco Chronicle and the Fresno Bee. First, we look to San Francisco, where it’s reported that,

“Former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and her physician husband, Dr. Floyd Huen, are turning their talents from politics to pot — and not with the greatest of results.”

The Chronicle tells us that the former Mayor and her husband “are partners in a medical marijuana dispensary looking to be licensed in San Francisco’s heavily Asian American Outer Sunset [neighborhood].”

But it’s really interesting here that the neighborhood evidently doesn’t want this medical marijuana dispensary. It’s a sign of the times that one of the arguments being made in favor of this marijuana dispensary in this neighborhood in the San Francisco area is that it will be necessary in order to demonstrate the increased diversity of the cannabis corporate community. You can see that coming. The doctor husband of the former Mayor said,

“It’s important that Asian Pacific Americans and other minorities take positions of leadership within the cannabis business community to bring greater diversity to the industry.”

But here we simply have to note that the entire story is about a predominately Asian neighborhood that doesn’t want this medical marijuana dispensary down the street from their children.

The story in yesterday’s edition of the Fresno Bee is interesting as much for its headline as anything else. The article by Rory Appleton has the headline,

“Fresno Councilman’s column on pot misstates use by children.”

This is a fact check column in the Fresno Bee and Appleton writes,

“Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld announced his opposition Monday to recreational marijuana and said he will ask the City Council to impose a dispensary ban.”

We are told he’s the first councilmember in Fresno to call for such a prohibition. And then we are told that in a post he had written in order to explain his position, he made some claims, including this one,

“Since the legalization of marijuana in numerous states, the National Institute of Drug Abuse has found that marijuana use has climbed among 10th and 12th graders across the nation.”

Fact checker says that’s false. He cites research from the very same organization, that’s the National Institute of Drug Abuse, which on its website says,

“Marijuana use declined among 8th and 10th graders and remains unchanged.”

Now, which is true? Well, it probably has something to do with the actual subject category and whether it’s talking about a local or a national issue. But in any event, the headline was telling us that this Councilman’s column on marijuana misstates the use of marijuana by children. But what’s really interesting is that the article continues citing several other citations from the Councilman’s article, including the citation that,

“Proposition 64, also known as the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, not surprisingly passed statewide in November 2016 but wisely failed in Fresno County with 54% of the people voting against legalization.”

The fact checker has to say, well, that’s true.

“53 percent of Fresno voters were against Proposition 64. But what [the councilman] did not note: In the city of Fresno, 51.4 percent voted in favor of it.”

What exactly does that have to do with anything? Well, it tells us what we should already know and that is that those in urban areas are more liberal, more libertarian, more apt to vote for something like this. But you’ll simply note, it’s still only 51.4%. As the article concludes the fact checker looks at several other sections from the Councilman’s speech and basically in every case says true, true, true—true that these dispensaries can open for business if allowed on January 1, 2018; true that Proposition 64 now allows individuals 21 years or older to legally smoke marijuana; and to grow up to six plants in their home even if they are next elementary schools, it turns out that’s true; and true, additionally, Proposition 64 allows these dispensaries to advertise and promote marijuana on television, though commercials promoting smoking have been banned for decades. It turns out again that’s true. There might be some question as to whether the media will allow such advertising, especially since the use and possession of marijuana remains a federal crime, but there is no prohibition per se on such advertisements. And then finally what’s really important,

Embryoids, Ethics, Islam and Pot

Image: handout

“The AAA Foundation for Highway Safety reports that deaths in marijuana-related car crashes have doubled since the State of Washington approved legalization.”

The fact checker says,

“True. The foundation’s website notes that the deaths [from smoking marijuana and driving] doubled from 2013 to 2014.”

All that’s really interesting and sufficiently concerning, but what’s really most interesting to me is the headline in the article. It’s about where the Councilman was wrong or its claim was wrong talking about rates of childhood and teenage marijuana smoking. But when you get to the article, and there is the affirmation that indeed traffic deaths from marijuana use have increased by 100% in just one year, and when it’s found to be true, the big question is, why in the world wasn’t that the headline? And when you think about it, I think we actually know the answer. There’s no question where the major media on this issue really stand.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to @albertmohler.For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to boycecollege.com.

(This podcast is by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

OUR SUPPORTERS

  • Christian Podcast Directory - Audio and Video Godcasting
  • NCMC Logo12
  • cwd_link
    Over 18,000 wholesome, family friendly, Christian websites.
  • WM-ad-web-v2-489x486
  • RdR Large ad
  • easysite large
  • Talking Bibles Sidebar Ad
  •  Good News, Etc
Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Many employers provide religious accommodation for their employees but are they required to? Learn about Linda Tisby’s case at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Linda Tisby worked as a corrections officer for the Camden County Correctional Facility in New Jersey. In 2015, she became a member of the Sunni Muslim faith. When she showed up to work as a Muslim for the first time, she was wearing a khimar – a religious head covering. Her supervisor said that that did not comply with the uniform policy; but Tisby refused to remove it.

Are Employers Required to Accommodate the Religion of Their Employees?

Image: Joey McGuire

She was sent home with disciplinary charges and eventually, she sought a religious accommodation from the department. But the warden refused, stating that the allowing of such a head covering would be an undue hardship for the facility. She refused to comply with the uniform policy and she was fired.

The warden maintained throughout the litigation that followed that the uniform policy applied uniformly and that no exceptions had been made to allow religious head coverings. The court recognized the sincerity of Tisby’s believes but agreed with the warden, finding that his concerns for safety and security were legitimate, nondiscriminatory, and any accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the correctional facility.

Employers are not required to sacrifice the safety and security of their employees to accommodate the religion of their employees. But, it is good to know that the law provides such deference to an employee – that an employer has to show that they did everything they could to accommodate an employee’s religion.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

OUR SUPPORTERS

  • Christian Podcast Directory - Audio and Video Godcasting
  • NCMC Logo12
  • cwd_link
    Over 18,000 wholesome, family friendly, Christian websites.
  • WM-ad-web-v2-489x486
  • RdR Large ad
  • easysite large
  • Talking Bibles Sidebar Ad
  •  Good News, Etc
Print pagePDF pageEmail page

I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

ARE WE ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE? DISCOVERY OF SEVEN EARTH-SIZE PLANETS PROMPTS PERENNIAL SPECULATION

Human being simply can’t help asking some very important questions, and it’s clear that one of those questions comes down to whether or not we are alone in the universe, alone as life similar to human life, alone as conscious life. That leads us to several headlines in recent days, including one in the Wall Street Journal,

“Seven Earth-Size Worlds Discovered Orbiting Nearby Star”

As Robert Lee Hotz reports for the Journal,

Pre-birth Language Development and Life in Space?

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Seven alien worlds about the size of Earth have been discovered orbiting a tiny nearby star, and six of them appear warm enough that liquid water—necessary for life—could exist on their surfaces,”

This according to European astronomers last week in the journal, Nature. The Wall Street Journal continued, 

“Called Trappist-1, the dwarf star, located about 40 light years away from Earth in the constellation Aquarius, is so small that it is barely bigger than Jupiter, the largest planet in our own solar system. Yet it is home to the largest collection of Earth-sized planets found in the galaxy so far”

One of the scientists involved in the study said,

“The star is so small and cold that the planets are temperate, which means they could have liquid water and possibly life on their surface.” 

The Journal goes on to say,

“The discovery adds to mounting evidence that billions of such worlds may exist in the Milky Way galaxy, the researchers said. The new findings “indicate that these planets are even more common than previously thought…. All told, astronomers have confirmed the existence of more than 3,500 exoplanets,”

That’s what they’re called in recent years. Astronomers have begun referring to these exoplanets as worlds that surround distant stars, and we’re now told that 22 of them, that’s 15 plus the newly announced seven, might be “considered potentially habitable”

Now that word “potentially” is really, really important there, “potentially habitable.” A later, one-sentence paragraph about three quarters through the Wall Street Journal article says,

“There is no evidence so far that life exists on any of these newly found exoplanets.”

Now wait just a minute. That’s misleading by understatement. Actually there is no evidence so far that life exists anywhere in the universe outside planet earth. That’s not to say that we as Christians deny that such life might exist, at least in some form, but it is to say that there’s an excitability in these headlines that is completely unjustified by the stories themselves and the research behind them.

But there’s something really, really telling in all of this. Immanuel Kant, one of the most important philosophers of the Enlightenment, got it exactly right when he said that the two most perplexing questions had to do with the starry heavens above and the moral life within.

In terms of worldview analysis, Immanuel Kant got it exactly right in these terms, there are indeed two universes of our unavoidable concern and imagination. They’re, first of all, the universe outside of us—and that would include the entire cosmos, not just the world that we can see with our eyes and experience with our senses—but also even more importantly perhaps, the universe within. That includes, as Kant said, our moral life, but is expanded to our entire intellectual experience and to our consciousness and experience of being a self. A thinking Christian can’t avoid dealing with those two huge universes of concern. But that’s true of every single intelligent being. This is where Christians understand that at least a part of what it means to be made in the image of God is that we can’t help asking questions about both of these universes, the universe without and the universe within.

But there’s also something very telling in the fact that there are so many people today who are simply overly excited about even the latest scientific discovery, indicating that it just might be that out of the 3500 exoplanets yet identified, 22 of them just might be potentially under some circumstance habitable. The closer you look at the research, it’s very clear that there is a huge amount of conditionality here. That word “potentially” covers a great deal of scientific territory. In the Wall Street Journal article, just consider these words,

“Discussing their find at a news briefing, the researchers speculated that conditions on three of the worlds might allow for the existence of oceans, but they acknowledged that they have no direct evidence of water on any of these alien planets, nor do they know whether any of them have an atmosphere.”

In any case it’s likely to be a very long time before we find out. We’re certainly not going to be going to these planets in order to investigate them. One of the things The Journal left out is that when it tells us that the planets are 40 lightyears from Earth, that can be put in different terms. That would be 235,000,000,000,000 miles. That’s a trip we’re not going to make, but it just might be that other investigations, including the deployment of NASA’s $8.7 billion James Webb Space Telescope, might indeed make a difference in terms of determining what kind of atmosphere or surface conditions might be on these planets. But again, that’s a long way off, and there’s likely to be a continuation of the qualifier in any of these discoveries, that is, potentially.

But there are other things that should interest is here. For one thing, it’s very clear that many people have some kind of us hope that there just might be habitable planets beyond Earth. Some of those who hold to an extreme form of an ecological worldview, including the belief that we are headed in evidently for a catastrophe in which planet earth will be inhospitable for human beings. They seem to have the hope that somehow we might be able to transfer human beings to another planet. But in this case, they simply have to read their own catastrophic projections, because there’s no way even if their projections were to be true that in any foreseeable future we would even know whether these planets might be hospitable to human life, much less available for life.

There’s something else in all of this for Christians to reflect upon, and it comes down once again to the eclipse of Christianity in terms of the popular imagination, what we might describe as the continued evidence of the secularization of the Western mind. It comes down to this. So long as the Christian understanding of the creation of the world by God and God’s special creation of human beings as the creatures in his image, so long as that worldview held sway, there really wasn’t that much interest in whether or not there just might be life on some other planet light-years and light-years away from us. But now that there is the eclipse of the Christian worldview, there seems to be a particular urgency to the human imagination in the secular age, trying to figure out if we are alone. Because having eclipsed the knowledge of God, they seem to be now preoccupied with whether there might be the existence of other conscious creatures out there somewhere in the universe. And of course at least some people are already asking if those creatures did exist, would they be friendly?

IN RECENTLY DISCOVERED ESSAY, WINSTON CHURCHILL PONDERS LIFE ON OTHER PLANETS AND THE “GOLDILOCKS” ZONE

Along these same lines, it was very interesting that at just about the same time this European study was announced, it was also announced that a previously unknown manuscript written by Sir Winston Churchill had been discovered. It was discovered at the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri.

Just as a footnote, it was there at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri that Winston Churchill gave his famous Iron Curtain Address, making very clear the threat of the Soviet Union and its satellites in the aftermath of World War II. But there was recently discovered there an 11-page typed draft probably written for a popular newspaper there in Britain when the then-future Prime Minister of the United Kingdom asked the question, Are we alone in space?

Pre-birth Language Development and Life in Space?

Image: Kurt Hutton

Now the original manuscript was written in 1939, notably that is the year that Britain was dragged into World War II and the world effectively found itself at war once again. We are now told that it was updated in the 1950s when Churchill changed the title from “Are We Alone in Space?” to “Are We Alone in the Universe?” That reflects something of a changed vocabulary about such matters between the years 1939 and the last years of the 1950s. Winston Churchill began his essay talking about the vastness of the universe, and of course that was a vastness that had only become really, really clear during the 20th century, not only in terms of observations, but also in terms of the theories proposed by astronomers and physicists during the 20th century, most notably the theories advanced by Albert Einstein.

It is not known if Churchill wrote the article by request, or whether he just wrote it planning to send it to a newspaper. In any event, it never saw the light of day. The reason for that is probably quite simple. In terms of 1939, the world was immediately at war and so consumed with that war that it didn’t have time to consider whether or not we’re alone in space. By the end of the 1950s, events were turning out very quickly in terms of what became the space race. Churchill might’ve been a bit more reluctant to enter into the conversation at that point, but Churchill’s insights are absolutely remarkable traced back to 1939. Here you’re talking about a scientific layman, but he had identified two of the most crucial issues in terms of the question as to whether or not there might be life on other planets. Those two issues are water and temperature. Scientists describe those two things together as creating a so-called habitable zone or a Goldilocks zone—that is, a planet that would be close enough to the sun to be warm enough, but far enough from the sun that it wouldn’t be consumed, as in Goldilocks’ “not too hot, not too cold, but just right.”

Now at this point Christians should immediately recognize we’re talking about what some scientists call the Cosmic Anthropic Principle. That is, the principal that makes very clear that planet Earth happens to be calibrated along with our own solar system and universe in such a way that it is precisely right for the emergence and nurturing of life, that is, precisely right. The Cosmic Anthropic Principle reminds us that if planet earth were just slightly outside its current orbit, life would be impossible because it would be to cold. On the other hand, if planet earth were to be even slightly inside its current orbit, the Earth would be too hot for life also to be possible. So we are in effect as a planet right in the middle of our own Goldilocks zone. The question is, why?

This is where Christians understand that this is a tremendous and direct testimony to the divine creation of the universe and to God’s intention on this one planet to create human beings and other forms of life. That is what is crucial to the Cosmic Anthropic Principle. In other words, it takes a great deal of denial to suggest that somehow this is just a tremendous cosmic accident. But if you do believe that it is a cosmic accident, then you must wonder if it’s an accident that has happened elsewhere also.

Churchill, we should note, had a deep interest in science. He was the first British Prime Minister to have an official scientific adviser. And Churchill amazingly got many of the crucial questions that modern astronomers are asking exactly right. The key questions do come down to whether or not there might be water on the planet and whether or not the planet would inhabit the temperate zone that would allow for life.

But Churchill was also very interested in the possibility of space travel, and he offered back in 1939, one day possibly even in the not-too-distant future, human beings might travel to the moon or perhaps even to Mars and Venus. We should note that it was 30 years exactly. It was in 1969, 30 years after 1939 that human beings did indeed first step on the moon. But as for Venus and Mars, well, we still haven’t reached those planets, and there are no current plans even to attempt to do so. Even inside our own solar system, inside our own universe, those planets are too distant for human beings to have any reasonable hope of travel under current technology. That simply puts in scale the fact that we’re talking about 235,000,000,000,000 miles from planet earth, we’re really talking about something far, far outside any possibility of our direct investigation.

Christians not only need not fear any such investigation, but we also shouldn’t fear that somehow the question of life found in other planets is going to upset our entire theological system. The reality is we simply don’t know whether there might be life elsewhere. But we do know this, when it comes to the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is directed towards planet earth and towards the one creature made in the image of God. The Cosmic Anthropic Principle has to be accompanied by a cosmic theological principle, and that is this: we come to understand that God made the universe in order that on planet earth he might display his glory in the redemption of human sinners who had rebelled against him that through the blood and atoning sacrifice and through the resurrection of his own son. For the clearest testimony to this truth, we don’t look through a telescope, but rather to Scripture where we read, for example, in Colossians Chapter 1, beginning in verse 15,

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.”

Now what does this tell us? It tells us that no matter what might be discovered that it is Jesus Christ who is the singular explanation for the existence of all things, and even now all things that were created through him are held together by him. Remember that in verse 16 we read,

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible

To state the very least, that covers everything, everything known and yet unknown, everything discovered and not yet discovered. Christians need not worry that somehow there will be a discovery of something created by anyone other than Christ or even now held together by him. And as Colossians tells us, all things were created through him and ultimately for him.

WHY DOES A NY TIMES ARTICLE ABOUT BABIES LEARNING LANGUAGE IN THE WOMB NOT USE THE WORD “FETUS”?

Next we shift to another scientific report that should be for Christians interesting in every way, but one of the things we need to note is that the most interesting aspect of the story isn’t even reflected in the news reports. Perri Klass, a medical doctor, reports in the New York Times that,

“Language Lessons Start in the Womb”

She writes,

“New research is teasing out more of the profoundly miraculous process of language learning in babies. And it turns out that even more is going on prenatally than previously suspected.”

The study takes a look at international adoptees, that is, “babies who were adopted soon after birth and who grow up hearing a different language than what they heard in the womb”

Klass says,

“Researchers can see how what babies hear before and soon after birth affects how they perceive sounds, giving new meaning to the idea of a ‘birth language.’”

She goes on to explain,

“Experts have known for some time that newborns prefer to listen to voices speaking the language that they’ve been listening to in the womb …. Newborns can recognize the voices they’ve been hearing for the last trimester in the womb, especially the sounds that come from their mothers, and prefer those voices to the voices of strangers. They also prefer other languages with similar rhythms, rather than languages with very different rhythms.”

One of the doctors cited in the research said that

“The thinking used to be that babies didn’t actually learn phonemes — the smallest units of sound that make up words and language, that distinguish one word from another, as in ‘bag’ and ‘tag’ — until the second six months of life. But new research, including the recent adoptee study, is challenging that notion.”

The essay also tells us that the latest research was published just last month,

“In the latest study, published in January in Royal Society Open Science…. The researchers found that people born in Korea and adopted as babies or toddlers by Dutch families were able to learn to make Korean sounds significantly better than the Dutch-speaking controls who had been born into Dutch families.”

Now let’s just stop there for moment. This tells us that the research underlines that babies in the womb, especially in the last trimester, are actually both hearing and learning language, and this is a really interesting study because it’s a study that concerned babies who were adopted, having been born in Korea, in other words they heard Korean in the womb, but now living in the Netherlands. And we’re told that those babies were able to learn both to recognize and to hear and to speak those sounds from the Korean language much faster than babies who were born having heard Dutch in the womb and also being raised in the Netherlands. Dr. Klass continues,

“It was especially interesting that this effect held not only for those who had been adopted after the age of 17 months, when they would have been saying some words, but also for those adopted at under 6 months. In other words, the language heard before birth and in the first months of life had affected both sound perception and sound production, even though the change of language environment happened before the children started making those sounds themselves.”

In terms of insights in this research, it’s very clear that babies benefit by being addressed vocally even as they are in the womb. And furthermore, these researchers say babies are able to advance in language even as they hear the conversation going on around them when they’re in at least that last trimester in the womb. They are learning language even before they are born. One of the doctors put it this way,

Pre-birth Language Development and Life in Space?

Image: Perri Klass, M.D.

“Talk to your baby. Your baby is picking up useful knowledge about language even though they’re not actually learning words.”

Klass goes on to say, “and your baby will like it.”

“It’s something they really love, the social interaction of you talking with them, but they’re still storing up useful knowledge whenever they hear speech.”

So as I said, this is interesting at every level. For one thing it tells us something about how babies learn even in the womb, and it also affirms the fact that the babies who hear language are learning language, both in terms of sounds and even units of language when they are not yet born. This study of adoptees who have been moved from one country and one language group to another verifies the fact that you can tell, it can be measured, that a child was able to learn Korean faster, that is to make the sounds of the Korean language, if that baby had been in Korea listening to that language in the womb, even as the baby would now be along with the other babies in this test being raised by parents in the Netherlands, and of course after birth and after adoption learning to speak Dutch.

From the Christian worldview perspective, this also affirms the centrality of language to human identity. Human beings not only, as we saw before, can’t help asking certain questions, we’re also vocalizing creatures, and our vocalizations and our communication take the form of language. And here again the Bible is very clear, even as we understand the Genesis account of the table of the nations and the tower of Babel. We are told that God actually by his own action distributed human beings according to tribes and families and ethnicities to different parts of the globe, and that every one of these families of humanity developed a language. We’re also told in terms of eschatology that at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb there will be men and women who have been redeemed from every tongue and tribe and people and nation. Remember the word “tongue,” right there in that list. That tells us that God is glorified through receiving praise and worship in the many languages, the almost uncountable languages of humanity. By the time we get to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, we’re talking about those who have been redeemed in Christ from every tongue every tribe, every people every nation.

But finally let’s note what’s missing from this story, as I said in the beginning. What’s missing is the word “fetus.” At no point in this article in the New York Times is this unborn child referred to as merely a fetus, much less as a mass of biological matter. Instead, of course, the article refers to the unborn child as a baby, as well it should. But here we see the divided inconsistent and even hypocritical mind of the modern secularist worldview, and in particular of the modern pro-abortion worldview. When the issue at hand is abortion or anything connected to what the left calls reproductive rights, well, the unborn child, the baby, is simply referred to as the fetus. But when an article like this comes telling us that this unborn child is learning even language in the womb, all of the sudden look what happens. It becomes a baby. The word “fetus” is nowhere in this article, but of course we know that this baby is always a baby, even long before this third trimester when the scientists are now telling us it can be verified that this baby is learning language even in its mother’s womb. There is of course no acknowledged pro-life point in this article, but that’s the point, isn’t it? It’s not acknowledged, but it’s there. It’s there in a very big way. It’s there for all of those who simply have ears to hear, even those, we note, in the womb.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to @albertmohler.For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to boycecollege.com.

(This podcast is by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

 

OUR SUPPORTERS

  • Christian Podcast Directory - Audio and Video Godcasting
  • NCMC Logo12
  • cwd_link
    Over 18,000 wholesome, family friendly, Christian websites.
  • WM-ad-web-v2-489x486
  • RdR Large ad
  • easysite large
  • Talking Bibles Sidebar Ad
  •  Good News, Etc
Print pagePDF pageEmail page

A court found that a Catholic Diocese in Indiana had the right to make staffing decisions according to their religious mission.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Mary Beth Ginalski was hired by the Catholic Diocese of Gary, Indiana to be the Principal for Andrean High School. Her contract specifically noted that the job of Principal of a Catholic High School is a ministry. It went on to explain that such a ministry is witnessed not only in the manner in which the Principal performs his or her tasks, but also in the example the Principal sets for the teachers and students both in and outside the school and parish. Further, the contract noted that the Principal coordinates faith-building opportunities within the school community, oversees the Theology Program, and ensures that the Catholic Faith is integrated with the learning process in coordination with the Campus Chaplain.

Diocese in Indiana had the right to make staffing decisions

Image: John J. Watkins

So, when Ginalski sued the Diocese over her termination, the question became whether the Diocese could choose its ministerial leader and, therefore, be exempt from employment laws that would have otherwise presented a legal burden to the school.

The Court found Ginalski to meet the definition of “minister” and that the Diocese was entitled to use the same ministerial exception that permits churches and other religious organizations to ensure its ministry is non-hindered by those it believes may not fully advance its ministry objectives.

Religious Freedom means that religious ministries should be able to direct their religious mission, which includes staffing decisions, without interference by the State.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

OUR SUPPORTERS

  • Christian Podcast Directory - Audio and Video Godcasting
  • NCMC Logo12
  • cwd_link
    Over 18,000 wholesome, family friendly, Christian websites.
  • WM-ad-web-v2-489x486
  • RdR Large ad
  • easysite large
  • Talking Bibles Sidebar Ad
  •  Good News, Etc
Print pagePDF pageEmail page

I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

FROM PRO-CHOICE SYMBOL TO PRO-LIFE ACTIVIST: NORMA MCCORVEY, ‘ROE’ OF ROE V. WADE, DIES AT 69

Sometimes just a few words can encapsulate an entire revolution. That’s the case in a front-page story that appeared over the weekend in USA Today. Eliza Collins writes,

“Norma McCorvey, the woman behind the 1973 Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion, died Saturday. She was 69 years old.”

Just a few words, but consider the importance of those words. We’re talking about a story that went across major media almost instantaneously on Saturday, as soon as the alert came from a journalist who was with McCorvey, then at an assisted living facility in Katy, Texas, a journalist who is writing a book on Roe v. Wade. But we’re also talking about a newsworthy event that deserved that kind of attention, because we’re talking about one of the most famous names, one of the most well-recognized names of the 20th century. And we are talking about a woman who did not go by that name when her case became the lead and most important case that legalized abortion on demand in the United States. Collins writes,

“McCorvey, who went by the pseudonym Jane Roe, challenged the constitutionality of abortion laws in Texas in 1971. At the time, it was illegal for women to have abortions unless their lives were at risk.”

Collins then summarizes it this way,

“The case made it to the Supreme Court where the justices ruled it was legal to have an abortion because of a woman’s right to privacy protected under the 14th Amendment. The ruling came too late for her to have an abortion and she gave the baby up for adoption.”

As I said, Norma McCorvey became one of the most recognized names in America, but her pseudonym in this case for which she served as plaintiff was an even more famous name, Jane Roe. But, of course, in this case, in the midst of this moral revolution, to be famous on the one hand is to be infamous on the other. We’re talking about a woman whose pseudonym led to the deaths in terms of the Supreme Court decision of over 50 million unborn babies since 1973. She was a young woman, according to press reports, addicted to substances when she became pregnant and then when she sought an abortion in the state of Texas. Unable to have that abortion legally in Texas, she took her case to court. But of course it’s more complicated even than that. What we now know in the history of abortion in America is that pro-abortion forces were basically shopping for a plaintiff. They were looking for a case and in this case, Norma McCorvey happened to be the right person at the right time or as we say the wrong person at the wrong time, because Norma McCorvey came into contact with one of the attorneys in the United States, in this case an attorney in Texas who was looking for a plaintiff in order to find just the right case with just the right particulars that would lead to the Supreme Court and eventually they hoped to the legalization of abortion in all 50 states. And what that meant was striking down laws that would limit or prohibit abortion, such as the laws in Texas before Roe v. Wade.

But USA Today also hints at the larger complications of the story of Norma McCorvey. She became what we must describe as a cog in the pro-abortion machine. That’s a lesson to us all. There are so many figures throughout human history who have basically been used by the movements that made them either famous or infamous. That was certainly the case in the pro-abortion movement. They were looking for a plaintiff, Norma McCorvey became that plaintiff. But she was never a plaintiff who seems to be entirely settled with the morality of abortion. But the story is even more interesting than that.

During the 1990s, Norma McCorvey actually became a Christian. She professed Christ and she also shifted her position on abortion in terms of a complete reversal. She came under the influence of an evangelical ministry that had located next to the abortion clinic where she was working. And as the Christians befriended her, she came to be exposed to the gospel of Christ, and she also had her conscience very much pricked in concern over the question of abortion. For the first time in her life, the reality of the unborn baby in the womb was made clear to her as a human life. In very telling words, Norma McCorvey would later say that her conscience was turned largely by her imagination as she imagined the laughter of all of those babies, including the infants who were never born.

Christian worldview regarding Norma McCorvey, Kim Jung Nam, American Girl

Image: AZ Quotes

Her conscience turned she became a very vocal opponent of abortion, and it was most interesting when in the year 2003 she actually made a legal petition in the federal courts to reverse Roe v. Wade, because her own view on the matter had changed. She was making a constitutional argument, but it didn’t get very far in 2003. But of course, she did live long enough to see the pro-life movement in America gain a great deal of ground and traction. Discussing her turn on the question of abortion, USA Today says,

“Later, McCorvey became an anti-abortion activist and filed a motion in Dallas in 2003 to have the case overturned. She alleged that there was new evidence that abortion hurt women. In 2004, judges at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans dismissed the motion.”

Seen over the course of her 69 years, the story of Norma McCorvey is a story of grace; it’s a story of judgment; it’s also a story of the moral revolution in the United States. And as you might expect, it is a complicated story, as would be the case in any human equation with a woman who had played such an important role in the abortion movement in America and later became such a vocal opponent of legal abortion in the same country, in the same lifetime. The USA Today story also included a statement, a rather awkward statement that was made in light of McCorvey’s death on Saturday by NARAL Pro-Choice America. That’s one of the most vocal and activist pro-abortion movements in the country. The statement said,

“Norma McCorvey lent her story to a court case that changed history and aided women in gaining control of their own destinies. We wish her family peace in this moment of sorrow,”

Just consider that statement for a moment. Watch how carefully it is parsed. They describe Norma McCorvey as having “lent her story to a court case that changed history.” In other words, she was simply a woman who lent her story. She lent her name and that was a decision that Norma McCorvey, not just Jane Roe, regretted for the rest of her life.

But the news of Norma McCorvey’s death at age 69 on Saturday should also prompt evangelical Christians to think very carefully about the history of abortion in America, to consider the fundamental question of how it was that the pro-abortion movement came to be so very successful, reaching its ultimate success in the Roe v. Wade decision in the Supreme Court in 1973. Here we have to keep in mind that if Norma McCorvey had not become Jane Roe, there would’ve been some other woman who would’ve taken the role in terms of Jane Roe, or in the words of the NARAL statement, would have “lent her story” to the effort to legalize abortion in America.

There was a using of Norma McCorvey in this, and if not for her, some other woman would have been used. We’re looking at a movement that was led by the cultural elites in this country, aided and abetted by lawyers and others. There was a political movement, especially from the American left, that saw the legalization of abortion as the prize that they simply must win, and they thought they won it in 1973. But now, looking back over time, we can see that 1973 and the Roe v. Wade decision was simply the beginning of the battle for the sanctity and dignity of human life that continues even today. In the latter years of her life, Norma McCorvey converted from evangelicalism to Roman Catholicism, and she largely dropped from public view. All that changed of course on Saturday when the news of her death in Texas spread throughout the major media. Recall that NARAL Pro-Choice America said that Norma McCorvey had merely lent her story to the effort to secure legalized abortion. For those of us who understand what’s at stake, it’s not enough to say that she lent her story. It’s also important for us to take her story seriously from the beginning all the way to the end.

PEW STUDY SHOWS AMERICANS “WARMING” OVERALL TO RELIGIOUS GROUPS, BUT NEUTRAL TOWARD EVANGELICALS

Next, a very interesting story also got a great deal of media attention over the weekend. The Pew Research Center last week released a study, the headline in the release says this,

“Americans Express Increasingly Warm Feelings Toward Religious Groups.”

The subtitle,

“Jews, Catholics continue to receive warmest ratings, atheists and Muslims move from cool to neutral.”

The Pew Center reports,

“Americans generally express more positive feelings toward various religious groups today than they did just a few years ago. Asked to rate a variety of groups on a ‘feeling thermometer’ ranging from 0 to 100, U.S. adults give nearly all groups warmer ratings than they did in a June 2014 Pew Research Center survey.”

Now let’s just state the obvious here. We’re looking at a measure of public sentiment, and public sentiment is extremely fickle, it’s very volatile. It changes from one day to the other, not to mention over a period from 2014 until today. But there really is something interesting here.

Christian worldview regarding Norma McCorvey, Kim Jung Nam, American Girl

Image: Melissa McNamara

Major media basically distilled this huge research report down to two different headlines. The first was exactly what we saw from the Pew release, Americans feel more warmly towards major religious groups in the United States. The second headline was this, that’s true for every major religious group except one, and that is American evangelicals. People seized on either one of those two headlines.

In terms of the first headline, what’s really important is to see that Americans believe they are to report or at least are to say that they feel very positive towards different religious groups. It’s also interesting that this is an increase even over June 2014. We ask ourselves questions such as this: is there any major change in the way Americans understand world religions in terms of their worldview, or perhaps even understand their neighbors in the neighborhood? The answer to that is since 2014, probably not. But what you see in this kind of study is a reflection not only of what people actually believe, but what they’re supposed to say they believe in terms of their expectation.

But there’s something else here, and that’s that if you look at that first headline, the headline about Americans having warm feelings towards people of other religious groups, many religious groups, that’s very good news. Let’s simply ask a question. Would this be true of any other major nation in the world today? It really does tell us something that the vast majority of Americans believe they are supposed to respond positively when asked about their feelings towards different religious groups and the people who are adherents of those different religious groups. I really can’t imagine this kind of warmth reflected in terms of feelings towards persons of different religions in any other major country, certainly not in secular Europe, where believers of any sort are often held at least in some sort of suspicion and certainly not in the Muslim dominated world where there wouldn’t be this kind of warmth to anyone who isn’t a Muslim. There might be neighborliness, but there isn’t going to be this kind of warmth that is described in this report, and it’s probably true, almost assuredly true, in other major countries including Asian countries as well. Remember, we’re not talking here about only a begrudging respect and we’re not talking about only an affirmation of religious liberty. We’re talking about what’s described as emotional warmth.

In terms of the second headline, I don’t think we should be all that surprised. And, by the way, one of the most interesting aspects of this report is how closely all this tracks the political equation as well. And looking at it honestly, that political equation is likely to be a primary driver, not just a correlated issue. What do I mean by that? Simply this: when it comes to the identification of American evangelicals, there’s a distinction here between, for instance, the identification of American Jews or Roman Catholics. The reason for that is quite simple. It is because there’s a clear political identification often associated with American evangelicals. So if you reject that cultural or political stance in the United States, you’re likely also to have the same kind of evaluation of the religious group in general. But, of course, in these days of contentious politics, there’s almost no way for American evangelicals not to be politically identified, especially when you consider how the political landscape is now dominated by moral issues, not merely issues of economics or the usual preoccupations of the political arena.

It will be interesting to see if the Pew Research Center repeats this research in forthcoming years. Remember, this is just a comparison between 2014 and 2017. That’s not exactly a vast expanse of history. But if they do repeat this research in some year in the future, it’s likely to be that the numbers would be different. The response pattern would also be different, and that’s simply because political opinion crystallizes in a particular moment and so does emotional affection. And when we see this kind of public question, we need to recognize that that’s true not only from year-to-year, but also from week to week. When it comes to measuring public opinion in America, it might come down to having to measure by the hour, not just by the year.

NORTH KOREA’S CULT OF PERSONALITY AND THE MYSTERIOUS ASSASSINATION OF KIM JONG-UN’S HALF BROTHER

But next, a story that seems more out of science fiction than anything else. What novelist could come up with the headlines that came out of Malaysia last week, where it was reported that on Monday, a figure was assassinated, murdered in the airport there in Malaysia. And within hours, it was determined that the victim of this murder was none other than the half-brother of the totalitarian dictator of North Korea. And almost immediately, anyone familiar with this political pattern recognized what that pattern meant. Just about everyone who might pose any kind of threat to that dictator in Pyongyang has disappeared, and generally is known to have died. A team of reporters from the Wall Street Journal put it this way,

“It was over in about 15 seconds. Two women approached Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korea’s dictator, on Monday at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, and one touched his face with a wet cloth.”

There also, we inject here, are reports that some kind of poison needle was inserted within him. The Journal then says,

Christian worldview regarding Norma McCorvey, Kim Jung Nam, American Girl

Image: Arthur Lim

“Airport surveillance video showed one of the alleged killers wearing a shirt that said ‘LOL.’”

Malaysia’s investigation into the murder continued over the weekend with no evidence to implicate the dictator in North Korea, but plenty of signs that there’s a very familiar pattern at work here. What do I mean in terms of that pattern? Well, as the New York Times said,

“Political experts on North Korea’s politics immediately speculated that Kim Jong-un [that’s the dictator] had ordered the assassination of his older half sibling, who at one time had been the heir apparent and had been favored by China, the country’s ally and principal benefactor.”

The Times continued later in the article,

“Since taking power, Mr. Kim has executed more than 140 senior party and military officials deemed a threat to his authority, often ordering them killed by machine guns and even flamethrowers, according to the Institute for National Security Strategy, a research group affiliated with the South’s National Intelligence Service.”

Kim Jong-nam, the man who was killed in the attack in the Malaysian airport last week, was indeed the older of the two half-brothers and at one point he had been expected to be the heir-apparent from his father who, after all, was the son of the original dictator who led the communist revolution in that country and installed one of the most brutal regimes in the history of humanity. But after an embarrassment that came to the elder half-brother, it was the younger half-brother who was appointed to be the successor. Kim Yong Nam went into a form of exile, eventually settling into something of a playboy lifestyle in the Chinese province of Macau. He was nonetheless very worried, and this was evident in terms of statements he had made that he would be assassinated by his half-brother. And that’s one of the reasons why he was probably the least surprised of anyone when the assassination attempt was launched there in the Malaysian airport.

But here we need to understand that behind every system of government, behind every structure in terms of political order, behind every regime, we might say, there is a worldview. And it doesn’t take much investigation to understand the worldview behind North Korea’s totalitarian communist form of government. It is the hero worship of one family that has been effectively deified in terms of the official claims of the North Korean government. And by deified, I mean exactly that. The Kim family is believed to have a divine origin, to fulfill a divine function and to have a divine appointment, including such claims as spectacular births with supernatural attributes.

In North Korea, it’s almost as if you took every bad, tragic, horrifying element of other communist regimes and distilled it down into one, very poor, very oppressed country. Just consider again that report that came in the New York Times that more than 140 senior party and military officials who had been deemed some kind of threat to his authority were executed, some by machine guns, some by flamethrowers, others by anti-aircraft attack weapons. One of those who was executed was charged with a criminal offense of having fallen asleep in one of the interminable speeches of the communist dictator. In this officially atheistic regime there is only one power, only one divine figure, and that is the Kim family and its appointed successor. It’s clear that every other life in that country, including the lives of those who did their very best to flee as far as they could get, mean absolutely nothing.

WHEN A TOY IS MORE THAN A TOY: AMERICAN GIRL’S NEW BOY DOLL AND CAYLA THE SPYING DOLL

But finally we need to be reminded that a toy is sometimes not just a toy. Caity Weaver writing in the New York Times on Sunday tells us,

“On Tuesday, the Mattel subsidiary American Girl unveiled the newest member of its iconic sorority: a blank-eyed boy named Logan.”

Christian worldview regarding Norma McCorvey, Kim Jung Nam, American Girl

Image: Mattel

So you got it right. The American Girl doll line now includes a boy. He’s identified as having gray eyes that open and close and unique hand positioning, whatever that means. One of the questions that is raised by Caity Weaver is why in the world the American Girl series of dolls needs a boy. Now she’s not writing from the perspective of conservative evangelical Christianity. She’s writing from a feminist perspective, and as she sees it this is an invasion. In her words,

“To longtime fans, it feels more like girls are losing something that used to be theirs alone.”

The author also raises some interesting points. It turns out that a boy in the American Girl doll line doesn’t have that interesting of a story. He is basically back up as a musician to a girl doll and the American Girl dolls has gone out of its way as a project to try and create stories, often politically correct stories, for the female dolls. As Weaver writes,

“What could Logan possibly have to talk about with Samantha, an Edwardian orphan who spoke out boldly against child labor practices and had a beautiful cranberry Christmas dress with a lace collar?”

Weaver also points out that this boy doll has a very uninteresting wardrobe. He has a T-shirt, jeans, underwear, and shoes; that’s it. Some immediate consumer response to the release of this boy doll in the American Girls line has been negative, some of it coming from those who somehow believe that this is going to be directed towards boys, that boys will now be consumers of the American Girl dolls because there is a boy doll. But that’s not really so likely. What’s likely is that this doll is actually intended for girls to add to their set.

Once again, you have a consumerist society looking for any opportunity to make the sale. But in the end, there doesn’t appear to be too much excitement about the American Girl dolls coming out with a boy doll. There isn’t that much of a market for Logan.

But while we’re talking about the moral significance of dolls, how about this article that appeared in the New York Times over the weekend?

“Cayla is a blond, bright-eyed doll that chatters about horses and hobbies. She plays games and accurately answers questions about the world at large. She could also be eavesdropping on your child.”

That according to the Times is the stark warning parents in Germany received last Friday from the country’s telecommunications watchdog known as the Federal Network Agency. The agency told German parents that hackers could use the doll to steal personal data by recording private conversations over an insecure Bluetooth connection. Furthermore, the federal agency there in Germany said it was pulling the doll off of store shelves and banning the doll in Germany.

Now this basically is a computer that is disguised as a doll, and it turns out that the doll is storing the voice patterns of the children who play with the doll. And it’s being stored in terms of the company’s interests, not the child’s. As the Times reports,

“The announcement reflects the growing concerns over ‘smart’ products in the home that can get, well, too smart. A string of reports in recent years about hackers targeting and remotely controlling items like baby monitors have sounded the alarm.

“Meanwhile,” says the Times, “numerous experiments by researchers have shown how easy it is to hack into cars, medical devices and even dolls.”

Yes, that’s right, even dolls. Thus, the headline in the New York Times,

“The Bright-Eyed Talking Doll That Just Might Be a Spy.”

A spy who just might be in a bedroom very near to you. But for Christians who understand that worldview is always barely beneath the surface, we shouldn’t be surprised to know that a toy is often not just a toy.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to @albertmohler.For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to boycecollege.com.

(This podcast is by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

OUR SUPPORTERS

  • Christian Podcast Directory - Audio and Video Godcasting
  • NCMC Logo12
  • cwd_link
    Over 18,000 wholesome, family friendly, Christian websites.
  • WM-ad-web-v2-489x486
  • RdR Large ad
  • easysite large
  • Talking Bibles Sidebar Ad
  •  Good News, Etc
Print pagePDF pageEmail page

I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

WHY THE JUDICIAL USURPATION OF POLITICS IS A THREAT TO THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL ORDER

The federal judiciary looms larger over the American political landscape than in any previous moments in American history. Many have actually described this as the judicial usurpation of politics, pointing to the fact that over the last several decades, the federal courts have basically usurped much of the American political process. The courts here can be blamed for an overweening ambition and for an aggressiveness in entering the political process and basically preempting the other two branches of government. Judges in many cases have acted like unelected legislators and supreme arbiters in terms of not only what is constitutional, but increasingly what the judges understand to be right.

But the other two branches of government share in the blame. Congress certainly deserves blame for creating a political vacuum by its tendency to avoid controversial legislation, leaving the way open for the federal courts to enter into the questions. And presidents sometimes deserve blame for tempting the federal courts to enter into the political fray by issuing executive orders or handing down other presidential decisions that seem to open the door for the courts to enter. Arguably, that’s exactly what has happened in recent days with reference to President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugee policy, and then the action taken by the three-judge panel of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals to stay that executive order pending further judicial review.

The dangerous thing we need to note here is that once the courts have entered into adjudicating matters of national security and foreign policy, it may be difficult for the executive branch to recapture its rightful constitutional authority in these areas. Over the last several days we’ve had the opportunity to look at the actual text of the decision handed down by these three judges, and it represents some real challenges in terms of our constitutional separation of powers. Even as the panel did not adjudicate formally upon the President’s policy, it did reject the White House’s authority to act in matters of national security and foreign policy without preemptive judicial review; about this the three-judge panel was very adamant. And in this that panel set a precedent that might be quite dangerous for the nation and in that danger the President now shares some responsibility.

For this reason we can understand the wisdom behind the announcement that came from the White House on Friday, indicating that the President and his administration are now considering withdrawing the executive order and issuing an entirely new executive order in a set of presidential directives that are likely to accomplish the very same goals without many of the complications, constitutionally speaking, that set the entire judicial process into motion. The editors of the Journal got it exactly right when they wrote that,

“The Ninth Circuit decision jeopardizes core executive powers over national security. Unelected judges are inviting themselves to serve as policy makers who supervise foreign affairs, and where that impulse stops nobody knows.”

Indeed, nobody does know, but there are already ominous signs elsewhere. Where federal judges have intruded into the political process, they rarely later retreat, and it would be particularly ominous, given our constitutional system of government, if the judges set themselves up as the arbiters of American foreign policy and the determinators of policy concerning our national security.

Furthermore, there is one other very dangerous precedent set in this decision handed down by the three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit. That is this: the judges confuse the issue of standing. Standing is the legal term that explains how someone has the appropriate status to bring an action against another, in this case against the United States federal government, in particular against the President of the United States. And the decision that was handed down by this three-judge panel basically extends standing far beyond even American citizens and those who are already involved in the immigration and refugee policy.

In this light we can hope that the Trump administration, the President of the United States himself, will issue a new executive order that is likely to clarify the policies and to avoid some of the issues that led to the litigation. And that means that effectively removing the previous executive order would nullify or make at least of no meaning the decision handed down by this three-judge panel. That will be a good thing for all, even without regard to the specifics of the Trump administration’s executive order. It’s not the policy in this case that is so much in question, but the process.

NEIL GORSUCH REFUSES TO GET POLITICAL IN CATCH-22 Q&A SESSION WITH SENATOR SCHUMER

And next, in this light we need to understand that those who have been trying to move America in a far more liberal direction—they might call themselves liberal progressivists—have been looking to the federal courts for more than a half-century now as the means of their rescue. What they could not accomplish in terms of legislation, they have sought to accomplish in the courts. That, once again, is that judicial usurpation of politics. Those who are the moral liberals in this country have found willing allies largely in the federal judiciary. Two glaring examples of that would be 1973 in the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. There was no political chance whatsoever that the United States Congress was going to approve legislation that would have accomplished what the Roe v. Wade decision did. The federal courts did what Congress would not do. Similarly, in 2015 the Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage followed the same pattern. There is no way that a measure legalizing same-sex marriage could’ve made its way through the elected houses of Congress and then been signed into law by the President of the United States, and so those who were pressing for the legalization of same-sex marriage went elsewhere. In particular, they went to the federal courts where of course they won.

So we notice a pattern whereby this massive moral change is not only aided and abetted, but outright facilitated by the intrusion of the federal courts into so many of these questions. And that explains why the composition of those courts, why nominations as judges to those courts, receive so much attention and why paramount attention is directed to the United States Supreme Court and in particular to President Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill this position that has been vacated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

And in this light, an extremely important article appeared yesterday in the New York Times, important not only for what it says, but for who said it. In this case, the writer of the article is none other than the Democratic leader in the United States Senate, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat from New York. The title of his article,

“We Won’t Be Fooled Again.”

Now let’s be clear about what Senator Schumer argues in this article. He argues that it is entirely appropriate, given the current moment, for members of the United States Senate to ask specific questions of a nominee to the United States Supreme Court, and if they do not get the acceptable answers that they desire or demand, they have every right to simply vote against the nominee.

Now in this light we need to go back to the middle decades of the 20th century when the United States Senate began to institutionalize holding hearings, especially through the judiciary committee, and grilling nominees to the United States Supreme Court. But those grillings were very, very rare. And the precedent was set by many of those nominees to refuse to answer any questions about any matter that might at any time in the future appear before the Supreme Court.

Judge Neil Gorsuch, Senator Shumer, Global Demographics and Christian Worldview

Image: Susan Walsh

The principle here is not only the separation of powers, but judicial neutrality. That is, the judges should not be appointed to the court depending upon how they will promise or indicate they might rule at some point in the future. And of course this leads to a ransacking of what judges have decided in the past, and the nomination of Judge Gorsuch is exactly an example right now of what both sides are doing in terms of his judicial record. But the really ominous thing that is included in Senator Schumer’s article is the outright declaration that some new set of rules now must pertain and Senator Schumer directly ties this to the presidency of Donald Trump. Senator Schumer wrote,

“The bar is always high to achieve a seat on the Supreme Court, but in these unusual times — when there is unprecedented stress on our system of checks and balances — the bar is even higher for Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to demonstrate independence. In order to clear it, he will have to convince 60 of my colleagues that he will not be influenced by politics, parties or the president. The judiciary is the last and most important check on an overreaching president with little respect for the rule of law.”

Now at this point what we see in this article says more about Senator Schumer than either about President Trump or about his judicial nominee to the United States Supreme Court. In those particular words I just read from Senator Schumer, he is basically announcing that we are under a new set of political conditions. That means that the old models whereby we understood any pretense of judicial neutrality are now to be dispensed with. In his article, Senator Schumer actually sets up an impossible and, for that matter, unsustainable test. He writes, and I quote,

“Without any hints about his philosophy or examples of how he might have ruled on landmark cases, the only way that Judge Gorsuch was able to demonstrate his independence as a jurist was by asserting it himself. He could give no evidence of it in his record, and therefore I could have no assurance of it in the future.”

So what’s the impossible test here? What’s implausible? It is Senator Schumer’s insistence that somehow a nominee to the United States Supreme Court has to prove his judicial independence. What’s impossible about that? It’s basically proving a negative. There is no way to prove one’s independence that would meet the standard of Senator Schumer and in all likelihood the majority, if not the entirety, of his Democratic colleagues in the United States Senate. What these Democratic Senators are looking for is the assurance that somehow Judge Gorsuch, once he is a Justice on the United States Supreme Court, can be predicted to rule against President Trump in a matter that might in the future—no one knows what that matter might be—come before the United States Supreme Court. The background to this is also established in Senator Schumer’s article when he wrote,

“When I met with Judge Gorsuch on Feb. 7, I sought to ascertain his potential to be an independent check on the president. The judge was clearly very smart, articulate and polite, with superb judicial demeanor. But over the course of an hour, he refused to answer even the most rudimentary questions.

“I asked him whether an unambiguous Muslim ban would be constitutional. He refused to answer. I asked him if he agreed with conservative lawyers who say the president has abused executive power. He refused to answer. I asked him whether he thought the president’s comments on voter fraud would undermine our democracy. He refused to answer.”

Now let’s just note at this point that’s what any nominee to the Supreme Court would be expected to do, to refuse to answer on questions that are almost assuredly, eventually to come before the United States Supreme Court. Let’s just turn the matter on its head, what would it mean if a nominee to the Court actually did answer questions like this? This is really a staged political argument, setting up those who oppose Judge Gorsuch’s nomination to claim that they’re doing so because he lacks any record of sufficient judicial independence. But what they really want is an assurance on the front end that any nominee to the United States Supreme Court would be in effect a judicial adversary to the President of the United States.

Now there’s something else to note here, and that is that Senator Schumer and many others are claiming that we are now in an entirely different political set of circumstances, even constitutionally defined, than the United States has ever experienced before. We just simply need to note there is absolutely no evidence of that whatsoever. Our national conversation is certainly different, as was the political context that included the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. We are certainly in a very different political season, but how exactly at this point that represents some kind of urgent constitutional crisis, that’s not at all clear.

We might wish that President Trump would be a bit more measured in his comments about the federal judiciary, but let’s simply point out those federal judges serve a lifetime term. They are under no threat of active influence or threat from the President of the United States. On the other hand, the independence of the judiciary is undermined by the kind of arguments that are made in yesterday’s edition of the New York Times by the Democratic leader of the United States Senate.

But there’s a bit of candor that should be also brought to the forefront here. Given the fact that so much is now at stake in the federal courts taking on so much responsibility for so much of America’s political life, including some of our most urgent current moral questions, there is no doubt that both sides in our political and moral controversies understand that it will matter greatly who sits on the United States Supreme Court, and that points out why under the current circumstances, all the old rules appear to be now thrown out. But no one should argue that this is good or healthy for American democracy.

HOW WORLDVIEW IMPACTS DEMOGRAPHICS AND DEMOGRAPHICS REVEAL WORLDVIEW

Next we need to look at the intersection of worldview and demographics, because at this intersection, the traffic profoundly flows both ways. Worldviews impact demography, but demography also has an impact upon worldviews. Evidence of this comes in the current edition ofForeign Policy magazine in an article entitled,

“Here’s looking at you, 2050.”

The article is by demographer Paul Taylor, and he explains how a less Christian Europe, an aging population in the West, and the empowerment of women are going to shape the future. He points to several trends that are demonstrated in terms of population statistics. He writes,

“The 21st century is still just a teenager, but we can already forecast with a fair degree of confidence what its demographic profile will look like by 2050.

“Population growth will have slowed down. Global aging will have risen to unprecedented levels. Birthrates will drop. The working-age share of the world’s population will shrink. Poverty will ameliorate in poor countries; income inequality will worsen in wealthy ones. And for the first time ever, Islam will challenge Christianity as the world’s largest religion.”

He also points out that,

“What’s notable about these disparate trends is how much they are interrelated. They’re driven not just by the traditional demographic triad of births-deaths-and-migration, but by myriad powerful new forces that define modernity — from the empowerment of women, to improvements in health care, to the information and technology revolutions, to the concurrent rise of secularization and religious fundamentalism.”

Now here we need to note something. An interesting code word was asserted within this particular paragraph. That code term comes down to “the empowerment of women.” What exactly does that mean? That becomes shorthand for several things that include the redefinition of the family and human reproduction, the entry of so many women into the workforce, and also the dropping of the birth rate, especially by means of technology such as the development of the pill and also by the failure of our current society to expect a fairly high birth rate. That is, the bearing of children is now a far more marginal concern on the part of this society than it was in the past.

Taylor also points out that there are different patterns related to different parts of the globe. Africa will have a growing population still driven by a very high relative birth rate, while in Europe and in nations like Japan, it is plummeting. Just consider this statistic in terms of one century by projection. In 1950, there were nearly twice as many Europeans as there were Africans. But in the year 2050, it is expected that there will be 3.5 times as many Africans as Europeans. That’s pointing to a very different pattern related also to very different worldviews in terms of those two different continents. Taylor writes that,

“The staggering reversal of population fortunes is largely the result of the huge continental differences in birthrates — 1.6 children per woman in Europe today versus 4.7 children per woman in Africa.

“By midcentury, however,” he writes, “those rates are expected to increase in Europe and decrease in Africa, as both continents converge toward the projected global rate of roughly 2.25 down from 5 in 1950 and 2.5 in 2015.”

Here there is something else that is also very, very important from a worldview perspective. As nations have become more wealthy, their birthrates go down. The more money people have, even as they could now afford more children, the cost of raising those children is offset by other lifestyle goals, and this means that in those countries that become more wealthy, the birth rate goes down. Meanwhile in poor nations, the birthrate continues to be high and in some nations actually growing higher. But we also need to note that as those nations that grew wealthy also had a decreasing birthrate, that decreasing birthrate is going to threaten the economic vitality. There won’t be enough people working and there won’t be enough people paying into social security systems to fund the aging population. So as the societies became more wealthy, their birth rate dropped, but the dropping birthrate also means that the societies are going to find it very difficult to remain as wealthy.

Good news in this demographic data is that so many around the world, particularly in the developing world, have been escaping extreme poverty. According to the World Bank,

“1 billion people have climbed out of extreme poverty since 2000, the vast majority of them in poor countries.”

But here from a biblical worldview, we find further issues of deep concern. Taylor writes that,

“Economics isn’t the only human realm in the throes of demographic change. The world’s religious profile is also undergoing a major shift, driven mostly by differences in fertility rates and age structures around the globe, as well as by faith-switching.

Islam is the fastest-growing major religion in the world.”

According to projections he attributes to the Pew Research Center, by the year 2050 the number of Muslims will just about be equal or at parity with the number of Christians in the world; both at about 2.8 or 2.9 billion.

“If current trends continue,” he says, “Islam will surpass Christianity as the world’s largest religion around 2070.”

A part of this once again is birthrate.

“Muslim women have the highest fertility rate of any major religion.”

That’s at 3.1 per woman in the Muslim world. In terms of the secularization of some of the older European nations, for the first time the Christian populations in France and Britain are expected to drop below half by midcentury.

“The growth of Christianity is expected to slow in part due to followers leaving the faith, a phenomenon most prevalent in developed countries like the United States (where the Christian population is projected to decline from more than three-quarters in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050). In comparison, throughout Europe, the Muslim population is expected to rise slightly. These projections are dependent on migration patterns that could be affected by geopolitical developments.”

In other words, these trends might not happen exactly as they are here forecast, but there’s every reason to believe that the birth rate differential is going to continue. And we also note that the secularization of these European countries and also North America, in particular the United States, continues. And you’ll notice that one of the reasons why it is suggested that there will be a loss of the Christian population in the United States is because so many will be switching away from Christianity to something else—and we need to note that “something else” is generally nothing at all. And there’s no real surprise to those of us who have been following this data. We’ve been watching the evaporation of cultural Christianity of so-called nominal Christianity in just one generation. The process of secularization that took decades to take place in many European countries is happening here in the United States at something like warp speed.

This is where we need to bring in theology to check demography, because there actually is no indication whatsoever that there will be fewer believing Christians, that is actively engaged disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the United States of America in the year 2050. What it does tell us is that there will be fewer people who say they are Christian or might even by some cultural definition believe themselves to be Christian. We see how worldview determines demography and population just by looking at the fact that what one believes about sex and marriage and reproduction and the purpose of life, what one believes about babies has everything to do with whether or not a nation has a high or a low birth rate.

For American Christians in the year 2017, these figures probably more than anything else point to our concern, our rightful concern, for the world and for the culture that will be inherited by our children and especially by our grandchildren. And of course the Christian church had better pay close attention to these figures because they describe not only the future of our national and international demography, but the future of our mission field.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to @albertmohler.For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to boycecollege.com.

(This podcast is by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

OUR SUPPORTERS

  • Christian Podcast Directory - Audio and Video Godcasting
  • NCMC Logo12
  • cwd_link
    Over 18,000 wholesome, family friendly, Christian websites.
  • WM-ad-web-v2-489x486
  • RdR Large ad
  • easysite large
  • Talking Bibles Sidebar Ad
  •  Good News, Etc