The Briefing 04-15-14

The Briefing 04-15-14

The Briefing


 April 15, 2014

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


It’s Tuesday, April 15, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.


We still live in a world that is horribly distorted by hate, and sometimes that hatred leads to horrible violence. That took place on Sunday afternoon in Overland Park, Kansas, when a man entered a Jewish assisted-living facility and a Jewish community center and opened fire, eventually killing three people. In a remarkable understatement, the police chief of Overland Park, Kansas, John Douglass, said, “We are investigating this as a hate crime.” Why is that an understatement? Well, as The New York Times reports, the man who was arrested, Frazier Glenn Miller, a 73-year-old there in Missouri, also known as F. Glenn Miller, he is identified as the founder and grand dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. As much as we would like to think that the Ku Klux Klan and other organized hate groups are a part of the American past rather than the American present, an event like this erupts into our national consciousness and reminds us that living near to us, even perhaps next door to us, are people who are driven by a hatred that we can’t see until becomes fully evident. But in the case of a man who was known as the founder and grand dragon of a unit of the Ku Klux Klan, we’re looking at someone for whom it is virtually impossible to believe that this was not a hate crime; a crime that was instigated and intended in order to kill people and do harm to those who were defined by their religious beliefs—in this case their Jewish beliefs. The long time anti-Semitism of the Ku Klux Klan is well documented, but in a remarkable twist that points to the twisted rationality of a hate crime, the reality is that at least two of the three people who were killed on Sunday were not even Jewish; they were identified as being members of a Christian family.


One of the things that troubles us in this is the reality that there is a murderousness that is hidden in the human heart that we cannot see until it erupts, and that was certainly the case there in Overland Park, Kansas. Even as this man was known to law enforcement authorities as the founder and grand dragon of a unit the Ku Klux Klan, he was evidently not considered sufficiently dangerous that someone was watching him. Even as he was living in the community and had the freedom to negotiate that community, he eventually used that freedom in order to go to this Jewish community center and this Jewish assisted-living facility in order to do murderous harm. And as those three deaths indicate in Overland Park, Kansas, he did murderous harm.


The horrible reality for all of us is that we cannot read the human heart, even human hearts of those who are around us. The reality is that even our own hearts are, at least to some degree, a mystery to us, but when we see this kind of evidence of our inability to read human intentions, we recognize just how dangerous it is to live amongst fellow human beings. That’s just a part of the reality of our earthly existence. We live in a community in which there are people who are capable of doing horrible things. We should be very thankful that God has put limitations and He has put constraints upon human evil such that more of these murderous attacks and similar kinds of crimes do not happen. But the reality is that there are some persons who reach some kind of breaking point in which the evil in them comes out with an intentionality that leads to an eventuality, to a reality like the murderous attacks that took place in Overland Park, Kansas.


And, yet, we also realize the fact that today represents the one-year anniversary of the murderous attacks by the Tsarnaev brothers at the Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts. You’ll recall that it was one year ago today that three people were killed, including one young child, and over 250 were injured when those two brothers—and we have to use the word alleged, given our legal context—when these two brothers are alleged to have placed canisters, including pressure cookers that were filled with murderous objects, and then explosives with the bombs then detonating and doing horrible damage. Many of those amongst the 250 who were injured have endured horrifying lower body injuries that have led to multiple amputations. The city of Boston is now a magnet for the kind of rehabilitative medicine that is necessary after the kind of attacks that have generally been limited to theaters of war.


On the one-year anniversary of the attacks at the Boston Marathon, Tamara Audi has written a report for The Wall Street Journal indicating that American mosques, including the mosque there in the Boston area where the Tsarnaev brothers frequented, that these mosques are trying to do their best to preach an anti-extremism message and also to recognize people who might be on the breaking point of this kind of violence. Tamara Audi’s article is very interesting because, as she relates:


In the months before the Boston Marathon attack, the elder Tsarnaev brother, Tamerlan, began to embrace radical Islam. He occasionally attended a Boston-area mosque, where worshipers remembered two outbursts.


On one occasion, during Friday prayers around Thanksgiving 2012, Mr. Tsarnaev challenged a speaker who told members that American holidays such as Thanksgiving and July 4 could be celebrated just as the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.


In January 2013, months before the bombing, he shouted at a speaker who compared Martin Luther King Jr. to Muhammad, calling him a “hypocrite.”


Afterward, mosque leaders gave him an ultimatum, saying that if he ever interrupted Friday service again he would be expelled.



And, yet, they did not understand that he was on the brink of a horrifying and murderous violence. Well, perhaps, none of us could have recognized the violence that was about to break out in Overland Park, Kansas, and in Boston, Massachusetts, in these incidents one year separated in time, but this much is clear: there was abundant evidence to know that the Tsarvaev brothers were becoming very active in extremist circles, and there was plenty of evidence that this man in Kansas City had actually already been identified as someone who was motivated by a deep and abiding anti-Semitism down to the fact that he was the founder and grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. In other words, sometimes when we say we didn’t know, the evidence comes back to us that perhaps we should have known, and that relates to the fact that sometimes we have to acknowledge we are simply incompetent to read those around us, even when they announce their hatred without announcing their intention.


Shifting the scene to Great Britain, it has just been two weeks since Britain has had legal same-sex marriage and you’ll recall that the legislation there adopted by Parliament specifically ordered that the Church of England may not perform same-sex ceremonies on the evening before the Saturday morning reality of legal same-sex marriage in Great Britain. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said that his church would then cease all public efforts to dissuade Parliament in terms of the legalization of same-sex marriage. But the issue of same-sex marriage is now threatening to split the Church of England into two or, at least, to split apart, and, furthermore, it has become the most explosive issue in the worldwide Anglican Communion. It was action taken by the American church, that is, the Episcopal Church US, that first started the conflagration of this controversy. That was back over a decade ago when the Episcopal Church moved to ordain an openly gay man as a bishop of the church. Later, you had a pushback from the Global South and now you have the Church of England moving towards an open debate on the issue of same-sex marriage and the larger issue of homosexuality. And something happened just in the last couple days that is going to make that an even more explosive debate. As The Telegraph, a major British newspaper reports, a priest has become the first in Britain to defy the Church of England’s ban on gay clergy marrying, and he’s not only a priest, he is a canon of the church. A canon is a priest who has had a leadership responsibility in one of the nation’s cathedrals. Those who are pressing for the Church of England to adopt a positive policy related to same-sex marriage have predicted that this priest will be the first of many gay clergy to marry. Just in recent days, a bishop of the church has declared that many of his episcopal colleagues, that is, many of his fellow bishops, are themselves gay and living in openly gay relationships with same-sex partners. He has called on them to come out of the closet, so to speak, and to get married in defiance of the church’s ban.


In another very interesting article in the telegraph, Damian Thompson was reporting that what is now going to happen is likely not only a fissure in the church, but an outright rebellion. In the article, Damian Thompson suggests that this first gay marriage of a clergyman in the Church of England is going to be followed by many more, and then, he says, once several defy their bishop and get married, the Diocese of London faces a public relations as well as a legal nightmare. Furthermore, he points to a certain inconsistency in the Church of England. He says, “This is a church, after all, that enjoins celibacy on gay priests, but not gay laity; a compromise that I can’t see surviving for much longer.”


Even though I differ profoundly with Damian Thompson about what should happen, I think I’m in agreement with them about what will happen, and that is the church will find it impossible not to ordain to gay priests, and at least part of that is because of their inconsistency in allowing for openly gay laity within the Church of England. But that’s the kind of compromise the Church of England is known for and, of course, the Church of England goes all the way back to the reign of Henry VIII, who established the church, at least in part, in order that he could get his divorce in order to marry his second wife. In other words, the Anglican Communion has been stuck in a certain form of compromise for its entire existence. And in terms of inconsistencies, consider this sentence in Damian Thompson’s essay, “To be clear, it is now perfectly legal for Church of England clergy to marry their gay partners. It’s only illegal for the established church to stage any same-sex wedding services itself.” That is the kind of a compromise that simply can’t stand any rational investigation. It’s a compromise that isn’t established upon any rational moral principle. It’s the kind of compromise that points to what happens when you abandon truth and make everything merely a matter of process and procedure and a secular analysis of equity. That’s exactly what’s going on in England, and that’s exactly where the Church in England finds itself now headed.


And that leads us back to an article that appeared last Friday in The New York Times. The headline in the article by Ben Fenwick and Michael Paulson is this: “Anglican Leader, Under Fire for Remarks, Urges Caution on Same-Sex Marriage.” A very revealing article indeed. As they write:


The archbishop of Canterbury, under fire for appearing to link expanded gay rights in the United States to violence against Christians in Africa, said on Thursday that he is advocating for a slow and deliberative response to same-sex marriage, mindful of the global implications.


The archbishop had appeared the week before in a radio interview in which he responded to a question about why the church did not allow its clergy members to perform same-sex marriages in England, even as the nation has made those marriages legal. He said:


I have stood by gravesides in Africa of a group of Christians who had been attacked because of something that had happened in America. We have to listen to that.”


In other words, the archbishop seemed to say that the reason the Church of England wasn’t moving towards the approval of same-sex marriage was because it could lead to violence against Christians in Africa. That is not an insane or illogical proposition, at least in terms of the likely result in Africa, but as he was challenged on it, the Anglican leader backtracked a bit—that’s why The New York Times ran this article—and he said:


I think we need to be aware of the realities on the ground, in our own countries and around the world, and to take those into account when we’re moving forward


It’s very interesting, by the way, that the Archbishop used those words “moving forward.” In other words, he seems to abandon any moral case against same-sex marriage by suggesting that the moral direction forward is toward the legalization of same-sex marriage. He also said this: “It doesn’t mean you necessarily do something other than you feel is the right thing to do, but you’re aware of the need perhaps to do it in a different way.” That is the language of absolute moral and biblical and theological equivocation. That is the word of someone who is not going to stand on principle, but is saying that if you’re determined you’re going to defy the law of the church, if you’re going to defy the authority of Scripture, if you’re going to defy the tradition and teaching of the church, then at least be careful how you do it. As if understanding the weakness of the archbishop’s statements, even from a secular worldview, The New York Times commented:


Archbishop Welby has been struggling to balance competing attitudes toward homosexuality in the worldwide Anglican Communion of which he is the spiritual leader.


Well this isn’t an example of stellar spiritual leadership; certainly not if that leadership is defined in terms of simply holding the Anglican Communion together. And that is an impossible task because you have the Global South that is going to stand firm on a biblical understanding of human sexuality and you have the churches of the North, including his own church now engaged in this debate and the American Episcopal Church already completely capitulating to the normalization of homosexuality, those are two positions that cannot be maintained within any sane or responsible church body.


At the conclusion of the article in The New York Times, we read that Archbishop Welby has said that “the Church of England has begun a two-year process of talking about same-sex marriage.” Well when you start a two-year process to talk about something, that means you’re not closing the door on anything on the basis of biblical authority. And in case your instincts are that this is going to lead to the normalization of homosexuality, you can be assured that the archbishop’s words that followed are going to give you ample evidence. He said:


We are not going simply to jump to a conclusion. We have to make sure that we hear the voice of the L.G.B.T. communities, which themselves in many parts of the world, including our own countries, suffer a great deal, and we also need to hear very carefully the voices of other members of the church, of other faiths, of ecumenical partners, so that it is a genuine process of listening, and in listening to each other, to listen to the voice of God.


What’s missing from that? The very fact that the Christian churches has stood for 2,000 years on the fact that we don’t have to wait for God to speak on this issue; that He has spoken; that He spoken clearly in Scripture; and that the church has had no problem through two millennia of understanding exactly what God has said in Scripture. If you’re inviting these other voices into the room, you’re inviting these other voices to cloud, to confuse, and eventually to cloak what God has said in Scripture. That’s exactly where this process will lead and you can count on it.


Meanwhile, just in case you need this rather painful reminder, today is Tax Day in the United States; the day when individual tax returns are due to the Internal Revenue Service. Laura Sanders, writing for The Wall Street Journal, asked the question, “Where do your tax dollars go?” And it’s a very interesting analysis; something that I think would shock most American citizens. For instance, if you take $100 of your tax bill and you asked the question, “Where has that $100 gone or where will it go?” Well here’s the analysis. Of that $100 paid in 2013 taxes, $23.68 will go to the Pentagon, that is, to defense and military benefits. That’s almost $25 out of your $100. Then $23.39 will go to Social Security. So you put together the Pentagon and Social Security, that’s almost $50 of your $100 paid in taxes. And then comes healthcare at $22.23. Again, over $20 of your $100 tax bill is given to healthcare. And that’s just in 2013; that number is certain to go up in years to come. So if you add those three things together, in terms of your $100 paid in taxes, you paid $100, but you paid $23.68 to the Pentagon, you paid $23.39 to Social Security, you paid $22.23 to healthcare—that’s $69.30. So of your $100, you paid $69.30 just to cover those three issues. And, by the way, we’re not paying for them; that’s just paying the current expenses. We’re not paying the real expenses of Social Security or of healthcare. But then where’s the rest of it going? Six dollars and forty-one cents to national interest; $4.02 to veterans benefits; $2.65 to transportation; $2.65 to civilian federal retirement; $2.43 to refundable tax credits; $2.39 to food stamps; $2 to unemployment insurance; $1.53 to supplemental security income; $1.35 to housing assistance; $1.32 to education; $.97 to foreign aid; $.85 to agriculture; and $2.13 to just about everything else. I think most Americans might perhaps be most surprised to know of that $100 paid in taxes that only $.97 goes to foreign aid. But on the other side of the equation, they would almost certainly be surprised to know that almost $70 of their $100 paid in taxes goes entirely to the defense and military benefits, Social Security, and healthcare.


What should Christians think of this? Well one thing we should certainly think is that government has the right to tax us, at least in terms of necessary services. Jesus made this very clear when He was asked a question about taxes, and He made a very profound point when He said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and under God what is God’s.” That isn’t really a lesson about taxation as much as it is about the distinction between the claims of God and the claims of Caesar. Jesus says if Caesar has put his image on the coin, if he wants it so badly, let him have it, but the point is that God has put His stamp on us. He has made us in His image, and Caesar has no right to our soul. Only God has the right to demand that. But Jesus did validate the fact that there is a responsibility to pay taxes, but that does not mean that any level of taxation is rational or right. And that’s where Christians need to enter into the discussion about whether or not we have a sane, responsible, just, and righteous system of taxation.


And, as giving evidence to the reality that question, The New York Times ran a very important article asking the question: Just what is the tax bite, in terms of the nation’s financial system? And that was ranked with other nations of the world. For instance, the total tax wedge in 2013 was the highest in the nation of Belgium, where 55.8% of all personal income is taxed. That’s right; over half—55.8%. In Germany, it’s almost 50%; that’s 49.3%. You go down to Sweden: 42.9%. Slovenia: 42.3%. Greece: 41.5%. And then you jump all the way down to the United States at 31.3%. Then you go down to Chile at 7.0% or New Zealand at 16.9%. What’s really interesting is that all of these various tax schemes reveal deep worldview considerations: considerations about the role of government, considerations about the moral dynamic of an economy, considerations about just how much should be redistributed from one citizen to others. It’s a very interesting set of questions and more than anyone can consider in one simple understanding. It is also more than the United States government is evidently willing to take on because at this point, our national government is merely saying we need more. And most of you don’t need any reminder of that on April 15th of any given year.


On this April the 15th, one sad realization is that there is little room or ground in our current national debate for a responsible, sane discussion about taxation. That’s a hard pill to swallow, especially on April 15th, but that’s reality. And as we know, reality is a very hard thing to escape. Well, I won’t tell you, “Happy Tax Day,” but I will thank you for listening to The Briefing.


Remember Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Remember to call with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. For more information, go to my website at where you will find a very important article I posted yesterday entitled “It’s Back—‘The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ and the State of Modern Scholarship.” I discussed this issue on last Friday’s edition of The Briefing. You’ll find a full analysis at my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1) Jewish Center Murders and Boston Bombing anniversary remind of the evil in human hearts

Man with history of anti-Semitism jailed in fatal shooting of three at Johnson County Jewish centers, Kansas City Star (LAURA BAUER, DAVE HELLING and BRIAN BURNES)

Man Kills 3 at Jewish Centers in Kansas City Suburb, New York Times (Emma G. Fitzsimmons)

Mosques Given New Message, Wall Street Journal (Tamara Audi)

2) Anglican inconsistencies and compromise on same-sex marriage cannot stand

Gay Anglican priest marries his boyfriend.  He’ll be the first of many, The Telegraph (Damian Thompson)

Church of England faces ‘crisis’ as gay priest weds, The Telegraph (Eward Malnick)

Gay Priest Marries in Church of England, The American Conservative (Rod Dreher)

Anglican Leader, Under Fire for Remarks, Urges Caution on Same-Sex Marriage, New York Times (BEN FENWICK and MICHAEL PAULSON)

3) Where do your tax dollars go? You may be surprised.

As Tax Day Nears, Where Does Your Money Go?, Wall Street Journal (Laura Sanders)

Taxes Creep Higher, New York Times

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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