The Briefing 05-20-14

The Briefing 05-20-14

The Briefing


 May 20, 2014

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


It’s Tuesday, May 20, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.


The Bible tells us that Christians are to pray for peace; we are to strive for peace. We’re also the followers of the Prince of peace. But we’re also told that the Bible brings strong condemnation against those who cry, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. The Bible tells us that peace is not a natural state in this fallen world; that East of Eden peace is a very rare and temporary accomplishment. And furthermore, even what we call peace is not actually peace. We’re simply talking about something like a cease-fire or we’re talking about the withdrawal reduction of hostility. The peace that we long for is a peace that only God can accomplish; a peace that will be found only within His kingdom; a peace that would’ve existed in Eden, but a peace that we destroyed and denied.


This comes constantly to mind when we consider such things as the fact that The New York Times is reporting that Japan—the nation that renounced war in the aftermath of the Second World War—that Japan is beginning to reconsider just how un-warlike it can be. As Martin Fackler reports, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may be about to take one of his biggest steps yet to nudge Japan away from its postwar pacifism after a government advisory panel recommended last week that constitutional restrictions on the military be eased to allow Japanese forces to come to the aid of allied nations under attack. Japan bore the humiliation of the atrocities of World War II and of causing World War II in the Pacific, launching a surprise attack upon the United States and its allies on December 7, 1941. Japan was totally humiliated at the end of the Second World War and it recognized that at least a part of the cause of its military involvement was the fact that there was a fusion of militarism and nationalism and a form of national religion that came together in a very toxic mix. In response to that, Japan’s constitution—its postwar constitution, one of the marvels of the modern world—a constitution that was largely developed under the leadership of General Douglas MacArthur when he was effectively the Viceroy of Japan—that constitution forbids Japan to enter into war. It renounces war and military involvement entirely.


Now there have been some adjustments to that over the last half-century and more. For instance, Japan has centered in the fact that there has to be some level of self-defense, and thus Japan now has self-defense forces. But Japan has largely lived under the nuclear umbrella and the defense protection of the United States of America and its allies in the Pacific, but with the Pacific world is changing, and with the fallenness of this world becoming increasingly apparent with the rise of a militaristic China, Japan is having to rethink that constitutional understanding.


The big debate right now in Japan is not whether or not it’s going to have to be more aggressive in terms of its self-defense, now extending that self-defense not just to the island nation, but to its allies. The big question there is not the whether but how; whether this will require a rewriting of the constitution or merely a reinterpretation of the constitution. But any way this ends up in Japan, it is ample evidence of the fact that we live in a more dangerous world than we might like to expect, a more dangerous world than the postwar constitution of Japan contemplated, and yet the very actual world that Japan is now experiencing.


Now keep that in mind when you consider yesterday’s headline in The New York Times: “US Charges Chinese Army Personnel with Cyberspying.” As Michael Schmidt reports, the Department of Justice said yesterday it had charged five Chinese individuals in the People’s Liberation Army in connection with stealing trade secrets from some of the largest American companies, including Westinghouse, United States Steel, and Alcoa. This is an indication that what had once been relegated to the field of espionage is now entering into average, ordinary, everyday military operations. According to the report, Schmitt writes—that report was released by the American security firm Mandia—the attacks are coming from Chinese hacking groups known to many of their victims in the United States as Comet Crew or Shanghai Group. They were based in a People’s Liberation Army building.


But even as you think about what it means to live in a dangerous world, a dangerous world in which American corporations are being hacked and their military secrets stolen by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, consider the fact that right now there is a huge morality play being played out in Europe where France is now prepared to sell two advanced ships to Russia, even as Russia is almost surely going to use those ships to threaten the very values that France says that it holds. As Michael Gordon of The New York Times reports:


In a closed-door meeting in February 2010, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates [he was then the Secretary of Defense of the United States] urged his French counterpart not to proceed with the sale of two amphibious assault ships to Russia because [in the words of the US Defense Secretary] it “would send the wrong message to Russia and to our allies in Central and East Europe.”


The French official, Hervé Morin, acknowledged that each of the ships — so-called Mistral-class vessels built for the French Navy to carry troops, landing craft, and helicopters — was “indeed a warship for power projection.”


And that was according to information that was leaked and is now public knowledge. It was leaked as a part of the WikiLeaks project.


But now we’re four years after that warning from the American Defense Secretary to the French in 2010. Now we have undeniable evidence of the aggressiveness of Russia. Now we have the Russian forced annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. Now we have Russia destabilizing all of Ukraine and threatening Baltic States such as Latvia, and now we have undeniable evidence that Vladimir Putin has a vision of a greater Russia and he is willing to use his military in a way that has not threatened Europe since the Second World War in order to affect that vision. And now we have France ready to sell the warships to allow Vladimir Putin to do just that.


It was said that Vladimir Ilich Lenin, back during the time of the Russian revolution in early 20th century, said that when the time comes to hang the capitalists, the capitalists will make bids to sell the rope. It’s uncertain as to whether or not Lenin actually said that, but if he didn’t say it, it was attributed to him, and it makes sense. In other words, Vladimir Lenin was making the point that if your only concern is the profit motive, then you will sell anything to anybody regardless of the cost, regardless of the use. Christians know that even the profit motive has to be placed within a moral context, and the moral context in this case is a reminder that, in a fallen world, selling aggressive warships to an aggressive party is a moral complex that is simply wrong. It’s wrong on the face of it. It was wrong back in 2010 and it’s even undeniably more wrong in the year 2014, but the profit motive is a huge motive. Approximately 1,000 jobs in France are tied to these warships. It is a sale of approximately $1.6 billion, and Russia has told France if they get these two ships and they’re pleased with them, they are prepared to buy two more. That would be a total of at least $3.2 billion in business, and the question is, which nation would say no to that? What company would say no to that? But in a real world, in which there are real dangers, saying yes to that means complicity with Russia’s crimes against its own neighbors and its evil intentions, given its own territorial ambitions.


And just when you thought it might not possibly get more complex in this fallen world, along comes an article in The Financial Times of London. It reports that:


When a US National Reconnaisance Office satellite lifted off into the sky above Cape Canaveral on April 10 [of this year], the rocket’s ultimate destination in space and the satellite’s purpose were all kept top secret. But there is a strong possibility that the intelligence satellite will be used to monitor the behaviour of the Russian military, which when the launch took place was massed on Ukraine’s eastern border.


The Financial Times goes on to say:


That was not the mission’s only connection to Russia, however. The RD180 engines that powered the Atlas V rocket off the launch pad were built not by one of the US’s domestic aerospace companies but by Russia’s NPO Energomash, currently maker of some of the world’s most advanced rocket motors.


So in another words, in this fallen world of moral complexity, even as Japan is considering having to reinterpret or rewrite its constitution to defend itself, in a world in which the United States government charges China with cyber espionage against our own companies, the United States has launched a military satellite to watch the Russians, but in order to launch it, we had to use Russian motors on our rocket (the Atlas V rocket) to get this satellite into orbit.


The point of The Financial Times is this: if the United States wants to keep spying on Russia, it better develop its own rocket engines with which to launch the satellites to spy on the Russians. If it intends to ask the Russians to sell the rocket engines with which to launch the satellites, it better rethink the strategy. In a fallen world, there’s moral complexity every direction we turn. There is danger every way we turn, and it’s up to Christians to understand that that’s not an abnormal situation. In a fallen world, that’s what you call “normal,” and the Christian worldview says, “When you face reality, deal with it.”


But speaking of living in a fallen world, our second major concern of the day is Godzilla. Not the lizard; the movie. As a matter of fact, the first Godzilla movie came out in the 1950s. It was released in 1954 and most Americans have no idea that it was directed against us. It was actually Japanese propaganda against the United States. Godzilla, originally in the Japanese gojira, is the combination of the Japanese words for whale and lizard—and this is one whale of a lizard. Godzilla was supposed to be the direct result of the atomic attacks upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was supposed to be the revenge of an atomic monster, this horribly, genetically deformed creature that came back to wreak vengeance and judgment against human beings who would be so bold as to use atomic power in order to create nuclear weapons. Americans of my generation went to see the original “Godzilla” movie, laughing at their amateurish cinematography and also completely oblivious to the fact that the Japanese were making a moral judgment about us when they made the movie “Godzilla” and its many later incarnations.


But now Godzilla is back as a new movie and it grossed $196 million in its opening weekend worldwide—$93.2 million in the United States. That’s big bucks in the cinema world. And as The New York Times says, Godzilla is still radioactive and spoiling for a fight. In the review by A.O. Scott in The New York Times, he writes:


In the old days, after all, Godzilla really meant something. He was the supreme embodiment of atomic-age terrors, meting out punishment (and also offering redemption) for humankind’s technological hubris. There is still plenty of that to contend with, but the focus of global anxiety has shifted from nuclear annihilation to climate change and related problems.


So even as last week we talked about the new “Rosemary’s Baby” in a so-called post-desecration, postfeminist world, now we have “Godzilla” in a new climate-change world, in the world that is no longer the Cold War, but a world in which the enemy now is human beings who will not deal with the realities of climate change.


The director of the 2014 “Godzilla” movie, Gareth Edwards, told Time magazine, “My generation, we didn’t grow up with World War II or Vietnam or the JFK assassination. The images that are seared into our brains and part of our nightmares are things like tsunamis and Katrina.” He went on to say, “Sci-fi and fantasy have always reflected the fears of the time.” That’s a very accurate assessment. That last line is really important. And Christians, thinking of the cinema and thinking of popular culture, need to think about that. As he said, “Sci-fi and fantasy have always reflected the fears of the time.” That’s exactly right. When you look at the movies, the sci-fi and fantasy movies, of the period after World War II, then what you see is the Cold War as the background. When you see the science fiction and fantasy movies of the 1970s and 1980s, you see similar things. When you think of “Jurassic Park” by Steven Spielberg, you think of the kind of genetic manipulation and modern science and technology gone out of control. And now with Godzilla 2014, climate change is the great worry, but the human beings who won’t deal with it, they’re the great enemy.


But from a Christian perspective, the really interesting thing about “Godzilla” is the fact that there is a deep level of theology embedded in this fantasy movie. Science fiction not only reveals the anxieties and fears of the time, it also reveals the overarching worldview of the times and that includes what remains of a theological worldview in post-Christian America. What comes out clearly in the “Godzilla” movie is the theme of judgment and that was clear in 1954 in the original “Godzilla” movie where the judgment reaped by Godzilla was upon those human beings who dared to tamper with the atomic code, to split the atom, and to release the power of nuclear bombs. But now Godzilla’s back and the big concern is the climate. And Godzilla’s coming back as the judge, the jury, and the attempted executioner of humanity for its climate and ecological crimes.


Christians should be very interested to know that this theme of judgment pervades in the culture to this extent. Our culture wants to hear narratives in which there is a judgment for the wrongs that have been made and there is a sense of justice that is accomplished. A justice that, in this film, as you would well expect, is not finally brought about by Godzilla, but rather by the human beings who intervene in the movie. But the big issue here from a Christian worldview is the fact that human beings, made in God’s image, can’t get away from the incessant desire to see justice and to see judgment and to know that that judgment will happen in a way that all will see and all will understand.


Reviewer Lily Rothman for Time magazine says:


The hope is that Godzilla, even as he may crush fake humans underfoot, can help real ones stay alive. Even a monster, says [Gareth] Edwards, can make a difference.


The director of the film said:


I think that films like “Godzilla” are like the fantasy punishment for what we’ve done. The real punishment will happen if we keep going this route. Films like this help remind us not to get too complacent—and that we should really try and fix some of the things that we’ve done before it’s too late.


Notice all the language about judgment that is embedded in that statement by Gareth Edwards, the director of “Godzilla.” In other words, just as in 1954 Godzilla was to represent justice, so also judgment is to come in the form of Godzilla in 2014. And even as millions of Americans went to see the original Godzilla film and the many films that came thereafter without recognizing that it was propaganda from the Japanese directed against us, there will be many people who go to see this film without any understanding of the fact that the moral satisfaction that comes to them by this film is because they’re made in God’s image and because God, a just and perfectly righteous God, has put within them a desire to see justice accomplished. And here you have the statement by the very director of the film, writing from a secular perspective, to say, “I think that films like ‘Godzilla’ are like the fantasy punishment for what we’ve done. The real punishment,” he says, “will happen if we keep going this route.” Just remember what he says there. He speaks of the movie as “a fantasy punishment,” something you watch on the screen, but you know isn’t real, but he says there’s a real judgment coming and he says, speaking of climate change and ecology, if we don’t fix are ways, then that’s the way it’s going to come. Well, Mr. Edwards, you are so right and so wrong. It is going to come, but when that judgment comes, it’s not going to be something that can be portrayed in a movie theater. It’s not going to be something that is merely going to be about humanity’s ecological crimes. It’s going to be when the quick and the dead stand before the Judge of all and when all things are revealed, even those unseen and unspoken thoughts and deeds.


This summer a good many movies are going to be released for American entertainment, but as Christians understand, entertainment is never merely entertainment. There’s almost always more there than meets the eye, and that’s certainly the case with the release of “Godzilla.”


Finally, we’re indebted again to The Financial Times for a major new story the reveals more than it knows it reveals. The story is entitled “Report Finds Four Out of Five Bets on Sport are Made Illegally.” The reporter is Roger Blitz writing from London. He writes:


Four out of every five bets made on sport are placed illegally, leading to $140 billion being laundered each year, according to a two-year study on the scale of betting corruption.


So let’s just back up for minute. Someone decided that the scale of betting corruption might be so big that someone needed to do a study on it. So they spent a lot of money and spent two years trying to find out just how much betting is illegal. It turns out about 80%; four out of five bets on sport. Football and cricket are most at the risk of manipulation. As the report indicates that organizers struggle to protect events from criminals, seeking to exploit the rapid rise of online betting, which accounts for 30% of all sport’s gambling activity. In many sporting events, both individual and team sports, there are charges of outright manipulation or fixing, but regardless of whether or not that takes place (as most assuredly it does), the big picture in this story was the one that they weren’t focusing on primarily, and that is the discovery that four out of every five of these bets is made illegally in the first place, regardless of the legality of the event upon which the wager is made. Blitz reports, “80 per cent of sports betting around the world was illegal and that the number of illegal operators was impossible to estimate.” The authors of the report that led to this headline story in The Financial Times warned that regulators are failing to keep up with the rapid growth in illegal activity. Well let’s just back up and say from a Christian worldview, there’s no surprise here. The surprise is that people are surprised. How in the world can people decide to do a study on gambling, upon the gambling industry that they already know is crooked, and then come up as if they are shocked, absolutely surprised, that four out of five bets are made illegally in the first place? You’re dealing with something that is in itself inherently a moral evil, and then you add to this the fact that there are governments trying to exploit and capitalize on this moral evil. And so they try to take a moral evil and make a distinction between bets that are legal and illegal. They try to create a safe zone for this kind of very unsafe moral activity; an activity that leads many people to risk what they do not own and must not spend on the vain hope of increasing it not by means of any kind of legitimate labor or activity or investment, but rather in the vain hope of simply winning at the game odds.


And so you have here an exquisite example of humanity at its very most human, in all its confusions and in all of its self-deceptions. You have a headline story, based upon a report that took two years and millions of dollars to accomplish, in which the final analysis is not only is there a concern about illegal activity and legal betting–four out of five bets aren’t even legal in the first place. The shock in this, as we said, is that people are shocked by it, but evidently they are. This led to a news story and it is leading to the accusation that regulators are far behind in regulating this kind of activity. Well just try to regulate sin and see where that gets you. Every single time it will get you to a headline like this. Whatever you regulate will outpace you. Once you set sin loose, it’s a loose. You can’t create a safe zone for it, and furthermore, you can’t morally capitalize on it. Because even in trying to make it more moral, you just indicate how immoral it is.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. Remember the release of Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Call with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. For more information, go to my website at 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) Japan forced to reconsider pacifism in a hostile world

Japan Moves to Scale Back Postwar Restrictions on the Use of Military Power, New York Times (Martin Fackler)

Japan’s Pacifist Constitution, New York Times (Editorial Board)

More flexiblility for Japan’s military?, Washington Post (Editorial Board)

U.S. Charges Chinese Army Personnel With Cyberspying, New York Times (Michael S. Schmidt)

2) Profit motive in international relations heightens moral complexity and danger on planet

France’s Sale of 2 Ships to Russians Is Ill-Advised, U.S. Warns, New York Times (Michael R. Brown)

Satellite pinpoints US’s Russian space dependence, Financial Times (Robert Wright)

3) New Godzilla reflects old fears of judgment for new issues in new generation 

A Big ‘Godzilla’ Has a Big Weekend, New York Times (Brooks Barnes)

Still Radioactive and Spoiling for a Fight, New York Times (A.O. Scott)

Godzilla, Into the Storm and More Summer Cli-Fi Thrillers, TIME (Lily Rothman)

4) Vast majority of sporting bets placed illegally – the futility of regulating sin

Report finds 4 out of 5 sporting bets are placed illegally, Financial Times (Roger Blitz)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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