The Briefing 06-04-14

The Briefing 06-04-14

The Briefing


June 4, 2014

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


It’s Wednesday, June 4, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.


It’s hard for most modern Americans to imagine, but as recently as two centuries ago, just 200 years ago, virtually all the peoples of the earth were ruled over by autocratic monarchs who were at the heads of hereditary monarchies. And now 200 years later, very few nations of the earth are actually ruled in this way. The rare exceptions are largely found in the Pacific Rim and also in the Islamic world, especially in regimes such as Saudi Arabia. But when you consider the fact that if you go back two hundred years ago, virtually all of Europe, all of the European nations, were ruled by hereditary monarchs. If you go back just 100 years, a good many of those monarchs who were at the head of those autocratic regimes were actually the descendants of one British Queen, and that being Queen Victoria.


But now we’re living in a very different world, a world so utterly and radically different that most modern people can’t imagine that there once was a day when people had the right to rule, and to rule in terms of an autocratic power, simply by the fact that they were born to another set of people who also ruled. Hereditary monarchy seems something that is as out of place, in terms of modern society, as just about anything we can imagine, and yet those hereditary monarchs are still around. Many of those thrones and dynasties still continue to exist even if they are greatly reduced in power and authority.


A reminder of that came on Monday of this week when Spain’s King Juan Carlos announced that he was abdicating in favor of his son, 44-year-old Crown Prince Felipe. Spain’s government made the announcement and King Juan Carlos himself made an address on the airwaves in which he said, “The time has come for a younger generation to take over.” He went on to speak to Spain’s recent political trials and said, “The long and deep economic crisis has left social scars in the country, but is also showing the way forward, and one is full of hope.” Well those hereditary monarchs in Spain had better hope that the new king, to be known as Philip VI, will be able to restore some of the luster and respect that King Juan Carlos had at the beginning of his reign.


King Juan Carlos himself is a very interesting artifact of modern monarchy. His grandfather who ruled was king, but had to leave the nation. His father never ruled. King Juan Carlos was announced as the successor head of state by military leader Francisco Franco. Eventually, Juan Carlos did take over the throne in 1975 upon Franco’s death, and almost immediately, he became a national hero. The restoration of the monarchy was very popular, but it became especially popular in 1978 and in the early 1980s in a time of political unrest in Spain. In particular, the king grew in influence and respect amongst the Spanish people when he took the side of democracy over against an attempted coup, and this was credited as a major intervention by the young king in a way that made a decisive difference and one for democracy and freedom. But in more recent years, Juan Carlos has been ensnared in controversy, and even more than the king; the royal house, including at least one of his daughters and the king himself. The Spanish people seem to be growing impatient with scandals concerning the royal family.


But from a Christian worldview perspective, it is very interesting to note the fact that, in the last two years alone, there have been a record number of royal abdications. The examples include Benedict XVI, the pope who resigned, and also Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and King Albert II of Belgium. Now King Juan Carlos joins the heads of state and those who were holding royal thrones who have abdicated just in the last several months. This leads to a very interesting question. How in the world can you have the existence of hereditary monarchies when hereditary monarchs don’t act like the heads of the dynasties that they had inherited? This is a very interesting question, but the more important question is this: Why is there such a hunger for a king? Why is there so much interest in the heads of royal houses of Europe, especially when there is virtually no political power now assigned to those royal houses?


Well to answer that modern question, we have to go back to a very pre-modern source, and that is the Old Testament. The Bible reveals that Israel demanded a king. The nation of Israel said that as they look to the other nations around them, those nations had kings and they felt envious, and Israel demanded a king. God told Samuel that he did not intend for Israel to have a king; that He Himself intended to be Israel’s King, but when Israel demanded a king, God eventually gave Israel that king. But God did warn through Samuel that the nation had better be careful what it hoped for, because if it really wanted a king, then it would have a king. And once it had a king, it probably would not want that king.


But there is a very interesting aspect of this we need to recognize, and that is that human beings seem to long for the kind of grandeur and majesty that is associated with the throne. We tend to be drawn to it in some kind of imaginative magnetism. We tend to yearn for the kind of benevolent monarch who would rule with equity and justice and righteousness. And that points to a hunger that has been put into our hearts by none other than our Creator. And it reminds us that the Christian gospel includes a royal story; the royal story of the King, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will come to reign and who will reign with his saints and who will be the King over a kingdom that will have no end. The kind of King that is promised, even as the shepherds heard that declaration on that hillside in Bethlehem; the kind of King that is recognized as the one who whose throne would exist forever; the kind of King foretold by the prophet Isaiah, in terms of the wonderful Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of peace; and the kind of King that is promised in Scripture. The Lord Jesus Christ, who will rule and who will reign, described in such royal monarchial language in the book of Revelation; the one who would reestablish the throne of David and rule as sovereign, as monarch, as mediator, and as Messiah, the anointed one.


Perhaps the news associated with the abdication of King Juan Carlos and the hopes that are reportedly invested in his successor, soon to be King Philip VI, all this should remind us of the fact that we really do yearn for a king, but we don’t yearn for the kind of king who is going to sit on an earthly throne, certainly not the kind of impotent and powerless earthly throne that will be inhabited by the new Spanish king, but rather the one who will sit upon a throne and will reign and rule forever, and will rule with perfect righteousness and justice. We rightly yearn for that King. We rightly yearn for the full coming of His kingdom. And as the triumphant Hallelujah chorus of Handel’s Messiah reminds us, He shall reign forever and forever.


Next, we move to China, where we face today a very significant and tragic anniversary. The anniversary is, of course, of the Chinese crackdown on the student protesters who had been supporting and calling for democracy in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. The attack upon the protesters began on June 3, 1989, but it was on June 4th that the military cracked down and shots rang out. Eventually, at least hundred and potentially thousands of young people protesting in Tiananmen Square were murdered by the Chinese military. The reality is that even to this day, 25 years later, we do not know the total of the death toll. We do not know how many of the Chinese young people were sacrificed by their own nation. We do know that, earlier in 1989, a push for democracy led Chinese students onto the streets and into Tiananmen Square, prime real estate in the city of Beijing with great historical circumstance and importance for the Chinese government and especially for the Communist Party. It harkens back to some of the most seminal events in the Communist Revolution that took place in China in the years after World War II. But in 1989, the students began to build statues to liberty. They began to speak openly of calls for a democratic openness in the government, and the government seemed to tolerate the protesters for a matter of weeks. But the patience of the Communist Party ran out, and on June 3rd, the military began to encircle Tiananmen Square. On June 4th, 25 years ago today, the Chinese military opened fire, and, as we’ve said, at least hundreds were killed. Western media reporters indicated that the death toll could have been in the thousands, but because China is still a closed society and because Tiananmen Square and the actions of the military there are still largely denied by the Chinese government, there is no way of knowing the death toll of those events.


But one of the most chilling aspects of this 25th anniversary today is that the Chinese people seem utterly unconcerned about the fact that they have intentionally forgotten the events. It is as if all those hundreds and potentially thousands of young people died for nothing. As a matter of fact, many observers have noted that even as the Chinese government has been making very clear that there would be no anniversary commemorations whatsoever. As a matter of fact, Tiananmen Square is off-limits, especially to Westerners, and there’s been a crackdown, indeed, even the Chinese social media have been forbidden to make any kind of reference or allow any reference to the events in Tiananmen Square or, for that matter, the protest calling for democracy. But as other Chinese scholars have pointed out, the most chilling and surprising aspect of all of this is that the Chinese people seem to be going along with the dictates of the Chinese Communist Party. There seems to be something of a tacit agreement between the population, especially in major metropolitan areas such as Beijing, and the Communist Party. And, as those who are watching China have indicated, the deal that seems to cement that relationship is this: if the Chinese Communist Party offers the people some level of prosperity, they will forgo calls for democracy. That’s the kind of devil’s bargain that seems to be what is operational now in China, and it is a chilling reminder of the fact that humanity does not uniformly long for the kind of democracy that those students were calling for 25 years ago. It’s also a reminder that horrifying events from history can be intentionally forgotten, whitewashed out of the record. Twenty-five years after China’s government and military killed hundreds and potentially thousands of the nation’s young people, the commemorations and remembrances of that horrifying event will take place not in China where such events will be illegal and where even the population appears to have no interest in bringing the matter to mind, but rather in places such as the United States. It’s a very chilling reminder of what can happen to history. Perhaps we should consider intentional forgetting a form of intentional sin. But the sinners in this case are not just the leaders of China and of China’s Communist Party, but the people of China, who appear to be going along with the intentional forgetting. But this kind of amnesia is of great moral consequence. Perhaps we should all keep in mind that on that Day of Judgment, we will each give an answer, both for what we remember and for what we forget.


Hear in the United States, big news came in recent days when the Obama Administration announced that Medicare may no longer exclude sex-reassignment surgery from coverage. As Roni Caryn Rabin reports for The New York Times, the Obama Administration said that the current exclusion was “no longer reasonable because the surgery is safe and effective and can no longer be considered experimental.” It turns out that an appeals board of the Department of Health and Human Services came down with the ruling in recent days. It comes, as The Times says, as a small but growing number of university health plans and large companies, including some Fortune 500 companies like Shell Oil and Campbell Soup, have started covering gender-transition services, and could signal, the paper says, further changes since many health plans follow Medicare’s lead on coverage. Or as Stephanie Armour of The Wall Street Journal reports, even though the appeal was made on the case of just one patient, the end of the exclusion opens the door for the floodwaters to come in terms of increased numbers of Medicare-covered sex-reassignment surgeries. Also, as Armour reports:


The total cost of transgender-specific care for one person is estimated at between $25,000 and $75,000, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. It also said that many providers of gender-reassignment surgery might not accept Medicare coverage, posing a challenge to those seeking the procedure.


But the big news here is that the exclusion has now come to an end, and this means that the floodgates are now open for the federal funding of sex and gender-reassignment surgery.


From a Christian worldview perspective, the most important aspect of all of this is the fact that this change in Medicare policy points to the fact that the insanity now absorbed and embraced by our entire society on the issue of sexuality and gender has now required the kind of policy change that was announced just in recent days by the Department of Health and Human Services. In other words, this is the mainstreaming of what just a few years ago would’ve been considered absolutely radical, if not unimaginable or unthinkable. But now it’s going to become standard fare, and once this kind of exclusion is eliminated in federal policy, there’s simply no way that this doesn’t lead to a radical increase in the number of these procedures, many of them now to be paid for by the taxpayer, that is, by the government. And here’s the big issue of worldview importance: we need to keep in mind that what the government pays for, it endorses. That’s a major matter when you consider anything from contraceptives to abortion, you could go down the entire line, but when it comes to this kind of sex-reassignment surgery, if the federal government is paying for it, if the Department of Health and Human Services says it can no longer exclude the procedures, if it pays for it, it is endorsing it, and that is a massive cultural change.


Finally, keeping in mind all the controversy about the fact that many commencement speakers scheduled to speak at major colleges and universities were forced to withdraw because of the kind of liberal protest that came on those campuses, consider the fact that Harvard University’s commencement speaker this spring was none other than former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. And speaking at his alma mater, at least for his business graduate degree, Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor, went right at Harvard University and he accused the university of a liberal, closed-mindedness. The former mayor said this:


Think about the irony: In the 1950s, the right wing was attempting to repress left wing ideas. Today, on many college campuses, it is liberals trying to repress conservative ideas, even as conservative faculty members are at risk of becoming an endangered species.


Those are very brave words. Here you have New York’s immediately former mayor speaking of the fact that at Harvard University conservatives are, to use his words, “an endangered species.” And furthermore, he accused the liberals, who make up the majority of those on the Harvard faculty, of shutting down all dissent and silencing conservative voices. But then he went directly to documentation. Speaking at the commencement exercises, Mayor Bloomberg said that 96% of those who work for Ivy League universities, who contributed to the 2012 presidential campaigns, contributed on one side, that is, for the Democratic ticket. That is a hugely significant data point. Let me repeat it: of all those who reported working for either on the staff or faculty of an Ivy League institution, contributing to the 2012 presidential campaign, 96% of those donors contributed to the campaign of President Barack Obama. Bloomberg said, “Ninety-six percent. There was more disagreement among the old Soviet Politburo than there is among Ivy League donors.” The mayor went on to say:


That statistic should give us pause – and I say that as someone who endorsed President Obama for reelection – because let me tell you, neither party has a monopoly on truth or God on its side.


When 96 percent of Ivy League donors prefer one candidate to another, you have to wonder whether students are being exposed to the diversity of views that a great university should offer.


Well, indeed, you not only have to wonder that, the very assessment made by the former mayor makes the point with absolutely incontrovertible logic. Ending his address, Mayor Bloomberg said:


If the faculty fails to do this [that means to provide for a very intentional forum for the free exchange of ideas], then it is the responsibility of the administration and governing body to step in and make it a priority. If they do not, if students graduate with ears and minds closed, the university has failed both the student and society.


Well it will remain to be seen if Mayor Bloomberg’s address had any impact upon the faculty, the administration, and the governing board of Harvard University. One senses that it probably will have very little effect. But we need to keep in mind what the mayor documents in terms of the radical one-sidedness of the intellectual profile of major American colleges and universities; in particular, the most prestigious universities of the Ivy League. Considering the outsized influence of those institutions, this is a very clear signal of why those schools and the graduates and faculties of those schools leans so far left in terms of politics and worldview.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. 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 Remember the release of Ask Anything: Weekend Edition this past Saturday. And remember that even as the spring season has come to a close, a new season will begin in late summer. So call with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. I’m speaking to you from Anchorage, Alaska, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1) Debate after abdication of Spanish king reminder of human longing for a good king

King Juan Carlos to abdicate Spanish throne, The Telegraph (Fiona Govan)

Abdication of King Juan Carlos Leads to Debate on Spanish Monarchy, Wall Street Journal (Olivia Crellin, Jeanette Neumann, and Christopher Bjork Bjork)

2) Intentional forgetting of Tianenmen Square 25th anniversary an intentional sin

Tiananmen, Forgotten, New York Times (Helen Gao)

Collective amnesia prevails in China 25 years after Tiananmen Square, Los Angeles Times (Julie Makinen)

Wary China keeps close watch as Tiananmen anniversary arrives, Reuters (Sui-Lee Wee)

3)New Medicare policy embraces mainstreaming of sex changes

Medicare to Now Cover Sex-Change Surgery, New York Times (Roni Caryn Rabin)

Medicare Ban on Sex-Reassignment Surgery Lifted, Wall Street Journal (Stephanie Armour)

4) Bloomberg critiques radical onesided political profile of major American universities

Bloomberg, at Harvard, blasts Ivy League ‘liberals’ for ‘trying to repress conservative ideas’, Washington Post (Valerie Strauss)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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