The Briefing 08-08-14

The Briefing 08-08-14

The Briefing


August 8, 2014

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


It’s Friday, August 8, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Genocide and persecution in Iraq rightly causes Pres. Obama to authorize air strikes

Last night, speaking to the American people, President Barack Obama announced that he had authorized limited airstrikes and humanitarian assistance in Iraq. That coming as a major reversal of his administration’s policy coming less than three years after American military forces left that beleaguered country. But of course now the situation is far different than it was when American troops withdrew. Now Iraq is basically dividing into three warring nations: a Sunni nation, a Shiite nation, and a Kurdish nation. But most ominous of all, there is a new Islamic terrorist group that is taking over much of Iraq, gaining not only territory but confiscating American weapons left behind, and now constituting a massive army and a massive threat to the entire stability of the nation and to the larger world. The group known as ISIS, the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria, is now threatening to take over virtually all of Iraq, and in its wake is creating not only terror and a humanitarian crisis but also the potential of genocide. This is what President Obama said “moved him to act over against his political and military instincts” and to announce the United States was ready for limited airstrikes, if necessary.


As of early this morning, the Pentagon said that none of the airstrikes had yet taken place. However, American cargo planes, assisted by United States fighter planes, had indeed made major drops of humanitarian assistance to beleaguered minorities fearing for their lives and indeed in danger of genocide at the hands of ISIS. As Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported last night, President Obama said that the strikes, if needed, would be used to protect US personnel and a group known as the Yazidis, a minority sect concentrated in northern Iraq who have been targeted by the ISIS militants and are stranded on a mountain. The President said that even as American military planes are dropping food and water for thousands of Yazidis, the United States could not turn a blind eye to the real potential for genocide. As he said, the extremists “have called for the systematic destruction of the entire Yazidi people, which would constitute a genocide.”


Bloomberg BusinessWeek then summarized the escalation in US involvement in Iraq comes as the Islamic State, the extremist group that has conquered swathes of northern Iraq since June, extended its advance by seizing the Mosul Dam, the country’s largest. Bloomberg also reported that the Sunni militants offensive and their threats to kill religious minorities has panicked tens of thousands of people and empty towns that for centuries had been home to Yazidi and Christian communities.


It is no small thing for a President of the United States to authorize these kinds of airstrikes, especially given the fact that the United States under President Obama’s leadership very clearly and publicly withdrew from Iraq. President Obama had stated that he was entirely unwilling to revisit any kind of military intervention in that country, and yet the situation of the Yazidis and other religious minorities in Iraq, the fact that thousands were now stranded on a mountain with a very real threat of starvation or dying for lack of hydration if not active genocide, the President decided he had to act. And this is the kind of action that deserves wide and immediate bipartisan support in the United States government.


Indeed the President is acting because he has to act. The United States is intervening because it has to intervene. In situations like this it is very important for us to remember that the Christian worldview understands that the use of violent force is the worst thing possible, unless it is intended to prevent the worst thing possible, which is the unrestrained killing by those who take advantage of an opportunity. Those with murderous intent must be stopped. Otherwise evil itself will destroy the entire world. The Christian understanding of just war theory, of what makes military action ethical and moral and necessary, is based in the fact that sometimes the use of force is the least worst thing possible. That is an important thing for us all to remember. There are things worse than taking an action that might cost lives that might involve American or other military personnel that would indeed use lethal force. But just like police forces are necessary and we draw comfort from the fact that police officers are armed, we understand that in the larger world the restraint of evil is something that requires not only diligence, but periodic urgency,


The history of American considerations of these kinds of questions remind us that sometimes we have acted when later we wished we had not. And we also know that our history is replete with instances in which we now wish we had acted when we had the opportunity. Wisdom sometimes comes through the sad experience of history and of making decisions and seeing those decisions go one way and sometimes the other.


In the moral calculus, the ethical and political calculus that led President Obama to make that announcement last night, we need to recognize that this comes only after the Islamic State there in Iraq has proved its propensity and determination to commit genocide. We also need to keep in mind that Christians in Iraq, one of the first nations to include Christian communities in the history the Christian church, that Christians have largely been eradicated from much of northern Iraq and their presence in any of Iraq is now very tenuous and seemingly increasingly impossible. Just in recent weeks Christians had to evacuate the town of Mosul after ISIS took over the city, one of Iraq’s largest, and ordered the Christians there to either flee or convert pay attacks that was impossible to pay or face death.


As the month of July came to an end just days ago, authorities in the United States government indicated that there were decreasing numbers of Christians to be found anywhere in Iraq and that given just a short amount of time it was likely that no Christians would be left in the nation at all. As Sophie Cousins of USA Today reported on the 30th of July, in terms of Christians “Iraq is gone.” The evacuation, indeed the expulsion of Christians from Mosul led the editors of the Wall Street Journal to write a major editorial that appeared on the 22nd of July entitled, “The Christian Purge from Mosul.” The editors wrote:


That such violent bigotry in the name of religion, that is Islam in this case, can exist in the 21st century is hard for many in the Christian world to believe, but that is part of the West’s problem.


The editors continued:


Jews know all too well that anti-Semitism can inspire murderous behavior. But Christians or post-Christian secularists who are content in their modern prosperity often prefer to turn their heads or blame all religions as equally intolerant.


We should note here that this is true in so far as the editors are talking about the mainline moral liberal Protestant denominations and the post-Christian secularists identified by the editors. They went on to say:


Today’s religious extremism is almost entirely Islamic. While ISIS’s purge may be the most brutal, Islamist and Egypt have driven thousands of Coptic Christians from homes they occupied for centuries. The same is true across the Muslim parts of Africa. This does not mean, said the editors, that all Muslims are extremist but it does mean that all Muslims have an obligation to denounce and resist the extremist who murder or subjugate in the name of Allah. Too few imams living in the tolerant West will speak up against it.


That is a massively important paragraph in a very strategically important editorial –  one that deserves our very close attention. But the final word to the editorial are even more explosive. The editors wrote:


As for the post-Christian West, most elites may now be nonbelievers, but a culture that fails to protect believers may eventually find that it lacks the self belief to protect itself.


Very honest, very true, and very urgent words from the editors of the Wall Street Journal.


2) Courts, not democracy, continues to play major role in normalization of same-sex marriage


Here in the United States, the issue of same-sex marriage is back on the front pages of America’s newspapers, and once again it’s leading in many of the discussions in terms of the media and popular culture around the nation. Amanda Holpuch writing for The Guardian in Great Britain about the situation in the United States says that those who are the defenders of traditional marriage are now clearly in retreat virtually everywhere in the United States. She points back to 2008 when California voters approved Proposition Eight – that constitutional amendment to define marriage in that state is exclusively between a man and a woman – as the high watermark of that effort to defend traditional marriage. She says:


Six years later, the decision is set to be remembered as one of the last major successes for groups that oppose same-sex marriage.


Later in her article she explains:


Researchers are still trying to figure out all the pieces that made for the shift. Though some said factors could be the increasing younger voters, who tend to have more liberal beliefs. Alongside the decrease in older voters that Americans are becoming less religious and the more gay people are living their lives openly.


One person quoted in the article said:


It is really the kind of change you don’t see very often in American politics and one I really think has surprised even the people most optimistic on the same-sex marriage side.


One of the interesting aspects of this article is the fact that she cites quite openly the fact that the secularization of American culture is at least understood to be a major contributing factor to this massive moral shift that has produced the momentum toward the legalization of same-sex marriage. She also points to something else that is of great interest. She says that the defenders of traditional marriage are blaming the fact that activist judges are actually replacing the Democratic process in furthering this effort to legalize same-sex marriage. She refers to some who refer to ‘Orwellian judges and elites’ who want people to support same-sex marriage. She writes as if this is a ridiculous claim and yet even in the course of her article she makes very clear that in case after case it has mostly been judges who have reversed the Democratic process, overturning and ruling as unconstitutional amendments and pieces of legislation supported by and voted for democratic majorities in the states.


And that leads us to an even more interesting article that appeared just two days ago in the pages of the Washington Post. Robert Barnes, reporting for the Courts and Law column of the post, says that the federal appeals courts hearings that took place in Cincinnati, Ohio this week at the Sixth Circuit may, in his words, “be the roadblock to gay marriage cases in at least four states.” As we have discussed there is a flood of these cases now arriving at the United States circuits, that is the appellate courts. And as we discussed on Wednesday of this week, oral arguments were held in challenges to constitutional amendments or legislation preventing same-sex marriage in the state of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.


Then Barnes writes:


It became clear after three hours of arguments that the panel could become the first roadblock for proponents of same-sex marriage who have had an extraordinary winning streak in knocking down state restrictions following a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in 2013.


He is pointing back of course to the Windsor decision handed down in June of 2013 and the knowledge that ever since then the defenders of traditional marriage have won not one case in the federal courts. He warned that the oral arguments on Wednesday indicated, if the oral arguments reveal anything, that all that might change with the six circuit panel. Specifically, he reported about judge Jeffrey S. Sutton who is he said repeatedly ask attorneys representing the same-sex couples why they didn’t think it better to win marriage rights systematically through the Democratic process capturing, as he said, the hearts and minds of their fellow citizens instead of depending on “five votes of the Supreme Court.” Furthermore, it’s very important to go back to the actual opinions handed down in the Windsor decision back in 2013 and remember that in his dissent Chief Justice John Roberts made very clear that he did not believe that the majority opinion in the Windsor case obligated the court to rule that there was a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, coast-to-coast. Of course, in his scathing dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said that the opinion of the majority written by Anthony Kennedy effectively tipped a hat to the fact that that is the eventual outcome.


In any event, as Barnes writes for the Washington Post:


A loss might not be the worst thing for proponents of same-sex marriage who are eager to get the case to the High Court. Even in those states where courts have struck down bans, Supreme Court Justices, have blocked marriages until the appeals courts or the High Court itself decides the issue.


Barnes is certainly right in that observation. It appears that the question is once again rocketing towards the United States Supreme Court, but the really interesting thing in terms of the Sixth Circuit panels’ consideration was that question asked by Judge Sutton: “Would it not have been better, would it still not be better for this to be settled through the democratic process and not in the courts?”


3) Marital infidelity not rising in US because marriage on decline


This week’s issue of the magazine The Week includes a very interesting article by Damon Linker. He raises the question: “Is monogamy on the way out?”


Linker writes about what he calls a spate of recent articles arguing for the moral acceptance and the legal acceptance of polygamy or so-called polyamory. We will consider those articles and arguments in the future. But Damon Linker’s article is very interesting for the turn he takes.  He writes about those articles supporting polyamory and polygamy and then writes that:


A social conservative might say that these essays are perfectly congruent with and even seems to follow of necessity from, the sexual ethic currently sweeping the Western world. One in which the only valid moral consideration in a sexual relationship is individual consent. In such a moral universe, he writes, there’s no reason not to embrace a polyamorous lifestyle and since most human beings find themselves emotionally and physically attracted to multiple people in the course of their lives, monogamywould seem to be doomed.


But then he comes back and says:


There is just one problem. There is not one shred of evidence to support that prediction.


It’s a very interesting claim that is no evidence to support that prediction. And that leads us to ask the question: what is he calling and considering evidence? He points to a poll conducted last year with the Gallup organization found that 91% of Americans disapprove of marital infidelity. He writes:


That’s right. In a highly sexualized age, awash in technological temptations and dominated by a nonjudgmental sexual ethic that increasingly encourages men and women to do whatever feels good, nine out of ten Americans judge cheating to be wrong.


He goes on to say:


That’s higher than the rate of disapproval for human cloning and suicide.


He asked what to make of this disjunction. He says:


One possibility is the people’s attitudes haven’t caught up to the implications of their moral ideals.


As he suggests, once they do the rate of disapproval will fall far and fast to use his words. He says it might happen, but he goes on to say there’s no evidence for it. He suggests that the proponents of polyamory are simply too optimistic that their permissive side is going to win the moral argument without Americans feeling overly guilty. As he writes, with some perception:


On the contrary I would say that America’s peculiar mix of unfettered sexuality and stern disapproval is much more likely to produce a culture marked by moral confusion, anxiety, and self-loathing. It certainly won’t, he says, be the free loving happy-go-lucky hippie-commune culture that the polyamorous crave and that social conservatives dread.


But again the problem is the evidence to which he points. The fact that the vast majority of Americans say that adultery is wrong or to use the phrase preferred by Linker, “that marital infidelity is wrong,” that evidence is actually not too strong when you consider the fact that so many Americans simply aren’t getting married.


As we recently discussed, the rates of cohabitation are skyrocketing in this country, becoming the normative first relationship for many couples, and increasingly the only sexual relationship, with marriage not even on the horizon. Furthermore, the decoupling of sex and marriage in terms of the larger culture means that the opportunity for adultery is significantly reduced by the reduction of marriage. The bare fact is this: you can’t commit marital infidelity if you’re not married and that more than anything else turns the question back to the importance of marriage and the centrality of marriage, and the fact that if you remove marriage from the equation, you’re left with nothing but moral anarchy.


4) 40th anniversary of Nixon’s departure from White House reminder that even President is not above the law


Finally, we need to note that the tomorrow marks the 40th anniversary of that Marine One helicopter arriving on the lawn of the White House to evacuate Richard Nixon from his position and from his residence as President of the United States. As an eighth grader in 1972, I wore a “We Need Nixon Now” button to school proudly, and I certainly hoped for the reelection of Richard Nixon as president. I knew enough, even as an eighth grader, to know that the worldview distinctions between Richard Nixon and George McGovern were so monumental that I certainly hoped and prayed for the election of Richard Nixon even though I was a long way from having a vote. And so it was the just days before I entered the 10th grade, the President of the United States resigned. Richard Nixon became the first, and to this point only, United States president to resign his office. And he did so in the face of an almost certain impeachment and then a conviction on the floor the United States Senate. The President was almost sure to be found guilty of having committed ‘high crimes and misdemeanor’ – the constitutional designation for the responsibility of impeachment and conviction for removal from office. And he did so mostly associated with crimes that were undertaken not just in the 1972 campaign but in what appeared almost certain to have been an organized cover-up with instruction of justice in the aftermath of his spectacular victory in that election.


Looking back after 40 years it almost appears that Richard Nixon is one of those tragic figures of history. Not tragic in that history happened to him, but tragic because his legacy is so tragic in terms of the American political context. On the other hand, it is certainly easy to look back to August 9, 1974 and see one of the lowest moments of American democracy. But from the perspective of 40 years, perhaps we should look back and see it as something other than that. As a victory for democracy as in this nation it was proved that not even the President of the United States is above the grasp of justice. That not even the President of the United States can commit high crimes and misdemeanors and remain in office. In the most tragic way, the resignation of Richard Nixon pointed to the vitality and endurance of the American Democratic experiment of our Constitution and our commitment to ordered liberty I still have that “We Need Nixon Now” button but it exists now as a reminder not to put too much trust, not to put too much confidence in any elected official, or for that matter in any human being. That’s a bad moral lesson, not a bad worldview observation to keep in mind as we look back tomorrow to the 40th year anniversary of Richard Nixon’s final way from the White House lawn.


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 I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1) Genocide and persecution in Iraq rightly causes Pres. Obama to authorize air strikes

Obama Authorizes Iraq Air Strikes Amid Genocide Threat, Bloomberg Businessweek (Margaret Talev, Terry Atlas, and Toy Capaccio)

Christians flee Mosul amid threats to convert or die, USA Today (Sophie Cousins)

The Christian Purge From Mosul, Wall Street Journal (Editorial Board)

2) Courts, not democracy, continues to play major role in normalization of same-sex marriage

Foes of same-sex marriage fight on as courts and opinion turn against them, The Guardian (Amanda Holpuch)

Federal appeals court may be roadblock to gay marriage cases in four states, Washington Post (Robert Barnes)

3) Marital infidelity not rising in US because marriage on decline

Is monogamy on the way out?, The Week (Damon Linker)

4) 40th anniversary of Nixon’s departure from White House reminder that even President is not above the law

Richard Nixon’s long shadow, Washington Post (George F. Will)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me using the contact form. Follow regular updates on Twitter at @albertmohler.

Subscribe via email for daily Briefings and more (unsubscribe at any time).