The Briefing 10-23-2014

The Briefing 10-23-2014

The Briefing


October 23, 2014

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

It’s Thursday, October 23, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Ottawa shooting example of terrorism’s purpose; to undo civilization

Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, is generally both a placid and a peaceful city. But on yesterday on Wednesday it turned into a place of carnage, where apparently an assassin shot dead a Canadian soldier standing guard the nation’s National War Memorial. That assassin then ran into Canada’s Parliament building and then ensued a shootout, in which eventually the assassin was himself shot. Speaking to the nation last night, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the incident in Ottawa was a terrorist act. He also said that even last night it still remains very unclear whether the man was shot dead on Parliament Hill acted alone.

One of Canada’s major most influential newspapers, the Globe and Mail, reported last night that the federal government there in Canada had identified the suspected shooter as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a man described as being in his early 30’s who was known the Canadian authorities. He had already been placed by those authorities on a list of high-risk travelers, and the Canadian government suspected that the recent convert to Islam was trying to travel abroad in order to join the international jihad. It is very telling that this suspect already had a long list of arrest and criminal convictions. And of course, the attacks that shut down Parliament Hill yesterday were following close on the heels of an attack on Monday that took place in Quebec in which two soldiers were run over and one of them was killed – also by an Islamic terrorist.

According to a report in Reuters, Monday’s attack was the first fatal attack on Canadian soil involving suspected Islamic militant. And it was the first incident since Canada agreed to join the US-led airstrikes against the Islamic State fighters who’ve taken or parts of Iraq and Syria. Canada, according to Reuters, sent six fighter jets to take part in the operations in Iraq. The 25-year-old attacker in Monday’s incident had posted on a website a quote from an early Muslim caliph Umar Ibn Khattab, who said,

“I will not calm down until I will put one cheek of a tyrant on the ground and the other under my feet, and for the poor and weak I will put my cheek on the ground”

All this represents something of a significant challenge for Canada; a nation that had often considered the war on terrorism to be a basic American problem. One that involved Canada mostly as terrorists were trying to use Canada as a means of gaining entry to the United States. All that has clearly now changed. Canada is itself now a target of Islamic terrorism, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper said as much to the Canadian people last night.

One of the things we need to think about, certainly as Christians, in addressing this kind of attack is the recognition that what’s taking place here is a terrorism that is explainable only in theological terms. We’re looking at something that the world clearly recognizes as evil, but the source of that evil is something the secular worldview is a great deal of difficulty explaining. How in the world can it be that someone raised within the context of the modern enlightened West – how can someone who has taken advantage of all of the benefits of modernity – how can someone who grew up with us and is lived amongst us, then turn on the entire civilization and try to undo it, and use terrorism as that means, and to kill people in order to send that message? That’s a vexing question. It’s answerable ultimately only in terms of the evil that theologically alone can be explained. Of the evil that is rooted in human heart as the result of human sinfulness and the fact that that sinfulness, though often restrained, can be let loose. And when it is let loose it takes on a terrifying dimensionality. That’s what we’re looking at here.

But thoughtful Christians also need to think about a different dimension of this issue, and that is this: terroristic attacks of this kind of nature taken out in public and meant to send a public message are clearly intended to undo civilization. To subvert the very existence of a civilized society. To make it impossible for people to trust one another. The kind of trust that is necessary for civil society to survive and to thrive. When you think about the early verses of Genesis 1, we’re told that God’s creative activity is seen in the evidence of bringing order out of disorder, of creation out of chaos. Humanly speaking, we get to see that same kind of process by God’s grace, when we see disorder come to order in human society. When we come to see chaos leave and a civilization appear. This kind of terrorism, biblically understood is an effort to reverse that process, to undo civilization, so that now chaos reigns and to embrace disorder rather than order. that is the heart of terrorism and that’s what makes terrorism itself whether found in Canada, the United States or anywhere in the world, so inherently dangerous and so scary.

2) Death of Ben Bradlee reminder of influence of media editors in framing news and opinion

The power and influence of the media in America, especially the so-called ‘old-line media’ is perhaps nowhere better illustrated than all the attention given to the death of Benjamin Bradlee, who served for 26 years as the newsroom director, that is, as the chief editor of the Washington Post. Ben Bradlee was a venerable journalist, one of most important journalists of the 20th century, and perhaps one of the greatest journalists of all time. It was Ben Bradlee, who transformed the Washington Post from a sleepy little newspaper, a daily published in the nation’s capital, to one of the three or four most influential papers in the United States and one of the top 10 or 20 throughout the world. In terms of American journalism Ben Bradlee was a powerhouse and he was an institution of sorts. And of course, when you’re looking at the second half of the 20th century, you’re looking at the influence of the Washington Post, not just as a newspaper, but as a major force in America’s political system. Most particularly, you cannot talk about the resignation of Richard M. Nixon as President of the United States without talking about the role in that process played by the Washington Post as a newspaper and by Ben Bradlee as an editor. Richard Nixon himself saw Ben Bradley and the Washington Post largely responsible for his downfall, and without any doubt both the paper, and its reporters, and Ben Bradlee as editor played a major part.

Indeed, looking back at the Watergate scandal, it’s apparent that America might never have known of that scandal but for the reporting of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, and for the editorial support they receive from Ben Bradlee at the Washington Post. One measure of Ben Bradlee’s stature in American media is seen in the fact that his obituary ran on the front page of the New York Times, his rival newspaper. Marilyn Berger, writing for the Times writes,

“Ben Bradlee, who presided over The Washington Post’s Watergate reporting that led to the fall of President Richard M. Nixon and that stamped him in American culture as the quintessential newspaper editor of his era — gruff, charming and tenacious — died on Tuesday…”

He was 93. Now, again, it’s important to note here that the New York Times on its front page designated Ben Bradlee as “the quintessential newspaper editor of his era.” They also credited Ben Bradlee with leading the Washington Post into the first rank of American newspapers. As they write, “courting controversy and giving it standing as a thorn in the side of Washington officials.”

But there are two other aspects of life the Ben Bradlee that deserve our attention. Intelligent Christians, thinking about the media should pay attention to these two dimensions as well. The first is the fact that when you’re looking at Ben Bradlee (and his wife Sally Quinn), you’re looking at people who were not just reporting on and interested in the political system, they were actually active participants in it as well. Ben Bradlee was a very close personal friend of President John F. Kennedy, both before and after Kennedy was elected president. Bradlee was actually so close to the Kennedys that he was asked to be a part of the group that received Jacqueline Kennedy when she returned from Dallas and the president’s assassination.

This points what is called the participant-observer dilemma. If you’re close friend of an individual – an officeholder in this case – if you’re involved in the political process, and if you advocate for particular position, it’s very difficult indeed often implausible, to step back and to say that your newspaper can be offering an objective and unbiased report. Christians need to keep this very much in mind when we consider the fact that the media, and the especially the leaders of the media, are so closely allied with one wing of America’s political system, and that is the left-wing. With one party, the Democratic Party. And with one ideological perspective, and that is, the more liberal perspective. That’s a very important issue for us to understand – Ben Bradlee is a symbol of that identification.

The second thing to keep in mind is this; when you look at Ben Bradlee, when you look at the Washington Post, when you consider Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, what you’re looking at here is an investigative mode of journalism that is now considered to be normal, perhaps even admirable. It’s that which every American reporter and newspaper editor seems to hold out as aspiration. They want to have the same kind of fame as Woodward and Bernstein gained in terms of the Watergate coverage. But this has led to what many people describe as an adversarial press culture, where when it comes to the government, or basic and venerable institutions in American life, the press often seem to believe that the major purpose of being a newspaper reporter or an editor or for that matter any major figure in the news media is to find some way to bring disrepute upon an institution, upon a political leader.

Now there are checks and balances in our society and a very alert press is one of those checks and balances. That’s why the framers of the United States Constitution considered freedom of the press to be so absolutely vital to democracy. But when the press is given over to a certain kind of institutional cynicism and when members of the press see themselves as proudly part of an adversarial culture, this can’t be healthy for democracy either.

Finally, thinking Christians want to ponder the actual influence of newspaper editors, and editors in the larger world of the media in terms of framing both news and opinion. We often think of a report coming merely from a reporter, but editors play a very essential role. Editors decide to assign the reporter. Editors decide to let the story be written. Editors edit the story, conforming it to their own views and their own understanding of journalism. And editors often decide on the placement and the visibility the story itself. In other words, when you’re looking at a newspaper or when you’re considering an article found in any other kind of media outlet, or for that matter, if you watching some kind of news report on television, recognize that is not just a reporter – it’s an editor whose hand you are seeing and whose views you have to take into consideration. The difference is, of course, you generally don’t know who many those editors are that was hardly the case of Ben Bradlee. In USA Today, the publisher the paper declared that Ben Bradlee was “the greatest newspaper editor in history.” There may well be some argument about that, but there will be no arguing the fact that editors are important, and among them Ben Bradley was very important.

It’s also important to recognize, we couldn’t talk about the America, especially the Washington we know now, without the role played by Ben Bradlee.

3) Washington Post recognizes foolishness of hasty marijuana legalization

Next, speaking of the Washington Post, that paper ran an editorial just two days ago entitled “On Marijuana Legalization Plans the District Should Slow Down.” That’s a very interesting editorial for the Washington Post to run. The paper has been generally very favorable of liberalizing marijuana laws. Furthermore, the paper is generally if not almost exclusively, offering a liberal perspective on so many these issues. Given the moral revolution on the issue of marijuana in our culture, the kind of ‘put on the brakes’ editorial that appeared in this leading newspaper, just two days ago, deserves our attention.

The timing of the editorial has to do with the fact that marijuana is going to be on the ballot in the District of Columbia on November 4. The editors write,

“Most votes have yet to be cast in the District’s referendum on legalizing marijuana, but the D.C. Council is already making plans on how to regulate sales. The premature move is in keeping with the heedless rush to put the city’s imprimatur on use of a drug whose impacts are still not fully known. It is not too late for more prudent judgment to prevail; voters on Nov. 4 could slow the push for legalization by voting no on Initiative 71.”

As the editors explain, that initiative would legalize a person 21 years of age or older to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana for so-called personal use, to grow up to six marijuana plants at home, and the transfer without payment up to 1 ounce of marijuana to another citizen, also over age 21 of the District of Columbia. Now here’s an interesting sentence in the editorial;

“Because of the District’s restrictions on what is subject to ballot approval, the initiative would not allow for sale of marijuana, creating a situation where having marijuana would be legal but getting it might require illegal acts.”

Now it would seem obvious that that singular sentence would point to the fact that the district is indeed irresponsibly rushing headlong into the legalization of marijuana. It’s going to legalize possession, but it’s going to make it impossible legally to buy it. In other words, it’s going to make one act legal while leaving the other necessary act illegal. The District of Columbia has already decriminalized marijuana. That’s not legalizing it, but is removing it from being a criminal act to one that requires nothing more than the payment of a $25 fine. For that reason, the newspaper editor say all the racial disparity issues of basically disappeared. They then accuse the District of Columbia of rushing headlong and irresponsibly into trying actually to legalize marijuana and they describe marijuana in very honest terms. They say, the drug might have harmful effects;

“Its active ingredient has been linked to memory problems, impaired thinking and weakened immune systems. And we question [wrote the editors] whether it is possible to legalize the drug for adults without sending a message to youth that its use is risk-free.”

Finally, the editors wrote in “waiting, the District would benefit from ongoing scientific research as well as the experience of states that only recently have legalized marijuana.” They conclude with this sentence; It is easier to let a genie out of the bottle than to try to stuff one back in.”

Now that’s a sentence that would apply to a good many issues, and it’s the kind of logic that the Washington Post editors should think about and employ more often.

4) California requires churches to cover abortions in blatant disregard of religious liberty

Just a few weeks ago we discussed that in California, the Department of Managed Health Care has now ordered all insurance providers to immediately begin offering full coverage for elective abortion (by the way, not just for the employee covered by the insurance but for qualified dependents as well). When we discussed this development just a few days ago, it had reference to the fact that the insurance commissioner there in the state of California has sent such notification to two Roman Catholic institutions of higher learning, to colleges, requiring those colleges – through the only insurance plans they would be able to purchase for their employees – to pay directly for insurance coverage for elective abortions, including surgical abortions. Those are the abortions whereby a child is literally cut to pieces before being removed from the womb.

When we did discuss those Roman Catholic colleges having received that notification, I made reference to the fact that there is nothing in that policy that would seem in any way to preclude the same kind of letter arriving at the doors of California’s churches. And now that has happened.

Courtney Crandell, writing for World magazine, tells us of the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Life Legal Defense Foundation have filed a complaint with the federal Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of seven churches now compelled to provide insurance coverage for elective abortions. Crandell tells us that it was in August that Michelle Rouillard, who is director of California’s Department of Managed Health Care, sent a letter informing insurance companies that California’s constitution and a 1975 state law require them to cover elective abortions in group plans. She then writes,

“Forcing churches to cover elective abortions assaults a fundamental American freedom. [and she cites ADF senior counsel, Casey Mattox who said] California is flagrantly violating the federal law that protects employers from being forced into having abortion in their health insurance plans.”

This is one of the things we need to watch very carefully. The advocates of abortion, including many appointive bureaucratic and elected officials are now becoming more and more radicalized in terms of their absolute intentionality to make abortion available as often, to as many people, under as many circumstances, with as much taxpayer support as might be possible. And they’re pushing the limits and boundaries of that possibility with every chance they get.

This action within California also appears, as the ADF and other attorneys have pointed out, to be in direct violation of federal law and that’s why these attorneys have appealed for relief to the federal government, to Department of Health and Human Services. But wait just a minute. That department is part of the Obama Administration, and it was that very same department, the Department of Health and Human Services that was at the center of the controversy over the denial religious liberty to companies Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods, those companies that won a landmark victory at the Supreme Court over the policies of that very department.

In an article published at the Federalist Casey Mattox, the lead attorney from the ADF on this case, wrote,

“ This California mandate is in blatant violation of federal law that specifically prohibits California from discriminating against health care plans on the basis that they do not cover abortion. Alliance Defending Freedom and Life Legal Defense Foundation have filed administrative complaints with the HHS Office of Civil Rights (which oversees this federal law) on behalf of individual employees and seven California churches forced into abortion coverage in violation of their conscience.”

He then writes this very important paragraph,

“What will be the administration and the Left’s response to this unprecedented attack on religious liberty? If they couldn’t stand with Hobby Lobby because it was a for-profit business, not a church, and because they thought its conscience concern was misplaced on the abortifacient nature of Plan B, will they now demand religious liberty for churches forced to cover elective abortion? If not now for religious liberty, when?”

Sadly enough, Mr. Mattox, I fear the answer to that question is never. We are now so often seen erotic liberty triumph over religious liberty and in this case, we’re also seeing abortion rights triumph over religious liberty rights. That’s not a new pattern, but it is all the more ominous given this development in California, one that in the long term is not just about California. It’s not just about these churches. It’s about every single church in all 50 states and about the tightening of the noose of religious liberty.

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’m speaking to you from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) Ottawa shooting example of terrorism’s purpose; to undo civilization

Suspected killer in Ottawa shootings had a disturbing side, Toronto Globe and Mail (Colin Freeze and Les Perreaux)

Personal woes plagued Canadian who killed soldier: records, lawyer, Reuters (Allison Lampert)

2) Death of Ben Bradlee reminder of influence of media editors in framing news and opinion

Ben Bradlee, Washington Editor and Watergate Warrior, Dies at 93, New York Times (Marilyn Berger)

3) Washington Post recognizes foolishness of hasty marijuana legalization

On marijuana legalization plans, the District should slow down, Washington Post (Editorial Board)

4) California requires churches to cover abortions in blatant disregard of religious liberty

Churches sue California over abortion coverage mandate, World Magazine (Courtney Crandell)

California Orders Churches To Fund Abortions—Or Else, The Federalist (Casey Mattox)


R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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