The Briefing 04-13-15

The Briefing 04-13-15

The Briefing


April 13, 2015

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


It’s Monday, April 13, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Hillary Clinton announces candidacy, facing different Democratic Party than her husband 

Well, it’s official. Yesterday in a video announcement made on the Internet, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that she will be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the office of President of the United States. This is one of the most anticipated announcements in recent political history because in one sense Ms. Clinton has been running for the presidency at least since about the year 2006. Leading into the 2008 presidential campaign cycle, Hillary Rodham Clinton – then Sen. Clinton from New York – was considered to be the dominant Democratic figure. But she fell behind in terms of the primaries and eventually lost to an upstart very young Senator from the state of Illinois, Barack Obama.

This time, as the press have noted, Ms. Clinton begins with virtually no major Democratic opposition. Even as the Republicans are gearing up for a very active primary season in the 2016 cycle, Ms. Clinton is going to be running effectively unopposed – that is at least to this point no major Democrat has announced any intention nor has moved in any organized sense toward actually running a serious campaign to oppose her for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The most interesting coverage of the Clinton announcement was made in anticipation by The Economist of London. In an editorial they asked the question that many Americans are asking, including many members of her own party, what does Hillary stand for? As they say, she is one most familiar candidate in American history and yet as the major London newsmagazine also notes, her actual positions on many issues – her convictions – are surprisingly unknown; those of the words used by the magazine.

As the editorial states,

“She also understands Washington, DC, as well as anyone. For eight years she was a close adviser to a president (her husband) who balanced the budget and secured bipartisan agreements to reform welfare and open up trade in North America. Afterwards, as a senator, Mrs Clinton made a habit of listening to, and working with, senators on both sides of the aisle, leading some Republicans publicly to regret having disliked her in the past. A President Hillary Clinton could be better at hammering out deals with lawmakers (of both parties) than President Obama has been. She would almost certainly try harder.”

But then they asked the question,

“But to what end? For someone who has been on the national stage for a quarter-century, her beliefs are strangely hard to pin down.”

They note that on foreign policy – remember that her most immediate leadership post was as Secretary of State to the United States – on foreign-policy says The Economist, she says she is neither a realistic nor an idealist, but an idealist realist. In one sense that’s like saying a conservative liberal or a Democratic Republican. It comes down to the fact that it hides far more than it reveals.

In its news article The Economist also notes some interesting personal aspects of Hillary Clinton, including the fact that she is:

“…one of the most famous people in the world constantly watched by the Secret Service,”

They note that for this reason it may be rather difficult for Mrs. Clinton to do the kind of retail politics that she has indicated will be the strategy of her campaign – especially in primary states including New Hampshire. And also,

“The problem is that the Clintons have run for many things before. Mrs Clinton first entered the governor’s mansion in Arkansas in 1979, and has been in the public eye ever since. This makes connecting with ordinary folk a challenge. In a speech last year to a convention of car dealers, she confided that: ‘The last time I actually drove a car myself was 1996.’”

The magazine also goes on to note that she will have considerable problems with her own party sense that party has moved considerably to the left to where her husband was and to the left to where she ran in the year 2008. As The Economist writes,

“The Democratic grassroots have their own gripes with the Clintons. They have not forgotten that Mrs Clinton voted for George W. Bush’s Iraq war as a senator. It took her until March 2013 to come out for gay marriage. But mostly the left of the party worries that the Clintons [this is both Bill and Hillary] are too soft on capitalism. They recall Mr Clinton’s presidency as a time when the rules on Wall Street banks were loosened, in their view setting the scene for the later financial crash. It remains an article of faith among trade unions that the North American Free Trade Agreement signed by Mr Clinton with Mexico and Canada sucked jobs out of the American heartland.”

The interesting thing about that is the fact that political parties are not static creatures; that’s true of course of the Republican Party as much as of the Democratic Party. It’s been interesting over the last several decades to watch the worldview controversies, not just between the two parties but within America’s two major political parties. And there is no doubt, as has now been well documented by political scientist that over the course of the last three decades and in particular the last 20 years, the Republican Party has shifted somewhat to the right – in a more conservative direction. But at the same time the Democratic Party has moved far more considerably to the left. It’s not an accident that most Americans sense a greater political polarization in this country.

But as Christians think about this, one of the most important things we need to keep in mind is it that political polarization reflects an even deeper worldview polarization – not just between the two parties, but between two directional forces in American society. It’s going to be very interesting to watch this presidential campaign. Every election, certainly every election of this consequence, is a giant test of worldview. In one sense it is something like a political worldview Rorschach test. We will find out in the course of the 2016 presidential process not only where the candidates stand but where the American people actually stand, or at least the American people as represented by those who vote.

As we look to the potential candidacy of Hillary Clinton, now the actual candidacy, most evangelical Christians are likely to think of some of the controversies that have attached themselves to the former Sen. and Secretary of State and the former first lady in previous years. It should be remembered that Hillary Clinton injected herself into a massive controversy over the family – indeed writing a book about the fact that in her view, a communitarian worldview, it takes a village to raise a child.

Some the most pressing moral issues now addressed by the nation, including the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage, such fundamental issues as the sanctity of human life and the definition of the family, these are issues on which the Democratic Party – not just candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton – is very well identified and committed. Those commitments were made clear in the 2012 Democratic Party platform, and those positions were quite extreme even by the previous platforms adopted by the same party. When it came to same-sex marriage in 2012 the Democratic platform called for the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, even though its own presidential candidate had opposed same-sex marriage when he ran in 2008. And as The Economist notes, it wasn’t until 2013 that Hillary Clinton declared herself in favor of same-sex marriage.

Similarly, the Democratic platform in 2012 was so pro-abortion is actually called for the federal funding of abortions and the Democratic Party opposes virtually any restriction on abortion whatsoever. So the real question, the really interesting thing from a worldview perspective, is whether or not the 2016 presidential cycle will push Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party even further to the left on some of these very controversial issues going far beyond just the questions of marriage and the sanctity of human life. But for evangelical Christians those are two questions that simply must be addressed and two questions with the gravest worldview significance, because we understand just how fundamental those two questions are.

2) Worldview contrasts within and between two political parties stronger than ever in 2016 campaigns

It’ll be very interesting to watch the process and the Democratic Party. But in terms of the political dynamic it will be even more interesting to watch the worldview – the philosophical and ideological conflicts – that is likely to take place amongst Republicans running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Thus far Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has announced his race for the nomination and last week also Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul announced that he will be a candidate for the Republican nomination. What makes Sen. Paul so interesting in this regard is that he is the first to run in recent times, as a Republican, with the political stature of the United States senator representing some form of a libertarian worldview.

Libertarianism isn’t new in America. In terms of the Republican Party and the larger conservative movement there have generally been three legs to the conservative or to the Republican platform in terms of its foundation politically. One part of the Republican Party has been big business largely committed to free enterprise – that has been its driving dynamic. The second major group in terms of Republican influence is that represented by conservative Christians; increasingly mobilized in terms of political action and influence in the party especially since the late 1970s, crystallizing in the 1980 election of Pres. Ronald Reagan. The third major component of the Republican Party is made up of libertarians, those who hold in one way or another to a basically libertarian worldview.

Now of the things to note is that parties are constellations of natural allies. So when it comes to the advocates of a free market largely based upon economic concerns that came from a Christian culture in Europe and in North America. And when it comes to Christian conservatives, mobilized by issues such as threats to the definition of the family, the undermining of marriage, and the undermining of the sanctity of human life, there is, let’s just say, between those two groups a considerable overlap or at least there has been until recent times.

Add the third group, the more libertarian component of the Republican constellations and you’ll note that like the conservative Christians and like those who are the proponents of free enterprise, the libertarians also call for a rather limited and restrained government and for strong protections when it comes to individual liberty. But there are differences amongst these three groups, those differences have become very apparent in recent times when it comes to divergence between many the free enterprise Republicans and those who are Christian conservatives.

That’s made clear when you see so many corporations, including most recently the controversy in Arkansas in which Arkansas-based Walmart came out against that states propose religious freedom restoration act. That’s a very interesting development. It’s also demonstrated by the fact that hundreds of corporations have signed on to legal briefs in support of same-sex marriage in anticipation of the April 28 hearings before the United States Supreme Court – that is the courts oral arguments on the case of same-sex marriage.

When you add that third component, the libertarians, there are points of convergence of course between the libertarians and the more business oriented Republicans when it comes to support for free enterprise. But if anything the libertarians tend to be far more radical in their support of what they defined to be free market economics. And when it comes to Christian conservatives and libertarians there is also shared worldview ground – especially when it comes to limiting government.

Both groups hold to the necessity of a limited and restrained government. But when it comes to many moral issues, at least most libertarians tend to be quite resistant to any legal restrictions upon individual behavior. And when it comes to such things as sexual behavior or the definition of marriage or even the sanctity of human life and the question of abortion, this is an awkward point of convergence for conservative Christians and libertarians. This is all the more interesting sense so many younger Americans in both parties, but especially in terms of a growing segment of younger Republican voters, tend to be far more libertarian in their worldview than did their parents and grandparents.

Sen. Paul we should note is running as a libertarian in one sense, but a libertarian who does not support the legalization of same-sex marriage and a libertarian, who like his father former Congressman Ron Paul, was very clear in support of the sanctity of human life and opposition to abortion – or at least a willingness to enter into legal restrictions on abortion in a very meaningful sense. So it’s going to be really interesting to see how the worldview issues arise in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. There are other candidates expected to announce they will be running for the Republican nomination even in just the next few days. The pictures just going to get more complicated and from a worldview perspective it is just a get more interesting.

But then the big question comes, when the two parties oppose one another, at the point in which they have nominated presidential candidates regardless of who those candidates might be, there you will have an even more stark set of worldview contracts. That was true in almost every recent presidential election. It was strikingly true in the year 2012, it will be even more true – we can safely predict – in the year 2016. So stay tuned and watch carefully how the worldviews collide.

3) US nuclear agreement with Iran strained by lack of worldview unity between two nations

In terms of worldview it also impacts foreign-policy and that’s certainly something that Christians have been more and more aware of in recent times. Last week and in recent days we’ve talked about the fact that Pres. Obama’s administration had announced what it called an historic accord with the nation of Iran over limiting that nation’s nuclear weapons potential. But as the national and international media reported over the weekend, all that is now called in the question not only because of serious opposition from the United States Congress but also because of assertions that were made by the Iran supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who made very clear that he will not allow the inspections of nuclear sites and military establishments there in Iran called for in the so-called framework agreement.

As Thomas Erdbrink and David E. Sanger reported for the New York Times,

“Iran’s supreme leader on Thursday challenged two of the United States’ bedrock principles in the nuclear negotiations, declaring that all economic sanctions would have to be lifted on the day any final agreement was signed and that military sites would be strictly off limits to foreign inspectors.”

Now looking at the actual language used by Ayatollah, it is very clear that Iran is continuing to press its case against Western civilization in general and the United States in particular. And as the New York Times and other media have noted, this new development makes it even less likely that the framework agreement will meet the standards of the United States Senate. Keep in mind that the economic sanctions against Iran are matter of legislation – requiring the action of the United States Congress and opposition in the Senate to this new framework agreement is very clear. This includes many major Democrats, including the man who is expected to be the new Democratic leader in the Senate, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who announced his opposition to the framework agreement in the last several days.

As the Times noted, Ayatollah’s statements are likely to draw an even deeper wedge between the United States and Iran as the framework agreement is going to be considered by the leadership of both nations. But Christians watching this now have some very interesting evidence of the worldview issues that are here at stake. And this comes in a series of articles written by major figures in terms of both the opinion class and the foreign-policy establishment in the United States. One the most important of these was written by columnist George Will, who in his syndicated column said,

“Dealing with Iran is disagreeable, but no more so than depending on Stalin’s Soviet Union as a World War II ally…”

In making that comparison George Will was simply pointing to the obvious and that is that given the current challenges at any moment in foreign-policy, any nation, including the United States, might find itself with rather strange bedfellows; as the United States did in terms of joining with the Soviet Union in opposition to the Nazi regime during World War II. But getting to the worldview point, George Will says,

“Deterring a nuclear Iran might be even more problematic than deterring the Soviet Union was, depending on whether Iran’s theological intoxication is more than rhetorical. We are going to find out.”

That phrase about Iran’s theological intoxication is really, really interesting because George Will is pointing to the fact that Iran has declared a theological Jihad on the United States and on the west for the better part of the last 35 years. And now what we have in terms of the comments by the grand Ayatollah over the last several days is evidence that, at least in terms of his view and he is Iran’s supreme leader, Iran is still on a theological mandate against the West.

Another major statement pointing to the worldview issues at stake was made by two former secretaries of state of the United States: Henry Kissinger and George P Shultz; two of the dominant figures in American foreign-policy for more than the last half-century. The former secretaries of State wrote,

“But partnership in what task? Cooperation is not an exercise in good feeling; it presupposes congruent definitions of stability.”

What the two secretaries are stating is that when it comes to the United States and Iran, agreeing to something like a so-called framework agreement and agreeing to work together to avoid the kind of war that is a real possibility, that cooperation is in itself a good thing. But this partnership they say, this cooperation, isn’t an exercise merely in good feelings, it’s not emotional, it instead presupposes congruent definitions of stability. That stating that it requires, that is a partnership that’s real, requires a congruent worldview. They then write,

“There exists no current evidence that Iran and the U.S. are remotely near such an understanding.”

That is a concern shared by so many watching this issue unfold and the two former secretaries of state are very clear in that they do not support the framework agreement and see it as disastrous for the United States and for our allies.

A similar assessment was made by columnist Charles Krauthammer in his opinion piece that was published over the weekend. His statement is quite clear; he sees this as a suicidal pact that is now supported by the President’s administration. He says and I quote,

“You set out to prevent proliferation [that is nuclear proliferation] and you trigger it. You set out to prevent an Iranian nuclear capability and you legitimizing. You set of the constrain the world’s greatest exporter of terror, threatening every one of our allies in the Middle East, and you’re on the verge of making it the region’s economic and military leader. What’s the alternative ask the president [and that’s the question now as by Charles Krauthammer], he has repeatedly answered the question himself, no deal is better than a bad deal,”

But the most interesting assessment of all was offered by New York Times columnist David Brooks in an article published over the weekend entitled The Revolution Lives. He writes about what we have learned since the framework agreement was announced by the President and the Iranian negotiators. He writes,

“First, we learned that Iran’s supreme leader still regards the United States as his enemy. The audience chanted ‘Death to America’ during his speech, and Khamenei himself dismissed America’s ‘devilish’ intentions. When a radical religious leader uses a word like ‘devilish,’ he’s not using it the way it’s used in a chocolate-cake commercial. He means he thinks the United States is the embodiment of evil.”

Brooks goes on to make many additional points when it comes to the framework agreement, but just that first point is enough for now because what he’s writing has deep moral and worldview significance. He says, ‘How in the world can we sign a framework agreement with a regime that says that our intentions are devilish? How can we sign an agreement supposedly that will lead to peace when the supreme leader of Iran declares that America is still the great enemy? And as he speaks the people are calling death to America.’

This is one of those things that simply brings out the most important worldview issues, even when many Americans aren’t expecting them because even as most Americans certainly appears are not too interested in this framework agreement with Iran, that framework agreement – and all that is behind it – is a matter of grave interest to every American whether they recognize it or not. And Christians looking at this must understand that there are phenomenally important worldview issues at stake, theological issues at stake. And it’s interesting in this regard that a secular columnist like George Will points out that there’s no way around the theological worldview diversions that is clear between the United States and Iran. And in this case, the theological arguments is not being made by the United States, it is being made by Iran – the very man who supreme leader said just in recent days that it’s America that has devilish intentions. What in the world did he mean by that? As David Brooks says, it can’t be anything that reveals a shared 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 more information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to For information on Boyce College just go to Remember we’re taking questions for Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Call with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058.


Remember also today we are releasing a new edition of Thinking in Public; this time, a conversation with University of Virginia professor Charles Marsh about his new biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.


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


Podcast Transcript

1) Hillary Clinton announces candidacy, facing different Democratic Party than her husband 

What does Hillary stand for?, The Economist

A contest, or a coronation?, The Economist

2) Worldview contrasts within and between two political parties stronger than ever in 2016 campaigns

3) US nuclear agreement with Iran strained by lack of worldview unity between two nations

Iran’s Supreme Leader Says Sanctions Must Lift When Nuclear Deal Is Signed, New York Times (Thomas Erdbrink and David E. Sanger)

Containing Iran’s nuclear intoxication, Washington Post (George Will)

The Iran Deal and Its Consequences, Wall Street Journal (Henry Kissinger and George P. Schultz)

The fatal flaw in the Iran deal, Washington Post (Charles Krauthammer)

The Revolution Lives!, New York Times (David Brooks)

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).