Thursday, October 6, 2016
The Briefing 10-06-16
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Thursday, October 6, 2016. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from the Christian worldview.
Hurricane Matthew prompts mass evacuations as it heads for Southeast US
Since early this week, millions of Americans have been on the move, many of them in forced evacuations in light of the threat of Hurricane Matthew. That devastating storm, a category five storm in at least part of his experience, hit the nation of Haiti as a category four storm. It is now, as we are speaking, leaving the Bahamas and heading for the state of Florida. Millions of Floridians have been evacuated and others are under direct threat. At the same time, residents of Georgia, South Carolina, and coastal areas of North Carolina are preparing for what could be an absolutely devastating storm.
Matthew was one of those storms that emerged in the Caribbean, and it was watched very closely because it was anticipated that it just might be a relatively strong storm. But as the days progressed, it became clear that not only would it become a strong storm, but the strongest storm to emerge from the Caribbean in the last decade or so. When it hit Haiti, it was the strongest storm to hit there in virtually half a century. The storm left Haiti with massive devastation and, at this point, with a documented 11 deaths. It is expected that that death toll will rise as further evidence of the storm’s destructiveness unfolds.
Last night, the fury of the storm was unleashed on the Bahama Islands. It was at that point a category three storm with maximum sustained winds of about 120 mph. But ominously enough, the storm is actually expected to intensify before it hits landfall somewhere in the Florida peninsula, and it could stay there for some time. Expected rainfall could be catastrophic, not to mention the tidal surge and the winds.
As we discussed on The Briefing yesterday, at least in part, a storm of this magnitude reveals just how little of the natural world human beings can control. Even as in Genesis 1:28 we are called and commanded to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, there are parts of the cosmos, there are even parts of planet Earth, forces beyond human control that we certainly have not yet subdued.
There are also some very interesting dimensions of human experience and human judgment, human nature as a matter fact, that are revealed under these kinds of circumstances. Even as we have this massive predictive ability that previous generations of human beings couldn’t even have conceived, many people simply do not take the evidence or the predictions very seriously. This became abundantly clear back in the 1960s and 70s when the National Hurricane Center was beginning to make the kinds of predictions that are now quite customary today. They did so without the kind of radar and satellite imagery we simply take for granted. And there were many people who back in the 1960s and 70s, even with the threat of massive hurricanes, decided to turn it into something of a hurricane party. Many of those people perished in the massive Gulf hurricanes that took place in those very decades. More recently, perhaps the evidence that is available to us on almost every television or digital screen has made it harder to deny the obvious. This has led to the fact that you have new problems as people delay until the very last minute when they leave, which leads to all kinds of problems of logistics. But at least it appears that a higher percentage of people are taking these kinds of threats and warnings seriously.
The governors of states like Florida and South Carolina and Georgia have been extremely busy over the last several days trying to convince their residents of the reality and magnitude, the seriousness of this kind of threat. We will know a great deal about the storm and its effects over the next 24 hours. In the meantime, the one thing we know to do is to pray for all those who are in the direct threat of this storm and others who may be affected as well. And even as we join with the governors of those states in trying to underline just how serious this threat may be, we are praying at the very same time that the threat is not so serious as may today appear.
Supranationalism vs. subsidiarity: How significant is the UN's election of its next Secretary General?
Next, it was announced yesterday that Antonio Guterres, the socialist former Prime Minister of Portugal, has been the unanimous choice of the United Nations Security Council to become the next leader of the United Nations organization, that is the Secretary General of the United Nations General Assembly. Ambassadors to the United Nations made the announcement yesterday, and it came after a slight modification in the process whereby UN Secretaries General had been chosen and elected. The actual election is something of a formality now, but at this point all the nations that have veto power on the Security Council have decided either to support Guterres or at least not to oppose him.
This is a very interesting international development, but the interesting thing about it from a Christian worldview perspective is not how much this means but how little. Guterres will stand in line of the UN Secretaries General who had preceded him. The fact is that most Americans couldn’t come up with the name of one of them.
At the end of World War I, Woodrow Wilson tried his very best to create what became known as the League of Nations. Wilson, a progressivist with a very liberal outlook on the world, believed that eventually the end of the First World War could be used as a catalyst to bring about an era of world peace under something like a world government. He didn’t mean to surrender the sovereignty of the United States, but he did mean to create a League of Nations that would have supranational authority. That didn’t happen. As a matter of fact, Woodrow Wilson was unable to get the United States Senate to ratify the treaty whereby the United States would join the united nations—that after he spent months in France doing his very best to bring about the organization, which he saw as the pinnacle of America’s gift to the world. The United States Senate did not see it the same way.
At the end of World War II, Franklin Delano Roosevelt also wanted to see the development of some kind of international organization, some kind of international, supranational government organization that would be able to prevent the kind of awful conflicts that led to the Second World War that so scarred the 20th century. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, of course, died just before the end of World War II and he was unable to be present on the world stage when the United Nations itself came about. His successor, Harry Truman, was far more pessimistic about the United Nations and was quite concerned that the UN could become something of a threat to the United States. One of his very quiet but very real ambitions was to make certain that the United Nations was headquartered in the United States where he could eventually keep at least an eye on it, he and his successors in the American presidency.
The fact is that the last half-century has demonstrated that the United Nations is a largely ineffective force. It does have some, at least somewhat, effective organizations and programs within it. One of those is the United Nations Refugee Agency, which by no coincidence was until recently headed by none other than Antonio Guterres.
Guterres is a former socialist Prime Minister of Portugal, but his socialism is not something that is of direct threat here because the power of the United Nations Secretary General is a rather limited power. What is called for is a certain kind of negotiating skill, a certain skill at diplomacy which Antonio Guterres has demonstrated to possess.
But from a Christian worldview perspective, there are some big insights here. As I say, the biggest insight is the fact that the story is not so large as at least some around the world will want to make it to appear. The global elites, the intellectual and cultural elites who so often see themselves above any claims of national patriotism, would love to see an international organization, a supranational organization and government emerge like the United Nations—or something like the United Nations on steroids—but it is also really apparent over the last several decades that governments are not willing to concede or to dismiss their own sovereignty in light of the United Nations. The United Nations more often becomes a platform for airing grievances, a platform for arguing ideologies, and one of those organizations that proves that the larger you get, the less effective you generally are. The United States continues to pay the lion’s share of the budget of so many of the United Nations organizations, but historically the United Nations has proved itself very frequently to bite the hand that quite literally feeds.
The other very interesting thing from a biblical worldview is the principle of subsidiarity. That’s the principle that reminds us that when God made creation and he created human society, he created the most basic units as the units of greatest authority. Thus, it is the family and the bond of marriage that is prior to everything else in terms of government. And when it comes to local government, that is far more effective on the small scale of meeting actual human needs than something as large as a state. And the state, in turn, is more competent than the national government in terms of delivering on the kinds of services and support that should be present in the smallest unit of civilization, and that is the family. By the time you jump to something like a global organization with the pretensions of the United Nations, the principle of subsidiarity so deeply rooted in Scripture already informs us that it is unlikely to be competent or effective.
Bisexuality is on the rise in Britain, but not for the reason you might think
Next, a major story from Great Britain, or at least a major headline, this time from the London newspaper, the Telegraph.
“Bisexual identity overtaking gay and lesbian in Britain, official stats show.”
Here again, we confront the lesson that sometimes the headline doesn’t really reflect the story. The story doesn’t deliver what the headline promises. John Bingham, the social affairs editor for the Telegraph, writes,
“The number of British people defining themselves as “bisexual” has jumped by 45 per cent in just three years, according new official estimates. For the first time, more young people in the UK describe themselves as bisexual than gay or lesbian combined, the figures from the Office for National Statistics show.
Now is this a big story? Well if you look at the lede, it would appear to be a big story if indeed the number of British people defining themselves as bisexual has jumped by almost 50% in just three years. It would also be quite remarkable if the number of British people identifying themselves as bisexual is larger than the number identifying as gay and lesbian. That would be a decided reversal of the trend and pattern that’s been very evident over the last half-century. But when you look at the story, it gets a little more complicated.
That’s also indicated by the fact that in the second sentence it says,
“More young people in the UK describe themselves as bisexual than gay or lesbian combined.”
Bingham summarizes by writing this,
“It is the latest evidence pointing to a shift in attitudes towards sexuality, with increasing numbers viewing their own position as somewhere on a spectrum rather than it being a black-or-white question.”
“A survey by YouGov published last year found that half of young people, and almost a quarter of the population overall, define themselves as something other than 100 per cent heterosexual.”
Now when you look at this, you have to ask a basic question. What’s going on here? Is indeed there this radical expansion of the number of bisexual people in Great Britain? Are there actually more bisexuals than gays and lesbians combined, even among British young people? Well, you look little closer at the way the story unfolds, and it appears that this is really reflective of something else which is equally important. It appears that British young people don’t want to answer the survey saying that they’re 100% heterosexual because that will appear to be very much out of step and just too conventional, too old-fashioned, and yet they’re also not willing to declare themselves, at least in these large numbers, as gay or lesbian or anything else in that spectrum—except the word bisexual, because that appears to leave all of their avenues open not to declare themselves to any particular sexual orientation, but rather to choose something of a combination of all the above in order to appear neither too conservative and conventional, nor to declare themselves actually gay or lesbian, much less transgender or transsexual.
Now in thinking about how a moral revolution happens and how it is furthered in advance by this kind of so-called research, keep in mind that the lead paragraph in the story said that there had been a 45% jump in the number of persons identifying as bisexual in the United Kingdom in just three years. Then you look further in the story and you find this line,
“The overall numbers identified by the official estimates are still very small.”
But how small? Well, it turns out that the number that is supposedly reflecting that increase is a number in percentage from 1.3% to 1.8% in that three-year period. Let’s just consider that seriously. That means that the new number is still less than 2% of the population, according to these statistics. Now you have to ask the question, what in the world does that headline mean? Well at the very least, it means confusion, and it could also mean outright misrepresentation. Later in the article we read, and I quote,
“In 2015, 2.6% of Londoners identified themselves as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual,” that’s 2.6% “the highest of any English region.”
When you look at the headline, you would think that this number would be in the high double digits, not something like 1.7% or, to add it all together, 2.6%. Furthermore, we are told in this article that some of the responses may mean that they label themselves as bisexual or pansexual. The influence of cultural figures and celebrities identifying as bisexual is openly cited in the article as part of the cultural phenomenon. But looking at this from a Christian worldview perspective, without denying that these numbers are actually credible, the fact is that what it demonstrates more than anything else is the fact that huge percentages of young people in Great Britain and also here in the United States are afraid or intimidated from actually listing themselves as heterosexual because that will appear to be just too close minded and too conventional.
It’s also clear that the younger you go in the population the more acute these pressures apparently become. That’s the big story. The big story here is the incredible pressure that so many young people feel to identify themselves as something other than 100% heterosexual to find themselves somehow listed in the LGBTQ and expanding spectrum, something other than heterosexual. That’s the big story, and there is no reason to believe that that pressure is unique to Great Britain. There’s every reason to believe that pressure is found on both sides of the Atlantic. That’s a story that really does deserve a headline.
France vows to prosecute pro-life websites that "deliberately deceive" women on abortion
Next, a story coming from France as reported by Samantha Gobba of World Magazine. The headline,
“France plans ban on pro-life websites.”
As World reports,
“The French government announced last week that it plans to ban pro-life websites found guilty of ‘deliberately deceiving’ women with the appearance of neutrality. Under an amendment to a current ‘Equality and Citizenship’ law, owners of pro-life sites could face a 30,000 euro fine (about $33,600) and two years in prison, the same penalties that currently apply to ‘the offense of obstruction to abortion,’ which has been illegal since 1993.”
This story offers chilling and abundant evidence of how the culture of death is now an established fact throughout much of the world and especially in many of the most secular nations of the world—here, most especially in France. The Minister of Families of France said, and I quote,
“Being hostile to abortion is an opinion protected by the civil liberties in France. But creating websites that have all official appearances to actually give biased information designed to deter, guilt, traumatize is not acceptable.”
Now you read all the bureaucratic language backwards there and what the French Minister to Families is saying is that the French government is going to prosecute anyone who is genuinely pro-life and might in any way persuade a woman not to have an abortion by means of a pro-life website. Later in this article, that French Families Minister says,
“A woman facing an unwanted pregnancy is sometimes vulnerable. The sites we are talking about take advantage of the complexity of situations and emotions to get them to renounce abortion.”
So here you have an official department minister of the French government making very clear that the French government is entirely supportive of the decision to abort and apparently is never under any circumstance supportive of the decision not to abort. That decision could only come about by using,
“situations and emotions to get a woman to renounce abortion” and law.
As World says,
“The new law would lump pro-life sites in with pro-anorexia sites and pro-terrorism sites, already banned by the French government.”
We have been following that government’s efforts to absolutely declare its commitment to secularism to the extent that it has even forced Muslim women by its civic authorities to disrobe and has banned the wearing of what is called the Burkini, all this in the name of an absolute secularity. And now we see that that secularity extends to the legislation that would forbid any effective pro-life website, and we also see that the government places itself very solidly on the side of a woman choosing to have an abortion. This French government’s perspective, here, comes down to the fact that it would be unthinkable to the French government, given its commitment to secularism, that any woman could actually be convinced not to have an abortion unless she were manipulated and oppressed and somehow abused and misused in the process of that influence.
World’s report also reminds us that back in 2013 a French pro-life activist and retired pediatrician faced a huge fine merely,
“for entering an abortion facility and handing a woman knitted booties.”
As the magazine says,
“Critics called his actions ‘extremely violent.’”
And he was later found guilty of hindering an abortion. Now work backwards for a moment and understand the presuppositions of a worldview that could define the simple act of handing a woman considering an abortion a pair of knitted booties an act of extreme violence. In order to get to that definition, you’ve got to redefine violence and, for that matter, you’ve got to redefine virtually everything. You’ve got to deny the sanctity of human life and put yourself and your government entirely behind the decision to have an abortion and virtually never behind the decision not to have an abortion.
Liberal Protestantism's meltdown: Episcopal Church welcomes heretical sculpture of woman on a crucifix
Finally, a parable of the meltdown of liberal Protestantism that appeared in yesterday’s New York Times, a story by James Barron.
“An ‘Evolving’ Episcopal Church Invites Back a Controversial Sculpture.”
That controversial sculpture was by Edwina Sandys. She is, by the way, a granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill. The sculpture was a crucifix, but the individual on the crucifix was not a man, that is Christ, but rather a woman. And the sculpture was renamed “Christa.” It created a huge controversy even in the Episcopal Church about 30 years ago when it was first displayed, and given the outrage it was withdrawn. Edwina Sandys had to come and get her sculpture and, according to the New York Times, she took it out of the cathedral and then carried it away in a red convertible.
Well, now it’s back, and so is Edwina Sandys. And the sculpture is back, not as a matter of controversy—no, this church has gone so far that putting up a statue entitled “Christa” rather than Christ is no longer a matter apparently of controversy at all. The New York Times reports,
“This time, it is being installed on the altar in the Chapel of St. Saviour as the centerpiece of ‘The Christa Project: Manifesting Divine Bodies,’ an exhibition” at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City “of more than 50 contemporary works that interpret — or reinterpret — the symbolism associated with the image of Jesus.”
Officials at the Episcopal Cathedral there in New York are absolutely embarrassed that there had been controversy about the statue decades ago. This time, says the paper,
“The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, Andrew M. L. Dietsche, wrote an article for the cathedral’s booklet — an approving article. ‘In an evolving, growing, learning church, we may be ready to see ‘Christa’ not only as a work of art but as an object of devotion, over our altar, with all of the challenges that may come with that for many visitors to the cathedral, or indeed, perhaps for all of us.’”
Well as I said, this is a parable of the meltdown of liberal Protestantism. Here you have a church ready to present a culture that is openly and defiantly heretical. That presents a female Christ and presents a female Christ as an atoning figure. The problems of this are so enormous that it simply suffices to say that this is outright heresy. It is a rejection of the biblical gospel. It is a rejection of the biblical Christ. But, furthermore, what we see is a church that is openly and obviously embarrassed that there once had been controversy attached to the display of this kind of sculptured heresy. Now that controversy is safely in the past, and note the words of the Bishop he claimed that his church’s “an evolving, growing, learning church.”
Well when you use those words “evolving” and “growing” and add that to “learning,” what you’re learning is to accept heresy and as the story makes clear, not only to accept it, but celebrate it.