The Briefing 10-27-17
Tags: Audio, Bolshevik Revolution, China, Military, Patriotism, Xi Jinping
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Friday, October 27, 2017. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
We’ll consider why you may not know anyone in the US military and why it matters; we’ll look at the 100th anniversary, the tragic anniversary, of the Soviet revolution; and we’ll consider why we should care about virtual applause in China.
Why you may not know anyone in the military and why it matters
We look at the diversity of worldviews in the United States, we look at often the conflicts that come between worldviews, and we wonder: How did these worldviews happen? How did they come to be embraced? How did they come to be so influential? And then we also observe that sometimes there are some predictable patterns in terms of how these worldviews are developed and distributed. We come to understand that there's a difference, at least a somewhat predictable difference, in the worldview of someone who comes from family type A versus family type B. Most particularly, the question as to whether or not there is a married mother and father living in the household of the time the children are raised and whether or not in some cases there is a father in the home, just taken as one question. There are also remarkable differences in terms of geography in the United States. The closer you get to the two coasts, the more secular, the more liberal the culture generally becomes. The closer you get to a city, which means there is a distinction in worldview, a predictable difference, in terms of even political voting patterns between cities and rural areas even in the same state.
You can observe other kinds of predictables when it comes to worldview, but some of the controversies of recent days point to the fact there are some other predictable issues that are sometimes just overlooked. For example, there is a huge divide in this country right now about some basic matters of patriotism and patriotic duty, and in the background of questions related either standing or not standing for the national anthem are questions about patriotism and in particular support for the American military. One of the realities that is most predictable in terms of this controversy is the fact that if an individual knows and knows well a member of the US military, either currently serving or marked by past honorable service, the fact is you are far more likely to see a display of patriotism as a moral duty to those who are wearing the American uniform or who have done so. But now there comes the interesting observation, this appears in Bloomberg BusinessWeek that there is also a geographic predictability to that question. The headline in the article of Bloomberg news by Justin Fox is this,
“Why You Don't Know Anybody in the Military.”
He goes on to say,
“Getting rid of the draft has something to do with it, but not everything.”
Now why would this headline insinuate why you don't know anybody in the military? It's because we can assume the ‘you’ that is referenced in this article is ‘you’ likely to read Bloomberg BusinessWeek, likely to look for business news, the financial pages, perhaps likely to be focused in, if not living in, a city like New York City. That's the ‘you,’ and this article is to explain why that ‘you’ doesn't know anybody in the military.
Justin Fox goes on to explain that
“Active-duty military now make up just 0.4 percent of the U.S. population, [that’s] down from 1.8 percent in 1968, [it’s] down from [the amazing number of] 8.7 percent in 1945.”
In the latter case mobilized for World War II at its end, in the other case represented by the height of the militarization of the American effort in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. But it’s not just the low numbers, according to this article, it is the fact that these numbers are not evenly distributed across the United States because, as Justin Fox explains, there are states that predictability are very high enlistment rate states and there are other states that just as predictably are very low enlistment rate states, and between those sets of states, well, there's a lot of difference. It turns out there's a lot of political difference; it turns out there's a lot of economic distance; it turns out there's an enormous amount of social and moral distance.
The state with the highest enlistment rate is the state of Georgia followed by Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Alabama, Maine, and Missouri. What’s notable about those states is the fact that so many of them are in the South. The other states listed include states in the West, again areas that have traditionally had high enlistment rates and high support rates for the American military. Included in this list is a Midwestern state: Missouri; again, heartland America — understandable. And also the state of Maine in the Northeast. Why Maine? It is because socioeconomically, Maine actually looks more like a state in the South when it comes to this kind of trajectory, than to its fellow states in the Northeast. Maine, for example, is a much less wealthy state and a much more rural state than many of the other states associated with the Northeast.
States that have the lowest enlistment rates in the military, well they're headed by a state that actually isn't a state, that's the District of Columbia, followed by North Dakota, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Utah, New Jersey, Vermont, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. The states listed with the most recent veterans, that is the highest percentage of the population constituted by recent veterans starts out with Alaska at almost 8 percent, then Virginia, Hawaii, Wyoming, Washington state, South Carolina, Georgia, Colorado, Maryland, and Montana.
If you do an overlay of the data, including the states with the highest enlistment rates and then compared to the states with the lowest enlistment rates, and then you look at the states with the largest percentage of recent veterans in the population, it’s not an absolute overlay, but it's really interesting. It turns out that the states with the highest commitment to the military turn out to be the states where the military draws its greatest number of enlistees. It turns out that states with a lower level of engagement with and support for the military tend to be states where there is a lower enlistment rate. So the clear implication of this article is that if you do not know a member of the United States military, if you are disconnected from the military as part of the culture, then you just might reconceive questions of patriotism in ways that are not linked to a responsibility to show support for those who are in the nation’s service and in the nation's uniform.
Justin Fox comes to the end of his article and he says that
“these numbers do support the contention that many Americans, especially those in the Northeast, are unlikely to know people in the military.”
“This would seem to be a product of: 1. The increasing concentration of wealth and economic opportunity in a few big, mostly coastal metropolitan areas over the past [several] decades. 2. The aforementioned shrinking of the armed forces relative to the overall population. And 3. The 1973 shift from the draft to an all-volunteer military.”
That means that the people who are in the military now, the United States military, have volunteered to be there, and that action, well it represents a great deal of worldview influence and it has worldview implications. So even as there are certainly other issues in play, it's interesting to note that here you have an article suggesting that maybe the pattern we are seeing of redefining patriotism or even questioning a basic patriotic responsibility, has, well at least something to do with whether or not an individual knows anyone whose life is on the line in the nation's defense wearing the uniform of the American military. And that pattern, it turns out, is more predictable than you may have thought, leading to the fact that Bloomberg news would run an article with the headline,
“Why You Don't Know Anybody in the Military.”
If on the other hand, you do, as this article indicates, it's likely to make a difference.
100 years later, effects of Bolshevik Revolution have long outlasted death of its promises
But next, October 2017 marks a very important anniversary. Next week we will be talking about the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. That's not the issue today. Today we are looking at the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik communist revolution in Russia. That led of course to the creation of the Soviet Union, and that as it now turns out in any honest retrospect is one of the darkest chapters of human history. We are looking at the 20th century representing as one major historian has called the century of megadeath, and at the center of that megadeath is the great lie and deception, the great evil that was the communist revolution and the communist regime in the Soviet Union. And now it is high time that Americans amongst others consider honestly the legacy of that Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and remind ourselves of some of the necessary lessons to be learned.
First of all, we need to remind ourselves that the Bolshevik Revolution, that communist revolution of October 1917, did not come out of a vacuum; it didn't come out of the blue. It came in the context of enormous social unrest and a lack of confidence in the autocratic monarchy of czarist Russia. So, we were looking at one of the crucial hinges of history, the end of one age, the age of autocratic totalitarian monarchies — in this case represented by the czarist in the Romanov dynasty — and we were seeing the hinge turn towards revolution, and in this case a revolution that if anything was even more horrifying than the totalitarian monarch that it replaced. But, of course, in the midst of all this tumult there was a great deal of confusion, and we also have to recognize that the 19th century was in so many ways the century of revolution. Some of those revolutions would harken back to the American Revolution in the 1770s. Some of them would look back to the French Revolution in the early 19th century. Some of them would look to the revolutions that took place in the middle of the 19th century, almost all of them abortive and almost all of them tragic in terms of their outcome. But there was a revolutionary spirit in the air, and it was aided and abetted by the emergence of new ideas and by a worldview, a worldview that was promoted most famously by Karl Marx and by his co-author Frederick Engels, it was the worldview of communism. A worldview that, remember, was described and is rightly described as dialectical materialism. The very idea of communism, the very idea of Marxism, is a denial of the reality of God and an affirmation of the accidental nature of the universe; a denial of the supernatural, and instead an affirmation of the essentially material. That dialectical materialism was based in an intentionally atheistic and godless worldview. That meant that as Marx understood all of the old morality would disappear with all of the old social structures. In the famous words of Marx,
“All that is solid melts into air,”
and with those words Marx did not mean merely the economic and political structures, even merely the social structures, he meant the entire structure of truth, of being, and of morality that had shaped Western civilization. Marx was absolutely confident that the masses would demand a Marxist revolution worldwide. He had, even in his own secular worldview, as every secular worldview eventually must have, an eschatology. His eschatology promised the emergence of a new age of communism, the emergence of the new communist man; a newly liberated human being who would be liberated by revolution, he would be liberated by a revolution that would eventually lead to a dictatorship as a temporary condition in which the old system had to be broken down, but a dictatorship of the Communist Party that would give way once that eschatological promised utopian reality of the emergence of the new communist humanity had come.
But, of course, as it turned out, the Communist Party, the communist regime in Soviet Russia turned out never to deliver on that promise of the emergence of the New Age of communism; never to deliver on that promise of the emergence of a new communist humanity. Instead, what was supposed to be that brief interregnum of a necessary dictatorship in the name of the people to give way to this utopian reality, instead, it was the dictatorship and the dictators who remained. And of course the communist revolution came about by violence and it came about on a premise of lies, and, yet another thing we need to note is how many Westerners, including even many Americans, thought that when they saw the Soviet revolution they were seeing the future. Famously, one of these Western observers made the statement
“I have seen the future, and it works.”
But of course as it turned out that future didn't work, it wasn't actually even the future, and the future that did come was a murderous future. We are looking at the fact that Soviet communism almost surely lead to well over 100 million deaths. Add to that about 300 million deaths either by direct action or by starvation that came in the wake of the Maoist communist revolution in China. It’s also important for us to recognize that those deaths were often excused by academics, historians, and other forms of professors who argued that they were simply necessary in order to bring about the revolution. One of the most infamous of these was the British historian Eric Hobsbawm, who as late as 1994 said in an interview that, if another 20 million deaths had been necessary to achieve the socialist utopia, then 20 million deaths would simply have been necessary.
In an important article that appears just this week at National Review, Douglas Murray points to a study, a survey conducted in Great Britain, a survey of young people in the age 16 to 24 bracket, and it turns out that even as at least the oldest in that age bracket would have been alive at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, less than 50 percent of those British young people even knew the name of Vladimir Lenin. Seventy percent of those British young people said they had never heard the name Mao, that is the Chinese communist dictator. But what we're looking at here is the fact that this is a history if unknown that is dangerously unknown, and we are looking at one of the most historic milestones of our times, the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in the Soviet Union. We can look with some satisfaction to the fact that that communist regime failed. The Communist Party's failure was so spectacular that the Soviet empire fell apart; it crumbled from within, but we also have to note that even as Americans and other Westerners were then celebrating what we thought was the inevitable triumph of democracy that communist autocracy in the Soviet Union wasn't followed by any kind of lasting or stable democracy; it was followed by what might be considered the feudal totalitarian dictatorship of now Vladimir Putin.
There were keen prophets of the Soviet Union back during the age of its heyday, especially perhaps during the Cold War, the second half of the Soviet Union's bitter and barbaric experience, but one of the things we need to note is that the most accurate and the most influential of those critics were operating out of an explicitly Christian worldview. One of the most famous of those was the prophetic Russian man of literature, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who eventually won the Nobel Prize for literature and whose prophetic writings indicted the moral cancer at the very heart of the Soviet Union. And then in one of the most interesting historical turns, Solzhenitsyn, who was exiled from the Soviet Union and was received as a heroic figure in the United States, was invited — no doubt to the regret of the inviters — to speak at Harvard University, and there at the center of American secular thought, it was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who looking at the ruins of the history of the 20th century said to the audience at Harvard, you ask how all this could've happened.
“Men have forgotten God,”
said Solzhenitsyn. That's how all this has happened.
But those who are seeking to think in terms of a Christian worldview are reminded, as Richard Weaver famously reminded us,
“ideas have consequences.”
Ideas always have consequences. Good ideas have good consequences; bad ideas have bad consequences; deadly ideas have deadly consequences. And one of the most deadly ideas in human history is the deadly idea of communism. A deadly idea made deadly by the atheism that is celebrated at it’s very heart, an atheism that was coerced and enforced, even at the point of death in terms of communist regimes. An atheism that even now as demonstrated by the monomaniacal atheism of the regime, the communist regime, of North Korea. The atheism that is even now enforcing a crackdown on Christians in the communist regime of China. We dare not allow the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, one of the most important worldview tests of humanity in the 20th century, a test that so many millions of human beings failed, and of which so many hundreds of millions of human beings were its victims, we dare not fail to observe this 100th anniversary with the amazing reflection upon the fact that that communist regime is no more, but that one set of political demons is often followed by yet another set of political demons. There is no assurance that history is necessarily moving in our direction. And then there is the humbling realization that communism isn't dead. Just look again at China or North Korea. Look at the fact that the Chinese Communist Party even this week is resurgent and is enforcing its party doctrine in China, not lessening the hold of Chinese communism on the people or on the regime. And of course this comes with the realization that the worst ideas come with the worst consequences. The deadliest ideas come with the deadliest consequences. And of the fact that bad ideas are not only bad, evil ideas are not only evil, but they tend to stay around for a very long time. Their affects long outlasting the death of their promises.
‘Xi Jinping Thought’ elevated as Chinese tap to clap for their dictator
But then, finally, but related and certainly not coincidentally, news came just this week out of China that at the most recent five-year Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, the current head of that party Xi Jinping has been named the equal to the revolutionary communist leader Mao Zedong, and we are told that his political and ideological thought is now to be considered on par as equal with the political and ideological thought of Chairman Mao, and now it is to be known by the clever label Xi Jinping thought.
But in a related story about the Chinese Communist Party Congress and about how exactly this kind of regime works, there's one of the stories in which we simply have to reflect that once again truth is more interesting than fiction. In this case, the Wall Street Journal reports that in the course of the Chinese Communist Party Congress, a major corporation with the encouragement and the sponsorship of the Chinese government came up with an app for Chinese smartphones in which Chinese citizens showing their applause and their encouragement, their support for the communist regime could simply tap the screen in order to clap for Xi Jinping. As reporter Alyssa Abkowitz tells us,
“[At] the Communist Party's Congress, the videogame company Tencent Holdings Ltd. released a free game in which users try to outdo one another with hearty virtual applause for Mr. Xi.”
By late Thursday afternoon last week, we are told the game
“Clap for Xi Jinping: An Awesome Speech,”
that's the name of the game, again,
“Clap for Xi Jinping: An Awesome Speech,”
“had generated more than 1 billion claps, according to the game site’s running tally,”
says the Wall Street Journal.
“All week, people were discussing the game on social media and bragging about their scores.”
This is a videogame. A videogame intended to produce virtual applause for a dictator; a game genuinely named
“Clap for Xi Jinping: An Awesome Speech.”
And, in this case, a game that tells us that what we’re dealing with here is never really a game.
Thanks for listening to the Briefing. For more information, go to my website at AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to BoyceCollege.com.
I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.