Tuesday, Sept 11, 2018

Tuesday, Sept 11, 2018

The Briefing

September 11, 2018

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

It’s Tuesday, September 11, 2018. I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

As the surveillance state in China expands, Communist Party in China detains, re-educates Uighur Muslims

We have been observing, repeatedly and with deepening concern, the grip, the tightening grip, that the Chinese Communist Party is now exerting on the Chinese people. What we are watching here is the intersection of a ruthless totalitarian regime run by an elite of the Communist Party, and it is now aided and abetted by technology and a surveillance state, unprecedented in human history.

Eventually, the Chinese Communist Party is making very clear, it intends to lay claim upon every single aspect of every single Chinese citizen’s life. By constant surveillance, it intends to watch those citizens, to track those citizens, and even to try to read their minds. It is also looking at giving every single citizen a social capital scale as to whether or not the citizen is perceived by movements and even perhaps by facial expressions to be adequately supportive of the Chinese Communist regime.

But we’ve also seen that the Communist party in China is becoming even more relentless and ruthless in cracking down on any worldview that might be an alternative to the official ideology of the Chinese Communist Party, an ideology that is not only materialistic, that is not only totalitarian, but is also increasingly centered on a uniquely Chinese form of occult personality with President Xi Jinping.

The Communist Party recently elevated Xi Jinping’s ideology, which by the way is not all that thick in ideology, to the level of Chairman Mao. There is now, even as there was Maoism, a Xi Jinpingism, and as we’re looking at recent events in China, it is clear the Communist Party is now bearing and showing its fangs.

For example, I point to an article that recently appeared in World Magazine by June Cheng, the title of the article, A Forgotten People. The subtitle, China is holding hundreds of thousands of minority Uighurs in reeducation camps, and Chinese financial muscle is keeping much of the world silent about it.

The World Magazine report takes us to a province in China that borders on Kazakhstan and Mongolia. The province has about 24 million citizens in its population. About 12 million of them are ethnic Muslims of some sort.

Well, when you mentioned Islam, and then you think about the history of China and even before what we now know as modern China, the old Silk Road that ran throughout most of what we know is Asia, when we think about this region, which is right there bordering Kazakhstan and Mongolia, well there you come to understand that the historic Muslim minorities there are truly historic, going back a millennium or so. And now you look at the fact that the Chinese Communist Party is not only now dictating the marginalization of these Muslims known as Uighurs, but it is also forcing them into reeducation camps. That’s the central point of this extended article in World Magazine pointing to the reeducation programs into which so many of these Uighurs are being forced.

And as the article makes clear, taking the example of one Kazak detainee, named Omir Bekali, the man was simply visiting in the region for a work trip in March 2017 when police in the area, whisked him away to prison for four months, then to a reeducation camp for another four months.

As Cheng tells us, the police claimed that his work at a tourist agency helping Chinese apply for Kazak tourist visas was a ploy to help Muslims escape.

Then the article turns to this, and I quote, “At the reeducation camp in the northern suburbs of Karamay, he in 1,000 other detainees woke up at dawn to sing the Chinese national anthem. All day, they sat in classrooms where they learned red songs. That is red as in Communism, studied the Chinese language, and learned China’s version of the region’s history, namely that the Communist Party, Uighurs, and other ethnic minorities from their backward and repressive culture.”

But Bekali told the Associated Press that before each meal, inmates had to chant, “Thank the party. Thank the motherland. Thank President Xi.”

Well, what we’re looking at here is exactly what we saw in some of the darkest chapters of the 20th century, and everywhere you find this kind of reeducation, you were generally looking at a communist totalitarian dictatorship as the government. You were looking at an official Marxist and furthermore, Communist ideology that held to the fact that individuals could be and should be, indeed must be forced to accept a moral indoctrination an entire acceptance of a worldview that could be forced upon persons communally and socially and even individually.

Central to this form of reeducation is making the Communist Party the very center of existence, and that’s exactly what you see here when the grace, the prayer before the meal, came down to thank the party, thank the motherland, thank President Xi.

The subtitle in that World Magazine article was that China’s financial muscle was keeping much of the world silent or perhaps even ignorant of this reeducation program and the repression of the Uighurs along with other religious groups in China.

June Cheng pointed to the fact that China is investing massively in its neighboring nations. Furthermore, we could add also in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, trying to buy influence as well as to build infrastructure, and furthermore to be involved in financial dealings with so many of these nations that make them deeply indebted to China, increasingly dependent upon Chinese capital for their economic conditions. Why, for example, wouldn’t Kazakhstan, China’s neighbor in this region complain? Well, as Cheng writes, “Like many countries in the region, Kazakhstan is indebted to China as the economic giant pours investments into its neighbors.”

Well, let’s also step back for a moment and recognize that there’s even more at stake than can be revealed in any one article. For example, consider for a moment that Google, that massively important global business, is now considering going back into China and offering a product as a search engine. What’s the big controversy? Well, it comes down to this. The Chinese Communist Party will control and restrict. It will limit, and it will censor.

Google had, years ago, come out of China because it said it would not agree to those kinds of totalitarian terms, but evidently Google now sees the loss of a Chinese consumer base as a price too high to pay, and it is the principles that will give way.

Consider the fact also that so many American universities are so dependent upon Chinese money and in some cases Chinese students, that they simply will not acknowledge what is going on in China and have even allowed the communist party, through intermediaries, to establish study centers that are anything but objective when it comes to China.

Consider the fact that some major academic publishers, when it comes especially to their online journals, have agreed as the price of staying in China to allowing the Chinese Communist Party to censor what articles the Chinese people may and may not see. When it comes to complicity with China’s Communist Party, that’s an ever expanding list, and that should be a very deep concern. But we noticed that that subtitle and the World Magazine article tells us that Chinese financial muscle is keeping much of the world silent about the scandal.

Well, it turns out that just a few days later, the New York Times at least broke that silence in some sense with a front page article in Sunday’s edition of the New York Times with the headline: Anti-Islam Detention Camps in China. Chris Buckley is the reporter telling us that the Muslim minority, the Uighurs has been swept up in what he describes as the biggest internment program since the Mao era.

Now Buckley goes on to report, “On the edge of a desert in far western China an imposing building sits behind a fence topped with barbed wire. Large red characters on the facade urge people to learn Chinese, study law and acquire job skills. Guards make clear that visitors are not welcome.” The article continues, “Inside, hundreds of ethnic Uighurs Muslims spend their days in a high pressure indoctrination program where they are forced to listen to lectures, sing hymns praising the Chinese Communist Party, and write self criticism essays according to detainees who have been released.”

The New York Times front page article gets to the most important reality quickly with this single line. “The goal is to rid them, meaning the Uighurs Muslims, of devotion to Islam.”

Later in the article, Buckley expands when he writes, “China has sought for decades to restrict the practice of Islam and maintain an iron grip in the region, which is almost as big as Alaska, where more than half of the population of 24 million belongs to Muslim ethnic minority groups. Most, we are told, are Uighurs, whose religion, language and culture, along with a history of independence movements and resistance to Chinese rule, have long unnerved Beijing.”

If you put these major news reports together, it becomes apparent that the number of Uighurs Muslims in this region in China who have been forced into these indoctrination and reeducation camps may now total in the hundreds of thousands.

One of the most important insights Christian should pay heed to here is the fact that totalitarian regimes are, by their very nature, totalitarian. They make an absolutely total claim upon the society at large and upon the totality of every single individual. That’s what makes a totalitarian government totalitarian. It intends to take up the totality and to make an absolutely total claim.

Now that means that any rival claim has to be eradicated. That would include Christianity or Islam. It would include any kind of modern liberal democratic theory. It would include any notion of human rights that is based in anything other than the understanding that such are given by the state and by the Communist Party, and as given by the party, can be taken away by the party.

It’s extremely important for us to remember that the dialectical materialism, which is at the very foundation of Marxism and thus of communism. It is a materialism that absolutely insists, not only upon secularism and atheism, but upon the fact that human beings are simply material objects. That’s all we are. Animated material objects. There is no human dignity rooted in anything like the Biblical notion of the image of God, the Imago Dei. Instead, we are simply cosmological accidents which are being ground into the process of history in a Hegelian dialectic that is supposed to produce the absolute utopia, which is what will follow communism.

But of course, like all secular utopias, it never comes, and instead, the entire society is left as we see in the case of China, in a deepening and tightening grip of repression.

Part II

If you want to know what Marxism really looks like, just ask Christians in Beijing

But even as that New York Times article, similar articles in the mainstream secular media, and that article in World Magazine had to do with the plight of the Uighurs, in reality, the Chinese Communist Party has also been cracking down on Christians in virtually every way in every region imaginable.

For example, just in the last few days, Reuters ran a major story with the headline, China Outlaws Large Underground Protestant Church in Beijing. The Reuters report tells us, “Beijing city authorities have banned one of the largest, unofficial Protestant churches in the city and confiscated what the regime called illegal promotional materials.” By the way, that could very well mean the Bible. Amid a deepening crackdown, we are told, on China’s underground churches. The Zion Church, as it has been known, had for years operated with relative freedom there in Beijing, and according to the report, it included hundreds of worshipers every weekend in what’s described as “an expansive, specially renovated hall in North Beijing.” But Reuters says since April, after they rejected requests from authorities to install closed circuit television cameras in the building, the church has faced growing pressure from the authorities and has been threatened with eviction.

Well, as we now see, just in the last few days, the Chinese Communist Party has not only cracked down on this church, it has now outlawed it.

Now, remember what the regime offered to this church. If you will just install surveillance cameras in your church so that your worship and every single worshiper can be surveilled, we just might let you continue for some time. Now, understand what was being demanded here.

This sounds almost like an absolute chapter out of George Orwell’s novel, 1984. This is not only big brother. This is Big Brother, not even trying to hide the fact he is Big Brother. And sad to say, even as so many in western nations continue their suicidal infatuation with Marxism and communism, if you want to know what it looks like in real life and in real space and time, just look to that province on the border of Kazakhstan and Mongolia and ask the Uighurs, or just look to Beijing and ask the Christians.

Part III

The Kavanaugh consternation: Political left makes it clear that their ideal judge is one with no background, no ideas, and no experience

Coming back to the United States, it was very interesting to see some follow-up coverage and analysis of the confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be the newest justice of the United States Supreme Court. Last week, we looked at so much of that conversation, if you can even dignify much of it with the word conversation, and we looked at the substantial arguments and the principles at stake. But in retrospect, it’s very interesting to see how especially the left is responding. For example, the opinion page of the New York Times on Saturday ran a huge editorial, and here’s the headline, Brett Kavanaugh Can’t Be Trusted.

Now, what will be the basis for that argument? A closer look at the editorial indicates that Brett Kavanaugh can’t be trusted to do what the editors of the New York Times would want a justice of the Supreme Court to do. That’s what’s really at stake here.

In one of the supposed gotcha moments of the hearings, it was revealed that in the time he was in the White House, eventually a staff secretary to President George W. Bush, He had indicated in an email … This goes back to 2003, “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe” … Meaning Roe V Wade … “As the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since court can always overrule it’s precedent, and three current justices on the court would do so.”

In that gotcha moment, democratic senators and staff people said, “Look, there you have Kavanaugh saying that if he were on the Supreme Court, he would indeed approve and vote for the overturning of Roe V Wade.” Now, that might be the case. Actually, I hope it is the case, but the point is that the statement made by Brett Kavanaugh in that supposedly gotcha memo is not a statement of evaluation or a personal judgment at all. It is, let’s just state the matter clearly. It’s a statement of what, in any other world, would simply be known as fact. It is, simply, a fact that even as Roe is referred to as the settled law of the land, that the Supreme Court can always overrule it’s precedent.

Let’s see how far back in Supreme Court history would that principle be true? Well, that would take us back all the way to the first day of the first session of the United States Supreme Court. And then we asked the question, what would it mean that Kavanaugh would say that three current justices on the court would do so? Well, that again is not a matter of speculation. That’s a matter of record. That’s a matter of historical fact.

Furthermore, the editors of the New York Times accused Kavanaugh of offering what they describe as his own cynical advice to a 2002 federal judicial nominee. Here’s that cynical advice. “She should not talk about her views on specific policy or legal issues. She should say that she has a commitment to follow Supreme Court precedent, and she understands and appreciates the role of the circuit judge, that she will adhere to statutory text, that she has no ideological agenda.”

Now, how in the world is that cynical? That’s actually the rule book that has been forced upon all nominees to the federal courts by the Democrats in the United States Senate who turned the hearings of then nominee Robert Bork into exactly what all candidates, regardless of the political affiliation of the president to nominate them, will also follow.

If Judge Kavanaugh’s advice is cynical, we should note it’s virtually the very same advice that democratic staffers would give to those nominees of democratic presidents under exactly the same conditions. It’s almost exactly what Justice Ginsburg, now Justice Ginsburg said in her own confirmation hearings, almost the very same thing.

But that editorial in the New York Times was actually surpassed in this kind of nonsense by an opinion piece by EJ Dion Junior that ran in the Washington Post on Sunday. The title of Dion’s piece was The Kavanaugh Hustle. He wrote, “Senate Republicans and President Trump share the same inclinations when it comes to one of the worst habits in our politics, placing ideology and partisanship above the health of our institutions.”

Now, that would be a problem of course, but when you’re talking about the health of the institutions, let’s really be understanding clearly that the institution at stake is the Supreme Court of the United States, and it is simply now a matter of fact that regardless of which side, which party, which president is making the nomination, it is exactly the same process, but the paragraph that takes it over the top is this, “Kavanaugh will push the court much further, right. Everything we know about him points to a man who is fierce and unapologetic in is partisanship, and relentless and advancing his ideology. His confirmation,” wrote Dion, “Will be the equivalent of handing the court over to the Heritage Foundation and the legal staff of Coke Industries.”

So, what’s really going on here? EJ Dion is making the argument that if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed as the next Justice of the United States Supreme Court, this judge who has sat for more than 12 years on the most important Federal Appeals Court, other than the Supreme Court, this judge would instantly become nothing more than an agent of the Heritage Foundation and Coke Industries. That supposed to be scare language, but of course the scariest thing about this editorial is that it was printed in the Washington Post in exactly this form.

But from a worldview analysis perspective, there is something really interesting here. It would be fair then to turn to a kind of justice or nominee that EJ Dion would like and ask, where would that justice, where would that judge come from? They will come from somewhere. Their appointment would be cheered and celebrated by someone. It would either be the institutions of the left or the institutions of the right.

Let’s just think about that for a moment. The implication of this kind of article is that somehow we can only confirm to the United States Supreme Court those judges who appear somehow by immaculate conception or virgin birth. The implication in this article is that somehow judges have to come from nowhere. They have to be nobodies who have no experience, no ideology, no worldview, no prior experience. They have to appear as if someone just invented them, created them in a laboratory, and presented them to the Senate Judiciary Committee as those who have come from nowhere and have no ideas. They are absolutely objective, ready for service on the United States Supreme Court.

This is the way it is in an increasingly polarized America, and this is where American Christians have to remind ourselves as is the case of Christians in so many other polarized nations as well. The polarization is not merely political. The polarization didn’t begin over the question of how to read the United States Constitution. It’s a polarization, a division at a far deeper level.

We understand to the level of the most fundamental and foundational worldview. And in the context of this kind of polarization, every single nomination to the United States Supreme Court, given what is at stake, will be celebrated by some and condemned by others. Once the table is turned, then the side condemning becomes the side celebrating, and the side celebrating becomes the side condemning.

It’s just intellectually honest to admit, this is where we are. What’s intellectually dishonest is to to suggest that when it comes to judges or justices, they should instead appear from nowhere and have no experience, no ideas, nothing behind them, no one happy, no one sad.

Part IV

Do we really want a Supreme Court that is above politics? Examining the cost of a judicial system controlled by bureaucrats

But next, that takes us to another question raised, now in retrospect of the Kavanaugh Hearings. David Orentlicher who is a professor at the University of Nevada, at the website, The Conversation, wrote an article that’s been picked up by several important American newspapers. In the Louisville Courier Journal, the headline was this, “Court Polarization Not Inevitable.” Orentlicher makes reference to the politicization of our current context, and then writes quote, “A politically polarizing court is not inevitable. In some European countries, judicial appointment processes are actually designed to ensure the court’s ideological balance and justice has worked together to render consensus-based decisions.”

Now, at first glance, perhaps at first hearing, that sounds like something that might be attractive, a centrist court that would avoid this kind of polarization, and the judges or justices have which would come to a consensus about issues in their rulings. But, there are deeper issues here at stake as you might understand. Orentlicher goes on to write, “Europe’s constitutional courts differ from country to country, but they have some important similarities. They generally decide only constitutional questions posed by the legislature or by lower courts rather than cases brought by individuals. Oral arguments are rare, and the justices deliberate in private, considering written arguments. The courts generally have more members than the US Supreme Court, 12 to 20 judges, but they also often operate in smaller panels. The process of appointing these judges is, well to use our current context, bipartisan. Orentlicher writes, “In Germany, for example, the legislature conducts the appointment process in a bipartisan fashion. The political parties negotiate over the nominees, identifying candidates who are acceptable to both of the left and the right. Because each justice must be approved by a two-thirds vote, all candidates need to appeal to law makers from across the political spectrum.”

Well, once again, let’s understand what’s happening here. A vision is being presented to us, a vision of a non-polarized Supreme Court, a constitutional court that would be above politics, that would be centrist in that every single judge or justice must be approved by a super majority of the legislature. There is no executive. There’s no prime minister. There’s no president making these nominations. Instead, the nominations would come, and this also becomes very clear in these processes, through the operations and systems of legal bureaucracy. It would be mostly judges recommending those who will be their fellow judges, and it will be the legislature, by the super majority, who would have to choose the most moderate, we might say even bland, non-ideological judges.

Now, some looking at the give and take of our current political context might say that looks like a pretty good picture. It looks pretty peaceful. It looks very stable. But, let’s understand what’s really going on here. This means turning over the rule of law to a cast of lawyers and judges. It means trusting bureaucrats and members of the legislatures to have to come up with candidates against whom there would be the fewest complaints. These are not necessarily the brightest legal or constitutional scholars. They’re the ones who can get through the process of putting together the super majority, the two-thirds vote that is necessary for confirmation to the court. But, also noticed something else that is very important in this article. What’s presented here as the supposedly preferable alternative to our constitutional system is a court to which individuals cannot make appeal. No individual citizens can make appeals to these European Constitutional Courts.

I returned to Orentlicher’s argument where, speaking of these European courts, he writes, “They generally decide only constitutional questions posed by the legislature or by lower courts rather than cases brought by individuals.” So, why is that so important? It is because it is important to recognize that at the center of the American Constitutional Order is the understanding that every single citizen who has standing has the right to make appeal all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States of America. That means even the constitutional right by redress of grievances to bring a case against the Government of the United States of America as a private citizen standing before the Supreme Court of that very same nation.

So, you understand that this is an argument that elites should perpetuate elites, that we should trust the judges simply to choose other judges. It is an argument, not just for moderation, but for mediocrity. It is an argument that runs directly counter to our American system of constitutional order, and let’s be really clear, Americans choosing this system will be giving up one of the most precious of American constitutional liberties, the right to make appeal all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

Once that becomes clear, I don’t think there’ll be that many Americans who will look to the European courts and want the same.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

Do you have questions about the Christian life, theology, or ministry? This Thursday, September 13 at 4:00 PM Eastern time, I’ll be hosting another Ask Anything Live on Facebook Live and YouTube. Submit your questions today at albertMohler.com/askanything, then join us on Facebook Live and YouTube this Thursday afternoon at 4:00 PM Eastern time.

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 tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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