Friday, October 30, 2020
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Friday, October 30, 2020. I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Islamic Terrorism Strikes France Again: Fundamental Theological and Worldview Differences Can Turn Deadly
Another horrifying headline comes from France, where, as Aurelien Breeden reports for the New York times, "Less than two weeks after the beheading of a French school teacher, an assailant carrying a knife entered the towering neo-Gothic basilica in the Southern city of Nice early Thursday and killed three people, further inflaming tensions in a country already on edge, and leading authorities to increase the terrorism threat level." Now as the day unfolded on Thursday, the French President Emmanuel Macron indicated that this was yet another case of Islamic terrorism. In this case, the knife attack was brutal, including at least one beheading. This took place inside a church, in this case a church in the city of Nice.
Now, Nice is a Mediterranean city in France, and it has been a part of what was contested territory during the time of the crusades. Furthermore, during the medieval years, there were the perched villages, as they were known on the hillsides high outside of Nice in the environs where the local French could go in a time of attack by groups such as Islamic pirates, whose raider ships tended to follow the Mediterranean coast. In Nice, at least from the heights outside of Nice, it was possible to see the ships coming and the locals could go and take their loved ones and some of their valuables up into these perched villages. Furthermore, as you're looking to Spain, they're barely to the west of Nice on the Mediterranean coast, you're looking at territory that was at one time part of an Islamic Empire in which Spain was known as Andalusia, and it was a part of the Islamic map. And thus there are very deep issues in history here, but there are also very deep issues of contemporary politics and religion there in France.
We have seen the fact that the French President Emmanuel Macron, who by the way is getting ready to run for reelection, has also been in the position of trying to emphasize and further define secularity, the official French doctrine of secularism as the official stance of the state. And that means that France goes to extremes when it comes to enforcing this kind of secularity, far beyond anything that would be constitutional in the United States, given our constitutional guarantee of the free exercise of religion. The French president actually has gone so far as to speak of the need for a French Islam, as if the French government will now become involved in redefining Islam in terms of its leadership and its education and its doctrine, its mentality, in order to create a version of Islam that will be consistent with French secularity.
France has long had a very troubled relationship and a rather involved relationship with the Islamic world, especially in North Africa and much of the Mediterranean. It had a very long and troubled relationship with Algeria in North Africa, an Islamic country, that is a majority Islamic country, that was at one time claimed as the territory of France.
Speaking of the murder of the three individuals in the basilica there in Nice yesterday, the French president said, "Very clearly it is France that is attacked." He went on to say, "This is an Islamic terrorist attack and at the same time one of our consular sites in Jeddah was attacked." He was speaking of an attack that took place on the French consulate in that Saudi Arabian city, roughly about the same time, although the New York Times and others are telling us it is not immediately clear if the events were actually coordinated.
Now of course, this issue comes to us with multiple levels of worldview issues and significance, but let's just think about this for a moment. First of all, we've talked even recently on The Briefing about the fact that modern Western secularity is no match for a theological argument. Right now the strong theological argument in France is not coming from Christianity, it's coming from a resurgent Islam. And France, like many other countries, has had an immigration policy that has made its economy largely dependent upon immigrants, and especially young immigrants, coming from other parts of the world. And because of language and tradition and geographic proximity, many of those people have been coming to France from the Islamic dominated world.
France had welcome to this at first saying that it was going to be resolved by assimilation, that those new people coming into France, including a large number of young Muslims coming into France, they would be assimilated into French culture, they would effectively become French. And by the way, the French have a very, very strong cultural self-confidence that led them to believe that anyone moving to France would want to become French. But it turns out that was not actually the case, and that's one of the issues that flies in the face of many Western assumptions about why people would come to the West. We want to believe they would come to the West because they want to be like us. It turns out that's a generalization that sometimes turns out to be tragically false.
But remember, the attack on the front school teacher, who by the way had shown cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a class about freedom of expression, you'll recall that took place just less than two weeks ago, and now you have a further three victims in what we are told was an uncoordinated attack, but also by another lone Islamic assailant, this raises another very important issue in worldview analysis, and that is that no society can long withstand this kind of threat level. There will be some kind of response, and even in modern Western democracies that value freedom, and especially freedom of expression, such as in France, there will be some kind of limitation that will be brought about by public pressure, if nothing else, because no society can sustain this kind of attack happening over and over and over again. Murderously, unpredictably, and ongoingly.
It's also worth noting that the candor with which Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, has been speaking of Islam has led to headlines such as one that appeared before the knife attack in Nice in the Guardian, a London newspaper, "Anger Towards Emmanuel Macron Grows in Muslim World." It is very interesting in this news report to see a comment from a Muslim doctor in Dakar who said, "The French President said this is their right to talk, their right of expression, but I don't think free speech means disrespecting other religious beliefs."
Again, worldview analysis, we need to recognize that there is a very clear distinction right now in the world between those who say that they believe in the freedom of expression and those who say they believe in the freedom of expression, but not if it means offensive language concerning, well, you can put all kinds of words in that blank, but at this point we're talking about Islam. We've talked about the fact that Islam theologically is an honor religion in the way that Christianity is not. Muslims are called upon to defend the honor of Mohammed, the honor of the Quran, in a way that Christians are not only not commanded to do so, but as Jesus told Peter to put his sword away, we're actually commanded not to defend the honor of God, because God, you can rest assured, will defend his own honor.
This doctor in Dakar went on to say, "I don't condone the killing of the teacher," but he said it's a two-way street. "If no one makes hateful comments targeting the core beliefs of another religion, this kind of heinous violence will be reduced anyway." Now just notice the linkage of those two issues. It's extremely foreign to the European mind, it's extremely foreign to the American mind, but here's where the worldview analysis comes in, for many people around the world, this does make perfect sense. I believe it's wrong, but it does make perfect sense to them. And we need to recognize that what we're looking at in this case is not merely a disagreement over policy or some kind of constitutional language, it's a disagreement about issues that are far more fundamental. And as we see in this case, as in so many others, this kind of argument about that level of fundamental issues, when it comes to this intensity of conflict, can turn absolutely deadly. It did yesterday in Nice.
We Have Been Warned: Joe Biden Promises "Equality Act” and Openly Threatens Religious Freedom in Final Days of Presidential Election
But next, coming back to the United States, a very important headline news story having to do with former vice president, Joe Biden. The Democratic presidential nominee going into the election now, well, just a few days away. You can almost count it in hours now, and so much is at stake. And as if to underline that, the former vice president and Democratic nominee gave an interview to a gay newspaper, an LGBTQ+ newspaper, in the city of Philadelphia. The interview has now been released, and at least some of the statements in this interview are getting very wide attention, and they should.
Most importantly, Biden indicated that it would be his goal within 100 days of his inauguration to pass the Equality Act. What's he talking about there? And of course, when you're looking at the naming of that legislation, it looks like equality, and all Americans would be for equality, except we need to recognize that there are contexts in which the word equality is actually morally and constitutionally not the right word. And in this case, the fact that they interview appeared in an LGBT newspaper in Philadelphia tells you where this is going. The word equality in this case refers to legislation that is indeed entitled The Equality Act, already passed, we should say, by the democratic House of Representatives, that would bring an entire array of what the proponents call non-discrimination policies when it comes to LGBTQ identity behavior. Well, it goes on relationships, same-sex marriage.
But beyond that, the big issue here in many ways is the "T" when it comes to LGBT, or LGBTQ, and this has to do with the transgender revolution. The fact is that this legislation is unquestionably radical, and it would bring about an immediate collision between religious liberty, and the LGBTQ revolution, but in a whole new way, and with national legislation behind the momentum of the revolutionaries at the expense of religious liberty. The interviewer for the newspaper pose this question to Biden, "The idea of religious freedom as a reason to allow discrimination has stoked divisiveness in this country. What can we do as a country to ensure that discrimination against LGBTQ people, no matter how it's justified, does not happen?"
Now note the term religious freedom in this question is actually put in scare quotes, as if to say there's no reality to religious freedom, it is simply a term of art, or something to be discarded. What's most important is to understand how Biden responded. He said, "Trump has deliberately tried to gut protections for the LGBTQ+ community by creating broad religious exemptions to existing non-discrimination laws and policies that allow businesses, medical providers, and adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. We need to root out discrimination in our laws, institutions, and public spaces. Religion should not be used as a license to discriminate, and as president, I will oppose legislation to deny LGBTQ+ equal treatment in public places. I will immediately reverse discriminatory practices that Trump put in place, and work to advance the rights of LGBTQ+ people widely."
Now this tells us a great deal. It tells us now just how brazen Joe Biden is in saying he is going to advance LGBTQ rights as they are styled directly at the expense of religious liberty. He's not hiding this, he is announcing it in this interview for the entire American public and for all American Christians to see. Understand what's embedded in this language. He says that he is going revoke, or he's going to oppose by legislation, broad religious exemptions to existing non-discrimination laws and policies that allow businesses, medical providers, and adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.
Now just understand what's at stake here. It means no more Christian adoption agencies that are free to operate as Christian. No more Christian foster care agencies that are free to operate as Christian. It means furthermore, given the way this is written, no more Christian schools, or no more Christian ministries that, unless they are covered by some Supreme Court protection, will not come under the same kind of legislation. He writes as if there should be no exceptions whatsoever on religious grounds, and that means whatsoever. There are no qualifications that Mr. Biden has indicated here at all. This is one of the most extreme statements that anyone from the democratic party has ever made, and now it is being made by the standard bearer for their party, who would be the next president of the United States if elected.
Again, in worldview and political analysis, this does come as something of a surprise to me, not that Joe Biden would articulate this position, he's been sold out to this kind of position for a long time, but rather the fact that he would state the issue so clearly and candidly just coming into the final days of a presidential election. What does that tell us? It tells us right now that on the one hand, one of two things might be true, or both of them might be true. One of the two things that might be true would be this, either Joe Biden feels the absolute pressure to say this, or he feels the absolute freedom to say this. Or it could be that both of those statements are true.
It's also interesting that earlier in the interview, he speaks directly, once again, to removing policies that have been put in place by previous administrations, and that includes the Trump administration, putting limitations upon transgender claims. He says he wants to remove all of those, but again, understand what that means. It means that the United States government would be on the side of arguing that anyone who declares a change in gender deserves actually the surgery by whatever taxpayer funding may be necessary in order to bring that about, especially when it comes to those who are involved in the American military, one of the contexts to which Biden was speaking here.
He also says, in this sentence, "I believe every transgender or non-binary person should have the option of selecting 'X' as their gender marker on government identifications, passports, and other documentation. I will support state and federal efforts to allow for this accurate representation." Now I just have to step back a moment and say, I'm relatively astounded that a man who's almost 78 years old would be this current when it comes to the language demanded by the sexual revolutionaries. He got into trouble just the other day in a town hall by speaking of a transgender person, in this case a child choosing to be the opposite gender. He got jumped upon immediately LGBTQ activists for using the word choosing because after all, that's now out of date, given their claims, but he's very up-to-date in this interview, astoundingly up to date.
He uses the language of both transgender and nonbinary, then he argues for the option of selecting "X" for gender marker on identification documents. He goes on to say that this would allow for this, "accurate representation." There's an entire worldview there. The use of the term accurate representation means biology is not accurate. The self-declared autonomous identity is accurate. Again, just imagine all that's embedded in that. But then understand that this kind of policy, though doubtedly applauded by this newspaper and its readership, demanded by the LGBTQ revolutionaries, is actually going to have consequences throughout society.
For instance, when you look at identification documents, why do they exist? Ask that question. Why do they exist? Do they exist for the convenience of the person carrying the document? No, they actually are documentation for access to, say getting on a plane, or for the right to drive a car, or for that matter, to prove one's identity in order to register for school, or for that matter, to get your son on a little league team. But if you allow persons to freely decide just to be an X, by the way, it won't stay with X, this will mean that male will have to give way to female, female will have to give way to male, and furthermore, like on some online platforms, it won't be long until there will be hundreds of permutations available.
But let's just take the X that has mentioned here. What's lost to society by reducing male or female to the indeterminate X? Well, for one thing, say X is in an accident. How is anyone to respond with medical care because yes, it still matters, of course it still matters, whether or not one is biologically male or female. It matters in many situations that would have medical consequence. But then think about something else that people often don't want to think about. What about a missing persons report? Is that a male or a female? If you say male or female, you reduce the population you're looking for by about 50%, and the same thing is true if you're identifying a suspect for a crime.
Reducing male and female to a self-chosen X might be very emotionally satisfying, and might be very politically rewarded, but it confuses society. And it misleads concerning human beings. And, as I say, it will come with consequences. But in this case, we have been warned. All of this in one single very important interview given by the former vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, who very much wants to be elected president of the United States within just a matter of days. We know exactly what he will do because, he's told us.
Paganism, the Dark Side, and the Devil: What Should Christians Think about Halloween?
But next we're going to shift to a different issue. Tomorrow is celebrated in the United States, and elsewhere, but particularly in the United States, and in several other nations, as Halloween. It goes back to All Hallows' Eve, it has to do with the date of October the 31st, and it has to do with a very historic collision between Christianity and paganism. Now, as you're looking at medieval or ancient Europe, you're looking at the fact that ancient forms of paganism were what were displaced by the coming of Christianity throughout much of Europe. Christian missionaries, and others, moved into continental Europe. They then converted people there in what we now know as Europe, various tribes and countries and ethnicities, they converted them from various forms of paganism to Christianity.
But as is the case, even as we understand the New Testament, paganism is always out there. It is not only a perennial competitor to Christianity, it is at various times a resurgent worldview. And we're actually living in one of those times of pagan resurgency. For example, you have it on the one hand, in the increased secularity identified by many Americans, the so-called nones that is, N-O-N-E-S, those with no religious preference. You see it in the rise of those who identify as secular in worldview, either as agnostic or atheist, or some form of unbeliever. They unbelief being about theism in general, and Christianity in particular.
But you see it right now also in an increasing fascination with, an involvement in, actual organized, even institutional, paganism in the United States and in some parts of Europe. What is institutional paganism? What is a kind of organized paganism? Let's just pause for a moment and recognize that when Halloween became a holiday it did so in the context of a time in which the culture was overwhelmingly Christian, paganism seemed very far in the historical background, it did not seem as a live contemporary competitor to Christianity, an alternative worldview. But even though that was the case then, it is the case now that it is a very clear alternative worldview to many.
But there's also something else. During a time of Christian dominance, it was believed by many that a certain kind of fascination with matters related to ghost and ghouls and all the rest was safe precisely because of the common Christian consensus. That meant that all those things were in the past, they're at a remove, but they can nonetheless be this stuff of parties and decorations and all the rest. But what we see now is that those very same pagan ideas and practices are becoming celebrated in their extremely pagan form.
Historian Nicholas Rogers points out that Halloween is currently the second most important party night in North America. He goes on to say, "In terms of its retail potential, it is second only to Christmas. This commercialism," he says, "fortifies its significance as a time of public license, a custom designed opportunity to have a blast. Regardless of its spiritual complications, Halloween is big business." But of course, Christians can't exactly say, can we, regardless of its spiritual complications. Our job is to uncomplicate spiritual complications. Rogers's book about his research on Halloween is actually entitled Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, but looking more closely at the issue, it's as if the subtitle should be From Pagan Ritual to Party Night to Pagan Ritual Again.
In our world, what is known as Halloween is rooted in the Celtic festival of Samhain. It came at the end of summer and marked the advent of fall. As Rogers explains, "Paired with the feast of Beltane, which celebrated the life generating powers of the sun, Samhain beckoned to winter and the dark nights ahead." Questions of human and animal sacrifices, various occultic sexual practices, continuous issues of debate about how the Celts celebrated Samhain and Beltane but the reality is that a fascination with the dark side, even the occult, and for that matter, even violent forms of the dark side and occult, have now become staples of the American commemoration of Halloween.
Harold Myra, a Christian writing about Halloween decades ago wrote, "More than a thousand years ago, Christians confronted pagan rites, appeasing the Lord of death and evil spirits. Halloween's unsavory beginnings proceeded Christ birth with the Druids in what is now Britain and France. They observed the end of summer with sacrifices to the gods. It was the beginning of the Celtic year, and they believe that Samhain, the Lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves."
Now obviously as Halloween continues to unfold in American history, it presents some very real moral and theological challenges to Christians, and perhaps most particularly to Christian parents concerning their own children and young people. The fact is that we are looking at a holiday in the United States that has become extremely popular and comes with what is now the cultural embrace of the dark side. Sometimes openly celebrated, sometimes simply toyed with, but increasingly we're witnessing in this country the rise of institutionalized organized paganism, groups such as Wicca and others that clearly embrace the occult.
And you have Americans calling themselves witches, both males and females, by the way, and purposefully involving themselves in witchcraft. You're seeing this celebrated, not just when it comes to Halloween, but as a pagan revival which is celebrated by many amongst the elites as an improvement upon Christianity, because what is ditched is Christianity's strict morality and it's very clear truth claims, and what is left is a Western modern, individualistic, moral relativistic, understanding of the embrace of the dark side, in which our own dark side becomes not something that embarrasses us, but pleases us before a pleased world.
But as we close, what to Christians do with the dark side? We acknowledge it. We acknowledge it biblically, and we oppose the dark side with the light of the gospel and the truth of God's word, and with the proclamation of Jesus Christ. And that takes us to All Souls Eve, or All Hallows Eve, as it happened in the city of Wittenberg in Germany on October the 31st 1517, when the great reformer Martin Luther proverbially nailed his 95 Theses that began the reformation to the door of the castle church there. Remember, Luther took the devil seriously because the Bible takes the devil seriously. Jesus Christ, seriously and triumphantly addressed Satan with the declaration of his imminent demise.
Luther had it exactly right when he said that it is the Christian's responsibility to scorn the devil. And that is our responsibility, not only on Halloween, but every single day of the year. Luther's most famous hymn, of course, was "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," that begins with a refrain from Psalm 46 verse one. But as you look to the third verse of that historic hymn, just hear the Christians right response to the devil in these words. "And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us/ We will not fear for God has willed his truth to triumph through us./ The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him/ His rage we can endure, for lo his doom is sure/ One little word shall fell him."
And what, we dare ask, by the way is that little word? That little word is Jesus, and that's where we end The Briefing today.
Thanks for listening.
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.