The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, January 8, 2021

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

It’s Friday, January 8, 2021.

I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Georgia Elects Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to the U.S. Senate: Big Moral, Political, and Theological Changes That Christians Should Be Watching

We’re living right now in a time of rapid and revolutionary cultural change in the United States, and that means not only cultural change but moral change, political change, economic change, demographic change and of course, theological change as well. As Christians, we actually understand that the theological questions are primary in the sense that those theological axioms or principles that guide our lives eventually determine the rest.

But it’s also true that the rest influences those theological presuppositions, that’s simply what it means to live in a culture like this. As we try to understand the culture around us it will impact how we see the responsibility of Christians, the responsibility of congregations, our missiological challenge. It’s also going to make very clear our moral challenge and as a subset of that, our political challenge in the United States.

Now, the biggest news on this front is not just the most recent general election in the United States, and it’s not just the chaotic events that have followed that election, it has to do with the fact that as we saw just this week in news that oddly did not rank at the very top of the headlines for other reasons, the special Senate elections in the state of Georgia, both of which were eventually won by Democrats and not just by Democrats but by those who can be fairly described as liberal Democrats. All of this is a wake-up call and not just for Georgia but for the rest of the nation. If this can happen in Georgia it can happen just about anywhere, and more importantly, it is happening where the population movement is taking place in the United States and where the electoral clout is moving as well.

Now, just keep in mind the fact that in Georgia Republicans have been securely in power for decades. You could go back to the 1970s when this process really began, but by the time you reached the 1990s and the last two decades, Republicans have held virtually all of the statewide positions and have had dominance in the Georgia legislature and for that matter, of course, the congressional and senatorial delegations. They had been so securely Republican, especially when it comes to those two Senate seats that when this election came up, these special elections that became necessary because you had the two positions open, one regular, one special. Neither of the incumbents in this case, Senator David Perdue and Senator Kelly Loeffler, neither of them won a majority and so the two special elections on January the 5th became necessary.

The stunner is this, the Democrats won them. They won them rather clearly, and they won them not with what might have been presented as moderate candidates but with very liberal candidates. When it comes to Jon Ossoff who beat David Perdue, he is the first Jewish Senator, or will be the first Jewish Senator from the state of Georgia but more than that he’s a very liberal Democrat. But when it comes to the Reverend Dr. Raphael Warnock, we’re talking about someone who is fairly described as a very radical person when it comes to politics and theology. You’re talking about someone who is very much an individual identified with the political and theological left, and just to understand, the state of Georgia sent both Ossoff and Warnock to the United States Senate. The bottom line and this is not so much of our political interest, although this is now going to mean that Democrats will, albeit only by one vote, control the majority in the United States Senate, politically that’s massive.

But let’s leave that behind for a moment. Let’s just consider what this tells us about the changing landscape, moral and cultural landscape of the United States. Let’s just consider Georgia here as test case and an indicator of what is happening elsewhere. Now, this has been noted by others. For example, the New York Times yesterday ran an article with a headline, “Republican Bulwark Is Confirmed As An Election Battleground.” Now, in this case, the bulwark is the state of Georgia and it is now indeed a battleground.

But here’s something we need to note. We would think that in a process of this kind of cultural change that produces political change, we would think that a state that is deeply red might move into some condition of being somewhat purple if it’s on its way to becoming blue. But what we have seen in places like Virginia and now in Georgia is that that transitional purple period in which the state might be described as a swing state going this way or that is relatively indeed shockingly brief. As a matter of fact, when it comes to those two senate seats in Georgia, it’s not just brief, it’s absolutely non-existent.

The senatorial delegation from the state of Georgia went from deep, deep red to deep, deep blue, 100% of change in just one day. The article I mentioned in the New York Times includes this statement: “The changing demographics are likely to reshape the political dynamics of this Deep South state for a generation. Until this week, Republicans held every statewide elective office and majorities in both houses of the legislature. But the victories by Mr. Warnock and Mr. Ossoff in the runoff races, coming on the heels of a narrow win by President-elect Biden, showed that Democrats could forge a coalition to win Georgia even when the focus shifted away from removing President Trump from office.”

The next sentence, “Perhaps even more significant, Tuesday’s results showed that Democrats could mobilize their diverse and largely metropolitan voting base to boost two overtly liberal candidates — a Jewish man and Black man — to the Senate from Georgia for the first time in history.” The Democratic Chairwoman of Cobb County, Georgia, which was once very Republican but now very Democrat, she said, “There is no going back.”

Now, in politics it’s always true, there’s no going back, but radical change can happen, dramatic change. Georgia went from blue to red, that is from Democratic to Republican in the last decades of the 20th century and it appears to be going from red to blue in the third decade of the 21st century. But the point here is that something bigger is taking place than just a political change. We have to explain this. And once again, it is worldview analysis that helps us to understand what’s going on here, because people just don’t change their minds this way. You don’t go with this kind of a swing with voters who say, “Okay, I’m going to vote for the, say, first decades of my life this way but then I’m going to switch and vote the other way.”

That might happen if the parties confuse their positions but in this case you’re talking about a deep polarization in which everybody basically knows what the Democrats are present, everybody knows what the Republicans represent, how does a large segment of the voting population go from one to the other? The answer is, it doesn’t, and it didn’t. There is absolutely no evidence in the special elections on Tuesday that there was any major movement among Georgia voters, rather, the movement was into the state of Georgia by those who had lived outside the state of Georgia.

Part II

Many States Are Turning from Red to Blue . . . And Quickly: A Revealing Pattern about the Moral Landscape of the United States

And just to put another dimension on this that demands our attention, by some reckonings less than 50% of all of the voters who voted in the Georgia presidential election and now in these senatorial elections was born in the state. Less than half. And furthermore, about 70%, or even a greater percentage than 70% of all of the votes cast were cast within the larger Atlantic metropolitan area. Now, not just the SMSA, or the standard metropolitan area by definition, but the counties that are at the heart of Atlanta, including Fulton and DeKalb and the counties that are also around Atlanta. As you look at this you understand that Atlanta is becoming a very blue, deep, vivid blue area in Georgia that is basically swallowing the entire state, at least in terms of political influence and economic and cultural power.

So let’s not just look at Georgia, let’s consider what this tells us about the rest of the country. We saw the very same pattern in the state of Virginia. Northern Virginia is becoming pretty much like Northern California as predictably liberal on many issues. Now, one of the reasons for that is that the growth that is moving into Northern Virginia, and that’s basically all the growth within the state when it comes to basic political power, that growth is being made up of people who are disproportionately living off of an economy that runs on government spending. And you’re also talking about a Silicon Valley-like technological sector that is also moving into areas of rather significant social liberalism, so that’s how Virginia has been changing.

And the point is Virginians haven’t changed way they vote, it’s rather that there’s a changing population in the state of Virginia and the people who are moving into the state of Virginia are far more liberal than the people who have been living in Virginia. Virginia had been red, and then it became purple for a very brief time but now it’s blue. A very helpful and insightful analysis of how this happened and is happening comes from Kristin Tate in her book, The Liberal Invasion of Red State America. The book’s just about a year-old but the point is this, the title certainly gets your attention, The Liberal Invasion of Red State America. The point is, red state America is being turned purple and is being turned blue by people who are moving from more liberal areas of the country to more conservative areas.

Now, as Tate makes it very clear, there are economic and political reasons for this. There are people who live in a state like California, and they eventually grow tired of the overregulation, the liberal culture, they get very tired of the taxation rates in a state like California. And by the way those show no sign of going down and every sign of going up, and thus people are leaving States like California. They’re moving to states like New Mexico and Arizona and Texas, even now states like Idaho. And as they move to those states, well, the problem is they’re bringing their voting habits from California with them.

Kristin Tate, who among other responsibilities writes for The Hill, points out that what you’re looking at is an out migration from liberal states into conservative states and they’re bringing their liberal votes with them. Now, as we talked about Virginia, it basically was purple for a very short amount of time. Tate writes, “Turns out Virginia has undergone a complete transformation over the last two decades, and the changes haven’t been exclusive to areas right outside of D.C. Demographic shifts that turned Virginia from a conservative Southern state into an increasingly left-leaning territory of Democrats. After conservatives gained control of the state legislature in 2000, it looked,” she says, “like the first colonies feet were firmly planted on Republican soil. But when a population boom hit the state as a result of the exploding size of the federal government under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the politics of Virginia started to change. Today,” she says, “Northern Virginia’s population is dominated by throngs of federal employees commuting to D.C. and people who work for industries dependent on government spending.” The leftward turn of Virginia she points out is only going to become more drastic as the federal government employees and even larger and increasing number of workers who move into the state.

But one of the most insightful sections of her book is actually what she talks about the new city states. Now, that phrase city states goes back to ancient Greece, but she’s talking about cities like, well, Los Angeles, or it’s perhaps even more clear in a place like Georgia. We’re actually talking about Atlanta. Because as Atlanta votes, Georgia now votes and Atlanta can so outvote rural Georgia to the extent that the more rural sections of Georgia are actually becoming disempowered politically.

Now, looking not only at states like Georgia but also in North Carolina, Tate writes, “As Democrats flee blue states and relocate to cities in red states, places like Georgia and North Carolina will be pushed to the left. To see the potential effects of such changes,” she writes, “You just have to look at what happened in historically blue states when the most heavily populated urban areas were able to outvote their neighboring rural areas.”

Now, this is really interesting. I really appreciate the fact that Tate looks to the blue states saying that the blue states really became very blue, true blue, exceedingly blue when the city states or metropolitan areas in those states were able basically to neutralize the rural vote. She writes this, “For decades now in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles have determined how things go across New York State, Illinois, and California. Sparsely populated areas and those states effectively have no say at the ballot box, not only over politics at the state level but even over their own rural communities on for example, control of their own water supply. And,” she writes, “as big cities in those blue states become more liberal, residents of the rural parts of those states were subjected to the city dwellers left-wing politics. Rural areas in states like North Carolina and Georgia are likely headed for a similar fate.”

Well, if you want to see that fate just look at the electoral map from this week. This week says that that future has arrived right now. Now, the first thoughts of many people here are going to be political and the political bottom line is this, it’s going to be extremely challenging for conservatives, which is to say also Republicans, to put together a winning national ticket. It’s going to be very difficult even in statewide elections for conservatives to run winning campaigns and winning candidates in many of these areas.

A second big issue that demands our attention is what this means in terms of moral change in these areas because these liberal voters who are moving into these states are not only moving in with liberal political ideas but with liberal moral judgments as well. That’s going to mean a big difference in the way that these states are morally composed, the way the moral landscape plays out. You’re going to see issues related to what might be considered moral libertarianism, which is to say taking very permissive positions on everything from LGBTQ issues to abortion, you could just go down the list. But there is also the reality that this threatens the use of the coercive power of the government, even again when it comes to these LGBTQ issues and the inevitable collision with religious Liberty. There are people right now living in states in which they think themselves quite safe. Within a decade, that could be very, very different.

But thirdly, you also have to look at the fact that this means a very different spiritual landscape, a very different theological landscape. It’s going to mean a very different missiological context for Christian churches, especially for evangelicals. Now, let’s just think about this by noticing a pattern that’s going to work in reverse. The way it worked the first time is when you look at the original, massive population growth in the state of California during the 20th century, especially the early decades of the 20th century and then, well, all the way through the end of the century.

When it comes to that original, massive population growth that came especially after the great depression and the dust bowl and other developments, you saw massive migration into California, particularly the Central Valley and Southern California from states like Oklahoma and Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee. But as they came to the state of California they brought Tennessee and they brought Texas, they brought Oklahoma and Arkansas with them and they brought their church patterns as well. Now, this led to the fact that Southern California became the great evangelical Christian powerhouse in the United States.

When you look at the growth of what became known as mega churches, when you look at so many networks of churches, when you look at so many of the patterns of Christian publishing, Christian music, you go down the list, so much of it is traceable directly to Southern California in California’s Central Valley. It became evangelical territory, at least for much of the 20th century, precisely because so many evangelicals were moving there. Not only moving there, they moved there and became very evangelistic. They built churches, they invited their neighbors. There was a huge evangelical explosion in places like Orange County and beyond.

But what we’re looking at right now is actually the reversal of the process back in states like Oklahoma and Texas, especially Texas. When it comes to states like Tennessee, especially in places like Nashville and Knoxville, what you are seeing is a reversal of the pattern. Rather than having evangelicals move into new territory you’re having non-evangelicals move into evangelical territory. And when I say non-evangelicals I don’t mean people who even necessarily define themselves that way though they are, they actually consider themselves to be rather secular.

And as they are moving into cities like Nashville and Atlanta and Richmond, Alexandria, you go down the list, they are moving there and you’d have to add by the way, cities like Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Texas, they are moving there with their secular patterns and that’s going to make a very big difference in those States and throughout the entire nation as well. We’ll be tracking all of this very carefully, but I felt that today was the right day, this week was the right week to consider so many of these issues precisely because the special elections in Georgia following the general election and the fact that Joe Biden won Georgia. The reality is that we are looking at a fast-changing landscape in which politics does drive the headlines, no doubt about that, but the bigger issues have to drive Christian concerns. No doubt about that, too.

Part III

Argentina Becomes the Largest Latin American Country to Legalize Abortion: The Secularization of Latin America Threatens Life in the Womb

But as we’re thinking about this we need to shift all the way from the United States to Argentina. Big news over the course of the last couple of weeks. Argentina has become the largest populated Latin American country to basically liberalize abortion, to move to a quite liberal position on abortion. The legalization of abortion there was a very long effort and it started with very long odds, after all, you’re looking at a country that has been overwhelmingly Roman Catholic in its tradition and in the majority of its population. The Roman Catholic Church is absolutely clear in its opposition to abortion.

But what this demonstrates is the fact that Catholicism has a decreasing hold on much of Latin America, which is let’s face it, in itself secularizing. It’s following the trajectory of the larger Western nations, it’s following in so many of the same patterns and it may be a slower development but it’s a very clear development. The other thing is to note that even as the Catholic Church has been losing institutional influence in countries like Argentina, evangelical Christians have been growing in that influence. But here’s what we need to know, the growth pattern for evangelical Christians in places like Argentina is coming behind the population growth, behind the political developments, which means there is not really the opportunity to have the vast growth of evangelical influence on these issues that has taken place in so many other nations, including the United States.

So we’re looking here at a very sad development. And we’re looking at the fact that this was carried out even though right now we are told about 65% of the population in Argentina was opposed to the liberalization of the abortion laws. But again, you compare the entire country of Argentina with its very important metropolitan areas like Buenos Aires, and you look at the social and moral liberalism that now dominates in those areas and you come to understand the elites, drive the process, and eventually they outmaneuver the larger portion of the population. The elites get their way and what they’re counting on is that the masses will simply follow the elite directives.

Now, of course, the other thing we need to note is that all of this is being celebrated. The liberalization of abortion in Argentina is being celebrated by elites in the United States and elsewhere. The international organizations, the United nations, the human rights organizations, as they define themselves, that in so many cases are simply serving patronage to the left, they’re celebrating all of this as if Argentina has just entered into real civilization by agreeing to allow the murder of the unborn in Argentinian wombs.

One of the other things we need to note to our chagrin and embarrassment is the fact that so many of the arguments that were used quite successfully to liberalize abortion in Argentina emerged from the kinds of arguments that have been used by abortion rights activists in countries such as the United States, particularly the United States. One other thing to note as they’re thinking about Argentina is that the move there is likely to be cited as precedent and as leverage for similar efforts in other Latin American countries. The argument is this, if women in Argentina have this right, and notice the kind of language this used, then how can women in other Latin American countries be denied the same right?

That is one of the same arguments that was used in the United States as leverage for the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, after all women in many very liberal states already had access to abortion but the argument was it’s unfair for women in other states not to have an equal right to abortion, which means of course, an equal right to terminate the unborn life within them. So what we have seen is massive political, moral, legislative demographic, and of course, cultural theological change within not only the United States, looking particularly at the state of Georgia, but also elsewhere in the world looking in this case at the country of Argentina.

In the United States we continue to pray for our nation through tumultuous times over the course of the last day or so. Two cabinet secretaries, Betsy DeVos and Elaine Chao have resigned from the Trump administration in an open afront and protest to the president of the United States who appointed them even as their days in office were already down to just a few. Leaving office early is a very big political statement. Other big political statements are likely to be made over the course of this weekend and in coming days. We will watch them carefully. We’ll seek to understand the worldview issues behind them, we’ll seek to think as Christians in the midst of all of this and we will continue together to pray for our nation and the world.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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