The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Thursday, April 29, 2021

It’s Thursday, April 29, 2021.

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

Part I

President Biden Addresses Joint Session of Congress: What’s the Big Meaning of the President’s Vast Proposals?

A joint session of Congress always makes history, especially when it is a presidential address, which is exactly what happened last night as a crowd gathered of representatives and senators, members of the Cabinet, the Chief Justice of the United States, a few members of the Diplomatic Corps and just a few others gathered in the historic chambers of the House of Representatives for the first address to a joint session of Congress by the incumbent President of the United States, Joseph Biden. It had the look and it had the feel in more ways than one of a State of the Union Address, but an incoming president doesn’t give a State of the Union Address. Instead, it is just a matter of habit and custom and a good one in general terms that a newly inaugurated president of the United States is invited to come and give a speech to Congress, to Congress sitting in a joint session.

President Biden seemed to delay this a bit more than usual new presidents, but he’s also delayed many other kinds of public events, and that would include press conferences and also the kinds of speeches that presidents habitually give. But we are looking at the context of COVID-19, but then again, we’re also looking at the fact that Joe Biden ran a campaign that largely avoided many of these big issues, but he really couldn’t avoid this one. And he delivered his address to the joint session of Congress on the 99th day of his new administration. But just thinking in historical terms, Joe Biden is not only the oldest individual to be elected President of the United States. He is also one of those very rare individuals whose career in the United States Federal Government in elective office spans almost 50 years.

Joe Biden entered the United States Senate in the year, 1973. Then Richard Nixon was President of the United States. That’s almost 50 years ago. And of course he spent decades in the United States Senate before he was elected vice-president of the United States and served for eight years in that role. For those eight years, he didn’t sit amongst other senators. He sat up on the platform along with the Speaker of the House. For only the next four years, by no coincidence, the four years of the term of Donald Trump as President of the United States, for all, but those four years for almost 50 years, Joe Biden has been in the audience in one way or another for all of these presidential speeches. This was his opportunity not to hear the speech, but to deliver it.

And what he delivered was a laundry list of political programs that tended to include just about everything the left wing of his party has been calling for, or even demanding. He called for things in his speech last night, that he had rejected on political terms when he was running for the Office of President. But since his inauguration he’s been running to the left of his own political party, or at least running after the left and the left, in other words is basically in control. It was a laundry list of spending proposals. And of course, they’re going to be many people who will look at it and see mostly the money. The reason for that is obvious. We’re talking about unprecedented amounts of money.

President Biden has already put through a $1.9 trillion spending bill that he called a stimulus plan. He has then come back with an almost $2 trillion physical or mostly physical infrastructure plan. Now he comes with another $1.8 trillion plan for spending this time for what he has oddly, but perhaps successfully labeled as human infrastructure. The use of that term is an attempt to try to tie it to physical infrastructure, to try to get more public support for the spending. The spending is vast, almost two trillion, almost two trillion, now almost two trillion. You can do the math and perhaps it’s important every once in a while for Americans to do the math. We’re talking about proposals for $6 trillion of spending.

This is not only unprecedented, even in scale, it basically outsizes even the proposals that were made by Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he took office in the depths of the depression. When President Roosevelt took office, the depression was taking such a toll on the American economy that neither he, nor his congressional allies were convinced that Roosevelt would be able to pull it off. One person spoke to him the morning of his inauguration and famously said, “President Roosevelt, if you succeed, you will be the greatest president in the United States. If you do not succeed, you will be remembered as the worst.” Roosevelt rather quickly responded, “If I do not succeed, I will not be remembered as the worst president in the United States. I may be remembered as the last.”

President Biden strangely enough, given his own personal history sees himself as another Franklin Roosevelt. He is also in a very interesting way, packaging himself, as a contrast to the man he served as vice-president, that would be President Barack Obama. Whether he did earlier or not, he has bought into the argument that President Obama was simply too easily coyed by Republican opposition. His vision was simply too timid and not expansive enough. Joe Biden is making very clear he is not Barack Obama in that sense. By the way, many observers had pointed out that during the eight years he served President Obama as the president’s vice-president, he never actually got to sit with the cool kids on the bus, but now he’s back. And this time he is president of the United States.

Christians looking at these issues understand that the money is not unimportant. Money doesn’t come from nowhere, so to speak. It has to come from somewhere and it’s either real or it’s borrowed. It’s already clear that the Biden Administration following the new monetary philosophy known as Modern Monetary Theory is willing basically just to print the money, effectively, to borrow the money, handing the bills to successive generations, perhaps even hoping the bills will go away in some kind of inflationary cycle. But there is no cycle of inflation that would not destroy the American economy that would actually alleviate the debt that’s going to be coming by all of this spending.

Now just a political footnote. The president is not likely to get all of what he proposed last night, and that’s not just going to be because of Republican opposition, it’s going to be because of opposition within senators, most importantly, in his own party. But there are going to be some members of Congress, Democrats in Congress who are going to have localized interests that are going to keep them from being able to support everything the president has called for. But Christians looking at this understand that the debt is really important. We understand that the fiscal irresponsibility is really important, but we also need to understand that there’s more going on here than just fiscal irresponsibility and vast government spending. And with that a vast expansion of the federal government. That last phrase points to the biggest transformations we see here.

The president has called for expanding a federal program for free public education. He said adding four years, but it’s not four years of college. It’s two years of college packaged as support for tuition-free community college. The bigger issue, and far more important from a Christian worldview is the fact that the president intends to normalize early childhood education paid for by the federal government beginning with children at age three. Now there have been calls basically from the left for an expansion of the federal footprint in education, including early childhood education as it’s called for decades now. But the President is calling for a universal American program of early childhood education beginning at age three. That would mean normalizing the school experience for children, not just beginning at six, as it did throughout most of the 20th century, or at five, once kindergarten was added, but now, children at ages three and four.

Now from the left, there are some complaints that this would not really be just because the more privileged, the more wealthy are likely to be able to obtain better early childhood education. But this points to something else. When you look at the documented need for something like early childhood education, you’re looking at the fact that so many children are entering the public schools, either in kindergarten or the first grade with educational or academic deficits. And those deficits loom large later in the lives of those children. That’s a tragedy. We all understand that. We would want to prevent that, but there is no actual hope. And this is something Christians understand. There is no real hope. There should be no real hope that somehow institutionalizing children at ages three and four is going to long-term serve their own academic success.

More than that, Christians have to understand this represents, even though it was never mentioned last night and frankly, it wasn’t mentioned by anyone I heard from either party, this represents a redefinition of the family and a redefinition of childhood. When you’re talking about three-year-olds going to school, now it’s going to be not just when we’re talking about childcare, that’s one thing, we’re talking about something that actually is packaged as school and with that will come standardization and make no mistake, with that will come educational content. Teachers are going to teach something and the Federal Government paying for this program is going to have a great deal to say, indeed, the most important voice in saying what will be taught to three and four and, yes, go on five-year-olds, and beyond. Wherever the government spends the money, the government will determine how that money is spent.

I use the word normalization or to normalize very strategically here because that’s what’s going on. There are families that have needed childcare for children of those ages. There have been families that have chosen that option, but when you talk about making it government policy, that is now going to be the normal experience of a child to enter public school at age three, you really are talking about a redefinition of the family. You’re talking about the early childhood period of the normal American child being measured in three years or less before that child is handed over to the educational authorities. You’re also looking at the fact that when you are looking at a child as a student, there’s been a very clear understanding that it takes a certain maturity on the part of a child to actually benefit much from a formal educational program.

Now from the left, there’s no program they don’t like. The expansion of the schools, the expansion of the federal reach, the redefinition of the family, putting more and more children in the control of state-operated schools, that is exactly what expansionists, when it comes to the government hope for. But there’s going to be another effect. And that is going to be a further distancing of children from their own parents during those crucial ages. This is being presented to the American people as a new federal benefit. But if you see it just in terms of being a new federal benefit, or if you’re only concerned about it is financial, then read something like George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Read something like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and understand what it means for the government to have this kind of control and influence over children at such a young age.

Their proposals concerning higher education, the two years the president proposes to add to high school graduation, those two years of free community college, well, that proposal was likely to face a lot of opposition, not just from Republicans, looking at it in financial and government expansion terms, but from Democrats who have a great deal of investment in other forms of higher education, in particular, four-year colleges, even state four-year colleges that are likely to face an all-new kind of competition from community colleges and the experience of many of those state universities, not to mention private universities may well be redefined by an increasing number of students who come to them after having two years of community college education.

But we are also looking at the fact that educational success and that kind of program is by no means guaranteed. Such a course of study may be an option chosen by many families, including Christian families, but others will understand it really does make a difference if 18-year-olds enter a college that is identified by worldview, not just by the state undergirding of tuition. But there are other issues. The president proposed a paid family leave program. He went on to propose many other expansionist programs in the federal government, more than we will be able to consider on the briefing, unless we also wanted to offer about an hour of proposals. We’re not going to do that.

The president is also likely to face a good deal of opposition, opposition that might not have been very visible last night, even from members of his own party. When it comes to his proposal to raise tax funding for these programs, he promised about $1.5 trillion in tax hikes, mostly in the form of an increase in the capital gains tax. The president said he was not going to increase taxes on people who make less than $400,000 a year. And that sounds very, very generous to most people because $400,000 is far more than the average American makes.

But when you look at the middle class, which is absolutely necessary for electoral success on the part of either party, the Republicans or the Democrats, Democrats, particularly those in swing states are likely to be very reluctant to look at a proposal like that because this isn’t really about income at that level. It is about capital gains. And middle-class families who might for instance, sell their home, might find that they realize a capital gain that would press them over that kind of tax limit. In some cases, the total tax take by this proposal, when you put state and federal taxes together could be about 50% of the capital gains.

In the president’s proposal for more traditional infrastructure, there were hidden issues. For instance, if you know how to look, you would see that bill, that will be the second of the President’s big spending proposals as including a great deal of the so-called Green New Deal, but it’s not packaged that way. It’s coming under the radar, so to speak. Also, you’re looking at something like a hundred million dollars of guaranteed labor jobs, that means jobs for those that will be covered by labor unions. Again, a political payoff. When you look at the proposal that came last night, well, we’re going to have to look at the details, but there are a lot of hidden issues there. And most importantly, it basically is the redefinition of the government’s responsibility when it comes to the lives of individuals and families, not just communities.

But Christians would also have had to pay attention last night when the president of the United States, consistent with what he ran on as he ran for president and what he has said since coming into office, when President Biden called for immediate and wholesale support for the Equality Act. And when he got a standing ovation from members of his own party, that was a clear set of fireworks for the moral revolutionaries. Make no mistake, the Equality Act is the greatest head-on threat to religious liberty that we have seen in our lifetimes. The Equality Act would be a full non-discrimination program, covering everything that’s in the LGBTQ agenda and without any exceptions or exemptions for religious institutions, Christian ministries, churches, denominations, you go down the list.

Part II

President Biden Unveils His Proposal to Redefine American Society Through Unprecedented Spending . . . And Shows That His Greatest Political Skill Is Tone

On The Briefing in coming days, we’re going to be talking about the culture war, where it’s gone, why the language is now itself so seldom used, unless you’re throwing it at an adversary. President Biden’s often credited as not fueling the culture wars, but he actually is. I’m going to be documenting exactly how he’s doing it. He did it last night. The Equality Act is a radical piece of legislation. It would radically redefine American culture. He knows it. And the supporters of the bill know it. You and I know it. But the president’s greatest asset and his greatest political talent is his tone. And before we leave the address the president gave last night, we need to make reference to his considerable political talent in tone. This was probably in contrast the greatest political liability of his predecessor in office, President Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States.

The difference in tone can be seen in how often President Biden smiled. The difference in tone can also be seen in how often the president used the language of “we,” rather than “you” or “I.” This president, having long experience in getting elected, going all the way back to decades in the Senate, and then what amounts to three presidential campaigns out of the last four, he knows how to present the right tone, a tone that the American people will like and find disarming. But that also points to the fact that his skill ought to be something that conservatives and conservative Christians in particular understand is indeed a great asset for the president, but it’s also a way that he’s intending to try to create support for programs that otherwise people in conscience and by conviction would not support.

There will be a great deal of response to the president’s proposal. A lot of it will be public. A lot of it will be private. The most important private responses will come from members of his own party in Congress, but we await further developments. But the president in his first State of the Union Address as president has put himself on record, as expected, going for broke and making proposals to expand the government, to redefine American society and to spend unprecedented amounts money by the federal government. And he did so seldom evidencing a scowl, often demonstrating a smile. And what you saw at least in part last night was how successful that strategy may turn out to be.

On the other hand, one other point when it comes to the address last night. Having watched coverage from all three of the major cable networks, it becomes increasingly clear that what is taking place on just about every one of them is constant editorial opinion and commentary. It was virtually impossible anywhere to try to gain some kind of objective analysis of the president’s speech. That is not a compliment. That is not a positive statement about the nature of American media today, but in at least two of the three cable news networks, they’d basically served as extensions of a Biden campaign or the public relations machine of the Biden Administration. And they did so without shame. They didn’t do so without notice.

Part III

The LGBTQ Revolution Is Officially a Part of American Foreign Policy as the “Pride Flag” Is Authorized to Fly on Flagpoles at American Embassies and Consulates Around the World

But next we’re going to talk about political symbolism and moral signaling. You often hear references to virtue signaling undertaken by individuals, groups, media figures, politicians, corporations, trying to signal virtue in the context of today’s moral confusion, but there should be no confusion over what it means that the current United States Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken has announced that US diplomatic missions across the world may fly the rainbow pride flag of the LGBTQ movement on the same pole as the American flag. And they may do so at embassies and consulates, that according to a cable sent by the State Department to those embassies and consulates attained by the media. As the New York Times reported, “The action reversed a decision by the Trump Administration, which rejected requests from embassies to raise it on their flagpoles during the month of June, which in the United States and many other countries is pride month.” Now, of course, that pride is what used to be called gay pride.

During the Trump Administration, then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered the US embassies should not fly the pride flag on the same pole as the flag of the United States of America. He made the argument, an argument that would make sense, I think, to most Americans that the United States flag should fly alone on the flag pole at an American embassy or consulate. What are we talking about here? We’re talking about the moral revolution and powerful symbolism in some of the most important institutions of American representation around the world, US consulates, United States embassies. Putting the gay pride flag, or what’s now called the pride flag on the same pole as the flag of the United States of America is intended to send a powerful signal and let’s face it, it does send a very powerful signal. The signal it sends, once again, is normalization, the normalization of the entire array of behaviors, identities, and relationships known as LGBTQ.

But more than that, it’s not just normalization. It is open public advocacy. It is using the diplomatic power of the United States to tell the world that the LGBTQ revolution is the wave of the future, that the full credit of the United States, the full power of its government, even the pole of its flag is now going to advertise that the agenda of this government is to press those issues everywhere in the world. By the way, that is exactly what happened during the administration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. Under President Obama, the State Department undertook the role of advocating for abortion, so-called family planning, what they euphemized as a woman’s reproductive health, and all of the LGBTQ issues. They made it an official part of the United States foreign policy.

Well, once again, it is an official part of the United States foreign policy. And in an amazingly public way, when you look at the fact that embassies and consulates around the world, embassies and consulates of the United States of America are now being given permission to fly the pride flag on the same pole as the flag of the United States. The Secretary of State said, “I think the United States playing the role that it should be playing in standing up for and defending the rights of LGBTQI people is something that the department is going to take on and take on immediately.” The new Secretary of State said that shortly after he took office in January. Now we see a concrete expression of the commitment that he indicated.

And once again, Christians must understand that politics is never merely about politics. Foreign policy may seem like something abstract to many Americans, but of course it’s not. And when it comes to this kind of foreign policy, we’re not talking about something of abstract theory at all. We’re talking about the concrete expression of a revolutionary and radical moral agenda against which virtually every society in human history defined itself for millennia.

Finally, it’s also very interesting that one of the tactics of trying to shame people who hold convictions of a biblical nature concerning sexuality, gender, gender identity, the transformation of everything into a phobia means that when there was a report on this leaked cable in the esteemed journal, Foreign Policy, the sentence that reported on the meaning of Pride Month went on to say that it begins with a day, May the 17th, which marks “the international day against homophobia, transphobia and bi-phobia.” It may take a while for that to settle in, but you’ll notice that everything now is being transformed into a matter of phobia.

If you hold any kind of objective morality or any kind of orthodox, biblical understanding of marriage, sex and sexuality, the use of the word pride is not accidental. The use of the word phobia or a form of language that adds phobia to a word, it’s not accidental. All of this is very intentional. We need to understand the intention behind it. The packaging is easy to understand, pride equals good, phobia equals bad. You can read it in print, but you may well see it also on the flagpole of an American embassy or consulate. Therein is the tragedy.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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