The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

It’s Tuesday, November 23, 2021.

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

Part I

The Irrationality and Terror of Evil in a Fallen World—Pray for Grieving Waukesha

It had to be an absolutely harrowing site. The crowd was gathered for a Christmas festival on Sunday night, when an SUV pressed into the crowd. We’re told the bodies flew through the air. Eventually, almost 50 people were injured. At least five had died in Waukesha, Wisconsin. And the harrowing site was actually something that brings the biggest of moral issues to mind. It raises massive questions because SUVs are not supposed to hurdle themselves into a crowd gathered for a Christmas festival. People were there for a parade. People were there in order to begin the Christmas season. People were there in order to enjoy the fellowship and the fun. But of course, this wasn’t merely a vehicle that went into the crowd, killing five, at least five thus far, and injuring almost 50.

It was a human being behind the wheel with every indication of having done so deliberately. Now, as you think about this, you recognize the inadequacy of a secular worldview, trying to answer the question. But at the same time you see that worldview or those who are operating out of that worldview, trying to get to the biggest question. The biggest question of course is, why? Why would anyone have done this? Now, here’s something to watch. Our first thought has to be for the people there in Wisconsin who are grieving and those whose lives are right now critically on the line. We pray for those individuals. We pray for their families. We pray for a grieving community. But you also notice that even as this a crime that has taken place, people immediately wanted to know what does the crime mean? What would’ve been the motivation behind it?

What was the motive? Why would anyone do this? Now, one of the things we need to note is that in our contemporary context, driven primarily by a secular worldview, the options are pretty limited to come up with explanations of why. For one thing, you really can’t deal much with the idea of inherent evil. Instead, you have to look for some other explanation. There must be some sociological explanation. You see this playing out in so many public debates. Perhaps there’s a political or an economic motivation. Given the worldwide context of terrorism, people began to ask the question, rather automatically, was this a terrorist attack? Was it personal? That’s another interesting question. Was it personal? Was this an effort to try to bring about homicide or injury to specific individuals against which the driver was aggrieved? By the time, yesterday evening came to a conclusion, it was pretty clear that police were not ready to say this was a terrorist activity.

There was no sign, at least as of last night, that there was any kind of organized ideology behind this. There was no link to any kind of terrorist network. When it comes to the understanding that it might have been personal, law enforcement officials there in Wisconsin have at least dismissed that, initially as a reality. Instead, there is this effort to try to come up with some explanation that would make evil rational, that would make this irrational attack explainable in rational terms. Now, here’s where Christians understand, that there are limits to how rational irrationality can be. When we think about evil, we need to understand that the Christian worldview presents evil in a multifaceted way. It is first of all, a rebellion or a revolt against God. Now, in that sense, very importantly, evil predates creation, because the fall of Satan and his fallen angels came before the creation of the world. Evil thus as rebellion against God already existed.

And God given his sovereignty, his omnipotence, and his glory, his justice and his righteousness, even before the creation of the world, God was determined that he would bring evil to an end. That’s very clear in the revelation of God’s own character and power. But then of course came the creation of the world. And shortly, after the creation of human beings made in God’s image, we sinned. That’s right. The scripture says that Adam and Eve sinned, but the Scripture also says that “In Adam we sinned.” Let’s try to come up with a rational explanation for the fall. In reality, it simply can’t be explained in rational terms at all. Rationally, Adam should never have sinned against God. Rationally, Adam should never have yielded to temptation. Rationally, Adam should have looked at the entire creation along with Eve and understood it to be good and given to us for our enjoyment in the garden.

But there was that one tree and that one tree became an irrational obsession. After the fall, evil has become an inescapable part of human experience. Not just in the world out there, not just in the headlines, not just in a murderous street in Wisconsin, but in our own experience and in our own lives. Indeed, the scripture says “In our own hearts.” And this means that even within ourselves, evil has a rational expression, but it has irrational roots. We cannot explain even with satisfaction to ourselves why we see ourselves fall short of our own expectations. That’s the kind of testimony we see from the apostle Paul in Romans 7. The biblical balance between the rational and the irrational is seen in the fact that the police already seemed to have calculated, come to the conclusion in their investigation, that the man who is now the central suspect, a man known as Darrell Brooks Jr, had a pattern of criminal activity.

The mainstream media have reported that he was at least arrested more than 10 times since 1999 on criminal charges. Furthermore, there were at least two open criminal charges and someone in the District Attorney’s office there in Wisconsin, indicated that he was free because prosecutors had asked for an unacceptably low bail. The Associated Press reported yesterday, “The man suspected of plowing his SUV into a Christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee, killing at least five people and injuring 48, had left the scene of a domestic dispute just minutes before.” The police there in Wisconsin have now drawn up five charges of intentional homicide against the man who’s identified as a 39 year old citizen of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As the story unfolded, the team of the Associated Press reported, “A joyous scene of marching bands and children dancing in Santa hats and waving pompoms gave way in an instant to screams and the sight of crumpled bodies as the SUV sped through barricades and struck dancers, musicians, and others. Members of a Dancing Grannies club were among those killed, as was an employee of Citizen’s Bank.”

Here’s the rational and the irrational dimension that is so central to the biblical worldview. This man, we are likely to discover, had at least some rational plan, some rational motivation to conduct evil. He used his reason. He used his intelligence. He used his bodily presence. He used an SUV in order to carry out intentional homicide. But at the same time you asked the question, why? There is not going to be an acceptable secular answer. Psychology can get you, only so far. Criminology, only so far, sociology, politics, economics, only so far. Even genetics. People are trying to look for some genetic or biological basis for all kinds of things. But in reality, the secular worldview simply doesn’t have the equipment to answer the question about the absurdity of sin. What we see here is the darkness of the human heart. And we know, in biblical terms and in contemporary terms, even if we’re honest, in personal terms, just how dark that can be.

Just how irrational, just how inexplicable, just how contrary to our own good. But the allure of evil is one of the earliest truths we learn in scripture. We will continue to follow this story. We will continue to pray for the people in Wisconsin. We will continue to think of those families who have suffered such utterly inexplicable and horrifying loss. It’s also just not wrong to want to know more, to want to know why, but in reality let’s just face this up front. There will never be, in secular terms, an adequate satisfactory answer to the question why.

Part II

Marriage According to the New York Times: Moral Rebellion, Rejection of God’s Design, and a Longing for Religious Legitimacy

But next, as we’re thinking about the question, why, why the moral rebellion against God’s created order? Why the rebellion against a pattern of sexuality and gender identity that’s not only clear in scripture, if we’re honest and we must be honest, it’s clear in nature as well? Why are we now seeing such an all hands on deck effort to try to use every mechanism in our society, every dimension of our culture to press this moral rebellion?

Well, the answer is, it’s sin and ultimately it is inexplicable, but it often shows up in rational arguments. Even rational plans, plans to further this kind of moral revolution and furthermore to silence anyone who will not join the revolution and its celebration. Speaking of celebration, the style section of the New York Times on Sunday had several different marriage features. One of the things we need to note is that the majority of these features were about what we can only as Christians say, are actually not marriages. Not at all. I want to look at just this one edition, this one Sunday edition of the paper before this week gets away from us, because it’s nearly overwhelming when you consider what’s going on here. There was an article that was about one couple, two men, entitled “Taking Life One Adventure at a Time.” This was under the vows section, meaning weddings.

It’s about two men who had had a relationship going back to 2013. They had been in San Francisco. They then moved to Boston where one of them is a clinical instructor at the Harvard Medical School, and a gynecologist at Mount Auburn Hospital. We are told that the other is a candidate for a doctoral degree at Boston College. They have seized their wedding and their marriage as what’s defined here as a great adventure, “It kind of felt like another venture that we were going on as they moved across the country. And now are married.” We’re told, “The couple were married on October the 22nd at Mr. Lowell’s parents’ home in San Francisco in front of about 20 vaccinated guests, which included the couple’s parents and a former roommate of the couple who was appointed a deputy marriage commissioner for the day in San Francisco county officiated at the service.”

A couple of just interesting things here. So many of these statements indicate that the guests at these weddings were vaccinated. Now, that’s not something you normally find in a wedding announcement, but it’s the kind of quite mandatory virtue signaling certain components of our culture, now evidently think they have to do. The big fact here is that you have two men, you have a wedding announcement, you have a photograph as if we’re supposed to look at that and say, “Oh, that makes perfect sense.” An even a larger article appeared about individuals one named Daisy, one named Kurt. The headline gives you an alert, write off, “Theirs is a traditional untraditional union.” Let me just say, there is no tradition. It’s all untraditional. Once again, Alex Straus reports for the New York Times about these two, I’ll simply use their first names, Daisy and Kurt. We are told that they had come to know one another years ago.

They had a very dysfunctional relationship, but nonetheless, they found out that one of them was pregnant. They later decided to get married. Here’s what one of them had to say, “We have a traditional non-traditional marriage. I’m in a straight relationship to the outside world, but because I came out late in my thirties as queer, I didn’t get a chance to explore that as much as I would’ve liked. I identify as she, they, and we have an open relationship.” Now, let me just pause here and say, that means non-monogamous. “I don’t know if I would act on it, but knowing the door is unlocked as a comfort, it helps me in my queer identity. A man like Kurt to have a companion, that doesn’t worry me. There’s a level of respect and acceptance that comes with understanding your partner’s sexuality.” Let’s just comment here, there would have been no way for people in previous generations throughout all of human existence, to even come close to understanding what we now are presented with in this article.

The other person in this relationship says, “I identify as ‘he, him.’ I’m comfortable with Daisy identifying however she’s comfortable. Her identity has evolved as she’s evolved. As someone who loves someone, you learn to listen, except understand and evolve with them.” This person went on to say, “We don’t have a traditional view of marriage. We just have marriage. Having a successful open relationship means our communication has to be open and honest all the time. Having that, I don’t mind Daisy being with someone else. I don’t feel abandoned or left alone because she still wants to be with me. And how lucky is that? I’ve been lucky since the day I met her. I have a son with her and co-parent with her. And no one else has that with her.” At the end of the article, one of them said, “The way we designed our marriage would not work for many people, but I can’t imagine anything more wonderful than what we have. It seems simple in words, but this takes practice. I wouldn’t change a thing.” Well, you can count on the fact it takes practice.

In the same section on the same day, another half page article in the print edition, this between two people named Kelsey and Kamah, the headline, “Dictating all the terms that define their love.” Jenny Block reports, “Kelsey Reynolds and Kamah Asha Wilson called themselves hopeful romantics.” One said, “We are a lesbian, queer, interracial, progressively Christian couple in the deep south.” We’re told that one of the persons in this supposed marriage is “non-binary” and uses gender neutral courtesy titles and pronouns. “The intersectional and circumstantial odds were stacked against us.” I’m not going to use the names, but the next paragraph spoke of one who we are told was facing an internal battle that “Wouldn’t let me be alone with the other, without feeling like I was going to hell.” “Adding that she also struggled to overcome feelings of cultural betrayal by being with someone from a culture that has oppressed mind for hundreds of years.” We’re told that the couple had originally decided to get married on October the 11th, 2020, because “that day is both national coming out day. And the anniversary of when we both said those big three words.”

But were told they had to postpone the wedding because of the pandemic. And they were married on October the 10th, “When in the garden at Shirley Acres, an event space in Houston, the uncle of one of them was ordained through the Universal Life Church for the event he officiated.” We were also told that 120 guests, most of whom were vaccinated, included one of the spouse’s parents and paternal grandmother and the others’ mother. But were also told one of the fathers and other family members declined to attend. The person whose family did not attend said “Many of my family members weren’t present because they’ve made it clear that this union is against God and is illegitimate many friends who used to be core figures and support systems in my life disconnected too.” Well, there you see it, there you see the fact that when you’re presented with this kind of wedding, you either have, “Oh, this is legitimate,” or, “Oh, this is not.”

There really is no way to attend such an event. There’s really no way even to be told of such an event without having to come to the conclusion either they are married or they’re not married, that this is marriage or it’s not marriage. And of course, for Christians, it comes down to what God says, not only about what is claimed to be here a marriage, but is no marriage according to scripture, but the sexual identity and the sexual behaviors that are behind it. We’re told about the fashion dimension, one of these partners wore an elaborate wedding, bridal dress. And the other wore, what we are told was a bespoke or custom made three piece green suit. Then the article tells this, “Well, neither of them is Jewish, the couple included a ketubah signing as part of the ceremony.” “The Christian faith comes from a Hebrew history,” said one of them. “I wanted to honor that a contract between us and God, a marriage license is between us and the government.”

We’re told, “They also signed a Bible inscribed with their names and family tree at the wedding.” What you see here, and we need to say this with sensitivity. What you see here is a longing for religious legitimacy. What you see here, even in the symbolism, trying to bring in a little Judaism here, a little Christianity there, having a Bible inscribed with the names. What you see here is the collision between biblical truth and the aspiration and ambitions of so many people to live a lifestyle. And even to claim status for a relationship, the scripture simply doesn’t allow. It tells us something that there still is that longing for this religious legitimacy. And here’s where we have to understand that when to this kind of event, this kind of behavior, this kind of relationship, this is a legitimacy the church based on the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture, the power of the gospel, this is a legitimacy we cannot give to that, which Scripture clearly disallows.

I repeat that one of the concerns here is the fact that all these appeared in just one single print edition of the New York Times on Sunday. All those, by the way, in one section, just one section of the print edition of the newspaper. But in this section and others, there were other articles celebrating a moral rebellion having to do with sexual perversion. And yes, that’s the only word you can use for it when it comes to the club behavior that was indicated in one article and then yet another clubbing article that was focused on one that specializes in transgender identity. And we’re told they’re very generous, allowing other clubs to use their facility in order to raise funds, to keep their clubs alive. All this presented in the New York Times as if the reader of that newspaper and by implication, all right-minded people everywhere should see all these things and say, “Yeah, that’s great. We need our culture to go along with that in a hurry. And we need to punish those who won’t go along.”

That’s the implication. It’s very clear in this series of articles, very clear in just one daily edition. And very clearly it tells us where we stand as if we didn’t know.

Part III

The Assassination of Malcom X and the Disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa in Headlines Again— What Questions Surrounding Both Cases Reveal About the Quest for Justice

But finally in recent days there have been so many reports, so many headlines about justice issues, trials, court decisions, moral becoming of course. But it’s really interesting that just in recent days, two very old trials, two very old criminal proceedings at least have come to light. And both of them unresolved. One of them involves what prosecutors and legal authorities now acknowledge was a gross miscarriage of justice. The first of these takes us back to 1965 and the murder or assassination of the civil rights activist Malcolm X. Three men were charged with that very public, very notorious murder.

It is now believed that one of them was actually guilty. And he basically now confesses to the crime and he says, and now the prosecution says that the two other men convicted for the crime likely did not carry it out. In any event, there’s insufficient evidence to charge them much less to believe that they actually were participants in the murder of Malcolm X. Both of them spent decades in prison. The headline there in the hometown paper, the New York Times was this, “Two will be cleared in Malcolm X case after five and a half decades.” The subhead, “Inquiry validates doubts over the killing and a District Attorney apologizes.” Now that raises a huge question. How do you say, I’m sorry to two men who spent decades in prison and have lived with what the prosecution now says was over 50 years of a wrongful conviction? This development raises such huge issues.

Indeed, how do you say, I’m sorry as a society? How do you say, I’m sorry? The people who prosecuted the crime are long gone, long dead. But there are legal officials right now in New York who had come to the conclusion that they had to rectify a wrongful conviction. In this case, two wrongful convictions by taking action. That then raises another set of huge questions. If these two men were not the accomplices in the murder of Malcolm X, back in 1965, then who were those two men? The newspaper and investigative conjecture is that those two men are almost assuredly dead, after all the crime took place, well over a half century ago. What does it mean that the convictions have now been reversed on those two men? Well, they’re alive and they are thankful for what’s described here as an exoneration. We can understand why there would be at least some moral satisfaction in that.

But what about all those lost decades? What about all that misassigned guilt? What about all the reasons that are documented in these reports? The reasons that led to the reversal of these convictions that were known at the time and should have been a part of the trial proceedings? What about all that huge questions? But then you fast forward 10 years to another crime. And this one was the disappearance of the Teamsters leader, Jimmy Hoffa. He disappeared from the Machus Red Fox, a restaurant in suburban Detroit in 1975, and was never heard from again. He was known at that point to have gotten himself on the wrong side of the mafia, on the wrong side of organized crime. And his disappearance was not surprising. What is surprising however, is that ever since 1975, even since 1975, the crime has been unresolved, unsolved. Now, why would that be such a surprise?

It is because human nature being what it is, someone usually rats, someone usually becomes an informant. Some evidence usually comes to light. Someone is usually charged, especially in a crime that was this public. A crime of this consequence. Jimmy Hoffa was one of the most controversial figures in the American labor union world when that was a very big, very powerful world. And one that was at least in his case, very much entwined with organized crime and corruption. But the recent news tells us about a deathbed statement that may point to a New Jersey landfill, where a certain package might have been a body that was delivered there. And it still might under some extraordinary circumstance be possible to find out if that would help to explain the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. The article by Michael Wilson in the Times tells us, “The new lead is bolstered by records showing that the FBI received tips as far back as 1975, immediately following his disappearance, that Mr. Hoffa was buried in the landfill in Jersey city. Agent searched, and finding nothing, wrote off the tips.”

“They had no idea where to start looking,” said one person, speaking of the more recent tip. The most important testimony behind this tip may be trace to a person who in his sixties look back to when he was a teenager. And it was his dad who ran the landfill, “While I was talking to my dad, a black limousine drove into our lot in the mud.” We are told that one of the persons turned to another and said, “They’re here.” Some kind of investigation is evidently going on. The Times tells us, “The site is adjacent to what is now Interstate Waste Services, a trash collection company that for years has stored empty metal containers under the Skyway. In late October, workers were abruptly ordered to clear them out.” A 19-year-old employee said, and then, “He saw the investigators arrive.”

Why is there so much interest in this? We’re talking about so many decades. It is because it is built into human nature that we want at least some moral satisfaction to know what happened, who did it and why. And it’s Christians who understand that that impulse toward justice is not just a curiosity. It is indeed an impulse toward justice. And it can be explained not in naturalistic terms, but only in theological terms. It is because God made us in his image. There’s a quest for justice because God is perfect justice. There may be more to the story, maybe not. Maybe the question will be in a landfill in New Jersey, but maybe not.

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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