The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, February 11, 2022

It’s Friday, February 11th, 2022.

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

Part I

So Truckers Are Rebelling in Canada? COVID Frustration and What the Trucker Protests in Canada Tell Us

We’re going to look today at the trucker protests in Canada. They started in Ottawa, the nation’s capital. And the big fact is this kind of thing really doesn’t happen in Canada. The fact that it is happening in Canada is big news on both sides of America’s Northern border. Now, let’s just step back for a moment and say that the United States should be incredibly thankful for the fact that we share so much of North America and this continent in land mass with the nation of Canada. Both Canada in the Maine and the United States in the Maine represent the English speaking tradition that comes from what is generally now the United Kingdom. But beyond that, a shared European tradition and a shared tradition of Western civilization. And that has been to the great benefit of the United States. And I would argue also for Canada over the course of the last 200 plus years.

But the historical differences, the differences in settlement and even during the age of exploration between the nation now known as Canada and the nation now known as the United States means two different experiences on so many different issues. The most important difference is that the United States broke from great Britain in a revolution. Something Canada profoundly has not done. In one sense, this leads to a difference in the character of the two countries. America prizes a sense of revolution as a part of our national creed and identity. We were birthed in a liberation in a revolution for freedom. But as you’re looking at Canada, you are looking at a contrary narrative. Canada is an independent nation but it still has status with the United Kingdom and with the British monarchy as part of the Commonwealth. Canada still has a governor general appointed by the British Crown who is in some sense understood to be the representation of that national identity that is rooted in Britain.

And thus as you’re looking at Canada, there is no president, as you would have a head of state even in a country like Germany which also has a chancellor. Instead, Canada has a prime minister in a parliamentary system of Western democracy. And you’re just looking at two different narratives. You’re looking at an ethos distinction between the United States and Canada, and you’re also looking at a very different cultural history just looking at say, a couple of things. Number one, I can remember when years ago a Canadian historian said to me that we share as Americans and Canadians so much history except just thinking about American religious history, Canada never had one, much less two great awakenings in the same reshaping of culture pattern that you saw in the United States of America and in our national history.

Canada has to deal with some other complexities that the United States does not have in terms of our constitutional system. For example, as you’re looking at Canada, you’re looking at one province, Quebec, which was more than any other settled by the French and still considered a part of the French empire far beyond what most people might recognize.

And you have had movements where Quebec separatism going back for a matter of decades and even encouraged by the then president of France, Charles de Gaulle in an infamous visit. Or you could say famous in Quebec and infamous in most of the rest of Canada. Thus Canada is officially bilingual and in some sense bi cultural, you have a lot of other differences between Canada and the United States that have to do with patterns of national expansion and also of population dispersion and you have the reality that like in the United States, you have more rural areas that are generally more conservative than the more urban areas. And like in the United States, you have now a concentration an increasing concentration of the population in the metropolitan areas rather than in the more rural and agrarian areas.

In Canada there is a remarkable distinction between the east and the west. And in this case you could think of something politically in the United States more like the north and the south in the sense that the west in Canada is more conservative than the east. Now, there are exceptions to everything you do have Austin right there in Texas. Similarly, you have the province of British Columbia there on the Pacific coast, that’s in the west. But then again, that goes back to something we talk about regularly and that is that the closer you get to a coast, whether it’s the Pacific or the Atlantic, the closer you get to a city, the closer you get to a campus, the more politically and culturally liberal and the more religiously secular the culture becomes. So just thinking about that reality in terms of culture and in politics, you could say that British Columbia is actually probably closer in some ways to the American states of Washington and Oregon than they are to some other provinces in Canada as you think about some of these patterns.

Like most countries, Canadians also have a long memory. And that means that some of them at least remember as taught in history that in the war of 1812, which remember was in the main a war between the United States and Britain, there was more to it, especially on the European continent. But as you’re thinking about the war of 1812, the Americans at one point thought that we were doing so well that we would basically expand the borders of the United States to include Canada. Didn’t quite turn out that way, but at least many Canadians remember, that it was the thought.

But what we need to remember here is that even though the United States and Canada share so much including a basically extremely peaceful, one of the most historically peaceful borders in all of international history, for that we should be so thankful. And even though our cultures have many similarities, our political systems and our cultures also have differences. And one of the differences in general has been Canadians don’t do protests and Americans do. Americans actually do a lot of them at times. If you just think about all the headlines over the years about all the protests in American cities or in American territories over this or over that, that’s a lot of protests. Protest are very American, not so much Canadian.

It’s not so much that Canadians don’t get outrage. It’s just that they channel that through other forms and protests are considered well, it may well be that many Canadians think that protests are just too American. But evidently the protest has caught on in Canada because huge international and headline news have been telling us about trucker protests, particularly in Canada’s capital, Ottawa. But also now spreading to the American border, particularly at crossing such as the Ambassador Bridge that connects Canada and the United States at Detroit and Windsor. The Wall Street Journal editorial board speaking in an interesting way about the development in Canada wrote this quote, “The lesson for the COVID-19 police is that when you’ve lost even Canadians arguably the most law abiding people on the planet, you’ve lost the political plot. Time to adopt a new strategy, more tolerant of the need to return to life not dominated by pandemic fear and government commands.”

Okay. That’s really, really accurate. That is an extremely apt description of what’s going on and a very accurate recommendation of what should be done. Those Canadian truckers and their allies are basically protesting a vaccination mandate that had been handed down by the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, and Trudeau’s dominant government. But you also have the reality. There’s something here that’s been pent up over the entirety of the COVID-19 crisis over the entire course of the pandemic. And this has lessons for all of us. Just thinking about this from a Christian worldview, trying to understand what’s going on. What kind of protest is legitimate? What kind of protest is illegitimate? What we should learn from protests. What we should not learn from protests.

Let’s understand that at the very least, this is headline news. And those who were orchestrating this protest understood that’s what they want. They want to shut down the streets of Ottawa. They want to shut down, or at least to complicate traffic over the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit. But what they really want is to get a message across. That, by the way, is one of the reasons why the actions known as protests are called protests. They are demonstrations, a political protest of one sort or another. And they’re not just about saying something by the direct action, say standing outside the gate of a company or of an institution, they want to make news in order to make their protest amplified throughout a larger sector of the culture, if not the entire culture. And when it comes down to this, well, these truckers and their allies basically have the attention of the entire Canadian nation. And also of most of the American nation as well. This is a big story. And it’s a big story most importantly because it’s taking place in Canada.

Part II

Pandemic Restrictions Must Be Temporary, Rational, and Generally Applicable — But Those Days Passed Long Ago

Now, as you’re looking at this issue, it’s not so important to get into the details of the mandate that has made these truckers so upset. It is the understanding that timing is very much an issue. And I hope this is helpful for us to think about. One of the things I’ve talked about on The Briefing is that if you go back to the beginning of the pandemic, if you look at this in the context of other undoubted threats to personal health throughout time, you look at times of plague, infection and sickness. If you go back to incidents such as the great flu pandemic and by great, we mean awful in the years 1918 and 1919, lessons were learned and Christians thought hard about these things. First of all, through centuries of plague, and then also through the experience, even in what we would call the modern age of infectious disease. There are three principles that have come down to justifying a government restriction in a time of pandemic.

It’s healthy for us to go back and remember these. The three principles are, that actions undertaken by the government should be, one, temporary. Number two, rational. And number three, generally applicable. Now, this far into the COVID pandemic, here are some things we’ve learned. One by one, most governments have violated one or more of those principles. So let’s look at them again. In other words, a restriction handed down by the government in the name of something like a pandemic must be temporary, rational, and generally applicable. Maybe we look at it backwards. Generally applicable, it applies to everyone equally. It’s not targeted. It’s not targeted toward Presbyterians. It’s not targeted toward bakers. It’s not targeted towards those who run laundromats. It’s not targeted toward elementary school teachers. There may be differences because of the particular circumstances but the law has to be generally applicable.

Now, we’ve seen this violated all over the place. For one thing we have seen restrictions put in place that put Christian congregations, other religious congregations at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to gathering together. We’ve seen government try to overreach time and time again, such as trying to say, you can meet but you can’t sing. You can meet but you have to wear this or you have to wear that. All kinds of things that have basically been handed down that actually interfere with the right of a Christian congregation to engage in Christian worship according to its own convictions. So over time, that very issue of a restriction of necessity being justified by it being generally applicable we have seen governments violate that over and over again. But looking at the other two, it is the principle of such a restriction being temporary that perhaps has been most egregiously violated.

Now, here’s something to think about, we’re going to be looking in days and weeks ahead more deeply at the worldview issues that are involved in the very idea of public health. It just doesn’t mean the health of the public. It means a whole lot more than that and it’s very ideologically driven in our society today, particularly as it is a recognized profession with graduate schools and all the rest. That’s going to have to wait, except to say that you do see governments predictively turning the temporary into the permanent. You do see governments without any rational justification extending policies that simply are not going to be honestly described as temporary. If they were temporary and the temporary were short, we wouldn’t be talking about them today. But that middle issue, that second issue is rational.

So temporary rational generally applicable, rational means the restriction makes sense. And you can say, well, we’re talking about a country with over 300 million people. You can’t have 300 million people deciding what’s rational, but on the other hand, what’s going on in Canada underlines what it looks like when a government fails to make clear that its policy is rational. When you’re looking at a very large segment of your society saying, “This makes no sense.” Or if over time people figure out the rationale you gave at the beginning, isn’t the rationale you gave at the middle and it’s not the rationale you gave now.

In the United States I point to the worldview problem. When you have people saying, “Trust the science, trust the science, trust the science.” And the science seems to change depending upon whatever politician you’re talking to, not even scientists, and whatever scientific report or scientific data is going to be cited at the expense of other data by someone who has a very clear agenda. Now hear me. I do believe that you should trust the truth. But saying science and truth, as much as we can appreciate the legitimate insights and gains and achievements of science, science does not equal truth and truth does not equal science.

So over time, what we have seen is that in the United States, we have seen many governments violate the fact that any restriction should be temporary, rational and generally applicable. We’ve seen the fact that they failed at making such principles generally applicable, and they have failed at the test of a consistent rational explanation and justification, and they have failed perhaps even more egregiously at making clear that these restrictions are temporary. They are not necessarily temporary. I think it is clear by now, explicitly clear that many of our government authorities and many of those who claim the mantle of public health want many of the issues that were claimed to be temporary under COVID-19 to be continued.

Now, the good news is that just in terms of mood, not ideology, but in terms of mood and culture, there is in the United States enough resident populism and also libertarianism just as an instinct. Again, not as a political movement, just as an instinct towards liberty. There is such a deep commitment to liberty and an instinct among the American people that there is at least good reason to believe that in many parts of the United States there will be a very successful pushback in order to oppose and eventually to defy regulations, regimes, laws that put restrictions in place that are not temporary rational, or generally applicable.

Oh, and by the way, sometimes you’ll hear some people, and that means some conservative saying, “Yeah, but these laws are illegitimate.” Even if they are temporary, even if they are rational and even if they are generally applicable. Well, there’s a matter of judgment there, but stating that categorically is simply not honest. Because if we are honest, if the death told to COVID turned out to be one out of four or even something higher, there’s basically no doubt that just about everyone would consider many of these restrictions and perhaps even more of these restrictions quite rational. The fact that we are talking about them as failing the test of being rationally defended, it points to the fact that COVID is now understood to be a very different disease or perhaps now operating under very different conditions, including treatments and including variants and including vaccinations than was the case say in April of 2020. This is not April of 2020. Rational means something very different to the vast majority of people right now.

But that takes us back to Canada where these Canadian truckers and their friends are saying they are done with this, they are not going to put up with it anymore, what will that mean for Canada? Well, time will tell. Well, for one thing, you’re looking at a very liberal government headed by an extremely liberal prime minister who basically has a very European sense of the power of the state as compared to say an American sense. And in this case, many Canadians are simply identifying with a more libertarian and frankly more frustrated political impulse. They’re simply saying, “It’s not temporary, it’s not rational, it’s not generally applicable, it doesn’t make sense. You’re not going to end this according to the science. You see a political opportunity you want to score political points and you’re simply not going to do that at our expense anymore.”

And again, there are issues of particular policies, regulations, laws, statutes that can be debated. But when the government shuts down debate and it obstinately defies the will of the people, then guess what? You’re going to end up with trucks parked idling and obstructing in the streets of Canada’s capital. You’re going to find truckers and their allies seeking to make a very clear point by disrupting traffic and commerce between the United States and Canada. By the way, something that consumers on both sides of the American Canadian border will feel very fast.

But it’s also just a warning to leaders who overreach on either side of the border or either side or any side of any border, and that’s the statement that is made by the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, I just want to go back to it, “The lesson for the COVID-19 police is that when you’ve lost even Canadians, arguably the most law abiding people on earth, you’ve lost the political plot.” And I’ll simply add to that statement something even more emphatic when it comes to many political leaders who are clearly a part of the problem and not part of the solution. I hope that having lost the plot they as soon as possible lose the office.

Part III

Is There A Historical Reason British Parliament Seems More Raucous than U.S. Congress? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

But next we’re going to turn to your questions, always incredibly intelligent questions.

I enjoy them every single week. Wish I could get to more of them. Andreas writes in. He’s writing about the British parliament saying, “I’m wondering if there’s any historical reason why the British parliament seems to be less orderly and more raucous than the American Congress. You rarely hear loud shouting or booing and audio from the American capital yet there is clearly animosity between politicians here in the United States.” He went on to say that Americans, “Save their nasty remarks for their own speeches rather than interrupt their rival.” That’s generally true. He goes on to say, “I’m surprised that the British parliament conducts itself in such a rancorous way when in general Britain is known here in America as a more proper and polite society.”

Well, Andreas, one of the answers is that like our American system there are two different chambers or two different houses in the British parliament. Or at least as you’re thinking about the houses of parliament. Remember, there are two houses, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The House of Lords is extremely formal and dignified. The United States Senate is not exactly the House of Lords but it was constitutionally devised in such a way as to fulfill basically the same purpose. It is by decorum, it is by rules, it is by principles and by constitution a very different chamber than the United States Congress or the House of Representatives. The same is even more emphatically true with what is often referred to just as parliament, most importantly meaning the House of Commons in Britain.

Now, a part of this is cultural. And you mention decorum in Great Britain or in England, yes, that’s true, but there was a huge distinction between the decorum expected in the House of Lords which was after all by constitution and aristocracy. And the very decorum or the lack of decorum in the House of Commons, which really was and is politically when it comes to ideas, something like fist to fist combat. Well, Andreas, there is something else for us to think about here. The British House of Commons is a lot older than the House of Representatives in the United States. It has a longer history. And in one sense, when it comes to the US Senate or to the House of Representatives, the framers of the American constitutional order wanted not exactly the same thing.

So in that sense, the House of Representatives had a benefit of learning from the British parliament and the House of Commons perhaps things it did not want to take place. And the biggest change that indicates there is a difference here is how the seats are arranged. I mean, and all you have to do is visit the United States Congress, the House of Representatives in session and visit parliament in session. I’ve had the honor of doing both repeatedly, and I’ll simply tell you that if you are watching these two great constitutional bodies at work, they are extremely different. Just look at how the seats are arranged.

In the United States House of Representatives, the seats are in a semicircle facing the speaker’s rostrum. The dais. And thus everyone is seated together. You do have different wings. You have Republicans dominating one side. You have Democrats on the other. There is a distinction in sitting but everyone is basically looking the same way. When it comes to the British parliament, you have the two sides looking at each other according to different sets of benches as if this is an athletic event in which the action is going to take place on the floor and you have two sets of bleachers on either side. Except that doesn’t actually explain it all in that these are not merely spectators, they are participants in parliamentary debate. They speak to each other. They yell at each other across the room when they are making debates.

I guess it’s safe to say, or at least I would surmise that if you put the American Democrats in Congress facing directly at the American Republicans in Congress, you just might have a different debate, a different culture to the House of Representatives in the U.S. But there’s another perhaps more subtle issue in the distinction between the American House of Representatives and the House of Commons in the United Kingdom. In the House of Commons, you do not seek by means of electoral victory to move up into the upper house, the House of Lords that is by becoming a lord or being a hereditary lord, that means something that is outside of the electoral process.

And that’s very different than in the United States. Where according to traditional American political law, every member of Congress sees himself or herself as a future American senator and every American senator sees himself or herself as a future American president. And a parliamentary system, it’s just very different and I guess you might say, “That actually seems to affect behavior.” Different political cultures produce different political rules and whether or not the groups keep their own rules, the difference between the rules, the difference between the structure tells a large part of the story. Great question, Andreas.

Part IV

How Should the U.S. Respond to Russian Threats to Invade Ukraine? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Next, I appreciated all the very interesting feedback that came to my special edition of The Briefing on the crisis in Ukraine and I appreciated the questions that came as well.

One of the big questions is one that I expected and that is, what should the United States do? What will the United States do in response? Should the United States go to war with Russia if Russia invades Ukraine? There’s not a lot of time for us to consider this today, but let me just say that one of the things you need to think about when you consider such a question is what the range of actual political debate is at any given moment in the United States. Here’s something I want to point out. In order to understand that you don’t look at the United States House of Representatives, this is what follows so neatly upon the previous question, you look at the conduct and the conversation of the United States Senate. To a large degree, the Senate just by its culture, tradition and status defines the actual policy proposals that are likely to move forward.

Here’s what you need to know. To date, not one member of the United States Senate, no Democrat, no Republican, no Independent has yet gone on the record saying the United States needs to be prepared to go to war with Russia over Ukraine. That is something that’s just really, really important. I want to step back in history and say that the fundamental American mistake wasn’t made in the course of the last several years or the last several months, let’s be clear about that. The fundamental American mistake was made during the breakup of the Soviet Union and in the aftermath when the United States thought that the entire problem had been solved with the breakup of the USSR and we abdicated national responsibility for the right kind of influence in the region, that might have made a difference.

So on this program I’m going to tell you when I think one party or the other has made a particular mistake or when they’re advocating a particularly bad position, but on this issue, it’s a bipartisan problem in the United States. Republican administrations have messed this up. Democratic administrations have messed this up. And that’s why even though there are probably few Republicans who are ready to say, “I think Joe Biden is handling this just right.” Most of them are not ready to go too far out on a limb to say what they think should be done yet other than everything possible should be done in order to make the cost of any invasion painful and painfully clear to the Russians.

Part V

Is There A Biblical Basis for Religious Liberty? Don’t You Deny Religious Liberty to Liberal Christians Who Want to Practice Same-Sex Marriage? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

But finally I turn to a very interesting and challenging question from Gerald. He writes about religious liberty since I often affirm religious liberty. He says, “I believe you claim it for followers of all religions.” But then he says, “Although you would deny the right of liberal Christians to practice same sex marriage in conformance with their faith.” He asks a lot more, all good. But simply at the this point I want to say that that’s not exactly what I would affirm or deny. I would not deny the right of liberal religion, whatever it calls itself, to recognize some kind of same sex marriage or right, or legitimacy, according to its own religious principles inside its own religious congregation, religious group and religious practice.

This is not about conservative Christians trying to tell some group, “You must have this sacrament. You must have some other sacrament.” It is rather the law, the structure of law in society. The law is going to define marriage. And I’m going to argue that it is not an imposition of Christianity for the law to recognize the necessities of creation which has been common to all humanity throughout time, which is that marriage is and can only actually be the union of a man and a woman. What others do in their church in rights or sacraments or whatever they want to call them is not the matter of our concern. Rather it’s how marriage is defined according to the law.

Then comes the question, “Where in the Bible, do you find the right to practice other religions, including worship other gods?” Well, I wouldn’t say that it’s a right as found in the Bible. As much as this begins with the understanding of the imago Dei, the image of God. And with the understanding that no external force can coerce what we would know as the Christian conscience. But you say the conscious of any person on religious issues. You may somehow constrain the body but you cannot, it’s outside the reach of any human government to actually inform or limit the mind in such a way that you can be told. You must believe this, you must not believe that. You can believe in that God, you can’t believe in that God, that is simply not something that government is able to do in terms of internal life. It can do so in terms of external conformity. And that’s where we would say it’s wrong.

But it also comes down in the old testament to understanding that Israel is a theocracy and the United States of America, just to point to the obvious is not a theocracy. And as a matter of fact, the New Testament doesn’t assume anything like a theocracy, but is instead written to a church that is understood to be a cognitive convictional minority within the larger society. That doesn’t mean we don’t seek to have influence. It does mean we do not take upon ourselves the right or the responsibility to police all the religious beliefs of others.

There’s a lot more to be said there but then Gerald goes on to ask intelligently, why did Christians not respect religious liberty until the age of enlightenment? Well, that’s interesting. I will simply there say that the premise I think is wrong. I would refer you to a thinking in public I did with the imminent church historian Robert Wilken. His book is entitled Liberty in the Things of God, and he’s well recognized as a scholar of the early church.

That addition of thinking in public was released, by the way, on September the 17th of 2019, a link will be found today’s addition of The Briefing. But the point is Robert Wilken makes very clear that religious liberty emerged very early in the Christian church, particularly with one of the church fathers there’s known as Tertullian. And what you’re looking at throughout much of what we would call the last two millennia of history would be political action sometimes undertaken in the name of Christianity and sometimes even with the active cooperation of the Christian church throughout much of that time, the Roman Catholic Church that we as evangelicals would say we’re not legitimate function of government at all.

Finally, I’m going to note that Gerald asked, do you recognize limits to religious liberty? And the answer is yes. Every sane society has to recognize limits to religious liberty. None of these are easy. Sometimes they are clear. Sometimes they are not. Sometimes courts and legislatures get such decisions right. Sometimes they get them wrong. Sometimes they make them better. Sometimes they make them worse. But the assumption in our system, which I believe is the right assumption, is that any restraint or curtailment of religious liberty must be suspect until it proves its constitutional master.

But finally, Gerald, I would simply have to summarize by saying, I’m speaking as an American evangelical Christian and as a Baptist, not by coincidence. And that means that I’m not speaking, profoundly not speaking as a Roman Catholic, I am not speaking as a member of Greek Orthodoxy or Russian Orthodoxy, I am not speaking as a Lutheran for that matter. I’m not speaking as a communicate member of the Church of England. And that means that I understand that once you hold to a biblical understanding of the necessity of conversion, you’ve got nowhere to go but the affirmation of religious liberty.

Thoughtful questions is always sometimes very complex. Thoughtful questions and we’re going to be turning to more of those questions in weeks ahead. In the meantime, thanks for sending them and we’ll continue the conversation. We’ll continue to think about these matters together and we will seek to think about them biblically.

For more information go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to

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

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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