The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

It’s Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

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

Part I

No Flyover After All: Reflections on Russia’s Fixation on 1945

Well, the big story out of Moscow yesterday is that there actually wasn’t much of a big story. And that turns out to be important. It had been expected that on the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II, what Russians called the great patriotic war, Vladimir Putin would use an already militarized situation in order to further his military ambitions, perhaps officially announce war on Ukraine, a country that he’s invaded a matter of something like three months ago, or perhaps to define Russia’s war effort or to stoke further tensions with the west.

And when you think about this anticipation, you need to recognize that Vladimir Putin’s own government had been building those expectations. And that expectation also included information given by the Russian government that the big military parade that took place yesterday there in front of the Kremlin was also to include massive flyovers of Russian military aircraft, including we were told, the Russian president’s so-called doomsday plane, the plane on which the Russian president was to seek refuge and from which the Russian president was to direct war, including nuclear war.

Vladimir Putin and his government backed off of that nearly entirely. They didn’t back off of the military parade, know that took place, but having raised all these expectations and for that matter, both fears and expectations on the part of many, the Russian president appeared to be backing down somewhat. But this raises some issues on its own. There may be reasons of state security, why the flyovers didn’t happen for one thing, as you’re thinking about how effective the Ukrainians have been. And as you’re thinking about some of the weaponry, it is now known that the Ukrainians have sneaking in even just a couple of those missiles could wreak havoc in the most public way. That may be one reason the flyover didn’t happen.

There may be other reasons, but the one reason that isn’t plausible is the reason the Russian government gave, which was weather, anyone looking up at the sky could recognize the weather is actually not the problem, but in any event in worldview consequence, there’s really something we, as Americans are those in other nations of the world need to consider. As we think about the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II, what was known in the English-speaking allied world as VE Day, meaning Victory in Europe, that was one of the great turning points of the 20th century.

It came as a tremendous relief. It was an unprecedented victory on the part of the allies against the unprecedented horror and evil of Nazi Germany and the Third Reich. It came only after the deaths of untold millions of people, 27 million Russians, as we’ve mentioned, plus massive numbers of people massacred in the name of either war or of the genocidal aims of the Third Reich. Think of the Holocaust against the Jewish people. And you’re looking at one of the major turning points in human history, as you think about what was celebrated, not only in Moscow but also in Washington and elsewhere around the world, London, Paris, everywhere that you find those who are remembering the end of World War II, there was probably a significant observance yesterday. But why is it different in Russia than everywhere else? It’s not just about the totalitarianism of Russia. It’s also about Russia’s history.

And here’s something perhaps we need to think about. In the United States, the 77th anniversary of Victory in Europe at the end of World War II brought about observances. It brought about some articles and commentary. There were services in several cemeteries across the country, especially military cemeteries, but in reality, this was not a huge central issue nor holiday in the United States. In Great Britain and in France, and in some other European allied countries, it’s a bit different, just think of France, France was actually invaded, conquered, and occupied by the Nazis. So it is a more proximate history. It’s a lot closer to home. After all, as you’re thinking about an observance for VE Day in Paris, you’re talking about one of the most famous cities liberated from the Nazis, very different than a similar observance taking place in London, much less in Washington.

But how is this important as we’re thinking about Russia, Vladimir Putin, and so many of the headlines of our day? Well, consider the fact that the 77th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany actually looms larger in Russian history than anywhere else. And that’s not just because Russia lost more people than anyone else. And here’s the point I want us to ponder, it is also because Russia basically has no usable history in its past going all the way back to 1945. What do I mean by that? As you think about the history in contrast, say of the United States of America, what has happened to the United States since 1945, it actually expanded into even greater global prominence. Its economy multiplied over and over again. The United States of America grew in economic power, in political power, in what foreign policy experts call both soft and hard power throughout the decades after World War II.

And as you’re looking at England, consider the fact that England went through years of austerity in the aftermath of the war, but Great Britain also emerged as a very strong country. France came from the ashes of its defeat by the Nazis in World War II and its occupation. And France came back. It has gone through several different governments, but nonetheless, France is a very clear constitutional democracy. Just to look at those three allies in the west, Britain and France and the United States can look at tremendous achievements. We’ll just consider Germany itself on VE Day, as the allies called it, on the day of the German surrender in the end of World War II in 1945, it was hard to imagine that Germany could ever be once again, a major player on the world stage. Many of its cities were smoldering ruins. The Nazis had led Germany itself into what was basically a national suicide pact.

And by the time the Nazi surrender, the German surrender came about, Germany was not only a defeated foe that appeared to have very little hope looking to the future. It became very quickly in the years thereafter, a nation divided between the east and the west between the Soviet sphere of influence and the Western sphere of influence. Eventually, it was divided between Eastern Germany, which was a communist satellite of the Soviet Union, and Western Germany, which became a part of the Western democratic experiment, but that’s not how the 20th century ended. The 20th century ended with Germany resurgent. And for that matter, with Germany reunited, even before the reunification of Germany, West Germany was one of the most powerful economies on the planet. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to the release of its satellites and eventually liberation in so many of the countries that had been behind the iron curtain. And so what Germans remember about the end of the 20th century is the grand, almost unexpected reunification of Germany, and the German economy is even now one of the strongest in the world, and it is by any measure, the strongest in Europe.

So the victorious Allies in the west can look through the last several decades and see all kinds of problems. But beyond that, far more magnificently, massive achievements, they can look at a grand period of history between the end of World War II and the early decades of the 21st century, certainly twists and turns in the history. But there is no doubt that the United States of America, Germany, France, Great Britain look over the last seven-plus decades and see a remarkable period of national pride. That’s how we need to contrast the situation in Russia. How do the Russians have to look at the history of their own nation of their own people since the end of World War II and the surrender of Nazi Germany? Well, what the Soviet Union got at the end of World War II was a massive challenge of rebuilding the nation much land that had to be reclaimed for useful purposes. The deaths of 27 million persons, simply missing, displaced people.

It was not a grand period of Russian history. And then Joseph Stalin, the totalitarian leader, the dictator, the strong man who had led the Soviet Union, not only through World War II, but through horrifying intentional famine. It was Joseph Stalin who after his death was repudiated by the Soviet regime in a famous speech that was given by Nikita Khrushchev in which for the first time unprecedented in Russian history, the misdeeds, the horrible monumental crimes of Joseph Stalin were made clear. Of course, the great political reality at that time was the cold war between the Western nations and the Soviet Union and its fear. But the 20th century ended not with the victory of the Soviet Union as a matter of great Russian pride, but the collapse of the Soviet Union and furthermore, the breakup of the Soviet Union so that by the time the 20th century came to an end, Russia’s history after World War II appeared to be one disaster after another, one humiliation after another, one loss after another, including humiliating military losses that took place, for example, in Afghanistan.

But then of course, the humiliating loss of so much of its own territory, including nations that became independent, such as Ukraine. We fast forward to today’s headlines. My point is this, as you are looking at that military parade in Russia, just understand that they have to go back to 1945 to find any kind of happy moment they want to celebrate as a nation, consider just how sad that actually would be. If in the United States, we had to go back to 1945 to find a moment when we say that was actually a moment of national pride and national greatness. Now as you think about that, I do not say that in a way to try to insult Russia or the Russian people. I say that just with an historical awareness of the fact that this would present a nearly in the surmountable political challenge for a people. And Vladimir Putin has clearly failed the test of being up to that challenge. So even as it comes to all the anticipation about what Vladimir Putin might do there in front of the Kremlin yesterday, the big story is basically what didn’t happen.

And in so many ways, that’s emblematic of Russian history in recent decades. Perhaps we can understand at least in one sense, the frustration of the Russian people, if they even know that the big story in the west is about the planes that didn’t actually even fly. And remember, it’s not just Russian history, it’s also Russian literature that bears witness to that tragedy. Just say names like Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. We come to understand that tragedy is written in the heart of that nation. And yet, before any of the rest of us respond with some kind of mere patriotic pride is Christians who understand that tragedy after Genesis 3 is actually writ large in humanity, everywhere you look if you know how to look.

Part II

A Sign of Massive Political and Theological Change: Sinn Fein Wins Parliamentary Election in Northern Ireland

But next we’re going to shift from Russia to Ireland. And what I truly believe is one of the biggest stories of our present moment, but few people seem to notice it. I’m talking about the news that Sinn Féin has won the majority of the electoral seats in Northern Ireland. News that did make the front page of the New York Times down in the lower right corner with the headline in recent days, “In historic shift, Sinn Féin is set to take over in Northern Ireland.”

The subhead is simply this, “New chapter for party with radical past.” Mark Landler is the reporter in this story. The Washington Post ran similar stories, the European Press similar stories. Do we pause for just a moment to recognize what we’re looking at here? Let’s consider the fact that Sinn Féin is actually the political party most closely associated with what was known as the Irish Republican Army or the IRA. The Irish Republican Army used violence, it used murder, it used terrorism to try to bring about, first of all, independence on the part of the Republic of Ireland from the United Kingdom. But furthermore, it had the ambition to unite all of Ireland. That means not only the Republic of Ireland in the south but Northern Ireland in the north. And it led to that period of so many long years known as the troubles in which you had violence on both sides and sustained terrorism, claiming many innocent civilian lives and making it virtually impossible for Northern Ireland to continue to exist as a workable society. And that came with that historical background that’s very important.

As you’re talking about Northern Ireland, as a political entity, it dates back to 1921. And at that point, the Government of Ireland Act of 1920, went into effect. And as a part of that act, the counties there in Northern Ireland were considered a part of the United Kingdom, but they were recognized as separate from the Republic of Ireland in the south. The Republic of Ireland was overwhelmingly Roman Catholic in culture and also of course in religion, Northern Ireland was not Catholic, it was predominantly Protestant, certainly, its leadership was Protestant and Northern Ireland was separate from the Republic of Ireland in the south, precisely because Northern Ireland was largely populated by people who had settled that region coming from England and other regions of great Britain. The leadership of those counties in Northern Ireland looked to London rather than to Dublin as their political center and as the source of their historic culture. They were Irish, but they were also under a government that since 1921 had operated under devolution.

That’s a political term. That means that London was actually the sovereign power, but the powers of government had devolved into a local government, made up of the residents of Northern Ireland. And remember the basic issue here that most people knew was that Northern Ireland was Protestant, and the Republic of Ireland in the south was Catholic. And so even as you’re thinking about the troubles and the long period of terrorism, it was often considered a conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland in general, but in particular with a focus on Northern Ireland. And the ambitions of the IRA of the Irish Republican Army was to bring about a reunification at that point, they’d already succeeded in separating the Republic of Ireland from England. And so the aims of the IRA thereafter included the forced reunification of all of Ireland as it was considered the Republican of south that was Catholic and Northern Ireland that looked to London for political authority and was overwhelmingly Protestant.

And as you’re thinking about the news that Sinn Féin, which is the political party most closely associated with the Irish Republican Army through all of those years, Sinn Féin has now won a majority of seats in the Stormont, which is the parliament there in Northern Ireland. How could that be? Well, in order to understand what has gone on here, we need to step back and say that this has to represent not only a massive political change in Northern Ireland, for that matter in Ireland itself, looking at the Republic, but it also has to represent a massive theological change. Now does this mean that somehow there’s been an actual religious theological reproachment or agreement between the Catholics and the Protestants? That’s not actually what’s going on here. What’s actually going on here is that Catholic now means much less than it did a few decades ago. And Protestant now means much less than it did a few decades ago because the big religious story in Ireland is not Catholic versus Protestant now, it is the secularization of that nation, the secularization of the Republic of Ireland in the south, and concomitant with that we now see the secularization of Northern Ireland as well.

This is an absolutely massive development. As you’re thinking about Sinn Féin, by the way, it had been historically associated with the Irish Republican Army and with the Catholic cause. But Sinn Féin has been moving like so many other political parties in the west in a far more liberal direction when it comes to morality, Sinn Féin is now all for same-sex marriage. Sinn Féin is for legal divorce. Sinn Féin is for abortion and so many other issues on the cultural left. That means it no longer represents any real tie to historic Catholic doctrine, but that tells you something else in Northern Ireland for Sinn Féin to have won the election in terms of the parliamentary vote. Well, the reality is that it’s not just the Republic of Ireland that had been overwhelmingly Catholic in terms of its history that has been secularized. It is also Northern Ireland. The victory of Sinn Féin is an indication that massive shifts have now nearly totally reshaped Northern Ireland. It is no longer a bastion, a Protestant theology, but that means really, it’s no longer a bastion of virtually anything that is definable in theological terms.

So just looking a little closer, we see that a plurality of seats, the largest number of seats has been won by Sinn Féin at the expense of whom? Well, at the expense of two parties, most importantly, the Democratic Unionist Party and the Ulster Unionist Party. The point is the word unionist is in both of those party names. And they have been a decline now for a number of years, and even with a majority in the parliament, the unionist have not been able to operate in such a way that during a time when the Northern Ireland parliament was basically absolutely deadlocked, the devolution went into reverse and the British parliament actually pushed through liberalizing legislation there in Northern Ireland on any number of moral issues. Now does this mean that there will be some kind of referendum to decide if there will be a reunited Ireland if Northern Ireland will leave the UK sphere and become a part of the Irish Republic?

Well, if that happens, it’s not going to happen very soon, but there is no question that there is a sense of momentum towards the Republican cause even in the north. And one of the reasons for that is this, Northern Ireland, of course, shares a border with the Republic of Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is staying in the European Union, even as the UK voted back in 2016 to leave the European Union, that would create a situation in which there would be the potential of a hostile border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. And that appears to be a step too far for at least many in Northern Ireland. So it could turn out that one of the unanticipated, but fairly predictable results of the Brexit vote could be the reunification of Ireland, but that’s a story still unfolding. I just want us to recognize that in theological terms, it’s a very big story, a story so big that the historic Catholic-Protestant divide has now been largely eclipsed by a wave of secularization that has transformed the Irish nation.

The politics will be of interest to so many people, but the theological issues should be a particular strategic interest for Christians.

Part III

Nicolás Maduro’s Key to Political Success in Venezuela? Wokewashing the Leftists in the United States

But finally, for today, we’re looking at big worldview issues that we see on the big world stage. And that’s going to take us across the Atlantic. It’s going to take us to the south to Venezuela. And in Venezuela, the leftist legacy of Hugo Chávez, which nonetheless led to economic impoverishment in that country, it is considered one of the biggest movements on the international left in recent decades. Hugo Chávez

died and he was followed in office by Nicolás Maduro. Maduro fails to have the charisma of Hugo Chávez. But one of the interesting things is that even as so many in Western nations have been trying to isolate Nicolás Maduro and his Neo Marxist government there in Venezuela, trying to govern from the left, and by the way, at the extreme impoverishment of his own people. But the fact is he thinks he has come up with a new winning strategy.

And that new winning strategy is to woo the left, not so much in Venezuela, but in the United States and in other Western democracies. He is after now, AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and those in the squad, and those on the political left in the United States. And some of them are clearly falling for it. For example, recently, a group from the party known as the Democratic Socialists of America went to Venezuela on something like a state visit in order to visit with

Nicolás Maduro. Now remember this is a group that would include advocates, such as Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Socialist United States Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, by the way, at least had to separate himself and create some distance with Nicolás Maduro as he was running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. But there are some in Congress who are still glad to try to go down and have their picture taken with the dictator.

Tony Frangie Mawad reporting for Politico tells us that the strategy, “First undertaken by Chávez and continued by a successor Maduro is to attract American political figures in groups that could support his political interest in the United States. Now this strategy appears to be targeting young Americans, a demographic with growing political power that’s proven more open to socialism than its older counterparts.” So the leftward movement in the United States, particularly among young people in the Democratic Party has given Nicolás Maduro an opportunity to try to show himself to be woke.

As Politico reports, “Today when the Venezuelan government shares messages on social media and Maduro speaks in public, Venezuelan observers have noted that he increasingly relies on progressive language, familiar to young Western leftists in contrast to older bellicose speeches, loaded with macho and sometimes homophobic imagery. Madura is now co-opting the language of feminism, LGBT rights, the environment that according to the general coordinator of a group known as PROVEA, P-R-O-V-E-A, Venezuela’s most prestigious and oldest human rights organization. In other words, the current dictator of Venezuela trying to buy influence with the young American Left is trying to sound like a tenured faculty member at Harvard, Yale, or Berkeley.” The article at Politico identifies the ambition of Nicolás Maduro as woke washing. That’s a term that refers to trying to buy influence by appearing woke, influence in particular with young American leftists.

I mentioned that group of the Democratic socialists of America, who went to Venezuela to visit. The Politico report says, “While the DSA delegation spent most of its anti-imperialist tourist adventure tweeting about the wonders of Venezuelan socialism, its members stayed in the private five-star luxury hotel where one night costs about 100 times the average Venezuelan monthly salary. View from the dance floor tweeted young delegate Jim McKinney with a picture, ‘it’s absolutely beautiful here.’ All this is one, the support of at least one member of Congress, representative Ilhan Omar Democrat of Minnesota. Also, Senator Sanders has given at least some words of approval and encouragement to the Venezuelan Marxist.” But this article also concludes by telling us that Maduro’s woke washing, “Isn’t limited to the language of anti-racism and decolonization. In recent years, Maduro has also strategically appropriate feminist and pro-LGBTQ rhetoric too.”

Well, here’s one of the things you see when you look at a picture like this, you’ve got fairly wealthy, certainly, comfortably middle class, American collegiate, and young adult leftist going to Venezuela, staying in a private five-star hotel that cost per night, more than a hundred times what the actual poor people in Venezuela make, even as they are championing the glories of Venezuelan socialism, but then they also allow themselves to be entertained and impressed by the dictator of Venezuela who’s trying to tweet about how woke is on issues, including LGBTQ rights, when as it turns out in Venezuela, there basically aren’t any. As Politico reports legalized same-sex marriage, doesn’t exist in Venezuela, adoption by same-sex couples, doesn’t exist in Venezuela. Venezuela was “the first Latin American country to recognize transgender identities. It did so in 1977, however, not one trans citizen has been allowed to legally change their gender identity.”

All that, just to say, woke washing evidently takes place in a way that impresses so many on the woke American left, without anyone noticing that the person who’s doing the woke washing isn’t actually even woke. Now that just reminds me that the Pulitzer Prizes in journalism were announced yesterday. And as you’re thinking about that, recognize that one of the most infamous of the Pulitzer recipients was Walter Duranty longtime reporter for the New York Times as he was based in the Soviet Union. And it is now known that he became a willing woke washer for the Soviet Union. He became a willing part of Stalin’s apparatus lying about the Soviet Union through his journalism within the New York Times. The New York Times, by the ways, recognized that, but guess what? They still count Walter Duranty’s Pulitzer in the total count of those received by the New York Times.

I guess you could say it’s an old, old story. And in some sense, the revolution still goes on.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at, you can call 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 tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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