The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

It’s Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

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

Part I

Urgent News from Britain: Prime Minister Boris Johnson Scrapes By with Win in Vote of Confidence — But History Suggests His Tenure Might Not Last Long

One of the things we might need to think about is the distinction between important and urgent. Sometimes the important is urgent and the urgent is important, but sometimes those are separate categories. Now I’m thinking of Britain today, as we think in those two terms, because there’s an urgent story and there’s an important story. They’re actually different stories, though related. You wonder, where in the world we’re going here? Well, we are going to Boris Johnson and Queen Elizabeth II. When it comes to the big news about Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the situation is urgent. Only time will tell how important it is. When it comes to the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II as the longest reigning monarch of British history, that might not be particularly urgent, but it is important.

So we will talk about the urgent first and the important second. The urgent, Boris Johnson. The British prime minister faced a vote of confidence in recent days in the House of Commons, the British parliament. And he won it, but he won it by a vote of 211 to 148, which means given the size of his parliamentary majority, it probably in political terms should count as a loss. But this raises a host of issues for our consideration. Boris Johnson, just a matter of a couple years ago, won a massive victory for Britain’s Tory Party, it’s Conservative Party. We’re going to think more about that in just a moment as well. But nonetheless, Boris Johnson has been one of the most colorful figures in British politics for a matter of well over a decade. He spent time as the mayor of London. He’s quite a flamboyant figure. His hair goes in all directions. Most British statesmen would’ve tried to find some way to control their hair, but Boris Johnson just lets his hair go.

But that turns out to be a metaphor because Boris Johnson has let a lot of moral issues go as well. The vote of confidence that he did survive in mathematical terms just this week, it came after a series of scandals. And we really are talking about scandals. These go back to Boris Johnson’s earlier political life, but they erupted in political force in big force, something like seismic force in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Why? Well, it is because Boris Johnson as Britain’s head of government and prime minister established through his government. And yes, that’s the way it’s put in one sense. Through his party’s government in a parliamentary majority put in effect restrictions on behavior and activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, including a ban on meetings together and parties together. And yet his party broke those rules.

And even though he denied personal participation, it turns out that Boris Johnson was lying. He had personally participated. He was actually convicted of what amounts to a crime as the sitting British prime minister. Now he was only fined a matter of something like $100. But nonetheless, that is a big issue. It was a big scandal. Boris Johnson has been courting scandal his entire political life. A graduate of Eton, that’s the most rarefied and elite British we would say private school going all the way back to King Henry IV. He’s a graduate of Eton, but rather than acting like a member of an aristocracy, Boris Johnson acted like a member of a fraternity. And he’s carried on that frat house behavior as British prime minister. Now, if you know anything about British culture, if you have spent any time watching, for example, British television, especially British comedies, the Boris Johnson kind of figure is a staple.

He’s every man, but of course, as a graduate of Eton, he’s not every man. And as a graduate of the Oxbridge tradition, the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, when you’re talking about Boris Johnson, you are talking about a rakish figure. But as you know, in politics, such a figure can be popular for a time until the populous tires of him. And that appears to be what is happening. And when you do have some kind of moral tipping point, and Boris Johnson, by the way was cohabiting, he didn’t get married until just before the woman who became his wife gave birth to one of their children. You just look at this and you recognize Boris Johnson has been playing on the moral boundaries, the political boundaries, the scandal boundaries for a very long time, and as is so often the case, a population that found him entertaining is now tiring of him.

That’s the problem. If in politics, you represent a political act, eventually that act will come to an end. But there’s a lot here for us to consider. For one thing, Boris Johnson is still a prime minister because he did survive the vote of confidence. A vote of confidence in this context has to come at the initiative of members of the prime minister’s own party. But this raises an issue that most Americans just don’t think about. We elect a head of state who was also head of government, the Office of President of the United States. In Britain, there is an absolute separation between the head of government, that would be the prime minister, and the head of state, that would be Queen Elizabeth II. But even as the head of state is the hereditary monarch, the prime minister is generally, this is not actually a rule by the way, it’s just the way it seemingly always turns out.

The prime minister is the head, the parliamentary head of the party that wins or is able to arrange a significant majority in parliament in the House of Commons. You get that majority, then the leader of that majority becomes your prime minister. Now constitutionally in Britain, that’s not exactly true, and yet it is true. It’s not exactly true and that the monarch as the head of state has the power, the sole power to invite someone to service prime minister, the Queen’s first minister, and to establish a government. But in modern British history, there has never been a case when that person invited was not the person who led the party able to create and to claim a parliamentary majority. So if you head the party that wins the election, the queen, or if in another generation, the king is likely to invite you to form a government. But you do form a government.

Britain has actually had a succession of governments since let’s just say the Second World War. Go back just about, say 70 years, Britain’s had numerous governments. How many governments has the United States had? One. Now there are several congresses. We have a New Congress and it’s identified by number every two years, but there is no claim nor reality to the fact that even when we elect a new president and that president takes office, that the United States has a new government. But when it comes to a parliamentary system of government, that’s not an exaggeration because so many of the positions in the government are actually determined by the prime minister. If you change the prime minister, you do change the government. And as you look at countries like Italy, Italy infamously has been through dozens of governments since the Second World War. France, well, France is now the Fifth Republic, but it ended the war in the context of a quite earlier republic.

But as you’re looking at the parliamentary system of government, whether it’s Canada or Australia or most famously in Great Britain, the parliament is a government and a new parliament means a new government. The other thing for us to keep in mind is that as you look at the British parliament, if you have a majority, you by all accounts should never lose a vote. Now that’s not the way it works in the American system. In the American system, the Democrats have a very slim majority, indeed in the Senate, a technical majority, but the reality is they don’t get everything they want and they often actually lose votes. And that’s because even as you still have a whip. Yep, that’s the office, that’s what it’s called. You have a Democratic Party whip. You have a Republican Party whip. And given the difference between the two parties, one’s a majority whip and one’s a minority whip.

Whip means discipline. It means they are supposed to whip their members into line to vote the right way, but they don’t have much power. And that means that especially in the House of Representatives, the majority party actually loses votes because it loses some of the votes of its own members. At least under any normal circumstance, that doesn’t happen in Britain. So that means that the British prime minister is in one sense, not just a head of government, he’s almost effectively an elected dictator. Now I say almost, and we need to be careful here because the incumbent prime minister has something like the powers of a dictator, but an actual dictator can’t be toppled by a vote of no confidence. So Britain has several constitutional protections put in place here. Now, one other thing that Boris Johnson has to keep in mind is that even as he claimed victory, again, 211 votes for him, 148 against him.

But even as he was claiming that as a big victory, that has been claimed by other conservative prime ministers before who have narrowly escaped to this kind of removal from office. Generally they do leave office fairly soon after this vote, even if they win it under these circumstances. When it has come to some British prime ministers, it might take something like a year. When it came to one of the most famous of all British prime ministers, Margaret Thatcher, she actually was forced to resign from her office in what amounts to a political coup by her own party just a matter of days after surviving a vote of confidence. So you can count on the fact that right now, there is an awful lot of politics going on in Britain in the House of Parliament and in what calls itself, the Conservative Party. Now, one more note in worldview terms, the British Conservative Party is increasingly conservative in name and not in policy.

Just about everything that many Republicans fear, Conservative Republicans fear the Republican Party might become the British Conservative Party, the Tories became some time ago. You really are looking at a party that’s conservative only in the sense that it is somewhat more conservative than the Labor Party, which after all throughout much of its history was openly socialist. But you’ll also recall something else, and that is the political principle that all politics is local. Now in Britain, in one sense, that’s more true and less true than in the United States. Just take a United States member of Congress, a member of the House of Representatives, a congressional district made up generally of several hundred thousand persons, and those persons elect a member to Congress, and that is very local. That’s one of the reasons why the political parties in the United States don’t have the power that you would find in the British parliament and in that system.

But as you are looking at constituencies, as they are known in Britain, electing members of parliament, there’s a sense in which those localities actually are where political decisions are made. That’s where those citizens go to vote. But in Britain, you more often have the kind of wave election that’s basically partisan than what you see in the United States. Now telescoping out for just a moment, because we’re about to get to the queen, as we are thinking about Britain’s constitutional government and we’re thinking about the House of Commons, you remember that the other house in parliament is the House of Lords, which had been largely, if not, exclusively based in a hereditary aristocracy. That’s where you had the lords. And then later, the lords and the ladies, persons whose name begin with at least a title like “sir.” You have dukes and you have earls and you have others who are members of the House of Lords.

Most of them throughout British history on a hereditary basis. The House of Lords has been somewhat liberalized and democratized. And frankly its powers have been significantly reduced in recent generations. And that points to the fact that the British aristocracy has basically, if not gone extinct, then gone quiet and gone largely powerless. The British aristocracy was such a major fact of life that it was considered to be the very source along with the monarchy of social stability throughout the entire United Kingdom.

But the aristocracy has been in retreat. And by the way, one of the moral stories of the early 20th century was the dissolution of the aristocracy. The landed gentry produced offspring, who were generally dull when it came to their intelligence, at least as they applied it in school and in politics. And they were also dissolute, which meant they often spent their fortunes, became very worldly, they lived recklessly. This became very famous during the period known on both sides of the Atlantic as the Jazz Age. And all Americans have to do is simply, well, watch an imaginary aristocracy like the program, Downton Abbey. And you can see that world is, not to put too strong a spin on it, gone.

Now come back to the United States for a moment. Let’s look at the difference between Britain’s parliamentary system of government and America’s very different constitutional system of government. For one thing, we don’t have a king, except we sort of do. We have a president of the United States. And a president is often treated, and this goes all the way back to the formalities that emerge with our first president, George Washington. Many of those formalities are actually modeled after the British monarchy. So the president of the United States has an entrance march known as Hail to the Chief.

That sounds very much like hail to the king. But at the same time, the American elected president serves for a four year term and can be reelected, as the constitution now has been amended, only once. That was the pattern by the way of George Washington, the first American president. George Washington carried himself in his personal deportment very self-consciously as something like an elected king, but also as a common citizen. That’s been the balance that American presidents have had to seek and at least try to demonstrate because Americans need them at moments to be like kings and in other moments to be, well, just like a normal American, whatever that means. In a time of crisis, Americans look to presidents to be kings. But under normal circumstances and especially when a president is running for reelection, he’s got to be just one of us. That tells us something about human nature.

We need just one of us until all of a sudden we need a king or at least we think we need a king. You can observe this when you see young children. You see mom and dad standing there, the little children and you take a little fellow and he’s preschool in age and he’s trying to feel a little bit of independence. And so he tries to walk a little bit away from mom and dad, but when the slightest big noise comes or something scary, he scoots right back and reaches up for his dad’s hand. That shows you something about human nature. American citizens are actually the same way. Americans say that we do not want a really strong centralized government and we don’t want a really strong president until we find ourselves in a predicament in which we blame the president for not exercising enough power, or in a moment of national emergency, the entire nation wants a parent in the White House who can assure the nation.

It’s not an accident that George Washington was known affectionately as the father of his country. But by the same token, America has a written constitution. And the president of the United States is a very important part of our separation of powers in the executive, the legislative and the judicial. And the president of the United States is indeed the father of the nation when the nation needs a father.

Part II

Important News from Britain: Queen Elizabeth II Celebrates Platinum Jubilee as Longest Reigning British Monarch

But her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II has been the reigning monarch, the queen of Great Britain and the United Kingdom and many other domains beyond according to the throne language. She has been queen for 70 years. Here’s the thing to recognize. That’s never happened before. That’s never happened before in British history. She is the longest reigning British monarch. This is 1922, that means she became her majesty the queen in 1952 upon the death of her father, the late King George VI. There’s a huge story involved there.

There’s a huge story that is deep with worldview meaning just about everywhere you look. For one thing, when we talk about Queen Elizabeth II, we are talking about a British monarch tremendously admired by Americans. Now there’s something to consider here, because in that light, there have really only been three British monarchs greatly respected by the American people. Who would those three be? Well, let’s think about them for a moment. Those three would be, and you might say four, let’s say four to be generous. Those four British monarchs that were considered with great affection, if some distance by the American people. And after all, we secured our independence by revolting against King George III. Those three, let’s say four monarchs were number one, Queen Victoria, who had the longest reign until Queen Elizabeth II dominating the 19th century, but still she was considered very remote from the United States, and frankly, very remote from her own British citizens.

The second monarch would be in King George V who led Britain during the travail of World War I. But again, a rather remote figure. The most important thing that Americans thought about King George V is that he was just about the only major crowned head to survive the period of World War I. But as you’re looking at a third, it would be King George VI. He would be not the immediate successor to King George V, but rather he was the brother of the immediate successor who became King Edward VIII. Scandalously so, he fell in love with a divorced woman, indeed a twice divorced woman. And he had to abdicate his throne given the moral expectations of the British monarchy. He had to abdicate his throne in order to use his own words, “To marry the woman he loved.”

So why was that necessary going back to that couple who later became known as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor? Why did the king have to abdicate? It was because the British king, the British monarch was considered to be the necessary symbol of national rectitude. But there’s something else, and that something else is really important. That something else is the fact that the monarch of England, either king or queen is also the supreme governor of the Church of England. So in the case of Britain, you’re talking about being head of the royal house, head of the government, in that sense, of the entire government system of the domain, of the dominion, of the kingdom, but also the person who secures personally the state religion. And England has a state religion, the Church of England. But let’s just back off for a moment. I said there were four who were greatly respected.

That would be, if we’re thinking about the four. Let’s just say it would be Queen Victoria in the 19th century, King George V, King George VI, and then the person who’s now the longest reigning monarch in British history, Queen Elizabeth II. But as you look at those monarchs, it was actually only Queen Elizabeth and her father, King George VI who set foot in the United States of America. We did have that tricky little issue of a revolution that separated us for quite a while. But when you had the threat of Nazi Germany, King George VI and his queen, Queen Elizabeth, later, Queen Elizabeth, the queen mother, they were great sources of pride for Great Britain, but they are also came as an encouragement and a cementing of a relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States at a moment of world peril. But Queen Elizabeth II is something different, entirely different because she is in her own right, greatly respected and admired by Americans and by people around the world.

But that doesn’t mean they all want her to be queen. It doesn’t mean that America yearns for a monarchy. There are moments when Americans looking at the pageantry of the monarchy think we want one of those two. And that’s where we need to recognize that’s the predicament in which Israel put itself, because it was not God’s intention that Israel ever have a king, but you recall that Israel looking around at all the other nations demanded a king. And eventually God said, “Okay, you demand a king. You shall have one. But when you have one, he’ll take your sons to war and take your daughters for wives.” You have one. Once you have one, you’re not going to want one. But at the same time, God also blessed the monarchy because it is through the throne of David that the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ came.

And so, as you’re thinking about God’s gift of government, and yes, that is a gift to us. The gift of a king is not the worst thing. And yet you’re looking at the fact that the state is now symbolized in one person. That’s putting an awful lot on just two shoulders, one person. And when it comes to Queen Elizabeth II celebrating her 70th, yes, 70th anniversary on the throne at age 96, she is so tremendously loved and respected by the British people and by so many others beyond. But there’s another huge lesson here. After Elizabeth II, what? Just think about the moral change that has come during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. She has gone through about 13 British prime ministers and something like an almost equal number of American presidents. She’s had relationships going back to Harry Truman in Winston Churchill. But she is very much on the throne, even as she is very old.

And even as Britain was celebrating her Platinum Jubilee, 70 years on the throne, record breaking in British history, just about everyone recognizes, it’s extremely unlikely there will be an 80th anniversary of her reign. She’s already cutting back her public duties. And that means that more is following on her heir, who was at this point, the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles. Now there’s another story. Prince Charles has been married twice. He himself has been divorced. And of course, when he was married to now, the late Princess of Wales, Diana, he was unfaithful to her. She was unfaithful to him. They became symbolic of the moral dissolution and soap opera that has marked postmodern Western culture. Now Prince Charles has married Camilla, the woman with whom he had the affair. And even as it was said, she would not be queen. Now, Queen Elizabeth says that it would be her hope that she would be known as queen when Charles rules.

But then again, Charles is in his seventies. Let’s remind ourselves of that. He’s been waiting to be king longer than anyone in the history of England. But just think about the moral shift in Great Britain that will be represented by the transition from one of the most morally stable monarchs in the entire history of the world, Queen Elizabeth II and whatever the throne name Charles may take if indeed he becomes king, we are looking at a massive moral shift. Now, as you’re thinking about this, you recognize that the British monarch has few constitutional powers, but on the other hand, you also see that the British monarch is so central to the United Kingdom’s constitutional system that the very security of the legitimacy of the government itself is represented by one individual and a hereditary monarchy that one way or another is traced by the English people back more than a millennium, more than a thousand years.

Queen Elizabeth is herself a very interesting figure, but a part of the interest is mystery because you can’t have the majesty of a monarchy without a significant amount of mystery. But Queen Elizabeth II has been a model of moral rectitude for her own kingdom and for her own subjects for the entirety of her 70 year reign. But that gets back to another question. Why the need for such continuity? Well, it is because legitimacy in government requires continuity. So as we close today, it is very important for Americans to look across the pond, as the British say, and look to Queen Elizabeth II and her Platinum Jubilee and recognize there is an incredible achievement in longevity and political legitimacy.

Without Queen Elizabeth II, the United Kingdom might very well not exist in its present form.

Part III

Moral Stability to Moral Disillusionment: The Continuity of the Monarchy and Trajectory of England in a World After Queen Elizabeth II

But then you come back over to this side of the pond and you ask the question, then where is the continuity of the American government?

We don’t have a king. We don’t have a queen. We have a president. And that president can stay only about eight years. And then if not serving just four years, we show him the door. What kind of king is that? The president of the United States is far more powerful than a king or queen of England. But by definition, he is much more temporary as well. So where’s the continuity? The continuity in the American system of government is in the people. Yes, but how? It’s in the people through the constitution, through a constitutional form of government. And that’s one reason why Britain is a constitutional monarchy, but it doesn’t have a written constitution. Maybe it doesn’t need one. It has a queen. But in the United States, we don’t have a king. We don’t have a queen. We have a written constitution. And by the way, more than two centuries, almost now 250 years after the American revolution against the monarch of Great Britain, it’s okay to like the queen.

It’s okay to enjoy, even to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. And if you haven’t seen it yet, you need to find, it’s easy to find. Just do an internet search of the video of her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II with Paddington the Bear. In a world in which there isn’t enough that’s sweet, that video is sweet.

See it and share it with your children.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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 tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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