The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

It’s Wednesday, June 15th, 2022.

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

Part I

The Birth of the New Left in the United States: 60 Years After the Port Huron Statement

Today marks the 60th anniversary of one of the most important political events of the 20th century. But frankly, it wasn’t recognized as such at the time. It was 60 years ago at a United Auto Workers retreat known as Port Huron in Michigan, that a group of young liberal activists released a statement that became known as the Port Huron Statement.

That statement became the manifesto for what developed in the United States as the New Left. We are reaping the whirlwind that was established, set loose back 60 years ago today in the United States right now. As there are so many things happening that are very current around us, we need to step back for a moment and go back 60 years. In order to understand where some of the most important leftist currents now very much driving our contemporary culture, where they came from, how they emerged. What were the issues that were defined?

First of all, who were these people who were there at Port Huron? Which was, as I said at the time, a retreat of the United Auto Workers. It’s now known as Lakeport State Park there in Michigan. It was owned by the United Auto Workers. That was a very powerful union. It still is, in one sense, but it’s nowhere near as powerful now as it was then. You had organized labor basically allowing these very young, liberal activists to use the retreat center. But frankly, they set loose something that would actually not only topple any conservative institutions, in one sense, but would also topple the Old Left. That would include the power of the old labor unions. Who were these people?

Well, they were basically organized around several rather radical political groups. Especially, of college students. The most important of them known as the SDS or Students for a Democratic Society. Now, we’re talking about the New Left. If there’s a New Left, there was an Old Left. What’s the distinction between the Old Left and the New Left? This is still extremely relevant for American society today, because the Old Left is largely gone. The New Left is … Well, facing retirement age, if not a little bit older in some cases. But the radical activism that is going on right now, that might be considered something like a New New Left, really finds its manifesto still back in the Port Huron Statement adopted 60 years ago today.

What made the difference between the Old Left and the New Left? The Old Left was the old liberalism that was represented by populous movements in the early 20th century, reaping some of the energies of the late 19th century. But this was the liberalism of big government. This was the liberalism of say the New Deal and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This was the liberal activism that brought about everything from Social Security to many other big government programs. The liberalism of the Old Left, in the sense of American politics, was a liberalism that included a political aristocracy that was liberal.

And so, the main liberal leaders came from dynastic families. The most important of them being Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His distant cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, had also earlier been president of the United States. And so, you are looking at dynasties. Yet, we’re not living in an age of dynasties these days. We’re living in an era of the New Left, not the Old Left. Now, you say, “What about a family like the Kennedy family?” Well, the Kennedy family was perhaps one of the last gas of the Old Left. In the sense of the old liberalism. You didn’t have the new deal of Franklin Del Roosevelt. You had the new frontier of the very young president in the postwar period, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

But the Kennedy family after JFK never had the allure of power it had when John F. Kennedy was President of the United States. Just recall something. We’re talking here about what took place 60 years ago today, on June the 15th of 1962. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was then President of the United States. The manifesto that was adopted at Port Huron was not just a manifesto against, say, the Republican leadership in 1962. It was a manifesto against the Democratic party, and specifically against the kind of leadership brought by JFK, President John F. Kennedy.

Now, just a little footnote here. One of the things I often do with my graduate students is show them the 1960 platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States. You go to a year like 2016? They are radically different. But in 1960, you’ll have a hard time drawing distinctions between the Democratic and the Republican parties on many policies. Because during the era of the Cold War, and in the wake of the New Deal, the two parties were pretty close together. But no longer. One of the reasons the two parties are now not closer together is because of the political polarization. The worldview ideological polarization that came in the United States, at least in part driven by the very manifesto, the statement adopted 60 years ago today in Michigan.

The New Left tried to topple the Old Left. Even though it took some time to accomplish that goal, it actually did so. You could look to a year like 1972, and begin to see where the New Left is gaining ascendancy over the Old Left. What’s the main distinction between the Old Left and the New Left? It was what the New Leftists called participatory democracy. And yet, it really was in some ways, a form of cultural Marxism set loose within the society. Participatory democracy meant, “Down with even liberal leaders. We need labor unions, basically, to get out of the way. We need students with the radical ideals of the 1960s to take control through participatory democracy.”

One of the other themes of this New Left was the continual liberation of groups that by one force or another were described as oppressed. The New Left basically took the theme of participatory democracy and the theme of liberation, and sought to apply it in a transformation of the entire American culture. Remember. What’s going on in the 1960s? All the ideological upheaval of the 1960s. Students for a Democratic Society were considered a radical group. And they were. Yet, many of the ideas that were considered radical 60 years ago are now absolutely mainstream, and for that matter, nowhere near the left of what we might call the New New Left in the United States. In particular, taking a snapshot of the Democratic Party.

Now, just to understand how all this happened. You had two campuses that became highly symbolic of the student activism of the era. One was in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The campus of the University of Michigan. The other was in Berkeley, California. The campus of the University of California at Berkeley. Those two campuses became perhaps the two most famous at the time for having students giving themselves increasingly to a radical ideology, and to the overthrow of American civilization as it was known. With the claim that, “That civilization is inherently oppressive.”

Part II

The Long March Through the Institutions and Hollywood: Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda, and Cultural Marxism’s Trickle Down from Port Huron into the Culture

The original draft of what became known as the Port Huron Statement was written by Tom Hayden. Now, Tom Hayden is a name that many Americans, especially of a certain age, will recognize and perhaps not know exactly how to locate. Tom Hayden was a young, radical. He was radicalized as a student. He was born in Royal Oak. That’s a suburb of Detroit, Michigan in 1939. He was actually named for St. Thomas Aquinas, by the way. But nonetheless, as you’re looking at the life of Tom Hayden, you’re looking at someone increasingly drawn to the left. When he was a student at the university of Michigan, he became very interested in philosophy. Especially, existentialism.

Existentialism, by the way, was a philosophical movement of the last half, most importantly of the 20th century, when it claimed that it is existence, being thrown into existence. That is the great crisis for the human being. And that meaning basically has to be created by that human being thrown into existence. Existentialism was an acid that basically denied any objective truth, any objective morality. It became very, very popular. Tom Hayden was drawn to existentialism. But then, he was drawn to the political left. In explaining it later, he would say, “I didn’t get political. Things got political.”

It’s also interesting to note that a lot of the themes you hear in American society today from the left really do originate in this statement that was released 60 years ago today. For example, one of the intellectuals behind these students was a professor known as C. Wright Mills. C. Wright Mills was a very radical thinker who looked at American society and described it as a system of oppression driven by those he described as a power elite. And so, this would include, by the way, not only the old elites of, say, government and the military and business, but also the new elites as in those running American universities.

These were students who basically claimed that they had the right to run the university. They had claimed that all of these institutional realities were oppressive. They wanted to not just destroy the institutions, no, because that would rob them of power themselves. They wanted to take the power and seize the power of those institutions. Now, in the parlance of cultural Marxism, particularly in the European context, one of the mottos was, “The long march through the institutions.” The idea was we’re not going to bring revolution through an economic uprising as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels had predicted. Instead, it’s going to have to come through the culture.

The transformation of the culture. “We will use Marxism in the culture,” they said, “in order to bring about liberation, the alleviation of oppression, and a new people’s moment.” That was very much the theme of what became known as the Port Huron Statement. C. Wright Mills, that professor, basically invented in one sense the ideology of the New Left. But it was the students who took the idea and ran with it. At one point, Tom Hayden had developed a document he described entitled, “Letter to the New Young Left.” That’s where the New Left gained its name. But the Port Huron Statement, at least the first draft by Tom Hayden, became the manifesto.

Eventually, the students issued that manifesto, 60 years ago today, in order to say, “We’re going to topple not only the conservatives. We’re going to topple the old liberals.” The Old Left. Now, like almost every major social movement, there were some legitimate insights. They looked at American culture. They saw things such as legal segregation. They saw militarization. They saw other things that they thought were evils they wanted to confront. But like so many radical groups, particularly on the left, they simply came to the conclusion that everything that existed then in power in institutional form just had to go.

In the name of participatory democracy, everything would have to go. All the Old Left would have to get out and make way for the New Left to take their place. Now, Tom Hayden was not alone. Of course. You’re talking about a group of young radicals here for the Students for a Democratic Society who were meeting. But you’re also talking about what became a nexus between the student radicals and Hollywood. In order to understand that, all you have to say is Tom Hayden. Because Tom Hayden was married from 1973 until 1980 to Jane Fonda, the most famous, or you might say infamous political activist in Hollywood for the left.

She became known infamously as, “Hanoi Jane,” because in an effort to show her solidarity with the communists in North Vietnam, she allowed a picture of herself to be taken in a North Korean tank that was used in order to kill Americans. You really are talking about a radical American movement. You really are talking about something that we now just take for granted. And that is the fact that Hollywood, which helped to fight two great wars … We need to recognize. Hollywood, the modern age of film, fought two great wars. Think about World War II and the Cold War.

Hollywood was very much against the Nazis, very much against the Soviets, the communists. But that began to change, because that Old Left, which was in many ways a Cold War, anti-communist left…. It was basically replaced by a New Left, far more radical, far more ideological, far more Marxist in substance if not in name. But as we bring our discussion of this particular issue to a conclusion for The Briefing today, we do so recognizing that very few people saw the release of the Port Huron Statement as an earth-shaking event 60 years ago.

Maybe the statement itself … It wasn’t earth-shaking, but the movement it set loose was. That movement that goes back to the release of this document in Michigan 60 years ago has transformed American politics. Particularly, on the left. “The long march through the institutions,” and what was claimed to be participatory democracy, has basically taken over Hollywood and the cultural creatives. It is basically very much in power in Silicon Valley, and increasingly it’s in power in the C-suites or the executive suites of major American corporations. And then, remember where it began. It began on America’s college and university campuses.

They were the first to go. They were the first to go hard left. Right now, higher education, the mainstream of academia in the United States is moving so far left that it’s way past Tom Hayden and the Port Huron Statement handed down 60 years ago today.

Part III

‘We Want the Universe to Hold Our Hand — Without Bossing Us Around Too Much’: The Loony Theological Left and the Shift from Witches to Life Coaches in America

But now, let’s shift from the political left to what we’d have to describe in some sense as a theological or a spiritual left. But in this case, something of a loony left. Molly Worthen, writing for the New York Times, offers us a report entitled, “400 Years Ago, They Would Be Witches. Today, They Can Be Your Coach.”

Now, what Molly Worthen is writing about here is basically the transformation of so much that would be considered pagan and occult into, what a few years ago might have been described as a New Age spirituality, but is now just transformed into something as banal, as bland as life coaching. Worthen begins with Erica Carrico, who “suspects that if she’d lived 400 years ago, she would’ve been accused of witchcraft.” Carrico said, “Women who were healers, who were connected to the moon cycle in nature, they were considered witches.” I’ll simply ask. I wonder why?

She continued however, “I love following the moon. I feel divinely guided by my intuition. I’ve done the new moon and the full moon ceremony. I’ve practiced with crystals quite a bit, and sage, sweat lodges. I’ve done so many things. Just trying to find my way. What feels right.” According to Ms. Carrico, what feels right is “all about the woo.” Woo is spelled W-O-O, as in the pagan woo-woo stick. But now, it’s not considered paganism by so many in America. It’s considered life coaching.

We’re told that Erica Carrico is actually now a spiritual coach, “A relatively new occupation that is dominated by women and appears to be growing. Although hard numbers are elusive. To further confuse things,” Worthen tells us, “some practitioners refer to themselves as business coaches. Albeit ones with a generous helping of New Age ritual on the side.” Worthen then tells us, quote, “At a time when more and more Americans call themselves spiritual, but not religious, these coaches give us a glimpse of the allure and hazards of 21st century DIY,” that means do-it-yourself, “religion.

Now, it’s really interesting that Molly Worthen mentioned that these particular life coaches, who might say they were in a previous time witches, they are predominantly women. This is a female-dominated new industry. Worthen recognizes that telling us, “Spiritual coaches are a new chapter in the long history of female religious entrepreneurship in America. A tradition,” she says, “that runs from Boston in the 1630s, when Anne Hutchinson’s packed religious meetings outraged Puritan ministers, to today’s evangelical conference circuit, dominated by demure yet forceful female evangelists who are not ordained, but whose books and podcasts constitute major media empires.”

I read that from Molly Worthen. I am simply going to let that stand exactly as she wrote it. Worthen says there’s something serious going on here. She writes, “If we are tempted to dismiss their taste for crystals and energy healing as New Age flimflam, it’s partly because they face up to something that many modern Westerners struggle to admit. Neither total submission to a traditional religious institution nor atheistic materialism feels right. We kind of do want the universe to hold our hand without bossing us around too much.” That’s good writing, by the way. That’s exactly where many modern Americans are in their post-Christian predicament.

They kind of do want the universe to hold their hand, but they don’t want anyone in the universe to boss them around. Or for that matter, anyone who created the universe to boss them around. There’s a history to this. And it also goes back, say, to the 1960s and the 1970s. She tells us, not coincidentally, “Spiritual coaches are a part of the life coaching industry, which emerged in the 1970s and matured as a self-aware profession in the 1990s by combining self-help psychology, positive thinking, and insights from the business school world of leadership studies.”

We’re also told later that life coaching is now broken down into all kinds of subdisciplines, “Almost all of them dominated by women.” We’re then told, “Women account for 75% of coach practitioners in North America.” According to a 2019 study. We’re also told that one of the reasons for the demographic imbalance, at least by one person’s speculation, is that “many coaches came from the worlds of counseling, nursing, and other caring professions that also employ many women.” Now, that just might explain something, but it wouldn’t explain why this particular pattern has held not just for decades, but for centuries. Many, many centuries.

Worthen also goes on to say that spiritual coaching, “Seems to feature the starkest gender imbalance of any coaching field.” Now, I want to be very clear, in fairness, that most women have nothing to do with this. But most of the people, on the other hand, who do have something to do with this are women. Perhaps one reason for this is that paganism allows at least some to appeal to the divine feminine. That’s what’s described here. Obviously, that’s counter to scripture. We are told that the divine feminine, this form of woo-woo spirituality “is partly a means for these coaches to counter the machismo that dominates American entrepreneurial culture.”

Well, maybe so, maybe not. But when I look at the lions, so to speak, of say, Silicon Valley, I don’t see a lot of machismo.

Part IV

Nancy Brophy and Agatha Christie: Murder Mysteries, the Christian Worldview, and Vexing Questions

But we’ll conclude our attention to witches turned into life coaches today and turn to another subject. And that would be murder. It turns out that a woman in Oregon was recently convicted of murder. Nancy Brophy. She was convicted of murdering her husband. The evidence that led to her conviction had a great deal to do with the fact that she had written a book about how to kill your husband, following the very same methodology before she went ahead and killed him.

Now, here’s just a suggestion. If you intend to offer a legal defense in a murder trial, it’s going to be very difficult if your client, your defendant in this case, actually wrote and self-published a book detailing exactly how to carry out the crime … And it turns out to be almost point-for-point exactly what your defendant did. In a 2011 blog post, that was later turned into another publication, this particular author wrote, “How to murder your husband.” The wife doing so said this murder “must be organized, ruthless, and very clever.”

This brings up the old English expression, “Too clever by half.” Because not only did this woman write how to kill her husband and then kill him, she also told her cellmate in jail that she had done it and how she had done it. The motive became very clear when this woman, who when she was married was in deep financial difficulty, moved to claim $1.4 million in life insurance benefits upon the death of her husband, who it turned out she had murdered.

But I simply want to end today with something that some Americans might know. At least, a name many Americans will know. Especially, when it comes to murder mysteries.

But there was a big mystery associated with Agatha Christie. Agatha Christie was one of the best-selling authors of all time. She still is. Her books have sold by the hundreds of millions. She’s associated with a genre known as the murder mystery. She later became Dame Agatha Christie. Dame of the British Empire. Named so by Queen Elizabeth II. She died at age 85 at Winterbrook House in Oxfordshire. But nonetheless, she did so after basically perfecting the genre of the murder mystery. Now, here’s something for us to think about. Just for a moment. The murder mystery was largely a form of literature that emerged out of a predominantly Christian culture. An overwhelmingly Christian culture.

The argument has been made by many that murder mysteries really only make sense in very clearly Christian cultures. It is because the murder mystery is the ultimate drama of right and wrong. And of a reasonable universe, in which clues can be assembled in order to make a case, in which justice demands that the murderer be convicted of murder and punished forthwith. The murder club, as it was known in the 20th century, included some of the most prominent authors associated with Christianity in the United States. Many of the most prominent murder mystery writers have been those associated with Roman Catholicism, or for that matter, with Anglicanism. Same thing in the Church of England, in the United States.

Just think not only of Agatha Christie, but also of authors such as P.D. James. But the strangest event having to do with Agatha Christie was not the disappearance or the murder of one of her literary figures, but rather her own disappearance. It took place in 1926. And it took place at a specific time in her experience as a married woman. Her husband had developed a relationship with another woman and had told Agatha he was going to divorce her. Agatha went into a depression and a downward spiral and she decided to do something about it. But she later said she didn’t remember doing any of it.

She basically drove her car to the edge of a moor, left her clothing in it and her luggage, such that it appeared that she might well have been murdered and her body disposed of in the bog. By that time, Agatha Christie was already quite well-known as an author and a murder mystery author. The problems in her marriage were well-known. She was eventually found, by the way, at an inn where she had registered in the name of one of her husband’s mistresses. She claimed that she had no memory of those days when she was missing, or how her car ended up beside the bog, and how she ended up under the name of one of her husband’s mistresses in an inn.

She had known the entire country was basically looking for her. That involved, by the way, we’re back to the New Age movement, Arthur Conan Doyle. The supernatural writer who had also tried to reach spiritual forces in order to find Agatha Christie. She wasn’t found by spiritual forces. She was found by the police. Again, she said she had no memory of how any of this had happened, but at least some speculation was that her disappearance was worthy of a murder plot. How? Well, because if she had stayed disappeared, and the assumption had been that she had been murdered, then her supposed murderer might well have been convicted.

At that time, in British justice, not only convicted, but executed. And then, Agatha Christie might have just suddenly reappeared. It might have been a sinister plot. Then again, she might have just lost her memory. There are a lot of, “Might have beens.”

But the point is, it just might be dangerous to be married to a woman, not just who might be carrying a woo-woo stick, but who might be writing about how to kill her husband.

I’ll leave you today on that devotional note.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at You could 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 am today in Anaheim, California, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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