The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

It’s Tuesday, October 11th, 2022.

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

Part I

A Crushing Blow to Russia and it’s Claims: Attack Damages the Kerch Strait Bridge

We’re going to consider a couple of hotspots in the world today in order to look at big worldview significance behind the headlines, because when we’re talking about, say, the Russian invasion of Ukraine in recent events or when we’re talking about the United Nations and China and human rights, there are some really huge issues at stake. And right now, we are at a crucial moment in both of these stories. Let’s go first to international disorder and where better to start than at a bridge that links Crimea with Russia or used to. The Kerch Bridge as it is known, suffered a strike that took place in a big explosion on Saturday. And according to video evidence, one span was largely destroyed or at least a very large gap has fallen into the water.

And furthermore, the explosion seemed to ignite fuel that was on a train nearby the blast, and that led to damage to a rail bridge. It’s unclear exactly how extensive the damage is, but no doubt it is big enough to be a huge embarrassment to the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin. And in order to understand why this bridge has such military, economic and political significance, just understand that this bridge did not exist until Vladimir Putin in 2016 simply seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and declaring it a part of mother Russia decided symbolically, politically, and economically to score big points by building this bridge that span some 12 miles of the straight between the Crimean Peninsula and mother Russia. And then dedicating the bridge himself, he himself driving the vehicle that celebrated the opening of the bridge.

And thus, this was not merely an attack upon the bridge as an instrument of military and strategic significance nor, this was a political and a moral act intended to and quite successfully humiliating the Russian president. Now, there’s just so much to be reminded. I fear for one thing, we’re reminded of the fact that war is never simply about military and weapons and shooting and bomb blast. It is also about morale, it is also about scoring moral points. And one of the most interesting developments in recent months is that Russia has lost so many of the points on both morale and morality. Morale has fallen so low in Russia that the big news stories are about Russian men of military age trying to flee the country. Some of them reported just over the weekend, daring to try to cross in a small craft across the bearing straits into Alaska. There’s irony there, some of you will figure that out. How many times must Russia have regretted selling the entire territory of Alaska to the United States?

A team of reporters for the New York Times, Michael Schwirtz and Andrew E. Kramer reported the story this way. “A fireball consumed two sections of the only bridge linking the occupied Crimean Peninsula to Russia on Saturday, disrupting the most important supply line for Russian troops fighting in southern Ukraine and dealing an embarrassing blow to the Kremlin, which is facing continued losses on the battlefield and mounting criticism at home.” Now, the issue of morale is one that we don’t often consider according to what a biblical worldview would help us to understand. When you are talking about morale, you’re talking about attitude. You’re talking about the moral content of a people or an individual in maintaining tenacity, say in the face of adversity in a fight. You can talk about the morale of a Boy scout troop. You can talk about the morale of a congregation, the morale of a family, or even of an individual.

But generally, it’s most important to think of morale as a social phenomenon, not so much an individual but a group. And when you’re talking about a military force, morale is one of the most powerful weapons, and a loss of morale is one of the most strategic vulnerabilities. To put the matter differently, high morale often leads to high effectiveness, low morale often leads to great vulnerability. One of the very interesting things you see in the Old Testament, for example in the Book of Joshua, is the fact that Israel is actually encouraged, indeed commanded to operate out of high morale. And you see different speeches, different words, different exertions and encouragements given by Joshua and the other military commanders to the fighting forces of the children of Israel. In order that they would triumph not only by the power of God demonstrated in victory over their enemies, but the victory of the morale, the courage that was put in the hearts of God’s people.

And similarly, you see the very same thing and some of the military metaphors employed in the New Testament by the Apostle Paul. When the Apostle Paul used these military metaphors for Christians, for the Christian Church, he was not merely pointing to something that given the Roman army, those who heard his preaching or read his letters would understand. He went to the military metaphors precisely because they underline moral, order, obedience, command, and they make very clear the reality that the Christian and the Christian Church are actually called to a spiritual warfare and that warfare is going to be fought on moral and moral terms. Most famously, we think of the words of Jesus and John 16, when speaking to the disciples, Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be a good cheer. I have overcome the world.” One of the most interesting responses coming from Russia in the aftermath of the blast on the bridge was the claim that it wasn’t so damaging after all.

It’s also interesting to note that the video evidence came from security and traffic monitoring cameras that had followed the story until the massive blast. And that massive blast in video form has been seen by millions of people and it’s being watched over and over again. Now, that builds morale on the part of Ukrainian forces. It drains morale when it comes to the Russian forces. Now, the Russian forces struck back in the last two days and news reports indicate that Russian forces have launched attacks on several key Ukrainian sites and cities, most of them by either missile or rocket attacks. And this includes an attack on a city as far from the battle zone as Lviv. But nonetheless, the attempt is to try to rob the Ukrainian people and Ukrainian armed forces of morale.

And in the battle for morale, here’s a very interesting thing for us to watch. Vladimir Putin, clearly expected to build political capital and to gain political morale in Russia by launching this invasion, especially with his vision of an expansive mother Russia. But the table’s been turned and actually the Russian invasion of Ukraine ended up building morale in Ukraine rather than in Russia. That’s one of the perplexities by the way of the military situation. Sometimes indeed, very often you have unintended consequences. It also points out that if you are going to launch a military operation in order to build morale, you better have troops with high morale and those troops had better win quickly, decisively, lastingly, that’s what Vladimir Putin and his Russian forces have not been able to deliver. And the world is watching, and by the way, Russians are watching. Speaking of morale, by the way, one of the things to watch is when you have a political leader actually doing something or trying to look like he’s doing something.

A report that came from the Associated Press in the aftermath of the attack on the bridge included this information. Putin, that means Russian president “Vladimir Putin, signed a decree late Saturday tightening security for the bridge and for energy infrastructure between Crimea and Russia and put Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB in charge of the effort.” That is politically trying to look like you’re doing something when you actually didn’t do anything at all. Tightening security after such a devastating attack is sort of like closing the door After the dog’s already out. Then we are told that he put the security, therefore the bridge linking Crimea and Russia, that he put it in the hands of Russia’s Federal Security Service is known as the FSB. It was formerly known as the KGB. But here’s the bottom line. If they’re actually so good, they’re supposed to be one of the world’s leading spy agencies, then the big story is not what they did, but what they failed to do.

KGB, FSB, guess what? Your bridge just got blown up. Let me make one other statement in transition to the next story, and that is this. The link between morale and morality is more clear than most people might think. And I think this is an actual reflection of what it means to be made in God’s image, to be made moral creatures with a conscience. And it simply comes down to this, in human experience and in human history, it is far easier to build lasting morale when you’re on the right side in terms of the moral equation. When you are on the wrong side of morality, and when you frankly know yourself and others know you are on the wrong side of the moral question, building morale turns out to be a very difficult prospect. And for that, by the way, we should be thankful.

Part II

‘A Sinkhole of Moral Equivalence’: The U.N. Human Rights Council Votes to Ignore Abuses of Uyghur People in China

But next, speaking of morality, we’re going to shift to China under the control of the Communist Party and the United Nations under the control of virtually no one, as we shall see. The big story here is that the United Nations Human Rights Council declined to take up a public debate and further investigation of the genocide undertaken by the communist regime in China against the Muslim Uyghur people. Now, what makes this a particularly horrible headline is the fact that the United Nations itself has assembled plenty of evidence about the reality of the genocide and about the atrocity, which has led to the death of so many people under the repressive regime of the communists in China. It is an effort not only to break the weaker people politically, but actually to eliminate them as a people. Now, that’s the very definition of genocide. Supposedly, one of the most horrifying lessons, but one of the most indelible lessons of the 20th century was the horror of genocide, particularly the Nazi genocide against the Jews.

By the way, that was not the only horrible instance of genocide in the 20th century. But nonetheless, the United Nations in all of its United Nationsness was supposed to be the international body that would put an end to genocide. Or at the very least, call it what it is and do its best to end it as it is by a vote of 19 to 11 with 11 of the council’s, 47 members abstaining from the vote. The United Nations Human Rights Council decided not to go into any public debate over the fate of the Uyghurs and the murderous intentions and mechanisms of the Chinese Communist Party. So the United Nations Human Rights Council, now, just hear those words. The United Nations Human Rights Council has documented this absolute atrocity against human rights and against human life, but didn’t take it up. And the question is why? And the answer is because the United Nations from the beginning has been broken.

The United Nations is incompetent as an international organization precisely because it has both bad actors and good actors in the same body. And the bad actors, for example, Russia and China under communist domination both have a veto power before the United Nation Security Council and they effectively have malign influence in so many other nations, blackmailing them or linking them economically. As in China’s Belt and Road Program, you have the fact that the United Nations has become a human rights farce, not a human rights council. And in many ways, this is just an extension of the failure of the United Nations from its inception. Now, let’s just look at the new story for just a moment. You’re looking at the fact that as the New York Times indicated, “China defeated calls on Thursday as of last week for further scrutiny by the top human rights agency, the United Nations over abuses targeting the Uyghur people and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region.”

We are then told that the United States and nine other Western countries had called for a debate at the UN Human Rights Council on a landmark assessment released in August by Michelle Bachelet, then the UN Rights Chief, which found China may have committed crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, in Northwestern China. But again, the resolution failed by a vote of 19 to 11 with a profile and courage of 11 nations abstaining from the vote. The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal guided exactly right when in response to this failure of nerve and courage, the editors wrote, “If pathological optimist still think the UN Human Rights Council cares about human rights, they may want to note events last week.” They go on to talk about the motion that failed. They then say, “siding with China against the motion where regular lackeys such as Cuba and Venezuela, as well as countries such as Nepal, Indonesia, and Pakistan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, who don’t want to offend China or are on the hook as part of its Belt and Road Initiative.

Pointing to this atrocity in the failure of this vote, the editorial board says, “The last four on that list are majority Muslim nations voting to ignore the documented persecution of a Chinese Muslim minority group. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country, and Pakistan state religion is Islam, but they voted against the debate.” The editors concluded by saying, “Everyone knows the UN Human Rights Council is a sinkhole of moral equivalents, but if it can’t pass a motion merely to open discussion on China’s abuses and Xinjiang, there is no reason for it to exist or for the United States to continue to be a member.” That is an argument I have made for a very long time. And furthermore, although in some sense it might be impractical for the United States not to be a part of the United Nations, it’s very important at times we exercise our veto in the Security Council. The reality is that the United Nations was a failed idea from the inception.

Now, we can understand historically why in the aftermath of two world wars, people may have wanted to think that something like the United Nations would be possible. But I just want to make in summary form, an argument about why the United Nations is such a failure. It is because nations are not united and there is no super national government that can actually run the affairs of humankind, or it can even maintain moral credibility. It is because the nations of the world are not at permanent peace. The nations of the world are not mere political abstractions. The Indonesians know they’re Indonesian, the Chinese know they’re Chinese. And increasingly in Europe, we’re discovering that the Hungarians know they’re Hungarian and the Polish know that they are Polish. And yes, even though globalist Americans don’t want to admit it, Americans know they are Americans.

There are those who want to argue that the centrality of nations in the world order is somehow the problem, when actually the Christian theological understanding of ethnos, of people, of language, of culture, and yes, of subsidiarity points to the fact that the nation is about as large and abstraction as is possible. It’s as large a governing unit as is possible. By the time you get to the United Nations, the one thing you note is that if they are nations, they are not united. And if they are united, they are not nations. Just about any political entity that claims the name world or international is almost by guarantee neither, representing the world nor, truly international and whatever follows is likely to be trouble. But nonetheless, this logic tends to seep in just about everywhere.

Just about the same time that opinion piece was running at the Wall Street Journal, at the New York Times, a headline editorial ran, “China’s crimes in Xinjiang cannot go unpunished.” Now, I understand the nature of that headline. The crimes cannot go and punished, except the word cannot, clearly, cannot deliver on its moral importance. Because the evidence is, that China is going to get away with this, that China is now getting away with this, and that China’s going to continue to get away with this. So the headline that China’s crimes cannot go and punished is actually implausible. The right word would be moral, then that is to say that China’s crimes should not go unpunished. But if you’re counting on the United Nations or what is implausibly called the United Nations Human Rights Council, to actually bring about that judgment. Well, the reality is it’s not going to happen.

And so, when you understand how the world works and you understand it in a larger worldview perspective, then you come to understand that the problem is not just that the United Nations doesn’t work, but that actually, it can’t work.

Part III

Cheating Scandals in Chess, Fishing, and Professional Poker — Sin Has a Way of Invading Every Human Endeavor

But finally, we’re going to end today talking about cheating because this has been a very strange couple of weeks because cheating scandals have broken out just about everywhere, including one of the places where cheating is supposed to be impossible. Another place where cheating is supposed to be just rather unthinkable, and another place where cheating is sort of built into the entire system. What am I talking about? I’m talking about chess, fishing, and professional poker, and in that order. First of all, chess, what in the world’s going on? Well, the reigning chess champion has basically resigned his title. He has left the match uncontested and that he did while claiming that his opponent had been cheating in the world of chess. Which is supposed to be the buttoned down, very elegant, very elite world where this kind of immoral action would never be taken and is furthermore, largely impossible. Well, it turns out it is not only possible, but it is likely in this case.

Magnus Carlsen has been largely unbeatable in international chess for a matter of time. He’s the one who walked away from the match with a 19 year old named Hans Moke Niemann. And the 19 year old had launched what was understood as an impassioned and aggressive subversion of the title holder, Magnus Carlsen. Magnus Carlsen, some claimed was simply a poor loser or was intimidated by the teenager, but eventually people had to take his claims of cheating by his opponent with some seriousness. And it turns out that there are serious reasons to take these allegations with deep seriousness. For one thing, the teenager has admitted cheating in the past, and then it turns out he had cheated about his admissions about cheating. Andrew Beaton and Joshua Robinson reporting for the Wall Street Journal tell us about the controversy and they reveal, “The report reviewed by the Wall Street Journal alleges that Niemann likely received illegal assistance in more than 100 online games. That means chess games as recently as 2020, those matches included contests in which prize money was on the line.”

This came after he had admitted cheating when he was 12, maybe again when he was like 14, but not after that, except it turns out he was cheating when he was talking about his cheating. The reporters tell us, “When Niemann addressed the suspicions last month, he said the only instance in which he had cheated in an event with prize money was when he was 12. He said he later cheated as a 16 year old in “random games” and that they were the biggest mistakes of his life.” But then a report from the site at Stake, that’s, it contradicts the statements made by the player. “It says, several prize money events are included in the 100 plus suspect games and that he was live streaming the contest during 25 of them.” It also adds that he was 17 years old. Remember, he’s 19 now, during the most recent violations, which subsequently led to the site closing his account. A letter sent to him by the site, according to the report notes, what was identified as his blatant cheating to improve his rating.

Now, news reports have told us that over the past several months, he’s the fastest ascending chess champion in recent history. And it turns out he was cheating along the way, or at least he was lying when he said he wasn’t cheating. At the Wall Street Journal, Joe Queenan asked the obvious question, “How exactly do you cheat at chess?” You’re going to love his explanation. He asked, “How is it possible to cheat at chess? One way is to duck into the bathroom and use a cell phone to get strategy tips from online chess engines that analyze games mini moves in advance. Other possibilities are teeny tiny headphones of imperceptible vibrating devices. The situation is so bad,” writes Joe Queenan, “that some people are talking about making chess players compete while naked.” This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we have fallen to as humanity, but then it gets worse.

And then for me, it gets personal because it’s about fishing. It turns out that just recently, there was a big Walleye Fishing Championship there on Lake Erie and the winners turned out to be cheaters. Now, you ask the question, “How do you cheat in a fishing tournament?” Well, you might say there’s the less sophisticated way, which is to stuff the fish with fishing weights. Turns out that gets caught pretty fast, but the more sophisticated way to cheat is to fill a walleye with fillets of walleye. Now, you might say that predictably, these walleye fishermen got caught, but the big question is how many people have done this and not been caught? And the answer is, you just don’t know. This tells us something about the sinfulness of the human race. It tells us something about the kinds of efforts that are now necessary in almost every arena of sport to try to at least cut down on, if not to prevent outright cheating.

No one, by the way, appears to be suggesting that people should be forced to go naked while walleye fishing during the fall on Lake Erie. Now, we are told there are other cheating headlines out there in recent days, including a judging scandal we’re told in the world of Irish dance. Some of you may know about that, but I just want to end with the third of the big trifecta in cheating and recent headlines, chess, then fishing, then poker. But when you say poker, you’re talking about gambling. And the reality is that card players have always suspected that someone is cheating, and they’ve usually suspected that because someone actually is cheating. And all you have to do is mention $269,000 to come up with something like 269,000 reasons why someone may cheat. Jason Gay, sports writer for the Wall Street Journal simply concludes, “It’s been quite a week for shenanigans and there’s still a couple more days for my favorite sport, professional cycling to get some of its fantastic brand of nonsense under the wire.”

Do you know what cycling call scandals like these? They call it pro cycling. “When your sport has had scandals involving hidden motors and athletes injecting one another’s blood, crudely stuffing a fish full of lead sounds lo-fi adorable”. The Bible actually has a lot to say about cheating, and it identifies cheating in any form as a form of injustice and dishonesty that is just blatantly sin. In the Old Testament, we are told that cheating by the use of say unfair, inaccurate weights and measures in sales is just another form of theft. And the Apostle Paul reminds us that the athlete who is crowned must be the athlete who competes according to the rules, that is to say, not cheating. And by the way, he applies that to the Christian Church and to the Christian ministry.

Finally, it appears the world is always shocked when a cheater cheats. It’s as if the world is always shocked when a sinner sins. But why do you think we have all these rules in the first place? It is because human beings and our fallenness demonstrate not only evil, but as the Apostle Paul says in Romans 1, “We are inventors of evil.” Give us enough time, human beings will figure out even a new way to cheat.

But I’ll simply conclude by saying that if you’re standing at a dock or on a lakeside and you see a guy filling a fish with phish, well, now you know why.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information good to my website at You can find 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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