The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Thursday, December 8, 2022

It’s Thursday, December 8th, 2022.

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

Part I

When Voting Reflects Worldview: Georgia’s Senate Run-Off Results Show Significant Shift in the State’s Population and Worldview

Well, at this point, we have a pretty good idea of the composition of the next Congress, the last shoe to drop, so to speak, was the runoff election for the US Senate seat in Georgia and incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock won that election. The vote as the numbers came in is something like 51.4% to 48.6%. That’s not a widespread, you’re talking about a relatively close election, although not as close as some other elections.

Remember, the runoff was made necessary by the fact that neither Warnock nor Herschel Walker, his Republican challenger, got 50% of the vote in the election back in November, 50% plus one. That is what is necessitated by Georgia’s Constitution, but now you have Raphael Warnock elected to a full six-year term in the Senate, and you’ll remember that Warnock two years ago, had won a special two-year term because of the resignation of Republican Senator Johnny Isakson.

And once you had that seat open, a special election would be held in two years, so Raphael Warnock won two years ago. He had to come back and win it again, and that’s exactly what he did. It wasn’t a commanding lead, but 51.4% is quite enough to mean, that the Reverend Dr. Raphael Warnock, I discussed him yesterday on The Briefing as a proponent of social liberalism and liberal theology, he has now won a full six-year term.

Now, let’s just look at that for a moment, because you had two African American men, as the standard bearers for the two major political parties, running against each other for a Senate seat in the state of Georgia. That in itself makes history. And Raphael Warnock became the first Black US Senator from the state of Georgia in recent times, but frankly, as Raphael Warnock himself acknowledged at his church, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Sunday, everyone who voted in this election was going to vote for a candidate whose name began with W.

And the two choices were both prominent African American men. That tells you something about the changing of America over the course of the last several decades. And that’s basically good news, when you’re looking at the fact that a state like Georgia that had been a Jim Crow state. A state that had legally enforced segregation generations ago, has now elected an African American man to a full term in the United States Senate.

But I remind us of the fact that there are always ideas represented by a candidate, there are policies, and in this case, as we discussed, Raphael Warnock policies are decidedly liberal. And that raises the question, “What does that tell us about the state of Georgia?”

It’s also interesting, by the way, that most of the mainstream media have recognized that this is, if anything, one of the most salient issues at stake. Raphael Warnock is decidedly liberal. He’s described as a pragmatist. And clearly during that two-year term as he was, knowing he would face voters, he did involve himself in more moderate legislative efforts, but at the end of the day, if you just listen to them on the campaign trail, he was unapologetic about being very liberal on any number of issues. And I’ll just point to two of incredible significance.

One is the issue of abortion. Raphael Warnock is virtually, without restriction, pro-abortion. Period. No compromise. It’s hard to imagine a more pro-abortion candidate in any state, much less Georgia. And then also on LGBTQ issues, Raphael Warnock, theologically liberal, morally liberal, politically liberal is decidedly liberal on those issues.

Now, if you had talked to a casual observer of the state of Georgia and its politics a matter of, say 20 years ago, this would have been absolutely unthinkable, but now it is actual. And we’re at the point at this stage in American politics that the states of Georgia and Arizona, both of which had been predictably red or Republican conservative in recent years, are now perhaps the most important swing states in national elections. So that raises the question, “How is that possible in the state of Georgia? Did Georgia change its mind?” No. Here’s where I want us to return to a similar analysis we did just two years ago in the state of Virginia.

Virginia was predictably red, deep red, Republican. And now, Virginia is increasingly blue. Predictably blue, at least in terms of inclination, it did elect Glenn Youngkin, the Republican candidate for governor, did so decisively in its last election, but nonetheless, that was newsworthy, precisely because it wasn’t expected.

Now, why has Virginia changed from red to purple? That is to say as a swing state, and now more or less usually blue. And the answer is this. It is that people have been moving into Virginia. People have been moving into Virginia with different voting patterns, but there’s more to it even than that. You have an increasingly metropolitan voting base in the state of Virginia. So let’s look at this. As I often say, the closer you get to a coast, the closer you get to a campus, well, at that point you tend to move towards more liberal positions.

In the state of Virginia, what has become evident, is that it is people moving into Virginia who have made that state more liberal, more socially liberal, particularly on moral issues. You have people moving from New Jersey and Connecticut, states like New York moving to Virginia, moving particularly to Northern Virginia. They’re not evenly distributed in the state. You don’t have that many moving into the Western, more rural area of the state of Virginia, know they are moving into the areas that are proximate to Washington DC, which means heavily dependent upon and associated with federal spending.

And here’s the thing you need to know, even as the nation may experience an economic downturn or recession, the areas funded by the government rarely experience such a recession. It’s one of the reasons you have such an exploding population, because the government is expanding, government service sectors are expanding. Those who are connected to the federal budget are expanding and it becomes attractive. People are moving, and as they are moving into Virginia, they’re changing Virginia politics. The same thing is happening in the state of Georgia. And in the state of Georgia, it is primarily one demographic reality. And you can just name that reality, Atlanta.

In the state of Georgia, Atlanta is becoming the great metropolitan area that is taking over the entire state. In one sense, taking it over almost geographically. You can just look at the expanding population of Atlanta, and by that I mean, the entire multicounty area. And you can see, that more and more of it is becoming highly developed, becoming suburbanized, if not urbanized. And as people move into cities, well, this is reflected even in the Book of Genesis. The cities on the plain, Sodom and Gomorrah, as people move into cities, they tend to move into more socially liberal environments. Cities, no matter where they are found are in the main, more liberal than agrarian countryside.

In the state of Georgia, you’ve got farms being turned into elite gated communities and suburbs. That’s going to change the politics of the state. And furthermore, Georgia’s population is not in the main growing because people who are native to Georgia are having more babies, know it is because more people are moving into the state of Georgia. And from where are they moving in order to be in Georgia? Well, many of them are moving from more liberal parts of the country, and here’s the deal. They are bringing their liberal voting traditions and habits with them.

So you could put it this way, the closer you get to a coast, the closer you get to a city and the closer you get to a campus with the academic culture being the most liberalizing factor of all, the closer you get to social liberalism and the more the worldview map changes. And yes, I did say the worldview map, because voting is a reflection of worldview. And if the state of Georgia has now elected a senator, who is so without restriction positive about abortion and such an enthusiastic supporter of the LGBTQ agenda, well that tells you Georgia has changed.

But here’s where I want to come back and say Georgia hasn’t basically changed its mind. Georgia has changed its population. But then this raises another question. “Does this mean that states that our net recipients of population for more liberal areas turn out to have politics that are more liberal?” Well, the counterfactual to that is known as the state of Florida. And by that I mean, that in the state of Florida, the state has actually become redder even as the population continues to expand, and an awful lot of the people moving to Florida, are moving from more liberal states.

Well, that raises the question, “Why is Florida so different than Georgia at least for now, with Florida becoming more and more a red state, and Georgia, at least at this point, threatening become more and more a blue state?” Well, it is because patterns of migration are not exactly the same.

That’s true by the way, even in the state of Florida, where, as you look at the west coast of Florida and the east coast of Florida, there have been traditional and historic patterns of migration even from the north that haven’t been the same. That is to say that over the course, say of the last 50 years, the population moving from the Great Lake States such as Wisconsin and Michigan, well, they have a different voting pattern than those coming from the northeast.

The northeast Massachusetts and New York generally more liberal. And that has shown up in elections when you look to Florida’s west coast down in the south, cities like Naples and Fort Myers, as you’re looking at Collier County and its neighboring counties, they’re becoming very, very, very red. And a lot of people are moving there from the Great Lakes area.

And then as you look at the east coast, especially going back to the latter decades of the 20th century, an awful lot of people moving from New Jersey and New York and Massachusetts, and they were bringing far more liberal voting patterns. That’s what makes the reelection of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis so remarkable because he was reelected by such a margin and he actually carried some of those counties that had been deep, deep blue in elections passed. But there’s another issue when it comes to Florida, and that has to do with the fact that so much of the new population speaks Spanish.

The Hispanic and Latino population, it is often assumed when arriving in the United States will generally vote more liberally and associate more generally with the Democratic Party. Well, it’s turned out that way in some situations, but it has not turned out that way in others. And Florida, especially in the last election, just a matter of last month, it demonstrated the fact that a good number of Hispanic voters are going to vote in a very conservative way, and are going to associate with the Republican Party, not with the Democratic Party. That too will have a great deal to do with the future electoral and worldview landscape of the United States.

So I come back to the great shock, at least the shock to me that in a state like Georgia, you just had the election of a candidate who is so pro-abortion, so LGBTQ, that would not only not have been predictable, say 20 years ago, it really wouldn’t have been imaginable. And something changed, but I come back to this. Just remember, Georgia didn’t change its mind. Georgia changed its population, and that matters.

One final thought on this story, just remember that there are various tests of worldview that you might consider administering. Maybe you ask people certain questions, or you track down their understanding of say, the origin of the world and the meaning of the universe, and you try to help them to frame out their worldview. There are all kinds of tests you might use, but one very essential litmus test coming periodically is this, how do you vote? Because whether you recognize it or not, your vote does reveal your worldview, inescapably.

Part II

“Democratic Backsliding?” Indonesia’s New Ban on Sex Outside of Marriage

But next, speaking of headlines, morality and politics. So many news stories coming out of Indonesia in the last couple of days because Indonesia has now passed legislation, at least its parliament has passed legislation, unanimously criminalizing sex outside of marriage. And by the way, this means marriage as the union of a man and a woman. All forms of sexuality outside of the marital bond are now to be criminalized in the nation of Indonesia.

The president of the nation has not yet signed the bill, but just to state the politics, clearly the bill passed the parliament unanimously, which means the president basically has to sign it. So this is a great shock to western nations, and it’s a double shock. And frankly, the first shock is just moral. You have so many people in this country saying, “How could any nation, how could any modern civilized nation have laws that would say, ‘Here are the regulations concerning sexual behavior.’ How could you possibly have in this age a government say, ‘Here’s what marriage is, anything different than this isn’t marriage?'” And by the way, if you violate this law, you will be susceptible to criminal prosecution.

I am sure there are many Americans who are looking at this law and saying, “It is inconceivable that we might live in such a country or under the conditions of such a government.” Just remind yourself of this. Even the state in which you live, your state in the United States, it may have laws currently on the books, vestigial evidence of the fact that in the state in which you live non-marital sex.

Sex outside of marriage was probably indeed almost assuredly, criminalized, at least on the books. And it was also a part of defining marriage as part of what made the definition of marriage so important. And by the way, I can assure you that if you go back 30 or 40 years, indeed, it could be even more recently than that marriage will mean, and it could only mean the union of a man and a woman.

So as you’re looking at this and so many people in the United States and in other modern nations are looking at the step taken by Indonesia and they’re saying, “This is absolutely unimaginable.” Well, you better be careful because you might be talking about your own community just a matter of a generation or so ago. And right now it might even be on the books, even if not applied.

Sui-Lee Wee, reporting for The New York Times tells us this, quote, “Indonesia has long been known as a widely tolerant nation at the forefront of establishing democratic reforms throughout Southeast Asia. That progressive reputation took a hit on Tuesday when parliament cleared a sweeping overhaul of the country’s criminal code. According to the new rules, sex outside of marriage is now illegal in Indonesia, as is defamation of the president.” Well, the last part not so important in terms of our consideration. The point is, sex outside of marriage is illegal in Indonesia. How dare they?

Now, this is a good opportunity for us to engage in a bit of Christian moral, historical, constitutional thinking about the intersection of legislation and morality. “Al, to what extent should the legislation, should the laws of a state, or for that matter of any government, to what extent should it seek to legislate morality?” You sometimes hear people, particularly progressives in the west say, “Oh, you can’t legislate morality.” But I simply respond to that. “Well, if it’s not morality, it’s probably not worth legislating.”

In other words, every single law, every single statute is at least enacted within a moral context, even if it does not make an explicit moral claim. If you’re going to have laws against robbery, guess what? You are legislating morality. If you’re going to have a law against murder, guess what? You are legislating morality. Laws against treason, laws against say, lying under oath, such as in perjury. If you’re going to have laws that make a moral judgment, guess what? You are legislating morality. The only way to avoid legislating morality is never to legislate. But of course, there’s a good deal of hypocrisy and dishonesty in making that claim.

In reality, everyone operating out of any kind of consistent worldview has to come up with at least a mature responsible answer to the question, “To what degree would we legislate morality?” And so you ask, “Would it be appropriate for the citizens of the United States, Christian citizens to contend for legislation that would, for instance, criminalize or prohibit by statute sex outside of marriage?” To that, I would respond that the Christian political and moral tradition would answer, yes, it is appropriate, to the extent that it is politically possible.

So as you’re looking at any kind of constitutional system of government, any kind of electoral democracy, you’re looking at the fact that the people will eventually make clear the laws and the limits of the laws that they’re going to tolerate, and the laws they will respect and will obey. But Christians understand the law is not just a reflection of morality, the laws also a teacher. And so Christians actually hold to the principle that the law should teach what is right, even if people fall short of what the law teaches.

By the way, the greatest testimony in Scripture to the power of the law to inform the conscience, is found in the book of Romans 7, where the apostle Paul asks, “Is the law then sin?” By no means, he says, indeed he says, “If it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.'”

Now, Paul in that passage is talking about the function of the word of God, of the law in convicting us of sin, but the point is the law teaches. The apostle Paul says, “I wouldn’t even have known that what I was doing is coveting, if the law,” And by that, it means the law of God, “had not said, ‘You shall not covet.'” The same thing is true of the civil law when it comes to legislating moral issues, which it must.

Does this mean that we know exactly the limits of how much should be legislated in any situation? Well, no. That is a contextual question and the limits of what is politically possible, but Christians need to be really, really careful. Biblically minded Christians are not saying, it would be improper of the law to legislate that. That would be basically abandoning even the possibility of the laws of a state reflecting the laws of God.

A second thing we need to understand here is that theology matters. And in this case, it’s not Christian theology that matters. It’s Islamic theology that matters, because Indonesia is actually the largest population of Muslims in any one nation. And you’re looking here at what is undeniably the influence of Muslim theology, Muslim authority, and Muslim law.

But third, before leaving the story, it’s also very interesting to note the response of people in the liberal West, to what’s taking place in Indonesia, because again, this is seen as a shock because as The New York Times says, well, Indonesia had been understood as a widely tolerant nation, but this represents what the liberals would call intolerance. No doubt about that.

But here’s where one line in that New York Times story tells us something really interesting, “The new laws are almost certain to revive a debate around democratic backsliding in the nation of 276 million.” Did you hear those words? Did you hear that category? Democratic backsliding.

Now, that reflects not only an attempt at some kind of political analysis, it reflects the liberal progressivist understanding of history in which it can only move in one direction, in an ever more liberal or progressive direction. If for some reason, any reason, any society at any time, it moves in a more conservative direction, well then you see how it’s defined. It is backsliding.

But let me remind you of something else, and that is that the word backsliding, didn’t emerge from politics, it emerged from…. Now, this would be a shock, I think, to many of these reporters, evangelical Christianity, where backsliding was described as falling away from biblical faithfulness. But that tells us something about the culture of our day where the spiritual or theological context for backsliding is basically been forgotten. All that is left is political backsliding.

By the way, as the report said, the parliament there in Indonesia has also offered a newly expanded definition of the crime, a blasphemy. That is where those who stand in the Anglo-American political tradition understand that this is a step too far. This is an essentially theological issue that is to say, blasphemy. And the big issue here is that this will put some religious authority in Indonesia in the place of defining and adjudicating what ultimately is meant by blasphemy. And you’ll also notice one other thing, it is in one case, blasphemy against the nation’s political leadership. Now, that tells you a whole lot. Westerners do not and should not have even a category for that.

Part III

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction: Serious Coup Plot in Germany Reveals Prince and His Attempt to Seize Power

But next, in a reminder that we’re living in very strange times, a coup plot to take over the government of the nation of Germany was detected, arrests were made in raids on Wednesday, and included in the 25 people arrested and suspected are planning to overthrow the German government was a prince. In particular, Prince Heinrich XIII.

Now, you might ask yourself a question, “Does Germany have princes?” Well, indeed it does, because it has vestigial principalities. It was Bismarck in the 19th century who united Germany. It was the Weimar Republic in 1918, that disestablished the monarchy entirely, but getting rid of the monarchy doesn’t mean that you were rid of princes.

In this case, the only reason you know about Prince Heinrich XIII is because he has just been arrested for plotting to overthrow the German government and put, now, here’s a test for you. I’ll give you one guess. Who did he and his accomplices intend to put in two political leadership?

Well, here’s the deal. If you call yourself a prince, you see yourself at the head of that government. But I’m not making light of this because this was a deadly serious, actual attempt to bring about a coup to overthrow the government of Germany. Even as Germany prides itself as the great source of stability for the entire European project. It just reminds us that at one level, civilization is a very risky experiment.

You can declare yourself an absolute paragon of political stability, but you just never know when a Prince Heinrich XIII will show up on the scene with his own political plans. It reminds me of a journalistic adage I learned as a boy. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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