The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

It’s Wednesday, December 14th, 2022.

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

Part I

How Do We Understand Our Place in History and the Morality of History?: The View of History Revealed in Yesterday’s White House Ceremony Celebrating Gay Marriage

You would think that the big headline yesterday was President Biden signing into law the so-called Respect for Marriage Act and thus offering federal legislative protection for so-called same-sex marriage rights. That was a big story yesterday, but what I want us to see is the story within that story, or you might even say the story behind that story which comes down to a huge question that should be of concern to Christians, and that is how do we understand history. How do we understand our place in history and the moral demands of history?

Well, let’s go back to what actually happened yesterday. I want us to look at some of the language. What took place yesterday beginning at 3:00 Eastern Time there on the lawn at the White House was an array of federal officials including Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, Democrat of New York, Nancy Pelosi, the outgoing Speaker of the House, Democrat of San Francisco, and then the vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris, and the president of the United States, Joe Biden.

Every one of them wanted to make the ceremony yesterday very personal. Every one of them wanted basically to claim a moral victory in the legislation that codifies so-called same-sex marriage, technically what is called misleadingly, the Respect for Marriage Act. The act itself is a profound act of disrespect to marriage, but nonetheless, the legislation officially repealed a 1993 law overwhelmingly adopted by Congress and then signed into law by then President Bill Clinton that was called the Defense of Marriage Act. That was legislation that prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage, and it also prevented the states from being coerced into recognizing a same-sex union that was performed in another state.

So, we’re really looking at two different moral worlds, the moral world of 1993 and the moral world of 2022. That is just about a 30-year period, and furthermore, you’ve got several people standing there on that platform who were involved in politics 30 years ago, including of course, Senator Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but also the president of the United States, Joe Biden, who 30 years ago was a member of the United States Senate, and who, by the way, rather inconveniently and unmentioned yesterday, voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1993. That was then, this is now.

Again, you can be absolutely assured that President Biden did not want anyone bringing up his positive vote for the Defensive Marriage Act back in 1993. He didn’t want that coming up yesterday, and it didn’t because one of the powers of the White House for this kind of signing ceremony is to put together a kind of production that might make Hollywood envious, and that took place yesterday. And by the way, in the thousands, that’s what the White House said, the thousands of persons who were gathered yesterday, you had in the crowd persons representing just about every letter that lines up with LGBTQIA, and if you noticed it yesterday, the White House is sticking with that construction, LGBTQIA+.

Over and over again, officials stood there at the microphone at the White House and repeated that particular formulation. That too is, by the way, very interesting. You know that every one of those letters stands for something, but every one of those letters is also assuredly going to be followed by other letters. That’s why you have to end this with a plus sign, but that also points to something else, and that’s what I began with. As I said, there’s a basic issue behind all of this, maybe underneath all of this, and driving at least how so many in the society see the kind of development such as the emergence of the so-called Respect for Marriage Act. What am I talking about? I’m talking about that plus sign at the end of LGBTQIA+. I am speaking about the language used during the ceremony yesterday that attempted to put the passage of this bill and the signing ceremony yesterday in a context of history and in a particular context which we should see of great interest.

I want you to hear a pattern that emerged over and over again in the official comments yesterday. Majority leader Chuck Schumer said, “Finally, finally, thank you to the American people, the vast majority of whom have understood that the inexorable march towards equality is what America is all about.” Wait just a minute. Inexorable march towards equality? Just hold on. He says, “This is what America’s all about.” That’s how he says we should read history. The past, well, that’s oppressive. The present, well, that’s less oppressive, and the future, well, it’s going to be even less oppressive or even more liberated. This is known as a progressivist understanding of history and it shows up again and again and again, and we need to understand the logic behind it, and we need to understand there’s more than history that is at stake here.

So, just keep in mind, Senator Schumer spoke of an inexorable, that is, unstoppable march towards equality which he said is what America is all about. The same progressivist idea shows up in a self-congratulatory statement made by the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. And by the way, when I say it’s self-congratulatory, I don’t mean that according to her own logic there’s not congratulations to be had here because she has actually been rather consistent in her advocacy of LGBTQIA+ rights. But she said yesterday, “One of my final acts in speakership was to sign the Respect for Marriage Act that the president will sign today, but,” she said, “our work isn’t done, our work isn’t done and won’t rest until the Equality Act.” So, she says, “This is where we are. We were in a very, very bad situation in the past. We’re in a less bad situation now.” She says, “I’m proud of that,” as she goes out as Speaker, but she says, “There is still work to be done. There is still liberation to be earned.”

President Biden in his very excited comments made yesterday began by speaking of the place of this event, the signing of this bill in history. He wrote this, “For most of our nation’s history, we denied interracial couples and same-sex couples from these protections. We failed,” he said, “we failed to treat them with an equal dignity and respect, and now the law requires an interracial marriage and same-sex marriage must be recognized as legal in every state in the nation.”

Well, that’s not exactly what it does, but nonetheless it will have that effect. So, I’ll say the president wasn’t wrong, he just didn’t say that very carefully. But what he did say quite carefully is that, again, there’s a past, present, and future, and he’s placing the signing of this legislation yesterday in history that really is embedded with a very big argument. You’ll notice the conflation of two issues, skin color and sexual behavior, sexual relationships, just got put together as the same thing.

The point here as Christians is that we should understand that every single human being made in the image of God is equal and equal in human dignity and respect regardless of skin color, but that would not be extended to the contradiction of scripture to say that same-sex marriage, because scripture can’t even imagine same-sex marriage, would be on par with marriage as defined by the Creator and embedded in creation. Those are two fundamentally different things, but in his own ideological frame Joe Biden, to his political advantage, combined them as if they mean the same thing. But again, the issue of history and the meaning of history showed up again and again. The president said this, “We’ve seen over the decades progress that gives us hope that every, every generation will continue our journey toward a more perfect union.”

Well, let’s just take the president at his word for a moment. Let’s just imagine what he means. Well, he signed yesterday proudly, publicly, he signed legislation that basically puts the federal government very much on the side of same-sex marriage. It certainly means that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriage. And then he says, “This is just another step towards a future which is even more liberated and less oppressed.” Well, what exactly does the President have in mind there? Well, my point is this, he would not be honest to tell us even if he knew where he thinks history is headed, but he is just sure that history is headed towards less oppression, more liberation, and he sees himself yesterday as playing a very important role on that stage.

Later in the same comments, the president spoke of our progress from Hawaii, the first state to declare that denying marriage of the same-sex couples is unconstitutional, to Massachusetts, the first state to legalize marriage equality for couples. He just goes on again, “We celebrate our progress. Over the decades, progress gives us hope that every day, every generation will continue our journey towards a more perfect union.” Again and again, the same theme. Toward the end of his address, President Biden actually said something that I don’t think many people noticed, but it’s astoundingly important. He said that the legislation he signed yesterday is “about realizing the promise of the Declaration of Independence.” So, in other words, he’s telling us that same-sex marriage is implied in the Declaration of Independence.

I just wonder what would happen if someone had tried to make that argument to those who signed the Declaration of Independence in the birth of our nation.

Part II

Vice President Harris Says “This is a Victory, and This is a Part of a Larger Fight”: The Interconnectedness of LGBTQ Issues Abortion, and Contraception for the Left — But You Won’t Find Any of Them in the Constitution

But that gets back to our understanding of history, and this is where we need to understand that what we heard yesterday, rather predictively, is a manifestation of a progressivist understanding of history and the direction of history, the meaning of history and the rhythm of history, and this does come with massive worldview consequences.

Where does this come from? Well, for one thing, it comes from an understanding of progress as the major theme of history, at least in the modern age, and as a matter of fact, in the 19th century in Europe and in the United States, there arose an understanding of history saying, “Look, all the centuries before us were repression and oppression. Now we have liberty. Now we have by the end of the 19th century, the industrial revolution, we had the promise that every generation is going to have more, is going to be more free, and is going to be less encumbered by prejudice than the generation that came before.” That progressivist understanding of history basically became mainstreamed in American academic life and it comes up again and again and again in American political life.

In the beginning of the 20th century, it was bipartisan, just to mention two presidents at the beginning of the 20th century who represented this trend, the Republican Theodore Roosevelt and the Democrat Woodrow Wilson. Both of them basically embodied this progressivist understanding of history. But by the time you get well into the 20th century, that Progressivist understanding becomes a major theme of the liberal movement in the United States, and resistance to it meant that one way or another you are some kind of conservative, and one of the things we need to recognize as Christians is that the argument is not entirely wrong. I mean, after all, I would rather live when there are antibiotics than before there were antibiotics. I’d rather live when, just speaking medically, there’s anesthesia rather than having to undergo surgery before the development of anesthesia. I think the modern age has brought many good things. I also think that morally speaking, we do have a greater understanding of many issues than we had in the past.

By the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the age of exploration and expansion, and yes, even empire had created the context in which we had a far greater understanding of the diversity of human beings in terms of, well, yes, even race and ethnicity such that it became much harder to sustain some kind of racist argument. That morally speaking, theologically speaking is a good thing. Furthermore, you have seen over the course of, yes, the modern age, you have seen experiments and you have to call it that, great political experiments such as the experiment of the constitutionalism of the United States of America. You have seen so many of those experiments, particularly in the Anglo-American world, succeed, succeed over the course of more than two centuries now. You have also seen other signs of moral progress which is not in empires rising, but an empires falling, most importantly, the fall the Soviet Union at the end of the 20th century.

You can also look at economic factors. The fact is that even as there are still many people with far less than others have and even as there are very real issues such as poverty and hunger, the reality is that prosperity has spread far faster over the course of the last say 150 years than poverty has. Indeed, poverty has been eradicated or at least redefined in many areas, and there has been a vast almost incalculable increase in the economic power of the average person on Planet Earth. So, we don’t deny that that is progress, and again, I’ll go back to antibiotics and anesthesia. I’m for them both.

But here’s where we understand that that argument can go off the rails, and it’s a very powerful argument with a lot of influence. Just consider the argument as it was made by the late civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. He spoke of the arc of history being long but bending towards justice. Now, you can understand why words like that would give hope to people who desperately needed hope. But is it true? Is it true that the arc of history is long but that it bends towards justice? Well, sometimes it does, but sometimes it bends towards injustice.

The point I want to make is this, if you buy into an understanding of history that whatever comes next has to be better than what came before, than everything that came before is at least a pretext for what must be the theme of liberation. If marriage is the way people lived 500 years ago, well, we’re more liberated than that. Marriage must mean something else. Their understanding of marriage must be repressive and oppressive and intolerant. We have to revise and reformulate everything. This becomes so important when you understand the rhetoric that was so much on display at that signing ceremony yesterday.

What was heard there repeatedly on the lawn of the White House was the statement that, look, history is moving, history is moving in a far more liberal direction, and that means that human liberation is going to continue. Again, that plus sign at the end of, yes, the formulation LGBTQIA. Don’t forget that plus sign. It not only means there’ll be more letters coming, it means that right now the language that was used by President Biden is we’re already for that even though we don’t know what it is. Now, that’s where I want us to think seriously for a moment. What comes next? Well, we already have some things that we know are vying to be the next thing, and in some jurisdictions in the United States right now, polygamy or polyamory is being increasingly legally recognized.

Now, here’s what we need to note. The President of the United States did not dare stand before the American people yesterday and say, “You know, I’m for the next thing. I think it’s probably polygamy or polyamory.” No, he didn’t say that. He just implied that whatever it is at the time, it’s going to be rightly understood as liberation. But we also need to understand as Christians how seductive this argument is because it does mean that you have no defense whatsoever against the next thing because you’ve already decided that history is an arc that’s bending in the right direction so however history bends, well, you’ve already said it’s a good thing.

Before leaving the ceremony yesterday, and it’s not so much just to focus on the issue of same-sex marriage but rather to look at what this means as we understand how the culture work, but there was a statement made by the vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris, that should also have our attention. She said that for millions of Americans, “This is a victory and it is part of a larger fight. The Dobbs decision reminds us that fundamental rights are interconnected, including the right to marry who you love, the right to access contraception, and the right to make decisions about your own body. So, to continue to protect fundamental rights, let us continue to stand together because that is the beauty of the coalition assembled here today who fight for equality as activists and allies and parents and neighbors and young leaders.”

What I want us to note is that the vice president is not being particularly incoherent here. She puts together what she considers to be a right to abortion and a right to contraception and a right to same-sex marriage and she says they are all interconnected. Well, you know, that was actually a point that was made by the conservative justice of the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas when he said, “Yes, they are all interconnected.” They are all based upon a false constitutional premise. They’re based upon a false reading of the Constitution because guess what the Constitution says about contraception or abortion or same-sex marriage? Well, you know the answer to that question, absolutely nothing.

And it’s not just the words. If you could go back to the framers of the Constitution and look at them with straight face and say, “Contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage.” If they even had the moral imagination to know what you’re talking about, I think we can be absolutely, profoundly, unshakably confident that they would say, “No, not one of those things is in the Constitution,” period. So, what we see once again is that massive worldview dimensions were evident, or at least you might say audible, in the comments that were made at that display yesterday for the bill-signing ceremony.

By the way, there was even more on display, although this was not so much on camera a major issue for the White House strategically invited many people to be in that crowd to witness the signing of the bill yesterday, and included among those the White House strategically invited were some selected so-called drag performers. One New York City drag artist as reported by National Review, put out a statement saying, “To be a non-binary drag artist invited to the White House is something I never imagined would happen. Thank you, Mr. President and Dr. Biden for inviting me to this historic bill signing. Grateful doesn’t begin to express the emotions I feel.” Again, all these things are interconnected, not because of some kind of conservative conspiracy theory, but because the White House tells us right out loud this is what it’s doing.

By the way, let me just go back to those first words again, “To be a non-binary drag artist invited to the White House is something I never imagined would happen.” Well, I think that’s also, it’s safe to say, what would’ve been the presumption of everyone who has resided in the White House until now.

Part III

Justice Delayed is Not Always Justice Denied: Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud, Lockerbie Bomb Maker, Will Finally Face U.S. Court on Pan Am Flight 103 Bombing

But finally, for today’s edition of The Briefing, over the course of the last couple of days, some massive developments in very big criminal issues, that is, issues related to the criminal law, one of them an arrest or at least an indictment that was handed down by the United States government, and that was against the now disgraced, that’s the way the media keeps putting it, the now disgraced former CEO of the cryptocurrency exchange, FTX. That arrest took place in The Bahamas. His presence in the United States court will require extradition. The legal authorities in Bahamas said that process is underway, and yesterday, the US attorney in the Southern District of New York unsealed the multi-count indictment against Sam Bankman-Fried, that former CEO of the cryptocurrency. That’s a big story, and we’ll be looking at that story and dimensions of what it means in coming editions of The Briefing.

But right now, I want to look at another major criminal issue in American law, and this has to do with the apprehension of a man who is believed to have been the bombmaker behind the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in the year 1988. Now, we’re talking about a massive, diabolical criminal act that took place almost 35 years ago, and only now is there the potential that one of those behind that incredible crime will face the bar of justice in the United States. Now, there are huge issues of worldview implication at work here. For one of them, we come to understand that justice may be delayed, but it will never be denied. Even if on earth someone who commits this kind of crime is never convicted, never faces the bar of justice, the reality is that it is our Christian confidence that not one sin will go without indictment and without the divine verdict.

It may be that mass criminals, those who commit absolutely heinous crimes, may one way or another escape human justice, but it is the Christian confidence that not one of us will escape divine justice. For all has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and every single sin will be answered for on the Day of Judgment, either by God’s righteous verdict against sinners for their sin with eternal consequences in hell or with the judgment by the Father that the sin has been fully atoned for in the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ in His life, death, burial, and resurrection.

But it’s also true that because we are talking about something that’s within days of being 35 years ago, many Americans, perhaps even most Americans, do not remember what we’re talking about. We’re talking about an event that took place early in the morning of the 21st of December 1988, when a massive bomb went off in a Pan Am 747 jetliner about 31,000 feet over what we know as Lockerbie, Scotland. That bomb, a reconstruction of the plane demonstrated, blew about a 20 inch in diameter hole in the skin of the aircraft, but within three seconds, the front end of the aircraft had broken away from the fuselage, and 259 persons, all persons aboard that Pan Am flight were killed in that horrifying terrorist attack. But it was not just those on the airliner, 11 persons on the ground in or near Lockerbie, Scotland were also killed in that terrorist attack.

Now, here’s the issue. Even the FBI later on stated that it did not fully understand the scale of the terrorist challenge the United States and our allies were facing. It turned out eventually that Libya was behind this attack, and the United States had had a military conflict of sorts and several skirmishes with Libya. Libya at the time was led by a now infamous dictator by the name of Muammar Gaddafi, and it was a nation that was accused of and now we know guilty of state-sponsored terrorism. Eventually, Muammar Gaddafi would admit that his government had brought about the terrorist attack on that plane.

Well, why are we talking about it today? It is because now a man by the name of Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud is going to face the bar of justice in the United States. Now, justice has waited a long time in this case, and there are those as especially relatives of the victims in this case who’ve been pressing for some real criminal prosecution. Back in the early years of the 21st century, there was a limited prosecution of two men, and they were tried by a Scottish court that actually had been moved to the Netherlands by diplomatic negotiation. One of those two men was found innocent, the other was found guilty of 270 counts of murder, but he was actually released from prison early because he was diagnosed with cancer. He would go on with his family to live another three years.

But now the man who has admitted in other context to have devising the bomb itself, Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud, who was connected with the Libyan government at the time, by extradition, he has been brought to the United States and he is going to face criminal prosecution here. You can count on the fact that he and his lawyers will be making every argument that he can’t be tried by an American court, but the way the law works, the fact that he has been extradited to the United States, it is a massive victory for justice in and of itself.

By the way, prosecutors are admitting they face a rather remarkable challenge, and that is putting together a chain of evidence that goes back 35 years. But as I said, they do have something in their favor, and that is that the man is actually admitted to being the mastermind behind the bomb. Whether that admission, that confession will make it into court’s another question, but that just points again, to the fact that our court system is based upon a certain set of rules, the very set of rules that this terrorist will claim on his own behalf after he declared himself the very enemy of that constitutional form of government and conducted what then and now is one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in all of modern history.

So, at the end of today’s consideration, I go back to where we began. What exactly does history tell us about justice? Well, unfortunately, on Earth, it doesn’t tell us that justice is always accomplished. It doesn’t tell us that history is always pointing towards or bending towards justice. But this is where the Bible becomes very important, Christian doctrine becomes absolutely essential in telling us that even if in human history justice will not be achieved, and the Bible tells us it will not be fully achieved, there will come a day, the very day of the Lord, when according to God’s own justice and righteousness, absolute justice will be achieved.

So, let’s put it another way. The Christian worldview reminds us the history is important, but history, human history will never be ultimate. The Christian worldview also tells us that justice is an imperative, but at the end of the day, our human efforts to achieve justice will never be completely successful. For that, we have to await the kingdom of Christ.

And let me offer you a word of hope. The kingdom of Christ will surely come.

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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