Tuesday, February 7, 2023
It's Tuesday, February 7th, 2023.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Horrifying Tragedy as Earthquake Kills Thousands in Turkey and Syria — What Disasters and Response Reveals About Civilization
If you're looking at earthquakes, one of the most terrifying experiences known to humanity and one of the most destructive both of human life and of civilization, it is hard to imagine a region of the world more affected and more vulnerable when it comes to earthquakes.
And, of course, we're talking about the massive earthquake that took place over the course of the last couple of days, and in particular, Sunday night and Monday in the area that included Eastern Turkey and Northwestern Syria.
And we're talking about a death toll that right now is estimated at something like 5,000 human beings, with the World Health Organization indicating that the likelihood is that there will be something like 20,000 deaths.
Now, this is a horrifying news story. We're talking about thousands upon thousands of human beings. We're also talking about a very complex situation.
Now, as you're thinking about this region of the world, just recognize this has been a part of various empires throughout the history of the world. And it has also been, throughout all of recorded history, going back to the Classical Age, it has been one of the regions of the world most affected by deadly earthquakes.
We also need to understand something else, and that is the fact that a response to this has a lot to do with the civilizational health and the culture of the region.
So, as you're thinking about this, if in the United States of America, we had a massive earthquake that would affect this many people, and again, 5,000 deaths already, 20,000 perhaps on the horizon, and lots of casualties and lots of people needy... They are hungry. They are thirsty. They are extremely vulnerable. They are probably, at this point, unhoused.
By the way, one of the interesting things reported out of this earthquake is how many people refuse to leave their homes. And that just points to something. Our home does represent to us security. We feel secure in our homes when actually, in the midst of an earthquake, our home might be one of the most dangerous places to be. Something about human psychology there.
But going back to the health of the civilization or the health of the culture, we are looking at a very, very troubled culture when it comes to the nation of Syria. And we're talking about a very complex situation when you're talking about Turkey. And here you're talking about an earthquake that affects both of those countries.
And by the way, the border between those countries is clear, but it is also a bit ambiguous when you think about how it actually operates. And you add other troubled nations in that troubled region, and you end up with something like a tinderbox.
Now, obviously, the first concern of civilized nations in response to this should be to respond with aid. That's exactly what the civilized world is doing. That's exactly what the United States is doing, sending in at least two rescue teams of professionals that involve at least 79 persons per team. And it's going to be backed up with a lot of American money and American know-how and American leadership. You're going to have European nations involved.
But there's something else that's also interesting. In response to this disaster, when you look at this culture, you look at the civilization, you look at the strength of the government just in terms of its competence, when you're looking at that area of the world, if you're talking about governmental competence, you've got to talk about Israel.
And that raises another issue because Israel, it has been announced as of yesterday afternoon, is going to be involved in the multinational rescue plan for this area of the world. And not only when it comes to Turkey. And by the way, over the course of the last several years, Israel's relations with Turkey have been a bit rocky. But that's an understatement when it comes to Syria because at least de jure right now, according to the law, Israel and Syria are in a state of war.
It says a lot about Israel, both in terms of its ambition to help, but also its competence as a government that when you have trouble like this in the Near East, in Central Asia, then you need Israel actually to help you as well as the United States, European allies and others.
One of the other things people don't think about is that any response that's going to save lives at this point requires forward staging. It's not like you can just pack up a bunch of stuff and put it on Air force planes there at Andrews Air Force base, now called Joint Base Andrews, and then ship it across the world and it be immediately effective. You need what's called forward staging.
That's another achievement to civilization. If you have forward staging, it means that you have governments taking responsibility and, for that matter, non-governmental organizations, or NGOs as they are known, taking responsibility to have people on the ground, strategies in place, and supplies nearby in the case of this scale of disaster.
Now, those supplies aren't going to be enough, but you know what? They are going to get the rescue efforts started, and that's the point. And that means, in worldview perspective, one of the things we need to recognize is A, the fragility of human civilization.
I don't care what civilization it is. I don't care what your architectural requirements and your zoning laws are. If you have an earthquake of this significance, it is going to do massive damage. And that damage is not just going to be to human-built structures. It is going to be to human beings.
And so, as you look at this, you recognize every civilization is in some sense vulnerable to this kind of natural disaster.
The second thing we need to recognize is the response to this kind of natural disaster is not the same civilization by civilization and culture by culture. It is highly dependent upon the relative competence of the culture that is able to respond to this.
When you look at much of the world... Syria, in this case, serves as one kind of example. The response of the government is not likely to be all that effective. There's going to be a massive need for very significant outside help.
When you look at some other countries, the necessity of outside help is less than what you see in Syria. By the way, Turkey is a nation that will be at least less dependent upon that outside aid, but not totally non-dependent.
And so, as Christians, we just need to remember that we are rightly concerned with human disaster anywhere. That doesn't mean we can help everywhere, but we should be concerned for and we should pray for those anywhere.
And it also points to the fact that being made in God's image and having been given in Genesis, in creation, a mandate of dominion, at least a part of that dominion is not just to build things but to rebuild things. And that means when it comes to communities, not only to build communities but when necessary, even by tragedy, to rebuild them.
The Commercialization of Transgression: The 65th Annual Grammy Awards
But next, I have to transition to something that just must be discussed today on The Briefing.
And this has to do with the Grammy Awards and the ceremony that was telecast on Sunday night. Because we really are talking about a big story.
Now, it's not just a big story in terms of its salaciousness. After all, we are talking about satanism on stage. But the cultural response to this, or the lack of a cultural response to this, also tells us a great deal about where we are.
So in transitioning from one issue to another, let me just say there is more than one way for a civilization to fall. And when it comes to this kind of fall, we're talking about something the epicenter of which was the nation of the United States of America. And furthermore, this was not a natural disaster. This was an entirely human-made disaster. And make no mistake, it was a disaster.
The Grammys, as they are known, are a longstanding awards program, in this case, for the music industry and, in particular, the recorded music industry. The name itself is very interesting. The Grammys refer to the fact that originally these were the Gramophone Awards beginning in 1959, gramophone being, of course, one of the earlier forms of recorded music. No one plays a gramophone today, but Americans still turn in to the Grammy Awards.
Now, a little footnote here, a far smaller percentage of Americans than would have been the case, say, 20 or 30 years ago. And there are a lot of reasons for that. One reason is simply that the entire entertainment culture has been transformed in recent years. And a multiplicity of options means that no one really has to watch the Grammys in order to learn anything about music.
But if you were watching the Grammys on Sunday, what you did learn about is the state of the culture or, in particular, one dimension of the state of the culture. And for that, we need to take a much closer look. We're looking at two particular artists, the most important, Sam Smith. The second, Kim Petras.
Now, one of the first things you need to know is that neither of them identifies as heterosexual. Both of them identify as transgressive and non-binary in one way or another. Sam Smith, at the center of this story, identifies as non-binary. Kim Petras identifies as a transgender woman.
So here's, just to keep things straight, what we know. We're talking about two individuals who are unquestionably biologically male, neither of whom presents as male. One is non-binary, and one claiming to be a transgender woman.
They together won the Grammy for the Best Pop Duo Performance. And then, in the course of the Grammys, they put on a performance. And that performance was meant in itself to be transgressive. And I can guarantee you it was.
I'm not going to describe much of the performance to you so you can relax on that score. I'm simply going to say that it was transgressive in the sense that, most importantly, from a Christian worldview perspective, what it communicated was devil worship, that is, the worship of Satan.
Now, in the beginning of the performance, you might have had some questions as to where this is going, but the flames and the color red predominantly should make the point clear. But as you were looking further, eventually, Sam Smith put on a hat with horns indicating that he himself was playing the role of the devil or Satan.
And the movements on stage by the musicians and the dancers and the imagery that took place in a very large backdrop of flames indicating hell, all that made really, really clear that this was about Satan. And the dancers made very clear it was about the aggrandizement and the celebration and the worship of Satan.
Now, there's so much to consider here for just a moment. I am not going to go further into the transgressive performance itself. We're going to get back to the transgressiveness, but not to what took place.
But here's what we also need to keep in mind. It's not just what happened. It's the question, how did this happen? How could this have happened? But next, what was the cultural response to it?
So let me just get to the last question first. The cultural response to it is that most of the people having to do with the Grammys and its leadership and its production, and those in the mainstream media covering the Grammys didn't mention it. Having a sustained intentional unquestionable musical piece celebrating Satan didn't even rate a mention.
This has mostly come from conservatives and, indeed, Christian conservatives who do recognize what was going on here and understand it's a very big deal that to the elites in our culture, this is not a big deal.
Now, when it comes to both of these supposedly non-binary artists, the fact is there's a very interesting story behind what took place on Sunday night and before it. And in many ways, of course, a rather tragic story.
When it comes to Kim Petras, we are told in the media that Kim Petras, who's the younger of the duo and identifies as a transgender woman, we're talking about a young man who, as a teenage boy in Germany, underwent so-called gender reassignment surgery.
And I'm not going to go into detail there. I'll simply tell you, people who say this doesn't happen on minors, well, there was just a celebration at the Grammys of a minor who underwent this kind of transition surgery. Our cultural elites just flat lie to us about this.
When it comes to Sam Smith, he was well-known in the recording industry before he came out as non-binary. But there were those at the time who felt that his non-binary declaration might be at least originally mostly about garnering new publicity.
But in any event, it certainly led to the fact that he eventually would share the Grammy on Sunday night with Kim Petras for what was described as "the best pop duo performance." And then they would perform together. And that's where the devil worship came in.
I mentioned the word transgressive. So we need to look at two things here as Christians. Number one, the transgressive nature of modern art. Number one. And number two, what it means that Satan was deliberately invoked here. So let's separate those two issues.
First of all, transgression. That's exactly what all this was about. And here's where you need to understand that, to some extent, the Christian Church and the Christian worldview has understood the temptation of transgression when it comes to art, going all the way back to the early centuries of the Christian Church.
And that's because when you look at art, you're looking at the capacity to say something true or something untrue. You're looking at the capacity to say something beautiful or something ugly. And furthermore, you're looking at what the Bible describes as "the delight of the eyes," which is to say our eyes can lead us in exactly the wrong direction.
There's something else that is as old as humanity and is even reflected in the ancient Greek writings. And that is that artists, the artistic class, the artistic elites, they tend to look at conventional morality as something plebeian, something low, something that they may overcome, indeed ought to overcome as a privileged artistic class.
But, of course, now, in our time, we're looking at the commercialization of transgression, which means this is the way you build your personal brand. This is the way you revive a lagging career. This is the way you get into the national attention. This is the way you sell your recordings. I used to say records, but that's an anachronism in itself. This is the way you get attention.
And furthermore, here's the deepest and darkest part of this. It's the way you gain artistic recognition. You're not going to gain artistic recognition these days for producing a work of art that is genuinely beautiful. According to the Christian worldview, if it's beautiful, it's true, and it's good. The unity of the transcendentals. More on that another day.
The point is there is no great margin in popular culture these days for conventional art and certainly for something that is, by Christian understandings, beautiful. It's transgression that rules the day. It's transgression that gets the award. It's transgression that tops the charts. It's transgression that tells us a great deal about how sin works its way out in every avenue of society.
And why? Going all the way back to Genesis. The arts in various forms, all the different arts, have been avenues for transgression to become mainstreamed into the culture. And that's exactly what goes on here. Because if you are going to transgress, here's the bad news for you. Your transgression yesterday becomes so yesterday.
In order for someone else to transgress, they now have to out-transgress you. If you're going to keep up with the arc of transgression, well eventually...I'll just give a little hint to this duo. Non-binary is not going to be enough.
But when it comes to transgression, Sam Smith had already done his very best to gain headlines in his new non-binary self he declared with what was described as "a raunchy music video." That was before the satanism came in. But now, along with Kim Petras, well, you got the satanism.
And that leads to the second dimension of our consideration. And that is Satan. And this is where those committed to the Christian worldview understand, we really do believe in the existence of Satan. We really do believe in the devil. And we believe in a personal Satan whose prehistory is at least hinted at and given to us in minimal form in the scripture itself in terms of his rebellion against God in heaven.
And as you're looking at Satan, who is the first and foremost among those described as fallen angels, you are, by the time you get to the end of the New Testament, looking at the representation of opposition to God. And that opposition to God, by the way, takes the supreme form of an attempted self-glorification.
Now, that's true in terms of even the conversation that came between Adam and Eve and the serpent in the garden where the temptation came with the words, "Hath God said."
By the time you fast-forward to the temptation of Christ so early in His ministry, of course, there you have the invitation to aggrandize Satan and to aggrandize yourself. Satan demanded that Christ worship him and then offered Him the kingdoms of the world. And, of course, that was, we can understand, the temptation that was ultimate for Satan.
Now, the Bible's very clear that Satan is already defeated. Now, hold that thought because the Bible has a very clear historical concept of already and not yet. So ultimately, Satan is defeated, and he was defeated at Calvary. That's what's most important to understand. And yet, the Lord has allowed him to have a continued role in his opposition because that's a part of God's total plan to bring glory to His own name.
And, for at the end of the days, Satan and all of those with him to be judged and Satan finally to be defeated. And his defeat to be so comprehensive that every single person on Earth, past, present, and future, should know it when it happens. In other words, God is going to bring the greatest glory to His name, the greatest glory to Himself, by defeating Satan and by defeating him totally, as it is witnessed by every single human being who has ever lived.
Now, let's just think biblically. Let's think in terms of Christian truth for a moment as we reflect upon what took place there at the Grammys on Sunday night. Number one, this was an aggrandizement, a worship of, a celebration of Satan. Let's just state the obvious. That is not theologically neutral.
And we're looking at the fact that millions and millions of people in the United States and around the world looked at that without obvious horror. And that's the point. Horror is the rightful response.
Now, many, many Christians were troubled by this. And I am at least relieved to say that many Christians weren't watching the performance, but they came to know it and to know of it because of all of the controversy and publicity about the event after the musical performance had taken place on Sunday night.
And it's interesting to see that the cultural elites in the mainstream media that gave no attention to that musical performance, or at least they were not outraged in any sense, they're instead outraged that conservative Christians are outraged, that biblically minded Christians are outraged by a performance aggrandizing and worshiping Satan.
But as you're thinking about the secularization of a culture, just recognize that you could look at surveys, you could look at polls, you can look at sociological research, but you can also just cast all that aside and look at the Grammys on Sunday night.
And a secularized culture is a culture that A, it's not irreligious. Its religious energies are then directed away from Christianity towards something else, and that something else, in this case, is the devil.
And the second thing you need to note is that when you are looking at a performance like this that transgresses intentionally the fundamental worldview of Western civilization, well, you are indeed looking at the fact that that fundamental worldview is being rejected by so many in the artistic culture and so many in the intellectual elites in the mainstream media that they don't even think it noteworthy anymore.
Yes, Christians Certainly Do Believe in Satan — But Where is the Outrage from Our Culture When Satan is Worshiped on Stage at the Grammys?
But before we're leaving the satanism aspect of all of this, let me just remind ourselves of the fact that the New Testament presents Satan as being incredibly crafty, which is to say, usually, he does not operate in such a way as to be so crass as to want to be depicted in what we saw at the Grammys on Sunday night.
Not that that didn't aggrandize him, but here's the fact. He celebrates every defeat as he sees it of the gospel, every injury to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, every move towards secularization. So when you are not seeing performances such as that satanic performance that took place on Sunday night, that doesn't mean that Satan isn't at work, and it doesn't mean that Satan's purposes are not being served.
But it also tells you that when you are going to see, in our context right now, Satan, who rightly represents the unraveling of an entire moral order, where are you going to see it? You're going to see it in an artistic context.
And then, who's going to be the conveyor of it? Well, these days, what could be a more direct refutation of God's glory in creation than two biological males involved in this kind of performance, both declaring themselves, in one way or another, to be something other than male?
Just another reminder that the gender, and especially the transgender revolution, is not just a matter of some kind of gender eccentricity. It is the intentional unraveling of the entire structure of creation.
The Commercialization of Satanism: Who Funded the Glorification of Satan through Sponsorship at the Grammy Awards?
Just a couple of other questions before we leave this for today. Who did it? Well, the first answer would be Kim Petras and Sam Smith. But then, who did it in such a way that you got to see it? Well, the producers of the Grammys, the music industry. Well, then, who actually broadcast it? Well, that would be CBS. They bear responsibility for this.
And then, here's the interesting question, which will be a bridge in future additions of The Briefing to other considerations, including some of the new issues related to vaccines. Who paid for this? Well, at least in terms of the sponsor, who paid for it was Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company.
And there'll be more to consider in all of this, but what you need to understand right now, and here's bad news, and that is that America's big-money corporations are evidently getting in line not only to subsidize the unraveling of civilization and the transgender and sexuality revolutions but also to do it now combined with satanism.
So you ask, who's responsible for this? Well, the two artists, Sam Smith, Kim Petras, the Grammy producers, the music industry, the sponsors of the Grammy Awards, CBS, and yes, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. How's that for a shot in the arm?
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.