The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Thursday, April 13, 2023

It’s Thursday, April 13th, 2023.

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

Part I

Abortion Brings College Students to the Polls: How Wisconsin’s Supreme Court Election Was Highly Affected by Young Liberal Turnout

Lots of lessons in the aftermath of last week’s Wisconsin Supreme Court election. One of the big issues helps us to explain, or at least to understand how moral change takes place in a society generation by generation. Now, the reason this is such a focal issue right now is because in the aftermath of that vote, some of the voting analysis is revealing the fact that college student turnout had a great deal to do with the 11 point margin by which the pro-abortion candidate–that’s a story unto itself, a candidly, openly pro-abortion candidate for a Supreme Court seat there in Wisconsin–the college students had a lot to do with that 11-point margin.

For example, at The Washington Post, a duo of reporters, Dylan Wells and Dan Bell’s report that youth turnout in some campus wards was near that of last November’s midterm elections, with voters increasingly casting their ballots for the pro-abortion candidate. That would be Judge Protasiewicz, soon to be Justice Protasiewicz.

Here is what The Washington Post account is telling us. The account tells us that indeed the results were, “… beyond the expectations of organizers in Wisconsin,” which the paper says has been one of the most closely divided states in the nation politically. So what’s the point here? Not so closely divided on this judicial election for a Supreme Court seat, that would after all tilt the direction of the court from a conservative majority to a liberal majority.

So this Washington Post report is telling us that it just might be that the determinative factor in this election, certainly for the margin of victory for the left, was college students, and turnout on college campuses. But that raises a huge question. What exactly does this mean when it comes to young Americans? And is this new or is this an established pattern? Good questions. Let’s think about them for a moment.

When you consider the college experience, and you consider college students, they are often more liberal than their parents or their grandparents. Now, that is not uniformly true. There are an awful lot of conservative students on campuses. They are certainly not matched by an equal percentage of conservative faculty members. But nonetheless, even though the professorate, the faculty’s overwhelmingly liberal, overwhelmingly Democratic, and we know this because they report themselves that way, the fact is that you do have some conservative students on campus.

You do have some students who want to conservative arguments on campuses, but increasingly on America’s most elite college campuses, what you have is a steady march to the left. Now, one of the big issues has been that college students do indicate they hold to more liberal positions on many issues, but they also don’t often turn out to vote in the numbers that many people expect.

If you look at the 2016 presidential election, one of the issues the Democrats woke up to the day after the election when Donald Trump was elected president was that the college turnout, it wasn’t that it was more conservative than they expected, it was that the numbers were lower than they expected. But the headline in this Washington Post piece is this, “How Wisconsin Liberals Set Record Campus Turnout in Court Election.”

Now, a lot of this is about mechanics. You had an awful lot of communication, you had campus organizers, you had student organizations involved. You can pretty much figure how that would factor in. But what is not so much in this article that I want to add to the mix is the fact that we are here talking about abortion. So I want to argue that the salience of abortion, that’s a technical term that means its important set out from other issues, is actually a big part of the story here.

I’m just going to go out on a limb and say, I don’t think college students would’ve emerged in these kinds of numbers, voting for this off schedule election, if the issue was about tax rates, or marginal economic issues. I don’t think it would’ve turned the students out. College students in general, and certainly in this case, often reflect a more socially liberal position than previous generations. And here’s something we need to note. The college context seems to be an incubator for that kind of moral liberalism.

Now, that became really apparent to Americans in the 1960s, when campus revolts against the moral order actually made headline news almost every day in the United States. Unrest on campuses. You had the West Coast universities, particularly in California, becoming scenes of campus mayhem, but you also had that in schools on the East Coast, even so elite as Columbia. What you have on the campus is a large concentration of young people who are at a stage of life when they all of a sudden have liberty and forms of self-expression at their disposal that they never would’ve had before.

And we’re also looking at the fact that the abortion issue can’t be separated from two larger contexts, and it’s about time we talk about this. We need to have an honest, frank conversation. When you talk about abortion and why there are so many people who are so ardently for abortion, in this case in Wisconsin, an 11-point margin for a devotedly, avowedly, pro-abortion Supreme Court Justice candidate, what can explain that?

Well, two things and I want us to think about both of these things for a moment. Number one, you have the issue of sex. Now, this is not often articulated as clearly and candidly as it should be, but we do need to understand that the abortion issue is part and parcel of the sexual revolution. Now, let me just draw that map very clearly.

You have people who want to have sex outside of marriage. They want sex in any form that they demand. They want to declare this to be sexual liberation. But given the way biology works, and particularly among those who are younger and healthier, biology works so that if a young man and a young woman engage in a certain activity, it will be likely to produce a baby. That baby, according to the logic of the new sexual liberationists, is a problem, a burden. It is a boundary that needs to be overcome.

And thus abortion, after the pregnancy is detected, turns out to be one of the issues that is necessary. If you are going to liberate human sexuality from moral principles, commands, and bounds, then you’re going to have to have a backstop. And let’s just note this clearly, abortion is depended upon by those engaged in such activities as the backstop. And hand in hand with that is the other part of the great moral revolution that took place in the last half of the 20th century when the gender feminists made the audacious argument that the only way that equality can be reached between men and women is if women are equally capable of being nonpregnant at any given moment as a man.

Now, that is not an argument consistent with nature. Nature does not promise to women that they have the opportunity at any given moment to be equally unpregnant as a man. That just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work on a farm, it doesn’t work on a college campus. But if you are going to claim this as the absolute priority and you’re willing to break moral bounds, then what will be the way out of this problem? And the way out is abortion.

And that was one of the arguments that was actually made before the Supreme Court in the arguments for Roe v. Wade, by those arguing for abortion on demand. That is a part of their argument. A woman must be equally capable of being unpregnant at any moment as is a man. So you also have to understand this. So you have all these college students, and of course all kinds of things are going on with those college students, the college campus.

It’s not accidental that when you put these young people together, everybody knows things are happening. The Christian college has the responsibility to try to keep them from happening. The secular society just says, “Well, kids are going to be kids. That’s just what they’re going to do.” And even many of these parents who might say they’re more morally conservative than their own kids, when it comes to their own kids, they turn into moral relativists. I think one of the saddest commentaries on our age is this vote in Wisconsin.

And that’s why we’re talking about it again, mostly because of this research coming from the liberal side published in The Washington Post. I think one of the saddest things about this is that our society really has become a society that says, “We need a backstop because after all, someone might forget to use a birth control method, or something might happen, and somebody might need an abortion.”

And here’s the deal, if you want that someone to have the right to have an abortion, then you’re going to have to say basically at any time, for any reason, and under any circumstance, and thus whether or not you want to admit it to yourself, you actually are for abortion on demand, even if it just means on your demand. All this just comes to remind Christians, and those who are so active and faithful in the pro-life movement, of the fact that the challenge before us is bigger than so many thought. Reversing Roe v. Wade certainly is not the end of the story, it’s really only a twist in the story. An important twist, a necessary act in order to take abortion on, but that’s exactly what we have done, and this is going to be a long battle. It’s going to be a costly battle. It’s going to be a very unpopular battle.

And one of the things we see in this data coming in from Wisconsin is that many parents need to understand that if they do not raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, they had better expect that their children could be represented in these numbers of college students turning out, when college students don’t often actually turn out, in order to vote for a pro-abortion Supreme Court candidate.

The proof of that, by the way, is that if you look at other statewide questions presented to Wisconsin voters, the margins are generally very, very narrow. And thus the question arises, why an 11-point margin on this issue? That tells us something, and what it tells us is very sad.

Part II

‘Unpopular in France and Untrusted Beyond It’: Macron Further Complicates Allyship to the West After Trip to China

But next, another big issue from the Christian worldview is the recognition that we live in a dangerous world, and in a dangerous world, every single nation needs to know who its friends are.

And when it comes to the United States of America, the leader of the West, that is to say western civilization, the defender of democracy and freedom, the leader of the Freedom Party of nations, at least America, has generally thought we pretty much know who our friends are. Interestingly, if you take the globe, or you take a map of the world, you could say, “Well, here are nations that are clearly allies of the United States and let’s just color them blue. And then over here are nations that are clearly not allies of the United States. In some ways, whether declared or not, enemies of the United States and the West.”

And so you could look at nations, particularly right now, you could look at Russia, but you could also look, most importantly perhaps, the rising competitor to the United States and the West that is China. And so you could color those nations red, and then you would have a lot of nations in the middle.

They would often be referred to as non-aligned, one of the big categories in the 20th century. But the fact is that if you look at the United States and our national allies, you’d at least like to think they would stay allies and act like allies. But this raises headline news that has raised an awful lot of eyebrows across the world, particularly in the free world, particularly in NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries, particularly among the countries that were allies in two horrifying World Wars in the 20th century.

Well, the eyebrows have been raised about France, and in particular about Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, and specifically about a trip he just made to China, in which he basically seemed to abandon all of his Western allies, and to try to create distance between France and the United States of America, declaring that it is in the interest of France that it develop its own independent foreign policy.

The Macron administration there in France has actually talked about developing France as a third superpower, and as something of an unallied nation, separating itself from the foreign policy ambitions of the United States. But that’s going to be very difficult, and it also just raises a lot of questions. For one thing, this is France. France, after all, that the United States of America had to rescue twice in the 20th century and did so at considerable expense in blood and treasure.

Yesterday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal included a headline story, Macron Renews Call For a Sovereign Europe. The article continues, “French President Emmanuel Macron called on Europe to forge its own sovereignty, in an address that risks heightening trans-Atlantic tensions, after he said on a trip to China last week that Europe shouldn’t be pulled into tensions between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan.”

But let’s just face the issues squarely. We have heard this before. It was heard throughout the 20th century. It was heard especially after World War II. It was heard from people such as Charles de Gaulle, who became the famous statesman president of France, and tried to create a whole new situation, in which France would be independent of other western nations, and forging its own place with majesty in the world.

The problem is, France can’t pull off what its presidents say, and what it declares to be its ambitions. And even as President Emmanuel Macron went to Beijing and basically sold out his Western allies, he did so knowing that France is under the protection of Western defense agreements, that actually are all that explains why France is France today. The New York Times yesterday reported, here’s the headline, “After Being Feted By Xi in China, Macron is Roasted By His Allies.” So he was celebrated in Beijing, but it turns out he’s made a lot of people angry in the west, and this includes his allies.

As Roger Cohen reports for The Times, “President Emmanuel Macron landed in China to a red carpet reception, and all the pomp of a state visit, a three hour tour, little short of a love fest that he clearly hoped would further his ambitions for France to sit at the table of great powers in a world changed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Beijing’s emergence as an arbiter of global conflict.” The Times went on honestly to say this, “The fallout from the China trip has left Mr. Macron more isolated than at any time in his six year presidency, unpopular in France and mistrusted beyond it.”

But here’s where Americans need to look back on history, and remember that for reasons that were to its own political advantage, but were also very advantageous to the United States as a fledgling nation, France came along as the determinative ally of the United States during the war we call the War of Revolution, or the Revolutionary War.

And it is crucial that we give the historical admission that without France in the period of the Revolutionary War, that history might have turned out very, very differently. But France has also, in the intervening 200 plus years, become a very complicated ally. And furthermore, France is a nation that is trapped in its history. That’s another lesson from a worldview perspective. Every nation has a history and sometimes that history can be so glorious in the memory of its citizens that it really doesn’t understand its place in the world now.

France looks back to the history of Christendom, and to France at the center of Europe, France as the center, the seat of civilization. It sees itself that way now, but just remember that France is also a very exposed nation, and France is also a nation that during the 20th century found itself invaded not once, but twice, by forces to its east, and in particular, Germany.

First of all, Imperial Germany leading to what would’ve been the fall of France in the First World War, and then Nazi Germany, which did lead to the fall of France, and basically the Nazi occupation of most of France for a period of years. France was liberated only by its friends. Charles de Gaulle was essential to forging a new French identity. And he basically did so often by trying to set France apart from the English-speaking tradition, in particular Britain and the United States of America.

And so France, by the way, became an independent nuclear power, and it has intended for much of its history, in, say, the last 60 or 70 years, to have an independent foreign policy. But France is after all France, with all the history, with all the grandeur, with all the interesting twists and turns, with everything from, say, the French monarchy to the French Revolution.

But France is also the France of the 20th century, and the world in which we live is the world of the 21st century, a very dangerous world. And a world in which, quite honestly, France cannot survive on its own. And a world in which, if you’re talking about the power centers of the world, Paris is just not the center of world politics. The Biden administration is unquestionably disappointed in Macron, but it has fallen to some others to make more vocal comments.

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, released a video as the time says, he asked the question, does Macron speak for all of Europe? Is Macron now the head of Europe? Because if he is, there are going to be some things we’re going to have to change. As the paper says, one change he suggested might be this: you guys handle Ukraine.

By the way, on that score, it should be at least humiliating to Macron that even as he wants to have an independent foreign policy, and he doesn’t want to be dragged into the foreign policy of the United States, even with the war in Ukraine, a lot more threatening to France directly than to the United States, France has been one of the nations that has come up considerably short in helping Ukraine in this battle. Perhaps that visit to China helps to explain that fact.

Part III

They Will Not Only Target the Catholics: Religious Liberty for Evangelicals isNot Safe When Government Agencies Target Catholic Organizations

But finally, from a worldview perspective, thinking as Christians, we understand that the word sovereign is a very important word, and most importantly, we are reminded of the fact that there’s only one true sovereign, and that is the one true and living God. His sovereignty means his absolute rule, his absolute authority, his infinitely greater authority than any other authority that exists. Because after all, he has created and allowed every other authority. Every ruler, every nation, every prince, every principality is that which is created or allowed by God, period.

None of them is truly sovereign. And that extends to the United States of America. In legal language, we speak of the United States of America being a sovereign nation, that is, a nation that stands on its own and that cannot be impinged upon, or have its authority compromised by anyone outside the United States of America.

But the United States of America is very powerful, but it is not truly sovereign. If we were truly sovereign, then our will would be unconditionally applied everywhere on planet Earth all the time. You may have noticed, that doesn’t happen. Kings, queens, other monarchs claim to be the sovereign this or the sovereign that. It’s just a reminder to us in biblical terms that the United States of America, no other nation, is actually sovereign. And by the way, that also applies to France. But one final thought on this, the likelihood is that due to mutual interests, the United States and France, and other allied nations, are going to continue to be allies.

And the reason is, there is very little choice to the contrary. We have very little choice but to have allies in a very dangerous world, and France actually knows that. But it just reminds us that at times in a fallen world, not only do we need allies, sometimes we’re going to be irritated by them. But now coming back to the United States, we have struggles here as well. And one of these is made very clear. For instance, it was reported by National Review, and it comes down to the fact that the Department of Justice has just recommended a sentence for, “A transgender individual who vandalized the St. Louise Catholic Church in Bellevue, Washington.”

And that recommended sentence is zero jail time. This particular individual, a 31-year-old male who identifies as a woman, “admitted to vandalizing the church last summer, smashing glass doors and spray-painting a number of profane messages, including,” I’m not about to read it but an attack upon Catholicism, and then, “rot in your fake hell,” and declaring the Catholic Church to be woman haters.

And this particular individual also “admitted to destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary, assaulting a church worker, and resisting arrest.” And the United States Department of Justice recommends zero jail time. Well, the incongruity of that explains why National Review has written this article, but it also explains why we have a series of headlines coming at us that are similarly troubling. And here’s where conservative Protestants need to understand that we really do have allies of our own.

When it comes to many of the struggles in our culture, whether we even think we need allies, in fact, we do. And when it comes to fighting fights, such as for the defense of the unborn, well, you do have allies. And one of the points is we are just as vulnerable to this kind of treatment as is the Roman Catholic Church. And so as you’re looking at this, you recognize some other recent headlines.

For example, headlines telling us that the FBI has been revealed to have an anti-Catholic bias, even with agents of the federal government keeping a list of organizations to be investigated that includes conservative Catholic organizations. But the point to remember here is if this is the way they’re going to treat conservative Catholics, you should not expect they will treat conservative evangelical Christians any better. Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri actually in recent weeks has made clear that one of the revelations in recent times is an FBI memo that talks about recruiting sources in the Catholic Church.

That’s right, you have law enforcement suggesting what we need are informants, sources, within the Roman Catholic Church. Again, I tell you, if they will do this to the Roman Catholic Church, then they will do this to the Southern Baptist Convention, or to any other evangelical body or organization.

But all this just reminds us that it really matters who’s in the White House, who establishes an administration, who actually appoints the director of the FBI, and in this case, even more importantly, the Attorney General of the United States, and thus sets the direction of the United States Department of Justice. The Biden Administration, through the Department of Justice, has made much of its agenda already clear. Investigating pro-lifers, and in this case, recommending no jail time for someone who vandalized a Catholic Church, and did so in rather remarkable ways, and also had assaulted a church worker.

There’s a lot to watch around the world, and as we know, there’s a lot to watch in our country as well. We are witnessing a vast shift in the entire moral structure of this civilization, and it’s going to show up, this vast shift, in many interesting headlines, in many troubling developments, and it will be our task to follow them together.

All this also underlines for me the importance of making sure our churches are gospel churches preaching the Scripture.

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R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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