The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Monday, May 8, 2023

It’s Monday, May 8th, 2023.

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

Part I

Long Live the King: The Coronation of King Charles III in All of Its Continuity and Discontinuity

Well, hundreds of millions of people around the world paid attention to and some watched live the coronation of King Charles III there in Westminster Abbey in London. There hadn’t been a coronation like this in almost exactly 70 years in British history, and no one puts on a coronation like the English, or more updated terminology now would be the British.

It didn’t start out that way. It started out with majesty, but simplicity, almost in exactly the same spot in Westminster Abbey, something like almost exactly 1,000 years ago. So as you’re looking at the history of civilization, and particularly the history of Western civilization, individually in the English-speaking tradition, it is hard to come up with anything more traditional than this.

And tradition is what the event was all about, except where it was about the opposite. And we’re going to try to look at both sides in just some analysis today. Because from a Christian worldview perspective, there were massive issues that were there put on view. And not only put on view, but openly heard as well. For one thing, the people observing that ceremony heard more Scripture in the English language than most have probably heard in the last year, several years, maybe decades, maybe ever, because it was a service saturated in Christian language and in Scripture. Just a lot of Scripture, and that elegant in the King James version, what in Britain is known as the authorized version.

And as you looked at the service, you would know that this was a country that defined itself as Christian. Even has an established church, the Church of England. And this king is not only a Christian king, he had to make an oath as a Protestant king, and there’s a lot of British history that is involved in that, some of that history produced what we now know as the United States of America and our own system.

King Charles III, in many ways, a thoroughly post-modern, if not post-Christian king, he very much wanted to send those signals together. Overwhelmingly, the weight was on tradition because after all, without tradition, without the majesty, without the ceremony, without the historical claims, there really isn’t a hereditary monarchy, so we wouldn’t even be talking about King Charles III, but of course we are.

And it is because of that continuity, it is because of that heredity, it is because of that long claim to majesty and tradition in Britain’s system in which the king is the head of state, and a very celebrated head of state at that. And an actual head of state, not just a figurehead that’s often misspoken by Americans. He is an actual head of state. He just has nothing directly to do with the operation of the government. That’s a very different thing.

In the United States, we have a unitary executive. The head of state and head of government are the very same person in the chief executive of the United States, who is the president. The continuity discontinuity theme was reflected upon by Mark Landler in his report for the New York Times in which he says, “Anointed with holy oil and enthroned on St. Edwards chair, King Edward III was crowned on Saturday and a solemn ritual that stretches back more than a millennium, but unfolded with multiple concessions to the modern age.” And so things don’t change and they can’t change, except they do change and they must change. And so King Charles III and the British people were trying to put together a spectacle that would say two things at once, and that’s a very hard thing to pull off.

So how exactly did they make the effort to say two things at once? Well, they said tradition. King James authorized version language. Long, long coronation, liturgy, historic words, constitutional language drawn from the British tradition. And of course, making a claim all the way back a 1,000 years and even hundreds of years with the same chair, the same piece of furniture, and you’re making a very long claim. Things don’t change. But then you are making another claim, things have changed. What was the evidence of that? Well, for one thing, you had so many women participating in the service, that’s not so controversial, and indeed in reality, there wasn’t much that was controversial about this service because most people in England are too secular to care.

But the innovation this time, as contrasted with 70 years prior in the coronation of the mother of King Charles II, that would be Queen Elizabeth II, there were no women bishops back then 70 years ago. And women bishops were very visible, and intentionally so, in the coronation of King Charles III. There isn’t a woman as the archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican communion, but nonetheless, there are women bishops and they had a role.

There was also an effort to try to be representative of Britain as it is now, and that’s understandable by the way. That’s a discontinuity that isn’t just the case in terms of this ceremony. It’s actually a reflection of Britain as it has changed over the course of the last 70 years. It is in many ways, certainly demographically, a very different nation. It is a very different nation in theological terms, a far more secular nation. As a matter of fact, it’s very hard to exaggerate just how much more secular it is now than even it was 70 years ago.

This was the very first time that representatives openly of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Sikhism were actually a part of the ceremony, and identified as such. It was still officially a Church of England ceremony, and this is still the king, the sovereign of Great Britain and the United Kingdom, who is also the earthly head of the Church of England. And thus, you have a theological, an ecclesial role for the British King that needless to say is not borne by an American president, and we can be thankful for that.

In the course of the ceremony on Saturday, the king was not only surrounded by great deal of scripture and by the Christian tradition in a Christian place of worship that was overseen by explicitly Christian clergy, at least by identification. You also had the king required to take an oath that included a pledge that he would defend not just the Christian faith but the Protestant faith. Again, English and British history go a long way in explaining why that is necessary. All you have to do is go back to the 17th century, and all will be explained as you move forward.

Now on last Friday’s edition of The Briefing, I spoke to this in anticipation of the ceremony and I wanted to help listeners to watch for and listen for certain things that were to happen. Well, now we’re on the other side of the ceremony and it’s at this point I want to draw attention to a very different dimension, and this is not one that was much discussed at all, and that’s actually my main point. What was discussed? Well, all the tradition indeed, even the innovations, what was discussed was the beauty of the service.

What was discussed by many, including many Christians, was how much Christian language and how much Christian text was used in the course of the ceremony. You would’ve thought that Britain has a very live, very vibrant, very current Christian faith, but we know that’s not actually the case. What it does have is a Christian tradition. And you also have a secular country that simply has to have something more than secular in order to claim legitimacy and continuity.

And so there was what I would describe as an explicit borrowing, or at least a temporary retrieval of the authority of Christianity in a culture that really doesn’t want much authority from Christianity the other days of the year.

Part II

Defender of Faith and Dissenter of Marriage? The Moral Discontinuity of King Charles III and Queen Camilla

But I want to get to something else, and that was something that was seen but wasn’t much discussed in terms of the coronation. Let’s just think about it in these terms. The coronation went off pretty much as planned. There was enough pomp and ceremony for anyone, invoking 1,000 years of history. And even though the king said this was a slimmed-down coronation compared to the coronation of his mother 70 years ago, it was somewhat, but not much. It still took between three and a half and four hours as you actually document what took place there in Westminster Abbey.

The king did take the title, Defender of the Faith. That was an issue of controversy because as prince of Wales, the king, very new age in his worldview, indicated that he wanted to be defender of faith. That is religious faith in general, rather than the faith, the Christian faith, much less something as specific as the faith of Protestantism to which his kingdom was committed.

Nonetheless, the king doesn’t have the right to change the coronation oath. He doesn’t have a right to change those titles. That’s something actually that requires legislation and parliament, the British government, wasn’t going along with his plans for change. And so he wanted the crown, he took the crown and he took all of the titles, including his pledge that he would be defender of the faith. The problem is no one really is taking very seriously the pledge of King Charles III, that he’s going to defend the Christian faith, or specifically the Protestant Christian faith, that was very much what was required of those who came before him in previous generations, particularly since what was called the Glorious Revolution in Britain.

But my point is that the ceremony seemed quite successfully last Saturday to have communicated long and stable continuity. At the same time, here’s what I want us to see, it wasn’t discussed, it wasn’t talked about, but anyone looking at that ceremony last Saturday actually saw an absolute revolution in morality displayed in that most traditionalist ceremonies, in that most traditional of settings.

The liturgy, the Scripture readings, the vestments, the robes, the boy choir, the orb, the scepter, all that, all communicated established an unshakable authority based upon unbreakable moral principles rooted in scriptural truth. It was meant to invoke stable convictions and fixed moral principles. But here’s what I want us to see. We need to be honest about this. In one unmistakable sense, it was all, all of it, a lie.

Now, it wasn’t a lie about history, although it did imply more continuity than a secularized British society can deliver honestly. But when I say in one unmistakable sense it was all a lie, it has to do not so much with the monarchy by itself, but with the monarchy and the issue of marriage. The great revolution that has taken place in western civilization over the course of the last century is made abundantly tragically, painfully clear as you look at the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla there in Westminster Abbey last Saturday.

The coronation of the two together refutes the claim of the British monarchy to adhere to fixed principles and to adhere to Christian morality. This ceremony underlining just how much has changed, not continued unchanged, but how much has changed over the course of the last several decades in Britain.

Let’s just remind ourselves, here’s some British history. It’s really important and it makes a huge point about the discontinuity in morality, in marriage, in sexuality and gender that has taken place in the West during the last century. And in particular, even just the last 75 to 80 years, and at high velocity the last 20 to 30 years. Let’s just remind ourselves of something.

King Charles and Queen Camilla are just two generations removed, that’s just two generations, that means grandfather and great-grandfather, they’re just two generations removed from a moral scandal that nearly destroyed, nearly brought down the British monarchy. That scandal was so toxic, it actually threatened the throne itself. King George V, a model of rectitude arguably saved the British monarchy from the terminal state that befell so many other monarchies in Europe.

You look at the opening of the 20th century, the end of the 19th century, you look by the conclusion of World War I, think of all the monarchies, the historic aristocracies and monarchies, the royal houses that fell. Most catastrophically, of course, you would look at King George V of Britain’s cousin, the last czar, the late Czar Nicholas II.

The problem wasn’t George the V. George the V, in a very real sense, saved the monarchy by his rectitude, by his integrity, by his calmness. He was boring, and that was actually a great achievement for a monarch in the beginning of the 20th century. King George V had an enormous sense of duty. Unfortunately, he was unable to pass that on to his eldest son, the prince of Wales, who upon the death of King George V, became King Edward VIII. And all you have to do is say that name to know here you have absolute disaster.

King Edward VIII, as prince of Wales, had begun an adulterous relationship with an American woman. She was not only once divorced, she was married to another man, and she was in the process of divorcing him at the time she was committing adultery with the prince of Wales. After King George V died, and by the way, King George V was very clear about the danger presented by his eldest son. He said, “After I am dead, that boy will ruin himself within 12 months.”

Well, it turned out that King George V was an optimist. He ruined himself in much less than a year. King Edward VIII, his father dismissed as, “that boy,” in less than just one year would ruin himself and nearly ruin the entire monarchy. Now, the soap opera part is known to most Americans, if it’s known somewhat in antique hues.

As prince of Wales, Edward fell in love with and committed adultery with an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. Mrs. Simpson is how the British press came to refer to her. As I said, she’d already been once divorced. She was then married to another man, she was divorcing him, at least we were told she was divorcing him. But in any event, she committed adultery with the prince of Wales before he became king, and that adulterous affair continued when King Georgia V died, and Edward VIII ascended to the throne. Now, a royal affair is one thing. In British history, there are too many to count. But a monarch married to a divorced woman twice eventually divorced, that posed a constitutional crisis.

The reason for that is that the Church of England could not have as supreme governor a head, as the human leader of the church, the monarch of the king of England, who was living in adultery. And because the Church of England did not allow remarriage after divorce and didn’t recognize this situation as a legitimate marriage in any potential sense, well, the Church of England would’ve had to refuse to acknowledge the king, the sovereign of the nation, who would, according to the church’s doctrine back in the 1930s, be committing adultery by his relationship with this married woman eventually twice divorced.

The British people liked the idea of a King Edward VIII. After all, they’d had the boring George V, and they were interested in this very young and vigorous and handsome and interesting prince, but that affection did not transfer into open moral rebellion and moral turpitude. The British king is also the earthly head of the Church of England, you know that.

And the Church of England then held to a doctrine that made recognition of marriage between Edward and Wallis impossible. Thus, had Edward married Wallis outside of the Church of England, the church of which he was the head would declare him an open adulterer. The Church of England eventually refused to bend. The king was determined to marry Mrs. Simpson, so he had to choose being king or marrying Mrs. Simpson. He decided to marry Mrs. Simpson. Thus came what was known as the abdication crisis of 1936, and the king was forced to choose Wallis or the crown. As you know, he made his choice. The rest is history, as they say.

But it’s interesting the history is still unfolding through the release of documents from the period, documents that were in one sense, rather understandably, not immediately visible, but now we know they were also deliberately hidden. For one thing, it is now crystal clear that both Edward and Wallis were Nazi sympathizers, in communication with the top echelon of the Third Reich. Britain’s former king was not only an adulterer and an airhead, he was also a traitor and of the worst sort.

The new monarch, that would be Edward VIII’s younger brother, King George VI, he was boring again, but he brought integrity and credibility to the British crown. And that very stability, along with his wife, Queen Elizabeth, gave great comfort and security to the country during the trial of World War II. King George VI’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, mother to the newly crowned King Charles III, would add to that luster and credibility. It would also, we need to note, come at great personal cost over the issue of marriage. Not her own marriage, but the potential marriage of her sister, Princess Margaret.

As elder sister, and particularly as queen in this situation, Elizabeth upheld convictions against marrying a divorced spouse by refusing to grant royal ascent to the marriage of her sister, Princess Margaret, to a divorced military officer, Group Captain Peter Townsend. That was in the mid-1950s, soon after Elizabeth took the throne. Marriage was unquestionable, divorce was unthinkable. The monarchy must be above approach. The Church of England could not approve.

That brings us back to Saturday’s spectacle in Westminster Abby, when the divorced King Charles III was crowned with his divorced Queen Camilla, with the entire world, knowing that the two had carried on a sexual affair while Charles, prince of Wales, was married to Diana, princess of Wales. We will forgo any recitation of the tawdry tale of Charles and Camilla, other than to note that what was unthinkable in 1936, even unthinkable again in 1955, was hardly remarked upon in 2023.

Charles and Camilla, we need to note, went far beyond anything contemplated by Edward and Wallis in 1936 or Princess Margaret and Group Captain Townsend in 1955. In both of those cases, it’s amazing we have to say this, in both of those cases, only one of the two had been divorced, that was enough to make the marriage impossible. With Charles and Camilla, it’s both, and worse, and it happened, and they were crowned king and queen on Saturday. The real tragedy, and here’s what we need to note as Christians, the real tragedy is that in our world today, marriage has been so subverted, adultery has now been so celebrated and divorce has become routine that no one seems to have noticed just how jarring the images of King Charles and Queen Camilla should appear.

I looked at so many media reports, and it’s so much of the media coverage, and what was noted is that basically nothing was said, just a couple of oblique references, a couple of historical necessities. But what would’ve been an international scandal raising to the level of the morally impossible became the, well, just basically unremarkable in the highly secularized and morally liberalized world of 2023.

Now, I’m an anglophile and I cherish the tradition, I also mourn so much of what is in the present. I claim the history, the shared history of the English-speaking peoples. And I want to remind people that the British monarchy is actually vital to understanding the American system of government, not because we have a monarchy, but precisely because the monarchy against which we defined ourselves, but still sought to establish continuity with in terms of government structure is actually the monarchy of Great Britain.

The ceremony on Saturday was supposed to be an affirmation of things that do not change, and so many people watching it seem to be reassured, look, nothing’s changing. Everything’s the same. Look at the pictures in the coordination of George V, of George VI, of Elizabeth II, of Charles III. Look how much they look alike. And yet as you look at the picture, it’s actually remarkably different than that which came before.

Sadly, seen in light of marriage and sexual morality and responsibility to children and the stability of the family, what the world saw Saturday in that coronation is that all these now matter very little. All the post-Christian world can hope for is to salvage a little of what was lost and put on a good show.

And as we saw on Saturday, the world still knows how to put on a good show.

Part III

Seriously? WHO Declares End of Pandemic and CDC Meeting Leads to Coronavirus Outbreak

But next, we’re going to shift to talk about something we haven’t talked about in a while, and that’s COVID. So why are we talking about it today? It’s because several days ago, the WHO, that is the World Health Organization, officially declared that the COVID pandemic is over. The World Health Organization declared an end to what it had declared as the COVID-19 emergency. As the Wall Street Journal said, “Signaling that one of the most deadly and economically-devastating pandemics in modern history is receding as the disease that caused it becomes a routine illness.”

Now, this is the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Again, this is going to turn out to be important. I quote, “COVID-19 is here to stay, but the pandemic has been in a downward trend for more than a year because people around the world have built up immunity to the virus, the WHO said on Friday. Mortality’s also decreased, and there is less pressure on health systems. The trends have enabled most countries to return to pre-pandemic life, even as COVID-19 continues to spread end.”

So that probably doesn’t sound like big news to most Americans, but it still turns out to be something that’s important and the timing on this and the language of this are both very interesting. The timing is coming so late that most people around the world aren’t likely to pay that much attention. But the language is also interesting because what is declared to be over is not of course COVID-19, but the pandemic emergency, the COVID-19 emergency.

And again, at this point I’m mentioning it because it doesn’t appear to be coming so early. It appears to be coming really, really late. But it also turns out, as you might have guessed, to be a little more complicated, because there were other headlines in recent days, and it was the Wall Street Journal that pointed to this headline. The headline had come just a few days before, and it has to do with this. There has been an outbreak of COVID reported by, in the US, the Centers for Disease Control. Where was the outbreak of COVID?

Well, it turns out it was at a meeting called by the Centers for Disease Control. CDC spokesperson, Kristen Nordlund said in an email reported by the Wall Street Journal, “CDC,” that’s the Centers for Disease Control, “is working with the Georgia Department of Health to conduct a rapid epidemiological assessment of confirmed COVID-19 cases that appear to be connected to the 2023 EIS conference to determine transmission patterns.”

Well, the most important pattern is, evidently, this can all be traced to the meeting at the Centers for Disease Control about COVID. It turned out that the meeting about COVID spread COVID. The journal went on to report, “Nordlund said the CDC reported the cases to state health officials who have authority over the location where the conference occurred. Attendees said many people at the gathering did not mask, socially distance or take other precautions that the CDC has recommended earlier in the pandemic. ‘This is, unfortunately, the new normal,’ said an infectious disease expert named Jay Varma. Varma also added that individuals and organizations should continue to take coronavirus precautions to protect themselves and the most vulnerable as needed.”

So it turns out that these people attending a conference held by the Centers for Disease Control about COVID-19 didn’t take those precautions. The interesting question is, why were they taking the test? There was no report about how many of those who tested positive, the number we were given as 35, there’s no note about how many of them had any kind of symptoms whatsoever.

This might have something to do with the fact that just as the nation went into the weekend, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control, said that she would be leaving that office. Stepping aside, I love the way the Wall Street Journal again puts it, “after more than two years on the job.”

Two years on the job is supposed to be a long career? After more than two years on the job it’s just too much? Well, let’s note this is a very highly-politicized office and a very politicized environment. In all fairness, it’s a tough situation for anyone to function in that role. But it’s also fair to say that over the last few years, the Centers for Disease Control have not come out unscathed in terms of public attention and outrage over the way so many of the COVID-19 issues were handled. In retrospect, many of those policies are not looking very good at all.

But it certainly seems to be ironic that even in the week in which the director’s resignation was announced, it was also announced that the CDC, responsible for tracking all of this, tracked at least part of the problem to its own meeting. Somehow this particular news article looks in some sense, a little less like a news article and a little more like a modern parable.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to

I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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