The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Monday, May 22, 2023

It’s Monday, May 22nd, 2023.

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

Part I

Political Impasse Broken in Nebraska: Historic Legislative Session Leads to Double Issue Bill on Abortion and Transgender Questions

State by state, there have been so many headlines these days on issues of extreme moral and cultural importance but, right now, the most interesting headline is probably coming from the state of Nebraska. On Friday, an impasse was finally broken in the unicameral Nebraska Legislature. That is to say the Nebraska legislature doesn’t have a house in the Senate, it has only one chamber, rather than bicameral meaning two, it’s unicameral meaning one. There’s a Republican majority and that majority have been working towards passing legislation that would restrict transgender treatments for teenagers and children, and also would offer protection for unborn life.

The latter provision ran into a legislative problem when at least one of the Republicans, who had been expected to vote for the bill, said that he would not. He offered his rationale, the fact that some women might not yet know they are pregnant, even as the limitation on legal abortion had already passed. Now, put that moral argument aside for just a moment. We will return to it.

The big issue here is the political impasse. In a stroke of what one side would consider genius and the other side would consider perhaps deviousness or political expediency, the pro-lifers and those seeking to put a limitation or a ban on transgender treatment for minors put the thing together in one bill. The two different issues were addressed in one bill and it eventually, on Friday, passed in the Nebraska Legislature.

The ban that passed limits abortion after 12 weeks of gestation. That’s a later period than had been previously attempted but it is, at this point, a more significant limitation on abortion than had been put in place in Nebraska. Big lessons for the pro-life movement here and also for those very concerned about the transgender revolution. It turns out that these two issues were rather artificially put together, but then again, even as this was done for a political reason in order to get this bill through the Nebraska Legislature in time, the fact is that Christians understand that all these issues are tied together anyway. They’re not tied together in ways that can always be reduced to one piece of legislation but, let’s face it, if you look at the supporters and the opponents of both of these bills, or at least on both of these issues put into one bill, they basically are going to line up very much the same, and that tells us a lot about the worldview divide in this country.

The developments in Nebraska also point to something else we need to watch, and we’re going to have to be looking at this very, very carefully. You see a lot of politicians getting weak knees on some of these issues, political opposition and, for that matter, media opposition, the larger context of the culture. We now see the fact that post the reversal of Roe v. Wade, some number of those who had posed and run on a platform of being pro-life appear to be getting weak knees. We’re going to have to be watching this very carefully. Huge questions, political questions, moral questions are going to be involved here. It’s going to demand an awful lot of attention.

Looking at Nebraska as a microcosm here, Jennifer Calfas, reporter for the Wall Street Journal, put it this way, “The vote,” meaning this one bill on the two issues, “marks the culmination of an historic legislative session in Nebraska where heated and personal debates have deeply divided the nonpartisan legislature.” Now what does that mean, a nonpartisan state legislature? Well, it means the political setup for the legislature there in the state of Nebraska means that there is not a D or an R beside a name when a candidate is running for office. At least officially, the single body legislature there in Nebraska is nonpartisan.

But, in truth, it’s anything but. People can figure out the math here and understand that even if they don’t see the R and they don’t see the D, the policies held by these politicians clearly align at the national level at the very least. For that matter, in state politics except for the legislature, you definitely have an R or a D. Again, the worldview divide sometimes reducible to the symbolism of just one letter of the alphabet.

Part II

Human Work and Human Dignity: The Political and Moral Disagreement Over Welfare Work Requirements Exposed

All right. Let’s turn next to a big issue in our national political conversation and it just might blow up over the next day or so. The urgency here is that you have the President and congressional leaders at least saying that they’re working towards some kind of political resolution to the nation’s debt crisis.

Let’s just remind ourself what that means. It doesn’t mean they’re actually dealing with the debt crisis. It means that what they’re dealing with is the expiration of the nation’s debt limit and the fact that Congress and the President, one way or another, are going to have to agree on a new national debt limit in order to authorize actual federal borrowing for what the legislators and the President have already enacted.

Now, there’s a huge worldview issue here, of course, having to do with federal spending. One of the things we need to recognize is that that worldview issue comes down to one very interesting bone of contention between the President and the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. This one turns out to have huge significance. We don’t know exactly how it will play out in the end game of these negotiations. That may just underline why we need to talk about it today.

One of the proposals, you might even say demands, of the Republican majority in the House is that if they are going to adopt a higher debt ceiling for the United States government, they want some limitations on spending. They want some fiscal responsibility. One of the suggestions that the Republicans are making, and it’s tied to previous suggestions as well, is the fact that recipients of welfare aid ought to have to work if indeed they are able-bodied and not taking care of children. Now, you would think that, on the one hand, that would be rather non-controversial, but let’s look at the math for a moment. If you look at the recipients of the major social spending programs, we’re not talking about social security, we’re talking about welfare programs and, if you are looking at those programs, only one out of four who are identified as able-bodied adults are actually working.

Even as you’re looking at this, that’s a snapshot in time, but let’s face it, that’s not good news, especially when you operate out of the assumption that, even in moral terms, not just economic terms, we ought to work and work ought to be a part of our responsibility. But here’s where you see a huge political collision playing out and it’s playing out in real time. The President of the United States basically said that he would not agree to any meaningful work requirement or increase in the work requirement for the recipients of welfare at the federal level.

You’ve also had several people in the Democratic Party, congressional leaders, senate leaders, they’ve come out and said, “We won’t support and indeed we will oppose any agreement that might be reached between the Republicans and the President that would include an increased work requirement.” The howls from the ideological left are as loud as imaginable at this point, with national newspapers running front page stories telling us that so-called progressives in the house and the Senate may openly break with the President over this.

Now, what would be wrong with arguing that recipients of welfare should work? Well, for one thing, you have some of the people on the left saying it’s just not right morally to link these issues. And then, you have those on the right saying it is absolutely right morally to link these issues. Once again, we have a genuine political disagreement in this country and, once again, it points to an even more fundamental moral disagreement in this country.

The political issue is a work requirement for welfare or an increased requirement of anyone receiving welfare who’s, again, able-bodied and not taking care of children, they should get into the workforce. But there are also some technical issues that arise here. For one thing, how do they confirm that they’re in the workforce? That requires usually some kind of digital transmission but, of course, employers can do that because they have to make digital transmissions about every single employee all the time.

One of the complaints being made by the Democratic left is that this would be an onerous burden on those who are receiving welfare. It would be unfair. Some of them have even said unjust. Just let that settle in for a moment. It would be unjust to require people to find a job within a reasonable amount of time if they are able to work and, again, not taking care of children. Now, the latter two points are also interesting because there are some people who find themselves or arrange themselves to be identified or diagnosed as unable to work. One of the problems in the welfare system is that it is virtually now impossible to find out how many of those exceptions are legitimate, but you’ll notice the Republicans didn’t even go at that definitional issue. They just want to say if there are those who are clearly able-bodied, they ought to, within a reasonable amount of time, find some kind of work.

But then, on the other hand, you have those, again, the exception is for those taking care of children. Now, as you look at that, you also recognize that’s a very big concession on the part of Republicans in the House because some of those persons are both bodily and financially able to work but, nonetheless, the Republicans decided we’re just not going to touch that. If these recipients of the federal aid programs are taking care of children or dependents, then we’re not going to impose new or increased work requirements on those people. That still is an enormous number of people, by some estimations over half of all welfare recipients who would not meet either of those exceptions.

Interestingly, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal sought to cut through the clouds here and the editors wrote, “Voters may think food stamps and Medicaid are temporary backstops for Americans who fall on rough times, but that is no longer true. Both programs have become large and permanent entitlements reminiscent of the European dole.”

Now, the European dole means a basic state guaranteed income of some level, regardless of whether one works or not. That has not turned out to be morally good for Europeans and the clear reality here is that the Christian worldview tells us why. We’re actually made for action. We are made for work.

Not all of us, at any given time, are physically capable of work. We’re not talking about putting the elderly or children in the workplace. But when it comes to those who are adults and able-bodied, the default position is that those persons, all of us, should be working and should be contributing, should be offering labor. Labor should be tied to reasonable reward. That reasonable reward should be tied to authentic labor, that is authentic work, contribution.

The other language in that sentence that’s important comes down to the two words entitlement programs. These entitlement programs are called that because the argument is that if persons meet certain criteria, they are entitled to this funding. Now, conservatives for a very long time and a lot of Christians thinking about this have been very concerned about this kind of language because an entitlement, well, that really does assume a whole lot. For one thing, it is simply not true that there would be such an entitlement globally.

There’s no global government to pay these benefits. There’s no global source of revenue to pay such a level of income. But even in just one country, in the United States, that really does create a class of a certain number of people, and in this case tens of millions of people who basically just live off of these entitlement programs and they are absolutely convinced they are entitled to them.

Am I arguing that no one’s entitled to them? No. There are those society has decided who are unable to work. They’re unable to take care of themselves. They might have a physical or mental disability. But we also know, at the same time, that that entire system is being abused and, frankly, we have people abusing it who are telling us that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Now, on the political left, you have figures such as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who, by the way, let’s just remind ourselves, identifies as a socialist, in his case as a Democratic Socialist. You have Senator Sanders, you have Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, you have others on the left coming out saying that any work requirement is morally wrong. Increasing any work requirement is unbelievably wrong. Furthermore, they have made very clear their threats to the Biden administration that if the President caves even a little bit on this, they are going to oppose the President even if that means a failure to reach an agreement to forestall a default on the national debt.

Here you see that, for one thing on the left and on the right, you have what can only be described as a genuine disagreement. This is not a misunderstanding. This is a genuine disagreement. Agreed to the same terms, you have two parties in the United States and two polarities in the United States who basically agree on what is at stake but, in moral terms, they see the answer to what is right in diametrically opposite patterns. You see that very clearly in this current debate.

How will it end up in the negotiations over raising the debt ceiling? No one knows because, in the context of what amounts to combat by politics, just about any outcome is conceivable here. But Christians looking at this need to understand that at least a part of what we have accomplished in this country is to take care of certain people that all Americans would say need to have some form of assistance. But, at the same time, we have created a dependency class in the United States and a political class in the United States that, A, benefits directly by these taxpayer funded federal programs and also funds a professional class of bureaucrats to run all these programs.

When it comes to both of those constituencies, the political left in the United States says hands off. Here’s where the panic is coming on the left, and I think even President Biden may have been slightly surprised by this, as much as he’s been catering to the left wing of his party. It appears that the White House was taken slightly by surprise simply because they don’t understand that for those on the political left, there can be no reduction in the levels of funding and spending on these programs because any reduction in spending would be a net political defeat that would set a precedent that might lead to further demands for other changes in these programs as well. At least we understand what’s going on here. If the White House doesn’t get it, they soon will.

One final thought on this issue. The American people are overwhelmingly for an increased work requirement when it comes to these so-called entitlement programs. About that, the American public is very clear. Why? It’s because most people in the United States understand very clearly that there’s a basic principle that is right between work and reward. Subverting that principle, by any means, is simply wrong. It’s wrong when it comes to individuals. It’s wrong when it comes to a society.

Something else to watch here, as we conclude on this issue, one of the ways the Washington game has played is to say, if you threaten cuts to the programs I like, I will threaten cuts to the programs you like. Sometimes that means entitlement programs and social spending is put on the one hand and defense and military spending is put on the other hand.

The war in Ukraine is likely to put an interesting wrinkle on that right now because, with a Democratic president with a Democratic administration very much for funding the war in Ukraine, even as American military resources are being depleted and are going to have to be renewed, it’s going to be very, very hard for the left wing of the Democratic Party to explain to the American people why now, at all moments, it would be right to cut back on defense and military spending.

Part III

Will Ukraine Fly American F-16 Jets?: The Biden Administration Possibly Allowing Transfer of Coveted U.S. Fighter Planes to Ukraine — Why?

But next, I want to shift to another big issue, and I admit this one’s at the intersection of my own personal interest and big worldview boundary issues as well. What am I talking about? I’m talking about the rather unexpected announcement by the American administration that the United States may drop its absolute opposition to F-16 fighter planes being sent to Ukraine in order to gain increased air superiority over Ukraine in its defense against the Russian invasion.

We’re talking about the F-16 fighter, an American made fighter that goes all the way back to its announcement in 1974 and its eventual first deployment in 1978. Known variously as the Fighting Falcon and as the Viper, the F-16 is considered an air superiority fighter that is much envied by the rest of the world. How many of them have been made? Well, I think you’d be shocked by the number. At this point, the fighter, at least originally made by General Dynamics, has sold in numbers of over 4000, 4609 by one official count. The discussion is moving at least enough of them to Ukraine, one way or another, that would make a difference in terms of the nation defending itself.

Now, lots of questions here. Number one, why did the American Administration flip on the issue? Why was it originally opposed to sending the F-16? Why would any F-16s that are sent to Ukraine go directly from other countries rather than from the United States? Fascinating questions. Why is the F-16 a fourth generation fighter and why does that matter? Well, let’s just think about it for a few moments. Officially, the F-16 is known as a single engine multitask military aircraft. It’s often described as a fighter, but it’s more than a fighter. It’s more than just a fighter and an interceptor. It’s capable of a wide array of military operations. It is also agile and it is fast, very fast. It is also extremely effective and it’s battle tested against the fourth generation Soviet, or now Russian, fighters.

Now, what are we talking about? We talk about generations of fighters. That sounds kind of unusual to people, but let’s just remind ourselves of how the jet fighter came to be. Both sides had jet fighters by the end of World War II. Many people are familiar with the Me 262, the Messerschmitt that the Nazis had invented. They’re unaware that both Britain and the United States also had jet fighters but, quite frankly, they were quite unpredictable and none of these made a major difference in the war. The Me 262 might have if it had been deployed earlier.

In some of the big ifs thinking about World War II, you have to ask whether or not if those funds have been put into other uses by the Nazis, whether the war might have extended longer. If they had put more into the development of the 262, perhaps it would have achieved air superiority. It never really threatened. But nonetheless, the first generation fighters were the first generation of military jet aircraft and they now look rather unsophisticated by contemporary measures. They were, of course, subsonic. But then by the 1950s, there was a second generation of fighter aircraft, jet fighters that had been developed, including on the Soviet side, the MIG 21, and on the American side, it was the F-104 Starfighter that was emblematic of these second generation fighters.

The third generation came in the 1960s, in particular with the development in the United States of the F-4 Phantom as it was known, a plane that was flown by just about every military branch during the period of the Cold War. Measured by contemporary standards, the F-4 Phantom was a very big airplane indeed. It was extremely powerful, but it was also primarily what was known as an interceptor. It was thought then that back, for instance in World War I and World War II, there were very real battles by dogfight, that was aerial combat between pilots and planes, that continued into the Korean War. But the Americans have been operating on the basis of just assuming that the dogfight was over. Vietnam and Korea underlined the fact that that was not true. And so, that led to pressure for the development of a fourth generation fighter and eventually what became known as generation 4.5, the F-15 and most importantly the F-16, are in that fourth generation category.

Again, the numbers are astounding. 4,609 acknowledged to have been built between 1978 and the present. But that leads to another understanding and that is that there have been huge technological advances between 1978 and 2023. And so, the planes that are being flown, they’re basically the same airframe but just about everything else has been updated to the extent that this fourth generation fighter is now one of the most preferred aircraft across all militaries. If they don’t have it, they’re envious of it. It is extremely agile and it’s not just an interceptor. It doesn’t just intercept enemy planes, it can engage those planes in military action and it can also be used as an air to ground weapon as well.

Now, before going to the question of Ukraine and the F-16s, let’s just remind ourselves that there is a fifth generation of fighters that includes, on the American side, the F-22 and arguably also the F-35. The F-22 known as Raptor. It’s often referred to as a stealth aircraft, a stealth fighter. The same is true of the F-35. The F-22 is made in relatively limited numbers but it is, right now, very much envied on both sides of the conflict between the United States and Russia. Russia, of course, is mostly flying aircraft developed in the Soviet era, some of them very advanced. Most of them, however, basically stuck in that fourth generation category.

As you’re looking at Ukraine, you see Ukraine seeks the opportunity to have what basically amounts to an updated F-16 that would give it the chance of some real air superiority. Right now, what they have are very old Russian aircraft. Now, a lot to be thought about here in worldview terms. Why would the President of the United States change his mind? Well, it could be for any number of reasons but, for one thing, you’re talking about a global conversation among those who are the allies of Ukraine at present.

Now, we’re going to be talking on The Briefing about the fact that there’s some huge decision points on Ukraine that are coming. For one thing, the United States has said that Ukraine gets to decide unilaterally when this war is over and what its aims are. No one actually believes that the American government is going to stand by that, nor other governments as well. But it’s also interesting that, in the beginning of this, the Americans had to basically force the issue with a lot of Europeans, but the Europeans are running with the issue now. If those F-16s are eventually sent to Ukraine, they are likely to be sent from the Air Forces or the reserve capacity of America’s allies in Europe. They’re not going to be going directly from the United States. For one thing, no one wants the international conflict of an American aircraft that had once flown American colors and America insignia somehow getting over Russian territory. That would lead to complications nobody wants.

There are the huge issues hanging over Ukraine but, nonetheless, it is very interesting that right now the President appears to be poised to pivot on this question. Look, the President’s pivoted on other issues already. He is doing things right now that he said he would not do when it comes to Ukraine. What this will eventually mean for the F-16? Again, Congress will have a say, and that’s going to be a very interesting congressional debate.

One last thought on this issue. We tend to think of all technology as racing towards something new and newer and newer than that. The newer is always better. There’s no doubt that the F-22 and the F-35 have certain advantages over a plane as old as the F-16, again going back in deployment to 1978. A lot of people listening to The Briefing today weren’t even born in 1978. But newer is not always better. When it comes to the technology of the fourth generation fighter, the F-16, particularly is now updated with modern avionics and weaponry, the fact is that it remains extremely lethal.

On the other hand, when it comes to civil aviation, remember this, we’re still traveling in jet airliners just about as fast as we traveled in 1960. Go back 63 years, and guess what? We’re not going much faster, if any faster at all when it comes to jet aircraft. Sometimes a new stability is reached. I guess, in their own way, the modern jetliner carrying passengers and the F-16 carrying weapons turn out to make the same point.

Part IV

Drag Queens, a Moral Barometer of Our Time: Northwest Arkansas Arts Center Loses Board Members After Instituting Restrictions on Drag Shows with Minors Present

But finally for today, speaking of making points, several members of the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas resigned over the fact that the management of the center announced that it would be canceling the participation of drag queens in a certain event upcoming. And so, there was a rather mass defection from the board of the Walton Arts Center. The headline in the major Little Rock newspaper, the Arkansas Gazette, says this, “Seven Walton Arts Center board members resigned.” The subhead, “Exit tied to decision on drag shows.”

As we’re thinking about drag shows in the United States, a major morality tale just played out before our eyes, the controversy if not the drag queens. This is one of the most unpredictable and yet predictable flashpoints in America’s culture war because now both sides have seized upon the drag queen story hours or just drag queens in general as indicative of either moral liberation or moral decadence. We are down to drag queens as a major moral barometer of our time. Not only that, let me just remind you, this is controversy over drag queens in northwest Arkansas. The other thing we need to note here is that all the art center had done was to decline, “To host any drag performances in which minors would be allowed to attend.” Again, minors.

There were also concerns raised about what was going to be called the Youth Zone during the Northwest Arkansas Pride Festival. In the predictable language of the day, some of those who resigned said, “The decision sent a clear message that the voices, lived experiences and identities of LGBTQ individuals are not valued.” In other words, you’re not valuing the lives of all people if you come up with a policy that prevents minors from seeing drag shows in a public accommodation. Yep. We’ve reached that point in the United States.

Oh, and by the way, some of those who made this decision have responded with what is now sometimes described as the art of the public grovel by saying that the board, “Regrets that our recent operational decision around hosting some Northwest Arkansas equality, pride, youth zone activities has upset and hurt many in our community,” which they went on to say, “Which was not our intention.” All this just underlines the point we’ve now reached in this moral revolution, and understand the revolutionaries aren’t done. Yeah, I mean this seriously. They fully intend to continue this revolution and to drag the rest of us along.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at You can find 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’m speaking to you from Little Rock, Arkansas, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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