The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Thursday, June 15, 2023

It’s Thursday, June 15th, 2023.

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

Part I

Who Will Win the Republican Presidential Nomination?: The Unprecedented Republican Presidential Race Ahead of the 2024 Primary Election

Well, it is June of 2023, and you know what that means? Well, it means we got six more months in this year and every single one of those months is going to mean an amplification of the political activity, the raising of the political temperature, and we are headed into even more concentrated attention on the 2024 election and in particular on the 2024 presidential race.

You have been warned. Over the course of the last several days, there have been some new candidates, particularly on the Republican side who have announced their candidacy, two in particular. It’s virtually impossible these days to talk about all of them all the time, so I’m going to be talking about two of them as we think about the Republican race and what this likely will mean.

The two big names already in the Republican race are Former President Donald Trump and the current Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. There are others two from just one state in South Carolina, Nikki Haley, the former Governor, and Tim Scott, the current Senator from South Carolina. There are others, but what’s really interesting in the last week was the entry of the former Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence and the former Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie.

Now we’re not talking about the same Republican brand here, and that’s where it’s important for us to recognize that as we think about the race on the Republican side and right now, that’s where the energy is because even as now you may not know this, but President Biden does have two candidates running against him for the Democratic presidential nomination. Neither of them is going to be much of the consideration of our conversation today.

You have Marianne Williamson, new age guru and also Robert F. Kennedy Jr., anti-Vaxxer running on that candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. Neither of them it is safe to say, is considered to be much of a threat to the incumbent President of the United States Joe Biden. But then again, just a little footnote here. If your name is Robert F. Kennedy Jr, it just might be that that gets a little more complicated than people might think.

But going back to the Republican side, the big energy is here because Republicans do not now hold the White House, and that means coming up with a challenger is always the greatest challenge, and the Republican primary season has become extremely chaotic, particularly in recent rounds, particularly in 2016.

The big question is what in the world’s going to happen in the race for the Republican nomination? Right now, if you look at all the polling and you look at all the surveys, it looks like former President Donald Trump has a commanding lead, but that situation could get extremely complicated.

It is also clear that the main challenger right now to President Trump is the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. And yet you have the announcement made just this past week by Former Governor Chris Christie and by the Former Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, that both of them are entering the race.

Now, there is a matter of math here, and the math has to do with two different variables. One of them has to do with the polling support, and in both cases, the polling support would indicate that neither the Former Vice President or the Former New Jersey Governor has any real chance of gaining the Republican presidential nomination. And the second math has to do with money, and that’s where the math is going to become very interesting very fast because both of them are going to have to raise an awful lot of money in order to just keep pace in this kind of an election.

But I do need to add a third category, and that is whether or not there is enough support, especially in terms of polling for either candidate to gain a sustained place in the Republican primary debates. Because if you are not in those debates, frankly your candidacy doesn’t matter. But there is an historical fact here, which we just need to recognize. Here you have a former vice president of the United States running for the presidential nomination against the president whom he served for four years in the White House. That in itself is what we would call an anomaly. That’s the kind of thing that hasn’t happened and probably shouldn’t happen in the great big world of political shoulds.

But that then raises a host of issues, why would a vice president run against the president back when he was vice president? Vice President Pence often spoke of the Trump-Pence administration, but you don’t hear him talking that way right now. Instead, he is making direct criticisms of the president he had served as vice president. And the quickest answer to asking why is just giving a date. January 6th, 2021, the vice president’s position is clear.

He says that “the president asked him to do something unconstitutional and wrong. He refused to do it, and the president’s comments led to direct physical threats and actual threat of harm against him and members of his family.” And thus he’s making some very clear statements.

But there’s another even more interesting aspect of the dynamic related to Mike Pence’s candidacy. Mike Pence is running as a conservative alternative to Donald Trump. He is making the argument, and by the way, he has data to back up this argument that Donald Trump, at least the Donald Trump running in 2020 is not nearly so pro-life or anti-abortion as he appeared to be in 2016. And by the way, in terms of the leadership that he offered in office, particularly the three Supreme Court justices that he denominated, very clearly a pro-life victory.

But the Former President has now equivocating on the issue of abortion, and he continues to equivocate under a great deal of scrutiny and political pressure. So, at least at this point, it appears that President Trump is not going to run to the right of the field, on the Republican side on the question of abortion. Mike Pence, the former vice president, and before that, the former Governor of Indiana clearly intends to run to the former president’s right.

There are several fascinating questions about what all this means for the Republican Party, for the future of the nation, what this means in moral and political terms. This is something at least in our lifetimes completely unprecedented. A former vice president running against a former president who had been on the same ticket now running against each other for the same party’s nomination in the same year, Jonathan Swan’s been a veteran political observer, and he points to something unique in all of this.

He says, “The Republican Party’s intense focus on character and morality during the Bill Clinton years has been replaced by a different credo.” Articulated by a former Justice Department official Jeffrey B. Clark during a recent Twitter squabble over Mr. Trump’s fitness for office. Mr. Clark said, “We’re not a congregation voting for a new pastor.” He said, “We’re voting for a leader of the nation.”

Now here’s where Jonathan Swan offers his analysis, “By this way of thinking, it doesn’t matter that Mr. Pence who’s been married only once and is so determined to honor his vows that he doesn’t allow himself to dine alone with a woman who is not his wife, nor does it matter how many affairs Mr. Trump has had or whether he paid hush money to a porn star. Mr. Trump silences all of that in a way with one blunt social media post ‘I was able to kill Roe v. Wade.'” Now, I think that paragraph helps to distill so many of the issues that are facing Republicans in particular in the 2024 presidential cycle.

Mike Pence is clearly identified as a Christian. He as the news media often point out, almost never speaks without citing Scripture. He has in his life demonstrated in an adherence to biblical norms when it comes to marriage and sexuality and relationships, and so many other aspects. The big question is, is that what Republicans are looking for?

Now, the other thing to note is that Mike Pence has never in the Republican Party really developed a personal loyalty on the scale of some of these other candidates, and that gets to something else Christians needs to need to factor into the equation. Voters are often looking to vote for someone that they feel they know and that they can enthusiastically support. One of the big questions about Mike Pence is whether he can rally that kind of support. Being elected to the United States Congress from Indiana and being elected to the Governor’s office in Indiana is not a precedent or an equivalent of trying to run for national office and for the national Republican Party’s presidential nominations.

It could be interesting to see how the Former Vice President fares in this Republican contest. But then on the other hand, and in this case we sort of really do mean on the other hand, you have former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Now Chris Christie’s a very colorful character, and he had actually entered the 2016 race. He has at times appeared to be pretty close to President Trump. At one point for a very short time, having a good deal to do with the transition committee to bring the President’s administration into office in 2017. But at other times, the president and the New Jersey governor have clearly been at odds, particularly after January 6th, 2021.

But the other thing to keep in mind is that politics is often local and when it comes to this relationship, we need to understand there are some local dimensions that are hidden from us, but very much known to Donald Trump and to Chris Christie. Chris Christie had major roles in the Justice Department and of course his New Jersey Governor in, well, you figured this out, the state in New Jersey. And meanwhile right across the river is Manhattan, and you have Donald Trump very much involved in Manhattan, but also involved in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and the casino business.

Well, there are all kinds of reasons to believe that Donald Trump and Chris Christie have some personal history that just might be complicated. But that points to something else, when it comes to Mike Pence, let’s just say, and there’s no insult intended here, he does not have an abundance of charisma on a stage.

But when it comes to Chris Christie and Donald Trump, in one sense, both of them in their own New Jersey, Manhattan way understand entertainment. So Chris Christie, who is on some issues to the left of the Republican Party and because of his relationship very troubled with Donald Trump, has been at least on outs with much of the party, has now indicated that he’s running for the 2024 Republican nomination.

The math says “He really doesn’t have much of a chance, and that’s speaking generously.” So, the question is why is he doing this? Well, in terms of analysis, there may be at least two reasons he’s doing this. The first and most obvious reason to think about is that Chris Christie, who hasn’t really been on the front pages of America’s newspapers in recent years, might find his way back there once again, might be able to rebuild a political brand.

And by the way, these days, a political brand isn’t just useful in politics. A political brand can sometimes be translated into other forms of social capital, and that might mean in the business world, but even more likely these days in the media world. And Chris Christie is already a part of that media world, this might give him an opportunity even to expand that. But there might be an even more basic reason that Chris Christie is getting into the race and the former New Jersey Governor has indicated that.

He has said that one of the main reasons he wants to run is so that he can be on the stage with Donald Trump and go at the President mono a mono, New Jersey versus Manhattan, Christie versus Trump. But speaking of the math, Chris Christie’s going to have to advance some in the math if he is going to qualify to be there on that debate stage. And that then leads to another question. Will Donald Trump, who right now is very much, at least statistically the front-runner, will he show up for the debates?

At this point, we’ll just say there are huge worldview issues that are very much in play here. Christians are going to need to pay very close attention. We’re going to be tired of this before we get very far into this, but it remains very important. We understand that, and I will make an absolute prophecy that I will stand by regarding the 2024 election process as a whole.

It’s going to be interesting.

Part II

From Conservative Conduct to Conservative Confrontation: Ron Desantis and His Political Strategy in the Fight for the Republican Presidential Nomination

But next, while we’re talking about the 2024 election, let’s talk about something else. Let’s talk about the culture of elections, how they work.

Let’s talk about the culture of political parties and how they work. Maybe it’s a good time for us to think about this before we get into the actual fisticuffs, and so let’s take a front page article that appeared last Thursday in the New York Times. The headline is this, “DeSantis Bets Provocation is Winning Strategy.”

Shane Goldmacher is the reporter in this case. It is a good piece of analysis. It demands a bit of attention. I think Christians will want to take a closer look at this. The point made in this analysis is that Ron DeSantis is running a campaign and frankly has been running a gubernatorial administration in Florida, in which it is assumed that what conservative voters are looking for is not so much conservative theory argued, but rather confrontation. Confrontation even more than say particular political or moral or cultural points. Ron DeSantis as Governor and Ron DeSantis as candidate.

Well, this analysis I think is onto something when it says, “He understands the power of confrontation, he understands the hunger and thirst of Republican voters for a candidate who will confront.” Confrontation as the strategy, let’s back up in worldview perspective and ask ourselves why would that matter? How will we explain that? I would say it comes down to this. Conservatives in the United States are extremely frustrated. Conservatives have been increasingly frustrated for a number of reasons, number one, because many supposedly conservative administrations have turned out not to be so conservatives. Conservatives have been very frustrated because almost every political deal, in which even conservatives have been involved ends up to the expense of conservatives.

Furthermore, the way the culture is moving with the cultural elites, academia, the foundations, the corporations and all the rest pressing so hard, so fast in a progressivist direction, what you have on the part of many Republican voters is a hunger for someone who will say, “I will confront that. I will organize, I will instigate confrontation. We’re not going to take this just sitting down. We’re not going to take this as good, sweet, quiet Republicans.”

Goldmacher puts it this way, “For Mr. DeSantis the flights,” that means the flights of migrants from Florida to California. He says, “The flights illustrate the broader bet he has made that the animating energy in the Republican Party today has shifted from conservatism to confrontational. And that in this new era, nothing is more fundamental than picking fights and making the right enemies, whether it’s the migrants who have slogged sometimes thousands of miles to slip through the border, the news media, or the chief executive of the biggest blue state on the map.”

Well, that last point is really, really interesting because I think we need to note that it’s not just on the right, but it is also on the left that this confrontational has become a brand. And it was actually tripped up in that, and it was actually indicated it was embedded in that paragraph we just read in the reference to on the right Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and on the left California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Because both of them are playing by the same strategy book, just from opposite ends of the political spectrum. You have an equal confrontational coming from the Blue State Governor Gavin Newsom. It was he who went to Florida in order to confront the Florida Governor. He went to New College there on the Gulf Coast, the college that Governor DeSantis has been packing with conservative trustees to try to bring about a conservative reorientation of the school.

Gavin Newsom went there to hold the hands of the crying liberals. Gavin Newsom as California’s Governor has bought billboards in order to take his confrontation quite literally on the road. He’s bought those billboards, not so much in California, but in other states because he is exporting his political brand by confrontation. I think this front page article in the New York Times is really onto something. I think in a moment, a political extremity, I didn’t say extremism, just extremity. I think both sides understand fundamental issues are so much at stake.

The worldview divide is now so deep. The stakes in every election are now so high, I think both sides recognize that just debating the issues is not enough, and there is a desire, there is a hunger, and a thirst for a willingness of a candidate to confront. Now, on the Republican side, if you’re just looking for confrontational, Donald Trump basically pioneered that playbook. But that’s where things get even more interesting because this confronting approach is going to actually have to happen within the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

There’s going to have to be an awful lot of confrontationalism among the Republicans long before they get to a national election where we have one Democrat and one Republican at the top of the two respective tickets. We’re a long way from there, but here’s the other thing to watch. If you do take on this methodology, this playbook of confrontationalism, then you have to play it locally or you might say within your party process and nationally at the same time.

Because it is not enough to confront those with whom you’re competing for your own party’s nomination, you need to show that you can take on the other side without fear, without quarter, without hesitation, without giving an inch. The article, by the way, reflects a basic change in the paradigm of Republican expectation from the style and from say, the key political points made by Ronald Reagan, small government, strong national defense, free economic liberty to what is now this mode of confrontationism, which involves frankly, some very different political points to be made among Republicans these days and a very different style.

Ronald Reagan won and remember, he was a very skilled actor. Ronald Reagan won many of his arguments. He won many of his campaigns. He won many of his debates because he knew not only when to use a frown, he even more importantly knew when to look at the camera and use a smile. His style was to emulate something like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose ability to smile, help to inspire the nation in very dark moments.

But he also knew that a smile was a political invitation for those who were with him to say, “We’re not only in this, we’re going to win this and we’re going to enjoy it.” As Christians citizens, we’re going to have to pay a lot of attention to the arguments, the positions, the platforms of the candidates and their parties. By the time we get into this process, you’re going to have huge divisions between Republicans and Democrats on basic issues such as the sanctity of human life, the way the Constitution is to be read, the purpose of government, human dignity, human rights, all that’s going to be on the table.

But it’s also true that there’s more on offer in these elections and in these candidacies. We’re talking about very real human beings who have very real styles, very real personalities, and they’re operating on the basis of a very real theory of what will be attractive to voters. So, it’s going to be very interesting to watch this, and as I said, I’m sure about this prophecy.

It’s going to be interesting.

Part III

Are Sports Taking Over the Family?: Some Christian Considerations for the Role of Children’s Sports for the Family

Next, last Friday we had a question about what it means for so many sports teams to increasingly play on the Lord’s Day on Sunday. And that means, of course, that many families are having to choose between the sporting event and church, and in so many cases churches losing. But there’s a bigger issue here, and I think it’s at least very fair to put it on the table. Jason Gay does that very well in his column recently in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “The Sports Season That Never Ends.”

One of the things he’s writing about, and by the way, Jason Gay is a very clever, very funny writer. He makes very serious points, but he has a good time getting there. Jason Gay is a dad as well, and he’s pointing to the fact that sports seasons, team sports for children and teenagers are becoming interminable, and that’s almost just now a fact of the calendar. Now, one of the things we could ask ourselves here is for whom are these sports really existing? How are they operated? Who are they trying to serve?

Now, you’d say, well, the kids, the young people, the children and teenagers on these teams and involved in these sports. Yeah, well, that’s true to a considerable extent, and there is no doubt that so many lives have been changed, so many disciplines have been forged, so. Many abilities have been honed in team sports for children and teenagers. But it’s also clear that there’s more to it.

This is an entire sports industrial complex. There is money to be made, a lot of money to be made. There is every reason for someone to add a new sports team, a new elite status, a new championship league, and to tell these kids, you need to be involved in this. It’s a great honor. It will put you ahead of your peers, and it will also, by the way, take up an awful lot of your parents’ money and an awful out of the family’s time. One of the big moral questions that all human beings have to consider is the weighing of alternatives and the use of time.

We recognize that there’s a limited amount of time, there’s a limited stewardship of priorities, and by the way, we eventually show what our priorities are by the decisions we make. If we have our kids on these sports teams, on the Lord’s day all the time and not in church, we are very clearly establishing what our priorities are. Jason Gay begins by writing this, “This column is dedicated to all of the exhausted spring sports parents out there, you know are.”

He says, “I’ve been there. I am there ready to face, plant, and take a nap.” He continues to say, “The season is winding down. The lucky spring sports parents are done. The rest of us, he says, are easy to recognize, circles under our eyes, a slight tired limp from a foot injury we haven’t had time to take to the doctor because we’ve been too busy going to spring sports with our children.” He goes on to say, “The finish line is close and simultaneously 100 million miles away.” He says, as an insider, “It’s okay to acknowledge this. You’re among friends. All of us want what’s best for our children.

We all want our children to have the spring sport seasons of their dreams, even if it means playing 73 more playoff games plus possibly another round-robin tournament, just a short 14-hour drive away.” He also raises something that most parents certainly don’t want to talk about. They don’t even want to allow themselves to think about it out loud. He writes this, “No parent would openly root for a loss. That’s unacceptable. I can’t believe anyone would even suggest that. Come on, don’t be ridiculous.” He goes on and says, “Before youth sports parents used to accomplish stuff on their weekends. We gardened, we painted, we talked to neighbors, we played our own sports like golf and doing the laundry.” Laundry, he says, “was slightly less miserable than golf.”

But then he goes on talking about the team experience and he includes the families and the parents as well as the kids involved, “Now, it feels like we’ve been living together for 800 years. Preseason practice, regular practice games, tournaments, more practices.” Jason Gay writes quote, “I spend more time with these teams than I do with my wife. I know every player’s habits and lives away from the teams, so do you. You know that Sebastian eats nerds and drinks blue Gatorade, and Gretchen is also on a swim team. Katie’s a violinist. Tommy has a frog.”

He writes with honesty. He says this, “The parents are lovely, every single one. It’s hard being a Little League parent. The games never end. You show up for the first inning and might still be sitting there a week from Thursday. You might have to hear the scariest three words in sports, Double Elimination Tournament or worse extra innings.”

By the time Jason Gay finishes the article, it’s on a more hopeful and appreciative note. He talks about the fact that the kids really did have some really good experiences and families really did have some good experiences together, but the point he makes is a point that Christians should understand.

We are the people who are supposed to understand that priorities in life can well include these kinds of events, these kinds of activities, but when they take on a life of their own and take over the life of the family, we need to ask ourselves some serious questions. And I just want to say something to the parents out there, maybe I’m speaking to the kids too.

Maybe the kids secretly want me to say this as well, but I want to speak to the parents out there. You don’t have to do all of this. You don’t. There is the mandate and the larger culture that you owe the entire cosmos, your child or children to be involved in every single sports activity at every conceivable level all the time. I just want to give you some relief. You do not owe the cosmos that debt. I’ll simply end on this.

I think Jason Gays pointing to something we know is important and far more important, frankly, than most readers of the Wall Street Journal will understand. I think this is very important for Christians and especially for Christian parents and families to think about, and I don’t pose as the person to settle or answer all these questions.

Maybe my role, maybe it’s a helpful role in this case, is to raise them.

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

Today I am in New Orleans, Louisiana, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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