The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

It is Tuesday, October 10, 2023.

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

Part I

The Responsibility of a Nation-state in War: Israel’s Right to Defend Itself

In terms of trying to understand the world, one of the issues we have to keep in mind is magnitude, and by magnitude, we mean, “Just how important a development is this? Is this going to be something we’ll be talking about in a matter of days? Is it something that’ll just pass off the screen? Is it something that will be written down as a matter of historical importance? Is it going to become important to telling a major story about the world?”

As we understand what is going on right now in Israel and in the region that also includes the Gaza Strip, what we understand now is that this is a big issue. This is a major issue of magnitude. This is not just something that is going to be remembered as one of the developments of 2023.

This is going to be remembered as a catalyst for changing the face of the Middle East. Now, as you think about that, you need to recognize what is taking place here. This is an attack upon Israel without precedent in a half century, but the world’s changed a great deal since the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The last 50 years have seen not only the passage of a half century of time, but an incredible amount of development in the world scene. In one sense, Israel now has friends in the Middle East it did not have before. Lots of reasons for that, but the most important is named Iran. The development of Iran in recent years as a major threat to not only Israel but to many of the other Islamic states, the Arab states in the Middle East, the looming threat of Iran has created all kinds of unprecedented opportunities for Israel to have relations with some of its former enemies.

But there’s another aspect to this, and it’s a reminder of the fact that even the governments or the ruling families in these Arab states, even as they have Muslim majorities, very clear majorities in their population, and even as many of them are defined as Islamic states, the reality is that they are also worried about Islamic terrorism. This is certainly true of the richest of these countries, which would be Saudi Arabia. It’s true of the Emirates. It is true in Egypt. It is true elsewhere throughout the Middle East. So as you’re thinking about Iran as a destabilizing force, you do understand that there are a lot of destabilizing forces in the Middle East. And that points to the fact that Israel stands alone in the Middle East, not only as the only state defined as a Jewish state, not only in terms of its long-term relationship with the United States, and very deep connections with a large part of the American population, but Israel stands out as the only constitutional government that operates in a democratic manner, and is accountable to the citizens.

It is an outpost of a worldview that simply otherwise basically doesn’t exist in the Middle East. And that’s why the United States and Israel face so many of the same enemies. And that leads us to consider, “What have we learned over the course of the last few days? How is our understanding of the world, our world picture changed?” And it has changed. It must change. It’s changed in the sense that we understand that Israel is still under sustained attack. And even as the nation was declared by United Nations action in 1948, the reality is that much of the world has never come to accept Israel and its legitimacy. It’s very important to recognize that the attack on Israel that was launched on Saturday morning was launched by Hamas, and the constitutional documents, the founding documents of Hamas make very clear that the opposition is not to Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, and et cetera.

It is opposition to the existence of Israel as a Jewish state period. So with the developments of the last couple of days very much in mind, and as of the morning, it’s pretty clear that Israel has been making some progress in pushing back the attack by Hamas, but there are looming giant issues. One of them is simply named hostages. Hostages were taken by Hamas. They were taken intentionally, and so it was a mixture of lethal attack, and hostage taking. And because the hostages are now of course under threat, and yesterday, forces connected to Hamas threatened to start executing these hostages, we really are looking at the temperature not going down, but going up. We’re also looking at Israel doing what Israel does, and what Israel has to do if it is going to survive.

And that’s been true all the way back to 1948. It has to fight back even more fiercely than it has been hit. And in the Middle East, that is exactly what Israel is understood now to be doing. That doesn’t mean that you’re not going to have Arab nations criticize Israel for doing what Israel has to do to preserve itself. And in one of the strange moves that’s increasingly common in the Middle East, many of those powers that might be criticizing Israel are actually very glad that the attack was not against themselves. And they understand they have many common enemies, and share many common threats.

But I want to underline some essential issues for our understanding as we as Christians in the United States try to think about what’s going on in Israel, and what it means for us, and what it means according to the Christian worldview, and what it means in the great span of history. Well, the first thing we need to understand is that Israel has every right to defend itself. Its defense is absolutely necessary, and that defense deserves our support, not just our tacit prayerful support, but our explicit public support. And this goes back to Israel’s history in 1948. Was the establishment of Israel the right thing, or the wrong thing?

That’s a divisive question in world history. But insofar as Christians understand, this had to be the right thing, the establishment of Israel under the circumstances after the Holocaust in the middle of the 20th century, and of course the historic claim, the historic understanding of Israel’s link not only to land, but to that land. Israel has a right to defend itself. Like any other nation, it actually has the responsibility to defend itself, and Israel’s had to do that repeatedly over the course of its history going back to 1948. And there is actually no reason to believe biblically, there’s no reason to believe that Israel will have peace until the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is simply a biblical worldview issue. We understand that enormous hatred is directed towards Israel. Historically, enormous hatred has been directed at the Jewish people. That is not coincidental. I would argue that our responsibility as Christians is to be a friend to Israel.

That doesn’t mean we agree with Israel on every point, on every policy, on every law, on every decision related to foreign policy, or military affairs. It does mean that the United States has a stalwart friend committed to so many of the same values there in Israel. And we understand as well that the United Nations, and taking that action in 1948 clearly understood the moral imperative of giving a state to the Jewish people. So point number one, Israel has the right even the responsibility to defend itself. Now, that’s simply a matter of what it means to be a nation, a nation’s state. As that terminology entered into our experience just a matter of a few centuries ago, a nation state that does not defend itself ceases to be a nation state. That is simply a fact of realpolitik, or the politics of reality. If a state does defend itself, it has to learn how to do so in a way that is commensurate, and for Israel that means it now faces a very direct threat that is going to require overwhelming military force.

There’s no question about it. It’s going to be a very messy affair. One of the things Christians need to watch for is the fickleness of public opinion in the United States, because even as Israel received a great deal of public sympathy, rightly so as the target of this attack, the reality is that many Americans simply don’t have what it takes to support Israel when Israel has to do what Israel must do, if the nation is going to survive. This is not going to be something that is going to be settled at a negotiating table. That time is long passed, and remember that even as one of the lamentable facts is that there will be civilian difficulty, and civilian casualties. You need to remember that at least according to their own theory of elections, the people there in the Gaza Strip elected Hamas as their representative government.

So there’s a shared responsibility here, and that is also exemplified in the fact that as the effort was undertaken by Hamas against Israel, and remember murderously so, even with hundreds of murders at a music festival, there was an outbreak of celebration on the streets there in the Palestinian Territories. That doesn’t mean that everyone was joining in that celebration, but it does mean that this isn’t just a military faction. There is widespread support in the occupied territories for what Hamas has here undertaken. So that’s point number one.

Part II

This is Not Just About Israel: An Attack on Israel is an Attack on Western Civilization and the Rule of Law

The second point to make is that Israel’s fate there in the Middle East is inextricably linked with American interests as well. So a part of realpolitik or the politics of reality is simply to acknowledge that Israel is a very important partner to the United States there in the Middle East, and this attack upon Israel is in one sense, an attack upon Western civilization.

It’s an attack upon the rule of law. It is an attack by the people who would also attack the United States of America, and have at least in terms of some of their terrorist groups, and the outreach of a terrorist network. The reality is that the existence of Israel is unacceptable, and that’s particularly hot simply because of where Israel is located. But the reality is that so many of those who are animated by Islamic terrorism, their opposition is not just to Israel. That’s a particularly hot and local opposition. That opposition extends to western nations with the United States as example number one of the decadence that the Muslim world ascribes to Western civilization. Remember classic Muslim theology making the distinction between the world of Islam and the world of war, which is by one means or another to be brought under submission to Islam and Quranic rule.

That’s where we understand this is not just about Israel. Americans who think this is just about Israel are attempting to delude themselves about the dangers that our nation faces in this very perilous world. Now, that’s why the United States Navy has moved to the USS Gerald Ford, which is the largest of the American aircraft carriers into the Eastern Mediterranean. It is sending a very clear signal, and that’s a very necessary signal. Americans who think this is something that is simply far, far away need to understand that there are those who would like to bring all of this a lot closer to home, and that’s why not just for principle reasons of conviction, but also pragmatic reasons of our own national interest, we have a great deal at stake in Israel winning this effort, and pushing back on this particular enemy. In that sense, the presence of the Navy’s USS Gerald R. Ford is a very clear indication that the United States is not a disinterested party in this conflict, and frankly doesn’t intend to give only moral support to Israel in defeating this particular foe.

Part III

Americans, Don’t Take a Holiday from History: The World is a Perilous Place, and This is Conflict in Israel Is More Evidence of That

A third point is this. We need to understand that this is not just a conflict between Israel and a terrorist organization that is largely operating out of the occupied territories. We also understand that at stake here are the principles of order in an increasingly threatened and disordered world. And this is where we have to understand that the world is a lot more dangerous than many American Christians want to think that it is. Americans are very prone to want to take a holiday from history as it has been described, and simply believe that somehow we are living in a time of peace, and nothing major in terms of sacrifice or threat is facing us. But in reality, this just underlines the picture of the world as we should see it, a very dangerous place. Just consider, by the way, how so much of our national conversation has changed over the course of say just the last 15 months.

Number one, war in Ukraine. The Russian invasion of Ukraine broke all of the rules that Americans thought were very much in place by the beginning of the 21st century. Those rules clearly are now gone. We now have a major land war that involves European powers, and frankly threatens constantly to expand beyond Russia and Ukraine. We have a national interest very much involved here. We also have an interest in that conflict being far, far away from the shores of the United States of America. But that’s not to say we don’t have a stake here. At the same time, it’s not at all clear how that conflict will end, or how it even might end. But even as that appeared to be the major military challenge in the world scene, now you have Israel. And remember, Israel is not just taking military action. Over the course of the last couple of days, the Knesset has actually declared a state of war.

That means that Israel does not see this as something that’s going to be wrapped up and tidied up in a matter of days. This is likely to be a long, protracted conflict. And Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said precisely that in comments made yesterday.

Part IV

The Impossibility of a Ceasefire in Israel: The Calls for Ceasefire from the Liberal Media in the U.S. are Nothing Less Than Immoral

A fourth issue for us to watch is what happens in the United States because when Israel does what Israel has to do, there’s likely to be a lot of push back. We already see the political left in this country, the historic enemies of Israel in this country, we already see groups such as I mentioned yesterday, the Democratic Socialists of America, and some of the Democratic Party saying, “What is necessary right now is a ceasefire.” That is a moral impossibility. We need to understand that once you have a group like this that launches thousands of rockets against Israel, and furthermore presses a land invasion by armed people who massacre Israelis by the hundreds, and take others as hostages, a ceasefire under this circumstance is not only not a moral imperative. It would be an absolutely immoral act.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how the American media, and the American political class evaluate when Israel acts as Israel must in pressing back against Hamas. To state the matter in terms of contemporary world issues, it is not at all clear that many people in the United States and in other nations including Western Europe have the stomach that would be necessary to defend the values that have made our own civilization possible. Right now, it’s Israel that is facing this particular test, certainly in terms of the front lines, but it’s just important for us to remember we’re not very far behind the front lines, and that frontline can move very, very fast.

Part V

What a Lie Is and How It Works: The Propaganda of Banned Books Week

Back here in the United States, it’s just really important in moral terms to remind us all that this is Banned Books Week here in America because we are obviously facing a condition in which many books are being banned. That, by the way, is just an indication of what a lie is, and how a lie works. Here’s the one thing about Banned Books Week in the United States. Books have not been banned. You have an effort going back for a matter of decades now in which you have the American Library Association, other professional guilds, and the American Left threatening that there is an incipient movement to try to ban books, and restrict the freedom of publication, and to rob you from being able to read the books that you have a right to read. But here’s the little inconvenient fact if you want to actually make the claim that these books are banned. You can get next day delivery on most of them from Amazon. I’m not suggesting you do so. I’m just pointing out this is an absolute lie. This is how propaganda works, and it’s propaganda that has become absolutely infectious.

You walk in your local bookstore. You’re going to see Banned Books Week displayed. You look at the media. The media are almost entirely complicit in this. USA TODAY perhaps leads the charge, but The New York Times gave a full page. Now, I’m going to give a little bit of credit. At least it presented both sides of the argument to some extent, but nonetheless, Banned Books Week is simply too big a propaganda opportunity for the Left to allow to pass. And by the way, they want it to be Banned Books Week every single week in terms of making their political aims, their ideological purposes very, very clear.

So what is going on here? Well, number one, I would say the biggest thing going on here is that you have a group of Progressivists, ideologically driven, very much connected with the Left who want to determine what is and is not in the library particularly, not only in academic libraries, but school libraries, and public libraries.

And so here’s where we put the Banned Books Week issue to the lie. First again, you can simply push “Buy Now,” and it’ll be delivered to your house. By definition, if it can be delivered to your house, it’s not banned. There is no effort to legally make these books banned. Thus, it’s a lie from the very beginning.

But the second thing is this. What this is really about is ending citizen initiative, citizen influence, and in particular, ending the influence of the most dangerous citizens of all. That would be parents of children who might go into a public library, or parents of children in the public schools. When parents push back against the decisions that have been made by librarians about which books are, and are not in the library, then you hear the howls of protest. And of course, this just leads to more posters about Banned Books Week.

But secondly, let’s underline another point we need to keep very much in mind. Someone is making the decisions about which books are in a library. Even when people talk about, say, the British Library in London, (I just visited that library days ago), or you visit the Library of Congress in the United States (similar stature), the claim is made that those books are a depository of every title published, and they are available to the public, and for government use, the use of our elected officials. Every book is there. Well, there’s some truth in that, at least in terms of the holdings, but there’s no truth in the facts that you can just show up at the Library of Congress, and read a book that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to obtain. The same thing’s true in the British Library. My point is this. You’re looking at more books than anyone can handle in any responsible or even technologically possible manner.

Someone’s making decisions about which books do get on the shelf for children, and for others. But we also need to understand that many of the people who are howling about censorship for Banned Books Week, they would be howling themselves if a lot of conservative Christian books showed up in that same shelf space. The reality is this is not a fair fight. This is not a level terrain. What we’re looking at here is the ideologically charged professions, and in this case, particularly the library profession, simply a small microcosm of the entire academic world. It’s been pushing left for an extremely long time. You go to the American Library Association, you go to the Associations of School Libraries, you look at the resolutions that are passed at their annual meetings, I’ll just tell you they’re a long, long way from what Christian parents, and for that matter, most citizens would think would be the appropriate stance to be taken by librarians.

They have painted themselves the rescuers of civilization by using their supposed professionalism to decide which books do and do not deserve some availability to the public. And in particular, of course, the hottest debates have to do with children, children and public libraries, children and teenagers in the public schools. Nicole Chavez writing for CNN tells us that, “Book bans in public schools rose by 33% in the last academic school year.” And I’m continuing the quote with, “many efforts targeting titles perceived as ‘sexual,’ or ‘inappropriate.'” Here’s what’s really interesting. Both words, sexual and inappropriate are put in quotation marks as if they are linguistically speaking terms of art. That is to say you have to put them in quotation marks because we don’t actually understand what those words mean. I’m going to take a risk here, go out on a limb, and believe that those who are listening to The Briefing have a pretty good idea what the two words, “sexual,” and “inappropriate” mean.

You don’t need scare quotes. PE in America, that’s a group of authors, and those who are opposing book bans we’re told, “The organization released its latest analysis of book bans in America’s public schools, and tracked more than 3000 instances across 33 states.” So let’s just take a closer look. I took some time to take a closer look. This means every time any parent suggested that a single book might be inappropriate, thus declared to be an effort to ban a book. We’re told that Florida had the highest number of “book bans,” more than 1400 bans. That’s about half, by the way, of the total number reported here nationally. And we’re told this more than any other state, Texas, “which had the most bans last year, had the second-highest number of book bans during the 2022, 2023 school year, 625 instances,” again, according to this advocacy group.

Here’s the point. This advocacy group is advocating. They actually have the right to do that, but it’s the complicity of the media in going along with this propaganda that we need very carefully to note. These are loaded dice, so to speak. This is a story that never had a basis in any truthfulness, and actually talking about book bans in the United States, you need to understand that if you are Christian parents, it would be declared a book ban if it became known upon investigation that you did or did not allow your child or teenager to have access to certain books. You, dear parent, are a censor. Now, let me just come back and say, you dear parent, have the job of being a censor. And when you look in greater detail at some of the books in controversy here, let me just say that it would’ve been inconceivable in any previous cultural moment that any library would have this material.

And frankly, some of these books are describing in the most explicit and ideologically sexually and gender revolution driven way what previous generations wouldn’t even have had a category to describe. And just remember this. This is an axiomatic issue. Christian parents, Christian churches, Christian leaders, listeners to The Briefing, please understand this. When it comes to this effort, those who are launching this propaganda war, they are not after primarily the eyes of your children and teenagers. Understand this. They’re after their hearts. I have to draw attention to one sentence by columnist Margaret Renkl that was published in an exchange in The New York Times. Her article, “This Is Why I Welcome Banned Books Week,” she offers this paragraph, “Book Bans belong to the same categorical crime against democracy as denying red state citizens the full range of medical care available to citizens of blue states, the same crime against democracy as denying LGBTQ people their full civil rights, and the same crime as rewriting textbooks to avoid the reality of White violence against Black people.”

“Republicans are doing everything possible to prevent an entire culture from moving towards inclusiveness, diversity, and freedom. And their terror campaigns can be very effective.” So if you’re a parent who suggests that a public library or a school library ought not to make this book available for children, or teenagers, you are now guilty according to this sentence of some form of terrorism. And finally, as we’re thinking about how all this works, let’s just also understand that if you went into the local public school library, the local public library, and you’re looking say in the children’s section, or you’re looking in the section for teenagers, and adolescents, you’re looking for substantially committed Christian literature, I don’t think anyone’s going to be surprised that you’re not going to see much of that in the collection. You’re certainly not going to see that on display. You are most emphatically not going to find that on the recommended list coming from groups such as those who are the advocacy and ideological groups, the political action groups behind so-called Banned Books Week.

Let’s just very clearly state that every single reader has an agenda, comes with a worldview. Every single publisher, every single author does so as well. Every single librarian, every single school board member, every single citizen that is a part of a community that has a public library actually has a worldview that will operate one way or the other. This is an effort to privilege one worldview, the more secular, Progressivist liberal worldview. And as Margaret Renkl made very clear, the one that’s absolutely committed to the LGBTQ agenda, and all the rest to privilege that worldview rather than the worldview you might certainly say in many communities that would represent the majority of citizens, and certainly, the majority of parents.

And so we simply believe today by making very clear that in the world around us to the ideological Left parents are almost always the problem. The Christian Biblical worldview says exactly the opposite, and thus, this clash is about a whole lot more than books.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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