Wednesday, October 18, 2023
It's Wednesday, October 18, 2023.
I'm Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
The U.S. Sends a Clear Signal: President Biden’s Trip to Israel
Events are changing so fast, we're living in one of those moments in which it feels like time is compressed, and we have an overload of developments. And of course, you also have to understand the moral responsibility, the fact that there are people who are living through these events right now whose lives are threatened and who are dealing in the aftermath of a savage attack upon their nation.
But the big news today is that the President of the United States is going to be going to Israel, and that requires some explanation. Why in the middle of a war, why in the aftermath of this kind of attack upon an ally would the President of the United States go to Israel? There are a couple of reasons. The most important reason is he was invited. That's a very morally significant fact.
Because right now with so much attention on Israel and Israel's response to the savage attack by Hamas, and now with an expected land invasion of Gaza by Israeli Defense Forces, it's very significant that the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, invited the President of the United States to come and see for himself the reality. So that tells you something. It's a bold move by Israel to say, "You want to see what we're doing? Come and see for yourself. Come and see what Hamas has done. Come and see what we are doing in response."
Why would the President of the United States go? It is in order to show solidarity with Israel in a way that we need to recognize is unprecedented in American history. We need to give the Biden administration full moral seriousness for what he's doing here. The president is putting the United States on the line. He's putting his own reputation on the line. He's putting his administration on the line to make a very clear statement.
And the clarity of this statement was made very evident when the White House Press Secretary made this statement, "President Biden will travel to Israel on Wednesday to demonstrate his steadfast support for Israel in the face of Hamas' brutal terrorist attack and to consult on next steps. President Biden," said the White House spokesperson, "will then travel to Amman, Jordan where he will meet with his majesty King Abdullah, Egyptian President Sisi, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He will reiterate that Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people's right to dignity and self-determination and discuss the humanitarian needs of civilians in Gaza."
Now, what I want to say here is just important. I think it's morally important for me to say this, because I am very much opposed to President Biden and so many policies across the board, but this is a demonstration of rare moral clarity coming in the midst of what is a moral emergency. The White House is declaring itself, the President is taking a risk, and of course, in one sense it's a risk to his own personal safety, but you also have to understand this is putting the American government and his own administration on the line in a way that politically many people would advise against.
And the President is also doing something else. And in this case, the Prime Minister of Israel is also attempting to do something else in inviting the American president to come. This is also a warning to others in the region that they dare not enter into this conflict. The physical presence, massively important political presence of a President of the United States flying in on Air Force One and appearing in Tel Aviv and then going on to meet not only with Israeli leaders, but also with at least some major Arab leaders.
It is sending a signal the United States is telling so many other enemies, so many other people who would oppose Israel, but who would also oppose American interests, back off. It is a very clear public warning. It's nearly unprecedented, I think, in American foreign policy, but we're living in an unprecedented times. We're going to have to watch this story very, very carefully, and we all need to be very concerned for the safety of the American president, as well as for the fight of Israel against this terrorist force Hamas, because the statement made by the White House Press Secretary in terms of moral clarity is a base statement.
And we're going to speak more about that in just a moment when we look at some of the confusion here in the United States. That's a base statement. That is to say it's a foundational, it's a fundamental statement. This is taking sides morally. Because when you look at Israel versus Hamas, there is no lack of moral clarity in terms of who is the attacker and who is the attacked and who has the terrorist aims and who does not. So at the same time, as I said, not only is this about the President of the United States going to Israel, it's also about the evolving picture of the moral issues involved in Israel pressing back against Hamas.
Now, we need to start from the axiomatic principle, number one, that Hamas is a terrorist organization and it has to be dealt with as a terrorist organization. By definition, it doesn't follow the rules of civilizational conduct. It doesn't follow the rules of war. It doesn't follow the rules of moral limitation. That's what terrorist groups do. The very existence of terror groups we remind ourselves is following an ideology that says that terror, ruthless, breathtaking, horrifying, even genocidal terror is the way to accomplish one's political aims.
So when you have people in the western media saying that there are two sides to the story, you can say, "Yes, there are two sides. There's the side of civilization and there is the side of terrorism. Those are the two sides." Again, I'm thankful for the fact that at least among many Western leaders, including in the White House right now, there is that recognition of moral clarity.
The Left Unveils Postmodern’s Antisemitic Legacy: Elite Academia is Fueling Genocidal Ideology
But we also need to note that where there is the absence of that moral clarity, we have a fundamental problem.
So let's look at the lack of that moral clarity and let's understand where it's located. For one thing, it's located on the prestigious American university campus. You mentioned campuses like the University of California at Berkeley, Harvard University where you had student groups who were taking sides and they were taking sides with the terrorists, not taking sides with the civilians in Israel who were massacred and who right now or even many of them being held hostage.
Talking about the rules of war, the basic rules of civilization, invading, killing infants, taking hostages, you really are looking at the fact that this is by intention and ideology and outlaw organization. It's a deadly lethal outlaw organization. That ought to be baseline moral clarity. But as we now see in America's college and university campuses, there is a horrifying lack of that moral clarity. Even more so, there's a horrifying taking of the wrong side. So, interesting developments.
For one thing, Ken Griffin of Citadel, major figure, a donor at Harvard University, has pulled his money, and he is really the leading edge of many major donors who are all of a sudden waking up to the fact that there is a poisonous genocidal ideology hiding behind the Ivy on the bricks of many prestigious universities, including the Ivy League, and in this case, particularly Harvard.
Rob Copeland of The New York Times reports that in a private conversation with a senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation, Ken Griffin "urged the university to come out forcefully in defense of Israel," and this is according to Mr. Griffin himself in an interview. The billionaire went on to act, and as The Times reported, "It was a move that would've put Harvard firmly on the opposite side of 30 student groups who had said that the Israeli regime was 'entirely responsible for the mass killing and kidnapping of Israelis that took place.'"
Now, the reality here is that Harvard did not do what this major donor had demanded that it do. As a matter of moral clarity, Harvard instead put out a series of statements that were basically non-statements. The Times then reports, "Mr. Griffin wasn't alone in demanding that an elite university denounce its students for criticizing Israel so soon after the Hamas attack. Though some complaints like that from Harvard's former president Larry Summers were made in public, the most intense demands have come behind the scenes from Wall Street, Finn and Sears, who make up a powerful block of donors to schools, including the University of Pennsylvania, New York University, Stanford University, and Cornell University."
According to The Times, more than a dozen of these major funders of elite higher education said that they had an obligation to step in given the kinds of statements coming from at least many student groups, some faculty in these organizations. There's also more to this issue. As you might expect, there are developing stories. Gerard Baker writing at The Wall Street Journal rightly points to the fact that, as his headline says, liberals need a reckoning with antisemitism. One of the basest most deadly ideologies in the world is antisemitism.
And in this case, what we are seeing is that antisemitism is more baked into the cake of elite American cultural and political life than many major Jewish funders had recognized. This is a wake-up call. But that in terms of worldview just underlines the fact that it is in extremist. It is under the conditions of moral emergency that you really find out who people are and what people believe. And that's what's happening right now in America's elite universities, Harvard, Stanford, University of California at Berkeley.
But Harvard in particular, in this case, what you have going on there is that a lot of people who've been giving millions, even hundreds of millions of dollars to these universities are finding out that they have been funding antisemitic ideology. And furthermore, there's also the very strategic cowardly non-judgmentalism that is coming from so many. This is evidence of the continuing legacy of what say back in the '80s and '90s was called postmodernism, the worldview that says there is no objective truth. There's no objective reality. All moral statements are just statements of intended political power, and you have to deconstruct these in order to deconstruct the power claims and the oppression. It's a denial of objective right and objective wrong. Again, Gerard Baker in this column points to the fact that ideas that are so rampant now on the ideological left, such as decolonization and intersectionality, as he says, "turn out to justify mass murder."
Now, this is where in extremist you find out what people really believe and you see the consequences of ideas. When it comes to intersectionality, this is a part of critical theory. Critical theory holds that everything is encoded in a basic power structure in which the main dynamic is oppressor versus the oppressed. And the way to understand this is to, well, make it complex, understanding that identity politics means that you have people identified in so many different ways and intersectionality says that the greatest oppression is found at the intersection of variously oppressed groups.
So one of the easiest ways to understand intersectionality is you can say that if you have say a claim of oppression that has to do with racial identity, well, that's one thing, but then you have oppression because of the patriarchy's oppression of women, it would be said. So women in the oppressed ethnic group now according to intersectionality are more oppressed than men in the oppressed group, so they should have more influence. But then again, it's not just that, of course.
You add LGBTQ to the mix, and a lesbian woman in this ethnic group is triply oppressed, which means she gets three credits for oppression, and this is the way it works. And in this case, Gerard Baker's exactly right. If you buy into this, then you look at everything in terms of oppressed-oppressor. And if you already come to the equation with the idea that this group is oppressed and thus for its actions are noble regardless of the actual moral character of the actions, well then you end up justifying the mass killing of Jews. That's the bottom line.
This gets back to the 20th century. It gets back to some of the most basic moral questions that emerged in World War II in light of the Holocaust. The question was, how in the world do you get to the mass killing of the Jewish people? How do you get to that? How do you get to 6 million Jews killed? You don't get there by running on a platform that says, "Our intention is to commit genocide against the Jewish people to the level of 6 million Jewish dead." No.
You start out by incrementally making an argument in which incrementally you make it more acceptable to adopt a policy of mass murder. That's exactly what happened in Nazi Germany. That's what happened with the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the last half of the 20th century. This is what has happened with ISIS and other terrorist groups. That's exactly the worldview that drove Hamas and explains why you would have warriors for Hamas go to a music festival and kill people who are non-combatants in any sense, and frankly videotape it in order to indicate the fact that they were not discriminating against those who were combatants and those who were not.
They're just killing. Those on the West, in the Western University campus and the Western elites, and that includes the journalistic elites, if all they operate from is this kind of critical theory mentality with intersectionality, then you can see exactly where their biases point them. And that's why Larry Summers, former president of Harvard University, has called for the university to call out some of its student groups for basically advocating genocide. But the university hasn't done it.
Another amazing article that makes this point and helps to illustrate this particular truth emerged in The Wall Street Journal on Monday in the print edition. It's written by Steven Davidoff Solomon, who's a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley. So we mentioned the University of California at Berkeley is the center of this kind of moral inversion, this kind of advocacy for what amounts to genocide. But here you have a law professor at University of California at Berkeley.
What's the argument he's going to make? Here's his argument: don't hire my anti-Semitic law students. Okay, something's breaking in the culture when you have a major professor at one of the most influential law schools in the United States writing, "Don't hire my students. Don't hire my graduates. They are morally repulsive." He makes this point very clearly.
He says this, "I teach corporate law at the University of California, Berkeley, and I'm an advisor to the Jewish Law Students Association. My students are largely engaged and well-prepared, and I regularly recommend them to legal employers. But if you don't want to hire people who advocate hate and practice discrimination, don't hire some of my students. Anti-Semitic conduct is nothing new on university campuses, including here at Berkeley." He goes on and tells us this, "Last year, Berkeley's Law Students for Justice in Palestine," let's back up for a moment. This is last year. This is not something that happened since the Hamas invasion. This is a year earlier.
"Last year, Berkeley's Law Students for Justice in Palestine asked other student groups to adopt a bylaw that banned supporters of Israel from speaking at events." It excluded any speaker who "expressed and continue to hold views or host, sponsor, promote events in support of Zionism, the Apartheid State of Israel and the Occupation of Palestine." Professor Solomon goes on. "Nine student groups adopted the bylaw. Signers included the Middle Eastern and North African Law Students Association, the Queer Caucus, and the Women of Berkeley Law."
He goes on. "The bylaw caused an uproar. It was rightly criticized for creating Jew free zones." The professor then says, "Our dean, a diehard liberal, admirably condemned it, but said free speech principles tied his hands. The campus groups had the legal right to pick or exclude speakers based on their views. The bylaw remains and 11 other groups subsequently adopted it." Law professor then says with clarity, "You don't need an advanced degree to see why this bylaw is wrong."
It's not just wrong, it's evil, but this is what is now passing for policy in many of America's most elite universities. And this isn't something that happened in the last few months. This is something happened a year ago at the University of California at Berkeley. And of course, you have similar things happening. You have also Jewish donors revolting against the University of Pennsylvania, another Ivy League institution. It's not going to end there.
My prediction is this, over the course of the next several months, maybe even over the next couple of years, we're going to see an awful lot of fallout when people recognize who they've been hanging around with, what kind of institutions they have been funding, what kind of ideologies are here represented and expressed. There are going to be a lot of people whose eyes are opened. In this case, it's major Jewish donors and professors in these institutions, because they have no way of avoiding knowing what's going on.
The rest of America is likely to catch on as well. We can only hope and pray so. We'll be tracking the news that develops as President Biden goes to Israel and meets with Israeli leaders, but also as he meets with Major Arab and at least some Palestinian leaders. What we need to hope for is moral clarity and moral clarity in understanding the fight that civilization now faces against terrorism. More to it than that, but not less to it than that.
Will the House of Representatives Be Operational? The Speaker’s Chair is Still Empty
Meanwhile, coming back to the United States, big developments in the House of Representatives. Ohio Republican Representative Jim Jordan came a lot closer than was expected in the first round of voting for the very important constitutional role of Speaker of the House of Representatives. Jim Jordan got 200 votes. That's 17 votes plus his own, by the way, short of what he needs to be elected Speaker of the House. But looking at that, it now becomes very plausible that Jim Jordan will be able to get 17 more votes and add his own in order to achieve a Republican majority vote that elects a Speaker of the House.
We need to understand why that's so important. It's so important because, number one, this is a constitutional office, and we need to recognize that's different than how we talk about the power structure in the United States Senate. In the United States Senate, you have a Democratic leader and a Republican leader. Depending upon the majority, you have a majority leader and a minority leader. You will not find those roles in the US Constitution. Those are organizational roles adopted by the Senate in accordance with its right to adopt its own rules.
The House of Representatives did not create the office of Speaker of the House. This goes back to longstanding precedent in terms of the Speaker of the British Parliament in the House of Commons. So when our foundational framers of the US Constitution were looking for what it would mean to have a Speaker of the House, they already knew what it looked like to have a Speaker in the House of Commons in London.
You can't have a House of Representatives vote on anything. You basically can't have any action undertaken by the House without a speaker. And that's important to recognize because guess what the Speaker of the House means? Most Americans hear the term. They hear the Speaker of the House addressed as Mr. Speaker or in the case of Nancy Pelosi recently, Madam Speaker. What does it mean? Why do we call this role the Speaker of the House? It is because this means that the House of Representatives comes down at times to one individual who speaks for the House.
So as you're thinking about the Speaker of the House of Representatives, if the representatives' body doesn't have a speaker, guess what it can't do? It can't speak, and that's why this is a political crisis for the United States. That's why we need a Speaker of the House, particularly right now, because there are big issues that are breaking loose and we need a speaker. I think Republicans understand that.
I think four or five weeks ago, if the speaker's position had come open, it'd be unthinkable that someone like Jim Jordan, who has a lot of support, but nonetheless has also been a very highly charged person, it's unlikely he would've gotten 200 votes on a first ballot. I think this explains a sobriety on the part, and in this case, it means the Republicans in the House, that we need a speaker, and so we can hope that quite soon we will indeed have one. We will be tracking these issues with you in days to come.
Witchcraft, Now Coming to a Graduate Degree Program Near You: Resurgent Paganism Moves into Academic Acceptance
But finally, for today, witches are back and they want academic credit. They're going to get it in some institutions, including the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, which has decided now to offer a degree in the occult. And it's not just a study of the occult or the history of the occult. It actually turns out to be something of a professionalization of the occult.
The British Broadcasting Corporation, the BBC, reports "a degree in magic being offered in 2024 will be one of the first in the United Kingdom," that according to the University, University of Exeter, "The innovative MA in Magic and Occult Science has been created following 'a recent surge of interest in magic,'" according to the leader of the course, the program. The BBC says that the degree will offer "an opportunity to study the history and impact of witchcraft and magic around the world on society and science."
The one year program we're told is to start in September of 2024. Those teaching in it will include "academics with expertise in history, literature, philosophy, archeology, sociology, psychology, drama, and religion. The university said it was one of the only postgraduate courses of its kind in the UK to combine the study of the history of magic with such a wide range of other subjects."
You have been warned.
Oddly enough, and this makes no sense whatsoever, "The course will be offered in the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies." No explanation for why that's a weird fact.
The Western media has found this interesting. The New York Times reports, "Coursework will include the study of Western dragons in lore, literature and art, archeology theory, the depiction of women in the Middle Ages, the practice of deception and illusion, and the philosophy of psychedelics through the lenses of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. Lectures will explore how magic has influenced society and science."
Rice University has a certificate, it turns out, here in the United States in Houston. The leader of that program, one of the creators, Professor Jeffrey J. Kripal said, "People have been practicing magical rituals in thinking about the world in magical terms much longer and deeper than the world religions." According to The New York Times, "He added that the defunding of studies in the humanities could lead to a more polarized world that is less prepared to cope with the biggest issues facing society." As if studies in witchcraft would evidently help citizens to be prepared to cope with the biggest issues facing society.
The British press has been pretty sensational about this, pointing to the centrality of witchcraft to all of this. And we need to remember that if you are in Britain, in the United Kingdom, you remember a time when this was big headline news in the society. The New York Times reporter Jenny Gross actually begins that way. "In the ancient city of Exeter, three women were hanged for practicing witchcraft in the late 17th century, the last of such executions in England. Now merely a short walk from where the hangings occurred, the University of Exeter will offer a postgraduate degree in magic and occult science, which the school says is the first of its kind at a British university."
Now, what do we make of all this? Well, for one thing, this is what happens when society is progressively evacuated of Christian content. The resulting space is not a vacuum. The resulting space is going to be filled with something, and this is what we have seen for years now. The space is filled often with ancient paganism. Ancient paganism are a basic urge. Just look at the Old Testament, look at the Canaanites, look at Canaanite idols, or for that matter, don't. Many of them are pornographic, but the point is this is what ancient paganism looks like, and it feeds so many of the obsessions of a secular culture right now. Obsessions about gender, obsessions about sexuality, obsessions about, well, all kinds of things we're not going to talk about on The Briefing today. But let's just say now you can get a graduate degree in them at the University of Exeter. Evidently, you can get a certificate or something equivalent at Rice University, and all these programs spread like a virus.
These are universities that once understood the universals, the good, the beautiful, and the true, to be held together within the Christian worldview, which Jesus Christ is the unity of all truth. Once you remove Christ as the unity of all truth, once you divide the good, the beautiful, and the truth, once you take the universals and divide them, eventually you're going to make that a degree program and eventually the media is going to be interested. That's where we are right now.
If you want to study witchcraft, the University of Exeter says it's got the program for you. So sign up right now.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler.
For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.