Monday, October 30, 2023

It’s Monday, October 30, 2023.

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

Part I

The Leftist Ideologies Laid Bare: Over Israel: How the War Reveals the Left’s Hatred of Israel

Over the last 48 hours, it has become very clear that Israel has begun an action in the Gaza Strip undertaken with thousands of Israeli troops. This is the ground action that Israel had promised, and now it is taking place. And you’re looking at an ideological reality, which is becoming more and more clear. You’re looking at frankly, the genocidal, homicidal worldview of Hamas, which right now is threatening not only the many people who’ve been massacred in Israel, and we really are talking about an anti-Jewish genocide, but is also endangering the people in Gaza, the Palestinians for whom Hamas claims to be speaking and acting.

And even yesterday, the New York Times, not a conservative newsletter, the New York Times was reporting that Hamas is sitting on many of the supplies that have been sent in to help the Palestinian people. Just another sign that Hamas does not really care about the Palestinians; Hamas cares about its Islamist agenda, and it just shows its terrorist stripes over and over and over again. Its commitment is not to the protection of the Palestinian people. Instead, by using them as human shields, not to mention the hostages it took from within Israel, using Palestinians basically as captives, as human shields, you really see how the aims of a terrorist organization like Hamas mean inevitably that human life and human dignity are just basically done away with.

And we’re going to be watching international headlines get hotter and hotter because even as Israel’s moving on the ground, and Israel, like every nation involved in military action will make mistakes. But in this case, we just need to keep reminding ourselves over and over again that the vast majority of the people there, the Palestinians in Gaza who are endangered, are endangered because of the action undertaken by Hamas. Action number one, it’s horrifying murderous attack upon Israel, the worst attack upon Jews since the Second World War. And you’re also looking at what basically comes down to threatening the lives of Palestinians as Hamas is using them as human shields and as we’ve seen using them also as pawns in its ideological game.

But as we’re thinking about this ideological cleavage, the worldview issues, we have to understand that these are hitting a lot closer to home than many might imagine. So over the course of the next several days, we’re going to be looking at how this is playing out, not only on elite U.S. college campuses, that’s where so much of the surprised many Americans when so many students were supporting not only the Palestinian cause but supporting Hamas. And as you look also at some figures in the United States House of Representatives who frankly are taking similar if not identical actions. And you’re also seeing corporate America responding in some very interesting ways. And you’re seeing corporations, furthermore in Europe and elsewhere, responding in some very interesting ways and you’re looking at battle of ideas that will come down to some impact in the 2024 Presidential election in the United States and also in Congressional elections.

And the very interesting thing here is that the politician who might be most endangered because of his stand on Israel, that politician might be the President of the United States, Joe Biden, a rather liberal Democrat having given basically his agenda over to the left wing of the Democratic Party. On the issue of Israel, he is now angering that left wing and in particular the younger demographic of that left wing. And so you have a headline such as the one that ran over the weekend in the New York Times, Democrats Splinter Over Israel as the Young, Diverse Left Rages at Biden. A duo of reporters for the New York Times point to the political issue, “Perhaps most concerning for Mr. Biden is that in the halls of Congress, the most critical Democratic voices are Black and Hispanic Democrats who helped fuel his 2020 victory. As of Thursday of last week, all 18 House members who had signed onto a resolution calling for an immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Israel and occupy Palestine were people of color.”

Well, now we’re looking at a very interesting development. It’s interesting to the New York Times, it’s interesting to the Biden administration and the president’s re-election campaign. It should be interesting to all of us because in worldview terms, this gets really, really interesting. So you ask the question, why when it comes down to this attack upon Israel and Israel’s act now seeking to eradicate the threat of Hamas, why is it that all of the democratic members of Congress who signed onto this are identified here as people of color?

How does that happen? How do you translate what’s going on there in the Middle East and in particular in Israel and in Gaza? How do you translate that into the House of Representatives in the United States? Well, you do so by understanding that the critical theory principle of what I prefer to call cultural Marxism, the principle of intersectionality is very much at play here. The idea here is that the Palestinians are basically most importantly an oppressed people. And they define themselves as representatives of oppressed people, and so oppressed people hang together, that’s basically it. And so if all you have is a worldview that says you divide the world into the oppressor and the oppressed, well, they identify with the Palestinians. And as for Hamas, well, when it comes to members of Congress, very few if any, are ready to come out and offer public support to Hamas.

But what they are doing is offering a form of moral and political rationalization for the anger of the Palestinians that bubbled over into the murderous attack by Hamas.

I mentioned the age issue, it shows up here, “For Democrats in Congress and in liberal groups in Washington, pressure to oppose Mr. Biden’s Israel policy is bubbling up from younger, more progressive staff members who have grown up in an environment more doubtful about Israel. Hundreds of former staff members on the 2020 presidential campaigns of Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts signed open letters last week urging them to introduce a similar ceasefire resolution in the Senate.” Well, let’s look in worldview analysis at what here is at the very least a correlation, that is to say they’re lining up together. So here you have those who are supporting the Palestinian cause and they’re really criticizing support for Israel.

And it turns out that they’re identified in this article as the 2020 supporters, young supporters, highly educated young activist supporters of the Democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and the very liberal democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Anyone who’s shocked by that, well just profoundly shouldn’t be. You’re not watching what’s going on. This is as predictable as the rotation of the earth around the sun. Okay, so in political terms, does this mean that some of those young Democrats just might vote Republican? No, it certainly doesn’t mean that. The New York Times isn’t fooled by that, “Many on the left, however, acknowledge that Mr. Biden remains preferable to a Republican alternative in 2024.” So the article just makes clear that what these liberal activists are seeking to do is to put pressure on the Biden administration. The last thing they want to do is enable the election of a Republican administration.

So that tells you something about where the politics is playing out right now, and it’s playing out on American college campuses. It’s playing out in the White House, it’s playing out in American public discourse even as most importantly, most crucially, it’s playing out right now in Israel and in Gaza. In coming days, we’re going to take a very close look at the specific ideology which is fueling so much of this opposition to Israel, and we just need to know it’s not opposition to Israel’s actions, it’s opposition to Israel’s existence. That’s a crucial difference. We’ll be looking at that in days to come.

Part II

President Joe Biden is Scaring the Democratic Voter Base: The Re-election Landscape and the Issue of Age

The big issue right now is that we just spoke of the 2020 presidential election and we spoke of President Joe Biden. Now, when you have an incumbent President of the United States who’s eligible for a second term, it is virtually assured that that incumbent president will run for a second term.

Now, you asked the question, why? Does he just want to stay in office? Well, that’s not irrelevant. It’s certainly not irrelevant to Joe Biden. But it also underlines the fact that a president who’s ineligible for another term, or is coming to the end of that term, he becomes a lame duck. If a president’s not running for reelection and there is not the prospect that he will be in office for four more years, then the political class just begins to adjust to this person soon being a former president. And that is exactly what Joe Biden doesn’t want to happen because as an incumbent President of the United States, he does not want to hear that hissing sound of air escaping from a tire, which is exactly what you will hear quite loudly if the president were to announce he’s not running for re-election. So that’s why an incumbent president almost has to run for re-election except under unusual circumstances.

And that’s what brings up President Joe Biden because he is an unusual circumstance. He’s about to turn 81 years of age. That’s absolutely astounding. So at the end of next month, at the end of November, President Joe Biden turns 81. Now, that means that when he might run for President to the United States for a re-election, he’ll be a month short of 82, and that means that by the time he leaves office, you’re looking at 86 and you’re looking at a very, very difficult prospect. And you’re looking at President Biden, frankly, looking every bit of being 81. That’s not an insult, that’s just truth. When Winston Churchill was painted in a portrait having lived a very long life, and having fought so many political battles and having done so, so valiantly, when he was painted looking old, he hated the picture. But you know what he earned that old.

To know me is to know my affection and admiration for Winston Churchill. But as a theologian and as a Christian, I have to say there is nothing wrong with someone old being old. He earned that old by for one thing, helping to save Western civilization. When it comes to Joe Biden, it’s hard to find someone who served in Washington longer than the President of the United States. And quite frankly, that takes a toll. And without going into detail and without any kind of ad hominem arguments against the President, the fact is he’s 81 or just about, and let’s just be honest, it shows, and that’s scaring Democrats because it’s scaring voters. And so you had a very interesting development just over the last several days when a congressman, a member of Congress, a Democratic member of Congress from Minnesota, his name is Dean Phillips, announced that he is going to challenge the President for the 2024 Democratic Presidential nomination. That’s astounding.

You’re talking about a member of Congress, one of 435, who is announcing that he’s going to run against the President of the United States. Dean Phillips, now in his third term, he has only represented, he’s only been elected by a relatively small congressional district in the state of Minnesota. He now dares to run against an incumbent President of the United States. Now, when he announced that he was going to run against President Biden, one of the most amazing things is that he began by insisting that he basically agrees with President Biden on almost everything. He has virtually a 100% voting record of voting with and for the President of the United States. He does not disagree with the President of the United States, a President of his own party. He absolutely agrees with him. The only thing that concerns him is that he’s looking the polling data, which other Democrats are also having to take a very close look at, indicating that it will be a very steep challenge for President Joe Biden to achieve re-election in 2024.

Now, as a bare political fact, President Biden believes he’s the only person who can defeat Donald Trump in the race for the office of President of the United States. Now, whether that’s true or not, that is what Democrats told Joe Biden in 2020, and that’s what President Biden is now telling himself in 2024. But when you’re looking at age, the difference between 78 and 82 is more than four years. And that’s true for anyone, not to mention someone who has served in the most arduous office that is imaginable in any constitutional order serving as the chief executive, as the President of the United States. Long have historians noted that Presidents age faster than other people. You can see it on their faces, sometimes you can see it in their handwriting. Now, on this issue, when it comes to the Democratic Presidential nomination, Republicans don’t have a voice. We don’t have any business, no direct role certainly in deciding who will be the 2024 Democratic nominee, but it is really interesting to hear Congressman Phillips say, “I think President Biden’s done a spectacular job for our country, but it’s not about the past.”

He went on to say, “I will not sit still and not be quiet in the face of numbers that are so clearly saying that we’re going to be facing an emergency next November.” Now, that points to something very interesting. The Christian worldview takes time very, very seriously, and that means that The Christian worldview begins with the premise of time as a part of God’s creation. God created the cosmos and he set the motion that is reflected in time. And even as God is eternal, he created time, and that’s why time means past, present, and future, and that’s why human beings made in his image, we can’t but think in terms of past, present, and future. And that means that even when we want to say, “Oh, we don’t care about the past.” We really do. And even when humans want to say, “I am living fully in the present.” You never actually are.

And even as you think to the future, well, you can see things that are both opportunities and problems. And here the Democrats are figuring out that the time problem is this. It’s not just the fact that times reflected in the President being in his eighties. It’s reflected in the fact that if something were to happen to the President of the United States before election day in 2024, most dangerously closer and closer to election day in 2024, it will be too late for the Democrats to do anything about it. Now, just looking at insurance tables, that’s something that ought to be say nonpolitical. Look at insurance tables, sometimes they’re referred to as actuarial tables or risk tables. Let’s just say the risk of an 80-something person falling and being injured, it’s a lot greater than a 70-year-old person, and that’s much greater than a 60-year-old person.

You just look at it. Once again, it’s a matter of math. It’s not a matter of politics, it’s a matter of math. And when it comes to cognitive issues, comes to any and of our other issues, well, the stakes just get higher as the numbers get higher. So what will it mean that Congressman Dean Phillips has announced his candidacy for the 2024 Democratic nomination? Well, probably it won’t mean much. On the other hand, this might be a catalyst for someone who’s much more formidable politically than this congressman to enter the Democratic race. And right now, almost like you see predators circling a herd, you see, especially Democratic Governors such as Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan, such as J. B. Pritzker in Illinois, and in particular such as Gavin Newsom in California, looking like candidates, except they don’t exactly want to look like candidates, or at least not exactly yet.

One sign of this, by the way, is that the Governor of California went on what was pretty much presented as a miniature version of a state visit to China, even meeting with Xi Jinping, the Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, that is not an accident. As a matter of fact, for any sitting president, that would be an absolute provocation, and there’s no doubt that the Biden administration, the Biden White House knew exactly what California’s Governor was doing, and I can assure you, they hated it. To twist an old political adage in politics, if you want a friend, get a dog because you shouldn’t count on the California Governor.

Part III

Human Agency and Natural Disasters: Hurricane Otis Raises Big Questions

But next, even as we think about these massive issues of moral importance and worldview significance, both on the international and in the domestic sphere, much of it driven by concerns such as war and justice and righteousness and politics and presidents, we also need to recognize that sometimes there is really big news that doesn’t have much of anything to do with human decision at all, or what theologically, or philosophically is called human agency.

No human agency brought about Hurricane Otis. No, but Hurricane Otis hit the Pacific coast of Mexico last Tuesday, and it was a storm that went from being basically a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane in record time. By the time it slammed into that Western Coast of the country of Mexico, particularly, perhaps most famously in a city known as Acapulco, very much known as a resort city, you’re talking about winds of 165 miles an hour. Those are devastating hurricane winds, under any circumstance. You’re looking at this massive low-pressure system, which is almost always record-setting when it comes to big hurricanes, but this really is historic in the sense that no storm like this had ever hit the Western Coast of Mexico, ever. Indeed, there are some who are saying that no storm like this has hit either coast of Mexico, at least in terms of modern history, but particularly on the Western Coast, it is really clear that this storm has done massive damage.

Even political leaders in Mexico are coming out and saying, you know, roughly 80% of the buildings in Acapulco, including so many of the tourist hotels are basically destroyed. Now, there is destroyed and destroyed when it comes to construction, but nonetheless, you’re talking here about massive, massive damage. You’re talking about incredibly powerful winds. You’re talking about a record speed with which a hurricane sped up to this kind of velocity, this kind of wind power 165 miles an hour. Now, I think most of us can imagine that our homes are not built to withstand 165-mile-an-hour winds, much less sustained 165-mile-an-hour winds, plus a tidal surge, all the rain, all of that coming together. A hurricane is just uniquely disastrous. Now, there are other natural disasters, tsunamis, earthquakes, but tornadoes generally cover a much smaller portion of the map. Even an outbreak of tornadoes doesn’t come generally close to anything like the power of a hurricane.

Earthquakes can be very similar in destructive power, earthquakes, tsunamis, but it’s hurricanes that often do this kind of damage. But we really are talking about a massive scale. We’re talking about Mexico also. We’re talking about tourism, we’re talking about residences, we’re talking about all of this, but we have to talk about human agency and human moral responsibility too, not because of the hurricane or its path or its strength. Human beings had no agency involved in the fact that this hurricane came into being, or that the storm became a hurricane, or that it reached this kind of power, or that it slammed into Mexico specifically into the area that included Acapulco. Human beings didn’t decide that, didn’t even decide a little bit of that. So you say, “Well, where does human agency or human moral responsibility comes in?” Well, it comes in before a storm like this hits.

Remember that past, present, and future of our responsibility. Well, in the past, they’re huge questions. Were there adequate safety codes? Were these buildings built up to codes? Were these structures safe? Now, that’s a past question in terms of policies in the past or whether you had a functioning government, and in Mexico, there are questions certainly in some areas as to just how effective the government is. And yet you also have to ask the question about the present. How about the government’s response? The President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador was quick to say that he had sent in lots of soldiers, lots of supplies, a ship carrying gasoline and fuel. But in the present, there are also some other things that come up in this, this also comes with worldview significance. You need a functioning government, but you also have to have a functioning infrastructure because you can’t really distribute fuel unless you can pump it, and you can’t pump it without electricity, and you don’t have electricity if the power plants don’t work, and you can’t just send a boatload of electricity that doesn’t work.

The future also comes into play here, just as it does in Maui, given the horrifying storm that hit Maui with so much devastation there in Hawaii months ago. It comes just about anywhere in the aftermath of this kind of natural disaster, the question is, do we rebuild? How do we rebuild? How do we take care of the people? What did we learn from this? What kind of policies? What kind of zoning laws? What kind of building regulations have we now learned need to be put into place? And as devastating as the storm was, the reality is that sometimes the political devastation is also pretty remarkable, pretty easily demonstrable. The aftermath of a storm like this can bring out the best. It can also bring out the worst. There can be those who are financial predators. There are those who are opportunists. There are those who are looking frankly, to gain economically by bringing further injury to some of the people who are there.

Sometimes in the aftermath of a disaster like this is hard to tell who is really helping and who might be hurting.

Part IV

We are Needy Creatures For Sure: How Our Dependence on Water Reveals Our Creatureliness

But as we conclude today, it’s really, really important also that we recognize the common humanity, no matter where human beings are found, whether it’s in Acapulco, in the Gaza Strip, whether it’s in Tel Aviv, or in Washington D.C.

Here’s something common to the human condition, we have to have water. Human beings can exist without food far longer than we can exist without water. Civilization is traceable to water, dependable water, sources of water, sources of water that are drinkable and clean water to irrigate crops, water to take away sewage. Water is absolutely essential. And the problem after so many hurricanes is that even as the hurricane brought too much water, it destroys the ability of a society or a culture to produce the kind of water upon which human beings depend.

All this is a reminder of the fact that we are creatures and we are more fragile than we would like to think. You deny us water for a sufficient length of time, and we begin to get sick, and for a longer time, we begin to die. So it’s humbling sometimes to realize that if you want a definition of civilization, of working civilization, of human society and culture, that we can all immediately understand, well, here’s a question, the answer to this question means civilization, or not. The question is, can you turn on a tap and get drinkable water? Can you open a box, open a cabinet, open a refrigerator, and get out a bottle of drinkable water? The answer to that question really answers the larger question, is civilization working here, or not?

So as today or in days to come, you reach in for a bottle of water, turn on the tap, and get some water, just recognize all the parts of a civilization that are required for that bottle of water to be there, for that tap to flow, and for the water to come, and for water to be available for all the things that human beings need. Because as human beings, we need water. But fundamentally, as creatures, we are very, very needy. One of the ways that we are constantly reminded, indeed that we are creatures is that we are very needy, and we know it.

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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