Friday, November 3, 2023
It's Friday, November 3, 2023.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
A Falloff in Patriotism Leads to Drop Off in Enlistments: And a Clear Partisan Divide Endangers Our Military
You can look at many dimensions of America's moral life. You can look at moral dimensions of so many big stories, but you can also look at some indications of where our society is headed and some of these might come from some very unexpected places, such as enlistments in the United States military. The bottom line is that those enlistments are basically declining, to the point that you have most of the major branches of the armed services that are having a difficult time meeting their recruiting goals. The one exception to that, by the way, very interesting, is the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps is hitting its goals unlike the other major branches of the military.
You asked the question, "Why are the branches of the armed services in an all volunteer army, why at this point are they having a difficult time meeting their recruiting goals?" And the point is there are some reasons that have to do with, well, the fact there are fewer qualified candidates when it comes to say, physical condition, the avoidance of a criminal background, the avoidance of certain kinds of patterns of behavior, including drug use. It turns out that when you look at young adults in the United States, a greater percentage that at previous times, this is very troubling, a greater percentage is disqualified from enlisting in the armed services even before you get to the question of their willingness to do so.
But let's just move on to their willingness to do so because in moral terms, this is also a very big issue. We would understand that our nation is in trouble not only in terms of defense, but in moral terms. If the young people in this country are not enlisting for military service to the degree that is necessary for us to sustain our national defense.
A pair of writers offer an argument in the Wall Street Journal. The writers are Owen West and Kevin Wallsten. The title of their argument is this, Patriotism's Decline Imperils the Military. So the argument here is that it is a decline in patriotism that is directly linked to the decline in the percentage of enlistments for the US military. West and Wallsten make this point, "The divisiveness of American politics has undermined our military in a way that the Pentagon doesn't understand or refuses to acknowledge."
Now, wait just a minute. This puts another dimension into this. From the get-go, this article basically starts out saying this isn't just about a decline in patriotism, it's about a political pattern. It is traceable to political decisions. Here's what they say, "To attract Generation Z recruits after President Biden's election, the military changed its marketing strategy. Starting in 2021, the military released advertisements emphasizing individualism and diversity over assimilation into a cohesive force with shared Marshall values. The army called its campaign, 'A distinct departure from traditional recruiting.'"
The authors go on to say, "Yet the military's recruitment crisis has only grown worse." Generals, they say, that means General Officers, "Blame an increasingly overweight, overmedicated and undereducated youth pool." These factors they say have contributed for years, but here's the essential problem, and this is exactly the way they put it. "Young white Democrats have lost faith in their country and are rejecting military service." So that's quite a statement because it clearly gives a partisan label to the problem. It's not just that young people are not enlisting at the rates necessary or even the rates experienced in the past. It is that there's a partisan dimension to this, and by the way, that is very well attested in the evidence and it's basically a vast shift in American public life, partisan life, party life, political life that is as recent as the last 10 years or so.
The authors tell us this, "As recently as 2015, 19% of young, white male Democrats wanted to serve compared with 20% of blacks, Latinos, and white Republicans." No more. "By 2021, white Democrats had plunged to 3%, about one-fourth the level among black and Latino men and one-eighth of that of white Republicans." They go on to explain, "That's a loss of about 45,000 young men interested in serving. The total recruiting gap across the Army, Navy, and Air Force combined is about 30,000 people." So that 45,000 shortfall, when it comes to young Democrat men who would be enlisting for the armed services, it turns out that's a shortfall. That's 15,000 over the total shortfall of the combined three services experiencing the enlistment decline. This is a massive news story. It ought to be on the front pages of many papers. Looking at the health of our country, this is a major alarm, but it also underlines the fact that ideas have consequences and a fall off in patriotism is almost immediately trackable, traceable to a fall off in military enlistments.
A willingness to fight for your country and defend your country depends upon an affection for and commitment to your country, and that's exactly what this article is arguing is missing, but it's not missing across the board. As a matter of fact, even many Democrats who have identity with a minority group when it comes to race and ethnicity, many of those numbers are very strong. In particular, there is market support for the enlistment in the American military on the part of many young Hispanics, both Republicans and Democrats. This is a rather unique problem in terms of the older Democratic constituency, the old base of the white Democrats that was the base of the party for so many years. It is the younger men in particular in that group who have fallen off in terms of their patriotism and the numbers of their enlistment are now down to about 3%, and that's just since 2015, and that is a major moral change.
You could look at all kinds of moral tests you could give a civilization. Look at its laws, look at its prison factors and its statistics. Look at its medical and poverty rates. You could look at its abortion and marriage rates. You could look at its childbirth rates, all these things. You could look at those. All of those are laden with moral importance, but so are the rates of enlistment in the armed services. This is not just an issue of national defense. By the way, as if you could say this is just an issue of national defense. It is an issue in terms of the moral state of our nation as well, the political health of our nation as well.
This partisan divide points to a major problem, but as we look historically at America in the last several decades, we note that the patriotism gap in this country between the two parties really began to emerge in a big way in the 1960s. You didn't see this kind of gap at all in the 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s. You didn't see this gap at the height of the Cold War. You began to see this gap after the moral and political revolutions of the 1960s.
And now this gap is very pronounced, but that's not all there is to the problem, as these two writers, and by the way, West had served as an Assistant Defense Secretary, and Mr. Wallsten is Professor of Political Science at California State University in Long Beach, they go on to say the other part of the problem is that the Biden administration through the Department of Defense is pushing these DEI initiatives that basically will create a disincentive not only for the young democratic men to enlist, that's a loss of patriotism, but for young Republican, young conservative men to enlist because quite frankly, the commitment to DEI at the expense of the traditional understanding of the military, which was a meritocracy, that's turning out to be a big problem.
But I mentioned something that's a very interesting footnote to this and that is that of the major branches of the armed services, it's the Marine Corps that stands out because the Marine Corps is not having the problem. They're not experiencing the deficit. They actually exceeded their 2022 recruiting goals. What makes the Marine Corps different? Well, Marines would likely give you an extended answer to that, but the fact is that the one central issue in this respect that makes the difference is that the Marine Corps has not bought into the same DEI initiatives that have so shaped now the other major branches of the armed services.
"The Marines focus on recruiting those eager to serve, emphasizing team over self and discipline instead of rose gardens." One result they point out is in the Latino population, and we are told that those who have a Latino identity will comprise 25% of enlisted recruits in 2022. "Their traditional ethos of duty, honor, and country remains the basis for our ethnically diverse military. That's a distinct American advantage. Buying into the DEI initiative is not only failing to reach the people who aren't enlisting. In a major way, it threatens to dissuade those who have been enlisting from doing so. The first crisis is patriotism. The second crisis is confusing the very basis of the US military."
Why Has Our Society Changed Such That Many Families Cannot Live Under One Income? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Now we're going to turn to questions and again, always interested in what questions are being asked by very intelligent listeners of The Briefing. Jonathan writes in and he's asking a very interesting question. He says, "I think if my history is correct, in times past, families were able to live under one income. I was thinking why for many families this cannot be the case today?" Well, Jonathan, very interesting question. You make an assertion and that assertion is that your understanding is that in times past, families were able to live on a single worker wage and then you ask the question, "What happened?" Well, lots of things happened, but boy is that a smart question, and it does point to a major transformation of our society and our economy, and I don't think it's a good thing.
So let's just step back for a moment. Let's understand that if you take the 20th century, at the high point of the 20th century, about the midpoint of the 20th century, what economic planners saw as the center of the American economic system was what was called a worker who was paid a family wage. Now, that's very crucial because you're talking about a worker who is paid a family wage. Now, World War II and the Great Depression caused some interruption in this and you understand why. This is the whole, the legend. Of course, it was in reality so many women going into the workforce and even going into factories that made weapons, you had Rosie the Riveter, very famous symbol of World War II, but after World War II, when you had the men coming back, there was a return to the national priority of a family wage.
And this is what a lot of the labor unions were pressing for. So what a lot of the employers of even the big titans of industry were working for, you had basically an agreement between the industrialists, you might say, who owned the companies and managed the companies and the workers, who provided the workers by the millions in the US that the goals should be to pay workers a wage that could support their family. Even a figure such as Henry Ford, long before World War II, was a part of helping to create the idea of the family wage.
Now, if you look at the long span of history, the issue here that doesn't fit as the word wage because there were wage earners going all the way back into antiquity. As a matter of fact, the worker is worthy of his wages or of his hire is a principle found in scripture. But the reality is that in an agrarian society where people live on the farm and when the entire family's involved in farming and you live in a small community with a barter economy, wages are not so much the issue. Wages are a function of the modern age, of the Industrial Revolution, of the urbanization of population and the fact that people are living increasingly in cities or in towns. Dads working in a factory, he's working at the plant and the responsibility of those companies was to pay each male worker a family wage.
Now, again, there were female workers, but the understanding is that the national interest is in supporting families which would support the entire society by making sure that men were gainfully employed. Some would be farmers, some would be working in a barter economy, but the vast majority would now in the modern age be working for a wage. And it was the responsibility of the society to work towards a wage structure that would allow a man working as a husband and a father to provide for his family, and certainly when it came to all the basic needs.
Now, that was a consensus in terms of this country all the way into the 1960s. And then of course, Jonathan, you asked the question, "What happened?" And a lot of things happened. So for one thing, second wave feminism happened. Second wave feminism sometimes, called the movement for women's liberation or women's lib as it was called in the 1960s and the 1970s, it emerged with the argument that it is fundamentally wrong to say that there is a male sphere in the economy and there's a female sphere in the economy and in the culture, and thus women should be equally free to hold jobs and earn a wage as men.
Now, an interesting complicity in this came from the industrialists, from the employers, from the capitalist class because they saw the opportunity to expand with a whole new class of workers. If they could assume that men would eventually be wage workers, they had a certain employment base, but if all of a sudden they could now double their employment base potential, well, they could expand their businesses exponentially. That's why you have so many of the major economic interests who are all for women being in the workforce and for that matter, getting into the workforce as early as possible, staying in it. This is why they're pressing for things like daycare and childcare because their most important issue is getting women in the workforce as wage earners.
But here's the deal, once you began to redefine a wage earner apart from the family wage, then employers were no longer in any sense, obligated to pay a family wage. If everyone is an autonomous individual, that's the other big development of this age, if everyone's an autonomous individual, then the wage structure is based only on the individual. I think it would be shocking to many people, how many individuals and thinkers, economists who would identify as conservatives, how they basically have bought into the idea of personal autonomy and the individual economic unit being one person rather than a family? I'm going to suggest to listeners of The Briefing that one of the biggest and most catastrophic changes that has taken place in American society is that the basic unit of the family has been replaced, for that matter and most moral legal and economic considerations by people, with the economic unit of the person, of the individual. And that is destructive of the family, it's subversive of the family. It just eliminated the goal of the family wage.
And so Jonathan, to answer your question, second wave feminism came, the Chamber of Commerce came in one sense, the Industrial Revolution was expanded and you had personal autonomy that also landed flat in the middle of this with everyone claiming that the individual is the most basic unit. Well, if the individual is the most basic unit, then the family wage is nothing more than an historical fiction.
Now, one final thought before we move to another question, and that is this, that policymakers now on the other side of this revolution, they want to in some sense return to a family wage, but they want to make it a part of every individual's income pattern. That's just not going to work, and for that matter, the damage is already done to marriage in the family. It's just a fact that sometimes social movements and for that matter, social developments change the economy. It's also true that the opposite happens. The economy in terms of the incentives we put in place, the wage structures we put in place also changes society. And the fact is that at this point, because of this aversion of the family, it's hard to imagine how we could return this economy to the goal of a family wage. But you know, Jonathan, that was a very intelligent question and there is a history to this. It's a very troubling history, but it affirms for Christians the fact that marriage and the family are for us, non-negotiable. The economy may change the terms, but we can't.
If Muslims Respect the Old Testament, Why Do They Persecute the Jews? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Another very interesting question comes in from Steve and, well, it's a simple question. As a matter of fact, this is one of the shortest questions I've received in a long time, but it's a big issue and it's another very intelligent question. The question is this, "If Muslims believe the Old Testament, why do they attack God's people?" And by that he means of course the Jewish people. And the way to understand this is that even as there is respect for the Christian scriptures, there's respect for the Old Testament, there's a respect found in the Quran and on the part attributed to the influence of Muhammad directly in terms of his leadership, there is a respect for the so-called people of the book, but it's not a respect based in acknowledging the truth claims made in the Old Testament or the truth claims made in the New Testament. As a matter of fact, the most important thing to recognize is that Islam understands Muhammad to be a successor prophet. So the revelation that the Muslims claim was given to Mohamed supersedes everything that came before.
And so even as there is respect in one sense, at least officially for the Jewish scriptures and for the Jewish people, and even though there is some kind of respect for Christians as the people of the book and for the New Testament, the reality is that it is not what we would classify as respect at all. It is instead coming down to what in Islam has often been referred to as dhimmitude, which means the submission of Jewish and Christian citizens under Muslim rule to the rather uniform and monolithic influence of Islam and a society.
So this is the creation of this successor prophet. If you have a successor prophet, then that prophecy trumps everything that came before it. That's the reason why Jesus is not presented in the New Testament as the successor prophet to the Old Testament. The uniform witness of scripture is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. He is not a successor prophet. He is prophet, priest and king, even as the prophets foretold in the Old Testament, and Christ furthermore in his person and in his work fulfilled every single word of the Old Testament. Jesus is not a successor prophet. Muhammad is presented as exactly that.
How Has American Culture Degraded Women? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letter from an 18-Year-Old Listener of The Briefing
Next, I want to turn to a really sweet question sent in by a young woman who's 18 years old, a high school senior preparing for college. She says that she and her mother have been reading the famous work, Female Piety by John Angell James, and she points to the fact that John Angell James argues that if we go to the Bible, we shall learn that it is to Christianity that women owes her true elevation. And then the question is posed, "How has American culture, apart from the gospel, degraded women?"
That's a smart question, and I want to come back and say, I think one of the ways I would most essentially point to the degradation of women is the sexualization of women that has become such a central driving force in our society, and to the utter corruption of men and boys, and to the utter corruption of marriage and to the subversion of the dignity and true beauty of women.
I think that's one thing. I think the reign of immodesty, the reign of overt sexualization. And by the way, you had second wave feminism complain that women had been turned into sex objects, but it was the sexual revolution that did that above anything else, not only in pornography, but in the sexualization of everything, including just you to say mass entertainment, even advertising. And so that's one thing, but I would point to something else, and that is the fact that when you replace a biblical understanding of both manhood and womanhood with a secular understanding based on a materialist, just absolutely naturalistic explanation, then the essential differences between men and women, other than the simply biological, are declared to be nothing but the product of prejudice and patriarchy. And that just doesn't work. It doesn't work in the family, it doesn't work in society. There are unhealthy unbiblical expectations attached to both men and women, but the fact that men and women are different is not unrealistic. It's not wrong, and it is a deeply biblical affirmation.
The unique dignity of women is, as John Angell James said, something that is affirmed within the biblical worldview and within the scriptures. It was affirmed, we need to note not only in the Old Testament, it was ultimately confirmed by the Lord Jesus Christ in his conversations with women, in the way he spoke to women, in the way he engaged women, in the way in the New Testament, men and women are described together in the church and in the continuation of a biblical theology of marriage and of covenant love that frankly exalts not just marriage, but both men and women and in a society in which women and in history where women have been so routinely degraded, it is biblical Christianity that offers based upon the image of God, the dignity to which men and women are called, and the dignity, which is God's gift to both men and women, but uniquely to women in the Bible in ways that are honored and respected and reflected even in the Proverbs.
And as I say ultimately in what the gospels reveal as how Jesus addressed women, answered the questions of women, solved the problems that were presented and treated women with such dignity and care and respect. I also want to say an answer to this question that I think part of what our culture has done is even make it awkward to talk about these things, even to talk about what should be natural among Christians and biblical in our conversation because these arguments, these truths we're speaking are considered so strange and exotic and even dangerous and oppressive by the society around us.
And that society around us claims to be championing the cause of women, even as by the way, it denies the biological reality of what it means to be female and male and tries to explain why a biological male in a swimsuit supposedly stands on the swim team at a major university, the women's swim team, a society that is that messed up nonetheless turns back to the church and says, "We're the people who are elevating women." That's simply absolutely tragically wrong. It's refuted by all the evidence and look at the society around us.
How's this working out? I think once again, we go back to the argument which is just basically true, that true human dignity is based in the gift of the Creator in his active creation and making us in his image, making us male and female and acknowledging and respecting both the sameness in terms of the image of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ and the difference in terms of how we're made and how we are assigned, and understanding that that is a part of what protects men and women and boys and girls and protects creating a hedge around and a foundation for true dignity for women.
Do You Have Any Encouragement For Students Who Feel Intimidated After Realizing How Much More They Need to Learn? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
The final question for this week comes from Jason. He's studying for the ministry, a college student, and he asked a fascinating question, I don't think I've ever been asked this question in just this way. He says, "I feel intimidated and realize how far I have to go after taking hermeneutics, a class on the interpretation of scripture." He's a freshman in college and says some very kind things. He comes from a very fine church with a very fine preacher, and he just says, "I'm just trying to figure out, I feel of overcome knowing how far I have to go after taking a class on the interpretation of scripture."
So Jason, let me just give you a piece of good news. The good news is you've got to know what you don't know in order to press on to know what you need to know in ministry. So I think the Lord uses experiences like this to say, "I really need more education so that I can faithfully teach and preach the word of God." Hermeneutics comes down to rightly dividing the word of God. That's the discipline of learning how rightly to understand and interpret and read the scriptures, and that's in preparation for teaching and preaching and studying the scriptures.
Jason, I just want to say you will never, ever, ever get over the bracing knowledge of how little you know. You will never, ever, ever master the holy scriptures. The holy scriptures master us, but at the same time, God calls men to preach and calls those men who are to preach, to prepare, in order to preach faithfully, and we do learn continuously. We learn new skills. We learn how to be ever more faithful in our understanding of scripture, and thus in our teaching and our preaching and in our study. Frankly, we do gain some confidence, but at the same time, we never master the scriptures. The scriptures are mastering us.
And Jason, what a kind question you ask. It makes me hopeful about the generation of young people, and in this case of young men training to be pastors. The realization that you're feeling right now is one of those very necessary healthy realizations that will propel you into a further study in order that you'd be a faithful teacher, preacher and expositor of God's word, and the faithful expositor is learning all the way to the very end.
Thanks for all these questions. You can send your question simply to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll take as many as we can every opportunity we can get.