TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - FEBRUARY 12: A man writes released and rescued on a poster of missing Israeli, Louis Har on a wall at Hostages Square on February 12, 2024 in Tel Aviv, Israel. The Israeli military says it has rescued two hostages from captivity in Rafah, whilst two 21-year old IDF soldiers were killed in overnight fighting in the Gaza Strip. The IDF has now rescued three hostages through military operations since Oct. 7, as PM Netanyahu faces pressure from relatives of freed hostages to secure the release of the remaining captives through negations with Hamas.
Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Wednesday, February 14, 2024.

It’s Wednesday, February 14, 2024.

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

Part I

Israeli Hostages Saved: The Surprising Story Hiding Under the News of the Hostage Rescue in Israel

Israelis celebrated the rescue of two of the hostages that have been held for weeks by Hamas in an effort undertaken by the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces. And there were other units that were involved in the rescue, but it was a spectacular success. And the liberation of two hostages is certainly something to celebrate, an older man and a younger man. And what we now know is that even as this effort was undertaken, it was up against spectacular odds. It was a remarkable military achievement to rescue these two hostages. All this serves to underline the fact that Hamas not only murdered about 1200 persons in an October 7 raid on Israel, the terrorist group also took hostages. Now, let’s just think about the morality of that for a moment.

And so you can look at this and you understand that you have murder on the one hand, in this terrorist attack, but you also have hostage taking. But here’s where in the moral equation of terrorism, you’re looking at homicide and hostage taking as two essential tools in the toolkit, that tells you just how evil all of this really is. And the taking of hostages amounts to an effort to gain leverage. And that’s exactly how Hamas–following the example of others–has treated the hostage equation.

Now, Israel, as a culture and as a government successively, as different governments have been in control, Israel has also fed the problem by a willingness to pay an extraordinary price to liberate hostages. And so you might say, well, that just would be the normal national procedure just about anywhere. But that is actually not the posture of the United States of America.

The United States government and our military will go to extreme lengths to try to rescue hostages, but not at the risk of incentivizing further hostage taking, and creating a market for hostages. One of the problems right now is that Israel understandably in absolute horror and grief after the October 7 attacks, there’s enormous political pressure being put on the Israeli government to declare a ceasefire to reach some settlement, just about anything that would lead to the release of the hostages. And Hamas has been playing a very diabolical, very evil game from the beginning.

They have held the hostages, they have embedded the hostages as they have embedded civilians knowing that Israel will respond with a military effort. They put those lives at risk intentionally. A part of the hostage taking is that they did hide and hold those hostages in places where they could well be harmed–if not killed–by Israel’s own military action. They have also used them as human shields and human leverage. And this is where in the equation of world terrorism, the moment you enter into creating a market for kidnapping, then hostage-taking is simply going to become an industry, a dark industry, an evil industry, but it’s going to become an industry.

It’s just a fact that Israel’s government and its military authorities are under incredible political pressure to pull back on the effort to defeat Hamas there, especially in Gaza. And the political pressure is amplified with international voices. So it is interesting right now to see how many of those who are pleading the cause of the hostages are going to western media and sometimes to western nations to make the point. Actually, and this is something very interesting to watch, trying to bring political pressure from other nations on their own government to agree to a ceasefire with the promise of the release of at least some of the hostages.

But here’s where you also understand that when you have a market for hostages, you have every incentive on the part of those who took the hostages and are holding the hostages, to drag this out as long as possible. Not only for the fact they’re using them as human shields, but also because they’re using them as a commodity. They are banking on the fact that Israel will be under the very same political pressure we’re talking about right now, to bring about a ceasefire on terms that will be favorable to Hamas. Israel’s government, on the other hand, and the purpose here is articulated by its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is to defeat or eliminate Hamas as a military threat.

Now, interesting developments on that front and all this has to be put into a certain context of interpretation, but you have American defense officials who are stating that they are not confident that Israel is going to be able to succeed in eliminating the military threat of Hamas. That is simply extremely complicated. And there are a couple of issues that certainly come into play here. One of them is the fact that Hamas is so embedded in the Palestinian culture. And the other thing is that it’s embedded in the ground literally in terms of hundreds of miles of tunnels in which they can hide. And so that’s an enormous physical obstacle to Israel’s intentions here.

The other problem is that Israel is going to be under increased international pressure, with the passing of every single day. And we see that, even in the change in the disposition of the American administration, the American government. President Biden early on gave assurances, very loud assurances even traveling to Israel about American support for Israel. And that support is still evident in terms of military support, intelligence support coordination, other things. But it is also clear that the Biden administration is very worried about domestic support and is very worried about losing, just to put the matter as explicitly as possible because this is what it is, the arrow vote in strategic places like Michigan, which is a swing state. The Biden administration is also facing the fact that younger Democrats are far less supportive of Israel, and in some cases actually very supportive of the Palestinian cause as they see it. And so directly or indirectly, they are supporting the effort of Hamas.

And you look at that, the Biden administration is responding by at least allowing one of its national security staff to speak as if the administration’s rethinking some of its support for Israel. Now, is that true or false? We don’t know. We do know this is an international game of perception. We know that the president’s running for reelection. We know that he’s afraid of losing that crucial youth vote and swing vote, but we also know that the reality is what’s taking place on the ground. And for those of us who aren’t there, it will take some time for us to figure out what is truly going on, on the ground. But it is undeniable right now that Israel is intending to press its effort against Hamas, against very considerable international pressure. And you also have military authorities who are being very clear about the fact that Hamas remains an active military threat.

One other dimension before pressing onto other very important topics of our consideration. It is now very, very clear that Hamas had hid its compound directly under a United Nations agency office. That just tells you about the kind of coordination that was going on. Now, people are saying that at least it’s plausible that the United Nations agency, which is already deeply infected by support for Hamas, including some people who are personnel of this UN agency who were directly involved in the murderous attack of October 7th, that’s bad enough. But now you find out that the compound was hidden right under the office of this UN agency, that tells you how this complicity just gets deeper and deeper.

As The Wall Street Journal has reported and I think the Journal bears credit for rather groundbreaking coverage here. They tell us that right under this UN agency was the headquarters in Gaza of Hamas along with computer servers and an intelligence hub, all of this humming. And by the way, using an enormous amount of energy right under this UN office. It’s not just that it was under their noses, it was in one sense under their protection. Alright, we’ll continue to track this story and consider the developments, but now, we need to shift back to the United States.

Part II

The Future of the Democratic Party: The Issues Surrounding Vice President Kamala Harris and the Party’s Obsession with Abortion

And of course the big development in American political life has been the report of the Special Counsel indicating the loss of mental acuity on the part of the president of the United States. You recall that that report described him as a well-intentioned elderly man with a failing memory. And you look at this, you recognize this is a giant political crisis for the Biden campaign, and for that matter, the Biden administration. It’s a crisis for the Democratic Party, but it’s also of course a crisis for the United States just in terms of the president’s responsibility.

But one of the interesting dimensions of this is that even as of course we have a line of succession for the president to the vice president, there’s all of a sudden increased press attention to the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris. There is increased speculation about the extent to which she is an active part of the administration, and what role she might have, and how this plays into the decision even of President Biden to stay in the race.

Two different pieces ran in the Wall Street Journal openly suggesting that so long as Kamala Harris is vice president of the United States, there will be no effort to remove Joe Biden as president under the clause of the 25th Amendment. And that is because it’s not just among Republicans, even among Democrats, there is tremendous resistance to Kamala Harris serving at the top of the ticket. And this is where the Democratic Party, and here’s where in worldview analysis, we just need to watch how these things work. This is why the Democratic Party is in a very tight position, and that’s because Kamala Harris ticks off so many of the points of identity politics that the Democrats have made central to their project. But there is no widespread support for the idea that Kamala Harris would be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States. And that’s why you have people in the Wall Street Journal saying, “Look, she is actually Joe Biden’s job protection program.” He chose her and it was almost assuredly not for this reason, but the result is there is not much effort undertaken to do anything that would give her greater prominence, at least in terms of the leadership of the Democratic Party.

Now, if the President were to withdraw from the race and thus decline the Democratic nomination by the time of the Democratic National Convention this summer, that would not mean that Kamala Harris as vice president would take his role as the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. That would be up to the party and that would be a bloodbath. That’s the other reason why the Democrats are not likely to move until they absolutely have to move, in terms of the action of the President’s age and capacity.

And that mirrors in one sense how Joe Biden became the Democratic nominee in the first place in 2020, simply because the Democratic Party wasn’t ready to move towards its future. And that future’s undeniably on the far further left. And so to bide time, they nominated Joe Biden, who by the way had just been humiliated in terms of previous contests before getting to the South Carolina primary in 2020. But the reality is, that this puts the Democrats in a very tight vice right now, and it is simply a matter of the fact that right now the Democratic Party wants to at least postpone, what will be a very divisive issue when it comes to who will be the next Democratic nominee. And this is where the Democratic Party has a slight out and that slight out is this, the primary system means that in 2028, Kamala Harris would have to run in those primaries, and the outcome of that would be up to Democratic voters which would allow far more popular candidates such as California Governor Gavin Newsom, or Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, or for that matter, very wealthy and powerful Democratic governors like J.B. Pritzker in Illinois to claim the mantle.

And as we’re looking at this, you recognize that if you live by identity politics, in one sense you will die by identity politics. But there’s another angle that has my primary interest here and that is, what in the world is the Vice president doing? How does that fit into the Democratic Party right now in the 2024 campaign? And the most important thing that we could mention about what the vice president is doing and how she is to function has to do with the issue of abortion. And that is because she has championed the cause and has been given that assignment by the Biden administration, by the president himself, and she is very, very proud to fly the abortion flag on behalf of the Democratic Party.

Now, all of this also humbles us by recognizing that right now the Democratic Party is absolutely certain that the abortion issue plays in its electoral favor. They’re absolutely convinced of that. They believe they have the evidence and votes that have taken place in places like Kansas and Kentucky. Elsewhere also. And the abortions are described in the Democratic effort as those who took away a woman’s right to an abortion, and are denying women access to their own reproductive health. That’s how it is being framed.

And this is what’s most important in terms of worldview analysis. The Democratic Party believes that the abortion issue is in its favor. They believe the abortion issue is the accelerant for the Democratic hopes in terms of elections statewide, nationwide, and in congressional districts. They believe that the abortion issue is their winning strategy. As a matter of fact, one recent article simply indicated that the Democratic Party is afraid that the issue of immigration, migration, the border, could actually compete with the issue of abortion in terms of voter interest and that would derail their plans. Once again, no particular investment in either one of these issues as an issue only in terms of this coverage, and in this part of the strategy over the fact that they believe it will play well in electoral politics. That’s the bottom line.

With the President’s age and condition being now a part of public conversation in an interview on Air Force Two, by the way, on a trip in which he went to contend for these arguments, she was asked whether she’s ready to serve and the vice president responded, “I am ready to serve. There’s no question about that.” And she went on to say that those who see her on the job walk away “fully aware of my capacity to lead.” She also was very clear about the fact that she’s championing the abortion cause, and even news coverage is indicating that this is an easier argument for her to make rather than President Biden at the top of the ticket. And it’s interesting to note the two reasons why they say it is so.

Number one, because she’s a woman and that’s when she talks about. The Republican Party and the conservative majority on the Supreme Court “taking away a woman’s right to an abortion she can speak as a woman.” And that is seen as an advantage. The second thing is Kamala Harris has been pretty radically pro-abortion throughout her entire political career, and that is in distinction to President Joe Biden, who as I have reported on extensively and written about extensively, has moved or evolved in a more pro-abortion position all throughout his political career. He was once an ardent defender of the Hyde Amendment restricting federal tax monies from being directed to abortion. When he ran for the nomination that was going to cost him the nomination, so immediately as if you could snap your fingers, he reversed himself on that issue.

Right now, it’s hard to know in policy, of any abortion that Joe Biden would oppose, but the very fact that he had opposed some abortions and some taxpayer spending on abortions decades ago is enough. This tells you a lot about the liberal direction of his party. It’s enough to create a political awkwardness, if not a bit of embarrassment. So the answer to that is putting out the vice president as the administration’s advocate for abortion for the cause of winning the vote, for these different offices in 2024.

Just in recent days, USA Today ran an article and it tells us the same story. “House Democrats plot their 2024 comeback. Abortion, economy, unity.” You’ll notice the abortion word is the first word to appear in that series. But in worldview analysis, something else we really need to watch is the use of language. The use of language here is very, very interesting. Because one of the aspects related to the vice president’s role in all of this is the use of the language that she is now leading in using. And this is the fact that, according to this logic, and this is morally very significant, the logic is the argument is, their public position is, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, especially the three justices nominated by former President Donald Trump, took away a woman’s right to abortion or took away a woman’s reproductive freedom or to use their even more euphemistic expression, a woman’s reproductive health and the choices that she might make.

Now, for Christians, you need to understand that that language is just absolutely loaded. In fact, every word in that is loaded, but the most important issue is a right that was supposedly taken away. Now, as you look at American constitutional and cultural history related to rights, the claim from the beginning is that these rights are fundamental. They are inalienable. They were given to us, endowed upon us by our creator. That’s the very argument of the Declaration of Independence. That’s the very logic that is in our constitutional order. The United States government in the beginning did not say that it was creating rights and it didn’t say that it had the ability to take rights away. Instead, it had the responsibility to understand and to protect the rights that the creator had given. Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness among those rights, they said are those three.

Now, there were certainly others, but I’ll tell you what wasn’t there on that list. What was glaringly not there on that list is anything that the founders might have recognized as a woman’s reproductive health decisions, or abortion or anything close to it. That is because there is no creator-granted right of so-called reproductive freedom. And so the concept of the founders, of natural rights, and again, they explicitly indicated the creator in the Declaration of Independence, but they meant very clearly these rights are evident in nature, and abortion is not one of those rights evident in nature. It’s a synthetic right. It was an invented right. And those on the left are these days quite bold just to announce that yes, it’s a synthetic right. Yes, it is an invented right. But that betrays something. That means the Supreme Court invented it in 1973 and thus they say it can’t be taken away.

So we’re going to be tracking a lot about this issue in the course of the campaign ahead. But notice the use of the language and notice that they basically market tested the language that accuses the Republicans of taking away a right, the Supreme Court of taking away a right. We just need to understand, we don’t believe the Supreme Court took away a right. We believe there was no such right, and never has been, and never will be. But it also underlines for Christians the fact that if you fall into the logic of that language, then frankly you surrendered the truth from the start.

Part III

Marriage Rights for Everyone, Even Single People? The Logic of the Moral Revolutionaries Falls On Its Own Sword

Well, of course today is Valentine’s Day, so happy Valentine’s Day, and this is an appropriate time to think about some very fundamental issues. And one of those issues is the future of marriage. And by the way, we as Christians are the ones who understand that if we are talking about romantic love, we can never do so separate from the institution of marriage, either as the realization or the horizon of that love. That is to say, it’s either love within the context of marriage or pointing to a coming marriage. That’s the only context of romantic love that Christians recognize as legitimate. Not the only context of love, there’s brotherly love, there’s the love of parents for their children and children for their parents, there’s the love we have for our brothers and sisters in Christ, there’s a love we have for neighbors. That’s a very different thing to the romantic love that has now been so corrupted by an increasingly secular and progressivist society.

But evidence of this comes, for example, when an NPR, that’s National Public Radio producer and editor in this case, Rhaina Cohen, writes an article published in the Washington Post. Here’s the headline, “Marriage has a monopoly on legal benefits. It shouldn’t.” Oh yes, the timing on this, surely accidental. She goes on by arguing that marriage “isn’t a cure-all for our society” and notes “even among married people, most spouses cannot count on the institution for the entirety of their adult lives.” Well, I’m just going to insert here, the Christian understanding is very clear. It’s not the failure of the institution, it’s the failure of the people, who got themselves married, and evidently didn’t understand what that meant.

She goes on to write, “Rather than being a forever commitment, marriage is typically only a temporary status of adulthood with the current median age of first marriage at 30 for men and 28 for women, many Americans are unmarried for upward of a decade of adulthood before heading to the altar.” “It has become increasingly common,” she writes, “for couples to divorce in later life.” “And in marriages that last,” she says, “one spouse often outlives the other by several years, roughly a third of American women age 65 and older are widowed.” So the bottom line in this, she says, we just need to sideline marriage as the legal institution of reference for Americans. It’s outdated, we’ve outgrown it.

You wonder where she’s headed? Well, I think you can pretty much figure out where she’s headed. She writes, “Clearly, the culture could stand to move beyond its fixation on marriage. One way, recognize those we deem the significant others in our lives regardless of whether those relationships involve sex and sparks.” Well, she goes on to talk about all the federal privileges and rights that are granted to a married couple. And she writes with tremendous disappointment and frustration that the American legal system is still based upon marriage as an institution, as a contract, as a legal reality that is limited to two people and quite frankly is, well she sees, just outmoded. It’s outdated. And remember, this is being published just about the time of Valentine’s Day all to make the point. We are now living in a time of radical, moral and sociological transition. And we shouldn’t be surprised that the intersection of that moral and social political transition is the institution of marriage, the covenant of marriage.

But this kind of argument often falls on its own sword, and that’s something we need to observe when it happens. So let me read to you these lines from her article, in the Washington Post. “The United States privileging of marriage through its omnibus package of more than a thousand federal rights and benefits fails to address not only the time people spend single before or after marriage, but also the record-breaking share of Americans who’ve never married. It also fails to acknowledge that some people simply aren’t that eager to marry, including the many who are single by choice.” So you know she begins by arguing that there are other relationships that should be recognized like marriage is recognized, and then she ends up with people who just don’t want to marry who are single by choice.

As I said, sometimes you see an argument land on its own sword, and that’s exactly what has happened here. In this case, she ends up arguing not only that marriage needs to be expanded in terms of the privileged understanding to other relationships, but frankly extended just to little old me. It should tell us something important that there are those who are trying to advance this agenda and frankly, openly making this argument in outlets as influential as the Washington Post on the day before Valentine’s Day. So just add all that up.

Part IV

‘Family First, Me Second’: The Key to a Happy Marriage

But I also want to point a keen observation made by University of Virginia professor Brad Wilcox, an excerpt from his upcoming book was published at the Wall Street Journal. I have had conversations with Professor Wilcox in Thinking in Public, you can find at the website, and I would look forward to the same about his new book. Here’s the point, he’s saying, don’t buy into the soulmate myth. And he writes about the confusion in the culture, about the fact that romance between a man and a woman is to be based in some kind of exhilaration and the finding of one soulmate. He points to developments such as the publication of the book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull. And by the way, it had a massive cult following in the 1960s, and Bach had written “A soulmate is someone who has the locks to fit our keys and the keys to fit our locks.” Well, if only marriage were so easy.

But the truth Brad Wilcox points out is that even as romance does involve some exhilaration, and certainly massive attraction, the reality is that marriage requires a whole lot more than that, and marriage is still real and still important and still obligatory and still a blessing even when in emotional highs and lows, in times good and times bad, in seasons of prosperity and in seeds of adversity, the reality is that marriage is one of God’s greatest gifts to his human creatures. And marriage requires a whole lot more than just finding one’s soulmate.

Furthermore, as Brad Wilcox points out, one of the problems with being determined to find your soulmate is that you probably don’t even know yourself well enough, to know exactly who would make you happy. And he points out the greater satisfaction is found, when a husband who becomes a father, spends time taking care of his children rather than doing the things that he might think were exhilarating at another stage in life. But he finds his greatest satisfaction actually in being a husband and a father and in the obligations that go with that.

He warns that, a very modern self-centered soulmate based understanding of marriage has served to weaken this central institution of human society. He’s also blunt in stating this, “Men and women who buy into the soulmate model appear more likely to end up divorced.” He makes a moral statement that Christians should especially understand when he writes this, that the more “subtle psychological truth is that the soulmate model fails to see that happiness in life and in love is less likely to be found when we pursue it directly.” That is also a matter of the Christian worldview. First of all, that happiness is nowhere near as precious as joy, and happiness is often found among those who aren’t trying their very best in their own self-centered way to find happiness, but are rather fulfilling their obligations even in marriage and in the family. And in those obligations, they find true happiness and true joy.

Here’s what he writes. “The husband and father who sets aside his work, smartphone and ESPN in the evenings to help with homework, shoot hoops, and tuck the kids in bed will likely take greater satisfaction from his family life, than if he had pursued his own pleasures of the moment, and he will likely elicit more admiration, affection, and ardor from his wife as a natural response. Family first, me second. This is the paradoxical root to happiness in marriage.” He writes.

On this Valentine’s Day, the point is not that Christians don’t believe in romance, it’s that we believe in a whole lot more, and we believe that love is fundamental, and romance is the blessing on the top of love. But we also believe that marriage is an objective reality and one of the strengths of marriage as God has intended it for us is that we’re married whether we feel like it or not. 

And in marriage, it’s not so much that we marry our soulmate as find our soulmate in marriage. And so in that light, to all of you, happy Valentine’s Day. 

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. 

For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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