Monday, March 11, 2024

Monday, March 11, 2024. 

It’s Monday, March 11, 2024. I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.


Part I

On the Precipice of Collapse — The Preconditions of Order and the Crashing Breakdown of Haiti’s Social Systems

The nation of Haiti is only about 700 miles from the city of Miami in Florida, but you really are looking at the breakdown of civilization there on that western tip of the island known as Hispaniola. And as you’re looking at Haiti’s breakdown, we’re facing some very significant signs of human misery, but we’re also looking at some basic worldview questions about what is necessary in order to have a civilization, to have a working government, to have a functioning society. All these things basically have broken down in Haiti and even though the urgency has come just in recent days with a nearly complete breakdown of the political and the entire cultural system, the reality is this has been long in coming. And we need to look at a bit of history here in order to set the stage for a worldview consideration.

If you asked a question of where the modern understanding of this story begins, well, you know the date already. It’s 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue because it was to the island known as Hispaniola that Columbus came, at least in part, as well documented, the Columbus relationship to this island. And over time, Christopher Columbus’s son actually established a functioning government as an outpost of Spain on that island. And you would eventually under Spanish influence, have the nation known as the Dominican Republic on the eastern side of the island, and on the western end you have under French influence, Haiti as it became.

Now on both sides of the island, there was involvement in the slave trade, but what’s really crucial is to understand that when you look at the Dominican Republic today, and you look at Haiti today, you’re looking at two nations, at least politically speaking, that share an island. The larger part held by the Dominican Republic, the smaller part by Haiti. The fact is that you have two nations with very different trajectories. The Dominican Republic has had some chaos and some tumult in its history, but it looks like the Rock of Gibraltar compared to Haiti with which the Dominican Republic shares the island.

Americans of my generation understand that Haiti has been in the headlines for decades now and almost always as connected to some kind of disaster. Sometimes it was a natural disaster as in the massive earthquake of 2010, but more often it has been a sociological, a political, an economic, a military disaster, and it has led to much human misery. Just think of the headlines over the course of the last several years: Haiti’s president killed in his bed, eventually his wife arrested with being a part of the plot. You’ve had successive governments rise and fall, and you’ve also had on Haiti a succession of military dictators and only a very brief time in which there’s any functional representative, in any sense democratic government.

Decades ago it was the Duvalier family and then it was the leadership of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Even more recently, there has been a breakdown of just basic order and that applies to the military. Gangs are largely in control of the streets. And just a matter of decades ago, you had Christian ministries, especially in the aftermath of the earthquake of 2010, that poured all kinds of money, personnel, building projects into the nation of Haiti that included building such facilities as hospitals and orphanages. But as one leader of a hospital told me just years after it shut down of necessity, almost as quickly as a hospital was built, gangs came in and stole all the wiring out of the hospital. That’s just a sign of the breakdown of a civilization.

And the reason we’re talking about it today is because first of all, we need to think about this as Christians. First of all, out of concern for the people there in Haiti, life, there has become very much endangered. Human misery is virtually everywhere. A total breakdown of order has led to the fact that many people have no access to food, families are in deep trouble, and of course there’s just all kinds of violence on the streets. And by the way, as of yesterday, the nation’s caretaker, prime minister, couldn’t get back to Haiti because the airports were closed because of criminal activity. In some ways, that becomes just a parable of this total breakdown of order.

By the way, historically, arguments have been made that one of the reasons there is such a distinction between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, even though they share the same island. One of the historic arguments has a theological dimension to it that’s quite important, and that’s a comparison as you look at Catholicism as the dominant establishing colonial influence on both sides of the island. First under the Spanish, and continuing there in the east, and then also under the French and continuing into the 19th century. Well, the point is this, you have two very different theological moods. Let’s just set it that way. Within Catholicism, a Spanish mood, which is very rigorous as compared to the French, which was extremely not rigorous, and there are consequences theologically. That’s not all the story, but that is at least part of the story.

Another part of the story that has to be conceded is the history of the island of Hispaniola when it comes to the slave trade. And Haitian history is punctuated, for example, by a massive slave revolt that took place in 1802 that was seen as one of the most democratic actions in terms of the Western Hemisphere at the time, but it did not lead to a continuing political order. Rather in successive decades and now in successive centuries, you’re looking at more often a breakdown of that order.

Now, Miami, Florida, as I said, is just a hundred miles away, less than a thousand miles away, and the United States now finds itself in a very interesting place, because it is simultaneously blamed for not intervening, and for having intervened badly. So this is the quandary of the big superpower to the north. What can it do? What must it do? What should it do? What should it not do in light of this clear emergency in Haiti? The United States has intervened before. Its thanks for intervening before is to be hated now. One thing that is abundantly clear is that President Joe Biden, but for that matter, this is truly nonpartisan, American presidents right now are extremely reluctant to do anything that would involve the American military or for that matter, any really active engagement in American foreign policy.

The United States, the Biden administration specifically, has been putting pressure on Haiti having to do with political reform and even urgent action to be undertaken there. But in reality, the United States is not about to send uniformed troops onto the streets of Port-au-Prince and in Haiti precisely because it has backfired so many times. A team of reporters for the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that Haiti again “teeters on the precipice of collapse with large parts of the country under the control of armed gangs”. The nation’s prime minister as I said, is stranded in Puerto Rico “unable to return after a trip to secure peacemakers in Kenya”. But as the Journal reporters tell us “there is little appetite for a similar rescue mission”. So just keep in mind what we just heard there. The Wall Street Journal tells us that the prime minister of Haiti has been looking for assistance from the military of Kenya and Africa. We really are looking at a very complex breakdown of civilization here.

Later, the Wall Street Journal tells us, “Haiti has been recently convulsed by killings. Kidnappings have skyrocketed, including the abduction of American missionaries. Warlords now controlling about 80% of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Fleeing the chaos, more than 76,000 Haitians showed up at the US southern border during the fiscal year ended in September. That’s up around 40% from a year ago.” “Having freed thousands of convicts from the country’s prisons, gang leaders have said in the past week that they now aim to remove the prime minister from power. They warn of a civil war if the government attempts to regain control.”

Now, one of the frustrating aspects of this is that Christians listening to this thinking about the situation in Haiti will feel helpless, and you can only imagine how the people in Haiti feel. Helpless and hopeless, but there is something here that really does demand our attention just as we think about the preconditions of order. When you put human beings together, human beings naturally, and I believe this is because of the imago Dei, this is because of the way God made us, we will seek to establish some kind of order. Now, looking throughout history, there are those who’ve explained this as spontaneous order. Some have gone so far as to say that nature demonstrates spontaneous order, but it is certainly true that human nature demonstrates order in such a way that you have the development of laws and customs, you have the development of language and folkways. All of this happens, but it only happens moving forward if there is a certain amount of order in the society rather than disorders. Matter of fact, if there’s not a sufficient amount of order, you don’t have a society, you just have people dangerously in one place.

But when you look at the history of Haiti, the incredibly troubled history of Haiti, we also understand that when you look at issues like poverty and crime and gang activity and even medical epidemics and the response to an earthquake and hospitals being established only later to be abandoned, and also orphanages just absolutely filled and immigrants trying to get out of the country in order to go just about anywhere else for safety, all of that demonstrates that order is absolutely necessary for any kind of human flourishing and any kind of functioning human society. If there’s not a basic level of order. Society itself simply breaks down.

Now, as you think about the Bible, just think about the fact that we are commanded to live according to certain principles. We believe as Christians by the way, that some of these are actually embedded the moral law in creation itself, such that human beings know them. As has been put in the history of the Christian tradition, there’s certain things human beings cannot not know. Thus, there have been certain moral instincts that have become moral principles, even laws in virtually every society, even those that are not shaped by the Scriptures.

But the Scriptures themselves, for example, giving us the history of God’s dealings with this covenant people of Israel make very clear that the law was given to Israel as a foundation for order, in such a way that Israel was to feel superior to all the other nations because its laws were superior and its order was superior to every other civilization, precisely because they were laws given to them by God himself. They were the laws given to the covenant nation by none other than the Creator. This was a preoccupation on the minds of those who were sometimes called revolutionaries in the United States who sought not a revolution that would overthrow order, but the reform of a political system under what we now know as American constitutionalism that would actually create a superior order to the one that was rejected, which is to say the monarchial pattern of colonial Britain. As you look at that, you recognize that the United States has prospered because of a continuation of order. And this is a warning to the United States that a breakdown of order means a breakdown of that very national progress.

As I often state on The Briefing, the Christian worldview makes clear that a certain level of order is prerequisite. It is required before you can have the exercise of liberty. Or to put it another way, the Christian worldview reminds us that the last thing people in Haiti need right now is more liberty. What they need right now is order. What they need right now are functioning prisons. What they need right now are the criminals put in the prisons. They need a functioning court system. They have gangs in control and criminals who are running the nation, and the result is entirely predictable.

The history of Haiti brought right up say to the news of even this morning, it’s a deeply humbling reality because there is no quick, easy human way to fix this problem, but we also need to note something else. This problem right now is catastrophic in Haiti, but the problem shows up elsewhere.

Part II

The Re-Establishment of Order in Liberal Cities: San Francisco and New York City Take More Conservative Measures in Name of Order

Now, just last week we talked about the fact that even a liberal city like San Francisco was actually moving to more conservative law and order positions on several issues. Well, now on the other side of the election day in California last week, we now know that voters in San Francisco approved two measures that do exactly that. They establish greater order, even though that came just a few years after people demanded contrary laws, or the elimination of more restrictive laws, in the name of human freedom. So voters in San Francisco approved first what was known as Proposition E, and that gives the police in San Francisco more power and more authority than they had in the past.

Now, just remember, a matter of a few years ago, people were crying out “defund the police.” Now in San Francisco, they see what happens when you don’t have a functioning strong professional police force. Now, certainly the police force needs to be held to standards of professional excellence, but the bigger point here is that the citizens of San Francisco recognize they’re not going to be able to have a functioning city without bolstering police power in that city. No more defund the police. Now it’s okay, let’s give the police more power and more authority, because they need more tools at their access.

The second proposition approved by San Francisco voters required drug screening and treatment for people who would be receiving welfare benefits from the county and were suspected of illicit drug use. So illicit drug use, which we were told should not be a matter even of criminal consideration, a matter of just a few years ago. And there are those who by the way would still try to make that marginal argument today. It’s not working in San Francisco, where quite frankly it was tried and it failed.

Mayor London Breed there in San Francisco was elected as a progressive, as a liberal on these issues, but she clearly understands there has been a shift in the public mood and she shouted on election day “change is coming”, and indeed change did come. It was also reflected, by the way, in the election of a more conservative slate of leaders there in San Francisco and in the area than had been true in recent years. The San Francisco mayor simply said, enough is enough. We need change. Again, order is required for liberty.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, major headline news coming from New York where New York’s governor announced that she was sending the state’s National Guard into the subways of New York City also, you’re ahead of me here, to establish order. Now, that’s a reminder to us that in our system it is governors who mobilize state National Guards, and that’s exactly what the New York governor did.

Again, Governor Hochul, who was the lieutenant governor to Andrew Cuomo and was understood to be a political liberal. When Cuomo resigned, she became the governor of the state. Then she was elected in her own right and now she has decided, and when politicians do something like this, you need to understand they know what they are doing. No governor of a state calls out the National Guard by accident. In the history of the United States, when governors have done such things, it has gone down in the history books, and that’s exactly what’s going to happen with this action by the New York governor. And by the way, there are people in the New York government who don’t like this simply because it makes them and their city look bad. They said the subways aren’t as dangerous as they look.

To the south of New York City, the Washington Post reported: “In late February, a subway conductor was hospitalized after being slashed in the neck in an apparently random late-night attack at a train station in Brooklyn. Just days before, two commuters were attacked by a man wielding a hammer at a Queens subway station.” And just hours after the governor’s announcement, “another conductor was smashed in the head with a glass bottle in another unprovoked attack”. So even as people say, “Problem, what problem?” Well, the Washington Post comes right along to say, “Oh, by the way, here’s the problem.”

The governor understands the gravity of the situation. And by the way, the political gravity is this. When you have voters in a state like New York, even New York voters in a city like New York City, they will hold politicians accountable who are seen to be naive agents of disorder rather than liberty-affirming agents of order. And that’s something throughout American history. And particularly as you get to the age of more modern media, right now, anyone with access to social media can know pretty much when anything like this happens almost instantaneously, and the governor knows it.

Her call out of the National Guard is not a small action. It involves about a thousand troops or up to a thousand National Guard personnel, and that’s massive. When you consider this kind of deployment, it’s going to be very interesting to see how this is judged in history, but at this point, we can make a pretty quick worldview judgment. This was an action taken by a major political leader, the governor of New York, precisely because she understands the deep human hunger for order and the deep human fear of disorder. You can’t have a functioning city, you can’t have a functioning civilization if people are afraid to use public transport.

By the way, just to clarify, it’s about 750 members of the National Guard and 250 state troopers, so together about 1,000 as the force she intends to send into New York City’s subway.

Part III

Gang Members are Running the Prison? Latin American Prisons Become New Major Headquarters for Gang Activity There

But next, while we’re thinking about the issue of order versus disorder, where would you expect to find the headquarters say of many criminal gangs in various countries around the world? Well, the New York Times recently ran a front page article about the fact that in some countries and the illustrations given in particular, Ecuador and Brazil, if you want to find the criminal headquarters, go to the prison. Now, is that good news or bad news that they’re in the prison? Well, in this case, it’s good news and bad news, I guess. It’s good news in that they are in the prison. The bad news is they’re basically running their criminal enterprises from the prison. Prison has just been relabeled as headquarters.

As the reporters tell us, “Ecuador’s military was sent into seize control of the country’s prisons last month after two major gang leaders escaped and criminal groups quickly set off a nationwide revolt that paralyzed the country. On February the 14th in Brazil, two inmates with connections,” I’m reading again from the story, “to a major gang, became the first to escape from one of the nation’s five maximum security federal prisons. Officials in Colombia,” The Times tells us, “have declared an emergency in its prisons after two guards were killed and several more targeted in what the government says was retaliation for its crackdown on major criminal groups.” Here’s the key issue. “Inside prisons across Latin America, criminal gangs exercise unchallenged authority over inmates, extracting money from them to buy protection or basic necessities like food.” The article goes on. “The prisons also act as a safe haven of sorts for incarcerated criminal leaders to remotely run their criminal enterprises on the outside, ordering killings, orchestrating the smuggling of drugs to the United States and Europe, and directing kidnappings and extortion of local businesses.”

Now, I put all these things together for our consideration today just to underline the fact that we as Christians looking at the headlines need to understand that there is a perpetual war between order and disorder. Now, order and disorder aren’t the only concerns that Christians bring to the equation, but because we do know that order is foundational to other goods such as liberty, we do understand that a threat to order eventually is a threat to human life. It’s a threat to human happiness and to the flourishing of any kind of civilization. That’s true in the subways of New York City. It’s true in the streets of San Francisco. It is true in prisons in Latin America. It’s true in Haiti. For that matter, it’s true in your town as well.

But before leaving this last story, it really is an affirmation of the fact that evil will work its way through every single crack in a civilization, and that includes the prisons. And one of the big problems with prisons is that of necessity, you’re segregating criminals from the rest of society by putting them together. Of course, the downside is, guess why? You have just put them together. You put them in close proximity and you can try to put bars on all of the cells and you can try to have all kinds of rules and you can try to have all the guards, and yes, you should have all those things and surveillance, but the bottom line is that you have just put criminals in one place. That didn’t work out too well in the French imperial system when they created prisons out of entire islands. It doesn’t work too well in Latin America, but frankly, it’s a very difficult thing to pull off anywhere.

But next, as we close, just let me give you a heads-up for some of the things coming this week. There’s going to be a lot of discussion this week, I’m not going to say on TikTok, I’m going to say about TikTok. Because America’s political class, including both houses of Congress and the White House, and for that matter, former president Donald Trump, running once again for the White House, they are all very interested in TikTok. Now, President Biden and former President Trump have actually kind of exchanged positions on this where President Biden had said he did not want to basically put TikTok out of business in the United States or forced a sale to a non-Chinese owner. Former President Trump had been for it, but now the former president’s against it and the White House is for it, and so is an increasingly large number of members of both houses of Congress, both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate.

Now you ask, what’s the urgency right now? In March of 2024, what’s the urgency? Well, the answer is November of 2024, and the very credible fear on the part of many that TikTok largely accessible, though not fully accessible to the Chinese Communist Party and the leaders of China. When you think of the mayhem that could be done in an American election cycle through social media, it is a very daunting situation to contemplate, and that’s why there’s going to be a lot of conversation in Washington about TikTok this week. And here’s where Christians looking at this also recognize this can’t be just about TikTok. TikTok is the leading example precisely because of its popularity matched to the complications of Chinese ownership, but it’s true of social media in general in some sense. So once again, a lot of interesting conversation, very rich with worldview dimensions, is going to take place this week. Ironically enough, a lot of it will take place on social media. That is both the medium for the discussion and the topic of the discussion. How’s that for a weird world?

I want to remind you I’m going to be teaching a class I’m very excited about for both Southern Seminary and Boyce College. It’s coming up this next modular term. The class is entitled 10 Battles That Define the Gospel: 20 Centuries of Controversy that Shaped and Reshaped the Christian Church.

Through the last 2,000 years of the history of the Christian Church, we’ve had several, many indeed, theological battles. 10 of them I think are most important. Those are the 10 I’m going to consider. We’re going to start out with a battle for the gospel in the New Testament, in the very earliest church. We’re going to go through some of the early doctrinal battles in Christianity, such as over the person and work of Christ, over the doctrine of the Trinity. We’re going to go right through to the Reformation and the great battles between Protestant and Catholic understandings of Christianity. We’re going to go into the challenges of the modern age, including the challenges eventually of theological liberalism. And by the time we get to the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century, we’re going to be looking at the big battle over human sexuality and gender within the Christian church. So it’s going to be a very, very interesting class, and it’s going to be a class that will combine theology and church history, historical theology, and apologetics. It really is going to be interesting.

Now, the purpose of this class is not just to understand the past, but also to understand our responsibility for defending and teaching and perpetuating the Christian faith. Now, the course is going to start on March the 19th. It’s available to students online and on campus, and this is new. It’s going to be available to those who want to audit the course. And to learn more, just go to That’s one word, mohlercourse, and it is going to be fun. We’re going to learn a lot together. I hope to see you there.

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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