Thursday, April 11, 2024

It’s Thursday, April 11, 2024.

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

Part I

War in Ukraine Becomes Political Crisis in the USA: What Are We to Think?

We need to understand that there are many issues that deal with global concerns, international context, and yet the primary discussion often has to do with domestic politics. That is to say, what is going to be the action of the United States government given this challenge in the world scene? How does the United States respond to this? Given the war in Ukraine after the Russian invasion of February of 2022, how is the United States and our allies going to respond in support of Ukraine? Now more than two years later where do we stand? Where are we going?

Well, as I said, the domestic situation right now is where most Americans are focused, and that’s because the United States is way behind in terms of what the Biden administration wanted to do and even pledged to do in terms of military, financial and other support for Ukraine and its fight against Russia. You asked the question, why is the United States behind? It is because the administration has run out of funding that it can use in order to send this kind of aid to Ukraine. That’s going to now require congressional authorization, and then action by the White House.

That congressional authorization is the big question, and it has frankly been the big question now for a matter of months. There is no doubt that the Biden administration has committed its effort for Ukraine, and at least early in this effort, it was also unquestionable that the American people were solidly behind giving aid and assistance to Ukraine in order to fight back the Russian invasion.

And by the way, in the morality of this, there is no question. This was a hostile invasion without cause, by Russia of Ukraine with the intention of gaining territory, and frankly, Russia crushing a weaker adjacent country. So, there’s no doubt morally speaking what’s going on here, you’re looking at an increasingly repressive and an increasingly out of control Russia and a Russia that is increasingly a threat not only to Ukraine, not only to the Baltic States, but quite frankly, to the entire European project, or to the entire structure of Western civilization. And in one sense, this is the revenge of history because Russia has always been a very difficult entity for Europe. And once you expand the European community to include, say, Canada, the United States, the Free World, Australia, New Zealand, et cetera, it has always been difficult to know exactly where Russia might fit into this picture, and we’re going to talk about why.

But before we do so, let’s come back to the domestic situation here in the United States, and we’re talking about what might be a genuine political crisis in particular for the House of Representatives, specifically for the Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson. He has only been speaker for a matter of months. And you now have at least one Republican member of Congress. And just keep in mind that within days, the Republicans will have a majority of one, one seat in the United States House.

The very new speaker is now being threatened in terms of removal by a member of his own party’s caucus. This would be Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, and admittedly, she is someone far to the Right in terms of American politics. And it’s hard to know what is about principle and what is about show, but it is in any event, an open threat to the speaker that if he moves ahead with legislation, which on the question of Ukraine is not supported by the vast majority of Republicans, he just might be removed from office. He might be one of the shortest termed Speakers of the house in all of American history, following his predecessor who was actually, another one of the shortest tenures of a speaker of the House in American history.

So domestically, we’re talking about a difference of agreement. We’re also talking about a crisis of governance, particularly in the Republican majority, even if it’s just a Republican majority of one, in the U.S. House of Representatives. But that issue is going to have to await further consideration on another day. Why would there be a disagreement over Ukraine? Why would there be a pretty clear Republican majority in support of this aid to Ukraine? By the way, it’s a package that puts together aid for Ukraine, aid for Israel, also aid for the military defense of Taiwan in the Pacific. All these against very real threats, in particular, Israel fighting a very deadly war against the terrorist group Hamas. But it is the Ukrainians that are in greatest danger in terms of active military attack now more than two years old, and they’ve been attacked by not only a hostile force, but a far larger nation under the autocratic leadership of Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia.

And so as we’re looking at the domestic side, you asked the question, why would there be Republicans who don’t want to approve this funding? Well, there are a couple of reasons, and the most important of these reasons is that many in the Republican majority in the house would say there is no specific exit plan that is indicated here. The Biden administration speaks about leaving all these big questions in the hands of Ukraine. Well, that’s well and good if Ukraine is fighting this in its own terms, but instead it’s asking for billions of dollars of additional American aid. How is this story going to end?

A bit of realism in this analysis requires that we understand that the odds have been against Ukraine from the very beginning. And by that, I don’t just mean before the onset of this active military action on February the 24th of 2022, just over two years ago. No. Once you had the breakup of the Soviet Union at the end of the 20th century, Ukraine was always going to be in a very fragile situation, and it was endangered by at least two things. Number one, its own internal problems and a political culture rife with corruption, but also the fact that much of Russia, and a majority of Russians, still believe that Ukraine is a part of Russia.

So while in the West, we saw the breakup of the Soviet Union as a very good thing and the rise of all these recovered nationalities, whether it’s the Stans as you look towards the Asian part of Russia, or it is the Baltic States as you look to the north, or if it is Ukraine, for example, along with Belarus and other nations, that all of a sudden were able to declare their independence as sovereign nations after the breakup of the Soviet Union. But we need to recognize that Russia, at the time, reduced to simply being a republic or a federation of Russian speaking peoples, Russia resented the entire process and quite frankly, never morally, much less politically or militarily, accepted the breakup of the entire Soviet Union as an accomplished fact, not to be revisited.

Given the economic and political crash that led to the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia was in no position to try to reconquer regions that had declared their independence. By that time, Russia was having a very difficult time just holding Russia together. And even as there were those who had been bravely fighting against the Communist domination through the Soviet Union, you had major figures celebrated in the West, most importantly, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize-winning Russian intellectual and writer who was clearly one of the greatest enemies of communism and the Soviet government. But Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn himself said that it should be unimaginable that Ukraine would be separated from Mother Russia.

Now, I want to speak with clarity here. I believe Ukraine has the right to be independent of Russia. I believe that Russia is absolutely wrong, and you’re looking at the totalitarian aggression of an autocrat like Vladimir Putin serving his own nationalist interest, and building his own political base. But I want to explain to all, that history indicates why the majority of Russians are actually with the Russian president on this. The majority of Russians clearly believe that the independence of Ukraine, certainly including all of what would’ve been say five years ago, considered Ukrainian territory, that is untenable. And that’s a view not only widespread in Russia, it’s hard to argue with any honesty that it’s not the majority position in Russia.

And remember, this isn’t the first military action Russia has taken. In one sense, before this, the biggest action came in February of 2014, so that’s fairly recent history. That’s just over 10 years ago when Russia claimed and occupied, and has possessed ever since, the Crimean Peninsula, historically one of the most important pieces of land in all of human civilization. Russia sees the Crimean Peninsula as absolutely vital. For one thing, the Crimean Peninsula affords Russia the only warm water ports that it has. It’s virtually impossible for Russia to claim that it has a worldwide international status if it doesn’t have a single port that is open 12 months a year.

Just remember that almost all of Europe in one sense went to war over Crimea and what became known as the Crimean war. Just remember your British literature and the charge of the Light Brigade. So let’s just remind ourselves that worldview matters, history matters according to the Russian worldview, and it’s not just the worldview of Vladimir Putin. In this case, he has only increased his standing with the Russian people because of his action in Ukraine. There are many people in the West who said, “Look, this is going to lead to a weakening of the Putin regime, or this is going to lead to a mutiny, an uprising against the Putin regime because the Russian people won’t stand for the military losses, the loss of life, the casualties that have come in this war.” But there is no real political sign that such a thing has happened.

For one thing, Putin has been pretty careful to make certain that when you look at a political base like Moscow, it’s not paying much of a price in terms of the casualty rate as you see throughout much of the rest of the country. You also see the fact that even as Western countries pulled back, and you had a withdrawal of the big American brands from department stores and restaurants, fast food places and all the rest, well, that just gave an opportunity for many Russians as they saw it to move into that space. Now, I want to be careful. I’m not saying here that all Russians support Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. I’m not saying that. I’m saying it looks like the vast majority of Russians did, and do.

The other thing to recognize is that in the eastern section of Ukraine, and some of that territory is now held by Putin’s invading armies, you have majority Russian-speaking persons. Now, here’s where things have flipped a little bit, and this is not insignificant. Going back, say a decade, there were arguments that a majority of the citizens in those regions of Ukraine actually wanted to be a part of Russia. Well, this is one situation that Vladimir Putin and the Russian military have decisively reversed. It is incredibly clear right now that even the Russian-speaking majorities and some of these Eastern portions of Ukraine, they now don’t want to be a part of Vladimir Putin’s Russia because they have been experiencing, horrifyingly enough, the reality, the gruesome reality of war. It has largely destroyed the towns, the villages, the infrastructure of these regions. Whatever affection Russia had, Russia has pretty much destroyed on its own.

As soon as Russia invaded Ukraine back in 2022, the American people were solidly with Ukraine. And I don’t think that was wrong. I think that was right. I think the arguments that were made then, that if you allow this kind of aggression to happen here, it’s going to happen elsewhere. And when it comes to Putin, the fact that he wants to lead a resurgent Russia to press back against Western interest and against NATO nations, I think it is very clear that that assumption made back in 2022 was absolutely valid.

But when you think about what is almost assuredly going to come up in the House of Representatives in coming days, just keep this in mind: The Biden administration bears huge responsibility for this problem, not responsibility for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. No. I’m not saying that at all. But they bear responsibility for the fact that the Biden administration has been carrying on the dishonest argument that the end of this is actually up to Ukraine. The Ukrainians have been fighting bravely, and they have been fighting with far more success than most Western military analysts thought possible. So take no credit away from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian military. They have been fighting with unparalleled and even unexpected bravery.

There were Western military officials who were absolutely certain that Russia would declare victory in Ukraine and take possession of Kiev within something like three or four weeks of when the invasion began in 2022. Hasn’t happened. But here is what has also not happened: Ukraine is in no position to, with credibility, say that it’s going to be able to expel Russia and Russia’s vast military from all Ukrainian territory. We just need to be honest. It is not likely that that is going to happen. And we also need to be honest, the American president, the American administration, has to take responsibility for at least speaking to the United States Congress with credibility, about what the American strategy is. The American strategy can’t just be the answer of deferring to Ukrainian strategy.

The only game changer here would be if somehow Russia were to collapse, that’s not going to happen. Or if you were to have NATO nations say, “Look, we’re not just going to send armaments, we’re not just going to send military support, we’re going to send troops.” And frankly, you’ve had the French president, Emmanuel Macron, rattling that saber, in the view of other Western leaders, very irresponsibly.

But it’s also irresponsible for American leaders in defending Ukraine, and in ensuring assistance, moral and military to Ukraine. The fact is that it is dishonest to say, “You know, Ukraine alone is going to have to decide how this war ends.” That isn’t true. It has never been true. It is dishonest to say that it’s true. So there are many Republicans in the House of Representatives who say, “Enough. We’re not going to approve any funding for Ukraine until certain criteria are met and certain very clear assurances are given.” I think most of them would approve some level of military aid to Ukraine if there were a very clear plan for how the military effort is to be brought to some kind of acceptable end.

Now, of course, there are many Democrats, including the president, President Joe Biden would say, “That’s selling out the Ukrainians.” I’m simply going to respond, “You’re being dishonest to the American people and frankly to the rest of the world. There is no way you actually mean what you say.”

There may be some Republican members of the House of Representatives who actually believe that Ukraine’s cause is absolutely lost and sending more American money is just wasting the taxpayer money from Americans. Now, I’m going to say I don’t think most Republicans in the House are there, but it’s also clear that a majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives aren’t just going to move ahead with further military authorization up to the billions of dollars without answers to these questions.

We’ll be following the story. We will see where it goes, and it’s likely to create headlines if not this week, then in the week ahead. It could lead to a big political crisis here in the United States. Another reminder of the fact that you can have events that will take place thousands and thousands of miles away outside the reach and, quite frankly, outside the imagination or the active thinking of many Americans, maybe millions of Americans, and yet this can lead to a political crisis right here in the US of A. I guarantee you that Mike Johnson, the Speaker of the House is fully aware of that fact. It’s a good thing the rest of us be aware of it as well.

Part II

An Open Admission and an Urgent Warning: UK Study Openly Warns of Danger to Children and Youth Posed by Puberty Blockers and Hormonal Treatments

Okay, next I want to mention something that is of importance, but it’s along the lines of other developments that have come in recent weeks and months. It’s really important that we recognize that the United Kingdom’s National Health Service is now openly questioning the use of puberty blockers in minors when it comes to those diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

Now, I’m not going to talk about this at length because we’ve talked about similar developments actually in just the last few days, but in political and in moral terms, this is really huge. You have one of the nations most closely allied with the United States. I think most of us would say that if you’re looking to a European nation, a nation across the Atlantic that is our primary point of reference, well, since the founding of the United States, that has been Great Britain. Period. The United Kingdom. 

And now you have a major study being released by health authorities in Britain. Now, remember, they already shut down surgery as an option for teenagers and minors who are identified as having gender dysphoria, and it’s because authorities in the National Health Service in Britain came back and said, “We are afraid by these surgeries we are doing more harm than good,” which by the way, is emphatically true. And it’s also true that central to medical ethics is what goes back to the Hippocratic Oath, “First, do no harm.” And so Britain’s saying, “You know, if these medical treatments cause more harm than good, we’ve got to stop them,.” Which they did. And now they are looking at extending that to hormonal treatments as well.

The point here is that eventually, everywhere there’s going to be an ethical reckoning with the transgender revolution, and quite frankly, I think everywhere over a period of time, it is going to be true that medical authorities are going to be absolutely humiliated and crushed by the fact they’re going to have to admit they have been mutilating children.

By the way, the moral logic is extended also to adults, but the point here is that when it comes to these teenagers and children, well, let’s just take one of the things that is documented in this study. If it is something that is supposedly randomly distributed, this is so huge in worldview significance, if indeed we are told that this transgender identity is generalized about the population, then why does it appear to be ungeneralized in its presentation? Or let’s put it another way, why were a majority of those showing up before 2016, biological males who were claiming that they had some kind of female identity or gender identity, why was that true before 2016, but after 2016, it is a far larger, not only in percentage, but in aggregate numbers of biological females? Which is to say girls and young women who are showing up, claiming they have the gender identity as male.

If all of this is randomly distributed by some kind of causality throughout the population, you couldn’t possibly have that kind of a flip. It’s for that reason that even many inside the transgender movement have acknowledged there is something to the social contagion. In other words, a lot of this is being suggested. We also have the acknowledgement coming from the United Kingdom that adolescence is a very, very improper time to be talking about these kinds of questions.

I’m going to leave that study in the United Kingdom for a moment and go to another major report also from the United Kingdom. This is in The Economist of London in which there is coverage of files of communications between persons involved in so-called transgender medicine. And in the release of these files, The Economist reports it this way, “Concerns about making irreversible changes to children’s bodies and the impossibility of gaining their informed consent for this have been at the heart of controversy over transgender medicine. In America, 23 states have now restricted or banned such care for minors, even though almost all medical associations in America support it.”

Well just consider that for a moment. This tells us of the utter abdication of moral responsibility on the part of these medical societies. It’s very visible in Britain. Tragically, one day it’s going to be all too visible here in the United States. But for reasons you’ll understand, I’m not going to read much of the actual language of this report in The Economist. It’s just too explicit. But I’ll tell you the bottom line in it. The bottom line in it is this, it’s the acknowledgement that children and teenagers are often not in the position actually to understand something as basic as whether or not they want to be mothers or fathers. And there’s the acknowledgement by some of the practitioners here that when you’re talking about informed consent and you’re talking to say a 13, 14, 15-year-old about reproductive matters, pregnancy in the future, as one of the writers says some of them want to respond with, “ew.” That just shows you the lie behind informed consent and, quite frankly, the very dangerous lie behind the entire transgender claim.

Part III

Whales are Granted ‘Personhood’ by Polynesian Indigenous Groups — But You Won’t See Them Showing Up to Court to Argue Their Case

But finally for today, we often talk about the moral category, the essential category of personhood, and here’s where we need to understand that personhood in this sense is something that is absolutely vital to legal recognition of the image of God, and of every single human being is made in that image, every single human life being sacred. And this means that when it comes to, let’s just say nature, personhood, is rightly ascribed to human beings, and that means to every single human being, and that means also unborn human beings, but not to animals, not to non-human animals, not to other non-human creatures.

The confusion about this makes headlines, and of course it also makes trouble. The headline recently in the New York Times is “Whales Given Personhood by Indigenous Polynesians.” Remy Tumin reports the story, “For many indigenous groups across Polynesia,” that’s in the Pacific of course, “whales hold an ancient sacredness in spirit that connects all life. Whales guided their ancestors across the Pacific Ocean. Today, these groups consider themselves to be the guardians for the largest animals under the sea.” The story continues telling us that whales “are not simply animals in this region. Indigenous leaders of New Zealand, Tahiti, and the Cook Islands signed a historic treaty that recognizes whales as legal persons in a move conservationists believe will apply pressure to national governments to offer greater protections for the large mammals.”

Well, do we want to save the whales? Of course we do. Is this a matter by the way of our stewardship and of our dominion assigned to human beings? Yes. I think most of us would almost immediately recognize there’s a very important moral and theological good to try to preserve the whales, certainly from the threat of extinction.

But let’s ask a related question. Did these folks in Polynesia actually make whales? No, they did not. This is a kind of political protest act. This is a kind of legal stunt. But the fact is, no whale is going to show up even in a Polynesian court to plead his case. No, it’s a human being who’s going to have to plead the case. It’s human beings who declared this supposed personhood. And it’s human beings who are writing the headlines, and are telling the story. It’s human beings speaking and listening even now. The animals are important to God and they’re important to all of us, but they are not listening attentively to The Briefing. Maybe if they knew what we were talking about, they would.

We are looking at a very deeply confused age, and a part of the confusion is ascribing the wrong status or quality to the wrong entity. And ascribing personhood to a whale? Well, let’s be agreed, We do want to save the whales as an exercise of stewardship, as an exercise of taking dominion in a biblical responsibility. But, even if it were in our authority to make whales persons, we couldn’t make whales persons.

I have to tell you that I find the very idea of whales, much less the experience of say, just watching whales, I find it absolutely amazing. It’s a site that makes me glorify God. Well you know I’ve never said “that looks like a whale getting ready to sue someone in court.” If all the rest of the world is confused, Christians have to understand that on an issue like this, there can be no Christian confusion.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. 

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Thanks for listening to The Briefing. Our whale friends and I will be back with you tomorrow.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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