Wednesday, May 29, 2024

It’s Wednesday, May 29, 2024. 

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

Part I

Why a Snap Election in Britain? The Conservative Party in Great Britain is in Big Trouble

Well, by now you know, of course, that this is a presidential election year in the United States. Here we go again. But my purpose today is not so much to talk about the American presidential election. There will be plenty to talk about and plenty soon. But I’m going to go across the Atlantic and mention that we are also now looking at a major national election in Great Britain. Great Britain, which is the constitutional union of England and Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales is now headed for its own national election, and it’s something of a surprise, at least in timing. And that’s because the Conservative government now in power has called for a snap election, which means an election earlier than would be constitutionally mandated.

But wait just a minute, Britain doesn’t have a written constitution, so it is a matter of political custom that the government would have to stand for election again by the end of this year. But Rishi Sunak, the Conservative party prime minister, who is now the head of government, went to the king, King Charles III and ask him to dissolve parliament and call for national elections. Those elections will now be held, now wait for it, how’s this for a bit of symbolism, on the 4th of July.

But this actually represents a great opportunity for us to think about the constitutional form of government as in the United States and as in Great Britain and compare the two. In the United States, you have a constitutional government with a written constitution and an official separation of powers into three different branches of government. The executive, headed by the president, the legislative, of course constituted by Congress, and then the judicial, and that’s an entire system of federal courts, but most importantly at the very top of the heap, the Supreme Court of the United States.

Now, anyone who has studied American government in terms of civics, as it used to at least be taught in our schools, would be reminded that in our constitutional system there is a division of powers between three co-equal branches of government. Now, in one sense, it can’t always seem as if they are coequal. You can have an incredibly powerful president and we also have an increasingly powerful presidency with the administrative state. But we also have a very powerful Congress when Congress means to be powerful. And let’s just recall the fact that we have been talking in so many cases over the last several years of big issues where the final issue was really decided by the United States Supreme Court, at least for a time.

But as we go across the Atlantic and we look at Britain’s older constitutional system, we see two things at once. One is where the United States is, in a very real way, a continuation of the British constitutional system, but we also see almost just as immediately the differences between the British and American systems. When you look at the British system, you have of course a separation, but it’s a separation primarily between the monarch or the monarchy you might say, and Parliament. So, virtually, all of the government comes under the control of Parliament in the name of the king. The constitutional system in Britain is often described as the king in Parliament. Parliament acts and legislates, it ministers in terms of its governmental authority in the monarch’s name. And so you really do have a very ceremonial monarch in the case of King Charles III, but he does have constitutional duties, including invoking Parliament. And for that matter, dissolving Parliament. Not a small thing in British history.

But when you look at Britain’s parliamentary system as represented by Parliament itself, well, like in the United States, you do have two different chambers, you have two different houses. You have the House of Lords and you have the House of Commons. Almost all legislation originates, and in terms of the big political negotiations takes place in the House of Commons. The House of Lords, decreasingly important in the British constitutional system, but still important, still a part of Parliament. But the big issue here is that in the House of Commons in Parliament as it operates in normal legislative function, you have a limited number of parliamentary seats, and the party that controls the majority of those seats, or can assemble a working majority in Parliament basically has control of the entire government, which is to say the entire administrative state, which is to say there is no separation of powers in the American sense at that point.

Now, there are times when I think all Americans knowledgeable about this difference, wish we had the parliamentary system. And I’ll tell you why, it is because if your party’s in power, you’ve got control of basically the entire government and you can’t lose a vote, at least not in theory because you have all the votes necessary for a majority or you wouldn’t be in power in the first place. And so, when you have the majority power in Parliament, it has vast control. And over the course of the last 14 years, that majority party has been the Conservative Party, often referred to as the Tories.

Now, one other thing I have to mention is that the Conservative Party in Britain is in big trouble. And I’m going to argue that at least a large part of the trouble is the fact that the Conservative Party in Britain has abandoned many conservative principles and policies. As you look at the Conservative Party, let’s just look at a succession of prime ministers. You can think of prime ministers, and they would include Theresa May, David Cameron, and then of course Boris Johnson, major figure on the international scene, former mayor of London, flamboyant and eventually you may recall, he went down in something of a scandal having to do with COVID-19, at least in part, and a party that was held breaking his own rules. But there was more to the fall of Boris Johnson than that.

You also had the rise of someone like Liz Truss who was prime minister for six weeks. Now, you’re looking at Rishi Sunak and Sunak is the current prime minister. He’s not very conservative in a lot of ways, but he is the head of the Conservative Party. And even as you have a very interesting figure in Rishi Sunak, you also have a very interesting figure in Keir Starmer who is the head of the Labour Party. And even though it’s two parties running against one another in a parliamentary system where you’re voting for your member of Parliament, the majority party is going to form a government and it is going to elect a prime minister. And so, you really are looking at two personalities, but it’s less focused than having two party nominees, as we have in the United States running for the presidency by the time we get to the fall.

But we’re not even going to get to the fall. As I said, the snap election has been called for July 4th. Why would the Conservative government in power right now decide to call a Snap election even earlier than was necessary? Well, the fact is clearly the Conservative Party leadership saw this as an opportunity to gain some advantage because the Conservative Party’s in big trouble right now in terms of electoral prospects. For one thing, it has been in power for almost 15 years, that’s problematic enough when you consider all the changes that happen in a society over that period of time. When you are looking at democratically-elected governments, elected governments, you are looking at a somewhat fickle electorate that at times just wants to look at someone else on the television screen.

But conservative parties tend to gain power with conservative ideas, and that’s where I think the Conservative Party in Britain is in big trouble because it has been abandoning those ideas. There was that short six-week premiership of Liz Truss as prime minister, but the very fact that she didn’t survive is, in another sense, a repudiation of the very clearly conservative principles, including economic principles that she was articulating. But it’s not just economics. I would say as an American conservative Christian, one of the big issues I have with the Conservative Party is that on so many social issues, whether it be same-sex marriage, abortion, or other issues, it’s just not very conservative at all.

One very interesting facet of the race that is now shaping up where you have Keir Starmer as the Labour leader on one hand and Rishi Sunak as the Conservative Party leader, when it comes to traditional conservative economic principles, it’s not at all clear that there’s a lot of distance between the two. Now, as you look deeper in the government, there is a difference. And indeed the person who become deputy prime minister, presumably in the Labour government, is more of an open socialist. But as you’re looking at the differences between the two parties, it is, at this point really coming down to the fact it’s not so much a titanic battle between two different understandings of government. That was certainly true back when the Conservative leader was Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, even in the late 1970s. But throughout the period of Margaret Thatcher’s leadership of the Conservative Party, the one thing you knew is that the Conservative Party held to conservative principles. Since then, in virtually every case, not so much.

So, the magic number by the way is 336. The party that can assemble 336 seats, win 336 seats in Parliament will have the parliamentary majority. The leader of that party is almost assuredly going to be elected prime minister. Once elected by Parliament, it is almost a sure thing that King Charles III is going to invite that person to form a government, and then we’re going to be off to the races in Great Britain. Now, the conservative party is not without hope, and that’s because the Labour Party has an electoral history of messing things up, even unexpectedly. But in one sense, we have to feel a little bit of the challenge is going to be faced by either one of these two parties, and almost assuredly it’d be one of the two party leaders and one of the two parties that forms the government. As you look at it, you recognize Britain faces some really daunting challenges on the world scene that includes foreign policy, Britain’s place in the world, but it also relates to Britain’s economy.

And here’s where we need to understand that Britain has an economy in which the public sector is even larger than what you see in the United States. You have great dissatisfaction in Britain with the economic conditions as they now stand. As I said, even the Conservative Party is guilty of abandoning many conservative economic principles, and I think it shows in terms of the results. But you also have a National Health Service, the NHS, you have socialized medicine in Great Britain, and you have Britons increasingly frustrated with it. And you also have that healthcare system that is consuming now increasing amounts of money every single year. And when you have an economy that’s certainly underperforming, when compared to the past, you’re looking at a recipe for disaster. And so, almost assuredly, some political leader is going to promise some to spend more money without explaining exactly where that money is going to come from.

Now, as we talk about Britain’s place in the world, there will be more for us to talk about as this election unfolds, but there’s one final thought I want to share with you. For much of the last generation or two, the election in Britain has often been a sign of the direction of the national election in the United States of America. This was true when you had the conservative ascendancy of Margaret Thatcher first in Great Britain, and then you had Ronald Reagan elected as president of the United States in 1980. And so, you’re looking at the fact that Britain went in a very conservative direction with Margaret Thatcher. The United States went in a very conservative direction just a couple years later with Ronald Reagan, and of course they became, in one very real political sense, a dynamic duo.

But you had almost the same thing happen on different political terms. Just a matter of a generation later when you had Tony Blair emerge as the new middle way as he was advertised, leader of the Labour Party, and you had a Labour victory, and you had Tony Blair advertising new Labour. And then, in short order, you had Bill Clinton, the governor of Arkansas, who was elected president of the United States as one who was labeled a new Democrat. Now, in both cases, they turned out to be very socially liberal, but in both cases, they also turned out to be at least less financially extravagant than their more liberal party predecessors.

So, the interesting question is, how’s the election going to go on July the 4th in Great Britain? And then, the next question will be, what does that say? Or over time, what do we find it doesn’t say about the political pattern that will emerge in November in the United States of America? At least in a couple of ways, we understand we have one common English-speaking political tradition. We have two different constitutional forms of government, but we’re facing many of the same issues, and in some cases, some of the same faces over and over again.

Part II

Martyrdom, the Rise of Gang Attacks, and Unmitigated Evil: The Breakdown of Order and the Murder of Christian Missionaries in Haiti

But next we have to shift to a very different part of the world. We’re going to start in Haiti where at the end of last week, tragedy was reported. Indeed, a moral outrage was reported as two missionaries and a pastor, very young missionaries serving with a group known as Missions in Haiti were brutally slaughtered by gangs. And by the way, for no reason other than sheer thievery. And even as the gangs increasingly dominate the landscape there in Haiti, which is a return to at least some previous patterns that Haiti has experienced, we really are looking at the horrifying crime of the death of two missionaries. The man was 23 and his wife was 21, and then of another pastor, and they were simply slain for getting in the way of the gangs and the gangs’ criminal intent.

So, on the one hand, the first thing Christians think about this is that in effect, you have more missionary martyrs in the long history of such in the Christian Church, its faithfulness that takes so many people to troubled parts of the world in the name of Christ. And in this case, running orphanages, feeding children, sharing the gospel. And we are looking in this case at evil in an unmitigated form directly in the face. Brutal killings, absolutely unnecessary, but undertaken so that there were no living witnesses of the crime. But even as the headline in the New York Times was, “Three Missionaries in Haiti Killed in Gang Attack,” the words gang attack also demand our attention because we are looking at a pattern that is now replicating itself all over the world in ways that many people now find something of a surprise.

The rise of so much gang activity and so much of the world, and in particular as you are looking south of the equator and at much of Central America, as you look at the new world, so to speak, and you look at South America, Central America, you look at the Caribbean, you look particularly at Haiti and a couple of other nations, you are looking at the fact that those nations are increasingly under the direct control of rival criminal gangs. That’s about all there is to it right now in Haiti.

Now, Haiti has had a breakdown of order for a very long time. And as a matter of fact, a very clear sense of order in Haiti has been a relatively rare historical occurrence. Now, at this point, I want to say theology matters, and we can’t take too much time thinking about this, but I don’t want to neglect to at least set the foundation here. Remember that Haiti shares an island with the Dominican Republic. The island is Hispaniola, and of course, long associated with none other than Christopher Columbus himself. But you’re looking at two different cultures on two different ends of the island. The Dominican Republic is larger, Haiti is smaller. The Dominican Republic faces to the east, Haiti faces to the west. But the most important thing to understand is that two different European imperial powers basically led to the creation of the Dominican Republic, and that was Spain as the European Empire, and on the other side of the island of what would become known as Haiti, and that was an extension of the French empire.

Now, at this point, we’re talking about France and we’re talking about Spain, we’re talking about Catholic powers. But I just want to say that at least a part of the history here is two different understandings of Catholicism. When you’re looking at French Catholicism, not so rigorous. When you’re looking at Spanish Catholicism, just keep in mind the Spanish Inquisition, you’re looking at a far more structured form of Catholicism, and it led to a different understanding of social order. And so, as you look at the Dominican Republic and Haiti, you’re looking at two different ends of one island, but you’re looking at basically two different civilizational products. So, it is interesting that as you compare the two, the temptation in the Dominican Republic has been something like a military regime where on the other side of the island, it has been basically a dissolution into gang warfare, and that’s where Haiti is right now.

Now, as you know, over the last several years, there have been political assassinations. There have been all kinds of headlines, but the headline here in the New York Times, “Three Missionaries in Haiti Killed In Gang Attack,” it points to the fact that right now, Haiti is basically being controlled by, insofar as being controlled by anyone, not by the rule of law, but rather by rival gangs. And the main determinant has to do with gang warfare.

Part III

The Preservation of Order by Gangs? And People are Okay With It? — A Strange Confirmation of the Importance and Priority of Order

So, one of the issues I want us to think about in worldview terms is the fact that every human craves a certain amount of order. Human society is based upon a requisite achievement of some kind of order. You talk about, for example, the constitutional system of government. We just talked about Britain, we talked about the United States. In both cases, they are the products of a massive achievement in establishing social order, and it took centuries in one sense.

On the other hand, you did have a very clear social order that did emerge, and so it’s one of the reasons why we’re talking about British history, and even within British history, English history was such a long national identity, the same thing in Scotland. And of course, Britain’s Parliament calls itself, I think quite rightly, the mother of all parliaments. It’s a very long, very consistent constitutional tradition. In the United States of America, the US Constitution is the longest operating written constitution in human history. That’s a massive achievement. But they could not have emerged, either the British constitutional system nor the American constitutional system, couldn’t have emerged out of an absolute lack of order. And so, you have order which is prerequisite even to the exercise of something like a constitutional liberty.

But there’s something else, and this was noted by one of the most important observers of the United States in its early period, that was Alexis de Tocqueville, the French aristocrat and very important public intellectual who came to the United States. And one of the things he noted is that in the United States, the order is there even before the commitment to order. The commitment to social stability is there even before the emergence of government. And the classic example of that, and this is also very consistent with the Christian doctrine of subsidiarity, the most graphic example of that was the town, the town meeting, the town government, the proceedings of the town council. And that was just another indication of the fact that you put Americans in this, especially this early colonial and then early republic period, you put them there in a town, they begin spontaneously to create democratic and representative institutions.

And so, at least until the present, when I think quite frankly, we’re in danger of losing some of this clarity, Americans believed it was our responsibility, as the English believed it was their responsibility, to pass on certain kinds of constitutional traditions that were based upon certain commitments at the local, at the regional, at the state, and at the national level to maintaining an orderly society in an orderly form of government. All that breaks down, and you have a breakdown of the constitutional order. For example, you can’t even have elections at the national level if it’s not safe to go to a place. And if quite frankly, the entire system is so corrupt that there is no basic guardrail that is in place, there’s no basic trust. Order and trust have to go together, or you have a dictatorship if you have order without trust.

When you’re looking at these gangs, you are looking at the fact that human beings crave order to the extent that in some situations they will even favor organized crime over disorganized mayhem. That was clearly true, for example, for centuries in Sicily with the rise of La Costa Nostra, or the mafia, where you had local support, because quite frankly, as the local mafia chieftain could say, “Look at the streets. Look how peaceful they are. Petty thieves don’t dare to conduct their thievery in this neighborhood. Have you ever noticed there’s no litter on the ground, there are no broken windows? We see to that.”

Now, just to show you the absolute breakdown in Haiti, in Haiti you don’t even have confidence in the gangs. The Economist of London ran a fascinating article just in the last few days, in which in two different perspectives, this very important, very establishment British News Journal points to the fact that in places such as Latin America, which at least in many crimes tend to be the most violent, there is a new approach to organized crime. And in one sense, it is one supervised by organized crime. The point made in one of these articles is that in a nation like Colombia, people may turn to the gangs to establish order because the government is unable to establish order.

And in a very strange way, some of these gangs, like the mafia in one sense, hold to a more traditional social understanding, than some of the alternatives. The article in The Economist begins this way from San Antonio, Colombia, “Maria Alvarez, not her real name, is a devout Catholic. She was relieved last year when the Ismael Ruiz gang, an offshoot of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia set up operations in her rural hometown of San Antonio. They promised to end what Ms. Alvarez called immoral behaviors. Then two months ago, the gang ran her son out of town. They disliked his motorcycle stunts, long hair and earrings.” Listen to this, “She misses him, but maintains that social cleansing prevents people from stealing from hardworking people like us, and it helps to make sure our young people behave.” In other words, even though the gang ran her son out of town, she would prefer the order that the gang has put in place.

“In one local province,” we are told a local person pointed to a pamphlet, which stated from a gang, “Do not be in the streets on Saturday between 4:00 PM and Sunday 6:00 AM. We will do a social cleansing.” So, in other words, petty thieves, those who may be involved in prostitution or sex work as it’s called, or any number of things the gang has warned, “If you’re on the street between those hours, we’re going to make sure you’re not on the street anymore.” The amazing thing is that when you have a breakdown of order, there are people who will say, “I prefer that to disorder. I prefer that kind of criminal discipline to an absolute breakdown of order in society.” And as the lead paragraph in this article says, this one woman said, “Even if it means they run my son out of town, you know what? The town’s a safer place.”

The bottom line is articulated by The Economist, at the end of the article, “Latin Americans want to feel safe. Where criminal gangs do a better job at providing that feeling than governments, many are willing to welcome their rule.” I want to be clear. The point here is not in any way to congratulate organized crime. It is to say there’s something basic here to the Christian worldview. Order precedes liberty. And if you have a situation in which people do not feel safe in their homes and safe on the streets, then eventually they will turn to someone who will make the streets safe and will establish order, especially when it comes to limiting danger and crime.

The odd thing is, and here’s one of the ironies of the human condition, in a fallen world, sometimes the people who say, “We will stop some kinds of crime,” are the people who are actually running criminal syndicates. But here’s the interesting thing, they don’t want anyone to rob them either.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. 

For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter or X 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.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me using the contact form. Follow regular updates on Twitter at @albertmohler.

Subscribe via email for daily Briefings and more (unsubscribe at any time).