Monday, June 3, 2024

It’s Monday, June 3rd, 2024. 

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

Part I

Elections in South Africa, Mexico, and India: Legitimate and Illegitimate Elections and the Largest Democratic Vote Ever

It is no small thing that over the course of the last several days there have been at least three countries’ massive elections. And in the case of India, when we say massive, we really do mean massive. So, we’re going to be looking in just a moment at the election in India, also the election in South Africa, and furthermore, beyond that, the election also that took place in Mexico. Now, we don’t have the final results in any of these elections, and that’s not actually the point. The bigger worldview point is that elections are now taken as normative in much of the world.

Indeed, elections are now taking place even in places where we would not say that a constitutional system of government with constitutional freedoms exists. There are elections in totalitarian regimes, there are elections of sorts, even in places where you have a practical dictatorship, you have basically an operational totalitarianism, but there is at least the pretense of elections. One of the ways that was made very clear in the 20th century was in so many communist regimes, you could start with the Soviet Union, you could go to much of the Eastern Bloc, there were elections that were presented as being legitimate because the government craved legitimacy. But of course, most of those elections were not legitimate at all. The point in terms of worldview analysis is that these regimes nonetheless felt that they had to have the kind of legitimacy that is offered by an election.

Now, we take that for granted in the United States, and we need to understand, however, that this is really a very recent development. If you look through most of human history, the credibility of a government didn’t even in a pretend sense rest upon an election. Throughout most of human history, and in most places, the operational form of government was some form of monarchy. And even as this was the claim that was made by Israel in the Old Testament when Israel demanded a king, other nations had a king, the reality is that most nations do have a king, or at least in human history, have had a king, an inherited monarchy, some kind of political dynasty, some kind of dynastic tradition, some kind of royal impulse. That’s what has been the norm rather than the exception in human history.

So, how is it that all of a sudden some sense of elections, even if they’re not legitimate elections, now becomes the political norm? Well, I think the interesting thing here is to note historically that the development of electoral democracy in this sense, it has some roots, yes, some roots in classical civilization, Greece and Rome, but primarily, it has direct roots in the history of the English-speaking world, in particular in England and what became Great Britain and in the United States of America and in other English-speaking nations, which became very much committed to a constitutional form of government. And at the heart of that constitutional form of government, eventually with something like Parliament or Congress in the United States, also the president, and they were elected by the people. They are elected by the people, rather than an inherited dynastic pattern.

Now, I think in terms of the Christian worldview, that raises an interesting question. Why would the advent of elections anywhere lead to at least the pretension, if not the democratic tradition in other places around the world? Well, you look at the fact that I mentioned three countries, South Africa and Mexico and India, and there you’re talking about nations that have a pretty good level of development in terms of economics. They’re all major players on the world scene. And yet, they all represent very different political traditions. As you were looking at South Africa, you’re looking at the big news being the fact that the African National Congress, which came to power after the fall of apartheid, think Nelson Mandela about 30 years ago, it fared so poorly in the elections recently held in South Africa that it is not going to be able to put together a parliamentary majority, and it can only stay in power in some kind of power-sharing arrangement.

Now, as we’ve been thinking in worldview terms about democratic legitimacy, the legitimacy of an election when it comes to the government spreading around the world, I think it’s really important to recognize the big issue in the history of South Africa was who gets to vote? And the African National Congress was the party that represented Mr. Mandela and has basically been the political establishment since the fall of the apartheid regime. Why did it fall? Well, it’s interesting that just about everyone in the international media, both inside South Africa and beyond, points to the fact that it was political corruption that led to the problem. And political corruption became so much associated with the African National Congress that the party is discredited, at least in terms of being able to form a government.

But you look at that a moment and you say, well, there’s something interesting that Christians need to consider. Here, we have an electoral system, but one party’s been in power for 30 years, and guess what? Corruption ensued. Now, before we do any kind of say cross-cultural analysis, let’s just say any government, any party that is in power for 30 years is likely to fall prey to corruption. That is simply a matter of fact, and the Christian worldview explains why. A kind of institutionalized power like that with the ability to shut out others and to monopolize the political operation, that leads to all kinds of temptations.

And it would be very difficult for people involved in any major political party which had no check or balance, more or less during all these years, not to succumb to some kind of corruption. The people of South Africa have evidently had what they say is enough of the corruption in the African National Congress. It’s going to be very interesting to see how the political process moves forward there. But it is interesting that in this case, a party’s been in power about three decades, and guess what? It has turned to decadence. That’s something I think that most people who respect constitutional government might think would be quite a temptation.

But then, we move from South Africa to Mexico, and the big news there, and of course the American media are making much of this, is that in all likelihood the winner of the election and the next president of Mexico is a woman. But the reason why that is the case turns out to be even more interesting than the fact that it is the case. And so, immediately you have the headlines, look, this represents a great breakthrough for women because in this case the number one and number two candidates are women. And so, the question is not whether a woman will be president of Mexico, but which woman, at least it is expected, will be the president of Mexico?

And almost immediately you have comparison stories in which people are saying, “Look, the United States doesn’t yet have a woman as president and Mexico now has, or will have, a woman as president.” But then, you look deeper in the story and one of the things that you find is that the Mexican government has been committed to a position of parity at every level of government and in every branch of government. So, this actually represents a very strange historical and constitutional development with the political parties in the position of basically having to run a woman if they wanted to have the president because of the rule of this kind of parity. And we are told that in the legislature there in Mexico, there is a much closer parity, like 50-50 between men and women than is the case in the United States where in the House and the Senate together it levels out at about 30% women and about 70% men.

Explaining the historical background, The New York Times put it this way, “Pushed by feminist activists, Mexico over the past few decades has adopted increasingly broad laws encouraging more representation of women in politics. Then in 2019, it took the remarkable step of making gender parity in all three branches of government a constitutional requirement.” Well, just to take the obvious, it’s going to be very interesting to see how that turns out. But again, Mexico has a political system based in electoral legitimacy, so does South Africa now. And at least in terms of South Africa, you see the inheritance of the British tradition, but you also see that in India.

And in India you’re talking about the recent conclusion just in the last few days of the largest electoral system, the largest electoral event in human history. The Indian election is expected to have included about 950 million citizens before it just came to an end, and the results are now being tabulated. Just do the math, 950 million.

Here’s a part of what makes that so interesting. When you are looking at a nation as big as India, you’re looking at a subcontinent, basically. Again, very much in the English political tradition, because of the extension of the British Empire, you’re looking at India gaining its independence by the second half of the 20th century and its own political traditions, but it was still a continuation in terms of the constitutional system. But as you look at India and you look at its geography, its distribution of population, the sheer magnitude of having 950 million potential voters. How in the world do you do that?

Well, it turned out that the voting systems basically have to move. There aren’t enough that they can have one in every place, so they have to move. And given the terrain in India, that can mean that you have a truck or a train that is conveying both the people and the machinery necessary. But when it comes to India, it can get more complicated than that. My guess is that very few listening to The Briefing have ever had the electoral machinery and personnel brought to you on the back of an elephant.

Now, here’s something from the Christian worldview that I want us to think about for a moment. When you look at organizing that scale of an election, you look at orchestrating that scale of a political system, and you look at the fact that the voters there absolutely expect and would demand a choice in terms of the election. One of the things you note is that there is a hunger in human beings for a participation in government, in their culture, in their society at this level. And there has been a development in terms of the modern mind, and it has now spread throughout so much of the world that we’re talking here about Mexico, and South Africa, and India. There is no question that political legitimacy in India comes down to the system of an election and the vote, and it comes down to having to do whatever it takes to take the opportunity to vote to 950 million people.

But the point I want to make is that this system of voting, this electoral expectation, the tie of legitimacy of the government to some form of a popular vote, that is something that emerged out of a very particular, a very specific political context and out of a very particular and specific worldview. And at least the main driver of that worldview was biblical Christianity. And one of the reasons why the impulse, especially in the English-speaking world, was toward a democracy and away from the absolute monarchy of the despotism that was still evident during the time that the English developed these traditions, later to be adopted by Americans, Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, et cetera, as you look at that tradition, you realize that it was deeply rooted in the biblical concern about the concentration of sin in a sinful world. And the increasing realization came to those informed by Christianity that the only way to avoid a concentration of evil in the hands of someone who would turn into a despot, is a separation of powers and the protections of a constitutional system. And the only way to make that work eventually is to involve the people in making the decision about who would lead them. As in just about everything else, there’s some very deep worldview implications that most people aren’t going to see. I hope at least we see more of them.

Part II

Teachers and Parents Battle in California, and Children are Caught in the Crossfire: Drama Unfolds with Various Battles Over Transgender Issues and Parental Rights

Okay, turning back to the United States, there are now so many things that are frontline urgencies in terms of our national life and national culture, it’s easy for some very important issues to fall by the way. And I want to make sure that doesn’t happen with one huge issue with massive worldview implications that is coming to us from the state of California. But in this case, it’s coming in the form of two related, but separate developments.

Development number one, an initiative undertaken by citizens to seek to force a legal action in the state of California, by means of a referendum, that would have prevented the public schools from hiding a child’s transgender identity or transgender activity at school, let me be careful here, this would be an initiative to prevent the public schools from hiding that from parents. It failed. Now, the ostensible reason it failed is because the organizers failed to get the requisite number of signatures in order to get the issue on the ballot. And that of course, was one of the issues because the effort started a little bit late.

And one of the reasons it started is that there was a growing realization of the problem, and that is the fact that you have an increasing number of reports from parents who say that the gender identity, the transgender identity, non-binary identity of their children, right down to using preferred pronouns, right down to using a name, which is not the name by which the parents know the child, that has been going on with the knowledge of public school personnel and it was not an accident that the parents were not told. And that is why there was the effort to put together this kind of movement, in order to force that kind of policy. And yet voters in California are not going to vote on that in November because there were not enough signatures in the amount of time before the deadline to get that before the voters. And of course, there are people in California who are very disappointed that the voters will not have a chance to vote on this measure, and there are people who are very happy about that.

But there’s one more complication I want to mention, and that is that the attorney general of California, Rob Bonta, had basically inserted himself in the process and had the issue made the proposed ballot in November, he was going to argue that the title of it, the name that would be on the measure should be the Restrict Rights of Transgender Youth Initiative. So, again, the keywords there Restrict Rights of Transgender Youth. And you can see exactly what’s going on there. This is almost Orwellian, and he was going to tilt the scales. It turns out that the issue is not going to come before voters anyway, but that does tell you how the political elites in California are absolutely organizing against the very idea that parents would have the right to be informed and to demand to be informed of such a significant development, let’s just say the very least when it comes to their offspring.

But as I said, there are two related but still separate issues in this development in California. So, the first issue is the referendum that isn’t going to happen in November that would have allowed parents to demand this kind of notification from schools. The other developments taking place in the legislature, it is a bill backed by Tony Thurmond, who is the chief of the public schools in California, and by the way, not incidentally running for the Democratic nomination for governor of the state.

And so, you end up with headlines like this one in the Los Angeles Times. It tells you a whole lot that this is the headline. “California Bill Would Protect Teachers Amid School Gender Debates,” protect teachers. So, you’ll notice that this is right in the open, setting the opposition between parents and teachers, and with the children in the middle. And it’s not just teachers, it’s school authorities, public school authorities in this case. And now, you have the public school chief giving backing to a proposed bill that would actually argue that parents have no right to demand that the schools would inform them of transgender identity when it comes to their children.

And not only that, but school personnel will be protected from any legal action that might be taken by parents who said that their parental rights were infringed because they were not informed. So, let me just get to the bottom line here. This legislation is going to move forward. It is moving forward with a lot of political support. And given the political reality in California, it’s hard to imagine that it will not soon, if not almost immediately, go through the political process. It will be challenged in the courts, yes. And as others have noted, the courts have ruled both ways on this and in unpredictable ways, and this is one of the reasons why we have said the Supreme Court of the United States sooner than later is going to have to deal with this issue, even though the justices appear to be trying to avoid dealing with the issue directly, eventually it is going to land on them.

But for Christians, I just want us to step back for a moment, and let’s just say there are two levels of issues we need to understand here. Number one, the political reality here is that you have the Democratic Party, and you have the leaders of the Democratic Party, and you have the leadership in the California public schools, including the chief of the public schools in California. So this is not absolutely the same everywhere in California in every school district, and everyone should know that. But as you think about the direction of the public schools, that direction is very clear, and it’s not just because of this proposed bill.

This proposed legislation points to the fact that the leadership wants to move in that direction, and that means that in that kind of bureaucratic administrative state, Democratic Party controlled, LGBTQ committed, that kind of movement, it’s not a question as to whether or not this policy will be put into effect if the schools and the Democratic leadership have their way. It’s just a question of how exactly it will be written, how exactly it will be adopted, and how fast it will all be put in place.

But here’s where I need to say for Christians, there’s a deeper issue. There’s a far deeper issue, and this gets right to the level, the doctrine of creation. It gets right to the level of the rights and responsibilities of parents. Because this is presented as if there are two sources of conflict here, you have the parents on one side and the school teachers and school administrators on the other. That is not a way Christians can accept the framing of the issue. We do not believe that when you’re looking at children and say they’re put in the middle of the situation, that parents are one part and school administrators and a regime of experts and administrators are the other part, and it’s implied they both have basically equal right to claim that the child is this, or the child is that.

Here’s where Christians need to understand that the biblical worldview, which in essence has been respected in the Western constitutional tradition ever since that tradition came to life, that biblical understanding is that parents have an inalienable, and frankly non-negotiable, right to raise their children according to their own moral dictates. And let’s just remember that that is so central to the civilizational project that any civilization that has chosen otherwise has not long survived.

Now, we all know, and we have to concede this, that there are abusive parents. There are parents who neglect, but we also have to understand that there is no such thing as a caring state. And by that, I mean the state as the government, the government at whatever level. The reality is that no government can replace the family. No government can replace the family, which has marriage as the union of a man and a woman who become mother and father at the center of that entire moral universe. As we often discuss on The Briefing, it’s a part of creation order. It is also a very important part of Christian moral and theological reasoning known as subsidiarity, which is to say the greatest authority and the greatest health subsides in the most basic unit.

And the Bible’s really clear about what that most basic unit is. It’s right there in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, it’s marriage. And flowing immediately from marriage, after all, the command was be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, is the existence of the family, and that means the rights of parents.

Now, there have always been situations, as I say, in which parents have been abusive or neglectful, negligent, and in such a case, society often has to step in. And that was surely true in the village where other village parents could see what was going on, and there was a very strong suggestion made to the parents they need to do the right thing. This is certainly the case in any number of situations, but what you’re looking at now is the rise of a threatening administrative state that quite frankly sees children not so much as under the care and the privileged responsibility of parents, including parental authority, but rather are seen basically as wards of the state and parents are just convenient care tenderers as long as they are convenient care tenders.

Honestly, I think this is going to be one of the great moral, cultural and political battles that Christians are going to face, and I think it’s going to come sooner than later. And it’s not just going to be in the state of California, but because of the politics, it’s likely to show up somewhere like California first. But what we’re going to see increasingly is government both say and be told by those on the left that their responsibility is basically to take final charge in the raising of children, to set the parameters and the rules, to set the moral expectations, to decide what children are going to be taught.

And parents are to be respected, insofar as they basically yield to the desire of the state. They give way to the demands of a progressivist regime, and an increasingly-pervasive culture. I think we as Christians need to recognize that that’s not just a mistake, it is not just a rebellion against, say, the Western tradition. It’s a rebellion against creation order, and it is something that Christ parents cannot accept. And so, even as I want to suggest that Christians need to watch this kind of issue very, very carefully, and of course that starts with people in California and especially with Christians in California, and it starts with all of us watching the developments there because what we see are these issues being defined so clearly, but this is not something that’s going to be limited to one state or even one coast. It is going to show up eventually just about everywhere.

And if it doesn’t show up because of some kind of powerful state initiative, it’s going to show up because of some kind of national agenda. There’s going to be nowhere to hide. You’re going to have presidential elections that will have something to do with the direction of the Department of Education going to establish some kind of policy. There will be some kind of expectation. Policies will be rationalized across all 50 states eventually because of the federal power that comes by federal educational funding. This is the way the moral revolution is forced.

So, at the very least, both of these stories coming from California should serve as a wake-up call for all of us. The urgency is going to be greater where the legislative threat, the judicial threat to the government threat is hotter and faster, but there is no place within the hearing of my voice in which there’s absolute safety from the logic and the ideologies that are now threatening the rights and responsibilities of Christians. And just understand, Christian parents are going to be isolated, especially by the left, as being the people who are particularly problematic and particularly dangerous.

Part III

Melinda French Gates Announces $1 Billion to Abortion Rights: New Philanthropy Organization Raises Awareness to the Battle We Face

But finally, before ending The Briefing today when we’re talking about moral change, we also need to see that that kind of cultural agenda, that kind of moral change is sometimes driven by massive amounts of money. And in the case of Melinda French Gates, you’re talking about a woman who has divorced Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and she has a fortune estimated at somewhere between $12 and $13 billion. She’s announced that she’s resigning from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation now that the divorce is finalized and there’s been some time passed, and she’s instead going to set up her own philanthropy. And I think it’s really important we recognize that Melinda French Gates says that one of her priorities with her massive billions of dollars is going to be supporting abortion rights.

And I want you to notice how it is set up. For example, the Wall Street Journal reported the story this way. “French Gates said she felt compelled to support abortion rights in the US after the Supreme Court in 2022 eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion. She added that, ‘Women’s rights are often pushed aside.'” Here’s the quote. “In nearly 20 years as an advocate for women and girls, I have learned that there will always be people who say, ‘It’s not the right time to talk about gender equality.’ The second the global agenda gets crowded, women and girls fall off.” Now, that can sound like it means one thing, but remember, she makes very clear that this is about even abortion and classifying that as gender equality and a woman or a female’s right. But of course, given the political correctness of the time, a pregnant person’s right.

But just imagine again, the scale of the money we’re talking about. The Wall Street Journal says that her personal fortune is at least something like $13.3 billion. That means that regularly, over the course of years, she’s going to have billions of dollars to give away. She told us upfront what she’s going to be funding and what her agenda is. Once again, those of us who hold to a biblical worldview, and that includes a course, a biblical view of the sanctity and dignity of human life, including in the womb, it reminds us again of what we’re up against. And it’s not just about money, as the Bible makes clear, this is not just a financial battle, not just a political battle, it is a spiritual battle to which we are called.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. 

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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