Tuesday, June 25, 2024

It’s Tuesday, June 25, 2024.

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

Part I

How’s This for Irony? British Snap Election Set to Take Place on the 4th of July — What’s Behind It and Why Americans Should Watch It Closely

It’s virtually impossible to miss the fact that we are in a presidential election year in the United States, we’re looking at national elections. You add to that, that every single seat in the US House of Representatives is up for election or re-election and about a third of the Senate, and then you go to the statewide elections, local elections. Americans are being bombarded with all kinds of messaging about the election, and of course, the greatest focus, the greatest intensity is directed towards the presidential election. That’s why Thursday night, the first debate in the 2024 cycle between the expected Democratic nominee, the incumbent President Joe Biden and the expected Republican nominee, former President Donald Trump. Well, we’re going to be talking about it on Friday, and that’s because it is inescapably big news.

I’m not really going to talk about the American election today, I want to shift attention, go across the Atlantic and understand that big, big developments are happening in elections in Europe as well. This reaches as close as America’s closest ally there in Europe. You can look at the United Kingdom, the UK, Great Britain, where Rishi Sunak, the Conservative Prime Minister, called an election which is going to be held, how American does this look? On July the fourth. On July the fourth, the people of Great Britain are going to be going to the polls. This was because the Prime Minister called the election earlier than is required in the British constitutional system. He did so, because quite honestly, he saw it to the advantage of his party, but we are talking about an expected conservative party disaster in Great Britain, and the reasons for that are many.

I’m going to argue that the most important reason that the Conservative Party is in danger of being kicked out of office is because it has been insufficiently conservative. It has gone through so many prime ministers, it has gone through so many scandals, it has been in office so long. The reality is that in the British parliamentary system, it becomes more and more likely over time that an opposition party is simply going to look different than the incumbent party. In the case of the current leadership of the Conservative Party in Great Britain, we are looking at many years in which the Conservative Party has been giving away its electoral advantage, and quite frankly, has been compromising its convictions, no great surprise. Keir Starmer is the leader the Labor Party, and in the strangest turn of events, on at least some issues, the Labor Party, which at one point was officially socialist in the UK, is actually a little closer to what Americans might recognize as a position, than the Conservative Party, which has been decreasingly conservative over a fairly long period of time.

You look back to the 1980s and you think of the Conservative Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, she was a conviction politician. She came to office on conservative ideas. She applied those conservative convictions in terms of her leadership. By the way, this sometimes caused her problems inside her own party, where quite honestly, there were a lot of men in that party who had weaker conviction than Margaret Thatcher, and there were a lot of leaders in the party who would’ve trimmed their sales for political advantage. Margaret Thatcher wouldn’t do that. Now, after Margaret Thatcher was toppled by her own party, the party continued in power for some length of time, and then gave way to the Labor Party under Tony Blair. You just look at this and you recognize, this is an unfolding story. One party, then another party, it’s rather similar to what you see in the American pattern, but that pattern might just get broken when it comes to the United Kingdom.

That is because the conservatives are polling so low, they might actually not be the party in second place. There are those who are looking at the conservative apocalypse that seems to be impending in the United Kingdom, and they’re simply wondering what will be the political option for true conservatives going forward? Too early to tell, but the reality is that Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister is a technocrat. He is more a product of the City of London as it is known, meaning the financial district. And then you look at others who have been overblown personalities such as Boris Johnson, and you also look at the fact there’s so much instability, but in the Conservative Party, there is simply no central conservative message. One of the things many Americans have not yet figured out is that when you look at the Conservative Party in Great Britain, on many social issues, it’s anything but conservative. It is basically pretty much to the left.

That’s where conservatives who are principled conservatives need to recognize a party that has compromised that much on conservative principles, is basically false advertising when it calls itself conservative, and eventually, the electorate is going to figure that out.

Meanwhile, there’s another pattern going on in France. In France, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, who has the constitutional power to call elections, called what is referred to in the French system as a snap election. He surprised everyone including his own party’s prime minister in calling for the election. The prime minister we are told, had the courtesy of finding this out an hour before the rest of the world. Why in France would there be this kind of call for a snap election? Why would Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, who sees himself very much in the role of a Charles de Gaulle, frankly, the French president giving leadership to the entire European continent. Why would he do this? It looks like an act of political desperation.

Well, there’s a story behind it, it’s a fascinating story. What’s going on in Europe right now as a whole? You could take Western Europe, and speak of those nations traditionally allied with the United States in particular, what you have going on there, but also in much of central and Eastern Europe is a turn to a far more conservative direction. You’ve seen this in Hungary, we’ve seen this in other nations. We are seeing it right now in France. Even before this, we saw it in what happened just a few weeks ago in Europe, which was the cycle of elections for the European Parliament. That is a super national body, by the way. It was brought about in the European adoption of what is known as the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. It was the high-water mark of the period after the fall of the Soviet Union, when there was this belief that all of a sudden, Europe could emerge as a super national body, a continental power to rival the United States of America and influence in culture shaping ability and in terms of economics.

Of course, what you have in the European Union after the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, it is not the creation of anything like the United States of Europe. There were those who wanted it that way, but there’s a very important historical and cultural reason why that is a very unlikely development. Just to put the matter simply, it is because when you look at those European nations and you look at different languages, different cultures, they do see themselves as in some sense a part of a common European project. But at the end of the day, and here’s something Christians need to understand, actually has deep theological roots. They see themselves as more French than European. They see themselves as more German than European. They see themselves as more Hungarian than European. The reason for that, as I say, there’s a theological principle here that theological principle is called subsidiarity.

That means that the greatest meaning, the greatest truth, the greatest simplicity, the greatest unity subsides at the lowest level of organization. You say, where does that show up? Well, it shows up in Genesis 1 where you have the creation of human civilization, by the creation of marriage with the union of a man and a woman and the creation of a family, the instruction to that married couple be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. It’s a reminder to us that marriage and the family are so basic to human civilization, that the loyalty there is stronger than the loyalty to a state, or for that matter, a nation, certainly some kind of international body. The more basic the unit, the deeper the loyalties, and that’s exactly what you see in Europe. It’s not just a matter of say some kind of principle working out, it’s also the matter of speaking the same language, understanding the same culture, and possessing the same history.

France is actually a very interesting example of this because under the leadership of Charles de Gaulle after World War II, France was about as French as you can get. In other words, Charles de Gaulle was not only about France having a role in Europe, but France having the leading role in Europe. And as you look at France right now, Emmanuel Macron who came to office years ago as something of a young pioneering technocrat who had created a middle way in politics and created a new political party, he was elected and then reelected the president of France. He is looking at the end of his term, limited period in office. Here’s what’s shaking everybody, the European Parliament elections, the elections for the European Parliament took place just a matter of weeks ago, and it’s that super national body that wasn’t intended to have an awful lot of power in the beginning, but as you know, those groups tend to accumulate power.

The election brought an unprecedented and absolutely shocking number of conservative office holders to the European Parliament. It has shocked many of the established historic European nations, and frankly, scared the leadership there to death. Because you can pretty much do the math. If the elections for those seats in the European Parliament went so overwhelmingly conservative when it was unexpected, well, you have national leaders thinking, “Well, the same thing could happen here.” That is exactly why Emmanuel Macron who does not want to see the right take power in France, that is why he called this snap election surprising even his own party, and it is seen as, if not a desperate act, then a very high-risk act because it could actually bring into power a conservative government, and the French president is not going to have much power to reject what the voters have done.

They haven’t done it yet, the election is still out there, but it tells us a great deal that the specter of a conservative turn in France and in other European nations has the attention of the media and political elites in the United States. That’s because there’s a predisposition on the American side, our own say, media elites, to be very friendly to the European left and very, very concerned about the European right. That’s exactly the way those same elites look at the conservative-liberal divide in the United States of America, so no surprise here. I want to point out something that you’re going to see over and over again in the media coverage of these European elections and their national elections, as I said, and countries as important as Britain and France in terms of American relationships. You also have other elections taking place all throughout Europe.

Part II

The Far-Right and Far-Left in Europe: The State of European Politics and the Conservative and Liberal Binary as It Heads into Crucial Summer Elections

But the headline you need to watch out for, the terminology you need to watch out for is the term “far right.”

For example, just a couple of days ago, the Washington Post ran an article. Here’s the headline, “French Protesters Decry Far-Right Wins as Snap Election Looms.” Well, all right, if you look at the languages being used in the American media, you’re going to see this over and over again. This is the specter, of advance, of gains by far-right parties in Europe, far right candidates. Doesn’t that lead to a question? That is, what’s the distinction between right and far right? Well, I asked that question because apparently there is no fixed definition. There are a couple of things going on here. One is the political context in Europe, and the other is the political context in the United States. In the political context of Europe, there has been a long-term intellectual effort to try to rob the conservative side, the conservative parties of legitimacy.

One of the ways they do that is by calling them far-right parties. Now, if there is truth in that, if you’re far right, you have to be right of something. There has to be something of which you are on the right. As you look at the European context, here’s the thing you need to keep in mind. The European powers that be have for years tried to create a political mainstream that they would allow, say in terms of acceptable political discourse and policy, and then they would call everyone else outside that system. That was quite effective for a long time, it was quite effective in a nation like France. Not effective any longer, at least it appears that way. The specter in France is of the party known as the National Rally, and it had been known as the National Front. By the way, it did begin as something that even in the American system would’ve been seen as somewhat far right.

It has been moving to the political mainstream, or you might also say that events have been moving the French people in a more conservative direction. Now, one of the worldview issues we need to keep in mind here is that people make these kinds of judgments based upon both what they hope for and what they fear. This is what happens in an election. People vote out of hope, but they also vote out of fear. In Europe right now, the great fear is that France will cease being France, that Italy will cease being Italy, that Germany will cease being Germany. Now, there are other fears out there including an expansionist set of aims by Russia, and you’re looking at internal and external threats, financial threats. The big issue here really is cultural, it really is political, and that’s why it really should be of interest to Americans because there is no way our own election in November isn’t going to demonstrate many of the same challenges and patterns.

I want to point to something else. In the New Yorker, and the New Yorker is by the way, one of the clearest signs of how elites in the United States are thinking. The New Yorker, well, here’s a clue for you, it’s published in New York. It is very much a part of that cultural and intellectual elite and its media real estate is quite expensive and quite influential. In the comment, talk about the town section of a recent edition of the New Yorker. This is actually June 24, so it’s very current. You have this statement made by columnist, Adam Gopnik, and he says that right now the main tension in Europe is reflected in the largest groupings in the European Parliament. He says that the great hope will be that the European Parliament will still be basically grouped in terms of a range from the rational right to the reasonable left.

That’s very interesting language, isn’t it? You can see what’s going on here. You have an effort to try to say, we’ll give legitimacy to the rational right. The people among conservatives who are thinking the way think they ought to think and to the reasonable left, which means there’s a left that evidently is not reasonable, and you knew that already. It’s interesting to see the New Yorker seemingly acknowledge that. My point is this, if you have the power to determine in advance what is the rational right and what is the reasonable left, and you say everyone outside of that simply isn’t allowable in the political discourse, in the political system, then you have vast power. That’s exactly what the American media tried to do with so many conservatives in Europe by referring to them as far right. By putting far in front of right, they’re trying to say they’re outside the political legitimacy.

Now, here’s the thing, as you understand that, it’s morally explainable that there could be parties that would be outside that acceptable range. Some of these parties and some of these arguments and some of these nations have struggled with this for a long time, particularly on some of the most difficult questions that were raised in the 20th century in terms of some forms of nationalism, nationalist ideology. You could just go down the list. The fact is that the electorate in Europe is looking at the conservative side with a whole new light, which is to say they’re looking at the liberal side as now having less credibility. What would be the issue? What would be the one issue? The one issue is immigration, and it’s sometimes more often described in Europe as migration. The reason for that is because it’s often from closer sources across the Mediterranean than what is true in the United States.

Looking at this, you understand the immigration, migration, out of control. One of the things you hear over and over again is that there is no control of the border. We have lost control of the border. You have French citizens asking, and this is over against the specter of what’s been happening in Europe, and in particular places like France and Belgium and other countries where you have, for instance, an influx of Muslims who are not assimilating into French culture. They’re not assimilating into German or Belgian culture. You have people who are now voting their concerns, and it’s going to be very interesting to see what happens in these European elections over the summer. And as is so often the case, they may tell us at least something of what to expect in the United States come November.

Part III

Israel is a Divisive Issue for the LGBTQ Community? The Left is Imploding, and Intersectionality is the ‘Omnicause’

Now we’re going to come back to the United States, although there are parallels to what we’re going to be talking about here in Europe and elsewhere. Recently, the New York Times ran a headline and you got to just look at this and take it for what it is. Here’s the headline, “The Gaza War is Dividing the LGBTQ Community.” Now, you look at putting two things together, only the New York Times perhaps can figure out a way to put that on the front page of the newspaper, how the war in Gaza is dividing the LGBTQ community. Now, wait just a minute, it’s not dividing L from G, from B, from T, from Q. No, it is dividing different political and moral polarities within the LGBTQ community. Liam Stack is writing the article and we are told that these divisions are now showing up and, “They have been on full display during pride month, a time typically focused on celebration and solidarity.” Here’s his explanation, “The fight over how the community,” that means the LGBTQ community, “should respond to the war in Gaza has played out in fiery online comments and false accusations of pro-Hamas activity.”

It goes on and on. One man who is a journalist we are told who is also an activist, “Who has been highlighting the stories of LGBTQ people in Gaza on his popular social media channel since the war began.” He said, “I think queer people are mostly on one side of the debate. It feels like queer people are coming out for Palestine in a really large way.” That turns out largely to be true. I want us to understand why it’s so, and that will take us back to a word that we’ve used in the past called intersectionality. It’s a word that was coined by liberal academics in a neo-Marxist context. It is a critical part of what is called critical theory. The idea of intersectionality is that you have multiple identities in a person, and a person can have any number of these multiple identities.

The greater the intersections of these different identities that are the subject of oppression, the greater moral value, the greater moral concentration is to be found, which is to say, just to put it bluntly, that the argument is made that a lesbian is discriminated against as compared to a heterosexual woman, but a Black lesbian is at the intersection of personal identity than includes lesbian and Black, and thus is even more oppressed. You can just understand in critical theory how this unwinds. You can have people who say, well, okay, here, you have someone who is aged, or here you have someone who is in another situation. Pretty soon you got five or six points of intersectionality, which is why the left just recently has been blowing itself up because it’s like everyone shows up with the argument, I’m more oppressed than you are.

There’s something else in intersectionality and that is that you got to say, okay, well this is good and that is bad. This is where on the left, increasingly folks are saying, Palestine, Palestinian cause, even increasingly horrifyingly enough “Hamas good, Israel bad.” There you have old patterns of anti-Semitism with the overlay of the new problem of critical theory and this idea of intersectionality and it made the front page of the New York Times, the Gaza War is dividing the LGBTQ community. At least some, let’s just say sane, rational people are responding to this saying, “How is it that the LGBTQ community is siding with Hamas? If not explicitly with Hamas, then at least with the perception of the Palestinian cause against Israel?” The answer is because they are oppressed. Well, let me just say that this is something that requires a little bit of clear-headed thinking and a little bit of honesty just to say before we can say anything else, let’s just say that the one place you better not show up as LGBTQ is in territory controlled by Hamas.

You would think that would be obvious even to liberal LGBTQ activists in the United States. Here’s where the critical theory dynamic is more powerful than even an instinct towards self-preservation because you have this idea, we have to side with this side in this equation. I think it’s the wrong side in terms of understanding who invaded whom. It was Hamas that invaded and attacked Israel, not vice versa. Now, as you look at this, there’s a long history. We all acknowledge that, but the point is we are now looking at a major division in the United States on the left, and Israel is the loser, and Palestine and the Palestinian cause as it is perceived is the winner. I want to point out something else in this, and that is that overwhelmingly over the course of say the last 100 years, the Jewish community and Jewish voters in the United States have voted overwhelmingly with the Democratic Party, and they have voted overwhelmingly more on the political left than on the political right.

You have to wonder if that’s going to change simply over questions of anti-Semitism and opposition to Israel. Now I’m going to go back to France just to make that point. Serge Klarsfeld, who is one of the most famous and influential Jewish figures in France, one of the survivors of the Holocaust, and someone who has been a Nazi hunter, he has announced he is going to support the conservative cause. Remember in the United States, the parties referred to as a far-right party. He now says he is going to support the National Rally Party simply because of its support for Israel and the Jewish people over against the increasing anti-Semitism of the left. That’s a major political shift. You have to wonder if something similar will soon come in the United States as well, and Israel is going to be the dividing line. This kind of article in the front page about the Gaza War dividing the LGBTQ community, it’s a signal of things to come.

I also want to point out that Andy Kessler at the Wall Street Journal is caught onto the same pattern. You got to love his headline, “The Omnicause is Collapsing.” He speaks of Omnicause in terms of the pattern on the left, whereby every cause is simply thrown into one great cause. All right-minded people must hold the position, LGBTQ plus, second-wave feminism plus, you just go down the list. Non-binary, you have to be for that. You have to be for everything. Palestine is now added into this, which means opposition to Israel, seeing Israel as the enemy. The Omnicause is collapsing, says Andy Kessler, add the climate issues to that as well. Because even as viewed through the lens of oppression, he says, “Every cause is linked.” He says, “You know? That just doesn’t work out.” Andy Kessler asked, “Why would something like this Omnicause, this general liberal blob, how could it emerge?” He says he thinks it’s because of what he calls affluenza. Now, he didn’t come up with a word.

That means the disease of having too much affluence. It shows up in very rich kids showing up at very expensive campuses holding very, very expensive liberal and leftist ideas. That simply can’t survive contact with reality. He writes this way, “My theory is that society is afflicted with a bad case of affluenza. Life has become too easy. We Google and use artificial intelligence instead of thinking, shoot up Ozempic instead of exercising and rely on Obamacare instead of working. Even the well-off,” he writes, “need to complain about something so they complain about everything.” Everything becomes a moral imperative. He says, “The problem for the Omnicause is that it is beginning to unravel “as hidden agendas are revealed.” “With few exceptions, you don’t see many left-leaning Jews at pro-Hamas rallies waving from the river to the sea, or this is genocide flags.” Here, he just points to this falling apart because as I say, in France right now, the anti-Semitism of the left is becoming very apparent to the Jewish people who are saying, “We have a problem here.”

As we’re thinking about this and draw these issues to a close today, let’s also remind ourselves of something else. It is Hamas, a terrorist group that has proved itself murderous over the course of years. It’s the declared enemy of Israel. Yes, it’s also the declared enemy of any understanding and morality that we can recognize. Hamas is now adamantly opposed to a ceasefire and it has gone on the record again as being adamantly opposed the existence of the state of Israel. Again, we know what we’re up against, and thus you ask the question, why does Israel act as Israel acts in so many cases, and why is Israel and Israeli political leadership so unconcerned, for example, of all these rich American kids protesting and faculty co-protesters on these campuses? It is because Israel understands something, and that is that it is fighting for its existence. This takes us back to Kessler’s indictment that the Omnicause that marked so much of the left in the United States is fueled by affluence. You have rich kids in rich places showing up with ideas that they can afford, perhaps, in their own economic context to entertain. Ideas that Israel cannot entertain for a moment and survive.

One final thought, it is going to be very interesting to see how these issues work out in the 2024 presidential election cycle in the United States because so many of these issues are going to be clarified and they’re going to be clarified in ways that will both influence the voter in the United States, and will be very clearly revealed by voters when you get to the November election. We’re going to find out what Americans really believe about these things. My guess is, they’re going to be some surprises here for just about everybody.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter or X by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.

I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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