September 16, 2015
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Wednesday, September 16, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Bernie Sanders addressing Liberty University encounter collision between two worldviews
It had to be an interesting sight, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders running for the Democratic presidential nomination, speaking on the campus of Liberty University. As Nick Corasaniti of the New York Times reported,
“Senator Bernie Sanders took his message of confronting inequality to unfamiliar ground on Monday at Liberty University, a leading evangelical Christian college, where he sought to build what he called “common ground” with students, beginning with the foundations of Christianity itself: the Bible.”Show Full Transcript
Now that’s a really interesting introduction to the story and of course it had to be an interesting situation in and of itself. Here was one of the most liberal politicians in modern America, running for the Democratic presidential nomination and running to the far left, appearing at a bastion of evangelical Christianity. The university that is now the largest private, nonprofit University in America, a University that had been established by Jerry Falwell, speaking to a crowd of about 12,000 students Senator Sanders said,
“I am far, far from a perfect human being, but I am motivated by a vision which exists in all of the great religions — in Christianity, in Judaism, in Islam, Buddhism and other religions — and which is so beautifully and clearly stated in Matthew 7:12.”
Senator Sanders went on to say,
“And it states: ‘So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets.’ That is the golden rule. Do to others what you would have them do to you. It is not very complicated.”
This incongruous and unlikely event took place there on the campus of Liberty University, as the president of that University; Jerry Falwell Jr. had invited Senator Sanders to speak in terms of the speaker series for the fall semester. Bernie Sanders follows several others from the political left as well as the political right who have spoken on the college’s campus and it was interesting to the New York Times that the very conservative student body of the University treated Senator Sanders, a man decidedly of the left with respect. But what’s most interesting about the article and is most interesting about Senator Sanders appearance at Liberty is the fact that the senator decided to go to the Bible, establishing what he claimed to be common ground. Bernie Sanders comes from a Jewish family background, but he is according to Religion News Service,
He has done a great deal to make very clear that he has distanced himself from any religious truth claims whatsoever. So even as he was speaking of the Golden rule, as it’s often called and even as he was invoking several of the world’s religious faith, he himself has distanced himself from any faith whatsoever. But what’s really interesting in this story is that Bernie Sanders knew as he was speaking at Liberty University that he was speaking to a University and to a student body that would be largely in contradiction to him on some the most crucial issues of the day, in particular issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.
Senator Sanders has been running to the far left of the Democratic field. Following the example of some recent developments in Europe and elsewhere, he has been pushing his party to the far left; he is unabashedly liberal in every way one might imagine. When it comes to matters of politics and economics, he represents that old Democratic left to that had been largely repudiated even by President Bill Clinton when he was running for office in 1992 and during his two terms in office. This is a man who in terms of the political spectrum is far to the left of President Barack Obama and yet there he was, as someone who is unabashedly irreligious speaking at a Christian university on Monday at Liberty University. It’s interesting, once again, that he went to Matthew chapter 7:12, that is that verse that is so often called the Golden rule and as it is often claimed some version of it is found in many of the faith systems of the world. But Christians rightly look in particular to Matthew 7:12, where Jesus does say that in everything we are to do to others what we would have done to ourselves, for as Jesus said this sums up the law and the prophets. Recall then that Senator Sanders said,
“It’s not very complicated.”
As the New York Times and other major national media have noted Senator Sanders went to Liberty University and wanted primarily to talk about his major economic concerns and his economic platform. His major economic concern is identified as income inequality. Without apology what Bernie Sanders calls for is a massive expansion of the government and a massive transformation of our economy, including the forced redistribution of wealth. But what made this so interesting was that the student body and the faculty at Liberty University represented a worldview very distinct from his own, especially on the contentious issues of abortion and same-sex marriage. Speaking to the issue of abortion Senator Sanders said,
“On this very sensitive issue my view is I respect absolutely a family that says, no we’re not going to have an abortion, but I would hope that other people respect the very painful and difficult choice that many women feel they have to make and don’t want the government telling them what they have to do.”
Senator Sanders was also an early and very eager proponent of the legalization of same-sex marriage, another issue he knew that would prompt disagreement with the crowd at Liberty University. But it is the issue of abortion that first and foremost draws the distinction of worldview that was really represented by Senator Sanders appearing at Liberty University. Because recall that he went to Matthew 7:12, he went to the Golden rule, he went to Jesus saying that we should do unto others as we would have done unto ourselves, notice as he defends abortion rights and he does so eagerly and enthusiastically, he never acknowledges that the unborn child is one of those persons to whom we are to do as we would do unto ourselves. That’s very telling, because in Senator Sanders’ worldview and recall he is “unabashedly irreligious” in that worldview, there is no particular value, no inherent value to that unborn human life. So when Bernie Sanders says we are to do unto others as we would do unto ourselves. He doesn’t have any reference at all to that unborn baby, thus, he can hold to an extremely pro-abortion position he can and does oppose any restrictions on abortion virtually whatsoever. Defending a woman’s right if he would characterize it to an abortion for any reason or for no reason at any time. And furthermore, he supports abortion with taxpayer support. Taxpayers should pay for the abortions that he suggest that women must have the right to have. That’s a very telling encounter; it must have been interesting to have been there on the campus of Liberty University, when Senator Sanders made his appearance. We can only hope that those who were watching Senator Sanders as he spoke, those who were listening to his words and those who were reading the press coverage afterwards will understand that this wasn’t just a matter of some kind of interesting and odd political confrontation. This was a great collision between two worldviews and at the center of that collision is not only the unborn child, but the very words of Scripture. That is to say that when we’re talking about doing unto others as we would have them do to ourselves, those others for Christians must especially and always include the unborn.
Speaking of Bernie Sanders, Tuesday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal on the front page had a headline that says,
“Price Tag of Bernie Sanders’s Proposals: $18 Trillion.”
Laura Meckler, reporting for the Wall Street Journal tells us Senator Bernie Sanders whose liberal call to action has propelled his longshot presidential campaign is proposing an array of new programs that would amount to the largest peacetime expansion of government in modern American history.
“In all, he backs at least $18 trillion in new spending over a decade.
“His agenda includes an estimated $15 trillion for a government-run health-care program that covers every American, plus large sums to rebuild roads and bridges, expand Social Security and make tuition free at public colleges.
“To pay for it, Mr. Sanders, a Vermont independent running for the Democratic nomination, has so far detailed tax increases that could bring in as much as $6.5 trillion over 10 years.”
Now recall that’s a massive increase in taxation, about 6.5 trillion, but he’s called for spending about $18 trillion over the same time period. This is another issue of worldview collision and it’s very interesting as we look at the proposals made by Senator Sanders, the collision is not between people who want human flourishing and those who do not want human flourishing. It’s between those who believe that human beings will flourish best if the government is radically expanded and takes over more and more of the society and its responsibilities and those who believe that a limited government is actually the best way to lead to and ensure human flourishing. That’s that worldview divide. Again, it’s not between those who want human flourishing and those who do not, it’s about two different ways of understanding what will actually lead to the greatest increase and protection of human flourishing.
In the immediate aftermath of the headline story saying that Senator Sanders was calling for $18 trillion in spending, that article appeared in the Wall Street Journal, there came a response in the pages of the Washington Post, in this case by liberal columnist Paul Waldman. It’s also very telling, he says, in his headline,
“No, Bernie Sanders is not going to bankrupt America to the tune of $18 trillion.”
He says, even though that’s the big headline, it’s not really true. And then he says, while Sanders does want to spend significant amounts of money, almost all of it is on things we’re already paying for, he just wants to change how we pay for them. Here’s what’s really interesting in Waldman’s essay. He says,
“In some ways it’s by spreading out a cost currently borne by a limited number of people to all taxpayers. His plan for free public college would do this: right now, it’s paid for by students and their families, while under Sanders’ plan we’d all pay for it in the same way we all pay for parks or the military or food safety.
“But the bulk of what Sanders wants to do is in the first category: to have us pay through taxes for things we’re already paying for in other ways.”
Now what we need to note is that this article and its defense of Bernie Sanders represents a simply amazing confidence in the power and efficiency of government. As a matter of fact, the confidence in a giant government that is reflected here is almost breathtaking. But that’s what’s going to make this coming presidential election cycle so interesting. These issues are simply going to be on the table, especially with Bernie Sanders and others pushing the Democratic Party so far to the left, it’s going to be a very, very interesting presidential campaign. Remember that tonight, there’s yet another opportunity to watch a presidential debate. It will be a debate on CNN tonight among the Republican candidates and with this debate will come a new set of questions and a new set of questioners including Hugh Hewitt, my colleague and friend on the editorial board of Salem communications. It’s going to be a very interesting evening.
New leader of British Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn presents a radical shift to the left
Next, while we’re looking at the shift to the left in terms of much of the American political and worldview conversation, we need to note an even more radical lurch to the left that took place in recent days in the United Kingdom in Great Britain. As Simon Nixon writes for the Wall Street Journal,
“The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the U.K. Labour Party is one of those rare political events that can accurately be described as an earthquake.”
It is indeed an earthquake. Jeremy Corbin is a man of the radical left in the United Kingdom. Even the New York Times described Jeremy Corbin as being for three decades,
“On the far left fringes of British politics.”
But he resoundingly won the leadership struggle for Britain’s Labour Party that is the mainstream liberal party there in Great Britain or at least until recently it has been rather mainstream. It is officially committed to some form of socialism. But when it comes to Jeremy Corbin, he is for an aggressive form of socialism. Jeremy Corbin has openly affirmed communist and socialist heroes and heroines in terms of his political life, and he has been very critical of organization such as NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that has defended freedom in terms of a defense pact between United States and many European nations ever since the end of World War II.
In a very sobering article written for the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens suggests that his election as head of the Labour Party in Great Britain means that this is a grave threat to not only the United Kingdom, not only to Europe, but to the entire West, to Western civilization itself. And his argument comes down to this, what we are seeing is a political recklessness, this urgent push and lurch to the left on the part of some European nations and political parties and there is this parallel in terms, well here he comes again, of someone like Bernie Sanders in the United States. Most observers in both the Republican and Democratic parties think that Bernie Sanders has very little chance of getting anywhere near the actual Democratic presidential nomination. But you need to note that what’s happened in the United Kingdom is that someone even to the left, and that’s still possible, of Bernie Sanders has now become the head of Britain’s Labour Party. The next election will come in just a few years and this means the Jeremy Corbin might be not only the head of the Labour Party, but Prime Minister of Great Britain, even though that still probably unlikely given the fact that he so far on the left, the reality is that one of Britain’s major political parties has now chosen him as their standard bearer and their head. That is, as Bret Stephens says, a direct threat to the very continuation of a stable democracy. This is indeed a political earthquake that will not be limited in its effects to the United Kingdom.
Queen Elizabeth's long reign represents global era of radical secularization, decline of Britain
And speaking of the United Kingdom, we referred to the fact just a few days ago that Queen Elizabeth II of Britain is now the longest reigning monarch of that country. That’s quite an historical achievement, she surpassed the reign of her great, great, great grandmother Queen Victoria and she did so, just last week. But what’s really interesting is not just the longevity of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, but what her reign, coming from the end of World War II to the present day really indicates about the massive cultural and moral shift that have taken place not only in Great Britain but in much of the rest of the world. Stephen Erlanger and Stephen Castle, writing from London for the New York Times remind us that,
“The first Queen Elizabeth gave her name to an age, as did Victoria, in an ever more powerful kingdom. But that is not going to be the legacy of this Elizabeth, who has reigned over Britain’s long transition from empire to Commonwealth, from world power to relative international insignificance.”
That’s really quite a paragraph. Here the New York Times writers are referring to the fact that when Queen Elizabeth came to the throne, Britain had just immediately ceased to be a vast Empire. Before World War II, Britain ruled over much of the world’s land surface, after World War II, the British Empire was basically no more. The biggest sign of that came in the late 1940s with the independence of India. Now we’re looking at the fact that as Queen Elizabeth is the longest reigning monarch in British history, Britain is really not all that important a factor in any sense on the world scene. The Times article cited historian David Cannadine who said,
“Queen Elizabeth’s legacy would feature both transition and decline — the change of British society into “a much more fluid, multicultural, more secular society,” and “the downsizing of the British Empire into the British Commonwealth, the downsizing of Britain as a great power.”
What I found most interesting in this article is the reflection of the fact that during her long reign, Queen Elizabeth has seen the country that is Great Britain grow more and more secular in terms of its societal values and in terms of its belief system. One recent article that appeared in a major British newspaper, suggested that the Church of England and much of organized Christianity in Great Britain could disappear if current statistical trends continue, by the year 2067.
Once one of the most Christian nations on earth in terms of those who went to church and claimed a Christian identity, and furthermore, in terms of the basic Christian shape to the morality of the culture. Once one most Christian nations on earth, Britain is now one of the most secular with only a very small minority of Britain’s attending church on any regular basis and a decreasing number and percentage of Britain’s identifying with Christianity in any sense. Furthermore, the radical secularization of Britain as a society is clear in the vast moral changes that have so reshaped that nation. Now these effects are not limited to Britain, they are also found throughout much of Europe. It’s also important for us to recognize that among the coronation titles given to the monarch of Great Britain is a title defender of the faith. Interestingly, that was given to King Henry VIII by the Pope at the time because Henry VIII had written a tract opposing welfare, thus the Pope gave him the title, defender of the faith, and that has been passed down to every British monarch and thereafter, including Queen Elizabeth. But Queen Elizabeth has been singularly ineffectual at defending the faith in Great Britain. She actually doesn’t speak too much at all. That’s also reflected in the Times article where one observer said,
“She has made it an absolute rule to say nothing about anything.”
It’s impossible, we might note, to defend the faith if you’re saying,
“Nothing about anything.”
It’s also very interesting to note that the heir to the throne, the current Prince of Wales, Charles has indicated that he will be the first British monarch since Henry VIII not to accept the title of defender of the faith. He said instead that he wants the title be changed to defender of faith, of no particular faith, but of faith as it’s found in anyone in any form. That’s one of the most revealing statements by any public figure in terms of our modern world. Here you have Prince Charles who is the heir to the British throne, he’s following his mother who already has the longest reign of any British monarch and he has announced that she will be the very last to be called defender of the faith. Charles insists that he will simply be defender of faith, not the faith, just faith, any faith or no faith at all.
In keeping with the theme, The Economist, one of most influential news magazines in the world also based in London, reflected on the Queens reign with these words,
“Four hallmarks of the era stand out. The transformation of Britain from the industrial hub of a global empire into a cultural power and entrepôt, its development into an ethnic melting pot, the relaxing of interpersonal relations and moral codes and the loosening of the United Kingdom itself.”
Again, what’s really interesting here is that The Economist recognizes that these trends are connected and what’s really interesting beyond that is the fact that you put together the two trends of secularization and the loosening of Britain’s historic moral codes and you understand how they reinforce and lead to one another. If indeed you have a process of secularization, it leads to a loosening of the moral codes and the loosening of the moral codes is proof positive of the very important impact of the process of secularization, the process whereby the society grows more and more distant from the religious faith that had shaped it and given its birth. In this case, this is a formal repudiation of the influence of Christianity and Christian morality in British society. Now, clearly we have to note that influence has not been entirely repudiated. The vestiges of that Christian influence, the vestigial impression of Christianity on the society, it can still be seen. But day by day and year-by-year over Elizabeth’s long reign, we have seen the process of secularization continue, and it has accelerated in recent years and that’s reflected in virtually every major trend in terms of values and morality in Great Britain and it’s tied to the same statistics that point to increased secularization and decreased church attendance and a radical decrease in the number and percentage of Britain’s who claim any ongoing identity with Christianity or any affirmation of Christian beliefs.
Finally, just in terms of economic perspective, while we’re thinking about economic inequality as Senator Sanders would have us to do, the Chicago Tribune ran an article indicating that Queen Elizabeth II may be worth something like $425 million, but relatively they say she’s not all that rich, she is a pauper when she’s compared to just other very wealthy Britain’s including other wealthy people living in London. Tom Metcalfe, writing for the Chicago Tribune tells us,
“The 89-year-old’s estimated personal fortune, largely inherited from her family, is about $425 million, according to an analysis by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. That’s a mere 3 percent of the wealth of the richest Briton, Gerald Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster. Europe’s richest woman, Liliane Bettencourt, has a $32 billion fortune.”
Sally Bedell Smith, the author of a book on the Queen said,
“The Queen is a steward of the monarchy. She’s not as rich as everyone thinks she is.”
Of course, she lives in a palace that has about 770 rooms. According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, she had an investment portfolio of about $75 million just a few years ago, but then she inherited $160 million from her mother and then she had personal property of another $110 million and she had a $75 million stamp collection she inherited from her father. She also owns other royal properties including Balmoral castle in Scotland. All that to say, that we always have to look at a matter of perspective if we’re really going to have a meaningful conversation about economic inequality, it’s hard to know where to begin if a woman worth at least $425 million is described as being, “a relative pauper.”
Maybe one day Bernie Sanders will tell her what he thinks about that.