August 10, 2017
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Thursday, August 10, 2017. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Today we’re going to look at the war of words between the United States and Korea hoping that it doesn’t become more than a war of words. We’re also going to look at what the Archbishop of Canterbury heard from the Archbishop of Uganda when he went to Africa and the discussion point with same-sex marriage. And finally we’re going to ask the question why did the Western media keep running photographs of a shirtless Vladimir Putin?
War of words: Tensions at a fever pitch between United States and North Korea
Tensions between United States and North Korea are apparently at a fever pitch, especially in terms of vocabulary. The latest escalation in the war of words if not the war of weapons between the two nations and their respective leaders came after developments over the weekend when the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted significant economic sanctions against North Korea. This came in the almost immediate aftermath of North Korea pressing ahead with the testing and launching of two additional intercontinental ballistic missiles and doing so not only against the warnings of the United States, but also of the entire world community. North Korea is known as a rogue state that is to say it is a government that simply does not play by the rules of international politics.
We’re not talking here about a state that is coloring outside the lines. We’re talking about a government now led by one of those autocratic totalitarian dictators ever known to humanity. We’re talking about a government that insistently and repeatedly flaunts all of the conventions of international law and of international diplomacy. We’re talking about a nation led by a man who is the third-generation in his family, the Kim dynasty, to rule autocratically over North Korea. It is known as the hermit kingdom because of its secrecy and because of its self-identified isolation from the larger world. But this is a nation that is also even as it is acting as a rogue state that now possesses nuclear weapons and is made very clear at least by its words that it will use them perhaps even as offensive weapons.Show Full Transcript
It was a big achievement for the Trump administration to achieve the unanimous vote at the Security Council over the weekend. Time will tell if these economic sanctions actually have an impact on North Korea, but it’s a very significant move. We’re talking about reducing the export value from North Korea from about 3,000,000,000 to 2,000,000,000 further crippling an already crippled economy. But we are talking about a dynasty that has deified itself and furthermore has proved repeatedly that it will starve its own citizens to death rather than to risk any weakening of the Kim dynasty or of the ideological purity of the nation. That ideological purity comes down to what can only be defined as the mixture of a cult of personality and communism.
In the aftermath of the vote for sanctions that had been led by the United States, remember that unanimous vote included the positive votes of both China and Russia for the American proposal, the North Korean government indicated that it would retaliate,
“thousands of times over.”
The North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho at a meeting in Manila also attended by the United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said,
“Neither shall we flinch even an inch from the road to bolstering up the nuclear forces chosen by ourselves, unless the hostile policy and nuclear threat of the U.S. against the D.P.R.K. [North Korea] are fundamentally eliminated.”
In an even more reckless and bellicose statement the official press agency of the North Korean government said,
“There is no bigger mistake than the U.S. believing that its land is safe across the ocean.”
Over the last 24 to 48 hours the North Korean regime has made concrete threats against Guam, a United States territory that is also home to an extraordinary deployment of United States military. Military experts believe that North Korea is indeed now a nuclear power having exploded more than one nuclear weapon and the successful launch of at least a few intercontinental ballistic missiles indicates that North Korea may be far ahead of where Western authorities had understood in terms of its development of a nuclear weapon that could be delivered into the heartland of the United States, perhaps even as far as cities such as Denver and Chicago.
On Tuesday President Donald Trump said that North Korea would face,
“fire and fury like the world has never seen,”
were it to take any hostile action against the United States or its territories. The U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, said that North Korea was risking the
“end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”
by making these threats, much less acting upon the. Speaking yesterday, however, the United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson said,
“I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days.”
That might be a tall order for some Americans, but on the other hand, any close observer of the North Korean regime over the last several decades knows that it repeatedly makes these kinds of threats. In a story that recently ran in USA Today, Jim Michaels points out that even as many people would look at Kim Jong Un – that is the autocratic leader of North Korea and see a madman – there is a political calculation behind his behavior, his program for the government and the military, and his words. This is a man who on the one hand is building up the respect of his regime in his own country, a country that includes the worship of its leader as a part of its national doctrine. Externally this kind of action, the development of nuclear weapons, the development of the missiles, the threats to use them against the United States and others, all of this plays into a response to the paranoia of the North Korean regime. That regime has been concerned going all the way back to the end of World War II of its own fragility, and it is understood that it has enemies. One of those enemies is the United States. You may recall that the United States was engaged in a war against North Korea between 1950 and 1953, but Americans may need to be reminded that we are still legally in a state of war with North Korea. That war as it was called only in retrospect was ended by an armistice, an agreement, not by a surrender. So far as North Korea and the United States are concerned, in a very real sense, not only an illegal sense, we are still at war.
Successive American presidential administrations have failed in the effort to prevent North Korea from becoming a nuclear power. One of the things to watch is that when there is this kind of threat in terms of a foreign power there is usually and usually very quickly a bipartisan consensus that comes together and supports the incumbent administration. We should expect that that will happen in the United States when it comes to the Trump administration and the challenge of North Korea. Too much is at stake for this to become simply a matter of partisan politics. Our nation can’t afford it and neither can the world.
Christians looking at these headlines are reminded of the power of the evil in the world and of what happens as Lord Acton warned when he tells us that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. When you have a totalitarian dictator such as Kim Jong Un, you’re looking at the concentration of the power and the potential of evil in a single individual now the third in his dynasty. But we are also looking at the limitations of international law and the reach of diplomacy. Those generally work in terms of relationships between nations. But what happens when you’re facing a rogue nation that considers itself unanswerable to any other power or to international law and diplomacy. In North Korea we’re looking at a government that is both rational in one sense and sociopathic in another. You put all this together and it’s a very deadly mix. A mix we hope that doesn’t escalate and we must pray it does not escalate from a war of words into a war of weapons. But Christians understand that words matter. And a war of words has the very real potential of not remaining merely a war of words.
Anglicans divided over same-sex marriage as archbishop of Canterbury visits Africa
We shift now to Great Britain and to the Church of England and from the Church of England to the broader Anglican Communion. That’s the communion of all of the national churches that are historically and organically rooted in the Church of England, and that Reformation that took place in the 16th century and then further successive centuries of developments. But the Anglican Communion has been nearly torn apart over the issue of homosexuality, the sexual revolution, and now the issue of same-sex marriage. Catherine Pepinster reporting for the Guardian tells us,
“The first gay Anglican wedding in Britain took place last week, just a day after the archbishop of Canterbury said the continuing row in the Anglican Communion over same-sex relationships was an ‘intractable problem.’”
We are told, according to the Guardian, that the couple, two men known as Mark and Rick, got married Tuesday a week ago at a Eucharist service, led by the Reverend Markus Dunzkofer of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Now just to keep the issue straight here, we have to understand that there is a church in Scotland known as the Church of Scotland. It’s also debating the issues of sexuality. But here we’re talking about the Episcopal Church in Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church. That is the church that is related to the Church of England just over the southern border between Scotland and England. Both are a part of the United Kingdom and both are often referred to within the designation of Britain. This means that right now even if the Church of England is forbidden from conducting same-sex marriage ceremonies. It is not true for the Scottish Episcopal Church. And now just in recent days, an actual same-sex wedding ceremony has taken place within one of that church’s congregations.
It’s important for us to look at this particular development because it’s extremely revealing when we look at the tension points in Christianity all across the world over the issues related to the LGBTQ revolution. This particular development in the Scottish Episcopal Church has had affect not only in that nation, but also in England and actually as we shall see far beyond even now in Africa. The Archbishop of Canterbury who was the spiritual head of both the Church of England and the Anglican communion told Britain’s radio four last week that the dispute over homosexuality between the growing Anglican church in Africa and the West— it wasn’t stated although it should certainly have been stated that in contrast to the growing church in Africa there is the shrinking church in the West— he described this conflict as,
“It’s an intractable problem. This is more complex than having a binary approach. There is not an easy fix, but the primates (of the Anglican Communion) have said that they will work together.”
That’s the language to be honest of an ecclesiastical bureaucrat. Someone who was hoping against all reality that he can hold his church together on a question like this. But the single biggest problem with this leadership approach is its lack of clarifying conviction. The Archbishop insists that the Anglican primates, the heads of the national churches, are going to work together. They clearly are not. And furthermore, he says that this challenge is not simply binary. As he said,
“this is more complex than having a binary approach.”
Well that’s not true. Either a church will or will not recognize celebrate and conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies. It’s as simple as that. It really is binary. It’s a yes or no question. That point was made directly to the Archbishop of Canterbury as he was visiting in Africa and visiting with the Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Reverend Stanley Ntagali. The Ugandan Archbishop said that his church would be solidly behind the definition of marriage as and only as the union of a man and a woman. He also said that even as he had walked out of one meeting of the Primates he would not be even attending the next. The Ugandan Archbishop said that he would not return to the Primates meeting until what he called godly order had been restored, and he went on to say until the Bible is returned to its rightful place,
“as the authority for our faith and morals.”
The Anglican archbishop there in Uganda went on to say that the Bible is clear in teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman, and he went on to also say that the growing church in Uganda will not remain in fellowship with those who support same-sex unions against the authority of Scripture.
The BBC reports at least implicitly acknowledged the fact that the Anglican Communion is growing and is growing only in areas such as Uganda, such as Africa and South America, the so-called global South, where the churches are very conservative, holding to the authority of Scripture and being very clear about not bending the knee to the LGBTQ agenda. The churches in the secularized north, the northern hemisphere in particular but also in places such as Australia, following Western precedent have tended to try to make peace with the secularizing culture and in so doing to adopt the mores and morality of that secular society. That has led to an absolute collapse of attendance and membership in those churches in the secularizing west. Meanwhile, the churches that are rejecting that accommodation of biblical truth through the society actually growing and growing robustly in nations such as Uganda. There is no easy way out for the Anglican Communion that is trying to hold together churches, such as those in Scotland in the United States and in Canada, that have endorsed and celebrated same-sex unions and the churches in Africa and elsewhere that will have nothing whatsoever to do with same-sex unions nor as this Archbishop made clear with the churches who turn Scripture on its head to endorse them.
Why does the Western media keep running photographs of a shirtless Vladimir Putin?
Finally as we’re thinking about major developments around the world, you would think by looking at the Western media that one of the most important recent developments on the world’s scene is that the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has appeared repeatedly over the last several days with his shirt off. The reality is that Vladimir Putin has developed his own cult of personality, not only inside of Russia where it serves his political purposes and perpetuating his own autocratic leadership, but also around the world. One of the most interesting analyses of this situation comes in Bloomberg BusinessWeek. The article’s written by Leonid Bershidsky and he asked the question, why is a shirtless Vladimir Putin having the last laugh? He answers his own question by saying that Putin has learned how to play the Western media masterfully. By showing himself in a rugged outdoor situation, shirtless and showing off his physical condition, the Russian leader is trying to gain attention about the power of Russia. He understands the cult of personality, but he also understand something else. The Western media who consider themselves so sophisticated just simply can’t stay away from photographs such as this. Even when the media must understand, the editors and publishers and all the rest, that they’re being played by the Russian President. Just as words are sometimes more than just words, it’s also true that sometimes a photograph isn’t just a photograph. Sometimes it’s government-sponsored propaganda. That’s what we’re looking at here. And autocratic leaders such as Vladimir Putin use this kind of propaganda for one reason, it works.