April 8, 2014
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Tuesday, April 8, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
“Never again.” Those were the words spoken by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he spoke to somber and weeping Rwandans yesterday as the world commemorated the 20th anniversary of the start of the genocide there that led to the deaths of about 800,000 people in a period spanning several months. This was the situation in which the ethnic Hutu majority massacred the Tutsi minority, and what we’re looking at here is one of the most dark moments in recent world history. What is described rightfully as a genocide in which on ethnic bases alone about 800,000 human beings were eliminated in the most brutal massacres imaginable, and all this took place while the world watched. Twenty years ago means that this was after the world had the opportunity, by means of pervasive media, to know even by receiving images as well as first-hand reports that the genocide was taking place, and yet it went on and it went on and it went on.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations was speaking at a large assembly of Rwandans in the nation’s capital gathered to mark this 20th anniversary, and he said, “We must not be left to utter the words “never again” again and again.” But, of course, there was controversy in the fact that it was the Secretary-General of the United Nations who was speaking to this assembly, since it was the United Nations collectively that did not respond in any timely way that led to the eventual massacre of 800,000 people. And so there was enormous tension and moral consequence to the fact that the United Nations general secretary was saying this, but there was also tremendous irony in the fact that the UN Secretary-General offered those words, “We must not say the words ‘never again’ again and again,” when just two days before, standing in the Central African Republic on Saturday of the preceding week, this is what the Secretary-General had to say. He said, “We must not say never again. The international community failed the people Rwanda twenty years ago and we are at risk of not doing enough for the people of the CAR [that’s the Central African Republic] today.”
International aid groups, according to the Associated Press, have criticized the UN response to the crisis, though Ban Ki-moon himself has spoken forcefully about the need to protect civilians in the Central African Republic, where at one point earlier this year, Muslims were being killed by Christian mobs in the streets on a near daily basis. Speaking of his responsibility and the responsibility of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon said, “The world agreed on our collective responsibility to protect a population when the state is unwilling or unable to do that basic job. The people of CAR shouldn’t have to run and die while the world decides whether to keep its promises. You have waited long enough.” But the whole point here is that they wait still. The Secretary-General of the United Nations made this statement and the nation still waits. In other words, he can’t deliver on his promises. The United Nations can’t deliver on its promises. It is understandable, but nonetheless still astounding, that the Secretary-General of the United Nations would speak in the Central African Republic while these things are still going on and say, “The world agreed on our collective responsibility to protect the population when the state is unwilling or unable to do that basic job.” Because even as he was saying those things, it is abundantly clear that the United Nations is also not up to that job.
I’m not arguing that the United Nations should not attempt to make a difference. I’m not suggesting that everything the United Nations does is wrong. I am suggesting that everything it does is insufficient, and I am arguing that what we have here is a picture as is described in the Old Testament of the nations of the earth conspiring and making agreements and yet being unable to maintain the agreements that they’ve made and unable even to resolve themselves to act on the principles they have adopted. What we’re looking at here is the bear human fact that when evil comes out in the kind of enormity and the force that it came out in Rwanda, international organizations are largely helpless to stop it. Because one of the facts of human existence after the fall is that eventually you can’t keep people from harming each other if they are intent on doing so.
And yet this is a situation of tremendous moral complexity. In yesterday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal, Paul Kagame, the current president of Rwanda, blames at least part of the background, in terms of this ethnic genocide, on the nation of Belgium, arguing that it was Belgian colonialism that divided the country into Hutu and Tutsi ethnicities and divided people simply on that ethnic identification. And as Kagame makes this point, the Rwandan president certainly has some moral plausibility, but what this points to is the ambiguous nature of so much human moral behavior. Colonialism brought about many good things for the people of Africa, but it also brought about the kind of political and ethnic divisions that brought forth the genocide in Rwanda twenty years ago. But the Africans themselves bear direct responsibility for this. The people who are actively involved in the killing bear the most direct responsibility for this. And the other fact about human moral behavior that we clearly come to understand twenty years after the Rwandan genocide is that human evil is capable of coming out in the most murderous forms.
One of the most shocking things to the West is that something like this was possible and that international forces couldn’t stop it. But then how do we explain the 20th century—the Nazi regime and the genocide against millions of people, including mostly Jews—when the international community was also unable or at least unwilling to do anything to stop it then? The reality is we’re stuck in the same conversation. That’s because we’re stuck in the same fallen world after Genesis 3.
Before turning back to developments here in the United States, we have to talk about the beginning of this election season in India. It is the largest democratic election ever undertaken in the history of humanity. The numbers are simply staggering. India’s congressional election, which will determine the outcome in terms of the future government because as a parliamentary system it is the lower house of Congress that elects the Prime Minister, that Indian election is simply breaking every record you could imagine; an estimated 815 million voters. That’s right: 815 million voters. And they’re going to 935,000 polling places. All that to elect 543 states. So to elect 543 seats in Congress, 815 million voters are set to vote. They’re going to go to 935,000 different polling stations. It’s going to take weeks for this to take place and elephants are going to be necessary in order to convey poll workers to certain of these poll locations.
This is simply the kind of thing that defies the human imagination and it points to something very, very important. It points to the Democratic impulse on the hearts of the people of India that they are putting themselves through the trauma of an election that will take weeks and an enormous human organizational challenge that defies the imagination. And yet they’re going to do it. And they’re going to do it, furthermore, over against the fact that fully 30% of all the current members of the Indian Congress are under indictment or suspicion of charges for political corruption. In other words, they’re looking at a political system that is broken on its face; a political system in which corruption is increasingly the norm rather than the exception. And yet they are so determined to see this election take place and, in all likelihood, to topple the existing government that 815 million people are going to go to 935,000 polling places in order to cast one vote and that vote probably to topple the government. That’s how democracy works in India or we’ll see how it works. This is short, of course, of knowing how many hanging chads are going to be discovered in these Indian ballots, but it also points to something else. Recently we discussed the fact that an Oxford sociologist and historian pointed out that the Athenian democracy lasted about 250 years, the American Democratic experience has also lasted now about 250 years. There is no model, in terms of world history, of democracy living much longer than 250 years, and we also need to note that democracies generally have functioned best in fairly small electorates. When you’re talking about India, you’re not talking about a small electorate. This is stretching the definition of democracy and it will be a fascinating thing for all of us to watch as 815 million people go to the polls.
Coming back to the United States, we’ve been following this moral revolution closely and every day seems to bring a new development. Last Thursday, The Oregonian, the major newspaper in Portland, Oregon, told a story about a meat and vegetable store, fully organic and locally grown, that was to open in the neighborhood of Portland known as Sellwood Moreland, and yet controversy has ensued and it has ensued, as The Oregonian reports, because the woman—a woman by the name of Chauncy Childs, who is the owner of this new store yet to open—it’s been discovered that she holds the view that marriage should be the union of a man and a woman. As The Oregonian reports:
Another controversy has erupted over a Sellwood-Moreland business, this one over the owner’s views on gays and same-sex marriage.
Facebook and other social media sites have exploded over a soon-to-open fresh meat and vegetable store called Moreland Farmers Pantry. Neighbors and nearby business owners, once excited by the prospect of the new shop, are now backing away.
Then comes this quote. The quote comes from Tom Brown, the owner of Brown Properties and president of what’s identified as the Sellwood Moreland Business Alliance. You can’t miss what he had to say:
They’re choosing to open a business in a very open-minded neighborhood. I think their personal views are going to hurt.
In other words, this neighborhood, according to its prime spokesman, is so open-minded they can’t tolerate one business owner who doesn’t agree with them. This kind of open-mindedness, of course, is closed-mindedness in the guise of open-mindedness. The philosopher Herbert Marcus, writing about “free love” back in the middle of the 20th century, said that the only kind of tolerance that the new tolerance could accept is the kind of tolerance that accepts everyone except anyone who won’t tolerate everything. If you followed that, then you understand exactly what’s going on in Portland and you understand why the show “Portlandia” is located in Portland. In other words, they are so open-minded they can’t tolerate one person who disagrees with them on the issue of same-sex marriage.
Columnist Rod Dreher gets right to the point when he says, “Think about the paradox of a neighborhood so open-minded that it will not tolerate the presence of a businesswoman who privately holds negative views about same-sex marriage.” Rod Dreher is talking about the fact that in this community they say their values are open-mindedness and community and organic farming and locally-owned businesses, and yet, when a locally-owned business that is going to be selling organically-raised food and is held by someone who wants to be a part of the community, all of the sudden this is now the point in which the community says, “We are so open-minded we won’t accept you because you don’t agree with us.” And so, all of the sudden, a store that hasn’t even opened yet in a city that calls itself open-minded finds itself as the symbol of the closing of the American mind and the American heart on the issue of sexuality and same-sex marriage. And from Portland, Oregon, in the pages of its major newspaper, The Oregonian, comes testimony to the fact that evidently without irony the man said this statement and the newspaper published it without recognizing that their claiming to be so open-minded they can’t tolerate one person who disagrees with them. Welcome to America 2014.
Meanwhile, shifting to Australia, while trying to figure out some sanity in the midst of our contemporary confusion, we’re going to be challenged by this story that comes from Australia about a person who was born in Scotland and is now being recognized by the highest court in Australia not as male, not as female, but as “span-sexual;” sexuality: gender non-specified. As The Daily Record, published in Glasgow, Scotland, reports, “Norrie May-Welby, born a boy, had a sex change at 28, but now describes gender as span-sexual.” This person won a decision by the highest court in Australia after the register of births, deaths, and marriages in New South Wales refused to give this person a birth certificate with a sex listed as nonspecific. The 52-year-old now nonspecific person in Australia said, “I’m extremely excited. This is a marvelous victory. It’s a fantastic thing not just for one person, but for the huge team who worked towards this and all the people they did it for.” Of course, this raises a whole host of issues. What will we determine about gender? How will we identify ourselves when it comes to gender? Facebook recently decided that it would not require persons to identify as male or female. They didn’t come up with a third alternative; they came up with 50 different alternatives, and 50 will not be enough. Span-sexual is the term this individual wants us to use and yet there are no associated pronouns. The Glasgow newspaper has to continue using the male pronoun, and yet how do you refer to a span-sexual—neither he nor she, spee? We don’t know. In other words, this precedent by the Australian High Court means that every individual gets to determine his or her—now wait just a minute; we can’t even say just his or her—his or her or whatever designation in terms of gender, and this comes while even on the left, even among the sexual and gender revolutionaries, there is pushback in terms of persons wanting at least some definitions so that they can argue for the right to declare themselves by those definitions.
We now face a situation in which you have school districts in California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, saying that those who were born girls but declare themselves to be boys and those who were born boys but declare themselves to be girls are now able to say, “You must recognize me for the gender I say I am now, letting me use that locker room, that set of restrooms, and play on the athletic teams with the gender with which I identify now.” Are we now going to have span-sexual teams? What you do with this? The reality is no sane society can tolerate this. And even when you look at this story from Scotland about a court decision in Australia, it’s clear that there’s a certain form of sensationalism in this because this is one individual, this ruling can be written off as something of an eccentricity, except it can’t. It is sensationalism of one sort, but it’s sensationalism because it gets right to the basic social compact that makes social relationships possible. Do we know who we are? De we know with whom we are related? Do we know who we’re dealing with? Do we know how to recognize one another? How do we even address one another? What language do we use? The reality is that gender is so much a part of who we are because, as Christians know, we are made male and female by the Creator for His glory and for our good that even a newspaper that says we’re going to get beyond all of these sexuality and gender issues can’t do it because they can’t write a story without using those identifying markers.
You won’t be surprised to know that Julia Baird, an opinion writer for The New York Times, thinks this is a wonderful development that should be celebrated. She writes:
The “nonspecific” category is broad, mind-boggling and potentially hugely subversive in terms of the way we think about boys and girls, men and women, and our habit of dividing people into two distinct, gendered groups. Now it’s Adam, Eve — and Norrie.
Well that gets right to the point. What this really represents is a rebellion against the order of creation as God gave it to us and as it is revealed to us in the book of Genesis. Make no mistake; we know exactly what’s going on here. This is not just the quest of people who say I want to identify myself as who I am on my own terms—and, by the way, the Bible names that too—but what it is, is a direct, conscious rebellion against the order of creation. In other words, the fact that we are not now left with merely Adam and Eve, but Adam, Eve and Norrie—Norrie being unspecified, the span-sexual.
Oh, and Julia Baird’s not finished there because she points to a very interesting possibility. Australia does not yet have legal same-sex marriage, but this would not be—in the case of this individual who is now romantically engaged with a man—it would not be according to the decision of Australia’s highest court a same-sex marriage. In other words, it might be legal in Australia for a man to marry a span-sexual. I don’t know and perhaps they don’t yet know and the High Court of Australia might not have decided yet, but that’s the whole point, isn’t it? This is now being thrown out of the court of any rational consideration into the court of endless litigation and moral revolution, and that’s exactly what we have the latest evidence of from Australia.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing. Remember Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Call with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter 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. Over the next several days, I’ll be joined by several thousands in the movement known as Together for the Gospel, holding our convention right here in Louisville, Kentucky. Our conference is going to be live-streamed. In order to watch the sessions and listen to the teaching, just go to the World Wide Web at live.t4g.org. That’s live.t4g.org. I’ll also be speaking tomorrow at the conference held by the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. For more information, go to cbmw.org. I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.