Economic Inequality: Putting Off the Day of Reckoning

Right before our eyes the common person’s hope for the “good life” is unraveling, like a loosely woven tapestry being steadily picked apart thread by tread. Life, as we know it, is getting progressively more difficult and more insecure for billions of people in this world due the dramatic rise of economic inequality.income_inequality teeter

In its just released annual report, the United Nation’s Development Program warned that much of the 20th Century’s “improvements in longevity, education and income—the three main components of what is called the index of human development—are slowing due to worsening inequality and economic disruptions, to droughts and other natural disasters and to poor government policies.” (The Associated Press, “Improvements in people’s lives being put at risk, UN says,” Times-Colonist, July 25, 2014)

This UN report noted that the 85 richest people in the world now have as much accumulated wealth as about half of all humanity–some 3.5 billion people or 48 percent of the world’s population. Think about it! Eighty-five individuals have as much as roughly half the world’s population! Something is seriously out of balance and systemically broken or, if you prefer, distorted and corrupted.

wealth-pyramidThe financial writer Paul Rosenberg asserts that this chasm of disparity wouldn’t have been possible without the rise of the modern nation-state and what we call democracy. Before the rise of the “modern” state, the debts of the chief rulers of a country were his personal responsibility alone. However, such men surely made their problems the people’s problems, too! Obviously such wealthy, ruling elites of old would shake down the populations under their control to raise funds to pay THEIR debts–just like old King John of England and his nobles, who were made famous for such a tale of avarice through the Robin Hood legends.

But now loans are not taken out in the personal name of a “King John,” but in the name of an entire nation’s population. As Paul Rosenberg writes:

From the institution of democracy onward, loaning money to a government gave the banker [the central bank, international banks, etc.] a claim against the taxes of the people… a claim that never expires. All the citizens, and their children [and all the succeeding generations], become responsible for repaying the loan.

This was a clever trick: The person who signs for the loan ends up bearing almost no responsibility, and gets to spend all the money. At the same time, millions of people who greednever approved the debt—who probably had no way of even knowing about it—are left holding the bag… and passing on the obligation to their children. (Casey Research newsletter, The Room with Dan Steinhart, July 25, 2014)

Ballooning indebtedness is happening not only to the West, but throughout the entire world. According to Switzerland’s Bank of International Settlements [the B.I.S. is the central banker to the world’s central bankers like the U.S. Federal Reserve], since the financial crisis of 2007, the worldwide debt load has soared more than 40 percent to the current 100 trillion dollars! http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-09/global-debt-exceeds-100-trillion-as-governments-binge-bis-says.html

sminequality_scanlon_r2U.S. Federal debt alone is more than US$56,000 per American. Total European Union public debt averages about 23,000 Euros or about US$ 31,000 per person. http://www.eudebtclock.org/

But, of course, skyrocketing debt isn’t the only factor fostering the growing inequality. Consider what Rex Van Schalkwyk, a financial writer for the Casey Report newsletter says:

The real cause of the inequality that so troubles politicians [are they really bothered?] is the systematic destruction of the free markets over the last century. The essential wealth-building effects of those markets became, at first, more elusive and finally, altogether inaccessible to all but the privileged elite: those who have systematically benefited from an exclusive arrangement. This includes the unlawful front-running of equities and other financial markets through the mechanism of high-frequency trading, a device of the exclusive economy.

Because there is today no free market in the cost of money (interest rates), there cannot be a free market in anything that is counted in money. Low interest rates—systematically depressed by the Federal Reserve over the past two decades—have enriched the bankers, the borrowers, the financial institutions, and the speculators at the expense of the frugal, the pensioners, and the teachers.

Financial asset and property prices have exploded, making them accessible only to those richest getting richerwho already have them. The result is that 90% of the wealth has gone to the 5%, while 10% has gone to the 95%. The predictable outcome is that the 95% have experienced no real income growth in the past 30 years. The middle class has been eviscerated. (Casey Research newsletter, The Room with Dan Steinhart, July 25, 2014)

Actually the real cause for the growing erosion of the world’s hope for a better material future is more profound, and more foundational than even the UN’s Development Program, the Bank for International Settlements, or the writers of Casey Research might suggest. I’m not saying they’re wrong, but that what they point out are just symptoms or consequences of something more foundation to this issue of our obscene inequality.

The actual roots of the inequality problem can be found in the fact that humanity, generally, and certainly this world’s governing financial and political elite, specifically, have turned their backs on and completely rejected the revelation on the financial and economic fairness principles that were presented to us all for all time by our Creator.

From our Creator’s perspective, human society by its very nature needed a financial system that would systematically, and regularly purge accumulated debt from both individuals and society as a whole. It also needed an episodical re-distribution of what constitutes the foundation of wealth accumulation in this world –  land. Specifically, land that is or can be economically productive. By periodically re-distributing a nation’s economically productive real estate, a society can avoid concentrating wealth in the hands of the few and the disenfranchising the majority from owning the foundational source of economic wealth – land. The Creator of humanity instituted two main features in His program to maintain social equality, economic balance and fairness – the Sabbatical Year and the Jubilee.

“At the end of every seven years [the Sabbatical year] you shall grant a release. 2 And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the Lord’s release has been proclaimed.” Deuteronomy 15:1-9 (ESV)

“You shall count seven weeks of years [seven Sabbatical years], seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years. 9 Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month On the Day of Atonement [an annual event designed to restore spiritual harmony between God and man, as well as that of everyman with his neighbour] you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. 10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants [The inscription of this verse is found on the American Liberty Bell in Philadelphia]. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. Leviticus 25:8-10 (ESV) 

politics how worksOf course the bankers, multi-nation corporations, and wealthy elite would hate the Sabbatical Year and the Jubilee for obvious reasons. But what they don’t understand, is that such a godly system would provide them with security and peace instead of a day reckoning, a time of financial disaster and social turmoil, that is coming.

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Mark Carney: financial trolls must reform—or capitalism won’t survive!

Last week Mark Carney, present governor of the Bank of England and chairman of the International Financial Stability Board (as well as a well-respected past governor of the Bank of Canada), strongly warned a conference on “Inclusive Capitalism” at the City of London—which was attended by the elite money managers in charge of one-third of the world’s investable money (about $30 trillion—yes that’s trillion not billion!) that they cannot take the continuation of the capitalist system for granted because the basic social contract has been breaking down!eroding social capital

Carney argued that capitalism in the 21st Century will only survive if it delivers on a social contract between money and the people. It’s what Carney calls an “inclusive capitalism” that provides: 1) “relative equality of outcomes,” 2) “Absolute equality of opportunity,” and 3) “Fairness across generations.”

While in his position as governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney is moving forcefully to reform the financial system by clarifying some of its technical problems, but he acknowledges the reality that no amount of government regulation could possibly save the world’s financial system from its worst problem—its own unbridled greed and self-interest. Carey noted:

“Integrity can’t be bought and it can’t be regulated!”

Carney is concerned that not enough has changed in the trading pits of the money trolls since the world financial system’s near-death experience in 2008. At that time the trolls of finance like a carney pursedbunch of alcoholics woke up after a long binge of rising markets only to suddenly discover that their sophisticated “funny money” financial instruments (derivatives & securitized debt) weren’t worth what they thought they were and couldn’t cover their losses when other risky, opaque investment bets soured. So who did cover the financial system’s losses in 2008? Well, it was you and me, the taxpayers of the Western world—NOT the financial trolls! Carney acknowledged this:

“Major banks were too big to fail operating in a privileged ‘heads-I-win-tails-you-lose’ bubble. Bankers made big sums in the [2008 investment market] run-up, they were well compensated after the hit [after the bailouts] and taxpayers picked up the tab for the failure.”

social inequalityNone of the executives of the financial institutions that suddenly lost hundreds of billions and so created the 2008 crisis were ever charged with a crime. Instead they got to keep the megabucks in salaries, commissions and bonuses that they parasitically sucked from the system. This has severely shaken the public trust in the financial sector.

Carney wants to rebuild the public’s trust in the markets integrity by eliminating the implicit privilege of those who think they are “to big to fail,” as well as eliminating the rigging of commodity, fixed income, and derivative markets and their benchmarks rates by creating an open transparency to ensure “fair and effective markets.” Carney also notes that while many banks have codes of ethics, he doubts many of the employees know what is in them; and he wants stronger consequences for violating ethical codes of conduct including “professional ostracism.”

Also to be reformed are the executive compensation schemes that delivered huge bonuses for short-term gains but that obligated a financial institution to a dangerous long-term risk.  Instead performance pay would be evaluated over a longer term and subject to being reduced. Last of the reforms that Carney is proposing is the building of a stronger sense of vocation and responsibility in finance, one with high ethical standards. Impossible?

Carney acknowledged publicly that the money trolls excesses as revealed by the 2008 downturnhand on money had a “corrosive” impact on what he called the “social fabric”—i.e the growing inequality in the Western, developed world.

Carney admonished the trolls that “finance has to be trusted”; and that they must consider toning down their overweening sense of greed and selfishness. He suggested gently to them that they ought to consider the greater good of all for a change: “There needs to be a sense of society.”

Perhaps in this regard, if Mark Carney wanted to stimulate his audience to re-consider their trollish ways, he should have reminded his audience of Jesus’ sarcastic parable of the dishonest manager.

Jesus told this story to his disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a manager handling his affairs. One day a report came that the manager was wasting his employer’s money. So the employer called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? Get your report in order, because you are going to be fired.’

“The manager thought to himself, ‘Now what? My boss has fired me. I don’t have the strength to dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired.’

“So he invited each person who owed money to his employer to come and discuss the situation. He asked the first one, ‘How much do you owe him?’ The man replied, ‘I owe him 800 gallons of olive oil.’ So the manager told him, ‘Take the bill and quickly change it to 400 gallons.’

“‘And how much do you owe my employer?’ he asked the next man. ‘I owe him 1,000 bushels of wheat,’ was the reply. ‘Here,’ the manager said, ‘take the bill and change it to 800 bushels.’

“The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light.

But here’s the lesson: Money gained through dishonest dealing has many friends in this age. But, when your earthly possessions are all gone and your temporary physical life fades away, will all those good-time buddies of yours be able to give you a truly eternal home? [An allusion to God’s promised gift to the righteous faithful of eternal life.]

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. [My corrected paraphrase of Luke 16:1-10]

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Obama getting the worst of it with Putin

American President Barak Obama just can’t seem to deliver a TKO on the Russian President Vladimir Putin can he? In fact, for the last year it has seemed that Putin can go the distance in the ring with whatever Obama throws at him.

The unipolar world in which the United States of America is the sole superpower that can get its way in whatever it wants… is disappearing before our very eyes.

Nobody could really stand-up to the power of the U.S.A.’s displeasure in order to shelter NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden with all his revelations of American surveillance of everyone’s 27/7 digital communications…  but Putin was willing to take Snowden in.

Obama said that the Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria crossed a Red Line because they used  chemical weapons in that country’s Civil War… but Putin diplomatically out manoeuvred him and Assad’s regime survived and, today, has regained the battle field initiative on the ground.

The Obama administration stage managed a coup d’état in the Ukraine in February ousting the Russian-leaning president Viktor Yanukovych in order to firmly plant the Ukraine into the Western orbit of influence… but Putin broke off Crimea from the Ukraine and regained sovereignty over the strategically import home base of Russia’s warm water fleet. Presently, Putin has inspired several pro-Russian regions of Eastern Ukraine to declare independence from the Kiev government, making a massive headache for Obama and crew.

putin chinese pres2Obama and his allies try to use economic warfare tools like sanctions, travel bans, threats about boycotting Russian fossil fuel exports, and put pressure on global multi-national corporations to isolate and economically devastate Russia…  but at the beginning of this week Putin signed a colossal $400 billion, 30-year, natural gas export deal with the world’s #2 economic power—Communist China. And China deliberately went ahead and did this ignoring the pleas from the U.S. Secretary of Treasure Jacob Lew to not undermine the U.S.A.’s efforts to put an economic headlock on Russia.

And what does all this mean? According to the BBC’s analysis: “Thus this deal between Russia’s Gazprom and the China National Petroleum Corporation could symbolize an important moment of transition – when both in economic and geopolitical terms, Russia’s gaze begins to look more towards the East rather than towards the West.”putin gas signing

But that’s not all! Consider this comment that appeared in the state-controlled Chinese press:

“If the Chinese-Russian energy trade switches to the [Russian] rouble and [Chinese] renminbi in settling transactions, the world economy will enter a new era. It could trigger a domino effect and encourage more countries to shun the US dollar in the international energy trade… The dominance of the US dollars would decline… challenging US control over global economic and political affairs.” – Cheng Yawen in Beijing’s Youth Daily.

crimea riverThe Russian president himself towards the end of this week’s St Petersburg Economic Forum, talked about the “end of the unipolar world,” meaning the end of the U.S. pre-dominance, its hegemony over the world’s affairs.

Obama hasn’t been able to deliver a knock-out punch on the wily Russian who sidesteps, bobs and weaves away from the American’s heavy handed jabs, biding his time until he can opportunistically press an attack on a desirable soft spot in order to achieve a notable success over his more powerful opponent in world affairs.

Oh yes, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations tried to pass a motion at the U.N. to open up proceedings by the International Criminal Court against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad on samantha powerwar crimes. But… Russia and China have vetoed (this week after the signing of the natural gas deal in Shanghai) a UN Security Council resolution that would have referred the conflict in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Did you hear that great whooshing sound of the Obama administration wildly swinging, failing to connect with their adversary in world affairs?

Well, the U.S. president and his staff can at least take some consolation in the fact that this week they did get some judges to overturn voter-approved laws in those conservative, red-voting states of Idaho and Arkansas who had the audacity to ban gay marriage. Hah! That will show them the ruling Washington elite always gets its way… at least over those Americans who take the Bible seriously.

How ironic it is then, as the BBC notes “that at times Mr Putin seems to be setting Russia up as an alternative pole in terms of what he appears to regard as the decadent values of the West.”

Who are the good guys with the white hats and who are the bad guys with the black hats, hatsanywise? Did somebody do a switcheroo?

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Are prayers for personal help still answered in the 21st Century?

Does God still answer prayers in the 21st Century? Well, there’s one family in Victoria, British Columbia in Canada that thinks so. But obviously, a lot of people these days don’t think so.

In fact the majority of people in the Western world these days suspect that if God isn’t dead like so many lefty intellectuals stridently proclaim, then He must not be too interested in the average person’s day-to-day problems. We know that most of our human leaders don’t really care to listen to us or to help us out in our problems. But is it right to impugn God with having the same crappy, disinterested attitude of the human “gods” who run our nations?

Anywise, consider some quotes from this front page news story that was run in the April 18, 2014 Times-Colonist:

“After a Victoria mother’s wedding ring was stolen from her home Sunday night as she, her husband and two young children slept, she prayed for the hopeless soul responsible—and that police would find the ring.”

“I’m a Christian,” said Sarah Primus, 29. “We have prayed from the beginning for the man—he’s obviously in a very desperate state—and for [Jesus] to lead police to where my ring was.”

“Primus said her joy comes from within—and not from material things—so when she discovered that her house had been robbed she never got angry but instead prayed.”

In a few days police informed Primus of the good news that her wedding band had been sold at a pawn shop but that they had recovered it. She was elated. But then the police gave her the bad news that the ring’s diamond had been removed. Sarah Primus admitted that she was momentarily discouraged and sad.

“Then I said, ‘Jesus, you helped them find my ring and you can help them find my diamond diamondtoo,’” Primus later recounted laughing. “That’s [the potential reality of] divine intervention.”

Well, it turned out that a little bit of good, old-fashioned police work turned up a prime suspect who just happened to be living across the street. After obtaining a search warrant, the police visited the suspect, Peter McKay, and discovered the missing diamond on his person.

McKay was placed in custody and charged with breaking and entering, possession of stolen property, and possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking. As it turned out for the drug dealer stealing a neighbour’s ring was a bad, bad mistake.

Does an omnipotent, eternal God, the Creator of the Universe, still make house calls on planet Earth to those who have faith? And will He help them with even small requests that seem insignificant in the cosmic scheme of things? The oligarchic, liberal elites who run the United States and much of the Western world would laugh at such an “old-fashioned, simplistic” idea.

But, it’s obvious Sarah Primus and her husband had their their faith reconfirmed in Jesus—the Bible’s God who plays a key role in serving humanity’s best interests in both New and Old Covenants. How about you? Do you believe that the Bible’s God would hear your prayers?

John 9:31 (ESV) We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.

Psalm 145:19 (ESV) The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them. 20 The Lord preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

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The depth of the West’s impotency

g7There were important international meetings this week in the Western world that resulted in some speeches by various leaders of the West, a number of press conferences, and even a non-binding U.N. resolution denouncing Russia’s annexation of Crimea. We heard a lot of talk about “isolating” Russia, including throwing them out of that exclusive club formerly known as the G-8, as well as a series of announcements applying travel restrictions and financial sanctions on maybe 30 to 40 insider Russians and pro-Russian Ukrainians.

But the uncontestable bottomline is that Crimea is now a part of Russia and the West has proven itself to be impotent to do anything more than talk and issue vague threats about what will happen if Putin continues to be a bad boy. obama hague

For the new interim government in Kyiv, the depths of their defeat in Crimea has now come into sharp focus. Igor Tenyukh, Ukraine’s interim defense minister, resigned this week, taking the blame for this catastrophe. He learned the hard way that Western talk was no match to Russian resolve and organization. Of course the Ukrainian defense minister was also shamed by the fact that about three-quarters of his Ukrainian military force stationed in Crimea decided to switch sides and swear allegiance to their Russian rivals!

All this seems to lend credence to the feeling by many observers that the new anti-Russian Kyiv government is utterly incompetent if not delusional.

For example, when announcing her intention to run for the Ukraine presidency in the upcoming May elections, Yulia Tymoshenko—the former prime minister of Ukraine who had previously lost the 2010 presidential elections to Viktor Yanukovych who was then forced out of office about a month ago by the street rioting in Kyiv — this same Yulia promises the voters of Ukraine that she Yuliacan work miracles to revive Ukraine’s disorganized, corrupt government, and turn around the bankrupt national economy, while at the same time re-arm its military with the latest weapons in order to force the “return” of Crimea from Mother Russia.

Good luck with all that, Yulia! From the results of her first term in office I would be somewhat skeptical about her ability to make good on her promises.

The United States and European Union are going to have to bail out the Ukrainians to the tune of tens of billions of dollars/euros— repeatedly. They have announced that they going to do this. But why?

Since neither the United States nor the European Union were willing to risk going to war with the Russians over Crimea, I doubt they would be able to bring themselves to put it all on the line for any other piece of the Ukraine should the Russians decide to carve off another chunk when provided with an appropriate excuse by the Kyiv government itself!

Why keep the Ukrainian government afloat with its polarizing, unrealistic leaders like Yulia? Just so that they can foment another crisis with the Russians sometime in the near future, and so set up the Western powers for a repeat demonstration to the world of their complete political impotency?

Since the Second World War the world has looked to the president and government of the Unitedpax States to exercise effective leadership in international affairs. And for 70 years or so now the developed world has mostly enjoyed a Pax Americana of peace and prosperity. But the age of American hegemony is obviously weakening.

Three times now Vladimir Putin has put America to the test and found it wanting: by slapping down the nation of Georgia in 2008, by protecting the Bashar Assad regime in Syria from Western bombing in 2013, and now by annexing Crimea. Russia acted on its interests contrary to the United States and nothing of any significance happened as a result. The U.S.A.’s decline is on open display.

The consequences of this American political impotency are just starting. Consider this:

obama policeman“Last week [Israeli Defense Minister] Ya’alon spoke at a forum at Tel Aviv University that was closed to the media. There he bemoaned the Obama administration’s abandonment of the US’s traditional role as the world’s policeman and considered its significance for Israel. With regard to Iran’s nuclear program, Ya’alon said that the time had come for Israel to recognize that the US has not met its expectations and taken the lead to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. As a consequence, “We [Israelis] have to look out for ourselves,” (Caroline Glick, “Why bring down Ya’alon,” Jerusalem Post, Mar. 24, 2014).

The Georgian (the nation) newspaper, Rezonansi, ran this front-page headline “Ridiculous sanctions—the West’s punishment is greeted with ironic amusement in Moscow.”

The Czech Republic daily newspaper, Lidove Noviny, remarked in despair and frustration, “Putin’s signing of the annexation treaty is a done deal. This deal reflects the West’s helplessness—all it could manage in response are declarations and sanctions. These are steps which simply cannot stop the Russian president.”

Petras Vaitiekunas, the Lithuanian ambassador to Ukraine, was quoted by the business newspaper, Verslo Zinios, in saying that the day the Crimea voted to join Russia was “the day when the world order collapsed, which for 69 years has guaranteed the peace of Europe.”

Wild exaggerations? How long will it be before the next test comes? How long will OUR North American peace and prosperity zone last if this display of U.S. impotence continues?

If you’re wondering why America and the West have become politically impotent, read my previously posted blog. Obama and America need to clean up their own act before they are in any position to tell off Putin and Russia with even a remote chance of success.

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The Sunset of the American Empire

1-Obama-vs-PutinWhen it comes to the quick and successful Russian occupation of the Crimean peninsula, U.S. President Barak Obama insists that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “on the wrong side of history.”

Again, in comments about the Crimean takeover, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, “The world cannot just allow this to happen.” But neither Obama administration nor the other Western democracies are even remotely suggesting they use the military option to meet such aggression with determination and power.

Neither Obama’s America nor the European Union will risk going to war with Russia over the fate of the Crimea or even ALL the eastern Russian-speaking half of the Ukraine. It’s just Putin’s for the taking.

Like the recent crisis in Syria over the use of poison gas to kill Syrian rebels and civilians, it appears that Putin’s Russia is setting the agenda in the arenas of its choosing.

And I have to acknowledge that in such an age as ours with its omnipresent video and social putin bear obamamedia, Putin is remarkably media savvy. He has cleverly stage-managed a Crimean velvet invasion, avoiding nasty scenes on the nightly news and Internet of Russian troops causing violence and bloodshed.

Still, whatever the Russian rationale (and they can make an interesting case) the heart of the issue remains clear in international law: invasion of one state by another without a serious existential threat or provocation in order to annex coveted territory is plainly and simply a no-no. If not effectively opposed and reversed what’s happened in Crimea will be a blinking neon sign advertising that its now open season for the world’s aggressors to initiate a new round of changes to the world’s maps.

What’s at stake is not just about defending the right of Ukrainians to decide their own future. What’s hanging in the balance is the whole structure of current international relations and the present status quo. Is the crisis in the Ukraine announcing the sunset of the American Empire? Has America effectively abandoning its role as the world’s policeman?  And, if it will not longer act as the dominant power of the world—how long will it be before the American dollar also loses its role world’s reserve currency? The implications of all this is profound. Is the American era unraveling and coming to an end before our very eyes?

The consequences of what has happened in Crimea should not be viewed in isolation from what has been happening elsewhere on the world stage over the recent past. There are some principles iranian hostage crisisof human affairs that are immutable. High stakes diplomacy is inevitably a test of wills. Every act by a state during a crisis signals either of its strong will and convictions or its lack thereof. Weakness invites more aggression.

The present situation calls for a beefy presidential backbone rather than a turkey wishbone to be sitting in the Oval Office. Many commentators are drawing parallels between Jimmy Carter’s weak presidency and that of the current occupant of the White House. But actually, the situation for America now is much more dire now than it was 35 years ago during the Iranian hostage crisis.

crimea europe mapWithout strong leadership from America, the rest of the Western democracies will prove unwilling to make any move that could harm their own narrow economic interests and/or complicate their domestic politics. Besides, all together, the Western allies just don’t possess the raw military power that the U.S. does.

Although the United States actually has the power to force a reversal of the Crimean takeover, America’s political leadership doesn’t have the strength of will that comes from strong moral convictions to actually use that power to stand up for the underdog Ukrainians.

Of course this isn’t the first time the current U.S. president preferred wet noodles over backbone. This is the same president who last year refused to force the Shi’ite Iranians to stop developing their nuclear weapons program that threatens to destroy and/or intimidate America’s major allies in the Middle East: Jewish Israel and the Sunni Arab petro-states of the Persian Gulf.

So why does the United States lack the backbone to speak softly while credibly threatening to use their great big stick on the world’s bullies? Why indeed!soldier flag

The answer is surprising.

From its founding, America thought of itself as an “exceptional” nation, a shining city on the hill beckoning all of humanity to embrace high moral values. The explicit foundation of this American “exceptionalism” was the nation’s Judeo-Christian morality, which was sustained by a vibrant personal religious zeal that believed that faith must be put into action whatever the cost in time, treasure, and blood. This lively personal piety flowed from the private sphere into the public sphere to enlighten the conduct of the nation’s business. Judeo-Christian morality informed the government in its policies, diplomacy, and even the exercise of power. Americans saw themselves as the best hope to change and improve the world. And they did something about it because they believed they had a mission to do so.

But for two generations now the well-spring of American exceptionalism has been dramatically drying up just like the American Southwest has been drying up in its worst drought in 500 years. In ca droughtfact most leaders of the American public sphere can no longer sincerely proclaim “In God We Trust” without a large dose of brazen hypocrisy. I almost gag when I hear some particular American politicians say, “God bless America.” They are such hypocrites!

Major segments of America’s leadership have completely turned their backs on biblical morality and are actively seeking to undermine and destroy it.

Consequently, the shining city is being transformed—rapidly now—into a 21st Century version of Sodom and Gomorrah with a heavy emphasis on prosperity and almost none on biblical morals. The shining city on the hill is fast becoming a den of iniquity that must resort to buying its lovers attention since it can no longer attract them with the beauty of sincere high moral virtues.

As a direct consequence, the Bible’s God promises that He will “break the pride of your power” (see Leviticus 26:18-19). God is speaking in this scripture of an “exceptional” nation that once publicly claimed Him far and wide as their God. But such a people later turned against Him and became degenerate in the both public and private spheres as defined according to the biblical scriptures. As a consequence, those people were punished and punished some more until they repented of their faithlessness and turned back to their God.

Woe to any nation like the Ukraine that depends on a similar faithless, hypocritical nation to defend it from the covetousness of an audacious enemy. A hypocritical, faithless nation’s pride in its power will always be broken—eventually. The Ukrainian crisis is revealing to the bullies of the world just how weak America’s pride in its power has become.

Leviticus 26:18-19 (ESV) 18 And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, 19 and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze.

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Harrison’s Deliverance from Death

harrison okene“Entombed at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in an upended tugboat for three days, Harrison Odjegba Okene begged God for a miracle… As the temperature dropped to freezing, Okene, dressed only in boxer shorts, recited the last psalm his wife had sent by text message, sometimes call the Prayer for Deliverance [Psalm 54]: ‘O God, by your name, save me…. The LORD sustains my life’”

How this man survived is remarkable. Everyone agrees on that. Some say that Harrison, the ship’s cook, was just incredibly lucky. But Harrison Okene himself attributes his survival not to his own quick thinking when the tugboat flipped upside down and sank, but rather to answered prayer.tugboat upside down

“I started calling on the name of God. … I started reminiscing on the verses I read before I slept. I read the Bible from Psalm 54 to 92. My wife had sent me the verses to read that night when she called me before I went to bed.”

Even in the 21st Century, the Bible’s God still answers the prayers of those who cry out to Him in faith.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
  for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble.… Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;  they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep… their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress…. Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord (Psalm 107 1-2, 23-24, 26-28, 43, English Standard Version).

harrison2For Harrison Okene prayer is not just wishful thinking. It is real. Its effects can be powerful and effective. Jesus of Nazareth pointed out that the key to answered prayer is one’s trust and reliance on God. As He said, “Let it be done for you according to your faith!” (Matthew 9:29 HCSB).

You can see the YouTube video of Harrison’s rescue at and read the rest of the story about his rescue at: http://www.timescolonist.com/news/world/man-survives-3-days-at-bottom-of-atlantic-rescued-after-finding-air-pocket-in-tugboat-1.718718 [All story quotes attributable to this posting.]

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The Rob Ford “Reality Show” Tumultuously Continues!

rob ford and councilI’ve got to admit it that Rob Ford knows how to stay at the top of the news. Even Americans living in the state of Mississippi—who would be hard pressed to name even the Prime Minister of Canada—can readily tell you who is the current mayor of Toronto.  And when it comes to the BBC’s world report, in their editorial judgment the political theatre swirling about Rob Ford is the ONLY news currently worth reporting from otherwise boring Canada. Ford seems to be in a class all by himself in the Great White North.

Christie Blatchford, a columnist for the National Post newspaper noted in her recent opinion piece (“Rob Ford’s downfall leaves sobering questions about Toronto police probe,” Nov, 14, 2013) that after five months of a high level, high intensity, heavy manpower investigation into the “Ford-mess,” the Toronto police still haven’t come up with enough evidence to lay charges against the controversial mayor.

Nevertheless, Ford has been “tried” in the court of public opinion as well as that of the Toronto city council and been found guilty of being “not worthy”—not worthy of defending, not worthy of being give the benefit of the doubt, and not worthy of a second chance.ford resign

It is fortunate for Rob Ford that the Toronto city council don’t have a guillotine set up out in city hall’s basement otherwise he’d certain lose his head—though, metaphorically speaking, he may have lost it already. Anywise, the honourable Toronto councilors are going to have to settle with stripping Rob Ford of as much of his power as legally possible and publicly humiliating him whenever the occasion so presents. Maybe they could bring back the stocks and pillory just for Rob Ford?

Some also argue that there needs to be a new law passed to allow the city council to depose any future mayor like Rob Ford. But others say why bother. They see the Rob Ford “Reality Show” as a single season flop, a unique “Ford-mess” unlikely to ever be seen again.

But the fact of the matter is, Mayor Rob Ford’s addiction problem—the drug use, the alcohol abuse—is far from uncommon either in Canada, or the rest of the world. Canada’s Temperance Foundation has been advertising in our local paper for the last week or so that at least 80 percent of the prisoners locked up in Canada’s federal “corrections” system are there because of substance abuse.

Marshall Smith, community relations manager for the Cedars of Cobble Hill Society, a non-profit addiction recovery group here on Vancouver Island, noted that about “4.9 million Canadians are in either short-term or long-term recovery from addictions” (Times-Colonists, “Ford’s battle is all too familiar,” Nov. 14, 2013.

The medical field views addiction as a medical problem like cancer. But that’s not the way most people viscerally react to someone who is discovered with an addiction. Most people when confronted by a person with an addiction, according to Marshall Smith, react with a combination of embarrassment, denial, and alienation.

Why? Well, people who are addicted DO things that hurt many other people including those closest to them as well as themselves. Lying, stealing, abusive language, driving while intoxicated, sexual immorality: all such behaviours are commonplace for those caught up in addiction’s vice-grip. Of course such bad behaviours are indeed unacceptable and unambiguously wrong. But they’re just symptoms of the deeper unseen problem, which is a sickness of the soul. It is this sickness of the soul that drives the addiction.

Your average secular treatment program focuses mostly on the physical, trying to mute the physical cravings of addicting drugs. Oh yes, they’ll also throw in some counseling and a strong dose of positive thinking in an effort to inoculate a raised sense of self-esteem and some self-discipline. There’s nothing wrong with that. But the best addiction treatments programs—mostly in longer-term therapeutic communities—understand that they must somehow address the spiritual component of the addiction sickness as well. Only then can the addicted find real peace and the strength to start a new life.  And the best way to start a new life is by including a strong focus on the spiritual needs in addition to the material needs. As the Scriptures state:

Those who live following their ·sinful selves think only about things that their sinful selves [their carnal human nature] want. But those who live following the Spirit are thinking about the things the Spirit wants them to do. If people’s ·thinking is controlled by the ·sinful self [human lusts], ·there is [the result is] death. But if their ·thinking is controlled by [or outlook/mind is set on] the Spirit, ·there is [the result is] life and peace. Roman 8:5-6 Expand Bible, edits mine.

ford humiliatedRob Ford is saying now that he is seeking medical help. But if he really wants to deal with the sickness of his soul, the sickness that is infecting the very core of his being, then he must seek spiritual help in order to discover the peace that passes all understanding. This peace can only come through the God of the Bible.

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What disqualifies a person from leadership? And, can they be restored?

toronto signNow that they’ve taken their lumps—what is the best medicine that could be prescribed for Rob Ford, Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau?

What disqualifies a person from leadership? Can a fallen leader be restored?

It would seem this is the hot topic in Canada these days. The front pages of our two national newspapers, the National Post and the Globe & Mail, were completely taken up by a massive photo of Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford and stories about the mayor’s acknowledgement that he smoked crack cocaine while in a drunken stupor.

Of course, Rob Ford’s confession makes it obvious by his own acknowledgement that he told the public, his own family, and his closest political allies a pack of lies for a long time.

And then there is the case of the three Canadian Senators, Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick duffy cartoonBrazeau, who were all suspended from the Canadian Senate for submitting falsified expense claims. As a direct consequence they have been tossed into seeming political oblivion. Their security passes, government credit cards, Blackberry phones were all immediately cut off and their personal office staff fired. The dishonesty of the three motivated the Senate to act swiftly in order to salvage something of that institution’s tattered reputation.

What disgrace! They are examples of leadership that failed the test. Sure, they disappointed many Canadians, although it must be said that there are many more people who cynically believe all politicians are corrupt, anywise, so what can you expect! Many today do take it for granted that our political wallin cartoonleaders are all crooks and liars. And, consequently, in a perverse sort of way we’re not too offended when we get what we expect. In fact I’ve heard that the popularity approval rating of Mayor Ford in the polls has risen since his dramatic confessions this week.

We all know that our leaders are subject to human frailties. But, really, is it beneficial to the wellbeing of our communities and our nation as a whole to set the bar of what we expect from our leaders so low? Do we really want our leaders “living down” to cynical expectations and so become self-fulfilling prophecies? I don’t think so.

In former times Canadians widely believed and would acknowledge that the Judeo-Christian scriptures set their expectations concerning their own personal behaviour as well as for those in leadership positions. That’s why the city of Toronto was formerly known as “Toronto the good” in years now long past. The bar of the public’s expectations concerning personal conduct was then set much higher.

rob ford foreheadIt is true that according to the teachings of the Bible, God DOES expect A LOT from both the leaders AND the led—from all those who pay Him lip service. Didn’t Rob Ford invoke God’s blessing on the people he’s supposed to be serving during one of his tumultuous press conferences this week?

Nevertheless, despite the blatant hypocrisy common to our secular 21st Century, many still expect senators playing cardsour leaders to carry out their service both faithfully and with dignity. Having the leader of Canada’s largest city confess before millions that he smoked crack while in a drunken stupor, while in the company of a bunch of druggies, is just plain embarrassing. We want our leaders whether in politics, sports, or business to at least put on a public veneer of a good example for our children even if we mostly do think they are all corrupt.

So, what’s the bottom line for our leaders with proven feet of clay? After falling so low, could and should Rob Ford, Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau still be forgiven and restored to positions of leadership? Could they once again regain our full confidence? It all depends.

King David of ancient Israel, who was himself no stranger to some stupendous moral lapses during the course of his leadership, came to understand this issue thoroughly. He learned what good leadership requires. His dying words are still relevant. David put his epitaph this way:

The Lord’s Spirit spoke through me,
and his word was on my tongue. The God of Israel spoke;
the Rock of Israel said to me: “Whoever rules ·fairly [justly; righteously] over people,
who rules ·with respect for God, is like the morning light at ·dawn,
like a morning without clouds.
He is like sunshine after a rain
that makes the grass ·of the earth sparkle and gleam”….

But all ·evil [worthless; godless] people [both leaders and the led] will be thrown away like thorns that cannot be held in a hand. No one can touch them
 except with a tool of iron or wood.  They will be ·thrown in [consumed by] the fire and burned where they lie (2 Samuel 23:2-4, 6-7 Expanded Version).

Such consequences are indeed far worse than mere public embarrassment and humiliation. Remember, vengeance ONLY belongs to God—something the Toronto city council and the Conservative Party of Canada would do well to remember.

So can such fallen leaders be restored? While public apologies are a good start, more is needed. A real leader like King Dave, for example, is one who learns from his or her mistakes, genuinely repents from the heart of what is morally and ethically wrong and then initiates thorough change in their personal behaviour—and so turns from black to white, death to life, political oblivion to productive leadership, spiritually speaking.  That’s how King David responded to one of the most famous moral lapses of all time when he failed to fulfill his leadership duties before God, his family and the whole nation. You can read about his “news conference,” tears and confessions in Psalm 51.

Perhaps it would be encouraging—or maybe just plain shocking—to realize that even if Rob Ford, Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau had committed both murder and adultery in the course of their duties, they could be forgiven by no less than God Himself and restored to their positions of leadership—if, and only if they would humbly, totally, and sincerely acknowledge their faults, repent of them all, and then completely change their corrupt behaviour. After all, we all have had feet of clay at one time or another during the course of our years. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is life.

Biblical repentance  means not just saying you’re sorry, but effecting a complete transformation of one’s attitudes and behaviour in those areas in which one committed a sin: i.e. smoking crack cocaine, abusing alcohol, lying, cheating on one’s expenses, threatening others, etc, etc.

Much has changed in the last 3,000 years since the days of King David. But it would appear that human nature is not one of them! Consequently, godly repentance is still the best medicine for the moral and ethical sicknesses that will periodically afflict our souls and the souls of our leaders.

 

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Is the Pot calling the Kettle BLACK?

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment. Matthew 5:21 (ESV)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry claims that there is “evidence beyond any reasonable doubt” kerry fingersthat the armed forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched a nerve gas/chemical attack on certain suburbs of Damascus on August 21, killing some 1,429 people—of whom Mr. Kerry stressed there were 429 children.

Other governments and organizations, however, reduce this grim figure to about 500 or so persons, or about one-third of what the Americans estimate. But who’s arguing about miscounting the bodies? Already more than 100,000 have been killed in the Syrian Civil War and many of those who died suffered horribly. When people murder other people it is always ugly. War is all about “legally” killing the other, the “enemy.” But civil war is especially ugly because that is when neighbours murder each other.

In a civil war sacrificing one’s neighbour becomes routine. If that’s what’s needed to win a battle or gain an advantage, so be it. This is what is presently going on in Syria. There is plenty of blood on the hands of both sides.

assad deniesIt should be noted the Assad’s government vociferously denies responsibility for carrying out this chemical attack on several Damascus suburbs, and argues that it would have been totally “illogical” to have locally targeted and timed such a chemical attack to coincide with a visit to Damascus by a team of UN chemical weapons experts! If Assad’s forces actually carried out this chemical attack that would mean that they are either extraordinarily inept, clueless, or just plain crazy for looking to pick a fight with militarily superior Western powers like the United States while they already have their hands full with their own rebels who are only armed with light weapons.

This whole proposition of Assad’s culpability sounds dubious, sketchy. But I’m not trying to paint the Assad government as being virtuous. After all, they assembled these chemical/biological weapons to use on their hated neighbours to the south—Israel. If they end up using them on their own people that is dark irony.

Subsequent to this chemical attack in Damascus that visiting UN team of experts did go to the pertinent locations and collected evidence. However, they have yet to release their findings or present any convincing evidence as to what actually happened.syrian children

However the American government has already rushed to judgment relying on its own intelligence sources. Consequently President Obama is seeking the approval of the U.S. Congress—not to declare war on Syria—but merely to “degrade” and punish Syria’s military with 60 days of cruise missile and aerial bombing attacks.

Disingenuous semantics! If one nation bombs another nation for 60 days is that not an act of war? The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor for just one day, December 7, 1941, and wasn’t that enough to launch a state of war between them?

Nevertheless President Obama says that he just wants to punish Assad’s Syria for violating the pink shirtworld’s norm against using chemical weapons in war. But does the U.S. government have the moral right and a legal responsibility—without having the approval of the U.N. Security Council and without being directly threatened by the Syrian government attacks—to severely punish the Assad government side of the Syrian Civil War?

President Obama rightly cites the world’s overwhelming abhorrence of the use of chemical weapons as well as other weapons of mass destruction in the conduct of a war. But is it the moral prerogative of the U.S. government to be the world’s judge, jury, and executioner for what is right or not right?

Perhaps the answer to the Obama administration’s rush to judgment is to be found more in its realpolitik than its morality. Isn’t what they really desire to accomplish is to even the playing field if not to actually tip the balance of power in the Syrian Civil War away from Assad and his supporters to that of the rebels and their supporters?

Nevertheless, the Obama’s administration is pushing for congressional support for their “degrading” Syria operation. Secretary of State Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 3:

kerry more fingerThis is not the time for armchair isolationism. This is not the time to be spectators to slaughter.

Obviously the Obama administration wants to become an active participant in the slaughter going on inside Syria. According to Jesus of Nazareth, words are important. He once remarked:

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. Matthew 12:35-37

According to Kerry, “This is not the time to be spectators to slaughter.” Yet for the last 50 years, since the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade in 1973, the American political class including the Obama administration has indeed been spectators to slaughter—willfully.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, as of 2009, there havehands dime been 48,932,474 abortions in America, primarily for the sake of personal convenience. As of this writing that figure has most certainly risen to beyond 50 million innocents! Their shed blood and cut up bodies discarded as biohazard destined for the incinerators or sold for use as the raw material source for a variety of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. America has been waging for 50 years its own bloody civil war. As a result, the most powerful nation in the world has the blood of 50 million innocents on its hands!

There is a certain amount of talk about the Syrian government being guilty of crimes against humanity for gassing about 500 children and adults. What about the American government turning a blind eye to the murder of over 50 million of its own children? What right does the pot have to call the kettle black?

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Matthew 7:1-3

Obama and Kerry self-righteously proclaim to see a murderous speck in Assad’s eye and want to punish him for it, as they hypocritically continue to lend their support to, or at least tolerate like passive spectators, one of the worst continuing massacre of innocents ever to take place in the history of mankind. They don’t realize that as they pursue Assad they are pronouncing judgment upon themselves.

 

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A new definition for “anxiety”: re-drawing the map in the Middle East!

night protestsTurmoil in Egypt. President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the fundamentalist Sunni Muslim Brotherhood who was fairly elected by a majority of the electorate, is deposed from office in a coup d’état that no one wants to call a coup d’état. This unexpected over throw of the government was engineered by the Egyptian army, and about 20 million disgruntled morsiordinary Egyptians, secularists, and Coptic Christians. For the immediate future the most populous Sunni Arab nation in the Middle East will be pre-occupied by its domestic turmoil.

And then there is the on-going bloodbath in Syria that is fast devolving into a vicious, wide-ranging regional, sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims.  Are you feeling a little anxious yet about what this 21st Century religious war in the Middle East could mean for us who live in the secular West?

syria father dead sonThere is a very real possibility that what started as a call for peaceful change in the tightly controlled political status quo of Syria, and then morphed into a vicious civil war conflict between Assad’s minority Alawite/Shi’ite ethnic group and the majority Sunni population of Syria, will now entangle Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey in a broader regional struggle between Shi’ites and Sunnis that could force a bloody re-drawing of the political map of the Middle East. The last time such a profound collapse in the Middle East’s equilibrium occurred was following the destruction of the Ottoman Empire at the close of World War I. At that time the British and the French drew up much of the political map of the region as we now recognize it.

Perhaps you might say, so what. Let the Arabs kill each other. Who cares? Why should I feel syria boy cryinganxious about this?

But what if the grand Shi’ite coalition involving Assad’s Alawite/Shi’ites supplied with Russian military hardware, Hezbollah Shi’ite fighters from Lebanon, Shi’ite dominated Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ special forces, and Iraq’s Shi’ite militia volunteers should manage to defeat the Sunni rebels in Syria, what then? The consequences for us in the West might be completely life-altering. The potential is just that significant.

For starters, a Shi’ite victory in Syria would put enormous pressure on Saudi Arabia’s ruling Sunni monarchy. The northeastern part of Saudi Arabia near Kuwait is that country’s major oil producing region, and by coincidence it also just happens to have a majority Shi’ite population. Unrest if not outright revolt in this region could translate overnight into a doubling of the spot price of a barrel of oil in the world markets to more than $200.00! A collapse of the fat-cat Saudi monarchy would also mean the collapse of the petro-dollar arrangement between the Saudi monarchy and usdollarthe United States government and lead to the inevitable demise of the U.S. Dollar as the world’s reserve currency

You see, since the Second World War, Saudi Arabia has agreed to only sell its oil for U.S. dollars. And because of Saudi Arabia’s dominant position in the world’s trade in oil, this has helped shore up the U.S. dollar’s global pre-eminent status for the last 70 years.

Without the petro-dollar staked in the heart of the world’s petroleum addicted economy, the U.S. dollar becomes just one more fiat currency issued by a bankrupt government that has a debt to G.D.P. level greater than 100% and that has to continually borrow more and more every year because it can’t balance its budget. If the Saudi monarchy and the petro-dollar collapse, you can expect that the standard of living in North America will take an enormous hit—perhaps worse than what happened in Greece. Now that’s anxiety!

What to do? Jesus of Nazareth made this recommendation that will soon be even more relevant than when he spoke it:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles [the nations] seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:25-34 English Standard Version

For a long time now, the god we’ve been trusting has been the U.S. dollar. But this false god won’t help you much in the soon-coming future. Don’t you think it’s about time you became acquainted with the real God? Discover how to have a real relationship with the Bible’s God at www.cogwebcast.com.

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There Be Monsters Amongst Us! A Mother’s Day Message

It would seem that some people will do just about anything to satisfy their sexual lusts. The latest horrific installment of this dark human weakness occurred in Cleveland, Ohio. Yes, the infamous case of Ariel Castro is just the latest manifestation of this fact of life, that there be indeed monsters amongst us! Having kidnapped and held captive three young women—Gina Dejesus, Amanda Berry, and Michelle Knight—Castro used them as his sex slaves for almost a decade.

As if rape, threats, chains and ropes are not enough of a nightmare, according to Michelle Knight, when her pregnancies became noticeable, Castro would starve and the beat her, hitting her womb to induce an abortion.

But it would appear that Castro was not a total monster. I suppose even Frankenstein’s monster had his softer moments. After all, Castro wanted a baby girl born to Amanda Berry to live. Michelle Knight recounted that Castro threatened to kill her if she did not successfully play the midwife to Amanda Berry as she gave birth in a plastic kiddie pool.  This child was named Jocelyn and she too escaped with her Mom from Ariel Castro’s house. The little girl now 6 years old has known nothing but the society of her captor-father and his sex slaves. I doubt that without God’s healing the psychological scares inflicted on these women will never fully be healed short of that peace that can only be bestowed by God’s Holy Spirit.

I pray that God our Father and Christ Jesus our Savior will be kind to you and will bless you with peace! Titus 1:4

The families in this poor Cleveland neighbourhood are stunned. Castro was a well-known integral part of that tight-knit Puerto Rican immigrant community. Ariel Castro is even remembered as having helping out during the search for one of his kidnapping victims and even went so far as to comfort the mother of Gina Dejesus at another occasion. Quite the act. The family of Ariel Castro, including his children and his two brothers Onil and Pedro, are also revolted at his kidnappings and rape and have publicly denounced him asserting, “We don’t have monster in our blood.” But as concerns the human race is that wholly true?

The two brothers of the Cleveland man accused of holding three women captive for about a decade say they have no sympathy for him. One called him a “monster” who he hopes “rots in jail.” http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/05/13/i-dont-care-if-they-even-feed-him/

Ohio prosecutor Tim McGinty said he plans to seek aggravated murder charges that could carry the death penalty:Tim McGinty

I fully intend to seek charges for each and every act of sexual violence, rape, each day of kidnapping, every felonious assault, all his attempted murders, and each act of aggravated murder he committed by terminating pregnancies that the offender perpetuated against the hostages during this decade-long ordeal.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-22475771

The public has been rightly horrified by this extraordinary Cleveland monster, Ariel Castro. But don’t we tolerate our own mundane, nameless monsters who lead seemingly “normal lives” yet commit offenses equally worthy of “aggravated murder charges for terminating pregnancies.” Aren’t we, as a society, being hypocritical?

These mundane monsters, on an annual basis, terminate the pregnancies of about 100,000 unborn children in Canada and about 1,000,000 per year in the United States, albeit at the request of their own mothers! But are these “bio-waste” children any less children for being unwanted by their mothers? Just because such hard-hearted people don’t care about the innocents in utero, does that give them the right to torture and kill at will for their own convenience? Did you know that babies in utero feel pain?

This lack of a moral conscience, this ethical black hole when it comes to empathy was also the mindset of Ariel Castro, the “Cleveland Monster.” He didn’t want to be burdened by any unwanted children that came from satisfying his lust with Gina Dejesus, Amanda Berry, and Michelle Knight.

In Canada there is no law regulating abortion. A child in the womb can be legally killed up to the day he or she is actually born. Shouldn’t we as a society re-consider giving anyone the right to kill an innocent for the sake of her own personal convenience? I hope you wished your Mum a Happy Mother’s Day, yesterday! She kept you despite the inconvenience you inevitably caused her.

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“As close to Satan as can be”

So, for your entertainment pleasure the American TV network NBC is offering you a new series called Hannibal. The new program is about the duplicitous Dr. Hannibal Lecter—psychologist, connoisseur, and gourmet cannibal. I suppose one of the “charms” of this new series will be the constant stream of new guest stars who make short on-camera appearances before being transformed into gourmet entrées for the “good” doctor’s dinner parties.

hannibal posterDanish actor Mads Mikkelsen has been cast as the TV version of Hannibal Lecter. Mikkelsen confessed to some initial reluctance to take on the role when first offered it because he thought Anthony Hopkins had turned in such a consummate portrayal of the Hannibal character in the movie The Silence of the Lambs. But it would seem that the Danish actor found some thespian, if not spiritualist, inspiration to bring the TV Hannibal Lecter “as close to Satan as can be,” according to journalist Frazier Moore of the Associated Press. For Mads Mikkelsen, Hannibal the cannibal isn’t your classic psychopath or serial murderer. No, no, no! This is your charming, sophisticated fallen angel who sees beauty in murder and dining pleasure through cannibalism.

But what the heck, in Canada we don’t have to watch NBC to satisfy our inner cannibal. All we have to do is pick up the newspaper and read about the trial of Luka Magnotta, the Montreal gay pornographic actor, who murdered and chopped up a the Chinese student Lin Jun in May 2012, and then mailed the victim’s body parts to the several Canadian political parties and schools.

When police figured out through surveillance footage that the “perp” was Magnotta, they searched his apartment and found plenty of gruesome evidence. Written in red ink in his closet was the chilling statement: “If you don’t like the reflection. Don’t look in the mirror. I don’t care.”

jun and magnottaDiscovered, Magnotta had fled the country to Europe, but eventually German police apprehended him at an Internet café in Berlin while he was killing some time reading online news stories about himself. Like Mads Mikkelsen, Magnotta, was also trying to get “as close to Satan as can be.”

It beats the life out of me trying to figure out why the NBC executives gave a green light to the TV series Hannibal. But obviously they are convinced that a mass audience will find it entertaining to watch someone act “as close to Satan as can be.”  Why are these TV big shots doing this? Don’t they understand the simple concept “monkey see, monkey do”? Can’t they understand what will result from promoting this spiritual darkness to their audience of millions of viewers? But that’s the point. Perhaps, they do understand.

Think about the moral darkness possessing the gatekeepers of America’s major entertainment corporations. Think about how these gatekeepers have used and are continuing to use the media as a tool for the changes they want to see. What do you think? Will you watch Hannibal on NBC? Or will you take your cues from another source. Jesus of Nazareth said this:

Your eye is the lamp of the body. When your eye is good, your whole body is also full of light. But when it is bad, your body is also full of darkness. Take care then, that the light in you is not darkness.  Luke 11:34-35 Holman Christian Standard Bible

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Can a new Pope bring repentance to the Church of Rome?

potential popesIn a CBC radio interview I listened with interest to an intelligent, young, American Jesuit seminarian who prayerfully called on whoever might be the new Roman Catholic Pope “to lead us into a new age of integrity and to deliver us from hypocrisy—so that we can really be who we say we are!”

This aspiring priest believes it’s imperative for the Roman Catholic Church to really become faithful to Jesus Christ. To achieve this would require dramatic changes in order to bring that church into conformity with the way of life that the Son of God taught in both word and deed as recorded in the Scriptures.

Mission impossible? Well, that man’s not asking for much, is he? Repentance and change!  Not easy but essential to both experiencing and living authentic Christianity as described in the pages of your Bible. But repentance/change is, after all, the profession of every individual Christian and every group of people who want to be a church “of God” in reality and not merely in self-promoting advertising.

A new pope is going to have his work cut out for him if he wants to bring the Roman Catholic Church to the biblical repentance that would please Christ.  What with seemingly unending bad news arising from its on-going flood of clerical pedophile sex cases, and the Vatican Bank’s (the ironically named Institute for Religious Works) stinky reputation in banking circles as a go-to-place for money laundering by traditionally Catholic Mafioso types.

Also, one can’t neglect to add to this new pope’s to-do-list, actions to get to the bottom of the ongoing allegations of various forms of ecclesiastical corruption that include ugly bureaucratic turf battles among the Curia’s Cardinals, and—surprise, surprise—scandalous allegations that some of the papal staff formerly close to Pope Benedict XVI were embracing homosexual practices more enthusiastically than their vows of celibacy.

Wow, what a revolution of change and repentance would occur in the above situation if a new pope actually took his policy and doctrinal cue from biblical teaching about clerical marriage such as found in 1 Timothy 3:2 in order to get at the root of what’s causing that church to be rife with sexual abuse and perversion. But, don’t hold your breath.cardinals

It’s hardly surprising, then, that Massimo Franco, a columnist for Italy’s leading daily newspaper, Corriere della Sera, describes the Vatican as being utterly dysfunctional in his new book “The Crisis of the Vatican Empire.” No wonder every employee working at the Vatican and all the Cardinals locked up in the Sistine Chapel to elect a new Pope are required to take vows of secrecy. What goes on at the Vatican must stay at the Vatican!

But then, what can you expect from an organization that would not even tolerate an individual’s religious freedom of conscience until the Vatican II Council in the early 1960s. Remember that the Roman Catholic Church has a long and bloody history written by its popes’ decrees. Those men who styled themselves as the successor of the Apostle Peter ordered Crusades to slaughter those they saw as “infidels” whether Muslim, Jew, or especially non-conformist Christian.

It makes you wonder when you compare Christ’s teaching to his disciples to the reality revealed by the Catholic Church’s own history.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” John 13:34-36 English Standard Version

Following the crusades, these same popes also formulated and launched a network of terrorism inquisition2throughout the world, which persisted for almost 600 years and was known as the Inquisition. The Roman popes even authorized various forms of horrific torture by a papal bull entitled Ad Extirpanda in 1254 that would make the CIA’s use of waterboarding for interrogations look like playing tag football. Bloody, harsh, and violent were the Inquisitorial methods! The Roman Catholic Popes employed these tactics in order to enforce their monopoly on power and their domination over the expression of all individual Christians’ faith.

Is there something inherently flawed about the Roman Catholic Papacy—whether we’re talkingpapal crown about the office itself and/or its doctrinal claim to authority over Christianity—so that it can’t be reformed, no matter the initial decent nature of the man who might occupy the so-called “seat of St. Peter”? We all know this saying about the human condition: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Check out this series of four presentations discussing the foundations of church authority. Did Christ give the Apostle Peter and his successors authority as “vicars of Christ”? Does the Pope have the authority “to bind and loose” in all matters of doctrine and tradition? Where did Sunday/Easter worship originate and why? How has Christianity changed from what was practiced by the original Jerusalem Church of God during the first 100 years after the crucifixion of Jesus? All these questions and more are discussed and examined in four in-depth streaming video presentations on this subject.

Just click on: http://cogwebcast.com/sermons/video-archives/a-changed-christianity/

 

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Will the “right” man be elected as the new Pope?

So Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger, is resigning at the end of this month due to old age. Papal spokesmen assure us, repeatedly, that the still living and kicking but soon-to-be former Pope will not participate in the cardinals conclave in March to select his successor at this second-oldest, on-going “Christian franchise,” the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). Ah yes, we hear from the authorized sources the strict observance of the explicit “letter of the law”—the RCC’s canon law—in public.

But how should we weigh the “spirit of the law” aspects of such a statement? After all, such pre-emptive assurance of Pope Benedict’s non-interest in handpicking his successor is being conveniently offered to us by the employees of the same man who long-ran that secretive multi-national church corporation’s Holy Office of the Inquisition (better known more recently as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) before becoming Pope!

Should we trust a church hierarchy that still officially denies that it systemically covered up and “managed” for hundreds and hundreds of years the fall-out arising from its numerous priestly pedophiles? Granted, however, that we must acknowledge that the RCC will now apologize publicly for their priests’ licentious behaviour and pay compensation to victims. But still, should we trust them?

Actually, I admire Pope Benedict for this pro-active initiative to assure an orderly succession to the top job at the RCC. By resigning now while his mind is still sharp he can make a strong effort to influence the outcome of the cardinals’ vote.  And it goes almost without saying that the “right” man to become the new Pope will be the one who will continue Pope Benedict’s conservative policies. Actually those policies are really just a continuation of those of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

Conservative Catholics are probably relieved by Pope Benedict’s succession gambit. They, like their last two popes, are wary of the moral relativism that is dominating the Western world at this point in time. They don’t believe that all is just a matter of personal preference and opinion. They believe that Truth with a capital “T” really does exist.

Since they also believe that the Pope has the authority to define doctrine in their church, and to make definitive statements concerning truth and falsehood; it is essential, from their point of view, that the “right” man be elected as the next Pope.

I don’t fault them for their logic. After all, if a new Pope was elected who had a secret agenda to institute “reforms” allowing gay marriage, ordination of women, abortion, euthanasia, and easy divorce—well, all would be lost for those supporting conservative values in the RCC. And that’s the flaw in the Catholic tradition of Christianity.

Catholics believe that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ—that he rules as a substitute for Christ and has final authority. In essence, the RCC makes a man and that man’s opinions the arbiter of what is Truth or falsehood.

The gospel of Jesus Christ, however, teaches something else:

Sanctify them [that is to say: purify, consecrate, separate them for Yourself, make them holy] by the Truth; Your Word is Truth. John 17:17 Amplified Bible

When Satan tried to tempt Jesus Christ to enact something, to follow a policy that would, in essence, make an accommodation to a personal preference or desire, Jesus rebutted the Adversary, making this statement on the real source of authority:

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, “People do not live by bread alone [by any material or human means alone], but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 New Living Translation

The part of the Judeo-Christian scriptures that Jesus was quoting to Satan on this issue of the real authority to decide questions of Truth or falsehood is found in Deuteronomy 8:3. Godly authority to decide questions of church policy and all other questions of what is right or wrong is by Sola Scripture, which in Latin means by Scripture Alone. It is the Judeo-Christian Scriptures alone that reveal the Truth. It is never a question of merely any man’s or woman’s personal opinion or preference, whether that person is elected a Pope or not!

All Catholics, all Protestants all secular people, and all believers in other religions are eventually going to learn the answer to this question about where ultimate, legitimate authority rests. Most will learn the hard way at some time in the future. You can learn this right now and act on it to become consecrated to God as His own son or daughter—a higher spiritual office than any earthly Pope— if you will allow the Word of God to direct you into living in and by His Truth.

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In defense of our most ancient values & ideals

Towards the end of President Barak Obama’s second inaugural address he argued:

“You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.”

I wholly agree with this inspiring proposition by the President. Barak Obama is indeed one of the most accomplished speakers of our time. Yet, I discovered as perhaps you did also that not all of Obama’s inaugural speech was equally inspiring.  Nevertheless, believing the President to be a fair and open-minded man, I lift up my voice in defense of my brethren’s most ancient values and enduring ideals and call upon the President to re-consider the logic and the spirit of some of the positions he has taken.

The United States of America is at a crossroads. Time is quickly running out for the world’s dominant superpower and number one economy to set its house in order. There are several startling trends afoot in the nation that will humble it, if not bring it down completely, if not effectively resolved.

But as you begin your second term in office, Mr. President, you seem to give every indication that you misunderstand just how gravely wounded the nation is financially and politically, certainly— but especially, morally. The secular press tends to overlook the fact that it will be of the Spirit if the Flesh [the nation’s material well-being & future] is to be saved from the gathering crisis. After all, what was it that sustained Abraham Lincoln and the Union in their time of trial?  Was it just their rifles and canons? Was it not the righteousness of their cause?

David Brooks, a conservative journalist working for the liberal New York Times, made this comment about your second inauguration speech:

I also think Obama misunderstands this moment. The Progressive Era, New Deal and Great Society laws were enacted when America was still a young and growing nation. They were enacted in a nation that was vibrant, raw, under-institutionalized and needed taming.

We are no longer that nation. We are now a mature nation with an aging population [Why we might ask? Is it because the vibrant potential of so many millions of our white, black, and Latino youth and their potential children have been sacrificed on abortion’s pagan altar of selfish convenience?].

Far from being under-institutionalized, we are bogged down with a bloated political system, a tangled tax code, a byzantine legal code, and a crushing debt [not to mention an appalling amount of fiscal corruption at the highest levels of American society]. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/22/opinion/brooks-the-collective-turn.html?_r=0&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1358883569-pQYbbD/j2/ypooIiqVZgIg

Mr. President, what are you going to do to address this harsh, on-going, destructive reality sapping America’s strength?

Next is the urgently needed healing of the nation’s bitter political divide. Do you remember what Abraham Lincoln said: a House divided will fall? [Actually, Lincoln was just quoting Jesus Christ from Matthew 12:25]. Good will and a spirit of collaboration with a generous sprinkling of patriotism are absolutely necessary to enact desperately needed reforms. I sense that your speech fell short in this regard. It seems to me that it failed to reach across the blue vs. red divide. It did, however, stoke up the partisan spirit of your so-called “progressive wing” of the Democratic Party.  Maybe that’s all your speech was intended to do.

Still, I consider it a failure to rekindle the spirit of collaboration desperately needed throughout America. This failure was symbolically evident by who was NEITHER present NOR accounted for at your swearing in.  Where were former President George W. Bush, and the 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney? Why weren’t they seated on the speaker’s platform beside you for the whole nation to see even a semblance of unity or brotherhood among the nation’s leaders? Couldn’t you find a few gracious words to speak in order to persuade them to come? Was extending the olive branch just too hard? Must it always be a zero-sum game? Is pride getting in the way of taking care of the nation’s urgent business? You know what they say about pride going before a….

The bad blood is obviously such that, ominously, most of the Republican delegation from the House of Representatives wouldn’t come to your big bash—even have a few free drinks!  Such political bitterness in Washington, D.C. is systemically weakening America’s ability to meet the long-term challenge posed by a rising geo-political competitor like China.

As for addressing the nation’s moral problems, The Washington Times newspaper noted in its January 22, 2013 editorial:

Though the theme of Inauguration Day 2013 was “faith in America’s future,” the United States has seldom chosen a president more determined to separate the nation from its traditional reverence for faith, family and freedom. The proposition that individuals “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, is harder to see in the vision of Mr. Obama’s America where administrative agencies make choices for individuals, even down to the details of dictating the design of everyday household appliances….

The signature achievement of his first term, Obamacare, established the precedent whereby the White House can force citizens to purchase a service that had previously been a matter of personal choice. The health care mandate goes so far as to override the distinct choices of religious organizations, forcing them to provide contraception and abortion coverage against their will. This is a clear attempt to undermine the previously sacrosanct respect for religious freedom in American political culture.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jan/22/inaugurating-leviathan/#ixzz2IjlLTXSy

Now please, carefully consider this final point Mr. President.  When you swore your oath of office with your left hand placed on the Bibles once used by Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln, you said:

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service.

You pointed out in your inaugural speech following this oath that the nation’s “freedom was a gift from God” though it “must be secured by His people here on Earth.”

And like previous American presidents, at the close of his inaugural address you invoked a blessing from America’s historic God, upon both people and nation, saying: “God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.”

I don’t think it would be too controversial to assert that the God you officially referred to was in fact the God of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. Not Allah. Not Buddha. Not one of the millions of the Hindu gods. Not John Lennon of the Beatles who once boasted that he was more popular than Jesus Christ, nor even the latest re-incarnation of some Marilyn Monroe Hollywood sex idol. America’s Founding Fathers and patriots overwhelmingly claimed the Bible’s God as America’s God. I’m sure you must know that.

But did you realize, Mr. President, that when you took this oath of office calling publicly upon the Bible’s God to be a witness and to hold you accountable, and  claimed in your inaugural speech to want to govern our people by “our most ancient values and enduring ideals,” that there would be negative consequences if you did all this just for show—hypocritically.

And make no mistake about it, the Bible’s ancient values and ideals are indeed enduring because they are the Truth and are essential reading for anyone who wants the Bible’s God to give him or her a blessing of hope and peace in this life and, eventually, the fullness of eternal life—rather than a cursing, heart-ache, and futility in this life and then the emptiness of eternal death. As Jesus of Nazareth said:

Sanctify them [purify, consecrate, separate them for Yourself, make them holy] by the Truth; Your Word is Truth (John 17:17 Amplified Bible)

And…

“Man shall not live by bread [materialistic means] alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God [spiritual means]” (Matthew 4:4 English Standard Version). 

In the Judeo-Christian Scriptures we see that there is a clear and repeated historic pattern of bad consequences that come when either leaders or  people hypocritically claim God as their God, take oaths and invoke blessings using His name, but do not do what He commands. God does not consider such people to be guiltless even though they just say what they say because of tradition and the fact that they want to look good in public (Exodus 20:7). There are unpleasant consequences for such hypocrisy.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, freedom—we’re talking political, economic, and religious freedom—is always presented as being conditional upon obedience by the nation or leader who calls upon the Bible’s God. In other words, a leader or a nation that calls upon the Bible’s God as their God must be found living within the ancient values and ideals expounded in His law or face the consequences.

Consider, Mr. President Obama, this statement that you made in your second inaugural speech:

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

Is the physical expression of homosexual love in a marriage allowed by man’s law truly equal to that of a heterosexual one, which is sanctioned by the Scriptures, in the eyes of the Bible’s God? Does the Bible’s God have a preference, or none at all?

The New Covenant Scriptures tell us this: “For the whole law [God’s law] is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Galatians 5:14 English Standard Version

Well, someone might argue, surely this Scripture justifies your proposition, Mr. President, because of what that person may subjectively feel about someone else. But does it? Is God’s standard of Truth based on subjective human feeling? Is it correct to say that as long as I just feel “love” for my neighbour then surely I’m okay in God’s sight whatever I do homosexually or heterosexually—that it’s all equal?

To answer this question one needs to know just how the word “love” is defined by the Bible’s God in the original languages in which the Scriptures were written and in its actual usage. To answer this question, if you really want to know, check out my online, streaming archived sermon series on love at:

http://cogwebcast.com/sermons/video-archives/finding-true-love-love-your-neighbour/

and

http://cogwebcast.com/sermons/video-archives/finding-true-love-self-love-or-selfishness/

and

http://cogwebcast.com/sermons/video-archives/finding-true-love-our-love-for-god/

You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

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Have we lost our “Dear Abby” minds?

I opened the newspaper today and read about the death of Pauline Phillips a.k.a. Abigail Van Buren of “Dear Abby” fame. While I was growing up the “Dear Abby” syndicated column was as much of interest to me as the thoughts expressed on the editorial page, and sometimes it was even more interesting than the front page for that matter.

But I doubt that today the views of “Dear Abby” or of her sister in advice-giving “Ann Landers” would be picked up as content suitable for publication by today’s mass media empires. You see, the Abby and Ann type of advice with its emphasis on moral absolutism—stuff like adultery, promiscuous sex, and lying always being wrong—is no longer fashionable among the “politically correct,” the elite gatekeepers of society who exercise considerable control over what is perceived as acceptable or not today.

You see for the power elite setting society’s agenda these days the advice of poor Abby and Ann are just too 1950ish. They are seen as being too judgmental. Why, they had the brazen nerve to write that pleasure and “doing your own thing” ARE NOT the final arbiters in determining what is right or wrong. Abby and Ann thought personal integrity and sexual responsibility actually counted for something. How foolish and naïve of them!

The passé commonsense preached by those Jewish ladies is perceived as being stuck in a time when actual biblical values were still taught in the churches and synagogues; and the Holy Scriptures were actually read even in the public schools— and  portrayed in the movies and on television. Horrors! How antediluvian! How backwards!

But now in 2013 society has “progressed” or at least, moved on. Consider this sample of the post-modern enlightened social values being fostered at one of Canada’s most influential universities:

The University of Toronto, you will be edified to know, is “kicking off its annual Sexual Awareness Week” next Monday at a downtown Toronto club, the Oasis Aqua Lounge, where swingers are welcome. Facilitating the adventure is the university’s Sexual Education Centre (SEC), which arranged for students to pay only $5 a person instead of the $40 per person Oasis usually charges.

An exuberant Reddit user posted the information in a University of Waterloo forum thus: “U of T is holding an orgy, and you’re invited! You just need your student ID….”

As I said of Yale’s sex week, this tarted-up promotion of voyeurism “strikes me as nothing more than a forum conceived to proselytize the student body on the cultural virtue of dumbing deviancy down, and to shame students who adhere to traditional moral standards of reasonable restraints on sexual gratification.” http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/01/16/barbara-kay-university-of-torontos-pimps-r-us-program-offers-discounts-to-sex-party/

The Sexual Education Centre at the University of Toronto “is an affiliated levy group of the University of Toronto Students Union. Undergraduate students pay 25 cents a term for the services, and can opt out if they choose.

The group’s mission is to foster a sex-positive attitude in the greater U of T area, by offering information, programming, safer-sex supplies, and peer counselling in a welcoming environment. Their sexual awareness week includes a discussion on sex positivity, an interactive sex toy demonstration and an afternoon of pornography. The first event is the party at Oasis [Aqua Lounge]: the organization rented the club and lowered the price to $5 a person. http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/1315033–university-of-toronto-student-group-hosts-epic-sex-club-adventure

It would seem that a great many of us have lost, indeed, our “Dear Abby” minds.  Our society hasn’t progressed. It’s merely degenerated down to the level of pagan Rome and its infamous orgies under the modern deceitful word-disguise of practicing a “sex-positive attitude” and having a healthy “sexual awareness.”

“I’ve got something to say. Is anybody listening?
I’ve a warning to post. Will anyone notice?
It’s hopeless! Their ears are stuffed with wax—deaf as a post, blind as a bat.
It’s hopeless! They’ve tuned out God. They don’t want to hear from me.
But I’m bursting with the wrath of God.
I can’t hold it in much longer. “So dump it on the children in the streets. Let it loose on the gangs of youth.
For no one’s exempt: Husbands and wives will be taken,
the old and those ready to die;
their homes will be given away—all they own, even their loved ones—
When I give the signal
against all who live in this country.”
God’s Decree. “Everyone’s after the dishonest dollar, little people and big people alike.
Prophets and priests and everyone in between twist words and doctor truth.
My people are broken—shattered!—and they put on Band-Aids,
saying, ‘It’s not so bad. You’ll be just fine.’
  But things are not ‘just fine’!
Do you suppose they are embarrassed
over this outrage?
No, they have no shame.
They don’t even know how to blush.
There’s no hope for them. They’ve hit bottom
and there’s no getting up.
As far as I’m concerned,
they’re finished.”
God has spoken. God’s Message yet again: “Go stand at the crossroads and look around.
Ask for directions to the old road, the tried-and-true road. Then take it.
Discover the right route for your souls.
But they said, “Nothing doing.” Jeremiah 6:10-16 The Message.

Isn’t it funny that a message written almost 2,600 years ago is just as relevant today as it was to the people to whom it was first delivered?  Human nature hasn’t changed much.

The people who scoff at the moral, ethical values taught by the Judeo-Christian Scriptures are creating their own future black hole of despair into which they are being sucked. Sex can be extremely pleasurable, which is why the earth’s human population has tended to grow rather than shrink over the millenia. But such pleasure without morality is just plain old-fashioned lust—not love!

Lust is a sinful behaviour, spiritually speaking according to the Judeo-Christian perspective. And in the end, those who become slaves to sin—yes, sin is addictive—lose all chance at finding the intimate happiness that flows from being with one’s true love, one’s soul mate. And, as it is written, anyone who becomes such a slave to lust also loses out on any chance of God’s gift of living eternally in His Kingdom of truth and light, because the wages of sin is death. Death is not living in an ever-burning hell (God is not a bondage freak), but rather death is the complete termination of consciousness and being, the end of all life (Romans 6:23).

Your average person is reluctant to consider his or her convictions, prejudices, and even superstitions. It is the rare person who has the curiosity and courage to look through the so-called “progressive” attitudes popular in this present society and turn away from them. In the Scriptures this is called repentance. Anyone who has been caught up in the sin of lust must repent of it to become part of God’s family and to take up what He offers to those who obey Him (Luke 8:21).

While the example of the University of Toronto student association that I cited here is an extreme—variations on, or echoes of that theme can be found reverberating throughout our society and its forms of entertainment. What starts on university campuses today becomes social mainstream behaviour tomorrow. This degeneration of sexual morals is the future of this society, a future that will be dark and violent due nation-wide moral bankruptcy.

As a whole, human beings are reluctant to admit error and so most embrace willful blindness to avoid doing so. But like the prophet Jeremiah, I would encourage you to take to the tried-and-true road of personal integrity and sexual responsibility as taught by the Scriptures. If you do this, you will keep both your “Dear Abby” mind and your happiness while others will lose whatever they think they have.

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Canada’s “Indian” problem refuses to go away

In Canada it is no secret that far too many of our Aboriginal reserves—the so-called “First Nations”—which are governed by the Canadian federal government’s Indian Act of 1876, are dysfunctional places governed by a form of Aboriginal communism.

These “Indian” reserves are far too often places suffering a host of epidemics:  substance abuse, sexual abuse, broken families, band-owned decrepit mouldy housing, tainted water, and bleak economies that provide few real, actually productive jobs. As a result of such a severe collection of seemingly intractable social ills, there exists on far too many of these reserves a staggering amount of state-funded welfare dependency and its corresponding emotional despondency.

These First Nations reserves are places where the youth suicide rates are far higher than those found among other Canadian youth.  Far too many Aboriginal people living on such reserves have lost hope and are sunk in the backwaters of depression that are both out of sight and out of mind until some new crisis makes the mainstream evening news.

Under the Indian Act, Canada’s federal government has exclusive authority to enact legislation in relation to “Indians and Lands Reserved for Indians.” While the original Indian Act has been tinkered with many times over the years to remedy a variety of problems, the 21st Century reality continues to be that many Aboriginals still live in an appalling, grinding poverty that touches every aspect of their lives.

Overall, Aboriginal people are dissatisfied with the reality of their “Indian status” existence, and this has recently flared into a series of what are called “Idle No More” protests, blocking some railroad tracks, border crossings, highways, ferry terminals, etc.

Without a doubt the lightening rod of the present Aboriginal protest has been the Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence, who set up her teepee on an island in the Ottawa River in mid-December near the nation’s capital. She’s fasting on fish broth and tea as part of a hunger strike that she proclaims will go on until Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and Queen Elizabeth II’s personal representative to Canada, the Governor General David Johnstone, come to meet her face-to-face and discuss the Aboriginal people’s historic treaty rights, in general, and the government’s failure to solve the problems of Attawapiskat in particular.

No one seriously doubts that our federal government is without some blame for the pathetic state of such Aboriginal reserves like Attawapiskat. BUT the old cliché that it takes two to tango is also without doubt. After all, for a very long time the Canadian government has been spending mountains of dollars trying to remedy some of the worst problems at Aboriginal communities like Attawapiskat. But the miserable status quo of deprivation and poverty, both materially and spiritually, persists. Why? Well, for example, let’s consider what has been going on in Attawapiskat.

To [Chief Therese Spence’s] chagrin, someone leaked an audit on Attawapiskat’s financial records, which reflected badly on her and her co-manager and romantic partner, Clayton Kennedy. It found that tens of millions of dollars can’t be tracked, due to faulty record-keeping. Although more than $100-million was poured into the community [of about 1200 people] over a six-year period, it’s hard to track where it all went because there’s little or no record. Though a lack of records doesn’t necessarily mean fraud, it also can’t be dismissed if the money can’t be traced. If there is no fraud, losing track of money on that scale suggests a worrying degree of sloppiness with tax dollars (Kelly MacFarland, “Theresa Spence’s careful woven cause starts to unravel,” National Post, Jan. 9. 2013).

The reality of the situation is that the present Aboriginal system of governance bears a major share of the blame for the situation on the reserves. Incompetence? Corruption? Selfishness?

A year ago CBC’s investigative reporter Adrienne Arsenault visited Attawapiskat and came away with these conclusions:

  1. The idea that the destitution of far-flung First Nations such as Attawapiskat is a result of Ottawa’s neglect is wrong.
  2. Ms. Arsenault’s reporting suggests that the real problem in Attawapiskat is Ms. Spence’s own incompetent leadership
  3. In economic terms, Attawapiskat exists as a pure sinkhole for resources produced elsewhere.
  4. We are always told that the preservation of reserves is a great way to maintain First Nations culture. But the opposite is true: The best way to destroy a group’s spirit of civic solidarity is to turn the economy into an outsider-funded cargo cult.
  5. Ironically, Ms. Spence is far more popular with naïve, white Naomi Klein types who venerate her from afar as a sort of Gaian [pagan goddess] martyr than with the people who actually have suffered under her incompetence.
  6. We have gotten to the stage in First Nations politics whereby you no longer even have to string a logical sentence together to connect a problem on the ground with Ottawa’s blundering or malfeasance (Cited from Jonathan Kay, “Six lessons from a brilliant, scathing, year-old CBC report on Attawapiskat’s mismanagement,” National Post, Jan. 7, 2013).

The Aboriginal leaders and their peoples who tolerate them must accept a good deal of the responsibility for their own problems. They are leading actors in this tragedy. They are not merely supporting actors or just passive victims of circumstances over which they have no active, decisive role.

If we in Canada are to truly change the situation on these Aboriginal reserves, then they must be transformed into genuine Canadian communities that live by the same rule of law and adopt the same best governance practices that are the standard or ideal of the rest of Canadian society. And this includes the requirement for transparency and appropriate accounting practices in Aboriginal communities.

Also, Aboriginal individuals should be freed to have the same opportunity to own their own homes, land, real estate, and businesses just like the average Canadian.  It should be obvious that the present form of dysfunctional Aboriginal communism, as presently practiced, whereby no band member on a reserve can own his or her home is utter foolishness.

There is a solid moral case from the Judeo-Christian Scriptures for the elimination of the double standard that presently exists between what goes on at Aboriginal reserves and the greater Canadian society. We would do well to heed it!

 You shall have one law for the sojourner and for the native; for I am the Lord your God” Leviticus 24:22 Revised Standard Version.

“You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns which the Lord your God gives you, according to your tribes; and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality; and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God gives you, Deuteronomy 16:18-20 Revised Standard Version.

 

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Are you missing the lessons taught by the Sandy Hook massacre?

“When there are no words in any dictionary to describe what happened in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut Friday, when things happen that surely not even the cruelest imagination could comprehend [oh yeah?], it is certainly time to go back to some kind of cultural Square One and reconsider everything to which we have somehow become inured.”

Those are the words of a regular columnist who writes for our local newspaper.  He’s right! But that certainly isn’t going to be what happens, obviously.  Rather it seems American society is going to have another round in the culture wars between Democrats and Republicans over gun control. It is only politically correct to focus on the tools used in the Sandy Hook slaughter and other massacres rather than looking more deeply into why North American society is spawning these young mass murderers. The guns are not creating the mentality and willingness to do such evil. They are just the means.

If the politicians really wanted to help our society become more peaceful they might instead peel off a few layers from our dysfunctional post-modern society in order to get a little closer to our cultural Square One—to discover the truth about why things are going wrong.

For instance why not consider the omnipresent use of violence in its many forms as our “entertainment.” Media producers are practically addicted to featuring conflict and fighting, blood and gore in our movies, TV, video games and in what passes as “sports.”

Or then again, maybe our public guardian angels might find the courage to turn over a few rocks to investigate the scurrying prescription drug bugs who are pushing their wares onto truly astounding numbers of youth and adults in order to “cure” them of mental disorders like depression, hyper-activity, schizophrenia, anxiety, and much more.

These days if our witch doctors can conjure up some term to describe an undesirable mental state, then some big pharma firm will soon have a potent psycho-active drug to sell to cheaply dope up the person with the new label. This makes private and public health care providers happy because it keeps their costs down. But have you ever read the extensive list of nasty, dangerous side-effects of these drugs?  The economic-political commentator Doug Casey makes this observation about the use of these psycho-active drugs among those who have committed mass murder:

I predict that they’ll find that the 20-year-old killer, Lanza, was on Ritalin, Zoloft, Prozac, or some similar psychiatric drug. Most mass murders are proven to have been on these drugs, and the medical records are sealed for many other killers, so we can’t find out (Casey Daily Dispatch, “Doug Casey on the Fiscal Cliff,” Dec. 19, 2012, http://www.caseyresearch.com/cdd/doug-casey-fiscal-cliff).

But whether we’re talking about the pervasive presence of violence in entertainment, Prozac nation, or the American fetish for guns galore—these are just the outer layers of the onion. They are merely consequences. Side shows. Perhaps contributing causes, but not the deep down rotten root that led to the massacre at Sandy Hook.

But really, for the Western world, where do we find our cultural Square One? The real cause for what’s going wrong in our society? To find out we need to go back to the Bible. In the past a preacher might have said, “Blow off the dust on your Bible.” But, I dare say, that now many people no longer even have a copy of the Bible in their homes and even if they do, they don’t know—or care—what it says.

The Bible is a revelation. Which is to say, it contains divinely revealed knowledge that would otherwise be impossible for us to discover on our own. And this Bible begins with a book of beginnings called Genesis. This is our cultural Square One:

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man [and eventually, his wife, too] whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life [symbolizing spiritually discerned revelation] was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil [symbolizing materially discerned understanding]. The Lord God took the man [Adam, that is to say Mr. Dust who was Adam Lanza’s namesake] and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die….” Genesis 2:8-9, 15-17 English Standard Version

The serpent [the Devil] was the shrewdest of all the wild animals [an insult] the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” [Here the Devil uses a classic red herring ploy to deceive.]

“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’” [This tree meant humanity was taking to itself the prerogative to determine what was “right” and what was “wrong” in their own eyes apart from God and His revelation that was then directly given to them, but which is now preserved for us in the Holy Scriptures.]

“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman [Big lies are the easiest ones to swallow. A snake first covers its victim with saliva before swallowing it whole. Neither our bodies nor our souls are immortal. See Ezekiel 18 verses 4, 20, and 27. We are merely physical beings subject to eventual death, cessation of all life unless God should intervene]. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5 New Living Translation

Humanity as whole ever since has built societies based on their own material understanding, determining for themselves what is right or wrong apart from God’s revelation. The only exception being that of a man called Abraham and those relatively few of Abraham’s descendants who were illuminated by the divine revelation given to them. These individuals would become known as the “children of God” who took their inspiration from their Heavenly Father to, firstly, love Him with all their hearts, souls, and minds, and, secondarily, to love their fellow human being, their “neighbours,” as themselves.

A society that forgets to put a love for the God of the Bible in first place among all their priorities will most certainly soon forget to prioritize a genuine love for their human neighbours as well.

Those who take to themselves the right to determine right from wrong in opposition to the revelation of God—they have as their “father” the Devil—the being that first tricked their ancestors into eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good but also of Evil. The result is our present society, which is an inseparable, delusion having aspects that are both evil and good. The Sandy Hook massacre is a prime evil result that comes from one who rejects the divine revelation about loving with all his heart the God who created him. Adam Lanza also forgot if he ever knew that he was made in the Creator’s own image and likeness with a job here on Earth: to love his little and big neighbours as himself.

Those who have eaten the wrong “fruit” just don’t and won’t get it.  They can’t get at the root of what caused the massacre at Sandy Hook and all the other mass murders going on. Jesus of Nazareth put it this way when arguing with those who insisted on rejecting divine revelation:

Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me! John 8:43-45 New Living Translation

God gives us all free moral agency. From which Tree in the garden will you eat?

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Words Spoken in “fun” Result in a Suicide

It was just supposed to be good fun. Something to entertain their audience with a laugh. And, besides, they really doubted that it would work. Surely the receptionist at King Edward VII hospital in London, who answered their call at 5:30 a.m., would recognize their Australian accent. But the impersonation of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles by Aussie DJs Mel Greig and Michel Christian of 2Day FM fooled both the nurse/receptionist, Jacintha Saldanha, and the ward nurse who gave out a personal health update about the Duchess of Cambridge’s acute morning sickness.

I can imagine Greig and Christian high-fiving each other while on the air, for successfully pulling off their hoax. Of course, they aren’t the first to pull off such a “royal” hoax. In 1995 Canadian DJ, Pierre Brassard, fooled the Queen into thinking he was the then Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, for about 15 minutes.

However, Greig and Christian put out a public apology for impersonating the royals and invading their privacy, probably at the prodding of their radio station’s management. But, they hadn’t thought about the possible repercussions that their “fun” might have had on the two nurses they had tricked.

The royals know they are the objects of pursuit by clever paparazzi who chase them in order to feed the ever-hungry, personality-driven entertainment media. So being people in the public eye means they know they must roll with unexpected and perhaps laugh along with it. However, sometimes the dance between publicity hunters and the celebrity hunted ends tragically, as it did with Princess Diana.

Ordinary people trying to do their jobs the best they can, like you or I, aren’t schooled in the art of being held up to public ridicule or mocking.  Sometimes words spoken in “fun” can be taken badly by the objects of that “fun.”

Today, we learned that one of the two nurses taken in by Mel Greig and Michel Christian’s hoax, Jacintha Saldanha, apparently committed suicide. Jacintha was a married woman with two children. Tragic. Sad. Heart-breaking. Who could have known she would take it so hard?  Who could have known that words spoken in “fun” by another could hurt so much that it would cause such a reaction.

The royals William and Kate say they didn’t complain and have publicly said they are “deeply saddened” by this apparent suicide. The hospital management said they had been trying to help the two nurses through this difficult situation.

Unfortunately, words can and do kill even if the intention was all in jest. As the Apostle Paul once pointed out:

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers (Ephesians 4:29 King James Version).

This was the error of the Australian DJs Mel Greig and Michel Christian of 2Day FM. They spoke a corrupt communication with a deceptive purpose. I’m sure they regret the whole thing. From their pictures these two are quite young, which means they’ll have a long time to think about what they did.

It is easy to say the wrong thing, or to say something the other person takes the wrong way. Or maybe what is said is right, but the timing is all-wrong. The end result is that someone is hurt even if our intention was just to have a bit of “fun.”

How hard it is to ensure that what comes out of our mouths “minsters grace unto the hearers.” But this is the goal we all should have. When we speak and when we listen to our friends speak, let’s keep in mind the vital importance of considering the consequences of what we say. Unfortunately Greig and Christian didn’t help each other out in this way.

The right word at the right time 
is like a custom-made piece of jewelry,
and a wise friend’s timely reprimand 
is like a gold ring slipped on your finger (Proverbs 25:11-12 The Message).

 

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General Petraeus, did you Betray Us?

Mark Twain once wryly remarked—essentially—that to not keep up with the news was to be un-informed. But to slavishly believe all that the news media puts out means only that one becomes mis-informed. How much can we really believe about the various news reports concerning the General David Petraeus affair?

I mean, really, what am I to think of the fact that the nation’s former top spy, CIA director Petraeus, didn’t know how to keep secret his adulterous affair with Paula Broadwell?

And Broadwell herself wasn’t an ordinary—married—civilian biographer type who just fell in love with the object of her literary obsession. She was also a former U.S. Army intelligence officer! And she is also accused of having a “substantial” quantity of classified government data on her home computers.

General Petraeus, did you betray us? The American president assures us, “No.”

Can I really believe that Petraeus and Broadwell were, in fact, just silly and hormonal, acting like adolescent kids in high school? And, the timing of the Petraeus affair hitting the news, is it just a coincidence, what with Barak Obama just re-elected as president, and Congress wanting Petraeus to testify about the recent Benghazi terrorist attack that killed the American ambassador to Libya as well as several other American operatives?  As Shakespeare might have penned in an updated version of Hamlet if he was alive and now writing: Something is rotten in America!

What’s really going on? Can we really know? What are we to make of the scent of skullduggery and adultery going on amongst the power elite of Washington? Is anyone among these leaders passionate about their people’s welfare and their people’s business rather than their own sexual and/or political passions?

Consider this warning from the prophet Isaiah about what lies ahead if we continue on the present path of collapsing morals and crumbling ethics exemplified by the Western world’s leader—America:

Ah, sinful nation,
a people laden with iniquity,
offspring of evildoers,
children who deal corruptly!
They have forsaken the Lord,
they have despised the Holy One of Israel,
they are utterly estranged. Why will you still be struck down?
Why will you continue to rebel?
The whole head is sick,
and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head,
there is no soundness in it,
but bruises and sores
and raw wounds…. 

Your country lies desolate; your cities are burned with fire;
in your very presence
foreigners devour your land;
it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners….

Except the LORD of hosts had left us a very small remnant, we would have been as Sodom; we would have become like Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:4-7 English Standard Version, v. 9 Coulter translation).

Has Petraeus betrayed us?  President Obama and the FBI assure us that it doesn’t seem the general passed any secrets to his lover—at least that’s what the paper trail seems to say, according to press releases from this power elite. But how about the pillow talk?

Regardless of national security matters, Petraeus the adulterer  is no longer a good role model that Americans and their friends in the West can look up to for inspiration. Why even the Taliban is having a good laugh right now at the mighty Petraeus’ feet of clay.  The shame of it all! Giving such a misogynistic enemy a reason to mock the former point man in the West’s battle against backward, vicious, Islamists!

Sadly, the Petraeus affair is just the tip of an iceberg that merely hints at the enormous danger lurking just out of sight under the official, politically correct waterline: the wide spread decay of the West’s morals and ethics, rotting the heart and soul of our Western civilization from the inside out.

For some time this soul rot has been spreading widely among both the leaders and the led. Throughout history, the loss of noble virtues and high moral standards of conduct have always been the accurate indicators of a societal weakness leading to a political entity’s decline and eventual collapse. Trouble and danger come because moral rot provides the ideal growth medium for tyranny and oppression to flourish. This holds true whether we’re talking about the imaginary Empire of Star Wars fame or today’s American Empire as well as the European Union.

But all is not lost. Hope remains. A small remnant yet perseveres and stands in opposition to this moral landslide. If you resist willful blindness and listen carefully, you might hear the few voices quietly speaking, giving this warning:

Beware! Those who promise you freedom from biblical morality and ethics offer you a politically correct license to commit sexual immorality. Be these seducers high and mighty or low and humble, they are but deceitful pied pipers who desire to lead you to a wasteland devoid of inner peace, intimacy, and personal happiness.  They led Petraeus. And they are leading America also into utter ruin and disaster.  Consider this warning by the Apostle Peter about such cunning pied pipers:

They have wandered off the right road and followed the footsteps of Balaam son of Beor, who loved to earn money by doing wrong. But Balaam was stopped from his mad course when his donkey rebuked him with a human voice.

These people are as useless as dried-up springs or as mist blown away by the wind. They are doomed to blackest darkness. They brag about themselves with empty, foolish boasting. With an appeal to twisted sexual desires, they lure back into sin those who have barely escaped from a lifestyle of deception. They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you. And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before (2 Peter 2:15-20 New Living Translation).

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U.S.A.—already off the cliff and falling from greatness?

The financial market looked into the crystal ball when trading began the morning of Election Day, November 6, 2012, and predicted an Obama victory. The market’s prediction came about 12 hours before the TV networks made their predictions that evening. So how did the market decide that Obama was going to win? Well, it just looked at the money. And I’m not talking about flipping a coin.

After several soft weeks of declining, weak gold prices, in one hour during the morning of Election Day the rustless yellow metal spiked upwards $31.50 an ounce. This signaled that the market believed the Obama government’s inflationary, deficit-spending, quantitatively easing fiscal policies would continue as our status quo. While Obama’s slogan focused on change, and on protecting change, from the market’s perspective very little, if anything, was going to change.

It is ironic that while the majority of Americans want a change for the better, what they actually voted for is the preservation of a status quo characterized by many as divided, gridlocked government that’s failing to deliver that change for the better.

Despite the Obama administration having one of the poorest economic and unemployment records among all U.S. administrations over the last 100 years, a narrow majority of the American people decided to give Barak Obama another four years so that he could improve upon his prior failure. And, to insure this outcome, Americans also re-elected most of the incumbent Republicans as the majority in the House of Representatives. And, of course, they will assuredly “help” Obama achieve what Obama thinks is best for the nation?

Duh! Seems like Hollywood writer and director Peter Farrelly was being prophetic when he created the 1994 movie Dumb and Dumber. I’ll let you figure out which of the two American political parties is dumb and which is dumber. Why is this happening? Because the heart is sick, the head is foolish.

And, what did the obscene $6 billion spent by big American money on this last election really buy or accomplish, besides turning the U.S. of A. into a “bastardized democracy,” according to the Canadian MP Pat Martin?

Well, a political cartoon that appeared in today’s Times-Colonist newspaper (Victoria, B.C.) sums it up nicely.  In 2008, America was divided almost equally between smug Democrats and angry Republicans. The 2012 American political map is now divided between very smug Democrats and very angry Republicans. Wow! So U.S.$ 6 billion can only buy in 2012 a couple of adverbs on negativity?

There have been times over the course of the American republic during the last two hundred years when strong leadership would have been nice, but it wasn’t really essential for the nation’s growth, much less its survival.  Almost as if it was on automatic pilot, the American nation grew noticeably more prosperous and qualitatively stronger year after year. America’s ascendency to greatness seemed unstoppable, a genuine manifest destiny.

But that’s not the situation any more. Now America is in decline. See Sarah Boesveld’s article in the National Post: Canada rises to Top Five in Economic Freedom ranking as U.S. plummets to 18th  http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/09/18/canada-rises-to-top-five-in-world-economic-freedom-ranking-as-u-s-plummets-to-18th/ Accessed Nov. 8, 2012

 America is living on borrowed money and borrowed time. And far too many very smug Americans are living in denial about the seriousness of their situation. America, now, is more like Wiley Coyote who has just run off the cliff but his legs are still churning furiously in the air—while outside observers wait breathlessly for the inevitable to happen: the sudden plunge that always ends with a violent crash on the rocks at the bottom of the canyon.

Media commentators are talking about what is called the “financial cliff.” But Rep. Ron Paul, who unsuccessfully ran for the presidential nomination of the Republican Party during this last election cycle thinks we’re already over the cliff. We’re broke, he says. And beyond that, the nation can’t fill its leadership positions with enough people who will do the wise things necessary to avoid complete disaster. According to Rep. Paul:

 People do not want anything cut. They want all the bailouts to come. They want the Fed to keep printing the money. And they don’t believe that we’ve gone off the cliff or are close to going off the cliff. They think we can patch it over, that we can somehow come up with some magic solution. But you can’t have a budgetary solution if you don’t change what the role of government should be. As long as you think we have to police the world and run this welfare state, all we are going to argue about is who will get the loot.

http://www.bloomberg.com/video/ron-paul-on-fiscal-cliff-and-vows-to-compromise-MYkAiqYBTaiHwXZL9Tvxkw.html Accessed Nov. 8, 2012

During his victory speech on Election Night, Barak Obama insisted that the best days for America are yet in the future. Well, maybe. But not if the nation’s political leadership remains gridlocked and frustrated from formulating real solutions to America’s massive problems: its uncontrollable appetite for racking up more than U.S.$ one trillion of debt every ten months, its trade imbalance with the rest of the world, and its lack of energy independence. And that’s just for starters.

Most media commentators today aren’t talking about the massive and rapid growth in the nation’s deficit in morals and ethics. Even the phrase “social conservatism” seems to be anathema to the very smug among the governing class these days.

There was a period of time in America’s past, about 150 years ago, when Democrats and Republicans and the nation as a whole were similarly embittered and divided. We call that period of time the American Civil War. The occupant of the White House at that time was trying to hold a divided America together. Abraham Lincoln, however, unlike most of the 21st Century’s hypocritical American politicians, got his inspiration about the right things to do in his personal as well as public life from the Judeo-Christian Bible. He understood the truth and wisdom of the following the principles taught by the Scriptures. One of those principles that Lincoln was fond of is particularly pertinent at this exact moment to the America of the 21st Century:

 Then some people brought to Jesus a man who was blind and could not talk because he had a demon. Jesus healed the man, so that he was able to talk and see. The crowds were all amazed at what Jesus had done. “Could he be the Son of David?” [the Messiah who will rule in the prophesied Kingdom of God] they asked.

When the Pharisees heard this, they replied, “He drives out demons only because their ruler Beelzebul gives him power to do so.” Jesus knew what they were thinking, and so he said to them, “Any country that divides itself into groups which fight each other will not last very long. And any town or family that divides itself into groups which fight each other will fall apart. So if one group is fighting another in Satan’s kingdom, this means that it is already divided into groups and will soon fall apart! (Matthew 12:22-26 Good News Translation)

It is neither money, military strength nor “political correctness” that makes a nation great. To back away from the edge of the cliff, America’s leaders and people need to change their vicious partisan spirit that has infected the whole nation with bitterness, rancor and backbiting.  The whole political dialogue needs to change. As Jesus of Nazareth said to the political slanderers and mudslingers of his day,

You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34 English Standard Version)

The American people and its leaders need to re-embrace the motto that their ancestors once believed in so strongly that they even had it inscribed on their money: In God We Trust.  Unless the nation returns to its roots, America like Wiley Coyote, will eventually plummet and crash on the rocks below, being bankrupt not only financially but also morally. And the world will marvel at how the leaders of what was once the greatest nation on Earth destroyed it bit by bit foolishly, all by themselves, as Abraham Lincoln warned so long ago.

For the full text of Abraham Lincoln’s House Divided speech see: http://www.angelfire.com/my/abrahamlincoln/HouseDivided.html

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Amanda, Jesus, and the bullies

One week ago an almost 16-year-old Amanda Todd committed suicide in a Vancouver, B.C. suburb and Canada has been talking about it ever since. Amanda killed herself about one month after she had posted a YouTube video detailing the torment she had received online and in person for several years from her adolescent peers.

The B.C. premier, Christie Clark, has spoken out about this. The members of the federal parliament in Ottawa have debated what should be done about bullying on the house floor. The media is full of opinion pieces, reporting, and letters to the editor about the Amanda Todd trajedy.

Perhaps the most shocking thing about this whole incident is the behaviour of far too many people who in the immediate aftermath of her suicide posted vile comments and inappropriate images on the Amanda Todd memorial Facebook page and elsewhere on social media.

How can some contemporary human beings sink so low in pursuit of the perceived gains that come from bullying others? And why didn’t Amanda’s peers step in to help her rather than pile on to hurt her over that last few years?

Social psychologist and assistant professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University Brenda Morrison asserts that the Amanda Todd suicide is just another piece of evidence making the case that Canada has “raised a generation of passive bystanders,” (Misty Harris, “Bullying backlash,” Times Colonist, Oct. 14, 2012).

Professor Mossison’s point is that if Todd’s peers in school—who now mostly say on social media that they “cared about Amanda”—if they really did care, then why didn’t they actually stand up and do something in solidarity to help the poor girl deal with the bullying? The fact is that there is a real culture of fear to be found in far too many of Canada’s schools. It is a fear of peer-to-peer bullying that inflicts its pain in cyberspace and in the real world by both words and deeds.

Far too many students in our schools treat their classmates with nastiness and cruelty. They lack heart. They lack basic spiritual understanding on how to ethically treat other humans. They lack love. If one cares about another person that means standing shoulder to shoulder with the bullied and being willing to be unpopular, too. It means being willing to pay the price to do what’s right in spite of the consequences of being pushed out of a status-craving, extreme peer-oriented, “cool” crowd.

Most of today’s school population rarely attends any sort of Christian church. They won’t even darken the doors of one of those theologically liberal churches that are obsessed with political correctness in their own peculiar striving for worldly popularity. Consequently many of today’s school-aged generation have never heard of, much less internalized, the most important biblical teachings about how you should treat other people. Prior generations knew about what is called the “golden rule.” But there are serious gaps in the spiritual, Christian knowledge of the majority of the adolescents in school these days. So why should we be surprised at the amount of bullying going on? We can hardly expect young people to act like Christians when they aren’t even superficially committed to its values like previous generations of Canadians.

In the wake of the Amanda Todd suicide I read in the newspaper one evolutionary biologist’s opinion piece stating that bullying is in actuality a “normal” human behaviour. It’s “normal” because it increases the bully’s status/dominance within a group. According to this view, people bully because it gets desired results such as more opportunity to access desirable sexual partners in a group by eliminating competition.  Bullying is seen by evolutionary biologists as a means to the “survival of the fittest.”  In its gross form this secular worldview would conclude that Amanda Todd wasn’t adequately fit to bully back in order to secure her ranking within the group. So she was cast out and couldn’t survive on her own. It just makes good evolutionary sense.

The divine narrative revealed through the Judeo-Christian Bible would agree with the biological evolutionists that bullying is indeed “normal” behaviour—but only for carnal, fleshly, sinful human beings. Such people, however “normal” they might be in the opinion of evolutionary biologists, are cut off from the life of God.

Why? Because they are naturally hostile to keeping the Holy Scriptures’ two golden rules. And just what exactly are these golden rules? The most popularly remembered and cited golden rule is the one that Jesus of Nazareth gave during his famed Sermon on the Mount:

 Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12 New Living Translation).

 

When Jesus gave that golden rule teaching it was at the beginning of his ministry. He wanted to give the public an easy to remember sound bite that neatly summarized the essential message about how to get along with other people as taught in much greater detail and length by the 39 books of the Hebrew, Old Covenant Scriptures, which are the foundational teachings of the divine narrative revealed to humanity.

Later, close to the end of his ministry, just before he was murdered by his enemies, Jesus presented a fuller version of the Bible’s executive summary in response to critics who were trying to find something to pick on in what he was teaching. It’s like today’s students turning on a teacher. They simply wanted to put Jesus down and bully him in public in order to build themselves up. They thought they could increase their own status and power within the community by bullying Jesus. But Jesus’ response shut them down because of its elegant simplicity, completeness, and accuracy in what is really important in living life in this world. Here’s the account:

 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments,” (Matthew 22:34-42 New Living Translation).

 Obviously our society does not keep the first so why should our children bother to keep the second? This idea of loving God and loving others is amplified by teachings throughout the Scriptures. But the social elite and gatekeepers of our society don’t want to hear about it. And anyone in the media who wants to present its messages is generally ostracized and pushed out of the inner circles of power. I suppose you could call it bullying.

The writer Allan Bloom in his 1987 book The Closing of the American Mind made this relevant point that applies equally to Canada’s power elite and this present generation of school children and adolescents:

I do not believe that my generation, my cousins…all of whom are M.D.s or PH.D.s have any comparable learning [to that of his grand parents spiritually rich understand of the Bible]. When they [Allan Bloom’s peers] talk about heaven and earth, the relations between men and women, parents and children, the human condition, I hear nothing but clichés, superficialities, the material of satire. I am not saying anything so trite as that life is fuller when people have myths to live by. I mean rather that a life based on the Book is closer to the truth, that it provides the materials for deeper research in and access to the real nature of things. Without the great revelations, epics, and philosophies as part of our natural vision, there is nothing to see out there, and eventually little left inside. The Bible is not the only means to furnish a mind, but without a book of similar gravity, read with the gravity of the potential believer, it will remain unfurnished.

Bullying will stop when we all truly come to believe that God is love and that we are all made in the image and likeness of God.

[Comment for those who are interested: the New Testament Greek word for “Law” is Nomos while the Old Testament Hebrew word for “Law” is Torah. Neither Nomos nor Torah refer only to explicit, codified laws, but to ALL of the normal rules and forms people take for granted in day to day activities. The Torah or Nomos is that complete way of life that one lives in covenant with God. The “Law” Jesus was talking about in Matthew 22 is merely the complete divine lifestyle that produces love, peace of mind, and liberty from the consequences of sinful human behaviour. And this “Law” is taught throughout the Bible by explicit statements, case examples, prophetic allegories, and even by poetry.]

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Searching for love by the numbers

Statistics Canada released  a wave of statistics this week derived from its 2011 census, revealing the trends in the evolution of the Canadian family.

Essentially the stats show that the sanctity of traditional marriage between a man and a woman remains the gravitation pull for most Canadian families though it is gradually weakening. Nevertheless, for the time being it remains, according to Stats Canada, the predominant form of “social organization.”

Of the total 9,389,700 family “social units” counted in Canada by the 2011 census, about two-thirds were still headed by married, opposite sex couples—some 67 percent or about 6.3 million couples.

When the stats for heterosexual common-law (1.6 million) couples are added to those of heterosexual married couples—the traditional coupling between the opposite sexes (7.9 million couples) is revealed to be vastly more attractive to the average Canadian than homosexual coupling options—of which there were only 64,575 same-sex couples representing just 0.3 percent of all Canadian couples in this last census!

This leads one to wonder why the gatekeepers of our Canadian media organizations give so much coverage and attention to such an unpopular, tiny minority viewpoint on social organization, that represents only about one-third of one percent of all Canadians!

Wouldn’t it be a more profitable use of the media’s time and effort to focus on the needs of average Canadians—to talk about how to improve the relationships of heterosexual couples and their families? Sometimes it seems the media is more interested in dishing out a special interest group’s propaganda rather than rendering service on the more pressing needs of the nation.

And heterosexual couple’s relationships do need attention if we are going provide the nourishing emotional and material environments needed to rear a new generation prepared to move forward or even just to sustain our nation.

Fifty years ago in 1961, 91.6 percent of our family households were based on married couples. These people engendered a generation that was able to carry Canada to the prosperity we enjoy today. Will the present generation of couples who are having fewer children [1.9 in 2011 instead of 2.7 in 1961] be able to do as well or even better than their predecessors?

The significant decline in the number of couples willing to publically commit to each in marriage has significant implications that touch both the public and private domains of life.

By their very nature common-law relationships are formed by people who are unwilling to make a public and legal profession of commitment to each other. This means that the families founded by such people are more inherently  unstable than those from the ranks of the committed. Common-law couples in Canada now account for 16.7 per cent of all families or 1.6 million couples—an increase of 13.9 percent since the last census.

This statistical growth of uncommitted common-law couples is mirrored by the statistical growth of single-adult households,  80 percent of which are headed up by women.  These one-parent families now represent 16.3 percent of all Canadians families. That’s 1.5 million households.

While some common-law couples and single parent households do a good job rearing children, many do less than a stellar job. This is why teachers working at schools with catchment areas full of common-law and single parent households have classes in which a high percentage of their students come to school lacking the emotional maturity, self-discipline, and even material resources needed to make the most of their educational opportunities.

The Maclean’s magazine issue of Sept. 10, 2012 features the cover story: “Crisis on Campus—The Broken Generation—A shocking number of Canadian students feel depressed, even suicidal. Why our best and brightest are so troubled.”

Educators use all sorts of euphemisms to describe this dysfunctional situation that is a growing problem in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary educational institutions. But it all comes down to the declining numbers of Canadian families willing to tie the knot and make it hold tight in order to do the hard work needed to prepare their children for the difficult business of living in this challenging world.

Perhaps this growing Canadian reluctance to commitment in our personal sexual relationships also mirrors our decline in spiritual commitment to the God of the Bible? People wonder why they don’t sense the presence of God in their lives. Perhaps this is one reason.

 You cry out, “Why doesn’t the Lord accept my worship?” I’ll tell you why! Because the Lord witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young. But you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows.

Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. “For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.” Malachi 2:14-16 NLT

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Statistical Deceit & Moral Hazard

The Economist (February 25, 2012) in its article “Don’t lie to me, Argentina”  encouraged its readers to try for a moment and imagine a world without reliable statistics.

Governments would fumble in the dark, investors would waste money and electorates would struggle to hold their political leaders to account.

What would happen to the financial/stock markets if nations and publicly held companies acknowledged that they no longer published reliable statistics? Obviously the consequences would be immediate and dramatic. Most private investment would dry up for any  non-compliant firms that refused to open or certify the accuracy of their books.

We know this when it comes to money statistics. But that doesn’t mean governments and corporations don’t try to “selectively” improve, massage or just plain suppress certain disturbing or disconcerting statistics in order not to upset or even panic the public about what’s really happening. It’s human nature to try to make a bad situation look better than it really is in order to protect one’s power.

So should we be surprised that the Ontario provincial  government recently decided it was too dangerous to share with the public the statistics about abortion.

The provincial Ministry of Health responded in a statement to the National Post: “Records relating to abortion services are highly sensitive and that is why a decision was made to exempt [suppress] these records”….

Why? Well, because they’re “sensitive.” And indeed they are. As are figures on gun crime, incest, spousal abuse, child abuse, rape, infanticide – crimes of all sorts, as a matter of fact. You’d also have to concede that information related to racial, cultural, or ethnic issues can be, and often is, highly sensitive. Is anything more delicate, given the cultural, religious and political ramifications, than the issue of honour killings? Should Ontarians be allowed access to figures related to immigration, given how touchy the matter can be? Perhaps data related to education and health care should be lumped in as well, given the heated arguments that often break out over policies and practices related to those topics (Kelly McParland: Ontario judges abortion statistics too sensitive to share, The National Post, Aug. 10, 2012).

Tens of thousand of tax-payer funded “medical procedures” are occurring yearly in Ontario. The government, obviously, wants to prevent researchers from discovering those abortion statistics that would probably make Canadians with tender consciences uncomfortable.

Of course, it’s not just the political beasts who want to avoid unsettling the great unwashed public. The Canadian Medical Association in their annual general council meeting on August 15th resolved. as an organization,  to work against opening a parliamentary inquiry into the current science of when does human life really begin. They are terrified that the motion Conservation MP Stephen Woodworth (Ontario) into parliament this past Spring might bring into question the doctor’s comfortable assumptions and profitable business in performing “medical procedures.”

If governments and corporations incur “moral hazard” by playing fast and lose with sovereign debt issues and its accounting sleight of hand, how much more “moral hazard” do the dark hearts of government politicians and medical professionals incur by trying to suppress the statistics about the numbers and the reasons for this huge loss of innocent life.

They are judged by this fact: The Light has come into the world, but they did not want light. They wanted darkness, because they were doing evil things (John 3:19 New Century Version).

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The State now coerces Religion in America: the Culture War intensifies

Since the very beginning of the American republic the founders of the United States insisted on a short series of amendments to that nation’s constitution in order to protect critical areas of personal liberty and freedom from being infringed or stepped on by the power of their newly created federal state.

In particular, the First Amendment to the Constitution forbids the U.S. Congress to prohibit the free exercise of religion. The Constitution also forbids the establishment of an official State church, as was and continues to be the case in many European nations.

The reasons for the enactment of the First Amendment had a lot to do with the historical reasons many people hazarded their lives in the struggle to create new homes and communities in the original 13 colonies of British North America in the first place. People wanted to escape State coercion in all matters of the conscience and its peaceful expression in religious matters. They wanted to be able to live their lives without Big Brother, the State, telling them what they had to do religiously.

There was a certain tension at that stage of development in the history of Western Civilization as the Founders of the United States  tried to balance what Conrad Black called “Faith” and “Reason” in his recent excellent National Post column on this subject:

The central struggle, in France [during its Revolution] and in most of the West, was over the role of the state, and more generally, over the cohabitation in Western civilization of the forces of Faith and the forces of, broadly speaking, Reason (http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/08/03/conrad-black-church-state-and-barack-obama/ accessed Aug. 3, 2012).

This balanced point of view was, for the most part, embraced by Americans and other modern democracies until the Rise of the Faith of Militant Secularism, beginning in the 1960s. Now, many zealous secularists not only want any reference to the Bible’s God removed from public sphere, including state and community institutions like schools, but they also want to coerce private businesses and religious institutions who still have a worldview informed by the Divine Narrative rather than by the new Secular Narrative of political correctness.

It is not enough now to just “live and let live” or “you do your thing while I do my thing.” Now the secularist zealots want to force the religiously minded to knuckle under, accept, and conform to their flavour-of-the-day, politically correct dogmas—especially on anything touching sex and the family.

The militant secularists are, in essence, seeking to establish a new coercive State Church of Materialism that will require everyone to bow down before their idolatrous altar of Political Correctness while they teach humanity to worship themselves as the only true gods who can decide what is good and evil.

As Conrad Black put it in his column “Church, State, and Barak Obama,”

The Enlightenment, the coruscation of the Age of Reason, implied that the whole concepts of divinity and of spirituality were, to say the least, questionable, and that each day, as the march of empirical knowledge progressed, the plenitude of knowledge was being approached. While God was a dodgy concept, man might be perfectible (man as God), and, though a heavenly paradise was a superstitious or wishful confection, an earthly paradise might be attainable by the implementation of a political program.

The religiously minded, of course, are resisting this political program in usually peaceful ways at present. This conflict is sometimes labeled, the “Culture Wars.”

Evidence to back up this assertion? In the United States consider the struggle by the U.S. Catholic church and other churches to resist the Obama administration’s mandatory health insurance policies that demand religious institutions—not withstanding their long-standing moral opposition to these types of  birth control procedures and abortion-inducing drugs— to offer and pay for such “benefits” for their employees.

Or consider the secularists outrage when Chick-fil-A restaurant chain president Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press in July that the company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.” Secular rights activists and others called for a boycott and put pressure on some municipal politicians to not approve new Chick-fil-A outlets in their cities.

What started as a strident demand by the militant secularist for “their rights” has now shifted to an unrelenting demand by them that the religiously minded submit and conform to their idolatrous assertion that they have the right to determine both good and evil and that we must all think, speak, and behave as they dictate. It is reminiscent of the old line that an erudite and cagey adversary of the God of Creation spoke to our first ancestors.

Now the snake was more able to fool others than any animal of the field, which the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say that you should not eat from any tree in the garden?” 2 Then the woman said to the snake, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden. 3 But from the tree which is in the center of the garden, God has said, ‘Do not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You shall not surely die. 5 For God knows that on the day you both eat from it, then your eyes will be opened and you both shall be like gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:1-5; vv. 1-3 New Life Version, vv. 4-5 Lexham English Bible).

The freedom of conscience to live according to the Divine Narrative in America and the rest of the Western democracies is under attack by those who would fool us into believing that they are our gods who have the right to tell us what is right or wrong. Don’t fall for it.

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America’s Midwest cursed with drought; B.C. overly blessed with water

I recently returned from a visit to my dad who lives in the irrigated farming area of southern Idaho’s Snake River Valley.  After leaving a very green and lush British Columbia, once I drove south into Washington State and then over the pass through the coastal Cascade mountain range immediately east of Seattle, the dominant impression is one of a heat-blasted, parched-brown countryside. As we drove through northeastern Oregon the temperatures soared to 43 degrees Celsius, which translates into 110 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hot! I got a good tan without even trying due to the blazing sun.

My son, Jeremiah, who accompanied me to Idaho, then caught a flight to St. Louis, Missouri, where he was volunteering as a youth camp counselor and photographer. While visiting  America’s Midwestern heartland of grain production (more than 75 per cent of the corn and soybeans grow there), my son experienced more roasting temperatures along with high humidity—up to 107 degrees Fahrenheit! Only a snake could like such hellish weather. It was so hot that the teenage campers participating in my son’s “adventure” races were only allowed to walk from hydration station to hydration station lest they suffer heatstroke.

Much of the American heartland is literally baking. The implications of devastating drought in the world’s breadbasket are serious.

“We’re moving from a crisis to a horror story,” said Purdue University agronomist Tony Vyn. “I see an increasing number of fields that will produce zero grain.”

The drought scorching the U.S. Midwest is the worst since 1956, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a report posted on its website on Monday. Drought is affecting 55% of the land mass in the lower 48 states (http://business.financialpost.com/2012/07/17/americas-worst-drought-since-56-threatens-world-food-supply/)

Already, prices for corn and soybeans are up more than 50 percent over the last four weeks. The coming food price sticker shock is going to affect all of us. For nations that import large amounts of grain to feed their populations, these higher prices is going to mean a good deal of personal hardship and national political instability.

Is all this heat and blasting mere coincidence? Just part of the normal weather cycle?

Meanwhile, here in British Columbia, our water reservoirs are critically full due to big melting snowpacks in the mountains and torrential rains in June and July. For the first time in 50 years, all of B.C.’s major dams are having to spill water in increasing amounts just to keep the dams from breaking. Dam managers have never seen anything like what’s happening this year at B.C.’s water reservoirs.

How strange. Here in B.C. we have a super-abundance of water, while just south of us the American heartland is bone dry. It sounds like some sort of ironic biblical curse. We have way too much but the Yanks have way too little. All the water that should have gone to America’s grain-growing Midwest has been dumped on us Pacific Canadians. What gives?

Actually, the Bible’s God, whom the Old Covenant scriptures referred to as YHVH (see Exodus 3:14-15, that is to say I am the One who was, is, and will be) and the New Covenant scriptures identified as Jesus Christ (see John 8:58), did promise to mess up the normal weather if those who claim to be His people fail to live according to His revealed way of life and belief. Americans, after all, make their boast even on their money “In God We Trust.” But do they really? Is the Bible’s God sufficiently fed up with North American hypocrisy to take action to punish us? Consider this prophecy:

“But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.

“The Lord will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me.

 And the heavens over your head shall be bronze, and the earth under you shall be iron. The Lord will make the rain of your land powder. From heaven dust shall come down on you until you are destroyed (Deuteronomy 28:15-20, 23-24).

Americans have long proudly exclaimed, “God bless America.” And for the longest time it seemed so. But what happens when a nation’s leaders and its people no longer believe in living so as to receive a blessing but rather stubbornly and rebelliously live in such a way that earns a curse instead? If God can bless can’t He also curse? Is a drought and soaring food prices a blessing or a curse? What do you think?

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Rather outspoken on who controls your news

For better than 40 years Dan Rather worked in mainstream journalism. In fact he was a “star” reporter among his fellow journalists from the early 1960s to 2005. Rather worked as the evening news anchor for the elite media outlet—the CBS News network—during a time when the TV news supplanted the newspapers and radio as the most important source of the news that Americans depended upon to keep them up to date with what was going in their nation and world.

For Rather, quality journalism demands grit. Why? Because good reporting and worthwhile news requires the courage to ask of the powerful  the tough questions despite the costs. Most of the public doesn’t realize the high price that some journalists must occasionally pay to report the truth. In Mexico reporting truthful news about the drug cartels and the legion of corrupt governmental officials has meant a bullet in the back of the head for dozens of Mexican journalists while others have had to flee into  exile to avoid the same fate.

This type of violence and threats is not common for American and Canadian journalists. However, Dan Rather’s personal experience illustrates that journalistic freedom is more illusion than fact in the 21st Century as entire nation’s news organizations are owned by just a handful of multi-national corporate media giants. Any North American journalist who fails to understand that it’s not smart—professionally speaking—to ask tough questions that embarrass the political and/or economic elite, will soon be looking for a new job.

After all, some of Rather’s controversial coverage—such as the news story about the sadistic operation at the American-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq—resulted in “so much heat,” in lost money and influence, in Washington D.C. that Rather was forced out of the CBS Evening News anchor chair by his corporate masters.

Was reporting a controversial truth worth the risk of cutting short a long and distinguished career? Two years ago Rather reflected about the importance of the Abu Ghraib story in a Newsweek magazine feature story about the top ten news story’s of the 21st Century’s first ten years:

“Abu Ghraib has opened our eyes, serving as a dark icon that reminds us our fiercest enemies – hubris [pride], cruelty, and ignorance – wage war from within.” 

Rather’s observation is practically biblical:

Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor 
than to divide the spoil with the proud (Proverbs 16:18-19 English Standard Version).

It bears remembering Dan Rather’s main point: the mainstream news organizations in the 21st Century are not operating in the public service. They are large, usually multi-national corporations, working hand in glove with  political/economic powers  to determine what we see, hear, and read. The corporate masters of these news organizations are in business to make big profits and to earn fat bonuses for themselves. Telling the truth is okay, but only if it doesn’t get in the way of the bottom line.

That’s why the World Tomorrow is different. We are in the public service to tell the truth, which as it turns out has always been a dangerous enterprise:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the [religious/political elite in the employ of a group of rapacious, violent overlords]. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” (John 18:36-38 English Standard Version).

Some news stories—and that is what the gospel is… truthful good news—are never stale or out of date. Just remember that a great price had to be paid to tell you that story as well.

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Julian Assange brazenly rips off the World Tomorrow name

The infamous Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, has started up on Russia’s state-funded RT (formerly Russian Times) cable broadcaster a weekly talk show program, The World Tomorrow. To many it is apparent that Assange ripped off the name of the long-running  religious program called The World Tomorrow TV broadcast.  Wow, Assange has a real load of hutzpah, but then we already knew that!

(http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/04/17/wikileaks-julian-assange-interviews-hezbollah-chief-hassan-nasrallah-for-debut-of-his-russian-talk-show/)

According to Wikipedia’s write up about this name:

The World Tomorrow was a radio and television half-hour program which had been sponsored by the Radio Church of God (later renamed Worldwide Church of God (WCG) while under the direction of Herbert W. Armstrong). It originally ran from 1934 to 1994.  A 15-minute version of the radio program (but under varied translations of The World Tomorrow name), was broadcast by various speakers in the French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish languages. The World Tomorrow television program is in current production after having resumed in 2004, and airs in Atlanta, Georgia and Knoxville, Tennessee. The rights to the name were obtained by the Church of God, Worldwide Ministries of Sevierville, Tennessee, through the United States Patent and Copyright office. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World_Tomorrow_(1934)

The trademarked The World Tomorrow TV broadcast was revived in 2004 by the World Tomorrow Evangelistic Association and is in current production and airs weekly in Denver, Atlanta, Knoxville, and Orlando.

Back in the mid-1970s I worked as a writer for The World Tomorrow program, which was then presented by Garner Ted Armstrong. When I decided to write this blog a few years ago, my sons when searching for a name urged me to pay for and secure the Internet domain name www.theworldtomorrow.ca since it was vacant. It made sense to do this, rather than let someone else like Julian Assange  who is out of synch with the name’s historic message,  squat on it.

Of course, with TV broadcasts here in North America any network worth its salt will require that an entertainment attorney do a name search for any newly commissioned series.  Julian Assange could have even done a Wikipedia search and discovered that Church of God people and organizations had long used the World Tomorrow name.

Perhaps not surprisingly,  Mr. Assange, on the first program of his new talk show  interviewed one of the world’s leading terrorists or “freedom fighters” depending on your point of view, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.

For his last question in his talk show, The World Tomorrow, Assange asked Nasrallah this very interesting question:

You have fought against a hegemony of the United States of America, isn’t Allah, the notion of a god the ultimate superpower. And shouldn’t you as a freedom fighter seek to liberate people from the totalitarian concept of a monotheistic god?” 

Actually, I’ll give Nasrallah some credit for responding with a relatively decent answer that acknowledged the Creator of the Heavens, the Earth, and humanity. Nasrallah credited  the Creator as the source of our unique moral conscience that helps us distinguish  good from evil, such as the evil murder/assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri on February 14, 2005. Not bad, really. Though Nasrallah ought to pay a bit more attention to his own preaching. Julian Assange really didn’t have too much to say in response.

But the Apostle Paul has this to say about any who would presumptuously step on the good name, reputation, and  message so-long taught under the World Tomorrow banner:

 God’s anger is shown from heaven against all the evil and wrong things people do. By their own evil lives they hide the truth. God shows his anger because some knowledge of him has been made clear to them. Yes, God has shown himself to them. There are things about him that people cannot see—his eternal power and all the things that make him God. But since the beginning of the world those things have been easy to understand by what God has made. So people have no excuse for the bad things they do. They knew God, but they did not give glory to God or thank him. Their thinking became useless. Their foolish minds were filled with darkness. Romans 1:18-21 New Century Version

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When Does the Other Shoe Fall?

Last week the most astonishing news came out of Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put together, unexpectedly, a much larger governing Likud coalition for the State of Israel by bringing into the government the middle-of-the –road, politically speaking, Kadima party. This new unity government controls a little more than 78 percent of the votes in the Israeli parliament. Very few governments in the Western, democratic world can match that sort of consensus. In fact, the weighty impact of this majority is described by one Israeli columnist as a “hundred tons of solid concrete” (Charles Krauthammer, Netanyahu’s unity government prepares the ground for May 1967, National Post, May 11, 2012). What does Netanyahu’s move mean?

Oh yawn, you think. Another boring news story about byzantine coalition-building? I mean, over the weekend all we heard about was how the Greeks have been unable to cobble together enough similarly minded parties to run a government that would either go along with the German-imposed austerity plan or reject it. This political deadlock will most certainly force that nation back to the polls in another 3 or 4 weeks to see if the Greek nation can achieve a majority consensus one way or the other.

But what is happening in Israel, today, is diametrically the opposite of what is happening in Greece. Yet these opposites are part of a continuum of change that is going to dramatically rock the world in the near future. How? Why?

In Israel it is clear that Netanyahu in making his coalition deal with Kadima turned down an opportunity to call elections for this fall at a time when the polls clearly indicated Likud would win another mandate for four more years of government and do it in a manner that would increase the number of the Likud seats in the Knesset.  So why make a big tent coalition that at the most has only 17 more months in power before parliamentary elections must be held? The math doesn’t make sense on the face of it. Why pick 17 months of governing authority instead of 48?

Well, Netanyahu isn’t doing the coalition deal to force concessions from his right-wing religious coalition partners about requiring the ultra-orthodox Israeli Jews to actually do their compulsory army service like all the rest of the Israelis. Though it will help.

Nor is he doing it to be able to make painful concessions to the Palestinians in peace talks. The Palestinians really can’t bring themselves to make a deal that Netanyahu could live with. After all, deep down, the Palestinians are holding out for the whole Canaan pie not just a slice of the pie in the West Bank and Gaza. Peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis are a zero-sum game. That’s why no solution has been able to be found ever since the United Nations split up the old British mandate of Palestine in 1947. Netanyahu understands this. So that is not a reason for his new super-majority coalition.

The reason for this “hundred tons of solid concrete” is to make a crucial, nationally existential decision within a rather narrow window of five months beginning now and running to shortly before the U.S. elections on November 11, 2012: Does Israel stop Iran in its headlong drive for nuclear weapons or not?

Israel must act during this time while Egypt and Syria are still divided and in confusion. Israel must act while Barak Obama still needs the votes of American Jews and those of many other Americans who are both friends of Israel and democrats. Once Obama is re-elected this fall, which is likely, Netanyahu doubts his tiny nation could expect much help from what was once its most important ally.

Israelis have had to learn the hard way that it is foolish to ignore the threats of annihilation uttered long and loud by their enemies.  The effects of such a conflict as a catalyst will be profound, and unsettling, leading to many unanticipated consequences in both the European Union, the United States, and  other nation states.

It is amazing to think that here we are in the 21st Century and still a little nation called Israel and the Jews continue to play a central role in the theatre that is Western civilization. Consider this prophecy that is as current today as when it was originally penned about 520 B.C by the Prophet Zechariah:

I have decided that Jerusalem will become a bowl of wine that makes the neighboring nations drunk. And when Jerusalem is attacked, Judah will also be attacked. But I will turn Jerusalem into a heavy stone that crushes anyone who tries to lift it.

When all nations on earth surround Jerusalem, I will make every horse panic and every rider confused. But at the same time, I will watch over Judah. Then every clan in Judah will realize that I, the Lord All-Powerful, am their God, and that I am the source of their strength.

 At that time I will let the clans of Judah be like a ball of fire in a wood pile or a fiery torch in a hay stack. Then Judah will send the surrounding nations up in smoke. And once again the city of Jerusalem will be filled with people (Zechariah 12:2-6 Contemporary English Version).

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