Prophecy News Watch - Week In Review/Nov 3- Nov 7
Keeping You Informed of World Events From A Biblical Perspective
Prophetic Trends & Headline News
1. Where is the United States in Bible Prophecy?
15 Signs That We Live During A Time Of Rampant Government Paranoia
How does it feel to live under a government that is getting even more paranoid with each passing day? Yes, we live in a world that is becoming increasingly unstable, but that is no excuse for how ultra-paranoid the federal government has become.
Today, every single one of us is viewed as a “potential threat” by the government. As a result, the government feels the need to intercept our emails, record our phone calls and track our expenditures. But they aren’t just spying on individuals. The government keeps tabs on thousands of organizations all over the planet, it spies on our enemies and our allies, and it even spies on itself.
The American people are told that the emerging Big Brother police state is for our safety, but the truth is that it isn’t there to protect us. It is there to protect them. Our government has become kind of like a crazy rich uncle that is constantly spying on everyone else in the family because he believes that they are “out to get him”. The following are 15 signs that we live during a time of rampant government paranoia…
#1 Former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson says that the federal government was so concerned about her reporting on Benghazi, Fast and Furious and other Obama scandals that they hacked her computer, monitored every keystroke and even planted classified material in an apparent attempt to potentially frame her.
#2 The United States has become the nation of the “permanent emergency”. In fact, there has been at least one “state of emergency” in effect in this country since 1979.
#3 In America today, almost everyone is considered to be a criminal. At this point, nearly one out of every three Americans has a file in the FBI’s master criminal database.
#4 Most people don’t realize this, but the FBI also systematically records talk radio programs. The FBI says that it is looking for “potential evidence”.
#5 In Wisconsin, 24 armed police officers are an armored military vehicle were recently sent to collect a civil judgment from a 75-year-old retiree. It is being reported that officials feared that he might be “argumentative“.
#6 According to guidelines that were recently made public, purchasing Amtrak train tickets with cash is considered to be “suspicious activity” and needs to be reported to the authorities.
#7 The IRS can now seize your bank accounts on suspicion alone. If you are successful fighting the IRS in court, you might get your money back years later.
#8 Thousands of Americans have their mail spied on by the U.S. Postal Service. If you are on “the list”, all of your mail and packages are shown to a supervisor before they are delivered to you.
#9 Most people don’t realize that the U.S. border is now considered to be a “Constitution-free zone” where officials can freely grab your computer and copy your hard drive.
#10 The feds have apparently become extremely concerned about what all of us are saying on the Internet. In fact, they have even been caught manipulating discussions on Reddit and editing Wikipedia.
#11 The U.S. government has become so paranoid that it even spies on our European allies. Needless to say, our allies over in Europe are quite upset about this but we continue to do it.
#12 To the government, each citizen is a “potential threat”, and this justifies the militarization of our entire society. The following is an excerpt from an excellent commentary by John Whitehead…
Just take a stroll through your city’s downtown. Spend an afternoon in your local mall. Get in your car and drive to your parents’ house. Catch the next flight to that business conference. While you’re doing so, pay careful attention to how you and your fellow citizens are treated by government officials—the ones whose salaries you are paying.
You might walk past a police officer outfitted in tactical gear, holding an assault rifle, or drive past a police cruiser scanning license plates. There might be a surveillance camera on the street corner tracking your movements. At the airport, you may be put through your paces by government agents who will want to either pat you down or run scans of your body. And each time you make a call or send a text message, your communications will most likely be logged and filed. When you return home, you might find that government agents have been questioning your neighbors about you, as part of a “census” questionnaire. After you retire to sleep, you might find yourself awakened by a SWAT team crashing through your door (you’ll later discover they were at the wrong address), and if you make the mistake of reaching for your eyeglasses, you might find yourself shot by a cop who felt threatened.
Is this the behavior of a government that respects you? One that looks upon you as having inviolate rights? One that regards you as its employer, its master, its purpose for being?
I don’t think so. While this hyper-militarization of the government is being sold to the public as a means of preventing terrorism and maintaining national security, it is little more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In fact, as I document in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, what we are dealing with is a police state disguised as a benevolent democracy, a run-away government hyped up on its own power and afraid of its citizenry, whose policies are dictated more by paranoia than need.
#13 As our police departments have become militarized, SWAT team deployments have gone through the roof. As I wrote about recently, there were only about 3,000 SWAT raids in the United States back in 1980. But today, there are more than 80,000 SWAT raids per year in this country.
#14 The federal government is so paranoid that it is actually spying on itself. The “Insider Threat Program” encourages federal employees to closely watch one another and to report any hint of suspicious activity…
The federal effort, called the Insider Threat Program, was launched in October 2011, and it certainly hasn’t diminished since Edward Snowden disclosed details of the National Security Agency’s domestic spying. As McClatchy reporters Marisa Taylor and Jonathan S. Landay have described, federal employees and contractors are encouraged to keep an eye on allegedly suspicious indicators in their co-workers’ lives, from financial troubles to divorce. A brochure produced by the Defense Security Service, titled “INSIDER THREATS: Combating the ENEMY within your organization,” sums up the spirit of the program: “It is better to have reported overzealously than never to have reported at all.”
#15 Last, but certainly not least, there is the matter of the NSA constantly spying on all of us. The NSA is monitoring and recording billions of our phone calls and emails, and most Americans don’t seem to care. But they should care. I like how an article in the New York Post described what is happening to our society…
Through a combination of fear, cowardice, political opportunism and bureaucratic metastasis, the erstwhile land of the free has been transformed into a nation of closely watched subjects — a country of 300 million potential criminals, whose daily activities need constant monitoring.
Once the most secret of organizations, the NSA has become even more famous than the CIA, the public face of Big Brother himself. At its headquarters on Savage Road in Fort Meade, Md., its omnivorous Black Widow supercomputer hoovers up data both foreign and domestic, while its new $2 billion data center near Bluffdale, Utah — the highly classified Intelligence Community Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative Data Center — houses, well, just about everything. As James Bamford wrote in Wired magazine two years ago, as the center was being completed:
“Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private e-mails, cellphone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails — parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter.’ ”
Does The Military Have A Problem With Jesus?
A colonel’s column was removed from an Air National Guard newsletter because the writer violated military policy by including references to Jesus Christ and God, an Ohio National Guard spokesman said.
Col. Florencio Marquinez, the medical group commander of the 180th Fighter Wing, wrote an essay in the September edition of the “Stinger.” It was titled, “A Spiritual Journey as a Commander.”
He wrote about how his mother’s faith in Jesus Christ influenced his life and he referenced a Bible verse from the New Testament, “With God all things are possible.”
“So no matter how stressful your life can be with juggling family issues, relationships, career advancement, work, school, or any burden that life throws your way, cast it upon the Lord and He will sustain you,” the colonel wrote.
It wasn’t too longer after the newsletter was posted online before someone filed a complaint – lamenting that the colonel’s words had caused great angst and offense.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s Mikey Weinstein reached out to Air Force officials at the Pentagon, the Air National Guard is governed by Air Force rules, as well as the 180th Fighter Wing demanding they remove what he called “that odious and offending proselytizing commentary.”
Before you could say God bless America, the military ordered the colonel’s remarks stricken from the newsletter. Ohio National Guard spokesman James Sims told me the column was a clear violation of military policy.
“It’s very clear what you can and cannot say in an Air Force publication,” Sims said. “Once it was brought to our attention and we compared it with the regulation, we found it was in violation of the regulation.”
So what rules did Col. Marquinez violate by referencing the Almighty? I want to quote from the official statement provided by the Ohio National Guard:
“The article violated AFI 1-1, Sections 2.11 and 2.12.1, and the Revised Interim Guidelines Concerning Free Exercise of Religion in the Air Force guidance, and finally, ‘The Air Force Military Commander and the Law’ book.”
A bit much, don’t you think? All that for mentioning that “With God all things are possible.”
I’m surprised the Air Force didn’t convene a court martial. For the record, Sims told me that to his knowledge the colonel was not reprimanded for writing about Jesus – just censored.
But the Air Force wasn’t content with just removing the colonel’s column. No sir. They had to publically shame and humiliate this officer and gentleman.
As Sims noted in his statement, after the article was removed from the newsletter, it was “followed up with a base-wide email, with updated link for the Singer, stating: ‘The 180th FW Public Affairs office has removed the article ‘A Spiritual Journey as a Commander’ from The Stinger, Volume 52, Issue 09, September 2014 due to sensitivities.”
I’ve included a link to the colonel’s “offensive” column. Please note the “sensitive” nature.
Here’s one of the sections that violated the “godless” standards of the Air Force.
“I would not be the man I am today if it wasn’t for my mother leading our whole family to Jesus Christ,” Col. Marquinez wrote. “Her creed to us five children growing up is God first in your life, then comes family and third work.”
The Air Force regulations that were allegedly violated regard “government neutrality regarding religion.”
“Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for an individual’s free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion,” the regulation states. “For example, they must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion.”
Think of it as a sort-of religious version of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
As you might imagine, the Air Force’s censorship rubbed religious liberty advocates the wrong way.
“Not only did you publicly humiliate him by your actions, but you have sent a chilling message to other members of the Air Force, that they need to keep their faith to themselves or else rise the judgment of the command,” wrote Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty executive director Ron Crews in a letter to the wing commander.
“Your actions violated his rights under the First Amendment – both his free exercise of religion and his free speech,” Crews added.
Chaplain Alliance is calling on the Air Force to reverse its censorship and repost the colonel’s column.
“The Ohio National Guard is not free to censor the protected speech of one of its members based on the content that speech,” he said.
As Crews pointed out in his letter, just last year a Moody Air Force Base publication posted a column entitled, “Atheist Ponders Spiritual Fitness.”
So if the Air Force can make an accommodation for atheists, why can’t they make one for Christians?
2. Israel - God's Timepiece
Why The Temple Mount Matters
Psalm 122:6 instructs us to “Pray that Jerusalem has peace.” Well, now would definitely be a good time to pray, because Jerusalem is currently at a boiling point. And it’s largely over what might be the most contested piece of real estate in history: the Temple Mount.
The Temple Mount is in the Old City of Jerusalem. It’s approximately 37 acres, and it’s the holiest site in Judaism. According to Jewish tradition, the site is where Abraham almost sacrificed his son. It’s also where Solomon constructed the first Jewish temple, which was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.
The Second Temple was consecrated in 516 B.C., and was reconstructed on a grander scale by Herod the Great in 20 B.C. The Temple Mount underwent massive expansion at this time.
The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 during the Siege of Jerusalem.
The Temple Mount is currently home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock, and the Dome of the Chain, all Islamic structures built in the late 7th century. The Al-Aqsa Mosque is considered to be the third holiest site in Islam (after Mecca and Medina.) Muslims believe that Mohammed was carried from Mecca to Al-Aqsa during his Night Journey. The Dome of the Rock is a shrine built where many Muslims believe Mohammed ascended into heaven and met all the prophets who had preceded him. The Dome of the Chain is a much smaller structure used for prayer.
When Israel first gained control of the site in 1967, all faiths were welcome, but after control was passed to an Islamic trust administration (due to international pressure), everything changed.
The Dome of the Rock
Under current rules, the Temple Mount is freely accessible to Muslims at most times from any of ten gates. Jews and tourists are required to use a separate gate, and prayers from Jews are not allowed at the site. Jews are also restricted to visiting during certain hours. (It should be pointed out that some rabbis believe that Jews should not visit the Temple Mount at all, because the Holy of Holies stood near the center of the site.)
In recent weeks, more Jews have been visiting the Temple Mount for the Jewish holidays. This has angered many Palestinians, who see this as a sign that Jews are trying to take back the holy site. Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has added fuel to the fire by saying that Jews should be barred from the Temple Mount “by any means.” He also referred to Jews as a “a herd of cattle.”
The Al-Aqsa Mosque
Early in October, during Sukkot (the Festival of Booths), some young Palestinians started a riot against Jews, other non-Muslim visitors, and police. They threw rocks, firebombs, metal pipes, and other objects. Police chased them into the Al-Aqsa mosque, where the rioters barricaded themselves. This allowed visitors to continue touring the Temple Mount for the remainder of the designated time window. Nine Palestinians were eventually arrested.
Last week, Jewish activist Rabbi Yehuda Glick was shot three times in Jerusalem by a gunman on a motorcycle. The suspected shooter, a Palestinian linked to the Islamic Jihad terror group, was shot dead by police when they attempted to arrest him and came under fire. Rabbi Glick has long advocated for Jewish prayer rights at the Temple Mount.
After the shooting, Israeli police closed off the Temple Mount to all visitors for the first time in years. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the action “a declaration of war.”
The site reopened last Friday (October 31) to everyone except men under 50, presumably to avoid potential conflict around the noon prayer.
Many Jews and Christians believe that there will be a Third Temple rebuilt on the Temple Mount site at some point in the future. But there is much disagreement about who will do the building and how it will take place. And the current religious structures on the site present no small obstacle to any rebuilding plans.
Some Orthodox Jewish groups want to rebuild the temple and reinstate the practice of animal sacrifice. One such group, the Temple Institute, has been preparing ritual objects and has even been searching for a red heifer for temple purification that meets the requirements found in Numbers 19.
Some Christians read and watch news about Jerusalem and the Temple Mount with much interest, because they interpret these events as possible signs of the end times. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, for example, predicts the rise of an antichrist figure who will “sit in God’s temple, displaying himself to show that he is God.” This will precede the return of Christ, and one could logically conclude that for such a figure to enter the temple, it has to be rebuilt first.
How everything falls into place to allow this to happen is anyone’s guess.
For now, we simply watch the headlines as we pray for peace.
Suicide Terrorism Returns To Jerusalem, With A Difference
Jerusalemites who lived through the Second Intifada remember those years, from 2000 to 2003, all too well. Simply being out on the streets was a gamble.
Almost every month, sometimes every week, suicide bombings hit the city, and destroyed any sense of security here. Jerusalem was worst hit, but it was not unique: The suicide bombers targeted almost every Israeli city.
The attacks of recent weeks have marked the return of the suicide terrorists. There are differences this time. These are not attackers wearing belts laden with explosives or driving cars carrying bombs. They are “merely” using their cars and tractors as weapons. And they are overwhelmingly concentrated in Jerusalem.
Another difference is that the suicide bombings of the Second Intifada were orchestrated in large part by a Hamas terror infrastructure. This time, it appears that general instructions from the Hamas leadership, without an organized military infrastructure, are sufficient to prompt a wave of attacks, and again to destroy Jerusalemites’ sense of security.
Israel’s security forces tried often during the Second Intifada to put together a profile of the “typical” suicide bomber, the better to thwart the attacks. And they couldn’t. Sometimes the bombers were young males. Sometimes they were youths. Sometimes they were married women, sometimes divorcees, sometimes widows. In short, there was no typical bomber. The notion that suicide bombings were overwhelmingly the work of young, single, impoverished men was disproved time and again.
The same is true now, as well. It is hard to point to common denominators among the perpetrators of the recent attacks, including the attempted assassination last Wednesday night of Yehudah Glick, except, that is, that they identify with Islamist organizations, especially Hamas.
Wednesday’s terrorist on Route One in Jerusalem, Ibrahim al-Akary, was a 48-year-old father of five, from a family closely identified with Hamas. Not your “typical” terrorist. Last Wednesday’s would-be assassin Mu’taz Hijazi was much younger, as were the perpetrators of the two previous attacks in which Jerusalem pedestrians were targeted by suicide drivers, in August and October.
What is common to the 2014 terrorists and those from the Second Intifada is that they set out expecting that they will not return; their motivation to kill Israelis prevails over their desire to live.
Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch may well be right to say that this is not a new intifada. Indeed, it does not resemble the widespread uprising of the First Intifada (from 1987-1993), and nor does it mirror the Second Intifada. But it cannot be denied that a new phenomenon is bloodying Jerusalem, which may require a new name. Perhaps not an Intifada. Perhaps not an “uprising,” or an “explosion of violence.” But, rather, a name that reflects the combination of suicide attackers driving cars and tractors, and relatively low-level street riots. At present, the riots in Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem are drawing dozens, sometimes hundreds, but not the masses that confronted Israeli security forces in Gaza and the West Bank in the early days of the two intifadas.
This new mix refuses to disappear. Weeks pass, and the violence in Jerusalem continues. Sometimes it ebbs for a few days, but then it returns.
Israel’s decision-makers tend, almost instinctively, to point the finger of blame at Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and to assert that he is responsible for this violence. It is evidently more convenient for them to play down both the significant support among East Jerusalemites for the violence and Hamas’s central responsibility for it — ideologically if not always practically.
It is Hamas that is encouraging the terrorist attacks and the riots. And that means the Israeli government needs to deal with those who are responsible — that is, the Hamas leadership in Gaza. But nobody in Israel — or in Hamas’s Gaza leadership for that matter — wants another escalation of violence there.
In the absence of any substantive diplomatic process with Abbas, it is hard to imagine that the new form of Jerusalem violence is going to end anytime soon. Whether or not it is a third intifada, it shows every sign of continuing to batter Jerusalem.
4. The Gog/Magog War
Russia Increasing Peace Role In The Mideast
Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently taken a position publicly known to be uncharacteristic of him - open and direct criticism of Israel’s handling of the Palestinian cause. Although it’s true that Russia typically and routinely votes against Israel at the United Nations, Putin himself is hardly known to express vocal resentment towards Israel in public. This development is therefore being seen by diplomatic sources and analysts as an indication that Russia henceforth intends to more actively advance and promote Palestinian issues at the United Nations. The end result should naturally result in a strengthening of Russia’s hand or “active presence” in the Middle East peace process effort.
This analysis, based on the wider Arab-Israeli conflict was carried in a recent edition of the Jerusalem Post. The article further reported that, in a recent speech in Moscow, the Russian president was quoted stating that: "The humiliation and the oppression that the Palestinian people are going through are a source of danger and destabilization, and every step must be taken to eliminate the humiliation and oppression”. Putin reportedly also spoke out against settlement construction and said that the settlement enterprise constitutes "a cause increasing tension in the Middle East."
These positions are thought to be uncharacteristic of Putin in at least two ways. Firstly, Putin’s comments align to US President Barack Obama’s stated position on Israeli settlement projects – which in itself is unusual in the sense that Putin rarely supports US diplomatic approaches – in public. Secondly, Putin has so far been thought to support Israel and has even forged good diplomatic and economic ties with the Jewish nation.
Some recent cases in point evidencing the mutual working relationship between the two nations were that Israel refrained from protesting the widely condemned annexation of Crimea that started in March of 2014, much to the chagrin of the US. It is also known additionally that Russia has a keen interest in the vast gas and oil reserves recently discovered in Israel, and has been discussing proposals of mutual benefit with Israel.
Putin's comments were undoubtedly welcomed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose initiative to win a UN Security Council vote (for its resolution to force Israel to withdraw from the West Bank on a timetable)has been buoyed. The intended goal is to finally facilitate the establishment of a Palestinian state. Israel, on the other hand has predictably not been encouraged by these developments. Adding cause to their concerns is the apparent growing comradeship between Russia and Iran, as reportedly evidenced during talks on Tehran's nuclear program with the P5+1 group of world powers.
What isn’t so clear is what exactly has prompted the further hardlining of positions by Russia towards Israel. A hint may be found in Putin’s resolve, which is clear in the choice of the words “…and every step must be taken to eliminate the humiliation and oppression (of the Palestinians)”, not to mention his virtually unprecedented reference to Israeli settlements as “a cause increasing tension in the Middle East." His words “every step must be taken” certainly do not suggest an aversion to military action as a potential step.
What is the significance of all this? Could it be that Russia is positioning herself to spearhead a military invasion of Israel, under the convenient and popular guise of protecting the Palestinian cause and helping to enforce a Middle East peace agreement? Could the real reason for such a Russia-led attack be instead an attempt to forcefully “plunder and loot” Israel’s vast and much valued gas and oil reserves, not to mention gaining control of a highly strategic geographical location for military and expansionist purposes?
From a Bible prophecy perspective, we know that in these last days, there will be a Russia-led alliance that will wage war against Israel. We also know that God will actually provoke such a war by putting “hooks” in the “jaws” of “Gog” – widely believed by Bible prophecy scholars to represent present-day Russia (Ezekiel 38:3-4, 10-12). Iran (Persia) is also mentioned in Ezekiel’s scenario as a key partner in the anti-Israeli military alliance. Reading today’s news and current affairs, it’s easy to see how the cozy relationship between Moscow and Tehran would facilitate such developments.
“On that day thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil scheme. You will say, “I will invade a land of unwalled villages; I will attack a peaceful and unsuspecting people (Israel) —all of them living without walls and without gates and bars. I will plunder and loot and turn my hand against the resettled ruins and the people gathered from the nations, rich in livestock and goods, living at the center of the land.” (Ezekiel 38:10-12).
The reference to “rich in livestock and goods” suggests the lure of financial/economic gain or a “great spoil” (see also Ezekiel 38:13). This may partially represent a dominant control over vast natural and mineral reserves. Such a catch would grant tremendous economic advantage for Russia – such as in the natural gas market in Europe and beyond, already well exemplified by the control and reach of Russian gas giant Gazprom.
The outcome of this war will be that God will directly intervene and cause the anti-Israel alliance to fight each other. In addition, God will enforce their crushing defeat using the elements of nature and direct interventions to destroy that alliance: “…And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD.’” (Ezekiel 38:18-23).
6. The Rise of Islam
Caliphate In Europe: Sweden Cedes Control Of Muslim Areas
The perils of multiculturalism and open borders have reached critical mass in Sweden. There are Muslim enclaves where postal, fire and other essential services — even police officers themselves —require police protection.
A police report released last month identifies 55 of these "no-go zones" in Sweden. These zones are similar to others that have popped up in Europe in recent years. They formed as large Muslim populations emigrating to politically correct and tolerant European states refuse to assimilate and set up virtual states within a state where the authorities fear to tread.
Soeren Kern of the Hudson Institute has documented the proliferation of these zones. They are de facto Muslim micro-states under Shariah law that reject Western values, society and legal systems. In these districts non-Muslims are expected to conform to the dictates of fundamentalist Islam or face violent consequences.
"A more precise name for these zones," says Middle Eastern expert Daniel Pipes, "would be Dar al-Islam — the House of Islam or the place where Islam rules."
Muslim immigration to Sweden has been fostered by an open-border asylum policy. In the 1990s, the country welcomed 100,000 refugees fleeing the conflict in the Balkans.
Sweden has also been a haven for refugees from Iraq, and a recent estimate put the number of Iraqi refugees living there at 125,000. Since September 2012, asylum-seekers from the Arab world are emigrating to Sweden at the rate of some 1,250 per week, writes Kern.
According to a report in the Daily Caller, Swedish police officers in May pursued a suspect into one of these zones in the southern city of Landskrona. Their car was rammed, the officers forced out. They were quickly surrounded by roughly 50 "thugs" and called for backup while holding back the threatening mob with drawn weapons.
Other officers who responded were forced to stop a half mile away, just outside the zone. The police commander didn't press the issue fearing an escalation. Only with the help of a few residents whom the cornered police knew were the officers allowed to exit the restricted area.
Swedish police have not seriously tried to contest the zones since the 2013 Stockholm ghetto riots in which hundreds of cars and buildings were burned. The police report that there are now vehicle checkpoints operated by Muslim gangs on the borders of these zones. Instead of confrontation, Swedish authorities occasionally send special "dialogue officers" in a sort of Muslim outreach program.
A new curriculum at the Swedish Police Academy beginning next year will include course on cultural sensitivity designed to achieve "greater understanding of the intercultural perspective."
Needless to say, there will be no profiling in Sweden.
Nor will there be any profiling in the U.S., despite a not-too-dissimilar influx of Muslim immigrants to whom assimilation has its limits. In the Minneapolis neighborhood of Cedar-Riverside there is "Little Mogadishu," home to America's largest concentration of Somali immigrants. This neighborhood has become a bountiful recruiting ground for Islamic terrorists.
CBS News has reported that as many as 40 young men from Minnesota have joined Islamic fighters in Iraq and Syria. Among them was an American named Douglas MacArthur McCain, who died fighting for the Islamic State in Syria.
Fox affiliate KMSP-TV in Minneapolis-St. Paul has reported the case of Abdirahmaan Muhumed. Before going to Syria to fight and die for IS, he worked at Delta Global Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta Air Lines. His job was to clean aircraft, and he had a security clearance that gave him unfettered access to the tarmac and passenger jets.
There are no mini-caliphates in the U.S. quite yet. But perhaps we should keep the Swedish experience in mind as we remember the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
7. Increase in Knowledge/New Technologies
Millions Of Voiceprints Being Collected By Governments, Corporations
Over the telephone, in jail and online, a new digital bounty is being harvested: the human voice.
Businesses and governments around the world increasingly are turning to voice biometrics, or voiceprints, to pay pensions, collect taxes, track criminals and replace passwords.
"We sometimes call it the invisible biometric," said Mike Goldgof, an executive at Madrid-based AGNITiO, one of about 10 leading companies in the field.
Those companies have helped enter more than 65 million voiceprints into corporate and government databases, according to Associated Press interviews with dozens of industry representatives and records requests in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.
"There's a misconception that the technology we have today is only in the domain of the intelligence services, or the domain of 'Star Trek,'" said Paul Burmester, of London-based ValidSoft, a voice biometric vendor. "The technology is here today, well-proven and commonly available."
And in high demand.
Dan Miller, an analyst with Opus Research in San Francisco, estimates that the industry's revenue will roughly double from just under $400 million last year to between $730 million and $900 million next year.
Barclays PLC recently experimented with voiceprinting as an identification for its wealthiest clients. It was so successful that Barclays is rolling it out to the rest of its 12 million retail banking customers.
"The general feeling is that voice biometrics will be the de facto standard in the next two or three years," said Iain Hanlon, a Barclays executive.
Vendors say the timbre of a person's voice is unique in a way similar to the loops and whorls at the tips of someone's fingers.
Their technology measures the characteristics of a person's speech as air is expelled from the lungs, across the vocal folds of the larynx, up the pharynx, over the tongue, and out through the lips, nose, and teeth. Typical speaker recognition software compares those characteristics with data held on a server. If two voiceprints are similar enough, the system declares them a match.
The Vanguard Group Inc., a Pennsylvania-based mutual fund manager, is among the technology's many financial users. Tens of thousands of customers log in to their accounts by speaking the phrase: "At Vanguard, my voice is my password" into the phone.
"We've done a lot of testing, and looked at siblings, even twins," said executive John Buhl, whose voice was a bit hoarse during a telephone interview. "Even people with colds, like I have today, we looked at that."
The single largest implementation identified by the AP is in Turkey, where mobile phone company Turkcell has taken the voice biometric data of some 10 million customers using technology provided by market leader Nuance Communications Inc. But government agencies are catching up.
In the U.S., law enforcement officials use the technology to monitor inmates and track offenders who have been paroled.
In New Zealand, the Internal Revenue Department celebrated its 1 millionth voiceprint, leading the revenue minister to boast that his country had "the highest level of voice biometric enrollments per capita in the world."
In South Africa, roughly 7 million voiceprints have been collected by the country's Social Security Agency, in part to verify that those claiming pensions are still alive.
Activists worry that the popularity of voiceprinting has a downside.
"It's more mass surveillance," said Sadhbh McCarthy, an Irish privacy researcher. "The next thing you know, that will be given to border guards, and you'll need to speak into a microphone when you get back from vacation."
‘First Card Of Its Kind’ Uses Biometric Payment Technology
It’s about to get a lot more difficult for someone else to use your credit card.
MasterCard and the biometric payment company Zwipe announced plans Friday to develop a payment card that allows you to make purchases by waving it over a payment terminal while placing your unique thumbprint on the card’s biometric sensor.
But the two companies were quick to address privacy concerns: ”Cardholder fingerprint data is stored directly on the card, not in an external database,” a statement Friday read.
Ajay Bhalla, president of enterprise security solutions at MasterCard, spoke further to the issue.
“Our challenge is to ensure the technology offers robust security, simplicity of use and convenience for the customer. Zwipe’s first trial is a significant milestone and its results are very encouraging,” Bhalla said.
Once a customer activates their fingerprint, it’s then used as a PIN replacement, allowing them to make purchases of any amount. And because the card will tap into the power from payment terminals, it won’t require a battery, Gizmodo reported.
Slated for release in 2015, MasterCard and Zwipe said this is the first card of its kind to use biometric data together with contact-less application.
Founder and CEO of Zwipe Kim Humborstad said feedback from the product’s pilot phase has been “very positive.”
8. Christian Worldview/Issues
Red Cross Dismisses Volunteer For Biblical Views On Marriage
A pensioner has had his "opportunity to volunteer" withdrawn by the British Red Cross because he spoke out against the redefinition of marriage.
Earlier this year, Bryan Barkley, 71, held up signs outside Wakefield Cathedral reading "No Same Sex Marriage" and "No Redefinition of Marriage." He did so on the day that the first same-sex marriages took place in England.
But he has since been told that his views on marriage are "incompatible" with the "fundamental principles and values" of the Red Cross and that his opportunity to volunteer was being withdrawn "permanently and with immediate effect."
Barkley, who has volunteered with the Red Cross for nearly 20 years, worked in the international family tracing service, helping to locate and reunite families in the UK with relatives in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and had been involved in 84 cases.
He joined the Red Cross after retiring from his job as a civil engineer. Earlier in the summer he attended a Buckingham Palace garden party with the charity.
'Freedom of Expression Being Stifled'
Responding to his dismissal, Barkley asked:
"What have I done wrong? I passionately believe that the institution of marriage is between a man and a woman and is the cornerstone of our society. Why is it wrong to say so in public?
"Freedom of expression is being stifled in this country.
"I have nothing against homosexuals. But I don't believe Parliament was representing the views of the people when it changed the definition of marriage."
Barkley, who is being supported by the Coalition for Marriage, is appealing the Red Cross' decision.
"Discrimination Against a Common Viewpoint'
Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern, which is a member of the Coalition for Marriage, commented:
"The Red Cross does not seem to be able to extend its founding principles of impartiality and neutrality to Bryan Barkley. It has discriminated against him for holding common views on the natural family. Such discrimination will not serve the Red Cross well."
Faith Schools Could Face Closure If They Don't Promote Gay Rights
British faith schools are to be forced to teach equality and respect for gay rights or face closure, in a move backed by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan. The orders come following 40 snap inspections of faith schools, including Christian and Jewish schools, in the wake of the Trojan Horse plot in Birmingham in which radical Islamists were found to have infiltrated between four and eight schools to promote hard-line Salafist Islam.
Reports on the 40 snap inspections are due later this month. Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools, is expected to conclude from the reports that any school not preparing students for life in modern Britain, by which he means embracing alternative lifestyles and other cultures, will be subject to no-notice inspections, downgrades, and even possible closures.
They will face the same penalties if they are deemed to be in breach of the Equalities Act, which mandates respect for gay and transgender people, and of other religions and races, despite the Act containing an exemption for school curricula.
His stance has the backing of Morgan, who told the Sunday Times today that it is “crucial” that Jewish and Christian schools “actively promote” British values, including tolerance for other lifestyles and cultures. “These values — democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs — are not new. The requirement to ‘actively promote’ them is designed to reinforce the importance this government attaches to these values,” she said.
However, Ofsted inspectors have come under fire in recent weeks for being overzealous in their desire to root out any behaviour which doesn’t adhere to their standards, including by asking inappropriate questions during their snap inspections designed to probe whether pupils held tolerant views towards gays and members of other religions.
“They made us feel threatened about our religion. They asked ‘Do you have friends from other religions?’ They asked this many times until we answered what they wanted us to say,” one year eleven pupil at a Jewish orthodox school has reported.
Another pupil at the same school, a girl in year nine, said she was made to feel “uncomfortable and upset” after inspectors told her that a “woman might choose to live with another woman and a man could choose to live with a man, it’s up to them”.
Fears that the new guidelines designed to curb extremist Islam could have a stifling effect on Christian and Jewish schools appear to have been well-founded, as St Benedict's, a Roman Catholic school in Suffolk which achieved A level results in the top 1 percent nationally, has been told that it is not doing enough to conform to British values by not doing enough to tackle radicalisation.
In another example, Trinity Christian School in Reading, which recently underwent a routine inspection required in order for it to expand its age range, was told by inspectors that it did not meet the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of its young pupils. Yet just one year ago, before the new regulations came in, it was rated ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ for the ‘spiritual, moral, social and cultural development’ requirement, with last year’s report attesting that pupils were “well prepared for life in modern, multicultural, democratic British society through the teaching of the Christian principle to ‘love thy neighbour”.
Its failure to meet the new standards led to its application to expand being denied, and the school is now threatened with closure unless it actively promotes other faiths as part of its curriculum. Its governing board has written to Morgan asking for the new rules to be scrapped.
According to the Christian Institute, which is supporting the school, “The [report] made clear that the new standards, which engage the principles of the Equality Act, require changes to the school’s curriculum. This conflicts with section 89 of the Equality Act which excludes the content of the curriculum from equality law”.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, Morgan said “Schools should broaden horizons not close minds . . . and should encourage pupils to respect other people even if they do not agree with them. I should have thought this is a principle with which the vast majority of people would agree. All schools of whatever type have a duty to protect young people and to ensure they leave school fully prepared for life in modern Britain.”
Yet Trinity Christian School appears to adhere to this standard. On its website, under the heading ‘What is a Christian education?’ it states “God gave us our minds and we encourage our pupils to think for themselves and not accept uncritically everything they hear or read.”
Simon Calvert, the Christian Institute’s Deputy Director said “Christian schools like Trinity have a reputation for high standards and well-rounded pupils and they should have the freedom to continue doing what they’ve always done.
“Parents clearly want such schools to thrive, and the Department for Education should too.
“At the beginning of the summer we warned that if the Government brought in these regulations then they would be enforcing political correctness in schools. We also said there would be hostility to the religious, and ethical, viewpoints of religious schools.
“The DfE said it would never happen, but since then we’ve been finding case after case where that’s exactly what’s going on.”
New Poll Finds Evangelicals’ Favorite Heresies
Most American evangelicals hold views condemned as heretical by some of the most important councils of the early church.
A survey released today by LifeWay Research for Ligonier Ministries “reveals a significant level of theological confusion,” said Stephen Nichols, Ligonier’s chief academic officer. Many evangelicals do not have orthodox views about either God or humans, especially on questions of salvation and the Holy Spirit, he said.
Evangelicals did score high on several points. Nearly all believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead (96%), and that salvation is found through Jesus alone (92%). Strong majorities said that God is sovereign over all people (89%) and that the Bible is the Word of God (88%).
And in some cases the problem seems to be uncertainty rather than heresy. For example, only 6 percent of evangelicals think the Book of Mormon is a revelation from God, but an additional 18 percent aren’t sure and think it might be.
Jesus, Almost as Good as His Father?
Almost all evangelicals say they believe in the Trinity (96%) and that Jesus is fully human and fully divine (88%).
But nearly a quarter (22%) said God the Father is more divine than Jesus, and 9 percent weren’t sure. Further, 16 percent say Jesus was the first creature created by God, while 11 percent were unsure.
No doubt, phrases like “only begotten Son” (John 3:16) and “firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15) have led others in history to hold these views, too. In the fourth century, a priest from Libya named Arius (c.250–336) announced, “If the Father begat the Son, then he who was begotten had a beginning. … There was a time when the Son was not.” The idea, known as Arianism, gained wide appeal, even among clergy. But it did not go unopposed. Theologians Alexander and Athanasius of Alexandria, Egypt, argued that Arius denied Christ’s true divinity. Christ is not of similar substance to God, they explained, but of the same substance.
Believing the debate could split the Roman Empire, Emperor Constantine convened the first ecumenical church council in Nicaea in A.D. 325. The council, comprising over 300 bishops, rejected Arianism as heresy and maintained that Jesus shares the same eternal substance with the Father. Orthodoxy struggled to gain popular approval, however, and several heresies revolving around Jesus continued to spread. At the second ecumenical council in Constantinople in 381, church leaders reiterated their condemnation of Arianism and enlarged the Nicene Creed to describe Jesus as “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.”
In other words, the Son is not a created being, nor can he be less divine than the Father.
The Holy Spirit: May the Force Be with You?
But if evangelicals sometime misunderstand doctrines about Jesus, the third member of the Trinity has it much worse. More than half (51%) said the Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being. Seven percent weren’t sure, while only 42 percent affirmed that the Spirit is a person.
And 9 percent said the Holy Spirit is less divine than God the Father and Jesus. The same percentage answered “not sure.”
Like Arianism, confusion over the nature and identity of the Spirit dates to the early church. During the latter half of the fourth century, sects like Semi-Arians and Pneumatomachi (Greek for “Spirit fighters”) believed “in the Holy Spirit”—as the First Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) taught—but said the Spirit was of a different essence from the Father and the Son. Some said the Spirit was a creature, and others understood the Spirit to be a force or power, not a person of the Trinity.
At Constantinople, 150 bishops assembled to discuss these heresies, among other issues, and affirmed that “the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have a single Godhead and power and substance, a dignity deserving the same honor and a co-eternal sovereignty, in three most perfect hypostases, or three perfect persons.” Affirming the full divinity and personhood of the Holy Spirit, the church ruled out Semi-Arianism and Pneumatomachianism.
Salvation: Who Makes the First Move?
Human nature and salvation were other areas of confusion for respondents. Two out of three (68%) said that a person obtains peace with God by seeking God first, and then God responds with grace. A similar percentage (67%) said people have the ability to turn to God on the own initiative. Yet half (54%) also think salvation begins with God acting first. So which is it?
In the fifth century, a British monk named Pelagius reportedly argued that people can choose God by the strength of their own will. Adam’s sin, he taught, did not sabotage human freedom, so we still have the ability to choose and follow God by the strength of our will.
His school of thought, known as Pelagianism, was denounced at the Council of Carthage in 418 and later at the Council of Ephesus in 431. A variation, known as Semipelagianism, cropped up shortly thereafter, affirming original sin but teaching that humans take the initiative in salvation. The Council of Orange in 529 rejected Semipelagianism as heretical, maintaining that faith is a gift of God’s grace and does not originate in ourselves.
More than half of survey participants (55%) said people have to contribute to their own salvation. This, however, is a debated issue. Some Christians—such as Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and certain Protestants—believe humans cooperate with God’s grace in salvation. Others believe our efforts can contribute nothing, though a response to God’s grace is a necessary element of conversion. Nevertheless, historic Christian teaching in all branches maintains that whatever role humans play is ultimately inspired by the work of God’s Spirit. The Council of Orange put it this way:
If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).
A Historic Problem with Historical Solutions
Ligonier’s Nichols said that while the survey results are disappointing, they’re not unique to our time or culture, or irreversible. “The church in every age has faced theological confusion and heresy. In this survey we see a wake-up call to the church. We cannot assume the next generation—or even this present one—will catch an orthodox theology merely by being in the church,” he said.
John Stackhouse, professor of theology and culture at Regent College in Vancouver, agrees. “We continue to hold adult Christian education in low regard,” he said. “A sermon on Sunday morning and a conversational Bible study during the week won’t get the job done of informing and transforming people’s minds along the lines of orthodox Christian belief.”
The Lifeway survey also found that 9 in 10 evangelicals believe the local church does not have authority to say a person is not a Christian.
But Stackhouse said he’s not sure that stronger efforts by churches to instruct their congregants would raise the numbers. The survey, he noted, was of self-described evangelicals, and many of those with unorthodox beliefs may not be regular church attenders. “We continue to have a severe public relations problem regarding the term evangelical,” he said.
(Lifeway Research says the survey used was a balanced online panel in February and March. Of the survey’s initial 3,000 responses, this report looked at the 557 who came from Protestants who described themselves as evangelical—which would be about 19 percent of the American population.)
Timothy Larsen, professor of Christian thought at Wheaton College, is similarly cautious. He said the same survey questions should be asked over time in order to determine what sort of trend exists. “What matters is not what self-identified evangelicals know or believe, but whether they are being discipled over time into mature believers,” he said. “If the answers are not getting better with more Christian discipleship, that would be alarming.”
Larsen was encouraged, however, by several statistics. He said he would have guessed fewer than 96 percent would have affirmed belief in the Trinity. Howard Snyder—a former professor at United Theological Seminary, Asbury Seminary, and Tyndale Seminary—expressed similar optimism at the survey’s high number on that point, though he said the survey reveals the need for clearer teaching on what belief in the Trinity means. “Western Christianity, not just evangelicals, have viewed the Trinity as ‘a mathematical problem to be solved,’ not as a central revelation of the personal and tri-personal nature of God,” said Snyder. For him, the doctrine of the Trinity is not an abstract concept but a fundamental Christian truth that informs us about the God we worship, who we are as humans, and all creation.
Snyder isn't alone. Beth Felker Jones, professor of theology at Wheaton College, said, "Orthodoxy is life-giving, and God's people need access to it." Participants who gave unorthdox answers are not heretics, but probably lacked quality resources, she said. "Church leaders need to be able to teach the truth of the faith clearly and accurately, and we need to be able to show people why this matters for our lives."
For Nichols, one way forward in understanding God and ourselves is to consult the historic church. “While slightly over half see value in church history, [nearly] 70 percent have no place for creeds in their personal discipleship,” he said. For Nichols, the church’s knowledge of its past will determine its future. Knowing heresies and how they were overcome, he says, will help the church stay on the right track theologically.