Prophecy News Watch - Week In Review/Oct 20 - Oct 24
Keeping You Informed of World Events From A Biblical Perspective
Prophetic Trends & Headline News
1. Where is the United States in Bible Prophecy?
10 Things About The U.S. News Media That They Do Not Want You To Know
Do you trust the news media? Do you believe that the information that they are giving you is true and accurate? If you answered yes to either of those questions, that places you in a steadily shrinking minority.
Yes, on average Americans watch approximately 153 hours of television a month, but for their news they are increasingly turning to alternative sources of information such as this website. Big news channels such as CNN, MSNBC and Fox News are losing hordes of viewers, and they are desperately searching for answers.
Things have gotten so bad at CNN that they have been forced to lay off hundreds of workers. The mainstream media is slowly dying, but they will never admit it. They are still convinced that they can find some way to turn this around and regain the trust of the American people. But it simply is not going to happen. The following are 10 things about the U.S. news media that they do not want you to know...
#1 The level of trust in the U.S. news media is at an all-time low.
According to a Gallup survey that was conducted last month, only 40 percent of all Americans have a "great deal/fair amount" of confidence in the mass media. That ties the lowest level that Gallup has ever recorded.
#2 The news media is far more liberal than the American people.
We hear much about the supposed "conservative bias" of Fox News, but the truth is that overall the U.S. public considers the news media to be extremely liberal. Gallup found that 44 percent of all Americans consider the news media to be "too liberal", and only 19 percent of all Americans consider the news media to be "too conservative".
And it is a fact that "journalists" are far more likely to give money to Democrats than to Republicans. The following comes from an MSNBC report...
MSNBC.com identified 143 journalists who made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign, according to the public records of the Federal Election Commission. Most of the newsroom checkbooks leaned to the left: 125 journalists gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Only 16 gave to Republicans. Two gave to both parties.
#3 Fox News is not nearly as "conservative" as you think that it is.
Fox News may be constantly promoting a "Republican agenda", but that does not mean that it is conservative. This is especially true when it comes to social issues. Some of their anchors are extremely socially liberal, one of the top executives at Fox News is a big Hillary Clinton supporter, and 21st Century Fox/News Corp. has given the Clintons more than 3 million dollars since 1992.
#4 MSNBC is in a death spiral.
After years of lying to the American people, the credibility of MSNBC is absolutely shot. Pretty much all MSNBC does is endlessly spew establishment propaganda. One study found that MSNBC only engages in 15 percent "factual reporting" and the other 85 percent is "commentary/opinion".
So it should be no surprise that only 6 percent of Americans consider MSNBC to be their most trusted source for news...
NBC News and sister cable network MSNBC rank at the bottom of media outlets Americans trust most for news, with Fox News leading the way, according to a new poll from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.
In its fifth trust poll, 35 percent said they trusted Fox news more than any other outlet, followed by PBS at 14 percent, ABC at 11 percent, CNN at 10 percent, CBS at 9 percent, 6 percent for MSNBC and Comedy Central, and just 3 percent for NBC.
#5 Americans are increasingly turning to Facebook and other Internet sources for their news.
At least that is what one recent survey discovered. It found that an astounding 48 percent of Americans got news about government and politics from Facebook within the past week. The numbers for CNN and Fox News were just 44 percent and 39 percent respectively.
#6 Over the past year or so the big three cable news networks have lost an unprecedented number of viewers.
According to a Pew Research study, the number of prime time viewers for all three networks combined declined by 11 percent in 2013...
In 2013, the cable news audience, by nearly all measures, declined. The combined median prime-time viewership of the three major news channels—CNN, Fox News and MSNBC—dropped 11% to about 3 million, the smallest it has been since 2007. The Nielsen Media Research data show that the biggest decline came at MSNBC, which lost nearly a quarter (24%) of its prime-time audience. CNN, under new management, ended its fourth year in third place, with a 13% decline in prime time. Fox, while down 6%, still drew more viewers (1.75 million) than its two competitors combined (619,500 at MSNBC and 543,000 at CNN).
The decline was even more dramatic for the critical 25 to 54-year-old demographic. From November 2012 to November 2013, CNN's ratings for that demographic plunged by a whopping 59 percent, and MSNBC's ratings for that demographic plummeted by 52 percent.
#7 The big news networks have a love affair with the Obama administration.
Yes, there are reporters that get annoyed by the petty press rules that Obama makes them follow and by their lack of access to the president, but overall there is a tremendously incestuous relationship between the Obama administration and the mainstream news media.
For example, did you know that the president of CBS and the president of ABC both have brothers that have served as top officials in the Obama administration?
And needless to say, Barack Obama does not care for the alternative media much at all. The following is an excerpt from a WND article...
NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd says President Obama was making it “clear” at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner over the weekend how he feels about the rise of Internet news sites like Politico, Buzzfeed and … well, WND.
“He hates it.”
Appearing on “Meet the Press” Sunday morning following Saturday night’s media, politics and celebrity soiree, Todd explained the president’s disdain for independent online news sources was showing during his speech.
“It did seem … I thought his pot shots, joke-wise, and then the serious stuff about the Internet, the rise of the Internet media and social media and all that stuff – he hates it, OK? He hates this part of the media,” Todd said. “He really thinks that the, sort of, the buzzification – this isn’t just about Buzzfeed or Politico and all this stuff – he thinks that sort of coverage of political media has hurt political discourse. He hates it. And I think he was just trying to make that clear last night.”
#8 Newspaper ad revenues are about a third of what they were back in the year 2000.
Yes, you read that correctly. As Americans have discarded the print versions of their newspapers, newspaper ad revenues have experienced a decline that is absolutely unprecedented...
It took a half century for annual newspaper print ad revenue to gradually increase from $20 billion in 1950 (adjusted for inflation in 2013 dollars) to $65.8 billion in 2000, and then it took only 12 years to go from $65.8 billion in ad revenues back to less than $20 billion in 2012, before falling further to $17.3 billion last year.
#9 News magazines are also experiencing a dramatic multi-year decline in ad revenues.
Once upon a time, news magazines such as Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report were must reads.
But those days are long gone.
Ad revenues are way down across the entire industry, and any magazine that can keep their yearly losses to the single digits is applauded for it...
For a third year in a row, news magazines faced a difficult print advertising environment. Combined ad pages (considered a better measure than ad revenue) for the five magazines studied in this report were down 13% in 2013, following a decline of 12.5% in 2012, and about three times the rate of decline in 2011, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Again, hardest hit was The Week, which suffered a 20% drop in ad pages. The Atlantic fell 17%, The Economist 16%, and Time about 11%, while The New Yorker managed to keep its ad pages losses in single digits (7%).
#10 Even though the mainstream media is dying, they still have an overwhelmingly dominant position.
What would you say if I told you that there are just six enormous media conglomerates that combine to produce about 90 percent of all the media that Americans consume?
If you do not believe this, please see my previous article entitled "Who Owns The Media? The 6 Monolithic Corporations That Control Almost Everything We Watch, Hear And Read"?
This is why "the news" seems to be so similar no matter what channel you watch.
But we aren't just talking about control of the news media. These giant media corporations also own movie studios, newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, video game makers, music labels and even many of our favorite websites.
So we should be thankful that their media monopoly is finally crumbling.
Nobody should have that much power over what the American people see, hear and think about.
Americans See Waning Influence Of Religion On Society
Cultural influence by religion appears to be waning, at least according to 72% of respondents in a recent Pew research poll. Just look and listen, and the validity of that response becomes apparent. Changes are happening and happening fast as American society drifts further and further from the traditional values and mores predicated on religious convictions.
Interestingly, in that Pew poll, most of those who see the influence of religion diminishing view this trend negatively. They would like to see an increased involvement by religion in the affairs of American life, including politics. While our government seems intent upon widening the gap between religious conviction and political expression, apparently, a large segment of the American populace would like to see a reversal of that trend.
Since the 2010 midterm elections, the number of those who would like to see their ministers and religious institutions speak publicly about political issues and elections, has increased. This trend is seen specifically among those who identify as Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelical, and not surprisingly, less among those who do not claim a religious affiliation. However, when asked if a minister should endorse a particular candidate publicly, fewer respondents agreed, revealing just how much they would like religion to influence their vote.
Recently, in protest against the IRS restriction on churches endorsing candidates, and perhaps a call to action concerning the 2014 mid- term elections, 1,500 Christian pastors preached politically charged messages from their pulpits on two successive Sundays, October 6 and October 12, some even endorsing particular candidates based on their stance on cultural issues like same sex marriage and abortion. This event, known as, Pulpit Freedom Sunday, organized by the Alliance Defending Freedom seeks to force the US Supreme Court to rule on the controversial restriction on political expression from the pulpit. These 1,500 pastors are among those who seek to reverse the decline in Christianity’s ability to influence American culture.
One such pastor was Jim Garlow of Skyline Church in California, who openly endorsed, from his pulpit, the Democratic candidate in the upcoming election for Representative of California’s 52nd District, in opposition to the Republican opponent’s record on gay rights and abortion. Garlow hopes to send a message to the Republican Party that the Party’s Christian base will not support candidates who do not reflect traditional Christian values.
In times past, religion and particularly Christianity played an important role in” opposing culture and morally questionable values”, according to Reverend Mike Hurt, pastor of Parkway Church in Victoria, Texas, in a recent Victoria Advocate article. "The decline of religion is visible in our culture. We have a Supreme Court that refuses to define marriage, for instance, when in decades past, Christians' voices and the church's voice would have been much louder on the issue," he said.
However, Hurt refrains from, what he views, as politicizing the pulpit as he has seen the divisiveness of the tactic in his church. He believes that “people from the left and right can be followers of Jesus. Politics is the not the issue we as Christians are meant to address," he explained.
Hurt sees the current loss of cultural influence by Christianity as part of the “hatred” Jesus told His followers to expect. "I think scripturally we know things are going to get worse and many, many more people are going to turn away from religion," Hurt said. "While I think the church will continue to be successful in influencing our people, I'm not sure it will be successful in influencing our society."
Some see the desire for increased religious participation in society as a possible backlash against the current administration that is viewed, at least by many, as being less religious than previous ones. Another hypothesis of Professor Seth Downland, a religious history professor at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington, is nostalgia for days when society was not as “crass and Protestant Christian’s wielded moral control in society.”
Conversely, those who identify with religions other than Christianity may not share the same longing for a return to a society guided by Christian precepts, as evidenced by the Pew polling, but rather perceive the poll response as evidence that we are witnessing an “erosion of Christian privilege” in American society, states John Schlembach a practicing Buddhist, and tend to view the marriage of religion and politics in a negative light.
Regardless of a person’s religious affiliation, or lack thereof, it is hard to argue against American society’s need for a moral reset.
2. Israel - God's Timepiece
One-Fifth Of Incoming UN Security Council Has No Ties With Israel
The United Nations, in an annual exercise, voted in five countries last week to begin serving two-year stints on the Security Council, beginning on January 1. Although there was some good news for Israel in the results, most of it was bad.
The good news is that the Turkey of Israel-bashing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed in its bid for one of the five rotating, non-permanent seats, losing in balloting to Spain. The bad news is that of the five new members, two of them – Venezuela and Malaysia – do not even have diplomatic relations with Israel.
What that means is that when the members of the new council take their seats in January for a year in which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is likely to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a major agenda item on the council’s schedule, fully 20 percent of the 15-member body are so hostile to Israel as to refuse to have diplomatic relations. (Venezuela and Malaysia will be joining Chad – which still has another year to serve on the council – in this dubious distinction.) In 2011, when the Palestinians tried unsuccessfully to secure the nine votes on the council needed to gain membership as a UN state, only one of the 15 countries – Lebanon – did not have ties with Israel.
Even if the Palestinians do get nine votes, the US can – and probably will – use its veto to quell the type of resolution that the Palestinians are now considering: calling for a strict timetable for a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines if an agreement is not reached within a year. But not only does Washington not want to have to use this veto – which would seemingly pit it against the opinion of the world – but Israel does not want to put the US in the position of having to do so.
The Palestinians are likely to wait until the new Security Council to push through their measure, because the incoming class is considerably more favorably inclined to them than the outgoing one.
In addition to the five permanent, veto-wielding members of the Security Council – the US, China, Russia, France and Britain – the outgoing, 2014 council includes Lithuania, Chile, Jordan, Chad, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Korea, Argentina, Australia and Luxembourg.
The last five countries will be replaced in January, with Rwanda being replaced by Angola, South Korea by Malaysia, Argentina by Venezuela, Australia by New Zealand, and Luxembourg by Spain.
Israel is losing a good friend on the council with the exit of Australia.
Australia under Prime Minister Tony Abbott is outspokenly supportive of Israel; New Zealand is not. Still, if the US, Australia and the EU are opposed to a Palestinian resolution – and apply pressure on Wellington – it is difficult to imagine New Zealand bucking the pressure and voting with the non-aligned and Muslim blocs. But, as one source in Jerusalem said, if Israel could rely on Australia with its eyes closed, it can rely on New Zealand only with its eyes open.
Rwanda, one of Israel’s strongest friends in Africa, is being replaced by Angola, a country with which Israel has strong business ties – Israeli firms are active in developing Angola’s vast infrastructure – but not nearly as close as a relationship as it enjoys with Rwanda. In 2011, the refusal of Gabon to back the Palestinian move in the Security Council helped sink it, a role Angola could play in 2014 – but a role it is not guaranteed to want to play.
Spain is replacing Luxembourg as Europe’s non-permanent member of the council, and there is unlikely to be any change of voting patterns with this development. Both countries are considered to be tough toward Israel inside the EU, with Luxembourg even worse than Spain when looking at – and ranking – Israel’s friends and critics inside the EU.
Spain’s government has been more understanding toward Israel in the last couple of years, even though Spanish public opinion is overwhelmingly negative. In any event, Spain – like Luxembourg – is unlikely to vote independently on high-profile Israeli-Palestinian issues, but rather follow the EU’s position. Luxembourg, one source said, is a self-righteous, moralizing, lecturing little country. Spain, he said, is a self-righteous, moralizing, lecturing big country.
Another incoming member, Venezuela, is a stridently anti-Israeli and anti-US country that is aligned with Iran and Cuba. It will replace Argentina. Truth be told, Argentina could not be counted on to support Israel in Security Council votes, so it is unlikely this is a swing vote. But there is a difference: While Argentina might have gone along with a pro-Palestinian campaign in the council, Venezuela will likely lead it.
The biggest change in terms of losing one friendly country that would give Israel a fair hearing in exchange for a hostile country that will not, is the replacement of South Korea with Malaysia.
Whereas Israel could expect South Korea to abstain in significant votes on its issues in the Security Council – partly because it does not want to follow China’s lead, and partly because it keeps an eye on how Washington votes – Malaysia will surely vote against Israel, and, like Venezuela, likely lead the campaign in the council against it.
While the Security Council will in 2015 be more tilted toward the Palestinians, this does not mean that the game is over and the Palestinians have their nine votes to force a US veto in the bag. It does mean, however, that they are closer to that goal. And one of ramifications of this is that Israel will be more reliant next year for Washington to “save” it in the Security Council than it was in 2014.
And that, obviously, is something that is lost neither on Washington, nor on Jerusalem.
The Diplomatic Storm That Is Coming This January
Changes in the makeup of the UN Security Council have made Israel's diplomatic stance worse and strengthened the Palestinians' position on the world stage.
During the weekend, five new members were elected to enter the UN Security Council on January 1, 2015, as non-permanent members for two years, while five current non-permanent members will evacuate their seats. Spain and New Zealand will replace Australia and Luxembourg. But the biggest surprise was Turkey losing a seat to Spain 60-132, in a blow to recently-elected-president Erdogan.
Israeli diplomats said that following the changes in the council's makeup it is likely Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will be quick to try his luck in asking the UN Security Council to grant Palestine full membership in the United Nations. So far, the Palestinians managed to obtain non-member observer state status at the UN General Assembly, but recognition from the Security Council will make them an official member of the UN.
Unfortunately, an American veto for such a move is not something Israel can take for granted anymore. Diplomatic officials said Israel is taking into bracing for a bad scenario in which the Democrats lose their Senate majority in the midterm elections in two weeks time and will then be free of obligations, which might lead them to get back at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for all of the public clashes with the Democratic administration at the White House.
"A diplomatic storm is coming in January," a diplomatic source said.
Should the Palestinians petition for a full membership at the United Nations, this is how the member states are likely to vote:
The permanent states:
United States - will object.
Russia - will likely support, in order to embarrass the Americans and force them to veto.
China - will likely support, in order to embarrass the Americans and force them to veto.
Britain - has yet to decide, but after its parliament voted to recognize a Palestinian state in a symbolic move, it is likely the Brits will remain on the fence until the very last moment.
France - has yet to decide.
The non-permanent states:
Chile - leaning towards support.
Lithuania - leaning towards objecting.
Jordan - will support the decision.
Chad - will support the decision.
Nigeria - on the fence.
The new non-permanent states:
New Zealand - yet to decide
Spain - yet to decide
Angola - yet to decide.
Malaysia - will support the decision.
Venezuela - will support the decision.
Israel's hope: American veto
The council has 15 members, five of them permanent and ten of them are non-permanent. In order to pass a resolution, a nine vote majority is required. Even if the resolution passes, each of the permanent members has the right to veto the decision.
So far, Israel has had two lines of defense in the Security Council: The lack of majority for decisions favorable to the Palestinians and, more importantly, a guaranteed American veto. Before the change, the Palestinians seemingly only had seven states that supported their plight to join as a full member, so the American veto was not as crucial.
Now, the situation has changed. Following the election of the five new states, Israel has lost two friendly states that supported it - Australia and Rwanda. Instead, the new council makeup now includes Venezuela and Malaysia, two problematic states that could be counted automatically as those who would vote in favor of the Palestinian request.
Turkey's loss, however, brought a sigh of relief to Israel, as the situation would've been far worse had Ankara gotten a seat - not only would the Palestinians have the 9-state majority they needed, they'd have 10 'yes' votes guaranteed.
Israel's last line of defense is now the American veto, and it is counting on it. But the Americans would do anything to avoid having to use their veto power, and it's likely they will put pressure on other Security Council members not to support a unilateral Palestinian move.
The Americans will probably try to present alternatives such as the revival of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The Europeans, on their part, will try to reach a compromise - not to accept the Palestinians as a member state, but rather set parameters for a permanent agreement that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Such parameters would include Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, land swaps and declaring East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.
Israeli diplomats are saying that Abbas now has tailwind that will likely push him to go for broke and make good on his threats: Not only turn to the UN Security Council to set a deadline for Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders by November 2016, but also turn to the International Criminals Court at the Hague.
In addition, these changes at the Security Council will not only play a part in the vote on accepting the Palestinians into the UN, but in other resolutions concerning Israel, like condemning settlement construction or military operations, calling for UN inquiry committees on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and more.
6. The Rise of Islam
The Black Flag Of ISIS Signifies The Military Tactics Of Muhammad
The Black Flag of ISIS is not new. It has been seen in the West before. The strategy of those who fight under that flag is not new, either. The strategy is world domination under the rule of Islam.
The general Muslim strategy followed by ISIS is explained clearly by Raymond Ibrahim. He writes, “…The spread of Islam by arms is a religious duty upon Muslims in general. Jihad must continue to be done until the whole world is under the rule of Islam…”
What about the military tactics used by ISIS? Are they new to Islam? Will coalition bombing be enough to force ISIS to surrender? At this time, the answer to this question looks to be no. As many ground troops have seen (and some Air Force generals admit), no one has ever surrendered to an airplane.
In her article on the Black Flag, Nina Porzucki writes,
“The flag is often called the Black Standard or the Black Banner. ‘The black banner of Islam as a symbol goes back to the 8th century, when the Second Dynasty of Islam came to power with black banners,’ says Jonathan Bloom, a professor of Islamic Art at Boston College.”
“The white writing that you see at the top of the flag is the first half of an Islamic phrase called the shahada, or declaration of faith, which reads: “There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.’”
“Another appropriated symbol on the flag is the white circle at its center, which contains the second part of the shahada: "Muhammad is the Messenger of God … The two Arabic phrases, the black color of the flag and even the ancient looking font of the Arabic all work to evoke an image of the historical Islamic caliphate, the massive state that ISIS claims to have resurrected.
The fact that the Black Flag of ISIS makes us look back to the eighth century for their inspiration also means we should look back as well to understand ISIS’s military tactics.
Michael Van Ginkel, in his article “Muslim Military Strategies in the Times of Muhammad,” writes,
“Originally organized in small war bands, the early followers of Muhammad relied on guerrilla tactics to overcome their opposition.”
“Muhammad, however, soon managed to mobilize tribes on a far grander scale, diverging from caravan raids in favor of large scale, organized warfare. Combined with Muhammad's strategies and tactics, the new Muslim military arm would conquer great swathes of land even after its founder's death.”
Add to that,
“Muhammad utilized an array of different tactics to overcome his enemy with minimal losses. By manipulating his opposition through deception, unconventional tactics and diplomacy, Muhammad used war as a means to a strategic end. In addition, he began to evoke psychological warfare through mass killings in order to suppress those who would resist his incursions.”
From what we see reported in the media, the military leaders of ISIS are following the same tactics used by Muhammad more than a thousand years ago. It is uncertain who commands all the ISIS military forces, but whoever he is, that man has knowledge of Muhammad’s way of waging war.
Writing for BreitbartNews, Frances Martel states,
“…Omar al-Shishani, a Chechen Georgian…may be the military leader of all of ISIS…With the exception of the reclusive al-Baghdadi, ISIS has established an organization mostly bereft of high-profile leaders, making it more difficult for those fighting jihad to target leaders and destroy the group from the head down.”
In many ways, Omar al-Shishani’s charismatic leadership of ISIS mirrors that of Mohammad’s leadership. The way he has been fighting the ground war for ISIS is likewise similar to the tactics used by Mohammad.
Tactical advances and withdrawals, controlling large areas of territory, using the media to broadcast terror and fear, the use of oil as a source of revenue and soliciting ISIS recruits from Muslim communities in the West have so far made ISIS unstoppable.
Can the West develop tactics to defeat ISIS and its commanders like Omar al-Shishani? That remains to be seen.
The single most important mistake Western military commanders make at this time is that they mirror the enemy. ISIS is just like us, they believe. All the ISIS jihadists want is to drive SUVs, have a house in a Saudi Arabian suburb and maybe enjoy a pulled pork sandwich once in a while. We can reason with them.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Black Flag should tell us that we will be engaged in a religious war with ISIS. Their inspiration and tactics go back more than a thousand years.
Furthermore, behind ISIS is Islam. This means every Muslim living in the West is a potential ISIS recruit capable of jihad against the West. The beliefs progressives have about moderate or radical Muslims are misguided.
Militarily speaking, there were no moderate or radical Nazis. There were just Nazis. Likewise, there are no radical or moderate Muslims. There are just Muslims. In other words, a moderate Muslim is a nonobservant radical Muslim.
Many progressive leaders in the West do not understand the threat posed by Islam because they cannot get their collective heads around the idea that religion is still a force in the world. Unlike secular progressives, ISIS troops do believe in a god and are willing to die for that god.
War is a hellish business. ISIS is at war with the West. If we want victory in that war, then we must open the doors of a hellish business. This means killing the enemy and destroying their resources until they have had enough and surrender. If you don’t believe it, ask those who fought at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.
The knights who fought and died at Lepanto will tell you the counterinsurgency tactics developed by General Petraeus for the conflict in Iraq may not work in a war with ISIS. To be blunt, until we kill the enemy so there is no longer anyone left to fight, there will not be victory. Then, there will be no need for a “population-centric” strategy.
For those who remain unclear what a victory by the West over ISIS and Islam may look like, we suggest that Istanbul will again be called Constantinople and a Baptist church will be built in Mecca. Defeat in that war will look like Dearborn, Michigan.
ISIS is just one strand that is the Gordian knot of Islam. A soon-to-be nuclear Iran, oil from Saudi Arabia, and Russian support for Syria are other strands of the knot. Alexander the Great also confronted a knot like this and unraveled it with one decisive blow.
What The "Two State Solution" Has To Do With The Rise Of Islamic Extremism: Exactly Nothing
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's claim that the lack of a "two-state solution" has fueled the rise of the Islamic State [IS] terrorist group reinforces how clueless the U.S. Administration is about what is happening in the Arab and Islamic countries.
Speaking at a State Department ceremony marking the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Kerry said that the resumption of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians was vital in the fight against Islamic extremism, including Islamic State.
"There wasn't a leader I met with in the region who didn't raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation," Kerry said. "People need to understand the connection of that. And it has something to do with the humiliation and denial and absence of dignity."
The U.S. State Department later denied that Kerry had made the statement attributed to him.
Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters that Kerry's comments were distorted for political gains; she pointed a finger at Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.
"What [Kerry] said was that during his travels to build a coalition against the Islamic State, he was told that should the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be resolved, the Middle East would be a better place," Harf explained.
The Islamic State is one of the by-products of the "Arab Spring," which began as a secular revolt against Arab dictatorships and degenerated into anarchy, lawlessness, terrorism and massacres that have claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs and Muslims.
The "Arab Spring" did not erupt as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather, it was the natural and inevitable outcome of decades of tyranny and corruption in the Arab world.
The Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans and Yemenis who removed their dictators from power did not do so because of the lack of a "two-state solution."
Nor did the Arabs revolt because of the failure of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. This is the last thing these Arabs had in mind when they took to the streets to protest against decades of dictatorship and bad government.
It is this "Arab Spring," and not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt. And it is the same "Arab Spring" that saw the emergence of Islamic terror groups such as the Al-Nusra Front, the Islamic Front, the Army of Mujahedeen, Jund al-Sham and, most recently, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
The rise of the Islamic State is a direct result of the anarchy and extremism that have been sweeping the Arab and Islamic countries over the past few years.
The thousands of Muslims who are volunteering to join Islamic State are not doing so because they are frustrated with the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. They are not knocking on the Islamic State's doors because they are disappointed that the two-state solution has not materialized.
Kerry is anyway naïve to think that the jihadis believe in something called a "two-state" solution. The only solution the Islamic State believes in is the one that would lead to the establishment of a radical Sunni Islamic Caliphate across the Middle East where the surviving non-Muslims who are not massacred would be subject to sharia law.
Not only is the Islamic State opposed to the "two-state solution," it is also opposed to the existence of both Israel and a Palestinian state. Under the new Islamic Caliphate, there is no room for Israel or Palestine or any of the Arab and Islamic countries.
Had Kerry studied the goals and ideology of the Islamic State, he would have discovered that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not even at the top of the group's list of priorities.
In fact, the "liberation of Bait al-Maqdis" [Jerusalem] is ranked sixth among Islamic State's objectives.
The group's first goal envisages stirring chaos in the Arab and Islamic countries.
Second, the group will move on to what it calls "management of savagery" in these countries.
Third, Islamic State will embark on the process of establishing an Islamic Caliphate.
Fourth, it will proceed with "liberating neighboring countries and expanding the size of the Islamic Caliphate.
Fifth, the group will start the process of "liberating the Islamic countries," including Bait al-Maqdis.
Obviously, Kerry must have missed the speech delivered by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last July.
Al-Baghdadi did not talk about the "two-state solution." Nor did he call on Muslims to join his group because of the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Instead, al-Baghdadi told his followers that, "Allah likes us to kill his enemies, and make jihad for his sake. O Allah, give Islam victory over the disbelief and the disbelievers, and give victory to the mujahideen, in the East of this earth and its West."
What Kerry perhaps does not know is that the Islamic State is not interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at all. The terrorist group did not even bother to comment on the last military confrontation between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The failure of the Islamic State to express solidarity with the Palestinians or Hamas during the war drew strong condemnations from some of the Arab world's leading columnists.
"What is shocking and strange is that the Islamic State and other terrorist groups that claim to speak on behalf of Islam did not make a single move as Israeli planes were shelling civilians inside the Gaza Strip," remarked Egyptian columnist Jamil al-Afifi. "Nor did any of their wise men come out to condemn the ruthless killings (in the Gaza Strip).
Kerry did not reveal the identity of the "leaders" who told him that the absence of peace between Israel and the Palestinians was a "cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation" in the Arab and Islamic countries.
What is clear, however, is that Sunni scholars do not seem to share Kerry's assessment.
Last month, over 120 Sunni scholars issued an open letter denouncing the Islamic State and its religious arguments. "You have misinterpreted Islam into a religion of harshness, brutality, torture and murder," the letter said. "This is a great wrong and an offence to Islam, to Muslims and to the entire world."
Needless to say, the scholars did not mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a cause for the rise of Islamic State.
That is because unlike Kerry, the Sunni scholars know that the Islamic State is completely unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And unlike Kerry, the Muslim scholars fully understand that Islamic State has more to do with Islam and terrorism than with any other conflict.
World Army To Fight Terrorists?
Who is going to stop ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups? The United States and its allies are starting to have a go at it, but are limited by the desire to minimize western troop casualties and successfully evade the political booby traps along the way. Which is good news for terrorists: no major war can be fought and won using air-force and other remote type offensives alone. Some troops will have to walk the ground and use gunfire and artillery inside trenches, jungles, on building rooftops and in streets and corridors. Many of them will return home in body bags, or be left disabled and psychologically traumatized in the wake of it all.
The idea of a world anti-terrorism army that will spread out the casualties between many nations therefore sounds more palatable. It would minimize the numbers of individual country deaths, reducing the risks of political fallout, and centralize or spread out the financial costs of war. According to influential globalist Henry Kissinger who is also said to be a Bilderberger kingpin, this is just the solution the world needs to overcome the terrorist threat.
In a recent report carried in PrisonPlanet.com, Bill O’Reilly stated on ABC News that he had interviewed Kissinger and reportedly found that Kissinger heartily endorses the idea of a world mercenary army under the guise of fighting terrorism. According to the report, Kissinger is said to be a staunch globalist, intent on pushing for the dissolution of sovereign nations in favor of his vision of a New World Order: “Even at the age of 91, he’s still churning out books, openly calling for global government – see ‘World Order’ his latest globalist ‘diatribe’ in which he bemoans the fact that nation states still exist, suggesting that they are the root cause of modern upheaval in the world."
In the report, Kissinger is quoted stating that: “The clash between the international economy and the political institutions that ostensibly govern it also weakens the sense of common purpose necessary for world order. The economic system has become global, while the political structure of the world remains based on the nation-state. Economic globalization, in its essence, ignores national frontiers. Foreign policy affirms them, even as it seeks to reconcile conflicting national aims or ideals of world order.”
Perhaps part of Kissinger’s frustration is that a world army already exists in the form of a UN peace-keeping force; however it can hardly be described as a fully fledged global force. Its scope is generally limited to operating within strictly limited parameters and timeframes. Hardly what is required to stop bloodthirsty and well armed and trained terrorists who are conditioned to fight using different and advanced forms of warfare, especially on the ground.
Thomas Axworthy, writing for the star.com summarizes this issue as follows: “Rarely has the case for the use of force been more compelling than the need to stop, and then roll back the recent advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). ISIS is not only a geo-strategic threat, but a group that openly advocates genocide. The case is so compelling for an international coalition to combat ISIS that Canada should press the United States to obtain a Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against the Islamic State extremists. Canada should certainly be part of the anti-ISIS coalition, and that coalition, in turn, should have the sanction of international law…I cannot conceive of the UN Security Council turning down a motion to authorize military action against ISIS. But strangely, such a motion has not yet been brought to the Security Council. Instead, another ad hoc coalition of the “willing” has been assembled outside of the UN framework. Why not use the Security Council to give such a coalition the legitimacy of international law?”
The coalition against ISIS is currently constituted by about 40 nations, led by the United States. It isn’t entirely strange though that the United Nations framework is not coordinating the effort. However, taking into account the rate at which diseases such as Ebola are spreading, chances are that sooner rather than later, a global force will be required to enforce quarantine and general order. This will help to ensure that spread of disease and control of humanitarian relief efforts can be conducted safely and securely. This need has already been clearly evidenced in Ebola-ravaged countries such as Liberia and Sierra Leone, and the spread of Ebola to Western nations.
The Bible wanrs us that in the end times, no one will be able to escape from the control of the antichrist. This level of control could only be achieved if there was a centralized and co-ordinated law enforcement organization, capable of bypassing countries with corrupt police and inefficient monitoring and control mechanisms.
And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name (Revelation 13:16,17).
In other words, a one-world army: not just for terrorists, but to physically control everybody on planet earth so that economic dependence can be fully enforced.
7. Increase in Knowledge/New Technologies
Nine Real Technologies That Will Soon Be Inside You
Given the frenzy of interest following the announcement of the Apple Watch, you might think wearables will be the next really important shift in technology.
Wearables will have their moment in the sun, but they're simply a transition technology.
Technology will move from existing outside our bodies to residing inside us.
That's the next big frontier.
Here are nine signs that implantable tech is here now, growing rapidly, and that it will be part of your life (and your body) in the near future.
1. Implantable smartphones
Sure, we're virtual connected to our phones 24/7 now, but what if we were actually connected to our phones?
That's already starting to happen.
Last year, for instance, artist Anthony Antonellis had an RFID chip embedded in his arm that could store and transfer art to his handheld smartphone.
Researchers are experimenting with embedded sensors that turn human bone into living speakers.
Other scientists are working on eye implants that let an image be captured with a blink and transmitted to any local storage (such as that arm-borne RFID chip).
But what takes the place of the screen if the phone is inside you? Techs at Autodesk are experimenting with a system that can display images through artificial skin.
Or the images may appear in your eye implants.
2. Healing chips
Right now, patients are using cyber-implants that tie directly to smartphone apps to monitor and treat diseases.
A new bionic pancreas being tested at America’s Boston University, for instance, has a tiny sensor on an implantable needle that talks directly to a smartphone app to monitor blood-sugar levels for diabetics.
Scientists in London are developing swallowable capsule-sized circuits that monitor fat levels in obese patients and generate genetic material that makes them feel "full".
It has potential as an alternative to current surgery or other invasive ways to handle gross obesity.
Dozens of other medical issues from heart murmurs to anxiety have implant/phone initiatives under way.
3. Cyber pills that talk to your doctor
Implantables won’t just communicate with your phone; they’ll chat up your doctor, too.
In a project named Proteus, after the eensy body-navigating vessel in the film Fantastic Voyage, a British research team is developing cyber-pills with microprocessors in them that can text doctors directly from inside your body.
The pills can share (literally) inside info to help doctors know if you are taking your medication properly and if it is having the desired effect.
4. Bill Gates' implantable birth control
The Gates Foundation is supporting an MIT project to create an implantable female compu-contraceptive controlled by an external remote control.
The tiny chip generates small amounts of contraceptive hormone from within the woman's body for up to 16 years.
Implantation is no more invasive than a tattoo.
And, "The ability to turn the device on and off provides a certain convenience factor for those who are planning their family.", said Dr Robert Farra of MIT.
Gives losing the remote a whole new meaning.
5. Smart tattoos
Tattoos are hip and seemingly ubiquitous, so why not smart, digital tattoos that not only look cool, but can also perform useful tasks, like unlocking your car or entering mobile phone codes with a finger-point?
Researchers at the University of Illinois have crafted an implantable skin mesh of computer fibers thinner than a human hair that can monitor your body's inner workings from the surface.
A company called Dangerous Things has an NFC chip that can be embedded in a finger through a tattoo-like process, letting you unlock things or enter codes simply by pointing.
A Texas research group has developed microparticles that can be injected just under the skin, like tattoo ink, and can track body processes.
All of these are much wiser choices than the name of a soon-to-be-ex.
6. Brain-computer interface
Having the human brain linked directly to computers is the dream (or nightmare) of sci-fi.
But now, a team at Brown University called BrainGate is at the forefront of the real-world movement to link human brains directly to computers for a host of uses.
As the BrainGate website says, "using a baby aspirin-sized array of electrodes implanted into the brain, early research from the BrainGate team has shown that the neural signals can be ‘decoded' by a computer in real-time and used to operate external devices."
Chip maker Intel predicts practical computer-brain interfaces by 2020.
Intel scientist Dean Pomerleau said in a recent article, "Eventually people may be willing to be more committed to brain implants."
"Imagine being able to surf the Web with the power of your thoughts."
7. Meltable bio-batteries
One of the challenges for implantable tech has been how to get power to devices tethered inside or floating around in human bodies.
You can't plug them in.
You can't easily take them out to replace a battery.
A team at Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is working on biodegradable batteries.
They generate power inside the body, transfer it wirelessly where needed, and then simply melt away.
Another project is looking at how to use the body’s own glucose to generate power for implantables.
Think the potato battery of grammar school science, but smaller and much more advanced.
8. Smart dust
Perhaps the most startling of current implantable innovations is smart dust, arrays of full computers with antennas, each much smaller than a grain of sand, that can organize themselves inside the body into as-needed networks to power a whole range of complex internal processes.
Imagine swarms of these nano-devices, called motes, attacking early cancer or bringing pain relief to a wound or even storing critical personal information in a manner that is deeply encrypted and hard to hack.
With smart dust, doctors will be able to act inside your body without opening you up, and information could be stored inside you, deeply encrypted, until you unlocked it from your very personal nano network.
9. The verified self
Implantables hammer against social norms.
They raise privacy issues and even point to a larger potential dystopia.
This technology could be used to ID every single human being, for example.
Already, the US military has serious programs afoot to equip soldiers with implanted RFID chips, so keeping track of troops becomes automatic and worldwide.
Many social critics believe the expansion of this kind of ID is inevitable.
Some see it as a positive: improved crime fighting, universal secure elections, a positive revolution in medical information and response, and never a lost child again.
Others see the perfect Orwellian society: a Big Brother who, knowing all and seeing all, can control all.
And some see the first big, fatal step toward the Singularity, that moment when humanity turns its future over to software.
Apple Pay May Revolutionize Payment Processing
Paying in stores or within apps has never been easier. Gone are the days of searching for your wallet. Now payments happen with a single touch. Apple Pay will change how you pay with breakthrough contactless payment technology and unique security features built right into the devices you have with you every day. So you can use your iPhone to pay in a simple, secure, and private way.
Apple’s mobile payment system, Apple Pay, as announced by Apple last week made its debut Monday at a launch with iOS 8.1, allowing iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners to make contactless payments via NFC with Touch ID for authentication. The mobile pay service is aimed at turning your iPhone into your wallet and is designed to work on the company’s newest iPhones, which contain a chip that allows payments at a special terminal in retail outlets. There is no longer any need to use a credit card, as the new iPhone can be used in the checkout line to pay for food, clothing, other goods, and even in taxis, as has been reportedly happening in New York.
The service has hundreds of banks on board, and is “hugely important” says Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett. It puts Apple in the middle of a wide range of consumer transactions, underscoring Apple’s value as a brand and giving people a powerful new reason to buy iPhones, iPads and other gadgets.
Mobile pay is not new, and rival tech companies and the banking industry have worked on such systems for years. But Apple is launching its new service at a time when consumers are increasingly worried about the security of traditional credit and debit cards. U.S. merchants are also facing new mandates to switch to safer chip-based cards or other payment systems.
Gartner tech analyst Van Baker said that consumers were going to have to learn a new way to pay that would level the playing field for new technology.
Assuming there are no system breakdowns or security flaws, Apple will get the benefit of pioneering a mobile payment system that has widespread brand recognition and acceptance from consumers, retailers and banks. MasterCard Inc. executive James Anderson said that was crucial to its success, but did not expect Apple would hold the market by itself. The payment processor plans to work with other digital systems as well.
Apple is distributing logos to merchants that accept Apple Pay, similar to symbols for Visa and MasterCard. In addition, Apple Pay can be used to make online purchases within apps, without having to enter card numbers, billing addresses and other information. It will be up to merchants to enable this with app updates.
However, consumers are advised not to leave wallets or purses behind quite yet. Most retail stores that accept contactless payments should be able to use Apple Pay, as well as Google Wallet, Softcard and other services that are based on a wireless-chip technology called near-field communication, or NFC.
Contactless payments are still new, and despite the few dozen retail chains like Macy’s, McDonald’s, Subway and Whole Foods that have pledged support for Apple Pay, it is possible that smaller merchants are not likely to have the necessary equipment installed right away. It is also likely however that with the debut of Apple Pay more stores and merchants will be prompted to turn on the functionality of their hardware.
Apple Pay will need to work in conjunction with credit cards that work with Apple Pay, which is already backed by major card issuers such as American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citibank and Wells Fargo. Apple has also reported that more than 500 banks are participating, representing about 83 per cent of the card volume in the U.S.
Although security measures are never foolproof, the Apple Pay system is safer than many current pay methods. For one thing, a substitute account number is assigned to the individual who is setting up Apple Pay. Merchants get that instead of the real card number. In addition, a verification code is created for each transaction, based in part on unique keys on the phone. Even if hackers get that substitute number, they would not be able to generate the verification code without having possession of the phone, so fraudulent transactions would be declined.
Other services are starting to use one-time verification codes, too, but not all of them use the substitute account number. By using that substitute, a credit card issuer could cancel the number just for the phone, should you lose it, and there would be no need to replace the entire card.
The most noticeable difference from other contactless systems will be the use of the fingerprint ID sensor to authorize transactions. Right now, it is easy to pull out a plastic credit card, so any mobile-payment system will have to be just as easy. That cannot be said when you have to spend time typing in a passcode at the checkout line. The fingerprint ID will bypass that with one tap.
Apple says it would not be privy to personal transactions, which would be handled directly by the credit card processors.
Though Apple Pay is officially supported in the U.S. for the time being, the mobile payment solution is designed to work with existing payment terminals around the world. Once banks begin to work with Apple and offer support for Apple Pay, the expansion of the program into international countries should be relatively easy. International iPhone owners can also take advantage of Apple Pay if they have a supported U.S.-based credit card, as documented in Whirlpool forums and pointed out by Australian Beau Giles. Users in the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere have also successfully used Apple Pay.
To use Apple Pay in countries outside the U.S., Giles notes that iPhone owners need to change the region for their phones from their home countries to the United States. This enables Apple Pay, which will accept participating credit cards issued by U.S. banks. However, as Giles points out, the situation is not ideal for natives of countries outside of the U.S., as using a U.S. credit card for these purchases will incur currency conversion fees that can increase costs significantly. But for U.S. users traveling abroad or for international users who have U.S. credit cards and simply want to try out the service, Apple Pay does indeed function internationally.
Could An Implanted Tattoo Be The Future Of Wearable Technology?
Asked to speculate on the future of wearable tech, a US design company drafted ‘Project Underskin’ – a digital tattoo that would be implanted in your hand and allow you to trade data with a handshake, monitor your vital signs or even unlock a door, according to Fast Company.
NewDealDesign , who drafted the concept, are known for their work on the popular Fitbit activity trackers. "When we started working on it, everyone was a little squeamish about implanting something. But there's a lot of cultural precinct," says Jaeha Yoo, Director of Experience Design. "Obviously tattoos, piercings - people are implanting birth control. This stuff is going on now. It’s not a huge step forward to implant something like Underskin."
The team envisage the device running off the body’s own electro-chemical energy, staying on permanently and allowing the wearer to unlock their door by touching the handle, or activating a credit card by holding it.
Because the implanted tattoo would also recognise movement, the designers believe it would be able to distinguish between different social modes of interaction that are expressed via the hand. "If you high five someone that’s very different than hand-holding, or a closed fist, or an open palm," explains Mr Yoo. "The hand is where a lot of self expression happens."
As for your health stats, the information would be kept private via encoding and limited display. Project Underskin envisions a small, public display on the side of the hand but a larger screen that sits in the palm, to be consulted just by the user.
Although there are no plans in place to develop the implant, NewDealDesign say Underskin could become a reality within five years, given the current state of electronics research.
Rise Of The Machines - Will Computers With AI Become A Threat To Humanity?
How smart are today's computers?
They can tackle increasingly complex tasks with an almost human-like intelligence. Microsoft has developed an Xbox game console that can assess a player's mood by analyzing his or her facial expressions, and in 2011, IBM's Watson supercomputer won Jeopardy — a quiz show that often requires contestants to interpret humorous plays on words. These developments have brought us closer to the holy grail of computer science: artificial intelligence, or a machine that's capable of thinking for itself, rather than just respond to commands.
But what happens if computers achieve "superintelligence" — massively outperforming humans not just in science and math but in artistic creativity and even social skills? Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, believes we could be sleepwalking into a future in which computers are no longer obedient tools but a dominant species with no interest in the survival of the human race. "Once unsafe superintelligence is developed," Bostrom warned, "we can't put it back in the bottle."
When will AI become a reality?
There's a 50 percent chance that we'll create a computer with human-level intelligence by 2050 and a 90 percent chance we will do so by 2075, according to a survey of AI experts carried out by Bostrom. The key to AI could be the human brain: If a machine can emulate the brain's neural networks, it might be capable of its own sentient thought. With that in mind, tech giants like Google are trying to develop their own "brains" — stacks of coordinated servers running highly advanced software.
Meanwhile, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has invested heavily in Vicarious, a San Francisco–based company that aims to replicate the neocortex, the part of the brain that governs vision and language and does math. Translate the neocortex into computer code, and "you have a computer that thinks like a person," said Vicarious co-founder Scott Phoenix. "Except it doesn't have to eat or sleep."
Why is that a threat?
No one knows what will happen when computers become smarter than their creators. Computer power has doubled every 18 months since 1956, and some AI experts believe that in the next century, computers will become smart enough to understand their own designs and improve upon them exponentially. The resulting intelligence gap between machines and people, Bostrom said, would be akin to the one between humans and insects. Computer superintelligence could be a boon for the human race, curing diseases like cancer and AIDS, solving problems that overwhelm humans, and performing work that would create new wealth and provide more leisure time. But superintelligence could also be a curse.
What could go wrong?
Computers are designed to solve problems as efficiently as possible. The difficulty occurs when imperfect humans are factored into their equations. "Suppose we have an AI whose only goal is to make as many paper clips as possible," Bostrom said. That thinking machine might rationally decide that wiping out humanity will help it achieve that goal — because humans are the only ones who could switch the machine off, thereby jeopardizing its paper-clip-making mission.
In a hyperconnected world, superintelligent computers would have many ways to kill humans. They could knock out the internet-connected electricity grid, poison the water supply, cause havoc at nuclear power plants, or seize command of the military's remote-controlled drone aircraft or nuclear missiles. Inventor Elon Musk recently warned that "we need to be super careful with AI,'' calling it "potentially more dangerous than nukes.''
Is that bleak future inevitable?
Many computer scientists do not think so, and question whether AI is truly achievable. We're a long way from understanding the processes of our own incredibly complex brains — including the nature of consciousness itself — let alone applying that knowledge to produce a sentient, self-aware machine.
And though today's most powerful computers can use sophisticated algorithms to win chess games and quiz shows, we're still far short of creating machines with a full set of human skills — ones that could "write poetry and have a conception of right and wrong," said Ramez Naam, a lecturer at the Silicon Valley–based Singularity University. That being said, technology is advancing at lightning speed, and some machines are already capable of making radical and spontaneous self-improvements.
What safeguards are in place?
Not many thus far. Google, for one, has created an AI ethics review board that supposedly will ensure that new technologies are developed safely. Some computer scientists are calling for the machines to come pre-programmed with ethical guidelines — though developers then would face thorny decisions over what behavior is and isn't "moral."
The fundamental problem, said Danny Hillis, a pioneering supercomputer designer, is that tech firms are designing ever-more intelligent computers without fully understanding — or even giving much thought to — the implications of their inventions. "We're at that point analogous to when single-celled organisms were turning into multicelled organisms," he said. "We're amoeba, and we can't figure out what the hell this thing is that we're creating."
When robots learn to lie
In 2009, Swiss researchers carried out a robotic experiment that produced some unexpected results. Hundreds of robots were placed in arenas and programmed to look for a "food source," in this case a light-colored ring. The robots were able to communicate with one another and were instructed to direct their fellow machines to the food by emitting a blue light.
But as the experiment went on, researchers noticed that the machines were evolving to become more secretive and deceitful: When they found food, the robots stopped shining their lights and instead began hoarding the resources — even though nothing in their original programming commanded them to do so. The implication is that the machines learned "self-preservation," said Louis Del Monte, author of The Artificial Intelligence Revolution. "Whether or not they're conscious is a moot point."
8. Christian Worldview/Issues
Is Bible Prophecy Relevant?
If there is a subject in the Bible that is arguably the most debated, divisive, and distorted….it is the subject of Bible prophecy. Under the umbrella of end times teaching, there are primary issues like the Rapture, the Great Tribulation, Israel, the church, and the Second Coming that shape our outlook on the future and even how we now live. We will get to work on some of those issues in future articles. What we will look at now is the elephant in the room. It’s a growing trend to negate Bible prophecy in our day. Believers need to answer this question with clarity and boldness:
Is Bible prophecy relevant?
Prophecy is woven all through the word of God. There is prophecy that identifies certain people, places, and events. What we want to look at together is Bible prophecy as it pertains to end-time events. In writing this article, I must admit some sadness because it’s one thing to debate pertinent issues such as….the likelihood of a particular end-time event coming to fruition in our lifetime, the chronology of the Rapture, or what Mystery Babylon mentioned in Revelation is referring to. It is a given that believers will study and conjecture about these issues right up to the time Jesus returns.
What I find sad and frankly unconscionable, is that we are living in a day when an increasing number of Christians are viewing Bible prophecy as irrelevant or as a distraction.
Some believers may come right out and articulate that Bible prophecy is a distraction. With others, the negating of eschatology may be more subtle. How is end-time theology negated by believers? There are many ways, but here are a few that are very apparent these days:
1. Viewing our fellow Christians who study prophecy...as somewhat off point.
2. Viewing Bible prophecy as a distraction from the here and now.
3. Believing that the study and teaching of Bible prophecy will distract people from the work at hand…including the great commission.
4. Considering the study of the end times and prophecy too difficult or too divisive.
5. The most apparent way many churches, fellowships, and individuals are attempting to negate Bible prophecy is by simply ignoring it.
In neglecting the subject all together, Bible prophecy has become foreign to many churches and Christians. If it is addressed or taught, it is relegated to being a back burner issue. It is met with the same enthusiasm one might expect for a month long sermon series on the countless genealogies in the books of 1st or 2nd Chronicles!
(Truthful) prophetic material is exclusive to Christianity and Judaism because for prophecy to be 100% truthful it has to be 100% accurate and to be 100% accurate, it must be 100% fulfilled to the letter. Our God has a perfect record because everything His prophets have prophesied about has come to pass just as it was written in the Bible. I could write volumes about the spot on accuracy of the word of God, but suffice it to say that the Lord of heaven knows everything and His wisdom is unsearchable.
Isaiah 46:9: “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”
God in His divine wisdom has declared the end from the beginning. Far from being a wild shot in the dark, Bible prophecy is declaring future events with pinpoint accuracy as only the Lord can do. Although there are many things we won’t know until we get to heaven, much relevant information has been given to us for our instruction and edification in this life.
There is a significant portion of Scripture that is prophetic. In the book, Ready with an Answer, John Ankerbergand John Weldon have done the digging into the Bible and written about just how prevalent the subject of prophecy is in the Word of God. Here are some facts worth considering:
1. Approximately 27% of the Bible consists of prophetic material.
2. Out of the 66 books in the Bible, 62 contain prophetic material.
3. In the OT & NT, more than 1,800 verses address the Second Coming of Jesus.
If nearly a third of the Bible deals with prophecy, it becomes evident that prophecy is much more than a periphery issue. When we search the Scriptures for references to end-time events, we will quickly see the subject appears frequently. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Joel, Zachariah, and several other books all reference the last days to some degree. Daniel chapter 9 is worth noting because contained therein is a detailed summary of the final seven years preceding the return of Jesus.
God’s prophet writes about the same scenario that Jesus addresses in Matt. 24 and John writes about in Revelation 13. Daniel wrote about the rise of antichrist many centuries before Jesus and John the apostle mention him. This is just another stunning realization of the accuracy of the inspired, inerrant, and infallible word of God.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke each have a whole chapter focused exclusively on the last days. 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 2 Timothy, and 2 Peter all contain numerous direct references to the last days and Second Coming.
Revelation is the last book in the canon of Scripture and one of the most loved. In Revelation we find a book that lays out in great detail the end-time scenario. Look at how chapter one starts with pointing directly to Jesus and His emphasis on the importance of this book in the life of a believer:
Revelation 1:1-3: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servantsthe things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servantJohn, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”
That is an amazing gift to every believer from God. He gives us His written word for instruction and direction. When He made the things “that must soon take place” known to John, it was for us, His servants, to read, hear, and keep what is written. In Revelation 22, Jesus tells us, “I am coming soon” three times. When we look through the Bible, when we read verses in their context and when we find eschatological prophecy woven throughout its books, chapters, and pages…it makes the point all the more clear:
Bible prophecy isn’t a diversion…it’s enormously relevant today.
I want to address some disturbing trends. I understand there have been some erroneous teaching over the years in the realm of last days events. I know there have been dates set, claims made, and sensational speculation about future events. That is a shame because just as unbiblical teaching departs from the centrality of what God intended for us to know, so does the knee jerk reaction of ignoring Bible prophecy altogether.
It seemed like it wasn’t too long ago when pastors, teachers, and evangelists preached on the subject of Bible prophecy often. What good days they were...when end times events were taught with clarity, boldness, and relevance. Good men of God used hermeneutical skill to interpret Bible prophecy and view it in its proper context.
They knew Bible prophecy reflected the centrality and preeminence of Jesus. They knew Bible prophecy pointed us toward the fulfilling the Great Commission, and they knew that Bible prophecy was not simply just pointing to an ancient moment in time, but much of it has its ultimate and complete fulfillment in the future.
I have to tell you that I’m a bit weary of the soft sell social gospel that is being peddled these days. Teaching on judgment, repentance, atonement, and the Lord’s imminent return have been largely replaced by sermonetes on life enhancement.
When were we, as believers ever mandated to soft sell the gospel and package it in a politically correct box so that we won’t offend anyone’s sensibilities?
That was not the message of the early church. For them, loving His appearing was the blessed hope…not the great distraction. If we have become so wrapped up in our programs and “making church an experience they’ll return for”…it becomes apparent that a growing number of believers aren’t looking for the Lord’s return.
Instead, some are trying to make this life the apex of self fulfillment. That outlook is diametrically opposed to the heart that loves His appearing, is a bold witness and is watching and waiting.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-4: “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers,you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.”
Please understand...I believe grace, forgiveness, mercy, and the love of Jesus is paramount. But friends, it can only be paramount to a person who comes to the realization that: He is a wretched sinner before a holy God. The Bible says that godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation. Why would a person repent if they don’t know that Jesus is coming soon and that He is not coming back as their Savior, but as their judge?
Why would someone repent when the only message they hear many teachers in church or on television say is this one?:
“You are a good person, Jesus loves you, and God is going to make your life blessed and wonderful.”
Yes, Jesus loves them and His mercy extends to all sinners right up until the moment they die or Jesus returns. Then it will be too late and they will face judgment.
The core message for 2,000 years has been that we are sinners, we need a Savior, and repent…the kingdom is at hand. The prevailing core message these days has changed from Jesus saves to...accept Jesus to enhance your lifestyle and circumstances.
We need real men and women who will teach the whole word of God and not pick and choose what is not offensive. Paul said that we are an aroma of life to those who are being saved and we are an aroma of death to those who are perishing. Moreover, we need Christian men and women who will be a bold witness for Jesus in light of the reality of His soon return. We cannot peddle the Word of God. As Christians we must warn people that indeed, Jesus is coming soon.
The prevailing winds of apathy and distain for Bible prophecy among even some evangelicals is sad. Recently, I was listening to a 10 part CD series on the book of Revelation while traveling. A nationally known pastor was teaching through the book; why it’s important, how it affirms holy living, and our love for spreading the gospel.
He tells about a sad occasion when he went out to lunch with two other pastor friends. One of the pastors told a joke about the end times and the other one found it funny.
“Hey...did you know Jesus is coming again...and again and again and again?”
I’m not here to cast stones or blame because none of us are perfect. I do want to look at the heart of the issue. What was meant as humor and sarcasm shows a complete and unbelievable disregard and disrespect for Bible prophecy and for the Lord’s soon return. Needless to say, the pastor who was teaching the series on Revelation was floored by what he heard, and stunned that fellow pastors had become so apathetic about a central reality in the Bible.
100,000 Atheists Become 'Unbaptized'
The National Secular Society offers certificates to atheists who want to revoke their baptism. It estimates that 100,000 people have downloaded such documents from their website over the past five years.
Unbaptism.org offers a similar service. Their certificate reads: "[Name] having at one time willingly submitted to the Rite of Christian Baptism and subsequently having realized my beliefs were in error, hereby publicly revoke any and all implications of that Rite and renounce the Church that carried it out. In the name of human reason, I reject all that Church's Creeds and all other such Superstitions. I wish to be excluded henceforth from claims of church membership numbers based on past baptismal statistics."
Last month, an atheist group calling itself Sunday Assembly launched new services in 35 cities across the world. Started in 2013 by two British comedians, it already holds meetings in 11 U.S. cities and is launching new services in 16 others. The leader of one such service outside Cleveland, Ohio told an interviewer that he had recently been "debaptized" and has the certificate to prove it.
Two questions follow. One: can a person genuinely become a Christian and then choose to become an atheist? The man in Cleveland said he had been "saved twice" but that it "obviously didn't take." What would Scripture say to him?
John told his readers, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13). Note the present tense: you "have" eternal life. If you have genuinely asked Jesus to forgive your sins and become your Lord, in that moment you became the child of God. Paul adds: "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). Note the tense: a Christian "is" a new creation.
My sons cannot "unbecome" my sons. They cannot reverse their birth and biology. In the same way, those who are "born again" as God's children will always be his children (John 3:3). Those who claim they were Christians but now reject Christ and claim atheism were never genuinely converted. They have been deceived twice.
Two: why is atheism becoming more prominent? In many ways, this phenomenon is part of a larger trend away from all authorities and institutions. Only 34 percent of Americans trust the medical system; 30 percent trust the Supreme Court; 29 percent trust the presidency; 18 percent trust television news; seven percent trust Congress. We live in a day when our opinion is our authority. A person can state "I don't believe in God" as though his rejection affects God's reality. Imagine saying "I don't believe in England" and assuming that settles the question, despite all who claim to have been there.
How should Christians respond? One way is to be "rebaptized" every day—not physically, but spiritually. Every person I baptized as a pastor made the public statement, "Jesus is my Lord." Have you made him your Lord today? Will a skeptical culture see the difference he makes in your life?
The Church And Pornography
A new survey from Proven Men Ministries claims that 77 percent of Christian men between the ages of 18 and 30 look at pornography at least monthly.
Joel Hesch, founder of the biblically based Proven Men Ministries recently commissioned a survey that was conducted by the Barna Group and that sampled 388 self-identified Christian adult men. The shocking findings reveal that most Christian men are looking at pornography on a regular basis and that there is a high rate of use and addiction. Then there are also the inevitable negative effects on the marriage institution as many men are driven to infidelity, an increasing phenomenon which is also affecting men in Christian leadership on the global stage.
Unfortunately, pornography is another one of those issues that is rarely tackled comprehensively and systematically in the church, either on the pulpit or through other forums. "It's abundantly clear that pornography is one of the biggest unaddressed problems in the church," Hesch said.
The statistics for Christian men between 18 and 30 years old are particularly striking:
• 77 percent look at pornography at least monthly.
• 36 percent view pornography on a daily basis.
• 32 percent admit being addicted to pornography (and another 12 percent think they may be).
The statistics for middle-aged Christian men (ages 31 to 49) are no less disturbing:
• 77 percent looked at pornography while at work in the past three months.
• 64 percent view pornography at least monthly.
• 18 percent admit being addicted to pornography (and another 8 percent think they may be).
For married men:
• 55 percent look at pornography at least monthly.
• 35 percent had an extramarital sexual affair while married.
Hesch explained that the purpose of the survey is not to point fingers, but to get a better grasp on the scope of the problem in light of ready access to pornography in this Internet era. "It's abundantly clear that pornography is one of the biggest unaddressed problems in the church," Hesch said.
In fact, these alarming statistics are not limited to those who nominally consider themselves Christian. Those who identify themselves as born-again Christians have similar struggles with pornography and affairs:
• 95 percent admit that they have viewed pornography.
• 54 percent look at pornography at least once a month.
• 44 percent viewed pornography at work in the last 90 days.
• 31 percent had a sexual affair while married.
• 25 percent erase Internet browsing history to conceal pornography use.
• 18 percent admit being addicted to pornography (and another 9 percent think they may be).
What these statistics reveal is that there is a deep underlying problem that the Christian men surveyed were willing to “to talk about" in an anonymous survey. It is a cry for help that reveals the depth and magnitude of the problem, and the church needs to urgently step forward with solutions. It is clear the church can no longer bury its head in the sand over the issue.
The attack on the men is great, because of many reasons but mostly because of their spiritual office as the head and priest of the home. This makes men the gatekeepers of their homes and their role is to protect the nuclear family unit and preserve it in holiness, and yet many are succumbing to the vice and allowing access to unclean spirits into their homes as their gates fall.
Statistics from the 2014 annual report from Covenant Eyes, advocates strongly for internet accountability and filtering. Covenant Eyes defines Internet Accountability as a report of personal Internet activities, designed not to spy on someone but to start a conversation, helping everyone in the home make wiser choices about Internet use. The need to put these accountability systems in place is evidenced by the following statistics on the website:
• Currently, the number of searches for pornography since the start of 2014 is over 1,738,426,000.
• 1 in 5 mobile searches are for pornography.
• Men are more than 543% more likely to look at porn than women.
Because porn use thrives in secrecy, many church members are trapped in a cycle of sin and shame, thinking that they are the only ones facing this temptation.
It is evident that the pornography industry is one of the most lethal satanic attacks on the spiritual life of individuals and the church as a whole, because it begins to destroy the Christian family from its foundations, and gradually works its way into the larger body of Christ. What matters is what sacrifices the church is willing to make to fight this war at this point, because it is one that has become a fight to the death.
Radical changes come by taking radical measures:
Matthew 6:22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
Matthew 5:29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
1 Corinthians 3:17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
Pastors have no choice but to create accountable communities in their churches. Because many of its victims keep it secret, it is a vice that is a more silent, stealthier and more deadly killer than cancer, and it is a vice that is spreading quickly inside the church.
How can pastors and church leaders help the men and women in their congregations who are struggling with these addictions?
Proven Men has put together a powerful resource for churches to help Christian men regain their dignity and sexual integrity. After breaking free from his own 20-year sexual addiction, Hesch formed Proven Men Ministries and has devoted the past 15 years to helping men around the world find freedom from pornography or sexual addiction through a biblically based system he created, known as the Proven Path for Sexual Integrity.
The system includes a 12-week course of study, a leadership guide and a book on sexual integrity—all available on Amazon. There are also free resources available at www.provenmen.org.
"We are now taking the Proven Path directly to churches with the goal of helping 1 million Christian men experience freedom and victory from pornography and sexual addiction," Hesch explains.
Hesch puts out this call for action to pastors and all Christian men: "If these statistics break your heart like they break mine, then it's time to join with me and other Proven Men around the nation in taking a stand to reverse the tide and reclaim sexual integrity for yourself and for each man in your church or community. Together we can change the world one man, one family, and one church at a time."
Covenant Eyes also have many resources on their website, www.covenanteyse.com, including a guide on how church leaders can combat pornography and work towards a porn-free church. Through this information, leaders can learn how porn harms the church, what the Bible says about accountability, and what the church can do about it.
There is also a guide for parents on how to protect their family online and how to have targeted conversations about the sites their children visit and the search terms they use, and for adults, it means the temptation to click on inappropriate and pornographic links is reduced.
It should be the prayer for every believer as they pray and intercede for the body of Christ in these perilous times, to ensure that these and other excellent resources are shared. Through networking, the church of Christ can stand together and fight. This fight begins with the individual. If pornography is not being addressed in your church, lobby for it to be done, and share resources and exercises that are working for other churches.
Job 3-1-3 I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid? For what portion of God is there from above? and what inheritance of the Almighty from on high? Is not destruction to the wicked? and a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity?
City Threatens To Arrest Ministers Who Refuse To Perform Same-Sex Weddings
Two Christian ministers who own an Idaho wedding chapel were told they had to either perform same-sex weddings or face jail time and up to $1,000 in fines, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court.
Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Donald and Evelyn Knapp, two ordained ministers who own the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in Coeur d’Alene.
“Right now they are at risk of being prosecuted,” attorney Jeremy Tedesco told me. “The threat of enforcement is more than just credible.”
The wedding chapel is registered as a “religious corporation” limited to performing “one-man-one-woman marriages as defined by the Holy Bible.”
However, the chapel is also a for-profit business and city officials said that means the owners must comply with the local nondiscrimination ordinance.
That ordinance, passed in 2013, prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and it applies to housing, employment and public accommodation.
City Attorney Warren Wilson told The Spokesman-Review in May that the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel likely would be required to follow the ordinance.
“I would think that the Hitching Post would probably be considered a place of public accommodation that would be subject to the ordinance,” he said.
He also told television station KXLY that any wedding chapel that turns away a gay couple would in theory be a violation of the law “and you’re looking at a potential misdemeanor citation.”
Wilson confirmed to Knapp in a telephone conversation that even ordained ministers would be required to perform same-sex weddings, the lawsuit alleges.
“Wilson also responded that Mr. Knapp was not exempt from the ordinance because the Hitching Post was a business and not a church,” the lawsuit states.
And if he refused to perform the ceremonies, Wilson reportedly told the minister that he could be fined up to $1,000 and serve up to 180 days in jail.
Now all of that was a moot point because until last week gay marriage was not legal in Idaho.
The Ninth Circuit issued an order on May 13 allowing same-sex marriages to commence in Idaho on Oct. 15. Two days later – the folks at the Hitching Post received a telephone call.
A man had called to inquire about a same-sex wedding ceremony. The Hitching Post declined – putting them in violation of the law.
City officials did not respond to my requests for an interview nor did they respond to requests from local news outlets.
“The government should not force ordained ministers to act contrary to their faith under threat of jail time and criminal fines,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jeremy Tedesco said. “The city is on seriously flawed legal ground, and our lawsuit intends to ensure that this couple’s freedom to adhere to their own faith as pastors is protected just as the First Amendment intended.”
Alliance Defending Freedom also filed a temporary restraining order to stop the city from enforcing the ordinance.
“The Knapps are in fear that if they exercise their First Amendment rights they will be cited, prosecuted and sent to jail,” Tedesco told me.
It’s hard to believe this could happen in the United States. But as the lawsuit states, the couple is in a “constant state of fear that they may have to go to jail, pay substantial fines, or both, resulting in them losing the business that God has called them to operate and which they have faithfully operated for 25 years.”
The lawsuit comes the same week that the city of Houston issued subpoenas demanding that five Christian pastors turn over sermons dealing with homosexuality and gender identity.
What in heaven’s name is happening to our country, folks? I was under the assumption that churches and pastors would not be impacted by same-sex marriage.
“The other side insisted this would never happen – that pastors would not have to perform same-sex marriages,” Tedesco told me. “The reality is – it’s already happening.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told me it’s “open season on Americans who refuse to bow to the government’s redefinition of marriage.”
“Americans are witnesses to the reality that redefining marriage is less about the marriage altar and more about fundamentally altering the freedoms of the other 98 percent of Americans,” Perkins said.
Why should evangelical Christian ministers be forced to perform and celebrate any marriage that conflicts with their beliefs?
“This is the brave new world of government sanctioned same-sex unions – where Americans are forced to celebrate these unions regardless of their religious beliefs,” Perkins told me.
As I write in my new book, “God Less America,” we are living in a day when those who support traditional marriage are coming under fierce attack.
The incidents in Houston and now in Coeur d’Alene are the just the latest examples of a disturbing trend in the culture war – direct attacks on clergy.
“Government officials are making clear they will use their government power to punish those who oppose the advances of homosexual activists,” Perkins said.
I’m afraid Mr. Perkins is absolutely right.
Whenever a city passes a nondiscrimination ordinance it seems like it’s open season on Christians.
Christian Mother Of Five Death Sentence For Blasphemy Upheld By Pakistani Court
The death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman and mother of five children, was upheld by the Lahore High Court in Pakistan on Thursday. Bibi has been convicted of blasphemy for drinking from the same bowl of water as Muslims and making derogatory comments about the prophet Muhammad.
"The case against Asia Bibi is a great example of how Christians and other religious minorities are abused in Pakistan by fundamentalists wielding the controversial blasphemy laws. The blasphemy laws were originally written to protect against religious intolerance in Pakistan, but the law has warped into a tool used by extremists and others to settle personal scores and persecute Pakistan's vulnerable religious minorities," said International Christian Concern's Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark.
"Sadly, the vast majority of blasphemy accusations brought against Christians and others are false. Unfortunately, pressure from Islamic radical groups and general discrimination against Christians in Pakistan has transformed trial courts and now appeals courts into little more than rubber stamps for blasphemy accusations brought against Christians, regardless of the evidence brought to bear in the case."
Bibi was sentenced in 2010 following an incident in 2009 where she was harvesting berries with a group of Muslim women in Sheikhupura. The Muslim women accused her of drinking from the same water bowl as them, which was considered unclean as she is a Christian. Following an argument, the women went to a local cleric and told him that Bibi had blasphemed against Islam.
BBC News noted that the sentencing sparked global condemnation from several human rights groups, who criticized Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws. ICC and other critics of these laws say that they are often used to settle personal scores and unfairly target minorities, especially Christians.
Bibi's appeal hearing was initially scheduled to take place on March 17, but was delayed and rescheduled, before finally taking place on Thursday. The Christian mother's lawyers have said that they will take the case to the country's Supreme Court.
Earlier this year, Christian mother Meriam Ibrahim was spared the death penalty and allowed to go free by the court in Sudan, after having initially been found guilty of refusing to identify as a Muslim and for marrying her Christian husband. Ibrahim's freedom was won in part thanks to a huge international campaign that petitioned for her release, which included pressure on Sudan from several American politicians, such as Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
'God's Not Dead' Writers Spotlight Religious Liberty In Upcoming Movie
"God's Not Dead" writers take on the controversial topic of religious liberty again in the upcoming movie "Do You Believe?" because they want Christians to know that they are in the middle of a culture war.
Pure Flix Entertainment writer Cary Solomon said he and fellow writer Chuck Konzelman decided to feature a religious speech lawsuit in "Do You Believe?" because Christians have been in the shadows for far too long.
"When we did 'God's Not Dead' and if you look at that and you look at this and anything else we do, I'm tired, I'm sure Christians are tired. I'm just tired of [how] we are always put in the shadows, we are persecuted down. In other words, we are put in these positions where we're not allowed to speak, we're not allowed to do this, we're not allowed to do that and ... we just felt that it's time to fire the shot heard round the world," said Solomon.
"God's Not Dead" took the world by surprise with its success at the box office. Pure Flix CEO and Managing Partner Michael Scott said the film earned $9 million in its first week in theaters and another $8 to 9 million in its second week.
The Arizona film studio hopes its next film "Do You Believe?" will have similar results.
"Do You Believe?" – due out spring 2015 – follows a group of characters struggling with various problems. The characters' stories intersect in a way that reveals the "redemptive power of the cross."
Rough cuts from the film show a particular scene where EMT worker Bobby Wilson, played by Liam Matthews, shares the story of the cross to a dying construction worker. Bobby's actions spark a legal case and put his livelihood in jeopardy.
"This character, the way it develops is that his union backs away from him because they don't want to be faced with the financial burden of the suit if it's successful and the city backs away from him. And then he's faced with a choice of if he apologizes for having done it and promises to never ever do it again, the consequences will [go] away and he won't do that," said Konzelman.
Solomon said the scene, much like the "God's Not Dead" movie, is a wake-up call for Christians. "You can't get along-go along. Those days are over in America. We're in a culture war now and now is a matter of you have to stand for what you believe and you cannot compromise with the Devil. If you compromise with the Devil, you are going to lose."
Though Bobby ultimately makes the right choice, the writers show his life deteriorate as a result of standing his ground. This decision leads to an honest portrayal of what it means to be an outspoken Christian.
Actor Ted McGinley said this is the kind of candor that draws him to Pure Flix. "It's a pleasure to do business with people who are so honest and upfront," he said. "The Love Boat" actor has starred in several Pure Flix films and will play a pastor re-examining his faith in "Do You Believe?"
McGinley praised the faith-based company for walking the walk and talking the talk in its movies and said more Christian films must be brutally honest in the way they address nagging cultural questions.
"In this genre ... you have to present the most honest, difficult questions to answer. You have to represent what ... the people on the outside don't embrace or don't understand and you have to do it brutally honest and that's, I think, the challenge is to allow the writers to create very difficult moments where it's almost hard to watch," said McGinley. "You can't be afraid to show the other side and to ask the difficult questions."
Filming for "Do You Believe?" began mid-September in Michigan. The cast includes Cybill Shepard, Lee Majors, and UFC Champion Mavrick Von Haug. Pure Flix hopes to finish filming by the end of the month.