Prophecy News Watch - Week In Review/Oct 13- Oct 17
Keeping You Informed of World Events From A Biblical Perspective
Prophetic Trends & Headline News
1. Where is the United States in Bible Prophecy?
Shemitah's First 2 Weeks Bring Ominous Signs
Blood moons, plummeting stock markets and a growing Ebola pandemic dominated the headlines this past week.
If that’s not enough cause for concern, there’s an army of Islamic terrorists bearing down on the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
None of this should come as a surprise to those who have read “The Mystery of the Shemitah” by Jonathan Cahn, a messianic rabbi and Bible teacher from New Jersey who also authored the best-selling Christian book “The Harbinger” in 2012.
Without a doubt, the Shemitah year, which kicked off on Sept. 25, has begun with a blast of bad news.
Cahn predicted in “The Harbinger” that America would come under judgment in the wake of the 9/11 attacks because, rather than being humbled mystery_shemitahand repentant, the nation doubled down on abortions, pornography and the removal of prayer and all things Christian from the public square.
In the “Shemitah,” he reveals that judgment comes to a backslidden nation in accordance with a seven-year cycle that correlates with the Hebrew calendar. In Leviticus 25, God commanded the Israelites to observe a Sabbath year once every seven years in which they would let their land lie fallow, while in Deuteronomy 15 He instructed them to cancel debts in line with this same seven-year timetable.
Cahn explains that the seven-year cycles can manifest as blessings as long as a nation follows the will of God. But for those that started out under God only to later stray, the Shemitah can bring a series of ever harsher judgments, usually striking in the financial realm and spilling over into the political and military arenas.
“In The Mystery of the Shemitah – I show how the Shemitah has caused financial and economic collapse throughout modern times,” Cahn told WND. “And the phenomenon has been intensifying – with the last two Shemitahs manifesting the phenomenon with uncanny precision.”
The two previous Shemitah years occurred in 2000-2001 and 2007-2008.
Before the ultimate judgment comes, God often sends a series of warnings or “shakings” meant to get the attention of believers and nonbelievers alike.
The Shemitah year was also called the year of “release” in biblical times because the land was allowed to rest and the financial accounts were wiped clean once every seven years.
Only two weeks into the new Shemitah year of 2014-2015, the U.S. stock market has already shed hundreds of points.
Theresa Yarosh, founder and president of Macro Wealth Management LLC in Paramus, New Jersey, said she has reviewed the accuracy of the patterns laid out in Cahn’s book, “The Mystery of the Shemitah.”
“It is accurate based on underlying market patterns and economics,” Yarosh said. “I traced the pattern all the way back to 1916. Jonathan had the question as to why some of the (seven-year) cycles are more powerful than others and that’s because you have to apply the debt cycle and some (Shemitahs) have more debt to be worked out than others.”
She said the financial meltdowns of 2001 and 2008, as bad as they were, did not fully correct the debt bubbles that had built up.
“Now we’re in another one. Where his book is strong is in the (Shemitah’s) need for a full release of the debts. The last two recessions did not correct that,” Yarosh said.
Similarities to 1930s Depression
Yarosh sees a debt cycle peak being built up similar to that of 1933. The initial market crash occurred in 1929 and then came the deleveraging of the 1930s with a secondary downturn in the market in 1938.
That’s when the financial reckoning was completed.
“The period we’re in now is almost like the Roaring Twenties with a build up of enormous margin debt,” Yarosh said. “My advice would be to balance out things that have guarantees with things that don’t. It’s like the story of the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race with a focus on risk management.”
Because of the conservative economic model Yarosh works with, she is not concerned with where the market is headed.
“I have clients that have a lot of cash, who are very liquid,” she said. “So, I would say, have sufficient liquidity, at least three to six months of living expenses in cash, and about 50 percent of your gross income should be liquid. That’s a high amount of liquidity. Most investors don’t have that.”
Billionaires investors like Warren Buffet, Marc Faber, Donald Trump, Peter Schiff and others have all made statements recently that they see a major market correction coming and that it could be worse than 2008. Faber warns of “massive wealth destruction” coming to America in which he predicts “well-to-do people will lose up to 50 percent of their wealth.”
Yarosh sees another troubling sign that smaller investors might want to pay attention to: The ultra wealthy are hording cash.
According to the new Billionaire Census from Wealth-X and UBS, the world’s billionaires are holding an average of $600 million in cash — greater than the gross domestic product of Dominica. That marks a jump of $60 million from a year ago and translates into billionaires’ holding an average of 19 percent of their net worth in cash. This increased liquidity signals that many billionaires are keeping their money on the sidelines and waiting for the optimal moment to make further investments.
“These are people who know what’s going on, who see things on a very big level, and it’s not good,” Yarosh said.
Yarosh said she has studied economics and economic patterns for more than 20 years but Cahn’s research has shed light on a lot of questions.
“There has always been something to the ‘autumn phenomenon,’” she said, referring to the long-held suspicion among investors that crashes tend to happen in September and October. “And people for years have wondered why that is. I think Jonathan has tied it to the Hebrew calendar and the Bible.”
And that message is getting out to more and more readers.
According to Publisher’s Weekly’s ranking all paperbacks fiction and nonfiction, “The Mystery of the Shemitah” is ranked fifth in the world in sales.
The New York Times recently began a new best seller list for religious titles, which had Oprah Winfrey’s latest book ranked as number one, followed by Cahn’s “Shemitah” book.
Signs of things to come for U.S. economy?
Cahn told WND that the loss of more than 260 points in the Dow Jones Industrials on the very first day of the Shemitah year could be the “first fruits” of more market mayhem over the next 12 months.The market lost another 449 points over a two-day period, Oct. 9-10, coinciding with the opening of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.
But the shakings brought on by the Shemitah are not limited to the financial realm.
On the first day of the Shemitah year, Sept. 25, the first case of Ebola was diagnosed on U.S. soil, when Thomas Eric Duncan checked into a hospital in Dallas, Texas. Duncan died on Oct. 8, the day that a blood moon appeared in the sky, the second of a rare series of four lunar eclipses that will occur on Jewish High Holy Days between autumn of 2014 and autumn of 2015.
Cahn has pointed that, according to his research, the worst of the worst usually happens at the end of the Shemitah year, not at the beginning. In fact, the last day of the year, Elul 29 on the Hebrew calendar, which will occur on Sept. 13, 2015, is the most dreaded day.
The pattern revealed in “The Mystery of the Shemitah” is that the beginning of the Shemitah’s impact is often subtle, but leads to a dramatic climax.
“The beginning may mark a change in direction, even a foreshadow of what will come to a crescendo at the Shemitah’s end,” he said.
In the Shemitah of 2000-20001, the beginning marked a sudden downturn of production. Its culmination came in the second week of September, 2001, the week that saw the calamity of 9/11 and the greatest stock market collapse in history to that date.
In the Shemitah of 2007-2008, it’s beginning saw a stock market that had been rising for years, suddenly reverse course and begin to descend. The culmination came in September 2008 with the global financial implosion, the collapse of Wall Street on Elul 29 on the Hebrew calendar, marking the greatest one day crash in stock market history, followed by the Great Recession.
“In the book I’ve marked out the Shemitah’s beginning – and many were watching to see if anything significant would take place,” Cahn told WND. “What happened with this Shemitah was even more dramatic than in the past. Within two days of the Shemitah’s start, the stock market began to descend. On the Shemitah’s very first day, Wall Street plunged over 260 points. It was the event that marked the beginning.
“The Mystery of the Shemitah would say this: What we have witnessed on Wall Street would appear to be either the beginning of a phenomenon that will reach its crescendo in the Shemitah’s latter part or end, or an early phenomenon and foreshadow of what will come at the end.”
Obama’s Cybersecurity Adviser: Biometrics Will Replace Passwords For Safety’s Sake
The days of using a password to access a bank account or cellphone will soon be a thing of the past, President Obama’s top cybersecurity adviser said Thursday.
The risk of getting hacked by criminals has grown so widespread that far more sophisticated identification technology — including biometric scanning devices — will become the norm, said Michael Daniel, the White House’s cybersecurity coordinator.
“You’ve started to see some of that with the emergence of the fingerprint readers,” said Mr. Daniel, adding that the technology will become increasingly mainstream as cellphone cameras, “hard” card readers and other authentication gadgets replace the annoying process for millions of Americans of punching in a password to confirm their identity.
“Frankly, I would really love to kill the password dead as a primary security method because it’s terrible,” Mr. Daniel said at an event hosted by the Center for National Policy, Northrop Grumman Corp. and the Christian Science Monitor
Since passwords can so easily be hacked, a variety of new technologies will provide more protection and some “will be biometric related,” he said.
Mr. Daniel’s comments come against a backdrop of recent friction between the U.S. Justice Department and private tech giants like Apple, which unveiled a host of new privacy features for its iPhones and iPads last month designed to frustrate government snoopers.
Features like fingerprint scanners on phones are popular because consumers believe such advancements will protect them from government intrusions on their private data.
FBI Director James Comey lashed out on the subject in late-September, accusing tech companies of “marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.”
So far the Obama administration has been reluctant to push legislation that would require private companies to take any specific cybersecurity measures.
In February, however, the administration launched a “Cybersecurity Framework,” described as the “result of a yearlong private-sector led effort to develop a voluntary how-to guide for organizations in the critical infrastructure community to enhance their cybersecurity.”
Mr. Daniel one point told the audience that the administration feels strongly that “market forces” can be trusted to take the lead on guiding private companies toward taking sufficient cybersecurity measures without heavy government intervention.
But he later said there are concerns inside the White House that almost all private companies — when left to their own devices — have a habit of not paying enough attention to cybersecurity threats.
“Expediency will trump cybersecurity every time,” he said.
But resistance to putting legal requirements on companies like JPMorgan Chase and others such as Target and Home Depot — two others that have fallen victim to hackers over the past year — stems from the fact that “the speed of regulation does not move at the speed of technology,” he said.
The government has to be “mindful” that any regulations will probably be outdated by the time they are issued, he added.
2. Israel - God's Timepiece
Arab Idol Contest Outcry After Israel Shows Up On Map
The Saudi MBC TV network was recently forced to apologize to its hundreds of millions of viewers for using the name Israel instead of Palestine.
The apology came after viewers strongly condemned the network and threatened to boycott its programs over the use of a map with Israel's name on it.
The reason Israel appeared on the MBC's map was because of the participation of two Arab citizens of Israel in its popular Arab Idol contest. The show, based on the popular British show Pop Idol, is the most widely viewed in the Arab world.
The two Arab Israelis, Manal Moussa, 25 and Haitham Khalailah, 24, are from villages in northern Israel. They are among many contestants from all over the Arab world who are performing songs on stage in front of four judges and the public.
This is the first time that Arab Israelis have participated in the popular show.
When this season's show began in mid-September, the TV station introduced a map with the names of the contestants' countries. This year, of course, the map showed Israel as one of the countries taking part in the show.
The Saudi station and directors of the Arab Idol show quickly learned, however, that they had committed a big and unforgivable crime. Within minutes, they were flooded with requests to remove Israel from the map and apologize to all Arabs for this "serious offence."
The condemnations did not come only from Palestinians, but from nearly all the Arab countries. The protesters demanded that MBC immediately replace "Israel" with "Palestine" or face a massive boycott campaign.
Arab activists did not even wait to hear back from MBC, and launched their own online campaign to boycott the station. One group launched a Twitter campaign entitled "Shut Down Arab Idol." Another campaign was launched under the banner, "Palestine is Arab, not Hebrew." A third online campaign carried the title, "Together Against Arab Idol."
And of course there were the more extreme activists who issued threats against the station and its Saudi owners, whom they dubbed "Zionist Arabs."
Not surprisingly, embattled MBC managers rushed to issue a statement apologizing for displaying a map that referred to Israel as an existing state. MBC claimed that Israel appeared on the map as a result of a "technical error." The name Israel was removed from the map, which now uses only the name Palestine.
But with that, the story did not come to an end. Under pressure from the viewers, the two Arab Israeli singers are now referred to only as Palestinians. There is no mention whatsoever of the fact that both Moussa and Khalailah were raised in Israel and hold Israeli passports.
The uproar that erupted throughout the Arab world over the use of a map with Israel's name on it is yet another reminder that many Arabs still have not come to terms with Israel's existence -- and apparently are not interested in coming to terms with it.
This refusal is not related to the recent war between Israel and Hamas or to settlement construction. Rather, it is the narrative that has been prevalent in the Arab world since 1948 -- a narrative that considers Israel an alien entity that was violently planted in the Middle East and needs to be removed.
The incident with MBC's Arab Idol show came amid renewed talk of the purported readiness of some Arab countries to make peace with Israel, in light of the increased turmoil and anarchy in the Arab world and the war on the Islamic State terrorist group.
Every now and then, Israel is advised by some of its friends to consider endorsing the 2002 Saudi Peace Initiative, which later became to be known as the Arab Peace Initiative.
In the initiative, the Arab countries say that if Israel withdraws to the pre-1967 lines, they will consider the Arab-Israeli conflict over, sign a peace agreement and establish normal relations with Israel.
These, of course, are just promises made by heads of state and monarchs, most of whom were never elected, and hardly represent the sentiments on the Arab street.
If a powerful TV network such as MBC was unable to face pressure and intimidation and had to remove Israel from its map, how can anyone seriously expect that Arab leaders will be able to win the backing of their people for an initiative that talks about "establishing normal relations" with Israel?
And how can anyone seriously expect that if Israel pulled back to the pre-1967 lines, the Arab world will consider the Israeli-Arab Conflict over?
The protesters who forced MBC to remove Israel from its map were not demanding a two-state solution and an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They were protesting against Israel's existence; that is what really bothers them.
Their success in forcing MBC to remove Israel from the map is a symbolic victory for those who seek Israel's destruction. But it is also a reminder that this conflict is not about a settlement or a checkpoint or a fence -- but about Israel's very existence.
In order to make peace with Israel, the Arab world needs to prepare its people for such a move, and not incite violence against Israel and demand that it be removed from maps. Unless that happens, the prospects for real peace will remain as remote as ever.
The Coming UN Conflict Over Forcing Palestinian State Upon Israel
A senior Palestinian official said Monday that the Palestinian Authority has mustered the support of seven of nine UN Security Council members needed to bring to a vote its resolution that would force an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines by November 2016.
Speaking in an interview with the Bethlehem-based Ma'an News Agency, Sha'ath said, "We are at the stage of lobbying within the Security Council to get nine or more votes."
Sha'ath said that the PA was facing opposition to the move from the US, who was not only threatening to veto the resolution should it be brought to a vote, but also was urging other Security Council members to oppose the resolution and push back a vote on the measure until after US midterm elections in November.
Abbas announced on October 1 that he had submitted the draft resolution to the Security Council. "We have submitted a draft resolution to the Security Council who started consultations a few days ago and will continue for three weeks, perhaps longer, until we receive an answer," Abbas told a PLO meeting in Ramallah.
The resolution calls for "the full withdrawal of Israel ... from all of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, as rapidly as possible and to be fully completed within a specified timeframe, not to exceed November 2016."
US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told reporters earlier this month, "We are aware of President Abbas' plan and we continue to believe, to strongly believe, that the only way to a negotiated solution is through negotiations between the two parties."
The PA has said that should the resolution fail to pass in the Security Council, they would seek to join the International Criminal Court at the Hague and pursue war crimes charges against Israel.
'EU Prepares To Impose Crushing Sanctions On Israel
Even as details of the latest ISIS plot to behead innocents on the streets of London emerges, the machinery of the European Union’s massive bureaucracy is well along its plan to impose crippling economic and cultural sanctions on Israel if the Jewish state does not agree to unilaterally withdraw behind the 1949 Armistice lines.
The Times of Israel and other sources are now reporting that EU officials are preparing a far reaching list of sanctions that can be imposed against Israel whenever the EU’s political leadership decides to proceed with efforts to economically devastate the small but heavily trade-dependent Jewish state.
The essence and purpose of the plan, coming just weeks after the end of Hamas’ 50 day terror war against Israel, is not only to punish Israel economically but to deprive the small but vibrant democracy of its political legitimacy; something that the international community, including the EU, extends to virtually every other country on earth, including Cuba, North Korea, and Iran.
The revelations of the latest EU plans come on the heels of Sweden’s decision earlier this week to become the first sitting member of the 28 nation EU to recognize the so-called “State of Palestine." Four Eastern European members of the EU voted to recognize “Palestine” in the 1980's when they were Warsaw Pact puppet states firmly in the orbit of the former Soviet Union.
The latest “Israeli outrage” to which the EU and others, including US President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, are taking such offense, is the announcement by the Israel Lands Authority to solicit private sector tenders for the construction of roughly 2600 apartment units slated to be built in Jerusalem’s burgeoning Givat Hamatos neighborhood. In fact, there is nothing at all new in these plans, which have long been a part of Jerusalem’s municipal development plan and were first announced more than three years ago.
In its statement accompanying its decision to recognize “Palestine,” the Swedish Foreign Ministry claims that Israel’s housing plans “represents a further highly detrimental step that undermines prospects for a two-state solution and calls into question Israel’s commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”
No mention was made in Sweden’s statement criticizing Israel of any recent Palestinian steps, such as Hamas‘ 50 day terrorist war against the Jewish state in which it launched more than 4000 rockets against civilian targets that it viewed as “detrimental steps that undermine prospects” for peace in the Middle East. Nor is there any apparent concern that stifling Israel’s economic development would first be felt by Palestinians first and most harshly, since their very growth and emergence as a people has always been inextricably linked to that of their Jewish neighbors.
Before the first group of Jewish settlers fleeing pogromist Russia arrived in Palestine in the late 19th century, the local Arab population living inside what is today Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, was estimated at the time to be no more than 200,000 with an average lifespan of less than 40 years.
Today, more than 5 million Arabs, with an average lifespan of 70.5 years, live either in Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza. Of course, neither the increase in Palestinians per se, nor the length and health of their lives could have been possible without the emergence and development of Israel. Every previous effort that stunted Israel’s growth or impeded its development has resulted in economic dislocations far more devastating to Palestinians than to Israelis.
While strong pro-Israel support by the US Congress and among the American people prevents President Obama from imposing sanctions similar to those being drawn up by the EU now, the Obama administration has used its executive powers to develop a series of its own stealth punishments against the Middle East’s only democracy.
Just last May it was reported that with little fanfare the State Department suddenly and dramatically increase the number of Israeli tourist applications it would reject in order to prevent Israel from participating in the visa waiver program designed to expedite travel from allegedly US-friendly nations. There are currently 38 nations whose citizens do not need a visa to enter the US for short-term tourist or business travel. Until recently that list included Saudi Arabia, Brunei, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates.
Is Abbas One Vote From Security Council Majority?
In the 21 years that have passed since the beginning of the Oslo process, never has there been a situation similar to the current one between the Israelis and Palestinians: That is to say, total deadlock. There is no political or diplomatic horizon. No negotiations are underway or attempts to facilitate them. The two parties are barely in contact.
To date, there has been only one clear exception, to wit, the second intifada, which began in 2000. In response, the Israeli government eventually launched Operation Defensive Shield in 2002. At that time, it was war. Today, there is no war (as of yet), but there is nothing else either. As noted, never has there been such a situation since Oslo. Until today, there was always something in the pipeline: efforts, contacts, new ideas. Between 1993 and 1996, the Oslo process thrived and boomed before Labor's Shimon Peres lost in elections to Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu in the wake of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
Even Netanyahu had to accept the Oslo Accord, renewing negotiations in accordance with it. Within this framework, he pulled out of Hebron and agreed to the 1998 Wye River Memorandum. Then came Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who sped up talks and then crashed them at Camp David in 2000. Several new attempts, such as the Taba talks, ensued. Then Barak was unseated by Ariel Sharon.
After Operation Defensive Shield, Sharon embarked on his Gaza disengagement plan. There were no real negotiations, yet it heralded a dramatic and unprecedented diplomatic development, in the framework of which Israel demonstrated that if it wants, and if it has bold and decisive leadership, it is capable of withdrawing from territories and dismantling settlements.
Sharon's disengagement process emerged as a total failure. Instead of leveraging the event to push the peace process forward, rebuild Gaza and turn disengagement into a successful pilot program, a harbinger of peace, the residents of Gaza used the disengagement to turn Gaza into "Hamastan." Yet, when Sharon was replaced as prime minister by Ehud Olmert, negotiations soared to new heights. This was in part due to the work of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei (aka Abu Alaa), the Annapolis process and the unprecedented peace offer, including maps, that Olmert put before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Then Netanyahu returned to power. The first two years of his term were devoted to efforts to renew negotiations, which were being championed, albeit without significant success, by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. There was also an unprecedented construction moratorium in the territories. Eventually negotiations resumed, but they were too little, too late. There then followed nine months of euphoria, with Secretary of State John Kerry and special envoy Martin Indyk at work, until the two parties reached a dead end.
In the interim, Netanyahu's one term ended and he began another. The two sides hunkered down but dug in their heels. The Americans came up with a few ideas, but it was over. This year's Operation Protective Edge was the coup de grace.
At the moment, Abbas has slammed the door shut on the peace process. Meanwhile, Netanyahu has not declared a day of national mourning. He has had his fill as well. "The Palestinians have realized," a high-ranking Palestinian official told me at the start of October, "that they have nothing more to look for in their negotiations with the Jews. It's a waste of time. We would be better off approaching the international community directly and try to break the impasse there."
And Netanyahu? On the one hand, he feels somewhat relieved. Negotiations do not agree with him. He loses ground with the right wing, taking heavy flak from his own Likud Party while enhancing the standing of Minister of Economy and Trade Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. As far as Netanyahu is concerned, the negotiations can disappear forever. On the flip side, however, this is a perilous notion, and Netanyahu should break into a sweat at reviewing such a scenario.
What the Palestinians are planning to do in lieu of negotiations is to approach the UN Security Council with a detailed resolution to establish an independent Palestinian state side by side with Israel. Abbas, who is almost 80 years old, would not have reached such a ripe age or attained his position had he not been a foxy, wise and calculating person.
His resolution proposal will incorporate all the things the Americans have already agreed to during the long years of negotiations. The United States will find it hard to object to such a proposal, because it does not contain anything substantive that it has not already supported. Abbas' working assumption, however, is that in the end, the United States will veto the resolution.
It is against this backdrop that a fierce diplomatic battle is taking place, with the Palestinians trying to ensure that at least 10 states will support the resolution. According to diplomatic sources, at the moment they have nine votes. France is vacillating. If France were ultimately to join the nine others, thus securing the support of two-thirds of Security Council members, the Palestinians could proceed — the US veto notwithstanding — to the UN plenary. There, the resolution would be adopted if backed by a two-thirds majority, which is something the Palestinians should have no problem securing. The big bank of Islamic and nonaligned states will vote for them automatically. The United Nations will recognize an independent Palestinian state.
This will be a nightmare scenario for Israel, which will find itself in conflict with a recognized state. On Oct. 3, Sweden's newly elected prime minister, Stefan Löfven, announced that his country would recognize an independent Palestine. A diplomatic outcry ensued in Israel, and the Swedish ambassador was summoned for a démarche at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. Sweden published a few obfuscating clarifications, but when the dust finally settled, it became apparent that it remained steadfast in its position. Yes, it will recognize Palestine.
In Abbas' scenario of his move, the whole world will recognize the new state. Imagine what will happen in Jerusalem, especially in light of the new status Abbas will have on behalf of his country to drag Israel into every conceivable tribunal, chief among them the International Criminal Court of Justice in The Hague.
Is this all really about to happen? There are indications that it is, although in the Middle East anything is possible at any given point in time. Several diplomatic approaches are being explored in Israel. The one by the right wing, championed by Bennett and supported by most of Likud, contends that there is no need for negotiations. The Palestinians are the ones who did not sign Kerry's proposal, which is why they should call Israel, which must not give up or back down: There is no room at this time to establish a Palestinian state when the entire Middle East is on fire, crashing in on us. Period.
Standing next to them is Netanyahu himself. Ostensibly, he's more pragmatic. He wants to resume negotiations immediately without preconditions. He has the support of Knesset member Zachi Hanegbi and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz as well as a handful of others. This approach is also supported by Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, although the two of them want real negotiations, whereas Netanyahu plans to continue his exercise in futility and kill time. Standing with Netanyahu like a rock is Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon. He, too, doesn't believe that there is a Palestinian partner at this time, but he is well aware of the paramount importance of holding negotiations, however minimal, between the parties.
At the far end of Israel's right wing, as well as that of the left, there are a few voices (whose numbers have been growing as of late) who believe that the idea of the two-state solution should be pronounced dead, and instead, the one-state solution should be embraced. Radical leftists will see it as a multinational state of Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Arabs. Those on the right envision more of an apartheid-like state. While Arabs would enjoy citizenship, they would not, however, be real partners in running the affairs of the state.
And there's something else. There are a few old-time peace militants and activists working on the fringes of Israel's political-diplomatic establishment to draft an outline for an Israeli-Palestinian arrangement that starts with the issues of borders and security. With regard to these two issues, which Kerry's negotiations should have focused on during their brief nine-month lifetime, understandings can be quickly reached. This is what the people involved believe. If this stage is clearly outlined in a paper, the Israeli government could be toppled on that basis. Livni and Lapid will unite. Netanyahu's government will fall. The centrist-left circles will then close ranks behind the agreement that has been achieved and will go with it into new elections.
Is this last scenario likely to unfold? It stands a much smaller chance than Abbas' scenario. Yet, contacts among actors who are not part of the current official political establishment are taking place on the back burner. Yet, this does not stop the happy cruise of the Israeli Titanic toward the Palestinian iceberg. In the end, something from the things described here is bound to happen.
6. The Rise of Islam
The Antichrist And The Muslim Mahdi – Are They One And The Same?
Many people—religious and non-religious—are asking questions about a word they hear the media use when referring to ISIS and other Islamist jihadists. That word is apocalyptic, which is used when specifically referring to the fatalism of Islamists.
People wonder, why do so many Muslims (both Sunni and Shi'ite) operate with such an "apocalyptic," end-of-world mindset?
Our secular society, however, coupled with the media's carelessness, is bandying about words like apocalyptic without using them properly and without explanation. That creates a great deal of confusion for some, many of whom just throw up their hands in resignation and say, "I don't understand this."
But for those who want to understand, I am offering this two-part column, taking excerpts from my newest book, Jesus, Jihad, and Peace. I hope this will put things into perspective, so when the media says that an Islamist entity (such as ISIS, al-Qaeda, Iran, etc.) operate with an apocalyptic vision, you can make sense of it.
The word apocalypse does not, in fact, refer to a disastrous, catastrophic, end-of-world event. It's a Greek word, the root of which means revelation, or revealing things that are hidden. For instance, we know the last book of the Bible as Revelation, but in the original Greek language, it is Apokalupsae. It reveals what is happening in the heavenly realm, as well as events in the future.
The Concept of the Antichrist
Both the Old Testament and New Testament spoke of an end-times figure, the Antichrist, some 600 years or more before Islam came on the scene. That timing will be important when I explain Islam's "end of time" coming of a Mahdi in my next column.
The Antichrist is known by various names. Paul calls him "the lawless one," "the man of lawlessness," and "the man doomed to destruction" who "will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God" (2 Thess. 2:1-12). The most detailed description of the Antichrist is in Revelation 13, where the Apostle John refers to the Antichrist as "the beast." The Old Testament prophet Daniel describes the abominable works of the Antichrist, but gives him no name or title (Dan. 9:27).
Who, then, is the Antichrist, whose brief but terrible reign is predicted in both the Old and New Testaments? He will be a world leader of unparalleled political, military and religious power. He will be charming, persuasive and popular beyond measure. The world will not know him as the "Antichrist," but by some attractive name and appealing title. But just as the word "Antichrist" suggests, he will be the opposite of the Lord Jesus Christ in every way. Everything Christ is, the Antichrist is not; everything Christ is not, the Antichrist is.
Jesus came from heaven (John 6:38); the Antichrist comes from the Abyss, the spiritual domain of evil (Rev. 11:7). Jesus came in the Name of the Father; the Antichrist comes in his own name (John 5:43). Jesus was despised by the world (Is. 53:3); the Antichrist will be worshipped by the world (Rev. 13:3-4). Jesus came in humility as a servant (Phil. 2:7-8); the Antichrist comes in pride, claiming to be God (2 Thess. 2:4; Dan. 11:36). Jesus is the truth (John 14:6); the Antichrist is the lie (2 Thess. 2:9-11). Jesus is the Son of God (Mark 1:1; Luke 1:35); the Antichrist is the son of perdition (2 Thess. 2:3, KJV).
The Apostle Paul tells us that the mystery (or secret) of godliness is that God Himself has appeared to us in human flesh (1 Tim. 3:16)—and that the mystery (or secret) of lawlessness is that Satan has produced a counterfeit Christ, the Antichrist, Satan wrapped in human flesh (2 Thess. 2:6-8). Jesus is the true Shepherd; Satan will have his evil shepherd, the Antichrist. Jesus is the Holy One of God; the Antichrist will be the lawless one of Satan. Jesus is the Man of Sorrows; the Antichrist will be the man of sin.
One Antichrist and many antichrists
First of all, the Antichrist is coming—a lawless man who will come in Satan's power, demanding to be worshipped as God, destroying all those who love God. But John tells us that there are many other antichrists, lesser deceivers who are also self-exalting, evil and destructive. They are antichrists, but they are not the Antichrist.
Jesus tells us that, shortly before His return, the Antichrist will arise during a time of global chaos and confusion, when the world is in political, social, financial and ecological upheaval. The terrified people of the world, desperate for a strong leader, will turn to this man and give him control of the governments of the world.
Daniel tells us that the Antichrist will speak "boastfully" (Dan. 7:8), yet it is clear that these will not be empty boasts. The Antichrist will appear to possess superhuman brilliance. He'll be the ultimate smooth talker, the greatest con man who ever lived, and he'll unite the nations under his rule. At first, he'll seem to be a wise and benevolent dictator, bringing peace, prosperity and hope. But once he is firmly in control of the gears and levers of power, he'll reveal his true intentions.
The way has been paved for such a leader. Atheists, humanists, New Age mystics, Hindus, Buddhists and Islamists have little in common with each other—but they all share in the belief that Jesus is not the only way to salvation. There are even many self-styled "Christians" who deny the Lord's claim to be the only way to God. So it will be easy for the Antichrist to establish himself to many as an acceptable alternative.
In these days of muddled and confused worldviews, it is vitally important to know the truth. After all, Jesus said, "The truth will set you free." As events unfold, we need to see them not only through the camera's lens, but also through the lens of biblical revelation.
That the Antichrist is coming is known—only the timing is unknown. Although we know not the hour of night that the thief comes, we must be prepared nonetheless.
Muslims see the Mahdi as a savior who will lead a global revolution and establish a worldwide Islamic empire. The Mahdi will rule the Earth as the final Caliph of Islam (a caliph is both a political ruler and a spiritual representative of Allah on Earth).
Muslims revere Jesus (whom they call Isa) as the Masih or Messiah. In Islamic eschatology, the Mahdi will arrive at the same time that Isa returns. Isa will descend to Earth in Syria, east of Damascus, dressed in yellow robes, and will assist the Mahdi, who will rule over the world for seven years (or, in some Islamic traditions, nine or 19 years). At the end of the Mahdi's rule, there will be a Day of Judgment for the entire human race.
The parallels between the biblical Antichrist and the Mahdi of Islam are chilling. Both are associated with the End Times and the Judgment. Both are said to possess political, military and religious power, and head up a one-world religion. The Mahdi will force all non-Muslim people to convert to Islam. Like the Antichrist, the Mahdi will establish Jerusalem as his capital, from which he will rule the Earth.
Islamic scholars Muhammad ibn Izzat and Muhammad Arif write, in Al Mahdi and the End of Time: "The Mahdi will be victorious and eradicate those pigs and dogs and the idols of this time so that there will once more be a caliphate based on prophethood as the hadith states. ... Jerusalem will be the location of the rightly guided caliphate and the center of Islamic rule, which will be headed by Imam al-Mahdi. ... That will abolish the leadership of the Jews ... and put an end to the domination of the Satan who spit evil into people and cause corruption in the earth, making them slaves of false idols and ruling the world by laws other than the Sharia [Islamic law] of the Lord of the worlds."
Though Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet, they deny that Jesus is the Son of God. Jews and Christians are, to Muslim fundamentalists, "pigs and dogs" who must either convert to Islam or be eliminated. Bible prophecy makes it clear that the Antichrist will target Jews and Christians for destruction, just as Islamic prophecy states that the Mahdi will wage war against Jews and Christians. Those who oppose the Antichrist's worldwide religion will be executed.
Muslim scholar Imam Muhammad Baqir states clearly how the Mahdi will establish his one-world religion: "There must be bloodshed and jihad to establish Imam Mahdi's rule." And Ayatollah Ibrahim al Amini of the Religious Learning Center in Qom, agrees: "The Mahdi will offer the religion of Islam to the Jews and Christians; if they accept it, they will be spared. Otherwise they will be killed."
Daniel tells us (and Jesus affirms in the Olivet Discourse) that the Antichrist will establish "the abomination that causes desolation" in the Temple in Jerusalem. The apostle Paul adds that the Antichrist "will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God" (2 Thess. 2:4). Since the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., as Jesus predicted, this has led some (not all Christians) to suggest that the Jewish Temple must be rebuilt on Temple Mount before the Antichrist can be revealed to the world.
Yet the golden-topped Dome of the Rock shrine and the Al-Aqsa mosque stand on Temple Mount today. One of the Islamic Hadiths (traditions) records that their Prophet Muhammad said, "[Armies carrying] black flags will come from Khurasan [Iran and Afghanistan], no power will be able to stop them, and they will finally reach Eela [the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem] where they will erect their flags." In Islamic tradition, black banners symbolize violent conquest, and Muslims await the Mahdi's conquest of Jerusalem, when he establishes his reign from the Temple site.
Daniel 9:27 tells us the Antichrist will establish a seven-year covenant with Israel—but he will break the covenant after three-and-a-half years, defiling the Temple with "an abomination that causes desolation." The Hadiths of Islam also speak of a seven-year covenant that the Mahdi makes with Israel: "The Prophet said: There will be four peace agreements between you and the Romans. The fourth will be mediated through a person who will be from the progeny of Hadrat Aaron [Honorable Aaron, the brother of Moses] and will be upheld for seven years."
There can be no doubt: Muslims are preparing to accept the Mahdi as their leader—and the Mahdi is indistinguishable from the world leader we know as the Antichrist.
I bring all of this to your attention so we can have a knowledgeable perspective when viewing current events unfolding in the Middle East.
But Christians should not fear.
Regardless of whether the Antichrist comes in this generation or a hundred years from now, those who have placed their faith in God's Messiah, Jesus the Christ, fear no one nor even death. Their eternity is secure in the One who is the only One to defeat death and rise from the grave.
Islamist Threats Have Soldiers At Home In Hiding
Earlier this week, Timon Dias wrote on these pages that the Dutch authorities have ordered Dutch soldiers not to wear their uniforms when they are using public transport on their way to the barracks. But the Dutch are not the only cowards in the West. Unfortunately, the Netherlands is not the only country that, for fear of attacks by Muslim extremists, has advised its military to no longer wear their uniforms in public. Apparently, Australia, Belgium, Britain and France have done the same.
As Dias wrote, the order in the Netherlands was a response to a threat by a Dutch jihadist known as Muhajiri Shaam, who is currently fighting in Syria with al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda. After the Netherlands announced that Dutch F-16s would participate in the allied offensive against ISIS in Iraq, Shaam tweeted that the Dutch people had now become a target for jihadists.
In Belgium, a country that has also sent F-16s to participate in the attacks on ISIS, soldiers have also been advised not to wear their uniforms when using the Belgian public transport system. According to General Tom Middendorp, the Dutch supreme military commander, the British and French authorities have made similar recommendations. In May 2013, after the murder of Lee Rigby -- a British soldier hacked to death by two Muslims outside his military barracks in London -- the British military commanders already told their troops not to wear their uniforms outside their bases.
It seems that the Europeans are terrified by the presence on their soil of jihadists targeting the army. Last September's assault on a uniformed Australian Navy officer in Sydney reinforced these fears. Immediately after the Sydney attack, Australia's defense chiefs also issued a warning, advising the military not to wear uniforms while off duty.
The result is that the military in Australia and Europe are currently behaving like cream puffs. If trains and buses are no longer safe places for soldiers on their way to work, surely they are no longer safe for ordinary citizens, either. Jihadists are also threatening to murder ordinary citizens.
Three weeks ago, ISIS spokesman Mohammed al-Adnani called on jihadists worldwide to assassinate citizens from the Western countries belonging to the international coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. "The best thing you can do is to make an effort to kill any infidel, French, American, or any of their allies. ... Smash his head with a rock, slaughter him with a knife, run him over with a car, throw him from a high place, choke him or poison him," al-Adnani said.
What will the cowardly authorities in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Britain and Australia do when terrorists randomly kill the first citizen on the streets of their countries? Advise them to cover themselves in hijabs when female, or grow beards and dress in djellabas when male?
Instead of telling their soldiers to hide themselves, Western governments should tell their soldiers to show themselves in order to make it clear to the jihadists, and to frightened citizens, that we in the West are not afraid of terrorists. On the contrary, we will root them out and come down on them with all our military might.
7. Increase in Knowledge/New Technologies
Sweden Close To Being Cashless Society
Four out of five purchases in Sweden are paid electronically or by debit card and with the development of cheaper technology the trend is moving towards a fully cash free society, according to a new report.
"Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia leads the world in terms of cashless trading," said Bengt Nilervall at the Swedish Federation of Trade (Svensk Handel).
Swedes use their debit and credit cards almost every day - an average of 260 transactions per person per year.
The picture is very different in southern Europe. In Italy, for example, three-quarters of all consumer purchases are still paid for in cash.
"That is due to the low confidence in the authorities and the banking system," said Niklas Arvidsson, an associate professor of industrial dynamics.
Arvidsson argued that Sweden could become completely cash free but predicts that this development is unlikely until at least 2030.
"The familiarity of cash in the hand could prevent this. A recent Sifo survey showed that 2/3 people consider (the availability of) cash to be a human right," he said.
Retailers, banks and card companies welcomed the trend with the proviso that customers are able to keep up with developments.
A cash free society would lead to increased security for both staff and customers and would cut cash-handling costs - estimated to be around 8.7 billion kronor ($1.2 billion), some 0.3% of GDP.
Armed robberies are furthermore in decline in line with the reduction of cash use. In 2012, a mere five bank robberies were committed, according to the Swedish Bankers' Association - the lowest figure in 30 years.
The spread of cards and electronic payments has had a profound effect even on the street level with fruit and veg traders and even retailers of the homeless magazine Situation Stockholm accepting card payments.
The spread of electronic payment systems such as Swish are a further addition to the plethora of alternatives for people to transfer small sums without having to resort to the ATM machine.
Will The Internet Of Things Be Another Surveillance Nightmare?
The past decade has seen a revolution in microprocessing, Internet connectivity and widespread adoption of new technologies. Human beings are connected to vast sources of data and discourse through an increasing number of outlets.
Phones and tablets, the first frontier of smart, social technology beyond traditional computers, have highlighted questions of privacy in media, discussion and politics. As the microprocessor revolution rages on, more and more household objects will begin to collect data, communicate with the Internet, and force us to evaluate our positions on the fine line between privacy and utility.
Purdue University computer science professor Eugene Spafford is researching the risks and benefits of the so-called Internet of Things. He warns that an increasing number of household objects—everything from refrigerators and toilets to electrical grids and showers—will soon collect a great deal of data, often without our knowledge.
Similar tensions have been raised over Google and Facebook’s massive data collection programs and algorithms that tailor—or force—the individual’s experience. Even the federal government, through the PRISM program, is collecting massive amounts of data on the communication habits of Americans through phone and internet services.
Spafford points out, “We put ourselves in a position where we may be manipulated without our consent, and possibly without our knowledge, because connections may be drawn on this data that we don’t understand or recognize even about ourselves.”
On the other hand, mass analysis of data about our daily behaviors could be extremely helpful. If one could be given feedback from data points about energy usage, health, movement, food, and finances, more utilitarian decisions could be made.
Professor Spafford points out his main concern: the data may be available to more than just the individual consumer. The companies that sell the smart products may mine considerable data on consumer behavior without the consent or knowledge of the user, just as Facebook and Google do.
“For example the company that makes the Nest thermostat was purchased by Google. Now Google will know when I’m home, can determine how many people are in the house, and that information will be provided to other companies and government agencies. Is that a trade I’m willing to make? To what extent can I control that?” says Spafford.
Ethnical questions with emerging technologies are nothing new. As connectivity increases, the capacity for discourse also increases. Though the debate on privacy and utility is complex, it will be up to the companies to design smart products that consumers feel comfortable with, up to the consumers to decide whether to adopt them or not.
On the other hand, some fear that the rate of technology is increasing beyond our capacity to understand its full implications. If there is no transparency and no legal protection of consumer’s privacy, corporations could exploit consumer ignorance and gather data without regard.
Spafford believes that full transparency is the only way to ethically integrate these new technologies into society. If the consumer is given full knowledge of the data that will be collected and who will have access to it, then he or she could make an educated choice on the adoption of the technology.
Regardless of the level that individual privacy is compromised, mass adoption of the Internet of Things is likely. There is always a threshold where utility outweighs the sacrifice of privacy. In a 2011 survey of 1000 smart phone users, 98% reported privacy and transparency as a serious concern. It is a small minority, however, who abstains from smartphone use altogether because of privacy concerns. In the next ten years, we will see whether society continues to lean towards utility and data over a sense of privacy.
Has Terrorism Turned Liberal Australia Into A Police State?
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had some "regrettable" news. It was late September, Australia had just thwarted an Islamic State plot to behead random Australians, and the prime minister's tone was somber.
"Regrettably, for some time to come, Australians will have to endure more security than we're used to, and more inconvenience than we would like," he told the country's parliament. "Regrettably, for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift."
Consider the balanced shifted. Since those remarks, Australia has endowed its nation's intelligence agencies with their most significant expansion of powers in 35 years, legalized the surveillance of the entire Australian Internet with one warrant, threatened whistleblowers and journalists with 10-year prison terms if they publicize classified information and is mulling a new law that makes it easier to detain Australians without charge and subject them to "coercive questioning."
Taken together, these are sweeping changes in a nation generally considered one of the most liberal in the world -- and mark a profound consequence of the emergence of the Islamic State, which has lured scores of Australians to its cause and threatened the country several times in recent weeks.
"It was about these violent random acts," the newspaper the Australian quoted the federal police chief saying following one threat. "It's that random nature that had to prompt us to do something today. We could no longer be comfortable that we could protect the community."
Times of panic have long driven countries to mortgage civil liberties for a broader sense of security. The United States passed the Espionage Act shortly after entering World War I, then interned more than 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, then passed the Patriot Act following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- and now is mired in a national debate on the National Security Agency's sprawling surveillance.
Even by those standards, however, critics warn Australia is heading into unsure territory. While the United States engaged in a sweeping surveillance program to thwart terrorists and imprisoned detainees without charge, the Constitution enabled challenges to the system, many of which have gone to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But "Australia does not have a written Bill of Rights in its Constitution, making its freedom-abridging laws even harder to challenge in court," the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit civil-liberties advocate, said in a statement. It called the just-passed measures a "week in history when it became easier for the Australian government to surveil and manipulate the Internet at will."
The nuts and bolts of the recently passed bill: It allows authorities to access data from computers with a warrant but expands the definition of "computer" to include "one or more computer networks." This, analysts warned, means that Australian law enforcement agencies can now monitor the entire Internet with one warrant -- because the Internet is really just one big computer network.
"The drafting of this is so vague that it really could be extended," Jon Lawrence of Electronic Frontiers Australia, a nonprofit digital-rights advocate, told the Sydney Morning Herald. "A network can essentially be anything from three computers on a Wi-Fi modem to potentially an entire corporate network or an entire Internet service provider network or at the extreme end, the whole Internet."
Then it granted criminal and civil immunity to law enforcement agents who may break the law in the course of the work as long as those prospective crimes don't cause death, serious injury, sexual harm or significant property damage. The bill also made it an offense, punishable by 10 years in prison, for anyone -- whistleblower, journalist or otherwise -- to "disclose information" relating "to a special intelligence operation."
Australia's press corps just about went apoplectic over that one. Calling it an "unprecedented clause," an alliance of Australian media companies released a joint statement denouncing it. "The insertion of (the) proposed section could potentially see journalists jailed for undertaking and discharging their legitimate role in a modern democratic society -- reporting in the public interest," the statement said. "Such an approach is untenable."
And now, Australian authorities will consider a proposed national security law that will significantly increase authorities' powers to detain people without charge. According to the Guardian, the law would hasten a complicated process so that "people can essentially be held without contact with the outside world, may lose the right to silence and may be subject to coercive questioning."
Australian security agencies cheered the new strident law in a letter to Parliament: "There are realistic and credible circumstances in which it may be necessary to conduct coercive questioning of a person for the purpose of gathering intelligence about a terrorism offense."
Not everyone is so enthusiastic -- about that law, or the others. Given the rise of the Islamic State, some critics, even while bemoaning the passage of the draconian measures, have expressed resignation.
"When will it all end?" a Sydney Morning Herald opinion column asked. "Will these national securities laws ever be repealed? Probably never. The 'war on terrorism' appears endless. ... The national security state is empowered, cashed-up and here to stay."
8. Christian Worldview/Issues
City of Houston Demands Pastors Turn Over Sermons
The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.
“The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christina Holcomb said in a statement. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.”
ADF, a nationally-known law firm specializing in religious liberty cases, is representing five Houston pastors. They filed a motion in Harris County court to stop the subpoenas arguing they are “overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious.”
“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” Holcomb said. “It is protected by the First Amendment.”
The subpoenas are just the latest twist in an ongoing saga over the Houston’s new non-discrimination ordinance. The law, among other things, would allow men to use the ladies room and vice versa. The city council approved the law in June.
The Houston Chronicle reported opponents of the ordinance launched a petition drive that generated more than 50,000 signatures – far more than the 17,269 needed to put a referendum on the ballot.
However, the city threw out the petition in August over alleged irregularities.
After opponents of the bathroom bill filed a lawsuit the city’s attorneys responded by issuing the subpoenas against the pastors.
The pastors were not part of the lawsuit. However, they were part of a coalition of some 400 Houston-area churches that opposed the ordinance. The churches represent a number of faith groups – from Southern Baptist to non-denominational.
“City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge,” said ADF attorney Erik Stanley. “This is designed to intimidate pastors.”
Mayor Parker will not explain why she wants to inspect the sermons. I contacted City Hall for a comment and received a terse reply from the mayor’s director of communications.
“We don’t comment on litigation,” said Janice Evans.
However, ADF attorney Stanley suspects the mayor wants to publicly shame the ministers. He said he anticipates they will hold up their sermons for public scrutiny. In other words – the city is rummaging for evidence to “out” the pastors as anti-gay bigots.
Among those slapped with a subpoena is Steve Riggle, the senior pastor of Grace Community Church. He was ordered to produce all speeches and sermons related to Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality and gender identity.
The mega-church pastor was also ordered to hand over “all communications with members of your congregation” regarding the non-discrimination law.
“This is an attempt to chill pastors from speaking to the cultural issues of the day,” Riggle told me. “The mayor would like to silence our voice. She’s a bully.”
Rev. Dave Welch, executive director of the Texas Pastor Council, also received a subpoena. He said he will not be intimidated by the mayor.
“We’re not afraid of this bully,” he said. “We’re not intimidated at all.”
He accused the city of violating the law with the subpoenas and vowed to stand firm in the faith.
“We are not going to yield our First Amendment rights,” Welch told me. ‘This is absolutely a complete abuse of authority.”
Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, said pastors around the nation should rally around the Houston ministers.
“The state is breaching the wall of separation between church and state,” Perkins told me. ‘Pastors need to step forward and challenge this across the country. I’d like to see literally thousands of pastors after they read this story begin to challenge government authorities – to dare them to come into their churches and demand their sermons.”
Perkins called the actions by Houston’s mayor “obscene” and said they “should not be tolerated.”
“This is a shot across the bow of the church,” he said.
This is the moment I wrote about in my book, “God Less America.” I predicted that the government would one day try to silence American pastors. I warned that under the guise of “tolerance and diversity” elected officials would attempt to deconstruct religious liberty.
Sadly, that day arrived sooner than even I expected.
Tony Perkins is absolutely right. Now is the time for pastors and people of faith to take a stand. We must rise up and reject this despicable strong-arm attack on religious liberty. We cannot allow ministers to be intimidated by government thugs.
The pastors I spoke to tell me they will not comply with the subpoena – putting them at risk for a “fine or confinement, or both.”
Heaven forbid that should happen. But if it does, Christians across America should be willing to descend en masse upon Houston and join these brave men of God behind bars.
Pastor Welch compared the culture war skirmish to the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto, fought in present-day Harris County, Texas. It was a decisive battle of the Texas Revolution.
“This is the San Jacinto moment for traditional family,” Welch told me. “This is the place where we stop the LGBT assault on the freedom to practice our faith.”
We can no longer remain silent. We must stand together - because one day – the government might come for your pastor.
Gordon College, Don't Sell Your Soul For Secular Accreditation
For years now, educators have known that a confrontation was looming between secular accreditation agencies and Christian schools over the issue of homosexuality. What would these colleges, universities and seminaries do when they were told they had to revise their policies on homosexual practice?
We no longer need to speculate, as this hypothetical scenario has become reality.
An article in Christianity Today on Thursday noted that, "Gordon College will spend the next year studying current campus policies on same-sex behavior."
According to the story by Ruth Moon, "The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) discussed whether Gordon's prohibition on 'homosexual practice' conflicts with its accreditation standards at its September meeting, and has agreed to give the school time to examine its policy. Gordon had already formed a discernment committee after recently losing partnerships with nearby Lynn Public School District."
But what is there to discern? What exactly does a committee need to examine?
It's one thing to look into ways of reaching out to students who identify as LGBT and are struggling to reconcile what they understand about themselves with what the Scriptures teach.
But if Gordon College is considering revising its morality standards so that all sex outside of marriage is forbidden unless it's homosexual sex in the context of a committed relationship, then Gordon College would be considering exchanging the favor of God for the favor of man.
Why is this debatable?
As I have stated many times, no new textual, archeological, sociological, anthropological or philological discoveries have been made in the last 50 years that would cause us to read any of the relevant biblical texts differently.
This means that the reason some professing Christians now embrace homosexual practice is because they have changed, not because God's Word has changed and not because valid new interpretations have been discovered.
What then, do the esteemed leaders of the college expect to find out during the discernment period?
If this is their way of gaining increased sensitivity in the issues involved before restating that they cannot compromise their convictions, then that is surely commendable. But if the discernment period is meant to re-evaluate whether they are willing to face the loss of accreditation for upholding godly values, that makes no sense at all.
According to Barbara Brittingham, president of the NEASC's higher education commission, "the school's current Life and Conduct policy—which bans Gordon community members from 'sexual relations outside marriage' and 'homosexual practice,'—'may be inconsistent with the commission's standards.'"
And if Gordon College does not deviate from biblical standards and its policies are deemed "inconsistent with the commission's standards," then what? Will this venerated Christian college capitulate to culture, or will it do what is right in the sight of God and man?
To Michael Lindsay, the gifted president of Gordon, and to the board of trustees, I remind you: Many eyes are watching you, knowing that the decisions you make could either strengthen or dishearten many other schools that will soon be put under similar pressure.
In the sight of the God that we serve and love, I ask you this crucial question: If your decision will cause a ripple effect across the nation for other Christian colleges, universities and seminaries, what do you want that effect to be?
Do you want to send the message across America (and beyond) that when culture changes, we capitulate to culture? That a practice expressly forbidden by the Bible and all major forms of Christianity through the centuries becomes acceptable if enough people sign a petition? That sufficient pressure exerted from some alumni or students or faculty can overturn God's Word? That accreditation is more important than morality?
I pray your message will be that the potential loss of accreditation is a small price to pay for obedience to God.
Jesus said that whoever loved father or mother or son or daughter more than Him was not worthy of Him (Matt. 10:37). Surely those of us who love secular accreditation and its many benefits more than the Lord are not worthy of Him either.
In the year 2000, writing on the theme of Jesus Revolution, I noted that Christian colleges could potentially be guilty of bowing down to the idol of secular academics. (To be clear, I am an educator myself, with all my degrees, from B.A. to Ph.D., coming from secular universities, and I have had the privilege of teaching at many of the leading seminaries in America. My concern has to do with us compromising our convictions for the sake of secular approval.)
I noted that Christian schools "can bow down to the same idol [as secular schools do]. Unless they offer certain courses and meet certain guidelines, they will lose their accreditation, and if they lose their accreditation, they will lose potential students, and their degrees will not be recognized by other universities, and then that will make Christian education look bad. How so? Because the Christian college failed to live up to the standards of the state. But why must the state (or accrediting agency) set the standards? What if that school has a unique purpose and function? What if it needs to major on things the state considers minor and minor on things the state considers major? Why must it conform? To offer degrees, of course! This too is idolatry."
I'm sure there are many excellent standards set by accreditation organizations and many excellent benefits that accrue with accreditation.
But when those organizations demand that we revise biblical morality in order to keep our accreditation, we respectfully decline without hesitation or flinching. Really now, if believers worldwide are losing their lives rather than compromise, surely we can lose secular benefits as the result of holding to our faith.
It is these accrediting organizations that will need to change, not us. And if they don't, then we can work together as committed believers and form our own educational networks, esteeming the favor of heaven to be infinitely more valuable than the favor of this world.
To the leaders of Gordon College, I ask: What is the right decision in light of eternity? When you stand before God to give account, what answer will win the approval of our Father and King?
A Wake-Up Call For Abortion Supporters
Lately, advocates of legal abortion have attempted to give their ailing cause a shot in the arm. As John Stonestreet pointed out on BreakPoint recently, the tried and true "pro-choice" moniker is falling out of favor. And the accompanying crocodile tears over “the difficult choice of abortion” that were once necessary for public credibility seem to have dried up. The "safe, legal and rare" days are gone, replaced with cavalier celebrations of abortion as a positive good in art, film and now spoken word poetry.
That last is the work of Leyla Josephine, whose new video, "I Think She Was a She," is being trumpeted as an act of heroism at The Huffington Post. Josephine, who had an abortion as a teenager, says she felt no shame over her decision. In fact, she's proud of it, and thinks her aborted child would agree!
"I would’ve supported [my daughter’s] right to choose, to choose a life for herself, a path for herself," Josephine says. "I would’ve died for that right like she died for mine. I’m sorry, but you came at the wrong time."
She concludes, “When I become a mother it will be when I choose.”
This heartbreaking, horrific little paean to human sacrifice fits to a T the new narrative of the movement formerly known as "pro-choice."
For years the "pro-choice" crowd fought to change the subject whenever pro-lifers brought the debate back to the central question: are the unborn human? After all, you can't just choose to kill a human, no matter how inconvenient he or she might be. As my friend Scott Klusendorf has argued in hundreds of debates, if babies are human before birth (as almost everyone agrees they are after birth), then choice is irrelevant. Their right to life trumps all other claims.
That's why, for almost forty years following Roe v. Wade, abortion defenders spilled buckets of ink to drown that question. Equivocations and euphemisms abounded. We heard non-stop about "blobs of tissue," "clumps of cells," and "pregnancies." Not so much now, thanks mostly to advances in imaging technology, which has clearly shown unborn life for what it is.
So, instead of denying the humanity of the unborn, pro-choicers now deny that their lives matter. At all. As Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote in Salon earlier this year, "So What If Abortion Ends Life?" The woman's convenience, hopes and dreams take precedence over any claims her unborn child has to existence. Wow.
All of this led Janet Harris to admonish readers in The Washington Post "Stop Calling Abortion a Hard Decision." It's empowering, she argued, and something to celebrate. Besides, making a big deal out of how tough abortion is just fuels the pro-life fire and implies that unborn children might have rights, or at least value.
Well, I guess we all now agree that abortion does end a human life. But that's okay, say its defenders. That's a sacrifice worth making to avoid the rigors of motherhood or the hassle of adoption. In fact, it's so worth it that women shouldn't even consider abortion a hard decision. They should celebrate and make art out of it.
The whole spectacle brings to mind a sketch by British comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb. In it, they play two Nazi SS officers on the front line who, upon noticing the skull insignias on their caps ask an incisive question: "Are we the baddies?"
It's a question advocates of legal abortion, having admitted they stand for taking human life when it’s ill-timed or inconvenient, might want to ask themselves.
UK Street Preacher Charged With 'Causing Offense' For Preaching Gospel/Comparing Islam With Christianity
Mike Overd, a street preacher in the United Kingdom, is facing three charges of "causing offense," a violation of Section 5 of the Public Order Act for public remarks comparing Jesus Christ and the Muslim prophet Muhammad, whom he said had married a 9-year-old girl.
Overd has argued that his comments about Muhammad were not intended to be hateful, as his speech included, "a simple comparison and it was factual."
"I have no hatred of Muslims in me at all and only preach the truth of the Gospel. Recently a Muslim man came to my defense when I was preaching and a local shopkeeper started to shout at me," said Overd, who's been a street preacher for five years and has evangelised in Glasgow, Scotland, and Sheffield, Manchester and Taunton, England.
"The Muslim gentleman didn't take offense because he said he knew I was simply preaching what I believed and agreed there was no hatred in me. I've got this incident on video, and I also have video evidence of the incidents which have led to this forthcoming prosecution," he said, according to Christian Concern.
In June, Taunton Police Sgt. Neil Kimmins advised the public to video record Overd's street evangelism on their cellphones "if they think he is making offensive remarks," according to the Somerset County Gazette.
"I've done nothing wrong before Almighty God. My conscience is clear," Overd told the Gazette about his preaching of the Gospel.
This is not the first time Overd has faced similar changes of violating the law while street preaching.
On Feb. 10, 2012, Overd was found not guilty of violating the Public Order Act 1986 for comments he made about homosexuality.
When Overd saw two men in a civil partnership walking down Taunton High Street arm in arm two years ago, he said publically: "even these dear men caught in homosexuality, if they ask God for forgiveness of sin can be forgiven their sin; God loves them that much," Christian Concern reported.
Subsequently, the couple complained to police, which led to Overd's arrest on charges of committing a "hate crime."
Speaking after the trial, Overd said, "something is wrong" when "police arrest me, a Christian preacher who cares deeply for Jesus Christ and the people of Taunton," the BBC reported. "Something has to change and I hope my case will encourage others not to be scared to speak up for Christ."
Enacted in 1986, Section 5 of the Public Order Act deals with public speech that may involve "harassment, alarm or distress."
Section 5 notes that a public speaker is guilty of such if said speaker "uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour" or "displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting."
"An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the other person is also inside that or another dwelling," continued Section 5.
Over the past few years, various street preachers in the U.K. have found themselves dealing with legal issues due to their speaking on topics like Islam and homosexuality.
In 2010, Dale Mcalpine was arrested for declaring in public that homosexuality is a sin. By May of that year, crown prosecutors opted to drop the charges.
"It was a ridiculous charge, I should never have been arrested. … I'm relieved that they have seen sense," said Mcalpine in May of that year.
In 2013, an American evangelist preaching in Wimbledon was arrested under the charge of violating Section 5, as he had spoken of homosexuality being sexually immoral.
Preacher Tony Miano countered that he was actually addressing overall sexual immorality, and simply cited homosexuality as an example.
"I was asked if I believe homosexuality is a sin. I was asked what portion of the Bible I was reading. I was asked that if a homosexual was hungry and walked up to me, would I give them something to eat," Miano said that summer.
"This idea that open air preachers only preach about homosexuality is fallacious. We talk about all forms of sin. We usually take people through the Ten Commandments. We explain to people that no liar, no thief, no fornicator, no blasphemer, no homosexual, will enter into the kingdom of God," he added.
Canadian Graduate Gets Obscene Job Rejection Letter Due To Her Faith And Affiliation With Christian University
A recent graduate from a Canadian Christian University who applied for a job with a Norwegian wilderness tourism company got the shock of her life when she was "attacked" for her religion in a series of emails in which Mary, the mother of Jesus, is called a "whore" and Jesus is threatened with sodomy.
The graduate, Bethany Paquette, who attended Trinity Western University, said her application was rejected by Amaruk Wilderness Corp. because of her faith. And she provided the series of testy and, at times, obscene emails to prove it, according to CBC.
Amaruk notes the company's website specializes in private guiding, highlighted as "custom expeditions throughout the world for private clients." The firm also "offers wilderness training, support, and logistics, as well as consulting services, to individuals, corporations, and governments," among other services.
"It did really hurt me and I did feel really attacked on the basis that I'm a Christian," Paquette told CBC.
Paquette, who's an experienced river rafting guide, has filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal in Canada over the rejection.
After applying to be an assistant guide intern with Amaruk, Olaf Amundsen, the company's hiring manager, replied with a rejection email in which he points out that her association with Trinity Western University, which opposes homosexuality, disqualified her from the job.
"I do not understand the purpose of your application considering you do not meet the minimum requirements that are clearly outlined on our website," he began.
"Additionally, considering you were involved with Trinity Western University, I should mention that, unlike Trinity Western University, we embrace diversity, and the right of people to sleep with or marry whoever they want, and this is reflected within some of our staff and management," he continued.
"In addition, the Norse background of most of the guys at the management level means that we are not a Christian organization, and most of us actually see Christianity as having destroyed our culture, tradition, and way of life," Amundsen's rejection email ended.
Paquette responded to Amundsen's email with a defense of her Christian faith and charged that the company was being discriminatory toward her and signed it "God bless."
In a follow-up email Amundsen replied, in part: "In asking students to refrain from same-sex relationships, Trinity Western University, and any person associated with it has engaged in discrimination, as well as intolerance against other people's beliefs, religious, and otherwise. … There are also practical concerns about a Christian university that rejects the concept of evolution but still grants 'biology' degrees."
He then noted that if Christians simply abided by the tenets of their faith instead of trying to force their views on others, believers would be tolerable. "However, you force other people to embrace your religious beliefs, by preventing them from doing as they wish with their own life and body. This is where we draw the line however."
Amundsen further stated that he is a Viking with a Ph.D. in Norse History and dismissed Christianity as propaganda.
"In closing, 'God Bless' is very offensive to me, and yet another sign of your attempts to impose your religious views on me. I do not want to be blessed by some guy who was conceived by a whore, outside of marriage, and whom has been the very reason for the most horrendous abuses and human rights violations in the history of the human race. If I was to meet the guy, I'd actually (expletive) him," he wrote.
Paquette's lawyer, Geoffrey Trotter, called the emails from Amaruk "nasty" and "over the top."
"You are not allowed in British Columbia to refuse to hire someone because you associate them with other people, from centuries ago, who you think they did something they shouldn't have done," Trotter told CBC.
Trinity Western spokesperson Guy Saffold also told CBC that, "Canadians shouldn't be treated this way by a foreign company. … Mocking of their religion — there is a personal shaming element to it that was most unfortunate."