Prophecy News Watch - Aug 27, 2011

Keeping You Informed of World Events From A Biblical Perspective 


Prophetic Trends & Headline News

1. Where is the United States in Bible Prophecy?

Pentagon Report Exposes China Threat

A new Pentagon report indicates China’s sustained military investments are destabilizing and exposes the Marxist giant’s global ambitions. The free world had better wake up to the security threat posed by this hegemonic menace. 

Last week the Pentagon issued its annual report to Congress, which warns, “China’s rise as a major international actor is likely to stand out as a defining feature of the strategic landscape of the early 21st century.” 

But the report “mischaracterizes and minimizes that threat,” according to Steve Mosher, a social scientist who worked in China and is author of numerous books on the country. The report “does a disservice to the truth,” Mosher said. 

The truth about China’s emerging global threat becomes obvious when Beijing’s intentions, behavior and military modernization are properly exposed. 

First, China’s intentions are global and offensive. Constantine Menges wrote in China: The Gathering Threat, “In the traditional Chinese view, the world needs a hegemon — or dominant state — to prevent disorder. The Communist Chinese regime believes China should be that hegemon.” 

That view was echoed in 2010 by Liu Mingfu, a Chinese senior colonel and author of The China Dream. Liu said “China’s big goal in the 21st century is to become world No. 1, the top power,” Reuters reported. The Pentagon’s report stops short of that forecast but admits the regime “anticipates becoming a world-class economic and military power by 2050.” 

China’s latest defense White Paper provides evidence of its global ambitions. The paper, according to the Pentagon report, introduces the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) to new global missions intended to grow China’s influence, such as international peacekeeping efforts, counter-piracy operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. 

These other-than-war operations are made possible by China’s new investments in large amphibious ships, a hospital ship, long-range transport aircraft and improved logistics. Such assets extend China’s global influence and provide the PLA important expeditionary know-how and capabilities for future operations. 

China’s global ambitions are also evidenced by its increased liaison with foreign militaries and increased joint exercises. Last year, China expanded relations to 150 different militaries, which reflects an effort to collect information and build partnerships. 

Beijing’s foreign outreach includes more joint exercises. In 2010, the PLA participated in 32 joint exercises — up from eight in 2009 — to increase its influence, enhance ties with partner states, and provide opportunities to improve capabilities and gain operational insights from more advanced militaries. 

China’s White Paper also announces the regime’s “active defense” security strategy, which pretends to focus on defense and promises to attack only if attacked. But Mosher says China’s use of the term “active defense” is just a euphemism for the PLA’s “determination to strike first in the event of a crisis.” He concludes “active defense” is “not defensive at all, but is a strategy of offense and expansion.” 

Second, China’s behavior has become aggressive, and given its global ambitions, we can expect more bullying across all domains — land, sea, air, space and cyberspace. 

China is aggressive with Taiwan, a breakaway Chinese democratic republic. Beijing intends to deter Taiwan independence through intimidation such as the massing of 1,200 short-range ballistic missiles opposite the island or through a threatened preemptive attack. 

China aggressively responds to maritime boundary disputes with Japan over the East China Sea and numerous countries in the South China Sea. Beijing claims both seas, and since 2005 it has harassed foreign vessels, including American ships using those seaways. 

Beijing is very aggressive in cyberspace. In 2010, American and ally computer systems were the target of many intrusions that appeared to originate in China, according to the Pentagon. Those breaches were aimed at stealing military-related data and the PLA’s cyber units are prepared to “constrain an adversary’s actions” and “serve as a force multiplier.” 

Third, the Pentagon’s report provides sobering details regarding China’s technological gap-closing developments that are providing the regime the capacity to conduct high-intensity, global operations. 

The report states China developed an anti-access ballistic missile to prevent American aircraft carriers from coming to Taiwan’s defense. The “carrier-killer” missile could also be used globally against America’s 11 carriers. The weapon is known as the DF-21D and has a range exceeding 940 miles. 

China is developing a fighter aircraft that incorporates stealth attributes for long-range missions against well-protected targets — read American military facilities. A Chinese proto-type, the J-20, was tested earlier this year, but the Pentagon does not expect it to achieve “effective operational capability prior to 2018.” China has approximately 2,300 operational combat aircraft and another 1,450 older fighters, bombers and trainers. 

The Communist regime is developing a global expeditionary capability. Specifically, Beijing is developing airborne early-warning and control system aircraft that, combined with aerial-refueling programs, will enable the regime to extend its naval air capabilities globally. 

The PLA has numerous expeditionary forces, such as three airborne divisions armed with modern equipment. But China’s most important expeditionary tool is the aircraft carrier. Beijing recently sea-tested a refurbished Russian carrier, and the Pentagon reports, “China could begin construction of a fully indigenous carrier … which could achieve operational capability after 2015.” 

The carrier is the latest addition to China’s modern 274-ship blue-water navy, which includes at least 60 submarines. China continues to produce a new class of global-capable nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines armed with the atomic-tipped JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile with an estimated range of 4,600 miles. 

China deploys a growing satellite network. Last year, China conducted a “record” 15 space launches to expand its space-based intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, navigation and communications constellations. It is also weaponizing space. 

In 2007, China successfully tested a direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon against a weather satellite. It continues to develop and refine this system as well as other kinetic and directed-energy technologies for ASAT missions. 

Finally, China is growing its strategic missile program backed by a developing anti-ballistic missile system. The Pentagon expects China to invest considerable resources to maintain its nuclear arsenal, which Beijing claims will never be used unless it is first attacked by atomic weapons. 

But that view disputes a 2005 statement by Gen. Zhu Chenghu, a dean at China’s National Defense University, who said that if the U.S. used conventional arms on Chinese territory, "We will have to respond with nuclear weapons," according to the New York Times. 

The Pentagon reports China added 25 new multi-warhead road-mobile, solid propellant intercontinental-range ballistic missiles to its arsenal in 2010. Beijing’s growing nuclear arsenal is kept safe in deep underground bunkers connected by 3,000 miles of tunnels, a complex that until this report was kept secret. 

The Pentagon also for the first time affirmed China is developing a nationwide missile defense system. Reportedly Beijing’s nonexplosive, high-speed interceptors can hit missiles at heights of up to 50 miles. “In January 2010, China successfully intercepted a ballistic missile at mid-course, using a ground-based missile,” according to the Pentagon. 

China’s hegemonic intentions, aggressive behavior and sobering militarization demonstrate an emerging, dangerous new global threat. The U.S. and its allies must prevent China from becoming a global hegemon that would use that position to push its Marxist ideology.

New Study Indicates American's Religious Faith Waning 

Despite the prominence of religious believers in politics and culture, America has shrinking congregations, growing dissatisfaction with religious leaders and more people who do not think about faith, according to a new study by a Duke University expert.

In "American Religion: Contemporary Trends," author Mark Chaves argues that over the last generation or so, religious belief in the U.S. has experienced a "softening" that effects everything from whether people go to worship services regularly to whom they marry. Far more people are willing to say they don't belong to any religious tradition today than in the past, and signs of religious vitality may be camouflaging stagnation or decline.

"Reasonable people can disagree over whether the big picture story is one of essential stability or whether it's one of slow decline," said Chaves. "Unambiguously, though, there's no increase."

Chaves, who directs the National Congregations Study, used data from that research and from four decades' worth of General Social Survey results to draw what he aims to be an overview of contemporary American religion. The study will be published this week.

Today, as many as 20 percent of all Americans say they don't belong to any religious group, Chaves found, compared with around 3 percent in the 1950s. Yet, those people aren't necessarily atheists, agnostics or others. Instead, about 92 percent of Americans still profess belief in God, they just don't use religion as part of their identity.

"It used to be that even the most marginally active people wouldn't say they have no religion, they'd say `I'm Catholic' or `I'm Baptist' or `I'm Methodist' or whatever," Chaves said. "That's not the case today."

Even signs of robust religious faith may not be what they appear, Chaves found. The strength of religious conservatives in politics, for example, has coincided with a growing disillusionment about faith's role in the public square. Chaves found that between 1991 and 2008, the percentage of Americans who strongly agreed that religious leaders should stay out of politics rose from 20 percent to 44 percent.

At the same time, those who remain devout have become more conservative. In the mid-1970s, knowing that someone attended church regularly wouldn't reveal much about their political leanings; today, regular churchgoers are far more likely to be Republicans than Democrats.

"It's not random who's leaving churches," said Bradley Wright, a University of Connecticut sociologist who studies American Christianity and wrote the 2010 book "Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told."

"As Christians affiliated more through the Republican Party, liberal, marginal churchgoers became offended and left," she said.

The notion of decline misses important developments like the enthusiastic devotion of Christian immigrants, argues Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

"Much of our immigration is coming from countries where Christianity is blossoming," he said. "I think God's doing some great things in African-American churches and among Hispanic immigrants."

Anderson thinks the change is better described as a shift than a decline, as people become more willing to leave the denominations or faiths in which they were raised and look elsewhere for spiritual nourishment.

Wright also believes that a decline might be overstating the case, and says polarization is a better description. He recently plotted survey data over the last 25 years recording what Americans say about the importance of religion in their lives. Those who say it's extremely important have grown slightly, along with those who say it's not at all important. But the number of people who said it was "somewhat" important dropped from 36 percent to 22 percent in about 20 years.

"Forty or 50 years ago, it was almost a form of deviance not to be religious," he said. "When you take away that external form of motivation, people either drop away or they find their own kind of motivation."

Chaves agrees, saying churches are likelier today to consist largely of a "hard core" of believers, and to have fewer casual or lukewarm members that used to swell the ranks.

"That's what's changed," he said. "Certainly as a percentage of their time, it's less important than it was."

These trends developed slowly over decades, Chaves said, and he doesn't think they can be reversed by ramped-up evangelism or other conscious decisions by religious groups. The main force may be demographic, since the data show that the households most likely to be devout consist of two parents and children. As fewer people have children and more couples split up, religious institutions see their numbers dwindle.

"Religious leaders know this," Chaves said. "That's why they look for ways to attract single people and people without kids. But it's hard, because on the whole, mainstream religion is kind of geared toward families."

The study wasn't all bad for religious groups, though. Older people are more likely to be religious than the young, and America is on the cusp of having the largest elderly population in its history, Chaves said.

Immigrants to the U.S. also tend to be active religious believers, and birth rates may also favor the faithful. Devout families usually have more children than the kinds of non-traditional arrangements contributing to the demographic drain on religions, Wright said. Finally, there's an extraordinary amount of good will toward religious faith in the U.S., especially in contrast with other Western countries.

"It's not like there's a lot of hostility toward religion in the United States," Chaves said. "It's just that there's been a softening of religiosity."


2. Israel - God's Timepiece

Assad may opt for war to escape Russian, Arab, European ultimatums

Monday night and Tuesday, Aug-29-30, three international heavyweights - Russia, the European Union and key Muslim nations – gave Syrian President Bashar Assad tough ultimatums for ending his ferocious crackdown on protest. 

Nevertheless, on Monday, his troops shot dead 17 people in Syrian cities - even as he received Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov who arrived in Damascus with a last warning from President Dmitry Medvedev: Recall you soldiers to their bases immediately and implement changes or Moscow will endorse UN Security Council sanctions stiff enough to stifle the Syrian economy.

Those sanctions are only a step away from a resolution authorizing NATO, together with Muslim and Arab nations, to intervene militarily in the Syrian crisis.

debkafile's military and intelligence sources disclose that Turkey, as a NATO member, and Saudi Arabia, on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, have been in discussions this past week on the form this intervention would take:

1. The long-considered Turkish plan to send troops into northern Syria and carve out a military pocket from which Syria's rebels would be supplied with military, logistic and medical aid.

2. Ankara and Riyadh will provide the anti-Assad movements with large quantities of weapons and funds to be smuggled in from outside Syria.

3. The Turkish military incursion would be matched by Saudi troops entering southern Syria at the head of GCC contingents. They would move in via Jordan and establish a second military enclave under GCC auspices.

The third option came up in Tehran last Thursday, Aug. 25, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad heard some straight talk from the visiting Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

debkafile's exclusive Iranian sources reveal that the Qatari ruler slapped down a blunt warning: Assad was finished, he said, and advised Iran to face up to this. For the sake of even minimal relations with the Arab world, Iran must ditch the Assad regime in Damascus or face the real danger of the Syrian crisis deteriorating into a regional conflict – whether against Syria or by Syria, he did not explain.

Ahmadinejad turned the emir down flat, according to our sources. He said Iran would never renege on its pact with Assad.
Two days later, our military sources report, Syria deployed 25 anti-air missile batteries along its Turkish border.

In Brussels, Monday, the 27-member European Union bowed to Washington's demand and finally decided to corner Assad by clamping down an embargo on imported Syrian crude. 

Europe is the biggest buyer of Syrian oil, importing $4.5 billion worth a year. This provides Syria with its main source of foreign currency revenue and the primary funding for Assad's military operations against dissidents.

Once this source dries up, the Syrian ruler will be forced to cut down on those operations unless Iran is willing to make up the difference.

Assad is sure to appreciate that the coalition lining up against him of the US, Europe, Turkey, the Gulf Arab nations and Russia, are almost identical to the alignment (barring Moscow) which has just overthrown Muammar Qaddafi's regime in Tripoli.

He and his advisers have no doubt discussed the possibility of being at the receiving end of the same treatment.

Their ruler's growing isolation and the real prospect of international punitive measures have given the opposition new heart after nearly six months of standing up to a deadly crackdown: Saturday, Aug. 27 Assad saw his own capital rallying against him with big demonstrations in central Damascus. The pressure from the street continued to build up through Sunday and Monday, some of the protesters venturing to hoist the old Syrian Republican flag instead of the Baathist version introduced by the Assads.

Aleppo is now the only Syrian city which has not so far come out against the regime. Tuesday morning, while Assad attended an Eid al-Fitr worship at a Damascus mosque, his soldiers sprayed demonstrators in the eastern town of Deir al-Zour with bullets.

Well-informed military sources warn that Assad will not be cowed by the international, military and economic noose tightening around his neck. He is far more likely to try and loosen it by lashing out against his enemies, starting with Israel. Iran will certainly be a willing supporter of such belligerence, starting a war which could spread like wildfire across the region.

Boykin: Israel-Iran conflict likely inevitable

A retired Army general and leading expert on terrorism says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may soon be compelled to take decisive action against the rogue regime in Iran.

Israel was recently compelled to dispatch two more warships to the Red Sea border with Egypt in response to a warning about another planned terrorist attack from Egypt against southern Israel. Fox News also reports that Iran dispatched its 15th fleet to the Red Sea, allegedly to combat piracy.

Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (USA-Ret) is an original member of Delta Force and author of the new novel, Kiloton Threat, which deals with the Iranian nuclear program. He reminds that Iranian strongman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is committed to wiping Israel off the face of the globe.

"It is heartfelt. It is essentially expressing his theology that says that the 'Mahdi,' or the 12th Imam, will only return in an atmosphere of chaos and bloodshed," Boykin explains. "And as far as Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Council are concerned, the best way to create that chaos and bloodshed would be to just destroy Israel, particularly using a nuclear weapon."

So the general believes Israel will have to prevent Iran from getting that weapon.

"I think that Benjamin Netanyahu is coming to a very critical point, where he's going to be left with no options except to try and do a preemptive strike on this nuclear program," Boykin "There is absolutely no other option ... other than just taking out the leadership of Iran. But the probabilities of being able to do that are very, very slim."

If Israel is compelled to launch that preemptive strike, Boykin believes it will do so without the help of the Barack Obama-led United States.

Signs Of The Times - UN Vote In Sept Could Divide The World Over Israel

Israel is gearing up for what could be massive Palestinian protests in September, when the United Nations may move forward with the recognition of a Palestinian state. 

"The most immediate one is the decision of the Palestinian Authority to reject negotiations with Israel," former Israeli U.N. Ambassador Dore Gold told CBN News.

Palestinians want the United Nations to accept them as a member state in September. Gold said they want to use mass demonstrations in the West Bank to challenge Israel.

Turning World Opinion

"There's a strategy in the field to create an atmosphere of violence that leads TV networks to give it special coverage and forces public opinion, as well as Western governments to shift their position from one of questions about what the Palestinians are doing to strong support for what they're trying to accomplish," Gold explained.

Israeli Messianic leader Chuck Cohen said any such action would be dividing God's land to make an Islamic state in the territory promised to the Jewish people.

"The Palestinians never had it in the first place, and yet here we are facing this threat," Cohen said.

And they want to divide Jerusalem.

"God is saying, I'm testing your hearts with Jerusalem that I'm giving back to my people," he added.

If Israel defies the U.N., author Joel Rosenberg warned that the international community could team up to cut off Israel diplomatically and even economically.

"Think of what we did with Iraq for example. We built a coalition to cut her off economically and then eventually we sent a military to overthrow a regime," Rosenberg said.

Weapons of War

And what if Israel agrees to divide its land with the Palestinians?

"That will go badly for Israel as it did the last time they divided the land, giving Gaza away. They ended up getting 8,000 rockets and missiles, not peace," Rosenberg said. 

"When they divided the land and gave back a sliver of the north to Lebanon, they ended up with 4,000 rockets and missiles as thank you presents from the Lebanese," he continued.

Cohen said Palestinians have other tools at their disposal.

"The latest thing they're trying is called lawfare - instead of warfare - lawfare. They trying to legally destroy us," he said.

Lawfare means exploiting courts in democratic countries to harass Israelis, accusing them of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It's part of a campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state, which ranges from accusing Israel of being an apartheid state to rewriting history that denies any Jewish connection to Jerusalem or the Temple Mount.

Threats All Around

Then there is the direct threat to the land and all its people.

"Iran hasn't gone away…anyone who reads the reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency is aware that the amount of low-enriched uranium, which can later be converted to weapons' grade, is still growing," Gold said.

Rosenberg said there's no doubt Iran is pursuing nuclear arms. 

"Iran clearly is working on nuclear weapons. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinajad is even starting to speculate publicly over whether they should just come out and say they're going to build nuclear weapons," Rosenberg said.

And Iran's allies already threaten Israel. To the north, Hezbollah has some 50,000 rockets and missiles pointed its way.

Syria could move from cracking down on its own pro-democracy demonstrators to picking a fight with Israel.

To the south, Hamas rules Gaza and the Muslim Brotherhood may soon rule Egypt, Israel's first Arab peace partner. 

And don't forget Turkey, a one-time ally that's shifting allegiances.

"With all the threats Israel is a very strong country. It's a country which has economically been stable…It's a country where there's a huge amount of creativity," Gold said. 

"And as much as it faces these difficult challenges, it will learn to live with them and solve them over time," he said.

Time for Ezekiel Prophecies?

Still Rosenberg said wars can happen suddenly.

"The place is a tinderbox, one spark and the whole thing can go up in flames so it's hard to say," he said. 

"One thing we know prophetically is that Ezekiel 38 and 39, the war of Gog and Magog comes after a period of security for the Israeli people and prosperity. Now you'd have to say that right now Israel is experiencing both," he explained.

Rosenberg said Israelis are feeling more secure than at any time in their 63-year history. 

"In fact they're feeling more secure as Jews here then any time in the last 2,000 years, maybe 2,500 years. But the greatest risk for Israel right now is that Israel is not focused on the Lord," he said.

That, Rosenberg said, is crucial so the Lord can help Israel deal with the challenging times ahead.

Jerusalem: Capital of ‘Palestine’?

Throughout all of history, Jerusalem has been the capital of only one nation: Israel. From the time of Kings David and Solomon, late 11th – 10th centuries BCE, to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE, almost 1,100 years, Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish nation.

From the onset of Islamic rule in 638 CE to its end 1917, except for Crusader rule from 1099 to 1187, Jerusalem was never the capital of any Muslim state, nor even a provincial capital, until late Ottoman times (19th c. CE) when it became a special provincial religious site (vilayet) separate from its larger provincial area [sanjak].

Jerusalem is never mentioned in the Qur’an. “The Night Journey,” in chapter 17:1, recounts Mohammed’s magical flight on the back of the winged horse, el-Buraq, and his landing in “al-Aqsa” (literally, the faraway mosque), which is interpreted by later Muslim scholars to be the Temple Mount in Jerusalem; but Jerusalem is not mentioned in the text. The Temple Mount, however, is acknowledged in Muslim tradition to date back to Solomonic times. In A Brief Guide to al-Haram al-Sharif, published by the Supreme Moslem Council in Jerusalem in 1925, Muslim scholars expounded upon the antiquity and sanctity of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, stating that it dates to earliest times, certainly to the time of the Israelite kingdom, and is identified beyond dispute with the site of Solomon’s Temple.

In a description of the Temple Mount area known as “Solomon’s Stables,” which Islamic Waqf officials in Jerusalem converted into a mosque in 1996, the guide states: “…little is known for certain about the early history of the chamber itself. It dates probably as far back as the construction of Solomon’s Temple… According to Josephus, it was in existence and was used as a place of refuge by the Jews at the time of the conquest of Jerusalem by Titus in the year 70 A.D.”

And the above is consistent with Muslim tradition. Islamic post-Qur’anic texts recount that originally Muhammed prayed toward Jerusalem (and not Mecca), making Jerusalem Islam’s first Qibla (direction toward which Muslims should pray). This tradition is based upon the account on the Qur’an’s chapter 2, verses 144 &149-150, where we read that Mohammed changed the direction of prayer to Mecca. The Qur’an does not state where the first Qibla was, and Jerusalem is not mentioned in the text; but later tradition preserved in biographies of Mohammed and in some Hadith collections (especially Sahih al-Bukhari) indicates that the original direction was toward Jerusalem. However, today there is some rather acrimonious debate among Muslim scholars of Islamic history about when and why the change came about, and if it came about at all; but what is important for this study is that the change, if it did happen, effectively nullified any religious significance that Jerusalem might have had for Islam. If it did not happen, then Jerusalem had no religious significance for Islam, ever.

For centuries thereafter, Jerusalem played little or no role in the religious affairs and development of Islam. In the 13th century, Ibn-Taymiyya, a major Muslim cleric and ideological godfather to later Saudi Wahhabism, wrote extensively about Jerusalem, demonstrating from Muslim sources that there were only two holy cities in Islam – Mecca and Medina. Ibn Taymiyya​ went to great lengths to explain that the veneration of Jerusalem was nothing more than the “Judaization” of Islam.

So how did Jerusalem become Islam’s third most sacred place? — By subterfuge. 

In the late 680’s, just 50 years after Mohammed’s death, a civil war erupted among the Muslims. The Umayyad caliph, Abd al-Malik, who at that time ruled from Damascus, wanted to put down a revolt by his Muslim enemies who controlled Mecca, the place of pilgrimage. In order to weaken them, he created a counter-pilgrimage site in Jerusalem in 691, to compete with Mecca and to which to redirect pilgrims who might have decided, once in Mecca, to take up the rebels’ cause. He therefore built a mosque, the “dome of the rock,” on the site where Solomon’s Temple had been build in Jerusalem, and declared Jerusalem “al-Quds” (the sacred place). So Jerusalem’s sanctity to Muslims originates with a political and propagandistic ploy.

Under centuries of Muslim and Crusader rule, Jews were prohibited from, or limited in their access to, the city’s holy sites. Even the sacred precinct of the Temple Mount fell in to neglect and disrepair and disuse, due to the Muslim world’s lack of interest in Jerusalem.

With Zionist immigration to Israel in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Jerusalem again blossomed; and with the growth of the Jewish population in the city, the non-Jewish population grew too. Under British control (British Mandatory Palestine, 1917-1948), the city expanded even more, growing to a population of almost 300,000, more than half of whom were Jews.

The UN Partition Plan, UNGAR #181, Nov. 29, 1947, declared Jerusalem to be an international city under a special mandate. Israel accepted the plan, but the Arab world rejected it and declared a genocidal war against Israel. Against all odds, the Jews won, but Jerusalem was divided by the 1949 UN Armistice lines. West Jerusalem, in Israel, flourished, and became again, for the first time in almost 2,000 years, the capital of the Jewish state. East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, under an uncaring and illegal Jordanian sovereignty, languished, impoverished and neglected, much as it had during the centuries of Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid and Ottoman rule.

After the 6-day war (June 5-10, 1967), Jerusalem was re-united, under legal Israeli sovereignty, and East Jerusalem was annexed to the State of Israel. The West Bank was not annexed, as the Israeli government had offered, at the UN, to cede back to Jordan all of the West Bank except for Jerusalem. Jordan spurned the offer.

But Arafat recognized the PR value of al-Haram ash-Sharif in Jewish hands, and he milked it for all it was worth. “The Dome of the Rock turned up in pictures everywhere, from Yasir Arafat​’s office to the corner grocery. Slogans about Jerusalem proliferated and the city quickly became the single most emotional issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict.” The PLO began to specifically mention Jerusalem in its 1968 constitution as “the seat of the Palestine Liberation Organization.”

Other Muslim leaders followed Arafat, and the importance of Jerusalem for Islam spread suddenly throughout the Muslim world. “….the Islamic Republic of Iran has made Jerusalem a central issue, following the dictate of its founder, Ayatollah Khomeini​, who remarked that Jerusalem is the property of Muslims and must return to them.”

So today there can be no “Palestine” without Jerusalem, thanks in large part to Arafat’s adroit machinations.

It is obvious from the above that the importance of Jerusalem to the Muslim world is a function solely of political circumstances. The high religious sanctity for Muslims of the Holy City and the Temple Mount, and the claim that Jerusalem is Islam’s third holiest site, are all convenient political ploys.

Today Muslim scholars and political leaders deny the Jewish heritage of Jerusalem, and claim Muslim veneration for the city and for al-Haram ash-Sharif from the days of Adam for one reason only: Jerusalem is now under Jewish sovereignty.

'US, Israel fear terrorists will obtain Syrian weapons'

The United States and Israel voiced serious concern that terrorist groups would use the faltering regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad to seize government stockpiled nonconventional weapons, including mustard gas and Sarin gas, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.

"We are very concerned about the status of Syria's WMD, including chemical weapons," said Dr. Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States. 

Amid continuing unrest in Syria, Damascus increased shipments of advanced missiles and other weapons to Hezbollah, The Times of London reported in July, quoting Western intelligence officials.

The officials said Syria provided Hezbollah with eight Scud D missiles that have a range of 700 kilometers.

The missiles "are accurate to within tens of meters and bring all of Israel, Jordan and large parts of Turkey within Hezbollah's range," the officials were quoted by the newspaper as saying.

They also said that, "This is the first time that a terror organization has obtained a missile of this type," which is considered a "strategic weapon" that "has been held only by national armies."

Besides Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas also reportedly keeps close ties with Syria, and serves as a possible destination for weapons Assad might want to keep out of the hands of his opponents.

International concern over the Assad regime include an agreement by the European Union on Friday to broaden their sanctions against Syria, and to allow for future bans on business with Syrian banks or energy and telecommunications firms, EU diplomats said.

During a round of talks in Brussels on future sanctions against the government of President Bashar Assad, EU diplomats also confirmed plans to impose an embargo on imports of Syrian crude oil to Europe.

Pending a final confirmation by EU capitals, the import ban could be put in place as soon as next week, diplomats said.

Behind The Scenes - Gaza War Narrowly Averted, For Now

When Defense Minister Ehud Barak arrived at the Defense Ministry Headquarters’ meeting room last Saturday, a thick war book titled “Operation South” was already awaiting his approval on his desk. In those hours, Israel was on the verge of embarking on war in the Gaza Strip.

The book did not pertain to a limited operation. The selected targets would have certainly prompted a major flare-up, including difficult regional implications. Just like in Operation Cast Lead, the political leadership granted immunity to no one in the Strip, regardless of his position or stature. 

The detailed plans – the targets, scope, power and timing – would have left Hamas no breathing space and time to debate its response. It would have gone for the jackpot, right away. Indeed, Israel’s war plan included preparations for massive rocket fire from Gaza, including long-range missiles aimed at central Israel in general, and at Tel Aviv in particular. 

Last weekend, the General Staff Headquarters looked like on the eve of war. Officials were working around the clock and sleeping in their offices. While formulating the plans, top officials recalled the curse of arrogance of the Second Lebanon War. Back then, the decision to launch a war was taken without sufficient preparation. The military and political leadership decided to deliver a blow, immediately, without taking into account the implications, the enemy’s response, the home front’s condition and the ability to counter rocket barrages. This time around, a full, detailed plan was drafted; it also included the IDF Home Front Command’s deployment. Only then was the scheme presented to the political echelon. 

Another lesson learned from the miserable confrontation vis-à-vis Hezbollah is to start such assaults with great fire power, in order to minimize as much as is possible the home front’s suffering. This lesson was already implemented in Operation Cast Lead; in other words, the power utilized during Cast Lead was to constitute the starting point of the next operation. 

Countdown begins

Most of Israel’s regular army was to be enlisted, at one point or another, for the operation. Hence, last Saturday all regular army units were placed on alert. Air Force squadrons undertook their final preparations. The time given to the army for preparations also gave international parties – namely the United States and Egypt – time to examine alternatives to the war. 

Thursday afternoon, a few hours after the terror offensive on the road leading to Eilat, officials started to formulate the operational doctrine. At that point, the targets were only Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC.) Hamas was not yet a clear target, with the exception of several symbolic hits meant to signal to the group that it holds the responsibility to prevent attacks from the Strip. 

A short while after the PRC’s top brass was eliminated by the IDF in a surgical strike, Hamas’ entire leadership, both military and political, disappeared to various hideouts. They quickly realized where Israel’s response was headed to; hence, junior spokesmen were sent to address the cameras. 

The next phase of Israel’s operation included the extension of the assault to Hamas as well. The assumption was that Hamas’ chiefs must have been aware of the PRC terror cell that headed to the Sinai to carry out attacks from there. A week before the Eilat offensive, PRC terrorists fired Grad Missiles at Kiryat Gat, and Hamas proceeded to detain the shooters, further demonstrating that it is deeply familiar with what goes on among “rogue groups” in Gaza. 

In retrospect it turned out that not everything works by the book: To the great amazement of Israel’s experts, Hamas was truly surprised by the Eilat-area attacks. 

Zero hour for the large, comprehensive facet of the operation was set. The countdown began. The manpower numbers at some units were complemented with reservists. Less than 24 hours remained before a war broke out. Yet then, Saturday night, a diplomatic opportunity to end the escalation emerged. Hamas initiated a ceasefire. 

Hamas doesn’t want war 

Officials quickly discovered that Hamas was embarrassed and confused by the fact that someone in the organization assumed responsibility for ending the lull and firing rockets at Ofakim and Beersheba that caused casualties. As it turned out, Hamas did not fire the rockets, and even sent police officers in an attempt to curb the shooters. Hamas heads directly approached the Americans and Egyptians and sought a ceasefire. Israel was aware of these inquiries virtually in real time. 

Hamas chiefs did not plan or want this confrontation; not now. They were concerned about being blamed that they are pulling the rug from under Mahmoud Abbas ahead of the September independence bid. Moreover, the economic situation in Gaza is worsening. The government is having trouble paying salaries, with the amount of money pouring into the Strip at this time being a fraction of past fund transfers. 

At this time, officials in the Strip need calm and support from Cairo in the contacts on the Gilad Shalit swap. Hamas also fears that Egypt would close the Rafah Crossing. Furthermore, Hamas leaders in Gaza realized that what Israel characterized as a “disproportional response” to the rocket fire was merely the groundwork for a large-scale operation. 

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh dared leave his hideout only on Tuesday, some 24 hours after the ceasefire. Top Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders are still huddled in bomb shelters, for good reason apparently. On Wednesday, an Islamic Jihad member was killed. Another one was assassinated early Thursday. This pattern will continue. The message in the wake of the Eilat-area offensive is unequivocal: Pinpoint eliminations are back, even if the price of each surgical strike is a night of mortar shells and Grad rockets aimed at southern Israel. 

Shin Bet supports op 

Saturday night, the Egyptians and Americans asked Israel to adhere to the ceasefire and refrain from launching a military campaign. Simultaneously, Egypt’s supreme military council made efforts to curb the anti-Israel wave sweeping the streets. If you act aggressively, the Egyptians told Israel, we would not be able to mediate vis-à-vis Hamas and we may not be able to contain the masses who seek to target Israeli symbols in Cairo. 

During last weekend’s discussions, Israel’s forum of top eight government ministers did not only address the fears of collapsed ties with Egypt. They also spoke of the concern that a military operation would bring Israel into September in an inferior position, with states currently sitting on the fence opting to support the Palestinians. Officials also spoke of the shaky state of the Jordanian regime, which may be further destabilized as result of great shocks in Gaza. They also discussed further deterioration in our relationship with Turkey, which has become Gaza’ patron. 

There was no consensus among participants in the meeting. The Shin Bet, for example, supported a military operation, despite all the diplomatic considerations, and promised to deliver the targets. However, some military officials noted that Hamas did not fire during the Gaza escalation. This was the first time the group’s facilities were hit, its people were killed, yet it held its fire. Several officers said this constituted clear proof that our deterrence is still stable. 

And so, by midweek the army lowered its alert level, although it was immediately raised again; one warning elapsed but others emerged. Wednesday morning, inspectors cleared the Ashdod beach. Warnings about planned suicide attacks remerged. Meanwhile, The Shin Bet detained some 150 Hamas members, including political activists and parliamentarians, in the Hebron region early last week. This was characterized as the biggest arrest operation, in one night, since the peak of the second Intifada in 2002. 

As September approaches, the IDF is being stretched beyond its means, and there will apparently be no escaping the need to call up reservists. Our leadership is navigating through a minefield. Just like we were on the verge of war Saturday night, with most of the public being completely oblivious to the unfolding drama, it can happen again tomorrow morning. The war book is ready. 


4. The Gog/Magog War

Setting the stage for Ezekiel 38 - Islamists expected to control new Libya

Elements of al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups were known to be key players in the NATO-backed uprising in Libya from the beginning, but now it appears that prominent Jihadists and terrorists are practically leading the revolution with Western support.

One terror leader in particular, Abdelhakim Belhaj, made headlines around the world over the weekend after it emerged that he was appointed the chief of Tripoli’s rebel Military Council. Prior to leading rebel forces against Gaddafi’s regime, Belhaj was the founder and leader of the notorious Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).

Eventually the terror “Emir,” as he has been called, was arrested and tortured as an American prisoner in the terror war. In 2004, according to reports, he was transferred to the Gaddafi regime — then a U.S. terror-war ally.

By 2010, Belhaj was freed by Gaddafi under an amnesty agreement for “former” terrorists. And more recently, the terror leader and his men were trained by U.S. special forces to take on Gaddafi.

"We proudly announce the liberation of Libya and that Libya has become free and that the rule of the tyrant and the era of oppression is behind us," Belhaj was quoted as saying by ABC after his forces sacked one of Gaddafi's compounds. His leadership is now well established.

While most news reports about Belhaj acknowledged that the LIFG has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, many accounts inaccurately downplayed the group’s links to terror and al-Qaeda. But evidence suggests the two terrorist organizations actually merged several years ago.

According to a study by the U.S. military, the organization had an “increasingly cooperative relationship with al-Qa’ida, which culminated in the LIFG officially joining al-Qa’ida on November 3, 2007.” And even before that, former CIA boss George Tenet warned the U.S. Senate in 2004 that al-Qaeda-linked groups like the LIFG represented “one of the most immediate threats” to American security.

A few reporters, however, have highlighted the seriousness of the problem. Journalist Pepe Escobar, one of the first to report the news of Belhadj‘s rise to power in Tripoli, explained in the Asia Times: "Every intelligence agency in the US, Europe and the Arab world knows where he's [Belhadj's] coming from. He's already made sure in Libya that himself and his militia will only settle for sharia law."

Escobar also noted that the repercussions would be widespread. “The story of how an al-Qaeda asset turned out to be the top Libyan military commander in still war-torn Tripoli is bound to shatter — once again — that wilderness of mirrors that is the ‘war on terror,’” he noted. It will also compromise “the carefully constructed propaganda of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO's) ‘humanitarian’ intervention in Libya.”

Israeli intelligence group Debka also drew attention to the situation in a recent analysis. “Belhadj is on record as rejecting any political form of coexistence with the Crusaders excepting jihad,” the organization noted in a piece entitled “Pro-Al Qaeda brigades control Qaddafi Tripoli strongholds seized by rebels.”

Belhadj, of course, is hardly the only al-Qaeda terrorist leading rebel forces in the NATO-backed takeover of Libya. Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, another key insurgent military commander, has also boasted of his links to terror groups and his battles against U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Countless other “former” terrorists, many of whom are well-known to American officials, are also deeply embedded in the new rebel regime. And according to CNN, hundreds of al-Qaeda-linked Islamic extremists have been set free from Libyan prisons in recent days and weeks by rebel forces.

"Nobody knows what these released prisoners are going to do next," explained Noman Benotman, identified as a “former Libyan Jihadist” and senior LIFG leader. "Will they take part in the fighting and if they do will they join pre-existing rebel brigades or form a separate fighting force?"

On top of that, because the rebel government has already been recognized by Western governments, it will soon be receiving billions of dollars that were seized from the Gaddafi regime. Massive aid packages and overwhelming military support have been flowing to the rebels for months.

Al-Qaeda fighters and other Islamic extremists are also now in possession of huge stockpiles of advanced military weaponry including missiles and possibly even weapons of mass destruction. Concern about chemical agents falling into their hands is growing quickly.

NATO powers, which secretly armed the rebels before Western intervention became official, also flooded the nation with arms. And Gaddafi’s stockpiles have been thoroughly raided, adding even more fuel to the fire as the weapons begin to flow toward Jihadists around the world.

And the battle is indeed expanding. Al-Qaeda is now targeting regimes that did not back the Libyan rebellion. After an attack on an important Algerian military academy that left 18 dead, for example, a statement released by al-Qaeda said the strike was due to Algeria “continuing to support the Libyan dictator Gadaffi to fight against our brothers.”

As The New American reported in March, top al-Qaeda figures actually backed and praised the rebellion in Libya from the very beginning. Many key terrorist leaders were known to be intimately involved with the NATO-backed uprising.

Ironically perhaps, Gaddafi claimed from the start that the rebels were Western agents and al-Qaeda leaders. But despite U.S. Senators McCain and Lieberman having praised the regime several years earlier as an “ally” in the terror war deserving of American weapons, Gaddafi’s statements were dismissed by most analysts.

Eventually, however, even top U.S. officials confirmed that there were at least “flickers” of al-Qaeda among the rebel leadership. Now it is becoming increasingly apparent that they are firmly in control. And evidence of widespread war crimes by NATO and its extremist proxies on the ground is mounting by the day.

Congressman and GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul warned that the worst for Libyans may be yet to come. “We face a situation where a rebel element we have been assisting may very well be radical jihadists, bent on our destruction, and placed in positions of power in a new government,” he said in a statement released last week. “Worse still, Gadhafi’s successor is likely to be just as bad, or worse, than Gadhafi himself.” 

The aftermath of NATO’s Libya war will almost certainly be bloody and fraught with problems. And even though the truth is difficult to discern amid a web of lies emanating from both sides, what has been learned doesn’t paint a bright picture for the future.

Sharia law is enshrined in the draft Constitution, and the violence shows no signs of easing thus far. The rebel “Transitional Council” also announced early on that it had created a Western-style central bank to take over from Gaddafi’s state-owned monetary authority.

Even as Libya spirals deeper into chaos and Gaddafi vows to fight on for years, NATO may well be planning further “regime change” missions for other Middle Eastern nations. Islamic extremists, meanwhile, are arming and preparing themselves for more violence as they exploit the situation to gain more power. Analysts say the nightmare is only beginning. 

Deep Rift In Israel-Turkey Relations Over Flotilla Apology Refusal

Israel has no intention of apologizing to Turkey over the 2010 flotilla raid despite Ankara's latest ultimatum, a senior official told Ynet Thursday.

While Israel is aware of the implications of its decision to refrain from issuing an apology, "we cannot conduct ourselves based on ultimatums," the official said. 

Another senior official estimated in a talk with Ynet that while the Turkish government may take steps against Israel and not return its ambassador to Tel Aviv, Ankara will not be severing its ties with Jerusalem.

"The severing of ties goes against Turkey's strategic interests," he said. "They wish to engage in a policy of mediating between everyone." 

An official familiar with the complexities of Israel-Turkey relations said earlier Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no intention of issuing an apology to Ankara.

"The PM is determined not to issue an apology," he said, adding that "Jerusalem has conveyed messages to Washington whereby it does not intend to apologize for the incident." 

Israel's forum of top eight government ministers discussed the Turkish affair in a recent meeting; four of the ministers – Ehud Barak, Dan Meridor, Benny Begin and Yuval Steinitz – were in favor of apologizing to Ankara. However, as noted, PM Netanyahu decided to object to an apology.

"The prime minister knows that the public objects to apologizing to Turkey, and he apparently chose to go with what the public thinks," an Israeli official familiar with the affair said.


5. Apostate Christianity

Adam and Eve: Clarifying Again What Is at Stake

Recent evangelical discussion concerning Adam and Eve has served at least one good purpose - it has helped to clarify what is theologically at stake in the debate. The recent report by National Public Radio [NPR] alerted the larger secular culture to the debate, but the debate is hardly new.

What is new, however, is the candid admission on the part of some that the denial of a historical Adam requires a new understanding of the Bible’s basic story - and thus of the Gospel as well.

One of my recent articles, “False Start? The Controversy Over Adam and Eve Heats Up,” made this point clearly. As I argued there, the denial of a historical Adam means not only the rejection of a clear biblical teaching, but also the denial of the biblical doctrine of the Fall, leading to a very different way of telling the story of the Bible and the meaning of the Gospel.

By the way, those who try to deny that Genesis requires the affirmation of a historic Adam as a real and singular human individual (arguing, for example, that the Hebrew word translated “Adam” means only “the man”) must face the fact that the Genesis narrative clearly presents Adam as a singular individual who acts, speaks, marries, reproduces, and is listed even in the genealogy of Jesus. Hebrew vocabulary offers no escape hatch from historicity.

The main point of my “False Start” article, however, was that the denial of a historical Adam severs the essential point made by Paul in Romans 5:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned-for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. [Romans 5:12-17]

This is the Apostle Paul’s way of telling the story of the Bible and the meaning of the Gospel. If Adam was not a historical figure, and thus if there was no Fall into sin and all humanity did not thus sin in Adam, then Paul’s telling of the Gospel is wrong. Furthermore, Paul was simply mistaken to believe that Adam had been a real human being.

Thus, the denial of a historical Adam means that we would have to tell the Bible’s story in a very different way than the church has told it for centuries as the Bible has been read, taught, preached, and believed. If there is no historical Adam, then the Bible’s metanarrative is not Creation-Fall-Redemption-New Creation, but something very different.

To his credit, Brian McLaren affirms this very truth and agrees that the denial of Adam’s historicity requires a new way of telling the biblical story. But - and this is the essential point - he thinks this would be a very good thing.

Responding to my article, he wrote this:

I firmly agree (in an ironic sort of way) with the good Dr. Mohler. I think the conventional Constantinian “understanding of the gospel metanarrative and the Bible’s storyline” is wrong, misguided, and dangerous. We do in fact need “an entirely new understanding” - new, that is, compared to the status quo, but actually more ancient and primary than the conventional approach. In the process we’d better learn what a metanarrative actually is and realize that it’s not actually a great label to apply to the gospel … “the Bible’s storyline” is much better. That’s what I’ve been writing and speaking about for the last decade, and hope to keep advocating for and contributing to for the next.

Indeed, McLaren has been writing about and calling for just such a theological revolution. In his 2010 book, A New Kind of Christianity, McLaren explicitly denies that the Bible reveals Adam as a historical figure. He also denies that we should believe in a Fall into sin that leads to a divine verdict against sinful humanity.

In his words, speaking of the Genesis accounts:

It is patently obvious to me that these stories aren’t intended to be taken literally, although it didn’t used to be so obvious, and I know it won’t be so now for many of my readers. It is also powerfully clear to me that these nonliteral stories are still to be taken seriously and mimed for their rich meaning, because they instill time-tested, multilayered wisdom - through deep mythic language - about how our world came to be what it has become.

Writing about Genesis 3, he states:

In this world, there is not one isolated moment of ontological shift from state to story: it’s all story from beginning to end, and likely before and after as well. God doesn’t respond to a loss of perfect status with a furious promise of eternal condemnation, damnation, and destruction. God doesn’t pronounce the perfect state ruined and the planet destined for geocide. The experiment is not a failure.

A similar point was made by the writer known as RJS at “Jesus Creed,” the blog of New Testament scholar Scot McKnight. RJS rejected my claim that a right understanding of Adam is necessary for a correct understanding of Christ and his atonement. “I reject categorically the notion that having the right view of Adam (or any specific view of Adam) is a requirement for having the right view of Christ and his redeeming work in the world,” she wrote.

She is certainly right to argue that our understanding of creation is inherently and irreducibly Christological - based in texts such as John 1 and Colossians 1. Nevertheless, this does not reduce in any way the importance of the Bible’s affirmation of Adam as a historical figure and the Fall as a historical event.

Yet, she also writes this:

Frankly, I don’t think that the incarnation is a solution to a problem created by our original forefathers, whether two unique individuals created from the dust or a community who evolved into humans. I think that the incarnation was part of God’s plan from the beginning.

This is just stunning. The Old Testament clearly promises the coming of the One who will save his people from their sins. The incarnation is impossible for us to understand in biblical terms without the central affirmation that Christ came to redeem His people from sin. As Paul writes in Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

In the context of God’s eternality, omniscience, and sovereignty, it is undeniable that “the incarnation was part of God’s plan from the beginning.” But it is also true that the creation of Adam and Eve and the Fall of humanity into sin were also parts of God’s plan from the beginning. This truth (set within the context of God’s eternality, omniscience, and sovereignty) has been affirmed, by the way, by both Calvinists and classical Arminians. This has been the faith of the Church, based upon the authority of the Scriptures.

I do genuinely appreciate an honest debate on these issues of undeniable and incalculable theological importance. This debate has served to clarify, once again, what is at stake.

I can only end again where I ended the “False Start” article:

The denial of a historical Adam and Eve as the first parents of all humanity and the solitary first human pair severs the link between Adam and Christ which is so crucial to the Gospel.

If we do not know how the story of the Gospel begins, then we do not know what that story means. Make no mistake: a false start to the story produces a false grasp of the Gospel.

Christians Debate Televangelists "Typing in Tongues" Prayer on Facebook

Pentecostal televangelist and self-professed prophetess Juanita Bynum has sparked curiosity among some Internet users and the Christian community for several comments on the minister's Facebook page where she appears to type "in tongues."

Pentecostal minister Juanita Bynum has raised brows over prayers posted on her Facebook page where the minister appears to pray "in tongues."

In a series of posts published on Aug. 17, on one of Bynum's many Facebook pages, the minister typed messages where it was believed by commenters and critics that the she was praying in tongues.

In the first message time stamped 3:57 p.m., it appeared that Juanita Bynum II, the account holder for the Facebook page, started praying for Zachery Tims, the Florida megachurch minister who was found dead in a New York City hotel room on Aug. 12:

GOD WE PRAY FOR THE DESTINY CHURCH FAMILY....WE PRAY FOR THE STRENGTH OF PASTOR RIVA TIMS....MIGHTY GOD...GIVE US STRENGTH.....WE ARE THE BODY THAT FEELS THIS PAIN.....WE ALL FEEL IT.....COVER THE MINDS OF HIS CHILDREN...GRAB THEM UP IN YOUR ARMS LORD JESUS......BE A COMFORT TO THEM.....YOU ARE THE MANY BREASTED ONE....

The prayer continued in a second post with the same time stamp:

YOU ARE THE ROCK AND THE SHIELD AND THE ANCHOR.......WARD OFF ALL THE VULCHERS...WHO WILL COME FOR GREEDY GAIN AND NOT BE CONCERNED ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO ARE HURTING IN THAT CHURCH......SEND THEM HELP FATHER...SEND THEM SPIRITUAL HELP THAT WOULD HELP TO HEAL THEM AND RESTORE THEIR LEGS IN YOU GOD!!!!!

In the third post, published about a minute later, the "tongues" text started to appear:

GIRD THEM UP IN THE SPIRIT...GIVE THEM A MIND TO PRAY LIKE NEVER BEFORE....WE CALL ON YOU JESUS....YOU ARE OUR HELP AND OUR HOPE!!!!!!!!NDHDIUBGUGTRUCGNRTUGTIGRTIGRGBNRDRGNGGJNRIC YOU ARE OUR HELP AND OUR HOPE....RFSCNGUGHURGVHKTGHDKUNHSTNSVHGN YOU GOD......YOU ARE OUR HELP AND OUR HOPE!!!!!! OUR HOPE IS IN YOU FATHER......OUR STRENGTH FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS IS IN YOU FATHER......HELP US NOW......LORD WE DONT ASK FOR HELP FOR JUST THEM....THIS IS US....THIS IS A PART OF OUR OWN BODY.....

Several prayer posts with intelligible spellings continued to appear and visitors to Bynum's Facebook page began questioning the text.

Bynum's prayer posts soon caught the attention of the media, with one reporter at a spirituality and faith website speculating that the minister was communicating "in tongues."

On one prayer post, visitor Cindy McCraw commented, expressing her agreement.

"I believe it's tongues (holy spirit). It's called praying in the Spirit," McCraw wrote.

Another visitor to the page expressed disbelief.

"Are you typing tongues? Or are my eyes playing tricks on me," questioned Damita Stargell.

Since the prayer posts have appeared, visitors have been debating whether it was possible for a Christian to write or type in tongues, since the Bible only depicts those inspired by the Holy Spirit speaking in tongues.

"I'm not sure about typing in tongues, guys...keep praying though, but let's not type in tongues...that's not even biblical," wrote Jeremiah Givens, adding the hashtag "#allInLove" at the end of his comment.

Other visitors to Bynum's Facebook page were calling for the inexplicable text to be translated, and for the Pentecostal minister to address the speculation that she was typing in tongues.

"God did not tell her to type in tongues...I think every sane/spiritual person knows this to be true... an explanation/interpretation should really be made in order for the confusion and ruckus to cease," wrote Kischa Loree Pena .

Pena continued, "Dr. Bynum...I think you should defend yourself. If the spirit fell so hard that you lost control of your typing, just say so. Too many people are being led astray and fed false teaching/doctrine in a time when a pure and sincere relationship with our heavenly Father is necessary...and I am saddened by these posts."

The Christian Post called the Dr. Juanita Bnyum Ministries Tuesday and asked for a comment regarding the controversial prayer posts. A message was taken but CP was informed by a receptionist that it was unclear if anyone intended to return the call.

Bynum's prayer posts have attracted more than 2,000 "likes" and hundreds of supporting comments.

On the Dr. Juanita Bynum Ministries website, the minister is described as an "International Empowerment Lecturer, Recording Artist, Author, Conference Host and Entrepreneur."

Bynum, whose ministry is based in Atlanta, Ga., gained the attention of the mainstream media in 2007 when her then-husband, Thomas Weeks III, pleaded guilty to physically assaulting her in a hotel parking lot.

The New Christianity - Pastors Who Don't Believe In God

As the BBC reports, some church leaders in the Netherlands want to transform their small nation into a laboratory for rethinking Christianity — “experimenting with radical new ways of understanding the faith.”

Religious Affairs Correspondent Robert Pigott tells of Rev. Klaas Hendrikse, a minister of the PKN, the mainstream Protestant denomination in the Netherlands. Pastor Hendrikse doesn’t believe in life after death, nor even in God as a supernatural being. He told the BBC that he has “no talent” for believing historic and orthodox doctrines. “God is not a being at all,” he says, but just an experience.

Furthermore, as Pigott reports, “Mr. Hendrikse describes the Bible’s account of Jesus’s life as a mythological story about a man who may never have existed, even if it is a valuable source of wisdom about how to lead a good life.”

By any normative definition of Christian belief, Klass Hendrikse is an unbeliever, but in the largest Dutch denomination, he is considered a minister in good standing. As a matter of fact, he is not even unusual. A study undertaken by the Free University of Amsterdam determined that about one of every six Protestant ministers is either agnostic or atheist.

Hendrikse is very open about his views. In fact, he published a book in recent years entitled, Believing in a Non-Existent God. Conservative church leaders demanded a heresy trial for the pastor, but the denomination decided that Hendrikse’s views are too commonly held to be considered out of bounds.

In other words, the church has embraced a straightforward form of atheism within its own ranks — and among its own ministers.

The BBC report also introduces Rev. Kirsten Slettenaar, another minister of the church, who openly rejects the divinity of Christ. She refers to “Son of God” as a mere title. “I don’t think he was a god or a half god,” she says. “I think he was a man, but he was a special man because he was very good in living from out of love, from out of the spirit of God he found within himself.”

The Dutch ministers featured in this report dismiss the doctrines of biblical Christianity as “outside of people” and “rigid things you can’t touch any more.” Like the liberal theologians of the last two centuries, they insist that the “real meaning” of Christianity can survive, even if its central truth claims are denied.

One layperson cited in the report celebrated the liberation of Christianity from truth claims, allowing her to recreate the faith “to my own way of thinking, my own way of doing.”

Professor Hijme Stoffels of the Free University of Amsterdam called the new approach to Christianity in the Netherlands “somethingism.” The majority of Dutch citizens, he explains, desire some form of spirituality, but not the God of the Bible. “There must be something between heaven and earth, but to call it ‘God’ and even ‘a personal God’, for the majority of Dutch is a bridge too far.”

Professor Stoffels went on to argue that Christian churches in the Netherlands are “in a market situation.” As he explained, “They can offer their ideas to a majority of the population which is interested in spirituality or some other kind of religion.”

Another pastor argued for using the words of traditional Christianity, but meaning “something totally different.”

All this is familiar, at least in general terms, to anyone who has been observing mainline Protestantism — in either the United States or Europe — for the last half-century or more. The central doctrines of Christianity are first sidelined and hardly mentioned, then revised, and finally rejected.

Behind that process is the argument that the world has changed, and that Christianity must change with it. Harry Emerson Fosdick, one of the most influential leaders in American Protestant liberalism, argued that the modern world has simply rendered traditional Christian doctrines unintelligible to the modern man and woman. John Shelby Spong, the retired Episcopal bishop of Newark, New Jersey, put the issue bluntly: “Christianity must change or die.”

Well, as even some conservatives left in the Dutch church recognize, if the church changes in the way the Dutch liberals are changing it, it is spiritually and theologically dead already. There is a new religion of “somethingism” in the Netherlands, and it is not a new form of Christianity. It is a new religion meeting in historic Christian church structures.

All this in a country that was once pervasively Christian. Theologian and conservative church leader Abraham Kuyper was the nation’s Prime Minister from 1901 to 1905. The Dutch once claimed to model a Christian culture. All that is now in ruins.

The radical experimentation of the Dutch churches may well be a response to market pressure, as Professor Stoffels explains, but it is the substitution of a new religion in place of Christianity. Christianity stands or falls on its central truth claims. Without the knowledge of the full deity and humanity of Christ, there is no Gospel and no salvation of sinners.

Of course, if you no longer believe in a personal God, or any existent deity of any sort, then you will not be worried about salvation from sin.

A church that lacks the doctrinal conviction and courage necessary to prosecute an atheist pastor for heresy is a church that lost its Christian identity — a long time ago. The doctrinal experimentation embraced by these Dutch churches is hardly limited to the Netherlands. Nevertheless, the Dutch situation makes one point transparently clear — this is a laboratory for the destruction of Christianity.

United Methodists Look To Change Belief That Homosexuality Is a Sin

Hundreds of United Methodists trying to make their 12 million-member, worldwide denomination more gay-friendly are meeting in Huron this week for a national conference. 

They hope to soon change their church's official position that homosexuality is a sin -- an issue that has caused a raging debate among the laity and clergy for decades. 

Unlike other mainstream Protestant denominations in the United States -- including the United Church of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran, Episcopal and Presbyterian USA -- the United Methodists prohibit clergy from engaging openly in same-sex relationships. 

And they disallow ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions. 

"The practice of homosexuality is incompatible to Christian teaching," reads a section in the Methodists' Book of Discipline. 

But the nearly 700 people expected to attend the four-day conference at Sawmill Creek Resort, beginning Thursday, are working to rewrite the Book. 

To do that they will call on the denomination's General Conference in April in Tampa Bay, Fla., to vote on new language that would allow openly gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions. 

They tried to do that at the last General Conference, in 2008, but were defeated. 

The Rev. Troy Plummer of Chicago, an organizer of the Huron conference, conceded, "We might not get everything we want, but we'll get some of it. 

"I think something dramatic will happen in Tampa," he said. "The vote will be close, by just a handful of votes this time. We're about to make it happen." 

Previous conference votes showed the movement prevailing in the United States but failing in Europe and Africa, said Plummer, noting that Methodists in those two continents tend to be conservative. 

He said the vote in 2008 lost by less than 5 percent of the 1,000 votes cast. 

"We have the votes in the U.S.," he said. "Now we're working to get the votes worldwide." 

United Methodists number about 8 million in the United States. The other 4 million are mostly in Europe, Africa and the Philippines. In Ohio, there are about 365,000 United Methodists worshipping in more than 1,800 churches. 

Plummer said the state, reflecting its position in national politics, is a swing state about equally divided on the issue. 

But the Rev. Ken Chalker, pastor of University Circle United Methodist Church in Cleveland, said an Ohio vote to allow openly gay clergy would lose by a substantial margin. 

"I don't know what tea leaves he's reading," said Chalker, referring to Plummer. "The rules on ordaining gays or blessing same-sex couples are not going to change in Tampa. It would be wonderful if there were changes. I certainly would support them." 

But the Rev. Chet Harris, pastor of the Dueber Church in Canton, certainly would not. He believes homosexuality is a sin, on the level with adultery and sex outside of marriage. 

Harris said the push within the church for approval of same-sex relationships could be gaining ground and should be taken seriously. 

"The movement is strong," he said. "These people are sharp. They wouldn't be doing this unless they thought they could pull off a coup." 

Harris predicted that if the gay-friendly movement prevails, there would be a mass exodus of United Methodists, including himself. 

"I will not serve in a church that will ordain homosexuals," he said. "I will not serve in a church that affirms their lifestyle. If this thing goes the distance -- and I think it has the potential -- it will splinter us like bamboo." 


6. The Rise of Islam

European 'No-Go' Zones for Non-Muslims Proliferating

Islamic extremists are stepping up the creation of "no-go" areas in European cities that are off-limits to non-Muslims.

Many of the "no-go" zones function as microstates governed by Islamic Sharia law. Host-country authorities effectively have lost control in these areas and in many instances are unable to provide even basic public aid such as police, fire fighting and ambulance services.

The "no-go" areas are the by-product of decades of multicultural policies that have encouraged Muslim immigrants to create parallel societies and remain segregated rather than become integrated into their European host nations.

In Britain, for example, a Muslim group called Muslims Against the Crusades has launched a campaign to turn twelve British cities – including what it calls "Londonistan" – into independent Islamic states. The so-called Islamic Emirates would function as autonomous enclaves ruled by Islamic Sharia law and operate entirely outside British jurisprudence.

The Islamic Emirates Project names the British cities of Birmingham, Bradford, Derby, Dewsbury, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester, Sheffield, as well as Waltham Forest in northeast London and Tower Hamlets in East London as territories to be targeted for blanket Sharia rule.

In the Tower Hamlets area of East London (also known as the Islamic Republic of Tower Hamlets), for example, extremist Muslim preachers, called the Tower Hamlets Taliban, regularly issue death threats to women who refuse to wear Islamic veils. Neighborhood streets have been plastered with posters declaring "You are entering a Sharia controlled zone: Islamic rules enforced." And street advertising deemed offensive to Muslims is regularly vandalized or blacked out with spray paint.

In the Bury Park area of Luton, Muslims have been accused of "ethnic cleansing" by harassing non-Muslims to the point that many of them move out of Muslim neighborhoods. In the West Midlands, two Christian preachers have been accused of "hate crimes" for handing out gospel leaflets in a predominantly Muslim area of Birmingham. In Leytonstone in east London, the Muslim extremist Abu Izzadeen heckled the former Home Secretary John Reid by saying: "How dare you come to a Muslim area."

In France, large swaths of Muslim neighborhoods are now considered "no-go" zones by French police. At last count, there are 751 Sensitive Urban Zones (Zones Urbaines Sensibles, ZUS), as they are euphemistically called. A complete list of the ZUS can be found on a French government website, complete with satellite maps and precise street demarcations. An estimated 5 million Muslims live in the ZUS, parts of France over which the French state has lost control.

Muslim immigrants are taking control of other parts of France too. In Paris and other French cities with high Muslim populations, such as Lyons, Marseilles and Toulouse, thousands of Muslims are closing off streets and sidewalks (and by extension, are closing down local businesses and trapping non-Muslim residents in their homes and offices) to accommodate overflowing crowds for Friday prayers. Some mosques have also begun broadcasting sermons and chants of "Allahu Akbar" via loudspeakers into the streets.

The weekly spectacles, which have been documented by dozens of videos posted on Youtube.com (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here), and which have been denounced as an "occupation without tanks or soldiers," have provoked anger and disbelief. But despite many public complaints, local authorities have declined to intervene because they are afraid of sparking riots.

In the Belgian capital of Brussels (which is 20% Muslim), several immigrant neighborhoods have become "no-go" zones for police officers, who frequently are pelted with rocks by Muslim youth. In the Kuregem district of Brussels, which often resembles an urban war zone, police are forced to patrol the area with two police cars: one car to carry out the patrols and another car to prevent the first car from being attacked. In the Molenbeek district of Brussels, police have been ordered not to drink coffee or eat a sandwich in public during the Islamic month of Ramadan.

In Germany, Chief Police Commissioner Bernhard Witthaut, in an August 1 interview with the newspaper Der Westen, revealed that Muslim immigrants are imposing "no-go" zones in cities across Germany at an alarming rate.

The interviewer asked Witthaut: "Are there urban areas – for example in the Ruhr – districts and housing blocks that are "no-go areas," meaning that they can no longer be secured by the police?" Witthaut replied: "Every police commissioner and interior minister will deny it. But of course we know where we can go with the police car and where, even initially, only with the personnel carrier. The reason is that our colleagues can no longer feel safe there in twos, and have to fear becoming the victim of a crime themselves. We know that these areas exist. Even worse: in these areas crimes no longer result in charges. They are left 'to themselves.' Only in the worst cases do we in the police learn anything about it. The power of the state is completely out of the picture."

In Italy, Muslims have been commandeering the Piazza Venezia in Rome for public prayers. In Bologna, Muslims repeatedly have threatened to bomb the San Petronio cathedral because it contains a 600-year-old fresco inspired by Dante's Inferno which depicts Mohammed being tormented in hell.

In the Netherlands, a Dutch court ordered the government to release to the public a politically incorrect list of 40 "no-go" zones in Holland. The top five Muslim problem neighborhoods are in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht. The Kolenkit area in Amsterdam is the number one Muslim "problem district" in the country. The next three districts are in Rotterdam – Pendrecht, het Oude Noorden and Bloemhof. The Ondiep district in Utrecht is in the fifth position, followed by Rivierenwijk (Deventer), Spangen (Rotterdam), Oude Westen (Rotterdam), Heechterp/ Schieringen (Leeuwarden) and Noord-Oost (Maastricht).

In Sweden, which has some of the most liberal immigration laws in Europe, large swaths of the southern city of Malmö – which is more than 25% Muslim – are "no-go" zones for non-Muslims. Fire and emergency workers, for example, refuse to enter Malmö's mostly Muslim Rosengaard district without police escorts. The male unemployment rate in Rosengaard is estimated to be above 80%. When fire fighters attempted to put out a fire at Malmö's main mosque, they were attacked by stone throwers.

In the Swedish city of Gothenburg, Muslim youth have been hurling petrol bombs at police cars. In the city's Angered district, where more than 15 police cars have been destroyed, teenagers have also been pointing green lasers at the eyes of police officers, some of whom have been temporarily blinded.

In Gothenburg's Backa district, youth have been throwing stones at patrolling officers. Gothenburg police have also been struggling to deal with the problem of Muslim teenagers burning cars and attacking emergency services in several areas of the city.

According to the Malmö-based Imam Adly Abu Hajar: "Sweden is the best Islamic state."

Critical Of Islam On Facebook - Prepare To Be Arrested In Islamic Countries

This is the kind of law that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is trying to compel Western states to adopt. 

The OIC’s campaign, OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu emphasized in June 2011, was “a matter of extreme priority for the OIC.” And it has met with a good deal of success. 

In November 2010, the UN General Assembly voted to condemn what it called the “vilification of religion.” Every majority-Muslim state, without exception, supported the resolution. This wasn’t the first time. The UN has previously passed resolutions condemning the “defamation of religion.” A Reuters report claimed that the language was softened in the November 2010 resolution from “defamation” to “vilification” in order to win more support from Western nations, but these words are essentially synonyms, and both dangerously subjective: if a binding resolution were passed, what constitutes “defamation” or “vilification” would presumably be left up to some UN body, which would mean, essentially, that it would be up to the OIC.

The OIC hopes ultimately to compel Western states to criminalize criticism of “matters regarded by followers of any religion or belief as sacred.” The latest iteration of the UN resolution specifically condemned “Islamophobia, Judeophobia and Christianophobia,” but if anything was a sop to Western nations and their bothersome notions of the freedom of speech, it was the inclusion of the last two. Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, Chris Ofili’s dung- and pornography-encrusted Holy Virgin Mary, and a thousand anti-Semitic caricatures in the Arabic media vilifying Jews and Judaism in the crudest terms, never gave rise to any calls for United Nations action against “defamation” or “vilification” of religions. The OIC is the driving force behind such resolutions, and its aim is to proscribe “Islamophobia.”

In other words, it wants the U.S. and Europe to adopt Islamic blasphemy laws, such as the one this Facebook commenter fell afoul of in Egypt.

"Egypt police arrest man for Facebook 'Islam insults,'" from AFP, August 21:

CAIRO (AFP) - Cairo police arrested a man who allegedly 'insulted Islam' in postings on Facebook after they tracked him down through his internet address, state news agency MENA reported on Saturday.

The agency said the 23-year-old, identified only as Ayman Y.M., posted comments 'that were insulting to the Koran and the Prophet Mohammed and Islam and Muslims.' It did not disclose what he allegedly said.

The youth was referred to the prosecution, which may charge him under a law that penalizes 'insulting religion.'...

New Constitution for Libya to Enforce Sharia Law?

A draft of a new constitution created by the Libyan rebels’ transition council that says Sharia law will be a principal source of laws has been leaked on conservative blogs, but authenticity of the document has yet to be confirmed.

The prospect of an oppressive, Iranian-styled theocracy replacing an oppressive dictatorship has alarmed bloggers and posters on the Internet, causing many to question the worth of the Libyan revolution. Fox News sarcastically said, “Good job, NATO,” while TheBlaze.com said, “Even with a new regime, ‘reform’ still does not seem to be an operative word for a new Libya.”

The part of the alleged draft constitution that has raised so much concern is in Article 1 and states that, “Islam is the religion of the state and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Shari’a).”

Whether or not the draft constitution is authentic, it is still difficult to determine exactly what kind of government a new constitution will create. Using Sharia as a “principal source” does not necessarily mean that each law must strictly adhere to a Sharia system.

According to a study by the University of Houston, out of 15,000 documents from America's founders, 34 percent of the quotes came from the Bible, making it arguably the “principal source” for the U.S. constitution. Yet few would argue that America’s legal system is too heavily regulated by the Bible.

"There are so many varying interpretations of what Sharia actually means that in some places it can be incorporated into political systems relatively easily," says Steven A. Cook, Council of Foreign Relations senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies.

Indeed, the rest of the draft constitution appears to be one that would be agreeable to a Western, democratic audience, including religious freedom, guaranteed human rights, freedom of the press, and academic pursuits, as well as other staples of Western democracies.

Whether or not the draft constitution is legitimate and if the new Libyan government will implement Sharia law in its legal system is uncertain right now, but some scholars have argued that Sharia law is viewed by many Muslims as a tool to separate religion from law. They say it can help make both religion and law purer, as opposed to a corruption of the two caused by a history of corrupt rulers in Muslim nations.

Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard and an expert on Middle East affairs, wrote in the The New York Times: "For many Muslims today, living in corrupt autocracies, the call for Sharia is not a call for sexism, obscurantism or savage punishment but for an Islamic version of what the West considers its most prized principle of political justice: the rule of law."

However, others argue that legally-enforced Sharia conflicts with its religious purpose.

"Enforcing a Sharia through coercive power of the state negates its religious nature, because Muslims would be observing the law of the state and not freely performing their religious obligation as Muslims,” wrote Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, a professor of law at Emory University, in a column for the Huffington Post.

The degree and type of influence Sharia law will have on the new Libyan constitution is yet to be determined. The Transition National Council of Libya, the group responsible for spearheading a new government for the Libyan rebels, did not respond to emails from The Christian Post questioning the authenticity of the draft, and the Libyan Mission to the United Nations declined to comment.


7. Increase in Knowledge/New Technologies

Bioengineering Methuselah - Human beings living to be 150?

Reflecting on the Paris exposition of 1900, Henry Adams admitted to being overwhelmed by the new technologies on display. He was awed in particular by the electricity-generating dynamo. One wonders what he would make of the technologies described by Sonia Arrison in her new book "100 Plus."

"We are at the cusp of a revolution in medicine and biotechnology," Ms. Arrison announces, "that will radically increase not just our life spans but also, and more importantly, our health spans." This revolution will "change everything, from careers and relationships to family and faith." 

Consider tissue engineering, in which human organs, grown from scratch or rebuilt in a laboratory, are transplanted into sick humans. It sounds like science fiction, but Ms. Arrison describes the experience of Claudia Castillo, a 30-year-old mother of two children whose windpipe was badly damaged from tuberculosis where it joined her left lung. She had difficulty breathing, and her quality of life was deteriorating rapidly.

Conventional treatment would have required a risky operation to remove Ms. Castillo's lung. But tissue engineers were able to take a donated trachea and remove the donor's tissue from the windpipe's "extracellular matrix," a kind of biological scaffold. Using stem cells from Ms. Castillo, the scientists grew tissue on top of the windpipe structure, generating a new trachea. It was then transplanted into Ms. Castillo. Since the trachea was engineered with her own tissue, her body did not reject it. With the diseased trachea removed, she was cured of a potentially fatal infection.

Scientists across the world, Ms. Arrison says, are working on engineering close to two dozen different human organs in the lab, including bladders, lungs and hearts. Progress is slow, and it might be decades before bioengineered organs are commonplace, but the trend-line is clear. A force behind the movement is the U.S. military, an eager funder of restorative and regenerative engineering. Dr. Robert Vandre, chairman of the Armed Services Biomedical Research Evaluation and Management Committee, thinks that "ultimately, we will be able to grow limbs" for wounded soldiers. 

Such a development would be a cause for joy, of course, but it's worthwhile to keep in mind the ecstatic predictions a few years ago of the breakthroughs that would be made possible by human-genome sequencing—and the modest gains that have so far resulted. Gene therapy, too, was promoted as a likely source of astonishing medical progress but has recently run into obstacles and setbacks. Predictions are easy; science is hard. 

Ms. Arrison is in the hopeful camp. She recounts advances in stem-cell research, pharmaceuticals and synthetic biology. And the tinkering with genes still goes on. We learn about Dr. Cynthia Kenyon at the University of California in San Francisco, who discovered that the life span of the tiny worm Caenorhabditis elegans could be doubled by partially disabling a single gene. Further improvements on the technique resulted in worms living six times longer than normal. "In human terms," Ms. Arrison says, "they be the equivalent of healthy, active five-hundred-year-olds." That may be a bit much to expect, but Ms. Arrison says she is confident that "human life expectancy will one day reach 150 years."

The quest for longevity is an old one, of course, from Ponce de León's Floridian adventures to Benjamin Franklin's wondering whether he should have his body preserved in a cask of Madeira wine to "be recalled to life at any period, however distant." Ms. Arrison entertainingly chronicles efforts to conquer aging and death from antiquity to today. Food, sex, exercise and alchemy have all been employed to keep the grim reaper at bay. But technology offers the most plausible route, she says, noting that biology and computing are drawing ever closer together with the sequencing of the human genome. 

What is more, technology heavyweights are paying attention, including Bill Gates (if he were a teenager today, Mr. Gates once said, he'd be "hacking biology") and Jeff Bezos ("atom by atom we'll assemble small machines that will enter cell walls and make repairs"). Larry Ellison, of Oracle, started a foundation more than a decade ago to support anti-aging research; the institution donates about $42 million a year.

And if humans do begin living to 150, then what? If Medicare and Social Security are in trouble now, what happens when they must support multiple generations of retirees? In Ms. Arrison's mind, we'll be living healthy, productive working lives until very near the end. The more pressing concerns, for her, have to do with the strain on natural resources and the added pollution of a swelling world population.

Noting that similar worries have been raised whenever technology alters social conditions, Ms. Arrison argues that apocalyptic prophecies are unlikely to be realized. Increasing wealth and mankind's adaptability and ingenuity mean that as new problems emerge, new solutions will be forthcoming. "In looking at the trends of history," she says, "we can see that even when there are downsides to a particular wealth- or health-enhancing technology, the problem is often fixed once the population reaches a point where it feels secure in spending the resources to do so."

Ms. Arrison's sunny outlook is infectious, and surely mankind does have remarkable powers of problem-solving and adaptation. But one can't help wishing, a bit ahead of time, for some wise counsel from one of those 150-year-olds she envisions, who might be able to tell us whether all the effort and all the dreaming were worth it.

Laser–Machine Gun Mashup Tested on ‘Pirate Ships’

Now we know what the Navy plans to do with its experimental hybrid of laser cannon and machine gun: zap pirate ships.

Two defense giants, Boeing and BAE Systems, announced late last month that they would team up on a $2.8 million Navy contract for a prototype version of BAE’s Mk-38 25-mm machine gun with a little upgrade: a death ray. As the companies excitedly explained, the new gun would protect surface ships from pretty much everything, from enemy boats to small drones.

What the companies weren’t letting on was that they had already tested the machine-laser-gun a month before the announcement. And in tests that BAE — hardly an uninterested party — claims were successful, the new Mk-38 took on its most likely adversary: pirate skiffs.

In late June, the waters of the Choctawatchee Bay near Florida’s Elgin Air Force Base stood in for the Gulf of Aden, as ersatz pirate ships “swarmed” amidst dense “civilian” maritime traffic to harass a mock Navy “platform” armed with the laser gun. The enhanced version of the Mk-38 used its lasers to fix the enemy targets for bursts of machine gun fire, before switching up to laser mode to “defeat the targets” with a “high beam-quality 10-kilowatt laser,” BAE spokeswoman Stephanie Bissell Serkhoshian told Danger Room.

That might be the most practical use for the new weapon. Pirate attacks near Yemen and Somalia employ motorboats, often working in “swarm” teams, small enough to be neutralized by 10 kilowatts’ worth of power, which the Navy considers about an order of magnitude below what’s typically militarily useful. They also get close enough to U.S. ships and merchant vessels to let off small-arms fire at the crews, putting them in range of either the machine-gun bursts or the laser target.

Serkhoshian pointed to an April pirate attempt on the USS Ashland as a template for the test. In the Gulf of Aden on April 10, a green pirate skiff sneaked up on the amphibious dock landing ship, getting close enough for its six-man crew to let off small-arms fire at the Ashland. The U.S. sailors retaliated with their laser-free Mk-38, setting the skiff aflame and forcing the pirates to abandon ship.

With a laser attached, the idea is to blast multiple skiffs more efficiently: A laser of similar kilowatt expenditure can burn through an outboard motor in about a minute, as the Office of Naval Research demonstrated with a different laser system in the California seas back in April.

And it’s also useful for locking onto targets for the conventional machine gun to shoot. It’s certainly a departure from BAE’s last anti-piracy contribution: a crystalline neodymium-yttrium-aluminium garnet laser used as a blinding floodlight.

Still, the test had some serious training wheels attached. The laser version of the Mk-38 wasn’t fired from a Navy ship maneuvering against the enemy skiffs. It was actually affixed to a Navy “platform” on dry land, Serkhoshian confirms, while the skiffs were out in the water. It’s much easier to fire from a static position, and Navy ships like the Ashland probably won’t have that luxury.

By contrast, the Office of Naval Research’s laser test in April was a big deal precisely because it represented the first time a Navy laser fired from a ship speeding through choppy waters blasted away a moving target. Additionally, BAE won’t disclose how far away the “pirate skiffs” were when the Mk-38 took them out.

It’ll be years before the Mk-38 gets out of the development stage and aboard a ship. But the eternal struggle between pirates and lasers just intensified.

Scared Mexicans try under-the-skin tracking devices

Of all the strange circumstances surrounding the violent abduction last year of Diego Fernandez de Cevallos, the Mexican power broker and former presidential candidate known here as “Boss Diego,” perhaps nothing was weirder than the mysterious tracking chip that the kidnappers allegedly cut from his body.

Lurid Mexican media accounts reported that an armed gang invaded Fernandez’s home, sliced open his arm with a pair of scissors and extracted a satellite-enabled tracking device, leaving the chip and a streak of blood behind.

Fernandez was freed seven months later with little explanation, but the gruesome details of his crude surgery have not dissuaded thousands of worried Mexicans from seeking out similar satellite and radio-frequency tracking products — including scientifically dubious chip implants — as abductions in the country soar. 

According to a recent Mexican congressional report, kidnappings have jumped 317 percent in the past five years. More alarming, perhaps, is the finding that police officers or soldiers were involved in more than one-fifth of the crimes, contributing to widespread perceptions that authorities can’t be trusted to solve the crimes or recover missing loved ones.

Under-the-skin devices such as the one allegedly carved out of Boss Diego are selling here for thousands of dollars on the promise that they can help rescuers track down kidnapping victims. Xega, the Mexican company that sells the chips and performs the implants, says its sales have increased 40 percent in the past two years. 

“Unfortunately, it’s been good for business but bad for the country,” said Xega executive Diego Kuri, referring to the kidnappings. “Thirty percent of our clients arrive after someone in their family has already experienced a kidnapping,” added Kuri, interviewed at the company’s heavily fortified offices, opposite a tire shop in this industrial city 120 miles north of Mexico’s capital.

Xega calls it the VIP package. For $2,000 upfront and annual fees of $2,000, the company provides clients with a subdermal radio-frequency identification chip (RFID), essentially a small antenna in a tiny glass tube. The chip, inserted into the fatty tissue of the arm between the shoulder and elbow, is less than half an inch long and about as wide as a strand of boiled spaghetti.

The chip relays a signal to an external Global Positioning System unit the size of a cellphone, Kuri said, but if the owner is stripped of the GPS device in the event of an abduction, Xega can still track down its clients by sending radio signals to the implant. The company says it has helped rescue 178 clients in the past decade.

In recent years, all manner of Mexican media reports have featured the chips, with some estimating that as many as 10,000 people are walking around with the implants. Even former attorney general Rafael Macedo told reporters in 2004 that he had a chip embedded “so that I can be located at any moment wherever I am.”


8. Christian Worldview/Issues

Apologetics Makes a Comeback Among Youth

Relational evangelism may have the key to successful youth ministries in the 1990s, but today apologetics is gaining new traction.

Kids struggle to explain their beliefs today more than they did two decades ago, said Christian Smith, director of the Center for the Study of Youth and Religion at the University of Notre Dame. One of the center's 2005 reports indicates that 12 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds say they are "unsure" of their religious beliefs, and 41 percent of Protestant teens agree that morals are relative.

"[Their] faith is more about meeting emotional needs than an ideology," said Smith. This is the product of "an overwhelmingly relativistic and privatized cultural climate," he said, as well as "youth leaders who have not challenged that climate."

Challenging the cultural climate is a major component of the new apologetics, said Sean McDowell, head of Worldview Ministries. "The apologetics resurgence has been sparked ultimately by teens who are asking more questions about why people believe the things they do," he said. "Those who thought that kids in a postmodern world don't want an ideology were wrong."

Greg Stier, founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries, agrees. "[Teens] are aware of the latent apologetic conversations in culture—Harry Potter, for example—and want to react," he said.

McDowell says it's possible to overstate truth claims. He's heard too many youth pastors and parents claim that the evidence of the Resurrection is overwhelming. But then students encounter good counter-arguments on the internet or from a professor, "and the youth leaders suddenly lose credibility."

To prevent this, McDowell does what all good apologists do: share the other side. In fact, he finds that's what students ask him: "What book or what website would you recommend that runs in opposition to the Christian view?" He says that being honest with them "helps demonstrate, as Paul puts it in Colossians 4, that our conversation is 'full of grace, seasoned with salt,' and that we've found a balance."

The apologetics surge doesn't mean the end of relational youth ministry, said Chap Clark, founder of ParenTeen. Identity development has become more difficult for today's teens, he says. So it is more important than ever that youth leaders address their emotional needs.

"Help them develop social capital before [you] attempt to establish an ideology," he said. "Kids aren't receptive to explicit faith arguments when their emotional needs aren't met."

Ginny Olson, a Minneapolis-based youth ministry consultant, said youth leaders are increasingly aware that neither relational evangelism nor apologetics alone are effective vehicles for truth. "Kids need relationships and they need clear gospel presentations—it's not either/or."

'Gay' Activists Kill Cash Sources For Christian Charities

A shopping network that contributes some of its profits to leading Christian family organizations is battling an Internet-organized campaign by homosexual-rights activists. 

The Charitable Give Back Group, formerly known as the Christian Values Network, says activist websites that enable users to create their own "cause" boast they have prompted hundreds of corporations to cut ties with the shopping network because it contributes to "anti-gay" non-profit organizations. 

The activists are mobilizing through websites such as Change.org and Allout.org. 

Change.org says it is "organized around more than a dozen leading cause-based communities, ranging from gay rights to women's rights to animal welfare." 

Earlier this month, a Change.org petition with 700 endorsers prompted Starbucks founder and CEO Howard Schultz to back out of a speaking engagement at a leadership conference hosted by well-known evangelical Christian pastor Bill Hybels, whose Willow Creek Church teaches marriage is reserved for one man and one woman. 

One petition at Change.org claims that it forced the popular Internet movie rental site Netflix to quit the Charitable Give Back Group with only 300 signatures.

An online signer wrote: 

"Shame on you, Netflix, and any other company which supports CVN's donations to hate groups. I choose not to support you unless you stop supporting CVN or CVN stops permitting donations to hate groups."
The referenced "hate groups" include Focus on the Family, the Catholic League and the Family Research Council, which are targeted because of their support for traditional marriage. 

Responding to the campaign, the Catholic League said in a statement that "radical proponents of gay marriage have taken the culture war to the marketplace." 

"Rejecting diversity and tolerance, these activists have declared an economic war against any organization that embraces the Judeo-Christian understanding of marriage," the Catholic League said. 

The Catholic League rejected the assertion by the Change.org activists that some of the recipients of the funds are Christian "hate groups." 

"This is a lie," the group's statement said. 

Customers who shop through the Charity Give Back Group can choose to give a portion of their purchase price to one of 170,000 established charities in the network. 

John Higgins, president of CGBG, told WND that the activists "initially caused 350 big name retailers to pull out of the network because of their lies and distortions." 

Higgins received an email from Walgreens announcing the drug store chain had terminated its affiliation because "it has been determined that you may have ties with discriminatory organizations, which is a violation of Walgreens terms and conditions." 

Allout.org also has boasted of success. 

"Thanks to your voice, Expedia, Hotels.com, Avis, Westin and Apple have joined Microsoft, Macy's, Delta, and more than 200 other corporations and cut ties with CVN.org, a network that allows people to donate part of their online purchases to hate groups." 

But the website urged much more to be done. 

"Unfortunately, hundreds of other corporations are still participating," it said. "If you haven't already, sign our letter to the companies still using CVN and we'll follow up soon on our next target." 

Rejecting the activists' "lies," Higgins argues that CGBG is politically "neutral." 

"We ask our retail partners to also remain neutral," he said. 

One self-described "gay-Christian blogger" from San Francisco touts his success in getting retailers to "dump" CGBG. 

On his blog he describes the response he received from an executive at an unnamed corporation he talked into leaving the charity network. 

"I mentioned it to my wife," the executive told the blogger. "… For the first time I can tell her I did something for you people, and I'm happy to do it." 

The blog targets CGBG because of the Family Research Council's membership in the network. 

"This boycott campaign is based on anti-gay and anti-women organizations receiving financial support from good corporate citizens," the blogger wrote. "It is based on a known hate group receiving financial support from good corporate citizens. This is about being a good neighbor, a good person, and being a good friend. This is about empathy, tolerance, and understanding." 

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told supporters last week that the online political activists "have engaged in a misinformation campaign that bullies retailers including Netflix, Walgreens, Petco, and Westin Hotels into discriminating against customers and charities based on their religious beliefs, specifically the traditional and biblical view of marriage as the union of one man and one woman." 

Perkins pointed out that marriage between a man and a woman is the law in 44 states and has been upheld by voters in 31 of 31 states where it has appeared on the ballot. 

Higgins told WND that CGBG has countered the online activists' distortions with the truth. 

"Once these retail partners heard the facts, many of them have realized that they had been had," he said. 

So far, he said, 250 of the 350 retail partners have come back online, and he expects more will follow. 

"We just want the retailers to be consistent," he said. "There are other charity sites like ours that weren't targeted by the activists, and the same retailers that dumped us were still donating money to the same charities we had on our site." 

Higgins said he "found that in many cases a junior executive made a knee-jerk reaction to dump CGBG, and once a senior manager heard the truth, the retailer has come back online with us." 

The Change.org petition that caused Starbucks' Schultz to back out of the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit in South Barrington, Ill., Aug. 11 and 12 called Hybel's church "anti-gay." 

The petition said it was "unacceptable" for Schultz to speak at Willow Creek, which "has a long history anti-gay persecution." 

Hybels rejected the characterization. 

"Willow is not only not anti-gay, but Willow is not anti-anybody," he said. 

The pastor lamented "a growing trend to throw stones first and ask questions later." 

Tom Minnery, executive director of Focus on the Family's CitizenLink, noted the campaigns by the online "gay" activists. 

"They don't want to just throw stones," he said on the ministry's CitzenLink Report webcast. "They want Christians and anyone who doesn't embrace the concept of same sex marriage to go away." 

Cartoons For Kids/Corrupting The Next Generation - Offensive Content Almost Every Two Minutes

A man wearing a Santa hat sits on a roof. He's talking to his ex-girlfriend on a cell phone, trying with feigned cheer to wish her a Merry Christmas. He asks if she's with her new boyfriend. Yes, she replies, and she's with her whole family, opening presents. He says, "That's great, because I have a present for you," and he saws off his own head so it falls down the chimney into the fireplace.

This isn't a horror movie. It's a cartoon, filmed in stop-motion animation, like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." It runs on the Cartoon Network, which is owned by Time Warner. And it's aimed at children.

This horrific little severed-head sketch was part of a show called "Robot Chicken," which has aired for years on this network. Nobody watches that, you say. Think again: "Robot Chicken" has turned up on a list of the Top 25 shows watched by children aged 12 to 17.

Some might say all this "fun" is clearly designed for young adults, not children. It's after dark, when the Cartoon Network turns -- from Jekyll to Hyde -- into the Adult Swim Channel. But that's not at midnight. 

Since December, it's been moved into prime time at 9 p.m. Eastern, 8 p.m. Central. Even before that, Nielsen reported in 2008 that the top U.S. networks for teenagers were Fox, Nickelodeon, Disney ... and Adult Swim.

Speaking of Christmas, that show also has a cartoon of a man tied up for a stoning, with Jesus saying, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." As men beginning dropping their rocks, Jesus then whacks the tied-up man in the head with a rock and yells "Blammo!" Mocking Jesus is an ongoing theme; In another skit called "Jesus and the Argonauts," when all his men leave, Jesus complains "Oh, Dad damn it!"

In a new survey of the top 20 animated cable shows, the Parents Television Council gave an A grade to Disney and Nickelodeon for its top cartoons. But the Cartoon Network and its "Adult Swim" bloc earned an F for excessive sex, violence, profanity, and drug use.

In watching just 123 programs in a four-week study period, the PTC documented one thousand four hundred and eighty-seven examples of offensive material ... on cartoons. On average, young viewers were exposed to this junk once every two minutes and 19 seconds.

Let's go through the numbers. There were 680 sexual references or depictions. Some were typically sleazy, and some went way beyond. In one episode of "American Dad," eponymous character Stan breaks in on a child molester named Randy, who's trying to seduce his son, Steve, along with other boys. Stan pulls a gun on him, but Randy stands his ground.

"Look, I'm a sex offender. I love offensive sex," he proclaims. "I offend people with the sex I have. That's who I am, and it's who I'll always be."

Stan finds that inspiring. "My God, boys! We can all take a page from Randy the Molester's book. He's comfortable with who he is! And I should be as well!"

These cartoons were loaded with 565 incidents of explicit language -- much of it bleeped out of necessity, even by today's bohemian standards. For example, in one "American Dad" show, the teen character Barry screams into the school public-address system that "You [bleeps] are going to do what I say or I will put my [bleeped G.D.] foot so far up your [bleeped A-word] you will rue the day that you crawled out of your mother's [bleep]."

In another "Dad" episode, Francine, the sitcom's mother character, hates George Clooney so much that when her husband calls Clooney a "future Senator from California," she explodes. "Oh, I will chop his [bleeped F-bomb] head in two." It's a violence-and-profanity two-fer.

There were 242 references to drug use. Here again was Adult Swim, replaying a "King of the Hill" show where a friend tricks young Bobby into making crystal meth for a science project at school. She later tricks him into making more drugs at home and sells the meth to a trucker. It's another uplifting plot line for children, don't you think?

If you think this isn't aiming "adult" material squarely at children, check out how this network often rates its sleazy programming: TV-PG, or acceptable for children under 14 with parental guidance "suggested."


9. Other Events To Watch

Natural Disasters Prevalent in 2011 

The year 2011 began with a flood in Australia so vast it turned an area almost twice as large as Texas into a disaster zone. 

The first half of 2011 saw thousands of lives lost to natural disasters and made it the most expensive on record in terms of property damage. 

In January, earthquakes hit Argentina, Chile, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Tonga. In February, they hit Burma, the Pacific Islands and the big one, in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

The quake struck at midday. Buildings were toppled. Scores were buried under rubble and 181 died. Survivors who crawled from collapsed office buildings were stunned. 

One woman who appeared dazed, said of her office building, "It just came down. Like, right down." 

Japan's Quake 

The monster earthquake of 2011 in Japan was like something out of a science fiction movie. From 20 miles under the surface of the Pacific, the quake created a wall of water 130 feet high that traveled six miles inland, causing cars and boats to bob like toys. 

It was a quake so powerful it moved the island of Honshu eight feet. More than 15,000 people died and nearly 5,000 are still missing. 

Then in a terrible twist, after the quake knocked out power at the Fukushima nuclear plant, the tsunami washed out its backup generators, the last line of defense against overheating. It would be the world's first triple meltdown, spreading radiation over a wide area. 

It was the worst disaster to afflict Japan since World War II. 

U.S. Tornado Outbreak 

The world was still in shock when the southern and eastern United States experienced the worst rash of tornadoes in recorded weather history. The 2011 "Super Outbreak" included four EF-5 tornadoes, and led to almost 350 deaths and more than $6 billion in insured losses. 

Then just weeks later on a Sunday afternoon in May, a mile-wide multiple vortex EF-5 tornado plowed through Joplin, Mo., obliterating parts of the city, killing 159 people and causing an estimated $2 billion in insured losses. 

The insurance industry was left reeling. Americans were in shock. 

Vinson Synan, author of 19 books and the dean emeritus at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., says the unprecedented string of calamities is forcing many Americans to ask, 'Why?' 

"It's a sobering thing, for even natural man to face up to natural disasters that don't make any sense at all. And to hit randomly in the world, and may hit you," Synan said. "And the question, in the back of their minds -- 'What does this mean?'" 

"So I think it brings people to question the ultimate end of everything," he explained. 

And unfortunately, the world's worst disasters could still be ahead, like a category five hurricane making a direct hit on a large American city. 

Disaster Scenarios Studied 

Experts have studied other disaster scenarios that many Americans do not know about. 

For example, geologists have warned that heavy rains on Mount Rainer in Washington State could cause a deadly 40-mile mudslide moving at 60 mph, filled with rocks and trees. 

Some fear the collapse of the giant volcanic mountain Cumbre Vieja in the Canary Islands could send an 80-foot high tsunami slamming into the east coast of the United States at 600 mph. 

And along the Mississippi, a catastrophic quake at the giant new Madrid fault would cause utter devastation to America's heartland, changing the course of the mighty Mississippi, and causing the ground to roll like the ocean, as it did in 1811 and 1812. 

Many Americans might think they live in one of the safest periods in world history. But do they? Why have so many natural disasters struck the planet this year, and what does it mean? 

"It brings people to question the ultimate end of everything. Even the natural man who doesn't even know God, is saying 'Something bad is happening,' 'It's getting worse and worse,'" Synan told CBN News. 


Blessings,

Kade