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Signs of the Times

TIME Magazine Cover: End of the World - Jan. 18, 1999 - Science & Technology

Image Copyright © Time Magazine.

Scripture is filled with prophecies related to the End Times.  Many of us gravitate toward these  –  partly from a desire to understand the world in which we live, and partly from a genuine longing for Christ’s return.

Dismayed by the sadness and turmoil around us, Christians ache for the promise of heaven, for peace on earth and perfect justice.  The temptation is to turn away from the world and its troubles.  We cannot though do that.

Christians are called to be salt and light to the world, to ease the world’s pain and share with the lost the hope Christ alone can offer.  That is our role.

As we see darkness rising in the world, we have two choices:  either to give in to discouragement and despair, or fight ignorance and injustice as Christ would have us do.  He put us here for a purpose. Read more…

Confronting Evil

Illustration from “The history of the devil and the idea of evil; from the earliest times to the present day” by Paul Carus (1899), Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/14772943531, Author Internet Archive Book Images (No known copyright restrictions)

Confronting evil takes a toll.  That is true whether we are social workers, law enforcement officers, lawyers, news reporters, writers, or simply human beings dealings with the challenges of life.

Interest = Distress

The issues that interest us, the issues that motivate and move us, are the ones likely to distress us most.

Intractable Problems

Poverty, abuse, corruption and the like are not easy on the constitution or, for that matter, the soul.

Such massive and intractable problems weigh on us nearly as heavily as they do on the individuals impacted directly.  They grind us down the same way gravity and friction wear down our joints.

Add to the mix discouragement at the fact too few others share our concerns, and we are likely to become despondent.

Brief Respite

Cooking websites, travelogues, flower shows, and art museums may offer a brief respite.  But little more.

Christian Perspective

For Christians, this situation has an eternal dimension.

We struggle against the culture in which we are immersed, a culture that tolerates – and in many cases has created – the very evils which distress us.

Weary and wounded, we battle on.  But we know that the war has already been won for us.  It was won at the cross by Christ.

In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16: 33).

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  https://avoicereclaimed.com

Waste Places

Twenty years ago, the World Trade Center was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaeda on the United States [1][2].

Those of us old enough can recall where we were when we first heard the news.  A new generation has been born since.  But they, too, need to remember.

The post below (again updated) was originally published 9/11/12

NYC 9/11 Memorial (South Pool), Source https://web.archive.org/web/20161101121927/http://www.panoramio.com/photo/127859768, Author giggel (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

WARNING: Graphic Images

For the Lord will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord…” (Is. 51: 3).

Covering 2200 acres and taller than the Statue of Liberty, the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island, NY can be seen from space.

At one time the primary waste disposal site for the City of New York, Fresh Kills was closed to dumping early in 2001, but reopened to process the 2 million tons of debris from the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Mass Destruction

“You could not comprehend the massive destruction [at Ground Zero].  Even though there was an enormous amount of toxic debris and smoke, your skin was on fire you couldn’t breathe your eyes were tearing, you just kept going on and on.  You didn’t care – you just wanted to find somebody [3A].”

– former EMS Paramedic, Freddie Noboa, now suffering from PTSD, asthma, and many other illnesses

Twisted girders, broken concrete, bricks, glass, shredded paper, and human remains were shipped by truck and barge to Fresh Kills.

A Miniature City

Work at Fresh Kills went on 24/7 consuming over 1.7 million man hours.  A miniature city grew up to accommodate the NYC Police Department, FBI, 25 state and federal agencies, and 14 contractors sorting through the material.

Though recovery workers at Ground Zero toiled without respirators, those at Fresh Kills landfill were provided them, along with safety gear which included protective suits and gloves; goggles; hard hats; and steel-toe boots.

In view of the high stress environment, psychological counseling was, also, made available.

Like Being in Hell

“We found 150 full bodies and 20,000 body parts. It was like being in hell down there – arms, legs, people cut in half – a gruesome job. There were guys down there spitting up blood [3B].”

– former FDNY Deputy Chief, Jim Riches, who found his son’s body on “the pile” at Ground Zero in March 2002

Under strict security protocols, piece after piece of material was passed along assembly lines and closely examined.  More than 1600 personal effects were retrieved.  Thousands of fragmentary human remains were recovered from which 300 persons were originally identified.

But the work to identify remains continues.  As of 2019, the New York Medical Examiner’s Office had identified 1,644 victims – some 60% of those killed [4].

Toxic Debris

The toxic debris from the collapse of the Twin Towers was found to contain more than 2500 contaminants.  These included glass and other fibers, asbestos, lead, and mercury.

About 70% of first responders developed cancers and serious respiratory conditions.  Along with EMS and firefighters, construction workers, health care professionals, clergy, and others continue to suffer from medical issues to this day [5][6]. Read more…

Religion and Power – Esau’s Trade

Rev. Billy Graham with Pres. Bill Clinton, Source https://catalog.archives.gov/id/77415239 (PD as work product of federal govt.)

What we term the “Christian Right” is not now – nor was it ever – a religion (not even a political movement derived from a single religious group).

History of Christian Right

The Christian Right developed in response to many factors:  growing theological dispute in the seminaries; the teaching of evolutionary theory in the public schools; the threat of Communism; and the massive cultural changes of the 1960s [1].

The evangelist, Billy Graham, was among the first to court the political elite, beginning with Pres. Harry Truman.  Billy Graham won millions for Christ.  But his allegiance to Pres. Richard Nixon severely tarnished Graham’s image [2]. Read more…

NXIVM and Other Cults

Keith Raniere as per Government Exhibit GX-46 in US v. Raniere, Source https://www.newschannel10.com/2019/06/19/self-help-guru-convicted-lurid-sex-trafficking-case/, Author US District Court, EDNY (PD as work product of federal govt.)

And Jesus answered and said to them:  ‘Take heed that no one deceives you.  For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many’ ” (Matt. 24: 4-5).

NXIVM is old news.  Keith Raniere has joined the ranks of such infamous cult leaders as Marshall Applewhite, Jim Jones, Warren Jeffs, and David Koresh [1].

But the NXIVM phenomenon has lessons for us.  Here are a few:

1.  A charismatic leader may not be what he claims. 

All that glitters is not gold.

Though venerated as a virtual god, Keith Raniere was originally an Amway distributor [2A].  The self-proclaimed guru and life coach called himself the “smartest man in the world” when, in fact, he had difficulty completing college.

2.  The endorsement of celebrities is no guarantee of an organization’s trustworthiness.

NXIVM was supported by Seagrams heiresses, Clare and Sara Bronfman, to the tune of some $85 million [2B].

Among the celebrities who once endorsed NXIVM were actresses Allison Mack, India Oxenberg, and Sarah Edmondson [3].  Keith Raniere even appeared with the Dalai Lama.

3.  Hierarchy and ritual are no guarantees of an organization’s spirituality.

NXIVM had both.

4.  Finances often reveal the true nature of an organization.

Actions speak louder than words.  Lofty sounding goals are not enough.

Keith Raniere promised his followers they would change the world [2C].  Instead, Raniere’s actions confirmed his desire for sex, money, and power.

Legally, NXIVM was comprised of dozens of shell corporations, their finances dubious [2D].  Functionally, NXIVM was little more than a pyramid scheme, designed to bilk Raniere’s followers of their savings [2E].

A seemingly endless series of classes were heavily promoted. All promised self-knowledge and self-improvement, albeit at a cost.  Meanwhile, members often went unpaid for their labor.

Raniere’s earlier venture, Consumer Buyline (a multi-level marketing company) was shut down in 1993 after being investigated for fraud by 20 states.

5. Excessive control is a major red flag.

There is a fine line between indoctrination and brainwashing; that line must not be crossed.

New members were introduced to NXIVM’s philosophy of “rational inquiry” at intensive, 14 hour per day seminars lasting over 2 weeks.

Loyalty to NXIVM was emphasized over loyalty to family.  The manner of dress, diet, and life decisions of members were all closely regulated by NXIVM.  Even the weight of members was monitored.

Other tactics employed at NXIVM included sleeplessness, isolation, starvation, corporal punishment, and coercion via blackmail.  The cult leaders Jim Jones and Charles Manson, also, used “love bombing” – excessive displays of attention and affection intended to overwhelm [5]. Read more…

Bread

Loaf of French bread, Author David Monniaux, Copyright © 2004 David Monniaux (CC BY-SA 1.0 Generic)

Many of us have a bagel and coffee in the morning. But anyone who has ever baked bread knows that  the baking process is not an easy one – particularly from the bread’s perspective.

The dough is prepared, seasoned, floured, and folded on itself; kneaded and rolled flat; allowed to rest and rise; then punched down, again and again. Ingredients can be beaten or whipped, with the dough sometimes actually thrown against the counter, so that flavors mix and the dough attains proper consistency.

So too are we, with God the loving baker and life the process

The results, of course, are rich and varied. Even the smell of baking bread makes mouths water, drawing others to the table. Knowing this, may we be able to say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 12: 15).

Did You not pour me out like milk, and curdle me like cheese, clothe me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews? You have granted me life and favor, and Your care has preserved my spirit” (Job 10: 10-12).

Father, we know ourselves to be the product of Your loving hands and in Your tender care. Where better could we be?

Uphold us this day. Give us peace in the midst of turmoil, and patience in the midst of trial. Help us submit to Your will for our lives. And may our aroma be sweet to You.

Amen

Originally posted 4/11/12

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse https://avoicereclaimed.com

Criminal Justice Reform

Philadelphia District Attorney, Larry Krasner, Author Michael Candelori, Source ttps://vimeo.com/216412159 (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

  • There were 264 federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial police officers killed in the line of duty in the United States in 2020;  there were 135 killed in 2019 [1A].
  • Overall, there are 22,217 names of fallen police officers inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., extending back to 1786 [1B].
  • Since 2015, police officers have fatally shot at least 135 unarmed black men and women, nationwide [2A].
  • At least 75% of the police officers involved in such shootings were white [2B].
  • At least 6 of the police officers involved in such shootings had histories of drug use, domestic violence, or other troubling behavior.  Several were convicted of crimes like battery while on the force, but retained their jobs [2C].
  • These deaths are all in the context of 10 million arrests, annually [3].

The issue of criminal justice reform is a thorny one.  To begin with, there is little or no agreement about what actually constitutes reform.

Self-serving agendas, political ambitions, and appeals to prejudice rather than rational argument further complicate the situation.  Shrill voices have been raised on all sides

For many of us, the prospect of “defunding the police”, as the slogan goes, is terrifying.  What is meant by this phrase, also, though varies. Read more…

Boko Haram and the Faithful

Amputation by Boko Haram, Author Voice of America (PD)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

The following is excerpted from an article in the March 2021 edition of The Voice of the Martyrs Magazine.  VOM, http://www.persecution.com, is a Christian non-profit serving the persecuted church.

“She never expected to suffer persecution, but when Naomi’s town was overrun by Islamic terrorists, she was ready.  Her church and the Bible had taught her well:  ‘Persecution is God’s Word being fulfilled’…

Boko Haram, whose name means ‘Western education is forbidden’…began waging an insurgency across northern Nigeria, targeting military installations, police stations, government buildings, churches and civilians…

The day of the invasion, Naomi was working on her plot of farmland…when she heard distant gunfire.  ‘The Muslims who were at the farm with us told us to be careful while going home,’ she recalled, ‘because they knew what was happening.’

Naomi’s first concern was for her children at home.  But as she rushed down the road toward town, she and several other women were caught by Boko Haram fighters.  ‘They asked us to show them the houses of Christians, and they challenged us to renounce our faith,’ Naomi said.  ‘They threatened to kill us if we did not.’ ” Read more…

Frustration

Orthodox Bulgarian icon of St. George fighting the Dragon (1621 AD), Source Alciato’s Book of Emblems (PD-Art, PD-old-100)

It can, at times, seem as if this modern world of ours is hell-bent on driving us insane.

We are forced to grapple with government agencies, insurance carriers, banks, utilities, credit card companies, credit rating agencies, phone companies, computer companies, investment companies, and many more – often wrestling with the very technology which is supposed to assist us.

Corporate giants have taken the place of kings who once ruled with an iron fist.  Little wonder that we are left feeling frustrated and small.  Powerless, for all practical purposes.

The spiritual reality is, of course, that Satan, “the ruler of this world” (John 12: 31), is hellbound and determined to bring us along, or at least discourage, distract, and disable us.  Even the most sincere Christians can fall into his traps.  The daily struggle simply wears us down.

What then are we to do?  How ought we to respond? Read more…

Newspeak and Anglo-Saxon Values

Anglo-Saxon disc brooch from Kent on display at Oxford University’s Ashmolean Museum (Accession No. 1972.1401), Author Ethan Doyle White (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

“Orwell’s Newspeak, the ultra-political new language introduced in Nineteen Eighty-Four…facilitates deception and manipulation, and its purpose is to restrict understanding of the real world…By manipulating the language, the government wishes to alter the public’s way of thinking.”

-“Language as the ‘Ultimate Weapon’ in Nineteen Eighty Four” by Jem Berkes, Copyright © 2000 [1A]

George Orwell’s classic novel 1984 predicted a chilling future in which language would be stripped of its meaning and used to convey the very opposite of its original intent.

For those who may not have noticed, 1984 has arrived.

While Newspeak was employed by the government and media in Orwell’s novel, it is now part of so called woke culture and white supremacist counterculture.

Reinterpretation of the phrase “Anglo-Saxon values” is a prime illustration. Read more…