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 Chapter 27

Changing Political, Religious, Economic, and Social Patterns

 

THE 1990s has seen a bewildering escalation of change in almost every aspect of society. Some perceptive analysts, focusing upon the issues of personal liberty, have noted that frequently these societal changes are altering both the focus and the emphasis that once safeguarded the personal freedoms of society’s citizens.

Political Issues

There are growing concerns that government is greatly reducing the liberties of its citizens. There is a significant spectrum of concerns, as increasingly the lives of the citizens are regulated. We certainly acknowledge the fact that government has hard decisions to make today, decisions that were never encountered in earlier history. For example, arising out of the terrorist bombing in New York City, and the Oklahoma bombing, there is a tendency for legislators to contemplate increased control over the citizens of the nation in the name of protection. Many wise legislators are yet having great difficulty in drawing that fine line between the protection of the citizens of the nation on the one hand, and the protection of individual freedoms on the other.

Fear of terrorism has greatly increased security operations in many areas, including airports and government facilities. The question is, How much of our individual freedoms are we willing to surrender in the name of security? These are difficult questions to answer, but above all we must oppose anything but the most necessary protective measures.

There is reason for deep concern about the increasing power that has been invested in the President of the United States. Many are afraid of the President’s powers, which can be exercised without recourse to Congress and the wider forum that Congressional debate offers on issues. One simple power that is a concern to many citizens, is the President’s power to declare special days for public observance. Having noted the extended and often bitter debate over Sunday legislation throughout the nineteenth century, this has led to much concern that any move for the enactment of such legislation be defeated. Of deep concern are rumors that Sunday might be legislated as "a family day." Perceptive citizens would see this, as did the discerning citizens of last century, as a veiled intrusion into the religious choices of the people. Others are concerned about the President’s new power to exercise line item veto. The more powers that one individual has, the more the likelihood of the development of coercive, ill-considered, or dictatorial decisions.

Of even deeper concern has been the development of the concept of "fast track," by which the President would have approval to sign international treaties and would have much more latitude to influence international trade and international relations. Already there is deep concern about the number of treaties that America has signed—more than five hundred of them—all of which have not borne the scrutiny of the Constitution of the United States, and thus in effect supersede it.

Increasingly, legal decisions are being taken in respect, not of the sovereign decisions of the nation, but in line with the so-called world community. Thus globalism is making strong inroads into the American society. Of course, America is but one nation that is accepting these international treaties. Australia has accepted almost two thousand International Treaties and United Nations conventions.

In the dying embers of his administration, President Reagan signed the genocide treaty, something that seven previous Presidents (Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter) had refused to do since the treaty had been proposed in the early years of the United Nations. There is a deepening fear that the articles of the genocide treaty may be used to persecute citizens who seek to disclose the errors perceived in religions other than their own. For example, among the subclauses of Article III dealing with acts that are punishable is subclause (c):

Direct and public incitement to commit genocide (Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, General Assembly of the United Nations, 9 December, 1948)

Fears were increased when subsequently, Congress decided that the death penalty would be invoked for violation of this treaty.

Although the authors stand firmly and resolutely against any form of genocide, they also see in the treaty the above dangerous clause, which could permit the curtailing of free speech for anyone who sought to show the errors of another’s religion. Such a person could be accused of violating the genocide treaty, for this treaty covers much more than the destruction of ethnic, religious, or political groups. The treaty also endangers the exercise of free speech.

This threat to free speech has taken other forms in other countries. For example, Canada enacted laws prior to the visit of the Pope, that made it an offense to speak out against the Pope. This surely is a serious violation of religious liberty. Efforts have been made in Australia to enact anti-vilification laws. Once again, these laws clearly would violate the free speech of the citizens of Australia. Australia in 1949 signed the genocide treaty.

When we were boys, we often heard the statement, "Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me." That maxim is surely true today, and any curtailing of an individual’s right to speak out against an organization or a group will set a dangerous precedent.

The genocide treaty illustrates a growing peril. Many laws, constitutional articles, treaties, or regulations attract popular support because the matter set before the citizens is one which no right thinking individual could oppose. This surely is true of genocide. But, no doubt by design, the architects of the treaty also intruded into that treaty, aspects which no right-thinking person should accept. These aspects were played down, while the genocide aspect was emphasized. Thus nations were beguiled into signing the treaty without fully exploring the consequences to their citizens, of the subclauses which potentially subvert their inalienable rights.

Economic Issues

Rapid globalization of economies is already producing ominous results. The NAFTA (North American Free Trade Association) treaty was surely just a microcosm of the greater thrust to bring all nations under the one global economic organization. More alarming still were the implications of the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) Treaty, which involved well over one hundred nations. While the possible evils of the GATT Treaty are yet to be witnessed, the goals are very obvious. Once again, efforts are in place to reduce greatly, if not to eliminate, the sovereignty of each nation. Therefore the citizens of the nations of the world will soon be facing the reality that their liberties and national sovereignty will be impaired or totally lost in the interest of the global community.

Those who have taken even a limited interest in the ups and downs of the stock market will realize just how dramatic is the impact when one nation’s economy falters. The very difficult time at the end of the 1990s, experienced by some of the Asian countries, had great implications in nations as far away as the United States, Australia, and Great Britain. The more closely the economic interests of each nation are tied together, the greater the likelihood of a whole world economic collapse which would make the depression of the 1920s and 1930s shrink almost into insignificance.

Some experts are warning about the reduced rights in private property ownership, as usage of property becomes increasingly regulated, and as building codes become more stringent. In a very interesting presentation in Imprimis, vol. 26, p. 8, Richard Ebeling, Ludwig von Mises Professor of Economics, Hillsdale College, warns against the increasing trend of government, including the United States government, to intervene in the free market economy. In his presentation, Ebeling presents a clear distinction between the socialistic-communistic collectivism that brings all business and economic enterprises under the control of government, and a free market economy which allows for the ownership and initiative of individuals of the nation. Ebeling points out that characteristics of a genuine free market economy include "(1) all means of production are privately owned; (2) the use of the means of production is under the control of private owners who may be individuals or corporate entities; (3) consumer demands determine how the means of production will be used; (4) competitive forces of supply and demand determine prices for consumer goods and various factors of production like labor; (5) the success or failure of individual and corporate enterprises is determined by the profits or losses these enterprises earn, based on their greater or lesser ability to satisfy consumer demand in competition with their rivals in the market place; (6) the market is not confined to domestic transactions and includes freedom of international trade; (7) the monetary system is based on a market-determined commodity (e.g. gold or silver), and the banking system is private and competitive, neither controlled nor regulated by government; (8) government is limited in its activities to the enforcement and protection of life, liberty, and property."

Ebeling, however, points out that though socialism, communism, fascism, and nazism are all but dead and have failed miserably, they are now being—"replaced by what is merely another more watered down form of collectivism that may be called ‘interventionism’" (Ibid.). Ebeling proceeds to point out the consequences of regulating all business transactions. He suggests that once again government infringes civil rights, and the freedoms of the individual are violated.

Environmental Issues

Every responsible citizen is firmly committed to helping to maintain, or where necessary to restore reasonable ecological balance to our planet. But evidence mounts that some of the increasing environmental regulations are imposing severe economic hardships upon many law-abiding citizens. Often, decisions are made without evidence of need. For example, a corporation built its sewage ponds lined with impervious clay. Some years later the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) required the corporation to either prove the pond was not leaking, or line the pond. The onus was not on the department to prove leakage, but rather upon the corporation to prove the pond was not leaking. To do the latter would have cost about fifty percent of what it cost to line the pond. To avoid further annoyance, the corporation chose to line the pond at considerable cost, without the slightest evidence of its need.

In another case, a developer, at the cost of about $300,000, had built a sewage treatment plant for a subdivision he had developed. Shortly thereafter, the city passed an ordinance requiring all sewage to be linked to the city sewage treatment plant. He was forced to find about $500,000 to meet the new ordinance. When he sought to appeal the decision he was confronted with a $100,000 fine per quarter for any delay, thus depriving the developer of his right to appeal his case.

Such arbitrary and seemingly unfair decisions violate the very essence of the principles of freedom. Many hard working, honest citizens have lost their livelihood because of such heartless decisions. Others have been forced to merge with larger organizations to survive, and thus have effectively lost the ownership of their own business or industry, which they have established by decades of hard work and intelligent management.

Family Issues

Especially in developed countries, there has been a dramatic change in the relationship between parental and government rights and responsibilities. Certainly, some of the existing regulations have been fueled by significant decline in parental responsibility. But this does not excuse governments which become increasingly antagonistic to the sovereignty of the family. In some nations, including some of the Scandinavian nations, the law forbids spanking by parents of their children. This is especially offensive to sincere Christians. Many Christians see the wise, temperate use of corporal punishment as mandated in the Scriptures. Especially, Solomon brings these concepts before parents.

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. Proverbs 22:15

Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. Proverbs 23:13, 14

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. Proverbs 13:24

The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. Proverbs 29:15

We are not in any way condoning the practice of child abuse, for a wise parent will never punish in anger, and will help the child to understand the reason, based upon love, for which the child is being punished. But in some areas parents are afraid to administer such punishment, because they fear that they are in danger of being reported to Social Services agencies as child abusers.

Many parents are closely analyzing the agenda being forced upon children in public school, as they are trained to accept the concept of globalism and socialistic patterns of thinking. Children are also being desensitized to so-called "alternative lifestyles," including homosexuality, lesbianism, premarital sex, and cohabiting of singles. Thus, frequently, the public schools are seen as reflecting, teaching, and even training children away from traditional values, and in a lifestyle wholly inconsistent with the goals of responsible parents. Such parents see these training methods as specifically aimed to "liberate" the child from the values of the parents. Such methods are linked to toleration, but no effort is made, in many instances, to teach the difference between toleration to human beings, and intolerance of acts that defy any civilized standard of decency.

Religious Issues

The religious climate has changed dramatically since the end of the Second World War. Fifty years ago each church had a strong body of truth, dogmas, and, in many cases, creeds to which every member was expected to adhere. For example, it was not difficult to sense the difference in salvation principles between Methodists, who believed in freedom of the will, and Presbyterians, who believed in predestination, two quite separate and incompatible concepts of the gospel and of the saving principles of God.

But today, mergers between such groups are not uncommon. For example, the Uniting Church of Australia, formed in 1977, is comprised of the former Presbyterians, Methodists, and Congregationalists. Biblical doctrines have been so de-emphasized that barely a skeleton of the doctrine has been left.

In 1977 Russell was Deputy Medical Superintendent of a large Melbourne University hospital. The senior hospital chaplain was a Presbyterian pastor with several theological degrees. Russell asked the chaplain how Methodists and Presbyterians were able to unite when their respective doctrines of salvation were at such odds. The reply of the chaplain typified the departure from a sense of the significance and importance of doctrinal integrity. "I suppose you are correct," he replied, "I’ve never given it a second thought."

This is of course part of the strategy of the ecumenical movements and of those sponsoring the concept of a one-world religion. Perceptive Christians cannot escape the conclusion that the blurring of doctrinal distinctives has resulted in an alarming decline in the Bible-based standards of the churches, and has greatly weakened the moral fiber of society, leading to a monumental increase in crime, degrading practices, and the fracture of home life. It is not a little ironic that those churches who must shoulder much of the responsibility for the deplorable standards in today’s society, are now demanding the greater intervention of government and law enforcement agencies to solve by force, the problems to which they have contributed.

There is developing an acceptance of a wide range of incompatible ideas and teachings. But ironically, this is leading to intolerance against those who earnestly believe that they must follow a specific set of beliefs and cannot endorse beliefs that are incompatible with these.

The ecumenical movement is drawing churches into a deceptive web of cooperation built upon false principles of unity. This changing climate is fueled by interfaith fellowships and ministerial fraternals, in which ministers of a wide range of denominations regularly meet together. It has led the World Council of Churches to proffer what is called the BEM Document (Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry). This document calls for acceptance of any form of baptism, whether it be infant sprinkling or adult consent, believer’s immersion, ignoring the fact that huge numbers of people were martyred for their unwavering stand on this issue.

The Eucharist represents the concept that the wafer in the communion service is claimed to be the actual body of Christ, whereas most Protestants believe the communion bread to be but a symbol of the broken body of Christ. Once again, large numbers were martyred in past history for their convictions on this doctrine. Yet the BEM document testifies that both forms of communion are acceptable.

Not only does the Roman Catholic Church declare, in contradistinction to Protestantism, that in the mass, the bread after consecration becomes the actual body of Christ; but that the mass is equally efficacious for our salvation as is the death of Christ on Calvary.

The Eucharistic sacrifice is to be considered in so far as in it Jesus Christ offers Himself, that is, He is not only the sacrificial gift, but also the most eminent Sacrifice. In this respect the Sacrifice of the Mass is not inferior in value to that of the Cross: both are equally infinite, equally beyond all estimation and equally valuable. (Dr. Nicholas Gihr, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, B. Herder Book Co., St. Louis & London, English Edition 1939, page 135—This book possessed the imprimateur of Archbishop Glennon.)

The ministry section of the BEM document limits the call to witness, to witness only to those who are unchurched, that is, those who are members of no specific denomination. Such a concept is designed to rob earnest Christians of their responsibility to teach—to proselytize those of other Christian faiths. Such proselytizing has ever been central to the active ministry of every faithful Christian. It takes little prophetic gift to predict that eventually those who believe they have a God-given mandate to share their understanding of the gospel with whoever will freely listen, be he pagan, atheist, or member of another Christian church communion, will be condemned and ultimately persecuted as those who are destroying the unity of this global religious movement. The very toleration that such a movement proposes will eventually lead to a fierce hostility directed against those who refuse to become part of the world’s religion consensus. Christians must never neglect the warnings of Scripture, which plainly state that both economic boycotts and death will be penalties meted out against those of minority faith.

And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Revelation 13:8

And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Revelation 13:15–17

As we examine the dramatic advances in technology and surveillance equipment, it is not difficult for perceptive citizens to recognize that an infrastructure is being developed that will allow for the most invasive activities of authoritative organizations against citizens. High-tech equipment is now available to track our every move. Someone has said that in New York City, for example, the average citizen is photographed about twenty times a day by security cameras and other devices. Credit cards provide huge amounts of information. While it is not believed that all of this is in place in order to limit the freedom of citizens, nevertheless we cannot be blind to the fact that these remarkable advances will allow for the unscrupulous use of this technology.

Sincere Christians are alarmed by these developments, but they also realize that their only security and ultimate trust is in the Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly this is the time for great vigilance on the part of all the citizens of every nation.

 


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