STRATEGIC TRENDS: YEAR IN REVIEW - www.khouse.org
Our ministry goal is to create, develop, and distribute materials to stimulate, encourage, and facilitate serious study of the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. Each week the eNews staff examines current events from a Biblical point-of-view. We sincerely hope our efforts have helped you gain a better understanding of the times in which we live. We also hope we have been able to demonstrate how the Bible is as relevant and accurate today as it was two thousand years ago when Jesus Christ walked on the shores of Galilee.
Our staff regularly monitors ten specific global, social, political, and economic trends that we feel are significant to the Body of Christ. We follow these Strategic Trends throughout the year on our website and in our various publications. Today we would like to review each of these trends and take a look back over some of this year's major milestones.
The acquisition of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons by both terrorists and rogue nations is perhaps one of the greatest threats to our national security. US intelligence officials have focused their attention on Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Pakistan, and North Korea in their attempts to stifle weapons proliferation. They have also kept a close watch on Russia and China, key suppliers of technology, components, and weaponry.
During the last twelve months Iran's nuclear program has become the focus of international attention. The EU has attempted to reopen dialogue in recent weeks, but there is little hope of reaching an agreement. Iran has vigorously pursued weapons of mass destruction - nuclear, chemical, and biological - and their delivery systems as well as advanced conventional weapons. To this end, Iran has sought foreign materials, training, equipment, and know-how from nations such as Russia, China, and Pakistan.
Missile tests conducted earlier this year by Iran may be part of the development of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) warhead. Iran has practiced detonating its Shahab-3 missiles while in mid-air, which has lead some intelligence officials to suspect that Iran is practicing the execution of an EMP attack. An electromagnetic pulse, triggered by a high-altitude detonation of a nuclear weapon, poses a considerable threat to our national security and is one of a small number of weapons that could be used to bring the whole of America to its knees. An EMP attack would strike what has become our Achilles heel – our relatively unprotected, yet vital, technological infrastructure.
The Struggle for Jerusalem
Yasser Arafat’s death has plunged the Palestinian leadership into a massive power struggle, with various groups and factions battling for control. Despite Mahmoud Abbas' clear victory in January's elections, organizations like Hamas still pose a serious threat to his leadership. Abbas has refused to confront armed groups for fear of civil war. Instead, he has attempted to woo militia members with the promise of jobs and political participation. His strategy, however, has not been effective. The Palestinian Authority is spiraling into chaos. Palestinian Security forces in the West Bank and Gaza are weak, ill-equipped, and divided. Their ability to maintain law and order suffers from shortages of equipment and ammunition, widespread corruption, financial mismanagement, and various other stumbling blocks to the its effectiveness. Meanwhile, terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' are better trained and better equipped.
The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza represents a major milestone in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In August Israel evacuated all 21 Gaza settlements along with four of 120 settlements in the West Bank - a total of about 9000 settlers were forced to abandon their homes. Some believe that the Gaza withdrawal was necessary for Israel's security - although Israel will continue to control the borders, coastline and airspace of Gaza, it will no longer need to commit substantial military personnel and resources to the protection of settlers within Gaza. Yet in many respects, the Israeli evacuation of Gaza represents a victory for terrorism. In the minds of the Palestinian people, the Israeli withdrawal is proof that terrorism works.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's controversial plan to pull out of Gaza has caused division within the nation of Israel - even prompting talk of civil war. Sharon made headlines recently when he resigned his position in the Likud - the right-wing political party he founded in 1973. Sharon and his supporters left the Likud to establish a new political party that will be committed to reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians consistent with the US-backed Road Map Peace Plan. Sharon has named the new party Kadima, a Hebrew word which means "forward" in English.
The blood shed on September 11, 2001 became the catalyst in the war on terrorism. That tragic event briefly united Americans in a common cause, however that unity has splintered. National tragedy may have amalgamated the masses, but growing differences in values and philosophy have driven a wedge down the middle of American society. Americans are fighting a battle both in foreign lands and here at home. In the war against terrorism our enemy is easily defined, however the domestic battle lines are more muddled. It would seem that, as a nation, we have begun to abandon the faith and values of our founding fathers.
Controversial topics like same-sex marriage, abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and intelligent design have continued to divide the populace. Unlike the war on terror, however, this confrontation has primarily taken place in courtrooms rather than on battlefields. In many cases, such as the court battle over removing the words "under God" from the pledge, victory seems to hinge on the interpretation of our constitution and the defininition of the Establishment Clause, from which the concept of separation of church and state is derived.
Perhaps one of the events history will remember most about 2005, is the dramatic changes that have taken place in the Supreme Court. In July, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor stirred up Washington by announcing her resignation from the Supreme Court. Her resignation was followed a few months later by the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Rehnquist has since been replaced by John Roberts. Samuel Alito has been nominated to take the place of the Sandra Day O'Connor.
Rise of the European Superstate
Over the last few years we have watched closely as the European Union has emerged as a growing world power. Bulgaria and Romania are set to join the EU in January of 2007 and both Croatia and Turkey have begun negotiations for membership.
The consideration of Turkey as a possible member of the EU has put the spotlight on Europe's growing Islamic population. Islam is quickly becoming a significant part of the cultural and political landscape of Europe. There are between 9 and 15 million Muslims living throughout Europe today, and Islam has become the largest religious minority. Considering current population trends and the need for immigrant labor, it is likely that the number of Muslims in Europe will continue to grow exponentially.
The Muslim population in Europe has expanded so rapidly that it now appears Europe is experiencing growing pains. However the problem is not overcrowding, it is increased cultural tensions. The situation came to a head in November, when widespread rioting broke out in France - in which over 7,000 vehicles were torched and various public buildings and businesses were destroyed. France's failure to integrate its North African and Muslim minorities is seen as the key reason behind the rioting.
Often seen as the future embodiment of global government, the UN has been the subject of increased scrutiny. While the investigation into the Oil-for-Food scandal is at its height, the UN has been bombarded by accusations of corruption and mismanagement. The Oil-for-Food Scandal is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. As evidence is uncovered, the more apparent it becomes that UN lacks accountability.
It should come as no surprise that amidst the scandal the UN has announced plans for a massive overhaul. The huge reforms will be unlike any changes made since the organization was founded in 1945. Historically, government never downsizes voluntarily; it always increases its power and minimizes accountability to its citizens. Government reinvention is frequently an effort to avoid the consequences of failed policies in the past, or to justify a government's continued expansion by posing solutions to the problems it has created. Over the last decade, the United Nations has unabashedly pushed for what it calls "global governance." The UN is positioning itself for global power, no doubt it will use the scandal and the ensuing "reforms" to advance closer to that goal.
The Rise of Islam
The Muslim faith is becoming an increasingly volatile catalyst in today's international scene. With the continuing threat of terrorist attacks in the United States, it has become of paramount importance to understand the origin, nature, and agenda of Islam.
Many Americans believe that Islam is a religion of peace and that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. In public schools we teach our children a doctrine of tolerance, and in some schools students are even required to memorize passages of the Koran. While in comparison Islamic children are taught that America is the Infidel. We are the enemy. When the towers came crashing down on September 11, 2001 and thousands of innocent people were killed, Muslims all over the world danced in the streets and praised the hijackers. A survey taken in Saudi Arabia shortly after the September 11 attacks reported that 95 percent of educated Saudi men between the ages of 25 and 41 backed bin Laden’s cause. Islamic terrorists are referred to in the West as radicals and extremists, while in the mid-east they are heralded by fundamentalists as martyrs and heroes, and the families of suicide bombers are rewarded monetary pensions. The disparity between the two perspectives is staggering.
To say that Islam is a peaceful religion requires turning a blind eye to the growing humanitarian crisis in Darfur, the bloodshed in Chechnya, the London terrorist bombings, and the ethnic conflicts in China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Pakistan and India – not to mention the ongoing violence throughout the Middle East.
The Magog Invasion
Many experts believe that a large-scale confrontation between Israel and its neighbors could be on the near horizon. Which has made Syria’s growing relationship with nations such as Iran and Russia more concerning. Over the past year or so, partly as a consequence of the war in Iraq, Russia has been carefully cultivating ties with Turkey, Iran and Syria. After losing the Mid-East foothold provided by Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the Russians have been building a new axis of power based on those three key countries.
Russia is now Turkey's second-largest trading partner, with a volume of $10 billion in trade per year. Russia has also strengthened ties with Iran by supplying it with nuclear-related technologies. Earlier this year Russia and Syria made plans to increase diplomatic and military cooperation. Russia wrote-off approximately 10 billion dollars of Syria’s Soviet-era debt and has supplied Syria with Russian made SA-18 surface-to-air missiles, in spite of Israel’s objections. Russian military experts have also been sent to the Gaza Strip to train Palestinian security forces. In addition to training, Russia is prepared to provide the Palestinians with armored vehicles, ammunition, and helicopters.
These developments could be a sign that the famed battle prophesied in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is on our near horizon. It is during this battle, that God will directly intercede to protect Israel from Magog and its allies.
The Rise of the Far East
China has quickly become a global power. In recent years, China has bought, borrowed, or stolen technology, which has catapulted its military capabilities into the modern high-tech arena. In the last year China has announced plans to launch 100 surveillance satellites, and has unveiled its new class of ballistic missile submarines. These submarines will be China’s first truly intercontinental strategic nuclear delivery system. The Chinese military is preparing for a war with the United States, a war which its commanders believe is inevitable.
In March the Chinese government passed an anti-secession law authorizing the use of military force should Taiwan formally declare its independence. The law also increased Chinese military spending. China wants to avoid entering into an armed conflict over Taiwan, but that does not mean it is unprepared or unwilling to go to war. China’s Foreign Minister made clear China’s intensions when he stated publicly "We will never allow separatist forces to secede from the great motherland...we will never allow it."
Over the last few years China has strengthened its ties with the Middle East. It is already one of the biggest suppliers of weapons and military technology to Arab nations and has become a major consumer of Middle Eastern oil.
Biotech and Global Pestilence
According to the National Institute of Health infectious diseases remain the leading cause of death worldwide, and the third leading cause of death in the United States. Diseases thought to be obsolete have once again become a global threat, and in recent years new pathogens have emerged, some of which carry antibiotic-resistant genes or mutations enabling them to move across different species.
The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have been preparing for a possible outbreak of the Avian virus (also known as the Bird Flu), which officials believe could become a global epidemic if a new virulent strain of the virus emerges that can jump readily from human to human. If there is an outbreak health workers estimate that it would spread rapidly and could kill anywhere from 2 million to 50 million people.
In February of this year embryologist Ian Wilmut, the scientist that brought us Dolly the sheep, was given permission by the British government to clone human embryos for medical research. The announcement has renewed debate over the scientific and ethical implications of cloning and embryonic stem cell research.
It may seem difficult to imagine the world united under one ruler and one religion, especially with the bloody ethnic battles taking place in the world today. However, the violence caused by religious and cultural conflicts could in fact be the catalyst that brings about drastic change. The desire for world peace, the deterioration of moral values in the Western world, the restriction of religious freedom in America, and the continued persecution of Christians in other parts of the world could all pave the way for the emergence of a global religion.
The Roman Catholic Church is one of the wealthiest, most powerful institutions on the Planet Earth today. It has almost one billion followers, approximately 20 percent of the world’s population. This year history witnessed the death of Pope John Paul II and selection of his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. The Roman Catholic Church - the Vatican - is poised to become the vehicle for the final ecumenical union of all religions. Many commentators believe that the religion of the Antichrist will not be atheism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, or New Age. It will a pagan form of Christianity.
As Christians, it is important for us to be able to recognize the "signs of the times" (Matthew 16:3), or as we like to call them, the "times of the signs". We are living in a very exciting age, about which the Bible has a lot to say if you really take the time to study it diligently. God made no mistake by placing us in this time and place, and as such we are admonished to be brave and to contend for the faith. We are soldiers in a mighty spiritual army. Each has a unique mission incapable of being filled by another. It is time to pray for direction and purpose, and then boldly do what He commands us to do. If we truly believe that we are in the "times of the signs", and that the coming of our Messiah is near, then we need to be about our Master's business. Our goal is to hear the words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."