The Dysfunctionality of the Federal Disability Program

The Dysfunctionality of the Federal Disability Program


Disability checks issued by the federal government are growing every year and are doing so to an extent that is unsustainable to the U.S. economy and counterproductive to some of the beneficiaries.

Each month, 14 million checks averaging $1,000 each are written out by the government to disabled people. Some of these pricey handouts are ill-vetted, and tend to destroy any incentive for disabled people to perform any gainful work. Disability, it would appear, means inability.

This reality was extensively discussed in the weekly public radio show This American Life by Ira Glass and Chana Joffe-Walt of Planet Money, on March 22.

Using Hale County, Alabama, as a microcosmic example for many pockets of U.S. society, Joffe-Walt, who has spent six months studying the rise in disability payments, reported that one in four people in the county receive disability checks.

These statistics essentially define daily life in Hale County, she noted. Banks stay open late when the disability checks come in on the first and third day of the month, and grocery carts are brimful. The disability payments are the only source of income for some of these people because they have opted to stay out of any work altogether.

In Greensboro, the county seat, the only general practitioner operating there—who makes most of the medical recommendations and “diagnoses” for disability—told Chana Joffe-Walt that when these disabled people visit, “we talk about the pain and what it’s like. … I always ask them, ‘What grade did you finish?’” Basically, a decision is largely influenced by the person’s academic likelihood of getting a job to begin with—at least from the practitioner’s perspective.

In her interviews with disabled people, Joffe-Walt noted that some of them had never even conceived of the possibility of getting a job that would not be hindered by their disabilities. The concept was so foreign to them that she appeared to have been expecting them to have considered becoming astronauts.

Chana Joffe-Walt and This American Life have received criticism from the liberal media, but their analysis is thorough and spot-on. For the past 30 years, hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on both well-deserving disabled people and for those who may fall short. The number of people on the disability program has doubled every 15 years—economic growth of the 1990s, improving technology for disabled people, and laws against discrimination notwithstanding.

And even when one’s application to the program is rejected by the government—something that happens to two thirds of applicants—there are disability lawyers who get paid by the government when they win an appeal case. Joffe-Walt reported that the government pays over $1 billion to these lawyers every year.

Then there are companies like the Public Consulting Group (pcg). The pcg helps people with disabilities migrate from welfare to the disability program. The latter is entirely financed by the federal government, while the former is a shared expenditure between states and the federal government. States obviously stand to benefit from such migrations. That’s why they pay the pcg. The state of Missouri, for example, has been asked by the Public Consulting Group to pay $2,300 per person.

The federal government also bears the costs for children with disabilities in its Supplemental Security Income program. Most of the disabilities that children on this program are diagnosed with are mental or intellectual problems. This program best shows how easily the system can be used deviously and hamper the development of some of its beneficiaries. Some of the families of these children primarily survive off the disability checks they receive for their children’s impairments. They may see themselves better off if their children do not improve. Some of the families interviewed by Joffe-Walt gave that impression.

America’s disability program is dysfunctional and vulnerable to gross abuse. While it is a tremendous benefit to those who may be severely incapacitated, it provides an easy way out for those who may not want to work, or those who never have been challenged to even try. According to the chief actuary at the Social Security Administration, Steve Goss, the disability insurance program reserves will run out of money in 2016.

With the economic woes besetting the U.S., a welfare system prone to abuse is the last thing America needs. It’s more weight to the debt load. Our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy explains the reason for these national problems and the leadership that will soon solve them.

The Day the Dollar Dies

The Day the Dollar Dies


America’s financial Pearl Harbor is coming
From the May 2013 Trumpet Print Edition

December 6, 2015, 3 p.m. HKT, Hong Kong

Twenty-one men representing China’s most powerful institutions file into a conference room atop the icc Tower looming over Victoria Harbor. The Politburo Standing Committee has mustered the ceos of China’s four largest banks, Sinopec, and several other state-owned multinationals, plus officers from the Central Military Commission and a pair of academics from China’s top technology universities.

The general secretary formally opens the meeting. “As you know, the United States of America continues to manipulate its currency,” he begins. “It is devaluing its dollar, which steals away trade and reduces the value of its debts. The Standing Committee manages the yuan’s value to protect our manufacturing base and support employment.”

The secretary leans back ever so slightly to say what everyone in the room already knows, and the reason why they are here. “Three days ago, the Federal Reserve System announced its sixth quantitative easing policy in the past seven years.”

And now, the marching orders.

“The Central Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party has agreed that it is time to use every financial measure of the People’s Republic to preserve the state of its economy. It has approved liquidating the government’s holdings of U.S. treasuries.”

The order from the stone-faced secretary sounds broad, even bland. But it means very specific, very powerful things to each man in this room. It means pulling the trigger on a huge number of massive initiatives. And it’s backed by more than a trillion dollars.

The Chinese economy will suffer some collateral damage as well, but the decision has finally been made. To encourage and to enforce the point, the secretary concludes with a proverb: “Good medicine tastes bitter.”

He could’ve used a different one: “Wait long, strike fast.”

December 7, 9 a.m. EST, New York

It’s a normal day on Wall Street. Markets are up after last week’s Fed announcement of QE6. Thanks to this latest round of money-printing, gold is holding at $2,000 per ounce, oil is $95 per barrel. The dollar index is steady at 82.

Squawk Box is running a story saying China’s new East Asian free-trade zone seems to have been fast-tracked. Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and China’s recently reincorporated province of Taiwan are all sending signals that they’re suddenly ready to sign up. Trade will be conducted in Chinese renminbi. An Associated Press story getting some play quotes an unnamed official from Japan’s Ministry of Finance saying that since most of Japan’s trade is now with China, it too will eventually be forced to join the East Asian Prosperity Cooperation. Even Australia is considering participation. The markets yawn.

10 a.m. EST

The Dow Jones Industrial Average hits 16,000—a new record. Gold bumps up $20 per ounce. The dollar index is showing strength. Market Makers is praising Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s masterful handling of the economy, despite stubbornly high unemployment numbers. The lower third is flashing bulletins about surprise resource acquisitions and land deals across Africa and Central Asia by some Chinese state-owned oil and mining giants. Stuart Varney’s show devotes a 30-second chuckle to “irrational Chinese exuberance.”

10:48 a.m. EST, Beijing

Chinese Central Bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan is on television, announcing that China can no longer afford the Fed’s aggressive money-printing. “It has become evident that with America’s stagnant economy and aging population, it will not be able to pay its debts. It is defaulting on its debts by using inflation. China has lent America more than $2 trillion. The People’s Bank of China has no choice but to stop purchasing treasuries. We have spoken our concerns for several years, but the Fed has ignored its largest creditor. We are cutting off the credit card.”

10:56 a.m. EST, New York Stock Exchange

The markets reverse sharply. Dow futures plunge 1,200 points. Gold, silver and oil fall as investors impulsively rush for cash. Treasury yields skyrocket. Within seven minutes, the frenzy triggers preprogrammed fail-safes. Trading halts temporarily. But in Tokyo, Singapore and New Delhi, they’re still trading. American traders call for calm, saying that a full-on dump of China’s U.S. treasury stockpile would be “mutually assured destruction.”

Thirty minutes later, trading resumes—with an eerie calm.

11:44 a.m. EST, Moscow

As markets settle into an uneasy wait-and-see, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears at an unscheduled press conference. Holding up a gold coin, he announces that the Central Bank of Russia completed the largest bullion transfer in modern history in October: 850 metric tons from the International Monetary Fund. “Russia would like to thank the United States, Canada and Great Britain for approving this historic purchase of their gold holdings. In this age of unrestrained electronic money printing and currency devaluations, it is the opinion of the central bank that physical gold bullion remains a critical component for national wealth and power.”

Putin then throws down this challenge: “The gold is here for anyone to audit. I suggest that investors follow Russia’s example and demand an independent audit of Fort Knox.”

With this shock announcement, Russia becomes the world’s third-largest holder of gold after the European Union and China. Putin adds that Moscow is also negotiating for entry into the East Asian Prosperity Cooperation and, starting in January, will use the Chinese yuan for international currency transactions—with the notable exception of oil and gas exports to Europe, which will now be priced in euro marks.

Putin’s itar-tass transcript goes viral. Twitter and Facebook explode.

To Wall Street and the world, it is now clear that something momentous is happening. It looks like a pre-planned attack on America’s anemic economy. Before Putin finishes his announcement, investors erupt in sell orders. The Dow plummets 30 percent in nine minutes. Institutional investors dump U.S. treasuries at fire-sale prices—trying to get out before China unleashes its hoard. Jim Rickards is on cnn saying it’s a “full-on revolt against the dollar standard.” The ZeroHedge blog has it up in doomsday 100-point font: “Is this the start of WW3?” Rumors begin to swirl on the trading floor and on tv screens around the world that America’s biggest banks are caught short and unable to cover their multibillion-dollar positions in the derivatives market.

12:03 p.m. EST

Bank of America ceo Brian T. Moynihan denies that the bank has a liquidity problem.

12:07 p.m. EST

Citigroup ceo Michael Corbat calls the buzz about his bank’s derivatives positions “malicious rumors started by speculators that are just false.” The bank is “fundamentally sound,” he insists.

12:15 p.m. EST

Warren Buffet warns of contagion to the insurance sector.

12:30 p.m. EST, Federal Reserve Bank, New York

Visibly agitated, Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Ben Bernanke says that due to market conditions the Fed will temporarily purchase “unlimited” amounts of treasuries to restore confidence in the market. “The Federal Reserve is committed to a strong dollar policy and any damage to the banking system is limited and contained,” he said.

His announcement has the opposite effect. Instead of instilling confidence, investors take it as confirmation of a worst-case scenario—and a giant sell signal on the dollar. The dollar index drops into free fall, gold jumps by more than $700 per ounce, and silver hits $100. Ten minutes later, Bill Gross at bond giant pimco is being interviewed by Lauren Lyster on msnbc. She asks if we are witnessing the end of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Gross confirms that he began shifting most of his $1 trillion-plus fund out of dollar-denominated assets more than a year ago. He put the money in Europe back when everyone else thought it was falling apart. “The writing was on the dollar’s wall a long time ago,” he says. “America’s mushrooming debt and the lack of political will to address its spending problems assured the demise of the dollar. I just didn’t realize it would happen so fast.”

In an hour and a half, the dollar has lost more than half its value.

Fox News is saying people should spend their dollars now before they are worthless. Dennis Kneale is actually comparing the collapse of the dollar to the Argentine peso and the Greek drachma.

12:39 p.m. EST, Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix, Oakland …

Riots are reported in shopping malls and business districts across several major cities, as people awake to the fact that the value of their cash is evaporating. Their savings and investments have lost more than half of their purchasing power compared to other currencies. Local news footage shows empty store shelves and malfunctioning atms. People panic and rush grocery stores to stock up. Customers claim widespread price gouging. Mobs of young people rampage through Birmingham, Cincinnati, Chicago.

1:02 p.m. EST, Washington, D.C.

President Obama holds an emergency press conference. “This morning, December 7, 2015—a date that will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by overseas governments in an attempt to discredit the dollar and take away its status as the world’s reserve currency.

“Let me be clear: To even entertain the idea of the United States of America not paying its bills is irresponsible. It’s absurd.

“Some have questioned the integrity of our nation’s bullion reserves. Believe me, the gold is there. When Germany requested its gold holdings back, we began returning it. I now urge my German counterparts to confirm Europe’s commitment to using the dollar as a reserve currency.

“I have authorized Chairman Bernanke to implement capital controls to prevent millionaires and speculators from taking money out of the country. I am also issuing an executive order that will limit private ownership of gold. I am also directing Congress to pass new tax legislation and tariffs on Chinese goods.

“Unfortunately, some elements in our cities seek to gain from this crisis: speculators on Wall Street and rioters on Main Street. To protect the common good, I hereby declare a temporary state of emergency and authorize Homeland Security, fema and the National Guard to restore order to our great cities ….”

1:25 p.m. EST, New York

The plunging markets go into free fall after the president’s announcements. Gold jumps another $800, silver is at $175, oil at $250. The dollar hits an all-time low. Investors around the world flee the dollar. American cities have started to burn.

Back in the real world …

Although the dates and events in this scenario are obviously fictitious, the principle isn’t.

In fact, such an economic disaster is imminent enough that the Pentagon held its first-ever financial war games back in 2009. Instead of carrier movements, tactical strikes and aerial bombardments, the weapons were currencies, stocks, bonds, interest rates and derivatives. But just like real war exercises, the purpose was the same: to discover fatal weaknesses and how the enemy might exploit them.

Wall Street banker Jim Rickards participated in the war games. In his book Currency Wars, he writes that the Pentagon is clumsy at financial warfare.

Financial war is not beyond America’s horizon. Whether or not politicians and the Fed will publicly acknowledge it, the war has already begun.

In 2010, Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega was the first public official to confirm what everyone knew but no one would admit. “We’re in the midst of an international currency war,” he told industrial leaders in Sao Paulo. “This threatens us because it takes away our competitiveness. … The advanced countries are seeking to devalue their currencies.”

While the U.S. and other governments might throw out phrases like “commitment to a strong dollar” every now and then, what many of them are actually doing is actively and openly devaluing their currencies to gain unfair short-term economic advantages.

Faced with unacceptably high unemployment and a stagnant global economy, the world’s leading economies are resorting to currency manipulation to steal a greater piece of a shrinking economic pie. The short-sighted goal is to weaken the currency to make domestic goods cheaper for foreigners to buy and foreign goods more expensive to purchase. This beggar-thy-neighbor strategy is highly contentious and potentially explosive.

In 2012 alone, global central banks cut interest rates 75 times in an effort to weaken their currencies.

“Ever since the Fed launched QE2 in August 2010, we have been in the currency war regime,” confirms Alessio de Longis, who runs the Oppenheimer Currency Opportunities Fund. “It will continue to be this.”

Regardless of who started it, the war is heating up.

Latest Currency Shot

When Shinzo Abe was elected prime minister of Japan in December, it heralded a new stage in the global currency war. He immediately announced that Tokyo would no longer be neutral. It would implement a massive $1.4 trillion quantitative easing (money-printing) plan to reduce the value of the yen. He said the yen had risen too high (in reality, the dollar, yuan and euro had fallen, making the yen appear to have risen). He then bullied the Bank of Japan into doubling its acceptable inflation level. Abe’s intent was plain: to boost job creation by the same artificial means employed by the U.S. and China—currency devaluation leading to increased exports. And he was very open about it.

A “daring monetary policy is essential” if Japan is to beat deflation and drive down the value of the yen, he said. “We strongly expect the boj [Bank of Japan] to conduct aggressive monetary easing with a clear price target.”

Bowing to the pressure, the central bank announced it would potentially buy unlimited amounts of government bonds. Since then, the yen has lost 25 percent of its value against the euro and about 13 percent against the dollar—and Japan’s exporters grabbed market share.

“Ever since the new government took control, it feels as though Japan is filled with the spirit for economic revival,” Toyota executive Takahiko Ijichi said in March.

Outside of Japan, Toyota’s competitors are filled with a different spirit.

China is “fully prepared” for currency war, its central bank deputy governor, Yi Gang, said that same month. “China will take into full account the quantitative easing policies implemented by central banks of foreign countries.”

Just hours before the boj announcement, German Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann warned that populist governments threatened to unleash competitive currency wars, as politicians pushed central banks to weaken currencies and steal trade. It was a message aimed at the big powers: America, China and Japan. Monetary policy risked becoming a political tool, he warned.

By February, the risk of currency war morphing into trade war was so high that the G-20 issued a joint declaration: “We will refrain from competitive devaluation …. We will not target our exchange rates for competitive purposes, will resist all forms of protectionism and keep our markets open.”

But joint platitudes aside, the world is fully engaged in currency war and stands on the brink of full-scale trade war.

What can a financial crisis lead to?

Return to 1930s

It is as if the world is back in the 1930s. Back then, it was Great Britain that set off the chain reaction. Following the failure of Austrian bank Creditanstalt and another bank in Germany, Britain was forced off the gold standard and devalued the pound. Norway, Sweden and Denmark quickly followed. America held off until 1933, when President Roosevelt confiscated all gold held in U.S. banks before devaluing the dollar against gold by 41 percent. By 1936, Germany, France and the rest of Europe had abandoned the gold standard and were devaluing too, all in an attempt to renege on debts and steal trade.

When the short-term boosts gained through currency devaluation were exhausted, nations increasingly turned to tariffs, taxes and trade barriers to protect local industries and jobs—all of which worked to retard economic recovery, increase social unrest, and escalate grievances between nations.

What happened next in 1939 is well known. The currency-war-turned-trade-war was transformed into World War ii by a madman.

Today, we see history repeating.

In January, Jin Liqun, chairman of the China Investment Corporation (China’s massive sovereign wealth fund), warned America that “[t]here will be no winners in currency wars,” and that America’s money “printing machine will have to slow down for people to have full confidence in the dollar.”

It was a thinly veiled reminder of what several Chinese officials have intimated over the past few years: that America’s biggest creditor nation holds a disproportionately important role in maintaining the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency—and that if America isn’t careful, China could strip the dollar of that coveted status.

China isn’t alone in preparing for the post-dollar world. In March, China joined with Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa to create a brics bank to fund international development outside the purveyance of the U.S.-based financial system and the World Bank. In March, China also announced a $30 billion currency swap with Brazil designed to make each nation less reliant on the U.S. dollar. That same month, it also announced that it was concluding a deal with Australia to cut out the U.S. dollar middle man and conduct bilateral trade in yuan. In this case, it seems to be Australia that is pushing for the deal. The two countries conduct a whopping $120 billion in trade each year. China is also bypassing the dollar in bilateral currency deals with Japan, India and Russia.

We are now in the late stages in the run-up to World War iii—locked in a vicious currency war that is getting ready to morph into a trade war. And in today’s high-speed electronic world, the train wreck will happen much faster. The slide from currency war to trade war to hot war could be orders-of-magnitude faster—and orders-of-magnitude more damaging.

Experts say those countries that first devalue their currencies gain the most. The same could be said about actual war. Those countries that act first—surprising their rivals—gain a distinct advantage. When Japan surprise-attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, it hoped it would be a catastrophic blow to America, and it could have been.

Today, most Americans have no idea an economic war is being waged, but they will soon. Only this time, instead of awaking to the sound and images of bombs exploding over Hawaii, America risks awaking to the sounds of riots, images of frantic bankers and empty store shelves—and to newspaper headlines calling today “The Day the Dollar Died.”

Some Advice That Will Really Make Your Day

Some Advice That Will Really Make Your Day


Go to bed.
From the May 2013 Trumpet Print Edition

Good news! Scientists have found a gene that enables those who possess it to perform extremely well on six hours of sleep a night. Bad news: It is found in less than 3 percent of people. For the other 97 percent of us, six hours isn’t nearly enough.

Do you get enough sleep? Most people don’t. Research shows that the average adult needs seven to nine hours nightly; teens need 8.5 to 10 hours. Yet three in seven Americans ages 13 to 64 say that on weeknights, they rarely or never get a good night’s sleep. (In related news, Americans drink, on average, three 12-ounce caffeinated beverages every weekday.)

The quality of your sleep significantly affects the quality of your life. Evidence overwhelmingly shows that proper sleep makes you mentally sharper, increases your concentration, improves your emotional balance and creativity, enhances your physical performance, makes you a more productive worker, and even helps you prevent weight gain. Nothing else delivers quite the benefits that adequate sleep does.

While you sleep, your brain is amazingly busy. It’s performing biological maintenance, keeping your mind and body running in top condition and preparing you for the day ahead. “It is a common experience,” John Steinbeck once said, “that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.”

But it all hinges on one predominant factor: going to bed on time. For far too many of us, this is well within our capability, yet not followed near strict enough.


It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.
John Steinbeck
Some people pride themselves on being able to perform well on less sleep. Well, it turns out, many of us can—sporadically. In 2008, the Society of Neuroscience found that a sleep-deprived person can actually deliver similar results to a well-rested person. But he can’t sustain it, and for a very specific reason.

We all lose focus at times. But brains that are sleep-deprived are unable to refocus as quickly as well-rested ones. The main finding of the 2008 study was that “the brain of the sleep-deprived individual is working normally sometimes, but intermittently suffers from something akin to power failure,” Harvard’s Dr. Clifford Saper wrote in the study. Sleep-deprived people have periods of near-normal brain function “interspersed with severe drops in attention and visual processing. … [D]uring attentional lapses, the sleep-deprived brain enters a sleep-like state.” It’s like your body is compensating by taking micro-naps.

Researchers recently discovered that for every lost hour of uninterrupted sleep, workers spend 12 more minutes per hour cyberloafing—using company time to check personal e-mails and so on. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 40.6 million American workers—30 percent of the civilian workforce—don’t get enough rest. Harvard scientists estimated in 2011 that sleep deprivation costs U.S. companies $63.2 billion in lost productivity per year, mainly because of “presenteeism” (as opposed to absenteeism)—people showing up but turning in subpar work.

What exacerbates this effect is that sleep-deprived people don’t notice their decrease in performance. The 2008 study found that “periods of apparently normal functioning could give a false sense of competency and security.”

Harvard scientists estimated in 2011 that sleep deprivation costs U.S. companies $63.2 billion in lost productivity per year.
Recent research at Harvard and Berkeley has also revealed an amazing side effect of pulling an all-nighter: short-term euphoria. A sleepless night increases your body’s dopamine levels. This chemical surge may briefly boost motivation and positivity; however, it encourages ill-founded optimism, addiction and impulsive behavior because the regions of your brain responsible for planning and evaluating decisions simply shut down.

The pathway where dopamine travels is called the mesolimbic pathway. Some research indicates that frequently overstimulating this pathway by sleep deprivation could permanently hamper your brain’s neural plasticity—its ability to adapt to new situations. Among college students, for example, four years of repeated sleep deprivation can have serious long-term consequences, “unleashing a neurological cycle of degeneration” (Guardian, Oct. 9, 2012).

The take-home lesson is simple—but fiendishly difficult: Go to bed when you know you should.

You Must Get Sleep

God designed us to require a certain amount of sleep. Have you ever thought about why? God pulls an all-nighter every night (Isaiah 40:28), whereas we require several hours of unconsciousness.

Surely God had several reasons for creating us this way. Perhaps He used it to help keep us humble—to remind us that, while human, we are limited. It’s certainly also a means of developing character: making choices to use our waking hours wisely, and to exercise discipline in our bedtime.

Some believe they can catch up on lost sleep over the weekend. Not true. In fact, sleeping late on Saturdays only lets your sleep clock drift later, making it even harder to wake up on Monday, according to the book Chronotherapy.

So what do you do? Few of us have the option of sleeping in indefinitely. Our real choice comes several hours before that—at bedtime.

So obey this law of health, and go to bed on time. Your quality of life depends on it.

A Brief History of Catholicism in Latin America

A Brief History of Catholicism in Latin America


From the May 2013 Trumpet Print Edition

When Christopher Columbus arrived in America, the Catholic Church moved quickly to establish its control in the newly discovered territory. In 1493, just one year after Columbus’s famous voyage, Pope Alexander VI published a bull dividing the new territory between Spain and Portugal—provided the natives were converted to Catholicism. As Hernán Cortés tore through the Aztec Empire, he was following a letter of instruction that said, “The first aim of your expedition is to serve God and spread the Christian faith.”

The first missionaries arrived shortly after the fall of the Aztecs. Most of the missionary work was done by Catholic orders—the Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians and Jesuits. Thirty-five years after the first dozen Franciscans arrived, there were 800 missionaries in Mexico alone. Contemporary reports say the Franciscans alone baptized 5 million—roughly 1 percent of the world population at the time—although these reports are impossible to verify.

The priests built new towns and villages for their converts. They constructed huge churches, larger than many of the cathedrals in Europe. The Jesuits took this to an even higher level in South America, where hundreds of thousands lived in Jesuit-run autonomous colonies, complete with their own Jesuit armies.

Despite decrees baring their entry into the New World, hebreo cristianos (Hebrew Christians), nuevo cristianos (New Christians), Moriscos (Moors), and other “heretics” began to show up in Latin America alongside the Catholics. To deal with these non-believers, the Spanish Inquisition also made its way across the Atlantic. On the recommendation of the Inquisition, thousands of “heretics” throughout the continent were tortured until they died or confessed to charges they faced. Over a thousand people were executed in Lima, Peru, alone.

As the Inquisitors labored to purge the continent of non-Catholics, the new Spanish and Portuguese governors encouraged the spread of Catholicism among the native populations, and not just because it gave them political support from the Vatican. The Catholic Church was key to their ability to control the continent with only a small military.

One letter to the Spanish king in 1768 warned of the need for “constant vigilance to preserve suitable conduct and healthy principles of obedience and love for Your Majesty among the clergy.” Another, in 1789, stated that “the conduct of the people depends in large part on that of the clergy”; it said the best way of stopping a riot was not to call in the army, but rather “to station a friar with a holy crucifix in the nearest plaza.”

By 1767, the Portuguese, Spanish and French had grown distrustful of the power of the Jesuits. They ordered their expulsion from their lands, breaking the Jesuits’ power in Latin America. The Jesuits were escorted from the Spanish Empire, in many cases with a military escort to prevent the natives from breaking in and freeing them.

At the start of the 19th century, Spain began an effort to assert control over the Catholic Church as a whole. This was the nation’s undoing. The church caused the Latin American countries to revolt rather than have their power weakened. “The clergy provided many of the political and military leaders of the insurrection,” writes historian Paul Johnson. “Priests persuaded their entire parishes to ‘pronounce’ for the revolution. It was the clergy who drew up the first scheme for separation from Spain, in 1794, and provided most of the press propaganda. They were active politically throughout Spanish America, but in Mexico they also provided the military leadership” (A History of Christianity).

One official wrote, “the ecclesiastics were the principal authors of this rebellion … one can count by the hundreds the generals, brigadiers, colonels and other officers, all clerics, in the bands of the traitors, and there is scarcely a military action of any importance in which priests are not leading the enemy.”

“Thus Spain forfeited the New World by reforming its colonial pillar, the church,” concludes Johnson. “The attempt failed; the church emerged stronger; it retained its political and financial privileges. But it now reigned in isolation, without the support of the crown, and so in turn has tended to fall victim to the violent anti-clericalism of the 19th and 20th centuries, until, quite recently, it has resumed its revolutionary role in defense of a new orthodoxy.”

God’s Character and Purpose Revealed!

God’s Character and Purpose Revealed!

John Said/iStockphoto/Thinkstock

The Philadelphia Trumpet, in conjunction with the Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course, presents this brief excursion into the fascinating study of the Bible. Simply turn to and read in your Bible each verse given in answer to the questions. You will be amazed at the new understanding gained from this short study!
From the May 2013 Trumpet Print Edition

What is God like? Many people’s ideas about God are rather hazy.

When God formed Adam out of the dust of the ground, He made him in His own “likeness,” or form (Genesis 1:26). God gave this unique shape to man alone. God also created in man the gift of intellect—the ability to think, to reason, to make choices and decisions. This God-like attribute of mind and character was not given to any animal—only man.

Why did God create man with His likeness and with unique intellect? The answer to that question is profound—and is plainly revealed in Scripture.

Our purpose in human life is to become like God! God intends that we grow in His righteous character—that we, as Jesus Christ expressed it, “Be [or rather, become] ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

What, then, is the character of God?

God embodies perfect, holy and righteous character! He lives the way of perfection—of outflowing love. That way of life is a code of conduct, a law.

Let’s look into the Scriptures to learn more about God and the kind of character He wants to develop within us.

The Love of God

1. How does the Bible define the nature and character of God? 1 John 4:8, 16. What is the love of God? 1 John 5:3.

The spiritual law of God enables us to know what God is like because it describes His character and way of life—summed up by the word love!

2. How did Jesus summarize the law of God? Matthew 22:36-40.

God’s law of love is defined in the two great commandments: love toward God and love toward neighbor. It is further divided into 10 points by the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). The first four tell us how to love God, and the last six tell us how to love our fellow human beings.

3. What was Jesus prophesied to do regarding God’s law? Isaiah 42:21. What are two examples of how Jesus “magnified” the Ten Commandments? Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28.

When you apply a spiritual “magnifying glass,” so to speak, to the Ten Commandments, they are enlarged in spiritual principle into many more points. And in a larger sense, the entire Bible is a magnification of God’s law. The law is the basis of all Scripture. It defines God’s way of life—the way to peace, success, happiness, joy and eternal life. God’s law is just like God!

4. Is the law of God good? Romans 7:12. God is good!

5. Is the law of God just? Same verse. God is just!

6. Is the law of God holy? Same verse. God is holy!

7. Is the law of God spiritual? Verse 14. God is spiritual!

8. Is the law of God perfect? Psalm 19:7. God is perfect!

The character of both God the Father and Christ the Son is spiritual holiness, righteousness and absolute perfection. It is the opposite of the “get” way of Satan the devil that we see so dominant in this world. It is the way devoid of coveting, lust, greed, vanity, selfishness, competition, strife, violence, destruction, envy, jealousy, resentment and bitterness.

God’s inherent nature is the way of peace, justice, mercy, happiness and joy radiating outward toward those He has created.

9. Will the character of God ever alter? Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8. Therefore, is the law of God—including all His commandments—subject to change? Psalm 111:7-8.

God’s law is unchanging and eternal, standing fast forever and ever. God is eternal, and so is His law, because the law expresses the character and nature of God.

God’s law, by definition, matches His character. It is the way of love. It is the way of giving, serving, helping. God has that character! He has an outgoing concern for all of humanity. He gave His only begotten Son to reconcile us to Him, thereby making the joys of His character and everlasting life possible for us. He showers on us every good and precious gift, including the Holy Spirit.

The Power of God

The Holy Spirit is the key ingredient that enables human beings to begin to manifest some of the very character of God. It is the power by which God imparts His nature. We can receive this Spirit of power from the Father after we repent and turn from the wrong way of Satan’s world, begin to resist it, and turn to God through faith in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.

1. What are some of the divine characteristics or “fruits” of God’s nature that begin to be exhibited by God’s children after they are begotten by His Spirit? Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Timothy 1:6-7.

Righteous, holy, godly character is the possession and practice of love, joy, peace, patience, mercy, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, humility, temperance, self-restraint and right self-direction. Character also involves knowledge, wisdom, purpose and ability—all properly controlled and developed through independent choice.

2. What is the greatest single attribute of God’s nature? 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, 13. Why? 1 John 4:16. How can we have it? Romans 5:5.

The word “charity” in the King James is agape in the Greek, which is the love of God. Love is the single greatest attribute of God’s nature. We can have the Father’s love if we have His Spirit and strive to live the way He, Himself, lives by keeping His commandments in both the “letter” and the spirit—the principle or intent.

Jesus magnified the Ten Commandments by showing how their principles expand to cover virtually every possible human infraction. 2 Corinthians 3 shows that God’s law is to be applied in principle. It is summed up in one single word—love.

There are just two possible ways of life: God’s way, expressed by His law of love and summed up in the Ten Commandments, the “give” way; and Satan’s way of competition, greed and vanity, which we call the “get” way. This is the way of disobedience to God. All suffering—all unhappiness, fear, misery and death—has come from living by Satan’s way of “get,” instead of living by God’s way of “give,” which is the only way to peace, happiness and joy.

One third of the angels failed to develop the godly character that would have guaranteed them everlasting peace and happiness. They believed Satan’s way of get was better than God’s way of give and therefore developed evil character. Rebellious Lucifer had disqualified himself from ruling the Earth. Someone had to qualify to replace him. So God created Adam and gave him the opportunity to develop the godly character required of a righteous ruler. But Adam failed.

So Adam’s descendants—all mankind—have been born in Satan’s world of competition, strife and violence, and have transgressed God’s law. God has actually allowed this for a great purpose. He wants man to learn, through experience—which requires time—that Satan’s way of “get” and disobedience to God’s spiritual law causes only misery, suffering, heartache and death.

Those who are called of God and voluntarily choose to reject and resist Satan’s way and live a life of obedience to God develop the holy, righteous, perfect character of God. They qualify to rule and reign with Jesus Christ, the second Adam, who will replace Satan as world ruler at His return to restore the government of God to the entire Earth!

God Now Creating His Supreme Masterpiece!

What is the supreme feat of accomplishment possible for Almighty God the Creator? The angels? The heavens and the Earth? The entire universe beyond? Was it the first man?

It was none of these!

The supreme pinnacle of God’s works is the creation of His very own perfect, holy, righteous character within His begotten children!

But this is something that even God with His supreme power cannot do of Himself instantaneously!

King David mused on God’s purpose for man: “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:3-4).

Hebrews 2 quotes this psalm. It then reveals that God has determined to complete His most spectacular creation—in man! God’s supreme goal is to create perfect and righteous spiritual character in man. His ultimate purpose is to bring man into the God Family! Yet God cannot do this by Himself. Man has his own part in this supreme masterpiece.

For God to complete mankind’s spiritual creation, humans must learn not only to look like God but also to think like God, developing Hisattitude and character while flesh and blood. Perfect character must be developed—over time—by free choice. But even then, only the Holy God can instill it.

Perfect, holy, righteous character is the ability of an individual to discern the true way of God from the way of Satan; to choose to unconditionally surrender to God; and to determine, even against temptation, to do the right.

God is now in the process of creating His same godly character in Spirit-begotten Christians as they choose to live His righteous way of life with the help of His Holy Spirit.

At the resurrection to eternal life, when God’s Spirit-begotten children are born, God will have finished this supreme masterpiece of creation! Then, when we are resurrected—changed into immortal spirit members of God’s Family—we will possess the supreme character and awesome powers of God!

Those whom God has called and who have voluntarily chosen to work with their Creator in completing His supreme creation within them while flesh and blood will at last be a “finished” creation—created in God’s own spiritual “image” with His perfect, righteous, sinless, holy character—eternal members of His divine ruling Family! (1 John 3:9).

Cyprus: A Vassal State of Germany

From the May 2013 Trumpet Print Edition

The banking sector was the engine of Cyprus’s economic growth. Taking money directly from depositors has destroyed that engine. Cyprus has no easy way to get its economy growing again, leaving it dependent on Germany. This bailout has solved none of the island nation’s problems, and created some new ones.

As the hated bankers leave Cyprus, some may say “good riddance.” But where else is Cyprus going to get the money to pay back its loans from Europe? Germany killed Cyprus’s golden goose. Without the money from the banking system, Cyprus cannot raise the cash to keep its economy afloat. Like Greece, it will struggle to meet the bailout conditions. Each time it needs more money, it will need approval from Germany and have to meet Germany’s conditions. “From now on … it cannot make decisions for its own good,” wrote Charles Moore, former editor of the Spectator and Daily Telegraph. “It is a tiny, far-flung, vulnerable part of the new German Europe.”

German voters, wrote Moore, “dislike shelling out for what they see as feckless Mediterraneans: they detest the idea of doing so for what they see as crooked Russians. The conflict between Teuton and Slav has never ceased. Mrs Merkel’s policy for Cyprus has to be constructed round what her Teutons want.”

Moore concluded, “After victory in 1945, Churchill broadcast that Germany ‘lies prostrate before us.’ Today, most of southern Europe lies prostrate before Germany” (emphasis added).

Moore isn’t the only one to notice Germany’s victory. “History shows it is, always, only a matter of time before Germany ends up dominating Europe,” wrote the Daily Mail’s Simon Heffer. “After years of refusing to assert itself, Germany’s time has come again. The Fourth Reich is here without a shot being fired: and the rest of Europe, and the world, had better get used to it.”

The effects of the Cyprus bailout will stretch far beyond the Mediterranean island. As Heffer pointed out, the fact that the deal forced bank depositors to cough up funds “sends an ominous signal to other EU nations.”

Stratfor’s founder George Friedman described what a turning point this is: “What is certain is that an EU country, facing a crisis in its financial system, is now weighing whether to pay for that crisis by seizing depositors’ money. And with that, the Europeans have broken a barrier that has been in place since the 1930s. They didn’t do that casually and they didn’t do that because they wanted to. But they did it.”

This could be the start of the new precedent for solving Europe’s financial crisis. Jeroen Dijsselbloem, head of the group of Eurozone finance ministers, indicated that Cyprus could be a template for other countries. This could have far-reaching and unpredictable consequences.

But the most important change comes from within Germany. The think tank Open Europe wrote on March 26, “In our daily monitoring of the German press, we’ve sensed a hardening of tone and rhetoric throughout the crisis, not least in response to the overtly anti-German tone of many of the anti-austerity protests in the south.”

In Die Welt, Thomas Straubhaar, director of the Hamburg Institute of International Economics, called the bailout deal a “turning point.” “Up until now, the bankrupt countries have been able to use fear of a domino effect to extort Europe,” he wrote. “That is now over because the strong eurozone countries have the better hand—and they should not be afraid to play it” (translation by Open Europe).

The think tank concludes: “The implications of a Germany more prepared to assert its viewpoint [have] huge implications for the future of the eurozone and the EU as a whole.”

The euro crisis has many dramatic chapters still to come. Several other nations could need a bailout, and those that have already received one may need another. But what happened this March in Cyprus changes the game. Germany rules Cyprus, and its new uncompromising attitude is certain to contribute to the further spread of German power.”