A Most Menacing Attack on the United States Constitution

A Most Menacing Attack on the United States Constitution

Angelo Merendino/Getty Images

Liberals in academia and in the judiciary have long fought legal battles to undermine the Constitution. Black activists are threatening to join the fight, but with real bullets.

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has roused debate about the role of the Constitution of the United States. Justice Scalia placed a high value on the U.S. Constitution, but for years, he had been fighting a losing battle to defend America’s founding document.

Back in 1997, Scalia acknowledged: “I am now something of a dodo bird among jurists and legal scholars. You can fire a cannon in the faculty lounge of any major law school in the country and not strike an originalist.”

The Trumpet has warned of the dangers of these legal attacks on the Constitution. Every American should be concerned about this because the Constitution was written by men who had escaped tyranny, who well knew the dangers of government having too much power. The Constitution was written to prevent tyranny.

As dangerous as these legal battles are, a new idea is making its way into the mainstream that takes this battle to a whole new level of dangerous.

(Listen to the Trumpet Hour for more on this subject.)

Alicia Garza—one of the three founding members of the Black Lives Matter movement—was paraphrased during a February 18 event at the University of Missouri as saying that “the goal of the Constitution was to make an agreement between factions known as states, which were built on the backs of black slaves.” She conflated constitutionalism with racism, saying: “The people vowing to protect the Constitution are vowing to protect white supremacy and genocide.”

That is a terrible lie. In truth, America’s Constitution has given more freedom to more people than any other government charter in history. It was the system this document built that brought so many immigrants to America’s shores and inspired so many to attain great accomplishments—accomplishments that any other system anywhere else in the world would have denied them.

It is undeniable that some of the men who wrote the Constitution were stained with the sin of slavery. Divisions between those who demanded it and those who opposed it could not be resolved, and the “Three-Fifths Compromise” left the matter for future generations to contend with. But contend with it they did, and the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments provided the constitutionally guaranteed protections to black people previously denied them. To say that protecting the Constitution is protecting white supremacy and genocide is grotesque.

Blake Simons, a University of California–Berkeley student and Black Lives Matter activist, wrote a chilling article on November 4 peddling the same lies.

“Our Black Lives Matter protests have stormed the country, yet cops continue to kill us daily, and the judicial system continues to justify our deaths with acquittals, non-indictments and light sentences—all in the name of upholding the Constitution,” he wrote for the Afrikan Black Coalition group.

How is the Constitution implicated in this discussion about racism within law enforcement?

Perhaps the Founders’ determination to keep law enforcement on the local level is the issue. They wanted to prevent the federal government from having centralized policing authority in order to curb potential abuses of power. Today, activist critics claim that local law enforcement is endemically racist and that the solution is federal intervention. There is no evidence to support this criticism or the notion that federal policing would solve anything. It really amounts to a federal power grab.

So what is this activist’s problem with the Constitution? He explains: “I have come to realize that the Constitution is the root of virtually all our problems in America” (emphasis added throughout).

Simons continued:

In order to understand the injustices against black folks in United States, we must look back to its foundation. The U.S. is a country that was founded on slavery, genocide, rape and white male patriarchy. The colonizers that we condemn for enslaving Afrikans [sic] and murdering indigenous peoples are the same people that produced and upheld the document we use to govern our nation to this day. Our bloodshed is rooted in this nation’s founding document, the Constitution. A body cannot be separated from its head and remain living. The Constitution and all the evil that it allows to be perpetuated are the head of White America, or more so corrupt America. Racist America. If you separate the head, the racism will die.

Where is this kind of thinking leading? That question is especially concerning when you consider the attacks on the Constitution in recent years, coupled with divisive and racist rhetoric, coming from some of the highest leaders in the land.

The authors of the Constitution, wrote Simons, “owned black people as slaves and participated in calculated genocidal tactics against the black race. … A constitution written by only white men will never serve the interests of black people. The Constitution was written for the ruling class of white men which constructed whiteness to be more valuable than any other race. When we discuss institutional racism, it is essential that we realize the Constitution created it.”

The reality is almost precisely the opposite. The purpose of the Constitution is to protect freedom and prevent tyranny. As it is destroyed, tyranny and lawlessness are certain to increase. It was initially a failure to apply the central tenets of America’s founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, that enabled slavery to exist. It was the Constitution that helped to undo the injustices of slavery. It was the Constitution that President Abraham Lincoln used to emancipate slaves and make them full citizens of the United States.

Blake Simons then quoted the Declaration of Independence—a document written by some of the same men who authored the Constitution: “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

“Do we not have the right to abolish the laws that oppress us?” Simons asked. “It is time to claim the Declaration of Independence and apply it to our struggle as colonized black people in America. The United States has declared war against us; it is time we demand a new constitution or tell America that she will get the bullet.”

It is hard to conceive of someone sincerely believing that it is this sort of thinking that will solve the problems of the United States.

“It is our human right to overthrow a government that has been destructive to our people,” Simons continued. “This is why we must rise up and let all people come together and write new constitution to serve all people.”

What sort of constitution is he talking about? He continues: “The idea for a new constitution is not a new idea, rather an old one that was developed by the Black Panther Party.” He wrote about the “Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention” convened by the Black Panthers in 1970. The project never materialized, he said, but, “We must pick up where the Black Panthers left off and declare a new constitution or it will be the bullet. … If America truly wants to be a nation that values the lives of all people, it has one option, and the option is a national constitution convention. This is the last hope America has to become whole. If America fails to allow all people of this nation to write a new constitution, then it will be the bullet.”

Do you want to live in an America with a Constitution written by the Black Panther Party?

I hope that the thinking reflected in these particular activists’ comments remain as far on the fringe as possible. But looking at what is happening in America today, I fear that it actually gives us a glimpse into the kind of thinking that is pushing its way more and more into the American mainstream.

And to whatever degree it is acted upon, this nation will suffer for it.

What King Hezekiah Can Teach You

A recently unearthed official seal of a Judean king holds a moving message for the whole world.
From the April 2016 Trumpet Print Edition

The organization that publishes the Trumpet magazine also sponsors a small liberal arts institution: Herbert W. Armstrong College. Our college recently received recognition for an exciting archaeological discovery in Jerusalem. It was a small clay seal belonging to one of the greatest kings in Judah’s history, King Hezekiah.

2 Kings 18:5 says this about Hezekiah: “He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.” What a commendation! And what a message this small clay seal has, if people will listen. It is a message the world desperately needs to hear.

The head archaeologist who unveiled the find, Dr. Eilat Mazar, said the bulla is “the closest as ever that we can get to something that was most likely held by King Hezekiah, himself.” Hebrew University wrote in a statement that the discovery “vividly brings to life the biblical narratives about King Hezekiah and the activity conducted during his lifetime in Jerusalem’s royal quarter.”

The bulla was actually found in material excavated back in 2009. But Dr. Mazar and her team didn’t realize until 2015, after it had been wet-sifted and processed, that this bulla has an inscription reading: “Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah.”

At the time it was found, the excavating was being done by three people, two of whom were our Herbert W. Armstrong College students: Brent Nagtegaal and Harley Breth. So we were directly involved in what turned out to be a massive discovery!

The find was widely reported in international media. The Hebrew University statement described how “students and alumni of Herbert W. Armstrong College from Edmond, Oklahoma, participated in the excavation.” Several media reports, including Haaretz and Arutz Sheva, included this detail. Dr. Mazar drew attention to us. Many reports also pointed to our website keytodavidscity.com, where we posted a video that we produced about the find. That video has circulated around the Internet and has been viewed over 350,000 times on YouTube. It has a copyright of “Eilat Mazar and Herbert W. Armstrong College.” We find it remarkable, even providential, that our college would have the privilege to be involved in something like this.

Other seals of King Hezekiah have been available on the antiquities market since the 1990s. But their origins are suspect. The bulla Dr. Mazar unearthed in 2009 is the first seal impression of an Israelite or Judean king that has ever been found in a scientific archaeological excavation.

Even secular sources corroborate the existence of King Hezekiah and, by extension, the veracity of the Bible (page 18). Uncovering this bulla right in the royal quarter of Jerusalem adds exciting proof and detail to what we know about this king, and we were directly involved in such a significant find.

A History With Bullae

The Hezekiah bulla is not the first seal impression of a Judean noble that we have been interested in. In 2005 and in 2008, Dr. Mazar’s team unearthed bullae belonging to Jehucal and Gedaliah, respectively. These were two Judean princes who persecuted the Prophet Jeremiah. Both are named in Jeremiah 38:1. These two seals powerfully corroborate the record Jeremiah wrote.

Miraculously, the first place these two bullae were publicly displayed was at our facilities in Edmond, Oklahoma. Dr. Mazar agreed that Armstrong Auditorium would be an appropriate place to display these amazing archaeological finds, and the Israel Antiquities Authority approved. The “Seals of Jeremiah’s Captors Discovered” exhibit was on display to more than 4,000 visitors, and thousands more concertgoers who visited Armstrong Auditorium for over three years.

In many ways the Hezekiah bulla is an even greater find, with more historical significance. It is certainly a much more inspiring find because of what Hezekiah represented.

Purifying the Nation

Look at what Hezekiah accomplished as king. 2 Chronicles 29 shows that when he took office at age 25, “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done” (verse 2). King Hezekiah refused to follow the idolatrous path of his father, King Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:24-25). He saw the spiritual filthiness of his nation and immediately began to purge all pagan practices. He cleansed the temple, which had fallen into disuse and disrepair. He prodded the priesthood to purify themselves and serve God once again (2 Chronicles 29:11-17). He eradicated idolatry. He singlehandedly put the nation back on course to properly worship the true God. It’s amazing what one man can do when he zealously commits himself to God.

Hezekiah resumed the temple sacrifices (verses 20-21). He also pointed the nation back to King David and reestablished the beautiful, uplifting, inspiring music service of the temple (verses 25-26). Under his leadership, the Jews praised God with all their might! (verses 27-29). The nation returned to the basics: following great examples like King David and obeying God. This is a blueprint we all need to follow!

Those past events are a type of what is happening in this end time. As the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:11, what happened anciently is an example for us. The story of Hezekiah applies to the end-time nations of Israel: America, Britain and the Jewish nation in the Middle East. God hates how they have become the modern Sodom and Gomorrah. He is going to remove all the filth in these lands.

King Hezekiah inspired the people to establish a habit of cheerful giving (2 Chronicles 29:31). The Jews gave offerings in such abundance that “the priests were too few” to process them all (verses 34-35). This is a good problem to have! God’s work always has too few supporters; it can always use more people who will give their lives in service to it. Hezekiah also commanded the people to resume tithing of their income (2 Chronicles 31:5). God truly blesses us as we obey such commands, doing God’s will in every aspect of our lives.

Hezekiah also led the people to resume keeping the holy days. He wrote letters to all of Judah and Israel to encourage them to attend the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread services at the temple in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 30:1-9). Sadly, many of the people refused to follow Hezekiah in this righteous cause (verse 10). But many people humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem to keep the holy days (verses 11-12). Look what happened to those who obeyed: True joy began to flow in their lives. Verse 21 says they “kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with great gladness”—or “great delight” (Moffatt).

This is how to have joy in your life! “So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem” (verse 26). If you don’t have this joy in your life, check your dedication to serving God. Follow Hezekiah’s example, and serve God with all your might!

Those who didn’t humble themselves and obey didn’t enjoy this happiness. Is there any way those scoffers could have been truly happy? Look at this world. Do you see great joy in America, Britain and Judah? No—you see terrible problems, fears, anxieties and stress-induced sickness. There is a cause for every effect. The cause for the problems that plague our peoples is sin.

Obey God! What joy it gives us when we do things the way God wants them done!

A Monumental Trial

Setting the kingdom of Judah back on track spiritually was courageous, arduous, difficult work for Hezekiah. But after that came a monumental trial.

“After these things, and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king of Assyria came, and entered into Judah, and encamped against the fenced cities, and thought to win them for himself” (2 Chronicles 32:1). Assyria was a fearsome superpower at the time. The armies of King Sennacherib were massive. They could not be beaten by any physical army, and they struck terror in nations! The Jews were greatly outnumbered and had no hope of withstanding this daunting enemy.

To understand how terrifying the Assyrian army must have been to the Jews, think about the modern descendants of the Assyrians under Adolf Hitler. Hitler’s goal was to exterminate every Jew in Europe and eventually the world. His fanatical anti-Semitism stemmed from his hatred for God! God entrusted the Jews with preserving His oracles and the Hebrew calendar, so Satan used Hitler to try to wipe them out. Hitler nearly succeeded, killing 6 million Jews in concentration camps and causing the deaths of 60 million people total in World War ii. The Bible prophesies the Assyrian war machine will be far more destructive the next time around. We can see that prophecy borne out in the proliferation and scale of the advanced weaponry that exists today.

Notice how Hezekiah responded in crisis. “And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord. And he sent Eliakim, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz” (2 Kings 19:1‑2). Hezekiah took his problem to God!

This king had many problems, as we all do. But one thing he did right was that he became close friends with the Prophet Isaiah. Not many national leaders look to men of God as this king did. Hezekiah took advantage of his opportunity to learn from God’s man and to reap the benefits.

“And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say to your master, Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me” (verse 6). Sennacherib had sent messengers to taunt Hezekiah and threaten the Jews in their own language. He had the gall to compare the living God with the idols of pagan nations (verses 10-13, 17-18). God took this insult personally.

Let God Fight Your Battles

Hezekiah put this hopeless situation completely into God’s hands. He cried out to God for deliverance. God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and gave a courage-building reply through Isaiah: “Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the Lord. For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake” (2 Kings 19:32-34).

Herbert W. Armstrong wrote about this history in a March 1985 Good News article titled “Let God Fight Your Battles.” The Jews facing the Assyrians “were helpless. They faced certain defeat—just as you may feel helpless in the face of your troubles today,” he wrote. “If some of you try to solve your problem or overcome your bad habits or resist sin in nothing more than your own power and strength, you, too, will find yourself outnumbered, overpowered and doomed to defeat!

“You must learn, as this ancient king did, that God stands ready and willing to fight your battles for you.”

We all face battles. And this is simply a towering lesson from the life of King Hezekiah that we must learn! God must fight our battles—or we will not win! If we don’t rely on God, then we won’t win our battles. And if we are not winning battles, this is the reason!

How do you achieve success in life? Here is how: Let God fight your battles for you! We all have battles. We have to fight and win. And we will win if we fight with God’s power and not our own.

Hezekiah believed God and acted swiftly. He cut off the Assyrian army’s water supply by diverting the spring through “Hezekiah’s Tunnel” (2 Chronicles 32:2-3). You can still walk through that tunnel beneath Jerusalem today. He also rebuilt and fortified the city’s defenses and produced a plethora of weapons (verse 5). This too is a crucial lesson: If we expect God to fight battles for us, we must do our part. God wants to see how much we will sweat and strain and toil and even dig through rock to reach the pure water of the Holy Spirit. It takes an abundance of hard work to access this divine power, but if we do, God will remove every last Sennacherib who opposes us.

Hezekiah passed God’s encouraging words on to the people, inspiring them to trust God (verses 6-8). And what did God do? “So the Eternal rescued Hezekiah and the citizens of Jerusalem from Sennacherib the king of Assyria as well as from all other foes, protecting them on every side” (verse 22; Moffatt). God sent a death angel into the Assyrian camp by night to slaughter 185,000 troops (2 Kings 19:35). He supernaturally wiped out the entire Assyrian force that had gathered against Jerusalem! Sennacherib returned home in disgrace and was eventually killed by his own sons (verses 36-37).

God is the ultimate soldier. He won an absolute, crushing victory.

Realize that this is written for you! It doesn’t matter what foe you have, or what worry or distraction or fear, or if you have a siege of troubles—God says you can solve it and conquer it! You still haven’t had any kind of troubles like Hezekiah had, and look how he solved this problem! If you obey and trust God, you can solve the problems in your life. You could have 10 million soldiers coming after you. That is something you can face and overcome if you just obey and trust in God. That is a wonderful truth.

There is a deep lesson for the physical nations of Israel today in what Hezekiah accomplished. These are times of grave national sins. Hezekiah shows how to save a nation! How could Jerusalem be saved today? Or America, or Britain? Hezekiah teaches us that.

God’s Protective Wings

Look at the picture of that bulla (page 19). At the center is a small circle representing the sun. And Hezekiah had it depicted with wings, outspread and oriented down a bit. Today, more than 2,700 years later, one of his seals has made headlines around the world. People are studying its symbols closely.

What might a circle with downturned wings mean? It symbolizes the fiery, all-powerful God who is also a God of love! It shows that God shelters and protectsus! That when we face tribulation, God will simply wrap us up in His wings. God even told Hezekiah through Isaiah that He was like a bird flying over and protecting Jerusalem (Isaiah 31:5). He will rescue us from trials, whether they are related to health, finances, persecution or even invading armies! That is quite a symbol.

That symbol points to a statement Jesus Christ made in Matthew 23:37: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” God wanted to protect His people, just like He did Hezekiah. He would shelter them if they would just obey Him! But what do they do? They kill the prophets and stone those who come to help them!

What would it do for Jerusalem today if the Jews would turn to God the way Hezekiah did? What do you think would become of all the rocket attacks and stabbings that have been occurring there? What would it do for America and Britain? Their problems would be solved! In this age of terror, the Hezekiah bulla should resonate with the Jews more than any election or policy or self-defense strategy. The story of this great king shows the Jews and the other descendants of ancient Israel how to solve our problems!

We don’t expect the nations of Israel to heed this wonderful message. These nations are already past the point of no return. But if they followed this example, God would do for them exactly what He did for Judah under King Hezekiah.

This world needs hope. We are in dark times that are getting darker. Terrorist attacks like those that killed people in Paris and San Bernardino are becoming a way of life. The Jews in the Middle East are facing nation-threatening problems—some are concerned they could lose Jerusalem! And the truth is that the modern descendants of the Assyrian Empire that threatened Hezekiah’s Judah are rising again—and Bible prophecy tells us that they are going to deal a deathblow to America, Britain (the birthright nations) and the Jewish state (the scepter nation)! God is going to use that same empire to punish those three nations most of all, because of their rebellion against Him.

God will use Germany to purge America, Britain and Judah of sin (Isaiah 10:5). The Germans are subtly rearming and controlling more and more territory. They are moving into the Middle East with soldiers.

Our peoples have an inexplicable disdain for history. Just 70 years ago, United States President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill pledged never to allow Germany to rise again. Just a few years ago, few people would have imagined Germany providing armaments to much of the world. Yet today, this is a profitable sector of its economy! Today, Germany is more powerful than ever.

The Germans are coming! The Assyrians are on the march once again. God is going to correct our people. The Messiah is coming soon, whether people heed the warning or not.

I am sure this is why God is putting Hezekiah’s bulla in the spotlight right now. That bulla has a message of tremendous hope, especially for these three nations! As our nations face threats of annihilation, here is a symbol of hope in the face of grave danger: the Hezekiah bulla. The story of Hezekiah really shows the Jews and the other nations of Israel how to solve their problems. It shows us physically and spiritually how to win our battles!

Are You a Person of Your Word?

From the April 2016 Trumpet Print Edition

“I’ll do it,” you say. Then the time comes to do it. What happens? Do you keep your word?

When you tell your friend you will meet him at 6 o’clock, are you ready and waiting at 6 o’clock? When you say you’ll have that project ready by Wednesday morning, is it finished on Tuesday night? When you say you will do something, do people know it’s as good as done? Are you a man or woman of your word?

Society today simply does not prioritize keeping one’s word. And we tend to rationalize it: Things happen—no big deal. Most of us thus fail to recognize just what a serious character issue breaking our word is.

“Only recently a prominent public man was criticized throughout the newspaper world as one not having enough character to keep his promises,” Orison Swett Marden wrote in his 1916 book Making Life a Masterpiece. “He had not the stamina to make good when to do so proved difficult” (emphasis added throughout).

That is so often the issue: You say you will do something, but then circumstances change and you realize there is inconvenience involved that you didn’t anticipate. Suddenly, what you said you would do doesn’t seem worth it. But think about the long-term cost of losing your credibility. Think about the high cost of developing a reputation for being unreliable. Think about the high cost of compromising your character.

“He hadn’t the timber, the character fiber, to stand up and do the thing he knew to be right, and that he had promised to do,” Marden continued. “The world is full of these jellyfish people who have not lime enough in their backbone to stand erect, to do the right thing. They are always stepping into the spotlight in the good-intention stage, and then, when the reckoning time comes, taking the line of least resistance, doing the thing which will cost the least effort or money, regardless of later consequences. They think they can be as unscrupulous about breaking promises as they were about making them. But sooner or later fate makes us play fair, or get out of the game.”

What does God think? Well, He keeps His word (Numbers 23:19). When He says He will do something, He does it. When He gives a promise, He keeps it. We can count on Him to fulfill His every word—every time. Not one jot or tittle of God’s Word will pass away before all of it is fulfilled (Matthew 5:18).

In the Old Testament are laws saying that if you make a vow, you’d better keep it (Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21-23). They tell us that it’s better not to say something than to say it and not do it. When you think about it, breaking your word is actually breaking the Ninth Commandment, which forbids bearing false witness (Exodus 20:16). When you give your word, failing to follow through makes you a liar.

We can say all kinds of potential lies without really thinking twice: I’ll do it; I’ll be there; I’ll pick you up; I’ll bring it over; I’ll help you out. Don’t say those things if you aren’t willing to do them even when it’s inconvenient. Jesus Christ said that “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36). When you say, I will do it, you are signing your name to the contract and committing your reputation and your character. Only a few decades ago, many if not most significant business transactions were sealed with a man’s word and his handshake. No forms. No lawyers. No contracts. The man saying it was the contract. But modern society has gotten further and further from lives of honesty, uprightness, integrity, truth and trustworthiness. Now, agreements must be bound by carefully worded, signed, notarized contracts because people can’t be trusted to keep their word! If everyone struggled and fought to keep his word, no matter the obstacles, we wouldn’t need contracts and lawyers!

How can you become a person of your word? 1) Be careful what you promise. If you’re not sure you can deliver, don’t commit (James 4:13-14). 2) When you can’t do it, admit it. Learn to say no. 3) Once you’ve said it, do it. Do whatever you must to remember and then fulfill what you said, without excuse or hesitation. 4) If you blow it, admit it. Don’t lie or make up an excuse. When you make a mistake, apologize and do what you can to fix it.

“A man is already of consequence in the world when it is known that we can implicitly rely upon him,” Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton said. “I have frequently seen in life a person preferred to a long list of applicants for some important charge, which lifts him at once into station and fortune, merely because he has this reputation—that when he says he knows a thing, he knows it, and when he says he will do a thing, he will do it.”

What is your reputation? Keeping your word should be as important as the Ten Commandments! Because it is keeping the Ten Commandments. It is, actually, the love of God.

Should the Feds Be the Police?

Comparing the Oregon standoff with the Black Lives Matter movement shows how divided America has become on the issue of federal law enforcement.
From the April 2016 Trumpet Print Edition

For 41 days, a tense standoff between armed militia members and federal law enforcement officers took place at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

After two ranchers set fires on their own property that spread to a nearby wildlife refuge, federal prosecutors charged them with terrorism and sentenced them to five years in prison. What started as a peaceful rally in support of the ranchers escalated as a group of about 20 armed militia members split off from the rally to occupy the wildlife refuge headquarters building.

Led by Ammon Bundy, this group of militiamen called itself the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom. It originally pledged to occupy the building until federal authorities released the two ranchers from prison and turned over control of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to Harney County. “We will be here as long as it takes,” Bundy told cnn via the phone inside the refuge building. “We have no intentions of using force upon anyone, but if force is used against us, we would defend ourselves.”

These protesters represent one extreme on an important issue facing America today: How much should the federal government be involved in local law enforcement? Their view is, not at all.

But there are others who vehemently disagree. And this disagreement is bound to have far-reaching, even dangerous effects on the nation.

Oregon Showdown

With the protesters occupying the wildlife refuge building, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Oregon State Police surrounded it for several days with no one being hurt. But on January 26, Bundy and eight others left the refuge to participate in a local community meeting. When fbi agents tried to pull over the two vehicles being driven out of the wildlife refuge, one of the protesters, LaVoy Finicum, tried to evade arrest. In the commotion that ensued, Finicum was shot dead, and Bundy’s brother Ryan was wounded in the arm.

After the arrests, the protest movement dwindled from about 20 members to just four. While still under arrest in Portland, Ammon Bundy issued a request to these four protesters to stand down and go home. They resisted Ammon’s request, however, and vowed to stand their ground.

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, the father of Ammon and Ryan, sent a letter of defiance to the local sheriff, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and the White House. In it he urged the militiamen to remain at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge until all federal and state policing agents left Harney County.

The fbi responded by arresting the 74-year-old on February 10 while he was reportedly on his way to the wildlife refuge to support the remaining protesters. Bundy was accused of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States; assault on a federal officer by use of a deadly weapon; use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence; interference with commerce by extortion; and obstruction of the administration of justice. Most of these charges relate to incidents that took place two years ago.

The next day, on February 11, the last remaining militia members finally surrendered to federal agents.

Though this particular standoff ended, it spotlighted just how divided America has become over the issue of federal law enforcement.

Two Opposing Views

Some journalists are comparing the Oregon standoff to the Black Lives Matter movement and the Ferguson riots. A Washington Post editorial decried a double standard and claimed that the police would have killed the Oregon protesters if they had been black or Muslim. Other journalists take the angle that the Oregon militiamen and the Ferguson rioters have much in common and should be working together against police abuse.

Both opinions fail to note that the Oregon militiamen and the Black Lives Matter protesters are taking extreme opposite positions on whether American law enforcement should be localized or federalized.

The Bundy family and the Oregon militiamen contend that all federal land ownership and policing operations are unconstitutional. They are calling for the return of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to the control of the local populace, and for the expulsion of all federal police from Harney County. In place of these federal officials, Cliven Bundy is asking the Harney County sheriff to place a guard post of local police at the wildlife refuge.

Such calls for the localization of American law enforcement operations are completely at odds with the demands of many in the Black Lives Matter movement. Although Black Lives Matter is a grassroots movement with a plethora of different ideas, a primary demand of its activists seems to be greater federal oversight of allegedly racist local police forces.

Just after the Baltimore riots over the death of Freddie Gray last year, civil rights activist Al Sharpton called on the United States Department of Justice to step in and “take over policing in this country” so racist officers can be held accountable. “We’re going to have to fight states’ rights in terms of closing down police cases,” he said.

Toward Federalization

While the tactics of this Oregon militia occupation are extreme, some of the issues they are protesting are very real.

Dwight and Steven Hammond, the two ranchers charged with terrorism, were tried twice for the same crime. The first time, Federal District Court Judge Michael Hogan ruled that imposing a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence as sought by federal prosecutors would be a “grossly disproportionate” punishment for the “crime” of accidentally burning 127 acres of federal land. The U.S. Department of Justice wasn’t satisfied with this ruling. After the Hammonds had already served their first, shorter prison sentence, the Department of Justice appealed the case and found a judge who would impose a full five-year “terrorist” sentence on the Hammonds.

While the Bundys’ demand that the federal government cease and desist all federal policing operations is extreme, their dissatisfaction with a Department of Justice that can charge a rancher with terrorism if a “controlled burn” gets out of control is understandable.

Constitutional lawyer Jonathan Turley warned in a Washington Post editorial that the federal government’s growing dominance over the states is obscuring an even more fundamental change in the federal government itself: namely that the Constitution’s carefully constructed system of checks and balances is being eroded away by the rise of a “fourth branch” of government—an administrative state of sprawling federal departments and agencies.

This fourth branch, Turley maintains, now has a larger impact on American citizens than the other three branches combined. One study found that Congress only enacted 138 public laws in 2007, compared with 2,926 regulations enacted by unelected federal bureaucrats. A similar study found that federal judges conduct roughly 95,000 adjudicatory proceedings, including trials, each year, compared with 939,000 cases tried by administrative courts tied to individual federal agencies.

“These agency proceedings are often mockeries of due process, with one-sided presumptions and procedural rules favoring the agency,” Turley wrote.

While it is true that federal agencies in this so-called fourth branch of government do have a great deal of autonomy, the people who run them are still appointed by the U.S. president. So it is really Congress and, to a lesser extent, the courts that are getting sidelined by an out-of-control executive branch, which is ruling via executive orders and a vast army of federal bureaucrats.

The Framers’ View

The framers of America’s Constitution did allow for federal policing of certain crimes, such as counterfeiting, treason and piracy. Outside of such crimes, constitutional law mandates that law enforcement be a function of state and local governments.

There is a reason for the approximately 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies in the United States. When law enforcement responsibilities are divided among 18,000 agencies accountable to directly elected local officials, it becomes extremely difficult for anyone to set himself or herself up as a tyrant. If a county sheriff abuses his or her office, it is much easier for the local community to elect a better sheriff than it is for that community to change the policies of bureaucrats in Washington, d.c.

As law and order break down in American society, citizens are finding themselves caught between armed anti-federal militiamen advocating the localization of all police forces and aggressive ethnic minorities demanding the federalization of all police forces.

Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote about this dangerous trend toward federalized policing in the wake of the Baltimore riots last August. “America’s law enforcement is under attack,” he wrote. “On one side people in communities are developing a mistrustful, hostile, antagonistic attitude, yelling at police, assaulting and even killing officers in some cases. Police are pulling back from doing their jobs for fear of attack, or losing their jobs or going to prison for doing anything that could be perceived as racist. On the other, the federal government is undermining local law enforcement and stripping it of power in an effort to centralize policing power on the federal level.”

In the near future, tensions between armed militia members and federal law enforcement officers are likely to grow much worse. As the Trumpet has reported repeatedly, executive overreach is a serious problem in America’s government today. The Obama administration is trying to use accusations of racism against local police and the threat of militia standoffs against federal police as excuses to centralize all policing authority, thus taking more power to itself.

Riots and armed standoffs are no solution to this problem. The clash over illegal federal usurpation of power is an indication of a greater spiritual sickness in the entire nation.

Former American president and Founding Father John Adams once wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

God does not put the primary blame on a political leader the way that so many political commentators do. In the end, these nation-destroying problems are actually correction from God to help the American people see their sins and repent of them. All Americans must come to realize that only Jesus Christ can solve the serious problems in their government!

SocietyWatch

From the April 2016 Trumpet Print Edition

When feelings trump biology

When transgenderism first began to be celebrated in the mainstream, critics joked, What’s next? People choosing their race? Their age? Such notions seemed ludicrous, but in the time since, both have happened. Rachel Dolezal of Washington maintains that she is a black woman despite her blond hair, green eyes and two white parents. A Canadian 52-year-old father of seven decided that he was actually a 6-year-old girl—and was adopted by a Toronto family that lets him pretend to live as a child of that age.

Now, in the next step of ludicrous, some claim they’re not human at all but an entirely different species. These “trans-species” individuals identify either as animals like cats, wolves and lions—or as mythical creatures like unicorns, mermaids, werewolves or dragons. They call themselves otherkin.

Otherkin communities are growing. They convene on Tumblr, LiveJournal, Reddit and other online forums. More and more cities are home to regular otherkin meetings and conventions.

Following the lead of transgenders, otherkin have created new sets of pronouns for themselves. Also like the transgenders, they say anyone who declines to play along with the idea that they are a cat, dog or dragon is guilty of a hate crime.

Like many transgender people, some otherkin have their bodies disfigured in order to look more like the entity they identify as. Some have incisor teeth filed to points so they look more feline or canine. Others have their tongue slit in two to look reptilian. Some have whiskers or horns implanted in their skin or skull. One man had the exterior parts of his ears removed so he would resemble a parrot.

You might dismiss this movement as too ridiculous to warrant acknowledgment. However, it represents a bizarre extreme of a far more common failure to recognize the vast difference between humankind, which is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), and the animal world.

Besides that, it is worth viewing in light of the mainstreaming of transgenderism.

Both groups say feelings trump biological reality. Both call for sometimes going under the knife in order to force reality into conformity with those feelings. And transgenderism, until recently, affected so few that the majority thought the phenomenon undeserving of acknowledgment. Transgender people were also long regarded as mentally ill or publicity seekers until society attained a new level of “enlightenment.” Now transgenderism is policy in many schools and businesses. The movement’s heroes are celebrated by the media. American tax dollars pay for “gender reassignment” surgeries.

If the new enlightenment keeps expanding, will the mainstream come to celebrate otherkin? Will tax money pay for whisker implant surgeries? The questions sound ridiculous—but are they more ridiculous than it would have been 10 years ago to ask if society would come to embrace transgender people?

The rise of the otherkin shows what can happen when feelings are exalted above biological reality. The moral landscape of the Western world is changing drastically and rapidly, paving the way for ever more demented trends.

Women to register for draft?

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on February 2 that “every American who’s physically qualified should register for the draft.” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley agreed.

The Supreme Court in 1981 upheld Congress’s decision to exempt women from registering for the draft on the basis that women were restricted from combat roles. Now that this restriction has changed, the reason for exempting women is gone.

Some Republicans predict that soon the military will adopt a quota system, which would lead to a lowering of standards. “It would endanger not only the safety of Marines, but also the safety of our nation,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said.

The military chiefs in favor of women registering for the draft belittled this criticism. Sen. Tim Kaine said, “Daughters raised today are going to be raised different than daughters 30 years ago. When there’s a social cap or ceiling or limitation, that sort of gets absorbed by people and they don’t even focus on what they might be able to do. … When the cap is lifted, all of a sudden there’s all kinds of possibilities and people start to focus on opportunities they might have and train themselves up for them.”

This proposition is being pushed in the name of progressiveness. But despite Kaine’s wishful thinking, there are very real differences between men and women. Women face greater danger than men in most combat situations. Physical limitations make them likelier to be injured, captured or killed. And when women are captured, experience has shown that they are treated far worse than male prisoners of war. This reality endangers them as well as the men who must fight alongside them.

This policy reflects a victory of feminist ideology over truth, and it will come at the expense not just of traditional sex roles and right sense of male honor and duty, but also of national security.

The Story Behind Ben-Hur

How a Civil War general learned the key to healing America
From the April 2016 Trumpet Print Edition

When Jesus Christ was being crucified, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). In the novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, the crucifixion was the great turning point for the protagonist, Judah Ben-Hur. After spending years seeking revenge against the Romans for unjustly imprisoning him and his family, Ben-Hur sees Christ’s example and his rage subsides. For author Lew Wallace, this change of heart was not merely an interesting plot twist.

Wallace was a Civil War general, ambassador, senator, governor, inventor and lawyer. Yet he will always be remembered as the author of Ben-Hur, one of the bestselling American novels of all time.

In 1876, Wallace encountered Col. Robert Ingersoll, America’s most famous atheist. For two hours, Ingersoll eloquently disputed the existence of God. Wallace was not religious and had not really considered the matter. The conversation caused him to study into the history, politics and life of Christ. Wallace wrote Ben-Hur while he was governor of New Mexico. After working late each night studying and writing for four years, he published the book in 1880. Wallace later said: “It only remains to say that I did as resolved, with results—first, the book Ben-Hur, and second, a conviction amounting to absolute belief in God and the divinity of Christ.”

Ben-Hur tells the story of Christ’s life as He crosses paths with the protagonist. Judah Ben-Hur, a wealthy Jewish businessman in Jerusalem, is falsely accused by a former friend, military leader Messala, of attempting to kill a Judean governor. Ben-Hur, his mother and sister are imprisoned unjustly. He vows revenge on Messala, nurturing his quest for retribution for years in the galleys. While on a long prisoner march north through Nazareth, he meets Jesus, who saves his life by giving him water. Through miracle after miracle, Ben-Hur survives a sea battle, becomes the consul’s adopted son, becomes a champion charioteer, and wins his freedom. Finally, he returns to Judea to kill Messala. Messala dies in a chariot race that Judah wins, and Judah realizes that revenge is a bitter victory.

Finding that his mother and sister have leprosy, Ben-Hur seeks after Christ for their healing. He ends up witnessing the crucifixion. Christ’s example of not desiring revenge but forgiving His murderers changes Ben-Hur’s heart, and he repents of his hate. He returns home to find that his mother and sister have been healed.

To Wallace, Ben-Hur’s choice between revenge and forgiveness represented America’s path to healing after the Civil War. Following the North’s victory, the nation was still deeply divided. North and South were two distinct societies. The slaves were free, but no one knew how to integrate them into society. The controversial and disastrous policy of Reconstruction was running its course, deepening the wounds of the war.

Wallace realized that Christian virtues were the path to a brighter future. Though never a member of a religious denomination, he did recognize the authority of the Bible. Ben-Hur contains many themes, but America’s situation in the 1870s is imprinted on the narrative. Americans could relate Ben-Hur’s path away from hate to their own lives. The book helped many Americans move past the divisions of war. America did not need Reconstruction; it needed repentance.

America’s fundamental problems today are spiritual. These real-world problems will not be solved by emotional sloganeering, political posturing, a new spending bill, or another election. They will be solved by applying the principles of the Bible.

Matthew 5 records Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. It contains many vital lessons for America today: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (verses 5-9). Humility, righteousness, mercy and peacemaking: These are not platitudes. They are attitudes and actions that bring peace and blessings.

Christ explained how to handle conflicts (verses 39-44): If you are offended, turn the other cheek. If a man sues you for your coat, give him your cloak. If a friend needs help walking a mile, go with him twice that distance. Instead of hating your enemies, love them, do good deeds toward them, and pray for those who persecute you.

Imagine a nation where division is solved by loving the enemy. By forgiving offenses. By real-world application of Christ’s teaching.

In 1876, America desperately needed healing. Lew Wallace saw the need for a nationwide change of heart, and he looked to the life of Christ. Will you?