Not Much Bang for the Buck

Not Much Bang for the Buck

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

America has the most expensive military in the world. That doesn’t necessarily mean it has the strongest. Here’s why.
From the July 2016 Trumpet Print Edition

How safe is the United States? Could it be defeated by a foreign nation?

Many would immediately answer “No.” The world’s top military spender, America accounts for over a third of global military expenditure—spending more than the next seven nations combined.

But does big spending buy invincibility? America is great at throwing money at problems, from health care to education. The question is, how is that money being spent?

A shocking amount of it is simply wasted. Exactly how much is unknown because the Pentagon has never been audited, but it is at least tens of billions.

However, the amount of money squandered is not the most dangerous part of the story. Instead, it is what this huge waste reveals about the people in charge of America’s security. A study of this waste reveals that a casual reliance on America’s massive defense establishment is dangerously flawed.

‘The System Is Broken’

The U.S. 7th Fleet is the most powerful naval group at sea. Its 50 to 70 ships and submarines, 140 aircraft and 20,000 Navy and Marine personnel protect America’s interests in the Pacific.

It was also all but hijacked by one foreign national.

That man is Leonard Glenn Francis, known as “Fat Leonard.” He ran Glenn Defense Marine Asia, and used it to steal tens of millions from the U.S. Navy.

gdma has supplied husbanding services to the 7th Fleet for years. When warships dock, they need fuel, supplies and maintenance; they often need towing into dock and have to pay for the parking space. gdma provided these services—at vastly inflated prices. In just five port visits in Thailand by U.S. ships, Francis overbilled the Navy $3 million for fuel alone.

The worst part of the “Fat Leonard scandal,” as it is known, is how Francis evaded detection. He bribed the commander of a destroyer and the deputy logistics officer for the fleet with gifts, money and prostitutes. They passed on classified information on U.S. ship movements. They even rerouted ships to stop at ports where Francis could overcharge the Navy.

Francis bribed a supervisory agent at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, who helped thwart any investigations into his dealings.

If Francis had been working for a foreign power, instead of merely for money, this could have been not only a financial disaster but also a deadly tactical one.

Francis was arrested in September 2013, but the scandal’s fallout continues. Both the director of Naval Intelligence and the director of Intelligence Operations have had their access to classified material suspended. This has left America in the farcical situation where the man running the Navy’s secret operations isn’t trusted to read any secret material. In 2015, three other admirals were censured and retired.

“Managing the command structure at the top of the Navy has become a nightmare since the Justice Department began the investigation,” wrote Matthew Gault, cohost of Reuters’ military podcasts. “No one knows who will stay, who will retire, and who will go to jail” (April 13, 2015).

This affair is just one of several scandals the U.S. military has suffered in the past decade. “For generations the Pentagon has run the world’s mightiest armed forces with inadequate budgetary oversight. The system is broken,” Gault wrote in 2013. “Something needs to change, and it needs to change yesterday. If it doesn’t, the Fat Leonard debacle—with its self-serving commanders, misspent millions and compromised military secrets—could become the norm” (Nov. 18, 2013).

Investigations and lawsuits are ongoing regarding Fat Leonard-like cases in the 5th and 6th Fleets (responsible for the Middle East and Europe). In 2013, the U.S. government began investigating three Navy intelligence officers who charged $1.6 million for silencers that should have cost $8,000. Twin sisters reportedly collected $20 million over the course of six years, largely by fraud and abusing the system, through their company, c&D Distributors, which in one case charged half a million dollars to ship three screws to marines in Iraq.

This goes further than a few dodgy individuals: Giants of the U.S. defense establishment are involved. In 2003, an Air Force undersecretary overpaid Boeing for a set of tanker planes. She soon quit her job and went to Boeing, with a six-figure salary. The company had already given jobs to her daughter and her daughter’s fiancé. She pleaded guilty to corruption and was sentenced to nine months in jail. Boeing’s chief financial officer at the time also went to jail.

Beyond the money wasted, what does it mean that the U.S. military’s procurement system is “broken”? What else about the military is “broken”? If “self-serving commanders” could become the norm, how else will America be harmed?

‘We’re Going About This All Wrong’

The U.S. spent a vast amount of money in Iraq and Afghanistan—the Congressional Research Service estimated $1.6 trillion. Time magazine estimated the long-term cost between $4 and $6 trillion. In these two countries, America was spending $20 billion a year just on air conditioning. That is larger than Italy’s entire defense budget for 2015.

The fact that Afghanistan is sliding back toward the Taliban and Iran is taking over Iraq raises the overarching question of just what those trillions of dollars purchased. But the figures on just the straight-up waste are also huge. The bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan reported in 2011 that “[a]t least $31 billion, and possibly as much as $60 billion, has been lost to contract waste and fraud”—just one narrow type of waste—in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One of the most notorious examples of waste was $36 million spent on a command facility in Afghanistan for 1,500 personnel that was never used. Three generals requested the project to be canceled, saying it was unnecessary, but they were overruled. When investigators looked into it, commanders told subordinates to obstruct the inquiry.

There’s plenty of Fat Leonard-style corruption too. Authorities identified $1 million in overpayments for fuel in a two-month period in Afghanistan. In 2014, $45.5 million went missing from salaries meant to be paid to Afghan police.

Besides the money spent directly on the invasion, the U.S. poured $100 billion into reconstructing Afghanistan. That’s more than America spent on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe after World War ii. Propublica estimated that $17 billion of that was wasted. This includes a base that was never used, roads that quickly fell apart, and payments to nonexistent soldiers. Half a billion dollars went to cargo planes that were hardly used and then scrapped; $8 billion was spent on combating the drug trade, with no result.

In Iraq, the U.S. spent $50 billion on reconstruction. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction estimated at least $8 billion of it was wasted.

John F. Sopko has worked hard to expose waste of these funds as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (sigar). In a speech last September, he talked about schools built with American money that were “literally crumbling and falling apart” and hospitals that “actually became unsafe because their electrical and water supply systems failed.”

One problem was investing in projects that would have been great in America but just didn’t work in Afghanistan. The U.S. spent millions on hospitals that were too expensive for the Afghans to keep running. “This sort of thing happens in Afghanistan all the time,” he said.

“You would think after 13 years of these types of occurrences, and hundreds of cases of sigar pointing these problems out, that someone would wake up, look around, and say ‘You know what, folks? Maybe we’re going about this all wrong,’” Sopko continued.

He described how he had to work hard to persuade one military official not to build high-tech solar-powered lighting at bus stops. How’s that for a metaphor for Afghanistan: America’s generals want to build high-tech lighting for bus stops while the Taliban retake the country.

“[A]ll I am seeing is a modus operandi that is woefully out of touch at best, and delusional at worst,” Sopko warned. “We simply must be smarter.”

Again there is a hint of a deeper problem. If America’s chain of command is “delusional” about money, how effective is its decision-making in other areas?

‘Made-up Numbers’

The Defense Logistics Agency is responsible for buying and distributing food, fuel, uniform apparel, medical supplies and equipment and weapons system repair parts. The dla was recently exposed spending $7 billion on things it did not need. “How do you buy $7 billion of stuff you don’t need?” asked Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro (Ret.), who oversees a special task force on logistics for the Pentagon. “If a company did that, they’d be out of business. Even Walmart.”

Punaro said this wastage is common. “It has no sense of value or time,” he said. “No one in the Pentagon is looking for a bargain on most days. It’s a cultural thing. These are people that will ship a pallet of water on a C-17.”

Waste is epidemic in the military’s central bureaucracy. Between 2003 and 2011, for example, it managed to lose track of $6 billion worth of supplies. A 2013 Reuters special report stated, “Reuters has found that the Pentagon is largely incapable of keeping track of its vast stores of weapons, ammunition and other supplies; thus it continues to spend money on new supplies it doesn’t need and on storing others long out of date. It has amassed a backlog of more than half a trillion dollars in unaudited contracts with outside vendors; how much of that money paid for actual goods and services delivered isn’t known. And it repeatedly falls prey to fraud and theft that can go undiscovered for years, often eventually detected by external law enforcement agencies” (Nov. 18, 2013).

In a private company, the Department of Defense method of accounting would be illegal. “Former military service officials say record keeping at the operational level throughout the services is rife with made-up numbers to cover lost or missing information,” wrote Reuters.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in May 2011, “My staff and I learned that it was nearly impossible to get accurate information and answers to questions such as ‘How much money did you spend?’ and ‘How many people do you have?’”

In February this year, the Center for International Policy published a report by William D. Hartung outlining more than $33 billion in waste in just 27 instances since President Barack Obama took office.

The report is focused narrowly on waste. It doesn’t include expenses like the $360 million spent on weight-loss surgery for servicemen’s families, which would hardly seem to enhance the nation’s fighting ability.

Contract Killers

The U.S. military has major problems with the way it pays for weapons. For example, the government will often pay companies to fix their own manufacturing defects. As the Government Accountability Office put it, in one investigation into naval contracts, the Navy is “essentially rewarding the shipbuilder for delivering a ship that needed additional work.”

David W. Wise wrote on War Is Boring, “The Navy, like the other services, has proven itself incapable of running an effective weapons acquisition program in recent decades. Instead, the services pay increasingly more money for progressively fewer units that often fail to meet original specifications” (May 27).

In just about every project, costs rise while capabilities decrease. One notorious example is the Littoral Combat Ship. It was meant to cost $220 million per ship. The first cost triple that. The ships have almost universally bad reviews. They are lightly armored and lose to Chinese ships in just about every simulation.

Meanwhile, other firms are building useless weapons. For example, the Army spends around $200 million a year on M1 Abrams tanks that it doesn’t need and that go straight into storage. Why? The tank factory is in the district of the chairman of a key congressional subcommittee.

This isn’t an isolated example. Last December, the New York Times wrote that “[l]anguage inserted into the federal budget … directed the Coast Guard to build a $640 million national security cutter in Mississippi that the Coast Guard says it does not need” (Dec. 20, 2015). “I guess that is how it goes,” a spokesman for the Coast Guard said. “But we are good [without it].”

One senator wanted the cutter built in his state. In the same budget, another senator pushed for the Navy to be given $1 billion for a destroyer it didn’t ask for because the vessel was likely to be built in her state.

Worse, there is strong evidence that America’s weapons are designed primarily to be job creators, not war winners.

Franklin C. Spinney is famed for his criticism of U.S. defense procurement. In an essay written back in 1990, he forecast, “The power politics practiced by the Pentagon and Congress continue to drag our nation deeper into a quagmire of spiraling weapons costs, shrinking forces, and high defense budgets.” Now that his predictions have come to pass, it’s clear he is worth listening to.

Spinney warned that “the needs of a coherent defense policy have been preempted by the selfish desires of its individual components.” This selfishness is at the heart of his critique. The Pentagon and defense companies engage in what he calls “political engineering.” “Political engineering is the strategy of spreading dollars, jobs and profits to as many important congressional districts as possible,” he wrote. “By designing overly complex weapons, then spreading subcontracts, jobs and profits all over the country, the political engineers in the Defense Department deliberately magnify the power of these forces to punish Congress should it subsequently try to reduce defense spending by terminating major procurement programs.”

This seems to explain the problems with the F-35 fighter jet. With a price tag around $1.5 trillion, it is the most expensive weapons system in history. It is also the future of U.S. airpower: If all goes to plan, the majority of the U.S. military’s planes will be F-35s. Yet the F-35 is commonly criticized for being overly complex. A single unnecessary system—one designed to make it easier to order spare parts—leaves the entire program so vulnerable to hacking that a cyberattack could ground the whole fleet. Meanwhile, experts say Congress is unlikely to kill the program because politicians are worried about the jobs that would be lost in key districts.

There may be legitimate reasons for not canceling the F-35 program. But that decision should revolve around military consequences, not jobs.

These tactics also seem to prevail for America’s newest stealth bomber, the B-21. “By publicly announcing some of the program’s subcontractors, officials have tied the program to specific congressional districts, making it difficult for members of Congress with plants in their districts to oppose or criticize the program for legitimate military and budget reasons without also seeming to act against their districts’ interests,” reported the Project for Government Oversight in March.

The wastage and incompetence in America’s defense contracts represent more than merely a financial problem. Yes, America may have spent billions on useless roads or crumbling hospitals—but the same forces behind those purchases could have pushed the U.S. into spending $1.5 trillion, and betting its future, on a flawed plane.

A Deadly Weakness

When decisions about the military are being made with jobs, Congressional seats and career advancements as the top priority, America’s security is dramatically undermined.

Defense wastage exposes a rot at the heart of the military. Who knows the exact reason each military official signed off on billions of useless projects in Afghanistan or bought equipment that is not needed. But the same factors that lead to these decisions—lack of thought, lack of interest, bureaucratic red tape, the inability of different departments to talk to each other—are undoubtedly behind other bad decisions. Misspending is a quantifiable symptom that points to a much deeper sickness.

American military decision-makers around the world, from Afghanistan to Congress, have taken their eye off the ball. For some, their goal is personal gain. For others, it’s not rocking the boat. For others, it’s reelection. Too few have defending America from potential enemies as their top priority. This is the biggest reason why the shocking military waste matters.

America used to produce cutting-edge military technology at good prices. God blessed America, but no longer. In fact, the curse described in Leviticus 26:20—directed to the ungodly and disobedient modern-day descendants of ancient Israel, of whom America is chief—well applies: “And your strength shall be spent in vain.”

We see this in many ways—the fruitless military missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example. This massive waste is both a natural result of failed leadership and also a result of this curse. The preceding verse says God “will break the pride of your power.” These verses describe a nation with ample “strength” and “power,” but it is incapable of using it effectively.

When America was blessed, God said He made it so that “ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword” (verse 7). One way He did that was by blessing the nation with skilled innovators and manufacturers, allowing the nation to have its technological edge. America still has an edge here. But too few in the military take the potential for a major war seriously. The result is a bloated system that hemorrhages money and leaves this apparently invincible nation dangerously insecure.

Falling in Love With Socialism

Falling in Love With Socialism

Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

Strong support among youth for Bernie Sanders reveals the nation’s immediate future.
From the July 2016 Trumpet Print Edition

On Jan. 11, 1996, Barack Obama signed a contract promising to publicly support and associate himself with the New Party. The New Party was a socialist organization in Chicago, Illinois, that was deeply hostile to the idea of American capitalism. When journalist Stanley Kurtz reported this signing to the public in 2008, the Obama presidential campaign sharply denied the claim as a “crackpot smear.”

In 2012, records from the Wisconsin Historical Society definitively established the truth of the matter. It turns out that Mr. Obama did sign the New Party contract.

America has had a socialist-leaning—or simply socialist—president for nearly eight years, and it has the European-style socialist principles strenuously pushed by the Obama administration to prove it.

Now it is 2016, and America once again has a presidential candidate with a radical socialist past. This time, the truth is even more blatantly obvious.

Bernie Sanders and his wife traveled to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for their honeymoon in May 1988. The trip was apparently undertaken as part of Sanders’s official duties as mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Sanders later wrote a commentary for the Harvard Crimson praising the perestroika reforms of Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev. Instead of heralding “the end of history” like other politicians, Sanders called on Americans to take the revolutions of 1989 as a model. He called for the implementation of an American glasnost.

While attending the University of Chicago in the 1960s, Sanders became a member of the Young People’s Socialist League. He backed the People’s Party in the 1972 presidential election, which famously demanded that any income higher than $55,000 must be outlawed. Sanders also served as a presidential elector for the Socialist Workers’ Party in 1980. This party traces its origins back to the Communist League of America, an organization that propagated the ideals of infamous Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky.

But this election year, Sanders has felt that the Democratic Party is now socialist enough that he is running for its presidential nomination. And judging by the huge, enthusiastic crowds at his rallies and his strong performance against the more-traditional frontrunner, it appears he was dead right about the Democrats’ socialist leanings.

While President Obama obtained office by covering up his radical past, Sanders has proudly embraced the fact that he is a democratic socialist. The most shocking part of this narrative is that America has changed so much in the past generation that Sanders is now the preferred candidate for office by almost half the Democratic Party.

By the end of April, almost 2 million people under age 30 had voted for Senator Sanders, nearly three times more than for any other candidate in either party. An Iowa caucus entrance poll found that Sanders received an overwhelming 84 percent of the vote from the millennial generation.

Though Sanders is unlikely to receive the Democratic Party nomination for president, his socialist ideology has taken root in the next generation of American voters. Unless something drastically changes, the future of the United States lies in the hands of a newmajority—one agitating for socialism over the free market.

Defining Socialism

Forty-three percent of Americans under age 30 now view socialism favorably, compared to only 32 percent who think well of capitalism. This is according to a national YouGov survey from last January.

In related news, only 16 percent of Millennials accurately defined socialism as government ownership of the means of production, according to a 2010 New York Times survey.

Stop and think about that. Socialism is more popular than capitalism among young Americans, but fewer than one in five of these Americans actually know what socialism is!

When respondents who viewed socialism favorably were asked to define socialism in their own words in a Reason-Rupe survey, they defined it with phrases such as “being kind” or “being together.” Others defined it as a system where “the government pays for our needs.” In short, when these Millennials hear socialism, they think free education, free health care and subsidized childcare.

Millennials love Sanders’s message about a political revolution that will break up the big banks, free students from oppressive student loans, and bring free health care to all. Yet most of them haven’t thought about and certainly cannot explain how to accomplish this. Sanders’s proposals would increase total federal spending by about 30 percent, a projected $68 trillion over the next decade. So far, his tax proposals only include increases for those who earn over $250,000 per year. His proposed budgets, as should be mathematically obvious, contain massive deficits.

Sooner or later, socialists have to accept the facts: If you want a Scandinavian-style welfare state, you get Scandinavian-level taxes. Denmark has a top marginal tax rate of 60 percent, and it applies to any income that is higher than 20 percent above the average. Translated to America, this means that all incomes over $60,000 would be taxed 60 percent.

Most Millennials don’t actually support tax hikes on the lower middle class, yet they haven’t done the math to determine how to pay for Sanders’s proposals. Eileen F. Toplansky, a social commentator and adjunct English instructor, recounts the example of an emotion-driven English student. The student heard Dr. Thomas Sowell’s explanation of how the minimum wage hurts the poor by driving up unemployment. She could not logically or statistically refute his argument; she could only sputter and yell that the current minimum wage was due to the “greed, greed, greed” of the companies. In another example, a reporter asked attendees at the Democratic National Convention if they would support a complete ban on all corporate profits. Many said yes.

This is anecdotal evidence, but it sure is piling up!

Failing Civics

As Americans prepare to choose their next president this November, a disturbing study from Xavier University finds that approximately one in three U.S. citizens would fail the civics portion of an immigration naturalization test.

Key findings from this study show that 85 percent of respondents could not define “rule of law.” Seventy-one percent couldn’t identify the Constitution as the “supreme law of the land.” Seventy-five percent did not know the function of the judicial branch, and 57 percent could not define “amendment.”

Another survey of recent college graduates in the U.S. found that 43 percent could not identify freedom of speech as a First Amendment right, and 10 percent thought television personality Judge Judy was on the Supreme Court.

Former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be” (emphasis added throughout).

A great number of Americans no longer seem to understand that the democratic socialist proposals of Bernie Sanders require more than just accepting tax increases. Such proposals require expanding the already behemoth federal bureaucracy in order to administer this massive expansion of the welfare state.

America’s gigantic federal bureaucracy is an unknown and unknowable mystery to average Americans. U.S. Constitution drafter and former U.S. President James Madison once wrote that the laws of the land must not be so voluminous and complex that the average citizen cannot know them. Yet that is exactly what America has today. The enormous executive branch and its myriad agencies already have the power to pass laws (as regulations), enforce them and even judge whether it was in their right. Yet for true socialists, this powerful administrative state is still not massive enough.

The Road to Authoritarianism

Socialists like Bernie Sanders rarely call for full-blown government ownership of the means of production. They call for policies that amount to government management of the means of production. Such policies calling for extensive federal intervention into local affairs stand in direct violation of the limits placed on federal power by the U.S. Constitution. Yet, when people express concern about the dangers of a centrally planned economy, Sanders tries to assuage such fears by saying, “The government, in a democratic society, is the people.”

Yet, America’s founders understood that an individual’s rights could be trampled by an out-of-control majority just as easily as by an autocratic dictator or king. That’s why former President Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers that unchecked democracies are “incompatible with personal security or the rights of property.” Without the checks and balances of a constitutional republic to limit federal power, a majority of people can simply vote to take away the rights of a minority. That’s why it has been said that the difference between democratic socialism and authoritarian socialism is the difference between a mob voting for the seizure of private property, and a dictator—elected by that mob—ordering the seizure of private property!

The election of Hugo Chávez as president of Venezuela in 1998 is a classic example of how democratic socialism leads to authoritarian socialism. Although Chávez came to power with the legitimate support of a majority of Venezuelans, he was able to reinvent himself as an authoritarian dictator once the levers of power were in his hands. When a nation isn’t grounded in the rule of law, it’s not hard for the fickle will of the majority to be subverted by the willpower of a dictatorial autocrat!

Ideological Subversion

The socialist supporters of Bernie Sanders are the ideological—in some cases literal—grandchildren of 1960s student radicals. Inspired by the writings of Communist philosophers like Antonio Gramsci and Herbert Marcuse, these student radicals of the New Left movement believed economic revolution had to be preceded by cultural revolution. While this radical movement definitely favored socialist economic reforms, its supporters focused more on matters of sex, gender and race than on who owns the means of production.

Gramsci theorized that the radical left never gained control of America and Western Europe as it did over czarist Russia because faith in God, family loyalties and lawful limits on government power were thoroughly represented in cultural institutions. He concluded that one must therefore capture the culture of a nation before he can capture the power of the state. By culture, Gramsci meant churches, unions, political parties, universities, educational centers and myriad other non-government institutions.

As the passions of the 1960s cooled, many Gramsci-inspired student radicals flooded into two professions in particular: community organizing and academia. As professors, they taught that the classic American narrative about individual liberty and constitutional checks and balances was a mask for the power of wealthy, white, European males. They touted alternative histories such as Howard Zinn’s Marxist-inspired textbook People’s History of the United States. As recently as 2006, a nationally representative survey of American professors revealed that roughly 18 percent of social scientists in American universities self-identified as Marxists!

Tragically, the first generation in American history that could afford mass higher education was taught that traditional American principles like personal responsibility, individual liberty, free markets and limited government were racist and elitist. They were taught that democratic socialism was the only way to create utopia on Earth.

Many people look at the generations educated in this ideology, sigh and say, “Kids will be kids.” They don’t realize that this state of American education and culture was an explicit socialist objective. And it has been achieved!

Utopian Dangers

Sanders’s popularity with young voters isn’t just some shallow fad. After four decades of socialist influence in America’s institutions of higher learning, Millennials are taking socialist ideas to heart.

“He’s not moving a party to the left. He’s moving a generation to the left,” Harvard University researcher Della Volpe said of Sanders. “Whether or not he’s winning or losing, it’s really that he’s impacting the way in which a generation—the largest generation in the history of America—thinks about politics.”

There is a great danger here. Remember, the line between democratic socialism and authoritarian socialism is thin. Most democratic socialist revolutions throughout history progress to authoritarianism. Many of those have become full-blown dictatorships!

Late Trumpet columnist Ron Fraser taught in his Herbert W. Armstrong College International Relations course that there are two broad theories of political thought: realism and utopianism. A realist accepts the biblical truth that human nature is basically evil, whereas a utopian believes that human nature is basically good.

America’s founders were realists. Recognizing that human nature is evil, they devised a system of checks and balances intended to limit the power possessed by any single branch of government.

The world’s socialist and Marxist movements are rooted in utopian thought. Generally speaking, they believe that 99 percent of humanity is basically good, but they are being restrained by a corrupt upper class. If the 99 percent can overthrow their oppressors, the reasoning goes, then out of their goodness, they can establish a government that will abolish poverty, racism, sexism and income inequality. To accomplish this, you do not need to limit government and maximize personal responsibility and freedom—you need to reduce personal responsibility and freedom, and empower government. You need an administrative state!

Millennials seem to view the current crop of Washington politicians as part of the corrupt upper class. They reason that things will be different if they can get a political outsider like Sanders into office—a man who can reform the bureaucratic apparatus of the U.S. government to be for the people.

What they don’t realize is that the young people who supported the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia or the Communist Revolution in Cuba thought the same way!

Dictators will always try to hijack governments—that is, until the day all human beings develop righteous character. And because that righteousness comes only from God, humanity is much better off having a constitutional system of checks and balances that prevents the concentration of power in the hands of the state.

No Freedom Without Law

The framers of the Constitution went to great lengths to ensure the power of the federal government was limited. They divided the federal government into legislative, executive and judicial branches, designing each branch to check the power of the others.

Legislators and presidents were still elected via democratic means, and the supreme law of the land was enshrined in the text of the Constitution.

In an article titled “No Law Without Order, No Freedom Without Law,” British historian Paul Johnson wrote, “[B]oth in Virginia and in New England to the north, the colonists were determined, God-fearing men, often in search of a religious toleration denied them at home, who brought their families and were anxious to farm and establish permanent settlements. They put political and religious freedom before riches …. Thus took shape the economic dynamo that eventually became the United States—an experiment designed to establish the rule of God on Earth …” (Sunday Telegraph, Dec. 26, 1999).

America’s founders authored a document to protect Americans from the extremes of human reason. To a great extent, the Constitution was based on God’s law. Tyrants, unjust judges, biased leaders and even the American people themselves were restrained from unlawful actions by the principles of this noble document.

“The Constitution is the foundation of our republic,” writes the Trumpet’s editor in chief Gerald Flurry in No Freedom Without Law. “And the Ten Commandments were, in many ways, the foundation of the Constitution. Our forefathers believed that if we didn’t keep God’s Ten Commandments, our republic would collapse! We can’t afford to take the words of our founders lightly, if we want to see our nation stand. It was much harder for our Founding Fathers to spill streams of blood winning our freedom, and to create and establish our constitutional law, than it is for us just to maintain it!”

It is easy to blame President Barack Obama or Sen. Bernie Sanders for America’s precipitous decline. Yet they are only able to fundamentally transform American society because the great majority of America’s people have stopped loving the Bible-based principles America was founded upon. The spirit of lawlessness that has taken hold in America can only end in the erosion of our freedoms.

Alexander the Great Was Prophesied in the Bible—and He Knew It!

From the July 2016 Trumpet Print Edition

The civilization-altering life of Alexander the Great is well known to most students of history. But there is one chapter of his saga that is as seldom discussed as it is fascinating: Alexander’s reign was predicted in the Old Testament long before he was born, and when he visited Jerusalem, the high priest showed him those Bible prophecies about his reign.

If you’re not familiar with this intriguing chapter of history, you may be astounded to learn how Alexander reacted to being told that those scriptures were written about him.

An Unusual Upbringing

Alexander was born in 356 b.c. in the city of Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia. His parents were Philip ii and Olympias of Epirus. From his father, Alexander learned the art and science of warfare, but historians agree that his mother was far more influential in his life. From her, Alexander inherited a profound love for learning, and also a fiery, sometimes ruthless nature.

(Listen to the The Sun Also Rises radio program on this topic)

During his early years, Alexander’s mother constantly told him that he was part god. Her family had long claimed to be descendants of Achilles the demigod. At one point she even told him that his true father was Zeus—the king of the Greek gods.

Of course, Achilles was a myth, Zeus was fiction, and Alexander was a mortal man like any other. But nonetheless, these teachings affected young Alexander.

He believed he was the descendant of Achilles. This prompted him to study everything he could about the mythological demigod, his supposed ancestor. In his adult years, Alexander even carried a copy of Homer’s Iliad, which chronicles Achilles’s conquests. He slept with the book under his pillow every night, and he carried it with him into every battle.

Another important detail of Alexander’s upbringing is that he was personally taught by the famous Aristotle. And among the subjects Aristotle taught him was the Hebrew language.

Campaigns of Conquest

In 336, Philip ii was assassinated. Alexander ascended the throne of Macedonia at the age of 20 and took command of the massive army his father had spent his life assembling and training.

Almost immediately, Alexander embarked on the great military crusade that his father had spent years preparing for: the conquest of the Persian Empire.

For several generations before Alexander, the Persians had dominated much of the known world—including some Greek cities. Many in Greece and Macedonia felt that it threatened the very existence of the Greek way of life.

After entering Asia Minor, Alexander first conquered the city of Baalbek, which he renamed Heliopolis. He then liberated Ephesus from Persian rule and defeated the Persian army’s main force at the Battle of Issus. Next he sacked the cities of Sidon and Aleppo, besieged Tyre and razed Gaza to the ground.

At 24 years old, Alexander was undefeated. His notional invincibility appeared to prove that his mother had always been right: Divine blood was coursing through his veins.

Around this time, Alexander set his sights on the city of Jerusalem.

Josephus, the Jewish historian who lived in the first century a.d., said that when Alexander was just about to enter Jerusalem, the Jewish high priest at that time, Jaddua, met him on the outskirts of the city. Jaddua led a procession of affluent residents of Jerusalem. They hoped to convince Alexander not to make Jerusalem the next city he destroyed. The sight gave Alexander pause. Josephus records that Alexander had had a dream of this high priest and took this as a sign from God. He entered the city peacefully.

Once inside, Jaddua brought Alexander to the temple and showed him passages from the book of Daniel.

‘This Ancient Prophecy Is About You!’

About 180 years before Alexander was born, the Prophet Daniel wrote his book, canonized in the Bible. Daniel 10:1 states that he wrote it in the third year of the reign of Cyrus the Great, which historians agree was around 535 b.c.

Jaddua would have showed Alexander such passages as Daniel 11:2-3, describing the Persian Empire pushing against Greece and eventually being conquered by a powerful Greek ruler: “Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia. And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will.”

Jaddua also likely showed Alexander the passages in Daniel 8 that give more details about this “mighty king” of Greece who would defeat the Persians. These passages truly are about Alexander the Great, and they were written around 200 years before his reign began!

You can imagine Alexander standing in the temple next to the priest. You can imagine him being shown an ancient scroll of Daniel’s words. Thanks to the education he had received from Aristotle, he could read the Hebrew Daniel had written. He needed no translation.

He had also been told by his mother his whole life that he was no ordinary man, but someone of divine blood and origin. This passage in Daniel, of course, did not say he was divine in any way. But Jaddua would have explained to Alexander that the book had the true God’s fingerprints all over it.

We can only speculate about what Alexander thought after reading for himself the words of God recorded by Daniel. But it may be that his mother’s words made him more open to believing that these ancient, holy Scriptures were about him. Or maybe he was just compelled by the clear language about a “mighty king” from Greece overthrowing the Persian Empire—especially since he had already made such stunning progress toward that end before his visit to Jerusalem.

Whatever the reasoning, Alexander the Great believed that he himself was the man being discussed in these passages. He believed that it was a true prophecy, and that he was in the process of fulfilling it!

Josephus wrote about Alexander’s reaction to Jaddua in Antiquities of the Jews: “And when the book of Daniel was showed him wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended. And as he was then glad, he dismissed the multitude for the present; but the next day he called them to him, and bid them ask what favors they pleased of him; whereupon the high priest desired that they might enjoy the laws of their forefathers, and might pay no tribute on the seventh year. He granted all they desired. And when they entreated him that he would permit the Jews in Babylon and Media to enjoy their own laws also, he willingly promised to do hereafter what they desired” (Book 11, Chap. 8, Sec. 5; William Whiston translation, 1981).

(Hecataeus of Abdera, a contemporary of Alexander, is also said to have written about Alexander’s visit to Jerusalem, but his writings on the topic did not survive into the modern era.)

Alexander had pillaged and plundered many cities, often renaming them and requiring them to adopt the Greco-Macedonian culture. But not so for the city of Jerusalem. Alexander not only believed the prophecies in Daniel were about himself, but because of that belief, he granted great favor to the Jews. He allowed them to keep their own laws and culture, and gave them a massive break from paying tribute.

This glimpse back into a seldom-discussed chapter of Alexander’s life shows how prophecy and history intersected in a dramatic way. It also adds a layer of authenticity to the biblical record.

Many scholars have tried to discredit Daniel’s writings because if he wrote his book when he said he did in the sixth century b.c., then the Bible would have to have been divinely inspired. The scholars who reject this argue that the book of Daniel was written after Alexander died. But Josephus was a meticulous and well-respected historian, thorough in his efforts to separate fiction from fact, and to only record the latter. His detailed record of Alexander reading the prophecies about himself by Daniel adds powerful support to the sixth century date Daniel gave to his book. It shows that, as Daniel wrote, “[T]here is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets”—and can bring them to pass!

Cross-train Your Brain

Cross-train Your Brain

Melissa Barreiro/Trumpet

From the July 2016 Trumpet Print Edition

Exercising benefits your body—that is obvious. But here’s something that isn’t. Recent studies confirm what scientists have believed for decades: Exercise also keeps your brain fit.

If you do not safeguard your brain, its overall physical structure can actually deteriorate with underusage and age. Shrinkage, death of nerve cells, and other factors contribute to annual reductions of as much as 0.5 to 1 percent of the cerebral cortex, the outermost layer of the brain.

Although a lot of this is said to be age-related, physiologists and neuroscientists have evidence showing that exercise seems to actually slow or reverse the brain’s physical decay. It has even been proved that exercise can contribute to neurogenesis—the creation of new brain cells. Just like with muscles or the heart, exercise also bulks up the brain!

The science is pretty solid. The benefits are exciting. But how many people are aware that fitness benefits your brain?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get at least 2½ hours of moderate cardio exercise and two muscle-strengthening workouts every week. Yet only 20 percent of adults meet the guidelines for both these exercises.

The fact that exercise is so beneficial to the brain suggests a correlation between our sedentary lifestyle and the rise in brain-related disease. Alzheimer’s disease, the most well-known form of cognitive impairment, currently affects over 5 million people in the United States, and the number is expected to continue rising. The Alzheimer’s Association reported that nearly 85,000 people died from this brain disease in 2013. Globally, one new case of dementia is detected every four seconds.

Exercise Your Brain Into Health

Your brain is capable of growing new cells throughout your lifetime. But you have to give it what it needs. In January 2011, Scientific American reported on research that says exercise is a cognitive superstar. The research states that exercise actually boosts the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

Specifically this happens because endurance exercise elevates a molecule in the brain called fndc5 and its by-product, irisin. This causes the molecule to cross the blood brain barrier, increasing the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (bdnf) and activating genes involved in cognition.

In plain English, exercise starts a chain reaction that improves brain health for all ages. In fact, new research from the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center and the University of Pittsburgh shows that virtually any type of physical activity can improve brain structure and reduce Alzheimer’s risk by a whopping 50 to 60 percent.

Evidence of cognitive gains produced by exercise is strong across a range of ages. The University of Illinois found that elementary schoolchildren exercising just 40 minutes a day scored an average IQ increase of 3.8 points. College students who worked out before class also benefited, improving test scores by 17 percent on average. People 50 years and older scored 20 percent higher on cognitive tests after a six-month workout regimen.

Increased job performance is also a benefit of better brain health. Employees who undertake regular exercise can boost overall workplace productivity by 15 percent, according to research by Leeds Metropolitan University. They are also less likely to call in sick, have better attendance and more focus while at work.

What Type of Exercise Is Best?

Researchers at the University of British Columbia rate aerobic exercise as best for brain health. For participants in their study, it took only 20 minutes of aerobic exercise to improve long-term memory. If you only exercise with weights, throw in an occasional run or bike ride to receive the best of both worlds: a healthier body and brain.

Interestingly, activities such as ballroom dancing that incorporate both physical and mental demands have the highest impact on cognitive function. This indicates that the best brain activities are those involving coordination, rhythm and strategy (BrainHQ.com). If that’s not your taste, vary your workout by incorporating circuits with speed, jumps and weights to gain these benefits by constantly redirecting your muscles’ attention.

The recent studies have focused on aerobic activities, so getting your heart rate up through brisk walking or jogging will definitely help your brain.

Your Brain Loves Balance

People tend to think that if a little is good, a lot must be better. But we should be careful. Justin Rhodes, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, found that bdnf concentrations can increase dramatically after excessive amounts of exercise, meaning their benefits can actually max out and backfire.

Good health comes about when we do the things the body requires in a balanced, consistent manner. Research shows that moderate amounts of endurance exercise is perfect to gain maximum brain benefits.

To prevent brain stagnation and deterioration, you need physical exercise, continual learning, and regular cognitive stimulation. So go ahead and exercise—not only to improve your body, but also as one of the most effective means for preserving and enhancing cognitive function at any age.

Jorg Mardian is a certified personal trainer.

China Is Steering the World Toward War

China Is Steering the World Toward War

Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative

Satellite imagery shows China taking over the South China Sea, as it is with other trade routes globally. Both history and biblical prophecy show why this is extremely dangerous.
From the July 2016 Trumpet Print Edition

Tensions are rising between China and America.

Ever since Xi Jinping took over as general secretary of the Communist Party of China, his administration has been militarizing the South China Sea and working to push the United States out of East Asia. In two island chains, the Paracels and the Spratlys, China is building a series of man-made islands, 800 miles from China’s shore. These islands are being installed with antiaircraft batteries and fighter jets are stationed on them.

The Spratly Islands are claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. China is ignoring these nations’ territorial claims. China is being aggressive and provocative.

These militarized islands now function as forward bases for Beijing to challenge seven decades of American naval dominance in the Pacific Rim. This should alarm the world!

Each year, $5.3 trillion of trade passes through the South China Sea. That is roughly one third of the world’s maritime commerce! Since Japan’s defeat in World War ii, America has protected this vital trade route and brought peace to this part of the world. Now the American military is retreating, and other great powers are coming in to fill the vacuum. This is going to dramatically affect trade around the world, and U.S. trade especially.

A trade war often precedes a shooting war. That is what happened just before World War ii—especially so in Asia.

Since before the Korean War, China has had a strategy to establish a security buffer extending far from its coast and engulfing the entire South China Sea. Its current military buildup in the Paracels and the Spratlys is bringing China closer to realizing this strategy.

“China wants a bathtub,” said Marc Lanteigne, a senior research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. “China wants waters that are theirs, that they can operate military and police vessels in, without having to worry about the presence of the U.S. or the Philippines or Vietnamese or Indian naval forces.”

China is intimidating the nations of Southeast Asia into submission to its will. It is forcing these countries to do what it wants.

Everything is headed in the direction of war.

Seizing Sea Gates

What is happening today is very much like what happened in Southeast Asia in the 1940s under Imperial Japan. Emperor Hirohito and Prime Minister Hideki Tojo tried to draw the nations of Southeast Asia into a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere so they could force Western influence out of Asia.

Between 1930 and 1941, Japan established a shadow empire of economic alliances and intelligence networks across Southeast Asia. This shadow empire was to be the foundation of Tokyo’s planned Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. Japan’s next move was the establishment of an actual Asian empire—using military force!

Once World War ii started, the Japanese empire claimed the entire South China Sea and built military bases in some of the very same archipelagos China is militarizing today. A Japanese submarine base on the isle of Itu Aba, in the Spratly Islands, served as a staging base for Japanese invasions of the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and Malaya (now part of Malaysia). This base was instrumental in Japan’s strategy to cut off Allied shipping in the region.

The Allied victory over Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War ii was greatly aided by the fact that they controlled the world’s most strategic sea gates, like Panama, Gibraltar and Singapore. In the decades since, however, China and the European Union have come to possess most of the world’s sea gates.

Time will prove that this is a deadly dangerous change!

Before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the only thing standing between Japan and complete domination of Southeast Asia was the United Kingdom. The British completed building the massive Sembawang Naval Base in Singapore in 1939. This base was meant to serve as a staging ground for the defense of India and the strategic Strait of Malacca in the event of a Japanese invasion.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called Singapore the “Gibraltar of the East.” It was supposed to be an impregnable fortress used to keep the peace in East Asia.

Two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were able to conquer Singapore.

This marked the start of a period of near-apocalyptic violence in Southeast Asia. Many historians consider the fall of Singapore as the beginning of the end of the British Empire. The Japanese empire was eventually defeated by the United States, but Britain’s influence in the region was greatly diminished. America gradually assumed the mantle of the British Empire by taking control of the vital trade routes passing through Southeast Asia.

In 1965 when Singapore withdrew from the British-backed Malaysian Federation to declare independence, Britain voluntarily gave up the Sembawang naval base for good. Now China is reaching out to Singapore, trying to cement control of the strait.

Britain actually gave the South China Sea prize of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China in 1997. Now that U.S. military presence in the area has been drastically reduced, China is claiming the entire South China Sea as its own!

By building artificial islands atop coral reefs in the Spratlys, and installing surface-to-air missile batteries in the Paracels, China is building a new strategic sea gate. After passing through the Strait of Malacca, oil tankers and other ships pass between the Spratly and Paracel Islands on the way through the South China Sea.

Whoever controls these vital sea gates controls one third of the world’s maritime commerce.

What Prophecy Foretells

To really understand the significance of what is happening, you must understand the prophecies of the Bible.

God delivered a sobering warning to the nation of Israel in Deuteronomy 28. If the people disobeyed Him and turned to sin, He would give the strategic sea gates of the world over to their enemies. These enemies would use these sea gates to besiege and enslave biblical Israel: “And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trusted, throughout all thy land: and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all thy land, which the Lord thy God hath given thee” (verse 52).

This warning is not just for an ancient nation. It is a prophecy for the modern-day descendants of Israel! Two nations in particular represent Israel in this end time: America and Britain. Don’t believe me—you need to prove this truth for yourself. We will be happy to send you a free copy of Herbert W. Armstrong’s book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, which contains abundant proof.

These nations are full of terrible sins today, and God is going to correct them for that! This prophecy and several others show that He will send foreign enemies to punish America and Britain!

You can already see this prophecy moving toward its fulfillment: The European Union is moving into South America, making trade agreements that are taking business away from the United States. Russia and China are militarizing the most important trade routes traversing the Asian continent.

This prophecy is being fulfilled before our eyes! America’s enemies are securing shipping lanes and creating economic alliances that will very soon enable them to choke off America’s supply lines. Soon America will find it impossible to import oil and other necessities.

Britain and the Jews in the Mideast will suffer a similar fate.

Start of Great Tribulation

Bible prophecy describes a time of “great tribulation”—an end-time period of suffering on a scale never experienced in human history (Matthew 24:21; Daniel 12:1). Many other scriptures show that the nations devastated the most will be America, Britain and the Jewish state of Israel.

In the past, we believed this Tribulation would begin when these three nations were attacked militarily. Ezekiel 4, however, describes the Tribulation as beginning with an economic siege against these nations.

Notice the specifics: “Thou also, son of man, take thee a tile, and lay it before thee, and pourtray [or engrave] upon it the city, even Jerusalem: And lay siege against it, and build a fort against it, and cast a mount against it; set the camp also against it, and set battering rams against it round about. Moreover take thou unto thee an iron pan, and set it for a wall of iron between thee and the city: and set thy face against it, and it shall be besieged, and thou shalt lay siege against it. This shall be a sign to the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 4:1-3).

The “house of Israel” primarily refers not to the Jews, but to the modern descendants of Israel, specifically the United States and Britain. Here is pictured a siege against the house of Israel. It is a prophecy that one third of these nations will be destroyed economically and socially by a siege! Other prophecies show that this siege will cause an economic cataclysm that will develop into race wars and fighting for food and survival!

A ‘Mart of Nations’

Isaiah 23 discusses a powerful “mart of nations” that includes both European and Asian nations, including Russia, China and Japan (sidebar: “The Great ‘Mart of Nations’”).

Events are moving toward the fulfillment of this prophecy. In recent years, the European Union’s economic powerhouse overtook the U.S. and Japan to become China’s biggest trading partner. China and Europe have undertaken many joint ventures in recent years, including a 2015 landmark deal between Germany’s largest exchange and China’s Foreign Exchange Trade System, which is significantly strengthening financial links between the two sides.

A top German banker, Folker Hellmeyer, chief economist at Bremer Landesbank, predicts that the Moscow-Beijing economic axis will prevail against the United States. He also warns that economic damage for Germany and the European Union will be significant if they continue to follow U.S. policy in opposition to the brics alliance (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Germany has already joined the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Financial analysts like Jim Willie are warning that Germany may already be planning to ditch the dollar and join the brics nations!

The relationship we see developing between the “king of the north” and the “kings of the east” is exactly what Isaiah prophesied over 2,700 years ago!

Think about the role that this alliance will likely play in the economic besiegement of America.

Herbert W. Armstrong long prophesied that the alliance between Europe and South America will grow extremely strong. The most significant factors that will cement this connection are religion and language: Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion of Latin America; and after Chinese and English, Spanish is the next-most spoken language in the world. But it will not be a union of equals: The Latin American countries will become vassal states of Europe!

With a German-led Europe (referred to in prophecy as “the king of the north”) possessing great maritime power, North America will be flanked on the east by Europe and on the south by Latin America.

The Bible contains many prophecies of that European power attacking America. This is where China and the other giants of Asia enter the picture. Considering that China now possesses most of the world’s strategic sea gates (at one time held by Britain and America), the German-led Holy Roman Empire will need to form a brief alliance with the Asian powers identified in Isaiah 23 (Russia, China, Japan—the “kings of the east”).

If Europe finds a way to take advantage of key resources and strategic holdings of China, Russia and Japan—even for a short period—then it would have more than enough power to besiege the Anglo-Saxon nations.

This is why China’s moves to militarize the South China Sea should be so concerning.

The United States and Britain are going to be left out in the cold as two gigantic trade blocs, Europe and Asia, mesh together and begin calling the shots in world commerce. These nations of Israel are going to be literally besiegedeconomically frozen out of world trade!

This is all building toward the Great Tribulation siege that Ezekiel prophesied. It will usher in the crisis of crisesthe worst ever on Earth! (Please request my book Ezekiel: The End-Time Prophet. I am just finishing a significant update of this book that includes the information in this article. It contains a lot more never-before-printed material about the prophecies you are reading here.)

God thunders to Britain and America, “I am against you” (Ezekiel 13:8). These are the most terrifying words a nation could hear!

Time is extremely short. Do we dare scoff at the living God?

God promises to correct these nations for their disobedience—because they have given Him no alternative. “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11).

Will we repent of our sins so America and Britain won’t die? Or is it already too late? (Request a free copy of my booklet Lamentations: The Point of No Return for more on this subject.) We have been proclaiming this warning message for over 70 years!

A Way of Escape

In the lead-up to World War ii, it was easy for America to dismiss Germany’s domination over Europe and Japan’s domination over Asia as faraway problems that didn’t concern them. Yet when war broke out, the whole world was plunged into the worst period of violence it had ever experienced up to that time.

Yet according to biblical prophecy, World War ii was only a dress rehearsal for the Great Tribulation!

This really is heavy prophecy, and it is not an easy message to deliver. Mankind refuses to listen to God, choosing instead to do things its own way. The end result is famine, pestilence and war. It is the responsibility of God’s watchman, with the help of a group of supporters, to deliver this message!

Ezekiel writes that one third of the people in end-time Israel will die in the siege and another third in the military invasion. What will happen to the last third? They will be taken as slaves to a foreign land! The time just ahead of us truly will be one of terrors too horrific to even imagine!

Yet, Ezekiel also writes about a small group of people who will be protected.

“Thou shalt also take thereof a few in number, and bind them in thy skirts” (Ezekiel 5:3). Here is a little group of people that is bound “in thy skirts,” where God protects them in a place of safety from the siege, the attack and the scattering mentioned in verse 2. This is the Church of God that delivered this prophecy and did His work. Only God can protect His people from all that horror! And you can stake your life on the fact that He will do it!

God says three times in Ezekiel 2:6, Be not afraid! Don’t be afraid! Be not afraid! The people of America, Britain and Judah should be very afraid if they refuse to repent. But God tells those who are doing His work that they must not give in to fear. There are reasons why people fear to deliver that message, but God commands us to do it! He promises to give us all the power we need—and to reward us for obeying Him no matter what happens!

Ezekiel had a difficult job, but he wasn’t depressed. He had a work to do and was happy God gave him—a mere slave—that job.

All this prophesied destruction is what it will take for God to reach this world! After this, people will be ashamed—and they will get to know God! Ezekiel repeatedly talked about that inspiring conclusion (e.g. Ezekiel 6:7; 7:4; 11:10; 12:20; 13:9; 23:48-49, etc.). Yes, there is a lot of bad news when you consider what it takes to get people to the point of knowing God. But ultimately, the outcome is spectacularly good news!

Is God a Socialist?

Is God a Socialist?

Gary Dorning/Trumpet

What the Bible says might surprise you.
From the July 2016 Trumpet Print Edition

The 2008 Great Recession changed the world in ways we are only just beginning to understand. Perhaps one of the most underappreciated is the discrediting of limited government and free markets. With the foundations of capitalism shaken, many people are trying to understand what went wrong—and wondering if socialism is the answer. Some even claim it is what the Bible teaches.

For many people, achieving a moral economy means raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy to make sure they pay their “fair share.” To students and supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, it means student loan forgiveness, free college and free national health care.

To the hundreds of homeless people who turned out to hear Pope Francis speak at the Archdiocese of Washington’s Catholic Charities offices, it meant free houses. “The Son of God came into this world as a homeless person. The Son of God knew what it was to start life without a roof over his head,” the pope said. There is “no social or moral justification, … whatsoever, for lack of housing.”

But for most, the common feeling is that the system is broken and that the power of the government is needed to redistribute the wealth from those who have it to those who don’t.

Unfettered capitalism is the “dung of the devil,” says Pope Francis. Working for economic justice, however, is a Christian “commandment.” It is the moral and fair thing to do.

Is he right?

Socialism in the Bible?

Is socialism really the biblical system? Socialists point to several scriptures.

“He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none …” (Luke 3:11). And 1 John 3:17 says, “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”

Some people conclude from these verses that the Bible supports government-enforced wealth redistribution. But what these verses really show is that the Bible advocates generosity. These are two very different concepts.

Generosity springs from free will. The motivation to give and share originates in compassion, as 1 John 3:17 indicates—but there is choice involved. With socialism, it is the opposite. Redistribution of wealth is always by force of government. The government simply uses its overwhelming power to take what it thinks is “fair” from the “givers.”

God has created laws that govern human action and that work automatically, like the laws of physics. A principle of the Bible is that there are blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. God is not forcing people to obey His law. Blessings are the natural result of obeying His laws and principles. Generosity and sharing with those in need are biblical commands. Yet under God’s system—aside from tithes, which we will look at shortly—it is up to the giver to decide to give and how much he or she can afford to give, and, in many cases, whether he or she will give at all! God allows free choice. In fact, free will is essential to true Christianity.

Had God wanted to create robots that flawlessly keep His law, He could have. If He wanted to use the overwhelming force of government to impose His will on people, He could have. But God is concerned about people developing character, and this only happens through free choice.

Perhaps the single most commonly cited “proof” that socialism is biblical is the claim that the early New Testament Church was socialistic or even communistic. Acts 2:44-45 read, “The believers all kept together; they shared all they had with one another, they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds among all, as anyone might be in need” (Moffatt translation). The phrase “they shared all they had” or “had all things common,” as it reads in the King James Version, supposedly proves that these people sold all their earthly possessions and put the money into one pot, and everyone took what they needed. But consider what this verse actually says and what was actually happening in Jerusalem at that time.

The preceding verses in Acts show that the time setting is the annual festival of Pentecost. On this day, thousands of Jews from all over the world were gathered in Jerusalem. This was an exciting event, the start of the New Testament Church. It was the day the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples. Three thousand people were baptized and converted that day.

Most of these Christians were Jews who lived in places scattered all over Judea and Asia. In their excitement of finding God’s truth, conversing with God’s apostles and people of like mind, many remained in Jerusalem longer than they had planned and ran short of food and money. As Herbert W. Armstrong explained, “Consequently, of necessity, they formed a sort of community for the time being only. And, whenever some in poorer circumstances had need because of these unexpected conditions, others in better circumstances would from time to time sell part of their goods or land and share with the less fortunate” (Plain Truth, January-February 1949).

These people were not socialists or Communists. But they were generous, giving and compassionate! Many of the local Church members sold their property as needed to help fellow brothers meet their expenses in Jerusalem during this exciting time in Church history and to help those who had been ostracized and cut off from the synagogues and their means of employment by the Jews of the day (John 9:22; 12:42).

These Church members who generously stepped in to fulfill a need were able to do it because they were wealthy property owners. “They did not all sell everything they owned at once, but they sold property only when, or ‘as anyone might be in need.’ … But an absolute community of goods never was practiced by the Church at Jerusalem or any other Christian church” (ibid).

The Fenton translation says, “[N]o one who possessed property claimed it as exclusively his own: but it was for the use of all. … For some who were possessors of lands and houses sold them; and bringing the price of the sales, and presenting the same at the feet of the apostles, a distribution was made to each according to his need” (Acts 4:32, 35).

Not all sold their property. Only some of the property owners sold their possessions. “This selling of property was wholly voluntary,” wrote Mr. Armstrong. Later on, the Apostle Peter said to Ananias, “was the money not yours to do as you pleased about it?” (Acts 5:4; Moffatt). Some of the members had more assets than others from their occupations. “Here was private enterprise and private initiative and private ownership,” noted Mr. Armstrong.

So in reality, the account in Acts 2 actually proves that the Church did not practice socialism, which is a theory that advocates that the means of production, distribution and exchange should be owned or regulated by the government or community as a whole.

The last major argument claiming that the Bible advocates socialism usually revolves around tithing.

The Bible described three types of tithes in ancient Israel. The first tithe (10 percent of a person’s increase) was paid to God and used by the priests and Levites. After the founding of the New Testament Church, this tithe was used by the Church for proclaiming the gospel (Hebrews 7). The second tithe was to be saved and kept by individuals so they would have money to attend the Feast of Tabernacles.

But the Bible also talks about a third tithe, and this third tithe does play an important role as a welfare program!

But consider how different God’s welfare system is compared to socialist welfare.

God’s Welfare System

First, this tithe—10 percent of any increase—was collected twice in a seven-year cycle, in the third and sixth years. This works out to less than 4 percent of a person’s yearly income, and less than 4 percent of the national income—a tiny fraction of what is spent on bloated welfare programs today. It was also an unchangeable, set percentage and was not subject to the whims of government bureaucrats arbitrarily deciding who should pay and how much their “fair share” should be. The wealthy paid the same percentage as the less advantaged.

More importantly, notice what the money was spent on. “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied …” (Deuteronomy 14:28‑29; New King James Version).

Third tithe is not for the poor! It is for specific individuals who could not provide for themselves because of specific circumstances. This “welfare” was for the Levites, because they did not own any land; for foreigners who temporarily needed aid while in the nation; for the fatherless, who were too young to provide for themselves and did not have family to take care of them; and for widows who likewise were too old to work or had no family to support them.

The third tithe was not given to able-bodied men and women who were capable of working. For able-bodied people, God’s welfare system is—work. How different from modern social welfare programs!

In fact, the Bible is clear that people should be rewarded by what they contribute to society.

Rewarding Increase

In the parable of the talents, for example, the unfaithful servant who did not add to the money he was given had his talent taken away from him, and it was given to the servant who had gained the most. The ruler did not say, You are poor, so you may keep the money you failed to put to good use. This poor servant had the least money of all. Wouldn’t letting him keep some have been the morally compassionate thing to do? At the very least, wouldn’t it have been fairer to give his talent to the servant who had only four talents? (Matthew 25:14-30). In this biblical instance, wealth was actually redistributed to the wealthier servant.

The Bible is specific about what God expects of able-bodied members of society. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul said, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (nkjv). This was a principle he took seriously. Paul commanded people to follow his example in how he worked Sunday through Friday to earn a living (as a tentmaker, Acts 18:1-4). In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul describes how he did not take tithes from the brethren to live on even though it was within his right, and instead worked to support himself so as not to put any spiritual stumbling blocks in front of new converts.

The Bible is filled with many such admonitions to work and provide for your family. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8).

Yet God understood that even with hard work, people sometimes make bad decisions; in addition, as King Solomon said, “time and chance happeneth to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Circumstances do bring people to poverty sometimes. Consider some other economic principles God outlined in order to address this fact of life.

God instructed that arable land be divided up among families and, if sold, returned to the original family at the end of 50 years (Leviticus 25). Think of how far this would go to reduce generational poverty. No government-sanctioned theft (wealth redistribution) here. Just transactions governed by clearly understood law.

Every seventh year, all consumer debts are to be abolished (Deuteronomy 15:1-2). Today, debt is one of the primary causes of bankruptcy and entrenched poverty.

In God’s system, all loans are to be non-interest bearing (Leviticus 25:36‑37). Lending is a voluntary action to help people, and is to be done knowing that God promises to bless that action. No longer can people get rich due to others’ debt servitude.

Ungleaned fields are left for the poor (Leviticus 19:10). Wealthy people are not to harvest every last bit of their crops—and poor people are required to work to collect their food.

A Better Way

Think about how these laws, including the third tithe, would work to naturally keep the more vile tendencies of human nature in check and at the same time preserve private incentive. No need for government-enforced wealth redistribution. No need for bureaucrats to decide how much wealth is one’s “fair share.”

But even as the Bible does not advocate socialism, it does not advocate the type of crony capitalism practiced by America today either. In fact, it explicitly condemns it.

1 Timothy 5:18 says, “The labourer is worthy of his reward.” How many of today’s social problems result from employers trying to exploit their workers? Although unions today do not work for the interest of their members as much as they do for the best interests of union leaders and politicians, the existence of unions arose from gluttonous business leaders in the past imposing excessively poor working conditions.

Looking at America today, far too often you see selfish, greedy men of excessive vanity, ambitious in their lust for power, scheming to get their hands on the throttle of power for personal aggrandizement and monetary gain. Such greedy businessmen actually want the government involved in the economy—to write advantages for them into law. You find graft, immorality, deception and dishonesty running rampant in virtually all high places, including the halls of government.

No wonder so many people are looking at a radical new economic system.

But here is the key. These evils are common to all systems—Communist, socialist or capitalist.

Evils are endemic to all economic systems because human nature is evil. Those people hoping socialism will solve economic ills will be sadly disappointed.

Economic breakdown is a result of moral breakdown—the Bible is clear on that! Only by turning to the God of the Bible and by obeying His laws will nations and people truly begin to prosper again.