“Whatever It Takes”

America’s president pledged “everything we’ve got” to solve the Gulf oil crisis. It’s the ninth emergency he’s addressed that way since coming to office! Why are the nation’s problems piling up so quickly?
From the August 2010 Trumpet Print Edition

Bad timing. On June 15, just hours before President Barack Obama addressed the American people about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, one of BP’s tankers was struck by lightning and had to temporarily suspend its siphoning operations.

It was yet another setback for a cleanup effort that has been almost as disastrous as the spill itself. “From the beginning,” the New York Times wrote, “the effort has been bedeviled by a lack of preparation, organization, urgency and clear lines of authority among federal, state and local officials, as well as BP” (June 14).

This is the worst environmental disaster ever to strike the United States of America. Experts now say the gushing leak is spewing 2.5 million gallons of oil per day into the Gulf. It’s like having an Exxon Valdez spill every four days. And this has been going on for months.

“Everything We’ve Got”

In his national address, President Obama declared war on the disaster. First, he compared the Deepwater Horizon explosion to 9/11. Then, during his Oval Office speech, he unveiled his “battle plan” aimed at the oil he said is “assaulting” America. This is something “we will be fighting for months and even years,” the president said.

In order to win this war, he’s appointed a Nobel Prize-winning physicist to head up a team of engineers working to plug the hole. He has 30,000 people working in four states to help clean up the mess. And he’s deployed 17,000 National Guard members along the coast.

“We will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long as it takes,” the president said.

Whatever it takes—no matter the cost. By now, that exhausted phrase must have its own function key on the president’s keyboard. Just 18 months into office, President Obama has already promised to do whatever it takes to revive the economy, send Americans back to work, stem the tide of foreclosures, help small businesses survive the recession, eliminate the threat of piracy off the coast of Somalia, stop the spread of swine flu, defeat al Qaeda and rebuild Haiti.

America keeps pledging everything it has, and the disasters keep right on coming—and intensifying.

Consider this statement, from President Obama: “We’re moving forward with one of the largest relief efforts in our history—to save lives and to deliver relief that averts an even larger catastrophe” (emphasis ours).

What does it say about the state of America today when, at first glance, you can’t tell if a statement like that refers to the oil spill or an earthquake that happened just five months before? (It’s the latter.)

Two thirds of Americans know full well that their nation is headed in the wrong direction, according to a Rasmussen Reports survey taken in June. They sense that something has gone terribly wrong.

Talk about a mess that isn’t being cleaned up! America’s shores are being assaulted—and not only by toxic waters. Americans are being pounded by waves of unprecedented curses. And the Bible says they will increase and intensify. “[A]ll these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee,” God says in Deuteronomy 28:15, before outlining all manner of economic, weather, military and social disasters.

Overtaken by curses. But why?

The answer is found in America’s astonishing history—specifically Louisiana’s.

The Greatest Real-Estate Deal Ever

Go back to 1803. Napoleon is in dire need of money to fund his conquest of Europe. So desperate is he for funds that he offers an incredible take-it-or-leave-it offer to sell New Orleans and the Louisiana territory for $15 million to the United States.

For the fledgling States, it was an opportunity of a lifetime. On a global level, the deal was one of the most important inflection points in world history.

Herbert W. Armstrong once said the Louisiana Purchase was the seminal event enabling the U.S. to suddenly rise from its status as a small nation of little geopolitical influence to that of the greatest single nation in history. “By 1804 London had become the financial hub of the world. The United States had exploded out of its swaddling clothes of the 13 original states and had acquired the expansive Louisiana Purchase. It was fast sprouting up to become the mightiest nation of all time” (The United States and Britain in Prophecy). At just 3 cents an acre, the Louisiana Purchase was probably the greatest real-estate deal ever. Thomas Jefferson called it “a transaction replete with blessings to unborn millions of men.” Henry Adams also wrote that this purchase was “an event so portentous as to defy measurement.”

With the stroke of a quill, America—small and relatively unproven in affairs of state—nearly doubled in size overnight. The Louisiana Purchase removed a competitor and potential enemy from America’s unprotected borders, and simultaneously opened up the great river superhighways to American farmers, explorers and nation builders. It set the country on course to becoming the greatest single nation ever to exist.

The vast bulk of the nation’s road, rail and goods distribution infrastructure, the veins and arteries of commerce, are all geared to one major clearing point—New Orleans—located on the southern end of the mighty Mississippi River.

Today, New Orleans houses the largest port complex in the U.S. (and the Western Hemisphere). It is the entrance and exit to a river network that stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada. For 200 years, it has been the aorta of America’s economy.

Thus in 1803, America took its first of many rapid steps toward superpower status.

No nation in the world even comes close to rivaling the blessings America has enjoyed—whether agricultural, geographic, military or economic.

How is it that such a small, largely insignificant nation—surrounded by superpowers like Great Britain, France, Russia and Spain—so quickly grew to surpass them all?

It is a question that puzzles many scholars because there is hardly a precedent for it.

Yet to those who know their Bible, there is a clear explanation as to why America (and Great Britain before it) so quickly became a global superpower—and why it is so rapidly losing that power today.

America’s prowess is a direct result of promises God made close to 4,000 years ago and recorded in Scripture.

He Never Breaks a Promise

In the book of Genesis, God promised the patriarch Abraham that his descendants would receive untold blessings of national greatness and globe-encircling empire. These promises were never fulfilled in ancient Israel.

By 721 to 718 b.c., the 10 northern tribes of ancient Israel were conquered by the Assyrians and carted away into captivity, from where they began migrating into northern Europe. Yet long before the national captivity, through the Prophet Moses, God told the Israelites that unless they remained obedient, He would allow their captivity and punishment for a 2,520-year duration before conferring upon them the blessings of global greatness He had promised to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (For more information on this prophecy, and proof that it specifically concerns the U.S., read our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, especially Chapter 10.)

If you do the math, counting 2,520 years from 718 b.c. (remember to add a year because there is no year zero) brings you to exactly 1803—and the Louisiana Purchase.

God’s promises cannot be broken.

Yet God did not promise to keep America a superpower forever. In fact, He specifically warns in His Word that disobedience will always result in curses.

It is these curses that America is experiencing today.

God has fulfilled His end of His promise to Abraham. National greatness began with Louisiana. But due to America’s disobedience to His law, national greatness is now ending there too.

Whatever It Takes

But why, exactly, does God send curses? How could a God of love permit disasters to persist and to spread like the oil slick in the Gulf?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your waysmy ways, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). Unfortunately, man has chosen to go his own way. And for that, we are simply reaping what we sow!

God allows it because in order for Him to reproduce His own holy, righteous character in us, we must voluntarilychoose to follow His ways—to submit to His laws. He will not force us to follow His ways. Think of the howling protests there would be if God actually did force man to accept His laws and go the way that would automatically result in blessings of peaceful coexistence with God and with fellow man, of joyful abundance and contented wellbeing.

Deuteronomy 30 says we must choose the way of blessings or curses. If we choose to reject God’s laws and go the way of curses, God always sends a warning in love, to plead with man to wake up and to consider his ways and repent (Haggai 1:5-7). If we ignore the warning, then God pleads with man in the form of ever increasing, intensifying curses.

What we are experiencing now is the outer edge of a violent storm that will soon engulf the entire world—called the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21-22). Even that—as horrific and widespread as the suffering will be—is God’s last-ditch effort to warn man of the error of his ways.

As Mr. Armstrong wrote in The United States and Britain in Prophecy, “God is going to keep multiplying chastening—correction—upon our peoples until they do turn from their evil ways—until they turn to the ways that cause peace, happiness, prosperity, all the good things!”

He won’t force us, but He will do whatever it takes for us to turn to Him in humble submission and obedience.

The President, the Black Panthers, and the Coming Racial Explosion

Truth is trampled in the street and judgment is turned around backward.
From the September 2010 Trumpet Print Edition

Nothing inflames anger like perceived or real injustice. Throw in the tinder of a deteriorating economy in which millions of people are losing their homes and their jobs, and the situation can become extremely ignitable.

This was the firebox that the city of Oakland found itself in on July 8. Around 2:30 p.m., word leaked that the verdict in the Johannes Mehserle murder trial would be read at 4 p.m. The news set off a mass exodus of residents—just short of a panic.

Community organizers and other activists had been out in full force, agitating and instigating. “We are outraged,” said the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Residents knew what was coming. They flooded the downtown streets trying to get out of the city center. Trains were jammed; the interstates filled up. At the Federal Building, loudspeakers warned workers to head home. Companies sent out internal e-mails advising the same.

Some businesses had already taken the precaution of boarding up windows. The sign on one store read: “Do not destroy. Black owned. Black owned.” Fortunately for the owners, it was spared.

After the jury verdict was read—convicting white police officer Johannes Mehserle of involuntary manslaughter and not second-degree murder—sporadic rioting broke out, just as predicted, and despite pleas from the black victim’s family for people to maintain calm. By the evening hours, police had lost control of the angry protesters. Barricades were breached, and a mob of around 200 sought justice by looting jewelry and clothing stores, damaging property, setting fires and spray painting messages on buildings. Early reports said that up to 100 people were arrested.

It was clear that many non-white people feel the justice system is racially biased against them—that black people cannot get justice—that the law does not protect them.

Racially Motivated Appointments?

This is a view that President Obama became intimately familiar with from his time as a community organizer in Chicago, and from his close association with racially charged preacher Jeremiah Wright. And it seems he is trying to fix it.

He began by nominating Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Sotomayor controversially believes that when determining what a crime is, and the penalty for it, a judge should take into consideration the race and cultural background of the offender. She became famous for her remark: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Unfortunately, President Obama’s fix will only make matters worse.

Following the Mehserle verdict, the U.S. Justice Department, under Attorney General Eric Holder, said it will review the case to see if it can find a way to prosecute Johannes Mehserle under federal jurisdiction for civil rights violations. Holder is America’s first black attorney general, and was also appointed by President Obama. Holder’s decision to investigate the case normally might not have drawn much scrutiny, except for the fact that he, like President Obama, has been very vocal about America’s racial problems.

In a speech commemorating Black History Month, he said America was a nation of “cowards” when it came to race problems—and that essentially the majority of Americans were mild racists. “I think we have an obligation. We have to continue the fight of all the people who I mentioned in my speech [non-whites] to really kind of ultimately get this nation to the place where I think it can and should be.”

Holder’s Justice Department is currently under scrutiny for another high-profile race-based case—and for its purported belief/policy that racism is almost exclusively a white people’s problem.

Black Panthers

In early July, Justice Department whistle-blower J. Christian Adams leveled accusations that Obama officials, including Holder, believe “civil rights law should not be enforced in a race-neutral manner and should never be enforced against blacks or other national minorities.”

As one example, Adams cited a Justice Department decision to drop a case against the black supremacist hate group, the New Black Panther Party. This is the group whose leader believes if “you want freedom, you gonna have to kill some crackers. You gonna have to kill some of their babies.” For our readers unfamiliar with this racial slur, “crackers” is a pejorative for white people.

In the case in question, New Black Panther Party members were videotaped intimidating voters during the 2008 U.S. presidential election. One member dressed in military garb waved a metal rod around while shouting profanities and racial slurs at voters, causing some to leave.

When career Justice Department prosecutors brought the case to civil court, the New Black Panther Party didn’t even show up to contest the charges, and the judge found in favor of the prosecution. Then for an undisclosed reason, the Holder Justice Department decided not to pursue an injunction that would bar the New Black Panther Party from voting stations, but to instead just bar the specific New Black Panther member from any polling stations in Philadelphia until 2012.

Just prior to the election, the Philadelphia chapter New Black Panther leader told the Philadelphia Daily News, “I’m about the total destruction of white people. I’m about the total liberation of black people. I hate white people. I hate my enemy …. The only thing the cracker understands is violence. … The only thing the cracker understands is gunpowder. You got to take violence to violence.”

If what whistle-blower Adams charges is true, “lawlessness” runs rampant throughout the Justice Department—and the hierarchy refuses to use the law to protect all races against racism, even when racism is blatant. The unofficial—and possibly now the official—policy is to only pursue cases in which the victims are minorities. Government attorneys have been instructed to ignore cases that involve black defendants and white victims, Adams told a Senate panel. It is reverse racism at its worst.

Most recently, Eric Holder began floating the possibility of leveling a racial profiling suit against Arizona.

Even some black leaders have spoken out against the Justice Department’s actions. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder and president of bond Action, noted that any racism is wrong. “It wasn’t good when it happened to black people in the past way back when, and it’s not good to happen to white Americans today,” he says. “I just hope white Americans really wake up and realize that they are under attack because of their color.” Peterson says the actions of Eric Holder and Barack Obama are only empowering the New Black Panther Party and others like it.

“It seems that there’s a double standard; there’s reverse racism going on,” says Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church.

Now, some Republican politicians are using the issue for political purposes—not to help fix a problem, but purely to discredit President Obama. The Justice Department is making matters worse by stonewalling subpoenas issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, raising questions about a cover-up. Political polarization is quickly sparking racial tension.

America’s leaders are groping around like blind men in the dark.

The reality, however, is that the sun is out and getting hotter, America’s leaders are playing games with magnifying glasses, and society is sitting on a pile of dried leaves and twigs. Under these conditions, combustion is inevitable.

The Solution

You cannot heal differences between people or races by treating people differently under the law. The law must be the same for all, otherwise it promotes hard feelings, a sense of injustice—and ultimately conflict. If America is not careful, it may soon have white-empowerment groups becoming mainstream too. What do you think that would do to race relations?

The answer to America’s race problems is law—God’s law.

The Bible talks about a time when justice would leave the land. In Isaiah 59, God warns that because people have forgotten Him and His commands, “judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.”

Judgment is backward. Truth is trampled. And there is no equity. Sound like America today?

“The way of peace they know not,” says God. “And there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.”

God is not a respecter of persons. Anciently, He commanded Israel that all Israelites were to be equal under the law. The law was not to respect certain individuals or groups more than others. “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour” (Leviticus 19:15).

In Zechariah 7:9-10, God commands, “Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger [or foreigner], nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.”

As long as America refuses to recognize and uphold God’s laws as outlined in the Bible, there will be no peace between the races. In fact, the book of Ezekiel prophesies that America’s actions are leading the nation toward a full-blown race war. (This prophecy is explained in Chapter 4 of our booklet Ezekiel: The End-Time Prophet. Request your free copy.)

Injustice inevitably leads to conflict. When it is racially motivated, it leads to race war. Yet a merciful God gives America the answer to its racial problems: Just uphold His law.

The War to End All War

The War to End All War

The Trumpet

The Philadelphia Trumpet, in conjunction with the Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course, presents this brief excursion into the fascinating study of the Bible. Simply turn to and read in your Bible each verse given in answer to the questions. You will be amazed at the new understanding gained from this short study!
From the September 2010 Trumpet Print Edition

World leaders and scientists are frankly frightened by the prospects of the future! They warn that man now possesses the means of committing cosmocide—suicide of the whole human race! They realize something totally unforeseen must soon occur to stop the present trend of world events—or humanity will finally destroy itself!

“Nuclear terrorism is still often treated as science fiction. I wish it were,” said Kofi Annan in 2005, when he was secretary general of the United Nations. “But unfortunately we live in a world of excess hazardous materials and abundant technological know-how, in which some terrorists clearly state their intention to inflict catastrophic casualties. Were such an attack to occur, it would not only cause widespread death and destruction, but would stagger the world economy … [creating] a second death toll throughout the developing world.”

Last September, then director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, told the UN General Assembly, “The gravest threat faced by the world is of an extremist group getting hold of nuclear weapons or materials.”

The danger of total nuclear annihilation is more real in the 21st century than ever before. In all, over 23,000 nuclear warheads of all sizes are spread all over the globe—more than enough to wipe out humanity many times over. “Overkill,” it’s called. Once would be enough!

Many hoped, in the early part of the 20th century, that World War I would finally bring lasting peace. It was famously called a “war to end wars” by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. But World War II followed only 20 years after the first.

All of mankind’s best efforts have not brought peace. No war has yet brought an end to all war.

After World War II, a solemn Gen. Douglas MacArthur addressed the U.S. Congress. “We have had our last chance,” he warned. “If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system … Armageddon will be at our door.”

What Is “Armageddon”?

Armageddon is a biblical term directly associated with the Second Coming of Christ. Almost everyone has heard of it. World leaders and scientists frequently use it when speaking of the inevitability of nuclear warfare and the destruction of mankind.

Yet few know what “Armageddon” really is!

Make no mistake. World War III is prophesied in the Bible. And it will be the war to end all war among nations.

But will it be the “battle of Armageddon” spoken of by statesmen, scientists and ministers alike?

Let’s understand exactly how “Armageddon” fits into Bible prophecy—especially with regard to the dramatic return of Jesus Christ.

1. When Jesus Christ returns, will He take full authority over the nations and peoples of the world to set up a divine world government? Revelation 11:15.

comment: The seventh angel sounding announces the return of Jesus Christ. See also Matthew 24:30-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

2. When Christ returns to intervene and prevent nuclear mass suicide, will the nations be happy? Or will they actually be angry? Revelation 11:18. Will nations actually try to fight Christ? Revelation 17:14. (The “Lamb” refers to Christ—John 1:36.)

3. Who will incite the nations to fight against their Creator God? Revelation 16:13-14. Who is the dragon? Revelation 12:9.

comment: The word “devils” in the King James Version ought to be rendered demons. There is one fallen archangel (Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:12-17) called the “devil,” but there are many fallen angels (Jude 6; Revelation 12:7) of lesser rank called “demons.”

4. Are these demons responsible for gathering the armies of all nations together? Revelation 16:16. (The proper translation of the Greek in verse 16 should read: “And they gathered them together.”)

comment: At this time, the demons mentioned in verse 14 will stir up worldwide resistance to Christ, who will by this time already be in Jerusalem.

5. What will these evil spirits do to cause the armies to gather? Verse 14.

comment: Notice that these spirits directly influence the leaders of nations—deceiving them with miracles—stirring them to a fever-pitch of hatred to fight Christ!

6. Exactly where do the demons cause the armies of the nations to be gathered together in preparation for the great battle against Christ? Read Revelation 16:16 again for the answer.

comment: The “way of the kings of the east” will have been made ready by the drying up of the River Euphrates (verse 12). This will enable the nations to the east to easily marshal their armies and armaments at a place called “Armageddon.”

The word Armageddon is a Greek form of the Hebrew name har Megiddo. It means “hill (or mountain) of Megiddo.” This is the site of the ancient city of Megiddo, which is about 55 miles north of Jerusalem, and about 15 miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea. Anciently, the region that includes Megiddo and the Valley of Megiddo (on the southern border of the Plain of Esdraelon) was an important military site that guarded a nearby strategic pass.

For ancient Israel, Megiddo and the Plain of Esdraelon (also known as the Valley of Jezreel) became the battleground of the centuries. Time after time the blood of battle was shed there. Over and over again the 13-acre mound of Megiddo was refortified. Today the site is nothing more than an unoccupied, silent mound of historic rubble. Occasional tourists and archaeologists traverse its rocky face, but it is not a major military site at this time.

But Megiddo is a symbol!

It is a symbol of war and human conflict. It overlooks the Plain of Esdraelon and stood at one of the great crossroads of the ancient world. And as the prophecy of Revelation 16 indicates, Megiddo and the Plain of Esdraelon will become the staging ground, or mustering area, for the greatest concentration of military might ever assembled!

Prophecy tells us that “ten kings” (Revelation 17:12-14) will comprise the modern and final end-time revival of the ancient Roman Empire. It will be a political, military and religious alliance of incredible power. The Bible reveals a spectacular sequence of conquests by this power, followed by epic clashes with the kings of the east. (This is explained in our free booklet Russia and China in Prophecy.)

In the end, these two superpowers will make their way into the Middle East for one final, climactic conflict. But instead of fighting each other in a battle that would end in the nuclear extinction of all life (Matthew 24:22), they will, ironically, unite their forces and march southward toward Jerusalem in an attempt to destroy their common “enemy”—Jesus Christ!

The Great “Battle of God Almighty”

1. What is the name of the ensuing great battle between God and man? Revelation 16:14, last part.

comment: You will notice the battle is not called “the battle of Armageddon”—it is called the “battle of that great day of God Almighty”!

2. Exactly where does the Bible say this battle will take place? Joel 3:1-2, 9-14. Compare verse 13 with Revelation 14:18-20; 19:15.

comment: Jehoshaphat means “judgment of Yahweh,” or “judgment of the Eternal.” The focal point of the battle will be in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, also called the “valley of decision” in the Bible. This valley is a deep ravine having steep sides. It borders the city of Jerusalem on the east. The Valley of Jehoshaphat, which is situated between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, is known today as the Kidron Valley.

3. How is this great climactic battle pictured? Revelation 19:11-21. How does Zechariah describe the frightening manifestation of the righteous judgment of God in fighting against His enemies? Zechariah 14:12. Will the nations wage war against each other anymore after Christ’s overwhelming victory? Isaiah 2:2-4.

comment: Here you have a graphic description of the war that will end war! Jesus Christ will utterly destroy those who, in attempting to enforce human world government, would have destroyed the Earth through nuclear warfare (Revelation 11:18).

The returning Christ will be forced to deal with rebellious nations in the only language they understand—overwhelming force! Only then will men be willing to try God’s way of life and come under His government, which leads to genuine peace, happiness and prosperity!

The Sea That Became a Desert

The Sea That Became a Desert

AFP/VICTOR VASENIN/Getty Images

One of mankind’s ugliest environmental disasters—and how it will be fixed!
From the September 2010 Trumpet Print Edition

It was once the fourth-largest lake in the world. Now it’s mostly a toxic desert. It covers an area over half the size of Iceland.

Situated in Central Asia, the Aral Sea was once a vast oasis amid an even vaster area of dry land.

Since 1960, the Aral Sea has shrunk by over 50 percent. Once a freshwater lake, it is now over twice as salty as the average ocean. Once the source for one sixth of the Soviet Union’s seafood, it is now an aquatic graveyard. Huge boats lie marooned in the desert. The lake dried up so fast that boat owners didn’t think to relocate their ships until it was too late.

The sea used to cool the air for miles around. Now the local climate is hotter and drier in the summer and colder for longer in the winter. The surrounding region, already dry, is becoming a hard desert.

This is not some nebulous, global-warming-type threat based on the predictions of computer models. This is actual, measurable and provable local climate change that has already happened.

This crisis stands to affect 40 million people. The two rivers that feed the Aral Sea—the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya—flow from the Tian-Shan Mountains over 500 miles away. Experts worry that the hotter local climate could cause the sources of these rivers to dry up. If this happens, all of southern Central Asia will lose its rivers.

Tens of millions will be left without food and water.

A Toxic Dump

Beyond the mass evaporation, the Aral is turning into a toxic dump.

For decades, pesticides and other agricultural chemicals used on surrounding farmlands washed into the lake. As the water fled, these chemicals settled in the lakebed, forming a desert of deadly toxic dust. Today, strong winds blow the dust for hundreds of miles. These clouds of death damage and kill crops and vegetation in their path.

They are affecting humans, too. “Health experts say the local population suffers from high levels of respiratory illnesses, throat and esophageal cancer, and digestive disorders caused by breathing and ingesting salt-laden air and water,” Scientific American reported in April 2008. “Liver and kidney ailments, as well as eye problems, are common. The loss of fish has also greatly reduced dietary variety, worsening malnutrition and anemia, particularly in pregnant women.”

New Scientist writer Fred Pearce visited Karakalpakstan, an area close to the Aral Sea, while researching his book When the Rivers Run Dry: Water—the Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century, published in 2006. The region, Pearce wrote, “felt like the end of the world.”

In his book, Pearce details the horrific health problems that have hit Karakalpakstan in the wake of the Aral’s disappearance. Ninety-seven percent of the women are anemic. Eighty-seven percent of the children are born with anemia. One in 20 babies has a birth defect. The region has the highest infant mortality rate in the former Soviet Union. It has the highest rate of cancer of the esophagus in the world, and one of the highest rates of tuberculosis.

In the area around the Aral Sea, life expectancy has fallen from 64 years to 51.

And it could get worse. Vozrozhdeniya Island, in the middle of the Aral Sea, was once the world’s largest biological weapons testing site. Here, Soviet scientists infected animals with anthrax, bubonic plague and other bacteria. In the 1980s they buried tons of live anthrax on the island, thinking it would never be transported to the mainland. In 1999 scientists found live anthrax spores on the island. After 9/11 a few Americans spent a few months cleaning up the island. By comparison, Gruinard Island, where the British once tested anthrax, was only declared safe 48 years after the testing stopped. Even then, the entire area had been soaked in formaldehyde. The cleanup on Vozrozhdeniya hasn’t been nearly as extensive.

Now, thanks to the drying Aral, Vozrozhdeniya is no longer an island. Experts fear that animals could carry the weaponized microbes to populated areas. Looters visit the area regularly, making a living off of collecting what the Soviets left behind. Who knows what they could dig up?

This has to be one of mankind’s worst environmental disasters ever. It is hard to imagine how you could mess up an area so badly without doing it on purpose.

No Isolated Example

The Aral Sea disaster was caused by gross water mismanagement during the days of the Soviet Union. Starting in the 1940s, the Soviets dug irrigation canals from the two rivers that feed the Aral. The canals were poorly built, badly maintained and horribly leaky. Most were carved directly into the sand. Scientists estimate that in one of the largest of these canals, the Karakum Canal, around 60 percent of the water soaked directly into the ground and was wasted.

The water is used to irrigate cotton—a thirsty plant hardly suitable for Central Asia, but one that fetches a high price on the international market. Even today the five nations around the Aral Sea—Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan—all rank among the top seven water users per person in the world.

The Soviets knew these practices would drain the Aral, but they didn’t care. They reasoned that this would only give them more land on which to grow cotton. Instead, they have bitten off the hand that fed them: The rivers that carry water to the canals are the same ones that may disappear.

Perhaps it is easy to dismiss the crisis in the Aral as yet another disaster caused by communism and the Soviet Union. But the root cause isn’t communism, nor is it the Russians.

The fact is, there are environmental crises like the Aral all over the world.

With the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the United States has made a mess of the Gulf of Mexico, spreading oil over an area of over 4,000 square miles. Granted, this single accident, perhaps due to carelessness, is not the same as decades of mismanagement—but then again, there have been many similar spills, several of which were even larger. Man has been tipping oil into the oceans for years through these kinds of accidents.

In Australia, the Murray-Darling Basin—once a well-watered area responsible for 40 percent of Australia’s agricultural output—is drying up. Some of the lakes are turning into sulfuric acid. The whole area is becoming increasingly salty.

In Iraq, the Shatt al-Arab marshlands are suffering a similar fate. The 6,000 square miles of wetland form where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet. “The waterway running from a land once synonymous with paradise to the Gulf is in the grip of an environmental catastrophe left by war, dictatorship, human thirst, and a criminal disregard for the fragility of water, the essence of life,” wrote the Times. The water level is so low that salty water from the sea is creeping into the area—killing the ecosystem.

Every continent in the world has similar examples. And such destruction is not purely a modern phenomenon. Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, for example, were once full of forests. Today they are known for their deserts.

Man has been destroying his environment for centuries. Of course, modern technology has allowed him to destroy it faster than ever before.

Tohu and Bohu

The Bible prophesied that in these modern times, man would be able to bring this level of destruction not just to some scattered areas around the globe, but to the whole Earth.

God gave the Prophet Jeremiah a vision of what this planet would look like in the end time. In Jeremiah 4:23, he wrote, “I beheld the earth, and, lo it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.” The words translated “without form, and void” are the Hebrew tohu and bohu. A better translation of these words, as Herbert Armstrong explained in Mystery of the Ages, is “waste and empty” or “chaotic, in confusion and in a state of decay.”

Is there a more apt description of the Aral Sea?

Yet this condition only stands to get worse. In fact, Matthew 24:22 warns that if Christ did not return, mankind would wipe itself out. This too evokes images of the Aral Sea today. Fred Pearce wonders how much longer the area will be able to support human life. “Was I meeting the last farmers of Karakalpakstan?” he asks in his book.

What is the cause for the devastation in the Aral, in the Murray-Darling Basin, and ultimately the whole world?

Ultimately it is greed. The way of get. Short-term self-interest. Self-love.

In the Aral, the Russian central planners were greedy for the export revenues they could generate from growing all that cotton. They had no concern for the future of the Aral or of the people who lived around the sea.

The disappearing Aral Sea is a grotesque monument to the fact that greed brings destruction.

After the Soviet Union disbanded, the sea could still have been saved. Yet the rivers that feed the sea, and the irrigation canals coming from them, flow through five different countries. These countries couldn’t work together to save the sea. Now they are all about to suffer from its disappearance. Again, greed and self-love—the desire to have their own water and cotton exports—led to this destruction.

The real solution to the Aral Sea problem lies not in new, bigger and better canals or dams. It is in fixing this fundamental flaw in mankind: the ways of greed and get that are central to human existence today.

Absent that solution, no group of nations will be able to band together to save the Aral Sea.

Streams in the Desert

Although the Bible says the whole Earth will reach this Aral Sea-like condition, it also teaches that Christ will step in and save man from himself. After rescuing humanity from the brink of extinction, Christ will then rule over the Kingdom of God, which will be established on Earth.

Man’s very nature will be changed, away from his ways of get and self-interest and toward God’s way of give. Request our free booklet The Wonderful World Tomorrow—What It Will Be Like for a thorough explanation of this beautiful, prophetic truth.

Then, and only then, can man’s environmental problems be solved.

Read Isaiah’s prophecy about this time: “[I]n the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water …” (Isaiah 35:6-7).

Rather than relying on himself to solve his problems, man will finally look to God. With that trust in self finally gone, God will be able to help man solve all his problems, physical and spiritual.

Self-reliance and the way of get brought us the current Aral Sea. Only reliance on God and the way of give can fix it.

Then, God will cause the rain to fall in the right places at the right time, so these massive dams and irrigation projects aren’t needed (Deuteronomy 28:12).

He promises to supernaturally make water available in the desert: “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains [artesian wells] in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the [acacia] tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the [cypress] together: That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it” (Isaiah 41:17-20).

Of course man will still have to work to improve and beautify his surroundings. But any engineering projects will be done in order to give. The needs of others, even of future generations, will be at the forefront of the planners’ minds. And as they look to God for direction, they won’t embark on any misguided projects that only backfire in the future, making the problem worse.

Cotton exports won’t be the priority in these projects. People will build with more than the area’s inhabitants in mind. They will be thinking of their children and their children’s children. They will seek a permanent improvement, not a superficial, short-term gain.

Back to Life

In November 2005, Kazakhstan completed a dam, funded by the World Bank, on the south side of a lake that was once part of the Aral Sea. Called the Small Aral, this lake used to be the northern part of the sea. In eight months, the dam proved a success. The water level rose from 131 feet to 138. Its area increased by 18 percent, and the salinity was cut in half.

Fish that were once abundant in the sea are returning. The area is coming back to life.

Of course, this is a far cry from fixing the whole sea—but fixing just a small part of it shows that what was once lost can be restored.

The same is true for this whole planet. No matter how horribly man wrecks it in the future, God promises that it can and will be fixed. The Aral, the Murray-Darling, Lebanon and the whole Earth can and will bounce back. With God’s supernatural help, it will become more beautiful than ever.

Once the root problem with man has been fixed, the Aral will do more than return to its former glory. It will be better, and keep getting better, as mankind looks to God, and works to give, by turning the whole Earth into a Garden of Eden.

Wanted: Healthy, Vibrant Teens!

Wanted: Healthy, Vibrant Teens!

Trumpet

Parents, we need to be growing fitter, stronger, healthier young people.
From the September 2010 Trumpet Print Edition

This past July, 120 teenagers descended on the campus that houses the Philadelphia Trumpet offices in Edmond, Oklahoma, and participated in our 17th annual youth camp here. This camp, sponsored by the Philadelphia Church of God, is designed to ensure these young people go home mentally charged and focused, their attitudes and spirits refreshed and renewed.

They also tend to arrive home utterly exhausted, physically.

For three weeks, these teens spent their days mountain biking, canoeing and practicing archery, as well as playing basketball, water polo, soccer, softball, volleyball and flag football. They walked, and often jogged, between activities, as well as to breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the evenings they often engaged in other taxing activities, including a track and field event and camp dances. And if all that activity wasn’t strenuous enough, much of it occurred in daytime temperatures that hovered in the mid 90s.

For some, just reading that paragraph is enough to make us sweat. Personally, as much as I love sports and the outdoors, the thought of spending six to seven hours a day out in the sizzling Oklahoma weather—chasing balls, paddling across lakes and biking through ravines—isn’t nearly as appealing as it once was. But to the teens who attended camp, God says this three-week display of physical strength and endurance was glorious and honorable!

You can read His admiration in Proverbs 20:29: “The glory of young men is their strength.”

Of course, it’s true that physical health, strength and vitality in any person is praiseworthy. Isn’t it interesting though, that God identifies explicitly physical strength and energy as a defining and glorious quality of youth? In God’s mind, being a physically fit and healthy teenager—a young man (or woman) with strength and agility, someone who is robust and energetic—is a splendid and honorable accomplishment.

It’s also a state of being that God wants all teenagers to experience!

This is why, beyond merely seeking to make camp fun, we have our teens engage in so much physically demanding activity. Together with the high-quality meals and snacks we feed them, the slew of sports and outdoor activities serve to improve the overall physical health and strength of the teens. It works, too. In virtually every case, teens depart camp stronger, fitter and healthier than when they arrived. Beyond the short-term goal of improved health, one of the longer-term goals of our youth camps is to encourage the teens to embrace healthy and active living as a way of life—a lifestyle.

Once embraced, this lifestyle will help them develop a state of physical health, strength and vibrancy that God says will be to their glory and honor!

A Dying Breed

It’s a tragic fact that strong, healthy teenagers have become a dying breed. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, over the past 20 years the percentage of overweight teenagers has more than tripled. A 2007 report by the Stanford School of Medicine estimated that almost one in five 2-to-19-year-olds is overweight. One national survey, cited in the Stanford report, showed that two thirds of high school students are not getting the recommended level of physical activity. Another study found that in America, 10-to-16-year-olds are engaged in physical activity for only 12.6 minutes per day.

It’s fact. The majority of teens today have poor physical health and display embarrassingly little strength and vitality!

Naturally, our first inclination is to blame others for this epidemic of physical weakness and ill health. It’s the fault of fast-food restaurants and the Internet, the mainstream media and video game companies, the government and our school systems. Truth is, most of the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of parents. We’re often the ones purchasing the chicken nuggets and french fries. We’re the ones buying the video game consoles. We’re the ones allowing our children and teens to laze on the couch.

Ultimately, we’re the ones failing to cultivate within our teens the desire to live a healthy and active lifestyle.

“I’ll Make My Body”

Consider the wisdom in the words of a father who clearly did not fail in his responsibility to forge his son—a puny child who suffered from chronic asthma—into a towering physical specimen. “Theodore,” this man said one day to his 12-year-old son, “you have the mind but you have not the body, and without the help of the body the mind cannot go as far as it should. You must make your body. It is hard drudgery to make one’s body, but I know you will do it.”

Here was Theodore Roosevelt telling young “Teedie”—the future president of the United States—that he needed to strengthen his body!

With gritted teeth and fiery determination, young Theodore Roosevelt replied to his father, “I’ll make my body.” Once made, that promise “was adhered to with bulldog tenacity,” wrote historian Edmund Morris. Young Theodore immediately joined a gym and began working out daily. At home, his father converted the back porch into a web of ropes, bars and mats. “For many years,” wrote his sister Corinne, “one of my most vivid recollections is seeing him between horizontal bars, widening his chest by regular, monotonous motion—drudgery indeed.”

Motivated by his father’s admonishment, Theodore Roosevelt spent his early teenage years outside—on the porch, on horseback and in the woods—transforming himself into the barrel-chested, risk-taking, energy-filled Rough Rider that he later became!

Like Roosevelt Sr., it is the responsibility of parents to help make their teens healthy and strong. Perhaps we lack the financial resources of the Roosevelts. Maybe we can’t enroll our children in gym class or fill our yards with fancy sporting equipment. But we can make our children switch off the tv or computer. We can enroll them in a sport, or dispatch them to the local woods, or help them find a job. We can send them outside to climb trees and ride bikes, to shoot hoops or build a fort. We can take them hiking and fishing, or simply join them in doing a few pushups and sit-ups. We can have them do chores, even physically demanding ones, around the house. If they can wrap their thumbs around a joystick, they can surely wrap their thumbs around the broom handle.

As parents, the responsibility is on us to cultivate within our teens the desire to be physically healthy and strong, to be active and energetic—to be motivated to make their strength a trait worthy of glory and admiration!

In Balance

Of course, these efforts to cultivate strong, healthy teens must be balanced. They must be complemented with similarly strenuous mental and spiritual exercises. This is why, in addition to all the physically demanding activities at our youth camps, teens take Bible classes, and classes on leadership and womanhood. It’s why we teach them public speaking and ballroom dance. It’s the reason we have them perform on stage and encourage them to play music and embrace art. And it’s why, particularly in this technology-ridden age of perpetual distractions, we encourage our teens to develop a love for reading, study and meditation.

As the 120 teens that came to camp returned home, it was our hope that amid their meditations about camp they think about the strenuous activity they engaged in over those three weeks. Not how difficult or hot it was, or how much they sweated, or how sore they were. But on the wonderful opportunity they had to develop and display physical strength and vitality—traits God admires as the glory of youth.

There Is No Such Thing as Two Fathers

There Is No Such Thing as Two Fathers

Spirit-Fire/flickr

America’s government is working feverishly to redefine family.
From the September 2010 Trumpet Print Edition

President Obama used this past Father’s Day to show his support for homosexuals raising children. “Nurturing families come in many forms,” he wrote in a presidential proclamation, “and children may be raised by a father and mother, a single father, two fathers, a stepfather, a grandfather, or caring guardian.”

Of course, biologically there is no such thing as “two fathers.” A child may be raised by his father and his father’s homosexual partner, but not by “two fathers.” That euphemistic term is a gross error.

In June, completely outside the purview of elected legislators, the Obama administration’s Labor Department unilaterally announced that the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) now covers “all families, including LGBT families.” Thus, companies will now be forced to permit homosexual couples that adopt children up to 12 weeks of leave.

How could it make such a change? Simply by redefining “son or daughter” to “extend to the various parenting relationships that exist in today’s world.” Thus, using the president’s own terminology, a child’s father’s homosexual partner may now legally also be considered a second “father.”

“This action is a victory for many non-traditional families, including families in the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community,” the press release from Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said. “[A]n employee who intends to share in the parenting of a child with his or her same-sex partner will be able to exercise the right to FMLA leave to bond with that child.”

All this language is framed to sound like it promotes family in general—that it is just win-win-win all around. In truth, it represents the ceaseless efforts of self-professed intellectuals to popularize deviant sexuality.

They are hostile to the actual meaning of deep and wonderful words like father, son and daughter, and are eager to redefine them after their own fancies.

On July 1, the administration gave another big assist to homosexuals. Now same-sex “domestic partners” of federal employees can receive long-term care insurance benefits as if they were married; all they have to do is sign a form to receive the benefit. The president ordered the change about a year ago, when he instructed agencies to find benefits that could be given to homosexuals who live together. Under the Defense of Marriage Act, the term “marriage” cannot refer to homosexuals, but the new Office of Personnel Management regulation circumvented that law by creating the classification of homosexual “domestic partners.” It denies the same benefits to heterosexual co-habitators, saying that they can get them by marrying, whereas homosexuals cannot—yet.

On June 9, the Obama administration’s State Department dropped this bombshell: “The U.S. Department of State is pleased to use the occasion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month to announce its new policy guidelines regarding gender change in passports and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad.

“Beginning June 10, when a passport applicant presents a certification from an attending medical physician that the applicant has undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition, the passport will reflect the new gender. The guidelines include detailed information about what information the certification must include. It is also possible to obtain a limited-validity passport if the physician’s statement shows the applicant is in the process of gender transition.”

Thus, anyone with a doctor’s note confirming his or her gender confusion can receive an official U.S. passport stating as fact that he or she is the opposite sex from plain biological reality! The press release nonchalantly states, “Sexual reassignment surgery is no longer a prerequisite for passport issuance.”

What utter confusion! Even male and female are open to redefinition in their minds. Perhaps there is no clearer illustration of the muddled thinking plaguing liberal secularists than the fact that they simply will not accept something so simple and clear-cut as male and female. In their twisted view, gender is a choice, and always open for reinterpretation.

Again, though, all this redefining is an intellectual fraud aimed squarely at exalting deviant sexuality.

The official language being deployed by the president and the federal departments he has staffed—“two fathers,” “various parenting relationships,” “lgbt families,” “gender transition,” “new gender”—camouflages some grotesque realities. Gussied up to look like it is promoting family, this is nothing short of an aggressive assault on family.

It is impossible to encourage both deviant sexuality and traditional family; they are diametrically opposite. And traditional family must be vigorously promoted and defended if it is to thrive.

The Ten Commandments speak to this fact by commanding both marital fidelity (“Thou shalt not commit adultery. … [T]hou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife”) and parental authority (“Honour thy father and thy mother”). Such laws are necessary to guide us toward appropriate conduct; our baser nature always gravitates toward what is not in society’s or our own long-term best interests.

Today’s society is forcefully pursuing a contrary, anti-Bible agenda that is dismantling families and leading to our ruin. All history proves that strong societies begin with strong marriages and families, yet self-professed intellectuals continue heedlessly striking blows at the pillars of family life.

In our own families, we must do all we can to resist this attack. Promote and defend family as originally and correctly defined by the Being who created it.