Art—The Good, the Bad and the Mediocre

Art—The Good, the Bad and the Mediocre

Andrew Howe/iStockphoto

Or is it all just a matter of taste?
From the September 2012 Trumpet Print Edition

If you fear that younger generations are tragically apathetic, just scroll through the comments section of a popular YouTube music video, and you’ll discover heaps of evidence to the contrary. Although most of these netizens are apparently indifferent to rules of grammar and courtesy, they are deeply passionate about music. In page after page of oscillation between the loftiest praise and the most scornful contempt, users make their opinions on music inescapably clear.

Many of these arguments are also peppered by pleas from diplomatic souls urging restraint from both the fanatics and the detractors. One such commentator said, “Music taste is not objective. You cannot factually, beyond all deniability, prove one piece of music to be better and more enjoyable than another, or of better quality.”

Another user broadened the discussion’s scope beyond music, saying, “Like all art, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to music. It’s all personal opinion. One person’s [trash] is another person’s good. That’s how human beings work.”

The issue these commentators raise is one that long predates YouTube and music videos. Since ancient times, arguments have raged about what is beautiful, important and worthwhile in the arts. Greek philosophers debated the question. Scholars of the Renaissance deliberated it. Modern experts have only continued a discussion that began millennia ago, and the only solid conclusion many participants seem to agree on is that beauty in art is in the eye of the beholder.

But is Rembrandt’s startling accuracy superior to Jackson Pollock’s arbitrarily paint-splattered canvases? Are the fugues of Bach and Mozart—where masterful musical engineering unites with profound expressivity—more valuable than the random lunacy of many of John Cage’s compositions? If artistic value is entirely a matter of opinion, then the answer to these questions is a disillusioning “no.”

But could it be that there are standards by which artistic expression can be judged? Is an objective assessment of aesthetic value possible?

To the Gallery or the Garbage?

First, what is art? How can you tell whether a certain human work of creative endeavor qualifies?

Some say art is any creative expression that gives others amusement or pleasure. Few object to schools encouraging students to study the arts, but how would society view this encouragement if the purpose of the arts was strictly to amuse, or give pleasure to those students? There is meaningful pleasure to be gained from the arts, and beauty to be discovered in them, but if that is all we seek, we’re overlooking those components of art that are often more valuable.

Leo Tolstoy formulated a widely accepted definition of art, calling it “a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that others are infected by these feelings and also experience them” (What Is Art?). There is considerable value to this definition. Artists are stirred by an experience of emotion, and use their talents with clay, music, motion, words or camera to encapsulate that emotion in a creative work. The evidence of its successful encapsulation is that it rouses the same emotion in those who view or hear it. The trouble with this definition is that there is limited value in the arousal or expression of emotion just for emotion’s sake.

In Philosophy of the Arts, Prof. Gordon Graham makes the case that art is most accurately defined as a creative expression that helps others to understand experience. Graham says art is most valuable when it serves as a source of understanding.

The most effective works of art will meet all three of these: giving others pleasure, conveying emotion to them, and helping them to better understand experience.

Digging into the question of what art is also unearths an undeniable fact: The capacity to create and appreciate art is a major demarcation setting human beings apart from animals. What animal can paint a watercolor landscape, choreograph a tango, or sculpt a likeness of itself? What critter can compose a symphony upon the blank canvas of silence? Of the millions of species living on Earth, only humans can engage in artistic creation.

This is because the Creator God—the first and supreme Artist—gave mankind those abilities. The entire universe proclaims God’s creative power and brilliance. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). The universe and all the wonders it contains represent one vast art museum that showcases God’s ineffable creative power. Recognition of this mind-boggling fact prompted King David to sing, “I meditate on all thy works; I muse [which is what museums are for!] on the works of thy hands” (Psalm 143:5).

God is an unequalled master of form, texture, space, color, balance, rhythm, contrast, emphasis, harmony, proportion, repetition, scale, unity, craftsmanship and variety.

We are offered a glimpse into some of the intricacies of God’s creative process in His exchange with the patriarch Job. Job had some remarkable artistic creations of his own, but he became vain about his accomplishments. God wanted to give Job some perspective—to humble him—so He asked Job pointed questions about His own artistic creations, which were of far greater scope and importance than Job’s: “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof” (Job 38:4-6).

The Creator likely used architectural language in order to relate to Job’s background in building, but there remains clear indication of form, planning, specificity, design, process and structure in God’s creative process. God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), and He orders all things to be done “decently and in order” (verse 40).

How Did Art Get Corrupted?

How did mankind arrive at the point where placing a crucifix in a jar of urine is called art, and where respected experts routinely construct long-winded treatises on the merits of Jackson Pollock’s paint-splattered canvases?

In the same conversation He had with Job, God explained that after He had completed creation of the physical universe, the angels—which He had created some time prior—were so moved by its beauty that they shouted for joy. This shows that God’s art—His creation—conveyed purposeful understanding to others and gave them pleasure, because God’s creation is good (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25).

God’s creation of the host of angels was one spectacular part of His “good” handiwork. The Prophet Ezekiel indicates how spectacular these created spirit beings are, describing one of them as “the measure of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezekiel 28:12; Darby Translation).

But it was in this very being that the seeds of artistic corruption first took root, and a segment of God’s creation became ruined. This magnificent archangel rebelled against God, became filled with lawlessness, and warped his mind with perverted thinking (verse 17). Since the earliest days of man’s history, Satan—originally called Lucifer—has broadcast his warped ideas of art (and all other facets of life) to mankind.

Lucifer’s rebellion was the true beginning of depraved art.

Today’s cultural landscape is shaped by volumes of good art—inspiring expressions of God-given ability developed by relentless human determination—but also by an even greater quantity of creative ideas that have been influenced by dark attitudes, moods and impulses, broadcast into human minds by Satan (Ephesians 2:2).

So, how can we differentiate between art that is valuable and that which is corrosive? How can we tell the good from the bad?

The Good, the Bad and the Mediocre

Those who argue that aesthetic value is strictly a question of taste seem to overlook the fact that, in all branches of the arts, there are established competitions that rely on the judgment of experts: John Moores Painting Prize, the Booker Prize, American Idol, the Cannes Film Festival, etc. If artistic merit is purely in the eye of the beholder, then these institutions wouldn’t have purpose. The existence of judgment by experts as a regular feature of our experience in the art world implies that art is not strictly a matter of personal preference.

The question of judgment for a Christian includes discerning and choosing what is acceptable based on the standards of God’s law as revealed in the Bible. The Bible is the instruction book for mankind, and was engineered to teach people what they need to know to discern the good from the bad, the constructive from the destructive, and the right from the wrong.

For example, we should avoid submersing ourselves in artistic works that openly promote or delight in lust, violence and other evils prohibited in the Ten Commandments. We should steer clear of art that parades and celebrates sin with defiant pride (Isaiah 3:9).

In his letter to Church members in Philippi, the Apostle Paul offered this guideline explaining which aspects of experience—including artistic expression—are most worthy of our time and attention: “[W]hatever is true, whatever wins respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovable, whatever is of good repute—if there is any virtue or anything deemed worthy of praise—cherish the thought of these things” (Philippians 4:8; Weymouth).

How many plotlines of today’s films and novels are propelled forward by respectful, lovable and reputable characters? How many Top 40 songs are pure and just? There are some, but the unwholesome works outnumber them by a considerable margin.

In this perplexed world, questions about which endeavors of art are respectable, just and pure are not always straightforward. A single piece of artwork may simultaneously embody wholesome and unwholesome elements, or may depict villainy or immorality for essentially moral purposes. There’s a colossal difference between a work that portrays evil in order to address social issues (like violence), and those that give cheap thrills by exploiting it. To understand the vastness of this discrepancy, compare Schindler’s List to the series of Saw movies.

How much does the morality of the artist come into play? There is no single correct answer for this either. To reject any and all art formed by unconverted people—those with whom God is not yet working—would be to cast out virtually every shred of art and music ever produced (Genesis 3:22-24), and men of God have not taken that route. The Apostle Paul, for example, was well acquainted with the plays written by Menander, a Greek dramatist who lived hundreds of years before him (1 Corinthians 15:33). Paul also committed to memory the poetry of Epimenides the unconverted Cretan (Titus 1:12), and that of Aratus and Cleanthus, two pagan Greek poets (Acts 17:28). Paul studied the creative and artistic works of these men, and quoted from them in order to help explain God’s truth to the people of his day.

If all poetry and artistry produced by unconverted minds is to be avoided, God’s apostle would not have taken this approach. But if a given artist has postured himself as a spokesman or poster-child for a certain sin, then it would be difficult to justify consuming his creations.

A discerning consumer will learn to identify the overall intent of a particular creative work of art, and to value those works that reflect the best of mankind’s God-like creative abilities and extraordinary potential. A discerning consumer will develop the discipline to reject that art whose lifeblood is depravity.

A judicious patron of the arts will also push himself to refine and improve his tastes. On this topic, the Apostle Paul said to the Hebrews, “[S]trong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). This applies primarily to spiritual maturity, but it has relevance to all vistas of life—including the arts. A person exiting Walmart with a 3-liter bottle of Dr. Pepper and a bag of pork-rinds may argue that he derives as much enjoyment from his culinary choices as any sophisticated epicurean does from his fine wine and caviar, but the quality of his enjoyment is at a lower level.

Rather than settling for what is immediately easy to enjoy, we should strive to educate ourselves and refine our senses. If, for most of our lives, we’ve subsisted on a strict musical diet of pop music (which is popular because it is accessible, and easy to appreciate), then considerable effort may be required to exercise our senses to a degree that will let us appreciate meatier music. But this effort is an investment that will pay dividends. A comic book—with its vivid images and rapid dialogue—is easy for most any inexperienced reader to become engrossed in. But how much richer is the enjoyment of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, whose treasures a student labors arduously for, and learns much about human nature from? There is certainly a time to enjoy art that is accessible and undemanding, but cultivating the ability to digest strong meat will greatly enhance our lives. As Ernest Dimnet wrote, “Don’t read good books—life is too short for that—only read the best.” That logic applies to all genres of art.

Jesus Christ said He came so that people might “have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Rich, abundant living does not mean easy existence, but worthwhile living.

Mankind’s capacity to create and appreciate art is an awesome gift from God of value beyond measure. We should deeply appreciate it, strive to use it as He intended, and labor to drink in more of the good, less of the mediocre, and none of the bad.

Déjà Vu

Déjà Vu

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The 1930s are coming back.
From the September 2012 Trumpet Print Edition

What happens after a globe-shaking financial crisis? We are stumbling through one right now, and we all want to know what we are in for next. Fortunately—and unfortunately—this situation is precedented.

Early last century, the globe’s First World War extinguished lives, torched economies and left Europe smoldering with grievances. Afterward, the world was rocked by the most violent financial earthquake in modern times—the Great Depression.

The nations were churning: brutal dictators were rising, anti-Semitism was becoming mainstream, civil war erupted in Spain, Japan invaded Manchuria, Italy invaded Ethiopia. But instead of facing the challenges, Britain and America turned increasingly inward, focusing on their own wounded economies, slashing their militaries and pointedly ignoring the world outside.

Decades after World War iii, will historians be writing something similar? The nations were churning. Radical dictators were rising, anti-Semitism was becoming mainstream, Germany conquered the Balkans, Russia invaded Georgia, civil wars erupted in the Middle East, China built a military powerhouse, a new strongman arose in Russia, a crafty emperor arose in Europe. But instead of facing the challenges, Britain and America turned increasingly inward, focusing on their wounded economies, slashing their militaries and pointedly ignoring the world outside.

The tremors of the Great Depression brought down governments around the world. Other factors amplified the shaking, the absence of Britain and America being one. But the Depression was perhaps the single greatest factor that pushed the world into smoldering ruins—and the chaos that followed. The most infamous would-be empire of modern times rose out of its ruins: Nazi Germany.

The lesson: Financial quakes can cause political fires, and even worldwide conflagrations.

“Current Crisis Shows Uncanny Parallels to Great Depression,” Spiegel proclaimed in 2009. The statistics are undeniable. Since the crash of 2008, unemployment rates have reached levels no one has seen since the 1930s.

“One can only guess at the long-term political impact of today’s crisis,” Spiegel wrote. “The reason the comparison with the Great Depression is so horrifying is that the world economic crisis led not only to the impoverishment of large segments of the population in Germany and elsewhere, but also to a political catastrophe.”

Three years later, we have not broken away from those ominous parallels. “When mainstream leaders are incapable of offering solutions to apparently intractable economic problems, extremists will step in,” Stephen Glover wrote in April in the Daily Mail. “That is what happened in Europe in the ’20s and ’30s. Looking ahead to years of sclerosis which none of our leaders shows the slightest sign of knowing how to prevent, it would be a brave man who said the same thing could not happen again.”

The world is still following the pattern it did in the 1930s. The question is, what’s to prevent us from smashing into the same horrendous result?

Democratic Gridlock

1930s

After the Wall Street crash in 1929, political systems around the world almost completely broke down. Parties refused to work with each other, and blamed everyone else for the mess. Coalitions, if they formed at all, were short-lived. Germany held parliamentary elections in 1928 and 1930 and then three elections in 12 months during 1932/1933. France had five governments between May 1932 and January 1934. Nations became paralyzed and couldn’t respond to the crisis. In Spain, the division went so deep that the country was torn asunder and civil war broke out in 1936.

Now

Since the financial crisis began in 2008, the governments of Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Finland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia and Iceland have all fallen before their time. Incumbents in France and Ireland lost their scheduled elections, with Ireland’s ruling party suffering its worst defeat in history. The nation that is furthest down the road to financial ruin is also experiencing the worst political fracturing: Last year,

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou was forced to step down. A grand coalition ruled for six months until Greece held elections in May. No party could form a government,

so Greece held elections again in June.

Meanwhile, European leaders have faced similar gridlock in dealing with the financial crisis at the European Union level. They hold conferences every few weeks, emerging every time with disappointing results, then window-dressing them to look like great solutions.

One reason the Nazis were so successful is that the post-World War i government, the Weimar Republic, never gained popular support. The problem wasn’t just a weak government—the population disliked the whole political system. When a new political power stepped in, they weren’t sorry to see the old one destroyed.

Today, the European Union has proven useless in the face of the financial crisis, and Europeans love their ineffectual supragovernment less with each failed summit. People aren’t just becoming fed up with their political parties, but with the whole system: the vague machinations of the European Parliament, the unelected Eurocrats, and the group photos of national leaders attending the latest failed conference. They’re starting to want something new. Like the 1930s Germans.

New Parties Rise

In the 1928 elections, the Nazi Party won 2.6 percent of the vote. It was Germany’s ninth-place party. The Communists did four times better, with 10.6 percent. Just two years later, as financial crisis started to set in, the National Socialists won 18.3 percent and became Germany’s second most popular party. The Communists were third, with 13.1 percent.

In 1932, the Nazis won nearly 40 percent of the vote. The Nazis had been a weird fringe party—until the financial crash.

The sudden rise of these fringe parties in the 1930s wasn’t just a German phenomenon. In Austria, the Heimwehr—a farright group similar to the Nazis, but opposed to unification with Germany—rose in a similar pattern. In Czechoslovakia, the Nazi Sudeten German Party came from nowhere to win a higher proportion of the vote than any other. In Romania, the Iron Guard rose to become the third most popular party, winning 15 percent of the vote in the 1937 elections, after having been banned in the 1935 elections. Other extreme parties, like the National-Christian Defense League in France, rose steadily after the Wall Street crash. France’s far-right Croix-de-Feu league grew from 500 members in 1928 to 400,000 in 1935. After it was banned in 1936, its leader started the French Social Party, which grew to become one of France’s largest right-wing parties. Votes for extreme parties in many other countries also jumped.

Today, Europe is traveling a similar road. In Greece, the two major parties have gone from sharing 70 to 80 percent of the total vote to around 30 to 40 percent. Syriza, the Coalition for the Radical Left, went from receiving 4.6 percent of the vote in 2009 to 26.9 percent in 2012. Even the Greek Nazi party won seats in parliament this year.

In April, National Front’s Marine Le Pen won a record 18 percent of the vote in France. The same month, after steadily gaining popularity in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom toppled the government. Far-right parties have also attracted a significant following in Hungary. In Austria, two neo-Nazi parties control a third of the seats in parliament.

The German Pirate Party has risen in a similar fashion. Polls indicate it could be the third most popular party in the country. It’s not a Nazi or far-right party in any way, but its rapid rise reflects a 1930s-like dissatisfaction with traditional politics—perhaps even with the entire democratic system.

No fringe parties have risen to prominence quite as drastically as Greece’s. Other countries have not vaulted these parties to the same heights because their economies have not taken quite the same plunge. But as their economies slump, the fringers will become the mainstreamers.

Mainstream Shifts Right

As radical parties rose during the 1930s, mainstream parties began adopting radical positions themselves. After Adolf Hitler began to grow in popularity, for example, the influential German businessman and politician Alfred Hugenberg and his National People’s Party began shifting to the right. That’s where the votes were. In 1931, Hugenberg’s manifesto called for the end of the Treaty of Versailles, conscription, the reconquest of Germany’s colonies, a reduction of the number of Jews in public life, and stronger links with German communities outside of Germany. Politically speaking, the difference between Hugenberg and Hitler was simply a matter of degree.

In France, far-right leagues succeeded in organizing violent protests. The more prominent right-wing parties responded by shifting toward their direction. These were among those that would make up the Vichy regime that cooperated with Hitler after he conquered their nation. In Romania, the king attempted to create a royal dictatorship to prevent Nazi-like parties from taking power in his country. In Hungary, the regent was forced to accept a far-right, anti-Semitic government.

If it doesn’t seem like the same trends are alive today in Europe, look closely. A few years ago, it was only the fringe groups that would speak out against Islam and criticize the dogma of multiculturalism. Now everybody is doing it. Volker Kauder, who leads German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union in parliament, said on April 19, “Islam is not part of our tradition and identity in Germany and so does not belong in Germany.” Then he diplomatically—and awkwardly—added, “But Muslims do belong in Germany.”

But burkas do not belong in Belgium and France, where they have been legally banned. In Switzerland, the construction of minarets is illegal.

The trends in Italy, one of the original Axis powers in World War ii, are also disturbingly familiar. In 2009, the mainstream center-right party, the People of Freedom bloc, merged with the pro-fascist National Alliance party, whose leaders have openly praised Benito Mussolini. Even Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has defended Italy’s World War ii fascist dictator, saying, “Mussolini never killed anyone,” and “Mussolini sent people on holiday to confine them.”

The worse the financial crisis grows and the more popular the extreme groups become, the more you will see the mainstream politicians adopt a harder line in order to get votes. Just like the 1930s.

Riots and Coups

Almost every nation experienced riots. In February 1934, riots in Paris killed 15 and injured 1,500. They also brought down the French government. In many nations, street fighting between elements of the far-right and far-left began before the Great Depression, but these battles intensified as the economy got worse. This unrest sparked nothing less than government takeovers. Economic strain led to unemployment, unemployment led to riots, and riots led to coups. Dictatorships arose in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cuba, Germany, Greece and Spain.

Bold protests are once again commonplace in Europe. In Greece, crowds 100,000 strong have gathered outside parliament. Some governments are beginning to take draconian steps to clamp down on them. In Spain, the government wants to outlaw street protests that “seriously disturb the public peace.” Anyone found guilty of provoking or taking part in violent acts of protest could be jailed for a minimum of two years. Opponents of these proposed laws compare them to General Franco’s dictatorship.

Italy has had to protect the targets of popular protests with armed guards, calling in the military to safeguard tax collectors and another private company targeted by anarchists.

The protests aren’t nearly as big or as violent as the ones that toppled governments in the ’30s. But there is discontent, and it is growing.

Finding Scapegoats

1930s

Hitler is famous for pinning the blame for the financial crisis on the Jews. But as economies fell apart, he was far from alone. The Jews were singled out for condemnation all around the world. During the 1930s, European nations shut their doors to Jews who were fleeing from Hitler because “virtually all European governments had an anti-Semitic problem and were terrified of aggravating it,” according to Johnson.

“The martyrdom of Jews in the 1940s would strip anti-Semitism of its respectability,” wrote William Manchester in his book The Last Lion, “but in the 1930s, it was quite an ordinary thing to see restaurants, hotels, clubs, beaches and residential neighborhoods barred to people with what were delicately called ‘dietary requirements.’ … Contempt for [Jews] was not considered bad form. They were widely regarded as unlovable, alien, loud-mouthed, ‘flashy’ people who enriched themselves at the expense of Gentiles.” Manchester wrote that this was true not only in Germany, but also in Britain and elsewhere in Europe.

Now

Anti-Semitism is rising again in Europe. There are no concentration camps—yet. Still, 2012 is on track to become the worst year on record for anti-Semitic incidents in France, as catalogued by the Council of Jewish Institutions in France. A poll this year by the Anti-Defamation League (adl) found that since 2009, anti-Semitic attitudes have risen in most European states. While they have risen by less than 10 percent in most countries, in the UK they have come closer to doubling, going from 10 to 17 percent, and Hungary has gone from 47 percent to 63 percent. Fifty-three percent of Spaniards have anti-Semitic attitudes; so do 48 percent of Poles.

“Anti-Semitism is back in style,” wrote Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick in January. “Its new justification is not race or religion. It is nationalism. Today’s anti-Semitism is predicated on preferring Palestinian and pan-Arab nationalism to Jewish nationalism.”

Jews weren’t the only scapegoats in the 1930s. Another, more rational one was the Communists. Fear of the rising Communist menace that had already taken over Russia pushed respectable businessmen to support the alternative: the Nazis. This time around, the pushback may well be instigated by Islam. As people like Mark Steyn and Geert Wilders point out, Islam poses a real and serious threat, just as communism did. But Europe is slowly waking up to the threat of Islam. When it does, it will rush to the opposite extreme, just as it did with communism.

Beating War Drums

Another scapegoat for the 1930s crisis was foreigners. As they struggled through compounding crises, nations blamed each other. More importantly, some leaders saw war as a way out—an ignominious way to both increase employment and procure more resources. This was a major factor in Italy’s war with Ethiopia. For other leaders, war’s appeal was in distracting people from troubles at home. This was part of the reason for Japan’s war against China. In both cases, war increased economic activity and national unity.

The idea of using war to distract a divided and impoverished nation did not begin during the Depression. When Napoleon took over France, the first thing he did was attack Italy. Otto von Bismarck used war to unify Germany. The technique is so common it has its own name: “diversionary foreign policy.”

At the same time, when a nation is languishing in economic crisis, grievances that people overlook in peacetime come back into focus. It is no coincidence that German dissatisfaction with the Treaty of Versailles built to a crescendo at the same time as the financial crash. Germans were quite dissatisfied beforehand, but when the jobs disappeared and the currency faltered, Germans blamed a lot of their woes on the treaty.

Argentina demonstrates a modern example of this. Faced with huge debts and a struggling economy, Buenos Aires is beating war drums over the Falkland Islands to distract Argentines from their troubled economy. This is where Europe’s crisis is leading.

Europe has not yet reached this stage. Politicians will have to get a lot more desperate before they resort to war rhetoric. But with jobs disappearing, the currency faltering, politicians failing, democracy becoming optional, anti-Semitism back on the radar, Islamism on the hot seat and the Anglo-American financial system in question, beating the war drums will, at some point, become an irresistible temptation for some of Europe’s leaders.

Suspending Democracy

Faced with the inaction of normal politics and the dangers of civil unrest, normal democratic procedures failed. But this didn’t always result from the sudden rise of an evil dictator. Sometimes, democracy was suspended in a way that felt almost legitimate. Germany’s first ruler to wield dictator-like powers during this period wasn’t Hitler—it was Chancellor Heinrich Bruning, who ruled without regard to parliament for months. Paragraph 48 of Germany’s constitution stated that “in cases where public security and order are seriously disturbed or threatened in the German Reich, the president of the Reich is empowered to take the measures necessary for restoring public security and order.” Bruning argued that Germany’s dire economic situation meant that parliamentary rule could be suspended. Bruning’s successor, Franz von Papen, took the next step away from democracy. He took over Prussia’s state government and police force, using a riot there as a pretext. “He thought by this act to strengthen the hand of central government,” wrote historian Paul Johnson, “but in fact it marked the end of the Weimar Republic and directly prepared the way for a government of illegality.”

Austria’s experience was a little more clear-cut. Engelbert Dollfuss quickly set himself up as a bona fide dictator. But even there he did not simply stand up and proclaim himself uber-ruler: He simply took advantage of irregularities in the Austrian Parliament’s bylaws.

The same thing has happened in Greece and Italy today. Parliaments and politicians have taken too long to find solutions and make changes, so an undemocratic solution has risen. In Greece, Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou said the terms of the EU’s bailout package should be put to a referendum. EU elites couldn’t allow such a slow, messy democratic process to hinder their plans, so they forced out the prime minister and set up a new government by dictat. It was also EU elites who pressured former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to resign, and a technocratic government of economists and academics, not politicians, replaced him.

This isn’t the end of democracy in Europe. Greece still went on to hold elections. But Germany held elections after Bruning too. Democracy, however, has been compromised. Now that Europe has allowed a precedent of setting expediency above democracy, the trend is set. Worse violations will follow. The EU has simply “prepared the way for a government of illegality.”

Not Yet—Why?

Despite all these parallels, conditions in Europe aren’t as bad as the 1930s. Democracy is still the soup du jour. Dictatorships are still seen as barbaric. But don’t let that lull you to sleep. The way the 1930s started out was different. Europe’s democracies were less stable to begin with. Unlike today, there was no consensus that democracy was the best way forward. Dictators ruled Portugal, Italy and Poland. Communism had conquered Russia. Today, though democracy is beginning to crumble, it may take longer to do so.

But the major reason Europe hasn’t fully descended into 1930s conditions is the welfare state. Eighty years ago, if a man lost his job, he often lost his savings and even his home. Today, thanks to unemployment checks, it’s far easier to get by. In the 1930s, unemployment meant poverty, or even starvation. People were genuinely desperate. Spouses fell sick, children couldn’t be fed. People acted more drastically—and the outcomes were far more intense and terrible than they have been thus far.

Does that mean we would have faced a 1930s-like future, but to our great relief, the welfare state has saved us? Hardly. While the unemployed masses are not starving, they are on the dole. And that has consequences of its own. Governments are already creaking under loads of unsustainable debt all over the world. The welfare state, one of modern democracy’s core concepts, is actually breaking down in Greece. As the crisis continues, this problem will spread. Despite Europe’s austere reactions, nations are still hemorrhaging money and accumulating debt—in addition to provoking their populations. Soon welfare states will collapse.

Then we really will be in trouble. The ’30s will come early this century.

Past that tipping point, the descent becomes rapid. People who have never been at risk of hunger in their lives will suddenly have nothing. Panic will break out almost overnight. We will be swimming in the same dangerous cocktail of seething hatreds and war-mongering governments. Once again, strong and extreme leaders will rise to the top. That combination cannot do anything but explode.

But there is good news in this rapid descent. As the Trumpet has been publishing for years, the Bible prophesied this descent into chaos—as well as what will come next. Just as it did in the 1930s, this world-rocking financial quake will spark a world-rending world war that will be far worse than World War ii; it will threaten the lives of everyone on Earth. But his time, the catastrophe will be interrupted by the return of Jesus Christ. The fact that the world is facing all of this bad news—retracing its steps into world war—also means that the good news is not far away.

EU Think Tank Touts Grand Imperial Vision

EU Think Tank Touts Grand Imperial Vision

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A European think tank promotes the idea of an empire extending from Europe across Central Asia to the Middle East and Africa.

We produce the following extract from German-Foreign-Policy.com without edit (July 26; translation ours):

A European think tank with connections to Germany is asking for the construction of an EU-controlled “Grand Area” from the Polar Sea over Central Asia and Middle East to North Africa. The “Group on Grand Strategy” (GoGS) wants to create this “Großraum” (“Grand Area”) on which, according to their opinion, the European Federal State should be built. This would provide a power base to serve European raw material interests and protect against encroachment by powers external to Europe.The concept, which in many ways conforms directly to German interests, also perceives the “Grand Area” with a network of military bases which would be solely “European,” devoid of any specific national control.The advisory board of GoGS belongs to an affiliate of the Bertelsmann Foundation, one of the most influential German think tanks; the political scientific sector is working on the topic “Europe’s Future” for the Foundation.

Note that the Bertelsmann Foundation was the most significant producer of propaganda for Hitler’s Nazi war machine.

To legitimize its postwar revival it deliberately lied in an attempt to cover up its insidious wartime connection with the Nazi regime and the support its ceo at the time gave to the vicious Nazi SS and to Jewish slave labor.

The Bertelsmann trail weaves its way through from its Nazi past to the postwar German elites who were quickly returned to influential positions within postwar Germany under Chancellor Adenauer. The fact of its current involvement, be it directly or indirectly, supporting the old Nazi idea of an empire extending from the Arctic to North Africa via Central Asia and the Middle East—the old German imperial vision—is deeply concerning indeed. Yet it is so consistent with the goals that its World War ii predecessors promoted as to leave no doubt that they have a common source—the old Teutonic dream of a resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire!

You need to read our publication He Was Right, which details just how highly accurate were Herbert Armstrong’s prophecies of the rise in our day of the seventh and final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire. The GoGS imperial vision is but the latest evidence that certain European elites are intent on bringing such an empire to pass!

How Not to Be Deceived

Christ’s greatest warning to this world is found in Matthew 24. What makes it the greatest? It addresses the world’s greatest deception!
From the September 2012 Trumpet Print Edition

“The whole world” is deceived. God inspired the Apostle John to write this in Revelation 12:9. That is a stunning statement. How is it possible that so many people could be deceived?

“The whole world” would have to include the various competing versions of professing Christianity, or else you can’t believe your Bible.

In Matthew 24, Jesus Christ talked about the “many” being deceived (verses 4-5), not the few. Yet He also said in that chapter that it is possible for you to understand the Bible so deeply that it is impossible to deceive you! You can become “the very elect,” and the very elect cannot be deceived (verse 24).

Yes, we can rise above deception! As incredible as it sounds, you and I can be part of Jesus Christ’s inner circle, His “little flock” (Luke 12:32)—the select, precious few who cannot be deceived.

Before a Sign of the End, a Warning

Matthew 24 is called the Olivet prophecy. The stage is set in verse 3: “And as [Jesus] sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?”

That is quite a subject: the sign of the end of the world, the end of this age, and the return of Jesus Christ!

Human beings will listen to almost any preacher proclaiming his version of end-time events, almost any wild-eyed fanatic, almost any Hollywood movie depicting the end of the world. But almost nobody will listen to Jesus Christ! What does Christ say is the sign of the end of this age and the lead-up to His return and the beginning of a new age?

Look carefully at how Christ answered the disciples’ question. He didn’t come right out and answer it immediately! Why not?

Because He had to warn them: If they didn’t beware of a powerful deception, they wouldn’t evenseethe sign! He emphasized that this fog of deception was so thick, so monstrous that if they didn’t cut through it, they simply wouldn’t see what Christ was talking about. They wouldn’t recognize when the end was upon them!

And this critical warning was recorded and preserved for us—right now!

“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceiveyou” (verse 4). You, He said—you disciples. When Christ says you, He is not talking to the world in general, He is talking to His own followers.

And what is the specific deception that Christ’s followers need to heed? “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (verse 5).

Here is the single greatest warning in the Bible! The whole New Testament revolves around this pivotal chapter of Scripture, and Christ’s imperative warning here is this: Beware of people whodeceiveyou about me!

Christ was warning His disciples—and warning you and me—that people would try to deceive us about Him and His message. He went on to talk about how the “many”—not the few—would be deceived about war, pestilence, famine and other unconscionable cataclysms. But the confusion about all those catastrophes exists primarily because people are deceived about religion—even Christianity!

Jesus Christ Himself founded His Church (see Matthew 16:18). Most people know very little about the Church He founded. The history of that Church is a fascinating and deeply important subject to study.

Did you realize that soon after Christ completed His ministry on Earth, a controversy arose about the gospel? Church history shows that people violently disagreed over whether the Church would proclaim the very same gospel message Christ Himself proclaimed—or whether it would proclaim a message about Jesus.

The message about Jesus won out. The message He preached was largely silenced.

About 20 years after the Church was founded, the Apostle Paul—inspired by Christ—wrote his epistle to the Galatians, and he said, Imarvel that you’ve already turned to another gospel! (see Galatians 1:6-7).

Paul went on to pronounce a double curse on any man, or even angel, who preached any gospel other than the one he had given them from Christ! (verses 8-9). God canonized that in the Bible, so He inspired it. These are the words of God: Anyone who preaches another gospel will receive a double curse! That is a serious warning that any minister should take to heart!

Are you sure you know what the true gospel is?

God’s Love, Waxed Cold

In His Olivet prophecy, Christ continued, “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9). Again, He is talking to His own disciples and telling them what will happen to them prior to His return!

This is an end-time prophecy. Christ is talking about a time just before His Second Coming, and He says the lives of many of His own people will be in danger. Why? There are several scriptures where God promises to protect His people. But these people turned away from God and lost that protection.

Verse 12 makes that abundantly clear: “And because iniquity [or lawlessness] shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” The word love is translated from the Greek word agape, which specifically means the very love of God. That agape love can only reside within someone who is begotten by God’s Holy Spirit (e.g. Romans 5:5). God gave this love to these people, and manythe majority—allowed it to wax cold. They lost God’s love because of their lawlessness. The love of God is that we keep His commandments (1 John 5:3). These people—who were not deceived, who had God’s love—committed lawlessness. As a result, they are now deceived—right at the time when Christ is about to return!

One Generation!

Matthew 24:14 adds another crucial aspect to Christ’s prophecy: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”

Here is the sign! Christ has given His impassioned warning, and now He gives the monumental sign of the end of the world and His Second Coming!

Have you seen this sign? Have you seen the gospel preached around the world?

This is an astounding scripture that most people who study the Bible don’t understand. They don’t realize the truth: It has already been done!

It’s important to note that the end described here is not the same end discussed in verse 3. Verse 3 refers to the end of the age. Bible study aids will show you that this “end” is referring to the end of preaching the gospel to the world as a commission. Christ did not say that He would return as soon as the work of preaching the gospel message was completed.

Notice, however, Christ’s statement in verse 34: “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” “All these things” refers to everything Jesus is describing in this pivotal prophecy. But what did He mean by “this generation”?

This generation—the last generation before Christ’s Second Coming—is going to witness all these events in Matthew 24! A generation is roughly 30 years. So we need to know: When did that generation start?

Does Christ want us to know? Of course He does. We have to know when that generation began, or else we can’t understand the rest of the prophecies He is teaching us in Matthew 24!

So, when did that generation begin?

I believe strongly that this “last generation” began when the commission to preach this gospel around the world was stopped. When that work stopped, all the prophecies of Matthew 24 really began to be fulfilled.

Read the rest of the chapter, and you see that Christ prophesied that unparalleled suffering would occur at the close of this age, right before He returned. The 20th century was the bloodiest in human history. Two world wars killed 60 million people. Yet Matthew 24 says the time ahead will be far worse. Verses 21 and 22 say this will be an unparalleled time of tribulation that “no flesh” will survive if God doesn’t intervene. This has never been possible the way it is today. But now we have proliferating weapons of mass destruction that can do exactly that: extinguish all human life!

I think it is obvious that “this generation”—the last generation before Christ returns—began when the gospel commission ended. But if you don’t know what the gospel is, then you don’t know when that happened!

People can dispute what I’m saying if they want, but if it is true, it’s true. Christ said there would be one generation—a very short period of time—when all these prophecies in Matthew 24 would be fulfilled. You must prove when that generation is!

Don’t Believe It!

Notice verse 14 again: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” That is the sign. This gospel would be preached around the world, and then that work would endthen all the prophecies of Matthew 24 would begin to be fulfilled, in a single generation.

Think deeply about this. How could the gospel being preached around the world be a sign of the end?

The gospel was preached around the world in the first century a.d. by the church that Christ founded. But this prophecy shows that it would not be preached around the world again until the very last century.Otherwise it couldn’t be a sign of Christ’s return! If the true gospel had been preached around the world in the 15th century—or the 16th or 17th century—then that would have been the end. But at that time, the Church was asleep! The people of God didn’t do their job the way they should have. You can read where Christ prophesied of this at the conclusion of Matthew 24 and in the first 10 verses of Matthew 25.

Most Christians would disagree with this, but Jesus Christ said there would be the sign, and that we must understand it. The reason people don’t agree with this is that they don’t understand what the gospel is! They believe a false gospel.

And Jesus said that would be the case! One of the signs He gave was that manyChristianswould be deceived.

Counterfeit gospels have been around from the beginning. The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 11 about people turning to another Christ and another gospel. He warned that they would have another spirit; that there would be false apostles talking about Christ, but not delivering Christ’s message. He said they would come as angels of light, just like Satan the devil does—and that most people would believe them.

In Matthew 24:23, Jesus warned, “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not”! He specifically warned against people simply talking about Him. He told His followers not to listen to such men. His primary concern was whether or not people understood and believed Hismessage!

Do you see this situation extant today?

Listen to Christ! Listen to His message! Don’t listen to a man who only talks about the personality of Christ! Don’t listen to a man who says all you must do is believe in His name. Instead, listen to Christ Himself in Matthew 24. Read the Bible and believe not just the name, but the message.

When people don’t heed Christ’s words here, they get deceived! Instead of listening to Christ—they listen to men talk about Christ. Then they get deceived.

At the end of the age, just before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the worst possible deception is taking place. “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (verse 24). These are not just wild-eyed preachers on the fringe of society. These are powerful, persuasive men who deceive almost everyone. And if it was possible, they would even deceive the very elect! But it is impossible to deceive the very elect.

Whom Shall God Teach?

The Prophet Isaiah also warned about religious leaders who are off course. God warned about priests and prophets who “erred through wine, and through strong drink … they err in vision, they stumble in judgment” (Isaiah 28:7). The “strong drink” they are drunk on is spiritual. This prophecy is about lacking spiritual vision and judgment.

Verse 9 in this chapter is one of the most important verses in the entire Bible. Open your Bible and read it for yourself. This is how to be undeceived:

“Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.”

The only people God can teach knowledge or doctrine to are those who have been weaned—weaned from the mother. In biblical terms, a woman is a symbol of the Church. We cannot be like nursing children. We must be weaned from following men, weaned from looking to men. We must grow up and learn to look to Jesus Christ.

How do we do that? Verse 10 explains: For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.”

The Bible is Jesus Christ in print. It is like a jigsaw puzzle. You have to go over here and find some understanding, then put it together with what you find over there. You need to use the New Testament and the Old Testament, picking up a line here and a line over there, going back and forth and studying in great depth.

That is the way to follow Christ. It is not easy. Jesus Christ actually designed His Word to be difficult to understand. He coded the Bible! We have to closely follow what Christ says or we’re going to be deceived.

Believe it or not, Jesus Christ doesn’t want people in this world to understand until they are ready to obey.

This prophecy goes on to say that if you heed what Christ says, He will give you blessings. “To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing,” verse 12 says—but it concludes: “yet they would not hear.” So many people simply will not listen to what Christ says.

Get to Know Your Bible

Do you want to be educated in the Bible? If you aren’t receiving your education from God’s Word, then you are going to be following men—which is a curse (Jeremiah 17:5). You are going to be deceived.

We have to be weaned from following men. That’s why we get into so much trouble: We follow men who are deceived, and often led by the evil god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). Don’t follow men. Don’t even follow me! Beware those who would deceive even by talking about Christ!

Instead, just follow Christ.

Christ wants you to not be deceived. And you can know the truth if you will study God’s Word in depth and believe what He says!

To help you learn what Christ reveals in your Bible, we have published a comprehensive Bible correspondence course. It will help you put the scriptures together so you can prove the truth for yourself.

Each lesson in this course takes an enigmatic subject that few people understand and helps you put together all the scriptures on that subject. As you study the course alongside your Bible, you will be amazed at how plain the truth becomes! You will find the clear, plain, simple truths of your Bible to be even more fascinating than you imagine.

This study course will really excite you and challenge you, because it will show you how the Bible is for you today. It will help you see how the Bible explains the meaning of world events and God’s purpose for your life.

I guarantee that if you study the Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course, you will know what Christ teaches. This marvelous course truly brings the Bible alive!

You will find these lessons make plain the real meaning behind today’s world news. They reveal the answers to “unanswerable” social, family and personal problems facing billions today. The world around you will begin to make sense!

They also explain the very purpose of human life—and what is more important than understanding why you are here? The purpose for your life—which comes straight from Scripture—is so fantastic that it will astound you, and refresh you!

This course is given absolutely free of charge or solicitation. Our supporters want to give it to you. It won’t cost you anything, except your own effort in study.

We have gone to extreme measures to make the Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course an effective, wonderful teaching tool so you can understand and fall in love with your Bible. The Bible is such a wonderful tool. It shows you how to live a happy life and how to be a success in every way. And it teaches you how to avoid deception—and to experience the joy and excitement of knowing God.

Lies a Girl Shouldn’t Learn

Lies a Girl Shouldn’t Learn

_IB_/iStockphoto

The world is aggressively sexualizing your daughter. Fight back.
From the September 2012 Trumpet Print Edition

Why is Victoria’s Secret marketing thong panties and bras to 7-to-12-year-olds?

Why is nearly a third of major retailers’ clothing sexy—for example, drawing attention to a sexualized body part—for little girls’ sizes 6 to 14?

Why are companies manufacturing onesies for infants emblazoned with sexually obscene messages?

Because people are buying them. These grotesque products make money, and these companies don’t care one bit about what happens to our girls after the sale.

Some parents—a lot of parents—think sexy children’s clothes are fun, or even liberating for their daughters. What about you?

Is This Women’s Liberation?

Mainstream Western culture has been so blatantly sexualized for so long that adults, young adults and teens are saturated with it. For “new markets,” perverted minds and perverted companies have nowhere to go but down, aggressively targeting younger and younger children.

The beat of the pop song echoing in your daughter’s earbuds; the trendy music video, marketed right for her demographic; the entire magazine rack she passes every week at the store; the billboards on the way home; almost everything she sees on television; just about every last female actress, singer or celebrity; and now the very garments that are supposed to adorn her—all hit her over the head with the same abominable lie: A female’s worth is her sex appeal.

And tragically, this is what a growing majority of girls are coming to believe: that the only worthy woman is a sexy woman. That a woman is “powerful” when she is aggressively sexual.

Our malls, our streets and our secondary schools are becoming a parade of tight-fitting T-shirts with messages like, “Who needs brains when you have these?” and “Future porn star.”

This is supposed to be liberation for women? It is precisely the opposite.

The blatant sexualization of children is increasingly conventional. Walmart sells dozens of cosmetic products for girls as young as 6. Vogue magazine covers feature small girls made up and posed like grown women; inside you’ll see pictures of 6-year-olds wearing thongs and padded push-up bras. On television, the most popular shows aimed at 12-to-17-year-olds sexualize underage girls more often than adult women. And in the highest-grossing movies, teen girls are more likely than older women to wear provocative clothing, and they are just as likely to appear partially nude.

The more that girls consume these messages, the more they absorb their warped sexual stereotypes. At younger and younger ages, they “place appearance and physical attractiveness at the center of women’s value,” says the American Psychological Association’s study on “Sexualization of Girls” (emphasis added).

Is that what you want your daughter thinking?

Is This Happening to Your Daughter?

Who’s to protect these girls from predatory merchants aiming to profit from turning them into sex objects? Where are the parents?

Well, we are now three generations deep into Western society’s sexual revolution. We’re way beyond the problem of teenagers sneaking out of bedroom windows and getting into trouble. Today, those kids are parents—or even grandparents—and they are actually pushing their children to be more sexual!

Far too often, they are the ones actually buying those tight T-shirts, those short shorts and those skimpy tops.

That American Psychological Association (apa) report cited several other studies that each came to the same conclusion: Parents are now conveying to their daughters that their most important goal should be to look physically attractive.

Have you ever seen the show Toddlers & Tiaras? It shines a spotlight on the world of child beauty pageants. And who is at the center of it, besides a bunch of bossy, bratty, spoiled divas just out of diapers? Parents. More specifically, moms. Moms who have bought the sexualized stereotypes wholesale, and are now dressing up their little daughters in adult-style clothes, hair, make-up, fake tans, fake teeth, fake nails—and having them strut around with sassy walks, do suggestive hip-hop dance moves, strike flirtatious poses and make pouty kissy faces.

Why? To give their daughters higher self-esteem and more confidence, they say. Far likelier is that these girls will end up perpetually dissatisfied with their own bodies—and have insufferable egos to boot.

Our Daughters Are Suffering

The notion that looks are everything and that promiscuity is the path to happiness is poison. And that injection is most potent when your daughter is young, while her self-image is based so heavily on her perceptions of how others view her.

Making matters worse, the beauty standard our daughters are measuring themselves by is itself a demonstrable lie. The “normal” woman portrayed in the media is the wafer-thin, ultra-tall supermodel with big breasts. Not only do very few women fit that description, but those who do don’t actually look like what your daughter sees on screen. She is seeing a representation of a woman after make-up artists have caked on the cosmetics, photographers have applied filtered lenses and complex lights to even out skin tones, and graphic designers have used photo-editing software to remove wrinkles and stretch-marks, smooth dimply thighs, erase hints of flab, and create an image that has never actually existed in reality. This measure of “perfection” that our girls absorb in movies and magazine covers is fictitious and unattainable.

So, guess what? Real-life girls lack confidence in and comfort with their own bodies. Studies show they are feeling anxiety and even self-disgust on a broad scale. The number of girls 18 and younger who have gone under the knife for breast enlargements has risen nearly 500 percent over the past decade. Teenage girls are subjecting their still-growing bodies to medical procedures to get fuller lips, better noses, larger breasts, flatter stomachs, smaller thighs and so on—and their parents are encouraging this, even paying for it.

Unhealthy sexualized thinking causes eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression (along with negative moods and depressive symptoms)—which happen to be three of the most common mental health problems found in girls and women. Social scientists have been tracking these effects for some time in women who are college age and older. But they’re finding that the same problems are starting to emerge in teenage girls and younger. Even girls as young as 12 and 13 are ashamed of their bodies. The British Journal of Developmental Psychology revealed that half of British girls between ages 3 and 6 say they worry about being fat!

Your daughter deserves far, far better.

Parents Stand Up!

In the words of the apa, our girls are learning to “think of and treat their own bodies as objects of others’ desires … and to treat themselves as objects to be looked at and evaluated for their appearance.” This is a tragedy that your daughter should never have to fall victim to.

If you don’t want your daughter to believe those lies and fall prey to those predatory influences, then shield her, and educate her—and love her for who she is.

Here are four steps you can take to fight against this trend.

1. Know your daughter.

Take pains to get involved in her life. Know what she’s thinking. Understand how she’s feeling. She is worth it.

2. Be her teacher.

Teach her that society’s portrayal of “sexy” is wrong and damaging. Teach your daughter that she was not created to be an object for others to look at and evaluate. Teach her the truth about appearance: Yes, she should take care of her body, practice good hygiene, keep fit and capable of working hard—but she needs to avoid the trap of obsessing over her looks. She should know that the most attractive enhancements to her appearance are a sincere, genuine, ready smile, a warm demeanor and an outgoing personality.

3. Be her wardrobe manager.

Be actively involved in her wardrobe choices. She should dress nicely and modestly, showing respect for others and for herself. Tell her what is acceptable and what is not. Keep the standard high. It can be difficult to find appropriate clothing, but it must be done. Retain veto powers over her choices. Fight if you have to—do not back down.

4. Love her

Most importantly, give her the unconditional love that helps her to be positive, outgoing, confident and happy—a truly beautiful person inside and out.

A Dramatic Break From Iran

From the September 2012 Trumpet Print Edition

Hamas was once firmly in the Iranian/Syrian camp. Not anymore.

As Syrian President Bashar Assad began his brutal crackdown on his own people last year, Hamas suddenly found itself on the same side as bad guys. It had always painted itself as the friend of the weak, against the strong oppressor. Now, it was quickly losing credibility across the Middle East.

At first Hamas kept quiet, not wanting to offend its patron, Iran, on the one hand, and fearing the loss of popular support on the other. It resisted pressure from Iran to organize demonstrators to support Assad, and Iran began withdrawing its support.

But the dramatic break came in February. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh publicly rejected both Assad and Iran while on a visit to Egypt. “I salute all the nations of the Arab Spring and I salute the heroic people of Syria who are striving for freedom, democracy and reform,” he told thousands of supporters in the al-Azhar Mosque.

“We are marching towards Syria, with millions of martyrs,” chanted the crowd. “No Hezbollah and no Iran.”

At the same time, Hamas moved its central politburo in exile from Syria to Qatar. Since then, Hamas has been courting alternative donors. At the end of June, Hamas leader Khaled Meshal met with both Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Hamas has also been rebuilding its relationship with Jordan. Meshal returned to Jordan in January this year for the first time since being kicked out in 1999. He met Jordanian King Abdullah ii both in the January visit and in June.

Hamas seems to be steadily moving away from Iran and into a relationship with the Gulf states, Turkey and Jordan—exactly as the Bible prophesied.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah is also finding itself under pressure. Faced with the same dilemma as Hamas—torn between public opinion and Iranian backers—Hezbollah, so far, has stuck with Iran. The group was set up by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, so its ties with Iran are stronger. It is a Shiite movement, unlike the Sunni Hamas.

As Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah told thousands of Shiite supporters in south Beirut in July: “Our missiles are Syrian.” Syria supported Hezbollah when it was still in the cradle. And Nasrallah vows to return the favor, even as the Assad regime crumbles.

But Hezbollah’s stance is hurting the group. As the Assad regime falls, Hezbollah, and perhaps the entire Shiite population of Lebanon, is likely to take a major hit. “Hezbollah’s vast arsenal is already in the crosshairs of an increasingly emboldened Sunni opposition,” Daniel Nisman wrote in the Times of Israel, referring to a growing anti-Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, especially within the past year.

In another piece, also in the Times of Israel, published July 26, Mitch Ginsburg spelled out a probable scenario for a post-Alawite-led Syria. He predicted it would lead to a rise in power for the Sunni Muslims in Lebanon and that it could push the country toward another civil war.

Lebanon will eventually join the Arab camp that opposes Iran. That’s not what we see on the map today, but it is coming! The civil war in Syria is making this happen. It has pushed Hamas away from Iran. That same pressure will eventually pry Hezbollah and Lebanon away from Iran too, or it will break Hezbollah entirely.