Good insight (methinks) into this president’s current state of mind from Peggy Noonan

Camp season is over! Well, sort of over — there are always loose ends here and there to tie up, and my wife and I were already discussing plans for next year yesterday and this morning. But the intense part of the work is done, and life can get back to normal for a while.

After some catching up, that is.

A lot has built up over the last month or so, and if you are among those who have tried to get a hold of me and wondered if I dropped off of the face of the earth, please forgive me. I think I did better than normal this year in keeping up with other things during the whirlwind of camp days, but, to be sure, there are things I am only now getting to. I am not the most organized person in many areas of my life (“Duh,” rings the chorus of millions), but I am working on it.

Among the things that I am working on is catching up on some reading and news analysis. I had saved a link for myself to the July 4 WSJ opinion piece “The Daydream and the Nightmare” by Peggy Noonan–one of my all-time favorite contributors (even gave some of her speech-giving advice to campers in my Speech class at Teen Camp this year)–concerning her analysis of President Obama’s behavior in recent days. Under the subtitle was the blurb, “Obama isn’t doing his job. He’s waiting for history to recognize his greatness.” It seems to me that her column is spot on in its insightful summary of the president’s mindset. You can read it for yourself here: “The Daydream and the Nightmare” (my apologies if it is behind a paywall).

She makes the following comment concerning the president’s abysmal approval ratings:

We all know the reasons behind the numbers. The scandals that suggest poor stewardship and, in the case of the IRS, destructive political mischief. The president’s signature legislation, which popularly bears his name and contains within it the heart of his political meaning, continues to wreak havoc in marketplaces and to be unpopular with the public. He is incapable of working with Congress, the worst at this crucial aspect of the job since Jimmy Carter, though Mr. Carter at least could work with the Mideast and produced the Camp David Accords. Mr. Obama has no regard for Republicans and doesn’t like to be with Democrats. Internationally, small states that have traditionally been the locus of trouble (the Mideast) are producing more of it, while large states that have been more stable in their actions (Russia, China) are newly, starkly aggressive.

That’s a long way of saying nothing’s working.

Which I’m sure you’ve noticed.

"Can I just skip ahead to the part where history acknowledges I was awesome?" (image: Official Portrait from Change.gov)
“Can I just skip ahead to the part where history acknowledges I was awesome?” (image: Official Portrait from Change.gov)

Indeed, surely everybody has noticed. The world certainly has. But she points out that what everyone may not be noticing is the weird way in which the president is reacting to all of this.

I won’t go into all of those details–she lays them out nicely. She points out that it comes across like someone in a football game who is running out the clock, except that instead of running out the clock because he’s winning, he’s running out the clock while he is losing. Then she explains why, she believes, he is acting so oddly, and I think her insights are spot on.

Some of her comments:

Barack Obama doesn’t seem to care about his unpopularity, or the decisions he’s made that have not turned out well. He doesn’t seem concerned. A guess at the reason: He thinks he is right about his essential policies. He is steering the world toward not relying on America. He is steering America toward greater dependence on and allegiance to government. He is creating a more federally controlled, Washington-centric nation that is run and organized by progressives. He thinks he’s done his work, set America on a leftward course, and though his poll numbers are down now, history will look back on him and see him as heroic, realistic, using his phone and pen each day in spite of unprecedented resistance. He is Lincoln, scorned in his time but loved by history.

He thinks he is in line with the arc of history, that America, for all its stops and starts, for all the recent Supreme Court rulings, has embarked in the long term on governmental and cultural progressivism. Thus in time history will have the wisdom to look back and see him for what he really was: the great one who took every sling and arrow, who endured rising unpopularity, the first black president and the only one made to suffer like this.

That’s what he’s doing by running out the clock: He’s waiting for history to get its act together and see his true size.

Makes sense to me, and fits the picture pretty well painted by the actions of the man in the Oval Office, both during his time so far as president and even before. And Noonan’s comments about the dangers to the country in having a president with such a mindset also seem to me to be right. Again, the article is worth a read.

I would like to add a couple of my own observations.

I’ve known some that see large, malicious, conspiratorial plotting behind some of the president’s decisions, as if his personal goal is to leave the North American continent a smoking ruin, put on a bejeweled turban, and then fly off to live in a palace in the Middle East with college buddies from ISIS for the rest of his days–or, perhaps, to complete his initiation into the Illuminati in 2016 by offering up to the inquisitor the caged souls of everyone who didn’t read the “I give up my soul” fine print before signing on to Obamacare.

However, rather than insufficiently supported ideas, to me a comment attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte has always seemed much more likely to apply:

“Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.”

Over the last almost six years, the president has not struck me as a particularly competent individual when it comes to governing. I don’t mean that as a critique of him as a human being, just as a leader. And believe me, I’ve been incompetent at a lot of things, before, so I know it when I see it. (Please no agreement with that in the comments. Just pretend with me that I am being funny and not accurate.)

He seems caught up in a vision of a politically progressive America–lessened and humbled for the reasons he believes it should be lessened and humbled (not the same as God’s reasons, by the way) and in the ways he believes it should be lessened and humbled, but still able to become the generally-religion-free, academics-and-the-state-know-best, no-one-too-rich-and-every-one-taken-care-of “dream nation” he and many of his philosophical persuasion have always felt it could be. Their own version of a “city on a hill.” As Ms. Noonan describes, I think the president believes strongly that he has set the country on such a course, and that is what is most important to him. The rest is just sort of “meh.” The pesky trifle of a major airliner being downed, murdering 298 people in the Ukraine? A distraction. 200 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram? Bad timing. After all, if the goal is to teach the world that America won’t swoop in and save you, it doesn’t do the cause any good to, you know, save anybody.

The mundane explanations fit best. No dramatic, secret plans to round up and murder America’s Christians, as I saw recently claimed on the Internet, for instance. Rather, it’s all a lot more mundane: the dream of a Supertolerant Nation™ in which everyone is enlightened enough to tell such Christians to shut up and keep their moralizing to themselves — all in a spirit of Supercivility™, of course. Rather than darkly conspiratorial, it’s sadly mundane. It’s a simple-to-understand ideology, and it’s more than sufficient to explain the horrendous state of leadership we are currently experiencing. (Though it isn’t the whole story, as I’ll eventually get to.)

And it fits prophecy. God says that Israel (not just modern Israel, but the U.S. and the U.K.) will lack even halfway decent leadership before it topples, and do we ever. Read Isaiah 3:1-7. It describes a people desperate for a decent ruler–anyone. Yet, God says that there won’t even be a “diviner” (v.2) available. Even the sorts of leaders who may have been heathens but were at least competent will be unavailable. And as for “children” being the people’s “princes” (v.4), I must say that–without saying that the verse doesn’t have a certain literal meaning to it–I don’t know when the leaders of my nation have ever seemed to me so childish in all of my life. And I mean that for both parties.

We are experiencing quite a leadership crisis. And it is far from over.

Still, that’s a lot of words, and I said I would mention two observations. Here’s the other one.

More important than the matter of competency, the president has furthered the sins of the nation.

On one hand, I’ve seen some Pretend Prophets claim that the current president is “apocalyptic” and I get it: Repeatedly using a word like that makes for increased Internet hits and book sales (however sad and ineffective those hits and book sales remain, it is at least a higher number of sad and ineffective hits and book sales). It makes for sensational titles and headlines and sounds end-of-the-worldy. Sensationalism sells. Duh. But it also adds to “prophecy burn out” and is done in a misleading spirit, however well-intended. Yes, indeed, this president has helped moved this country along the path to further spiritual disease. Presidents Bush and Clinton before him did their fair share, as well. And the next president (Mrs. Clinton? Mr. Bieber?) will likely do the same. God’s prophecies deserve to be treated with more respect than that, and, in the end, for each person grabbed by an (inevitable) parade of such abusively provocative titles and overused/misused adjectives like “apocalyptic,” two or three more will be turned off by the shallowness of such desperate pandering. It grabs the attention while simultaneously lessening the impact and doing more harm than good. Still, common sense isn’t rampant in the Self-Appointed Prophet crowd (or even uncommon sense–or any sense, at all, really), so I don’t seeing it let up anytime soon.

On the other, it doesn’t mean that we haven’t seen some vomitously sinful decisions made during this administration’s tenure. And that’s what concerns me. Politics is politics. Progressivism, conservatism, liberalism, capitalism, Republicans versus Democrats, Pirates versus Ninjas, whatever… God can make even the goofiest decisions work if the nation is seeking Him and His way above all else.

And the worst missteps of this presidency aren’t political. They are moral. The powerful support given to the abortion industry. (I do note the wish-it-were-funny irony of seeing some who decried Vietnam vets in the 60s as being “baby killers” now in office making baby killing our official government policy.) The endorsement of homosexual “marriage” from the highest office in the nation. This is increasingly an immoral government (and not just in the Executive Branch). Its distance from God is increasing, and its velocity along that trajectory is increasing, as well.

Concerning politics, let the nation do what it will. God asks His people to step aside from that. But not to sit on their hands–rather, He asks them to focus on those things that matter more: the nation’s relationship to its God. And this president has been a big supporter of severing that relationship–as weak and tenuous as it was, already. Not that this has been his official policy, but a policy’s meaning and intentions can’t be divorced from its effects.

Returning the nation to the Constitution is not going to return it to God. Getting a Republican (or a Democrat, or a Libertarian, or a Conservative, or a Liberal, or a whatever-Ron-Paul-is/was) in office is not going to return it to God. Let others wage those fights–they aren’t God’s fights. “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36).

Our task is not to explain to the leaders of this world, including our current president, how his government of this world falls short of the ideals of America’s forefathers–who also, by the way, crafted a government of this world. Our task is to show them, and everyone, how it falls short of the ideals of the government of the world to come–how it falls short of the ideals of the Forefather of that government.

Yes, a politically competent president who had the ability to see at least a little more accurately what his decisions and non-decisions are doing to the United States, and to the world, for what will be very little gain in the end would be nice. But competency isn’t enough. The nation needs a leader who desires to seek God in all of his decisions. And we haven’t had that in a long time. Frankly, we won’t get that until Christ returns to be that leader.

And, still, a more moral, God-seeking leader would not be enough. We need a moral people who desire to seek God in their lives. Those who stack a world of blame on the president are missing the point. One of the nice things about a real democracy (OK, a republic, for you sticklers out there) is that the leaders tend to reflect the people. And concerning our current president, I personally find him pretty reflective of the people he and those around him in the halls of power so poorly govern–at least in the ways that fundamentally matter in the end.

Should a leader arise amongst the citizenry of the United States actually proposing to turn this nation to God in a serious and meaningful way, the ways God is looking for, is there any hope that this people would elect such a one? Is there any hope that this people would allow the radical changes such a one would promote?

That’s the beauty of the New Covenant. People aren’t just forgiven of their sins and rebellion and left otherwise as they are. They are transformed from the inside out (Hebrews 8:10), so that the world will have a godly leader (in fact, God) and they, themselves, will become godly people. It takes both. As Deborah and Barak sang: “When leaders lead in Israel, when the people willingly offer themselves, bless the LORD!” (Judges 5:2) — it takes both. (And, I should note: That was Barak, not Barack.)

Yes, Israel is suffering from a leadership crisis. But it’s not without cause (cf. Prov. 26:2). And the cause isn’t deep, vast, global conspiracies or the Illuminati or FEMA or even Wall Street “fat cats.” The cause is us. And it isn’t our lack of political savvy or our bad public policy or our forgetting about the U.S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence or our ignorance of secret government plots. It’s our sin.

It’s simple. No need to complicate it. No need to add to it. And no excuse for being distracted from it.

Want to fix the country? Address the sin.

All other efforts are little more than band-aids on a severed limb.

And, wow, what was meant to be a simple “Hey, look at this nice Peggy Noonan article” blog post has turned into a bit of a rant. My apologies! If you weren’t counting on such a long post, feel free to stick to the stuff above about the WSJ article. 🙂

Please pray for the country, even as you “sigh and cry” for it (cf. Ezek. 9:4). Pray for our leaders, including the president, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Tim. 2:2). I know I need to be forgiven for the times I have forgotten to do so.

And let’s do our part, individually, to avoid adding to this nation’s mounting sins, and, collectively, to support the preaching of Jesus Christ’s message to this world–about its current state, its coming reckoning, and the hope of the kingdom He is bringing to replace it.

End of rant.

2013 in review

Wow — 2013 has flown by like nobody’s business! I cannot recall ever feeling like a year went by so fast as I feel this year.

For my own sake, I thought I would put together a few thoughts about the Roman year that is now passing. It has been a crazy 365 days, though it hasn’t necessarily been an unpredictable craziness…

The United States continues to broadcast its incompetence. As explained by a WSJ opinion piece today, the new president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, has “out-leadershipped” virtually every U.S. leader over the last year by actually making his country work and work better, addressing actual problems. Meanwhile, we keep applying new band aids on top of old band aids and our symptoms are beginning to multiply. “Dysfunctional” hardly seems like a sufficient word for what we have seen in our government over the course of 2013 (certainly a far cry from my fantasy Obama acceptance speech). Our debt continues to be nauseating, our military frustrated, our credibility in the world fatally compromised, and our morality continuing down the toilet.

On that last point, as Yahoo! News noted (hat tip to SW!) 2013 was, according to the so-called Human Rights Campaign, the “gayest year in gay history.” What we have witnessed in terms of cultural collapse and moral change in 2013 has been breathtaking in its speed. But, as I have tried to say before, the changes we see in the state of “marriage” are not the problem as much as they are the symptom. If marriage had remained a sacred and honored institution and if sexual activity had continued to be seen as something belonging within the domain of marriage, none of this would be happening. Admittedly, it is a symptom that the disease is in its final stages, but it is merely a symptom. We’ve only gotten to these final stages here in 2013 because all previous symptoms were willfully ignored.

(That said, the signs of our cultural rot in the U.S.A. are too many for me to even want to list here, as I would love to move on. Let me only add here in parentheses that it would be wonderful if 2014 involved no news items that contained the word “twerk.” That would be great.)

On the world scene, the changes and challenges have also been breathtaking. The Eurozone survived the predictions of many that it would crumble. The Middle East, Egypt and Syria in particular, continues to be scrambled up in a manner that will eventually enable a King of the South. Not to ignore other countries in the area: In 2013, Iraq experienced its deadliest year since 2008 and Iran got a big, wet, kiss on the lips by the U.S. and its buddies. The world continues to become configured in a manner consistent with the picture the Bible paints of the End Times.

And stepping into that world scene is a pope like none that world has seen for quite some time. Taking on the name “Francis I” which suggests that he is of a mind to reform, he has begun to do that — attempting to reform both the Roman Catholic Church’s image and its institutions. In addressing its image, many homosexuals and abortionists were encouraged by his comments that such topics dominate too much of the RCC’s dialogues and that it should focus on other things. What he did not say, of course, is that the positions and doctrines of the RCC were actually going to be changed in such matters — something that those who actually pay attention were sure to notice. Still, by focusing on projecting an image of humility and outgoing concern for the impoverished and the unheard, Pope Francis is creating the sort of picture that better matches the RCC’s talk and is reforming its image in a way that few could have imagined before 2013. The news speaks of record numbers of young, intelligent, educated women choosing the “calling” of the nunnery, and even many atheists are singing his praises, with one woman tweeting, “I’m an atheist, but the more I hear about Pope Francis, the more I like him.” Her opinion is not an isolated one, and I have read of many atheists considering giving the RCC another chance at winning their hearts–perhaps loosening the grip that Richard Dawkins, et al., have had on their minds.

Whether or not he is the last one and whether or not his honeymoon with the world continues unabated in 2014, the pope that the RCC received in 2013 is a game changer. It was a remarkable event of the past year with ramifications that will continue to be felt for much longer.

Concerning the Work of God, 2013 was an incredible year, with some of the most dramatic changes I have seen since I have had the privilege to be a part of it in this way! The Tomorrow’s World studio has been transformed, we’ve grown from a one-camera operation to three (including a jib), our graphics and planning for each program are being taken to a new level, the magazine underwent a powerful redesign, and our online presence has exploded through social networks at an almost frightening rate. The new TW Short videos are being viewed by tens and even hundreds of thousands of people at a time and are bringing thousands of additional people to our booklets and materials. Individuals all across the northern hemisphere are hearing the Tomorrow’s World program being broadcast in Russian for the first time. Dr. Roderick Meredith’s live Tomorrow’s World presentations online rocked, and, in my personal experience, the number of people who responded to the local TW presentations were greater than I had ever seen. And all of this (and so much more) just represents 2013! It doesn’t include any of the many things on the horizon just waiting for the trigger to be pulled. As far as I am concerned, this really is perhaps the most exciting time to be a part of the Work of God that I have ever experienced, in which it seems so blatantly obvious to those with eyes to see that His own hands are at work in the Church’s efforts.

Concerning those related to COGdom but outside the borders of God’s Work, if you will, in 2013 the rumormongers continued rumormongering, the self-appointed grew in number (as they always do), and the weird fantasies continued to multiply. Someone claimed to see in the Bible that Mr. Meredith would die this past year. And while it isn’t exactly the boldest prediction in the world that a man in his mid-80s would die, it, of course, flopped. Weird stories and predictions about the Church and its leaders crafted by various heretics and apostle-wannabes that were provably complete delusional fantasies did not pan out, as usual. Some folks here and there on the Internet finally acted on personal ambitions and self-delusions they have held for years. The earth kept spinning. The moon continued to orbit the earth. Boasters kept boasting. Accusers kept accusing. In those ways, 2013 was just another day in the office, as it has been for 2000 years. 🙂

Personally, it was a joy to serve my congregations in 2013. We grew, with a number of additions from those who have seen the telecast, received our literature, responded to the local presentations, and impressed with friends and loved ones who are in the Church. Frankly, I’ve never been involved in so many baptism counselings simultaneously, and it looks as though our Passover halls will happily be a bit more crowded! Growth aside, it is a privilege to get to serve so many wonderful people in this area, and I appreciate so much their patience with me. My family and I are so happy to make our home here.

Speaking of home, 2013 was quite a year on the home front! It was the first full year that my wonderful father- and mother-in-law have loved here, which has been such a blessing. It also was the year when I officially became shorter than 50% of my children, making me the third shortest person in a house filled with eight people. I lost 20 lbs. (Huzzah!) But have gained almost half of that back. (Booooo…) My wife and I had the humbling opportunity to travel to Europe, which was life-changing in a number of ways. Boy #1 continues to excel at fencing (the kind with masks and foils, not paint and wood), while Boy #2 has taken up Tae Kwon Do. Boy #3 is almost as tall as me, even though he is only 12-years-old, and Boy #4 has, here at the end of the year, gotten a pair of glasses that officially make him look smarter than me. 🙂 My Beautiful Wife began trying to sell some of her beautiful quilts (Etsy store: “Jeanine’s Quilted Things”). We painted our house. My work on Wally 4.0 proceeded apace, though not as “apace” as I would like (I still think it’s in beta). I converted to the Apple Ecosystem — in fact, I even got a MacBook Air to replace my old PC laptop (which I am surprised I haven’t blogged about, given how I’ve gone on about earlier matters), making me virtually 100% Apple-powered (though still rooting for Surface to do well).

More could be said, to be sure, but this Roman year of 2013 is ending with quite a bit having happened and with much promise of more to come in 2014.

In particular, this past year for me and my family was another opportunity to know that God has blessed us, that Jesus Christ rules in the Church and in our family, and that all our answers are found there in Him. All we have and know is worth having and knowing only because He grants that we have and know it, and all we do not have or know is not our concern as long as we are continually open and yielding to the One who, in His good time and for His good purposes, should one day grant that we have or know it. And until that day, having Him is sufficient. I think I saw that a little more clearly in 2013.

Perhaps the best thing about 2013 (even better than being 99% done with 2012 Maya-related silliness!) is knowing that Jesus’ return and His Kingdom is another solar revolution closer than it was this time last year. And whether I am alive when He comes back to earth or whether He determines in His wisdom that my end should come earlier than that, that is — beyond a doubt — a very good thing. (Does Martha Stewart have that phrase copyrighted? I hope not.)

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The Boy Scouts and America’s growing rebellion against God

Well, how sad. In a move that makes no “carnal” or moral sense, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has decided to change its position and allow homosexual scouts but not homosexual leaders. If this is news to you, you can read about it here: “Boy Scouts vote to lift ban on [homosexual] youth” (or, frankly, you can read about it just about anywhere; the media seems to be having a party).

Looking purely from an argumentative standpoint, morality aside, the decision seems inept. It is not a compromise that will satisfy those behind the homosexual agenda in the matter. It is only a half-measure, and, as many have already made clear, they will not stop until the whole measure is in place: where distinctions between homosexual and heterosexual identifications play no role at all in Scout matters and homosexuals are allowed as leaders, as well. So the decision won’t end the social pressure. Nor will it change the legal standing of the group in any positive way. Actually it may make things worse, since one of the arguments, as I understand it, that the BSA made to maintain its policies against homosexual participants was that the policy reflected the position of the majority of those who sponsor Scouting, which would include many nominally Christian churches. The positions of those sponsors has not changed appreciably, so the BSA seems to be undercutting one of its own defenses. If the will of its sponsors makes no difference concerning who can be a scout, then why would it make a difference concerning who can be a leader? Again, there is no argumentative sense here.

That it makes no moral sense should be immediately obvious, but perhaps it isn’t so straightforward. The nature of homosexuality has not changed. A scout’s oath to “keep myself… morally straight” has not changed. The public’s opinion of homosexuality is certainly changing, however, so perhaps that’s where it makes sense. Perhaps the BSA has officially agreed that morality is relative and that our standards are completely defined by our society’s current fads and fascinations. If that’s the case, then other parts of the oath, such as “do[ing] my best to do my duty to God” is up for grabs, as well, I suppose.

Regardless, the bid to make it only a matter of accepting homosexual scouts but not homosexual adult leaders is doomed by this call. If one can be “morally straight” and a homosexual before becoming 18-years-old, what makes homosexuality at age 18 and after somehow no longer “morally straight”? If the definition is driven by public sentiment before 18, why is it suddenly an objective absolute after 18? Does a homosexual who has achieved the honored level of Eagle Scout, a recognition that a person is worthy of Scouting’s greatest honor, who turns 18 suddenly have to turn in all of his scouting ties and affiliations and leave the organization, because his age has made him suddenly dishonorable? One who has received the highest honor that Scouting can bestow on a person, representing in many ways the pinnacle of leadership, would be prevented from serving as a leader in the very organization that so recognized him? That doesn’t seem to make sense. I wouldn’t expect that to stand.

The comments I see being made by some BSA decision makers in this is that it will allow them to “serve more kids.” That would seem terribly short-sighted, not to mention rationally incoherent. If it’s a matter of numbers, they would be able to “serve more kids” if they opened up to girls, also. If they are thinking of dropping morality as an issue that they may open the doors wider, then they could, perhaps, “serve more kids” by taking in unrepentantly immoral youth of all sorts. The problem is that they are not simply increasing the numbers they serve in this way; rather, they are fundamentally transforming what it means to say they are “serving” them, at all.

Perhaps I will be surprised. Perhaps they will open the doors to youths who believe they are homosexuals and then be consistently on message that homosexuality is still immoral, and those scouts will be under positive pressure to change, as would any other scout engaged in behavior that is seen as violating their oath. I don’t see any evidence of that, but it is the only way I can imagine such a decision being made that is in any way conceivably consistent with logic and reason.

Well, that and then the possibility that the BSA now does feel that homosexuality is not immoral and that this was the biggest change that they thought they could enact without completely losing all support. Then the goal would be to purposefully undercut their previous arguments so as to have the other changes seem to be “forced” on them so that the end result is that homosexuality is no longer an issue in any way at all. That would be some cold calculating, but not impossible to imagine.

Anyway, my point is that when Mr. Meredith talks about the “falling away” or “rebellion” against God talked about in 2 Thess. 2:3, “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away [or ‘rebellion’, ‘defection’, ‘revolt’, ‘turning away from a previous standing’] comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,” we are seeing that happen around us.

His insight that this refers to something huge is not only sound biblically and in the proper use of the Greek language, but we see it reflected in the world around us. The Boy Scouts–a shining light to many who, for years, saw them as an example of an organization willing to stand for what was right no matter cost in public perception–provide yet another example.

Yes, it is true that in the end times many true Christians will turn from the faith–whether to the world’s counterfeit Christianity or to other alternatives. That is a given. Paul says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).  As self-declared apostles, self-deluded prophets, and self-appointed teachers multiply, we see this happening at a seemingly increasing pace.

And, yes, it is true that outside the Church there is a vast deficit of the truth. For those whom God has not yet called, they simply do not have those precious truths God reveals only to those He is working with at this time–His Church. Actually being a Christian is more than being called a Christian. We’re hated for it, but we recognize that the “Christ” believed on by the vast majority of what is called “Christianity” is a “counterfeit Christ” — as Paul said, “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4) and not the Jesus of the Bible.

But this does not mean that the rest of the world does not have any “truth” to fall away from or rebel against, at least not according to the Bible. Quite the contrary, consider how God speaks through the apostle of the Gentiles: “…for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness…” (Romans 2:14-15). Not that they had the fullness of God’s revelation, but, rather, that there are some things God has placed inherently within us concerning certain elements of morality. There is nothing in the human heart that inclines it to know that the seventh day is holy to God and should be kept holy. Yet, there is something that says, for instance, that parents are to be respected. And, frankly, that homosexuality is not right.

There is a reason that some moral principles are common even within heathen cultures. It’s the reason that those whom Paul describes as groping for God in their ignorance (Acts 17:27) do have some basic, simple principles of God’s Way inherent in their natures–not all of it by far, to be sure, as the entirety is only available through his revelation and the engagement of His Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14)–such that they are still accountable for their actions when they know they’ve done wrong, if not to the same degree as someone who has not only the basic, natural sense of right and wrong but also the revealed knowledge (Luke 12:47-48).

Yet, what we see around us today is an active casting aside of even those things God, in His mercy, made natural within mankind. Patriarchy-based leadership, the Godly structure of the family which has been most natural to civilization, has been on the outs for some time. We see the willingness of society to butcher its unborn children, the natural inclinations and maternal instinct God has placed within mankind, taking a prideful place as more than a right but, incredibly, a “moral” stand. The list could go on and on. But the BSA decision represents another chapter–or at the least a turn of the page in the same chapter–in this increasing rebellion against even the natural truths God has placed within His creation. Homosexual behavior is immoral. And the pride in those who would actively remove that conviction from our societies–both here and abroad–is revealing. It is the pride one sees in the revolutionary, standing against the establishment with “right” on his side. But the revolution is against God, and the “establishment” is the natural order He designed and a sense of which He imparted as a gift of creation.

God’s pattern with peoples and civilizations before intervention in the past often has been not to bring punishment until the sin reaches its fullness. Biblically, this is seen in multiple examples. Consider God’s comment concerning the Amorites in Genesis 15:16, that He would not bring Israel into the land until after some time had passed, “for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” Does that mean that the Amorites were a people to whom God had revealed His truth, like He has to His Church, and that he was waiting for them to fall away from that divine revelation? Of course not. They were already a people removed from the standards of God in their behavior and understanding, but God says they had further to fall away from those standards before He planned to intervene. Frankly, we see the same in God’s ultimate dealings with Israel, in which He gave them so much time to change, but eventually time was up.

We see it with Jonah’s being sent to Nineveh.  Were the people of Ninevah a called people of God in the sense that they had His laws, were keeping His Sabbaths and Holy Days, and were abiding by His commandments? I see no evidence whatsoever that they were. They were not set apart in the same way Israel was, nor were they given God’s laws like Israel was (cf. Deut. 4:7-8). And did they return to the entirety of God’s law after Jonah’s preaching and prophesying–the entirety of a law which was not fully revealed to them? No, they surely did not. But they did respond in the ways they understood to respond? Yes. Did they repent of at least those things their natures told them were wrong? Yes (Jonah 3:7-9). But more importantly, did God recognize the difference for His purposes at that time? Yes, He did, and he delayed their destruction (Jonah 3:10). Not having the fullness of God’s revealed truth did not prevent them from, as a civilization, having fallen even further from those inherent standards of right and wrong God has allowed to exist in all human beings, nor did it mean that God did not care if they were falling further from those standards or seeking to return to them. Clearly, He did.

The pattern of waiting until “transgressors have reached their fullness” (Dan. 8:23) is a biblical theme, describing the actions of the God of the Bible. And these very biblical ideas–that iniquity may be present without yet being complete, that transgression may not have yet reached its fullness, and that a people without the full revelation of the law can still be held accountable for rebelling against the part they do naturally know and then even shown some mercy for returning to that part–mean that it is possible for those who live in a fallen state with regard to the truth to fall further away, and that those who live in a state of general rebellion can still rebel to greater extent. The idea that one who is in a state of being apart from the fullness of the truth cannot fall away or rebel in a more climactic sense simply has no biblical basis at all.

There are many examples and relevant passages one could review. I will use only one more before I begin to beat the dead horse too excessively… Consider what Paul says of the Gentiles in Romans 1:18-32. It is correctly taken axiomatically that the Gentiles he speaks of, such as in the Greco-Roman world, did not have the special revelation of God concerning all of His beautiful law and understanding, yet he stresses that they had at least that which could be naturally known, from the world around them (v.20) to their own natural design (v.28), and that–even without the fullness of the spiritual revelation–God held them accountable for their rebellion and their falling away from what they did know, explaining that they were choosing not to retain God in their minds (v.28), even if that understanding would have been limited, and that for this rebellion they were deserving of death (v.32).

Anyone who claims that it is impossible for those who don’t have the full truth of God to fall further away from God or to rebel to an even deeper extent simply haven’t read enough of their Bibles. (And I would have been such an “anyone” in the far enough past, but thankfully the Bible’s a hard book to resist!) And those who think God doesn’t notice when organizations like the Boy Scouts make the sorts of decisions like they have recently and doesn’t consider it a worsening of their state and a further distancing themselves from God also don’t seem to know their Bible.

In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Paul describes the End Time state of affairs:

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”

In the verses afterwards, he describes the impact of this attitude on the Church, specifically, including its reflection in events of his time. But it would be dangerously foolish to think that because he addresses that description in the context of its impact on and within the Church that he is not speaking of a condition that will be true for the whole world, in general. Who would think that?

And we see this state coming into shape in our world right before our very eyes.

However incompletely and imperfectly, to the extent they understood it the Boy Scouts sought to reflect a “love of God” in their organization, and enshrined that love in their oath. Their desire to impart moral goodness to boys and young men had a semblance of godliness. But in embracing something unholy, they step closer to being despisers of good, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, and to denying any power or authority in the form of godliness they seek to maintain. If we don’t see in the Boy Scouts’ decision yet another step toward the world described by 2 Timothy 3, then we aren’t looking.

As Paul says, from such people turn away.

Great summary of the decline in U.S. military strength

I know it’s odd for me to post twice in one day, and I wouldn’t want to divert anyone from the theological musings in “Married Bachelors and Instant Character” but this comment I read in an WSJ opinion piece really struck me as a fantastic summary of the current state of the American military:

“History and the present tell us unambiguously that we require vast reserves of strength used judiciously, sparingly when possible, overwhelmingly when appropriate, precisely, quickly, and efficiently. Now we have vanishing and insufficient strength used injudiciously, promiscuously, slowly, and ineffectively.”

The commentary, published yesterday, was “Benghazi’s Portent and the Decline of U.S. Military Strength” by Mark Helprin, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute. You can click on the link, but it is behind a paywall, so unless you have a subscription or can view a free preview, you may not be able to read the whole thing. It’s a good read, though, and Halprin’s comments about what America is doing to its military strength are insightful.

Egyptians looking for “superman” president

Standard of the President of Egypt
Standard of the President of Egypt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I thought the AP article distributed by Yahoo! News on the current Egyptian elections was interesting: “Picking new leader, Egyptians search for superman” (by Sarah El Deeb, 5/24/2012).

Never really having had the chance to participate in the selection of their nation’s head of state (I hear the pharaohs didn’t really give the people much choice either), Egyptians are apparently very excited about the possibilities and about participating in the process. One has to wonder, though, how some will feel when if man elected does not live up to what are apparently some terribly high expectations. As the AP article summarizes the sentiment (backed up by quotes later in the article), to satisfy everyone the new Egyptian president will need to be be “honorable, smart, a knight, a man with a heart, a military man, a religious man, one who goes down and meets with the people. What they are really looking for is a superman” — all while “facing an incredibly tall order of problems, from a tumbling economy and a beat-up security force to decrepit schools and hospitals that can’t even provide enough incubators for premature babies.”

Do read the article if you are interested. The comments from voters about their hopes and expectations were interesting. Here’s one from Heba el-Sayed, a 42-year-old teacher:

“We want a flawless president. We want him strong, just, respectable, clean, someone who feels for the poor. We basically want a superman.”

So many in the world are crying out for righteous government after years, even generations, of rule by those whose reigns have provided anything but. Such sentiment will likely play a role in the rise of a future King of the North and King of the South in the years ahead as discussed by the prophet Daniel — developments in which Egypt can be expected to have a role (cf. Dan. 11:42-43).

And while these leaders will not ultimately be the fulfillment of the deepest desires of humanity, there is One coming who will be flawless, strong, just, respectable, and clean, and who feels for the poor. And beyond comic book caricatures, he truly will be a super Man. May that day come quickly — not only for those in Egypt, but for all of us.

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:6

Ethicists argue: Abortion is OK, so infanticide should be, also

English: Newborn infant, 4 hours after birth D...
"Here's your baby, ma'am! Are you pleased with it, or would you like us to kill it for you?" (Image via Wikipedia)

A recent WSJ “Best of the Web Today” entry led me to a Telegraph article on a recent academic paper that would shock many, though sadly it shouldn’t. I wish I had more time to write about it, but I did want to mention it here so that you could read it for yourself.

Quite a brouhaha was stirred this past week when the Journal of Medical Ethics published a paper titled “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” (The Telegraph article was titled “Killing babies no different from abortion, experts say”.) The paper essentially argued that there would be nothing morally wrong at all with killing a newborn for whatever reason the parents should choose. While there is a focus on children born with deformities and other challenges, the authors make clear that the reason it would not be morally problematic to kill such infants is because killing any infant, in general, is not morally problematic. The key element in the argument is that infants are only “potentially morally relevant people” — potentially being the important word. The position of the paper is that there is not real distinction in terms of moral choices between killing an child soon after birth and killing a child in the womb.

That such a position would be published in a prestigious medical journal should not be shocking. As the Telegraph reports, this is not necessarily a new development but one that has been bandied about for a time, though perhaps in more raw forms.

And at the heart of the vile conclusion is a truth: There truly is no moral difference between abortion before birth and “abortion” after birth. As Dr. Trevor Stammer of St. Mary’s University College points out in the Telegraph article, rather than turning on the word “abortion” we could link the two terms with “infanticide,” calling abortion an “antenatal infanticide.”

There is a cold logic that runs throughout the argument which only turns in the direction of hauntingly repulsive due to the moral flow. Rather than move from the general immorality of elective infanticide to the immorality of abortion, the flow is in the other direction, with the presumed moral acceptability of abortion leading to the acceptability of elective infanticide. It’s OK to kill our babies in the womb, so it’s OK to kill them after birth, as well.

It is the argument that pro-life individuals have tried to make for years: That abortion represents a disrespect for life made in God’s image, and that the “culture of death” represented by such positions will inevitably grow and spread. This is the spread. The professional ethicists fail to see that by unmooring morality from the will of God, all substitute moorings are illusory. They pat themselves on the back for their enlightenment and the belief that they are establishing new anchors of a reasoned morality, all the while they are drifting and truly unmoored in any way.

These may seem like “high falutin'” journals that “real people” do not read, but don’t make that mistake. Those who establish medical and political policy do read such journals, and they do have their impact. The abominable work of men like “ethicist” Dr. Peter Singer don’t always stay on the outskirts or fringes. They do, slowly, come in from the edges and take seats among us.

The authors of the article and the editor of the JME have apparently received death threats over the matter, and that is wrong. And they, editor Dr. Julian Savulescu in particular, have decried such threats come from people who are “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society.” I think James Taranto responds well:

He’s half right. People who issue death threats in response to an academic article are indeed “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society.” But so are people who write or publish academic articles arguing in favor of the murder of children.

In such matters it seems clearer and clearer that we are living off of the remaining “principal” of a “moral investment” made earlier in our culture, and we are no longer making deposits into that account. And like any fund from which withdrawals are made without deposits to replenish the account, eventually the account zeros out.

That our academic community and professional ethicists are making recommendations that should be vomitous to a civilized society is a symptom of a society in horrific state or moral decline. That the logical groundwork for those recommendations have been present for decades–at least since Roe v. Wade–and solidly accepted by vast swaths of our society shows how systemic the problem is. Some would argue that a position like this paper represents does not reflect the sentiment of most of society, and this would be true. Yet there are sentiments now held by most of society that once only existed in academic papers. These things start somewhere. Today’s papers sometimes turn into tomorrow’s policies, if only by degrees.

The authors make a solid point in their ties between infanticide and abortion: the only difference between the two is legality, and the current state of the law is irrational and inconsistent in what it forbids and allows. Without God in the picture, though, I fear for how that irrational and inconsistent state would eventually be resolved over time.

We are increasingly losing the ability to distinguish between the clean and the unclean, the holy and the unholy. That our leading thinkers should consider the murder of children a small thing of no moral consequence is a travesty and a demonstration that the educational system that produced such “thinkers” is an abomination.

Rise of the Female Aggie Yell Leader?

Aggie Yell Leader Lans Martin (photo by Stuart Seeger)
Aggie Yell Leader Lans Martin (photo by Stuart Seeger)

Well, you can file this in the “unnecessary commentary few would be interested in” drawer. But it’s on the front page of my Wall Street Journal, so it’s made some news, and I think there are bigger principles that are touched by the “fun” news item it represents.

It looks as though Ms. Samantha Ketcham, a junior at Texas A&M University this year, is campaigning hard to become the first female Yell Leader.  For those unfamiliar with the tradition, check out the Wall Street Journal article, available without subscription, here: “There’s Lot’s of Yelling in Campaign to Break This Glass Ceiling” (WSJ, 2/27/2012).  The article actually covers the tradition fairly well, while mentioning many other A&M traditions, as well.  (Those of you who wonder why I begin most of my sermons or announcements or e-mails with “Howdy” will find your answer there.)

The fact is that Aggies don’t have cheerleaders, we have Yell Leaders: five guys (Rick Perry had been one while at A&M) dressed in white running around at football games who lead all the Aggies in the stands (and, yes, I’ve been one of them) in all of our arcane yells concerning farmers and bus drivers and the sawing off of our opponent’s horns in accordance with Psalm 75:10 (well, the only opponent to which this applies is t.u. — the Longhorns — which will be hard now that they’re in a different conference, but that’s another story).

Texas A&M used to be a school exclusively for the Corps of Cadets, gradually allowing nonregs (students who are not a part of the Corps of Cadets) and girls (students who are not boys), and is co-ed in many ways. While they aren’t a majority by far, there are even girls in the Corps of Cadets.

But the Yell Leaders have always been male.  For just over 100 years, it has been the one institution that has remained XY-chromosome-only. Some females have tried to be elected to the spot, but Ms. Ketcham’s campaign seems to be the most aggressive and most popular so far. You can check it out yourself on her website, samketchamforyell.com.

Let me say that I am sympathetic. Ms. Ketcham seems very loyal to Aggieland — a 3rd generation Aggie whose blood probably runs as maroon as anyone’s. She’s clearly no Two Percenter and doesn’t appear to be generally anti-tradition. The same WSJ article points out that though some suggest that the A&M dance team that has performed at basketball games in recent years should also perform at football games, Ms. Ketcham is against the idea, preferring the uniqueness of Texas A&M’s Yell Leader tradition, and good for her for thinking so.

At the same time, making one of the Yell Leaders a female would be a dilution of that tradition — an incremental but nontrivial decrease in the uniqueness she praises.

Yell Leaders are just that: Leaders. Unlike cheerleaders (forgive me, offended cheerleaders), they aren’t just performing to get the crowd excited and pumped, but they are leading and directing the entire student body, tens of thousands strong, like a team of coaches of the 12th Man. Sure, student class presidents have included females, and as our society increasingly demeans the idea of gender differences and demeans the idea of preferring men over women as leaders in such positions, that shouldn’t surprise us. I would say it is to society’s detriment, but that, too, is another post for another time.

And being a Yell Leader is a more overtly masculine role in ways that “student body president” (sadly) is no longer, surrounded by the sort of “release the XY-chromosome hounds!” traditions you might expect in such a role on a college campus that used to be all military corps. Consider the scene below:

Corps Freshmen tackle the Yell Leaders after a victory over Oklahoma State in 2007 (photo by BQZip01 from Wikipdea)

Here we see the tradition of chasing down the Yell Leaders (the guys in white) after a winning game and carrying them off to throw then into the fountain. But can you imagine the scene above if one of the “guys in white” was a gal? If you find that too easy to imagine (you shouldn’t) then imagine all of the figures in white being gals, with a mob of men (or vastly a majority of men) running them down to physically tackle them and throw them into a fountain.  I notice the article addresses the concern about a girl in white being thrown into a fountain (Ms. Ketcham says she plans to wear a swimsuit under her clothes), but what of the rough and tumble leading up to it? And who wants to be one of a pack of adrenaline-fueled young men, running down a girl to catch her and carry her off like a mob? Who thinks that is a good idea? Anyone?

Yell Leaders have remained a tiny bastion of the regrettably outdated idea of masculine leadership. And, seeing them in action, it comes across as a traditionally masculine role, to which a masculine image is naturally suited, like that of a stereotypical drill sergeant. Could a female do it? I am sure one could. There are, after all, female drill sergeants. But the real question is: should a female do it? (The same could be asked of drill sergeant-ing, by the way.) It isn’t a popular question to ask anymore, but it really is the question at hand.

If having all male leadership means nothing anymore, then the answer is easy: “Sure, if she wants to.” But male leadership does mean something, I believe. And what a statement on our society that defending the notion that male leadership still means something could center on deciding whether or not a group of five guys yelling at football games should be allowed to include a girl. It’s a tradition I love, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not like deciding on who should be the leader of the free world, and I don’t recall hearing a lot of real debate about that when Mrs. Clinton or Mrs. Palin were vying for such spots. Whether or not a female should be allowed to serve as a Yell Leader is, in the large scope of things, incredibly trivial.

But the larger idea the question represents is not trivial, at all. Those who think that the Texas A&M’s cadre of Yell Leaders should remain a male-only group, like I do, should ask themselves why they think so — why they think such a tradition is worth holding on to. Maybe they will get a glimpse of a larger discussion that needs to be had.

I have nothing against Ms. Ketcham, and I admire her spunk and determination, as well as her passion for Aggieland, a school I, too, love very much. But if she does succeed, I will mourn a bit that traditional masculine leadership’s death by a thousand cuts has proceeded apace with one more nip.

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[VERY LATE UPDATE, 9/14/2012: Ms. Ketcham did not succeed in her quest, though she received more votes than any other woman who has run before, coming in at 5th place in a six-candidate race where the top three are picked. Of note, the 6th place candidate was also a female. Here’s an article on the results.]

No firefighters at the 9/11 memorial event?

A New York City fireman calls for 10 more resc...
Image via Wikipedia

This just doesn’t make sense to me.  First, no religious representatives were being allowed at New York’s 10-year anniversary event commemorating the attacks of September 11, 2001, and now no room is being made for firefighters and other first responders to attend? That’s what I just learned from this (free!) article at the Wall Street Journal, “No Firemen at Ground Zero This 9/11?” written by Michael Burke, the brother of one fireman who died that day.

One of the things that came out of that day that burns in my mind was the terrible way in which America was reminded of what it meant to be a man. That one of the fundamental precepts of our culture used to be “Women and children first,” learned by every American and British schoolboy who was infused with the story of the Birkenhead Drill at a young age. For a brief time after 9/11, it seemed as though some of the best characteristics of manhood were allowed to be claimed by men again, and we were thankful as a nation that actual men still existed.

Those 343 first responders — all of whom were men — who died serving others on 9/11 reminded all of us that there still are men who are willing to run toward whatever everyone else is running away from.

If the opinion article in the WSJ is a true reflection of the planning around the 9/11 remembrance event in New York City, shame on those making those plans.

(For those interested, here is one of the best brief books you will find on the Birkenhead Drill, IMHO: “The Birkenhead Drill” by Douglas F. Phillips of the Vision Forum. For an additional 9/11 entry in this blog, consider this one: “Have we learned the wrong lessons from 9/11?” — a post which also became a 9/11 commentary on the Tomorrow’s World website.  Consider, too, this Tomorrow’s World article on the 10th anniversary of the attack: “Nine-Eleven Plus Ten.”  America and its citizens seem to be failing to learn what we should have from the events of that day ten years ago, and our prophetic date with destiny — and the God who is the Author of Destiny — has come all the closer for it.)

The borrower is servant to the lender

Wow — great illustration, today, of the truth of Proverbs 22:7,

“The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower is servant to the lender.”

The United States has been living off of its credit card, and it is coming time to pay the piper (mixed metaphor, I know). However, we can’t seem to agree on how to do that. The UK’s Guardian reports today about Rep. John Boerner’s failed attempt to even get his plan to a vote because he could not get enough conservative Republicans to agree to it. It would not have succeeded, anyway, as it would have been shot down in the Senate, although there it could have faced improved odds in its amendments. If Boerner’s plan failed to pass muster, it’s hard to imagine how Sen. Harry Reid’s plan will fare any better in the House.

However, here’s the paragraph that caught my attention in the Guardian article:

“The White House will almost certainly make its priority paying interest on its debts so that the US does not default for the first time in its history. But the consequence could be delaying monthly payments to federal workers, soldiers and other employees, and millions of cheques to social security recipients, veterans and others. The treasury said it would release details in the coming days regarding which payments will take priority over others. It makes an average of 80m payments a month.”

That’s the way that debt works!  Interest payments über alles.  When you are considering sacrificing your own soldiers, veterans, employees, and elderly so that you can continue to pay interest to your foreign creditors, you are seeing the truth of Proverbs 22:7 playing out.  Welcome to servitude.

Kudos to the Governor of Texas for making such a step, but how nice it would be to see the President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, or the Senate Majority Leader come before the people not to deride the “other side” but to ask the people of the United States to appeal to God to heal what is wrong with our land and to fast for the humility to see His will more clearly and, more importantly, to act on it over own own desires.

For all the wrangling and arm twisting going on in Washington D.C., that is still the only real, long term solution to America’s woes: national repentance.

Let no one think that the U.S. has to fall slowly.  Jeremiah 6:26 & 15:8 speak of destruction coming suddenly, and Deuteronomy 28:43-45 describe the role that indebtedness to foreign powers will play in the destruction of a nation that has forgotten God, His ways, and His commandments.  Habakkuk 2:6-7 should be sobering, as well — while it is not about the United States, the reason God is able to use debt as a metaphor in that passage for the sudden destruction the Chaldeans and Babylon had earned (and may earn in the future) through their rapacious lust for conquests is because debt often is a fundamental cause of sudden destruction, as the U.S. may soon learn.

National repentance.  Let’s pray for it — but more than that, let’s remember that nations are composed of individuals.  Consequently, there can be no national repentance without individual repentance.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
For those to whom the idea of prophecies about Israel applying to the United States (and other British-descended nations) are new, please request the free Tomorrow’s World booklet, “The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy”

[The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy]