Behind the Headlines... Seeing the World Scene Realistically

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Behind the Headlines... Seeing the World Scene Realistically

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Many readers are familiar with the old Hans Christian Andersen fable about the emperor’s new clothes. The story was told about a none-too-bright emperor in medieval times who was visited by a tailor. The tailor told the emperor about a miracle cloth that was the most expensive and best-quality fabric ever produced. The miracle was that only the wise could see it.

The emperor asked to see the cloth. When the tailor pulled it out of his bag, there was, of course, nothing there. But the emperor, not wanting to appear ignorant, professed his admiration for the cloth and ordered a new suit for himself.

Some time later the emperor sported his new suit as he went out in a procession. Everybody in the empire had been told about the new miracle cloth, and the crowds lining the route shouted out their approval-except for one little boy. When the emperor and his entourage passed by, he exclaimed, “The king doesn’t have any clothes on!”

Once the obvious was stated, the crowds saw the truth of the boy’s remarks, and the emperor was ridiculed.

Political correctness is like the emperor’s new clothes. Not wanting to seem unwise, the vast majority of people go along with it, few thinking for themselves and questioning the prevailing thought. As the apostle Paul wrote of a previous age, those who professed to be “wise” became “fools” (Romans 1:22 Romans 1:22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
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). This was the fate of the fabled emperor. For the rest of us, political correctness could prove dangerous if not fatal.

Historic continuum

The attacks of Sept. 11 were the worst single terrorist action against any nation ever, but they are part of a historic continuum. Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aptly described the goal of the forces of Islamic fundamentalism as “a war to reverse the triumph of the West.”

Herein lies a paradox. Although Western culture and the Western economic system are making inroads into even the remotest parts of the world, Western influence and power have declined in another sense since World War II.

The dominant Western powers of the last two centuries have been the United Kingdom and the United States, fulfilling the prophecies in Genesis 48 and 49 that foretold Joseph’s supremacy “in the last days” (for more details request our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy ). No other two nations were so influential in the last two centuries. Before World War II the British Empire was the preeminent power in the world; since World War II the United States has dominated.

In 1945, after their triumph over the Axis powers, it seemed as though the two nations would remain the major powers forever. But shortly after the end of the war the British started dismantling their empire. Within two decades almost all of it was gone.

Other empires were also coming to an end as European nations handed over political control of their former colonies to new indigenous leaders, many of whom quickly became despotic tyrants. In some cases, terrorism was used against the ruling Western colonizers, forcing them into retreat.

My wife and I lived through the terrorist war in Rhodesia, which resulted in Rhodesia’s defeat and the birth of Zimbabwe. Political correctness saw this change as progressive, but in reality it was another milestone in the war to reverse the triumph of the West.

Progress or regress?

Recent decades have witnessed a paradox. While the West has since 1945 been in obvious political and military retreat, Western culture has become more pervasive as booming world trade and modern communications have spread American influence into every region.

With the changing political climate after World War II, many people viewed this period of decolonization as progressive. Political correctness derided the empire and applauded the newly independent nations that replaced it.

Such thinking, however, has obscured a significant reality that bears on the events of Sept. 11. The fact remains that for the better part of 200 years the British kept the lid on some of the major tensions that have come to dominate recent headlines.

Hindus and Muslims lived in comparative harmony on the Indian subcontinent during the time of the British Raj. Today Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan are enemies, both armed with nuclear weapons that could annihilate each other.

Similarly the British Mandate of Palestine between the two world wars tried to keep the lid on Arab-Jewish tensions after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. When the British withdrew, the region immediately plunged into the first of many post-World War II conflicts.

The same pattern has followed in other hot spots such as Sri Lanka and wide swaths of the Middle East and Africa.

Wild winds of anarchy

American historian John Truslow Adams wrote a prophetic passage in his 1940 book The British Empire (1784-1939) . Writing when the British Empire and Commonwealth were already at war with Nazi Germany while America remained neutral, he warned that “the possible overthrow of the British Empire would be a catastrophe scarcely thinkable. Not only would it leave a vacuum over a quarter of the globe into which all the wild winds of anarchy, despotism and spiritual oppression would rush, but the strongest bulwark outside ourselves for our own safety and freedom would have been destroyed” (p. 358).

Adams accurately predicted what would happen as not only Britain, but later the United States itself, withdrew from colonial possessions. For indeed it wasn’t long before “the wild winds of anarchy” rushed into the vacuum.

Jesus Christ, in answering His disciples’ question, “When will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3 Matthew 24:3And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the world?
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), had prophesied an increased frequency of war between ethnic groups as “nation [would] rise against nation” (verse 7).

The Greek word translated “nation” here is ethnos , referring to what we would today call ethnic groups. Ethnic conflict has always existed, but in times past large multinational empires largely subdued it. The end of these empires in the 20th century, however, led to a quadrupling in the number of nations and a proliferation of ethnic conflict.

The increased chaos and confusion of the last 50 years has largely resulted from the end of the empires that previously dominated the globe. As the West retreated, ethnic and religious tensions surged to the fore.

In Rwanda in 1994 the Hutu and the Tutsi fought each other in a civil war that killed a million people and created another million refugees. In what was Yugoslavia, the Bosnians, Serbs, Croatians, Albanians and Macedonians have fought one war after another since Yugoslavia fell apart in 1991.

In Spain, Basque separatists have long conducted a terror campaign to try to gain their independence. In Iraq we’ve seen Iraqi forces use poison gas against Kurds. In the former Soviet Union we’ve seen Chechens fighting against Russians. None of these wars has been nations fighting nations. They’ve been ethnic groups fighting other ethnic groups, just as Jesus foretold

A religious war

Osama bin Laden has called the current conflict a “war between Islam and atheism.” Ten years ago Saddam Hussein described the Gulf War as a conflict between Islam and Christianity. Neither terminology is correct. The West can hardly be called Christian anymore, but neither is it atheist, because most people-in America, at least-still hold to some religious beliefs.

The present crisis can best be described as a war between militant Islam and secularism. It is, however, the continuation of a conflict that follows 14 centuries of on-again, off-again wars between Islam and Christianity.

As the West has secularized, it has become more tolerant of other religions. Changes to immigration laws have encouraged the immigration of millions of people from Islamic countries into the liberal Western democracies.

Significantly, not one of the 56 countries that are members of the Islamic Conference allows Westerners to settle and become citizens, unless they first marry a native Muslim and convert. In many Muslim countries Christian proselytizing is forbidden by law, and those who engage in it can be expelled or imprisoned.

In the eyes of many Muslim leaders, Christianity and Western secularism are not compatible with Islamic values. Could it be that the West has made a mistake in supposing that they are? Political correctness maintains that all peoples can be successfully brought together in the American melting pot. But what if this is wrong?

American columnist Cal Thomas recently wrote: “One sees many white, Anglo-Saxon, mostly Protestant members of Congress and others on television today vouching for the ‘peaceful’ nature and intent of Islam. Oprah Winfrey has done a show on ‘modern Muslim women’-none of whom would be allowed to dress in contemporary clothing, be educated, or even appear on television if they lived in radical Muslim states.”

Mr. Thomas asked Sudanese Episcopal bishop Bullen Dolli what he thought about contemporary Islam. “ ‘It is a militant religion,’ he tells me and laughs at those who serve as its character witnesses.” Continuing: “Bishop Dolli was in Washington recently. He attempted to warn Congress and anyone else who would listen of the dangers posed by Islam, especially in its militant form.”

Sudan is a frontline state in the present-day conflict between Islam and Christianity. Others include Nigeria (where Muslim mobs burned down 12 churches in the city of Kano on a recent Sunday morning, killing hundreds), the Balkans, Chechnya, Indonesia and the Philippines. Pakistan’s small Christian minority was attacked at the end of October when gunmen opened fire on a church service, murdering 16 worshipers.

Alarmingly, Pakistan’s former intelligence chief Hamid Gul warned that, if credible Muslim leaders declared jihad -essentially holy war-against the United States, “Muslim youths will again come to fight. The Americans will light a fire from Morocco to Mindanao …”-in other words, from northwest Africa to the Philippines (Julian Manyon, “Blood and Fundamentalism” The Spectator, Sept. 22).

Demographics foretell trouble

We also should remember that most Islamic countries have a rapidly growing population, 60 percent or more of which is under age 25. Outside of the prosperous Persian Gulf states, “this means that there is a large supply of young men with few career prospects, whose lives have no meaning except dreams, violence and religion” (Bruce Anderson, “Damping Down the Haystack,” The Spectator, Sept. 22).

In a September New York Times Magazine column titled “This IS a Religious War,” American columnist Andrew Sullivan warned, “Individual faith and pluralism were the targets Sept. 11, and it was only the beginning of an epic battle.”

Daniel 11:40-44 Daniel 11:40-44 40 And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. 41 He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon. 42 He shall stretch forth his hand also on the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 43 But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps. 44 But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many.
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warns of a conflict just before Christ’s return between the “king of the South” (apparently a leader of Islamic nations) and the “king of the North” (a leader of some of the Western powers). It is a continuation of a historic struggle that has gone on for more than 2,000 years.

Changing demographics have been factors here. The rise of Islam as a world force is partly because of a high population-growth rate.

“In the long run … Mohammed wins out,” analyzes one author. “Christianity spreads mainly by conversion, Islam by conversion and reproduction. The percentage of Christians in the world peaked at about 30 percent in the 1980s, leveled off and is now declining, and will probably approximate about 25 percent of the world’s population by 2025.

“As a result of their extremely high rates of population growth, the proportion of Muslims in the world will continue to increase dramatically, amounting to 20 percent of the world’s population about the turn of the century, surpassing the number of Christians some years later, and probably accounting for about 30 percent of the world’s population by 2025” (Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order , 1996, p. 65). Current population statistics bear out his predictions.

A different kind of Islam

Few non-Muslims are aware of a shift that has taken place within much of Islam in recent years. Compared to previous years, many mosques are now “under the control of Wahhabi imams, who preach extremism …” (Stephen Schwartz, “Ground Zero and the Saudi Connection,” The Spectator, Sept. 22).

This trend has particularly affected many among the younger generation of Muslims, the generation from which the Sept. 11 suicide hijackers were recruited. “These Wahhabis … accuse their own fathers of heresy, sin and unbelief. And the young children of the immigrants … get exposed only to this one-sided version of Islam and are led to think that this is the only Islam” (ibid.).

Explaining Wahhabism, the same article says it is “a strain of Islam that emerged … less than two centuries ago. It is violent, it is intolerant and it is fanatical beyond measure. It originated in Arabia, and it is the official theology of the [Persian] Gulf states. Wahhabism is the most extreme form of Islamic fundamentalism, and its followers are called Wahhabis. Not all Muslims are suicide bombers, but all Muslim suicide bombers are Wahhabis.”

The sect was founded by Ibn Abdul Wahhab (1703-92). “From the beginning … his cult was associated with the mass murder of all who opposed it. For example, the Wahhabis fell upon the city of Qarbala in 1801 and killed 2,000 ordinary citizens in the streets and markets.”

Continuing from the same article: “Bin Laden is a Wahhabi. So are the suicide bombers in Israel. So are his Egyptian allies, who exulted as they stabbed foreign tourists to death at Luxor not many years ago … So are the Algerian terrorists whose contribution to the purification of the world consisted of murdering people for such sins as running a movie projector or reading secular newspapers. So are the Taliban-style guerrillas in Kashmir who murder Hindus. “Interestingly, “Wahhabism is subsidized by Saudi Arabia,” America’s chief ally in the Gulf. Wahhabis are motivated by a similar conviction to what motivated the communists, who threatened the West during the Cold War: “the belief that the West was or is decadent and doomed.”

By no means do such descriptions apply to all Muslims. Nor should all Muslims be judged by the actions of a few fanatical extremists. Nonetheless we mustn’t let political correctness hide our eyes from the potential danger.

Contribution of liberalism

Liberal thinking has been a contributory factor to the West’s crisis. Not only have the postwar, supposedly progressive policies on decolonization, religion and immigration played a role, but major contributors include the West’s liberal moral laws, dating back to the sexual revolution of the ’60s.

The “belief that the West was or is decadent and doomed” is a significant factor here. In spite of religious differences, there was a time when the rest of the world looked up to the United States, Britain and the European powers.

“Righteousness exalts a nation,” Proverbs 14:34 Proverbs 14:34Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
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tells us, “but sin is a reproach to any people.” The rest of the world gets its impression of America from television, movies and music, much of which is heavily violent and sexual in content.

America’s liberal, permissive society has been looked upon as progressive by the forces of political correctness. In response to ever-expanding freedoms, rates of sexual promiscuity and perversion, pornography, abortions, sexually transmissible diseases, divorce and broken homes have skyrocketed. The fruits are rotten to the core.

America’s respect in the eyes of the rest of the world doesn’t come through its military power. It will be helped only if the United States cleans itself up morally and its citizens become a godlier people.

Then God’s promise in Deuteronomy 28:1 Deuteronomy 28:1And it shall come to pass, if you shall listen diligently to the voice of the LORD your God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command you this day, that the LORD your God will set you on high above all nations of the earth:
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will come to pass: “… If you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, … the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth.” GN

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