Friday, June 3, 2011

Changing My Mind

A little confession is good for the soul.  So here goes - I am hard-headed. I am thick-headed.  I am so dense, light bends around me.  What brought this on, you ask?  Let me tell you.

I have an ongoing debate with a liberal.  Once, he made a comment about how "the rich" - referring to wealthy Americans - affect the lifestyles of people in the Sahara.  I said I didn't get the connection.  He sighed, and said that was part of the problem. We let it go at that.

Fast forward a year or so.  I recently watched 2 documentaries.  The first one was called "The Great Climate Change Swindle."  It showed interviews with several prominent scientists who made the unpopular claim that, although the climate was obviously changing and maybe even heating up, Climate Change (CC) was not due to man's activity. The upshot was that if you really wanted to halt the changing of the climate, you would have to turn down the Sun and dry out the oceans, neither of which is what we would call a "viable option."

Now, most of it was merely academic, showing charts and graphs and such, which can generate a "So what?" response.  The clincher came at the end.  They showed the repurcussions of the CC movement on Africa. They have no electricity in the villages.  The people have to burn wood or dried feces to cook their food or keep warm.  The fire pits are located inside their one room "houses" so they inhale the smoke, polluting the lungs of the indigenous people.  The CCers want them to invest in solar and wind energy, two sources that are not sufficiently developed to be any real help.  "I can't see solar power being strong enough to move trucks," says one native.  Nor are they cheap.  "The West wants us to use a very expensive source of energy that even they are not willing to use or cannot afford. How can we?" says another.

Well, my righteous indignation bubbled to the surface.  How dare they refuse poor Africans the right to develop, by saying they can't use the coal and oil that are buried in their lands?  Shameful.  Those CCers ought to be ashamed of themselves.

After I cooled off a bit, I watched the other documentary, something called "Buy, Throw Away, Buy."  Unfortunately, most of it is in foreign languages or English that is a bit hard to understand in places.  Here is a version that is mostly translated into English subtitles. This video is about the idea of Programmed Obsolescence.  It shows how the development of the light bulb was changed to make sure they did not last more than 1,000 hours, roughly the lifespan of a modern incandescent bulb.  This was AFTER they were already making bulbs that lasted up to 2,500 hours.  There is a bulb in a California fire station that has been burning for over 110 YEARS!  And now, in the 3d Millenium, we can't make one that will last more than 1,000 hours? When did the R&D money for light bulbs run out?  Even Edison's first commercial bulb lasted 1,500 hours.  This was in 1881.  The video claims that there was a patent for a light bulb that would last 100,000 hours - no, there is not an extra zero there.  Can you imagine a normal, incandescent light bulb lasting at least 11 years, and more like 20, if it was used "only" 12 hours a day?

The light bulb was the most developed example, but more were given about how our computers, furntiture, clothes and such were designed to fail, to wear out unnecessarily, in order to keep us buying and selling at an ever increasing rate.  The classic example for this is the inkjet printer. It is often cheaper to buy a new printer, than either to fix it, or even to buy new ink cartridges for it. 

This produced a bit of discomfort, but the real hammer came at the end. They finished the documentary by showing that our consuming, throwing away, and consuming was harming people - in AFRICA!!  In Ghana, there is what used to be beautiful riverbank, where children played, the men fished, probably animals came to drink. Today, it is a dump.  Used computer and electronic parts are left to bake in the sun, ostensibly "second-hand" items sent to "help developing countries."  The cast-off material is sent by the boatload, and the natives dig through it to find scrap metal that they can sell for a few pennies.  Some of the stuff they have to - wait for it - BURN, in order to get rid of the useless plastic. Toxic, plastic-burning bonfires litter the area, polluting the lungs of the indigenous people.

"Polluting the lungs of the indigenous people."  Where did I read that before?  Oh, yeah, it was in the documentary about global warming. For years, I have advocated free-market capitalism, believing that it was consumers' desires that drove the market.  What is obvious now, thanks to this video about Planned Obsolescence, is that it is the market that drives consumers' desires.  The market is the cause, not the effect, as I had believed earlier.

In a later post, I will further develop this idea of planned obsolescence, and what implications it has, at least from my Christian perspective.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Is Jesus Coming Soon? Really?

The latest failure to predict the date of the end of the world brings to mind a thought I have had for some time:    Is Jesus really coming soon?  It has been a main tenet of Christianity for decades and even centuries that Jesus is coming back.  Let me say at the outset that the certainty of His return is NOT under question here.  That He will return is patently obvious with even a cursory reading of the New Testament, particularly the Gospels and Revelation.

The vast majority of evangelical pastors believe that Jesus will come back very, very soon.  My father has preached this truth for nearly 50 years, and my current pastor has done the same for almost as long. Who can blame them?  They began their ministries in the 60s, when it seemed the whole world was falling apart around them. Vietnam, the drug culture, free "love", a rebellious music culture, political posturing, attempted and successful assassinations, the Cold War and the arms race all made it seem as though the world could end at any moment. The biggest selling book in the 70s was a book about prophecy, "The Late, Great, Planet Earth" by Hal Lindsey, ultimately selling 28 million copies by 1990 (Wikipedia).

But, clearly, the return of Jesus has not happened.  Why not?  I think there are some reasons to think that His return may not be as "imminent" as has been thought.

First, consider that the Tribulation, the 7-year time period of divine wrath, is to be the culmination of God's judgement on the earth. It is to be the apex, the grand climax of history.  It is true that the world is in bad shape, but is it SO bad as to warrant this type of treatment? A quote, attributed to Billy Graham in the 60s,  said that if God didn't come back soon, He would owe Sodom and Gomorrah an apology. Ignore, please, the idea that man would tell God that He had to apologize for anything.  Look instead at the type of situation that caused these two cities to be destroyed.  They were full of sexual immorality, to the point of being unsafe to be outside at night.  "Big deal.  My neighbourhood is like that." Yes, but not the entire city.  Not the entire country.  Not the whole world.  Furthermore, EVERYONE in the city came and wanted to engage in their perversion with unwilling participants - demanding it so forcefully, in fact, as to endanger the life of the man, Lot, who was trying to protect them.  Even then, if God had found 10 believers, He would have spared the cities, as He had promised to Abraham.

Is our society THAT wicked, at this moment?  It could be better, yes, but it could be a lot, lot worse, and I submit that it will have to get a lot worse before God's patience runs out.  God promised Abraham that he would inherit the land of Canaan. However, he would have to wait for it, "for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure." At least four hundred years would pass before the Israelites were freed from Egypt to conquer the Promised Land, and even then, God would wait another 40 years, owing to the rebellion of His nation.  God is LONG suffering, way more than any of us might be.

Another difficulty with the imminent idea has to do with the new temple. According to popular thought, the temple will be built on Mount Zion, or the Temple Mount, the site of Solomon's Temple.  The key difficulty here is that there is already a structure there - the Dome of the Rock, completed in A.D. 691.  It is one of the most sacred shrines in all of Islam.  Are Muslims enthusiastic about their religion?  Consider that they are willing to kill people for drawing pictures of Muhammad, and it will be easy to imagine what would happen if anybody even remotely suggested the idea of tearing down a 1,320-year-old sacred shrine, and building in its stead another temple, belonging to their sworn enemy.

If this were some marginal religion without any real clout, it might not be an issue. However, there are over 1.65 billion Muslims in the world, according to a study by Houssain Kettani, in January, 2010. That figure constitutes about 24% of the world's population.  Another report estimates that there will be over 2 billion within the next 20 years. Almost all of this increase will be due to births, as there is a large number of youth of child-bearing age within the religion.  If Islam is growing at such a rate, why would they even consider compromising on the holy site of Bait-ul-Muqaddas, the Noble Sanctuary, the third most holy site in all of Islam? It is hard, at present, to imagine a circumstance that would permit any world leader to convince Muslim leaders to agree to a peace agreement that included such a provision.

It is true that God is sovereign, and that "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD."   God can change circumstances in a heartbeat. However, based on the patience of God, and the Muslim demographic, perhaps the question that has been asked for so long, "Are we ready for Jesus to come soon?" might better be changed to "Are we ready for Jesus NOT to come soon?"