Torture and the Constitution
By Pastor Hal Mayer
My message this month is a very sobering message. I believe that it must be presented because it is important for God’s people who are preparing for the coming of Jesus to understand the forces they face. The scripture says “none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.” Daniel 12:10.
My message is about man’s inhumanity to man. Just watching the news concerning the Abu Graib prison abuse scandal raises questions in my mind about the ability of human beings to resist the temptation to abuse those they despise or hate. Jesus Himself was terribly abused by the Romans, but often we brush His treatment aside on the basis that those people were living in another era, one more barbaric and cruel. We also brush aside the abuse of alleged “heretics” who were often far more loyal to God and His word than was the professed church, because again it was a barbaric time in history. But as this message unfolds, you will see that human nature is much the same today as it was in previous ages, and that unless prevented by God’s Spirit, abuse and torture are resorted to just as readily as in previous ages. Not even law can prevent it from happening when passions are inflamed.
How should we think about this and most importantly how should we prepare for what is inevitably coming? But first let us ask our Lord for His guidance as we talk about this difficult topic.
Our Father in heaven, through Jesus’ name we come to you and ask for your Holy Spirit to enlighten us as we discuss a topic that will perhaps contain some fearful thoughts concerning the future of God’s people. We pray that you will help us understand that Your perfect love casts out all fear, and that You can give even the weakest person Your power and courage to face whatever You permit to come their way. Help us to prepare our hearts for that which would tempt us to let go of our hold on Christ. In Jesus name I pray amen.
Matthew 24:9 says, “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.” What does it mean to be hated of all nations? What happens to people when their neighbors are angry at them? Hate is a passionate term. It is usually a reaction to a real or supposed offense. The time of trouble that is about to break upon our earth is a time of greatest difficulty for those who will remain faithful to the God of Heaven. When only one or two are angry, there is generally restraint in society against abuse, but when there is a culture of hatred, or when passions are inflamed against a minority group of people, this changes the chemistry of society and opens the door to actions that are otherwise thought to be inappropriate.
Let me tell you a little story that happened to me personally, that opened my eyes to this troubling issue. I just knew was God speaking to me through this experience.
I was standing at the checkout line in a grocery store a few months ago. It was just after the American soldiers pulled Saddam Hussein out of a hole in the ground. All over the tabloids and newspapers was the picture of his haggard face. There at the checkout counter was a tabloid with this picture and as I waited for the customers in front of me to finish their checkout, I was meditating on this picture. In my heart I was wondering how Saddam Hussein would ever hear the gospel. And if he did, could such a hardened man be reached by its saving truth?
Suddenly, the man in front of me interrupted my thoughts, and with fire in his eyes and venom in his voice he said “Do you know what I would do if I were President Bush?” I looked at him in surprise. Obviously he had seen me contemplating the picture. “What would you do,” I said. Pointing his finger at the picture of Saddam, he said, “I’d give that man 24 hours to tell me where his lieutenants were, or I’d burn him at the stake!” My mouth flew open in shock, and I had to regain my composure. I had never heard anyone say something so barbaric in this modern enlightened age. I was so stunned that I stared at him and could say absolutely nothing.
A few minutes later as I walked out the door having completed my purchase, in my mind I asked God why I went through that little exchange in the grocery store. Then it dawned on me that God was telling me something about the future. That man was telling me what he would do if he could get his own hands on Saddam Hussein. But Saddam Hussein is half way around the world. That would be impossible. Then God impressed upon my mind that when the anger of the people is turned against God’s people, and they are greatly impassioned, they will resort to methods of barbarism that under normal circumstances are unthinkable.
Listen to this warning statement from Great Controversy, page 608. “As the defenders of truth refuse to honor the Sunday-sabbath, some of them will be thrust into prison, some will be exiled, some will be treated as slaves. To human wisdom all this now seems impossible; but as the restraining Spirit of God shall be withdrawn from men, and they shall be under the control of Satan, who hates the divine precepts, there will be strange developments. The heart can be very cruel when God’s fear and love are removed.”
Then on page 609 God’s servant says, “The same trials have been experienced by men of God in ages past…” She then mentions Wycliffe, Huss, Luther, Tyndale, Baxter, and Wesley and informs us that “against these men persecution raged with relentless fury…” It think we need to understand what is involved in this term persecution.
In the weeks following my grocery store encounter, the prison abuse scandal at Abu Graib was revealed. As I read the reports I again was impressed by the barbarism and the lack of respect for human dignity. Human rights were completely ignored and personal indignities were heaped upon those prisoners by our “good” American soldiers.
I thought of Jesus and how they had done similar indignities to Him. Jesus said “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matt 25:40. Whatever we do to oppress others, or abuse them, is what we are doing unto Christ, even if they don’t know Him. No doubt many of those prisoners were bad men, and needed to be incarcerated. However, they must not be mistreated. Later I read about the abuse of prisoners at the US base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which included sexually-loaded torment.
When President Bush declared war on terror, little did the American people, or the rest of the world realize what would happen. Taliban warriors from Afghanistan were airlifted to Guantanamo Bay Cuba and “detained” for questioning. The defense department classified these warriors as “enemy combatants” rather than “prisoners-of-war.” President Bush decided that detainees were, and I quote: “not entitled to prisoner-of-war protections under the 1949 Geneva conventions because they did not wear uniforms or insignia.” I have quoted that from USA Today, December 2, 2004.
This actually meant that interrogators could use methods, such as torture, intimidation, humiliation and other techniques to get confessions and information which would not be permitted under the Geneva conventions, all on the basis that these “combatants” were not part of a regularized military, or were not part of an army of a nation state. It was also argued that the public, and judges in particular, “should defer to the President when at war, giving him the authority to decide how to treat prisoners.” (This is also from that USA Today article I mentioned). This in essence sweeps aside human rights, as you will see, and gives the President much more power and flexibility in dealing with those who have offended America and its people. It also set up an opportunity for torture and abuse to be used in numerous cases, while leaders look the other way, or even justify the abuse.
There was an outcry from those concerned about civil liberties and the Bush Administration hastened to clarify that the prisoners would be treated using the same guidelines as those in the Geneva Conventions, even though they did not apply. This statement has almost been forgotten once revelations of abuse became widespread.
The “detainees” could not even challenge their detention in court. USA Today (Dec 2, 2004) pointed out that the detainees did not have attorneys and could not see much of the evidence against them because it was secret. This disturbing approach is strikingly similar to some of the methods used by the Inquisition during the dark ages. Could the United States be practicing inquisitorial skills to be used later against God’s people. By the time they were able to address their legal standing in June of 2004, when the Supreme Court struck down the Administration’s policy (see USA Today, January 5, 2005 “Tough Questions Await Gonzales), the prisoners had already been interrogated, using torture and intimidation, and had much less value to the United States for intelligence purposes by then.
But more was to come. On December 17, 2004, the Washington Post disclosed that the CIA had a secret facility located within Guantanamo Bay. This detention facility, the Post reported, “was erected to house the Pentagon’s high-value detainees” and up until then had never been mentioned in public. The CIA detainees, the Post reported, “are held under separate rules and far greater secrecy.” In light of the revelations of abuse and mistreatment in the less secret facilities, many now wonder what actually goes on inside this inner prison.
And then I read a shocking article in THE NEW YORKER, in the February 14, 2005 issue about how the CIA contracts interrogation to countries where human rights are not respected, so that they can use torture and other aggressive forms of pressure to get prisoners to talk. This article is available on the web and is called “Outsourcing Torture.” They use methods that would not be acceptable in the United States. Mostly, those under CIA management are secretly held in “undisclosed locations.” They are often never heard from again. And since it is not the US that is conducting the torture, the United States does not get criticized for it.
The London Times for February 16, 2005 spoke of the NEW YORKER magazine. Simon Jenkins wrote; “The magazine collates mounting evidence from victims of Donald Rumsfeld’s policy of “extraordinary rendition.” This policy was approved by George Bush and employs “removal units” (that’s a military term) to kidnap people (of any nationality) and fly them in great secrecy to client states that employ torture. The results are fed back into the intelligence loop. The countries used include Syria, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt and probably Uzbekistan.”
Let me read to you parts of THE NEW YORKER article. “On January 27th, (2005) President Bush, in an interview with the Times, assured the world that ‘torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture.’ The article then describes what happened to Maher Arar, two years before. Arar is a Canadian citizen who was arrested on September 26, 2002 at John F. Kennedy Airport as he was changing planes, on suspicion of being a terrorist. The US flew him to Syria on a government executive jet, where ‘he endured months of brutal interrogation including torture… They whipped his hands repeatedly with two-inch-thick electrical cables, and kept him in a windowless underground cell… ‘Not even animals could withstand it,’ he said… He eventually confessed to anything his tormentors wanted him to say’… A year later, in October, 2003, Arar was released without charges, after the Canadian government took up his case.”
The article goes on to say, “Rendition was originally carried out on a limited basis, but after September 11th, when President Bush declared a global war on terrorism, the program expanded beyond recognition — becoming, according to a former CIA official ‘an abomination.’”
“In 1998” the article continues, “Congress passed legislation declaring that it is ‘the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which… the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture…”
According to the article, the Bush Administration argued against this legislation on the basis that these terrorist suspects who are not attached to any recognized state, need “tough new rules of engagement.” What happens when the same level of seriousness, and “tough new rules of engagement” are expanded and used against God’s people?
I’ll read on. “The CIA itself is holding dozens of ‘high value’ terrorist suspects outside of the territorial jurisdiction of the US in addition to the estimated five hundred and fifty detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba… At the request of the CIA, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld personally ordered that a prisoner in Iraq be hidden from Red Cross officials for several months, and Army General Paul Kern told Congress that the CIA may have hidden up to a hundred detainees. The Geneva Conventions of 1949, which established norms on the treatment of soldiers and civilians captured in war, require the prompt registration of detainees, so that their treatment can be monitored, but the Administration argues that Al Qaeda members and supporters, who are not part of a state-sponsored military, are not covered by the Conventions.”
This practice of avoiding the law in dealing with those suspected of a crime on mere technicalities is a practice that is common to totalitarian regimes. How can this happen in a country such as the United States you might ask? But let us not forget the inspired warning I read to you earlier that strange things are coming upon God’s people.
The article continues by describing the way in which the “rendition” program was established and the horrible treatment of a number of prisoners who had been in its grip. THE NEW YORKER article quotes Dan Coleman, a former FBI agent as saying that after September 11 the CIA “has seemed to think it’s operating under different rules, that it has extralegal abilities outside the US…. Whatever they do is alright. It all takes place overseas.”
Let me remind you that the Spirit of Prophecy says that “our country shall repudiate every principle of its Constitution as a Protestant and republican government…” That is found in the 5th Volume of the Testimonies, page 451. In the all-too-real events that I have just read about, it should be remembered that it is not necessary to overturn or change the Constitution to repudiate its principles. Just “out-source” the things that the Constitution will not allow, or redefine the meaning of the Constitution so that any thing desired can be justified.
Some argue that this kind of approach to human rights is ok because these prisoners are not American citizens and that this could never happen to US citizens because of their constitutional protections. Though this is no comfort to our international listeners, it happens that it is no comfort to US citizens either.
The Atlantic Monthly magazine published an article called “Enemy Americans” in its July/August 2004 issue. This article was about two American citizens who were being held indefinitely without due process of law. They were being held without being charged and without trial in violation of the Constitution of the United States. While this sounds like tactics that are often used in communist China, President Bush claimed the right to do this in the United States on the basis that these Americans were actually “enemy combatants” and that they may be imprisoned indefinitely “even if they are American Citizens.”
In his announcement about the arrest of Jose Padilla, John Ashcroft stated that he had “recommended that the President of the United States, in his capacity as commander in chief, determine that [Padilla] is an enemy combatant who poses a serious and continuing threat to the American people and our national security.” He also stated that Padilla had been “transferred from the custody of the Justice Department to the custody of the Defense Department.” Padilla remained in Defense Department control for a very long time without charge or trial and for much of the time without access to a lawyer. How easy would it be, once this practice is accepted for US citizens to just disappear, having been “rendered” to some country for brutalization? What happens when you are reclassified as an “enemy” because of your faith? It is very likely that you will lose your constitutional protections in the name of the new interpretation of law.
The American Administration and military asserted that it wanted to treat terrorism cases under the laws of war, but in reality, that only means the treatment would be consistent with the law as interpreted by the Administration. The Atlantic Monthly article suggested that the justification for this is the idea that this is a “different kind of war.”
If the American people allow the President or the military the right to detain even American citizens in time of war without due process, and in secret detention facilities, there is no telling to what lengths depraved and unrestrained human nature will go in its abuse of the human rights of those in its prisons. When a government uses secret facilities to detain prisoners it removes public accountability for the behavior and actions of those involved in the treatment of prisoners, and of the administration, and opens the door to systematic torture in the interrogation of even its own citizens. One might argue that it is ok because the American citizens involved in this matter were planning to attack the United States. But this was unproven. The founding fathers of the United States knew about the abuses of the Holy Roman Empire. They were aware that without protections, it would happen again. So they built them into the Constitution to protect against inhumanity.
The Abu Graib scandal revealed to the world and especially to America’s enemies that the United States would allow abuse and torture, and sends a strong message that the United States is on no higher moral ground than they are. Even though some of the soldiers involved were punished, it is becoming increasingly clear that the administration is promoting the use of torture as a tactic of war. Don’t think that this can’t happen to God’s people, when yet another “new kind of war” is declared against those who uphold God’s law, and yet new and expanded definitions of law will justify abuse and torture.
Since Abu Graib, a flood of stories and allegations of torture and mistreatment have surfaced. This greatly increased the hatred of America by its enemies because of what they saw as hypocrisy. America is supposed to be the world leader in human rights, but now its reputation has been seriously damaged. I suspect that these revelations were allowed to come to light at a time when Americans are willing to accept them and even adopt them. They will not protest very much. These revelations will also further desensitize the American people for more abuse. You see, Satan is a master at this process. He has perfected it over thousands of years.
THE NEW YORKER article summarized an interview with one of the attorneys involved in framing US government policy concerning torture who suggested that “President Bush’s victory in the 2004 election, along with the relatively mild challenge to [Alberto] Gonzales… (whom we will discuss in a minute), was ‘proof that the debate is over,’ he said, ‘The issue is dying out. The public has had its referendum.” In other words, the American public is comfortable with the new policy of torture. The government is so sure of winning the debate, that it is now willing to let the secrets out in the media so that they can be mildly debated in the press, and so that the American people will become used to it and hardly raise an eyebrow when the enemy is sufficiently villainized.
But the deeper questions that haunt me are concerning the eventual expansion of this “rendering” policy to other groups of people who will one day be accused of being “enemies of the state.” When passions flare up against God’s people as they have against the terrorists, will many of them be “rendered” and tortured to get information about other followers of Christ?
The Bush Administration has been in the forefront of changing American practice concerning torture. On January 22, 2003, long time friend and legal counselor of George W. Bush, Alberto Gonzales, wrote a memo to the Justice Department seeking an opinion about the use of methods of interrogation that were forbidden by the Geneva Conventions. I will read from USA Today, January 5, 2005. “As the chief architect of the Bush administration’s legal strategy against terrorism, Gonzales sought to expand his boss’ authority to detain and question suspects and justify the use of “stress and duress” interrogation techniques that are banned under international law.”
Clearly Mr. Gonzales was attempting to get the Justice Department to authorize torture and intimidation outside the bounds of international law. In the memo, Mr. Gonzales stated that “the war on terrorism is ‘a new kind of war’ that requires the United States to go to unusual lengths to get information about potential terrorist plots.” USA Today further revealed that Mr. Gonzales’ memo stated that new circumstances “had made the internationally recognized Geneva Conventions’ limitations on questioning enemy prisoners “obsolete” and that some Geneva restrictions were now quaint.” In other words, Mr. Gonzales was seeking support from the Justice department to use torture to get information, in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
Now that the US is the undisputed superpower of the world, who can stand up against them? Not even the UN can take action against the United States for its human rights abuses because of its veto power. The US is immune to any UN sanctions or military force.
On January 7, 2005, USA Today reported that Mr. Gonzales was “instrumental in decisions… to detain non-citizens and citizens alike as long as the war on terrorism lasts, and to use ‘stress and duress’ interrogation tactics to gather intelligence on potential terrorist attacks.”
What kind of “stress and duress” tactics are being referred to? On January 5, 2005 the Washington Post listed some of them in an article about Mr. Gonzales. I will quote from the article. The CIA wanted to use “openhanded slapping, the threat of live burial and ‘water-boarding…’ a technique which produces an unbearable sensation of drowning.”
But these tactics are mild. Other reports include electrical shocks to the genitals, standing on tiptoe in water up to the nostrils, or crouched in a small cell in knee-deep water, for long periods of time, hung from the ceiling or door upside down for extended periods of time, etc. Does this remind you of the inquisition of the dark ages? It does me.
Amazingly President Bush then successfully nominated Mr. Gonzales as the US Attorney General after John Ashcroft resigned. He is also considered to be a likely choice for a seat on the Supreme Court. Imagine that! One of the key men responsible for creating the new US policy about the treatment of prisoners is now the head of the justice department.
Congress even tried to intervene and restrict the use of torture. But on January 15, 2005, the International Herald Tribune reported that the US Congress scrapped a bill that would prevent the use of extreme torture. I will quote the Tribune, “The restrictions would have extended to intelligence officers a prohibition against the use of torture or inhumane treatment…” Congress was going to restrict the use of torture, but something happened and they dropped the restrictions from the proposed law.
The Tribune revealed what happened. I will quote again. “But in intense closed-door negotiations, according to congressional officials, four senior lawmakers from the House and Senate deleted the restrictions from the final bill…” Also the Tribune reported that “in a letter to members of Congress,… Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser (at that time), expressed opposition to the measure on the ground that it ‘provides legal protections to foreign prisoners to which they are not now entitled under applicable law and policy.’”
This very revealing statement shows that even though torture and inhumane treatment is against international law, the Bush Administration clearly believes that it can violate these laws. There will be no barrier to torture and abuse against prisoners detained because of their religious beliefs or practices, particularly if suspects are secretly “rendered” to outside nations. That day will come.
These revelations should be a warning to every faithful follower of Christ. I tell you these things because I love you and want to see you and your family saved in the kingdom. I also want to see you secure in Christ during the crisis ahead.
From the 9th Volume of the Testimonies, page 16 I read; “It is impossible to give any idea of the experience of the people of God who shall be alive upon the earth when celestial glory and a repetition of the persecutions of the past are blended.”
Notice that there will be a blending of celestial glory with persecutions of the past. We often think of the celestial glory, but rarely do we think of the persecutions that go with it.
God’s prophet makes this interesting statement in the book GreatControversy, page 581. “[Rome] is silently growing into power. Her doctrines are exerting their influence in legislative halls, in the churches, and in the hearts of men. She is piling up her lofty and massive structures in the secret recesses of which her former persecutions will be repeated.”
The effort to undermine humane treatment of prisoners will one day be used against those trying to uphold God’s law against national and international opposition. When a nation becomes angry at a group of its own people, to what lengths will it’s institutions and people go to abuse and torture those it sees as it’s enemies, whether perceived or real? When God’s people are the focus of the anger, will reason and due process of law prevail? I think not. By that time, changes in legal process will have become so compromised and legitimized, that it is likely that the treatment of God’s faithful people will be even worse. It is far more likely that there will be those that take the law into their own hands, or at least take substantial liberties and meet out “stress and duress” torture on those they have been led to despise.
There is a famous and interesting study that was done concerning prisoner abuse at Stanford University in 1971. This classic experiment conducted by Philip Zimbardo has considerable parallels to the abusive treatment of Iraqi and Guantanamo Bay prisoners. His findings are published on the web. Mr. Zimbardo describes what happened. “Our planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life had to be ended prematurely after only six days because of what the situation was doing to the college students who participated. In only a few days our guards became sadistic and our prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress.”
Zumbardo also reported that “the prisoners were degraded and began to display deep psychological problems. Some broke down emotionally. Another developed a physical rash. Others tried to cope by being ‘good’ prisoners. But by the end of the study, the prisoners were “disintegrated” as individuals.”
The experiment was ended because it was discovered that the guards were escalating their abuse of the prisoners at night when no researchers were there to observe. Their boredom at night drove them to ever more pornographic and degrading abuse of the prisoners. Out of more than 50 observers, only one objected to the treatment of the prisoners as being immoral.
This last point is significant. If people generally believe that a person has done something wrong, they will tolerate abusing him. It is also interesting to note that humanity in general, when put in a position to abuse power, has a hard time resisting the temptation.
What do you think will happen when God’s people are “hated by all men for my name’s sake” as Jesus said they would in Matt 10:22?
Incidentally, there was another prison experiment done at Wheaton College in Illinois with Christian students from good homes. Older students were the guards and younger students were the prisoners. The story was written up in Christianity Today, August 2004. Within an hour, the foul language started, then other vulgar behavior followed. During the middle of the night in some experiments, the “guards” stripped the “inmates,” handcuffed their ankles in painful positions and made them eat food off the floor. And these were Christians!
Listen to this statement from Ministry of Healing, page 163. “How little do we enter into sympathy with Christ on that which should be the strongest bond of union between us and Him—compassion for depraved, guilty, suffering souls, dead in trespasses and sins! The inhumanity of man toward man is our greatest sin.”
Human nature is depraved and without the restraining power of the Holy Spirit, they will disrespect their fellow human beings and abuse them even while they carry the identity of a Christian. Can you see how that even Christians can do things to their fellow Christians that are very unchristian?
Let me read to you from the book Great Controversy, page 622. “The “time of trouble, such as never was,” is soon to open upon us; and we shall need an experience which we do not now possess and which many are too indolent to obtain. It is often the case that trouble is greater in anticipation than in reality; but this is not true of the crisis before us. The most vivid presentation cannot reach the magnitude of the ordeal. In that time of trial, every soul must stand for himself before God.“
That’s pretty serious. God is looking for faithful souls whom He can train for the crisis. But what kind of training are you going to need in order to stand faithful under the pressure?
Here is another statement from Great Controversy. Again it is from page 622.
“Those who exercise but little faith now, are in the greatest danger of falling under the power of satanic delusions and the decree to compel the conscience. And even if they endure the test they will be plunged into deeper distress and anguish in the time of trouble, because they have never made it a habit to trust in God. The lessons of faith which they have neglected they will be forced to learn under a terrible pressure of discouragement.
“We should now acquaint ourselves with God by proving His promises. Angels record every prayer that is earnest and sincere. We should rather dispense with selfish gratifications than neglect communion with God. The deepest poverty, the greatest self-denial, with His approval, is better than riches, honors, ease, and friendship without it. We must take time to pray. If we allow our minds to be absorbed by worldly interests, the Lord may give us time by removing from us our idols of gold, of houses, or of fertile lands.”
Brothers and sisters, we must become sincere and earnest in our prayers. The time is so short. How will we ever resist the temptations that are coming to compromise our faith if we don’t have a solid connection with the God of the universe?
How are you using your period of probation? Are you, my friend, seeking the Lord with a sincere heart to learn His will? Are you daily learning the lessons of trust in God. Oh what a challenge! The fearful scenes to come upon this world in the very near future will lead to great anguish upon God’s true people. You will need an experience with God that will hold you steady through the most difficult chaos this world has ever seen. We need to pray for courage.
Listen to this statement from Our High Calling, page 125. “We are not to have the courage and fortitude of martyrs of old until brought into the position they were in. . . . Should there be a return of persecution there would be grace given to arouse every energy of the soul to show a true heroism.”
The emphasis of our preparation should be on learning the lessons of faith in God now. We cannot learn them at that time. That is the time for strength. But now is the time for preparation.
Remember the Promise of God. “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” Revelation 3:10.
Let us pray and ask God to give us the experience we need to prepare us for the events that will especially test God’s remnant people. Our Father in Heaven, we humbly ask that you will draw very near to us. Please Lord give us the experience we need to be faithful when the whole world seems against us. Give us a personal experience with Christ that will fortify us with faith, love and courage. Thank you that Jesus died for us and went through His crisis. Now He can understand ours and give us strength. Now we can take courage that He will not allow us to go through anything that we cannot bear, but will in the hour of temptation, make us a way of escape. Please Lord make us your treasure. Give us victory over all our sins. And may we ever look to you for courage, strength and power. In Jesus name Amen.
For those of you who are receiving the CD version of this message, the following update on religious liberty and other important issues will help you stay aware of current events in light of prophecy.
Pope Benedict XVI recently appointed the Archbishop of San Francisco William Levada to take his place at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. He will become the new “enforcer” of doctrine. In earlier times he would have been known as the Grand Inquisitor and the office over which he presides would have been known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition.
I believe the appointment of an American is very significant. There is no other nation in the world that Rome wants to conquer more than the United States of America which has stood so strongly as a Protestant nation against her principles. No other nation would mean so much to Rome’s agenda to control the world.
Appointing an American to the Holy Office of the Inquisition should tell us that Rome is anxious to both extend her power over the US, and establish her former persecutions in that land of freedom.
Here is the statement from the book Great Controversy, page 581. “[Rome] is silently growing into power. Her doctrines are exerting their influence in legislative halls, in the churches, and in the hearts of men. She is piling up her lofty and massive structures in the secret recesses of which her former persecutions will be repeated. Stealthily and unsuspectedly she is strengthening her forces to further her own ends when the time shall come for her to strike. All that she desires is vantage ground, and this is already being given her. We shall soon see and shall feel what the purpose of the Roman element is. Whoever shall believe and obey the word of God will thereby incur reproach and persecution.”
I don’t think we should brush off the strategic appointment of William Levada. He will be very close to Benedict XVI and will be very close to the inner workings of the Roman curia and the Papacy. Benedict XVI is obviously very concerned about the American nation. The doctrines of the church must be upheld by the church in the United States, if there is eventually going to be successful control of the nation. Now that Rome is so very popular, Benedict XVI may well believe that it is time to begin preparing the American people for Rome’s ultimate goals.
During his first trip away from Rome Pope Benedict XVI, “called for the rediscovery of the religious meaning of Sundays” reported the Guardian. The Pope’s comment was made at his first trip outside Rome in the coastal city of Bari. He also pledged to continue “to make Christian unity a priority.” The Guardian, May 30, 2005. The emphasis on Sunday is a major unifying factor between Christians. The Roman Catholic agenda for the ecumenical movement includes the elevation of Sunday, the pagan day of worship. This vital Roman Catholic doctrine is one of the articles of faith that Archbishop William Levada, the new American prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will no doubt seek to promote in all so-called Christian nations, but especially the United States.
In other ecumenical news, On May 12, 2005, The Guardian reported that the Vatican “surprised Anglican leaders by announcing it was ready to resume talks on unity, despite the formidable barriers now separating the Church of England… The Anglican leadership’s handling of the gay priests issue was seen as the reason for the deadlock between Rome and Canterbury. Talks were suspended in 2003 after the epsicopal church in the US, which is part of the worldwide Anglican communion, agreed to the consecration of an openly gay bishop…”
The Anglican church arose out of the Reformation, and helped present serious obstacles to Rome’s control of the new world. Rome therefore, is very interested in regaining England’s Protestant church back into the fold of Rome. It is interesting to note that Benedict XVI is from Germany, the country that gave the Protestant Reformation its name. He is the first German pope since the Reformation. Keep in mind that Benedict XVI, prior to becoming pope, authored or helped to draft the Vatican documents that labeled other Christian denominations as “deficient.” While the Anglican church is certainly deficient, not all non-Catholic Christians are deficient.
Now for some thoughts on the mixing of religion with US politics.
In recent times, reported World Magazine, May 7, 2005, “Democrats have blocked 10 of President Bush’s appellate court choices through filibuster threats, which means that those nominees would have to get 60 votes before they could be confirmed to lifetime seats.” In a strange twist, this is some comfort for advocates of religious liberty. The bush nominees are sure to be strong conservatives that would have views that are a relief to pro-life advocates and traditional marriage advocates. But the problem however, is that they are also just as likely to have views that would side with those who would, in the future, advocate Sunday laws.
James Dobson, an enormously influential religious figure has begun to speak out in defense of the Bush nominees. Time Magazine reported that “in a televised rally on April 24, Focus on the Family’s James Dobson and others joined Mr. Frist (the Senate Majority Leader) to demand that Democrats stop blocking people of faith from serving on the court.” This effort was clearly designed to develop political momentum to prevent further delay on appointing conservative judges. Time also stated that, “Democrats appear to fear not only the beliefs of these [judges], but their constructionist view of the Constitution.” The term “constructionist views” refers to the conservative judge’s interpretation of the US Constitution. While we have a lot of liberal activist judges at the moment who are opening the legal door to all sorts liberal causes and their degrading effect on society, conservative activist judges will likely be just as dangerous. For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. As the conservative agenda moves forward, expect to see more conservative activist judges. There is something to be said for an equal distribution of power between liberals and conservatives in government. They tend to balance each other and prevent each other from going to extremes on either side. But when one dominates the other, there is a tendency to over-ride the balancing influences leading to either a liberal or a conservative legal bent with their respective problems. Religious liberty advocates want neither. A balanced political arrangement seems to provide the best prospects of keeping our religious liberties intact.
Satan is very shrewd. He has first led America into great immorality through the disintegration of the family, abortion rights, homosexual marriage, etc. He has also seen to it that the courts are stacked with liberals that will support these causes. This creates a reaction in which religious conservatives press for dramatic changes, especially in the courts. Now that we have a president that is open about his faith, and is appointing conservative judges to fill the open positions on the federal bench. And now that conservative Americans are reigned up about getting judges on the bench that will support morality, it is likely that there will be a dramatic shift in the way laws are interpreted in the next few years. But in doing so, conservative Americans do not realize that these same judges will likely support laws enacted to enforce things that are certainly unwise, such as Sunday observance, which will lead to national apostasy and national ruin (according to Ellen White). But notice how this has happened. It has all developed through a conservative backlash in support of good issues, issues that almost all people of faith would champion.
Now let me discuss the new Patriot Act and its application to innocent citizens.
The new Patriot Act II in the United States has taken an interesting turn which seems ominous to those that are watch legal developments and constitutional erosion. David Banach, of New Jersey was arrested because he pointed a green laser beam into the cockpit of a commercial plane flying over his home, reported the press. He faces up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine if convicted of violating the Patriot Act.
The Patriot Act is supposed to prevent terrorism. But Banach was play with the laser with his daughter. Though shining the laser into the cockpit of the plane was very ill advised, it does not rise to the level of terrorism. “We are not saying that this is a grand terrorist incident,” admitted Christopher Christie, a US attorney, in an interview with the New York Post after Banach’s indictment. “We have to send a clear message to the public — no matter what the intent was.”
The Patriot Act requires there to be an intent to disrupt mass transportation. But it appears that the government is intending to go farther than the law itself in prosecuting Banach. The relevant section of the act states that those who come under the jurisdiction of the act are those “whoever willfully… interferes with, disables, or incapacitates any dispatcher, driver, captain, or person while they are employed in dispatching, operating, or maintaining a mass transportation vehicle or ferry, with intent to endanger the safety of any passenger or employee of the mass transportation provider, or with a reckless disregard for the safety of human life;”
In other words, there must be intent or reckless endangerment in order to convict someone of this particular offense.
What is at issue is that the new patriot act is actually first being used against citizens whom the government admits are not involved in a terrorist act. This troubles me because, should Banach be convicted, the case would set a precedent for future arrests for perhaps trivial or stupid acts, that weren’t intended to be malicious at all.
Now let us talk about Britain for a minute.
Civil and religious liberties in Britain are again being threatened. The UK government is pressing ahead with an ID card too. Tony Blair’s labor government announced in May that it would push ahead with a “’biometric’ ID card bearing fingerprints and other personal details,” reported CNSNews.com. While the proposed law would not be compulsory to begin with, it would “create a national registry which public and private organizations could use to verify someone’s identity.” As often happens, however, legislation that starts out voluntary eventually becomes compulsory. Brits overwhelmingly support the cards according to opinion polls.
Another one of Blair’s legal initiatives was to again introduce legislation that would make “incitement of religious hatred” a crime in Britain. So far, such legislation has failed to gain enough support in parliament. But Blair is determined. Though he may or may not realize it, his proposed law would make Britain a place where the Seventh-day Adventist message cannot be given without severe risk. If this type of legislation succeeds, any religious teaching that reveals the truth about Rome, or any other religions, will become a crime. That means that the book Great Controversy will likely be banned, and evangelists will have to change their sermons about the beast, his image and the mark of the beast. Any literature that creates religious controversy will likely be labeled “hate literature,” and become illegal to print or distribute.
And lastly, let me say a bit more about the National ID card in the USA.
C/Net News.com reported that the 50 United States have been given three years to bring their driver’s licenses up to federal standards for machine readable ID cards. The Department of Homeland Security has also been given unilateral authority to add requirements for valid driver’s licenses such as biometric data, like fingerprints or retinal scans. Once enacted, the result will be that eventually every place of business will demand to see the card whether it is a supermarket, a gas station, an airline, a bank a federal building, courthouse or a national park. They will scan it into a reader and instantly have access to the data on the person connected to that card.
The Real ID act was urged as a way to fix the illegal immigration problem, reported computerworld.com about the law’s critics, “…in fact it reduces every American’s freedom.”
Each state’s drivers license cards will contain a magnetic strip, a bar code or a radio frequency identification chip that can be scanned and instantly compared to a national database run by homeland security. In order to get federal money, the department of motor vehicles in each state will exchange the information and link their databases. One of the goals of the Real ID act is to “provide electronic access by a state to information contained in the motor vehicle databases of all other states.” That means, that if you are on the list of people not authorized to do business in the United States, you will instantly be identified and your transaction will be denied.
It is essential for this system to be in place in order for revelation 13:17 to be fulfilled, that “no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. The prohibition against buying and selling is known as “freezing assets” and is being developed as a tool against the terrorists. This is serious friends. Starting three years from now, if you live or work in the United States, you will need a federally approved ID card for almost everything you do with money, or that is related to money including social security benefits. As we go about our daily lives, we can clearly see that Satan is getting ready to enforce his laws on you and me in opposition to the laws of God.
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