The World of 1971

AT THE beginning of each year the President of the United States presents a message directed to the people of the nation which is known as “The State of the Union” address. In it he attempts to interpret and learn by past events, assesses the current position of the country, and outlines the goals he hopes to achieve during the ensuing year.

Somewhat similarly, Bible Students eagerly scan happenings, not only in the nation, but in the whole world, to be thrilled by the fulfillment of prophecy, to learn just where we are on the stream of time, and to discover, if possible, additional signs pointing to the early establishment in the earth of God’s kingdom.

In reviewing the events of the past year we notice that this great world around us is composed of many different segments of society, or separate worlds which, taken together, make up that larger world, or social order, wherein we dwell. What is going on in these lesser worlds tells us much about what is happening in the world at large, and an examination of these, in the light shed by the Scriptures, can be quite revealing.

The World That Is China

There is a rather unique breed of men ensconced in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and at other vantage points around the rim of China, who are known as China Watchers. They may be journalists, diplomats, spies, or adventurers; they spend their time listening in on broadcasts from within China, sifting through mountains of newspapers and magazines, stalking refugees, interviewing merchants, bankers, politicians, all in an endeavor to turn up some telltale clue as to what is going on in that vast separate world. But with it all, precious little information of significance is obtained. One is reminded of an apt portrayal of that nation as a puzzle, inside a mystery, wrapped in an enigma.

At the end of the year there was especially intense curiosity as to the meaning of recent events within that nation. It was reported that a number of higher officials usually in evidence had lately not been seen in public. Also, a parade marking the 22nd anniversary of the Peking regime, at which the higher echelons of officials would ordinarily appear, had been canceled without explanation. It is to this land of mystery that Mr. Nixon announced, during the summer, that he would soon journey, the first visit to China ever made by an American president.

The differences between the two nations are many—differences of ideology, of language, culture, religion, tradition. Both are rich in natural resources, but the one is highly industrialized, while the other is just entering that era; the one militarily powerful, the other striving to attain military might.

The most serious present difference between these two great nations has to do, of course, with the conduct of the war in Vietnam, in which the United States is directly engaged, while China is involved by proxy. The purpose of Mr. Nixon’s visit to China is, no doubt, to explore ways of bringing that cruel and impoverishing war to an end, to improve relations with China, and to discuss the entire Far Eastern situation.

Indeed, there are many knotty problems in eastern Asia in addition to that in Vietnam: problems in relation to Soviet Russia, Japan, Nationalist China, Korea, Laos, Cambodia, and Pakistan. But even before final arrangements for Mr. Nixon’s visit were announced, he and the United States suffered a serious loss of prestige in the eyes of all the world in failing to prevent the expulsion of Nationalist China from the United Nations when mainland China was admitted to membership in that world body. When the final vote was announced there was great rejoicing on the floor of the UN assembly; some thought the jubilation was caused by mainland China’s gaining entry into the UN; but more believed it was joy at the humiliation of a great nation whose role as world leader and world policeman is resented, and being challenged.

Following his visit to China, Mr. Nixon has announced that he will also travel to Moscow to meet there with the leaders of the Soviet Union. Concerning that meeting, Mr. Brezhnev has said, “President Nixon and the Soviet leaders will review all major issues, with a view toward further improving their bilateral relations and enhancing the prospects of world peace.”

Sir Anthony Eden, former Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Great Britain, seems not to entertain much hope for such an outcome. In a recent article in the New York Times concerning Communist China, Sino-Soviet relations, and the Far East, he made this statement: “All the signs are that the remaining years of the twentieth century will be more anarchic and dangerous than those which we have lived through.” Bible Students would agree with that statement, for we believe that the Scriptures tell us the same thing.

Bible Students always take the large view; they are not merely China Watchers—they are World Watchers. But for a time, no doubt, while Mr. Nixon is on his forthcoming journey to the Far East, they will join the China Watchers to see what further may be learned, if anything, concerning God’s purposes for the destruction of this present evil world, and the introduction of that promised new world wherein dwelleth righteousness. And perhaps they will also temporarily become Moscow Watchers!

The Changing World of Religion

The growing disorder in the world of religion saw no surcease during the year. Doctrines and disciplines formerly accepted with ready compliance are being challenged or quietly disregarded by more and more people. As they see their hold on their constituencies being loosened, the leadership further waters down the message, and broadens the band of what is acceptable in belief and behavior.

In the United States, the population has been increasing, although since 1962 it has been doing so at a declining rate; but the rate of increase in overall church membership has been declining even faster. And the most recently published report of church population by the National Council of Churches shows that for the first time since 1945 the church population of the United States actually grew not at all, even while the overall population was increasing.

This is a phenomenon often associated with prosperity and a general sense of well-being, in contrast to the flocking to the churches that occurs in times of disaster or adversity. It seems that when the roof is in good repair, the house warm and cozy, and the pantry well-stocked, there is little time, and less need, for God. It may also, perhaps, be a reflection of the sterility of the message presently being offered from the pulpit.

The discontent thus indicated in and with the church is not confined to the laity. A recent survey by one Catholic scholar indicates that something like one-fourth of all priests are considering resigning from their posts, while among the Protestants, one minister in about eight has similar thoughts. One of the factors in the Catholic situation is the desire of many priests for permission to marry, and their wish to have greater autonomy in the administration of their parishes; with the Protestant ministers it is often the problem of insufficient remuneration properly to provide for and educate their families; and with some, to their credit, it is a frank acknowledgment of the ineffectiveness of their labors.

The “infallibility” of the teachings of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church is now being openly questioned by some of the younger Catholic thinkers. The prominent Swiss theologian Hans Kung courageously states in his latest book that there is no scriptural basis for the Catholic Church’s position that church authorities “have the ability to make infallible propositions about faith or morals.” This is rather straight talk; but it is not to say that Kung and others holding the same view are ready to leave the church; they are merely suggesting that the church review its thinking on this matter. But others, including Rome, believe that Kung has taken too pat a stand on this thorny and embarrassing doctrine, and has thus exposed himself to papal discipline.

Whatever the outcome, it is evident that many in the upper ranks of Catholicism are showing a larger degree of independent thought on matters of doctrine and of procedure. One wonders why it has taken reasonable people so long to arrive at this point, especially in the light of reversals of previously held “infallible” positions such as (to mention a recent one) the stand on the eating of meat on Friday.

Another indication of the weakening of spiritual leadership and the impotence of the message that is put forth from the pulpits today, and the shallow and even irreverent views held by many, may be seen in the recent proliferation of so-called “Jesus” shows, which have sprung up all over the country. One of the more successful of these is a presentation called, with brazen effrontery, “Jesus Christ Superstar.” The very use of the expression “superstar” in this context is insolent and blasphemous, whatever may be the primary motive of the production, which seems to be, not the promotion of reverence for God and for his Son Jesus, but entertainment for profit. One member of the cast of another such show currently playing pronounced the show to be “great fun.”

In another similar but much more grandiose work entitled “Mass,” written and produced by Leonard Bernstein to celebrate the opening of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, a potpourri of opera, ballet, jazz, and rock music is employed, presumably to convey a religious message. Many Catholic hearers present were shocked at certain aspects of the performance, while one well-known critic pronounced it vulgar; but we are told that the audiences gave the show and its composer standing ovations.

How glad we are that, by God’s grace, we can still see our Lord and Master, and hear his voice as, without fan-fare, commotion, or props, he speaks to the multitudes by the shores of Galilee, or on the mountain top, telling in simple words that simple story, that everlasting truth that he died for our sins, and for the sins of the whole world; that the world thereby will one day be blessed; and that whosoever would be his disciple and share in thus blessing the world should deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow him!

One brief additional item should be added, because it is another “first” by Mr. Nixon. For the first time since its establishment in 1882 an American president addressed a gathering of the Catholic fraternal order known as the Knights of Columbus, in New York City. In his speech Mr. Nixon went out of his way to assure his hearers, including Cardinal Cooke, that he would do what he could to keep private and parochial schools from closing; implying, of course, that some sort of financial assistance would be forthcoming. Government aid to religious schools may possibly become an issue of consequence in the 1972 political campaign.

Troubled Northern Ireland

The religious contention that has tormented Northern Ireland for decades carried over into 1971. As the year progressed the struggle broke into open and terrible violence, resulting in a number of deaths to those involved, including members of the British Army who are trying to keep the warring factions apart. For what is taking place in Northern Ireland today is indeed a war—a religious war, and a very bitter one at that.

Of the 3,000,000 people who make up the southern nation of Eire some 95 percent are Catholic, and many of these are lending militant support and encouragement to the 35 percent minority of Catholics who are part of the 1,500,000 people of Northern Ireland. The bigotry, even hatred, on both sides appears extreme, and the hope of finding an acceptable solution to the problem seems daily more remote.

Most of the southern Irish want to absorb the northern nation into their own. This of course would please the northern Catholic minority, but would be fought to the end by the northern Protestants, who would themselves thereby become an unhappy minority in a reunited Ireland. A prominent member of the Irish Labor Party of Eire wisely exposed the futility of such a solution. He said, “There can be no hope of obtaining peace by offering, instead of a solution unacceptable to one-third of the people in the area, a solution unacceptable to two-thirds of the people in the area.”

Since reunification of the two Irelands seems politically and religiously impracticable, and since each side becomes less inclined to make concessions as the violence intensifies, the conflict seems destined to continue blundering along its bloody way, with the ever-present danger of erupting into open civil war. Both sides claim to be Christian; how great is the need by all these poor people for the establishment in the earth of God’s kingdom, when true Christian love and understanding will finally and everlastingly draw them together, not under the banner of a united Ireland, but under the one glorious banner of Christ.

The World of Finance and Economics

On August 15 the President of the United States dropped a veritable bombshell, the repercussions of which carried to the far corners of the earth. Its impact was the greater by reason of its almost total surprise. On that date he announced a drastic and far-reaching program designed to correct the worrisome financial and economic ills plaguing the nation—a program that was at complete variance with his previous actions and his oft expressed philosophy.

Since taking office on January 1, 1969, he had been trying by monetary and fiscal means to check the effects of inflation and the deterioration of the dollar’s position abroad, but apparently concluded that progress was too little, and too slow. Now he was about to initiate a new program, the essential features of which were:

  1. A ninety-day freeze on prices and wages.
  2. A 4.7 billion dollar cut in federal spending.
  3. A ten percent surcharge on products imported from abroad.
  4. Suspension of convertibility of the dollar into gold.

The President told Congress that the wage-price freeze would not be extended beyond 90 days, but he has asked Congress to give him effective control powers to extend to May 15, 1973.

On October 7 Mr. Nixon outlined Phase II of his overall plan to restore economic health to the nation. Operating under the existing Cost of Living Council, two new agencies would be formed, one a seven-man Price Commission to restrain price rises, and the other a fifteen-member Pay Board whose function would be to stop inflationary wage and salary increases. The President has also asked for power to regulate interest rates and dividends, should he deem such regulation to be advisable. Thus, for the first time in its peacetime history the nation is being subjected to price and wage controls—another Nixon “first,” incidentally. And the general feeling is that we will be living with these controls for a long time to come. This event may, indeed, mark the beginning of an era of expanded government controls.

The ten percent surcharge on imports, and the suspension of convertibility of the dollar into gold, have caused considerable dismay abroad. The surcharge, in effect, raises the price to American buyers of British, German, French, Japanese, and other foreign products. The decline in the value of the dollar in relation to the currencies of other nations which followed the announcement of non-convertibility, makes American products cheaper to foreign purchasers.

These two factors, it is hoped, will increase the purchase of American goods by foreigners, and decrease the purchase by Americans of foreign-made goods, thus improving our balance of trade, and reducing the number of dollars to piling up abroad. It is hoped also that this will increase the number of jobs available to American workers. Of course, to the extent the plan is successful domestically in accomplishing these ends, it will be correspondingly damaging to the economies of foreign nations.

The dollar has been subjected to serious strain for many years, giving recurrent rise to speculation that it would be devalued, with as frequent American denials that any such eventuality would take place. For years our favorable balance of trade measurably offset our outward flow of dollars to finance our foreign aid programs and our military commitments abroad, thus keeping the dollar reasonably strong. In the last decade, however, the value of our imports has gradually crept up on the value of our exports, until in the year 1970 we suffered a substantial deficit in our balance of trade. This, together with the other drains on the dollar, in Vietnam and numerous other areas, brought about the present crisis in the position of the dollar, with the United States now possessing about ten-and-a half billions of gold stocks, against which foreign claims are estimated at about fifty billions, with no improvement of the problem in sight. Hence Mr. Nixon’s action to suspend convertibility.

This action, however, does not solve the international money dilemma. It merely buys time for the experts to try to devise more effective ways and means to permit international trade to function. No one believes this will be an easy task, or one whose solution will come quickly. And the success of the domestic phase of Mr. Nixon’s plan to control prices and wages depends largely on the co-operation, good will and unselfishness of countless corporations and private businesses, large and small, whose basic motive is profit; of powerful labor unions whose history of exercising moderation of the sort now needed leaves much to be desired; and of millions of individual workers and housewives ever striving to better their lot.

Can Mr. Nixon generate among these diverse groups the required selflessness and devotion to the commonweal to make his program really work?

The Lunar World—and Apollo 15

The latest trip to the moon by American astronauts was the Apollo 15 mission, which took place during the final days of July and the early days of August. These amazing journeys through space are becoming so routinely successful that the awe and drama properly associated with them is diminishing somewhat. This new attitude is best indicated, perhaps, in the heading used by one national magazine for its story on Apollo 15: “A Weekend Drive on the Moon.”

These voyages are not, of course, all that casual; they are still fraught with mortal danger, for to be successful, and bring the voyagers home alive, thousands of details must be co-ordinated—many to a split second. The malfunction of a vital element, the slightest miscalculation, could be tragic. And this latest epic was not without its frightening moments to those on the ground, if not to the astronauts themselves. These flights are truly a tribute to man’s courage and to his scientific accomplishments.

But is it all really worthwhile? It is doubtless true that scientific knowledge gained in the space program is even now benefiting man in his every-day life. But might not the expenditure of these vast sums of money and scientific brain power be better used at the present time to relieve the distress, hunger, and disease of untold millions of humankind at home and abroad?

Whereas man has now proved that he can reach and walk (and now ride) upon the moon, and could even establish, if he chose to do so, a base providing living quarters and limited amenities supplied from the planet Earth, it is highly improbable that an attempt will be made at anything resembling normal living on the moon for large numbers of human beings. The entire environment of the moon is hostile to human life, and it is not yet known what damage the human body may sustain as a result of attempting to live under such unnatural conditions.

The Scriptures state that “the first man [Adam] is of the earth, earthy,” and we know that all the descendants of Adam are likewise “of the earth.” (I Cor. 15:47) All of man’s physical equipment was designed by the great Creator for earthly conditions. The Scriptures also show that the earth was made to be man’s everlasting home: “God himself … formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited.”—Isa. 45:18

It would be unwise to attempt to predict the extent of man’s future explorations into space. Surely, his success in reaching the moon surprised many. But it seems clear that his base of operations, his permanent home, will be the planet Earth. And what a glorious home it will be, when God’s kingdom is established therein!

The Explosive Arab World—and Israel

The Mid-East continues to make for anxious moments, probably more so in the minds of those administering the affairs of the United States and Soviet Russia than to the leaders of Israel and Egypt. For it is feared that active resumption of that never-really-ended war between those two relatively small powers could shortly escalate into a dreaded conflict between the superpowers, threatening the destruction of the civilized world.

Why should a local conflict between two small powers involve the United States and Russia, with such dire potential? It is because of the assistance commitments each has made to their associates—the United States to Israel, and Soviet Russia to Egypt. Having openly made firm commitments for all to see, it would be virtually impossible for either side to renege and thus “lose face” in the eyes of the whole world.

Nor would they be inclined to do so, for their own sakes. For back of these commitments are certain serious considerations: control of the Suez Canal, vast oil reserves (some 60 percent of the entire world’s known supply), military strategy, the spread, or the containment, of communistic power and influence. Each of the two great powers thus feels that interests vital to its own well-being are at stake in the Mid-East.

To protect these interests, and to preserve a shaky balance of power between the primary opponents, the United States has been gingerly supplying Israel with arms and air power, while Russia openly provides Egypt with modern war planes, troops, sophisticated offensive and defensive missiles, and other military equipment. And while this vicarious confrontation between the two great powers is taking place on the land, they are recklessly playing “chicken of the sea” with their fleets and air power over and on the Mediterranean.

Egypt’s President Sadat has recently returned from a visit to Moscow, no doubt with a promise in his pocket of increased arms support and a reaffirmation by Russia of her intention to stand by Egypt in her differences with Israel. Mr. Sadat has also indicated that his patience is running out, and that if progress toward a settlement of the dispute is not shortly in evidence, he will resume the war with Israel, whatever may be the cost in lives.

Observers have for some time believed that the Mid-East is a veritable powder keg, the explosion of which could ignite a devastating, worldwide conflagration. The prophecies of the Bible show that the final great Battle of Armageddon will take place there, but the precise time is not revealed. One can only keep watching, and praying for the coming of God’s kingdom in the earth.

The Fantastic World of Science

In this day when knowledge is being increased, as Daniel prophesied it would be, the successful flight of Apollo 15 provides an excellent example of the tremendous strides being made in the scientific world, for it epitomizes the triumph of man over countless separate and vexing problems related to human travel through space. It represents the sum total of much brilliant research crammed into one small capsule. But scholars all over the world are daily applying themselves to the advance of scientific knowledge in a thousand other areas of human endeavor. As with other such efforts, whether the result in each case will be a boon or a bane to humankind must depend on the use to which the ultimate product is put.

One such area of research has to do with the laser—“light amplification through stimulated emission of radiation.” The nonscientific mind is confounded by attempts to understand the mysteries of some of these present-day developments, but it can be made aware of the results. And it is becoming quite clear that the laser beam can be a powerful force for good—or ill.

Though the full potential of the laser is only beginning to emerge, it is already employed in a wide variety of uses. The Bell Telephone system has produced a laser smaller than a grain of sand that will operate on flashlight batteries for as long as a million hours, foreshadowing a new method of communication. Laser beams are being used to cut suitings and dress materials, to reattach loosened retinas of the human eye, to cut holes in heavy sheets of steel and in tiny needles, to measure distances to the accuracy of 1 inch in 15 miles, and a myriad other ways, all to the benefit of humankind.

Unfortunately, the laser beam may also be on the way to becoming a weapon of fantastically great destructive power. It is already being used on the field of battle in the Far East in the destruction of enemy tanks, and to guide the delivery of bombs from war planes to their targets on the ground. Present efforts are being directed at the production of laser beams possessing the destructive power of nuclear bombs. Some scientists believe that the laser beam may eventually render nuclear missiles and anti-ballistic missile systems outdated; to be replaced, one must suppose, by an even more destructive weapon—the laser beam itself.

Another concern of the scientists is the development of some sort of early warning system which would reveal undesirable changes in world ecology before these should become irreversible. Among the dangers to which they would direct their attention are the pollution of the atmosphere by carbon dioxide that might induce a disastrous change in the climate of the earth; the condition of forest and crop lands all over the world; contamination of the oceans by oil spills, nuclear wastes, and sewage or other pollutants. To implement this excellent idea, the scientists propose the creation of a monitoring system of space satellites, backed up by a technical center whose task it would be to interpret the data flowing into it from space. It is interesting to note that Russian scientists are co-operating with the Americans in the promotion of this forward-looking plan.

In mid-October, scientists from the United States, East Germany, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and several other nations gathered to set up a body to consider whether the world is irretrievably headed for famine, disastrous pollution of air, sea and land, and possible exhaustion of earth’s raw materials. And a serious start has been made by industry to control or reduce the emission from factories of contaminating wastes. Chemical companies, paper manufacturers, and power plants, among the worst offenders, are spending large sums in research and for equipment to this end. But as the needs of a growing world population expand the demands for more food and goods, the pollution continues. It is good, none-the-less, to see efforts being made on the international level to get action on these problems, but it is probable that real progress, with a real solution, must await the establishment of the kingdom, if past apathy is any index to the future.

The Grimy “Under” World

This world overlaps and intrudes its malignant influence on the many other “worlds” already discussed. It is the world of corruption in high places, of extortion, blackmail, bribes, hijacking. It is the world of drugs, smut, anarchy, senseless murders, muggings, beatings and purse-snatching. It is the world of immorality by young and old.

This is not altogether new, or unknown; it has existed in greater or lesser degree long before the year 1971. What IS new, however, is the advent of near worldwide acceptance of the general decline in morals. It is styled by some as “the new morality,” which means, in essence, that actions and attitudes formerly considered outside the pale even of polite conversation, let alone social acceptability, are now considered by more and more people to be “normal,” acceptable, and above reproach. In other words, everybody else is doing it—why should I be different?

This of course creates grave problems for decent, God-fearing people, particularly those striving to raise their children according to the standards of conduct taught in the Scriptures. For, let there be no mistake about it, the moral laxness that is prevalent in the world today threatens to pervade every corner of society, including the home and the church. A Harvard Law School professor recently stated that “so widespread are the destructive influences today that even a child raised in the best of home surroundings may very well be endangered innocently.”

Perhaps at few other times in history has it been so important for Christian parents to emphasize and uphold the moral precepts and standards of the Bible; to “train up a child in the way he should go: … [that] when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6) And a very important element in this training is the example set by the parents. The words of the Apostle Paul to Titus seem especially appropriate at this time:

“Let the older men know that they should be sober, high-principled, and temperate, sound in faith, in love, and in endurance. The older women, similarly, should be reverent in their bearing, not scandalmongers or slaves to strong drink; they must set a high standard, and school the younger women to be loving wives and mothers, temperate, chaste, and kind, busy at home, respecting the authority of their own husbands. Thus the Gospel will not be brought into disrepute. Urge the younger men, similarly, to be temperate in all things, and set them a good example yourself. In your teaching, you must show integrity and high principle, and use wholesome speech to which none can take exception.”—Titus 2:2-8, NEB

One More World—That Glorious World to Come!

The world, or social order, in which we live today, made up of many segments as we have seen, is called by the Apostle Paul “this present evil world.” (Gal. 1:4) He calls it an evil world because man is evil and selfish. And because it is evil, it is to be destroyed, for God hates iniquity and injustice. (I Pet. 3:7,10) It is to be replaced by a new world, or social order, which the Apostle Peter calls the “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (2 Pet. 3:13) This will be a righteous world because it will be under the rulership of Christ and his church.—Rev. 20:4,6

In this wonderful new world there will be no more wars, religious or otherwise. There will be no more economic or financial problems, no insecurity, no hunger, and there will be no need for money. There will be no immorality of any kind. (Rev. 21:8) It will not be a godless world, for God himself will be with the people, and be their God. There will be no more tears; no death, no sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. (Rev. 21:3,4) All who accept the blessings then offered will live forever in a paradise restored.—Rev. 22:17

For this new world to come is the long-promised, glorious kingdom of God. No wonder Bible Students eagerly watch the unfolding of world events! They are watching for, longing and praying for the blessings shortly to come upon all mankind in that beautiful new world wherein dwelleth righteousness. May thy kingdom come, Lord!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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