Completing our review of the ten Strategic Trends, this month we end with Trend #8, Global Government; Trend #9, Ecumenical Religion; and Trend #10, America's Challenge.
Trend # 8 - Global Government
Once veiled in secrecy, the movement toward a unified, socialist government dissolving national boundaries has hit the mainstream. Even American political leaders are embracing this movement and, not surprisingly, the UN has published detailed reports on global government, calling it a "Global Neighborhood."
One of the key elements to a future global government will be an effective identification system as well as a comprehensive civilian database. The February 2004 issue of Fortune magazine reported on the history of credit cards and their use in today's society. It is interesting to note that in 1995, less than ten years ago, 60% of in-store purchases where made with cash, 30% with checks, 8% with credit cards, and only 2% with debit cards. Compare that with the percentages for 2003: 52% of all in-store transactions were with credit or debit cards (31% credit, 21% debit), only 32% with cash, 15% with checks, and 1% with prepaid cards. At the beginning of the 1990s only 5% of grocery stores accepted credit cards, now more than 90% do. Our economy has become dependant on electronic transactions, in fact most Internet companies could not exist without them. Many experts believe that we are moving very rapidly towards a cashless society.
The next step in "convenience shopping" is to use fingerprinting technology. For example, The Piggly Wiggly grocery chain has begun offering a high-tech payment feature allowing customers in several stores to pay using their fingerprints. With a touch of the finger to a light-sensitive pad, patrons pay for their groceries provided they have an account in the store's system that can be debited. Many privacy activists, however, oppose fingerprint payment technology, saying that it is not a secure system, and many critics oppose any technology that could be used to track customers and their purchases.
Another possibility is using an iris recognition system. It is more secure than fingerprints: a copy of your fingerprint is left on just about everything you touch, not true with your eye. Iris recognition technology combines computer vision, pattern recognition, statistical inference, and optics. The algorithms for iris recognition were developed at Cambridge University by John Daugman. A decade ago he came up with four mathematical equations that made it possible to "scan" the human iris like a bar code. The technology is so powerful that it could, in theory, make the whole idea of a personal identification card obsolete-your iris could, in effect, be your ID card. All you'd have to do is submit to a quick and harmless laser scan, and the authorities would fill in the blanks from their vast database. Because the randomness of iris patterns has very high dimensionality, recognition decisions are made with confidence levels high enough to support rapid and reliable exhaustive searches through national-sized databases.
The technology has already been used in aviation security (substituting for passports and controlling access to restricted areas at airports); database access and computer login; access to buildings and homes; hospital settings, including mother-infant pairing in maternity wards; "watch list" database searching at border crossings; and other government programs.
On the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the UN High Commission for Refugees uses these algorithms for anonymous identification of returning Afghan refugees receiving cash grants at voluntary repatriation centers. The largest single current deployment of these algorithms is in the United Arab Emirates, where every day about 2 billion iris comparisons are performed. Travelers arriving at all 17 air, land, and seaports have their IrisCodes quickly computed and compared against all the IrisCodes in a large database, within about two seconds. Iris recognition is forecast to play a role in a wide range of other applications in which a person's identity must be established or confirmed. These include electronic commerce, information security, entitlements authorization, building entry, automobile ignition, forensic and police applications, network access and computer applications, or any other transaction in which personal identification currently relies on unique possessions or secrets (keys, cards, documents, passwords, or PINs).
Trend # 9 - Ecumenical Religion
Like global government, the idea of a global religion has in the past seemed to some like an impossibility, but the gradual movement toward ecumenical religion here in the U.S. and in other countries around the world has made global religion seem not only possible, but certain. Not only are current trends leaning towards a universal religion, but the Bible confirms that there will be a global religion united under a world leader.
The focus of global religion has long been directed at the Catholic church. Many have observed its move towards ecumenicalism, often epitomized by pictures of the Pope kissing a copy of the Qu'ran at the World Council of Churches in Damascus. But in reality the New Age movement has been the primary driving force behind a one-world religion. The term New Age itself refers to the Aquarian Age, which many Astrologers believe we are now entering into, which will be characterized by a heightened degree of spiritual or cosmic consciousness and a transformation from the present nation-state divisions into a peaceful one-world community united under a universal pantheistic belief structure.
The New Age movement has many subdivisions, but it is generally a collection of Eastern-influenced metaphysical thought systems, a conglomeration of theologies, hopes, and expectations held together with an eclectic teaching of salvation, of "correct thinking," and "correct knowledge." It is a theology of "feel-goodism," "universal tolerance," and "moral relativism." It is a loose organization of people who see themselves as advanced in consciousness, rejecting Judeo-Christian values and the Bible in favor of Oriental philosophies and religion.
To them Man is central. He is viewed as divine, as co-creator, as the hope for future peace and harmony. Though the New Age movement is tolerant of almost any theological position, it is opposed to the "narrow-mindedness" of Christianity, which teaches that Jesus is the only way and that there are moral absolutes. They will often play semantic word games, using the same words Christians do yet their definitions bear no resemblance to the Christian definitions.
The New Age movement is difficult to define because "there is no hierarchy, dogma, doctrine, collection plate, or membership." It is a collection, an assortment of different theologies with the common threads of toleration and divergence weaving through its tapestry of "universal truth." New Age followers are encouraged to find their own truth. In essence, to do what is right in their own eyes.
Trend # 10 - America's Challenge
Our review of the final trend, America's Challenge, can be summarized by the opening line of Charles Dickens' novel, A Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times and it was the worst of times."
By some standards, it appears to be the best of times in America: We enjoy a stable economy, reinforced by continually advancing technologies. Families own multiple cars, computers, televisions, and portable phones. Indeed, in many ways, it seems like the best of times.
However, let's assess the State of the Union in the mirror of God's Word. Homosexuality is accepted as simply "an alternative life-style." We murder babies that are socially inconvenient. We change marriage partners like a fashion statement. We have abandoned the sanctity of commitments in our families and in our businesses. Immorality and deceit have come to characterize the highest offices in our land. We have allowed God to be banished from public school classrooms and we have watched as religious expression is constrained under the auspices of "separation of church and state."
Our public enterprises have been prostituted to the convenience of the elite. Our mainline media takes pride in forming public opinion rather than informing it, which had been its sacred role in a representative republic. Our culture has disconnected character from destiny. Our entertainments celebrate adultery, fornication, violence, aberrant sexual practices and every imaginable form of evil. We have become the primary exporters of everything that God abhors.
The situation in America today is in close parallel with that of Israel after the death of King Solomon. The Northern Kingdom, lead by Jeroboam, with a successful standing army, recovered to Israel all the territory lost - even the possession of Damascus. They enjoyed material prosperity unequaled since the days of Solomon. It was, indeed, "the best of times." At least, so it seemed from their point of view.
However, they also had sunk to their lowest ebb of immorality and idol worship. In addition to idolatry, other sins denounced by Hosea included social injustice, violent crime, religious hypocrisy, political rebellion, dependence upon foreign alliances, selfish arrogance, and spiritual ingratitude. In the eyes of God it was the "worst of times." And although a loving and caring God had provided their abundance and prosperity, their sin, disloyalty and abandonment of Him would force Him to vindicate His justice with judgment.
The issue of homosexuality has made headlines throughout the year, starting with the Episcopal church's decision to recognize the blessing of same-sex unions and the confirmation of a gay Episcopal bishop. Then there was the opening of a gay high school in New York and renewed controversy over gay marriage.
America is in the midst of a moral dilemma. So why hasn't God judged America? The parallels in the Bible, both in Hosea and elsewhere, would suggest that it is long overdue. One possible answer is God's commitment in Genesis 12:2-3, in which He promises Abraham that He "will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curseth thee." It may well be that America has been spared from God's wrath because of its support of Israel. Will it continue? We must also remember Nineveh. This pagan capital ruled the world for several centuries. And it was scheduled for God's judgment. It was 40 days from "ground zero!" Then God called Jonah, the Reluctant Prophet. He wasn't excited about the assignment until God explained it to him a bit more clearly.
And Jonah wasn't very tactful in his message: "Forty days and you get yours!" Then, the biggest miracle in the Old Testament occurred: within those forty days: the king on down all repented! And the kingdom was spared for almost another century! God, we must remember, is in the miracle business...
God has declared His clear and exciting principle:
If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14
This is not addressed to our President, our Congress, or our population in general: It is addressed to "My people, who are called by my name." It is addressed to the Body of Christ.
If we will humble ourselves, and pray, and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways - then He will forgive our sin and heal our land. We need a national revival - but it must begin with you and me. It is our sin that is standing in the way of what God would prefer to do: to have America continue as a beachhead for the Gospel to a hurting world.
It's up to us. It's high time we got serious about it. As you celebrate our Independence Day with friends and family, ask the Lord what He would have you do for Him this year.