The eve of the new Bush administration witnessed several battles over Cabinet appointees, but one was seriously relevant to those concerned about religious and civil liberties. As we go to press, former Senator John Ashcroft of Missouri is being grilled by the United States Senate over his nomination to be U.S. Attorney General. Religious Right organizations have rallied to support him even as other groups have rallied against him. The former say that Ashcroft faces opposition because the media and the "cultural elite" are "prejudiced against Christians." Ashcroft is well known for his support of organized prayer in public schools as well as his opposition to abortion.
Ashcroft will probably be confirmed in the end, but the struggle over his nomination again raises key issues relative to the role of the state in the enforcement of moral behavior, particularly in the light of Ashcroft's statement a few years ago at Bob Jones University, where he stated concerning the United States of America, "We have no king but Jesus."
The issue is perhaps not a man's Christian convictions, but whether or not those convictions should be made part of civil law. Also a distinction needs to be made between the directives of the first four of the Ten Commandments and the last six. Governments are on much firmer ground to focus their efforts on the last six.
What will happen with Bush and Ashcroft remains to be seen. But we know the prediction of the inspired pen:
"Let the principle once be established in the United States that the church may employ or control the power of the state, that religious observances may be enforced by secular laws; in short, that the authority of church and state is to dominate the conscience, and the triumph of Rome in this country is assured." (The Great Controversy, p. 581, emphasis added).
On the eve of the new millennium, Lutheran and Episcopalian leaders in Washington, D.C. celebrated the new unity established by an agreement 20 years in the making and finalized in 1999. This new agreement provides, among other things, for the sharing of pastors and common communion. "I never thought I would see this happen," observed Bishop J. Jon Bruno of the Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese at Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Orange County, California ("Lutherans, Episcopalians Celebrate Pact," Los Angeles Times, Jan. 1, 2001, pp. B1, B4).
The Times reminded its readers that not only does this particular branch of Lutheranism have an agreement with the Episcopalians, but also that "Lutherans have been at the center of the ecumenical movement. They have forged similar agreements with the Presbyterian Church in the United States, the United Church of Christ and the Reformed Church in America" (Ibid., p. B4).
In an end-time prophecy of the ecumenical movement, the prophet Isaiah writes: "And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach" (Isa. 4:1). Here we see that the united apostate churches of Babylon will say to our Lord, We will maintain our own doctrines and our own righteousness, but we wish to be called by Your name, so that the world will admire us.
Now we see this prophecy in action.
"When the leading churches of the United States, uniting upon such points of doctrine as are held by them in common, shall influence the state to enforce their decrees and to sustain their institutions, then Protestant America will have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy, and the infliction of civil penalties upon dissenters will inevitably result" (The Great Controversy, p. 445).
Another Workplace Shooting
The close of the year 2000 saw yet another outbreak of violence in the workplace, as a deranged worker shot and killed seven coworkers on the day after Christmas at the offices of Edgewater Technology in Wakefield, Massachusetts. The Orange County edition of the Los Angeles Times, Dec. 27, 2000, chronicled 11 other shootings of this kind reported across the nation since 1995 (p. A11).
Jesus declared, as we have often noted, "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man" (Luke 17:26). Inspiration writes concerning those days:
"They worshiped selfish indulgence, . . . and resorted to acts of violence and crime if their desires and passions were interfered with. . . . The land was filled with violence. War, crime, murder, was the order of the day. Just so it will be before Christ's second coming" (SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 1090).
Earthquake in El Salvador
On January 13, 2001, the Central American nation of El Salvador was rocked by a devastating earthquake, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale. As we go to press, more than 600 have been reported dead in mudslides and the collapse of buildings, with tens of thousands injured and left homeless. The final toll of dead and injured will doubtless not be known for weeks.
Jesus spoke long ago of "earthquakes in divers places" before His second coming (Matt. 24:7; Luke 21:11). Inspiration lists such disasters among the many that will multiply before our Lord returns:
"In accidents and calamities by sea and by land, in great conflagrations, in fierce tornadoes and terrific hailstorms, in tempests, floods, cyclones, tidal waves, and earthquakes, in every place and in a thousand forms, Satan is exercising his power. . . . These visitations are to become more and more frequent and disastrous" (The Great Controversy, pp. 589-590).