"The Blurring Line Between Church and State"
The collusion of the new U.S. President with the Religious Right and its goals becomes more evident all the time. On Sunday, May 20, in a commencement speech at Notre Dame, George W. Bush spoke of the need for government to support faith-based charity, and derided those who consider such aid a threat to liberty or the separation of church and state.
The President's statement was apparently viewed as sufficiently newsworthy that it made the lead story on the May 20, 2001 broadcast of the CBS Evening News. John Roberts, the Sunday anchorman, spoke in his lead comments of "the blurring line between church and state."
Along similar lines, earlier weeks in May saw controversy swirling again around Attorney General John Ashcroft, due to his holding Bible studies at the Justice Department and his recent meeting with groups wishing to stop pornography. Concern increases about renewed censorship efforts and government sponsoring of religion.
Christians must ever bear in mind our Lord's admonition that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). It is impossible for a truly religious organization to engage in any kind of charity without promoting its peculiar beliefs, beliefs the government should have no part in promoting. Religion has flourished in America for over two hundred years under the strict guidelines of the First Amendment. Blur the line between the two, and the result is not only the intolerance prophecy foretells but a corruption of both the church and the state through the sharing of coercive power.
The Attorney General would not be subject to the present criticism were he simply to hold Bible studies in his home or at his church. But the Justice Department belongs to everyone, including those of every faith and no faith. Neither it nor any other government agency should become involved in the promulgation of religious beliefs. And while Christians certainly must oppose the lifestyle promoted by pornography, civil coercion is not the way to do this. The circulation even of literature considered offensive is protected in a free society, a fact promoters of present truth should appreciate since we continually circulate literature many don't like. The only way to combat immoral literature is the same way we combat other wrong ideas both moral and theological-through witnessing, the power of God's Word, and the grace of sanctification.
Inspiration remains clear in the following forecast:
"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).
More Papal Apologies
The first week in May saw the ailing Pope on the road again, trying to mend differences between the Catholic Church and both Orthodox Christianity and Islam. According to the May 21, 2001 issue of U.S News & World Report, the pontiff had again "managed the unimaginable" (p. 30). In the first papal visit to Greece since the Great Schism with the Orthodox Church in 1054, and the first papal visit ever to a Muslim mosque, the Pope apologized for both the Crusades and Catholic offenses against the Orthodox branch of Christendom (Ibid., pp. 30-31).
Overcoming initial hostility in his visit to Athens, John Paul II eventually won over his Orthodox hosts, who had originally denounced the Pope as an "arch-heretic" and "the two-horned grotesque monster of Rome" (Ibid., p. 31). Following the Pope's apology, however, the Orthodox leaders applauded the pontiff and hailed his visit as "the beginning of a new era" (Ibid.).
The world continues to wonder after the beast (Rev. 13:3). Again we are reminded of an inspired prophecy that apologies such as those we now hear would take place:
"The Roman Church now presents a fair front to the world, covering with apologies her record of horrible cruelties. She has clothed herself in Christlike garments; but she is unchanged. Every principle of the papacy that existed in past ages exists today. The doctrines devised in the darkest ages are still held. Let none deceive themselves. The papacy that Protestants are now so ready to honor is the same that ruled the world in the days of the Reformation, when men of God stood up, at the peril of their lives, to expose her iniquity. She possesses the same pride and arrogant assumption that lorded it over kings and princes, and claimed the perogatives of God. Her spirit is no less cruel and despotic now than when she crushed out human liberty and slew the saints of the Most High" (The Great Controversy, p. 571).
The first weeks of May saw more unnatural weather strike the U.S. interior, from flooding and tornadoes in Michigan and Minnesota to hurricane-force winds in Oklahoma. On May10 alone there were 20 reported tornadoes in Minnesota and 10 in Iowa. At the same time in Florida, wildfires continue to rage, destroying by this time over 200,000 acres since the fires started in January. On the other side of the world, one of the harshest winters on record in Siberia is being followed by the disastrous flooding of rivers caused by ice dams, forcing the government to use TNT-with terrible likely consequences for the environment-to blow up these dams so as to ease the problem.
Meanwhile, the May 15, 2001 broadcast of "60 Minutes-2" reported that every 24 hours a train derailment occurs somewhere in the United States.
The following inspired statements continue to give evidence of fulfillment:
"How frequently we hear of earthquakes and tornadoes, of destruction by fire and flood, with great loss of life and property! Apparently these calamities are capricious outbreaks of disorganized, unregulated forces of nature, wholly beyond the control of man; but in them all, God's purpose may be read. They are among the agencies by which He seeks to arouse men and women to a sense of their danger" (Prophets and Kings, p. 277).
"Disasters by rail will become more and more frequent; confusion, collision, and death without a moment's warning will occur on the great lines of travel. The end is near, probation is closing. Oh, let us seek God while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near!" (Messages to Young People, p. 90).