Update 551


My Servant

On July 28, 2012, Dave Harris will give the sermon, titled, “My Servant.”
The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org (12:30 pm Pacific Time; 1:30 pm Mountain Time; 2:30 pm Central Time; 3:30 pm Eastern Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

Back to top

Violence No More?

by Norbert Link

The mass murder in Colorado has shown again the incredible acts of senseless and demonic violence of which man is capable. Questions are asked as to whether gun control would have prevented a “mentally disturbed” man from carrying out his horrendous crimes; and whether the increase in violence, especially in movies and video games, has been responsible for raising indifferent and uncaring children and young adults who have become willing to strike out against their fellow man and a “socially unjust” society. These are clearly important questions to consider, and “political correctness” of leading politicians, “motivating” them not to be motivated to address these “hot potatoes,” sheds further gloomy clouds on the very dark age in which we are living.

Some asked the question as to why God lets these kinds of diabolical actions happen, and whether sin may have anything to do with them. This strikes closer to home. We must understand, once and for all, that this is NOT God’s world. Rather, it is Satan, the god of this present evil age, who is deceiving mankind to sin. He is THE destroyer, intent to do whatever he can to bring havoc and destruction on indifferent and “willfully ignorant” people who become easy targets for the evil prince of darkness and his wicked cohorts.

Our fascination with guns and violence will not contribute to the end of the misuse of guns and violent conduct—it will not create a better world. What is needed is a change of heart—how we think, and for what we stand. In the famous millennial passage of Isaiah 2:2-4, we read about a new world which will be so much different from what we are confronted with today. Satan will have no more influence over unsuspecting and gullible people. Instead, God’s law will be taught (verse 3). The consequence will be unparalleled in human history and truly earth-shaking: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.”

Their mind will be receptive to God’s way of life. God’s law will be in their heart (Isaiah 51:7). They will walk in God’s statutes and do them (Ezekiel 11:19-20). They will learn to live peaceably with their neighbor and with other nations. They will finally realize that committing violence against our fellow man will only bring destruction. Peter thought that he had to use his sword and strike the high priest’s servant Malchus to prevent the illegal arrest of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. But Christ told him: “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

Psalm 140:11 takes on quite a stern meaning when viewed in this context: “Let evil hunt the violent man to overthrow him.”

When God’s law of love rules in our heart—and love does no harm to our neighbor (Romans 13:10)—then we would not even think of using a gun or a knife against someone. We would not even think of resorting to violence against another human being.

God hates those who love violence (Psalm 12:5). And He tells us: “Violence shall no longer be heard in your land” (Isaiah 60:18).

We cannot change this violent world today, and as long as Satan rules and until Christ returns, violence, mass murders, senseless killings and universal wars will continue. But we are to come out of this world and make ourselves ready for the peaceful world tomorrow. Are we doing this?

Back to top

The mass murder in one of Colorado’s theaters during a midnight showing of the new Batman movie has shocked and bewildered many, and answers for the unthinkable are being sought. We are giving you some samples of valid considerations, which all contribute, more or less, to understanding the nature of evil deeds, but do not solve the problem at hand. They do show, however, how dark this world has become. Please make sure to read the Editorial in this Update, and to view our new StandingWatch program, “No More Guns?”, and our half hour sermon on the topic, titled, “The Colorado Massacre.”

We also report on other frightening developments in the United States and Syria, and conclude with ongoing developments in Germany (and Europe) regarding the German court decision which criminalizes circumcision of young boys.

Back to top

Weapons Acquired Legally in Colorado

BBC wrote on July 20:

“Residents [are] allowed to keep guns in homes, offices and vehicles, but [they] can only carry them in public with a permit. There are no limits to how many guns can be bought a month, and the state permits sale of automatic weapons. No waiting period [exists] for buying a handgun, both state and federal state law require criminal background checks. Since [the] 1998 Columbine massacre, 20 miles from [the] scene of Friday’s shooting, it has become easier to buy guns in [the] US–a national ban on assault weapons sale expired in 2004.”

The occasional claim that the murderer acquired some of the weapons illegally —especially an assault rifle— is absolutely false.

U.S. Gun Laws Make No Sense

The Washington Post wrote on July 20:

“As President Obama said in brief but eloquent remarks Friday, there is no rational explanation for the massacre that occurred in a Colorado movie theater early Friday. ‘Such violence, such evil, is senseless. It’s beyond reason,’ Mr. Obama said… There’s something else that is senseless, though, and that is America’s gun laws. The temptation is not to mention this fact. That’s true partly because… any mention of gun control is dismissed by gun-control opponents as an ‘exploitation’ of tragedy. But it’s true also because we’ve all been worn down by the futility and repetitiveness of the debate. A massacre occurs; advocates of gun control point out the folly of total permissiveness; the laws do not change; the issue disappears until the next massacre…

“There is no rational basis for allowing ordinary Americans to purchase assault rifles… The alleged shooter in Friday’s crime, which claimed at least 12 lives, came to the theater with two .40-caliber Glock handguns, a Remington 12-gauge shotgun and a Smith & Wesson AR-15 assault-style rifle. According to NBC News, ‘the weapons were legally bought from local stores of two national chains… beginning in May.’

“Yes, the Second Amendment protects a citizen’s right to own a gun, but it does not preclude reasonable regulation for public safety. Yes, mass killings occur in societies with stronger gun laws, but not with such regularity — and not against the backdrop of daily gun violence, both criminal and accidental, that distinguishes the United States.

“We don’t expect this massacre to lead to more sensible laws. We understand the politics. Still, it’s disappointing that the president doesn’t couple his words of comfort with some reminder of the common-sense regulation that could make such tragedies less common. The politics of guns will never shift if people are too cowed or dispirited even to join the argument. U.S. gun laws make no sense.”

Indeed, they don’t—and no civilized country outside the US shows any sympathy for our “American Wild-West” mentality.

Americans in Love With Their Guns

USA Today wrote on July 22:

“There are calls now for gun laws strict enough to stop incidents like these, just as there were after previous tragedies, but those demands will fade. The nation has had a long and acrimonious debate on guns and decided to allow individuals to own them, with reasonable limits. It’s a devil’s bargain that allows millions of law-abiding people to own and use guns responsibly, while accepting thousands of deliberate and accidental shootings a year, including the sort of perverse tragedy that occurred in Colorado.

“Gun control strict enough to stop every shooting is a fantasy. Americans are fiercely devoted to their right to keep and bear arms, and the Supreme Court has upheld that right. The notion that the authorities could somehow confiscate the millions of guns in private hands in the U.S. is a delusion. So is the idea that Americans would support a ban on private handguns — the latest Gallup poll shows that just 26 % of Americans favor that.

“But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be done. Americans do support bans on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, which have figured in mass shootings and were a part of this one. There’s no legitimate reason for the loophole that lets some people evade background checks when they buy guns at gun shows…”

As long as Americans continue with their love and adoration for and fascination with guns, “political correctness” will prevent meaningful changes, as the next article shows.

Political Considerations in an Election Year—Play It Safe

The Los Angeles Times wrote on July 20:

“President Obama and rival Mitt Romney issued similar statements Friday expressing shock and offering their condolences after the shooting rampage in Aurora, Colo. Absent was any discussion of gun control or ways to end gun violence… don’t count on a whole lot of substantive talk about guns or gun control between, say, next week and Nov. 6 — at least from the two main contestants for the White House. Few issues evoke as much emotion as the personal right to bear firearms, and Obama and Romney have their reasons to steer clear of any lengthy debate.

“It has become an article of faith among Democrats that Al Gore lost the White House in 2000… because of his support for gun control… the president has not signed a single piece of major gun-control legislation, nor has Congress given him the opportunity… White House spokesman Jay Carney notably mentioned 2nd Amendment rights…

“Romney… will certainly not do anything to agitate the 2nd Amendment crowd. As governor of Massachusetts, he backed an assault weapons ban and a waiting period to buy firearms; as a presidential candidate, he’s backpedaled from those heresies ever since.

“Reacting to the shootings, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a staunch advocate of gun control, virtually taunted the two presidential candidates to offer more than platitudes, however sincere or well-meaning they may be. ‘You know, soothing words are nice,’ he said on WOR radio, ‘but maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country.’…

“Avoiding politics may be the respectful thing to do as the nation grieves the dead and wounded in Colorado. Politically, it is also the safe thing to do.”

CNN added on July 20:

“Daniel Vice, senior attorney for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, criticized Obama on Friday for steering clear of the issue in office. ‘President Obama has refused to even talk about guns… Unfortunately the president has shown a lack of leadership in standing up to the gun lobby’…

“Gun safety advocates have expressed disappointment with the president’s actions since taking office, particularly over his failure to fight for the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban. They pointed out Obama signed bills into law that allowed loaded weapons in some national parks and on Amtrak trains and the destruction of background check documents…”

That our leading politicians shy away from even addressing the issue of gun control for fear of their political survival is shameful and, as Piers Morgan stated correctly on CNN on July 19, “that can’t be right.” However, presumably due to pressure from the media, President Obama has now begun to speak openly about reducing gun crime. Note the next article.

President Obama to Reduce Gun Crime

Deutsche Welle reported on July 26:

“US President Barack Obama has vowed to pursue a cross-party deal on new measures to reduce gun crime across America… Obama pledged late on Wednesday to introduce ‘common sense’ measures to combat gun violence. He vowed to work with both political parties and religious groups to ensure that guns didn’t fall into the hands of criminals. ‘I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms,’ he told the National Urban League Convention in New Orleans, referring to part of the US Constitution. ‘But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals – that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities,’ he said…

“It was the first time Obama had commented on gun control since 12 people were shot dead in a midnight showing of the new Batman movie last Friday… Previous attempts to impose gun controls have been met, however, with fierce resistance from the powerful lobbying group the National Rifle Association and many Republican members of Congress. That makes the issue of gun control extremely decisive in an election year and Obama was careful not to make any specific law change proposals.

“On Wednesday his Republican opponent Mitt Romney voiced his opposition to changes to gun legislation. He argued that a tightening of rules wouldn’t have prevented the Colorado shooting. ‘I don’t happen to believe that America needs new gun laws,’ Romney said…”

It is not quite clear what President Obama is contemplating doing, as the Washington Times added on July 25:

“Progressives are pushing Mr. Obama, who campaigned four years ago on a platform of stricter gun control, to speak out on the subject and use the tragedy to impose stricter gun regulations. But the White House has been saying since the shooting last week that Mr. Obama has no plans to seek new gun legislation. The president used the speech to the Urban League to defend his own actions to date on gun control, as much as to call for tougher controls.”

In any event, it is highly unlikely that new gun laws will be passed, as the next article points out.

No Chance for Successful Ban on Assault Weapons

USA Today wrote on July 25, 2012

“Two bills circulating in Congress would ban high-capacity ammunition magazines, such as the 100-round drum used in Friday’s attack. But passage of those bills — or stiffer bans on assault weapons — are not likely in the near future… On Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he would not use the shooting in Aurora, Colo., to push for any new gun laws, blaming the incident on ‘a deranged person’…”

Gun Sales Up

The New York Post wrote on July 25:

“Firearms sales are surging in the wake of the Colorado movie theater massacre as buyers express fears that anti-gun politicians may use the shootings to seek new restrictions on owning weapons.

“In Colorado, the site of Friday’s shooting that killed 12 and injured dozens of others, gun sales jumped in the three days that followed. The state approved background checks for 2,887 people who wanted to purchase a firearm — 25 percent more than the average Friday to Sunday period in 2012 and 43 percent more than the same interval the week prior…

“Day-to-day gun sales frequently fluctuate, but the numbers also look strong outside of Colorado, too. Seattle’s home county, King, saw nearly twice as many requests for concealed pistol licenses than the same timeframe a year ago. Florida recorded 2,386 background checks on Friday, up 14 percent from the week before. Oregon sales on Friday and Saturday were up 11 percent over the month prior. Four days of checks in California were up 10 percent month-to-month…

“Jay Wallace, who owns Adventure Outdoors in Smyrna, Ga., found that his sales on Saturday were up 300 percent from the same day a year ago — making it one of the best Saturdays his business has ever had…

“Some Democratic lawmakers in Congress cited the shooting as evidence of the need for tougher gun control laws — particularly a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. Congress, however, hasn’t passed strict legislation in more than a decade, and leaders in Washington show no sign of bringing up such measures any time soon.”

Americans Unable of Honest Debate on Gun Laws?

BBC wrote on July 20:

“The shooting tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, has reignited the debate over gun rights in America. But, argues Rod Dreher, senior editor at The American Conservative, the arguments on both sides say little, and accomplish even less… America will have a national media fit over gun violence, as we always do, and then carry on as we always have. The pattern never fails… Both sides in the US gun debate are heavily committed to absolutist positions that make little sense.

“The anti-gun side holds to a dogmatic belief that stricter gun control would prevent these kinds of killings. Norway has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world. Those laws did not stop Anders Breivik from killing last summer… People on the pro-gun side, however, tend to carry on like fire-breathing fundamentalists at a tent revival. They meet any proposal to restrict weaponry or ammunition, no matter how sensible, as an attempt to give a toehold to the devil…

“Liberals, for example, often defend grotesque violence in film and hip-hop music, denying that it has anything to do with gun crime, and claiming that tolerating it is the price one pays for First Amendment freedom of expression. Civil libertarians object to stop-and-frisk laws that get illegal weapons off the streets. For their part, conservatives idolise the Second Amendment guarantee of gun rights, but rarely consider what that liberty does to peaceable poor people trapped in inner cities ravaged by armed young thugs…

“Americans seem incapable of honest debate among ourselves about what our permissive gun laws do – and do not – have to do with the chronic bloodletting. If our ideological hardness keeps us from talking straight about gun violence, how can we ever make any real progress on reducing it?”

This article states an interesting point. Unbalanced radical viewpoints on either side will not help in solving the issue—especially when important aspects are being overlooked. Fortunately, the issues of “gun control” and the reasons for love of guns will be swiftly and correctly addressed in the Millennium.

Can We Learn from Australia?

CNN wrote on July 21:

“The shooting was senseless. And it makes us think once again about how we can address the horrific problem of gun violence in America. The first task is conceptual — can we figure out what will work? The second task is political — can plausible solutions be implemented legislatively?

“The conceptual problem is immensely difficult, especially in a society that is already as gun-saturated as America is today. The political problem borders on the impossible. Gun policy in this country is made by the National Rifle Association, and no serious effort at gun control can currently get past its veto. Even when legislation passed during the Clinton years in the form of the Brady bill, requiring background checks at the time of gun purchases, or the assault weapons ban, the NRA succeeded in injecting gaping loopholes into the laws…

“Consider what happened in Australia after a crazed gunman killed 35 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania, in 1996.

“The Australian federal government persuaded all states and territories to implement tough new gun control laws. Under the National Firearms Agreement (NFA), firearms legislation was tightened throughout the country. National registration of guns was imposed and it became illegal to hold certain long guns that might be used in mass shootings. The gun ban was backed up by a mandatory buy-back program that substantially reduced gun possession in Australia. The effect was that both gun suicides and homicides (as well as total suicides and homicides) fell. Importantly, while there were 13 mass shootings in Australia during the period of 1979–96, there have been none in the sixteen years since.

“In 1996, then-Prime Minister John Howard stated that the ‘whole scheme is designed to reduce the number of guns in the community and make Australia a safer place to live.’ Of course, the Australian gun control law in 1997 enjoyed an extremely high level of public support and was not hampered by any domestic gun industry (since Australia did not have any). Such would not be the case in the United States where pro-gun political views and NRA power create a very different climate. In the wake of another tragic massacre of innocent lives, we should look carefully at the Australian experience to see if the American public will ever rise up as one against gun violence.”

Why can’t America do what Australia did? The answer lies in the mentality of most Americans. It would require a change of heart. As General Douglas MacArthur so pointedly put it in his famous speech of 1951:

“The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature, and all material and cultural developments of the past 2000 years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.”

Mitt Romney seemed to have somewhat echoed those sentiments. According to USA Today, he stated on July 25 that “changing the heart of the American people” might be what’s needed to end such violent acts. Also notice the next article.

We Have a Sin Problem

Newsmax wrote on July 22:

“Mike Huckabee, speaking on his Fox News show, said America doesn’t have a gun problem or crime problem but a ‘sin problem’ and that while the Aurora movie massacre was a horrible incident that deserves the media coverage it’s getting, other daily American tragedies such as mass abortion, suicides, and other murders should receive more attention.

“The former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate said… that the shooting ‘is impossible to understand except that we live in a world where there is evil. We simply don’t know why any person would reach deep enough into the forces of darkness to decide to kill innocent people simply watching a movie…’ Huckabee said killing a dozen people in a movie theater gets attention because it doesn’t happen every day ‘but one million innocent and unborn babies die in their mother’s wombs each year by elective abortions and we pay scant attention to that.’…

“‘Ultimately,’ Huckabee concluded, ‘we don’t have a crime problem or a gun problem – or even a violence problem. What we have is a sin problem. And since we ordered God out of our schools and communities, the military and public conversations, you know, we really shouldn’t act so surprised when all hell breaks loose.’”

True to an extent, but not completely. We have a sin problem, BECAUSE we have a crime problem, a gun problem and a violence problem. Crimes, violence and (misuse of) guns constitute sin. That our civilized world has become a terribly violent and therefore sinful place is also discussed in the next article. And, it puts much blame on inconsiderate parents, allowing their children to get more and more engaged in violent environments, being apparently oblivious to the ensuing dangers.

Violence on the Rise

On July 20, The Drudge Report linked to an article of The Telegraph, dated 26 July 2008, dealing with the previous Batman movie, The Dark Knight:

“Our attitude to violence is beyond a joke as [the] new Batman film, The Dark Knight, shows… The new Batman film reaches new levels of brutality, so why are we letting children watch it? Jenny McCartney looks at a society seduced by sadism.

“If I were 10 years old, would I be badgering my parents to take me to see the new Batman film, The Dark Knight? You bet I would… If I were the parent who relented and took a 10-year-old child to see The Dark Knight, would I be sorry? Once again, you bet I would…

“The Dark Knight… has been rated 12A by the British Board of Film Classification, which means that although the BBFC believes it is best suited to children aged 12 and over, any under-12 can see it provided he or she is accompanied by an adult. Cinemas are even holding parent-and-baby screenings…

[In the US, the movie The Dark Knight, as well as the sequel, The Dark Knight rises, received a PG 13 rating for intense sequence of violence and action, among others. Children at any age can watch those movies without being accompanied by an adult. PG-13 means parents are strongly cautioned about letting a child under 13 see the movie. It does not mean that a parent is required to attend the movie with a child if they’re under 13. So a child can go to a PG-13 alone at whatever age a parent may feel comfortable with. Just for reference, in the US, rated R means a parent or guardian is required to attend the movie with a child or teen under 17. NC-17 (aka Rated X) means no one under 17 is admitted, even if they have a parent with them.]

“In 2002, the BBFC took a stand on Spider-Man, a hugely hyped Hollywood release: it decided that it contained unsuitable levels of violence for under-12s, and therefore awarded it a ‘12’ certificate, meaning that under-12s should not be allowed into cinemas to see it. A public storm erupted; children and many parents were furious; and a number of councils announced their intention to defy the ban… Spider-Man now looks like Bambi when set next to The Dark Knight. Even since 2002, the public’s willingness to expose children to previously unthinkable levels of screen violence has soared…

“Britain appears to be gulping down entertainment values wholesale from a Hollywood intent upon mining the profit margin from barbarism. America, for all its manifold strengths, is still a country in which the population can [view] the sight of a bound man being torched to death as all-round family entertainment. Just as notable as the… violence in popular entertainment itself, however, is the rage directed at anyone who dares to question it…

“Is there a link between screen violence and actual violence? Fans of violent films will tell you – frequently in the most aggressive terms – that there is not. Yet we know that children are, to greater and lesser degrees, highly imitative of what they see… And we know that entertainment aimed at young people is becoming markedly more violent. My generation was terrified by the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; the current one is diverted with torture and agonising death…

“The poet WB Yeats once wrote, ‘In dreams begins responsibility’, yet Hollywood will never take responsibility for its most brutal dreams so long as the paying public still flocks to the theatre of cruelty.”

There can really be no reasonable denial of the undisputable fact that a relationship exists between watching violent movies and playing violent video games on the one hand, and becoming, in mind and sometimes in action, more and more violent towards our fellow man. When children grow up with violence, then in far too many cases, they will respond in kind when the opportunity presents itself.

Violence by Returning Soldiers

BBC wrote on July 24:

“One in eight soldiers has attacked someone after coming home from a combat deployment… Soldiers involved in direct combat were twice as likely as others to admit having hit someone at the end of the tour… A third of the victims were someone in the family – often a wife or girlfriend… This month an ex-soldier was jailed for shooting dead his landlady, just months after he had returned from serving in Afghanistan with the Territorial Army.”

An Addendum:
The Drudge Report asked on July 20: “What was a 6 Year Old Doing in Midnight Screening?”

A very good question!

Spying on US Citizens—“An Unholy Mess”

The Economist wrote on July 21:

“… in 1967… the court decided that fourth amendment protections extend anywhere a person has ‘a reasonable expectation of privacy’. If police wanted to wiretap a phone, they now needed a warrant, just as they would if they wanted to search a person’s home. But the warrant requirement applies only to the actual conversation, not to the numbers dialled from a phone…

“In 2001 the Patriot Act allowed pen/traps to be served on internet-service providers (ISPs) as well, where they reveal e-mail senders and recipients, the size of each e-mail sent and received, the IP address with which a computer communicates and the sites visited while browsing the web. The standards for getting a pen/trap approved are far lower than for getting a wiretap. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which was passed in 1986 and remains the main law governing access to electronic communication, requires police only to certify to a court that the information is relevant to an investigation. For a wiretap, police must show both probable cause and that ‘normal investigative procedures have been tried and failed’…

“In 2011 federal and state courts approved a total of 2,732 wiretaps; but government agencies made over 1.3m requests for data to mobile-phone companies. That figure includes wiretaps and pen/traps, but it also includes requests for stored text messages, device locations and tower dumps, which reveal the presence of everyone—suspects and not—within range of a particular mobile-phone tower at a particular time. Most of these requests require no warrants at all. Sometimes all it takes is a subpoena from a prosecutor.

“Internet companies have also seen a sharp rise in requests from law-enforcement agencies for information about their users… Among the things that Google is typically asked for are account information and location data… Web firms say that police tend to grab as much information as they can rather than targeting specific items relevant to a case…

“Among the many expansions of government snooping power contained in the Patriot Act after the attacks of September 11th, 2001, it became far easier for the FBI to issue national-security letters, which compel service providers to turn over vast amounts of data about the recipients of such letters without a court order. The FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Amendments Act allows intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on communications between Americans and people overseas without a probable-cause warrant. FISA investigations require an order from the FISA Court—which meets in secret, and in the 32 years from 1979 to 2011 rejected a grand total of 11 applications. They are subject to no other review…”

Western Military Intervention in Syria?

The Guardian wrote on July 24:

“Western military intervention in the Syrian crisis is ‘looking increasingly likely’ because the conflict is now in danger of provoking violence across the Arab world that could lead to cross-border invasions, a report has warned. The study, by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), finds fears that President Assad’s regime may turn to its stockpile of chemical weapons, or that these devices may be stolen in the chaos of the civil war. It says these concerns have intensified ‘the sense of imminent international conflict that is gripping the region’…

“The study says the stage is now set for a proxy contest, with Iranian-backed groups in Lebanon and Shia forces in Syria and Iraq being pitted against Sunni communities in the same countries, some of them supported by Saudi Arabia. ‘An arc of proxy confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia is likely to follow the fall of the Alawite elite in Syria… We are not moving towards intervention, but intervention is moving towards us. Events of recent days have created a step-change in the situation that will make a hands-off approach increasingly difficult to maintain.’

“The study rules out the likelihood of a full-scale invasion by the west, but suggests more limited action… Military support would then be needed to support any new government and to prevent the desire for retribution against the old order… With Assad’s family losing power and beset by defections in the lower ranks after last week’s assassinations of those in the highest ranks, the study suggests, Iran and Russia may be prepared to ‘attempt a controlled implosion, by working to replace President Assad with a favoured Sunni successor.’”

German Resolution on Circumcision – and Reactions

Der Spiegel wrote on July 20:

“Germany’s parliament approved a resolution on Thursday that called on Berlin to create legislation that would ensure that circumcision of boys remain[s] legal in the country. The move is intended to quiet international outrage over a recent German court ruling that criminalizes the tradition… The resolution is not legally binding…

“German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) welcomed the vote, saying it would be difficult for him to defend abroad any incursion into the religious right to circumcision. Günter Krings, a senior member of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in parliament, said the vote sent a clear message that Germany would not make life unnecessarily complicated for Jews or Muslims living in the country…

“But not all were pleased by the decision, including the Federation of German Criminal Police (BDK). ‘Our constitution cannot be limited by a simple law, as parliament is currently trying to do in panic,’ BDK chief André Schulz told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper. ‘The freedom of parents to practice religion will… be limited by a child’s more important right to physical integrity.’

“Meanwhile, a group of child-protective organizations has also issued a petition calling for a two-year delay on any new law on circumcision so that the issue could be debated more intensely by experts. The groups include the BDK as well as Deutsche Kinderhilfe (German Children’s Aid) and the German Association of Physicians in Child and Adolescent Medicine. In the petition, they warn that a working group should be created before taking any legal steps that could permit the ‘serious and irreparable intrusion on the physical integrity of a child’…”

According to an article of Der Spiegel Online, dated July 22 (which only appeared in the German edition of the online publication), many voices have been heard by now warning against a “quick solution.” Prominent doctors and lawyers pleaded not to act too rashly, advocating to focus more on the welfare of the child. They state that the charge that Jewish life becomes impossible when circumcision is prohibited must be countered with the right of the Jewish child.

Also, articles of Jews writing against circumcision are being published (so in Sunday’s Frankfurter Allgemeine, dated July 22), with the obvious attempt to find more arguments for a prohibition. Note the next article.

According to an article of Der Spiegel Online, dated July 22 (which only appeared in the German edition of the online publication), many voices have been heard by now warning against a “quick solution.” Prominent doctors and lawyers pleaded not to act too rashly, advocating to focus more on the welfare of the child. They state that the charge that Jewish life becomes impossible when circumcision is prohibited must be countered with the right of the Jewish child.

Also, articles of Jews writing against circumcision are being published (so in Sunday’s Frankfurter Allgemeine, dated July 22), with the obvious attempt to find more arguments for a prohibition. Note the next article.

Der Spiegel Online wrote on July 22:

“A fierce debate over circumcision has been raging in Germany for weeks and has caught Chancellor Merkel’s government off guard. Berlin is now hoping to introduce a law regulating the practice, but it is a delicate issue due to the religious passions involved. It could take years before it is resolved… Children have a fundamental right to physical integrity. A circumcision is no minor operation, with the German Professional Association of Pediatricians calling it a ‘form of bodily injury.’ But the child’s right contrasts with those of parents, which include religious matters — and in this case a ritual that goes back thousands of years and, for Jews and Muslims, is a vital component of their faith.

“Balancing these fundamental rights is complicated. Furthermore, Justice Minister Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger is likewise concerned about the debate shifting in an unpleasant direction. Male circumcision isn’t the only religious practice based on ancient traditions. Polygamy is another such practice, as is the prohibition of blood transfusions among Jehovah’s Witnesses or the compulsory veiling of women in parts of the Islamic world. The question will arise as to why one practice is banned while the other is allowed…

“Rolf Dietrich Herzberg, a criminal law professor in the western city of Bochum, agrees with the Cologne court. He considers the removal of the foreskin for religious reasons to be a ‘violation of the fundamental right to physical integrity [and] a heartless trivialization of what is done to children through circumcision’…

“In other Western countries, the battle over circumcision has been raging for years. Other governments are having just as much trouble as Berlin with the complicated triangular relationship between parents, children and the state. Sweden is the only European country that expressly regulates circumcision. It applies strict requirements and only permits the practice in hospitals… The French, who are especially strict about the separation between church and state, remain pragmatically silent on the issue. In principle, the removal of a boy’s [foreskin] is considered assault, and consent of the parents only justifies the procedures in exceptional cases. But there are no accounts of criminal charges having been brought to date…

“Opponents of circumcision are now looking to Germany, where legal experts will have to find a solution. It will not be an easy operation. To begin with, it’s completely unclear which code of law should apply to the regulation of circumcision. The criminal code would be one option, but the problem with that is that the criminal code is only supposed to regulate criminal acts. Family law, which defines the rights of parents and children, is another option. Justice Minister Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has pointed out that the law on the religious education of children is also a possibility. A clear, legal solution, as the German Association of Judges demanded on Friday, will be difficult to find.

“The justice minister has appointed a task force of senior legal experts to address the complexities of the issue. The group, which includes the directors of the departments of civil law, criminal law and constitutional law at the Justice Ministry, will spend the summer brooding over how a law could neutralize the Cologne court’s decision. ‘The matter is more complicated than just inserting a simple little sentence somewhere, as some people envision,’ says the minister. ‘After this emotional debate, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the law will come before the Federal Constitutional Court. The judges there will have to determine whether they share the balancing of fundamental rights that we intend to make.’ This could take years.”

As can be seen, this question is not going to be solved any time soon, and in the meantime, as feared, other European countries begin to follow Germany’s lead, as the next articles show.

Circumcision Suspended in Switzerland and Austria

Haaretz wrote on July 23:
“Two Swiss hospitals announced last week that they would temporarily stop performing circumcisions. The announcements followed a recent ruling by a German court that the ritual is illegal, which sparked outrage among the Jewish and Muslim communities living in the country.

“On Thursday, the Zurich children’s hospital announced that it was temporarily halting circumcision operations. ‘We are in the process of evaluating the legal and ethical stance in Switzerland,’ said Marco Stuecheli, a spokesman for the hospital. Meanwhile, another children’s hospital, located in the city of St. Gallen in northeastern Switzerland, has also decided to reassess its policy on circumcision.”

The Guardian wrote on July 25:

“A group of Orthodox rabbis warned on Wednesday that the ancient Jewish practice of infant male circumcision could face further restrictions in Europe after some hospitals in Austria and Switzerland suspended the procedure by citing a German court ruling that it could amount to criminal bodily harm.

“Last month’s verdict by a regional court in Cologne… prompted angry protests from Jewish and Muslims groups, especially after the German Medical Association advised doctors not to perform unnecessary circumcisions until the legal situation was clarified…

“On Tuesday, the governor of Vorarlberg province in Austria told state-run hospitals to stop circumcisions except for health reasons until the legal situation was clarified. He said the German decision, which arose from the case of a child whose circumcision led to medical complications, was a ‘precedence-setting judgment.’

“‘Our fears that the court ruling in Cologne could have a knock-on effect across Europe are now being realised,’ said Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis… While Muslims commonly circumcise their sons at a young age, in Judaism the procedure must take place eight days after birth. According to religious law, an uncircumcised male is not considered fully part of the Jewish community, Goldschmidt said. ‘In order to change that, we would have to convene a supreme Jewish religious court, which has not convened for the last 2,000 years,’ he said.”


German Catholic Doctor Speaks Out Against Circumcision of Children

On July 26, Der Spiegel published an article by a German doctor, advocating against allowing circumcision of young children:

“Munich’s university hospital… stopped circumcising boys without medical indication back in 2001. Many renowned pediatric hospitals had taken similar steps even before the Cologne Regional Court recently declared religious circumcision of children illegal. The medical community has been debating the issue for almost a decade. It’s only thanks to the judges in Cologne that the matter has been brought to the attention of the public.

“One of the fundamental principles of medical ethics is that no one should be harmed. The oath formulated by Hippocrates (approx. 460-370 BC) and sworn by all doctors includes the following statement: ‘I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.’ Another key idea lies at the heart of all ethical behavior by medical personnel: ‘Primum nihil nocere,’ or ‘First, do no harm,’ a phrase coined by Scribonius Largus, a doctor at the court of the emperor Tiberius Claudius. The treatment of patients must be with their welfare in mind, and must therefore have priority over other interests, such as science, financial gain or profit.

“Medically unnecessary circumcision causes damage because it results in an irreversible loss of healthy bodily tissue… Medically, there is no evidence of advantages for boys. Therefore non-medically indicated circumcision is not in the child’s best interests… Doctors have to weigh potential risks and benefits. There are no medical benefits to circumcision on religious grounds. For this reason it’s all the more significant that it’s a serious surgical procedure fraught with risks and complications… circumcision causes boys undue suffering. This procedure must therefore be rejected from both a medical and an ethical perspective.

“As a devout Catholic, I have great respect for the concerns of religious communities. As a scientist, I feel discredited by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comments about how the circumcision ruling makes Germany ‘a laughing stock.’ The Cologne Regional Court presented us with an opportunity to work together with the various religious communities to consider the rights of physical inviolability and religious freedom. Some Muslims have already shown a willingness to accept that boys be circumcised only when they are old enough to give their consent…”

As can be seen, the prohibition of circumcision of young boys in Germany and Europe has been and is being carefully planned. And so, this ungodly “debate” will continue, and the danger is steadily increasing that the free exercise of religious minorities will be violated and prohibited. The Bible has prophesied that this will happen more and more in Europe. For further information, please view our StandingWatch program and our sermon on circumcision, as well as our StandingWatch program on religious persecution.

Back to top

The Bible teaches to judge, and to refrain from judgment. Is this a contradiction?

Since the Word of God is consistent in its teaching (John 10:35) and stands forever (Isaiah 40:8; Psalm 119:160; and 1 Peter 1:25), the instruction to both judge and not to judge is not a contradiction. Therefore, it is vital to understand the difference between the types of judgment that are appropriate and the types that are inappropriate. The Bible draws a distinction between righteous judgment and situations in which judgment is to be avoided. The Bible is clear in its instruction for Christians both to judge righteously and to abstain from judgment. How can we reconcile the difference? The answer is that not all judgment is the same. Reading closely in the Bible, we find that judgment requires context in order to determine if it is appropriate behavior.

Let us first examine situations in which judgment is inappropriate. In Matthew 7:1-2, Jesus Christ gives us a simple and concise instruction, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Here, the plain statement to “judge not” is quite clear. We are not to pass judgment on others. However, Jesus doesn’t stop with that instruction, but provides a reason for not judging. It is for our own good that we do not judge others, so that we might “not be judged.” Reading further, we learn that it is really unfair judgment or condemnation that should not be performed. The judgment that we want to avoid for ourselves is that which is erroneous, overly harsh, unforgiving, and condemnatory.

The instruction to refrain from judgment – of the type that is unfair – is an instruction to be merciful. Jesus Christ emphasizes this point when making a similar statement in Luke 6:36-37, where we read, “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned.” When we abstain from making judgments about others, we practice merciful behavior. Since our understanding of others is inherently imperfect and incomplete, our judgments are bound to be flawed. A flawed judgment with a lack of empathy is not the way we wish to be judged ourselves when we appear before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ. This is the practice of forgiveness.

Even Jesus Christ was careful about when he judged. In John 3:17 we read that God the Father did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save it. This too is an example of mercy. Jesus knew that the purpose of His appearance on Earth was to teach the gospel of the Kingdom of God, providing an opportunity for others to receive the gift of forgiveness. While He knew that all sinned, He abstained from condemning sinners at that point because they did not yet have the understanding of the truth.

He also was careful about what was in his jurisdiction of judgment. When asked to divide an inheritance between two brothers, He refused because it was not His position to make such judgment. Luke 12:14 states: “But He said to him, ‘Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?’”

In this context, please note our statements in our free booklet, “Should You Fight in War?”, specifically addressing the biblical reasons and principles enjoining us not to serve on a jury:

“A true Christian is a stranger, alien and exile (1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13) while here on earth; an ambassador for Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20); and a representative of God’s Kingdom. As such, and in being a light to the world by proper conduct (Matthew 5:14-16), a true Christian does not take part in this world’s governmental or political affairs, as presently, it is not God who rules this earth, but Satan the devil (Revelation 2:13; Luke 4:5-6). Christians are challenged to come out of the governmental and political systems of this world. Christ, knowing that God’s Kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36), refused to judge a civil matter when He was asked to do so (Luke 12:14). Paul, likewise, prohibited judging those ‘who are outside’ the church (1 Corinthians 5:12).

“Further, man’s judgments are concerned with the letter of the law. In contrast, God looks on one’s heart, and is concerned with the spirit and intent of the law. Man’s laws usually do not take into account repentance, forgiveness of sins, and other spiritual factors in the way that God does (Acts 2:38). Jesus, in looking at the heart of the accused, refused to condemn a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). Jesus taught that true Christians must be willing to forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15).

“Another principle against participation in jury duty is that true Christians are to learn to judge according to the law of God as seasoned by judgment, mercy and faith (Matthew 23:23). They are also to render ‘righteous’ judgment (John 7:24). Presenting selective evidence, where facts may be suppressed for technical legal reasons as permitted in the courts, may not necessarily lead to Godly justice, mercy and truth, and to the rendering of a righteous judgment.”

Even though the example and instruction of Jesus teaches us to be merciful and refrain from judgment in many kinds of situations, and never to condemn another human being, we also find examples in the Bible where Jesus judged others quite strongly. Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers in the temple, and made vehement statements about the hypocritical teachings, motives and conduct of the scribes and Pharisees. So, what is the difference between this judgment that Jesus provides by example, and that which He rejects?

A significant difference relates to the kind of judgment made. The judgment that Jesus Christ committed was inspired by God; it was the kind that was fair and righteous, being in harmony with the perfect judgment of God the Father (John 5:30, John 8:16). As mentioned, John 7:24 clarifies the difference between right and wrong judgment: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” This teaching is absolutely consistent with the previous claims about judgment, which is to be avoided. When relying on appearances or hearsay, we are led to make unfair condemnatory judgments, based on an imperfect understanding.

We must never condemn others, but we can make righteous judgments about situations and conduct, analyzing and evaluating whether a certain behavior is in harmony with God’s Way of Life. To give a most recent example, the horrendous mass murder in a theater in Colorado should be judged as evil and must be condemned. However, we must refrain from condemning the murderer—this is not our task, but God’s. As it has been stated so many times before: We are to condemn the sin and sinful conduct, but not the sinner.

However, when we do make judgments, they must be righteous. Applying the same concept, if we judge righteously, we too will be judged by that righteous measure; with mercy, if we are merciful, with empathy, if we are empathetic, and with fairness, if we are fair.

This is not to say that when armed with an understanding of true Godly righteousness, we have an unconditional license to judge others. A very important element of judging righteously involves self-examination (1 Corinthians 11:31), so that we too do not become hypocritical. As Jesus instructs us in Luke 6:41-42, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” This reminds us that even righteous judgment requires the correct source of motivation.

With an attitude of humility and an understanding of God’s righteous truth, we are also to help each other who are converted Christians today. 1 Peter 4:17 informs us that “the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” Since it is true that God is evaluating the behavior of a converted Christian right now, we need all the help we can get in correcting our paths when we may go astray. Because of this, converted Christians have a special responsibility to each other to help each other out.

Paul, in writing words of guidance to Timothy, provided clear direction to “not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26). Therefore, judgment made for the purpose of helping others advance and grow in their conversion is important. However, it is also important that any such judgment be made with humility, seeking the glory of God rather than our own.

Even though it is appropriate for us to use righteous judgment for the purpose of helping each other to grow, it is not appropriate to make judgments of condemnation regarding others, including non-believers. As mentioned above, 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 states, “For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges…” The time will eventually come when the entire world will be judged by Jesus Christ, but it is not the responsibility of Christians today to judge or condemn others, including those who are not yet converted, condemning their behavior. “For He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, And the peoples with equity” (Psalm 98:9).

When to judge the behavior of others and when not to judge others can be a difficult matter to discern. However, understanding the nature of righteous judgment and how it is best applied will guide the converted Christian in that activity.

Lead Writers: Eric Rank and Norbert Link

Back to top

Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

A new SW program, titled, “No more Guns,” was recorded this week and will also to be broadcast on radio, beginning Sunday, August 5th, 2012. Here is a summary of this program: The mass murder in Colorado has shown again the incredible acts of senseless and demonic violence of which man is capable. Questions are asked as to whether gun control would have prevented a “mentally disturbed” man from carrying out his horrendous crimes; and whether the increase in violence, especially in movies and video games, could be blamed for those actions. Our fascination with guns will not create a better world. What is needed is a change of mind and heart. “It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh” (General Douglas MacArthur in 1951).

Norbert Link’s new video-taped sermon, “What Does God Say About Circumcision?” has been posted on YouTube and our website, www.eternalgod.org.

Norbert Link’s video-recorded split sermon, “The Colorado Massacre,” has been posted on YouTube and on our website, www.eternalgod.org.

A new German sermon on the series on hell, titled “Gibt es eine Hoelle, Teil 2”, has been posted on the Web. 

Our new German booklet about tithing, titled, “Die Zahlung des Zehnten—Heute?,” has been posted on the German website, www.aufpostenstehen.de  (This is a translation of our English language version, “Tithing – Today?”).

The text for our newest English booklet, titled, “Middle Eastern and African Nations in Bible Prophecy,” has been sent to our Graphic Designer, Shelly Bruno, for finalization of the booklet.

The cut-off date for submissions of articles to our Feast newspaper is to be July 31, which will give Karen Myers a month to finalize the project, submit to the printers and have the newspapers ready for the Feast. Currently we have 30 submissions, and if we could receive another 10, it would make for a first class production. As this will probably be a one-off, it would be good if as many as possible could contribute. After all, this could well turn out to be a collector’s item, with high-quality paper and full-color pictures. Please submit your article(s) to Brian Gale.

A reminder for those wishing to attend the Feast of Tabernacles with us for 2012–please review details posted on our website under the “FEASTS” heading. Our locations for this year are Pismo Beach, California, and Deganwy, North Wales

Back to top

How This Work is Financed

This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.

Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson

Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank

Our activities and literature, including booklets, weekly updates, sermons on CD, and video and audio broadcasts, are provided free of charge. They are made possible by the tithes, offerings and contributions of Church members and others who have elected to support this Work.

While we do not solicit the general public for funds, contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S. and Canada.

Donations should be sent to the following addresses:

United States: Church of the Eternal God, P.O. Box 270519, San Diego, CA 92198

Canada: Church of God, ACF, Box 1480, Summerland, B.C. V0H 1Z0

United Kingdom: Global Church of God, PO Box 44, MABLETHORPE, LN12 9AN, United Kingdom

©2024 Church of the Eternal God