Pastoral Bible Institute News
Despite their packed mega churches, their political clout and their increasing visibility on the national stage, evangelical Christian leaders are warning one another that their teenagers are abandoning the faith in droves. Their alarm has been stoked by a highly suspect claim that if current trends continue, only 4 percent of teenagers will be “Bible-believing Christians” as adults. That would be a sharp decline compared with 35 percent of the current generation of baby boomers, and before that, 65 percent of the World War II generation. The phenomenon may not be that young evangelicals are abandoning their faith, but that they are abandoning the institutional church, said Lauren Sandler, author of “Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement” (Viking, 2006).
—New York Times, 10/7/2006
An Indonesian firing squad executed three Christian men who had been convicted in connection with the violence that has wracked the province of Central Sulawesi. The government ignored a last-minute appeal from the European Union to declare a moratorium on the death penalty. No evidence directly linked any of the condemned to killings, but two were found to be ringleaders of a Christian militia that killed 200 Muslims in 2000, and the third to have instructed Christians in the use of arrows, according to trial observers.
—New York Times, 9/22/2006
Muslim religious leaders in Gaza warned Pope Benedict 16th that he must “accept” Islam if he wants to live in peace. A previously unknown group, calling itself the Huda Army Organization, has threatened to kill all Christians in the Gaza Strip. Huda means “guidance.” The group also threatened to attack churches and Christian-owned institutions and homes. An estimated 4,500 Christians live among more than 1.3 million Muslims in the Gaza Strip.
—Bridges For Peace News, 9/20/2006
The Bible, in whole or in part, has been translated into approximately 2,300 languages or dialects, with at least that many remaining.
—Biblical Archaeology Review, Nov./Dec. 2006
Rabbis were ordained in Germany for the first time since World War II. Three graduates of the Abraham Geiger training college in Berlin, which opened in 2000, received ordination at a ceremony in Dresden. Germany’s Jewish population has quadrupled to about 100,000 since 1990, mostly because of immigration from the former Soviet Union.
—The Week, 9/22/2006
The leaders of three Jerusalem-based Christian evangelical organizations voiced distress over a recent proclamation by the Latin Patriarch and the heads of three other churches in Jerusalem issuing a stinging and virtually unprecedented public criticism of Christian Zionism and their unflinching support for the State of Israel. The declaration lambasted Christian Zionism as a “false teaching” that “condemn[s] the world to the doom of Armageddon.”
—Jerusalem Post, 9/5/2006
Eating vegetables appears to help keep the brain young and may slow the mental decline sometimes associated with growing old. On measures of mental sharpness, older people who ate more than two servings of vegetables daily appeared about five years younger at the end of the six-year study than those who ate few or no vegetables. The research in almost 2,000 Chicago-area men and women doesn’t prove that vegetables reduce mental decline, but it adds to mounting evidence pointing in that direction. The study was published in the journal Neurology and funded with grants from the National Institute on Aging.
—Associated Press, 10/24/2006
Americans are watching more television than ever, according to a report released by Nielsen Media Research. The average amount of television watched by an individual viewer was a record four hours and 35 minutes a day [during the yearlong 2005-06 TV season that ended last week]. The average amount of time that U.S. households had a television set on each day was eight hours and 14 minutes.
—Los Angeles Times, 9/22/2006
In a recent survey, over four in five global executives said they’re always connected to their jobs through mobile devices—all day, every day. Thirty-eight percent of those polled believe they’re spending too much time on their cell phones, laptop computers, PDAs and pagers. In addition, 27% more say they don’t think they have a problem, but that others may disagree. An informal survey by the Impact Group, a team of psychologists who consult on business management, showed that high-level executive clients spent more than three hours per day on e-mail tasks, yet less than 20% of those emails offered any real business or social value.
—Investor’s Business Daily, 10/23/2006
The Josephson Institute’s new national Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth [found] nearly one in three admitted they stole from a store during the past year ... and 61 percent confessed they had cheated on a test. ... 97% agreed that “It’s important to me that people trust me.” (36,000 teens participated in the biennial report.)
—Josephson Institute of Ethics, October 2006
Russia is rapidly losing population. Its people are succumbing to one of the world’s fastest-growing AIDS epidemics, resurgent tuberculosis, rampant cardiovascular disease, alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, suicide and the lethal effects of unchecked industrial pollution. Abortions outpaced births last year by more than 100,000. An estimated 10 million Russians of reproductive age are sterile because of botched abortions or poor health. The public healthcare system is collapsing. “Russia has a huge territory, the largest territory in the world,” [President Vladimir] Putin said. “If the situation remains unchanged, there will simply be no one to protect it.”
—Los Angeles Times, 10/8/2006
Jesse Sullivan has two prosthetic arms, but he can climb a ladder at his house and roll on a fresh coat of paint. The motions are coordinated and smooth because his left arm is a bionic device controlled by his brain, making him the first person to be fitted with a thought-controlled artificial arm. Electrical signals sent through surgically re-routed nerves make it happen.
—Associated Press, 9/14/2006
On October 17, 2006, at the Census Bureau headquarters in Suitland, Md., a crowd broke into cheers at 7:46 when the digital population clock—calculating that an American is born every 7 seconds, one dies every 13 seconds and the nation gains an immigrant from abroad every 31 seconds —flashed 300,000,000. The United States is now one of three countries with more than 300 million people, ranking behind China and India. In contrast to most other industrialized nations, America has a population that is still growing, propelled by immigration and higher fertility rates.
—The New York Times, 10/18/2006
North Korea may be a starving, friendless, authoritarian nation of 23 million people, but its apparently successful explosion of a small nuclear device in the mountains above the town of Kilju on Monday represents a defiant bid for survival and respect. North Korea is more than just another nation joining the nuclear club. It has never developed a weapons system it did not ultimately sell on the world market, and it has periodically threatened to sell its nuclear technology.
—New York Times, 10/9/2006
China executes more prisoners than any other country in the world. In 2005, at least 1,770 people were executed, although true figures were believed to be much higher, a report by human rights group Amnesty International said. Organs from death row inmates are sold to foreigners who need transplants. Spokesman Qin Gang said that the organs were not taken forcibly, but only with the express permission of the convict. The No 1 Central Hospital in Tianjin carried out 600 liver transplants last year, [BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes] says, and the organ transplant industry has become big business.
—BBC News, 9/27/2006
Bulgaria and Romania were cleared to join the European Union on January 1, 2007 but only under the toughest conditions ever imposed and amid signs that this could be the EU’s last expansion for many years. It is unlikely the EU will handle future membership negotiations in the way it dealt with Bulgaria and Romania: the two countries were guaranteed an entry date of 2007 or 2008 regardless of whether they completed reforms.
—Financial Times, 9/27/2006
Saudi Arabia disclosed plans to build a multibillion-dollar electrified fence along its 560-mile border with Iraq. The move angered U.S. and Iraqi officials, but Saudi officials said Iraq’s instability left them little choice. They said they were concerned about militants infiltrating from Iraq to carry out attacks aimed at either toppling the ruling family or inciting Saudi Arabia’s restive Shiite minority to seek independence.
—Wall Street Journal, 9/13/2006
The U.S. is taking another step in security. By the end of October, travelers entering the U.S. from a number of countries will, for the first time, be required to have electronic passports. The global move toward ePassports has been underway since 9/11. EPassports feature embedded RFID—radio frequency identification—chips that carry the holder’s personal data and a digital photo. U.S. residents traveling outside the country could be required to have ePassports by the end of 2007. Passport readers already are being used in many foreign airports. Since January 2004, they have processed more than 62 million visitors.
—Investor’s Business Daily, 10/20/2006
Hezbollah workers in Iran carry black plastic shopping bags stuffed with bundles of new $100 bills with which to pay registered war victims. Even before the fighting in Lebanon ended, Iran committed to fund Hezbollah’s relief effort, says Nehme Tohme, Lebanon’s minister for the displaced. Tohme says Hezbollah officials told him that Iran would provide Hezbollah with an “unlimited budget” for reconstruction once the shooting stopped. All told, Hezbollah may pay out as much as $180 million in cash for rent and furnishings for people made homeless after the group’s July 12 kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers incited 33 days of Israeli bombing. The U.S. Treasury estimates that Iran gives $200 million in U.S. dollars each year to Hezbollah.
—Bloomberg Markets magazine, November 2006
The demand for soldiers to man peacekeeping and other stabilization operations has multiplied in recent years at a pace that has left many of the world’s most capable military forces struggling to meet it. In United Nations operations alone, the number of military and police peacekeepers has trebled in 10 years to almost 75,000 at the end of August. Additionally a lack of assets such as transport aircraft and helicopters to get troops into the right places is “the single greatest problem we face,” according to Bruce Jones, co-director of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University. He says that governments will be pushed to reshape their militaries as they come to see stabilization missions central to their security.
—Financial Times, 9/28/2006
China is grappling with how best to deploy its foreign exchange riches of over $1 trillion. The country’s swelling trade surpluses and large capital inflows have deluged the country with dollars. The huge value of the reserves has created an intense debate within China about how the country should manage or spend the funds. Roubini Global Economics calculates that about 70 percent of the reserves are in dollars, mainly US Treasury bills. The current structure of these assets produces an excess of 3 percentage points more interest than China’s domestic bills and bonds cost that government. Any substantial change in US interest rates could produce a huge capital loss for China.
—Financial Times, 9/25/2006
Economic fundamentals across Eastern Europe are increasingly shaky, two years after Hungary and seven other European nations joined the European Union. Slovakia and Croatia have big budget deficits that are getting worse. Several nations, including Hungary, have foreign-currency debt coming due that exceed their reserves of hard currency.
—Wall Street Journal, 9/21/2006
Thanks to four straight years of robust earnings growth, corporate America is awash in cash like never before. Industrial companies included in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index held a record $633 billion in cash as of June 30, according to S&P. That’s up from $500 billion in 2003, and just $155 billion a decade ago. Money is piling up faster than companies can spend it on acquisitions, expansion, stock buybacks and dividends.
—Institutional Investor, September 2006
According to Central Bureau of Statistics data published September 19, the population of the State of Israel at the end of 2005 was comprised of 6,990,700 people, of which 5,313,800 were Jewish (76% of the entire population), and 1,377,100 were Arab (19.7%). The data also showed that since 2000, the Jewish population has decreased by 1.8%, while the Muslim population has increased during the past five years by 1.1% to 1,140,600.
An Israeli biotech company has developed banana plants that are completely resistant to pathogenic nematodes, which are parasitic organisms that normally damage the plants and their fruit. Nematodes, commonly called roundworms, are some of the most destructive pathogens damaging banana and plantain crops across the globe. Chemical nemacides have been banned in most of the world due to their dangerous toxic and carcinogenic nature. Israel’s Rahan Meristem biotechnology company has now developed banana plants resistant to nematodes, a development that will save banana growers the world over millions of dollars in lost crops.
—Arutz Sheva, 9/7/2006
“The Evangelical Christian community is a major pillar of the tourism industry in Israel, and they are true friends of Israel wherever they are,” [said Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog]. Nearly 5,000 Evangelical Christian supporters of Israel from around the world were in Jerusalem for the annual Feast of Tabernacles celebrations in what has been billed as the single largest tourism event of the year. Herzog said American Jews make up about 40% of the United States tourism market, with Evangelical Christians a close second. During the peak of tourism in 2000, when 2.7 million people visited the country, two-thirds of the tourists were non-Jewish, he said.
—Jerusalem Post, 10/9/2006
Knesset member Uri Ariel is drawing up plans to construct a synagogue on the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site. Jordan’s king plans to build a fifth minaret on the site as well. The synagogue would be built upon the Temple Mount, but in an area that is indisputably not within the areas that require immersion and other preparations according to Jewish law. Ariel says that the synagogue would not change the Muslim status quo on the mount, which is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Ariel points out that every ruling by Israel’s Supreme Court regarding the matter of the Temple Mount has recognized the right of every Jew to pray on the Temple Mount.
—Arutz Sheva, 10/10/2006
A growing number of Palestinians are openly saying they’d like to leave the West Bank and Gaza if given the chance, yet another indication of the deepening despair since Hamas was elected to run the government. Birzeit University pollster Nader Said, who has monitored emigration attitudes for 12 years, says the percentage of Palestinians willing to relocate once hovered just below 20%. That figure jumped to 32% in a September survey, surging to 44% among Palestinians in their 20s and 30s, and beyond 50% among young men.
—Daily Alert, 10/24/2006
In the last 50 years, the Jordan River’s annual flow has dropped from more than 1.3 billion cubic meters per year to less than 100 million cubic meters. The gradual disappearance of the mighty and wide river is a cause for major concern. Adding to the mounting crisis is a plan for a new dam on the Syrian side of the border. Already Syria has built reservoirs that catch the waters of the Yarmouk, which normally feeds the Jordan with a steady flow. The reservoirs have reduced that flow to a trickle. The damage is already done. Environmentalists warn it will take decades to recover the river.
—Israel Mosaic Radio, 10/26/2006
Imagine an entire city getting lost in translation. That’s what happened to Jerusalem in an English-language version of a sightseeing brochure originally printed in Hebrew. The published translation proudly exclaimed, “Jerusalem. There is no such city!” The correct translation: “Jerusalem. There is no city like it!”
—New York Post, 9/21/2006
The Seven Deadly Sins, Solomon Schimmel, Oxford University Press, 1997. 298 pages.
The seven deadly sins were first popularized by the Christian church a long time ago. Dante enshrined them in his poetic work The Divine Comedy. Ten years ago many were made aware of them in the 1995 film Se7en, the story of a serial killer whose successive victims each exemplified one of the sins.
These seven sins are as pernicious today as they ever were in the past, as witnessed by widespread depression over things that cannot be controlled, tempers run amuck, greed that knows no bounds, and a general feeling that we are not living in the best of all possible worlds. Schimmel says this is because we refuse to master our physical and psychological impulses. Indulging our anger, gluttony, arrogance, envy, and the like may not make us criminals, but it often makes us and those who must live with us miserable.
What few seem to understand is that in the long run those who are moral and ethical are also the happiest. Today many are engaged in the pursuit of pleasure rather than the pursuit of happiness—and they attain neither. According to Schimmel modern psychology considers the notions of sin, vice, and virtue to be relics of antiquated theological and philosophical traditions, which it has superseded. He considers this intellectual hubris.
Schimmel is a professor of Jewish education and psychology at Hebrew College in Brookline, Massachusetts. His insights on what we need to do to master our passions rather than be enslaved by them start with an acknowledgment that there is such a thing as sin and that it must be confronted if it is to be defeated.