An overview of events and conditions around the world featured in the May/June 2023 issue of Beyond Today.
China, Russia, Iran join against America
Chinese dictator Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin met at the Kremlin in March to discuss a “new era” in bilateral ties, having a “friendship without limits,” and increased cooperation on global issues. Following their meeting, Xi said to Putin: “Change is coming that hasn’t happened in 100 years. And we are driving this change together.” This seemed to harken back to before America was a leading player on the world stage. Poland’s president said that “this China-Moscow axis is dangerous.”
The meeting came on the heels of a February state visit to China by Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi, who stressed that a new world order of real multilateralism “is forming and taking the place of the older one.” Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni and the president of Russia’s ally, Belarus, met together, Khameni calling for counties under U.S. sanctions to “cooperate with each other and form a united front to destroy the weapon of sanctions.” That came two days after enemies Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to resume diplomatic relations according to a deal brokered by China.
U.S. foreign policy under the current administration appears to have driven the Eurasian powers into closer ties with one another and against America—the opposite of past objectives. Back in 1997, the late well-respected U.S. geopolitical strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski issued a warning in his renowned book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives. He wrote: “In the past, international affairs were largely dominated by contests among individual states for regional domination. Henceforth, the United States may have to determine how to cope with regional coalitions that seek to push America out of Eurasia, thereby threatening America’s status as a global power . . .
“Potentially, the most dangerous scenario would be a grand coalition of China, Russia, and perhaps Iran, an ‘antihegemonic’ coalition united not by ideology but by complementary grievances. It would be reminiscent in scale and scope of the challenge once posed by the Sino-Soviet bloc, though this time China would likely be the leader and Russia the follower. Averting this contingency, however remote it may be, will require a display of U.S. geostrategic skill on the western, eastern, and southern perimeters of Eurasia simultaneously” (emphasis added).
It seems that America and the Western world are hard pressed against this “most dangerous scenario.” Yet despite the calls for friendship, China and Russia remain rivals. Geopolitical analyst Peter Zeihan notes that immediately after the summit with Russia, Xi met with Central Asian leaders to promote China’s dominance along Russia’s south, to Putin’s chagrin. The fact is, Russia needs China’s economic and geopolitical help—and China is using this for leverage over Russia and perhaps to demand some favors and concessions. And for now, China still needs the United States to buy its products.
Paganism on the rise, marking dramatic return
It’s no surprise that more people are turning away from mainstream Christianity to other religious ideas. It is a downward drift which will dramatically change the Judeo-Christian demographics of America. The Pew Research Center reported that in 1972, 92 percent of Americans claimed to be Christian but that by 2070 the number will drop to below 50 percent. And, shockingly, the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans, or “nones,” will likely outnumber those adhering to Christianity.
In March the National Geographic website featured an article about the modern rise of paganism. It states: “‘There is, in general, a move away from organized religions and toward spirituality,’ says Helen Berger, an author and sociologist of contemporary Paganism and witchcraft. Female empowerment and gay rights movements, the climate crisis, and a desire for a more life-affirming religion have fueled interest in the growing spiritual community, she adds” (“Paganism Is on the Rise—Here‘s Where to Discover Its Traditions,” March 22).
The heathen gods are making a comeback, and new temples are cropping up all over the world. Manheim is a heathen hof in Korinth in Faaborg-Midtfyn Municipality, Denmark. The building opened in 2016 and is dedicated to the Norse gods. Iceland likewise opened its first pagan temple in a millennium dedicated to the Norse deities Odin and Thor. Greece is reviving the old gods of Mount Olympus—Zeus, Poseidon, Cronos, Apollo and a host of others. Sedona, Arizona, is a destination city for the occult and mysticism. Why should any of this matter to us?
With the establishment of the Church of God as recorded in the book of Acts, and the subsequent spreading of the true gospel to the known world by the apostles who were trained by Jesus Christ, polytheism or the belief in many gods greatly diminished in the world. They penetrated a thoroughly pagan Greco-Roman world in which the very idea of one caring God was alien to them.
The Greeks and Romans worshiped a wide variety of gods and goddesses. Some were pantheists who worshiped Gaia, believing “god” was everywhere in nature. (Incidentally, both blockbuster Avatar movies are based on Gaia worship). These pagans were ignorant of the true God of the Bible.
When the apostle Paul walked among the Greeks on Mars Hill, which was dedicated to the god of war, he noticed all the different gods they worshiped and said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:22-23).
Switzerland’s Gotthard Base Tunnel was carved through the solid rock of the Swiss Alps. It is the world’s longest railway tunnel at 35 miles long. When it was dedicated, the hour-long ceremony was entirely based on the occult and paganism. Videos can be viewed on the web, and show how paganism is on the rise.
The apostle Paul wrote nearly 2,000 years ago in Romans 1:28-32: “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”
It‘s important for each of us to guard against the direction the world is going and to hold fast to the only true God. Why is it so critical? We want to be witnesses of the truth and God’s way of life to this world and escape the judgment to come! God commands us in Revelation 18:4: “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.”
Israel at 75: facing threats from without and within
The year 2023 marks the 75th anniversary of the modern Jewish state of Israel. The nation declared its independence May 14, 1948. The Arab Muslim world, none too pleased with the formation of the Jewish Israeli state, referred to it as the ‘Nakba,’ meaning “catastrophe.” And every year, the Arabs mark the day after the day of Israeli independence by this name.
This past December, with this significant anniversary approaching, the United Nations, in promoting the Palestinian cause against Israel, passed a resolution to declare May 15 a commemoration of the Nakba, as a day of lament and effectively calling for vengeance against the Jews.
The resolution was adopted by a vote of 90-30, with 47 countries abstaining. Israel’s UN ambassador, Gilad Erdan, commented in disgust: “What would you say if the international community celebrated the establishment of your country as a disaster? What a disgrace.”
The existence of the Israeli state was a remarkable fulfillment of Scripture, as a Jewish-controlled political state in the Holy Land is necessary to a number of prophecies. Yet the Jewish people face rising antisemitism, and the Jewish state faces a constant barrage of blind hatred and enemies set on destroying it, with leftists now promoting internal upheaval.
Sadly, both the political left and Jewish religious zealots stand against Christian preaching in the nation, and a law was recently proposed to send believers to prison for sharing the message of Christ. Thankfully, it was not passed. Pray that the eyes of secular and religious Jews and Muslims will have their eyes opened to God’s truth concerning Israel and the Messiah.