We’ll be discussing the latest events in Ukraine, including the growing anti-Semitism there. We’ll also discuss The Auschwitz Escape.
I don’t have an exact time yet, but will keep you updated via Twitter.
Please join us if you can. Thanks.
We’ll be discussing the latest events in Ukraine, including the growing anti-Semitism there. We’ll also discuss The Auschwitz Escape.
I don’t have an exact time yet, but will keep you updated via Twitter.
Please join us if you can. Thanks.
Thank you all so much for the continued support and enthusiasm you’ve shown for The Auschwitz Escape.
We’ve just learned it will remain on the New York Times’ hardcover fiction best-seller list for the fourth week in a row. The first two weeks it was #11. The last two weeks it has been #20.
I’m deeply grateful for all of you who have talked about the book with friends, and have written reviews of the book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, other book sites, on Facebook, your blogs, Twitter, and other social media. If you haven’t done so yet, please feel free to post a review on our “Epicenter Team” page on Facebook. I love to get your feedback.
My family and I are humbled by the interest in this new novel — and the true stories that inspired the book — and your encouraging reactions. God bless you! We so appreciate your support.
Today is Easter, and some two billion Christians around the world are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But did the Jews of Jesus’ time really believe the Messiah would one day come to earth, die as a “suffering servant” as an atonement for sins and the redemption of Israel, and rise from the dead on the third day?
A respected professor and Dead Sea Scrolls expert at Hebrew University says the death and “third day” resurrection of the Messiah is, in fact, a distinctly Jewish concept that pre-dates Jesus.
Dr. Israel Knohl has based on his conclusions on many years of research and recently analyzed archaeological evidence, including a previously unstudied Dead Sea Scroll. Indeed, Knohl argues that this notion of the Messiah rising on the third day is a pre-Christian concept that dates back to before the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem Ephratah.
I had the opportunity to sit and discuss this with Dr. Knohl at length last summer and it was an absolutely fascinating conversation.
I first heard of him when he drew worldwide media attention several years ago for his research, including a major article in the New York Times and several articles in Biblical Archaeology Review — see here, and here, and here.
The Times story, which ran under the headline, “Ancient Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection,” begins as follows: “A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days. If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time. The tablet, probably found near the Dead Sea in Jordan according to some scholars who have studied it, is a rare example of a stone with ink writings from that era — in essence, a Dead Sea Scroll on stone.”
The tablet has been named by scholars as “Gabriel’s Revelation” because it suggests that the angel Gabriel was instructed by God to direct that the Messiah be raised from the dead on the third day.
The stone tablet was discovered about fifteen years ago and is owned by a Israeli-Swiss Jewish man by the name of David Jeselsohn who didn’t understand its significance when he purchased it. The Times article was published in 2008. Dr. Knohl then published a book about all this in 2009 entitled, Messiahs and Resurrection in “The Gabriel Revelation.” That was a follow up to his previous book, The Messiah Before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls (first published in Hebrew in 2000 and then in English in 2002).
In the book, Dr. Knohl explains the various Jewish theories about the Messiah, including the idea of a “Messiah son of David” who will be a reigning king on the earth like King David was, and a “Messiah son of Joseph” who will be rejected by his brothers, mistreated, left for dead but will eventually reappear and save not only the nation of Israel but the world like Joseph did in the book of Genesis.
As an evangelical Christian from a Jewish heritage (my father is Jewish, my mother is Gentile), this subject fascinates me and my family.
Several years ago, my wife and sons and I were studying the book of I Corinthians. One day we focused on I Corinithians 15:1-5, which reads, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you,unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve [apostles]. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time….”
We studied how the Hebrew Scriptures speak of the Messiah suffering and dying to atone for our sins and how we see these ancient prophecies described in Isaiah 53, in Daniel 9:26 (which says the Messiah will come for atonement, then be “cut off,” and afterwards Jerusalem and the Temple will be destroyed), and Psalm 22. We also looked carefully at the Gospel accounts to show how Jesus remarkably fulfilled each of these prophecies. Then I read excerpts of the Times story to Lynn and the boys, and we discussed why many Jewish people think the idea of a suffering Messiah who dies and rises again on the third day is a Christian idea, when really it is a Jewish idea, as explained with such intriguing research by Dr. Knohl.
I would commend these articles — and his books — to your attention. Read them yourself. Study and discuss them with family and friends.
And today, on this Easter Sunday, consider the following critically important questions:
(Washington, D.C.) — In 1979, there were fewer than 500 Muslim converts to Christianity in all of Iran. Today, there are over one million Iranian who love Jesus Christ, have become His followers, and are celebrating Easter.
In fact, this Easter millions of former Muslims throughout the Middle East, North Africa and central Asia are celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whereas they once saw Jesus as merely a prophet, now they are convinced that He is God, and they have renounced Islam and chosen to follow Him no matter what it costs them.
In my 2009 non-fiction book, Inside The Revolution, I wrote several chapters about this extraordinary trend of Muslims leaving Islam and becoming Christ-followers. In the book, I described my travels from Morocco to Afghanistan, interviewing “MBBs,” Muslim Background Believers in Jesus.
One of the leaders of this movement that I profiled in the book is Dr. Hormoz Shariat. He was a Shia Muslim in Iran in 1979 shouting, “Death to America!” on the streets of Tehran with his Muslim wife. But within a few years, they were actually living in the U.S. and had both become Christians after dramatic conversion experiences. They started sharing the Gospel with friends and leading them to Christ. In time, they started planting churches of Iranian believers, and eventually founded a satellite TV ministry to broadcast the Gospel and discipleship training into Iran and the Persian speaking world.
In the book, I dubbed Hormoz “the Billy Graham of Iran,” because God has raised him up to preach the Gospel to millions in their native language of Farsi. Now, a Christian magazine has just profiled Hormoz. I was interviewed for the article and was honored to discuss my friendship and respect for him.
I commend the article to your attention and encourage you not only to read it in full, but to share it with others.
Please be praying for Hormoz and his family and team, as well as for all MBBs this Easter season. They face intense spiritual opposition, and persecution. But they have see the great hope and freedom and forgiveness and peace that comes from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and most are eager to share the good news of God’s amazing grace and love with the Muslim world, regardless of the challenges and dangers they face.
By Troy Anderson, Charisma Magazine, April 2014
Not long after the Iran hostage crisis, the authorities arrested Hormoz Shariat’s 16-year-old brother, Hamraz, on a minor political charge. At the time, Hormoz was a new believer in America and was confident his brother, a political activist who had a small role with the Mujahedeen, would be released. But in 1984, after two years in jail, Shariat’s brother was executed by a firing squad.
Shocked by the news of his brother’s death, Shariat broke down crying, asking God why He let it happen. He felt anger toward God and the people who killed his brother. A few days later, Shariat told God he wanted revenge—but then he recalled the Bible’s words that say, “Vengeance is Mine” (Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19). Shariat told God he hated those who had killed his brother—but then he remembered Jesus said anyone who is angry with their brother has already murdered them in their heart (Matt. 5:21-22).
He says he felt the Lord saying to him in prayer, “You know who your enemy is? These people—the clergy and the leaders of Iran—are not your enemy. They are lost children. You have only one enemy. Satan has been working to bring about this injustice. If you want to hurt Satan, evangelize. It hurts him really bad when you bring people to Christ.”
As Shariat tells it, that’s when he committed himself to sharing the gospel the rest of his life.
“I had a vision that by the end of my life I could bring 1 million Muslims to know Him,” he says. “I also learned that God’s love is the greatest power we have to stop Islam and help Muslim captives be free.”
Visions of Jesus
In the three decades since Shariat set his resolve, this minister—dubbed “the Billy Graham of Iran” by New York Times best-selling author Joel C. Rosenberg—has not only watched that goal come to fruition, but has also been given a front-row seat to one of the most astonishing supernatural phenomenon in modern times: thousands of people in Iran and throughout the Middle East reporting visitations of Jesus in dreams and visions.
“It’s amazing,” says Shariat, who founded the satellite broadcasting ministry Iran Alive Ministries in 2001. “God is graciously appearing to people in visions, dreams and through miracles. Sometimes they have dreams or visions of Jesus, run across our satellite television broadcast, hear the gospel, and then they believe. They may have, as children, had dreams or saw visions of Jesus. The vision or dream prepares them for the gospel. Other times they watch our program, ask if this is true or not, and then they have a dream or vision that confirms what they heard.”
Shariat believes the message is clear—that God is telling Christians in the West, “You look at them as terrorists who have no hope of salvation. Are you looking at them that way? I’m not. Look at Me. I’m appearing to them. I’m doing it Myself. Would you join Me to reach out to the Muslims?”
Rosenberg wrote about this phenomenon of dreams and visions in his book Inside the Revolution. “It’s an exciting development,” he says, “and it’s consistent with the Bible prophecies found in Joel 2, in which the Lord says in the last days He will pour our His Holy Spirit and people will see dreams and visions.”
Explosion of Faith
Since the hostage crisis ended in 1981, Rosenberg says the number of Christians in Iran has increased exponentially, from 500 to a conservative estimate of 1 million. Shariat, however, says the number may be far larger, noting that Iran—the world’s only theocracy, with 76 million residents—has the fastest-growing evangelical Christian population on the planet, according to the latest edition of Operation World’s manual. In fact, more Persians have come to Christ in the 35 years since the Islamic Revolution than in the prior 1,400 years combined—and most of these conversions have occurred in the past decade, as an estimated 62 million Iranians have gained access to the gospel message through satellite TV broadcasts….
(Washington, D.C.) — There is a deeply disturbing article in the USA Today that I encourage you to read and share with others. It reports that leaflets are being spread throughout the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk saying that government officials controlled by pro-Russian forces are ordering Jews to register with local authorities and pay a fee, or they could be deported and their assets could be confiscated.
Secretary of State John Kerry today called such actions “intolerable” and “grotesque.” But pro-Russian separatists flatly deny the allegations that they have been distributing leaflets requiring Jews to register.
The leaflets exist. They’ve been spread all over the city of Donetsk. They’re even printed on official government stationary and they bear the signature of the mayor. But the mayor says he didn’t write it. So who did? Are they a hoax, or official policy?
One thing is clear: someone is targeting the Jewish people of Ukraine, trying to instill fear in them, and trying to get them to leave the country.
“The threat left many of the 15,000 Jews of Donetsk ‘shocked and hysterical,’ the chief rabbi of the city told The Daily Beast in an interview on Thursday,” reports the Daily Beast. “He pointed out where one of the leaflets had been left on a tree outside his synagogue on Oktiabskaya Street. In all of his 20-year service in Donetsk, Rabbi Pinhas Vyshedski said, he could never imagine that anything as ‘cynical’ and ‘anti-human’ could ever happen to his community.”
Here’s the latest:
That said, given the long history of virulent anti-Semitism in the region, there is reason to be concerned for the safety of the roughly 200,000 Jewish people in Ukraine.
Consider recent headlines:
As I write about in The Auschwitz Escape, Adolf Hitler made similar legal moves against the Jewish people in the early 1930s, separating them out from the rest of the population. We know where it led — the Final Solution and the gas chambers a few years later. We cannot yet say where the leaders of Donetsk are going with this, but clearly such moves bode ill.
Please pray for the Jewish people in Crimea and throughout Ukraine, for safety and protection and for the Lord to truly bless them amidst this crisis and beyond.
Please also pray for Israeli leaders and other Jewish leaders as they determine how to respond to these developments, should they prove to be true. Is it possible that soon Israel will have to begin airlifting Jews out of Ukraine? If that happens, the Christian community must stand with the Jewish people and help in every way.
Here’s one of the key news reports that set off the international furor:
Jews ordered to register in east Ukraine
By Oren Dorrell, USA Today, April 17, 2014
Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings were told they have to “register” with the Ukrainians who are trying to make the city become part of Russia, according to Israeli media.
Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” reported Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website.
Donetsk is the site of an “anti-terrorist” operation by the Ukraine government, which has moved military columns into the region to force out militants who are demanding a referendum be held on joining Russia.
The leaflets bore the name of Denis Pushilin, who identified himself as chairman of “Donetsk’s temporary government,” and were distributed near the Donetsk synagogue and other areas, according to the report.
Pushilin acknowledged the flyers were distributed by his organization but he disavowed their content, according to the web site Jews of Kiev, Ynet reported.
Emanuel Shechter, in Israel, told Ynet his friends in Donetsk sent him a copy of the leaflet through social media.
“They told me that masked men were waiting for Jewish people after the Passover eve prayer, handed them the flyer and told them to obey its instructions,” he said.
The leaflet begins, “Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality,” and states that all people of Jewish descent over 16 years old must report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and “register.”
It says the reason is because the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported Bendery Junta, a reference to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement that fought for Ukrainian independence at the end of World War II, “and oppose the pro-Slavic People’s Republic of Donetsk,” a name adopted by the militant leadership.
The leaflet then described which documents Jews should provide: “ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles.”
Consequences for non-compliance will result in citizenship bein g revoked “and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property.” A registration fee of $50 would be required, it said.
Olga Reznikova, 32, a Jewish resident of Donetsk, told Ynet she never experienced anti-Semitism in the city until she saw this leaflet.
“We don’t know if these notifications were distributed by pro-Russian activists or someone else, but it’s serious that it exists,” she said. “The text reminds of the fascists in 1941,” she said referring to the Nazis who occupied Ukraine during World War II.
Michael Salberg, director of the international affairs at the New York City-based Anti-Defamation League, said it’s unclear if the leaflets were issued by the pro-Russian leadership or a splinter group operating within the pro-Russian camp.
But the Russian side has used the sceptre of anti-Semitism in a cynical manner since anti-government protests began in Kiev that resulted in the ousting of Ukraine’s pro-Russian former president Viktor Yanukovych. Russia and its allies in Ukraine issued multiple stories about the the threat posed to Jews by Ukraine’s new pro-Western government in Kiev, Salberg said.
Those stories were based in part on ultra-nationalists who joined the Maidan protests, and the inclusion of the ultra-nationalist Svoboda party in Ukraine’s new interim government. But the threat turned out to be false, he said.
Svoboda’s leadership needs to be monitored, but so far it has refrained from anti-Semitic statements since joining the government, he said. And the prevalence of anti-Semitic acts has not changed since before the Maidan protests, according to the ADL and the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, which monitors human rights in Ukraine.
Distributing such leaflets is a recruitment tool to appeal to the xenophobic fears of the majority, to enlist them to your cause and focus on a common enemy, the Jews,” Salberg said.
And by targeting Donetsk’s Jews, they also send a message to all the region’s residents, Salberg said.
“The message is a message to all the people that is we’re going to exert our power over you,” he said. “Jews are the default scapegoat throughout history for despots to send a message to the general public: Don’t step out of line.”
As Jews celebrate Passover and Christians celebrate Easter this week, Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, has written an excellent op-ed for the Wall Street Journal on the intense persecution followers of Jesus Christ are facing in Islamic countries.
He notes that there is an “exodus” of Christians leaving the Middle East today, just as Jews had to flee many Arab countries in the 20th century. That said, he also points out that Israel “is the only country in the Middle East with a growing Christian population. Its Christian community has increased from 34,000 in 1948 to 140,000 today, in large measure because of the freedoms Christians are afforded.”
I commend the article to your attention, and encourage you to share it with others.
Muslim-majority nations are doing to followers of Jesus what they did to the Jews.
By Amb. Ron Prosor, Wall Street Journal, April 16, 2014
This week, as Jews celebrate the Passover holiday, they are commemorating the Bible’s Exodus story describing a series of plagues inflicted on ancient Egypt that freed the Israelites, allowing them to make their way to the Holy Land. But over the past century, another exodus, driven by a plague of persecution, has swept across the Middle East and is emptying the region of its Christian population. The persecution is especially virulent today.
The Middle East may be the birthplace of three monotheistic religions, but some Arab nations appear bent on making it the burial ground for one of them. For 2,000 years, Christian communities dotted the region, enriching the Arab world with literature, culture and commerce. At the turn of the 20th century, Christians made up 26% of the Middle East’s population. Today, that figure has dwindled to less than 10%. Intolerant and extremist governments are driving away the Christian communities that have lived in the Middle East since their faith was born.
In the rubble of Syrian cities like Aleppo and Damascus, Christians who refused to convert to Islam have been kidnapped, shot and beheaded by Islamist opposition fighters. In Egypt, mobs of Muslim Brotherhood members burn Coptic Christian churches in the same way they once obliterated Jewish synagogues. And in Iraq, terrorists deliberately target Christian worshippers. This past Christmas, 26 people were killed when a bomb ripped through a crowd of worshipers leaving a church in Baghdad’s southern Dora neighborhood.
Christians are losing their lives, liberties, businesses and their houses of worship across the Middle East. It is little wonder that native Christians have sought refuge in neighboring countries—yet in many cases they find themselves equally unwelcome. Over the past 10 years, nearly two-thirds of Iraq’s 1.5 million Christians have been driven from their homes. Many settled in Syria before once again becoming victims of unrelenting persecution. Syria’s Christian population has dropped from 30% in the 1920s to less than 10% today.
In January, a report by the nondenominational Christian nonprofit organization Open Doors documented the 10 most oppressive countries for Christians; nine were Muslim-majority states noted for Islamic extremism, and the 10th was North Korea. These tyrannical regimes uphold archaic blasphemy and defamation-of-religion laws under the guise of protecting religious expression. In truth, these measures amount to systematic repression of non-Islamic groups.
Last year in Saudi Arabia, two men were prosecuted for the “crime” of converting a woman to Christianity and helping her flee the Islamic kingdom. According to the Saudi Gazette, one of the men, a Lebanese, was sentenced to six years in prison and 300 lashes, and the other man, a Saudi, was sentenced to two years and 200 lashes. Those are relatively mild sentences in Saudi Arabia, where conversion to another religion is punishable by death.
The “justice system” in other Islamic nations is not particularly just for Arab citizens, but it is uniquely oppressive for Christians. Radical Islamists in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa are using an ancient law called the “dhimmi pact” to extort local Christians. The community is faced with a grim choice: pay a tax and submit to a list of religious restrictions or “face the sword.”
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, expressions of political dissent are regarded as acts of blasphemy. Last summer, three Iranian Christians caught selling Bibles were found guilty of “crimes against state security” and sentenced to 10 years in prison. They were relatively lucky. The regime has executed dozens of people for the so-called crimes of “waging war against God” and “spreading corruption on Earth.”
The scene unfolding in the Middle East is ominously familiar. At the end of World War II, almost one million Jews lived in Arab lands. The creation of Israel in 1948 precipitated an invasion of five Arab armies. When they were unable to annihilate the newborn state militarily, Arab leaders launched a campaign of terror and expulsion that decimated their ancient Jewish communities. They succeeded in purging 800,000 Jews from their lands.
Today, Israel, which I represent at the United Nations, is the only country in the Middle East with a growing Christian population. Its Christian community has increased from 34,000 in 1948 to 140,000 today, in large measure because of the freedoms Christians are afforded.
From courtrooms to classrooms and from the chambers of Parliament to chambers of commerce, Israeli Christians are leaders in every field and discipline. Salim Joubran, a Christian Arab Israeli, has served as a Supreme Court justice since 2003 and Makram Khoury is one of the best-known actors in Israel and the youngest artist to win the Israel Prize, our highest civic honor.
Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest living in Israel, recently told me: “Human rights are not something to be taken for granted. Christians in much of the Middle East have been slaughtered and persecuted for their faith, but here in Israel they are protected.”
Nations that trample on the rights of their people sow the seeds of instability and violence. The uprisings that have erupted across the Middle East are evidence that the region’s Holy Grail has become the pursuit of freedom, democracy and equality. Let us hope that this quest bears fruit before it is too late for the region’s remaining Christians.
Mr. Prosor is Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.
(Washington, D.C.) — On Saturday, Fox News Channel anchor Uma Pemmaraju interviewed me for two segments.
Here is the video of us discussing the latest developments in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Here is the video of us discussing The Auschwitz Escape and the true stories that inspired the novel, including the fascinating story of the evangelical Christians in Le Chambon, France, who rescued many Jews during the Holocaust.
Hope you find them interesting.
(Washington, D.C.) – As readers of this blog know, I generally write about trends in Israel, the Middle East and Russia. But because I love the United States, I feel compelled to write today about how much trouble we are in economically and one set of changes we urgently need to make.
Today is Tax Day, the day all Americans are required to send in our federal income tax forms to the IRS and pray to God we didn’t make a mistake. What an utter disaster our current federal tax code is. As one Congressman put it, our tax code is ten times longer than the Bible with none of the good news. It’s long, complex, confusing, and a magnet for lobbyists all trying to carve out a deal for themselves. It forces Americans to spend six billion hours a year — that’s right, six billion hours — filling out tax forms, and to stay up worrying at night that they’ll get dragged into an audit, or worse.
We can do better. Indeed, we must if we’re ever going to get America back on the right track. It’s time for our nation to come together around bold, sweeping tax reform that will unleash the great potential of the American people, get this economy roaring again, severely reduce the power of the IRS, and drain the cesspool of corruption in Washington.
Ultimately, tax reform is not primarily an economic issue but a moral one. The current system is creating a terrible drag on our economy and suffocating the creation of millions of good, high-paying jobs. But it is also punishing marriage, children, work and savings.
Tax reform should be a bipartisan issue. The vast majority of Americans want to scrap the toxic IRS code and replace with a new system that is pro-family and pro-growth. So let’s get to it.
After all, the stakes are high. If we don’t pass serious tax reform soon, we won’t be able to get our economy growing at full strength. Millions of people will remain unemployed or under-employed. Real wages will stay stagnant or fall. We won’t be able to afford a military strong enough to protect ourselves, our allies or our vital national interests around the world. We won’t be able to honor our promises to the Greatest Generation via Social Security or Medicare. We won’t be able to balance our budget or stop borrowing from the Chinese.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are good ideas from good leaders on the table that could help us turn things around.
In the end, America needs a Third Great Awakening — a sweeping moral and spiritual revival — not just economic growth. But we need growth and opportunity, too.
Here are excerpts from the non-fiction book I wrote in 2012, Implosion: Can America Recover From Its Economic & Spiritual Challenges In Time?
The Road to Reform . . . ?
Some experts and think tanks believe there is still time to turn things around. At least two have laid out detailed reform plans worth considering.
Congressman Paul Ryan has developed his “Roadmap for America’s Future.” This detailed legislative proposal cuts tax rates and simplifies the tax code to reignite economic growth. It cuts and restrains federal spending. It reforms Social Security and Medicare in ways that protect the existing system for current retirees and those close to retirement while also improving the system for younger workers. For example, Ryan proposes the retirement age be gradually and incrementally increased from sixty-five years old to seventy years old, since people are living and working longer. He also proposes that younger workers can invest some of their current payroll taxes into tax-free personal retirement accounts that permit low-risk investments in mutual funds and annuities. The Ryan plan also includes specific details to balance the budget and reduce federal debt—all, presumably, before an implosion of the American economy occurs.[i]
The Heritage Foundation has also released a very detailed reform plan. It’s called, “Saving the American Dream: The Heritage Plan to Fix the Debt, Cut Spending, and Restore Prosperity.” While the principles are similar to Congressman Ryan’s plan, some of the specifics are different. Both plans call for fully repealing “ObamaCare,” and both create personal retirement accounts within the Social Security system for younger workers. However, while the Ryan plan calls for simplifying the federal tax code from its current six marginal tax brackets [NOTE: at the time I wrote Implosion, there were 6 rates; now there are 7] down to just two (a 10 percent rate and a 25 percent rate), the Heritage plan calls for a single flat tax (the rate is not yet determined). Whereas the Ryan plan would hold spending at 19 percent of GDP, the Heritage plan would restrain spending to 18.5 percent of GDP.
The Heritage plan was designed to balance the federal budget by 2021 and reduce the national debt to 30 percent of GDP by 2035. By contrast, because the Ryan plan phases in some of the reforms more gradually than the Heritage plan does, the “Roadmap” does not bring the federal budget into balance until after 2055. That may seem like a long time—and it is—but the Ryan plan should be compared not only with the Heritage plan but more importantly with the fact that President Obama has not laid out a reform plan of his own. Under the current trajectory, the Congressional Budget Office projects deficits as far as the eye can see through the twenty-first century. Without significant changes, the budget will never be balanced in our lifetimes. Worse, the CBO indicates that the national debt will hit a horrifying 185 percent of GDP by 2035.[ii]
Overall, the Heritage plan is much bolder than the Ryan plan, but there are various policy and political challenges to both. What remains to be seen is whether the American people have the stomach for either plan or a variation of one of them. The point is not that one plan is necessarily better than the other. The point I want to make here is that there are at least two serious, credible plans on the table right now that show us in specific ways how we can boost economic growth, create more jobs, reform our entitlement systems, and get ourselves back on the road to fiscal sanity before we implode. Perhaps others will develop bold, creative, and compassionate plans that will improve upon what Congressman Ryan and the Heritage Foundation have offered. I hope so. The more serious ideas in the mix, the better. There is still a way out of this mess, and that is good news, but the window to get started on such reforms is rapidly closing.
. . . Or the Road to Ruin?
If we don’t make desperately needed reforms, then we are most certainly on the path to ruin. Indeed, we could be on the road to Greece.
“America is on the road to re-creating Greece’s recent debt crisis,” noted business magazine Barron’s in a 2011 issue. “If a country as small and removed as Greece could generate the tremors that it did in the past year, how much worse would a national debt crisis be in the world’s largest economy?”[iii]
The article notes that “Greece, the world’s 27th-largest economy, is a minor player, even in the European Union. Yet a budget deficit of 13.6 percent of gross domestic product spiked its overall debt to 115 percent of GDP. Its debt fell to junk status, and it stood on the edge of bankruptcy. Only the massive May 2010 bailout by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund pulled it back from the brink.”[iv]
Citing sobering data from the Congressional Budget Office, Barron’s warned, “If you think debt problems like Greece’s can’t happen here, think again. . . . [Soon], U.S. debt will hit 132 percent of GDP—well above Greece’s 115 percent. Government spending will consume almost one-third of everything America produces—a level only reached at the height of World War II. Even raising taxes to their greatest ratio to the economy in America’s history wouldn’t offset the automatic spending machine. . . . Washington is on the road to Greece.”[v]
America in 2012 owes more than $15 trillion to a range of creditors, many in foreign countries, including Communist China.
[NOTE: That was true when I wrote Implosion; but today our national debt is over $17 trillion.]
That’s bad enough, but it gets worse.
Most Americans don’t even realize that we owe another $57 trillion to cover a range of “unfunded liabilities,” including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits. America’s most respected financial experts—both Republicans and Democrats—are warning us that such staggering levels of current and coming debt could trigger an economic implosion unless we rapidly and courageously make fundamental and sweeping reforms. The good news is that at least two detailed and compelling reforms have been proposed.
Two key questions emerge. First, does Washington have the courage to follow those plans or variations on them? And second, will Americans reward or punish political leaders in Washington for pursuing such reforms?
As important as those questions are, however, there is another even more important question: Will the Lord give us the time we need to make these changes—however difficult and painful they would be—or will he simply choose in his sovereignty to let America implode financially?
[i] Ryan, “A Roadmap for America’s Future,” http://www.roadmap.republicans.budget.house.gov/Plan/#budgetreform.
[ii] See Butler et al, “Saving the American Dream.” The Heritage plan quotes CBO projections extensively.
[iii] J. T. Young, “The Road to Greece,” Barron’s, January 22, 2011, http://online.barrons.com/article/SB50001424052970203676504575618561763058500.html.
(Washington, D.C.) – This morning I had the honor of meeting with Jordan’s Ambassador to the U.S., Her Excellency Alia Bouran, at the Jordanian Embassy here. She is a lovely and gracious woman, and an experienced diplomat – having previously served in Brussels and London – and I enjoyed our conversation a great deal.
With the Ambassador’s help, I am hoping to visit the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan soon to meet with various leaders and get a fresh look at the enormous challenges facing the Kingdom, including the influx of more than 600,000 Syrian refugees.
I have been to Jordan numerous times and have fallen in love with the country and its people. The Kingdom has a vibrant Christian community. It also has a rich Biblical heritage, with fascinating historic sites like Mount Nebo where Moses died, the site where the Lord Jesus Christ was baptized, and the remarkable Petra, which some scholars believe will play a role in Bible prophecy. Indeed, I believe God has a very special place in His heart for this country.
Christians around the world need to be praying faithfully for Jordan’s King Abdullah II, his government, and the people of Jordan. They are strong allies of the United States and the free world and work with us on many economic, social and security issues. They have signed and maintain an important peace treaty with the State of Israel. They are vital players in trying to help forge a true and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. His Majesty has also taken a strong stand against the extremists in the region who are perennially trying to kill Muslims, Jews and Christians and sabotage any prospects for peace and prosperity.
At the moment, I’m doing research for a future book in which Jordan plays a significant element. I’ll keep you posted on my upcoming trip and how it goes.
(Washington, D.C.) — My heart is broken for the family and friends of those who were brutally murdered in Kansas, and for the Jewish community there, as well. Please join me in praying for them amidst one of the most horrific acts of intended anti-Semitism in the U.S. in recent memory.
As it turns out, three Christians, not Jews, were the ones shot and killed by a former senior KKK member at a Kansas Jewish Community Center and a Jewish retirement center on the eve of Passover.
Authorities quickly apprehended the shooter — who yelled “Heil Hitler!” as he was arrested — and he is being held on first degree murder and federal hate crimes charges.
Dr. William Corporon, a medical doctor, and his grandson, Reat, were murdered in the rampage. They were both Protestants and from a devout Christian heritage.
“William Lewis Corporon was a man of strong faith. His father was a Christian minister, and so was his grandfather,” reported the Kansas City Star. “Reat, a Boy Scout in Troop 92 who had 22 merit badges and was working to become an Eagle Scout, was a bright and enthusiastic student who loved to sing and act. He competed in seven debate tournaments in the first semester of his freshman year at Blue Valley High School.”
“I know they are in heaven together,” said Mindy Corporon, the daughter of William and the mother of Reat.
Thus far, the name of a Catholic woman also killed has not been released by authorities.
Again, please keep praying for the families and friends of those killed who are grieving their losses this day. Please also pray for the members of the Jewish community who have been traumatized by this vile act of anti-Semitism.
“The suspect in the Passover Eve killings of three people at two Jewish community centers near Kansas City is a former Ku Klux Klan leader with a history of spewing vitriol against Jews, law enforcement officials said on Monday,” reports Reuters. “Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, faces local and federal prosecution on hate crime charges after his arrest on Sunday for a shooting spree that killed a teenager and his grandfather outside a Jewish community center, and a woman visiting her mother at a nearby Jewish retirement home….None of the victims was Jewish. The boy and his grandfather were members of an area Methodist church and the woman attended a Catholic church.”