These Times

Vol. 26 No. 6

LEADING EVANGELICALS ENDORSE TRUMP

A month before the GOP primary, Donald Trump met with nearly 1,000 Evangelical leaders to address their concerns with his candidacy. Trump promised that if elected, he would appoint pro-life US Supreme Court judges and protect those who wish to “express their religious beliefs in the public square.”

In exchange, these once-reluctant Evangelical leaders endorsed the presidential bid of the thrice married, casino-owning, sometimes crude-talking reality show host, because it was “the lesser of two evils.”

The justification for their endorsements reveal the depth of their fear of a Hillary Clinton presidency for the future of the US as well as their rationale for endorsing a man somewhat foreign to their lifestyles.

Marjorie Dannenfelser of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List states, “When you have a binary choice, you must make a decision. … It’s frankly irresponsible to stay on the sidelines right now, given where the republic is heading. The idea that you could ever roll the court back from the disastrous consequences of a Hillary Clinton presidency presumes upon time, presumes upon mercy.”

Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America explains, “It became clearer to me, sooner than some other folks, that we can’t just stand by and allow Hillary Clinton to be our next president. … None of us are deluded into thinking [Trump’s] a Bible-banging Evangelical. He’s certainly different from many of us….”

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council admitted, “…he doesn’t fit within our mold. But what I found is, he’s open, he’s receptive, he puts the right people around him. …I want him to be successful, because if he’s successful, America survives. That’s the bottom line.”

When asked if Trump’s recent “conversion” to the pro-life plank might be shallow and untested, Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition counters, “The way the pro-life movement grows is by welcoming converts, it isn’t by conducting Pharisaic examinations of whether or not their conversion is genuine or…suggesting that until they pay some period of time or penance, that they’re not accepted.”

James Dobson recently endorsed Trump because he “has been unwavering in his commitment to issues that are important to Evangelicals such as myself. In particular, I have been heartened by his pledge to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, preserve religious liberty, rebuild the military and defend the sanctity of human life.” “Why America’s Christian leaders tolerate Trump,” www.politico.com, July 24, 2016; “Dobson Eagerly Endorses Trump, www.onenewsnow.com, July 23, 2016.

Whether a President Trump could deliver on any of his promises remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: Trump and his unlikely Evangelical partners are united in their desire to “make America great again.” We must pray that their efforts would not hasten the fulfillment of end-time prophecies where global political powers reinstate deadly persecution to accomplish a religious revival. See Revelation 13:11–18.

RUSSIA RESTRICTS RELIGIOUS WITNESS

On July 20, 2016, Russia’s new anti-terrorism laws restricting worship and evangelism went into effect.

The new laws require missionaries to have permits, make house churches illegal, and limit all religious activity to registered church buildings, among other restrictions. Russians who share their faith in person or distribute certain types of religious messages through mass print, broadcast or online media could be fined anywhere from $780 to $15,000.

Foreign missionaries must prove they were invited by state-registered religious groups and must operate only in regions where their sponsoring organizations are registered. Individuals and groups found in violation face deportation and major fines.

Russian lawmakers cite last year’s deadly bombing of a Russian aircraft as well as the November attacks in Paris, France, as the impetus for the newfound restrictions. But critics of the law suspect it springs from Putin’s policy of renewed Russian nationalism, because the Russian Orthodox Church (directed by Kremlin assigned leaders) was the only church exempted. Even the worldwide autonomous Russian Orthodox Church which operates outside the Kremlin’s oversight falls under the draconian legislation.

Numerous international rights groups and the heads of many denominations and religions, including Muslim and Jewish scholars, petitioned Putin to amend the law without success. In a letter to Putin posted on the Russian site Portal-Credo, Evangelical leaders called the law a violation of religious freedom and personal conscience. In part the letter read:

“The obligation on every believer to have a special permit to spread his or her beliefs, as well as hand out religious literature and material outside of places of worship and used structures is not only absurd and offensive, but also creates the basis for mass persecution of believers for violating these provisions.

“Soviet history shows us how many people of different faiths have been persecuted for spreading the Word of God. This law brings us back to a shameful past.” “Russia’s Newest Law: No Evangelizing Outside of Church”; “Russia’s Ban on Evangelism Is Now in Effect,” Christianity Today, July 8, 21, 2016.

POKÉMON GO GOES VIRAL

An augmented reality (AR) game, Pokémon Go, is taking the young adult world by storm. Players use their smart phone GPS and camera devices to capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, who appear on their screens as if they were in the same real-world location as the players. Approximately 10 percent of all smartphone users worldwide spend an average of one or more hours a day hunting for Pokémon—imaginary pocket monsters. Forbes reports that 46 percent of US players are between the ages of 18 and 29, 45 percent of them make over $50,000 per year, and 63 percent are female.

In the ‘90s, Pokémon was a popular handheld game with the object of catching and training anime monsters with occult powers to fight against other trainers and their Pokémon. A whole generation of children raised on Pokémon and Harry Potter can now revisit occult themed entertainment as adults in the new world of AR.

Unlike decades of virtual reality (VR) where gamers shut themselves off from the outside world, interacting only with other gamers, AR enthusiasts tout the benefit that Pokémon Go forces you to get outside and travel, enhancing what you see, hear, feel, and smell.

Why is the game so popular with young adults? It offers an escape from the depressing cycle of news and gives disillusioned millennials a sense of power in a world where they often feel powerless. “Who’s playing Pokémon Go?” Forbes.com, July 26, 2016.

Games with occult themes offer a false sense of power by controlling, manipulating, and destroying others. When Christ’s disciples were awed by their power over demons, Jesus warned them not to take pride in this, but to rejoice because their names were written in heaven. Luke 10:17–20.

While Pokémon Go and similar forms of occult fantasy seem harmless, they give satanic agencies that seek our destruction access to our lives. Worse, they squander lives. Instead, we should transform our reality by blessing and uplifting others and preparing them and ourselves for the ultimate reality of heaven and the new earth.

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