These Times

Vol. 24 No. 1 | Nov-Dec 2013

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FUKUSHIMA’S ONGOING NUCLEAR CRISIS

Directors of the Fukushima nuclear plant admitted on July 22, 2013 that containers storing radioactive water have been leaking contaminated water into the ground “for some time,” probably since the March 2011 tsunami that damaged the power plant. The leaks have been given a “level three” emergency rating, categorized as a “serious incident.” (The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale rates incidents on a scale of 0 to 7.)

An estimated 300 tons of this contaminated ground water is reaching the sea every day, contaminating marine products. That is enough water to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool every eight days. Fish in the area contain high levels of cesium-134, a by-product of nuclear waste, analysts say. Ground water in the Fukushima area has much higher levels of contamination than are permitted, even under emergency situations.

Scientists say, “radiation levels in the sea around Japan have been holding steady and not falling as they would if the situation were under control.” While these levels are far less than what was released at the time of the tsunami and its immediate aftermath, the situation is still very serious and has global implications.

To date, efforts to stop the water contamination and leakage have been unsuccessful. National Geographic Daily News, August 7, 2013; Huff Post World, August 23, 2013.

“100-YEAR FLOODS” MAY BECOME MORE FREQUENT

Heavy September rains in eastern Colorado dumped nearly 30 inches within two days, equivalent to what the region usually gets in a full year. The “1,000-year rains” caused a massive “100-year” flood across a 2,000 square mile area, destroying 1,500 homes and damaging another 19,000. 200 miles of roads and highways and 50 bridges were also damaged. Flood-damaged oil tanks spilled 27,000 gallons of oil from Colorado oil fields into the South Platte River.

Boulder Creek, which regularly flows at around 150–200 cubic feet per second, exceeded 5,000 cubic feet at the height of the flooding.

While only 8 deaths have been confirmed, at one point over 1,000 people were unaccounted for because communication services were unavailable to the region, and many roads and bridges were impassable.

The unrelenting rain was the result of a cold front that stalled over a section of Colorado and clashed with humid monsoonal air from the south. As global temperatures rise, “1,000-year rains” might make more frequent appearances.

In 2012, the region experienced devastating forest fires due in part to the same global warming trends. Climatologists suspect that these drought and flood cycles may not be so rare in the future. “Although the overall climate of the Southwest may become drier over the coming decades, a greater proportion of the rain that does fall could be in the form of heavy precipitation events.” The Christian Science Monitor, October 12, 2013.

The Bible details that these natural disasters will only increase as we near the end of human history. See Matthew 24:7 and Luke 21:25, 26. God uses these natural disasters to remind us that this world is not our home; we are merely pilgrims and strangers seeking a better land where there will be no more death, disasters, or disease. The Bible also encourages us to reach out to those who suffer from these disasters with food, clothes, shelter, and love.

DEAD POPES TO BE DECLARED SAINTS

Pope Francis I will declare John Paul II and John XXIII saints on April 27, 2014. This will be the first time that two popes are canonized on the same day. In the case of John Paul II, it will be the shortest time after death that a church figure has been declared a saint. In addition, Francis has waved the requirement for John Paul’s second “miracle.” Many Poles will be in Rome for the canonization Mass of their “patron pope.” AP Online, September 20, 2013.

Both popes were popular among Catholics, so the Papacy profits from these canonizations. Catholics will pray to these dead popes, as well as to other deceased individuals whom the Catholic Church has “sainted,” believing that they will intercede for them with God. The Catholic Church promotes this practice despite the Bible’s clear teaching that “there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:5.

Most Eastern religions, like Hinduism and certain branches of Buddhism, also pray to the dead for favors. The practice of seeking favors or information from the dead also stems from the unbiblical teaching that there is immediate life after death. The Bible asks, “And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?” Isaiah 8:19.

Many people believe that when King Saul asked a sorceress to “bring up” the deceased prophet Samuel, that the being who spoke to Saul was Samuel himself. But the Bible specifically details that God no longer spoke to Saul through any means. The woman of Endor was a practicing witch. She had no power to raise the dead. Furthermore, God never uses the channels of darkness and witchcraft to communicate with humankind.

NO “SAFE” PLACE LEFT

The increase of mass shootings against innocent civilians has made public gatherings, commercial venues, schools, and even military worksites unsafe. Over the last 10 months, devastating and horrific shootings have happened in places as varied as Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Boston Marathon, the Washington DC Navy Yard, and the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. While no criteria exists to judge one mass shooting as worse than any other, the fact that these shootings took place in “safe” public places forces us to accept that there are no safe places in the world.

The response to these violent incidents has left its own scars—invasive surveillance, overreactive school policies, the presence of overt police force in civilian society, security search and screening at public events, and the often exaggerated reaction of citizens to perceived threats around them. Also, children who grow up in cultures of violence are more likely to respond violently in situations of stress or perceived personal threat, creating a cycle of escalating violence.

The Bible does not assure us that things will get better before Jesus comes. The apostle Paul describes the condition of the ungodly in the last days: “Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good.” 2 Timothy 3:3. Paul also reminded that Christians would not be exempt from suffering, and that these things would increase until the end of time. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” Verses 12, 13.

But the Bible also promises that there will be no more strife and blood shed in the New Earth: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11:9. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away…. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 21:1, 4.

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